A/N: This is an oddball continuation of "Repercussions and Rebirth", brought on by the fanastic Speakfire who informed me (the entire story had been a look at major characters after Supremacy/ Ultimatum) that though the story was good, I forgot one pivotal (kinda) character.
She was important to the second film, and deserves her own coda. It's a one shot, and I'll tell you right now that I'm not too knowledgeable as to the personality traits of Russians, nor their customs or etiquettes, but I thought I'd push forward anyway.
Anyhoo: here it is. An ending for Irena Neski, daughter of the murdered Vladimir Neski.
Irena Neski had her first shot of vodka when she was very young – almost seven.
Of course, this had been on her father's part; it was how his father had driven him away from the drink until he was older, and how he would drive his daughter away from the substance until she was old enough.
For the time being, it worked wonders. The bitter fire rolled down her throat, the burning sensation filled her entire being and she coughed and wheezed and blindly reached out for Papa, gripping his shirt front to make sure he was still there.
He was, chuckling softly. He abruptly went quiet when Mama slipped into dining room, though, stilling as his wife stared at him with her arms crossed.
Mama clucked disapprovingly at her husband, but after a reassurance from both Papa and Irena, reluctantly backed off.
"What sin will you instill in our daughter, now?" she asked her husband.
It was said in good humor, of course. And Papa laughed, rattled off a witty reply to which Mama parried beautifully.
But Irena remembers now that for the briefest of seconds her father's eyes hooded, sharp with fear, intelligence and something protective.
Irena recalls this as she blindly lurches through her flat and fumbles frantically through cupboards.
She has been clean for ten months, three weeks, two hours and thirty-seven minutes.
But this...she craves this release.
The cupboards turn up empty, the little thing of pills gone, misplaced.
Irena curses, swings open the door to her shitty bathroom and looks through the medicine cabinet, already knowing what she's going to find.
Ibuprofen, acetaminophrene and sleep medication laugh at her, mocking. The toothpaste sits in the corner and her toothbrush rests idly on the sink edge, snickering. In rage, she slams the mirrored surface and feels a small twist of satisfaction as the lid claps shut and the glass jumps, considering breaking.
Break, she mentally tells it. Shatter and give me seven years of bad luck.
She knows she's almost to the keening stage, that time when she'll crumple against the doorframe and break down crying. The strange man (the man whose eyes were wild, who smelled of blood and sweat and fear) has been gone for almost an hour now, but Irena still feels like he was there a second ago, telling her that he was the bastard who killed Irena's parents, her lifeline, her - her childhood.
It's going to happen in ten...
Irena hears Sergei Bozidov next door, yelling at his wife to get a move on the dishes. Tomorrow she knows that Natalya will come out with a bruised eye, maybe a split upper lip and that she'll smile weakly at Irena and try to make friendly conversation.
Irena knows the woman will commit suicide soon. She just prays that it's not in front of the children.
Dimly she remembers that there's vodka somewhere in her house, somewhere...somewhere close.
She trips over the chair the man sat in, sprawls across the carpet and scrabbles back to her feet, focusing.
Irena slips past the photograph of Mama and Papa, and her, so happy, so complete.
She falls again, and this time getting up seems almost physically painful.
The bookshelf, she knows, has a compartment behind it. She almost forgot about her stash, about her secret place that not even she remembers.
Tolstoy and Dostoevsky come crashing to the floor, Crime and Punishment nailing her on the foot.
Irena ignores it.
Wood digs into her fingernails painfully, but Irena Neski is tenacious and needs this. She grunts, feels the tears burning at the back of her eyelids and
(vodka, she's seven years old and Papa is laughing, the sound rolling through her hand on his shirt)
pulls hard, hearing the snap as the door flips down and she's staring into a tiny square hole.
She fumbles around, feels the smooth silk of photographs and maybe some jewelry and money and then latches onto it – that icy solidity of a tiny vodka bottle.
Irena doesn't think she's moved so fast in her life, tripping backwards and fumbling with the plastic-twist lid of the bottle.
Her hands are shaking, she can't focus and the world seems to be coming in and out to her, reeling as if it itself is drunk.
And then she's there, the bottle is open and some of the precious elixir is accidently puking onto her shitty carpet and she's throwing her head back...
The shattering of glass is like the gong of a heavy execution sentence.
Irena Neski hurls the open vodka bottle against the wall, listening to it explode upon impact.
Everything is oozing down the yellow walls and sprinkling alcoholic rain on her glass metropolis in the fuzzy berber fields of her flat, but she is oblivious, uncaring.
Screaming - it is a hoarse sound that drags up her demons of pain, hate, rage, helplessness and loneliness and throws them to the hounds outside. She hears it echoing, chasing itself and bouncing back to her as it tries to get back in, but she can't stop, can't let the devils into her, let them corrupt her.
Vodka blood drips down the walls.
Tears drip down Irena Neski's face.
She hears words again and again, rolling through her head in a kaleadascope of images and sounds and can't...can't put it all together.
"Irena, sit down, please. We have something we need to tell you."
"One drink or two?"
She hears it again.
And then again, because her brain is having a hard time processing it.
Was he? Is he? Does this strange man who walked into her flat, shattered whatever tenuous balance she had within herself and then walked out really feel sorry? Really feel pain?
He looked like shit and blood, madness and sickness. Was he sorry? Did he mean it?
He was American, if that said anything. The Americans were tricky, wily bastards and their country had made a name for itself being the bully of the Western hemisphere. Irena knew her history, knew her country and theirs.
So was it real? Was it the truth?
She replays it again (not screaming anymore, instead sobbing softly into her knees, rocking back and forth against a corner of the room and staring at the vodka on the wall), and listens to the recording in her head for what she wants to hear.
It's not there. No lies, no half-truths and deception.
"When someone you love gets taken from you...you'd wanna know how."
No smiles without teeth, no whispered jibs behind her back, no Mama killing Papa in a sickened-wife rage.
Plain, simple, complex, hurtful truth.
Irena sniffs. Wipes her nose with the back of her hand. The tears crawl down at a slower pace, considering whether or not their descent is worth it.
And then Irena slowly stands.
The next month, her place is packed up, the belongings she no longer needs sold, and a suitcase full of crap waits for her.
She doesn't know how she will manage this, and how she will go about it.
But Irena Neski knows she has to leave Moscow.
Natalya Bozidov cautiously peers outside her flat at the racket next door, split-lip less obvious than it was a few days ago.
Her eyes widen when she notices the suitcase, and from behind her, Nikolai and Sabina watch with blank, expressionless faces.
Irena would watch them occasionally when she came home from work; after university fell through, she found that her job plus the money made from watching the children was enough to scrape by for rent.
And it helped her feel better – treating the kids like people, smiling at them and making them giggle and play.
They didn't get that from their father.
Though Natalya tried her hardest, bless her.
"Irena," Natalya Bozidov says, soft voice barely afloat in the hallway, "where are you going?"
They are two shy people, Natalya and Irena. Irena smiles awkwardly at the question, drops her suitcase outside the door and shifts her weight on her feet.
"I am leaving," she says after a moment's pause, biting the inside of her cheek. "I – uh – felt that it was time for change."
Sabina blinks, brow furrowing, and her eight-year-old brother frowns, angry.
Natalya only stares.
"Where are you going?" she asks.
Irena Neski considers the hungry look on the woman's face, the longing she makes evident as she stares at Irena's luggage and her empty, ugly flat.
"I am going to America," she then says, a second later.
It is not a lie, but it is not the truth; Irena Neski is very aware that getting a visa from the damnable United States of America is difficult, but she knows that there are ways.
Vladimir Neski may have died eight years ago, but there are people who wish he still was alive and will do anything for his remaining family. She need only tell them who she is, and want she wants, and they will respond accordingly.
Russians are pragmatists, but they, too, believe in dreams.
"Well..." Natalya and Irena stare at each other from their respective doors, the older, more abused woman fumbling about as she tries to think of what to say, "Good luck."
Irena decides that this is the time to make the move, to tell this woman what she honestly thinks she should do and start herself on a new slate.
Carefully, approaching her slowly, Irena makes a motion to embrace Natalya and – at the woman's stiff hug around her – turns her head and whispers.
"Leave him." she tells Natalya softly. The woman stiffens, startled.
Irena continues. "Save yourself and your children."
There's a garbled sound of indignation from Natalya, but Irena ignores it, taking a half-step back and looking down at the kids.
Nikolai – brave, taciturn Nikolai – comes forward and carefully gives Irena a hug. She pats him once on the head as he turns, but says nothing.
Sabina smiles bashfully, but continues to move forward, and as she tries to wrap her tiny arms around Irena, Irena makes sure to hug her a little tighter. She makes a goofy face as the girl pulls away..
Sabina giggles. Irena smiles gently.
And Natalya still stares.
Irena returns to her luggage, hefting the duffel over a shoulder with a grunt and reaching behind for her rolling case.
"Good-bye," she says, one last time, regarding the beaten woman and her two tough-as-nails children in front of her.
And Natalya, mouth finally moving, says only one thing.
Irena nods in reply, before walking down towards the staircase.
The thud of her suitcases on each level sounds like a dead carcass rolling, falling, breaking and snapping.
But she tries to ignore that. It's a new leaf for Irena Neski. The pragmatist is looking for a dream.
She gets into the car, wishing that Moscow was safe enough that she could keep her car running to make it (and her, for that matter) warm. No one enjoys having the car door frozen shut.
Or at least Irena doesn't, even after living here all these years.
Pragmatist looking for a dream.
Dostoevsky would laugh at her – White Nights in the flesh, reincarnated in the feminine being of Irena Neski – but she is no hopeless romantic, no dreamer.
She is only someone who wants change.
This city holds too much, tells her too much. She knows where to find the drugs if she felt so inclined, knows where to find the sex and the booze if she felt so inclined, but she knows she doesn't want that anymore.
Irena Neski wants truth. She wants freedom. She wants to get away from what Moscow means to her and find somewhere else to start anew.
Papa used to tell her about New York City.
Key's in the ignition, the car is choking, sputtering, informing her that it's way too cold to be driving right now...
And then a growl. The car starts. The heat doesn't, but she's wearing enough layers that the fact of cold doesn't bother her.
Irena leans back, examines the console.
New York City.
She'd like that.