Times for Souls

by James

It's times like this one that try men's souls. If you read my reports—or more precisely, read between the lines of my reports—you'd suspect it would be those times I actually put down in varying amounts of detail that tried my soul. Those myriad of times when he was captured or missing or injured or all of the above. Hours when I didn't know where he was. If he was still alive, or would be by the time he was found.

I'd think it should be those times that shook me to the core. But much as those events age me prematurely and make me want to knock his head in and tell him to be careful or even stay home and be a research scientist who never leaves the lab except to go dinner...much as I want to keep him safe, those times don't trouble me the way these do. They don't rattle my soul and leave me wondering how I'll get through this. Perhaps it's because part of me knows he's as capable as they come. I know he'll survive, and as worried and afraid and angry as I get, I can bear it.

Times like these, sometimes I don't think I can survive.

Obviously I can—I have before. I will again, but lord sometimes I wish I didn't.

I'll admit, privately in the back of my mind, that I do whatever I can to avoid them. A bit childish, perhaps, definitely an act of a coward. But my pride isn't at stake, here. No one knows when I fail to be brave in the face of this danger. No one suspects that the number of women I chase after are just so I can run away from him. Run away from the face in my mind, or, more practically, run away from the second bed in the hotel room. If I'm not there, I can't be tried.

I'm not concerned with merely being tempted. I'm never so close as being tempted. There are too many reasons and too many fears, and not just mine. Society wouldn't hear of it, the nature of our employer would make it impossible to turn his head.

The very fact that I can't even let myself be tempted makes it much more difficult. I can't tell myself that once is all I'd need, and we'd never speak of it again. I can't tell myself that just one touch or one kiss would satisfy me, or that as long as no one knows we'll be fine.

Our times are against me, as well as the world. Even if there were room for loving him like that in this society, there is no way we could keep our jobs, our partnership. Agents have been married before, but the way *we * work would never be quite the same.

I admit that it would solve two of my problems if we could. Break up our working relationship and leave him safely home in the labs where he belongs, and there would be no question. If I thought for a second that would work, I might have tried it. But I've seen how well he *stays * in those labs. Half a week later he'd be traipsing across the globe again and who would be after him? If he weren't the one coming after me.

But I've tried to indulge in those kinds of fantasies, and they always end up ruined. By myself, by him, by the evils of the world that rear their ugly heads and make whatever pipe dreams I conjure up to be just that. Dreams visiting me when I'm wide awake and wishing I had the decency to do something about it. Book a second room. Find a girl for the night.

Fall asleep and pretend I don't want anything else.

But somehow I can't. Lying here, barely enough light to see, I've lain here tonight long enough that my eyes have adjusted and I can make out the sheen of his blonde hair and the pale skin of his hand, curled above the blanket. I can't quite wish things were different, because I don't dare unwish the things we are. The closest I can get is hoping someday we retire and an invitation to move into the country, far and alone, is met with agreement.

There are a thousand reasons to think it would never be. But it's the best I can hope for, and when I lie here and watch him sleep, I can't keep myself from wishing for something. Anything. Then I get caught up with everything else—regrets and anger at how unfair it is, that the one person I love the most of the entire world is the one I dare not reach for. Even if...sometimes, when I'm especially tired or sore or lonely, I tell myself I think he would not turn me down.

And that's the biggest dream of all. That any of this matters, because I stood a chance at him.

I wish I could fall asleep. I want to, but I would have to close my eyes, first, and I'm not ready to do that yet. I can't—he's sleeping so quietly, and he's had nothing to trouble him or vex him and he's sleeping like he were home, not a care in the world. I wish the beds were a few inches closer, so I could tell myself I'd be tempted to touch his hand, stretching my arm out to just within reach. The gap is too large to even pretend that I could; besides, if I moved, I'd wake him.

But I pretend I would be tempted. Because otherwise I'd be forced to admit that there is no way I will ever have him, no way I will ever ask.

It's late, and I should close my eyes. Let myself sleep, and in the morning we'll have breakfast and I'll flirt with Diane, the waitress, and he'll watch me and shake his head, then we'll leave to go save the world once more. Maybe I'll make a date with Diane, for after. He'll go home alone, and I won't be left lying in the dark wondering if I will make it to morning.

Just once. If I dared ask for that much I think I'd go crazy. It isn't possible, there is no way it could ever be possible, and that's the only way I can do this. Close your eyes, Napoleon, and go to sleep. Love him from a distance, from a casualness that's easy to fake when there are pretty girls to turn your smiles towards. Close your eyes and stop loving him. Close your eyes and let yourself pretend.

I can't, can't tear myself away from this, and I know it's getting late and I should be asleep. We have too much to do tomorrow, for me to indulge.

I see him open his eyes, and I freeze.

"Go to sleep, Napoleon," he whispers, and I close my eyes.

Please post a comment on this story.
Read posted comments.

Archive Home