He didn’t often visit Sergei—normally it was the other way around. Normally they would sit and talk in the darkness of his own apartment, not vice versa. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had visited Sergei. But they hadn’t talked for quite a while now—a week at the very least—and he was sick of it. He was sick of lying in bed along at night, he was sick of not talking to Sergei. He was sick of waiting every single night to see if he would hear the familiar rapping on the door to his apartment. Truth be told, he felt a little weak without Sergei to talk to and to be with, even for just a little while. He didn’t feel totally weak. Just a little. Almost like a part of him was missing. A very important part of him.
And so here he stood on the night marking the eighth day in a row that the two of them had not spoken to each other, trying to figure out the reason behind all of this. The reason behind their lack of communication. Maybe Sergei had been taking his advice. Maybe he’d been taking it a little too seriously, a little too literally. Yes, he’d said, “You can’t cling onto me forever!” But he hadn’t said, “Don’t cling to me at all.” It wasn’t that he hated it; it wasn’t that he couldn’t take it. He just knew that Sergei could handle it. He knew that all Sergei needed was a little push in the right direction. Maybe he’d pushed a little too hard for the other’s liking. Which explained why he was here. To apologize. To reconcile. To take back what he had said (or to explain what he had said) and to explicitly offer an ear and a shoulder.
He took a deep breath and knocked on the door, then waited a little while. Nothing. He waited for a few more seconds. Nothing. He knocked again. Nothing. He waited for a few more seconds. And still nothing.
He wasn’t going to scream, not like how the warrior Achilles did thousands and thousands of years ago during the Trojan War. He wasn’t going to scream to get the other’s attention the way Achilles did. He didn’t want to intimidate anyone. Besides, he was in an enclosed space, and it was nighttime. If he yelled, everyone would rush out of their rooms to see what was wrong. If he yelled, he would make a scene. And he couldn’t do that. He didn’t want to do that. He wanted it to be a simple apology, a quick “I’m sorry” so that they could go on with the rest of their lives. He just wanted to speak in a low voice through the crack in the door if he could. But he wasn’t even sure if Sergei was on the other side of the door. He could have been in his bedroom, in the bathroom, anywhere except the one room where he’d be able to hear the knocking at the door.
“Hey, Sergei.” He didn’t even bother calling the other boy by his nickname. That would just automatically imply that they were talking again, without any real discussion, without any real reconciliation. It would imply that he wasn’t taking Sergei seriously—and at this point it was the least he could do. It would make the apology more effective, hopefully. “Sergei, it’s me. It’s Sasha. I…” He sighed softly and rested his fingertips upon the cool wood of the door. This wasn’t going to be very easy. “I don’t know why… why you shouldn’t cling to me, I mean. I didn’t say that you shouldn’t cling to me at all…” He coughed and tapped his sock-clad foot on the soft rug of the hallway. “I like when you talk to me, you know? When you tell me what’s on your mind and all that. What I mean is… you can do it. You can do it. You can live without me. Without always clinging to me. I don’t want you to, but I know you can. You don’t need me to go on with your life.”
More silence. It was probably a useless effort.
“Fine.” He sighed softly, shrugging his shoulders and letting them fall again. “I guess you didn’t hear me… I’ll go now… Maybe I’ll come back tomorrow night if you’re not still shunning me or whatever you want to call it.”
It was as he was turning to go back to his own apartment that he heard the lock click and the door open.
He turned and swallowed noiselessly. “Hey there… Sergei.”
The other boy was blinking into the darkness curiously, rubbing at his eyes with one hand and groping along the wall with the other. Probably trying to reach out for his hand, Sasha thought to himself with a faint smirk. “Did you mean everything you just said? Everything?”
He rolled his eyes up toward the ceiling and sighed softly. “Yep. Every word. Listen.” He reached out for the hand that was groping along the wall and took it lightly; it was soft, but it was cold. “You can do it, okay? You can support Syeira and Alexei. Look at me—I support Tuvya. I’m going through the same thing—well, not the same thing. I gave up school for him. You didn’t. And being able to do all this… you’re strong, can’t you see that? Something is keeping you from being as strong as you are… what is it? What’s keeping you from being strong?” He smirked more broadly, though he wasn’t sure if Sergei could see it or not. “You shot two cleansers and made it just fine, but you don’t think you can make it without me.”
He felt the hand squeeze his own, and rather tightly at that. “Don’t talk about that. That lost me both my parents and my brother. I was not fine at all. And I’m still not… It…” He could feel Sergei shivering, could clearly see the tears running down his cheeks. “Not fine at all… it hurts… it’s so scary… Like you wouldn’t believe. You’re lucky you never had to go through anything like that…”
He pulled Sergei into a gentle hug. An awkward hug, but a gentle hug nonetheless, and he didn’t let Sergei lift his head. He buried Sergei’s face into his shoulder. “You can do it, Seryozha,” he kept on murmuring. “You can be strong. I can help you become strong, but it’s up to you to maintain that strength. And if you need someone to fall back on for some help or an ear or a shoulder… well, you’ve got me, hm?” He smiled faintly before pulling away for a moment, looking him in the eye and smiling. “You’ve got me, okay? Now go to sleep. You’re going to need your rest if you want to start becoming strong again, aren’t you?”
And for the first time in what seemed like forever, he got to see Sergei smile, and he was happy that his eyes had gotten so accustomed to the dark.
Things were back to normal.