Name: Slower, Slower

Rating: PG-13 (soon to be R)

Summary: It's been five years since Anna Khitrova met Nikolai Luzhin, since she wrangled into his business, and since she adopted a daughter, Christine. She has nurtured the child like any mother, staying out of the shadowed family (as Nikolai asked). One day, Nikolai pops back into her life, as he's done so many times before. What could he possibly want with her?

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, except for a couple cameo appearances. And all the lyrics are from the song Run, by Snow Patrol; the lyrics belong to them.

Authors Note: I thought this film was vastly under appreciated. It was a stupendous film with some superb acting and is not given enough credit for its risqué scenes.

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I'll sing it one last time for you
Then we really have to go
You've been the only thing that's right
In all I've done

She felt it the moment his fingers fell on hers.

That she wasn't going to piece him together. That she wasn't going to know anything about him.

Not immediately. Maybe not ever.

His behavior was as mixed as his facial expressions; his charming generosity as misinterpreted as his tongue; his eyes as blank and empty as the space that explained his association with the vory v zakone.

The rough angles of his cheekbones, jut of his jaw, observance of his eyes made him impossible to read, especially in the haunting port light of the night. She watched him carefully as he cradled Christine's small head in his palm, slender fingers brushing her hair. He cooed softly, painting a cross as he blessed her in Russian.

He swayed lightly on his feet, closing the sliver between their trembling bodies, scathingly unprotected against the dawning January wind. A wet strand of unslicked hair—colored ebony verses the silver fox in the daylight—licked her forehead as his eyes found hers. For a second, her breath hitched in her throat, the burn bringing her to tears.

His trance was broken in brevity as his attention flickered to her lips, switching back like being caught would earn him further infliction to his already marred body. Yet, she saw and not a word of rebuttal was uttered from her suddenly thick throat. Ever so tentatively, he leaned in and took her lips, the tenderness of the kiss catching her off guard.

He was quite alarming.

Compliant to any response, he was hesitant, as if at any moment expecting her to unreel and pop him harder and quicker than a blade across the gut. He was bidding farewell, respectfully never forcing a certain reaction; a kiss between the prison bars, a true hello and good-bye, monitored by the voice behind them.

Their lips faded from each other reluctantly, agonizingly, failed. Eyes still closed, he pressed his forehead to hers, holding the stirring baby. He collapsed, a torn man clutched to each side insecurely. Could he, possibly, be less crass, ruthless, and heartless as his employers?

Was he human enough to choose the right and wrong side?

"Dasvidania, Anna Ivanovna," he bid in a whisper, gazing down at her.

She smiled, huffing a breath of laughter, and repeated the word, though inaudible.

A beat passed in near silence, only the sound of his friend's buffoonery in exchange. Then, chin tucked into his chest, Nikolai Luzhin brushed past her, the ocean's wind whipping her furiously. She bit her bottom lip, nestling Christine close, depositing a reassuring kiss on her temple as she sniffed back tears.

Why did she care so much that he was leaving?

He paused behind her, one foot on the step, faltering in consideration. Whether he was weighing the consequences of trooping on, or envisioning the future he was walking away from, another cry from Kirill kept him walking, as obedient as the dog he was bred as.

Anna Khitrova stood alone by the ocean, too shaken to turn around, counting the cobblestone footsteps.

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A/N: There's the prologue. I know this chapter was basically a literary play on the ending scene, but it has significance later in the story. Please review, because that is the only way this story will continue.