If I'd been an instant faster, everything would have been fine. As it happened, I was only just upright when the THRUSH goon collapsed against me with one of Illya's bullets in him. I swayed for a moment but I don't have my partner's peerless sense of equilibrium. With hands and feet tightly bound it was hopeless and I had time to catch only a meagre breath before I toppled into the foetid water.
Above me I can still hear the muffled sounds of the skirmish. No more gunfire. Is that good or bad? One-to-one are good odds for my scrappy partner, even without a weapon, but those guys were built like refrigerators and it may take Illya some time to put the second one down.
Time I don't have.
My chest is aching and I know my last, deficient breath is all but exhausted. Who'd have thought the lake would be this deep? I'm still sinking and nothing firm yet beneath my feet.
Nothing to slow my descent into the dark.
There's a sharp pressure-pain in my ears. They're roaring too, and the urge to breathe is almost irresistible. What the hell, I'm going to do it anyway...
But there's a mild disturbance above me, barely a ripple, and movement in the water beside me and sure hands on my body pulling me upwards.
My heart's thudding against my ribs. I'm light-headed, giddy with relief. He's done it again! Delivered me from mine enemies. I want to whoop for joy - and then my control shatters and I release the last, precious breath that's been anchoring me to life.
The panic is coruscating, but before the terminal bubbles have silvered their way past my eyes his mouth is on mine, and instead of rank, icy water, warm, Illya-flavoured air is rushing into my starving lungs. I hoard it there greedily.
I'm never, ever going to let this breath go...
Our heads break the surface together and I'm gasping and retching as he pilots me to the edge of the lake. I'm erect and so hard it hurts. Adrenaline will do that to you. I hear him breathing hard behind me.
He releases the rope around my hands and supports me against the lakeside. I wince as my erection presses against the side wall - and then gasp as his presses against my buttocks. I vent some more of the lake from my lungs.
He holds me carefully as I cough and splutter. And then a hand snakes around in front and he's in my pants, stroking my aching cock. Saving me again.
"Breathe," he murmurs against my ear.
I do, but the air feels thin and it doesn't sustain me like his breath. Panting, I turn my head seeking more. His lips are cold but pliant and so alive. He's pumping my cock hard now and my tongue is in his mouth and we're exchanging more, so much more, than breath.
"Illya," I groan into his mouth as I come, and he slows his stroke, gentling me back down. With a final soft kiss he pulls back to look at me wryly.
"I can't say I approve much of your choice of swimming pools," he says, brushing back the hair plastered to my forehead.
"Picky, picky," I say, slipping a hand behind his head. "You can choose the location next time. In the meantime, just run that breathing thing past me again..."