"How soon before we can board?" Napoleon asked as he folded his newspaper and resettled it on his knee.
Illya took the seat next to his partner. "In about twenty minutes. They've finished clearing the debris but there's still a couple of flights ahead of us."
The microdot Napoleon had secreted within his belt buckle should have already been safely delivered to UNCLE's Rio De Janeiro headquarters, but the front that had swept through San Paulo had delayed their departure and they'd spent the better part of two hours in the airport cooling their heels.
"I hope we can find a decent hotel room for the night. We've already missed our connecting flight to New York."
Illya shrugged. "We can always stay at headquarters."
"I hate those little rooms," Napoleon said with a grimace. "They're so small, I feel like I'm in a prison cell." He understood that space was often a premium at many of the UNCLE headquarters, but making the rooms where agents were often forced to sleep just a little bigger wouldn't have hurt.
"Yes, I can hardly tell them apart from the many prison cells I've had the pleasure of being held in."
Napoleon gave his partner a look, but didn't deign to answer. Maybe Illya didn't mind spending the night in a six by eight foot cubicle, but he certainly did. Especially since he hadn't slept well the night before. As soon as they dropped off the microdot, he planned on setting out for the nearest five star hotel.
"Those men over there, don't they look familiar?" Illya nodded to the row of seats nearest to their gate. Out of a sense of caution they'd positioned themselves further away, behind a large pillar that concealed them without blocking their view.
Napoleon looked over. Two men stood just to the side of the door leading out to the tarmac. Both wore long olive-drab coats, even though the temperature was well into the eighties. "Not the faces, but certainly the attire, though I wasn't aware that thrushes ever came in green."
"They appear to have tickets."
"So it would seem." Napoleon scanned the area. "We should be able get out of here without them seeing us."
"To do what? If they don't see us boarding the plane, they probably won't either."
"Maybe we could rent a car."
Illya shook his head. "It's three hundred miles to Rio and much of it is still a two-lane road. It would take us forever to get there. Besides, if they were to realize what we'd done, it wouldn't be that difficult for them to waylay us somewhere along the way."
"They probably wouldn't do anything on the plane, anyway. We could just call ahead and make sure we had plenty of backup at the airport."
Illya turned around in his seat and looked out the windows behind them. "I have a better idea. Come on, grab your things and let's go."
Napoleon did as he was told and followed Illya out of the terminal, glad that at least they hadn't checked in their luggage. He followed his partner through the concourse but pulled Illya to a halt when they got outside. "Where are we going?"
"Over there," Illya said as he pointed to the small hangar nearby.
"A private plane?"
"Why not? They probably wouldn't think to look for us there," Illya responded before heading in that direction.
Napoleon reluctantly followed. "I wouldn't think to look for us there, either."
"I wouldn't think to look for us there because I'm not crazy about the idea of flying in something that's not even as big as my car."
"You've flown in a helicopter."
"No, I've flown a helicopter, which is a world of difference."
"Yes, well, I know how to fly a plane, so come on."
The selection wasn't wide, so they settled for the four-seater Beechcraft parked near the far side of the tarmac. The quickly climbed aboard. While Illya checked out the plane, Napoleon secured their luggage onto the back seats, then turned around and belted himself in.
"I'm ready when you are."
Illya gave the instrument panel another once over and then with a nod turned on the ignition. The little craft glided down the runway and soon they were airborne.
Napoleon turned and watched the city fall behind. Too soon, all he could see was forest spread out beneath them.
"Nervous?" Illya asked with a smile.
"Who me?" Napoleon cleared his throat. "I think I just prefer riding in something a bit bigger. I feel like I'm in a tin can."
"It wouldn't have been my first choice, but it'll get us to our destination. Why don't you see if you can raise headquarters? Let them know that we should get there in a little over four and a half hours."
Napoleon tried but all he got was static. "Nothing. I'll try again when we're closer to Rio," he replied around a yawn.
"Why don't you get some sleep? I know last night's accommodations weren't up to your standards."
"I didn't keep you up, too, did I?"
"Hardly. But I can usually tell when you're tired. Too bad last night it wasn't because you were enjoying yourself."
Napoleon grinned. Illya had seen him after a night without much sleep more times than he probably cared to count. He looked out at the terrain ahead of them. It was an uninterrupted stretch of green beneath a cloudless sky. "You don't mind? It could get awfully boring after awhile."
"I'll be fine. Besides, I like the quiet."
"You would. Okay." Napoleon scooted down a bit in his seat as he crossed his arms over his chest. He closed his eyes. "Wake me when we're about half an hour from Rio. I'll try headquarters again."
The sound the small plane made, coupled with its gentle motion, soon lulled Napoleon to sleep. He was in the middle of a particularly disturbing dream, THRUSH agents seemed to be chasing him and Illya over a huge cakewalk, its surface undulating up and down, when he was jolted awake.
"Wha--?" Napoleon ran his hands over his face and sat up.
"You better tighten your seat belt. Things are going to get decidedly bumpy," Illya grimly remarked.
Napoleon studied the sky. The storm that had hit San Paulo had apparently swung around. They were right in the middle of it. "How bad is it?"
"Bad enough." Illya replied. "But we should be okay. I've been through worse."
"That's encouraging." Napoleon straightened. He was fully awake now. "How long was I asleep?"
"About ninety minutes. I was going to wake you soon. We should be close enough to Rio for you to get a signal."
Napoleon pulled his communicator out and opened it. Still only static.
"It's probably the storm."
"Probably." Napoleon closed the devise and was returning it to his pocket when the plane abruptly lurched. The communicator flew out of his hand and into the back seats. "What the hell's going on?"
"Something is wrong with the engine," Illya said as he fought to keep the plane even.
"What do you mean, something is wrong?"
"I mean something is wrong. I'd heard they were planning on going with a different engine with the next model. It seems there's been some problems with this one."
"Fat lot of good that does us. Why didn't you say something while we were still on the ground?"
"Because we didn't have any choice. And I didn't figure on the storm returning."
"How far are we from Rio?"
Illya checked the gauges. "About sixty miles." The plane lurched again. "Look for an opening in the forest. I'm going to try to land this thing because I don't think the engine is going to last much longer."
As if giving his words substance, the engine coughed and died.
Illya took one hand off of the controls long enough to pull out his own communicator and hand it to Napoleon. "See if mine works any better."
Napoleon opened the communicator. He got the same response as from his.
"Give our general area. Just because we can't hear them doesn't mean that they can't hear us."
Napoleon continued to broadcast their position while Illya tried to maneuver the plane through its downward glide. Yet there was no way to avoid the forest that was reaching up to meet them. Illya's struggle with the controls ended as the bottom of the craft was hit by the tops of several trees, causing the plane to barrel end over end. With a final jolt, it broke through the underbrush, its forward trajectory abruptly halted.
Illya lifted his head and blinked stupidly around. He couldn't see clearly. He brought his hand up and hesitantly brushed away the blood that blinded one eye. He must have hit his head on the steering wheel because he had a nasty gash that was steadily dripping blood down his face. He tried wiping it away with the sleeve of his coat, but only managed to increase the flow. Finally, he dug a handkerchief out of his pocket and tied it around his forehead. That seemed to help.
He couldn't see much through the front window, amazingly still in one piece, but the plane appeared to be near or on the ground. The forest's dense vegetation had cushioned their landing and now provided a bed of sorts for the disabled aircraft.
He looked over at his partner. Napoleon was still unconscious. Leaning closer, Illya's eyes widened. Protruding about five inches out of Napoleon's right shoulder was a thin steel bar.
Illya undid his seat belt and knelt over his partner. The bar seemed to have been part of the side panel's support. The blade of metal, about half an inch wide, speared up at an angle through the seat and into his partner's body. The only way Illya was going to get it out was to pull Napoleon off of it. Kneeling over him, Illya prepared to do just that when Napoleon groaned and his eyes fluttered open.
"Illya?" Napoleon was only partially aware and automatically reached for his partner. His jaws clapped together as he only just stifled his scream.
"Don't move. I've got to get you off of this thing."
Napoleon looked over at his shoulder. "Is it going to hurt?"
Illya smiled. Even when in pain, his partner couldn't help but find the levity in a situation. "A bit." He unbuckled Napoleon's seat belt and then stood as best as he could in the confined space of the front seat.
He worked his arms under Napoleon's and locked his hands together behind him. With their faces so close, Illya was very aware as Napoleon's breath quickened in pain. "On the count of three, I'm going to pull you forward and up."
"Just do it," Napoleon responded, his voice shaking.
"Okay. One, two.." With a quick jerk, he pulled his partner up and forward. The steel bar came out with a sickening squelch. At the same time, Napoleon's head lolled to the side. He was out cold.
Illya laid him across the seats. Blood now poured from the wound. Illya climbed into the back of the plane. Their luggage would hopefully still be back there and he could find something to staunch the blood.
Again, their luck had held. Both suitcases had wedged themselves in the very back of the plane. Illya pulled them forward and proceeded to rifle through their contents. He finally found what he needed and climbed back to the front. Pulling Napoleon upright, he undressed his partner from the waist up. While he tore the shirt he'd found into strips, he couldn't help but notice how the blood continued to run down his partner's chest.
Finally ready, he sopped up as much of the blood as he could and, using parts of one of Napoleon's t-shirt as pads, he tightly wrapped the ragged wounds with the strips of cloth.
He watched it until he was certain that the bleeding had slowed, then he crawled into the back of the plane. There wasn't a lot of room, but maybe with the back seats lowered there would be enough room for Napoleon to lie flat.
Hauling their luggage up on the pilot's seat, he searched the rest of the area. Way in the back was the canopy cover, which Illya thought would make decent bedding. He hauled Napoleon into the back, glad for once that his friend decided not to waken right away. He wadded up his robe to use as a pillow and then covered Napoleon with his own robe. Satisfied that he'd made Napoleon as comfortable as possible, he emerged from the aircraft. He looked around. It had stopped raining, but there was no telling if more was on its way. He'd have to work fast.
Napoleon knew he was alive because no one could hurt this much if they were dead. A steady pounding had set up in his head, while his shoulder throbbed to a beat all its own. He was almost afraid to move, but managed to open his eyes.
It was dark, though there was light coming from somewhere nearby. He gingerly felt around. He recognized his robe, but that was about it. Where the hell was he? Using his good arm, he pushed the robe aside. Taking a breath, he forced himself to sit up. Bad idea. He whimpered in pain and fell back, jarring his shoulder. The agony that spiked through him made it impossible not to cry out.
Through the haze of pain he heard someone scramble to his side.
"Don't move, you idiot. You'll only make it worse."
"You think?" Napoleon responded weakly. "Where are we?"
"We crashed, remember? We're in the middle of a Brazilian rain forest."
Napoleon tried to think around the pain. "At the airport. There were THRUSH agents?"
"That's right, so we rented a plane." Illya gave the craft's interior a grim look. "I think they're going to want more money, though."
"How long have I been out?" Napoleon's headache was receding, but his shoulder hurt like a son of a bitch. "Was I shot?"
"About two hours, and, no, you weren't shot. One of the pieces of steel reinforcement drove itself through your shoulder. I don't think anything vital was hit. Here," Illya motioned him to open his mouth and placed two pills inside. "They're only aspirin, but they should help somewhat. Wait." He turned around and grabbed something from the front seat. It was a large paper cup. "I found a couple of these here in the back. It rained for awhile and I managed to fill them with water."
He helped Napoleon lift his head while he drank, but pulled it away before Napoleon had finished less than half.
"We're going to have to ration our water intake. It'll probably rain again, but we can't count on that."
"What about food?"
"There's a couple of packages of cookies and those disgusting beef jerkies you're so fond of. Four bags of peanuts and some sun flower seeds I found in my pocket. There's a stream nearby. I can try to catch some fish. I started a fire, so at least we won't have to eat it raw."
Napoleon made a face. "How long to do you think we'll be here?"
"There's no telling. I can't be sure if our signal got through or not. I couldn't find either communicator, so if it didn't..." Illya grimaced.
"We'll have to walk out." Napoleon sighed. "I can hardly wait. But I think it's time for a trial run."
Illya gave him a questioning look.
"Ah. Well, in that case."
With Illya's help, and a great deal of swearing, they managed to get him out of the plane. While Illya held him up, he urinated against a tree, though Illya had to do up his pants. By the time they were back in the plane, his headache had come roaring back. His shoulder felt like someone had stabbed him with a hot poker--which he supposed was close enough to the truth. Still, once lying down, he felt himself being drawn into sleep. He felt more than saw Illya cover him and then curl up beside him in the limited space of the plane.
They were in a lot of trouble, Napoleon knew that. Yet, with his partner at his side, the slow breathing telling him that Illya had already fallen asleep, he couldn't help but feel that, somehow, they'd get out of this mess. Illya was his rock. He supposed he was Illya's.
He heard it start to rain, and he let that sound lull him to sleep.
Illya gazed across at his friend. They sat in the clearing Illya had created, a small fire between them, a couple of fish frying on the flat rocks Illya had dragged over. Illya knew the aroma enticed the animals of the area, but the fire deterred them from approaching. He cleared his throat. "We're going to have to make a decision soon."
Napoleon only nodded. A weariness had crept into his bearing, coloring everything he did.
Napoleon's wounds had looked fine for the first day and a half, but since that morning infection had set in. Illya had eventually found a first aid kit in the compartment built into the side of the plane, but antibiotics weren't among the supplies. At least there had been pain killers, which had helped immeasurably.
He castigated himself for not forcing them to leave while Napoleon was still well. But sixty miles! There was no way his friend could have made that journey. The logical choice had seemed to wait for rescue, or stay long enough to give Napoleon's wounds a chance to heal a bit. At least here they had shelter and a ready supply of food.
"Do you think you'll be able to manage?"
"I think so." Napoleon wiped the beads of sweat from his brow. "Is there anymore water?"
"Yes, I'll get it."
Illya walked over to the plane and picked up one of the cups of water. It had rained earlier in the day, but Napoleon had already drank most of his daily allotment and it wasn't even noon. For not the first time, Illya wished he'd been able to devise something to boil water in. He took the cup over to Napoleon and helped him drink as much as he wanted. If it came to it, Illya would give him most of his. He put the empty cup back in the plane and then reseated himself next to his friend.
"We'll leave first thing in the morning. If we can manage even ten miles a day, we'll be home in less than a week."
"Hm, a nice long soak, clean sheets. It's amazing the things you miss the most."
Illya nodded in agreement. Neither one of them smelled very nice. "And a steak, well done. If I never eat another fish..."
Napoleon gave a halfhearted grin.
"But I think these are ready. We should eat." Illya used the thin piece of wood he'd blackened to spear the fish onto the pieces of wing they were using as plates. He handed one to Napoleon.
"I'm really not very hungry."
"You must eat, Napoleon. Who knows when our next meal will be. We have a couple of packages of cookies and nuts left, but that's not going to last us very long once we start out. We, of course, have our guns, but we'd have to see the animal before we could shoot it, and so far I haven't seen anything."
Napoleon nodded and gingerly broke off a piece of fish. He ate slowly, as if each bite was an effort. Finally, less than half done, he handed it back to Illya. "I can't. You eat it. You're doing all the work, you need it more than I do."
"Are you sure? I could save it and you could eat it later."
"No, it'll only spoil." He wiped his brow again. "I've got a headache. I think I'll go lie down."
Illya watched with mounting concern as his friend stood and began his slow walk back to the plane. Napoleon wasn't feeling a lot of pain anymore, thanks to the pain killers. But the infection had already started leeching his strength.
He studied his food for a moment, and then began to eat. He finished off his, and started on his friend's share. He did need the energy, because, if it came to it, he'd carry Napoleon out.
They started off at first light. Illya had created a pack out of the plane's cover, which now rode on his back. It would keep things dry, plus it could also be used as shelter. Inside, he was the first-aid kit, some extra clothes, more to lie on than to wear, and the utensils he'd made out of parts of the plane. After a short argument, he'd allowed Napoleon to carry the pouch Illya had made out of a pair of trousers to carry the extra food.
Water was going to be a problem. They had drank what had collected over night before placing the two cups in with the food, so there wouldn't be any more until it rained again. Scanning the sky, Illya feared that it wouldn't be soon.
He had pried the compass out of the plane's instrument panel. It would keep them on an easterly heading, toward the coast. It was a lot closer than San Paulo, and they'd be easier to see by any rescue party. Unfortunately, he had no idea what stood between them and their destination.
He tried to keep a pace that his friend could match. The dense underbrush didn't made travel easy, often slowing them almost to a crawl. Traipsing through the forest, often having to go around areas too dense to push through, they nevertheless seemed to be making progress. Napoleon managed to keep up most of the morning, but as the sun climbed to its zenith he began to falter under the midday heat.
"Would you like to rest for a few minutes?" Illya asked.
Napoleon only shook his head and stumbled on ahead of him.
"You're not doing either one of us a favor acting like this. I don't want to have to carry you."
His friend stopped and turned. Napoleon's face was flushed, his eyes perhaps a bit too bright. "We can't be stopping every time you think I need a rest."
"We're making good time. A few minutes won't make any difference one way or the other."
"Illya..." Napoleon shielded his eyes as he rubbed his temples. "If I stop, I don't know if I'll be able to start again." He lowered his hand. "Let's just keep going, okay?"
Illya stared at him for a moment and then finally nodded his assent. "All right. But if you're going to go first," he reached out and handed the compass to Napoleon. "At least know in what direction you're going."
Napoleon continued to lead for the next couple of hours until Illya noticed him stumble one too many times. As soon as he found a clearing large enough to settle in, he called a halt, this time getting no argument from Napoleon. Instead, his friend sat against the nearest tree, leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
Illya waited until he knew Napoleon was asleep before undoing his pack and setting up a makeshift tent. He spread the clothes out inside, pushing their supplies to the back. He looked around. Last night's rain might as well not have happened, as dry as every thing was. Even that had it's bright side, he thought, as he gathered enough wood and kindling to get a small fire going.
The wood was still green, so it didn't catch as easily as he thought it would. He ended up using more matches than he was comfortable with. They'd each had a pack of matches in their pants pocket, but at this rate they wouldn't last. With a shrug, Illya laid some more wood on the fire. No sense worrying about it now. There was nothing he could do about it. When he was sure the fire wouldn't go out, he got up and walked over to Napoleon.
"Napoleon, wake up."
Normally, that's all it took for his friend to waken, but when he got no response, he gently shook Napoleon's good shoulder. "Come on, you need to lie down."
Napoleon opened his eyes. He blinked, as if not sure of where he was. After a moment, he seemed to figure it out and reluctantly got to his feet. "Are we ready to go?"
"No, we're going to camp here. I've already got every thing set up."
Napoleon rubbed his eyes. "What time is it?"
"Just past three."
"We could walk a couple more hours." He finally seemed to take in their surroundings. "You set up camp."
Illya sighed. "Yes, now go lie down," he responded as he took Napoleon's arm and, helping him up, guided him over to the tent.
"You shouldn't have done this," Napoleon slurred as he crawled into the tent and practically fell onto the bedding.
"I know, but what's done is done." Illya spent the next few hours gathering more wood and kindling. He piled it up between the fire and the opening to their shelter. He thought about finding a stream to clean up in, but decided against it. Who knew what lived in the waters around here. Besides, the sun was starting to set and he didn't want to be away from their campsite after dark.
Filthy and tired, he crawled into the shelter and settled near the opening. He ate a couple of cookies, mostly to keep his stomach from growling too loud. They were stale and did nothing to appease his appetite. He dozed from time to time, checking the time whenever he woke. A couple of times he got up and added wood to the fire. His sleep was never deep enough that he wouldn't notice any disturbance, no matter how insignificant, so when Napoleon gently touch his back, he was instantly awake.
"I can take over the watch now," Napoleon said. "We shouldn't need the fire much longer."
The sun wasn't up yet, yet it had already chased away some of the dark. It would be light within the hour. Illya scooted back into the shelter and lay back, propping his head on his bundled jacket. "I'm not that sleepy, but it would be nice to lie down for an hour or two."
"I'll wake you if you fall asleep."
Illya looked over at the shape next to him. "How are you feeling?"
"Better, I think. My headache's gone, and my back doesn't hurt anymore. Maybe I've fought off the infection."
Illya doubted it. Napoleon was rested, and his fever may have temporarily broken, but he was far from okay. "I'll check the wounds once it's light, before we pack everything up."
After a couple of minutes Napoleon chuckled. "You know, this reminds me of the camping trips I took."
"A friend and I would go camping out in the forest near my home. We couldn't have been more than a mile away from town, but it felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere."
"How old were you?"
"Twelve, no, thirteen. I remember we were looking forward to high school. We got a lot of use out of that tent."
Illya rolled over onto his side. For as close as they were, he knew very little about Napoleon's childhood. "You must have been good friends."
"The best. We did everything together. Ethan practically lived at my house. His family wasn't well off, and you know how kids can be. If anyone knew about his being poor, he'd never have heard the end of it."
"And have you remained friends?"
"We were friends for a couple of more years, but then...something happened."
When Napoleon didn't elaborate, Illya wasn't sure how to proceed. But his curiosity got the better of him. "Something?"
"Yeah." Napoleon was silent for a long time, and when he did finally begin to speak it was almost as if to himself. "We were so young, we didn't know what to do with the way we felt. It all seemed so innocent. What was the harm in being together?"
Illya was stunned. Did Napoleon mean what he thought he meant? "Napoleon, are you talking about sexually?" he asked, somewhat hesitantly.
"I suppose, though I wouldn't have called it that at the time. We both had heard the other kids talk about those kind of people, but somehow we didn't equate what we were doing with being that way. All we knew was that we wanted to be together, in any we could."
"We were so stupid. We thought my family was going to be gone for the day, so we decided to stay in my room. We were only going to hang around, do the things boys do when they have free time, but one thing led to another and, well, you can imagine what happened next."
"You were caught."
"My dad walked in on us. God, I'd never seen him so mad. He grabbed Ethan and threw him on the floor, then he came after me."
Illya didn't think he wanted to hear what came next, but Napoleon kept talking. It was as if a dam had been broken, as if the fever and time had worn away the walls that had protected this particular secret.
"He tore off his belt and started hitting me with it. Ethan tried to pull him off, but he wasn't strong enough. I could hear him screaming for my dad to stop, but I couldn't see anything because I had my arms wrapped around my head, trying to protect my face. Anyway, my dad finally did stop. I think he had tired himself out. He threw Ethan out and told him to never come back. That fall, he sent me off to a private school."
"Did you ever see Ethan again?"
"I saw him a couple of times after that, during the summer when I was home. We'd pass by each other at a store or on the street, but neither of us ever said anything. I think we were both so ashamed." Napoleon cleared his throat. "It was never the same between me and my dad. Once I was old enough, I joined the army."
"That was a terrible thing to happen to someone so young. To instill such shame for something a person cannot help, is a tragedy." Illya paused, uncertain how Napoleon would respond to his next question. But he had to know. "Has there been another Ethan since then?"
He almost didn't hear the quiet response.
"Yes." More silence, then, "is this going to be a problem between us?"
"No, Napoleon, you are entitled to live your life however you wish. You will always remain my friend."
Napoleon didn't respond, and Illya took his silence as a wish to discontinue their conversation. Both would have to think on what had been said, the secret told, and its ramifications. As far as Illya was concerned, there weren't any. But his friend was a very private person. He would have to work out for himself the effects of its telling.
The next day did not start well. Illya had finally fallen into a deep sleep and it was well into the morning before Napoleon woke him. Illya scowled but didn't have the heart to castigate his partner. Especially after checking Napoleon's wounds. Napoleon had been correct, the injury on his back was healing well, but the one on his chest was obviously infected. Illya redressed it as well as he could, sacrificing a cleaner piece of clothing. Having done what he could, he broke down their camp and they began walking.
Napoleon had seemed better, his energy revised by his long sleep, but after only a couple of hours he was noticeably lagging. When they came across a small clearing, Illya decided that it was the perfect place to call a halt.
Napoleon dropped to the ground, and crossed his arms across his drawn-up knees. Then he lowered his head onto his arms.
Illya removed his pack and walked over to crouch next to his friend. "Are you feeling worse?"
Napoleon didn't bother to lift his head. "I don't know if I can go on."
"Don't say that. Another couple of days..."
"Illya, I'd be surprised if we've gone ten miles."
"Yes, but the coast can't be much further. Once we reach it, rescue can't be far behind."
Napoleon finally lifted his head. "Don't kid yourself. We have no idea what lays ahead of us. For all we know, the coast could be even worse. There's bound to be rivers to cross, and I know I'm not capable of that."
"Napoleon," he enclosed one of Napoleon's hands in his. "We'll make it out. Both of us. Just rest, gain your strength back. I'm going to make a fire. We passed another stream a little ways back, maybe I can catch something."
Napoleon at least made an effort to smile. "You're getting pretty good at that. You'll make someone a wonderful wife someday."
Illya shook his head and rose to his feet. "I'll set up the tent. You get some rest."
All the while he waited for his prey to catch sight of his bait, Illya tried to work out a plan of action. Napoleon needed to rest, but his injury needed looking after. Without antibiotics, the infection could very well prove fatal.
He couldn't imagine Napoleon dying. Not like this, anyway, in some god forsaken jungle, his body burning up with fever, taken down by a stupid microbe. Illya had never felt so helpless.
When there was a tug on the line, Illya carefully worked the fish out of the water. He'd caught bigger, but this would do. He returned to Napoleon, still unsure as to his course.
Napoleon was lying inside the shelter, apparently asleep, so Illya set to preparing their food. As it cooked, he went over to check on his friend. Napoleon looked awful. He was sweating and his breathing was shallow. Illya lay his hand across Napoleon's forehead. He was burning up.
He thought about dragging Napoleon over to the stream, using the cold water to cool him down. But he was afraid of getting the wounds wet. The water looked clear, but Illya was more than aware of the invisible life it harbored. They had continued to drink only rain water for that reason. He didn't know what to do, so he did what he always did in these situations. What he could.
Leaving the shelter, he stood by the fire until the fish was cooked. He divided it up and returned to his friend. He sat next to him, placing the food off to the side. "Napoleon, wake up," he coaxed as he gently shook his shoulder.
Napoleon's eyes slowly opened. There was an unfocused look to them that scared Illya. "I've brought you something to eat."
Weakly waving his hand around, Napoleon tried to turn away. "Go away."
"You have to eat."
Napoleon tried to focus, widening his eyes for a moment, as if it took an extra effort to keep them open. He looked at Illya and shook his head. "It's not going to make any difference. You know that."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Illya said with a scowl.
"Yes, you do. I'm not going to make it. Not this way, anyway. You need to leave me behind. No, don't interrupt," he added when Illya tried to respond. "Alone, you could probably make it back to civilization in a couple of days. You could get help and then come back for me."
Illya knew that wouldn't work. He had a pretty good idea that Napoleon knew that, too. Napoleon wouldn't be able to gather food or, worse, collect water. And Illya wasn't so sure that, once out, that he'd be able to find his way back.
"I'm not leaving you behind, Napoleon. You can just get that thought out of your head right now."
"Stubborn Russian," Napoleon grated, but his words with laced with appreciation. "I know I should order you to leave, but I know all you'd do is disobey me. And, truthfully, I don't know if I could stand to see you go."
"It'll be okay. We'll stay here for a couple of days. There's food and water and shelter. What else do we need?"
"Nothing, nothing at all."
Napoleon closed his eyes. Illya thought he was asleep until he spoke again.
"You're a good friend, Illya. Probably the best friend a man could ever have."
"It is easy to be your friend." Without allowing himself to think about it, Illya leaned over and kissed him. He kissed him in a way that made it perfectly clear that Illya thought of him as more than a friend. Then, he sat back up.
Napoleon opened his eyes. It was apparent from the look on his face that he'd gotten the message, loud and clear. "Now you tell me. You're timing is lousy, you know that"?
"No, it's not. You're not going to die. I won't let you."
Napoleon seemed to think that over. He finally nodded and then closed his eyes again. This time, he did fall asleep.
Illya ate the fish. There was no reason to see it go to waste. He had made his decision. He would remain with Napoleon. Maybe, given time, they would walk out together. If not, he would not leave until there was nothing else to do.
He pushed aside their supplies and lay down next to Napoleon. The warmth of the day made his vigil almost pleasant, while the sound of the wind through the trees began to lull him to sleep. It took a few moment for him to recognize the sound that was disturbing his rest. He sat up just as a man entered the clearing.
The man, dressed in the ways of the native population, turned out to be an UNCLE agent out of the Rio de Janeiro office. A member of one of the indigenous tribes, he knew the area well. Their signal had gotten through, but while most of the agents had started their search from Rio, he had plotted the area where the plane probably went down and started from the shore directly east of there. He had eventually found the wreckage and had then followed their trail.
The clearing wasn't large enough to land a helicopter, so Napoleon was hoisted up in a gurney and flown to the nearest hospital, while Illya was led out by the agent and picked up by boat. Ordered home, he had time only to hand over the microdot before being flown out from Rio, leaving Napoleon behind.
Waverly commiserated with him, and then promptly sent him on another mission. It was five weeks before he returned, tired and frustrated. And in all that time he had heard nothing from Napoleon. He knew that there had been complications, something about a secondary infection, but even that he'd discovered through officials channels.
He grumbled as he unlocked the door to his apartment, sure that it would be cold, and that everything in his refrigerator had probably gone bad. So he was surprised by the welcoming gust of heat as he opened the door.
"Well, welcome home, stranger." Napoleon rose from his seat on the couch and approached Illya.
Illya stood, dumbfounded, while Napoleon retrieved him of his suitcase and then removed his coat. Settling Illya right next to where he had been sitting, Napoleon left him and walked into the kitchen. He returned with a glass of vodka in one hand, a glass of scotch in the other.
He sat next to Illya and handed him his glass. "Cheers," he said, as he clicked his glass against Illya's and then drank down the amber liquid.
Illya followed suit. "I thought you were still in Brazil," he said, having finally found his voice.
"They let me out for good behavior."
"In other words, they were tired of their nurses spending all their time in your room."
Napoleon gave him a look. "Now was that nice? And here I was about to give you your welcome home present."
"And what would that be?"
With a smile, Napoleon placed their glasses on the coffee table. He turned back and positioned his hands on each side of Illya's face. Then, leaning forward, he brought his mouth to Illya's.
Illya's response was automatic. His hands settled on Napoleon's waist and pulled him closer while he deepened the kiss. That first kiss as Napoleon had lay sick, perhaps dying, had created such a need in Illya, a thirst that only this man could quench. His tongue darted out and explored the inside of Napoleon's mouth. He wanted to memorize its very taste and texture. Suddenly Napoleon pulled away.
"Let's go into the bedroom," he whispered as he stood and pulled Illya to his feet.
They were both already half undressed by the time they made it into the bedroom, shoes and socks, ties and shirts scattered along the way. Illya hurriedly unbuckled his belt, his hands shaking as he watched Napoleon unzip his pants and, together, pull them and his underwear down and off.
Illya had always loved the way Napoleon looked naked. The gym showers and shared hotel rooms had given him a deep appreciation of Napoleon's compact form and darker skin. Even now, with the scars on his back and chest still fresh, he was still beautiful. But Illya had never seen him like this, not with Napoleon's cock full and erect, Illya view unhindered.
"Hurry up, I want to look at you," Napoleon said. He seemed as hungry for Illya as Illya was for him.
Illya didn't need to hear more. He hurried out of his pants and met Napoleon in the middle of the bed. Kneeling, they pressed their naked bodies against each other. Illya's hands settled on Napoleon's ass and pulled their bodies closer, as close as he could get them . He could feel Napoleon's cock resting against his own, trapped against their bellies. He began a slow and gentle thrusting, reveling in the feeling of their organs sliding against each other.
Napoleon's arms went around Illya and slowly pulled him down until they were lying on the bed, facing each other. He kissed him again on the mouth, before dropping down to his chest. He teased first one nipple and then the other, then licked his way further down until he came to Illya's cock.
Illya gasped as Napoleon took him into his mouth. He sucked, pulling back until only the tip of the organ remained inside, only to plunge down and take it back in, more every time, until Illya felt Napoleon's lips surround its root. He looked down and was entranced by the sight of his friend sucking him off. He'd never imagined this, he hadn't dared, but, oh, how he had wanted it.
His eyes screwed shut as he felt his oncoming orgasm. He tried to push Napoleon away, he was certainly beyond speech, but his friend would have none of it. Instead, he redoubled his efforts and Illya found himself ejaculating with a strangled cry.
He could feel his body shaking, even as Napoleon gave his cock one last suckle before releasing it. He crawled up next to him and slung his arm over Illya's chest.
"You can't imagine how long I've wanted to do that."
Illya laughed. "Yes, I can. Probably as long as I've wanted you to."
"Is that all you've wanted me to do?"
Illya look at his friend. Then, with a smile, he rose up on one elbow and turned to open the top drawer of his night stand. He turned back and handed Napoleon a small tube, little used, but conveniently placed.
Napoleon took it and then got to his knees. Illya held out his hand and Napoleon squirted some cream onto it. Illya first spread it on both hands before taking Napoleon's cock and liberally coating it. Then he turned and, pushing a pillow under his hips, lifted his ass. It had been awhile since he'd done this, but he'd never wanted it so badly.
He cried out as Napoleon's cock slid slowly in. Its bulk filled him, stretched him, and then pulled almost back out. Then in again, each time faster, harder, deeper, until its tip was pushing against his prostrate and Illya was lost in the feel of Napoleon fucking him. Overwhelmed, all he could do was lower his head onto the bed and ride it out.
He could tell when Napoleon was getting close, because he started pounding into him, his cock sliding in and out in a frenzy. He could hear Napoleon panting, and words that he'd never heard Napoleon use slipping past. Words like love and never leave me and god, how I want you. But finally there were no more words, only a cry of release as he filled Illya with a liquid heat.
Illya discovered he loved the weight of Napoleon's body on him, the feel of Napoleon's cock as it slowly softened and then slipped out. As Napoleon rolled off and onto the mattress, Illya turned on his side to face his new lover.
"I wasn't sure if you remembered what happened. You were so sick. I was afraid--"
Napoleon smiled. "I remember everything. I remember that you wouldn't leave my side. I remember the kiss. I remember thinking how lucky I was."
"Lucky? You were lost, injured, sick, possibly dying. How is that being lucky? Not to mention the fact that you'd just been in a plane crash."
Napoleon leaned in and kissed him, a kiss slow and gentle, and over much too soon.
"Yes to all that, but I knew that, no matter what, you would always be there for me. You ground me, Illya. You always have. And I would have settled for your friendship if that was all I could have. I had pretty much resigned myself to it. So to find out that you loved me, no man could be luckier."
As Illya pulled him close and returned his kiss, he thought that, the reverse being true, he could only agree.