|One Summer (To Define Forever) // Prologue + Part I
||[Apr. 22nd, 2014|03:08 am]
Title: One Summer (To Define Forever)
Fandom: War and Peace
Paring(s): Pierre/Anatole, Dolokhov/Anatole
Warning: Canon character death
Summary: Pierre fell in love with Anatole when he was 17. They were still boys then, living a warm, Parisian dream. It was wild and confusing and beautiful. Pierre has changed since then, but the memories haven't.
After the war, everything changed. Pierre married Natasha in early spring of 1813, mourned Andrei and tried to move on. For the first time in his life, it seemed, he thought he has understood his path, his purpose in life. Or at the very least, he was at peace. He was married, respected, with his firstborn on the way and a slowly evolving mission. The war was ending, peace was coming and Pierre was doing a fine job of telling himself that he was content and that his new life was completely severed from his old life. If he harbored regrets, he did not allow himself to think on them.
His peace was shattered in late June by Theodore Dolokhov who showed up uninvited one night and asked for a word. Pierre ushered him into his study and closed the door so that they could have as much privacy as possible. He did not know what this conversation was about but Dolokhov looked resolute and Pierre did not want to bring old hostilities into his new peaceful existence. “You said this is important?” Pierre sat behind the writing table and watched Dolokhov who remained standing.
Theodore looked older to Pierre, far more careworn that he remembered. He rarely smiles these days, a mutual acquaintance had told Pierre in passing before. Dolokhov was fresh from the front. There were rumors that he had resigned but at that moment he was still in uniform with a black morning band on his left arm. The band was whether worn and tattered. Pierre knew, or thought he knew, in whose honor it was and he found himself uncomfortable, forced to confront his past life which he did not like to do these days.
“I believe you know by now that Anatole died at Borodino,” Dolokhov said flatly. He did not flinch at his own words but his entire expression was unreadable.
“Yes,” Pierre replied stiffly. “It’s…I was sad to hear it.” He was somewhat too shellshocked at the time to process the information and since then, Pierre had blocked it out. Everything between him and Anatole had ended too bitterly and he did not want to dredge up those memories but he also felt a terrible sadness at the thought that he never was able to make things right. If anything, Anatole had proven himself to be brave, and Pierre wished he could have given him credit for that when there still had been time.
Dolokhov reached into an inner pocket and took out a stack of papers bound by a string. He set them on the desk before Pierre and stepped back. “Before Borodino Anatole gave these to me. I don’t know why, I suppose he must have felt that something would happen. He’d been…despondent all day. Anyway, he asked me to keep them and, in case anything happened, to give them to you. And to tell you that he’d kept them. Even after everything.”
Pierre reached out and took the parcel. He took out one of the papers, which he soon realized to be a letter and unfolded it. His own handwriting jumped out at him. September, 1802. Paris, France. The date and location jumped out at him, written in his own smudgy hand. He looked up at Dolokhov with wide, questioning eyes. “These are my letters to him. From when…when I was still in Paris and he went back to Petersburg…”
“I would have returned them earlier, Count. But there hasn’t been much chance.”
Pierre stared uncertainly first at Dolokhov, then the letter.
Mon Cheri Anatole,
It has barely been a weak since you left and I already feel like we have been apart for a year. Everything is so dreadfully boring without you…
He wondered if he might still have Anatole’s letters somewhere among his papers. “He had these with him?” he asked, baffled.
“Yes. You never understood, Count, but Anatole…well, it is not for me to speculate. I’ve done my duty. I must go, if you’ll excuse me.” He turned to go.
Pierre rose quickly and blurted, without thinking about it, “Dolokhov, wait.” He waited for the other man to turn. “I never meant for it to end…like it did.”
Dolokhov looked at him steadily, then nodded and left without another word. Pierre collapsed back into his chair. He considered not reading the letters, simply burning them or throwing them away. He did not want to remember this, did not want more guilt and regret to hang over him. He did not want to know that Anatole had kept his letters close to heart even after everything had gone sour. It would be far better to dispose of this written record of his past.
Instead, he picked up the first one from the top, the one he had already unfolded, and began to read…
Prierre Bezukhov is seventeen years old.
His entire life seems to be based on the simple fact that he is perfectly, blessedly, unbelievably happy. He is young and healthy, living in Paris which he had had the good fortune of calling his home for the past seven years. His days are filled with books and the most stimulating intellectual and philosophical pursuits a young university student could possibly hope for and his nights are afire with wine, merriment and passion.
He is also, as luck would have it, very much in love.
A typical, bright, warm morning finds Pierre in bed among a tussle of rumpled sheets in disarray from last night. He stretches out, keeping his eyes closed and throwing an arm over his face. The sun illuminates the pastel wallpaper, making it glow a welcoming, summary yellow but in Pierre’s half-asleep daze it is just a little too bright for him to manage all at once.
Carefully, he lifts his arm from his face and squints one eye open, then the other. Through his eyelashes, he makes out the silhouette of the young man seated on the windowsill with an album and quill. “Morning,” he mumbles sleepily. “Are those croissants I smell?”
The boy on the windowsill looks around and smiles warmly at him. ‘I believe so. Actually, I was about to wake you up and ask if you wanted to send for some. They should be very fresh – I believe they just brought them out.”
Pierre sits up and runs a hand through the mop of dark hair on his head. “They’re making me hungry. We should certainly send for some. And tea.”
“You’re always hungry,” Anatole teases with a good-natured smile, turning back to his doodling.
“That’s because we live above a bakery. Who thought that would be a good idea?”
Anatole merely smiles serenely in answer.
Pierre reaches for the bell and rings. He tells Anatole’s manservant – who has gotten accustomed to taking orders from Pierre over the last few months – to get them croissants from the bakery below and to bring in breakfast when that’s done. Once the man leaves, Pierre settles back against the pillows and watches Anatole.
Prince Anatole Kuragin is the most beautiful boy Pierre had ever met. As much as Pierre hates to admit it, he fell in love with Anatole from first sight. He did not quite realize it back then – in fact it took him quite some time to understand and accept his feelings and not without a fair amount of effort in that direction from Anatole – but he had not been able to get Anatole out of his mind from the evening they met. It was terribly cliché and Pierre felt like it was shallow to believe that his feelings were based on a single look, that he might define something as infinite and all-consuming as love by the way he felt when Anatole smiled or tossed his head to get strands of silky strawberry blonde hair out of his face. But what he felt from Anatole was undeniably compelling and it made him unreasonably happy.
He felt like he could sit there for hours, watching Anatole drawing. Neither of them could draw to save their lives, but Anatole always tried. In fact, he didn’t seem to care if his sketches came out well or not, he simply enjoyed the process and as long as the end result satisfied him, what everyone else thought became of a secondary nature. In the bright sunlight of the late morning, Anatole’s light hair and fair skin seem to glow and radiate. His eyelids flicker in concentration, large, beautiful grey eyes exposed then hidden in rapid succession under long, dark eyelashes. Anatole is slim but tall. Not as tall as Pierre but he is far more shapely and Pierre loves winding his arms around the boy’s thin waist, pulling their bodies together. He watches Anatole lick his full, soft lips as he draws the quill in quick strokes across the parchment and Pierre instantly feels his body respond. He nearly blushes.
Even after all this time, after everything they have done together, he is still mildly embarrassed of his physical responses. Pierre is not a religious person – in fact he fancies himself an atheist – and Paris is infamous for its culture of carnal pleasure and revelry, but Pierre is also shy by nature and he supposes that he would be afraid at his own virulence regardless of his lover’s sex.
Finally, Anatole closes the album and caps the inkwell. He leaves everything on the windowsill and skips over to the bed, flopping down beside Pierre and meeting his eyes upsidedown. “Hello there.”
Pierre smiles affectionately at him, trying to return Anatole’s carefree smile, but he can never seem to quite manage the same amount of careless happiness that Anatole seems to radiate. “How long have you been up?”
“Oh not very. Hardly an hour.”
“Early for you.”
“Hmmm.” Anatole reaches out and takes Pierre’s hand, twining their fingers together. “I can’t decide if I feel lazy today or not. You’re not going to study, though, are you?”
“No, not today.”
“Oh thank God!” Anatole laughs and Pierre gives his arm a slight slap with his free hand. Anatole only laughs harder. “But it’s so boring when you study! Anyway, we could go riding if you want. I think there is a market somewhere today, a festive one with ribbons and sweets and music. Oh, we’re also expected at the theater tonight, you remember? Oh and I promised Count de Raffin we would stop by if only for an hour. I know, I know, I should have told you but—“
Pierre leans over and silences Anatole with a long, drawn-out kiss. He can feel himself blushing just slightly but the surprised yet pleased look in Anatole’s eyes reassures him. “You’ve planned the whole day out. Again!” Pierre gives him a teasingly reproachful look.
“Well, will it make you feel better if I tell you Mlle. Marie will be at the theater? The one you liked so much at the ball the other week?” Anatole smirks and sits up to look more comfortably into Pierre’s face.
Pierre hides his eyes but cannot help but smile. He had enjoyed the Mlle. Marie’s gay laugh and ample cleavage very much. Anatole was not mistaken there. “Well…”
Anatole laughs and gets up. “I’m going down. Those fools must have set up in the dinning room instead of bringing us a tray. Otherwise, it’s been far too long. You should ring to get dressed.” The young Prince leans over and kisses Pierre one more time. Pierre captures his hand and presses it to his lips. He looks up into Anatole’s face and knows that he doesn’t care if their liaison is wrong.
Because it does not feel one bit wrong to him.
“Count de Raffin is the most boring, hypocritical snob of a man I know!” Pierre is so drunk that he can hardly keep his feet. He leans slightly on Anatole’s shoulder as they make their way up to their flat. It is long past midnight and they had both had a few too many glasses of wine. “Why do you keep company with him?”
“I’m not.” Pierre can feel himself pouting. “But did you hear him? He scorns everyone.”
“You are simply upset because he will not let you address him as Claude and because he points out that you’re a bastard. Which, mon cher, you are.”
“Hush! Why do you always take his side?” They tumble into the flat and, brushing off any attempts of Anatole’s manservant to assist, proceed to the bedroom.
Anatole kicks the door shut behind them and twirls around in on the spot. “I don’t always take his side, I simply enjoy his wine!” He laughs and tugs on Pierre’s hand pulling him into a kiss. “Besides, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t understand why it bothers you so much. What you are is no secret to anyone and if anything I find it rather…exciting.”
Pierre attempts to give his lover a reproachful look through his drunken haze. “What exactly? That my father did not have the honor to marry my mother after leaving her with child?”
Anatole makes a face. “No. Just…Oh, Pierre not now.” He grins devilishly and flings off his shirt. “Come here.”
Pierre finds himself undressed in minutes. His breath catches repeatedly as every article of clothing comes off. Anatole’s fingers are firm and soft as they run over his bare chest and shoulders, slide over his thigh and lower abdomen. Pierre growls low, feeling the heat rising in his groin. He pushes Anatole back onto the bed and strips the last of his lover’s clothes. He falls over the boy and presses their bodies together. Anatole is hard and his erection rubs against Pierre’s own, sending fireworks through his head.
They kiss desperately and drunkenly, fumbling through the darkness, constantly trying to be closer to each other. Their tongues battle desperately for dominance. Anatole moans low into Pierre’s mouth, his whole body trembling under Pierre’s hands. It sill takes Pierre some time to work up the courage to get past this point, to roll his lover over, to burry himself to the hilt in the beautiful body of the boy he constantly years to touch. But with Anatole’s urging he does just that. In these moments, in the dark they become one and Pierre thinks of the works of the ancient Greeks and their classical beauty. Sometimes, he thinks that Anatole must be some sort of angel or minor pagan God of beauty and desire. Pierre can never resist him, can never look away. He is distant from Christianity and thus has little qualm about making this love his religion and his lover the alter at which he worships. Perhaps, in the light of day he would be ashamed to admit such a thing even to himself but in the drunken darkness with Anatole crying out his name as he comes, Pierre does not much care for the immorality of such a thought.
After they are both spent, Pierre pulls Anatole closer, wrapping an arm around the boy as he nests his head on Pierre’s shoulder. “Do you know what I’m thinking?” Pierre murmurs sleepily.
“I’m thinking that we should stay here forever. In Paris, I mean. No one seems to care very much who we are or what we do. And I…I never want to lose this. I never want to lose you.”
Anatole makes a noncommittal sound that is something between a laugh and a yawn. “Don’t talk nonsense. I’m not going anywhere. Go to sleep, Pierre.”
Pierre stills and says no more. He knows Anatole doesn’t like it when he speaks of the future, especially after they had just made love. In a few minutes, Anatole’s breathing evens out as he falls into sleep, certain that nothing would ever change. Pierre sometimes thinks too much – he knows this – of everything but especially of the future. He knows he has only a spare few months left with Anatole before the boy returns to Petersburg. He closes his eyes and tries to pretend that the night is endless and they will simply continue to lie there like that forever with no worldly things to stand in their way.
Usually it is not very hard for Pierre to convince himself of this. His life had never had much of a direction and it seems the more he thinks about it and tries to find a goal to reach, other than finishing his university studies, he cannot find one. No future he envisions makes much sense to him. Lately, since he and Anatole had fallen into their affair, all of his plans have become even more blurred. He cannot seem to figure out a way to reconcile his desires with the realities that he knows life will eventually bring. Anatole is very adept at not thinking about the future. The boy is practically incapable of planning more than a week ahead. It is both a curse and blessing. Pierre, however, is sometimes plagued by fears he cannot form into actually words and they slip his grasp every time, merely circling like shadows.
Despite these thoughts, Pierre is asleep before the dawn. If he holds on just a little too tightly to Anatole, neither of them will notice by the time morning comes.
“Pierre! Pierre, come out of the rain. Pierre, come now!’ Anatole starts to sound seriously concerned when Pierre ignores him and continues to stand in the middle of the sidewalk, under the downpour, looking up into the sky, burdened with dark, oppressive clouds. In the distance, thunder rumbles just after a flash of purple light streaks across the sky, making the air itself tingle. The thunderstorm is still far away, the thunder a hollow, deep rumble somewhere in the distance. It is even possible to distinguish from which direction it is coming by the relative brightness of the lightening streaks. Anatole, however, hates thunderstorms. They had always made him nervous; as a small child, he would hide from them under the covers. “Pierre!” Besides, the rain had caught them on their way back from a walk. Neither had taken an umbrella so they ended up rather wet.
“Anatole, come here! Feel the rain on your face. Look—look at how vast the sky is. It’s like—“
“Oh, for God’s sake!” Anatole comes back down the steps and grabs Pierre’s arm. “Will you come inside now? People will think we’re mad.” He tries to sound irritated but the flushed and awestruck look on Pierre’s face makes him laugh. “My God it’s like you’ve never seen the rain! Besides, it’s been raining now and again for the last two weeks. Rains in July, who would have thought.”
“I would kiss you to make you hush if there were not people around,” Pierre mutters, torn between looking at Anatole and watching the movement of the clouds, which are lumbering at impressive speeds across the sky.
“Well, we’re both quite wet, are you satisfied now?” Anatole gives an exasperated sigh. The sky lights up purple and Anatole jumps just slightly at the sudden whip-crack of thunder, now much closer.
Pierre’s arm comes to rest at his waist. The street is nearly deserted anyway; only someone like Pierre would be foolish enough to stand outside in a storm. “I love being this close to nature…to…life. Doesn’t the whole world feels alive? The chaos is frightening but it is real. All these stone buildings and streets and fabrics – they’re but a facades. I don’t believe in God, per se, I’ve told you, but there is this feeling of connectedness. The achievement of man is great. But I do love this…this something else. Do you feel it?”
“I feel cold. And wet.” Anatole pouts. Pierre looks over at him, obviously disappointed. “Come inside, you can enlighten me there.” Pierre obliges and Anatole drags him along up the stairs, not letting go of his arm until they are within the safety of their flat. “Get a fire lit and quickly. Also take these,” Anatole says carelessly to the footman as he and Pierre take off their boots. “And wine. Mulled wine.”
They change and settle in front of the fireplace with a bottle of wine. “Now what was all that nonsense you were saying earlier? About connectedness and whatnot?” Anatole asks, trying to show interest in his lover’s strange metaphysical philosophies.
Pierre blushes. Now that he is out of the rain, out of the moment, the whole thing does seem quite silly to him. “It’s nothing. I was just enjoying the moment. Besides, you look quite something all wet,” he adds as a peace offering.
Anatole rolls his eyes. “I don’t think it’s worth ruining a good tailcoat over.”
“Nothing is worth ruining a good tailcoat over according to you.” Pierre’s tone is half-teasing and half-irritated. Sometimes, Anatole’s love affair with fashion baffles him. It seems rather…shallow.
“Well, few things,” Anatole acknowledges with a nod, taking a satisfied drink of the wine. He had completely missed Pierre’s intonation.
Anatole’s manservant approaches them cautiously and hands Anatole a letter. “This came for you earlier, Prince,” he says quietly. Anatole picks up the envelope, takes a look at it and his entire expression lights up. He takes the letter opener from the footman’s trey and waves the man away. Pierre watches curiously as Anatole opens his letter and begins to read, completely absorbed.
“Who’s it from?” Pierre asks. He reaches over to the side table and picks up a book. His books are strewn all over their cozy flat. At first this had baffled and mildly irritated Anatole but the boy had gotten used to them quickly enough. Few things truly bother Anatole, Pierre was coming to realize.
“Teddy Dolokhov,” Anatole says distractedly. “Oh he’s had the most amusing time lately. This letter is twice as long as the last!” The enthusiasm in Anatole’s voice is almost enough to make Pierre jealous. He knows he shouldn’t be but he sometimes feels like this Dolokhov has some sort of hold over Anatole, that Anatole holds not simply friendship and affection for this man but also a tremulous sort of admiration.
“What does he write of? Society gossip?”
“Some, but my sister keeps me informed on that account. Theodore mainly talks of the army and the gypsies and some of his adventures with the actresses. They seem to be quite wild for a good, breakneck troika ride. Ha! Who isn’t?” Anatole laughs lightly, the sound strangely fragile against the howl and roar of the storm outside. “He seems to be doing quite well at cards now. Oh no…”
“He’s had a row with some pompous fool. I do hope he doesn’t challenge him to a duel. Dolokhov is terribly brash. I admire him for it but it doesn’t put me at peace any.” Anatole goes quiet after that, reading through the rest of the letter. Pierre watches his face out of the corner of his eye, watches the myriad or expressions that flit across it.
Anatole has no secrets from him and Pierre knows that should be enough, it really ought to be. But he sometimes feels like he can’t be enough to his lover. That their passions differ in some key way. Anatole is always carefree while Pierre can get lost in his own thoughts for hours on end. He likes to drink and carouse and flirt with easy women well enough, surely, but it all seems to only be a phase for him, a vice that he would like to, perhaps, but cannot simply shrug off. For Anatole it is not simply a part of his life, it, to him, is so integral to the world that Anatole would likely be surprised to hear that someone would not like to amuse themselves in all the decadent ways the world offers. He does this without malice, with no intent to hurt anyone – in fact, Pierre suspects, if Anatole was told that he may be causing pain to someone, the boy would likely be horrified and confused by such a turn of events. Anatole’s fault is simply in being blind to anything beyond the current moment. It is his most frustrating fault and his most endearing feature.
Anatole goes to the study to pen a reply to his childhood friend and Pierre stays in front of the fire, trying to read but in fact simply drifting from one thought to another aimlessly as he has a tendency to do far too often.
August comes in waves of heat and blazing sun. Anatole rents a cottage outside the city where they stay from the end of July and into early September.
The days are long and lazy. The cottage is by a lake and Pierre likes to take a row boat out in the afternoon with a basket of bread and cheese and barriers and a bottle of wine. Sometimes, they’ll wander into the tall grasses of a field and lie among the wildflowers. Pierre reads and Anatole makes out shapes in the clouds or dozes off, his head pillowed on Pierre’s stomach. They make love whenever and wherever there is no one to see them and Pierre starts to, once again, forget that their time is limited.
Anatole draws. His sketches are as bad and lopsided as ever but Pierre finds the butterflies and haystacks and village boys that his lover portrays in his albums to be endearing and strangely alive on the paper, despite their imperfection. Pierre tries to learn cards but has no more success at it than when they last tried in April. Anatole is not the best player and he has terrible luck of the draw but he can manage while Pierre seems to lose every time, even with a strong hand.
Pierre has found that he is bad at lots of things: riding, fencing, hunting, dancing… But he is good at reading and thinking and emoting. He is good at being a supportive friend and at having a good time. If he put more thought into it, he may have come to the realization that he wasn’t particularly good at being a fitting lover for Anatole, but Anatole never seems to mind and Pierre loves him even more for it. Out of a rather broad range of men whom Anatole could have chosen, he had chosen Pierre and Pierre cannot resist him. Cannot resist his smile, or his pleas for “one more drink” or anything at all. Pierre loves the feeling of freedom and out in the countryside it is that much more enhanced.
On their last day, they stand at the edge of the water and Pierre wraps his arms around Anatole’s waist and pulls him in. He breathes in the smell of Anatole’s hair and tries to remember every second of this, because far too soon Anatole will leave and God knows what will happen then. Most likely, Pierre will become isolated and lose himself in his books. Anatole will no longer tease him about his constant reading and the books he likes to scatter all over the place, but Pierre thinks he will rather miss this. He will also be free to flirt with actresses and other “easy” women and take them to bed without feeling like he is betraying his lover. Not that Anatole had ever minded – in fact, Anatole seems to separate the two easily. But Pierre had never been easy about it and he never liked how flippant Anatole is about these transgressions either. But all of it pales in comparison to how much Pierre knows he will miss the boy, how much he knows it will hurt and how boring it will be to not have him around.
“I’ll miss you,” Anatole mumbles after a while, breathing in deeply.
“Let’s not…talk about it.”
“Alright.” Pierre can feel the smirk in Anatole’s next words. “I’d rather kiss you anyway.”
“Do write. Do write a lot,” Pierre practically begs, holding on to Anatole’s wrist tightly. Anatole is going away, back to Petersburg. Away to whatever glorious life awaits a young prince of expansive means such as him. The sky outside is an autumn grey although Pierre doubts it will actually rain.
“Of course I will,” Anatole promises, pulling Pierre toward him. Lips find lips and the world turns and flips around for a few moments while they kiss their goodbye, hands roaming over thick fabric, tracing each others bodies in an attempt to memorize their shape and form.
“Must you go?” Pierre gasps when they finally withdraw.
Anatole nods silently. He rubs his nose against Pierre’s and giggles childishly. “Maybe you can come for the summers to visit, or I can come down.” His smile grows by the minute. “We’ll go to our lake house and sunbathe all day. In the meantime, drink lots of fine French wine for me, mon cheri.”
“Alright,” Pierre agrees, smiling dreamily. He lets go of Anatole’s hand and walks with him out to the front gate where the carriage with all of Anatole’s things is waiting. “Adieu!” Pierre calls weakly as the carriage begins to roll and pick up speed. Anatole waves and watches Pierre from the window for a few minutes before sitting back and disappearing from sight.
Pierre watches the carriage drive out of sight. There is a hole deep within his chest and he struggles to fill it up. The streets seem emptier without Anatole and all the colors faded. He takes in a long breath and holds it, then lets it out and turns away from the street. The empty flat is full of reminders and Pierre wonders if he will be able stand it day in and day out. He picks up a book and loses himself in the reading.
He gets used to the emptiness eventually.