[identity profile] parabellum-p08.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] groznyj_grad
Johann Krauss pulled his office door shut behind him, turned the silver key in the lock, and wriggled the door handle out of habit just to be sure all of the tumblers had fallen into place.

After dear Savva Semeyonev returned Motte, the hideously pink Persian curled up on the corner of Johann’s desk like a wad of chewed up and spat out bubble gum, and fell into a deep, peaceful slumber.

The cat only stirred when he took out a pad of stationary and began at letter to Nataliya Molokova, and only to cast an annoyed glare in his general direction, insulted that he dared to exist in her office.

Whatever horrible crime had been carried out against his cat, she remained relatively unchanged beyond her new obnoxious blush.

As he navigated the hallway with his characteristic limp, he hummed the first few lines of  Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen softly to himself, thinking about nothing beyond what dinner lay ahead of him at the mess hall.  


 

Date: 2008-03-03 10:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
The little adventure with the pink cat had almost knocked the phone call right out of Utrov's head.

He was thinking of it that way. The phone call. Its own little world, with its own definite article. Not capitals, though. Not quite to that point.

That fucking tinny voice, saying it like asking a favor.

Like he could say no.

He had some pride in managing not to laugh when it mentioned keeping a low profile.

That part was pretty much preemptively fucked.

And he'd said, "Yes, sir. I'll keep an eye out for you, sir."

The words left a sour taste in his mouth like bad vodka from a makeshift still.

Still, it was a promise, in a way.

Might as well make the best of it.

"Ah, Major Krauss," Utrov said, rounding the corner. "Just the man I was looking for."

Date: 2008-03-04 01:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
It was a motion Utrov would know anywhere.

Hand moving downward with the surety of not coming up empty.

Utrov felt his muscles tense to throw himself to the side and come up returning fire.

You know what they say about old habits and old soldiers.

Once the body learned something, it didn't give it up, no matter how long ago the old trick had turned obsolete. Especially when it came to survival. The meat hung on grim and hard as a carcass frozen on a hook.

It wasn't an attack.

The tension subsiding in Utrov's neck was almost like disappointment.

Something in the motion of the German's hands and easy words betrayed quiet desperation, as surely as reaching for his gun betrayed fear.

Damn. If he was twitching like that in these hall, there might be less advantage in having him for an ally than Utrov had thought.

"Certainly," Utrov said, falling into step beside him.

He grinned.

"I hear you're the resident expert on this jungle I've stumbled into. Maybe you can tell me why somebody submitted an order for a gross of crossbow bolts. The next delivery is going to be interesting, I can tell you that much already."

As if the first one hadn't been interesting enough.

The gangly ghost on the tarmac, looking at him like he was a love letter sealed in C3.

"Ah, Major," Vasya said, breaking the brief pause. "Did the horse find a good home?"

Date: 2008-03-04 06:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
"The Cobra Unit, eh," Utrov murmured.

Legendary was right. He'd heard about the cadre of freaks become heroes. He always thought he'd meet them, sooner or later.

"You know, when I was younger, I didn't believe they were real. Life has a way of proving you wrong."

One way or another.

"Exotic fauna, eh? Interiesno. I was wondering about those frogs."

He slid Krauss an oblique look.

"What purpose calls them here to the cold so far from home?"

Date: 2008-03-05 10:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
The vision of struggling amphibians brought too clearly to mind the deranged man with the pitiful blanket-wrapped parcel, and what the big soldier had thought he was going to do with it.

Not that he believed a word of it. But who was Vasya to ruin the German's fun?

"The food's that bad, eh?" said Utrov.

He was getting the feeling that his forms held fewer strange jokes than he had initially supposed.

That was the good thing bout this kind of job. You were always learning.

"That explains the requisition for spiders. Measured in the crate."

Date: 2008-03-08 09:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
Vasily had never caught hold of a horror of creeping creatures. Too many nasty things came in bigger packages.

There had been experiments, once, he remembered idly. They were always trying new things. This time it had been something about using guided insects for reconnaisance. Who would notice a splaylegged spider tangling bits of information in its web? It hadn't worked. Borya called it like trying to juggle dozens of mote-sized marbles. Soon they all broke loose and were rewarded with the rest of their natural lives for being too much of a pain in the ass to gather up and squash. Some made new homes in the general barracks.

Once he'd woken up to the sight of Afanasiy pounding a frantic arrythmia like a heart attack on the wall beside his bunk, just across the way. He'd dropped the boot he was using and stared at the smeared shape left smashed by the hell.

"It was looking at me," was all he would say, breathing slowed and pupils still large, "from the inside. Fuck. Fuck."

You got used to the pinprick feel of legs skittering over your dreams. in any case, it wasn't as though they lived long.

One eye stayed on the present. Once it had had its fill of nostalgia, the other joined it.

"That's quite a network," Vasya said. "You must be well-traveled to have friends in such places."

He flashed a grin.

"Are exotic insects your specialty? Or just a hobby?"

Date: 2008-03-10 05:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
"No place I've ever called home was comfortable," Utrov said good-naturedly. Any soldier could say the same. "Here I'm well provisioned. Kindof you to offer."

Interest tugged up his eyebrow like a fishhook.

"What exotics could thrive out here, dead center of the birds'eye view of beyond?"

There were such thing as tropical places that rioted with life. A mission had taken him there, once. Stank of rot, and a stone bitch to fight in, especially when you were clutching wrapped charges to your chest like a newborn. Half the battle was keeping things dry. The polar opposite, or more precisely halfway, from the tundra that had reared Vasily.

He had found that he preferred the stunted, mad flowers of the north, that flamed in scant weeks of possibility before meeting the reward for defiance.

As an afterthought, he added,

"I'd like to see them."

Date: 2008-03-12 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
"Crocodiles?" Utrov said, impressed. "What do you keep them for, wresting?"

After The Pain's success, someone was always trying to train deadly creatures into being deadly with direction. They'd tried training guard caimans, once. After subtracting lost limbs from possible strategic applications, the project was declared a net loss.

Quite a felicity that The Pain himself was here. It might be interesting to see a successful experiment for once.

"I haven't gotten to do that in years."

Utrov's eyes flicked across the room, making note of exits and inhabitants.

"I'm kidding, comrade," he added. "Those were alligators."

The words were wasted. The moment Krauss's eyes had fallen on the woman in the corner, he'd been in a world of his own.

Looked like the rumors were founded on the marshy ground of fucking with the new guy, and in practice the Major was the garden variety of pervert.

"She's pretty," Utrov said. "Are you noodling her schnitzel?"

Date: 2008-03-16 08:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
"Well." Utrov returned the German's gaze levelly, a banked spark in his eye. "There's something to be said for keeping your options open."

His eyebrow quirked.

"Though it seems like these aren't the best hunting grounds if you're looking to find yourself a fraulein."

One shoulder shrugged.

"Must not be much at all if you're resorting to crocodiles for entertainment. But tell me."

They took an empty table, and Utrov leaned forward across it.

"Is that the only kind of fun for the having out in this place? Do you bait big lizards to while away the long nights?"

Date: 2008-03-18 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
The cold nights didn't make anybody shy, that was for real and certain.

"Naturally," Utrov agreed.

Looked like Krauss was the kind to enjoy his food. The simple pleasures.

Utrov noticed that he was eating quickly, without wasting time or motion. Like a soldier. A little annoyed and a little amused, he made himself slow down. It was hard to tell the body there were habits it didn't need anymore.

"Certain things," he murmured.

What Krauss was suggesting wasn't foreign to him, though broaching it this openly was. Words like a scattering of leaves, just slightly out of phase with the terrain.

There was honor in leaping out of a life's worth of cover into a suicide charge. Or not that, quite. Irony, or poetic justice, or something.

Stepping into a pit trap was just stupid.

Hell, he could even be misinterpreting the German. Innuendo got lost in translation.

"It does look like an unusual place," Utrov said, one hand wavering in illustration. "Giant bees, renegade Americans, crocodiles..."

He leaned back in his chair, sipped tea, and met Krauss's eyes.

"Seems like all sorts of things could come tiptoeing out of the woodwork, a place like that."

Caution stole into his voice.

"But any variation crosswise to regulation would keep its head down, with a pair of MENTs prowling around."

He paused.

"If it was smart."

Date: 2008-03-19 04:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
Utrov shrugged. "Nothing especial, comrade. Only making conversation."

The German looked tired and beaten beneath his benign mien, like a cracked pot thinly glazed.

"You know how soldiers get, spending so long away from civilization."

Keep to cover. That was the rule of the game.

Sometimes they stepped right out of the shadows and headed straight for you, like there was nothing in the world worth hiding from.

Not often.

Utrov grinned.

"What, did you have anything particular in mind?"

Date: 2008-03-20 08:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
"Beethoven's deaf," Utrov pointed out, even as a real smile tugged at his lips.

Something about Krauss's flights of fancy was charming, in a weird way. A confessed sensualist.

Maybe because it made his job that much easier.

"Me, I'm more used to cots pitched by convenience, and tableware turned out by fickle necessity."

No need to mention that those cots weren't always empty. Though not often the same occupant twice. Fickle indeed.

Utrov took up a spoonful and gave actually tasting the food a try.

Hm. Not bad.

"But you know, I could get used to this."

His eyes rolled up to the ceiling as he contemplated.

"A violinist, eh? Sounds interesting."

Instruments were delicate things, unsuited for a warzone. Spend a while in a squad that defined that as 'wherever we are right now,' and you started to forget they existed.

It wasn't official that music wasn't encouraged. Every once in a while you might notice that every guy around you had without a signal started humming the same tune, one you'd never heard before. Then you'd notice that you were, too.

The callused pad of Utrov's thumb tapped against his teacup.

"I could go for a little refinement, for a change."

The corner of his mouth gave an upwards quirk like a hint.

"Might be fun to try something you hear rumors about."

Date: 2008-03-21 05:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
Utrov followed Krauss's glance behind him. He recognized the men by reputation. There weren't all that many soldiers in the world who wore spacesuits, or had faces that looked like they'd spent most of their lives in a battle with a swarm of something and lost.

"Depends," he returned, easing back to Krauss's expectant look. "How big is it?"

Date: 2008-03-23 03:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
Utrov had excellent hearing.

He sipped tea, leaning forward across the table with the careless grace of a lion stretching its limbs.

"That's very true, comrade," he confided. "After all, those bees can only use their fine, bright stingers once. They must have to choose very carefully, saying, which person is worth the moment of impalement and the death sentence? For them, not much reason to use it on an innocent. Now, the ones who can always come back for more..."

He paused.

"You never know who they might go after."


Date: 2008-03-25 07:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
"Hmm."

Utrov appeared to give the question some thought.

"Someone with an appreciation for good things," he decided. "Someone a little unusual, or out of place. Someone with wide appetites not easily satiated."

He grinned, looking straight into the German's blue eyes.

"Doesn't everyone like a challenge?"

Date: 2008-03-26 06:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
Utrov blinked.

From what he had heard of Krauss, he had been expecting innuendo and entendre. he hadn't been ready for a stark, heart-cutting query, before he'd even gotten him into bed.

For some reason, though, he didn't mind.

"No," Utrov said, and it was almost true.

He took a close look at the German. There were circles etched under his eyes, the kind put there by hard days without much sleep to counter them. The way his smile melted away revealed how plastic it had been.

Molokov had been a close friend, he'd said.

Soemthing about it made Utrov want to tell the truth.

A bad instinct, left over from when it did some good. Like twitching at a fist heading toward you. Or an appendix. Vestigial.

He never knew where Borya picked up words like that. He always shared them, like a butterfly caught in his hands.

Utrov spread his hands open, like an offering.

"Casualties are part of war. You get used to it."

He rubbed at his neck.

"No, that's not true. You never get used to it. What you get is good at faking it. Otherwise you lose your mind."

And who knew where that might go?

"You never know. It can be anybody. Somebody who's not supposed to be anywhere near the front lines. A friend, or a brother, or one of those at the point where they're the same thing."

You never let lovers get too close to that. It was one of the rules the unit taught you, like when to duck, and for something like the same reason.

Utrov shook his head once, hard, flinging memory against the inside of his skull so it would slide down the wall and lay still.

He fixed his eyes on Krauss'.

Another trick was staying in the here and now.

"That wasn't an idle question, was it, comrade."

Date: 2008-03-28 04:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
There was a look to someone watching the past go by on the back side of their eyes.

There it was. That instinct that drew to pain like a deer to the scent of water. The same way anybody who'd ever held a wrench couldn't look at a broken machine without his hands itching.

A fly looped in the corner of his eye and was immediately identified as a nonthreat. His hands remained still.

"What is?" Utrov said, regarding Krauss with new attention.

Date: 2008-03-29 01:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
Damn. He'd closed right up again. It wasn't like Utrov could read-

-his expression and know his life story.

The Major's face was drawn, like a man suffering shooting pains from a phantom limb.

"Nothing," Utrov echoed.

He adjusted his face and voice back to comradely geniality.

"Nothing at all, Major. What about yourself?"

Date: 2008-03-29 07:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
Utrov's ears caught the careful avoidance of a specific personal pronoun. Could just as easily be a quirk of a second language, though.

He barked a laugh.

"Sounds like a lovely plan. I'd be glad to."

He leaned back, arm slung over the back of the chair insouciantly.

"There's just something about blonds, isn't there?" Utrov said, eyes slipping up to the German's flaxen hair.

Not frosty pale ones who didn't make a damn lick of sense, though.

Date: 2008-03-30 06:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
Strange.

Krauss's question rang against the taboo that was part of Utrov's bones like voodoo, against names, reminiscense, oh lord Christ no never never a photo.

Utrov didn't laugh at voodoo.

Here there were many things that couldn't be spoken aloud, but no reason not to ask openly about loved ones.

A lot of things were reversed, here in the real world.

"No, no," Utrov said, waving his hand absently. "I'm too much on the move. It's rude to make a lady wait, and that's all she'd be doing. Not to mention, I don't care much for the idea of settling down and spawning a horde of children and going to market on Sundays."

It was the mark of true black bastardry that after all was said and all that he'd done, dodging that still felt like a reprieve.

Nothing like switching from talk of losing someone dearly loved and the pain that had shown on the German's face like a lantern right back to casual flirtation to shine on the tawdriness of the thing he was doing.

Utrov's hands folded over each other on the table. His smile didn't slip.

"How about you? Got a frau waiting in the wings, fuming with jealousy for any pretty young thing who might snap up your attentions?"

Date: 2008-03-31 09:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
Krauss bounded across topics like an arctic hare, always crossing back to matters sexual. Just specific enough to make mistake impossible, just vague enough to leave room for a barb.

The resurgence of the instinct for caution amused him. There was something charming about closing the barn door after the horse was gone.

Now the German was back to playing the satyr, complete with offering an attendant nymph.

That and the possibility of a trap let Utrov smile, if he didn't think about it too much.

Leave the nymphs to the heroes.

"I never got to read much Greek philosophy myself. They had some interesting ideas, I hear. The kind of thing a man could sink his teeth into."

Utrov's eyes, the kind that rarely missed much, wandered, sliding through the corners and shadows cut by fluorescent lights. A moth waged a battle of attrition against one's plastic covering.

"I picked up quite an amount secondhand. You know how soldiers are. Always loving to..."

His gaze hit Krauss' at a dead stop. The corner of his mouth curved like a thorn.

"...talk."

Date: 2008-04-04 02:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] utrov.livejournal.com
"You know," Utrov said, all innocence, "I have no idea what you mean."

His eye gleamed wickedly.

"You'll have to show me."

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