So.. yeah. This is my first "serious" attempt at writing, and my first piece of fanfiction. Bear with me, will you? Also, forgive all spelling/grammar errors - Not my first language, and I don't have access to a word processing program.

The story is set in the universe of Metro 2033. The setting is just about everything they have in common, at the moment.

"Snow. It is snowing." Ivan thought to himself, as the first white flakes reached the ground. This would have been rather insignificant, if not for the fact that he had never seen snow before. Or the sky, for that matter. Those little things once taken for granted was in the minds of Ivan and his brethren wonders, for most existing only in stories of past grandeur and fairy tales. Of course, there still lived people who could remembers such things - But only faintly. Memories of the past easily erodes, especially under conditions like these.

As they walked through the broken ruins of Moscow, Ivan's mind raced. Everything looked, felt and sounded just like he had thought it would, so familiar from the tales of his childhood, told by his father when the family gathered around the fireplace.. Yet, so different. So beautiful, yet so horridly disgusting at the same time. An arid wasteland, covered in the remains of a world, encrusted by a thin layer of ice.

In a distance, the terrifying howling of an unknown beast was heard. Ivan almost flinched, but was calmed by the fact that the man in front of him didn't react.

"Comrade Chuikov, did you.."

"Yes, I heard. They're called 'howlers', appropriately enough." the old man responded. "Don't worry. If they knew we were here they'd have swarmed us already." His words were a small consolation, but Ivan was still quite unsettled.

"Forgive me for asking, comrade Chuikov, but will we be there soon? We have walked for hours, and I fear that we are a bit.. too far from the station entry for our own good." Ivan hesitantly said. "First of all, would you mind stop 'comrading' me? It brings back memories.. memories better left alone. Secondly, we've only passed a few blocks. Maybe eight, maybe ten. Progress is slow with all this rubble in the way, especially considering the weather." The snowfall had increased quickly - The line of sight kept decreasing. "I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you a bit, boy.. We'll probably not make it there today. I didn't expect the weather to change so quickly.. It'll be a full storm soon. Very soon. We better find some cover for the night."

As his words faded away, Ivan froze. Spend the night up here, on the surface? They'd die, for sure. On their way here they had seen bodies, horribly mutilated bodies. Radiation, the cold, mutants.. This was madness! No, this was.. His frantic thoughts were interrupted by Chuikov, who sensed the panic the young man felt.

"Don't worry, boy. I've been through worse. The radiation won't kill us that quickly, and the cold won't be a problem if we get some shelter. As for the freaks out there.. Well, we'll have to see about that." This time, his words offered understandably less consolation.

"This looks like a good spot.." Chuikov mumbled. In front of them were what used to be a large apartment building. It had no notable features, being built in the same nondescript style as most other structures from that specific period. The front doors had been gone for years - There had been people there before, albeit with a different purpose. The windows had been busted by the shock waves, and a few parts of the building had collapsed as well. All in all however, it had fared better than most in the city. "Most of these have basements, used for garbage disposal. You know, dumpsters and things like that. With a little luck, we'll find one that's intact.." As it turned out, Chuikov were correct, as always. The experienced scavenger knew more than anyone else Ivan knew, it seemed.

The basement was in fact more than just intact - It's lock hadn't even been forced. Their predecessors probably thought it would be pointless considering the other easily obtainable things found in the rest of the building, Ivan thought. Chuikov got it open in a matter of seconds - How he did it, Ivan never found out. "A useful trick I've picked up.." the old man said quietly, most likely to himself. The basement would probably have been a fairly cosy place, if not for the apocalypse and all. Chuikov quickly found a battered cabinet hidden in a shadowy corner, left and forgotten there decades ago. With Ivan's help, he placed it firmly in front of the door, securely blocking it. "Barricades equals a higher chance of survival. Always keep that in mind, boy. Now, watch and learn.."

Chuikov rummaged through the many pockets of his scruffy greatcoat for a while, finally finding what he was looking for. It was a small, slightly rusted object, one of the shells he used in the double-barreled shotgun he carried on his back. Using a bit of string, the shell and something from his backpack - what it was Ivan couldn't see - Chuikov rigged the cabinet. "If somebody tries to get in, we'll notice." he said.

After making a small fire using some of the rubbish lying around, they settled in. Ivan took out his blanket, trying to find a comfortable position. Chuikov, on the other hand, sat staring in the flames of the campfire. "I'll keep watch tonight," he said. "You need your sleep, and I can't have mine anymore." Despite the rough floor, and the fact that sleeping with a gas mask on isn't exactly comfortable, Ivan fell asleep quickly. He slept lightly, troubled by dreams he could never remember in the morning.

BANG! The improvised alarm went off, and the small explosion quickly awoke Ivan. Chuikov was of course already up, and had withdrawn his rifle, ready to defend himself. Ivan wasn't quite as ready - He was fumbling, trying to pull out his revolver. It was small and battered but could pack quite a punch.. in the right hands. Ivan had trained at the firing range with it a bit back home, but he had no actual experience with it - Which was what he needed now.

"Who's there!" Chuikov shouted. "Friend or foe?" How he knew it not to be mutants, but sentient beings, Ivan had no idea. From behind the cabinet, by which a small trace of smoke from the shotgun shell still lingered, a laugh was heard. "Shit.. Is that you, Smuggler? Haven't seen you in a while, man.. You hear that, boys? Looks like we're in for a party.." A few muffled chuckles were heard in response. Ivan could literally see Chuikov's face grow pale beneath his mask. He tightened his grip around the revolver, fearing what would happen next.

"Hey.. Smuggler.." The voice referring to Chuikov as 'Smuggler' returned, apparently highly amused. "Remember that time, you know, in Riga? Remember how you set us up with Hansa and, ah, fled with a year's worth of shroom vodka? Remember that you fuckin' rat? You owe us, old man. Big time." At this point, the person speaking was anything but amused. After hesitating for a short moment, Chuikov brashly responded. "I don't owe you anything, Eino. I did those things after you shot me in the leg, remember? Gave me blood poisoning, you tunnel trash. Besides, I don't have anything to give you, except for a few ounces of lead to the face." Despite his cocky tone, Chuikov appeared to be scared as hell. Who ever was out there must be as unpleasant as they sounded, Ivan thought.

The men outside began to laugh again. Clearly, Chuikov wasn't impressing anyone. "Oh, old friend, you do have something I know you value highly. Your life, that would be." More laughter. It was getting uncanny. "Fuck you, Eino. There's two of us in here, well armed and with a barricade.." Chuikov said, glancing towards the old cabinet and the young man barely capable of holding his gun.

"From the sound of it, there can't be more than three of you out there. What, you still running with your old crew, Eino? If I remember correctly, they're all bloody useless." Ivan wasn't too sure if insulting the enemy was such a good idea, but Chuikov didn't look like he was going to stop anytime soon, and Ivan had no reason not to trust his judgement. Yet.

"Wrong, old man. Hansa got One-Eye, thanks to you. Took out his good eye the bastards did. But, you know, you're right about one thing. Trying to force our way in would only lead to casualties I don't want. So, we'll just blow you to hell.. Or wherever you go nowadays. Boris, would you mind nudging their 'barricade' a bit?" A low grunt was heard in response, followed by somebody thrusting himself towards the door, moving the cabinet slightly so that a small opening to the outside was made - Through which something was immediately thrown. It was a small object, wrapped in tape and with a lit fuse attached to it. A grenade, ready to turn Ivan and Chuikov, along with everything else in the small basement, into something which could only be scraped of the walls. This would have been the end of them - If not for Ivan's impulses.

Without thinking, without giving what the hell he was doing a single thought, Ivan threw himself towards the makeshift device. The fuse was already almost completely burned down, the thing would explode in a matter of seconds. As he hit the floor, Ivan grasped the grenade and put all his strength into throwing it back towards the small opening. Only two things are, in general, certain: Death and the fact that everything that can do so will fuck up. There are, however, moments when the later is averted - This was one of those few, miraculous moments. The grenade nearly missed, but somehow Ivan had managed to throw the thing back to it's origin.

A horrible scream of panic was heard, but was cut short by a massive explosion, nearly shattering Ivan's eardrums, and presumably the bodies of the men outside. The shock wave was immense, toppling the cabinet onto the triumphant Ivan. Of what that happened next, Ivan would have no memory. Everything simply turned black, before he could even realize he had saved two lives - and taken three.