Author: Flying Toe Shoes
Disclaimer: I own nothing and work minimum wage. Based off of characterizations and history from War Is Coming on Insanejournal. Chess in Concert canon.
It had been close to a year since Anatoly had returned to Russia and while Molokov had been on him to defend his title. It was more than passing interest, Molokov wanted to keep tabs on Anatoly and the chess player knew that. When he had told Florence that he won so he could remain true to the one thing he could always remain true to, chess, he had meant it. Just, not in the way anyone thought. He wanted to remain true to the game of chess. Not politics, and not a title. The game itself, the way he and Svetlana had bonded so many years ago. It had been theirs, no one knew it was his wife who had taught him the game. Neither had seen what would come of it. That he'd be discovered and become a figure head. That he would focus so solely on the game that he lost focus on his family. They were there, in the back of his mind. Each game was him connecting to Svetlana, but somewhere along the line that hadn't been enough. Molokov had even encouraged his affairs. Encouraged anything that turned him from the man he had been into a machine focused on chess. Hiding all of his feelings. Focusing on black and white. He had wanted to escape that back in Merano and he thought he had with Florence.
Oh, he had cared about her. Maybe loved her, or maybe he thought he had because he had forgotten what love was. She understood the competition aspect of the game, how demanding it could be. Svetlana had always been there for him, encouraged him, but he knew she didn't understand the need to be the best. She didn't understand what it meant. She taught him the game, she had passion for it, for strategy and making him look at things in different ways, but she never grasped how consuming it could be. She was patient, but he knew her, he knew she was hurt and so instead of trying to figure out how to fix it, how to be the man he had been before, he went further into the game, refusing to see the pain in her eyes, refusing to see her in general.
But nearly a year later and Anatoly barely thought of the Hungarian woman he had shared a bed with. He had thought upon their break up that he would think of her constantly, that he would continue to want her. But that wasn't the case. Being back in Russia, back in his home, he found that he didn't miss Florence much at all. In fact, it had been months since he actively thought of her. Part of it was that he was focusing on trying to fix his private life, but mostly, she just didn't come up, not since learning that there was no record of her father anywhere he could find. When Anatoly played chess, it was just as a means to get his thoughts together. Such as now. He knew that Molokov expected him to give an answer on if he was planning on defending his title and he expected it to be affirmative. To show how, even after defecting, Anatoly knew he would always be loyal to the USSR, a proper representative. Yet, that didn't matter anymore. Titles. Politics. He was a chess player, that was it and he didn't want to be anything other than that. The question was, how far was Molokov willing to go to get him to once again leave his family for a title? And would his family forgive him? The girls would, of course. But Svetlana? He knew he had wronged her in ways no one could understand and he knew that she was tolerating him for the sake of their daughters, but he knew that if he ever wanted to have a semblance of his life from before, he needed to tread carefully with her.
It took him a moment to hear the pounding at his door and looking to the clock, he had to wonder just who would be visiting him this late and knocking so urgently. It put him on edge. Anatoly tried to keep to himself mostly, though given his notoriety from both chess and his defection and return made that hard. Still, most people left him alone... Getting up from the table, Anatoly made his way to the door and opened it, staring in shock at the sight before him. Svetlana, drenched from the rain and bruises covering her face and neck, blood coming down from her temple and matted in her hair.
"Sveta!" All thought left Anatoly as he saw his wife before him. He had no idea on what had happened, but he knew that he had once again failed her. He had always been there to protect her, even from early on in their relationship, and here she was, obviously injured and visibly upset, something she never let people see. So to see her so disheveled was jarring. Without a word, Anatoly pulled his wife into his apartment and led her to the couch to sit down before he started to gather up bandages and wash clothes and towels. It was strange not living with her, but he knew that they needed to take this slow. He had to earn her trust and if this was what it took, so be it. As he moved over to her, Svetlana finally spoke up, her voice weak.
"What? Who's gone?" If he were being honest with himself, Anatoly didn't want the answer. There really were only two people who could be gone that would have Svetlana this upset and that was Fayina and Jelena, their daughters. True, it could have been perhaps her parents or her two remaining brothers, but given her current state...
"The girls..." Anatoly felt the world stop. Even when he had pushed Svetlana away, when he was home, he had always spent time with his daughters. Told them stories and played with them... When he was gone, he thought of his family, even when with Florence and he had a feeling the Hungarian woman knew that, deep down. It was one of the unspoken things between them, something that never ended well in conversation. Why he wasn't seeking a divorce. Why he didn't try to get his children out. He wanted to get them all out but he couldn't exactly tell that to Florence and with his defection, the three blonds were under more scrutiny. He had tried to find information on them, but the Soviet Union didn't let things out that they didn't want known. Everything was shrouded in uncertainty. Getting himself out had been hard enough, to get out three others who were still in the Soviet Union and not on a travel visa? It would take more than he could do.
"What happened?!" Anatoly didn't mean to raise his voice, but his daughters were missing and his wife was bleeding from her head and clearly in shock. He was panicked and while he didn't show his emotions much, he did feel them. Just as he knew Svetlana did. Even when she showed nothing, he could read the nuances of her facial expressions and even if to the common person she seemed fine despite the physical evidence to the contrary, Anatoly knew that wasn't the case even as she tried to hold herself together in front of him.
"We were walking home from the store when a car pulled up... four people got out, grabbed the girls. I tried to fight them but I was surrounded. I couldn't get to them... I went to report it but they said they couldn't do anything..."
It was the clenching of her skirt that told Anatoly that Svetlana was blaming herself for being over powered. Blaming herself for not being able to fight off numerous assailants. Blaming herself for failing. Reaching over, Anatoly placed his hand over Svetlana's own and squeezed it gently. He knew that nothing he said would ease her conscience but he needed to let her know he was there, even if she didn't see it. Even if she believed that he never had cared.
"We'll find a way to get them back, Svetochka, we will..." It had been a long time since Anatoly had used a term of endearment with Svetlana, but it seemed so natural. They had been falling into a routine, familiarity. And now? Now it was crucial. He knew that part of her reasoning in coming here was to tell him as he was the girls' father. But he also knew that she would never have let herself be seen in this state if she didn't trust him on some level, even if it was subconscious. He knew she would have done everything in her power to hide the injuries before coming here and breaking the news as she had done everything she could from a legal stand point.
Sitting in silence for a moment, Anatoly began to tend to his wife, who was refusing to show any sort of emotion. This was it. If anyone were to ask Anatoly what the hardest part of returning to Russia was, he wouldn't say that it was being back around Molokov. He wouldn't say that it was the public scrutiny and lack of freedom. No. It was seeing just how badly he had messed up his relationship with Svetlana. Knowing that she was hurting and yet feeling that she couldn't express herself around him anymore when he had been the one who had always been able to get her to respond. They had never discussed what had happened between them, because Anatoly had realized soon after returning to Russia that it was his fault. He had changed and she had done everything for him all the same. Even as he broke every single promise he had made to the petite blond.
After a few moments of silence, Anatoly cleared his throat and stood up.
"You can take my room tonight, I'll stay on the couch."
"I'm not taking your bed, Anatoly..."
"You were injured."
And it was fourteen years earlier, Svetlana being attacked and insisting she was fine even though he knew she wasn't. Before it had been an assumption as he had still been getting to know her, but now? He knew she was far from fine. How could she be? She may appear the ice queen, but Svetlana had a myriad of emotions just beneath the surface that only a select few ever saw.
"You're in no condition to go home, Svetlana and even if you were, you shouldn't be alone. It's fine." Waiting for the inevitable denial, Anatoly was shocked when he saw Svetlana's shoulders drop and to see her just nod. Which was further proof for the world champion of chess to know that his wife was far from fine. She was stubborn in things like this, so for her to just give in? It made him worry all the more.
"Fine. I'll stay, but you take your room, I'm fine on the couch." Really, Anatoly wanted to argue. Who knew what other injuries she had sustained. But she wasn't fighting and if he pushed the issue, he very well could force Svetlana to change her mind and leave anyway.
"All right. Why don't you shower and I'll set up the couch for you? You can borrow some clothing to sleep in." Seeing Svetlana nod numbly, Anatoly moved to his room and grabbed some pajamas for Svetlana to change into and placed them in the bathroom before he moved out and let his wife in to shower. Once she was doing that, Anatoly moved to the cabinet and grabbed sheets and a blanket and set up the couch for Svetlana before he moved to the window of the living room and staring out into the rain. He didn't even hear his wife enter the room until she was next to him. She said nothing but Anatoly was expecting that. So it was standing next to one another in silence as the rain fell outside the window, thunder and lightening interrupting every so often. Which just made this situation worse. Svetlana hated storms and not only was she in an emotional storm of guilt because of what happened, now this? But she wouldn't let Anatoly comfort her so Anatoly was left to watch her reflection through the window and be reminded once again of how much he had messed up. How much he had to make up for. And how were they supposed to get their daughters back?
Anatoly didn't know how long they stayed there, but at some point, Svetlana moved over to the couch and curled up on it, buried in blankets and his clothes which were too big for her. It was rare where Svetlana looked as he knew she was feeling but in that moment, Svetlana looked lost and scared and swimming in Anatoly's pajamas just emphasized that point. Still, knowing his presence wasn't wanted, Anatoly moved to his room after turning out the light and changed before slipping into bed. He knew he wouldn't sleep. His daughters were missing, his wife could have who knew what sort of injuries and was hiding her emotions again.
It was two thirty in the morning when Anatoly heard the door to his room open. Confused, he sat up and noticed Svetlana shifting awkwardly in the doorway, as though she didn't want to be there.
"Sveta, what's wrong?"
"I couldn't sleep..." Just as he had thought. Still, Anatoly merely nodded and motioned to his wife to join him. He wasn't expecting her to, so when Svetlana made her way into the room and sat on the edge of the bed, Anatoly was shocked though hid it. Though, it made him worry more. He knew her. He knew what everything she did meant and it hadn't taken him long to realize upon being back that he was still in love with her, that he had never stopped. Because if he had stopped, he never would know what her reactions meant when she was so closed off. But what was even more shocking was that she was talking. It was quiet and as the lights were off, he couldn't see her face, but he could hear the tears in her voice.
"I don't know what to do... I couldn't protect them... I've been doing it for so long. They never knew how people could be. How cruel... I explained things away to protect them and now..."
At first, Anatoly was confused. He didn't exactly know what she was talking about, but then it clicked. The words Trumper had thrown at him in the interview, 'let her come to you, tell you her version how married life has changed since your desertion' and why it had upset him so much. The knowledge of how people could be to those who were left behind. The tension Svetlana showed when in public. And he realized that she had suffered more than just verbal abuse. She had been physically attacked, who knew how much, and it was because of him. Closing his eyes to calm himself, Anatoly took a deep breath before he shifted to his wife and wrapped his arms around her and just held her.
"You don't always have to have the answer, Svetochka. And you aren't alone. I said we'd get them back and we will." Even if it meant him going to Molokov and agreeing to defend his title. Feeling Svetlana tremble in his embrace and her breathing hitching with what he could assume were tears, Anatoly pressed a kiss to her uninjured temple and laid down with her, pulling her against him and stroking her hair. He knew it wouldn't make things better, it wouldn't bring the girls back, but still, it was something and hopefully it would bring Svetlana some sort of comfort.
He had wanted to be free to pursue his life as he wanted, without expectations and regulations. Now he just wanted his family to be safe and to do whatever it took to keep them as such. Which meant finding his daughters and figuring out what to do next. For now though, it was holding Svetlana and letting her know that she wasn't alone in this anymore.