In his dreams, Illya Kuryakin was running through a maze of arches that hovered atop flagstone paths and dark, forbiding caverns. Darkness intersected the small pockets of light as he darted from one pillar to another, always searching for the way out that never materialized.
He knew he was sleeping, was aware of the futility of trying to escape the dream state he was in. Even in his dreams, there was a sense of foreboding that plagued the Russian; it was maddening to be held captive like this.
Illya saw her. This was his fantasy, this waif like creature in the costume of Russia's highest art. His best hope for salvation lay in the dream of capturing her. The unattainable. The purity of soul was expressed by this virginal apparition.
And Kuryakin knew he would not be saved. She would not come to him, yield to him or offer him the solace he so desperately needed. Mother Russia was not a virgin, was no longer his mother. She would not succor him, nor would she take him to her bed. He would continue to hunger after the comfort only she could offer, would shed his tears in the wake of her refusal.
Illya awoke from the dream, his body wracked with fever, the shirt he wore clinging to his body and soaked with sweat.
Where had she gone? Into the night, pale and unable to satisfy this abandoned child of neither czars, nor despot. Kuryakin called Master those who wore the uniform of the peasant while wielding the whip of the oppressor.
The dancer was no longer his, her performance an illusion he continued to hold in his heart without hope of being loved.
The blond shot up from his sleep, fevered and drenched from night terrors that pummeled his brain and emotions. This must end, he thought. Somehow he knew that it would not.
Going into UNCLE Headquarters should not have triggered anything more than a familiar sense of belonging. This was home now, and the people and structure of the organization had welcomed him, for the most part. There were differences between this world and the one he had known in the Soviet Union. Paris and London had also become familiar to him, although his alliance with those cities had been intellectual, not emotional.
Wait, that was wrong. He had enjoyed Paris, with the existentialist crowd and the jazz. He loved jazz, a symbiotic relationship existed between Illya and jazz. Both of them moved in freeform that was both without structure and yet totally within the confines of its mathematical equations. Everything was about numbers, and music perhaps most of all. If you understood the number, then the music made sense of that which was nonsensical.
"You're mad, Kuryakin. Stark, raving mad."
Napoleon Solo walked up to his partner as the blond muttered to no one.
"Who are you talking to, tovarisch?'
At the look on Illya's face, Napoleon stepped back and pretended to take notes, much like a psychiatrist.
"And when did you start having these feelings, ah… Mr. Kuryakin?"
"Very funny, Napoleon. Now, please go and …"
"What? Are you about to say something crude. How gauche, Illya…"
"I am never crude.'
Illya raised on eyebrow, an obvious sign of superiority among those who could.
"And yes, it is beneath me. Now, is there something you want, Napoleon?"
Hmmm… Napoleon wondered what was wrong with his partner. Circles beneath the normally bright blue eyes, hair not combed properly. Wait, that was normal. The Russian's hands were unsteady, shaking as he lifted a coffee cup to his lips.
"Illya, is there something going on that…"
A glare as stern as an iceberg stopped Napoleon short of finishing.
"I am fine. Please, let me drink my coffee in peace without this infernal interrogation."
Napoleon drew out the word as though it were a balloon taking in air.
"What? What do you want Napoleon? I am here to have my coffee, and I will be in the office shortly. Do you need a report written, a task undertaken that you do not fancy to complete? What?"
It was loud. Illya was nearly shouting and a few people stopped in their tracks to listen, then quickly continued on with their business. Napoleon took Illya by the elbow and ushered him out of the room, coffee cup in hand as the contents sloshed out onto the floor.
Illya knew he had gone too far, that he was out of control for some reason. He did not understand why, nor could he seem to easily control the urge to throttle his partner and lay waste the entire contents of their office as they bolted into its interior.
"Do you want to explain to me just what that was all about? I am your superior, Illya, and if I have to I will recommend that your next stop today is Medical, preferably Dr. Seever."
The two men glared at each other, neither of them willing to back down; one of them fully aware that he was in the wrong. After a full minute of testosterone fueled silence, Illya finally spoke up.
"I apologize, Napoleon."
Napoleon was more concerned than angry, although the very public display had been inappropriate on many levels. It was also incredibly out of character for the normally reserved Russian agent.
"Illya, something is obviously not right with you. Now, I know you're reluctant to speak to …"
"Nyet. I mean no. That is, I do not object to seeing Dr. Seever."
The blond looked up into the eyes of his partner and friend; new partner, new friend. The look was one of a man in distress, his brow knitted into a question mark that moved something in Napoleon's soul.
"Illya, what has happened to you?" The question came out in a near whisper.
The blond head shook, Illya's eyes now downcast as he tried to fathom what was creating this torment. The walls didn't exactly close in around him, but the sensation of suffocating came inexplicably close to causing the Russian agent to yield to a panic attack. Napoleon was instantly on the phone.
Two hours later Illya found himself in the office of Dr. Daniel Seever, head of the psychiatric branch of UNCLE's medical department.
"Please, sit down Mr. Kuryakin. I don't think we've chatted since your initial intake here in New York. How are you doing?"
Illya smiled at that, not sure if it was an attempt at humor or simply a lack of acumen on the part of this psychiatrist. Perhaps this was a mistake after all.
"If I answer that incorrectly, are you going to make a note of it?"
The doctor took his turn to smile. Slightly grey at the temples and fit still for a man nearing sixty, Daniel Seever was sympathetic towards these men who spent their lives battling untold evil, only to be constrained to never tell of it or be rewarded publicly. These men lived solitary lives. Often, hopefully before it was a tragedy in progress, their lives were interrupted with a visit here.
"I understand you had a bit of an argument with your partner this morning. I also see here…'
Seever rustled the paper on his desk as he looked at Illya's account of the incident. It was a methodical and antiseptic sort of account, like a researcher might record data.
"… you are here willingly. Is there something else that has prompted you to seek out help, Illya? May I call you Illya?"
"I believe you just did, doctor. And yes, there is something that has been bothering me. Perhaps it is less important than I at first believed it to be however. I am uncertain about …''
Dr. Seever saw something; a flush of something, a movement in the blue eyes.
"About what, Illya? About whether or not you should tell me, perhaps? Chances are that whatever it is will manifest later, perhaps during a mission or some other vital situation. I can't force you to do so Illya, of course, but I would recommend that we clear this up now, rather than later. Would you agree that I am probably correct, Illya?"
Illya disliked the constant repetition of his name.
"Da… yes. I apologize, it is impolite of me to not speak English exclusively."
Seever caught something in that apology.
"No, I don't think so Illya. That is, I don't think you're really apologizing for the use of Russian in here. Is that part of the problem, Illya?"
The look on the blond's face reflected confusion at first, replaced gradually by a trademark lack of expression.
"Perhaps you are correct, doctor. I do not wish to apologize for speaking my native language. I believe you must understand, however, that here in this country, especially, to speak Russian is not acceptable or even …''
Illya sought out the correct word. It was supplied by Dr. Seever.
Illya turned his head slightly, his eyes still focused on the doctor.
"Do you feel that it is not safe, here in New York, to be a Russian? Are you struggling with the issue of your nationality, Illya?"
Illya bolted up out of his chair, anger suddenly rising up from depths that even he did not recognize.
"I am not struggling with my nationality. Vy idiot. YA ne problema!"
The doctor was not flustered by the outburst.
"I see. So you believe that we here in America are the problem. Is that correct, Illya?"
"Bozhe moy… '
Illya looked at the man behind the desk and suddenly felt his anger and frustration come to a boiling point he could no longer subdue.
"O moy bog, ya ne dolzhen byl prikhoditʹ syuda."
Again the doctor replied coolly, not willing to allow himself to be caught up in the Russian's explosive outbursts.
"But, you are here, Illya. And whether with the help of a god of your choosing, or none at all, you made the choice to sit down here, in my office, with me."
In the midst of his anger, Illya suddenly realized that Dr. Seever was responding in English to his Russian rant. It was unsettling.
"You… you speak Russian."
It was a statement, not a question, and was met with a smile nearly as coy as the one often displayed by the blond.
"I am Russian, Illya. My family changed their name years ago from Severinov to Seever, hoping to remove the stigma of the revolution and allow us to … well, to blend in. My name, before all of the changes, is Daniil Severinov."
Illya was surprised, although perhaps not as stunned as he would have thought he should be. People did what was necessary to survive, and in this place of freedom, it was disquieting to be unused to freedom. The parameters of behavior and duty were missing in part, and the structure that had guided his life was reduced to the mandates of being appropriate. He was not appropriate. Life was not appropriate.
"Thank you.. for telling me this. I … '
Illya sighed deeply, and with that sigh he released the anxiety and trauma of the dream. The ballerina and the maze, the uncertainty that had plagued him since arriving in this new land, might not find its resolution here today, but it was at least a beginning.
"I have a recurring dream…"