Summary: Originally written for a creative writing class. This is from a much, MUCH longer work of mine. This scene is set in the main character's youth, during the Russo-Japanese War. Two best friends, Russians, one the son of middle class and the other a servant, and an outsider. Heavily edited from its first incarnation due to story/plot changes and bad writing. Violence, bad language, tragic bromance.</i>
“I think my toes are frozen.”
His companion laughed, leaning over and drawing his coat tighter. “Quiet, Nikolai. It’s not even as cold as it would be in Moscow. You should consider us blessed. Besides, we‘ve only been here a week.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Bles-sed by God to be here, a week and longer, sure.” Nikolai bent forward, cupping his hands to relight his pipe for the second time that evening, fur hat slipping forward slightly over his forehead. “Nowhere Vlad, that's where we are, where we're heading. When was the last time you saw an enemy? It’s just been wait, wait, wait and freeze because the Japanese are smarter than to wait around in this weather.” He groaned, falling back against the trench wall, and grimaced, rubbing his bare chin and gazing longingly at Vladimir’s thick, dark beard. “Pssh, maybe I’m just sorry I’m not as blessed as you.”
Vladimir laughed again, twisting the chain of the three-barred cross hung around his neck. “It will grow in by spring. You’re still young, friend.”
Nikolai smiled warmly. “Hey, old man, don’t go treating me like I’m some kid. You’re not even a year older than me.” Breathe in, breathe out, a cloud of smoke and hot breath drifted into the air.
“But I am still older. And much more handsome.”
A pause, and Nikolai mock-angrily blew a cloud of smoke into his friend's face. “Shut it. I don’t think Mother would think much of your boasting, would she? Pride is a sin you know.”
Vladimir laughed, unbothered. “Oh come now, Mother...” Vladimir paused, scratching his neck. Mother was a point of contention, lying just skin deep. A smile, somewhat forced, seeped onto his face. “What will you do when you get back?”
“First thing? Get away from you.” Nikolai passed the pipe to Vladimir. “Ah, but I couldn’t. How would you do without me?”
“I'd... have less of a headache. Hah.” Vladimir looked away as he inhaled.
Nikolai went on, trying to keep cheer in his voice. “Wishful thinking! You hardly know how to button your coat since I did it for you for so long.” He paused, tapping his chin. “I suppose I’ll just try to survive. What more can I do?”
Vladimir held in the smoke for longer than necessary, running a trembling hand over his brow as he huffed it out. “You'll- We'll work it out. Together.” Vladimir thrust the pipe back into Nikolai’s hand, thick eyebrows furrowing. “I'll hire you myself. I'll have money, when we get back, and I'm sure Mother will have money again as well and she'll-”
“Leave it, Vlad. It's okay.”
“No, Nik, I won't see you dying on the streets-!”
“Nor will I see you there. I won't have you go hungry trying to feed a servant. Leave it be.” Nikolai rested a hand on Vladimir's cheek, pulled him to look into his eyes. “We'll make it through this. And, when we can see each other as equal, we'll be together again, alright?”
Vladimir nodded slowly, leaning into the touch, and cupped his hand over his friend's. “As long as we both promise.”
“Hey, mind if I join you?”
Both Vladimir and Nikolai looked up in surprise, gaze met with another soldier. Vladimir gave Nikolai's hand a squeeze and released it, then smiling brightly at the newcomer, moving and offering his space to him. He was always about manners. “Of course, of course! Always room for another, no?”
Nikolai blinked at the soldier for a second, trying to remember where he had seen the man before. He was a few years older than them, though still marred by the pockmarks of puberty. “Ah, thank ya.” The soldier had a farmer's dialect. “How have y’been holding up?”
Nikolai took a particularly strong inhale on his pipe. Right. He'd held a passing conversation with this soldier as they had ridden the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow. It hadn’t lasted long, but the soldier had been nice enough even if he just couldn't seem to recall his name. He chuckled, and desperately tried to remember. “I’ve been fine, fine as you can be around here, right?”
“So not too fine?” the soldier asked, elbows on his knees. “Shame.”
Vladimir fidgeted slightly next to the soldier, and for all his niceties, he seemed nervous. An outsider looking in at them- that's what Mother had been, and she'd resented what she'd seen. Vladimir coughed and tried to make light conversation.“He’s fine, he just can’t take the cold like he should. No beard yet.” He leaned forward and tapped the bottom of Nikolai’s chin, a bit too hard. “Not even a hair.”
Nikolai laughed, not sharing Vlad's discomfort, for he was glad for the friendly acquaintance. “You’re never going to let me forget it, are you?” His pipe burnt out as he spoke and he frowned at it.
With a sigh, he leaned forward to light his pipe for the third time of the evening. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the soldier open his mouth to speak, perhaps to introduce himself, and simultaneously Vladimir's mouth, opening and contorting into one of fear. He heard the crack of gunfire in the distance, someone far off yelling in a dialect he couldn't understand. Before he'd had even a chance to react, a bullet planted itself square between the nameless soldier’s eyebrows, painting their coats red.
Please don't steal. :(