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Never before had Raskolnikov been a visitor of drinking dens nor a frequenter of social gatherings. He had long regarded these frivolous past-times as nothing but a waste of his time, and yet here he was. To tell the truth, no one was more surprised than Raskolnikov himself that he had come along, to the exception, perhaps, of Razumikhin, who had seemed positively delighted at the sight of him. This was a reaction Raskolnikov felt he did little on his part to inspire, sullen, gaunt-faced and shabbily-dressed as he was. But the words of Razumikhin could not be taken at face value. He had a gift for hyperbole; such was his style.

Feeling thoroughly out of his element, Raskolnikov sat hunched over his glass of vodka, which he would occasionally raise to his lips. His narrow, dark eyes stared fixedly ahead as if he could see something far in the distance, invisible to everyone else. Something unpleasant, if his expression was any indicator.

He was one of the many students who shared a crowded table in a corner of the room, the rest of which were talking loudly amongst each other, in high spirits. He made no effort to follow their conversation, having withdrawn into himself long ago like a turtle in its shell. The efforts of his fellow students to coax him out were met with bewildering hostility.

The routine would go as follows: the group of students would be caught up in animated discussion, arguing in the fervent manner students of law tend to do, and having more or less come to a unanimous conclusion on the subject, the conversation would then subside. This is when one of them, in remembering his presence, would ask Raskolnikov what he thought of it all. To this, Raskolnikov would practically revel in contradicting even their pettiest assertions with venom, if only for the sake of being offensive and from no personal convictions of his own. One time he had ventured a furtive look at Razumikhin, who was looking away at the time.

“Look at him— he’s embarrassed of me, I can tell,” he had thought, with a twinge of twisted triumph. “Pah! Let him be embarrassed!” He had been possessed at the time by a self-destructive, vindictive desire to make his friend regret having ever invited him.

Needless to say, such futile efforts had long ceased. If one were to continue the turtle analogy, the well-meaning student had held out a piece of lettuce, only to find that the creature they were feeding was in fact a snapper turtle, which happens, incidentally, to have more of a taste for fingers.

Now, all of their words merely added to the wall of meaningless noise and confusion that surrounded him. The place was jam packed with people, so very many people; civil servants, tradesmen, merchants and muzhiks alike, a crowd that produced a constant din. The air was suffocating and made his head spin. A thick, repugnant cocktail of smoke, cooking grease and sweat.

His glass slammed back onto the table. He had drained its last contents. This action was familiar to him. Tonight, they had been assured by the pair of women out the front, was a special night. Entertainment was provided, and the drinks were cheaper. It only followed to make the most of it. However, rather than lifting his spirits, he felt much worse for it— the chaos of his surroundings had simply coalesced into a dizzying, hazy soup. To the far side of the room there were dancers. Illuminated by lamps that felt unnaturally bright, their bodies glistening and writhing like snakes. The eyes of idle men would drift towards them like flies to rotting flesh.

Never would he have found himself in this wretched place, if it wasn’t for Razumikhin. He had been tricked, that bastard! Razumikhin had assured him that it would be them, and them alone, knowing very well that he, Razumikhin, was one of the few people at the university whom Raskolnikov ever bothered to maintain any semblance of good terms with. His purpose at the university was to gain credentials, not friends—friends demanded time, and he had no surplus time as it was— but Razumikhin was an exception. Razumikhin was hard not to like; he could charm his way to the heart of almost anyone he so pleased, and in this Raskolnikov could not have resembled him any less. However, Razumikhin was intelligent (unlike many of his fellow students if you were to ask Raskolnikov) and he too struggled under the inexorable weight of certain poverty and did not spare himself from any odd job he could scrounge up to fund his studies, and for this reason, they had struck up a certain unspoken camaraderie from the beginning. But enough about Razumikhin; just the thought of him at that very moment put Raskolnikov in a poisonous mood.

Knowing Razumikhin, no doubt it had been “for his own good”; so that he would get out of his own head and mingle (he shuddered) with others for once. Knowing this didn’t placate Raskolnikov one bit; in fact, it made him furious. The prospect of being anyone’s pitiful little pet project was positively sickening.

He looked up, only now registering his surroundings, noticed the empty seat. He turned to the student beside him, whose name he did not know.

“Where’s Razumikhin?”

The student’s friend, who had overheard his question, sniggered. Raskolnikov, puzzled, almost took offence. The student swallowed his mouthful of food.

“Over there with the waitress. You see him?”

Raskolnikov followed his gaze. Sure enough, a few paces away from their table, a tall lanky figure which he immediately recognised, was absorbed in conversation with…

Raskolnikov felt an unpleasant twinge in his stomach that he couldn’t explain.
He surveyed the girl unceremoniously. Her hair was uncovered, and she wore a barmaid’s dress, and filled it out nicely. She was plain-faced and snub-nosed, but upon hearing something Razumikhin had said, her features lit up with laughter, and she was transformed into something radiant. Whatever he had said, it pleased her greatly. Razumikhin, too, was laughing. The way he looked at her, it was all so sickening, he couldn’t bear it… oh, what was he thinking! His head was reeling. He ripped his eyes away.

The conversation around him had risen in a crescendo and burst into uproarious laughter. When it had subsided, he turned again to the student beside him.

“When he comes back, tell him I left early.” He stood up, much too fast, knocking his chair. He stumbled to regain his balance.

“Where are you off to? And so soon!” the student shouted above the noise. “The night’s still young!” Young? For a moment, Raskolnikov started at him blankly, unable to comprehend what had been asked. The student tried again. “Where are you going?”

“Home…I feel ill…” The floor was swaying beneath his feet. The student’s face looked up at him in concern. His lips were moving, he was shouting, but Raskolnikov couldn’t understand what his problem was, and why everything was tilting sideways.

Suddenly, a pair of hands were hauling him up from the ground and he was steadied on his feet.
“I’m fine, fine…. I tell you, I’m fine!” he muttered, pulling himself from their grip.

“Rubbish, he can barely stand! Someone needs to talk some sense into this man.” Razumikhin’s voice. Where had he come from? “Come on, come on, that’s right…tha-a-at’s it...” Raskolnikov' arm was hauled around Razumikhin’s shoulders to support his weight. “You can lean on me all you like. Don’t worry, I won’t fall, you’re too light. As a matter of fact, you’re awfully thin...have you been skipping meals again?”

“Leave me alone…” he said weakly.

“Don’t be ridiculous, brother!”

“I can walk myself…”

“That may be true, brother, that may very well be true… but you’ve also proven yourself exceptionally capable of falling yourself. Now don’t say another word!”

They made their way to the door, Raskolnikov protesting all the way. The sun had only just set at the time he had entered the drinking den, but now, as they emerged together, it was completely dark. The icy night air bit at his hands and face. It was cold enough to see the clouds of their breath. It was much quieter, although he could still faintly hear voices from within. He prised himself from Razumikhin’s grip and groaned.

“There, how’s that? Why, you look better already— the fresh air is doing you good.”

Raskolnikov doubled over and threw up. Razumikhin leapt out of the way. He was clammy and shaking all over, chest heaving, tears leaking down his face. He became aware of how much of a wreck he must have looked, but at the same time he felt very much relieved. The wave of nausea was subsiding, and already, his head felt clearer. He could see the concern in his friend’s eyes.

“I’m fine now…” he croaked.

For a while he stood there in silence, leaning against Razumikhin’s shoulder, watching the vapor of his breath disperse into the night. He noted, absent-mindedly, that in his own way, in an ill-shaven, crooked-smiling, careless kind of way, Razumikhin wasn’t bad looking at all. He closed his eyes.

“Rodya! Rodya!”

“What is it…”

“Your address—never mind, I know your address, it’s a long way away. My place isn’t far. It’s just along this street and to the right. You can sleep there for the night, I’ll walk you there.” He hoisted his friend’s arm over his shoulder once again and they began to walk. Suddenly, Raskolnikov came to his senses, tugging his arm free.

“What’s gotten into you?”

“I don’t need your help. I’m going home,” he muttered.

Razumikhin grabbed him firmly by the shoulder. “Don’t be an idiot! What kind of man would I be if I let you wander the streets alone, in such a state? You can barely stand!”

Raskolnikov looked him in the eye with a strange expression, his upper lip twitching. Razumikhin glared stubbornly back at him.

“Go back to the others,” he said calmly. “They’ll appreciate your company. Why do you insist on tormenting people that don’t?” He had expected Razumikhin to get frustrated, to give up and leave him, but he wasn’t fazed.

“I don’t give a spit about the others! Now come here and stop subjecting me to this…this rubbish.” To his surprise, Raskolnikov limply complied as his arm was pulled over Razumikhin’s shoulder once again, and together they made clumsy progress down the street.

By the time they had turned onto the next street, they were drunkenly blabbing about nothing in particular.

“Oh, by the way, how’s the landlady’s daughter?” Razumikhin asked him, grinning mischievously and giving him a nudge. Raskolnikov looked at him with an inscrutable expression.

“Oh, good. I mean, no worse than usual.” He said vaguely, and he paused. “She told me she wants to join a nunnery.” Razumikhin raised his eyebrows incredulously.

“You were that bad, were you?”

“What do you…?” He started, puzzled. It took Raskolnikov a moment to understand what had been implied. Razumikhin was grinning. “Oh! You bastard!” He gave the laughing Razumikhin a shove.

He reflected for a second.

“Well, I wouldn’t know,” he said seriously. This made Razumikhin burst into another fit of laughter. “In that case I’ll ask her for you…”

“You swine!” Raskolnikov shouted. “You know what, go ahead! It’ll be you who’d end up making an ass of yourself…”

When they arrived at the door, they were stumbling over themselves and laughing like schoolboys. Razumikhin fell against the wall, his eyes lit up and his face split into a dizzying smile. Raskolnikov had never seen anything so beautiful. Suddenly his friend fell mock-serious, shushing him. “Quiet!” he hissed. “Don’t wake the landlord, he’d use any excuse to kick me out in an instant.”

They climbed the stairs clumsily until they had reached the fifth floor, talking in hushed voices. Razumikhin tripped and cursed, his voice ringing through the building, and making them both stumble forward. At this point, Raskolnikov started trembling with barely supressed laughter.

"Be quiet! You madman, you’ll wake the whole floor!” Razumikhin hissed, fumbling for his keys. The door opened with a click and they stumbled over the threshold and into the cramped room, kicking their boots off at the door. Razumikhin lowered Raskolnikov with a final effort onto the sofa and very nearly collapsed himself. They were both breathing heavily. Raskolnikov’s pale face was flushed, with the traces of a smile still lingering around his eyes, dark curtains of hair falling around it. He was practically glowing. Razumikhin had never seen him like this before. Suddenly, something changed in his eyes, their infectious warmth disappeared in an instant like a candle had been blown out, and Razumikhin was left wondering if he had imagined it. Raskolnikov turned away from him, wrapping himself tightly in his coat, his eyes growing heavily-lidded.

Underneath his partially feigned drowsiness, his thoughts reeled. What was that just then? He had felt, for a second, that he had wanted to…
He mentally shook himself. Maybe it was a mistake to have come here. Razumikhin’s apartment— was he mad? Yes, it was a mistake to accept Razumikhin’s offer from the beginning. No, Razumikhin was good to everyone, there was nothing unusual about this. But therein lied the problem, Razumikhin was good to everyone! So why was he getting so worked up about nothing? The image of Razumikhin and the waitress flashed in his head— The way he had looked at her then, and they were laughing… laughing at him…

“Razumikhin…” He said quietly, half expecting not to be heard.

“Hm? What is it?” Razumikhin was still there. Raskolnikov spoke to the ceiling.

“I’m sorry you had to leave early for my sake. I… didn’t know my own limits…I’m a fool…” Razumikhin cut him off.

“No, no, don’t think that you’re doing me a disservice, brother—no, in fact, you were doing me a favour by making me leave, otherwise I probably would have gotten awfully drunk and from there, well, let’s just say, there are a hundred different ways to embarrass myself and no doubt I would have taken every opportunity…” Razumikhin was already a bit drunk. “Anyway! Don’t torment yourself.”

Raskolnikov was silent.

“I saw you… buttering up the waitress.” There was a silence.

“Well, I’d be the first to admit I’m an ass. I would! But surely even you can’t blame me—did you see her? She was quite a… dish, wasn’t she?”

Raskolnikov snorted.

“Admit it! You thought so too!”

“Would you have taken her home?”

Razumikhin laughed, embarrassed. “I’m not answering that! I… what kind of question is that?”

“A yes or no question.”

Razumikhin paused, faux-serious and squinting. “Well,” he said slowly. “Put it this way: if someone was to offer me a… delicious cake, who would I be to refuse— not that she— don’t look at me like that!” He laughed. “What game are you playing? Are you making fun of me?”

Raskolnikov had turned to face him with an inscrutable expression on his face, his mouth was twitching. “But instead you took me home.” He felt a twinge of horror that he really had just said that, but it disappeared in an instant. Watching Razumikhin’s face grow red and bewildered, his mouth opening and closing comically, he very nearly laughed. Razumikhin’s brow furrowed.

“Now then, what do you…. what is this? What do you mean by that?” he stuttered in a frenzy. Raskolnikov suddenly felt a surge of seething resentment.

“I’m sorry I ruined your night,” Raskolnikov said quietly. His eyes burned with a self-destructive fervour. Razumikhin looked at him, stunned and confused. “That’s what I meant,” he finished. He turned away to stare up at the ceiling again and heard Razumikhin, after a while, finally leave his side, and heard his footsteps recede.

He was shivering. In that moment he felt sick with disgust at everything and everyone, especially himself. He felt like strangling someone so hard that sinew snapped beneath his fingers or running into the street to shout obscenities at the sky until his throat wore raw and his vocal chords ripped. If Razumikhin had touched him at that moment he would have surely struck him. If he had embraced him at that moment he would be struggling, writhing, biting… not that Razumikhin had a reason to do any of those things. And immediately, he felt a remorse, at having thought of these wretched things of Razumikhin, who was so good, so kind and noble that it made his heart ache, and yet so unaware…

He buried his face in the worn fabric of the sofa. It smelled like Razumikhin. This very spot, he guessed, was where he slept every night, since there was no mattress in the room. Suddenly, the thought of Razumikhin’s body, beneath his own, taught and heaving, slick with sweat… His chest tightened, and he felt an all-consuming, aching emptiness that he couldn’t supress any longer, and all the feelings he had supressed, all his most shameful and depraved thoughts swelled within him and rose in his throat, suffocating him. Then he felt panic, real panic take over. He could feel the blood pounding in his head. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. None of this was supposed to happen. Had he lost his mind? Why was he in Razumikhin’s room, on his sofa…bed? He wanted to run out the door, and as far away as he could, but that wasn’t possible— Razumikhin would surely try to stop him. But he was familiar with the layout of rooms such as these— they were all very much the same.

Razumikhin was bent over at his desk, facing the wall. He was absorbed in whatever he was doing— probably studying or working on his translations. A small kerosene lamp was lit, casting long shadows across the room. He raised himself from the couch quietly and passed by unnoticed. Bolted the bathroom door shut with shaking hands, and made sure it was shut. For a while he stood there, tense and listening to his own breathing until he could no longer ignore the tightness in his trousers. He was hot and hard and aching with need. He swallowed and gasped, his breath shaky, as he began to palm himself. Minutes passed, and he was on the floor, his thighs wrenched open, his breathing heavy. He wanted Razumikhin. He wanted to show him how desperate he was to be fucked like a bitch in heat, consumed by animal hunger. He wanted Razumikhin’s eyes, so often bright and kind, to be dulled by longing and ecstasy. He wanted to devour him whole.

There was a banging on the door. He almost had a heart attack. A dozen images flashed in his mind. All of them involved Razumikhin’s shock and disgust, and his own cold horror.

“Rodya, are you in there?”

Razumikhin was in a panic. A dozen horrifying images flashed in his mind. Raskolnikov’s prone body on the floor, choking on his own sick. Or Raskolnikov lying dead, having choked on his own sick. The idiot! He could have sworn that he was lying on the sofa the whole time. It was all his own fault of course, he should have kept a closer eye on him… if he was sick, in God’s name, why didn’t he call for him! He could have easily brought the bucket…

He rattled the door. It was bolted shut.

“Rodya, answer me! Are you alright?” There was a silence as he waited anxiously for a reply.

“…I feel ill is all,” he heard a voice answer faintly from behind the door.

Razumikhin felt a wave of relief.

“You could have told me! What if you had choked or passed out—what then?” He heard the scrape of the bolt being drawn, and the door creaked open. Raskolnikov appeared. He was shaking and sweaty, his face flushed. Razumikhin held a hand to his forehead. “Why, you’re terribly hot… you look as if you have a fever,” he murmured. “Let’s get you lying down—you’ll feel much better, I promise. Easy now, easy—there’s a good fellow…”

A wash bucket was set on the ground with a bang. Razumikhin sat down besides him, a glass of water in his hands. Raskolnikov groaned and waved him away.

“Rodya, you need to drink something,” Razumikhin insisted. Raskolnikov was already propped up on the sofa arm. He leaned over him to bring the glass carefully to his lips. His hair was plastered against his forehead with sweat, his pale skin that possessed an almost translucent quality was flushed. His sharp features, so often scowling and severe, were uncharacteristically soft, his eyes heavy lidded, and in that moment he looked strangely vulnerable. Razumikhin’s hands shook and he spilled the icy water, which trickled down Raskolnikov’s chin. Without thinking, he wiped it away with his thumb. His lips were warm.
Raskolnikov was roused by this. His eyes met his, alight with a certain fervour.

“I don’t want your kindness, Dmitri Prokofich,” he murmured.

“Then what do you want?” he said, a bemused smile quirking his lips.

Raskolnikov pulled him into a kiss. Razumikhin’s eyes widened in surprise.

“This,” he breathed.

Razumikhin didn’t resist him. He leaned in to Raskolnikov, felt the burning wetness of his mouth and tongue, saw those dark eyes that were so often cold and impenetrable consumed by hunger, and shivered. It didn’t take long before he was returning his efforts, eagerly and crudely. Although he was significantly stronger than Raskolnikov, who was thin and slight, he let himself be pushed down as Raskolnikov climbed on top of him.

Raskolnikov could feel Razumikhin’s body beneath his own, muscles tense and coursing with life. He broke the kiss, panting, his pupils dilated. Razumikhin was rosy cheeked, his chest rising and falling. He was looking up at him with a tender smile, his eyes bright with honest joy, a sight that flooded him with an inexplicable sadness.

“You’re a good man, Dmitri Prokofich,” he murmured.

“What’s this now,” Razumikhin said softly, amused. “Are we feeling sentimental?”

“You’re better than the rest of them.” He breathed this into his ear. He felt Razumikhin shiver beneath his touch as his hands roamed down the man’s torso.

“But even good men expect payment for their good deeds,” he said quietly, his lips twisting in an ironical smile. “You needn’t refute me, for that is the nature of man, Dmitri Prokofich.” His fingers reached the tent of Razumikhin’s arousal. He heard Razumikhin’s breath catch, his adam’s apple bobbing. “So, tell me, Dmitri Prokofich. Is this what you wanted?”

But Razumikhin’s smile was gone. He looked troubled.

“Why do you say such things…? You owe me nothing. You know that, Rodya,” he said gently, sounding almost wounded.

“Then allow me to show you my gratitude,” he murmured, his voice barely a whisper, but he knew Razumikhin had heard him because he turned horribly red. He began to undo the man’s trousers. Soon Razumikhin was lying in front of him, fully exposed. He was already swollen and hard. Raskolnikov trailed his slender fingers along the inside of Razumikhin’s thighs. Razumikhin’s muscles tensed with need.

“Rodya...”

Raskolnikov’s eyes met his, and he didn’t advert his gaze as he drew his tongue slowly along the length of his cock, until he had reached the tip. Then he took it in his mouth, teasing the head with his tongue. Razumikhin’s hips jerked up ineffectively. Raskolnikov took a certain pleasure in tormenting him this way. He took him deeper, sucking on him. Razumikhin was panting faintly, his body trembling. Suddenly, Raskolnikov drew back entirely, leaving him aching for release.

“We can’t go on like this,” Raskolnikov said, his words punctuated by ragged breaths. His arousal was intolerable. Razumikhin looked at him questioningly. Raskolnikov climbed on top of him, drawing his face close to his. He opened his mouth to taste him, drawing his tongue along his teeth. “Razumikhin,” he murmured against his lips. “You’re going to fuck me.” He felt Razumikhin’s body shift beneath him.

“Rodya…” he groaned. He was at a loss for words. He felt as if he had lost his grasp on reality. “Let me up for a second…” When Razumikhin returned, he had a small vial of oil in his hands.

“That was quick,” Raskolnikov teased. “You keep that thing handy, do you?”

“Didn’t want to give you the time to change your mind,” he joked, squeezing next to him. Raskolnikov shrugged off his coat and began to undress. Razumikhin noticed that his hands were shaking, fumbling with the buttons on his shirt. Razumikhin held his hands in his own larger and rougher ones, halting his work. “Rodya, let me do it,” he said. He began to unbutton his shirt, revealing the porcelain pallor of his exposed skin, the elegant sharpness of his collarbones, his visible ribcage. He was incredibly thin—Razumikhin felt afraid of breaking him.

He moved to the trousers, feeling Raskolnikov tense up as he undid them. Razumikhin drew a sharp breath. Raskolnikov’s cock was swollen and leaking. He stroked it lightly, grazing the underside of the head. A moan escaped Raskolnikov’s lips, his hips quivering. Razumikhin looked at him cheekily. “Someone’s a little overexcited.” Raskolnikov glared at him, but he was immune to his poisonous looks.

He took the oil and slathered it on himself, and with a hand that was still slick with the stuff, inserted a finger into Raskolnikov’s entrance. Raskolnikov whimpered at the sensation. Eventually he eased himself inside, Raskolnikov’s legs slung over his shoulders and slowly began to rock against him. He felt Raskolnikov shudder around him as his hips thrust forward into the slick tightness of his ass. Raskolnikov moaned in pleasure. He quickened the pace, Raskolnikov crying out every time he hit the sweet spot deep within him. Raskolnikov’s eyes were half closed and unfocused, his face flushed and his mouth agape as he gasped for air, palming himself with desperation. Razumikhin’s hips were thrusting with an unforgiving energy, hard, rough and deep. Suddenly, with a final thrust, Raskolnikov gave a cry, his hips jerking upwards, ropes of cum splattered his torso. Razumikhin soon followed suit, practically melting.

For ages they lay there breathing heavily, bodies slick with sweat, limbs tangled. Raskolnikov could feel Razumikhin’s body against his, warm and solid and strangely comforting. He caught Razumikhin’s eye, who smiled. His crooked, mischievous smile, full of genuine warmth. The very same Razumikhin. He offered his own in return, felt it twist his lips, but he imagined it paled in comparison. His eyelids felt heavy, but he didn’t want them to close. He didn’t want them to open for him to find himself alone, the space beside him empty and cold. But he knew that sleep would come.