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dreams for two

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Dmitri Prokofich Razumikhin comes to St. Petersburg with dreams.

He is absolutely laden with dreams. His pockets veritably spill over with them. He is optimistic and he is hopeful. His bag is filled with threadbare clothes and the few books that he could afford, but other than that, every other remaining space is crammed full with his own hopes.

St. Petersburg takes all of them away.

It stuns him sometimes. The extent to which the city tears away other people’s hopes and dreams like a voracious monster tearing through flesh and blood and bone and tears. And it does the same to him. The city strips him of his name until he is nothing more than “Razumikhin” on the lips of his fellow students. The city devours his dreams as if they were nothing but paper. Razumikhin does readily admit that his dreams were on paper: the paper of his essays and his books and his notebooks. But the point remains the same. The city snaps through his funds, consumes his money, and saps his strength and willpower like a parasitic monster. 

Razumikhin fights back against the city though. When he doesn’t have the money to attend school again, he works even harder and obtains other jobs. He spends his days and nights working to earn money and stores away a tiny fund underneath his mattress to go to school again. He dogs his own dreams and tries to snatch them back from St Petersburg’s hungry jaws. 

This is how Dmitri Prokofich Razumikhin lives in St. Petersburg.

 


 

Razumikhin first meets Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov on the eve of the first day of university. 

Razumikhin is still wearing his best clothes from the day of classes, and his satchel still has his books inside. But he has his arms slung over his fellow students’ shoulders as they pass out celebratory drinks. He mostly notices Raskolnikov because of his silence. The man leans against the wall of the dingy bar that they’re in and gazes out at the raucous laughter with impassive dark eyes. He’s a handsome sort of fellow — tall nose, almost regal in its shape, and two enigmas in the shape of evenly spaced eyes, rather thick and dark hair — and Razumikhin takes it upon himself to cheer the poor man up. God forbid that anyone leaves without a single smile on his watch. 

Razumikhin shoves his hands into his threadbare pockets sewn together with a blunt needle and jauntily saunters up to the man. He nods towards the man and says, “I’m Dmitri Prokofych Razumikhin. Pleasure to meet you. And you?” 

The man looks at him with a small degree of surprise in his eyes, but then, it hones and sharpens into a look that makes Razumikhin feel like he’s being scoured up and down with intense scrutiny. “Raskolnikov,” the man finally says. “Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov.”

“Raskolnikov, eh?” Razumikhin muses. “Grand name, isn’t it? I think I’ve seen you in some of the same classes as me. You sat by the window during the lecture on philosophy, right?”

“Yes,” Raskolnikov answers. He perks up a tad bit at the sound of philosophy and he says, “Excellent lecture. I likely will sit closer tomorrow to get a better view of the whole thing. Too many noisy people by the window.”

“Now, I was going to sit by the window, so I suppose that marks me down as one of the noisy people,” Razumikihin laughs, a teasing tone making his voice lilt up and down.

Raskolnikov cracks a smile at that. “Look at you right now,” he points out, amusement glinting in the depths of his eyes. “Noisy, introducing yourself to me first without any invitation.”

“I suppose so,” Razumikhin admits. “But I don’t think that stops me from doing what I want to do.”

“So, Dmitri Prokofich Razumikhin, what do you want to do?” Raskolnikov asks bemusedly. This gains his attention enough for him to straighten up away from the wall and closer to Razumikhin. 

Razumikhin offers up a crooked smile and says, “I’d like to achieve my dreams.” 

“Dreams,” Raskolnikov echoes. He almost looks pensive. “That’s what we’re all here to do, aren’t we?” he says, the question trailing off into a flat, empty sentence. Somehow, the way he says manages to strip the question down to nothing but bare words, hitting deep in Razumikhin’s ears. 

Dreams. An entire population of students, bubbling and bursting with so much youth and dreams trapped inside their brilliant heads. Razumikhin thinks that it’s a hopeful concept and something exciting to look forward to, but in that single sentence Raskolnikov tells him, he has to wonder if they’ll really do it. 

Razumikhin shakes himself and looks at Raskolnikov straight in the eyes. “Yes, and that is exactly what we are going to do,” he informs him. “Sure, I might get there in different ways and different shapes, but I’ll do it in the end. And you can do it with me.” 

“With you?” Raskolnikov says. The corners of his lips quirk up. “I’m actually not opposed to that.” 

That is how the friendship between Razumikhin and Raskolnikov first begins. Their classmates later look at them and ask about how they became friends so quickly. Razumikihin has no answer as to the speed of their friendship, but this is his answer to the very beginning of it all. A small conversation about dreams in a rowdy, ragged bar of a St. Petersburg alleyway.

 




“We could change the whole world,” Raskolnikov says abruptly one night.

They’re huddled in Raskolnikov’s drafty room with an almost empty bottle of vodka between them. The vodka in their bellies keeps them warm through. But just in case the bitter wind bites through the cracks in Raskolnikov’s window, they’re sharing a blanket. Their knees are knocking underneath the blanket, but neither of them really care. If anything, Razumikhin gets a slight, soft thrill when they accidentally brush against each other in their shared warmth.

Razumikhin turns to look at Raskolnikov and asks, “How?”

Raskolnikov’s face is normally pale and white — half from hunger, half from just the way he is — but his cheeks are flushed and ruddy with all the vodka he’s drank. “We just need to be better than everyone else,” he tells Razumikhin. There’s a spark in his eyes that always glints whenever Raskolnikov finds something to be passionate about, to be curious about, and like a moth to open flame, Razumikhin can’t help but lean in closer to get a better look. “Elevate ourselves above the rest of the human race, set ourselves apart from the others,” Raskolnikov continues. “We could be a new kind of person that is capable of changing everything that we’ve known.”

Raskolnikov’s drunker than he thought, but his words are steady and strong, lilting with his old country accent and thickening up his words with the burr. He’s gone off on another one of his philosophical rambles again. Razumikhin can’t help but admit that he finds that particular trait rather endearing, almost beautiful, but he has no idea what the man is talking about. So, Razumikhin props his elbows up on his knees and drawls, “Study harder then, Rodya. Can’t fail the next test then.”

“No, that’s not what I mean,” Raskolnikov huffs.

Razumikhin reaches for the vodka, and as his fingers curl around the neck of the thick glass, he snorts, “What, are you suddenly planning to reform yourself? Be the next tsar? Make yourself a saint?” Razumikhin pauses and considers the thought before he says, “You’ve already got a good heart, you know?”

“What?” Raskolnikov blankly says.

Razumikhin takes a swig and wipes his lips with the back of his callused hand. He regards Raskolnikov with a surprisingly honest look and says, “I said what I said.”

“Good heart...” Raskolnikov trails off.

“Look at yourself, old chap,” Razumikhin says with a slap on Raskolnikov’s shoulder. He passes the bottle over and says, “Don’t try to pretend that all you’ve got is a cold heart. You’ve still got a conscience underneath all that. I saw when you bought that little girl some bread.”

“Children are loud and annoying when they are hungry,” Raskolnikov grumbles.

Razumikhin gives him a rather dry and flat stare and says, “Yet you had no obligation. Don’t try to lie; you’ve got a good heart to you. At least you have that, Rodya.”

Raskolnikov takes a swig for himself and drains the last of the dregs out from the bottle. He shuts his eyes tightly and exhales after the drink. The red on his cheeks deepens, but he still sounds entirely too sober when he says, “I think you’re talking about yourself.”

“Pish posh,” Razumikhin snorts, imitating a phrase he read in an English book once while working at the library.

Raskolnikov doesn’t sway from his focus in this. Shame that such a trait like that had to surface up in such matters like this. “No, I’m serious,” he says, giving the words so much gravity that Razumikhin would sooner believe he was about to give an entire philosophy lecture rather than praising Razumikhin.

Still, it’s not every day that his Rodya hands out compliments. It’s like getting candy, quite frankly. Both are unfortunately rare in St. Petersburg, but Razumikhin quietly holds the compliment and cherishes it as if it were a precious dream. “Thank you for the compliment,” he says. He tries to make it as sincere as possible, but in the end, he tosses it aside in favor of a teasing tone as he slyly says, “I can add that to my list of qualities now. Not too shabby at German, roguishly handsome, and now a good heart. Shame that doesn’t attract the ladies.”

Raskolnikov grumbles something under his breath, and Razumikhin leans in dangerously close, so close he can taste the vodka on Raskolnikov’s breath. “What are you grumbling about now, Rodya?” he asks in a sing-song voice. “Have something more to bemoan about the world? Save that for another bottle of vodka.”

“We can’t afford that,” Raskolnikov automatically says.

Razumikhin laughs heartily at that and pokes at Raskolnikov’s thigh underneath the blanket. “Says the man who drank most of it!” he crows. “Now, spit it out, hurry. What more do you have to say, my dear Rodya?”

He leans in close enough to hear Raskolnikov hurriedly whisper, “I said, you’re attractive to enough people.”

There’s a moment of silence that Razumikhin takes to process the sentence, and he gasps, “Why, really now?” Hope flares up, sun-bright and moon-smooth, inside his heart, and he wonders if it’s really hope or if it’s the afterburn of the vodka.

Raskolnikov shoots him a rather dark glare as he mutters, “Don’t fish for compliments. It’s not becoming of you.”

Perhaps he’s the one who’s drunk because now, Razumikhin feels his throat grow hot and his chest tighten. Does he dare? He might. With the alcohol slowing down his veins and slipping his inhibitions out between his lungs, he leans in the closest he’s ever been to Raskolnikov and dares to say, “A shame I don’t attract the right person then.”

“Who?” Raskolnikov immediately asks. His intense focus is entirely on Razumikhin, and the empty vodka bottle rolls away from them, completely forgotten.

Razumikhin loses the edge of his nerve, and he turns away and says, “That’s a secret for me to know and you to find out.”

Raskolnikov grabs his shoulders and turns him back around. It’s honestly not that difficult considering their proximity and their current state of drunkenness, and he says, “Come now, I’ll tell you a secret and you’ll tell me yours.”

Razumikhin laughs, “What secrets do you have to tell, Rodya? You keep everything trapped up in that mind to circle around and around forever, you know.” He reaches out to tap Raskolnikov’s forehead before dragging his finger down Raskolnikov’s nose to his mouth. With another tap against Raskolnikov’s lips, he says, “You never tell me anything important until it’s too late.”

“I do not,” Raskolnikov indignantly says. He doesn’t bother to move Razumikhin’s hand though, and Razumikhin can feel Raskolnikov’s lips shape out the words. God. He should move away, pull away and return to some semblance of normalcy but he doesn’t.

Instead, Razumikhin slings his arm around Raskolnikov and tugs him close as he laughs, “Oh, yes, you do. Remember when you spilled ink over my good hat when I was out of the classroom?” It was his favorite hat to boot — dark brown felt worn to smooth softness and too many squashings underneath textbooks — and he remembers that incident with a good deal of amusement.

Evidently, Raskolnikov wasn’t aware that Razumikhin knew the truth because he sputters, “You weren’t supposed to know about that.” It’s almost adorable how he wrinkles his nose with surprise as he says it. It’s almost idiotic how Razumikhin finds it adorable.

“My hat was older than the foundation of St. Petersburg, Rodya,” Razumikhin says. “Did you really think I wouldn’t notice if you left a brand new hat in its place?”

“It was the same design and color,” Raskolnikov protests.

Razumikhin has to stifle a laugh to say, “You forgot to make it smell like the grand old scent of mildew and mothballs which, incidentally, is what my room smells like. I haven’t been able to get out that smell for the past year.”

“Damn.”

Razumikhin’s arm is still around Raskolnikov as he murmurs, “Not that I’m complaining, my lovely Rodya. You’re terrible at lying anyways. You get that adorable little crease between your brows and tap your left foot incessantly when you try to lie.”

“I do not .”

That’s also a lie. Razumikhin shakes his head and says, “You also start sweating a lot.” He’s never seen anyone so spectacularly terrible at lying as Raskolnikov, and the thing that makes it even more hilarious is the fact that Raskolnikov thinks he’s so brilliant at lying. The paradoxical nature of that led to a good number of funny stories to tell at the bar on drinking nights.

Raskolnikov avoids Razumikhin’s gaze as he mumbles a reluctant “Fine” under his breath.

Razumikhin takes pity on the poor, pretty boy and asks, “Now, do you really want to know?”

“Yes, of course,” Raskolnikov snaps. “Why would I ever ask you if I didn’t want to know?” That’s an entirely fair point. Raskolnikov does very little without it having some grand purpose in his mind whether that be the smallest or greatest of things.

“You wound me,” Razumikhin sighs. “Perhaps I’m better off with vodka for company instead of you, Rodya.” He reaches a hand out for the empty vodka bottle, but Raskolnikov slaps his hand away.

Raskolnikov ignores Razumikhin and demands, “Tell me.”

Razumikhin inhales deeply and steels his jelly-legged nerves before he breathes out, “You.”

Raskolnikov stares at him, night-dark eyes and deer-like confusion written all over the lines of his face, and he says nothing except for, “What?”

“You,” Razumikhin repeats. “You, you, you. Would you like me to repeat the word again?”

“That was a rhetorical kind of what, Dmitri,” Raskolnikov snaps. Ah, there it is, his full first name instead of a simple Razumikhin or god forbid, the entire full name. Razumikhin pulls his arm away from Raskolnikov, but Raskolnikov snatches his arm back and snaps, “God, why didn’t you tell me this sooner?” 

Razumikhin shrugs helplessly. This is one question that he doesn’t have an answer for, just like he has little answers to many of the questions that Raskolnikov and he both have about St. Petersburg and life and other sorts of things in general in the grand scheme of things. Even now, he can’t come up with a good answer despite his silver tongue, and he shivers against some invisible, intangible breeze in the drafty room. Raskolnikov reaches out to tug Razumikhin’s chin towards him and settles his gaze squarely on Razumikhin. Razumikhin waits for a scathing indictment or whatever else Raskolnikov has cooked up in his mind, but he doesn’t expect Raskolnikov to drag his face for a kiss. 

It’s a rough and ugly kiss from inexperience and sudden movement — teeth clacking against teeth, lips bruising, hands wandering — but Razumikhin counts it as one of the best kisses he’s ever gotten in his life. Raskolnikov pulls away and mutters, “Could have told me sooner, what an airheaded idiot.” Razumikhin doesn’t let him say anything more and drags him in for another kiss while his hands wander over Raskolnikov’s body underneath the blanket they have shared between the two of them.

Later, when they are both sweat-slicked and laughing breathlessly, worn out and shot through with afterglow, Raskolnikov rolls over and looks at Razumikhin. Razumikhin waggles his eyebrows in return and earns himself a small smile on Rodya’s face. He idly reaches out to trace a hand down the pale lines of Raskolnikov’s bare body, and Raskolnikov follows the movement of Razumikhin’s hands.

“You can’t possibly be thinking of going at it again,” he snorts.

Razumikhin follows the line of Raskolnikov’s vertebrae, tracing each knob of his spine with careful care. “Get more vodka into me and I just might,” he tells Raskolnikov.

“Terrible,” Raskolnikov says with a touch of fondness. He rolls over on his back but closer to Razumikhin. “I was saying something earlier before all this.”

Razumikhin settles for counting out the lines of the rib-rungs along Raskolnikov’s chest before he says, “Go on then.”

“We could change the world,” Raskolnikov whispers, voice thin in the shivering air. “All we have to do is set ourselves apart from the rest of humanity. Think about it, all the theories that the philosophers and thinkers of old came up with. I’ve been thinking, and we could supercede them all.”

“You know, I still can’t believe you came to St. Petersburg to study law,” Razumikhin says. His fingers slowly trace out letters on Raskolnikov’s thin skin as he continues, “You would’ve made a better philosophy student than slaving away at those law textbooks with me. Granted, philosophy earns no money.”

“Not like we earn any money now,” Raskolnikov retorts. His tone is utterly dry, but when Razumikhin looks at Raskolnikov, he can see fondness warming his dark eyes. “But I’ll think on it,” he concludes. His eyes flutter shut, and he curls closer to Razumikhin. “Good night.”

“Let me know when you’ve come up with it,” Razumikhin says gently. He hesitates, his fingers only a few centimeters away from Raskolnikov’s skin. Oh, hell, Razumikhin’s already fucked him. So, he leans to press a soft kiss against Raskolnikov’s forehead and smoothes some stray strands of hair behind Raskolnikov’s ear. “Good night,” he whispers before he falls asleep in Raskolnikov’s arms.

Here is one dream that he’s managed to hold onto in the middle of St. Petersburg.

 


 

Raskolnikov’s always been a grumpy sort of man, and Razumikhin has always taken it into stride. But as the year progresses and the classes spin on and on, Raskolnikov falls deeper and deeper into a grim slump that doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. Razumikhin will be the first to admit that Raskolnikov looks rather like some sort of painting or sculpture — a work of art, essentially, from one of those posh Renaissance bits or perhaps classical Greco-Roman art  — when he’s brooding, but nowadays, that brooding has evolved into something more critical. It gets harder and harder for Razumikhin to drag him out into the sunlight and for parties and whatever else he has planned in the grey streets of St. Petersburg.

Razumikhin suspects it’s money. St. Petersburg has a way of snapping up money like a starved dog, nipping and tearing and devouring money with an indiscriminate hunger. It doesn’t help that the rich grow richer while the poor grow poorer. As students, Razumikhin and Raskolnikov fall towards the latter end of the spectrum. Razumikhin works every single day and night, doing translations and teaching lessons, to earn enough money to make ends meet, but he’s still struggling so much to pay for classes and rent. Raskolnikov has far less jobs and earns less than Razumikhin, so he figures the stress Raskolnikov is going through is growing higher than his own.

The breaking point when Raskolnikov, the man who always sat in the very front for philosophy lectures and spent his spare money on more books, drops out of school. Other classmates have been steadily dropping like flies, but Razumikhin thought that Raskolnikov would make it to the very end. He hurries to Raskolnikov’s flat after classes end and bursts in by loudly calling, “Rodya?!”

Raskolnikov looks up from his bed. His hair is still mussed from sleep, and his blankets are wrapped around his body. He looks morose and downtrodden — a far cry from the bright, enigmatic Raskolnikov that he fell in love with — and he weakly says, “Dmitri.”

“God, where were you today in class?” Razumikhin says. He reaches into his bag and pulls out a sheaf of papers. “I took notes for you and snatched some flyers and papers for you from the professors.”

“Dmitri,” Raskolnikov repeats. Razumikhin feels nervous at the use of his name like that and in that quiet, edgeless tone. “I dropped out.”

“No,” Razumikhin breathes out. “No, no, no, no, Raskolnikov, no, that can’t be.”

“It is,” Raskolnikov says tonelessly. He lies back down and rolls over to his side to face the wall. ‘I dropped out, and that’s that. Maybe when I earn enough money, I’ll be able to afford classes again.”

“No,” Razumikhin says once more. Sheer stubbornness makes his voice strong and strident in the small space of Raskolnikov’s room, and he strides forward to gives Raskolnikov a good shake. He’s lived with too many dreams, and if Raskolnikov will give on them too soon, then Razumikhin is going to keep them alive for as long as he can. “You still have your jobs, right?” he asks. “I’ll work extra hours, finish more manuscripts, and we’ll pay for your classes together.”

Now, Raskolnikov gets up with a sudden burst of movement and turns to face him, fire alight in his eyes. “I can’t ask that of you,” Raskolnikov sputters.

Razumikhin shakes his head and tells him, “You’re not asking this of me. I’m giving this to you, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov.”

“Why?” Raskolnikov breathes out, barely audible from the sheer shock of it.

“Because I love you,” Razumikhin says. He tries to pour as much sincerity into his voice, and he continues, “And because I believe in chasing after your dreams, even when you think it’s impossible. if you won’t hope, then I’ll hope for the both of us, enough for even more people at that. We’ll figure out a way to make this work. I promise.”

In the end, the money runs out. In the end, even Razumikhin has to drop out of school, but he manages to keep Raskolnikov in class for just a moment longer than him. In the end, St. Petersburg snaps up his money, wildly and without abandon. In the end, Razumikhin comes out of the ordeal with an even stronger resolve. He does his damn best to keep Raskolnikov afloat whether that be through jokes or small gifts he can manage to afford, through long nights where they lie together under the torn sheets and talk about anything they like. 

But in the end, that doesn’t stop Raskolnikov from doing the unspeakable.

 


 

One day, Razumikhin loses himself so thoroughly in work that he forgets to check up on Raskolnikov. HIs Russian mixes with German even in his regular speech, and his ink leaves dark, indelible stains across the pads of his fingers. He takes on new students — rich ones, from the upper districts, with money to burn — and starts tutoring late into the night and sometimes into the morning dawn. He sweeps chimneys, wipes down old bar counters, and even rakes leaves out of the gutter once. It’s hard work, but it brings in the money, and Razumikhin plans to buy Raskolnikov a new book with it instead of the used, ragged ones the library throws out.

Razumikhin finally earns enough to get that prized book and totes his money over to Raskolnikov’s place. In his mind’s eye, it’s going to be a grand surprise that can shake the stupor out of his lover’s once-bright eyes, and he’s excited for it. He unlocks the door with Raskolnikov’s spare key and almost screams when he sees Raskolnikov’s limp body barely on the old mattress.

He rushes over to Raskolnikov and hastily checks his pulse. Still living, still breathing. Razumikhin had the brief, momentary fear that Raskolnikov gave up on it all, and the small flicker of life in the heave of Raskolnikov’s chest silences that heart-clenching fear. However, Raskolnikov’s skin is hot with fever, and his skin is pallid and drawn tight. He calls for the maid in a shaky voice and asks her for some strong tea before he starts taking care of Raskolnikov. While the maid is out, rustling up some meager tea, Razumikhin silently berates himself for not doing anything sooner.

The next few days become a worry-filled blur for Razumikhin, but that worry only intensifies when Raskolnikov wakes up. Gone is the man who spoke volumes worth of eloquent, academic words as easy as breathing. Here is a man who raves with the rise of the morning sun and refuses food or drink. His lover is constantly on edge and lashes out with a barbed tongue whenever Razumikhin tries to ask about what happened or what he can do to help. He’s delirious, and Razumikhin has no idea why. No other explanation other than this illness that must have swept over him with more strength than the Russian winters and Siberian snows.

Razumikhin calls up a friend of his — a young man by the name of Zossimov — to help Raskolnikov. Razumikhin likes the man well enough. He’s a fantastic man to go drinking with and strangely good at making borscht, but he tends to be self-congratulating at times which annoys Razumikhin. Later, Zossimov pulls him aside in the hall after Raskolnikov wakes up and tells him, “Razumikhin, I think he’s mentally ill.”

“What do you mean?” Razumikhin snaps. “He wasn’t like that before. Your medication isn’t working on him.”

“Which is why I’m saying that he has some serious mental problems,” Zossimov returns.

“How do I help him then?” Razumikhin asks. He doesn’t care about that; all he cares is about Raskolnikov’s help. However, Zossimov doesn’t answer. Instead, his only answer is a shrug. That sends fury racing along his arteries and veins, and he raises his voice against the doctor as he snaps, “What am I supposed to do then?”

The doctor leaves, and Razumikhin is left to slump against the wall of the thin hallway. He hopes Raskolnikov is asleep. He doesn’t want him to worry any more than he already does. Raskolnikov does enough worrying to tide both himself and Razumikhin over for lifetimes. Razumikhin drags himself over to the window and looks out at the smoky grey landscape of St. Petersburg. In the distance, he can see the spires of the church and the ant-like figures of the people filling the streets below. In his gloom, the city looks dismal and dark, and Razumikhin exhales out a low, sibilant sigh.

Razumikhin glances back at the door to the room where Raskolnikov is sleeping. There’s another issue that’s been nagging at the back of his mind. The death of the elderly pawn-broker and her sister. Even though nothing much was stolen, the murder still linger on his mind. Razumikhin hates himself for it, but he has to wonder if Raskolnikov truly knows nothing about it. Granted, there’s that man called Mikolka or whatever that’s the main suspect now.

The thing that keeps Razumikhin wondering is the way Raskolnikov sweats as he tells Razumikhin that he knows nothing and the way that that his brow creases in that certain quirk of his. Razumikhin tells himself that it’s because of his sickness, because of his hunger, because of all these different factors stacked on top of each other.

Razumikhin still wonders though and hates himself for it. His hope fizzles out, bit by bit, and St. Petersburg and its slavering jaws gain on Razumikhin’s meager life.

 


 

“My brother thinks you’re attracted to me,” Dunya says suddenly as she’s brewing tea.

Razumikhin blinks hard at the sudden sound of her voice in the musty air and looks up from his book. “Rodya? Really?” he asks incredulously. He can’t imagine the thought. Hasn’t he been the one fucking Raskolnikov? Does his poor, feverish lover think Razumikhin’s flirting with his sister while he’s stuck in bed? Perhaps the sickness is worse than Razumikhin thought.

Dunya sets down the rusty kettle back on the half-working stove, and the scratched-up bottom of it clacks against the metal. Dunya turns a bent spoon over in her hand before she tries to bend it back into a semblance of the right shape. When that fails, she simply shrugs and stirs the tea with it as she says, “Yes. He keeps praising you and your expansive set of qualities while I try to give him some water to ease his fever. Then, he starts raving about how you would look wonderful as a groom.” She rolls her dark eyes and brushes a stray strand of hair out of her face as she snorts, “It’s getting on my nerves, actually, but I can’t bring myself to tell my brother when he’s that sick.”

“Well, I won’t deny that you’re attractive, but I’m afraid I’ve only got the space in my heart for one Romanovich,” Razumikhin says with a wide, expansive gesture and too much mock drama in his tone. It’s a kind of flair that’s always managed to get a bit of a smile out of Raskolnikov, even in the dark days, and he hopes the same will work for his younger sister.

It does. Dunya cracks the smallest of smiles — and Razumikhin wonders why it’s so hard to squeeze a little happiness out of the Romanovich family — but it works. She glances up from the chipped teacup and drops the smile in favor of studying Razumikhin with the kind of intensity that he’s learned to associate with Raskolnikov. It’s strange seeing the same look mirrored across another face, and it’s now that Razumikhin truly cannot deny the family resemblance. “You have a type, don’t you?” she says after a beat.

Razumikhin shrugs, “You’ve got me. I’m a sucker for dark hair and intelligence.” It’s horribly true too. He can’t help that Raskolnikov simply is too attractive though. There’s something enigmatic to him, and although Raskolnikov hasn’t been able to shake the gloom and sickness as of late, Razumikhin can remember the days when a dream sparked up bright and hot in the depths of Raskolnikov’s eyes. Beautiful.

Dunya clears her throat, and Razumikhin focuses back on her. A wry smile curls a corner of her lips, and she comments, “Which both my brother and I have. Well, I’m glad we could clear this up.”

Razumikhin marks the place he’s at in his book before he snaps it shut. He sweeps his translations to the side as he arches a brow at Dunya. “Rodya also has a type and it’s for roguishly handsome geniuses,” he slyly says.

Dunya doesn’t miss a beat as she laughs, “No, my brother has a type for kind people. I can’t say for certain if the handsome part or the genius part applies.” Good, a laugh. Razumikhin plans to chalk this down as another one of his personal talents: getting impossibly gloomy and stoic people to laugh. A better trait than some of his others in all honesty.

Razumikhin splays a hand across his chest and gasps, “You wound me, Miss Romanovich.” He tries to think of something else that he can change the subject to and combs through recent memory before he suddenly says, “You have your eyes on that girl Rodya was talking to, don’t you?”

The girl who spends too many nights with open legs and a reddened card. Razumikhin feels sorry for the poor girl. From the few details he can squeeze out of Raskolnikov, it seems like the girl’s had a tough life. Sonya, Razumikhin thinks her name is. She looks pretty enough with her makeup — rouge and scarlet lips and careful powder dusted over her fine features — and the lace and satin she layers over her too-thin limbs. She hides her face with her parasol, but that doesn’t stop hunger and weariness from crossing over her expression from the few times Razumikhin’s caught a glimpse of her. Poor thing, really. He knows Raskolnikov well enough to know that the man has a soft heart, and his sister is no different.

Dunya almost inhales shortly, but she catches herself quickly. “Sharp, aren’t you?” she mutters.

“I can’t blame you,” Razumikhin says with a rap of his knuckles on the table for emphasis. “She’s pretty enough, and she’s nice. I suppose that’s a Romanovich trait? Being attracted to kind people, you said? Anyhow, I like her more that that man you’re engaged to. Luzhin, that little rat bastard of a man.”

The teacup clatters harshly against the wood of the brittle table, and Dunya has her knuckles white against the tiny handle of the cup. “I don’t think that’s very hard to do,” she says. A dry smile makes her lips twitch up as she says, “It’s very easy to find a number of people kinder than that man in the entirety of Russia.” Her voice is too flat and too hard for the levity she tries to inject into her words, and despite the smile, her eyes are winter-cold at the mention of Luzhin. She bends her head and studies her cup, as if she’ll find some secret hidden inside the tea leaves that are sure to be clumped up at the bottom. “But if it saves our family, then I will do what I must,” she says stonily.

“Grim,” Razumikhin comments. “Just like your brother.”

“Do you have any other suggestions?” Dunya snaps. It’s a rare moment of blatant irritation, and she hides it quickly. Good for her though. Razumikhin thinks she does far too much waiting and hiding her true feelings for her own good. A bit of selfishness never hurt anyone in the long run. Alright, perhaps that’s a line of reasoning that’s a touch too flawed even for him, but people like Dunya deserve it. Razumikhin doesn’t have another suggestion though other than to elope with Sonya and then make a run for it which really isn’t a helpful suggestion. “I thought so,” Dunya says softly.

“But if it helps,” Razumikhin tells her. “I still think that it is possible to find your dreams and hopes. You just have to hold onto them hard enough.”

Dunya gives him a strange look and asks, “In a place like St. Petersburg? Hasn’t that been beaten out of you by now?”

“I’m a stubborn bastard,” Razumikhin laughs. “And if keeping my dreams will spite St. Petersburg, then I’ll be damned if I don’t do it.” He subsides and softly, he tells a secret that isn’t really a secret. The secret he tells her is this: he keeps dreams and hopes in his pockets for both himself and for Raskolnikov, and that is a truth that is unlikely to change.

 


 

Porfiry tells Razumikhin the same thing that’s been circling around in his mind over and over and over again. The concept of Raskolnikov being the real killer. But no matter how many times Razumikhin tries to click the evidence and the theory together, he just can’t wrap his head around the thought of Raskolnikov — his Dmitri — smashing an axe into an old woman’s head. He can’t see that. He can’t.

Until one day, Raskolnikov catches him by the wrist, soon after Dunya breaks up with Luzhin, and tells him, “I need to leave.”

“What do you mean?” Razumikhin asks. Frankly, this is the happiest he’s ever been in a long time. He’s delighted that Dunya is free of a life without a petty fool like Luzhin, and he’s happy that she was able to stand up for himself. He’s happy because this is what Raskolnikov has wanted for a while now. By now, Dunya and her mother are already on their way to Razumikhin’s room while Raskolnikov is strolling along the Neva River with him. It’s the best situation, really, so he doesn’t have the faintest idea why Raskolnikov is saying this.

“I need to leave,” Raskolnikov repeats. His voice cracks, but he says, “I need to leave you for a long time now.”

“I’ll go with you. Wherever you go, I’ll follow,” Razumikhin immediately says. He tries to crack a joke as he says, “Besides, it has to be better than this miserable wreck of a city, won’t it? The entirety of Russia can be our oyster.”

“You can’t follow me on this,” Raskolnikov says, voice growing fainter and fainter. His face looks even paler from the silvered light of the crescent moon, hanging low and sharp like a scythe in the sky. 

The sound of the rushing river fills the space between them as Razumikhin stares at Raskolnikov with horror spreading coldly over his body. It cannot be. It cannot. Porfiry cannot be right in this. Raskolnikov, a murderer? But deep down, in the deepest, most shameful, part of him, Razumikhin has to admit that it’s not a new thought. “We’ll figure out a way to make this work,” Razumikhin whispers. “I promise.”

Raskolnikov laughs, but it’s too off-kilter to be any normal laugh. It is a mirthless, bitter-cold thing that rivals Sibera in its chill. Raskolnikov’s hand is hot and slick with sweat starting to gather in his palms, but Razumikhin keeps holding onto his hand. “You told me that once when I first dropped out,” Raskolnikov says. “Now, you’re telling me the same thing after, after what I—”

“You don’t have to say it out loud,” Razumikhin interrupts. “I know, I know, you’ve never been a good liar, Rodya.”

“Crease between the brows, left foot tapping, and sweating, isn’t it?” Raskolnikov asks.

“Yes,” Razumikhin says achingly. “Yes, you terrible liar. You’re absolutely horrid at it.” 

“Oh, Razumikhin,” Raskolnikov exhales. He yanks Razumikhin towards him — a quick, brutal drag of an embrace, desperate in every nook and cranny of it — and he whispers, “I thought, I thought I was being extraordinary, above the moral rules of humanity. God, at the very start of it all, I tried to rationalize it, saying that it was for the benefit of others as well that the old woman was gone. No need to pay rent, no need to pay debts, no need to calculate interest, but it was because I was trying to establish my truth, my theory.”

“You philosopher,” Razumikhin says as he begins to weep. “You horrible liar of a philosopher.” He holds Raskolnikov tightly, and the night breeze whips around them with a stinging cold. “You don’t have to prove yourself to be extraordinary,” Razumikhin tells him. “Because you are extraordinary to me. You didn’t have to do that for it.”

“I’m going to confess tomorrow,” Raskolnikov says with a hiccup. “To Porfiry. I’m telling everything.”

Razumikhin pulls away to get a good look at Raskolnikov’s face. Dark eyes, now wet and wide, and high nose, almost regal in its set. A man he kept dreams for, a man he kept hopes for. But this won’t be the end. Razumikhin refuses to let that happen. St. Petersburg has taken enough from them, and Razumikhin draws the line here. 

“Alright,” he breathes out. “Alright.”

The next day, Raskolnikov is out of the house before the dawn rakes its light over the grey skies of St. Petersburg. The next day, Razumikhin begins to pack his bags. He’ll have to purchase a warmer coat, but he jams his hat on his head — the same hat Raskolnikov bought him and tried to lie about oh so long ago — and grabs his bag without looking back. 

 


 

The years pass, and the snows pile up in Siberia where barely anything grows and the horizon is nothing but wilderness and wasteland compared to the stifling cityscape of St. Petersburg. Siberia is its own kind of hell, mostly related to the weather, which is a contrast to St. Petersburg which managed to niggle into the very minds of people and inject grey into the mass of things. But the moon and the sun here are brighter and linger in the sky for longer.

Beyond all that too is the real reason why Razumikhin has lived several years’ worth of time here. Raskolnikov is here. 

Razumikhin’s taken up a teacher’s position here, and he’s carved out a place for himself in the limited community. From what he hears, Raskolnikov hasn’t been quite as successful amongst the prisoners. Apparently, he broods too much. Razumikhin always smiles fondly when he hears that. That part of Raskolnikov hasn’t changed at all. 

Dunya and Sonya write frequently, telling Razumikhin about the happier lives they are leading together. Razumikhin adds a liberal amount of jokes in his letters back and always, at the end of every letter, he writes that Raskolnikov misses them too.

Razumikhin waits out by the snow-covered bench. His breath puffs into small white clouds that fade quickly into the air. A guard brings Raskolnikov out, and even from this distance, Razumikhin can see that Raskolnikov’s head is lifted high with pride that hasn’t died out after all this time. A smile curls around Razumikhin’s face, and he calls out, “Rodya!” 

When Raskolnikov gets close enough, he answers, “Dmitri.” 

“You look thinner,” Razumikhin tuts. “What have I said about eating enough?” 

“Perhaps you’ve grown fatter,” Raskolnikov returns. It’s a rather deadpan delivery, but the fondness in his eyes is still there.

Razumikhin gives him a playful shove. “You wound me,” he tells him.

Raskolnikov tips his head up to the sky, and his breath also coalesces into puffs of white. He stares up at the expanse of sky for a beat before he comments, “You know, I’m always surprised that you’re still here in this wasteland.”

“I promised you once that I’d keep enough dreams and hopes for the two of us,” Razumikhin says simply. 

“Even after all this time?” Raskolnikov asks.

Razumikhin nods. “Even after all this time,” he confirms.

Raskolnikov reaches out a hand to him, and a flutter beats wing-fast in Razumikhin’s heart. For a moment, he feels like they are students again in a dingy bar, university drop-outs in a drafty room sharing a blanket and a bottle of vodka, two men in St. Petersburg holding on for all they’ve got. The years feel thin, and Razumikhin feels younger than he ever has as Raskolnikov pulls him in for a kiss. 

Despite it all, they made it. Razumikhin doesn’t quite believe it yet, so he repeats it for good measure in his mind as he kisses Raskolnikov again.

They made it.