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close to lightness

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The cell is cold, grey, a little damp, ultimately not very different from his own apartment; maybe the floor is a little less comfortable than his couch, but it doesn’t really matter. He can barely feel the stone against his back.

Sonya came to see him in the morning, teary-eyed, crossed him once again and pressed his hand before leaving wordlessly. He wonders who, if anyone, will visit next. He has already faced Dunya; he isn’t afraid of her. If Porfiry comes to gloat, let him gloat. But Razumikhin… The thought breaks through his apathy to fill him with dread. 

It would be easier if Razumikhin were to hate him. But he knows somehow that Razumikhin will not hate him, that, if anything, he will scold him and fuss over him and love him somehow more deeply, and the idea is even more reprehensible to him than it was in the past—but there is no place now to escape it.

Little daylight makes its way into the jail. Raskolnikov is suddenly exhausted, or more likely he has been exhausted and is just now taking notice of it; after a few minutes, he falls into shallow sleep.

“Again, Rodya?”

He opens his eyes to find Razumikhin standing by the cell door, smiling at him as if nothing is wrong. But upon closer inspection, the smile is tight at the corners, and doesn’t quite reach Razumikhin’s eyes.

“I should stand,” thinks Raskolnikov, but he doesn’t, and in fact starts to shrink further into himself in the corner. Razumikhin crouches down, one finger curling around the bar of the door.

“Sleeping Beauty, even in this hellhole,” says Razumikhin. “How do you sleep so much and still seem so tired?”

Raskolnikov casts his eyes downward, doesn’t reply. Razumikhin’s smile fades.

“How could you not tell me, Rodka?” he asks softly.

“What would you have done?” says Raskolnikov, suppressing the pain in his chest at the question. “What could you have possibly done?”

“I would have helped you, Rodya, you—we could have figured something out—”

Raskolnikov laughs sharply. “You’d be an accessory to murder?”

“I would have helped you,” Razumikhin repeats quietly, firmly.

Raskolnikov sits suddenly upright. “How dare you?” he whispers, his voice trembling.

“What?”

“I have done abominable things; I’m a louse, I’m wretched, I—I’m less than nothing. But I would not put my crime on your conscience. On anyone’s—but you—especially you—and I did tell you,” Raskolnikov adds, in a much weaker voice, slumping back against the wall. “Of course I told you. I didn’t want to, but I had to—of course I did. How could I keep anything from you? In the corridor... I thought you knew.”

Silence.

“I wanted to be wrong,” says Razumikhin finally. “Because you’re not a louse, you idiot. You’re a good man, and you're my friend.”

Raskolnikov looks up and immediately wishes he could tear his gaze away again. Razumikhin’s face is crumpled with grief—grief for him, for his heartache, as if his betrayal has already been swept into the streets, and the real tragedy is his suffering.

“Razumikhin,” says Raskolnikov numbly.

“Rodka, I’m sorry,” says Razumikhin, and the absurdity and wrongness of who is apologising to whom strikes Raskolnikov in one strong blow, so that he’s suddenly in tears, reaching for the door before he knows what he’s doing. His hand lands on top of Razumikhin’s, around the metal bar, and between that bar and the next his forehead presses against Razumikhin’s too, until they’re both grasping as much of each other as they can and weeping openly.

They sit like that for a long time. Their faces and clothes are tear-stained by the time they pull apart.

Razumikhin pulls out a handkerchief from his pocket, offers it to Raskolnikov even though he’s equally dirtied.

Raskolnikov takes it, allows him this dignity, at least.

“Keep it,” says Razumikhin, his voice thick from crying. “I’m sorry it’s in such bad shape.”

“Just like the rest of me,” says Raskolnikov, and together they laugh a little. Razumikhin almost starts crying again.

“I have to go,” says Razumikhin after a moment. “It’s almost supper, and your mother—”

“Of course.”

“I’ll come tomorrow,” he says. “As soon they let me in.”

“Thank you,” says Raskolnikov softly.

He stands up, gripping the same bar for support. 

“Razumikhin,” says Raskolnikov, also standing. He holds out his free hand. (The other still clings to the handkerchief.)

Razumikhin presses it, as expected. And then, eyes shining with tears, he raises Raskolnikov's hand to his lips. 

Raskolnikov raises his eyebrows but does not say anything, and something familiar passes between them. He has a feeling it will remain unspoken for a long time.

“Tomorrow?” says Razumikhin. He squeezes his friend’s hand tightly, relinquishes it almost with regret.

“Tomorrow,” Raskolnikov murmurs, and as he watches Razumikhin walk away, his heart is close to lightness.