Dec. 11th, 2007 10:10 pm
[identity profile]
Liadov stood at the head of a long table, in a room crowded with crimson and black, low with murmurs and rustles of wool, the clink of kalashes and AKs against buckles and buttons.

The Ocelots, en masse, assembled. And Ocelot himself, arms crossed and leaning negligently against the wall of the conference room to one side.

He didn't looked worried, but he did look guarded.

Rakitin was sitting, slightly beneath and to his right- the only one sitting, actually, with a stack of notes and a couple of illustratory vials at hand.

Liadov cleared his throat and surged right in, without preamble.

"Lieutenant Vladislaus Yamirich Borishnakov was found this morning at approximately 11 AM, or thereabouts. He was deceased."

Liadov paused. Silence answered him, uneasy.

"...There were some very interesting details present. It has come to our attention that Ocelot squad activity was responsible for some aspects of the state Lt. Borishnakov was discovered in- namely, a hazing ritual in which an Ocelot officer is 'de-initiated' upon turning in a repeatedly unsatisfactory performance."

Nika turned his head and looked squarely at Ocelot.

"Major, is that true?"

Ocelot narrowed his eyes.

"It's true," he answered, flatly, without apology.

Liadov nodded.

"What we would like to know is what was done, how the ritual proceeded, and how far it went before you called it a night, men."

His eye roamed the crowd, and fixed on the brooding face of Kolyin first. Kolyin was looking straight ahead. He stood by a taller blonder man with unusually wide-set eyes, who averted them.

Nika hadn't spotted Irinarhov yet, nor Isaev, though he hadn't looked yet, and he had a feeling they would be standing to the back of the room, as was Kasya's preference.

No matter.

He had all the time in the world.

"Would you care to elaborate on how things progressed last night, Lieutenant Kolyin?" Liadov asked, crossing his arms.
[identity profile]
Kassian stood in the alley between buildings, in sniper-mode, still and silent, waiting.

The patrol finally came in the south gate. Quieter than usual, Kassian thought. More subdued. Though he allowed that his own mood could have caused him to read into it.

Three Ocelots with Kalashnikovs in hand approached his position, angling to cross the Grad and head back to the Ocelot barracks. Though they were all balaclavaed, he knew Isaev anywhere, both from his muscular build and the eerily graceful way he moved. Semeyonev was tall, but not as tall as Isaev. Not as broad-shouldered. And while Semeyonev even had the same stealth training from the same instructor, Kassian could tell the difference between the two, even with a casual glance.

He had spent a lot of time watching Isaev, soaking in the fine details.

Kassian liked to think he knew him.

Isaev walked at the back of the formation. Kassian didn't know who the other two were. Not that it mattered.

Kassian didn't move, and he could tell they didn't see him, shadowed as he was. He waited until they passed.

Scooping up a small chunk of gravel, he weighed it against his palm, then stepped out from his hiding place and hurled the rock at the back of Isaev's head.

His aim was true.

It hit with a solid thunk he could actually hear and Isaev spun around.

Kassian let Isaev see him for a moment, then faded back into the alley.

It was more secure than CODEC, and more subtle than shooting the beret off his head.
[identity profile]
"Strange," Rakitin murmured.

The body was spread out on the autopsy table beside him. Another young, blond man, this one whole, but festooned with bright blood patterns on nearly unmarked skin. Leopardus pardalis, as he had thought, and a hastily purloined book on zoology had confirmed.

"This blood," he said. "It comes from several sources. What prints I can get are various, too."

He look a long look at the sample he had been testing, then glanced at Liadov.

"There was a team involved in this."

His eyes swept over the results.

"There's light bruising along the arms and torso. Not enough to have been a major fight. And..."

He went over to the corpse, lying as if waiting for news worth awakening to hear.


Rakitin lifted the wrist to show the faint lines across it.

"Ligature marks."
[identity profile]
"Another without marks," Rakitin murmured. "I'll bet you anything there's enough sedative in his blood to bring down a timberwolf."

He drew back to the active center of the room like a reluctant iron filing to an inconsistent magnet. Whatever it was that Liadov and Irinarhov needed to discuss, it looked like it would wait.

Ever since the other night...both other nights...Rakitin had done his best to keep out of the way. Nika hadn't talked much to him since, any more than necessary, and he'd followed the cue and backed off.

In fact, it was the young Black Ops man, Aryol, who had approached him, with an open smile and disarming gregariousness.

At the first second Polya had frozen, the alarm of reflex in his head blaring, Nika told him. He told him, and they laughed. But logic had manned the override. He knew perfectly well that that was ridiculous, and all the reasons.

"Either our killer is well trusted, or he's got a skill for sleight of hand."

Nothing they didn't know already, but it helped to follow the old tracks, to look for the divergences that stood out.

Such as....

"This is the first time it's directly involved Major Ocelot and Major Raikov," he hazarded. "Does that mean something?"
[identity profile]
Kassian stood in the corridor of guest hall of the Main Wing, just outside Liadov's quarters.


He'd looked for Liadov in the lab outbuilding, but it had been curiously empty. No sign of him in the mess hall, either. Kassian had decided that Liadov's quarters were the last place he'd look before he gave up and just tried CODEC, though he doubted Liadov would be here. It was almost 1200 hours, and even though Liadov had had a lot to drink the night before, he couldn't still be sleeping, Kassian thought. Still, he wasn't sure.

Part of him almost hoped that Liadov wouldn't be inside, but then again, this was important.

Outwardly, Kassian looked as calm and composed as always, he knew, but inwardly, he felt off-balance, shifted from his center like a broken scope. If he lifted his rifle, his hands would be steady, but the late-morning remnants of a hangover pulled at his brow. Earlier in the morning, his headache had almost faded, but now it was back, pounding sullenly behind his eyes.

Better that than jangled nerves, though.

Kassian frowned, and knocked on the door, a little more forcefully than he intended.

He thought he heard a noise from within, but there was no immediate answer.

Kassian knocked again.

"Liadov? You in there? I need to talk to you."
[identity profile]
If anything could be said about Captain Vasily Kirilovich Utrov, it was that he never backed down from playing along with a joke.  When the helicopter had hit a patch of rough air and his travelling companion had gotten agitated he'd wondered only half frivolously if that would be on his epitaph, but things were calmer now.  They'd reached an understanding. 

"That's right," Utrov said with affection.  "I don't bother you, and you don't kick me through the wall.  We get along just fine, eh?"

His companion snorted softly and rolled her eyes. 

She wasn't the kind of individual you expected to run into on your first day of serving as supply officer for a remote outpost.  It just went to show, you never knew.

A shift in the pitch of the cabin signaled that they were descending.  She didn't like it.  Utrov got a glimpse out the window of forest and a structure that must have had 'ominous' written on the blueprints next to the dimensions before he turned back to the primary concern.

"It's all right," he soothed, patting the 'cargo' on the shoulder.  "We'll be on the ground soon, and all you'll have to deal with is whyever the hell somebody sent for you in the first place."

She didn't find this amusing, but didn't try to bite him.  The satisfactory state of relations continued until they touched down. 

Utrov opened the door and jumped down into the sunlight, turning back to coax the other to daintily disembark.

"Somebody order a horse?"  he called.
[identity profile]
Ilya stared at the ceiling.

Was Andrei going to be back here to sleep tonight?

He missed the simple things deeply - falling asleep with a lazy smile from some last-second dozy joke, sharing warmth, secret midnight excursions to the gym...

Every single bit of it.

Ilya chewed the inside of his lip. He was better at carrying on with the way things were now, but somehow he just couldn't let it go. Hard, when he passed the guy all the time, and smiled and pretended nothing was wrong.

And he didn't want to. He really, really didn't want to.

He heard the sound of bootsteps in the corridor, and sat upright. Who was that, he mused, trying to place the rhythm of the footfalls.

Too heavy for Charushkin. Besides, he was already in his bunk. He seemed to have turned himself to bed earlier the last couple of nights.

Ilya's heart opted to jump a beat, much to his annoyance, on the slightest hope it would be his door opened.

If not, he'd find out who it was. He needed a good comrade right now.
[identity profile]
David woke with a start.

It was dark.

His heart thrummed, and his breath caught in his lungs, seized by a momentary panic. In those seconds, everything was alien to him, the strange sterile smells and the rasp of rough cotton, and the cold breeze that hit his face.

He couldn't remember where he was or what he was doing, and for long moments, it was like he really did have amnesia.

But then it came back to him: infirmary. Nurses. Poison. Antidote. Rakitin. The one true gap in his memory he couldn't reconcile, the missing time, and what he'd been told had happened to him in it.

His shoulders shook, but he drew in a steadying breath. He was fine. The infirmary was secure.

David closed his eyes, and lay back.

A second later, he recalled the cold air he'd felt on his skin.

It had carried with it the smell of night.

Adrenaline surged through him again, and he sat upright in bed, even as pain speared through him, tore at the deep wounds in his chest and back.

He knew he wasn't alone.
[identity profile]

Time was a very precious commodity. Finding himself with hours to spare, Iosef immediately gathered his violin and bow and set out for the hallway outside of Volgin’s office in the Main Wing.

Io went the first time to tempt the Colonel’s temper because he found it altogether thrilling in ways he could never hope to understand. He returned the second time for the quiet praise that the first impromptu serenade had received.

What started as an attempt to annoy and provoke had somehow switched gears in the flame solder’s mind. He felt something akin to remorse for the provocation as he stood in the deserted hallway once more.

The Blue Danube only brought secretaries to come and stare with awe and approval, and gasps of delight, and much appreciated applause. No one came forth from Volgin’s office; not for the Blue Danube, or the Gimn Sovetskovo Soyuza, or even for Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

Io spent a good ten minutes scowling at the door from behind his respirator, as though sheer force of will alone would bring the Colonel out from hiding. There was nothing, the lights were off, and Yevgeny Volgin was certainly not home. It was foolish to think will alone could coerce him to appear on command.

So Iosef eventually retreated to the yard, disappointed with the world, and left the office workers to their dull paperwork.

It was a beautiful spring day, clear and blue. The snow had all but melted away, and the illusive promise of warmth drifted on the breeze.  The sun was pleasant and gentle on his face. 

A seemingly abandoned truck was all the invitation he needed. Climbing onto the hood with violin and flamethrower was a difficult task, but one that was overcome with ingenuity and creative wiggling.

A pair of GRU regarded the gas-masked violinist with hesitant curiosity, until he began to play for them. A sweet melody to match the kind disposition of the early spring day.

Ode to Joy seemed to match the mood set by the clear, light hearted day. It translated well to a solo piece he thought, shutting his eyes as the notes flowed from the violin, took flight, and fluttered away on orange and black butterfly wings.

It wasn’t long before he had another crowd gathered around. Among them, he recognized the German Major, but there were others who were unfamiliar to the flame patrol Lieutenant.

It struck him just fine, and he smiled.  Strangers were always welcome to listen.

[identity profile]
It was odd, Polya thought as he opened the infirmary door, armed with the antidote Khostov had provided from the base's medical supplies. These past days he had been preserving life more often than deciphering the messages left in the act of dying. It did little to balance the harm he had done to a man already lost and afraid.

Maybe in the interim he had remembered his name.

The room was cool and white.

"I've brought the antidote," Rakitin said quietly, loath to unbalance the delicate approximation of peace.
[identity profile]
Matvei squared himself up for his third shot at Liadov and his evasive techniques.

He couldn’t press too hard – for his own sake – but the half-truth was driving him insane. He had to know.

He’d tried asking, he’d tried cookery… the only weapon he had left was persistence.

He didn’t bother knocking on the lab door this time. It was early evening, and maybe they wouldn’t be right in the thick of… anything major.

No one else was exceptionally dead right now. Although he had heard from his rankmates quick enough about the man with a lucky escape.

… And he was curious about that too. He shuddered to think it could’ve been any one of his friends. Why did all his friends have to be blond, too?

He stepped inside, yanking off his balaclava. “Major Liadov?”
[identity profile]
The night was clear and cold as hindsight. By the time Rakitin flicked on the lights of the empty lab, the glaring fact of his own idiocy had settled in and made itself comfortable.

Only Ippolit could walk in on a man who had been found poisoned and assaulted and manage within minutes to make it worse.

He shuddered in sympathy.

Grey eyes, clouded with urgency, then sharp with horror.

Better that he be here, where he could do some good, and no harm.

Ippolit took the vial of blood and began to distill its secrets.
[identity profile]
Nika left mess intending to return to his quarters.

It was nice out, for winter, however, and he lingered on his walk, crossing through the tank yard, occasionally gazing up at the night sky.

A blanket of stars, a dark bright blue, illumed from behind by unseen, uncast light.

He assumed Rakitin was right behind him, but he had yet to see Polya disembark the mess hall, or hear his companionable shout.

Perhaps Polya had business to attend to, like the nights he'd been privy to what Liadov had not.

Rakitin was ostensibly GRU now, and no longer objective and uncompromised, as far as Nika was concerned.

If in fact he ever had been. It seemed Rakitin's wandering eye for unguarded cock caused him to lapse in common sense. He'd said himself he could take or leave the KGB, in no uncertain terms that left Liadov fairly stunned at their utterance. Once, men were sent to the Gulagi for years for telling a single joke about the government- and here was Ippolit, boldly declaring dissatisfaction with his agency.

And then, this blase admission that he intended to jump ship for Volgin's outfit- well, Rakitin was either supremely brave and confident, or hopelessly naïve to think his kit and bags weren't bugged. Or his teeth, for that matter. Maybe he was more of a renegade than Nika had surmised.

It didn't change his feelings for the man, but it did mean he had one less uncontaminated soul to rely on in this corrupt outpost, if it came down to an issue of justice that conflicted with GRU wishes or politics.

He sighed.

Best not to think about that. Not until it came to it- if it did.

The stars were never-shifting, everlasting.

Nika smiled at them and shook his head.

"Men are fucking imbeciles," he whispered to them, confidentially. "And I foremost among them."
[identity profile]
Senior Lieutenant Arkady Sergeyevich Kolyin decided he'd underestimated.

He wasn't having a bad week. He was having a bad month.

He'd had no more than the equivalent of another nap when he'd had to go back out on patrol again, though at least this time Savva was stuck doing the same turnaround with him.

Misery loved company and all that.

Kolyin yawned. That made it perhaps around five hours of sleep in four days. Not exactly conducive to being alert enough to actually notice much while on patrol, but he was sure that sort of logic was lost on anyone else.

"Are you sure you want me to tell you?" Semeyonev asked.

"Sure, why not."

"I mean, it's a little freakish. Even for Groznyj Grad."

"Nothing can surprise me anymore, chuvak," Kolyin said, sighing.

"Well. This will. Dogs."

Kolyin blinked, then turned to stare at Savva, incredulously.

"You're dicking my ear, comrade."

"Dayu slovo, bratan. I wouldn't make that up, would I?"


His attention wavered as he heard pounding bootsteps coming in their direction.

Please, he thought, suddenly and urgently. Please let this not be another murder.

A GRU lieutenant appeared out of the night, pulling up sharply as he saw them, saluting.

Kolyin's stomach twisted with dread.

"Sirs!" the lieutenant belted out, briskly.

Arkady wasn’t sure why regular GRU treated them like superiors, even though they were technically the same rank. He supposed it was because of their elite status as Ocelots. That, and the fact that leadership from the upper echelon on the GRU side of things was…a little lacking, to say the least.

"There's someone…we found something," the soldier said. "Outside the main gate."

"Someone, or something?" Kolyin asked, frowning.

The lieutenant hesitated. "Someone, sir. A man. He, ah, didn't have any clothes on. No tags or gear, not even boots. We're not sure who he is."

Kolyin thought about Sergei, and closed his eyes briefly.

"Dead," he said, not a question. He wondered who it was.

"No sir…he's still alive."

Kolyin blinked.

"He is?" Semeyonev asked.

Arkady glanced at him. It was clear that his rankmate had been thinking the same thing.


The GRU lieutenant hesitated. "Well…there were some wounds, but nothing serious…"

Kolyin's eyes narrowed.

He could tell the soldier was holding something back, but decided not to press, at least not right then. "Where is he?"

"Captain Tabolov brought him to the infirmary, sir. He wanted us to alert Major Ocelot."

That was because Ocelot was the only senior officer who did any real soldiering, Kolyin knew, but he also knew Ocelot wouldn't be happy if he were woken up again in the middle of the night for something that wasn't strictly an emergency.

"Why don't you bring us to him?" Kolyin suggested. "We'll make the assessment and alert Major Ocelot if it's necessary."

Relief shot across the man's features. "This way, sir!"

Kolyin thought that would be the reaction.

They followed the lieutenant to the infirmary and slipped inside. Kolyin cast a glance toward the room where they'd brought Colonel in the other night, but it was empty. Ocelot had sworn them to strict silence regarding the Colonel's condition. Kolyin figured that once he was stabilized, Volgin had been moved elsewhere, for the sake of both security, and discretion.

Captain Tabolov lingered outside a door at the end of the hall, and turned to them as they approached. Tabolov had been the one who had cleared the bystanders from outside the Colonel's quarters a few nights ago, after the Colonel's decoy had been assassinated. He was dependable enough, if a bit indecisive.

Tabolov had his balaclava off, and looked between them expectantly, as if trying to tell if he knew them.

He wasn't much older than they were, Kolyin realized. Brown hair cropped close, narrow features, sallow grey eyes. Good-looking enough, but nowhere near as pretty as Major Raikov. Kolyin imagined he had followed his superior's example and slept his way through the ranks, though.

"Captain. Kolyin and Semeyonev."

"Lieutenants," Tabolov said, nodding to them, seeming relieved. It seemed like he was going to say something else for a moment, but paused and nodded to the GRU lieutenant. "That'll be all. We'll handle it from here."

The lieutenant saluted and departed quickly, seeming to be grateful to be absolved of the responsibility.

When he was gone, Tabolov sighed. "I'm glad you're here. I'm not quite sure what to make of this…situation."

Kolyin glanced at the door, which was closed.

"The lieutenant told us that you found a man outside the gates?"

Tabolov nodded. "He walked right up to the gate and said something, but I didn't catch it. He was shivering. No clothes. He collapsed almost immediately, and we couldn't revive him. He had puncture wounds on his chest and neck, and…"

The captain hesitated, discomfort seeming to deepen, gaze skipping away.

"It looked to me like he'd been raped."

"Shit," Savva said.

Kolyin winced. He understood the GRU lieutenant's earlier hesitance now, his reluctance to voice his observations aloud.

Arkady turned his gaze to Semeyonev, meeting his rankmate's eyes briefly. Supposedly all the men who had been killed – save Sergei, he reminded himself, firmly – had been raped, both before and after they'd died. Or so he'd heard. If this man had somehow gotten away from the killer mid…process…he might have valuable information.

Savva returned his gaze, his normally pale grey eyes shadowed. They were thinking the same thing again. Kolyin gave him a brief, grim nod.

"Who is he?" he asked, turning back to Tabolov.

"I don't know. Not GRU. I'd know him. I don't think he's one of you, either. Dark hair."

Kolyin frowned. "Older?"

"No, young. My age, or a little younger."

Savva shook his head. "Maybe he's a scientist."

"Maybe," Tabolov said. "Well-built, though. Muscular, like a soldier. I don't know what he would be doing outside the gates, in any case. The nurse said he's stable, but he didn't wake up. She thought he'd been injected with something. Some kind of toxin, she said."

Like the Colonel, Kolyin thought, frowning, though he couldn't voice his suspicions aloud, not in front of Tabolov at least.

"She called for the pathologist. He should be here shortly," Tabolov said.

"I see. If you want, Captain, we can handle it from here. It sounds like something Major Ocelot is going to need to be briefed on anyway, and it would be better if it came from us," Kolyin said.

Tabolov looked between them. "Are you sure? I'd appreciate it, Lieutenant."

Kolyin nodded. "Not a problem."

Tabolov took his leave of them. Hastily, Kolyin noted.

Semeyonev turned to Kolyin. "This is fucked up, comrade."

"I know."

"Should we call Ocelot?"

Kolyin shook his head. "Let's wait to see what the pathologist says first. I think we can probably wait until morning before we call Ocelot, especially if this guy isn't going anywhere."

"All right."
[identity profile]
The thing you had to do was you always kept the mission objective at the forefront. Let everything else slide away like swampwater off a crocodile's back. If he failed, everything else was moot anyway.

It was getting harder and harder to pretend that was still true.

He'd countermanded orders. Worse. He'd abandoned them. They needed Sokolov out of there, and they needed him out of there now. But it hadn't happened.

The world kept spinning. Nobody dropped dead.

In fact, that was another thing.

Snake had gotten into the habit of keeping his eyes open and his mouth shut. At first he'd tried to play that it was reconnaisance, but that was just a fancy word for watching.

He definitely wasn't keeping an eye out for that kid. The one with the habit of running around half dressed and a whole lot of secrets.

Sometimes Snake caught himself passing some soldier in the hall and thinking about how, if things had gone a little bit differently, he might have been slitting his throat.

People were people anywhere. They had to piss and sneeze and sleep. It was something he'd taken advantage of more than once. Usually, there was so little time, he hardly had to make an effort to keep from thinking about it too much.

That, Snake thought wryly, might be one thing the partner The Boss had assigned him might be uniquely suited to help with.

Sokolov. Right. That was the mission. Find out where he was, make sure he was alive. Worry later about what came next.

Snake eased the laboratory door open, checked for flames or errant projectiles, and carefully stuck his head in.

"Fury? You here?"
[identity profile]

The Kalashnikov was feather light and unfamiliar. It felt alien in the dusky shadows before nightfall.

His heart beat unmercifully in his chest like a caged animal dangerous and desperate to escape. Deimos was acutely aware of his pulse, a dull roar of blood that surged through his brain, made everything in his sight tinged with red.

With every breath he drew, he quivered, staring down at the lifeless body that sprawled before him. One of the reinforcements sent up the mountain to help secure the pass. A friendly kid with bright eyes that seemed enamored with the entire world. Too young and in love with everything to mistrust the dark stranger with the flame thrower who suggested they should go behind the storage shed and do for each other what good comrades did in private.

“You’ll be fine, Pasha.” Dmitry mumbled, mostly for his own benefit as his numb fingers struggled pull the zipper of his pilfered camouflage jumpsuit. “A bad headache tomorrow. I could do worse to you…” He held his breath as his eyes wandered over the near-naked body at his feet. “I could think of so many things to do to you…you and I…”

A bright trickle of blood snaked its way across the boy’s forehead, tinting shorn ashen hair rosy. It glimmered in the beam of the flashlight.

Deimos dropped to one knee beside Pasha. Holding his breath, he leaned in close enough to hear the soldier’s breathing, deep and slow, as though he were in a pleasant dream.

“Iosef patrols this sector.” His words were scarcely above a ghostly whisper. “He’ll find you in ten minutes, take good care of you.”

Pasha made a small, broken noise.

With a gentle hand, Deimos cupped the boy’s chin with careful adoration, and licked the blood from his temple.

Salt and copper. Dmitry smiled, satisfied with the bitter taste on his tongue.

“I do thank you for the use of your uniform, and for making everything so easy for me.”

The flame soldier stood, reeling as his head swum with adrenaline. It had been too long, far too long. It was intoxicating, made him delirious, made his prick surge with blood.

Laughing carefree, he pulled the black balaclava down over his face. The perfect image of an innocent GRU soldier, he started down the mountain path with one final look to the rock crevice where he stashed his gear.

“Nikanor Liadov…” He breathed, tasting the name.  It was sweet as honey on his lips, with Pasha's blood fresh in his mouth. “Where are you hiding tonight, Nika, my love?”

[identity profile]
The storm that blew in off the mountain in the black of night left a thick blanket of snow in the yard. On the buildings, it clung to eaves and window ledges, softened the edges of the Grad and made the East Wing look like a Lebkuchen Haus.

From the window of his office, Johann watched the soldiers in ribbon candy uniforms and licorice jackboots diligently work to uncover the spice drop trucks from the powdered sugar snow. He smiled grimly, sipped the last of his cognac, and turned from the window.

Those licorice boots, he thought ruefully to himself, were best for licking.

When news of an attempt on Volgin’s life reached him, the very first thing he did was descend the stairs into the dank catacombs under Groznyj, disable the alarms, and touch the door of the vault, just to be sure it was still there. Lacking the codes and combinations and keys, it was the best he could do, sliding his mangled hand across the dial of the combination lock as gentle as a lover’s touch. The micro film slumbered peacefully in the darkness, secured by three feet of solid steel from every side, and the best security system in all of Russia.

Then, he breathed a sigh of relief.

The journey. He went out in the snow storm just to be sure. Poison. He got the distinct impression that he was not supposed to know, but it was his job to know things.

His expression softened as his eyes lingered over the cat that slept on the corner of his desk, the only thing that remained for him that was truly his own. Lethargically, he trailed his fingers through her silken fur, and she rumbled at being disturbed.

“Motte,” he mumbled, “du hast werden fett.”

It would have been a good day, he told himself. Could have. It had potential. The storm had purged the moisture from the air, and his bad hip was feeling alright. Slowly, the pain in his heart receded as well, gradually. The memory of Molokov was sweet and golden and distant. It shimmered like dewdrops caught in a spider web in the wee hours of dawn.

Something else nagged at his psyche though, and ruined his day vicariously. He checked every pocket of very pair of jodhpurs. He checked his bedside table, and found nothing in the carved mahogany drawer. The pockets of his coats turned up nothing, neither wool greatcoat nor white wolfskin.

The keys to his 9-11 Porsche, his pride and joy, imported straight from the heart of the Vatterland had vanished into thin air.

Motte had not batted them under the liquor cabinet. They weren’t in his desk drawer, or the filing cabinet, or on the reading desk in his private quarters, or even in the refrigerator.

They were simply gone, as though stolen right out from under his nose and the red rocket sat in the steel shipping container, cold and still.

As he stepped into the hallway and closed the office door behind him, he tried to recall everywhere he had been on the last day he had them. First, the mess hall, but the cooks said they had found nothing. Then, it was the office of Lydia Solovyeva in the administrative building, to clear up some questions regarding personnel files. Back to his office to phone in the month’s supply request list from the Cobra Unit.

That, he remembered clearly. Someone had thought it would be funny to scribble, ‘a horse’ at the very bottom of the paper.

The hornet keeper had turned up not soon after that, with the news of a potential witness, and Krauss immediately went to fetch the investigators. Perhaps he dropped his keys in their laboratory, or worse yet, in the hangar that housed giant hornets.

Worse still, maybe they were in the Fury’s laboratory. He found the cosmonaut aloof and friendly that day, contrary to what the Pain had suggested.

Following a rather pleasant conversation with the pyromaniac, he went to a private dinner with a certain Lieutenant Anton Deviatov and after the slivovic everything got all fuzzy. He distinctly remembered that someone had been in a leather skirt and stockings, but couldn’t quite grasp whether it had been him or Antosha. Either way, the sex was good.

No matter though, he told himself as he rounded the corner and pushed open the outside door. He would simply retrace every step he took that day, until he found his missing keys.

[identity profile]
Volgin opened his eyes.

His vision came only in smears of colors, differentiated by darks and lights.

His throat ached, and his mouth felt dry.

He remembered vague things...Alexei, Ocelot, various young women coming in to talk to him about topics he couldn't remember. It all seemed distant now, and he felt so tired. So weak. It angered him at the same time it exhausted him. He wondered vaguely if he could summon his power and charge his body with so much voltage he could purge the poison from him. Too bad he thought of it now, when it was far too late to do so. He couldn't summon the strength to control his power, much the less charge it up. Perhaps he should have tried at the outset, but...

Volgin heard a voice, then, one of the women. Not speaking to him, too far away for that. In the hallway, perhaps. But then there was a short pause, and a shadow made him blink.

He tried to focus, and even though the face above him was a blur, he'd know the accompanying presence anywhere.

"Alyosha," Volgin murmured, raw and soft. "You're back."
[identity profile]
They stepped out of the pathologist's outbuilding and into the crisp and cold afternoon air, which held the weighted promise of snow.

Leshovik liked that. It felt cleansing.

He glanced at Aryol, who was looking at him with an expression Leshovik hadn't seen in a long time, like the way he used to look at him when they first met, back when Aryol thought he was the greatest guy in the world.

That was before Aryol had gotten to know him.

Then Leshovik hadn't seen that expression anymore.

But the way Aryol looked at him now was like that, the way he'd caught Aryol looking at Lynx a couple of times. Aryol had a lightness to his features, bright soft eyes and a sunny smile that was all for him.

Aryol stepped close, and slipped an arm around Leshovik's waist, nuzzling his face against Leshovik's temple before pulling away. The contact was as brief as it was tender and impulsive, and it made Leshovik feel ridiculously warm.

"You made him happy," Aryol told him, still smiling. "That was nice."

Leshovik reached out, and tousled Aryol's hair fondly. "Yeah, well, don't tell anyone. I don't want to ruin my reputation for being a dickhole."

Aryol laughed.

Leshovik still had no fucking idea what was going on with Lynx, but it didn't matter as much now, not when the man had looked him in the eye and tacitly admitted that yes, there was something. Something personal, important enough to make him torture a man with sharp, ruthless efficiency. Something greater than a mere assignment.

Before that, the lie had been sitting hard and cold between them, like bringing a rifle to bed.

Leshovik looked around, and spotted Niotkuda, who leaned casually against the side of the building, smiling, but not at them, looking like he'd been laughing to himself. Codec, maybe. Leshovik hailed him, and they walked over.

Niotkuda pushed himself away from the wall with the lazy grace of a natural athlete. Leshovik admired the smooth, indolent motion briefly, finding that it really did remind him of the way Lynx moved.

He blinked, and thought that there was something sort of fucked up about all of this, though he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

"Sorry about that," Leshovik said, gesturing back at the outbuilding apologetically. "Took longer than I thought."
[identity profile]
It wasn't entirely unusual to be at the range without Ocelot in charge, but it had been quiet. It figured, really, with Irinarhov in charge.

Usually, when Ilya was left in charge, it was a good chance to relax, laugh and fire off a few rounds without Ocelot calling out a variety of motivational insults every time someone missed a shot. It had been an odd morning, with everyone strangely focussed on what they were doing.

Even Ilya, as he mulled over his dilemma a few more times, each turn cementing his decision a little further.

And so after practice, he dragged behind, letting Andrei wander past with a smile. Matvei dashed off as quickly as he'd arrived.

He leaned up against the wall, waiting, with all the patience he could spare.

Finally, almost everyone was gone, he stepped forward, and walked over to Irinarhov.

The sniper looked up coolly, apparantly expecting no more than talking business. Those were the only times they spoke to each other, outside of cordial nods of acknowledgement when passing each other.

No backing down, now.

"Can I have a word?" Ilya asked, seriously.


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The Groznyj Grad Living Novel

December 2010

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