And Zavulon Smiled
by Hecate

The war started some days after they lost Jegor to the Day Watch. It didn't look like a real war at first, it didn't feel like one either. It was tension and provocation and encounters that broke into random violence. Nothing new. Nothing they hadn't seen before. But it was stronger now, more vicious, more brutal and somehow... much more important.

It was the Night Watch that pressed for it and the Day Watch that tried to smooth the waves, and that was new. But to start a real war now was the only chance they had. To start the war and weaken the Dark Others before Jegor came into his full powers, and the side of the Light was lost.

Anton did his part, tired and weary, and he felt like he was aging and falling apart. Like he was on his way down. His body was colder now, yet stronger, but the heaviness that settled on him when Zavulon took Jegor away was still there. Still there, and it pulled him down into utter darkness.

Anton couldn't talk to his boss anymore. He rarely talked to Olga. Every time he was around Geser he felt angry, he felt something close to hatred, and he didn't want either of them to know.

Geser had failed him. Geser was his leader, his mentor, and he hadn't understood Zavulon's plan and now Jegor was lost. And Geser... Geser wanted a war. A war to stop Zavulon and Jegor. A war to pull Jegor to the side of the light, if that was at all possible. But Anton knew that Geser didn't believe in this, that he had only mentioned this possibility to appease Anton. Geser was ready to kill Jegor.

Geser was ready to kill Anton's son. And he expected Anton to be ready as well.

Anton could feel himself grow brittle through his work now. He was uncomfortable among his once trusted colleagues. Their missions left a bitter after taste in his mouth and he couldn't go home fast enough to catch a few hours' sleep and drink more than a few glasses of vodka.

The only good moment he had now was cramped into the short moments of dusk when he climbed up the stairs to his apartment after a long night and he could hear easy steps coming down the stairs.

Kostya always stopped and gave him a long look and Anton always nodded his greeting. "Morning." "Morning." There was always an awkward silence then, the distance between them only a step and a breath.

"So...had a good night?" It was a strange question, but Anton never commented on that. "It was ok. I guess." He always gave the same answer and to Kostya's credit he never tried to push for more. He never tried to find out about the plans of the Night Watch. Kostya only nodded and smiled briefly. "I see you tomorrow." Anton tried to smile then and failed and Kostya walked down the stairs, leaving him behind. He felt lonely then, too lonely, and he turned on the TV for company right after he entered his apartment.

`See you tomorrow', Anton thought and a part of him was scared because these words, coming from a vampire, belonged to the only things he still looked forward to. The vampire was the only thing he still looked forward to, and he missed Kostya more than he wanted to admit.

The TV stayed on every night. TV shows, action movies and the news, the background of his life in his apartment. Screams and blood and a feeling of wrongness, the background every time he stepped outside. He had never wanted this. He had wanted to fight the good fight, that's why he had chosen the side of the light. But now, now he fought a war he didn't care for, on a side he wasn't as sure about as he used to be.

Anton slept like a stone, like he died every morning after his patrol only to be reborn at night. But no, not reborn. Reactivated. Like a robot, a tool in a war now, and he became colder with every passing day.

And then, one day, he was woken earlier by the door bell and someone knocking at his door. Anton got up, slowly, carefully, and dragged himself towards the door. Then, when he reached it, he felt it. There was life at the other side of this door, real life, and Anton knew who was waiting for him there. He opened the door and was met with a shy smile.

"Hi." Kostya's voice was quieter than it had been before Jegor, and Anton knew that he wasn't the only one who suffered. It made him happy, just for a moment, before he reminded himself that he was of the light and he wasn't supposed to feel like that. But Kostya missed him and he couldn't help feeling relieved about this. Kostya missed him.

"Hey." "Can I come in?" Anton nodded and moved to give Kostya space. The vampire smiled and walked past him, his shoulder brushing Anton's, and there was warmth between them. Like the first sign of spring after a long winter, and Anton could only stare at Kostya. "Everything alright?" "I...I think so." The vampire frowned, his eyes narrowing on him. "You don't look so good." Anton shrugged. He already knew that. He had lost weight, he was even paler than usual and sometimes his own reflection scared him. So much dead weight in his eyes, stones dragging his shoulders down. A walking corpse and God, what would he give to feel alive again!

"Something up?" This time it was Kostya who shrugged. "I just wanted to see how you're doing. After the thing with your son..." Anton didn't know what to say. There wasn't much to say. There was too much to say. And he didn't know where to begin and where to end. If he could stop talking at all once he had started.

"You know, he's fine with us. Really." A chill ran down Anton's spine and for a moment he wanted to punch Kostya. Wanted to hit him, kick him, wanted to hurt him. Because his son couldn't be fine. Not with them. Because if not for Jegor, what was he fighting for? For whom was he fighting for?

Kostya had stepped back and Anton knew that the vampire had felt something of the sudden rage that had exploded inside him. "Zavulon is worried about you." Anton's eyes widened at that and Kostya smiled at him. "He really is. He asked me to check on you. I think he likes you."

Something broke in Anton then and it took him a moment to understand it. "So you check on me because Zavulon asked you to?" Somehow that hurt more than it should and Anton knew that Kostya could see this in his face. "No. Yes...I was worried about you. But I didn't know if you would want me around you. I belong to them, after all. But Zavulon said... he said you would like it if I would come around. And usually he's right about that."

Such a blunt answer and Anton stumbled against the wall because the ground had just disappeared under his feet. Zavulon knew. His own team hadn't asked him once if something was wrong with him and Zavulon knew. Things weren't supposed to be this way.

And Kostya wasn't supposed to look at him like that.

"I think...I think you would be happy at the Day Watch."

Again, Anton could only stare at the vampire, his mouth slightly open in shock. "We would take care of you. And you could be with Jegor."

And with Kostya.

"No." An easy word, but Anton could hear his own insecurity in the two letters. Insecurity and longing for something he could not have. "No. I have chosen the side of light 12 years ago. We don't change sides."

Kostya smiled again then. "You mean, no one has ever changed sides before. Maybe it's about time. Damn, Anton... I know that you don't like this. Every time we talked about it you only recited everything they taught you. It never sounded like you believed in it."

Anton wanted to protest, just for a second, but then he looked at Kostya again. Looked at his friend and tried to see the enemy he was supposed to see. The monster. The Dark Other. And all he could see was Kostya. Kostya, who had listened to his complains about work for hours. Kostya, who had dragged him along on drinking binges when he felt like the walls were closing in on him. Kostya, the only friend he had ever had, the only one he had dreamed about after his wife. Kostya, who had felt so warm when he walked into his apartment.

Anton reached out for the vampire then, because he simply had to, and his hand touched the vampire's face. "How come you're so warm? You're dead and you're so warm. And I'm alive and cold. I don't want to be cold anymore, Kostya." Kostya looked at him then and Anton could see a glow of red behind the brown eyes. It should warn him off. It should remind him that he was touching a vampire. And it did. But Anton didn't mind.

Kostya leant in and his mouth was warm and hungry on Anton's. And then there were his arms, suddenly wrapped around Anton, and his body pressed against Anton's. Kostya was so very warm and it felt like his warmth was finding its way through skin, muscle and bone, through fabric, and then to sink into Anton. Anton could only hold on, hold on to Kostya as if the vampire was his lifeline.

His only chance for life. And when Kostya's finger digged into his shoulders and his teeth became sharper under Anton's tongue, he suddenly knew he had to take this chance now. Because if he didn't he might just die tomorrow, frozen to death between the trenches. Just another dead soldier, fallen for a cause he never had understood and that might never had existed at all. But if he took this chance today he would make it through another day, living on Kostya's warmth.

Kostya started to push him backwards and Anton let him, stepping carefully over yesterday's clothes that were still scattered around the apartment. He could feel the vampire smile against his lips, the sharp tug of his teeth a sweeter pain than he had ever thought it could be. And he could only smile himself, helplessly, silly. But he felt alive! He felt good, and was there any better reason to smile?

They fell into Anton's unmade bed, legs and arms and warmth and their clothes were easy victims for Kostya's vampire strength. Skin on skin then, and there was more warmth, there was heat, and Kostya took him in and for a while there was nothing but them. No light or darkness, no side to chose and Anton screamed when he came and Kostya growled into his skin. Then, when Kostya bit down and started to suck it was an exchange of life and it was right, and it turned all the Night Watch's warnings into lies. His blood tasted of salt and life in Kostya's mouth when the vampire kissed him later, and the red heat in Kostya's eyes didn't mark him as Anton's enemy anymore.

Anton slept then, the first good sleep he had after weeks of nightmares, and fighting death and himself in his dreams, and a part of him knew that Kostya was asleep as well. Safe, both of them, and when Anton woke up to another presence in his room he wasn't as surprised as he was supposed to be. Even seeing Zavulon leaning against the doorframe didn't make him reach for a weapon.

"Hello Anton."

He nodded. "You probably wonder how I got in here." Anton shrugged and Zavulon chuckled. "Or you might not give a damn. Post-coital bliss is a nice thing. Stupid and dangerous, but nice." Another shrug and Zavulon walked through the room to stop at the end of the bed. "Did Kostya mention our offer before you two decided that this little war between good and evil shouldn't stop you from fucking?"

For a moment Anton had no idea what Zavulon was talking about, but then he remembered. Changing sides. Joining the Day Watch. "He did." A raised eyebrow was enough to make him continue. "I can't." Zavulon smiled again then and nodded. "I expected that. A shame, really." The dark mage reached out , his fingers travelling over Anton's face, and Anton was reminded of himself touching Kostya like that not too long ago. For a moment he wondered what Zavulon searched in him and what the Dark leader found in him, but he kept quiet and didn't move away. Zavulon vanished then.

Just like that.

No threat, no warning. Anton let himself fall back again into the still warm covers and turned to Kostya.

"Your boss is weird." Kostya smiled and Anton wondered how long he had been awake already, and how he knew that Kostya wasn't asleep anymore. "That he is." "I'm sorry." Kostya opened his eyes and looked at him for a long time before he spoke again. "Don't be. We can't change what we are." "But you hate what I am." "So do you." For a moment Anton wanted to ask Kostya what he meant by this. Did he think Anton hated himself, or Kostya for being a vampire. But the small sad smile on Kostya's face told him that the vampire meant both and Anton reached out for him and kissed him, softly, carefully. "I don't hate you." "That I know." There was a real smile on Kostya's face then and when Anton kissed him again he was neither soft nor careful.

They were called a few hours later, each through their leaders, each frowning a bit at the sudden invasion of their minds. They didn't look at each other when they dressed or when they made their way out of Anton's apartment and the building. They walked together to the train station, still avoiding to look at each other. They walked together into a war in which they fought on opposing sides, and only when they arrived in the church-turned-battle-field their eyes met again.

Kostya's eyes were a brilliant red and Anton couldn't help but step closer to the vampire. " careful." Kostya smiled at that, sharp teeth gleaming between his lips, and he nodded at Anton. "You, too." Their hands brushed briefly and then Kostya was gone with a sudden movement, and Anton remembered how fast vampires could be. How dangerous. And he should worry about Tiger and Bear and Olga and everybody else on the Night Watch. But he just couldn't. All his worry was sucked in by Kostya's presence in this battle.

A bright light to his right reminded him of where he was and he jumped to avoid the blast of energy. Zavulon. Or Geser. He turned and saw both of them, their hands in the air, weaving energy out of the Twilight. This wasn't a fight he could take part in and he turned again, taking in the scene. Anton could see Tiger and Bear, side by side as usual, fighting something that moved too fast to define. Semyon was close to them, facing the woman that had been with Zavulon the night Anton lost Jegor. There were other familiar faces, people he saw every day, and others, all of them in the middle of this fight, moving in and out of the Twilight.

Another sudden movement, this time to his left, and Anton whirled around. A vampire with blazing eyes and bared teeth and Anton remembered the look on Kostya's face when Kostya told him how they would feel when one of them dies. He hesitated, just for a second, but then the vampire jumped and Anton pulled out his weapon and switched the UV light on. The vampire screamed out loud, the skin on his neck and jaw melting in the hard light and Anton stumbled backwards, away from the vampire.

He couldn't do this. He couldn't but he had to, and Anton wanted out of there. He wanted to grab Kostya and take Kostya with him and they would find a place where this war didn't matter. But he knew that such a place didn't exist, always knew that, and Anton threw himself into the battle, hoping that his next opponent wouldn't be a vampire. Desperately hoped it wouldn't be Kostya.

The battle was a blurry of movements, of pain and blood, of bodies taking him down, his fists connecting with the solid mass of bone and muscle and flesh. Anton couldn't see clearly anymore after the first few minutes - he was dazed and high on adrenaline, blood running into his eyes. There were screams around him, pained moans and grunts, bone breaking, flesh tearing and the sound of parts of the church collapsing under the onslaught of violence and magic.

Someone was screaming his name through all the noise, scared and urgent, and he whirled around to see Tiger waving frantically to his left, backed up into a corner by Alyssa. Tiger was pointing at something, someone, and when Anton followed the direction of her finger he felt the urge to break into hysterical laughter. Tiger was pointing at Kostya who was fighting with a Light Mage to his right and obviously winning. Anton couldn't help but feel a rush of relief when he saw the mage going down and when Kostya looked up and grinned at him Anton realized that he had been smiling.

Another shout from Tiger and he understood: A vampire so close to a Light Other after he defeated a Light Mage had to look like a death sentence to the others, especially since Anton had never been a fighter. He really shouldn't be here. He should analyse everything from the outside, but Geser had asked him to come and now the others worried. But this was Kostya, and Tiger knew about Kostya just like the other high-ranking fighters. Their friendship was in Anton's file and they had seen it during the Svetlana debacle. But they weren't like him. They didn't believe in a friendship between light and darkness and if Anton didn't do anything, if Kostya didn't turn away and started to fight again, they would attack the vampire.

Anton could see a group of Light Mages somewhere behind Kostya, close to Tiger and she shouted something to them and Anton knew. He had to do something now, he had to be fast. "Kostya!" A confident grin spread of the vampire's face and for a moment Anton couldn't believe that Kostya could be in any danger. But he was.

"Kostya! Go!" The grin turned into a frown and Anton could only point behind him helplessly. "They..." A sudden burst of energy, bright hard light and the sound of an earthquake stopped Anton. He stumbled backwards, the power of the spell pushing him away, and for a moment he couldn't see anything but the light that had almost burned his eyes. "Kostya!"

There was no answer and when the debris and dust settled Anton knew why. Blood all over Kostya's clothes, white splinters and red pieces, and God, a body shouldn't turn this way.

They killed Kostya.

He slowly moved to the body on the ground, his eyes locked on Kostya's face because he could not look at the tangled mess that was Kostya's body now.

Kostya is dead.

Anton squatted down slowly beside Kostya's head, reached out slowly to trace the lines of Kostya's face like he had done some hours ago. Before Kostya had kissed him.

They killed Kostya.

Anton's legs gave in completely under him and he sprawled down beside Kostya's corpse and Anton pulled the body closer, pulled Kostya closer and wrapped Kostya in his arms.

They had killed Kostya.

They killed the person that kept him from freezing to death inside of his own skin. And they didn't even notice. The battle raged on around Anton and Kostya was heavy in his arms. Heavy, and cold now. As cold as Anton had been without him and he couldn't take this anymore. He couldn't and he didn't even realize that he had started to scream.

And then someone noticed. But it wasn't Geser, it wasn't Tiger or Semyon or Bear. None of those who should notice, who should care, heard him.

Zavulon noticed

Anton looked up at the Dark Mage standing in front of him and met Zavulon's eyes. Dark eyes and all the sadness and madness of the world was grinning out of them. "They killed him." Anton's voice was throaty and harsh, and for a moment he wasn't sure it was him who had spoken. But Zavulon knew and nodded. "They did."

There was quietness between them then, the battle going on but in this circle there was no sound at all. "You should come home now." Anton didn't need to ask what Zavulon meant, because he knew. He looked down at Kostya again, took in the blood that covered the body he had made love to the night before. He saw the broken bones, saw how they split the skin that had been so warm just minutes ago. Warm and alive despite everything.

Zavulon offered Anton his hand then and Anton looked at it, his mind slowing down to one thought only. They killed Kostya. They killed Kostya and now there was no light left in the Night Watch that he could ever see. No light to guide him. And Zavulon smiled when Anton finally reached out and took his hand.


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