sometimes i forget that i’m not sturdy enough for this, that i wasn’t built to just keep walking but i can’t seem to get to sleep and i can’t seem to open my eyes, either, so i’m just lying here seeing black, seeing dark, seeing nothing and nothing and nothing and i’m still awake but not quite alive. i don’t know why i’m still walking or even why i started but i can’t seem to stop, even though my shoes have worn away and now my skin is as well in jagged lines and circles that smell like sulfur and shine white in the light. i want to lie down but i want to sit up and i want to keep walking because i get so restless if i don’t; whatever i do there’s something worse, some consequence, and i can’t turn back around or else the darkness will stare me in the eye and whisper an invitation that i might not be able to resist, that i’m already penning the rsvp to in my head, and then i’ll never sleep again.
For Katie! I’m posting this first part to give myself some incentive to keep writing and actually get this fic done by the end of the weekend. Eventually this is going to be Mark/Freddie.
tw: implied character deaths, depression, and anxiety
He knows what he’s supposed to do, has memorized every step of it. He thinks he’s gotten it down to a science, but then there’s Florence watching him wounded as he boards the plane back to Moscow.
It seems like such a simple thing. He wonders what he’d done wrong this time.
Because with Svetlana, he’s pretty sure that it was the chess. And the kids, probably. He should never have agreed to having them - but she’d wanted them so badly, and the sex had been phenomenal, and all in all he didn’t mind toiling away the hours in bed when he was younger, excited and sweaty and laughing.
They’d been young, and supposedly, young love was the shortest-lived.
So it made sense. (Right?)
And besides, he’s pretty sure he never loved Svetlana anyways, because love from what he’s heard is some powerful, all-consuming thing and he’s never felt like that about her. He’s never wanted to write poems about her eyelashes or plant his kisses along the column of her neck in the hopes that they’ll stay there forever, and he’s never felt gooey and desperate and wonderful just being near her.
His marriage had been a mistake. And love, well, love sounded like something he really wanted to experience - if not with Svetlana, then anyone else.
There were plenty of other fish in the sea.
So he went about trying to catch some of them, and catch them he did. There had been a dark-eyed woman in Madrid, once, and a brown-skinned beauty when he’d visited Berlin, and thousands of beautiful, powerful women, with supple skin and long legs wrapped around his waist and it had been fantastic, they’d all been fantastic.
And there had been Florence, too, who thought so similarly to him, and some part of him had been determined to make her into The One, capital letters and all.
A year had passed. They cohabited. They had sex (a lot of it.) Sometimes she cried and he held her and his heart twinged a little at the thought that somewhere, Freddie Trumper was doing the same, and his wife and both of his children and he’d done this to all of these people and he didn’t know how the hell to fix it, and still he had nothing to show for it.
Sometimes he thought that maybe they were all just making it up. Living in a fairy tale. And then he’d see a couple entwined with their eyes so dark and their smiles so subtle, arms around each other like they wanted to meld together into one person, one beating heart. And he believed them.
Love, he began to realize, was just not something that he was equipped to feel.
Maybe he should stop pretending.
So then there was Svetlana, again, and yeah, Florence would probably hate him. Hundreds of women would probably hate him for everything he’d whispered in their ears, hoping desperately that this would be the one, or the next, or the next.
But he had a family to take care of, and maybe he didn’t love Svetlana but he loved her, sort of, and the children too, and he was going to stop chasing someone else’s fairytale.
He was a big boy. He had to grow up sometime.
All he wants is some fucking peace of mind.
He supposes she must have taken that, too, like she took everything else - that bitch, that - that -
But it’s Florence…
She takes everything when she leaves as though to make up for all the times that he took from her, little things that built up over the years (like her dignity) until she’d had enough, like everyone else.
He shudders as he lights the match, watching it burn right down to his fingertips in the dark room - there’s no use in turning the lights on, he wants it dark, wants to wallow for a while. There’s no Florence to tell him to come out, to drag him back into the light and smile at him, make everything okay.
He doesn’t think that Florence is ever coming back. There aren’t any matches left.
Hotel bathrooms are not notoriously clean around the edges, or at all, but while he’s here (he can’t go home without her not without her not without Florence no no no) he may as well embrace the mold. He fumbles in the dim, dying light-
dying like him, dying like them, there is no them-
fumbling with singed and stinging fingertips for the counter, pulling himself up. His eyes in the mirror are eerily bright, blue ice. He’s unshaven, hasn’t bathed in days. There’s no point. Florence usually makes him, but Florence isn’t coming back now. He’s fucked it up for good this time.
Good job, fuck you.
He used to think about killing himself, before he met her - used to think he was good for nothing, until she’d done the impossible. Loved him. Like nobody else had ever bothered, ever wanted to. He used to want to kill himself but now he’s a coward, got nothing to lose and still he can’t do it.
He can bring the razor to his skin, though, can watch his arm in the dark, blind, and pretend he can see the red ooze to the surface in straight lines. (he’s going to be sick sick sick and Florence isn’t here, isn’t here, no no no)
"Self-destructive," they called him, pathetic and selfish and crazy.
He wants to carve the articles into his skin, word for word, razor turned vicious journalist’s pen in his hands but he’s sloppy and it’s warm, it’s wet, it’s all over his hands, the blade slips and clatters to the floor-
It’s dark and he sinks down against the wall, greasy hair in bloody hands and he cries, and bleeds, and hates himself.
Later Walter will be here, a soft knock on the door, a wary look around the corner. He’ll pick him up off the bathroom floor and bandage him up, shaking his head. “God, Freddie.”
Right now it’s some godforsaken time in the morning and he’s tired, so fucking tired, and Florence isn’t here to guide him to bed. He’s not sure if he can find it now, can’t do anything without her. Nothing.
Tomorrow it will be bright and everywhere but his eyes, lost in dark circles. But tomorrow is so far away-
not nearly as far as Florence-
and he’s so tired, so tired…
He isn’t entirely sure how it happens, but then nobody had warned him about Freddie.
He’s Freddie because call me Freddie because he winks and pushes and grabs and forces him down, touches him so deep inside he can’t breathe except to gasp for more, please, more deeper harder MORE more than Russia and his wife and his brother’s children masquerading as his own will ever give him, more, more, suddenly he sees the West in this one man’s voice in his ear as he presses up against his back and fills him up and he remembers what it is to dream, and feel, and want.
It hurts, but for the first time the chess pieces have fallen right out of his head and rolled under the bed that he’s stumbling out of, pulling on his pants, emerging dazed and staggering like he’s been born again.
It hurts but now he feels it - the piece that was missing, an eternal opponent, the final square to set the board with - and here is the West, with white teeth grinning from magazine covers, with a voice low like sin except it’s not, not now, never again.
He is not going back.
He wants, and he wants Freddie, because call me Freddie - and he does. And he will.
Summary: Freddie and Anatoly get into a rather scary new kink; Florence Does Not Approve.
Florence has the misfortune of walking in on her roommates’ less than conventional bedroom activities at least once a week, mostly because they’re rarely confined safely to the bedroom. This doesn’t normally bother her all that much - hell, she’s just glad Freddie’s finally getting laid (it does wonders for his patience the rest of the day) - but this is definitely over the line.
"I’m ho-" She chokes on her greeting, dropping the grocery bags without a second thought - the eggs are done for, she doesn’t care - to march over and snatch the knife right out of Freddie’s hand. He jumps, toppling off of the couch in surprise.
“What are you doing?!” Anatoly twists around to blink at her, red-faced and trussed up like a hog with rope, arms behind his back, ankles bound, and tries to smile. He’s panting but manages to swallow down his uncomfortably evident arousal to speak, voice low and accent almost too thick to understand.
"Ah- Florence. I did not think you would be home so early…"
There are thin red cuts in a neat row down the left side of his torso, over his ribcage - the blood trail down his side makes her sick, covering her mouth and holding the knife away from her with a look of utter revulsion. “Why?”
It’s not as though she’s a virgin, nor has she ever been one to say no to a little oddity, but this was out of her league. It would stand to reason that Freddie - queasy, stuck up Freddie who wouldn’t go anywhere near an open wound and panicked over papercuts - wouldn’t be too keen on it either. But here he is, reaching for the weapon with that stubborn look on his face, powering through his embarrassment to grumble at her.
"None of your business. Give that back, I paid good money for that-"
It’s not a switchblade, as she’d originally thought - she doesn’t want to look at it too closely, the blade glinting, but she holds it away from him and levels a stern look at him. “Freddie, this isn’t safe. I don’t know what you were thinking-“
Anatoly clears his throat, unhelpfully quipping, “It was my idea, actually-“
"But I am not going to condone this-” she powers on, glaring until he’s silent, turning back to Freddie to continue her admonishing, but he’s preoccupied with zipping his pants, sighing.
"I don’t actually care what you think about my sex life," he sniffs, glancing up disdainfully. "But fine. I get it, we’ll take it back to the bedroom. Now give that back."
He holds a hand out, expectant. Her lips thin, and she takes a step backwards to keep it away; her eyes stray worriedly to the wounds decorating his ribs.
"Absolutely not. Untie him - Jesus, Freddie." She exhales shakily, rubbing her forehead with her free hand. "I can’t believe I have to say this. You know better."
"What do you know?" He’s defensive now, bristling and working up a few hasty insults. She’s used to it, by now, but she still braces herself for the onslaught. "You haven’t been with anyone since years before you even met me, you have no fucking idea what feels good-“
"It does feel good," Anatoly interjects with half of a moan, squirming against the couch cushion.
"I don’t care if it feels good. Heroin feels good too, and I’m not going to let you shoot up around the house-" she pauses, grimacing at the thought. "Or at all. That’s it, Freddie, I’m making you an appointment."
"What, are you scheduling me an exorcism?" He sneers, his temper making an appearance in the sharp glint of his eyes. He lunges to snatch the knife out of her hand on impulse, fast enough that she doesn’t even try to keep it away. "Don’t be a bitch. Don’t you have something to do? Go make dinner or something."
She would reprimand him on a normal day but right now she’s more than a little alarmed about the blood crusting to Anatoly’s side - she just rolls her eyes at him, subtly angry, and grabs the towel off the floor to dab at Anatoly’s side. He hisses, forehead creasing at the sting. “Yebat.”
"Don’t encourage him," she mutters, mouth tight with disapproval that she’s sure both of them can feel thickening the air. Or maybe that’s just the unbearable stench of male sexuality. Keeping her eyes pointedly fixed on his ankles and no higher, she set’s about working the knots loose.
Freddie throws his hands up in disgust and opens his mouth to complain. “Be careful with that,” she snaps, before he can get a word in edgewise, and points down the hallway. “Go, we’re going to talk about this later.”
"You don’t get to tell me what to do," he scoffs, but he stalks down that way anyways, fuming and slamming the door behind him.
The silence in the room lasts for all of four seconds before Anatoly coughs, eyes fixed on the ceiling, incredibly awkward. “Would you mind-“
"I’ve got it," she sighs, and jerks the rope clear of his ankles.
Clearly, it’s time for an intervention.
Summary: Sometimes Freddie thinks that there’s a conspiracy in his own home. If they’re trying to give him grief, they’re doing a damn good job.
Freddie comes home to silence. All of the lights are on; both jackets, both pairs of shoes are exactly where they should be; there’s a pot of water boiling on the stove.
But there’s no sound.
Maybe they’re right, and maybe he’s just paranoid, but he feels his gut twist with a dark sense of foreboding as he shuts the door and kicks his sneakers off as quietly as he can, peering down the hallway.
Either they’ve both been murdered, or they’re sleeping together.
Or they’re plotting.
The third option makes him grimace and he takes a deep breath before stalking down the hallway, the sound of Florence’s giggle nearly giving him a heart attack - he stops just short of the door to his own bedroom and, incredulous, feels his eye twitch at the sight before him.
"Who the fuck is responsible for this?”
He sort of wants to give that a second take, dissatisfied with the amount of outrage he’d managed to fit into the words, but Anatoly is already grinning, striding over to wrap a hand around his wrist and tug him closer. His heels slide uselessly on the carpet, and he stares down in horror as Florence holds up a tiny ball of black and white fur in her palm, two huge blue orbs peering moistly up at him.
"Get rid of it," he stammers, shaking his head as Anatoly drags him closer. "When did I say this was okay?! Get it out of my house!"
"Come off it," comes the affectionate response, and a loud kiss just below his ear makes him scowl, swatting blindly back at him. The kitten opens it’s mouth and squeaks, nearly falling over. It’s tiny and somehow that’s terrifying. “Isn’t he cute? His name is-“
"Don’t you dare name it, I said no,” he spits, but Florence raises the kitten to eye level with him and he chokes on his next words. She takes full advantage of the lapse.
"We already did. Freddie, don’t pretend you don’t love them-"
"Just because I like cats doesn’t mean I want one tearing up my furniture with it’s filthy-“
"His name is Checkers, he’s two months, and he’s adorable," Florence smirks, daring him to challenge it. A little pink tongue swipes out over the tip of his nose and he jerks back with a whine, torn and flushing with indecision.
"I don’t care how cute he is! Florence-“ He twists abruptly at the sight of her barely-suppressed smile to scowl at his lover in a futile effort to seem menacing. “This was you.”
Anatoly just raises an eyebrow. “Is that a question?”
Florence stands and carefully transfers the tiny creature into Freddie’s unwilling hands, stroking it with her index fingers between it’s little shoulder blades and laughing, “Oh, you know you love him already.” He opens his mouth to protest and it snaps almost automatically shut, expression twisting when he’s interrupted by another high-pitched mewl.
Checkers raises his paw and pats him on the nose, whining again, and Freddie clutches him close to his chest miserably.
"I hate both of you," he grumbles, ducking his head as he falls to sit on the edge of the bed with the kitten in his lap, stroking his downy fur with hesitant fingers. Anatoly positively beams.
"I thought it would be best to acclimate you to the idea of having children in the house."
Freddie groans, and Checkers squeaks cheerfully back at him.
"You love him," Florence says smugly.
Summary: Freddie does not comfort, he is comforted.
There are two weeks, exactly, until his family arrives.
It would be a lie to say he wasn’t nervous. Anatoly paces a little more; his fingers twitch; he chews his lip and stares out the window, distracted. Freddie wins three consecutive games of chess on the battered old fold-up chess set he’s had since he was nine before he reaches across the table and snaps his fingers a centimeter from his face.
"Something eating you?" He sounds more annoyed than concerned but Anatoly can see it in the tense lines of his shoulders, and he smiles thinly to reassure him.
"I am fine. Just thinking."
"About?" Freddie can be like a dog with a bone sometimes; he brushes his thumb over the wooden crown of Anatoly’s king, warm in his palm. The pieces, these ones specifically, are so faded it’s almost hard to tell the black and white apart, and they’re like an extension of Freddie’s arm or so it seemed with every fluid movement. He slid them across the board so smoothly and so gently, like they were precious friends - it was the only thing about Freddie that Anatoly could even describe as "gentle", and almost as endearing as it was sad to think about.
He had paused for apparently too long, because Freddie was frowning now. “Well?”
"It is nothing," he insists, turning his eyes back to the board as he begins clearing it - carefully. As worn as the set already is, Freddie would kill him if he put so much as a scratch on one of the pawns. "I am just thinking."
Freddie is far from satisfied with that, forehead creasing as his frown deepens. There’s a long pause, the rustle of the sheets and the creak of the board’s hinges filling the space between them, and then, “What did I do.”
The thing about Freddie is that nobody has any idea how needy he is. Oh, they think they know, they think so alright, but even Antoly is only at the tip of the iceberg - and he knows.
"Freddie," he sighs, looking back up and extending a hand to cover his. He’s so warm. “It has nothing to do with you. I am just thinking.”
"Thinking about what?” and he’s almost cute when he’s agitated. It’s hard to take him seriously sometimes, but he knows that if he doesn’t act quickly he’ll be pouting all night and possibly for the rest of the weekend, and when Freddie is miserable everybody is miserable.
"My children." He finally admits, giving him a small smile and withdrawing his hand again. His eyes stray to the window - it’s gray outside and the air is unbearably thick, just edging on rain. It’s been that way for days now. He wonders if it will rain at all, or if the suspense will come to nothing.
"Oh." On the other side of the board Freddie seems to deflate, partially in relief and partially in very thinly veiled vain disappointment. "Right."
Right. You have children.
The tone of his voice is so petulant that Anatoly can’t help but laugh, forgetting the rain for a moment and snapping the board shut again, pushing it aside and tugging his arms in a silent invitation. “I am sure you will get along fine.”
Sure isn’t the word, but hey, optimism never hurts.
Freddie hesitates a long moment but, as usual, crawls into his lap and curls his arms possessively around his neck, resting his chin on his shoulder. “Mmph. I hate kids.”
That’s not reassuring. He didn’t expect it to be.
"Emilia will love you. You are exactly like her," he tells him instead, smiling against his temple and stroking down his back. There’s no use worrying about the weather when there’s nothing he can do about it; he’ll just have to wait, and hope he has an umbrella if he needs it.
When I say “run away with me”, when I tap the words out and mouth them in my bed alone in the dark and my thumb hovers over the send, I don’t mean it in a physical sense. What I feel transcends the boundaries of reality and is ingrained in every pore of my figurative body, constricting lungs made of hideous words and thoughts and feelings, a sharper sense of get me out of here than one could comprehend in the world outside my mind. I just mean that you should buckle yourself into my life, and we could tear through miles of insecurity, rip the sadness clean from my bones, we could fill my mind to bursting and I could breathe again, exhale all the stale hatred in a black cloud that dissipates under the force of your sunlight. Run away with me, if only in my head, because I don’t know how I’m going to inhale again otherwise.