“It’s sad, isn’t it?”
Dick looked at Herschel, eyebrows raised, a questioning glint in his eyes. Nathan wasn’t as discreet about it.
“What’s sad?” he demanded. “Do you want us to pry it out of your mouth with rusty tongs, jackass?”
Herschel struck a dramatic pose. “I’m in the middle of an epiphany here, and you’re mouthing me off, Nate?? Shame on you!” He began shaking his head exaggeratedly. Nate promptly flipped him off, causing a group of veiled Muslim girls to avert their faces.
They were in the middle of the city walking through a crowded market, as was their wont in the evenings. The three of them had known each other for years now, and could comfortably call each other best friends for the ages.
“Knock it off, both of you,” said Dick. “You’re scaring the birds away.”
“Fucker,” replied Nate, his tone sharp. “We do not come here to look at the local wildlife.”
“Talk about yourself, asexual arsehole,” retorted Herschel. “The birds in this place are some of the best in the country. You may blind yourself to everything that sways, but I’m totally lovin’ it!”
“I’ll have you know,” began Nate. Both Dick and Herschel groaned. Nathaniel with his high and mighty pompous talk all over again. “I’m the only one here who’s ever done anything.” He formed his fingers in the sign of victory, his grin bright enough to outshine the full moon. “Where are you two, huh? Still stuck at the courting stage. Pooh. Learn from a master, suckers.”
“Nate,” replied Dick delicately, “I don’t know how many times we’ve told you this, but getting a hooker does not make you better than us.” Herschel nodded fervently behind him, the very picture of agreement.
“She was no whore!”
“Oh come on. Half the college calls her that. She’s got that reputation!”
“Having that reputation doesn’t automatically make someone a whore.”
A trio of girls waved at Nate. He waved back, impatiently continuing with his tirade. “You, Richard, should know that more than anyone else.”
Dick rolled his eyes. “Please. I’ve never been called a man-whore in my life. It’s not likely to begin today.”
“You know who I’m talking about.”
Herschel sighed. “We’re not going back to that topic again, Nate.” They rounded a corner, the three of them neatly sidestepping the exposed sewer stinking up the place. Dick wrinkled his nose.
“Yeah,” Dick agreed, “The Russians are an old topic. Let them stay buried.”
“You brought mine up,” grumbled Nate.
Herschel pounced. “Ah ha! So you do agree that she was a Russian, do you now?” He bumped fists with Dick, who was grinning broadly from ear to ear.
“No!” shouted Nate. “No, really, no! She was no Russian!”
“Oh kay, oh kay, wait a bit,” said Richard, his smile dropping. His voice lowered an octave. “I have a doubt.” Herschel and Nathaniel came closer, their quarrel forgotten. “Till now, we’ve talked so openly about the Russians, so easily about them. Though it’s true that there are aspects about them well known to others, the entirety of this knowledge is shared only among the members of this party. So, for the sake of scientific analysis and future generations,” he paused dramatically for his words to have maximum impact, “How does one define a Russian?”
There was silence as Nate and Herschel considered his question. Dick looked at them, a triumphant feeling spreading through him. It wasn’t often that he had a doubt which would take longer than five minutes in this august company. To have one meant real deep thought.
Yup, I’m epic.
“I guess,” piped up Herschel uncertainly, “that they were just a group into which we dropped girls we wished to?”
“Then why only a select few?” countered Nate, his analysis mode on. He absently flipped a beggar the finger as he thought about it, ignoring the fellow’s incoherent sputtering at being so casually insulted.
“That’s a bad habit, you know,” observed Richard.
Nate flipped him off too. Dick decided that discretion remained the better part of valour and vowed not to get flipped off again that day.
“I think,” began Nate, “that a Russian is simply someone who we got close to, began expecting things from, and then saw that she wasn’t worth it.”
“By that definition, Worthington is a Russian,” commented Dick snidely, winking at Herschel.
Nate flipped him off again. Dang.
“We do not call Worthington a Russian,” said Nathaniel with finality, his face hardening.
“All right, all right,” replied Herschel. “Drop it, fellas, you don’t get points for making Candice a Russian, Dick, nor you for flipping Dick off, Nate.” Before Nate could flip him off, he continued, “But you’re missing one important point from your definition.”
“We had withdrawal symptoms about them.”
Dick raised an eyebrow. “We did?” He smoothed his hair with one hand, peering at his reflection in a shop window. “Speak for yourselves, arseholes, I know I didn’t.”
“Right,” drawled out Nate. “I remember those phone calls late in the night about wanting to talk it out.”
Dick threw his hands up in exasperation. “It took me one week! It took the idiot here,” he pointed at Herschel, “around a month or so!”
“Hey!” cried Herschel indignantly, “Less than a month. Twenty five days!”
The other two shot him filthy looks.
“Well,” said Nate, “I still beat you. I didn’t take any time getting over her.”
Both Herschel and Richard let the opportunity slide. They’d needled him enough, and Nate could get pretty touchy wherever Candice Worthington cropped up. They’d almost got together, before Worthington fuck-zoned him. That was more than six months ago, and Nate still bragged about it at times.
“Not Candice, idiot,” replied Dick impatiently, “Martha.”
Nate’s face darkened. “That,” he replied, “was when I was younger, and not experienced enough.”
“That way,” said Herschel, smiling, “your first Russian took you around a year to get over, Dick.”
“A month, really,” replied Dick. “The rest of the year was just a stubborn refusal to get anything of the quality I was being offered. I know I can do better.”
“Then why don’t you?” asked Nate snidely. “Scared you’ll actually get somewhere?” Before Dick could reply, he continued, “Oh, wait. I know. You’re scared of the bedroom.” He waggled his finger at Dick, the smile on his face positively feral.
Dick rolled his eyes. “Why, Nate,” he said, “does everything come down to sex for you? Is Worthington really that good in bed? Oh right, she must be, she’s had so much experience before coming to you.”
That was a low blow, and all three of them knew it. Herschel winced, knowing that he had to mediate this fight too. Dick prepped himself mentally. Nate was good at ripping people to shreds, but Dick knew that he could outsmart him. They’d grown up together, for heaven’s sake.
Nate surprised him. “You’d be shocked,” he smiled. “There are professors on that list.”
Dick’s jaw was hanging open, and so was Herschel’s. They were standing in the middle of a busy footpath, with beggars and pickpockets trying to get money from anyone and everyone. Vendors were marketing their goods at the top of their voices, their chants clashing to make a harsh cacophony. Pedestrians shouted obscenities to the three friends as they were forced to make a path around them. But they were beyond such things right now. Shock tends to do that to people.
“Really?” asked Herschel in wonder.
Nate’s expression soured, “No.” He began walking again. He turned around to find his two companions rooted to the spot.
“Oi!” called Nate irritably. “You coming for coffee or not?”
Dick and Herschel exchanged glances. A mutual look of agreement passed between them in that split second.
Both of them ran after Nate.