KEEPING HOPE ALIVE
Illya is in a coma. For once there is nothing Napoleon can do for his partner apart from wait and hope and think.
An established relationship story.
Written: November 2014. Word count: 2,480.
Napoleon walked into the hospital, found a smile for the young nurse he saw pretty much every day, and quietly let himself into Illya's room. It wouldn't actually matter if he had made a noise; it wasn't going to disturb his partner; nothing was.
He sighed at he stared at the bed, noting that nothing had changed since he had been here some twenty-four hours ago. But then nothing ever changed; well Illya's position changed at times if the nurses moved him around to help avoid bed sores. But other than that he was exactly the same as he had been the previous day and the day before that and the day before that and the week before that and the month before that.
As he took off his overcoat and dropped it onto one of the two chairs, Napoleon wondered if there would come a time when the months would turn into a year and then into a second year and then a third and then . . . Would Illya ever regain consciousness? Would he ever return to Napoleon?
Mine, thought Napoleon. He's mine and I never told him. And maybe he never would get to tell him.
The doctors had been positive at first; hopeful. They had said 'a few days and then we're sure he'll regain consciousness'. Then the few days had turned into a week and they had still been fairly confident. When the week became two and then three, they started to make 'the longer he remains in a coma the harder it will be to come back from it' comments. However, they had still been reasonably confident he would open his eyes.
However, when the first month slipped into the second and into the third, they didn't quite give up hope, but it was no longer 'when he wakes up' but 'if he wakes up'. And now doctors and nurses alike (with the exception of the young nurse he had smiled at upon arriving) avoided Napoleon as much as they possibly could.
Even Alexander Waverly had made the gentle suggestion that maybe it was time he found Napoleon a new - temporary he had stressed - partner, just until . . . Napoleon's badge and gun had been on his boss's desk and he was at the door before Mr. Waverly had called him back and instead suggested Napoleon take a break from field work. That Napoleon hadn't objected to. The less time he had to spend trying to save the world or foil yet another of Thrush's plots, the more time he could spend at the hospital; by Illya's bedside. Waiting. Hoping. Thinking. Wishing.
"Mine." This time he spoke aloud. "My partner. My friend. My -" He fell silent and instead bowed his head. For a moment he just sat, head lowered, before he sat back upright and carefully, so carefully it might have been made of the finest china, took Illya's hand. "Lover," he whispered so quietly. "You were my lover, Illya, and I never told you."
The first time they had fallen into bed together had been after a particularly stressful assignment which had kept them away from civilization, working twenty hours out of twenty-four, always on guard, never really sleeping, always watching over their shoulders. When it was over and the tension and strain fell away they had looked at one another and the next moment Illya was in his arms and he was kissing him. After that they were both naked and in one of the small single beds they had endured.
It had just been a moment of relief for both of them, Napoleon had told himself. It hadn't meant anything; not really. It didn't change anything between them. It didn't mean they were now more than partners; more than friends. It didn't mean it would happen again.
Yet it did. It happened many times - always, Napoleon realized now that the really thought about it, at his instigation. It was always after an assignment; always after they had been particularly stressed and under pressure. It happened. They had sex. They found relief from the tension which had built up in one another's hands; that's all it was. It meant nothing. It didn't change anything. It didn't mean they were more than partners; more than friends. It was in many ways no different from going out to dinner together.
They had never talked about it; they had certainly never said 'I love you'; they never even referred to it. They didn't talk during it; they just . . . They just had sex. Sex, nothing more nothing less. Sex. Good sex; very good sex; but just sex. It was nothing. They had sex together after a tough assignment, and the rest of the time they made love to women - at least Napoleon did and he assumed Illya did the same.
Most teams had some kind of ritual following the conclusion of an assignment. Some partners went out and got drunk together. Some had dinner together. Some couldn't wait to get away from one another having spent so much time together. He and Illya had sex. It was as simple as that. It was enjoyable; it was good and Napoleon thought they would go on doing it.
And then Illya had taken a bullet meant for him. Taken it in his shoulder, which had spun him around and, despite Napoleon's attempt to stop him from falling, he had plummeted off of a roof and onto the ground below. Six shots had taken the three members of Thrush out and then Napoleon was on his knees by Illya's side, one hand on his pulse, the other holding his pen demanding an ambulance be sent immediately.
Amazingly, given the distance he had fallen, Illya hadn't sustained any life-threatening injuries. He hadn't even broken anything. There had been a small amount of internal bleeding, but that had been dealt with quickly and efficiently upon his arrival at the hospital and hadn't concerned the doctors at all. Illya's unconsciousness hadn't even concerned them - not then.
Napoleon had been given a few days leave and had spent as much time as he could by his partner's bed, talking to him, waiting for him to open his eyes and make some acerbic comment about it being Napoleon's fault he was in hospital - again. And then he would be released; he would be on sick leave for a short time and everything would go back to normal.
Three months later nothing was normal. And in Napoleon's world nothing would ever be even close to normal until the day Illya regained consciousness. Regained consciousness and returned to Napoleon and gave Napoleon the chance to say the things he should have said months, if not years, before the shooting.
The things that wouldn't leave his mind now. The things he thought about, dreamed about, even spoke to Illya about - except Illya wouldn't, of course, have heard him. Things that began with the fact that at some point, and Napoleon admitted he couldn't put his finger on when exactly, sex had stopped being just sex and had turned into so much more. So very much more.
How sleeping with Illya, making love to Illya, stopped happening just as a way of dealing with the tension the assignment had caused, and started happening because Napoleon wanted it to happen. Because he enjoyed making love to Illya, because it was so much more than just a way to get rid of stress and tension. That Illya was so much more than just a partner and friend.
"Mine," he said again, tightening the grip he had on Illya's hand. "You're mine, Illya. Mine. I should have told you that long ago."
Why hadn't he? Why hadn't he admitted how he felt about Illya? Why hadn't he had the courage to begin a conversation with his partner? Why had he let him go on thinking it was all just about sex? He had never lacked courage in anything else, not in his working life or indeed in any other aspects of his personal life. And yet he had said nothing, done nothing, to even let Illya suspect there was more to what they did than just sexual release and relief.
Now he would probably never get the chance. Unless . . . He had to hope that Illya would open his eyes and return to him. Hope was pretty much all he had left. But hope compared to what the doctors said was very little to hold onto. People did wake up after much longer in comas, he knew that; that knowledge was what he held on to. All he could hold on to.
He knew it wouldn't be that much longer before Mr. Waverly pulled him back into the field and insisted he take another partner. He was too good a field agent to be side-lined with paperwork for that much longer. All right, he would agree to go back into the field; however, he would insist he was as his name: solo. He didn't want another partner; he still had a partner. Until the day Illya died, he had a partner.
"My partner," he said again, reaching across to brush Illya's dreadfully long bangs from his forehead. "My friend," he let his fingers slip down to rest on Illya's cheek. "My lover," he whispered, fighting back the tears that suddenly threatened to overwhelm him, as he gently and slowly traced Illya's cheekbone with his fingertips. "You're my lover, Illya. My lover. You're mine and you will come back to me."
THREE MONTHS LATER
Battered, bruised, clothes torn and bloody, hair plastered to his head, Napoleon limped into the hospital; he held his handkerchief to a cut over his eye and he knew it was soaked with blood. A few people stopped and stared as he made his way slowly past them, but no one spoke to him Until he reached Illya's room. Outside was the young nurse he knew well; she had her coat on and he presumed she was on her way home.
At the sight of him she gasped. "Mr. Solo. What have you been doing? Here, come and sit down and let me look at you."
"I'm -" Napoleon fell silent as his arm was taken very firmly and he was guided to a seat. He decided not to struggle, as actually the idea of sitting down was suddenly very appealing.
She pulled off her coat and dropped it onto another chair and carefully took the handkerchief from above his eye; immediately blood blurred his vision. "It's not as bad as it looks," she said, calmly pressing a clean dressing to the wound. "Head injuries always look worse than they are."
"At least those which are actually visible injuries do," Napoleon heard himself say.
She paused and squeezed his shoulder. "Look," she said. "I know I'm only a very junior nurse and I shouldn't say this, but you can't give up hope. You mustn't give up hope. Mr. Kuryakin needs you to keep on hoping." He glanced up at her and she blushed. "Oh, do forgive me. I really shouldn't have - I'll go and get some things and suture your wound. And I'll see if I can find you something you can change into."
She hurried off and Napoleon closed his eyes for a moment. Had he given up hope? Had he allowed himself to stop hoping that the day would come when Illya would open his eyes and look up at him? Had he? Had going back into the field meant he had given up hope? Had finally allowing his boss to partner him on occasions with Mark meant he had given up hope? Had the fact that he was able to spend less time by Illya's beside meant he had given up hope? Had he finally accepted that Illya wouldn't return to him? That he would go on alive but not living until the day he wasn't even alive?
He didn't know; for a moment he didn't know. Then he heard the voice in his mind saying one word; a single short word: Mine. And he knew he still hoped; he still had hope; hope was all he had; he would go on hoping for as long as it took for Illya to either return to him or die.
The nurse returned and swiftly and professionally attended to his head and cleaned his hands free from blood and dabbed iodine on to the worst of the cuts and scratches before finally handing him some doctor's scrubs.
"You can use the doctors' bathroom down the hall. Wash your hands and face and change into these clothes. You can go home in them and bring them back when you come tomorrow. Here's a bag for your clothes. I'll make you a cup of tea and bring it to you when you're with Mr. Kuryakin."
"Thank you," he said, taking the scrubs and touching her hand. "You were on your way home, weren't you?"
She nodded and blushed slightly. "Yes, but it doesn't matter It's not as if I have anyone to go home to." And then to his surprise she added, "I'm sure you know what that's like, don't you?" She glanced from him to Illya's room and he realized what she was saying.
He swallowed hard. "Yes," he said, seeing no reason to correct her assumption that he and Illya were indeed lovers who lived together. "Yes, I do. Thank you," he said, taking her hand and squeezing it. "Thank you, nurse."
"Suzanne," she said softly. "My name is Suzanne."
He smiled. "Thank you, Suzanne."
She blushed again. "I'm only doing my job. I'll make your tea." And she hurried off.
Still limping Napoleon made his way to the bathroom where he washed up and changed from his torn clothes into the scrubs. With the bag containing yet another ruined suit in his hand, he made his way to Illya's room and quietly let himself in.
He gasped and dropped the bag he was holding as he stared at the bed. Two blue eyes stared back at him. "What kept you?" Illya said, his voice somewhat hoarse. "And what have you been doing this time?"
"Illya?" Napoleon staggered, regained his balance and still limping made his way to Illya's bedside. "You're . . . You're awake."
"And you are still as intelligent as ever," Illya said and smiled. He smiled in the way Napoleon suddenly realized he only ever smiled at Napoleon.
"Mine," he said, sitting down and carefully gathering Illya into his arms. "Mine. You're mine, Illya. And you always will be."
Illya felt warm in his arms, warm and welcome. He sighed softly as Napoleon gathered him just a little nearer. "Yes, Napoleon. I know. I have always known."
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