A/N: I am so salty I never got to see Great Comet in person before it closed. So I accidentally wrote this whole thing in 15 days, fueled by nothing but salt.
On the plus side, it gave me an excuse to ship Anatole with everyone in Russia. Dolokhov? Obviously. Natasha? You bet. Hélène? I'll allow it. A lamppost? They'd make a beautiful couple.
I'd rate this T+ if I could, because there's a good amount of sex and some seriously unhealthy relationship business, but none of it is wildly graphic. This is because I'm lousy at writing sex. (Also, I cannot stop swearing, just as a human being, so that too.)
Anatole Vasilyevich Kuragin had many fine qualities. He was handsome. Charming. Played a passable violin. Dressed well. Was outstanding in bed.
Subtlety, however. Subtlety he lacked.
Fedya Dolokhov, seated in the front row beside Hélène, twisted in his seat to look at him. He wasn't alone in doing this. Half of Moscow had already turned their eyes away from the stage to watch Anatole swagger down the aisle of the opera, as the violins wailed from the orchestra in time with his steps. Fedya wondered how long he'd been pacing in the foyer, waiting for a suitably dramatic cry of strings to accompany his entrance. It could have been fifteen seconds. It could have been twenty minutes. Anatole wasn't above it.
The reflected footlights caught Anatole's white-blonde hair, gilding it the same silver as his coat. His slim and elegant body drew eyes like a sun. Anatole was an arrogant, ostentatious little thing, Fedya thought, but it was a pleasure to watch him move, even from a distance.
At least, it was, until Anatole paused, midway down the aisle, and glanced at someone in the crowd. His lips moved, and even though he couldn't hear it, Fedya knew what Anatole had murmured to himself. He'd seen the words in Anatole's eyes, in the bend of his body toward the woman seated in the box, in the smile playing at the corner of his mouth.
It was a beat, nothing more. The slightest of pauses, and then Anatole swept down the rest of the aisle and took the vacant seat on Fedya's left. Anatole had promised he would come, with such earnest sincerity that Fedya had no doubt he believed it. But what Anatole believed and what he did were seldom the same thing. Fortunately, thanks to Fedya's reputation in Moscow, no one had dared take the seat beside him—even an hour into the opera, Anatole's place waited for him.
Anatole leaned across Fedya to give his sister an affectionate kiss on the cheek. Fedya felt the warmth of Anatole's shoulder against his chest. The amber of his cologne was intoxicating. Fedya closed his eyes, savoring it.
"Sweet sister," Anatole murmured to Hélène. "What did I miss?"
"The first act," Hélène said. "Honestly, Toto, why even come, at this point?"
"Your brother likes to make an entrance," Fedya said.
"Only when I like the company, mon petit ours," Anatole said. He nudged his knee against Fedya's thigh, then kicked both feet up onto the orchestra screen in front of him.
Fedya flushed. My little bear. Any other man with the audacity to give Fyodor Dolokhov a nickname would have found himself challenged to a duel before sunrise. But Anatole could get away with it. Anatole could get away with anything. And Fedya liked the memory the absurd pet name conjured: a drunk evening in Petersburg, two years ago. Anatole had been twenty-one, reckless and thoughtless and just as handsome then as he was now. As best he remembered through the vodka haze, Fedya, looking for flashy ways to impress the young prince, had challenged a bear to a fight in Anatole's drawing-room. How the bear had gotten there to begin with was unclear.
Shortly after that, Anatole had been sent to the Polish front as a low-level adjutant, and subsequently exiled to Moscow. Relations had always been terse between Anatole and his father, Prince Vasily. Fedya suspected the bear had not helped matters.
"Will you be silent, scoundrels?" hissed Anna Mikhailovna, from Hélène's other side.
Anatole laughed and winked at the wrathful grande dame in the absurd headdress. Hélène struck him lightly on the back of the head with her fan, and he fell silent at last.
The opera was overblown trash, but they managed to feign interest in it. A scant five minutes later, the house lights came up, signaling intermission. He could have waited, Fedya thought, looking at Anatole with exasperation. He could have waited.
"Tolya, where—" he began.
But Anatole was not listening. He'd already stood up, as if no chair could contain his body for more than six minutes. He clapped Fedya on the shoulder and, without a word, paced back up the aisle. His destination was clear: his quick steps took him toward the stairs that led to a row of private boxes. Fedya watched him go, resentment growing by the second.
Hélène glanced at Fedya, sensing his irritation. "He'll be back," she said.
Maybe, Fedya thought. Hélène knew her brother better than anyone, but still, in that moment, he doubted her.
Of course, Hélène was right. Anatole returned just before the lights dimmed to begin the next act. He slipped into his seat as if he'd been there all along. Fedya couldn't decide whether he should ask Anatole who he'd gone to see. He didn't truly want to know, but the suspense of not knowing was worse.
"Where—" he began.
"I will not tell you to be silent a third time," snapped Anna Mikhailovna.
Fedya flipped her an obscene gesture, to Hélène's amusement, but went silent.
The rest of the performance seemed interminable. Fedya loathed the opera. He'd never understood what society people saw in this. No one could understand a word the actors were singing anyway. He was acutely aware of Anatole's presence beside him, close enough to feel the heat of his body, so far away that Fedya had no idea what he was thinking.
At last, the house lights rose, and the crowd began to disperse, having had their fill of seeing and being seen. Hélène wrapped a shawl around her bare shoulders with a sigh.
"Will you come, Toto?" she asked. "Pierre was in a mood when I left him. You can always sort him out."
Anatole shook his head and swept an arm around Fedya's waist. His fingers skimmed between the trousers of Fedya's uniform and the bare skin of his hip. Fedya shivered at the touch, then blushed and snaked out of Anatole's arm. That stupid child, he had no notion of how to keep a secret. Did he want his sister to know?
"Prior engagement," Anatole said, and laughed. "Next time, sweet sister. Shall we, Fedya?"
Fedya almost wanted to say no. See how Anatole liked being at another person's beck and call. Thrown aside when it was inconvenient, picked up again when he was lonely or bored or had nothing else to do. But of course he couldn't do that. He nodded, and he and Anatole left the opera for Fedya's apartment, on the seedy side of Moscow.
Fedya unlocked the door, fumbling in the dark for the key. The room was nothing special, certainly not compared to the house where Anatole lived in Moscow. Broke and exiled from Petersburg, Anatole had moved in with his sister and her boring scholar husband Pierre Bezukhov, in an elegant two-story home near the Metropole. But Fedya's room, however shabby in comparison, was private, which for Anatole and Fedya was generally enough. Fedya closed the door behind him as Anatole eased out of his coat, tossing it over a chair. In his shirtsleeves and slim black waistcoat, he looked even more ethereal and beautiful, pale and narrow and delicate.
"How did you like the performance?" Anatole asked.
Fedya scowled. He didn't give a damn about the performance. The only reason he'd gone at all was for Anatole. And the arrogant brainless prince had arrived an hour and a half late, then spent half the opera creeping through the private boxes, looking for God knew what.
"Charming," Fedya said, in what was admittedly a terrible impression of Anatole's voice.
Anatole missed the dig entirely. "I agree," he said. "Did you see Natalya Rostova in the box? I didn't know she was in from the country. My God, she's grown beautiful."
Damn him, Fedya thought, flashing back to the crowd, remembering. Countess Natalya. Of course. Where else would he have gone? Anatole, with the libido of a rabbit and the concentration of a goldfish. A pretty young girl entering society for the first time, how could he help himself?
But he could have helped himself. Anatole had Fedya. He didn't need that chit of a girl.
"And so natural, so pleasant," Anatole said. He leaned against the bedpost, his long body relaxed and thoughtful. "Extraordinary. Enchanting. Have you met her?" His eyes looked at Fedya, but he was seeing something else. The face of a young woman, her eyes glittering, her neck and shoulders bare.
Damn him, the selfish, immature, stupid child.
Without thinking, but not without enjoyment, Fedya slapped Anatole across the cheek as hard as he could.
He'd expected Anatole to cry out, for tears to well in his handsome eyes. But Anatole hardly even seemed surprised. His breath hitched in his throat, and his head turned with the blow, but his silence never wavered. A raw, red flush rose on Anatole's pale cheek. He took it like a man who had been hit before, and harder than that. But if the stupid little peacock thought taking a blow well would soften Fedya's anger, he was in for a surprise.
"Fuck you," Fedya said. "Natalya Rostova. You stupid child. Don't you think?"
"Fedya," Anatole began.
Fedya was not interested in being reasoned with. He was slightly drunk and deeply betrayed, which made him crueller than he meant to be. His next blow caught Anatole in the same place, but with a fist instead of an open hand.
Anatole hadn't tried to defend himself. He staggered back, catching himself on the bed. Fedya hated how much more attractive Anatole looked when he was afraid. It so rarely happened. Anatole wasn't smart enough to be properly afraid, Fedya thought. His tall, lean body looked laughably fragile. Fedya could broken his arm in half if he'd wanted to.
He wanted to.
"Come now, this is stupid," Anatole began.
"Do you love me at all, Kuragin?" Fedya interrupted. To his disgust, his voice broke over Anatole's name.
Anatole looked at him silently. The fear had vanished from his eyes, short-lived as everything else in his life. Fedya's fist had broken the skin, and a small blur of blood marred Anatole's cheek. "Give me a reason to," he murmured.
Seducing him. Fedya had just hit Anatole as hard as he could, he had Tolya's blood on his knuckles, and the peacock was using that as an excuse to seduce him. In control, even now.
Fedya snarled. He hadn't asked for this. Had never wanted to fall under the spell of this stupid arrogant prince, his body weak and breakable, his silver hair translucent and ridiculous. This alluring selfish child who never made anything easy, who cared for no one but himself and his own happiness. Fedya hadn't asked for this. All he could do was make Anatole feel as confused and helpless as he did.
That part, at least, was simple.
Fedya moved fast. He was stronger than Anatole, and the war had taught him to take what he wanted. He stripped Anatole of his clothes with the same cruel precision he used to field-strip a revolver, fast and rough and violent. Anatole didn't protest. He was too busy with the buttons of Fedya's uniform to push back against anything. Anatole had seen this wildness in Fedya before, knew the kind of ecstatic conclusion it could lead to. Or at least, he thought he knew. Even Fedya wasn't quite sure where this was headed, but he knew it was nowhere they'd gone before.
In a moment, Anatole was naked in front of Fedya, who took one look at the spotless, faultless body in front of him and groaned in both want and loathing. Anatole had already relieved Fedya of his military jacket. Fedya tore off his own shirt and shoved Anatole in both shoulders. Anatole landed flat backward on the bed with a small, surprised sound.
An "oh." Almost enunciated.
It was the sound, more than anything, that did it. Such a naïve, innocent little sound, for someone who'd fucked as widely and as well as Anatole had. Until then, Fedya had been torn between kissing him and killing him. Now, he knew what he wanted.
Anatole moaned as Fedya's kiss tore into his neck like a wolf. More possession than kiss. Staking a claim. Fedya fumbled with his own trousers, edging them down near his knees—that was enough, he wasn't in this for aesthetics. He yanked Anatole forward and forced his lean thighs apart. Anatole wrapped his legs around Fedya's hips, agreeing. Directing. Even now, with Fedya pinning him to the bed, dictating every movement.
"I hate you," Fedya said, and thrust into him hard.
Anatole yelped. He had a right to be surprised—if indeed that had been a noise of surprise. Usually Fedya was slow, tender, so much so that Anatole would laugh and ask if Fedya thought a sharp thrust would break him. Fedya wanted to break him now.
Fedya had disconnected from himself. It was fast, brutal, mechanical. He let the anger swell through him and fog his mind. In the corners of the room, he smelled smoke.
Anatole had gone very still and very silent. He pressed his eyes tight closed. A small sound escaped his lips in time with Fedya's thrusts, almost a whimper. It reminded Fedya of an aide-de-camp he had seen at Austerlitz, his leg blasted off at the hip, left to bleed out in the snow. The way the boy had whimpered, high and keening, like a maimed dog. Fedya had laughed at the sound, nervous and wild, and didn't understand why. When Fedya came, he tasted blood in his mouth.
He shoved Anatole away, spent and panting. His mind whirred through a postcoital fog as thick as drunkenness, as though he had fucked Anatole while half-asleep. Had he just done that? Why had he done it? Why had he felt such a need to hurt him, and why had hurting him felt so good? He forced himself to look over, though shame would have kept his eyes anywhere else. Anatole lay on his back, breathing hard, eyes closed. Fedya could see bruises rising where he'd dug his hands into Anatole's hips. A dark shadow rose along his throat where Fedya's lips had marked him.
He'd wanted to mar Anatole's perfection. Now that he'd done it, it felt like plucking the feathers off an angel.
Quietly, he ran one hand through Anatole's hair. Tired, silent, Anatole didn't move or open his eyes. Until Fedya moved to lay a kiss between Anatole's hipbones, barely a brush. Anatole's whole body tensed. He was making a visible effort to keep quiet. Fedya's neighbors, in this part of Moscow, were more accustomed to sounds of pain than of pleasure. But Fedya knew too well how to work Anatole, as he slid lower and took the prince in his mouth.
He knew how to make him sing.
It took maybe two minutes. This had always been Anatole's particular area of expertise, but Fedya's tongue and lips knew the maneuvers as well as any. When Anatole came, it was with a wail the neighbors must have heard.
Fedya lay beside Anatole, whose eyes were still closed, a smile at the corner of his mouth. He leaned his head against Anatole's shoulder, both damp with a sheen of sweat.
"What a pair we make, mon cher," Anatole said, his voice rough with the ghost of orgasm.
Fedya had to admit this was true.
They lay there a moment, side by side and distant, not speaking. Fedya propped himself up on one elbow and stroked the bruise on Anatole's cheek with two fingers. How had he dared? It felt like sacrilege. But when rage filled him, God seemed less important. Anatole shivered at his touch, but didn't pull away.
"You were used to that," Fedya said. "Being hit." It wasn't quite the question he wanted answered. Who else tried to own you with his fists? Anatole owed him at least that much. At least a name.
Anatole laughed, a careless laugh that felt in keeping with his personality and out of step with the situation. "Yes," he said. "Though Papa never followed it up quite the way you did."
It was plain he wanted the conversation to end there, but Fedya felt too shaken to let silence descend over them. It might have been the worst possible thing to talk about, but anything was better than silence. Besides, it was a revelation, and one he did not like. The idea that there was something he didn't know about going on in Anatole's head, that this preening peacock with a brain the size of a walnut was hiding things from him, unnerved Fedya. The idea that, even for a moment, Fedya had reminded him of his father.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked.
Anatole sat up and looked at Fedya as though he were the stupidest man in Moscow. It was curious, to see that look going in the other direction. "Why?" he said. "Would it have changed anything?"
It would have changed more than Anatole thought. Knowing now, after the fact, made Fedya loathe himself. He wanted to take it back, to show Anatole that love wasn't a choice between shallowness and brutality. That it could exist in another space, passion without pain, honesty without hatred. And what had he done? Tried to frighten Anatole into loving him. Wanted him so deeply he refused to share him, and would take him by force if he couldn't have him by love. Because he couldn't. Not when someone as unimportant as Natasha Rostova could sit still and smile and take Anatole from Fedya. Fedya's love wasn't enough to fight that. He'd hoped his hate might be.
Anatole ran a hand through his hair—which only enhanced its state of disaster—and stood up. His naked body glowed in the moonlight. He bent to pick up his trousers, seeming not to feel Fedya's eyes on him. Or, if he did feel them, enjoying that feeling. There wasn't a man alive as comfortable in his own nudity as Anatole Kuragin. His aura of casual grace was not lessened by the bruises. If anything, Fedya felt it more strongly.
"I should get home," Anatole said. "My sister and Pierre will wonder."
They wouldn't wonder. Hélène Bezukhova could have counted on one hand the times Anatole had come home that month, and Fedya knew it. But the lie was easier on both of them than the truth. Fedya didn't know if he could bear Anatole saying I can't stay here tonight because you frighten me.
"Won't he ask about," Fedya began, sheepish.
"This?" Anatole asked, gesturing to his face. He laughed like Fedya had told a clever joke. "Mon cher, do you really think Pierre will be surprised someone punched me in the face?"