I was shocked-that's not a great word to describe it, but it's the best I can do right now-when the bullet slammed into my chest. It was a good shot, that must be said for the kid. Unfortunately, not even the best shot in the world could defend the boy from Travis's dead aim or the blade that sliced his jugular open like a split hose. A hose, that's what it looked like with his blood spraying everywhere.

I know you weren't looking around us, that was bad and we both knew it. There were other targets there, but once I fell, you had eyes only for me. That was stupid, Brother. You could have joined me just as quickly on that cold floor. But I know you would have loved it if someone would have shot you. With how much blood was coming from my chest, we both knew what would be the end result of this.

I fell to one knee first, gasping for breath with my hand pressed futilely against my chest. Every breath pulled blood from my lungs, up my throat and out of my mouth. I would choke on my own blood long before I died of blood loss. You pulled me to your chest and begged me to stay with you, but I was already slipping away. Travis was running towards us, his rifle over one shoulder, shouting orders and gesturing with the arm that wasn't holding his rifle. I wanted to tell him something, that I was done and he needed to calm down, and I wanted to comfort you. I couldn't. Every time i try to speak, my blood silences me. It's like when you inhale water and choke, and you try to breathe but you just choke more. I can't say a damn thing to you, but I hope you know that I love you, because I know you love me.

The darkness is pushing around me, pulling me under as if I've been caught in an undertow. I want to cling to you but my strength has left me. This is not the way I wanted things to end. I didn't want things to end at all, no one ever does, but I certainly didn't want this to be my conclusion. I have so much to say and absolutely no time to say it. I want to cry, Yuri, if only because I'm leaving you, and I'm breaking you.

I think I begin to cry, though I can't be sure. Travis has forced you away so he can examine my wound, but your hand is till clenching mine, whispering soft words in Russian. I don't want to let you go, and I can feel that the moment I do, a part of your soul, your heart, a part of you will crumble. I don't think there is anything in the world that can heal that kind of injury.

Absently, I'm thinking about a time when we were younger. In Russia, I fell into a frozen pond and you dove in after me. I woke up with you in the hospital bed next to mine and asked, "What would you do if I died?"

You looked over at me, smiled and said, "I'd die alongside you, brother."

Those words have always been between us. "If you die, I die." Our code of brothers.

Now I'm dying, but you aren't, and I want to scream.

It's a week and a half later that my funeral is held, and I am standing beside you the whole time. I think you know I'm here. I see you fall to the mud, denying every jacket. I want to hold you.

You're begging me to live, begging God to let me live. I want to tell you that I'm not leaving without you, that I'll be by your side until the day you die. I remember every fight we've had and everytime I've come home to classic music blaring so loud that I can hear it from the driveway. I smile and vow to keep those memories close to my heart. I'll visit you in your dreams and I will live forever in our memories-yours now, I suppose. I wish I could make more with you, but now I can only watch as you go on without me. This, I'm certain, is how an abandoned puppy feels.

You're crying now, and so desperately I want to hug you and tell you it's alright.

I know you love me, Brother. I love you.