Tell Me What You Want
"Tell me what you want."
In sleep, Illya comes happily to my arms, welcoming my touch, my love. In my dreams, I could tell him about all the love, all the fear I have in my heart for him. Waking up in Medical and not having him there was probably the most terror I'd ever felt.
Mr. Waverly's arrival had been the only thing that had kept me from crawling out of bed and going to look for my partner.
"How are you feeling, son?" In spite of his front of disinterest and aloofness, I knew the Old Man felt a deep respect and sense of responsibility for his agents.
"Illya? Where is he?"
"He seems to have disappeared into the woodwork after bringing you in."
Disappearing, that was Illya all right. He was the sort of man whose presence could fill a room and then instantly fade away, invisible, unseen, unless he chose to be.
"Is he okay?"
"He was functioning, although I do believe the term 'flying under the radar' might apply to him at the moment."
"He saved me." I said that without really hearing the words at first. It was what we did; we'd saved each other so many times we'd lost count. Only this time, it had been close. THRUSH had done their best and then their worst and still I somehow held on, knowing that Illya would be disappointed if he found me dead.
"Indeed he did, Mr. Solo." Waverly patted my shoulder and started to move away. "Get some rest."
Easier said than done. I'd been snatched from a hotel room in the middle of the night, my temporary partner left for dead. Had that been the clue Illya needed to find me? I'd tried to leave something behind that he could find, that he could use, a proverbial needle in the haystack and yet, it had been enough.
But where was he? I drifted off to sleep that night, confused and feeling strangely hollow inside, all because of an empty chair.
And it stayed empty the next day. I begged, I pleaded, hell, I even offered to pay for just a few minutes alone with a communicator, but no dice. And worse, no Illya. The doctors would tell me nothing, other than he wasn't here. The nurses, I did my best, but again, a big goose egg.
So I put my mind to healing and thinking. We'd had a tight partnership almost from the first. The initial week was a bit iffy, but we got things sorted out and pretty soon we were a well oiled unit. I did my best to lure him out of his shell, but Illya was more bent on solitude. He didn't care much for parties, although he handled them as well as anyone else when put to the task. He preferred one on one to anything else.
While I dated, I would often be halfway through the evening and find myself yearning for his company. Women are wonderful complex creatures, delightful and pleasant enough, but there were times when I preferred Illya's quiet sense of humor, his often off-kilter way of seeing things.
I'd tease him about going on a double date or something and he'd get a strange look in his eyes. It wasn't fear, I didn't know what it was, but it made him retreat fast into a shell that even I couldn't penetrate.
Every once in awhile, the need would surface, the desire for something a little different, something that only another man could give me. It wasn't by coincidence that the men I picked were all shorter, blue- eyed blonds. That's when I first realized I'd become just a bit infatuated with my partner.
I tried approaching him, touching his arm, brushing the hair from his eyes, small intimate touches, just to see what he'd do. Sometimes he'd flirt back, but mostly, he'd just move away, occasionally with a glimpse of profound sadness in his eyes.
By the end of the next day, I'd managed to brow-beat the doctors into releasing me. It was against their better judgment; I was risking this or that. I knew all that and I didn't care. I'd made up my mind. I was going to come clean with Illya. I'd tell him how I felt and go from there. If he didn't reciprocate, that was okay. I just needed to let him know what he meant to me before it was too late.
This last time it had been far too close and maybe in truth, the fear of the unspoken was one of the few things that had gotten me through it; that and the unshakeable trust of my partner to save me one last time.
I knocked on his door, wondering if he'd even answer or if he'd taken off entirely. He had a dozen different places he'd hole up given the chance and I frankly lacked the energy to go searching. I started here and hoped that my gut was right.
After an eternity, I heard the locks being worked and the door eased itself open. I very nearly gasped at the sight, but somehow managed to keep my comment brief. "You're a sight for sore eyes." Illya looked like crap, pure and simple. Whatever he'd endured at the hands of THRUSH before he got to me was more than he should have, partnership non-withstanding. "Thanks for abandoning me in Medical."
"It wasn't my intention. I just got a little sidetracked, that's all."
I looked past him to the sofa, where he'd obviously been, and at the half dozen empty vodka bottles. "Self medicating again, obviously," was what I meant to say, but it came out "So I see." I hated that Illya often turned to alcohol for relief, be it from pain or what all. Just once I wish he'd turn to me instead.
"You heal your way, leave me to mine."
I watched as he moved back to the couch and sat down, oh so carefully. There was something really wrong, it was apparent in how he carried himself, how he eased himself down onto his right side. Damn stubborn Russian!
"I'm fine, thank you. What do you want, Napoleon?"
I knew I'd lost some weight during the last week, but he looked like a poster child for a famine relief fund. I looked over at the kitchen, but there wasn't much sign of anyone having been in it recently save a couple of boxes of cereal that had tipped over on a counter, spilling their contents to the Formica and the tile floor. "Have you eaten?"
He looked so tired and it seemed as if forever passed before he managed to formulate a response. "Does cornflakes and vodka count? If so, then yes, I've eaten."
I wanted to wrap my hands around his throat and shake him. "Christ, Illya, how do you live this way?"
He looked honestly confused by the question and that was when I realized just how drunk he probably was. And in pain... and exhausted.
"Napoleon, surely you didn't come all this way to criticize my living space."
I had to think about that for a bit. What had I come for? To make sure he was okay, which he was... barely. To reassure myself that it wasn't too late, which it wasn't—again, barely. I just wanted to make sure we were okay. That he didn't hate me for what he felt he owed me. He owed me nothing, just the opposite. I owed him the world time and time again.
"You left me in Medical." I tried to keep the words from sounding like an accusation. I understood his motivation. Neither of us cared for being fussed over, poked and prodded. I knew he hated losing his privacy, having people do things that a man would prefer to do for himself.
"It seemed for the best. I've already worn out my welcome there this year."
God, he sounded so weary and I couldn't help it, I sat down beside him and reached out to place a hand on his forehead, then moved it to his cheek. He was hot to the touch, and not in a good way. "You have a fever."
"Probably." And we started through a familiar tap dance of verbal sparring, then I couldn't stop the words any longer; I had to say what was in my heart and hope that Illya understood what I was trying to say. "Do you know what got me through all those torture sessions with THRUSH? It was knowing that you were on your way. I didn't know when, just that I needed to hold on until you got there."
"I very nearly didn't. I'm sorry it took me so long to track you down."
That was so Illya beating himself up for not having performed the near impossible more quickly. He would change water into wine and then apologize for not making it the right vintage. He'd have made a great Catholic. "That was a helluva risk you took, giving yourself up like that. They could have killed you."
"They could have, but I figured they would be more interested in using me to make you talk."
Of course, he couldn't see that he had value, of what THRUSH had when he was in their clutches. To his way of thinking, he was just a placeholder, just once more nameless agent at Waverly's disposal.
"Still..." I couldn't help it and didn't want to resist. If I waited until we were both well, I ran the risk of him decking me. I leaned forward and kissed him. Do you ever have a moment when you've dreamed of something, how wonderful it could be, what heights it could take you to, then did it and, knowing that you faced disappointment, discover it was better than you could have ever imagined?
His lips were as soft as I'd thought they must be and I heard his breath catch. "Do you know what you do to me, Illya? How much I care for you? How much I love...Illya? Illya?" He'd literally slumped forward in my arms. Go figure, I'd been kissing women for years and never had one swoon. One quick peck with my partner and he's gone.
So I did what any self respecting agent would do. I called it in. I knew there would be hell to pay if Illya woke up in Medical, but considering the fever he was running, I'd rather face his ire than the need of breaking in a new partner.
I didn't try to move him from the couch. I just flopped him over and went about cleaning up the bottles, the tangle of blankets and clothes. It felt good to move through familiar tasks of making things right, sweeping away evidence of Illya's weaknesses.
The Medical team arrived and did what they do best. I steered clear; I'd smelled enough isopropyl alcohol in the last couple of days to last a life time. I stayed in the living room, thumbing through a magazine of questionable topics—I mean, does anyone really care about wavelengths of lights and their effects on various gemstones?
I glanced up at the doctor as he exited the closet that passed as Illya's bedroom. Why he didn't move to a bigger place was beyond me. He could afford better.
"I've gone ahead and taken care of a few things. I suspect he'll be a bit more comfortable. I'm arranging transportation now."
"Can't he stay here?"
"He really shouldn't be alone for the next day or so." He hesitated. "Neither of you should."
I grinned. "Why, Doc, what are you suggesting?"
"He's your partner; you take care of him. We're still patching the holes in the wall from his last internment. "
"Okay, I can do that."
They left me with a laundry list of what to do or not to do in certain events and one of these days, I might even read it. For the moment, I tossed it onto the small table Illya used in his kitchen and made a couple of calls. I didn't know about him, but I was starving.
I thought the smell of food would be enough to bring him around, but on he slept, a testament to just how tired he really was.
It had started to rain just after the food arrived and I ate listening to music and trying to watch the tiny black and white TV Illya owned. It became too much of an effort to stay up, so I scoured his bookshelves until I found a copy of The Lady of the Camellias, then stripped down to my underwear and stretched out beside him.
I'd been lying there, my mind half on the book when I felt the bed move. A second later, warmth settled against me as Illya came closer. In spite of my own aches and pains, and right now, there were more than a few, I got my arm around him and pulled him near.
He sighed, burrowed down a bit more, but never woke and a sense of right descended upon me. This is how it was supposed to feel. We were safe, we were together and the rest of the world could go hang. I stroked his head and he shifted away with a groan. And just like that, it was over. Together for a moment and then apart, my life in a nutshell.
I slept for awhile, but really couldn't get comfortable enough on Illya's bed. The rain had picked up and I watched it beat down against the city for a long time, letting my breath fog the glass and then wiping it away.
I went back to bed and started to read again. It was in the middle of a paragraph when I realized something had changed and knew Illya was part of the waking world again.
"You're finally awake." I tried to keep the relief out of my voice as I smiled at him. He looked better for the rest and nodded still groggy from sleep. "The doc was here and patched you up. Took out the transponder while he was at it." Illya nodded again. "He gave you a shot and decided you would be as comfortable here as in Medical so long as someone stayed with you."
"And you stayed? I didn't." I hated that his voice sound so thread, a shadow of its usual assuredness.
"I figured you had just cause." He sat up, slowly, cautiously, as if expecting to hurt, then surprised that he didn't. "You feel like some soup?" His stomach gurgled and I grinned even wider. "Now there's the Illya I know and love."
"You kissed me..."
"I hadn't expected you to swoon from it, but yes."
His expression was a combination of embarrassment and confusion. "I didn't swoon, I passed out. It's... entirely different. Why?"
"Why? To say thank you, to let you know I understood, or maybe I was just getting tired of waiting for you to make the first move..." I brushed the hair off his forehead and studied him, trying to see past the barricades he erected. "I didn't want to come that close again without telling you."
"Telling me what?"
"How much I care for you... love you. Even if you're not interested, it doesn't matter, I just couldn't take any more chances..." I faltered for just a second, but I was determined to see this through. "I couldn't lose you without at least telling you how I felt."
For an eternity he sat there quietly and then he reached out covering his hand with mine. I'd seen that hand inflict grievous bodily harm, disarm explosives, jump start a car. I'd felt it grip my arm until I wanted to groan from pain and felt it struggle to keep my blood from leaking out. Yet I had never felt such tenderness before.
"You don't have to tell me, Napoleon. I've always known." He smiled, a shy, hesitant thing so unlike the cocky grin he gets at times.
I wanted to gather him into my arms and show him just how much I really felt. I wanted to feel him moving against me, crying out for release, I wanted to love him into submission. I wanted to be able to move without feeling like I was going to shatter into a million pieces. And somehow he knew.
"I think all that comes later, my friend." Illya's lips were soft against my ear. "For now, this is good."
He was right. For now, just knowing that we'd taken that first step into a new world was enough and the breath on my cheek, the slow caress of his hand; that would do just fine. For the first time in my life, I wasn't in a hurry, no longer seeking. I was home.
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