Knowing he was right and praying to a God he wasn't certain he believed in, he caught his partner coming around the corner, impaling him with the sharpened pole and driving it through into the wall behind the dark haired man. He hung onto the other end as if for his very life. The thing that had taken Napoleon's place shrieked and went still, pinioned between shoulder and collarbone. It … he … stood, not looking at the smaller man and waited.
Illya Kuryakin had known many emotions in his young life, most of them hidden well below his youthful mask. "Where is Napoleon?" he snarled.
"I don't know."
The answer was soft, controlled with the slightest tinge of something else. Was this thing frightened? It should be. "What are you?"
"A friend. You needed your friend."
What kind of an explanation was that? And friend? Napoleon was his partner, nothing more. He ignored the touch of warmth the term brought to his heart. "Where is he?" Savagely, he twisted the pole, causing the thing great pain. Yet it stood and shivered in reaction.
"I have not seen him. I do not know him. I took him from your words, from your feelings. The call was strong, so very strong …"
Illya shivered himself at the longing, the hunger in the other's voice. "Why do you care?" Not the question he wanted to ask, yet the one he seemed to need answered.
"It is what I am," came the simple answer.
Simple in words, but so very hard on understanding. He wrenched the wood out of the other, feeling the thing was more his victim than his enemy. Something very primal clutched at his gut as the thing sank to its haunches, shaking as the hole in its shoulder healed. Still, it refused to look at him. The face he knew so well was shadowed, hidden.
"Why me?" The Russian tried to keep his voice from shaking, from revealing anything, yet he needed this answer also. Why would this … whatever it was, pick him.
It was Napoleon's face that turned toward him, but the eyes were no longer anything human. "Your need. Your trust. Your caring. You desperately needed him to rescue you, yet you feared for him even as you craved him. He could not answer you, but I could. It is what I am."
"Stop looking like him."
"Who should I look like?"
"What do you really look like?"
It stood at that question, head cocked to one side as Napoleon would never have done. The eyes searched Illya's face as though it might find some answer there. "I don't know," it whispered, no longer sounding like Solo, even as the planes of its face shifted to something eerily innocuous. "I can help you find him."
Illya considered the offer. "Why?" The question was sharp and harsh. What did this … this horror want from him?
A sad smile curved the lips that were no longer Napoleon's. "It is what I was created to be, to do. I am a friend."
A friend. Did he crave a friend so much that this nightmare being had chosen him? Was it created from his own distorted needs? "Who did you look like at first?" He wasn't certain why he asked that, but it seemed to be the right question, although the transitions back through the many faces and bodies the being had worn was unsettling.
Finally, the shifts and changes stopped. Napoleon's suit now clothed a woman with lightly curling golden brown hair, even features and hazel eyes fringed by dark lashes. He knew that face. He knew the statue. How many times had he seen Greek portrayals of womanhood? This was insane.
"Did you have a name?" he whispered.
"I don't remember."
He whirled to face … Napoleon, who looked much the worse for wear and was frowning at the strange sight of his partner brandishing a pointed length of wood and a woman wearing a fashionable man's suit. "Napoleon!" the name burst from the smaller man in a combination of relief and regret. "You're all right?"
"I'm fine," he reassured his partner before turning his attention to the woman. With his best smile in place he nodded at her.
With a sad look, she turned and walked away, the suit disintegrating as she moved, the fabric shifting, reforming, becoming the traditional funeral black of the Greek matron. In the dark she would soon be indistinguishable from the shadows.
Napoleon looked to his partner who was following her with his eyes, hesitating. "I don't know what's going on, but I think letting her go like this is a bad idea."
Illya shot a look at his partner. "What?"
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.
Illya surfaced from a sense of distortion and looked around. His room. His bedroom, to be exact. What…?
The banging resumed and he oriented toward the bedroom door and then the apartment door beyond. Of course, someone was knocking. He struggled to his feet trying to figure out why he felt like he'd been beaten and why his lungs seemed averse to receiving air as he shambled to the door and opened it.
Napoleon, dapperly dressed, looked much better. "There you … You don't look so good," he gave his opinion as he took in Illya's bruised looking eyes in his hot cheeked face. "Not good at all. I thought you said you didn't swallow any of that gunk," he scolded, moving past the exhausted blonde to set the two bags of groceries on the table. "Come on. Get dressed. You're going to the doctor."
"No." Oh what a horrible croak that came out. "I'll be fine. I just need …" Whatever he thought he needed got lost in the dark as he collapsed.
Napoleon looked down at his crumpled partner and shook his head. Illya would probably be fine even if he didn't go in and get checked out, but it would take less time to get him back on his feet and functioning if he went to the infirmary. Gently he shook the man awake, wrapped him in a robe and forced him to go to the doctor.
The infirmary confirmed that the unsavory mix of bacteria and chemicals THRUSH had dumped him into a few days earlier was responsible for his current state, hooked the weakly protesting Russian up to an IV, fed him antibiotics and firmly informed him that either he stayed in the infirmary overnight for observation or Waverly would be suspending him from duty until the medics saw fit to release him to duty again. He grumbled and looked to his partner who pointed out that this was all for the best.
"I'll stay while you recuperate," Napoleon offered, settling his expensive jacket on the back of the nearest uncomfortable hospital chair.
Illya tried to grumble, but there was a mild sedative included in the IV suspension and he settled into a light sleep instead. Napoleon looked down at him for a few moments, smoothed the sweat dampened hair out of his partner's face and smiled. "Isn't that what friends do?"