Child of Morning, Child of Night—the Rest of the Story
Napoleon Solo, newly made Section Chief of UNCLE New York, looked through his correspondence. His personal assistant, Ruth Jansen, had already separated out the items that did not require his immediate attention, and sorted the remainder according to degree of urgency. Napoleon had come in early this morning, as he had come in early every morning since his promotion, determined to remain on top of the paperwork. He felt no trepidation as to his ability to do this job—he had always been able to do his job, no matter what it was—but he knew others were watching him, watching to see how he would conduct himself, how successful he would be. He felt he had large shoes to fill. There had been several Section Chiefs since Alexander Waverly had retired, but to each and every one of them the job had been a stepping stone to even higher ambitions. To Napoleon, as to Waverly, it was the end goal. He had wanted it for as long as he could remember, and wanted nothing further. New York was the seat of power. The man in charge here held both written and unwritten authority, and Napoleon was determined to come as close to achieving Waverly's near mythic status as was humanly possible.
He was being watched for other reasons as well. He was the first executive in an openly gay relationship to rise to these heights, and much as he disliked being a representative of anything besides his own ability, to some extent he was. His relationship with Illya, over ten years old now, still raised eyebrows. Napoleon had done all he could to address what he felt were legitimate issues. Before accepting the position he had insisted that Illya's work status be settled in a way that would leave no question as to possible favoritism. He had presented Illya's plan for combining all the far flung operations of the Science Sector into one, and it had been unanimously approved by the Board, with Napoleon abstaining. Illya was put in charge as Staff Manager, and thus far things had gone swimmingly. Napoleon allowed himself a moment to bask in his success. Then he looked at his first piece of official business for the day.
A small group of ex- KGB agents from the former Soviet Union had defected, and were requesting asylum in exchange for information. All were guilty of criminal acts and the best any of them could expect was prison, but conditions in their home country for men like them were such that they were expected to be grateful even for that. Illya's name leaped out at him—he had been tagged as the agent most likely to be able to translate the complex language of codes and ciphers from Russian to English for UNCLE. Napoleon smiled, picturing Illya's exasperation at being called away from his current project to do a translator's work, but as he cast his eye over the list of defectors the smile faded. Fourth on the list was one Ivan Petrovich.
Ivan Petrovich. He heard George Piper's voice, as if it were yesterday that they had sat in George's tidy little living room going over Illya's past. 'Scared to death of Petrovich' George had said, and, 'Petrovich is?' Napoleon had inquired. So George had told him about Illya's uncle, and the way he had brutalized the little boy in his care. Later Illya had confirmed George's account, and more.
"I'll kill him if I ever see him again," he had said and Napoleon had looked into those flat blue eyes and believed him. "I don't care what happens to me afterwards. I'd have to do it."
Napoleon ran. He ran through the halls, hit the switch for the elevator, swore and took the stairs instead. Illya never made empty threats. Illya would walk into that room, take one look at the man waiting there, and kill him. And while it would be justified—more than justified—it would end his career and take his freedom. Napoleon wouldn't be able to shield him from the consequences of an act committed in full view of witnesses in the heart of UNCLE headquarters. Besides, whatever else he had done, Petrovich had thrown himself on UNCLE's mercy, and it was a matter of honor that he be protected while there.
He encountered Illya at the doorway to the security holding area. Illya smiled at him.
"Napoleon. I didn't know you'd be here."
"Illya—hold up a minute. I need to talk to you before..." the door slid open and Illya walked in ahead of him, still talking over his shoulder.
"Can you believe I had to put that chemical mix on hold for this? There are at least three other..." he stopped, and stared at an elderly man who was rising from his seat.
Napoleon was almost too late. If he hadn't learned long ago never to underestimate his partner he would have been too late. The only signs of danger were the widening and lightening of Illya's eyes, and the tensing of all his muscles. Then they uncoiled and he was moving forward. Napoleon's arm shot out and blocked him. Illya shifted to go around, and Napoleon closed both hands on Illya's upper arm, swung him back so they were facing one another. "No," he said, not harshly but very firmly. "No. Stay where you are."
Illya's pupils were so dilated that the irises were only a thin rim around them. "Let me go," he hissed and wrenched his arm away from Napoleon, who held on harder. Illya's eyes widened even further, and the danger in them flashed out at his partner. "Let me go!"
Petrovich, who had involuntarily shrunk back, straightened, confidence restored. He said something in Russian and Illya turned his head to stare at him.
"Don't you speak to me," he spat, in English, as if distancing himself from the man in front of him even as his body strained towards him. "Don't you—don't you dare speak to me. Let me go, Napoleon!" He tried again to pull free and Napoleon's hands tightened.
"You are relieved of this assignment," he said, voice inflexible. "Leave the room at once, Agent Kuryakin." He hit Illya's title harder than necessary, and Illya looked at him in disbelief. "You are clearly far too personally involved. Go back to Science. Now."
"Napoleon—don't you know who this is?" Illya was struggling to maintain his professional decorum, struggling to keep his voice low—the effort it was taking was in every line of his body. He was quivering under Napoleon's hands like a bow drawn too tightly in the archer's grip. "It's him, it's..." he sputtered, stopped.
"It is the one who raised you, gave you everything, and whom you betrayed," the man said in a silky, deliberately insulting voice. "One would expect a more contrite greeting."
"Gave me—contrite—" Illya was stammering with fury and if Napoleon hadn't anticipated his forward lunge he would have lost his grip. But he did anticipate it because he shared the fury, and the impulse to murder. Instead he pulled Illya back, kept pulling him towards the door. When Illya resisted he dug his fingers in harder, a paralyzing hold, and when Illya made his next move to twist free Napoleon yanked on him again, catching him off balance, dragging him out the door. It closed and Napoleon let go, moved his body in front of the entrance, blocking it off.
They faced one another in the hall. Illya opened his mouth and Napoleon made a curt motion with his hands. "Enough," he said and his voice was harsh now. Illya was over the line, way over the line. Napoleon wasn't angry, because he understood, but he knew how to project anger and he did so now, holding it out as a shield against the mingled pain and rage in the other man's eyes. "Go home, Agent Kuryakin. You are relieved of duty as of this moment. Turn in your badge at the front desk and go home. Now."
There was a long silence while they stared at one another. Illya was on the edge of defying him, Napoleon could see it, and what would happen then he couldn't bear to think. Already the security guards, who had been flanking the door, were poised, hands on weapons. And there was no sign of yielding on Illya's face, so Napoleon did—to the extent possible. He lowered his hands, extended them slightly. "Please," he said then, and his eyes flicked to the guards, reminding Illya—trying to remind him—of their location. "Illya—please. Go home. Let me handle this."
"I know who it is."
"He's just going to waltz in here and... and..."
"Go to jail."
"It's not enough! I have to—Napoleon, you know I have to. Let me pass!" He took a step forward and so did both guards. Napoleon gave them a look that held them off—for the moment.
"It's not worth it. He's not worth it."
"Let me decide what it's worth," Illya said, and Napoleon saw one of the guards shiver slightly. He sympathized, and didn't fool himself that the danger was over. Illya was trying to reason with him, and when that failed -
"No. You are in no condition to make that sort of decision. And this man is a guest of our organization."
"A guest! Am I not making things clear to you? It's the man who—and he's standing there telling me I should be contrite? Get out of my way."
It wasn't shouted but it brought the guards to Napoleon's side, responding without thinking to the threat in it. Illya looked at them, then back at Napoleon. "Call off your dogs," he said. "This has nothing to do with you. This is between me and him. It was always between me and him. Where were you then? And who do you think you are, standing between us now?"
"Go home, or I will have you escorted there." And he tried once more. "Illya. Look at us—at them." He indicated the guards. "Look at where we are. What choice do I have?"
Illya was silent for a moment. Then he nodded. "All right. I'm leaving." But his eyes didn't lost one iota of the threat, and Napoleon spoke to the guards without turning his head.
"I want Level One security around Ivan Petrovich, one of the defectors. Effective immediately. Every move he makes, every space he enters is to be under the most stringent precautions." He never looked away from Illya as he said it. "Am I clear?"
"Yes sir," both guards answered him and Illya's eyes flickered as if heat lightning were crossing them.
"Is that sufficient, or do I need to place you under guard as well?" Napoleon asked, ominously calm, and the lightning flashed again.
"Sufficient," Illya snapped finally, turned on his heel and walked away. Napoleon gave him a few minutes, went over to the wall and pressed the intercom button for the reception desk. He was shaking his head. The grapevine would be buzzing with this episode for months. He couldn't even blame them. And now he was about to make it worse.
"Yes, Mr. Solo?"
"Agent Kuryakin should be exiting the building right about now."
"He's not—oh, here he is. Hi Illya." Napoleon could hear the smile in her voice. "Do you want to talk to him, Mr. Solo?"
"No, thank you. Just checking." He waited. "Is he still there?"
"No, sir. He didn't sign out -
"Did he turn in his badge?"
"Deactivate his code. He is not to return without my authorization."
"Yes, Mr. Solo."
Napoleon opened another channel. "Translation Sector, Pam Robinson."
"Yes, Mr. Solo?"
"We need another interpreter for the former KGB defectors. Security rating A1."
"But Illya—I mean, Mr. Kuryakin..."
"I said another interpreter. Now."
"Yes, Mr. Solo."
Illya drove too fast, knowing the special code on his license tag kept him safe from highway patrols. He had left Manhattan through the Midtown Tunnel, weaving skillfully in and out among the slower moving traffic. He was incandescent with rage, felt as if sparks were linking his fingers to the steering wheel, felt as if he were about to explode. He couldn't remember ever being this angry. He had seen his uncle here, in New York, and his uncle was still alive. Illya had wanted to kill him. He still wanted to kill him. He would have crossed the space between them in one lunge and broken his neck. He could almost feel it, see it. But Napoleon had stopped him.
Napoleon had stopped him. It took his breath away. How could Napoleon stop him? Napoleon knew full well what Illya had been through at the hands of his uncle. Napoleon knew—Napoleon knew—his thoughts were sputtering just as his words had been earlier. Napoleon had pulled rank on him, had threatened him with security, had banned him from the building. How dared he?
A siren, blatting intermittently, drew his attention to the police car pacing him. The officer made a 'need assistance?' signal and Illya shook his head. The officer gave him a brief nod, then dropped behind him. Illya forced himself to ease up on the accelerator. No sense in involving the police in a nonexistent chase. But how could Napoleon do that to him? Would Napoleon really have had him arrested? Detained? His foot bore down on the gas pedal again. Oh, if even one of those security guards had laid a hand on him. Bring it on, Illya thought savagely. I'll kill him despite all of you. Who do you think you're dealing with? But how could he get to his uncle now? Level One security, and he himself not even allowed into headquarters. Furious, he struck the steering wheel a blow that, at the speed he was traveling, rocked the little Saturn on its wheels. Illya compensated, nearly overcompensated, rocked again and heard a horn blare to his right. Looking over, in a fresh rage at the sound he had a brief glimpse of a woman's terrified face, and that of the child beside her. In a car seat in the back, an infant slept.
It was only a flash and then gone, but it made him slow down immediately. Now he was mortified, ashamed of himself and still furious. He didn't know what to do with all this emotion, didn't know where to go, and then he thought of George.
George. I'll go tell George. George will understand that I have to kill him—George might even help me. George said he wanted to kill him too. Napoleon doesn't understand. He never saw—he doesn't know, really, how it was. He thinks he does, but he only has what George told him. It's not the same thing. George will help me. Illya looked around, able to now, at a sedate sixty miles per hour and saw that he was over halfway to George's little Cape Cod. He'd been heading home without even knowing it. Putting on his turn signal he changed lanes, watched for his exit and when it came took it, tires not squealing, car steady on the road.
He pulled into the driveway, scattering gravel as he did so. It was safe now, and he could take the lid off his anger. George would understand. George would be angry too. Wrenching open the door he climbed out, stormed up the walkway. The door opened before he could bring his fist to bear on it and George stood there, smiling at him.
"Illya!" Before Illya could pour out his story he was in an embrace. "Illya—it's so good to see you. Retirement isn't everything it's cracked up to be, you know. The days are long and it's so good of you to take time off work just to come see me." George laughed at himself. "Look at me, keeping you on the stoop. Come on in and have something cold to drink. You look overheated. AC on the fritz in the Saturn? Why you won't go with a nice little Japanese car I'll never know."
Illya allowed himself to be drawn into the kitchen, and when George pulled out a chair for him he sat, still panting. George handed him a cola and sat down next to him. "Is everything okay, honey?" he asked solicitously. "You look riled up. Tell me about it."
And while that had been his purpose in coming, suddenly Illya didn't want to. George looked so pleased to see him. George thought Illya had come to visit out of consideration, or out of missing him. George—Illya looked at him sharply—didn't look well. His shoulders, always so erect, had a new slump. And when had his hair started turning white instead of the iron grey that had suited him so well? And what was with the sweater? "When did you start wearing a sweater?" It was an old man's sweater, no denying it.
"Just a chill," George said, flicking at it in an embarrassed way. "If I'd known you were coming I'd have dressed it up a little bit, put on a blazer. I can still..."
"No, don't be silly. I came to see you, not your clothes. And thank you," he added, rolling the soda can over his forehead. He was flushed, and sweaty—nearly choking on the words that had brought him here. But George—Illya looked at him again. George was beaming all over. How could he dump this on George? He couldn't. He wouldn't.
A wave of loneliness swept him. There would be no one, then, who understood. No one who would know that the last time he had seen his uncle he had been on the wrong end of a cattle prod, being punished for failing to get the information he had been sent for. He had tried to scramble away from it, but after a few jolts his legs wouldn't obey him anymore and all he could do was cower and sob while his uncle reached for him.
Later, cleaned and scrubbed, still a bit wobbly but presentable—'my personal little honey trap' his uncle had said fondly as he smoothed the blond hair on the small shoulders -he had been sent off to trap the new UNCLE agent, just arrived from America.
Something had been wrong there. Even at eight he had been aware of it. Something about the man, about the situation, was wrong but he wasn't expected to think, just to obey. So he had obeyed. Then he had been dragged from the bed, and shouted at by what seemed like a horde of strangers. Wild with terror, he had struggled fruitlessly while they handcuffed him, stripped, and searched him all over, then deposited him roughly in the sterile white hospital room. They had continued to shout questions at him and he pretended not to understand them, always, always watching the door for the dreaded figure to arrive and punish him again because this debacle was his fault, it must be all his fault.
But instead there had been George. Out of all the fear and confusion had stepped George Piper, talking to him kindly, using his name as if he were a person who mattered instead of the foul things they had been calling him. George had brought him food, and threw that other man—Grant, funny he still remembered that—out into the hall for insulting him. No one had insulted him again. And then George had come in one day and scooped him up, carried him out of the room, down the hall, out of the hospital, putting him carefully into a big black car. The car had frightened him because it was a State car, he recognized it, and trembled at the lack of handles on the inside. But George had gotten in beside him, made a rude remark about the missing handles and kept Illya on his lap all the way to the airport. They had climbed onto a small plane and Moscow was first below, then behind him. He had clung to George, bewildered and lost, but knowing he was safe in those strong arms.
And George had taken him home. Illya looked around the living room again. George had taken him home, and loved him. George had fed him, clothed him, schooled him—and let him go again when the time was right. George had never held him back from anything he wanted to do, despite his overt disappointment when Illya had chosen fieldwork over science, despite his anger when Illya had chosen Napoleon Solo instead of the wife and children George had hoped for. How could he be lonely, with George and Napoleon loving him so much? But he was. He was desperately lonely because Napoleon didn't understand, and George, who would understand, seemed suddenly too fragile to carry the weight of Illya's passionate, tumultuous feelings. They swirled around in him, and he felt very alone.
"Want something to eat, honey?" George was asking, and Illya found a smile for him.
"Yes, please," he said although he wasn't hungry, not at all hungry, his anger filling his stomach more effectively than the biggest meal. But George loved to feed him and even now was smiling as he went into the kitchen and began banging pots and pans onto the stove. Illya took a deep breath, then another. He had to force this down, or George would surely see it and ask questions. Even now George had come back in and was looking at him, face troubled.
"Did you and Solo have a fight?" he asked bluntly and, startled, Illya stared at him.
"What—why would you ask me that?"
"You looked really pissed off coming in the door. And you're not at work. You didn't take off just to brighten an old man's day. What's up?"
"Yes I did," Illya said immediately. "I took off just to brighten your day, and mine. But you're not an old man George, you're—"
"I feel like one." Glumly George sat back down on the sofa. "An old man no use to anybody, rattling around in this empty house like one of a pair of dice. I don't even know why I get dressed in the morning, except that I could see my father's face if I was slopping around in pjs all day."
"George! You're not old. Stop saying it. And the house isn't..." but it was, and Illya fell silent before the truth of it. It was empty. He visited, but it wasn't the same as when he and George had lived here together—a pair of dice, he supposed. He didn't know what to do with George's obvious pain . It had never occurred to him that George was unhappy. A new wave of shame swept him. He had never given any thought to George's feelings at all, except as they involved him. He had never really wondered what George did with himself all day, now that he had retired from UNCLE. He had just pictured him puttering around like he did when Illya was there, cooking pancakes and mowing the lawn and—"The yard looks nice," he said lamely, and was dismayed again when George sighed.
"Yeah. I know it does. I pay the kid up the block twenty bucks every two weeks to keep it up for me."
"You do?" It was inconceivable, that George would hand such an important chore to somebody else. "You—you don't like doing it anymore?"
"It's too much for me, Illya. I get sweaty and dizzy and my heart pounds so hard I went to see Dr. Martin last month."
"You didn't tell me that."
"Didn't want to worry you."
"I would have come with you."
"I know. You're too busy. I never wanted to be one of those parents always calling their kid off work. And everything's fine—but I still don't do it anymore. I'll tell you the truth, Illya—this house is nothing but a tomb of memories for me these days. I hear you—I see us, at the table eating pancakes, on our way to the pool—if I thought anyplace else'd be better I'd move there in a flash."
"Move?" He was stupefied now. "Move? You mean—sell this house?" He looked around it. "You can't be serious!"
"No? I still leave my door open so that little kid can hear me snore at night. How sad is that?"
"Oh, George." Illya moved over so he was sitting beside the only father he'd ever known. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I thought you were happy not having to go to work anymore."
"I am. I'm not saying I'd go back to work full time. And it wouldn't be worth the commute for a few hours a day. But I don't like being here alone either. Maybe I've outlived my usefulness. Maybe I'm past my time. You don't need me anymore, you have Solo, and I'm just a useless old man." That was as far as he got. Illya reached out, gripped his hands, and stared into his face.
"I need you, George. I'll always need you. You're my—you're—I need you. And I'm sorry you're so unhappy. I had no idea. Don't—don't look like that." He put his face in George's shoulder, the way he used to. "I'll fix it. You'll see. I won't let you feel like this."
"Ah, no," George said remorsefully. "I didn't mean to burden you with my troubles. Look at me—no financial worries, a good son who comes out to visit his old man in the middle of a work day, lots of great memories—there's plenty who would envy me. I never meant to lay this on you. You took me by surprise, that's all. Let's not talk about it anymore. Did you have lunch yet today?"
"Well then. Come on and pour me a soda and tell me what's up at the office. Did Jenny have her baby yet?"
"No. She's overdue and mad about it." Illya obediently followed George into the kitchen, ate the grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, the vegetable soup George produced and spent the rest of the afternoon filling him in on all the latest gossip. At six o'clock George fried some burgers, and they ate again.
"I know you have church on Wednesdays," Illya said finally. "Do you want me to come with you?"
"No, Illya, that's all right. I know that new pastor and you don't see eye to eye."
"I don't have to see eye to eye with him to sit next to you in the pew."
"No, I'll be meeting Hank and Joe there and then we go play poker. And I don't want to think of you driving in Manhattan after dark. There's all kinds of carjackings and muggings go on."
Illya's lips twitched, but he nodded solemnly. "All right, George. I'll talk to you soon."
"Thanks again for coming, honey. You must have been reading my mind. I was feeling kind of low and you were just what I needed. You're always so considerate of me." George smiled at him affectionately and Illya nodded guiltily. He looked at George again, and wondered when he had gotten so old. Was it retirement that had done this to him, or just rattling around the house by himself, as he had said? An idea came to him, and it seemed so wonderful that he could barely keep it inside but he would, just in case it didn't work out. But if it did—he hugged George once more, then got into his car. Watching the figure waving goodbye from the stoop, seeming smaller, somehow, than he remembered, Illya maneuvered out of the driveway, and drove back to the city.
Napoleon rose at the sound of Illya's key in the lock. He was relieved that Illya had come back at all, and apprehensive, too about how this would go. He was braced for Illya's particular brand of icy rage. He expected recriminations, arguments, threats or, possibly, a cold withdrawal. He watched Illya now, wondering what would come first.
Illya sat on the sofa, face troubled. There was no anger in the eyes he lifted to Napoleon's, but they were sad. Napoleon sat beside him, very close. "I want to ask you to do something for me," Illya said, and smiled at Napoleon with great tenderness. "I know you'll say yes. You're so good to me. But it might be a bit much—I mean, I can see why it would be."
This was far worse than he'd thought. Illya wanted him to kill Petrovich for him? He would do anything to resolve this to his partner's satisfaction—if there could ever be satisfaction for what Illya had suffered as a child in that man's custody. To that end he had worked all afternoon and evening on the defector's cases—and on one case in particular. But he couldn't do this, even for Illya. "Go on," he said finally because Illya was clearly waiting for a response.
"George is very lonely out on Long Island by himself. He says he rattles around like half of a pair of dice."
Napoleon looked at him. He went over Illya's words in his mind, and couldn't fit them to any of the scenarios he'd expected. But Illya was waiting again, so he made an encouraging sound. Illya went on.
"I didn't know he felt that way. He even talked about selling the house!"
"Ah." Napoleon tried to make a connection—any connection—to the events of the afternoon, and failed.
"So I thought—there are three apartments vacant in this building, the doorman told me. Couldn't George move to one of those? Then he could walk to the park, or the museums. He could work part time if he wanted to. I could stop in on my way home to visit and—he's so sad, Napoleon, it breaks my heart. He shouldn't be sad. It's not right that he's lonely now after everything he did for me. I know how it sounds. I mean, I know you and George—but I think it would be all right. He wouldn't just drop in, he'd call first, and I think..."
"That would be fine," Napoleon said firmly. "Just fine. George can come here Saturday and see them all, and then make up his mind."
Illya smiled brilliantly. "I knew you'd say that. Thank you. I'll go call him."
"Ah, Illya—before you do that could we talk?"
"About George?" Illya had started to rise, but sat back down again. "Is there something else? I know these apartments are expensive, but I thought we would help."
"Not about George. And of course we'll help. I'll make the down payment myself. But what about—Illya, we have to talk about what happened today. At work." He watched Illya's face, saw the bewilderment fade, replaced by a dawning shock.
"Today—today I saw him! I saw my—that's why I went to George's house! I was angry—oh, I was so angry with him—and with you. When I saw him it was like a missile being lit—that's just how it felt. I was going for him like a missile and then—you stopped me." He stared at his hands, opened them, closed them. "You stopped me."
"I had to."
"I see that, but it doesn't feel right to me. It doesn't feel right that I saw him and he's still alive. I should have killed him. How dare he look at me with contempt?"
"He was scared green when he first saw you."
"But then you stopped me, and he saw I was powerless after all. Like always."
Napoleon bit his lip. "I'm sorry if it appeared that way."
"It was that way."
"Are you still angry with me?"
"No." Illya sighed. He looked very weary, suddenly. "No. What else could you have done?"
"Nothing else. If you had killed him, it would be you in prison right now. Think what that would do to George."
"Not fair, Napoleon." Illya gave him a twisted smile. "Not fair at all."
"I'm trying to protect you from the lifelong consequences of one impulsive act. The hell with fair."
"I know." Illya rubbed his face, then sat up. "But how could I have forgotten that? Because I did forget it. For a while there, I forgot all about it. How could that be?"
"You said you went out to see George, and tell him about it?"
"Yes—I even thought he might help me." Illya shook his head. "I was angry. I wasn't thinking straight."
"So how did you end up discussing empty houses and loneliness?"
"I didn't have the heart. He was so glad to see me, so pleased that I had come to see him on a work day. How could I tell him it was all about me, and not him and his feelings at all? I couldn't. So I kept my mouth shut and listened to him instead and—I forgot. I don't understand that."
"Well, you've had lots of practice not thinking about him," Napoleon said and Illya looked him, eyes startled. Then he nodded slowly.
"Yes, that's true. I did. From the time I got away I worked very hard at not thinking about him. I didn't want to. I wanted to think about all the good things in my life, and how lucky I was. I wanted to think about school and sports and George and—and everything. Anything. Anything but him, and how he took—tried to take—everything from me. And he still would. He's not sorry at all. He's glad he did it, he liked doing it, and his only regret is that it ended. He'd do it now if he could."
"Almost all of the defectors received a twenty year sentence for various and sundry crimes," Napoleon said, eyes sharp on Illya's face, not liking what he saw there.. He hoped he had managed to fix things so as to lift that darkness from his partner's eyes. "At their ages, that's a life sentence."
"Theoretically. But you know how it will go. With one thing and another they might be out in ten." Napoleon said nothing, and after a moment Illya straightened. "You said almost all of them have been sentenced?"
"It has been put forward that Ivan Petrovich's record as a known sexual predator should require that he be put where he will never have access to another child. It has been suggested that he receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole."
"Who suggested that?"
Napoleon smiled. "An old friend. Alexander Waverly ."
"Oh." Illya smiled too.
"If he hadn't, I would have. But it was far more effective coming from him, even after all these years of retirement."
"Mr. Waverly was always very good to me."
"So now your uncle's fate is up to you. You have the final word."
"And he will know that?"
"Yes he will."
There was a long silence. Illya stared at the backs of his hands. "It feels like it all happened to another person," he said finally. "I remember, don't get me wrong, I remember what he did, and how it felt but still—the world changed so completely when George carried me out of that hospital room that it seems like a different life altogether." There was more silence. Then Illya sighed. "But I remember."
"Is there—can there ever be any kind of closure, or compensation for something like that? What he did to you? Are you—can you ever be—okay with it at all, or is it always an open wound?" He had thought about this a lot, ever since George Piper's revelations. For ten years, he had looked at Illya when Illya didn't see, and wondered. Illya had never talked about it again, so Napoleon's questions remained unasked. But now he wanted to know. And Illya didn't seem offended, he was frowning seriously as though thinking over what Napoleon had said.
"If I had killed him, that would be closure—of a sort."
"Of a sort."
"Prison for life will do, I suppose. Especially if he knows it's because of me, that he didn't get away with it after all. And as to compensation—I don't need that. George was my compensation. He loved me so much—all those years he thought only about what was good for me. Where we lived, where I went to school, the course of his career—everything was chosen to make up for my past, and to keep me happy. And good." He smiled fondly. "George was very strict. But fair—and he loved me. He still loves me." The smile faded. "And I left him all alone. No wonder he's depressed."
"You didn't know."
"But I do now."
"So call him and make the offer. You're right, it will make him very happy. And that will make you happy."
"And seeing you happy will make me happy. See how that works out?"
"Yes." Illya dropped his head onto Napoleon's shoulder, rubbed his cheek against the fabric of his shirt.
"And as to your uncle—what's the official verdict?"
"Want to tell him yourself?"
"There are those who will say I'm a fool to trust you with him, after today."
"You can trust me."
"Then consider it done. Tomorrow morning?"
"Yes. First thing. Thank you, Napoleon." Illya turned his head, breathing Napoleon's scent in deeply. "I know this was all you—and Mr. Waverly. And I'm sorry that today happened the way it did."
"I am too." Napoleon kissed Illya's temple, lips lingering there, feeling the pulse beating against his mouth. His arms tightened, turning Illya, drawing him in.
Illya was strangely passive that night, in their big antique sleigh bed. He turned into Napoleon's embrace willingly, and sighed and stretched under Napoleon's hands, but that was all. It took a long time to arouse him but Napoleon was patient, wanting to offer again what had always brought healing and peace before. He sought out Illya's pleasure, using lips and tongue, fingers and his hard, strong body. He stroked Illya and caressed him, teased him and kissed him, lips pressing damp, nuzzling caresses of their own. Illya moaned finally, legs falling open and Napoleon lay between them, nosing the warm sack aside so he could tongue the secret hidden place just beneath, pleading for a response now. And Illya gave it to him, finally, crying out, pulling and tugging at Napoleon's hair and shoulders, pulling him up, drawing him in.
The world fell away and there was only this place of their joining; hot, moist, throbbing. Illya cried out again, body following Napoleon's lead, Napoleon speeding up, speeding up and then rapture took them. It took them both, binding them together, flinging them high then letting them float back down, bodies still entwined on the rumpled sheets.
Illya fell asleep right afterwards and Napoleon watched him for awhile. He was smiling a little and Napoleon smiled too before settling down, very close, where he could feel Illya's breath against his cheek, where he could feel Illya's heartbeat against his own chest, and then he too slept.
"Life in prison," Illya said to the angry man facing him. "Without possibility of parole." His uncle's body shook with rage, fists clenched in the old way, but he didn't grab or shout or curse as he once would have. He didn't dare. Illya was flanked by two armed security officers, and three more waited in the office beyond. And Illya didn't cower away from that rage as he once would have. He rather wished his uncle would grab him. It would all be over before the security officers could draw their guns. Closure after all, and how could he be blamed?
"The others only received twenty years," his uncle snapped and Illya was disappointed. There would be no closure, then. Just this brief verbal exchange then done. "With a good chance of parole in seven."
"Yes they did," he agreed. "But not you."
"And why not?"
"Because what you did to me," Illya said very distinctly, "makes it evident to everyone concerned that you are not fit to be out in society." There was some satisfaction in it after all. It was as if that terrorized little boy had been given a voice. His voice.
"What I did to you! You betrayed me! It is you who should be begging my forgiveness!"
"You know better. I know you know better. You remember how it was, how he—I—was. He was—I was just a child. They have lots of words for what you are, but I think most of them are excuses. You are evil. An evil man who will never again be free."
"And is this supposed to be therapeutic in some way?" the man jeered at him. "Is it?"
"I don't need therapy," Illya said quietly, and it was true. "I was raised with love—I am loved now. I am happy. And you—you never really touched me at all. You happened to me, like any disaster. I'm glad now I didn't kill you. Because you are going to jail, and I am going home."
Illya turned and walked out without waiting for a reply. He had no interest in what his uncle might have to say. It didn't matter. He was going home. He was going to take care of George, who had saved him, and he was returning to Napoleon. Napoleon, who was his lover and friend, brother and partner. What more could he ask for?
Nothing, he answered himself, and raised his hand to hail a cab. Nothing at all.