“I guess it couldn’t hurt,” Kazimir said, his voice quiet. The man seemed a perturbed as he dipped his head at her slight. “I suppose we should.”
He hid the smile that attempted to steal over the corners of his mouth, taking Joe’s words as a softening of her stubborn, pessimistic will. Kaz looked at her for a long moment before glancing back toward the holding cells where they’d just spoken with her father.
“Hey, I’ll get some food while I do that to take with us. Meet you in an hour?”
“So, more bullshit, just another language,” Kazimir said. If he was disappointed, he did well enough to hide it. He was wrong, that was that. He turned away from the cell, meeting Joe’s gaze. “Sorry for wasting your time over it.”
He stepped past her, crossing briefly in front of Joseph’s cell before he followed the hallway out of the cell block. Kazimir had a lot on his mind at that moment, and he slowed to stop, contemplating whether he ought to wait for Joe. Ultimately, he chose to do just that and leaned against the wall. His arms folded across his chest, and he fell into thoughtful silence.
The last-minute offer was tempting, and Kazimir stopped mid-turn to look back at Joseph. His eyes simmered with a mixture of anger and frustration, both of which were directed at the man. Kazimir knew the effects of radiation, the way it ate away at a person.
“I want a better life for your daughter, which is clearly more than what you want. Either spit it out or fuck off,” Kaz growled.
"That's the truth," Kazimir muttered under his breath, probably alluding to Joe herself. He looked back to Joseph, a slight frown weighing his lips. Reluctantly, he admitted, "Yeah."
There was a heaviness in his tone, disappointment perhaps. "Let's head in."
Kazimir was taken aback by Joseph’s words, watching as the man twisted his intentions into something completely opposite of what they were. He felt a craving for nicotine, despite having stopped smoking when Yasha died.
Instead of responding to the accusation, and despite his desire to spit vitriol at the man, Kazimir managed to keep control of his temper. He hadn’t felt it rise like this in a long a time. Instead, Kazimir looked down at Joe, studying her features to see if he could discern her thoughts on the matter at hand. One thing was for sure: Joe wasn’t lying about her father.
“That isn’t a matter of trust,” Kazimir replied sharply, his voice strained. “She was what? Barely more than a toddler when this happened? Your daughter didn’t get to have a life. You came back from somewhere out there, and you claim you’ve seen proof of life. Your daughter doesn’t believe that’s possible—and why would she in this shithole that we call home?”
His jaw tensed after he said those words. He’d been called worse, but that didn’t take away from the fact that it was already a bad start.
A bark of laughter erupted from Kazimir, the deep sort that started in his belly and worked its way upward. It was almost obnoxious, and it was very much a Kaz thing to do. Amusement brightened his features. Not unlike a child with no concept of danger, Kazimir risked Joe’s ire by opening his mouth.
“Like father like daughter, I see,” he smirked. A moment later, in a rare show of seriousness, he grew serious again. Where Joe was pessimistic about the prospect of her father’s claim, he was hopeful. “Joe seems to think you’re a raving lunatic. She says you claim that we can return to the surface. Is this true?”
It wasn’t often that Kazimir took a more serious tone of voice; he was the sort to get drunk, laugh and joke around loudly. There was nothing else to do, in a world so cold.
Kazimir paced back and forth outside of Joe's. He wasn't accustomed to feeling unease, but the last few days weren't ordinary for him by any measure of the word. He was emotional, frustrated, and quite frankly unsure of how to proceed. But he had to, and that was why he stood outside her home now. Stopping, he sucked in a sharp breath of air before calling out, "Joe!"
It was Joe's turn to be at a bar. She was half a bottle in. She was pissed. She had broken up with Ilia because she was an idiot and he couldn't even look at her and her dad just magically showed back up in Polis. What the fuck even was that about? What was the carnival. Her dad believed it? Should she?
She took another long swig from the vodka in her hand and glared at the bartender as they came over to check on her.
Nightmares tore Kazimir from a slumber that was already restless, memories from D6 still too fresh in his mind. His brother had been a ranger too, and he’d held him as he took his last breath before joining their parents in whatever afterlife there might be. It was a curse, being the last person in one’s family, but it still beat being dead.
Kaz rubbed his eyes as he sat up, swinging his legs over the edge of his bed and standing. He would have preferred continuing to toss and turn, but the need to take a piss prevented him for finding even a modicum of comfort beneath his blankets. And so he went, relieving himself before pulling on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He almost left without his boots, only noticing that his feet were bare when his hand touched the knob on the front door.
A few minutes later, Kaz was moving through throngs of others fortunate enough to reside in Aleksandrov Sad, one of the Polis stations. He didn’t often count his fortunes, considering the bitter resentment he felt deeply in his soul.
He was on his way to the tunnels, specifically a maintenance shaft where his brother once liked to play. Yakov was significantly younger than him, and for every bit of Kaz that was weighed down with the darkness of their reality, Yakov had been full of joy and spirit. He died doing what he loved, and even as his chest heaved with the rasping of his final cycling of oxygen, Yakov smiled.
Kaz slowed to a stop outside of a bar, head turning as he stared hard at the door. Today was Yakov’s birthday. He would have been 25. Grimacing, Kaz entered a moment later to ask after a shot of vodka. He hated it, and it made him the brunt of many of Yakov’s jokes, but the sweetness of American whiskey was far more desirable to him.
“To Yasha,” he murmured to himself, knocking back his brother’s favorite drink. He returned it to the counter, still standing as he ordered asked for a second. Sometimes Polis let him forget the state of the world.