Not What it Appears
The weight of the world seemed on his shoulders as he trudged up the stair towards his room, no, their room, he corrected himself. They'd been meeting there for so long, the lines had started to blur. It was a safe spot, their refuge, to talk, to unwind, to love. Sometimes they soared to great heights; other times, they lay quiet in each other's arms, just content to be together. It was an old song and one that sadly was about to change.
He tapped once on the door, then twice and finally once again. He heard steps and the door creaked open just a crack.
"It's you, finally. I was beginning to worry." That concern was obvious in the increased Russian burr of his partner's words. He was so careful to keep his accent hidden as much as possible, hiding it behind an English one these days.
"That was a challenging mission, to say the least. What possessed them to try and make the drop there escapes me."
"Ours is not to reason why, tovarish." He pushed past and walked into the room, knowing the door would be shut and securely bolted behind him.
"Shouldn't that be my line? I was having something to drink, would you join me?"
"Are you pouring something other than the rot gut vodka you drink?"
"For you, yes." He walked to a small nightstand and opened the whiskey bottle. He poured two fingers worth of the amber liquid into a relatively clean glass and passed it over. He didn't bother with a glass himself, preferring to drink straight from the half empty bottle of vodka. "Nostrovia!"
"Cheers!" They drank and he sat down heavily upon the bed.
"What's wrong? You look as if you've lost your best friend and I am right here."
"It was just so close... another minute..."
"The sniper is dead and you are fine."
"And you took one in the shoulder."
"A graze, nothing to worry about." He held up the bottle again. "To us! To tomorrow!"
"Ah, but that's the trouble isn't it, my friend? We have no more tomorrows."
It got very quiet, each man seeing his sadness reflecting in the eyes of the other.
"They told you?"
"I'd hoped to sneak out without you knowing." He smiled bitterly. "After all this time, I'd hoped I'd be forgotten, overlooked. Now they want me home."
"And you must go."
"Of course, it's my duty as a Soviet, as a good communist." He sighed long and hard. "Tomorrow, I will go home, I will marry, I will procreate, I will again do as my masters bid." Then he reached out, took the other's hand and placed it upon his chest. "We will have a world between us now, but you will forever be here. And if you need me, you've but to call and I will come."
"I know." He leaned forward to brush the long bangs off the board forehead with his free hand, letting his fingers card thought the blond hair.
"Then let us forget about duty and the future." He brought the hand to his mouth and kissed it gently. "Now let us think only of us."
The night was long and bittersweet. Again and again, they cried out the other's name, professing love one to the other, but in the morning, he woke alone.
Beside the bottle of whiskey was a note, short and concise, so much the way of his partner.
Моя любовь, (My love,)
Независимо от того, вы всегда будете в моем сердце. Я буду скучать по тебе. (No matter what, you will always be in my heart. I will miss you.)
The years moved faster and faster. He married and watched his children become adults. In spite of himself, days now went by without a thought of his partner and their wild youth . He reluctantly moved from the field to the desk, saw countless young people come and go.
However, as of late, his mind kept drifting back to days long past. He thought of their meeting, how their friendship had grown from a working relationship to something so much more.
He re-read the note, the paper now yellow and brittle with age, held together with tape and sheer will. On the back was the obituary notice, the pain it brought to his heart still fresh and as sharp as the day he'd received it.
There was an odd tickle at the back of his neck, something he'd not felt for a long time. Something that had meant his partner was near at hand... he glanced up, his face obviously betraying his surprise.
"But they said you were dead."
"And they are right. It's actually not so bad, once you get used to it."
"But if you're dead, why are you here?"
"You already know the answer to that question, my love."
"It's time then?"
"It is." He held out a hand.
He looked down at the table, so many assignments had been handed out there, so many good people had died so that others could live free. "It's hard to let go."
"They'll be fine, you know. You will be missed and revered, but you have picked well and this world will go on. Now it is time for you to claim your reward."
He grasped the outstretched hand and gasped. His own hand was no longer gnarled with arthritis and spotted with age. It was young and strong just as he was once again young and strong.
The door opened and his secretary entered, carrying the usual assortments of file folders, newspapers and documents.
"I shall miss her. She is a good secretary"
"You always did have a weakness for the ladies, my friend." They started to walk hand in hand from the room. Behind him, he could hear her voice.
"Good morning, sir, how are you today? Sir? Mr. Waverly...?"