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Special Forces Chapter XI: Up Close and Personal

October 1983, Afghanistan

There 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.

The 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.

Hiding. 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.

Damn. 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.

It 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.

Dan 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.

Vadim's voice; Vadim's body.

His Russkie was here.

* * *

Crude 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.

Dima 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.

Dima 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."

Dima 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.

Vadim 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.

Water 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.

Vadim 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."

Alyosha muttered something obscene, but got up, pushing the hat back over his head, and reaching for the rifle.

Vadim 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.

There, 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.

Dan 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.

Vadim 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.

Dan 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 that death.

Vadim 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.

Dan 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.

One 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 expectations.

Dan 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.

The 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.

"No 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."

What? 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. Just impossible.

"No 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."

Dan's left hand dropped between Vadim's arse cheeks, pushed slick fingers into the hole, breaching the muscle. Nothing took more than a few seconds.

Inside. Was that … 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.

Couldn't 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 own head.

Dan's 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.

Vadim's 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.

Reckless, 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.

Left hand dropped to Vadim's cock, stroked as frantic and relentless as he drove his cock into that body.

Vadim 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.

Dan 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.

But 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.

Vadim 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 mouthed.

Dan smirked as an answer, pulled up briefs, closed his trousers, sticky or not, no time. Every second the others could turn round the corner.

"Vadya?" called Dima, and Vadim's face twitched. "Here."

Dan 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.

"Fell into a hole?"

Vadim pulled his trousers up. "No, just waiting for you, darling."

Roaring laughter, and Alyosha's and Sershka's heads appeared, just as Vadim closed the belt.

Dan 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 a dump.

"The 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.

They 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

"And what is this?"

"Toothpaste. Surely, Soviet toothpaste is not dangerous goods, Sir?"

Vadim 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.

They'd 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.

So, this is democracy. Terrific thing to have.

The 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.

Next item.

"Toothbrush." Vadim forced himself to remain as stoic as during basic training. "Soap. I didn't bring razors."

"Why 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 different weapons.

The 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?"

"They were sold out."

The man leaned back with the easy arrogance that having a strong currency brought. "You must feel very unwelcome?"

"Must I?" asked Vadim.

The 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.

"I am sorry, I am tired. I might not understand what you are trying to say."

The man nodded. "What is your business in the United Kingdom?"

"I'm 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."

"You are a sportsman, yes? Major Krasnorada?"

Vadim nodded. "Yes, sir. I could only become an Olympic fighter if I joined the officer corps."

"And you look very tanned."

Bastard. 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.

The 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?"

Vadim 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."

The 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."

"Thank 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.

"Well, I hope you enjoy your stay. You will give a presentation?"

"It 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."

"You 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."

Vadim 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.

Did 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.

"Oh, I could give you your passport. Silly me", said the man and handed Vadim the passport.

Could. 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?

"I 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 the mission.

* * *

He 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.

He 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.

Vadim 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.

Now, 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.

Vadim 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 the crowd.

It 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.

Gaudy 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.

He 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.

But how ironic, after burning the poppy fields in the valleys, to see it sold freely in the streets. Purity, of course, was another issue.

Vadim 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.

Vadim raised an eyebrow at the muffled sounds, but decided as long as he ignored them, he would be ignored in turn.

Going 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.

He 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.

The 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.

"Is there way to try them?" asked Vadim.

"Put them on?" suggested the one who didn't wear a skirt. Male? Or just a husky voice.

Vadim paused, went over his sentence again. "I mean, do you have place where I can try these on?"

A 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.

"Thank 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.

Not 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.

The 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.

Oh, 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.

The 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.

Vadim smiled. "More like visitor. Nice city, though."

"'s alright", said the one behind the counter, shoving his clothes over, long, bony, silver ringed fingers splayed on them, not yet letting go.

Was 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.

"You probably know your way around", said Vadim, "I can find shoes further down?"

"Try Camden Lock market", said the boy.

"And something to eat?"

They 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 establishments?"

Neither 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.

He gave them another smile. "Thanks."

Further 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.

He plucked one of the books from near the window and read the beginning.

'It 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.'

"It's really against totalitarianism", said the man behind the counter.

Forbidden. 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 he was.

'The 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 Oxford Circus.

It 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.

How odd, how intoxicating. No force, no danger. He began to see the point about freedom.

"You 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. That was … clearly something to remember.

"You 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.

"Why not?"

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?"

"Really 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."

Vadim took half a step away from the door. "Why is that?"

"Are 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."

"What 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."

"Fresh meat?"

The other paused. "You wouldn't be the first tourist to put himself on the market here. It's a holiday of sorts."

You 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 the shots.

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.

Vadim returned the favour, and put his jacket over one of the chairs in the kitchen.

Darren 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?"

That 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 Afghanistan hadn't?

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."

"I 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?"

"Soviet Union."

"Holy 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?"

First. Sex was on, then. Vadim nodded.

"Through 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.

The 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.

Vadim 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.

"Let me introduce you to Mark."

The 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 grinning.

Vadim 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.

"From 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.

Darren's 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."

"Cock, sir." The 'sir' sent stabs of lust straight through Vadim's body. Oh fuck. What was going on?

Darren motioned for him to remain still, a wicked grin on his lips. "That doesn't convince me."

"I want cock, sir, please, let me have cock."

"Any cock?" Oh, that grin could become more evil yet.

"… yes, sir." Voice small, strangled, the man's mind reeling with humiliation.

"There … 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.

Vadim 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.

Vadim 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.

"He's 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.

That 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.

"Slow", 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.

A profound lesson. Slow gave control, control gave power.

Darren 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.

Mark was whimpering when Vadim staggered off the bed, leaning against the wall. Darren hadn't just fucked his mind. Had he?

The 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 good.

Vadim hadn't thought a man could have that much control, watching Mark swallow everything, unable to breathe.

Only 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.

Now 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.

Better 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.

Darren 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.

"There. 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.

"Hi Vadim", said Mark, relaxing against Darren's chest, and studying his shoulders, everything, with sleepy appreciation. "Can't have you … run around 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.

"It's 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.

"We'll 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.

"Yes. Thanks. I mean … thanks."

Darren nodded. "That was a bit hardcore for you, wasn't it?"

"Mostly …unexpected."

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 are."

"Doesn't … he hate you for that?"

Darren stood in the doorway, and studied him with a quizzical look. "Why should he?"

"All that … power."

Darren grinned. "Whose power?"


"Mine?" Darren turned and came back. "Who, do you think, was in control, between us? Why, do you think, did I not fuck you?"

"You wanted me to … fuck … Mark."

"And? That wouldn't have kept me from it."

Vadim shook his head. "No idea."

"Because 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 understand."

"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.

How 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.

* * *

Seeing 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 the shower.

Vadim 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.

This 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.

These men were not concerned about living together - while he kept up that life and liberty saving guise of a woman and children.

All he had, all he would ever have. Unless he turned traitor.

He 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 enough.

'The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power.'

Yeah, no shit.

"Your 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.


"Miner strike. Don't you read the papers?"

"Press is … different in Moscow."

Darren paused. "Shit. I keep forgetting. Sorry."

Vadim 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.

"You're incredibly tense."

"I have couple good reasons."

"I'd 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 do."

Vadim 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.

"Strange. I can't figure out whether you're a top or a bottom. Seems to change."

"Top or bottom?"

"Mark's a bottom. I'm a top. In bed."

"I like being in control."

"I'm not sure you actually do", said Darren. "I get the feeling you're trying to lose yourself. Prime slave material."

Vadim 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."

Darren's 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."

Dan. 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.

"This. And the scars on your back."

Darren 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 …

Vadim shook his head. "Yes, hard to explain those …"

"Well, 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."

Vadim 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?"

"Yes." 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 the bedroom.

"How … does it work? How can … Mark be in control?"

"He 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'."

"Am I?"

"Yeah. 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."

"What … the fuck are you talking … ah … about." 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.

Darren 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, vertical, whatever.

A 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.

He 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.

Darren 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.

Vadim 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 leaving?"

"I have to meet somebody."

Darren nodded, pursed his lips thoughtfully. "You're welcome to come back after that."

"I 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 man."

"Fair enough. If you return around seven, Mark will be here, too."

Which 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.

Vadim nodded and headed out. He had people to kill.

* * *

The 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.

Vadim 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.

He'd 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 gun.

Didn't 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.


He 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 you.

He watched the neighbourhood for a while. Seemed quiet. Nobody seemed to take much notice.

This, 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?



He was about to kill Dan's countryman. Worse. He was about to kill a man that had a lot in common with himself.

Ah, 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.

But 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 a country.

Russia 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.

Vadim 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 English.

How 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?

Where was the point?

'The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power.'

But 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.

Maybe that had been what the doctor had been chafing against.

Treason. Treason became a mental habit.

'Please, 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.'

* * *

"We 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?

Vadim 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.

"How did you find London so far?" asked Richard, when somebody had taken his coat and Vadim's jacket.

"It's quite something", said Vadim.

Richard gave a very civilized chuckle. "Do you wish anything to drink?"

Poison. 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 at airport."

Richard 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?"

"The thing about active service. Why should you be interested in the service record of an Afghan veteran?"

"To 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."

Vadim smirked. "I can't help you with answer."

"Personally, I assume you are playing chess. Your national sport, if I am correctly informed. Do you play chess, Major?"

"I am not very patient man. I seize opportunities too fast. Sometimes, that means I risk trap."

"To not tax your patience, I have my suspicions who and what you are. As, doubtlessly, you have in turn."


"And while I'm not at liberty to confirm or deny, there is something we can do for each other."

Vadim 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?"

"Information. 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."

"Afghanistan is not hotbed of intrigue."

"We 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 in time."

Treason. Traitor. They'd be willing to bank on his career.

"What do you offer?"

"Considerable 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 ahead."

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.

Vadim 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?

It had been a bad idea from the start.

"You 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 it."

"It's ... 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.

"You have my number."

Yes, he did. Memorised. A way out. The coward's way.

* * *

No vodka, nothing to prepare him for it.

One 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 the Kremlin.

Vadim 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.

The 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.

Vadim 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.

Vadim 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.

He 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.

He 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.

He 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 fire.

"Hi, 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?"

"Food 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 fuel.

"Sure. 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.

Vadim 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.

Vadim 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, providing company.

"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.

"Still 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?

"Ah. How long … have you lived like this?"

"Darren 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."

"I 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. Were they?

"Do you have a partner?" asked Mark.

"It doesn't work like that in Russia", said Vadim. "Like this?" The fork indicated the flat. "Impossible. I'd end up in prison."

"Oh. Well, we're lucky." Mark looked almost guilty. "Do you have to hide, then?"

"I'm 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.

"She's … beautiful. And the kids?"

"Hers." 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.

"That must be … 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.

"Well, you're always welcome", said Mark, not smoothly enough to hide the moment of embarrassment. He knew how lucky they were.

The 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.

Darren 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.

"I don't understand that", Vadim murmured.


"The top and bottom thing." Nevermind the slave thing. That was even worse.

"Uhm. It's really simple. Fucking or getting fucked… there's usually one you prefer. Unless you don't, then you're a switch."

Dan. 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."

"Well, 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.

Darren 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?"

"Yes. Thanks."

Both 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.

Just. The fact he'd rubbed this man's life out. His house. His books. Everything he'd ever thought or written.

Vadim 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.

He 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 … or whatever … no, not pain, not quite, ecstasy?

Caused 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.

Vadim pulled back. Love you. He stepped back into the dark corridor. Love you.

"And 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 now. 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."

Vadim's eyes opened, fixed on a dark shadow that sounded like Darren. Darren. London. Oh fuck. "What … do you want?"

Darren released his wrist, and sat down on the couch/bed. "Came down to drink something. You alright?"

"I was asleep."


Vadim sat up, pulling his legs up. "Was I loud?"

"No, just tossing and turning."

"Ah. Good."

"You 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 leaving tomorrow."

"Yeah, I figured. Hope you had a good time, despite … today."

Vadim tensed. "What do you mean?"

"You 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?"

Vadim 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?"

"It's 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. "It … just doesn't work. It can't work, and it won't work, and… nothing I can do can get me out of that."

"Ah, 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 him.

"What's this?"

"I 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.

"So, he's a Scotsman?"


"You 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?"

"I 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 anyone."

Vadim 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.

But 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 … Mark."

"The fisting?"

What an oddly adequate name for it. "Yes."

"And you wonder about it?"

"Yes. Why … I mean, that … must hurt."

Darren 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.

"But 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."

"But the power …"

"You 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 … your 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 to me."

Vadim shuddered. The torture. Dan. Dan. Knife. Dan. "I need to … to survive."

Darren's hold was still there, stable, strong.

"Yet you got out of it alive. How? How did you survive that, Vadim?"

"I … yielded."

"There 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."

Restraint. 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 that be …? What?

Darren 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."

He did. And Vadim fell asleep again, held and stroked and oddly safe, for once, despite his sins and doubts.

Special Forces Chapter XII: Insiders
Warning for Readers

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

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

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

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


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Published 22 December 2006