When I open my eyes, it's dark, and Napoleon is staring at me. I hate that. I try to sit up, hissing with the sudden burst of pain, and he pushes me back down.
"You don't want to do that, tovarisch. I had to take the bullet out. You've got a bunch of stitches in your back."
Memory floods me of the quick retreat from the THRUSH stronghold, and the sudden explosion of pain in my back, but I am confused…If I remember correctly, I had been shot early in the morning.
"Where are we?" I quickly mask the pain. I can allow pain no quarter.
"I found a deserted barn at the back of the property. We should try and figure a way to get out of here. You need medical care."
"Nyet! Napoleon, we have a mission to complete! You know we must take these birds out once and for all! Did you manage to bring my supplies with you?"
"No…I was more concerned about you. I left them buried."
"Napoleon, what's wrong with you?!" I am angry with how complacent my partner seemed to be. He stares at his hands by the firelight. At something only he could see.
"I'm sorry, Illya."
My anger melts away at his quiet words. His eyes are empty, and this frightens me more than the terrible pain in my back that is getting the better of me, despite my will. Napoleon is silent for a while, and I barely hear him when he next speaks. His voice is ragged.
"Just a few hours ago my hands were buried in your back, covered in your blood. I was digging for the damned bullet. And I was afraid."
I see then the raw emotion in his eyes, and my heart breaks for him.
"It was in so deep... I was scared that if that bullet didn't kill you, I would. Then you didn't wake up all day. I was beginning to think you wouldn't wake up at all. And I can't even imagine that." His shoulders slump as he drops his eyes, unable to even look at me.
He goes back to staring at his hands, haunted by the phantom blood he sees there. The flickering firelight dances demons over the walls and over our souls as he kneels beside me in the straw. Finally, he lies back, completely spent by the events of the day, and both of us try to sleep, though I cannot rest because of the pain. As much as I hate to admit defeat, albeit temporary, a medical team will evacuate us in the morning. Only after finally reaching help, was my partner able to rest…after eliciting my solemn promise not to die on him in the middle of the night, a simple promise for me to make.
You see, I do have a secret I will never tell Napoleon: He often wonders why I approach my work and my life in the way that I do. I will tell you. I once was told my future by my babushka, a Rom who was never once wrong in her life and who never believed in lying to children. She did it to comfort my mother, when I was sent to help to build detonators as a child. That was the day the Ice Prince was born. For my babushka sadly assured me that though I will die a very old man, I will die completely alone…