Date: 2010-02-19 12:40 am (UTC)
The doorchime was mellifluous and unobtrusive. That alone served to mitigate its unexpectedness.

"Who could that be?"

Nika glanced at his watch. It was nine o clock.

In the wake of The Tragedy, the housekeeper had been unceremoniously dismissed.

It had been Lasha's decision, which he had made with the unerring resolution of a seasoned bureaucrat. No hired eyes would be privy to Aleksandr's frenzy of crazed grief.

No outside witnesses to the immaculate seams tearing apart.

He seemed to slip into Aleksandr's mantle with bitter ease, no one more aware of it than himself.

Nika had stayed by his side, enduring his lack of words, his taut unresponsiveness, his arctic efficacy in the face of his mother's suicide. And at the end of each day, he had slipped warm arms around shoulders flocked with ice, and breathed the heat of life back into the living drowned.

Aleksandr had refused to acknowledge anyone for three days. Refused to eat, refused cognac and sedatives that Lasha had pressed upon him with increasing frustration in an effort to force him to sleep.

Aleksandr was inconsolable, wild, almost incomprehensible.

It was a sight that was well beyond surreal, having known him only as a paragon of ultimate composure and merciless acumen.

It dawned on Nika only then how terribly much he must have loved his wife. How terribly someone like Aleksandr could love.

He had lain with Lasha on the couch in the darkened drawing room, mindlessly stroking his hair and staring at the wall as Lasha's father deconstructed above them.

Thinking of terrible love.

Aleksandr had subsided eventually, for the first time.

"It's too quiet."

Nika had become alarmed, and moved to get up.

"Don't," Lasha had intoned, quietly, stilling him with a pointed touch to the arm. "Stay."

"It's too quiet," Nika began, with veiled concern, "he may have hurt himself."

"Let him," said Lasha, cryptically. "I'll give him the same odds as he gave my mother, and no more."

He had turned his face toward Nika in the blue evening, his eyes soft under cover of darkness.

"...are you here for me, or for my father?"

Nika felt the urgency still within his breast.

"You know the answer to that, Isaev," he said. "You shouldn't even think to ask."

"I know," Ilarion had whispered, low in his throat.

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February 2010

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