Raskolnikov does not get along well with the other prisoners. They are mostly revolutionaries: hard men with the spark of an idea motivating them to action. Raskolnikov scoffs at their naivety; yet he says nothing. As always he remains silent and solemn. He thinks their faith is misplaced.
It is very cold in Siberia, and that is his greatest concern. The food is terrible, but he does not mind that. He eats better than he did when he was alone because the labor he does demands it. And the labor… it keeps him occupied. He has no time for idle hands to act upon idle thoughts.
He is suffering, yes, but that feeling is no stranger to him. Now, at least, his suffering feels though it is building towards something; before his suffering had only been pointless: a slow fall from grace. Raskolnikov knows from Sonia of God’s forgiveness for his regret alone, but he is not accepting this punishment to please God. He is bowing to the law of man for his own sanity. He must feel, for himself, as though he deserves God’s grace: regardless of if he does.
It all proved to him something he would hold to in the future: there are no extraordinary men, no men above God.
Sonia had accompanied him to this place; despite his pleas for her to stay behind she had insisted. The other man loved her: her sweet disposition, her unending faith, and no doubt her pretty face. They loved her more than they even noticed him, but he imagined that was how it should be. Sonia had a tendency to reach out to those who needed her, and enlighten them with an ease Raskolnikov did not understand. He knew his limits: he was focused on his own recovery.
Sonia makes even the frozen wasteland they occupy bearable. She reads scripture to the prisoners, she prays with them, she brings in much better food than they can get themselves, she hand-makes blankets: she is warmth. Raskolnikov would have protested her working so hard, her coming at all, if he did not know that she enjoyed the work: that she was seeking a redemption for her own sins.
Raskolnikov thinks often of Victor. He sits beside Sonia when he can, and he tells her everything that transpired between them. She is quick to reassure of him of God’s grace, but she also scolds him for aspects of the attachment. He is not bothered by this; he has long accepted he will never be completely pure of heart. What man is? Either way it does not really matter… Raskolnikov is not sure that he will ever see Victor again. He has years left in this sentence yet…
Victor paces the floor of his make-shift lab, but he really does not have to wait long. The monster, his monster, arrives in short order.
“Are you seeking to mock me with this?” The monster growls while surveying the equipment. “What is your intent replicating an experiment you yourself swore you would never do again?”
“Things have changed.” Victor says this with a smile that he cannot contain.
“Before you refused another like myself. You were going to sacrifice not only your life but the lives of those you professed to love to keep me in this purgatory loneliness you created me to bear. What could have possibly changed so much that I can trust you?” The monster is stalking around the lab.
“Love.” Victor chuckles. “Being in love. Being loved. Realizing that I too could love myself as others did. That is why you can trust me, because you are right about me; I was willing to sacrifice them and myself… My excuse before was that I was beyond it all. What point, I imagined, would there be in amending what I had done? Love showed me the err to this way of thought. There is no man, nor any monster, beyond saving.”
“Saving?!” The monster lifts an arm of the corpse that rests between them. “I am not in need of saving from any sin besides my own existence and that, ‘doctor’, is not my fault!”
This time Victor does not feel anger or sorrow upon pondering his monster’s accusations. He has finally dealt with those emotions, and will no longer overreact.
“Yes. I have been nothing but wrong when it comes to you.” He thinks of the love in his heart for Elizabeth, Henry, his dark north star… “And I see, having seen I was not lacking what I imagined I was, how devastated I would be without it. That is what I did to you. Left you without what all men need. I left you destitute, ignorant, and beyond love. Not once have I faced that. Tonight I do.”
Creator and created face one another in the birthplace of grisly horrors as God had never intended; the first bows his head.
“Do you forgive me, my creation? Will you allow me this redemption? To do what I owe you?”
The creation looks down upon the man who has tormented him for over a year now. “Will she love me?”
Victor smiles. “I cannot guarantee that. But either way you will not be alone.”
“And if you don’t keep your promise to me… I will keep mine. Remember that.”
Victor laughs at his creation’s threats. After this he will see Rodya again and without fear; he will look him the eyes and share his conviction; he will no longer be ashamed….
“I could never forget.”
Raskolnikov was resigned to his fate; he did not dream of rescue any more than one was expected. Sonia, then, bore him unexpected news when she arrived in the company of one of the men expected to keep the prisoners as such.
“A man has… well, I think he is your man that is to say the one you have spoken of he has come here and…” Sonia seems to be in shock.
The guard impatiently takes over, grabbing Raskolnikov’s arm. “Come with me.”
“I have not done anything wrong since I’ve been here!” Raskolnikov protests without struggle.
“This not a punishment. You have a friend outside.” The guard snaps.
Raskolnikov falls silent. He knows what it means to be taken to an outside friend. He knows how common release is upon bribery… What he does not know is who… Sonia had said something about his man, but it could it be? The state he last saw victor in gave him little hope for such a possibility.
Snowflakes twist through the depressingly thick grey atmosphere, one at a time landing on his ragged clothes and pale skin. Before he had never detailed the things around himself… he had never stepped from his own head long enough to observe, and now Freedom. Could it be? Was he truly redeemed? Did he even deserve to be free? These days he met his questions with a calm mind and the knowledge that his asking them about his future was reassurance that he would have one.
They come to a waiting carriage, one that is just out of view of the prisoners and the other guards. Beside this carriage a tall man waits. Raskolnikov smiles in spite of himself. He knows that other man instantly. No longer does he see a phantom of a man… he is truly reformed.
“And the payment?” The guard steps between them menacingly.
Victor just smiles. “Of course good sir. No need for aggression.”
He pays off the guard without even batting an eye. Raskolnikov shakes his head; reformed or not Victor still has no head for money.
“Take him then.” The guard shoves Raskolnikov forward, executing a last show of authority before returning to the camp behind them.
“I’ve come to rescue you.” Victor says.
“Well, yes, obviously I can see…” Rodya stops himself. He smiles. “Yes.”
Victor extends an arm. “As you have rescued me.”
Rodya accepts the other man’s hand; through the holes in his well-worn gloves he can feel black silk and the warmth of flesh. Victor pulls Rodya gently against his chest.
“You have gained much needed weight.” Rodya comments. Victor was so thin before…
Victor chuckles. “You have not.”
“No.” Rodya’s smile fades. “I am… in prison, after all. And while I do appreciate, Victor, I am not sure I belong outside of such a place.”
Victor holds Rodya tighter; he does not need to meet his eyes to understand his doubt.
“This place will grant you no more redemption than you have already allowed yourself. The confession was what you truly needed; the courage to face what you have done and take responsibility before others. You are not being reformed here because you are already irrecoverably changed.” This might be the longest that Rodya has allowed Victor to speak, and the first time Rodya finds his words comforting. “What is it to be here? What could it be but a waste of human life to punish a man who is already healed? You possess no danger to anyone around you any longer. I can tell you such, but you already know it to be true. As does your friend here.”
Rodya turns his head slightly. He had forgotten about Sonia… She sighs, fiddling with the edges of her coat.
“… I have no doubt you have experienced great guilt because you are not the sort that would commit such violence, in your heart, and upon having realized that you shall not try again but… oh, Rodya must you go now? Even if you are no longer a danger to anyone, is he in your best interest?”
“Have I not proven a part of me will always live in sin? Sonia I understand your concern and I appreciate your love for me but…” Rodya looks back to Victor. “I love this man. Strange as it seems I need him.”
They exchange a tender look. Sonia does not move. Rodya moves away from victor for a moment, to approach her.
“Will you not join us? There is no reason for you to stay here any longer.”
“No.” Sonia steps back as though he may grab her. “You are wrong. You are far from the only man here who needs me still. I am making a change in these men’s lives and that is important to me. I… I am doing much better for their virtue than I could at home.”
“Sonia you need not atone here-”
“I know, Rodya, but I want the men here with me to have the chance to atone. I am not here because of some twisted guilt. I am here still because this work is deeply rewarding.”
Rodya takes her hands in his. He kisses her knuckles gently.
“Do you allow me this leave?” He asks. Her permission is essential to his decision.
She smiles. She knows what she is to him. “You go with my blessing, Rodya. Remember you go with the grace of God.”
“Thank you… You have saved my life. You have been invaluable.”
And for a moment they stand together. Victor is silent; he recognizes this moment as the same he shared with Elizabeth not one week ago.
“Go.” Sonia pulls her hands from his. “You waste your time with me.”
“I love you Sonia.”
She smiles. “Go.”
Victor mounts the lower step of his carriage and again offers a hand out. Rodya takes it, and allows himself to be pulled into the carriage. Just before the door closes he steals one last look back at Sonia; she has turned away, and is quickly disappearing into the misty grey horizon.
Within the thick velvet lined walls there is a bubble of peaceful silence. Rodya turns away from the window to settle under Victor’s arm; both men break from their past to rhythm of wood on stone.
“My dark north star…” Victor mutters into Rodya’s hair. The target of this utterance snorts.
“Is that how you think of me?”
“Yes, of course. You are my guiding light in the north, a dark pull that-”
“I have called you fool in my thoughts. Selfish. Delusional. Impossible… broken.”
Victor raises an eyebrow. “And you accept those things, accept me, to love me?”
“No. I love you despite those things. I love you because you are not the sum of your issues: I love you for the man that you can become despite what you are. I would never want you to accept me as a murderer. I want you to believe I am more than that. My love does not come as mere acceptance; it is a promise to work against your faults every day for your own sake.”
Rodya glances up at Victor. “You’re a poor listener.”
“Did you just promise forever to me?”
“We are both obsessive.”
Beyond the glass the snow has stopped its soft fall and the grey skies are giving way to a vision of pink and gold as the sun begins its rest below their new horizon.
“Where are we going?” Rodya asks.
Victor laces their fingers. “Anywhere.”
And they ride together into a hot cinnamon sunset.