Aug. 2nd, 2010

Doubt

Aug. 2nd, 2010 02:26 pm
taras_oleksei: (Black and White)
In his dreams, it always happened the same.

Where it started didn’t seem to matter, in the barracks or sometimes the mess hall or the yard. Once, he was even in the showers.

Wherever he was, he would be suddenly seized by the fear that he had forgotten to secure the workroom, and sure enough, when he rushed back to check, he always found the door ajar.

Always.

He would stare at that door with round, mismatched eyes, thinking of Drachev.

Drachev, who languished in his cot, all alone in that room, defenseless, wounded.

He never wanted to see what was beyond that door, to find out what had happened because of his inattention. It was just a mistake, that was all. But he knew that someone could have gotten in, and done something to Drachev.

Slowly, he would reach out toward the door handle.

And that was when he always woke up, heart pounding, sweating.

Taras Oleksei didn’t like those dreams.

So now he always double-checked the door, just to make sure. And then he checked it again, not because he thought something had changed in the intervening seconds, but because he wanted to make sure he remembered checking it, so he would never have that moment of panic while awake.

Taras gave the handle a solid rattle before he stepped away.

There was someone standing behind him when he turned around.

Pure instinct drove his reaction, a rush of adrenaline and aggression. He made a fist and was swinging before he realized it was Korzaknenk.

Korzaknenk, whose eyes went wide as he cursed and scrambled back.

Taras checked his momentum and managed to miss.

Korzaknenk gaped at him.

“What the fuck, Oleksei!”

He stared at Taras, narrow-eyed and breathing shallowly, a vicious curl to his scarred lip.

“What’s wrong with you? I was just coming over to talk.”

Taras shook himself, scowling.

“Don’t sneak up on me. One day, I might not stop in time.”

Korzaknenk muttered something under his breath.

“What?”

“Nothing.” Korzaknenk was glancing around them. Taras realized that a couple of muzhiks were watching them, having paused mid-conversation. As he glared at them, they averted their gazes.

“What do you want?” Taras asked.

Korzaknenk looked at him, then stepped closer, smiling now in that way he did, lip twisted, a glint in his eyes.

“I just came over to talk. So is your bitch healed up yet?”

“Don’t call him that.”

Korzaknenk laughed.

“He is your bitch, isn’t he? What else are you going to call him?”

Taras shuddered. At his sides, his fists tightened.

“Drachev. You call him Drachev, same as before. His name is Drachev. You call him anything else, and I’ll fucking punch you.”

Korzaknenk slowly closed his mouth. He stared sullenly at Taras for a few moments, then finally shook his head.

“Da, all right, Drachev. How’s Drachev doing?”

“Fine,” muttered Taras. “Why do you want to know?”

He watched the expressions flit across Korzaknenk’s narrow face, tics and signs he didn’t like. There was something about Koraznenk’s gaze that was like a man who thought different things than what he actually said.

“Just asking,” Korzaknenk said, shrugging. “Just curious, you know. I thought maybe you’d have some good news, that he’s getting better. Maybe he can come out soon. People are talking about him. Well, it’s more about you, really.”

Taras frowned.

“What are they saying?”

Korzaknenk shook his head. He took out a lighter and lit a cigarette, taking a slow drag.

“Nah, I don’t want you to get upset. It’s nothing. You can – ”

Taras seized Korzaknenk’s arm, crushing his fingers around it. Korzaknenk grimaced and stiffened, grunting, the cigarette falling from his grasp.

“Khui, don’t – ”

Tell me,” Taras snarled.

“All right, all right. You don’t have to get pushy, Oleksei. I thought you’d calm down some now since you have a…”

Korzaknenk broke off, glancing away.

“Right. Well, anyway, people are what you’re doing in there all day. They think you’re afraid, hiding out, like you’re trying to avoid Andreiev and Golitsin. I think you should get out more, to show people that there’s nothing wrong.”

Taras stared at him for a few more seconds, then he let go to Korzaknenk’s arm.

“There’s nothing wrong,” Taras said, slowly.

“Right, but they don’t know that. They think something might be wrong with you. Remember when you disappeared for a week? They think it’s something like that. Someone could challenge you, thinking you’re weak now, or distracted by your…Drachev.”

Taras gave him a baleful look, then glanced around the room again.

He saw just a few muzhiks, sitting and talking, hunched over cards. A couple were reading. Many were gone, probably at mess. The room was fairly empty. No Golitsin. No Andreiev.

The sweep of his mismatched gaze drew a few looks, muzhiks glancing up, then hurriedly looking away.

Taras’ eyes narrowed.

“Listen,” Korzaknenk said, “I know you probably want to get out. Talk to people, let them know there’s nothing wrong. Let me keep an eye on Drachev for y – ”

Taras turned, bringing the full force of his physical presence into Korzaknenk’s space, looming over him, bristling, his height and stature and the intensity of his mismatched gaze, all aggression and ill intent.

Don’t,” he snarled.

He saw Korzaknenk’s expression slacken, his eyes widening slightly, but the look was quickly replaced by a quick, uneven smile. With the scarred lip, it almost looked like a sneer.

“What? I was just trying to help out a brother.”

Taras stepped forward.

“Don’t. Don’t try to trick me like I’m stupid. I’m not stupid, Korzaknenk. I don’t like you fucking trying to trick me.”

“Nah, come on, Oleksei, don’t be – ”

“Shut up.”

Taras shoved him with a stiff-armed jab, sending Korzaknenk stumbling back.

“You try anything with Drachev, and I’ll kill you.”

He paused, then shook his head.

“No, I changed my mind. You try anything with Drachev, and I’ll make you into a bitch. Then I’ll give you to the bitches and let them pass you around.”

Taras’ voice carried, apparently loud enough to be heard throughout the nearly empty barracks. One of the muzhiks laughed.

Korzaknenk’s face flushed.

“Fuck you, Oleksei. You say shit like that again, and I’ll fuck you up.”

Korzaknenk turned away, muttering and brushing off his clothes like Taras had gotten them dirty by touching them. Taras watched as Korzaknenk snarled at the muzhiks playing chess before he went outside.

It was quiet then.

He looked around him, then back over his shoulder, where the workroom door stood, half in shadow, half-lit.

Taras felt the impulse to check the door again, but made himself walk away instead.

August 2010

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