Legwork

Feb. 11th, 2009 10:31 am
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[personal profile] capt_kasya
Kassian leaned close to the door, listening.

He heard quiet beyond, no sound in particular. Not that it necessarily meant no one was inside. It was the middle of the night, and most people would be asleep.

Or they should have been.

He'd woken up feeling a lingering chill on his back, and far too much room in the bunk. A few minutes later, he'd realized that Andrei had not gone to the barracks lavatory at all, but rather seemed to have slipped out of the room. Kassian had thought to wait for a while, in case Andrei had gone to the gym and would be returning shortly.

He hadn't been able to wait long.

He'd dressed quickly in his black uniform, complete with its smart red gloves and scarf, donning the balaclava so that no one would know who he was. It also meant leaving his rifle in the barracks, but that was better than getting caught roaming the base Isaev-less, when he was supposed to be keeping track of Andrei's every move.

The gym had been empty. No luck. Kassian had thought for a few moments, wondering where else Andrei could have possibly gotten to, and then it had hit him, almost like relief.

Almost.

Kassian glanced both ways down the hall before he pulled off his balaclava, pausing for a moment to push back his hair, black and thick and willful.

He sighed, then raised his fist to the door, wondering if he was going to regret this.

Date: 2009-02-11 08:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion Isaev was a light sleeper. It came with what he liked to think of as enhanced inherent vigilance.

Enhanced inherent vigilance being what Nikanor Liadov would have called paranoia.

All words; it didn't matter.

A rose by any other name would still find him struck awake like a hammer blow at the sound of a knock on his door, eyes cloven in the settled darkness.

He reached under his pillow and pulled out his Tokarev. It was something he did without deliberate thought; the fact was that Lasha never opened a door without a sidearm in reach. While one Makarov usually lived in his holster and one lived in his desk drawer, the Tokarev was his usual bedmate.

Ilarion took less than a moment to gather himself, shaking off the vestiges of sleep.

He pushed up from the bed, automatically, seizing his brief red silk shortrobe from where it hung on the bathroom door knob and shouldering into it, not thinking particularly about who might be calling in the blue hours before dawn.

It didn't really matter. Just in case, he clicked back the hammer of the pistol, lovingly, feeling the slide caress his thumb. It made him smile.

Tying the sash with a minimal gesture, he crossed to the door and pulled back the bolt latch, opening the door and lounging indolently in the frame with arms braced, gun concealed like a casual hand, pressed flat against the back of the door.

His eyes lit upon the Ukranian, standing there fully kitted, a very slight grey wash of stubble staining the masculine planes of his jaw and neck. His blackish hair appeared sleep-tousled, locks unruly and pressed into sullen disarray.

Ilarion's lips drew slowly out into a narrow line, demonstrating his neutrality.

"Irinarhov," he said, inflectionless. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

His fingers went to release the hammer, at first, but then he paused.

It was, after all, better to be safe than to let your guard down and be stabbed by a dead ironworker's lover in the middle of the night. Or, he thought darkly, a dead prisoner's son.

Date: 2009-02-11 09:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
"Isaev," Kassian said.

He could not help but feel a moment of strangeness at the use of Andrei's surname to refer to someone else. To him, Isaev was Isaev - Andrei, or Dasha. Not Ilarion. Not Andrei's Lasha.

But as he stood there face to face with the man, the resemblance was more than undeniable. A few details differed, of course - the palest blond of Lasha's hair, while Andrei's was sunskissed; Lasha's hunting cat build, sleek and leanly muscular, made for quickness, while Andrei was obviously a lion.

Their eyes were the same, though, and the curve of their mouths, as well as a particular aura that was collectively Isaev, what Kassian had at first written off as arrogance and trouble in Andrei, and self-important swagger in Lasha.

Lasha was wearing a red robe that draped elegantly across the contours of his shoulders and chest. With Lasha's arms slightly raised to lean against the doorframe, the robe fell just above mid-thigh.

Kassian kept his chin up, and looked Ilarion in the eye.

"I'm looking for your brother," he said, simply, and without apology. "I thought he might have come here."

Date: 2009-02-11 10:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion leaned subtly forward, eyes narrowing, a diminuitive frown gradually becoming visible on his lips, like the face of the Madonna seeping through a sacred well wall.

"You lost him?" he drawled eventually, splitting the difference between cynical and incredulous. "Where? He's the size of a telamon."

Lasha studied the Ukranian sniper negligently.

"He isn't here."

A pause, and he released the hammer of the gun with an audible click.

His gaze swept over Irinarhov, coolly brooding and without haste.

"There's an exercise facility here, isn't there? With pugilist gear? Perhaps a boxing ring? And a sauna, I assume. Did you try there?"

Date: 2009-02-11 11:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
Kassian's eyes blazed momentarily, like a struck iron, but he maintained a stoic expression, mouth slightly downturned.

"You and I both know there's no stopping an Isaev from doing what he wants."

Or getting what he wants, Kassian thought.

He did not acknowledge the sound of the gun decocking, like an impolite noise perpetrated in company.

"I checked the gym already. This was the second place I thought to look."

Kassian paused for a moment, considering.

"I'll check the sauna next."

He nodded, and stepped back.

"He's not supposed to be wandering around without an escort, so I need to catch up with him. Sorry for the interruption, Major Isaev."

Date: 2009-02-12 01:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion's eyes narrowed further.

"You look concerned," he said.

He regarded Irinarhov cirumspectly after this observation, suspicion brewing quietly behind his eyes.

"Is this going to be a problem?"

Date: 2009-02-12 07:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
Kassian hesitated, but only for a moment.

No matter what had transpired between them earlier, his and Lasha's objectives aligned now. Kassian knew that he could count on Ilarion having Andrei's best interests in mind, and little else.

"I don't know how much you know about the circumstances behind Andrei being assigned a twenty-four hour guard," he began, slowly.

Out of habit, he paused, glancing around them to make sure they were in the clear before he went on.

"Andrei was in charge of hazing a certain soldier in our squad. That man turned out to be the last rape and murder victim. The problem is that the hazing happened right before this soldier was murdered, and Andrei was a natural suspect. It would have been only conjecture, except for two things - one, Andrei has the same rare blood type as the rapist, and two, he was given two conflicting alibis for his whereabouts at the time of the murder, so both were discounted."

Kassian's expression darkened.

"Although Major Liadov..." he started, then hesitated, all too aware that this was Liadov's Lasha as well.

Something flickered in Ilarion's expression, the lightest of chill winds across a still lake.

"...is obviously on Andrei's side, it's Lieutenant Rakitin who's the skeptic."

Kassian paused.

"Actually, from what I've heard, it's less skepticism and more of an active interest in Andrei's guilt. That's why I don't want to give him any more ammunition. If either Andrei or I are spotted apart from each other, then it'll be obvious that I haven't been constantly watching him."

Date: 2009-02-12 08:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion was silent for several seconds, eyes like chips of ice, snapping cold and bright.

"Wait here," he instructed, sharply.

A few spare minutes later he re-emerged, in complete uniform, be-gloved and jackbooted, hair newly sleek, longcoat coat belted snugly about his body.

He locked the door and checked the knob with a violent and perfunctory gesture, turning back to Irinarhov.

His lips were set and cruel, his profile cutting, like an iceberg.

"Let's correct this little issue, shall we?"

Date: 2009-02-12 05:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
Kassian stared at him, taken aback.

Lasha had stepped out of the room as if it were the past, evoking the cruel junior militsioner who had trespassed at Kassian's door, so many years ago. But that Lasha had been a youth wearing the uniform of a man, malicious and cold, but still callow.

This Lasha had matured like a fine wine and come fully into his own. There was a seasoned air to him now, a sense of utter self-possession and confidence that had been missing from the youth. His face was harder. Colder. Filled out and sharply masculine. The grey uniform, impeccably tailored. Yet there was still the hint of the young man who had stared at Kassian with fury in his eyes and blood trickling down the side of his mouth.

That memory felt fresh again, vivid in his mind. Kassian had been young then, too.

He exhaled.

"All right," he muttered, after a moment.

Kassian reached into his pocket and pulled out his balaclava, yanking it down and over his head.

"Let's go. It's this way."

He led.

Date: 2009-02-12 07:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion fell into stride behind the Ukranian, boots striking in a sharp cadence.

He had been holding his cap in his hand, but after a moment he settled it on his head, finishing the Ministry exoskeletion.

"Just out of curiosity, Irinarhov," Ilarion said, absently, his mind already on the hundred roadblocks and reels of tape and bureacratic lime he was going to wrap and jerk around Lieutenant Rakitin's pale neck. "Did he do it?"

Date: 2009-02-12 08:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
Kassian glanced back, eyes narrowed under the balaclava eyeslits.

He slowed his pace slightly, to let Lasha close the gap between them.

"No," he said, quietly. "Not that it matters."

He walked in silence for a while as they passed office doors with small inset windows, each one darkened.

"...to me," he added.

Date: 2009-02-12 11:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
"I didn't think so," Ilarion responded, without a shift in tone. "But I never understimate anyone who shares my blood."

He studied the halls disinterestedly as they passed, offshoots here and there, winding through the base, eventually leading to barracks and hangars and laboratories; an infinite rabbit warren.

Lasha turned his head, mouth thawing just enough to allow his lips a faint, cryptic expression, brows slanting downward, the scope of movement infinitesimal as a glacier.

"I guess that means you don't mind being raped," he remarked, dryly.

Date: 2009-02-13 12:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
Kassian shot him another look, hard, but brief.

He turned to face forward again, walking in silence of a while. They reached the stair, and he gestured that they take it.

Their boots echoed up the stairwell. He noticed Ilarion matched his stride with complete ease.

"Your brother loves you very much," Kassian said, conversationally.

They reached the top. Neither of them was breathing hard.

"You were one of the first things he mentioned, when we were initially getting to know each other. 'My brother Lasha', he said. He called you Prince Ivan, who steals from the garden of earthly delights, and rides away on the back of a wolf. He told me all about you."

He paused.

"Here's the sauna."

He pushed open the outer door. It was not warm at all inside, no more than the ambient temperature. Kassian checked the steam room itself, but it had not been used in a while.

Frowning, he turned to Lasha and shook his head.

"Let's keep moving. Maybe he went back to the barracks."

Date: 2009-02-13 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Ilarion shrugged a silent assent, and didn't reply at once.

Once they were back traversing the endless corridors, however, his lips pressed into a cool smile.

"Prince Ivan," he repeated, with acid amusement. "The vainglorious young noble, singleminded and capricious. How flattering a picture he must have painted. Yes, I'm sure he did tell you all about me."

He paused, significantly, smirking.

"But then, you'd already met me."

Date: 2009-02-13 07:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
Kassian nodded.

"Yes. We'd already met."

He exhaled, twisting his neck to stretch it, restless.

"I didn't know your name, but I remembered you. All those years. If I had only known.."

He trailed off.

Kassian wondered how much of his initial reaction to Andrei as a young troublemaker had been influenced by the the indelible impression of another young blond man, the association immediate and unconscious. The thought made what had come after somewhat disturbing.

He paused at a door.

"We need to go outside."

A wind stirred up against the doors, rattling them, letting a cold breeze seep inside. They exited to a chilly night, dark and starless. It felt almost like it would snow again.

"He loves you," he said, as they crossed toward the barracks. "More than anyone else. He told me that, too."

Date: 2009-02-13 07:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
The crispness of the night felt invigorating to Ilarion, bracing and vast. He raised his head and let the wind ravish his face, biting and cruel.

"Such intimate things to impart," Lasha remarked, smoothly. "My brother is demonstrative with his affections, as I'm sure you know."

They were walking at a brisk clip across the yard. Around them staggered the jagged shadows of black mountains against a sky only slightly more light.

"It seems you know a good deal about me, Captain Irinarhov."

He paused, significantly, flicking glacial eyes over Irinarhov's strongly carved profile.

His tone was arid as the whisper of leaves.

"I wonder what Andrei would tell me about you."

Date: 2009-02-13 09:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
"The truth," Kassian said.

The captains' barracks were just ahead. There was no light visible through the windows, but that did not necessarily mean no one was inside. Perhaps Andrei had come back, not long after Kassian had departed, and was now fast asleep in their bunk.

"I don't have anything to hide from you, Major Isaev."

He opened the door.

It was warm inside, cozy, like a home. He did not turn on the lights. His eyes were well enough adjusted to navigate through the familiar space.

"Andrei?"

Their bunk was empty, as he'd left it, bedsheets hastily pushed aside.

Kassian turned back to Lasha, shaking his head.

"Something must have happened. This is strange. Unless it has something to do with the investigation."

He paused, staring at Lasha for a few moments in the semidark. This close, this isolated, Lasha seemed taller, more physically imposing. Perhaps it was the cap. More than that. The entire uniform, colorless. The stance, straight-shouldered and imperial.

His eyes narrowed.

"How long have you known it was me? Andrei wrote to you about me, didn't he?"

Date: 2009-02-13 10:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Lasha looked down, regarding Irinarhov, the narwhal- a fascinating animal he somehow hadn't expected to exist.

"He did," he replied, at leisure. "The name struck me, for I recalled well what happened to the only other Irinarhov I knew of. Andrusha was there, though young, and I wondered if he recollected any of that day."

Ilarion tipped his shoulder in a negligent shrug.

"I wrote back to remind him, merely as a curiosity."

Lasha tilted his head, with a cynical and leading smile.

"Why?" he asked, innocuous. "Did he remember?"

Date: 2009-02-13 05:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
"Yes."

Kassian said it more quietly than he had intended, barely above a whisper.

"He remembered everything."

He stared steadily at Lasha for a moment, then he pulled off his balaclava. His hair fell forward, a thick tangle across his brow.

"Everything he'd seen. Everything he'd understood, even as a young boy. The body on the fence, the things your father said. The kitten. You. You standing next to your father, in your uniform. You weren't afraid, he said, so that's how he knew that he didn't have to be, either."

His mouth tightened, curling down, deepening the fine lines around it.

"Andrei told me the story. He said he expected me to be angry at him. He couldn't understand why I wasn't. Like he expected I'd want revenge on him for what happened to my father."

Kassian paused.

Lasha stared back at him, his lips pressed together, expression betraying little. Kassian saw Andrei in him now, Andrei on the rare occasions when he was cold, though Kassian thought it was opposite with Lasha. He was probably rarely warm.

"Are you wondering the same thing?"

Date: 2009-02-14 12:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
Lasha eyebrows vaulted in mild surprise.

"Why? I didn't kill Papa Irinarhov," he said, dismissively. "My father didn't even kill him."

Ilarion looked down, frowned, and leaned over to brush at an invisible scuff on the vamp of his boot with precise, gloved fingers.

"My only crime was indifference to your..." he waved his hand for a moment, "...pain."

He sighed, almost whimsical.

"Youth is a malignant disease," he said. His eyes darkened, as he drew out his handkerchief and began to burnish the leather with perfunctory adoration.

Eventually, momentarily satisfied, he stopped and straightened once more.

"In time, I learned a modicum of compassion."

He had learned. He had learned that Nikanor Grigoriivich looked favorably upon the smallest concessions on his part toward the greater good.

"I know a man who has nothing but sympathy for the wretched. Through him, I learned restraint, and reverence for suffering. I learned that self-possession and decorum are more important than contempt for the rabble."

He folded the handkerchief and put it back in his pocket.

"Now that he's gone...well, I do my best, but sometimes...I'm not so kind."

Date: 2009-02-14 08:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
Kassian stared at him warily for a few moments, weighing each word.

It was not an apology, he knew. It was something like an explanation, but not even that. More of an acknowledgment. An allowance, for Andrei's sake. Kassian thought that Isaev pride would not allow it to be anything else.

Slowly, he nodded.

"I was angry. Angry at my father for dying. Angry at the Ministry. Angry at someone like you, who would never see the war. I didn't think about what would happen, and I didn't care. Not when I hit you."

Kassian tightened his fingers around the balaclava, pressing them into the soft wool, compressing it gently.

"In time, what I learned was not to be angry about things I couldn't control."

He looked at Lasha for a long moment.

"It doesn't matter if you're kind or not. You're Andrei's bratan. I'm not out for your blood now."

Date: 2009-02-14 09:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
"Good to know," replied Lasha. "By all reports you'd have a hard time finding it."

He canted his head, staring off to he side obliquely.

"Even then, you'd need an icepick."

He paused, then looked at Irinarhov, or rather, slightly past him, as was his wont.

"Don't worry about the punch, Irinarhov. It turned out well for me."

His lip curled slightly, like burning paper, then extinguished into neutral chill.

"Feel free to do it again sometime."

Date: 2009-02-14 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
Kassian paused, caught off guard.

Lasha was staring at him, eyes grey and cool as his MVD uniform. Kassian realized that he was standing closer to Lasha than he did to most people, as if it were the Isaev in him.

Kassian's gaze flickered.

"I'll keep that in mind, Isaev."

For a moment, the way he said it threw him off. It felt like something he would say to Andrei. Or had actually said, at one point, in their early association, when Kassian had stopped trying as hard to dissuade him.

He glanced down at the balaclava in his clenched fist, then he pulled it over his head firmly.

"Come on. There's one other place I can think of."

There were a lot of places Andrei might go, to socialize - to the mess hall, to the senior lieutenants' barracks, to Viktor's, to Liadov's - but not in the middle of the night. Unless it was Lasha, unless it was the gym, Andrei wouldn't have left him for long. Unless it was some kind of self-appointed mission.

He maneuvered around Lasha, who turned to follow him once more, gamely.

"I know Andrei can take care of himself. I'm just watching his back."

Date: 2009-02-14 11:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
"You are his commanding officer, aren't you," observed Lasha, noncommittally. "For my part I quite enjoy watching my subordinate's back," he added, with a hint of cool innuendo.

Or whatever else was on exhibit.

"Andrei is no blushing, stammering flower, Irinarhov. He doesn't need anyone's arm to stand up, nor any justification from without. I made sure of that."

His lips creased, slightly moued.

"All the same, loyalty is a praiseworthy trait."

Date: 2009-02-15 03:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
Kassian nodded.

"I think of him as an equal. Honestly, he should be promoted, and I'm not just saying that because we're close. I could see it almost as soon as I met him. Andrei's a natural leader. The men look to him. He's the squad's second in command in all but name."

Kassian walked briskly, cutting across the tank yard. It seemed colder outside than it had been only minutes before.

"The current second...Imanov. He's self-absorbed and probably unstable. I don't think he'll be in Spetsnaz long, if he keeps going in the same direction."

Kassian frowned under the facemask.

"Though I suppose they can't promote Andrei while he's the prime suspect in the murders. Maybe after he's cleared."

They rounded a corner, and the lab outbuilding came into view.

"Well, the light's on inside. We might as well see."

Date: 2009-02-15 04:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilarion-isaev.livejournal.com
"Hooray," said Ilarion, flatly.

The annexe that Irinarhov was leading them toward was detached and distressed, cinderblock sturdy but not aesthetic, tin sheeted roof somewhat weathered.

Stars and slogans were painted on one side.

"You think Andrei is here? At the forensic field station?"

Lasha's lip curled in faint distaste.

"What the hell would he be doing at this heavenly dacha?"

A moment later, Ilarion's eyes narrowed violently.

"That pathologist. You said he's been a problem. There are a lot of ways to solve a problem."

One of them was Leningrad-style.

Date: 2009-02-15 04:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
"That occurred to me too," Kassian said.

He didn't say what occurred to him, exactly. Kassian knew he didn't have to. It did not surprise him that he and Lasha had thought along the same lines. They both knew Andrei.

"But if that were the case, Andrei could have left the barracks and come back before I realized he was gone."

He shook his head.

"Lieutenant Rakitin often works late. I'm wondering if something came up."

If more conclusive evidence had surfaced. If the others with the same blood type had been eliminated as suspects. If Andrei had been arrested.

Kassian scowled, slowing his steps as they drew closer, lowering his voice.

"Not a lot else makes sense at this point. Unless you had another thought. You know him best."

Date: 2009-02-15 07:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-kasya.livejournal.com
[continued here. (http://hajimenoippolit.livejournal.com/12094.html)]
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