Dawn draws closer, and Lev, Kolya, and the partisans head for a safe house near the lake. As they walk they pass another burning village, and Lev wonders how the intense violence can look so beautiful. They hear machine guns firing and keep walking.
The sound of the machine guns is supposed to indicate that the Nazis are massacring the villagers. This ties back to the extreme and senseless violence of the war, but also how beauty can be found in even the most brutal conditions.
When they reach the safe house, one of the partisans starts a fire and they all crowd around it. Lev again fantasizes about Vika and wonders if he's the only one who is attracted to her. When the fire is warm enough, Lev lies down and falls asleep nearly immediately, but is soon woken by Kolya asking if Lev is mad at him, and apologizing for lying to Lev. Lev asks Kolya to let him sleep.
For once in his life, Lev falls asleep quickly but is thwarted by Kolya. This reversal (as well as Kolya’s newfound vulnerability) is somewhat humorous, and provides some lightness to a very serious and potentially deadly part of Lev and Kolya's journey.
Kolya asks Lev if he wants to know the truth about why Kolya left his battalion. Lev says Kolya can tell him tomorrow, but Kolya shares anyway. He says that he hadn't been with a girl in four months, and after a week without sex he can't concentrate. There was a party planned for New Year's Eve and he figured it'd be easy to sneak out and see one of his female friends in Piter. When he arrived at her apartment, he was told that she'd been dead for a month. When he tried the apartment of another woman her husband answered, and he ended up across town to see a “professional.” The woman allowed Kolya to pay with bread.
Finally Kolya opens up to Lev fully about his life and desires. While Kolya's story is a somewhat humorous and desperate tale of desire, sex, and relationships, and the reader is fully expected to find it funny, parts of it remain deeply sad, particularly the discovery that the woman he was going to see first had died. Notice that Kolya doesn't spend any time sharing how he felt or feels about her death. He’s thus humanized further when the reader realizes his youthful selfishness and narrow-mindedness.
By the time Kolya had finished, he'd missed his ride back to the battalion by hours, but figured getting back wouldn't be difficult. An NKVD patrol stopped him, though, and they weren't impressed by Kolya's lack of papers and attempt to appeal to their humanity, so they took him to the Crosses. Lev asks how the first girl died, and Kolya suggests starvation.
Lev picks up on Kolya's omission of information about the first woman who died. Kolya's tone could indicate that he maybe doesn't care that much about her, but it could also reference back to the necessity of disengaging from the horrors of life to survive.
Lev and Kolya are silent for a moment and Lev asks Kolya why it's dark at night. Kolya replies that it's an excellent question and then falls fast asleep. Lev falls asleep an hour later.
The end to the conversation provides the reader with another lighter note, when Kolya answers and immediately falls so deeply asleep, leaving Lev awake once more.