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You and Me and Those Between Us (Dolokhov/Anatole) - Part 2 - alley_skywalker [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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You and Me and Those Between Us (Dolokhov/Anatole) - Part 2 [Apr. 12th, 2012|04:54 am]
alley_skywalker
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Title: You and Me and Those Between Us
Author: alley_skywalker
Artist: queenmidalah
Fandom: War and Peace
Pairings: Dolokhov/Anatole, Anatole/Natasha, Anatole/Cecylia (Polish girl), Nikolai/Dolokhov, references to/implications of a few others
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~13,500
Warnings: slash, non-graphic sex, fidelity issues, some coarse language
Summary: After Theodore ends his relationship with Nikolai Rostov and Anatole firmly re-establishes himself in Theodore’s life, it seems like few things could get in the way of their love. But in a time when their relationship is socially unacceptable, circumstances and internalized norms constantly force them to struggle to stay together. When Anatole meets Natasha, things come to breaking point…
Artist Master Post: http://queenmidalah.livejournal.com/431100.html
Author's Notes: Written for the history_bigbang. Is a stand-alone fic but is also a sequel to You and Me and All Other People. Dedicated to helenvalentine who got me to write YaMaAOT which is what started this madness. Part I is HERE.






After the New Year, Anatole’s father insists that he go to Moscow as an adjutant in hopes that Anatole would both minimize his ever-growing expenses and find himself a rich heiress bride. Anatole agrees readily for Theodore had gone to Moscow a month earlier to spend the holidays with his mother and sister. He arrives in good spirits and does not even consider living any less expensively than he did in Petersburg. By virtue of Moscow being cheaper, however, and his new appointment, he is able to curtail his expenses enough for his father’s – temporary – satisfaction. He knows Theodore means to get his own place off the profits he made in the business ventures he had managed to run on the side in Persia but he does not have it yet at the time of Anatole’s arrival. Anatole puts up at Helene’s instead.

At Helene’s means at Pierre’s, which is awkward, to say the least. On the second night of Anatole’s presence in the house they find themselves in the sitting room, glasses of brandy in hand, looking uncomfortably at each other across the room. Anatole tries to recall how exactly it had gone between them. The details are blurry, like he had not wanted to remember them so badly that his mind did not fully process the information, but he remembers the general gist. Pierre found out about Anatole and Theodore’s affair coming back from Paris. Anatole had not been brave enough to say anything outright to Pierre and so Pierre had been forced to watch and wonder until finally cutting the ties himself. It hadn’t been fair, Anatole knows, he should have cut it off cleanly with Pierre. It would have saved them both a lot of uncertainty and hurt. But Anatole is also sure that Pierre’s affections had always lain elsewhere. There are rumors, which Sergei Makarin eagerly perpetuates, that Pierre and Andrei Bolkonski are involved. While Anatole doubts any sort of consummation between the two, he is certain that Pierre’s old infatuation with Bolkonski has not disappeared.

What had happened after Pierre had been exiled from St. Petersburg for their antics and Theodore degraded to the ranks? Here, Anatole isn’t certain. He had continued living in Petersburg, then went off with the army. He and Pierre did not speak or write to one another during this period except for the couple of days surrounding Helene’s wedding during which they fought, hurling hurtful insults at each other. Pierre is reasonably mad but Anatole responds badly to being verbally attacked. The next he hears of Pierre is in connection with the dual and Theodore’s injury and subsequent illness. He goes to Moscow but does not find Pierre there. He writes his former lover a scathing letter which Pierre, supposedly, receives bur does not answer.

Now they stand looking at one another, the air pregnant with explanations and apologies that both are too proud to offer first. In the end, Anatole is the first to break. “I wish we didn’t have to be like this.”

“Like what?” Pierre asks distractedly, sitting down. “We’re not like…anything.”

Anatole catches the double meaning and fights a rising wave of protest. He hadn’t wanted it to be like this. He sits down as well. A coffee table separates him from Pierre. “Mon cher, I know the way things ended…between us…I should have said something…”

Pierre shakes his head. “There’s nothing you could have said. We’re just...we were all wrong for each other. Although, your letter…it wasn’t fair, Anatole.” Pierre looks up and meets Anatole’s eyes. There’s something lost in that gaze, something that says that Pierre has changed and Anatole isn’t sure if it’s growing up that had changed it or some sort of prolonged intimacy with Bolkonski.

“I was upset,” Anatole says flatly. “You shot my lover.”

“Well, yes,” Pierre concedes and looks down in his typical awkward way. Anatole still gets glimpses of the old Pierre sometimes, of his Pierre. But not too often these days. “But Dolokhov, he wants everything. Your lover wants everything. He got you and then he wanted to have my wife too.”

“You never loved my sister, admit it.”

“That’s not the point!” Anatole flinches slightly at the vehemence in Pierre’s voice. “And, anyways, I loved you. She looks like you.”

“That’s why you married her?”

“Yes…no…I don’t know.”

“Theodore was never Helene’s lover. I don’t know who told you that nonsense or why you believed them but…you have to know it’s not true.”

“And you have to know I was hurt.”

They both look up again. Anatole feels agitated. This conversation is hard and he hates hard conversations and he wants to just…forget about it. Not have to deal with it. He’s happy now and he would like Pierre to be happy too. “Why aren’t you happy, Pierre?” he asks, surprising even himself. He hadn’t meant to say that out loud. “I know it’s not me. It can’t be, you’ve said yourself we were never a proper match for one another. Is it Bolkonski? What, is he getting married again?”

Pierre looks amazed and a little petrified, watching Anatole cautiously and searchingly. “How do you—Never mind, it doesn’t matter.”

“So he is? To whom? Alright, don’t answer if you don’t want to but still, is it him?” Anatole stands and walks over to sit beside Pierre. The tension between them has faded somewhat.

“It’s everything. I’m just not satisfied with life. Not fulfilled.”

Anatole shakes his head. “Denying yourself will never fulfill you,” he says, thinking of all the mind-boggling, stuffy philosophy Pierre had studied back in Paris. Poisonous stuff, really. “I don’t know if Bolkonski convinced you to not be my friend or if you felt so hurt that you did not wish to yourself, but I assure you, we were ‘happy back then. Not just because we were together and even after we weren’t. It’s about letting yourself be, Pierre.” He reaches out and puts one hand on Pierre’s wrist.

Pierre flinches front the touch but doesn’t pull away of slap Anatole’s hand. He merely finishes his drink and sets the glass on the table. “Hedonism cannot possibly be the meaning of life,” he retorts flatly.

“Who told you life has some sort of meaning above simply being life? Why does there have to be some big goal of purpose? I have not seen anyone searching for a goal or trying to reach one end up happy. Not you, not Teddy…”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

Anatole rolls his eyes. He’d heard that before, from Pierre most often perhaps. “Alright. But still, will you believe me if I say I’m sorry?”

“Yes.”

“Will you come out with me then? I know you and Theodore dislike each other but I’ll make sure he behaves if you do.”

A look of uncertainty crosses Pierre’s face but he finally nods and smiles resignedly. “Perhaps sometime.”

*~*

Anatole does not expect everything to magically be alright between him and Pierre again and it isn’t. But things do get better. Pierre gets used to him and they go out sometimes. If Theodore is jealous of Pierre’s reappearance he does not show it.

In fact, Pierre’s reappearance bothers Theodore only at first. He does not like this reconnection and warns Anatole about it. They almost fight over it but, in the end, Theodore relents to let Anatole make his own mistakes and Anatole is convinced that he has won. Theodore sees little threat in this new Pierre. Anatole is warm toward him but they never act as lovers might and while Anatole obviously longs for friendship he does not look at Pierre the way he once had, with the tenderness of childish infatuation. It would be as silly to be jealous of Bezukhov as it would be of Makarin, who is obviously madly in love with Anatole for the entirety of the world to see. If Anatole notices Sergei’s feelings he gives him no real hope. Most likely, however, he is merely oblivious as Anatole is oblivious to most things which do not interest him. Theodore finds it unworthy of his sense of personal dignity to be jealous of either Pierre or Sergei.

Anatole spends many blissful, forgetful nights with his lover. On the nights that he does not, he shares the bed of a gypsy girl or, if he is especially lucky, a French actress. Mademoiselle George is especially fine in bed. He and Theodore take turns with her and later share experiences, although Theodore gets far less joy from sleeping with women than Anatole does and his conquests are made more out of habit, a need to maintain his public image and stroke his own ego.

The ladies Anatole ignores for the most part. The heiresses because they are plain and he cannot marry one of them anyway, the pretty unmarried girls because there are far too many expectations tied to courting them and he had never cared for the married ones. This is Theodore’s forte.

Anatole does not even consider that he could fall in love with a girl. Not for real. Not in a way that could jeopardize his happiness. Not until he meets Natasha and the world flips unpsidedown.

*~*

Anatole had seen Natasha before, at a grand ball, a little over a year ago, but they had never been introduced. The first time he really sees her, though, is at the Moscow opera in mid February of 1811. He is there with Theodore and his sister, who had just come to Moscow after several weeks of promising to do so with no avail. Anatole is in good spirits, despite Pierre’s grumpiness, seemingly due to Helene’s arrival. The young prince’s good mood increases when he spots an exquisitely lovely young girl in one of the boxes. She looks vaguely familiar and has shinning dark hair and deep dark eyes. Her face is pale but her cheeks are flushed. She looks over the crowd with a paradoxical mix of interest and indifference. Her fan flutters in her hand and the bow in her hair sinks slightly to one side. Anatole feels something inside him begin to tingle. He nudges Dolokhov once they are left relatively alone and asks, “Do you know that girl?”

Theodore looks up to where Anatole is looking and his eyes narrow slightly at the sight of the Rostovs. “She is Nikolai’s younger sister. Natalia, I believe her name is.. yes, Natalia Rostov.”

“Natasha,” Anatole says softly, dropping effortlessly into the diminutive. The name whispers across his lips and he feels a rush of excitement. Theodore is looking at him strangely as though he means to ask what is going on. “Can you introduce me?” Anatole asks abruptly, looking over at Theodore. “You know her brother.”

“Yes. If you remember, I was his lover and then left him with a huge gambling debt. I doubt they like me much in that household.”

Anatole frowns, thoughtfully. “She’s gorgeous, though, isn’t she?”

Theodore takes another look at the Rostovs’ box and rolls his eyes. “Our tastes in women differ, as you are well aware,” he says, a little too sharply. Natasha repulses him with her idiocy, her self-centeredness, which is neither cynical nor ambitious but simply spoiled, her hysterical nature – what he’d glimpsed of it anyway – and her overall vapidity. He never begrudges Anatole fleeting crushes on girls but that his lover must chose someone so intolerable to idolize perturbs and annoys him.

“You don’t understand anything, I’ll tell you later,” Anatole promises and pushes his shoulder slightly against Theodore’s, staying pressed against him for a few seconds longer that perfectly appropriate. It is one of the more intimate gestures they can allow themselves in public.

Theodore spends most of his evening alone as Anatole is preoccupied with wooing the Rostov girl. They have dinner together afterwards and Anatole goes on about Natasha the way he rarely does about girls. He describes in detail her eyes and her lips, her arms and breasts, her feet and waist. Theodore listens to the boy with an air of amused amazement.

“She’s a fine one, mon cher, but not for us,” he says finally, coolly. Theodore doesn’t know what it is, but something tells him that the Rostov girl will be a problem.

“Oh, give up your stupid jokes. I’m going to woo her. You know I just love young girls.”

Theodore smirks and finish off his drink. “You already got caught by one young girl,” he points out, a little cattily, but mostly in good humor.

“It can’t happen twice, can it?” Anatole says with a laugh and Theodore feels a strange sense of relief, almost as though Anatole’s ability to make light of the situation has thwarted the growth of some conviction deep within him that this time is not like the rest.

*~*

Watching Anatole and Natasha dance is like watching two butterflies mate.

Theodore is dully aware of the gruesome vulgarity of this comparison but he hardly cares. Anatole doesn’t know that he is there for he has not made his presence known, but Helene does know and sometimes she will glance in his general direction with a look that is not quite pitiful – he would kill her for pity – but unhealthily sympathetic. Theodore watches as Anatole holds Natasha like one might hold something delicate and breakable, the way he looks at her with amazed adoration and everything in him rebels at the thought that Anatole, his Anatole, could be so serious about her ‘of all people. This is not a short-lived infatuation, it is not a pro-ego conquest, this is something that makes Theodore jealous in a way in which he does not want to be jealous, especially of women.

Helene slides up to him, just as the current round of the waltz finishes and Natasha untangles herself from Anatole. “Jealousy and stalking do not suit you,” she says, stopping next to him and brushing her fan over his shoulder.

Theodore sneers up at her. She has come to amuse herself at his expense and, currently, he finds that annoying rather than endearing. “If I got jealous of every woman your brother makes love to, I would have gone mad by now,” he parries evenly, looking back at the dance floor as the cotillion starts and trying to find Anatole again.

Helene sighs and swats his shoulder. “Stop pretending you don’t care. You know he’s in love with her. And you’re jealous.”

“Your brother falls in love all the time.”

“But not like this.”

Theodore stands and glares at her. She smiles impudently up into his eyes. She is not scared of him, never could be. She knows him too well. “Your brother can sleep with any woman he wishes. That is his right,” he growls at her in irritation. The sentence comes out in French and he isn’t sure why. His French has improved significantly after Persia but he is still not very comfortable speaking it if there are other options.

“Of course it is,” she confirms placidly and folds her fan. One hand goes sliding over his arm and Theodore traces her movement with his eyes, trying to glimpse something from it. “But if I know my brother, as long as he comes back to you, it means nothing.”

“I should go,” Theodore says. “It really is useless to stay here. Goodnight, Helene.” He leaves before she has a chance to reply. He feels ill and the sense of something happening which is beyond his control makes him claustrophobic and hot even in the crisp winter air.

Of coarse it means nothing. Where would Anatole go? Of course he won’t. They are just in the process of moving back in together. It is simply a flight of fancy.

It has to be.

*~*

“You want me to do…what?” Theodore manages to not sound quite as anxious as he feels but Anatole’s request has knocked him completely off kilter.

“I need you to help me elope with Natasha.” Anatole’s eyes are wide and innocent; he obviously sees nothing wrong with this request. He perches himself on the edge of Theodore’s desk and gives him a pleading look that makes Theodore want to grab the boy and fuck his head off. “I could try to do it myself but I can’t imagine how to get the documents quietly and you’re so brilliant at all this…” He’s not trying to be flattering, he seems genuinely lost and this scares Theodore too.

“I won’t,” he says firmly, placing his hands flat on the table and looking up at Anatole with a piercing, demanding stare.

Anatole deflates slightly but he is still meeting Theodore’s eyes, hope dancing around their edges. “Please? I know it’s a hassle but I need this!”

Theodore stands, so suddenly that he knocks the chair over. Anatole flinches and finally looks away. Theodore comes around the table to stand in front of Anatole. “Look at me,” he demands seriously. He reaches out and grabs Anatole’s hands in his. “Damnit, Anatole, look at me.” Anatole looks up obediently and Theodore wants nothing more but to kiss him and forget that this is happening. “You’re mad to try to elope with her. She’s not a gypsy you can just take away and then bring back like nothing happened. She’s a noble-born girl. She has a brother to protect her honor for goodness sake!”

“Do you think I’m afraid of a duel? Besides, there will be no duel. There will be no bringing her back. I can’t actually marry her as I am already married.”

Theodore’s eyebrows draw together slightly. He takes a step back but doesn’t drop Anatole’s hands. “What are you on about?”

“I want to…I do want to marry her, even if it turns out to not be legitimate, and then take her away. Abroad. To Poland at first, I think that will be easiest, then maybe somewhere else.”

Theodore feels a knot tighten in his chest. Helene’s voice echoes teasingly in his head – as long as he comes back to you… --‘ and he shuts it out vehemently. This has to be a mistake. Anatole has no idea what he is doing, or how stupid and dangerous this is. “You’re an idiot!” he burst out. “Don’t you understand that if you take her away you will never ‘be able to come back? Think about that! Just think about that for a moment. Let us even disregard the fact that it’s dangerous and you could get into a lot of trouble for it. If you take her away you won’t be able to come back because your marriage will come out – and inevitably it will, so don’t argue – and when will you be then? In the criminal court?”

“I don’t plan to come back,”

Silence falls, heavy and crushing, between them. Theodore slowly lets go of Anatole’s hands and Anatole looks down at them, feeling a flash of something hot and agonizing tear through him for a moment at the loss of contact and the hidden meaning behind it, but not commenting. He has made up his mind. They are silent for several minutes with the ticking of the clock and the low, barely-audible crackling of candles the only sounds in the room. Finally, Theodore manages to ask, “You are decided?” At Anatole’s stubborn nod, he adds, “Why?”

Anatole looks down, struggling with a wave of sudden guilt. It’s not a feeling he is accustomed to and it makes thinking and speaking difficult as everything in him constricts. He looks up at Theodore and feels the urge to reach out and grab him, hold onto him and swear that this is not personal. It doesn’t even mean that he doesn’t care. “You’re my best friend in the entire world, that will never change—” he says instead of an answer.

“Anatole,” Theodore cuts off sharply. He doesn’t want to listen to excuses. There’s a roaring in his ears and he can’t quite draw the line between where his emotions end and his practical thoughts start. Everything is jumbled and he doesn’t know if he should feel miserable, betrayed, jealous, angry or if he’s overreacting altogether. He had convinced himself that this was a game, like the rest of Anatole’s affairs, even helped Anatole write flaming love letters to the Rostov girl in drunken amusement, disregarding how serious Anatole had seemed about it.

Anatole forces himself to look up and into his lover’s eyes. Theodore deserves at least this courtesy. “I love her.”

That statement is the emotional equivalent of a slap – or perhaps a punch of the stomach – and Theodore struggles to make his expression as neutral as he can. Nevertheless, he gives it one more probing try. “You fall for girls all the time.”

“It’s not like that this time,” Anatole insists. He can see in his mind the way Natasha floats as she walks and can feel the ghost touch of her small hand on his shoulder. He imagines making love to her and his body erupts with shivers of hot desire. “I can’t get her out of my head. I never thought I could fall for a girl like this. I like girls, sure, but this one… Oh, she is incredible. Teddy, she—“

Theodore holds up one hand to stifle Anatole’s emotional outpour. He doesn’t want to hear it. He can’t quite handle it right now but Anatole cannot be allowed to see that. “I will arrange for the documents and the post horses and if you need help borrowing money, I’ll help with that as well. Write to her and settle on a time.” He says all this blankly, feeling his emotions ebb away with every word, like skin going numb after it is repeatedly hit with a hammer.

Anatole stares at him for a moment, then jump up and throws himself into his lover’s arms. He hugs Theodore tightly, hiding his face against Theodore’s shoulder. “Thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you,” he mumbles. After a moment, Theodore hugs him back and presses a closed-mouth kiss to his temple. Anatole feels a wave of warmth saturate him and he knows that despite everything, despite how much he wants Natasha, he will ‘miss this‘.

But, oh dear God, she is so lovely!

*~*

It’s not as hard as Theodore initially thinks it will be. He throws himself into helping Anatole plan the elopement because doing everything is better than doing nothing and simply standing to the side and watching. Watching as his happiness slips father and further away from his.

Jealousy is an interesting this. The more he fights it the hotter it burns, leaving deep marks on his heart, tearing through the delicate fibers of his soul. Once he accepts it, however, it goes cold and begins to freeze everything it touches until every emotion is frozen over and chipped away. This hurts at first too, like removing a glove and taking a hand-full of snow stings in the first few moments before the snow and ice numb the nerves of the fingers and palm. Jealousy is much the same as it slowly takes over the soul and the mind, covering everything with a thin sheet of ice which thickens daily.

Theodore can feel himself growing calmer by the day. He and Anatole have stopped having sex, have stopped cuddling and even kissing, for the most part. But Theodore no longer feels a sense of burning loss from any of this. He merely feels empty and listless, finding thing to do – anything and everything – just to take up time, fill up the void.

It takes almost two weeks to put affairs in order. Theodore watches the last day slip away with a sort of dreadful apathy. He thinks of speaking with Makarin about being one of the witnesses and the way the man’s eyes had widened and the slight tremor of his lips. “He’s going away for good?” Sergei had asked, his hands fisting in his tailcoat. “And you’re just letting ‘him do this?”

“What am I to do? Stop being a child.”

“You could at least not help him. He’d never pull it off on his own.”

“Exactly. But he would try and only end up hurting himself. I won’t allow that. Would you like it? I can at least make him as safe as possible.”

Sergei had not responded, then, reluctantly, agreed to be one of the witnesses at the wedding. Theodore had left with a feeling of contempt for Makarin. If he hadn’t allowed all of his emotions to freeze, to decay, he would be a wreck as well, if not from the utter feeling of loss than from sheer terror of what Anatole could be getting himself into if things go awry. But he would never allow himself such an indignity.

*~*

Everything goes to hell before it even has a chance to start.

“Kuragin, back! We’ve been betrayed!” Theodore shouts as he struggles with one of the Rostovs’ valets. Boots crunching in the snow, coming toward him, are the only indication that Anatole has heard him.

They had been ambushed in the courtyard after giving the signal. Theodore’s intuition had been correct on advising him to stay at the gate as Anatole went in or they would have been trapped. Theodore doesn’t know what happened. Maybe Natasha got scared and told her household. More likely, she was found out and didn’t think to warn them, the idiot that she is. Perhaps she couldn’t warn them or didn’t have the time, but Theodore takes a vicious pleasure from thinking the Rostov girl betrayed them on purpose. It serves Anatole right.

Anatole makes it out of the gate and Theodore gives the valet a punch in the face and a shove before slipping out into the street and swinging the heavy metal gate shut behind himself. Anatole is staring in shock up at the house, at the brightly lit windows. Theodore grabs his hand and pulls him toward the troika. “Come on, let’s go!” he shouts urgently over the galling wind.

Anatole snaps out of his stupor and runs with him. They jump into the carriage, shouting at the driver to go, and are carried off into the dark. Anatole curls up in the corner, away from Theodore, and puts both hands over his face. “Damn it all,” he mutters miserably.

Theodore doesn’t make a move to comfort him.

*~*

Anatole stands with his forehead pressed against the cold glass of the window in Theodore’s study. His cup of tea and brandy, which Theodore had had brought in for them so they could get warm, has gone cold by now and he had only taken a few sips. His uniform jacket is hung over the back of a chair and he remains in only his shirt, britches and boots. The room is warm but Anatole often feels waves of cold wash over him. Hvostikov and Makarin have been informed that the escapade has been called off and they have gone home. Makarin had wanted to stay but Theodore wouldn’t hear of it.

Anatole hasn’t said a word since they’d come back. All of his feelings are confused and he fluctuates violently between sadness and fear and betrayal. Theodore is in the room but he keeps to the shadows on the opposite side, nursing a glass of hard liquor. He is also silent and the silence festers and breeds between them like a dangerous infection.

“I can’t believe this,” Anatole whispers softly. “I can’t believe she would do this. Why would she tell? And if she did not, why wouldn’t she warn me? What am I going to do?” The question is rhetorical. He doesn’t actually expect Theodore to answer. He has been so cold the entire time that Anatole has begun to fear him and this mood he is in.

Theodore looks from where he had been examining one of the knives with an engraved handle hung up in his wall array of weapons. He does not rush to answer, choosing instead to glare at the back of Anatole’s head. The adrenaline from their getaway had nudged something deep inside him, broken some vital chord. The ice covering his insides began to crack and melt and shatter. What comes out from beneath it is rotten and bitter, seething with anger and hurt pride and heartache.

Anatole wants everything. This is a fact Theodore had always known. He wants to lie with girls by the dozen and re-connect with former lovers, be free and yet have a faithful lover. All of this Theodore had been able to forgive him and carry on accordingly. Anatole made few demands, after all, and they had always been honest with one another, which kept side affairs from being too destructive. But this time, Anatole has gone too far. This had not been a fling or a society intrigue. This had been Anatole willing to leave him behind. This had been the end. Is the end.

All that Theodore feels now is cold rage, verging just beyond contempt. He feels no sympathy for Anatole, no tenderness. Only a deep, aching hurt that he does not know how to avenge. “You’re going to go to bed,” he answers firmly. “It’s been a long day. I’ll have the spare room made up for you.” He sets his empty glass on the desk and walks out of the study, allowing the door to slam shut behind him.

Anatole turns, as though in a daze, and regards the empty room. A strange pain rises within him and he feels his head spin. Sleeping alone doesn’t scare him – although he longs for the safety of Theodore’s arms around him right now – but the prospect of what will happen tomorrow, of what all of this means, terrifies him. He is far too emotionally exhausted, however, so he takes a drink of his cold tea and sinks down onto the sofa to wait for his room to be prepared.

*~*

Anatole cannot find Theodore anywhere in the morning, so he goes to Makarin’s instead. Sergei insists that Anatole needs fresh air so they take a brichka ride. It snow storm of the night before has ended and the snowfall is light and soft, almost unnoticeable. The air is frosty and it is ‘easier to breath in it. The morning is so very bright that Anatole’s mood lifts automatically and some of the nagging fear from the night before dissipates and calms.

His thoughts are still scattered and he feels utterly torn between making things right with Theodore or trying to find a way to see Natasha. He can still imagine her glowing smile but somehow her charm has faded. Something about the disaster of the night before and Theodore’s sudden coldness have made him uncertain as to his feelings, of what he truly wants.

Sergei offers encouragement but little advice. They run across Pierre who has, evidently, returned to Moscow and Anatole waves to him. He can appear cheerful easily. It is not that hard – all he has to do is not think about anything. But he is not afforded much time for that escape now.

“What should I do, Serge?” Anatole asks Makarin when they come in from their ride. He feels better but his head has hardly cleared.

Makarin regards him thoughtfully only to shrug in the end. “Do you love Natasha? I do have to say it would be fruitless to try and have something with her now. I wouldn’t be surprised if she finds out you are married.”

“That’s impossible! You, Helene and Theodore are the only ones who know. And Pierre…”

“Is it impossible? Even so, her family will be on guard.” Sergei waits out a moment, then, gently, puts a hand on Anatole’s shoulder. “Something tells me it’s not her you’re worried about.”

Anatole’s shoulders slump. “I feel like I messed up with Teddy. I didn’t mean to.”

Makarin rolls his eyes. “Mon cher, you were about to leave him forever.”

“I know.” Anatole drops his eyes to the hardwood floor. He suddenly can’t breathe again. “It felt alright just yesterday. I…” I didn’t realize what it might be like to lose him. It couldn’t really imagine it… ‘the thought is so striking, so sudden that he flinches.

Makarin’s hand on his shoulder tightens and concern flickers over his eyes. “What, Anatole?”

“I wanted both of them. I didn’t want Natasha more. ‘I think I thought I did, because she’s a girl, but…” He rubs his temples in circles. “Oh, dear God. I don’t know what I want anymore. I’m so mixed up, Serge.”

“He loves you, you know,” Makarin says quietly. “He always loved you. When…when he was talking to me about helping you elope, he said he couldn’t do anything about your decision but he could at least keep you safe.”

Anatole feels his heart constrict. He feels ill and weak, like the ground has just been swept away from under him. Without Theodore he feels alone and vulnerable, unable to make up his mind about anything. It had been easy to fantasize about running away with Natasha when he still fell asleep beside Theodore and could turn to him for help and comfort. He thought that, since they had been apart for long periods of time before, he could do it again, for even longer. Forever maybe. And…they could still write and maybe Theodore could make it abroad some time. He had been so sure of it all. Now, the fear eats him up from the inside, the fear of being alone and vulnerable. Anatole almost never feels these things and they terrify him. “I need him back,” he decides out loud, meeting Makarin’s eyes with rare determination, as if making a promise.

*~*

Anatole goes back to Theodore’s for dinner. They eat either in silence or to Anatole’s talk about seeing Pierre and Helene’s party that night. When they’ve eaten and the brandy is poured, Anatole goes to the window and sits on the wide windowsill, swinging his legs slightly in a nervous habit. He can feel Theodore watching him and he can also feel how unwelcome he is. “We need to talk,” he says finally.

Theodore scoffs. “Whatever is there to talk of, mon cher?” The endearment comes off so sarcastic that Anatole can almost feel the venom dripping off the words, burning like acid.

It isn’t fair. He doesn’t deserve to be treated like this. He was honest from the start and is it his fault Natasha is so lovely? Is it his fault she is a girl and what is a man to do when he finds a girl he wants? Surely, even elopement would be more proper than sodomy? Surely, it was only natural for him to lose his head over a girl? Surely… He looks over at Theodore and sees the aloof coldness in his eyes with just a shard of interest and something else which Anatole cannot distinguish. The coldness in those eyes that look at him as though he is the enemy sends a shock of fear rushing through him and Anatole’s frustration and sense of being slighted unfairly increases to a breaking point. “I need to figure out how to see Natasha,” he says, keeping the catty edge out of his voice but he still sounds irritable.

The iciness in Theodore’s eyes settles again, leaving no room for any other emotion. “Ah.” Theodore stands and paces slowly, brandy glass in hand. He finally settles of leaning lazily against the mantle. “So. She betrays you or just carelessly treats your safety and you still feel so strongly about her that you will run after her?”

Anatole gives no answer. He is both insulted and ashamed. “Teddy…” He can’t find the words to express what he feels, how lost and confused he is.

“I think you’re on your own now, Kuragin. I’m bored of your games.”

The use of his surname feels like a slap. Theodore is smirking slightly and there is dry contempt and disgust in that smirk. Theodore sets his brandy down and turns as though to leave the room. You’re on your own now. ‘Panic washes over Anatole and he understands, in an overwhelming, sudden epiphany just what he has done. He has snapped something vital, crossed some invisible line, and now all of his happiness has gone to pieces within hours.

“No!” Anatole jumps from the windowsill, his glass falling from his hand and shattering. He runs to Theodore and grabs his arm. He turns the other man around and peers up into his face. “Teddy, listen to me, I didn’t mean that. I only said that to spite you. Please, listen to me. Listen.”

Theodore turns and regards Anatole with the same cold eyes. He pulls his arm out of Anatole’s grip and clips, “Why the hell should I have anything to do with you?”

“You’re my best friend,” Anatole pleads, feeling horribly helpless. “At least for the sake of that, listen to me.” Theodore does not answer but he makes to move to leave either. “I need you,” Anatole says earnestly, reaching out to touch Theodore’s arm but stopping short, his hand hovering just inches away from his lover. Former lover? No! Nonono…

Theodore’s smirk widens and there’s a venomously jeering edge to his tone. “Oh yes, now that the Rostov girl is out of the picture.”

Anatole drops his hand and shuts his eyes tightly before speaking again. “I have had other affairs. So have you. Why are you singling this one out?”

“Because,” Theodore says patiently, his tone patronizing as though explaining something to a child. “This time it was different. You had a choice to make this time and you made it.”

Anatole opens his eyes and looks up at Theodore, desperation clinging to every part of his being. “I…I didn’t...” He has no way to refute this argument. But it seems so stupid. “I didn’t mean to make a choice like that. I didn’t realize that I was…I wasn’t thinking properly,” he admits, dropping his eyes.

“That’s because you never think!” Frustration is evident in Theodore’s voice now, the patronizing expression gone. “Yes, you’ve had other affairs. So have I. But I’ve always chosen you over any other and I’ve always come back. Up until now, so have you. I trusted you, Anatole. Trusted that no matter your flights of fancy you always lo—knew when to stop. Would never leave. But you proved me wrong. And I don’t fucking care if you didn’t mean it. I don’t care if it wasn’t what you thought it was. It shows something about how you feel and what you want. Which is obviously not the same thing as what I want.”

Anatole throws up both hands to make Theodore stop. Tears sting the back of his eyes. “It’s not like easy for us to be together!” he nearly shouts. It’s an irrelevant defense but he’s searching for any viable excuse.

“It wouldn’t have been easy for you to be with the Rostov girl either! Or anyone. You are married remember. Just because we can’t be together for the world to see doesn’t mean other people don’t have feelings, Anatole. Doesn’t mean I…that it’s easy for me. That’s why I never objected to your affairs with women and you did not object to mine. But this was not a fancy, Anatole. This was a choice. Perhaps I should have seen it coming; you were never very prone to commitment. But I was fool enough to put my faith in this. Whatever this thing we have – had – is but apparently is wasn’t enough.”

“It is!” Anatole protests. He reaches out and grabs Theodore’s hands. “Please, I love you.” He blinks tears out of his eyes. Theodore’s expression is cold and disbelieving. He has made up his mind on the matter and nothing Anatole can say is going to change it it seems. Anatole pulls his pride together and tramples it mercilessly until he can speak again without stumbling. The words come out slowly but with determination, evenly paced. He is trembling, knowing this is his last resort. “Alright,” he concedes as calmly as he can. “You are right. I was wrong. I was very wrong and I’m sorry. I let her get to my head, I messed up. I really messed up. I’ve been selfish and careless…and…I need you, Teddy. I’m sorry I hurt you.” He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, meeting Theodore’s eyes. “Will you forgive me?”

There is a long, pregnant pause in which Anatole holds breath. Theodore seems to struggle for a few moments, several unreadable emotions crossing his eyes. Then, deliberately, slowly, but not quite roughly, he takes his hands back from Anatole and retreats a step.

“No.”


 
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