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[personal profile] leshovik
Viktor turned the corner, heading down the connecting hall to the visitors' wing. The cold grey walls were becoming familiar. It reminded him of something Aryol had said to him, once.

Home is where you hang your rifle.

Aryol had said it with sagacity that went beyond his twenty years. He had never reminded Leshovik of Kasya more than that moment - the murmured words, the hint of a smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth, the quiet authority behind his words.

Leshovik supposed it was true enough, for people like Aryol, the ones that had been uprooted so often they had learned a certain resiliency.

People like Viktor simply never learned some things.

Viktor's right shoulder ached vaguely, felt a little stiff. Made he'd slept on it wrong. He tugged on the strap of his rifle, adjusting the lay.

It was middle morning, late for a sniper. He'd slept in after Alexei had gotten up. They'd had another good night together, reconnecting. Viktor had been edgy, restless with unspent frustration. Alexei had fucked him hard and hot, and then soft and slow. Now, Viktor felt mellower, some of his edge shaved off.

He still wore yesterday's clothes, not that anyone would notice. Just about all he owned were urban camo fatigues.

Leshovik walked through the empty corridor until he got to his room, second from the end. He avoided looking across the hall at the last door.

A shower, he thought, then a change of clothes.

Viktor patted down his pockets, searching for his key.

A noise from across the hall made him look up.

The latch clicked open, then the door opened, and Major Liadov stepped out of his room.

The major was a study in contrasts. His uniform was crisp and neatly pressed, immaculately fitted, but under his MVD cap, his eyes were sleepy and his hair long and defiantly tousled, as if Liadov was a man who played by the rules and broke them, as well.

They stood in front of their respective doors, staring at each other for a moment.

Viktor noticed that there was a faint shadow under Liadov's left eye.

"Hey," he said, hesitantly.

Viktor wasn't sure what he wanted to say.

The last time he had seen Liadov, Viktor had greeted him with a punch.

"About the other night..."

Date: 2008-07-25 05:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
Liadov put up his fists briefly, eyes wide and wild, striking a kinetic pose of defense.

He held it for a beat, then flashed a langorous smile, letting his arms fall back to his sides.

"Yes?" he asked, raising a wry eyebrow, smoothing it with a flick of his fingertip. "I suppose we have some unfinished business, don't we."

He glanced down the hall, then at his MVD watch.

"I have time. Walk with me."

He paused.

"Or, would you rather sit down somewhere?"

Date: 2008-07-25 08:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leshovik.livejournal.com
"I don't know if we have unfinished business, really," Leshovik said with a slight shake of his head.

He smiled faintly, and turned away from his door to face the MVD major.

Liadov was still the picture of composure. He remembered that from the other night, even though some other details had never even left an impression.

"You have a sense of humor. I guess that doesn't surprise me for some reason."

He paused, adjusting his rifle again.

"Sure. I'll walk with you."

Leshovik stepped forward to join Liadov.

"There is something I want to say."

Date: 2008-07-25 08:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
Nika nodded.

"I'm relieved you're not out for more blood. Though I suppose I couldn't fault you if you were. I had a...friend, like your Aryol is to you, once, and if anyone-"

Liadov paused, nicking his head toward his shoulder in a shrug of vague default.

"Well. It was a long time ago. But I cared for him in the same unspeakable way."

He turned to look at the blond sniper, flicking his hair of of his eyes with a subdued toss of his head, frowning pleasantly.

"What is it you wanted to say, Specialist?"

Date: 2008-07-25 05:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leshovik.livejournal.com
Viktor held Liadov's gaze for a moment.

"Well, I think for starters, I owe you an apology."

He rubbed his sore shoulder, rotating it absently.

Leshovik frowned, pausing, glancing away.

"Honestly, I can't remember if I said anything the other night, or not. But for what it's worth, I was wrong. About a lot of things. You in particular."

He shook his head.

"I have a bad temper, and I just went off. I shouldn't have hit you. I shouldn't have blamed you."

Leshovik felt an ache inside his chest, more distant now, though still full and swollen like a river. He breathed in and out, to ease it.

"I want..."

He turned his gaze back to Liadov, eyes shadowed by a frown, hesitant.

"I'd like it," he restated, carefully, "if you and I can be civil. I don't want to be antagonistic with you. I feel like that's important, given...what we have in common. So to speak."

Date: 2008-07-25 08:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
Liadov smiled, after a moment, carefully.

"You know, there's a caveat that came from the house where I was almost raised."

They strolled along the covered walkway that arched over the artillery yard, looking nothing if not companionable to the casual observer.

"My...foster father...used to say it to my...foster brother...and I."

He reached out, after a moment, and set his hand on Leshovik's shoulder lightly.

"Never apologize, never explain."

Liadov paused.

"I think my foster brother took it to heart a little better than I, but in the extreme, I think there are still times...I find it applicable. This is one of those times, Specialist. I expect no apology from you, and no explanation is necessary."

Nika stopped walking for a moment, and turned to face the sniper.

"The truth is, Specialist, I knew about you and Kirill. Not the first time, but after the fact of it. In the wake, I gradually realized who you were. And it did not prompt me to curb my behavior or appetite."

He nodded, slowly.

"It was a punch I deserved, and one I took without argument."

Date: 2008-07-25 10:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leshovik.livejournal.com
Viktor's jaw tightened.

He directed his gaze away for a moment, letting out a breath so hard it hurt.

"Kirill," he said, quietly.

The name had seemed to roll off Liadov's tongue easily, but it sounded strange when Viktor said it, the association distant. He had called Aryol that perhaps only on ten separate occasions in the entire time they had known each other.

Viktor nodded.

"All right," he said, turning away so they could resume walking down the hall.

He didn't know where they were headed, but he guessed at the very least, they would exit the building.

Viktor shrugged.

"Let's just call it even between us. I'm working on not dwelling in the past. I feel like there's more I want to say to you, but..."

He shook his head.

"But it's not really my business, da? But don't worry. You can walk past windows without feeling the need to duck."

His face sharpened into a fleeting smile.

"Sorry. Sniper humor."

Date: 2008-07-25 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
Liadov's eyebrows raised.

"Right. I forget, everything comes back to that. Sniping."

He shook his head.

"Interesting myopia, there. I would whip out some MVD jokes, but...well, I try not define myself too much by my work."

Lest it begin to define me.

Liadov smiled.

"It's not a pretty occupation, and I wouldn't want to be known for it exclusively. Or have it infect...everything."

He paused.

"I suppose that's the difference. Mine is a job. Yours is an identity. That's how you know who you are."

Nika tilted his head.

"Funny, I don't get that from Kirill. It seems like he has a whole identity apart from his occupation. Maybe it's his youth, da?"

He held open the swinging door at the end of the corridor, indicating the sniper should go first.

"As for whose business it is...well, I suppose he and I haven't exactly been discreet about keeping matters under the table. Or...on it. Or under the covers. Or in the showers, for that matter."

He shrugged.

"That wasn't MVD humor. That was Liadovian gallows humor. Point being, I don't have any sacred cows, Specialist. I wouldn't be where I am if I did. Anything you want to say, anything you need to know, you can ask me, and I'll square with you."

A slight snort of laughter.

"Even if you wind up wanting to hit me again. I owe you disclosure."

Nika raised his pale green eyes to lock softly with the sniper's dark and turbulent blue ones.

"Or, if you'd rather leave it buried under snow, I can respect that as well."

Date: 2008-07-26 12:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leshovik.livejournal.com
Leshovik hesitated for a moment, jaw working, then turned and stepped through the door.

His gaze tracked upward, to the sky, which was cold, hard grey, with the faintest veneer of blue.

"There are things I don't want to know, Major. It would be easier if I didn't. I'm working on picking up the pieces. I need to focus on that."

Viktor stood at the top of the stair, like a sentry.

"...but you're right about him," he added, after a moment.

Leshovik turned to meet Liadov's gaze.

"He could do anything he wanted, if he had an interest, if he put his mind to it. He could walk away from sniping tomorrow and...I don't know. Play chess for the State. Become a doctor. Join the MVD."

He smiled faintly.

"Not that anyone walks away from Black Ops that easily, but you know what I mean."

Viktor shook his head, turning again.

"...I don't want to be the one that holds him back."

Date: 2008-07-26 12:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
Nika felt a vague, piquant empathy for Viktor the sniper, and his broken pieces.

It sounded not unlike someone else he knew all too well.

He chose his words carefully, sanding down the edges.

"I don't think anything would stop Kirill from getting, or doing whatever he wants, Specialist. Not you, not I, not anything."

Liadov gazed out at the blue sky.

"I could say he's just young, but that isn't all. I don't think he has any true feelings, or at least, if he does, there's no constancy or permanence to them. He doesn't know about anything beyond immediate gratification. I wouldn't waste your time worrying about him. He'll always be fine."

A little smile, and a weariness Nika could feel in his gaze.

"And if you ever need to find him, just follow the broken trail of bodies and minds he leaves behind on his way to whatever he feels he deserves."

Liadov paused.

"...I won't be one of them."

His eyes sought Viktor's.

"And neither should you."

He supposed there was little more to say.

There was a part of Aryol that had clearly enjoyed being the center of a dust-up; secretly, Nika felt, Kirill enjoyed sticking it to his former teammate, and even his own bruised eye had been a badge of being wanted for Aryol, a testament to his desirability in some fashion.

Liadov paused.

"I don't say that to sound harsh. I just can't get over feeling like we were brought into conflict inorganically, when by all initial appearances, you're a man I would have called friend."

He shrugged.

"Or perhaps I'm being a cynic. You know him better than I do. You don't absorb the essence of someone by fucking them, no matter how many times you do it."

Or how many positions. Or how good it was.

"I began to think, perhaps, at one point..."

But that was his own achilles' heel, the one he had always taken care to shield from wayward cupidic arrows.

Nikanor shrugged.

"Fear not, sniper. He'll be back at your door. Just as soon as I lose my luster."

He glanced at his watch.

"Could be any day. Could be years from now."

He smiled, bloodlessly.

"Then you'll just have to decide if you want him."

Date: 2008-07-26 07:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leshovik.livejournal.com
Viktor felt something ache unreasonably inside him, a pain he hadn't known he could still feel.

"I can't wait," he whispered as he turned away, shoulders taut.

He closed his eyes. The morning was crisp and cold against his face.

Leshovik could sense Liadov behind him, waiting respectfully. Probably watching with a quietly discerning gaze. He felt like he couldn't hide anything from this man, but needed to not be so naked in front of him, for Liadov's sake, if nothing else.

"I don't know if you understand that. But I can't be waiting for days or months or years. I need something that's real now. I need to pursue things that have a future."

Viktor fell silent for a while.

"I met someone," he said, finally, quietly. "I've known him for a few months, but I've started getting to know him better more recently, and...well, it's too soon to tell anything, but I do know that I like the guy, and he wants the same things I do. To retire to a isolated dacha someday, a place where you can hear the silence. A place to fish and raise vegetables and maybe some dogs. To live a quiet life, and maybe one day..."

He paused, tugging at the strap of his rifle absently, patting the barrel.

"Maybe one day, I won't need this to feel..."

Leshovik searched for the word, finally deciding on the first one that had come to mind.

"...whole."

He opened his eyes and turned around to regard Liadov again, who was still standing there, waiting, silent this entire time.

"You know, it's funny. I never used to think about getting out of Black Ops. I never planned about what would come after, because I didn't think I would have an after. But now that I've met this man...I find myself thinking about it. If I'll make it to that quiet dacha."

He breathed out, deep and pained.

"I don't know if you're right about Aryol...about Kirill...or not, but I do know that he's never going to want what I want. At least not as things stand."

Viktor shook his head.

"So...you see why I can't wait around for him to come back, no matter how I feel."

Date: 2008-07-26 08:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
Liadov leaned back against the railing, crossing his arms. Lowering his head.

It was a weighty sentiment and confession, but there was a part of Nikanor that felt, priest-like, that he had been minted to hear such things, to bear and to air them.

"I do understand," he said, softly. "I understand all too well. It may be cliché to invoke it, but we're not so different, you and I."

He paused, adjusting his cap with absent fingers, frowning ever so slightly.

"Specialist, I only wish I could tell you."

But there was no explaining Isaev- who he was, who he wasn't, how he devoured love and loyalty- no way to articulate the divine thing that had always bound them, nor to justify the subsequent freezing asunder- no way to express how he bled, because each strike that hit Isaev where he lived by necessity cost Liadov as well and equally in the currency of agony.

Nika raised his eyes, keeping them open and sagacious, letting a little of his own coppery anguish brush the surface of his gaze, as if the pale green were only an oxidizing affectation, and the true metal lay obscured beneath.

"I don't know if I'm right about Aryol," he admitted, quietly. "But it would be easier if I were, wouldn't it."

He laughed, hollowly.

"Look. Think of it this way. He isn't lost to you, Specialist. I'm just holding him for you indefinitely. Like your rifle, he's waiting for you in your locker."

Liadov studied the lean, tormented man who gazed at him with sharp eyes oddly haunted. Deep pools of liquid doubt, but beneath that, a granite conviction that all the waters of uncertainty could not wear down.

"I'll keep him out of trouble."

Date: 2008-07-26 07:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leshovik.livejournal.com
"You would do that."

Viktor held Liadov's gaze. The MVD major looked back at him without waver, in a way few people did. Liadov stood that way too, with casual precision, shoulders held straight and back under the neatly-pressed lines of his uniform, as if he suffered from some old war wound, and he had learned long ago how to compensate for the pain so that no one could tell.

Leshovik's winging brows pulled low, into a frown.

"I don't understand why."

He paced the landing once, then looked up, turning in place slowly to take in their surroundings. His eyes scanned the rooftops.

"Not for me...you don't know me."

After a few seconds, Leshovik lowered his gaze, and looked back at Liadov.

"And you've already said you don't intend to be used and left behind if he decides there's something he wants more, like the newest rifle model. Staying with someone for what could be years...that's a long time to pursue something with no future. And you seem like the sort of man who wants more than..."

He paused, hesitating, the corners of his mouth tightening.

"More than just the sex," he muttered. "To find companionship with another man...well, it's easier in the military, but still, there are ways, especially for someone in your position."

His gaze traveled over the major's uniform. It was almost perfect camouflage for Groznyj Grad, he noted. Grey on grey would blend in with the concrete walls, making him a difficult target. Not that Viktor felt the impulse.

"So...why? I don't think you're as young as you look. I'm thirty three years old, and I know I think about different things now than I did when I was twenty."

He rubbed his aching shoulder, meeting Liadov's eyes, feeling a strange empathy, as if they had survived the same battle.

"What is it that you want, Major?" Viktor asked, quietly.

Date: 2008-07-26 09:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
"I'm thirty-five," said Nika, automatically, at the prompt, watching the sniper zero in on him, assessing his motives with a pinpoint precision he couldn't help utilizing.

Liadov's unrested eyes softened, but he made no move toward kinetic interference.

"I had companionship. But that's gone now. I don't hope for anything like that again."

The words were bloodless, bereft of life, and he acquitted them as swiftly and painlessly as possible.

He paused.

"I may not ever be whole, as you say. But I still feel, Specialist. I still can care. I want someone to benefit from my position."

Liadov studied the sniper's sharply handsome face, idly, as he gathered words.

"Why shouldn't it be him? I married a woman I didn't love, to get her out of the gutter. Kirill, at least-"

He paused, shrugging to minimize the statement.

"Kirill, at least, I've warmed to, and I think he's warmed to me."

"..I don't know," he admitted, after a moment.

"I don't know what I want, Specialist. But that doesn't mean I don't know what he needs."

He smiled, with effort.

"And if he doesn't know what he needs...I can help him learn what a man requires. A good man, that is."

Date: 2008-07-26 11:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leshovik.livejournal.com
Leshovik stared at the MVD major for long moments, with new eyes.

"A good man would know," he said, finally.

He pressed his lips together for a moment.

"Thank you. I wonder if he knows what he has."

Viktor had gotten the feeling that Liadov had chosen his words with care, but even so - even though the MVD major spoke with authority on his observations of others - the slight hesitance when it came to explaining his own needs was oddly humanizing.

"You know, I'm...relieved," he said, slowly. "For his sake. I wish I had more to give him. But I don't. I just don't have much in me anymore, and I need to save it for myself, as mercenary as that sounds."

He stepped forward, then held out his hand.

"Viktor. Viktor Nikolayevich."

Leshovik smiled, the hard lines of his face easing around the curve of his mouth.

"You were right, earlier, you know. You're the kind of man I can call a friend."

Date: 2008-07-27 12:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
Liadov smiled his languid smile, but in it was unvarnished sincerity as he clasped the sniper's hand.

"Nikanor. Nikanor Grigoriivich. Nika, or Grisich, to friends."

He paused, hesitant, eyes flicking down, then up. Gazing at the sniper from beneath a veil of rough gold, but without diffidence.

"I'm good to him, you know. It must have looked bad, what you saw. The...cords, and the marks."

Liadov raised an eyebrow.

"He's...into...some creative modes of expression. I didn't realize how young he was at first. His level of experience is...well, almost unsettling. But I'm not some degenerate, comrade. He's not a toy to me."

He drew Viktor in, slightly, clapping him on the shoulder lightly.

"In any case, I owe you a better drink, under less awkward circumstances."

Nika glanced down the street to the makeshift lab building.

"I'm on my way into work. The next step is to filter through personnel files, round up all the blood types and sweat them. Anything to take Rakitin's microscope off Andrei Isaev."

Date: 2008-07-27 01:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leshovik.livejournal.com
"I wasn't thinking that you were a - " Viktor started, but broke off.

Suddenly, his face pulled into a light smirk, and he shook his head.

"Well, I was wondering. But that's your business, comrade. Yours and his. I'm not going to judge you on the basis of what I saw. You're both adults. Besides...I doubt anyone could make him do anything he wasn't into, at this point."

Leshovik glanced to the side. Reflexively, he patted his pocket for a cigarette, but they are all gone.

He frowned.

"He's implied...that he used to know some people who had...questionable tastes. I don't know the details. I don't want to know them. He was seventeen when I met him, and even that was bad, but comparatively..."

His gaze followed Nikanor's toward the outbuilding. A pair of soldiers passed by, on patrol, in the distance. One of them laughed, the sound crisp and clear. For some reason, the moment touched him.

He turned back to Liadov, then reached out and clasped his arm in turn.

"Well. There were a lot of things I should have done better. I have to live with that."

Viktor nodded, decisively, and straightened the lay of his rifle.

"Let me know if I can help with Isaev. I don't know what I can do, but I consider him a friend too, and a good man. I won't stand by and let that count for nothing."

Date: 2008-07-27 02:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nikanor-liadov.livejournal.com
"Da," said Nika, seriously. "I thank you."

They shook on it, very civilized.

He preferred shaking the sniper's hand to having it meet his face, Liadov decided wryly, and let the smile carry onto his face.

"Let me know when you want to have that drink."

Seventeen.

Good lord.

It was as bad as Nina.

Liadov flinched inwardly, once again questioning his altruism.

If Tivorovsky'd had a son...

He brushed it aside.

"Friends, then."

Date: 2008-07-27 02:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leshovik.livejournal.com
"Friends."

Leshovik nodded firmly. His gaze went to the shadow under Liadov's eye. Up close, it looked a little worse, bluish and unnatural.

He winced.

"I hope that doesn't hurt too much. I'm glad I didn't hit you any harder, because I'd be feeling a lot worse about it now."

Viktor flashed a smile, broad and genuine. He stepped back, nodding at the building behind them.

"I'm headed back to my quarters. As we say in the business, good hunting, Major."

He tipped his fingers to his forehead in an informal salute.

"Let's have that drink soon. I'll let you know."
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