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The Aftermath

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“Nikolai!”

“Wesley!”

He struggles to catch his breath. He can’t believe it. The hope he felt that it would work had been so strong, but the terror had been there as well. Standing in front of the soldiers, he imagined coming back to his home without Wesley, and the thought had nearly overtaken him, nearly paralyzed him with fear. But the idea that he might be able to travel with him, if he timed his formulating plan perfectly, had been more than enough to keep him focused on what he had to do. Now, standing with him in the kitchen, Nikolai’s smile is in no danger of fading.

“Oh man...what do we do now?” Wesley asks, sounding a little breathless himself, but returning a bit of a smile.

Nikolai is about to respond, when a realization suddenly dawns on him. Looking around, panic grips him as he tries to find the words he needs to say.

“My uncle...he’ll come back here...we have to go.”

They finally release each other, and when Wesley points out sadly that they don’t have their bags or things anymore, Nikolai gives his arm a quick squeeze as he passes by him, moving quickly to the front door. Looking back with a kind expression, he gently notes that it’s not ideal, but they’ll have to make do without them.

“Should we take anything from here with us?” Wesley asks, as he follows him.

“There’s no time - I...the risk being here…” Nikolai can’t finish his response. He doesn’t want to alarm him any further, so he tries to contain the urgency that he feels. He’s so happy that they’re both alive, but if his uncle showed up, Wesley would be in danger.

“Hey...it’s OK, we’ll get going then.” Wesley says, resting one hand briefly on Nikolai’s shoulder and starting to open the front door with the other. All the while gifting him with another small smile.

Nikolai instantly feels better at that. The unease isn’t completely gone, but Wesley has always been good at helping him when his thoughts and emotions become overwhelming. The calmness that can wash over him in his presence is something Nikolai doesn’t think he’ll get used to, but he knows he wants to experience it, to be around him, whenever he can.

They rush down the stairs, and leave the building with caution. There aren’t many pedestrians or vehicles in the visible area, so they make their way down the street, Nikolai choosing the direction. He wasn’t sure initially where they’d go, but he’d thought of the abandoned mansion where they’d met, and decided it was the best option for them.

Walking quickly, they keep an eye out for soldiers who may stop them, staying out of sight as much as possible. But Nikolai’s real concern involves his uncle, he remembers the threat that was made all too well - that if Wesley caused any trouble, he would be paying for it with his life. He isn’t at fault though, but Nikolai knows that his uncle holds blame for the both of them, and he doesn’t want to discover what he’ll do if he sees them again.

They reach the house in good time, and after making sure it’s safe to do so, Nikolai climbs the outer wall. Once balanced on the ledge, he helps Wesley make his way up. Fortunately, there’s a tree near enough that allows them to drop down easily on the other side.

“Never thought I’d be happy to see this place again.” Wesley says, playfully nudging Nikolai’s elbow with his own.

Nikolai returns a smile, but signals that they have to be quiet. He starts to make his way across the overgrown grass, towards the house. Hesitating before going inside, he looks back at Wesley, a step behind him, who gives him a nod and an expression as if to say “everything will be alright, we’re with each other”.

They carefully walk through the house, at a slow pace, checking every room for any signs of change. Nikolai does most of the investigating, as he doesn’t want Wesley to feel too upset. After all, he was staying with the family who lived here as a guest, before...something happened, and he was left to die with an injured leg. He was alone when Nikolai had found him, who had been searching for anything to eat, drink, or sell, and it looks like no one has been here since.

Making their way down to the basement, Nikolai notices a few chairs stacked up in the corner of the space, and grabbing one, returns to the stairs to prop it under the handle of the door at the top. Just in case, he thinks, and walking back to where Wesley is, he sees him sitting in the exact same spot as when he’d found him months before, leaning against the wall, and appearing lost in thought. Nikolai joins him, and focuses on taking deep breaths while opening and closing his fist, the trick that Wesley had taught him.

“Are you feeling OK?” He asks. When Nikolai nods but doesn’t look up to meet his eyes, he continues. “I’m sorry about what happened with your uncle, I just thought I could try to help, and I wanted to, when we got to Toronto, but I didn’t mean to...I don’t know. And I’m sure you must be scared, I am too, but I’m going to do whatever I can to protect you, from everything. You’ve done so much for me, and thank you doesn’t begin to cut it for saving my life twice.”

“You’ve already helped me...more than you know.” Nikolai says. “We’ll get you back to your family in Canada.” He thinks about the photo of his own family, which he no longer has, for a moment. “For now, Romania it is. I’ll find some food and water soon, but first, we could use some rest.”

“There should be a radio upstairs, I could see if it still works, or fix it if need be. You know...for music down here.” Wesley adds, smiling.

Nikolai smiles back, but then a thought occurs to him.

“You know...you haven’t done anything wrong.”

Wesley looks away at that, but expresses his thanks. They sit in a comfortable silence for a while. Nikolai closes his eyes, wishing he could listen to Wesley’s voice more, but when he feels his friend’s head rest on his shoulder and senses him dozing off, he is more than alright with that.