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[personal profile] capt_kasya
[Warning: NC-17 m/m Isaev/Irinarhov interaction]

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian left Liadov's office.

The conversation with the MVD major had been intense. Grueling. But at the same time, he felt cleansed, like he'd confessed his sins and had them burned away.

Mentally, he felt exhausted. He could use the simple comforts of a hot shower, warm bed, and warmer company.

But even that wasn't so simple, anymore.

Regardless, he knew he needed to see Isaev. Needed to breathe in his scent and brush up against the strength in Isaev's thewy form. It had become like holding his rifle. There was something about Isaev that helped to center him.

Nearly an entire day spent without him had felt odd.

Funny, that.

Kassian checked the senior lieutenants' barrack first, and as surreptitiously as possible, but Isaev wasn't inside. Fortunately, Kassian managed to avoid Imanov as well. In fact, he saw no sign of either one of them.

Maybe they were together, his mind supplied.

He scowled.

The idea didn't sit well with him, even though he'd told Isaev that he didn't expect that he cut off contact with Imanov.

Maybe it was just none of his business, what they did, and he should just head back to his barrack, and let Isaev come to him.

He usually didn't mind being alone. He usually preferred it.

Kassian frowned again.

He had enough thoughts chasing after him like clouds across a fading sun. He didn't need more at the moment. He just wanted to find Isaev, and figure it out from there.

Maybe Isaev had stuck to his usual routine, though, Kassian thought. The gym.

He thought he was just kidding himself, but he went anyway, and made his way to the gym building and ducked inside. There were a few people here, mostly lifting weights or doing stretches or push-ups. A pair of men circled each other in the ring, but Kassian headed toward the punching bags.

And there was Isaev, stripped down to workout gear, hands taped, hair damp. He went at a speed bag with hypnotic grace, hyperfocused. Intent, and beautiful.

Kassian stopped, glancing around him briefly. No one seemed to pay him any attention in spite of the fact he was still dressed in his uniform and clearly not here to work out.

Casually, Kassian leaned back against the wall, folding his arms across his chest as he let his gaze rest on Isaev again, observing without being observed.

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei had been harboring a few uncharacteristic tensions when he first quit the barracks in favor of his second home.

Ilya had called the gym as much once, in the presence of the Major, who had scowled.

"An Ocelot's second home should be the range," he'd muttered. "And Isaev should have to sleep there."

Nevertheless, Andrei preferred the kineticism of his bare-knuckles against hard leather to the clinical roteness and detachment of target practice.

At least as far as his pair of Makarovs went.

It had art, the way Irinarhov did it, the sniper's way. Like a good punch that laid a man out flat. The kind that you knew he wouldn't get back up from, and even if managed to keep his wits, he'd rather stay on the ground and not come back for more.

Andrei took a couple of alternating jabs at the small suspended bag, keeping machine gun rhythm against the backboard. Left-right-left. Left-left-left. Right. No flagging. No matter what fist took the lead, the cadence would always prevail.

It hadn't been exactly comfortable at roll call the day the MVD showed up. Andrei usually felt ambivalent about nudity- he had nothing to be ashamed of, as he saw it- but the chill in the morning air hadn't put anyone at great vantage, either in mindset or physique.

But that had been nothing compared to the sight of Nikanor Liadov, suddenly standing before him with a confratory smile he remembered from his brother's school days. Golden haired and coiffed, like a ghost from the old country. His eyes always looked ever so slightly sleepless.

Andrei had felt his blood pull into the ether at the sight of him, and the sudden realization that Irinarhov would know his history at a glance, if this moment came to pass.

Right-left-right. Now one hand. Hold the pose and the wrist. Hit close and hard. Andrei seldom needed rabbit punches. He was a hurting hitter, not a water-on-a-stone fighter.

Still, it was good to keep things...

Moving. Fluid. Flexible. Versatile.

He thought the words, punching each into the physical litany.

What he hadn't even considered was that Irinarhov might have had his own history with Liadov.

The roll call had gone over without any significant contusions to psyche or form.

Though he knew Kassian's interview was today. Andrei had yet to go in, and he wasn't sure what he and Nika would talk about anyway, if he did. Laugh over things that happened in Leningrad. Talk about his brother. Or not. Not now.

Andrei was still a little unhinged about the idea of Liadov getting Kassian alone in a room- a place where he could do a lot more, if Lasha's glowing reports were to be believed.

He pulled no punches, letting loose a volley of damage, then he stopped, stilling the bag with both hands, wiping his brow with the back of his hand.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian pushed away from the wall and approached, angling it so he would be apparent in Isaev's peripheral vision. He didn't want to sneak on him, after all, just alert him as Kassian drew near.

"I like watching you do that."

He kept his voice low, as usual, and casual-sounding. His words were pitched to carry to Isaev's ears alone. He walked up to join Isaev, reaching out to place his hand on the leather bag. It felt heavy and solid.

Kassian had never made it his practice to box. His hands were too important. He had to keep them strong but loose, and his trigger finger flexible.

The other day, he'd seen an old man sleeping in a wheelchair near a hanger next to the main wing. The sight had been incongruous enough until he'd noticed the Mosin-Nagant cradled in the old man's arms.

Then it had become surreal.

He'd wanted to stop and talk to the man, but he had to report for patrol. He wasn't sure what he'd say, anyway, but the image had lingered with him.

Kassian wasn't sure how many years the old man had, but guessed he was at least in his eighties. The man's skin looked soft and ridged with deep lines, and liver spots blotched his balding scalp.

Kassian wondered if the old man's eyes were any good, or if his grip trembled. If those bent fingers could keep the barrel steady, or if the arthritis was too painful.

In comparison, Kassian was still young.

Perspective, he thought.

He tilted his head to meet Isaev's gaze. "I thought you might be here," he said, and let go of the punching bag. He dropped his arm to his side.

"But finish your workout," he said. "I can wait."

Kassian backed off a pace to give the pugilist room. His mouth twitched, decidedly wry, but he didn't know what had eased his mood.

Probably just being in Isaev's presence after even a short separation.

Kassian had it bad, he realized.

As if he hadn't before.

He rested his gaze, dark and steady, on Isaev, regarding his young, smooth features. Kassian still didn't know what he was going to do about Imanov, if anything, but he supposed it would work itself out.

It always did.

That was perspective, too.

[profile] andrei_isaev: "No," said Andrei quickly. "No, I was almost finished anyway."

He released the bag and turned fully around, flexing his hands, feeling the pleasant restriction of the tape.

"Just the uppercut series left-" he clarified, taking a slow motion swing and bringing his fist smoothly up under the sniper's stalwart chin. He let it rest there for a moment, as he smiled slightly, then let it drop once more. "-And I can do those anywhere."

He rolled his shoulders, tossing his head back once to free it of the damp, driftwood-dark strands that had fallen into his face.

"It's nice to see you," he said, hesitantly, tilting his head to either side for a brief stretch of his neck.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian let out a low noise of amusement.

The interview with Liadov had been cathartic in its own way, and he now found himself more inclined to simply relax in Isaev's presence.

He stilled the hand that wanted to touch Isaev, push back errant strands of hair. Not here. Kassian knew not to do such a thing in a public place, even though he often felt the impulse.

"It's nice to see you too," he said, softly. Kassian was aware he was probably standing too close, but decided not to worry about it.

"Do you want to...go somewhere?" he asked, but then paused, wondering if he was being presumptous. "If you don't..."

He trailed off. If you don't already have plans, was what he'd begun to say, but didn't.

Kassian met Isaev's eyes with a slow, careful gaze. He wasn't sure what he was looking for. He wasn't sure he wanted to find it. But he sure as hell wasn't going to give up, or just walk away.

"If you want," he finished, even more quietly.

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei stripped the tape from his hands, watching him.

"Of course," he said, intently. "I've been waiting for you all day."

He unwrapped in a circular motion, hand over hand.

"...Killing time," he added.

He knew they hadn't talked about anything that had transpired in the past few days. Duty had kicked into high gear with the MVD presence. If they weren't drilling, they were patrolling. If they weren't patrolling, they were here in the gym, making a good show of Soviet power and endurance.

The funniest part was that Andrei knew neither of the emissaries from Moscow cared about that. They were here on a cause, and like truffle-hunting dogs, would not be marking anything else, unless they found it somehow relevant.

Not as if all the military decorum and showboating in the world could make Groznyj Grad look respectable anyway, Andrei thought- blackly, mildly amused.

He had meant to say something to Kassian- but there had been no time. The night of the roll call, he'd subbed out for an ailing Semeyonev and pulled a double shift, then been relived of the next day's shift to recuperate.

The night after that it had been Irinarhov's turn to sub in. But Irinarhov hadn't gotten the morning off, Isaev learned, because apparently he'd received a special assignment from Ocelot, the day of Isaev's absence.

So had Imanov.

Last night Irinarhov had obviously been exhausted from his triple duty shift and crashed out early, not even making it to evening mess. Andrei still hadn't managed to snatch even a moment alone with the sniper due to all the bureaucratic hustle and solemn guarding of things.

There were things that both of them needed to know.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: "The interview took a long time," Kassian said by way of explanation. He realized he'd missed mess, and was still tired. Working extra shifts wasn't as easy as it used to be.

He glanced up, watching the boxers spar for a few moments, thinking. "You probably want to get cleaned up. Let's meet at my barrack in a half hour? But bring your long coat. I found something I want to show you."

It would give him enough time to get something to eat, and for Isaev to have a shower.

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei smiled obscurely.

"I need a long coat for that?"

A good rough-down always made him feel very loose and languid. He was more quiet, less audacious. But more intent, as if it couldn't be helped, the focus brought by pummeling something solid. The creak of the chains.

He licked his lips briefly, tasting fresh, hot salt.

"I suppose I should towel off at least," he said, glancing at the showers.

He could hit the shower if there was time.

Andrei nodded.

"Give me thirty."

[personal profile] capt_kasya: "You'll see," he told Isaev.

Kassian hesitated, but only for a moment, then let his knuckles brush Isaev's arm. It was a brotherly gesture, one of gentle affection, not out of place between comrades.

He wondered, briefly, why he did that. Why he tended to second guess every gesture, at least when they were in public. Probably, it was because he'd come to feel so comfortable with Isaev he might inadvertently be tellingly affectionate in public.

Private things were private, and better kept that way.

"I'll see you then," he said, and stepped back, nodding. He turned to cross the gym, heading back the way he'd come, looping around the weights back to the north door.

He glanced over his shoulder before he left, but the angle wasn't right to catch a last glimse of Isaev before Kassian slipped outside.

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei hit the showers, laving up with ration soap and hot, hard water- two things that tended either to make a very clean man of you or to kill you in the process.

As he rinsed the suds from his hair he pondered Kassian's noncommittal expressions.

He was a strange one. So solemn and brooding one moment, smoldering with restrained affection the next, like black champagne.

But the touch...that had told Andrei the sniper was not angry- not at him, and not over being assigned to duty with Ilya.

It was good, he thought, as he strapped on his uniform and toweled his hair dry. It boded well for keeping Irinarhov's company beyond a raw little fling of aching beauty.

As per Irinarhov's diktat, Andrei swept by his own barrack to catch up his greatcoat and shapka, buttoning himself into one, and setting the other onto his head as he departed.

His hair was not quite dry yet, and the ushanka would keep him from chilling, wherever Irinarhov led him.

When he reached the Captains' quarters, he tightened his glove and leaned in, rapping sharply with the back of his hand.

"Oy, Kashiushka. Open up."

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian stood up from his bunk and went to answer the door. When he saw Isaev there, bundled up like a proper Russian, he nodded, his gaze lingering on the figure Isaev cut longer than he should have.

He usually didn't look at men for their bodies, but when he was attracted to someone, he found he didn't mind staring.

It made him think about what Liadov said, how people could react viscerally at even a small reminder of their lover.

"I'll get my coat," he said, leaving the door open momentarily to grab the heavy wool garment and the furred cap, pulling them both on before joining Isaev outside.

"This way," he said.

Kassian led Isaev past the GRU barracks, heading toward the south wing. The easiest way to get to their destination was to loop around and head through the alley, cutting past the west wing.

As they walked, he glanced up at Isaev, who looked somehow older in the buttoned-up formaility of his greatcoat and hat.

"You look good in that," he said, mildly, and fondly. Of course, Isaev looked good in anything and nothing too, but Kassian wasn't going to get technical.

"You been okay?" he asked, only regretting that he had to ask, and didn't know.

[profile] andrei_isaev: "I'm feeling much better after a little knockdown." Andrei paused. "...I miss flesh and blood."

He glanced to his side.

"How did it go?"

There was no need to specify.

Vaguely, Andrei realized it was funny that it had never occurred to him to ask where they were going.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: "It took a long time."

Kassian began with the obvious, though there was a lot more to say. "It was...grueling. Intense. But fair."

The GRU guards at the fence let them through with nods, and Kassian led Isaev between the main wing and gym, gesturing toward a tall bunker ahead.

"Your friend Liadov's not a bad person," he told Isaev as he opened the bunker door. It was unlocked, and empty inside save for dust and a wall-mounted ladder.

His voice echoed in the narrow space. The ceiling was a good six meters above their heads.

He turned to face Isaev. "The other day, I was looking for a nest and I found this place. It doesn't look like it's currently in use, but I don't know what it was supposed to be for. Come on."

Turning back to the ladder, he began to climb up. When he reached the trap door above, he pushed it open with one hand and hauled himself to the roof.

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei laughed, bemused, shaking his head.

"You're fucking bizarre," he said, pointing. "I shouldn't trust you."

But of course he did. He followed gamely, runging his hands and boots upward after Irinarhov, admiring the lithe way the sniper climbed.

"...Hey...exactly why were you looking for a nest, comrade?" asked Andrei, with sudden, good-natured suspicion.

He was relieved to hear that the Captain had little to say about Nika after all. That solved that, he thought, exhaling slightly.

It wasn't as if it involved him, in any case. He'd been paranoid. They had their own history to deal with.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: The trap door opened to a semi-enclosed space - a small, triangular lean-to that opened westward to overlook Groznyj Grad. It was just large enough for one man to sit back under the shelter, or to stretch out fully.

Two, if they were cozy.

Out of reflex, Kassian reached out to lay a gentle, guiding hand on Isaev's arm as he climbed out of the trap door. Isaev didn't really need it, but it was an excuse to touch him.

"See?" he said, tilting his chin out toward the complex. "The ground is a little higher here, and this building is tall enough to give a good view of most of Groznyj Grad. I'm going to get black netting and secure it to the top of the lean-to. From the distance, it will just look like part of the building. No one will know that anyone's up here."

Kassian had been privately gratified when he'd found the building. In his mind, it had been built just for a sniper to hide in, though logically, he doubted that was the case. Probably it had been used during the base's construction to hold some kind of machinery. Once the base was completed and the machinery dismantled, the building had no practical purpose other than storage, and it really wasn't large enough for that.

But still...he'd felt like he'd discovered something special, as if it were meant for him to find. He hadn't told anyone about it, but he'd known he wanted to show Isaev.

He settled into the corner, trying to sit as comfortably as possible on the hard concrete. He'd have to bring a blanket up here, as well, he thought.

Kassian turned to look at Isaev. "Our special assignment. Imanov's and mine. Ocelot told us to keep it under wraps...but I think you need to know. Liadov and his partner got a death threat, and Ocelot wants them covered."

[profile] andrei_isaev: "This is quite a couch cushion fort, Irinarhov," Andrei said, whistling softly.

He could see why the Captain was excited- it was a forgotten niche indeed, and somewhere a man could skulk for hours, observing, utterly unknown. Something a sniper could really dig, Isaev thought, and it endeared the guy to him even more.

Andrei had been admiring the view, considering exactly how far the vista extended, when Kassian's words sunk into his consciousness.

He turned, with as much reaction as the small space would allow, grey eyes wide and incredulous beneath the soft-furred brim of his shapka.

"...The Major partnered you with Ilya? Are you fucking yanking my chain?"

[personal profile] capt_kasya: "No," Kassian said, almost mildly. He'd had enough time to to come to terms with it, even though he'd been inwardly as incredulous as Isaev when he'd first heard it.

"Ocelot did it on purpose, I'm sure. Apart from the fact it makes sense given our training, he probably wants us out our differences," he finished with a slight shrug.

Never mind the crux of their differences involved Isaev.

"It's been going all right so far. We can work together, at least. And I want the assignment. I owe Liadov for what he did for me at my hearing, and I didn't even know it until now."

[profile] andrei_isaev: "You owe Liadov?" Andrei said, finding he didn't even need a new expression. "And how exactly does that work? The bastard might have been doing his job, but he still ran you over the rocks."

He pressed his lips into a twist and averted his gaze, brooding.

The idea of Irinarhov and Imanov working together was an unsettling one- not because of his connection to either, but more because of the vigorous and choleric animosity that Imanov had spewed toward the sniper, a hostility he did not quantify or qualify to Andrei's satisfaction.

Ilya had always been impulsive. Andrei's blood ran cold at the thought of Ocelot's little experiment in amnesty devolving into a slugfest, or worse yet, a weapons-drawn callout.

Worse things had happened.

And while he knew Irinarhov was a man of calculating reason almost to a fault, Imanov was a barracuda who would rip at him until he retaliated.

And Andrei had no doubts about how hard he struck back.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian sombered, his brow furrowing pensively. He turned to meet Isaev's gaze, regarding him, meeting his eyes, though his focus was more distant.

"He didn't run me over the rocks. He said..."

He trailed off. Though he'd mentally prepared himself for whatever consequences might come before he'd even pulled the trigger, the reality of averted fate had still hit him viscerally.

"...he said the others wanted to send me to the Zone," he finished, quietly. He turned his gaze toward Groznyj Grad, pulling his greatcoat a little more tightly across his chest, tucking his arms close.

"He argued against it. Persuaded them not to. If not for him, that's where I'd be now."

That was sugarcoating it, actually. He'd probably be dead after six months in the Zone.

Kassian shook his head. "I guess...when I think about it that way, a lot of other things don't seem so bad in comparison."

[profile] andrei_isaev: Isaev was silent for a long time.

"The Zone," he said, closing his eyes. "He told you that."

His voice was very low, pitched even darker than his usual wry tone.

He had no doubt about the verity of the statement. He'd seen examples made. Sacrifices to send a message.

"You don't owe him anything," he said, finally, without turning. "He was doing what he should have done."

He also knew that not every MVD man he knew as well as Nika would have done the same.

"It figures he would cast for clemency," he added, cryptically. "Your brand of justice agrees with his. You did something he would see as an act of heroism, the mindset of a true-blooded Russian."

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian frowned. "I don't think it was heroic. In retrospect, I'm not even sure if it was necessary, or if I should have done something else."

He shrugged. He'd said as much to Isaev before.

Kassian was not a man who spent his time second-guessing the past, going over each action and wondering if he should have acted differently.

It was what it was. The end.

"Regardless," he said, "I still feel like I owe him."

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei shook his head.

"Well, someone had to take the assignment. And you're the best man for the job."

He wasn't sure how he felt about Liadov's intervention. He didn't like the idea that things had transpired between the two men behind his control, that in a way, Nika's acquaintance with Irinarhov had preceded his own, and was almost more significant.

"I guess I ought to bake him a cake too," muttered Andrei. "No, you know what? He put borscht in my pocket once. Fuck him, we're even."

He pulled out a cigarette, rolled it between his fingers and stuck it between his lips, clamping his teeth down on the end.

"He even added a dollop of sour cream."

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian turned to look at Isaev with a frown, uncertain.

Where the sudden vehemence toward Liadov had come from, he didn't know. It sounded like there was more to their history that Kassian simply wasn't privy to, and wasn't any of his business.

He glanced down, and paused.

"You should know..." he said, slowly, "that they have to look at you as a suspect in the murder, because of the way Molokov was killed. Single clean blow to the throat."

He reached out to grasp Isaev's arm, gloved fingers pressing into the wool sleeve firmly, as if to hold him close, to keep him from pulling away.

"I told Liadov we were together that afternoon, but I didn't tell him what we were doing. He told me that in your written deposition, you said you were taking a nap, but if they ask specifically, don't lie to protect me, comrade. I don't think Liadov would press you for details, anyway. He thinks of you like a younger brother."

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei smiled.

He had reverted to a childhood indignity as a way to diffuse his brooding mood, and now that Kassian was sounding so serious, he almost laughed out loud.

"Yes," he said, "Of course I am." He sucked on the cigarette but didn't light it. "I'm always in the top five of any list. Have been for some time."

He let his hand fall casually over Irinarhov's and light there like a bronze leaf.

Andrei hated smoking.

It was something to do, but he did it badly. He had piles of cigarettes in his nightstand drawer, rations accruing over time.

He usually flicked them at Imanov when Ilya couldn't sleep, or when he was cursing because he was out. Again.
Now he felt no more desire to light the thing than usual, but the feel of it between his lips was providing a good tactical obsession.

"Don't lie...?" Andrei said quietly. "What do you mean?"

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei turned slowly and looked the sniper in his shadowy eyes.

"You mean, if he asks where I was, I should tell him I was with you."

The sentence was related to a question, but wasn't exactly of the tone.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian frowned slightly. "I mean tell him the truth. That you were with me. That we were in each other's company, after that afternoon at the firing range. I don't think he'll press you for the details of what we were doing."

He paused. "I didn't tell him...any details, if that's what concerns you. He thinks we're friends."

Kassian paused again, watching Isaev. "I think we're friends, too," he finished, quietly.

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei tilted his head.

"We are friends," he said, after a moment. "I don't care if the MVD knows it."

He leaned forward, settling against the wall, so that Irinarhov's space was a little more compromised by his physique.

"Why didn't you tell him?" he asked, the sound resonant and low, carried on the edge of breath.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian had to think about that one for a while.

His gaze dipped.

He studied a precise angled line on the ground below, a cut between floodlight and shadow. It would be a perfect place for someone to hide, he noted automatically. It was habit: he rarely could regard any given space without first thinking about it tactically.

"Instinct," he said finally. He shifted, settling again, comfortable in Isaev's proximity. Their legs brushed.

"I didn't know how far I could trust him, and that would have been a choice I made for both of us, not just me. It wouldn't have been right of me to say something about both of us without you there."

He glanced at Isaev, gaze dark and somber. "I remember the days when men were put in prison for loving other men. I don't care what happens to me, but I couldn't bring you down with me."

Kassian leaned his head back against the wall, eyes drifting shut briefly. "I don't know...maybe that doesn't happen anymore. Maybe Liadov wouldn't do that. But at the time..."

He trailed off, shrugging. "I did what I thought best. I didn't lie to him. I just didn't explain the details."

[profile] andrei_isaev: "I'm surprised he hasn't guessed, frankly," said Andrei, gazing over Kassian's head slightly, watching the dust motes glide in graceful ellipses. "He's pretty sharp...but then, I suppose he would think that the brother-"

Isaev broke off abruptly, automatically filling the lapse with a charming smile.

"But then, how would he guess? He only saw us naked together." The smile widened into a grin. "...and 3000 other guys."

He paused, looking down briefly, gathering his thoughts.

The strange little hangar was a nice temperature, not too hot, not too cool. And it was quiet, aside from the low hum of vehicles and generators in the yard some ways away and below.

"They do," he said lightly. "They'll send you up for much less than I've done with you. It's not a threat from the old days."

Andrei knew well enough what got you deported to Siberia, to the camps.

"There's no more forced labor, but the penal colonies remain, and muzhelostvo is still a crime." He paused. "That said, there's a different standard here, comrade."

He raised his arm slowly, and let the back of his hand press against Kassian's roughly shadowed cheek, a transient touch, not wanting to break conversation before Irinarhov had said everything he wanted to say.

"The military is different. It's a tradition. It's what men do."

And Spetsnaz even more so, he thought.

It was a rarified world, it changed your reality- and how could you ever convey that to anyone who hadn't lived it right alongside you?

[personal profile] capt_kasya: The fleeting touch on his cheek felt good. Kassian turned his head toward Isaev, enjoying it, but Isaev withdrew his hand all too soon.

Still, he found even that brief caress relaxed him, and his shoulders sank against the wall. He hadn't realized that he'd been tense.

"Then I'm glad I'm in the military," he said, quietly. He didn't know what he'd do if he wasn't. The thought of having to retire one day due to his age was frightening. He could barely remember what it was like to be a civilian, and even then, he'd been so young.

The thought that he'd probably be dead before that happened almost felt comforting.

Kassian drew in a breath, and let it out, then turned his head to watch Isaev suck on his cigarette. Slight oral fixation, that. It was interesting to watch.

He frowned suddenly, remembering something Isaev had said earlier. "He put borscht in your pocket? With sour cream?"

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei paused, tightening his jaw around the cigarette, then abruptly the fa├žade broke and melted into a wide smile.

"Yeah," he said, absently. "It was actually pretty funny."

Isaev lowered his eyes to Irinarhov's. They stood close, loitering, intimately casual with each other, in the way of very good friends, or...

"Nika's always had a wicked sense of humor. Or he had once." Andrei shrugged. "Don't know about now."

Now that there was nothing to laugh about. Not at Groznyj Grad, and certainly not in Leningrad. A chill shook his shoulders at the thought of the incredible disharmony that must have occurred between the MVD's two most golden sons.

"I'll tell him, if he asks," Andrei said, with a firm smile. "But I don't think he'll ask me any personal questions. That's why he asked you, Kashyan."

[personal profile] capt_kasya: "All right," Kassian said. "I'm in agreement."

He paused then, thinking back to the interview, and the other things that he and Liadov had discussed.

His brow furrowed slightly. "Dasha...there's something I have to tell you."

He searched Isaev's gaze and found it so warm and familiar, one corner of his mouth tugged back slightly. This felt good, like it was before, just a few days ago when things were simpler.

Kassian felt grateful that not everything had changed.

"I wanted to tell you before, but I couldn't."

This time, he met Isaev's eyes, held them steadily, with calm purpose. "I was ashamed. But I don't feel that way anymore. I just want you to know."

[profile] andrei_isaev: "You're a woman," deadpanned Isaev, hitting the wall with his palm. "I knew it was too good to be true."

He relaxed back against the wall, crossing his arms and pushing the cigarette into the corner of his mouth.

"Go on," he said, raising an eyebrow. "Tell me. Unless you's better I not know."

He wasn't sure what such a thing might be, but he didn't want Irinarhov being impulsive just because Liadov had gotten his delicate hooks into him and go spilling any ink he'd regret staining the sheets with later.

"'re married."

[personal profile] capt_kasya: "No," Kassian said, giving Isaev a mildly pointed look. "And no."

As far as he was concerned, both were equally ludicrous. But still, that brash, youthful humor was one of the things he loved about Isaev.

"It's not something like that. It's father. My family."

They had discussed it before at one point. It might have been the night of the murder. Kassian didn't remember for sure, but he recalled the trepidation he'd felt, and being unable to look Isaev in the eye. His words had caught in his throat and ultimately, Isaev had stopped him.

It was funny, how he could admit to murder but falter when he'd tried to explain what someone else had done.

But admitting it to Liadov had been cathartic, and if he could say it to someone he didn't really know, he sure as hell could say it to his lover.

He reached out and let his hand rest against Isaev's leg. It was an easy, comfortable gesture.

"Before the war, when I was still in school, my father was arrested. For sedition. They sent him to the camps," Kassian said, then fell silent.

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei's mouth went slack, unbidden and unguarded.

The cigarette clung to the round of his lower lip for a hung moment, then fell.

Belatedly, his hand shot out and snagged it on the descent, as he hastily lowered his eyes beneath the sweep of his lashes.

"Your father," he said, coughing slightly. As if he'd actually been smoking.

He ran a hand swiftly back through his blond hair, like the curved tines of a celestial trident raking the dawn.

Isaev stayed silent for a moment. And then a few more moments.

Too long, he thought, fiercely. Too long. Say something.

"Why. Why would you tell me that?'

No, he thought, closing his eyes. Not like that. Don't say it like that.

He took a breath and tried to smile, tried again.

"What I meant is, you suddenly want to confess this after an MVD interview with Nikanor Grigoriivich Liadov, and I have to wonder...."

Andrei's gaze shifted, darkened, and he felt his fist curl and calcify.

"What did he tell you?" he asked, his voice quiet with menace.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian's heart skipped, then thudded.

The vehemence of Isaev's reaction caught him off-guard.

He honestly hadn't thought that it would matter much to Isaev. Isaev was too young to remember how things had been before the war and even during it, when people were arrested seemingly on a whim, but the taint of having a relative in prison hung over the family that remained, marked their guilt by association as clearly as crimson-stained hands.

Kassian knew Isaev had been born well. It shouldn't have been something that even touched him.

But it seemed like Kassian had inadvertently roused a sleeping bear.

"It came up," he said, slowly and quietly, glancing toward the ground, "during the interview. He asked me about my patronymic. He remembered my father, actually, but he didn't know it was him. That I was necessarily related."

He started to go on, and tell Isaev about how Spetsnaz had altered his birth records, but stopped, and hesitated.

"You seem..." he said, but broke off before he finished it.

Kassian finally shook his head. "You're upset. Should I have told you earlier?"

[profile] andrei_isaev: Patronymic.

Ilarion had been right. The letter. His own memories of the crisp and pretty winter day, and the drive up North. The silhouette of chain link and barb wire against a sunset sky...

"Magadan?" Andrei, ground out with difficulty. "Was it Magadan?"

He waved off the words a spilt second later.

"Never mind," he said, swiftly.

He raised his eyes, and he could feel the tension, the tremor in his lips.

"...Is that all that Liadov told you, Irinarhov?" he asked, thickly. "Or should I be worried about a fling knife in the ribcage when I'm not looking?"

[personal profile] capt_kasya: "What?"

The longer he stared into Isaev's face, the more he realized that Isaev was serious. Kassian's brows vaulted, and his look became incredulous.

He shook his head, vehemently. "What are you talking about? This is something that happened before you were born. Does it bother you that much, what my father did? Do you think I'm a criminal too? Like father, like son, is that it?"

His jaw tightened, and he looked away.

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei's eyebrows wove a small line of confusion, but his eyes stayed vibrant and focused on the sniper, even as the Captain drew his gaze away.

Those dark eyes. He loved them, their uncertain emotion. There was something wrong with the fact that he somehow knew he would find them equally enthralling whether they looked upon him with affection or hatred.

But this wasn't hatred he saw now. It was stark and not quite angry. His body language had shifted into a defensive stance, and Andrei knew he was girding his loins- whether physically or psychologically was anyone's guess.

"It has nothing to do with crime," he intoned, through slightly set teeth. "It has everything to do with vindication."

He grabbed the other man's jaw with his hand, and forced his head to turn back toward him, meeting his eyes.

Irinarhov's expression smoldered as if Andrei had heaped live coals into the top of his head.

"...I have a father too, you know," Andrei added, and the words came out soft and sharp.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: "What are you talking about?" Kassian demanded again. "Vindication for what?"

His jaw clenched taut as he searched Isaev's expression, trying to make some sense to his words.

Isaev still looked vehement, maybe even wary, watching Kassian with a gaze as fierce as a Siberian winter.

"Your father? What does he have to do with this?"

Kassian reached out to grab Isaev's arm, as if to keep him from trying to get away even though there were precious few places either of them could go, trapped in this narrow space as they were.

Unless they wanted to risk falling.

"Tell me."

His grip on Isaev felt iron-hot, even through the layers of clothing that separated their bare skin.

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei's lips eased, slightly, though no other part of him did.

"You don't know," he said, slowly, the words rolling from his mouth with soft cynicism, tempered by surprise. "He didn't tell you."

He shook off Irinarhov's hand with a violent jerk, but there was no space to be had, not here.

Isaev broke the cigarette between his fingers, and tossed it insolently at Irinarhov's feet, smirking.

"My father is a Lieutenant-Colonel of the MVD."

[personal profile] capt_kasya: "So?" Kassian spat back, immediately.

"My father was a dissident. A traitor disloyal to Russia by word and thought. And now he's dead."

He grabbed Isaev's arm again, unwilling to be brushed aside.

"Am I my father, Isaev? Is that who I am? Should I suffer for his sins?"

His gaze flicked back and forth rapidly as he searched Isaev's eyes in burning question. "Why do you think I would want to hurt you because of your father?"

Kassian's voice broke with incredulity again. "That's fucking insulting, Isaev. What kind of a person do you think I am?"

[profile] andrei_isaev: "Was he guilty?" Andrei said softly, beneath his breath. "Or was he innocent?"

He paused, bicep tensing at Kassian's hand on his arm, but let it linger. It was pointless to resist his insistence.

"Because the son of an innocent man might have a lot of good reasons for getting close to his father's enemy. What's the old saying?"

He couldn't recall it at the moment.

Maybe Irinarhov had known exactly who he was, that first day in the showers. Maybe he had led with animosity, and then, as Andrei had pressed for his acquaintance, it had dawned on him that there was a better way to exact payback.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian stared, struck speechless.

Emotion rippled across his face nakedly for a few moments, then he drew in a sharp breath and looked away. He let go of Isaev's arm, numbly.

His gaze flickered, unseeing.

"He was guilty."

Kassian's voice rasped low and quiet, in a whisper he wasn't sure that Isaev could even hear. If Isaev even cared to listen.

"I hated him," he added.

They were words he had never spoken aloud. Never admitted to anyone, not even himself.

A tremor ran through Kassian, but he quelled it with a violent shake of his head and looked around at the shelter, out at Groznyj Grad, anywhere but Isaev and his accusatory stare.

"I hated him for leaving us. I hated him for being selfish. His political ideals were more important than his family. What kind of man is that?"

The words fell from his lips, raw and bitter.

"There are a lot of things that aren't really that important. And some other things that mean everything in the world."

He looked up slowly to meet Isaev's gaze again, lips pressed together, gaze bleak. "I don't know what else to say, Dasha," he said, then reached out and put his hand on Isaev's arm again.

This time he didn't hold on hard, but kept his grip light enough that Isaev could through it off, if he so wanted.

[profile] andrei_isaev: Andrei studied him carefully.

He paused, leaning in close. His heart thundered in his chest, part fury, part suspicion, part emotion sense memory at being so close to the sniper

"So you're telling me that you didn't know who I was when you took me into your bunk?"

He let Irinarhov's touch linger, but his arm trembled with repressed action.

"You didn't know the name Isaev, didn't mark me out as the son of a militsioner? And you're not lying in wait, ready to slip me something more than a nice hard cock?"

His lips shook, his eyes narrowed.

"...Like a shot in the dark."

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian closed his eyes to hold back the surge of emotion.

He swallowed, and leaned closer, so that he could feel Isaev's breath on his face. His cheeks. His lips.

"If you're that worried about it, kill me first," he whispered, head tilting upward, leaning toward the face he couldn't see, but instinctually could mark.

"To kill you, I'd need distance. And cover. And surprise. But I don't have those things. I don't even have my rifle. Once you're this close to me, it's all over. If you wanted to kill me, there'd be nothing I could do about it."

Kassian tilted his head, deliberately exposing his thoat. His lips grazed Isaev's cheek as he leaned closer, to speak in Isaev's ear. "Do it. You can make any excuse you want. Liadov would cover for you."

His lips brushed against the ridge of Isaev's ear. "Or would you be satisfied with a 'no'?"

[profile] andrei_isaev: Isaev exhaled, shakily, heavily.

"That's not the way I want to lay hands on you, Irinarhov," he gritted out, his voice soft and marked by sudden, surfacing desire.

He slammed his palms against the metal sheeting of the wall, rising onto the balls of his feet, pinning into Kassian's form in a perversion of pushup position.

"I want to rough up all over you," he said hoarsely, an inch from the man's lips. "I want to lie down with you. Even if my father killed your father."

He pushed their mouths together, briefly, before tearing away again.

"Tell me I'm safe," he breathed, urgently, demanding. "...Like you're safe with me."

He believed. Much as it cost him in cynicism.

[personal profile] capt_kasya: Kassian's body trembled at Isaev's closeness, at the ragged edge in his voice. At the touch of Isaev's lips and the soft, goading words.

And the thing that made him tremble the most were his own reactions. Kassian realized that he was hard, hopelessly turned on by all this talk of death and killing.

There was something wrong with that, he knew, but it didn't change the fact that he wanted Isaev now as much as he'd ever had.

"You're safe," he grated out. "You're as safe with me as I am with you."

He brought his lips to the exposed part of Isaev's throat, licking, tasting salt. Kassian paused to press his face against Isaev's young, resilient skin.

"I trust you with everything. My body. My heart. The truth. You can trust me too."

Kassian surged up to catch Isaev's mouth, his kiss hungry and needy.
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September 2009


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