Officially Hunter is an administrative unit. Officially his role comprises that of an old-fashioned aide-de-camp and a liaison officer, and sure enough, he does spend time with locals who are or could be useful to them. But mostly, it just means he can be off base without too many questions asked.
Not that he is a spy or a secret agent or a special ops operatives. He is just useful. Someone along the line had seen through his careful answers on psych evaluations and appreciated Hunter's certain lack of morals and his definite lack of the need to ask questions. So Hunter doesn't question why is it that an army engineer who's never been out in a war zone gets only him for escort. Not that anyone is told that Hunter would be the escort. Hunter is a Captain, it would be a little strange for an officer to be assigned as a lone bodyguard to another officer. However, his role as an interpreter/guide/liaison isn't questioned.
Hunter sees his new charge when he gets off the helicopter. On a purely aesthetic side, he likes what he sees. Torrington, the engineer, doesn't see him, because he only has eyes for what is in front of him, like the officer who is there to greet Torrington. Torrington doesn't look behind him and Hunter doesn't like that. Hunter has always been very careful about what might be lurking in his blindspots.
He doesn't officially meet Torrington for almost two days: they are letting the engineer acclimatise and are probably giving him another briefing. Hunter is tempted to look up Torrington's file and learn more than his name and his occupation. He doesn't: he'd rather find out from the man himself. Besides, knowing somebody's psychological profile could be misleading. Could be unfair. Not that Hunter is a big fan of fairness. Sometimes it is simply more exciting to have a level playing field.
When the base commander finally calls him into his office and he gets his chance to look at Torrington from a short distance, to actually look not watch out of the corner of his eye, Hunter isn't quite prepared for the full force of the “purely aesthetic liking”.
'It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Captain Hunter,' says Torrington, holding his hand out. Hunter notes the upper class tones, the politeness, the hint of a not entirely sincere smile and just a flash of curiosity in the green eyes. Hunter shakes the proffered hand, lingering just a little, and now he knows what sort of 'playing field' his subconscious wanted to keep level. Torrington seems to notice the linger and frowns, but his frown is almost as imperceptible as the cause for it.
The base commander limits himself to saying that Hunter would be going with Torrington 'as he knows the lay of the land' and indicates that the audience is over. They both hesitate just outside of the commander's office, both wary and curious, both looking for an opening, perhaps Hunter more than Torrington.
'First time out here?' asks Hunter, careful not make it sound like a judgement, but Torrington stiffens anyway.
'Yes,' he answers but does make an effort to carry on the conversation, 'what about you, Captain?'
'Sometimes it feels like I've been here all my life,' Hunter says jokingly. 'I've certainly forgot what normal food tastes like. Speaking of which, I think it's lunch time.' He doesn't give Torrington a chance to think of a polite refusal to accompany him.
The conversation over lunch carries on with several false starts, pregnant pauses and frayed tempers. To Hunter it feels like they are two exes who decided to give it another go and are trying and almost failing not to rub each other the wrong way, with most of the effort being on Hunter's side. He smiles to himself at the thought at first, then berates himself for neglecting to bed anyone for a couple of months. It would have been easier then not to notice Torrington's face or the lines of his body under the uniform, and therefore he wouldn't feel so inclined to put in the effort into drawing the man out.
The reward for his patience, Torrington's quiet laughter, the easing of the wary expression in his eyes, is satisfying, exciting, but Hunter feels like he just ran a marathon, so after they've finished eating, he excuses himself.
Contrary to common opinion, Hunter is not good with people. He's learned how to be charming, he's learned to be mature about relationships, he's learned to act almost as if he was normal. But he knows he isn't. Not entirely. Years ago he used to blame his father, until he realised that, well, his father may have been an alcoholic, who broke his mother's heart when he left them, but he wasn't evil, he was just a man who'd made mistakes. He never abused George, only hurt him, and people have survived more, a lot more than that. So in the end, Hunter realises that he was simply born that way, broken in places. Places that let you truly care for somebody, places that made you feel that what you were doing was wrong, rather than simply know, places that didn't make you treat life as a playing field to be manipulated.
There were times when he kissed somebody and thought 'yes, this is it, this is love', but then they would leave him, or he would leave them, and he never felt more than a vague twinge of regret. Once, when he was almost delirious with exhaustion he told his mother that. 'You just haven't found the right person, George,' she'd said, hugging him, 'You simply haven't fallen in love yet.' Sometimes he almost managed to convince himself that she was right.
Hunter felt rather accomplished at having persevered with Torrington. He'd guarded civilian contractors before and it was easy to establish certain parameters with them. He didn't need their like or trust, he only needed them to accept his authority when it came to safety. It would be a different case with Torrington. The man was certainly not a civilian, even though it was his first sojourn into a war zone, and they were of the same rank, which meant that Hunter would find it hard to establish his authority by a simple mechanism of social construction. He'd need Torrington to trust him just a little, even to like him perhaps. Which meant that while a little flirting might be fine, actually sleeping with the man might put them on a lot more equal footing, so he would have to abandon any thoughts of pursuing Torrington.
Later that day he found Henry Winwood, another officer, with whom he'd struck up a casual friendship. He knew that Henry wouldn't be averse to adding casual sex to their relationship, but he'd never acted on it. That night George pressed Henry into the bed and, with almost no preliminaries, fucked him hard, letting frustration pour out of him.
Physically it was satisfying enough so that when he met Torrington as he stepped out of Henry's room, he was able to nod and smile with perfect equanimity. If Torrington noticed the tell tale mussed hair, the swollen lips, the smell of sex, he didn't let on
Hunter leaned against the side of the car, waiting for Torrington. The convoy was almost ready to leave, soldiers checking and rechecking their guns and equipment. When Torrington appeared, Hunter grinned at him, Torrington smiled back. 'Maybe it won't turn out to be so difficult after all,' thought Hunter.
There were three vehicles in total. Torrington was directed to the middle one and Hunter climbed in to sit beside him. 'Well, here is hoping the ride will not be exciting,' said Hunter cheerfully and the two soldiers in the front seats snorted.
As the gates opened and cars pulled out, Hunter threw a glance at Torrington. The engineer looked calm which was either a good sign, that Torrington fully understood what they were doing and would not freeze or do anything dumb, should they be attacked, or it was bad sign and the implications that this it, haven't quite penetrated his mind.
The base they were leaving was as safe as one could get around here, which manifested in the size of the base and the fact that one of the combat hospitals was here. Now they were out in the open, vulnerable. And the base they were going to wasn't much of a base, an outpost really. Well-situated, but a lot easier to overwhelm. From the briefing he got, Hunter deduced that the outpost was not for common knowledge. Perhaps a stopover point for special op teams or CIA agents or something like that. Perhaps a place that would grow into a proper base when they moved further into the country. Certainly the fact that Torrington was here to work on the construction of a bunker complex they were building into the mountain side meant that the outpost was more than it seemed.
The car jolted roughly and Hunter had to shift his rifle, so as not to butt Torrington with it again. The fact he had a rifle and Torrington did not smacked a bit of phallic comparisons, but perhaps it will send a signal to the man: “You are not here to fight, I am.”
The trip proved uneventful, and as the cars climbed the final stretch of the road towards the compound, which was situated on a sort of plateau, clinging to a mountain side, he let himself turn away from the window, to give Torrington a grin and say: “Almost there.” Torrington nodded and returned his attention to the scenery.
They piled out of the cars, some men immediately making a beeline towards the toilets, others just stretching their limbs. 'Christ, I feel like my arse is one big bruise,' Hunter sighed and stretched, arching his back.
'Up to your old tricks, sir?' Replied one of the soldiers, prompting several guffaws.
'No, just complaining about the council not doing anything about the roads again,' said Hunter cheerfully. There were several amused snorts, and the convoy started to dissipate into various areas of the compound.
Hunter grabbed his rucksack. Torrington already had his. 'You alright?' Hunter asked.
'I am perfectly fine, thank you,' replied Torrington stiffly and Hunter shrugged.
'Well, let's go report then. But if you bruise easily, I suggest you see the medic about some balm later.'
He swung the backpack onto his back and readjusted the rifle, leading the way to the outpost commander's office, ignoring the 'black cloud' drifting behind him.
Hunter barely saw Torrington after that, though he made sure to be always aware of the man's whereabouts. Torrington was usually sequestered with the builders and two subordinate lieutenants who had carried out the initial clearance of the site. Sometimes Torrington and Hunter ate together and as the days passed, Torrington seemed to get comfortable in his company, certainly comfortable enough to be the first one who suggested lunch or dinner together.
Hunter spent his time talking to people at the base, asking about everything that's gone on, making himself aware not only of the dangers that could come from outside, but also of the dangers that could come from the inside, watching for signs that some soldier was cracking under the stress.
Torrington and Hunter slept in adjoining rooms. Hunter always waited until Torrington was in his and then went to his room and lay on the bed, waiting for the noise of movement from Torrington's room to cease, only then he would sleep.
One night he woke up from the sound of a door clicking shut. Rolling off the bed, he only grabbed his handgun and stepped out. Torrington rounded on him immediately.
'Must you follow me? Do you think I don't notice you watching me? I am a trained soldier Hunter, I don't need a babysitter.' Torrington's tones were icy, though calm, and only somebody who did indeed spend an inordinate amount of his time watching the engineer would notice a flare of a temper behind the words.
'Forgive my reflexes, Torrington, I find that people walking around at night is not conducive to sleep. As to watching you, have you ever thought that I might like what I see?' Hunter leered, directing the conversation into safer waters.
Torrington snorted but a fraction of tension seemed to go out of him. 'What are you doing out and about, anyway?' Hunter asked, looking around. The compound was dark, the shapes of the soldiers on night watch, barely distinguishable.
'Couldn't sleep,' said Torrington gruffly, but before Hunter could reply, he heard soft footsteps and turned to face a patrolling soldier.
'Evening, sirs,' the young man said, a little incongruously. 'You wouldn't happen to have a lighter? Can't seem to find mine.'
Torrington, who unlike Hunter, was properly dressed and usually had all sort of useful things about him, dug around for a lighter.
'Keep it,' he said, handing it to the patrolman.
'Thank you, sir,' said the the man, boy really, and before Hunter could warn him, struck the lighter, letting the flame get a purchase on the cigarette. Hunter didn't really expect anything bad to happen, it was just an old instinct from the training, not to give your position away at night by lighting anything.
And then there was a dull crack of a shot and the boy fell. Hunter had seen enough head shots in his life, to know that the boy was beyond help, but even if he wasn't, he knew where his duty lay. He grabbed Torrington, manhandling him into a gap between two buildings, making sure to position his body between the engineer and the direction from where the shot came. Torrington was perhaps too stunned to argue at first, but when Hunter ordered him to hit the ground and not move he protested.
'We need to help the soldier,' Torrington hissed, trying to shift Hunter, who was blocking the only way out of their hiding place. Hunter could hear the noise level inside the compound rising, sound of running steps. He knew that somewhere outside of the perimeter there would be a patrol dead set on getting the shooter.
'You can't help him, he is dead.'
'You don't know that,' Torrington grabbed Hunter's forearms, trying to push him past him. Hunter was immovable.
'Really? I've seen enough head shots to recognize one. And if you don't believe me, then that piece of brain matter decorating your shirt should be enough of a clue,' Hunter's sarcastic words brought Torrington up short. He looked down, then slowly wiped the odd bits of flesh from his front. Hunter watched him carefully. Then there was another crack and soon after a murmur off “all clears” and “stand downs”. Hunter stepped out carefully and judging everything to be safe enough, nodded to Torrington.
Torrington pushed past him and walked up to the dead soldier. Two medics were already preparing to put him in a bag. Torrington looked in vain for his face, but there was not much of a face left.
'Come on,' said Hunter, pulling on Torrington's forearm. 'You need to clean yourself up.' The only sign that Torrington was affected, was that he didn't argue when Hunter went into his room, watched him pick a clean t-shirt and trousers and then followed him to the shower unit.
Hunter stood outside and when Torrington emerged almost half an hour later, he didn't ask what took him so long, he was pretty sure he knew. When they reached their rooms though, Hunter made no move to follow Torrington.
'Look, I am here, alright?' Torrington nodded, stiff and proud and opened his door, 'Good, as long as you remember that.'
He didn't wait for Torrington to reply and he didn't strain his hearing that night trying to hear anything from the adjoining room, though he did not fall asleep either.
After the incident, the already tight security was tightened even further, but Hunter eased his watchfulness a little. Torrington seemed to be dealing fine, work keeping him busy and Hunter decided that giving the man a little space would be prudent seeing as he proved observant enough to notice Hunter watch him.
He reaped an unexpected reward from his decision.
'Do you play chess, Hunter?' asked Torrington as they were finishing their dinner.
'Haven't for a while, but yeah, though I've never been brilliant at it.'
'How about a match then? I have a small board with me,' Torrington smiled casually, but Hunter thought there was an air of expectancy about him.
'Now? If you are not busy.' Hunter nodded.
They settled themselves on opposite ends of Torrington's bed, the board between them. Hunter wasn't about to let Torrington have an easy victory, but he was distracted by watching Torrington think. He remembered suddenly, fucking Henry almost three weeks ago and his imagination substituted Torrington for Henry. Hunter almost winced at his thoughts. He couldn't allow himself to even contemplate these things, that way many complications lay.
'So, how is the work going?' Hunter finally asked.
'We'll be laying charges tomorrow. It might get dusty.'
'What, here, in what is essentially a desert? You shock me,” Hunter grinned and finally moved a piece.
'I didn't think anything shocked you, Hunter,' Torrington's tone was enough to bring Hunter's now wandering attention back.
'Well, I doubt I've really seen everything, so there must be some things that hold the power to shock me. Perhaps even you can.'
'Are you challenging me, Hunter?' Torrington's eyes glinted with an emotion Hunter had never seen there before. Complications, he reminded himself, complications.
'Perhaps I am,' screw complications. He fixed Torrington with a stare, looking straight into his eyes.
'Well, I'll try to think of something,' Torrington chuckled. They returned to the game for a short while, Hunter trying to keep his attention on it. Then, Torrington moved, bringing out a pencil out of a pocket. He twirled it, then stuck it between his teeth, sucking down on the end, while Hunter watched. It went on and on and Hunter was pretty sure, that Torrington was thinking about the game as much as Hunter was, which is to say, not at all.
Hunter leaned across the board and snatched the pencil out of Torrington's hand. “Enough,” he growled.
Torrington grinned. 'Shocked already?'
Hunter snorted, 'No, just thinking very dirty thoughts.' It was Torrington's turn to stare, in Hunter's opinion.
The section came into the compound at dawn. Hunter watched them warily. Seven men commanded by one Captain Vickery. Nobody asked where they were coming from and nobody told. Three of the men needed medical attention, though their wounds were not life threatening and they could all move under their own steam. Hunter kept his distance, though Vickery seemed a friendly sort. It was Torrington, who was normally reticent, who seemed to strike up a friendship with Vickery almost on the spot. Hunter admitted to himself a certain jealousy he felt over this and then let it go, Vickery would leave soon enough.
Hunter started to feel restless, boredom and sexual frustration did that to a man. It didn't help that Torrington seemed to forget about the pencil-sucking incident entirely. So when another convoy arrived bringing with it Helen, dressed in a military uniform, though she worked for MI6, and news of outside world, Hunter knew he was ready for something to do.
'So, what brings you here?' He asked, handing Helen a coke, as she got comfortable on his bed.
'I missed you.' Hunter laughed. 'Well, alright, I am doing a thing. Can't really talk about it, but I think you can help me.'
'Oh?' Hunter kneeled down on the bed beside her. 'You know, I am supposed to be keeping the genius safe.'
Helen looked up, squinted at him, the put the coke down. 'Yeah, well, you can ask Vickery to take over for a couple of days. It's not like Torrington goes off the compound. It will be fun.' She took the tab of the zipper on his trousers delicately, pulled it down. 'I'll let you shoot someone.'
Hunter laughed and leaned over her, sliding his fingers through her hair. 'You say the nicest things. When do we leave?' He gave in, though not without a twinge of guilt, but Helen was right, Torrington was as safe as we was going to be here and he was going to go out of his mind if he didn't get out at least for a day or two.
'Just before dawn.' She pulled down his trousers and pants, and wrapped a hand around his cock. 'Plenty of time.'
Later, when they both lay languid and sated on the bed, there was on the door. 'Hold on a moment!' Hunter shouted, springing out of the bed and pulling his boxers on. He opened the door wide, forgetting that the room was small and whoever was knocking would easily be able to see Helen on the bed, quite clearly naked under the rumpled sheet.
'Hunter, I was just wondering...,' Torrington started to say as the door flung open and then stopped as he took in the picture of practically naked Hunter in the doorway and Helen in no better state on the bed. 'I am terribly sorry for the interruption.'
'It's fine, Edward,' said Hunter soothingly, suddenly realizing that perhaps this particular situation was not the best to use the engineer's first name for the first time. 'What did you want?' He carried on quickly.
'Oh, nothing important, just wondered whether you wanted to accompany me to dinner and then perhaps play a game of chess. But I can see you are busy.' He smiled at Helen, who winked at him. 'And quite clearly you are busy with something a lot more interesting than chess.' Helen seemed to appreciate Torrington's compliment, preening a little, stretching under the sheet.
'Let me take a raincheck on that. I'll be off the base for a couple days, I'll make it up to you, when I come back, alright?' And why should he be making it up to anyone, he's done nothing wrong as far as he could see.
'Yes, yes, of course. I'll leave you to it.' Hunter shut the door with a sigh.
'Wow, if anyone needs to get off this base, or get off period, it's your genius charge. I have not seen such tension since the last waterboarding I witnessed.' Hunter's eyebrows rose at her analogy.
'You really do say the nicest things.'
Though he tried his utmost not to show it, he had been flustered by seeing that woman in his bed, by seeing Hunter almost naked, that he didn't even question it when Hunter said he was going away from the base. Hunter had finally called him Edward and part of him had wanted that, but not like this, not when he smelled of sex. He'd remembered one of their first meeting at the big base, several weeks ago. He'd smelled of sex then, but it was easy to ignore, Torrington didn't know him from Adam and he was dressed and his partner was safely out of sight.
He was angry enough to be almost sullen over dinner, barely responding to Vickery, until the other man asked him what was wrong. Torrington apologized, shamefaced and invited Vickery to play chess, it's not like it was what he'd only ever done with Hunter.
In the room, they shared a bottle of whisky Torrington had stashed away for emergencies, the game getting sloppier as the level of liquid in the bottle fell. Vickery was pleasant, friendly, intelligent, he didn't seem like a man, who was stressed, to whom bad things happened. But one did not go around with seven men on missions one couldn't talk about and avoided seeing, doing bad things.
They haven't drunk that much to be insensible, but they drank enough to abandon the game, enough to press their shoulders together, then their hands. 'Are you sure about this?' they asked each other almost simultaneously, as they pressed against each other fully clothed. They grinned and slowly peeled away each others clothing. It wasn't really heated, just a gentle press of naked skin against naked skin, just being close to another human, being intimate and not on guard. Their cocks slid together slickly, Torrington wrapped a hand around them both, stroking. Vickery moaned softly. When they came it wasn't earth-shattering or mind-blowing, but pleasant and warm. It was nothing like Torrington had imagined it would be with Hunter.
It took them several hours to get to the town. It was strange to be dressed in civilian clothes again, and despite the fighting that went on almost on the town's doorstep, it was almost like being back in the ordinary, everyday life. Helen was serious and collected now, every inch an MI6 agent, not a trace of what happened only a couple of hours earlier detectable.
They had stopped in the shade of a small hill, Helen unzipped her trouser and shimmied out of them, then put a hand on the back of his neck and pushed him down until he got with the programme and pressed his mouth between her legs, tonguing her clitoris. Her grip was on his hair was getting painful and then she spasmed, coming, breathing out harshly. Hunter was painfully hard.
They stepped out of the car, heedless of the fact that they could be spotted, could be literally killed with their pants down. They fucked roughly against the side of the car, making it shake.
'So what are you getting me into?' he asked as she parked the car.
'I have it on fairly good authority, that I can find a certain rogue CIA agent here.'
'Is he the one I am allowed to shoot?' Hunter grinned pulling on a pair of sunglasses.
'Him and anyone who is with him,' Helen grinned back.
'I thought the CIA cleaned up their own mess.' He readjusted his ankle holster, making sure, he could pull out his spare gun easily, then tucked another gun behind the waistband of his trousers.
'This is a mess they are not particularly keen on cleaning up. Seem to think he could still be useful. We disagree.'
They entered the building, surprising the look-out, Hunter knocking the man out with a swift strike. There were three of them, the rogue agent and two mercenaries. Hunter was pretty sure they got lucky and the trio wasn't actually anticipating an attack. They shot the mercenaries in the heads, Hunter taking the one on the right, Helen – the one on the left. The agent managed to get off a shot that winged Hunter's arm as he himself was shot by Helen in the chest.
She walked over to the fallen man. 'I'll say hi to Jess, shall I?' she said, the man tried to reply but only a moan of protest left his throat. Helen put the gun against the man's forehead and fired.
'Who's Jess?' asked Hunter, checking the bullet scratch on his arm.
'His wife,' answered Helen, smirking. They had sex on the bed this time, a dead man at their feet, Hunter's blood snaking its way onto Helen's skin, all their broken places exposed. Hunter felt the blood in his veins sing and another part of his soul die as he came, breathless above Helen's body.
When Torrington woke up next morning and finally stopped to think about it, it was a little weird that Hunter had gone off somewhere. Although Torrington was not a hundred percent sure, after a few days of having a Hunter-shaped shadow, he'd realised that Hunter must have been tasked with guarding him. Though what Hunter could do that a compound full of soldiers couldn't, Torrington didn't know. He'd asked the base commander in passing about Hunter's absence, the man just waved his inquiries away: “He deals with locals sometimes.” Well, if the man didn't think anything was wrong, then Torrington wouldn't either.
Vickery and he didn't exactly pretend like nothing happened, but they smiled and didn't talk about it. There was nothing to talk about, it was what it was and it was unlikely to happen again. So they went back to their duties, a little calmer, a little more sane, and without complications.
Hunter came back next day. It was late afternoon, Torrington was stretching his legs after being down the bunker, where he squatted with his plans, checking the calculations. Helen hopped out of the car first, just as blithe and beautiful in baggy civilian clothing as she had been covered by a rumpled bedsheet. Hunter was next, looking odd to Torrington's eyes in jeans and a t-shirt. He registered the bandage around Hunter's right forearm and as he got closer and Hunter slipped off his sunglasses, a slightly crazy quality to the smile in his eyes. Torrington did not know how he knew, but he was certain that something had happened, something that wasn't good. And with same certainty he knew that it was the woman's fault.
'Do you come ready to play chess?' Torrington asked by way of greeting.
'Sure, why not?' said Hunter but he glanced at Helen, and that small thing made Torrington do, what he hadn't ever done in the five weeks since he met Hunter. He touched him, fingers wrapping around Hunter's wrist.
'Then let's go, I have time now,' mercifully Hunter followed without further comments, never mentioning the force with which Torrington's fingers dug into his skin, when Helen's voice wished them to have fun.
He kept Hunter by his side until night time, the watched becoming the watcher, making him play chess, making him accompany him down the bunker, telling Hunter (quite falsely) that his subordinates were incapable of holding a torch steady. When Torrington mentioned dinner, Hunter just nodded and went with him. And then they played chess until it was time to sleep. And suddenly Torrington couldn't stand the possibility of Helen coming into Hunter's room during the night.
'Remember you said that you were here?' Torrington said.
'Yeah, sure,' Hunter's voice was soft, careful.
'Well, can you stay here tonight. I just... I'd feel safer. I missed you watching me.' Torrington finally managed.
Hunter was silent for a moment, then nodded. Torrington stripped to his t-shirt and boxers. Hunter followed his lead. The bed wasn't quite big enough for both of them, so they lay on their backs, their sides pressed firmly against each other.
Torrington listened to Hunter's breath, glad of the darkness. He wasn't sure now that he was any better than Helen, having manipulated Hunter into staying here tonight, but he didn't really lie after all. He did miss Hunter watching him.
Hunter rolled off the bed quietly, trying not to wake Torrington. If he did, then the engineer showed no sign. Hunter made his way to the shower block, and stood in front of a mirror, studying himself. Usually it took him a few days to ground himself after such a 'trip'. But spending the day in Torrington's company had taken away the crazy look from his eye.
He washed thoroughly, feeling tired despite the long, undisturbed sleep. He changed the bandage, making a note to see a medic about some antiseptics, then went to find the base commander. He needed something to do.
Hunter didn't see Torrington until evening, when their paths crossed in the middle of the compound, Torrington headed for dinner, Hunter headed to the meeting point in full combat gear, hands firmly on the rifle.
'You are truly dressed to kill,' said Torrington, giving Hunter a once over. It wasn't a question, but Hunter felt like he had to explain anyway.
'I'll be taking turns on the perimeter patrols from now on.'
'Yeah. Well, I'll see you later,' Hunter shifted, muscles settling under the weight of protective gear and the rifle, and with a final nod in Torrington's direction, walked away.
* * *
As the days passed, Hunter's body got used to the routine. It no longer felt bruised after each patrol, his body accepting the weight of the combat gear with more and more ease. His mind too was clearing. The patrols, with their long pauses between conversations, left time to think, to come to terms with things. To remember his mother's words and to find it in himself the strength to admit that she was right after all.
So he one night he leaned against the door of Torrington's room and stood there waiting for the man to turn up.
'Hunter, what are you doing here?'
'Waiting for you.'
'Did you want something?' Torrington asked, his eyes lit up with mild amusement.
'Yeah, I did,' Hunter glanced around, then shifted forward, his hands settling on Torrington's waist. 'I wanted this.' He kissed Torrington softly, then kissed him again, more insistent, until Torrington finally responded, his mouth opening up to Hunter's tongue. In moments the kiss went from gentle to heated, almost rough, teeth scraping against lips, tongues fighting for domination. Hunter felt warmth pooling between his legs, his cock starting to strain against the lose material of his trousers. Then Torrington broke away.
'Not out here, Christ, come on, let's get inside.'
Hunter just nodded and followed. Inside, he crowded Torrington against the bed, until they fell onto it. When Hunter was waiting for Torrington, he'd imagined they'd go slow, take time to study each other, but now all he wanted to do was pull Torrington's pants down and take him into his mouth. So he did. He sucked down Torrington's already hard cock in one smooth movement. Torrington chocked out something between a moan and his name, hips stuttering upwards reflexively. Hunter sucked hard, then eased off, licking first the underside, then tonguing the head. Torrington's breath settled a little, but his fingers were pressing hard into Hunter's shoulders.
Then he took him into his mouth again, but kept his lips loose, encouraging Torrington to thrust upwards, by squeezing his buttocks. Torrington finally took the hint and started fucking Hunter's mouth, his breath loud and ragged. When he finally came, Hunter tried to swallow everything down, but a trickle of sperm escaped, glistening on his chin. Torrington pulled him upwards and licked it off, then licked his way inside Hunter's mouth, while his hands, a little unsteady, unzipped and pulled Hunter's trousers down.
Hunter moaned into Torrington's mouth, as the man started stroking him faster and faster, using Hunter's own pre-come as a lubricant. 'Fuck,' Hunter growled, 'Fuck.'
Torrington's eyes were dark and attentive. He pressed his thumb against Hunter's mouth and Hunter parted his lips, licking the calloused finger, sucking it down. It finally brought him over the edge. He collapsed on his side, breathing heavily.
'Fuck, Edward,' he finally said, 'you are going to be the death of me, aren't you?'
'Only if are in danger of dying from orgasms,' chuckled Torrington.
It had been only three days since Hunter went on leave, forced to go rather, but Torrington was already feeling displaced, thoughts of what Hunter might be getting up to always at the back of his mind. It's not that Hunter gave him a reason to be jealous since they started sleeping together, but Torrington couldn't quite forget the man at the main base or Helen, right here. He kept telling himself that he needed to trust Hunter, but it was getting harder with each day that passed without Hunter's presence somewhere on the compound or hovering just behind, or pressing against him in bed.
'There is a call for you, sir,' said a soldier behind his back, startling him.
Torrington walked quickly, the only people he talked to back home, were his family and he was always the one to call them. If they were calling first, perhaps something bad has happened.
'Torrington here,' he said calmly, trying to prepare himself for the worst.
'I am tired of jerking off, my palms are getting sore,' came Hunter's voice over the crackling line.
Torrington felt heat rise from under his collar and prayed he wouldn't actually blush in a public place.
'What are you doing?' he hissed at Hunter.
'I'm trying to tell you, that I miss you.'
Torrington swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat. 'I miss you too.' He could swear he heard Hunter smile over the phone.
'I hope you are not having too much fun without me. Though, I wouldn't blame you if you did. I went swimming today.' Hunter teases, but Torrington instead of being jealous that Hunter could actually go swimming, just stood there imagining Hunter naked and wet. 'Anyway, I'm gonna have to go, they are making shooing motions at me. Apparently, only family members are allowed to hog the lines. Or maybe they are just afraid we'll end up having phone sex.'
Torrington nearly chokes on laughter that bubbles out of him. 'Yes, I think I can understand them.'
'Right, I'll try and call you again. Love you.'
Hunter rings off, leaving Torrington stunned, blinking owlishly at a wall. The words were casual, cheerful, but it was a lot more than either of them ever said. And Torrington is not at all sure of what he feels about those ominous words.
'I have my orders,' growled Hunter. He'd never voiced the fact that he was ordered to watch Torrington, but it wasn't like Torrington didn't already know.
'George, please, the way you act and the freedom you have, you practically freelance, not military,' snapped Torrington. 'I too have my orders and they don't include you.' Torrington sighed. He knew arguing was pointless at this point. They had been going around in circles. Torrington grabbed Hunters arms and pulled him close.
'Look, it's a civilian project. I am only there to consult. It's a big town, and I'll be staying in a hotel foreign diplomats use. There will be security personnel everywhere. I think I'll be safe enough.'
'Things happen, Edward.' Hunter placed his palm around the nape of Torrington's neck, fingers splaying and pressing.
'Then I need you trust me to know how to deal with them.'
Hunter huffed, the pressure of his fingers increasing. 'Do you trust me, Edward?'
Torrington was good at dodging questions, in fact, he was quite proud of his poker face, but with only centimeters separating their bodies, he could feel that Hunter wanted the truth, whatever it was. 'I don't know,' Torrington finally said.
'There is your answer then, Edward,' Hunter's fingers slid into his hair. 'But if you are so insistent, I won't go with you.'
Torrington pressed closer by way of an answer, placing a kiss just below Hunter's ear. 'I want you to fuck me,' he whispered. So I'll have something to remember you by.
The thing was, that where one found foreign diplomats and security contractors, various intelligence agents weren't far behind. So Torrington should not have been surprised to see Helen. And perhaps, he wouldn't have been, if he saw her in a hotel hall or in a crowd of people outside, not behind the wheel of a car, into the backseat of which he was manhandled by two large men.
'Hello, Edward,' Helen looked at him in the rear view mirror. Torrington strained against the grip the men had on him, earning a punch in a stomach. 'It would be best if you didn't struggle,' she said smirking.
Torrington tried to think. The others involved in the project would notice his absence soon enough, perhaps as soon as in a couple of hours. But he couldn't rely on them to come find him? How were they going to? This wasn't London with its CCTV cameras, patrolling policemen and witnesses. He'd have to get out of it himself. If only to prove to Hunter that he could take care of himself once and for all.
They stopped behind a building that even by local standards looked run-down. They marched him down a couple of corridors, then down some stairs and pushed him into windowless basement. He could see that the moment Helen locked the door he wouldn't have a way out of here, but rushing his abductors when he didn't even have a weapon and they had some impressive firepower was a stupid idea. He would have to wait and look for an opportunity.
'What do you want from me?' he asked facing Helen. She kept her distance, using the two men, mercenaries Torrington assumed, as a live barrier between them.
'You aren't important to me, George is,' she spoke softly, but there was an undercurrent of irritation in her voice. 'You see, he refused to come to any more 'trips' with me, and I am pretty sure it's your fault. You interfered with my asset, so now I am going to use you to get him back.'
'What, you think I am going to provide leverage over him?' Torrington snorted.
Helen smiled. 'We'll see. For now we wait. Maybe he'll agree to come here for a little conversation.' She nodded to her lackeys, and they started to shut the door. 'Oh and try to be well-behaved. George never liked it when his toys got broken, but I will have no choice if you do something stupid.'
The door shut with a clang, the light disappearing from the room entirely.
They gave him a bucket and twice a day, or what he assumed was twice a day, since there was no light, and he lost the track of time after they took away his watch, he got a tray with food and a bottle of water. His best estimate was that he had been in the basement for three or four days, but he started to feel simple certainties like that fraying. Nobody beat him or talked to him in an effort to brake him down. Sometimes he caught himself thinking that it would be a relief if they did.
Hunter hit the outskirts of the town on the fourth day of Torrington's abduction. It took a couple of days for Helen's message to get him, then a further day and a half to get here by car. No one was about to give him a helicopter ride. He was grateful they gave him leave to go off base as it is.
He found the address with some difficulty, locals not particularly willing to give information to a random westerner in dusty jeans and a t-shirt that was obviously a couple of sizes too small for his body. The thigh holster, though it was empty, didn't help either.
'Let him in,' said Helen to the two men at the doorway. Hunter didn't bother removing his sunglasses as they moved inside into the shade. 'I see you followed my instructions.
'You can search me, if you want.' Hunter spread his arms in a classic non-threatening gesture.
'No, I can wait to get my hands on your body, I can see from here, there is no place you could hide a gun,' Helen smirked. 'So, George, why the cold shoulder?'
'I want to speak to Torrington first, then we'll talk.' Hunter finally removed his sunglasses. He didn't need their protection anymore.
* * *
The door swung open again and Torrington lifted his head, squinting against the sudden invasion of light. There were two bodies framed by the doorway. Two people standing close, almost touching. When his eyes finally adjusted he sucked in a shocked breath. Hunter was here. The thing he both wanted so desperately to happen and not happen, happened. He searched for some sign, some emotion in Hunter's eyes, but there was nothing. His naked forearm seemed to be glued to Helen's arm.
'See, I didn't touch him, George?' said Helen, shifting her hip into Hunter's thigh. 'I could have. You know what I could have to him. You can see what you made me do already by playing at your happy couples' fantasy? He's only going to drag you down. Wouldn't you rather have fun with me?'
Hunter was silent for a few moments, eyes never leaving Torrington's. 'Helen, I always had fun with you.' Torrington felt something unraveling within him. He hoped that the side of Hunter which had responded to his vulnerably, the protective instinct that was so strong that it survived whatever demons Hunter carried, would win over. It seemed he was wrong. It seemed he was right not to trust Hunter after all.
'But you make mistakes,' continued Hunter and Helen's head snapped up, shock practically radiating off her.
* * *
Hunter dragged his gaze away from Torrington although the only thing he wanted was to run over and free him from his restraints. He stared into Helen's eyes and smiled slowly, while his hand dipped below the waistband of his jeans. 'For example, you forgot that I've always preferred knives to guns.' In one fluid movement he dragged the slim stiletto out and plunged it unerringly into Helen's kidney, twisting the blade in the soft flesh and simultaneously smacking his other hand over her mouth so that her cry wouldn't alert the guards.
Hunter supported her body to the floor, then stepped over her and rushed to Torrington's side, cutting through the restraints as quickly as he could.
He supported Torrington out of the chair. Torrington's hand immediately went to Helen's gun, that Hunter had picked up and stuffed into the thigh holster.
'Wanna make sure she's dead?' Hunter asked, grinning.
'It would be more merciful than letting her bleed out,' Torrington was straightening, not exactly pushing Hunter away, more indicating that he didn't need to be supported.
'Are you sure that's what you want?'
Torrington nodded and raised the gun. 'It will also be a lot more satisfying.'
'So, you and Hunter?' asked Vickery as they watched the impromptu five-a-side football game.
Torrington kept his eyes on Hunter, currently engaged in crowing over the fact that Cotton failed to take the ball from him. Him and Hunter. They couldn't heal each other, but their broken places fit so neatly, corner to corner, line to line, he doubted it would be hard to pull them apart, even if they themselves wanted to.
'Yes, me and Hunter,' Torrington answered.
'Well, better you than me.'
Torrington's lips twitched, 'Indeed.'