Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland, in search of our better selves
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
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.
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.
Okay so this is the first fic I've done in a while so bear with me! I was planning on making this a longer oneshot but decided I'd post in chapters, in case theirs criticism on like, characterization or something so that I can change it before I post the next chapter. On that note, please let me know what you think! I haven't written properly for a while and I absolutely want to know if you have feedback for me, it helps a lot!
[thank you so so much to @camagueyys for reading this over and helping me with writing these characters!! <3]
Two weeks in the hospital and finally, finally! Dimitri was being released. He had been given a cane to help him walk and the pain in his stomach, while a constant ache, didn’t burn like it had when the drugs first wore off.
His face was another matter entirely.
They had been able to get the bullet out without adding to the damage already inflicted on him, but the restructuring of his jaw had been...painful and he’d been left with a long scar and sharp angles, shadows of broken bone and torn flesh.
The nurse had brought him his suitcase and he was able to change before leaving the hospital. It turned out that trying to pull on a button down shirt while simultaneously avoiding aggravating his wounds was not such an easy feat.
It was harder than he thought it would be, to leave that hospital room. He had no idea what was waiting for him outside the sterile white walls, what the shape of things were. It frightened him. There was nowhere to go that they [whoever they were, Russian, American, it didn’t matter] didn’t already know.
He grimaced as his stomach clenched anxiously. Perhaps these were thoughts for another time.
So, fingers wrapped tightly around his cane, he turned his back on the comfort and safety of security, as he had always been taught to do, and re-entered uncertainty.
As he walked down the hallway, case held carefully so as not to put too much stress on his muscles, he was met with a familiar sight.
He stopped and blinked, surprised.
The man across the hall who stood at the counter speaking with one of the doctors, looked up for a moment and their eyes met.
He too, blinked, surprised.
Shaking himself from his bewilderment, Dimitri picked up the pace, now advancing towards the older man with purpose. He watched him quickly finish his conversation with the doctor before turning fully to face him.
His face was a picture of soft astonishment and as his eyes roved Dimitri’s form, it morphed into one of horror, no doubt taking in his scarred face and the subtle stiffness of his movements. Oh, how he hated it when people looked at him like that.
Rolling his eyes and pressing his mouth into a thin line, he reached the man and, awkwardly moving his case to his other hand, grabbed him by the arm, not stopping his march to the front door.
"It's you!” the man started, “From the-”
Dimitri silenced him with a sharp look, really not in the mood to have all his secrets revealed in the middle of a busy hospital waiting room.
“Outside.” he hissed, attempting to drag the taller man out, as well as hold his cane and suitcase in his other hand.
After some...struggling on Dimitri’s part [he could feel his injury throb as his quick movements sent jolts of pain through his stomach] the two men made it outside. Stepping through the doors, the scientist stopped in his tracks, blinking against the cold air.
He hadn’t noticed it while he was inside but it was still raining, heavily in fact, water pouring from the sky in sheets.
Memories of rain mixing with blood and dirt flashed before his eyes and he couldn’t help but flinch, fingers tightening on his cane. Beside him, the man watched, for a moment, unsure of what to do. Then Dimitri saw him move out of the corner of his eye.
“Let me help you with that.” he said, and reaching over, he rested his hand on Dimitri’s suitcase. The brush of their fingers snapped him back to reality and he looked up in confusion.
The man’s eyes crinkled as he smiled gently and Dimitri swore in that moment his brain had short circuited. When had been the last time someone had smiled at him with no underlying malice? Too long, he thought as his shoulders slumped and he slowly let go of the case.
“Thank you.” he said and attempted to smile back, though he was sure it came off more as a wince than anything else. He had never been too good at smiling, much to the amusement of his mother.
“The pleasure is mine,” and momentarily setting the bag down beside him, he pulled out a large umbrella.
The two walked together, the taller man slowing down considerably in order to keep the umbrella over Dimitri. For his part, Dimitri had to bite back curses of frustration as he limped beside him.
“I don’t mean to be rude but,” the man said suddenly, “who are you?”
Slowing to a stop, Dimitri allowed his eyes to wonder suspiciously across the parking lot, eyeing anyone and everyone with distrust.
“We can’t speak here. They may still be watching me.” he looked up to see the man had stopped as well and was watching him with...fascination perhaps? “Is there somewhere safe we can talk?”
He let out a huff of laughter and Dimitri found his own lips twitching up at the sound.
“Oh, I’m not cut out for this,” he said, more to himself than anything else. Then, looking down at Dimitri, he continued, “I don’t know about safe, but there’s a little cafe not too far from here.”
Sending back a stiff nod, the two continued to walk through the lot. Finally they reached a familiar blue van and Dimitri had to smirk at the scratches on the front, his mind flashing back to Strickland’s ruined car.
His smile fell and he schooled his face back into a mask of indifference. His companion seemed to take no notice, unlocking the door of the car and placing the suitcase inside. Then, stepping back, he held it open and reached out his hand to Dimitri.
He looked at the hand, then up at the man before finally, down at his shoes. Slowly, he stepped forward, placing his cane down by the seat before taking hold of the side of the car and then taking the man’s hand.
Shocked by how gently the man held onto him, Dimitri almost jerked back as long fingers curled around his own. For the last three weeks, the only touches he’d received were from needles and bandages, and before that, well the KGB wasn’t known for its encouragement of intimacy.
He pulled himself up into the van with no little amount of effort, and felt like a fool as he struggled. But the man made no sound of amusement or impatience beside him and even smile once Dimitri was seated.
“Thank you.” he said, trying harder, this time, to give the man his own sincere smile.
Once he had closed the door, Dimitri let his eyes flutter closed, listening to the rain tap against the roof.
What was he even doing, getting into a car with a stranger? A stranger who had aided and abetted in one of this country’s most treasonous plots. Not to imply that Dimitri himself hadn’t offered his own assistance in that plan, but at least he knew who he was.
He still had no idea who these people worked for, their motives still a mystery to him. They’d come and gone so quickly that he’d had no time to ask and now it was simply too dangerous. Well…
Even if it was, it was unimportant. He had nothing left anyway.
The sound of the opposite door opening broke him out of his reverie. He turned and watched silently as the man shut the door, sent him a small, tight smile, and started the car. As the engine roared to life, Dimitri’s eyes drifted to the window.
“My name is Dimitri.” He said suddenly, heart pounding in his ears, “Dimitri Mosenkov. I work- worked undercover at Occam at the request of my superiors in Russia.”
The car jolted abruptly and Dimitri had to brace himself against the dashboard, his head snapping to the other man in surprise. He found himself staring into wide, shocked eyes as the man stared back at him with his mouth hanging open.
“Russia!?” the man exclaimed, ignoring the honk from another car behind them, “You’re a soviet?”
Dimitri pressed his lips into a thin line, glaring for a moment before looking out the window again.
“No,” he bit out, “not anymore. That much has been made quite clear.”
His hand automatically went to his stomach, feeling the thick bandages beneath his shirt. The man’s eyes followed and his mouth snapped shut, twisting into a grimace. Silently, they began to drive, but Dimitri didn’t miss the way he turned to look at him every now and again.
“I’m sorry.” the man said finally, awkwardly.
Dimitri shook his head, his hand absently touching the scar on his cheek.
“Our priorities became...inconsistent,” he answered, with an air of humour, before continuing, “They wanted me to kill him.”
“The creature?” he looked over, “That’s why you were there, why you helped us.”
“My superiors were not interested gaining knowledge,” the familiar feeling of bitterness crept onto his tongue as he spoke, “it only mattered that the Americans did not.”
The man was silent for a moment, eyes on the road as they drove farther and farther from the hospital. Then, quietly;
“People talk sometimes of a bestial cruelty, but that's a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man.”
“Dostoyevsky.” there was wonder in Dimitri’ voice. He shouldn’t have been quite so surprised, however. Of course the concept of the well-read american had to exist. How else had their society continued to function for so long?
The man, for his part, looked at Dimitri out of the corner of his eye and smiled.
“Giles, by the way,” he said, eyes going back to the road ahead but the smile still in place, “Giles Dupont.”
“French?” French, of course it had to be the french, who else-
“Me? No, no my mother was french though.”
Oh. Dimitri sat back, his lips curling into a perplexed line. And he had thought that he was good at subterfuge.
When they finally made it to the cafe, Dimitri found himself worryingly at ease, his shoulders slumping from their previous rigid state. It was a small and cozy place, and practically empty save for the old woman who greeted them when they came in. Giles picked a table in a shadowed corner and asked Dimitri if he wanted a drink, to which he responded;
“Just tea. Thank you.”
As Giles went to the counter, Dimitri took the chance to watch him, eyes narrowing critically. If he was being honest, the man didn’t seem to be the undercover type; he seemed more academic, not really someone who would be put into the field.
Then again, he had succeeded where his own people hadn’t been able to. He and his compatriots had gotten the creature out with minimal risk and fast too. Whoever these people were, they were a force to be reckoned with.
But he just seemed so soft, and it wasn’t a front either. Dimitri knew how to front softness, he knew what it looked like. Giles was genuine and that was puzzling to him. He watched the man chat with the woman behind the counter, and kept his face straight, despite the amusement he felt, every time he would look over across the cafe back at him.
No, he couldn’t figure this man out, just like he couldn’t figure out Elisa or Zelda. They were each too genuine, too wonderful, sunbeams shining down on the darkness that was Dimitri’s own soul.
Like so many other things, it frightened him.
Returning with a cup of tea and coffee, Giles took the seat across from Dimitri. He couldn’t help but let his eyes flicker over the small shop, old habits and all that. When he turned back, however, he didn’t expect to find Giles watching him intently.
“What happened to you?”
He was forthright at least, which Dimitri appreciated. They didn’t have time to dance around each other, and if he was going to find out anything about these people, he knew he would have to share himself first.
But then he looked up into those kind and curious eyes, and for a moment his old training took over, his face dropping into an emotionless mask. Nothing had happened, nothing he hadn’t been prepared for, nothing that so many of his comrades hadn’t also been through, and worse.
What had happened was his own fault. What happened, happened because he had been caught, been stupid, too trusting, thoughtless.
But none of these excuses, he knew, would satisfy the man before him. So he lifted the tea to his lips, thought for a moment, then, placed it back on the table and began his story.
By the end of it, Dimitri had to laugh at the enraptured look on Giles’ face. Not once had his eyes left the doctor’s and he hadn’t said a word through it all. Now though, his eyes went to the scar on his face, and Dimitri became aware of his own shaking hands and took up the mug of tea just to make them stop.
“How did you survive?” Giles asked, not unkindly. Dimitri sent him a wry smile.
“That I cannot tell you. I was rather against the idea, you see.”
He laughed but the look of sympathy on Giles’ face made him stop short. He coughed awkwardly, running his hands down the crease of his pants as though he were a schoolboy.
“I’ve told you my story. Please, can you tell me what happened to the creature? To your Ms. Esposito?”
The look on Giles’ face as he asked sent a shock of fear through him. It was as if the question had physically pained him, and Dimitri desperately wanted to take it back. But before he could, the older man took a breath; then spoke.
“If I spoke about it,” he stopped, collecting himself, “if I did - what would I tell you? I wonder.”
Sorry about the late posting, I'll try and get them up more regularly :D But i hoped you liked this one [i especially like how i ended it, if i do say so myself]
And thank you all so so so much for your kind comments, i mean wow! You're all so wonderful and you inspire me to keep writing :D Thank you so much!!
Thank you so much