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Chapter Four - Das Vadanya

Chapter Four

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It is incredibly late. Or maybe perhaps it is instead incredibly early. It’s difficult for Ivan to tell these things sometimes, especially after such a long and exhausting night. The ballroom is made largely of marble and stone, which are not known for their ability to absorb sound. Even now, recalling all the people and the noise makes him want to vomit. Well, that might be the alcohol talking. He’d had a least one drink to calm himself down. And then maybe another and then maybe... wait. How many more had there been?

What does it matter in the end? He is in his own home, so he will go to sleep, deal with the inevitable headache in the morning, and that will be that.

At least vodka doesn’t make him all that dizzy. He’s walking alright, only touching the wall underneath the flickering lamp light once every few feet for balance. His mind is clear, though if he tried to talk his words might come out a little slurred. Not because he’s lost control of his tongue, of course, but just because that stupid potato water makes him so damn tired. Tired in the brain, tired in the soul.

The thing he wants most right now, more than anything in the world, is to collapse into his soft feather mattress and not exist for a few hours. Sometimes, he hates to admit, he wishes it was longer than that. And yet he still keeps on living anyway.

That’s not a very fun thought to have. Especially not so late at night and alone... right, sleep. To bed, that’s what he needs. Ivan finds the door to his room after nearly passing it right by. He fumbles around in his pocket for a couple of solid seconds, trying to get his fingers to move the way he wants, before finally grasping onto the key. He doesn’t really need to lock his room, he supposes. There isn’t much in there and no one to take it even if there was. But it’s sort of a metaphor. His room is his, and he would like to keep what is his locked up nice and tight.

That is why his breath catches so hard in his throat when he discovers that the door is already unlocked. Of course, he never forgets to lock it, which means that someone had been, or still is in there.

Ivan reaches under his suit coat with one hand and pulls the door open slowly with the other. The interior is nearly pitch black; the curtains are drawn and the sky is moonless tonight regardless. But someone is definitely in there, watching him. Nicotine-scented smoke billows outward from the interior, and Ivan doesn’t smoke. His hand clenches tightly around the pistol under his jacket, but before he can reach for the gas-lamp a candle springs to life inside.

Natalya is lounging on an arm chair which she has moved to face the door. Ivan relaxes. His sister has the house’s skeleton key, and he doesn’t mind her in here anyway. With one hand she grips the collar of her robe, and with the other holds a lit cigarette, already burned almost down to the butt. She puts it out in an ashtray, and looks up as he enters, her eyes glittering in the candlelight.

“Vanya,” she stands. “You kept me waiting.” Undoing its cord, she lets her robe fall to the floor. Tasha is wearing nothing underneath. Her pale skin glows in the dark, and her small breasts bounce slightly as she approaches. Pressing herself against him, Natalya cranes her long neck upwards in order to firmly press her lips against his.

He hesitates. He does every time. A small voice reminds him of this great sin that he is about to commit. But here, in his silent, dark bedroom, there is only one who can judge him. And he will be judged, of that much he is certain, but right now he is far too tired and drunk to care.

Ivan wraps his arms around her, drawing her in close. Their breath mixes together, smoke and liquor fusing in a toxic embrace. With a practiced hand, Tasha unbuttons his suit coat, and his pants soon follow. He pushes her down onto the bed and spreads her legs. She promptly latches them around his middle and pulls him in.

He’s breathing so hard and fast that he’s starting to see spots, but Tasha begs in a hushed whisper to go faster, and so he does, finding the rhythm. The friction builds and builds, sensation flooding through his every pore, before suddenly, after what seems simultaneously like forever and like no time at all, Tasha opens her mouth and he gently places a hand over it to muffle her moan. A couple more thrusts and he collapses on top of her. They breathe together for a moment, savoring the momentary completeness.

After an amount of time that is simply impossible for him to gage, Tasha taps him on the back and he rolls off of her, somewhat reluctantly. She saunters off to the bathroom, and as soon as she does, Ivan sobers up.

This is always the part where the guilt hits, the shame. Ivan lays back, staring at the ceiling, the hollowness in his chest increasing exponentially. When Natalya returns and hands him a towel, he doesn’t say anything. He only breaks the silence a few minutes after she’s lain next to him, and he’s wrapped his arms around her.

“Tasha...” he almost can’t continue, but her icy blue gaze spurns him on. “You know that we are going to burn for this, these things we have done.”

The smallest trace of a smile crosses her lips. “If that is the case, then I will proudly march into hell and sit on the devil’s lap.”

He can’t help but laugh a little at the image. “When you get down there, you’ll have him wrapped around your little finger.”

“Well, someone must keep the old goat in line.”

They chuckle together, quietly, as the clock ticks on and the hour grows even later. Ivan feels his eyes grow heavy, and tangled together, they both slowly let sleep take them. Ivan allows himself to relax and tries to forget. After all, in this remote fortress at the end of the world, far from men and guns and intentions, the only one to judge them is God.

~~ o ~~

Natalya had woken sometime in the night, and now lays quietly, listening to her brother breathe slowly in and out. She finds it calming to listen to, to give herself something to focus her mind on, so it stops racing so fast. There is so much she needs to do, so many countless things to keep in order, and on top of that, so many places to prevent her mind from taking her. There is a very dark swamp there, right in the center of her being, where evil eyes stare her down from the muck and mire.

But Ivan’s breath, deep, rhythmic, real, brings her back here, back to the bedroom that smells and feels like him. She doesn’t know quite when she realized that she is in love with him. An odd thing that, falling in love with your own flesh and blood, a twin even. It’s almost like falling for yourself. But that’s not remotely true, of course. Ivan is everything she is not, yet at the same time he is more ‘her’ than anyone else ever could be. He is a part of her in a way that almost no one could ever experience. Maybe that’s why she can trust him.

It’s not like it will ever become a problem, anyway. A secret such as theirs is very easy to keep in a secluded fortress tucked far away from civilization. Natalya is never going to become someone’s wife, either. It isn’t as if she’s never had prospects, but Natalya hasn’t bled since she was fourteen years old. What sort of man would want a wife who could bare him no heirs?

Next to her, Ivan makes a noise, soft and indistinguishable. She can tell, however, that it’s subtly twinged with fear. This happens sometimes, when he’s sleeping, and Natalya sits up on an elbow and reaches out a hand to cup his cheek. That usually makes him fall silent, and Natalya likes to imagine that her touch is giving him better dreams.

This time, however, she’s caught off guard. For instead of falling back into a peaceful slumber, Ivan’s eyes snap open, and before she can even blink, he wraps his hands around her throat. Her vision tinges red as she involuntarily struggles against him, her own hands trying in vain to wrench his away. Black pools in the corners of her eyes, and spots begin to dance. All she can see is his face, contorted into an expression that she has never seen before. Alien, utterly foreign to the Ivan she knows, he bares his teeth, nearly growling. But there’s something else in his eyes, behind the anger and the bloodlust: fear.

“Vanya,” she chokes out, wiggling as much as she can. But he’s on top of her now, keeping her in place by straddling her. “Vanya, please—”

All at once, true wakefulness comes. His eyes widen in horror, and all the tension leaves his body as he falls back down to the bed like a discarded rag doll. Natalya gasps for breath, coughing wildly. She feels as if she’s still suffocating, that she can’t possibly get enough air into her lungs. All the while, Ivan is apologizing.

“What... what have I done?” His face is in his hands. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m--”

Finally able to think, Natalya swallows down another cough and weakly places a hand on his shoulder.

“It was... a dream,” he rambles. “A horrible dream. Just death, death all around. Blood and crying and... the noise, the noise—bang bang bang. If I didn’t kill it was going to be me next. The man had the gun nearly to my head so I reached out and... and—”

For a minute, Ivan is not in that bedroom. He is somewhere else, on some bloody battlefield in Manchuria. Somewhere that Natalya can’t follow. But as words fail he mashes his face in between his hands and takes a deep breath.

“Tasha,” he says finally, “I--”

Natalya takes a good, hard look into his eyes, and places a hand on his cheek, just as she originally intended. “Come back to me,” is all she says.

He nods, and she lets him wrap his arms around her. Through the tight squeeze, she can feel him shaking, and a small drop of water finds its way down to her shoulder. Ivan has been home for three years now, and yet, it seems to her that a part of him had died, and now haunts those lonely Manchurian battlefields. She is still waiting for that part of him to come home. But she doubts it ever will.

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