@amachja said: ❛ tender . kiss my muse on the [cheek] .
“No, it’s fine. I promise.”
Bertholdt keeps his eyes on his hands. He is deft with a knife, seems to have a knack for it. He peels potatoes and carrots with military precision. You’d think he’s never done anything else. They are long hands, long fingers, and sometimes it looks as if he is getting in his own way. The blade cuts milimeters past his thumb, swift and certain. He could have become a chef with an eye for detail like that. He never bleeds.
He flicks another peel away and slices the potato in half. Sasha hangs over him, half on his shoulder. Her hair is tied back in a ponytail but a few wispy strands have fallen out, curled along the edges of her collar. It tickles at his nape, like so many fingertips brushing against his skin. Bertholdt freezes under her, under the onslaught of her warmth as she asks again and again: Is it all right?
She didn’t ask him to cover for her, to pull a double shift. Sasha is kind enough not to ask. But he can tell she wants to go. He saw her fidget out of the corner of his eye when Connie came teasing and drawling, spouting braggadocio about some exploit or other that Sasha simply can’t miss. No, he did not ask Bertholdt tag along but he did greet him and that was good enough for him. He calmly kept his head down. He was peeling potatoes. Sasha fidgeted until he finally raised his head again, asking her if she wanted to go.
Yes, no, of course not, but yes.
Bertholdt smiled then, at the girl by his side, at her fidgeting. Of course he told her to leave, to join in the fun. It feels airy and light to think about it, sneaking off to have some fun. He wants that for her. Selfishly, he wants to have a hand in her having it. He wants to say of himself that he has done something good here, even this tiniest thing. And he wants to have done it for her.
So he assures her it’s fine, a fifth time. And this time, Sasha bounces away from him. Bertholdt keeps his smile even if at the edges it begins to tinge. He enjoys spending this time with her, when they are in the privacy of the kitchen, with inside jokes between them, a soft, slightly dreamy glow to their conversation. It’s not Sasha’s fault that it feels a little too soft. In fact, he thinks that’s what he likes about it. She makes him feel soft, in a good way, a way that doesn’t get criticized. And he is so soft he almost likes himself when Sasha hangs off his shoulder, when she presses her hands into him and laughs her gratitude into his ear.
She runs off in a hurry, a thunder of army boots. And Bertholdt remains in the kitchen, hunched over the pot. He cuts another tuber in half and throws it into the pot, piece by piece. He regards the knife, the cool gleam of it. And then, very suddenly, a warm touch. Sasha ghosts back to his shoulder and presses her lips to his cheek.
Sasha kisses his cheek. Sasha disappears.
Bertholdt jolts, sits up straight. Warmth floods through his whole body; briefly he is illuminated. He watches her go, her hair waving after her as she rounds the corner. He stares at the echo of the girl, her lips still a brush against his jaw. She is shimmering out of existence like a pleasant fragrance. All that warmth ebbs with her, leaves him behind untouched in the kitchen, with the knife. Bertholdt glances down at his palm. And notices the blood.