The Waiting Room Affair
by Debra Hicks
He had been in the dark, quiet waiting room twenty minutes when the nurse escorted the other man in. Before he could ask any questions she brushed off the new person and disappeared. The other man started to follow, thought better of it. He sat down a little shakily, rubbed at his face.
Napoleon watched him for a minute then stood and walked to the coffee station. He paused, considering the tea since this was London but deciding that it was time for something stronger. Pouring two black cups he walked over and offered one to the newcomer.
The man glanced up at his benefactor. Under the dark curls his eyes were worried, anxious. A purple bruise stood out along one pale cheek, highlighting an old break. He was wearing a brown leather jacket over a light shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans. One sleeve of the jacket was ripped and through the blood-stained cloth Napoleon could make out a fresh bandage.
The man took the offered cup. "Thanks," he said in a strongly accented deep voice.
"You're welcome." Napoleon's even voice and expensive suit contrasted sharply with the reluctant newcomer. The other man was young but there was a strange sort of weariness about him.
"Family?" Napoleon questioned, a little unsure of why he asked.
"No." The man glanced at the door. "Partner." He failed to note Napoleon's start at the phrase.
"Partner," Napoleon said softly. "Are you police officers?"
The man smiled at some private joke. "No. Not exactly." His green eyes locked with Napoleon's brown and there was a slight nod of understanding from both. Napoleon turned back to sit down.
"How 'bout you? Family?"
"No. Partner." Another glance, another nod.
Long minutes passed. Napoleon remained still, his outward calm hard pressed to cover the nagging worry in his chest. The other man didn't attempt to cover his worry. He spun the cup, stood, sat, stood, paced, sat again.
"Is this the first time your partner's been injured?" Napoleon remembered what it was like that first time. And every time since.
Sighing, the man said, "No, there was one time before. But it wasn't as bad." He looked at Napoleon feeling he had to explain. "Then it was in the middle of an assignment, and I had to find the ones responsible."
"And this time?" Napoleon prompted.
"Everyone's caught, or dead." He glanced at the door again, then back at Napoleon. "This isn't your first time," he observed.
"No," Napoleon said quietly.
More minutes passed. "Never had to just sit and wait before," the man admitted again. He stood up, took two paces, reached over and rubbed his arm just under the wound. "I hate waiting. Don't know which is worse, waiting here or waiting for the ambulance."
"There's something worse than either," Napoleon said evenly.
"Yeh? What?" he demanded.
"Not being there to wait." He sipped the weak coffee. "Getting a call in New York that your partner's disappeared in Hong Kong or been found shot in some Lisbon alley." He took a deep breath. "That's worse."
The man sat down next to Napoleon. "Yeh, can see that. Being there you can try to make things easier, hold 'em." His voice dropped. "Try to soften the pain."
They both fell into memories again. "How long have the two of you been partners?" Napoleon asked.
"Couple of years." The man smiled slightly. "Seems longer. You?"
Napoleon smiled slightly, reluctant to admit to being around as long as he had. "Seventeen years."
"Seventeen! I'm not sure I can take Bodie that long." His expression grew serious again.
"Good partners are hard to find," Napoleon added.
The man stared at the floor. "Never tell them that, though, will we?" He looked up at Napoleon. "I mean, it doesn't fit with the image, does it? It's one thing when it happens, when you're there, tell 'em it'll be okay, holding on, waiting for the doctor, but later...." His voice faded out.
Looking thoughtfully at the man Napoleon said, "It's hard to tell some people you love them. Especially partners."
"Yeh, ruin the image." There were tears in the green eyes. "Until we wait too long, too late."
Before Napoleon had a chance to reply the nurse came back. Both men came to their feet. "Mr. Doyle?" The man nodded. "Mr. Bodie is in recovery. He's awake and asking for you."
Doyle sighed heavily, ran a hand through his auburn curls. Not trusting his voice, he nodded and started out, stopping as another nurse came in. He waited, involved now with Napoleon's drama.
"Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin came out of surgery in good shape. He's going to be in recovery for a few hours then we'll be moving him to ICU. You'll be able to see him then."
"ICU?" Napoleon's eyes remained dark.
The nurse smiled. "Just as a precaution. He's going to be fine."
Napoleon's sigh was as heartfelt as Doyle's had been. Doyle grinned. "Mr. Solo, I would like to buy you a drink, as soon as I'm finished here. We could discuss the difference between Lisbon and London alleys."
"And how not to live up to images?" Napoleon questioned.
"Yeh, and how not to live up to images." Doyle nodded. "Starting now."
-- THE END --
Originally published in Chalk and Cheese 3, Agent with Style, 1989