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Do Svidanya

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Leo has gone still. The weight of him is heavy against Zoya's side, made heavier still by the chains pulling at his wrists and ankles. Elena sits to his right, her arm overlapping with her sister's where they drape around their father's back, but it's Zoya's shoulder Leo's head had come to rest on. He couldn't manage to stand for long, not with the restraints dragging at his limbs, and so they sat on the floor. The only place in the cramped cell that could allow them this much closeness.

It's awkward and uncomfortable, but neither sister had been expecting hospitality when they came here. Even with Elena's pregnancy adding to the discomfort of it, she sits with her legs tucked under her and her arms wrapped around Leo with her chin on his shoulder, as if he's the child and she's the mother soothing him to sleep. It leaves Zoya bearing the weight of both of them, but she doesn't mind. Let him draw what comfort he can in this place.

Leo had cried for a long time when they'd first arrived. Water continued to drip from the pipe in the corner and three streams of tears fell to join the flow. Then they'd talked, and several times Leo had even smiled, placing his hands on Elena's rounded belly and listening to their stories. Then he'd rested his head on Zoya's shoulder and closed his eyes.

It's far from the first time she's watched him sleep. She still vividly remembers the days she'd stood over his unconscious form with a knife pointed at his throat, tracing the tip across his chest and abdomen as she imagined plunging it home. The thought turns her stomach now.

Let him be alright, she thinks. Let them find him innocent, so he can leave this place and see the sun again.

It's an impossible dream, she knows. She can no more save Leo now than he could have brought back her parents all those years ago.

Zoya turns her face into his unkempt hair and a tear slips down her cheek. The harshness of his breathing isn't drowning out the dripping from the pipe anymore. She doesn't know that she can hear it at all.

A shiver runs through her. "Leo?"

He feels different, all of a sudden. Colder. Like the fire that had heated her side has ceased burning. Anxiously, Zoya glances at Elena, and sees her sister's eyes are red as she lies with her hand resting on Leo's chest.

"Papa?" Zoya says it louder, voice catching in her chest as her throat tightens. She straightens up, alert as she presses her fingertips against Leo's neck and feels her own heart begin to race. No pulse. No, Leo, please…

She's trembling when she gets to her knees, trying to take the weight of him from her sister as she moves to lower Leo's body to lie flat on the floor. "Elena, call a guard. He needs medical attention. I need—I need equipment…"

Instinct kicks in as she recalls her lessons from medical school, trying not to allow herself to be distracted by Leo's slack face as she laces her fingers over his sternum and prepares to attempt resuscitation. It doesn't even register at first when Elena's hand closes gently around her wrist to hold her back, then Zoya blinks. She looks up to see her sister's eyes shining and cheeks streaked with moisture in the meager light.

Elena gives the tiniest shake of her head. No, her eyes say. Let him go.

Zoya's immediate instinct is to fight. Her fingers twitch, ready to shove Elena off and try anyway, and then her eyes fall on Leo's face again and the full weight of the situation hits her like a punch to the gut. The first sob wracks her chest.

He's gone, she thinks. He's with Raisa now. That brilliant light of humanity that shone so defiantly in the face of injustice, that had weathered a gulag to protect his family and had continued to burn even in exile and disgrace, has at last gone dark. It's better this way. No trial, no firing squad. It was peaceful. The small comfort Zoya can glean from that doesn't stay the tears. She lifts her arms from Leo’s motionless chest and throws them around her sister, the both of them openly weeping as they embrace with Leo's body between them. Teardrops fall to dampen his filthy shirt.

When they can at last bear to part, Zoya looks down at her father again and reaches for his hand. With his slack fingers clasped tight in her own, Zoya holds tight onto Elena with her other hand and leans down to press a soft kiss to Leo's brow. She'd refused to call him father, once. Now she doesn't know how he could be anything else.

"Goodbye, papa," she mutters. "It's over. You can rest now."