The sun was just rising above the horizon, setting the water aflame with the golds and reds reserved for these early morning hours.
The blond stood at the water's edge, his feet sinking into the soft sand as white briny foam lapped at his legs.
Illya had on only a pair of pajama bottoms, and they were clinging to his body, the fabric soggy from an impulsive dive into the water. Now he felt mired by the weight of the sand as it moved beneath him, each undulation of the waves creating an ever deepening ravine. If it were possible, perhaps vanishing into the soft sand might be preferable to living with the nightmares.
In his mind's eye Illya watched the top of his head sinking into the sand…
'Just let yourself go…'
He was too skilled at surviving, and sometimes he wished…
"No, that is not true. I do not wish to die."
But, sometimes, he didn't want to live either.
Not after a particularly brutal mission when it seemed there was so much blood on his hands that he thought it would never wash away.
Not when his partner…
Napoleon was safe.
Napoleon didn't die.
It wasn't as though the Thrush scientist hadn't tried, because he had. The madman had pierced the American with so many needles, so many concoctions and serums…
Illya sat down, placing himself just beyond reach of the water. Then he leaned back, turned over in the sand and lay on his stomach. His face was half buried in the soft grains, and he could feel the water softly lapping at his feet.
He had miscalculated slightly.
It was cold, but he didn't think he could move, didn't want to. Perhaps the cold would jolt him back to his former self. The one he was living with these days was not someone he recognized, or even liked very much.
There were days when his profession caused him great pain.
He took no satisfaction in killing.
He had not wanted to kill the scientist…much.
Illya squeezed his eyes against the unwelcome memory, as though it might not keep invading his thoughts and emotions.
When he found Napoleon lying in his own filth, comatose from so many drugs and near death…nearer death than he'd ever known him to be…
Something within him had snapped, and then he had snapped the evil doctor's neck as though it were a pencil, and he had watched without emotion the man's head lolling over to one side. The memory of the sound of it brought on a wave of nausea and Illya started to retch, finally coughing up what little remained in his stomach.
Illya moved away from the spot, although the image wouldn't leave him alone. It bothered him, knowing how easily he could kill.
It was for Napoleon
Was it? For Napoleon?
The sun was rising high enough to start warming the sand, but he still shivered a little. The wet sand chilled him, but he still lay in it, challenging his body to adjust, even as he must.
Napoleon will recover.
We will go back to saving the world.
Illya felt like the sand, existing in two realms. Out of the water it was malleable when wet, constantly shifting when dry. Sand sifted through hands that would never hold it in place; it was moving, never resting.
As soon as there was a little rest, it was time to start moving again, taking on strange shapes, hiding the footprints of what passed previously.
If Napoleon didn't make it…
Was Napoleon like the sand? Illya didn't think so. Napoleon never changed, never shifted from being what he was. Illya counted on his partner to always be the same.
Being sand was tiresome. All of that movement, the deception of appearing first one way and then, with the change of the wind, the Russian was someone else; never the same, never knowing who he might need to be next.
If anyone else had been watching, he would have seen a disheveled young man with blond hair, too thin in his flimsy pajamas, too wet from an ill advised swim and too tormented to recognize that someone was watching him.
Illya rolled over to his back and let another wave lap at his bare feet.
"Too long without Napoleon", he sighed.