Aug. 5th, 2009 02:51 pm
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[personal profile] taras_oleksei
Taras lay in his bed, and thought he could still smell Lasha.

He had woken up alone again that morning.

It had been full dark yet. He'd lain quietly in bed for a moment, groggy and disoriented, listening to the wind hiss between buildings outside, reaching for the cool sheets next to him.

Lasha was sick, he had recalled, almost immediately.

That had given him the impetus to get out of bed. He'd looked at the clock. It was well past three. Taras got dressed, and went looking for Lasha.

He wondered which he was getting more used to: expecting Lasha to be there when he woke, or finding that he was alone instead. He supposed one went with the other.

He'd swung by their office first, then on a strange hunch, Liadov's. Both were empty. The mess hall had been Taras' third or fourth possibility, and it was there that he had found Lasha.

But Lasha had not been alone. He'd been sitting at a table with Liadov.

Isaev and Liadov in their grey uniforms, sitting across from each other, like comrades.

Fancy pricks, both of them, tall and blond haired. Lasha was arctic smooth and sleek while Liadov was more languid and sensual.

The sight of them together had made Taras feel strange inside, and his chest ached with an emotion that was not quite anger, or anything else he had a name for.

Taras had stood in the doorway, watching them for a while, mismatched gaze fixed and ravenous.

Eventually, he had turned away, and left them.

He had seen Lasha, later that day, looking a little pale but carrying himself with unthinking grace, as always. More or less normal. It was the less that worried Taras, but he hadn't seen any sign of Ilarion faltering.

Taras had hit the gym hard that evening, then showered and eaten, like usual.

Now, he lay awake in the darkness, thinking.

Finally he got out of bed, and pulled on his pants, and a clean undershirt, and grabbed a newly-acquired bottle of cognac off the counter.

His door was one down from Lasha's.

Taras knocked on Isaev's door.

"It's me, Lashka."
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Date: 2009-08-06 12:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
The knock at the door was familiar enough that he knew who it was even before Oleksei identified himself.

Oleksei. That was good. He craved distraction.

Ilarion glanced up from the novel he'd been trying to read. He hadn't been able to focus for long, and the pages seemed lithe and alive with meaningless print. It was too quiet at night in Tselinoyarsk, muffled in snow and mountains.

He didn't necessarily miss the sounds of passing cars on the street far below his apartment in Leningrad. He didn't necessarily miss ambient noise.

What he found he rather missed was radio, which there was no way to receive in this godforsaken end place.

It was too quiet and his mind was too loud.

Ilarion set down the book and rose to his full height. He was wearing black silk pajama bottoms beneath a heavy, luxurious camel-colored cashmere robe.

Somehow Tselinoyarsk had felt colder this evening, as well.

He reached the door and slid open the chain lock and deadbolt, opening the door without the formality of his Tokarev.

Taras stood in the hall, bottle in hand, dressed down for the evening, looking intent but not particularly driven or purposeful.

His massive form was framed by the door. His mismatched eyes gazed at Ilarion, inscrutable and penetrating.

Lasha studied him only for a transient moment.

"Good evening, Oleksei," he said, his voice modulated and rich like cream. "Do come in."

Date: 2009-08-06 05:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com

Taras stepped inside. He could not help but shoot a quick glance around the room, but quickly determined that Lasha was alone. That was good.

He was a little surprised at how much the discovery relaxed him.

He turned back to Ilarion.

Lasha was dressed for bed already. He looked casual yet elegant in a soft-looking robe and silk pajama bottoms. His short hair was neat and smooth, and he smelled clean, like he'd just taken a shower.

"How are you feeling?" he asked, eyeing Lasha up and down. "You look a lot better."

Lasha's skin had regained its natural, ivory-toned glow, free from the sickly flush of his fever, or the sallowness of its aftermath.

Taras paused, heavy brow knotting.

"You were pretty sick yesterday. I don't know if you remember much."

Date: 2009-08-06 07:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion laughed quietly, subdued.


He crossed to the cabinet, tapered fingers seeking the shapes of glassware deep back on the shelf.

Turning around once more, he set them down on the bar.

"It's all a blur, to be perfectly honest."

Lasha's eyes traced slowly down Oleksei's body.

"Forgive me. I assume you're offering..."

His gaze flicked indolently to the bottle in Taras' punishing fist.

"...a taste of your nectar."

Date: 2009-08-06 06:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras went still, nostrils flaring as he exhaled.

"Da, right," he said, after a moment. "Here."

He held out the bottle belatedly. It was not Isaev's brand, but it was not the watered-down shit that his father distributed, either. It would do.

The faintest of subtle quirks curved at the corner of Ilarion's lips.

"You are feeling better," Taras muttered.

Taras turned away, looking around. The room was tidy, as he had come to expect from Isaev, with all his clothes and personal effects neatly stored away. No suitcases lying on the floor like in Taras' room. Taras thought he should probably try to be a little neater, for Isaev's sake.

There was a book sitting on an endtable, as if he'd interrupted Isaev while reading.

He looked back at Isaev.

"Thought we could have a nightcap before bed. We haven't had time to talk shop much, the past few days."

Date: 2009-08-06 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
"Kanyeshna," Ilarion replied.

He glanced at the label on the cognac bottle, then poured them each a generous shot.

He slid one of the glasses across toward Oleksei.

It had been a low-key day at the base, and they had spent it auditing in their offices. No confrontations, no demands, no interviews, no threats. No visitors, unexpected or otherwise.

It seemed that everyone else had done likewise.

Lasha didn't mind. Paperwork had suited his recovering mien just fine, and if he still didn't acknowledge Anya's existence when she brought in their tea, he was happy to see the tea itself on such a grey afternoon.

"We were very efficient today. Pleased me a good deal."

Halfway through the day, in the interest of fairness, Ilarion had traded Liadov's neatly rendered reports to Taras in exchange for Lieutenant Rakitin's unintelligible madhand. Oleksei had been dealing with Rakitin's reports the entire trip thus far, which was surely making his head hurt; not only were they messy, dense and scrawling, but self-referential in a way that was difficult to decipher were you not, say, sitting catbird in Rakitin's cerebellum. In addition to that, as forensic reports, they were heavily specialized. Taras had applied himself manfully to sorting the jumbled stack and then dutifully to reviewing them, but after almost a week Ilarion had taken pity on him.

Ilarion caught up the glass in his hand and motioned vaguely to Oleksei.

He crossed back to the pair of chairs that sat before the ceramic stove and sank into one of them, nursing his drink to his lips.

"At this rate, our business here will be concluded in no time. Then we can return to Leningrad."

Date: 2009-08-06 09:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
"Da. That would be good."

Taras took his cognac and his seat, settling in the chair next to Isaev.

He found that he thought of home less and less now, though not because he was getting used to Tselinoyarsk or even that he was adjusting to being away that well. Taras had found that it was simply better not to think of it, like when he was in Magadan. And so he did not.

Even though Lasha had been right, and the important thing was that they were together, Taras wanted them to be together back home, instead.

He wondered how Barshai was doing. He thought maybe he should call him again.

Taras sipped at the cognac, which was not bad.

"What about Andrusha?"

He looked at Ilarion.

"We can finish this audit, sure, and we can bury the pathologist, but what are we going to do about your brother? Is Liadov going to try to fuck with you on that?"

Date: 2009-08-06 10:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Lasha looked down, twisting the MVD ring on his hand with a careless gesture.

"No, Taras, I don't think so."

He paused.

"He doesn't want Andrei to hang for this any more than I do."

Lasha kept his gaze low, contemplative, as he reached for his cognac once more.

"And if he does...invoke the rule of law...well, I shall simply have to twist the proper channels accordingly so that we both save face."

He shrugged.

"And ultimately, he can't go against Aleksandr. If he does....he risks more than his morality."

Lasha glanced up.

"He knows that, Tarashik. He's highminded and principled, but he's not stupid."

Oleksei's gaze was solid, intent.

"We have this in the pocket. We'll enfold him in our grey wings, and then...we'll simply lift him away. It's just a matter of when."

Date: 2009-08-06 11:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras made a rumbling noise of assent, and sat back in his chair.


It was settled then, if Lasha said it was.

He stared at the stove.

Taras had noticed that Ilarion spoke with a confidence about the situation that he had not earlier, not exactly. Though some of the words were the same, the manner in which Lasha said them now was laced with an unthinking assurance.

Taras thought about what he had seen in the mess hall for a moment, and wondered what Isaev and Liadov had said to each other.

"Are you still mad?" he asked, abruptly.

After a second he looked at Lasha, his brow low and conflicted.

"At Liadov, I mean. Or are you going to be comrades again?"

Date: 2009-08-06 11:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Lasha's lips parted in a rare moment of oblique surprise.

"Why..." he began, taken aback.

Ilarion glanced to the side, lowering his gaze. His finger came up to rub his lower lip, lightly.

"Well, perhaps we can table a truce, Major Liadov and I. This is just business. Rationality wins out, eventually, in matters like these."

He shrugged.

"We want the same thing, ultimately. We shouldn't work at cross-purposes."

Lasha took a measured sip of cognac.

"We never have before."

Date: 2009-08-07 04:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
"Da," Taras said, quietly. "You should be comrades again."

It was not exactly what Lasha had affirmed, but Taras thought one thing would probably follow the other.

A truce, to a reconciliation.

He glanced away. After a second, he took in a long breath, and let it out, his broad chest working like a bellows.

Coming to Tselinoyarsk had changed more than one thing, irrevocably. Taras thought other things might be different in ways he didn't even know yet.

Maybe that was all right. Taras didn't know.

He savored his cognac, falling silent for a few moments.

"What are we going to do when we get back to Leningrad, Lasha?" he murmured, finally.

Taras leaned back in his chair, stretching out his legs in front of him.

His gaze lowered, almost drowsily.

"I want to go somewhere when we get back. I don't like the lack of cultural shit here. We should go to the opera. Or the theatre. Or go to a museum or a gallery, or to one of your fancy restaurants. I want to do something good."

He snorted, lightly.

"It's almost too bad I don't really feel like fucking whores anymore."

Date: 2009-08-07 05:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Lasha laughed, abruptly, amused, pulling his glass away from his lips.

"You don't feel like fucking whores?"

The idea was so ludicrous as to make him almost giddy.

"You can't be serious."

Then he sobered slightly.

"If not whores, Oleksei, what do you feel like?"

He glanced at Taras, gaze faintly arch but unassuming.

Date: 2009-08-07 07:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
"I - "

Taras shut his mouth, abruptly.

He realized with faint horror that he had told Lasha that last night, and even though Ilarion had seemed lucid at the time, it was clear now that he had not been. The news had gone over better before.

Taras was not sure what had possessed him to say it, now.

He swallowed the rest of his cognac.

"I just..." Taras averted his gaze, eyes flicked back and forth, rapidly. "I'm tired of them. It's always the same. I'm going to give it a rest for a while."

He shrugged helplessly.

"That's all I meant. That happens to you sometimes too, da?"

Date: 2009-08-07 07:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Lasha stared, fascinated.

"No," he said. "Never."

He held Oleksei's gaze for far too long, then relented, laughing.

"Oh relax, Taras. If you don't like whores, we won't have whores."

He shrugged, taking another sip of cognac.

"It's as simple as that."

After a moment Ilarion tilted his head, considering.

"...I don't have much use for them anymore, frankly. I prefer more...intimate assignations."

Date: 2009-08-07 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
"Right," Taras said.

He didn't know that word. Assignations. He could guess at what it meant from the context, but he also knew that his guesses weren't always correct. And sometimes meanings were more subtly layered.

He would have to look it up later. Taras decided it was probably better not to ask now.

Taras was silent for a second.

There had been a time when he liked nothing but whores. It disturbed him a little to think of how it had changed. He wondered when it had, exactly.

"Remember the Winter Ball?" he asked, a low frown thickening his brow.

He turned to look at Lasha, who gazed back at him, gaze mild and posture relaxed. That was what Ilarion was like in his company. Comfortable, the way old comrades were.

"Maybe you don't remember, Lasha. You got drunk. I carried you home. That's when I knew you trusted me."

Date: 2009-08-07 06:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
"Of course I trust you, Taras," Ilarion said, mildly, fingers playing along the rim of his glass. "It would be ridiculous to invite a right hand man and accord him an enemy."

Lasha shrugged.

"My father has always trusted your father."

At least, he thought, to the point that their dealings extended. Ilarion wasn't actually sure how far that was.

He frowned.

"Although...I think we are not the same as they are. Perhaps the trust...is different."

Lasha glanced at Oleksei, sidewise.

"And you trust me, da?"

Date: 2009-08-07 10:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras held Lasha's gaze, his mismatched eyes steady and solemn.

"Da," he said, with a single nod. "Like no one else, Lasha."

He thought about what Lasha had said. Aleksandr would be wise not to trust Cheslav the way Lasha trusted Taras, if Cheslav treated his friends anywhere close to the way he treated his son.

Taras made a noise in the back of his throat, low and disgruntled. He narrowed his eyes.

"Guess your father wouldn't be happy if I killed my father, huh. Guess I shouldn't."

He paused, then looked up.

"I want to, though. I've been thinking about it ever since you told me about what he did."

Date: 2009-08-07 11:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion studied him for a long time in the low light.

Then he steepled his fingers, gracile, leisurely.

"If you decide to knock off the old man," he said, carefully, "you should be ready to take on his mantle. That, or to install someone in his place who will answer to you."

Lasha paused.

"If you want Cheslav dead for what he did to you, Taras, my lips are sealed. I don't blame you. No matter his intent, it was an unconscionable thing for a father to do to his son. Were I in your place, I would feel the same."

His lips smoothed into a genial gesture, abetting.

"If Aleksandr found out, he would be displeased. But there are many things that Aleksandr does not know."

Ilarion glanced down at his glass of cognac and found it nearly empty, but for amber remnants.

He was silent for some time, letting the pause steep.

He kept his eyes down, as he carelessly smoothed the flawless lapel of his robe.

"On the other hand, they say that living well is the best revenge."

Date: 2009-08-08 08:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras was silent for a few moments, gaze flickering, then abruptly pushed out of his chair.

He crossed to the bar to retrieve the cognac, pausing there, staring at the bottle in his hand. Anger roiled through his chest, pulsing with every breath.

After a few seconds, he gave a sharp shake of his head.

"You're right," he muttered. "I am living well now, and that's something he doesn't have."

His shoulders rose and fell in a deep sigh, then he turned around. Taras returned to where they were sitting, and poured them both a refill.

He handed Lasha his glass.

"I don't want what my father built. His business, or empire, or whatever you want to call it. I left that life for this one. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

He looked up at Lasha then.

"You don't have to worry. I won't do it."

Taras nodded slowly.

"...I'm a MENT now. My place is at your side."

Date: 2009-08-08 09:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion accepted the cognac with a nod.

He paused.

"You know, Taras, that I'm not worried. Even if you determined that you needed to neutralize your father, it isn't my place to intervene."

Lasha's eyes swept upward.

"I'd back you on it. You may depend on it."

He leaned back, languid, basking in the heat from the stove. In the company, and the cognac.

"That said, I think this is the preferable course. Embrace your new power, your new horizons. Become all that you want to become, pursue everything that you desire."

Part of him was surprised to hear Oleksei, the Prince of Rubble, cast off his blatnoy inheritance with such vehement decisiveness. Yet another part of him thought it was well in line with everything he knew of Taras so far.

"You are a MENT, Oleksei. And you're my Captain. He can't touch you. He can't influence you. He can't betray you."

Lasha smiled slowly.

"What more can I give you?"

Date: 2009-08-08 06:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras' eyes flicked down for a moment, and he glanced at Ilarion's chest.

He could just see the border of one of the curving lines he'd inked on Lasha's smooth skin, under the finely-made robe. The contrast of blackest black on ivory was pleasing to his eye, as was the thought he was the one who had put it there, like a signature.

He took another sip of his drink, then set the glass aside and got out of his chair.

Taras stood over Lasha for a moment, looming over him, his eyes running over the whole of Lasha's form, appreciating him like artwork, taking in the fine details. The arches at the ends of his brows, the fullness of his lower lip, somehow slightly at odds with the sharp planes of the rest of his face. His delicate collarbone. His graceful fingers.

After a few seconds, Taras leaned forward, bracing his hand on the back of the chair.

"You've already given me everything, Lasha."

It occurred to Taras that perhaps that was not true. Perhaps it was that Lasha had given him everything that was his to give, and what remained was -

Taras stopped the thought before he could follow it.

Instead, he reached down and pulled at the sash of Ilarion's robe, undoing it. He pushed back the edges to expose the full design of the tattoo on Lasha's chest.

"That's better," he murmured.

Date: 2009-08-08 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
"You deserve everything, Oleksei," Ilarion replied, gazing evenly at the hulking form who leaned over him.

After a moment he glanced down at his bared chest.

"You like..." he began, then he broke off, bemusedly, stroking his chin, something coming back to him.

You like to look at me.

He glanced up, sharply, scanning Oleksei's face, trying to read what was written there.

"Did I...say...anything...significant...last night...Taras?"

Date: 2009-08-08 08:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras went still, gaze flicking away.


All he could think about was what Lasha had said about his mother. How her ghost had appeared to him, to give him advice and comfort. Only Ilarion had not called her a ghost, even though it seemed clear he had remembered she was dead.

He thought Lasha would be angry at him, to learn of what he said said. As if Taras had caused the affront, merely by being there when Lasha had spoken of it freely.

"No...not...really," Taras said, slowly.

He leaned back a little, to give Lasha some space, but he did not take his hand off the chair.

"You were pretty feverish. You said a lot of things that didn't make sense. Some shit about paperclips and pineapples."

Taras paused.

"And, you know, other things. But I knew you were pretty out of it. I didn't take it serious."

Except for the part about Isaeva, Taras thought. That had seemed too real to write off completely.

He turned his gaze back to Lasha's, his mismatched gaze hesitant.

"Why do you ask? Do you remember saying...something?"

Date: 2009-08-09 07:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Lasha gazed at him steadily.

"Da," he said. "Actually, I do recall a few exchanges."

He paused, rubbing a hand slowly over his own chest, now exposed. Even now, the faint outlines of the tattoo sometimes raised so that they were palpable beneath his fingertips, and sometimes lay flat. It seemed to be a largely random event, from day to day.

"I remember telling you something."

Ilarion's lips drew outward in something that might pass for a smile.

"Something somewhat private. Inter nos."

He gestured slightly with his fingers.

"So tell me, Taras...did I hallucinate your reply? Or do you still like to look at me?"

The raise of his eyebrow was entirely wry.

Date: 2009-08-09 09:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras felt relief flood through him.

It seemed that Isaev did not remember saying anything about his mother, which was good. It struck Taras as funny that now, the other part of the conversation seemed not as bad in comparison.

"Da," he said, but he still could not meet Isaev's eyes as he said it.

He was quiet for a few seconds.

Taras knew he liked to look at Lasha. He thought Lasha was his favorite person to look at, for a lot of reasons.

He looked back at Ilarion, letting his eyes run over his smooth chest to the lightly rippled muscle of his stomach.

"I like seeing you naked," he said in a low voice, his words rushed together. "You're put together nice."

Taras pressed his lips together, and stood there for a moment.

He had the feeling he should not say such things, but he had gone and said them anyway.

"Like art. You look like art, Lasha. I like that."

Date: 2009-08-09 09:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion' chest heaved softly as he absorbed the words, bolder and more unguarded than he would have expected from Oleksei, with his ruthless, incredulous aggression.

His defensive stance, default, as far as Lasha had surmised.

He did not look defensive now.

Unsure of how he was being received, perhaps. Apprehensive. Conflicted- though not over his own words, it was worth marking; no, he seemed more concerned with the fallout of their utterance.

Lasha took a slow sip of cognac, without turning his head, keeping his eyes trained on Oleksei all the while.

After swallowing, he set it down once more, with a nearly soundless clink of glass.

"You please me, Taras," he said, softly. Lightly. "Don't ever stop."

Date: 2009-08-09 07:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taras-oleksei.livejournal.com
Taras looked up, and met Isaev's gaze hesitantly.

Ilarion's eyes were mild and fond. It was a benign expression for Lasha. Maybe unguarded, a look that was just for Taras. It made him feel warm.

"Da, okei," he whispered. "I can do that."

He exhaled. He needed a drink.

Taras pulled back slowly and grabbed his cognac. He too a deep sip and savored it, letting the warmth and flavor suffuse him. It was good, for not being Isaev's brand. Some notes were familiar and some were not, though he did not have a name for any of them.

He set down the glass and pulled his chair closer. Taras wanted to be near Isaev but he would hurt him if he tried to sit in his chair.

"It's going to be your birthday soon, isn't it?"

He remembered, from when they were children.

"We should do something."
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