Full Circle Ch. 00bytens©
June 29, 2019
Vanya was tense. "I have got to get to her," he thought. He raced down the expressway. His wide blue eyes constantly darted to the rear view mirror, checking for followers. He had to cool it. Urgent was not him. Ivan Kirillovich Pravdin was strong, always in control, and never in a rush.
If he was being honest with himself, he'd admit that that version of him seemed to whither away where ever she was concerned. She brought out a different Vanya; one he thought could have never existed. He took a deep breath and slowed the speed of the black Escalade. Although it was unlikely he'd get pulled over at this time of night, matters would get astronomically worse if he got a ticket. The city was crawling with feds; alerting them would cause trouble for his family and would be met with punishment from his father.
Father. It always came back to what Father wanted. Everyone bowed to his will, and any sacrifice would be made to ensure that will was achieved. It was only now that Vanya realized how much he himself had sacrificed.
He finally pulled up to the shiny residential high-rise. It seemed to glisten even at night. He knew she lived there because of his occasional "check-ups." No matter how hard he tried, he could never let her memory die - not while she was out there, living, breathing, and being the perfect woman that she was. As Vanya bounded up the steps his heart beat more rapidly. How many times had he fantasized about taking these steps two by two, barging into her condo, and swinging her around in his arms like Prince Charming? Now that he was finally taking the journey, he was anything but joyful. This visit would be difficult for both of them.
It seemed like forever before he reached her floor. He took cautious steps to the entrance of her place. All the nerves in his arms were tingling. "Get it together" he chastised himself. This vulnerability came whenever he was in close proximity to her. There was a time when he had loved that feeling, and had even gloried in it. He stilled himself, putting on the face that so many had come to fear, and knocked soundly on the door. He knew it would frighten her, but he had no choice.
No response. She wouldn't answer unless he persisted. Smart. She was always smart. He rapped on the door again, this time in a louder, more rhythmic manner.
"Persephone, I know you're in there. Open the door, it's me." Saying her name released something within him. He wasn't sure what it was, but it was moving throughout his body like a fever. He was still met with silence.
"Who is it?" Even as accusatory as it sounded, her voice was so sweet to him. He tilted his head toward the ceiling, closed his eyes, and inhaled.
She was going to make him say it.
There was more silence. He wondered what she was doing. He had no way of reading her through the door. She was always the one that could read him anyhow.
"Step back into the hall."
She was inspecting him through the peep hole no doubt. Always thinking, always cautious. He wondered what it was that she saw. His sandy hair was now kempt, cut, and styled. His long nose and pronounced cheek bones were very much the same, though harder and more distinguished. The designer shirt, navy tie, and gray slacks spoke of a professional status. Could she tell how unsettled he was? How anxious he felt?
The door cracked and part of her silhouette became visible. Dark brown eyes peeked up at him behind the chain lock.
"Hey," was her simple, groggy whisper.
"May I come in?"
With that, the door shut again. There was a pause, and for a second, Vanya thought she might have changed her mind. After a moment of apprehension passed, the locks began to clank, and soon enough, the door was swinging open, revealing her form to him.
Her pajama pants were juvenile. They were red and decorated with little Scottish Terriers. She tightly wrapped herself in a short, black and white striped house robe as though she was shielding herself. However, even in her jarring nightwear, she exhumed power and beauty. If anything she had grown more beautiful. He wondered if that was just his heart's enthusiasm talking; he kept his amusement at the question off of his face.
The robe could not shield her round hips. Nor could her crossed arms contain her glorious breasts. Over a foot shorter than him, she raised her head to stare him straight in the face. There was no fear there, only scrutiny. She'd unwrapped her straightened, chin length hair and run her fingers through it. Her full, milk chocolate cheeks were somewhat flushed, just as they were every morning. He wished that her flushed state had something to do with his presence.
"Persephone." He looked down on her trying to match her stoic gaze.
She arched an eyebrow and gave him a look as if questioning some absurdity.
"Alright, Percy it is then."
"That sounds better," she said, stepping aside and granting him access. Her face softened slightly upon hearing the name only he had called her so many times before. She closed the door and slowly replaced all its locks. She let out a deep sigh and he waited for the inquisition. That's when he realized he had to get over the shock of his reunion; he didn't have time for an inquisition.
"Look, I wouldn't have come this late at night if it wasn't really important. There are two things I need to ask you and-"
"Vanya, I haven't seen you in four years," she stated plainly. Maybe it would have been better if she had said it with malice or anger. Even exasperation was preferable to her calm. She seemed unaffected and it bit at his heart. He steeled himself and went on.
"We've gone separate ways, but I need your help now."
"Vanya, you're as good a lawyer as I am. You know that."
"Yeah, but I can't think clearly when it involves Akilina, and I might not be around to address the matter. Besides, two brains are better than one."
"You might not be around? What's wrong with Lina?" her stoic gaze broke with a little concern. He held a little hope for the situation. She wasn't completely opposed to him.
"May I sit down?"
Percy took a seat on the couch and gestured for him to take a place in the chair. He sighed resignedly; there would be no scooting closer as he revealed the issue at hand.
"Before I say anything further, Percy, I want you know that what I'm telling you could put you in danger. Knowing it, I mean. It could make you liable for a number of things. I want to respect you by letting you decide whether or not you want to be a part of it."
Arms still crossed, Percy readjusted herself against the sofa cushions. Her jaw ticked and she didn't look at him as she spoke. "Are you sure you want to tell me, Vanya? I'm sure once I hear this I become a liability for you."
"I've always been able to trust you - more than anyone else, ever." He noted her sharp intake of breath; that had gotten her attention. Vanya knew his truthfulness must have shocked her. Any idiot would guess he wasn't a touchy feely guy and any other day of the week they would have been right. However, he was down to the wire. This was the time that you didn't hold anything back.
He broke the pregnant pause between them, "Do I have your consent?"
She turned away from him again, "Yes."
He inhaled deeply, and prepared himself to be completely honest with the love of his life for the first time.
"I'm sure you're aware of the government taking over research on concentrated laser targeting about five years ago. Your firm handled the litigation to stop it from happening."
"Yeah, it was one of the few times the government refused to contract out any of the research. The client, Matheson Technical, was furious."
"They were. There was no way they were willing to let go of those patents so easily. They had to turn over all the data to the government and halt any future work on the technology or derivatives thereof. Since they couldn't keep their research team together, they put the concentrated laser targeting researchers to work in other departments, to work on other contracted deals, with clients other than the federal government."
"Nefarious clients, I presume?"
"Some, not all. One of those researchers continued to work on 'private independent research' in his home country – subsidized in part by Matheson Technical. A group of interested parties funded the continuation of his previous work and before long he was able to make some developments."
"Weaponized developments , no doubt."
"One step ahead, as always. To make a long story short, this group began to manufacture hand held CLTDs and have sold them to the few organizations and governments that could afford them."
Percy shifted on the couch and her eyebrows began to knit together. He knew she was getting frustrated, trying to figure out where he fit into all this. Instead of directing anger at him like he expected, she asked about CLTDs.
"They're Concentrated Laser Targeting Devices."
"Wait, hand held? Do you mean a laser gun? Like, a real laser gun?"
"Pretty much, and not just your cartoon fare either. This is unlike anything you've ever seen. It's incredible. The destruction, the precision-"
Percy covered her hands with her face and leaned over. "Jesus, Vanya, you've been around them?" He couldn't tell if she was expressing disappointment or worry. Most likely, it was both. He had forgotten that meaningless displays of power did not impress her, especially if it put someone else in danger. He calmed himself before continuing.
"The thing is it's not just enough to have the gun. You've got to have a special refracting mineral – diamonds – to make them operate."
Understanding flooded her features, "Your father's business."
"Yes. As it turns out, only non-artificial diamonds that are from north of Sakha and expertly cut can activate these weapons. Fortunately for my father, he had two expert diamond cutters that worked for his stores and a direct connect to the rough diamonds."
"Well, at least now your father can finally fulfill his title as a jeweler," Percy smirked. Her expression faded when she noticed Vanya glance away resentfully.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"
"I know. It's just us here anyway."
"Still, you've never relished talking about your father, and I'm still not sure why you've come to me with all this," she replied, turning to gaze at the clock, "at two in the morning to boot."
This was it. This is where he dropped the bomb and prayed she would help him - maybe even accept him.
"There was a deal tonight to sell twenty-five of these diamonds. It went down without problems until the buyer insisted that one of his own men try a demonstration. The guy burned a hole clear through the buyer's son's shoulder."
"Yeah, I'm mostly sure that was an accident. Even worse is that the blast shot through at least the next building. The ballistics on that sort of damage only point to one kind of weapon and only one man within a thousand mile radius can provide the thing that makes those weapons work. The real kicker is that debacle was meant to distract us while our supposed buyers stole some of our most valuable assets right from under us."
"What, was it more diamonds?"
"No, the two expert cutters; they were forcibly taken from their homes. My father considers them his friends."
Percy now looked somewhat drained. She pursed her full pink lips together and asked somewhat sarcastically, "So, Vanya, what's going to happen now?"
"We're hunting every last one of them down. My father wants them found and dead before sunrise. Lina has already rounded up two and Mikhail is searching for our friends. I'll be meeting with Lina and Yulian soon to go into the lion's den. We're not sure what to expect when we get there."
Percy stood quickly and went to the window at the head of the living room. Vanya stood to approach her but her words stopped him.
"Where does your family think you are right now?"
"They think I'm securing the jewelry shops, which I'll be doing momentarily."
"Vanya...your family has great lawyers. I don't understand what it is you want from me."
"There is someone I...support...living outside of the state. It's a matter the rest of my family isn't privy to. I'd like to entrust you with the matter for a while. I've prepared this file with all the legal and tax information. It should be relatively easy to handle the transfers and the like."
Percy's shoulders squared. He knew she was debating whether or not to probe him further and try to get him to reveal information she knew he didn't want to divulge. That was the way it had always been with them; ignoring the colossal elephant in the room.
"Percy, I wouldn't have come to you like this unless things were really serious. Fuck...you have to know this is not how I wanted to see you again and-"
"I'll do it, okay!" Her proclamation wasn't what stunned him. It was the break in her voice. He knew this absurd favor would involve hurt, he just hadn't realized how much. He rushed to her and placed his large hands on her shoulders. She immediately wrenched her body away, keeping her back turned to him.
"Jesus, you come in here...talking about how you're probably gonna die... want me to keep the payments going to what god knows could be your lovechild...Hell, how could I say no?" her mumblings were erratic and barely audible as she waved her hands around. As she repeatedly wiped her face with her sleeves, it became clear that tears were spilling.
Vanya didn't hesitate now. He grabbed her shoulders, quickly turning her to face him. When he looked down on her he couldn't help but wipe her tearstained cheeks. "I swear to you, it is nothing like that...not the lovechild part anyway."
Percy rolled her eyes and let her trembling lips break into a half smile. He was glad they could have one last moment of humor. Realizing that his hands had begun to caress her face, she pulled away and wrapped her arms around her body once more.
"Just put the file on the table, I'll put it in a safe place after you go...If no one is supposed to know you came here then what are you going to do about my building's cameras?"
Vanya placed a small disc on her coffee table and smiled smugly. "Please Percy, how many cameras have I snuck by since you've known me?" This time she didn't laugh.
"You're probably running out of time," she stated stiffly, her eyes now red, "You said you needed two things. What was the other?"
Vanya loomed over her, standing tall, presenting himself to her the way he knew she had liked in the past. He gingerly brushed her hair from her face. "I want to hold you."
"Vanya...damn it," Percy whispered. She turned her face away from him, no doubt trying to hide her tears. Vanya was a little shocked that so many had fallen down her face. When he looked at the pain he had caused, he did the only thing he could think of to assuage it. He engulfed her frame into his, placing his chin on her head. He held on tight, thrilled to have her in his arms at last, even if it was only for a few moments.
After a few sniffles, Percy surrendered and wrapped her arms around his waist. As her body racked with sobs he held her even tighter, as though he could squeeze the sadness out of them both. She slowly regained her composure and pulled back to look up at him. When their eyes met, extreme gratitude, heartbreak, desperation and love flowed throughout Vanya's body simultaneously.
He poured all those feelings into the kiss he planted on her lips. First, his lips met hers in speculative and chaste thanks. She accepted these pecks and tilted her head up, returning his kisses through the small, silent hiccups of her heartache. His hands moved up and down her back as he began to take her mouth with his and breathe her breath. He wanted her to know how much he had missed her, and how sorry he was. It wasn't enough. He knew it would never be enough.
It took a lot of strength to tear his lips from hers. He kissed down her neck quickly, taking a final taste of that tender spot that met her shoulder. He held his mouth there for a few moments, savoring her. She was still delicious.
It was Percy who had the strength to pull away. She lifted her small hand to his face and wiped away a tear he didn't know had fallen. "You probably have to go."
Vanya straightened himself and nodded. Percy led him to her door. He stood at the threshold, drank in her image, and took her hand, kissing it three times. "Thank you, love. Thank you so much." Her doe eyes held his and he was amazed at how they still seemed to penetrate him, just like their first meeting. Percy took his hand within hers and held it to her lips until he slowly pulled away and walked quietly down the hall. His muscles tensed when he heard the soft click of her door shutting and the clanking of locks.
As Vanya made his way back to the Escalade he hardened himself. His sadness morphed into anger as he secured his family's jewelry shops and by the time he got on the rode to meet up with Lina and Yulian, he was ready to hunt down the transgressors. At times like these, the M9 on his side seemed like an extension of his body and all vestiges of weakness left him. He was ready to fight, and after visiting Persephone, he felt like he had a hell of a lot to fight for.