Ivan Stanislav stood expectantly at the street corner somewhere in San Diego. There were many pedestrians who made double-takes when they saw the hulking man in work pants, black shirt, and red suspenders. Most must have not been PRIME fans, because they gave him looks, but for once, he was not heckled.
Not that he would care.
He stared across the four lane highway, where the occasional car crossed, and did not see the people who walked in front of his vision. But when he saw what he was looking for, he exhaled a sigh of relief.
A large, black van stopped across the street, someone got out beyond his vision, and when it pulled away there he stood in his brown greatcoat, hat, and a grin.
As Ruslan looked across the street at his friend, his heart shifted near his throat.
Ivan was safe.
The two men smiled.
Stanislav might have almost looked like a kid, shifting from one foot to another as Ruslan boldly strode across the highway, actually putting a hand out to stop a car who totally had the right of way, and earning the ire of the horn that blew in his direction. He didn’t care.
“There you are Alexei Greg—” Ivan began, but his words were cut off by the most surprising of things.
A Ruslan-sized bear hug.
Ivan hugged Alexei back for a moment, and as the two pulled away, they gripped each other’s elbows and stared into each other’s eyes.
It had been a difficult time for the Russians. And Ruslan, surprisingly, had tears in his eyes.
“Alexei?” Ivan asked softly and tilted his head.
“I thought I could have lost you, my friend.” Ruslan paused. “My brother.”
Alexei had been trapped not in Sochi, but yes, New Mexico, and he could only hear what had happened on that dreadful Saturday, when the world watched in fear and concern as civil war might have broken out in his homeland, half a globe away. Of course, there were security risks to consider and political implications, but helpless in America, Ruslan could only do one thing.
Worry about his friend.
Ivan suddenly understood and spoke softly to his friend. “It is okay, Alex. I am okay.”
It wasn’t just that saturday. When he was detained, he wasn’t there to protect Ivan when Jared Sykes brutally attacked him. He only managed to hear scattered information and Ivan certainly didn’t tell him all the details over the phone, but afterwards, when he was free, Alexei heard the grievous wounds that were dealt to his friend.
He would have gladly taken the full brunt for his friend.
Ruslan nodded his head quietly and smiled back at Ivan. “Good.” He said with soft words and squeezed that impossibly large elbow. “Good.”
They embraced again. This time, brought upon by Ivan. He could not have fathomed losing yet another brother and realized the gravity of Alexei’s feelings. “So then,” Ivan said as he released his comrade in arms, “let us think about Tropical Turmoil, eh?”
Alexei smiled. Back to work. It was only then that he looked up past his friend and saw the building behind him.
“Yes but, lets eat first, eh?” Ruslan replied.
With a grin, the two comrades walked, together, into the vaunted House of Waffles.
The employee’s wouldn’t know what hit them.