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Drinking with Irinarhov Again.

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Oct. 21st, 2007 | 09:19 pm

Well, I manned up and invited Captain Irinarhov to drink with me last night. Interesting evening by all accounts, sincere apologies on my behalf, and a surprising lack of recrimination on his part.

Then we had a more intimate dialogue about some shadowy things on the ice of the heart, and I let fall some intricate snowflakes from locked lips.

I think he was worried that I overstep my boundaries again, but as I assured him, I wasn't interested in victimizing his trust.

We had reached a beautiful and pleasant impasse- but unfortunately, like an icicle, it wasn't destined to last. I don't know where we stand now.

I suppose I have my soldier friend to thank for that targeted destruction.

Not that I'm not culpable, oh very much so. Fallible, culpable and vaguely regretful.

But that whole fiasco came up later, and frankly, I don't want to think about it now.

Enough, already.

capt_kasya: These days, Kassian brought his rifle with him everywhere.

It wasn't exactly standard procedure, but these weren't standard times. Killers and snipers on the loose, muttered talk and rumors about disturbances in the night, guards found unconscious, intruders.

It almost felt like the war again, which was why the Mosin-Nagant rested at Kassian's back as he entered the main wing to have a drink with Liadov.

The MVD operativnik had caught his arm at the end of his shift and invited him to drop by after mess. Kassian had hesitated a little, remembering the last time, but then he'd reminded himself that it had turned out fine in the end.

He'd accepted with a diffident nod and the slightest upcurve of his lips. Liadov had seemed pleased, which Kassian found encouraging.

They were friends now, and that was what friends did.

He turned down the hall and walked up to Liadov's door, pausing before he knocked, taking a surreptitious look and listen. Isaev had told him that Vitya's room was in the same area, but he saw no sign of his former lover - or anyone else, for that matter.

It was better that way.

Kassian politely knocked once on the door, then waited.

nikanor_liadov: Liadov normally would have called out a careless "come in", but in light of the kinds of friends he was making lately, one couldn't be too careful.

He unlatched the door and met the knock himself.

"Irinarhov," he said, smiling. "Khorosho. I am glad not to see a psychopath."

Nika gestured into the room.


The sniper looked well enough, his expression optimistic, and not especially guarded. Hair, black like onyx, with striations of silver here and there. Barely visible. His rifle hung over his shoulder.

Protection, though Liadov, wryly amused.

Well, you won't need it tonight, friend. I'm through threatening you with my primal affections.


capt_kasya: "Thank you," Kassian said.

He stepped inside at Liadov's invitation, by reflex sweeping the room as he did so, gaze seeking out the places where someone could possibly hide. Nothing.

Kassian refrained from checking the lavatory, like he would have if he were on duty.

Carefully, he unslung his rifle and leaned it against the wall, then hesitated, turning to Liadov apologetically.

"I'm going to..." he said, vaguely, gesturing as he undid his belt. "Gear."

He was fully kitted, as if still on duty, but he didn't need to be wearing over five kilos of equipment to have a drink with a friend.

Kassian pulled the belt free and laid it over the back of the chair.

"Were you expecting to see a psychopath?" he finally asked, turning back to Liadov with a frown.

nikanor_liadov: Nika laughed as he opened the sash and pulled a bottle of slivovic off the windowsill.

"That's right," he said, in realization. "You missed all the fun the other night."

He set the slilvovic in front of Irinarhov and opened his black valise, retrieving his usual small square bottle of amber cognac.

"I got you something more to your taste, worker," Liadov drawled. "So you don't have to turn up your nose at my liquor."

A wry smile touched his lips and dissipated, as he poured himself a finger of liqueur.

capt_kasya: Kassian raised a brow but pulled off his gloves, stashing them in a pocket.

"You didn't have to do that," he said, picking up the bottle.

He'd had some of Liadov's cognac last time. It had been rich and smooth on his tongue, but entirely too seductive for his tastes. Too easy to drink. In truth, he did prefer something that went down more harshly.

"But thank you," Kassian added. "I appreciate it."

He looked around for a place to sit, hesitating, not committing in any direction. Last time he'd sat down on Liadov's bed, but he wasn't sure if he should repeat that, either.

"What happened the other night?" he asked, buying himself time.

nikanor_liadov: Liadov rolled his eyes.

"Pull up a chair, sniper. I told you, I scratched my itch with a willing hand. You're safe as a kitten."

To reinforce this point, Nika had left his entire uniform intact, down to his gloves and cap, and made no move to remove them as he reclined, sipping.

"Or sit here on the bed. It matters not a bit to me."

He wondered if this entire evening was going to be a cagey game of one-sided chess.

Well, while Irinarhov decided what to do with that protracted and sniperly method, he might as well answer his absent inquiry.

"What happened the other night?"

Liadov laughed, shaking his head.

He took a slow swallow of cognac and savored it indecently. Sometimes it really was just too good.

"Well, the flame patrol came looking for yours truly. And they found him, almost alone, in the tank yard."

capt_kasya: Kassian frowned, sharply.

"What?" He took the bottle and stepped closer to Liadov.

He eyed him carefully, as if to reassure himself the man was still intact. Liadov looked relaxed and particularly languorous, Kassian thought. His gaze was almost serene.

No sign of damage. Obviously fine, and had been.

"Your guard detail needs to be extended," Kassian said, slowly and contritely.

He frowned.

"I'm sorry, Major. I should have been there."

Kassian took a step back, then, and sat down on the bed.

"What happened?"

He unscrewed the bottle cap, taking a drink.

nikanor_liadov: "No," Liadov said slowly, rubbing his jaw. "I don't think I'll have need for a guard detail any more."

He shrugged.

"I was pulled behind a tank by an unseen assailant on my way back from mess. Obviously someone well-schooled in Special Tactics....." Liadov trailed off and smiled obscurely. "...Very well schooled."

That night came back to him, briefly, in passionate flashes.

He shook his head.

"I'm sorry, Captain," he laughed, tossing back the dregs of his glass and stretching. "The details aren't really important. To an observer, it must have looked like I was in danger. I was not, in fact. What it amounted to was me and a...companion... getting an AK and a Tokarev in the maw, from a couple of disparate well-meaning helpers."

Liadov paused.

"At least, Lieutenant Rakitin was well-meaning. I have my doubts about the other guy."

capt_kasya: Kassian sat quietly, frowning, absorbing Liadov's words. He mulled them over for long moments, trying to decide if there was any room for misinterpretation.

He didn't think so, even though Liadov spoke in fairly vague terms.

Kassian's brow was heavy, hooded and troubled, eyes dark as granite, sharp with concern.

"All right..." he said, slowly, "the 'other guy'? Do you mean..."

He broke off then, staring, his gaze naked with horror.

Kassian wondered if the loose usage of 'companion' meant that Liadov had found a lover among Flame Patrol, one of the very men who had threatened to kill him.

nikanor_liadov: Nika raised an eyebrow.

"The murderer. Deimos, Dmitry, what have you."

He sighed.

"Perhaps I should be more concrete, seeing as you are my technical 'guardian'."

Liadov crossed his long legs and reached languidly for his bottle, pouring himself another dram.

"All right. Here's the whole story."

He proceeded to detail the entire event, downplaying the resolution somewhat.

"And we left. That was that. We shook off the unpleasantness, and I got a magnificent session of bed-breaking in to warm up the chill."

He paused.

"Rakitin looked strange about it, though. Hope he was all right."

capt_kasya: Kassian had taken a few swallows, but for the most part only listened quietly as Liadov related the story.

Finally, he shook his head.

"It sounds like...it turned out well enough. But I still think you need the guard detail, regardless."

He fixed Liadov with a firm look. "Just in case," he added. "I won't feel right, otherwise."

Kassian left it at that, inviting no argument as he raised the bottle of slivovic and took a long swallow.

The alcohol burned through him pleasantly, and he felt himself finally relaxing.

He rubbed the back of his neck.

"So...you found someone," he ventured, eyeing Liadov again. The major seemed smug, he thought, and definitely much less agitated than the last time they'd done this.

nikanor_liadov: "That was hardly the point of the story...but yes. I encountered a likeminded sensualist, and it seems to be a good arrangement- for the duration of his stay...and mine."

Nika shrugged.

"I know it must sound incredibly frivolous to a stoneminded man like you. So restrained and unemotive. Able to go for leagues without water. A sexual camel."

He raised his glass.

"I envy you. You would never have found yourself in a dangerous position like that, driven by lust instead of common sense."

Liadov smiled.

"A toast- to you, Irinarhov, and your enviable pragmatism."

capt_kasya: Kassian coughed, laughing once, shaking his head.

He raised his bottle, though, and returned Liadov's toast.

"I'm not made of stone, Major. I can be driven by lust. It's just..."

He hesitated, uncertain of how to explain.

Kassian took another drink, letting the burn settle. It reminded him of the last time he'd had slivo, at the Ocelot initiation. How the alcohol had fanned his growing attraction to Isaev.

That felt like a long time ago, now. Maybe it was.

He looked back at Liadov, and shook his head slightly.

"I don't know if I can explain. I'm different than you, Major. No more or less human, but...it's a lot harder for me to get close to someone."

nikanor_liadov: Nika looked down for a moment, growing sober.

"Look, Kassian Dmitrivich..."

A pause.

"Dmitrich," he amended, artlessly. "I invited you here- not to laud your self-control, nor castigate you for shunning my advances."

Liadov smiled, mildly and genuinely. Contrition was writ in the lines of his mouth, and the slight crease of his forehead.

"The truth is, I asked you here to apologize. For everything. For making you into a soldier toy, and expecting you to idly succumb to pleasure for my amusement."

He paused.

"I know you love Isaev, and I am sorry for not respecting that. Perhaps...I have a problem, comrade. A compulsion."

He shrugged, tipping his glass.

"In any case, I assure you, never shall I lay even the tip of a finger on your person in salacious promise."

Nika sighed.

"I wish that I had not let that particular demon out to play that evening. If I could take it back, I would, Kasya. Truly."

capt_kasya: "No," Kassian said, frowning.

He shifted on the bed, indecisive, but ultimately moved closer to where Liadov sat.

Tentatively, he reached out and laid a hand on Liadov's arm. It was warm and solid, and felt familiar. Kassian left it there.

"Don't...castigate yourself. You didn't offend me. In the slightest. I admit, I didn't know what to do...but you did nothing harmful."

He looked at the bottle in his lap, considering.

"If things were different...I think I would have accepted. I like you, Liadov. I respect the man you are. But I don't know if we would have been looking for the same thing, ultimately."

nikanor_liadov: "I appreciate that," said Nika, with a diffuse smile.

He tipped his glass gently in the other man's direction.

"And I think you're right. Because...I don't know what I'm looking for."

He laughed, shaking his head.

"I thought I did, once. But suddenly, things seem to have acquired...meaning."

Irinarhov's hand on his arm was pleasant. Weighty. Comrade-like.

Liadov raised an eyebrow.

"Or perhaps...they always had strings, and I was too careless to notice. Or perhaps...they have only now become visible, like some sadist magician's slight of hand."

He tilted his head for a moment.

"Bah. I'm blathering."

He cracked a smile.

"I think the answer to why you said no, Irinarhov, is something that irked me deeply even unwittingly- you're not looking for anything."

capt_kasya: "What do you mean?"

Kassian looked at Liadov, brows furrowed slightly.

"You mean...because I've found something? Or because..."

He trailed off. He didn't know.

nikanor_liadov: Liadov smiled, toying with his glass.

"Something? Or the thing?"

He paused.

"Can you see yourself living without him?"

Liadov turned to look at the sniper, calmly.

"Is he replaceable, in your mind?"

capt_kasya: Kassian's gaze dropped, almost demurely, and his lips curved.

"No. And no."

His voice was quiet.

He was silent for a few seconds, then he looked up at Liadov again, his gaze soft and open, gentled beyond his usual stoic, stony mien.

"I'd lay down my rifle for him," he said, simply.

nikanor_liadov: "So you see what I mean," Nika said lightly.

He took a contemplative sip, and lay back, comfortably, sighing.

"You aren't into casual hedonism, and you aren't looking for an epic lover."

He grinned, slightly, making an almost comic twist of his brows.

"That leaves me out on both counts," he said, with a wink.

capt_kasya: Kassian nodded, slightly, but then his gaze turned keener, more discerning.

"Are you looking for an epic lover?" he asked, slowly. "I didn't think that interested you, from what you told me earlier."

He took at drink as he considered.

"You said things have just acquired meaning. What is it? Did something happen? This...likeminded sensualist?"

nikanor_liadov: Liadov frowned.

"I don't know. I do know that..."

He paused, and his voice dropped, almost unconsciously, to a hush.

"It was the time I've ever forgotten...Lasha. Captain Isaev. For even a moment."

He smiled with one side of his mouth.

"For a moment...his black eyes burned everything in my past to a char."

capt_kasya: Kassian nodded, and gave Liadov's shoulder and firm but gentle squeeze.

"That's good. It'll be all right, Major."

He paused.


Kassian shrugged a little.

"I guess...what I would say to you is to trust yourself. And don't be afraid."

nikanor_liadov: Liadov smiled wryly.

"I don't know. This man has a lover. A black operative, actually. They seemed...they had something. I don't know. It was loaded. He said it was...difficult."

He spread his hands and studied them in the low, warm light.

"I'm not afraid of falling in love with anyone else, not anymore. I'm more afraid of Isaev. Forgiving him," he said, eyes chasing his reticence onto the floor.

He paused, then reached into his pocket, and tossed a letter at Kassian.

"From my wife," he said, quietly, and looked up, with pale green eyes luminous and intractable.

capt_kasya: Kassian let his hand linger on Liadov's arm for a few moments before letting go. He picked up the letter and carefully unfolded it.

He read it slowly, thoughtfully, considering the words of this woman, Liadov's wife, the one whose father had died in Liadov's arms.

This was the missing part of the story, the one he'd never heard last time. Liadov had told him that there was no more to tell, but he held the answers to his last lingering questions here.

Why, was what he wondered. Why had Liadov chosen to break with his comrade over the seduction of a wife he wasn't in love with.

He understood, now, and felt a renewed sense of admiration for the man, for his sacrifices.

Kassian read over the letter again, to make sure he hadn't missed anything. Then he folded it again and held it out in return.

"He won't give up," he said, after a moment.

He frowned.

"And...if you give in? Would it be such a terrible thing? Or is that the unknown you fear?"

nikanor_liadov: Liadov shook his head.

"You don't know him," he said softly.

He smiled, but there was no humor in it.

"Picture your Andrei, the coldest you've ever seen him. And then picture him at his most reckless and impassioned. Then put them both in one mortal coil, and add a healthy dose of entitlement."

He shook his head.

"Age ten years. Shake well. Blanch the hair blonder still, to winter white. Sharpen the features, just a little. Add a sprinkle of sadism, just for flavor," he added dryly.

His gaze softened.

"Give him Andrei's devotion. But none of Andrei's compassion."

He took a sip of his cognac.

"Then, you will have a semblance of Ilarion Alexandrovich Isaev. Edo et amo. I hate and I love. He loves those who are his own. He will destroy anyone else, for he has no heart for those outside his crimson circle."

Nika looked up.

"To be loved by a man like that...is both a blessing and curse."

He rubbed his face.

"I couldn't forgive him, not for trying to destroy Nina. My god, Kasya, they could have sent her to the Zone for adultery- don't you think he knew that? After Isaeva, especially-"

capt_kasya: "I see," Kassian said, softly.

Troubled, both for Liadov's sake, and his own.

"I...understand," he said. "You're in an impossible position."

He brushed his thumb against the lip of the bottle, but didn't take a drink.

"You can't change him, and he'll never change."

It made him think of Vitya, and impossible romances, though his relationship with Vitya seemed mild in comparison. Once more, his problems became paltry in light of Liadov's struggles.

Kassian sighed with a slump of his shoulders, and looked over at the MENT.

"Maybe it's like being afraid of death," he offered. "If you spend your time worrying about it, fretting about when it will come and what will happen when it does, you'll miss out on enjoying the life you have."

nikanor_liadov: Nika smiled, almost brokenly.

"Yes," he said softly. "I've thought of that too."

He closed his eyes for a moment.

"Am I really alive when he isn't mine?"

He snorted, softly.

"I'm always his."

Nika reached out blindly for Kasya's arm, and touched it briefly.

"But forget me. How about you, comrade?"

capt_kasya: Kassian grabbed Liadov's arm, but this time his grip was fierce. His fingers dug in, hard enough to be painful.

"Listen to me," he said, voice low and intent. "You are alive. You can enjoy what you have, even if you know all too well what you don't. It's your choice, comrade."

Kassian's eyes were flinty and fierce.

"You have the power to make it."

He held on for a few more moments, emphasizing his point, but then finally eased his grip, and slowly let go.

"Where's your lover?" he asked, gently now.

nikanor_liadov: Nika's eyes swept slowly open and met Kassian's.

He rubbed his arm, belatedly and offered a wry twist of his lips.

"That's quite a trigger grip you have there, Captain. I think you might have killed a nerve. No matter. I can still do paperwork."

He paused.

"My lover," he said vaguely. "I don't know. What do snipers do in their spare time? You should know that much."

He sighed, tilting his head, almost petulantly.

"Is that what you did?" he asked, quietly, after a moment. "Made the best of it? Knowing all too well what you don't have?"

He reached out, and touched Irinarhov's driven raptor's brow, lightly, as if blessing him, but lingering fondly.

"If so, then I do have something to learn from you."

capt_kasya: Kassian took Liadov's arm again, and rubbed it apologetically.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you, Major. I just needed you to focus."

He met and held Liadov's troubled gaze.

"It starts with making the best of it. And then...I think you might surprise yourself. But only if you try."

Kassian let go of Liadov then.

"You should go find him. He can give you what you need right now."

He sat back and raised the bottle to take another drink, but paused halfway to his lips, and frowned hard.

Slowly, he lowered the bottle.

"Your lover's a sniper?" he asked, carefully.

nikanor_liadov: Liadov laughed.

"Well, I admit, it's only an assumption."

He steepled his fingers.

"But when we were in his quarters last night, I saw his kit, and among his thing was a shiny Dragunov, with neat little marks painted all up and down the stock."

He arched an eyebrow.

"Is there another discipline where that figures prominently? Maybe I'm unaware."

capt_kasya: Kassian shook his head, but then shrugged.

"Anyone can use one, if they have the right training. It could be part of his mission, but not the focus of it."

But then again, Kassian thought, slowly, a moment later, a
dedicated sniper would be more likely to mark his stock than someone who carried a Dragunov incidentally.

It was probably a sniper.

Kassian wanted to ask more questions, but abruptly wasn't sure if he wanted to know the answers.

He nodded.

"Well," he said, meeting Liadov's gaze, solemnly, "snipers have...fine motor control. And a high degree of accuracy. I'm sure you're in good hands."

nikanor_liadov: Liadov rolled his eyes.

"I would hope that anyone in Black Ops would conform to those descriptions."

Certainly Spetsnaz had impressed him favorably in that way.

"But I'm pleased to hear you extol your virtues," he added with a twist of his lips.

He poured himself another drink.

"You're funny, suggesting I run off and bugger some nameless sniper, just because I'm having a little attack of the Russian soul."

Liadov tilted his head, amused.

"I'm not a mindless beast, Captain."

He was more accurately, a mindful beast.

capt_kasya: "I didn't think you were," Kassian said, mildly.

He was quiet, though, as he thought about Liadov, and his...practices. He'd never seen what Liadov could get out of them, but apparently, it worked for him.


He paused.

"How...do you know?" he asked, frowning.

Kassian looked back at Liadov, gaze shaded and pensive.

"How do you know if you can trust them? How do you know...anything about them? Do you talk to them first? Or is it only about the way they look?"

nikanor_liadov: "Trust them to do what? Be good on their backs?"

Liadov laughed.

"What do I want to know about them? And yes, like most attractions, it has something to do with looks. Tell me you can understand that. Would you have fallen for Isaev so thoroughly and well if he weren't..."

Liadov broke off, smiling resignedly. He sighed, gesturing absently.

"You're a very, very good man, Irinarhov. You'll never understand the appeal of rough, strange hands touching your most intimate places..."

capt_kasya: Kassian frowned, thinking about that, taking a drink as he considered.

"I don't think not understanding that has anything to do with being a good man. Or not," Kassian said, slowly.

He rubbed the back of his neck, and averted his gaze to the floor.

"I"ve had...comrades touch me in dark before. It happened fast, and I didn't stop it. But I always felt..."

He shook his head.

"I don't know. Unfulfilled, I guess. Like something was lacking. I can't imagine doing more with someone I didn't know. I feel like I wouldn't know how."

He glanced up, and looked over at Liadov, his brow furrowed and low.

"We're just different. I don't think less of you because of it. I just...wouldn't want that for myself."

nikanor_liadov: "No one asked you to," Liadov said flatly. "I suppose you would simply become celibate in my place."

And he had no doubt the sniper would.

"The truth is, it becomes less of an issue, the more experienced you are in sexual-social matters. The more you fuck, the less of an end-all be-all the act becomes."

He paused.

"I actually think it makes you more, and not less, discriminating in the end. I may give many people the keys to the car, but I reserve the key to the heart."

A slow smile burned its way across his lips.

"Some people, on the other hand, fall in love with everything that penetrates them. Or vice versa. I don't find that a biologically adaptive technique."

capt_kasya: "You're right," Kassian said, after a moment.

It made him think about Vitya. He'd loved Vitya in spite of what he was like, not out of any deep-rooted compatibility. And in the end, it had cost him. Made him less likely to trust others, less willing to get involved.

And when he'd finally come around again, and had taken Isaev to his bed, it had been loaded. It made Kassian wonder if he'd fallen in love with Isaev only because he fucked him, or if he'd gotten lucky, and fucked someone he could fall in love with.

He was silent, thinking, brooding. He took a drink of the slilvovic and swallowed it slowly, letting it burn.

Finally, Kassian's mouth tipped upward, slowly.

"I fell for him before I fucked him. That's probably even worse."

He shook his head.

"If I'm a fool, I'm a lucky one," he said, and sighed.

Kassian ran a hand through his hair, rubbing it vigorously.

"I think I'm getting drunk," he muttered.

nikanor_liadov: Liadov snorted.

"That's not worse. That's love, you idiot."

He shook his head, resignedly amused

"...I can relate to that. And it can happen the other way as well."

He paused.

"I'm just not one of those people who automatically equates a physical act as inseparable from an emotional state. Any more than you and I having a drink together is automatically a romantic tryst."

capt_kasya: "All right," Kassian said. "That makes sense."

And it did, in that Kassian saw the difference. Saw how there could be a difference, even though he couldn't imagine himself in that frame of mind.

He looked back at Liadov.

"Thank you for inviting me. I didn't know...what it would be like, coming here to have a drink with you again. But now I'm glad I did. You're a good host. You're good to talk to."

Kassian studied Liadov's sleepy, relaxed gaze.

"You should come to Ocelot poker night, sometime," he offered. "Andrei would be glad to have you there. Or...is it difficult? Because of his brother."

nikanor_liadov: Liadov smiled.

"I'd like to play, I think. It could be fun. The Ocelots seem like a good unit, to a man."

He paused, sloshing his glass idly, watching the swirl of liquid.

"My issue has never been with Isaev the younger. He's still my comrade. To him, this whole event is like watching his beloved older brothers feud. I'm sorry for that."

Nika paused, lowering his gaze and his voice.

"But...in truth, he doesn't know the complexity of it. The mitigating factors that only recently became at issue. Or perhaps I'm underestimating him."

He shrugged.

"In any case, he's a brother to me. I'd do anything for that strapping prick."

Liadov's mouth curved slightly, and his eyes climbed the wall.

"I'll tell you something, and neither of them know it. Do you know why Aleksandr loves me so much? Wants me for a son and calls me the same?"

Nika's smile became more pronounced, and ended in a smirk.

"Because Aleksandr and my mother are lovers. Have been since the year after Isaeva died."

capt_kasya: Kassian's brows went up.

"To...this day? It was a while ago she died, wasn't it?"

He sat there quietly, reeling with faint surprise. Isaev had described his father as distant, like a cold sun. It was hard to reconcile with a man who loved the son of his lover.

"You really are their brother," he murmured, almost to himself.

Kassian shook his head.

"Well...that surprises me, and I don't even know the whole story. Is there are reason why they didn't marry?"

nikanor_liadov: Liadov shrugged.

"My mother is a beautiful symbol, a war widow. Perhaps it's that. Perhaps it's that she was simply too smart to marry someone like Sanya Isaev. Perhaps they were set in their worlds, their ways."

He paused.

"I don't know."

He smiled faintly.

"They bonded over his grief. I've never seen a man so broken up about killing his own wife."

capt_kasya: Kassian stared hard at Liadov.

"He killed her?" he echoed, faintly incredulous.

Nothing Isaev had ever said indicated that -

He frowned.

"Andrei doesn't know, does he?"

Kassian shook his head and eyed his bottle, debating whether to take another drink or not. After a few moments, he lowered the bottle.

"What happened?" he asked, quietly. "Why did he do it?"

nikanor_liadov: Liadov waved a hand, wryly.

"Well, he didn't kill her, in the sense of committing murder, but-"

Nika paused, tilting a brow.

"You don't know? Andrusha's never mentioned what happened to his mother?"

capt_kasya: "No," Kassian said.

"He's talked about Lasha, his father...but not about her."

He frowned.

"So you only meant it metaphorically?"

Liadov hadn't said it like that, but Kassian allowed the possibility.

Kassian rubbed his face.

"He described Aleksandr as cold and distant. He rarely thinks of his father, he said. Nothing about his mother."

nikanor_liadov: "Well...I suppose that's not surprising. He was only a child when she died."

He scratched his nose, shrugging.

"Four or so. Anyway, what I always tacitly knew, growing up, was that she killed herself. What I didn't know until Ilarion told me, was what preceded that act."

Liadov sighed, toyed with bottle, weighed it and finally poured another measure.

"He was drunk, one night. It was during the festival of white nights in Leningrad. We were holed up in a downtown dignitary hotel, on the MVD's ruble, just drinking and lounging, like you and I are now."

Nika paused, took a sip. Savored the succulent candied flavor. It clashed against the lack of sweetness in what he related, but complemented the bittersweetness of his memory.

"And he asked me what I knew of his mother, out of nowhere. I told him what I knew. That she had committed suicide. And then, he told me the rest. What he'd never told Andrei, or anyone else. He was the only witness to her shaming and branding, aside from Aleksandr's cronies."

Liadov smiled bloodlessly.

"I won't belabor it. But in semaphore, comrade, she had a lover. Not because she didn't love Aleksandr. No, far from it. Because he had become distant and dark since taking over for Evstrat. The Isaev legacy had him gripped thoroughly, and she was lonely."

He met Kassian's eyes, and kept them steady.

"The lover was a dancer at the Kirov. Aleksandr found out, somehow. He was astonished. He was furious, but only betrayed it in his coldness. He had the MVD catch her in the act, and drag her home, where he threw her out of the house and informed he she would never again see her children."

Liadov exhaled, quietly.

"Later, he told Ilarion it was an act of mercy. That he had spared her the worse fate of exposure, where surely decorum would have demanded she be sent to the Zone."

He shrugged.

"I don't know about that. But three days later, they found her pegnoir-clad body in the Fotanka canal. Lasha said the diaphanous silk billowed all around her like a jellyfish."

capt_kasya: "Lasha saw her dead," Kassian said, quietly.

He eyed his bottle. This was the sort of conversation he had to be more drunk to take. He still felt sober enough to let it rock him, to feel disconcerted by such acts of viciousness.

He hesitated, but didn't take another drink.

Kassian thought about Andrei, who had grown up in this family, in this environment of betrayal and death. He thought about young Andrei looking up to see Dmitri Irinarhov's dead body burned to the prison fence.

And Andrei wondered why he was a sick fuck, as if there he'd been born with something wrong with him.

Kassian actually thought he'd turned out remarkably well-balanced, in spite of it all.

"But if Andrei was four...Ilarion wasn't that old, was he? A teenager?"

Kassian frowned.

"I'm starting to see..."

He trailed off.

"It's like the war, in its own way," he murmured.

nikanor_liadov: Nika closed his eyes, thinking. Steepling his fingers briefly.

"Ilarion was sixteen when his mother killed herself. So Andrei would have been six, not four. But still young. Too young to understand."

Liadov smiled, and it was brittle.

"Ilarion was a junior militsioner, and he happened to be on the clock. He was there when they fished her out of the river. It came in on a call. He saw her from a distance, and knew her. A man knows his own mother, he told me."

He made a whimsical motion with the glass, that didn't match his expression.

"He hissed a few choice words of discretion to the MVD Captain on duty, who paled and threw a sheet over her. Then he called his father."

capt_kasya: Kassian nodded.

"So...in spite of everything, Aleksandr wasn't expecting that. Thus his grief."

He looked at the bottle in his hands, and began to toy with the label, pulling at a corner, worrying at the edges.

Kassian paused to shake his head.

"But...how does your family come into the picture? Was it that your mother and Andrei's were friends? Or...did it have something to do with your father?"

He looked at Liadov, gaze steady and somber.

"You told me you never knew him. It seems like a long time ago you said that, now. But it's not been long at all, has it?"

nikanor_liadov: "That's the irony. When Avdotia died...Aleksandr...crumbled. That monument of sovietskyj. Bronze and iron reduced to a rubble of flesh and blood and bone."

Liadov rubbed his jaw, absently.

"He locked himself in. For three nightmarish days he raved silently. Ilarion said he was pale as death. Inconsolable. Wouldn't eat. Drank all night. Sat in his library chair, holding her fur coat in his arms, burying his face in the collar to smell her perfume. Never spoke. Would turn cold, cauterizing eyes on anyone who attempted to approach him."

He shrugged and waved his hand.

"And then," he said, in an artificially lightened tone, "On the fourth morning, he came out for work, uniform pressed. Shaved roman and boots immaculate. Reached for the paper and took his coffee. Nodded to Lasha, and tousled Andrei's hair as if nothing had happened."

Nika frowned.

"We had known the Isaevs since I was a child. My father was a Hero of the Soviet union, my mother an honored widow. She was given a dacha, a country house, in honor of my father. It just so happened to be beside the Isaev's dacha, in the state preserve. That was how I first met Ilarion- playing in the birch woods."

He smiled, slightly, but lowered his eyes.

"In Leningrad, we would see them as well. We had occasion to travel in the same circles. Attend the same dinners and schools. Avdotia and my mother were casual friends, and took us to the park together as children. We lived nearby and became inseparable."

He watched Irinarhov destroy the label with vague amusement.

"This is bothering you," he observed, not without empathy.

Then he leaned back, pushing his cap off, and running his hands out to the ends of his hair.

"Aleksandr always treated my mother with reverence and chivalry, as a war widow. Almost like some...icon. A Venus of the CCCP. He was eager to be my benefactor, to do his duty to the state, and honor my father. But after Avdotia's death, her empathy as a widow, toward Isaev the widower was open-armed and hearted."

Liadov shook his head, bemused.

"He fell in love with her. He seduced her with vicious Russian passion, romanced her. She loves him to this day, but with great, wise care. She is always her own. They meet like young lovers, still, in private. In public, they smile and behave with great and decorous affection. Their relationship has never been acknowledged, in all these years, though they have been together longer now than either of their marriages."

He smiled oddly.

"She told me, although I already understood what had happened. Nothing escaped me, even as a child. She never kept anything from me," he said, wryly. "Although she very often told me not to tell the Isaevs certain things. That I was diabetic, for instance. She knew I wouldn't. I was silent as the grave when I wanted to be. And for her, I wanted to be."

capt_kasya: Kassian looked up at Liadov, then down at what he was doing. He'd pulled up one corner of the slilvovic label, torn it off.

He shook his head.

"It's just...I think about these things...this is where Andrei came from. This is part of what made him who he is. Ilarion, too. And you."

Kassian turned to look at Liadov from under a hooded, furrowed gaze.

"He couldn't accept her betrayal, so he cut her from his life. Better that, than he give her the chance to hurt him again. Better that, than he give her actions some kind of tacit approval."

He searched the luminous, Russian green of Liadov's eyes slowly, but with quiet, unspoken compassion.

"Better that, than a lot of things."

Kassian paused.

"Instead of tending to the wound, he amputated the limb. And even knowing how much it would hurt, he did it anyway. Better not to take chances. Or so he thought. Perhaps he still wasn't prepared, though, for how hard it would be."

nikanor_liadov: Nika agreed with a slight nod.

"You know how a wolf is when its leg is caught in a trap. What they say it will do, by instinct. But not having her in his life was different than...not having her in life. Ever."

Liadov set down his glass.

"It wasn't part of his plan. In his plan, he would still catch her eye on the street now and then. See her pain. See it echo his own. But love her, from afar."

He snorted.

"Her plan was different."

He smiled crookedly.

"Lasha said she begged to be allowed to take Andrei. 'Let me take Andrei, at least', she said."

He took a rough-burning sip.

"According to Ilarion, apparently she felt that at sixteen, he was already minted in his father's heartless image."

He cocked his head slightly, his voice soft.

"That hurt him," he said.

capt_kasya: Kassian nodded.

"And he must have become harder, because of it," he mused.

He could see it. A wounded young man, in pain. A distant and merciless father. Innocent younger siblings who had no way of truly understanding what had happened.

"So life went on," Kassian said, "without their mother."

This was the background that seemed to shame Isaev, vaguely. I don't come from good men, he'd told Kassian. As if Kassian would recoil from a tragedy that could only have been avoided if the participants involved were entirely different people. Men acted according to their own natures; Aleksandr had only acted in the only way he knew how.

He turned his gaze back to Liadov.

"Thank you...for trusting me with this. For telling me the story. I understand him better now. I understand...the family. And I think it's important that I do."

nikanor_liadov: Liadov shrugged.

"I can't see how it hurts to tell you. I told you enough about myself for one lifetime. Better it be someone else, nyet?"

He smirked.

"Especially someone you're not getting rid of anytime soon."

He sighed, shrugged, sipped.

"Life went on," he agreed. "And Lasha was the only one old enough to truly remember Avadya at all. Andrei probably remembers her a little. Baby Masha not at all. She was a very pretty woman. Like a film star. A Romy Schneider."

He smiled.

"None of this changes the fact that Ilarion is an ice-hearted bastard."

capt_kasya: "No," Kassian said, slowly. "Though I suppose it helps, to understand where it came from. How it started."

He shook his head.

"Helps as much as it can."

Kassian leaned back on the bed, feeling warm. Feeling drunk. Feeling like he'd like to fall asleep.

"Though I suppose you're not getting rid of him either, are you? In spite of your break."

He paused, thoughtful.

"I don't see how you could."

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Operativnik Nikanor Grigoriivich Liadov

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from: nikanor_liadov
date: Mar. 21st, 2009 07:41 am (UTC)

Continued here: http://eyes-adrift.livejournal.com/4129.html

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