Dan looked dramatically changed, a completely different
man from three months ago, when he had walked and climbed
two days to the cave, weary and exhausted after nine
months of hell in the freezing mountains.
hair cut, the long strands chopped off, back shaved
and sides neatened. He could almost be a squaddie with
that cut. Face smooth, making the scar stand out even
more in his scrubbed face. Still an angry red line,
the untreated knife wound would take some time to pale
and blend itself into the living skin. Scrubbed, indeed,
when he took the shades off, Dan's hands looked neat,
fingernails clean and cut short.
grinned at the approaching man, the full beam of his
relaxed grin, while leaning against a wall of dried
mud in a godforsaken corner of the city, so casual in
his jeans and sweater, he looked as if he owned the
place. All of fucking Kabul.
bright white arm band with gleaming red cross contrasted
against the dark material of his sweater, and a plastic
photo card dangled against his chest. Announcing him
as Douglas MacFarlane, humanitarian aid worker from
the British Red Cross.
that's how he could move as freely through this shithole,
as anyone could.
pushed himself off the wall to greet Vadim, walking
the few steps with an undeniable limp, caused by a stiffness
in the right knee. He seemed to neither notice nor bother.
Dark eyes and bright grin focussed on Vadim and nothing
Welcome back, Russkie." Dan said in Russian, "good
to see you in one piece."
driver had dropped Vadim downtown, they thought it might
be something official. Military advisor, specialist
work. Again, risky, especially with the new medals on
his chest. His career was moving fast, and up, but it
didn't matter, because in his unit, everybody was an
officer and on the fast track. It made him dizzy, sometimes,
but it was not like he was moving into any place with
real power. Connections, yes, but nobody he could trust,
nobody who could do what he actually wanted done.
never mind. Vadim paused, regarded him, took him in,
this stranger. Dan. Limping. He looked at the knee,
very obviously so, one way to ask a question when he
would just get a piss take should he speak it.
you who is back", he murmured, patting Dan on the
shoulder. "Red Cross? I knew you bitches were everywhere.
We should kick you out of this forsaken country."
He tugged at the photo card, read the little personal
information, regarded the photo which was fairly recent.
"No go, Sir, I need to check this on the list."
A faint smirk, and a long look up and down and especially
will see me in my office, where I can check this."
Pointing at the card. Leaning closer. "And I'll
show you my desk." Hand found Dan's jaw, patted
it, a motion bordering gentle slaps. "I am sure
you can convince me you're genuine."
laughed, dark, warm chuckles mixed with gruff amusement.
"You fucking idiot. Can hardly run around as who
I really am, eh?"
he really was. His rank? Staff Sergeant? Never mentioned
it to anyone, it didn't matter. Glanced at the new tinsel
on Vadim's uniform. "Do they provide cushions for
the desks with those?"
shit, but rank's alright." Vadim shrugged. "And
Afghanis pay more for my head now." He moved one
arm lazily to block the follow-up punch with as much
conviction as Dan had put into it.
smirked after a swift glance around to make sure they
were still not being watched. He nodded towards the
other side of the narrow path, talking while slowly
walking. The limp pronounced but despite Vadim's obvious
glance at it, Dan refused to comment. "You will
find that I have been a humanitarian aid worker for
quite some time." Dan winked, making his way to
an even narrower alley, quiet for a little while.
need to talk to you." Gesturing with his chin to
a rickety door made from nothing but wattle, which led
them into a ground floor room that let in shafts of
light through cracks in the wall.
Damn." Vadim glanced around the room, then focused
on Dan. Joking was less easy when he was this close.
Things always grew a little serious. He took off the
beret and placed it between arm and chest. "Okay.
Dan did not talk straight away. Instead glancing around
the room, satisfied that it was exactly how he had left
it. The half-torn shutters and tattered window hangings
were darkening sufficiently, with the sun creating thin
beams through tears in the fabric. Dust was dancing
along every speck of light, and after a moment of adjusting
his eyes to the murkiness, he could make out the stacked
pile beside his bergan, atop the rolled out sleeping
bag. He bent down, picked up a large piece of wood that
had been hidden in darkness, and bolted the door.
Dan finally nodded, reaching for Vadim's beret, plucking
it unceremoniously from under his arm. With a flick
of his wrist, it landed on a recently wiped-down block
of wood, serving as a table.
have to go back to the UK." He turned, reached
for the top button of Vadim's uniform, started to undo
it. "My right knee needs surgery, impossible to
overlook, hm? The quack promised it would be as good
as new afterwards." He grinned, gleam of teeth
in the gloom while each button slipped through one buttonhole
after the other, before he began to unravel Vadim's
stood bolted in place. He ran a hand over his hair,
his shaved neck. Dan's hands on his uniform made him
straighten. Fuck. The uniform made this awkward, somehow,
the ribbons and medals, all the brass as they called
it. Different in the camo. Less official. His gaze fell
on the sleeping bag. Another one of those encounters.
He was sick of hiding, sick of coupling like an animal
under a rock, hidden away. And he knew that there was
no alternative to it.
long do you have tonight?" Dan was hoping at least
well into darkness, but never assumed anything.
be back first thing in the morning." He might get
into trouble for that. But curfew was too early to return,
and Vadim didn't want to be out after that. That gave
them ten hours.
Dan nodded, smiled, mind set on the hours they had.
Taking care with the uniform, careful not to crease
or stain it, he knew what a bastard they could be, even
though it had been ages since he'd last worn his No
2s, let alone No 1s. Fumbling with the polished belt
buckle, opening those bitches from the wrong side hadn't
gotten any easier in all those years. He finally managed
and pushed the tunic off Vadim's shoulders.
new General Secretary is making strange noises about
Afghanistan", Vadim murmured. Shit. He shouldn't
bring up politics, and why mention it in the first place?
The withdrawal - if it happened - would take forever.
And he'd be here up until the last day. He would have
to help and secure and guard and kill. And it might
be just empty rhetoric. There was unease in the army,
and some wondered if accepting defeat in a backwater
place like this might not be too damaging.
Gorbatchev sounds different to your old guys. I used
to call Brezhnev the 'fish', always seemed he breathed
in air like a carp." Dan was undressing motionless
Vadim like a child that bared a precious doll.
this joke in Kremlin: 'What support does Gorbatchov
have? - None, he walks unaided.'" Vadim laughed,
and so did Dan. "Unaided. Cracks me up every
time." He was nervous, somehow. Helped by moving
his shoulders, tensed his muscles, showing off. Millions
of crunches. He just didn't have a life.
Dan murmured, regarding the smooth chest before him,
and the chuckles stopped. Raising his eyes level with
Vadim's. "Been seven years and I'm still addicted
to your body, you stupid fuck."
smiled, pleased, oh so very pleased. Body remembering
the things they did, a slow, warm flame that spread
slower than normal. Ten hours to burn to ash. As if
they could ever manage. "If you add up hours, we're
still in our honeymoon." Pat against Dan's jaw,
the closest thing to slapping him.
Dan laughed, placed his palm over the dog tags, "Alternative
travel package tour?" Still grinning, his hand
covered the warmed up metal. "You got to take them
off, but you have to trust me."
take them off." Another grin, and Vadim spread
his arms, bent his neck a little. "I won't move
nodded, slipped the chain with its tags off Vadim's
neck, before letting his fingers buzz upwards against
the short-shaved hair in the back. Leaning closer, lips
touching Vadim's ear as he murmured, voice deliberately
dropped low. He could guess what that did to Vadim.
"I bet you my favourite weapon that I could make
you move a muscle."
all over Vadim's body. Oh yes, that particular muscle
twitched, obedient. Not could. Can. Fuck. He closed
his eyes briefly, devastated by all the right things.
Hand in his neck, breath against his ear, and Dan playful
chuckled, dropped the tags onto the uniform pile and
slapped his Russkie's arse like a prize horse. "Now,
get out of the rest of your kit yourself. If I do it
we'll never get where I want to take you, because I'd
just screw your brains out."
slap stirred him out of that moment, and Vadim cleared
his throat. "What's wrong with screwing?"
He murmured, but obliged. Boots, trousers, pants, baring
himself completely, including what Dan's proximity did
wrong with screwing, but I got something that will make
it even better." Dan stood with arms folded, took
one step back, had to restrain himself from touching.
Ah, that cock. Loved the cock. Could never get enough
and had the persistent urge to just get down onto his
buggered knees, sod decorum, forget about plans and
suck the goddamned sexy fucker off.
plan?" Vadim looked up. Pleased to let Dan take
over. Maybe he was that tired.
is," Dan cleared his throat, his voice betraying
his own physical reaction, "for you to come with
me." Refused to give the game away, limped instead
over to the pile beside the bergan, and brought it back.
An armful of clothes, civilian. An armband like his
own, even a plastic ID. Not too well forged but it didn't
matter. A rag like all of them were wearing.
part of the plan, get this on and cover your head. You
don't blend into the crowd very well."
gave a short laugh, but realized Dan meant it. He liked
the idea, even though the clothes were a mild shock.
He was able to wear any number of uniforms, part of
the whole deal of his occupation, he only looked too
damn European, too Slavic, that few bought it. But in
theory at least, he could become something else entirely.
better. Getting dressed. Okay. Restrain the urge to
get into Dan's trousers right now. He wasn't twenty-five
any more. Part of growing up - and maybe old. "I
always thought deflecting was more difficult",
Vadim joked, checking over his clothes again, could
feel how empty his chest was, the absence of the constant
shifting metal between his pecs.
should be fine." Dan grinned, cocked his head as
if judging and - expectedly - approving of the other.
"Not many patrols where I take you." He went
to retrieve the back pack, pulled out a spare knife
and handed it to Vadim. Better safe than sorry and all
that shit. Stored the uniform and hid the bag beneath
a carefully stacked pile of rabble and wood, before
wrapping his own head in a rag.
just say I harvested in a few favours tonight."
He gestured for Vadim to follow, before unbolting the
door and slipping back into the alley. Leading the way
deeper into the bowels of the city, the limp obvious
but not hindering the progress, while keeping his head
down all the way. Two busy aid workers, nothing else.
felt nearly naked, somehow. Strange to be out on the
streets - alleys - without uniform or camo. No lying
about internationalist duty, he had dropped the usual
rhetoric with the cloth that came with it. It was as
if deserting his post, and it was both a relief and
a tingle of excitement that the cutting of an enemy's
throat failed to deliver.
always drew attention because of his height, so he slumped
a little, kept his head down, did everything to appear
tired. Trusted Dan to have done all the recce. He could
just follow, tread exactly in his footsteps. It was
a bigger relief than he thought it would be. Vadim wondered
whether he should ask where they were going. But it
looked like some kind of present, a surprise, and he'd
hate spoiling that.
had to walk for about ten minutes, ending in a part
of Kabul that looked nearly untouched from the war that
had been ravaging for seven years. Lower buildings,
same mud, but partly painted, smaller, jumbled like
toy boxes scattered and stacked haphazardly back together.
Dan nodded to Vadim, pointing to a corner that turned
to the right and led a few steps into an alley. The
sun barely reached a wall that blocked the end of the
pathway, with hardly enough brightness to allow a glimpse
of the once colourful woven rug that covered what seemed
like an entrance.
it. Welcome to heaven." Dan grinned, took the few
steps into the darkness, pushed the rug away and knocked
in a curious pattern on the wooden door before pushing
it open. An Afghani young man appeared, dressed in a
long robe, nodding with a bow. They exchanged a few
words in muted Pushtu, the young man glancing at Vadim,
before he bowed again then stepped outside, vanishing
out of the building and into the alley.
ready and we are alone for the night." Dan waited
for Vadim to enter into the dim ante room before closing
and bolting the door behind them. "This place has
a few surprises, one of them is the existence of two
additional escape exits." Dan grinned and stepped
aside, pointing towards the rectangle of light. He couldn't
help it, he felt like a kid at Christmas.
room that opened into a succession of further rooms
was partly filled with mist, coming from the next room
on, and revealed a couple of larger pools, one steaming.
Mosaics on the walls, tiles on the floor and gleaming
slabs of stone. Most of all, water. Plenty of water.
to our personal hamam, Russkie."
No place Vadim had visited in years, he could no longer
mingle with people like that, too dangerous. The smell
of water, the feeling of humid air, and the ridiculously
safe atmosphere of this small cave of civilisation in
a place that was all claw and tooth. Alone. Night. Water.
Dan. Vadim knew that these places had a certain reputation.
a moment, he felt inclined to forgive Afghanistan. A
little. He stared at Dan, realized something more, water
for the swimmer, moisture and soothing dim light for
a skin that hated sun. A gift indeed. He pulled the
rag off, wiped his face with it, looked at Dan again
who expected a response, and deserved one. He stepped
closer, chest to chest, and kissed him, slow and gentle,
a long kiss that he felt bared his soul when he placed
his arms around him and pulled him close, just to feel
him right there. Didn't think that was enough, but it
was a start.
stood stunned, passive. This kiss was different, new
sensation even to the re-learned kisses throughout the
time in the cave. This was not a kiss of lust, but
But then he'd known for longer than he'd realised, and
now more than accepted. The kiss left him strangely
breathless and oddly silent.
weeks of cajoling, prodding, requesting, almost begging,
scheming and demanding had been worth it.
pulled away, walked in, nodded Dan over. "Come
caught himself and grinned, "Bossy tonight, Russkie?"
Walked duly over, couldn't wait to feel skin on skin
again. "Seems I'm overdressed." Yet he stood
expectantly, waiting. Perhaps he'd tell Vadim later
tonight how he had royally fucked up that knee, back
in the mountains, or perhaps it simply wasn't of any
lifted his arms, now it was he who was waiting to be
undressed like a puppet.
said Vadim, to both questions, really. Hands went to
Dan's ID card, took it off, cast another quick glance
at the photograph, that grin, that half-cocky, half-self-conscious
grin. Dan didn't know how good he looked, had never
understood it, just because he was by no means a conventional
beauty. Those things made him stunning, the eyes that
seemed too close together, long face, long classical
nose, the hair that Vadim couldn't imagine in any other
state than tousled and sweaty and dusty.
placed his hands on Dan's chest, where they quite comfortably
rested for a few heartbeats, then pulled the rag loose,
opened the first two buttons to bare the collarbones.
Leaned in to taste the hollow above the bone to the
left side, close enough to feel the scar under the shirt,
the round scar. He couldn't understand how he had ever
had the guts to shoot Dan. Young, reckless, angry. And
oh so hurt in his pride. He breathed in, taking in the
other man's smell, deodorant, sweat, shaving gel, while
his fingers continued to open the shirt, flat hand moving
inside, stroking his front, then pulled the shirt out
of the trousers, and placed both hands on skin. Stroking
upwards to the shoulder, now touching the scar as he
pushed the shirt over the shoulders and pulled it off
Dan's hands behind his back. He wanted to spend time
kissing the chest, but even more, he wanted to have
Dan naked. Should take more time, when time was still
so very precious.
emptied his mind, forced himself to forget that time
was, as always, precious and terribly limited. Wanted
to drag every moment of this - this yet another new
sensation, until it lasted beyond Kabul and a war he
had long given up to understand. Touches that brought
a shudder onto his body; a tremor he failed to be ashamed
opened the belt, grinned, because he was getting better
at this, pulled the buttons open, not teasing him too
much, just brushed the side of his cock accidentally
with the back of his hand, once. Well, twice. Then knelt
down, close enough to see how pronounced Dan's interest
was, eye to eye, so to speak, and began to open his
boots, and pull them off. Brushing the cock with his
cheek as Dan placed a hand on his shoulder to help him
step out of the boots.
Dan's hands rested on short shaved blond hair, too tempting
to urge Vadim to taste his cock. He might even got suck
off if he was lucky, but no, it was about something
else tonight. "Water?" Looking down at Vadim's
face, he'd never lose his fascination for the icy pale
get clean first." Vadim stood again and stepped
away to get the bucket. The water was cool, but not
cold. A piece of cloth swam on top. He fished it out,
water running down his hand, and wiped Dan's chest,
watching how the water ran down his body, pooled around
his feet, then continued to give him a wash, every now
and then dipping the rag into the bucket to get more
water, enjoying to see the other dripping wet. Gave
a short laugh at the expression on Dan's face, took
the bucket and emptied it above both of them, shaking
his head like a wet dog, grinning.
More water. Come on." Vadim stepped towards the
tub, down the steps into the steaming water. Every muscle
alive, cool water, hot water. Settled on the stone inside,
watched Dan join him, his hand moved up to grab hold
of the other's cock, to pull him close.
Dan protested feebly, "you out to prove I follow
my cock as well?" Dan stopped in front, grinning,
bodies touching. No where else to go.
smirked, leaned in to murmur into Dan's ear. "Been
thinking about this
something like this."
He swallowed, which probably ruined the effect. Difficult
to tell Dan what he wanted, and how he wanted it. Could
be difficult in the water anyway. Not without oil, and
he couldn't see any.
flashed a grin, took a handful of Dan's hair and pulled
him under water, holding him there just for a few moments,
then let him go, laughing.
didn't come back up immediately, stayed under the water,
revelled in the feeling of weightlessness and silence,
just his own blood rushing in his ears, the violent
world and a knackered body far away. Bubbles of air
kept popping to the surface until the need to breathe
took over. Searching blindly for the other body, he
pulled himself up with his arms on shoulders that were
equally broad, if not more so. Dan laughed, gasped for
air, and shook his head, spraying water everywhere.
thing the hair's shorter, eh?" Grinned, hooked
his fingers and hands together behind Vadim's neck.
Dan didn't say it with words this time.
I got used to your khippie look." Vadim
grinned back, each and every teeth showed up to the
molars. Saw the face intent, despite the grin, that
deep expression in the dark eyes, the way Dan held his
neck. Never to bow it, unless he agreed, unless he wanted
the same, never about breaking, just accommodating the
other. Each other.
grin slowly faded, dangerous ground here, the feeling
went deep. As if, the more Dan put into the punch, the
deeper it hit him. And Dan always put everything into
his punches, and that made Vadim always, always feel
lips spread into a sly grin, and he grabbed Dan by the
legs, took him up into his arms, and then, very unceremoniously,
dropped himself into the water, Dan and all, one big
splash. Wasting a lot of good, clean, hot water, but
that was the closest to decadence he could get in Afghanistan.
nearly thought he'd drown, laughing under water turned
out to be a bloody stupid idea, and came back up spluttering,
about to pummel Vadim. The smirk in his face at odds
with the wet dog look. "Want a water fight, fucker?
wiped the water off his face and scalp, grinning, the
thing water did to his eyes, made them gleam and shine,
just reflections, a play of light on pigments. He half-crouched,
hands and arms open in an invitation to wrestle, attack
the other and force him under water.
laughed again, a challenging laugh. "No. I've won
thousand times." You will never win, Dan. Ever.
tantalizing thing about skin on skin under water. Vadim
had nearly forgotten how erotic water was. He wanted
Dan, wanted the way water would support his bulk, the
smell it added to human skin. Kissing, licking wet skin.
bared his teeth in a feral grin. "You only want
to get me on my knees." Knew damn well as strong
and tough as he was, the Russian had more bulk and thus
more power. "No fucking chance right now."
Mocking. "I knew that fucked up knee would be good
Dan took the challenge anyway, always would. To the
last breath. Moving forward, he shouldered into Vadim's
body, to get him off balance. Being a sneaky git who
liked to fight dirty, Dan snuck his hand under water,
between Vadim's legs and squeezed his balls. "You'd
make a pretty girl, Russkie." Vice grip, laughing.
sharply at the hand around his balls, desire flared
up again, worse than before, Vadim loved the squeezing,
loved how quickly it became serious and bordering pain.
Being Spetsnaz was just easier with an appreciation
he breathed. "See my pretty curls and big tits
..." Decided against headbutting Dan for that,
and went for the other's cock instead, just brushing
it with his hand.
tits you already have." Dan grinned, his sharp
intake of breath mirrored the Russian's. "And you're
still a sick fuck, liking this shit too much."
Gripped harder, but before Vadim could retaliate after
all, he hooked his good leg under Vadim's and let himself
fall backwards. Hand still on balls, holding, lips seeking
the other's, the kiss was immediate and deep, while
they both sank under water, Vadim on top.
longer about the sex. Even though Dan made him horny,
even though they fucked, they laughed even more. Banter,
the other's presence just plain good, whether they kissed,
or ground, or washed. Vadim felt himself relax far deeper
than he had been, at peace with himself and Dan, a cave
of a different kind. A small world unto itself. Different
rules, that was, no rules at all.
after hours, they rested near the water, Vadim on his
back, Dan draped across him like an especially heavy
towel, Vadim's hand and arm in the water, lazily watching
the waves his fingers made, then drawing Cyrillic water
letters on Dan's shoulder. Lapushka. I love you. Random
words, enjoyed watching the letters dry on the dark
rested up while staring at the water, observing the
still surface, noticed that Dan had fallen asleep. Checked
the time. He'd be in trouble. Yeah, Colonel, bite my
moved, placed Dan carefully on the ground, kept his
legs open with his knees. Dan was tantalizing, but Vadim
was completely and utterly spent, and they needed to
leave, maybe fifteen minutes now. He was pretty sure
he could fit a blowjob in, one of the good, slow, excruciating
ones. See Dan squirm and take that memory with him when
Dan left and he had to return to the barracks.
a nice way to wake up, Vadim thought, and smiled. And
what a nice way to say thank you.
Dan woke, it was to the sensation that had no name.
Heat and friction, wet tightness and suction. He'd never
equated the word 'blowjob' with what Vadim was able
to do. Far more than 'cocksucking' and let alone 'giving
head'. A whole universe of black holes, dying stars
and super novas.
himself, who worshipped the other's cock, shamelessly
addicted to taste, smell, sound and absolute power.
Vadim granted a blowjob like royalty - as much as Dan
granted to get himself fucked.
minutes, and Dan relished them all. Squirming into and
out of those hands, pushing and feeding from lips, throat
and tongue. Relishing each and every second of it, until
against all odds, he finally spent himself again, and
lay winded. He had to be hauled up by Vadim and struggled
into his clothes. They had to make their way back to
the safe house, where everything lay just as they had
left it. Dan hated he had to leave, and scolded himself
for that weakness. It was just one of those things;
was the way their lives worked and their worlds kept
sat on a pile of wood, watching Vadim turn himself back
into the Soviet soldier. Brass, ribbons, bells and whistles.
He sometimes envied the other for all the trimmings,
he'd lost his soldier's identity long ago. For Queen
and Country? Nothing left.
one. One man.
smiled, a smile that lit his whole face up. He looked
well-fucked, and he was. Well-loved and well-worn, and
well-sucked and a whole pile of other good things. Took
the cap and wiped off dust that was only metaphorical,
then saw Dan slump there, and paused.
You alright?" He stepped closer. "Don't worry
about surgery. You'll be fine."
shook his head, too mellow to do anything but smile.
"Not worried about it. Just tired." Yes, Dan.
And you will never tell him, not even with one word,
how it rips you apart to watch him leave, because leaving
yourself is much easier.
patted himself down, then found the pocket, right one,
just where he had slipped them yesterday. Felt self-conscious
about it, had no idea what it meant, or should mean,
gifts and all that.
took Dan's hand and pulled the tasbih from his pocket,
placed it in Dan's palm. Prayer beads. He didn't care
much for the symbol, he didn't believe in God, and even
less the more he fought the so-called soldiers of God,
whatever the name. Just didn't believe there was anything
outside. But he did like the stone. Afghan lapis, dark
blue, with specks of gold.
this on the market." Sent one to Katya. Fuck. Katya
and Dan. The two people that kept him sane.
the way the colour reminded him of the impossibly dark
blue sky out in the mountains, sitting in front of a
cave, still feeling the other on his body, everywhere,
in his mouth, deeper inside. This one was not part of
any loot. He had seen the guy who had carved it.
pushed himself off his seat, stood and glanced at the
item in his hand. Beautiful. Fucking beautiful. Sparks
of light, stars, everything that was good about this
bloody place. The sky. The mountains. This man. Cleared
his throat, closed his hand around the beads, felt the
the colour of the stone is like your eyes in the darkness.
smiled. "Really only souvenir worth taking, I'm
afraid." And I wanted to give you something more
than sweat and lust and a blowjob. "I sent Katya
some as well. Unless it gets stolen. Wouldn't surprise
me." Looked into Dan's eyes. Did I just tell him
he's some kind of wife? I guess I did. He winced. Didn't
see anything aggressive in the man.
nodded, wanted to say that the stones were beautiful,
the beads something special because they were not tainted
with blood and death, but said nothing. 'Beautiful',
no word a bloke could use, and thanks for a gift that
was a lot more than a scrap of stones and a token of
thoughts? No. Couldn't possibly comment, silently slipped
the beads into his pocket, had to feel they were there,
Dan. I know it's mistake and everything, and I shouldn't
be doing this, but I want to. Things are going on in
army, I don't know, there are lot of strange noises
from Moscow. If I should get
" shot, "withdrawn
or moved, I want you to get in touch with Katya. She
understands." Definitely if you show her the lapis,
he thought, but couldn't speak it. "You can find
me through her."
reached into his inside pocket, for once carried this,
another mistake. It should be locked away in his desk.
A photo, carefully tucked away in a foil sleeve. Katya
and the kids. Anoushka pulled a face, which was so typically
her that Katya had decided to send this one.
family." Dan forced himself to look at the photo,
didn't want to see the face of the children, let alone
the wife. This person who had some sort of rights over
Vadim, who would know if he had died, while he was nothing,
no one. An enemy without access to files nor information.
turned the photo and pointed at the hand writing. His
address in Moscow. "Just if anything happens."
shook his head, took a step back. "I'll keep it
save." Don't talk about loss and death, about things
that could happen and had not happened for seven years.
Shut the fuck up, Russkie, pretend that this world is
not a shithole full of death and destruction, and come
with me to stay and sleep in a real bed with starched
linens and wake to sunshine in your face and the smell
of proper English breakfast.
life together would never be his, that world belonged
to 'her'. When the war was over. If Vadim survived,
he would become part again of a world of children, wives,
daily work and feather duvets.
keep it save." Dan repeated. I wonder if she's
ever loved you as much, and if you ever meant as much
as life and survival to her, as you do to me.
smiled. "Thanks. If I'm not here when you come
back, Katya will know why. And she'll tell you what
happened." Just in case. It was always so fucking
difficult to see Dan go, and wonder whether he'd come
back. Surgery. Dan was going home. He had no idea how
long it could take and what could happen in this place.
If Gorbachev got his act together and decided to launch
an offensive, or decided to use special forces, or whatever.
He didn't know what the plans were. He doubted the Kremlin
knew, and that, now, that was scary.
couldn't help but cast another glance at the photo.
"The girl looks like you. When you try to be funny."
Yeah, when she marries, I'll give her away with leash
and whip and collar. Poor bastard will need that."
it'll be awhile before she marries." Dan managed
a grin. And I'll never know because you'll be in that
strange country of yours, the one that is falling apart
at the seams. Leading whatever life an Afganet like
you would lead. Watching your daughter marry a man,
would you ever wonder what became of this one?
safely stored the photo together with the beads. "Suppose
I should be glad you gave me a string of beads and not
a collar, eh?" Shit. Too late. He cringed at his
choice of words.
grinned, and coughed to hide just how amusing that idea
was. Dan and a collar. Yeah right. "That would
take some explaining."
the subject as quick as he could, Dan shrugged. "I
should be back in half a year at the latest. Knees take
some time, but I heal well, will probably less than
that. I'll let you know via the usual routes."
nodded. Would be the teeth of winter. No cave, then.
Difficult to leave Kabul. Dan was already slipping away,
and impossible to say when he could get him closer again,
could touch him. "Take time. Joints are, what's
word, complicated." And I'll miss you and think
of your body when I'm alone. That laugh, that expression
on your face when you smile, or sleep. Shit. Fallen
so very hard for this man. So hard it hurt all the time.
Shit, just let him go and stand here stunned, waiting
for the mask to slip back into place, killing machine
and officer. "I'll do my damned best to be here
when you come back. And I
" miss you already,
"will be waiting for your message." Hoped
the Simple Future Continuous expressed the sense of
time and longing. Stupid English.
nodded, couldn't touch Vadim, already too late. Had
to watch him go then leave himself, a few minutes later.
Red Cross badge and armband back in place, rag ready
to be wound around his head. Vanishing into the quiet
streets of a waking city of dust.
will be back." No matter what, no matter how. "I
will find you." Whatever it takes. He turned, stepped
to his bergan and started to pack. Just not look. What
had his Russkie once said? Have you ever loved without
lust? No, Vadim, I haven't, but I'm loving more
than I should.
stood there, thumb rubbing the rim of the peaked cap.
Red star in the centre, like an eye, an oddly deformed
eye where none belonged. Dan's bent back, he wanted
to touch him again, tell him everything would be alright.
loss, unwilling to face the Colonel. They had to think
he was keeping a sweetheart somewhere in Kabul. He guessed
it was tolerated, not welcome, but they cut him some
will find you.
back at that dark hair, Vadim saw how those hands packed,
stuffed things into pockets, knew exactly where everything
was going. That was reassuring - the machine kept running,
Dan would be fine.
the red star a baleful eye. Fuck you, and fuck what
you make me do, you are a lie, and nothing else. Vadim
bared his teeth, put the cap on, tipped it into the
right angle. And now we are one again, and I'll go on
fighting your useless war.
streets of Kabul didn't know the difference between
them. And it was his duty to not show that a difference