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a love[r] letter

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He stumbled up the stairs drunk, perhaps on his way to the bedroom where he presumed Helene would be, or to some other decision that his subconscious had made for him. Not that Helene would comfort him, but just that she would recognize his humanity by merely being cruel to him. It wasn’t that Pierre was completely drunk, but confused and incoherent enough to stumble and sway with every other step. He had met a few young men at the club who were enthusiastic in their drinking games and he had unintentionally become sucked into their discussions; too keen on their talks on the state of political affairs and philosophical inquiry to refrain from drinking with them. They reminded him of himself when he was still a wide eyed young man and they were happy to listen to his more jaded perspectives, recognition alight in their eyes at the name Bezukhov.

Pierre took his time climbing up the stairs, pausing every so often in his confused state - was he going to his room? The study? When was the last time the stairs had been swept anyway? And was that a potted plant or a man? He opens the first door to his left, startled by the weight of it but thinking nothing else except to lie down and face unconsciousness. He squinted in the darkness, the only light in the room besides the gold of the gaslit hallway was spilling in through the slim uncovered window and Pierre made out the unnatural lumpiness of two forms in the bed. While he stood in confusion, he failed to catch the door in time before it hit the wall and a figure flinched under the sheets while Pierre himself gasped in surprise.

“Wha-?” Anatole’s voice, thick from sleep, sounded from where his blonde head peaked out under the sheets, “Pierre? What?” He doesn’t move any further- just stared Pierre down in blurry freshly awoken confusion.

His confusion was met with Pierre’s own bewilderment, whose room was this? - the figure behind the Prince shifted and out came the unruly hair of Dolokhov the assassin, looking far less threatening than Pierre had ever seen him before.

“Bezukhov,” Dolokhov sounded exasperated, “You are drunk. Go to bed.”

Pierre made no movement - perhaps he was just caught in some hallucination and was already mid sleep. He heard a deep sigh from the bed and Anatole faded back into the sheets. Unable to figure out his next move in his sluggish state, next came the murmur of voices and the rustle of bedsheets, like ghosts drifting past him, before Dolokhov got out from under the sheets - in just his shorts - and pulled on a shirt that was hanging over the edge of the bed frame.

“Fedya,” Anatole’s slim pale hand slipped out from beneath the covers to run itself over Dolokhov’s arm. Without replying, Pierre watched as Dolokhov took his hand and brought his knuckles to his lips and Anatole rolled closer to him in the bed, practically glowing in the moonlight despite his mussed hair.

“Go back to bed,” he heard Dolokhov’s voice whisper. He had never seen the brusque man so affectionate and it startled a grunt out of him. Anatole made a soft noncommittal sound but was already curling into himself. He watched as Dolokhov sat at the edge of the bed and pulled on a pair of pants, forgoing shoes or even buttoning up his shirt but instead making his way over to the doorway.
“Come,” Dolokhov pushed Pierre lightly with a hand against his chest, “I’ll bring you to your room.”

Pierre went where he was shepherded, still confused as to why the other man was even there - in his own home, and without Helene.

“I was looking for my study,” Pierre felt flustered, pushing his glasses up at the sight of Dolokhov’s bare chest. He surprisingly didn’t think the other man an enemy at the moment but perhaps this was because of his drunken state and Dolokhov’s own appearance of vulnerability. And Anatole- his confusion only worsened.

Dolokhov hummed, “Your study is on the ground floor, Petrushka.”

“Don’t call me that.” Pierre interjected but there was no heat behind it. Instead he wrung his hands before him and flit his eyes between Dolokhov’s stoic expression and the carpet before him, lest he fall. Dolokhov made no attempt at conversation or even appeared as sleepy as he had seemed earlier; instead he stood straight at attention like his soldier background implied he would. Like it was his mission to return Pierre to his room. In his own home! His wife’s lover!

Something ugly struggled to tamper itself within Pierre and when they finally reached the door to the master bedroom it finally emerged itself and he turned sharply to face Dolokhov’s black eyes. He was half towering over him but even then he still felt small to the way Dolokhov’s eyes narrowed. Unfortunately, Pierre’s own intended threatening effect was lost on him as he had to use a hand to steady himself on Dolokhov’s shoulder. The other man only looked up at him and watched him huff, something akin to amusement in his features beneath his dark brows. And now he was being laughed at! The scoundrel!

Pierre braced his feet before moving to swing at Dolokhov with his free hand but he underestimated his drunken state and his fist moved slow enough that Dolokhov could catch his arm and throw it down. Pierre stumbled back with the momentum, cursing and grabbing at the doorway for support.

“Don’t get all sinister on me now, old man, I’m helping you.” Dolokhov didn’t wait for him to get his footing right and instead wrenched him up with a strong grip beneath his armpit. Pierre couldn’t help but notice how despite his size, Dolokhov could lift him without a struggle. When Dolokhov pulled back, Pierre got a whiff of the sweet heady French perfume Anatole favored on his dark skin and hair - something he had failed to notice before.

“You smell like Anatole,” Pierre said and Dolokhov ignored him in favor of pushing open the bedroom door.

Pierre huffed, still disoriented from all of it while Dolokhov helped him into the room. Even in the darkness, Pierre knew Helene was not present and he threw himself down on top of the covers without bothering to remove his clothes. He opened his eyes to see the assassin's figure hovering over him and for a second he had enough clarity to feel afraid but before he could scramble back, Dolokhov merely reached forward and removed his glasses to set them on the bedside table.

“Goodnight.” He didn’t sound terribly bothered by the whole ordeal.
Pierre huffed again, “Get out of my house.”

He heard Dolokhov chuckle in response but he didn’t sound angry, “Sure, old man.”

“Don’t call me that,” Pierre’s voice was muffled into his pillow but Dolokhov had already turned to go.

--
When Pierre shot Dolokhov in the shoulder in the midst of their duel he had felt horribly sick, repulsed that he could have even wanted to kill another man. Lucky enough to have yet to fight in the ranks, it was ironic that Pierre, who couldn’t even hold his pistol properly, had shot another man - let alone the assassin Fedya Dolokhov. And Pierre remained adamant that he was correct - Helene and Dolokhov were having an affair right under his nose, weren’t they? He had to defend his honor.

The absolute look of horror on Helene’s face the moment Dolokhov fell felt like enough evidence for their covert intimacy but Pierre could never truly forget the mirrored expression of her brother who gasped high like he was the one wounded by Pierre’s pistol shot. While Helene reproached Pierre half livid, Anatole who had fallen in his shock, scrambled in the snow to prod at Dolokhov’s form, fogged breath choking with relief at the realization that he was still alive. He cupped Dolokhov’s cheek, trying to shake him into full lucidity but Dolokhov pushed himself up in his half delirious state, shoulder wound bleeding burgundy into the pristine white of the snow. Helene stood in Pierre’s way then as if worried that he would step in to finish the job, hurt evident in her features - how could you do this? Her eyes demanded, I expected better from you.

From behind her, Dolokhov was rising on wobbly legs and Pierre tried to reach out around Helene to steady him with his own shaking hands.

“Dolokhov- I didn’t mean to-”

“Quiet, old man! My turn!” Dolokhov’s voice was as grating as ever and he pushed Anatole away with his good arm, not allowing himself to be coddled into showing submission.

“No, Fedya, don’t-” Anatole tried from where he was lying in the snow before realizing Dolokhov wouldn’t give up his arms and turning to Pierre, “Pierre! Stand back!” His voice rang high through the air until Dolokhov shot - and missed.

Standing in the doorway to the ballroom now, Pierre wasn’t so sure about Helene’s guiltiness. Helene was present, yes, but she sat as a bystander at the piano as she watched her brother and his now uninjured friend waltz sloppily around the room to the sound of her playing the keys. Neither of them wanted to play the female parts and would wrestle each other in a fit of legitimate giggles every time they stumbled to a dip or a twirl. From the looks of it, Dolokhov was letting Anatole win because Pierre remembered the brutal strength he possessed. In comparison to Anatole’s lithe figure, Dolokhov could have forced his way if he had really wanted to. Instead they played their coy game of cat and mouse over their dancing while Helene looked on amused.

Pierre watched as Dolokhov put Anatole’s hands over his shoulders, his own hands settling at the slim waist of his partner while Helene turned instead to a softer tune.

“I swear to god if you step on my foot one more time, Tolya,” Dolokhov forced Anatole into a sudden dip that was met by delighted laughter.

Anatole’s superior height made the interaction all the more funnier as he kicked out his leg thinking that Dolokhov wouldn’t properly catch him but Dolokhov pulled Anatole back up gracefully and pressed flush against him, his eyes were crinkled in the corners and Pierre couldn’t work out the exact expression on his features. To his surprise, Anatole tilted his head and leaned down to catch Dolokhov’s mouth in a chaste press of lips, the other’s dark beard a heavy contrast to the smooth sharp paleness of Anatole’s own features. Dolokhov let him, hand sliding down to grab Anatole’s backside in a lewd gesture that had Helene fake gagging.

“Pierre,” Helene’s smile and music cut off when she addressed him and the two men pulled apart but remained close together, Anatole glancing over his shoulder to look at Pierre in the doorway.

“Oh, uh- excuse- excuse me,” he stumbled over his words and grew flustered while looking from person to person. Neither Anatole nor Dolokhov paid anymore attention to anyone but themselves and Helene looked expectant.

“Yes, husband?”

He hated the curt way she addressed him.

“Oh, nothing. I was just passing by,” He pushed his glasses back up his face at the sight of Anatole turning back to Dolokhov. They were swaying absentmindedly, no music present except the private one shared between them.

And maybe he had gotten mixed up somewhere - but then where did the story of his wife and Dolokhov come from in the first place? Who had set this up? And why? To anger him?

His confusion must have been evident in his face because Helene sighed and beckoned him in with a wave of her hand.

“Have a drink,” she pushed forward her glass of amber liquor from where it was perched precariously on the lid of the piano.

Pierre tentatively stepped in. Though he often corroborated with this group, he never fully felt like an equal, as though they were playing a different game behind his back.

“Toto, behave,” Helene was looking to where Anatole was trying and failing to push his hand into the front of Dolokhov’s trousers and Pierre’s eyebrows went up into his hair.

“Oh, hush,” Anatole pulled back before realizing that Pierre was now present in the room and a wicked grin spread across his face as he pulled back from Dolokhov, “Pierre, old man!”

Dolokhov refrained from meeting his eyes, instead focused on the glass Pierre was now holding.

“You must come out with us tonight,” Anatole rushed over to take Pierre’s hand not holding the glass, “Please? Come out.”

Over Anatole’s shoulder, Dolokhov and Pierre made hard eye contact and Helene noticed, pulling Dolokhov to her side at the piano. She rest her arm around Dolokhov’s waist as if challenging her husband to say something of it.

“It is behind us,” Anatole turned to look between them, “We have forgiven the whole ordeal? Yes?” He looked hopefully at Dolokhov who sighed. His whole body sagged with the expression but he matched the hopeful smile Anatole was giving him and reached out to squeeze his hip. For a second Pierre thought he would say no but Dolokhov met Pierre’s eyes with disdain and shrugged,

“Yes, it is forgiven.” He made a show of waving his healed arm, “I am better.”

Helene pursed her lips and said nothing. She shot Anatole an unimpressed look and turned to look at Dolokhov who was avoiding everyone’s gaze, eyes focused on the floor. He seemed small, different from the man who was foolishly waltzing a minute ago. Pierre made up his mind.

“No, it’s alright,” He waved his hand around, “I have things to do. Papers to write.”

“Oh, Petrushka,” Anatole whined but Pierre put his foot down.

“Another time, Anatole.”

“Toto, leave it.” Helene said. She pressed her lips together looking unimpressed at Anatole, “Leave him to his work.”

Dolokhov said nothing.

 

--
Late one evening Pierre jolted awake from where his face was pressed into a book to the harsh crash of the front door slamming shut and the buzz of voices attempting to quiet each other. He sat up at his desk, realizing the late hour and grumbled to himself at the startling sound. His papers were scattered across the desk and he slugglishy moved to collect them, careful not to spill his inkwell onto the already yellowed book pages. He reasoned that Helene had probably taken the guest room by then so he slowly made his way out from behind the mahogany desk, eager to get some sleep in his own bed before the sunlight began trickling in and he would start the cycle all over again.

The candle on his desk was weening, barely able to sustain itself anymore after he had left it on for so long but he took the snub out with him into the hall, surprised to find soft light coming from the main hall and the drawing room. But the servants should all be asleep by now, Pierre thought. He hesitated in the doorway to the drawing room - perhaps a stranger had found their way into the house! There was enough light that he could blow out his own candle, tentatively stepping into the room and squinting behind his spectacles at the source of light.

At first, Pierre thought no one was present in the room, but the light he had seen emanated from s a handheld oil lamp lit on the table at the center of the room. The back of the largest couch was facing the doorway and Pierre hesitated for a moment; if anyone were to be here they would be hiding behind this couch. He took slow mechanical steps, inching over the quietest floorboards before rounding the corner of the couch - weaponless but mostly concealed in darkness. From the angle, he recognized Dolokhov’s pistol on the table beside the lamp, concealed in its belt harness and he exhaled in relief. Just Dolokhov - a stranger to him but an honorary guest to the house.

He peaked at the inhabitant of the couch, startling when he recognized the Anatole’s fair hair turned away from him. Anatole was still in his vest and pants, face pressed into the collar of none other than Fyodor Dolokhov. They were both asleep in a heap, limbs tangled, one of Dolokhov’s knees pressed in the space between Anatole’s long legs, his arm thrown haphazardly around Anatole’s waist. They were using their coats as a makeshift blanket that didn’t actually cover them well, the green of Anatole’s coat overtop the dull gray of Dolokhov’s military uniform. Sock clad feet poked out from under the jackets, both pairs of their boots strewn just where Pierre missed tripping over them. Together they were both too big to properly fit the length of the couch but they made do with the space they had, pressed flush together.

Pierre recognized the overwhelming stench of booze and tobacco, confirming that they had been out drinking for the night. He sighed and straightened up, smiling to himself at the childlike embrace they found themselves in and moved to turn out the light.

Turning once more to examine them, he jumped in shock at the sight of Dolokhov’s black eyes narrowed at him over the top of Anatole’s hair. His heart in his throat, Pierre said nothing and Dolokhov did the same. Completely unaware of the staredown, Anatole shifted in his sleep, riding his leg higher on Dolokhov’s hip and muttering sleepily into his neck. Pierre watched white fingers clench and unclench on Dolokhov’s collar before gripping the space between his shoulder and neck instead, thumb pressing over the exposed dark skin there and settling. He nosed into the other man’s throat, pink mouth parting around nothing.

“I am only turning out the light,” Pierre whispered in what he hoped was a placating tone.

He put his hands up in a sign of surrender but Dolokhov still said nothing, cat like eyes following his every movement. Pierre moved as though facing off against a spooked animal, slinking his hand closer to the lamp without breaking eye contact. Witnessing his snail pace and intention, Dolokhov eventually seemed to cool and slid his eyes shut. He protectively tightened his arm around Anatole’s waist and pressed his nose into his hairline while Pierre watched the previous tension dissipate from his features as his own dark hair fell across his forehead.

Pierre finally leaned down to switch off the gas and the room sunk into darkness again. He stood there, unsure of his next move merely because of his unadjusted eyesight. There was a rustle of movement from the couch and a hum of Anatole’s honey voice expressing confusion followed closely by an affectionate whisper from the assassin before the rush of silence once more.

He carefully made his way back to the doorway, hands out in front of him like how he imagined a sleepwalker would do before going back out into the hall.

--

The same week, the door to his study opened sharply and Pierre looked up to find Dolokhov standing there with his shirt sleeves rolled up, stance wide and calculated. He seemed pensive, slightly irritated from having Pierre witness him vulnerable so often. The couch scene must have been the final straw for him.

“So you are not sleeping with my wife then,” Pierre said before Dolokhov could open his mouth. Dolokhov sized him up from the doorway before carefully stepping in and making his way over to where Pierre was sitting at his desk with a book open and a drink beside him. Pierre held out an empty glass taken from the side table and Dolokhov eyed Pierre’s hand but took it from him regardless.

“I never said I was,” he let Pierre pour liquor into his glass but held it to his chest instead of drinking it.

Dolokhov perched himself on the edge of Pierre’s desk, one foot on the ground as though ready to bolt at any second - or maybe ready to attack Pierre should he say the wrong thing. Pierre cleared his throat and focused on where Dolokhov was now toying with the edge of a folded letter.

“But you let me believe you were,” Pierre starts, he pauses suddenly unsure, “You could have told me yourself.”

The other man snorts and sips from his cup but he doesn’t look like he’s going to berate Pierre again. Something about his stance is odd, quite nervous in a way that he usually isn’t.

“What do I care about a rumor like that?,” Dolokhov asks, “It’s not like it is hurtful to my reputation.” He eyes Pierre over his drink as though testing him, “Right?”

“Right.” Pierre dropped his eyes.

If anything, Dolokhov benefited from such a rumor even if Pierre suffered for it; local veteran sharp shooter with a reputation for making any woman swoon; even married ones. He had never had this long a conversation with Dolokhov and suddenly all the reproach he had once felt vanished in his anxious state. There was once a time he had prepared hours of argumentative points directed at Dolokhov’s honor, his family, his reputation - now all gone from his mind because he had not expected the other man to be so subdued.

There was a pause where they both sat in motionless silence, Dolokhov slouching, dark hair strewn across his forehead. His shirt was not fully buttoned, an old smidge of brown on his collar. Pierre looked away at the recognition of dried blood. Dolokhov was not particularly a man of money but his reputation and service was what kept him the talk of Moscow; a little stain was nothing in the grand scheme of things, it actually made him look even more hard edged.

“Do you think me any worse a man for it?” Dolokhov’s voice was quiet and Pierre startled. Dolokhov was unbuttoning and buttoning a fixture on his shirt front and not meeting his eyes.

“Any worse for what? You say you haven’t slept with her.”

Dolokhov chuckled but it was dry and self deprecating. He turned to Pierre, “You are not stupid, old man.” Pierre cocked his head in confusion.

Dolokhov narrowed his eyes, “We both know that she is not the Kuragin I am courting.”

Pierre pulled his eyebrows together before realization dawned on him. Anatole.

“If you tell me it is shameful you will be just like everyone else,” Dolokhov sounded smug about this- knowing Pierre’s aversion to high society - but his hand was shaking slightly around the glass. He put it down and folded his hands in his lap instead, allowing his hair to slip over his forehead.

Many things slotted into place just then and Pierre carefully scrutinized the way Dolokhov wasn’t fully meeting his eyes.

“I don’t think it is shameful.”

“Well, I don’t care-” Dolokhov started, already angered, but cut himself off when he realized Pierre would not rebuke him, “You are not disgusted?” His eyes were wide and confused, completely unguarded and naked for a moment that it threw Pierre off. The entire conversation was swerving in directions he would not have previously thought possible.

“Why should I be?”

Dolokhov was looking at him now like he thought Pierre was making a joke of him, “I’m capable of killing you.”

Pierre actually laughed at that and Dolokhov instantly softened. He had tried, Dolokhov had, to kill Pierre once before and he had missed. Dolokhov flushed and took a sip from his glass,

“I practice. Just because I missed once doesn’t mean I will again.” But beneath the thickness of his beard he was smiling gratefully.

Pierre only smiled with him, the silence turned comfortable and bearable.

He was suddenly struck with a nagging feeling, “If-” Dolokhov turned to him, “If you were not sleeping with Helene, why-why would you be so cruel to me so as to force me into a duel?”

Dolokhov shrugged and averted his gaze again, “I think you know why.”

“Is your reputation so reliant on this false view of masculinity?”

Dolokhov stiffened, “What is it to you? You have everything,” he waved his hand around the room, “This is your house, Bezukhov. You have money.” He made a show of rubbing his fingers together like counting coins, “You have the means to represent yourself in the face of gossip. Who cares what they say if you have the money and the status to prove otherwise.” He drank down his brandy and stood.

“Imagine,” he spread his hands out in front of him like he was revealing a map, “Fyodor Dolokhov, penniless war veteran,” he looked purposefully at Pierre, “Queer.” He paused, “Even better: courting a Prince.”

Pierre grew disturbed at his bluntness and pushed up his glasses, dropping his gaze, “I see.”

Dolokhov winced like he expected a wiser reaction from him. When he spoke again his voice was small, “Anatole gains nothing from my companionship.” Pierre didn’t know how to respond so Dolokhov cleared his throat and responded for him with false gusto, already standing and pacing like he had thought this out frequently.

“Nevermind though, it doesn’t matter my intentions because Anatole will not have me,” his voice was like ice, “He is young and easily swayed.”

“You underestimate yourself,” Pierre murmured, pitying him. He was underestimating himself and Pierre knew this because he saw the way Anatole looked at him. Dolokhov just laughed bitterly,

“But why should I stand here and let a man of such entitlement tell me what he thinks he knows about me,” Dolokhov straightened his shirt but his fingers were still thrumming with nervous energy, he smiled ironically, “But thank you for allowing me to get that off my chest.”

He made a big show of bowing satirically before taking his leave and Piere was left feeling hurt deep in his chest at the loss of another.

--
Like he was in search of evidence to prove Dolokhov otherwise, Pierre began paying more attention to his surroundings when Anatole and his friend were present. Just then, Anatole accompanied him in the drawing room, speaking about nothing and everything while Pierre half tuned him out. The door opened and in came Dolokhov without an announcement, still in his uniform and Anatole brightened considerably from where he was leaning against a side desk.

“Fedya!” he opened his arms and Dolokhov rolled his eyes but made his way over to stand between Anatole’s legs. He seemed completely unaware that Pierre was even there. Either that or he was purposely ignoring him, shy from previously baring his soul to what he thought was indifference. Pierre was not indifferent.

Pierre pretended to be busy with his book when Anatole looked in his direction over his shoulder before turning back to Dolokhov, hands running up and down his arms.

“Mon cher, you are cold,” he pulled Dolokhov closer by his belt loops, “Have you just come in?”

“Yeah,” Dolokhov breathed, “It’s snowing again.” Anatole ran his hands along Dolokhov’s waistline and hummed in understanding. He pouted like the weather was a controllable force.

“I’ve missed you,” he murmured lowly and Pierre noticed the high color on Dolokhov’s face and the way he tilted his head downwards so his thick eyebrows shadowed his eyes. Anatole unhooked the gun holster around Dolokhov’s waist and placed it gently onto the countertop. With that, he skirted his fingers back around his hips and settled them there.

“Let’s toast to this,” Anatole gently pushed Dolokhov back so that he could stand to his full height but didn’t let the man out of his sight, instead leading him by the hand over to the liquor cabinet.

“Toast to what?” Dolokhov followed along breathlessly, “I’ve just seen you yesterday, Tolya.”

“Yes, and? Can I not be happy to see you?” Anatole asked.

Pierre watched Anatole fumble around with the bottles for a moment, giggling and speaking lowly about something before finally filling a glass for his friend. He took a sip before offering it to Dolokhov who took the glass thankfully. Before he could drink from it, Anatole leaned forward to catch his mouth in a blip of a chaste kiss followed by a blinding smile. Anatole pressed Dolokhov’s knuckles to his mouth, eyes encouraging him to take a sip of his drink.

“A one glass toast to you, mon coeur.” Anatole insisted against his bare skin.

There were times when Pierre remembered just how blindingly handsome and charming Anatole was; to the point where looking at him directly was almost painful. His playfully flirtatious actions could often be misconstrued for true enamor, so one had to take his words with a grain of salt. Watching him now, Pierre knew he wasn’t mistaking his actions for anything but true obvious enrapture, something that was actually shared between both Anatole and Dolokhov. But Dolokhov seemed to believe the former of him and just smiled around the lip of his glass. He believed that this was how Anatole always acted with everyone he was close to and that he would eventually be forgotten.

--
Pierre was just coming in through the front door from running an errand when he spotted Anatole in the main hallway, back turned to the door. He was still wearing his green coat as though he too had just come in and he was sifting through the letters on the front table. The mail must have just come in. In another time, Pierre may have been upset that Anatole was going through his things but he had grown so accustomed to Anatole staying in his home that the possibility of Anatole receiving mail at this address was very much plausible.

“Love letters?” Pierre asked. Anatole startled slightly but only laughed, turning to hand the pile to Pierre, one open letter in his hand.

“No, it is from my brother,” he smiled and leaned back against the table with his boots crossed at the ankles, “And who would I write this lettre d’amour for, mon cher?”

Dolokhov, Pierre’s mind offered but he only shrugged and took the letters from Anatole, “I don’t know.”

Anatole didn’t seem to be paying attention but he continued to entertain Pierre’s conversation. Like he was reading Pierre’s mind, he said in a dismissive voice,“Fedya, maybe, but why would I need to write one to him if he is already here. Merely semantique - to do so now.”

Pierre raised his eyebrows, “Dolokhov?”

Anatole looked up again and hummed, “Yes…” his voice trailed off and he seemed to finally focus his eyes on Pierre, “But I won’t, because he is already here.” He reiterated like Pierre was slow.

Pierre pushed his glasses up and tried again, “You are courting Dolokhov?”

Anatole cocked his head at this, “Is this new information?” He smiled, “Are we not the talk of drawing rooms across Moscow yet?” But his smile faltered.

“Of course we are discreet in our affections,” he waved his hand in thought, “It is not ‘approprié’ for someone of his hero status to court me - but forget gossip and rank for a moment - yes, I am courting Dolokhov.” His speech went in all different directions but he merely shook his head like it wasn’t too important.

Pierre held the letters closer to his chest and felt his heart rate rise at the subject, “Does he know?”

Anatole raised his eyebrows at him, “‘Does he know?’ Of course he knows, mon cher. How could he not?” he tilted his head and poked his pink tongue out slyly, “He has already taken me to bed. And rumors can be deceiving - because he is a kind lover.” He bared his white throat in jest.

Pierre instantly flushed at this and looked away at the sound of Anatole’s delighted laughter,

“Oh! To see your face, Petrushka!” He threw his head back, “Is it really so bad to hear when one is in love?”

Yes. Thought Pierre, Helene does not love me like you love your comrade. He only smiled tightly.

I’m happy for you two, it’s a good match,” he said instead.

Anatole blushed himself at this, suddenly shy and completely unaware of Pierre’s own heartache, “Thank you,” He smiled to himself, “He is quite handsome, don’t you think?”

Anatole went back to reading his brother’s letter with a tiny unwavering smile at the corner of his mouth. Pierre hesitated before speaking again.

“I think you should speak to Dolokhov about this,” Pierre flashed the letters in his hand, “What if he is unsure about where you two stand? If-if you are judging his affections based on actions alone, I mean.”

“Unsure,” Anatole considered this with his head tilted, “Did he say something to you?” He narrowed his eyes, “Do not scare him off, Pierre.” He pouted like they were speaking of some childhood crush.

If he was not scared off when I shot him he will not be scared off at all, Pierre thought.

Pierre shook his head quickly, “No, no, but,” he thought his words out carefully so as not to give Dolokhov’s confession away, “It is always good to speak frankly with your - lover.” He stumbled around the last word but Anatole didn’t seem to notice, watching him with his blue eyes wide.

“Letters today - they are often indicative of affections, yes?” Pierre suggested, “And if you don’t send him letters or speak frankly of what you are seeking-”

“- then how would he know.” Anatole finished his thought for him, gaze pensive.

There was silence for a moment where Pierre was unsure if they had finished their discussion or not. He hesitated, reluctantly beginning to turn away until Anatole reached out to pat him on the shoulder merrily, “You are a great friend, have I ever told you this, Pierre?”

He flashed Pierre the golden blinding smile that one had to turn away from to properly enjoy and Pierre did so as Anatole left the room. Pierre smiled to himself, something warm blooming in his chest. Dolokhov was not necessarily his friend, per se, but he had trusted Pierre enough to confide in him. The least Pierre could do was help him out. And for love? Pierre would give the world for something like that. He thought about Dolokhov’s gentle self deprecation and grinned to himself at the hope that Anatole could clear everything up.
--
Andrey Bolkonski was speaking animatedly, the tea saucer in his lap almost tumbling to the ground with his every movement and Pierre listened to him amusedly go on about some affair. It was good to have his friend back from the solitude of the countryside and recovering from his wartime depression. Just then came the sound of laughter from the hall, and both men turned to watch Anatole fly in, Dolokhov hot on his heels.

Andrey looked quizzically at Pierre who was too busy smiling and watching them to mind his friend or notice the true bizarrity of the situation. The Bezukhov household was often shielded from the eyes of high society so Pierre had grown used to Anatole just taking up space in the house. This interruption was only normal, if not more exciting, following the talk he had with Anatole a few days prior.

“Get over here!” Dolokhov laughed as he almost slipped and fell on the edge of the rug while trying to pull Anatole’s sleeve and missing. His childish behavior was surprising for a man of his military rank and sharpshooter history. Andrey snorted watching them from beside Pierre.

Anatole eventually let himself be caught, backed up against the side table and he turned to face Dolokhov head on. He was leaner and taller than the other man and he stood over him panting, delight evident in his features. He braced himself with his hands on the table edge and grinned while Dolokhov sized him up, both hands on his hips.

"You are insufferable,” but there was no heat behind Dolokhov’s words and he was already pushing a knee lewdly between both of Anatole’s legs.

Pierre noticed then that he was holding an open letter, Anatole’s chicken scrawl visible with the light coming in through the window. His grin only widened.

Dolokhov stood on his toes to kiss Anatole’s forehead who was still panting and smiling in front of him before he moved to press a kiss against his nose, trailing down to his cheek and then the corner of his mouth. Anatole tried to turn his face into the kiss but Dolokhov instead moved further down to press a fierce kiss his neck and Anatole instinctively arched into it, moving his head to follow his mouth.

“You are a fantastic little thing,” Dolokhov spoke gruffly into Anatole’s throat, one hand openly groping him through the front of his pants, “Dorogoj, what you do to me - you have no idea.”

Anatole preened at the affectionate monikers and exposed the long line of his throat for Dolokhov to kiss. He fisted his hands in the darker man’s hair and moaned,Prenez moi, mon coeur!”

He laughed breathlessly when Dolokhov tilted his head back sharply with a fistful of his own blonde hair, “Oh I am going to take you, alright, pet- I am going to take you so fucking hard you’ll not be able to close your legs for -”

“Are you quite finished?” Andrey called out before he could paint the full picture. He looked amused.

Pierre suddenly remembered Andrey was even there, he himself felt like a wallflower to the whirlwind romance that was Anatole and Dolokhov. Anatole only pressed forward further, keen on keeping his partner pressed against him but he turned over his shoulder to greet Bolkonski like he just realized that he was there.

“Bolkonski, mon cher! Good to see you!” He crinkled his eyes before turning his attention back to Dolokhov, “Perhaps we should move this party elsewhere, Fedya.”

Dolokhov was just pressed against him like a dog in heat but he shook his hair out of his eyes and finally backed up enough to let Anatole slide off the table.

“Andrey,” he waved sheepishly at the sight of his war buddy, “Hello.” He smiled at Pierre.

Andrey waved back, “I presume the wooing stage has passed.” He motioned between Anatole and Dolokhov, “Good for you two.”

“Ha!” Anatole pressed himself against Dolokhov’s side once more, “Much thanks.” He bowed dramatically and Dolokhov chortled beside him, grin split across his face. Pierre had never seen him look so openly elated.

“It was a long hard fought battle,” Anatole spoke with false somberness, “But in the end Prince Kuragin has come out victorious!” He turned to kiss Dolokhov’s temple, shameless as anything and Dolokhov flushed as though he hadn’t just had Anatole under him for everyone to see.

“When are you not victorious, Anatole?” Pierre chuckled but Anatole was no longer paying attention to the conversation. Instead, he was leaning down to kiss Dolokhov’s ear, speaking in a low tone that could mean nothing other than bedroom talk.

“We-uh,” Dolokhov stammered pushing Anatole back, “We will see you later.” He nodded to both Pierre and Andrey before finally turning and leaving, letter still crumpled in his fist. Anatole smiled to both men before taking his own leave.

“I didn’t realize,” Andrey motioned to the doorway, “that Fyodor and Prince Kuragin were - intimate.” He didn’t look at all disgusted - just surprised and Pierre smiled, delighted that his friend was just as receptive as he.

“They are much better for each other than you would believe,” Pierre said nodding eagerly, “I am happy for the both of them.”

“Huh,” Andrey smiled, “Who would’ve thought that hotshot Fyodor was capable of being in love.”