Notes: A chaptered work. A warning: slash ahead, if not immediately.
Disclaimer: I do not own Man From U.N.C.L.E., and make no profit from this work.
In The Blink of an Eye
He couldn't remember how he came to be walking alone the road, but suddenly and somehow he was. He knew the road fairly well – his memory fed him the landmarks and updated the files in his brain about this road.
What he couldn't understand was why he was there.
The road was the main one to Moscow from the village he had ended up in after his father's death. His mother's parents had lived here, and Illya could faintly remember the last happy memories of his childhood being spent with two of his cousins and his little sister in the woods along the side of this road, before his grandfather upset one too many high-ranking officials and the family was destroyed with the same merciless speed that the KGB, years later, had taught Illya himself.
He knew that he shouldn't be here.
He kept walking long enough to glimpse the edge of the village, and knew the dream for what it was when he saw that leaning old house, decrepit and cosy, still standing, smoke peeling out of the chimney with the faint aroma of cooking. An elderly woman, stooped and ancient, was scattering feed to a few lanky chicken in the yard, and her blue eyes turned to peer at Illya as he paused on the roadside.
That house had been burned to the ground in 1946, and Illya's grandparents shot dead in the ruins.
"Illyusha! You came home!" she cried, her face lighting up, looking so much like his long-dead mother, her heavily accented Russian bringing Illya's mind back to stories of Vladivostok, sat on her knee as a child. "My Illyusha, welcome back! A hug for your grandmother, come here!"
"Then I am dead," Illya surmised, and shook his head. "Dead or dreaming. Wake up."
He sank his nails into his arm, a savage twist and pinch, and the vision exploded in a million shards, the darkness crowding in and drowning him.
He had a headache.
No, it wasn't a headache. It was World War Two, nuclear bombs and all, going off on the inside of his skull. It was the Chinese and the Americans duking it out over Korea. It was Khrushchev with that damnable shoe and his angry outbursts. It was Captain Maklakov singing his drinking songs up and down the submarine even as the other officers wondered if they could kill him and get away with it. It was a lot of things, but it wasn't a headache.
Illya's eyes were closed, but his other senses worked. The smell was a giveaway: a hospital or medical unit of some kind. Nothing else, not even experimentation labs, smelled quite like this. And apart from the headache, he felt rather comfortable. The bed was soft, the sheets warm and not scratchy. The air was clean, if a little dry – recycled, likely, through some air conditioning unit. At a distance, there were very quiet voices and the sounds of heels on tiled floors, back and forth and back again. Nurses, probably, outside what he presumed was either a ward or a private room.
He inched his eyes open, the lids and lashes feeling gritty, and flicked a fuzzy gaze around the room. Room. Nobody else, and no other beds. The secured windows and the cameras mounted on the walls, coupled with the evidence of a private room, allowed him to relax properly.
Illya had enough of a reputation in the medical wing at headquarters that they tended to put him in a room by himself and stick a guard on the door so he couldn't sneak away or disturb other patients with his loud demands to be let out.
Now, though, he had no intentions of being let out. His injuries – whatever they were – must have been very bad. His headache was incredible, and his entire body felt limp and weak. He could barely feel his feet at all, and the muscles in his neck wailed as he rolled his head on the pillow to look around. And what a mistake that was – the headache boomed like the launch of an I.C.B.M., and he groaned quietly, pausing to let the world reassert itself before trying to move again. It was a supreme effort to even inch his fingers over to reach the call button that sat on the edge of the bed, to summon someone, because he wasn't entirely sure what was going on.
Finally, he pressed it, and let out a long sigh. Where on earth was Napoleon?
Ah, yes, that mission. The mission, he vaguely remembered, had gone well – he'd retrieved the microfilm, but they had had to shoot their way out. There had been an idiotic number of guards, and then he remembered hearing a gunshot behind him and Napoleon's warning and – ah.
Well, that was easy. He had been shot and clearly drugged into oblivion after surgery. Drug-induced sleep always made him feel like he had been turned the wrong side out, scraped clean, and reversed again. He would be feeling much better in a week or so. In which case, time to tell the nurses to stop giving him drugs – he pressed the button again, and held it for several seconds, before his strength failed him and he sighed deeply, almost sinking into the bed in sheer exhaustion.
Outside, the heels stopped dead for a long moment, before the door crashed open and two women flew into the room. He was tired enough that he ignored their shrieks – what a silly reaction – and drifted back to sleep. It wouldn't do to be tired when Napoleon came, after all.
Napoleon dismissed Parker and Fleischer from his office and pushed the files to one side, rubbing his aching temples. This job was certainly teaching him why Waverly hadn't smiled much.
Waverly had retired three years ago, and Solo had been appointed his successor. It was a surprise to no one, especially under the circumstances at the time. Instead of reassigning Solo, it was simply more prudent to push him into Section One, and then, in a short period of time, into the position of Number One.
Sometimes, he still itched for action. Sometimes, he wanted to go out and shoot the bad guys himself – sometimes, he still ached to do that last mission over, and shoot that guard dead before he had the chance to fire his own rifle. But he couldn't – here he was, and while normally Napoleon liked the job, it was just wasn't the same.
"Mr. Solo," the intercom buzzed, "Dr. Michaels is here to see you. He says it's very urgent."
"Send him in," Napoleon muttered, and mustered his firmest face when the flustered medic entered. "Ah, Dr. Michaels. I know the communications blackout in the medical wing is inconvenient, but we really do have to sort mobile communications first. That is what will lead to..."
"I'm not here about that," Dr. Michaels snapped, coming around the desk to physically pull Napoleon out of his chair. The doctor was the epitome of polite distance, and for a moment, Napoleon was too shocked to do anything. "Come with me. Now."
"Why?" Napoleon demanded. "Your behaviour is..."
"Bloody understandable!" the Englishman exploded. "It's Kuryakin!"
The blood drained from Napoleon's face, and their positions reversed – suddenly, it was Solo grasping Michaels' arm and not the other way around. The affability was gone, and Solo was suddenly hard and firm.
"What happened?" he demanded.
"About an hour ago," Michaels replied, "Kuryakin regained consciousness, pressed the call button for a nurse twice, and then passed out again. A couple of my staff got into the room in time to see him lose consciousness again."
"And why weren't you here an hour ago?!" Napoleon demanded, throwing on his suit jacket and storming for the door. "Sandy, hold all calls and visitors," he barked at his secretary as he aimed for the elevators, the doctor running after him.
"We had tests to run, scans to perform," Michaels explained breathlessly. "But you'll want to be down there, Mr. Solo. The scan results are changing. I would say that he's finally waking up. For good."
Napoleon stabbed the button for the medical unit, and made no reply.