That was the first sensation Illya felt as he started the slow journey from unconsciousness to full awareness. He wasn’t sure why being warm was important to him. It meant something, but the answer eluded him in the foggy confusion of his mind.
A hand drifted over his head. He waited for it to fist into his hair and drag him painfully back to full consciousness. He tried to tense his body, ready to defend himself against the unknown, but his body refused to obey.
His breath hitched in panic as the hand left his hair and stroked across his forehead and then down along his right cheek. It took him a moment to realise the caress was gentle. The movement repeated over and over.
The was a murmur of a quiet voice. He was unable to make out the words, but the tone strangely soothed him. His panic subsided.
The hand lingered on his cheek, the thumb brushing softly against his jawline. He tried to follow its warm embrace as it moved away. Pain bit into his right shoulder, stealing his breath, pushing him further into the harsh realm of consciousness.
He knew that voice. Gentle and feminine. Fiery and sassy. Sassy? Illya frowned. That didn’t sound like a word he would use. The hand soothed away his frown.
“I think he’s starting to come round.”
There was a rustle of paper. “About time.” A male voice. American.
Why would an American be here? Had Illya failed in a mission? Been captured? Tortured?
In fact, where was here?
“Be nice, Napoleon. You were just as worried.”
Napoleon? An unusual name that sounded familiar, but Illya couldn’t place how he knew it.
“It’s Peril. He’s half Russian, half machine. He’s virtually indestructible. Nothing is going to keep him down for long.”
The hand stroked through his hair. “Don’t listen to him, Illya. He hasn’t slept with a single nurse since we got here, he’s been that worried.” There was laughter in the voice.
The remembrance of her name brought with it the memories he treasured above all else. Locked away for the day he was sent back to the KGB and in the moments he was alone, he could remember the light she had returned to his dark existence.
This strong, independent woman who had brought his heart back to life. Had reawakened emotions he thought had died long ago. She made him feel alive and excited and fearful. She claimed him as her own, uncaring of his traitorous surname. She claimed him body and soul and he feared that he would disappoint her, not just sexually, but emotionally.
Gaby was vibrant, unafraid to show her emotions. Illya only knew how to express himself through violence or cold indifference. The feelings Gaby had brought back to life confused him, they made him feel carefree and … happy. They were alien to him.
She wasn’t afraid of his violence. Illya was terrified of it. But Gaby could hold it back, quieten it away. The rage inside him was no match for the small chop shop girl.
“Someone’s having nice thoughts,” Napoleon drawled. There was a teasing tone to the words. “You might actually have tamed the beast, Gaby.”
“Then I will have time to put a stop to your philandering ways.”
Paper rustled again. “I’m cursed with a natural, easy charm that women find irresistible. What’s a man to do?”
The missing piece fall into place. Cowboy. Cowboy and Gaby, his teammates for the last six months. Working for Waverly, the head of U.N.C.L.E. A strong surge of relief flooded through him.
Illya opened his eyes.