When the sun rises he will die, this he knows.
When the sun rises he will die, or wish he had, this he knows.
But that is when the sun rises.
The moon, the benevolent moon, is still high in the sky, still mistress of the realm, when Vladimir leaves the Larin’s party. Olga held him tight in her arms and pressed sweet kisses to his face while Evgeny left. He promised to avenge her, their, honour as he stepped out of her embrace. Told her he loved her and bid them all farewell. Now he ignores the carriage and wanders through the small village.
The cold bites at his cheeks and he tips his head back to worship the last of the moonlight that inspired him so often through his short life. Snow drifts down upon him. He feels alive that night, so close to his death.
He marvels over the beauty of it all, and allows himself to wander, as he has done many times, sure he will return home. But as he walks, he thinks of the jealousy and hurt he felt watching his dearest friend dance with Olga. Of Evgeny accepting the duel that the threw out because that’s what he had to do. Lensky had no choice but to throw the glove; honor is worth death.
Olga is worth dying for. That is the truth.
Except his feet betray him and he finds himself standing in front of Evgeny’s door instead of his own - he doesn’t think about just how this is a betrayal. He can see the soft glow of candle light through one of the downstairs windows and knocks on before he loses his nerve.
There is silence, snow settling in his hair and the light comes closer. The door creaks softly and Evgeny stands before him. The soft brown curls on the top of his head caramelise with the flickering flame of the candle he holds and he looks gently down at the younger man.
“Vladimir,” he murmurs, the night softening his usual apathy to something that Vladimir recognises but would wish to immortalise in prose. He hardly has the time to do it any justice. “Lensky why have you come?” Onegin searches the sky briefly, “It is hardly anywhere near dawn.”
“I do not know,” the words feel stilted and heavy in his mouth, he grimaces and looks away. Onegin looks at him, incredulous, before stepping to the side and gesturing for Lensky to enter his house. Vladimir’s breath catches in his throat and he feels tears in his eyes because he loves Evgeny so much (he’s his best friend after all) and takes a moment to compose himself. Vladimir steps through the door, brushing against Evgeny’s chest gently as he does.
Evgeny closes the door behind him, the candle blows out with the displacement of air, but Vladimir can still traverse the halls of this house as if it was his own in the dark. He leads Evgeny to one of the smaller rooms to meet guests that he quite sure that only he has frequented with the young master of the house. He’s rather lucky in such regard. He feels the heat of Evgeny behind his back, a testament to how close they are, and considers himself lucky all together for other things. He forces the thought to be fleeting and lets them into the room.
Lensky doesn’t sit, but watches as Onegin relights the candle and places it in the middle of the table that sits between two plush armchairs. Onegin splays over his chair, one leg hitched over the arm and turns his head slightly to look over the back at him.
“Won’t you sit, Lensky?” He gestures airly at the other chair, the renewed candlelight playing with the sharp and the curves of his face, with the curl falling across his forehead. It’s enrapturing. Vladimir realises he hasn’t reacted to Evgeny’s question and nods hastily before quickly making his way to his own chair. He perches upon the edge, a mockery of when passion of his prose would push him to the edge of his seat to share it with Evgeny. Now he tries to take up as little space as he possibly could in that chair. He already is a slight thing and must look ridiculous, by the raised eyebrow sent his way. They catch eyes before both looking away. Vladimir plays with his hair while Evgeny seems as he usually is; apathetic and waiting for anything to interest him.
They sit in silence as the small flame flickers, the wax melts and the mistress moon above watches through the window.
Eventually Vladimir thinks of something to say,
“I am sorry,” Evgeny turns his head to look at him. Vladimir tugs one of the long, dark curls around his face, “I do not wish for this to continue. Did not wish for a duel to arise. It is laughable; a duel over a harmless dance.” Evgeny releases a humourless laugh,
“But it must now.”
Vladimir wrings his hands in his lap and tries to get his thoughts in check so that what he says and feels might make sense to this opposite of his. Sun and Moon that they are.
“For honor,” Onegin opens his mouth, but Lensky explains quickly, “Not mine, as much, but Olga’s. Especially after I made such a public fuss. This farce must continue so that she and you aren’t sullied with the rumours of affair. So that you both may love and marry whomever you like after my death.”
“It is not certain you will die.”
“Your aim is far too good to miss and if your blood spilled the dawn’s snow I would die myself. Anyway, I would be happy to die for love.”
“You do not look happy.” He looks into the piercing eyes of Onegin’s and his face falls. He could not possibly explain what he has pointedly not been thinking (but oh the poems he could write about Evgeny, have written and promptly hidden). But, then again, he will die in the morning. He might as well try.
“I did not like that you danced with Olga.” Onegin rolls his eyes,
“It was just a party, Lensky”
“I did not like that it was you who danced with her.” Onegin seems to take a moment to process the stressed ‘you’, because he freezes and adjusts to sit up straight across from Lensky.
“Would anyone else dancing with Olga have been acceptable with you?”
“It wouldn’t have mattered to me.” He cannot look at Onegin, let alone into his eyes, so he lets his hair fall in his eyes and looks down at his hands. His knuckles are turning white and he doesn’t dare to breathe. Onegin stands and makes his way around the low table, Lensky can see his legs, to stand in front of him. Onegin brushes two fingers through his hair to smooth along his cheek. Onegin cups his face, gently pushing Lensky’s chin up so their eyes met. His front shrouded in shadow, only his eyes were bright and they bore into Lensky’s.
“You were jealous of Olga,” his eyes fall away in shame, but Onegin’s fingers tighten slightly, not enough to hurt, to make him look back up, “You wish to dance with me.” It was stated like a question, confusing Lensky because it was pretty clear currently. He frowns slightly. Onegin laughs gently,
“You misunderstand cheri. Would you dance with me?” The hand leaves his face and hangs in the air, open for him to take.
“There is no music. No space either.”
“Doesn’t matter. Dance with me.” He takes Evgeny’s hand allows himself to be pulled to his feet. They stand chest to chest, noses almost touching. Evgeny laughs gently and holds Vladimir’s waist with his other hand. Lensky places his free hand on Evgeny’s shoulder and they sway awkwardly on the spot. This happens for a few seconds before the hand on Lensky’s waist moves around his back and pulls him in. He hums gently a few bars of refrain that played earlier that night, while he moves his hand to grip the front of Evgeny’s shirt and tucks his nose into the space between the shoulder and neck. Evgeny rests his face against his curls.
Vladimir’s heart thumps against his ribs. Trying to beat a lifetime's amount in the scant amount of time left.
Evgeny sways them softly, holds him tightly and Vladimir tries not to cry.
The fingers of their clasped hands entwine. Evgeny leads them into a slow dance that is unconventional and wouldn’t grace a ballroom, but worked for their small, private ball. Sway, sway, turn, sway, clutch as tight as you can so you can feel the other’s heart beat in your own chest. They felt truly alive.
Eventually, as the candle ran out and wax spilled along the table, Evgeny spun Vladimir out and back in slowly until Vladimir’s back rested against his chest. Evgeny’s arms slipped around his waist and Lensky held the hands close to his stomach. There they swayed, a parody of lovers. There the moon began to grow tired and begin to leave to slumber. There they cried for the other.
They stood like that and watched the window.
Watched the dawn begin to paint the sky red as blood.
Vladimir slips out of arms that don’t want to let him go. He wipes his eyes and turns to look up into Evgeny’s face. He wiped the tear tracks away and, in a fit a bravery, kisses the corner of his mouth. Then he leaves the room.
“I’ll see you very soon, my dear friend.”
He thinks, as he walks towards the lake and his final resting place, I lived before I died .