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Special Forces Chapter XVI: Red Cross

June 1986, Kabul

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.

His 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.

He 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.

The 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.

So that's how he could move as freely through this shithole, as anyone could.

Dan 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 else.

" Welcome back, Russkie." Dan said in Russian, "good to see you in one piece."

The 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.

But 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.

"It's 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 middle.

"You 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."

Dan laughed, dark, warm chuckles mixed with gruff amusement. "You fucking idiot. Can hardly run around as who I really am, eh?"

Who 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?"

"Pay's 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.

Dan 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.

"I 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.

"Talk? 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. I'm listening."

But 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.

"Right." 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.

"I 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 neck cloth.

Vadim 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.

"How long do you have tonight?" Dan was hoping at least well into darkness, but never assumed anything.

"Should 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.

"Good." 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.

"The 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.

"That 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.

"There's 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.

"Damn." 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."

Vadim 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.

"Honeymoon?" 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."

"You take them off." Another grin, and Vadim spread his arms, bent his neck a little. "I won't move one muscle."

Dan 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."

Goosebumps 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 and sexy.

Dan 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."

The 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 to him.

"Nothing's 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.

"What's plan?" Vadim looked up. Pleased to let Dan take over. Maybe he was that tired.

"Plan 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.

"First part of the plan, get this on and cover your head. You don't blend into the crowd very well."

Vadim 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.

Even 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.

"We 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.

"Let's 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.

Vadim 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.

He 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.

They 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.

"That's 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.

"Everything's 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.

The 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.

"Welcome to our personal hamam, Russkie."

Speechless. 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.

For 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.

Dan 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.

Three weeks of cajoling, prodding, requesting, almost begging, scheming and demanding had been worth it.

Vadim pulled away, walked in, nodded Dan over. "Come here."

Dan 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 importance.

Dan lifted his arms, now it was he who was waiting to be undressed like a puppet.

"Yes", 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.

He 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.

Dan 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 of.

Vadim 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.

Naked, 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 eyes.

"Should 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.

"Now. 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.

"Hey!" 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.

Vadim 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.

He 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.

Dan 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.

"Good 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.

Mine. You're mine.

"No, 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.

Vadim's 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 it.

His 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.

Dan 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? You lose!"

Vadim 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.

He laughed again, a challenging laugh. "No. I've won thousand times." You will never win, Dan. Ever. "Come. Try."

The 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.

Dan 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 for something."

Smirking, 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.

Inhaling 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 for pain.

"Yeah", 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.

"Big 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.

No 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.

Eventually, 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 skin.

Vadim 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 fat one.

He 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.

What a nice way to wake up, Vadim thought, and smiled. And what a nice way to say thank you.

When 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.

Unlike 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.

Fifteen 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 spinning.

Don't leave.

Dan 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.

Just one. One man.

Vadim 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.

"Dan? You alright?" He stepped closer. "Don't worry about surgery. You'll be fine."

Dan 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.

Vadim 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.

He 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.

"Found this on the market." Sent one to Katya. Fuck. Katya and Dan. The two people that kept him sane.

Liked 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.

Dan 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 cool smoothness.

And the colour of the stone is like your eyes in the darkness.

Vadim 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.

Dan 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, reassuringly safe.

"Listen, 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."

He 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.

"Your 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.

Vadim turned the photo and pointed at the hand writing. His address in Moscow. "Just if anything happens."

Dan 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.


A 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.

"I'll 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.

Vadim 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.

Dan couldn't help but cast another glance at the photo. "The girl looks like you. When you try to be funny." Swallowed.

"Anoushka? Yeah, when she marries, I'll give her away with leash and whip and collar. Poor bastard will need that."

"Guess 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?

Dan 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.

Vadim grinned, and coughed to hide just how amusing that idea was. Dan and a collar. Yeah right. "That would take some explaining."

Changing 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."

Vadim 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.

"Dan." 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.

Dan 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.

"I 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.

Vadim 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.

At 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 slack.

I will find you.

Looked 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.

Gave 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.

The streets of Kabul didn't know the difference between them. And it was his duty to not show that a difference even existed.

Special Forces Chapter XVII: Queen and Country
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 7 February 2007