Title: You and Me and How It Ends Author:alley_skywalker Fandom: War and Peace Characters/Parings: Theodore Dolokhov/Anatole Kuragin; Helene Kuragin, Pierre Bezukhov, Galina Dolokhov, others in cameos Rating: PG-13 Warnings:[Spoiler]Character Death Word Count: ~12,300 Summary: After his unsuccessful elopement attempt with Natasha, Anatole has to leave Moscow without getting a chance to make things right with Theodore. They struggle through the rift, pride and confusion battling love and a need to be together. And when it seems their love might pull through after all, the war starts and makes its own claims. Notes: Written as a stand-alone for the history_bigbang. Also part 3/3 of the You and Me series. Dedicated to helenvalentine who got me to write this series in the first place. She's since deleted her accounts so I don't know how to get in touch with her, but the dedication stands.
Theodore Dolokhov hates goodbyes. He always had. They left a hard, butter taste in his mouth and it always meant losing or being let down. Perhaps it had something to do with his father’s death when he was only a boy, but that event alone could not have spurred the range of emotional distress that the process of leaving created. As it were, his father had died in a duel and Theodore had been just a boy and had not even known that there was any danger until it was all over. There had been no goodbye, no watching his father ride away at dawn. If anything, he should have developed a hatred for duals, but dueling is one of the things he is unquestionably good at and an activity he engages in quite regularly without much concern.
Watching Anatole pack for the second time in as many days is hard. Doing so silently, pretending like he doesn’t care, is nearly unbearable. The last time, the boy had been ready to throw away everything he had in order to elope with the young Natalie Rostov, leaving Theodore behind like a nice childhood memory that one must let go of. This time, Theodore is pushing him away on purpose.
He’s saved some of the guilt by Pierre who had found it necessary to resort to violent threats to get his way. If it wasn’t for his brother in law, Anatole would merely move out of Theodore’s house but stay in Moscow. Although, when Theodore thinks about it, in the long run it will be easier for him if Anatole is in Petersburg. After the fiasco with the Rostov girl, he had finally chosen to cling to his pride and break things off with Anatole. Holding on to that resolution would be incredibly difficult if Anatole remained in the city, constantly appearing anywhere Theodore went, constantly looking at him with those apologetic, crystal-grey eyes and simply…simply being.
They have been lovers for years. They have had other lovers than one another – though mainly female – and both had accepted that reality, but Anatole had meant to leave, to go away forever. Their affair had held together by the faith that, in the end, they would always belong to each other, Distance is one thing, marriage vows – which everyone broke these days – is one thing, but goodbye is another, “Goodbye, Teddy. Thank you for everything,” Anatole had said at the door, smiling fondly at him. Goodbye, he had said, leaving forever to be with another lover. That, Theodore can not forgive.
They stand in the cold morning air – he, Anatole and Helene. The carriage is loaded and ready, the sky grey and murky in the early hours. Usually, Anatole could easily sleep until noon but he had not slept the night before. He had panicked and packed and drank Theodore’s brandy and paced around his room, which he had barely ever used before. Theodore’s mother and sister are away on a long visit to one of his mother’s friends so it was only him and Anatole in the house. Theodore had lain in bed, attempting to sleep, and listened to Anatole’s footsteps across the wooden flood and fought the urge to go to him and wrap him up in a protective embrace. He fought the urge to ask, “Are you distraught because you lost me or because you lost her? Or are you just afraid of that oaf Bezukhov?” In the end, he had slept, restlessly, poorly, only to be woken up by a knock and a subdued Anatole saying, “I’m leaving, if you’d care to see me off.” He hadn’t looked hopeful, but Theodore said he would. They were friends before they were lovers and Natasha Rostov should have had no effect on their friendship had it stayed merely that.
Anatole gives final instructions to his man servant, holding his hat in one hand and ignoring the snowflakes that drench his hair, as Theodore and Helene watch from the porch steps. “It’s a cruel thing you’re doing,” she says finally, softly.
“He loves you, you know.”
“That doesn’t change anything. I’m not doing this out of spite—“
“Aren’t you?” She turns to look at him sharply.
Theodore stares her down. “No. I’m doing this for me. Perhaps for both of us. I need space and so does he. Anatole is upset now, I know, he lost out on both fronts but he’s resilient. In the end, what Anatole needs for happiness is revelry and he’ll always have that.”
“You’re a selfish bastard. He needs you.”
“Yes, to babysit him. But I can’t do that forever.”
She rolls her eyes and looks away. “Just admit it: you can’t stand the thought of him with anyone else.”
Theodore puts on an aloof, sarcastic expression. “What’s the point if those feelings aren’t returned? But no. I’ve seen the error of my ways. Your brother is dear to me, you know that, he always has been. But when a relationship becomes unhealthy, it’s time to cut it off.”
Helene rounds on him but she doesn’t have time to spit out whatever biting remark she has stored up. Anatole comes up to them and finally dons his hat. “Everything is ready. I should go.” He has a budding bruise on his jaw, probably from the scuffle with Pierre the day before and Theodore wants to reach out and touch it, very gently, to run his thumb over it and ask if Anatole will be alright. Not because he has a bruise, really, but because he looks uncharacteristically forlorn and sober. Instead he lets Helene hug and kiss her brother as he watches with a look of forced disinterest.
“I will come to Petersburg soon. Maybe I can talk to Pierre—“
“Don’t do that, we’ve talked about this,” Anatole protests, but with little enthusiasm. “You’ll only make it worse. You know how Pierre reacts to your opinion on anything.”
Helene sighs and seems to admit defeat. “It will blow over.”
“I know.” Anatole turns to Theodore and they finally meet eyes, something that Dolokhov had been avoiding all morning. “Teddy…” Anatole steps toward him and Theodore fights the urge to step back. “I’m sorry. I know I’ve…I’ve messed up. You have every right to be mad at me but I want us to be friends, at least, even if…”
“We are friends.” Theodore steps forward and puts both hands on Anatole’s shoulders. He doesn’t want the boy to know just how hurt he is, how hard the whole thing is for him. The distance will definitely be good for both of them. “You’ve been through a lot. It’s better you go and don’t tempt the Rostovs and their…friends. I have things to do here. The distance will give us…time. For things to settle down.”
Anatole nods and, without warning, nearly tips over. Theodore has no choice but to catch him in an embrace and allow them a few moments to awkwardly stand holding each other with Anatole’s face tucked into his shoulder. Finally, he pushes Anatole away gently and the young prince backs away, taking the hint.
Theodore watches as Anatole gets into the carriage and drives away. He looks back once and waves, childishly. Helene waves back but Theodore just watches as the carriage disappears into the morning mist and snow. It is better this way, he is certain. Even if it hurts.
Theodore has never had trouble in busying himself. There are always things to do, people to see, affairs to handle.
His stint undercover in Persia had caused some friction between him and the generals. He refused to be bullied, they moved to demote him again, he resigned. Therefore on his return to Moscow from the Caucuses, Theodore no longer served. Yet, having no intention of taking up a civilian post, at least for the time being, he examined other options, albeit without much hurry. He has come back with far more money than he had ever carried before in his life at any one time, all of this the proceeds to a couple of successful entrepreneurial ventures. Such things would have been looked down on at home as being below his class, but there was no one in Persia to know him or to tattle and Theodore had taken advantage of it. Even after he left, the income continued to trickle in for a few months before dying out. Once at home, Theodore made a couple of handy investments which he hoped would develop. The money wasn’t enough to buy any sort of estate and that sort of thing would take more expenses to develop so the investments were somewhat less gentlemanly, however they did allow for spare money to afford some luxuries for him and his family and possibly bring in a nice side income in the future.
Most of Theodore’s personal income still comes from cards. It is a life he is used to and a word he is well situated in. Driven to the extreme at the age of sixteen the habit has become hard to break. Truthfully, Theodore is not a gambler at heart, despite his daring. He never looses himself in the heat of the game, never succumbs to the urge of making unjustified stakes. He knows the game, he knows his opponents and his conscious has gotten used to whatever tricks he employs a long time ago. But the cards only take up part of the time, a lot of it is during social evening hours. During the day, Theodore finds himself restless more often than not.
At first, he merely thinks that he needs to find a post to take up his time, but more and more often he becomes aware that the feeling isn’t of boredom – he always manages to occupy his time with one task or another. The feeling is more akin to restlessness, to constantly missing something that isn’t there. He knows what it is, or rather who, but his pride bulks at the idea so much that he avoids it stubbornly. The parties and the escapades and the cards; the books, the clubs, the hunts, outings with his sister and a trip to the countryside once the days get warmer and longer are all a wonderful distraction, but they’re not the same without Anatole and they’re not a viable enough distraction to keep his mind completely off the boy.
But he doesn’t write and, for a long time, neither does Anatole.
Anatole’s first letter comes mid-May. Theodore thinks to burn it at first but doesn’t want to seem childish, or like he has not yet overcome the hurt from Anatole’s desire to leave him. Pride has always been a large motivator for Theodore and he had promised Anatole that day on the porch that, yes, they remain friends, so he sees no way out but to read the letter and find something to say in response.
Dear Theodore, I haven’t written, I know. Don’t think this has anything to do with forgetting about you, more with taking your advice that we both need to account, to ourselves at least, of what had come to pass between us. I’ve also been given a new appointment and had some military business to attend to. This took me out of Petersburg for a while. I’ve been ill, though. Do not worry, neither for my health or that this is a plea for sympathy. But it is true. Nothing serious, the doctors say, but I have been quite indisposed. This makes my father worried, mainly of course, because it means I am in no real shape to be chasing rich heiresses. It is the same old story. He does not know I am married of course, so you can see how this leads to quite a few confounding situations. But at least my latest condition has made it quite impossible to carry suit. Which is a relief.
The truth is that I miss you. I hope you will write back. Tell me as to what you have been up to. Have you decided what you will do now that you do not serve? I know you – you need a purpose in life of some sort, a goal. Someone with your skills, you could do well in government, you know, if you thought to apply yourself….
The rest of the letter is filled with anecdotes about mutual friends and acquaintances, many of which are actually quite amusing, especially given Anatole’s lack of story-telling talent. Anatole’s illness troubles Theodore but he decides to not pay it too much mind in case Anatole truly is using it as a ploy.
He waits several days to reply, sends a bland letter with a wish of better health and a run down of local news. He cannot bring himself to be more engaging without falling into the trap of saying things like “I miss you.” He doesn’t want to miss Anatole. He’d spent too many years doing just that and yes, the bitterness has finally sunk in. So maybe if he doesn’t say it, if he waits it out, it will become reality.
Anatole is hung over. The night before he had been splendidly drunk, but now his head is ringing and everything seems to be far too bright. He turns on his side, looking to see if he is at home and if anyone is with him.
No one is there and the bedroom is his own.
Anatole lets out a sigh of relief and flings one arms over his eyes, trying to work up the strength to ring for his manservant and have some water and breakfast brought up. It used to be, during the times he and Theodore lived together, that he would curl into his lover’s side and stay there, hiding from the sun and letting Theodore deal with the morning business for the both of them. Theodore would run a hand through his hair and tease him about getting too over his head once again. Sometimes, if they had no where to be and the day was appropriately glum, Anatole would convince his lover to stay in bed and they would lounge around under the covers shamelessly for hours until it was time for dinner.
But Theodore is in Moscow now and Anatole in St. Petersburg. Anatole has tried to write but all of Theodore’s responses have been unsatisfying. There is nothing specifically wrong with them but Anatole knows Teddy Dolokhov well enough to distinguish a friendly but disinterested response from a genuine one.
Anatole feels miserable half the time these days. He can’t say what it is. He drinks and falls in bed with certain men of a known circle and with beautiful women of all sorts, but none of it has its prior spark. The sex is banal, the parties get boring. He misses Theodore even though they have had periods of time when they were away from one another for years. But this time it is different. Things are not right between them and Anatole has no idea how to go about fixing the situation. He has tried apologizing, he has tried pretending that nothing is wrong but nothing changes and he feels cast aside and unwanted – a feeling he is completely unused to.
Anatole nurses a cup of tea as he waits for his headache to recede. He pens a note to Helene to ask her to come visit. If anyone can help him through this, it is she. His sister has always been good at resolving difficult social situation or manipulating people into doing what she wants them to do or just putting things in perspective. That is something she and Theodore are both good at. Anatole, on the other hand, always lacked the ability to see beyond the current state of things, especially if he is emotionally involved. Sometimes it poses a problem – like currently.
“Please help me.” Anatole gives his older sister the most adorably pleading look he can manage.
Across the coffee table, Helene smirks at him and leans back into the sofa pillows with an amused expression. She steers sugar into her tea and sips it carefully in case it is still hot. The delicate porcelain cup looks much more at home in her hands than it ever did in Anatole’s. “I think sometimes you forget that you are no longer ten years old and those puppy eyes of yours do your case more harm than good.” She sounds more amused than upset however and Anatole merely tips his head to the side.
“Helene, you are my only hope. I need him back.”
She sets the cup aside and smoothes out the skirt of her dress. “What would you have me do, Anatole? Surely you know that Theodore will not listen to anything I say if he won’t even listen to you.”
“There has to be something.” Anatole rubs his temples, still not looking away from his sister. The headache from that morning has slipped away but the heat of the June day seems to be attempting to boil the air. It is time to move out into the countryside. It would be much cooler and fresher at the estate than in the city and… “Wait.”
“You should invite him to our estate for a summer trip. With this heat everyone will want to be out in the country!” Anatole sits up, suddenly glowing as the thought strikes him full-force. How hadn’t he thought of this before?
Helene, however, does not look convinced. “You want me to issue an invitation?”
“Well why not? I can’t do it; he’ll ignore me.”
“Do you honestly suppose he won’t see through this ploy? This is Theodore Dolokhov we are talking about.”
“So say I am in the army! He’ll come to visit you, you’re friends.”
Helene rolls her eyes at him and Anatole desperately tries to figure out what’s he’s missed. “And how will this look? I am still Pierre’s wife.”
“After the things he said, I don’t give a damn about what Pierre thinks anymore,” Anatole says glumly. The words Pierre said the night after his failed attempt to elope with Natasha when he thrust some money at Anatole and told him to get out of Moscow still sting and ring in his ears on some nights. What friendship they had ever had is gone. Anatole knows that now and won’t let himself be deluded by denial ever again.
“I never cared about what Pierre thinks,” Helene says derisively. “But society gossip is something I would rather avoid if I could. Me inviting Theodore to spend the summer at our estate with just us there—“
“—yes, because your honor when it comes to women is so well known—“
“Not you too!”
“—It would look unseemly.”
“So don’t invite just him. Invite the entire Dolokhov family! That’s even better! Let us take Maman! You know how she hates the city heat. Then she and Maria Ivanovna can talk all they like while we entertain ourselves. You can even leave after a while if you get bored.”
“You mean once you and Theodore are once again engaging in your…carnal pleasures.”
“You should not be judging, dear sister.”
“My interests, at least, lie with men.” She puts up a hand to stop his protests. “It doesn’t matter. I have no desire to police what you do in bed. Oh for Gods sake.” She makes a face at him. “Besides what do you intend to do when he’s there?”
“Make him fall in love with me again.”
Helene thinks of Theodore’s restrained expression on the porch with the snowflakes tangled in his hair and the way he had watched the carriage drive away like something was being ripped away from him and he couldn’t stop watching it, as though keeping eye contact would help him keep it. “He does love you. That’s not your problem.”
“Then what is my problem?”
“You hurt him, idiot. And you know Dolokhov doesn’t deal well with rejection and that forgiveness is not something he is good at. But, I suppose, if he was forced to endure your constant charm, since it seems to work on him so well, it could perhaps have an effect…” She lets her gaze drift off a bit, eyes unfocusing as she regards some image in the back of her head. “Although, you would have to be subtle – and God knows you’re not good at that – because he’s so used to being chased…chasing you is really what sets you apart from the others in the end. But maybe you could be a little less exploitive this time around.”
“I’m not—I’m not exploitive!”
“I am simply saying.” They fall into several moments of silence.
“I’ll think about it.”
“Helene? Pleeeease? …I love you?”
“I said I’d think about it,” she says, not meeting his eyes and smiling in amusement.
“What do I have to do?”
Helene waves her fan at him. “Now that is the correct question.”
“So you’ll do it?”
Helene opens her fan and smirks. “Prince Rzhevsky. Introduce us in the most…inspiring circumstances. And…entertain his wife while we…speak. I hear she is quite young and charming.”
Anatole grins at her. “Done.”
“I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t you want us to go to the Kuragin estate?” Galina Dolokhov looks at her brother in utter confusion. She twirls the end of her long braid around one finger thoughtfully, watching her brother with bemused curiosity. “You used to always love to go there yourself and now you act like the invitation is some sort of insult.”
“No, I just don’t see the use.” Theodore tries to sound casual. He glances down at Helene’s letter on his desk and has a strong urge to burn the damned thing. He has a bad feeling that this is all some sort of ploy and that she is not being straight with him. Not that Helene is ever straight with anyone.
“The use? What are you on about? Just think!” Galina makes her way around the desk and perches on her brother’s knee, locking her arms around his neck. She had always done this when they were younger and even now that they are both adults she has never seen a need to be formal with her own brother. “Just imagine how we could sit by the lake of walk in the woods.”
“Yes. With the Countess Bezukhov only too willing to scandalize you. I imagine Helene would take pleasure in something like that. It is very like her.”
Galina laughs and slaps his shoulder lightly. “You’re not really worried about me…or maybe you are but…oh!” She flushes suddenly and ducks her head. “Oh!”
“What?” Theodore can’t help but sound exasperated.
“Well I could stay out of your way, you know. Of you and the Countess.”
“Stay out of my…what?—oh no! No, it was never like that between Helene and I!”
Galina raises her eyebrows at him. “Oh? And the duel you fought with Count Bezukhov?”
‘Was not over her. I didn’t even want a damned duel, Galia, remember?” He had wanted a duel. In fact, Theodore and Helene had planned that duel, had planned its apparent cause. But he isn’t lying about the duel not being over Helene – it had been over Anatole. Damned Kuragins. Everything is always about them, Theodore thinks and yet can’t manage to find any real spite at the thought.
“Well then I don’t see a problem at all,” Galina says with a shrug. “Our estate used to be near there, remember?” she says after awhile. It would be like…like a trip down memory lane. That’s where you met Anatole, remember?”
“Yes…but really, Galia, do you want to go through all that? There are…other memories there.”
Her face darkens as she thinks this over. Galina had only been eight when their father died and Theodore knows that her memories of Ivan Dolokhov are much more vague than his own. Yet, the thought gives her pause. “You’ve always gone and it has never bothered you,” she reasons, measuring out her words.
“No. But what about Maman?”
“We can ask her. But I think she will say yes. The heat will only get worse and the city is no good in the summer. It will be such a lovely respite. I see no reason why we shouldn’t go. You know I love the country.”
“I know.” Theodore hugs her and she lays her head on top of his with a wistful expression. “I do hope,” Theodore says teasingly. “That your eagerness has nothing to do with Anatole. He won’t be there.” Theodore nods at the letter. “Helene says he’s away in the army.”
“It’s a shame,” Galina hums noncommittally. “But I never had my sights set on him if that’s what you mean.” It’s true. She would never dream to like a glamorous Prince such as Anatole. She is practically dowerless and her hunched back makes her less than pretty and therefore less than adequate for a Prince. But she does like Anatole’s bright smiles and his sense of humor, the way he has always treated her like a favorite cousin. It’s all for the better really – Theodore could never have allowed Anatole to get close to her, although in Galina’s mind this has far more to do with her brother’s protectiveness of her than any sort of jealousy.
“Oh, no?” Theodore smirks, waits a beat, and tickles her side. Galina squeals and squirms away from him. Theodore chases her around the study and into the hall, momentary losing himself in their childish game and forgetting any reservations he may have about this sudden invitation.