A/N: First, thanks for the wonderful reviews, you guys seriously made me emotional, and that's pretty damned hard to do.
Second, the poem Savva reads to Sonya in this chapter is entitled 'A/The Little Bird' by Alexandr Pushkin. As I mention in the very first author's note, the poem was part of the inspiration for this story, and the title for this story was taken from the very last line of the poem. I do not own the poem or anything recognizable from the VA world.
Thanks for reading!
Sonya was sitting on the floor of her cell, facing into the corner. Her knees were pulled up to her chest, her thin arms encircling them as she slowly rocked back and forth, softly humming. As Savva approached the guardian on duty—a man by the name of Whitlock—he recognized the tune as the same one he'd attempted to soothe her with several days before.
The man standing against the wall glanced over towards Savva, doing a double take when he noticed the large floral arrangement that the older man carried. His lips quivered, finally twitching up in a sly smile.
"Are those for me? You shouldn't have, Luzhkov, I'm more of an orchid kind of guy."
Savva set the flowers down near the wall, sighing dramatically. "Ach—now you're going to tease me? I received quite enough of that in the break room."
"Who'd you buy them for? No, don't tell me, let me guess. That cute Moroi secretary in the records department?"
"I did not get them for anyone. They were delivered for me sometime last night."
"I see… Do you mind if I ask who was foolish enough to waste money buying flowers for you? No offense man, but you're not the friendliest fellow in the world."
"The lady friend that I went to visit—a guardian named Alberta Petrov." From the corner of his eye, Savva watched as Sonya stilled her movement, her head slowly turning in their direction.
"When you say friend, do you mean friend or…" Whitlock wiggled his eyebrows with a lascivious expression on his face.
"She is a female companion, and that is all I'll say on the matter." He glared at the other man, holding out his hand for the radio and clipboard.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to—"
Savva cut him off. "No, I am sorry. I do not mean to be rude, but those imbecilic fools in the lounge have put me in an off color mood. I do not like being teased. That is why I brought the flowers with me, I didn't want everyone on staff to get wind of my... friendship. At least down here only you and Blake will see them, and now you've both had you're fun at my expense."
Whitlock nodded, heading for the door. "I didn't mean to give you shit Luzhkov. I was only kidding. No hard feelings, okay?"
"It is fine. Go, enjoy your lunch. If the others are still giggling at my expense, you might remind them I've been known to debilitate people who mock me."
As soon as the other guardian left, Sonya crawled towards the bars. He motioned for her to stay still, walking over to the door and listening carefully. When no sounds came from the other side, he hurried over to the cell, crouching down so he would be at her level.
"We must be quiet, madam. Remember I am not supposed to speak to you."
"Were you really there? At Saint Vlad's?" Her pale white hands grasped the bars, as she stared at him with wide, hopeful eyes.
"Yes. Those flowers are from your Mikhail. He said they were your favorites." He reached into his pocket and handed her the photos. "I cannot leave those with you, they might be found. But every day I promise I will bring them to you."
She flipped through the pictures, her fingers tracing along the images they contained. "He looks… tired. He needs to sleep. And he's lost weight! How has he lost so much weight in so little time?"
"He was not eating. But I made him. I told him you would be angry that he was not taking proper care of himself."
"Thank you. Is he—" She stopped talking, staring at the final picture in the small stack. He knew which one it was by the tears that filled her eyes. "Oh my God. Is that…"
"Yes madam. It is the ring he will place on your finger as soon as you leave this place. He was going to give it to you the night they… right before you came to this place. I also have a few more things for you." Standing, he walked over to the flowers, deftly removing the small box of chocolates attached to the bottom of the vase. "See here, chocolates! All for you. But you must eat them before I leave."
She grabbed the box, shoving one in her mouth then closing her eyes and letting out a small moan of pleasure. "Oh… it's heavenly."
"I am glad that you like it. Mikhail was very upset when I told him you were not eating. The two of you are peas in a pod, both wasting away and starving yourselves."
She stared down at the box—it was small, containing only four pieces. Looking up at him, she held it out in his direction. "Would you like a chocolate, Savva Luzhkov?"
"No, thank you. Those are for you. And so are these," He rummaged through his pockets, producing a fabric covered rubber band and the book of poems. "First pull your hair back, moya maliy ptitsa. Then you will properly be able to see the book."
She pulled her long hair back into a low ponytail, smiling at him. "Would you read one to me, Savva? I don't trust myself to handle the book, it is very valuable to me, it was my grandmothers. If I started to… have a spell, I'm afraid I might damage it."
"Certainly. Is there one you prefer?"
"Page ninety three, please."
He flipped through the pages, staring at the poem she'd requested. Glancing up to meet her eyes, he saw a warm smile on her pale, grimy face. "Shall I read it in English or in Russian?"
"English today, Russian tomorrow. It is one of my favorites."
"It is one of mine as well." He cleared his throat before beginning, speaking in a slow, clear voice. His accent touched the words, making them sound almost musical.
"In alien lands devoutly clinging
To age-old rites of Russian earth,
I let a captive bird go winging
To greet the radiant spring's rebirth.
My heart grew lighter then: why mutter
Against God's providence, and rage,
When I was free to set aflutter
But one poor captive from his cage!"
"That's why you called me your little bird, isn't it Savva? This poem." She studied his face, her eyes filling with tears.
"Yes, it is. I hope it does not offend you, madam." He closed the book, embarrassed to feet a tear slide down his cheek.
"No, it was a lovely thought. May I ask you something?"
"Why did you go to Saint Vlad's? It's a long way away from here."
"To deliver your message to Misha. To take the photographs I showed you."
"But why? Why go to so much trouble for me?"
"You sound exactly like your lover, maliy ptitsa . He too had trouble believing that some people are kind for no reason. It saddens me to see two people who are so young and yet so terribly jaded."
She stared at her hands for a moment then looked up, her eyes filled with unasked questions. "The day you first spoke to me, you said I remind me of someone you knew. Will you tell me about her?"
He sighed staring off into the distance. "Would that make you happy? To hear about Sofiya?"
"Please. It would take my mind off this—" she gestured at the cell around her with a flourish, "for at least a little while."
Stretching his legs out in front of him, he leaned his side against the bars and told her about the first time he'd caught a glimpse of the girl that would always be the love of his life.
And so started what became their everyday ritual. Savva would sneak her in a treat, something small like a stick of peppermint candy or a bag of her favorite potato chips. He would sit on the floor beside her cell, leaning against the bars while Sonya mirrored him on the other side, their shoulders brushing through the gap. He would read her a poem—sometimes Tyutchev or Derzhavin, but more often than not Pushkin, and then he would tell her stories of his time in Russia with his beloved Sofiya. In the evenings he would call Tanner and replay what had happened and what she'd said, passing messages between the lovers—to the best of his limited ability.
He had yet to give her the letter, holding it back to use when the madness consumed her. The fact that it had not yet reappeared gave both of the men hope. They might have continued on that way, the madness remaining hidden, had fate not decided to stir the pot.
On the fourteenth day of Sonya's imprisonment, she fell asleep against the bars, her head partially resting on his shoulder. He began humming the melody she seemed to enjoy as he brushed away the hair that was stuck to her forehead.
The door opened so quietly that he completely failed to notice until a loud gasp of shock filled the small space.
He shot to his feet in shock, staring at Matilda Tsava and Carl Johnson, his mind spinning as he struggled to spin a lie they might find acceptable.
She held up her hand, staring at him. "Johnson, wait outside."
The young man stared at her, confused. "But—"
"Outside, now," she said, her voice like ice. As soon as the door closed behind him, her stern expression faded, changing into one of absolute pity. "Oh, Savva."
"It is not what your think, I swear by all that is holy." He twisted his hands in front of him, unable to meet her eye, knowing she must be assuming the worst.
"I went to Saint Basil's, Savva. You and Sofiya are a legend there, like Romeo and Juliet. There's even a memorial to her, with a picture of the two of you, hanging in one of the cabins. Ms. Karp looks a lot like her."
"Yes but… I was not behaving in an unjust manner, you must believe me. You see, Sofiya was… she our baby. My feelings toward Madam Karp are fatherly and nothing more."
"I believe you." She walked towards the cell where Sonya was huddled, now awake, shaking. "I won't tell anyone. I don't agree with the rules they've given us either. It seems like whatever you're doing down here has at least kept her calm."
"Don't talk about me like I'm not here!" Sonya screamed. "I can hear you! You're talking about me!"
Savva spun towards the cell, grasping the bars. "Calm down moya maliy ptitsa. Everything is fine. This lady is your friend, just as I am. She would never hurt you. Please."
Sonya stared at him, her hands knotting in her hair, her voice low and growling. "Don't talk about me! They'll find me if you do… They'll cut me open and dissect my brain. He told me they would."
"Who told you that? Who would tell you such a horrific lie, Sonya?" He watched as the sanity in her eyes drained away, replaced by a manic, crazed look as her body began twitching and spasming.
"I'll never tell you! Never!" Her laughter echoed off the stone walls, bouncing back at them.
Savva thrust his hand into his interior pocket, producing the long, white envelope with her name scrawled across the front. "Sonya, do you see this? Do you recognize the handwriting? It is from Misha. He asked me to deliver this to his beautiful girl."
Her head cocked to the side, reminding him of a predatory bird as she studied the envelope through the bars. Quick as a cobra her hand shot out in an attempt to snatch it from his grasp. She was fast, but Savva was faster, jerking it back at the last moment.
"No moya maliy ptitsa. Not until you calm down. You must be calm in order to read the love letter that he sent you. Breathe deeply. Think about Mikhail. It would hurt him to see you like this, dear one. It will break his heart if tonight I have to tell him that his Sonya was lost inside herself."
As he spoke in a soft soothing tone, his words seemed to penetrate the darkness inside her. Slowly her eyes returned to normal, and the frantic, jerky movements of her limbs ceased. In under five minutes, Sonya Karp had returned to them, without the need of medication.
"That's unbelievable!" Matilda stared into the cell, the wonder she felt reflected in her voice.
"Quiet!" Savva hissed. "Do not talk about her." Turning to Sonya, he smiled. "Do you know who I am, dear one?"
"Savva. You're my friend." Her voice was a whisper.
"Very good. Here is your letter, little one. I am going out into the hall with Guardian Tsava so you can have privacy while you read it." He set the letter on the ground within reach of the cell, then turned to Matilda, jerking his head in the direction of the door.
"Wait." Her hand shot out and clutched his ankle. "Thank you." She looked up at Matilda with a fearful expression. "Please don't punish him, he was only trying to help me. He understands about my illness. He helps keep me sane."
"Don't worry, Ms. Karp. He's not in trouble. Enjoy your letter. Maybe we can find a way for your Mikhail to visit you sometime soon."
"Thank you. Both of you." Sonya scooped up the letter, retreating to the tattered mattress.
Savva walked over to the door, waiting for his co-worker to join him. "I will see you tomorrow, little bird, I promise."
"Sweet dreams Savva."
Johnson was gone when they entered the hallway. Savva sighed, leaning back and slamming his head against the wall. "Damn him to hell a hundred times over."
"I've always suspected he was an asshole, this just proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt."
"What will they do to me, do you think?" He asked, studying the ceiling.
Matilda leaned back beside him. "I think that depends on how we spin what happened in there."
"What do you mean, spin it?"
"Savva, you got through to her—even the drugs don't calm her that quickly. I think we can tell them that you have experience with this… whatever it is, and that you can keep her calm."
"It's a long shot, yes?"
"Yes, it is—but I'm your superior and I witnessed it firsthand. I'm going to see the warden." She pushed off the wall and started up the stairs. "And Savva? As your superior, I appreciate the fact you followed my orders to the letter in talking to Sonya Karp and trying to keep her calm."
He stared at her, not comprehending. "You never gave me any orders. You never—"
"Ah, but I did. You just don't seem to remember. All you were doing in that room was following my orders Luzhkov."
"Matilda, I cannot allow you to put yourself at risk—"
"There is no risk. The warden has no power over me. I report directly to Queen Tatiana. She sent me here to monitor how the warden treated the guardians—and that little piece of information needs to remain between the two of us."
When he nodded she pulled out her radio, demanding another guardian come down to cover Johnson's shift. As soon as the man arrived, she took off, heading for the wardens office. Savva wandered in the direction of his room at a much more sedate pace, thinking about what he would say to Mikhail Tanner when they had their daily conversation, later in the evening.