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While Hidden, I See and Destroy

Now: 1964, Groznyj Grad - Confrontation

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The Groznyj Grad Living Novel

Now: 1964, Groznyj Grad - Confrontation

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My chest feels like it's going to cave in.

I need a fucking cigarette.

I need to talk to Lynx, dammit, or this is going to kill me.

leshovik: Something was wrong.

Leshovik craved a cigarette; he could almost taste it on his lips, could almost catch the bittersweet tang every time he shifted. Perhaps the smell of smoke still clung to his fatigues, constantly reminding him of the neatly-wrapped package he'd left tucked carefully inside his kit.

He hadn't counted how many he had left. He didn't want to know.

Leshovik sat in front of the cookstove, which they hadn't broken down yet, just in case they weren't leaving today. It would be one of the last things to be packed, though they'd broken down their tent already per Lynx's advice.

He sipped at the coffee Aryol had made earlier, scowling, alternating his gaze between the flap of Lemsky's tent and the tarp over the cave entrance.

There had been a strange note in Lynx's voice when he called earlier, and told them he was coming home. Brusque, to be sure, but also...

Leshovik didn't know. Brittle, perhaps. Edgy in a way he'd never heard from the man. Lynx's tone had caught him off-guard, and though he'd wanted to call back to find out what was wrong, he hadn't. If Lynx had wanted to talk - or could talk, he reminded himself - the man would have said more when he called.

But whatever it was, it obviously had something to do with Lemsky.

Good thing Lemsky had already been busy packing up his tent, and could still be heard inside, rummaging around, shifting things with dull thumps and the occasional, lighter clink of metal or glass. Packing up that science stuff of his. That was what was taking so long, no doubt.

Leshovik ran his hand over his short, pale crop of hair, which was already getting longer than he liked to wear it. He'd have to ask Aryol to run the clippers over it again, and soon.

Aryol sat opposite of him, ostensibly reading a book, though the moment Leshovik looked up, Aryol tilted his dark eyes, meeting his gaze with the quiet intensity he had when he was spotting.

They were both ready for whatever came next.

After Lynx's brief, cryptic message, they'd staked out the common area by the camp stove so they could keep an eye on Lemsky, drinking coffee, chatting a bit like everything was normal, though under their warm fatigue jackets, they both wore their sidearms, just in case.

Just in case of what, Leshovik didn't know.

He eyed the cave entrance again.

Lynx had better get back soon.

snow_death: It had only been a night away, and a night spent in a cell, no less, but already the place they'd bivouacked was feeling less like a home base and more like no man's land again, like it had been before they'd carved out their small space inside it.

Alexei paused at the mouth of the cave, stilling himself.

He lit a cigarette.

Nothing stirred behind the dark net that blocked the mouth of the cave, but Lynx caught the unmistakable scent of Turkish coffee for a brief moment.

He pushed aside the curtain and moved past into the cave.

Leshovik and Aryol sat charily on either side of the cookstove like earthbound and wingless modern archangels, prepared to carry out the Word, should the Word come down.

Lynx watched as they slowly looked up, meeting two pairs of eyes, both dark, one brown and one blue.

Alexei didn't speak right off, but paused in the shadows just beyond the influence of the small circle of light cast by the campstove.

He exhaled, and nodded.

leshovik: Leshovik nodded back at Lynx, but didn't say anything, taking Lynx's lack of a verbal greeting as a request for silence. He glanced at Aryol, who nodded too.

Deliberately, Leshovik turned his gaze toward Lemsky's tent and tipped his chin up, flashing the affirmative field-sign: Lemsky's in there, it said.

Lynx looked a little rumpled, exactly like he'd slept in his clothes, though there was a tautness to his shoulders, and a slowburn intensity to his gaze that told Leshovik that in spite of the casual cigarette pressed between Lynx's lips, there really was something wrong.

Leshovik didn't know how Lemsky had fucked up, or if this was just about him overstepping his bounds and being too obvious about the poisoning.

Didn't matter, really.

He sat down his coffee and stood up.

Aryol mirrored the motion, and they turned to Lynx, gazes questioning.

snow_death: Lynx's eyes raised toward the tent, as if he'd never seen it before.

He left the ground he stood on silently, ignoring the way the scant light illumed the flaxen tines of Leshovik's hair like the wake left on the ocean by the moon, seeing but not observing his sharply angled masculine beauty, carefully shoving it all aside for study at a time after this one, moving swiftly and soundless and into the shelter, disappearing behind the canvas drape with hardly a stirring of the fabric.


Seizing Lemsky as he turned, digging into a pressure point with the heel of his hand, and it hurt like death, he knew it did, he'd had every one of these non-lethal subjugation moves tried on him back then when he learned to commit them, because you needed to know them from all sides to trust in their efficacy-


-and Lemsky screamed, an inhuman sound, immediate and ripped from his fundament, a base and primal reaction to excruciating pain, torn from the piteous lizard brain at the base of the skull, capable of no thought but please make it stop, it hurts me so-


leshovik: The sound hit Leshovik like a bullet, a sharp shock that rifled through his core so hard it actually hurt, pain radiating instantly from his chest to his extremities.

Instinct filled him with adrenaline, but it took his mind a few moments to catch up and realize what he'd heard.

That was Lemsky, screaming.

It had sounded like something else, what, Leshovik didn't know, but it was something that fed the instinct to run or fight or stand rooted to the spot and piss his pants.

He did none of those.

Leshovik did take half a step forward, but Aryol's hand flashed out, and caught his arm.

"He's killing him!"

Leshovik wasn't sure if the kid had grabbed onto him to make him go, or pull him back, but he met Aryol's gaze briefly, then tore himself away.

There had been a look in Aryol's dark, widened gaze, something like fear, but not quite.

Leshovik surged toward Lemsky's tent, and threw back the flap.

It looked like murder to his eyes, the way Lynx held Lemsky, inflicting pain without any obvious effort, and suddenly Leshovik was afraid.

Every sniper instinct he knew told him to move-fade-hide, get his spotter the hell out of there and never look back.

But the part of him that was just a man held his ground, canvas clutched brutally against his palm.

"Lynx! For fuck's sake! What are you doing?"

snow_death: Alexei turned, his gaze level and bare as black ice, and contained as a corrosive.

"What I do second best, comrade."

He released the pressure point without ceremony, and shoved Lemsky's lithe and shuddering form down onto a chair.

He raised the cigarette to his lips and took a drag.

"Giving a comrade a little grist for thought, before I ask him a very important question. It's only fair to prime a man before a pop quiz. Apprise him of what's at stake, so that he can weigh his reply very carefully."

He crouched down until he was on Lemsky's level.

"I don't have to burn you with this," he said quietly, holding it up. "I don't need anything at all, to make your life feel like endless death."

Lemsky gasped inarticulately.

Lynx took another drag.

"He won't be able to speak for a minute. I can wait that long."

leshovik: The razored lines of Leshovik's cheekbones were pale as ice, but he held both his ground and Lynx's eyes with equal resolve. Some small, cold part of Leshovik shuddered and shriveled like a salted slug, but he shoved that part away from him in disgust, and buried everything else.

There were a thousand things he could say or do, but Leshovik knew the first thing he had to do.

He turned, and spelled quick, soundless words to Aryol, who could read lips.

Don't follow me. No matter what.

It would be enough.

Leshovik pulled his gaze away from Aryol quickly, and in the next second, moved forward and slipped inside the tent.

He let the flap fall behind him, and for some reason it felt as irrevocable as the closing of a coffin.

"Or you could always try asking first," Leshovik said.

His voice sounded surprisingly normal, he noted, distantly.

He didn't like that prick Lemsky, and not just because of his shitty timing. There was something inhuman about the man's narrow gaze, something that smacked of superiority and detachment. Leshovik didn't like people like that.

But still.

Leshovik raised his chin, and the dark of his blue eyes was as undeniable as a turbulent sea when he met Lynx's gaze.

"What the fuck did he do to deserve that?"

snow_death: Alexei exhaled slowly.

His gaze was mild now, utterly implacable, eyes settled like tranquil taiga lakes.

"I hurt him," he said. "But I didn't injure him."

Lynx cracked his knuckles absently. It was audible, like a small crack of shy thunder. The report of a silenced pistol.

"Look for yourself. He's intact."

Lemsky looked like he was in shock. Lynx looked at him and shook his head contemptuously.

"You can dish it out, malchik, can't you...but you sure can't take it."

He paused.

"You're weak. You have a sick, sad mind."

"Ask the question," said Lemsky, biting his lip. "I'll answer it."

Alexei smiled, almost paternally.

"I know you will."

The toxicologist looked at him with bitter, defiant eyes, but his body language pleaded for the chance to absolve himself of further opportunities for pre-emptive thought provocation.

Lynx's voice dropped to a subterranean, cosseting tone as he toyed with his cigarette, eyes lowered almost coyly.

"What did you give him, Lemsky? Other then the arsenic? What little evil did you put in those bonbons?"

He raised his eyes, stark and desolate.

"What will it be, Lemsky? A kiss or a kick?"

leshovik: Leshovik watched Lynx, and saw a stranger.

His heartrate fired like rounds from a semiautomatic rifle, quick and deliberate. Not the riotous thrumming of a full automatic, but rather smooth and almost willful.

The bloodrush heightened his senses, the way it did before he pulled the trigger. He never experienced the zen-calm that some snipers did when they fired, going still and blissful right before taking life. No, it was always violent for Leshovik, like orgasm ripped from his body on the cresting pleasure that came from rough sex.

This felt like that, though in this intricate little moment in the spider's web of life and death, he could only watch as if looking through his scope, detached.

He'd never seen Lynx so ruthless. Even when they'd stumbled upon Kasya and Niotkuda at the spring, there hadn't even been a flash of violence behind Lynx's gaze. Now those arctic-bright, intent eyes could drop a man dead in his tracks.

Leshovik held still, and bore silent witness.

He couldn't turn away now, regardless of what it might cost him later.

snow_death: Lemsky laughed quietly.

"Is that all," he said. "They're trying to find it, aren't they."

He pointed to a jar in an open case. His hand shook.

"Aren't they?"

Lynx was silent as the Bronze Horseman, eyes riveted to the young man's face.

"Give them that," he said, smirking listlessly. "I was going to let him go before we left. He served his purpose...why should he suffer for being deadly?"

His lips twisted, almost disappointed.

"Any pathologist worth his salt will be able to make an anti-serum."

Lynx eyed the jar.

"A specimen," he said, slightly incredulous. "A live specimen."

"Yes," said Lemsky, almost sounding pleased at the attention. "He's very much alive. And very deadly."

Alexei took the jar in his broad hand. It was ventilated but wrapped lovingly in gauze for insulation.

"If this isn't what you used, I'll be back. And then we'll have to talk about spiral stress fractures and hyperextensions of the golgi joints. They're not deadly, but you'll wish they were."

Lemsky snorted, bitterly.

"That's it. That's all I used, apart from the cyanide and arsenic."

"And cyanide..."

Alexei set his jaw, and turned to go, his unsavory cargo held carefully in two hands.

"Be careful," called Lemsky. "Don't put your fingers in the jar. There's no antiserum for that yet."

Lynx ignored him.

"Let me through, Leshovik."

"...I'm not angry, Lynx," said Lemsky suddenly, raising his voice slightly, turning toward him on the chair. "...are you? Are you angry at me?"

He looked up at Leshovik, lip curling.

"He's right, you know, I wouldn't have told him."

leshovik: Leshovik glanced at Lemsky once, then flicked his eyes away dismissively, but for Lynx, he stepped aside.

He let the large man precede him through the tent flap, but only by seconds as he followed him out, leaving Lemsky to lick his wounds in private.

Aryol stood nearby. He looked at Lynx, then at Leshovik, demanding answers with those dark, wounded eyes of his.

Leshovik shot him a warning look instead, and Aryol glanced away.

He didn't say anything to Lynx, though he wanted to.

Leshovik broke away from Lynx's shadow, which was long just then, and felt cold.

He moved to Aryol's side. The brush of his hand against Aryol's wrist was seemingly casual, but he knew that to his spotter, it would be loaded with meaning.

snow_death: Lynx paused, but didn't turn around.

"Do we have a problem?"

His voice was light and mild.

leshovik: Leshovik paused just long enough to give his words deliberate weight.

"No problem."

His voice was even, and steady, though, he had to admit, not normal. Leshovik could hear the strain around his words, lilting them like an accent.

Still. He'd be fucking stupid to claim some kind of problem after that little display.

His raised his chin, and waited, suddenly aware of the weight of the gun nestled against his ribcage.

snow_death: Alexei felt a sudden sense of loss, sharp and keen as a knife in the side.

Already, he thought, with a piquant sadness. And I barely had time to hold him in my hand.

He knew that tone, that expression. The way that the longshot had hastened to stand between Lynx and his sidekick, as if Alexei were a wild animal, uncivilized and carnivorous.

Viktor, the man who painted in brain matter, the man who insolently referred to a shattered cerebellum as so much "bubble gum".

Viktor, the graceful carnal athlete, was unsettled by him.

That was how it would have to be, if it was the price of saving Zhenya. Life and limb were his to guard, above all else.

He turned, looking over his shoulder, face half obscured.

"I'm going back down to the Grad."

leshovik: Leshovik nodded.

"All right," he said quietly.

He let out a slow breath.

"We'll wait for you here."

snow_death: "Good thing you broke down the tent, nyjiet tovarisch?" intoned Lynx.

He put the deadly parcel in a rucksack and hoisted it over his shoulder.

"Pack up the rest," he said, tonelessly. "We'll be sleeping at the Grad from tonight on."

leshovik: Leshovik frowned, his gaze flicking to their possessions, which were neatly packed up. It seemed amazing that they could fit so much into a few bags, though it wouldn't take long to finish the rest.

"And...we just walk right up to the gate, without you, and they let us in?"

He glanced back in the direction of Lemsky's tent, and lowered his voice.

"And what about him?"

snow_death: "Codec me when you get to the gate."

Lynx rubbed his hand over his hair, averting his eyes.

"I'll send someone to meet you."

He glanced behind him.

"What about him?" he asked, shrugging. "He told me what I wanted to know. He's part of our team until Moscow says otherwise. He goes along."

leshovik: Leshovik frowned, hard and suddenly, opening his mouth to speak, though biting off the question on his tongue at the last moment.

Not the place. Not the time.

He licked his lips.

"I understand," he said, finally, then turned away abruptly, heading over to their bags to finish packing. He was aware that Aryol didn't move for long moments, and he could feel the pressure of his spotter's gaze on his back, though he ignored it, and kept his head down.

snow_death: "Khorosho," muttered Lynx.

He flicked his eyes to Aryol, and smiled slightly. Wistfully.

"I'll see you soon. Take it easy."

Lynx pulled aside the flap of camouflage net and the mouth of the cave, and stepped into the faltering light.

It looked like snow again.

The weather had shifted without warning, and once again the air had taken a turn.
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