Episode Forty-One: The Love and Leaving Affair
Nikolai drifted awake as Guy slipped out from under his grasp. Through narrowed eyes, he watched the assassin hurry towards the bathroom, and a sliver of light reached into the room before Guy closed the bathroom door. Nikolai rubbed his eyes, and he glanced over the clock. His head clouded over as dreams began to breach his mind again. He heard distant gunfire in the back of his mind, pulling him in.
The flush of a toilet brought him back to reality, and he stayed still as Guy walked back into the room, hugging himself to keep the cold away. Nikolai closed his eyes as the assassin slid back under the covers. He wanted Guy to pull him back into his arms, and even though he knew better, he still hoped to feel the assassin’s warmth around him.
Instead he heard a soft, “Are you awake?”
Nikolai stayed silent and kept his eyes closed.
He listened to Guy settle back into bed, and while he felt the man’s weight in the bed, no arms drifted around him. He counted until ten and then opened his eyes carefully.
Nikolai looked at Guy’s back. He tried to suppress his disappointment. He considered hugging Guy against him anyway, but he feared pushing the man away. So he just stared and hoped sleep would return to him soon.
Guy rolled over, and Nikolai quickly spotted his brown eyes watching him. “You are awake,” Guy whispered.
“I do not want any more sex,” Nikolai said, firmly. “I am tired and sore.”
Guy smiled. He wormed closer to Nikolai, but he didn’t touch the secret agent. “I wasn’t going to ask,” he replied, “though I suppose you wouldn’t believe me.”
Nikolai gave no reply, not even a smile.
Guy visibly softened as his own grin faded. He asked, “Are you all right?”
“What do you mean?” Nikolai replied.
“You’ve just seemed,” Guy searched for the words, “quiet lately.”
“I don’t know,” Guy said. “Just lately.”
Again, the Russian did not reply.
“Nikolai, you can tell me if something is bothering you.”
“Why?” Nikolai asked. “It does not seem to change things.”
Guy sat up. “So something is bothering you. What’s wrong?”
Nikolai rolled onto his back and shrugged. His fears and concerns knotted within him. He wanted to ask about Guy and Grier going away to talk secretly in the mall. He wanted to ask Guy if he was too stupid for him and if he preferred Jackie to him. He wanted to know why Guy liked him in the first place.
But he asked, “How long term is our relationship?”
His eyes drifted up to Guy, and the silence lingered. Guy watched him, and Nikolai tried to judge the expression forming on Guy’s face. He expected fear or frustration, but instead he thought he saw some sort of sorrow in Guy’s frown and tilted brows. Guy exhaled. “I didn’t want to tell you this so soon.”
Sitting up, Nikolai asked, “Tell me what?” He could feel his heart start to pound faster. Was he going to get dumped in the middle of the night?
Guy rubbed the bridge of his nose. “How do you picture things going in the new year when you’re back at work?”
“I had not thought that far in advance.”
Guy frowned. “Really?”
Nikolai smiled sheepishly. “Perhaps I had a fantasy or two of how things could work, but I would never assume you would be willing to indulge me.”
“Okay, tell me your fantasy.”
“You will laugh.”
“No, I won’t,” Guy said, still frowning. “Tell me.”
“Well, Cox knows we are together. So perhaps he would allow me to stay with you. You are retired, so I do not know what the harm would be if we were in a relationship. There would be no conflict of interest, and we could at least keep each other safe. But I know you may not be willing to be tied down, especially if I am away from the apartment working constantly. I am not sure what type of work Cox will give me when I get back, and Grier and I may be off on assignments a lot.”
“Nikolai, I am not retiring.”
Nikolai blinked. “But you said with this money-”
“Nikolai, I can’t-”
“No,” Nikolai said, shaking his head. “You said you were fine financially, and if I keep working I can help support you.”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with money,” Guy said.
Nikolai scowled. “Do you actually get pleasure out of killing people?”
“Sometimes,” Guy said. “But that’s not it. I am going to go back working for Cain.”
“He protected me from A.B.E.L., and I have a bad feeling that he’s going to need me. I can’t leave him, Nikolai.”
“Fuck what I said, Nikolai,” Guy said. He stood up and got out of the bed. “Things change. He needs me, and I can’t just turn a blind eye.”
Nikolai folded his arms across his chest. His head started to throb as he tried to process this new information. He couldn’t stay sleeping with someone who worked for Cain. He would have to quit his job, and he couldn’t leave his company for someone so unreliable. He narrowed his eyes at Guy, “What about me?”
“We can keep sneaking around,” Guy said. “You could write it off as spying.”
“No, I mean what about you owing me,” Nikolai said. “I saved your life. And I did not save it so you could die protecting Cain.”
“Oh, I wasn’t aware you owned me now that you’ve saved me,” Guy said with a sneer. “So what did you save my life for, Niko? Did you save it so I could be your little housewife? So I can iron your underwear after I jack off into it because I’ll never see you because you’ll be working so god damn much?”
Nikolai filled his tone with acid as he replied, “I saved it because I love you. And maybe that does not mean anything to you, but it means a hell of a lot to me. Maybe if you loved anyone aside from your own dick you would understand.”
The hum from the furnace started to overwhelm the sudden silence in the bedroom. Nikolai closed his eyes and counted back from ten as he clenched and unclenched his fists. If he was going to talk this out in a civilized way, he needed his anger to pass. He opened his eyes to glare at Guy again, but his expression faded as he looked at Guy’s slouched shoulders. The assassin’s eyes darted around the room as if he expected someone to jump out at him.
Steffie. Nikolai cursed himself. Of course, Guy loved Steffie. “I am sorry,” Nikolai said. “I forgot about-” He saw Guy’s mouth open to interrupt him and paused.
Pieces began to fall together in Nikolai’s mind. He thought about Jackie and Guy sneaking off to talk without him. He thought about how Guy stuffed Steffie’s present into the back of Jackie’s van. He remembered being constantly interrupted whenever he tried to mention Guy’s daughter.
The house was bugged. But why didn’t they tell him?
“I am sorry I brought it up,” Nikolai said. “Forget about it. We shall continue as if this conversation never happened.”
“So what are we going to do?” Guy asked.
“Fuck in the snow,” Nikolai replied as he started to get out of bed and braced himself against the cold room.
“I meant about when this year’s over.”
“We shall figure it out when the time comes,” Nikolai said. “Until then, we will enjoy each other’s company.”
“By having sex in the snow?” Guy asked. “That’s fine by me.”
Nikolai started to get dressed, and he noticed Guy watching him uneasily as the assassin followed suit. Once dressed, the two moved into the front hall to suit up in winter clothes. Guy groped Nikolai’s rear and received a dirty look from the blond in return. Guy shrugged with a smile and said, “I can’t wait to do this. You’ll love it, it’s the best.”
Nikolai replied, “Somehow I doubt that.”
Guy slipped his hands under Nikolai’s coat to rub the secret agent’s chest. “You loved the dildo, didn’t you?”
Nikolai’s cheeks burned and he thought of the house being bugged. Who listened to their conversations? Nikolai narrowed his eyes and said, “Lead the way.”
The two left the house and ventured out into the snow. The night sky was clear, leaving the stars to watch the pair’s trek. Nikolai squinted as he noticed day beginning on the horizon, and he hugged himself as cold nipped at his cheeks.
Guy eventually stopped amongst some trees and said, “I suppose you don’t actually want to screw me.”
“Is the house bugged?” Nikolai asked.
“Yes,” Guy replied.
“Why did you keep it a secret?” Nikolai asked.
“Did you think I was too stupid to go along with it?” Nikolai asked.
Guy laughed. “No,” he replied, trying to suppress his laughs. “No. Nikolai, I don’t know why you constantly think the issue is that you are stupid.”
Nikolai folded his arms across his chest. “Well, tell me why then.”
“I don’t know,” Guy said. “I guess I thought you’d be more comfortable not knowing. I bet you wouldn’t have let me put a dildo in your bum if you knew someone was listening.”
“Is that what you talked to Grier about in the mall?” Nikolai asked.
Guy failed to hide the surprise from his face, but he replied, “Yes.”
“Why did she keep it a secret from me?”
“Nikolai, it’s A.B.E.L. listening in. Grier and I both know how much you love that company, and we didn’t want you to be hurt to know they were keeping tabs on you.”
So Cox didn’t trust him. Nikolai exhaled. He supposed Cox was right not to trust him. And that meant Hoffman listened to everything in the house. The secret agent’s mind drifted to Hoffman sitting at his desk, listening to Guy and Nikolai’s sex while eating another donut. “So what do we do?” Nikolai asked.
“What do you mean, what do we do?” Guy asked. “We keep pretending like we don’t know. One of Grier’s friends stuck his neck out to warn us, and we don’t want him getting into trouble because we can’t keep our mouths shut.”
“I am going to talk to Cox about it,” Nikolai said.
“Fine,” Guy said, “but tell him you suspected it. Don’t tell him that we found out.”
“Fine,” Nikolai replied. “But now that no one is eavesdropping, I want to finish our conversation.”
“Honestly, I would prefer to just wait until the time expires,” Guy said. His breath curled out of his mouth as he added, “Nikolai, I want to spend time with you.”
Nikolai shook his head. “I do not think I can continue on like this knowing you intend on leaving me for Cain.”
“You can’t look at it that way,” Guy said.
“Guy, I know it repulses you to hear it, but I love you. I do not want to see you hurt yourself because of that man,” Nikolai said. “And I know it is a painful cliché, but my heart will not be able to bear it if I have to watch you degenerate into one of his men. I know loving you means loving a lot of faults – and I can live with the fear of you fucking someone else – but I cannot love you if you turn into a monster like him.”
“This isn’t black and white,” Guy said with a frown. “Cain isn’t just a flat out bad person. He cleaned up the crime while he took control of it. He made sure drugs didn’t fall into the wrong hands. He made sure none of the sex workers were being abused. He forged allies with good men and shut down the bad ones. It’s all a grey area.”
“So chopping stolen cars and selling drugs that destroy people’s lives is good for society,” Nikolai said.
“I didn’t say it was good,” Guy said. “I said it was a grey area. Do you really think your Cox is much better?”
“Come on,” Guy said. “The man’s just selling another kind of freedom. Would you really prefer to live a safe, clean life at the expense of one man overseeing everything and controlled society and, in turn, everyone’s lives?”
“Cox knows what is best,” Nikolai said. His head throbbed behind his left eyebrow as if something tried to burrow its way out. “He is not promoting drugs and thievery. He is promoting safety and everyday rights.”
“But at what cost?”
“I could ask you the same question,” Nikolai said, biting back the fury knotting inside of him. “But the issue is not who is right, the issue is why you would risk your life when it means throwing away what we have.”
“No,” Guy said. “That is not the issue. The issue is that you think I’m risking my life when I’m just doing a job. And since when is it okay for you to run off and risk your life and not me? Do you think it’s because you’re doing something good? Because I think I’m doing something good too, and clearly we disagree over what good is.”
“What do you want from me?” Nikolai asked. “I cannot stay with you if you go back to Cain.”
“Please don’t tell me you’re giving me an ultimatum, Niko. Because that never goes well. It’s just not a good foundation to a relationship.”
“Oh, you want this to be a relationship then?” Nikolai asked.
“Yes,” Guy said. “Yes I do, god damn it. Maybe I’m not comfortable throwing around words like love, but I care about you. And I think I care a hell of a lot more about you than you do about me.”
“Yeah,” Guy said. He poked Nikolai’s chest, and Nikolai fantasized about how snapping the bone would feel between his fingers. Guy continued, “Because you like me because of the way I make you feel, right? You love that I force you to try new things and you love how I can unwind you. Whereas I like you because you’re a big, self-conscious Russian who maybe isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer but still makes a pretty deep cut. I admire your devotion to your stupid fucking job and I appreciate what you’ve had to do to become who you are.
“But I fucking bend over backwards to make you happy, Nikolai. Don’t you start to walk away from me,” Guy grabbed Nikolai’s wrist, pulling the blond back towards him. “If you’re angry or scared it’s because you know it’s true. I hate cuddling and you’re a fucking furnace at night, but I hold you until you fall asleep and I try to pay attention to you throughout the day because I know you like it, but if I want to be alone or if I want to read after sex, you do nothing but mope and be passive aggressive and give me the cold shoulder. And-”
Nikolai punched Guy in the gut. His fist hurt as he pulled it back.
“And,” Guy continued breathlessly, holding his stomach. “And you have to live with the fear that maybe I’ll leave, sure, but I have to live with the fear that you’re going to snap like that. I am not as strong as you think I am. I will break, Nikolai.”
“I do not mope,” Nikolai said, pouting.
Guy smiled weakly. “You’re really cute.”
Nikolai’s whole body burned with anger and shame. For once, in the cold night air, Nikolai felt too hot. Were his eyes burning too? He couldn’t quite tell. “I will try harder,” Nikolai said. “But I love you for you. I love that your age does not hold you back. I love your confidence and your love for life – your ‘joie de vivre,’ right? – and I love your intelligence and, you are correct, I love how you make me a better person. I try harder to be smarter and less closed-minded because those things scare me and I am less scared when I am with you.
“But I am scared that you will die making a foolish decision. And maybe it is hypocritical that I think I will be fine and you will not be, but it is how I feel, Guy.” Nikolai hugged himself, “And I know you do not care for discussing feelings so bluntly, but I cannot see any other way of sorting this issue out.”
Guy took a step closer to Nikolai. “Let me go for three months,” Guy asked. “I’ll see to it that Cain gives me a nice, safe desk job. And then after three months, I’m all yours. I really will retire from the life.”
Nikolai shook his head. Frustration kept him from asking the right questions. “Three months is still long enough for you to get killed. What if I hadn’t pulled you out of that pool?”
“I won’t take any jobs like that.”
“You cannot promise that,” Nikolai snapped. “Apparently you cannot promise anything. If you refuse to think of me, then think of Steffie. Do you really want to be out of her life that quickly? I am under the impression you care a lot about her.”
Guy suddenly puffed up, his eyes narrowing and his fists clenching. He pointed at Nikolai and he said, “You remember what I said that one night when I came in from the cold, right?” Nikolai’s mind quickly tried to pull the memory out. Sleep mangled the memory, but he seemed to recall the assassin telling him he cared about him – no matter what happened. Before he could answer, Guy continued, “Despite what I’m going to say, please remember it, okay?”
Nikolai nodded quickly.
He almost smiled at the memory, but Guy continued, “Don’t you ever bring my daughter into this.” The assassin shook his finger at Nikolai. “You have no fucking idea what it’s like for me to care about someone that much. And I care more about her than I ever will for you. I’m not afraid to tell you I love her. She’s my blood. She’ll be around long after I’m dead, and she knows every time I see her could be the last time. And I will do whatever it fucking takes to protect her.
“It’s really fucking low of you to drag her into this. You don’t think I know I might not ever see her again? Do you really think when I almost drowned I wasn’t thinking about never seeing her again? I’ve come to terms what I am a long time ago,” Guy said, “and I have to go back to Cain. If I asked you to leave A.B.E.L. for me, would you?”
Nikolai hesitated. A.B.E.L. and Cox raised him more than his father ever had. They made him feel valuable and needed. They taught him everything he needed to know about life. They gave him second chances. He thought about Mags and Grier and Hoffman and even Westermark and Steele. A.B.E.L. gave him friends. And what did Guy give him? Fleeting feelings.
The hesitation was all it took.
“Do you understand what you’re asking of me?” Guy asked. “I am not leaving Cain.”
“I am not leaving A.B.E.L.”
“Then I better leave,” Guy said. “That’s what you said, right? There was no point in spending the rest of the year with each other.”
“What about your things?” Nikolai asked.
“Fuck my things,” Guy said. “I can’t be around you for another second.”
Nikolai listened to the crunching of the assassin’s boots as he slowly faded into the brush. He clenched and unclenched his fists. He counted inside of his head. He waited as his ears filled with static and the sun poured warm colours across the sky.