He wasn’t being completely honest with himself, or with her. It’s not like he really didn’t know why the two of them never hung out. Alexei didn’t consider himself important, even though he was, and most of his young life he was surrounded by “important” people. Viktoryia just didn’t fit into that group. Alexei wasn’t superficial enough to actually group people into whether they were important enough to be around him or not, but he knew better than to kid himself. To really kid himself.
In reality he knew there wasn’t very much that she could bring him. Not in what other people thought he should have. They wanted him to befriend powerful people. They wanted him to marry powerful people, to keep him away from useless ones, and that’s what they’d consider her. Regardless of who her father was, she was nothing to anyone. That really didn’t set very well for him. Alexei shifted feet. He knew what other people would think, and couldn’t bring himself to care. He knew what his brother would think, if he was still alive, as much as Lev tried to be balanced.
They would say that coming here, that being with her at all, was a waste of time. But as he looked at her, really looked at her, almost to the point of looking through her, he knew that nothing he did with her would be a waste of time. It just couldn’t have been. She was good. And he was glad that he came, and didn’t listen to the voices that said he was stupid for even trying. He wasn’t even sure whether they were his own voice, or something else completely.
“Yeah, okay,” he nodded. He couldn’t help his eyes floating away from her and back towards the bottle, and he wanted to shut them tight, and take a few steps back. He could feel his chest getting tight. Alexei smiled weakly. Keep it together. “Yeah, of course I do,” he said, his voice a little weak. “I wouldn’t have said so if I didn’t think so. You always have been.”
He couldn’t have possibly known how much this meant to her. He couldn’t have known how this was like a light in a dark tunnel, how nothing like this had ever happened through her. He couldn’t have known how she had spent most of her life watching as Yelena lived the life she wanted—but maybe he did. It wasn’t that hard of a thing to see, after all. Yelena had it all, whereas Viktoryia herself had nothing. She had seen her younger sister go on dates after dates, spending the night at various guys homes when Viktoryia could barely muster the strength to get out of bed for the day. It was always something she had resented her sister for, though she knew that in the end it wasn’t Yelena’s fault that Viktoryia was such a fuck-up. And though Yelena had always tried to reassure her sister about things, it had never really sunk into Viktoryia’s head, because there had never been any proof. Just words.
But this was proof. Alexei was living, breathing, proof, and even better, she knew that this wasn’t a joke. This was Alexei, after all. She didn’t know much about him, but she knew that he was different from others, more like her father than anything, and that he wasn’t unnecessarily cruel. He was being sincere, and though it was very hard for Viktoryia to read people, she was hoping and praying that what she saw on his face was complete and utter honesty. If it wasn’t, she wasn’t sure if she’d ever get over this.
His words brought a smile to her face in way that no one had in a long time. She wanted to ask him more, to hear more, if only because she was desperate and starved for any type of attention and compliment. But she knew that would make her seem pathetic and weaker than she already was, and she didn’t want that. That was the last impression she wanted Alexei to have of her. “Thank you,” she whispered, a faint blush rising as she tried not to have his words replay over and over in her head. No luck. She couldn’t get it out of her mind, and she didn’t want to. “Should I—-put the movie in?”
Rahel didn’t have many friends, anyway. She considered Amy her friend, and Madeline was obviously her friend, but for as many people as she interacted with all of the time, there weren’t many people she could just kick back and talk to. About anything and everything, at least. There was no stress to her friendship with Madeline. She was easy to talk to, and fun, and they could go out and do things with each other just as easily as they could sit back in her apartment and drink and talk shit about Eric. There were so many people that did nothing but stress her out, fuck with her anxiety, and not to mention want something from her. Madeline wasn’t like that. No matter how many or how little times the two of them met, they could pick up right where they left off, and that was all that really mattered.
Rahel grinned. “Okay, fuck, that was a little arrogant of me,” she said as she sprawled Madeline’s brother’s name across the inside cover of the book. To Icarus. Obviously your sister doesn’t love you. “Does he even read my books, or is this all some sort of sick joke? I feel like he has more copies than you do. He probably has more copies than I do.” Rahel nodded towards the people behind Madeline to step up, and took their book away from them with a smiling, casually glancing back to her friend after a moment. “What are you doing after this?” she asked.
It’s funny that Rahel ended up being closer with Madeline than she was with Amy, the one who had brought the two of them together. Amy and Rahel were friends, of course, but they weren’t close. Rahel wasn’t sure whether she was really close with Madeline either, or whether she was close with anyone at all, but they had a good, balanced friendship that so far not many others could match. Not that she had many others to compare this one with, anyway. “Cause I’m starving. And have a taste for a beer. You game?”
One of the things Madeline liked most about Rahel was the fact that Rahel got her. She got her in a way that most people didn’t, and that was completely refreshing in a way that Madeline didn’t get often. And since she didn’t get that often, she was so desperate to hold onto it. Over the years—mostly in high school—Madeline had realized that some people saw her as arrogant and cold. Looking back on herself, she had realized that it wasn’t a completely unfounded assumption. Madeline, by nature, was a quiet person. She was the type to sit back and listen, occasionally interjecting her opinion or comment into a conversation, but for the most part she was a listener. Not only that, but she also had never been too keen when it came to throwing herself into a big group of people. Even though Madeline was quiet, she had a lot of opinions, and things to say. Sometimes trying to be heard in a big group was just too much for her.
It also didn’t help that she had the tendency to be somewhat condescending at times, especially when it came to schoolwork and classmates that weren’t as intelligent as her. People had been scared to ask her for help because they didn’t want the judgmental look and tone of voice she would give them. Madeline had never tried or intended to give off that vibe, but apparently that’s the vibe she gave out. When she went to college, and even now that she was out, she was always a bit worried that people would see her that way. But not Rahel. Rahel understood her quiet demeanor and sometimes sharp tongue, and Rahel didn’t mind. It made her a welcome comfort, a person that Madeline felt she could freely speak her mind around, and she didn’t have too many of those.
“Yes, he does, actually,” she said with a wide grin, jutting her hip out and placing her weight on her right leg. “He loves them. We get into heated debates and discussions all the time. I can’t wait to see what he has to say about this one.” She watched Rahel signing other books, moving so that she could talk to her better without interrupting the flow of traffic. “I’ve never really decided if I like beer or not. But I’m game. Anything for my favorite author.” And that wasn’t even Madeline trying to flirt or be witty. It was just the damn truth.
Of course he would have rather let his hands slide up her legs and touch her the way he had before; of course he wished instead of pulling away from her he’d pulled her even closer. But there would be time for that. There would always be time for that (well, not always, but hopefully for a little while, at least). He stepped back a little and let her off, and watched as her breasts moved as she did. Luka bit his bottom lip before he turned away from her, towards the food on the stove. "There’s plenty. Take what you want." He motioned towards the food, while he reached up for plates in the cabinet on top of their heads.
Goodness. Either Luka had really good self control, or he was just more preoccupied with food than fucking. Isa was certain that it was the former; it was hard to find a man that wouldn’t fuck her every chance he got, and she was giving Luka the perfect chance. She rolled her eyes, still not believing that he hadn’t made an attempt to touch her where she wanted to be touched, and grabbed a plate from his hands. "Thanks," she said, a mood that was very uncharacteristic of her. She frowned as she began to serve food onto her plate, a little bit confused as to why she said such a thing.
Luka wrapped his arms around her and pulled her even close than she needed to be for any dance. Everything else in the world was completely blocked out, everything else that wasn’t her, and wasn’t them. He loved her. He’d always loved her, from the beginning, and after the fall. After every fight. And through all hate. He loved her. "I love you." He leaned in, and pressed his lips against her’s; he didn’t pull away, not for a long time. He wanted to pretend they could stay like that for all of their punishment, all of their damnation. Just like that. It’s not like anything else mattered very much anymore. The whole world could have blown up and he wouldn’t have given a damn. He could lose his club, lose his money, lose everything, and it would be like he’d lost nothing at all.
"Run away with me," he said after a moment. "Leave this all here, right now, and we can take the car and go. None of this matters anymore."None of this matters now that you’re here. Luka had never been materialistic. He didn’t care that much about money or things as long as he could have food for himself. So getting up and leaving all of this made no differenece to him. He didn’t care at all, as long as she was at his side. He stepped out, and spun her around. He hoped she’d say yes; and inside he knew that she would.
Isa sighed, a grin on her lips as she lowered her head to rest against Luka’s chest. They swayed back and forth, perfectly in sync with each other, as they were meant to be. She had been created for him, and she fit with him as well as a key fit in its lock. This was where she was supposed to be, not halfway around the world, scowling at him as she turned her attention to other men. And Isa wasn’t stupid. She knew that Luka probably had enjoyed his fair share of women in their time apart, and even though the thought of sharing him made her want to grit her teeth together and spill someone’s blood, she tried to focus on the positive. Lifting her head from his chest, she moved over so that she could whisper in his ear. “Tell me how much you love me,” she said before peppering soft kisses down his neck, stopping at his collar bone so that she could pull away and look at him.
Normally Isa wasn’t a person of words. She didn’t have to hear validation because she knew it with every bone in her body. So that wasn’t what this was about. She just wanted to hear to hear it; she wanted to bask in the knowledge that Luka adored her more than anyone else. Her mouth twisted as she heard his words, and she frowned a little. The idea of coming to New York and showing the world what a powerful two people they really were had certainly been appealing, but the idea of disappearing with Luka was even more so. “Run away with you? You make us sound like outlaws, or bandits.” She laughed quietly, but surprisingly not in a mocking way. “I’d love to.”
Cosima liked stealing. She wasn’t sure why she liked stealing, whether she was in love with the rush of knowing that she could be caught and hauled away at any moment, or whether she just liked the idea of taking things from other people. Her family had never been lacking money—-in fact they’d probably been one of the richest in Italy. Money, or lack of money, wasn’t the issue. Cosima surely could have gotten anything she stolen just as easy as pulling out a credit card. No, there was something else there, and she wasn’t sure exactly what that something was. And she supposed that didn’t matter. Because since she was young, she’d always had sticky fingers; since she was young, she’d always loved taking things that weren’t her own, but only ever the beautiful things. Whether she knew why or not wasn’t going to stop her.
But at the same time, theft was a hobby. One she enjoyed above all others, yes, but a hobby nonetheless. Gia was different, though. To Gia, this wasn’t just a hobby. And no matter how serious Cosima did take it, and she did, whether it was a hobby or not, it was still different for Gia. This was her life. It’s what she was born to do, Cosima thought. And she loved that about her. She loved that Gia was so good at something Gia loved doing, and something Cosima loved doing. Something that they could share together, when they really didn’t have many other people they could share that with. Gia’s family had gone straight after Sofia was kidnapped, and Cosima’s family were very strict Cosa Nostra—-stealing was dishonorable, and out of the question. For them at least. Maybe Cosima should have cared about honor, but she didn’t. This wasn’t ancient China, and she wasn’t Mulan.
Cosima bit her lip and glanced over her shoulder at Gia, an eyebrow raised. “Don’t tempt me. I just might.” The redhead slipped her shirt over her head, not stopping to worry about a bra, and went around the room searching for her jeans. “The weather’s not cold yet, right? I don’t need a sweater do I?” The weather had been a bit of a change. Italy was usually warm, and they came to New York at the end of summer, and Cosima at least, was already feeling the ice in her bones. “Oh, bye. I have not gotten rusty. If I remember correctly I brought you some beautiful black heels just last week. And what have you gotten me, hm?” There was no malice in her words as she grinned back at her girlfriend. She knew good and well that Gia would have probably given her the moon—-and that Gia was far better than she ever would be.
Gia was sure that Cosima had no clue how much she truly meant to her. When it came to emotions and relationships, Gia wasn’t one for words. She wasn’t one for long, drawn out conversations of her undying love and devotion, wasn’t one for speeches and poems full of flowery language and pathetic love metaphors. That simply wasn’t her style, but she showed her love in other ways. She showed her love in the way that she indulged Cosima in her wants time after time, how she had let Cosima into her life in the first place after being so hard on her. After pushing her away for so long, Gia had finally opened her arms and her heart to the redhead, and that meant everything. In that alone, Gia had said all she needed to say, and she continued to say it without saying it every morning when she woke up and kissed Cosima awake.
To be honest, Cosima was a breath of fresh air. In a world that was full of planning, preparation, timing, and organizing every little thing, Cosima was a much needed break from all of that. Gia’s mind ran constantly with plans and ideas for the future, but around Cosima she was able to push those things into the background and concentrate on her girlfriend and her girlfriend only, and for that sense of peace, Gia would’ve given Cosima the world. And so that’s what she tried to do. She tried to please and make Cosima happy in every possible way, and had found that by making Cosima happy, she was spreading that happiness to herself also. A happy Gia was a sane Gia, one that was able to plan and organize without losing it.
“Tonight. You will.” The words that came out of Gia’s mouth were and order, coupled with a slight smirk, looking around the room for something to wear. “I’m wearing a sweater,” Gia said as she went into the closet and pulled one out and over her head. “Take one, just in case. You can’t always rely on me to hug away the cold.” She grinned as she pulled on a pair of jeans and leather boots, shaking her head at Cosima with a laugh. “Just because I haven’t given you anything doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten you anything.”
He sat down again. He was glad that the gift had gone over well, and grinned at her reply. Talking to her was just so easy and he didn’t get easy very often. Maybe that wasn’t a good enough reason to fly nine hours from Germany, but he thought he had all the right to come and see his friend, regardless of what anyone else might think about that. "Oh God, don’t,” he said sarcastically, and frowned. "You won’t get rid of me, you’ll kill me."
Cece shifted once again on the couch before getting up and resuming her position on Lars lap. It was so dumb to spend her time worrying about what he might think and do, when he had been the one to bring up the visit, and he had been the one to kiss her first. So she sunk down on his lap again, bringing her hands together to make a gun with her fingers. "Pow pow," she said, moving her hands as if she was shooting him. "Now you’re dead anyways."
"Shut the fuck up," he laughs, but it’s one of those laughs, one of those dangerous laughs. “You know, I think you like it. If you didn’t make you wouldn’t be here.”
"Why the fuck would I like it?” Her voice rises in volume, and she’s angry, furious by the fact that the man she is so desperately in love with likes to smack her around as a hobby. It’s not fair.
It’s not like he hadn’t done this before. He’d never quite done this, done anything this extensive, this horrific before, but he was high up enough in the Bratva where he’d seem so seriously nasty shit. At the same time, he was high enough in the Bratva that he didn’t need to get his own hands dirty. There were people employed specifically for that, and most of them were still not as good as Isa was. She wasn’t one of them. She was, in name maybe, but in truth she was on a completely different level than they would ever be. They were good, but she was better. She put everything into this. He could tell as he looked around at what had once been nothing more than a stone room, she put everything into this. That’s why he stayed, or one of the reasons, at least. Because if she had done so much to let this happen, then something magical must have been going on down there. Magical, or psychopathic, whatever the case was, he was going to be there to witness it.
She seemed so happy there, too. She seemed so complete, in a way that he hadn’t seen her before or had seen her very rarely. Isa was at peace, and that was just such a strange thing to think about. Being at peace in a place like where they were, being at peace when a man was probably about to die in some of the most horrible ways that she could come up with. Luka wasn’t exactly at peace. But he wasn’t about to lose his lunch either. There was a time and place for everything, and the time and place now was that one interrogation. If that’s what this could be called. Luka knew that this was something that was going to be done one way or another, so someone might as well have some fun while they were doing it.
The feeling of Isa’s lips on his cheek was something he’d never get to use, and something he’d never take for granted, and Luka couldn’t help but grin a little as she pulled away from him. He hadn’t expected to have been so turned on by this whole thing. Not by the potential for blood and torture, but without a doubt by Isa, the way she was here. He was ready for anything and everything she might throw at him, just because she was the one doing it. Had anyone else asked him to join in on some torture session he would have probably less than respectfully declined. But not Isa. She had that type of hold over him, and tonight was the night that he didn’t mind that one bit. “So he has nothing to say?” he looked from Isa to the man in the chair. “Nothing important to tell us? Nothing that might—,” Luka shrugged, and took another step towards the table. “—save his life?”
It was time to be completely honest. This wasn’t time to shy away from blood, to turn your nose up and wax poetic about humanity and monsters and people that loved death but had no souls. It wasn’t time to hide your true nature—it was time to embrace it, and that’s exactly what Isa was doing. Although, Isa had never been one to hide. Never. Not once. In her younger years at school, she had always had a penchant for drawing particularly violent pictures that were filled with red, whereas other children drew pictures full of yellow suns and orange and pink flowers. It was when a young Isa had seen Dimitri put a bullet through a man’s that she had finally understood. In that moment, it had been as if the entire world had been opened up to her and laid at her feet. It was hers for the taking. The world was hers, and Isa had planned to burn it down and raise it back up in a city of ashes and blood. And she had. Isa had become a queen when everyone had expected her to be nothing more than a pawn. And now she had her king, her regal and soon to be deliciously bloody king, by her side. Nothing made her happier.
Nothing made her want to peel off her clothes and touch more than this situation right now. Quite frankly, everything about this damn roomed turned Isa on. Having the ability to pull screams and bones out of people made Isa wet in ways that no one could even imagine, and now, having Luka with her, made her feel like she would pass out if she didn’t get to do something soon. She wondered if Luka knew—if he could tell how and what she was feeling by the way she moved her body and the things she said. She wondered if he thought she was a monster for loving this, even though she didn’t care if he did. According to humanity and society’s standards, Isa was a monster. But Luka had looked into the face of the monster and proclaimed his love for it, and now here he was, following it into the darkness. And the monster was very, very glad.
Isa grinned over at Luka, noticing how he was, slowly but surely, stepping into the darkness with her. He was beginning to enjoy it, and as he spoke, Isa could see the Luka that she came home to fade away. He took a step toward the man wrapped in the chair, and Isa wasn’t seeing the Luka that cooked her breakfast when she was hungry and kissed when her emotions got the best of her. She saw the Luka that had command over the Russian-American Bratva; the Luka that held more power in his pinky than most men had in their entire bodies. Together, they made an unstoppable pair—as a king and queen should. Isa let out a laugh as she took a step forward of her own—a laugh that was cold and hollow, and spoke of all the terrible things that would happen before the night was over. “I don’t know,” she said in a tone that most adults used in conversation with children. “I don’t think he’ll talk easily—they never do—but that just means we get to have a little fun. Shall we start with the teeth?”
How many times had she made him smile? Had he smiled that first time, when Esther told him that she knew someone who could take over for her when she couldn’t do a job? Had he smiled when Isabella Tabanova came into the room, and held his attention, held everyone’s attention that ever laid eyes on her? Had he smiled when he learned the job was done, or after that second or third or fourth fuck? Had he smiled when she said she would marry him? Isa had brought so much joy into his life. No matter how much pain, and there was pain, there was always pain, there was joy to come directly after, joy that dwarfed all pain. That’s what he remembered. He remembered that she was his, and he was her’s and they were happy together. When he held her, pulled her into his arms, he knew that it was right. No matter what his mind told him, he knew that this was the right thing to do. She was his everything, and to leave her behind would be like leaving half of his heart in Russia. He couldn’t do that. Or at least, couldn’t do that and live another day afterwards.
He pressed his face into her neck, and breathed in. How long since he’d been able to do this? How long since he’d been able to take her into his arms like this, without any hesitation from either side? Too long. It was something he never wanted to have to repeat. Isa wasn’t normal, and some would say that Isa didn’t love, but Luka knew otherwise. He knew when he looked at her, and when she looked at him, he knew that she could love. Just not like other people loved; but when had Isa ever done anything that other people did? Luka worried for a while maybe he’d lose this battle; not even lose her, but in the beginning he worried maybe he’d lose himself in a haze of sex and sadism. Maybe he would forget who he was for her sake. It was a worry that wasn’t bad, but he had been wrong. They could never be the same. If they were the same, they wouldn’t work. They had to be balanced; they had to be each other’s perfect other half, or else they would crash and burn.
This wasn’t a crash and burn. This was a test. A test of their resilience. They had to make it through hardship after twenty years, they had to make it through hardship. And from what he could tell, they would. They’d make it out of this dark time. Her words were soft, and yet held so much power. She was right, all along. He had the power to do what needed to be done; he had always had the power. A slight smirk came onto his lips, one he never thought he’d see again, and Luka leaned in, just slightly, and kissed her on the mouth, a kiss that told Isa that he was going to take her home. He was going to bring her back to the life they both knew they were meant to have. Together. Forever. No matter who else came into their life, they would always have either other. Anything else would have just been wrong. “I’m taking you home,” he whispered, his lips barely parted from her own. “And you’re never leaving me again.”
For the first time in what seemed like a lifetime, everything felt right. Sitting here, being with Luka, being in his arms felt so fucking right. It felt more right than almost anything Isa had ever experienced, excluding sex and the feeling of having someone else’s blood on her skin. But this right; this was home. How could Isa have been so stupid as to think that she could just leave home without any repercussions? How could she think that she could just leave home and think that everything would work out after that? She knew why. It was because she had done it before. Unbeknownst to her, Isa had run away before. She had ran away from her childhood home, away from her mother’s love and her father’s cold gaze. Isa had ran from there without looking back and everything had turned out fine. But this was different. Luka was, and always had been different. Their souls were intertwined, and they were meant to be one. How could she possibly have thought that she could get away from that?
There were times when Isa wondered why Luka loved her. They weren’t often—because Isa wasn’t insecure in the slightest, and therefore did not dwell on those nonexistent insecurities—but sometimes she wondered. Sometimes it seemed like the only thing he had for her was anger and exasperation that was colored with hatred, and sometimes it was as if he loved her with the brightness of a thousand suns, and she didn’t understand why. She understood why, from an objective standpoint, but knowing Luka the way she did, it didn’t make much sense. He was emotional where she was not. He was caring and loving where she was not. He was everything she was not, and needed everything that she couldn’t and wouldn’t give him. And yet, he took what little she did give him. He took her inch and stretched it into a mile.
They were so close now. They were so close, and when Luka kissed her, Isa felt like she could finally breathe again. His kiss was the last step that had been so necessary in pushing all of the broken shards together in order to resemble something that was as close to a human being as an imitation could get. Isa didn’t know whether she wanted to rip his clothes off and tell him to take her right there where she was, or if she’d rather press her lips to his once again and feel his body with hers, nice and slow. Both. Both were what she wanted. After being away from him for so long, both was what she needed. Isa smiled softly, looking down away from him as she spoke with a quiet voice. “I’ve. Missed you.” Her voice was halting and broken and not quite together, but that was okay, because Luka loved her anyways. He still loved her, and he was going to take her home and never let her go. And that was all that mattered.