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The sunset had been particularly spectacular that evening when Taras got home from the office.

Taras had paused outside his flat to watch it for a few moments. The sky had turned purple and orange and red, all streaked and smeared artistically, like someone had taken a brush to the sky. It reminded Taras of those fancy paintings at the Hermitage, and it had put him in a really good mood.

The sun never set like that up north, never with any color other than a dull piss yellow that eventually faded to grey. Little reminders like that made him grateful to be back in a real place, back in civilization, back in Leningrad.

There were some things Taras never wanted to take for granted.

After weights and dinner, he'd showered, then gotten dressed again and gone out, grabbing his black leather case.

Ilarion's flat was a few blocks from Taras', far enough that Taras had to take a cab. The flat overlooked the Fontanka canal, in an older and more elegant government building than the one Taras lived in, but he figured that was the way it should be. Senior Ministry officials and their families had it pretty good.

Taras wore civilian clothes, but he actually looked like he belonged in the neighborhood. Anya had taken him shopping the other day. He'd let her do it, but only after she promised never to tell Ilarion.

She'd picked out a few pairs of slacks and some shirts, and a black cashmere turtleneck he'd really liked. He was wearing the turtleneck now, under a new long woolen coat.

He also wore his nice boots, the ones he'd gotten years ago with the winnings from Ilarion's bratanka Andrusha's boxing match. Andrei had killed the Frenchman, and Taras had made a killing on his bets. The winnings had been enough to get him python-skin boots on the black market, completely illegal, imported from France. He'd liked the irony of that one.

Taras had the driver drop him off on the other side of the canal and waited until it left, then took the bridge across.

The word facade meant what the front of a building looked like, and the facade of Ilarion's building was pretty typical, long and sprawling, with rows of evenly-spaced windows that had fancy embellishments at the top. He didn't know what those were called, but didn't let it bother him.

Apparently, Isaev lived on the top floor. The entire top floor.

Anya had gotten him the address. Taras had never actually been over to Ilarion's place before, only the Isaev residence. He entered streetside and rode the elevator up, then walked down the hall until he found Ilarion's door, which wasn't too hard.

Taras considered breaking in for a few moments, and almost did, but then finally decided against it.

Taras knocked instead. Politely, even.
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Date: 2008-06-20 10:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Bootsteps rang in the cavernous stairwell. The buzzer rang briefly, and Ilarion l frowned and looked up at the clock.

Was it a reasonable time to expect a call?

Nika would have smiled, called him paranoid.

Friday evening, not too late.

Nika would have been coming over to be with him.

He had a fire going in the fireplace, and the city was quietly busy below.

Lasha's brow furrowed uncertainly, and he rubbed it briefly, before rising to answer the bell.

When he opened the ornate metal door of the old face-sized peep window, he was surprised by what he saw. No assassin, no disgruntled zonik.

"Oleksei," he said, in faint surprise that he didn't bother to obscure.

He quickly unlocked the series of locks and opened the door. Sure enough, Taras Oleksei stood on his doorstep, dressed like a respectable man in soft and overpriced fibers, much like the ones Liadov tended to favor.

The boots...that was something else entirely. They looked Italian. And expensively outlandish.

Ilarion looked him up and down, slowly.

"Look at you," he remarked, leaning against the door frame, with a leisurely air. "Did you get mugged by a bespoke tailor?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Date: 2008-06-20 04:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras broke into a scowl.

That was just like Ilarion, to use a word he didn't know, though he was used to it by now. Usually Taras asked, but not when it was part of an insult. He would look it up later.

"I don't get mugged, Isaev."

He did the mugging. That went without saying.

"Anyway, I just pulled this shit out of the back of my closet."

Taras' mismatched eyes shifted past Ilarion, eyeing the space beyond, curious, though he couldn't see much.

"So, you going to let me in or what?"

He raised his leather case briefly. It wasn't the one he took to work, but instead was soft-sided and supple, lightly worn in a classy way. Heavy for its size, but that was because of what he had in it.

Taras looked back at Ilarion.

"I found your India ink."

Date: 2008-06-20 04:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Lasha raised an eyebrow, amused.

"It was compliment, Oleksei. In a roundabout fashion."

He nicked his head upward, slightly.

"Looking sharp," he clarified, before letting it go, and removing his gaze with studied casuality.

Ilarion's attention was drawn by the case in Taras's grasp, and his words sunk in like black sugar, alarming.

"India ink," he repeated in a low voice. "Let you in?"

Lasha's brow brooked, and he was caught off-guard, glancing behind him.

"...now?"

Date: 2008-06-20 05:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras' lip curled upward faintly as he looked at Isaev, and his eyes gleamed, feral and unwholesome.

"I thought you weren't afraid," he murmured.

He moved forward, pushing past Ilarion, though with only a light brush of his shoulder, almost a companionable shove. There was enough from for him to have passed through the doorway without making contact, but he found no need to do so.

Taras glanced down at himself, briefly, surreptitiously, once he was clear.

He did look sharp.

"Where should I set up?"

Taras said it almost rhetorically, looking around.

"How about the kitchen?"

Date: 2008-06-20 06:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion's eyes narrowed.

"I..."

He scratched his wrist, hesitating, glancing surreptitiously down the hall.

"How long will it take?"

Taras was already looking for the kitchen, so Ilarion gestured vaguely in the proper direction, toward the back of the space.

It would be stranger at this point to send Oleksei away with no explanation. For that matter, what was the harm? He'd planned on having him come by at some point or another. It had simply never come up.

The kitchen was stripped-down, minimized old world, with low, long counters, a modern chandelier and rounded, space-aged pewter appliances. It opened onto the living room, separated from it by a bar. The couches and chairs were leather and chrome, the coffee table made wholly of bent, single piece glass. The beige walls were lit by small blue spotlights. One accent wall was superwhite, and faced by a metal projector.

The living room had large, old world windows that looked out over the canal, and each one had enough room to sit inside, which Lasha occasionally did, when he wrote to Andrei, or read the rare novel.

"Fear isn't the issue, Oleksei," Ilarion said, turning toward the chrome liquor shelves mounted to the side of the bar and reaching for the ginger-infused vodka. "I'm surprised you think so little of me."

Date: 2008-06-20 07:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras shot a look at the back of Ilarion's head.

"I was giving you shit, Lasha," he growled. "You should know that."

He set down the leather case on one of the low counters and unzipped it, rummaging through it immediately, before he took off his coat.

"Here."

Taras pulled out a bottle, rounded and heavy, shimmering with a rich dark amber liquid within.

"Cognac. That premium shit."

He sat it on the bar in front of Ilarion. Taras was sure Ilarion had something similar in his cabinet, but that wasn't the point.

His attention caught on the room beyond the bar, and his gaze sharpened with interest.

After a few moments, he looked back at Isaev. He started to unbutton his coat, moving around the bar toward the living room as he did so.

"That's your brand, right?"

Date: 2008-06-20 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion smiled, reaching for the bottle and picking up.

"That's right," he said, smiling, admiring the color of the liquor, like warm topaz.

He paused, giving Taras a slight nod.

"Thank you."

He pushed the ginger vodka aside with an obvious gesture, in favor of the gift.

"Will you have some now, comrade?" he called after Oleksei, raising his voice slightly to carry into the large, high-ceilinged room with its one exposed brick wall.

Lasha uncapped the bottle and inhaled, slowly. He could already feel the flavor on his tongue, carameled and almost salacious.

It wasn't actually his brand. It was Liadov's.

And that meant it was more then his. It was his.

"It isn't exactly traditional, though, is it?" he added, obliquely, pulling down a pair of glasses, setting them on the stone counter with a delicate clink. "For this...activity, I mean."

Lasha smirked.

"Shouldn't we be drinking each other's fermented piss, or something, infused with potatoes and coal, and heated over a burning body?"

His hand poured the measures sidewise, skilled and unpausing, raising a subdued, teasing brow.

"...Or maybe you zeks forswore the liquor in favor of licking the tap."

Date: 2008-06-20 08:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
"If that's the way you like it..."

Taras strolled into the living room, pulling off his coat. He paused to drape it and his gloves over a chair.

"...I can arrange that."

He turned to glance over his shoulder at Isaev, smile crooked and goading.

"It's not going to be real traditional, since I figure you want it to be...sterile."

Taras laughed, once, low.

He returned his attention to the room, leaning down to run his bare hand over a low, long chaise as he passed by. The leather was velvety soft and the padding felt thick. Comfortable, like his chair in Ilarion's office, and broad enough to span Taras' shoulders. Looked like a good place for a nap. He walked on.

The windows fascinated him. They were huge, each with a padded ledge that looked like it was for sitting. He leaned his hand against the frame and looked out over the canal, his eyes following the line of the lights on the buildings opposite. From this angle, he could see a lot of lights in the city, from buldings and cars and streetlamps, all signs of life and civilization.

"Nice view," he murmured, absently, almost to himself.

Taras glanced over his shoulder again.

"Your place isn't bad, Isaev. I like it."

Date: 2008-06-20 09:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
"Da?" said Ilarion, strolling up beside him and handing him a glass.

He took a companionable sip, running a hand over a minimalist red leather barcelona chair, checking for nonexistent dust.

"Seem like the kind of place you could knock over?"

He grinned, belatedly, a rare and fleeting gesture.

Then he sobered, gazing out over the canal.

The fire crackled behind them, softly. A light rain started to fall outside.

He took a sip of warming cognac, and it drove away any threat of a shiver.

"So," he said, lightly. "What are you going to do to me?"

Date: 2008-06-20 10:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras watched Ilarion, suddenly ambivalent.

For a few moments, Isaev's expression had relaxed, and he'd grinned like a young wild dog whose vicious, feral nature was tempered by boundless love of life. It remined Taras of when they were hellraising boys, when there were fewer differences between them.

The moment stretched on a little too long, he could tell.

After a few seconds, he turned back to the window, and raised the glass to his nose.

He caught the scents of vanilla and caramel, as well as a few others, delicate and nutty, even floral. Taras knew he starting to develop a taste for it.

Taras took a sip, letting the thick, heady flavors roll off his tongue.

"What do you want me to do to you?"

Taras asked it quietly, without any particular inflection, still staring ahead.

He held the pose a moment then shifted to face Isaev. He reached out with his other hand to brush his thumb across Isaev's upper chest, just under the collarbone.

"You still want what we talked about, at the Kremlin? Eyes? Or...?"

He let the words fade, and dropped his hand, slowly.

"Something else?" he finished.

Date: 2008-06-20 10:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
It was strange, the way Oleksei touched him, but not wrong.

It was almost right, on some levels.

He didn't belabor it, however, and after a glancing contact, let his fingers fall away. And Lasha let him know of his tacit acceptance by ignoring it utterly.

Ilarion looked him in the eye, his expression as open as it ever was, unloaded by expectation and the absent weight of the cap upon his brow.

"You know what, I'll leave that up to you. You've got a sense of these things, and you're the one who can decide what's befitting. The eyes seem fitting, and yet, I defer my body to your situational wisdom."

He paused, tasting his cognac reverently, and lifting one shoulder in an idle shrug.

"I trust you."

Date: 2008-06-20 11:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras held Ilarion's gaze for a moment.

"All right," he said, softly, and took another sip.

The cognac made him warm, but he didn't want it to go to his head, not this early. Taras lowered his glass, swirling it without looking.

"It'll take maybe a few hours, maybe a little more. There's no need to rush."

He let his eyes drift back to the window.

"Whenever you're ready, you can take off your shirt. I'll have a look."

Date: 2008-06-21 08:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Lasha nodded, slowly.

"All right," he returned, in kind.

After a second, and a sip, he turned and set his glass down on the side table, ice clinking lightly against itself.

He reached for the back of his fitted grey cashmere pullover and drew it over his head, draping it across a chair back.

"All yours," he announced, cryptically, picking up his glass again and draining it.

The sooner the better. Ilarion wanted this process to be well underway before Oleksei got loaded.

No sense in having crossed eyes permanently emblazoned on his chest. If it went awry, he would have to kill Taras to save face, or at least have him killed, and that was the last thing he wanted to do. He was enjoying having his comrade around.

"You realize that if I'll have you killed if you make me look like a knob, da?"

Date: 2008-06-21 10:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras snorted.

"Yeah? And who's going to do it?"

He set down his mostly full glass. Taras' brow furrowed as he shifted to working-mode, gaze turning intent. He focused on Ilarion's chest, eyes traveling over the smooth broad planes of his pectorals. After a few moments he took a step back and continued to stare, silently, then nodded to himself.

Taras stepped forward and circled Isaev once, pausing behind him before coming around to the front again, this time moving close. He leaned in to inspect Isaev's chest.

"I'll have to shave your chest first. You don't have much hair, but it needs to be smooth, okei?"

He leaned back.

"You have good skin. With your coloring, the India ink'll look sharp. Intimidating."

Date: 2008-06-21 05:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion eyed him for a moment.

"...Thank you," he said, belatedly.

He looked down at his chest, the light, dense dusting of dusky, fine beige hair that lay flat, and formed a shadowy chevron across the slopes of his pectoralis in formation, like tiny, light penstrokes. It was soft to the touch, like velvet. Hardly the stuff of coarse Russian legend.

"Da, I see what you mean. I use a britva, though, not a safety razor."

While most good soviets had embraced the convenience of the handheld pre-made, guarded blade, Ilarion never had.

He blamed this esoteric quirk on Liadov. Nikanor had inherited his father's meticulous antique silver shaving kit, a flawless 18th century straight razor and all the accessories, including a badger brush. When they were younger, and at the first sign of growth, he'd whipped that wicked looking blade out. He liked to shave Ilarion with it, as well as himself, practice his technique.

He insisted that there was no better shave.

Lasha actually agreed with him, and in short enough order had purchased a straight razor his own from France.

Affected or not, inconvenient or not- he preferred it. It was simply what he'd always done, since he and Nika had become men together.

Lasha rolled his shoulders, stretching slightly, anticipating a long time sitting still.

"It will do."

He turned and crossed to the hall, ducking into the bathroom.

Date: 2008-06-21 07:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
After a moment, Taras picked up his glass and followed.

He assumed Ilarion wanted him to come along, since he hadn't said otherwise, but by the time Taras stepped into the hall, Ilarion was already out of sight.

Taras looked around, curious. It was the sort of place he could knock over, but he would have headed straight back to where he assumed the bedroom would be. Where the good stuff would be. Though Taras assumed that someone like Ilarion would have a safe, maybe even a hidden one.

He paced down the hall, pausing at the first open door, which was the bathroom.

Ilarion was inside, leanly muscled back to him, though Taras could see his reflection in the mirror.

"That's fine," he said after he caught up.

"Closer shave anyway, right?"

That was what Taras' father always said, but then again, any blade was an artist's weapon in Cheslav Oleksei's hands.

Taras leaned against the doorframe companionably, crossing his arms, watching Ilarion's reflection.

"You going to do it?"

Date: 2008-06-21 07:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Lasha's elegant hands picked up the strop and razor carefully, giving them a couple of quick jerks-through. It was more violent motion than those hands were accustomed to, but it was a familiar violence.

He didn't answer Oleksei's question right away.

He eyed him circumspectly as he sharpened the blade.

"You know, don't you, that if I embrace a killer to my chest, I always have someone on point. Usually several someones. Someones who could take them down."

He glanced down, judging his progress with the pad of his thumb, gently, frowning, then continuing.

"It's only common sense, Oleksei. Your father and my father would see eye to eye on that."

Ilarion smiled.

"Because you're a friend, a close one, I don't actually have anyone specific trained on you. But if you want to know who would do the job, if we fell into displeasure...well, I suppose any number of craven bastards would be hungry for your blatnoy blood. But I think Danil Khartov would do it. Don't you?"

He paused, flexing his strop-hand.

"And I'd be an idiot to think you don't have similar lines you could pull in to teach me a lesson if I thwarted your devotion. Believe me, I know."

Lasha tested the blade again and found it ripe and gleaming against his fingertip. The press of the steel gave him an almost sexual thrill. Clearly somewhere along the line, when he leaned back against the counter, while Nika was straddling his legs, shaving his throat, some wires had gotten crossed...

"But none of that shit matters, Oleksei. It's not important. What's important isn't safeguards, but the valuable risks that make them necessary in the first place."

Lasha paused, light eyes artless and steady.

"I trust you, Chesich," he said.

And he held out the razor, handle first.

Date: 2008-06-21 08:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras lingered at the doorway for a moment.

His eyes dropped down to the razor, then shifted up, to look at Ilarion. Wordlessly, he pushed away from the door frame and approached Ilarion with even, unrushed steps.

Taras stopped in front of him so that they faced each other, almost of a height but otherwise opposite, dark and light, muscular and lean. It reminded him of chess, which Ilarion had liked when they were younger, but Taras never saw or heard about him playing anymore.

He glanced down at the razor in Isaev's hand, but made no move to take it. Instead, he reached past Ilarion and set his glass on the counter behind him.

"Danil Khartov," he said, slowly, "would try."

He raised his eyes to hold Lasha's again, his expression mild.

"I've watched the way he moves, what he looks at, the way he opens doors, how he gets in the car. The way he looks at me sometimes, when I can tell he's thinking the same thing I am."

His mouth curled at the corner.

"Could I take him?"

Taras shrugged broad shoulders.

"If he gets lucky, maybe. On most days, no. He's a good choice, though. He's hungry. That counts for a lot."

He glanced down to take razor. His fingertips brushed Isaev's as he closed his hand around the handle.

"But see, if you ever did that to me, sent Khartov after me, and he failed? What I would do is come after you myself."

This close, he could see again Isaev's had depth to them, striations of color within, though he couldn't tell what they were.

Taras nodded.

"Because that's what our friendship means to me, Lashka."

Date: 2008-06-21 10:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
"I know that," said Ilarion.

He did know it.

He nodded, assiduous and slow.

"And if that happened, I would have the grace to let you come, without sending any more pets out to run you to the ground."

He wouldn't be waiting without his gun, but Taras knew that much. It went without saying.

"Again. None of that matters. You know you're my favored one, and the best I know. You know you have a place at my side, Tarsha, at the table and in my bed. Khartov would love to have your place, this is true. We would all wish something, if we were asked, and most of us will not have it, because life is cruel."

Lasha placed his other hand over Oleksei's, clasping it lightly beneath his own, never moving his gaze.

"What I am saying to you is this: you're not from the only muscle in my stable, Taras. You're not my only resource. You're far from the only sideman I trust to handle the ugly black business of this ruthless life."

Ilarion drew their hands forward, and laid the point of the straight razor in the crease between his chest muscles pointedly.

"But you are the only one I would trust to hold this blade against my naked skin."

His gaze intensified.

"The one I trust enough to close my eyes in the company of."

Date: 2008-06-21 11:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras held Isaev's gaze, though he had to work at keeping his breathing even and his expression steady.

He could feel his pulse pounding in his wrist, his skin tingling where Lasha held him.

"Khorosho," he whispered. His voice sounded rough.

His knee touched Isaev's, suddenly, and the impact of it shot straight up to his groin. Taras realized he had been leaning closer, shifting incrementally.

He hesitated, but didn't pull back.

Taras dropped his gaze to the line of the razor against Isaev's chest, because he didn't know what he was going to do if he kept holding Isaev's gaze.

"That's good...because you're the only one that I trust. Period."

He was silent for a few moments, uncertain of how to express himself. At his side, his free hand moved toward Isaev, but he stilled it, pressing it into a fist.

"Not just because of what you've done for me..."

Taras spoke slowly, carefully, like he was making sure he got the words right.

"...but because of who you are."

Taras looked up then, his gaze as hard and fierce as it was when he was angry, but this wasn't quite like anger. It was something else, just as intense, but not as easy. His jaw tightened.

"I know you, Lasha."

He felt like he wanted to say more, but Taras drew in a sudden breath like a bellows, deliberate and rumbling.

Taras looked down at the razor again.

"All right. Let's do this."

Date: 2008-06-22 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion smiled carefully, reached for and wet the stiffly-bristled handmade brush, applying it to the shaving soap which was seated at the bottom of a mug.

He wasn't sure what to think of Oleksei sometimes.

His ferocity was not far beneath the surface; it ebbed and rippled like the fluid power of a big cat. Ilarion had seen it lunge and prowl, bursting forth at unexpected moments, as well as fully anticipated ones.

And yet now, when the familiar behemoth surfaced, it seemed almost confused. Unsure, and on strange terrain.

Lasha swirled the brush rapidly, building up a foaming lather that rapidly filled the cup- overdoing it a little, because after all, a man's chest was a bigger job than his jaw.

There was something almost fiercely sweet about Taras, sometimes, thought Lasha. The way he pledged his allegiance, and reinforced his loyalty.

At rare moments. Murderous and endearing.

Isaev looked up, expression unstudied, natural and neutral.

"Here you are," he said, holding out the mug. "Brush it on upward, against the growth of the hair, and the lather raises it upright. It's an astringent," he added vaguely, at Taras's bemused, changeless glance.

Lasha raised his eyebrows, then looked down at his chest.

"Unless, of course, you'd rather I do it myself-" he broke off, mildly, meeting Oleksei's unreadable eyes. "I only assumed, that you'd know where it was you wanted me bare."

Date: 2008-06-22 03:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
"I'll do it," Taras said, and let out a breath.

He felt his jaw unclench and the rest of him seemed to follow, the set of his shoulders easing, muscles unlocking.

Carefully, he reached to set the razor on the counter with the light click of metal on stone. He paused to push his sleeves up, exposing his tattoos, the snake-and-dagger on the right forearm, the words Век живи - век учись written across the left.

He took the mug from Isaev and swirled the brush around a few extra times for good measure, just to let his fingers loosen. He let his gaze travel over Ilarion's chest.

"I'm going to do a little more than I need, so don't worry. It'll be in proportion."

Taras raised the brush to the left side of Isaev's chest first, applying the soap upward, with easy, even strokes, the brush bristles rasping lightly against Isaev's skin.

Something about it made him start to feel warm again, and so he thought about painting, which he had never done, though this seemed like what an artist would do. He kept his eyes on the flat, angular plane of muscle, seeing it like a canvas.

He finished with the left side and then applied the soap to the right, making sure the area was thoroughly lathered before setting the cup and brush aside.

Taras paused, looking up to meet Ilarion's eyes briefly before he reached for the razor again. He tested the edge against his thumb and found it perfectly honed.

He nodded, then glanced around the bathroom, frowning lightly, considering.

"All right. This is a good angle for me. It would be too low if you were sitting, but you need to make sure you can hold still. Maybe if you leaned..."

Taras trailed off, gesturing back at the counter.

Date: 2008-06-23 02:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion glanced back, hesitant.

"All right," he said, after a pause. "Sure."

He leaned back against the counter, letting his hips press into the edge.

Lifting his shoulders and raising his chin.

"Does that suit?"

Date: 2008-06-23 06:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
"Yeah, maybe."

Taras stepped closer. He raised the razor experimentally, then paused, frowning as he lowered it.

"No...the angle. I need to get closer," he muttered. "I think I need to lean..."

He hesitated, then moved in, letting his right hip and thigh rest against Isaev's. Something about it made him feel strangely aware of how close they were, how the heat of Isaev's body warmed his leg, how the muscles in Ilarion's leg gave against his weight.

It was both familiar and different at the same time, and felt somehow more awkward than when they were naked and in bed with Anya. Taras didn't know how that worked, but decided maybe he shouldn't think about it right now.

Taras braced his free hand on the counter, on the other side of Ilarion's waist, then raised the razor again, holding it close to Ilarion's chest, blade angled away.

"That's better."

He paused again, and met Ilarion's eyes.

"Ready?"

Date: 2008-06-23 08:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Lasha lowered his gaze, watching the razor with detached and studious interest.

His nipples had stiffened at the touch of the coarse-soft brush, and were erect beneath the white swathe of soap. Perhaps the temperature, or the cool moisture had done it.

Or perhaps it was the automatic response to a mindful graze and a steady hand.

A broad, powerful, steady hand. The hand, he thought idly curious, that killed his sister's lover.

Oleksei was unusually close, braced against him at the half-loin, an expression of intense concentration on his broad-boned face.

The soft light in the bathroom made a fascinating interplay of Oleksei's features, which Lasha regarded circumspectly.

This close, he could smell the unique rough-sweet scent of this particular man. He was wearing cologne, or aftershave, of all things.

Ilarion's eyes angled downward once more, covert, considering the cant of the blade in Taras's ready fist.

"That's good," he breathed lightly, through his teeth. "Yes, I think so. you can get the best leverage that way."
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