A sequel to Ceaseless.
The day Illya had always prayed would never come has finally come.
An established relationship story.
Written: May 2011. Word count: 1,730.
Carefully, precisely, Illya folded shirts, trousers, sweaters, pajamas and jackets and put them into his case. He tucked socks, shorts, under-shirts, handkerchiefs and belts into the case, fitting them into any space he could find until the case was full.
He then turned his attention to filling a small bag with toiletries, shoes and a few books - the rest he would return for, along with his precious jazz records and his bottles of Russian vodka, in a day or two.
He looked down at the single case and bag before glancing around the room; apart from the items he would return for there was nothing else of his here. Nothing else to show for ten years of living and loving in this room. And the rest of the lavish apartment was the same; there was little of Illya there. Little to remind him that he had lived there; that he had lived there with his partner, his lover. Little to remind him that he had shared a home with Napoleon Solo.
Illya glanced up and stared into Napoleon's eyes. Napoleon hadn't spoken, not once, since Illya had begun packing. He was pale; his hair flopped over his forehead, damp from the hasty shower he'd taken. He stood in shirt sleeves, trousers and stocking feet just watching Illya.
Illya stared back, meeting the gaze that was filled with near panic and guilt. He was determined he would not be the one to speak first. He would pick up his bags and leave before he broke the silence.
Napoleon swallowed before dampening his lips. "Illya," he said, his voice sounded gruff. "Don't go."
Illya continued to simply stare at the man despite everything he still loved. The man he no longer liked, the man, when it came to the personal side of their relationship, he no longer trusted nor respected, but the man he knew he would die loving.
"Please," Napoleon said. Still Illya just continued to stare at him. "She meant nothing."
Illya closed his eyes and sighed softly. The same words. Always the same words. He opened his eyes. "I know," he said quietly; his voice, apart from being like ice, was free from emotion and intonation. "I have always known. In many ways it would have been better if she, if they, had meant something to you."
Napoleon blinked and his mouth parted slightly. Illya almost allowed a smile to escape at the look of complete surprise on Napoleon's face. "Why?" Napoleon finally asked.
Illya shrugged. "Because if I knew they meant something to you, then I might know that I -" He stopped abruptly at the look of anguish and despair that crossed Napoleon's face. It was no good; it wasn't in his nature to hurt Napoleon, no matter how much he had hurt him over the years. He couldn't finish the sentence.
"You know I care about you, Illyusha. You know I love you." Napoleon almost shouted the words and the passion and truth in his tone were obvious.
Illya sighed again and nodded. "Yes," he said. "I do." And he did. Despite everything, despite the women, despite the hurt Napoleon had caused him over the years, the one thing Illya had never doubted had been that Napoleon had loved him - still loved him, would quite possibly always love him.
He glanced at the bed, at his case, bag and overcoat all waiting for him to pick them up. In many ways it was crazy. He loved Napoleon, Napoleon loved him and he was about to walk out. To leave - for good. Why was he going? Why was he going now? What was so different this time from all the other times?
The answer to that was simple: when he had walked in and found his lover in bed with yet another woman, it hadn't hurt him. Unlike all the other times it had not hurt him. And he had known at that very second, known as Napoleon was dragging her out of bed, known as Napoleon was urging her to get dressed, known as Napoleon pushed her out of the door before she was even fully dressed, known as Napoleon had raced for the bathroom, that the day had come.
The day he had prayed for many years would not come had finally come. He had always vowed that the day finding Napoleon with a woman ceased to hurt him was the day he would walk away. That was why he was leaving, that was why he was leaving now, that was why he was leaving that night. That was why he would be going out into the night, into the dark, into the wind, into the rain, into the hail, into the cold. That was why he was walking out on the life he had once believed would last until death separated them. That was why he was walking away from the man he still loved.
Many people would have walked away long before now. Yet he had stayed; it wasn't as though he had had to stay; he hadn't, not at all. No, he had chosen to stay; he had made a conscious decision to stay. It had been his choice. His right to choose. It wasn't that he had no self-respect, he had plenty - more he suspected than Napoleon had. It wasn't as though he hadn't had anywhere else to go; it wasn't as if money had made him stay. He had had every reason to go and few to say. But he had stayed. He had simply stayed. It had been right for him to stay. Right in a way he couldn't explain to anyone, right in a way he couldn't necessarily even explain to himself. He had just known it had been the right thing to do - the thing he had wanted to do.
Mark had once made a very clumsy attempt to try and point out to Illya that he was letting Napoleon make a fool of him, that he was being badly treated, and that he was like a dog that kept going back to the owner who beat him. For at least a month after their conversation, Mark hadn't spoken to him, had taken to avoiding Illya and had paled and begun to shake if Illya's hand had moved anywhere near to his gun. Not that Illya would have needed a gun - as Mark had known well. In fact he wouldn't have needed to resort to any artificial weapon, not when he had his two hands.
"Please, Illya, give me another chance. I'll change." Napoleon took a step towards Illya, but stopped as Illya stared at him.
The irony of it was that Illya didn't want Napoleon to change, because he wouldn't be Napoleon if he did. And their relationship would be over anyway. It wasn't as if he hadn't wanted Napoleon to stop sleeping with women while living with him, he had wanted that. But he hadn't wanted Napoleon to change.
He shook his head, answering both Napoleon's question and shaking away his complicated thoughts. "It is too late," he said finally. And it was. It was too late. It no longer hurt him. It hadn't hurt to find the woman in their bed. It hadn't hurt as he'd begun to pack. It didn't hurt now. It would, he knew that, at some point it would hurt. Later that day, tomorrow, the day after, the week after, the month after it would hurt. It would hurt more than any injury he had ever sustained. But for now it didn't hurt. And that was why he knew it was right for him to go. Just as staying had been right before; now leaving was right.
He watched Napoleon open his mouth and saw him close it again. He saw Napoleon's shoulders slump. He saw his face turn even paler, watched as any hint of color was leached away. He saw a faint twitch at the corner of one of Napoleon's eyes. He watched as with a slightly shaky hand Napoleon pushed his hair back from his forehead. "What about U.N.C.L.E.?"
"I will remain as your partner until the day you retire from the field. At that time, I too will retire and use my skills in other ways." It was what they had always talked about doing. Alexander Waverly would almost certainly retire and hand over the mantle of U.N.C.L.E. to Napoleon and Illya would move to the labs. It almost amused him to see the look of surprise on Napoleon's face. "Who else would I trust to keep you alive?" he said, his tone for the first time contained something other than ice.
He waited, but Napoleon didn't say anything else - there was nothing else to say. However, now the moment had come, Illya wasn't quite sure what to do. How did lovers part? He had no previous experience. Napoleon had been his first lover. Should be just pick up his case and bag and leave? Should he shake Napoleon's hand? Should he kiss him? Should he say something? It wasn't as though they were parting as enemies.
Finally, he fell back on his culture. He walked around the bed, went to Napoleon, put his hands on Napoleon's upper arms, reached up slightly and kissed him on each cheek, before letting his hands drop to his sides. After a moment during which he said nothing but simply just stared into Napoleon's deep brown eyes, seeing the pain, the regret, the self-hatred, the self-disgust, the complete lack of self-respect, he turned on his heel and strode across the room.
He tugged on his overcoat, picked up in case in one hand and his bag in the other and without a backward glance or word walked out of the bedroom, through the living room, out of the front door, down the stairs and out into the night, out into the rain, the wind and the hail.
Just for a second he paused and glanced back at the building where he had learned to be happy. Then he straightened his shoulders, adjusted his grip on the case and bag and turned into the wind, the rain and the hail, none of which he felt and began to walk.
He kept on walking. This time he kept on walking. Finally he kept on walking.
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