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The lights of the range were becoming dependable, like the weight of the gun in his hand.

Meeting the murderer Deimos face to face had gifted Rakitin with an odd clarity. While felt no especial desire to kill the flame soldier, neither did he feel any reluctance. It was something he would do, if and when it became necessary.

There was no question of going back to his quarters for a while. Overhearing Nika and Aryol as they were fucking felt like an invasion of their privacy. Anyway, Rakitin didn't much care for sleep, beyond the essential. There was always something more useful or interesting to do.

In any case, it was nice out here. The cold air was cleansing, as was the steady rhythm of weapons fire. Rakitin fell into the pattern of recoil as the world closed to the long, bright corridor, the stylized sihouette, and the gun in his hands.

Distractions fell aside as if they stood at the end of the lane. The matter of the Flame Patrol murderer was settled. Utrov had proven worthy of no concern, and doubtless would keep his distance. Rakitin could focus on investigating the murder, and the mystery of the nameless soldier. After that...

He could stay here.

It had taken time before he could allow himself to believe it, like a desert traveler facing an oasis that could easily be a beautiful mirage.

The Colonel wanted him to stay.

What use a pathologist could serve after the investigation was over, he had no idea. He would find out.

Rakitin would stay at the Colonel's side and help him achieve his dream.

And, though the Colonel would never know, somehow Rakitin would make himself worthy of that, and of loving him.

Rakitin paused to reload. His fingers moved deftly over the clip. The bullets lined up in a column of potential, and the sound of it sliding home was invigorating as hope.

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The Groznyj Grad Living Novel

December 2010

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