Title: Speak Not Of Love
Fandom: War and Peace
Characters/Pairings: Dolokhov/Helene; Anatole, Pierre, Hippolyte, Vasili, Galina Dolokhov
Rating: R (for like one sex scene)
Word Count: ~20k
Summary: When she is 16 years old, the beautiful and socially successful Princess Kuragin falls in love with an officer of little means and no connections. So starts an affair which will span years, marked by repressed passion, unspoken words of love and a constant impossibility of being together.
Notes: Written for the het_bigbang. red_b_rackham has made gorgeous art for this story, which you can find here.
At the end of March, Anatole came bursting into Helene’s room without so much as a knock, waving around a piece of folded up paper. “He’s back! Theodore’s back!”
Helene looked up from where she had been sitting and regarded her brother with a reproachful look. “Toto, I’ve asked you to knock! For god’s sake, I could have been undressed.”
“I’ve see you undressed before,” Anatole said, rolling his eyes. He held up a hand to stay her protests. “Alright, I’ll knock, I promise. But did you hear me? Theodore is back in Petersburg!”
Helene had heard and her heart had jumped just a fraction at the news. She had missed him – that was undeniable. Anatole had been keeping a correspondence with Theodore for the last few months of his absence and had volunteered news of his friend to all in the household, regardless of if they were interested or not. Helene had been grateful then for her brother’s indiscriminate need to share information he found important or entertaining.
“When did he return?” she asked, rising from the sofa and coming over to look at the letter Anatole was unfolding.
“Just a few days ago. He says he is put up at the Brevnikovs but he doesn’t want to intrude on them, and Constantine is getting married as it is. So he is looking for a new place. You know, I think I will ask him to stay with me, now that I have rooms of my own. Then you can come visit without Papa always watching us. Would that not be nice?”
Helene nodded. It would be wonderful, actually. Her father watched her far less when Theodore was not around. His instincts were splendid when it came to looking out for his children’s associations. “It would be nice. I have missed him some.”
Anatole gave her a strange look but then grinned in his usual good-natured way. “Good, then we are in agreement on this.” He looked back down at the letter in his hands. “He’s also asking if we will be at the Nisvitski ball. Were you thinking of going?”
“Yes, of course. You know I enjoy balls.”
Anatole grinned happily. “Wonderful! Then I will write back immediately and tell him. Can you imagine how excited I am! I haven’t seen him in months!”
Neither have I, Helene thought, but did not dare voice the thought. She was uncomfortable with her own excitement. She knew the road she was stepping onto was a dangerous one, one that led to nothing but heartache, but she could not help herself anymore. The mere thought of seeing Theodore, of hearing his voice again, was putting her into an affected state and her entire body prickled with the anticipation. Anatole was glowing, practically bouncing and therefore did not notice her flushed state. Helene was relieved. “Yes, Toto, I can imagine,” she said, smiling fondly at him.
“I’ll go now and write to him!” Anatole announced, almost triumphantly and practically skipped from the room. Helene held her breath for a moment, waiting for the door to shut before beginning to pace around the room restlessly. She needed a new dress for this occasion.
Helene fidgeted slightly with her fan in the carriage as they drove up to the Nisvitskis’ house. Anatole, who had been allowed to come along provided he was on his best behavior, sat beside her, slightly restless and turning his head from side to side like a large bird, almost as though he was trying to soak in the atmosphere of the event. Helene would usually tease him, but her thoughts were otherwise preoccupied at the moment. She was thinking of how it would feel when Theodore kissed her hand in greeting and swept her away in a waltz. This was not a large ball, not like the one at which they had met, but the Nisvitski’s did have a gorgeous ballroom and Helene was envisioning all sorts of dancing and banter
She clutched at her fan – both a tool and a friend in this venture – as she was helped out of the carriage. They proceeded down the hall, Anatole chattering in a half-whisper and Helene not listening to him. The large doors opened before them and she instantly raked her eyes across the crowd, picking out familiar faces and searching for a particular one.
Anatole saw Dolokhov first and took off with a happy gate which brought a frown to their father’s face. “Anatole is too young, we should not have brought him.”
“He is sixteen, mon cher. Let the boy be,” Aline said mildly, touching her husband’s arm in an attempt to soothe him.
“Mama, Anatole has the maturity of a ten year old,” Hippolyte announced, puffing out his chest as he had a manner of doing whenever he spoke on a topic where he thought he had some sort of knowledgeable authority.
All of this went by Helene. Her eyes were focused on Dolokhov, who stood in the company of a couple of friends and a young woman. The lady had her back to Helene at first and the princess could not make out her face. Theodore was smiling at her. It was one of his friendlier smiles, just a little indulgent but not contemptuous or condescending. Helene debated with herself if she should go up to them or not but decided to stay where she was.
Just as she was playing a guessing game with herself as to who Theodore’s lady friend was, Anatole approached the group, said something to them and they all looked over in her direction. Helene’s mind suddenly froze.
The dark haired girl was Maria Rokotov. Over the past couple of years she had developed into a real woman. The girl Helene had seen at the ball had been lovely, but still a girl. Maria had seemingly blossomed over the years – now everything about her figure was mature and supple, ready for the taking. She stood just a little too close to Theodore and smiled just a little too fondly at him. Before Anatole had called their attention to Helene, Maria had touched Theodore’s arm several times while saying something. Why the Rokotov girl – dowerless as she was – would try to win the favor of a low ranking officer of little means instead of a wealthy suitor, Helene could not know, but she was certain that Maria was far too close to Theodore and he was allowing this closeness.
Their eyes met across the floor.
And Dolokhov half-smirked, half-smiled at her, just as though they had only parted a few days ago instead of several months. He excused himself from the group and crossed the floor to Helene. He took her hand and kissed it. “Princess.”
She curtsied. “It has been far too long Lieutenant Dolokhov.” She gave him a fond smile, unable to keep all the coquetry out of it; something about seeing Maria with him had made Helene’s possessive instincts flare up. She hoped she had guessed his new rank correctly.
Apparently she had, for Theodore smiled. “Are you dancing?” he asked, as a waltz began to play.
Helene put her hand in his as a sign of assent. “If you insist.” It was nothing like the first time, but Helene thought it may have been even better. All the foolishness of a first ever true waltz had dissipated, all the nervousness of girlhood had been swiped away and Dolokhov was no longer a stranger to her. They could share secrets with only a glance – like those that they thought the entire world far too foolish and enshrined in hypocritical snobbery. And as they danced, Helene suddenly realized that she did not care who was watching them. They were, for all she knew, complete alone, with the candles shining around them and the music lolling her into a completely different world where she need not hide, need not smile when she wished to cry, need not suppress whatever feelings she had for this young officer who understood her so well, who loved her baby brother like his own family, and who felt so close to her, like she had never felt for anyone else.
The waltzes ended and Helene found herself drinking wine as though it were water, trying to alleviate some of the thirst from the dancing. Theodore drank with her, toasting to her beauty in a tone which Helene could not quite describe – he seemed almost serious, but not nearly serious enough – then put his glass aside and gave her a small bow. “You must excuse me, Princess.”
Helene looked at him, trying to act coy but feeling bewildered that he was leaving her after a single round. “Are you off to the army again, Lieutenant?”
Theodore shook his head and said mildly, offhandedly, “No, I promised some dances to a lady. I do ask you to not disappear without saying goodbye.” He gave her a playful salute before walking to the opposite side of the room and pulling a petite brunette out of a cluster of girls for the Mazurka.
Maria. Helene suddenly felt outraged. She had never felt quite so slighted in her life. That Theodore would put up with that simpering, self-assured, pathetic…Yet they were a good match, a better, much more likely match than she and Theodore.
And this thought hurt more than Helene had expected it to. Dazedly, she gave her hand to the first man who asked her to dance and sank back into her usual mask of tranquil disinterest. She smiled the same at everyone she spoke with, said the same words as she always did and drank her wine with dainty sips as she attempted to watch the dancing without actually watching it. These routines, these learned habits and interactions, were the only shields she had against the tumultuous feelings that were devouring her from within. Her Theodore with that girl.
As soon as the dancing was done, Helene picked up her fan and excused herself from her last partner. She wove through the crowd of talking and laughing guests, into the empty hallway and leaned against the wall, breathing heavily. Her chest rose and fell and she closed her eyes against her own thoughts but that only made things worse, for all she could see then was Maria and Theodore, spinning around and around in a dance, Maria’s crimson dress fanning out and her handsome face flushed with excitement as Theodore said something against her ear. Helene could not get rid of the image no matter how much she tried. Her composure was slipping and she could swear that if she saw him now—
“Princess, are you alright?”
She opened her eyes but did not dare look over at the speaker. She did not want him to know her agitation. “Yes, Lieutenant, I am quite well. The dancing has simply worn me out.” Her voice frayed some at the end and she snapped her fan open. Slowly, she began to fan herself, hiding the bottom half of her face behind the lace barrier.
“You’re unhappy with me.” It was not a question.
“Why should I be unhappy with you?”
Dolokhov came to stand beside her, invading her space, watching her with such intensity as though he wanted to set her on fire or undress her merely with his eyes. “I asked you to not disappear and you did. And now you are upset. Helene—“
“Don’t.” She turned sharply to him and looked straight into his face. Doing so was not nearly as hard as she imagined it would be. “What is it that you want of me, Monsieur Dolokhov? You dance with me, befriend me, act in a way that seems to imply…and yet you never come to the house, you never court me as a man of honor would. Do you mean to compromise me?”
Theodore looked taken aback but only for a moment. Then some unreadable expression came over his face and Helene hurried to compose her own features, although she could not be sure that she was managing. “Listen to yourself, Princess. Do you honestly expect me to make a fool of myself by courting you? By asking for your hand only so that your father many have the pleasure of kicking me out of your house?”
“So you would rather make a fool of me?”
“I have never given you cause.”
“You have given me every cause!” Helene could feel her self control slipping, her voice rose into high, emotional notes which she almost never allowed herself with anyone aside with, perhaps, her brothers.
“So…are you saying that you…are in love with me?”
She stared at him for a moment, tried to slap him, but he caught her hand and held it tightly in his.
“You, Monsieur Dolokhov, are a bastard—“
“And I do not want anything more to do with—“
He kissed her. She did not know how it happened, but suddenly his lips were on hers and her whole body had gone limp. There were fireworks exploding somewhere deep inside her chest and Helene felt like she might faint from the utter intensity of the moment, from her own racing heart and the sudden lack of air. She felt as if her body was on fire and every inch of her being longed to press against him and drown in his warmth.
Then, she realized that she was kissing a strange man in the middle of a hallway where anyone could see them. She remembered that just minutes before he had been dancing with that impudent Rokotov girl, and suddenly the world came sharply back into focus. Helene stepped sharply away from him and this time, when she slapped him, her palm connected firmly with his cheek, the ringing of skin hitting skin echoed in the empty hall.
Helene ran. She found Hippolyte and told him she was ill and begged him to take her home. He blustered and fussed but got them a cabbie and drove home with her. Helene sat straight-backed in the carriage, not seeing anything around her, not hearing Hippolyte’s awkward attempts to see how she was feeling. She only knew that the line she and Theodore had crossed that night could not be uncrossed and everything she ever did from now on would be defined by that moment.
“You’re not being fair to him,” Anatole reflected, leaning against the doorframe and watching as Helene took the hairclips out of her hair.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said flatly.
“Yes, you do. It’s been a week. He misses you.”
Helene let an exasperated sigh escape her. “I don’t know what he wants from me.”
Anatole snorted ungracefully and came into the room, kicking the door shut as he went. “The same thing you want from him. What do you expect, Helene? That he will simply show up here? That he will ask for your hand just so that Papa—“
“I know what Papa will do,” she snapped irritably at him. “Theodore said the same thing. The two of you have talked about it.”
“Nothing bad… Helene…” Anatole crossed the remainder of the room between them in two large springing steps and took her arm, forcing her to turn and face him. “Listen to me. He told me that he…that you are the only woman he has ever felt strongly about. What are you afraid of?”
“I’m not afraid.” She was terrified – of her feelings, of getting hurt, of making the wrong step.
“Jealous? Of who? Maria Rokotov? Theodore does not care for her!” Helene had not told him about Maria. She wondered if Theodore had told Anatole about their conversation in the hallway and suddenly discovered that she could not blame him if he did. After all, she told her brother secrets, even those that were not hers to tell, so why should Dolokhov not trust him just as implicitly?
“It does not matter,” she murmured resignedly. “I could never marry him.”
Anatole cocked his head to the side. “Don’t take this offensively, Helene, but I never thought you to be of quite such…highly moral ideals.”
“If it were anyone else I would care little. But this will end badly, Anatole. With him it will.”
Anatole pulled her into an embrace. He was significantly taller than her now and she rested her head on his shoulder tiredly.
“How long have you known?”
“About your feelings or his?”
Anatole gave a slight shrug. “I wasn’t sure until the ball, but I’ve suspect for a while. You treat him differently than everyone else. It doesn’t look like it to someone who doesn’t know you…but I know you.”
“Is it obvious?”
“To society? No. To Theodore? He goes back and forth on it.”
Anatole paused cautiously. “He might suspect.”
Helene sighed, keeping her head on her brother’s shoulder for comfort. “Only more reason to stay away.”
“If that’s what makes you happy,” Anatole agreed. “But I don’t think staying away from each other is making either of you happy.”
“I would like to apologize. I behaved unduly last time we spoke.” Helene refrained from fidgeting with a great amount of effort. Late April was blossoming and blooming around them, the benches in the city park surrounded by early flowers and the first butterflies.
Dolokhov sat beside her at a respectable distance but as she spoke, he reached out and touched her hand, slipping something into it. A note, she realized quickly, tucking it away into her lace glove for the moment. “If I offended you, Princess, that was not my intention. I was thinking that we had…an understanding.”
“We do.” She smiled just as the sun came out from behind a row of puffy, white summery clouds, and he returned it, a happy soft sort of smile, without its usual cynical edge.
“Will I see you soon?” Theodore glanced down to where she had tucked away his note.
She met his eyes easily this time. “I will write to you.”
In an hour, when Helene returned to the safety of her room, she unfolded the note and read the proposed place and time, then sat down at her writing desk and penned a single word: yes.
And while she denied him her bed that night and many of the nights to follow, she did allow him to kiss her lips and her naked shoulders, explored his military-toned torso with her hands, running her long, slender fingers over taunt muscle and old scars, and knew, for certain now, that she loved him, even if she would never speak the words aloud.