Awake at Last

This story is inspired by a word prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth: life.  It is also sort of a prequel to my upcoming NaNo story.

**

Ilya moaned softly as he opened his eyes.  At once, he knew something strange was going on.  He was in a hospital bed, but he was certain that he’d gone to sleep with Felicja in their bed.  He began shaking as he slowly sat up.

The room was dimly lit and sparsely furnished.  There was the bed and a small table beside it.  There was a chair in the corner.  His breath was coming in soft, shuddering gasps.  His heart was pounding in his chest.   Ilya gasped at the realization and set a hand on his chest.

He touched the coarse fabric of the hospital gown and blinked.  He was in his own body, not the one crafted by Dr. Schneider.  It had happened a few times over the last several months.  However, this was the first time that he’d been able to move.  The other times, he’d had to fight to open his eyes.

He bit his lip and slipped off the bed.  With unsteady steps, he moved to the small bath that was connected to his room.  The only light came from the corridor.  In it, he could see that he was right.  This was his real body.

Ilya gave a weak laugh.  His hair was long and ragged.  He was pale and he looked as if he could do with a few good meals.  However, he was alive – really alive.  He ran his hands over his face.  It was obvious that someone had been caring for him.  Perhaps that was why he was in the hospital.

“That makes sense,” he said.  His voice was hoarse, as if he hadn’t used it in a long time.  In fact, that was exactly the case.  He shuddered at the realization that he wasn’t waking in his false body with Felicja by his side.  Somehow, he felt as though that path had been closed.

His eyes widened as he realized something else.  He was in a hospital in Veligrad!  He was considered a traitor to the government.  He couldn’t say why they’d bothered caring for his body.  However, he was certain that he wouldn’t get to enjoy his new life for long if they found that he was back in it.

He padded out of the bath and peered into the corridor.  There was no one in sight and he couldn’t hear any voices.  Chewing at his lip, Ilya slipped out of the room and started down the hall.  Soon, he found the laundry room.

He leaned on the door and listened for a moment.  Only when he was certain it was safe did he push the door opened and go inside.  He wasted no time in finding clothing.  It was an orderly’s uniform and it was a little big on him, but he didn’t care.  It was better than a hospital gown.  He found low shoes, the sort meant to be worn only inside, and tugged them onto his bare feet.

Then, he slipped out of the room and was on his way once again.  It wouldn’t be too difficult to find the elevator.  He just needed to act natural – like he belonged there.  He walked with certainty and determination.  If he didn’t duck his head or act furtive, then no one he might encounter would have any reason to suspicious of him.

He found the elevators and pressed the button that would call it.  He wasn’t sure if he needed to go up or down to get out.  He trusted that there would be a button that was starred, to indicate the ground floor.  Wasn’t that the way all places did it?  He thought most of them marked the ground floor somehow, at least.

The door chimed and he smiled when they opened.  He didn’t speak to the pair of nurses that were on the elevator when he stepped on.  He just nodded and slipped between them to board.

“First floor?” one said, smiling.  The button had already been pressed and there was a box around the number.  The first floor was the ground floor, then.

Ilya nodded.  “Yes, thank you,” he said, his voice soft.  When the doors opened again, he let the nurses step off ahead of him.  Then, he followed them.  He glanced around for only a moment before he spotted the main doors of the hospital.

It took an effort not to run.  “Act normal,” he said, his voice hardly more than a breath.  Then, he headed for the doors.  Once he was outside, he could find a telephone and call home for an extraction.

He breathed a sigh of relief as he pushed the doors opened and stepped outside.  The sun was just starting to brighten the sky.  It was that strange, dim time before dawn had truly broken.  He started down the hospital steps without glancing around.

“Hey,” a voice called.

Ilya flinched and glanced over his shoulder.  A security guard stood at the door.  “RX-8?” he said, arching an eyebrow.

“Shit,” Ilya breathed.  He didn’t wait a moment longer and he didn’t answer the guard.  He just broke into a run.  He heard the man yelling after him – calling him by his proper name: Agent Putin.  He didn’t slow down.

He was just ducking around the corner when he heard a bang and pain blossomed in his shoulder.  Ilya gave a startled cry and then fell back against the wall.

“Can’t wait here, pup,” a soft voice said.  A moment later, a hand covered his mouth and Ilya stumbled back into an opening in the wall that he hadn’t even seen.  He tensed, torn between struggling and letting them help him, assuming they were helping him.

“Easy, Tanner,” the person holding him breathed.  “I’m called Carpenter.”

Tears welled in his eyes and he nodded.  Only someone from IIA would know his Agency codename.  When he relaxed, she lowered her hand.  He didn’t know why they were there or how they’d found him, but he didn’t care.  He stayed still and silent as several security guards ran by the narrow opening he’d come through.

Then, Carpenter released him and he turned to face… her.  Ilya felt his cheeks warm as he realized that he’d expected his rescuer to be a man.  In fact, she was a woman – a tall woman, with long dark hair.  “Shot,” he rasped.

Her brows furrowed.  “Let’s get you to Dr. Schneider,” she said, helping him to lean against her.  “Think you can walk, Tanner?”

Ilya nodded and focused on breathing.  He let Carpenter lead the way and relied on her strength to steady him.  “I’m not going to ask how you knew to come here,” he said.  “I’m just… thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” she said.  She heaved a sigh and shook her head.  “I’ll tell you, when Dr. Schneider said that your condition had changed and there was a chance you’d wake, none of us believed him.  I’m never questioning him again!”

A soft chuckle escaped him and he nodded.  “I’ve been waking for months,” he said.  He glanced over at her.  “I guess… it was just a matter of time before it stuck?”

The rest of the trip was made in silence.  Carpenter guided him through the building – a storage room of some kind – down a set of stairs to a basement.  Then, she touched a block in a normal-looking wall and a door swung outward.  She helped Ilya through as it closed behind them.

“Carpenter,” a low voice said.  There was a soft chuckle and the same low voice said, “And Tanner.  I see that I was correct in my assessment.”

Ilya blinked at the tall, blond man that was definitely not Gilbert.  He frowned.  “You are?” he started, even as Carpenter told the man that he’d been shot.

“Dr. Wolfgang Schneider,” the man said, as he waved at Carpenter.  “Settle him here and I’ll check out his wound.”  Even as she obeyed his order, he smiled at Ilya.  “Gil’s my elder brother.  He told me what had been going on with you.  When I heard, I got Carpenter and we came here, in case you woke permanently.”

Ilya nodded in understanding.  He sat on the table and then tried to relax as Dr. Schneider pulled up his shirt to look at the wound on his shoulder.  “Is it bad?” he breathed.

Chuckling, Dr. Schneider said, “I think you’ll live.”

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