taras_oleksei: (Default)
"I don't get it," Taras said.

He was frowning as they walked, using the time to think. He actually lagged behind Isaev a little.

Ilarion never hurried anywhere, though today he strode down the hall, bootheels ringing with a clarity of purpose. Only Taras wasn't clear.

They passed a window. Outside, it was still foggy, a thick white mist that enclosed the MVD building like mountains of snow, insulating and isolating, as if they were in some remote place up north, not in civilized Leningrad. Taras didn't like not being able to see across the street.

He looked away, turning back to Isaev.

"This guy is under suspicion of..."

A secretary approached, clutching a stack of files to her chest. She stepped aside to let them pass, squeezing so close to the wall it seemed like she was afraid they would knock her aside. She murmured something as they walked by.

Taras glanced behind them, to make sure she was out of earshot, though he wasn't sure why.

"...muzhelostvo. And some other political shit."

Their destination loomed. The doors to the interrogation rooms were simple, marked with numbers, but nothing else. Almost benign.

Taras stopped at the first door, then imposed himself physically between it and Ilarion, putting his hand on the frame to block Isaev's entry. Ilarion looked at him as if he had finally noticed Taras was there. His eyes were narrow, slivers of ice. Taras stared back.

"This isn't a violent crime, Isaev. So what gives?"
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras decided to stop thinking about it.

As decisions went, it was just about the best one he could have made, falling somewhere in the vast black sea between pretending like it never happened and thinking about it all the time.

He was sitting in his chair in Ilarion’s office, staring out the window. Morning had hit with a vengeance, dawn breaking hard and bright over Leningrad’s streets a while ago, washing everything in orange-red hues. It hurt his eyes a little. He wondered if he was still hungover.

Ilarion was late, for some unknown but yet disquieting reason, and Taras was having trouble concentrating on work.

Taras couldn’t pretend like it never happened. He couldn’t. That kind of denial didn’t sit well with him, and he knew it never worked anyway. Soon or later, it caught up to you, and it always held a grudge. Like it never was. Those were Liadov’s words. Not his.

Thinking about it all the time would have been almost as bad. Maybe even worse. He couldn’t decide.

It was bad enough he’d already dreamed about it.

It had played out a lot like the way it had actually happened. He’d found Ilarion unconscious in his bed, drunk and unresponsive. Taras had stripped them both and then straddled Ilarion’s naked body, grinding out his erection between Ilarion’s lean thighs.

That part was the same, but in the dream, Ilarion had woken up.

Lasha’s eyes had opened suddenly, then narrowed, blazing white-hot and icy blue, though Taras hadn’t known if it was in anger or…

He let his head fall into his hands.

Stop thinking about it, he thought.

He heard the brisk click of high heels in the hallway and Anya came into Ilarion’s office, carrying a tea service for two. She sat it down on the desk, then turned to Taras, smiling.

“Well? How was it?”

Taras flinched, staring at her.

“What?”

Anya frowned then, and looked at him more carefully.

“The Winter Ball. You did go, didn’t you?”

“Oh,” he said, shaking himself, then again, “oh.”

Of course. The Winter Ball. The thing that had started it all in the first place.

Taras rubbed his face.

“Captain, are you all right?”

He nodded into his hands.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just…distracted. The Winter Ball was fine. It was great. Wonderful.”

There was a pause.

“I…see,” Anya said.

He glanced up, and she was looking at him, brows slightly furrowed. She walked to his chair and leaned down to put a cool hand on his forehead.

“Are you feeling all right? You look a little…”

Anya trailed off, pressing her lips together, still frowning lightly.

“I’m fine,” he said. “I just had too much to drink. At the ball.”

He tilted his head so he could look down her blouse, which made him feel a little better.

Anya sighed pointedly, then laughed and patted his cheek like a mother.

“I see. Would you like some tea, Captain?”

“I’ll wait for Isaev.”

“All right,” Anya said. She straightened and leaned back against Ilarion’s desk in front of him, the way Isaev sometimes did, looking at him for a few moments.

“Did something…” she started, then frowned and seemed to think better of whatever she’d been about to say.

“So, did you see a lot of different costumes? Were there any good ones?”

Taras remembered what she’d told him earlier, how Liadov would always tell her about the different costumes afterward. She’d seemed so animated about it, just like she’d been when she had helped him figure out what to wear. That was how he’d gotten the idea that she might want to go, so she could see them for herself.

Isaev hadn’t understood, when he’d suggested it. Ilarion had said that to do something for Anya would be to treat her like a whore, like an obligation to compensate her for her services.

It wasn’t like that at all, really, but Taras had been at a loss to explain what it was like.

After a moment, he nodded.

“Yeah. I saw…a cowboy. And a spaceman, and a few soldiers, and a sailor.”

Taras paused, thinking about it, trying to recall those first few hours at the Ball, when he’d stalked the halls alone. His impressions of that part of the night had faded, because the things that had happened later were a lot more vivid.

“And a doctor, and a priest, and…the Marquis de Sade.”

Anya blinked.

“Oh,” she said. “How did you know who it was?”

“Isaev told me.”

“Oh. Well, I guess he would know.”

Taras frowned, and looked up at her.

Anya’s cheeks flushed suddenly.

“I mean…Major Isaev is…”

She hesitated, seeming to search for the words.

“…very knowledgeable,” she finished, finally.

“Yeah,” Taras said, slowly.

It was quiet. Anya examined a nail, then brushed at the finish with her thumb.

After a few moments, she looked up again.

“So…did you notice what any of the women were wearing?”

“Of course,” Taras said, immediately. “I was looking at women the whole time.”

“Well, of course you were, Captain,” Anya said, just as quickly. “I was just…wondering, that’s all.”

“Right.”

Taras fell silent, thinking furiously. He remembered a herd of women, all in different dresses. Maybe it was like Isaev’s costume, and they were all supposed to be someone specific, but the subtleties had been lost on him.

His jaw tightened, but then he remembered the woman that Isaev had been smacking across the ass with his riding crop.

“There was a ballerina,” he said.

He looked at Anya. “Yeah. And…a bunch of tsarinas, or something. Dresses and little crowns.”

Anya smiled, encouragingly. She leaned over and gave his arm a squeeze.

“Well, that sounds nice. It must have been a little difficult, since you really don’t know anyone. But I’m sure next year it’ll be a lot easier.”

He nodded, then looked up at her, noticing for the first time that she was wearing her hair more like how Isaev had fixed it after that morning they’d fucked her. Swept back from her face. Less like Hitler.

“You look nice today,” he told her.

“Oh.” Anya smiled, patting her hair, almost self-consciously. “Thank you for saying so, Captain.”

“Your hair looks nice.”

“Oh, thank you. I fixed it a little differently.”

He nodded.

“Liadov was there,” Taras said, suddenly.

Anya’s lips fell open slightly, and he could see conflict behind her eyes.

“Oh. I see. Was he…did he…”

She hesitated.

“He used to be your boss.”

“Yes.”

“Was he good to you?”

“Well…yes. He was. Very good.”

There was more that she wasn’t saying, Taras could tell, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to hear about it all. At the same time, it was like one of their cases, a mystery to be solved. The facts were there, typed out in black and white, but on that report, there were also dozens of blank spaces for the things he didn’t know.

Liadov. Saint Nika. Don José.

“I miss him,” Anya volunteered, almost reluctantly.

Taras didn’t say anything.

She looked at him.

“Do you know if he and Major Isaev…got the chance to talk?”

“I don’t think it went well.”

“Oh.”

Anya looked down, and seemed sad, like he’d said something hurtful, though after a few moments, she looked up, smiling again.

“Well, I suppose these things happen. I’ll let you get back to your work, Captain. I’m sure the Major will be here soon.”

She left. After a few moments, Taras looked out the window, and a motion, something familiar, caught his gaze. He leaned forward to look outside and down at the street. There was Isaev, strolling up to the MVD building, casual and unhurried. Like he’d woken up in the morning, business as usual, nothing in particular on his mind.

Taras glanced down at his paperwork.

Business as usual seemed like the best way to go about it.

He could do that.

Decisions

Mar. 15th, 2008 12:14 am
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras stared out the window, leaning his chin against his hand, frowning.

A report sat on his desk, flipped open, but unread. His work was usually more than enough to hold his attention, but today he found himself distracted.

“Captain?”

Taras looked up to see Anya standing in the doorway to his office, holding a stack of files against her chest like a shy schoolgirl carrying books to shield her from the world.

“I brought those files you requested.”

Taras smiled and leaned back in his chair.

“Have I told you lately that you’re a sweetheart?”

She glanced down, blushing a little as she came in and set the files down on his desk.

“I seem to remember that, Captain,” Anya said.

Taras liked that he could still make her blush in spite of everything that had happened in Ilarion’s office the other day. He had wondered if it would be awkward afterward, but Anya had been just as efficient and kind as ever.

Like nothing had happened, though she was no longer afraid of him.

He’d had to think about that one for a while, but then he’d decided he liked that too.

“Well, good. Thank you, Anya,” he told her.

“Of course,” she said, pleasantly brisk, and moved to the door.

Taras reached to pick up one of the files, flipping through the paperwork she’d brought, even though he was sure it was all there. Anya never got anything wrong, at least not as far as he could tell.

After a few moments he realized that she hadn’t left yet.

He looked up again. Anya was lingering at the door, looking at him, her brow creased lightly.

“Is…everything all right?” she asked, sounding hesitant.

She took an apologetic step forward.

“You seem distracted, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

“I don’t.”

Taras sat back in his seat, and let out a sigh.

“Maybe I can run something past you and see what you think.”

“Yes, of course, Captain.”

Anya closed the door behind her and stood in front of his desk attentively, but he gestured at her to sit down. Anya moved to a chair and swept her black skirt underneath her, crossing her legs as she sat. Deliberately, Taras leaned to the side to ogle.

She blushed again, but then gave him a pointed look, the kind his sisters gave him when he teased them too much.

“It’s about this…costume ball,” he started, slowly. “The one next week.”

“Oh!” Anya brightened. “Yes! Major Liadov – ”

She broke off, hesitating, looking at him carefully. Like she expected him to have the same reaction to that name as Isaev did. Taras wasn’t sure what he thought about Liadov, but he knew he didn’t mind talking about the guy with Anya.

Taras raised his brows.

“Major Liadov…?”

“Oh, I was just going to say that Major Liadov enjoyed going to those. He would tell me about the costumes everyone wore.”

Anya sounded more subdued.

“Anyway…I think you’ll have a good time. What are you going to go as?”

Taras picked up a pen, and used it to scoot a stray paperclip across his desk.

“Well, that’s what I was…”

He paused, gesturing vaguely.

“I hadn’t decided yet,” he finished.

“Oh. Well, what are your options so far?” Anya asked, helpfully.

“Yeah. Well, I’m still…”

There was silence.

“Oh,” Anya said then. “Well, if it’s not too presumptuous of me, maybe I can suggest something. I’m sure what you had in mind would be splendid, of course, but it never hurts to have options.”

Taras tried not to nod too quickly.

“Options, yeah, sure. Sounds good.”

In truth, the idea of the masquerade ball had plagued him since he’d first heard about it, but he hadn’t said no. Not with Isaev sitting there so blithely, acting like it was the most normal thing in the world.

Taras knew how to dress nice, put on a suit and tie, how to choose the subtle colors that flattered without being too ostentatious. Grey, black, dark blue. He could handle all of that. He even knew how to dress up black-tie.

But this whole matter of dressing up in costume had distressed him. What was he supposed to dress as, something that wouldn’t make him look like a complete fool? He’d heard other people talking about it in the office – a sailor, one said, and another said a czar, and yet another, an American cowboy.

Taras had no idea if they were joking or being serious, and there was no way he was going to ask Isaev for help.

It had even started to keep him up at nights, thinking about it, wondering what he was supposed do.

Anya was looking at him speculatively, a frown of concentration on her brow. She tapped her carefully-trimmed and lacquered nails idly against her lip as she thought.

“Well…what about…a gladiator?”

“A gladiator,” Taras repeated.

Anya smiled.

“It’s very strong and masculine, isn’t it? A warrior who makes his living fighting other men to the death? It would be perfect with your hair.”

Taras wasn’t sure what that last was supposed to mean, but the rest sounded pretty good to him.

“What does it look like? I mean, the costume.”

Anya beamed suddenly. “Wait right here!”

She sprang from her chair and hurried out of his office, leaving him sitting there, a bit bemused, in her wake. A few minutes later, she came back, carrying two heavy books.

Taras stood up to help her set them down on his desk. Encyclopedias, he saw, from the reference room. She flipped through the thick, glossy pages.

“Here.”

Anya turned the book around and showed him the picture.

Taras frowned.

“That looks like a skirt.”

“It’s not a skirt,” Anya said. “It’s part of his armor. It’s what they wore back then. I think it’s very masculine, especially for someone as – ”

She broke off.

“Well. I’m sure you’re in very good shape, Captain.”

He smirked at that.

“Yeah, well, it also has bare arms and legs. That’s not going to work.”

Anya looked at him, frowning inquisitively. Taras hesitated, then pushed up his right sleeve to show her the edge of his snake-and-dagger tattoo.

Her eyes widened.

“Oh,” she said.

“That’s not the only one.”

“Ohhhh,” Anya said, again.

She looked at him, and for a moment, he thought he almost saw that old fear, the way she’d given him timid mouse-eyed looks before. But the expression was fleeting, and quickly replaced by a small, warm smile, the way she looked at him now.

Maybe he’d just imagined it.

“Well, we’ll just have to think of something else then,” Anya said briskly, in a way that reminded him of his mother.

She turned the book around and began to flip through it again. He waited, trying to think of something helpful to say, make a suggestion, something he’d thought of already, but he was at a loss.

“What about an American cowboy?” she asked.

“…no. I don’t think so.”

“Hmm…a soldier? You look good in uniform, Captain.”

Taras thought about the Evropeiskaya, the soldiers that had loitered in the parlour, smoking and casting jaded smirks in his and Ilarion’s direction.

His shoulders twitched.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

Anya nodded absently, still focused on the encyclopedia.

“What about a vampire?”

“Isn’t that…bad luck?”

Anya looked up, her pale eyes clear and unexpectedly amused.

“Captain, are you superstitious?”

“No,” he said, shaking his head quickly. “No, of course not. I just thought – ”

Anya pressed her lips together.

“You’re not pale enough. Of course, what was I thinking? That’s entirely wrong for you.”

“Right,” Taras muttered.

“A pirate.”

“Too much skin.”

“A convict?”

He looked at her.

“What do convicts look like?”

Anya opened her mouth, and no words came out. Her face flushed.

“Captain – I didn’t mean – ”

For a few seconds it seemed like she was going to say something else, then she seemed to think better of it and cleared her throat.

“I suppose you’re right,” she said, evenly. “No one would be able to tell what you were. You need something that’s easier…what about a doctor?”

Taras thought about that one.

“Huh. Maybe.”

Anya was already shaking her head.

“No…on second thought, I don’t think I like that for you. It should be more manly, if you don’t mind me saying so, Captain. Something a little more exciting. Let’s see…a priest…no, an astronaut, no, a devil…too obvious. I suppose you could be one of the Greek gods, though I think that usually involves at least bare arms…A prince…no. A pharaoh…maybe. You could be a chicken…”

“I thought it was supposed to be manly.”

“Well. Or another kind of animal, I mean. Like a lion or a rooster, or a bull – oh!”

“What?”

He leaned forward, trying to get a look, but she was flipping through pages too rapidly.

“No, I just had an idea…let me see if there’s a picture. Oh, here! Look. What do you think?”

Anya turned the encyclopedia again to show him the picture of a man wearing snug red pants with fancy gold designs down the sides. He had a crisp white shirt, and a gold and red jacket, also fancy, and a strange-looking black hat.

“What is it?”

“He’s a matador.”

“A matador?”

“A bullfighter. He has a red cape – see? Here. And he waves it, and challenges the bull to charge him. They he gets out of the way, because he’s smart and quick and strong.”

“And then what happens?”

Anya paused.

“Oh. I don’t really know. I think he’s supposed to kill it, eventually. Matador means ‘killer.’”

“Really?” Taras asked.

“Yes. Though that seems terrible, doesn’t it?”

Taras raised his brows.

“I guess so. People really do that?”

“Well, mostly in Spain. Matadors are heroes to the people. Unafraid of anything.”

“Huh,” Taras said.

He rubbed his jaw, looking at the picture.

Anya smiled then.

“What do you think?”

“You’re sure that red’s not too fancy?”

“Oh no. That’s the color they use on purpose. Bulls get angry when the see red. They charge at it. At least, that’s what someone told me.”

Taras didn’t know what people Anya was talking to, because no one had ever told him anything like that. But he supposed Anya must have had a lot of book-learning as well, and just knew things he didn’t.

He shrugged.

“You sure those pants aren’t too tight?”

Anya looked up at him, her gaze unreadable for a moment.

“Trust me, Captain. I think they should be just fine.”

Taras looked back at the picture.

“All right. A matador it is.”

“Wonderful!”

Anya got up and picked up the encyclopedias again. Taras tried to help her, but she shooed him away.

“Don’t worry, I’ll arrange for the costume and make sure you get it in time,” she said as she walked to the door. “It’s a wonderful choice. Major Isaev – ”

She paused at the door.

“Well, I don’t suppose you’ll be telling him what you chose beforehand, will you?”

Taras blinked.

“Well…no,” he said.

Anya nodded vigorously.

“Oh good. You’ll be wearing a mask, you see, and no one will know who you are. It’ll be very exotic and mysterious. I think you’ll enjoy yourself, Captain.”

Taras nodded, slowly, sitting back, finding himself glad for Anya’s input. He didn’t know how she’d managed to come up with so many ideas in just a few minutes, or figure out what would be best for him, but he guessed that was all part of her job.

“Thank you, Anya. For your advice.”

Anya smiled.

“It’s always my pleasure, Captain,” she said as she left.

Rituals

Feb. 26th, 2008 11:02 am
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras sat in the leather wing chair in Ilarion's office, paging through a file, waiting.

It was still dark outside, and the MVD building was quiet, save for the distant odd knocks of the radiators.

Taras had found he liked arriving early, unlocking the door, being in the office before anyone else got there. He stalked through building like a burglar, navigating dark halls lit only by the predawn glow that outlined each window he passed.

Isaev seemed to prefer coming into work early as well. The first time Isaev had arrived to find Taras already there he'd seemed almost startled, but had invited Taras into his office to review current files over hot tea.

Now, it had become Taras' habit to skip his office and go straight to Isaev's, leaving the overhead lights alone but turning on the desk lamp to illuminate the room in soft and subtle radiance.

It made the room a small inviting beacon in the dark building. Ilarion's office was always warmer than his, anyway, and had a better view.

He rubbed his jaw idly as he read. The livid black and purple bruises that had graced his jaw all week had finally faded to dull browns and yellows.

Their most current case was a homicide that had all the earmarks of a professional hit. Double tap to the back of the head, execution style. No witnesses, little evidence. The shooter had even picked up the spent bullet casings.

Taras nodded in to himself absently, in approval.

He tossed the file aside. The case wasn't worth their time, in his opinion. Isaev would probably concur.

There was a special section in the file room for cold cases. Taras had amused himself on a slow afternoon by looking up a few of his old hits, the ones he remembered well enough to pinpoint. All unsolved, all with brief, vague notes from the investigating officers, as if they hadn't been bothered to put much effort in, either.

Taras had stood there in front of the file cabinet, laughing quietly until Anya had come upon him and asked if everything was all right. He had told her that she smelled nice, and she had found something else to do.

He picked up the next file, pausing to glance out the window. It was still mostly dark, but Isaev would be arriving shortly, he knew.

August 2010

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