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Special Forces Chapter LIII: Dead End

June/July 1993, the Balkans

Dan was slouching in one of the phone booths that gave pretty little privacy, no more than a plastic shell around the head, dialling the French embassy's number. It took no more than a few seconds before someone picked up. The unmistakable voice of Maurice. Dry, French, and exhaling smoke. As always.


"Hi, Maurice, Dan here. Can I have a word with Dima?"

"Non." Nothing else and Dan rolled his eyes.

"Why not?"

"Because he doesn't live here anymore."

Dan's brows shot up and he turned towards the wall. Out of habit, his hand went to shield the receiver. "Why? What happened? Did you throw him out?"

The dry laughter on the other end told Dan he was quite on the wrong path. "Non, he found himself a better place."

"And do you know where that is? A flat? Room? Where?"

"Red Cross." Came the deadpanned answer.

"Red ... what? What happened?" Eyes wide now, Dan wasn't sure if he was connecting the dots correctly.

"Best I give you the phone number. D'accord?"

"Aye ..." Dan quickly patted his short-sleeved shirt down to find the obligatory pen and even managed to pull out a dog eared piece of grubby paper. Noting the phone number down, he stared at it. Unsure if he really saw what he thought he was seeing. A slow grin began to spread on his face. Could it be? Did he ...? Did they? "Merci."

Maurice gave a huff of laughter. "You could pay me back."

Dan grinned and rolled his eyes again, "how?"

"Let's meet in the usual bar for a drink and I'll tell you." The grin was audible in Maurice's voice.

"Am I right in assuming this 'pay-back' might have something to do with you figuring out that I am gay and I kicking my own arse for not having figured out sooner that you're a worse opportunist than even a certain mate of Vadim's?"

"C'est possible." Maurice countered, not offering anymore than that. "Saturday, same time, same spot?"

"Aye," Dan grinned, "till then." He put the receiver down and double-checked the number again. He knew that number, he was damn certain but only one way to find out for sure.

Dialling the number, he was listening to the ring tone.

"Hi, this is Dmitri Starov, I'm afraid Markus isn't in yet, but I can take a message."

"Just the man I was looking for." Dan was grinning from ear to ear.

"Oh, right. Dan? How are you?"

"Shouldn't I ask you that?" Still grinning like a fool, "Maurice told me you shacked up with the Red Cross."

"So to speak ... but not the whole Red Cross, just a certain representative. I guess I found my humanitarian bone somewhere."

"I'm damn glad ... for both of you." Fishing for his fag, Dan managed to light it, hold a conversation, and smile at the same time. "You happy, Dima Starov? Found your place to stay after all the wars?" Inhaling smoke. "And stopped waiting for that bullet?"

Dima laughed. "I didn't think they made men like him ... or maybe I was looking in the wrong places. Yes, I think we are ... disgracefully happy. Thanks for, err, inviting us both to dinner, the rest went very smoothly."

"I guess that means you have both forgiven me for my attempt at playing cupid, aye?"

"Oh yes, absolutely. Markus isn't the type that doesn't forgive - and me, well I'll let you off."

Inhaling, Dan leaned against the wall, taking the strain off his knee. It had become a habit by now. "Tell Markus from me that Russkies are fairly easy to handle - as long as you ply them with food, drink and sex." He laughed.

"He sure keeps me happy. It looks like I'll be working again soon, he's working on some solutions to the problem. But it's not bad staying in the house answering his phone calls and catching up on my reading ..."

Dan grinned, "apart from being obviously stressed out, you got time next month for an outing to the beach? Both of you? Vadim's off to the States, would be good to have some time away from the job."

"Sure. What about a weekend? Markus is free on weekends, unless some ambassador or other is inviting him for a party, but he has nothing lined up on the last weekend next month."

"You organising his social calendar?" Dan chuckled, "or you going along to all those functions with him?"

"Well, let's put it this way, I'm starting to teach him the meaning of the word 'no'. Seems everybody at his place keeps loading him with work because he's a 'single' while the other folks are married or partnered. He tells me I'm not half bad as a PA." Dima huffed and Dan laughed. "We're not quite there yet. With the functions. That would make it very official, you know?"

"Would that be a problem with the Red Cross?"

"More awkward than problematic. Their policies are ... very egalitarian. That's Swiss for you. But we should be sure of it before we make it that official. It's too early, we're still at the beginning."

"It sounds good, though, the whole thing. 'Beginning' and all that." Dan smiled, snipped the ash off his fag.

"Oh yes. As I said, embarrassingly happy."

"I'll be best man at your wedding, you just wait and see." Dan laughed.

"I think he's the type that would marry", Dima mused. "I'll keep that thought."

"You do?"

"There's Denmark."

"Touché, but neither of you is Danish." Dan grinned, "they have to change the law in our countries first, though, but even so, you wouldn't see me dead being married." Dan groaned for effect.

"Well, all respectability is lost on both of you", Dima teased.

"Thanks, bastard." Dan laughed. "Looking forward to seeing both of you next month. Take care."

"You, too. Give Vadim greetings, I'll greet Markus. We could meet up for dinner before that."

"Sounds good, what about in a week? What does Markus' diary say?"

"It'll be fine. Same place we met?"

"Aye, Saturday in a week, same place. See you!"

"Take care, Dan."

Dan was whistling on his way back to the room, and still in a mighty good mood when it was tea time and he got himself ready to queue for his food, but first waiting outside for Vadim to return from his shift.

Vadim came back right after he'd signed the weapons in. Peeling himself out of the armour on the way into their room. "What's up?" he asked, unbuttoning his shirt. He'd just quickly put on a fresh t-shirt before he'd head to the mess.

"We're invited to Markus' and Dima's wedding." Dan smirked from ear to ear.

"What?" Vadim stared at him.

"Well ... that might be a little premature, but we are going to meet them for dinner on Saturday. Dima made sure there was a free spot in Markus' diary." His grin hadn't diminished at all.

"Practical Dima." Vadim shook his head. "Good move. So, he shacked up with him? That solves a lot of problems." Dima. With a partner. It was hard to believe. Dima had never struck him as somebody who was looking for that kind of thing.

"Aye, and if you ask me, it's the best decision he's ever made. He was ripe for settling down. Over-ripe." Dan got up. Holding a t-shirt in front of Vadim's nose.

Vadim grinned and took it. "There's something you can do in retirement … hook up your friends and ex-lovers." He pulled the fabric over his head and stuffed it into his camos.

"Setting up a matchmaking ex-soldier business? Great idea ..." Dan rolled his eyes. "Let's get scran and we can talk about it some more. I have the best ideas with your cock down my throat." He held the door open in an exaggerated gesture.

"Really? I need to fuck your throat harder then, so you can't think." Vadim's eyes showed that that was a distinct possibility, for later.

"Promises ... promises ..." Dan grinned and shut the door behind them. It took all his willpower not to limp when they made their way to the cookhouse, but he managed.

* * *

That Saturday, Vadim led the way into the restaurant, and spied the two men before any of the waiters had noticed them. They were chatting, smiling, so obviously flirting he was amazed that Dima could even look like that: civil, happy. It was good to know he'd do alright.

Vadim touched Dan's arm, then indicated to the waiter he knew where he was going, and headed towards the table.

Markus looked up first, and stood up, smiling while extending his hand. "Good to see you again." He had a special grin for Dan, who shook his hand firmly and pretended he hadn't noticed the wink. "What would you like to drink?" After he'd shaken Vadim's hand.

"What about wine?" Vadim grinned. "Should last longer than vodka, even though Dima can pack quite a punch." Glancing towards the medic, who shrugged, grinning.

"Personally, I'd go for the vodka." The devil-may-care grin was back on Dan's features as he sat down. "You never know what happens after a bottle or two or three."

"Three bottles? These days I'd just fall asleep", Vadim muttered.

"What? Losing the key qualification of a Russian officer there, Vadim", said Dima.

Dan laughed, "we're getting old, I guess, and the only one here who is still more or less a youngster is Markus."

"Am I?" the man in question smiled. "But after three bottles of vodka I'd either be anyone's or fast asleep as well."

"Which one you'd prefer?" Dan grinned, hadn't expected Dima's reaction which followed promptly.

"The latter. With me."

Dan looked from one to the other. "Monogamy? Proper, goddamned, motherfucking monogamy?" He gently nudged Vadim.

"Yes." Markus had the charming sense to blush, "I'm afraid that's true."

Dima reached over and covered Markus' hand with his, pressing it for a moment. "Old-fashioned proper monogamy."

Vadim glanced at Dan, brows raised with humour. "Congratulations. Never worked with Dan, but both of you know that." He waved the waiter over when Dan had a 'coughing fit' which was a barely disguised outburst of laughter.

"Vodka. We got something to celebrate." Vadim ordered.

"Yes, it's open for both of you, right?" Dima looked between them. "Seems to work for both of you."

Vadim inhaled deeply and decided not to comment. He would have said something along the lines of Dan finding far more opportunities than he did, but something had changed with Hooch, and he'd meet him very soon. It all seemed complex in terms of emotions, so the simplicity of Dima and Markus was appealing, but altogether unrealistic, from his perspective.

"Sort of." Dan smiled, leaned back in his seat on the bench. "I'm shit with the monogamy since Vadim's return, so I can hardly ask him to stay at home and mend the flowers while I'm out and about, aye?"

Dima gazed into Vadim's face, who knew that the medic could read him. Dima was perceptive, that made him so dangerous, out in the field, and in really any social situation. Perceptive and clever and very experienced. Plus, they shared history. And these days, he didn't have the façade to protect himself. "That's true", Vadim said, only to say something. "We share, too. If and when the opportunity presents itself."

"I'm afraid I couldn't do that." Markus chipped in, looking up when the waiter arrived with the shot glasses filled with ice cold vodka.

"Too late to change that." Dan's comment was delivered without much inflexion and little facial expression. "Make the best out of any given situation is what I say." His face broke into a grin as he lifted his glass. "To Markus and Dima and old-fashioned, proper monogamy. May it never get boring - and I don't think it will."

They raised their glasses and drank, while Vadim knew that Dima had caught wind of what was going on. He stayed non-committal, the topic of conversation soon veered towards the menus, and then to Markus' work, and Vadim tried to act perfectly normal. To his chagrin, though, a couple of hours later, it happened that he was in the men's toilet and Dima joined him.

"Hey, comrade", Dima said, tone, choice of words, everything exactly as it would have been in the eighties, in that forsaken country.

Vadim peered at him in the mirror. "Yes?"

"Are you guys in trouble?" Dima moved closer, stood within touching distance. "I don't mean your little crusade a while back. I mean the rest."

Vadim inhaled and lowered his gaze for a few moments. "Life isn't easy, Dima. That's our set of rules."

"You know you can change them. If he's fucking around ..."

"So am I."

"But you're not happy with it?"

"It's just sex, Dima."

Dima looked at him for a long time. "It's never just sex for you, though. Am I wrong?"

"No. You're right." Vadim shook his head. "Rules, Dima. We're a different case."

Dima reached out and took him by the shoulders, pulling him up and back against him, which made Vadim look at himself in the mirror.

"It's not easy. I wish it was."

Dima nodded, holding him in that weird backwards embrace. "We're still brothers, Vadim. Whatever happens, and whatever comes, we share something that nothing can take away. I didn't help you once, and I hated it."

"Nothing you could have done ..."

"No, but still. I won't do that a second time. I owe you."

"You owe Dan."

"He's a friend, too. But ..." Dima inhaled, his grip stronger now. "If I have to choose, I'm standing with a brother."

Vadim smiled, touched against his will. Brother. The good kind of family. "Thought you never bought the military doctrine bullshit."

"No bullshit." Dima stared at him with an intensity that was unlike him. "I won't do it a second time. I'll be there. Whatever you need, whenever you need me. I'll be there. As a comrade."

Spetsnaz. Vadim inhaled and touched Dima's right hand. "Go back. Your husband-to-be might get the wrong ideas." Dima let him go and headed back, and Vadim murmured "thanks", which, he knew, Dima heard and acknowledged before the door closed behind him.

Dan looked up when Dima returned. "Has Vadim drowned? Should I go and rescue him?"

Dima grinned. "Don't worry, he's on the way back. And no, it's not what you think, sorry."

"What do I think?"

Dima leaned forward, mottled eyes gleaming with mischief. "You wonder who gave whom a blow job."

Dan tilted his head, suddenly serious for a second. "You might be surprised, but not all of my thoughts evolve around sex."

Vadim appeared again, and settled back into his chair. "Okay, I missed something?"

Dima shrugged. "It's the obvious thought. Sorry if I was wrong."

"Obvious because it's me, aye?" Dan shrugged as well, fishing for a cigarette but he already had a packet under his nose. Markus' hand held it.

"Anyone ready to order?"

Vadim cleared his throat and carefully selected his menu. The things the place did best - everything that was grilled and spicy, whereas Dima stuck to today's special.

Dima was more careful for the rest of the evening. Vadim could tell the difference, Dima rebuffed wasn't quite the natural Dima, and he clearly kept his fastest responses in check, being far less spontaneous in his ripostes and jokes than normal - until more alcohol entered the equation and by then Dan was well on his way through a bottle and more himself.

"Can you believe it?" Dan grinned into the round, "Vadim really is going to fly to America in three weeks. Who'd have thought they'd let him in. Big bad Russian and all that." He grinned, letting Markus refill his glass again.

"Means the cold war is well and truly over", Dima commented, which made Vadim laugh.

"I … guess. Unless they let me in to be able to grab me and ask some questions while they're at it."

"But you are looking forward to it?"

"I read about the place, I know some Americans … it's certainly going to be interesting."

"Aye, especially with that particular American he's going to visit." Dan nudged Vadim, grinning, and clearly rather tipsy.

Vadim felt Dima's eyes on him again, that same perceptive expression. Fuck him, Dima was far too clever for his own good. "American special forces", he said, as if that explained everything. "The people you meet in the Gulf."

"And everywhere else." Dan quipped, glass once again on his lips.

Dima grinned. "Yes, there's still regimental pride."

"Aye, and that appeals to Vadim." Dan leaned his head across to touch Vadim's shoulder. He didn't notice how Markus was looking first at him, then at Vadim, and then ostentatiously busied himself with the wine.

Vadim shrugged and grinned. Hooch wasn't a matter of regimental pride. He was the same kind of man, special forces, tough, hard, physically perfect, mentally alert, the pinnacle of soldiering. Never mind the humour, the need, and the fact he had culture. Not sure what to say, discussing Hooch didn't feel right, it was his thing, strangely private, intimate, even. He didn't boast about 'conquests', certainly not when they came that close to the heart.

Dan straightened back up, grabbed his glass once more and tipped it back, all of it. "Yeah." Slammed it down onto the table, the mis-coordination of someone who'd had too much drink. "And he's in love with him." He then shrugged, leaned across the table and looked for the waiter. Clearly worse for wear.

Vadim turned his head, alarmed by the words and the reaction. Shit. Back to square one. In front of … friends, yes, he knew he could trust Dima, and Markus was harmless, but, shit, it was none of their business. A quick glance to Dima told him that Dima had finally pieced the story together. Didn't even know how to limit the damage, fix the conversation after this. It made him look bad - exposed him. "It is not the same thing, Dan, as I keep trying to explain."

"Yeah, whatever." Speech slurred, Dan flashed a grin and shrugged again, as if nothing meant anything. "You enjoy yourself, you deserve it." Smiling brightly, Dan flagged the waiter down, focused on getting more booze.

Vadim debated with himself whether he wanted to get a taxi now, or get Dan to follow and get them both a taxi. Leaving him could be bad, would make him look worse: guilty. He shook his head. "Let's go back, Dan. We have to get up early tomorrow." Not strictly true, but a way out.

"Bullshit." Dan wasn't looking at Vadim, talking to the waiter instead, when Markus looked up, after a glance at Dima, and jumped into the breach.

"Actually, I have to be out early as well. Must admit I could do with going back. Do you mind, Dan? We just postpone the next bottle, until we head to the beach. Is that an idea?" He yawned for good effect, even making it look natural.

Dan turned his head and looked at him for a long time, slightly swaying. The last of the vodka was finally kicking in. "Aye ... if you think so?"

"Yes." Dima stood first. "I'll get the jackets." He headed across, while Vadim waved the waiter over to pay.

Not much later, they were out on the street, Vadim waiting for the taxi, Dan beside him, while Markus and Dima waited with them, for courtesy. Vadim met Dima's eyes for a long moment, and thought of the brief talk in the toilet. Brothers. On one hand, he was grateful for the unexpected loyalty, on the other, it almost felt like a small wedge that Dima was driving between him and Dan, professing his loyalty to one, but not the other. He couldn't quite place the eerie feeling, only that he didn't like it.

July 1993, Colorado USA

Hooch had promised to pick Vadim up at the airport, just in case there were any problems at immigration. He had supplied him with details of where he was going to stay, who had booked it, for how long, how he'd get there, and his own address, including the phone number of his newfangled cell phone.

Vadim was slightly queasy about entering the country, didn't like people looking at him, because some part of him always feared retaliation. But the Americans didn't appear to look at him any different to anybody else entering the country. If they noticed the Russian name, they didn't show it, and Vadim was through immigration with none of the expected problems. Once through, Vadim shouldered his bag and walked into the airport hall.

There, Hooch. He spotted him right away.

Hooch was standing at arrivals, leaning with his hip against one of the barriers, and looking every inch alert - to the eyes of someone who knew him - and relaxed to everyone else.

Vadim saw Hooch see him, then smiled at him and strode out faster. "Hi."

Hooch's face changed into a smile, and he reached out to take one of the bags from Vadim's shoulder. "Hi, buddy. Good to see you." He touched Vadim's shoulder in a firm grip, a little too long, perhaps, and squeezing, before letting go. "Everything's set up, just get into the car." Pointing towards the exit and the car park. "Did you have a good flight?"

"I could do with some exercise after this."

"I'm sure I can arrange that."

Vadim grinned, fished in his jacket for sun-glasses as they stepped out of the building, and put them on. "Brilliant weather", he commented. "How have you been?"

"Bored." They reached a large 4x4, shiny and black, over the top and entirely American. "Looks like I'm off to warmer climes in a month or two." Hooch threw the bag inside, waited for Vadim to do the same. "And you?"

"Hard to get bored in the Balkans", Vadim smiled. "Theoretically, the place provides much entertainment, only you're not really invited to the show. So, it's a lot of waiting." Unless you go out and hunt your own, he thought, grimly, still proud of the dozens of men he'd killed. "I'll tell you the story", he murmured.

"Okay." Hooch got into the driver's seat and navigated them out of the parking lot.

"And you? Africa?"

"The Mog." Hooch glanced across and shrugged. The US engagement there was no secret. Passing through the barrier, he drove out of the airport and towards the open road. "Matt's currently in Monrovia, he's just qualified as a PT instructor. Last I heard he's wringing his kit out in the 'sauna' over there." He grinned, and when they hit the road the full majesty of the landscape became apparent.

Vadim leaned back, took the sunglasses off to regard the range of Rockies - that was what they had to be, the way they filled the horizon. "Somalia, then. Another place full of fun and joy."

"Yeah, but it doesn't matter. One's like the other. What matters are the people." Glancing across, "right?"

Vadim shrugged. Did they? Stjepan. Sanya. In a way, yes, they mattered, but it wasn't the reason he'd done it. The only people he'd done it for was the Soviet - Russian - people. He wasn't like Markus, who served, he assumed, some ideal of humanity; he wasn't like Dima, who enjoyed the split-second decisions that had to be made under fire, both hands in some guy's abdominal cavity, fishing for bullets or torn arteries. Dan saw it as a job. To Vadim, it went deeper, was a calling, perhaps. It called to the predator inside, the man who'd lived and breathed to compete. Competition who'd shoot whom, like sniper games. The civilians rarely figured. "All just humans", he murmured, non-committal. Narcissist, Konstantinov had called him. All that mattered to him was he and himself.

"Comrades? More than that." Hooch leaned back in the driver's seat, sticking to the speed limit. All he had to do in the automatic was to keep the vehicle on the road. A road that went straight on through the most breathtaking landscape with clear blue skies above and a majesty that could rival - albeit very differently - Dan's beloved Afghan mountains.

It was like taking him back. Mountains, open sky, the clear, dark blue. Vadim couldn't help but smile at the irony. Mountains, a man, and himself. History repeating. If he'd allow it to. Only, it was Hooch who'd get tortured up there, there would be a lot more sex from the very beginning, and, he assumed, no scars, as always, playing as safe as possible. Thinking about Dan's jealousy, the hurt reaction. He didn't want to hurt Dan. But Dan had put him through the very same thing with Jean, the jealousy, and with Matt and whoever the fuck else. He deserved some space, didn't he? It wasn't like Hooch was anywhere close to falling for him - the comradeship and the need to have these things done didn't add up to 'love'. It wasn't black and white, it was a world of grey.

When they got up to the cabin Vadim was pleasantly surprised at the rural comfort. No electricity, but gas cooker and lamps, and running water. The cabin was spacious, clad in warm, honey-coloured wood, and the furniture was wooden as well. It seemed handmade and well done, everything sturdy and simple yet colourful, what with the woven rugs, the quilted bedspreads and flowers inside and out.

Hooch let Vadim settle down, then showed him the 'toys' he had brought, a selection similar to the first one, but with added twists and new items to explore.

The first day and night was spent allowing Vadim to deal with his jet-lag, and for the two men to become comfortable with each other again. Something that happened as if they'd never been apart. Friends that were close the moment they met, and the first sex was 'fun', a Hooch used to call sex without pain, with the understanding it would change the next day.

The next morning, Hooch told him what he wanted. Being hunted. He'd vanish into the forest, and Vadim would track him. He wanted it to be as real as possible, a true challenge to Vadim's soldiering skills, and Vadim was confident enough. He'd trapped chetniks, he could deal with one man. He liked the idea, liked the fact it was gloves off, full-out sex, the prisoner game. The mountains were the perfect backdrop to it. Nobody around for a hundred miles. Just enough space for him, Hooch, and his demons.

July 1993, the Balkans

Vadim had been away for three days, when Dan was standing at the gate to the camp, waiting to be picked up. True to form, Markus' car approached at exactly the correct time, and with him Dima. As promised, they were picking him up for a day at the beach - one of the few areas that was deemed fairly safe in a country where nothing at all was safe anymore.

The day was brilliant, with blue skies and sunshine, the heat begging to be enjoyed in bathing shorts in the water, not in body armour and certainly not in an armoured vehicle without air con.

It took them an hour to get to the spot, and while Dan got out of the car to look around, already in shorts, t-shirt and the obligatory shades, Markus was heaving out basket after basket of picnic food, helped by Dima, who looked like the very image of healthy and civilian, a far shot from the dusty haunted man Dan had met.

"Down to the beach, the stones over there provide a bit of cover from the wind", Dima said, taking a couple of baskets from Markus and carrying them down, while Markus locked the car. Dan picked up another two and shook his head.

"For how many people did you cater?"

"Don't blame me, my cook went a little overboard." Grinning, Markus shouldered the rest of the items.

"What do you say? Nice spot, or nice spot?"

Dan looked at Dima and nodded. "Can't fault it, and it seems to be free of AKs. Which, in my books, is a bloody big bonus."

Hearing Markus chuckle behind him, Dan followed Dima, carefully picking his way through the rocks. Uneven surface was the most difficult kind, but he'd be buggered if he let it on. Figuring that that overly perceptive medic had noticed anyway. "By the way ..." stepping over a couple of puddles, filled with sea water and algae, "did I behave like a right idiot, the other day?"

"You mean, in the restaurant?" Dima motioned him further, picking his way through the rocks towards a more cleared area. "Vadim seemed to not appreciate the topic. I …" he shrugged. "I don't mind. Lucky me, I'm an outsider enough that I can see both views."

"I just had too much to drink." Dan shrugged, glanced behind him, but Markus seemed to be occupied with balancing the luggage in one hand while fishing for a cigarette with the other. "I'm okay with it. Really."

"Hope you don't mind me asking, but why is that? Is that because you are okay, or because monogamy bores you, or because you want other guys. And lots of them?" Dima grinned to maybe take the sting out. "I mean, having been one of them, I think it would be a waste of sexual talent … but I'm also Vadim's old comrade."

Dan stopped when they had reached the spot. "Okay with what? Vadim having sex with other men? Aye, I am okay with that. Sex doesn't equal love, after all." He shrugged, turned round to Markus who'd managed to light his cigarette and was putting the basket, the towels and blankets down. "Markus, did you think, when I had sex with you, that I loved you? And in return, did you fall in love with me?"

Markus looked at him, about to say something when Dan turned towards Dima, "or Dima, did you suddenly fall in love with me because I had sex with you? Did you think I loved you because we shagged?"

"No. I never did. Before." Dima glanced at Markus, who grinned at him warmly, and smiled. "But it can happen. Some people fall easily, others fall hard, but there's always the potential to fall. And you think that is what happened to Vadim. He's had sex with this … American. Oh god, the irony, and deep solemn thinker that he is, it was more than he could chew, because no way I believe he was actively looking for it, if it is really what happened, not with your history … and now Vadim is all conflicted about what he wants. Is that the story?"

"In a nutshell." Dan unfolded a chair and sat down, fishing for his own fags. "But it's not all."

"What else?" Markus was sitting as well, rummaging in the picnic baskets.

"Hooch, the Delta, gives him something that I can't. He gives him the old Vadim, the darkness." Dan looked out over the sea, the coming and going of the waves. The sound was ridiculously peaceful in a country torn by civil war. "Hooch ... he looks a lot like me. Ten years or so ago." Lighting his fag, Dan looked down at his scarred hand, before he shrugged into the round.

"The old Vadim", Dima echoed. "Now, that's a tough one." He looked to Markus. "You need to understand that Vadim is very different from what he once was. He has mellowed a lot. I couldn't tell which I'd prefer, the Soviet officer in all his glory, or the … merc we've come to know in this part of the world. I could deal with him, back then, he wasn't all that scary to me, but he … had his moments."

Markus looked thoughtful. "I would not want to judge either way, bearing in mind that I don't know Vadim well to start with, and have no idea what he was like before, but I'd be scared stiff thinking how he might have been."

"Good, natural reaction, the scared stiff bit." Dima looked at Dan. "You feel like you're getting replaced by the younger guy, then? Vadim's moving on, or rather, returning to what he was … before?"

"I don't know. Replaced? Perhaps. But ... how could he, I mean, they have no history." Inhaling smoke, Dan's face didn't let on what he was thinking. Not the pain, not the worry, nothing at all. "Or perhaps that is it. Perhaps I remind him too much ..." Shaking his head slowly.

"Of what?" Markus asked. "Of the man he once was?"

"No." Dan shook his head again, "of what was done to him by the KGB. The captivity, the torture." Looking out over the waves again, "his ex-wife certainly thinks it is all my fault."

"And you think she has a point?" Dima frowned. "Or it wouldn't stick. Whatever she said. Maybe she is jealous, too. Maybe he's moved on from her, and she does everything to hurt the rival. There are lots of explanations. From my perspective, something went really deep and now you're doubting things. Re-evaluation. What it all means, how it all happened. Maybe?"

"Maybe." Dan looked down at his hand again. "Maybe I just think that if someone falls in love with someone else than the love he might have had for the first one isn't worth as much as it was before." He pulled on his cigarette, then stubbed out the butt on the rocks.

Markus remained very silent, but reached out to touch Dima, looking at him for a moment. Dima took his hand and held it.

"I think, personally, that we can't make judgements like that … I'd take anything in its time and what it meant back then. And with your history, it's clear you guys both risked everything and did everything for each other. I think Vadim would still die for you, even though he went on his own little crusade, even though he was a scary bastard in Afghanistan. We're people, Dan. We're more complex than black and white. Vadim certainly seems to have some shades and colours there that … probably defy all rational analysis." Dima inhaled. "But, if you think he's fallen in love, then there's three things: one, accept it and live with it … which seems unlikely. Two: Wait till he's decided who he wants … he might work out it's not all that serious, or three: force him to make a decision and to not see this American again."

Dan let out a soft huff of laughter. Not entirely without humour, but certainly with a lot of wistfulness. "Three would be a killer, and he never forced me to make a decision either, so it's a no-go. Besides, I don't believe in it." Glancing at the two men's combined hands, he smiled. "One, you're right, complete no-go, too. I thought I was okay with it, hell, I would have been okay if he'd just gone out and have sex and enjoy himself, like I do, but this ... this is cutting bloody deep. Especially with a man who's damn similar in some ways to my younger self, and so extremely different in others." He looked up, from one to the other. "I guess it is two, then. Not much I can do until he's made up his mind, aye?"

"No, not really, I'm afraid. Apart from giving him space and not pushing him away further. He's in no great situation, either, I imagine."

"Listen to Dima, he's a wise man." Markus smiled.

"You're biased. You are clearly biased." Dan countered and Markus let out a laugh. Another shrug and Dan stood up. "At least I can stop moping and go for a swim. Anyone care to join me?" He was already pulling the t-shirt over his head.

"I'll help get the food out first", said Dima.

"No problem." Dan made his way across the rocks, careful to balance, but it was tricky in the flip-flops. If he took them off he might cut his feet, thus he kept them on until he got closer to the water, then left them there, before he threw himself into the waves. It was good to feel the fresh sea water, taste and smell the salt. While nothing would ever come close to the Afghan mountain air, the sea would always be a friend, even though he'd never love the water as much as Vadim did. Swimming for quite a while, Dan got out eventually and looked across, shaking his head with a grin when he spotted Dima and Markus oblivious to food, sea, Dan and anything else, lost in what seemed to be a rather passionate kiss.

"Hey!" Dan called out, waving, "is that resuscitation or are you force-feeding each other?" He was still laughing when he got the flip-flops back on and made his way back. Dripping wet, eager to get to his towel, he sped up across the slippery rocks.

"I start to feel like one of the parents of a young family", groused Dima. "Honest, honey, I thought the kid was playing."

Bantering with the two men, Dan was shouting a particularly kind insult as he took a larger step, then a half-jump across a patch of algae, and he slipped. Balance gone, he hadn't seen the puddle, glistening amongst the rocks, but tried to stop his fall. "Shit!" he exclaimed, as he lost his footing completely, the flip-flop fell off and his left leg slid to the side, foot catching in a crevice and he crashed down onto the rocks with his right knee.

He screamed, the sound torn from his chest when the bones and cartilage let out a horrendous crunching sound and the pain was unbearable.

Dima was on his feet instantly, running, far more nimble than his body let on. Full medic mode in a heartbeat, before Markus had even managed to pale at the sudden scream. Dima was there in a moment, cursing in Russian as he touched Dan's shoulders. "Calm. Breathe. I'm there." Firm, secure touches. "Don't panic. We're here."

"I'm not fucking panicking!" Dan pressed out between his teeth, sick with the pain, he wanted to tear into something, shout, yell, curse, and groaned out instead, "my knee!"

Dima moved stones to the side, one hand then on Dan's leg, soothing, no pressure, like he was dealing with a panicking animal. "We'll get you to a hospital. Can you stand on the other leg?"

"I don't know. Don't fucking know!" But of course he was already fighting to get up, even though the pain was nauseating. Every new pain was a fresh memory, and the old ones had paled.

"Take hold of my shoulder." Markus' voice, he'd made it across and was on Dan's other side.

Dima nodded to Markus, took hold of Dan's other side, firmly supporting him, as they very carefully made their way back to the car, evaluating every step like on a minefield, with Dan hopping on his left leg. Another trip-up could be potentially disastrous. They managed to get to the car, where Markus helped Dan inside and Dima returned to the beach to grab the stuff - moving quickly to gather the baskets and everything else, cursing inwardly for not having anything with him that could help Dan right now … but with that kind of injury, he wanted an x-ray, and, besides, he wasn't a proper doctor.

When he returned, Markus had helped make Dan as comfortable as possible in the back seat. Leg stretched out, and towels rolled up for support. "He won't give me my fucking painkillers!" Dan hissed at Dima when he returned.

"I just don't know if I should." Markus looked at Dima for help.

"Not to a civilian, but in this case …" Dima nodded and went through Dan's stuff to check the prescription, then counted him two pills out and handed them to Dan. "No need to make you suffer worse on the way to hospital."

"Cheers, bastard." Dan groused, but it was the pain speaking. He swallowed the pills dry and pressed his head back against the backseat window.

Getting inside, Dima took the steering wheel after a short query from Markus, who explained to him the fastest way to the hospital.

Dan never made a sound except for an occasional suppressed groan, for the entire hour it took to get to the hospital.

They arrived at the main entrance, after somebody had tried to dissuade them - until Dima had stated in no unclear terms that this was an emergency, and he vanished inside, to return only five minutes later with several hospital staff and a trolley. Between them, they got Dan out of the car and onto the trolley, and got him inside, while Dima stayed around, trusting Markus to find a parking place and join them later.

By the time Markus arrived in the ward, Dan had been wheeled to an orderly, and was already on his way to be x-rayed. They hadn't let Dima follow Dan, and Dima was sitting in the waiting area, looking up when Markus arrived.

"What's happening?"

"X-ray." Dima leaned back and shook his head. "Shit. I knew this was coming, but it's bad all the same. Plus, not sure how to get in touch with Vadim. If this is what I think it is, he should be in touch."

"Best ask Dan when he comes back out, he must have a phone number." Markus frowned, sat close to Dima, and from his thoughtful expression it was obvious that he was thinking of ways to help. The machinery that was at his disposal wasn't made for such situations and could not offer direct help, but it might come in handy nevertheless.

It took a long time before Dan came back out. Over two hours, before he finally returned in a wheelchair, leg elevated and knee tightly strapped up, holding a large envelope in his lap. His face was closed, showing nothing. "They can't do anything here. I need to get back to Britain." His voice, too, devoid of anything.

Dima nodded. "I'm sure we can arrange that." Looking at Markus, who was far better at organizing stuff than he was.

"Of course, I am sure I can get you onto the next possible flight. Where to?"

But Dan didn't answer.

"Let me have a look?" Dima took the envelope out of Dan's hands and pulled the foil out far enough to have a look at the knee, examining it against the light in the corridor. He winced when he saw the x-ray. Nothing should look like that, it was all wrong, the knee looked like it had pretty much disintegrated. He stuffed the envelope back. "Do you have a phone number for Vadim? I'd call him."

"No. They are in a fucking cabin in the fucking Rocky Mountains. No fucking phone." Pressed out, "he said he'd call in two days." Dan suddenly shook his head, violently. "I'll be okay. Been doing this shit on my own before." His fist clenched in his lap, "take me back to camp, aye? Need to organise some things."

"Let's get back into the car", Dima conceded, and they got out of the hospital and carefully manoeuvred Dan back into the car. On the way towards camp, Dima asked: "How long do you need to organize your things? That knee won't get any better." There was no space for positive improvement. None.

"I know. They told me." Dan looked out of the window, shutting up, clearly not venturing anything else.

Dima reached out and touched Dan's shoulder, looking at him, but wouldn't deny it. It was definitely over, and what that meant for Dan was anybody's guess. "We'll organize the flights and pick you up - what do you think? Tomorrow? Or later tonight? Can we do that?" Looking at Markus.

"Tomorrow." Markus was driving, his face concentrated, working out solutions. "I can get you on a flight early in the morning. There is one going to London Heathrow, and I am sure I can sort out the paperwork. Okay, Dan?" He glanced to the backseat, but Dan didn't answer. "I assume you need to get to a hospital?" Still no answer and Markus looked at Dima. "I can help with that as well, perhaps."

"Yes." Dima gave him a smile. "Do you know anybody in the area? What about Scotland? You're Scottish, so … maybe get treatment there? Do you know anybody in the area?"

Dan didn't seem to listen. No indication, no sound, nothing. Whatever they asked, whatever they said, he didn't react. Not until they got to the camp. "You haven't got security clearance. I'll manage." The hospital had given him two crutches, and Dan was fighting his way out of the car with them. Not accepting help.

"Okay." Dima got out of the car. "We'll call you about the flights. Meanwhile …" He shrugged. "Call us if you need anything, okay?"

"Yeah, thanks." Dan nodded at him and Markus, barely accepting that Dima helped him sling the bag across the shoulders, then hobbling on his crutches through the gate, not turning once.

* * * * * * *

Vadim sat in one of those very American 'diners', having just demolished what amounted to the worst nutritional sin: a stack of pancakes with tangy syrup, but he'd always wanted to try those, having known them only from TV, and all washed down with coffee that wasn't great, but very strong. He asked for a phone and the booth was indicated to him. Quickly doing the calculations, it would be late morning over in the Balkans. Calling the camp, but the answer there was confusing - confusing and alarming, so he dialled the other number he'd taken, just in case.

The voice that answered the phone spoke English, with a Germanic accent, and was obviously in a hurry. "Hello?"

"Markus? Vadim here. How are you?"

"Vadim! Sorry, I was just ..." a loud rustling sound was heard, then a clunk, and Markus seemed to settle. "We were waiting for your call."

"I thought so … Dan? Dan is back in Britain? The people in camp said he left a couple of days ago and has flown back to Britain. What happened?"

"I'm afraid he had an accident. I mean, not an accident, but we were at the beach and he slipped. He ... the knee's bad. Dima saw the x-rays and he told me the knee is practically shattered. Nothing that can be done." Markus lit a cigarette, Vadim could hear him inhale. "I organised a flight out for him the next morning, and as far as I know he got into a hospital in Southampton. It was the only one that could do the surgery as soon as possible."

Vadim felt his stomach churn, the pancakes in there felt as heavy as the same amount in cement. "Oh … damn." Practically shattered. Fuck. The knee. The bad knee. "I'll be back over right away … I'll take the fastest flight out. Do you have a phone number at the hospital? How is he … holding up?"

"He wasn't talking." The worry was audible in Markus' voice. He hadn't liked that fact and it showed. "Do you know if he has any family close? He wouldn't even answer that." The sound of smoking again.

"Yes, he has family up in Scotland. I'll call his brother. Maybe Duncan can help."

"Scotland ... that's probably furthest away." Markus sighed, "I have a phone number for the hospital, but I have no idea when they will operate on him. Dima told me he thinks the only way is an artificial knee."

"Career-ending operation, yes?" That was the worst.

"Yes." A pause, then, "artificial knees are pretty good these days, but it's the end of a lot of things. Running, climbing, that sort of stuff."

Vadim cursed himself for having left, but fuck, he couldn't have known. "Give me the phone numbers. I'll be back as soon as possible. I'll … do what I can." Almost apologetic.

"Vadim?" Markus sounded hesitant.


"I realise it is not my business, but before the accident happened, we ... Dan and Dima talked. He's ... whatever ... whatever you decide ..." Markus was clearly uncomfortable talking about this private matter, but he seemed rattled enough to feel the need to say it nevertheless.

Vadim closed his eyes. Dan had discussed the whole thing. Not enough that he'd done that in the restaurant, no, they'd discussed it further. How bad did that make him look? Leaving Dan in an hour of need because there was Hooch? Fuck that. The thought alone made him angry, nauseous, helpless. "You mean, decide between Hooch and Dan?" Hooch the man that was helplessly tied up in the cabin up the mountain, and Dan, who'd suffered a career-ending wound and lay in a hospital, completely alone.

"No." Markus exhaled noisily. "Whatever you decide to do." A pause, then a small sound. "Sugar!" The most cursing that Markus allowed himself. "I'm sorry, I should have shut up." A faint rustling sound. "Will you accept my apologies for meddling in affairs that are not mine but that of friends, and take the phone number instead?"

"Don't worry. It's … it's just not easy at the moment." Vadim inhaled deeply. "Listen, I should make preparations to come back … I'll give you a call once the flight is sorted, and I'll call Dan right away. Thanks for looking after him when I was gone, okay?"

"You're welcome, and I will tell Dima that you called."

Vadim ended the call with a bad feeling in his guts, dread, memories from another hospital and Dan shot to shit. Promises, back then. Now, years later, he had to stand by his word, he had to. It made him feel helpless, just like last time. He'd be there. No doubt. He dialled the number Markus had given him, waiting for reception to pick up.

They were soon on the line and asked what they could do for him. And when he told them, they flat out refused to give any kind of information, to, as they put it, unauthorized users. Vadim was stunned, but realized, yes, he wasn't family; he was nothing. To all intents and purposes, Dan was none of his business. He shuddered, couldn't think straight, didn't argue, didn't reason with them, just put the phone down, utterly stunned. He'd forgotten about the civilian, straight, heterosexual ways to deal with people like Dan and him.

He needed a few moments to calm down, then called Duncan, who was astonished first, then delighted, and then alerted when he realised why Vadim called. The alertness turned into worry when Vadim explained to him what happened, and Duncan promised to find out immediately at the hospital what was going on, and to call him back, straight away. Duncan hung up after Vadim had found the number of the pay phone.

It took about half an hour before the phone rang again. "Vadim?" Duncan's voice was faint on the crackling line.

"Yes, I'm here. How … what does it look like? What's the … situation?"

"They are getting Dan ready for the surgery. He was lucky, one of the surgeons who's an expert on knee replacements has a slot free. It's all happening much faster than expected. He is currently being prepared."

"Fuck." And I'm not there. "I mean … lucky, but … I am in the wrong place." He remembered how much Dan hated hospitals, and by now it felt like madness that he'd left without a direct phone connection at all. Fuck. "Thanks. I … I don't know. I'll get a plane back, I'll be there, but … I think they won't let me through. Can you … can you help somehow?"

"Not let you through?" Duncan sounded incredulous.

"Of course not. I'm a stranger for them. The gay thing doesn't exist, and certainly doesn't mean I have any right to disturb a patient." Vadim felt the bile rise. "Sorry. I'm just … headless at the moment."

"Listen, I can't get away from here immediately. Mhairi isn't too well and the farm, I can't just leave it, aye? When do you think will you be able to be in Southampton? You are in the Balkans at the moment, aren't you?"

"No, I was … visiting a friend in the States. I'll take the next flight back. Could you call and I check with you? I'm absolutely taking the very next flight to the UK."

"Aye. How many days? Two?"

"At most."

"I make sure they let you through and I will be there as well. I should be able to get down there in a couple of days, too. Call me anytime, in the meantime I'll organise everything with the hospital and keep checking up on Dan via phone. I'll speak to you soon, Vadim. Take care." The line went dead.

"Thank you." Vadim sat down, placed the phone back and ordered another coffee, then, after the first mouthful decided that the coffee would kill his raging stomach, and ordered tap water. Shit. What a fuck-up. He paid his food and drink and went to Hooch's car, and drove back. The roads were mostly empty, he was lucky that there was hardly anybody on the streets, because he drove like a sleepwalker. When he was back at the cabin he could barely remember how he'd got there.

He unlocked the door, walked into the bedroom, where Hooch was trussed up, blindfolded, and waiting for him. Vadim stroked his face, then cut the rope that held the whole bundle together, and Hooch collapsed. Muscles refusing to comply. Trying to get Hooch out of the 'scene' as gently as possible, but he was in no mood to continue the game. He'd be shit, as upset and confused as he was now. "Hooch. I'll have to go back", he murmured, stroking the man, not yet taking the blindfold off.

Hooch was struggling to get his thoughts together, to surface, and he attempted to lift his hands to get to the gag, but his arms, too, didn't comply. Not yet. He managed to nod, though, while breathing sharply and harshly through his nose.

Vadim lay down on the bed, right next to him, stroking him. When he felt Hooch was starting to come round, he carefully took the gag out, ever so gently, and got up to head to the bathroom, returning with a warm, wet washcloth and a towel to clean Hooch up a little. He massaged the strained shoulders, the arms, then lay down beside him to warm and reassure him, to 'cuddle', even. "I'm sorry", he murmured. "I made a call, and something … serious has happened over in Europe. Dan is in hospital, they … will replace his knee. I need to get back."

Hooch took in a deep breath, body wrecked with shudders. "Dan?" It took him a while to clue on. Thoughts sluggish, and his voice raw and abused. "You got ... to go." Lifting his head towards Vadim, despite the blindfold. He started to have control over his fingers again, and they scrabbled for Vadim, touching his chest.

Vadim placed an arm around him, holding him tight, chest to chest, and just having somebody close felt good while he was worried witless - at least it felt like it, fear, guilt, nausea. Waiting several minutes, then he took the blindfold off. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah ..." breathed out, Hooch's eyes were disoriented at first, slowly focusing. "But are you?"

"At the moment, I don't know, I really don't."

It took some effort to lift an arm, but Hooch managed. Strength would be returning eventually. "What happened to Dan?" The arm came down on Vadim's shoulder, its weight reassuring.

"He tripped and his knee … the bad one, apparently sustained some serious damage. He needs a replacement, and he's going under the knife right now."

"Shit. I'll help you get a flight. Just got to ... got to get my body under control." Hooch offered a half-smile.

Vadim nodded, held him tight. "Fuck." Changing from the one who controlled and punished to the one who needed somebody close, right now, needed reassurance, closeness, needed the touch. "It's the end of the line for him. I kept saying … kept telling him I wanted to quit, and he always fought it, but fuck, that's it now. He's forced to quit now."

"That's bad." Hooch's voice was gravely, and he could hardly hold onto Vadim, but he still managed to convey his understanding. "Help me get into a bath?"

"Yeah." Vadim stood, headed into the bathroom, ran the hot bath that should relax Hooch's tight muscles, and helped him get up, steadying the man and helping him to get into the bath, where he helped to stretch and massage the muscles. He had to force himself to focus on Hooch, had to push all thoughts of Dan away, at least now, in the aftercare part, where much depended on him reading the body right. But fortunately the body was tough, incredibly resilient, and Hooch was coming back to functioning much quicker than he usual. Clearly forcing himself.

He was more or less functional an hour later, dressing after downing a litre of water, topping up with a strong coffee that Vadim had brewed. Vadim drove the car, Hooch's muscles were still too sore, but when they checked out flights in the travel agency in town, Hooch appeared as normal as anyone could, at least anyone covered in bruises that were cleverly hidden beneath the casual clothing.

While Hooch was negotiating flights to Britain, using all of his considerable persuasion powers, Vadim was on the phone to Duncan. Nothing new from the hospital, still the same, and even Duncan wondered if he was being fobbed off by nurses who were too stressed to actually deal with a request for information.

It wasn't straightforward when he called the camp, either. Vadim's contract was still running, and he was forced to fall back onto the Baroness, but he didn't have her phone number, could only refer to her, but right now couldn't reach her. No matter, though, he wouldn't go back to the Balkans, was going to Britain instead. When he met Hooch again, after endless phone calls, Hooch was holding a ticket out to him. The next morning, the earliest possible flight, to London Gatwick.

"Thank you." Vadim's head spun - all the implications, all that work, and legal things and medical things and the worry. "Should we … find a hotel near the airport? Think … you can spend the night with me there?" Which amounted to: I don't want to be alone. Unlike Dan, of course, and the guilt was back eating at his guts.

"Sure." Hooch smiled, touched Vadim's shoulder. "Let's pack up, and head to the airport. I take you to the plane tomorrow."

They did exactly that, and while Vadim didn't manage to push Dan completely from his mind, he was less frantic, even managed to sleep after giving and receiving a blow job, not because he felt like sex but because he needed to get tired, somehow, any way that worked. He finally managed to sleep for a few hours, even if that sleep was restless and sweaty, but at the very least he didn't scream.

The next morning Hooch did as he'd promised, he was seeing Vadim off at 6 AM, even waiting until he had gone through passport control.

It had been six days since Vadim had seen Dan last, and it would take at least another one before he could gain access. It all felt bleak, depressing, dark. He was helpless, condemned to just wait it out, not knowing, with no way to check while in the air, and he didn't know how to face it. But it had to happen one day, they had both seen it coming. Dan had ignored it, and Vadim had allowed himself to be fooled. And nothing could bring that back. They hadn't actually planned for retirement, which meant a lot of work still ahead, a completely new life, a new routine would have to be found, a new way for everything. Vadim sat there, looking at the clouds underneath and wished he could have had this differently. That Dan had retired out of his own free will, and not been forced. Even now that he'd got what he wanted - this had indeed been their last war - now he wished he hadn't, but only for Dan's sake.

July 1993, Southampton, United Kingdom

In the hospital, Dan was sitting in a wheelchair, leg raised and immobilised. He'd been prepared for surgery, face stoic, not a muscle twitching, and he'd hardly spoken a word. Couldn't ... just couldn't. Alone, and so goddamned frightened, the fear was knotting his stomach like nothing had ever done before. But he wouldn't show it, wouldn't admit to it. He had no one to admit it to anyway.

Sitting in the hospital gown, all prepped, he was looking at the surgeon.

"Do you have any other questions, Mr McFadyen?"

Dan studied the man in his green shrubs. Questions? What was left to question? The valium was putting a veil over everything, and yet the fear was still there.

"Will I be a cripple?" First words spoken in a long time.

"Mr McFadyen, I would not use such a word. Of course you won't be. There is a lot you will be able to do. Sports, such as cycling or swimming, but of course not breasts strokes, have been known to be very beneficial. The modern medicine ..."

"No." Dan cut in between. "I want to know if I will be a cripple or if I will be able to do my job."

"Your job, Mr McFadyen?"

"Aye. I am a soldier. Ex-SAS ... I am ... a mercenary now. PMC."

"I am afraid ..."

"Afraid what? I want you to tell me here and now, once you've cut my bones, ripped out the destroyed joint and put that fake one in: Will. I. Be. A. Cripple. Or. Not? Will I get back on duty again?"

"If you put it that way ..." The surgeon was clearly uncomfortable, especially when presented with Dan's clenched fist.

"I do."

"Then the answer is ... no. I am sorry, Mr McFadyen, but you will never go on active duty again."

- Dan and Vadim's story continues in the Veterans cycle -

Special Forces Chapter LIV: Point of No Return
Warning for Readers

The following work of fiction contains graphic homosexual interaction, violence and non-consensual sex. With this work of fiction the authors do not condone in any way any form of intolerance and injustice, e.g. racism, sexual harassment, incitement of hatred, religious hatred nor persecution, xenophobia and misogyny. Neither do the authors through this work of fiction promote violence nor make light of such grave matters as genocide, any taking of human life, murder, execution, rape, torture, persecution of sexual orientation.

By accessing this work of fiction you hereby accept and agree that this is a work of fiction and does not reflect in any way the opinions of the authors. The authors do not necessarily endorse the views expressed by the fictional characters.

By accessing this work of fiction you hereby indemnify the authors against all claims and actions whatsoever arising from reading the work of fiction.

All characters are fictional. Any similarities with living or deceased people are coincidental. In case of real life events, creative license has been applied. Special Forces is intellectual property of Marquesate and Vashtan. Copyright © 2006-2009. All rights reserved.


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Published 14 November 2008