To Nellie

by Charlie Kirby

I have nothing against love. Or even marriage, for that matter. Both are worthwhile pursuits, but for someone else, not for me.

Doing what I do, it's imperative that I stay unencumbered. If we marry, we are moved from the field and into a nice desk job, some place safe, some place secure, where a wife has a fairly good chance of knowing her husband will be coming back through the door at the end of the day. I don't argue this policy. It makes sense to me and as much as I'd love to be married and have a family, I enjoy the freedom my job offers me.

This isn't to say I'm a monk, although there are far less flattering names for me in the Steno Pool. I hear them from time to time: the Ice Prince, Heart of Darkness, and some other names that aren't quite as flattering. I just keep a smile to myself and wonder what would happen if they only knew.

There is a woman, a nurse. I know our relationship is unprofessional as I am frequently rendered helpless and in her care. It's probably a breach of etiquette to sleep with one's caregiver. If it's any consolation, neither of us meant for it to happen the first time. It just did, as do many of life's more pleasant events. You can't plan and anticipate them; they just happen. A fool will argue the point; the wise man will embrace it.

My Nellie, she's not tremendously beautiful, plain actually, and this suits me as I don't have much going in the looks department either. She's smart and doesn't take anything from anyone. At the same time, she's like a little girl being brought to her first big party, all wide eyed and awe struck. I really enjoy that part of her personality. She can be so serious, then so silly in the next breath. She's almost a female Napoleon, without the clothing fetish.

And my Nellie, she understands me. She never asks me for more than I'm willing to give. She knows I can't commit to a long term relationship. At the same time, she knows I will never pressure her into something she is uncomfortable with. Everything is on her terms and she knows that.

I remember the first time I spent the entire night with her; she was honestly scared. I think she thought we might be getting more involved than she wanted. Keep it light and keep it easy. Sex, a bit of companionship - what more can you ask for in life? Especially from a woman who frequently, and literally, holds your life in her hands?

I met her coming out of the Canteen and recognized the trappings of a party inside. That usually means cake, but I could see something half pink and half white and decided to swear off. Baby showers and I don't get along.

"Oh, Mr. Kuryakin, I didn't see you there." She's all Miss Professional at the office, but her eyes were so sad.

"Nurse, how are you," I asked loudly, just in case someone was listening. No one was, no one usually listens to me except Napoleon, and he was in Finland, no doubt getting into trouble. "Really, how are you?" This time it was just for her to hear.

She glanced back at the clutch of women, one holding up a tiny one piece bit of clothing and sighed. "I'm okay."

"Uh huh," I murmured back, obviously unconvinced.

"Oh, Illya, I'm awfully blue."

For her to come out with that when a dozen people were within earshot told me just how upset she was.

"Napoleon tells me that the sure cure for the blues is dinner and dancing. Tonight?"

"I don't know." She was watching the expectant mother unwrap another gift.

"No strings."

"I know... it's just... do you ever wonder, just once, what it would be like?"

No, I put the kibosh on that discussion immediately. I did wonder. Hell, I wondered every day what it would be like to get up, kiss the wife goodbye and go to a normal job. That's usually when I start wondering what a normal job is. I haven't had much experience with that. "Ours is not to second guess fate."

She sighed, long and low. "Seven?"

"I'll be there."

And I was, right on the dot. Agents make a habit of being punctual, well, not Napoleon, except when it really matters. That's part of his charm, I suppose.

She was in a better mood and we talked intelligently on a variety of topics. We dined well, we danced late and then I returned her to her apartment. I make it a habit of never taking anyone back to my own place. It's just... easier that way.

"Do you want to come in for a night cap?"

"Yes, I'd like that." All evening, I'd been gauging her mood. At one moment, she seemed distant, then next overly clingy.

She walked into her apartment without waiting to see if I was going to follow. "I have some really old whiskey, some wine and something yellow... I don't know what it is."

"Let's stick with the wine, since I have to work in the morning."

Nellie collected the bottle and a couple of glasses and headed for the couch. She held the bottle and a corkscrew out to me. "Would you mind?"

"Of course not." I looked down at the bottle and a flicker of movement caught my attention and I flicked a look back up. She was in front of me, a woeful look on her face.

"Illya, I really, really need a kiss, would you mind?"

"Of course not." I dropped the unopened bottle onto the couch and slipped my arms around her. She's small, but solid, years of wrestling us agents around, I suppose.

For a long time, we just kissed because that's what she needed and that's what this evening was all about - giving her what she needed and wanted. Part of my mind was screaming at me to get out of the door before I did something ungentlemanly, although granted, that was a short list when it came to Nellie. We did have a bit of a history together.

"Illya, can we go to bed?" She blushed furiously, but I wasn't sure why. It wasn't the first time we'd slept together.

"Of course."

"I mean just to sleep?"

"Absolutely." As I said before, this wasn't the first time I'd spent the night and she'd squirreled away a toothbrush and razor for me and I could always change before work. Not great, but okay. Anyone else, I would have politely refused, but Nellie understood the rules. If all she wanted to do was sleep, then that was okay with me

It would be nice to say it was odd to wake up in a strange bed, but the truth of the matter is it's stranger waking up in my own. What woke me was more of a concern. I stayed very quiet, feigning sleep, an old trick that any agent worth half their own weight, knew how to do. It was frequently the difference between getting the drop on an adversary or a bullet to the head.

There was an odd soft 'chuffing' sort of sound and after a moment I realized it was Nellie, standing in front of the window and crying.

I climbed out of bed and wrapped my arms around her. She started for a moment, then trembled or shuddered, I wasn't sure which.

"What's wrong with me, Illya?"

"Nothing, what gave you that idea?"

"Why doesn't anyone want me? I mean, really want me. For better for worse, the whole banana."

"I don't know, Nellie. You're a catch to my way of thinking. You're smart, funny, a good cook and we won't go into the other aspects of your expertise in bed."

"Then why doesn't anyone love me?" She turned in my arms and cried. Really cried and I stood there and vainly tried to remember what to do. My mother was not a weepy woman and my sisters, they didn't count. When all else failed, I talked.

"Nellie, why would you say no one loves you? You are admired and well respected at work. I can't count how many times you've given me courage and strength."

"That's not the same thing. Even you don't love me..."

I opened my mouth to deny it, but it was true. I liked her and I enjoyed the sex, but I didn't love her, at least not the way I'd define love.

"Thank you." She didn't sound angry, more resigned.

"For what?"

"For not lying to me, Illya. I don't know what we have, but it's not love."

"Should I go?"

"It's the middle of the night, do you want to go?"

"Not really."

"Then let's just enjoy what we have, whatever it is." She relaxed in my arms again and sighed. "Will you make love to me?"

"If you'd like."

"And make believe for just a minute that we're like everyone else?"

So that's what I did. I used every trick I had in my fairly vast repertoire to seduce her. I made her climax so many times that she couldn't even think straight, but I think that was what she wanted. Not to think, not to worry about what might happen to me when I walked out that door, not to think about whether or not I would even be coming back.

Her hair was dark with sweat and plastered to her head by the time we were finished. The bed was ripped apart down to the mattress pad and in all likelihood we would never find my underwear in the morning.

"Are you okay?" Not the most dazzling question, but she didn't need dazzle right now, she just needed me.

"Better, but I imagine you could use a bit of a break."

"It's too late, I am already broken."

She laughed and began to toy with the hair on my chest. "And if I promise to make you all better?"

"Cunning vixen, bedazzling me with your pretty words and charming smile."

Then my communicator went off and I reached for it, holding a finger to my mouth. "Kuryakin."

"Ah, Mr. Kuryakin," Waverly's voice was the proverbial bucket of cold water and I watched Nellie pull the sheets up as if he could see her through the communicator. "We have a bit of a problem."


"Mr. Solo didn't make his last rendezvous, nor have we been able to reach him. The last we knew he was in the small town of Inari." Waverly's voice grew gruff. "I don't have to stress to you the importance of the microdot he is carrying. If it was to fall into THRUSH's hands -"

"I understand, sir." Understand, hell, I was already dressing. And Nellie was crying again.

So, love, Heaven for some, Hell for others, something unattainable for me. But I couldn't think about that right now. My partner was out there and needed me. And that was as close to love as I was likely to get for quite some time.

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