The I've Got You Covered Affair
Illya Kuryakin wondered for the thousandth time why he ever transferred to Section Two in the first place. At least no one shoots at you while you're running lab tests, he thought glumly. Well, usually not, he had to add ruefully.
He aimed off another shot in the direction of the enemy agent and was encouraged when the man let out a yelp of pain. One down, he thought, and jerked his head in a signal to Napoleon Solo, gesturing in the direction where he had seen the second THRUSH minion go to ground. He held up one fist and nodded to Solo, who returned the gesture and watched for the signal. Kuryakin held up one finger, then two, then three, and then bolted from his hiding place without so much as a glance backward. He knew instinctively that his partner was right behind him, backing him up and following his lead. What he didn't know was that a third agent was crouched in the shadows across the aisle of boxes waiting for an opportunity.
As Illya ducked down the narrow opening he snapped off a round in the direction of the THRUSH nest. He saw Solo out of the corner of his eye draw up beside him, firing his Special in that direction also. A warning bell sounded in his brain, and his sixth sense alerted him of a new danger. Glancing right, he saw the glint of metal and yelled a warning to Napoleon. His Special bucked before he remembered pulling the trigger, and he saw the man squeezing off a round of his own, aiming at his partner's head. Kuryakin swore viciously, and dove into Solo, knocking him down and rolling to the side. He gasped in pain at the impact and crouched over the dazed agent. They rolled apart coming up back to back, each one looking for a target.
"I've got Two," Solo whispered.
"I've got Three," Illya added and both men fired at their targets, spraying a hail of bullets at their quarry's respective positions. Illya's man went down first, and Solo aimed carefully at the last one, who finally decided that THRUSH wasn't worth dying for. He took off across the hanger leaving the two agents panting in the stillness.
The post battle adrenaline rush left the partners shaking, leaning against each other, hearts jack hammering in their chests. Another minute passed and they were sure the hanger was empty and began to relax.
"Thanks partner, I owe you one," Solo offered, and Illya snorted.
"Actually, you owe me two," he panted. "I got my man first, remember?"
"Lucky shot, kid," the senior agent cracked, but he was smiling behind Illya's back. "We'd better get out of here before those explosives you set go off," he urged, hearing the roar of a motor retreating in the distance. "I think our ride just left, too, dammit. Oh, well, shank's mare for us." He scanned the hanger exit before getting to his feet. "Come on, Illya, this time you follow me." He grinned at Illya in the darkness, white teeth flashing his exuberance, and took the lead.
"Whatever you say, Napoleon," Kuryakin said very softly, and slowly got to his feet to cover his partner's retreat. What Solo hadn't seen was the blood that slowly spread across Illya's side and ran down his arm to splatter the concrete beneath him.
They covered the asphalt perimeter quickly and headed into the lush tropical foliage at the edge of the airfield. Solo kept up a fast pace, trying to put as much ground between them and the target as possible. This was a simple search and destroy mission, and Solo knew his deadly partner was exceptionally good at the "destroy" part. Sometimes he went a little overboard with the munitions, however, and Napoleon knew from experience a little extra distance was a good thing. He cracked a smile at the thought and looked behind him to check on Kuryakin. His partner was standing partially hidden in the greenery, and breathing heavily.
"Come on, junior, can't you keep up?" he teased. Any chance he had to irritate the dour Russian was exploited, and their games of one-upmanship were legendary at UNCLE.
Expecting a caustic reply, Solo was surprised to hear Illya say very softly, "Not at the moment, Napoleon." He saw Illya slump against a tree and hurried to his side.
"What..." he began and then looked down to see the red stain spreading across Kuryakin's fatigue shirt. Illya grinned embarrassedly, and shrugged his shoulders at his partner as if to say, What are you going to do? and tried with all his might not to pass out.
"Shit, shit, shit..." Solo ranted, laying Illya down and working the blood soaked material off his body to inspect the damage. A slug had slammed through Kuryakin's right arm and entered his chest just under his armpit. The bullet hole was oozing bright crimson steadily, and his arm looked even worse. Solo tore open his first aid kit and applied a field dressing to the wounds. Kuryakin's gasp of pain was drowned out by the sudden blast of the charges ripping through the metal building a half-mile away. Solo instinctively covered his fallen friend, and waited until the blast's shock wave passed before moving back. Illya's lips were stained with blood and an agonized cough choked out of him.
Concern and no small amount of anger caused Solo's features to harden. He looked down at Illya and rasped, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"No use, Polya...had to get out..." he said as he was wracked by a spasm of pain and grunted against it, trying not to show how badly he was hurting. The older agent's eyes narrowed and he finished bandaging his comrade as best he could. He reached for his communicator and felt Kuryakin's cold hand on his wrist. "Communications blackout, remember?" he said weakly.
"Yeah, well, I must have missed that part of the briefing, Illya," he said darkly, and paled as he watched Illya spit a large clot of blood into the grass beside him.
"You always 'miss' inconvenient information, Napoleon. However, that doesn't change the fact that using your communicator will let the enemy zero in on us before our back up team can reach us." He paused and tried to take slow, shallow breaths, mindful of the blackness threatening him. "We have to get closer to the rendezvous point for pick-up," he finished, knowing Napoleon knew that better than he. His partner was spooked by his injury, and Kuryakin knew how much it hurt Napoleon to see him like this. But following procedure was the only way they had any chance at all of getting out of this alive.
The blond agent lifted his good arm up to Solo and struggled to get to his feet. The world spun around him and he cramped up in agony.
"For God's sake, Illya, stay still," Solo ordered, every fiber of his being wishing it were he on the ground and not his friend.
"No, Napoleon," the smaller man huffed. "We have to get moving now, while I'm still able, and you know it." He looked up at Solo pleadingly, hoping to make him understand he wanted to walk out on his own power. "Please, Polya, I have to try."
Solo melted at that entreaty, and leaned down for a brief hug and placed a tender kiss against Illya's cheek. "All right, milok, we'll do it your way," he breathed and slowly pulled the Russian to his feet, laying his good arm across his shoulders as he did so. Kuryakin swayed on his feet but stayed up, though a moan of pain escaped him. He bent his head for a moment, trying to collect himself and hide the extent of his injury from his worried partner. They took a few experimental steps together and began trudging through the underbrush. The world narrowed to a fine line of consciousness for Kuryakin, and he barely registered the scenery as it crawled past him. He was glad to feel the strength of Solo backing him up and leaned his head gratefully on his shoulder.
Napoleon sighed at the familiar touch and sent a fervent prayer up for his partner's life. He steeled himself and pushed the dark thoughts aside, concentrating on supporting his friend and getting him to help. His other hand was wrapped around Illya's waist and Napoleon realized to his horror that his hand was sticky with blood. The wound was bleeding through the dressing, and they couldn't stop to re-bandage. He felt Illya tighten in pain against him as another coughing fit overtook him. He tried to catch his breath, but felt himself begin to slide toward blackness and crumpled against Solo, crying out softly, "Polya..." before losing the fight for consciousness.
Solo blanched and caught Kuryakin before he collapsed, picking him up in a fireman's carry before setting off again, refusing to give up. He was close to the drop zone now and took out his communicator. To hell with regulations, he decided, and a small smile played on his lips at the thought of the grief he would get from Illya when he found out the Chief Enforcement Agent had turned maverick again. At least I hope he can give me hell, he shuddered, adjusting Illya's body across his shoulders and flipping the pen over to open the circuit.
"Open Channel B" he ordered and the relay was there instantly. "Abel, this is Baker. Over." He said into the receiver.
"Baker, this Abel. What is your situation. Over."
"Approaching drop zone with one casualty. Over."
"Affirmative, Baker. Standing by with evac. Pop green smoke when proximate. Over."
"Roger that, Abel. Baker out." Solo reached into his fatigue pocket and pulled out a smoke grenade. Lobbing it toward the clearing below him he crouched in the cover at the edge of the zone, waiting until he saw tendrils of green smoke wafting upwards to the sky.
"Hang on tovarisch, we're almost there," he said to his partner, fervently hoping he could hear him. Moving quickly through the brush, Solo worked his way toward the sound of the helicopter beginning its descent. He heard the sound of a rifle, and instinctively ducked, spilling Kuryakin on the ground. The helicopter opened up on the sniper, gun turrets smoking death from the gunner's position. The smoke cleared and the jungle was silent again, the stillness unearthly.
The American agent picked up his friend, hugging him to his chest, and ran for the 'copter. Kuryakin was deathly pale, his skin cool and clammy to the touch. He moaned once, and Solo tightened his grip on him, his quick stride eating up the ground between them and safety. He flashed back to Korea when he saw the 'copter in front of him, and the men in fatigues reaching out to help him with his precious burden. He shook off the memory and allowed the agents to relieve him of the wounded man in his arms. Solo clambered aboard the bird, and watched as the tropical expanse below him began to shrink away from the craft.
He exhaled deeply, turning to report to the evac team. "He took one in the right arm, and it passed through into his chest. He's lost a lot of blood and has been unconscious for the last ten minutes." Napoleon watched as the medics worked on Illya, not liking the grim looks that passed between them. Two intravenous lines were inserted and they began pushing fluids into Kuryakin to combat shock. One of the medics sliced Illya's pant leg open and placed another I.V. in his femoral artery. He started a unit of plasma and covered the still form with a blanket. Silently, he passed Napoleon a canteen. He drank from it deeply, only then noticing Illya's blood covered his hands and shoulders.
Sighing, he slumped down next to the stretcher. He took Illya's white hand in his own and simply held him, too numb to talk. Another blanket was draped over his shoulders and he nodded his thanks to the two men. They understood, and moved away slightly, allowing Solo some privacy to be with his partner.
The dark haired agent bent over the still blond one and whispered in his ear. "I'm here, Illyusha, don't worry. I'm covering your back, partner." His voice caught in a sob and he leaned over Kuryakin, holding him gently. He heard a soft voice, barely audible in the roar of the engines, and moved closer to his lover's face.
"Na...pol...Napoleon," Illya murmured, and Solo's heart began to beat again.
"Yes, love, it's me. I'm here. Don't try to talk." Napoleon gently lifted Illya's shoulders and laid him half across his chest, wanting to let Illya feel his closeness and his warmth as much as he needed to feel his. Kuryakin nestled into the embrace and calmed, his face smoothing out as his awareness lapsed. Solo rested his head against Illya's and stayed there, out on his feet, until the bird landed at the helipad.
The local agents were in for quite a shock as they opened the 'copter's sliding door. UNCLE's two deadliest and toughest enforcement agents were cuddled up against each other like napping preschoolers. The medics looked at each other, neither wanting to be the one to have to separate them, knowing what they had just been through. They decided to place them both on the stretcher together, and that was how Napoleon Solo, Chief Enforcement Agent, and Illya Kuryakin, Number Two, Section Two, arrived at the UNCLE command center infirmary, partners in every sense of the word.
Napoleon Solo woke up suddenly, aware of a rattling movement underneath him. He saw the still form of his partner reclining against him and looked around. We're on a gurney, and we're in a hospital, he deduced, being all too familiar with the smells and sounds of an infirmary.
Glancing at Illya, he shook him gently and tried to rouse him. "Illya, Illya. Can you hear me? Come on, partner, talk to me."
A small voice reached his ears and he grinned when he heard Kuryakin say, "You don't have to yell, Napoleon, I'm bleeding, not deaf." Illya looked up at his friend's face and smiled a watery smile at Solo.
The medical team turned into a treatment room and transferred Kuryakin onto an examination table. Napoleon got up from the litter and watched anxiously as his team-mate was assessed. He knew better than to get in the way, but refused to leave when asked to step out.
"I carried him here, and I'm not leaving him now," he growled, the look on his face unmistakably dangerous. He hadn't become Chief Enforcement Agent by backing down, and he wouldn't start now.
The medics reported information on their patient's earlier treatment, and shrugged when the doctor asked the caliber of the bullet. They turned to Solo questioningly.
"It was a .45," he replied tensely. At a look from the doctor he grunted and said, "I ought to know, it was meant for me." He looked at his boots and swore a particularly vile Russian invective.
A weary voice spoke in the silence that followed. "At least you... pronounced it right...this time," Illya murmured, and Solo smiled broadly as he walked to Kuryakin's side.
He touched his friend's cheek and teased, "That's because I've been paying close attention to you, tovarisch. Learn from a master, I always say."
The slight Russian tried to laugh, but the pain in his chest took his breath away. He turned gray and Napoleon took his good hand inside his and squeezed reassuringly. He threw a sidelong glance at the doctor just as he came over with a syringe and injected it into the drip set. Kuryakin's features grew lax as the morphine entered his system and he drowsed into the peace it offered.
The orderlies began placing the monitors on the bed with the downed agent and proceeded to wheel him to the elevator. The American followed and would have gone into the car with him had it not been for a steely hand wrapped around his bicep. He looked over at the charge nurse, a compact woman whose outward appearance belied her strength. She began to propel him in the direction of the waiting room while Solo threw backward glances over his shoulder in the direction his partner lay.
No stranger to enforcement agents, the nurse kept her considerable hold on Napoleon's arm until she swiveled him around to land in a comfortable chair. He sank into it, a bemused look on his face, not sure if he should be angry or aroused by her strong-arm tactics. He decided against being either and gave her a tired smile.
"Say, you didn't used to work in Section Two at any point, did you?" he quipped, and was glad to see her grin back.
"No, Mr. Solo, but I've been around enough enforcement agents to know what works with you guys. Look, I really am sorry about your partner, but he'll be in good hands. And you look like you could use a strong cup of coffee." She moved to the coffee pot and poured a cup. Handing it to the dark haired agent, she wrinkled her nose at his appearance. She went to the nurses' station and reached over the counter. Pulling out a set of surgical scrubs, she offered the clothes to Napoleon, and inclined her head toward the men's changing room down the hall. Solo glanced at his disarray; his partner's blood was drying on his shirt, and he smelled stronger than the coffee.
"I, ah, see your point," he conceded, and walked wearily toward the shower. "If anything happens..."
"I'll come get you," the woman replied.
"From the men's room?" he kidded, and gave her a patented Solo wink. "What if I'm naked?"
"A girl can always hope, can't she?" she sparred, and Napoleon laughed quietly as he reached the door. "I can see you'd be right at home in Section Two after all, ah, Miss...? He glanced at the nameplate and read, "Jenkins." The suave agent batted his dark eyelashes at her and disappeared into the locker room. He heard her laughing as she returned to her station.
Solo stood under the hard spray of blissfully hot water, trying to let the tension drain away with the dirt sluicing off his tired body. He grimaced when he saw the water turn red, Illya's blood running from his shoulders to join with the swirling water below. He shivered and took a deep breath before scrubbing himself absently with the soap. He washed his hair and shook his head vigorously, watching the spray flick off the ends of his dark head onto the shower walls. He turned off the water, quickly dried himself and dressed in the scrubs. He needed to check on Illya and worry was gnawing a hole in his gut. He finger combed his tousled locks in front of the mirror, and was startled to see the gaunt looking face staring back at him. "When exactly did you become my life, Illyusha?" he asked himself, "and what kind of life would it be without you in it?" Shaking his head, he picked up his discarded clothes and went out to reception.
Nurse Jenkins was on the phone as he walked up, and she held out her hand to wave him over. "Yes, I understand. Um-hm, o.k. Yes, he's right here. I'll tell him." Solo's head jerked up at that, and she saw the fear blazing in the expressive eyes. She calmed him with a look, and said, "That was the O.R. nurse. She said that Mr. Kuryakin is in surgery right now and so far is holding up well." Napoleon exhaled sharply, and relaxed his white-knuckled grip on the counter's edge. "She also said that they're going to be a while, Mr. Solo. The bullet did a lot of damage to the arm, and they have to repair the chest wound before they can start on that. But his vitals are strong and his pressure is coming up. That's all good news." She glanced at the couch opposite the wall and suggested he make use of it. There was a pillow and blanket already piled there, and he looked at it longingly as he turned back to the nurse.
"All right, I will, but only if you call me Napoleon, Nurse Jenkins. Mr. Solo is so stuffy, don't you think?"
"Whatever you say, Mr....um, Napoleon," she smiled. "And my name is Kelly, by the way."
He limped tiredly over to the couch and settled gratefully down on it. Placing the pillow under his head, he lay back and was sound asleep in seconds. He didn't even stir when Kelly covered him with the blanket.
It seemed to Napoleon that he had just lain down when he felt someone shaking him awake. He sat up groggily, and focused on Kelly's face as he tried to get his bearings. "What's wrong, is it Illya?" he asked fearfully, swinging his legs off the couch and preparing for the worst.
The nurse patted his shoulder and allayed his fears with a smile. "You've been out for about five hours, Napoleon. I thought you'd want to be there when Mr. Kuryakin gets to his room."
Solo brightened considerably. "He's out of surgery? Is he o.k.? How's he doing?" he rattled off rapid fire, and it was all Kelly could do not to laugh.
"Slow down, man, you're going to blow a gasket," she chided. "He's being brought down now. Room eleven." At the mention of that particular digit, Solo chuckled.
"His lucky number," he explained as he headed down the hall. He turned the corner and his breath caught in his throat at the sight of his friend being wheeled down the corridor. He was as white as the pillow he rested on, but the heart monitors registered a steady, soothing rhythm, and the doctor smiled by way of greeting.
"How is he, doctor?" Solo inquired nervously. He kept pace with the gurney and placed his hand over Illya's. Intravenous tubes ran out of his body from numerous points, and he was still receiving transfusions. Worst of all was the respirator he was attached to, the sound of the mechanical breathing especially worrisome to Napoleon.
The doctor talked soothingly to Solo, and he relaxed minutely. "I know he looks like hell, Mr. Solo, but he's actually doing quite well. We have him on a respirator merely as a precaution. Just until he wakes and then we can remove it. He was under a long time, and I don't want to take any chances. Damage to the lung was repairable. It was the blood loss and the arm that were the worst problems."
The agent held his breath for a moment before asking, "Will he be able to use his arm normally?" knowing if the answer was no it would be the end of his partner's career in enforcement.
The doctor cleared his throat before answering. "I can't really say just yet. It's too early to tell. But we repaired the bone and muscle tissue, and he's young and strong. There's every reason to believe he'll recover functionality."
Napoleon exhaled, not realizing how much he took his partner for granted until that moment. He reminded himself to mention that to Illya at the earliest opportunity. They reached Room Eleven and Illya was transferred to the single bed, looking very small indeed with all the equipment surrounding him. The nurse on duty took his vitals and showed Solo the call button. She instructed him to ring if he needed anything. He nodded his thanks to the staff and pulled a chair next to the bed. He took Illya's hand in his and waited for him to wake up.
The blips and beeps of the monitors surrounding Illya Kuryakin kept up a steady reassurance of his partner's medical status. They also began to lull Napoleon Solo to sleep with their unflagging cadence. Subsequent visits by the nursing staff were done as silently as possible, out of respect for the vigil the dark haired agent kept at his best friend's side. Hours had passed, reports had been made and the only thing left to do was wait. Solo dozed, head thrown back over the edge of the chair, his hand still holding Illya's left, legs stretched out in front of him.
Something caused Napoleon to start, and he jerked awake in the chair, rubbing at his stiff neck. He anxiously checked the monitors, but nothing seemed amiss. Then he felt it, the touch that had awakened him. Illya was giving his hand the barest of squeezes, and he bent close to the pale form. Kuryakin's eyes were fluttering, and he seemed to be deciding if it was worth the effort to wake. Solo pressed the call button and rubbed Illya's cold hand murmuring encouragements to him all the while.
"Hey, milok, you've been sleeping a long time. I'm starting to take it personally," Napoleon joked, hoping Kuryakin could hear him. He heard footfalls enter the room as Dr. Callahan and Nurse Jenkins came to Illya's side as well. They checked his vitals and remained nearby, in case they were needed.
Solo saw blue eyes blinking back at him and smiled the thousand-watt smile that he reserved for his lover only. Tears gathered in those azure eyes and spilled slowly down the pale cheeks. Solo gently wiped them away and whispered in Illya's ear, "I know, Illya, I love you, too."
Nurse Jenkins turned away from the tender scene, a lump forming in her throat. There was something connecting these two men that she could only marvel at, and her eyes were bright with answering tears as she turned her attention to her patient. She looked up at Solo, and he smiled at her compassion. His hazel eyes were misty, and he silently thanked her for accepting their relationship.
Illya was wide-awake now, and began straining against the tubes and fighting the respirator. Solo saw the panic beginning in his eyes, and placed a hand against his shoulder, trying to soothe him.
"Easy, now. Easy, partner. We're going to take care of you, calm down." Napoleon kept up the gentle words, while Dr. Callahan moved up to deflate the cuff on the endo-tracheal tube. He spoke directly to Kuryakin and told him to blow out hard. Three seconds later, the tube was out and Illya gagged, coughing miserably as the nurse suctioned away the mucus from his throat. He gasped painfully, and gripped Solo's hand tightly. His color went from gray to green and back again before he tried to speak. He failed to get anything out but a rusty squeak. Kelly placed an ice chip against his lips and he sucked it into his mouth gratefully. Nodding his head, he accepted more, until he felt brave enough to try his voice again.
"Thank you," he creaked, mortified at how weak he sounded. He cleared his throat and turned his head to Napoleon. "How bad...?" he asked, and Napoleon answered before he could finish his sentence.
"Bad enough that you scared the hell out of me, Illya. Don't ever do that to me again," he scowled at the Russian, only half kidding. "I'd hate to have to break in a new partner, and you know how much I despise training new recruits." He stared pointedly at the blonde agent and he was pleased to see Illya blush.
"I was already trained when we were paired, Agent Solo," he countered, his voice growing stronger by the minute. "And it would be a toss-up as to who was breaking in whom, don't you think?" he added, grinning warily. Solo laughed out loud at that, relieved that his partner was back to sparring form already.
"Can I sit up, please?" he asked the nurse, and she adjusted the bed up slightly. Illya grimaced at the change in position and tried to move his right arm. He turned immediately white and his eyes rolled back, head lolling to the side. Napoleon and Kelly were right there, supporting him until the bed was lowered once again. He gradually came back to them, and said ruefully, "Guess I won't try that again." Solo saw the worry lines building on his brow, and knew his next question before he asked it. Kuryakin addressed the doctor, and inquired about his arm. "How much damage was done?" His voice was steady, but Napoleon could hear the tremor just beneath his calmness. He looked down at his feet, knowing Illya knew how much was on the line better than anyone.
Dr. Callahan cleared his throat uneasily. "The bullet did a fair amount of damage to your right lung. The respirator bought you some healing time, and your chest tube will come out in a day or two. You'll have to work on rebuilding pulmonary function, but all in all, I'm pleased with your progress. As to your arm, however, there was a lot of muscle tissue involved, and the humerus was broken into three pieces, but not fragmented. We wired the bone together and have pins in place to fuse it, but those can be removed at some point. You'll have to be patient..."
Solo interrupted him with a snort, and Illya glared at him. "Sorry, milok, but he doesn't know you like I do," he harassed smugly.
Dr. Callahan smiled and continued, "...and there will be a lot of physical therapy involved. I won't lie to you Mr. Kuryakin; it won't be easy, but I believe you will regain normal function in time." The dour Russian closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He had been expecting the worst, and he glanced quickly at Solo, a silent understanding passing between them.
"Well, I think we should let Mr. Kuryakin rest now. Nurse Jenkins, pain meds are in the orders. Call if you need me," Dr. Callahan stated as he walked out of the room.
Kelly tucked the blanket around Illya neatly and said, "Nice to have you back with us, Mr. Kuryakin. I was getting tired of babysitting Napoleon," she said devilishly, a smile in her eyes as she looked at Solo. He gave her a pained look and grinned back. Illya glanced from one to the other; aware of something he was missing.
He glowered at Napoleon and asked, "Should I be jealous?"
Amused, Napoleon looked at him, his hazel eyes radiating love to the man to whom he had given his heart and soul. Illya caught the message and dropped his head, blushing anew at the very intimate way his lover was gazing at him.
Kelly blushed, too, and patted Illya's hand gently. "Don't worry, Mr. Kuryakin. I can tell you with certainty that this man," she pointed to Solo, "is definitely off the market." With a wink to Napoleon and a grin to Illya, she turned on her heel, leaving the two astonished agents to gape at her retreating form.
"Is it that obvious, Napoleon?" Illya queried, a worry line again back on his forehead. Of the two men, he was the one most concerned with keeping their private life locked away from their public one. Napoleon, however, had no such qualms, and leaned down closer to his lover's body.
"If it isn't now, it will be," he whispered, and claimed Illya's lips with his own. Kuryakin wanted to resist, worried that someone would walk in and see them, but the soft feel of his lover's mouth on his drove all rational thought from his mind.
"Polya," he murmured against those lips, and let himself drown in the love there.
"Don't worry, Illyusha," Solo breathed into him. "I've got you covered."
Any other time Illya Kuryakin would be content to watch Napoleon Solo negotiate the New York City streets, weaving and slicing through barely there openings in the crush of Sunday traffic. Ordinarily, he would sit back and enjoy leaving the driving in Solo's capable hands.
However, lately his life had been anything but ordinary, but screechingly banal at the same time. Not cleared by Medical yet to drive or do anything else approaching usefulness, Illya was often times surly and withdrawn, chafing at the restraints placed upon his normally untethered lifestyle.
Napoleon understood his moodiness, sympathizing with his friend but tried his best to draw him out when the grayness settled around Illya like a mantle of fog. It had been three months since the last mission that had grievously wounded Illya, and Solo knew it was difficult for him to sit back and watch him take on new assignments alone, leaving Kuryakin to putter around in the labs like a research assistant.
The doctors had removed the pins in his right arm, and pronounced his lungs fully healed, yet Illya was a very impatient man and had trouble accepting the doctor's timetable. He pushed the rehab sessions to his very limit and beyond, and had alienated fully half of the physical therapists with his all or nothing philosophy.
He thought of his last session today, and the way the therapist had left the room in tears after Illya had bad-temperedly told her to let him decide how far he could push himself and how much pain was acceptable.
He looked out the passenger window and sighed, embarrassed by his behavior.
Napoleon looked sideways at him and asked gently, "Do you want to talk about it, Illya?"
"About what, Napoleon?" he snapped, an edge to his voice he neither liked nor could seem to control.
A tight look from Napoleon, and he sighed, apologizing at his tone. "I'm sorry, Polya, you didn't deserve that."
"What did the therapist say today?" he prodded.
"What she always says; that I'm pushing too hard and won't get any better if I abuse the sessions; that I need time to heal and recuperate."
Napoleon said nothing, merely drove toward their apartment and listened to the anger and disgust evident in his partner's voice, wishing he could do something about it.
He smiled, an idea forming in his head and looked at Illya with a sideways grin. "Well, I'm no therapist, but I have an idea that will cure your mood if not put you on the road to recovery..."
Illya gaped at him and stared out the windshield, trying not to smile.
"...something white and creamy, with a flavor that I know you've become addicted to?" he teased, waggling one eyebrow suggestively at his lover.
"Napoleon, I am shocked, mind you, shocked, if you think that I can be coerced that easily by...ice cream?" He leered sideways at Solo, and almost laughed out loud at the expression on his face. "It would take much more than that, my friend, to bribe me out of my bad mood," he continued, pleased he had gotten the upper hand from Napoleon for once.
"Like what for instance?" Napoleon asked, holding his breath while waiting for the answer.
"Chocolate, lots of chocolate. And marshmallow sauce, nuts, and whipped cream on top."
Napoleon burst out laughing at the so-typically-Illya statement, and replied, "What about the cherries?"
"That goes without saying."
Illya was grinning and Napoleon relaxed, grateful that his mood was lightened, at least for the time being. He hated seeing Illya on edge and knew that if the situation were reversed, he wouldn't be any better of a patient. Still, sometimes it was hard to put up with the dour Russian's gloom.
Forty-five minutes later, Napoleon eased the car into a parking spot outside their brownstone, and watched Illya finish off an obscenely large ice cream sundae.
"Feeling better?" Napoleon queried, marveling at how much his slight partner was always able to tuck away without ever gaining an ounce. It was a trait that annoyed Solo, seeing as he had to work out religiously to stay a perfect size thirty-nine.
"A little," came the honest reply. "Of course, I am going to have to apologize to Kate at tomorrow's session."
"She'll have to stand in line from what I've heard," Napoleon joked acidly with his blond friend. "You know, ice cream works with women, too," he said as he winked at Kuryakin. He ducked just in time as a spoon was launched at his head.
Grinning, he exited the car and waited for Illya to emerge from the passenger side. He knew better than to try and help him out of the car, but Napoleon beat him up the stairs and held open one of the glass doors for him.
"After you, my liege," he purred, and waved Illya through with a grand flourish. Kuryakin glared at him but walked though the entrance without a comment.
They rode the elevator up to the top floor in companionable silence; watching the numbers flash and feeling their stomachs flutter with displacement. Illya sighed and looked at his feet. Napoleon noted the dark smudges under his eyes and the tight way he held his arm against his body, but kept silent. The door opened and they walked to the end of the hall.
Napoleon keyed the lock, opening the door and coding the alarms at the same time. Illya followed and once inside wearily sat down on the couch. Solo went at once to the freezer, taking out a bottle of Stoli and an ice pack and walked back to the living room. Pouring a generous amount in a glass he silently handed the drink to Illya. The younger agent accepted it gratefully and downed half of it in one toss.
Napoleon sat carefully next to his partner and gently placed the ice pack on the swollen arm before Illya could protest. A slight hiss escaped Illya before he could bite it back and Solo blinked in apology.
"Sorry, old man," he said affectionately.
Illya merely took another swallow of the vodka in answer.
Long minutes passed, while Illya sulked and Napoleon tried to find a way to ease the pain. Finally, Illya relaxed against Napoleon's shoulder and sighed, taking Solo's hand in his good one.
"How long until you leave this time?" he asked quietly, not really wanting to hear the answer.
His partner tensed against him, knowing how hard it was for Illya to ask about where he knew he could not go.
"I have a flight to Berlin tomorrow afternoon." The words hung between them and Illya did not answer. Disentangling his hand from Solo's he pushed up from the couch and walked across the room to the large window. He stared at the cityscape below him for a time and calmly made a decision. Not turning around, he spoke softly to the glass in front of him, watching Napoleon's reflection as he did so.
"I think perhaps it is time you think about getting a new partner, Napoleon." He dropped the bomb calmly, with little emotion. He had been ruminating on this line for some time, just waiting for the right opportunity to tell his closest friend.
He saw Napoleon explode off the couch and stalk toward him. He closed his eyes and waited for the indignant response. Instead he felt a hesitant, gentle hand touch his shoulder and slowly turn him to face the hazel eyes of his lover.
"How long have you felt this way, Illya? Why didn't you say something before?" Napoleon's eyes were full of hurt and pain, but he held Illya's gaze unflinchingly.
"We both know Mr. Waverly has been handing you milk runs lately, Polya. That fact has not been lost on me, or ...my pride. This is affecting your career now as well as mine. I won't tolerate that. You have to get back in the game, and I'm only holding you back." The last was said very softly and Illya dropped his head from Solo's gaze.
Napoleon closed his eyes against the pain in his partner's voice. Angry that Illya had held back how he felt, he also understood the emotion and could sympathize with the way Illya saw himself as a liability. Even as he did not share that belief, he knew the stubborn Russian had always taken an inordinate amount of pride from his work and the way he contributed to the entire section. He had lost that anchor lately, and Solo cursed himself for not seeing the disastrous results sooner.
Squeezing the thin shoulders beneath his hands, Napoleon shook him gently and said, "Come on, Illya, you really don't mean that. That's just your Slavic side talking. It's only been three months: the doctors aren't worried. Give it some more time, Illyusha."
"I am not recovering well, Napoleon. We have to face the fact that I may never be field certified again. It would be unprofessional to not acknowledge that. You should be using this time to train a new partner instead of baby-sitting me," he finished dejectedly. He could not bring himself to look at Napoleon, so he turned back to the window.
Knowing he would get nowhere arguing with Illya while in this mood, Napoleon decided on a different tack.
"I would never even consider a new partner, Illya. If you can't return to enforcement, then I'll transfer to a new section as well." He let that sink in before coming to stand next to Illya's shoulder, just touching so the heat of his body warmed his friend's skin.
Illya was dumbfounded. He whirled to face Solo, and grabbed him by the biceps, clutching hard. "You can't do that, Napoleon. You're in line for the 'big chair.' Waverly is grooming you himself. He'd never let that happen."
Solo felt the fine tremors start in Illya's hands and arms and returned the embrace, running his fingers up and down his cold arms. He felt him shiver and tried to pull Illya into a calming hug.
Illya stopped him and pulled back with a determined look on his face. "I'd never let that happen."
"Why? Because I won't let you throw away your career for me or anyone else. I love you, Napoleon. You are the most important thing in my life, and I would put you ahead of anything; anything, Polya." He stopped and took a deep breath, searching his friend's face for understanding.
"Would you expect me to do any less for you?"
Illya blanched, weighing Napoleon's words and realizing he had just walked into Solo's trap. He hadn't even seen it coming.
"You son of a bitch," he said admiringly.
"Uh, thanks, I guess," Napoleon smiled softly, and continued to stroke his partner's arms. "Illya, never think that the way I feel about you could ever change. It's not about rank or prestige or anything else. It's about you, milok; who you are and what you mean to me."
Napoleon leaned down into Illya's face and felt his warm breath on his face. He kissed him gently and slowly, lingering on the softness of those familiar lips. Illya responded and pulled Napoleon into his arms, wanting to renew their pact in the seal of flesh on flesh.
They parted slowly and Illya rested his head on Napoleon's strong shoulder, content to let him offer it to lean on. Napoleon stroked his hair and allowed himself to enjoy it a little too much.
"Mmm, yes, Napoleon?"
"We still have the rest of the evening. Whatever shall we do with the time?" he asked wickedly.
"I seem to remember an offer you made earlier concerning...ice cream." Illya countered slyly.
"Illya, I am shocked, mind you, shocked, if you think I can be so easily coerced by...hey!" He yelped as he was cut off by Illya's surprisingly strong one-handed arm lock, and dragged down the hall to their bedroom.
"Oh, what the hell," he grinned and gave up all pretense of resisting.
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