was nothing chanced about this. No happenstance encounter,
no bumping into convoy, patrol, or whatever the fuck
the Russkies were doing in October in these mountains.
Not a scrap of convenient 'by chance', nor a smidgen
of lie he could tell himself. No fibs, no nothing.
only goddamned reason why Dan was hiding in this godforsaken
part of the mountains, that only motherfucking reason,
was the Russian. His Russian. His very own Spetsnaz
soldier. Holed up too close to tank-levelled villages
that had once been inhabited by goats, black-draped
women and tea-cosied men, and far too near to a Soviet
outpost. He had no other business in this place, was
expected back in Kabul by now, but fuck, he hadn't had
his hands on his Russkie for too many weeks.
Waiting. Watching. Listening and patiently cowering
behind several rocks. He'd seen the patrols before;
knew Vadim was part of that unit, and he'd be buggered
if he was going to leave his post before he'd had his
fill - and the other's.
Dan was cursing himself and his inability to follow
anything but his cock. Painfully aware of the irony
of it all, how he had accused the other of being a stupid
fuck who was ruled by his cock, now proving for the
umpteenth time he wasn't any better.
would be getting cold in a few hours once night was
falling, but he'd come prepared. Bergan packed with
everything he needed to survive out there. The mountains
- his mother and father and saviour and friend and unforgivable
foe - and his most precious possession at all, a tub
of Vaseline. Sod gun oil, he'd be doing the luxury thing.
First a hotel room, now a proper lubricant. He was turning
into a romantic.
brushed hair out of his forehead, still short from the
shaving four months ago, about to rifle through his
bergan, when he suddenly heard noises. Froze. Peered
carefully over the top of the outcrop of rocks, and
was hit by the full-force sucker punch of desire.
voice; Vadim's body.
Russkie was here.
jokes, and a relatively uneventful patrol, which didn't
mean anything, only that there had been no all-out battles
for a couple of days. Largely, Vadim thought, because
they didn't take any fixed route across the mountains.
sat down to peel his boots off, while another comrade
got a fire going for tea, and there was the usual talk,
banter about girlfriends and families. Vadim looked
over the mountains, the landscape of grey and light
brown, sun-bleached bones of the earth.
groaned as he massaged his feet, which looked pretty
swollen even at that distance. Vadim stepped closer
and put a hand on the medic's shoulder. "Should
be back in two days."
nodded and gave Vadim his typical exasperated, somewhat
irritated glance. Dima had issues with being the medic.
But he had been smart enough, and had studied medicine
before joining, craving adventure, and most of all get
out of that town somewhere in the Urals where he came
from, only to end up studying emergency medical procedure
and, of course, walking patrol in the Afghan mountains.
Dima was proof in point that, if a cosmic intelligence
existed, its sense oft humour was sarcastic at best.
saw the guys needed a rest. Dima was as tough as everybody,
even though he tended to be more careful about his physical
limitations, and took cuts and bruises more seriously
than any of them, constantly reminding them that negligence
wouldn't do. He also made sure that things were as hygienic
as possible, and entertained them, at times, with stories
about typhoid and leprosy. Which he likely did out of
spite, knowing him.
was getting boiled, Alyosha lay flat on his back and
seemed ready to sleep, hat pulled into his eyes to shield
them from the sun, while all Sershka cared for was whether
the tea would taste more like sweat or tea, as the leaves
had apparently caught moisture.
tapped Alyosha into the side with his boot, rousing
him. "Thanks for volunteering for the guard, comrade",
he said. "I'm off to take a piss."
muttered something obscene, but got up, pushing the
hat back over his head, and reaching for the rifle.
was amazed he actually felt the need to piss. These
mountains sucked a man dry just from the sweat, and
his kidneys hurt for lack of water.
Dan's hand was moving silently while his body remained
frozen to the spot. No sound, except for the faintest
rustle as he slipped the tub of Vaseline into his hand,
arm moving minutely while watching the Soviet patrol.
Unscrewed the top, dug deep into the grease with his
left. Still no sound.
movement. Vadim was standing, then seemed to be walking
in his direction. Fuck, yes! For once the gods were
smiling at him, or perhaps the mountains had a gift
for their lover, presenting his Russkie on a plate.
Silver cutlery, crystal glasses, and all.
was snaking sideways, stayed hidden, intent on the sounds
the other man made. Reckoned Vadim was walking round
the corner, out of the patrol's view. He'd bet the other
was about to take a piss or shit, hoped he'd catch him
with BDUs conveniently around his knees.
found a good place, just out of sight, heard Alyosha
and Sershka exchange pleasantries, and smiled lightly
to himself. All spetsnaz, all professionals, one of
the best units he'd ever worked with. Great soldiering,
all the way, and discipline, too, which they only allowed
to relax a little when they were reasonably safe.
was moving as fast and yet as stealthily as he could,
greased left hand by his side. One mistake, one sound,
and he'd be caught. Killed by his cock, and he'd deserve
opened his fly and pulled out his cock, silently pissed,
thought of nothing much but the lessening of pressure
on his bladder and that he'd grown used to the mountains,
somehow. On patrol, they saw sights nobody did, dramatic
gorges, the way light reflected off a deep valley, an
unexpected speck of green in this desert of rocks, or
how the sky tore open after rain.
saw the other's back, broad, known, as familiar as the
scars that were hidden beneath the uniform. Knew what
the body could do and that he'd get himself killed by
his own favourite enemy, if he weren't fast enough.
Heard Vadim pissing, thanked the mountains for his luck.
more step. One yard to cross between rocks, and he'd
reached his target. Adrenaline pumping, heart racing,
and fuck, he was hard. Had been too long, too lonely,
and right now the danger an aphrodisiac beyond his wildest
took the step, used more speed and strength than he
needed, crashed his body into the other's, pushed Vadim
into the rocks, impact muffled by flesh and blood. The
full length of his body against the Russkie's, Dan's
right flew to the other's face, covered his mouth before
he could let out a sound. One sound, just one measly
sound that reached the idle chatter of the rest of the
patrol, and he'd be dead, greeting Vanya in hell.
sudden terror made Vadim dizzy, too fucking surprised
to fight the onslaught, taken by surprise like a fucking
goat-herder, and his hand went to the knife on instinct.
sound." Dan breathed into the other's ear, "I've
been waiting for you", grinding his cock into that
arse, feeling the Russian struggle. "I'm here to
fuck you, Vadim."
It was Dan. Vadim's hand released the hilt of the blade,
instead tried to turn around. Patrol leader. Officer.
Fuck. The others were what? Ten, fifteen yards away?
He shook his head, but could feel Dan's hands already
on his BDUs, and pull them down, holding him there with
the weight of his body. He wouldn't listen. He'd do
it. The holed up lust, gathering inside, the fucking
need for a cock up his ass, for the other's raw power,
weeks and months and fucking months. No way, impossible.
sound." Dan repeated again, no more than a breath
against the other's ear. Used his right to open his
own trousers, pushed briefs down, wore underwear in
the mountains, then pulled out his cock with his left,
lubricating himself. All the while pinning Vadim's body
against the rocks with his own. Whispered once more:
"Silence, or I'm fucking dead."
left hand dropped between Vadim's arse cheeks, pushed
slick fingers into the hole, breaching the muscle. Nothing
took more than a few seconds.
cock, or? Vadim felt his heart stop,
just stop, a sharp pain in his chest, what a way to
die, bent over a rock, opened up, something up his ass
and an enemy going to fuck him within earshot of his
own men. In. Broad. Day. Light. He shook his head, just
that, couldn't plead, but the other didn't listen.
even fathom what the other spetsnaz would do to Dan,
after weeks in the mountains, running like the wolf
pack. And him, the ranking officer, been taken and fucked.
The kind of thing that broke careers and people. Only
way to deal with this would be putting a bullet in his
right hand went up to cover Vadim's mouth, fingers gripping
hard. Left guided his own cock, knew the arse as well
as his own, probably better, twisted hips, pushed, slid
and forced, thrust harder to breach the muscle with
his cock this time. Groaned, bit into the fabric of
Vadim's uniform, had to keep himself from making a sound.
heart began to beat again, painful now, raced, raced
with fear and need, a measure of pain, because he didn't
want this, didn't want to take that risk, not at these
odds, no way, but the cock hit him just right, and he
knew it, knew what would come, and the pleasure came
and doubled because it was as brutal as it was. Because
Dan just took, knowing he wanted. And he did.
fast, they had no more than a few minutes, if all. Dan
pulled out, snapped his hips forward, rammed his cock
up that arse. Desperate. So motherfucking reckless with
need, he could cry or scream with the sensations. But
no sounds, just fabric against fabric as his body moved,
harsh, vicious, fucking his Russian; his cunt.
hand dropped to Vadim's cock, stroked as frantic and
relentless as he drove his cock into that body.
moved back, couldn't help it, cock hard and ready and
pulsing, unable to deny his own lust now, the pain just
perfect, just as he needed this, blowing his mind with
the fear and danger and how perfect it was. Clenched
hard down, feeling Dan's hand on his mouth, fuck, yes,
the closest thing to rape, his life and career and everything
on the line, but yes. Just yes. He came within what
felt like only heartbeats, into that hand, against the
rocks, hardly breathing so he couldn't make a sound,
dizzy with lack of oxygen.
followed a fraction of a second later, his cock gripped
in the other's convulsions, sensed the cum splatter
against the rock, his hand wet, sticky. Bit hard into
the uniform, caught some skin and flesh as well, his
whole body shuddered as he came, wanted to scream, the
sensation blew his mind, taking his senses and wringing
them out over an acid bath, leaving him empty, shaking
with tremors of aftershocks, as his cock remained hard
and deep within the other's body.
he had to move. Leave. Vanish from sight and sound.
Took the liberty to stay for another couple of seconds.
"Until next time." Breathed into Vadim's ear,
hardly able to speak. "Guess I'm the one who's
ruled by his cock." Chuckled tonelessly, pulled
out, reluctant and wanting to groan with the loss. Hands
sticky, greased, he was a mess, but fuck, a sated mess.
turned, quickly, felt the cum run down his legs, face
burning, breath catching in his throat because he wasn't
even sure he should pant. Heard, from too fucking close,
the other Spetsnaz debate whether the tea tasted like
shit or not, whether it was still within limits, and
pulled the rag free to wipe himself down, ass raw, but
he needed to hide the evidence. "Suka", he
smirked as an answer, pulled up briefs, closed his trousers,
sticky or not, no time. Every second the others could
turn round the corner.
called Dima, and Vadim's face twitched. "Here."
blew a mock-kiss at Vadim. Turned and vanished behind
the next outcrop of rocks. Vadim shook his head, but
couldn't suppress a grin. Nice and truly fucked. Shit.
into a hole?"
pulled his trousers up. "No, just waiting for you,
laughter, and Alyosha's and Sershka's heads appeared,
just as Vadim closed the belt.
was watching, hardly breathing. So close, he could smell
the Russkies, mixing with the scent of lust, cum and
sweat, but they'd probably think Vadim had just had
things rations do to my guts", said Vadim darkly,
and returned to camp, it was one of the facts of soldiering
life that rations - or lack of water, or a virus - upset
digestion. It would explain why he walked stiffly.
poured him tea, and he decreed it undrinkable, then
had a bite to eat, and rested, body remembering Dan,
too well, too often, the slickness between his cheeks,
oil or whatever he'd used, the raw feeling staying with
him that day as he walked, and sat down, and how fucking
twisted, but that dirty little secret made him smile.
March 1984, London
what is this?"
Surely, Soviet toothpaste is not dangerous goods, Sir?"
heard something like "Commie smartass" from
one of the customs officers. His passport was still
being checked. It didn't have many pages, and not a
lot of stamps. And it wasn't War and Peace. Still, it
seemed to provide plenty of entertainment.
asked him out of the queue and escorted him into one
of the rooms where they did the searches. Five men in
the room, all armed and in uniform. Vadim was asked
to sit down, and did, aware of the old trick of establishing
hierarchy. What was missing now was a bright lamp shining
into his face.
this is democracy. Terrific thing to have.
man who dug into his pack wore gloves. Unpacked everything,
even shook the book he'd bought in transit. Travel guide
Greater London und Kent, as well as an A to Z for London.
He had scribbled in the margins, underlined things that
were world-reknowned. British Museum. National Gallery.
National Portrait Gallery. He'd be lucky if he'd make
it that far. And no way he'd be able to explain those
entry fees on his expenses. Culture was not exactly
a thing the KGB cherished. And the sums were fantastic;
at least as per the exchange rate in roubles.
Vadim forced himself to remain as stoic as during basic
training. "Soap. I didn't bring razors."
not?" The door had opened and another man had entered.
"If I may ask, Mr Krasnorada?" He held Vadim's
passport. Ah. Now, that was a professional. Vadim was
pretty sure where his suitcase was at the moment, and
what they were doing with it. He was no beginner. There
was absolutely nothing they'd find, and plenty of places
where they could plant something. Cold War games, just
official wore a neat dark suit, as serious as cancer.
Beautiful shirt though, excellent fit. One thing the
KGB could clearly learn from their European colleagues.
"Why no razors?"
were sold out."
man leaned back with the easy arrogance that having
a strong currency brought. "You must feel very
I?" asked Vadim.
man paused and smiled, then thanked his colleagues for
the "excellent work" and sent them out. There
was still a camera, pointing from the corner of the
ceiling directly into Vadim's face.
am sorry, I am tired. I might not understand what you
are trying to say."
man nodded. "What is your business in the United
invited by regional fencing coach, Sir." Vadim
pointed at the backpack. "It's in the pack."
Not that that reason hadn't already been given a dozen
times. It wasn't the greatest alibi and would have been
much better if he'd had made a medal. If he'd actually
been a fencer, and not just a pentathlete. "Mr
Robbins. We met at Montreal, in Canada."
are a sportsman, yes? Major Krasnorada?"
nodded. "Yes, sir. I could only become an Olympic
fighter if I joined the officer corps."
you look very tanned."
Vadim could feel his jaw muscles tense. "I have
just returned from Afghanistan." The word didn't
belong here in this small, dreary room somewhere in
the bowels of Heathrow. This man's boss probably used
the same toilet in the same building where the man pissed
who had briefed Dan. Go out there, to that wild and
barren place, and give hell to the Russkies.
man sat down opposite, crossed his arms and leaned back,
regarding Vadim evenly. They were alone in the room,
with just the camera. "Active duty?"
shook his head. "I'm getting a little old for that.
But I don't think I can tell you more about my duties,
with all due respect, Sir."
man's brown eyes caught interest now; maybe he allowed
him to see that. It was hard to say with intelligence
types. The same kind of nondescript faces, the same
wits and smooth talk. "Your English is excellent."
you, Sir. It's much better than my German." He
had the stamps to the German Democratic Republic in
his passport. Nothing new. Speaking Dan's language in
Dan's own country, Dan's own brand of intelligence officers
in front of him. How strange.
I hope you enjoy your stay. You will give a presentation?"
is important we learn to understand each other",
said Vadim, and, for once, meant it. Important to enter
a dialogue of brothers. People of the world ... talk.
Talk and understand, and that would make war difficult,
and the nuclear holocaust impossible. That was, at least,
the hope. Party doctrine. Peace movement; much of it
financed from the shadows. Render the enemy's youth
unwilling to fight. Amusingly enough, Dan had done more
to that end than he could let on, but it made him a
more convincing pacifist right now. Enemy territory.
Preparation. To what end, he didn't know, but he harboured
a guess, and it was not a pleasant one. Who could know
what the Kremlin was planning. Those men had only a
few years of their lives left to live, anyway. "I
can only hope to do my part in this."
seem to be an intelligent man, Major." The spook
gave him an altogether charming smile that looked genuine
and honest. "Please, if you enjoy this country,
I'd look forward to meeting you again." He reached
into the front pocket of his suit and placed a card
next to Vadim's pack on the table. "Just give me
a ring. I am sure I can make time for you."
blinked. And this would be ... an attempt to turn him.
They knew he was military, he spoke English, he had
expressed hope of helping to end the Cold War. The pointers
were all in place. He had sounded like he wanted to
be turned, and they had obliged. How very forthcoming.
he? Vadim stood, the man stood as well, stepped closer
and offered him a hand. "I'd be delighted",
said the man, and gave another sincere smile. It was
all about leading people, making them trust you, spooks
always used those dirty tricks. And what if they did
background checks on him? What if they compared notes?
What if there was a leak, higher up, and Vadim's name
was known? Even worse, what if Dan had used his name,
in a report back home? Well, in that case, he might
just as well be fucked, and not the good way.
I could give you your passport. Silly me", said
the man and handed Vadim the passport.
Now he was making it obvious. Passport, the right to
travel. Freedom. What these people called freedom. And
wouldn't it be nice if he was indeed nothing but an
ageing ex-athlete, meeting other ageing ex-athletes
for a cup of tea and a laugh about how serious they
had taken medals eight years ago?
will think about it", said Vadim, took the piece
of paper from the table, which only had a number on
it, then began to pack his bag again. Toothpaste, soap,
toothbrush, map and A to Z. He didn't need more for
read the A to Z on the train, cross-checked with the
travel guide. Looking, to all intents and purposes,
the Soviet visitor scared to get lost in all that freedom.
But maps were powerful things. Information the weapon.
Especially if it could be purchased cheaply anywhere.
hauled the suitcase after him through Victoria Station,
an intriguing construction that place, like a plaza
that had just a roof put on top. No real plan to it,
no structure, it looked like the Brits just improvised,
managing the chaos that was their capital. They needed
a train station, they just haphazardly made all the
trains stop in a place, and stuck a roof on top. There
was their big terminal.
headed deeper into the bowels of the station, found
a woman that looked official, and had her explain to
him where to drop off his luggage. In the row of grey
lockers, he opened the suitcase, hands running over
the seams of the leather. He was one hundred percent
sure he was bugged, probably twice. But he'd be damned
if he could find the devices.
the main task was vanish in the crowd as soon as possible.
He locked in the suitcase, everything important on his
body, a light day pack that he had bought where he'd
bought the map, and headed into the underground, changing
trains at random, then heading out after about two hours
of being politely ignored, which seemed to be a very
British thing - they didn't even step out of his way
when he was moving, as if completely spatially unaware.
A blindness that would kill in any war zone.
heaved a sigh of relief when he came back to the surface.
Suddenly, everybody seemed very young; no suits, no
grey skirts, no clutched handbags. Instead, young people
with spiky hair, torn jeans, greasy and creased - in
an attempt to be as ugly and unkempt as possible. He
stood there, watching the youths stream past, it seemed
loud and chaotic, but then he defroze, and followed
was getting dusky, and he assumed he'd have maybe four
hours to find a place to crash - and kit himself out.
The airports, customs, and travel had settled heavily
on his bones, and the time difference had an impact.
He wasn't quite sure whether he should be hungry or
tired, or both, only knew that, compared to a patrol,
this was all a walk in the park.
stalls. Now he knew where the youths bought their clothes.
An eye-searing collection of neon colours, even collars
with silvery metal spikes made from cheap leather, and,
that amused Vadim somehow, belts made to look like ammo.
He followed, senses besieged by impressions the further
he walked that road, almost elbow to shoulder with the
crowd, he smelled weed every now and then, saw the usual
implements for it, sold freely as if they were decorations.
was offered to buy drugs, but smiled and shook his head,
saying "I don't understand" in Tadjik, assuming,
of all the different languages he'd heard, that this
one might be new. He was let off the hook, playing ignorant,
and thought, if he'd fancy a career as a drug dealer,
he'd just track, follow and kill those kids and take
their stash. They didn't seem particularly vicious,
and there was money on the street in this city.
how ironic, after burning the poppy fields in the valleys,
to see it sold freely in the streets. Purity, of course,
was another issue.
saw a shop that seemed promising - rows upon rows of
second-hand clothes, and headed in. Behind a counter
that displayed all manners of silver rings and arcaner
things that Vadim couldn't quite place, was a dark-clad
youth, hair so black it had to be dyed, and done up
in a big cloud of hair, a silent, rock-solid explosion
of hair, and the youth was busy and unaware kissing
and stroking something that looked like her twin sister.
Tight black PVC shirts and long skirts that were slit
up to bony hips, displaying black fishnet stockings
and high boots - so pointy it made Vadim's toes ache
in sympathy. And lace gloves. The other had a black
hat settled on that nest of hair, at an angle that made
Soviet parade uniforms appear practical and logical.
raised an eyebrow at the muffled sounds, but decided
as long as he ignored them, he would be ignored in turn.
through the shirts, he found a few that looked like
they could fit, he'd have to change to know, but he
figured he'd fit in better if he went with jeans and
nondescript T-shirts. He ran his fingers over leather
trousers right next to the second-hand stuff, and smirked.
By far too expensive, even though he liked the feel.
headed towards the counter, where the two pale dark-haired
creatures were still kissing. He waited, as patient
as in any Soviet shop, and eventually, they pulled apart.
Both wore the same amount of make up, red and black
lipstick, eye shadow in red and black as well, eyebrows
made to look like bats' wings.
one with the skirt might have longer fingernails. They
could have been Martians, and yet, they both looked
fragile and vulnerable, and Vadim didn't find them ridiculous.
there way to try them?" asked Vadim.
them on?" suggested the one who didn't wear a skirt.
Male? Or just a husky voice.
paused, went over his sentence again. "I mean,
do you have place where I can try these on?"
hand laden with silver rings and long fingernails waved
towards a curtain. Nothing more, just a curtain that
would hardly cover him. Vadim decided he didn't mind
much, even if normal people would, and the two creatures
would most likely be too busy reapplying their lipstick.
you", he muttered and headed behind the curtain
- about one step behind the corner. He found a cluttered
stool and put the pile of clothes there, placed the
day pack between his feet, constant contact, and stripped
out of the jacket and shirt, aware of the lack of dog
tags on his chest. Then tried the T-shirts, cloth soft
from being washed too often, which he liked, despite
the somewhat musky smell - being stored with too many
clothes in one place, and mothballs to protect them.
too bad. It would air out. He had no luck with the shirts
- too tight in the shoulder, or downright baggy, but
the T-shirts fit nicely enough. He'd just have to wear
a jacket or coat at this time of year.
jeans were alright, gave like second hand clothes did,
and Vadim stuffed his old clothes into a bag. He emerged
back from behind the curtain, seeing both youth slack-jawed.
the scars. Vadim gave a smile. "I'll take these."
The mirror near the door showed he'd fit in if he did
something with his hair and shoes. That shouldn't be
too much of a problem. He reached for his wallet, too
aware of the hole that the clothes ripped into his budget,
but it was absolutely mandatory to blend in, even in
a place as diverse and strange as this. It was bad enough
that his accent gave him away, but with a little luck,
it would be harder to place now.
one with the skirt leaned the elbows on the counter
and regarded him with all the blasée attitude
of a maybe twenty-year old who'd seen everything. Definitely
in terms of fashion. "You a tourist?" And
the voice was female. For a strange moment, he'd thought
they were both girls, then boys, but apparently, their
gender followed the normal traditon.
smiled. "More like visitor. Nice city, though."
alright", said the one behind the counter, shoving
his clothes over, long, bony, silver ringed fingers
splayed on them, not yet letting go.
he being checked out by two kids each half his weight
and bulk? Vadim glanced out onto the darkening street.
If anything, it was getting more crowded. He wondered
what Dan thought of this, and whether Dan had ever been
in one of these shops, and what he thought of boys that
wore eye shadow. And were old enough to have served
in the army and been killed.
probably know your way around", said Vadim, "I
can find shoes further down?"
Camden Lock market", said the boy.
something to eat?"
nodded and assured him there was plenty of food in that
area, too. Not that they seemed to eat much the way
they looked. "Thanks." They were nice enough,
he thought. He could just as well risk the rest, especially
as there was one further need he wanted to attend to.
What was the word Dan had used? "Are there gay
batted an eyelash. "Soho. Full of that." They
gave him directions as well and told him there was something
for every taste. Gyms, saunas, and nightclubs. The first
two sounded just great. This freedom thing made some
things easier, clearly. He'd be gone soon, he risked
nothing, nobody would see or remember him. Just fine.
No risk to the mission.
gave them another smile. "Thanks."
down the road he found shops hawking military kit, and
that was where he found some proper shoes, second hand
as well. He wanted nothing to stand out, definitely
not bulled boots; and then spied a bookshop that had
a special display with the year's date. Vadim wondered
what was so special about it, entered, and browsed some
of the books. In pounds, this was still too expensive,
by far, but it made him smirk that all the Russians
were there. Tolstoy, Gogol, Pushkin. Might be interesting
to read them in English and see how they changed. But
he needed to travel light.
plucked one of the books from near the window and read
was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were
striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into
his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped
quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions,
though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty
dust from entering along with him.
The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats.
At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor
display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply
an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of
a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache
and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the
stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best
of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric
current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part
of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The
flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine
and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went
slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing,
opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous
face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures
which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about
when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption
beneath it ran.'
really against totalitarianism", said the man behind
One of the banned books. Vadim felt it burn his fingers,
opened it again further into the book, knew the moment
he spoke the man would be able to tell what and who
Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are
not interested in the good of others; we are interested
solely in power.'
He glanced up, didn't understand, and understood too
well. Part of his mind coiling back. He shouldn't be
doing this, and he should feel guilt, or more of a pause,
but he had entered a place where the usual laws did
not apply, the usual chains didn't bind. And if anything,
having an anti-Soviet book in his pocket would clear
him of being a KGB assassin. Just part of the disguise.
Nothing more. He would probably not have the time to
read it, anyway.
He paid for the book, then walked back to the underground
station, where he took a train, and changed to get to
was dark by now, tourists, party-goers, loud, crowded,
he walked, dodged people running straight at him, Little
Compton Road, there, he was there, saw a nondescript
door painted with a rainbow flag. That was the place.
He saw men kissing while walking down the road - like
a parallel world, where this was neither a crime, nor
something to be ashamed of.
odd, how intoxicating. No force, no danger. He began
to see the point about freedom.
want to go in there?" asked somebody.
Vadim turned, suddenly faced with a man wearing leather.
Lots of it, in fact. Shining, gleaming, smooth black
leather. He looked like he had just stepped off a motorcycle,
but nothing like that anywhere near. Excellent body,
meaty, broad shoulders, powerful. "Yes", he
said, was strangely breathless. Man in leather. Okay.
clearly something to remember.
sure?" The man stepped closer, bastard trick, Vadim
smelled the leather, heard it creak. Chest nearly as
broad as his. The man was in prime shape, late thirties,
crows' feet around the eyes, but he couldn't guess their
colour behind the shades. Shades in darkness. How strange.
The man shrugged. "Just loose arseholes in there.
Old sluts hoping to score tonight."
Vadim gave a quick smile, and the other smiled back,
and he knew he liked the man on some level. Humour despite
the appearance. "It's sauna, yes?"
just a place to check out the flesh that's on offer",
said the other. "You should find a fanclub within
ten seconds flat. I'd say you look too classy for that."
took half a step away from the door. "Why is that?"
you fishing for compliments?" The man pulled the
sunglasses off, and his eyes were dark brown, a shade
lighter than Dan's. Vadim could feel his blood heat
up. He didn't want a sauna, didn't want to see what
that place was like. Instead, the other man became a
distinct possibility. Their eyes met, and the other's
lips curved into a smile. "I guess you are."
He stepped closer, again, now within distance of a punch,
and his voice turned into a low murmur. "You could
go in there and have them fawn over you. Or you could
come with me."
are you offering?"
The other grinned. "Pretty sure I have what you
need." That sentence did it. As straightforward,
teasing, and knowledgeable as could be. Unashamedly
erotic. A man that didn't hide, that needed no convincing,
and knew what he was doing.
Vadim stepped away from the door, and the other nodded,
as if congratulating him on a good choice, but he didn't
say it. "What were you looking for in there?"
The other gave a smirk. "Somebody like you. A new
face. Happens every now and then."
The other paused. "You wouldn't be the first tourist
to put himself on the market here. It's a holiday of
can say that again, thought Vadim, and found himself
walking beside the guy. He said his name was Darren,
and made in real estate, which sounded for a moment
like innuendo, but then Vadim understood he bought and
sold houses, or properties, as he called them, and that
it was really all quite boring.
Only that it was also pretty profitable, judging from
the flat. Vadim had expected a hotel room, but Darren
said something along the lines of a surprise, and Vadim
was intrigued. It would beat having to spend money on
a hotel room, that was, of course, if the other allowed
him to stay until the next morning. He had no idea how
these things went - definitely not as casual as it was
right now. Even with Sasha, things had been more complicated
- lies wrapped in subterfuge, covered with pretences.
Following a stranger into his flat for sex made him
feel oddly self-conscious. As if that Darren now called
First, he was offered a drink, and took it, amber liquid
in a tumbler, without ice. The other was close, but
not jumping his bones, or expecting him to jump his,
still casual and relaxed. Without the sunglasses, and
in the light, Darren had a good face, strong hands,
excellent, chiselled shoulders. He lost the jacket somewhere,
showing off his pecs, clearly a man who worked out hard
and maintained even more painstakingly.
returned the favour, and put his jacket over one of
the chairs in the kitchen.
gave him a grin and placed both hands on Vadim's chest,
warmth spreading, a calming touch, establishing contact.
"Anything you absolutely don't do?"
seemed ominous, like there was some kind of procedural
manual for reference, and the only one without a copy
was Vadim. What he absolutely didn't do. Genocide, rape,
torture. He shook his head. What could this man do that
Darren peered into his eyes, hands slowing moving outward,
as if measuring Vadim's chest, then down, fingers tracing
the lines of the pecs there, meeting just over his sternum.
"You have no idea what I'm talking about",
Darren said. "You're just playing by instinct."
Vadim gave a short laugh. "Just assume it's different
where I come from."
gather that", murmured Darren, and Vadim could
see that the man considered whether he was worth the
trouble or whether he should put him out the door and
thank him for his time. "Where are you from?"
shit. I thought you looked Scandinavian."
It was probably the wrong moment to tell him that the
Rus were descended from Vikings. Vadim emptied the glass,
the heat spread in his stomach and made him worry less.
Hadn't managed to eat, and was running low, fourteen
hours with nothing but the sandwich on the plane. "No.
Russian." He gave an ironic smirk. "Sorry."
Darren shook his head, discarding that notion. At least
the Cold War stayed outside, that man was just interested
in his body, which was fine. "You want to shower
First. Sex was on, then. Vadim nodded.
that door. Towels to the right. Take your time. I'm
upstairs in the bedroom."
Vadim nodded his thanks, and made his way to the shower.
Gleaming, clean tiles, chrome, a continuous, strong
rain of hot water. For the first time in two days, Vadim
felt comfortable, odd, given the situation. Found a
razor and shaved, relished being clean and smooth, and
thought of the other's body. Had no idea what to expect,
would be nice to fuck an ass again, after all the times
he'd been fucked, but couldn't allow that, and wouldn't.
Quickly towelled himself down, took another towel and
tied it around his waist, felt warm and relaxed and
looking forward to getting off.
corridor light was dimmed, one door almost closed, but
there was light on the other side, and he heard faint
groaning. Vadim glanced into the room, and the scene
inside didn't make sense at first. A man was there,
on the bed, wearing some kind of leather trousers that
were cut in a way as to bare his ass and groin, which
would have looked ridiculous if the black, gleaming
leather hadn't been tight in the other places, if he
hadn't been shaved smooth, if his hands hadn't been
bound to his ankles, legs kept wide apart by metal bars,
and if he hadn't been blindfolded and gagged. The body,
displayed like that, was to die for. Much like Darren,
who stood near the other's head, stroking it with all
the pride of an owner.
"Come on in", said Darren, and the bound man
jerked in the restraints. Maybe shame, maybe surprise.
frowned, giving a questioning glance, but despite the
setup, he assumed if the other was really in pain, he'd
know. As he walked around him, he saw the bound man
was hard, some kind of metal rings and leather keeping
his cock and balls confined. Smooth, powerful ass. Lubed.
It looked like it had been breached before, and Vadim
saw what looked like a plastic cock near the man's knee.
me introduce you to Mark."
other shuddered, and made strange noises, maybe begging.
Darren opened his fly and pulled out his cock, then
removed the gag only to push the other's head onto it,
who begun to suck so eagerly and hungrily that Vadim's
breath caught. Darren moved almost lazily, despite the
other's need, and motioned Vadim over.
Darren's finger hooked into the towel and pulled it
open, and it fell to the floor, while Vadim watched
the other's cock vanish between the lips, the blindfold
somehow making this better, lips wet and inviting, and
moaning noises, flaring nostrils, helpless and needing,
and reluctant when Darren pulled free, fully hard and
took the cue this time, took the other's head and guided
him to his own cock. Shit. Just as eager, and he groaned.
It was safe to make a noise now, have a complete stranger
suck him, while the man's lover watched, stroking himself.
Russia, with love", said Darren, and Vadim felt
Darren's hands on his back, that wet cock brushing his
flank, and felt trapped, lured, especially as Darren
began kissing his neck and shoulders, and it felt good,
all of this, the feeling of being a stranger bled away,
and he was a body among bodies, no strange accent that
made him stand out, just blending in with men that were
exactly like him.
hands moved to his pecs, and twisted his nipples, sending
white hot jolts of arousal through Vadim. Shit. Rolled
between strong fingers. His hips moved on their own,
and Darren whispered in his ear, something about him
being so goddamned sexy in his innocence, one hand moving
down over his back, to his ass, which made Vadim tense,
but shit, this was good, and getting better. The hand
moved between his cheeks, circled his ass, rough fingertips
just touching him there, while the other's lips and
mouth kept him rooted to the spot. Teeth dug into his
neck, and again breathing close to his ear. "Do
you want to fuck him?"
Vadim nodded, pulled away almost powerless with need,
kept on the brink now for too long, with the sneaking
suspicion this Mark was tasked to do exactly that, keep
him there, but fuck, he didn't actually care, cared
more about the ass - moved between the other's legs,
could see Darren make Mark suck his fingers, murmuring
something about wanting him to tell them just how much
he appreciated a big Russian cock, and that he would
remain ungagged for his performance so far. The easy
arrogance and callousness was incredibly sexy, Darren
fully in control of the other, seemed to know even what
the other thought.
"Wait a minute", said Darren as Vadim was
about to enter. "Tell me what you want, bitch."
sir." The 'sir' sent stabs of lust straight through
Vadim's body. Oh fuck. What was going on?
motioned for him to remain still, a wicked grin on his
lips. "That doesn't convince me."
want cock, sir, please, let me have cock."
cock?" Oh, that grin could become more evil yet.
yes, sir." Voice small, strangled, the man's mind
reeling with humiliation.
he's yours." And that wasn't just a metaphor,
Darren meant in, there was a layer to it that Vadim
found hard to grasp, and didn't actually care about,
instead entered the other's ass with all the pent-up
need and aggression that he had stored in his body,
which made the other very nearly cry out, a choked sound
deep from the throat, clenching, but he was nicely slicked
up and ripe.
pounded that ass, unleashing his strength, encouraged
by the sounds the other made, and Darren right behind
him, toying with his nipples, cock remaining hard against
him, but he had the strange feeling Darren didn't feel
any rush, just seemed to enjoy the show.
was sweating, pulled his lips back from his teeth and
tried to get himself over the edge and reached for Mark's
cock when Darren's hand suddenly closed around his wrist.
not allowed to cum."
Vadim nodded, not really understanding, but somehow
did, the fact that one man could control another like
that nearly mindblowing. Oh fuck. Innocent? He was a
bloody beginner, nothing else.
powerful hand moved to his front, circled his cock and
balls right at the root and the pressure made Vadim
groan. "Slow down. Fast out, slow in. Make the
bitch feel what you've got to give."
Vadim obeyed, Darren's hand taking control now as well,
fuck, fuck, but he wouldn't 'sir' him.
murmured Darren, and Vadim slowly regained his control,
actually felt the other man shift, meet his thrusts,
now, needy, not caring, muttering, begging for cock,
to be allowed to cum, please sir.
profound lesson. Slow gave control, control gave power.
pulled back, breathed into Vadim's ear again. "Now,
make him hurt." The order was irresistible. Vadim
went back to full force, more force, because all that
had been dammed up, and came with a curse, tunnel vision
when he came, vision turning dark for a long moment.
was whimpering when Vadim staggered off the bed, leaning
against the wall. Darren hadn't just fucked his mind.
other moved into his position, and began to fuck Mark
leisurely, expertly, a sight truly to behold, Mark too
far gone to say anything, just moaning and please please
all over, and Vadim watched with flushed face; they
fit so perfectly together, polished muscles, clearly
a deep understanding that gave the violence and humiliation
a thick extra layer - Darren fucked Mark slow and unforgiving,
then, when Vadim could hardly bear watching anymore,
pulled free from that well-used ass, and made the other
suck his cock, a sight that was appalling and still
hadn't thought a man could have that much control, watching
Mark swallow everything, unable to breathe.
then did Darren touch Mark's straining cock, and it
took hardly a thought until Mark came, crying out as
he did; and Darren removed the metal things that had
kept his lover in that position, and Mark curled up,
gasping, on the verge of tears.
Darren was different. He held the other, stroking the
broad back, while Vadim watched, something like
no, not envy, he felt the peace between the two, knew
this was as sane to them as the rushed handjobs pressed
against a wall in a nameless place in Kabul had been
between him and Dan.
get dressed and leave them, he thought, he felt suddenly
like an intruder. A guest, yes, but that was over now.
Vadim bent down to gather the towel.
glanced up when he moved. "You should look at him,
Mark." The other turned and looked up as well,
too tired and shaken to do more than give a strange
kind of smile.
He was running around London, with no place to go to."
You nailed it on the head, thought Vadim. Damn. Was
he really that obvious? "Name's Vadim", he
offered, deciding to stick to the truth. Go with the
'endearing athlete'. Lay on the accent a touch thicker.
Vadim", said Mark, relaxing against Darren's chest,
and studying his shoulders, everything, with sleepy
appreciation. "Can't have you
London with no place to go. Can we?"
Darren grinned. "I'll make sure he's comfortable."
He stood, while Mark just lay on the bed, not enough
strength left to do anything, and Darren gave a grin.
a bit small for three." They headed downstairs,
where Darren converted a couch into a passable bed in
a few minutes. Clearly done this before.
sort you out a good proper English breakfast tomorrow.
If you need anything else, ask, unless it's in the fridge."
Darren gave him a wink that said exactly what that 'asking'
could be for.
Thanks. I mean
Darren nodded. "That was a bit hardcore for you,
Darren grinned. "Don't be nervous. I'm a bastard
in bed, but outside, I'm a fairly relaxed guy. Kitchen's
over there, you know the bathroom, and where the towels
he hate you for that?"
Darren stood in the doorway, and studied him with a
quizzical look. "Why should he?"
Darren grinned. "Whose power?"
Darren turned and came back. "Who, do you think,
was in control, between us? Why, do you think, did I
not fuck you?"
wanted me to
That wouldn't have kept me from it."
Vadim shook his head. "No idea."
you didn't want that. You wouldn't have resisted, I
guess, but you weren't ready. You didn't trust me. Would
have given you nothing."
Giving? How could that be about giving? "I don't
"You were in control. Mark was. Simple." Darren
grinned. "I'll show you. Unless you run away and
decide this freaks you out."
Vadim sat down on the couch. "Few things do."
Wrong thing to say. "Well. I have an open mind."
Darren grinned. "Good night." And left, the
stairs creaking softly as he padded up to the bedroom.
Vadim lay back on the couch, glanced around, and waited
till he heard the door upstairs close.
could Mark be in control, tied up, blindfolded and gagged?
Made no sense. Restless, he went to the kitchen, checked
the fridge, found cheese and milk and bread, had two
apples with that, and thought about it, then headed
back to his pack, located his position and planned for
the next day.
Mark in a suit somehow diminished him. Killer body,
clearly, good looking on all counts. The man gave a
wave as he rushed out the door. Darren was still in
sat in the kitchen, marvelled at the chrome and glass
and wood surfaces, gleaming and technological. Clean.
Expensive. He felt outclassed, and the thought surprised
him. He had got deeply into a different mind, had done
the acting bit right under the shower just half an hour
ago. He was the endearing athlete out for blowing off
some steam. These people were rich, and decadent, capitalist
pigs. And generous, and welcoming, and strangely the
same as him. In a twisted, unbelievable way, he was
more fundamentally like them than
much that was
going on in the Soviet Union.
was the life he wanted, and the thought made him tense
his jaw muscles, as if trying to bite through iron bars.
No chance, no chance, ever, to have anything like this.
He could as well have come from a different galaxy or
from below the sea.
men were not concerned about living together - while
he kept up that life and liberty saving guise of a woman
he had, all he would ever have. Unless he turned traitor.
started to see the dangers of this world - if for completely
different reasons than any of his handlers had anticipated.
It was the freedom to fuck a man without having to hide
it. A wide, spacious place and not having to beg for
scraps from the Party. Self-denial, shame, and the hope
that it might get better, one day, if he only sacrificed
Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are
not interested in the good of others; we are interested
solely in power.'
face is darker than the prospects of the miners",
said Darren, padding into the kitchen in a dark black
robe, hair wet and glistening. Vadim stared at a drop
of water running from somewhere behind Darren's ear
over the taut muscle to the throat.
strike. Don't you read the papers?"
different in Moscow."
paused. "Shit. I keep forgetting. Sorry."
turned away slightly, wondered if that was condescending,
and knew he'd break the man if it was. A hand on his
neck. Powerful. Soothing. Darren had no idea how close
that call was.
have couple good reasons."
love to fuck you, but I told you, I won't do it unless
you want me to. Seems that's one of the things you don't
inhaled sharply. How to explain he felt like a hungry
dog staring at a butcher's window? A butcher that actually
had something to sell, not a Soviet place.
I can't figure out whether you're a top or a bottom.
Seems to change."
a bottom. I'm a top. In bed."
like being in control."
not sure you actually do", said Darren. "I
get the feeling you're trying to lose yourself. Prime
turned to stare at him. They said there were books being
printed - and read, and reviewed - that stated that
Russians had, what they called a 'slave mentality'.
Just a different kind of saying they were inferior by
nature. Those writers thought they belonged to a Master
race of a different kind. "No. I'm not."
hand moved to a place under his throat. That scar. The
burn scar. Oh fuck. "You look like a man who's
been in a place where things turned bad."
Vadim tried to pull away, felt strangely reluctant to
just break the man's jaw for what he said, but Darren's
hands remained on his body, intense, and good, and comforting.
And the scars on your back."
stood close in his back now, Vadim could smell the shower
gel. He'd used the same stuff last night. Darren smelled
clean, of water and heat. Something about water
shook his head. "Yes, hard to explain those
looks like torture to me." As blunt as a sledgehammer.
Vadim felt his breath catch; one thing to have the political
officer or the medical officer say this - and acknowledge
it, and a completely different matter from a man who
tied up his partner so a complete stranger could fuck
him. "You must have been tied up - nobody could
get the lines so clearly if you had been in any position
to struggle much."
remembered to breathe, then stopped again when Darren
began kissing his neck. Could feel Darren getting aroused,
felt it through the robe, pressing into him. He didn't
know what to feel, apart from being frozen in place
and unable to breathe. "That
turns you on?"
Darren's hand moved down to his cock and squeezed it,
hard, just right, and Vadim gasped. Oh fuck. The other
was going for it, in the brightly lit kitchen, not in
does it work? How can
Mark be in control?"
sets the limits. I know what's going on inside him;
we've been doing this for a while." Darren's squeeze
skirted pain, but never quite made it there, just an
intense feeling, close to lust, but not quite, close
to pain, but not quite. "And you are in control.
All it takes is a 'no'."
Only that you don't want to be in control. Whatever
somebody did to you here
" Scraping teeth
over the first letter of that word. The letter p. "That's
fine, too. I can give you control."
the fuck are you talking
Darren's hands were on his ass, kneading it, powerful,
strong grip, unashamed of groping, and there was a weird
rhythm to it that went to Vadim's groin. Had the strange
feeling he was being tested, probed for a reaction,
and not just of the body.
pushed him forward, against one of the polished wood
work surfaces, and Vadim only just managed to steady
himself, hands on the wood. Bent over like this and
fucked? He was in no way like Mark. Not a slave. And
the rest didn't make any sense. Top, bottom, middle,
shrill ring made Darren curse softly, and then chuckle.
"Phone. Typical." He pulled back and headed
into the living room, leaving Vadim confused and relieved
and irritated - irritated that he'd allowed Darren to
go that far.
inhaled and exhaled a few times, deeply, gathered the
A to Z and the map he'd used for planning and took it
to the living room where his day pack was.
sat there, cross legged, talking about some property
and how they should talk to the seller, and yes, he'd
do that right away. Vadim took the pack and his jacket,
but leaned in the door frame, waiting, as Darren lifted
an eyebrow, mouthing something silently.
listened, studied the man, was ready to go, but didn't.
Waited until Darren ended the conversation. He remained
sitting there when the receiver was down. "You're
have to meet somebody."
nodded, pursed his lips thoughtfully. "You're welcome
to come back after that."
might." Vadim forced a smirk. "If you stop
asking questions. I don't want you to know more about
me than you already do. You're cutting too close to
bone. That's not way to build trust. I am not very trusting
enough. If you return around seven, Mark will be here,
might be better. They could have some fun with Mark,
which would definitely be less awkward than Darren trying
to get into his pants. And the talk of slaves and control.
nodded and headed out. He had people to kill.
house in the north of London did look in no way different
from the others in the same road. Vadim checked the
distance to the next fire station. He wouldn't even
have to block the road. It was a cul-de-sac, and the
street was long and narrow, with lots of cars parked
in the street. He doubted the fire engine could get
to the house quickly.
staked it out, patiently, sat down with a styrofoam
cup of tea and a sandwich, not too far away, and studied
the house. Two floors. Big windows, single glazing.
Cables - electricity, telephone, gas
on the outside
of the house and easily severed with a moderately sharp
knife. As vulnerable as a T-64, with its fuel lines
on the outside. Fucking death trap.
have preferred poison. That was KGB style. A killing
by poison sent a message, a message of cunning, of acting
like the cobra, quick and decisive and cold-blooded.
But he had no poison. He didn't even have a knife or
matter. That door did not look very serious. Wood. It
would splinter if properly kicked near the lock. Vadim
had done that dozens of times. In training, in exercises,
in real combat. Drilled to storm houses and assume control.
smirked and finished the tea. Would a bottom - or a
slave - be able to take control? To force his will on
an enemy? To compete? Storm a house on his own and take
out a family? Answer: No. His job didn't allow that.
He couldn't be able to do this if he was anything like
what Darren had said. Prime slave material. Fuck
watched the neighbourhood for a while. Seemed quiet.
Nobody seemed to take much notice.
then, was Dan's country. Nobody here sounded like him,
though. Not truly. He was from further up north. Mountains,
they said. He'd seen a photo of the castle in Edinburgh
in the travel guide and thought it looked like a fairy
tale place. And wasn't it ironic that Dan's origins
were far more proletarian than his own?
was about to kill Dan's countryman. Worse. He was about
to kill a man that had a lot in common with himself.
whom are you kidding, Vadim? Since when are you a dissident
nuclear scientist, working on their nuclear arsenal?
He wondered why Doctor Wiezcinski had left the country.
They had told him it was for the money.
from what he saw, the man didn't seem too keen on sticking
out, not too keen on palaces
what he lived in
seemed pretty much standard for this country: A narrow-fronted
house made from brick. That was not a reason to betray
did not forget, though. He'd come calling to deliver
a blow to a programme that the KGB wanted to see stopped.
It seemed to be a critical stage. People seemed tense.
There was fear.
shook his head. Just a year ago, or maybe two, he'd
not even have thought about it. Killing was something
he did. He was well-suited for the mission. He had a
reason to be in the United Kingdom. Again, he was a
smoke screen for something less endearing than a second-class
athlete stumbling through a presentation in accented
could killing a member of the intelligenzija benefit
the Russian people? How could destroying a family serve
a purpose beyond merely killing? For Russia? Was that
man involved in a weapons programme? No way to check
that. And even if. The stockpiles were huge - there
were already enough bombs to destroy every place on
earth that held a settlement. What was it that the doctor
worked on? Something deadlier than deadly? A colder
kind of nuclear winter? A rocket that could circle the
globe twice instead of once?
was the point?
Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are
not interested in the good of others; we are interested
solely in power.'
then, this country had sent men like Dan - and his dead
comrade, the turkey, John, to fight the Soviets. And
kill people like Vanya and Platon. This country was
the enemy. And wasn't. Things were no longer clear cut.
This country wouldn't imprison him for the things he
did in bed. People were free to read dangerous books.
People were free. Full stop.
that had been what the doctor had been chafing against.
Treason became a mental habit.
if you enjoy this country, I'd look forward to meeting
you again. Just give me a ring. I am sure I can make
time for you.'
can talk here", said the man who had introduced
himself as Richard. The place - classy, expensive, and
Vadim felt underdressed, again, like a foreigner, like
a man in cheap clothes with company and surrounding
above his station. What was it about this country that
made him so damned self-conscious?
sat down. Faint music in the background. Overstuffed
dark leather chairs. It was some kind of club, understated,
but exclusive. It smelt of Cuban cigars and aged whiskey.
did you find London so far?" asked Richard, when
somebody had taken his coat and Vadim's jacket.
quite something", said Vadim.
gave a very civilized chuckle. "Do you wish anything
The place was as much the lion's den as the tea house
was Dan's. "No, thank you." He wanted to get
to the heart of the matter, but it felt rude if he charged
him head first. "You said few interesting things
studied him, and Vadim took the same liberty. There
was grey in the blond, and his hair started retreating
over his skull, but high cheekbones, sunken cheeks and
a weak, soft chin. Much like an accountant, or a minor
functionary with almost no reason to exist beyond being
a functionary. The wide, clever eyes, however, betrayed
the intellect. "Which of the things I said caught
your interest, Major?"
thing about active service. Why should you be interested
in the service record of an Afghan veteran?"
be blunt, Major, we don't even know what the Soviets
want in that forsaken place. The best we can come up
with is that you are propping up a puppet regime - but
that is more the modus operandi than the reason."
smirked. "I can't help you with answer."
I assume you are playing chess. Your national sport,
if I am correctly informed. Do you play chess, Major?"
am not very patient man. I seize opportunities too fast.
Sometimes, that means I risk trap."
not tax your patience, I have my suspicions who and
what you are. As, doubtlessly, you have in turn."
while I'm not at liberty to confirm or deny, there is
something we can do for each other."
nodded, slowly, his gaze still meeting the other's.
What he liked about the man was that he looked him in
the eye. "What would that entail?"
That's the currency we are dealing in." Richard
leaned slightly forward. "It would mean you'd gather
information for us, Major. Crucial and not so crucial
information. We might have men in place who check that
information. Sometimes, we might ask you to verify something."
is not hotbed of intrigue."
are maybe more patient than you are, Major. You may
not be in a good location at the moment, but that doesn't
mean you will not be more fortunate at a later point
Treason. Traitor. They'd be willing to bank on his career.
do you offer?"
amounts of money in a safe place, as much protection
as we can give you from a distance and without drawing
attention, and maybe comfortable retirement with your
family in ten years. It depends on how things are moving
Ten more years in the USSR. Ten years being a spy, a
traitor. Of course. This kind of offer didn't come without
a price. His life would go on as normal - only that
he'd have to worry about KGB daggers on top of all the
things going on in Afghanistan. But he wanted to leave
now. Wanted to stay here now. He'd be old in ten years.
Starving dog outside the butcher's.
Considerable amounts of money.
How much is your pride worth, Krasnorada? How much is
your integrity worth? Weak-spined faggot about to betray
his country for cock, simple as that.
swallowed and lowered his gaze. Freedom. Freedom to
do what he wanted. And Dan? What was he thinking? Did
he actually think he and Dan could live like that, like
Darren and Mark? Impossible. Unheard of. Buy this with
his integrity? His self-worth?
had been a bad idea from the start.
look tired, Major." Richard gave him another smile,
compassionate. "I wouldn't make a decision like
that lightly. I understand if you need to think about
... Afghanistan." Vadim's jaw muscles tensed. "The
Cold War is not very cold up there. Burns skin off soul."
He inhaled, and stood. He wouldn't confide further.
This was as far as he could go.
Richard stood as well. "We all want this to stop,
Major. Thanks for your time." He offered his hand,
and Vadim shook it, finding no words to speak, felt
too ashamed after his brush with actual treason.
have my number."
he did. Memorised. A way out. The coward's way.
* * *
No vodka, nothing to prepare him for it.
moment, he was getting ready. The moment after that,
he shouldered through the back door, at night. The wife
and daughter had left sometime in the early afternoon,
Vadim assumed they might be gone for a while, he had
had no time to do the legwork, had no idea where the
girl was going. Only that, when she returned, her father
would be dead, as ordered by grey, bloodless men in
headed past the laundry in the back patio, through the
kitchen, thought he smelt something like onion and soup,
discarded that thought. It was just information, not
a family eating together, like his family did, but without
him. He knew they had no dog. It didn't matter. He opened
the gas of the cooker, heard the faint hiss, then moved
up the stairs.
doctor was likely still sleeping, or fumbling around
for his glasses, there was nothing in the house, no
movement. Yes. One door was open - a dark bedroom, one
was closed, and another. Vadim knew from the outside
that the one down the corridor was the bathroom. The
window was opaque. The other door then was the one to
the master bedroom.
He placed his hand on the wood, tested carefully whether
it was only leaning or properly closed. Properly closed.
He turned the handle, stayed out of the door frame,
the "vertical coffin", and pushed the door
open. Nothing. The man was still sleeping.
was amazed anybody could sleep so deeply, carefree,
like nothing evil existed in the world. Civilian. He
checked the Volkov. Forty seconds. He stepped into the
room. The yellow streetlight seeped through the blinds,
enough to see by, see a body in the bed, sleeping, breathing.
The air was stale, smelt of people.
stood near the bed, hands opening and closing, staring
at the dark shape in the bed, hoped the other would
pull a gun, a knife, force him to kill in self-defense.
No such mercy. There was no justification for it. None.
Vadim took the other pillow - the one the wife slept
on, no doubt, folded it, then pressed it down on the
man's face, grabbing the hands with the other, pressing
them against the man's chest, leaned on him to block
the wild movements, kept him down with strength and
his pure weight, hoped he'd die fast, pressed in harder,
his own face twisted, with disgust and other feelings,
none of which made any sense.
He waited for a long, long while, checked his watch.
Ten minutes. He checked the pulse and breath, then,
when nothing moved, relaxed. Highly unlikely the man
would survive the fire if there was still life in him.
He opened the blinds for more light, then began to rummage
through papers. There was a leather pouch with folders.
More folders. He couldn't confirm anything this quickly,
so just carried off what he could, headed down through
the kitchen, quickly, because of the gas, and, once
safely in the garden, lit the line of fuel he had prepared
to run into the house from the garden.
was several blocks away when the fire burnt so high
that it cast reflections against the city nightsky.
When Vadim emerged from Oxford Street station, he stepped
into the street and felt the people on the street wash
past him, none touching him, they kept their distance,
and it made Vadim feel like a leper. Of course, his
height, his strength, but at the same time the nagging
feeling the cattle knew he was a killer, and kept safe
in the herd, each jostling for the place in the middle.
was not one of them, and would never be. He could never
get undercover enough to make them - or even him - believe.
He was tired. Watching the target's house all day, and
then the kill had drained him, bleached all emotion
from him, and he was tired and couldn't bring himself
to feel anything beyond a faint ache for Dan's company.
Pride of lions. Dan wouldn't shy away. And yet, this
whole thing was something he would never tell, never
share. He could admit to anything he had personal responsibility
for - the rape, and enjoying that - but not this ordered
assassination. Dan would understand killing, he wouldn't
understand that the KGB took killing home, straight
into his capital.
headed back to Darren's and Mark's place; he didn't
want to be alone. Or maybe he just wanted the illusion
of belonging. He had killed a man today. It had been
easy. Being just body, just flesh, was the lure that
brought him in. And it was a good way to vanish off
the radar this night.
He rang, and somebody opened. Vadim trotted up the stairs,
saw it was Mark who had opened the door, and the man
gave him a smile, and motioned him in. In the background,
the TV was on. News. Vadim hoped it wasn't about the
we were getting worried", said Mark and smiled
again. "You still have your bag here. There's some
food in the fridge, just leftovers. Interested?"
would be good." Always hungry, like a fucking conscript.
Always take the opportunity to eat, a moment of calm.
"Can I have a shower?" He could smell the
I'll heat the stuff up. Take your time." Mark headed
into the kitchen, and began to do something there. Plate,
cutlery, a pan, the faint hiss of the gas stove.
showered, felt the tiredness bleed from him, the numbness
stayed. For once, he was glad he didn't feel guilt.
The man had committed treason, yes, and he'd left the
family alive. It could have been much, much worse. When
they came to terminate him, they would kill everybody
they could get their hands on. Unless Katya still had
clout and contacts. She might be able to free herself.
But the risk was too high, the gamble impossible.
wore the robe of one of the guys when he left the bath,
and sat down on the couch, where Mark had already put
together his bed, and a plate with rice and vegetables
and sausage bits sat there, steaming. Mark sat opposite,
"Where's Darren", asked Vadim between forks
of food. Damn, this was nice. Spicy, but not too hot.
The vegetable was peppers, several colours, and onions,
sweet, garlic, also sweet and tender.
working out. He should be back soon." Mark watched
him, obviously pleased he enjoyed the food. Was he the
one that cooked? How did that work, anyway? The bottom
did the cooking and cleaning? What happened when there
was no woman?
have you lived like this?"
and me?" Mark frowned. "Ah, that's about,
what, five years. You know, we sometimes have guests
to make things more interesting. Unless we go out together."
see." Five years. Four for him and Dan. If the
mountains were a life, if war was that. If their encounters
were more than just an unhealthy habit of two enemies.
you have a partner?" asked Mark.
doesn't work like that in Russia", said Vadim.
"Like this?" The fork indicated the flat.
"Impossible. I'd end up in prison."
Well, we're lucky." Mark looked almost guilty.
"Do you have to hide, then?"
married." Vadim reminded himself that normal people
showed photos, and it would make him less suspicious.
Not that Mark would suspect an axe murderer still holding
a dripping weapon. He reached into his pack and produced
the photo, showing it.
beautiful. And the kids?"
Vadim felt that answered the question. Mark could probably
see that Nikolai was too dark to be their child. Maybe
a throwback to dark grandparents.
hard. I mean, pretending. I moved to
London so I don't have to hide, you know? The small
place where I'm from doesn't really have that many gay
bars." Mark grinned.
"I'm envious." He was. Damn, he was. Not even
that much about the sex, even though that would be great,
being able to fuck a man without having to fear disgrace
or worse. Just perfectly normal stuff that Darren and
Mark had and probably took for granted by now. Living
like this, comfortable, with no fear in a big city that
has its share of freaks, deviants, and perverts - so
many that they looked normal.
you're always welcome", said Mark, not smoothly
enough to hide the moment of embarrassment. He knew
how lucky they were.
sound of keys In the door. Mark gave him a quick smile,
then stood to greet Darren, while Vadim finished the
food, and looked up when he heard Darren say "Look
whom we have here" from the door. He gave a nod
and put the fork down.
was flushed, muscles pumped up after the exercise, and
Vadim could almost see him steam. He'd worked hard,
clearly, and was beaming with the post-workout high.
"And I thought we wouldn't see the Russkie again.
Good I was wrong." He gave Mark a grin, who grinned
back. "I'm in the shower. Anybody wants to come
along?" Mark volunteered, but Darren told him off,
promising something "more intense" later,
which sounded ominous.
Russkie. Vadim shook his head. He wasn't really
in the mood for sex, he knew too well what was on Darren's
list to do, and he didn't want to end up getting fucked
just because he didn't have the energy left to say no.
He wanted and needed rest. Getting old, clearly. No
much of a hitman left in him.
don't understand that", Vadim murmured.
top and bottom thing." Nevermind the slave thing.
That was even worse.
It's really simple. Fucking or getting fucked
there's usually one you prefer. Unless you don't, then
you're a switch."
Dan and geometrical terms didn't mix. And how did handjobs
fit into it, or blowjobs, or all the other things they
did? It just didn't work. Getting fucked like that day
on the patrol - as welcome as it had been, he hadn't
strictly agreed to it. Those words didn't fit anywhere.
"Strange. I never thought of it that way."
if it works for you, there's no reason to change anything.
Or whatever." Mark grinned. "We're all different."
Darren came back, leaned in the doorframe, and regarded
Mark, then glanced at Vadim, seizing them both up with
a speculative expression. Vadim shook his head. "Not
up for it", he murmured. "Sorry." The
last thing he wanted was sex. Strange, really, he'd
normally jump at the opportunity, and he wondered for
a moment if he'd declined an offer from Dan. Likely.
Just not in the right mind for it.
gave a nod. "No problem. Don't worry." He
nodded to Mark, that nod alone was an order, and Mark
got up. "You got everything?"
of them went upstairs, and Vadim stretched out on the
couch. He could still feel the dying man struggle under
his fingers. Nothing exhilarating about it. No real
test, no challenge. No fucking enemy. Just the pathetic
squirming of a pathetic civilian who had never realised
what killed him. Just a human being. Pathetic.
He stared at the wall opposite. He was trapped as securely
as if the KGB had the wire of a garrotte digging into
his flesh. Couldn't go where he wanted, couldn't stay,
all he could do was follow orders, whatever they were,
even if they were as demeaning as this. There was a
difference between murder and killing. Or was there?
Since when? He'd killed traitors before - but they were
Afghans, and not in Dan's country. Not sleeping in their
beds. Not like this.
He closed his eyes, could still see what the house had
looked like, inside. His mind had a way of keeping these
images in case he ever needed them again. In his mind,
the house was not yet a ruin; all the books, oh the
precious free books, shelves and shelves of paper that
burnt so fast that the whole place became even more
of a death trap.
With a groan, Vadim opened his eyes, turned the head
to stare at the blind eye of the TV screen. Considered
exercise, isometrics in the absence of proper weights,
pushups until he dropped and couldn't get up anymore.
Maybe plunder the bar and see what a bottle of vodka
- or whisky, or gin, or whatever - did to those gloomy
thoughts. Few things alcohol couldn't make better, apart
from the aim, as one of his instructors used to say,
himself firmly married to the bottle.
The fact he'd rubbed this man's life out. His house.
His books. Everything he'd ever thought or written.
sat up, rubbed his face, considered another shower.
No. Company. That what was he was here for. Just that.
He stood, paused for a moment, but thought that those
two men would hardly mind. And if he ended up in their
bed again - and whatever happened then - would at least
keep the ghost away.
climbed the stairs, and heard panting, deep, visceral
groans. Not yet finished. Vadim had hoped they would
be. Well, their house, their sex life. He turned the
corner, and again, the door was open. But the sight
Vadim found it difficult to make sense of it.
Mark was on his back, arms held his knees up, and he
was spread, and flushed, face twisted in what could
only be lust and even more pain
no, not pain, not quite, ecstasy?
by Darren, of course, who just rammed his arm
deeper. Into. Mark. Vadim frowned, didn't get that part.
Darren's whole hand and wrist just vanished inside his
partner, who looked
spaced out. Vadim couldn't
even begin to grasp what that had to do to him in terms
of pain, but maybe they'd crossed that line. Fuck. He
watched Darren go deeper, the way the man's shoulder
tensed, and Vadim had a good idea of how much strength
was behind that motion. Mark gave a strange sound, his
eyes opened, and there was clarity in them, as clear
and intent as the eyes of a madman. "Love you",
he said, voice small and pressed.
pulled back. Love you. He stepped back into the dark
corridor. Love you.
I love you", said Darren.
Vadim headed downstairs. As twisted as it was what those
men had, he really didn't want to disturb them. Not
with what they were doing. Fuck. Honest
love and all that. It made it worse, if anything, but
he managed to get tired with isometrics. It took an
hour, but after that, he was sweaty and tired, all muscles
burning from the tension.
He awoke from a touch. His hand went for a weapon, but
there wasn't any, and then somebody took his wrist.
"Hey. Calm down. It's me."
eyes opened, fixed on a dark shadow that sounded like
Darren. Darren. London. Oh fuck. "What
Darren released his wrist, and sat down on the couch/bed.
"Came down to drink something. You alright?"
Vadim sat up, pulling his legs up. "Was I loud?"
just tossing and turning."
had a shit day, huh?" Darren raised a hand, and
it held a glass of milk. There was only light from the
TV standby light in the room, but Vadim's eyes grew
used to the darkness. He could see more and more. "I'm
I figured. Hope you had a good time, despite
Vadim tensed. "What do you mean?"
were tense this morning. You vanish all day, and come
back like that? You got enough armour on for a tank,
Vadim. Not showing weakness, huh, even when it hurts?"
shook his head. "No idea what you're
But there it was, the exact denial that Darren accused
him of. "Okay, I had shit day. Happy now?"
none of my business, but no, I'm not happy with that.
Not that I can change it, I guess. I could be completely
wrong, but I think you have a lover in the area, maybe
some uptight Englishman, and it's a secret thing, or
you wouldn't suffer so bloody much."
Suffer? Darren had an astonishing talent to pick up
on details, and, thank fuck, to draw the wrong conclusions.
Or, rather, the right conclusions in the wrong order.
just doesn't work. It can't work, and
it won't work, and
nothing I can do can get me
out of that."
now we're talking." Darren bent down to put the
glass down, then shifted on the couch to face him. "You're
seriously in love, you know that? It's a great feeling,
unless it hurts like a bitch."
Vadim gave a short laugh. "Aye. Yes, it does."
Darren grinned wide, and reached for Vadim's neck, pulling
him close and against his shoulder, gentle, but powerful,
and Vadim allowed it, followed the movement, and found
himself in a strange hug, with Darren leaning back.
Not threatening. Darren wasn't going to try and fuck
think you need a hug, Russkie. You just look so bloody
miserable even I can't bear that."
Russkie again. Vadim inhaled, felt the warmth
and the power, the man's secure grip, his breath and
calm, and let go of his tension. This felt good. Just
damned good, being held and
stroked, the broad
hand going down over his back, avoiding the scars, as
if not to remind him of them, not now. The man treated
him like a son, or whatever. No desire, no greed, just
an odd tenderness that Vadim found vaguely unsettling,
but not in a bad way.
he's a Scotsman?"
said "aye". That's the kind of thing people
pick up from the Scots."
Vadim laughed, and found his eyes suddenly watering.
Shit, he was beginning to cry against that man's chest.
"You MI5 or what?"
sell houses, Vadim, the most expensive thing most people
will get in a lifetime. If I can't read people, I'm
fucked. And if you need to cry some, that's alright,
too. Just get it off your chest, okay? I won't tell
swallowed hard, and nodded, fighting the tears. He was
exhausted, that was the reason. It wasn't the fact that
Darren had penetrated the 'tank armour', wasn't the
fact he wished he could just stay and be free without
being haunted by the death of his family, or that he
wasn't even sure how to find Dan when he came back home.
A fantasy. A fairy tale. It wouldn't happen.
what surprised him most was that this man didn't tell
him to get his act together and suck it up. "I
saw what you did with
What an oddly adequate name for it. "Yes."
you wonder about it?"
I mean, that
ran his fingers through Vadim's short hair, rested his
head against the couch, too. "Not quite. Not just
that. It's probably quite extreme for you, but it can
sort Mark's head out. You know, when he's stressed.
Or numb. He gets bad in winter, sometimes. Normal sex
doesn't cut it there. So I do it after a shit day at
the office, when he's out there and nothing else can
reach the bastard."
The way Mark had looked at him. Complete clarity. The
feeling had to be so extreme that it overrode everything.
most importantly, you can only do this if you are not
only in control of him, but yourself. A man who's out
of control can be restrained, but you need to do this
without the comfort of the rope. If you can't, you're
not able to do this. And you'll never understand what
it actually means."
think it's about power? That's like saying living is
about driving a car." Darren shook his head. "To
me, that is more intimate, more intense than normal
sex. It's about control, not power. Take
scars as an example. Whoever did that, was about power,
but they did have control. Restraint. You were in their
power and control, completely. Is that why you can't
let go? I'd be screwed up if somebody had done that
shuddered. The torture. Dan. Dan. Knife. Dan. "I
hold was still there, stable, strong.
you got out of it alive. How? How did you survive that,
you go. Sometimes, there are no other options. Mark
fights me - hell, I want him to - but when he yields,
that's when power changes to control, to restraint,
and that is what I call love."
Love. Control. Not killing. Vadim closed his eyes, fought
what it meant. That was wrong. Right. He'd lost all
rules, all points of orientation. Love and control.
Torture and Dan. Fucking rape. The moment of breaking.
Oh damn, he knew what Darren was talking about. The
moment when Dan had broken, broken because of him, because
of what he did. That intense rush. Power. Restraint.
How would it feel without the urge to destroy. Would
moved as if he wanted to get up, but Vadim didn't move,
so Darren shifted more and lay down, Vadim on his shoulder,
holding him. "It's okay, I'll stay here for a bit."
did. And Vadim fell asleep again, held and stroked and
oddly safe, for once, despite his sins and doubts.