Doubt

Aug. 2nd, 2010 02:26 pm
taras_oleksei: (Black and White)
In his dreams, it always happened the same.

Where it started didn’t seem to matter, in the barracks or sometimes the mess hall or the yard. Once, he was even in the showers.

Wherever he was, he would be suddenly seized by the fear that he had forgotten to secure the workroom, and sure enough, when he rushed back to check, he always found the door ajar.

Always.

He would stare at that door with round, mismatched eyes, thinking of Drachev.

Drachev, who languished in his cot, all alone in that room, defenseless, wounded.

He never wanted to see what was beyond that door, to find out what had happened because of his inattention. It was just a mistake, that was all. But he knew that someone could have gotten in, and done something to Drachev.

Slowly, he would reach out toward the door handle.

And that was when he always woke up, heart pounding, sweating.

Taras Oleksei didn’t like those dreams.

So now he always double-checked the door, just to make sure. And then he checked it again, not because he thought something had changed in the intervening seconds, but because he wanted to make sure he remembered checking it, so he would never have that moment of panic while awake.

Taras gave the handle a solid rattle before he stepped away.

There was someone standing behind him when he turned around.

Pure instinct drove his reaction, a rush of adrenaline and aggression. He made a fist and was swinging before he realized it was Korzaknenk.

Korzaknenk, whose eyes went wide as he cursed and scrambled back.

Taras checked his momentum and managed to miss.

Korzaknenk gaped at him.

“What the fuck, Oleksei!”

He stared at Taras, narrow-eyed and breathing shallowly, a vicious curl to his scarred lip.

“What’s wrong with you? I was just coming over to talk.”

Taras shook himself, scowling.

“Don’t sneak up on me. One day, I might not stop in time.”

Korzaknenk muttered something under his breath.

“What?”

“Nothing.” Korzaknenk was glancing around them. Taras realized that a couple of muzhiks were watching them, having paused mid-conversation. As he glared at them, they averted their gazes.

“What do you want?” Taras asked.

Korzaknenk looked at him, then stepped closer, smiling now in that way he did, lip twisted, a glint in his eyes.

“I just came over to talk. So is your bitch healed up yet?”

“Don’t call him that.”

Korzaknenk laughed.

“He is your bitch, isn’t he? What else are you going to call him?”

Taras shuddered. At his sides, his fists tightened.

“Drachev. You call him Drachev, same as before. His name is Drachev. You call him anything else, and I’ll fucking punch you.”

Korzaknenk slowly closed his mouth. He stared sullenly at Taras for a few moments, then finally shook his head.

“Da, all right, Drachev. How’s Drachev doing?”

“Fine,” muttered Taras. “Why do you want to know?”

He watched the expressions flit across Korzaknenk’s narrow face, tics and signs he didn’t like. There was something about Koraznenk’s gaze that was like a man who thought different things than what he actually said.

“Just asking,” Korzaknenk said, shrugging. “Just curious, you know. I thought maybe you’d have some good news, that he’s getting better. Maybe he can come out soon. People are talking about him. Well, it’s more about you, really.”

Taras frowned.

“What are they saying?”

Korzaknenk shook his head. He took out a lighter and lit a cigarette, taking a slow drag.

“Nah, I don’t want you to get upset. It’s nothing. You can – ”

Taras seized Korzaknenk’s arm, crushing his fingers around it. Korzaknenk grimaced and stiffened, grunting, the cigarette falling from his grasp.

“Khui, don’t – ”

Tell me,” Taras snarled.

“All right, all right. You don’t have to get pushy, Oleksei. I thought you’d calm down some now since you have a…”

Korzaknenk broke off, glancing away.

“Right. Well, anyway, people are what you’re doing in there all day. They think you’re afraid, hiding out, like you’re trying to avoid Andreiev and Golitsin. I think you should get out more, to show people that there’s nothing wrong.”

Taras stared at him for a few more seconds, then he let go to Korzaknenk’s arm.

“There’s nothing wrong,” Taras said, slowly.

“Right, but they don’t know that. They think something might be wrong with you. Remember when you disappeared for a week? They think it’s something like that. Someone could challenge you, thinking you’re weak now, or distracted by your…Drachev.”

Taras gave him a baleful look, then glanced around the room again.

He saw just a few muzhiks, sitting and talking, hunched over cards. A couple were reading. Many were gone, probably at mess. The room was fairly empty. No Golitsin. No Andreiev.

The sweep of his mismatched gaze drew a few looks, muzhiks glancing up, then hurriedly looking away.

Taras’ eyes narrowed.

“Listen,” Korzaknenk said, “I know you probably want to get out. Talk to people, let them know there’s nothing wrong. Let me keep an eye on Drachev for y – ”

Taras turned, bringing the full force of his physical presence into Korzaknenk’s space, looming over him, bristling, his height and stature and the intensity of his mismatched gaze, all aggression and ill intent.

Don’t,” he snarled.

He saw Korzaknenk’s expression slacken, his eyes widening slightly, but the look was quickly replaced by a quick, uneven smile. With the scarred lip, it almost looked like a sneer.

“What? I was just trying to help out a brother.”

Taras stepped forward.

“Don’t. Don’t try to trick me like I’m stupid. I’m not stupid, Korzaknenk. I don’t like you fucking trying to trick me.”

“Nah, come on, Oleksei, don’t be – ”

“Shut up.”

Taras shoved him with a stiff-armed jab, sending Korzaknenk stumbling back.

“You try anything with Drachev, and I’ll kill you.”

He paused, then shook his head.

“No, I changed my mind. You try anything with Drachev, and I’ll make you into a bitch. Then I’ll give you to the bitches and let them pass you around.”

Taras’ voice carried, apparently loud enough to be heard throughout the nearly empty barracks. One of the muzhiks laughed.

Korzaknenk’s face flushed.

“Fuck you, Oleksei. You say shit like that again, and I’ll fuck you up.”

Korzaknenk turned away, muttering and brushing off his clothes like Taras had gotten them dirty by touching them. Taras watched as Korzaknenk snarled at the muzhiks playing chess before he went outside.

It was quiet then.

He looked around him, then back over his shoulder, where the workroom door stood, half in shadow, half-lit.

Taras felt the impulse to check the door again, but made himself walk away instead.

Evening

Aug. 5th, 2009 02:51 pm
taras_oleksei: (Default)
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."

Obed

May. 3rd, 2009 08:25 pm
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Paper rustled against the crook of his arm as Taras unlocked the door to his room. He adjusted the heft of the bag he carried carefully, pausing before stepping inside.

It was dim, the way he'd left it. He could see Lasha in the bed, stirring.

"Lasha?"

Taras set down lunch on the narrow side table near the door. He was hungry, mildly ravenous. Lunch and a nap sounded perfect, after he made sure Lasha was all right.

Ilarion lay back in the bed like an ailing tsar, somehow still regal in spite of his illness. He was like that. Even when Lasha had been dead drunk after the Winter Ball, he had still managed a little poise. At least until he'd passed out.

"I brought you something to eat."

It had been a few hours. A little longer than he'd intended, though maybe not, if he was honest about it.

It bothered him that what he had done with Liadov did not bother him too much.

Taras sat down next to Lasha.

"You feeling any better?"

Midmorning

Apr. 8th, 2009 11:47 pm
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras Oleksei stood in the hallway outside his room, listening at the door.

There had been no Lasha at the mess hall for breakfast, and no Lasha in the office. Anya had brought Taras tea for one. He'd sipped distractedly, making notes on the pathologist's notes.

It was unlike Lasha to be late to anything, and it was unlike him to sleep in. Taras hadn't seen him since that morning, when he'd left his own bed, with Lasha in it.

Lasha had still been asleep next to him when Taras woke up. Taras' first thought was that what had happened before with Lasha had happened again, somehow, without him knowing it.

It had not, he'd determined, after a few moments, but just the same, he'd thought it best to take a quick shower and shave, and get out of the room before Lasha stirred.

He'd brushed his teeth with his own toothbrush, and then done just that.

Now he needed to find out where Lasha was, and Taras' room was the last place he'd seen him.

He unlocked the door.

Still dim inside, curtains drawn, but enough light to see a vaguely Lasha-shaped lump in the bed.

Taras' chest clenched for a terrible moment, until he saw the covers rise and fall. He closed and locked the door behind him.

"Lasha?"

Short platinum hair on the pillow, bare neck and shoulders. Lasha curled on his side, eyes shut, still out.

Taras frowned, and sat down on the bed. He pulled off his glove and laid his hand carefully against Ilarion's forehead, which felt overly hot, and slightly damp. His cheeks were flushed.

"Lasha?" he tried, again. "You okei? What's wrong?"
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras Oleksei was a long way from home.

He knew it with a certainty that lived quietly under his tattooed chest, as if he could feel how far he was from Leningrad.

It was nights like this - lying in bed, alone, bare skin freshly showered, warm under clean sheets - that he felt it more keenly than he did during the day.

Where you are isn't as important as who you're with, Lasha had said, and he was right, but when Taras was alone, the where grew longer, like a shadow under a low, harsh sun that never set, and just as hard to escape.

He held the phone against his ear, waiting, eyes closed to the darkness.

There was a pause, then a click.

"Connecting you now, sir," the operator told him.

The phone began to ring, and it sounded close.
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras paused in front of Liadov's office.

He was on his way back from the gym, after a good, hard workout. He wore his black tank and a pair of loose pants, and had a towel draped around his neck.

He'd gotten some stares and sidelong glances in the gym, soldiers who eyed his tattoos. Taras supposed that the worst ones were covered, but even just his bare arms and shoulders were enough to hint at his criminal resume, especially the barbed wire around his biceps, and snake and dagger on his forearm. Those said enough.

Taras hadn't been intending show any overt sign that he'd been up north, not in front of civilized people, but after the scene between Lasha and Liadov in the mess hall that morning, he figured the soldiers needed to see that the Ministry employed more than fancy pricks whose idea of fighting was rubbing up against a wall and grabbing each other's arms. And besides, all that whispering had been a little queer.

He felt good. Energized, muscles thrumming with energy to spare. It had been a while since he'd had a proper workout. Not since before he'd arrived. He'd hit the weights and kettlebells, and done some calisthenics. Now he could have a shower and a snack, and call it a night.

Taras eyed Liadov's door.

The fucker was probably gone by now, off to mess, off to bed, whatever he did when he wasn't stalking through the halls and pounding on people's doors. Maybe at the pathologist's lab. But then again, Liadov worked some strange hours.

Taras couldn't hear anything in particular beyond the door. He stood there for a few more moments, wondering if he should just break in again, but there was no point if no one was inside. He was about to turn away when he heard a noise.

It was soft, but had the particular ring of struck glass. Taras frowned. He hesitated for another moment, then knocked on the door, not loud, but polite.

Separation

Jan. 6th, 2009 09:15 pm
taras_oleksei: (Default)
(Continued from: http://taras-oleksei.livejournal.com/5299.html)

There was a silence after Liadov left.

It was as if no one wanted to move or speak or even breathe too loudly, for fear of drawing attention to themselves. Taras leveled his mismatched gaze at the soldiers around them and they avoided his eyes, for the most part, turning suddenly to their comrades, and abandoned meals. Lasha had not returned to his seat, but instead lingered where Liadov had left him, straightening his tie with such care, it appeared as if he was considering strangling someone with it.

Taras walked over to him. Surreptitious glances followed.

"Lasha..."

He paused.

Taras could see the stiffness in Ilarion's taut shoulders, and the slow-burn of fury smolder in his gaze. It was not directed at him, but he could still feel it, nonetheless, radiating like heat.

He did not touch Ilarion, though he stepped close.

"Come on, comrade. Let's go somewhere, and have a drink."

Hindsight

Jan. 4th, 2009 12:09 pm
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras woke with a start.

He sat up, unaware of where he was. His pulse was thrumming, hard, in his throat. Disorientation always made him assume the Zone, as if his release by the Isaevs and all the subsequent years of freedom were only the fever dreams of a man who no longer had waking thoughts of hope.

But no, he realized, after a moment. No. He was not in his flat in Leningrad, which was part of the problem. Instead of his brass bed with its plush mattress and soft sheets, and the warm, familiar smells of home, he was in a smaller, firmer bed with sheets not quite as fine, in a room that was darker, and not as warm.

He fell back, closing his eyes.

Taras knew it now, remembered the assignment that had taken them away from Leningrad and brought them to the stark concrete military base, bare and bleak as bones, in the remote Urals, halfway to Magadan.

The rapid pace of his heart began to slow as he lay there, breathing deliberately.

No. He was far from the Zone.

A memory came back to him then, one he didn't recall often. Lasha. Lasha had been waiting for him in Leningrad after the long, long journey home. Ilarion had been standing on the train platform, hands tucked into the pockets of his grey MVD uniform, visor cap slanted down low over his brow, shading his eyes. The fog had been thick and low-lying, a backdrop of dusk and smoke.

To anyone else, Lasha's visage must have looked sinister, a spectre of death, surely there to arrest someone the moment they stepped off the train. The crowd had parted around Ilarion like a school of fish around a shark.

But there had been something about the icy, amused glint of cold eyes under the brim of the cap and the hint of a dry smile at the corner of Lasha's mouth that Taras had recognized immediately. His friend. His comrade. Isaev. Part of him had wanted to embrace Ilarion there and then, in spite of the fact that he had never done so, but he had only approached Lasha wordlessly, and it had been Lasha who had grabbed his arm first, clasping it in both hands.

"Welcome home, Taras," Lasha had murmured in his ear, and Taras, overcome, had only been able to nod.

That had been a long time ago. Six years, now.

Taras pushed himself up, and swung his legs out from under the covers, sitting on the edge of the bed. He thought he should get up, shower and dress and head to the mess hall. Taras had the feeling he was getting a late start, but as he glanced at the nightstand, he didn't see his watch.

He frowned.

His suitcase was not where he'd left it, either, on the floor next the bed. He tried to remember if he'd put it away at some point, perhaps shoved it under the bedframe or into a closet, but he could not recall any such thing. As he glanced around the room, he caught sight of his uniform, draped neatly over a chair. That was strange.

There were other, little things - the door to the bathroom was open, whereas he always kept doors closed, and a small collection of bottles sat on the bar, next to a black valise that looked like Lasha's.

The sense of disorientation hit him again, but only for a moment, and then Taras realized that no, this was not his room at all, but rather, Lasha's.

Lasha's room.

Lasha.

His eyes widened, brown, and blue, and huge.

He began to recall it all, but completely out of order, memories hitting like low blows, gut-punches. Kissing Ilarion. Fucking him. Talking, after sex, affirming his loyalty with the sort of words that should never cross a man's tongue. And then, letting something far worse cross his tongue, performing an act unspeakable and unthinkable, vulgar and....

Taras licked his lips and swallowed, uncertainly. There was a funny taste in his mouth.

"Lasha?" he breathed, hoarsely, his voice barely a whisper.

No sign. He listened above the pounding of his heart, but heard nothing. The bathroom was dark.

Ilarion must have woken, and left, then, and Taras had slept through the whole thing, apparently so secure in Lasha's company that survival instinct did not kick in. But Lasha had not seen fit to wake him, either, and had just left him to sleep.

Was that how it worked? It would be easier to act like nothing had happened, if so. Taras wondered if that was what Isaev expected. He had left, then Taras was supposed to, and it would be like it never was.

But it had seemed almost normal, then. Maybe even enjoyable. Maybe. He recalled feeling warm, and close to Lasha, but now he could barely reconcile that with this, waking up in Isaev's room, naked and alone. Taras had done that thing again, like in Red Square, where something that seemed all right in his head at the time became a profoundly bad idea later.

Taras pushed out of bed with a sudden, violent motion.

His watch was sitting on the bathroom counter, where he'd left it the night before. He had taken a shower after they'd argued, before they'd had sex. Taras felt like he needed another shower, right now, but he didn't know what would happen if Ilarion came back while he was showering.

A toothbrush sat in a cup on the counter. He felt the bristles. Wet. Lasha had obviously used it earlier that morning. Taras stared at it for a few moments, then grabbed the toothpaste.

It was not the worst thing of Lasha's that that been in Taras' mouth.

As he brushed his teeth, he went to the towel rack. One damp towel, and one wet washcloth. He grabbed a dry washcloth.

Taras scrubbed his tongue, avoiding his own gaze in the mirror.

He walked over to the bar to find some vodka so he could purge any lingering odd tastes in his mouth. After a few seconds, he remembered that the fucking Ukrainian had drank all of Ilarion's vodka. He scowled. Cognac would have to do, he supposed.

He washed his dick and between his legs, and under his arms and his face. Then he got dressed, swiftly. Taras put everything back the way he had found it, more or less, and slipped his watch over his wrist. It was time to go. Taras moved to the door, and paused to listen.

The door shuddered suddenly, with loud bang, an impact of fist or foot.

Taras jumped, recoiling.

"What did you do, you prick?" a male voice demanded from outside, loud, and angry.

I don't know, Taras thought, panicked, staring at the door in horror, wondering who it was and how they could know and why the person sounded strangely familiar.

"Isaev! Are you in there?" the voice said, and after another moment, Taras placed it.

Liadov.

Liadov, angry about something, expecting to find Lasha. Taras wondered if he would break down the door or pick the lock. From the sound of it, he was capable of either.

He would know, he would know everything, the moment he saw Taras standing there, in Isaev's room, the second he laid eyes on Taras' face.

Taras stood still, though his impulse was to scramble away, find a place to hide, under the bed or in the shower. The still-functioning rational part of his brain kept him frozen in place. No sound, no motion. No one inside. Taras glanced down. The door sat flush with the doorjam. There would be no telltale shadow.

There was silence, then after a few seconds, shifting. Muttering. Footsteps retreating.

Taras let out a breath.

He wanted to sink against the door with shaky relief, but Taras found himself wondering.

From what he knew of the man, what he had observed, Liadov had nearly the self-control of an Isaev, one of those elitist pricks who were too good for an emotion as coarse as the raw anger he heard in Liadov's voice. To have been pushed to the point of pounding on Isaev's door had to be the result of some extraordinary trespass on Isaev's part, as if everything he had already done wasn't enough.

Taras grimaced.

"What did you do, you prick," Taras muttered. He listened at the door for another second, then opened it and slipped out. There was no one in the hall, but he could hear Liadov's retreating steps.

Taras closed the door behind him with a quiet click.
taras_oleksei: (Default)
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.

The Hunt

Oct. 9th, 2008 10:13 pm
taras_oleksei: (Default)
The handwriting was familiar.

That was the thing that seemed the strangest to him, the detail that felt out of place.

Taras knew it from numerous old case files he'd gone through back in Leningrad, neat, organized notes, all written in an elegant hand.

Liadov's writing was distinct, artfully slanted. Not quite regular, but easy enough to read.

It was out of context here, in the darkened office, as he looked through Liadov's notes by penlight. Papers with Liadov's writing belonged in the records room back in the MVD building in Leningrad, testaments to a bygone era.

Except they really did belong here, he supposed, in Liadov's makeshift field office, in the Soviet army base they all now called their temporary home.

The office had not been hard to find, nor to break into.

Taras left the desk and its contents untouched, preferring to study things like the arrangement of objects, how Liadov kept things organized. What the man had brought with him in terms of personal items. How he had decorated, if at all.

He didn't know what compelled him to find out more about Liadov. Maybe because he didn't understand the story Ilarion had told him. Maybe because he didn't understand Liadov at all.

Taras swept the penlight over the desk again, then caught a slight noise from the office door.

He froze.

The sound of a key in the lock.

Nightcap

Sep. 1st, 2008 01:38 am
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras stepped into the hall, closing his door behind him.

He had showered and changed, and now had on the casual clothes he wore to work out, complete with a light jacket over his tank, to cover his shoulders and arms. That was better. Easier than having his tattoos on display, even if it was only Isaev's brother and his comrade.

Taras carried the bottle of cognac that he'd brought with him from Leningrad, Isaev's brand.

He felt the strange need to see Ilarion.

Taras crossed to Isaev's door and knocked briskly, then opened it and stepped inside, pausing to assess the situation.

The room was mostly as he'd left it. The Ukrainian sat in the corner, still clutching Lasha's vodka bottle, though it looked considerably less full than before. Taras frowned at that.

Ilarion and Andrusha sat next to each other, leaning close with chairs pushed together, like they had been talking.

Taras wasn't certain how long he'd been gone. A while.

He held up the bottle, as if it had only been a few minutes.

"Brought more cognac," he said.

Memento

Aug. 25th, 2008 08:32 pm
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras stepped out of Ilarion's room.

The hallway was quiet. Empty of naked cheloviks and anything else he didn't want to see.

Anya's room was right next door, but he paused to lean his broad back against the wall, closing his eyes.

It had been a long night, or maybe not long enough. Maybe he just hadn't had enough to drink. Maybe he had heard too many things he didn't want to hear.

He let out breath, a long sigh.

After a few moments, he pushed away from the wall, and knocked on Anya's door.

"Who is it?"

Taras smiled, gratified she was taking precautions like a sensible girl.

"It's me."

There was a pause, then the door opened. Anya stood there, wearing a pale pink muslin nightdress under her robe, her hair in big pink curlers. No strangely colored paste on her face, he noted with vague relief.

"Captain."

"Anya."

He hesitated. He usually told her she looked nice, but he didn't think you were supposed to do that when women weren't actually dressed up for company.

"Hope it's not too late," he said, instead.

Anya smiled, as warmly as always.

"No, not at all, Captain."

"I just came over to check on you, make sure everything's all right."

"Oh, that's very nice of you. I'm fine, thank you."

"It was Isaev's idea."

Anya smiled again, glancing down the hall. She reached up to touch her curlers.

"Oh, really? Well, that was very thoughtful. I was just getting ready for bed, but..."

She looked back at Taras, almost expectantly.

"Well...don't let me keep you," he said.

Anya gave a little sigh, then she smiled.

"Don't worry about it, Captain. How is everything?"

"All right. We're just having some drinks and Isaev's brother and his...comrade."

"That sounds nice, like a good way to relax. It seemed like things were a little stressful, earlier."

Taras frowned, then remembered the argument he and Isaev had back in their office, when Anya had left to get tea.

"Oh, right. Yeah, we worked that out."

She nodded.

"That's good. Is everything else all right?"

"Yeah."

"Are you sure?"

Taras sighed.

"Yeah...it's just..."

He hesitated.

"This place is a little...different."

Anya nodded, encouragingly.

"It is. You know, I was feeling a little homesick earlier, but I used the phone in my room to call my mother back in Leningrad to tell her I arrived here safely. Maybe you should call your sisters. I'm sure they'd want to know that you're all right."

Taras blinked.

"I don't think they really worry about me like that."

"Of course they do, you're their brother."

Taras didn't have the heart to tell her that one of his sisters hadn't even noticed when he'd been sent up north.

"Yeah, maybe."

"Leningrad is two hours behind. It's not too late to call."

"All right," he said. He paused. "Thanks."

"Thank you for checking on me, Captain. Good night."

"Night."

Anya closed her door again. Taras heard the soft click of the lock.

He paused in the hallway, looking between his room and Isaev's. He almost felt like he needed some air before heading back in to be social, but it was probably still raining outside.

Taras felt for the key in his pocket, hesitating, then finally turned toward his door.

His room was the same size as Isaev's but felt smaller for some reason, probably because no one was in it. More comfortable, like a sanctuary.

Taras stepped over his suitcase. It lay on the floor in disarray. He'd tossed it there the night before, and had rooted through it this morning to look for a clean shirt and underwear. One edge of a magazine poked out from beneath his workout clothes. The cover model was blond, at least from what he could tell. He fished it out.

She had a big rack and small waist and curvy hips, more buxom than he usually liked them. Taras preferred girls who were tall and more slender, though not too skinny. They had to be sturdy.

He sat down on the bed, flipping through the magazine. There were all kinds of girls in there, dark, light, curvy, skinny, everything in between. Some with platinum blond hair.

It reminded him of the Evropeiskaya, and all the girls that had been idling in the the lobby, waiting. He had never seen so many in one place at one time. It had been a little overwhelming.

Taras frowned. That seemed like a long time ago, now. He'd hadn't known Isaev as well then.

He fell back on the bed, tossing the magazine aside. He didn't think he even felt like jerking off.

Taras pressed his hand on his forehead. Maybe he was getting sick, or was still weak from the night before. Also, it had been a pretty rough day. First he'd found out that Liadov was here, which Isaev hadn't seen fit to tell him beforehand, and then there had been the bizarre interlude with Andrusha and his dangerously volatile Ukranian comrade. Of all the things to hear out of a khokol's mouth, but love.

He scowled.

Love. It made him think of what Merkurii Barshai had said about Ilarion.

He was in love with that cat-faced detective.

Liadov.

Taras rubbed his hip. The tattoo was no longer new but it still itched vaguely at times, though he thought it must all be in his head.

He groaned, sitting up.

A telephone sat on the bedside table. He looked at it for a few moments, then hesitated, picking it up. There was a clicking sound and then he heard a male voice.

"Comm officer."

Taras hesitated.

"This is...Captain Oleksei of the Interior Ministry."

"Yes, Captain, how can I help you?"

"If I give you a phone number, you can connect me to civilization, right?"

There was a pause.

"Yes, Captain, that's right."

"Khorosho."

Another pause.

"What's that number, Captain Oleksei?"

Taras hesitated, then carefully recited the number he'd memorized a while back but had never called.

"Patching you through now, sir."

There was another click, then he heard the phone ringing.

Friction

Aug. 11th, 2008 01:46 pm
taras_oleksei: (Default)
They walked in icy silence back to the north wing.

Overhead, the clouds were dark.

A wind had picked up, cold and biting, tugging at their caps, ruffling the papers in Taras' arms. Isaev led the way with effortless long strides, cutting through the wind like a shark through water, gaze hard and grey, focused on what was ahead. He did not look in Taras' direction, not once.

After a few moments, Taras narrowed his eyes and looked away.

Emotions stirred deep in his gut, like wild things battering themselves uselessly against bars, hungry to be unleashed.

He replayed the encounter with Liadov in his mind as they walked.

Lasha had known that Liadov would be there, Taras was certain. There was no other explanation for Ilarion's cool demeanor and cooler words, not when the mere mention of Liadov's name usually sent Lasha into pained, frostbitten silence, like he was now.

Ilarion pushed open the door with a dismissive motion, like he was flinging away something distasteful.

They had been assigned a workspace earlier that morning. It was a far cry from the offices they enjoyed in Leningrad, the solid hardwood desks and leather chairs, tasteful paintings on the walls, long windows with the views out over the canals and historic cathedrals.

Here, the walls were plain white and brick, and the office space simply that - a open room with high windows that faced another concrete building opposite. There were two small desks that were more like tables, formica tops and steel legs, and one actual table with a few slender chairs on either side.

Anya looked up as they came in. She was sitting at the long table.

Taras saw that in their absence, she had done what she could to make the space more functional. Blotters and pen sets had been placed on the desks, along with a few other office supplies. Somehow, she must have found a small potted plant, and arranged it carefully, like a centerpiece.

She stood up, smiling. "Hello, Major, Captain. I..."

Anya hesitated, looking at their faces.

Taras dropped Rakitin's paperwork down on the table carelessly, with a loud thump.

"The office is ready for your use," she said, briskly professional now. "Shall I get some tea?"
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Uniform (worn)
Spare uniform jacket (just in case)
2 grey dress pants
3 white dress shirts
4 sets underclothes
Spare boots
Dictionary (in bottom of suitcase)
1 pack of condoms (just in case)
3 skin mags (just in case)
2 sets workout clothes
Brass knuckles
1 pack of cigarettes
Lighter
Service pistol
1 bottle cognac (Isaev's brand)
1 bottle pepper vodka
1 bottle cologne
Identification and papers
Toiletries
Wallet
Keys
Pocket knife
taras_oleksei: (Default)
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.
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 dreamed about the Zone.

He did that sometimes, in spite of the fact that he was further from it now than he'd ever been. Dreams were one place where even the long arm of the Ministry didn't reach.

His dreams about the Zone were usually short and to the point, about either fucking or fighting, sometimes both, at the same time.

This one was different, more detailed, and yet wholly surreal.

In the dream, he'd been sent up north again for some reason, and not even his clean record and rank and all the power of the Isaevs had stopped it. But Magadan was somehow more like the MVD Winter Ball, and everyone there was dressed as either an inmate or a guard.

Taras was wearing an inmate costume, complete with a scowling mask and clothes dyed to appear grimy. He wandered the halls, which were decorated like bare concrete walls and barbed wire huddled below a stark and distant sun.

It seemed like everyone was having a good time with the whole thing, guards mixing with inmates, inmates talking and laughing and drinking. Instead of labor camp, the inmates had to cart in trays of hors d'oeuvres, though they ended up stealing more than they served.

Taras had managed to sneak away so he could look for Isaev, but he hadn't been able to find him. He kept looking, and after a while he came upon two guards arguing in a hallway, and realized they were Isaev and Liadov.

As he listened to them argue, Taras decided to do it right this time, to kill Liadov before the guy saw it coming. But before he could make his move, Liadov suddenly pushed Isaev back, and then they started fucking, Magadan-style, up against the wall, hot and hungry and violent.

Taras woke then, pulse racing, erection pressed against his thigh, feeling vaguely unsettled and disoriented.

It was dark, but the bed was soft, and after a few seconds, Taras heard breathing.

He relaxed automatically without knowing why, but then remembered that he was at Isaev's, in his giant bed, and they had celebrated Anya's birthday with a few fairly depraved acts.

Slowly, he became aware of something else, a solid weight under his arm, a warmth against his chest and leg.

Taras realized at some point during the night, he must have rolled on his side, closer to Isaev, and draped an arm possessively over his hip.

But Isaev must have moved closer as well, undoubtedly seeking heat, maybe thinking he was Anya. Ilarion's leg was thrown over his, and his arm was tucked against Taras' chest.

Their heads were close. Isaev's breathing was steady, near as Taras could tell, but it was Taras' lungs that rattled.

He went still, wondering if he should pull away before Isaev woke up, but then again, that would probably wake him immediately.

Ilarion's hip felt smooth and warm.

Taras frowned.

Round Two

May. 18th, 2008 01:37 am
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Being clean was one of those luxuries that Taras hadn't taken for granted ever since he'd gotten out of Magadan.

He felt better after a hot shower, more clear-headed and relaxed, though now he was hungry. Still vaguely aroused, but not enough to have to do something about it immediately.

Taras turned the bathroom over to Anya and put on his pants, but didn't bother with the shirt.

He left Ilarion's suite, figuring he had time to get a sandwich. Anya would be in there for a while. Taras knew how girls were about those kinds of things.

The Isaev townhouse was quiet, but not empty. Not cold. Taras liked the feeling that other people else were around, even if they weren't in the same room. He walked down the main staircase to the ground floor, then went down the main hall toward the kitchens.

There was a low, muted light coming in the kitchens, welcoming. He stopped by the door and leaned in just enough to get a glimpse, casing it first, just to make sure.

He spotted Isaev across the room, behind a counter. Looked like he'd had the same idea as Taras and had come downstairs for a snack.

Taras smirked as he stepped in, always quiet.

"Lasha."

His voice was pitched low, just enough to get Isaev's attention.

"You have something to eat in this place?"
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.

Epilogue

Apr. 6th, 2008 10:44 pm
taras_oleksei: (Default)
Taras was hunched over the bar again, staring at the untouched glass of vodka in front of him.

Somehow he wasn't quite in the mood to get completely smashed, at least, not alone.

He glanced over his shoulder, looking around the room. Several guests were nearly staggering, leaning on each other and laughing, while others had broken up to smaller groups for quiet conversation.

Taras caught sight of the woman in black from earlier, though only briefly before she disappeared into the thinning crowd.

The party had definitely died off for the night. Even if Isaev hadn't had the confrontation with Liadov, Taras was sure he'd want to leave anyway.

Taras knew he was ready to go, and leave this place and what had happened here behind him.

August 2010

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