Tune the Violin
Part Seven
by SarAdora

~~~~~~

The fire burned low, only a few embers crackling. The sky was fast becoming lighter as dawn broke. Wesley leaned back on his elbows, strangely relaxed as he listened to the old woman's story. He stared at the fire pit as the last of the flames died out.

"What happened next?" he asked in spite of himself. "Did we marry?" He looked up, wondering why the woman hadn't acknowledged his question. He was alone.

"Where are you?" he said softly, looking around.

"I am who I am," her voice echoed on the breeze. "I am who you want me to be. I was a part of what you were. I will be what you would want me to be."

"Christ!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, waking himself. "Christ," he said, softer this time, frustrated that the dream ended on an unsettling note.

Shaking his head, he headed for the shower, determined to stand under the cold water until he remembered some details from his dream. He turned the water on and stepped under the spray. "Damnation! Miserable dream. I can't stand this. This has to stop. This has to... Sinovia... Her name is Sinovia," he suddenly remembered. "A story about Russia in the 1800's - the Czar, Nicholas II - what else?" He rubbed the top of his head, then his eyelids, seeking answers. When nothing else came to mind, he finished his shower, thinking he should be content to have remembered that much.

Later, knotting his tie, he heard another voice in his head.

"You were my last hope for happiness," she whispered. "My last hope to have someone to love and who would love me."

"Raisa Katerina something," he said aloud. "A snow storm - some marriage contracts..." He closed his eyes, trying to remember Sinovia's story. "She was tiny like... like... Raisa Orlov!" He shook his head. "How did I know that? I'm hallucinating. Christ! They're going to lock me away," he said with disgust, grabbing his jacket and heading down the stairs.

8:15 AM
Hoover Building Washington, DC

He stopped in the lobby to check the tour schedule. The Director had complained that several tourists had been able to bypass the regular security barriers, and Wesley wanted to see why. It wasn't his responsibility - someone else would correct the matter - but it wouldn't hurt to look. Sometimes the oddest information came in handy in a bureaucracy like the FBI.

He spotted the breech immediately. The "employees only" exit was only visible from the guard's desk if the lobby was empty. They'd either have to move the guard's station or simply...

"Excuse me," a woman's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Sir?"

Wesley turned. "Yes," he responded. He frowned, thinking the woman looked familiar, but he couldn't place her. She was young, early 20's, very pretty, with her chestnut hair, and rich brown eyes. "What can I do for you, miss?"

"You... you remind me of... May I ask your name?"

"Schyler," he replied, maintaining his neutral expression, moving his hands to his pockets. "What's yours?"

"Alexis," she replied, "Alexis Skovetz."

"Alexis?" He stood there and looked at her, briefly lost in his thoughts. Alexis? The note at the Wall?

"You remind me of my father," she said simply. "I never knew him - he was in Vietnam when I was born. His name was Sergei Skovetz. He died there. Were you there?"

Wesley nodded. It was a hell he would take to his grave.

"It... it was a long war and... I guess you wouldn't have bumped into him, but you look so much like the pictures my mother showed me."

"Skovetz?"

"Sergei Nicholai Skovetz," she said proudly.

~~~~~~

Yesteryear
Vietnam

"I'm telling you Corporal, I saw a jarhead looks just like you - the spittin' image!"

"Poor sucker! Sorry to hear that. Where'd you see him?" Corporal Wesley Schyler chuckled, humoring the newest addition to his unit.

"At the Red Cross tent - two days ago - he was pretty messed up - just came out of surgery - but jeez, man! I 'bout dropped my drawers. I thought it was you! Had to get a closer look just to see."

"You get his name? I gotta look him up," he grinned. "Maybe I've got another brother my mother failed to mention and don't know it."

"Skovetz - Nick Skovetz."

Wesley did look him up. It was a few days before he had a chance to drop by the Red Cross tent but when he did, he inquired after Nick Skovetz.

"Skovetz?" The nurse in charge asked. "Just a minute. That name rings a bell," she murmured, checking a list. "Sorry, Corporal. Lieutenant Sergei Nicholai Skovetz died of injuries sustained in..."

~~~~~~

"Are you all right, Mr. Schyler?" she asked, putting a hand on his arm in concern.

"I was hoping you knew my... I beg your pardon. I mentioned Vietnam. I hope I didn't drudge up some bad memories. I apologize. I..."

"Not a problem, Ms. Skovetz. I was lost in thought for a moment. I'm sorry. I didn't know your father. Excuse me, please," he said, walking away.

"Please don't go," she said quietly. "I never met him and you look so much like him. Please stay. I... I just want to look at you for a moment."

Wesley paused. Her eyes filled with tears, and though he didn't know her, he felt a bond with her he couldn't explain. And then, there was that set of coincidences again - the note at the Wall - the tiny violin - her father's name - that long ago "misstep in time" with Sergei Nicholai Skovetz in Vietnam the same time he was there - the dream... The goddamn dream!

"How about a cup of coffee?" he asked gently, taking her arm.

Surprisingly, he was very comfortable sitting with her. He took her to the first floor coffee shop where they sat at a corner table talking quietly. She had joined the early Hoover tour, afraid the one scheduled later would be overcrowded, and then she had spotted him. She couldn't take her eyes off of him, drinking in his looks, his voice, every gesture, and every facial expression.

"Where are you from, Ms. Skovetz?"

"San Francisco."

"What do you do there?"

"I play the violin," she said. "Second chair in the San Francisco Symphony. My mother was a concert violinist... she died recently," her voice choked. "I miss her very much."

"I'm sorry." Of course, he already knew her mother was dead. The letter from the Wall was still fresh in his mind.

"Your people are from Russia?" he inquired.

"Yes, how did you know?"

"Lucky guess," Wesley smiled. "Let me guess again. Kiev?"

"Yes," she said, surprised. "Were you ever there?"

Not in this lifetime. "No, haven't had the pleasure. I really have to go, Ms. Skovetz," he said, rising from his chair and extending his hand. "It was a pleasure meeting you."

"And you," she said warmly. "Thank you for your time. I'll look for you again if I ever come back to Washington."

"Do that," he said, handing her his card.

He kept his frustration in check until he reached his office, leaning heavily on the door when it closed behind him. Too many thoughts were shooting through his mind at the same time. Wesley wasn't sure he could handle all of it.

Time to sort a few things out, he decided. Make a game plan.

He bided his time, completing a great deal of paperwork, getting updates on open case files, and left a pile of notes and instructions on Marta's desk for sorting, filing, and fulfilling.

He arrived at the small deli on M Street in the middle of the lunch hour rush, quietly slipped behind the counter and into the kitchen.

Raisa looked up when the door opened, smiling when she saw it was him.

"Hello, my love." She wiped her hands on her apron, reaching up to caress his cheek. "You look tired, Sergei. Come sit by me, and tell me what is on your mind."

"You do exist," he murmured.

"Of course I do," she laughed. "Come, sit. I'll fix you a nice lunch."

"I'm not hungry," he said gruffly, suddenly sullen.

"Yes, you are," she informed him, taking his hand and kissing his palm, then putting his palm on her cheek. "Come, Sergei," she said softly. "Sit."

He looked at her gravely. His hand was on her cheek and her hand covered his. "Tell me," he said quietly. "Tell me about you and me and Russia."

She fed him like a Russian prince. Thick, hot mushroom-barley soup, sweet and sour cabbage rolls with raisins and grapes, black bread, and tzimmis - the sweet carrot, pineapple, and apricot mixture the Russian peasants ate on holidays. There was a big plate of tagelach and Wesley licked his lips. He couldn't remember the last time he tasted the honey, wine and walnut confection. He inhaled the aromas, at peace with the smells in the kitchen, many reminiscent of his childhood.

Childhood? The soup and cabbage rolls, yes. The rest, no. Both brows shot up. Damnation!

"We were married, Sergei," she told him as she placed a glass of hot black tea in front of him, adding lumps of sugar to the saucer so he could help himself.

"Did I fight to the end?" he asked, certain he had behaved badly and with no remorse.

"No," Raisa laughed, "You didn't fight it all. You carried me into your father's house, and I did not see you again until the wedding."

~~~~~~

Winter of 1838
Kiev

Her tears tore him apart. It was one thing to see them from a distance or even to comfort one of his sisters, though truth be told, his sisters' tears were usually just for effect. But to have his intended bride in his arms and feel her body shake while big fat tears rolled down her face, well, that was more than a man was meant to bear. And her words... I'm her last hope for happiness? Her last hope to have someone to love... to love her? It was too much. Sergei didn't want to hear any more. He carried her into the house, nodded to old Anya, who rushed to his side, a worried look on her face.

"She's just cold. See to her," he said as he placed Raisa on the couch. He headed back to the door. "I await word from my mother on the time and place of the ceremony. I will return for my bride then."

It had stopped snowing the day they were wed. It was bitter cold, but the day was clear and the sun shining brightly. Sergei stood in Anya's kitchen, grumbling.

"It should be snowing - there should be sleet, a storm - something to mark this event. In years to come, I should be able to remind people of that terrible day in history and say 'and I was married that day!'"

Anya laughed, cuffing him on the arm. "Sergei Nicholai, you are a lucky man and you do not know it. Raisa Katerina is a beautiful woman inside and out. Mark my words, you will love her dearly."

Sergei arched a brow, resigned to his marriage and to Anya's lecturing. He would wed the tiny Raisa, but he didn't have to put his heart into it. Bad enough his friends had not stopped ribbing him from the moment they heard he had signed the marriage contracts. It really was more than a man should have to bear.

And so they were married.

She was covered from head to toe, a tiny bundle kneeling next to him, her shoulder lightly touching his. They stood for the last blessing, the top of her head at his shoulder and exchanged the final vows, both murmuring softly. Raisa's voice was low because she was nervous, Sergei's deep rumble barely audible because he couldn't bring himself to speak louder at this turn of events.

The customary toasts were made, the vodka flowed freely, and the gifts were piled high. He had pleased his father, paying a bride's price for her - forty fine horses and much gold. Her dowry to him was acres and acres of fine land ready for sowing. It was a satisfactory exchange for both families.

Sergei had thought to take his bride home, bed her and leave for Paris. He had done his duty - it was enough. But his parents wanted more for their son. They wanted him to be happy - they hoped he would love and be loved. They had made other plans.

With the help of Sergei's friends, they bundled him and Raisa into a warm carriage, secured the doors from the outside and drove the horses on a wild and reckless ride. Raisa had to hold onto Sergei or fall onto the floorboards. Sergei had to brace his feet against the carriage wall or be thrown about as well. He held Raisa on his lap and muttered curses for a solid half-hour until the horses finally slowed to a normal pace. Hours later, they were unceremoniously lifted from the carriage and pushed into his father's dacha deep in the foothills of the Urals.

Present Time
Washington, DC

"You were very angry, my love," Raisa told him, refilling his glass of tea. "I was frightened."

"Did I hurt you?" he asked quietly, knowing full well he had probably taken his temper out on her.

Christ! I sound like I believe her! I've gone stark raving mad!

"No, my love. You didn't hurt me. Now rest a moment, digest your meal. It's enough story telling for one day."

"Tell me the rest," he implored.

"Not today, my love," she whispered, touching his brow.

He didn't know how it happened, but he had dozed. When he opened his eyes an hour later, he was alone, the kitchen was clean and orderly, and Raisa was gone. He shook his head to clear it, certain he had dreamed the events of the last hour or so. Making his way back to the Hoover, he heard her voice.

"You were my last hope for happiness," she whispered. "My last hope to have someone to love and who would love me."

~ End Part Seven ~

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