"Ah, Peril," Napoleon offers what he hopes is a warm smile, but the stricken look that crosses his partner's face tells him he fell a bit short of that mark. "We had a good run, didn't we?"
"Do not talk like that," comes the sharp, heavily-accented reply.
The hints of Illya's mother tongue usually don't make much of an appearance unless he's angry or extremely anxious, so Napoleon does his best to quell the churning in his gut as he settles more comfortably against the hospital-issue pillows and watches his partner. Illya looks terrible. Heavy shadows under his eyes, a pale cast to his skin that speaks less to a lack of sun than the sort of clammy fear you feel in places like morgues. Napoleon swallows and tries to ignore the myriad tubes and IV lines running from his body to the machines surrounding the bed.
"He told you, right?" he feels compelled to ask, searching his partner's face with no small amount of desperation. "He didn't send you in here blind?"
Illya's lips thin into a hard line and he shakes his head once. No.
Napoleon blinks away the sting at the backs of his eyes with sheer force of will, then glances at the bland off-white ceiling. They really did have a good run. The best run. He just thought they'd have more time. Seems they both did. It's like the universe is laughing at them all over again, only this time, he's of a mind to shoot it in the face. Repeatedly, so he won't have to see his partner like this.
Napoleon gradually shifts his attention back to Illya, unable to do anything else when the man uses that address. They aren't codenames, or anything silly like that. What started out as insults somehow transformed into endearments over the years; endearments that neither of them allowed anyone else to use. Ever.
"Polya, look at me," Illya's brow creases in a frown, and Napoleon chokes down a frightened sound as those big hands reach up and settle oh-so-gently on his face. Illya's fingers rest against the hinge of his jaw while the pads of his thumbs stroke carefully over his cheekbones.
Napoleon strangles what he hopes isn't something as embarrassing as a sob and closes his eyes, letting the warmth of Illya's touch ground him. "I thought we'd have more time," he rasps through a throat that feels too constricted to speak. "I thought-"
"Shh, none of that," Illya's eyes are softer than he's seen them in recent memory, and Napoleon wants to scream at the unfairness of everything that led them to this moment, in this room. "No what ifs. We had time. We were good, yes?"
"The best," Napoleon manages to lift a hand and cover Illya's own with it, fingers squeezing tight as he laughs wetly.
They smile at each other, and for a moment, Napoleon can pretend everything is exactly as he's been imagining for months. Illya at his side, their hands wound together, finally able to put words to this achingly new facet of their partnership. It's perfect. And he's never going to have it again.
His hand isn't holding Illya's anymore, which is strange. Illya is rising from his chair, expression shifting from fond to terrified in the span of a millisecond, and Napoleon can't understand why his voice sounds so far away.
There are nurses now, which is odd. Where did they come from? Napoleon tries to open his mouth, tries to tell Illya to stop fighting the men and women trying to wrestle him out of the room, but his body seems to have stopped obeying his orders. He blinks dazedly, and the last thing he hears before his vision fades to black is the unforgiving wail of the EKG monitor beside the bed.
"-to wake up."
"I will be cross with you if you do not."
"Polya, open your eyes, you bastard."
Napoleon realizes that last bit came out as speech, though he scarcely recognizes the hoarse rasp of his own voice. God..how long has it been? He cracks one eye open, then the other, and is greeted by the familiar sight of his partner smiling down at him.
"Water?" Illya holds up a glass of the offered drink, and Napoleon nods gratefully.
He summons what little strength he can to lift a hand and hold onto Illya's wrist as his partner lets him sip at the ice cold liquid until Illya decides he's had enough. Napoleon makes a soft noise of complaint as the glass moves away, but Illya doesn't bother acknowledging it.
Illya turns back around, then carefully smacks his cheek. There's a deliberateness to the gesture that Napoleon doesn't miss, a coiled sort of tension all the way through Illya's arm, though he does yelp in surprise and cover the smarting patch of skin with a hand, all the while giving his partner what he hopes is a wounded look.
"That is for scaring the hell out of me, you bastard."
That's the second time Illya's called him a bastard in less than five minutes, but if Napoleon's being honest with himself (and he's tried to get in the habit of that lately), he sort of had it coming. If the stubble on Illya's jaw is any indication, he's been out for almost a week. Potentially almost dead for almost a week, and if their places were reversed, he wouldn't wish having to endure that on his worst enemy.
"I'm sorry," he murmurs, reaching out with the arm not tied up with IV lines and other tubes to catch hold of his partner's hand. "Illya...I'm sorry."
Silence descends as Illya spends a few minutes examining their joined hands. Napoleon just revels in the warmth of Illya's skin against his own, chasing every ounce of sensation that he thought he'd never feel again.
Finally, after a nod that could mean Illya's made any number of important decisions, he leans up and kisses Napoleon full on the mouth.
Napoleon startles, then melts under the careful pressure, his fingers tightening around Illya's until the man would be protesting if he were anyone else. Oh...he's been waiting for this. And he can't even bring himself to mind their stale breath and his own considerable stubble scratching gently against Illya's chin. It's perfect.
"My cowboy," Illya pulls away slowly, then gives his chin a gentle tap as he rises to his feet.
"Better be planning on making that official, Peril," Napoleon calls from his bed as Illya ambles for the doorway, the tension strung across those broad shoulders visibly easing with every step he takes. Napoleon can make out silhouettes that likely belong to Gaby and Waverly through the frosted glass windows of his room, and when Illya glances back before he opens the door, all he offers is the most dangerous smirk Napoleon's ever seen on the man's face.
Oh, but it's a good day to be alive.