The Visit

Feb. 18th, 2010 12:31 pm
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Later, Cheslav would always remember it was winter when Avdotia Isaeva died.

Cheslav Oleksei remembered the Siege as an eternal winter, even though he knew intellectually that the seasons must have changed during those two and a half years. Yet when he caressed the place in his memories that knew starvation and fear and aching desperation, squatting in bombed-out buildings and eating stringy meat nearly raw, taking his knife to the veins of a man for the first time and finding fleeting solace in the slow grind of hard flesh, that place, those memories, were grey and tinged with frost.

Now, there was real snow on the ground in front of the Isaev estate.

The estate stood as always, imposing and elegant, a tall historic townhouse facing the wide road. The snow around the curb been recently plowed but was blackened with mud from the tires of many recent visitors, like the first shadow of tarnish on silver.

Cheslav drove himself, and parked his white Moskvitch in front, instead of going around to the back like usual.

The night air felt crisp, and very heavy.

His breath streamed between his lips like smoke. Seeing it made him want for a cigarette.

There were few things Cheslav Oleksei denied himself, but he denied himself a cigarette now. Instead, his hand went absently to his pocket, and felt the weight of the bottle within.

Cheslav wore a black wool coat that spanned his broad shoulders and swirled around his boots as he walked up to the townhouse's front door. Above him, most windows were darkened save for a couple that were faintly backlit with the softest of warm glows.

No other signs of life.

He allowed it was possible that no one was home.

His heavy brow knit low over his dark eyes.

Cheslav had even features, for the most part, a straight Greek nose and squared-off chin, and a long, angular jaw. It was the thick brow that glided his face with a touch of menace, and betrayed his coarse birth.

Rather, both his jaw and his massive form, tall and thick with muscle like the butcher he'd once been, and Cheslav knew it mattered as much where you'd been as where you were.

He reached for the wrought iron knocker, but then changed his mind and rang the bell, instead.
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Date: 2010-03-02 11:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aleksandr-isaev.livejournal.com
"No, no," muttered Aleksandr, closing his eyes. "Nonsense. You did what needed to be done."

Cheslav's broad hands persuaded his jacket off his shoulders and his white dress shirt promptly became soaked and translucent, his tie darkening as the water deluged it.

"That's why I have you, Slava. To do what needs to be done. To handle all the unpleasant complications."

The water was hot, purging. It felt almost tropical to his senses for a moment, a far cry from the cold winter they currently endured.

Maybe that was what he needed. To go away, to the grand house outside of Sevastapol.

Maybe that would cauterize this...maybe it would heal him.

A forced smile touched his lips.

"You're a fixer, right?"

Cheslav was in his shirtsleeves, his motions effective and perfunctory but careful, like a manservant's.

Or a butcher's.

Studied. Competent. Familiar somehow.

Date: 2010-03-02 09:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheslav-oleksei.livejournal.com
"Da, that's right."

Cheslav spoke low and soothingly. He unknotted Aleksandr's tie and pulled it off.

"But this isn't that unpleasant, is it?"

He paused, smiling briefly.

It was strangely natural to touch Aleksandr this way. He was not sure why. Perhaps because they were old friends, or perhaps because Aleksandr was suffering. Perhaps because Cheslav knew there could be such a comfort in human touch.

Ironically, that had been a lesson he learned from Aleksandr and Avdotia.

He began to unbutton Aleksandr's shirt.

"Did I ever tell you why I kept my son with me in Leningrad during the Siege?"

Cheslav knew he hadn't. He simply continued on without waiting for a response, knowing that it was the quiet, even tone of his voice that Aleksandr would be attuned to now, that and the steady beat of the water and Cheslav's careful touch.

He also knew that sometimes, it was good to listen to something other than your own thoughts.

"The Siege had been going on around six months by that time. A man I knew gave me a tip that one of the trucks had made it across the lake and was going to smuggle out as many people as it could. I gathered up Yelena and the girls, and Taras, and we went."

Cheslav paused as he finished with Aleksandr's dress shirt. He removed it, and then tugged at his white undershirt, pulling it up and over his head.

He studied Aleksandr's torso briefly, noting with approval his firm tone and build. Impressive for a bureaucrat, though it was not something Cheslav had been unaware of before. He did not linger however, but instead continued undressing him, his fingers moving easily as if it was something he had done many times before.

"I thought we were too late. There was already a long line in front of us, and the truck was filling up fast. But we reached the front of the line. Yelena and the girls made it on, and then the man with the truck said there was only room for one more."

He undid Aleksandr's belt, continuing to talk as he did so, keeping his motions simple and unweighted.

"Yelena reached for Taras, but I told her no. I turned around to the couple behind us and told them to give their daughter to my wife, that Yelena would take care of her. You have to understand, at that point, I had no idea how long the Siege would go on."

Cheslav knelt to tug at one of Aleksandr's boots, then the other.

"They were afraid, I could tell. They didn't want to give their girl up to strangers, but the truck was going to leave. So in the end they ended up giving her to my wife. I told we'd find them after the Siege was over. And I kept Taras with me."

He paused, pitching the various pieces of Aleksandr's uniform out of the shower and onto the the wet bathroom floor one by one. Finally he turned back to Aleksandr, straightening to meet his eyes.

"Yelena didn't understand, of course."

Date: 2010-03-05 11:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aleksandr-isaev.livejournal.com
Aleksandr gazed at him, a softness settling about his eyes.

"She was angry with you," he said, not a question. "Every boy is his mother's angel."

Even the least angelic of boys.

"Did she ever forgive you?"

His voice quavered slightly on the verb, but he controlled it mercilessly.

It made sense that Yelena would have worried over her young son. It was warranted. The Siege had been a deadly time, particularly for children.

Privately he thought that Cheslav's altruistic maneuver might have cost his son some mental currency, stunted him a little emotionally. Taras was like Cheslav and yet nothing like Cheslav, from what Aleksandr could see. For one so young he certainly had an inexorable and stolid nature of the kind that could only have been forged during something like the Siege. Yet that nature seemed unpredictable. Most of the time he seemed quiet, almost sullen.

Aleksandr also had to admit that he did not know Taras very well. Ilarion did, Aleksandr imagined, after all this time, but he rarely offered any insight.

Not that Aleksandr had asked. Taras simply was. An extension of his friend and comrade, Cheslav Oleksei.

Aleksandr frowned down at his bared chest. It felt good to have the wet, heavy uniform stripped away, and Cheslav dealt with it almost the same way he handled problems: with unapologetic surety and a steady hand.

"And no," he said slowly. "It's not unpleasant."

He glanced up, cool eyes seeking.

"...is it unpleasant for you?"
(

Date: 2010-03-05 07:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheslav-oleksei.livejournal.com
"Of course not."

Cheslav snorted softly at the idea, shaking his head. He reached for the bottle of what he assumed was shampoo on a recessed ledge. The bottle had an inscription on it, but it was not in cyrillic. Instead, it had roman characters. Imported. Contraband, not that it mattered for a man of Aleksandr's status.

"It's human need, Shurik. It's hunger of the soul. There's not a lot that's unacceptable when it comes down to something that bare."

He paused, meeting Aleksandr's gaze for a moment.

"Close your eyes."

Cheslav shook a thick dollop of shampoo into this palm then stepped forward to work it into Aleksandr's wet hair.

"You asked about Yelena. I don't know if she ever forgave me. She was already sick when she and the girls finally came back to Leningrad. And Taras was a boy she didn't know anymore. Well, he was a young man, not a boy. Maybe that was it."

He trailed off, making a low, dismissive noise in the back of his throat.

"In any case...she died not long after. But even if she had lived, I don't think she would have ever understood what it was like. How I needed Taras there with me, to have something to fight for."

They were of a height, which meant Cheslav had to lean up slightly to work in the shampoo effectively. Aleksandr accommodated him by bowing his head slightly.

He wondered if it was strange for a powerful man like Aleksandr to surrender control in such a fundamental way, or if it was something more like relief.

Cheslav considered this as he pressed his fingertips into Aleksandr's scalp, keeping the motions even and slow enough to soothe.

"A man needs a reason, comrade. Something to live for. You know that."

Date: 2010-03-05 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aleksandr-isaev.livejournal.com
Aleksandr felt a pulse in his throat, subtle.

"And she was not that something?" he said. "Yelena?"

He allowed Cheslav to tend him, too weary to protest and lacking the inclination in any case.

Cheslav laved his hair thoroughly and methodically like he imagined he had probably done for his children.

When they were very young, at least. He had no doubt Cheslav's coddling had ended early, and Yelena's had taken over.

Aleksandr remembered warm, quiet afternoons in the late spring and early summer, dozing on his back on the couch with an infant Ilarion sleeping soundly on his chest.

He had woken once to Avdotia's touch on his brow.

"He likes your heartbeat," Avadya said, adoration in her eyes. "He feels warm and safe."

"Well, he doesn't know any better," Aleksandr had said, dryly, yawning. "He's only a stupid baby." But the ensuing smile betrayed that it was only a joke.

In truth he was in awe of Lasha's tiny hands and the luminous newness of his skin, the round glow of his scant, pale, downy hair in the afternoon sunlight, the perfect moue of his mouth, the unclouded baby brow. Ilarion was content, sleeping right where he'd been deposited by his mother, like a collapsed frog.

"I understand," he said, after a moment, his voice quietly solemn. "Why you kept him."

He paused.

"He was yours all along."

Date: 2010-03-05 10:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheslav-oleksei.livejournal.com
"Da, da."

Cheslav guided Aleksandr's head under the spray to flush out the shampoo. He was impressed by the volume of suds, and how soft his hair was left in its wake.

He wiped his palm across Aleksandr's forehead, so as to not let any soap drip into his eyes.

"My son. My firstborn. I don't have to tell you what that means."

Cheslav recalled Ilarion, downstairs. He carried himself exactly like his father, upright, erect, shoulders squared in his well-tailored uniform.

"And...think of how it would be, to have your family far from you, in another city, with no communication. Not knowing if they had even made it over the lake, or if they had, if they would ever come back."

Alekandr's hair slipped between his fingers, very clean. Cheslav brushed it back in much the manner Aleksandr was accustomed to wearing it.

"They become unreal. Like a dream."

He started soaping down Aleksandr's neck and chest.

"I needed something in front of me, something real I could talk to, and touch. I needed a reason, and Taras was my reason. I don't know if I would have come out of it as well as I did, if I didn't have to fight so hard for both of us."

He paused then, and let his words settle. Aleksandr's body was firm, the skin under Cheslav's fingertips taut. He began to wash down Aleksandr's side, bathing him like a racehorse, in section by section, according to muscle group, his hands somehow finding the task wholly natural.

He supposed the play of muscle and flesh was something he was well used to.

"You know, I spoke with Ilarion downstairs. He looks so much like you in his uniform, it's uncanny. His face, his eyes."

Cheslav shook his head.

"And I also met his friend, Lieutenant Lidaov. I was impressed. He seemed like a fine young man."

In Cheslav's very private opinion, Liadov had also seemed like the sort of man who was wasted in the Ministry.

He paused, lips pressing together briefly, glancing down as he continued to wash.

"A shame you got to him before I did."

Date: 2010-03-06 12:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aleksandr-isaev.livejournal.com
Aleksandr felt his pectoral twitch gently as Cheslav's broad hand swathed over it, slick with the glide of fresh soap.

A reflex.

His eyes raised, and he felt a sudden smile invade his face.

"So he pleased you, Nikasha," he said. "Not the seed of my loins, but mine nonetheless. Inasmuch as he's brother to Ilarion, he's a son to me."

He paused, brow notching faintly between his eyes.

"Sometimes I think - despite all that - he inherited more of my passion than Lasha. Lasha has many things of mine, of course. As you say, he has my face, and my form. He has my manner and my method. Ilarion is ruthless, driven; as he should be, and he is a credit to our house. All the same, I cannot always...comprehend the things that flit behind his eyes. He's...enigmatic. Perhaps that's as it should be. But Nikanor is golden; everything a prince should be, all that a father could want."

He glanced at Cheslav, whose casually penetrating eyes occasionally flicked up to match his, indicating his attention.

"His father, Grigorii Nikitavitch, was a hero who died in the war. His mother is a widow of the Motherland. Lasha embraced him at once, in that peculiar way of children...immediate, almost obsessive, their loves and hates -"

Or perhaps that was merely Lasha.

"- But in truth, I soon followed. I had only to look at Nikanor, speak to him. Even as a child his intelligence was obvious, his acumen was readily apparent, his curiosity hungry and insatiable, but he was always polite. Oh, so polite. He needed a father, someone to mold him, someone to shape him into a man - just as my Ilarion would. It was my honor to take on that mantle. Anyone could see he had great potential."

He broke off, mind drifting. Then he smiled apologetically and returned to the moment.

The spray and splash of warm water against naked skin. Humanizing, cleansing.

Slava, watching him expectantly.

"Izvinit," he said, slowly. "I was lulled, for a moment."

He leaned back against the tile, wondering whether he should feel awkward or compromised by the situation, engaging in such familial intimacies with his silent shadow man. Whether it was unwise.

He cleared his throat softly.

"But Nika, Nika is a natural. He owns this work in a way that few men older than he can claim."

Aleksandr tilted his head slightly, regarding Cheslav with a curious expression, a breezy smile on his lips.

"I won't lie: it pleases me that he pleases you. But I can't imagine he's the type of lad you'd ever seek for your outfit. He's nothing like your son. What use would you have for him? He's a MENT through and though."

Cheslav made steady progress, soaping him up in a manner that was surprisingly mindful and lacking the brusque roughness he would have expected.

Aleksandr felt his lip curve in spite of himself, and his eyebrow raise of its own accord.

"Is this how you handle all your meat, Slava?"

Date: 2010-03-07 02:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheslav-oleksei.livejournal.com
Cheslav snorted fondly.

"Only the prime cuts."

He gave Aleksandr's head a small shove, the rough affection of a blatnye man, for whom everything had to be couched in violence. With Aleksandr it was very gentle, a press of his fingertips against Aleksandr's wet skull.

Cheslav had not touched Aleksandr that way before, but somehow it seemed all right to do so now, as if another line had just been crossed between them.

He smiled absently as he continued soaping Aleksandr down, continuing on, drawing the washcloth over the ridged muscles of Aleksandr's stomach.

"I'm not always looking for leg-breakers and thugs, you realize. A thinking man, a passionate man, would be of great benefit to me. As would a loyal one."

Cheslav glanced up.

"But that's the thing, isn't it? He'd never leave the Ministry. He'd never leave you."

It had surprised him to hear Aleksandr speak at such length, and with such passion, about young Nika Liadov. His eyes and expression had come alive with a father's pride. Cheslav thought about how Liadov had spoken of Aleksandr in turn.

"You should have seen the both of them downstairs. Quite the pair. Lasha didn't want to let me up here. He didn't think he should let an outsider see you in your...state. And he thought I would make things worse. But his friend convinced him to let me try, that anything was better than watching you decay. 'That man is all the father I've ever had', he said."

Cheslav paused. He had finished washing Aleksandr's hips and stomach, and now let the cloth rest lightly at the small of his back, just over masculine swell of his buttocks.

He averted his gaze to just above Aleksandr's shoulder.

"I remember when my father died. I was twelve years old. He was a giant, larger than life. One day he just clutched his chest and staggered. Then he fell down. Heart attack, I guess."

There was a slight waver in his voice. It teared Cheslav up to speak of it, even now.

"I loved that man," he whispered.

He cleared his throat and shook his head.

Cheslav resumed washing, belatedly, reaching around Aleksandr's flank.

"Boys need their fathers, Shurik. No matter how old they are."

Date: 2010-03-07 11:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aleksandr-isaev.livejournal.com
Aleksandr's brow broke and re-formed at a lower angle, bespeaking the primal response of empathy.

"Izvinitchye," he said, quietly. "I didn't know, Slava."

It occurred to him belatedly that there were many things he didn't know about Cheslav Oleksei, and many things Cheslav did not know about him.

That was part of the business they held between them.

But there were many things that he knew about Cheslav, and that Cheslav knew about him. Things that went beyond their business. Things neither of them probably should have known, if business were always and strictly the thing at hand.

Aleksandr knew, for instance, the extent of Cheslav's tattoos.

It had not been strictly business. It had also been pleasure.

It was not hard to remember that now, in the opulent shower chamber of his silent, secluded master bedroom. Those moments of leisure and decadence. Contact. Humanity. Oasis. They had been here before, after all, many times.

Cheslav, Avdotia and he.

Not here in this very room, perhaps, but in innumerable rooms like it.

Somewhere in his chest a seed pearl of pride shone at Cheslav's recounting of his sons' actions: Lasha's fierce guarding instinct, and Nika's assertion, which was as unvarnished as such words could be.

His heart was filled, flooded. Half of it was sorrow, but the rest was passion and stirring, newborn gratitude, and it was impossible to tell the three apart at such close range.

He reached for the back of Cheslav's neck, and drew him companionably close.

"I'm sorry, Slava," he murmured, again. "I never knew."

Date: 2010-03-07 08:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheslav-oleksei.livejournal.com
Cheslav had to swallow.

He felt like he should hold himself rigid and not succumb in his moment of weakness, that he was here for Aleksandr and not the other way around. But Aleksandr's embrace had been impulsive and heartfelt, and had a vigor to it Cheslav could not deny.

He turned his head, and pressed his face into Aleksandr's wet neck. He let himself relax against Aleksandr.

"I don't talk about it," he whispered.

It was true. He remembered the time when Taras had looked up at him with round, solemn eyes and asked, do you have a papa?, and it had struck Cheslav as sad and strange and terrible all at once, that his son would wonder about the existence of his own grandfather in the present tense, as if Cheslav had merely locked him away in a spare room somewhere until Taras was old enough to meet him.

Cheslav had only said, he died before you were born.

He had not been able to bring himself to speak of Sevastian Tarasovich Oleksei, who had been larger than life in so many ways, built like a true hero of the state, massive and almost impossibly broad. He had a child's memory of his father's size and stature, but knew with certainty that Sevastian had towered over every other man he'd met, even his other butcher-comrades.

Cheslav had never known another man with such capacity for love and devotion, and who had been loved by so many in turn.

He was glad for the warm, wet water that coursed down around them. Aleksandr mercifully did not speak as the knot in Cheslav's throat tightened, then eased.

Cheslav pressed a fierce kiss to the side of Aleksandr's neck.

"Oh, Aleks. Don't leave me."

Date: 2010-03-07 11:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aleksandr-isaev.livejournal.com
Aleksandr blinked, staring over Cheslav's broad shoulder, taken aback.

"I won't," he intoned, reflexively, his voice reassuring.

His arm automatically tightened, sliding around Cheslav's strong waist and settling just above his lower back. He could feel the oddness of his bare skin against the wet fabric and for the first time he became aware of how naked he was.

"Not tonight," he promised, in a low voice. "Not tomorrow."

He knew the communicative nature of pain. He had seen it enough times to know the way one man's anguish could touch off another's buried miseries, losses or private grievances, like a match to an innocent sheet of paper.

There had been an urgency in the press of Cheslav's lips against his neck, a ferocity and a raw entreaty. He was asking for himself, but for Lasha and Nika too, that they not lose him to this night, that they not grow up without a father.

For Andrei, thought Aleksandr, dazedly, remembering his youngest son belatedly and with a pang of stabbing realization.

Andrei, Avdotia's last request, which he had cruelly denied her. Andrei, his son, but his mother's child.

I didn't foresee, he whispered, in his mind. To her, to himself, or more likely to oblivion. I didn't know it would come to this.

He realized he had forgotten, for a moment. Distracted from his pain, which had seemed all-consuming. Reveling in the pleasure of his sons, as if...

It seemed a whole new betrayal.

Aleksandr felt his lips tremble, as he remembered his wife again. Remembered the voice, the presence, the face he would never see again. The woman he would never again hold in his arms.

His chest seized, hard, and it seemed like everything inside was balanced on ashes, liable to crumble inward, collapsing him upon himself, and leaving ultimately nothing.

He let his head fall back, mouth falling open in a silent cry, eyes closing violently, pressing the back of his hand against his lips. He fought it back and found the back of Cheslav's neck once more, uttering a choked sound.

His arms contracted, drawing Cheslav to him in a hard, shaking embrace, and in that moment he felt the haloes of their anguish touch and overlap. His sharp and fresh as newly spilled blood; Cheslav's raw as freshly turned earth.

"Slava," he breathed, the words hitching. "We'll endure, you and I. We'll stay."

His hand stroked down the back of Cheslav's neck, once, and clutched.

"And we'll do what has to be done. Because it's all that is left for a man to do."

He let his cheek rest against the damp hardness of Cheslav's bowed brow.

"Lie with me tonight, Miasnik."

The demand was passionate, innocent, brotherly.

"Say that you'll pass this night locked behind these doors."

Date: 2010-03-08 05:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheslav-oleksei.livejournal.com
Cheslav shuddered in the wake of the choked noise Aleksandr had made, nearly inhuman, all too human. Pain, the most primal of cries, cut short and swallowed by its own undertow.

He felt body and mind respond instinctively, pressing closer, grasping him harder. Aleksandr's masculine strength and solidity were grounding.

"Da," he said, hushed. "I will."

He swallowed, rubbing his forehead lightly against Aleksandr's cheek. He felt the softly abrasive texture of wet stubble.

"I couldn't think of either of us spending this night alone."

Cheslav could barely remember a time during their association before they had been so companionable. Compatible. What had started as a tentative alliance had quickly and improbably grown to something more.

He remembered there had been times when he wondered if what they shared was immoral. Then he had laughed at himself. Immoral was what he had to do to survive the Siege of Leningrad.

Slowly he raised his head, blinking the water out of weary eyes. He felt a deep ache inside of him that he realized had been present for a very long time, as if he'd been forced to swallow a stone and had carried the weight of it ever since.

"You know that we'll do more than just endure. In these times, a man can thrive. He can grow, and transform. Nothing all at once. Nothing sudden. But you'll go on, better than new. We'll start tonight. You and I."

Cheslav drew in a deep, humid breath and raised his hand, and pushed it through his wet hair.

"Come on. Let me finish getting you clean. Then we can light a fire, and raid your liquor cabinet."

He smiled and met Aleksandr's eyes, finding their iceless blue familiar, the man he knew.

Cheslav shook his head.

"You know I've missed it. Coming here. Being here, Shurik."

Date: 2010-03-08 07:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aleksandr-isaev.livejournal.com
Aleksandr released him slowly.

"Coming here?" he said, flicking his eyes away uncertainly and then bringing them back.

It was the first time either of them had spoken of it outright, what the three of them had shared. Or was it what he had shared with Cheslav, like a man offering a fine cigar.

"To the house, you mean."

He paused.

"As our...guest."

Aleksandr glanced at the floor of the shower for a moment, watching water slicken the white and silver marble with its veins and mottling of grey and black.

"I don't regret anything, Slava."

It was true. There was nothing to regret, only memories of endless nights with the textures of cognac and low laughter; breath and flesh both soft and hard against silk and beneath warm, low lights.

"Not about you and Avadya. I want you to know that."

Date: 2010-03-08 12:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheslav-oleksei.livejournal.com
"That's...good."

Cheslav's broad brow notched into a frown. He kept his eyes averted, not watching Aleksandr's face. Instead, he traced almost absent patterns with the washcloth across his thigh.

"I wondered why we stopped coming here, you and I. I thought about asking, but I never did. Maybe I should have. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy our...other pursuits. It just wasn't quite the same."

He had always wondered why Aleksandr bothered to keep so many mistresses.

He knew the nature of men, to want, to want more, to roam from a marriage that had little meaning. But he had never gotten that sense from Aleksandr, not to watch him interact with Avadya. Not to watch him watch her the way Aleksandr had, with a cool gaze that simmered underneath, like water that meant to start boiling.

Cheslav had written it off as the jaded life of a party man, that Aleksandr was expected to do so, no matter what the State said, no matter how well he liked his wife. He'd felt a small bit of irony that the blatnye man would feel the impulse toward more traditional values than his upper-class comrade.

"I thought you might have changed your mind about what we were doing. Or...she had."

He glanced up hesitantly, the shadow of a question in eyes.

"I didn't want her to resent either of us for anything that happened."

Date: 2010-03-09 10:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aleksandr-isaev.livejournal.com
"She didn't," Aleksandr said at once, the words resolute, convicted.

He shook his head.

"I swear that much to you, Slava - she loved all that we did for her. To her. Every minute. It was never a regret. It was-"

He glanced away, as thought chased behind his eyes, conflicted.

"...It wasn't Avadya. It was me."

He could feel the absent pass of the washcloth against his thigh, Cheslav's hand idly guiding its progress.

"In the beginning, I..suppose it was about Avdotia, wasn't it. God, I liked the way you looked at her, Slava. I loved to watch her with you. I loved to have her while you watched. And when both of us would serve her at once..."

Aleksandr shuddered, briefly, closing his eyes and biting his lip in blatant appreciation.

"So many permutations. So many pleasures to be had. It pleased me to see her enjoy herself so...thoroughly. And to share her perfection with a comrade, like one might offer a glass of fine armagnac. You remember, don't you, how we strove to best one another. And failing that, how we laughed and acquiesced and took her in our arms. Teasing her. Making jokes."

A bitter sweet smile touched his mouth and faded, replaced by an expression of vague wonder.

"But Slava, something happened. It was underway long before we took our pursuits outside this house. It wasn't long after it all began that it seemed as if...it could have been any woman. Beneath you, beneath me. Between us."

Aleksandr glanced away, his lips parting.

"I loved my wife, Slava. Passionately. I didn't want her to be...merely..."

His eyes sought Cheslav's, ice rendered almost liquid.

"...our means."

Aleksandr's gaze persisted, unflinching.

"And yet, I saw no reason to cease our recreations."

Date: 2010-03-09 11:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheslav-oleksei.livejournal.com
"I..."

Cheslav felt a strange moment of stillness, while the world outside continued on as it had, and something rearranged itself inside him like a cat finding a more comfortable way to settle.

"I remember," he said.

He was aware of beating, coursing water and warm, wet skin, the rise and fall of Aleksandr's chest against his. His hands fell idle, resting lightly against Aleksandr's thighs.

"It all felt so decadent, yet we were laughing. You were smiling. We would fall back to catch our breath, and there were times when I couldn't tell which one of you..."

Cheslav glanced down, aware of Aleksandr's nudity in a way he had not been before. Suddenly he was glad for the sodden weight of his own clothing weighing on his frame, keeping him grounded.

He paused uncertainly, licking his wet lips, tasting warm water.

"I'm...glad... Avadya didn't have regrets."

It was not what he had meant to say, but true nonetheless.

He glanced up.

"I know you loved her."

Cheslav reached up to bring his hand to one side of Aleksandr's face, crushing his lips to his cheek, harder and longer than he had intended.

"I don't think I can wait much longer for that drink."

He drew back slightly, and slapped Aleksandr's ass, as he had before on occasion, in jest.

"Come on. You're clean enough."
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