With so many party members, higher-ranking officers, and Kolya beside him, Lev felt completely out of place. The whole event was far more extravagant than he could have imagined, with mountains of food lining the long tables tucked into the corner of the room and glasses of wine diligently being refilled after even one sip had been taken. But it was a wedding after all. Maybe this is how they always were, but he wouldn’t know.
Kolya seemed in his element in such an environment. He acted as if he knew the song that the pianist was playing as he far too quickly shoveled another bite of cake into his mouth, rolling his eyes when Lev gave him the slightest bit of judgment. Despite his manners or lack thereof, he looked as if he belonged in the fancy clothing he wore, even though he had assured Lev that he was, in fact, wearing his second-best attire. His first best attire was ever so graciously lent to Lev for the night. The clothes were nice, sure, but on Lev’s waifish body they only seemed to swallow him whole. His wardrobe was lacking any formalwear though, and he was at least touched by Kolya's consideration of his appearance at such a highbrow event.
In contrast to his striking appearance, it was so embarrassingly apparent that Kolya was not benefitting from the abundance of alcohol being served. His words were occasionally slurred, and his cheeks were rosy and warm. Occasionally he’d loudly (though he likely figured he was whispering) point out a potential suitor for Lev, almost always a blonde and certainly married young woman that wasn’t nearly as attractive as Kolya probably thought. While he was looking away, scanning the room for more women to suggest, Lev carefully took the glass of wine from in front of him and finished it off quickly before setting the glass underneath his chair.
“It's a pleasure to see you fine young men here.”
Lev turned around and politely smiled and nodded to the Colonel, who patted his back twice.
“Thank you for the invitation again, Colonel Grechko.”
“After the trouble you two have been through, it’s only fair,” he sighed pleasantly and turned over his shoulder to look at the elegant bride, his daughter, who had been making her rounds of conversation.
“Isn’t she a beauty? My Nadezhda.”
Lev felt a sort of shame. Neither he nor Kolya had known the name of the girl whose wedding they were enjoying, the girl who had been dancing around their minds during the late nights this past week.
“She looks lovely,” Kolya finally spoke, and he actually sounded at least half sober. He was always good at regaining composure quickly.
“How are you healing?” The colonel raised a brow and turned his head to Kolya, who laughed and shook his head.
“About as well as you might expect, sir. Walking is rather difficult at times, but my friend here has been quite a bit of help!” Kolya leaned over and snaked an arm around Lev. He smelled only of wine and thick, rich cologne that made Lev’s heart beat quicker within the cage that was his chest.
“You two are a strange couple, but I’m glad, Vlasov.”
“So I've been told,” Lev added softly, before realizing the colonel had walked away and Kolya was staring at him without removing his arm from its place around Lev’s shoulders. His nose was almost brushing against Lev’s cheek, and it took everything inside Lev not to blush feverishly and to instead ignore him so close.
“Who told you so?” Kolya asked, not moving away despite the embarrassing lack of space between them.
“Vika, but it was just a joke of course,” Lev shook his head, sort of shaking Kolya off along with it.
With this, Kolya leaned against the back of his chair, wincing slightly before sighing and looking at his hands. Lev knew there was nothing beneath his nails that were always kept so perfectly clean after they had returned, save for the slight discoloration of bloodstains that refused to fade. His eyes remained fixed on the imperfection that didn’t exist, until lev accidentally swung his leg too far backward and kicked the wine glass over. It was then that Kolya glanced over to him, looking underneath his chair and raising a brow.
“Hm. How did that get there?” He looked back up to lev before smirking, “That’ll be four hundred rubles, sir.”
“Random price, hm?”
“Are you trying to bargain, Mister Lev Abramovich Beniov? No? That’s what I thought, now pay up or we’ll send you to the Crosses again,” Kolya laughed and nudged Lev’s shoulder in a gesture that was in no way intimate but made Lev’s heart skip a quick beat. He wished he could discard the stupid thing along with the half-broken glass beneath him into the trash, or in some hole in the ground where it couldn’t return.
“Did you powder your face before we came?” Lev raised a brow, looking at Kolya's cheeks with a strange suspicion.
“Hm? No, not that I remember. Ha! Perhaps my face is just this perfect,” Kolya smirked and Lev knew he had lost the battle once more. Speaking with Kolya tonight, or any night since he had nearly bled out in his arms and Lev had come to a terribly unfortunate conclusion, was like playing a game of tug-of-war that would never be won.
There were another few minutes of silence, but this time Kolya didn’t seem affected. He just watched the bride and her groom dance along to the music Lev was certain Kolya had some opinion about.
“Have you ever been to a wedding, my friend?”
“Not that I can recall.”
“I've been to a few,” he responded to the question no one had yet asked, “There was one, relatively recently, for an old comrade of mine. He was marrying this girl he didn’t even really like, and it was so obvious. The way they talked about each other was about as unloving as the way old couples who have been through fifty years interact.”
“Really?” Lev asked. He only sort of wanted to hear the story, but he knew he’d hear it whether he was engaged or not.
“Yes, and they would always fight. He’d insult her subtly, except it wasn’t very subtle and she’d shoot back with another insult far sharper than the last. It was brutal to watch, especially knowing he was only putting up with her. He’d never even shown interest in another woman before the wedding no one really expected nor believed.”
“Must have been an awkward wedding then, huh.”
“Yes, except awkward is an understatement. Even more awkward when he and I got drunk and...,” Kolya gestured with his hands before stopping and shaking his head. “Ha! but that doesn’t matter now, does it? Still married, last I checked. Granted, it’s only been a few months.”
Lev’s interest was piqued for the first time during that entirely too long story. He looked Kolya up and down for any sign of sarcasm or straight-up lying, but he seemed as honest as ever.
“Do you ever see yourself marrying, Lev? Would you have a Jewish wedding with the broken glass and all?” Kolya didn’t look at him and instead watched the bride with the name Lev had already forgotten and the groom dance once more.
“I guess I haven’t thought too hard about it,” Lev shrugged, his eyes still lingering on Kolya's which seemed to soften as he watched the romantic scene before him. “Do you plan on being a bachelor forever?”
“A bachelor huh? That’s a lofty way to describe my painfully underwhelming relationship status,” he snorted, glancing back at Lev once before returning his eyes to their old home found at the bride’s backside, “I had thought about marrying Sonya, the lovely woman whose wedding we are at now, and of course Miss Viktoriya at times. Quite often, actually, though the thoughts only stuck around for a few moments at a time.”
“That’s surprising,” Lev furrowed his brow and shrugged, “I’m sure you’d find a woman if you weren’t so painfully unfunny.”
“Ha,” Kolya rolled his eyes, shaking his head. “It’s not a question of if I could, it’s if that’s what I even want. Who knows, little lion?”
“You should marry. You’ll need to settle down one day.”
“Today is not that day, not as far as I can tell at least,” he sighed softly.
And with that, the two turned to face the dancing newlyweds on the floor, watching their graceful turns and spins and gentle yet stable dips, hoping that the soft piano in the background would be enough to focus on instead of the heavy silence surrounding them.