Work Header

Your Ambitions Would Break Us

Work Text:

but I went on believing
stories like ours
have happy endings

1. Walking
"Anatoly, slow down!" snaps Svetlana imperiously; Anatoly hides a smile and stops to let Svetlana catch up (Svetlana insists she is not short, and she isn't, and Anatoly isn't quite tall either, but he takes longer strides than she does, being used to the open countryside instead of the city, and his legs are longer than hers anyways, so too often when they walk together he ends up walking in front of her and has to wait for her to catch up.)

2. Waltz
One, two, three, one, two, three; they dance around each other, the opera singer and the chess player, neither wanting to be the first to reach out, until one day they meet in the middle.

3. Wishes
They're where they want to be and who they want to be and doing all they always said they would, except that they aren't, not really, and they wish they could start over with everything.

4. Wonder
Svetlana wonders if she would be happier had she never met Anatoly.

5. Worry
Svetlana worries that one day Anatoly will no longer care about the children and abandon them the way he left her; surely he wouldn't do that to his children-his own flesh and blood-but once she'd thought that he could never leave her, too.

6. Whimsy
Once upon a time, Svetlana sees a young, confused-looking man hiding in the corner of the reception hall, and on a whim, she decides to go talk to him.

7. Waste/Wasteland
Svetlana moves out of the master bedroom after the news of Anatoly's defection is confirmed; the room lies empty now, vacant and silent, a thick coat of dust covering everything.

8. Whiskey and rum
The first time Anatoly tries hard alcohol, he coughs and splutters it out, shocked at the taste, and Svetlana laughs at his expression; he later announces that his avoidance of alcohol is only to maintain his chess form, but she knows better.

9. War
Svetlana comes home to find Andrei using Anatoly's spare chess pieces as toy soldiers, happily banging them against each other, and lining them up to knock them down again.

10. Weddings
Anatoly carries a miniature chess set in his pocket during his wedding.

11. Birthday
Anatoly would be satisfied with anything chess-related for his birthday, but Svetlana persists in trying to find him the perfect non-chess-related gift.

12. Blessing
Svetlana's father tells Anatoly that he has his blessing to marry her on the condition he keeps winning chess matches; Svetlana thinks later that that is where all the trouble starts.

13. Bias
Dealing with Anatoly would be so much easier if Svetlana didn't still love him; he certainly doesn't have any problems dealing with her.

14. Burning
Sometimes, Svetlana wants to burn Anatoly's chess set, wants to burn his pieces and burn his chessboard, wants to burn the chess out of him, but although varnished wood burns easily, love is not so easily destroyed (she should know).

15. Breathing
Svetlana, a professional opera singer, is almost never out of breath, but Anatoly can make her lose her breath with disturbing ease.

16. Breaking
Svetlana breaks her ties to her father to bind herself to Anatoly, and is left alone when Anatoly breaks those bonds.

17. Belief
Once upon a time, they really believe they can make a life together.

18. Balloon
Svetlana dreams she is a balloon, left adrift once Anatoly lets her go.

19. Balcony
Svetlana stands alone on the balcony of her hotel room and watches Anatoly and Florence in the garden below.

20. Bane
Chess is what led Anatoly to Svetlana, and chess is what leads him away from her.

21. Quiet
After Andrei is born, it is much harder to keep the house quiet enough for Anatoly to be able to concentrate.

22. Quirks
Anatoly offers Svetlana the white queen from his prized hand-carved chess set; it takes her a few moments to realize he is proposing.

23. Question
"Do you still love me?"

24. Quarrel
Svetlana never argues with Anatoly anymore; she's tried, before, but it never was any use and it's so much easier to spend her time and energy with the children now.

25. Quitting
Svetlana could, should, would divorce Anatoly, but she can never quite bring herself to do it.

26. Jump
Even now, despite everything, if Anatoly told her to jump, she'll only ask "how far".

27. Jester
"Why did the pawn cross the board?" asks Anatoly; Svetlana isn't sure if she should laugh or smack him.

28. Jousting
"Horse!" shrieks Andrei, Anatoly's black knights clutched in either fist; "No, Andrei, those are knights"— "Horse!"

29. Jewel
The diamond on Svetlana's finger mocks her every time she sees it; it is perfect, glittering, beautiful-everything that her marriage is not.

30. Just
After Anatoly defects, the children are forced to learn that the world is not fair; Svetlana herself has already learned that lesson far too well.

31. Smirk
Anatoly never smirks, much to Svetlana's relief (her father and brothers do it all the time); he's just not the type.

32. Sorrow
After the defection, Svetlana tells herself she won't cry, and she doesn't; if there are tears on her cheeks after she finishes her final aria and mock-collapses on the stage, she can pretend they're all Butterfly's, not hers.

33. Stupidity
Svetlana is an abysmally bad chess player; Anatoly assures her that he doesn't mind (but he has to work on suppressing his smile-Svetlana is very very bad, but looks so adorably lost as she stares at the board).

34. Serenade
Once, and only once, does a young Anatoly ever try to serenade Svetlana; he learns the hard way that it is not the best idea to serenade a professional singer.

35. Sarcasm
Svetlana tells Anatoly that she and the children don't mind his absences; unfortunately he doesn't catch the sarcasm then and only realizes what she really means years too late.

36. Sordid
Anatoly's defection would be just the defection of another high-level Russian, but Florence's involvement propels it into the sordid realms of The Affair; Svetlana forgives him the defection but cannot forgive the affair.

37. Soliloquy
Anatoly stands by the door of Svetlana's practice room and listens to her rehearsing her arias.

38. Sojourn
Svetlana hates Bangkok, hates the heat and the pollution, and wants nothing more than to return to Moscow, with or without Anatoly—anything would be better than staying in Bangkok any longer.

39. Share
Svetlana shares her husband, doesn't claim too much of him and lets others have their share, until suddenly she can't claim any of him.

40. Solitary
Svetlana has to adjust to having Anatoly back after Bangkok; she's lived alone with the children for so long that it's strange, having someone else in the house with her.

41. Nowhere
You can have the life you want anywhere you want it, says Molokov, but Svetlana knows she won't be going anywhere.

42. Neutral
Svetlana pretends she doesn't have a personal stake in Bangkok, pretends her only interest is that of a wife for her husband; when she talks to Anatoly, she doesn't talk about herself, won't plead for her own sake-for the children's, yes, but her pride prevents her from speaking for herself and forces her to pretend she's a neutral player in Molokov's games.

43. Nuance
As the years pass, the phrase I love you accumulates different shades of meaning until it becomes more of an apology than a declaration of love.

44. Near
Each moment Svetlana sits in the plane takes her further and further away from her home and her children, and closer and closer to Bangkok—and Anatoly.

45. Natural
Anatoly doesn't expect things to go this far with Florence, doesn't expect or mean for things to end this way, but one thing happens after another, a natural progression, and suddenly there he is in Bangkok, facing the wife he left behind.

46. Horizon
Svetlana cannot see any change coming in the way they treat each other; their broken marriage will continue, stretching on endlessly, until one or the other or both of them die.

47. Valiant
Svetlana tries to hold the family together, really she does, but despite her best efforts, the blood and sweat and tears, the late, late nights and early starts, it all falls apart.

48. Virtuous
No one would care if Svetlana took a lover like Anatoly has, but she cannot quite bring herself to do it, though she's thought about it often enough and Anatoly wouldn't care.

49. Victory
Everyone is surprised when, against all expectations, Anatoly wins the match in Bangkok—everyone except Svetlana, who knows him too well.

50. Defeat
People think Svetlana won in Bangkok—Anatoly went home with her, after all—but really she lost: Anatoly will does not love her and will never love her again.