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Where Must we Go

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He had been ready to die. He had been wanting to die, lying against the sand pile as the pain began to turn into a dull throb and the world around him started losing focus. Strickland was right, if the bloodloss didn’t kill him, no doubt his wounds were so infected that he didn’t stand a chance.

He would die in America. Enemy territory. It wasn’t an ideal set of circumstances, in fact it was...devastating. He would never see his home again, he would die here, so far from everything he knew and loved. His country would know him as a traitor, and no doubt they would pin Mihalkov’s death on him as well.

But it didn’t matter.

His breathing was shallow, and rain soaked through his clothes, making them stick to his skin. He was cold, unbelievably cold, but he supposed that was just a side effect...of death. A soft laugh escaped his throat which turned into a wheeze of pain.

This was not what he had been expecting when he started working for the KGB. He had been young, patriotic, desperate to learn all he could and bring pride to his country. Now? Well, now that all seemed very trite.

Warm blood dripped from his mouth. What would his mother say, if she could see him now? Probably something along the lines of ‘I told you so,’ and at this, he had to smile. He wondered though, if they would be proud of him for what he had done.

Again, it didn’t matter much. He would see them again very soon.

His thoughts then turned to The Creature, and Ms. Esposito. Had they gotten away? Was he free? Safe? Were they together? He had told Strickland and God, he hoped they’d escaped before he had come after them.

Of course he could never know, and he supposed that was alright. He was dying, and that was alright too, because it meant he wouldn’t have to live here anymore.

His breathing was ragged now and all he could feel was the cold. Blinking away the rain that dripped into his eyes, he thought. He thought about his part in the whole...mess and allowed himself a small smile. As a scientist, he had upheld the ethics which his profession held him to; and as a man? Well, he hoped he had managed to save a life.

The world was growing darker around him and he let out a long sigh. He thought he could hear something crunching over gravel not too far away from him but he ignored it. He wanted to die like this, in silence, nothing but the sound of the rain to see him off.

It was only when he saw bright flashes of red and blue out of the corner of his eye that he began to panic, his heart, which had slowed considerably, jumping into high gear at the sight of the emergency vehicles.

‘No,’ he thought, but he couldn’t get the words out, ‘no, no, leave me to die, let me die.’

The words came out as soft gasps, inarticulate noises as the sound of hurried footsteps neared him. He lashed out at the arms which struggled to lift him, but he was still so tired, so cold. The world faded in and out and he felt himself being lifted up and placed on a stretcher.

No. NO! He was ready, he was ready, please.

The voices above him faded into nonsensical noise, and the edges of his vision grew dark. He felt his shirt being ripped open and the cold wind brushing his wound, sending a surprise slice of pain through him.

The voices became frenzied and he felt a hand slapping his face gently, trying to keep him awake. Americans, he thought, always resorting to violence. He allowed himself a very small smile as his eyes slipped closed and his mind clouded over, leaving him numb and in silence.

Well, fuck them.

 He had been ready to die. He had been wanting to die.

But he was alive.

He still refused to open his eyes, to accept the reality of his fate, but he knew. The heart monitor at his side told him as much, beeping steadily, exposing the treachery of his own heart.

The moment he had regained consciousness, agony ripped through him. Not physical, they’d pumped him full of enough drugs so that he wouldn’t be feeling his injuries for a long while. No, it was simply his soul which was in anguish, separated from the peace of death and faced with the matter of his continued existence in this hell hole of a country.

So after he had screamed himself hoarse, releasing all the frustration and pain that was in his heart, he went silent, and laid unmoving in his hospital bed.

Even the familiar, commanding voice which spoke to him the day after he had regained consciousness did not inspire him to move.

“Doctor Hoffstetler.” Hoyt greeted as he entered the hospital room.

He almost broke cover, almost. Being thrown straight back to where he had started threw him for a loop and he was, for a moment, thankful for the condition he was in. It gave him an excuse for the time it took to re-assume the role of Robert Hoffstetler.

“General.” he rasped, and immediately winced at the sound of his voice, rough from yelling and clumsy from the injury.

He had still not opened his eyes but he heard a long sigh from the General and caught a cynical smile before it reached his lips.

“Listen Bob,” Hoyt began and he had to clench his teeth to stop himself from shouting again. Dimitri , his name was Dimitri , “we’re in a real fucking mess here.”

“I take it, sir, that the asset has not been recovered?” he spoke slowly, attempting to make himself sound as disappointed as possible.

“No, and to be honest son, we’re all very much in the dark. No one knows what the fuck happened out there and with Strickland dead-”

“Dead!?” Dimitri’s eyes flew open and he blinked against the harsh white light of the hospital room.

Hoyt was silent for a moment and Dimitri turned to look at him. Things were blurry, his glasses had to be somewhere, but he couldn’t mistake the look of pity on the General’s face.

“I want to apologize, son, for all of this. Things got out of hand, none of this should have happened.”

Dimitri set him mouth in a thin line, wondering what he could say to that. Then, taking a breath, he took a gamble.

“Sir,” he started, “I wanted the creature to live, desperately so, sir. I tried again to convince Strickland to give me time with it, to find out what I could. He refused and I…”

He paused for a second, swallowed nervously.

“I was upset, sir. Because of that, Strickland...he thought I was a Russian, sir.” he let his voice crack slightly, “But I would never go against your orders, I would never betray my country like that sir, never. He followed my car, and when I saw it was him, I pulled off the road. The rest is a blur. I’m sorry sir. I should have left it alone from the beginning.”

Hoyt sighed and Dimitri felt a hand rest on his shoulder. He tensed slightly. His words could either have invoked just the right amount of sympathy, or they could have sparked an already pre-existing suspiscion within the General.

He waited for the man to speak.

“You stood by your beliefs as a scientist, son, and I can’t rightly fault you for that. I should have been more on top of it instead of leaving it to Strickland. I can hardly believe how such a good man could have caused this much destruction.”

A good man. A good man, what a laugh.

“The doctors think it was the attack from The Asset that started it. That and the infection from his fingers and the stress of the break-in apparently affected his mental state. He even assaulted one of the cleaners in her own home.”

“What!?” Dimitri struggled to sit up, eyes wide, afraid.

“Yes, a Mrs. Zelda Fuller. The government will be compensating of course. And for you as well, so you don’t have to worry about your surgeries. We’ll be ‘footing the bill’ as they say.”

“That's…”hush money, “very generous of you, General.”

The General patted his shoulder gently.

“You just get some rest, Hoffstetler. We’ll discuss a report on the events when you’re in better condition.”

Dimitri watched Hoyt’s figure retreating to the door, and as it shut behind him, he was once again left in peace.

What a fucking prick, was his first thought followed shortly after by, Strickland is dead.

Small mercies.

Looking around the room, he noticed what looked like his glasses on the table beside him and he reached for them, slipping them on. As the world came into focus, he let out a long, defeated sigh and let his head fall gently back against the headboard.

There was a soft tapping on the window near him and he turned towards it. He didn’t know what he had been expecting; the sun to shine down on him like some sort of saint, perhaps? Or maybe an earthquake or some such thing to announce the liberation of a once dethroned god.

Maybe he hadn’t been expecting anything, but it seemed fitting that nothing had changed.

Outside it continued to rain.