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Title: You and Me and How It Ends
Author: alley_skywalker
Fandom: War and Peace
Characters/Parings: Theodore Dolokhov/Anatole Kuragin; Helene Kuragin, Pierre Bezukhov, Galina Dolokhov, others in cameos
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Character Death
Word Count: ~12,300
Summary: After his unsuccessful elopement attempt with Natasha, Anatole has to leave Moscow without getting a chance to make things right with Theodore. They struggle through the rift, pride and confusion battling love and a need to be together. And when it seems their love might pull through after all, the war starts and makes its own claims.
Notes: Written for the History Big Bang on livejournal. My wonderful artist, looneyngilo2, has created this lovely fanmix for this fic.


Theodore Dolokhov hates goodbyes. He always had. They left a hard, butter taste in his mouth and it always meant losing or being let down. Perhaps it had something to do with his father’s death when he was only a boy, but that event alone could not have spurred the range of emotional distress that the process of leaving created. As it were, his father had died in a duel and Theodore had been just a boy and had not even known that there was any danger until it was all over. There had been no goodbye, no watching his father ride away at dawn. If anything, he should have developed a hatred for duals, but dueling is one of the things he is unquestionably good at and an activity he engages in quite regularly without much concern.

Watching Anatole pack for the second time in as many days is hard. Doing so silently, pretending like he doesn’t care, is nearly unbearable. The last time, the boy had been ready to throw away everything he had in order to elope with the young Natalie Rostov, leaving Theodore behind like a nice childhood memory that one must let go of. This time, Theodore is pushing him away on purpose.

He’s saved some of the guilt by Pierre who had found it necessary to resort to violent threats to get his way. If it wasn’t for his brother in law, Anatole would merely move out of Theodore’s house but stay in Moscow. Although, when Theodore thinks about it, in the long run it will be easier for him if Anatole is in Petersburg. After the fiasco with the Rostov girl, he had finally chosen to cling to his pride and break things off with Anatole. Holding on to that resolution would be incredibly difficult if Anatole remained in the city, constantly appearing anywhere Theodore went, constantly looking at him with those apologetic, crystal-grey eyes and simply…simply being.

They have been lovers for years. They have had other lovers than one another – though mainly female – and both had accepted that reality, but Anatole had meant to leave, to go away forever. Their affair had held together by the faith that, in the end, they would always belong to each other, Distance is one thing, marriage vows – which everyone broke these days – is one thing, but goodbye is another, “Goodbye, Teddy. Thank you for everything,” Anatole had said at the door, smiling fondly at him. Goodbye, he had said, leaving forever to be with another lover. That, Theodore can not forgive.

They stand in the cold morning air – he, Anatole and Helene. The carriage is loaded and ready, the sky grey and murky in the early hours. Usually, Anatole could easily sleep until noon but he had not slept the night before. He had panicked and packed and drank Theodore’s brandy and paced around his room, which he had barely ever used before. Theodore’s mother and sister are away on a long visit to one of his mother’s friends so it was only him and Anatole in the house. Theodore had lain in bed, attempting to sleep, and listened to Anatole’s footsteps across the wooden flood and fought the urge to go to him and wrap him up in a protective embrace. He fought the urge to ask, “Are you distraught because you lost me or because you lost her? Or are you just afraid of that oaf Bezukhov?” In the end, he had slept, restlessly, poorly, only to be woken up by a knock and a subdued Anatole saying, “I’m leaving, if you’d care to see me off.” He hadn’t looked hopeful, but Theodore said he would. They were friends before they were lovers and Natasha Rostov should have had no effect on their friendship had it stayed merely that.

Anatole gives final instructions to his man servant, holding his hat in one hand and ignoring the snowflakes that drench his hair, as Theodore and Helene watch from the porch steps. “It’s a cruel thing you’re doing,” she says finally, softly.

“What?”

“He loves you, you know.”

“That doesn’t change anything. I’m not doing this out of spite—“

“Aren’t you?” She turns to look at him sharply.

Theodore stares her down. “No. I’m doing this for me. Perhaps for both of us. I need space and so does he. Anatole is upset now, I know, he lost out on both fronts but he’s resilient. In the end, what Anatole needs for happiness is revelry and he’ll always have that.”

“You’re a selfish bastard. He needs you.”

“Yes, to babysit him. But I can’t do that forever.”

She rolls her eyes and looks away. “Just admit it: you can’t stand the thought of him with anyone else.”

Theodore puts on an aloof, sarcastic expression. “What’s the point if those feelings aren’t returned? But no. I’ve seen the error of my ways. Your brother is dear to me, you know that, he always has been. But when a relationship becomes unhealthy, it’s time to cut it off.”

Helene rounds on him but she doesn’t have time to spit out whatever biting remark she has stored up. Anatole comes up to them and finally dons his hat. “Everything is ready. I should go.” He has a budding bruise on his jaw, probably from the scuffle with Pierre the day before and Theodore wants to reach out and touch it, very gently, to run his thumb over it and ask if Anatole will be alright. Not because he has a bruise, really, but because he looks uncharacteristically forlorn and sober. Instead he lets Helene hug and kiss her brother as he watches with a look of forced disinterest.

“I will come to Petersburg soon. Maybe I can talk to Pierre—“

“Don’t do that, we’ve talked about this,” Anatole protests, but with little enthusiasm. “You’ll only make it worse. You know how Pierre reacts to your opinion on anything.”

Helene sighs and seems to admit defeat. “It will blow over.”

“I know.” Anatole turns to Theodore and they finally meet eyes, something that Dolokhov had been avoiding all morning. “Teddy…” Anatole steps toward him and Theodore fights the urge to step back. “I’m sorry. I know I’ve…I’ve messed up. You have every right to be mad at me but I want us to be friends, at least, even if…”

“We are friends.” Theodore steps forward and puts both hands on Anatole’s shoulders. He doesn’t want the boy to know just how hurt he is, how hard the whole thing is for him. The distance will definitely be good for both of them. “You’ve been through a lot. It’s better you go and don’t tempt the Rostovs and their…friends. I have things to do here. The distance will give us…time. For things to settle down.”

Anatole nods and, without warning, nearly tips over. Theodore has no choice but to catch him in an embrace and allow them a few moments to awkwardly stand holding each other with Anatole’s face tucked into his shoulder. Finally, he pushes Anatole away gently and the young prince backs away, taking the hint.

Theodore watches as Anatole gets into the carriage and drives away. He looks back once and waves, childishly. Helene waves back but Theodore just watches as the carriage disappears into the morning mist and snow. It is better this way, he is certain. Even if it hurts.

*~*

Theodore has never had trouble in busying himself. There are always things to do, people to see, affairs to handle.

His stint undercover in Persia had caused some friction between him and the generals. He refused to be bullied, they moved to demote him again, he resigned. Therefore on his return to Moscow from the Caucuses, Theodore no longer served. Yet, having no intention of taking up a civilian post, at least for the time being, he examined other options, albeit without much hurry. He has come back with far more money than he had ever carried before in his life at any one time, all of this the proceeds to a couple of successful entrepreneurial ventures. Such things would have been looked down on at home as being below his class, but there was no one in Persia to know him or to tattle and Theodore had taken advantage of it. Even after he left, the income continued to trickle in for a few months before dying out. Once at home, Theodore made a couple of handy investments which he hoped would develop. The money wasn’t enough to buy any sort of estate and that sort of thing would take more expenses to develop so the investments were somewhat less gentlemanly, however they did allow for spare money to afford some luxuries for him and his family and possibly bring in a nice side income in the future.

Most of Theodore’s personal income still comes from cards. It is a life he is used to and a word he is well situated in. Driven to the extreme at the age of sixteen the habit has become hard to break. Truthfully, Theodore is not a gambler at heart, despite his daring. He never looses himself in the heat of the game, never succumbs to the urge of making unjustified stakes. He knows the game, he knows his opponents and his conscious has gotten used to whatever tricks he employs a long time ago. But the cards only take up part of the time, a lot of it is during social evening hours. During the day, Theodore finds himself restless more often than not.

At first, he merely thinks that he needs to find a post to take up his time, but more and more often he becomes aware that the feeling isn’t of boredom – he always manages to occupy his time with one task or another. The feeling is more akin to restlessness, to constantly missing something that isn’t there. He knows what it is, or rather who, but his pride bulks at the idea so much that he avoids it stubbornly. The parties and the escapades and the cards; the books, the clubs, the hunts, outings with his sister and a trip to the countryside once the days get warmer and longer are all a wonderful distraction, but they’re not the same without Anatole and they’re not a viable enough distraction to keep his mind completely off the boy.

But he doesn’t write and, for a long time, neither does Anatole.

*~*

Anatole’s first letter comes mid-May. Theodore thinks to burn it at first but doesn’t want to seem childish, or like he has not yet overcome the hurt from Anatole’s desire to leave him. Pride has always been a large motivator for Theodore and he had promised Anatole that day on the porch that, yes, they remain friends, so he sees no way out but to read the letter and find something to say in response.

Dear Theodore,
I haven’t written, I know. Don’t think this has anything to do with forgetting about you, more with taking your advice that we both need to account, to ourselves at least, of what had come to pass between us. I’ve also been given a new appointment and had some military business to attend to. This took me out of Petersburg for a while. I’ve been ill, though. Do not worry, neither for my health or that this is a plea for sympathy. But it is true. Nothing serious, the doctors say, but I have been quite indisposed. This makes my father worried, mainly of course, because it means I am in no real shape to be chasing rich heiresses. It is the same old story. He does not know I am married of course, so you can see how this leads to quite a few confounding situations. But at least my latest condition has made it quite impossible to carry suit. Which is a relief.

The truth is that I miss you. I hope you will write back. Tell me as to what you have been up to. Have you decided what you will do now that you do not serve? I know you – you need a purpose in life of some sort, a goal. Someone with your skills, you could do well in government, you know, if you thought to apply yourself….

The rest of the letter is filled with anecdotes about mutual friends and acquaintances, many of which are actually quite amusing, especially given Anatole’s lack of story-telling talent. Anatole’s illness troubles Theodore but he decides to not pay it too much mind in case Anatole truly is using it as a ploy.

He waits several days to reply, sends a bland letter with a wish of better health and a run down of local news. He cannot bring himself to be more engaging without falling into the trap of saying things like “I miss you.” He doesn’t want to miss Anatole. He’d spent too many years doing just that and yes, the bitterness has finally sunk in. So maybe if he doesn’t say it, if he waits it out, it will become reality.

*~*

Anatole is hung over. The night before he had been splendidly drunk, but now his head is ringing and everything seems to be far too bright. He turns on his side, looking to see if he is at home and if anyone is with him.

No one is there and the bedroom is his own.

Anatole lets out a sigh of relief and flings one arms over his eyes, trying to work up the strength to ring for his manservant and have some water and breakfast brought up. It used to be, during the times he and Theodore lived together, that he would curl into his lover’s side and stay there, hiding from the sun and letting Theodore deal with the morning business for the both of them. Theodore would run a hand through his hair and tease him about getting too over his head once again. Sometimes, if they had no where to be and the day was appropriately glum, Anatole would convince his lover to stay in bed and they would lounge around under the covers shamelessly for hours until it was time for dinner.

But Theodore is in Moscow now and Anatole in St. Petersburg. Anatole has tried to write but all of Theodore’s responses have been unsatisfying. There is nothing specifically wrong with them but Anatole knows Teddy Dolokhov well enough to distinguish a friendly but disinterested response from a genuine one.

Anatole feels miserable half the time these days. He can’t say what it is. He drinks and falls in bed with certain men of a known circle and with beautiful women of all sorts, but none of it has its prior spark. The sex is banal, the parties get boring. He misses Theodore even though they have had periods of time when they were away from one another for years. But this time it is different. Things are not right between them and Anatole has no idea how to go about fixing the situation. He has tried apologizing, he has tried pretending that nothing is wrong but nothing changes and he feels cast aside and unwanted – a feeling he is completely unused to.

Anatole nurses a cup of tea as he waits for his headache to recede. He pens a note to Helene to ask her to come visit. If anyone can help him through this, it is she. His sister has always been good at resolving difficult social situation or manipulating people into doing what she wants them to do or just putting things in perspective. That is something she and Theodore are both good at. Anatole, on the other hand, always lacked the ability to see beyond the current state of things, especially if he is emotionally involved. Sometimes it poses a problem – like currently.

*~*

“Please help me.” Anatole gives his older sister the most adorably pleading look he can manage.

Across the coffee table, Helene smirks at him and leans back into the sofa pillows with an amused expression. She steers sugar into her tea and sips it carefully in case it is still hot. The delicate porcelain cup looks much more at home in her hands than it ever did in Anatole’s. “I think sometimes you forget that you are no longer ten years old and those puppy eyes of yours do your case more harm than good.” She sounds more amused than upset however and Anatole merely tips his head to the side.

“Helene, you are my only hope. I need him back.”

She sets the cup aside and smoothes out the skirt of her dress. “What would you have me do, Anatole? Surely you know that Theodore will not listen to anything I say if he won’t even listen to you.”

“There has to be something.” Anatole rubs his temples, still not looking away from his sister. The headache from that morning has slipped away but the heat of the June day seems to be attempting to boil the air. It is time to move out into the countryside. It would be much cooler and fresher at the estate than in the city and… “Wait.”

“What?”

“You should invite him to our estate for a summer trip. With this heat everyone will want to be out in the country!” Anatole sits up, suddenly glowing as the thought strikes him full-force. How hadn’t he thought of this before?

Helene, however, does not look convinced. “You want me to issue an invitation?”

“Well why not? I can’t do it; he’ll ignore me.”

“Do you honestly suppose he won’t see through this ploy? This is Theodore Dolokhov we are talking about.”

“So say I am in the army! He’ll come to visit you, you’re friends.”

Helene rolls her eyes at him and Anatole desperately tries to figure out what’s he’s missed. “And how will this look? I am still Pierre’s wife.”

“After the things he said, I don’t give a damn about what Pierre thinks anymore,” Anatole says glumly. The words Pierre said the night after his failed attempt to elope with Natasha when he thrust some money at Anatole and told him to get out of Moscow still sting and ring in his ears on some nights. What friendship they had ever had is gone. Anatole knows that now and won’t let himself be deluded by denial ever again.

“I never cared about what Pierre thinks,” Helene says derisively. “But society gossip is something I would rather avoid if I could. Me inviting Theodore to spend the summer at our estate with just us there—“

“—and me!”

“—yes, because your honor when it comes to women is so well known—“

“Not you too!”

“—It would look unseemly.”

“So don’t invite just him. Invite the entire Dolokhov family! That’s even better! Let us take Maman! You know how she hates the city heat. Then she and Maria Ivanovna can talk all they like while we entertain ourselves. You can even leave after a while if you get bored.”

“You mean once you and Theodore are once again engaging in your…carnal pleasures.”

“You should not be judging, dear sister.”

“My interests, at least, lie with men.” She puts up a hand to stop his protests. “It doesn’t matter. I have no desire to police what you do in bed. Oh for Gods sake.” She makes a face at him. “Besides what do you intend to do when he’s there?”

“Make him fall in love with me again.”

Helene thinks of Theodore’s restrained expression on the porch with the snowflakes tangled in his hair and the way he had watched the carriage drive away like something was being ripped away from him and he couldn’t stop watching it, as though keeping eye contact would help him keep it. “He does love you. That’s not your problem.”

“Then what is my problem?”

“You hurt him, idiot. And you know Dolokhov doesn’t deal well with rejection and that forgiveness is not something he is good at. But, I suppose, if he was forced to endure your constant charm, since it seems to work on him so well, it could perhaps have an effect…” She lets her gaze drift off a bit, eyes unfocusing as she regards some image in the back of her head. “Although, you would have to be subtle – and God knows you’re not good at that – because he’s so used to being chased…chasing you is really what sets you apart from the others in the end. But maybe you could be a little less exploitive this time around.”

“I’m not—I’m not exploitive!”

“I am simply saying.” They fall into several moments of silence.

“Well then?”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Helene? Pleeeease? …I love you?”

“I said I’d think about it,” she says, not meeting his eyes and smiling in amusement.

“What do I have to do?”

Helene waves her fan at him. “Now that is the correct question.”

“So you’ll do it?”

Helene opens her fan and smirks. “Prince Rzhevsky. Introduce us in the most…inspiring circumstances. And…entertain his wife while we…speak. I hear she is quite young and charming.”

Anatole grins at her. “Done.”

*~*

“I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t you want us to go to the Kuragin estate?” Galina Dolokhov looks at her brother in utter confusion. She twirls the end of her long braid around one finger thoughtfully, watching her brother with bemused curiosity. “You used to always love to go there yourself and now you act like the invitation is some sort of insult.”

“No, I just don’t see the use.” Theodore tries to sound casual. He glances down at Helene’s letter on his desk and has a strong urge to burn the damned thing. He has a bad feeling that this is all some sort of ploy and that she is not being straight with him. Not that Helene is ever straight with anyone.

“The use? What are you on about? Just think!” Galina makes her way around the desk and perches on her brother’s knee, locking her arms around his neck. She had always done this when they were younger and even now that they are both adults she has never seen a need to be formal with her own brother. “Just imagine how we could sit by the lake of walk in the woods.”

“Yes. With the Countess Bezukhov only too willing to scandalize you. I imagine Helene would take pleasure in something like that. It is very like her.”

Galina laughs and slaps his shoulder lightly. “You’re not really worried about me…or maybe you are but…oh!” She flushes suddenly and ducks her head. “Oh!”

“What?” Theodore can’t help but sound exasperated.

“Well I could stay out of your way, you know. Of you and the Countess.”

“Stay out of my…what?—oh no! No, it was never like that between Helene and I!”

Galina raises her eyebrows at him. “Oh? And the duel you fought with Count Bezukhov?”

‘Was not over her. I didn’t even want a damned duel, Galia, remember?” He had wanted a duel. In fact, Theodore and Helene had planned that duel, had planned its apparent cause. But he isn’t lying about the duel not being over Helene – it had been over Anatole. Damned Kuragins. Everything is always about them, Theodore thinks and yet can’t manage to find any real spite at the thought.

“Well then I don’t see a problem at all,” Galina says with a shrug. “Our estate used to be near there, remember?” she says after awhile. It would be like…like a trip down memory lane. That’s where you met Anatole, remember?”

“Yes…but really, Galia, do you want to go through all that? There are…other memories there.”

Her face darkens as she thinks this over. Galina had only been eight when their father died and Theodore knows that her memories of Ivan Dolokhov are much more vague than his own. Yet, the thought gives her pause. “You’ve always gone and it has never bothered you,” she reasons, measuring out her words.

“No. But what about Maman?”

“We can ask her. But I think she will say yes. The heat will only get worse and the city is no good in the summer. It will be such a lovely respite. I see no reason why we shouldn’t go. You know I love the country.”

“I know.” Theodore hugs her and she lays her head on top of his with a wistful expression. “I do hope,” Theodore says teasingly. “That your eagerness has nothing to do with Anatole. He won’t be there.” Theodore nods at the letter. “Helene says he’s away in the army.”

“It’s a shame,” Galina hums noncommittally. “But I never had my sights set on him if that’s what you mean.” It’s true. She would never dream to like a glamorous Prince such as Anatole. She is practically dowerless and her hunched back makes her less than pretty and therefore less than adequate for a Prince. But she does like Anatole’s bright smiles and his sense of humor, the way he has always treated her like a favorite cousin. It’s all for the better really – Theodore could never have allowed Anatole to get close to her, although in Galina’s mind this has far more to do with her brother’s protectiveness of her than any sort of jealousy.

“Oh, no?” Theodore smirks, waits a beat, and tickles her side. Galina squeals and squirms away from him. Theodore chases her around the study and into the hall, momentary losing himself in their childish game and forgetting any reservations he may have about this sudden invitation.

*~*

The Kuragin estate is bright, the sun blazing down on fields of bright green grass speckled with wild flowers. Across the garden and the stretch of meadow beyond the garden gate lie the woods. In the summer, the trees are thick with dark-green leaves, looming like a thick dark line in the background.

It’s nice on the porch when there’s a breeze. Under the shielding porch roof there is no scorching sun and combined with the movement of fresh air and ice cold drinks and ice cream, the day practically melts all around the small group as they enjoy the afternoon.

Maria Ivanovna and Princess Alina lead a slow and boring conversation. Maria is well educated and well respected, but Princess Alina has the snobbish disposition of old, wealthy, titled ladies which makes her complain to Helene almost nightly that she and Madame Dolokhov are really not good company for one another. “If you are so inclined, Maman, you could invite your own friends.” But the Princess merely tuts and tends to her needlework.

Helene, Theodore and Galina entertain themselves with cards. Theodore teaches the women some simple card tricks and Galina’s naïve incredulity is an amusing contrast to Helene’s amused curiosity. “You would make a fine sharper, Princess—forgive me, Countess.” Theodore smirks.

Helene gives him a disapproving look. “Not in front of my mother,” she reprimands him quietly.

“What? Does she believe in your and Petrusha’s great love? Truly?”

“Hush!”

“Oh Teddy, don’t,” Galina pipes up. “I apologize for my brother, he can be quite intolerable.”

“Don’t apologize for me. The reason our dear Countess is so fond of me is because I am intolerable.” Theodore leans over and tugs lightly on his sister’s braid.

“I don’t want trouble,” Helene says with as much of a flippantly apathetic expression as she can manage.

“Oh your mother won’t hear us. And if she does, than I will gladly congratulate her on her ability to retain such impressive sharpness of ear at her rather venerable age.”

Helene seems to not know if she should be amused or offended. “Rake.”

Theodore puts on a pensive expression and turns to Galina. “Is there a polite feminine equivalent of that? There really should be.”

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a polite insult, brother. It would be a paradox.” Galina fumbles the hand of cards she is holding.

“Insult? Depends how you look at it. I see “rake” as more of a compliment.”

Galina turns to Helene and smiles at her a little apologetically but the countess merely continues to fan herself slowly. “Your brother does go through such extravagant efforts to seem clever, ma cher,” she says, giving Galina an indulgent smile. Theodore doesn’t like the condescending tone of her voice and expression but he lets it go. Helene is like that with nearly anyone; she hardly means any harm by it.

“He is clever,” Galina asserts. She glances at Theodore and he can tell that she certainly has not noticed anything off in Helene’s tone or manner. In the couple of days that they have been at the estate, Galina has become nearly infatuated with Helene. They have female things to discuss and although Helene is far better versed in society gossip and fashion, she seems to take well to the role of mentor and Galina makes a very attentive student. Although Helene’s efforts do bother Theodore some. He keeps expecting a nasty surprise or that there would be something requested of him at the end of it all. But until then, since Galia seems so happy here and since the fresh country air is good for his mother, Theodore resolves to stay put.

“I think we should go for a swim tomorrow morning. The weather is bound to be just as fair as it is today,” Helene muses.

“Oh, a swim would be perfect. What do you think, Teddy? The lake is beautiful.”

“Do you know how to swim, Galina?”

“Y-yes. A little. But you and my brother will be there just in case.”

“A swim it shall be then. Theodore, what are you looking at?”

Theodore has been distracted by the sound of horse hoofs and carriage wheals on the road leading up to the estate. He thinks the carriage looks familiar, although he can’t be certain at this distance. Helene had not mentioned any other guests and who would come un-announced. A neighbor? Theodore nods toward the approaching carriage which rolls on, obviously feeling right at home. “Guests?”

Helene stands and walks to the railing of the porch and leans on it, straining forward as though to see. “Why it’s one of ours.” The carriage stops at the gate and a young man dismounts, landing lightly on the dusty road. He shouts orders to his men and takes off toward the house.

It is too far to properly hear and see, especially with the glare of the sun, but Theodore knows that figure and voice too well to be mistaken. So when Helene proclaims, in a tone of heightened surprise, “Anatole!” he isn’t surprised.

“Anatole?” Theodore looks at her reproachfully. All the intuitive anticipation he had been feeling now bursts into clarity and he feels frustration at being played by these two bubble to the surface. Yet, he refuses to let Helene see just how unsettled he is. “What happened to his appointment?”

“I don’t know,” Helene says innocently, giving him a blank look. “We should ask him.”

Yes, we should, Theodore thinks. Judging by the luggage at the back of that carriage he is planning to stay awhile.

Helene flounces down the steps of the porch, the skirt of her white summer dress billowing in the breeze. “Maman, Anatole is here!” Alina does not look too awfully surprised, which only reaffirms Theodore’s theory that he has been lured into the role of a captive audience.

Anatole pulls Helene into a hug and twirls her around. He glances up at the porch and beams at Theodore innocently. “We’ve been had, dear sister. Or rather I have.”

“I still don’t understand what you are mad at him for,” Galina says uncertainly. “What was going on with the two of you while Mama and I were away?”

“Nothing. It’s really nothing. We had a…strong disagreement, but I think it’s time to put an end to it.” Not bloody likely, Theodore thinks. He doesn’t know why he is so angry. Because Anatole had always played him and now was attempting to do the same or because he cares so damn much for the idiot boy that all he wants is for things to go back to how they had been. Pride versus heart – the old dilemma that Theodore has thought to have conquered but here Anatole is, throwing it in his face again and Dolokhov is struggling to cope.

“Whatever happened to your military appointment, mon cher?” Theodore asks as he and Galina come down from the porch to greet Anatole as well.

“I thought I was getting one. Was all ready to head out but then…well…things changed.” He smiles radiantly at Theodore and kisses Galina’s hand in greeting. She blushes prettily in response. “Helene had just written that she had invited your family to visit and you had accepted. So, I thought, why stay in the city when I could be here with you?”

“Why indeed. An incredible coincidence all of this,” Theodore remarks, allowing his sarcasm to seep into his tone.

Anatole’s smile falters but then it is back again, as bright and radiant as the sun. He has always been like this – enthusiasm and optimism regardless of the situation. It is one of the things Theodore loves most about the young Prince. “I am happy it all worked out like this,” Anatole says earnestly. “Come, I must greet our mothers.”

Anatole slips passed them and up the porch steps. Galina tails him, drawn in by his sphere like most people. Theodore eyes Helene. “Well played. Your idea or his?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t know he wasn’t going to be out with his regiment.”

“Helene. How long have we been friends?”

She deflates just slightly and cocks her head to the side. “Too long.” He stares her down and she hits him on the arm with her fan. “Stop taking yourself so seriously. Just have some fun for once. It’s summer, after all.”

*~*

Theodore lets it go.

Not completely. He ignores Anatole’s longing looks, he ignores the offhand touches, he ignores the hints. Anatole doesn’t try to bring up what used to be between them or what happened and Theodore is glad for it. It makes being friends so much easier. And they are friends. That is something that could not simply be ripped away by misunderstandings and hurt feelings, not after so many years. With Galina and Helene there, they enjoy themselves thoroughly.

They take the swim Helene had suggested, splashing like children in the clear blue water of the lake and swimming out toward the lily pads, Theodore and Anatole racing while their sisters sat on the rocks at the side of the lake in their long, white swimming shirts and cheered them on. They come out to the lake at night, just the two of them, and float on their backs, counting the stars in the sky and remembering some of the wildest parties they had ever had.

They go hunting at Anatole’s insistence, although Theodore finds the whole venture stupid. “What did the poor animals ever do to you?” Theodore asks teasingly before they leave. On more peaceful-minded days, they go riding through the woods, watching as the evening sun skims through the tree trunks on its way to the horizon. Sometimes Galina and Helene join them and they hold picnics, serenaded by chirping birds and surrounded by wild flowers. It is too early for mushrooms, a fact that Galina laments especially.

When it rains one afternoon, Anatole drags Theodore out to dance in the rain. Theodore spins him around obligingly and they laugh like naughty little children as they go splashing through the puddles and mud, ruining perfectly good boots in the process. At one point, Theodore looks up the house to see the girls watching them from inside from their seats on the wide windowsill. Galina waves innocents but Helene winks at him. After the rain, there is a rainbow and Anatole proposes to paint it. It comes out crooked and childish but the look of concentration on Anatole’s face when he runs the brush over the canvas makes everything in Theodore curl up in blissful, agitated adoration for which he should have never been able to forgive himself, but does anyway.

They play-wrestled and sometimes even drag the girls down into the tall grass with them, something that neither had done, if not to their own sisters then certainly not to their friends’, since they were all children. They go out to the haystacks near the barns and fence with their shirts off and fall into the hay afterwards, exhausted. They lie side by side and watch the shapes of the clouds, arguing lazily about which one’s idea is more accurate. Theodore has not felt so gloriously free since he was a young boy and there was nothing in the world more important than.

After several days, Theodore begins to forget his initial annoyance. In fact, Anatole’s doesn’t even seem to remember that he had an agenda to begin with. His looks become more open and his smiles brighter. He seems to bloom and blend with the summer background, soaking up the sun’s warmth and spreading it around. Sometimes, Theodore thinks that he doesn’t look a day over eighteen, almost exactly how he had been after his return from Paris even though that was years ago.

The truth is more that Anatole is incapable of nursing an agenda for too long. After Theodore allowed them the freedom of their friendship, he dissolved into it happily. The guilt he’d been feeling for the past few months drains away bit by bit ever day, the poison slowly leaking out until he can no longer remember what had weighed on him so heavily. With the girls around most of the time, he is not too sorely tempted to get too affectionate and the days carry on, smoothly blending together into something akin to a dream.

If they’re anything in those placid summer days of 1811, it’s happy.

*~*

Princess Alina leaves first, claiming that she has received an invitation from a friend to join her summer gala in a village close by and will stay there until she is ready to return to Petersbug within the month.

Maria Ivanovna, not wanting to overstay her welcome, leaves the next day, taking Galina with her. Anatole convinces Theodore to stay for another hunt and he agrees without much reservation. “You should write to me,” Anatole tells Galina cheerily as they say goodbye by the gate. “I think we’ve become great friends over these last few weeks. Perhaps, you and your brother can come to Petersburg for the season.”

“Balls are really not for me, Anatole Vasilievich,” Galina says and tips her head to the side. She has finally stopped blushing around him.

“Nonsense. Besides, there’s always the opera and Madam Polignac’s parties and—“

“Anatole, for God’s sake, I’m sure Galia can imagine the glories of Petersburg. You’ve only told a million stories of them over the past few days.” Theodore hugs his sister and she promises Anatole that she will write. He and the Kuragins wave as the carriage drives off and then look at each other for a few moments in contemplative silence.

“So now that it’s just us, what sort of mischief should we get up to?” Theodore asks and his friends grin back at him. They still have a few more days.

*~*

Helene insists on leaving the morning before Theodore has planned to return to Moscow. “It will be good for you,” Helene tells her brother when they are alone. “Wouldn’t you want some perfectly alone time? I thought I’d do you a favor.”

Anatole shrugs and twirls his glass of rum in one hand. The last hunt had gone well but now the days are quickly dipping out of August and into September. It is time to return to the city and the shortening days are an acute reminder that the summer dream has ended and it is time to return to reality. “What for?”

Helene looks at him uncertainly. “What do you mean what for? The two of you seem to have been having a wonderful time – we all have. How hard would it be to get ridiculously drunk and…well…” She gestures meaningfully with one hand toward the sofa.

Anatole can’t help but smile in mild amusement. “I don’t know. It may only make things worse. We’ve been so happy and maybe it’s better this way, if we just stay friends. Not because of any sort of moral thing – God knows I’ve never been good at that – but for our own sakes. We feel so much when we’re together and it makes everything revolve around this eternal question of: does he love me? Will it last? What are we to do? We thought we could simply ignore the consequences of being in a relationship without a relationship but…obviously we can’t.”

Helene continues to eye him suspiciously. “Is it me, or are you growing up? Who are you and what have you done with my brother?”

Anatole smiles sadly. “I needed to grow up some time anyway. So everyone says…. So are you going tomorrow morning?”

“Yes, I’ve already made the arrangements. Will you come to Petersburg straight away?”

“Yes, there’s little for me to do here alone. I was never a reader.” He grins in self-irony and Helene returns it, fondly.

*~*

The night before Theodore leaves, there’s a storm.

The rain begins mid-afternoon, catching Anatole and Theodore by surprise. They race the clouds to the manor house but the rain breaks out in a torrent before they can even reach the gate. They pile into the front hall soaking wet, panting and laughing as they peal off the top layers of their clothing. “Looks like it’s going to be big one,” Theodore comments as the first flicker of lightening colors the sky purple.

They spend the rest of the night by the fireplace, playing cards and drinking brandy as the rain beats down on the roof and the thunderstorm rages outside.

Once alone in his room, Theodore draws back the curtains and perches on the side of the bed to watch the furry nature is capable of. The snake-shaped lightning bolts light up the night sky in an unnatural violate glow. The thunder cracks before rolling in rumbling waves outward from the epicenter. In the unnatural light every leaf, swayed by the gusts of wind whipping through the trees and sloshed by the large, plump raindrops, is clearly visible on the nearby plant growth. In contrast, the far off forest outline stands out in an ominous black mass. Even as a boy, Theodore had loved thunderstorms. He has always found them exciting, enthralling. There is something mystically powerful about them that draws him in. What other people consider frightening, he sees as worth emulating.

The air is thick, laced with tension that explodes in light and sound only to condense once again. This tension floods through Theodore, fills him up to the core and he finds himself holding his breath in anticipation of…something…more than once. Sometimes he thinks of Anatole several doors down. The young Prince had hated storms as a child. If he and Theodore were in the same house during one, he would come and crawl into Theodore’s bed, hide under the blankets and proclaim that he was not leaving unless someone came and forcibly dragged him away. Theodore had teased him endlessly about it, but always let him stay. But Anatole is no longer a child and unlikely scared of a storm enough to come crawling into his former lover’s bed.

Theodore stands, meaning to draw the curtains, but is stopped by a soft nock and then the creaking sound of a slowly opening door.

Anatole stands in the doorway in his night clothes, his hair slightly tousled, like he had already gone to bed but then decided against it, and a low-burning candle in one hand. He looks uncertain and childish just standing there and Theodore reaches for an old joke in order to break the silence. “Still scared of thunder, mon cher, and looking for a bedmate/” He regrets his wording instantly, but it’s too late by then.

Anatole slips into the room and shuts the door. He sets the candle on the dresser and comes to stand next to Theodore by the window. “I always hated storms,” he muses quietly. “But you always liked them. You found them…relatable.” The lightening flares and paints the room violet. Anatole looks terribly pale in that light, but he seems more thoughtful than frightened.

“We’ve always been different,” Theodore agrees. “I think that’s why it has always worked for us.”

“Has it?” Anatole asks sharply, turning to face Theodore and not looking away until Theodore meets his eyes. “Sometimes I think we hurt each other more than anything.”

“It’s a necessary bi-product of wanting something you can’t have.”

“What do we want?”

Theodore doesn’t answer. He doesn’t really have an answer. It’s likely that they want very different things and it’s just as likely that they want the same thing. Everyone wants to be loved, to feel needed. If only it was that easy.

“I always thought that what makes us different is that we always fall back together again. Sometimes I think…the more we want to be anywhere else but here, the more desperately we need this.” Anatole reaches out and wraps his fingers around Theodore’s wrist. Theodore looks over at him and they watch each other’s face for a long time as the lightening flares again and again in waves of supernatural violence and force. The air crackles and their skin burns where their hands are linked together.

“I love you,” Anatole says. “I swear to you that I will never leave again if you would only have me.” The words mix with thunder and all Theodore can hear is a rolling rumble in his ears like the sound of unceasing canon fire. He pushes Anatole back and back again until the young Prince’s back hits the wall. Anatole gasps in surprise at the impact and stares unblinkingly at Theodore, his pupils dilating in the dark.

The candle Anatole had been carrying earlier sputters and goes out. What there had been of its yellow light is drained from the room and they are plunged into darkness, interrupted only by flashing of white-violet light at irregular intervals. Theodore kisses Anatole with all the desperate force that seemed to have been accumulating for much longer than they had been apart. Anatole latches his arms around his lover’s neck and throws himself into the kiss. They’re both panting when they draw back for breath. “You ever leave again and I will kill you,” Theodore whispers gruffly against Anatole’s ear.

The young Prince laughs quietly, somewhat hysterically. “I hope you do because I couldn’t go through all of this again,” Anatole gasps, eyes wide and vulnerable.

They fall onto the bed and tear away each others clothes in the rush of the heat of each others bodies. Anatole gasps and pleads and whimpers quietly as Theodore claims him for the first time in months and they melt together to the rumbling music of the storm.

Theodore hates himself for his weakness but he loves Anatole too much to resist. The boy is right – they can’t stay away from each, they can’t live apart. Their lives are far too closely intertwined to ever be cut away. Those wounds would not become scars, they would be fatal and by every instinct of self-preservation they must stay together to fill up the holes in each other’s existence.

And if hell comes out of it, they’ll deal with that when it does.

*~*

They spend a very happy year together. Theodore tries to be in Petersburg as much as possible and Anatole makes a few visits to Moscow. He stays away from Pierre and his lot just to avoid trouble. The night Pierre presumed to rough him up over the incident with Natasha was the night Anatole decided that their break up had been for the better and, really, he wasn’t there to see Pierre anyway. The political atmosphere seems to tense and relax in waves as Napoleon continues to conquer Europe. They discuss the politics off-handedly as though it has no relation to them other than some interesting stories and live with what seems like the entirety of their lives ahead of them. Their last night at the estate had been animalistic passionate and when they woke up in each other’s arms the next morning, there seemed to be an unspoken agreement between them that all was well again and no further discussion was needed. There had been words that remained unsaid, words that perhaps needed saying, but it was easier to leave it alone. The silence created a hovering uncertainty that weighed heavily on both of them at time, but ignoring it was still easier that putting their fragile balance into danger.

And, after all, what is there to discuss when you both so obviously just want to enjoy being together? Certainly they have fallen into this trap before, but Theodore decides that he has given up caring about that. His pride did him no service in this matter, so he put it aside in favor of Anatole’s kisses and the young prince’s body under his late at night.

Theodore is toying with the idea of re-joining the army for lack of anything better to do when the war starts. He’s in Petersburg at the time and he and Anatole are discussing another summer get away like the year before. The news comes with a disheveled Hippolyte Kuragin who burst into the drawing room of the Kuragin townhouse, waving some papers in one hand, and declares. “It’s happened! Napoleon has dared to do it!”

“Do what?” Theodore asks, displeased at the interruption to a perfectly lazy afternoon with his lover. Anatole actually looks concerned.

“He’s crossed the Neman River! There’s talk of it all over the city just now. I think...there’s going to be a war…”

Of course there’s going to be a war, you dolt, Theodore thinks as Anatole jumps up with an overeager expression. He and Hippolyte begin to talk at and over each other in French. Their words slide over Theodore’s head as he wonders why he feels so perturbed. He shouldn’t be so terribly worried. They’d been at war before; he’d served as a rank-and-file soldier in the 1805 campaign for God’s sake. But he’s not worried about himself. It’s the look of idiotic enthusiasm on Anatole’s face that makes him worried. Anatole had missed the whole ordeal of 1805, stationed as an aid-de-camp in Petersburg. But now… If they are lucky the whole thing would be over quickly. But Napoleon is a force to be reckoned with. If there were doubts about that seven years ago, there certainly weren’t any now. “You seem very excited,” Theodore tells Anatole, allowing himself a teasing note.

Anatole throws him a look over one shoulder. “Of course I’m excited. Everyone’s been anticipating this for such a long time. Come on.” He pulls Theodore to his feet.

“Where are we going?”

“Out! I want to know what everyone else thinks of this.”

*~*

“Will you fight?” Anatole asks, putting on his new uniform jacket and surveying himself in the mirror.

“Eventually most like. I’ve never been a civilian and it’s strange to simply sit by and do nothing. I’d go now, but my situation is…uncertain. I don’t think the higher-ups have the time for a debate at the moment.”

Anatole gives him a concerned look. “You’re going to go, even as a soldier?”

“You’re going.”

“As an officer.” He takes his cap and twirls it around aimlessly, giving the clock a flighty look. “It’s time I went.”

Theodore comes up to him and puts his arms around the young man’s wait. They stand looking at each other for a long time, not saying a word, simply memorizing the lines of each other’s face. Theodore has a million things he could say, they both do. But all those words seem empty and useless; they cannot possibly express everything that they feel, everything they would like the other to know. Finally, Theodore merely pulls his lover into a long, lingering kiss. He teeters on the edge of saying it, of saying the words he withholds because they are both cliché and so very real and heavy, an eternal promise that he cannot bring himself to express aloud. “Write if you can,” he says instead, almost not recognizing his own voice, for it has gone horse and flaky, frayed at the edges.

“I will,” Anatole promises. He pulls Theodore close into a firm embrace, hiding his face in the other man’s shoulder. Then, after a few minutes, withdraws and put on his cap. “Goodbye, Teddy.”

“Goodbye.” Theodore follows him onto the porch where Anatole’s family is waiting. They embrace and say their own goodbyes. Helene fidgets nervously and stands as close to Theodore as she possibly can within propriety as they watch Anatole drive away. He turns at the corner and waves enthusiastically before disappearing in a cloud of dust. Theodore closes his eyes and thinks, just stay safe, you little fool.

*~*

Theodore’s mother and sister don’t want to leave Moscow. Even with the threat of Napoleon at their door, they fight his insistences that they go.

“This is all we have, where would we go?” Galina asks, frustrated. She gives concerned look to their mother and then returns imploring eyes to her brother. “Surely, they won’t let Napoleon take Moscow. They can’t.”

“We can’t be certain of that and I’ll have the two of you safe. I’ve got us a carriage, take only the valuables, whatever will fit. Go to Aunt Lydia’s. She won’t turn you away, not in wartime, you know how patriotic she is…”

Galina smiles wistfully and watched Theodore put on his soldier’s greatcoat and cap. “What about you?”

“What about me?”

“I know you’ve done this before…the fighting…they shouldn’t have put you in the militia…”

“There’s no time to figure that out now,” he tells her, trying to allay her concerns. He knows what he’s going into and he knows that his chances are not wonderful, but she doesn’t need to know that. “I’ll have my rank back in no time. These things get mnaged quickly during the war.” Theodore hugs her, hugs their mother, makes them promise to leave the city the very next day and not dally. Promises to write when there’s a chance.

Going through Moscow toward command point is like going through a disturbed anthill. The streets are flooded with militia men and soon-to-be evacuees. The August sun is still hot, even though the nights have begun to cool and the world takes on that peculiar orange glow that sometimes settles over everything late summer. Theodore seems to see all of it as though in a dream. His thoughts are torn between his family and between Anatole’s last letter: We are in retreat and all the regiments seem to be pulling together. I was at Smolensk last but the way the march is going we should be in Moscow soon. Seems we mean to make our stand against the French there.

There had only been a couple of letters – it’s hard to write from the front. The thought that he might run into Anatole here is thrilling but it certainly does not help his concentration. Theodore means to speak with Kutuzov or one of the other generals if he gets the chance. It’s unlikely he will get himself heard before the battle, but the attempt is necessary. Truly, he should be worrying about this most of all, not seeing his lover. But there had been some sort of urgency in Theodore’s last thoughts of Anatole, an uneasiness that would not go away. War is ugly and, though he has no reservations about his own ability to thrive in this environment, Anatole’s career has been full of fruitless outposts and show parades. Anatole would probably be offended by such concern, say he is a man and can fight like everyone else, and he can, but that doesn’t stop Theodore from worrying.

*~*

The first night at the front, Theodore has no time to go looking for Anatole. He spends his time pulling contacts to get him to see some people in command. He proposes a sound strategy plan and volunteers to go spying in the enemy’s picket line. The escapade is successful and the next morning he goes to see Kutuzov to make his reports. He doesn’t think the man will help him much himself but to be speaking with the General would do him good in the eyes of other commanding staff and Theodore needs all the good grace he can get.

Kutuzov is distracted during the entire time and Theodore doesn’t know if his words had made any impact at all and there’s a bitterness in his mouth as he wonders if the meeting will have done him any good. Many of the men in Kutuzov’s circle do not know him at all and eye his soldier’s garb with some suspicion. Dolokhov is used to the looks however and pays them little mind. He has learned that if he is focused some good will come of his efforts eventually.

There are others there that he is acquainted with in passing. Boris Drubetskoy for one, although Boris is the epitome of the sort of man Theodore despises – the career climber who owes the entirety of his career to his sycophant habits rather than any great independent achievement. Theodore could not possibly respect any man who did not respect himself.

The one person he does not expect to see among the ranks is Pierre Bezukhov. Pierre stands surrounded by headquarters rats and gapes at the goings-on of the military men around him with a childish wonder that is laughable. He seems completely lost and out of place but for all Theodore’s prior hatred to the man he feels a need to speak to him.

The coming battle has excited everyone and Theodore’s own late-night exploits have prepared him for the danger to come with a healthy surge of adrenaline. But he knows that many will die and he cannot be certain that he will not be one of those men. He does not fear death, but there is a dire need to connect to the life that he had left behind, in Moscow, the life that had been pulled away from all of them when the war began. And Pierre, in this very moment, is the only man present who has anything to do with that life. Pierre is his only connection with Anatole in the moment, even if it is an unpleasant, six-degrees-of-separation sort of connection. And if anything, he could make a show out of this for the sake of showing himself as well-connected – Pierre seems to be in Kutuzov’s favor – and he may have need of Pierre later, if the Count chooses to stick around for the battle. Pierre was fool enough to do just that.

“Count,” he says plainly, in a loud, clear voice. “I am glad to have this opportunity to speak with you on the eve of the battle in which many are certain to fall. I am sorry for any misunderstandings that have passed between us and I ask you to forgive me.” Perhaps, Theodore thinks, Anatole had played Pierre the same way all along as well. Not maliciously or intentionally but simply by being who he is. Perhaps Bezukhov was just as caught in Anatole’s bright sphere as Theodore himself is. Pierre is a different person and would not be able to see beyond what he would have considered a betrayal from Anatole, but Theodore can relate, even if only vaguely. He still dislikes the man intensely but he does wish to settle what issues they had once had concerning Anatole. He cannot say that outright so he must hope Pierre understands. We both loved him, he thinks, I still do. Neither of us could help that.

Pierre merely smiles at him vaguely and Theodore lets the subject drop. “Have you seen Prince Kuragin? Anatole, I mean, not Hippolyte.”

“Oh, I think…” Pierre stumbles distractedly. “From afar.”

“Would you tell me where, Count?”

Pierre points in a vague direction, which is only marginally helpful, but it does allow Theodore to narrow down his search somewhat. He leaves Pierre with Kutuzov and forgets about him almost instantly.

*~*

By the time Theodore finally finds Anatole it is twilight. The boy looks tired but not especially miserable. In fact there is a sort of feverish excitement in him that makes him unable to stay still. His eyes are bright and his mood swings every ten minutes. Theodore takes him away from his fellow officers and they find themselves a ruined, abandoned barn of some sort in which to hide out. Through the broken roof, the moon lights up the world in a ghostly, blue light and the stars sparkle merrily in merciless oblivion to what is going on below them.

“Calm yourself,” Theodore says, taking Anatole’s hands in his and trying to keep him still. “You’re acting like you’ve never been bloodied before this.”

Anatole shrugs and takes a ragged breath. Theodore sits on the ground with his back against the barn wall and drags Anatole down to sit beside him. “I can’t help it,” Anatole says finally. He’s still blushing feverishly but manages to sit still. “I’m so happy I got to see you before tomorrow.” He lays his head on Theodore’s shoulder and closes his eyes.

“You talk as though we won’t see each other after.” Theodore runs a hand through Anatole’s hair, sifting the fine strands through his fingers. He doesn’t dare take his eyes off of Anatole, wanting to memorize his face, wanting to forever burn in his memory the lines of his cheekbones and the soft curve of his lips, the misty grey of his eyes in the moonlight. Just in case.

“You never know,” Anatole says in a half-whisper. He sits up and looks steadily at Theodore. “I haven’t been able to shake this heaviness, Teddy. Like my entire life has come to this point and no amount of common sense can make it go away. Although, you will likely say that I have very little of that – sense, I mean.”

Theodore gives a small, strangled laughed. “You don’t. But it’s no use to talk like that. You can’t go into battle thinking you may die.”

“It’s not…I’m not afraid.” He shakes his head to emphasize his words.

“I know.” Theodore cups Anatole’s face in both hands and kisses him gently. “Don’t be a little fool. All will be well. Just don’t do…anything stupid.”

Anatole laughs and it comes out just as strangled as Theodore’s own attempt at lightheartedness. “You too.”

Theodore wraps his arms around Anatole’s waist and slides his hands under the young man’s shirt. Anatole shrugs off his already unbuttoned uniform jacket. They kiss, long and deep, as though they are trying to melt together, become one so that even the smoke and chaos of battle could not separate them. Words fail Theodore almost for the first time in his life and all he can do is run his hands over his lover’s body, slip off his shirt and kiss his shoulders, his neck and lips, tangle his fingers in the Prince’s hair and hardly dare to breathe to not break this moment.

“I want to be a hero like you,” Anatole whispers against Theodore’s neck between their kisses. “I want to be like you.”

Theodore feels his heart skip a beat. This is the last thing he wants to hear right now. “No,” he says firmly. “You don’t. And I’m no goddamned hero.”

“You are to me,” Anatole mouths, catching Theodore’s gaze and holding it for a long time with purposeful determination. “You are everything to me. Perhaps I never told you, perhaps I never found the right words, perhaps I was never faithful enough for you but I have always loved you. Only you. I don’t know anyone more admirable, anyone with whom I am so free and happy and protected and…God, I’m talking nonsense, but I have to say it now, I have to say it now.” His eyes are feverish again and Theodore strokes his face and kisses his temples to calm him. “I always wanted to be like you. You don’t think that’s a good thing but can you not see that you are so much more a man than anyone else, anyone else I know? I couldn’t survive loosing you. Oh God.” Anatole covers his face with his hands as the words fail him.

Theodore feels everything in him constrict in painful happiness. He cannot allow himself to feel all of this, he knows it is dangerous, but here in the moonlight, in the dark, with the uncertainty of the day to come it is impossible to resist the urge to allow everything to come out to the surface. Just this once. Anatole’s anxiety must have been infectious because all Theodore can see in his mind’s eye is Anatole engulfed in the smoke of gunpowder, drowning in the rumbled of canon fire. He has a flashback of their night at the Kuragin estate and how there had been rumbling thunder. It is almost ironic and he almost laughs at the strange connection his mind has made. He puts his forehead to Anatole’s and takes the young man’s hands into his. “I love you,” he says quietly, seriously, and watches Anatole’s face slowly light up.

The next couple of hours are a blur of pleasure, passion and tenderness. They take all they can from each other and end up curled up in each other’s arms, tangled together into a single whole. “After the war,” Anatole muses sleepily, his head nestled in the crook of Theodore’s shoulder, “Let’s go away.”

“Go away?” Theodore is mildly amused by the proposition. “Where, mon cheri?”

“Abroad. Anywhere. Paris, maybe. Or Venice. Yes, Venice.”

“You want to elope?” Theodore is extremely amused by this whimsical dreaming, but he cannot help but be drawn into it. It is such a sweet thought, despite its insanity, that he wants to hold on to it for as long as possible.

“I guess? I don’t know. After all this is over, I don’t ever want to be apart again, alright?” Anatole sounds vulnerable, like a forlorn child.

“We won’t. We won’t, my love,” Theodore promises, kissing Anatole’s temple and holding him even closer. He lets himself dream, dream of freedom and happiness, of the sort of complete perfection that he has never been privileged to have. But really, it isn’t Venice that he needs. Just there, holding Anatole in his arms is really enough. The boy had always been pure light, joy and life and beauty all wrapped up into this one amazing love of his. If Theodore had ever had any real hope, Anatole embodied it from the day they met as two young boys who wanted for nothing but to enjoy the revelries of summer.

They stay together until the dawn breaks and it is time to join their respective regiments. Anatole rides away, disappearing slowly into what is left of the early morning mist. Before he is out of sight, he looks back one last time and waves with a warm, happy smile, full of boyish hope. Hope that when this is all over...

Theodore watches him go, his chest both empty and full at the same time. He thinks he sees red in the rising sun and a deep, gnawing fear grips him. He wants to run after Anatole, grab hold of him and never let go. Instead, he waves back and mouths, “when this is all over…” That hope is the only thing they have.

*~*

“I’m sorry,” the surgeon says, giving Theodore a look that is half-pity half-impatience. “We did what we could.”

Theodore hardly hears him. All he can see is bright red blood staining white bandages and the linen of a similarly white undershirt. All he can feel is the unnatural coldness of Anatole’s skin as Theodore lays a hand over his forehead and slides it down to close the boy’s eyes. All he hears is Anatole’s voice repeating over and over in his head “I love you” and “after all this is over.”

Well it is over now. In the aftermath of the battle, with the earth soaked with blood and the smoke just starting to part, there is a gaping emptiness. Theodore walks out of the medical tents and gases over the dark fields. He faces the emptiness and realizes it will never be filled for him again. He feels no rage, not yet. That will come later. Now, the shell-shock grips him around the throat and strangles him until he can hardly breathe. He tries to search for something to hold onto, but there is nothing there, just a life-deep void that Anatole has left behind.

They had sent a petty officer to search him out because Anatole had been calling for him in the time he had before he could no longer fight for his life. Fight for that hope, that “after this is all over.” Theodore had come, stumbling through mud and smoke, over fallen men and beasts. All in vain. He had come too late.

They say that before a man dies, his life flashes before his eyes. Theodore doesn’t know if he is dying but all of his memories of Anatole go streaming through his head, silent flashes of a life he will never have again. Perhaps, he is dying in a sense. Whatever life will be after the war is over, it will never be the same. He knows, as firmly as he knows that the sky is blue and the grass green, that no matter how hard it had ever been with Anatole, that love was a blessing and a happiness neither of them had taken the time to appreciate properly. And yet, it had been the best thing Theodore had ever had.

The void that Anatole has left would be filled with despair and cold rage and murderous resolve, but that emptiness could never be filled. After the numbness passes the pain will be devastating. But Anatole was worth it. If Theodore has any regrets, it is that he did not get the chance to once more say goodbye – farewell, this time – as much as he hates the word.

“Farewell, my Anatole,” Theodore says into the dark emptiness. “I love you.”

I love you.

*~*

EPILOGUE

Pierre learns of Anatole’s death before his return to Moscow. He learns of Andrei’s at the same time and the grief and shock of that loss and his sudden determination to destroy Napoleon are so great that he hardly gives Anatole a second thought at the time.

He thinks of Anatole again only once he is relieved of his captivity by a band of Cossacks. Theodore Dolokhov is in charge of one of the bands. He is as ruthless and sharply focused as always. He wonders if Dolokhov knows of Anatole’s death until he notices that the man wears a black ribbon on his left arm. It is faded and tarnished, almost unnoticeable but it is there. Pierre doubts that there is any other death – aside from his direct family – that Dolokhov would honor in such a way.

After the hasty funeral of Petya Rostov, an unnecessary, horrible casualty of the raid on the French garrison that freed Pierre and his fellow prisoners, Pierre watches as Dolokhov, with the help of a few men, lines up the French prisoners. “What will he do with them?” Pierre asks Denisov who comes to stand beside him.

“Shoot them,” Denisov says and Pierre can hear from that man’s tone just how much he disapproves. “No matter how many there are, Dolokhov will always shoot them. Himself. It’s his way.”

Pierre watched Dolokhov load up a pistol with the same cold deliberation that he always has upon him when he is dealing with something serious.

“I thought this would be too much even for him,” Denisov mutters. “Why do you think he does it?” Pierre cannot tell if the question is rhetorical or not but he thinks on it nonetheless.

He notices things about Dolokhov. He still has an air of command about him but there is something heavier in the set of his shoulders and in his step. There are dark circles under his eyes, ones that could easily be attributed to the depravations and stresses of war. But Pierre had known Dolokhov before, in that other life. There is something gone from his handsome, intelligent, sharp eyes. Something intangible but very real. Pierre’s gaze is once again drawn to the black ribbon and he thinks of Andrei, of the words they never said and the things Pierre had never dared to mention and all the feelings that he still felt despite the silence. He thinks of what he wouldn’t give to have another, single day with Andrei. Even just one.

And he understands. “For vengeance,” he says flatly, unable to take his eyes off Dolokhov. Pierre certainly doesn’t approve, he would never do this himself. But he understands. For once, Theodore Dolokhov makes absolute, crystal-clear sense.

“Vengeance?” Denisov shifts uncomfortably beside him. “You think?”

“I know.”

*~*

‘Cause it’s you and me and all other people
With nothing to do
And nothing to prove
And it’s you and me and all other people
And I don’t know why
I can’t keep my eyes off of you

What day is it and in what month?
This clock never seemed so alive.

—Lifehouse, “You and Me”
 


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