The Boys from Berlin Affair
As far as I know, these characters belong to Norman Felton and some massive media empire. Any monies should be directed to those people, not me.
"Hypocritical Nazis. What is the world coming to?"
Napoleon lay back on the bed, eyes closed, listening to his partner move around the room. Illya's voice, breaking the silence first: a rarity. "There were moments when I thought I might have to defend my virtue."
Lazily: "Yes, the Field Marshal did seem to have an unhealthy attachment to your erstwhile father."
"Erstwhile clone father, I suspect. The Germans did extensive research on that—"
"You think the Third Reich cloned Maximilian Nexor." A low chuckle, and Napoleon sat, smoothing his hair into place. "Only fitting that we had one of our own. The evil twin's evil twin—"
"The original Nexor was something of a sadistic genius, from what I understand. My mother told me stories—"
"Your mother, Illya?" A silence, long and contemplative. Almost honoured in its heaviness. "You've never mentioned your mother before—"
Illya was damned good, Napoleon thought. Even I would almost believe that shrug was an honest dismissal, and not an acknowledgement of pain. But then, he would be. Damned good, that is.
When Illya had Napoleon strapped to the table, Napoleon had also almost been convinced that there had been some terrible mistake, that it was his partner who had died in Europe and Colonel Maximilian Nexor who had taken Mr. (Doctor, Comrade, Lieutenant) Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin's place.
"Clones," Napoleon said, taking refuge in humour. Illya would tell him if he was going to tell him, and if he wasn't, he would not.
The Russian sighed, towelling his shaggy blond hair, the scar high on his cheekbone that had marked Nexor—before he had killed Nexor—showing purple. "You're thinking something horrible. I can tell."
"Just the fun we could have with a litter of little towheaded Russians—"
"Angels and ministers of grace. A dozen or so? Thrush would never recover. In any case, I can't understand why they cloned Nexor. He's—I'm too short to be a Nazi."
"And Gurnius apparently too homosexual."
"The homosexuality doesn't bother me—"
"Not particularly. One learns to discriminate between social convention and genuine morality in our line of work."
"True. Then what does bother you?"
"Hypocritical Nazis. What is the world coming to?"
"Well, when you put it that way—" The dawning smile, sunlight over hilltops, and Napoleon caught his breath at how goddamned beautiful it was.
He looked down quickly. "Gypsy Ukrainian Nazis. Have another drink, Illya."
"Make it a double. I'll be back."
"Where are you going?"
"You just took a shower."
"Yes, and I can still smell that uniform on my skin."
Napoleon shook his head as the bathroom door shut gently and firmly, visions of a nursery full of hyperactive, precocious, mercurial, astoundingly blond five-year-old Russians dancing behind his eyes. "I bet he was an adorable little boy."
And I bet he'd have my testicles with sour cream, caviar, and a vodka chaser if he heard me say that. Napoleon grinned, finished his scotch and soda, and started unknotting his tie with fingers that still trembled and ached more than he would have ever admitted in front of his partner. He'd struggled out of coat, shoulder holster and shirt when his communicator warbled, and he grumbled good-naturedly to himself as he fished it out of the pile of sweat-stained cloth. "Solo here."
Illya walked out of the bathroom barefoot and towelling his hair, his black t-shirt tucked into the waist of his flat-fronted slacks, his belt still flapping loose against his hips. He took one look at Napoleon's face, at his barechested partner sitting on the edge of the bed, surrounded by discarded clothing, communicator held in one hand, the other apparently wadded in the fabric of his dirty shirt, and stopped in his tracks.
Napoleon blinked and looked up.
"What is wrong?" Worried enough, he noticed, that his accent was re-emerging. It happened more rarely, these days. I am becoming an American in truth. It didn't bother him the way it once would have.
"Born November 10th," Napoleon said, staring him in the eye. "1938. Blood type O, Rhesus factor negative. Allergic to penicillin. Farsighted, moderate astigmatism in the right eye requiring glasses for reading, should not impair field performance except in extreme circumstances. Notable that subject has never developed upper third molars; lower third molars removed surgically due to impaction. Aptitudes include exceptional ambidextrous eye-hand co-ordination and balance, as well as talents in mathematics, languages, music, and science which may be described as those of a prodigy. Subject is notable for a certain hastiness of temper and for potentially sadistic tendencies, which are adequately compensated by intense demonstrated personal and ideological loyalty."
Illya's brow furrowed. "You know all those things," he said, moving toward the left-hand of the two twin beds to collect his shoulder holster from the headboard, forcing his hunched shoulders to smooth. Given what Napoleon had endured at his hands, so recently, he had to admit he probably deserved the thrashing. "You've known them all for years. Shall I quote your file at you? The bit about thrill-seeking and overcompensation for perceived masculine inadequacies and unexpressed homosexual tendencies is particularly good lunchtime reading. Field agents are rarely entirely sane, my friend."
"Except I just provided you with the vital statistics for Colonel Maximilian Nexor. Both of them," Napoleon continued, mercilessly, as Illya turned toward him, feeling his jaw drop, his face go slack, his eyes go wide. "Except for the birth date, which only applies to the younger of the two. So what is it that you are not telling me, Illya Nickovetch?"
Illya meant to sit down on the edge of his bed. Ten years later, he still could not have explained how it was that he found himself on the floor.
"No," Illya said. "It makes sense. That's the worst of it." He rubbed his eyes with one hand. The other one was wrapped loosely around the cheap hotel glass full of bad scotch that Napoleon had pressed upon him. He hadn't bothered to put his shoulder holster on; he still sat on the floor next to it, his back against the bed. Napoleon was as happy as he'd ever been about anything in his life that Illya hadn't drawn the weapon that Napoleon had allowed him to reclaim before dropping his bombshell. Which meant that Napoleon's own weapon had stayed under the shirt on the bed beside him—
—and he hadn't been forced to put a bullet through the leather of his holster, through the linen of the shirt, and in between Illya's eyes.
Napoleon had a rather large scotch of his own. "How can it possibly make sense? You're Russian."
Illya nodded. "And my mother was half Romani. A gypsy. Who had been at Dachau, in a special woman's experimental unit. Who almost never spoke of the war, or how she escaped, but you know how children are. They understand more than they're told—"
Napoleon closed his eyes. His partner's voice wasn't blurring with the alcohol; it was dead level, rather, and his blue eyes were flat and lustreless as glass. "Yes."
"When you're born on Kristallnacht, it never seems quite right to observe the Russian or the American traditions of celebrating one's birthday," Illya said with a shrug. He finished his drink in one long swallow.
"I never made the connection." It embarrassed Napoleon to admit it.
"My father—Nikolai Kuryakin, I suppose I should say—"
"Your father," Napoleon said firmly, and didn't miss the naked relief in Illya's eyes. Or the way his shy smile slipped and vanished away again.
"I don't look a thing like him," Illya said. "I don't look a thing like my sister. But it's not as if one can casually ask one's mother if she was raped by the S.S.—"
"So you suspected something all along."
"Something. When I saw Nexor, I thought I knew it."
"—and is the truth so much worse?"
"Yes." Quickly. Too quickly. Illya held out his glass, gestured for Napoleon to fill it again. Napoleon did so, slid down off the bed to sit across from Illya, facing him, legs bent to one side in the narrow space between the beds. "No. I don't know. They must have—"
Napoleon could see the agile mind racing. Could read it in the way Illya skipped whole clauses and sentences as he struggled to explain what had come clear to him in an instant.
"—the hypothermia and decompression experiments at Dachau didn't start until the 1940's," Illya said softly. "But it was the first camp. If anything else were going to happen—"
"It would have been the place?"
"The Third Reich was very keen on the idea of a master race. Perfect physical and mental specimens. Aryan superiority. They were mad about it."
"They wouldn't have been able to resist someone like Nexor, if they had some sort of cloning technology."
"Someone like me, you mean?" Illya raised his eyes to Napoleon's, and Napoleon shivered. His friend's face was all but emotionless, flat and cool. "No. I imagine if you were blonder, you might have been the sort of creature they preferred, as well. You know they stole 'Aryan' babies from their mothers? Trying to reclaim their precious German blood?" He set the glass aside carefully, as though it were fragile, and laid his forehead against his folded arms. "Current theories on cloning suggest that the best way to bring the offspring to viability is in the womb of a healthy female. The New England Journal of Medicine had an article on infertility that suggested that similar techniques could be used to create a—what they're calling a 'test tube baby.' In vitro fertilization—" The Russian's slippery accent was gliding toward Cambridge as he slid into lecture mode and away from the touchier subject of Maximilian Nexor. "There's some interesting research underway in Great Britain. I imagine they'll have a success within twenty years."
"A healthy female? That's a curious way to refer to your mother."
"Not my mother. Biologically speaking. Apparently." Illya never lifted his head. "I wonder if Waverly will make me resign."
Now that was patently silly. "Why should he?"
"Because I am not who they thought I was."
"You're exactly who we thought you were. If you were the child of a rape, do you think it would make any difference to Waverly?"
"Or to me?"
A longer pause this time. "Not that either." Illya sighed. "But I do not want to be Maximilian Nexor, Napoleon. I do not want to be his son. I do not want to be his clone. I don't want to wear his uniform and I don't want his damned astigmatism and I don't want his sadistic streak and I do not want his smile. And I don't want ageing Nazis looking at me like the fountain of immortality and their youthful indiscretions all rolled into one."
"That's my Illya," Napoleon said, dropping his hand on Illya's ankle. "That's your temper, partner. Not his."
"I don't understand why my mother didn't dash my head on a rock."
I do, Napoleon thought, and shook his head, aware that Illya wouldn't see the gesture unless he looked up, which he wasn't about to. "I do," he said.
"Why?" And it was Napoleon who was supposed to sound so plaintive. Illya was supposed to sound tetchy, or distracted, or flirtatious, or crisp, or—on rare occasions—vague or drunken or just plain ill. But never plaintive.
"Because," Napoleon said, squeezing the ankle that protruded below his partner's trouser cuff, "Nexor is dead, Illya. And Gurnius is dead. And you are not. What better revenge could she wish for?"
That lifted Illya's head off his arms, and earned him a reluctant, considering grin. "You have a point."
"I have two."
"Other than the one on your head?"
"Very funny." But even weak sparring was better than defeated silence. Napoleon drew his hand back and cracked his knuckles, because he knew it irritated his friend. "Besides. She loves you. And I'll wager a five dollar bill your father—"
"Whatever. Loved you too, and I can prove it."
"Napoleon—" Illya shook his head. "Don't be ridiculous. How could you love—"
"Illya," Napoleon interrupted. "What's your name?"
"I fail to see the relevance—"
"Your name, boy. Rank and titles—"
"Lieutenant Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin, Ph.D.," Illya answered, reluctantly.
"What kind of a name is Illya Nickovetch, anyway?" He halted Illya's protest with an upraised hand. "I know I know. Play along."
"Illya is a Biblical name," Illya answered, with the smoothness of repeated explanations. "It's the Russian form of Elijah, the Old Testament—oh."
"The Old Testament prophet who opposed the wicked tyrant Ahab."
"Why would a good Communist know that?"
"Because my mother told me," Illya said, in a small voice. "Even under Stalin, back when you didn't speak of such things. She told me."
"And Ahab was mortally wounded, and he instructed his charioteer to take him home. He died ignominiously, outside the palace, in Naboth's field; and dogs licked up his blood," Napoleon said, stressing the final word. Who knew all that Sunday school would come in handy, after all? He smiled. "And Nickovetch? What's that."
Illya was nodding, his eyes closed. "It's a patronymic. A weird one."
"What's a patronymic, Illya?"
"Don't patronize me, Napoleon." Sharp, as sharp as ragged glass. As sharp as only Illya could be. But Napoleon permitted himself a slow, triumphant smile. It wasn't over, of course; Napoleon knew that there were ghosts that could be laid in a night, and that this wasn't one of them. Because he saw the answer to his question, and he knew Illya saw it too.
My father's name.
"That's five bucks you owe me," he said, standing. "You can make it up to me by buying dinner tonight."
"Where are you going?"
"To take a shower," Napoleon answered. "You've had two, and I still stink. Put your shirt on."
"That's because you're a smelly American who eats too much beef," Illya answered, and Napoleon hid his smile behind the closing door.
Waverly was most distinctly not hiding a smile. He was standing with his back to Illya and Napoleon, rolling his filled and unlit pipe between his fingers, frowning hard at the map of the world on the wall. "So you're telling me, Mr. Kuryakin, that there may be innumerable... duplicates of yourself scattered about the globe? An unsettling proposition."
"To no one more so than myself, sir," Illya said. He folded his arms across his chest to keep from fiddling with the crease on his pants. "I believe you can trust me when I say—"
"Hmmm," Waverly interrupted. "Yes. Just so. What do you propose we do about it?"
Illya swallowed. Napoleon's knee was a warm pressure against the side of his thigh. Reassurance, and he hoped Napoleon knew how grateful he was for it. "We have to find them, sir. My..." twins. He swallowed and continued. "They're a potential liability. We've just proven that the insertion of a double into an enemy's operation can be disastrous."
"You'd have me allot UNCLE's resources to the search for your brothers?"
They're not my brothers. No. Of course not. They weren't his brothers. They were himself. "We'll need whatever records survived from Dachau. We'll need the names of the women in the experimental unit there—Jews, Gypsies. My mother said there were women there who were mentally deficient or who had been lobotomized." He felt Napoleon's shiver. He leaned a little closer, and kept talking. "We'll need the names of any children they bore, during their time at Dachau or, if any more of them survived, immediately after."
Waverly hmphed. "The grapevine being what it is, Mr. Kuryakin—"
"Yes, sir." He said it as evenly as he could manage. "I understand."
He understood, all right; that someone would put two and two together. That within a matter of weeks, the entire organization would know who he was, what he was. Whose spawn he was.
Waverly's silence stretched on. "I think that would be unwise," he said, when Illya had almost begun to fidget, and Napoleon was swinging his foot like a metronome in a glossy loafer.
"Unwise, sir?" Napoleon said. Illya was grateful; his own voice wouldn't have been much more than a squeak.
Waverly turned. He laid his pipe on the round table and looked up. "It's a chink in our armour I'd rather the enemy weren't aware of. No, Mr. Solo. I think you and Mr. Kuryakin will handle it on your own. Quietly."
Illya nodded, relieved and worried all at once. "How do you suggest we begin, sir?"
Waverly's smile, that wicked one, was legendary. "I suggest you contact Mrs. Kuryakina. I'm sure she'd remember the names and descriptions of some of her fellow detainees. The dear lady is no longer young, after all, but unless things have changed mightily, she's still sharp as a tack." He glanced down and aligned the pipe a little more sharply with the curve of the table, and chuckled to himself. "Sharp as a tack."
"Did I misunderstand Mr. Waverly entirely," Napoleon said in his partner's ear as they hurried for their suitcases, "or was he reminiscing about a flirtation with your mother?"
"Disturbing, isn't it?" Illya kept his eyes front, cutting a swath through the corridor traffic. "They got along extremely well."
Bystanders cleared out of the way in a hurry. Napoleon had to hurry to keep up. "I'm suddenly grateful to be an orphan."
It got a crooked grin at least. The door of their office slid open before them and just as quickly closed behind, and Napoleon slouched against the wall beside it, hands in his pockets, while Illya collected his jacket off the back of his chair. "There's no efficient way to let my mother know we're coming unless I have UNCLE Kiev stop by, and I won't do that to her."
Napoleon imagined the black Volga pulling up before a block of apartments, some Soviet functionary in a cheap suit disentangling himself from the upholstery while Madame Kuryakina watched from behind a curtain in an upstairs window, and nodded. "No need to give her apoplexy."
"Precisely." The phone on Illya's desk buzzed. He snagged it on the first ring. "Thanks, Lisa."
Napoleon arched an eyebrow.
Illya set the phone back on the cradle. "Our tickets are ready."
Napoleon smiled. "Let's roll."
As promised, Galena Kuryakina looked nothing like her son. Although the lady was in her sixties, her hair was still as black as Chinese calligraphy and her eyes glittered over plump, creased cheeks. She served them tea in glasses with stamped tin holders, and seemed not the slightest put out by the unexpected arrival of Illya and his American companion.
His third wheel partner, who didn't speak Ukrainian.
Galena Kuryakina, of course, did not speak English. And Napoleon's Russian wasn't even good enough to follow the gist of the conversation, although Kuryakin mère and fils were kind enough to limit themselves to that tongue. He contented himself with nibbling the smorgasbord—he'd have to ask Illya if there was a Russian term—of snacks spread out on the table and smiling when Mrs. Kuryakina glanced at him to see if his tea needed refreshing.
Her apartment was small—two rooms—but luxurious by Soviet standards. She shared it with Illya's sister and her husband, both of whom were on holiday when Illya and Napoleon arrived. The apartment was tidy to the point of painfulness, the furniture well-constructed, and—Napoleon guessed—older than the nation. None of it matched, and neither did the china or the silverware. The embroidered linen tablecloths and runners did, however: elaborate cross-stitch in red and black.
The conversation was quiet. Illya projected far more discomfort than his mother. He introduced his questions in a clear, slightly overpronounced voice, turning his fork over and over in his hands, glancing up occasionally through his bangs. His mother reached out in the middle of the first paragraph to brush his bangs out of his eyes and make what must have been a pointed comment about his hair; he laughed and shook it off, seeming comforted. She had to prompt him to continue talking.
Napoleon did hear the name Maximilian Nexor, though, and he saw her reaction to it. She sat back in her chair, her tea glass landing on the table with a thump that splashed her knuckles, and her lips went tight as she interrupted Illya for the second time. Napoleon thought he would have understood her clipped question in any language. Is he dead?
Her smile when Illya nodded was breathtaking. He paused, as if expecting her to continue, but she said one terse word—good—and waved him on.
Illya talked for a little while, and she nodded. She got up—her son jumped to his feet to assist her, although she patently didn't need his help—and she walked, balancing on her cane, to the sideboard. She came back with paper and pen, and—closing her eyes between each line, although if in grief or concentration Napoleon did not know—she began to write a list.
Illya touched her wrist with his fingertips. She brushed it away, but gently, shaking her head. "Nichevo. Nichevo." It's nothing, it's nothing.
Napoleon blinked and swallowed, and glanced at his partner. Illya was already looking at him.
"She's brave," Napoleon said.
"She has a good memory," Illya answered. He picked a piroshki off a serving tray and ate it with his fingers, ignoring his mother's glare, then helped himself to pickled fish, steamed grain, more dumplings, a cabbage roll of some sort and several creamy yellowish spoonfuls of sour cream. He ate while his mother wrote, putting the food away with evident satisfaction. He polished off a second plate before she finished, although the Cyrillic list she handed him after setting her pen down contained only ten names, six of them marked with a cross. Napoleon didn't need a translation for that.
The pauses had been long.
She pushed herself back from the table, then, and stood up. She came to Napoleon, leaning on her cane, and gave him a stern look before reaching down to brushed his lapel with her fingertip, muttering a mouthful of syllables. She nodded her head, waved to the food, and excused herself. Illya, having set his plate down, tailed her to the other room, where she politely—but firmly, by her tone—took her leave of him and shut the door.
Napoleon stood. "What did she say?" he asked Illya under his breath, feeling her touch on his lapel as if she'd laid her fingers on skin, not cloth.
Illya chuckled into his tea, tilting the glass against his lips. "She said, 'It's a handicap, being so obviously American, isn't it?'"
Napoleon gave him a sharp jab in the ribs. Illya side-stepped and grinned. "She invited you to stay to dinner."
"Dinner?" Napoleon gestured at the food. "What was this?"
Illya grinned. "Tea. Slavic hospitality; you may not have much, but whatever you have, you put on a pretty good show with it. Which reminds me, we'll have to share a bed. Or a sofa, more precisely."
"Lawd a mercy," Napoleon answered, setting his teacup down. "What will the neighbours think?"
It was a fold-out sofa, at least, its lumpiness mitigated by several layers of foam. The sheets were worn but crisp, the coverlet white linen with still more embroidery. "Your sister's bed?" Napoleon asked, while Illya was fluffing pillows.
Illya smoothed his hands across the pillowcases, which were soft with years of washing. He looked up at his mother, who was bustling around storing the leftovers from their supper. His mouth was full of the taste of cabbage and apples and vodka and tea, and he sighed, savouring it, along with the memories it brought. "Yes," he said. He straightened. "Window or door?"
"Window," Napoleon said. In winter, the windows in the little apartment would be nailed shut, with typical Russian paranoia about the cold. But it was summer, and every window in the apartment stood open, screenless. Fresh air, but Illya knew his American partner would see an invitation to flies.
"It's all yours," Illya said. He slipped his gun under the pillow and sat down on the edge of the bed to unlace his shoes.
"Goodnight," his mother said.
"Goodnight, mama," he answered, and breathed a soft sigh when she smiled, waited for Napoleon to echo him before she shut the bedroom door.
"The bathroom's down the hall," he said. "Come on. I'll show you."
He was in bed in his pyjamas by the time Napoleon returned from brushing his teeth. His friend turned out the lights and undressed in the dark, slipping under the covers beside him. The night was cool, but not raining—what the Americans called 'good sleeping weather.' Illya rolled over on his side, listening to Napoleon's breath smooth out. He took three deep, conscious breaths of his own, counting backwards from 100...
And found himself wide awake.
Napoleon, of course, possessed the trained ability to fall asleep as if somebody had thrown a switch. Illya lay in the dark and listened to him breathing, deep and slow, and told himself that the unsettled ache in his own chest was nothing. Nichevo, nichevo. He could hear his mother snoring behind the bedroom door. If she could sleep, if Napoleon could sleep beside him in the same bed without worrying about who or what he was, what excuse did Illya have to lie wakeful?
It didn't matter.
He smoothed his breathing, slowed and deepened it, relaxed his body from toes to crown. It helped nothing. He thought, over and over again, of the list of names. Eleven women, including his mother. Five living that she knew of; five living when she escaped. Had any survived the end of the war?
They would have to find out.
The hours until morning stretched dauntingly before him. The comforting scents of home—both his homes, his mother's potpourri and the scent of cooked cabbage blending with Napoleon's aftershave—did not comfort him. He ached.
In the darkness, feigning sleep, he rolled over, and pressed himself against Napoleon's back, his arm around Napoleon's waist.
It wasn't the first time. Just for warmth and comfort, of course. For the human need to touch and be touched, to steal a little of his partner's relaxation for himself, so he could sleep as well. Monkeys and cloth dummies.
Or so he told himself, taking a deep, satisfied breath scented with Napoleon's hair pomade. And Napoleon said, softly and clearly enough that Illya knew he hadn't been sleeping either, "Illya? Is everything all right?"
Caught red-handed. "No," Illya said around the lump in his throat. "No, it's pretty much not."
Napoleon turned in his arms, so that they lay face to face, and put his right hand on Illya's shoulder. He tugged, insistently; Illya, his face heating, allowed Napoleon to hug him. Napoleon held on tightly, squeezing, and Illya managed to resist for only a few moments before melting into the embrace. He sighed and pressed his face into Napoleon's shoulder while Napoleon stroked his hair and discovered the tension in his shoulders. "I think you're handling this incredibly well," Napoleon said, conversationally. "You're one tough motherfucker, you know that?"
Illya forced a laugh. "It's nice to know my pretences can still fool you once in a while," he said. But he let Napoleon massage his temples, his shoulders, the nape of his neck. Much better than just soaking up body heat. He might almost be able to sleep if Napoleon kept it up. In fact, he could feel himself slipping down, warmth, darkness, and the safety implied in his partner's presence working their magic.
He startled awake as Napoleon shifted just as Illya sighed and curled closer, and Napoleon's erection prodded his hip. "Napoleon—"
"Um, sorry," Napoleon answered, pulling back. He didn't take his hand off Illya's shoulder, though. "Force of habit. Normally, when I have a devastating blonde in my arms, it's a prelude to something else."
Illya grinned, reaching for the ready quip, and stopped. He took a deep breath and tightened his grip on Napoleon's hip. He pulled Napoleon against him, chest to chest, groin to groin, lips almost brushing, and breathed across his partner's mouth, rocking his hips for emphasis. "Would you like it to be?"
He felt Napoleon's cock twitch. Felt it harden further, felt his own response as Napoleon caught a breath and his hips rocked, his eyes wide, collecting whatever available light filtered through the curtains. "Ah," Napoleon said, leaning back, still not quite pulling away.
Hell, yes, Illya thought. He tightened his left hand, reached with his right and fisted the fingers in Napoleon's hair, wrapped his leg around Napoleon's thighs, and kissed his partner ferociously on the mouth. Napoleon resisted for seconds, pushing at Illya's shoulder, but he wasn't trying, not really, not when his lips parted under the flick of Illya's tongue and then he was kissing Illya back, grinding against him, moaning at the back of his throat. Illya rolled atop him, pushing him back against the bed, amazed when Napoleon spread his legs, both hands flexing on Illya's ass now, pulling him into the heat of Napoleon's groin. Their mouths locked, tongues sliding, breath hissing.
Their mouths parted as Illya pushed himself up on his elbows, getting his knees under him, and then slid one hand under Napoleon's top. Napoleon caught his wrist. "Your mother—"
"Is sixty, and half-deaf from years of shooting without hearing protection," Illya whispered against Napoleon's ear as he unbuttoned Napoleon's pyjamas. "Also, she snores. Or hadn't you noticed?"
The snoring had, if anything, deepened. Napoleon swallowed, lips moving against Illya's. "Is this a good idea?"
"Probably not," Illya said. "Has that ever stopped you before?"
Napoleon shook his head, eyes bright, mischievous. He arched his back, though, moving his hips in a figure-8, his cloth-covered erection sliding against Illya's. Illya gasped and pressed closer, moving in counterpoint. "And you?"
Illya shrugged, letting himself drop against Napoleon's now-bared chest. "Maybe I have more in common with Nexor than I like to admit," he said. He covered Napoleon's chest with kisses, relishing the salt of his skin. Napoleon shuddered, fingers flexing in Illya's hair.
"Don't say that," Napoleon ordered. Illya fell silent, seeking with thumbs and tongue in the darkness for Napoleon's nipples, content for now to make his partner gasp and arch. He remembered Napoleon white with pain, sweating under torture, and redoubled his efforts, sliding his hands across Napoleon's belly as he nibbled, licked, and sucked his partner's skin.
His partner pressed a hard cock against his stomach, and Illya grinned, rocking his own hips against the mattress gently, gently, careful not to rattle the sofa-bed against the floor or wall. Napoleon lay very still, breathing shallowly, as Illya skinned Napoleon's pyjama bottoms down his hips, baring a thick, uncircumcised cock. "Have you—"
"Not in a long time," Napoleon answered. Illya heard the grin through the darkness. "You're the one who quoted my file at me."
Illya laughed. So he had. "Touch me," he said, lifting his chin to look up Napoleon's body at his eyes. He rubbed his cheek against Napoleon's erection, grinning when Napoleon squirmed, half-protesting the rasp of beard-stubble.
Napoleon stroked his hair. "How?"
"That's good," Illya said. He cupped Napoleon's balls, stroked his thighs. "Make me real," he said. "Make me me."
"How?" Napoleon groaned his answer.
Illya kissed the tip of his cock, and breathed deeply of his partner's rich, earthy smell. "I want you to fuck me," he whispered between kisses, so softly that he had to repeat himself before Napoleon heard him.
And then Napoleon stilled him with a gesture, without ever letting go of his head. "Here? Now?"
Illya just smiled. He'd felt Napoleon's cock finish hardening at the words; it was like iron now, so hard it had to ache, and Napoleon's hips were moving in helpless, surrendered circles. "Here," he said. "Now."
"We don't have anything—"
"Saliva," Illya said, sliding up his partner's body, sliding his own pyjama bottoms down halfway. He thought the moment when their cocks touched—softness, heat, hardness, the rasp of skin and hair—would be tattooed onto his memory until he died. Napoleon groaned through tightly pressed lips. "You'll just have to be very gentle."
"It can't wait?"
Illya smiled. "Do you want it to?"
Little bastard. No, he didn't want to wait. He wanted to be in Illya already, claiming him somehow, marking him. Mine. Not Field Marshall Gurnius's. Not Maximilian Nexor's. Mine. Just thinking about it was almost too much. He kissed Illya on the mouth, tasting the saltiness of his own sweat, the musk of his sex. Illya kissed him back, rubbing against him, heat and sensual pressure. "Roll over," he said.
Maybe Illya wanted to be hurt. Maybe it was some kind of payback for South America, something he felt he needed to give back to Napoleon. It could have been anything, all kinds of things.
Napoleon didn't want to hurt his partner. Illya went willingly, and Napoleon knelt over him. He tugged his partner's pyjama top off. Illya had already kicked his bottoms aside, and Napoleon followed suit. He knelt over Illya, his cock pressed between Illya's buttocks, shivering with barely-controlled desire. Illya himself was rocking against him, urging him on, moaning softly against a muffling fist.
"Hurry," he said.
Napoleon cupped his partner's buttocks in his palms and pressed them apart, feeling warmth and sweat, the tight opening to his partner's body. "You've done this before." He needed to hear the words, to know that Illya knew what he was getting himself into.
"Dozens of times," Illya answered, irritably. He squirmed, lifting his hips. "Tease."
"Mmmm." Napoleon kissed the side of his neck, nuzzled his ear. "You haven't seen a damned thing yet."
With one fluid motion he slid down, pressing Illya to the bed with the weight of his body, ignoring his partner's startled gasp as he nuzzled between Illya's buttocks. Fine, if spit was all he had, he'd use spit. Straight from the source.
Illya opened up to his searching tongue with an ease that told him his partner wasn't lying. His body knew what was coming, knew and was eager for it, wriggling backward as Illya muffled small desperate sounds against the pillow. Napoleon let his hand insinuate itself between his partner and the bed, curled long fingers around Illya's cock, and wasn't surprised when Illya twisted under the touch uncontrollably before mastering himself, lying still, crying on little panting breaths.
"Please? Oh, please."
Napoleon grinned wickedly to himself as he slid up his partner's body again, kissing buttocks, spine, neck, hair. Illya lifted his hips, swaying slightly, as Napoleon spat into his palm and made them both as wet as he could manage. "This is stupid," he murmured in Illya's ear. "We're going to get caught."
Illya laughed softly. "Doesn't the risk excite you?"
Damn him. Of course it did. As much as it excited Illya, and Illya knew it, knew Napoleon knew it. He reached back, opening himself with his hands, breathing loud in the darkness, and Napoleon lined himself up with shaking hands and slowly pressed inside. Illya moaned between his teeth, almost an animal keening, arching up, offering himself, and Napoleon fought to keep it easy, keep it steady, keep it slow. He slid his palms across Illya's thighs, up his hips, along his ribcage, and Illya shivered and rubbed into the touch.
"Yes," he whispered. "Yes, like that. Make me real. Like that."
Napoleon got his hands under Illya's chest and hauled up and back. Once Illya figured out what Napoleon wanted, he came easily, until they were kneeling chest-to-back, Illya leaning into the support of his arms, settling hard onto Napoleon's penis, Napoleon holding them both upright. Illya reached for his own cock. Napoleon intercepted his hand. "Hold my hands."
"What?" Whispered, groggily, as if Illya were already entranced by sex. He turned, craning over his shoulder, twisting against Napoleon. His eyes were wide, pupils dilated, almost black in the darkness.
"Hold my hands," Napoleon said, shifting them on Illya's chest, bracing his partner with his forearms to straighten him out.
Illya reached up and grabbed his hands, interlacing their fingers. "How come?"
"Because," Napoleon said, rocking his hips for emphasis, "you have to wait for my mouth. Otherwise the evidence is going to be all over the sheets."
"Oh, fuck," Illya groaned. He twisted his hands in Napoleon's grip, but Napoleon had all the leverage, and Illya didn't dare struggle hard. Every motion of his hips and flex of his thighs was delicious torture, anyway, working the muscles of his ass around Napoleon's cock. God, he wanted this to last. Wanted it to last longer than was safe, wanted it to last all goddamned night. Mine.
"And that's not all." Napoleon could just see Illya's profile if he leaned to the side, Illya's mouth working as if in pain, eyes fallen shut, his lips slack, his forehead shining with sweat as he swayed from side to side, finding his balance.
"You have... more bad news for me?"
"Mmm," Napoleon said, leaning back just a little, bringing Illya with him. "You have to do the work, because if I do, we're going to be slamming the bed against the wall. And we don't want that, now do we?"
Illya whimpered. His hips thrust forward, pressed back. His hands tightened over Napoleon's, nails biting into Napoleon's palms, driving Napoleon's ring into his flesh. Napoleon bit his lip on a groan and then an answering whimper, and tightened his grip on the fingers clenched between his own, holding himself still, rock-steady, mastering the unbearable need to thrust. Illya moved in short, convulsive jerks, just the muscles of his abdomen and hips curving his lower body forward and back, thighs steady, knees unmoving against the rickety bed.
"Fuck," he hissed, helplessly.
Napoleon kissed the side of his neck again, managed one last coherent sentence. "Whatever you do—"
Illya whined behind his teeth, softly, breathlessly, and quivered against Napoleon again. It was almost too much—his abandon, his desperation, the wordless pleading in his muffled moans. Napoleon sank his teeth in his own lip and set his jaw, determined to make it last if it killed him.
After all, his partner was getting the worst of it.
Napoleon's cock was more than a pressure inside him. It was an ache, a driving, unsatisfied need. It filled him and tormented him, immobile and hard as a statue's carved penis. Napoleon's breathing against his neck between nibbles and kisses was as even, as thoughtful as if he were exerting himself under a barbell and not his partner's writhing, needing, sweating body. His arms holding Illya up were unyielding, his hands clenched tight over Illya's fingers like cut stone hands, his cock a perfect torment. Illya thrust against it, squirmed, his head arched back on Napoleon's shoulder, his whole body focused on the frustration that weighed his aching balls like lead. Every twist of his hips jolted pleasure through him like electric shock, the weight of his cock bobbing slightly with every motion until he thought it would take only the brush of Napoleon's hand—his own hand—to bring him off. He wanted to come, needed to come, was positively begging—silently, begging with his body and his breath, because he couldn't talk, he'd shout or cry if he tried to talk—to come, and Napoleon just leaned into him, making him work to support the weight, nuzzling his neck and shoulder and maybe rocking his hips, slowly, slightly, if Illya's struggles eased off for a moment. He thought Napoleon's lips were making shapes against his neck, words maybe. Mine, mine, mine.
And then Napoleon whispered against his ear, and Illya could feel him grin. "Who are you?" he asked, and nuzzled Illya's cheek, his lips, his ear. "Who are you, muy droog? Tell me."
Illya whimpered. He couldn't think, couldn't feel anything but Napoleon's heat and the ache, the pressure inside his body, and the need, the agonizing unfulfilled need in his groin.
"Yours," Illya whispered.
Napoleon shook his head. "No," he said, but Illya heard the pleasure in his voice—and better, the rich, dark need, the desire so deep it was almost pain. It made his own longing easier to bear. Napoleon was there with him. He squirmed, clenching his hands on Napoleon's hands. "Who are you?"
"Illya," Illya said, turning his head restlessly, pressing his hair against Napoleon's mouth. He craned back for a kiss, twisting his neck, balancing against Napoleon. "I'm Illya."
"Yes," Napoleon said into the kiss. Finally he let himself move, just a little, rocking against Illya's body, feeling Illya squirm closer to spread his legs, straddling Napoleon's knees as Napoleon sank down on his heels. He braced his toes, leaned back against Napoleon's chest, and let his hands fall wide, bringing Napoleon's, still-interlaced. They pushed together rhythmically, perfectly balanced, until inevitability tightened Napoleon's balls and curled his toes and he arched up, thrusting against Illya hard, hissing because he could not shout. Illya absorbed it, accepted it, groaned low and deep as Napoleon emptied himself with a force that left him dizzy and gasping.
"You're Illya," he said when he found his voice. "Not Nexor. Either of them."
"How can you know?"
And Napoleon, aching with the sweetness of it, rested his forehead on Illya's shoulder and said, "Because I've fallen in love with THRUSH agents once or twice, but I draw the line at Nazis."
It took a moment to sink in. He felt the realization of what he'd just said ripple through Illya, and then he felt his partner shiver, hands clenching tight, possessively. "That's a very convincing argument."
"Mm. Isn't it? You don't seem surprised."
"Did you think I didn't know? Are you going to embarrass me by pretending to be surprised if I tell you the feeling is mutual?"
Napoleon considered briefly. The swell of warmth and affection in his chest made him smile. "I won't embarrass you. Although you're not exactly subtle."
"Good." Illya said, without bothering to indicate which remark he was addressing. Napoleon could hear him grinning in the dark. "I am one lucky son-of-bitch," he remarked, thickening his accent.
Napoleon didn't think he could really be blamed when he started to giggle. "Lie down," he said, "and I'll show you how lucky you are."
Napoleon spread cloth out under Illya before he let him lie down. "What's that?" Illya asked.
"My pyjama top."
"Won't you need that?"
He felt Napoleon shake his head. "I have a spare. I'm just thinking of the sheets."
"You'd rather explain to your mother?"
"Everybody thinks we are anyway. She probably does too."
"And now they're right. Lisa asked if I minded if she asked you out."
"Cross my heart and hope to die."
"Was this before or after she maced y...?"
Illya never finished the sentence. Napoleon's warm, generous mouth closed over the aching head of his cock, treating him to facile flicks of tongue-tip and gentle suction. Illya groaned and buried his hands in his partner's slick hair, dictating pressure and duration in ways he never would have attempted with a woman. But he couldn't bear to wait through trial and error, and he didn't think Napoleon would mind overmuch.
Besides, if Napoleon thought Illya was too managerial, he had teeth.
And he apparently didn't mind. And he knew what he was doing, using his mouth to create a relentless swirl of suction and sensation. He didn't tease, and Illya blessed him for it, and came so sharply it hurt, teeth savaging his lip as he fought to stay silent. And then Napoleon slid up beside him and kissed him on the mouth, as if in a promise it hadn't been a mistake, and they clung together until their breathing slowed, their heartbeats stabilized.
They helped each other find their pyjamas. When they slid back under the covers, Napoleon's hand snaked out to find and grip Illya's, and Illya smiled into the dark.
This time, he had no problem falling asleep.
"We're in Germany. They have food here."
Napoleon awoke in grey pre-dawn chill, aware that he couldn't move his left hand. A moment later, the warmth of a body not-quite pressed against his chest registered, followed by the plain familiar scent of Johnson & Johnson's shampoo. And then he remembered where he was, and who it was who was lying on his arm, and why—and his early-morning erection turned into something else entirely. He leaned forward, pressing his nose into Illya's hair, breathing the warm air close to his skin, and purred in quiet pleasure.
And Illya, sleepily, turned to face him, slid one broad palm across his jaw and ear and into his hair, and pulled him close for a long, tender, breathtaking kiss. Napoleon surrendered to it, tugging his partner closer, until he could feel Illya's heat the length of his body. He opened his mouth, flickering his tongue across his partner's lips, coaxing. Illya answered, eyes closing, fingers flexing as he palmed Napoleon's skull. One of them sighed; they kissed deeply, wetly, tongues engaged in a ferocious duel that quickly became a ballet. Napoleon felt the rasp of Illya's beard against his skin, the possessiveness of his grip, and gave it all right back again, pushing hard, leaning into the kiss until their teeth scraped.
Finally, Illya leaned back, without breaking eye contact. He licked his lips; Napoleon did the same, his fingers tightening on Illya's shoulder. They stared for a long minute, and then Illya smiled.
Napoleon cleared his throat. "Does that mean you're not sorry?"
"Why would I be sorry?"
"Morning after regrets?"
Illya chuckled and let his head fall back on the pillow. "Something you suffer from often?" he asked, archly. "No. No regrets. Thank you."
"It's nothing you wouldn't do for me," Napoleon said, mugging. He was rewarded by a chuckle as Illya slipped from under the covers, padding toward the kitchen.
"Actually," he said, as he set the kettle on the flame, "I was hoping to." He winked over his shoulder, and Napoleon settled deeper into the bed with a grin.
This was going to be fun.
Illya's mother stumped out of the bedroom about half an hour later, and insisted on feeding them another huge meal before their flight. She kissed Illya on both cheeks and the forehead before they were allowed to go—and kissed Napoleon, too. And pinched his ass. Hard, but he didn't tell Illya about that.
An Aeroflot plane took them to East Berlin, and they checked in with Mr. Waverly for further instructions on how to find the other four experimental subjects who had still been living when Galena Kuryakina made her escape from Dachau. Napoleon, knowing how difficult it was to keep Illya under restraint, knowing that there had been other escapes from that famous hell-on-earth, hadn't felt the need to ask how she managed it.
For all its discomforts, they slept very well on the plane.
They didn't stay long in East Berlin, and neither one regretted it. For all its suffering during the war and under Stalin, for all the rising paranoia of Brezhnev's administration and the cramped quarters of the "Khruschev apartments" like the one Illya's family shared, Kiev maintained—or had regained—some of its old grace as one of the cultural flowers of Eastern Europe. East Berlin, by contrast, had nothing. It was a grey city inhabited by grey, fearful men, and they were happy to collect the UNCLE car, proceed through the checkpoint—where their paperwork occasioned some remark and inconvenience, but not too much, as Illya was Russian and not German. Their flight to Munich was already arranged.
"It seems like we were just here," Illya said, leaning his shoulder against Napoleon's as they settled back in the small UNCLE jet. There was no need to sit so close together; they were the only passengers. But Illya needed to feel his partner's warmth and strength.
"Sad to be leaving?"
Illya shook his head and glanced sideways at his partner. Napoleon made a wry face. "I'm going to try to avoid interrogations for the next few months. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all," Illya said, and opened the first of a pile of file folders that had been waiting for them on the plane.
They had the birth date—both of Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin and Maximilian Nexor. They had permissions, courtesy of Alexander Waverly—still acting as head of UNCLE Northeast until a replacement could be found for Harry Beldon—to access the records of Nazi experimentation at Dachau and even, if they needed to, at Hartheim Castle in nearby Linz, Austria. They had Galena Kuryakina's list of names.
All that was left was the footwork. And the answers that Illya found he still did not particularly want.
"And Russians are supposed to be xenophobic," he said, dropping the folder onto the low table before them. Napoleon picked it up and riffled through it, frowning over the photographs.
He shook his head. "How does something like this happen?"
Illya leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. "That's a rhetorical question, I hope?"
"Unfortunately, yes. Well, I'll tell you, we all know how it happens. It happens because not enough people stand up to protest, because they're scared or busy or in denial that things like this can happen—"
"Or they don't want to be us."
"Exactly. And who would, given the choice? It's a dog's life."
"So why do you do it? My reasons should be obvious." Illya waved at the files, at the window, at Germany and Hitler and Stalin and Johnson and Brezhnev. What I wouldn't give for Khrushchev and Kennedy back.
Napoleon opened his mouth to speak, his thumb marking his place the file on his lap, leaving a smudge of skin oil on a grainy black-and-white photograph of a tall white castle—Hartheim. He looked down at it, swallowing the easy answer. "Because somebody has to," Napoleon said, finally. "Because if it wasn't me, it might have to be somebody else."
Illya nodded, and looked out the window. "Good reasons. Whatever keeps you sane under torture, I guess."
"My friend," Napoleon mimicked, "field agents are rarely sane."
And Illya laughed, and thought they both felt better.
Dachau was a storybook town, hills and red brick and gracious trees giving pleasant shade. Illya couldn't stand to look at it, and they went straight to their inn. The place weighed on him for all its beauty. His mother would say he was seeing the ghosts, and maybe it was true. It was too perfect a place for what had happened here; he couldn't imagine that anyone lived here. And yet there they were, going about their business, marketing and riding bicycles and wooing their lovers as if thousands had not starved and been tortured and died in the countryside just outside the town.
At least their room was pleasant, and they had most of the evening remaining before them. The government offices and the library were already closed, which meant their research would have to wait until the morning, and Illya waffled between relief and irritation over the delay. He paced the room while Napoleon went over the files one last time, and then locked them away in his briefcase.
"You're going to give yourself apoplexy," Napoleon said, straightening up after stowing the briefcase. "Why don't we go get something to eat? We're in Germany; they have food here."
Illya laughed. "I would have thought it would take you at least a week to recover from my mother's cooking."
"It will," Napoleon said. "but if you don't eat, I'll regret it later. Come on. I'm sure there's a knockwurst with your name on it somewhere in this town."
They went, they ate, they returned. Napoleon had learned, over the years, to identify the flavours of Illya's silences. This one, he thought, was troubled, which made him, in turn, thoughtful. On another night, he might have suggested music, and they would have argued over which club to go to—one with the sort of music Illya liked, or one with the sort of girls Napoleon liked. But this particular night, the tension between them was palpable.
Napoleon hoped it was just Dachau. Dachau, and not Kiev, but he couldn't be certain. And he was very much afraid that he was wrong.
He could sense Illya's fragility, the thing burning in his gut that had been wrong since he first laid eyes on Maximilian Nexor, and gone from being the indomitable Illya Kuryakin to somebody uncertain, brittle... searching. Still determined, though. Still hard as nails. Napoleon felt it as surely as he could feel the heat of Illya's body still pressed against his palms, if he closed his eyes and concentrated, the sweat and muscle and strength, the trembling vulnerability.
But it was one thing to offer vulnerability, wasn't it? And another to have it forced upon you by history.
This was not the time to push. Not the time to force negotiations.
When the clock struck ten, Napoleon rose from the armchair, set his book aside, and went to brush his teeth. When he came back, Illya hadn't moved; he was still propped up in the windowseat with a copy of Stranger in a Strange Land open across his knees, his eyes not tracking as he stared at the pages. Napoleon bent down, lifted Illya's chin with his fingers, and without saying a word, kissed his mouth and then turned away to climb into bed.
In some ways, the twin beds were a complication. A double bed would have removed any questions of who would sleep where, but it would have opened them up to the possibility of misunderstandings. And certainly, that morning, they had seemed clear enough on where they stood and what they both intended. But Napoleon would have to be blind not to see that Illya was at the end of his rope, emotionally speaking, and he knew whatever transpired between them now would have to be Illya's decision.
He stripped down, and slid between the sheets in his boxers. "Turn out the light when you come to bed?"
The only answer was a grunt. Napoleon buried his head under the pillow and made himself breathe softly and deeply. A very few moments later, he heard Illya's book snap shut, heard his partner rise and go to the bathroom. The door closed. Water ran. Illya performed his ablutions quickly, came back out, began checking locks and turning out lights. A few moments later, he stood between the beds and cleared his throat.
Napoleon tugged his head out from under the pillow, not caring about his dishevelled hair. "Yes?"
Illya frowned down at him. "When you said come to bed, you meant your bed, I assume?"
Wordlessly, Napoleon lifted the covers. Illya slid under them with a sigh, dropping his gun on the nightstand. Before he could turn, Napoleon rolled over against him, closing the gap between them, and pressed himself to Illya's back, chin on his shoulder, arm around his waist. "Get the light."
Illya got it, and the room fell into darkness. "Napoleon, you don't have to—"
Napoleon cleared his throat, and slid an arm around his partner's midsection. "I never have to," he said, and pulled Illya into the embrace. "That's what makes it fun."
The stiffness in Illya's shoulders worried him, though. He could feel the need as if it bubbled under the skin, remembered Illya's voice, so clearly, saying Make me me. It scared him, and not just for Illya. It scared him because he was afraid that when it was over, Illya wouldn't want him anymore. And he wasn't sure he could live with that.
Cross that bridge when you come to it, he thought, and dug his thumbs in on either side of his partner's spine.
Illya expected a kiss, a nip, the slow stroke of hands from waist over ribs to chest, fingers tweaking his nipples, maybe Napoleon's mouth tracing a path down his spine. He shivered, torn between wanting it and hating his weakness, hating his need, and then almost yelped with surprise when Napoleon pushed him unceremoniously onto his face, straddled his butt, and went to work on his shoulders and back with a ferocity that left his skin chafed and red, and his muscles—slowly—relaxing into jelly.
He groaned approval and then subsided into boneless appreciation as Napoleon worked himself into a sweat, and Illya's shoulders into a state more approximating human muscle tissue than cement. When Napoleon put a hand on his shoulder to roll him over again, it took him a moment to recollect how to use his arms well enough to assist. Napoleon lowered himself on top of Illya, sliding his hands down the long muscles of his partner's shoulders, biceps, forearms. Illya stretched under him, relaxing as Napoleon took his hands and pressed against him chest to chest. There was a hesitation, a bright-eyed look, and then Napoleon lowered his head, almost hesitantly, moving to bring his lips against Illya's.
Illya met him halfway, elbows down, rising into the kiss. He felt Napoleon's arousal growing against his own, the glide of soft cotton, the heat of flesh. Desire brimmed in him, flowed over his edges, spilled through body and mind as their tongues caressed and hands took advantage. Napoleon leaned into him, eyes closed, sighing, and Illya allowed himself to fall back on the bed, pulling his partner with him.
Some time later, Napoleon leaned back, breathing hard. "Now that was a kiss."
Illya couldn't contain it. The laugh started low in his belly, bubbled up, shaking him against his partner's weight. "It certainly wasn't an oral exam," he answered.
"Mmm." Napoleon kissed him on the mouth again, quickly. "That comes later—"
Napoleon froze in the act of ducking down to kiss Illya's collarbone. "Yes?"
"Are you cosseting me?"
Napoleon chuckled against his neck. "Yes. Are you going to try to stop me?"
"Mmm." Illya didn't answer all at once. The things Napoleon was doing with his mouth were far too interesting. "No," he said, considering. "But I am going to turn the tables."
"Are you now?" The wet mouth found his nipples, alternating. He lifted a hand and stroked Napoleon's shoulders, tangled fingers in short dark hair. Napoleon sighed in pleasure, cool breath on Illya's wet skin, and Illya let his hips rock against Napoleon's belly.
"I am," Illya said. "Watch." He fishtailed and Napoleon wound up underneath him, his hands on Illya's shoulders. Their eyes met. Illya looked down first. "What do you want?"
Napoleon swallowed. "You."
"That's all?" He punctuated it with a kiss, to soften the demand in his voice. "Just me? Not just knowing you can have me?"
"Well," Napoleon said, very slowly, "to be perfectly honest, it has its appeal. Are you telling me you don't feel it?"
"Are you telling me I can have you?"
This time, the grin was just a grin. "Anyway you want me, baby."
Illya caught his breath. Napoleon had meant it to come out teasing, mocking, challenging. But there was roughness in his voice he couldn't quite contain, and it went straight to Illya's gut, sending tingles through his groin and thighs. He gasped, pushing against his partner just to hear Napoleon groan. They kissed again, and it was Napoleon who broke the kiss, propped himself up on his elbows, and turned over as Illya pushed himself up, straight-armed, and gave him room.
Illya slid his fingers under the edge of Napoleon's boxers and traced the resulting shiver over his partner's buttocks and thighs. The garment landed on the floor; Illya's followed. "On your side, I think," he said, kissing Napoleon's shoulders. Napoleon turned for him, settled down with his head pillowed on Illya's bent arm, Illya's cock teased in the warmth between his thighs. "Perfect. Of course, foolishly—"
Napoleon laughed. "Under the pillow."
"Always a plan," Illya said, but he slipped his hand under the pillow and came up with a jar of cold cream, which he gave to Napoleon to open. "When did you...?"
"From the airport shop," Napoleon answered, handing it back. "Next to the disposable razors."
"Right under my nose."
"You have to get up pretty early in the morning—Ah!"
"Okay?" Illya let his fingers hesitate, cold slickness contrasting with the warm, yielding heat of Napoleon's body.
"God, don't stop."
He smiled, and didn't.
All Illya's hesitation seemed to have melted into passion. He dried his hand on the sheets and slid it down Napoleon's thigh, then hooked fingers behind the knee and drew Napoleon's leg up against his chest, while pulling the other hand out from under Napoleon's head. Napoleon slid his own arm over Illya's, laced his fingers through Illya's fingers—an echo in reverse of the night before—and pressed back against the searching tip of Illya's cock.
He's expected a bit of fumbling, a missed attempt or two. But Illya found the right angle almost immediately and Napoleon's hand tightened hard on his partner's as Illya guided himself home. Napoleon hollowed his back, pushing his shoulders against his partner's chest, Illya's breath hot on his neck and Illya's hair tickling his spine as they came together. Napoleon caught himself breathing through his mouth—panting, really—his hips rocking slowly, instinctively, as his body opened itself to his partner's touch. Illya's arm tightened around his knee, drawing his thigh higher, and he opened himself willingly, grinding back into the pleasure. And then Illya's mouth traced wet patterns across his shoulders and the nape of his neck, their twinned hands pulling them together.
"Oh," Napoleon said, as Illya nuzzled his hairline. He closed his eyes. Illya leaned up a little, just enough to get his elbow under him, and pushed closer, letting Napoleon feel his weight. "You can stop teasing any time now."
"Vengeance is best served cold," Illya said. His hand slid down Napoleon's stomach, Napoleon's hand still covering it, and enfolded Napoleon's achingly hard cock, a rough caress in counterpoint to the flex of his hips as he began to thrust.
You call this cold? Napoleon meant to retort, but his voice failed him, and all that came out was a long, satisfied, groan.
They moved fiercely, Illya's hands and mouth busy on whatever he could reach, Napoleon meeting every thrust squarely, twining his legs around Illya's and using the leverage to pull them together harder, faster, until Illya was making little noises between the teeth he had sunk into Napoleon's shoulder and Napoleon was grunting shamelessly with every shift of the bed.
He lost himself in the sensations, let go, the only time he really could, and cried out in satisfaction when Illya clutched him tight, shuddering, spasms of pleasure that Napoleon could feel inside and out. Illya's hand moved faster, sharp, brutal strokes, and Napoleon followed before Illya's breathing had even begun to slow against his throat.
They lay pressed together, sticky and shivering, until Illya lifted his forehead from Napoleon's sweaty neck and said, "Good?"
"Oh, yeah." He closed his hand over his partner's, holding on tight. "Just fine."
In the morning, they drove to the camp, and parked near the archives. Illya was wound tight as a lapdog, almost shivering with tension, with no eyes for the windy, parklike setting. They hurried inside.
The archivist looked at them sternly, with special attention to Illya, and inspected their UNCLE ID very carefully, but their permissions were in order, and she led them to the locked stacks of the special collection, issued them white cotton gloves, and turned them over to an intern armed with still more gloves, a breath mask, and a glass rod for turning pages.
The records were sobering, detailed and clinical accounts of torture and mutilation. Napoleon's German was adequate to conversation, but medical shorthand—written in a crabbed black script—was a little beyond his means. He was reduced to scanning for likely-looking pages and allowing the intern to pass them to Illya, whose frown line got deeper and deeper as he pored over the documents, muttering to himself. Finally, the intern made them both swear to keep their hands off the documents and excused himself to go to the bathroom, and Illya looked up, resting his elbows on the table so his gloved hands wouldn't pick up skin oil or dirt by brushing against his face. "Three," he said.
"Three? Maximilian Nexor the younger—"
"And two others. Yes."
Napoleon swallowed, but made himself say it. "Including you?"
Illya smiled. "My mother's name is here. She is listed as killed attempting to escape."
"Somebody told a little white lie—"
"And another woman's body went into the furnace. Yes. It explains why they never came looking for me. No, two others, adopted by good German families, I would guess, although what became of them after that I can't tell. But it's a lead."
"Was Nexor the only... the only one they cloned?"
Illya shook his head. He waved his hands over the papers he had been forbidden to touch, but didn't move them. "There were some other attempts. It looks like the program was broken up in 1940. Or perhaps moved to Auschwitz, if I may theorize; you've heard of Cell Block 10?"
Napoleon clenched his hands inside the gloves. He had. He'd heard the stories of women sterilized, or impregnated against their will—with monsters, they claimed. He supposed Maximilian Nexor was monster enough for anyone.
And then he looked up, and knew from the crease between Illya's transparent blue eyes that Illya knew exactly what he was thinking, and looked back down again. "You have the names?"
"I do. Now if I can find the names of the families that adopted them, assuming they did not stay with their host mothers—" Illya pushed his chair back, and started peeling his gloves off as he stood without using his hands.
The intern opened the door as Napoleon was standing. He looked from one to the other. "Mein Herren—"
"Es gut," Napoleon replied, ignoring Illya's grin at his accent. "Danke." He fell into step beside Illya, stripping off his gloves as well. "Do you want to go into the camp?"
Illya walked faster. "There's no data at the camp."
"No," Napoleon said, hustling to keep up. Usually, his longer legs gave him a half-step advantage, but today, Illya was cruising. "I thought it might help... lay the ghosts."
Illya stopped as suddenly as if he'd run into a wall, so suddenly that Napoleon tripped sideways rather than run into him. He turned to Napoleon, frowning. "Ghosts?"
Napoleon spread his hands and tilted his head in apology. "Stupid idea."
"The latest of many," Illya answered, twisting his shoe against the floor. He folded his arms, glowering, and looked Napoleon dead in the eye. "Fine," he said, bluntly. Coldly. "Let's go."
Napoleon might think him a coward. There was nothing Illya could do about that, but at least he could prove to himself that he wasn't afraid of an abandoned prison camp—or its ghosts.
They passed the iron gate through the Jorhaus, wrought with its terrible legend—Arbeit macht frei: "work will make you free"—and into the camp itself. There were a few people here, men and women and children, all huddled close beside whomever they had come with. The flat drill square stretched around them, the remaining barracks houses punctuating its emptiness, and Illya shivered despite the afternoon sun and folded his arms, struggling to keep himself from stepping closer to Napoleon.
Napoleon glanced at him. "Where do you want to go?"
If nothing else, Illya was well-versed in bravado. "The crematoria."
They were easy enough to find, a long quiet red building like a schoolhouse, concealed from line-of-sight at the camp itself, and a bit of a walk because of it. "Your mother was out by the time they built these," Napoleon said.
The ovens looked like pizza ovens, arched red brick. Illya felt cold in his veins, and tried not to think what it must have been like when the ovens were running. Heat, the gritty taste of ash when the doors were opened. They were not properly crematoria, intended to destroy one body at a time so the ashes could be retrieved for burial. They were incinerators. Incinerators for trash.
He swallowed twice before he found his voice. "Does it matter? It could have been her. Russian prisoners were brought here. They froze them in tanks of ice water and decompressed them in vacuum chambers, and they gunned them down in squads, just up the road."
Napoleon touched his shoulder, a warm hand, a comforting presence. He almost screamed. "You're thinking of Beldon."
He nodded. "And Gurnius. How could I not be?" He glanced over his shoulder, and caught Napoleon's gaze, bracing as a shot of whisky. "And Professor Amadeus. Remember him?"
Napoleon frowned. And stepped closer, and Illya loved him for it.
"And all the rest, the ones who think this—" Illya's gesture took in the ovens and the green hills beyond "—proper. Who want to see it happen again." He stopped. The words had points, sharp edges. He couldn't get them out.
"Christ," Napoleon said. Illya glanced over. His partner was looking at the wall, a motto scribbled there in German like a sign on a restaurant bathroom door. Napoleon was white, unexpectedly, his hands shoved into his pockets, leaning back on his heels. "Illya," he said. "Unless you really need to stay, tovarisch, get me the hell out of here."
They fled together, side by side, pursued by the admonition painted on the incinerator wall:
Cleanliness here is a duty. Remember to wash your hands.
"Es tut mir leid."
Napoleon expected Illya to head for the gate, but instead he found himself dogging his partner's heels to a chapel, of all things. It was a squat, sloped black building; the Jewish memorial, and Illya didn't enter it. He just rested a hand on the wall and leaned on it, hard, the way he would if he were physically exhausted, panting. He put his hand on Illya's shoulder, and Illya stepped back, put his back against the wall. "I wish there were a Russian chapel," he said.
Napoleon didn't let go. "There should be." He stepped up beside his partner, wishing he could take him in his arms, anything to stop the shaking. "I was wrong to make you come here."
Illya shook his head, shuddering like a panicked horse. "You were right," he said. He swallowed. "Everybody should come here. Once. And now, let's go home. Or at least back to the hotel. And let's purchase some alcohol along the way, shall we?"
"Oh, I think so," Napoleon said. "Two bottles, or three?"
Illya grinned. "Hardly a time to play conservati—oh. Napoleon."
Napoleon turned, following his partner's glance, and almost tripped when he saw the expression on the older woman who was staring at them. She was clinging to the elbow of the man next to her. As Napoleon watched, she stood on tiptoe and whispered something in his ear, savagely, His head jerked up, and suddenly he, too, was staring at them. At Illya.
Napoleon felt Illya shiver.
The woman turned away, hurriedly, ducking her head. Her partner glared over her shoulder, and Napoleon, completely by instinct, stepped between that look and his partner.
And his partner pushed him out of the way.
"No," Illya said, as Napoleon grabbed his arm, hard. "No. I have to do this." He marched forward before Napoleon could ask the question that bubbled up, foremost in his mind. Why?
All he could do was follow.
Napoleon almost laughed at the way the man protected her, the way he pushed in between his wife, or whatever she was, and Illya. Illya, who looked particularly small and blond, windblown, somehow diminished by the grey sky and the crunching gravel underfoot—the only sound breaking the silence—and the enormity of that wrought-iron gate. He almost laughed not because it was funny, but because he recognized the gesture, of blocking danger with one's own body.
It was the same gesture he was dying to make himself, the one Illya wouldn't permit.
But Illya met it with his palm, and shook his head, making himself seem small and inoffensive in that misleading way he had. "Entschuldigen Sie, dass ich unterbreche," he said, and continued in German. "Es tut mir leid." Excuse me for interrupting. I am sorry.
And, wonderfully, the man with the pointing finger froze in place, and the woman stepped out from behind him, still clinging to his elbow. "Wer sind Sie?"
"Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin," Illya said, spreading his hands, surrender in the gesture. "Ich bin russisch."
"Sie scheinen—" the woman began, as she came forward, and lifted Illya's chin with a rough hand.
"Ich weiß." Illya answered. I know who I look like. "Meine Mutter war hier ein Gefangener. Ich war in 1938 geboren. Und es tut mir Leid. Es tut mir schrecklich Leid." My mother was prisoner here. I was born in 1938, and I am sorry. I am so terribly sorry. He paused, and continued in English, as if for Napoleon's benefit, "I know how you must have suffered at his hands."
Suddenly, the woman was touching him. Not just the callous lifting of the chin, but the fluttering of soft worried hands. She patted his hair, his face. "Ihre Mutter—"
"Fine, fine," Illya said, as Napoleon came up beside him, close enough to feel him shaking. "I want to apologize for him," he said. Napoleon had no doubt that he meant Nexor.
The woman shook her head. "Nonsense," she said, in fluent but slightly awkward English, with a glance to Napoleon. "You must not apologize for monsters. You must not give him so much power in your life. Nor must you apologize for—well, never mind that. You must have dinner with us, Herr Kuryakin. You, and your friend as well."
Erna Goldfarb was her name. Her husband's name was Klaus. She fed them sauerbraten and pumpernickel in her cosy dining room, just large enough for four, and kept sliding plates of food in front of them until even Illya looked uncomfortably overfed. "Das ist nichts Besonderes," she said, when Illya tried to protest. It's nothing.
But it was something, and Napoleon could see it in the way his partner's shoulders were slowly relaxing, as Klaus opened another bottle of wine and continued the involved story about some co-worker that he was telling slightly too fast for Napoleon to follow. Apparently he was quite the raconteur, however, because both Illya and Erna were laughing hard enough to make themselves sick, and the bits Napoleon did catch were pretty funny, something about a migrating duck having flown through an open window and taken up residence on top of a file cabinet.
When he paused, Illya picked up with a story about guppies in the water system, which the Goldfarbs politely shook their heads over until Napoleon came in with corroboration. He was actually doing pretty well, for all his German was rusty, and they'd poured another round of wine before they got to the punchline—suitably shorn of all classified details, of course.
Erna sat back in her chair and steepled her fingers, and looked at him and Illya with birdlike eyes. "So," she said, in her careful English. "Did you find what you were looking for, at the memorial? Were you just there for the memories?"
Napoleon could feel Illya looking at him. When did this get to be my party? he thought, but he cleared his throat and dove in anyway. What the hell. She was there. She might know something. And it wouldn't seem like an adventure unless there was a damsel in distress somewhere along the route. "Not exactly. We were looking for information on Nexor," he said.
Klaus got up, very suddenly, nodded to them and left the room. Erna watched him go, frowning, and turned back to Illya and Napoleon. "He is angry," she said, and shrugged.
"And you?" Illya, looking up from playing with his wine glass.
"I used to be," she said. "Today, when I saw you, I was. Angry. Again. But what am I to hate you for? Evils done to your mother?"
Illya fell silent. Napoleon picked up the cue. "What do you know about that? The evils? Were there rumours?"
She looked as if she would have liked to spit, and instead she drank her wine. "Rumours, yes. There were rumours. The women who Nexor took away, the ones that never came back. Not that any of them came back—the ones Nexor took, the ones Von Etske took, or the ones that went to the Dachau sanatorium."
"Hartheim," Napoleon said.
She smiled at him over the rim of her glass. "Some people said Nexor raped them. He took pretty ones, strong ones. New to the camp, always, yes, young, mothers who had lost children when he could get them. I didn't think he raped them, though."
"Why not?" Napoleon said.
She showed a gold tooth. "He didn't act interested in girls."
Surprisingly, Illya laughed. "And now what do you think?"
She shrugged. "There were rumours. Horrible rumours." There was a long pause, as she drank her wine. "You want to know about Nexor?"
"I know about Nexor," Illya said. Napoleon sat back in his chair, content to reverse their usual roles. "I need to know about his sons."
She didn't blink. But then, Napoleon supposed she had seen just about everything. "You know for a fact there are sons?"
"Yes," Illya said, quietly. "I killed one of them."
"If there are others, I need to find them."
"And kill them too?" Erna asked, shrewdly.
Illya set his glass on the table top, and smoothed the tablecloth with a fingertip. "Only if they're intent on following their father's footsteps," he said.
She nodded, and put both hands on the table to push herself to her feet. She crossed the kitchen and took down a percolator, and began scooping coffee into the basket. "Klaus?" she called. "Klaus!" She added something about dessert.
Napoleon heard footsteps in the living room. Klaus wasn't back in the kitchen yet when Erna turned, set the small of her back against the counter, and said, "I can not help you. But I know someone who can.
After torte and coffee, the Goldfarbs saw them to the door. Klaus was quiet and thoughtful, Erna as ebullient as a bride, as if the conversation had lightened her spirits.
It had done nothing for Illya's. He had an address written on a scrap of paper, folded in his pocket next to the list of names, and he was surprised to realise that what he wanted more than anything was a warm, soft bed. And a good long delay on the tasks of the morning. Somehow, he suspected he wasn't going to get it.
Breaking with tradition, he handed Napoleon the car keys and put his seat back, intending to nap on the way back to the hotel. He was exhausted, far more tired than he should have been, but he blamed the enormous dinner and the emotional impact of the day. Really, if he could just close his eyes for a moment—
He smiled when warmth covered his thigh. Napoleon's hand, gentle and slightly hesitant. "Are you all right, tovarisch?"
"Better than I should expect," Illya said, without opening his eyes. Napoleon's hand crept just a bit higher. "You're incorrigible."
"Do you mind?" There was something in Napoleon's tone, some hesitation, coupled with the tentativeness of his touch, that moved Illya from relaxation to concern.
"No," he said, leaning his shoulder against Napoleon's. "I don't mind."
He felt Napoleon sigh, relaxing. Mine, Illya thought. It was kind of a pleasantly possessive blur; he liked it. He let his own hand edge over, and curled it around Napoleon's trouser leg, stroking the nap of the cloth. Napoleon purred, an encouraging sound at the back of his throat, but Illya didn't let his hand slide higher. Not just yet.
The hotel was a frustrating twenty-minute drive across town, and Illya actually did doze part of the way, his head resting on Napoleon's shoulder. They tiptoed upstairs, and Illya stepped out of his shoes while Napoleon was locking the door. Illya glanced at his partner; Napoleon's head was down, watching his hands, his perfect hair slightly dishevelled and a tired line between his eyes. He glanced up and caught Illya looking, and smiled. "Ready for bed?"
He's worried about me. The realization of his partner's concern almost hurt. "Not hardly," Illya said. He stepped forward, put his hands on Napoleon's shoulders, and pushed him against the door. Napoleon flattened himself there, clasping Illya's hips, and ducked his head a little, offering his mouth to kiss.
And Illya kissed it. Napoleon's mouth opened to him, generous and soft, the tongue both firm and yielding. Illya slid his hands up his partner's shoulders, cupping his neck, fingers moving across the fine, clipped hair at the back of his head. Five o'clock shadow prickled before they parted, lips clinging briefly, and stood, pressed chest to chest, Illya feeling the rhythm of Napoleon's breath echoing his own.
"Now I'm ready for bed," he said. "As soon as I've brushed my teeth."
"Oh, good," Napoleon said. His fingers flexed on Illya's waist before he let Illya step back, his eyes full of wicked light. Suddenly, Illya didn't want to brush his teeth, or go to bed. He grabbed Napoleon's hips, hard, pushing him against the door (gently, not to rattle the hinges) and shoved his face into the crux of Napoleon's neck and shoulder. He breathed deeply, memorizing the scent of his partner's skin, revelling in Napoleon's startled delight. Napoleon thrust against him, grinding his hardening erection against Illya's groin, and Illya fought the urge to collapse into Napoleon's arms and cling.
There were better ways to show his gratitude. Steadying himself with his hands on Napoleon's hips, incidentally holding Napoleon firmly against the door, he dropped to his knees. Napoleon gasped, his hands in Illya's hair, and Illya rubbed his cheek against the tent in the front of Napoleon's trousers. His beard caught on the cloth. He'd have to watch out for that; he didn't want to cause beard burn. Pain would defeat his purpose.
"Shut up," he said, and unbuckled Napoleon's belt, unbuttoned his waistband. Napoleon groaned and leaned back against the door, canting his hips forward as Illya stripped his trousers and briefs down to his knees, trapping his legs. His cock hovered nose to nose with Illya, beads of thick, clear fluid seeping from the tip.
Illya hesitated, glanced up to see Napoleon's eyes closed, his lower lip caught between his teeth in the effort to stay quiet. He whimpered, softly, and Illya felt something almost holy take root in his chest at the thought that he was doing this to Napoleon, that Napoleon would trust him enough to show him this need, this rawness. Napoleon's thighs were trembling, his hands soft and caressing in Illya's hair.
He leaned forward, and pressed the tip of his tongue to the tip of Napoleon's cock, a quick, catlike lick, taking his flavour and leaving behind a swipe of moisture. Napoleon groaned, his hips twisting, panting as he mastered himself. "Please?"
"You never could listen worth anything," Illya said, irritably, and leaned forward to take the head of Napoleon's cock into his mouth, the tails of Napoleon's shirt brushing his face. Napoleon's hands flexed against his skull, shaking with the effort of keeping still. Musk and salt filled Illya's mouth, his sinuses. He stroked Napoleon's thighs, his ass, rolled his balls gently between the fingers of one hand while wrapping the other one around the base of his cock. Napoleon was making little gasping noises, not exactly words or even moans, and Illya revelled in it. He wanted to keep those noises, Napoleon's surrender, lock them away in a box and hoard them against necessity. He wanted to make it last.
But Napoleon was obviously at the edge of his endurance, and Illya wasn't entirely without pity. He sucked hard, fast, twisting his mouth in rising and falling spirals and using his hands on everything he could reach, urging Napoleon past gentlemanly and into leaning on the door, hard, his heels and shoulders braced, thrusting into Illya's mouth, against his hands, without restraint.
It was hot enough to hurt, Illya squirming against the painfully tight seam of his pants when Napoleon's head went back, hands clenching in Illya's hair, his shout strangled against his teeth into a groan as his balls tightened and he came hard, on long pulsing spasms. Illya held him until it passed, sucking softly, finishing the job with a lingering kiss. Napoleon couldn't seem to stop touching him, stroking his hair, pulling him to his feet to kiss deeply, thoughtfully, as if Illya had offered him something infinitely more precious than a simple blow job. And Illya, for his part, didn't mind.
"Bed," Napoleon said against his mouth, his hands promising reciprocal delights when they got there.
"Bathroom," Illya answered, and stepped back, heading for the facilities. "I'll meet you back here in five minutes."
It was a little longer than five minutes by the time Napoleon finished in the bathroom, too. He emerged to find Illya waiting for him in bed. Or maybe waiting wasn't the right word, because Illya was doing a fair approximation of a man fast asleep, drooling on his pillow.
Napoleon sighed. He flipped off the light and stood between the two beds, frowning down at his partner. So what the hell was that all about? He stood there, staring, long enough that Illya gave up faking sleep and rolled over, looking up at him. "Have you turned to stone?"
"Just a remarkable approximation," Napoleon assured him. He could have asked what's wrong?, or... well, any of a hundred stupid things. Instead, he squared his shoulders and grinned. "All worn out already?"
Sympathy or seduction would have gotten him a cold shoulder. Condescension got him Illya's indignant stare, and a muscled arm snaking out from under the covers to drag him onto the bed, willy nilly. He found himself sprawled against Illya's warm side, Illya's arm under his armpit as he propped his elbow on the bed, Illya's fingers in his hair. His face was impassive, blue eyes cool, but there was nothing cold about his body as he twined around Napoleon, throwing one leg over his hips. Napoleon kissed, pushing his partner to the bed, and Illya yielded to him. Beautifully, gracefully, melting against him as if there had never been any question what would happen. Illya's mouth opened before the flicker of Napoleon's tongue—a transparent invitation—and he arched, moulding himself to Napoleon's body, completely surrendered, as if to say, do with me what you will.
It was a good thing Napoleon wasn't quite recovered from the blow job yet, or that would have done it right there. He gasped into Illya's mouth and heard Illya moan, a liquid sound, completely giving, and he thought, right then, that Illya would just let it happen, would let Napoleon take him, as roughly as he liked. Like a penance, or an offering.
Except Napoleon didn't want that.
Someday, he thought, he'd understand the complexities of his partner's mind—what Illya thought he had to pay for, or what he was owed. Someday, maybe, although it hadn't happened yet. And he didn't want to be owed, more importantly. He didn't want a gift. He wanted Illya to want him, to take. He wanted Illya's greed and high-handedness, not...
...whatever this was.
Napoleon didn't like the self-sacrifice. He didn't like feeling like a beneficiary, or like Illya was using him as an... anchor, as a link to who Illya wanted to be instead of who he was scared he was. He'd do it.
But he didn't like it, not at all.
Illya spread his legs wider, inviting, and Napoleon rocked against him, feeling Illya's hardness like a live thing. A curious sensation, to be sated and eager all at once. He felt his own arousal returning, slowly, inch by inch, and grinned.
It might be what Illya was asking for, but Napoleon suspected that it wasn't what he wanted. And so Napoleon pinned Illya's hands to the bed beside his hips and ducked down to nuzzle through the fine hairs on his chest, licking across his pectorals until he found the nipples, one and then the other. Illya whimpered and squirmed most satisfactorily, pressing against Napoleon's weight, but Napoleon held him tight. "What's the matter?" he purred. "Can't sleep?"
"Damn you, Napoleon!"
"Don't worry." His next kiss landed just a little north of Illya's navel. "I know something better than counting sheep."
Illya seemed to think about cursing again, and opted for an impatient mutter, instead. Napoleon rubbed his face against the soft skin of Illya's belly, his beard scratching, and Illya thrust against him, impatiently, his hands flexing in Napoleon's grip. Napoleon tongue-clicked, teasing. "Always in such a rush."
"Not... always," Illya answered, and whatever he might have said next trailed off into a soft, wondering sigh as Napoleon ducked down and licked the taut underside of his cock from base to tip.
"Not in any hurry right now, for example," Illya murmured, and Napoleon laughed and went to work, feeling Illya relax under him, accept his own body's need when Napoleon demonstrated it, and press into the warmth of Napoleon's mouth. And Napoleon worked for it, hoping that Illya would know without being told that it was okay, that he didn't have anything to prove or anything to pay for.
Illya's fingers clutched at his hands, eventually, as Napoleon drove him past whatever mannered response he had been planning—and Napoleon knew Illya well enough to know that he'd been planning, all right—and into honesty, honest desire, honest passion, honest need.
All right. Maybe the little bastard wouldn't talk. But Napoleon sure as hell knew how to make him beg.
Illya overslept the next morning. He woke up muzzy and warm, and knew instantly where he was. In Germany, curled inside the protective envelope of Napoleon's embrace, the lingering smell of sex and sweat remaining on his skin. It's too much charity to ask of him. You probably shouldn't be doing this, he thought, and lay there under the wrinkled bedclothes until Napoleon stirred against his back.
Well, it wasn't as if they actually had anywhere to be. Anywhere he wanted to be, anyway. "Good morning," he said, falsely cheerful, and then moaned a little too eagerly when Napoleon's hands slid down his flanks, cupped his groin, and squeezed, turning a morning erection into something else completely.
"What's on the schedule for today?" Napoleon purred in that voice like liquid sex.
It's Napoleon. Pussy and a pulse, pussy optional. Which didn't mean he couldn't enjoy the sudden interest, as long as it lasted. But it did mean he shouldn't get too reliant on it. Best friends, partners—he wanted to have that to fall back on when the novelty faded.
Sex was something you could get anywhere. There was only one Napoleon.
He pushed himself out of bed, out of the warmth of Napoleon's embrace, but made sure to squeeze his fingers affectionately before he padded toward the shower.
"Where are you going?" Napoleon called after.
"We're going to be late," he said.
"I didn't know we were on a timetable."
Sensing a certain plaintiveness in his partner's voice, Illya breathed deeply once or twice. Then he poked his head back around the open bathroom door and said "So come on. Hurry up. I'll wash your back."
Napoleon hated seeing Illya like this. Not mercurial, passionate, evasive, complicated—he was always that. But so obviously hurting, and needy—and needing any kind of reassurance, physical or emotional, that Napoleon could give him without making it look like charity. And all Napoleon had to give him was the same silent support they always offered—and the sex, the crude reassurance that Illya was still himself, no matter how uncomfortable he found himself in his skin, no matter how it wanted to creep off his flesh.
Napoleon couldn't begin to imagine it, what it must be like to find yourself the living image of a man who had tortured your mother and murdered your countrymen. Not that he saw Illya that way, but he knew Illya did, and was fighting it. Fighting to hold on to himself, the image of himself as something other than the reincarnation of a Nazi. If Napoleon's touch made his skin the slightest bit more comfortable to live in, he could have it, without stint.
No matter how hard it was going to be to go back to look don't touch when this was over.
At least he'd have the memories.
And right now, they were packed and ready to check out, and he had Illya nagging him to hurry up. He stuffed his feet into his shoes, buttoned his jacket, and grabbed his bags on the way past the foot of the bed, passing close enough to Illya to hear him murmur, "I'm not going to miss this place."
Napoleon supposed he understood the sentiment. It didn't stop it from stinging.
Napoleon was uncharacteristically silent as Illya drove them away from Dachau. Finally, Illya dug into his pocket and retrieved the bit of paper with the address on it, and handed it to him. He'd memorized it last night, but Erna Goldfarb's handwriting made it seem a little bit like a talisman. "Can you look at the map and figure out how to get there?"
Napoleon accepted the paper. Even without taking his eyes off the road, Illya saw Napoleon smile. "I think I can manage that. So who is 'Meir Spector?'"
"He's a doctor," Illya said, hands on the wheel.
"I caught that part."
"Oh. He was a doctor at Dachau."
"A Nazi doctor?"
"No, a Jewish doctor. He—" Illya stopped, and shook his head. "He assisted."
Napoleon was silent and motionless for a long time, and then he sat back in his seat and stared at the road unwinding ahead. Moments later, paper rustled as he unfolded the map. "Christ. How could you—"
"You did what you had to do," Illya said, and shrugged. "Maybe he managed to help a few of them. Maybe he tried."
"Maybe he was a turncoat."
"Yes," Illya said. "Maybe that too." He paused. "But he testified, and he was acquitted."
Dr. Spector was not a big man. He wore a short-sleeved dress shirt under suspenders, and it showed his paunch, the hunch of his shoulders, and the blue number tattooed on his arm. Napoleon suspected he was retired, as he was working at home in the middle of the day, and there was no evidence of a Frau Spector to go with the gold ring on his left hand.
A gold ring that was plainly visible when they surprised him gardening beside the brick steps of his townhouse, and he turned and pressed the hand to his chest as if in sudden pain. He goggled at them from behind coke-bottle glasses, and his attention was entirely for Illya, despite the tinted glasses that Illya pushed up his nose repeatedly with one thick finger. His jaw dropped, although he didn't quite point an accusing finger, and he sat down hard on the steps.
Napoleon was afraid the old man was having a heart attack. He was white, his face beaded with sweat. The expression he wore was shock and fear.
Illya faltered, and Napoleon stepped in front of him. This time, Illya permitted it.
"Herr Doktor Spector?"
The old man blinked, and said, in very good English, "You are American?"
"More or less," Napoleon said. He held out his identification, and Spector took it and examined it closely.
"UNCLE," he said. He looked over Napoleon's shoulder, to where Illya stood silently. "You're one of the Dachau boys."
Illya must have nodded. Napoleon saw his shadow move on the ground. "So it appears. I am Illya Kuryakin."
"Galena." Spector began trying to struggle to his feet without handing Napoleon back his yellow card. Napoleon took it back, and offered the old man a hand, suddenly feeling much better about his past, whatever it might be. "Galena. She made it. I don't believe it—"
"All the way back to Kiev," Illya said, and came forward, but didn't offer his hand. "Your English is very good."
"I attended Harvard Medical School," Spector said. He pushed Napoleon lightly aside. Napoleon got out of the way. Spector reached up and caught Illya's chin, and Napoleon saw the shivering shock that went through his partner, but Illya held himself still as Spector tilted his face to the light, sun glittering off both pairs of eyeglasses. "Perfect," he said, shaking his head, and stepped back. "Amazing. You are from the UNCLE as well?"
He nodded. "Good, good. You must understand, when I saw you—but where are my manners? Please, come inside."
Herr Doktor Spector served them coffee, which Illya couldn't bring himself to drink, and offered them seats at his breakfast table. Illya contented himself by standing against the sideboard, feeling vaguely guilty as Spector drank his coffee and tried to feed them breakfast. "No, thank you," Illya said. "But perhaps you could tell us a little about the other boys?"
"I'm afraid I don't know much about them. There was one other who would have been your age, almost exactly. He was adopted—if adopted is the right word—by Nexor himself to be raised as his son, and I would guess if he survived the end of the war, he was taken to Argentina."
"He is not living," Napoleon said before Illya could answer, in a flat tone that discouraged questions. "But Galena Kuryakina gave us a list of names, other women in the program that might have survived."
Spector shook his head, looking at Illya. Illya stepped forward, away from the wall, and forced himself to unfold his arms. "Herr Doktor," he said, the bright morning air of the small white kitchen falling very still between them, "how did my mother escape Dachau?"
Spector swallowed, and pushed his coffee cup away. "The women in the experimental unit had cells—kennels, I would call them—pallets, better food. By the Nazis' standards, they were treated well. Her cellmate died, I won't say how, but she miscarried the child. And Galena asked me for help, after she knew she was with child. I smuggled her a spoon, and she used it to loosen the bars on her window. But that was just a distraction, so they wouldn't know anyone had helped her—"
"Doktor Spector." Napoleon's voice could be so soft, so gentle sometimes.
"We sent her outside the walls buried in a load of bodies," he said, and looked down at his hands. "I am glad that she lived. She had just lost a child before Dachau, you realise, and there had been some others before, I think, two or three. She said her she and her husband had come to Germany to escape the famine and purges in the Ukraine—"
"Oh," Illya said, and swallowed. "I didn't know."
"She didn't tell you?" Spector shook his head. "No, of course she didn't. She was a beautiful woman, Herr Kuryakin. Very willful, dark as a Gypsy, as a Spanishwoman. Flashing eyes."
Illya nodded. He had seen pictures of his mother as a young woman. She had been very beautiful, indeed. "And very strong," he said. He felt Napoleon's eyes on him, and wondered about this woman who could lose her own sons and daughters—to Stalin, to Hitler—and then keep and raise him in their place, a cuckoo's egg. He wondered uneasily what she had bartered to this doctor to convince him to risk his life to save hers, or of Spector had been willing to do it simply out of horror—or common decency. Perhaps Spector wouldn't say what had happened to the girl who had miscarried, but Illya could imagine.
The Nazi doctors would have wanted to see what had gone wrong inside her.
"Herr Doktor," he said, "Erna Goldbaum thought you might tell us how to find the others. She thought you knew."
"Erna Goldbaum," he said, and smiled to himself, shaking his head. "I should write to her. Is she still in Dachau?"
"She is," Illya said. "Herr Doktor—"
"Ten women were alive and pregnant when the camp was liberated," Spector said, very slowly. His voice was almost emotionless, much as Illya imagined it must have been when he gave his testimony. "We had more failures than successes, you understand, and if you have seen the records—"
"We have," Napoleon said, as gently as possible.
"Those records are incomplete, Herr Solo. Many of them were burned, to hide the extent of the experimentation. Most of the women who were there when your mother was died, Herr Kuryakin. They were... replaced." Spector rocked forward and backward, his hands flexing on the tabletop. "I never knew if Galena lived. I knew the younger Nexor was thriving, but the... the group after him were monsters, idiots. They were euthanized."
"I understand," Illya said. "There was nothing you could have done, Herr Doktor."
"There should always be something," Spector said. He heaved himself to his feet and went to freshen his coffee, but his hands shook too much to pour. He rested them on the counter, leaning heavily. "You know. There should always be something one can do."
Illya nodded. He folded his arms again. Spector's hands were not the only ones that were shaking. "There were no other successes before 1945?"
Spector laughed. "You understand, Nexor was not the only S.S. officer we were working with, though he worked closely within the program. There were other successes, some more limited than others. Some of the girls bore child after child, like brood mares. Sometimes I see a young man on the street, a young man who looks familiar—" he shivered. "I should think it is the son, or the nephew of an old acquaintance, as men my age are wont to think. But I stare, Herr Kuryakin. And I wonder."
"But Nexor had his protege," Illya said. "In 1938. And there was only the one?"
"At that time," Spector said. "Only the one who lived. Who we knew had lived."
"So who was being cloned in April of 1945?" He stopped. "Oh, no."
"By then," Spector said, "Most of the experimentation had been completed. The doctors had moved on to the hypothermia experiments, submerging Russian prisoners in freezing water until they lost consciousness. And decompression experiments. The clone process was considered to have been perfected, and the doctors wished to find means of inducing suspended animation, and preserving life in German soldiers and airmen in catastrophes."
"I see," Illya said. He knew from personal experience—and Napoleon more so, actually—that the suspended animation experiments had also been a success. But this was not the place to discuss such things, even if they had not been classified.
Spector turned. Without speaking, he walked past Illya, toward the living room. Illya followed, hearing the scrape of Napoleon's chair as he stood. Spector paused before a bookcase beside the sunny window, framed against his roses and hollyhocks as he ran his fingers along spines. He pulled one out, a blue and white cover, and held it in his left hand. "We were just beginning the... factory process of producing Aryan children when Dachau was liberated. Of the ten subjects, six chose to terminate their pregnancies, meine Herren. You understand—"
"You helped them." Illya said it quietly, without judgement.
"Two of them, I argued into it. Me, a doctor. I knew who—"
Illya turned, and shared a glance with Napoleon. Napoleon bit his lip and nodded—go get him, tiger. "And the other four? Were any of them—"
"Nexor?" Spector's adam's-apple bobbed in his wattled throat. He pressed the book to his chest. "Yes," he said. "Two." He held the book out, to Napoleon, as if he couldn't meet Illya's eyes. Napoleon took it and turned it so Illya could read the title.
Elie Wiesel. Night.
"The names and addresses are in pencil in the back," Spector said. "And the names and addresses of the sons. We..." He shrugged, and turned toward the window. "We keep in touch."
"We have a few short questions to ask you."
Illya thought they should approach the women first, play upon their motherly sympathies, but Napoleon overruled him. There was too much chance that they'd warn the duplicates, and Napoleon wanted to surprise them. That night, in their new hotel room in Bonn, he sat cross-legged on the bed and went over the names and addresses written in Spector's crabbed handwriting one more time, while Illya rested his head on Napoleon's thigh and stared at the ceiling.
"Well, Spector's information corroborates what we got at Dachau. One here," Napoleon said, "and one in Frankfurt. "
"And one in Buenos Aries, and one in Kiev. They must have thought he was very special."
Napoleon slid the book aside, and looked down into Illya's face. Illya's eyes were closed, his hair falling every which way. Napoleon reached down and brushed it off his face, and Illya turned into the touch. Whatever he'd meant to say, what came out was, "I want you."
Illya smiled, and didn't open his eyes. "Here I am," and Napoleon told himself he was imagining the thrill of warmth in Illya's voice. He laid the book aside on the night stand and carefully slid his leg out from under Illya's head. Illya never did open his eyes, but lay there, still smiling, his hands folded over his stomach as Napoleon leaned over him on hands and knees. The bed dimpled under his weight, and Illya angled toward him.
Napoleon dropped his head, and kissed his partner on the mouth. A butterfly-wing kiss, at first, until Illya's lips gently parted, his tongue coaxing Napoleon closer. Illya purred, deep and soft, and Napoleon slid his hand up his partner's thigh. "You want me?"
Illya's hand on his chest stopped him pressing closer. Illya sat half-up, and skinned out of his shirt and pants in record time; two quick gestures and he was nude as a Renaissance statue. He pushed his clothes onto the floor, and Napoleon followed suit before covering him with his body. They kissed again, legs twined together, flesh moulding to flesh, and Illya's no-longer-passive hands came up to clutch his hips. "Don't tease me tonight."
"Not even a little?"
But Illya was arching up to him, spreading his legs in warm invitation again, his cock jutting against Napoleon's abdomen as he lifted his hips. "Now," he growled. "And make it worth my while."
"Well, when you put it like that—" Without looking, Napoleon fumbled in the nightstand, found the tub of cold cream he'd bought at the airport, and twisted it open one-handed. It was chill and creamy when he dug his fingers in, and Illya whimpered when he touched him with it. "Damn, you're hot."
"Thank you," Illya answered, fluttering his eyelashes theatrically. Napoleon snorted against his shoulder, and pushed Illya back on the bed when he planted a foot and started to roll over.
"Stay where you are."
"Hand me a pillow. I want to look at you."
Whatever it was that flashed across Illya's face was gone before Napoleon could identify it. Illya propped himself up on one elbow and kissed Napoleon quickly, and meekly handed over the pillow.
"Hold still," Illya said, and did something fluid and complicated with his legs that wound up with his knees over Napoleon's shoulders, his ankles locked behind Napoleon's head. "Pillows are for girls," he said, so disdainfully that Napoleon snorted laughter.
"Well, you're anything but that." Illya's strength was a welcome support, actually. Napoleon leaned against it, let Illya have some of his weight, and slowly, carefully—one inch at a time—worked his way into his partner's body. Illya opened up for him, yielded beautifully, his powerful hands knotted on the bedspread for purchase, and it seemed like a matter of moments before they were joined, Illya's body enfolding Napoleon's cock and his balls brushing Napoleon's belly. Illya lifted his hips again, pushing himself closer, a sweet clinging warmth around Napoleon's cock, and Napoleon groaned between his teeth. "You want it all the way?"
Illya's grin looked a little giddy as he rocked against Napoleon. Flushed with adrenaline, maybe. "You can't possibly give me enough."
"We'll just see about that." He braced himself one-handed, stroked one hand down Illya's chest, and found his flat nipple and tweaked it. "If only I had a couple of clothespins."
"A couple of what?"
Napoleon pinched harder, making Illya groan and throw his head back, pressing against the bed. He stroked his partner's other nipple, tugged it, rolled it between his fingers. Illya arched up, his whole body tight, the muscles of his ass convulsing around Napoleon's cock. Napoleon sank his teeth into his cheek. Focus.
"Because I could do this with them—" he pinched hard, and Illya bucked again, and then gasped at the sensations his movements produced. "—and still have a hand to do this."
He stroked down Illya's belly and found his cock, hard and hot and slightly slippery at the tip. "Napoleon," Illya groaned. "The things you say." He reached over his head, one-handed, and braced himself against the head of the bed.
Napoleon could take a hint. He rocked forward, giving Illya his weight and strength, the twisting force of his hips. And Illya drove back at him, speeding the rhythm, pulling him down hard, fast, deep, until Napoleon worried about hurting him.
But "more," he said—demanded—and so Napoleon gave him everything he had, until Illya arched against him, his whole body jerking spasmodically, and slick white heat covered Napoleon's hand.
Napoleon was close himself, holding himself back by sheer force of will and the multiplication tables, and that was all it took. He felt Illya convulse, locked against him, twisting around him, legs tight on his neck and free hand bruising his hip, and he drove himself forward one last time, lifting Illya's hips, lifting him into the air except his shoulders and head and the one hand bracing them away from the headboard, tendons visible in Illya's forearm as he clenched the fist. Napoleon gasped, head down, Illya holding him up by main strength until they eased onto the bed together.
"And in the morning—" Illya said sleepily, long before Napoleon could be bothered to talk at all, "—we have a whole new kind of war."
It was almost too easy. They had expected to have some difficulty picking Benjamin Cohen out of the crowd of graduate students at the University of Bonn, but there was only one cap of hair that particular sun-soaked shade of blond that was also capped by a black yarmulke. It stood out like a beacon—like a bullseye—and Illya had the rented car pulled over and in park while Napoleon was still lowering the hand with which he'd pointed. Napoleon made a particular complicated gesture with his hands, which Illya was meant to understand as, you flush him, I'll catch him. Illya nodded agreement, and they piled out of the car.
It was easy enough to catch up with Cohen. He was a skinny kid in a flapping black jacket who walked along with his nose in a book, and Napoleon found himself struck by a tremendous wave of nostalgia as he watched the young student sidestep pigeons and girls without even seeming to notice where he was going. Illya had been just like that—too thin, raggedy at the edges, with an eternally distracted air—when they'd first become partners six years before. And this kid would be just a little younger than Illya had been, then—twenty two, if Napoleon had the dates right.
He looked about twelve.
Napoleon kept half an eye on his partner as Illya brushed his sleeve to let him know he was going, and then slipped away through the crowd. He saw Illya pick his moment and step out in front of Cohen, and he saw Cohen startle and look up, some sixth sense warning him that he was about to run into someone blocking his path. And from the look on Illya's face, Cohen's expression underwent some sort of remarkable transformation in the instant before he spun on his left foot, his book still clutched in his hand, and turned to run.
Right into Napoleon's grip. Napoleon caught his left biceps—Christ, his arms were thin—and spun him around so he was looking directly at the yellow identification card that Napoleon was holding at eye level. "U.N.C.L.E." he said, and slipped the card back into his pocket. He forced himself to look into the boy's blue, guileless eyes—knowing exactly how much guile that apparent innocence could conceal—and said, "Please come with us, Herr Cohen. We have a few short questions to ask you."
He wasn't ready for the relief in the boy's face. "U.N.C.L.E," he said. "You're not them."
"S.S?" Illya asked, materializing on the other side. A striking resemblance, but it was older brother and younger, Napoleon realised. The seven or eight years between them made a huge difference, and he sighed in relief. No confusion possible, here. "No, Herr Cohen. Not S.S."
Cohen set his heels and stopped, almost jerking himself off his feet. Napoleon outweighed him by a good forty pounds. "Let me see your arms."
Napoleon looked at Illya, and Illya looked at the boy, and slowly nodded. He performed some complicated alchemy under his jacket, and handed Napoleon coat and shoulder holster both at once, shrugged out of as a piece. Deliberately, he began to roll up his sleeves. Napoleon felt Cohen relax incrementally when they skimmed up past his unmarked biceps. "Satisfied?"
"Thank you, Herr—"
"Kuryakin," Illya said, and rolled his sleeves back down before he took his gun and jacket back from Napoleon. "Illya Kuryakin. And yes, before you ask, we are... related."
Cohen folded his arms across his chest. "I thought we might be. Do you want to come back to my apartment, or would you prefer to talk someplace public?"
Napoleon smiled. "Funny," he said. "I'd expected to be asking you."
Within fifteen minutes, Illya was content that Benjamin Cohen was no threat, and, if anything, a candidate for eventual recruitment—if he didn't fulfil his professed ambition of travelling to Canada to attend rabbinical college. Napoleon was harder to convince, but even his paranoia seemed to ease when the talk turned quietly to eugenics and the Final Solution.
"I've never understood how it could happen," Cohen said, finally, apparently finding himself at his ease. "Most people are basically decent—"
Illya might have disagreed, but Napoleon shook his head. "Most people are basically decent," he said. "And that's how it happens. First, they are lied to. And then, when the lies become transparent, they can't believe that anything so terrible could be occurring. And by the time they can be made to understand that the unthinkable has already happened, it's over. It's like the parable of the frog—"
Cohen looked up. "Frog?"
Illya knew that one. "If you throw a frog in boiling water, he will jump out," he said. "But if you put the frog in cold water and warm it up a little at a time—"
"He's cooked before he thinks to jump," Napoleon finished.
Cohen blinked at them, nodded, and then grinned. "You two spend a lot of time together?"
They shared a glance, and Napoleon said, "I guess. How come?"
"Because you finish each other's sentences like my parents."
Napoleon glanced down at the table, hiding a grin. "We probably fight like your parents, too." Which was an odd sort of thing to say, Illya thought, even if it was true. He held out a card—one with UNCLE Northeast's phone number on it. "If anyone does contact you?"
"You may rely on my discretion, Mr. Solo," he said, and Illya even believed him.
They paid for his lunch and left him there, to sort things out however he could. Illya was weaving through traffic when Napoleon said, "It's a pretty kind of revenge."
"Raising him to be a rabbi?"
"At least we know he'll never successfully infiltrate UNCLE. Not without me knowing it."
"Because he's younger?"
Napoleon grinned the sharky grin that told Illya he'd just walked into the trap. "Silly spy," he said, and from the way he was looking at Illya's mouth, Illya almost thought he was thinking of leaning over and planting a kiss on him at the next stop sign. "Because he's Jewish."
Illya ground the gears going into fourth, because it suddenly dawned on him what Napoleon meant. He glanced over, quickly, and caught Napoleon's smug, satisfied expression out of the corner of his eye. His mouth grew dry and his fingertips tingled.
Napoleon meant it. He had every intention of continuing to visit Illya's bed when they were home, safe and sound, in New York.
It was too much luck to believe in.
And Napoleon, seeming completely oblivious, leaned back in his chair and said, "So we can deem him not a threat and move on to Frankfurt, and... " Napoleon checked his notes, which Illya knew he didn't need to do. "Viktor Mueller."
"Tomorrow," Illya said.
Napoleon grinned. "So, partner—"
"—what do you want to do tonight?"
It almost looked for a few hours as if this would be the time it all went according to plan. Napoleon caught Illya coming out of the shower and tugged him into an embrace, and Illya turned it into a moist, caressing kind of kiss. Napoleon pressed his partner against the wall, the towel wrapped around Illya's waist still pinned between them even though the end had come untucked. Illya breathed raggedly into the kiss, his hands almost strengthless on Napoleon's shoulders, and Napoleon gently, inexorably manoeuvred him toward the bed.
And Illya went willingly, pressed so tightly to Napoleon that the towel stayed with them long after Napoleon's shirt had hit the floor. Illya was the one who remembered to snatch Napoleon's gun from the shoulder holster and slide it onto the bedside table, and then they were naked, on the bed, Illya's heels hooked behind Napoleon's knees as he used the purchase to slide their cocks together in the heat between their bodies.
"Oh," he said. He locked his hands over Napoleon's shoulders, pinning him in place, and shoved against him. Napoleon let Illya pull him down, burying his face in Illya's shoulder. He smelled like Ivory and salt and sex, and his total focused intensity sent shivers up Napoleon's spine, tightened his balls and curled his toes. The contact was rough, uncalculated, a little desperate—slipping and sliding, twisting and gliding, the catch and rub of friction that was almost too much. Almost pain, but not... quite.
Napoleon let his head drop, eyes closed, nothing in the world except Illya's breath against his mouth, Illya's fingernails welting his back. He gave it up, let the shell drop, hoping Illya would read it in his body and know all the things he couldn't say. Napoleon never let anyone see him like this, not unless it was misdirection and lies. Nobody but Illya; Illya got it all. Weakness, complaints, the rage when he just couldn't keep his fury at the world's unfairness inside anymore.
And Illya gave it right back, wet, willing, all his formidable strength bent on pulling Napoleon down on top of him as if he could press them together into one creature, if he pulled hard enough. Until Illya stilled under him, the hand that had been knotted in Napoleon's hair sliding down to cover his mouth, and he whispered, "Wait."
He wants to be coaxed, Napoleon thought. He was being tested again. Someday, he would get Illya to trust him. To believe that Napoleon wanted him, and wasn't just... placating him. He slowed his motions, eased the rocking of his hips to something silky and seductive, and pressed his lips to Illya's ear. "Let me make you feel good," he murmured. "You need this. We both—Oof!"
"Oaf," Illya said, without affection, and followed up the elbow to his ribs with a good, hard shove that rolled him unto his back. And then he dropped his voice. "I heard something."
"Kick like a mule," Napoleon groused, but his hand shot out and collected his gun as Illya padded to the window like a great, lithe cat. "You sure?"
"No," Illya said, pausing with his body concealed behind the drape. His cock still jutted, face and chest flushed patchily with sex, and Napoleon swallowed and forced himself to think about business. He snatched Illya's pistol off the other nightstand and threw it to him; Illya caught it without looking. "No, I'm not sure. And I don't see anything now. But I thought—" He sighed, and grabbed his clothes off the back of the chair. "I'm going out."
Illya threw his pants on the bed and pulled a clean pair of briefs out of his suitcase. "Thank you, Napoleon," he said icily. "Thank you for the sacrifices you've made on my behalf, and thank you for helping me hang onto my sanity for the past week or so. But I think it's better if we're just friends. Partners."
Napoleon gaped. He couldn't find words, not while Illya buttoned his shirt, tied and straightened his tie, shrugged on his holster, stepped into his shoes. Something inside him was crumbling like snow melting off a branch, as he sat there naked with his gun in his lap and watched Illya put his armour on. Illya's tie was crooked. It was always crooked. He slipped his coat up his arms and settled it, and made sure his gun was secure.
"Napoleon," he said, without looking at him, "I know you meant well. I know I asked for everything you offered. I'm not angry. And I still care for you. But I can't—do this. All right?"
"All right," Napoleon said, because there wasn't anything else to say, and his mouth was numb around the words anyway. He stood up and set the gun on the nightstand. "Where are you going?"
"For a walk." Illya checked his watch. "I'll be back by midnight."
"I'll wait up," Napoleon said, and found his pants and underwear on the floor. "You don't want to talk about this?"
Illya paused, the door half-open in his hand, and this time he did glance over his shoulder and smile. "I don't want your charity, my friend," he said. "Although I honour you for offering it when I needed it. But I don't want it. Not as a way of life, anyway."
He was gone before Napoleon could step forward and say It isn't charity, you damned thickheaded fool.
There wasn't a long enough walk in Germany to clear the demons from Illya's head, but he gave it the old college try, pacing silent sidewalks and listing to himself all the reasons why their affair had to stop and stop now. Never mind the risks—most of the risks, anyway. He lived and breathed risk, and he honestly didn't think Waverly would bring himself to care, unless it affected the job. But there was one risk he wouldn't accept.
And it was the one that involved losing Napoleon—losing his friendship, losing his partnership. Sex was something he could get anywhere. There was only one Napoleon.
And he didn't want Napoleon thinking of him in terms of a convenient release, or in terms of Illya needing him. Well, no. Illya did need him. And Napoleon needed Illya. That was fair. It was as things were meant to be.
But he didn't want Napoleon taking care of him as if he were an invalid, or protecting him. He wanted—
He wanted Napoleon giving him bloody hell every inch of the way, frankly, watching his back, picking on his hair, mocking his choice in clothes. And he couldn't have it when Napoleon kept watching him like he was made of crystal. Which meant he had to prove to Napoleon that he was still able to take it, still able to suck it up and do his job, no matter where he came from or what crimes had been committed to give him birth.
He stopped walking, his hands thrust into his pockets in a thoroughly Napoleonic pose, and stared at the traffic for a moment or two. And then he nodded sharply, and turned back. Napoleon would understand.
Napoleon always understood. They would always have each other, and that was what mattered.
His decisiveness brought a floating good mood with it that lasted until he unlocked the hotel room door, and found the sliding door to the balcony open, and Napoleon nowhere in sight.
There was, however, blood on the carpet—not much, scattered drops, as you'd get from a solid blow to the mouth—and a note on the pillow of the neatly made bed. Once Illya had checked it for booby traps, he flipped the paper open with the muzzle of his gun, and read it silently.
An address, and instructions.
Contact no one. Come alone.
Contact no one. Illya broke that demand in the stairwell on his way out of the hotel, speaking tersely into his communicator. If he was about to be replaced by a double, and Napoleon killed before he could give away the game, Section One needed to be alert to the possibility. And Illya had no illusions about that being the plan. Either Spector had given them up, or possibly—and he cursed himself for not thinking of it sooner—the bad guys had simply had Spector under surveillance.
In any case, they no longer had to find Viktor Mueller.
Viktor Mueller had found them.
Napoleon had gotten way too familiar with the taste of his own blood. These days, he could practically identify the vintage. This was a pistol-whipping; he could tell by the way the teeth on the left side of his jaw were rocky in the sockets, and the ache across his cheek that told of split skin, welts and bruising.
He hoped his cheekbone wasn't fractured. He hoped he didn't have a concussion.
He wished to hell he hadn't been wearing his pyjamas. There was a lockpick and several other useful toys in his suit, and he had none of those things with him. What he did have was a splitting headache, a cold, damp ass, and a pair of handcuffs that were currently locked around his wrists and through a loop bolted to the floor behind him, so he couldn't lean forward or back with any comfort. The room was pitch-black, and he wasn't sure how long he'd been unconscious. And they'd taken his wristwatch, even if he could see it. Which was a shame, because there was a shaped charge in the latch.
He was exploring the handcuffs and the bolt in the floor with half-numbed fingertips when a pressure drop alerted him to an opening door, and the blackness got a little more grey. Footsteps followed, and at first he thought of overpowering the guard who was no doubt coming to fetch him, but his ideas of conquest faded when the overhead lights came on and he caught sight of the three heavily armed guards in dark grey uniforms, flanking a familiar slight blond figure in sleek black, a uniform much better tailored than the one Illya occasionally wore. Of course, Illya's uniform didn't have the silver lightning bolts on the epaulets or the riding crop tucked under the arm, and this man was better-fed and more muscular than Illya had been at his age.
"Viktor Mueller, I presume?" He ignored the metallic ooze of blood into his mouth. The inside of his cheek was split as well.
Mueller folded his arms, perfectly at ease and perfectly in command of three much larger men. "I prefer Lieutenant Viktor Nexor. I have, you see, adopted my father's name. I do not think that he would mind."
"Only a Lieutenant? Not trying very hard, I take it?"
Illya's twin gave him a cold, intimidating smile. "I am also a medical doctor, Mr. Solo. Among my other accomplishments. As you will no doubt learn, eventually."
No doubt. Napoleon nodded, carefully, so his eyes didn't fall out of his head and go rolling across the floor. One bout of torture at his partner's hands was enough for this lifetime.
Pity he might not get a choice.
"Well, yes," Mueller—or Nexor—said. "You see, I need you intact until I also have my doppelganger yes? As he's unlikely to offer himself up in your exchange if you are too badly damaged. What do you think of that?"
"I think he'll feed you your own revolver. Lieutenant. And to think we were worried about you working for Thrush."
"They offered," Nexor said. "But you know, they have all those rules."
Napoleon hawked towards Nexor's feet, enjoying the sight of spittle on those glossy black boots. "Now that's a spit polish the American way."
Nexor stalked toward him as he had intended, and Napoleon bided his time, waiting for the opportunity to kick, to trip. Nexor had a weapon, holstered in plain sight on his hip. And he might make a very good hostage. And he was probably the one with the keys.
Nexor's boot heel struck his chest hard enough to knock him over backwards, all his weight on his hands. A bone snapped with a wet popping noise and a bright stabbing pain, and he couldn't quite place it. Heel of his hand? He hoped it wasn't the wrist. Tears of pain stung his eyes.
Nexor stepped forward, his weight on Napoleon's chest, and Napoleon struggled for breath. "Pretty spy," he said. He leaned down, shifting his weight until Napoleon felt his ribs creak. He couldn't breathe. The pain in his hand was like a knife slid under the skin and twisted, the tip dragged over each bone in turn. His face was so close to Napoleon's, and he looked so much like Illya. Sounded like him, too, with that flawless Oxford English. A cold sweat soaked him, as he remembered electrodes, and pain, and Illya leaned very close to him, hissing in just this tone.
"I understand you have an... unnatural relationship with my duplicate."
His boot eased enough that Napoleon could draw a breath, with pain, and almost speak clearly. "Your duplicate?"
"Of course." Nexor smiled, so close Napoleon could feel his breath. "He is the flawed copy, after all. Weak. Distracted by moral niceties."
Is that what you call it. Napoleon thrashed, and only succeeded in bringing tears of pain to his eyes while Nexor continued to harangue him.
"Do you like it when he fucks you, Mr. Solo? I imagine I will like it very much, when you beg me to do the same. I'm sure I know just how to get under your skin." It was the same gesture with the riding crop that Illya had used, as Nexor, but the dull glitter of this man's eyes was humourless, snaky.
"There's nothing you can do to me that will make me give you satisfaction," Napoleon said, quite calmly, he thought.
"Of course not." Nexor grinned, a rattlesnake grin to go with the rattlesnake eyes. "But I'm sure there's something I can do to him. And after a while, maybe you won't even know the difference. Maybe he'll even be just like me. The potential is there."
"He'd never stoop to that." Napoleon said it with all the confidence he could muster. "Whatever drives you to this. Whatever the Nazis offered you—"
Nexor straightened up, stepped away, and daintily wiped the spittle off his boot onto Napoleon's trouser leg. "Offered me? My dear Mr. Solo. They offered me an ideal. A goal to be reached. A glorious service. A thousand-year dream of empire. Something like that just doesn't die." The smile hadn't lost an ounce of its shine, and he crouched down and used the tip of his riding crop to flick Napoleon's hair off his forehead. "And they offered me toys."
And then he slipped the crop back under his arm, frowned, and stood. "In any case, Mr. Solo, I suggest you rest while you can. In a little while, we have a car ride. And then once we have found your partner, I am afraid that you have a long night ahead of you."
Napoleon didn't have to fake his shudder as much as he would have liked. He bit his lip and didn't sit up, and watched Nexor walk away, trying not to think about how well he knew the tight body under that uniform.
It wasn't until the door clicked shut behind the four men and the darkness was complete again that Napoleon sat up, sinking his teeth into his lip so he didn't cry out loud because of the pain in his hand. Definitely broken.
His luck, in other words, was holding.
He began working his fractured—and now more compressible—hand out of the manacle, pausing every so often to sob for air at the pain.
There were no other agents in Bonn, currently, but Mr. Waverly himself took the call in Berlin. Once, Illya would have been surprised—but number one in Section One had a gift for being where he would do the most good when he would do the most good, and the novelty had long since worn off. So Illya related his situation, and what he presumed was Napoleon's situation, and gritted his teeth for the expected dressing down.
What he got, instead, was a considering grunt. "All right, Mr. Kuryakin. I'll send a team, but it will take a few hours to get them there. Flight time."
"It's all right, Sir. Mueller—I presume it's Mueller—set a dawn rendezvous."
"Humph. All right. And Mr. Kuryakin—"
"This is the sort of thing that happens when you go wandering off and leave Mr. Solo to his own devices."
"It won't happen again, Sir. Kuryakin out."
He tucked the communicator away, and barrelled down the stairs. Their rented car wasn't an option. He had to assume that if Mueller knew where they were staying—and possibly had the room bugged, a slightly sickening thought—he would also have compromised the car. So, after a brief survey of the available transportation, Illya hot-wired a Fiat, left an UNCLE business card under a brick with a note to the owner, and drove into the night.
Napoleon was waiting for them when they came back. The manacle still locked on his left wrist was a useful weapon, especially since he didn't dare hit anybody with his right hand. He flattened himself against the wall beside the corridor, and waited.
As Nexor had promised, he didn't wait long.
The lights flicked up, and the first guard stepped into the room in advance of the other two, Nexor behind them. Napoleon swung, hard, striking him across the face with manacle and fist and knocking his rifle aside with the forearm of his injured hand. The guard staggered back, and Napoleon grabbed wildly for the firearm. His fingers brushed the barrel. He lunged, and jerked it out of the falling man's hands.
The guard staggered into the one behind him. They both went down, and Napoleon dropped to one knee and took the third one out with a swing of rifle butt to groin and chin. The oaf toppled over, slumped against the corridor wall, and Napoleon got the butt of the rifle up, against his shoulder, cocked it with a gesture that sent a stab like icy needles up his arm, and rested his finger on the trigger and hoped to hell he could pull it, if he had to.
And looked up into the barrel of Viktor Nexor's semiautomatic, and behind it, his considering smile. He had removed his cap and dressed in street clothes. His fine blond hair was cropped military short, and his ears stuck out every which way, just like Illya's but without the youth-culture hairdo Illya affected to disguise it.
"That looks like it hurts, Mr. Solo," he said, and nodded to Napoleon's hand. "And I think I can pull my trigger before you can pull yours. Also, I feel constrained to warn you that there are five more men in the corridor outside. And this room is designed so that it can be sealed, and filled with an anaesthetic gas. So perhaps you will see that we have thought of everything, and surrender the weapon, and permit me to see to your hand?"
Napoleon sighed, and let the muzzle of the rifle drop. "Well, when you put it that way—"
Nexor stepped forward, without lowering his semiautomatic. This time, however, Napoleon was faster. He banged the pistol aside with the barrel of the rifle, and threw himself on top of Nexor, going after the sternum with an elbow. Nexor's breath rushed out of him, and he struggled to get another one, and Napoleon reared back, raising the rifle, reversed as a club. He might not have been lying about the guards, but a hostage might get Napoleon past that.
And besides, one good pistol-whipping deserved another.
Unfortunately, Napoleon never got to find out if Nexor had been lying about the guards. Because he hadn't been lying about the gas.
The second time Napoleon awoke, he had an even worse headache, and his hands were re-shackled in front of him. There was a splint on his right hand: nice, meticulous, professional work.
"Back with us, Mr. Solo?"
He turned his head, which sent a disorienting ripple of nausea through him. He was in the back of a parked limousine, and Viktor Nexor was sitting beside him, a glass in his left hand, a pistol in his right hand, a bruise blossoming on his right cheek.
"For the nonce." Napoleon rattled his chains. It was just a little grey outside the car. He'd been unconscious most of the night, then. "I take it we're here to collect my partner? And then you'll, what, torture me and kill me?"
"I understand you have some acquaintance with our thought-controlling device. Its effect is being refined, and we're always in need of new subjects."
"Lab rats. Like your mother. The Jew."
Nexor shrugged. "One doesn't blame the sculpture for the flaws of the tools, Mr. Solo. And you are very pretty. Much prettier than Zorgon Gurnius. In any case, ideally, I would prefer to bring you over to our side as well. We have some excellent techniques—" Nexor smiled, and used the muzzle of the gun to brush Napoleon's hair behind his ear. "—of persuasion."
Napoleon remembered a Thrush base dedicated to that purpose, his partner calmly drawing a bead on him, and swallowed. "I've encountered some of them. You don't intend to replace Illya, then."
Nexor shrugged and sipped his drink. Napoleon smelled Scotch and heard the clink of ice. Nexor's brush-cut hair glittered in the light that came through the limousine's window. His expression was oddly calm, and Napoleon found himself contemplating the ski-slope nose and the laser-etched edge of the jaw silently. "Replace? Of course not. After all, who better to take my brother's place in the Reich? UNCLE is of very little interest to us, Mr. Solo. Or rather, you've brushed up against our operations once or twice, and inconvenienced us greatly—but not to any long-term effect. Thrush keeps you very well distracted most of the time."
The implications were chilling. The idea that the hints of continued Nazi activity they had uncovered—only once or twice, as Nexor said—were part of a worldwide, clandestine plan to resurrect the Third Reich... Napoleon shuddered.
"Would you like a drink, Mr. Solo?"
"No thank you," Napoleon said.
"You may wish to reconsider. I'm sure you're in some pain, and you know, your partner should be along shortly. And if I'm fortunate, and he disregarded orders—the way I would have disregarded orders—an UNCLE strike force, and Alexander Waverly, will be along shortly after that." Nexor tilted his head and smiled like a cat considering a mouse hole. "Won't that be a prize to bring home? "
It was official. Illya hated Germany. Currently, he hated it for the rolling pasturage and the winding road spread out before him, a wide open space with a little knot of three black limousines parked in the exact centre of it. He paused the Fiat at the top of a rise and assessed the situation.
Absolutely no cover, and the sun would be rising in his eyes starting in about three minutes. Mueller's planning, no doubt.
Well, there were times when all you could do was play the cards you were dealt. Illya put the car in gear, and let it roll down the rise.
He was right about the sun. He slid his tinted glasses up his nose before he got out of the Fiat, and made sure his gun was in his holster, loaded and the safety off. The glasses didn't help much, but they cut the glare a little.
He got out of the car, left the driver's-side door open and the engine running in neutral, and began to walk toward the limousines. Doors opened. Men got out. Even in the glare of the rising sun, Illya could pick out Napoleon, because he was staggering and his hands were manacled. And the slender, not-very-tall man beside him, with one hand on Napoleon's elbow and the other one holding a pistol pressed to Napoleon's temple—he had to be Viktor Mueller.
"Mr. Kuryakin," he said, in a voice that was like hearing an echo. "Illya Nickovetch. A beautiful day for a family reunion, isn't it? Do come over. Hold up your hands."
Illya obeyed, walking forward slowly, squinting into the sun. When he got a little closer, the glare wasn't as bad. He winced when he saw the welt on Napoleon's cheek and the bandage on his hand, and smiled a little bit at the mouse swelling up on Mueller's. "Herr Mueller. Somehow I assume nothing I have to say would be a revelation to you."
"He prefers Herr Nexor," Napoleon said, and then fell silent when Mueller shook his elbow. "Please," Nexor—said. "Call me Viktor. We're going to be such good friends."
"Not unless you get a better dialogue coach," Illya said. He came a few steps closer, never dropping his gaze from Napoleon's eyes. Napoleon would have a plan. Napoleon always had a plan.
Illya just had to pick it out of his partner's brain.
And Napoleon smiled, which looked like it hurt, and let his gaze drift sideways, down. Toward the breast pocket where Illya kept his communicator, and then a quick flick back up to Illya's eyes, and then sideways, quickly, toward Nexor and the gun.
He knows you called for backup.
"Oh, yes," Illya said. He paused fifteen feet away, his hands raised shoulder-height. Viktor Nexor smiled at him, a musing, comfortable smile. The safety of the gun he had pressed to Napoleon's temple was off. Napoleon was pale with pain under his tan. "Good friends. I was very good friends with Maximilian, too. You may have heard."
"In detail," Nexor said. "From one source or another. Pity he's dead."
Illya could match that smile, and did. "I didn't think so." He saw that flick of Napoleon's eyes again. At Nexor. Shoot Nexor? He put the thought into his eyes. Napoleon?
Faintly, shallowly, Napoleon nodded.
Illya looked away from Napoleon and looked Viktor Nexor in the eyes, and thought about killing Maximilian Nexor. He thought about the gun pressed against Napoleon's head. He thought about how good it would feel to kill this man, this... twisted shadow of himself.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall—
"But you say you knew Maximilian well," Nexor said. His voice was a seductive purr. "That's the thing that interests me, Illya. You got to know him from the inside, didn't you? Got to know what his power felt like. Didn't it feel good?"
Subject is notable for a certain hastiness of temper and for potentially sadistic tendencies, which are adequately compensated by intense demonstrated personal and ideological loyalty.
"Yes," Illya said. His hands shook. He wondered if the nausea he felt was turning his face green. "You know, Viktor, you're right. It did feel good."
Nexor smiled. "That's what we like to hear. I really think, in the fullness of time, the three of us can work together. We'll have some fun together, you and me. And listen, here comes your rescue party now—"
Illya heard the UNCLE choppers a moment later. Two of them, he thought. The goons around him were scrambling to raise weapons and take cover, but Nexor stood up tall, and kept Napoleon beside him. Then Illya heard the rev of motorcycles behind the hedges, and the hiss of a surface-to-air missile as the first chopper swung over, low, guns chattering. It exploded about two hundred meters east, raining shrapnel and fire. Nexor neither turned his head, nor flinched. Another chopper, not an UNCLE one, went over, travelling the other way, and Illya flinched and hoped Mr. Waverly had had, for once, the sense to stay home.
"Illya, darling," Nexor said, and shoved the gun against Napoleon's head hard enough to make Napoleon flinch, "please get in the car."
Illya kept his hands up. He glanced at Napoleon one more time, and saw Napoleon still smiling. Illya nodded, and started to walk past Nexor. He would have to drop his hands to climb into the car.
There was another explosion. Illya didn't see what caused it, and it wasn't close. Nexor turned to track him, as if he, Illya Kuryakin, were the only dangerous thing on what was rapidly becoming a battlefield.
Illya ducked to climb into the limousine, darted a hand under his coat, found the grip of his Special, and dropped and turned simultaneously, jerking his pistol free and firing almost before drawing a bead. Napoleon was already moving, not even diving for cover but just dropping to his knees, dead weight, sliding out of Nexor's grip.
The bullet struck Nexor in the knee, where Illya had been aiming, and Nexor screamed. His gun discharged, and he fell right beside Napoleon, who threw himself on top of Nexor's gun arm, pinning it to the ground. Illya scrambled after them, got a knee on Nexor's chest and pried the semiautomatic out of his hand while Napoleon pinned the arm.
"Bastard," Nexor said, while gunfire and the roar of engines raged around them. "It doesn't matter if you kill me. My men will collect you when they've captured your backup."
Illya smiled, and ducked down a little more, to get the bulk of the limousine between himself and the gunfire. He pushed Nexor's pistol at Napoleon, who took it in his left hand and rolled off Nexor's arm. Then Illya aimed his own UNCLE Special in between Nexor's eyes, and smiled.
For my mother, he thought. For Napoleon. For Spector and Erna and for Dachau. For me.
His finger smoothed over the trigger. It felt cool and alive in his hand. Viktor Nexor lay sprawled on his back under Illya's weight, bleeding, hands open on either side of his head and palms empty. Beside them, Napoleon rolled heavily onto his side and got his knees under him, levering himself up, his back to Illya. Not looking. Not judging.
Nexor didn't flinch when Illya leaned back a little, and levelled the gun. If anything, he smiled. We'll have some fun together, you and me. He would do it without hesitation. With pleasure, even.
For the motherland, Illya thought, and struck Nexor hard, across the temple, with the barrel of the gun.
Well, that settles that, Napoleon thought, and dropped Nexor's gun to grab Illya by the wrist and drag him under the car. "I thought you were going to kill him," he said, once he had them both under cover.
"So did I," Illya said. He shrugged, and squirmed out far enough to grab Nexor's pistol again, and fish the keys for the handcuffs out of the unconscious man's pocket. "We might still lose him, if the shooting doesn't die down soon enough to stop that leg bleeding."
Napoleon lifted himself up just enough to peer over Illya's chest with one eye while Illya unlocked the cuffs. "It doesn't look like you got an artery."
"Pity," Illya said, and flinched as the next car to the left went up in a pillar of fire. Three motorcycles wailed past, spitting gravel and bullets. "Do you want to make a run for it?"
"We could, but we'd probably get shot."
"Mm. Good point." Illya's head was turned away. He was watching out of his side of the undercarriage, and Napoleon did the same thing, Nexor's gun in his left hand. It made it hard to talk, though.
And this was hardly the appropriate time. Still, he squirmed a little closer to his partner, to press their shoulders together, and felt Illya press back. "Look. What you said in the hotel—"
"It was stupid," Illya said. "I was feeling patronized. I take it back."
"Can you do that? Just take it back?"
Napoleon didn't turn, but he felt Illya's shoulder rise and fall on a shrug. Machine-gun fire stitched through the limousine over them, spraying metal shavings onto the grass. Illya tensed for a moment, and the bang as he squeezed off a shot was deafening in the confined space. Napoleon felt it like a kick in his aching head. "If you let me. I just didn't want to lose you. And I don't like being coddled."
"Check. No coddling, no leaving. I can manage that. What changed your mind?"
"Well—" Illya paused. "If I can put a bullet in a Nazi who has a gun to your head, and, you know, you might get shot, it seems pretty silly to worry that you might leave me in some other fashion." He laughed.
This time Napoleon fired a shot, hitting a running Nazi in the hip. A second bullet as he was falling made sure. "I hate Nazis."
"The feeling is quite mutual, I assure you."
The other car exploded. Illya turned his head at the same moment Napoleon did, and they found themselves staring, nose to nose and eye to eye. "Right. Run for it," Napoleon said.
And they did.
"It was very clever to think to preserve Herr Mueller for questioning," Mr. Waverly said, grudgingly, pacing back and forth with an unlit pipe cupped in his knobby hand. "And even more clever to overpower the gentleman with the wire-guided missile and bring down the enemy helicopter. But that leaves behind the question of what exactly we are to do with Herr Mueller, now that we've managed to extract the details of his co-conspirators from him."
"Give him to the Israelis," Napoleon suggested. Illya raised an eyebrow at him, and Napoleon smiled.
"An eye for an eye, Mr. Solo?"
"World Court," Illya said. "Or whatever."
"I had thought to see if you had a preference, Mr. Kuryakin."
Illya sighed, and sat back on the couch. Home again—Waverly's familiar office, and Napoleon perched on the arm of the sofa, where Illya could lean a shoulder against him if he chose. Which Illya most assuredly did.
"Mr. Kuryakin? Your attention please."
"Ah, sorry, sir." Illya shook it off. "I don't care what you do with him, sir. As long as it keeps him far away from me."
"Humph." Waverly chewed his pipe, a frown drawn tight between his eyebrows. "Very well," he said. "Dismissed. I'm placing you both on paid leave for a week, by the way."
"Sir?" Napoleon's voice rose a little. "Is it something we did?"
Waverly smiled. "Yes. Spent your vacation time tracking down an international conspiracy, which is normally what we expect of you when you're on the clock. Now, I believe I said dismissed?"
Illya was already nearly out the door. Napoleon caught up with him in the hallway, and fell into step. "So," he said. "What are your plans for this unexpected vacation?"
Illya shrugged. "I was thinking of introducing you to my mother," he said.
"I've met your mother."
"I know." He grinned. "It worked out so well last time, I thought maybe I should introduce you again."
"Cell Block 10," where Dr. Carl Clauberg carried out his experiments, was in Auschwitz, not Dachau. The human medical experimentation at Dachau was limited to extreme hypothermia and decompression—forms of torture in which, for example, prisoners of war were submerged in ice water until near death, whereupon various methods of reviving them were attempted.
Clauberg's experiments on Gypsy and Jewish women included attempts to sterilize them via the injection of cauterizing substances to their uteruses. There were rumours of other, even more horrible experiments, and those associated with Clauberg claimed that his intent was, like Mengele, to improve the fertility and eugenics of the so-called Aryan race.
For the purposes of this story, experiments both documented and rumoured at Auschwitz and Ravensbrück have been moved to Dachau, and the timeline altered.
Liften, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. New York: Basic Books, 1986.
Dr. Carl Clauberg:
Dr. Josef Mengele:
Dachau (some of these are very unpleasant):