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Down Below

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Artyom encountered many people in his journey through the Metro. Anna, for one, was one that he found himself missing at the current moment, despite her constant ridicule and general unpleasant attitude. She was slow to warm to Artyom, but that was understandable. Trust no one fully in the Metro. So while she berated and taunted him when they first met, he never let that fact bother him. If he were completely honest with himself, he couldn't wait until they parted ways for the first time (even if that parting didn't go the way that he had hoped). He preferred to travel alone. Everyone else always ended up leaving him or letting him down in some way.

Artyom was a man of very few words, preferring instead to let his actions speak for themselves. If one didn't know him, he would come across as almost abrasive with his body language. His appearance didn't exactly do him any favors when he had his gas mask on. Intense eyes behind the thick glass covering, shadowed by an almost perpetually furrowed brow. The Metro had forged him from a young naive boy into a grown man capable of atrocities. Atrocities just like the rest of his fellow humans.

Yet he always had a certain softness behind those intense eyes. A softness that betrayed his outward appearance of harshness. Even some of his actions would also reveal that he wasn't like the other people down in the Metro, always fighting tooth and claw with each other. He had a certain level of kindness and selflessness about him that wasn't often seen by others, only felt through action.

He always carried his journal everywhere he went, eager to catalogue his journey and experiences. There were multiple times throughout his travels where he would pull it out and jot down a few sentences to record his thoughts. He became an adept writer through much practice, able to scribble out entire sentences and paragraphs in record time compared to others in the Metro. Sometimes there were even opportunities to make a quick sketch of his surroundings or various monsters, and he always took those chances with great care to his pages.

~*~

Pavel watched as Artyom sat down by the fire, mask off and eyes flicking across the many papers that made up his personal records. He had a well worn and well cared for pencil in hand, the graphite slightly dull but serviceable for the job it was about to undertake. Pavel wondered where the man even had acquired such a thing, as writing utensils were not very common in the Metro (aside from being in the hands of scientists or the artists of Polis). He had half a mind to ask him where he got it, but Pavel was loath to break the comfortable silence they had found themselves in.

Artyom looked thoughtful for just a moment, before taking a tighter hold of his pencil and writing a flurry of words across the paper in record time. It seemed like within a blink of an eye he had already written enough to be considered a full entry. But this time Artyom kept going. This particular situation was different than what Pavel was used to. He would sometimes glance over at Artyom during their journey through the tunnels to see him scribbling away a few idle sentences, but this was something else entirely.

He was a man consumed. The page was full and he had already moved on to the next when Pavel exclaimed suddenly:

"Woah, D'artagnan! Slow down before you start smoking!" Artyom looked up with a small curl of the lip. That was the face he made when slightly exasperated but amused. Pavel grinned and continued, "I mean, we already have one fire, no need to start another one chuvak." Artyom let a quick exhale through his nose and turned his head back down to continue writing, dark hair gleaming in the light of the fire. Although this time he was a lot slower, every now and then taking a few moments to pause before continuing again.

Pavel leaned back against the box behind him, taking off his hat and setting it down on top of it. He let his eyes roam across the dilapidated walls of the tunnel, shadows from the fire dancing and lengthening across the metal and stone. He ran a hand across his head, feeling the short hair shaved close to his skull. A few fingers ran across his jaw as well, stubble scratchy and longer than preferable. He would have to shave soon.

Another glance at Artyom. His hair was longer than Pavel's. There was enough of it atop his head to flop down over his forehead, shadowing his downcast eyes. Enough to run fingers through aimlessly, enough to grip tightly--

It wasn't safe for him. Pavel chewed on the inside of his lip. Artyom was lucky his damned head was covered most of the time, or else enemies could take advantage of his cropped hair and grab fistfuls of it. That's why Pavel kept his shaved. No need to repeat the incident of a few years ago, just simpler to cut it all off.

But there was no need to think of that now. No need to dwell on the past except to learn from it. The complete opposite, it seems, of what Artyom does. He seems to focus and meticulously catalogue every bit of his own past. It was a difference in character between them that wasn't lost on Pavel. A difference in character that might give him trouble when assimilating. Artyom may very well not fit in with the rest of Pavel's comrades. But he would come to learn, eventually.

He had to.

The young man had finally stopped writing in that journal, and instead pulled out a completely blank page and shut the book. He placed it on top of his journal and turned it sideways. Pavel recognized this as the precursor to Artyom drawing something. He had seen a few of his sketches before, and while they weren't amazing or masterpieces, they were clearly something that Artyom put a lot of thought and care into. The way he was angled meant that he couldn't see what Artyom was currently working on, but Pavel hoped that he would show him when he was finished.

The pencil moved across the paper in careful strokes, Artyom glancing up at Pavel every so often and adjusting his own sitting position (presumably to be more comfortable). Whenever his eyes met the other man's, and he realized that Pavel was staring, he quickly looked away and continued drawing. It was almost as if he was uncomfortable by his watching. Odd. Maybe it was some sort of artist thing, as Pavel noticed Artyom only became nervous when he was sketching. It was only a few more minutes before he finished, and Pavel sat up eagerly to see him share his creation.

Except...

Artyom didn't. He only took another look at Pavel before opening his journal and beginning to tuck away his drawing. Pavel let out a displeased noise and started to move closer. "Aw, come on Artyomshka! You aren't gonna show me?" Artyom shook his head and shot him a mild glare, clearly annoyed at Pavel's antics. "Was it because I was staring? I didn't mean anything by it, is just interesting to watch!" Artyom blankly stared at him, as if to say 'That's not the point, idiot.' Pavel scooted around the fire and moved even closer as Artyom slammed the book shut. "You know that just makes me more curious, prav? What exactly were you drawing that you can't even show me, your Athos?"

Another short glare was his answer as Artyom shoved the book back into his pack, much less gentle than the other times Pavel had watched him put it away. He turned to look out into the tunnel, silently asserting himself as the one to take first watch for their respite. Pavel knew better than to argue with him at this point. The only thing he could do now was drop the subject and get some rest before they had to move again. Artyom would get over it eventually, and hopefully show him the picture once he calmed down. Pavel moved back to his side of the fire and stretched out his stiff legs in front of him, tired from all of the running and jumping they did today. A sudden wave of exhaustion swept over him, the day's events playing through his mind and reminding him of the deep ache in his very bones.

He laid down on the hard ground, facing Artyom's back. The man was tense and sitting up straight, hands on his weapon and toying idly with the controls. The last thoughts Pavel had before slipping into sleep were of the drawing Artyom refused to show him, and of his anger.