Heaven or Hell
He is lying on the floor, it's cold and slick under his buttocks, the muscles in his calves ache from the icy cold. His shoulder blades hurt and the blood circulation is probably cut off in half of his body. His mind supplies broken images of running, Thrush, fighting, hurt, and then—blackness.
He opens his eyes and squints straight up.
For a dizzying, confusing moment it feels like he's back in Moscow again. He is in the Komsomolskaya-Koltsevaya metro station and those huge, bear-like security guards from Hell—which in Russia is Siberia or maybe the Ural Mountains, have tackled him to the ground. Now they are waiting in the shadows behind the marble columns for him to try to raise his battered body from the polished stone he can feel under his palms. They are after him for spilling an imaginary drop of tea on the floor.
Just one crazy minute of losing control of his mind and he is panicking, his heart threatens to spend all its beats in one go and then—then he relaxes, plonks his head back down on the hard stone and breathes.
He is lying on the floor in the middle of the Grand Central Station, in the middle of the Eden for capitalists from all over the world: New York. He recognizes the huge arcs of red stone, the pretentious windows and the ambitious space up to the far-away ceiling. If these weren't cues enough, there are a thousand faces peering down at him, podgy faces, thin faces, dark faces and small faces. But all of them—so very not Russians in Moscow. The baseball caps with NC and the hooded sweaters with Yankees on are good clues too. He spots the most decisive proof when he rolls his neck to the left and homes in on the enormous red, white, and blue flag. This is America, all right. Not Hell like he first assumed.
He struggles to sit and struggles to make his sluggish mind work. All the eyes directed at him make him feel trapped and breathless. He knows how Snow White felt when she woke up in a bed with the seven dwarves crowding her and staring holes in the bedclothes. He finally manages to crawl and wobble to a standing position, leaning unashamedly on one of the dwarves, only he is at least seven feet tall and must be a troll. There's butter yellow light hazing his sight and shining in spread rays out from behind the dark troll head. It reminds him of something and he lets his mind race, wanting to find it. No luck, no discoveries.
"You hurt, buddy?" The troll asks and he shakes his head. That is probably the stupidest move he has tried in his entire life. More stupid than when he tried the Ferris wheel after downing two bottles of coke and that hot dog covered with something green and unrecognizable—and probably poisonous—that Napoleon had forced on him.
He groans; his head is threatening to explode like a grenade—and do just as much harm. "I am fine," he grates out. "Peachy," for that is a word he has been longing to try out and see if it works. And it does, just like dog-earing the pages works as well as using a book mark.
"Sure, buddy," the troll and his seven dwarves say in unison and that hurts his ears. And what is the matter with their vocabulary? Have they set "buddy" on repeat?
"Come with us," the gang from the fairy tale says and he follows across the slippery floor of the huge Main Concourse. He moves like a zombie, certain that they have put a spell on him. But what does he care? It is not as if he is able to make any decisions for himself. Besides, he needs to dry up, something warm and wet is running down his face and in under his collar. He remembers he hadn't knotted a tie around his neck today; it must be easy to access his chest under the open polo shirt.
He tries to wipe away the drool escaping from the corner of his mouth, but his arm is rebellious and refuses to lift from its resting place against his side. "Oh," he says. "I can't feel my arm." He keels towards left, into the trunk that is his saving troll's upper arm. His eyes won't cooperate either, and roll shut. The last he senses is soft vertigo; his body is falling. He knows it's important to stay conscious and fights hard to keep the darkness from seeping into his mind...but he has to let go and succumb to the alluring, velvet nothingness.
When he wakes up again he is flat out, but on a bench this time. Brown eyes peer into his and they are worried and vaguely familiar. This must be Purgatory then. He will be tempted and tested and maybe absolved. He needs to survey his surroundings but the dark eyes won't let him go.
"Illya? You have finished your beauty sleep?" That gravelly and smooth and mocking voice he recognizes on instinct. Napoleon. The smug bastard.
"Not yet," Illya says. "Leave me alone. Give me the nightshift." He closes his eyes again to hide from all that glorious brown glitter.
"Illya," Napoleon urges and Illya can hear exasperation just fine in that one word. Napoleon must want him to sit up and stop pretending. He could have died and been accepted into Heaven, but no such luck for an unbeliever like himself. Damn.
"What more do you want, Napoleon? I may already be dead, my head is in hell." And it is; his head is filled with evil carpenters hammering away at his skull.
Napoleon doesn't answer, he just curls his hands around Illya's lapels and tugs at them, bringing Illya's torso upright. Before Illya can make the hammer-wielding devils in his head check what is going on, Napoleon has slipped his body behind and underneath him and eased Illya's head down onto his thighs.
Napoleon's lap is warm and living and not still. There's a muscle or something inside one thigh that is quivering and there is tension in Napoleon's knees which transforms to an even humming in Illya's ears. The humming must be magical because it forces the stone hard ache under Illya's ribs to soften. It is all good.
"Take me home," Illya slurs. "I want to leave purgatory. I have not finished sinning."
"What?" Napoleon has a strange catch in his voice just before the t. "I'm taking you to the hospital." Yes, there's something strange with Napoleon's voice.
"Have you checked your tonsils, 'Poleon?" Illya rasps out. Or perhaps it is a vocal cord malfunction, but it must be contagious because his voice isn't physics convention speaker material either.
"Where is that ambulance?" Napoleon hisses over Illya's head and brushes Illya's hair back from his face. It itches and feels like something has crusted on his skin. Perhaps that mustard from the horrible hot dog? He will never eat food from a roofless place again. But if he goes to Heaven he will be rewarded with steaks every day...or do they eat animals in Heaven? Is not the lamb supposed to play with the lion and everyone is friends and running around in the green fields under a huge orange sun? Or was that the Jehovah's Witnesses' place, which is another heaven altogether? Illya moves his lips to ask Napoleon about which heaven they are going to and could they get there quick? Before his head puts down roots in Hell?"
The next time Illya wakes up he cannot move. For a sharp little second he panics in a way that must be automatic now, commanded straight from his nerves without his overworked brain interfering. But as it turns out he is in a hospital bed, easily known when he flickers his nostrils. And it is a familiar hospital room his eyes tell him. The infirmary at UNCLE Headquarters. Again.
"Illya," Napoleon says and flickers his fingers two inches from Illya's nose tip. "Can you tell me your name?"
"Are you daft, Napoleon? What is this?" Illya bites his lip. "Or have you finally apprehended a copy of the entrance examination to Thrush Villain School?" He struggles to sit up a little against the pillows.
"Funny," Napoleon says and holds a clear glass up under his chin so that he can sip the water through a straw. He drains half the content before Napoleon can say ah-ah-ah and snatch it away.
"Careful, Illya, drink slowly."
"Water has never hurt anybody," Illya grouses. "If I can't have more I want something better." He lifts his arm—ridiculously grateful that it is working again—and clutches Napoleon's elbow; tugging him closer.
When Napoleon kisses him it is sloppy and tastes like morning breath and chemicals, salt and metal, but that doesn't matter at all. Napoleon's kisses are always so strong and good and hypnotizing that he easily forgets he has not brushed his teeth after the disastrous incident with the rat food covered sausage.
"Mfuhm," Illya mutters into Napoleon's mouth and he knows Napoleon understands because he cups Illya's face in his warm hands, moves his lips and murmurs safe words.
Heaven. This is heaven and Illya is never alone here.