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: 2010-02-20 11:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Nika glanced down at the man's hand, at the bills he extended, carefully, under the line of scrutiny, as if he were offering a bribe.

Force of habit, thought Nika.

The man's hand was the hand of a thug, thick and punishing, with visible mounds of muscle in the palm. Given that, Nika was actually surprised at the light-fingered way he held the money, scissored between thumb and forefingers at a negligent angle.

There was physical awareness in this man which gave him a grace beyond the suggestion of his brutish form.

"You work with your hands a lot, don't you," he remarked, vaguely, studying them. "With your body. Something skilled. You have the kinetic intelligence of an artisan."

Nika shook his head forcefully, re-focusing on the matter at hand, smiling wryly as he did.

He took the bills from the man's fingers with equal finesse, careful not to disturb their poise.

"It's very thoughtful of you," he said, evenly, meeting his eyes. "To make such a gesture."

Nika understood the dynamic of the gift.

It wasn't about the money. Clearly any and all of the parties involved had money to spare, even to burn.

It was about accepting the good intentions of an old family friend, and allowing him to do what he could.

"Your suggestion is a good one. I think an evening out would be quite a balm to Lasha. He feels these matters very deeply. So deeply that he's entirely unaware."

Nika slid the cash into the pocket of his uniform jacket obliquely, aware of how such a transaction would be viewed by an uninvolved observer, and faintly amused by the idea.

Then he smiled, slowly, hesitantly. It was a wistful expression, with a tinge of aching in the corners.

"He's suffering more than he knows," Nika said, quietly, eyes flicking toward the softly lighted kitchen. "Lasha was always one to borrow heavily on his capital in fortitude. Rather than be incapacitated for a massive wound, he would prefer a slow bloodletting, many trickles over time."

His thoughts turned inward somewhat, though his mouth still spoke, almost trancelike, aware that the man still listened, but too fatigued to care about guarding the intimacies of his mind.

"He's struck his pact. He'll always bleed a little, for the rest of his days," he murmured, with an uncanny certainty. "All that I can do is stand beside him, and staunch those little rivers as best I can with my lips and fingertips."

It was at that moment that he heard the light, snapping cadence of boots and Lasha appeared quietly in the entryway.

He leaned briefly against the doorframe, crossing his arms and regarding them with subdued acknowledgment.

"Thanks for getting the door, Nikash," he said quietly. "Nice to see you, Uncle Slava."

He inclined his head in a minimal motion of beckoning.


Then he turned and was gone, with an inexplicable flourish, as if the air around him had rearranged itself to accommodate his particular vortex, the silent storm that surrounded his person.

Nika returned his gaze to the man's.

"Uncle Slava," he said, slowly, with a touch of irony. "I'm Lieutenant Liadov."


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