I Remember December

Recipient: buckle_berry
Author: v_angelique
Pairing: Dom/Elijah
Rating: R
Summary: A bit of historical AU drivel, wherein we ignore the fact that Dom and Elijah are clearly not Russian and move on with the slightly angsty p0rn.
Notes:: I technically started writing this before the challenge but it took on a life of its own and suddenly became quite Christmasy. Hope you enjoy!
Author's Notes:: Beta by idrillia


I remember it well, the first time that I saw

Your head 'round the door, 'cause mine stopped working.

I remember it well, there was wet in your hair,

You were stood in the stair, and time stopped moving.

Moscow was in chaos.

People ran through the streets, screaming about conspiracy and overthrow and all sorts of revolutionary ideals. There were rumours that an attempt had been made on the tsar's life in the Winter Palace, but no one could confirm anything. Dominic sat, terrified, in the rooms he was temporarily occupying while his new southern estate was built.

As gunshots rang out, the butler hurried up the stairs to bring Dominic news. Muraviev-Apostol, a freed rebel, had taken the city. Reinforcements were coming in to halt the rebellion, and Dominic would do best to leave quickly. A carriage was waiting.

Ever the obedient gentleman, Dominic took the butler's words at face value and hurried downstairs, taking only a leather purse with him. The carriage left quickly, heading towards the outskirts of the city, away from the violence, but as they pulled away Dominic caught the eye of a stranger.

Little more than a boy, the young man was small and pale, but determined-looking. Crouched in a doorway at the foot of a flight of stairs, he was dressed all in black and wore a dark hood that almost, but not completely, obscured his face. Dominic couldn't look away from those eyes, blue and arresting, as the horses broke into a gallop and the carriage wrenched around a corner. In his arms, the youth carried a small wrapped package, and Dominic had no doubt of his intent. This kid, though he looked too young to be educated or one of the officers typical of the revolutionary movement, was one of the United Slavs. He carried with him a weapon, maybe a bomb, and he planned to kill some member of the nobility, one of the Muscovite elite, maybe even someone of Dominic's acquaintance.

But, as the youth briefly lowered the hood, tugging the package closer to his chest as snowflakes fell on tufts of brown hair, Dominic couldn't look away.

Five years later...

It was a blustery day in St. Petersburg, and all the fires in all the fireplaces in Dominic's father's large estate were blazing. Dominic had originally planned to spend the winter in Moscow, but he had business at court that required his presence here for the season. The bitter cold was depressing as his father's autocratic rule, but there wasn't much he could do about either condition.

Today was an unusual day. A new member was coming to join their household, a twenty-one year old orphan whose parents had been killed in a recent fire in Moscow and was now being taken under his father's tutelage. Dominic's father loved a charity case, loved the chance to "educate" someone less fortunate than himself. Of course, he never turned to the real underclass, preferring "easy" cases like this. This new boy, this Elijah, was the perfect match for the family. Born outside of Moscow and separated from his parents at a young age, he had no choice when, at the age of fourteen, he was taken under the wing of one of the Southern revolutionaries in what had come to be known as the Восстаниедекабристоб(Decemberist Revolts). When his tutor was imprisoned, Elijah was able to return to his parents, only to see them die in the fire.

Though Dominic was suitably impressed by the young man's sad story, he also was somewhat sceptical. Remembering the chaos of Moscow five years ago, a chaos that his father had conveniently missed, having been sequestered in this estate house to avoid the revolt on Senate Square, he couldn't help but wonder if this errant youth still had any revolutionary ties. His father had been isolated during the revolts, but Dominic had no delusions. Those young idealists had blood in their eyes -- they were out to kill Dominic, and others like him.

So, Dominic stood in the parlour, waiting to be introduced to this sob story known as Elijah Pavlovich Petrov... and when the rich burgundy curtain was drawn aside, he found himself face to face with a pair of unmistakable blue eyes, eyes that had haunted his nightmares for the past five years.

Ебат- копать.

In front of his father, Dominic was nothing but politesse and the good French-form manners he had been taught. In the privacy of his own quarters, his toe connected with a lovely piece of Ottoman furniture and he screamed as loud as he could into a silken pillow.

"Dominic Andreiovich?"

The tentative, hesitant voice was discordant with Dominic's mental picture of Elijah -- a ruthless, if innocent-looking killer who had doubtless killed at least one, if not many, Russians that night. He spun around and pinned the young man with a look that would make many blanch. Elijah stood his ground.

"How did you get in here?"

"The maids seem to like me," he replied with a shrug, glancing around the opulent sitting room. Dominic stared, and then finally sighed and gestured to the settee.

"Well I suppose you might as well sit, seeing as how if I try to turn you away you'll doubtless attempt to blow me up."

Elijah frowned and sat.

"It's not how you must think..."

"Oh isn't it?" Dominic sneered, moving away from Elijah to walk to the window, overlooking the backside of the estate and the lavish summer gardens, now covered by a fine dusting of snow, the plants withered and dead. "Is your name even Elijah Pavlovich?"

"No," Elijah answered softly, and Dominic turned, surprised by the admission. If Elijah had been sent here to assassinate Dominic's family, he wasn't doing a very good job of it.

"What is it?"

"I can't tell you now. Perhaps later."

Dominic snorted and turned back to the window, tracing idle patterns along the pane of glass with his fingertip. "Is anything they said about you true, then?"

"Yes," Elijah replied simply. Dom looked over his shoulder, giving Elijah an annoyed look. Elijah just folded his hands in his lap, and then continued. "My name is Elijah. I worked with the southern Decemberists, although marginally. My parents died in a fire, and your father has offered to help me learn to manage my small inheritance and learn some useful skills."

"Are you educated?" Dominic asked.

"Not traditionally, no." Dominic frowned. "I'm not a terrorist, Dominic. I had some... mistaken ideas concerning the men in the movement. I aligned myself with the wrong side, but for the right reasons."

Dominic looked at Elijah incredulously. "And now you've chosen ours as the right side? What's to say you won't change your mind tomorrow?"

"You're not the right side," Elijah explained. "There isn't one."

"That's impossible. There's always a right side."

Elijah smiled unexpectedly, fondly, and shook his head. "You have a lot to learn, Dominic."

"How dare you!" Dominic stared at Elijah for a long moment, outraged, wanting to strike the boy. "You forget your position quickly, little Decemberist."

Elijah smiled at the epithet, and again Dominic did not expect it. "You take too much stock in yours. But don't worry, Dominic. I don't plan to kill you. I don't even hate you. I hold the same ideals that I always have -- of truth, and of justice. But my learning deceived me, and I know now that not every member of the aristocracy is at fault. There is value in the individual."

"And where did you learn that lesson, pray tell?"

"Rousseau. I hope to find it replicated in life."

Dom gave Elijah an unreadable look. He didn't expect to find this boy, this former terrorist with a shady past and unknown intentions, well-read in French philosophy, but then he was quickly finding that nothing was certain when it came to Elijah. The only solution was to watch the boy carefully. Very carefully.

"Very well, then. You may go."

Elijah raised an eyebrow. "I wasn't aware that my movement fell within your jurisdiction, Dominic Andreiovich."

"Then there are many things of which you are not aware."

Elijah only nodded, not reacting to Dominic's tone, and rose to his feet. "Alors, à notre prochaine rencontre," he said softly, and Dominic was annoyed to find Elijah's French accent more refined than his own. With a curt nod, he bid Elijah adieu, and retreated to his study. He had much to think about.

I want you here tonight, I want you here,

'Cause I can't believe what I found.

I want you here tonight, want you here.

Nothing is taking me down, down, down...

For the next week, Dominic did not see Elijah very much. At first he was glad for the fact, and did his best to go about business at usual, but eventually something began to eat at him.

First there were the servants. The maids, the butlers, the tutors...Everyone in his father's estate, down to his father himself, was enamoured of the boy. Dominic heard rumours everywhere, of how intelligent Elijah was, how polite, how generous. Elijah helped the maids carry the heavy pails of water. Elijah was a natural horseman. Elijah spoke fluent French. Elijah had such marvelous theories. Dominic wondered what his father would do if he knew where Elijah had learned these theories, exactly. The little terrorist was probably inciting rebellion amongst the workers in this very house, and Dominic was powerless to stop him.

And then there were the dreams.

At first they were simply nightmares, the same he'd always had, visions of a boy with blue eyes and a dark hood that stood for terror, for the eradication of everything Dominic knew and held dear. But then the nightmares shifted, just slightly, and there was Elijah, standing calmly in the doorway but this time talking to Dominic through the storm, his voice clear as anything.

"I hope to find it replicated in life," the boy spoke, as if in Dominic's ear. "You have a lot to learn, Dominic. À notre prochaine rencontre..."

The voice inexplicably haunted him, and he found he could not relax. He could not carry on his life as usual, and he could not pretend that Elijah had not piqued his curiosity, that the boy had not made him hunger for more knowledge, to understand the creature, or something else. He could not name his goal, but there was something Dominic wanted, and he could not rest until he had it.

And so, it was early one Saturday afternoon, and only a light dusting of snow on the ground, when Dominic marched towards the stables, selecting the fine white stallion that he preferred and letting the servants prepare the beast for him before mounting it, handsome but cold in his full dress wear, dismissing the servants with a brusque nod. He followed the tracks in the snow beyond the fields, into the woods, and became more and more suspicious as he continued on. Elijah was supposed to be practicing his riding skills, yes, but what was he doing so deep in the woods?

When Dominic finally reached the end of the trail left by the other man's horse, he found the animal tied to a tree. Elijah, riding cap and crop set aside, was sitting on a large rock, looking out over the small frozen creek in contemplation, his arms around his knees and his boots flat on the strangely snow-less boulder. He looked impossibly young in profile, and for a moment Dominic wasn't sure what to say.

Without turning his head or otherwise acknowledging the man's presence, Elijah's face slowly softened into a slight smile, and when he spoke the sound resonated under the canopy of pines.

"You're far from home this afternoon."

"I could say the same for you," Dominic replied with a snort, dismounting his steed and tying it next to Elijah's.

"Ah, but I am never close to home, Dominic Andreiovich," Elijah countered. "For I have no home, not anymore."

Dominic rolled his eyes, unsympathetic, and stepped closer. "You didn't seem so concerned about your parents' death when we last spoke. Why affect sentimentality? We both know you have no time for such things."

Elijah looked directly at Dominic then, and he was thrown off slightly by the sincerity and depth of the young man's gaze. "You know very little about me, Dominic Andreiovich. It doesn't flatter you to pretend."

His voice was cold, and for a moment Dominic felt heartless -- what did he know about being an orphan, after all?

"Why are you in St. Petersburg?" Dominic asked, simply, stepping towards the creek and looking down at its placid icy surface. "Do you enjoy tormenting me?"

Elijah was silent, and when Dominic turned he found the boy staring at him, incredulous. "Do you quite seriously suppose I remain here because of you?"

Elijah's voice was soft, and Dominic turned an expression of confusion on him. "Well... why else? Anyone else would've had the decency... the shame... to leave after the point of recognition."

Elijah let out a sharp, cold laugh, and turned his eyes slightly to the side, past Dominic, to the snowy woods on the other side of the creek. "You fancy that I should feel ashamed, do you?"

Dominic frowned. "Of course. I realised who you were, your past...you said you have since realised that those ideals were false, so should you not be ashamed?"

"No." Dominic watched as Elijah reached down, picked at the top of his boot. He wanted to make a comment on how those fine suede riding boots cost more than Elijah himself would be worth were he a serf, but he wisely refrained. "I feel no shame, Dominic. We change our minds many times in life, as I am sure you yourself have done. You would be a liar to deny it."

"You dare call me a..."

Dominic's face was red as he stepped forward, boldly, as if to strike the boy, but Elijah turned cold blue eyes on him, surprisingly harsh, and he stopped.

"When you saw this rock, what was the first thing you thought?"

Dominic stared at him, and raised an eyebrow. "What sort of a question is that?"

"An honest one. Please answer it."

Dominic frowned, and was about to tell Elijah to just go back where he came from, but he decided to humour him. "Well I noticed that no snow covered it. That seems unusual."

Elijah smiled. "And how, Dominic Andreiovich, did you think that there came to be no snow on this rock?"

Dominic's brow furrowed further, assuming that it was a trick question but not seeing any answer beyond the obvious one. "Well, I don't know. I assumed the snow somehow missed it. Perhaps absorbed by one of the trees," he postulated, waving to the canopy over their heads.

Elijah's smile did not fade, and Dominic got the feeling of an errant schoolboy who had answered a tutor's question incorrectly. "Precisely. The snow just isn't here. It must not have fallen, or have been prevented by some extenuating circumstance. That is all you need to know."

"What do you mean, that is all I need to know?" Dominic asked, indignant.

"Well, it is not important to you, for example, that this rock was actually covered with as much snow as the rest of the forest -- a trifling amount, to be sure -- but that I actually brushed it away with my coat before sitting. It does not occur to you to think of what actions those below you must take to achieve an end, does it? We, and our actions, are beneath you."

Dominic frowned. "Are you saying that I am an unkind master?"

"I am saying, Dominic Andreiovich, that you are typical of your station. You may take that as you will."

"I take that, young Elijah, as an insult, and I suggest you retract it."

Elijah smiled. "Well I suggest you leave me alone to my thoughts, but we both know that isn't going to happen until you're good and ready for it to."

Dominic scowled. He would not let this insolent brat win this round. "I'm going," he said, curtly, turning on his heel. He untied his horse without looking back, and mounted it swiftly, but when he saw Elijah, sitting on the rock, again facing the creek, he felt somehow compelled to speak again. "I will receive you in my sitting room this evening after your supper, if you would like to expound further upon your philosophy."

And with that, he was trotting off into the woods, never to see the small, amused smile that graced the young man's face.

I remember it well, taxied out of a storm,

To watch you perform, and my ships were sailing.

I remember it well, I was stood in your line,

And your mouth, your mouth, your mouth, your mind

It was nine 'o clock in the evening, and Dom was sitting on a settee in his sitting room, sipping at a cup of cream tea and waiting on Elijah. Supper had been over for an hour, and he had time to think about the young man, again to journey back in time to that night in Moscow.

In a way, Dominic despised St. Petersburg, for it was a symbol of his father's rule and of the monarchy and business that would forever dictate his every step as a noble. He understood that the system was necessary, and that he was born into privilege for a reason -- God intended him for a duty he would not shirk -- but nonetheless it could at times be taxing.

That winter, five years ago, he had been happy to be in Moscow, in a suite of five rented rooms, lavishly furnished, with only his butler and a single maid as staff, as well as a driver. The butler was loyal to the family, and Dominic did not underestimate his luck in that regard, for otherwise Dominic might have found himself stranded when this petty revolution came.

As it was, however, Dominic felt perhaps more scared than he would have been if he had stayed. Again, he was haunted by a specter, by a pale face and clear blue eyes. The snowstorm, the swirling flurries, did not obscure Elijah's image in his mind, but rather enhanced it, and he now remembered the event in a skewed fashion, as if it were Elijah -- not the journey home -- that had been the intent of his leaving. It was as if the events of his life slowed to a halt for that moment, for that one image, for that revelation -- though he could not yet know what it revealed. It was frightening, and further, it was disturbing to realize now that the young man was not just a specter but something real, a tangible thing, a member of his household now, and that the strange spark in the pit of his stomach upon seeing the boy had not been dulled but rather reinforced by time.

Perhaps it was this fear that led him to be sharp with Elijah, to bark out in annoyance when he entered the suite. "You're late."

"First lesson. Do not frame every assumption subjectively. I am late because you wanted me to be here earlier. You assume that no other concern I might have takes precedence over our conversation, that whatever life those below you take on is background noise." Elijah smiled slightly. "A fatal error."

"You threaten me, little Decemberist?"

Elijah smiled. "A charming nickname, to be sure, but no. I am not so stupid. I seek only to help you, Dominic Andreiovich. You have read the Bible, have you not?"

Dominic spluttered slightly, staring at Elijah. "Why... of course!"

"Then you know the story of the good Samaritan," Elijah said simply. "I seek only to provide what I know, free of cost, to the son of a man who has helped me, and more importantly, to a fellow human being who may stand to benefit from my knowledge."

"From your... I did not ask to be lectured!" Dominic objected.

"Perhaps not intentionally." Elijah shrugged. "Do you plan to offer me tea, or shall we begin?"

Dominic stared at the boy, and then, dismissively, gestured to the pot. Elijah smiled and served himself a cup of the steaming black liquid, adding no cream or sugar, and sat opposite Dominic, taking a cautious sip.

"Why do you torment me so?" Dominic asked, a rephrasing of his question that afternoon.

Elijah looked thoughtful, running his finger along the rim of the porcelain cup as he considered the question. "You return again to this concept of torment. Tell me, Dominic Andreiovich -- if I torment you so, what is the nature of this torment? I have barely seen you since I arrived. Can my mere presence -- the presence of a peasant," he added, the term loaded with disdain, "rattle you so much?"

"No!" Dominic answered suddenly, and then he had the good graces to blush, his eyes lowering to his teacup. "You do not rattle me. You simply... well you must understand. You show up, five years after one of the most frightening nights of my life, directly out of a dream. Should I not be unsettled?"

Elijah gave Dominic a strange look, then took a slow sip of his tea, apparently in no hurry to answer. "Out of a dream, Dominic Andreiovich?"

Dominic stared at him, this strange boy, this strange man, and could not justify the words that came next out of his mouth. "Call me Dominic."

Elijah lifted one eyebrow, the teacup halfway to his mouth, and then, slowly nodded. "Very well, Dominic. You dream about me?"

"Nightmares," Dominic replied quickly, too quickly, and Elijah smiled as one just let in on an inside joke.

"I see. Well pardon me for disrupting your sleep, then."

Dominic just stared into his teacup, mildly annoyed, and there was a brief silence before Elijah leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, the cup clasped between his hands.

"Now. You suggested that I continue to instruct you in my 'philosophy,' as you put it. I regret to inform you that you will be sadly disappointed, Dominic, for my philosophy is far from developed. I am twenty-one years old, and I cannot purport to understand the secrets of the world, or my entire life's work would be a sham."

"Your life's work? What, pray tell, is that?"

Elijah smiled, even laughed lightly to himself, shaking his head. "I seek out the truth, Dominic. Though the harder I search, the more painful I find it. Still," he concluded with a shrug, "I believe it is a worthy goal, and sometimes suffering is necessary to achieve understanding. I believe your Bible puts it thusly, in John 8:32-- 'the truth shall make you free,' is that not the verse?"

Dominic frowned. "My Bible? I don't follow you."

Elijah sighed, and looked into his cup again as if trying to reach some decision. "Dominic, I am going to tell you something, which I believe may be necessary to earn your trust. My secrets upset you, and as you are used to demanding the truth, whether or not you are actually given it, I feel compelled to offer you some tidbit so that you may find me more trustworthy." Dominic frowned, but did not speak. "Dominic, it is essential that you do not reveal this truth to your father. Of course, I have no means of ensuring that you do not, but I am an honest man, and I make my living in an honest way, and I have no desire to run again."

Dominic frowned again, and then finally nodded. "I will guard your secret."

"Very well. I shall take you at your word," Elijah offered with a smile, taking another sip of his tea before continuing. "Everything I told you in this place a week ago was true, Dominic, and you are astute to have recognised the lack of sentimentality I hold for my parents. Though they did die in a fire, I was not with them when they died, nor did I ever see them after I initially left. You see, Dominic, I left home seeking truth and justice, and was disappointed when I found none, but I still knew not to look for it in the ways of my father, a wealthy but despicable man who earned his keep charging ridiculous loans to the nobility and conducting questionable business practices for over thirty years."

Dominic stared at the young man, the pieces coming slowly together. "But... Christian men are forbidden to loan money..."

Elijah nodded. "And there you have my secret."

"You're a Jew?"

"I am."

"But... but part of your instruction here is religious..."

"And I find it interesting, Christian philosophy... "

"It's not a philosophy! It is what I believe!"

Elijah smiled, and much to Dominic's surprise, reached out and placed a gentle hand on his knee. "I understand that, Dominic, and I do not begrudge you that belief. Beliefs are a fascinating subject, you know. I believe in truth and wisdom, in principles that I know but cannot always name. You believe in the teachings of your Church, in the authority of a higher power..."

"But don't you believe in a higher power, also? I mean, even Jews have religion."

Elijah laughed bitterly and nodded, sitting back again. "Yes, Dominic, even Jews have religion, but I have long doubted those convictions. I do not blame my father for his profession, as our men have been cast into this trade by necessity and by Christian restrictions, but he exploited his position, and this is what gives Jews a bad name in Russia, whether or not it be deserved."

"So you... left, because of it?"

Elijah nodded. "I did. I left to find something more real, some higher truth. From God, perhaps, or perhaps from humanity. In either case, I have been left wanting."

"So what are you doing here, then? You have given up?"

Elijah laughed and shook his head. "Far from it, my dear Dominic. I spent so much time as a boy and as an adolescent questioning the values of the aristocracy, and listening to those who blamed your class for all society's ills. I found that their truth was incorrect, or at least incomplete, and so now I seek to learn of the class that I so strongly disdained. I hope to find the root of the injustices that we fought against, and if there may be some underlying cause that might be fixed, not by violence, but through education."

Dominic scoffed. "You seek to educate us? You would do well to remind your place in this home, little Decemberist. You are not one of us, and should my father learn the truth, you would not be welcome here."

Elijah shrugged. "Perhaps not, but I would continue on. Still, I will wager that we can learn from one another, you and I. I do not believe that you want me gone, at least not yet."

Dominic glared at Elijah and stood hastily. "You presume too much."

Elijah met Dominic's cold stare, his cold tone, with a firm but gentle gaze as he too rose to his feet, setting the cup and saucer on the table between them. "Perhaps I do, Dominic. Perhaps you will never know," he suggested, stepping towards the door.

"Wait!" Dominic exclaimed, grabbing the boy by the elbow to keep him from leaving. Elijah turned, an expression of surprise in those clear blue eyes, and Dominic had a strange and overwhelming desire to gather Elijah in his arms and shake him, or perhaps embrace him...

Dominic banished the thought immediately from his mind and shook his head to clear it, still holding Elijah's elbow as the other man watched in confusion. "You will come again this night, one week from now. You have not yet taught me anything," Dominic said finally.

Elijah smiled, again appearing to harbour a particularly amusing secret, and cocked his head slightly to the side. "Ah, Dominic, but I think I have," he said simply, and then tugged his arm back lightly from Dominic's grasp, turning again and leaving Dominic to consider his words.

I want you here tonight, I want you here,
'Cause I can't believe what I found.
I want you here tonight, want you here.
Nothing is taking me down,
But you my love...

It had been three nights since their meeting when Dominic awoke in a cold sweat, Elijah's name on his lips. Taking stock of his surroundings, he found his legs tangled tightly in the layers of covers that kept his bed warm in the winter, duvet and blanket, three sheets... and for the first time he wondered how Elijah slept, what bedclothes he was given to drive out the December cold. He wondered how the maids slept even, and the butlers. Were they warm? Who stoked their fires when the snows came, or did they even have fireplaces?

Dominic found himself pondering these questions, to the point of obsession even, as he became more and more awake, moving further and further from the dream world. For he didn't want to contemplate his dream, didn't want to contemplate how in it, the familiar image of blue eyes and a dark hood was followed by an image of Elijah, wearing nothing but the pale silk of his own skin, laughing barefoot in the snow, or rather on a rock, a bare rock, surrounded by snow. He didn't want to think about how he, Dominic, stood in this dream with a mound of white around his suede boots, a mound that he himself had brushed off, he knew, to give Elijah a platform on which to sit. And he certainly didn't want to think about how in his dream, he had grabbed Elijah again, stopped him from leaving the suite, but this time not by the elbow but by the waist.

No, Dominic didn't want to think about how his own long fingers had spanned the slender waist, how they had slipped straight through the plain black waistcoat with a transparency only possible in the dream world, or about how they had caressed the impossibly soft skin underneath. And he would absolutely forbid himself to consider the way he had pulled Elijah's body tight to his own in this God-forsaken dream, how his fingers had brushed the curve of a cheek more delicate than any woman's, and how his lips had sought for purchase against that pink mouth that spoke often of revolutionary ideals but yet never ill against Dominic himself, an immediate symbol of the aristocracy.

No, Dominic would not think about that.

Come all ye lost, dive into moss,
I hope that my sanity covers the cost
To remove the stain of my love, paper maché.

When Elijah came to the suite again, Dominic was ready for him. He had dressed somewhat formally in a red shirt, black waistcoat, and black coat, and he sat stiffly. He would not allow their contact to become familiar, and he would keep the proper distance between them both figuratively and rhetorically. At least that was the plan.

"Good evening," Dominic greeted his visitor. "I'm afraid there is no tea tonight. Would you like some mulled wine?" he offered, gesturing to the large pottery vessel on the sideboard, filled with the warm liquid.

Elijah nodded simply and ladled his own wine into a glass before joining Dominic, sitting across from the man as in the previous week, and taking a sip of the beverage before they begun.

"You're cold," Dominic observed, seeing the way Elijah rubbed his chapped pale hands back and forth on the outside of the glass, his nails bitten.

"It is December," he replied simply, looking up at Dominic with some surprise.

"It is always December," Dominic answered him, his tone soft and distant, recalling a memory they both could summon at will but would not speak of, now.

Elijah simply nodded and took another sip of wine. "You asked to know of my philosophy, but I'm afraid I will disappoint you in that regard, Master Dominic."

Dominic frowned. "No man is your master, Elijah. It insults me for you to refer to me as such."

Elijah smiled and nodded. "Very well. In any event, it is my duty to inform you that I am no expert on philosophy, and that I myself am only beginning to develop any coherent theory on the subject. Perhaps your time would be better spent consulting Plato or Aristotle..."

"No," Dominic interrupted, briskly shaking his head. "You are like a Frenchman, obsessed with the classics and with learning. I have been instructed in all the necessary subjects, Elijah, and this is not the knowledge I seek, nor is it the knowledge I suspect you posses. You are of this world, Elijah. You live and breathe and speak this world, and that is what I wish to know of. Instruct me," Dominic asked simply, holding his palms up in a gesture of supplication, and though he surprised himself even in his humility, it seemed to work.

Elijah nodded slowly, and then placed his wine on the table, leaning forward again with his hands clasped on his knees. "The problem, as I see it, is this. You do not treat your servants badly, nor does your father. You are not unkind to the peasants you see in your lives, but at the same time you make no effort to improve their lot. Wait," he added, holding a hand out when Dominic moved to interrupt. "I have not finished," he said simply, and Dominic nodded. "It is not your fault, Dominic. You do not act maliciously towards serfs or household servants, and in fact I have become more convinced with every noble I meet that you simply do not understand their condition. You are not aware of it, or perhaps it is your own philosophy that makes you unable to sympathise with someone born into a lower station than yours."

"I am sympathetic to good men," Dominic argued. "If some evil befalls a good man, I will do what I can to help him, or to find help for him. We have employed many a servant in this household of whom we had no specific need. We are known, in fact, throughout St. Petersburg, for our generosity in these matters. You are not the first young man my father has taken in like this, and I do not see why, if your aim is to reform my class, you must begin with us. We are hardly the worst example."

"No," Elijah agreed. "You are not the worst. You may not be the best, but you are quite far from the worst. The fact is, the worst would never listen. You are open-minded, Dominic, for an aristocrat. You have compassion in you: I can see it."

Elijah lifted his hand then, and lightly touched the pads of his rough, cold fingers to the underside of Dominic's jaw, the fingers loose and curled slightly, non-threatening but nonetheless dangerous. Dominic stared into Elijah's eyes, trying to convey his discomfort, but the young man did not pull away, and in fact presumed to brush the stubble of Dominic's jawbone with his thumb.

"What are you doing?" Dominic asked, though his voice was rough and barely a whisper, and his muscles were shaking slightly. "Remove your hand."

Elijah did not obey the order, and kept his hand where it was, staring at Dominic as if an answer would somehow present itself if he looked long enough. "You tremble," he observed, the dastardly thumb tracing its path once again. "Are you cold?"

"I... no!" Dominic replied defensively, standing suddenly from the settee and walking quickly to the window. For a long while, no one spoke, but Dominic was aware of Elijah's presence, just over his shoulder. He sighed, and his shoulders were heavy, the impulse to weep stronger than it had been since he was a boy. "Why do you unnerve me so?"

"Unnerve, is it?"

The voice came from less than a metre away, and Dominic could hear a hint of a smile in Elijah's tone. "Last week it was torment," Elijah continued, and when Dominic whipped around to reprimand the young man, he found Elijah covering his mouth with the back of his hand, trying to suppress a giggle.

Dominic stared incredulously at the little lines around Elijah's eyes, the laughing sparkle in his eye that perfectly mimicked Dominic's dream, and he reached out, ostensibly to tug Elijah's wrist away from his face. Instead, his hand, of its own accord, jerked Elijah closer. Their chests pressed against one another, their eyes met, and Elijah was no longer laughing.

Come all ye reborn, blow off my horn. I'm driving real hard, this is love, this is porn, God would forgive me, but I... I whip myself, scorn, scorn

Dominic wasn't sure exactly how long he stood there, his chest heaving, matching his breathing to the younger man's as he stared into the eyes that had haunted him for years, but he did know that he had never felt the pieces fall into place quite so clearly.

Those eyes were so much more beautiful in laughter, rather than inciting fear, and Dominic felt a strange pull in his stomach to make Elijah laugh, again and again. Barely breathing now from fear and excitement, he suddenly noticed his hand, still holding Elijah's wrist between their shoulders, almost tightly enough to bruise. His eyes flicked away from Elijah's and down to the wrist, to his own fingers, how they squeezed the pale flesh. He watched, fascinated by his own movement, as his fingers loosened, as his hand slid up to instead wrap around Elijah's own, his thumb brushing the back of Elijah's hand. And then his eyes returned, slowly, to Elijah's eyes, and what he saw there was not fear, but hunger, laced with curiosity.

Gasping, Dominic gave up all pretense of restraint, and dived forward, his lips crashing against Elijah's, his hand sliding out of Elijah's to cup the youth's neck, his thumb caressing bone just behind Elijah's ear and then over the strong tendon as he licked and pushed and turned them both, backing Elijah into the windowsill.

Elijah, too, gasped, as the small of his back pressed against the jutting wood, and then he moaned, Dominic's thigh slipping unintentionally between his own and pressing hard against him. Dominic's mouth swallowed the moan, but he did not miss the trembling of the young man's body, the way Elijah suddenly became pliant under him. He did not miss Elijah's arms, winding around his neck and pulling him closer. He certainly did not miss how Elijah's leg sneakily rose up, thigh hooking on Dominic's hip.

And then he realized who he was, who Elijah was, and most importantly, what Elijah must think. Eyes wide, he pulled out of the kiss as violently as he had begun it, tripping backward, staring at Elijah in pure, naked fear. The young man was breathing heavily, his hands supporting him on the sill to either side, and he looked like temptation defined. Dominic's eyes quickly traced the pale flesh of neck to where it disappeared regrettably under a fashionable shirt collar, and then he fled the room, before his need got the better of him.

Later that night, he knew he had done the right thing. Elijah was young, and he was dependent on Dominic's father for his well being. Dominic's actions, if they continued, would reduce Elijah to the level of common whore, and what was worse, he would be exploiting the youth in the very way Elijah would expect. No. He couldn't do this, couldn't sink to the level of his own reputation.

Lying in his bed, Dominic sobbed as his hand moved on his own flesh, still irrevocably hard, still yearning to bury itself in the soft depths of a brilliant, free-thinking young Decemberist. He sobbed, and he squeezed hard-too hard-punishing himself even as he whispered Elijah's name over and over, bringing himself to a release that was hollow and bittersweet.

I wanna hear what you have to say about me, Hear if you're gonna live without me, I wanna hear what you want-I remember December

Dominic found it out from a servant, a maid girl who informed him that Elijah was regrettably unable to remain with them for the rest of the season. He had found some relative, some family obligation far from the city in Muscovy, and he would be departing in two weeks. Dominic didn't believe that tale for a minute, and he also knew that this was far from traveling weather. Dominic's father hadn't been able to spare a coach, so he was sending Elijah with a horse -- a good horse, to be sure, but the young man couldn't get very far traveling on horseback in the dead of winter, even well -- wrapped in furs, and Dominic knew Elijah would never take enough money from them to be able to afford the necessary number of changes.

For the next week, Dominic lived on rumours. He couldn't find Elijah himself anyway, so he was especially kind to the servants, trying to glean whatever information he could from them. Of course, no one knew what had transpired between them, and Dominic had no way of communicating with Elijah, of reassuring the youth that he would never try such a low act again, and that he had never intended to insult the young man with his overtures.

He was quite surprised, therefore, to find a leather-bound book on his pillow one night, a week before the date on which Elijah was scheduled to depart -- and, he realized with a jolt upon reading the carefully penned inscription, the fifth anniversary of that fateful night in Moscow.

To Dominic, on this 14th of December, eighteen hundred and thirty,

Do not be angry, for I take my leave to absolve you of this anger. If I offended you, I hope that you can take this emotion and turn it to greater good. I leave this, my final comment to you, in hopes that you will realize a simple truth -- despite all that I may say to the contrary, c'est vraiment le meilleur des mondes possibles. You have reminded me of this truth, Dominic, and for that I am truly thankful.

Yours (I hope you will forgive me for believing it just this once), Elijah

Dominic read the inscription many times over, unable to understand the sentiment behind it -- for Elijah acted as if it were he, not Dominic, who caused this offence. And the more he read, the more infuriated he became. Why, Eljiah? he wanted to ask. Tell me, for God's sake, why you keep tormenting me so. And then he lay back, fingering the worn leather and the soft spine, and added another mental plea.

And please, Elijah... tell me you'll be all right.


And I wanna hear what you have to say about me,
Hear if you're gonna live without me,
I wanna hear what you want,
What the hell do you want?

It took Dominic five days to read Candide, despite his rusty French, for he worked at it day and night, barely sleeping. Still, Elijah was nowhere to be found, until suddenly, one day, when Dominic had finally finished reading and was instead pacing back and forth in the stables, accepting the cold as appropriate penance for his sins, he suddenly appeared, climbing down the ladder from the hay loft.

"Is that where you've been hiding?" Dominic exclaimed, his emotions consolidating into a bitter anger.

Elijah nodded, simply, and stepped closer. "I'm leaving, Dominic."

"I know."

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" Dominic stared at Elijah, tried to be angry, but found himself instead stepping forward to close the distance between them, his voice soft and much to his annoyance, almost pleading.

"I pushed you into something you didn't want, it seems," Elijah explained with a shrug.

"You... what?" Dominic just kept staring, uncomprehending, and Elijah's eyes held no answers this time. "But you... I... I can't do this to you. You're the one who needs to be protected, from me. I'm a vile monster, Elijah, vile and despicable. The things I have realized, the things I have wished since I... since I kissed you... you would think me a monster, Elijah," he repeated desperately.

"Do you hate me so much?" he asked, and for the first time since that snowy evening five years ago, Elijah looked like a boy.

"Hate you?" Dominic whispered.

"Yes. These things... you have wished cruel things upon me?" Elijah prompted.

"Cruel... no!" Dominic objected. "Cruel only in that they are exploitative, in that you tried to teach me not to use my station for ill means and here I am, wanting so badly to... seduce you... it goes beyond everything you stand for."

Elijah's lips slowly curled into a smile, and Dominic was completely flabbergasted. Elijah stepped forward once more, so close that they were nearly touching, and when his hand came up Dominic flinched, as if expecting a strike. None came, however, and the hand instead came to touch Dominic's cheek, caressing gently.

"You want to seduce me, do you Dominic?"

Dominic sighed involuntarily, turning into the touch until his lips touched Elijah's palm. "Yes," he whispered, seeing acceptance in the eyes he still focused on. Elijah nodded, and smiled.

"Well then, I suspect it is time for me to give you your Christmas present."

"But the book..."

Elijah smiled and shook his head, cutting Dominic off, and then his fingers fisted abruptly in Dominic's hair, pulling him close. Dominic barely had time to wrap his mind around this turn of events when Elijah's lips were crushing against his own, his free arm confidently wrapped around Dominic's waist, their bodies perfectly aligned and at least in his case, desperately aroused.

"Elijah," he whispered when the boy finally pulled away, and Elijah smiled.

"I told you that was my name, when we first met. That the name was all you needed to know. You have learned a great deal, Dominic. I would never expect you to exploit me, and I think you are learning to generalise that lesson as well." He smiled again, almost wistfully, and pressed a much briefer kiss to Dominic's lips before taking a broad step backwards. "My name is Elijah Petrovich, dear Dominic, and I will look for you in the spring. In Moscow."

And with that, Elijah was striding over to his horse, his things already packed in the saddlebags, Dominic struck mute and spluttering as he followed after him. "But... Elijah... you'll never make it in this weather. And where? Where in Moscow do we meet?"

"Ah, Dominic," Elijah replied with a fond smile, throwing his leg over the beast and pulling his fur coat tightly around him as Dominic grudgingly stepped aside to allow the animal to leave its stall. "I have seen hard winters. You needn't worry about me." He reached down then, waiting until Dominic offered his hand, and gave it a final squeeze, then bent to kiss the knuckles before turning the horse towards the open door of the barn. "You remember our doorway, Domi," he whispered, the endearing nickname falling from his lips with one last smile. And then, with a kick to the horse's powerful flanks, Elijah Petrovich was off, leaving Dominic to stand in the barn, press his fingers to his own mouth, and count the days until spring.

Translation Notes:

1) Ебат копать: Russian curse word roughly equivalent to "oh, shit."
2) Alors, … notre prochaine rencontre: Well then, until our next meeting.
3) c'est vraiment le meilleur des mondes possibles: A play on the famous line from Voltaire's Candide, c'est le meilleur des mondes possibles (this is the best of all possible worlds), Elijah says "this really is the best of all possible worlds."


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