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Taras Oleksei wondered when life had gotten so confusing.

He walked down the dimmed hall, his steps slowing, every one he took shorter than the last, as if he were slowly losing the will to move forward.

It was a good thing it was the middle of the night. No one was around to see his state of disarray. Taras' coat was unbuttoned and his shirt gaped open, and his tie hung loosely around his neck.

He supposed he looked like a guy who had just kissed another guy, and then gotten sucked off while lying back on a desk.

Taras' loins were still gratifyingly warm, the tension eased from his broad and tattooed shoulders. His lips felt funny, sort of swollen, but not entirely unpleasant.

Taras remembered a time in his life when things were simpler, when he didn't spend so much time thinking. Every decision was made in the moment, and there was no such thing as consequence.

He wondered if he had been happier.

Was he unhappy now? He tried not to think about Liadov, and what they had just done. Red Square had been easier to excuse. He'd been drunk and distracted. But this time, Taras knew that he'd wanted Liadov. It hadn't been an accident that Taras had kissed him.

Taras stopped in the hall, frowning, momentarily disoriented.

He hadn't been paying attention to where he was going. Now all doors looked the same. He took a few moments to orient himself. His room was not far away. He'd chosen the one at the end of the hall, but from this direction, it was the beginning. His, Anya's, and Lasha's rooms where here, as far from the naked chelovik's as possible.

Taras took his keys out of his pocket, hesitating, glancing to the side. His gaze skipped past Anya's room and lingered on Lasha's.

It was late. Lasha would no doubt be sleeping.

His chest cramped as he thought about Lasha.

Ilarion Aleksandrovich Isaev, his comrade.

Taras found himself wandering away from his room, and stopping in front of Lasha's. He leaned close. Taras couldn't hear anything in particular, but he knew Lasha slept quietly.

After a moment, he let his forehead rest against the door.

Taras felt like his mind was full of questions that he already knew the answers to, but didn't want to admit them.

The door felt cool against his forehead. He laid a gloved hand on the doorknob.

It was locked, not that he'd expected otherwise. Lasha kept everything that way.

Taras swallowed.

In the next moment, he eased back from the door, and took out his wallet. Inside were two small wood-handled paring knives he'd ground down to narrow picks in his father's workshop. The half-round tip pick had worked on the door to Liadov's office, and the locks on the guest quarters were exactly the same. Taras inserted the picks into the lock, working for only a few moments before he heard a soft click.

He put away his tools, and pushed open the door slowly. Obligingly, it did not creak. Taras opened it only wide enough for him to slip inside.

It was quiet and dark. Taras paused to let his eyes adjust.

August 2010

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