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.
Helene could kill Anatole for his stupidity. Where in God’s name did he end up getting a bear to begin with? In the years that she had met Theodore and since Anatole had gained his relative independence Helene had known them to do a variety of outrageous things and get into all sorts of trouble, but this was beyond all understanding.
Not that she did not think that their prank was funny. To tie a policeman to a bear back to back and to send them floating off in the Moika! She had gotten a good laugh out of it when Anatole had first told her. The policeman must have cut a fine figure.
But this was not funny.
In the early July morning Anatole looked utterly devastated as he came out of their father’s study and nearly collapsed onto the sofa beside Helene. Their mother and Hippolyte looked at him expectantly. “I have not felt so thoroughly scolded since I was ten!”
“Well, it does serve you right with all the trouble you’ve caused,” Hippolyte mused. “At least be thankful you weren’t degraded to the ranks.”
If it were possible, Anatole’s face fell more. “At least. But I’ll be missing the campaign!”
“I think that is for the best, darling,” their mother offered mildly. Helene nodded. She did not want her baby brother out there. She already knew he was eager and brave, but she preferred him alive.
Anatole gave their mother a scathing look. “Really, Mama, and what am I to do out in the country? Even if I were able to remain here – Serge is away, Pierre has been ordered to leave the city, Theodore has been degraded to the ranks, for God’s sake! And all my other friends will be leaving for war shortly… It’s utterly dull.”
Anatole was far too preoccupied with his own worries to notice the slight tremble of Helene’s hand which gave her away for a moment, before she managed to collect herself again. Theodore was disgraced and would be going to the war as a soldier. And for what? A prank? It seemed so unnecessary and as she considered the idea, tried to envision it, the spidery tentacles of fear began to wind around her, making it hard to breath.
She must have had less control than she thought, for Aline noticed her daughter’s agitated state. “Are you not well, Helene? You are a bit pale. Or has your brother upset you so?”
“It’s merely a headache, Mama,” Helene lilted, smiling the same calm smile she always used at social functions. “And I was worried about Anatole, but thankfully that has all turned out much better than we thought. I think I will lie down until tea.” She rose, gave her family a calm, collected look and, with a deliberately measured pace left the room.
It took Anatole only a minute to follow. He caught her at the top of the stairs and pulled her into his own room, closing the door behind them. “Are you alright?”
“Of course I’m alright…I am very concerned, however,” she admitted. There was no use hiding her feelings from Anatole now. What was the use, if he already knew exactly how she felt. She and Theodore, while remaining as discreet as possible, had indulged their desires for over three years now. They spent long periods of time apart when Theodore was out in the provinces with the army or in Moscow with his family, but they wrote to each other and when they reunited it was always in a flurry of passionate embraces and kisses.
She had not allowed him to bed her. Not yet. But now something was gnawing at Helene deep inside, fear forcing on her thoughts about whether she would ever get the chance now. “Will he…get a chance to say goodbye?”
Anatole shook his head. “He had direct orders to report to headquarters and then leave with the next wave. They must have left this morning.” Anatole reached into the inner pocket of his tailcoat and brought out a folded up note. “He told me to give you this.”
Helene took the note and unfolded it. Her hands were surprisingly steady as she did. She skimmed the lines, then re-read them again, more carefully this time, smiling vaguely at things such as: I’m sorry we did not have the chance to say goodbye, but perhaps it is for the better. A long, tearful goodbye would only make fools of us both. He was right, as he usually was, but Helene still longed to see him, to touch him one last time before he left, walked away into the unknown of the smoky horizon where she could not possibly reach him. She looked up at Anatole and whispered, feeling terror at the intensity of her own feelings, “I love him.”
Anatole smiled sadly. “It’s hard not to.”
Helene knew her fate was decided when Anatole’s friend Pierre suddenly became Count Bezukhov. She knew before her father had the chance to say a word to her. She knew by the way her father smiled when he looked at her and then at Pierre, she could see the wheels turning in his head. Sometimes, she wondered if her father even knew that he was making plans. Vasili Kuragin was so adapt at intrigue that it came naturally to him and he began to subconsciously make plans for the future before his conscious mind caught up and began to implement these plans.
Helene would be lying to herself if she thought that she had not expect better. She knew her suitor would be rich, probably older than her by several years, average in looks but educated and well established in society, respected in all the proper circles. She could have even imagined a partnership with her husband, wherein they would together conquer in the social sphere. He would be politically prominent and she would host one of the best, most refined salons in Petersburg. In the summer, they would go to one of his sprawling estates and they would host balls and outdoor galas. With his prominent capital, there would always be a way to alleviate boredom and to establish oneself.
Overall, Helene saw marriage as her father did – as a business venture. In a lot of ways, it saved her much grief. Anatole, who refused to subscribe to this view, was already having altercations with their father and Helene could only expect that these would grow more furious and frequent as Anatole got older and as it became more and more obvious that he had to marry. Helene found it easier to adapt to the situation. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that she was a woman and therefore forced to adapt, yet she spent little time on these thoughts. Too much philosophizing rarely did anyone any good. Even during her entire affair with Dolokhov, she not once imagined how it might be if she were to marry him. She simply knew such an outcome was impossible and that they would have to deal with the fallout when it came.
But she had hoped for better than Pierre.
In some ways he was the ideal husband. Soft spoken and unobtrusive, he mostly let her do as she pleased and never asked too many questions. He was socially awkward but so rich that his capital made up for most of the faux pas that he was responsible for. He was almost charming, in a very twisted sort of way. As an accessory, Pierre was ideal, but as a husband, Helene was disappointed.
There would be no partnership with Pierre, no mutual understanding. He was far more likely than most men to miss any indiscretion on her part, probably even less prone to jealousy, yet if he ever did find out, Pierre was far more likely to raise hell and not listen to reason. There was a philosophizing, moralistic streak in Pierre which could cause problems for both of them and Helene was uncertain if this meant that he would try to force her to have children. Children were not something Helene was ready for and did not see herself ever being ready for. Certainly not with Pierre.
Unattractive, younger than her, awkward in manner, uninteresting to her, and with understandings of life perfectly polar-opposite to hers, Pierre and her marriage to him were a disaster waiting to happen.
Yet, he was a brilliant match and Helene saw that and knew her father saw that. So she did what was expected of her and very soon, Pierre was standing in front of her on the night of her name day and saying “Je t’aime.” Neither by his tone nor by his expression could she be certain how deeply he meant those words or if he meant them at all, but it was enough, for it insured her engagement and the kiss that followed, which she was forced to initiate, insured it even further.
Helene was married in mid-December. The night before her wedding she sat in her room, picturing the gorgeous wedding dress and long veil she would wear the next day and how everything would be bright and festive with the church bells ringing. Her father had returned with Anatole for the occasion. Anatole was supposed to be in the army in the province but had insisted on coming back for her wedding. When she first told him he looked disappointed but not surprised. He avoided telling her what exactly he had been thinking about when she explained to him why Pierre was such a good match as he sat on her bed, idly swinging his legs with a thoughtful, almost sad look on his face, but she wondered if Theodore had crossed his mind like he had crossed hers. She had decided, however, that her beau would simply have to accept the circumstances. She hoped that she had not misjudged him and that he would, in fact, understand. Losing him would be far too painful, far more than she wanted to admit to herself.
Snow had begun to fall outside and Helene paced to the window, then back to her desk. She unlocked an inner drawer where she kept her personal correspondence and drew out a letter. Addressed to Anatole, the envelope contained two letters, one for him and one for her. Theodore had taken a precaution she appreciated.
She sat on the windowsill, pulling her shawl closer around her shoulders and began to read. There was little light in that corner of the room but she had read the letter so many times that the words came to her almost from memory.
I’m sorry I did not write earlier…I’ve been wounded, but lightly, there’s hardly need to worry…I do hope, Princess, that I will find warmth in your friendship upon my return, for the nights here are growing cold…
Helene felt the odd prickle of tears behind her eyes, so very strange and foreign. She felt like she had not cried in years. Quickly, she blinked away the feeling and ran a hand over the letter. The paper was crinkled at the corners and the ink was smudged in places, obviously put to paper on the go. She carefully folded up the letter and tucked it away into the small hiding place she had for it and those like it, although there were few quite so secret and so dear.
A soft knock on the door made her quickly lock up the desk and look up, pretending like she had merely been preparing to go to bed. “Yes?”
She let out a soft sigh of relief on seeing Anatole. He slipped almost silently into her room and shut the door closed. “How are you doing?”
She raised her eyebrows at him slightly. “What do you mean?”
“I mean exactly that.”
Helene shrugged her shoulders slightly and leaned one hand on the back of an armchair. “Alright. I hope tomorrow goes well.” She bit her lip slightly. “You need to come and visit me often once I move to Pierre’s.”
Anatole nodded. He came up behind her and put his arms around her. Helene leaned back against his chest and closed her eyes. “I do wish father had picked someone more tolerable for me.”
“You could have said no.”
Helene laughed bitterly. “Could I have? I don’t think so.”
“I do it all the time.”
“Yes.” They were silent for some time.
“I know Pierre. He’s a good fellow. He’ll be good to you. And if he’s not…”
“You won’t do anything about it. I won’t have you getting into a fight with that oaf. It’s not worth it.”
Anatole shrugged. “He won’t hurt you.”
“That’s not my fear.” She chewed lightly on her lip, running her teeth over the tender tissue. “Has there been a letter?”
Anatole tensed just slightly. “No.”
The news of the army’s defeat at Austerlitz had just begun to reach the two capitals and Helene sometimes felt like she was holding her breath, waiting for news. She did not want to care so much, but she did and sometimes she was glad that Anatole knew all about her feelings, her affair. He also cared and they were together in this once more, as they were in so many other things – together and alone.
“He’ll be alright,” Anatole tried, although it was uncertain if he was trying to convince her or himself.
“He’ll be alright,” she echoed, watching the snowfall outside.
On a night in late February of 1806, nearly two and a half months after her wedding, Helene sat in her old room, watching the flickering candle on her writing desk. This was the only light in the room and it cast long, ghastly shadows on the walls. Outside, the snow was falling softly. The storm, which had raged the night before had settled over the course of the day and now the sky was clear. In front of her lay Theodore’s last letter, received almost two months ago, before the Austerlitz defeat, the one she had read the night before her wedding. She had not heard anything from his since and the silence was worrying her, perhaps without cause, yet Anatole was jumpy as well even though he tried his hardest not to show it and his anxiety translated over to her and made her restless. New columns of trooped had marched back into the city that afternoon and Helene asked Anatole to find out if Theodore may be among them as she did not dare ask unsolicited questions herself. Yet, she could not stay in her husband’s house that night, even when it was completely empty. Its strangeness and foreign atmosphere depressed her so she returned to her father’s house, hoping that its familiarity would soothe her nerves.
A soft knock on the door made Helene look up. She was not expecting Pierre until the next night at the earliest and even if he was back already, Helene doubted that he would go looking for her in the middle of the night. She folded up the letter and tucked it away into her writing box under some other insignificant correspondence.
“Come in,” she called softly.
Anatole slipped into her room and said without preamble in a hushed voice, “Come, I have something I need to show you.”
“Yes, right now. Take your coat.”
There was urgency in his voice and she obeyed it more than the words themselves. Helene stood and, without calling for her made, took her new fur coat and followed her brother outside.
Anatole led her through the dark hallways by the hand and down the servants’ stairs. Helene held her furs in her free hand so her gown rustled noisily as they walked but Anatole paid it no mind. They made it down to the back porch and Helene stopped to put on her coat. “Will you explain to me?” she demanded again. It was cold outside. The snow had stopped falling and the sky was clear, allowing the moon to bathe the snow in a ghostly silver light. The garden looked like some sort of ancient magical kingdom. She shivered and pressed herself to Anatole’s side.
“You asked me to find out if Theodore was back from the front.”
She nodded slowly, her heartbeat increasing frantically as realization began to come over her.
“I did one better.” He whistled, low and long and pulled away from Helene and slipped back into the house.
“Anatole—?” He was gone and she turned back just in time to see the bushes part. “Oh.”
She had not seen him in many long months and it had begun to seem to her like he had been nothing but a wild, girlish dream. So much had changed. Yet there he was, Theodore Dolokhov, standing at the bottom step of her porch in a new officer uniform, his greatcoat unbuttoned even in the biting cold. “Well, I didn’t die, I suppose that’s good,” he said nonchalantly as though picking up a conversation they had left off just a minute before.
She couldn’t take it anymore. Helene flew down the steps, almost tripping over her skirts and flung herself into his arms, kissing him passionately, wildly. “Oh God, Teddy,” she breathed hoarsely when they pulled apart. He pressed her close to him with one hand and outlined her face with the other. He looked older than before the campaign; there were deeper, premature lines around his eyes and mouth but they were just barely there. She only saw them because she was looking for them, looking for any changes. He looked tired but otherwise just as he had been before leaving.
“I gather that means you missed me.”
“Be quiet.” She kissed him again and again, her body responding to his every touch the way it never responded to anything her husband did. In fact, the more Pierre tried the more she wanted him to leave her alone.
“Wait.” He took her arm and led her into a grove of evergreens which could shelter them from the view of the house. The drifts of snow in the grove were thick and she worried at first that she would soak her shoes, but truly Helene hardly cared. She had not even realized how much she had missed him, how much she had worried. So many things had happened in her life in the past few months that there had been little time for worry. Now, she was nearly drowning in the relief. The snow around them sparkled like in a fairytale book and Helene feared that at any moment she could wake up next to her insipid husband and realize that she had simply been dreaming again.
“You did not write,” she said, an accusing note slipping into her tone.
“I was wounded in the arm. I did not dare dictate the letter and I’m afraid my handwriting is unclear enough, even with the right hand.”
“…Wounded…” she mouthed the word, tracing her fingers over his shoulder. He pulled her closer and she put her arms around his neck. “But now you are alright?”
“Yes.” He was watching her intensely but she somehow missed it, thought that he was merely drinking her in the way she was with him. They had only been apart a few months but it had felt like forever. Then, Theodore unwound her hands from around his neck and looked at them. Realizing what he was doing, that he must know, Helene tried to take her hands back but he held them firm. She wore no gloves so, giving in, she looked as well, as though hoping that his appearance had somehow made the ring disappear. But alas it was still there, glinting in the eerie bluish light of the moon and reflecting snow. “So it’s true,” he stated flatly.
“Bezukhov? Is that true too?”
She looked up into his face but could not read his expression clearly in the dark. “Yes.”
Helene thought she saw a glimmer of furious hurt in his eyes for a moment, but then it was gone and she had probably imagined it all along. Yet she still harbored a fear that he would drop her hands and leave. Leave her alone in the cold, unfeeling snow to waste away in a life which she simultaneously could not imagine herself without and did not want.
Instead, he lifted her hands to his lips and kissed them. She wished she could cry.
“Well then,” Theodore said finally. “Would you like my congratulations or my condolences?” He smirked at her and she felt the doubt dissipate. If he was mocking her, he wasn’t leaving.
“He is rich,” she informed him, pursing her lips, “and a count. It’s a very good match.”
“I’m certain, dear Countess.”
It felt like a slap. “Don’t call me that,” she hissed at him.
“Get used to it,” he told her, just a little sadly. “It’s who you are now.”
Of course Theodore Dolokhov would have the audacity to get Pierre to put him up. He hardly even needed to do anything – a couple of dropped words here and there that he was looking for a place to stay while in Petersburg, another phrase about the rigors of the campaign, and Helene’s oaf of a husband completely melted. He invited Theodore to stay and even loaned him some money which Dolokhov had every intention to repay after his first couple or so large card games. In the mean time, he obviously had every intention of visiting Helene’s rooms far too often.
Pierre seemed to have lost most of his interest in her body by this point. Helene was grateful, yet she feared that his appetite might come back and he would catch them in a compromising position, or even worse, an obvious one. Yet resisting temptation would be incredibly difficult. Helene did not know who she was more displeased with – Theodore for tempting her or Pierre for being the useless oaf that he was.
She announced her displeasure to both. Pierre only shrugged and muttered something about “old drinking mates” and Theodore had laughed and told her cheekily, “if you like, we can view this as a practice in self restraint.” Helene really did not know if she wanted to slap him or kiss him then.
She followed Pierre to Moscow in hopes to escape the temptation but Theodore went with them and somewhere along the way, Helene’s self-restraint collapsed.
The first night they were in Moscow, Theodore and Pierre went out to the English club. Helene, resolving to go to bed early and not expecting anyone, undressed and, dismissing her made, sat watching her own reflection in the mirror as she took out her clips. This activity she liked to perform unassisted. There was something calming about feeling strands of her hair come loose, one after another, lightening the tension in her scalp. She was almost finished when the slight creak of the door hinges made her look up sharply.
There he was, standing in the doorway to her bedroom as though he belonged there. How funny, really, she thought, that her own husband did not look so natural there as her beau did. Helene took a deep breath and slowly relaxed her hand, which had tightened on a hairclip when she’d heard the door open behind her. She looked straight ahead and met his eyes in the mirror with as much calm as she could muster. This effort took up all her concentration and she could not move or speak, merely looked at his reflection, drinking it in greedily as her pulse quickened.
“You seem surprised to see me?” he half-asked, half-stated, tilting his head to the side and allowing the corners of his mouth to curve into a teasing smirk.
“I wasn’t excepting you. You cannot just barge in here. Where is my husband? I thought you were both at the club.”
“Pierre met some old friends at the club. They seemed quite interested in their political discussion, I did not wish to interrupt him.” His smirk faded and something darkened in his face, the lines around his mouth and eyes deepening as he frowned just slightly.
Helene stayed silent and continued to take the pins out of her hair. Her light, soft curls fell onto her white, full shoulders, the ends of the front strands brushing the cleavage line of her nightgown. She could feel his eyes on her, roaming over her body, from her shoulders and hair to her waist and hips. She tried to ignore him, knowing that, although it was useless to fight, the thing would be so much sweeter if she waited and allowed the tension between them to build. “I’m married now,” she told him in a tone that was too flat to be cautioning.
“I thought we already establisheded that,” he informs her dryly. He spoke of it as he always did in the days after his return, as though he was joking but Helene could hear a modicum of hurt behind the façade: While I risked my life on the battlefield as a common soldier you go and get married. It did not matter that they could have never married – she for economic reasons, he out of pride.
“My husband could come back any moment.”
“Trust me, he won’t.”
She stood and turned to face him, leaning back slightly against the vanity table, her hands gripping its cool, rounded edge.
He took one roaming look at her and crossed the room in three long strides. His hands landed on her arms and squeezed a little too tightly. “Damn your husband, Helene.” He kissed her then and she allowed her eyes to fall closed, breathing in his familiar scent and opening her mouth to allow him to rediscover her lips and her tongue. His hands slid up her arms and onto her shoulders. From there, one slid up her neck and into her thick hair and the other made its way down her back.
Helene withdrew, breathing hard, and tried to take a step away from him but the vanity behind her had her trapped. “I don’t know if I can do this anymore,” she whispers against his lips. “While we were children, before you went away, before I was married, it was a fancy, but now…”
“We were never children, not then, no more than now.” He drew away from her suddenly, holding her at arms length and looking into her eyes. “Do you love him?”
He must be joking, Helene thought, feeling as though she should be insulted. “Of course not!” she hissed.
“Then let things be, Princess. Let them be or tell me otherwise. But I would make love to you.”
She watched his face, felt her heart speed up to an incredible pace, adrenaline and desire mixing deep in her core until she could do nothing more than nod. “Oui.” She did not know why she said it in French, she spoke more Russian with him than with anyone, but it came out in a breathy, half-whisper of surrender.
Theodore lifted her into his arms and carried her to the bed without another word. Helene melted against him, savoring his warmth and his strong arms around her, the way his hot mouth felt against the tender spot on her neck.
She struggled to undo the buttons on his uniform jacket and he helped her, throwing off the offending garment with a look of utter impatience. Helene felt her throat closing up as her breathing faltered. The dim room was lit by only a couple of candles set on the windowsill and soon she could only make out shadows and bright spots of light. And his eyes. Bright blue, hard on the surface with a white-hot flame blazing in their depths. They were both undressed before she could fully put in order in her mind the erratic movement of hands, arms, legs and tongues. Helene lay back and allowed Teddy Dolokhov to discover her body, learn it for the first time like he had never before.
She moaned softly as his lips closed over her nipple and he sucked at it, making shivers erupt over her body. He kissed trails down her stomach and over her hips. His tongue found her inner thigh and then a spot on her neither parts which made sparks explode in front of her eyes and she cried out, desperate for a release which she had never felt with her husband.
Helene pulled him up and kissed him, allowing her hands to come up and cup his face for a small, tender moment, before she whispered raggedly, “I do want you to take me. I may be married, but I will always be yours.”
He let out a sound, something between a groan and a loud sigh. She found her body flush against his and her back pressed firmly into the silk of the sheets. He filled her with his member and Helene sighed, feeling full to the brim, but for once it was a pleasant, welcome feeling. She only ever felt whole when she was with him. Sometimes, she felt that without him she would merely become a shell of a woman, tied by expectations and unwritten rules. But in the darkness, in the privacy of her own bedroom, with Teddy Dolokhov ravishing her body, she can reach out and grasp at some of that passionate flame that was meant to be life. He filled her and found every spot on her body which counted and exploded with pleasure at his touch. She could hardly breath as she spiraled toward her first ever orgasm. Helene arched her back and dug her nails into his shoulders. Her climax took over and she moaned something indistinguishable as waves of release rocked through her body. Theodore thrust several more times, deep into her and gave into his own release.
They lay intertwined for several long moments after that, savoring the afterglow. Helene buried her face against Theodore’s shoulder as he drew out of her and rolled over to lay on his side next to her. He ran a hand through her hair and played with its ends. “Would you have me go?”
“I would have you stay,” she murmured. She looked up at him for a moment and forced herself to meet his eyes. “But only for a while. We must not forget ourselves.”
There was bitterness in his usual smirk; he hardly seemed to want to hide it. “Of course not.”
Of all the things, Helene may have wanted, a duel was not one of them.
She had not even known about it until she heard the maids whispering about it in the maidservants’ quarters in the morning. She had not believed them and when she saw Pierre’s carriage coming back home before breakfast, she convinced herself that whatever her husband had been out doing it was certainly not a duel. Firstly, Theodore would certainly never do something so brash as to challenge her husband, that would be far too indiscrete, especially since Moscow’s gossips had already spread a rumor of their affair, despite the fact that they always exercised great caution. Secondly, Pierre simply did not duel. Helene couldn’t even say for sure if he owned a gun or had ever shot one. Besides, if Pierre and Theodore had dueled, there would be no way that Pierre returned from that altercation unharmed. Unless, of course…But no that was silly.
Yet a certain unease settled over Helene. She watched from her window as Pierre stumbled gracelessly out of the carriage and up the steps. Nesvitski climbed out after and followed Pierre inside. Helene saw this as her only chance to find out what truly happened without potentially giving off the wrong impression.
She checked herself in the mirror to make sure she was decently dressed and went downstairs, repressing the urge to take the stairs at a run. By the time she came into the sitting room, Pierre was gone. Nesvitski sat on the sofa, drinking the tea that a valet had just brought him. He looked tired and slightly miffed.
“Ah, Countess.” He rose on seeing her and Helene offered him her hand with her usual social grace. She sat down opposite of him.
“What brings you here so early, Monsieur Nesvitski?” Helene inquired in her most innocent tone.
Nesvitski blanched. “You do not know?”
“Of what?” Helene could feel an iron ring tighten around her abdomen.
Nesvitski carefully put down his teacup and gave her a serious look. “I’m surprised you do not know, although, I suppose Pierre did not tell you as not to worry you.” He suddenly seemed agitated. “He and Lieutenant Dolokhov had a falling out at the English Club. The count called Dolokhov a scoundrel and issued a challenge.”
Helene suddenly desperately wished that she had taken a fan. “A duel?” Alarm seeped into her voice, but of course it was misinterpreted.
“Oh, worry not, Countess. Pierre, miraculously, escaped without a scratch.”
“When did this happen?”
“Just this morning. I just brought the count back, he is in quite an upset state. Certainly he was not thinking of the consequences when he issued that challenge.” Nesvitski sighed.
“And Dolokhov?” Helene caught herself and added, “Duels are so strictly punished, I would not want Pierre in too much trouble.”
Nesvitski shifted a little. “Dolokhov was not so lucky. He was badly wounded. I couldn’t say if he will live, but, knowing his sort, it’s not unlikely. I do hope our dear Count will not be too badly punished for this affair. I will speak to Count Rostov, we will attempt to hush it up.”
“Why Count Rostov?” Helene asked, although her mind was fixated on Nesvitski’s account of Theodore’s condition. Badly wounded. Dear God, how could this have happened?
“Oh his son was Dolokhov’s second. Him and a certain fellow Denisov.”
Helene stood. “You must excuse me,” she said, smiling politely. “This is all very sudden for me. I do thank you for your care for my husband.”
“Oh, yes, of course,” Nesvitski said, standing as well. He continued to mumble some niceties for another minute before Helene was finally free of him. She went up to her room and locked the door. Her mind raced wildly. She needed to know if Theodore was alright but Anatole was in Petersburg and he was the only one she could have entrusted such a thing to.
That meant, of course, that she would have to go herself.
The Dolokhovs house was dark. Helene could not tell if anyone was even home or awake as the carriage drove up to the front porch. “Thank you,” Helene said quietly, handing the cabbie driver some coins and alighting onto the cleared path. She watched for a moment as the cabbie drove off before climbing the stairs of the porch and knocking.
For some time there was silence. Then soft, hurried footsteps came toward her and the hinges creaked slightly as the door opened. Framed by the low burn of a candle in the hallway, appeared the pale, tired face of a girl several years younger than Helene. Her hair was braided into a thick braid and she resembled Theodore enough for Helene to guess: his sister.
The girl peered uncertainly at her, at first not quite seeing her for – Helene figured she must have blended into the night in her dark dress, coat and veil – then finally asked, biting her lip, “May I help you?”
Helene lifted her dark veil to reveal her face. “Are you Galina Dolokhov?”
“Yes?” The girl’s face suddenly contorted with understanding. “You must be the Countess Bezukhov.”
“Yes. May I come in?”
Galina steped aside to let her pass. Helene came into the small hallway, looking around inquisitively. She realized that she had never seen Theodore’s house or how he and his family lived. The place was quaint but neat, the potted plants on the windowsills and light curtains on the windows were almost charming. Helene shrugged off her coat and Galina took it from her to hang up. There was obviously no abundance of servants in this household. Helene held her breath for a moment, then said quietly, “Galina Ivanovna, I’m terribly sorry to intrude so late, but I heard your brother has been in a most unpleasant altercation…He is a good friend of mine and my family. I would like…how is he?”
Galina’s face scrunched up into an unpleasant expression of derision. “Please, Countess, let us at least not pretend that my brother did not risk his life for you.”
“I would have never asked him to.” Had she been some emotional, over-romantic fool, Helene may have been flattered. All she was – aside from terrified – was annoyed that Theodore would provoke Pierre to such an extent as to incite a challenge. From Pierre of all people!
“That is beside the point.” Galina sighed and rubbed her temples. “Why are you here, Countess? Surely if anyone were to find out, the scandal would only go forth, and it would be only worse for you.”
“I know that,” Helene said quickly, trying to not snap. Her usual self-control was slipping. She did not want to talk about society now, she wanted to know if her lover was dying. The thought that this may be because of her gnawed dully at the pit of her stomach and she wanted to scream. Instead, she waited for Galina to pull herself together. “Whatever you may believe, Galina Ivanovna, I did not wish for this duel and I had no idea Theodore would—“
“It is your husband who challenged him!” The girl wrung her hands, obviously distraught at her own outburst and glanced worriedly over one shower toward the hallway leading to the private wing of the house.
“Please. Can I see him? Or at least tell me how he is. That is all I want.”
Galina watched her face, her large brown eyes, velvety and soft, probably compassionate on most days, seemed to burn into Helene, trying to see if she were sincere or not. “Teddy’s in a dreadful state,” Galina said finally, surrendering to Helene’s unwavering resolve. “He was wounded in the side. The doctor said he did not think anything vital was hit so there is a chance that he will survive, at least as long as the wound stays clear. He wrote some directions, some medicines…said he would come back later tonight but never did. Count Rostov had brought him; he was Teddy’s second, said he would come back in the morning…oh this whole thing is just awful.” Galina covered her face with both hands and collected herself for a moment.
Helene stood in the middle of the sitting room, watching Theodore’s sister struggle to hold back tears and felt something deep within her die. She suddenly felt utterly detached from everything that was going on around her, from the entire world. She thought that hearing that Theodore was alive, had a chance at surviving, would make her happy, would make her feel relieved. Instead, all she felt was completely numb and isolated. She had not wanted any of this – not the scandal, not this hardship for Theodore and his family. She suddenly noticed the plainness of the room, how worn the dress Galina wore looked, how empty the house seemed to be of all the glamour that one would usually expect in the home of someone from Helene’s circle. She was somehow utterly undone by the realization that Theodore was probably the sole supporter of his family, that his life was in some way very different from her own and that she had intruded upon it without even meaning to, throwing everything into disarray. She should not have been surprised, perhaps. Anatole had told he of the Dolokhovs’s situation long ago, but Theodore never acted like it, always carried himself with confidence and self-respect far above his socioeconomic station so that all those words and circumstances were merely concepts. She had never needed to truly face them.
Accustomed to society plots and intrigues, these thoughts were new to Helene. She hardly before ever had to wonder about her effect on others, other than in context of how it would later affect her. Such was the way of the world – if one does not stand up for oneself, even at the cost of others, that person runs the risk of being trampled. But this was different in some way, different, because Helene had never felt so close to anyone – aside from Anatole – not even in her family. The thought of losing Theodore was dreadful, but the realization that this affair could tear them both apart, was even worse. It seemed that neither of them could any longer keep control of their emotions. He had dueled for her, she had risked her reputation coming here to see him. It had to end, but Helene had no idea how to end something which was grounding her.
“I’m so sorry,” Helene said, the words sounding empty and hollow to her own ears. She reached out and put a hand on Galina’s arm. “If you would let me…I know Theodore would not like it, but…” She took out a small purse of coins and a piece of paper with the coordinates of her personal physician. “These are the coordinates of a good doctor, here take this…if it is not enough, tell him Helene Bezukhov asked him to do this as a favor. He knows me well, he will help.”
Galina looked doubtfully at the purse, as though it were poisonous, then slowly took it. “Thank you, Countess. It is better that Teddy not know. He does not like to take money for loan if he can help it.”
“Think of it as an apology, Galina Ivanovna. I wish I could help in some way, that I could stay…”
Galina nodded. “Thank you.” She bit her lip and glanced over her shoulder again. “Would you like to see him?”
“Yes.” Helene followed Galina down the corridor, feeling butterflies explode in her stomach. “Has he asked for me?”
Galina stopped at the door to Theodore’s room and looked back at Helene with what could have almost been a surprised expression. “No. But he hasn’t been conscious for most of the day,” she added quickly.
It’s better that way, Helene thought, despite the small jolt of disappointment.
Galina opened the door and ushered Helene through, then stepped back into the darkness of the hallway and quietly closed the door behind herself.
Helene took a death breath before preceding into the depths of the room. A smell of medicine and alcohol permeated the place and she felt a sick sensation rise up in her throat. Helene quashed the queasy feeling and hurried her steps. A single candle burned low in the corner, the bed shielded from its light with a drape. Helene sank down on the edge of the bed and forced herself to take in the sight before her.
Theodore was pale, his soft curls plastered to his forehead with perspiration. His cheeks were bright, a feverish, unhealthy red. He slept or was unconscious, Helene could not be certain. His nightshirt was open at the top and Helene froze for a few moments, watching the steady rise and fall of his chest. She had never gotten a chance to watch him sleep before. Their lovemaking had never ended in a full night together, neither of them wanting to be accidently discovered in the morning by an overenthusiastic maid or husband.
Helene took his hand and held it tightly in hers. She had become so used to his strong hands that not feeling him press her hand in return scared her. What had they gotten themselves into? What would be the price next time? “I’m sorry,” she whispered softly, for the second time that night. It felt horrible to have to be sorry, it felt horrible to feel guilty and to not be able to convince herself otherwise. She reached up and ran a hand over Theodore’s forehead, brushing damp strands of hair out of his eyes. Passion did not scare her, but tenderness did. She was too attached, she was beginning to lose her head. And where had it brought them? Here? Helene was certain that here was not a very good place to be for either of them.
She had to leave, she had to get out of this entire mess, out of this affair which was destroying both of them in small insignificant ways which had suddenly become large and quite significant. Perhaps, Theodore had decided that he was willing to throw away everything for her, but she could not do the same for him and it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t what she wanted.
She would have to keep her distance and he would not forgive her for that, especially if he had decided that she was worth more to him than his pride. If Theodore had meant to kill Pierre to make her his own then he either did not know her at all or he loved her enough to want to take the chance that he could change her mind. She was losing him without even realizing it.
It hurt terribly, more than any choice she had ever had to make. But it seemed that if she wanted this to come out on its own terms, she would have to make a choice after all. And she had always chosen in favor of the beautiful Princess Kuragin rather than the girl Helene, whoever she might be.
Helene leaned down and brushed her lips over Theodore’s in a gentle kiss. It would have to do. She stood and left the room. Galina saw her to the door and Helene carefully, meticulously put on her coat and veil before leaving the house. She returned home the way she had left – in a cabbie. As far as she knew, no one had missed her.
The next morning, she would confront Pierre – the only outlet of frustration and pain that she would allow herself – to tell him that he was an idiot for believing everything he heard. Then, she would leave for Petersburg and stay there, perhaps even go abroad for some time. Teddy Dolokhov’s pride would do the rest.