ILLYA'S VIA DOLOROSA
Set after The Fifteen Years Later Affair.
Napoleon is back, but is he back to stay? Can Illya trust him again after all he went through when Napoleon walked away fifteen year ago?
A first time story.
Written: March 2012. Word count: 1,395.
When I was a child I spoke as a child
I understood as a child I thought as a child;
"I need you, Illya."
I look at him. I see the man who walked away from me fifteen years ago. The man who walked away from U.N.C.L.E. Walked away from New York. Walked away from America. I see the man who hurt me more than I believed it was possible to hurt me.
I, a Russian, who grew up under a crippling regime; an orphan; unwanted; uncared for; unloved; too small, too slight, too blond, too pretty, too intelligent to be of any use to anyone. I who had known depravation, who had known a level of suffering most people could not comprehend, certainly not the man I now look at. How could he have ever known a single iota of suffering? He had never had a moment during his childhood when he was not loved, cosseted, wanted, cared for. I do not believe he has ever known what suffering, what true suffering or grief is - and even I cannot wish he would.
I had thought my personal suffering and grief had ended when I was finally allowed to leave Russia to start a new life in the west. Cambridge had opened my eyes in more ways than one; it had offered me another kind of education, which I had ignored. However, I left Cambridge knowing two things: I would not return to live in Russia and that I wished to work for an organization that benefitted the world. I found U.N.C.L.E.
And in finding U.N.C.L.E. I also found Napoleon Solo, my partner, my friend, the man I started out uncertain about, not sure if I could trust such a man who seemed to spend all his money on clothing, cologne and hair oil - at least the money he was not spending on flowers and other gifts for the endless array of girls who passed through his life. A man who I knew had to be intelligent to be in the position he was, but a man who did not always, or indeed often, show that side of him. A frivolous man, a western man, a wealthy, spoiled, much loved man. How could I trust him? And how he could he trust me?
But somehow we found trust together and from trust grew friendship which in turn became a closer and more intimate friendship than I ever believed I would find. There was some speculation among our colleagues that friendship was not all we shared, but it was. Napoleon liked girls, he was not interested in men, and even if he had have been he would not be interested in 'The Ice Prince' as I was named. But he cared about me, of that I was certain. At least I was certain until the day I returned from a solo mission to discover he had walked away from U.N.C.L.E., and as such walked away from me.
For fifteen years I had heard nothing from him, not a single line did he write to me, not a card, not a note, not a letter did he send, nor did he pick up the telephone. He just vanished. And I, I who had believed I had suffered as a child in Russia, suddenly discovered what true suffering was.
I was not prepared for it; I did not know how to deal with such pain, such hurt, such a feeling of betrayal, such a feeling of loss. I do believe I could have dealt with his death more easily than I dealt with his abandonment. I had truly thought my suffering as a child had left me able to deal with any amount of grief and suffering I may have to face as an adult. I had been wrong.
I stare at him, watch him watching me and wonder if he just expects me to say, 'Yes, Napoleon', and follow him back to U.N.C.L.E., follow him back into a temporary partnership in order to once again save the world. He does. His look tells me he does expect just that.
And I do. For I have no choice. I had pledged myself to U.N.C.L.E. more than twenty years ago and while I have been outside of the organization for longer than I was within it, the personal vow I took all those years ago binds me today, just as it always had done.
I nod and take my place by his side.
It is over.
The world has once again been saved.
We have once again saved the world - or at least that is what it feels like.
So what happens now? What will he do? Will he shake my hand, tell me how nice it was to see me again, turn around and once again walk away? Will he return to his computer business and I to my frock business?
I know not what he will do; I do, however, know what I will do. I cannot, I will not, return to the frock business. I am not certain what I shall do, maybe there is a place for me again even after fifteen years within U.N.C.L.E. Or maybe I should try something completely different. I could teach; I could return to England, to Cambridge and become a tutor; an old tutor, now the Master, of mine has offered me a position more than once.
We stand in his hotel room, we stand in silence, a silence that separates us far more than the foot or so that is between us. He appears uneasy, not a trait I would expect to see in him. "Illya," he speaks my name.
I stare at him. Is that it? Does he expect me to simply accept his apology? To just forgive him for causing me so much suffering? Does he even realize how much he hurt me? How many tears I shed, openly and inside of me, when he walked away? Should I tell him? Will it matter to him?
And yet even as I think these things, I know what I will say. I know I will forgive him. I could ask him why he left; I could ask him why he never wrote or called; I could ask him if he knows what his leaving did to me. But I will not. What is the point. He did it. He walked away. Now he is back - at least for now.
Then he says quietly, his tone flat, "I had to go, Illya. I had to go before I did this." And to my astonishment he closes the foot or so gap that feels like a hundred feet wide chasm, takes me into his arms and kisses me.
And I . . . And I kiss him back. Maybe I should not; maybe I should push him away; maybe I should pull my gun on him; maybe I should hit him; maybe I should push him away and demand how dare he kiss me; how dare he presume. But I do not. I simply kiss him back.
"Illya," he says, taking his mouth from mine. "Oh, my Lusha," he brushes a strand of my hair back, tucking it behind my ear, before kissing me again. Eventually, he lifts his head and looks at me, "You are mine, aren't you?"
And I nod as I allow myself to realize, to concede, to accept exactly why his leaving caused me so much suffering. I had known for some time before he left that I loved him; I just had never allowed myself to admit or acknowledge, not even to myself, what kind of love it was. I had never permitted to confess it was more than just the fraternal love I know he had for me. Had I not loved him beyond the love of a friend, I doubt his leaving would have caused me so much pain and grief.
"Yes, Napoleon," I say softly. "I am yours. I will be yours. But you must make me one promise."
"Name it." His tone is easy, but he looks apprehensive as he holds me loosely in his arms.
"You must never walk away from me again."
His smile, the smile I have not seen for fifteen years, lights up his face. "I couldn't, Lusha," he says, bending his head to kiss me again. "I would die before I could walk away from you again."
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