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Special Forces Chapter LX: The Good The Bad The Ugly

January/February 1995, London, United Kingdom

From Heathrow, they took the train to Central London, checked into the Park Lane Hotel on Piccadilly, because it was close to where they were going to the meeting. The Baroness had arranged for them to meet somebody, and after a quickie and a shower, they got dressed again in nice suits. Vadim called the tailor on Savile Row, who assured him he'd have time for him the next morning, 'I'd be delighted, Sir', and went out into surprisingly nice weather.

They crossed Green Park, walked past Buckingham Palace and got to one of those light grey Victorian buildings. GCP stood there on a polished brass plate, which, Vadim soon learned, meant 'Grosvenor Capital Partners'. A pretty - wrong, stunning young woman greeted them. Blonde, good make-up, and one of the friendliest, most heart-warming smiles Vadim had ever seen. The woman introduced herself as Lynne, and she told them that George would be with them in a moment. She then ushered them into a very comfortable meeting room, offering tea, coffee, juice, water, sparking and non-sparkling, and left them, telling them it would just be a minute, George was still on the phone.

Vadim stirred his coffee, glanced out of the window, which had a view over the garden behind the house. The faint rattle of trucks driving past, but otherwise, the place was serene, clean, open, a place for thinking, for precision. "Wonder what the dirt is," he murmured. "Nelson's money? Is that the lead? Can we get him for evading tax? Or laundering money?"

"Not sure, but Maggie mentioned that we should be extremely discreet and careful." Dan absentmindedly scratched the back of his scarred hand, when the door opened and a man entered in a damn nice suit, but the man still outshone the suit.

Vadim had very rarely seen hair that was dark red, a colour like blood, rich in ways that made the memory of carrot-head Mitch a caricature. The hair was relatively long by English standards, reaching the collar of that fabulous suit. The man wore a goatee, which stood out on his skin that was the clarity and colour of milk. The eyes, framed by dark red lashes, were light blue-grey, and reminded Vadim of spring in New Zealand. But the first impression was wrong, the man wasn't as young as he looked, rather somewhere in Nelson's generation, a few silver threads in that brilliant dark copper red, and lines around his mouth and nose. Yet, the man was strikingly beautiful, tall, but not bulky, and he didn't just have Vadim's appreciation. Dan had to keep himself from staring.

"Good afternoon," the man said, offering his hand. " George Holloway. Please."

"Vadim Krasnorada," said Vadim, before Dan shook the man's hand, introducing himself.

Vadim nodded. "We're ..." Pausing when the man indicated the conference table and chairs, and they all sat down again. "We appreciate your time."

"A friend of mine, Baroness de Vilde, assured me that you might be able to help us in an important and … delicate matter." Dan leaned back in the chair, watching the man from under his lashes.

"The Baroness," George said, and his voice complemented his looks. He seemed sincere in an altogether friendly way. "I hope she is in good health? I'd be delighted to help her friends ... she has been nothing but the finest judge of character I've ever encountered." Giving both Dan and Vadim a smile, very polite, but Vadim had the distinct feeling he could trust this man. George Holloway had to be a great salesman, Vadim thought. Whatever he did, whatever he made his money with. Something with finances. He'd buy a house or stock market option from him any time.

"She is very well indeed. I spoke to her only yesterday." Dan smiled back, his own smile less polite than open. "May we be frank with you?"

"Please." George leaned forward, folding his hands on the polished glass table. Manicured hands, no ring, and an understated gold and titanium watch.

"We," Vadim cleared his throat, "Dan and I work as consultants in the security business." Dan would have said 'mercenaries', most likely, which might have been the wrong way to go. "In that capacity, we have encountered somebody the Baroness told us you know as well. A certain Colonel Nelson."

George visibly swallowed. Whatever he had expected, it hadn't been this, and Vadim saw how the man's calm and confidence took a hit from the mentioning of the name alone.

"We ..."

George held up his hand, head lowered, like he did not want to hear more. "In what ... relation are you to Nelson?" he asked, not meeting their eyes.

"None. Except for wanting to get rid of that creep. Once and for all." Dan charged forward.

"Has he ... done it again?" George asked, still not meeting their eyes, but his body had tensed up, even his hands were tense, gripping each other like he was trying to crush his own bones. "What ... what has he done?"

Dan glanced intensely at Vadim, George's reaction had been entirely unexpected. "I believe it is more of a matter of what he would like to do than what he has done, at the moment." Checking with Vadim once more, to ensure he said the right things. "Vadim had one encounter with that man a few months ago, and now it turns out he is obsessive, a stalker, does not take no for an answer. If I am not mistaken - and trust me, I have a lot of experience in this - he is potentially dangerous."

George gave a choked sound. He stood abruptly, fast enough to almost topple the chair. "Just ... give me a moment." He left the room and Vadim was about to follow him, then decided he didn't want to spook the man further. Instead, he placed a hand on Dan's shoulder and remained standing, while Dan sat straight and alert.

"Now I really want to know what happened," Vadim murmured in Russian.

"Shit." Dan cursed under his breath. "I hope we didn't go too far." Looking up, he frowned. "Only few things that can create such a reaction."

Vadim nodded. "I guess it was 'not taking no for an answer'." He said in Russian.

"Aye," Dan murmured, "I should have guessed."

The door opened again, and the beautiful blonde assistant came in. Vadim expected her to get them to the door and tell them in the friendliest way to get the fuck out, but instead she asked whether they wanted anything to drink. Vadim opted for another coffee and Dan went for tea. The beverages appeared just a little later.

"He must feel awful," Vadim said quietly.

"I feel guilty. Damn." Ladling sugar into his tea, Dan stirred it thoughtfully.
George eventually reappeared, pale, but collected. His smile, this time, had faded, he was clearly mustering his confidence, and he seemed vulnerable for the first time. "I have to apologise," he said, voice betraying emotion. "It was ... a rather unexpected topic." He sat down.

"We would have never breached it, if we hadn't been desperate." Dan reassured. "Nor would we have asked the Baroness for help in the first place, had we not exhausted all options and venues already."

"I don't know how the Baroness knew about it ... I imagine there were rumours. No cover-up is always complete, but it has been a while that I was ... confronted with the rumour." George folded his hands on the table again, but Vadim could see how the glass misted where he touched it. The man was sweating.

"Mr Nelson ..." A faint smile, as if George was morbidly amused that he could speak the name at all. "We both studied at the same university. You could say we were friends. I was very flattered that such a well-bred gentleman would extend his hand in friendship to me. I was there on a stipend." Telling the whole story just in hints there. He hadn't been born to money and privilege. "Mr Nelson deemed it acceptable to avail himself of my body," he said, saying this as if it meant nothing.

Dan sat as straight and stiff as a ramrod. He'd never met anyone before, not knowingly, with whom he shared more experiences than he'd wanted. "Was this an isolated incident?" He asked carefully, keeping his voice soft.

"He'd invited me to a house he owned at that time, to play Polo." George stared at the table, his pale skin was translucent now. "I stayed there for a week, but only on the last two days did he cross the line between friendship and what he'd had in mind. I assume he was counting on my consent at first and then decided it wasn't strictly necessary." He exhaled, closed his eyes. "In the end, I did what he wanted. I thought I would never make it home if he suspected I'd turn against him. I had to fool him to live."

Dan looked at Vadim, when a sudden thought entered his mind. "This is going further than we thought." Quietly, he knew that Vadim would understand. "You were talking about a cover-up." Dan returned his attention to George. "I assume this means the police was never involved and thus no prosecution?"

"No. I tried to hide it, but I was injured and I needed help. The doctor was a friend of my father's, and I didn't have the strength to hide. My parents threatened legal action, but he bought his way out. We didn't touch the money, it went to charity."

Dan wanted to ask why he hadn't pressed charges, but then he remembered how he'd hidden the pain and pretended he was fine. He just nodded, trying to smile a little to convey his understanding. The realisation hit him that he really did not want to deal with that confrontation. After all those years and the peace he'd made, he was still uncomfortable to the bone.

George was pallid, blue veins shining through the skin. "After the traces had gone, I changed courses and went to Harvard Business School. I honestly thought I'd never hear that name again. But that was not so. He called the firm I worked for and got me into an impossible situation there, so I quit and that was probably for the best."

"Did he ever get into contact again?"

"No. He lost interest - or maybe he returned home. I didn't … inquire, but I counted my blessings that I was still alive and it had stopped. Work helped. I got into asset management and I had no time to face what had happened. I went out of my way not to have a life." George shook his head. "I pay my therapist three hundred pounds an hour and haven't told him this."

"I am sorry." Dan's dark eyes rested on the other man. "I truly am, for bringing this up, and asking for your help." He reached across to touch George's suited arm, briefly and lightly, barely there.

George looked at him. "How can I help you deal with that man? With something that happened so long ago?"

"Would you be willing to make a statement?"

"In front of a judge?" George shook his head. "No. No. I have … a career here, I can't have people talk about me. I've built this for years … If my clients hear what happened … would you trust a man to be balanced and sane who …" George faltered, too many thoughts, panicked.

"Yes, I would trust that man. Trust him for the strength and courage to stand up and do this: to prosecute a predator." Dan's attention was on George, while Vadim felt sorry for him, sorry for the man they'd bared, who was that naked emotionally that he lost his composure like this.

"You, maybe. The men I'm dealing with … in this world. Here …" George looked at Vadim, as if expecting help - or hoping for help.

Poor deluded fool, Vadim thought, because he could see what Nelson had seen in him. The confidence, that red hair, and he was sure Nelson must have, at some point, hit or bitten him and just watched the pale skin turn red and then white again, maybe had bruised him just to watch the colour change. And what a sick thought, but he could even imagine what this man looked like being raped - playing the captor to survive, maybe agree to whatever sick little game Nelson had wanted to play, only to escape alive. And it turned him on. He shook his head, forcing himself to think something else, but the man was exquisitely beautiful, once he'd been shaken.

Dan continued after a moment, "I guess we might be asking too much. Even though I am convinced that it would not come to a trial, Threatening the bastard should be enough."

"I … can't make that decision," George said, again not meeting Dan's eyes.

Dan nodded slowly. Damn, there went their chance, but he couldn't press the issue any further. "I admire you and what you have achieved." He paused, watching George, who didn't relax at the praise, expecting to be played. "Perhaps, if you can't make that decision, you could come to dinner with us?"

George considered that, then nodded, slowly regaining his cool, which, Vadim thought, was strangely attractive again. The man's fight between weakness and the façade was breathtaking. And Dan clearly thought so, too, why else the invitation.

"Of course." It was unlikely that he'd be able to continue with his usual work. "French, Italian, Japanese?"

"Whatever you prefer." Dan smiled, incredibly well behaved so far. "I, for one, eat anything. Especially if there is plenty of it, and a dessert. The sweeter the better." He leaned slightly forward with a grin, as if telling George a secret. "I am a peasant. Too many years as a soldier and then as a merc. It is Vadim who has the refined tastes. He is the cultured one."

George looked at Vadim, then at Dan, giving them a smile, almost back to his professional self again. "That sounds like Italian … the Japanese aren't that good on desserts." He reached up to readjust his tie, even though there was no need to do that. "Where are you staying? I'll have a driver pick you up at your hotel, at eight?"

"The Park Lane Hotel on Piccadilly." Dan stood up, reaching for his cane. "I am looking forward to tonight." Smiling, he held out his hand, while he couldn't help but look at the man just that little bit too long and just a smidgen too appreciative.

"I will see you later, then." George, Vadim thought, probably got this kind of look a lot, or he trusted them, or he was oblivious. He shook Dan's hand, then Vadim's, who noticed that the hand was still a bit damp despite the re-won control.

Lynne saw them out of the door, polite and beautiful, and not much later they were back on the street.

"Can't say Nelson doesn't have a good taste in men," Vadim murmured in Russian.

"Damn." Dan exhaled, didn't say anything for a while, until they were far enough away. "I definitely agree. He wants you, after all."


"Nelson is more of a fucking bastard than I thought, and more dangerous. What the hell do we do if George doesn't want to help?"

Vadim smiled. "Never thought they made bankers this sexy."

Dan shook his head. "I want him to help us, and ... I guess his story just made me damn uncomfortable. I don't think the man's straight, but I do think he's been fucked up, and that gets to me. Because I can't imagine living a life as a victim."

"I didn't get any vibes from him. If he's a red-blooded male, he's certainly fucking the PA." Vadim smiled. "Both are outrageously good-looking. Damn. Wherever their clients come from, they must leave with a hard-on."

"Maybe he isn't fucking anything." Dan shrugged. "Only one way to find out, aye?"


They went back to the hotel, where Vadim had a shower and a full shave, every now and then thinking those thoughts. Of the redhead, suffering. They were only flashes across his mind, but they were distracting, and he was glad when reception called them to tell them that Mr Holloway's driver was waiting to pick them up.
Dan had refused to dress in a suit again, and was wearing prohibitively expensive but comfortable clothes in those desert colours that Vadim liked best on him. Brushed and spruced, his wildness tamed to within an inch, except for the scars he could not hide, and the lapis lazuli beads, wound around his wrist. Vadim had matched Dan's style, then had decided on a classical shirt and a grey waistcoat from one of his three piece suits, that matched the jeans in colour. The driver held their doors open - a very nice, shining limousine that even had a bar. While he drove them through London, the phone rang and the driver answered, listening to orders, then took a turn left, towards Kensington, past grandiose architecture that still very much proclaimed London to be the centre of an Empire.

"Mr Holloway asks whether you would accept an invitation to his house instead?" the driver asked, impeccably polite.

"Of course." Dan leaned forward, a miniature glass of beer in his hand. Impressed that there was such a profane drink in such a posh vehicle.

They arrived not much later at a walled villa that had a lot of security. The gates opened, and while the front court wasn't very spacious, it was impeccably groomed. The house behind was covered in evergreen creeper vines. The driver got out and opened their doors again.

Holloway himself opened the door. He, too, had dressed down, if in more businesslike trousers and shirt, but without a jacket and tie, which made all the difference. "Welcome," he said, and nodded to the driver. "My favourite Italian is booked for a birthday, and I didn't feel like dining in public today."

"Thank you for inviting us." Dan smiled, briefly touching Vadim's shoulder.

The hall was furnished with antiques. Vadim was sure that every piece had been chosen to complement another piece - the impression was that of unity, and elegance, and a lot of money. The oil paintings were genuine, too, he recognized a Canaletto - one of the guys who'd had several paintings in the National Gallery.

A winding staircase dominated the hall, and Holloway gently ushered them into a room with a fireplace. "Drinks?" he asked, and the fire made his hair come alive in a way that was breathtaking.

"Whisky?" Dan was looking around, just to keep his eyes from the man himself. "Single Malt Speyside, please." Sitting down on one of the leather sofas, he placed the cane beside him and out of the way, before he stretched out to sit comfortably. "I must say, I am impressed. Aren't you getting lost in here?"

"I know, it's an outrageous property, in this location." Holloway poured them drinks and handed them to Dan and Vadim, then poured himself another one. "Some rock star was going for it, too, I think they wanted me to buy it." He shook his head. "I told the cook about the Italian, and the desserts - she selected the menu, I hope you'll enjoy it."

"A cook ... what I'd need." Dan sighed, then flashed a grin at Vadim. Raising his glass for a toast. "Slainte."


The door opened a crack, Holloway looked towards it, then nodded, and the door closed again. "Dinner is served. I hope you're hungry." He set the glass down and led them through another door to the dining room. He could probably have gone for the whole glass and silverware look, but this was, Vadim assumed, what he'd done as 'low key'. The table was covered in small dishes, some kept hot, others were cold, fingerfood, a wide range of courses all served for ease and comfort, with the desserts set a little aside because there was no more space. "This was easier than having the cook or a serving girl around," Holloway murmured.

"It certainly looks mouth-watering." Dan glanced around, noticing the lack of personnel. They got seated, with George between them. There was even beer available, and Dan was thankful for the less than fancy beverage, even though it was from a specialised independent brewer.

Holloway ate, too, but didn't appear hungry, even though each and every bite was excellent. Vadim thought it was probably generosity, or a strange notion of what was expected from him with that paycheck. "I assume you know the Baroness professionally?"

"Yes. I'm investing part of her assets," George said, almost glad for somebody beginning a conversation. "Maybe she learned of that sordid story when she had me researched … but over the years, we became friends, and I trust her assessment of character. That is why you are here, in this house, even though I hardly know you."

Dan smiled. "Maggie is certainly thorough." Realising what he had said, he corrected himself. "Her ladyship, of course. The Baroness." He was eyeing the dessert, which was a selection of tiramisu, mousse au chocolat, crème brulée and some other not quite Italian but French ones. "She is my friend, one of my best friends, in fact. No matter how odd that seems. A gay, scruffy ex-SAS soldier who was her bodyguard for a while, and an Ambassador? She never even managed to teach me chess properly, but she plays a mean poker hand."

"Or his partner," Vadim added, knowing exactly what Dan was getting at. Weaving things into conversation. And it was interesting to see that Holloway didn't bolt and run.

Dan nodded. "She would not have told us to contact you, had she not understood the severity of our situation. You know that she never does anything lightly."

"And this … is the only sordid story she has on Mr Nelson." Holloway had a way to say 'Mr' that condemned whatever man he called that. "He must be covering his tracks better these days."

"Aye, it is the only evidence she has, that could destroy the bastard." Dan's eyes held George's for a moment.

"I will show you something, but please have the dessert first. I don't want you to lose your appetite."

"Mr Holloway, both Vadim and I were soldiers, what we have seen and done can most likely not be imagined by a civilian. I think there is nothing that could shock us." Dan kept his voice soft, but to Vadim's eyes the sudden alertness and tension was obvious.

"Let me get them." Holloway stood and left the room.

Vadim looked at Dan. "You think he's cracking?" he asked in Russian.

Dan shook his head slightly, sticking to Russian. "I have no idea, and I don't want to take advantage."

Holloway came back, holding a file in his hand that had been pale blue and had faded further into grey. He placed it carefully at Dan's side, who picked it up and opened it on his knees.

Inside were papers - medical reports, dated, signed, on injuries sustained by George Holloway. It listed, in meticulous detail, what had been done to George. The medical terms meant little, but each injury was photographed, and Dan saw Holloway as a much younger man, in his early twenties, but with the same hair, the same pearly skin. Only it had been blackened and bruised in far too many places. He looked like the victim of a car crash, if car crashes involved whipping and anal trauma. His chest was a mess, too, with one nipple blackened and swollen beyond anything Dan had ever seen.

Holloway didn't look at the folder, but at Dan's face, which remained stony. He then poured himself more of the dessert wine, a strong, clean, crisp and sweet taste.

Dan closed the folder and put it onto the chair beside him. "Mr Holloway ..." the decision was made within a split second. "Mr Holloway, I would like you to know that while your ordeal goes above and beyond anything I have experienced myself, that you are not alone. You are not the only man who became a victim." He paused to take in a breath. "Fifteen years ago I was raped. In a country far away and in a situation that was entirely impossible. I killed my rapist." Vanya, and the old Vadim was dead. He was not lying, because the Vadim who had raped him had died begging for a soldier's death.

Holloway had become the same translucent white he'd been in the office after Dan had mentioned Nelson, and his eyes moved quickly over to Vadim who seemed genuinely shocked that Dan would speak of it, and reached over to touch him, Dan's hand curling around his.

"I survived the assault without help, but I never told anyone about it, outside of my relationship. "A second's glance at Vadim. "I tell you now, because I want you to understand that I was an SAS soldier when it happened, at the pinnacle of my physical and mental strength. What I am trying to say, is that it can happen to anyone."

"I … believe you," Holloway said, voice low, very nearly strangled off. "And you still ask me to testify? Would you testify if your … if he was still alive? If he still had the means to destroy what is left of you? Would you want your SAS comrades to know what happened to you - for the rest of your life? The media to lay siege to your house and office, because you've accused a man of power and wealth and importance?"

Dan swallowed hard, and he knew he had been put to the spot. There was no escape. "No." Then, firmly, dark eyes on George. "No, I would not want my comrades to know. Everything else I could and would deal with, but I would not want my comrades to know." His hand tensed in Vadim's. "I am the last man on earth to blame you if you choose to remain silent."

"Destroying your life to become somebody new is not easy," Vadim murmured, both hands on Dan, soothing and relaxing him with his presence. Hoping, in a way, to apologize for what he'd done, but Dan smiled slightly and shook his head, as if to say that no apology was needed. Not anymore.

George looked at him. "What exactly is Mr Nelson doing? To you?"

"He has decided he wants me," Vadim said calmly. "We had sex, which was strictly mutual. But he must have decided he wants me as some kind of … possession. Like a trophy."

"No. What he wants, Mr Krasnorada, is a slave. He'd make you scream his name. He'd make you throw up with his evil. He'd control every thought, every breath. He'd threaten to kill you, and then rape you in any way he can think of. I'd be surprised if he hasn't learned new ways since then." Holloway's voice was dead.

Dan's hand tensed in Vadim's. "I'll fucking kill that bastard." Hissed under his breath, but audible enough.

Holloway looked again at the folder. "I have a life. My job depends on my reputation, on the respect of the financial community. We are a small group … everybody knows everybody else. We know the names and birthdays of each other's mistresses, in addition to the wife's, and we never slip up. They wouldn't say it, but everybody would know. They'd know, and I'd know that they know. My peers … rich, white, old men."

"Then don't." Dan meant it. "We'll find another way, Mr Holloway. Even if that means to take him out of the equation before he does it to either of us." He shook his head.

Holloway looked at him, appearing suddenly forlorn, like he'd awoken from the nightmare of that weekend. "I will have to think about it. This is … of too great an importance."

"Aye, it is, and you should not let yourself be guided by what we are asking for." Dan kept his eyes in the other's for a moment longer, while placing a kiss on Vadim's hand, all the time watching George. "And what do you need?"

"Maybe win my honour back," Holloway said. "Like you did."

Dan was stunned by the answer. "You have never lost it, but you feel like you did, aye?" He let go of Vadim's hand, reaching for George's instead, merely covering the hand on the table. His scarred, tanned hand that had seen a life of work, lay on top of the fine, almost translucent, exquisitely manicured one. The touch reassuring.

"Do you have a partner, Mr Holloway?"

"Only as job lingo." George kept looking at Dan.

"If we tried to seduce you," Dan's voice had taken on a deeper quality, "would you throw us out or trust us?"

Holloway glanced towards the folder, looking about to say "no thanks" - when Vadim left Dan's side and moved behind him, hands open, as if cutting off the escape route of some wild animal. "Are you worried about the scars?" Vadim asked. "We're soldiers. We know scars."

"I …" Holloway glanced at him, then at Dan, whose hand was still covering his own, almost missed the fact that Vadim stepped closer, then froze when Vadim touched his shoulder and murmured. "Just 'stop' will do it."

Dan smiled, lifted the fine hand off the table, and lowered his head to kiss it in an old fashioned way, which seemed oddly appropriate. Lips lingering on the porcelain skin, while he opened the buttons of his shirt with his right. Pulling it apart, he bared his abs, the landscape of destruction and survival. George, who seemed too conflicted to be polite - stared at the scars, surprised, but not disgusted. "You're not the only one, and neither is Vadim."

Holloway nodded, his free hand reached out to touch Dan's scar, the most vicious one that slashed upwards towards his chest. "I … I usually pay …"

"Lucky hookers," said Vadim with humour, opening his waist coat and dropping it over one of the chairs.

Dan let go of George's hand, but only to shrug out of his shirt, which he let fall onto the expensive Persian rug. "Lucky indeed." He stood bared to his waist, leaned closer, and carefully slid the top button of George's shirt out of the buttonhole. "You call the shots." Dan smiled, "just like with a hooker, only that we are not for sale."

The man was still petrified, but the way his pupils had diluted spoke of his desire, and Vadim stood behind him, touching his shoulders, his arms, pleasantly surprised how firm the muscles were, even though that also meant the man was very tense.

Holloway woke up from the haze when Dan opened his shirt to reveal his nipples. The left one was gone, simply gone, like it had been cut out, but Dan didn't flinch, didn't show any reaction. He had seen worse in his life.

"I would go on my knees," Dan murmured, while pulling the shirt out of George's trousers, then lifting it, to let Vadim slide it off the man. "But I'm a bit of a cripple."

George got to his feet, and Vadim could see that the rest of his body had long healed, even though the man's back, with that white skin, still remembered the whipping. He noticed fine lines on the skin, and when he ran his fingertips across Holloway's shoulder blades, he could feel the scars. He had to fight the urge to hurt that skin, make the man shudder and scream.

Dan stepped closer, lifted George's hands to his own shoulders, leaving one there, right above the bullet scar, guiding the other towards his hip, placing it onto skin. Treating the man like a wounded animal, every movement was slow and deliberate. Leaning down, he lightly kissed the side of George's throat, then down the neck, while his hands travelled up the chest, over the nipple, towards the back and shoulders, meeting Vadim's hands there.

George's lips opened carefully, as if he was taking an enormous risk, his eyes closed when Dan continued to touch him, and Vadim was there, too. "Should we … go up?" George asked, the first coherent sentence he'd spoken in minutes.

"Aye," Dan came back up to his full height, "that's a good idea. Let's take some drinks with us."

George nodded, reaching for the bottle of whisky. He lead the way out of the room, the next one, up the staircase, towards the left on the landing, and Vadim exchanged a glance with Dan, who held his gaze for a moment, careful not to speak Russian, he didn't want to spook the man. Watching George walk through his house was like watching an impossibly lonely man get lost in his own world, furnished with all the trappings of power and success.

The master bedroom was vast, furnished in the same style as the rest of the house, the four poster bed an antique, dark wood, heavy fabrics. A small pile of books on the nightstand - all serious-looking text, nothing as frivolous as a novel.

Dan took the bottle out of George's hand and placed it onto a side table. He stood in front of the man, gently coaxing him backwards and towards the bed. Dan's hands were on the belt buckle, eyes searching for George's. "May I?"

George's lips moved into a smile, as if he'd been caught by the odd politeness. "Just … you don't have to do this … it's not … won't influence my decision."

Dan opened the belt and button, "it's not about 'having', it is about wanting. You, Sir, you are breathtaking." He slid the trousers down, hands on the boxer shorts, fingers slipping into the waistband to push them down, making the man tremble and his abs tighten, flat stomach growing taut.

Vadim shed his own shirt now, and saw the appreciative look from George. It was nice being seen with those eyes - from a man who was easily more stunning than he was.

Baring George's cock, Dan moved his hands back to the hips and gently nudged him, so that both of them sat down. He leaned forward, placed his lips on George's cock, which made the redhead shudder and open his mouth. George reached for Dan's face, who's tongue was exploring the cock that began to show unmistakable interest.

Vadim moved closer, taking off George's shoes, socks, pulled the rest of his clothes off. It was the only thing he could do right now. Control. Control would be important.

Dan sucked down, but not with his usual greed, because this was about relaxing the man, trying to get him to stop thinking. Every touch, each movement of his head, tongue, lips, was designed to increase the arousal. Not using his hands, merely his mouth and occasionally as deep as his throat.

George soon squirmed, his responses uncoordinated, eyes closed, partly as if he didn't want to see and partly as if he trusted. Vadim joined him on the bed, naked himself, his cock rock hard. He moved his head down as well, sucked on George's balls, which made the man yelp and buck, almost unable to deal with the added stimulation.

Dan lifted his head, let go of the cock, and Vadim took over without any hesitation. Quickly taking off trousers, socks and shoes, Dan returned his attention once more onto George, whose face was beautifully flushed. The pale skin took on a rose hue and George's hands fluttered, as if he didn't know where and what to take hold of. Scooting up, Dan lifted himself onto one elbow and looked down at those long lashes and the parted lips. This man was delicious. "May I?" Dan didn't wait for an answer, capturing George's lips with his own.

George reached up to touch Dan's neck, kissing, but his focus shattered after a few seconds when Vadim did something clever with his lips. "Yes, yes, but don't … don't …" He couldn't say it, his lips so close to Dan's. "I … can't … do that, can't …"

"Can't what?" Lips against lips, Dan caressed the one remaining nipple, which responded by turning into a hard bud. When he brushed over it once more, flicking it gently, George became even more desperate, repeating his stammer. It took a while before the desperate words clicked and made sense to Dan. "Can't get fucked?" When George nodded, Dan kissed him again, murmuring, "no one's going to fuck you. On the contrary. Would you like to fuck one of us?"

The redhead shook his head, but clung to Dan while Vadim continued to drive him up the wall, alternating quick, deep strokes with just licking and brushing the cock head.

"Can't … can't hurt … oh god," George groaned, forcing himself to focus. "… anyone …"

"You won't. I promise. Just tell me who you want." Dan moved down, took the nipple between his lips, flicking with his tongue, gently using his teeth, then laving.

George was panting, mind very nearly blanked by what Vadim did, but then Vadim circled his cock in his hand, forming a tight ring to control him and pulled back. "Blond or dark, Sir?" he asked with a grin, but George was still reluctant, repulsed not only by the possibility of getting fucked, but as much by the thought of doing the fucking to somebody else. He broke away and glanced at Vadim.

"I'm sure you prefer blond," Vadim ventured. "Your PA is beautiful, and I love getting fucked. What about that? No way you can hurt me." You're not fierce and strong enough, was what he was thinking, and at the same time, he wanted to fuck this guy, but he knew Dan wouldn't let him. Dan kept his darkness under control.

"Yes …"

George shuddered, face showing the conflict between need and fear, his own demons tangible in the room. Vadim was about to rummage through the guy's nightstand, when Dan held him back. "Condoms and lube, in my trousers ..."

"Aye." Vadim grinned, found the trousers, the lube - the usual minipack. Dan, ever hopeful, had planned ahead. He squeezed most of it into his hand, slicked his fingers, then pushed them into his arse, while Dan watched and kept stroking George's cock. Adding more lube, Vadim opened the condom and pulled it down over George's cock, using the rest of the lube on him. Nice and slick and safe.

"I want you to watch Vadim's face closely, George." Dan kept his voice soft. "The lust, the feeling, what it does to him, and what it does to you." Dan sat up on his hip, right leg stretched out, reaching for Vadim's nipple and twisting it the way he knew would affect him, making Vadim gasp and shudder. George watched, licking his lips, which made Vadim almost self-conscious as he straddled the man, took his cock and positioned himself. George stared at him, wide-eyed, but very aroused. Vadim took him slowly, making the man squirm with the slow, controlled tightness.

"Yeah," Vadim said, sinking down further, feeling the man's cock go deeper and deeper, until he'd taken all of it, and George was sweating, that brilliant red hair now damp.

"You think you are hurting Vadim?" Dan asked George, while reaching out to caress Vadim's arse, then moved his hand towards the front, taking the balls and squeezing them. "Does he look as if he's in pain?"

George shook his head, groaning when Vadim shifted and bent forward, kissing him, before he began to move. Slow, grinding motions that drove George up the wall, and Vadim relished it. A different kind of power, he was fucking this guy, mentally, emotionally, in all ways that counted. Pushing and thrusting, stopping when he felt George got too far, feeding on the desperation and need much like Hooch did to him.

Dan kept watching and touching, but not interfering. Stroking himself, he didn't want to stoke the fire too quickly.

Vadim's muscles stood out in stark relief as he moved slowly, weight fully on his thighs, grinding and shifting until he found the best angle for himself. He began to ride George, making more of a show of it than usual, for Dan, groaning, hissing with the thrusts. When George got to the edge again, Vadim mercilessly drove him over it, feeling the man buck beneath him, groaning like he was being tortured. That agony showed Vadim exactly what he'd looked like when he had been tortured. Small wonder Nelson had needed two days to get his fill. Vadim bent down, kissed the man, relishing the feeling of the beard, running a hand through the damp red hair.

Dan watched for a moment longer. He could do with release, but he merely rolled onto his side, looking at Vadim.

Vadim gave him a sideways glance, his eyes very blue in the low light, his face flushed, and a strange smirk on his lips, which told Dan he'd enjoyed that power enormously. He shifted, slid off George, plucking off the condom and knotted it, then stretched out right next to Dan, kissing him, still tasting of the other man.

Dan broke the kiss after a while, hands on Vadim's muscular buttocks, as he lifted his head to look at George with a smile.

"I …" The man visibly forced himself to string a sentence together, his pride demanded it. "Don't even know what to say." He studied them, his eyes roaming across muscles and hard angles, flushed skin, and scars. Scars that made his body next to them look like it fitted in, like it was nothing special, maimed as it was. "I don't normally … entertain guests over night. I pay them and they leave, but …" He carefully asked permission, as if all that touching and kissing hadn't happened. "I have a guest room. If you want to stay the night."

Dan sat up on his hip, hand on Vadim's shoulder. "I would like to stay. Vadim, what do you think?"

Vadim shrugged, turned to lie on his back, yawning. "Why not. This bed seems a bit small for three. Guess in that century people weren't quite that tall or adventurous." He grinned.

George smiled. "No. Allow me to show you the room." He stood and found his boxers, slipping into them, decidedly ill-at-ease with being completely bared. He stepped into the bathroom attached to this room, with a bathrobe covering most of him. It was the nipples, Vadim assumed. He was squeamish about showing any area that had been tortured, and he wondered just exactly what Nelson had done to ruin that area of his body so completely. The scar was too precise, it hadn't been biting.

They picked up their clothes, following their host. When George led them across the landing, the whole archaic splendour of the house was visible - it seemed it had never changed from somewhere around the beginning of the nineteenth century, which, with the blood red hair and all, gave George a decidedly gothic touch. As if Count Dracula had joined the banking world. Vadim grinned at that thought, wondered why on earth anybody would want to live in a mausoleum. Especially since the office had been old from the outside and modern on the inside.

The guest room was hardly any different from the master bedroom, but it had a view out over the street, which served almost as a reminder of the world outside. "It has a small bathroom, but the larger bathroom is across the hall. Please feel at home." George tactfully retreated.

Dan dumped his clothes over a chair and sat down on the bed. "Well." Leaning back and looking up at Vadim. "What do you think? I've certainly never met anyone like him. Poor bastard."

"I can see why Nelson was fascinated." Vadim joined him on the bed. "He has 'victim' written all across his forehead." Vadim stretched out. "And if he does what we want him to do, he's ruining the rest of his life. All this …" He gestured, including the house. "That's protecting him. If people begin hounding him … I don't think he can cope. He's too fucking scared to touch a guy."

"Aye, and that's why I think we need to find a different way of getting rid of Nelson." Dan shrugged. "I'm sure Maggie didn't know the full extent of what happened and the consequences to this man, or she wouldn't have sent us here."

"You think we should drop it … I mean, this angle, and …" Vadim pondered. "You mean, kill him?"

"It's the only option isn't it? The question is just how. How to achieve this without getting caught." Not a shred of doubt was visible in Dan's face, not a moment of moral pondering. He'd taken many lives, and this, too, was combat - only of a different kind.

Vadim nodded. "Good alibi, make it look like an accident." He turned onto his side, kissing Dan's biceps. "I'll think about it. I have …" done this before, he thought, in this city, long ago. The thought brought back the memory, of the two guys in Soho, and the shame and guilt he'd felt. "… my best ideas in the morning."

"Okay." Dan smiled, then scooted up the bed to get under the covers. "And I promise I will fuck you raw until you scream. Tomorrow." He winked, then waited for Vadim to come close, so they could fall asleep in their usual embrace.

* * *

When Dan woke up, it was to rare sunlight streaming through the windows. They hadn't drawn the heavy curtains, and a patch of light hit his eyes. Reaching out for Vadim, he patted the empty sheet. Blinking a couple of times, Dan groaned while stretching, allowing himself the luxury of not having to be awake from one heartbeat to the next. Civilian life did have its perks, after all.

Getting up was always a struggle in the morning, his knee more sore than ever, but he stretched once he stood, trusting he'd get into gear soon enough. The sound of water running from the adjacent bathroom told him it was occupied, and Dan padded over, opened it to snatch his towel and tell Vadim he'd be in the master bathroom, figuring since it was only seven AM, their host might still be asleep.

Scratching his neatly trimmed groin, stark naked, the towel slung over one shoulder, he found his way to the main bathroom. Still bleary-eyed, he stepped into the large room, closing the door behind him.

He noticed the humid air before he noticed the man, and looking around, he saw a free-standing bathtub - with lion feet - with a small table next to it. The bathtub was occupied by George. His hair plastered to the back of his head, revealing the downright aristocratic profile. "Good morning, Dan." George looked at him, then shifted in the bath, dried his fingers on a towel, and changed razor blades for an old-fashioned razor.

"Oh, hell," Dan grinned, "I'm sorry. Didn't think you were awake yet and Vadim's taking a shower."

"That's fine. Call of nature." George smiled at him. "Early morning baths help softening the stubble. I don't always have time for a barber."

"Nothing's better than a hot shave, aye? Was one of the greatest luxuries in Kabul." Walking over to the bathtub, Dan leaned against it and looked down at the other man. "Do you want some help with that?" Pointing to the razor. "I seem to have a history of shaving good looking men." He winked, then dropped his towel over a cast iron towel stand.

George paused, thinking, then slowly nodded. "I believe I can trust an ex-SAS soldier with a blade." Dan laughed, while George handed the razor over. "I am wondering about the goatee … any kind of statement? Off or on?"

"That depends on if you want to hide. You are stunning, but while the goatee suits you, I wonder what lies beneath." Pulling a stool across, Dan sat down and busied himself with preparing the lather.

"A chin." George took two handfuls of water, rubbing it into his beard.
Dan grinned, "a particularly regal one."

"Hiding? Yes. That's what my therapist says, too. Maybe I pay him too much, if that's so obvious." George gave a laugh. "But the boy is trying to fix me. I look at him and the sentence is right there, but I can't speak it. I'm not handing him the key but I ask him to open the door for me."

Meticulously working the lather into the other's face, Dan included the goatee, and George did not protest. "You were able to say it yesterday, perhaps you could say it to your therapist as well?" he smiled. "I know, it's hard. For me the most difficult thing of all was to acknowledge that I had been a victim. I refused to accept that. Still don't."

"I was fooling myself, all those years."

"Fooling? I would say you were finding a way to live, but not to heal."

George tilted his head, offering Dan the far side to start with. "I found it hard to sleep last night, even though I was tired … I thought of your partner, Vadim. How I do not want that the same happens to him … I don't want him to become … what I was. Maybe still am." His face twitched.

Dan stalled, hand hovering over the other's face. "He won't. Whatever happens, he won't. We kill that bastard before he can do anything like that." He offered a smile to reassure, and began shaving the skin. Smooth, precise strokes, in between swilling out the lather in the bath.

"I was not perfectly honest yesterday, but I hope you forgive me. I was infatuated with Mr Nelson. It wasn't just friendship. But that is the official story. I've never left the closet. My peers believe I'm sleeping with my PA."

"Are you blaming yourself for that? Did you ever believe that because you had been infatuated, it was somehow your fault?" Dan's brows rose and his hand stalled again, close to the goatee.

"Let's say it made the whole business of falling in love very risky indeed." George followed the strokes, meeting his eyes again. "I'm avoiding that risk, and by avoiding risk, I've put other men at risk of losing their health and their sanity."

"How?" Dan began shaving again and George allowed him to scrape off the beard, not speaking when the blade was anywhere near his skin. He brought a hand up to touch the side where the beard was gone.

"You were so courageous, honest, and gentle. You put me to shame, Dan."

"No." Dan's protest was vehement. "Never think such a thing. I am not a good man, Mr Holloway," another echo from long ago, "and I have done things to avenge myself that I am ashamed to tell. I am less honest and less gentle than you might think. I have mellowed, but don't forget what I did for a living." Dan carefully tilted George's head. "In fact," Dan mused, "it is you who puts me to shame here. We requested something impossible, and I'd like you to know that both Vadim and I have decided to find a different solution. We are not asking you anymore to put yourself out there."

George paused, "Another reason why I didn't sleep last night - I was busy calculating what I own. Making money can become its own fascination, adding it all up was never my primary concern. I have the money to retire, my portfolio has never looked better, there is a young hungry partner in the firm who'd love to take my chair in the board meetings." George looked straight at Dan, while Dan finished the shave, the face smooth and even younger looking. Perfect features, simply beautiful. George continued, "If worst comes to worst, I can retire. It can't be worse than vanishing because of drug problems." He took two handfuls of water again and washed away the rest of the soap.

"What are you saying?" Dan cleaned the razor and put it away.

"I am ready to testify against Mr Nelson. I'm ready to get dragged through the dirt by our lovely British media, if that is what it takes to stop Mr Nelson from doing the same thing to anybody, ever, again. In fact, I will have lunch with my lawyer, I'm sure she'll appreciate knowing beforehand."

Dan stared at the man. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. And scared." George pushed himself up, reached for the towel and began to dry himself, then stepped out of the tub and slipped into his bathrobe, wiping his forehead with its sleeve. "But I can't be scared for the rest of my life … maybe I'll even keep one client. Or do you think the Baroness would withdraw her support?"

"No, she never would." Dan smiled.

George shook his head. "Sorry. I am rattled. I don't know the details yet, but this is the plan. If you wish, we can discuss the details with my lawyer at lunch. I cancelled my meetings for the morning, too, so we could go somewhere and have a civilized breakfast."

"That sounds like a great idea. I'll just tell Vadim, I'm sure he will be out of the bathroom by now. We'll see you shortly. Half an hour?"

"Take your time." George smiled at him. "I will be downstairs in the library."

Dan cast a last smile, before he left and went back to the room. Still naked, the towel in his hand, he called out, "Vadim? You are never going to believe this."

Vadim was just closing the last button of his shirt. "Do you leave me guessing or will you tell?" His gaze travelled down Dan's naked form, and a smile formed on his lips.

"George is going to do it. He will give a testimonial if necessary. He asked us to meet him for breakfast and then lunch with his lawyer."

Vadim whistled. "Interesting. He found …" a spine last night. It took effort to bite the sentence off before it could slip out. "His courage? That actually settles an itch I had at the back of my mind. I wouldn't have thought he's Nelson's type."

Do you like them white?

I like them strong.

"Why? What do you mean?" Dan was at the bathroom door.

"He told me he likes strong men. This guy isn't … wasn't. Nelson was looking for a strong guy, like an equal. He's not interested in victims."

"You mean George didn't use to be a victim? He used to be strong and this is why he fought, and because he fought Nelson went as far as he did?" Dan stood, thinking, "Nelson went too far, and broke him."

"Possible. He's smart, I give him that, but …" Vadim shrugged. "He doesn't turn me on the way he turns you on … or he does, but not in ways he'd like."

"Huh? Who said he turns me on? George is good looking, but ... and what way does he like what?" Dan shrugged, " Stupid Scottish peasant, here, you got to explain to me step by step what on earth you were talking about." He flashed a grin.

Vadim laughed. "Fuck, Dan, we had sex with this guy, and he doesn't turn you on? What was that, then? A mercy fuck? A good way to get another redhead for the statistics?" Smiling to take the sting out.

"I'd have sex with a robot if it were good looking and responsive." Dan shrugged. "But what does that have to do with what you said earlier? You are confusing me, and I don't like to be confused."

Vadim sobered. "He … turns me on in a bad way. In a way we both don't like … It's a deep response, something … like the man I was. Something about him says 'hurt me'."

"Right." Dan came back from the door and sat down to the bed. "let's unravel that. You say this man is a born victim, and that this doesn't go with what you know of Nelson. Then you say because that man is a victim, you want to hurt him, too, want to destroy him, because that would turn you on. Is that it?" Dan didn't look any less confused.

"I didn't say he's a born victim, maybe he's become one after what Nelson did to him. The guy unnerves me, Nelson, I mean, and I'm a lot tougher mentally than a banker or asset manager or whatever." Vadim sat down.

"Then you are saying the same as I was saying." The confusion lifted from Dan's face and he nodded slowly. "But what was that about turning you on the bad way?"

"In bed, I want to hurt him. I wanted to fuck him, and I … I thought I knew exactly what Nelson must have felt … wanting to mark him, wanting to make him suffer." He shook his head. "I'm a sick fuck."

Dan inhaled deeply. "Shit." Had he thought it had just gone away, the darkness, because Vadim wore his collar and he'd changed? "I know you're a switch." He took another deep breath, shaking his head. "Difference is, in moments like this I realise it isn't a game for you. You really do want to hurt that guy, aye?" The way Vadim inhaled told him, yes, exactly. Looking at his hand, Dan figured that he was a piss poor judge, of all men. "You miss Hooch?"

"No." Yes. Vadim shook his head. "I'm done fucking people up. I'm not Nelson. But there is an urge … an impulse, and all I can do is control it. Having you there helps. I know you'd stop me." Vadim rubbed his face. "Konstantinov knew. He knew that inside me. He told me I'm a monster, Dan. I don't think he was all wrong in that. I can still do the things I did. I'm still capable to break a man like that. Part of me wants to, and it freaks me out when I'm sober."

"You're not a monster. Monsters follow their urges." But he knew that Vadim had done exactly that, once upon a time. "Shit." Dan shook his head again, until the unruly hair hung in front of his face. "You are holding yourself back, you are aware of this, you ..." Trailing off. "Shit, Vadim, you think I am so much better? Let's face it, I'd kill that Nelson without a second thought and I'd do it slowly. And if he ever hurt you? I'd torture him, worse than I ever tortured you. What does that make me? No better, in my books. No remorse. No guilt." He looked straight at Vadim, who reached over and pulled him close, exhaling deeply, heads touching.

"We're still doing alright. We gave this poor bastard something, even though he has no idea what we truly are. If that makes him face Nelson, great. Mission accomplished. If Nelson recovers from the blow, we take him down. This is Nelson's last chance to live."

Dan wrapped his arm around Vadim. "Deal. One last chance. You never know, George might not even have to testify if Nelson gets his tail between his legs and slinks off into his rat hole." Dan smiled, ever hopeful. "For now, let me get ready so we can grab breakfast and meet that lawyer of Mr Holloway's."

* * *

George took them to a private club for breakfast, the location exquisite, but despite it being so refined it was also effortless to enjoy oneself, and they had small talk and less small talk, exchanging stories and anecdotes. George did everything to entertain them, polite, a good listener, and he did look both younger and less severe with the rest of his face bared.

The lawyer joined them later, and she, too, was exceedingly pleasant, but paled slightly when George told her what he was planning to do. He'd written a statement, telling the whole sordid story, as he called it, and she raised several good questions. In so many words warning him that the media backlash could be enormous, but she said that she understood the cathartic need and would be happy to assist him as to limit any damage that could result from the fallout. Her professional and human touch were amazingly precise and gentle, helping and guiding George all the way, keeping him relaxed despite the huge emotional burden.

Two hours later, the asset manager looked drained and exhausted as if he'd worked seventy-two hours straight, but he was smiling. The lawyer promised she'd sent copies of the papers to the hotel, and she also started her own research on Mr Nelson - promising to keep them updated.

In the end, the lawyer left with handshakes and smiles, confident as if they would definitely and without the shadow of a doubt remain victorious.

Dan had been fairly quiet throughout all of this, listening and remaining in the background. When the lady was gone, he leaned across the table, smiling at George. "Is there anything we can do for you? To ... relax you?"

George looked from one to the other, and leaned conspirationally closer. "What do you have in mind?" he asked.

"Sex." Dan grinned broadly, from ear to ear. "Beats everything else for relaxation."

"And I thought I'd take you out to a West End show." George inhaled, interest clearly there. "I better ask for my driver, then."

Dan glanced at Vadim, then winked at George. "It's medicinal, you know? Perhaps we could go to a West End show later. After all, we're not that young anymore ..." he sat back, remembering his comment about robots, but hell, this man was a rather good looking 'robot', and one never knew, with a lot of coaxing, he might even become interesting in bed.

That was exactly where they spent the afternoon, until George fell asleep, completely relaxed for a couple of hours. Dan and Vadim returned to their hotel and their clothes and they were picked up that evening to exclusive seats at a West End show. They spent that night once more in George's house, being spoiled by a man who lavished his attention, wit and humour on them, and didn't spare any costs to please and feed them. Halfway between guests and friends and lovers, a confusing triangle that he still manoeuvred with grace. Taking what they offered, and just as gracefully bidding them goodbye - in possession of the signed, legally watertight papers, photos, and medical reports. Their liaison was the lawyer, who asked to be consulted about any steps they were taking, as she understood that an "amiable settlement" might be reached before she had to ride into battle. Nevertheless, the asset manager had handed them a loaded gun - to use at their discretion.

* * *

They spent six weeks in Britain, while the Baroness and Mr Holloway's lawyer were working on tracing and tracking and finally pinning down Nelson. Some time was spent with Dan's family, and the rest back in London, where the Baroness had access to an apartment near the V&A museum, which was more comfortable than a hotel room. Vadim managed to visit the museums, some several times, while Dan found to his surprise that he actually enjoyed some of them. His favourite was the Natural History museum, where he got lost for half a day, eventually meeting Vadim at Covent Garden for a pint.

Throughout all of this he was busy, working on his idea for the unofficial international group of ex Special Forces soldiers, and no place was better than London to do so. The capital of Britain, and a gateway for the British Forces. It was Vadim who came up with an inconspicuous name for the group, the 'Spa', and Dan liked it so much, he used it straight away, when contacting his former mates. He got Jean to contact his, and asked Hooch via Matt, and from there on snowballing across the Forces and across the countries.

They got a phone call from the Baroness that Nelson was in London, and the lawyer had pinpointed the time and place. This would be a 'surprise' for the man, and no back exit to slink out of.

A couple of days before that day, Dan planned the first meeting of the 'Spa'. He booked a conference room in a hotel, right in the centre of London, with access to a bar, not knowing how many ex-soldiers would turn up and how this crazy idea would work out.

He was surprised when a dozen men arrived, and the night ended long after the bar had closed at 2 AM. There were no fights, except for a few 'almost' ones, and only one man left when he realised that Dan and Vadim were a couple. The others cared less about that than the opportunity to be themselves, talk about things a civilian would run away from screaming, and get pissed while being once more together with those of their own ilk.

It was a roaring success, and the word spread from there on, Dan said, when he raised a glass to Pascal in the early hours of the morning.

Two days later, after they'd recuperated from the event, they were ready to face Nelson.

* * *

The hotel lobby was a vision of beauty and splendour, polished brass, elegant marble and glittering crystal everywhere. Only the crème de la crème - or those who believed they were - frequented the place as guests.

Both Dan and Vadim fitted amongst the exquisitely dressed clientele in their dark tailored suits, and if it hadn't been for Dan's slight limp, the cane and the longer hair, they would have blended in even more. Two gentlemen, well groomed, expensively dressed and certainly well kept and extremely fit for their late forties. They turned more than just a few heads.

They headed straight for the tea room, speaking quietly to the waiter, who led them to one of the small tables, set in an alcove in the splendidly decorated art nouveau establishment.

Nelson did not wear the uniform when he showed up, but the expensive suit still worked to highlight his importance, and Vadim thought, damn, he was gorgeous. If he hadn't been such a freak ... and if he hadn't heard the stories - and seen the evidence - he'd be too tempted to burn his fingers again.

Dan stood, drew himself up to his full height, and looked straight on at Nelson. He had the big guns the lawyer had prepared for him in the briefcase. Nelson turned his head and looked over, his eyes narrowing. Then he looked at Vadim, who stood up too and invited him over with a gesture. Nelson squared his broad shoulders and came over. "I was supposed to meet a lawyer here ..." he said.

"She arranged this for us," said Vadim.

"I see." Nelson seemed taken aback.

"Please, sit with us for a few minutes."

Nelson sat down, but Vadim could see he wasn't comfortable. The man didn't like surprises.

"Colonel," Vadim opened the conversation once they were all seated, "as you might imagine this is not a social call. We have a proposition to make, a deal, if you like."

"Oh?" Nelson was, again fixated on Vadim, studying his face, trying to read warnings or what all this was about, and Vadim answered the gaze levelly. His best Soviet officer mask. The man had fucked him, but that was it. It had been nice enough, at a point in time when he'd needed it, and Nelson had been obliging, but in the end, he'd been nothing but a tool. Nelson only turned to Dan when he couldn't read Vadim. "What is this proposition?"

"That you will never contact Vadim again, never pester any of us, never come near either of us or anyone we know. Nor that any of your 'affiliates' should ever have anything to do with us." Dan looked at Nelson without a twitch. "In return, we will not expose you."

"Ex..." Nelson laughed, incredulous. "Excuse me, but that is very amusing. What can you possibly expose apart from your pathetic, drunken self?"

Dan leaned forward, only slightly, a mere angle of his upper body. He pulled his lips into a smile which never reached his eyes, while Vadim was on the edge of simply jumping over the table and strangling the man.

"We happen to be able to expose the crime you inflicted on a British citizen, twenty years ago. Said gentleman is willing to testify in court." Dan kept that fake smile on his face as he continued to talk, keeping his voice low throughout. "I am sure this would not sit well with your position in politics and military. They do have draconian punishments for rapists and torturers in most countries."

What was probably the most fearsome thing now was that ... it was obvious that Nelson had to actively think about which British citizen Dan meant. Were there more than one? Or had Holloway simply slipped from his mind?

"Testify? Who are you talking about?"

"Would you like us to dig any further to find other victims of your crimes? Very interesting, Colonel." Dan leaned back. "Perhaps I should remind you of this particular case." Reaching over, he snapped the briefcase open and took out copies of the medical report photos. The first three didn't show the face, but they clearly showed the extent of damage on the body. Dan placed them in front of Nelson, keeping the other two in his hand.

Nelson looked at the photos, and especially at the one that showed the mess of the chest, the swollen, bloody, discoloured area where the nipple had been. He stared at it, his face showing half hunger, half disgust, in one long, unguarded moment. He then looked at Dan again. "There was a settlement. They took the money."

"I'm afraid there was never any legally valid settlement. This argument won't uphold in court, while there is evidence for the settlement having been give to charitable purposes. Besides," Dan glanced at Vadim, "every court would believe the matter of coercion." He'd carefully remembered the right words, practising like an actor. "Apart from that, paying money to hush a crime does not make the crime disappear. You are a rapist, a torturer and a sadist, Colonel, and we will make this public, and trust me, we will make the public listen."

Nelson's jaw muscles tightened visibly, up to his temples. He looked at Vadim. "You talked to George?"

"Not long ago," said Vadim. "But it doesn't matter, because he'll back us up as a witness. As will his doctor, his parents, and anybody else who knew of this. There is no way this was done consensually ... and everybody will see what happened. You paid once before ... I don't think you have a leg to stand on in your defence."

"And the deal is ... I let you go."

"Both of us. No contact. Vanish out of my life, Dan's life, and don't even approach anybody we know."

"How can I know you'll keep your word?"

"You can't. Call it deterrence."

Dan shuffled the photos together. The bastard had remembered after all. He hadn't even needed to show the face shots. "You got one chance, Nelson. I suggest you take it, even though it comes from ..." he smirked, "a 'pathetic, drunken' man."

Nelson's jaw muscles didn't seem to relax, he was clearly worried. Crimes against British citizens weren't taken lightly, everybody knew that. He stood. "Mr Krasnorada, it was a pleasure knowing you."

"I won't say anything now to encourage your obsession, Colonel. Have a good life, and if I hear of our mutual red-headed friend being harmed or pestered, we will bring you down."

Nelson's face was pinched. "I understand." He turned around to leave.

"In fact," Dan gave the parting shot, "if we ever hear that you harm anyone again, we will bring you down. And don't underestimate our resources. You are not safe anywhere."

Nelson gave him a baleful stare, then walked away.

Vadim exhaled. "Fuck."

"Was that it?" Dan stared at the retreating back. "Feels like I would have missed it if I had blinked. Could it have been that easy?"

"Easy? George was the real piece of work ... but I guess Nelson has a lot of things to lose."

"Aye." Dan nodded, then looked at Vadim. "It's time to make a few phone calls." He smiled. "I know someone who will be very relieved."

Vadim reached over and pressed Dan's arm. "Yeah. Somehow ... I thought he'd fight back."

"You never know what other skeletons he has in his closet. Smacks to me of trying to hide potentially more." Dan closed the briefcase and reached for Vadim's hand to squeeze it briefly. "Come on, Russkie, let's phone George."

"I think we could tell him the good news over dinner." Vadim grinned. "Maybe he gets a bit more interesting if he comes out of his reserve often enough ..." George took their call, and they met for dinner a few hours later, to celebrate. The rest of the evening went as foreseen - George trusted them more now. It seemed like a massive weight had been lifted off him, and he appeared more relaxed and less scared. Which, thought Vadim, was almost the same level of reward as the fact that Nelson would stop sending him emails and calling him.

Special Forces Chapter LXI: Ghosts
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.

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


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Published 14 February 2009