It Doesn't Matter – Alison Krauss

Zus Bielski couldn't believe it. Already, he had spent two years in the forest, living through two harsh, cold winters. He pulled his coat tightly around him, despite the warmth of the day. Somehow, he had ended back in the forest, back to the forest camp…something he thought he would never come back to. He trudged down the familiar, almost obscured, path, following the trail that would lead him to Tuvia, his brother. He had joined the Red Army, but he was done. He couldn't handle it. He couldn't handle the way the soldiers in the Red Army treated each other. He hated their actions, their thoughts. He wasn't like them. He wanted to fight, but he wanted to fight to live.

He was there to save the Motherland. If he had to shed blood to save her from the Germans, then he would. It didn't matter. He could care less. He had a duty, a duty for his country, Belorussia, and he would defend it at all costs.

As he walked forward, towards the camp, he wondered whether Tuvia would hate him for leaving him. Zus couldn't help thinking, though, as his steel blue eyes looked beyond the trees that clustered around him thickly, that he had been right about his brother. Tuvia did not have the guts to do what needed to be done. He was soft. Perhaps the two years in the forest had made Tuvia stronger. Zus would have to find out.

The path he followed was one he had followed many times before. No doubt he would walk back and forth across it many more times.

What Hurts the Most – Rascal Flatts

Zus stepped onto the grounds of the forest camp, and many of the people there looked up at him sharply, some recognizing him, others unknowing of who he was. His rifle slung over his shoulder, Zus slowly walked through the camp, glancing at faces out of the corners of his eyes. He rubbed a hand over his face, over his prickly stubble, and sought out his older brother.

As he traversed through the camp, seeking his blood brother, he caught sight of a lovely woman. She turned her head to look at him, and the sharp recognition in her eyes sent a stab through his heart. This was the woman he had left behind when he joined the Red Army. The woman made to stand up, to greet him. A man to her right grabbed her arm and glanced at her questioningly. Something glittered on her left hand as she turned to say something back to him. The abrupt realization of what it was made Zus ache inside.

He walked on, ignoring the woman as best he could, and took brisk, long strides, his six-foot-three frame carrying him far. He was hurt. He was hurt on the inside, and his breathing was labored from the psychological pain. He took deep breaths, his mind whirling, and stumbled on a large stone at the edge of the camp, where Tuvia lived.

The woman was the fifth person Zus had lost. He had first lost his mother and father, and then his wife and child. Now, because of his decision to fight against the Germans and leave the camp behind, he had lost the woman whom he had assumed loved him as much as he loved her.

It obviously wasn't so.

And it hurt so much.

Easy to Love – Harry Connick, Jr.

Zus gently eased open the door to Tuvia's makeshift cabin and stepped inside, stooping to accommodate for his large height. Tuvia looked up from his table, a bottle of Vodka standing off to the side. He stood up and eyed Zus warily, sizing his brother up. Zus returned his gaze with a fierce stare, wondering what thoughts ran through his brother's mind.

"Zus." Tuvia stated.

"Tuvia."

Tuvia inhaled, his face impassive, and asked, "Where is the rest of your command?"

"Running off somewhere like the idiots they are," Zus replied.

Without warning, Tuvia stepped toward Zus and embraced him tightly. Zus embraced him fiercely back, holding him just as tightly. He was taller than Tuvia, and thus he needed to stoop for a moment, but he took no heed of this and held onto his brother for a moment longer before letting go.

"You do not hate me, then?" Zus asked.

"Why would I?" Tuvia countered. "We are brothers. We stick together."

Zus nodded, and Tuvia gestured to an empty seat at the table. He handed the bottle of Vodka to Zus; Zus took the bottle gratefully and drank a large swig, the stinging liquid trickling down his throat. He handed the bottle back to Tuvia and took a seat.

"So, brother," Zus began, "what has happened since I have gone?"

"I…found somebody."

"It looks like you found a lot of somebodies."

"No…I meant…a woman."

Zus's eyebrows rose, and he nodded his head. "Your wife…?"

"There was news that she died months back," Tuvia stated quietly. "And then I found this woman…we are man and wife now."

"I am happy for you, Tuvia." Zus's voice betrayed nothing, but his thoughts strayed to the woman that had not waited for him.

Ice – Sarah McLachlan

"What of you, Zus?" Tuvia asked. "What has happened with you?"

"I do not know what you are talking about," Zus stated, his brow furrowing. He removed the rifle from his back and propped it up against his chair.

"Why did you leave?"

"The people there…I could not deal with their ways. They claim they're Belorussian! Ha!" Zus shook his head and snorted. "They are smug and think highly of themselves."

Tuvia nodded his head in understanding. "And the cold, Zus? Did you have enough warmth?"

Zus looked at Tuvia with dark eyes, almost mournful. "I did not feel the cold, brother. I felt nothing."

Tuvia was quiet for a moment. Zus shifted in his chair and took another swig of the Vodka. Tuvia leaned forward. "Zus, what has become of your heart?"

Plenty – Sarah McLachlan

"My heart, Tuvia?" Zus's brow furrowed with confusion. "What do you mean, brother?"

"Is it hiding?" Tuvia continued to ask. "Where has your heart gone?"

"Brother, I had no heart!" Zus laughed a tired laugh.

"When Mama and Papa were killed…and your wife and child – you had a heart then."

"What? For shedding tears? What else did I owe them other than revenge, brother?" Zus shook his head. "They were family."

"Will you not find anyone else?"

Zus's eyes flickered, and he shot Tuvia a dark look. "I imagined that I would be with my wife until my dying day, Tuvia…but it happened that it was her dying day. I don't think that I could lend my heart to someone else."

"And why not, Zus?" Tuvia regarded Zus with a firm, yet compassionate, gaze.

"I gave my heart to another," Zus murmured quietly, taking another long drink from the Vodka bottle, "but she strayed. I give her no blame."

Easy for You to Say – Harry Connick, Jr.

"You do not blame her, brother?" Tuvia asked.

"The blame is mine, brother. I left. It is my blame, not hers. As long as she is happy, I will be alright." Zus handed the Vodka bottle to Tuvia, itching to do something other than sit still. He fidgeted in his seat, his mind traveling to the woman.

"The moon is rising." Tuvia's voice seemed awfully loud to Zus's ears, despite the fact that Tuvia spoke almost in a whisper.

"I see that, Tuvia," Zus growled, somewhat agitated. "What difference does it make?"

"Another day has gone by." Tuvia took a long drink of Vodka and handed the bottle back to Zus. "Another day is coming for you to find a place for your heart."

Zus snorted and shook his head. "That is easy for you to say, brother. You have already found a place for yours. As for mine…it is lost."

Almost Lover – A Fine Frenzy

Tuvia reached across the table and grabbed Zus's shoulder, squeezing it comfortingly. "You will get through this, Zus."

Zus snarled in disgust and leaned back in his chair, causing Tuvia's hand to slide away from his shoulder. Zus picked up his rifle and laid it across the table. Expecting more words from Tuvia, he began to take apart his rifle to clean. Zus found himself speaking, however, before Tuvia could say anything.

"It seemed to be so true, Tuvia," Zus began. "It didn't feel fake. Her love felt real."

"Was she your lover?" Tuvia asked delicately.

Zus shook his head. "Almost. I remembered that we cannot accommodate pregnancies here." Zus cleaned the gun furiously, his eyes focused on the work, his mind elsewhere. "Now, I will not be able to look at her face and just see it as another face. My heart aches, Tuvia, almost as bad…as bad when I heard my wife died. I see no way out of this, Tuvia. I may leave again."

"Why did you come back at all, then?"

"I told you, brother!" Zus slammed the rifle down onto the table and glared at Tuvia. "I learned much from the Red Army to keep us safe."

"Zus, is there another reason? You came back from the Red Army the first time because of the attack on the camp. And you went back to the Red Army for a while," Tuvia pointed out. "Why did you come back this time around?"

"Because – because…I could not handle being away from my family…or what is left of my family," Zus muttered, starting to feel grief settle between his shoulders.

Ice Cream – Sarah McLachlan

Tuvia nodded, his expression grave. The two brothers had hardened themselves against the waves of grief that occasionally washed over them, but it was not a time that the tears could be suppressed. The tears – silent, but there – slipped down the brothers' cheeks, dripping down onto the wooden table they sat at.

"Do you remember the last visit you had with Mama and Papa?" Tuvia asked through his tears.

Zus nodded his head, stopped, and said, "I am not sure, Tuvia. I remember a lot about Mama and Papa, but I can't remember a lot at all. I am…I fear I am forgetting, brother."

"We mustn't forget."

Zus's head bobbed in agreement. He was silent as he continued to clean his gun. "Do you remember when we were young, Tuvia?"

"Yes."

"We did everything together – but, we competed, too."

"Ah, yes, the competition." Tuvia chuckled. "Even now, brother, we have it."

"Yes," Zus agreed.

"Did you ever hate me, Zus?"

Zus looked up from his rifle and gazed at Tuvia levelly. "Sometimes."

"Why not all the time?"

"We are brothers, Tuvia. Our blood is the same."

"Can you not tell me you love me, brother? Or does your hatred toward me prevent you from saying that you do?"

Zus's hand stopped cleaning his rifle, and he slowly brought his eyes back to Tuvia. "I do love you, Tuvia…sometimes, though, you just push me over a cliff."

"You'd think the younger brother would do that to the older brother," Tuvia muttered.

Zus snorted. "Maybe I – the younger brother – realized that the older brother didn't have the strength to be what he should have become."

The Whole Night Sky – Bruce Cockburn

The small smirk of a smile fell from Tuvia's face. Zus cocked an eyebrow and eyed his brother with an almost contempt attitude.

"Zus," Tuvia began, "they tried to overrule me."

"Those people?" Zus jabbed his thumb over his shoulder.

Tuvia nodded. "A few turned their backs on me."

"Who?"

"Who else?" Tuvia shook his head.

Zus picked up his rifle, aimed it at a corner in the room, and pulled the trigger to hear the sound it made. Discontent with the sound it created, Zus pulled it apart again and asked, as he worked, "What did you do with them?"

"I shot the troublemaker."

Zus looked up abruptly. "You shot him?"

Tuvia nodded gravely. "I wish I hadn't."

"But you did!" Zus explained. "I would have caved his face in at the first signs of trouble."

"Asael said you would, too," Tuvia told him.

"Ah, it's good one brother has some sense." Zus chuckled. "How do you think I felt when we fought and everyone looked at me with those…expressions? They were cuts to the skin, Tuvia."

Animal I Have Become – Three Days Grace

"It is nice to know you feel something," Tuvia muttered.

"You think I don't feel things, Tuvia?" Zus asked accusingly, his tone forced. "Who do you think I am?"

"You are an animal," Tuvia retorted sharply.

Zus snorted and laughed loudly, reaching over to take a deep gulp of Vodka. "An animal that can't be tamed."

"It must, Zus, if you are going to stay here."

"So you would kick me out if I didn't change?" Zus's eyebrows rose. "First you welcome me with open arms and say that we must stick together because we are brothers. Now, you tell me that I must change or you will kick me out!"

"You are wild, Zus. Everyone knows that."

"Then they would be smart enough to avoid me," Zus growled, "if they think they know me so well."

"You could be a threat."

"You shot a person in the camp! You are a threat yourself, Tuvia. As the Bielski brothers, we are born as natural threats."

"Now there you are wrong, brother."

"Ha!" Zus shook his head, his attention riveted on cleaning his rifle. "I cannot be changed. I am what I am. I love life…even if it is hell right now."

"Zus."

"Tuvia." Zus glared at his older brother. "I try to convince myself that I am not the person I am – but I cannot. Leave me alone about it."