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Let me love you

Chapter Text

Dyatlov needed someone to help him with paper work, which took him too much time and distracted from solving really important tasks.

He was sitting in his office, tired and annoyed. He spent the whole day interviewing applicants, but no one seemed to meet his requirements.

Dyatlov stabbed out another cigarette, leaving it smolder in a heavy glass ashtray, already full of butts, and watched a thin thread of smoke swirling up in the air.

Leaning over the table, Dyatlov closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose, trying to calm down a bit and pull himself together. He was short-tempered, and everyone knew that. His subordinates were afraid of him and tried to avoid even accidental encounters with him in the corridors.

Dyatlov was demanding and appreciated order in everything. He could understand mistakes, made by the staff, if they were justified, but he hated sloppiness and neglect of one’s duties. Yes, he was tough, but he wasn’t evil, as everyone assumed. But Dyatlov wouldn’t bother proving them wrong. He didn’t give a fuck about what his coworkers thought of him, pushing people away with his rough demeanor.

The knock on the door pulled him out of his thoughts. He sighed hopelessly, feeling a tight knot of irritation growing in his chest again.

The door opened, and you appeared before his eyes. Making a step forward, you stopped and lowered your head under Dyatlov’s stern gaze.

Dyatlov couldn’t explain it, but you attracted his attention at once. He stared at you, trying to understand why exactly. He noticed, that you looked a little worried, but something betrayed your brave temper.

“Good afternoon,” you broke the silence, yet your voice sounded confident.

“Afternoon,” Dyatlov answered sternly, pointing at the chair. “Take a seat.”

You sat opposite him and boldly looked in his face, expressing your readiness for conversation.

He started asking you questions. Many questions. You answered all of them, proving you were suitable for the position. Dyatlov was pleasantly surprised, although he didn’t show it.

You liked the way he talked to you. Something in his demeanor seemed so catching. He was a strong man, no doubt. He disposed to himself, despite his severe appearance.

“Responsible?” he asked, looking through your resume, and you felt his voice soften slightly.

“Sometimes even too much,” you smiled timidly.

“Come on time?” he didn’t respond to your smile, but something changed in his gaze.

“Yes,” you nodded.

Dyatlov took a pen and twisted it in his hands, thinking.

“And leave?” he raised a challenging look at you. “Also on time?”

“I can linger when necessary, if that’s what you mean,” you answered without hesitation.

“So, breaking labor laws?” Dyatlov concluded with a frown.

“I would call it voluntary assistance.”

Your witty answer disarmed Dyatlov, and corners of his lips raised in a contented smirk. Relieved, you felt it was rather likely you could get along with this man.

He shook his head, admiring your courage. Finally, he found exactly that person.

“You get to work tomorrow,” he returned to his official tone. “You’re subordinate directly to me. If someone’s trying to give you extra tasks, you tell me. If there’s a conflict, you tell me. If you’re unhappy with something…”

“I tell you,” you finished his sentence.

Usually, the one who dared to interrupt Dyatlov, got his wrath, but not this time.

“Good,” he approved. His gaze wandered your face and locked on your eyes. He studied you, but not your appearance, which he had to admit was rather appealing. He was trying to understand what was there in your head. You intrigued him with your vivid mind and lively temper. You were different, and it attracted him.

When the door closed behind you, Dyatlov re-read your resume again, focusing on your personal data. Why would he even be interested? He shut the folder with a heavy slap and shove it aside.

Dyatlov lit another cigarette, picked up the phone and dialed a short number, informing personnel department of your appointment.

Chapter Text

You were so excited about your first working day, that you couldn’t even sleep properly. You woke up at night several times, and the last time you opened your eyes you realized it was pointless trying to have some more sleep, and got out of bed.

Despite the early hour, you decided, that going to work would be the better option, than sticking at home and torment yourself with intrusive anxious thoughts.

The clock showed 7:15 A.M. when you arrived. No one was there.

You slowly looked around, studying the room. Numerous shelves with piles of papers and stacks of folders didn’t seem friendly. You felt nervous. You’ve been told, how mean Dyatlov can be, and were terribly afraid to screw up.

You took place at your desk and made a deep breath, trying to calm down.

The sound of an opened door made you flinch. Dyatlov didn’t expect to see you and raised his wrist to check the time.

You straightened up in a chair to greet him. He didn’t answer.

Dyatlov stood motionless for a few moments, which seemed you an eternity, examining you with a sharp look of gray eyes. You felt a barely perceptible smell of recently smoked cigarette in the air.

“You’re early,” he stated firmly, and you lowered your head to avoid his piercing gaze.

He rolled his eyes displeased. He needed someone to rely on, not someone to scary a shit of. For this purpose, he already had a whole shift of morons. How could he trust you, if you didn’t dare to look him in the eyes?

Dyatlov sat on a chair beside your desk and rested his forearm on the edge.

“Listen, I understand that it will take you a while to get up to speed, okay?” he sounded harsher, than he wanted to, and it annoyed him even more. “If you have any questions, better ask me, I’m not biting.”

He stood up to his feet and headed to his office, pulling the keys out of his pocket.

“Fuckin master of favorable impressions!” he scolded himself. “Damn it!”

“Want some coffee?” he asked a little softer.

“I thought it was my job to offer you coffee,” you smiled gratefully.

The lock on the door clicked and Dyatlov opened it wide, standing on the threshold, but leaving enough space for you.

“Well, the working day has not yet begun,” with a determined jerk of his head, which looked more like an order, he invited you inside.

Uncertainly, you passed by him and stopped in the middle of the room.

“Take a seat,” he walked past you and roughly pulled out a chair at the briefing of his desk.

“Wow, a true gentleman…” sarcastically, you noted to yourself, and immediately regretted it, watching Dyatlov with a curious smile, as he approached the cabinet. It was weird, his severe appearance didn’t match the gesture, which, for sure, meant to be kind.

You fixed your eyes on him, following his every movement. Slightly slouching, he carelessly poured coffee into two cups, one hand in the pocket of his trousers.

“Sugar?” he asked without looking at you, his voice calm and quiet.

“No, thank you.”

Dyatlov leisurely handed you a cup and took his place at the desk. The tension gradually faded away, and you felt more relaxed now.

“Since you work under my command,” he warned in the same calm voice, “you’ll need to know a few simple rules…”

You listened attentively.

“You do what I say, and when I say. Having an opinion, different from mine, is not forbidden. But first you have to make sure it’s perfectly reasoned, for me to be interested,” looking intently into your eyes, he leaned over the desk, his arms crossed in front of him. “Is it necessary to mention that you always tell me the truth, no matter how dissatisfying it might be?”

“Doesn’t seem too difficult,” you smiled, eager to get to work.

He nodded and took a sip from his cup. There’s your courage again. Finally.

“So, why so early?” he smirked, leaving not a trace from his official tone, and you told him the truth, just as he asked a minute before.

“They scared you with me, right?” he sighed, pursing his lips.

You didn’t see the reason why you should be scared of him. Ridiculous. He didn’t look like a man you’ve been told about. The future would show, definitely, but your first impression about him was much, much better, than you expected.

“Just dramatized a little,” you laughed. “I prefer making conclusions, based on my personal experience.”

Not even realizing it, you said a thing, Dyatlov considered one of his main principles. Being a man of analytical mind, he’s never trusted a word, always tending to analyze the facts and building his own opinion.

You never stopped surprising him. For the second time he had a conversation with you, and for the second time you managed to lit up his interest. Dyatlov decided, he didn’t want to give you negative experience, and a barely noticeable smile of content appeared on his face, as his mute approval.

He clarified a few issues, concerning your duties, and you felt you were ready to start.

Although the work required much effort, you found it exciting. The day passed by in a flash. The variety of tasks almost melted your brain, but you were not the one, who’d give up easily.

“You sure you’ll do it till the morning?” already familiar quiet yet firm voice pulled you out of studying instructions and regulations, bringing you back to reality.

You raised an amazed look at the man, who was looming over your shoulder.

“You’re staying overnight, ain’t you? I appreciate that,” Dyatlov said seriously, as if it was an order of things.

“I got it,” you chuckled, pushing the papers aside. “I’m leaving.”

He nodded.

“Don’t expect I’d remind you again,” abruptly, he waved his hand towards the door.

The gesture suggested no tarry. You startled up and headed for the exit.

His intentions were good, for sure. Despite the rude demeanor, which you thought was not his nature, but more like just a habit, you couldn’t help giving him a grateful smile before disappearing in the dark corridor.

Left alone, Dyatlov closed his eyes and made a deep breath. The walk back home was going to be long, as it has always been, when he needed to sort his thoughts.

Looking at your empty chair, he realized he wanted to see you again.

Dyatlov shoved his hand into the pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

Chapter Text

The next morning, you came earlier.

Dyatlov came right after you. You wondered, how could you not notice him in the corridor.

He fixed his eyes on you, pursing his lips. Your insides shrank every time he looked at you like this.

“Early again?” Dyatlov turned away, pulling out the keys and heading for his office. His tall figure slouched a little more, as he unlocked the door.

“I have someone to follow suit,” you didn’t mean to say it aloud, but the words just slipped off your tongue.

Dyatlov sniggered, reverting his eyes back on you. His displeased expression softened, and a faint smile appeared on his face, as he markedly studied you from head to toe. Damn right you were.

“True that,” he agreed, and you smiled shyly in response.

He remained standing in the doorway, piercing you through with his watchful gaze.

“Come on in,” he said finally and gestured towards his office with a nod of his head, exactly as he did the day before.

You enjoyed the chat you had the previous morning and rejoiced at his offer.

As the day before, you stopped at his table, looking back at him, still hesitating whether you should take a seat, and Dyatlov pulled out a chair for you. You watched him making coffee for both of you and took a cup from his hands, when he passed it to you. As the day before.

Dyatlov asked you about your former job and why you wanted to work here. He was interested how you felt in a new place, if you liked it here, if you got along with your new colleagues. Of course, it was too early for making any conclusions, but one thing you could say for sure: your boss was concerned about you, and it was all that mattered.

As you’ve made no friends yet, he was the only person here you’ve talked to, and you gladly shared your impressions about the place and the people. Restrained and detached, Dyatlov didn’t show much emotion, but you could feel his favor in his gaze and his tone. He was not like that strict man you met, when you first entered this office. You really enjoyed his company and hoped that someday he’d give you a chance to know him a little better.

And he did.

He didn’t even notice it though, but it somehow happened. Morning coffee in his office has become your tradition. Both of you started coming even earlier in order to spend more time over a cup of hot drink and a pleasant conversation.

In this short time before the working day, you discussed various things, from art to nuclear reactors. Dyatlov liked your sense of humour; your witty jokes and sarcastic remarks never failed to make him smile. He admired your mind and soon started treating you as an equal. Although you didn’t feel the pressure of hierarchy and could relax in his presence, you never allowed yourself any forwardness towards this man.

At your request, Dyatlov explained things you wanted to understand better. He shared his experience with you, telling about curious cases from his practice. You loved listening to him. This man was so smart, so broad-minded. He’d know the answer to any of your questions. With his example, he inspired you to grow, to move forward and never stop. You realized you’d never be worthy of him, but you wanted to be at least someone he could respect.

Chapter Text

Dyatlov was discussing work issues with some of his subordinates. You could hear muffled voices from behind the door. You got used to neverending flow of people rushing in and out and enjoyed this quiet fuss. Men worked in their usual rhythm, and everything seemed calm and measured.

Leaning over a pile of documents, you also looked calm, but in fact you were almost fainting from anxiety. Today you were going to attend your first meeting (it wasn’t your first actually, you’ve attended a plenty of them), but today, in addition to your usual task of keeping a protocol, you had to report on results of your own work for the first time.

Several times you were lucky to witness Dyatlov’s righteous anger. Being “lucky” meant, that his anger wasn’t directed at you, and God, how afraid you were to be the one he’d reproach. This fear was conditioned not by the probability of being scolded or even humiliated, which was quite typical of your boss; you’ve never cared about this trivia. You were afraid to disappoint this man, afraid to lose his goodwill. Watching his relationship with other colleagues, you realized it was a great honor to have it. He attracted you as a personality, as a talker, as a mentor. You considered him a remarkable example of self-development and professional growth you aspired so much, although you understood you could hardly ever reach his level. You wanted him to be satisfied with your work, because you tried really hard to do your best.

“It’s okay,” you persuaded yourself, looking through your report. “I’m not nervous … I’m not nervous …”

Desperately, you dropped your hands on your lap, rolled your eyes and whined plaintively, “I’m nervous!”

“Pull yourself together!” You straightened up and made a deep breath. “I’m doing fine. Nothing to worry about.”

The sound of an opened door made you flinch, interrupting your self-consoling therapy. Two men walked out of Dyatlov’s office, continuing to discuss something.

You looked at the clock. The meeting was about to begin in a few minutes. Panic clenched its fingers around your throat, obstructing your breathing. You swallowed hard and reluctantly started collecting the necessary papers, delaying the moment you had to make your way to the conference room.

Hands in his pockets, Dyatlov watched you, leaning against the door jamb with his shoulder, while you sorted through the papers, not aware of his presence.

You’ve already been working here for several months. During this time, Dyatlov didn’t make you a single remark – you gave him no reason. He was pleased with you and knew he could rely on you, whatever happened. He was glad to have someone who didn’t get on his nerves. He liked you, he really liked you, although he didn’t want to admit it.

When you finally noticed his tall figure, you almost dropped the papers you’ve just prepared and laughed quietly, hiding your embarrassed glance.

Dyatlov didn’t share your gaiety, with a serious expression he remained where he stood. Once he finished scanning you with his piercing gaze, he pushed himself off the door jamb and slowly approached you.

“You’re tense,” he stated, carefully studying your face.

“Huh, am I?” you squeezed a smile, but your poor attempt to hide nervousness failed miserably. Dyatlov gave you that kind of look in response, you could read “do you think I’m a fool” question in his eyes.

“Just a little too-much-worried about my report,” you admitted apologetically.

“You’re doing fine. Nothing to worry about,” in an indifferent tone, he repeated the words you’ve just told to yourself.

Although he looked impassive, he really cared about you. He knew perfectly well how your work progressed, you’ve already discussed this for a million times. In fact, he didn’t need your report, he just wanted you to feel more confident around your colleagues of higher positions. Dyatlov believed you had all chances to achieve great success in future.

“Come on, let’s go,” your heart sank at the sound of his firm voice. It was time for you to face the inevitable, and you followed him through the net of long corridors.

Standing before the door, you were about to open it, but suddenly Dyatlov pressed on it with his hand from behind your shoulder, blocking your way. You turned around, giving him an astonished look, and he smiled softly.

“It’s gonna be fine,” he reassured you quietly, removing his hand. His eyes still locked on yours, he wished to see that vigorous glint he loved so much and never stopped admiring. “I believe in you, don’t doubt yourself.”

Just a few simple words, but it was enough to dispel your anxious thoughts. Dyatlov’s support meant so much for you, he never failed to cheer you up, whenever you needed it most. This was the key to your success. You nodded, intended to not let him down, and he nodded approvingly in response. He’d banter you later for being so unsure, and you’d laugh, recalling this moment.

You entered the conference room with Dyatlov, when all the participants were already there. You knew they would stare. They always did, and it made you feel uneasy. With wide determined step, slightly slouching as usual, Dyatlov walked towards the presidium past rows of seats, and you confidently followed him. The personnel consisted mainly of men. Many liked you and often dropped in just to greet you or to share a joke, but there were some who couldn’t believe you managed to find an approach to the most demanding and uncompromising chief, which made them angry and envious.

During the meetings, you always sat beside your boss and kept a protocol. Sitting close to him, you had an opportunity to clarify some issues without distracting the audience, just quietly asking Dyatlov over his shoulder. He also found it advantageous for the same reason. Once, he unconsciously touched your hand to attract your attention and later started doing it on purpose. Soon you no longer needed words, just one touch, one look or a gesture was enough for you to understand what exactly he wanted.

You liked your non-verbal communication and were proud to reach that level of understanding, which gave you a feeling of a special connection with a strict and gloomy man, who wasn’t actually so harsh, when there was nobody left in the room, except you.

Chapter Text

Dyatlov always managed to keep a share of your attention, no matter what you were doing. And now, sitting opposite to him at the same table with a few other men, you unconsciously examined his hands, which twisted the lighter. Dyatlov was annoyed. You’ve studied him well enough to see he was about to explode, although he held back as hard as he could.

“How many times I told you to check indicators?” his fist struck the table, as he addressed the supervisor of Chemical workshop.

There followed no answer.

Dyatlov took a cigarette from the pack and lit it, taking a deep drag. In front of him there stood an already overfilled ashtray. It was a hard day.

He gritted his teeth. “Do you realize that now we’ll have to repair the equipment, and wait until we get a new one?”

“We’re still able to soften feed water, the filters are not damaged,” the man tried to excuse himself. “Who would’ve known…”

You should’ve known first of all, you dumbass!”

Dyatlov abruptly got up to his feet and approached the window to open it. A regular thing he did, when he smoked in your presence. He always remembered to take care of you, no matter how angry or busy he was. He acted as if it wasn’t a big deal, but these little gestures meant a world for you. You didn’t care what they said about him, didn’t care he was too mean with his co-workers sometimes. He’s always been kind and gentle with you, and you couldn’t help answering him the same.

“You’ll bring me full report tomorrow,” Dyatlov returned to his place. “I want to see explanatories of all the shift workers who were there as well.”

“And now… shall we start fixing the facility?” the man scratched his head.

“Oh, he’d better not ask stupid questions…” you thought. With your eyes closed, you slightly rubbed the bridge of your nose, prepared for the storm to come.

“What would you expect?” Dyatlov’s voice burst out with violent force, shuddering the walls. “That I’d do this for you?” he shouted furiously. “Move your fuckin ass! Go!”

In an instant the room was empty.

When you were left alone, Dyatlov leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes.

“Bloody moron,” he hissed.

You felt sorry for him, he was entrusted with so many tasks, had to deal with so many problems. You did your best to help him, but this was still not enough. You took a step towards him to ask if he needed something.

Feeling that you came closer, he reluctantly opened his eyes and gave you a sullen look. He hated it when you saw him like that. He didn’t like this situation, which irritated him even more.

Pulled himself together, Dyatlov straightened up and rested his forearms on the desk, a heavy sigh escaped his lungs.

“Prepare a note for Bryukhanov,” he addressed you in a discontent, but quiet voice, “inform him about what happened.”

He broodingly rubbed his forehead. “Mention that I’ll personally report to him when we’ll get understanding of what to do next.”

Dyatlov shove the papers aside and accidentally pushed the ashtray. Butts and ashes scattered all around.

“Damn it!” he growled.

You rushed to help him remove the mess.

“Leave it!” he stopped you abruptly.

Caught a glimpse of you cringing at his rude tone, he realized that he made a mistake and, trying to smooth his guilt, he added in barely a whisper, “I’ll do it myself…”

Without objecting (though you felt the urge to), you decided to give him some time to calm down and quietly left the office.

“Shit! Fuckin. SHIT.” Dyatlov exclaimed angrily. Working moments pissed him off sometimes. But now it wasn’t work, which infuriated him so badly, he was angry with himself. He shouldn’t have spoken to you like that.

***

When the note was ready, you knocked and cautiously opened the door.

“May I?”

“Sure,” Dyatlov said quietly and stretched out his hand, inviting you to come closer. “You don’t need to knock, I told you!” He was calm now, but seemed upset. He was upset he failed to restrain himself, he really regretted it.

“You finished so fast,” yet he was soft with you, even more than usual.

“It’s just a draft,” you explained timidly.

He read carefully and nodded approvingly after each paragraph.

Your lips stretched in a contented smile, once he reached the end and complimented you by putting his signature next to his last name. You rejoiced, he didn’t make a single amendment. It felt so ego-stroking each time.

“Send it to Bryukhanov,” Dyatlov sighed wearily and handed you the document.

You were about to leave, when he stopped you.

“Hold on!”

You turned around, waiting for directions.

He fell silent for a moment, avoiding your attentive glance. The words seemed to stuck in his throat.

“I was too harsh, forgive me,” his eyes met yours, revealing something you’ve never seen before. Remorse… and plea?

“Nooo,” touched by his apology, you heartily convinced him otherwise. “You were not! I mean… Well, you were actually…” you playfully rolled your eyes and smiled, trying to cheer him up. “But I understand it wasn’t because of me.”

“It wasn’t,” he agreed bitterly. “It’s just…” displeased, he waved his hand around the room, as if complaining about everything that took place here.

“I know…” you reassured him, being immensely grateful for his kind attitude.

Dyatlov didn’t take his eyes off you.

“Would you tell me if I were wrong?” he asked suddenly.

“Is it a courage test or a request?” Taken aback, you clarified seriously, without a hint of a joke.

“It’s a request,” he looked at you expectantly, praying you wouldn’t be scared to cross the line of hierarchy.

“You should promise then, you won’t be angry with me,” you smiled kindly.

“I promise,” relieved, he smiled back.

“But who am I to point out your mistakes?” You respected him too much to even think of doubting his authority.

Dyatlov frowned. He raised to his feet and swiftly approached you, grabbing your shoulders.

“You are the person whose opinion means much to me,” he looked into your eyes so intently, it seemed he could see your soul. You felt a slight fleeting touch of his warm breath on your face, which delicately swept along your cheeks, leaving invisible traces on your skin you’d sensate during next several hours. Your heart raced once he tightened his grip on you. Standing so close to this man sent shivers down your spine, and everything you wished was this moment to never end.

“I’m glad you’re here…” He carefully stroked your shoulders, where he squeezed them before letting go off you.

“Me too…” you didn’t want to break eye contact, but feeling blood rushing to your face, you lowered your head to hide an embarrassed smile, and headed for the exit.

Dyatlov couldn’t explain what happened now, where this sudden impulse came from, but one thing was clear to him: he got attached to you and could no longer imagine his life without you. He needed you by his side and hoped, that someday you would call him a friend. Being realistic, he couldn’t count on more.

Dyatlov’s words gave you no peace, circulating in your head over and over. He was not the kind of a man who would make such statements. So you really meant something to him? This assumption poured warmth into your soul, expanding your chest with thrill and delight. You craved to know him better, but he was your boss. No matter how hard you tried to drive these thoughts away, they still popped up in your head every time you saw him.

Chapter Text

The supervisor of Chemical workshop, who was scolded the day before, imposingly walked into the room. “Is Dyatlov here?”

“No,” you answered, looking at the clock. “But he’ll return soon.”

The man threw a document on your desk. Without explaining what it was, he headed for the exit right away.

“Wait,” you stopped him sternly, not touching the papers. “What’s this?”

“My report, what else could it be?!” he snapped contemptuously.

“Take a seat,” showing no emotion, you pointed at the chair.

“What?” he exclaimed insolently.

“Take. A. Seat!” you emphasized each word. “Otherwise, I’ll throw your report in the trash bin, just the way you threw it on my desk!”

He obeyed out of sheer curiosity. He didn’t respect you, it was obvious.

You looked through the text, taking your time to study it carefully.

“In your report, you notify that the malfunction occurred due to technical factors, causing the damage of equipment,” you recited a few lines.

“You can read? Good for you,” he snapped.

Having no intention to be nice with that asshole anymore, you ignored his remark and continued sarcastically. “You forgot to specify which exactly factors caused it. I remember Anatoly Stepanovich saying it rather clear.”

“Your work is not analyzing reports, but delivering them to the management!” he retorted.

“Oh, is it just me, who’s been honored by your attention, or you made yourself familiar with job descriptions of all the employees on the enterprise? Maybe you should’ve put more effort into your report other than that?”

The man blinked dumbfounded, he surely didn’t expect you’d fight back.

“I’ll take explanatories of the workers, and this…” you pushed the papers aside, “…you may keep to yourself.”

“It’s not for you to decide!” he grabbed the papers and pushed them back into your hands. “Just give Dyatlov the fuckin report!”

“She did you a favor by not accepting your fuckin report!” Dyatlov’s voice thundered as he entered the room, his eyes flashed with rage. “If my aide didn’t consider it appropriate, why do you think I would?”

Dyatlov heard the whole conversation from the very start, and two incompatible feelings struggled in him. He was furious at the way this man spoke to you, but at the same time he couldn’t help admiring how easily you roasted that ungrateful piece of shit.

You saw his indignant face: his eyes narrowed in anger and his nostrils twitched lividly, but you were not afraid. You gratefully watched your boss and were glad he was there. You surely could deal with an arrogant employee by yourself, but the fact that he was caught red-handed made you triumph with gloat.

The man’s eyes widened in horror, and he shrank under Dyatlov’s annoyed stare.

Dyatlov leisurely walked up to your chair and stood patronizingly right behind your back.

“Show me, what’s there,” addressing you, his tone changed to soft and quiet.

With unimpressed expression, he studied the report from over your shoulder, which you held in your hands. Although he didn’t touch you, but you could sense him standing beside, so strong was his energy. You felt so comfortable and so safe in his presence.

“She’s here partly for that very purpose of preventing me from wasting my time on bullshit like this!” Dyatlov snapped irritably, taking the report from you.

“What the fuck is it?” he swayed the papers in the man’s face and threw them on the floor. “Didn’t I make myself clear, what should be done?”

The worker guiltily bowed down to pick them. So cocky and defiant he was just a few minutes ago, but now he looked pathetic.

“You’d better bring me a proper report by the end of the day! With detailed explanation on each paragraph,” Dyatlov sounded calm, but those cold notes in his tone betrayed his real state of mind. Reached the breaking point of patience, he barely restrained himself from blowing up again.

“Yes… I will…” the guy mumbled humbly, backing off for the exit.

“And one more thing!” Dyatlov stopped him harshly. “If she ever tells me about you being rude…” he pursed his lips, “…I won’t bother figuring out whether it’s true or not!”

Head in his shoulders, your offender nodded vigorously and quickly disappeared.

Dyatlov gritted his teeth. It hurt him so bad, that someone was mistreating his only sunshine. He was ready to protect you at all costs. He gently patted your back and sat on the chair beside your desk with a bitter sigh, placing his forearm next to yours.

“I suppose this wasn’t for the first time?” he pointed at the door with a jerk of his head, meaning the one who just stepped out of it, and you nodded slightly to confirm his assumption.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Dyatlov frowned a little disappointed.

“I could bear him. With your busy schedule, what you lack is pulling children in the sandbox apart,” you smiled compassionately. The warmth your eyes emitted seeped right into his soul. Dyatlov straightened up and leaned towards you. He couldn’t resist and covered your palm with his, squeezing it slightly.

“Tell me everything,” his quiet request, uttered in such a soft tone, still came out like an order which you couldn’t disobey, “…and I’ll decide then, whether I lack it or not, agreed?”

He stared straight into your eyes, and you realized, how much concerned he was about you, how much he really cared. Joy bloomed like a flower in your chest, spreading overwhelming feeling of appreciation and gratitude.

You smiled broader. “Agreed!”

Chapter Text

You would never be able to find right words to describe how much you enjoyed working with Dyatlov. It was a real pleasure. Being a strong and resolute man, he always knew what to do, he had an answer for any question, and was respected for these qualities. He was also feared as hell, which only proved his authority. But you loved being beside him. Even when he furiously argued with some of your colleagues. Yes, he was harsh, he was demanding, but he was fair, which one couldn’t deny.

Recalling your first days at this place, you couldn’t help smiling. It was so hard when you just arrived here: new plant, new people. And your new boss… He didn’t seem friendly at first. He never did actually, he got used to wear that mask on his face, which showed no emotions except either anger or indifference, but somehow you managed to see a good person behind. A person who’s been through a lot in his life. He never mentioned it though, but for you it was as clear as day. He was a fighter, never used to ask for help and never willing to accept any of it… Never intending to show his weakness.

Seeing how much he worked, and how much it exhausted him, you tried to help him as hard as you could. He resisted at first, but your persistence left him no chance, and he had to give up. You knew, he could surely stop you if he really wanted to, and you realized he just let you do it. Why? Did he enjoy your company as much as you enjoyed his?

Each morning, you eagerly rushed to work, anticipating a nice conversation with a nice person. Very unlikely, that anyone found him nice, but you had no reason to think otherwise. You got to know him quite well, and for you there existed no better and kinder man in the world. Although he tried not to make it apparent, you could feel his sympathetic attitude in his actions, and each time he reproached you for staying overtime with that strict expression, which would scare a hell out of the rest of the staff, you couldn’t restrain yourself from giving him a grateful smile. Speaking of smile… You’ve never seen him smiling during the day, except for those short early hours you used to spend in his office over a cup of coffee, and the more precious it was seeing the corners of his lips rise up slightly, barely exposing a row of almost perfect teeth.

You felt so comfortable in his presence. Having him around made you feel… home… You noticed it when he was absent for a few days, being on a work trip. It was like you lacked something, something very important, which has become a part of your life, a part of you, something so essential you’d never realize you had before you’d lose it. Just a couple of days without him, but they seemed neverending.

Your thoughts were all about him. Realizing how wildly unreasonable it was to hope he’d welcome you into his life, you decided to let it go and try to take as much as you could in these circumstances. Otherwise you’d lose even what you had by now. You definitely were not going to ruin your friendly relationships with silly girly confessions. There was no way you could let it happen. Never! Having his favor, being so close to him, seeing him any time you wanted, was a gift not to be wasted or treated carelessly. You gratefully accepted what you had and cherished the time you had together.

Working side by side, made you forget about your desperate thoughts for a while, but once you’d be left alone you’d realize how bad you really missed him. You started lingering in the evenings (good you’ve always had some job to do) just to feel his presence for as long as possible. Knowing he was here, just behind the wall, settled so much needed peace into your soul.

Chapter Text

It was too early when you arrived, a usual thing for you. Finding Dyatlov in his office wasn’t a surprise.

You greeted him, peeking in the door ajar. He answered with a heavy sigh, rubbing his forehead. He looked wearied, exhausted.

“Hard morning?” you still didn’t dare to enter without his invitation.

No matter how bad he felt, your sympathetic smile brought him back to life.

“Come in, don’t stand in the doorway,” his hand reached out for you, a gesture so familiar. “Had no sleep,” he admitted calmly, as if it was in the order of things. “Coffee? As usual?” Dyatlov left his chair.

“For the second time on this week you’re telling me you had no sleep, and you’re still going to drink coffee?” you exclaimed indignantly.

“Well, what would you suggest?” with apathetic face he turned the coffee machine on and returned to his desk while it was heating.

“You need to sleep,” you really worried about him. “Do you want me to make you some herbal tea? It will help.” Your eyes emitted so much warmth and compassion, Dyatlov just couldn’t resist that immense feeling of gratitude expanding in his chest.

“The working day begins in an hour, how would you imagine this?” he sniggered, glancing at the watch on his right hand.

“A whole hour, and you’re wasting it arguing with me!” you insisted, believing in your simple yet genius plan.

Dyatlov raised an eyebrow, giving you a sarcastic look.

“I won’t let anyone in, unless you tell me,” you continued uncertainly.

“Do you hear yourself?” he smiled softly. He was pleased with your concern, but of course he wasn’t going to sleep at the workplace.

“You’re hopeless!” you frowned.

With a tail of your eye you noticed an already half full ashtray. “When did he smoke all of these?”

“At least get some fresh air,” you resolutely approached the window. Dyatlov smoked so much, he couldn’t even register that strong cigarette smell, which filled the room.

He watched you carefully. He liked letting you take a little control over him, when it came to such trifle things. The sudden confidence you showed without even realizing it, fascinated him. He knew you’d never cross the line and just enjoyed the moment.

“You should take more care of yourself,” you stated and fixed your attention on adjusting the curtains.

“As if someone would appreciate it…” he muttered bitterly under his breath, not expecting you’d hear. He got used, that no one cared about him, so why would he do it?

Your heart sank painfully. You would really appreciate it! You were the one who cared! God, if only he knew how much he meant for you…

“Just tell him… Just tell him…” you persuaded yourself, lost all your courage at once.

Staring out of the window, your look wandered the empty street. It was still dark outside, but you could distinguish other blocks of the power plant start taking their shapes before the break of the dawn.

“I can’t… I just can’t…” you lowered your head, eyes closed. “Coward…”

You slowly walked up to the coffee machine and turned it off.

“There’s always someone for whom we mean something… Even though we might not realize it…” you smiled sadly and headed for the exit, dispirited and wretched.

Struck by your words, Dyatlov remained silent. Why did you say that? Did you really consider him worthy of at least a tiny bit of sympathy? Even watchmen seemed to hate him. Bullshit! No one could sympathize with him. No one but…

A chain of memories emerged in his head, flashing before his eyes so vividly, he felt he just lived those minutes all over again. Sincere smiles you gave him each day, your accuracy in carrying out his tasks, your compassion and desire to cheer him up after nerves exhausting meetings… The carousel of pleasant moments spun round and round, bringing him back in those days, gradually slowing down, and finally stopped on your genuine concern about him this morning…

Dyatlov’s heart ached with regret he has waved you away.

“Fool,” he growled, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “What a damn fool!”

***

Slouching slightly in his usual manner, Dyatlov appeared in the doorway. He lowered his head, admitting his defeat.

“Okay, you won,” he pursed his lips displeased. “Make that tea. Go ahead…” He closed his eyes, not believing he agreed to go along with your idea.

Your face lit up with joy, and you hurried to put the kettle on, before he changed his mind. You couldn’t miss a second!

Dyatlov took a place at your desk, watching you with all love and affection he had for you. The frown on his forehead disappeared, and a barely perceptible smile adorned his face. His soul flittered somewhere inside his chest, longing to reach yours. That delightful feeling he got to know once he met you, took over him, leaving no place for grief or sorrow.

“There you are,” you placed a cup in front of him, and sat beside.

“Smells good,” he smiled peacefully. Your care was something so unusual for him, but so much desired. He took a sip. Hot fragrant liquid poured down his esophagus, spreading relaxing warmth throughout his body.

You watched Dyatlov, not able to take your eyes off him, being endlessly happy he accepted your offer.

“Now go rest,” you ordered softly, once he finished the tea.

He smirked and rose up to his feet, not without an effort. Drained of his physical and mental resources, he tottered to his office.

***

Dyatlov couldn’t think of anything, he closed his eyes and saw your lovely smiling face. How did he deserve your kind attitude? The tea took effect rather quickly, and Dyatlov drifted into a deep serene slumber.

***

You couldn’t help smiling tenderly, seeing Dyatlov’s sleepy face, once he opened his door again. Hands in his pockets, he leaned his back on the doorjamb and rested his head against the wooden panel.

“I couldn’t sleep for two days, and now I can’t wake up,” he sighed, looking at the ceiling.

You beamed, pleased with the result.

He turned his head in your direction, without changing his body position.

“How do you do that?” he asked, and a subtle smile appeared on his face.

“What?” you blushed.

“Make me feel better,” he said in a hushed tone and shifted his gaze back on the ceiling.

Your heart raced as a reactor on fast neutrons. You didn’t expect him to say something like that and held your breath, confused and bewildered, lost the last ability to think clearly.

“Anatoly Stepanovich…” his name was everything you managed to articulate.

He pushed off the doorjamb and slowly walked towards you. His palm delicately covered your temple, as he bent over you and pressed a soft kiss on your forehead. “Thank you,” he whispered.

“Don’t let anyone in for 20 more minutes,” Dyatlov headed back to his office and slammed the door shut behind him.

Chapter Text

The last two weeks, Dyatlov started noticing that something was happening to you. Once he saw you sad and silent again, entirely absorbed in your thoughts, he came up to your desk and sat on its edge, right in front of you, making your further work impossible.

“Is there something you’d like to tell me?” he asked softly, and you could discern concerned notes in his tone, which betrayed how much he worried about you.

“N…no?” the question surprised you, you didn’t get his hint at first.

“You sure?” he insisted.

“I did something wrong?”

Dyatlov sighed. “Listen, I’m not blind! I see something’s bothering you. If you need help or anything… I’m here, okay?”

“No, I’m fine,” you persuaded him with a grateful smile. You didn’t dare to burden him with your problems, which you could surely sort by yourself; you had no idea how, but you definitely would! You hated complaining… Moreover, the issue was rather delicate and embarrassing for you.

“As you wish…” disappointed, Dyatlov dropped his hands on his lap and got up to his feet. How could he expect you’d need his help! Old fool…

You didn’t want to push him away, didn’t want him to think his support meant nothing for you, while it actually meant a world! Your heart sank painfully. You felt so bad, so sorry for rejecting him. You didn’t want to hurt him, no! Watching him heading for his office, you were afraid he’d shut the door and you’d never see him again, that kind, caring, considerate man, the man he hid under the guise of contempt and arrogance, thoroughly concealing his true nature, only you got to know. You were afraid to meet a cold and indifferent look, the one he gave to the rest of the staff, once he’d open it again. Most of all you were afraid to lose him!

“Anatoly Stepanovich!” you cried out his name in a desperate attempt to stop him.

Dyatlov turned around, looking at you intently. You hesitantly stood up and slowly approached him.

You couldn’t utter a word, not knowing what to say and where to start. You just looked him in the eyes, lost and distressed, begging him to stay.

“Come here,” he rested his hand on the nape of your neck and led you into his office.

Dyatlov set you on the chair and remained standing behind you, both palms on your shoulders. His touch was so soothing, you wished him to never take his hands off.

“Tea?” he offered quietly.

You shook your head. You felt too nervous, thinking how to tell him about the situation which haunted you for quite a long time.

“Come on… I’ll make you some…”

You turned in his direction, once he broke the contact. Having him within eyeshot gave you a comforting feeling of preserving invisible connection between the two of you.

“You know me well enough, don’t you?” he stated calmly.

You nodded.

“You know I’m on your side?”

“I know…” you agreed quietly, not sure if you’d ever be able to thank him enough for his care and everything he’s been doing for you.

Dyatlov poured tea into two cups and returned to you. He placed both on the desk and sat beside. You were surprised he didn’t take his usual place, but you needed him so much and were happy he stayed with you.

He rested one hand on the desk and the other on the back of your chair. You felt so comfortable at once, so safe and protected.

“Is it something serious?” he started from afar.

“Not really, I guess,” your finger traced along the pattern on your cup.

Dyatlov waited patiently. He wasn’t going to rush you, ready to give you as much time as you needed to collect your thoughts.

You took a sip.

“You might find it stupid,” you warned him, still unsure whether you should tell him or not.

He didn’t take his eyes off you and sat silently, carefully studying your face.

“One guy is pursuing me,” you admitted finally.

Dyatlov clenched his teeth, his eyes flashed with anger. “Which guy?”

“One of the plant workers. I don’t even know his name…” you scowled.

“What do you mean “pursuing”?” he squinted fiercely.

“He’s following me everywhere. Each time I stay alone, he appears at once… It’s so obnoxious…” your face twitched with disgust. Dyatlov already imagined how he’d break bastard’s bones and smash his face.

“Don’t think I’m not able to deal with him!” you didn’t want to look weak or helpless.

“How long does it last?” he asked seriously. “You’ve been beside yourself for about two weeks, I can presume, it lasts longer?”

“More than a month, probably …” you sighed.

Dyatlov’s hand slid up the back of your chair and landed on your shoulder.

“It’s okay,” he reassured you. “You’ll show him to me.” His determined tone suggested no other options. You raised a surprised look at him.

“Will you let me help?” concerned, he stared right into your eyes.

“I don’t want to bother you… Wasting your time is something I want the least!”

“Yes or no?” he pursed his lips.

You nodded slightly, and he nodded back.

“Good. I’ll ask you for a favor then,” Dyatlov smirked.

“Yes, sure…” you were ready to do anything for him.

“Will you help me get rid of the body after I kill him?”

You widened your eyes, not believing he was saying it and laughed cheerfully, feeling the tension, that lodged in your chest during all this time, gradually disappear.

“I’ll walk you home today. Don’t you mind?” he asked softly and added in more demanding tone. “You’d better not, because I’ll do it anyway.”

Immensely grateful for his care, you could only smile back.

You felt relieved. Now you were not alone with your problem. He was with you. He would help, you knew he would help. And he helped. He’d never tell you how he did it and what he told that guy, but he never came up to you again.

However, the habit of walking home together remained…

Chapter Text

Dyatlov walked out of his office and locked the door.

“So early today?” you smiled, looking at the clock, which showed 7:50 P.M., and returned to your notes. “See you tomorrow!”

He frowned.

“You’re not staying,” his voice firm and confident, as always.

“No, I am! I still have some work to do,” you argued, without raising your head.

“You’re. Leaving. Now!” he stated firmly.

Dyatlov took your coat off the hanger and straightened it for you, holding it on your shoulder level.

“Come on,” he hurried you with a jerk of his head.

You put the pen aside and pointed at the pale of papers scattered before you. “But this is the report you asked me to do!”

“I allow you to finish it tomorrow. Now come here,” he impatiently jiggled your coat once again, showing phenomenal persistence so typical of him.

“Anatoly Stepanovich!” you still tried to resist, realizing it was pointless.

“How long do I have to stand like this?” he rounded his eyes indignantly. Although he looked annoyed, you knew he wasn’t angry.

You grunted displeased and slowly approached him. He still stood holding your coat. Made the last poor attempt to convince him with a pleading glance, and met his stern and adamant in response, you sighed hopelessly and obediently turned your back to him, shoving your hands in the sleeves, while Dyatlov pulled the coat on your shoulders. Facing him again, you saw his barely noticeable yet contented smile so familiar to you.

“That’s better.” Dyatlov let you go first and turned off the light.

Quiet rustle of two pair of footsteps, usual for this late hour, resounded in the corridors. The walls as numb witnesses of this nightly picture seemed to know more about the two of you, than you both dared to admit. The way you walked side by side on the edge of a touch, the easy pace you preferred to delay the moment of parting… Your hearts yearned for each other while your minds still denied the obvious, always ready to find new reasons, explaining why it was impossible for you to be together.

The evening met you with a cool wind, once you went outside. It was dark already, and the street was empty.

“Cold…” Dyatlov remarked calmly. “Short one?”

“No,” you asked quietly. “If you don’t mind…”

He grinned, he would never mind taking you home the long way.

“Button up then,” he raised his hands to fasten your collar. It was useless, because your neck still remained uncovered, but you had no intention to stop him. Giving him a chance to take care of you was something you’d never refuse.

“It’s fine,” you chuckled, admiring his focused face. He wasn’t young clearly, but you never found him old, in your opinion age made him even more attractive, adding some charming importance and significance to his appearance.

The wind slightly disheveled his hair, and several strands fell on his eyes. He tried to comb them back with the flat of his palm, but the wind was relentless. You couldn’t help smiling. You’ve always found it so touching seeing Dyatlov in an informal setting, moreover with a hairstyle not fitting his standard. He was his real self in these precious moments, the man you loved so much.

Dyatlov wasn’t pleased with your bare neck. Without saying a word, he pulled his scarf off and wrapped it around you. It still carried his warmth, which was enough to melt your heart. A slender scent of his perfume, stuck in the textile, reached your nostrils, as you stood motionless, pleasantly stupefied, enjoying his careful yet resolute manipulations, realizing he’d hardly ever do this to someone else. But as soon as you registered this thought, he already let go off you and turned away, pulling out his cigarettes.

You couldn’t understand what he felt for you. Once soft and attentive, he might suddenly become serious and detached. You surely meant something for him, but why did he cut off any chance to let you closer? You were too much of a coward for making a first step, therefore you had to follow his rules, holding back at your last capacity.

If only you knew, how much effort it took him to keep a decent distance. If only he knew, it wasn’t necessary.

There was only one way from the plant to the city, and you didn’t see why you couldn’t at least go home together. The road lay through deserted area, and you felt safe when he was with you. For the same reason, Dyatlov couldn’t let you go unescorted, he had to be sure nothing threatened you. You’ve become a part of his life. One day he realized he no longer enjoyed going home alone. It was not a matter of his bad mood or disturbing thoughts about the work routine. He just missed you. You brought peace and harmony into his soul, something he hadn’t experienced for a long time.

You slowly walked along the pavement, discussing various things. The air smelled of ozone, as a fleeting reminder of a thunderstorm, that recently passed somewhere nearby. City lights, which seemed so distant a while ago, inevitably inched closer. Why wouldn’t they just glimmer on the horizon like a mirage, so that you could endlessly go beside each other, without paying attention where your feet could bring you?

Each time, standing at your porch, when it was time to say goodbye, you struggled with the urge to grab him into your hold, wrap your arms around his neck and never let go. Each time, it was getting harder.

Chapter Text

“Here. I brought you some honey,” you put a small jar on the desk. “Your cough is really bad. It will help a little.”

“Don’t bother,” Dyatlov looked at you, grateful for everything you've been doing for him.

“You should visit the doctor,” you repeated the phrase, which became your mantra for the last few days.

“Oh no, not again!” he rolled his eyes.

“You should!” you insisted.

It lasted more than a week and didn't get better, not to say – worse. No jokes, you started worrying about his health.

“It's just a cold…” he coughed hard on the last word, “…I told you a million times!”

“You’d better find out a more convincing argument!” you frowned, as he tried to catch his breath.

“It’s okay,” Dyatlov said in more serious tone, returning to work. He handed you a folder with documentation. “Send it back to technical department, first two paragraphs out of six are utter bullshit. I didn’t look further. Must be redone.”

“What about meeting agenda with Viktor Petrovich? Shall I prepare materials?”

“Just numbers," he sighed, it was hard for him to speak. He looked exhausted.

Your heart sank, most of all you wished him to get better. That pleading glance of yours returned again. “Anatoly Stepanovich… Maybe you...”

“One more word and I'll reprimand you,” he cut you short. “End of discussion.”

Disappointed, you shook your head. “Why he's so stubborn?!”

“If I...” you stammered, realizing you were tempting the fate. This might be too much, even for you.

“If you... what?” a sly smirk slid onto his face, as he watched you inquiringly. 

“Nothing...” you grunted and crossed your arms on your chest, pretending a deep offence. “No more words!”

“Come on,” he didn’t mean to sound harsh and smiled apologetically to cheer you up, “go ahead.”

“If I had the power over you,” you raised an eyebrow, showing how displeased with him you were, “I'd literally drag you to the doctor myself!”

Dyatlov laughed cheerfully and ended up with bad cough. He found your impulse so touching. He was ready to catch a cold each day just to have you fussing around. He loved it how tirelessly you tried to persuade him to get some treatment, but he wasn't going to waste his time on trifles like this. Moreover, although he didn’t show it and acted as if it annoyed him, he truly enjoyed your care, and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

“You've got more power over me than anyone on this plant!” he admitted softly.

“Still not enough,” your lips stretched in a contented smile, while your heart overflowed with warmth and devotion. You were so proud to reach such level of trust and understanding with the most uncompromising man, who (for some unexplainable reason) let you so close, and you valued this special closeness above all.

Dyatlov smiled back. You took his heart, his soul, his mind, and still thought this wasn’t enough? What a marvelous woman you were…

“I’ll make you some tea,” you stated resolutely.

“Don’t worry,” he broke into coughing again. “I'm fine.”

“Yes, you definitely are,” you reproached him sarcastically, having no idea how to make him listen to you.

***

The next day you were at work at 7 A.M., as usual. It was only you who came that early, and one other person. Dyatlov. Sometimes he could catch up with you on the way to the plant, and you walked together. Sometimes you caught up with him. This happened rather often, rarely you arrived apart. Today was one of those days.

You were looking forward to see him, anticipating your morning conversation over a cup of coffee. But Dyatlov didn’t come. Neither did he come at 8 A.M., nor even at 9 A.M. You felt uneasy. He always informed you in advance when he was supposed to be late.

You paced along the room, alerting to every sound in the corridor, hoping to discern his familiar footsteps. But there were none.

Looking at the nameplate on his door, you studied the letters which formed a perfect combination, so dear to your eye. You missed him. Your hand reached out for the phone several times, but something stopped you from dialing his number.

“Hey!” the engineer from technical department entered the room. “Dyatlov’s here?”

You shook your head. “Not yet.”

“Do me a favor, call me when he comes?”

“Sure,” you squeezed a smile.

"Look great, as always," the guy winked affably and disappeared behind the door.

Any other time you'd rejoice his friendly compliment, but not today.

10 A.M. Dyatlov’s still absent. It wasn't typical of him. You couldn't find any peace. Some weird distressing feeling grew in your stomach, crawling up to your throat. “Where the hell is he?”

You startled once the phone rang. Short extension number which popped on the display signalled it was one of the plant workers. You reluctantly picked up the phone, having no desire to think about work at the moment.

“Hi! Good news for you!” announced the girl from personnel department. “They called from the hospital and told they had our comrade Pain-in-the-ass. Ta-dam! You can relax for a couple of days,” she laughed.

“What happened?” you frightened. You didn't find it funny. The way she spoke about your boss pissed you off. But it wasn't the right time to tell her off, you needed details.

“I don’t know, they said they’d keep him till the end of the week,” she answered indifferently. “Okay gotta go, see you!”

A bunch of questions swarmed in your head.

You realized you didn't hang up the phone, and the line was still monotonously beeping into your ear. You sat motionless, staring into nowhere. The world stopped existing. Your heart ached so bad. What bothered you most, why didn't he call himself? What was wrong? You felt like leaving everything and running to see him.

The day seemed neverending and passed painfully long. You had no interest in the work. Without Dyatlov, everything was out of hand.

5 P.M. Finally! Now you could go at last. You had only one way, and it wasn't leading to your home.

Chapter Text

Once in the hospital, you rushed to the reception to ask where to find Dyatlov. Pulmonology. Okay, no surprise. You looked around in search of the right direction and hurried your way. It wasn’t easy to persuade the nurse to let you see him, but you insisted, telling her you were his relative. Your mind was engrossed with one only goal, and you were to reach it by all means without thinking of consequences.

Just standing before the ward door, you realized that coming here was the silliest idea you could ever come up with. “What am I doing?” you asked yourself, hesitating to turn the handle. “Bold to assume he’d like to see me…”

The ability to think in accordance with reason and logic returned to you, and with it came the rational fear he’d be unhappy with uninvited guest. But it was too late to give up on this: retreating from here would be equally insane as making the final step into nowhere. You took a deep breath and walked in to be either welcomed or chased away.

Dyatlov lied motionless on the bed, his eyes closed. The washed out hospital gown he wore emphasized his pale skin, which - you noticed - started losing its color a few days earlier due to his sickly condition he never intended to admit, and now looked lifelessly anemic. The picture was piteous enough to bring you to tears, and the dropper connected to his hand made it heartbreaking.

You approached him slowly, very carefully.

Dyatlov wasn’t sleeping. He heard the door open, but he wasn’t interested in anyone who might enter it. He didn’t expect visitors (there simply was no one who’d come to see him), and hospital personnel wasn’t worthy of his attention. He hated everything about this place and despised everyone who worked here. But your footsteps differed from those of the nurse, and he reluctantly opened his eyes. Bitter exasperation, caused by his shame of letting you see him so helpless and miserable replaced a short sparkle of genuine surprise, which lit up his face for a brief moment, once he saw you.

He frowned.

“What are you doing here?” his voice weak, but his tone so typically harsh and resolute.

“What do you think I’m doing?” you smiled compassionately and made a step closer.

“Don’t,” he turned his head away. “Leave.”

“Anatoly Stepanovich…” you were ready to meet his resistance and hoped he’d allow you to stay. That’s how it usually worked: he pretended to be annoyed, but had to give up at last.

“Leave!” he raised his voice. “Get out!”

“But…”

“Get. The fuck. Out!” he shouted. “You shouldn’t be here! I don’t want to see you!”

You stunned, such outcome was something you’d hardly ever predict. He’s never shouted at you before. Now you got to know how embarrassing it felt. But it was nothing in comparison to being rejected by the only person who meant the world to you, the only person for whom you’d sacrifice everything you had.

It hurt, it hurt so bad. Your vision hazed, and tears streamed down your cheeks. Dyatlov noticed them (oh no, what had he done!), but before he could say something, you turned around, swiftly approached the door and slammed it shut behind your back.

Frustrated, angry with yourself, you laughed at your own stupidity. “Who you thought you were to him? Idiot! Why would you expect he’d need you?”

Dyatlov regretted acting like an asshole. The only thing he actually wanted was having you beside. He had to fix everything. He desperately called out for you, choking with terrible cough.

You felt pain in his voice as he cried out your name, lost any hope he could stop you. You were so sorry… for him, for yourself, for this whole absurd situation.

Leaning on the door, you stood with your forehead pressed against it and cried quietly. You heard him calling you a few more times, but you were not going to return. Not now. You needed to calm down a bit. There’s no way he’d see your swollen face with snot smeared all over.

It took you no less than half an hour before you ventured to enter his ward again. If someone saw, what took place here a while ago, he might think you’ve lost your self-preservation instinct, and would be right. But you didn’t care.

“He seems to fall asleep,” the nurse warned you, when you almost ran into her in the doorway, and you promised not to disturb him.

You sat on the edge of his bed and studied his face, so dear to you. You could hardly restrain yourself from touching him. You wanted him to know he wasn’t alone, that you would never leave him. You carefully adjusted his blanket. Not that it slipped off, you just needed to feel involved.

You had no idea how long you’ve been sitting with him, but during this time you calmed down completely and almost forgot that preceding unpleasant episode. His presence always had a comforting effect on you, even though he himself was the reason for your heartsore.

You startled, ready to receive another portion of his anger, once Dyatlov suddenly grabbed your wrist.

Your name left his lips in a hushed whisper, as he stared at you not believing his eyes, and you smiled weakly.

“Forgive me, please forgive me…” he tightened his grip.

“I have nothing to forgive you for,” you gently covered his hand with yours, feeling like crying again.

“I hurt you, I’m so sorry…” his voice cracked. “I’m such a fool…”

Deeply touched, you lacked on air. A lump lodged in your throat and that treacherous prickling in your nose made it impossible to hold back any longer. You didn’t want him to see you tears, and instinctively bent over him, resting your head on his shoulder. Dyatlov wrapped you into his hold, pressing you to himself. He won’t let you go now.

“You’re the only one I want to see,” he whispered. “The only one…” his words caused new tears, tears of happiness.

Relieved, you sobbed quietly, squeezing the blanket on his chest. Enjoying every moment, Dyatlov held you tight, stroking your head and kissing your temple, until you could fully relax and let your emotions settle down. It didn’t take long - being in his arms felt so natural, as if you’ve always belonged here. Although you could spend the rest of your life in his embrace, you reluctantly got up and smiled shyly, wiping your face.

“Forgive me, I just… didn’t want you to see me like that…” remorse and pain reemerged in his gaze once he looked you in the eyes. If only he could change everything and never say those words to you…

“Stop apologizing,” you took his hand again, and he clenched his fingers around yours. “I know this is all due to your temper.”

“Not the best one, huh?” he sighed guiltily.

“I guess, I can bear it!” your genuine smile melted his heart, and he finally smiled back.

Seeing him smiling, you smiled broader, and soon you were quietly laughing together.

A placid silence fell, once the remnants of tension faded away without a trace.

“How are you?” your thumb softly rubbed the back of his palm.

“They said I’ll live,” he coughed.

“So pneumonia?” you reproached him kindly.

He snickered, accepting his defeat and letting you enjoy your triumph. “Just don’t say “I told you”. Save me from this.”

You couldn’t help rejoicing that feigned displeasure on his face (which you learned to distinguish among his other dissatisfied expressions), that appeared each time he tried to hide how actually pleased he was.

“Oh, so you admit I was right?” you chuckled proudly.

Dyatlov looked at you with admiration, with love and gratitude. He was so happy you were with him now. He squeezed your hand, and you squeezed his in response.

A nurse entered the room. “Visiting time is up.”

“She will stay,” Dyatlov growled. Due to neverending cough his voice seemed hoarser than usual.

“But it’s not allowed!”

“She will stay as long as she wants,” Dyatlov’s tone left no room for discussion.

The nurse stood with her eyes wide open, not knowing what to answer.

“I’d better go, otherwise she won’t let me in the next time,” you smiled gently, once the woman left you alone.

“What? You’ll come again?” he couldn’t believe it.

“Only if you want me to,” the warmth of your gaze seeped right into his soul.

“I do,” he whispered. “I do…”

“Same time tomorrow then?” you had no desire to leave him, wishing you could stay.

Dyatlov smiled gratefully and nodded in agreement. He reluctantly released your hand, which he was still holding in his, when you got up to your feet. “Thank you…”

***

You came to visit him every day, and he was happy to see you.

A few days later, he was allowed to get up, and you could walk around the hospital grounds, but surely not for long. At his request, you told him everything that was happening at work.

“They’ll discharge you right before the Energy worker’s Day,” you chuckled, knowing he hated such events.

“Oh no,” he rolled his eyes. “May I stay here for another week?”

“You find it better than just one evening in your colleagues’ company?” you smiled slyly.

“Both are bad,” he snorted, and you cheered him up. “We’ll survive that!”