Everything was red and hot. Pain surrounded him until he thought his head would explode from the sheer intensity of it. And all the while, he could hear a woman sobbing, a man apologizing over and over and yet the pain didn't stop, the red didn't stop; the hot didn't stop. And when he thought he couldn't bear one more second, he woke.
For a moment, Illya was disoriented. He blinked rapidly and tried to brush the sweat from his eyes, but his wrists were restrained. What the hell is this? He started to struggle, then a cool cloth was place on his forehead and he paused, almost without meaning to.
"Illya, calm down, partner."
It was hard to think, but only for a second, then Illya mumbled, "Na... Na..." He broke to cough and clear his throat. "Napoleon?" He finally got his eyes to focus on the familiar face of his partner.
"I'm here, Illya. Hang on and I'll undo the straps." Then there was the lovely feeling of freedom and Illya brought his hands up to his face, stopping midway to stare at his bruised wrists.
"It was a bad night, I take it?"
"You've had better." Illya could hear the unspoken caution in Napoleon's voice and knew he was carefully choosing his words. It seemed like a very long time since Illya had had a good night.
The nightmares had started a few weeks ago. Just bits and bobs at first. It wasn't like having a nightmare was a new experience for him. It came with the job, but it had never been like this before. Not for him. Illya was someone who didn't really remember his dreams, although he was fairly sure that he did dream.
Illya yawned until his jaw cracked and Napoleon looked over at him with a grin. "Late night last night, partner?"
"Didn't sleep really well, I guess." Illya yawned again and stretched. "Think I'm going to go get some coffee, you want some as well?"
"Wouldn't say no if you're buying."
Illya remembered walking to the canteen, getting the coffee and instead of heading right back to his office, he'd sat at one of the small tables. It was quiet and he had his choice of spots. There was one in the far corner, an obvious choice for a Section Two agent. He'd sat and stirred his coffee, staring into the darkness of it and then woke to see a half dozen co-workers bending over him, his partner included.
Without hearing a word of protest, Napoleon had dragged him off to Medical, where Illya was given a clean bill of health and a vial of sleeping pills.
Normally, Illya would have disposed of them, but his nights were far from normal. So he took one and when that didn't do it, he took two. Apparently that was the key. He slept and if he dreamt, he didn't remember, although once he found himself in the kitchen and another time trying to get his front door unlocked. It was disturbing, but at least he was sleeping again.
At least until they went on their next assignment. It was hard, brutal, and exhausting. When they finally both got into Paris, uninjured and successful, a celebration was in order. Illya called a couple of lady friends and the four of them had gone out on the town for a night of dining and dancing. When the hour turned late, they paired up and headed in opposite directions.
Illya had, surprisingly, won the toss and got their hotel room. He and his date retired back there and Illya lost himself in the very pleasurable task of making love until neither of them could hold their heads up one minute more. Still wrapped in each other's embrace, Illya happily drifted off to sleep.
Only to be surrounded by the red and the heat. Twin suns, a burgundy sky, silver leaves, nothing made sense and all that he knew was that he was being dragged somewhere by a man and woman. They begged, they pleaded, they swore at him as he was yanked, manhandled and even half carried towards a building. He didn't know what was in there; all he knew was that his very existence depended upon him not entering it. As determined as they were, he was twice as determined not to go. But in the end, he wasn't strong enough; he was never strong enough to stop the pain.
He woke, huddled in a corner of the room, panting and sweating.
"Illya?" Napoleon was across the room, his weapon drawn. He approached cautiously, as if he was afraid Illya would attack him. No, judging from the red marks on his face, Illya already had attacked him. Napoleon was worried about another attempt.
"Napoleon, what happened?" His throat ached from the attempt to speak.
"I was sort of hoping you could tell me. I came in to find you acting wild. In fact, your date has locked herself in the bathroom swearing that you tried to kill her. And for the record, you've got one a helluva left cross, partner."
"What?" Shakily, Illya got to his feet and swayed his way to the bathroom door. "Suzanne?"
"Éloignez-vous de moi, vous maniaque (Stay away from me, you maniac.)"
"Suzanne, laissez-moi vous expliquer (Suzanne, let me explain...)"
"Il n'y a rien à expliquer. Vous êtes fou!(There's nothing to explain. You're insane!)"
"Serez-vous au moins m'écouter (Will you at least listen to me?)?"
It had taken nearly all his patience, but he finally got her calmed down enough for her to come out and leave. Illya watched out the window as Napoleon showed her to a cab. He burst back into the room as if he expected Illya to have gone around the bend again, but Illya merely regarded him with weary eyes. Illya walked back to his bed, the rumpled sheets now cool and unwelcoming. "Napoleon, what's wrong with me? I've never had nightmares like this before."
"What do you mean?"
He sat with a thump. "I never dream this vividly, I don't dream in color and I don't remember my dreams, but now... everything is so real, I can taste and smell them. "
"Can you tell me what's happening in them?"
"That's what doesn't make any sense to me. Everything is weird - there are two suns in the sky, and the sky is blood red. I'm being dragged towards this building by two people, a man and a woman. They are alternately cursing and pleading with me. I don't know what's going on except, for some reason, I don't want to go in the building. Then there's pain, more than I've ever experienced and people are apologizing and crying..." Illya wiped his face with a tired hand. "I don't understand it."
"You want some more confusion to add to it?"
"When I came in, you were shouting, but in a language I'd never heard before. Now granted, I'm not fluent in as many languages as you, but I have a good ear and I couldn't readily identify it."
"I don't understand. What's happening to me?"
"I don't know, partner, but I think we need to get you some professional help once we get back home." Napoleon sat down on the edge of his bed and studied Illya for a long minute. "But getting you back home might be an issue."
"I usually don't have another one of these on the heels of one. They come every three or four days... I should be okay."
"Just the same, I'll call Waverly and request the UNCLE jet. If nothing else, at least we can keep it in house. You lose it like that on a plane and the boys from Bellevue will be waiting for you upon touchdown."
He nodded and continued to stare out the window, listening as Napoleon exchange words with their superior. Either Waverly was in a good mood or the planets had aligned, but the discussion was just a couple of minutes long.
"The plane will be here at six," Napoleon said, taking his place at Illya's side. "We should try and get a little sleep."
"You go ahead. I am... strangely awake at the moment."
"Napoleon, am I going insane?" The question was so softly asked, Illya wasn't even sure his partner heard him.
"Considering how many drugs we've had pumped into us and all the head injuries, we're lucky neither of us has gone around the bend yet."
"But the reality exists. I might have."
"It does." Napoleon slid an arm over Illya's shoulders and then pulled him close, as if he could wash all the unsettled images in Illya's mind away with the gesture. Resting his head against Illya's, Napoleon whispered. "We may be insane, just not today, my friend."
It had seemed so easy with Napoleon standing there at that moment. Illya believed him, even as they entered Medical and the psychiatrists starting asking their questions. Even when they started having to tie him down to keep him from hurting himself and others, he believed Napoleon because to do anything else would be to admit his insanity.
He was wearing a blue robe over his pajamas and trying not to shiver. There were no windows in the small room, which was probably just as well. In his state of mind, he might just try to fly out of one of them. Instead he sat and stared at a wall, trying to keep his mind blank, but the images were growing stronger with each passing day. It was getting easier and easier to lose himself in them and harder to come back.
The door opened, but Illya didn't bother to turn. He didn't care anymore to even express mild interest. He's seen so many doctors in the past few days that his spirit was numb. Whoever it was wasn't going to be able to help him.
British sounding, so they must have brought someone in from London now. Good, now he could stump them on two continents.
Illya found himself turning in response, even though he didn't know what motivated his actions. The man's hair looked as if a flock of birds had attempted to nest in it and he was tall and lanky. He was dressed in a blue suit with a long brown top coat. Obviously Napoleon had not seen him or he'd have had tough words for such an outfit.
"Who are you?" Illya straightened a bit in his chair.
"I'm the Doctor." He tossed a bag over to Illya who looked inside and frowned at the grapes. That was a very British thing to do.
"Just the Doctor." He grinned and walked closer. "And I understand you've been seeing things."
"You've read my chart. Good for you." Illya returned to the wall. It was safer than the man; he was unsettling in a way Illya couldn't understand.
"You're been seeing buildings with crystal spires, red skies, and double suns."
Illya turned to stare, open mouthed, at him. "How did you know? I've only told Napoleon... you must have talked with him."
"Bonaparte, you mean? Fun guy, knew how to party. Shame about his wife though..." The man stopped and slapped his head. "You meant your partner. Sorry... no, haven't seen him yet. He and Martha stepped out for a bit."
"May I?" The Doctor approached him slowly. "I'm going to touch you, but I won't hurt you." He set his hands on Illya's face and closed his eyes.
Illya gasped as something... someone...? moved through his head, pushing and pulling memories aside as... he?.. went. Then it was gone and Illya was sitting on the floor, feeling very much as if he'd been dragged behind a car for a mile or so. He was weak, dazed and more than a little confused.
"I didn't think it was possible." The Doctor had spun, his hand on his forehead, a mass of motion. His jacket swirled around him like a cape as he paced the room. Illya struggled to his feet and then he abruptly found himself being embraced.
He pushed the stranger away, his hands balled into fists. "I don't know who you are..."
"You don't even know who you are! The Face of Boe was right. I'm not the last!" He ran his hands through his hair, creating even more chaos there. He was grinning as if he'd lost his senses as well.
"Not the last what?"
"Time Lord!" He hugged Illya. "Don't you see? You're a Time Lord."
"I beg your pardon, I am a Soviet."
The Doctor laughed and tried to embrace him again, but Illya was ready this time and backed away. "You don't understand. These dreams you're having... someone must have... do you have a fob watch?"
"A fob watch....pocket watch?" He made a circle with his hands. "About this big with odd designs on it?"
"How did you...? It's one of the few things I brought with me from the USSR. I keep it in a safety deposit box."
"And I'll wager, for one reason or another, someone's opened it. That's what's happening to you. Don't you see? You're not dreaming, Friend, you're remembering."
"Home." The Doctor's tone sobered. "You're remembering Gallifrey."
"Never heard of it."
"You wouldn't. It's been gone for years... hundreds of years... thousands."
Illya sighed, walked back to his bed and settled back upon it. "I suspect the orderlies will be along in a few minutes, you might as well get comfortable."
"I beg your pardon?"
"The best I can figure out is that you are an escaped patient who somehow managed to get into my room or I've completely gone over the edge. In either event, this room is monitored and the orderlies should be here any minute now."
The Doctor pulled a slender tube from an inner pocket. At first Illya thought it was a communicator, but the man pointed it, it pulsed and the small camera flared in a wash of sparks. He then turned to the door and repeated the motion. Grinning, he walked over to the bed, plopping back onto it, laughing.
"Now we'll have some privacy. We have a lot to talk about, the two of us."
"We have nothing to talk about. As far as I'm concerned, you're a lunatic."
"I'm not, you know. I'm a Time Lord as well." The Doctor sat up. "And I reckon I know what happened to you."
"Do tell." Illya leaned back against his pillow and crossed his arms. "I can't wait to hear this."
"I'm going to conjecture that your parents saw it coming."
"The Time War, the last one... with the Daleks. They knew it was going to end badly. They knew what you were and they were desperate to save you, so they put you into a Chameleon Device. Scrambled you down to the cellular level, rewrote your DNA, made you human, and then they sent you here. Then they died, everyone did, your whole family, our whole world."
"Now I know you're insane. My parents are alive and well and living just outside of Kazan. I have five brothers and sisters. They are not dead."
"And did you ever wonder why you didn't really look like your father? Or any of your siblings?"
"I take after my mother and my youngest sister looks very much like me."
"That bears checking out... later, later, you and I have so much to discuss. You were put with them, host parents, probably as a young child or even a baby, they were told you were theirs and they didn't argue... they couldn't. They didn't know any different." The Doctor slid to the edge of the bed and rested his elbows on his knees. "Didn't you ever once wonder why you were so much smarter than your brothers and sisters? Why things like mathematics and languages came so easy for you? Why you could figure out things that no one else could?"
"It is just the way it is."
"Not exactly, but how to convince you?" The Doctor slapped his forehead, shouting. "Think, think! Oh, I know, where's your watch?
"I told you, in a safety deposit box."
"Can you get it?"
"You came through the door - you should have noted that the lock is on the outside. Plus I'm hardly dressed to stroll into the First National Bank of New York, am I?"
"Oh, nothing wrong with jim jams! Still... it might raise an eyebrow or two. Do you have a friend who could get it?"
"Napoleon, but he's not here and I have no way to contact him."
The Doctor held out a communicator to him. "How about now?"
"How did you...? Very well, if only to show you how wrong you are." He twisted open the instrument and held it close to his mouth. "Open Channel D please. Napoleon, are you there?"
"It's a long story, but I need you to do something for me. "
"All right, fire away."
"I need you to go to my safety deposit box and get my pocket watch; you know -- it's the one that my grandfather gave me -- and bring it to me."
"Can I ask why?"
Illya glanced over at the grinning brunet and shook his head slowly. "Doctor's orders."
Napoleon entered the room and frowned at the stranger who was lounging with his feet propped up on Illya's bed, sitting beside him, eating grapes, and watching TV.
"Oh, hello! You must be Napoleon."
"Napoleon, meet the Doctor."
"Doctor...?" Napoleon offered his hand.
"Just the Doctor, thanks. You're much taller than your namesake. Did you bring the watch?"
Napoleon patted his jacket pockets and pulled the gold watch from one. "The teller and the bank president both apologized. Apparently they were moving the boxes and yours was damaged. The watch was popped open, but they said it closed with no trouble. They said they tried to contact you, but there was no answer."
"Must have had been when we were out of town."
"What did I tell you?" The Doctor was off the bed and to the watch in three long strides.
"That watch hasn't been opened in years... not since Grandfather gave it to me. He told me the wisdom of the ages was hidden within and that I should never look unless I was willing to see."
"Smart man, your grandfather. He knew what he had."
"I wouldn't know. Saw him exactly once in my life and that was when he gave me the watch. I was in a hurry, put it in my luggage and never got around to doing anything with it. My studies kept me busy and then my transfer here. When I got to New York, I put it in the box with everything else."
"OH!" The Doctor pounded his head. "I could I have been so stupid - of course "I always wondered about that..."
"I don't understand..." Napoleon started, his hand drifting closer to his weapon. "Who is your friend, Illya?"
The Doctor grinned, "That was me - your grandfather."
"He was an old man."
"Well, it was an odd time then. You see, Time Lords, we don't die, we regenerate, take on a new face. Same old mind, whole different wardrobe. I must have given you the watch and forgotten about it. We were going in a dozen directions back then, hiding the lot of you from the daleks. I thought you were all gone by now though... "
"How could you forget something like that?"
"Fought a couple of dozen 'for the universe' battles since then and, well, I am 903 years old. Things do pile up after a fashion."
A young black woman entered and grinned. "There you are, Doctor, and Napoleon! I wondered where I'd lost you to."
"Martha, you look hungry." The Doctor glanced over at her and then went back to Illya.
"Do I? Oh, right, absolutely starving. Napoleon, do you know where I might get a bite of something?"
Napoleon looked torn, but Illya shook his head. "Go, Napoleon, I will most certainly be here when you get back."
The Doctor waited until they'd left. "Are you sure? You open this watch and you can embrace your true self."
"This is my true self." Illya gestured to himself. "I want nothing more if it's anything like what I've been remembering. Why do I keep remembering if the watch is closed now?"
"The nice people at the bank lied a bit to your friend. It isn't exactly closed tight; bits are escaping and finding you. I open this and I can prove you're a Time Lord! Imagine it, you can go anywhere, anyplace, anytime. You and me, we could see the universe! Imagine the adventures we'd have! And you'll never die."
"I have all the adventure I can handle now, thank you. And life without death, that's not living; that's existing."
"But you'd take your rightful place, as a Time Lord of Gallifrey. The galaxy, no, the entire universe would be at your beck and call."
"My name is Illya, Illya Nichovetch Kuryakin. It is who I am, all that I am."
"But you could be so much more; you could have all that you want. Why do you want this when you can have the universe?"
Illya shook his head slowly at the Doctor, looking in the direction that Napoleon had taken. "You wouldn't understand. I have all that I want."
"Please?" The Doctor looked as if he was about to cry.
"No, not if it means losing what I all ready have along the way."
The Doctor dropped his gaze to the floor. "I hope he realizes what he has in you."
"We both do."
"You'll always be apart, you'll age more slowly, you'll always be a bit more clever. You'll never be one of them."
"It doesn't matter. I would rather be happy the way I am than risk losing it to become something I don't want."
The Doctor held out the watch to him and Illya slowly shook his head. "Why don't you hold on to that? I'll have no use for it."
"You'd entrust it to me? Knowing how much I want this? "
"Granted I don't know you, but I feel I do and you strike me as a man of honor. You wouldn't act from purely selfish reasons or you'd have already opened it. You could have done that at any time and I wouldn't have been able to stop you, but you didn't. As I said, an honorable man."
The Doctor sighed and he dropped the watch into his pocket. Walking to Illya, he embraced him and then kissed his forehead. Stepping back, he smiled sadly. "We could have been great mates, you and I. If you ever change your mind..."
"You'll be the first to know."
"The second, I reckon."
Illya felt a gentle hand on his arm and he sat back, looking around him, confused. Napoleon was sitting beside him in the canteen.
"You okay, Illya?"
"I had the strangest dream... " He grabbed Napoleon's wrist. "Is that the time?" He stopped and thought for a moment... a watch... a silver leaf?
"When you didn't come back, I went looking for you. Finally, Maggie called and said you were sawing logs at one of her tables and would I come get you?"
For a moment, Illya thought he saw a man. He was wearing a blue suit with a brown coat and his eyes were so sad. Illya blinked and he was gone.
"I think it's time to take you home and tuck you into bed, little cowpoke." Napoleon stood and offered him a hand up.
"Call me that again, and I'll poke you," Illya threatened as he got stiffly to his feet unassisted. "Maybe I do need a hot shower... and possibly a very large drink."
Napoleon chuckled and peeled a piece of paper napkin off Illya's cheek. "I think you need more than that. Let's go partner."
Together they walked from the canteen, from the building and out into the bustle of New York, never seeing the old fashioned police phone booth as it faded from view.