The Visit

Feb. 18th, 2010 12:31 pm
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[personal profile] cheslav_oleksei
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.

Date: 2010-02-19 12:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
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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