by paulaH and Gary James

It started off so well
They said we made a perfect pair
I clothed myself in your glory and your love
How I loved you
How I cried...
The years of care and loyalty
Were nothing but a sham it seems
The years belie we lived a lie
I love you till I die
Save me save me save me
I can't face this life alone
Save me save me save me...
I'm naked and I'm far from home

The slate will soon be clean
I'll erase the memories
To start again with somebody new
Was it all wasted
All that love?...
I hang my head and I advertise
A soul for sale or rent
I have no heart I'm cold inside
I have no real intent
Save me save me save me
I can't face this life alone
Save me save me save me...
I'm naked and I'm far from home

Each night I cry I still believe the lie
I love you till I die
Save me save me save me
Don't let me face my life alone
Save me save me ooh...
I'm naked and I'm far from home

    "Save Me" Words and music by Brian May

Illya opened the door and limped inside. The interior was musty and stale. A thick layer of dust coated everything. Not surprising considering he had shared Prince Laheeb Al-Fadee's bed as his slave for over two months now. The surprising part was Illya's apartment was still his apartment. "I thought UNCLE only kept an agent's lease up for two months?" he asked. "It's two weeks past that now."

"We discovered your probable whereabouts before the end of the two months. Since it looked like we would have you back soon, Waverly approved a third month's payment on the lease." Napoleon followed him in and glanced around the sparsely furnished sitting room. "The maid hasn't been by recently." He tossed his coat over the back of the occasional chair and headed into the tiny kitchen. He examined the contents of the small fridge. "I'd call a team in here to analyze that stuff before you touch it."

Illya grunted a reply. What did Napoleon expect? Refrigerated food didn't last that long. He ignored the dust and sat on the couch sending a light cloud into the air around him. "I will clean it out later." He listened to Napoleon looking through his cupboards. "There's nothing in there either," he called out. "I don't eat in much."

Napoleon came back out of the kitchen shaking his head. "Well you don't need to go out tonight either. I'll order us something. What would you like?"

"Us?" Illya replied. "Since when is there an 'us'?" He wondered if Napoleon's sudden possessiveness came from the fact that they'd fucked at Laheeb's palace. Belay that. THEY hadn't fucked. Napoleon had fucked HIM. Big difference.

In order to escape from the palace, Illya had to take the role of slave to Napoleon's master. It had been a necessary evil, but Illya didn't care for the possible precedence it set. He hoped it didn't affect the dynamics of their partnership. Up to now it had been an equal relationship. Napoleon was the senior agent and as such got the last word in a decision. Illya had no problem with ceding the responsibility to Napoleon at all and when Solo made a final decision, Illya accepted it without argument. The American in turn listened to Illya's suggestions and objections. It worked well.

Would it still do so now? Granted they'd played roles before and it hadn't affected their working relationship. None of those roles had involved sex between them, however. To men, especially men like Napoleon, sex meant power. The fact Napoleon had penetrated Illya, taking him like he would take a woman, the chance of subtly changing the way they interacted now grew from mere possibility to probability.

"You have to eat. I have to eat," Napoleon explained as if it was a logical course of reasoning. "I thought we'd eat together." Napoleon paused in his search to ponder the real answer to Illya's question. Since when has there been an us? Since the moment I pinned you to that bed. Of course he didn't mean that in the way a woman meant 'us'. A woman uttered 'us' when she wanted a committed relationship. To Napoleon's mind, 'us' meant having sex with each other on a regular basis. After that interlude with Illya at Laheeb's palace, he most definitely would like the two of them to be an 'us.' At least his version of it-Illya writhing beneath him on the bed. Napoleon shivered in anticipation, but kept his excitement out of his voice. "I'm buying."

That changed Illya's mind. "There is a Ukrainian restaurant in Little Russia that delivers," he said in defeat. "Give me the phone and I'll order."

Napoleon preferred French but to cajole Illya he accepted the choice and handed the man his phone. Maybe a little homestyle food-or at least what that concept passed as for Illya-would put the reserved Russian in a receptive mood. Receptive to his, Napoleon's, advances, anyway. While Illya took care of ordering, Napoleon rinsed off a couple of dusty plates and some cutlery.

"Is my vodka still in the freezer?" Illya called out as he hung up.

Napoleon frowned. "You know you can't have any of that rot until you're finished those antibiotics. Doctor's orders."

"I don't need doctors telling me how to get well," came the expected grumble.

That caused a smile to spread over Napoleon's face. He knew Illya wouldn't have approved of it but he was in the kitchen out of view so he allowed himself the privilege. He wiped the smirk off his face before returning to the living room, though. "You don't want Proctor coming over here and dragging you back for disobeying orders, now do you?"

Illya scowled. Napoleon was right. He had no choice. Unlike the KGB, U.N.C.L.E. doctors were adamant about such things. Especially Proctor. Illya couldn't stand the man. He felt Proctor lived up to what his name suggested. Doctor Proctor should have been a proctologist because he was so anal. Unfortunately, he was U.N.C.L.E.'s head of the Medical section. Illya despised all doctors, but Proctor especially earned his distaste. "The good doctor won't know I've had something to drink unless you tell him. Do you plan to tell him?" Illya asked in a voice and expression deceptively calm and cool.

Napoleon knew better than to argue with 'The Voice', especially when coupled with 'The Look'. Besides, one little nip wouldn't hurt anything. He went back into the kitchen, poured a single shot of the crap Illya kept in his freezer and brought it out to him. "You can have one shot. Anything beyond that and it will be my duty to report it."

"Fine!" Illya snapped, irritated at Napoleon's mother-henning. Definitely one of Napoleon's less than endearing qualities.

Napoleon walked over to the stereo and examined the labels on a few of the LPs and then he chose one and put it on. A nice light jazz tune began playing. He hoped it would help to soothe the ruffled feathers of his Russian friend while they waited for their food.

"What do you think you're doing?" Illya asked annoyed at Napoleon's presumptions of what he wanted to hear.

"I recall you telling me how jazz music helped you relax. Now that you're home and out of Proctor's reach I thought you might like to indulge yourself. Is there anything wrong with that?"

Illya frowned and tried to look peeved. "I suppose not. I didn't think you liked jazz."

"Oh I like a lot of styles of music," Napoleon replied happier to have Illya in a more talkative mood. "Jazz isn't one of my favorites but it's not like you have a lot of selection here. I could bring over some of mine if you like."

"No thank you," Illya responded and downed his meager ration of vodka. "I prefer my own." What was Napoleon thinking? Spending more time over here? Intellectually, Illya wasn't sure that was a good idea. Judging by his sudden state of arousal at the possibility, though, his body thought it to be just dandy. He pulled the thin blanket from the back of the couch and drew it over his lower body to hide the evidence.

Napoleon leaned back against the bookcase and looked around. "This place could use a good dusting. Do you want me to send my housekeeper over and spruce it up for you?"

"I don't need any trees in the house," Illya replied. "I can do my own dusting. If it offends you, you may leave." Please. Please leave. His burgeoning erection was not just embarrassing, it was highly disconcerting. Illya wanted time to think about the implications.

The suave agent moved over to the couch and sat down next to Illya. "That's not what I was saying. I thought you might need a hand with it until your feet are better."

"I do not need any help. My feet are fine. That's just Proctor's way of being an ass to say I must stay on light duty. I could beat you in a race right now if I had to." He certainly felt like running away at the moment.

Napoleon cracked a smile and let out a light snort. "If you say so."

Before Illya could snarl there was a knock at the door. Dinner had arrived.

Napoleon rose and accepted the food, paying the bill with a twenty and giving the delivery person a generous tip.

Illya cleared a space on the coffee table. His intention was to eat right where he was sitting.

After raising an eyebrow, Napoleon set the bag on the table for Illya to unpack and he retrieved the place settings from the kitchen and joined him.

Although Illya was hungry, he just picked at his food. His stomach twisted in knots every time he thought about his time in Saudi Arabia. Especially the last night. The one where he'd submitted to Napoleon like some common tramp. The night he'd enjoyed far more than he cared to admit.

Napoleon frowned at Illya's apparent lack of interest in his meal. "Are you all right Did you sustain more injuries than you let Proctor know?"

Illya dropped his fork to his plate and sat back. "I'm just tired, Napoleon. It's been a difficult couple of months." He ran a hand through his hair leaving it spiked in places Uncharacteristically Illya didn't smooth it down. Coupled with the somewhat shell-shocked expression, he looked like a lost, uncertain little boy.

Napoleon's heart constricted. Something was definitely bothering his friend. Was it that terrible?" he asked softly. He surprised himself with an impulse to pull Illya into his arms in order to comfort him. He stifled the thought. That was something he would do for a woman, not his independent partner. Besides, such a thing would suggest something more than the mere sex he wanted. He didn't mind leading women on a bit, but he would never even consider doing such a thing to Illya. Instead, he did what a friend should do. He waited for Illya to tell him anything he felt comfortable relating.

Illya studied his plate for a minute and then shook his head. "Yes. No." He snorted. "I don't really know. I'm just tired," he repeated, irritation slipping into his voice. Couldn't Napoleon just take the hint and leave?

Napoleon's hopes for a night filled with hot sex with his hard-bodied partner died an agonizing death. The adjective that sprang to mind that described his partner, and best friend's, frame of mind was something he'd never thought to attribute to Illya. Fragile. At this moment, Illya Kuryakin was fragile with a vulnerability Napoleon never expected to see in relation to his Russian friend. There was no way he was going to take advantage of Illya by seducing him. The pleasure would be fleeting while the guilt and shame over the betrayal Illya would feel afterwards would last a lifetime.

Napoleon nodded his head and stood. "Of course you're tired. I'll just leave you to your rest." He put on his trench coat and turned to Illya. He pointed at the food. "Eat that then go to bed and get some rest. That's an order."

Illya smiled weakly. "Yes, mother."

Napoleon started for the door but then turned back. "And no vodka!"

Illya scowled at Napoleon's retreating back as the American left. He'd been thinking of grabbing a large glass of his freezer stash the moment Napoleon was gone. Now he couldn't do it without disobeying a direct order. Merde!

He smiled slyly at a sudden thought. Napoleon had said he couldn't have any vodka. He didn't say anything about the Scotch Illya kept for his partner. It was nasty stuff, just awful actually, but if Illya could down the stuff it would do the job. If he could eat whale blubber and like it, surely he could handle a little scotch. If he drank enough of the nasty brew, maybe it would put him oblivion for awhile and he wouldn't have to think about Laheeb and the desires the Arab prince and Napoleon-especially Napoleon-had brought up in him.

Napoleon stepped out into the cool evening air and looked up at the light coming from Illya's window. He wondered if he should go back and talk to him but thought better of it. There was always tomorrow at UNCLE. It was common for them to lunch together so that might be a better place to break the ice and converse, he thought to himself. The thoughts of sex tonight had to change direction for now.

Penelope, Georgia, and Nancy, were all on Napoleon's short list of promised dates when he was free but none of them lived anywhere near this end of town. On the other hand, Sarah Portola lived less than five blocks away. They were friends from the mayor's symphony society fundraiser and the last time they talked she was very overt about asking him over. He turned toward her place and decided this was her lucky night.

The phone booth three doors down from Illya's apartment stood empty. Napoleon stopped and fished his address book from his inside pocket. Casually he flipped through the pages to the letter P and then down the list to Sarah's number. He dug a dime from his pocket and dialed her number.

Illya ignored his dinner in favor of the scotch in the cabinet at the end of the sofa. He got up to get a larger glass and glanced out the window on his way. It wasn't hard to spot Napoleon on the street under the light of the phone booth. After turning off the room light Illya watched him dial a number and talk to someone. Another twist of the knife grinding in his gut, all he could think of was Napoleon arranging one of his many dates and ending up in another bed.

So what. Napoleon always has a girl waiting in the wings. If one date goes sour he just calls another and changes direction.

Illya had seen it time and time again and it never bothered him before. Except when it got in the way of a mission.

Why should it bother me now? Napoleon is nothing to me. I work with him. That's all.

Illya's mind flashed back to the muscular body thrusting over his. His cock twitched at the image and a tingle rose up through his belly.

No! I am not a homosexual! Homosexuals are abhorrent filth and must be sent to the gulags or hospitals for the insane. I am Illya Kuryakin. I was raised to be a servant to the motherland. She gave me everything and I owe her my very being.

Illya resolutely turned away from the window. Let Napoleon go back to his women. What did he care? He didn't. That was that.

He limped back to his couch and sat down, only to jump back up again. He was restless. Antsy. Jittery. Not to mention every other adjective Napoleon used to describe him when he couldn't sit still. Horny.

Illya stopped in his tracks. Horny. Napoleon often called him that when Illya was restless and hadn't had sex for awhile. "Of course you can't settle down," Napoleon would intone knowingly. "You're horny, boy. Go find a woman and have a good screw. You'll be all right."

Illya chafed under such low-brow conclusions on the part of his friend, especially when he turned out to be right. He cringed at the thought now. How could he be horny? Usually he only gave into the urge to thrust into a willing body once every two weeks or so. Sometimes longer. On the other hand, he'd orgasmed every night, every day, for the last two months. He should be more than sated.

His cock twinged at the memory. The whole of his lower regions ached in response, not with pain, but desire. Illya moaned at his own stupidity. He was so used to thinking like a physicist, he sometimes forgot about biology. More precisely, his biology. His body was now used to the sexual release on a daily-sometimes more-basis!

No! Oh no! He hated this biological need with a passion. Always had. Now, because of Laheeb...and Napoleon...he needed it more than ever. He would have to go out and find someone to help him release his baser need. He hated that even more. It meant trusting a stranger enough to let them touch his body intimately. A difficult thing for him.

The alternative involved someone from U.N.C.L.E. A secretary. He liked that idea better on a trusting level, but disliked it more because such things opened him up for office gossip. At present, very little gossip surrounded him. Oh, they talked of his hair and his eyes, which they liked, but they also mentioned his cold personality, which they didn't. If he took a secretary to bed, she would see a side of him he would prefer to leave out of the office. He did not want his sexual abilities or lack thereof to be fodder for break time talk.

The other downside to this option was his tendency to be hard and a little violent during sex. Not that he beat his sex partners. He wasn't a sadist. But he liked his sexual liaisons to be hard and fast and just a little bit rough. He thought that might be more the reason he'd responded to Laheeb...and Napoleon. Not because he had homosexual tendencies. Certainly not. He just preferred the hardness of the sex with them. Hadn't he come to that very same conclusion so long ago during that one mission while still with the KGB? Of course.

Too bad there weren't more women agents. One of them would do nicely. She would understand his paranoia and would probably not mind a little rough play. Unfortunately, he regarded April as more a sister than a potential bedmate and there were no other women agents in the general Section Two, New York, populace as of yet. There were some in training, but he'd have to wait until they were seasoned. Maybe then he could find someone to take to bed on a more regular basis.

Until such time, his only option was to return to his previous habits. That way he only put himself in jeopardy-at least at a time other than when he was on a mission-once in awhile. He had a feeling it would be a difficult transition period, but he would just have to go without sex for the next few weeks until he settled back into his usual routine. Yes. That was the solution.

While Illya wrestled with his inner self, Napoleon finished his call and hung up the phone. He glanced back toward the apartment before carrying on his way. The lights were out, a good sign in his mind. It meant Illya had probably eaten and gone to bed. Napoleon was worried about him but thought a good night's sleep in his own place would put the Russian back into the right frame of mind.

Napoleon smiled and turned back toward Sarah's. Soon he'd be in bed in the right frame of mind too.

Now back working at U.N.C.L.E. Illya was grouchy. He spent the last week locked in a battle between his scientist's mind and his reptilian brain. The scientist in him insisted he could do without giving into his baser urges more often than not. His reptilian brain raged at the confines of its cage, attempting to tear a hole large enough to get out and vent itself in mindless sex on a daily basis.

At the moment, the reptile seemed to be winning.

Illya's emotional control was tenuous at best these days. Not that he was verging on tears. No, he wasn't in danger of picking flowers or giving tearful emotional displays. He was in danger of killing someone in a setting other than self-defense or a THRUSH stronghold.

The person at the top of his endangered species list was none other than his own partner. No. That was wrong. Former partner. Apparently Waverly no longer trusted his Russian agent to cover his protégé's back. Probably because of the way Napoleon now acted differently towards said Russian agent. Patronized him in a way he never had before.

Illya had seen Napoleon act the same way with his many women, however. Thus the reason why he wanted to kill the man. Napoleon no longer saw him as a competent field agent. No, all Napoleon saw was a man who let him bugger him. Never mind the fact that Illya had had no say in the matter. It was practically rape, although he didn't blame Napoleon, either, because he also hadn't had the ability to refuse. They'd done what they had to in order to survive, just as they had so many times before. This should be no different. Unfortunately, it was.

Illya knew he had to do something about it, but was unsure what. He preferred to avoid a confrontation. That could result in a loss of the partnership and he didn't want that. At least not yet. If it came down to dissolving their friendship in order to maintain his reputation as a field agent, he would do so. Until then, he would just have to enforce a more strictly professional demeanor with his friend.

No. Not friend. Partner. Or rather, co-worker. As much as it disturbed him to take Napoleon out of the friendship category, he knew it was imperative he do so. At least for the time being. Hopefully later they could bring it back to that point, but not until Illya felt he was on equal footing with the CEA once more.

Decision made, he felt a little better. Not sexually, though. His control over his sexual urges seemed weaker now instead of stronger. He might have to give in and find a woman to share a bed with sooner than he'd planned. Oh well. He'd managed a week. Perhaps he would just have to wean himself just as he would from any other undesirable habit. He would find a woman tonight and then he would make himself wait two weeks for his next encounter. The idea didn't sit well with him, but he shied away from exploring the reasons why. The plan would just have to do.

As for the partnership, he would work ever more diligently to prove himself to Waverly once more. That part was easier. He'd had to prove his worth time and time again his entire life. It actually made him feel better because it put him in more familiar territory. One way or another, he would regain the trust, the respect, the FAITH, the two men no longer had in him. He would prevail or die trying.

"So the suspect fled the scene before you arrived?" Napoleon asked his temporary partner Burke. He couldn't bring himself to think of the man as anything more than just a blip in his present history. Eventually, hopefully soon, Illya would once more be his partner. Until then Napoleon knew he had to give Burke the chance to show what he could do.

The younger man nodded. "Something must have tipped him off about U.N.C.L.E. The warehouse was empty except for a few crates and some packing straw. If I had to guess I'd say the impressions were from small missiles. Maybe rocket launchers."

Napoleon's brow went up as his eyes widened. That could be bad news for New York if it was true. "Maybe I should get Illya to take a look. He would be able to tell for sure."

Burke shook his head. "I can take care of that for you. He's rather busy on the chemical compound used in that bomb in Boston last month. You know what the guy's like when he's working." Not to mention that I wouldn't want you to request him as your partner again.

Napoleon eyed the stack of files on his desk and nodded. He'd probably see Illya at lunch anyway. "Alright. I want to know his conclusions as soon as he has them."

"Sure Mr. Solo." Burke let out a mental sigh of relief. "I'll get on that right away."

"After that I want you to go back there and find out who rented the warehouse and how they paid. Anything that will give us a trail to follow to the source."

Napoleon sat down and opened the first file on the new THRUSH activities. He kept thinking back to how Illya would have sat on the edge of his desk and needled him over the paperwork. How the man would have folded his arms and looked down on him like he disapproved of the way he did his job as if it wasn't up to standards. He could just imagine the grating comments said half in jest and half in total seriousness. Napoleon could sense the respect and genuine liking Illya had for him where others saw only a disagreeable little runt. He only let Illya get away with such things because he knew the real Illya. The one no one else seemed able to find.

Sitting at the desk with the folder open to the first page Napoleon realized he'd tuned out work and was thinking about Illya. Again. He was actually worried about him. Word was spreading in the halls and gossip channels of U.N.C.L.E. that the Russian wasn't his old self. Those that disliked the man to begin with were growing more dissatisfied at his presence in New York. At this rate soon the complaints would become official and then Waverly would order Medical Section intervention with perhaps a psych session and he knew that would really appeal to Illya.

He would only admit this to himself, but he also worried about whether or not Illya could pass such a session. Illya was a solid agent, one of the best, but Napoleon had glimpsed things that suggested his best friend wasn't as stable as he appeared. Nothing he could point a finger at, just hints of things over the years that led him to believe Illya might not be able to pass a deep psyche evaluation. Napoleon had wondered on more than one occasion how Illya had passed the entrance evaluation in the first place.

Napoleon thought things over for almost an hour without really seeing the report in front of him. He finally closed the file and decided he'd have to talk to Illya before half of the Sciences Section walked out in protest.

Burke strolled into the Science division of U.N.C.L.E. and looked around for Kuryakin. He didn't really want to talk to the grouchy little guy but he always kept his word. Especially when given to Napoleon Solo. Burke was determined the Solo/Burke team would be even greater than the legendary Solo/Kuryakin duo.

"No! That's not the way I want the slides prepared," Kuryakin snapped at the technician. "How long have you been out of grade school anyway?" he said with even more venom in his tone than normal for the caustic man.

Burke put on one of his insufferable smiles and walked over to Kuryakin. "Excuse me. Are you busy?" he asked pleasantly.

"Does it look like I'm flying a kite? Of course I'm busy," the Russian replied with a frown on his face.

Burke nodded and gave him a shrug. "Don't worry about it then. I'll ask someone else instead," he said happy to have gotten the response he did. Now he could talk to Simpson and there would be no need for Solo to work with Kuryakin on this. His duty fulfilled, Burke went into the other room to where the other scientist was running a mass spectrometer.

As Burke explained his request to the scientist he couldn't have been more pleased with the way things were working out. Every time Napoleon asked him to talk to Kuryakin he would do just that but it seemed Kuryakin had no time for him. He would return to Solo and say 'Illya sent him to so and so' or 'Illya told him to have so and so take care of it'. Inform Solo that Kuryakin had no time for his requests and didn't want to look at it. Soon Napoleon won't even remember Kuryakin's first name, much less the fact they used to be partners. Yes, this was working fine. Just fine.

Napoleon had no luck concentrating on his work. Thoughts of Illya continued to weigh on his mind. He assumed the first time he sent Burke to inquire something of Kuryakin that the Russian would come back and talk to him in person. When he heard he'd passed if off to another and wasn't interested Napoleon chalked up to settling back in at U.N.C.L.E. At the end of each day he planned on speaking to Illya but then he'd get caught up talking to Waverly or Burke and never get around to it. He always planned on doing it tomorrow but that turned into tomorrow again and then tomorrow again.

Over a week went by and each day Napoleon somehow missed catching up with Illya. Rumors of his friend's more than usual ill temper were starting to spread through the building and now Napoleon felt he couldn't ignore it any longer. It was time to confront the man and see if he could find out his problem and help him solve it. The last thing Napoleon wanted to see was Illya leaving U.N.C.L.E. Or someone from U.N.C.L.E. strangling him out of frustration and irritation.

Part of the agreement between U.N.C.L.E. and the Soviet Union included a guarantee that Illya Kuryakin would have the opportunity to keep up his science degrees and research. To this end, U.N.C.L.E. provided the Russian agent with a small lab and one research assistant. Illya suspected Mr. Waverly would have made sure he had the lab even without the agreement. The weirdness of so many of their, his, assignments often affronted Illya's logic circuits and working on something in his lab generally soothed him. Waverly seemed to know that and usually gave him a lab project to do between assignments.

Wasn't working this time, though. He simply couldn't concentrate. "Stupid!" he muttered, berating himself. Couldn't think straight because of sexual frustration. "Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid!" he snarled again, trying once again to solder tiny part A onto tinier part B.

"Who's stupid?" said a mild voice in his ear.

Illya whirled in his seat, hot iron still in his hand. "What are you doing here?" And how did you get this close without me hearing you? He was worse off than he thought. That clinched it. He would definitely find a sex partner tonight.

Napoleon ran an index finger along Illya's lab table and looked at the grime on his finger in distaste before rubbing it away with his thumb. "I was hungry and I wanted some company for dinner." He brushed his hand on a towel lying on the table and smiled at his friend.

"So I repeat," Illya said with a scowl. "What are you doing here?" Napoleon's smile drooped ever so slightly and Illya grimaced. He'd managed to hurt Napoleon without even trying. "I mean," he added in a softer voice. "You aren't usually hurting for willing dinner companions."

Napoleon's expression turned serious as he caught and held the Russian's gaze. "We never see each other anymore. I miss you."

Illya blinked at the outpouring of emotion. At least what would pass as such for them. "I..." He didn't know what to say. Napoleon's declaration warmed him on one hand, terrified him on another. He so needed a sexual encounter, he was afraid he might do something truly stupid like try to seduce his handsome friend if they were alone together. "I...I don't think that's a good idea," he finally stammered. Napoleon frowned. "Why not?"

Illya shook his head and cleared his throat. "I just... I have plans for tonight," he blurted.

"Oh. Well, uh, do you think you could change those plans? I have an ulterior motive for my invitation."

"What is that?" Illya asked warily.

Napoleon cleared his throat. "Ah, it's just that, ah, we need to talk."

Illya shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "About what?"

Napoleon's smile was more predatory than friendly. "Why don't I tell you tonight? Say sex..." His eyes widened in horror. "Six! I mean. Six. At my place."

Illya's heart skipped a beat...a second...a third. He thought it may have stopped altogether. The hell of it was that the blood his heart no longer pumped all pooled in his cock. Gravity. Of course. It certainly couldn't be because Napoleon's Freudian slip TURNED Illya ON. Definitely, most positively, absolutely, NO.

Anger at himself for such a reaction coursed through him. He turned it outward to vent on his hapless friend, not to mention to get the object of his obvious desire out of his lab. "Get out."

"Illya, I didn't mean that. I really meant to say six."

Illya's eyes narrowed. "You must have been thinking about it for it to have slipped out like that!" he snarled.

Napoleon saw his way out of his disastrous faux pas. He made himself laugh in amusement. "Since when do I not think of sex?" He knew that would make Illya pause. The Russian thought nothing but sex went through Napoleon's brain at any given time of the day. That wasn't true, of course. Napoleon thought often of sex, but he had plenty of time between sexual musings to think of more important things. Like finding out what was eating at his friend.

Illya snorted. "I sometimes feel you think of nothing else. Ever."

Napoleon grinned. "See? What did I tell you? It was just a slip of the tongue. Jennifer from the steno pool was in the elevator with me on my way here and I was thinking about my chances with her."

Illya relaxed fractionally. "Oh. Of course."

Napoleon practically sagged with relief. "So can I count on seeing you at my apartment at six?"

Illya sighed. He never had been good at turning down one of Napoleon's invitations. Now when he needed to be able to do so the most, he still couldn't. "Very well, Napoleon. I will be at your place at six. Now please leave so I may have my work done by then."

Napoleon bounced on his toes and shot the cuffs of his fine linen shirt. "Good. I look forward to it. See you then."

Illya eyed the door with unsettled anxiety as Napoleon left. This had to be a bad idea on so many levels and yet he couldn't help feeling relief at the thought of some company outside his miserable inner tempest. At least with dinner and some conversation it would give him something else to think about for one night anyway.

Illya tried to forget about his frustrations and bad temper as he entered the elevator up to Napoleon's apartment in the posh building. The man had expensive tastes and enjoyed himself for sure. Illya thought all the decoration of that lifestyle was wasted. Unnecessary tinsel. He ignored it as he concentrated on the evening ahead. One thing he did like. Napoleon ate well. Personally, he was happy with take out but Napoleon always went over the top with food. Although he'd never tell him, Napoleon was a good cook.

Napoleon answered the door wearing a smoking jacket over his casual shirt and slacks. "Come in Illya," he beckoned. "Dinner is almost ready. Can I get you a cocktail while we're waiting?"

"Vodka," Illya snapped a little harsher than he intended.

"Vodka. Yes. I thought as much," he replied with a suave smile. "I have a bottle on ice in the freezer. Why don't you take off your jacket while I get it?"

Illya tossed his coat over the back of a chair and walked over to the stereo to see what was new in Napoleon's record cabinet. There was just about everything, a very eclectic collection. Illya frowned at the rock and roll, thinking it wasn't like Napoleon's personality.

Illya almost jumped as his former partner thrust a glass in front of him while looking over his shoulder.

"Leona likes that," Napoleon explained, his hot breath brushing the lobe of Illya's ear.

Was that intentional? Illya thought but wouldn't ask aloud. He clutched the glass and turned around. "Is that what you use to loosen her cups?" he asked.

"If you mean loosen her up?" Napoleon replied. "I guess you could say that. Why don't you relax and take a seat on the couch until dinner?" Then he turned around and picked up Illya's coat to hang in the closet.

"So, what is for dinner?" Illya asked typically thinking of his stomach.

"Boeuf Bourguignon," Napoleon replied.

Illya raised an eyebrow. "You order in?"

"No. I came home early today," he explained. "You probably don't cook much at your place. I thought a nice meal. Maybe some music. We can talk."

"Talk about what?" Illya grumbled although he did like the smell coming from the kitchen.

"Things," Napoleon said with a shrug. He sat down across from Illya and poured a glass of white wine for himself.

"What things?" Illya said playing dumb.

"Things. Like why you've been avoiding me at U.N.C.L.E.?"

Illya looked up in surprise. "I have not been avoiding you."

Napoleon sat upright and set his wine down. He finally had Illya talking in more than three word sentences. "Yes you have. Every time I ask you for something you just pawn it off on someone else. I send word to meet me at lunch and you're busy. I call and you can't return messages. What's the matter Illya? People have been complaining about your attitude being even pricklier than normal."

"Bah," he said frowning and turned his head away. "That pest Burke is nothing but an idiot."

"Burke? What's he got to do with anything?" Napoleon asked.

"He's the only one that comes down," Illya replied. "I never see you there." He sounded petulant even to his own ears.

It was Napoleon's turn to be surprised. "Every time I try you're busy and can't-or won't—see me."

Illya carefully set his glass down on the coffee table unwilling to let Napoleon know just how much the accusation bothered him. "I am never too busy to see you," he said quietly. "If I knew you were there, I would have taken a break to talk to you."

Napoleon's heart jumped at this. Could Illya want a repeat of what happened in Arabia as much as he did? If so, this might be a very good night.

"Who has told you I will not see you?" Illya's voice dropped low into the danger zone.

Napoleon swallowed hard, unsure if he should tell him. He knew that tone. It spelled trouble for whoever caused it. In this case, Burke. He cleared his throat. "Ah, no one in particular." It was a small lie so he didn't feel too guilty for it. He would feel far guiltier about Burke's death and Illya brought up on charges for killing him. No, he wanted to deal with Burke himself.

The Russian's eyes narrowed as he studied his friend. Finally he looked away and picked up his glass once more. "They were wrong." He took a long swallow from the full tumbler. "I think you are the one trying to avoid me." He kept the hurt out of his voice.

"How can you say that?" Napoleon said angrily. "I have tried to keep things on just a business level because you seem not to want anything personal right now, but even in that you keep fielding my inquiries to someone else." Now it was his tone that held an edge of danger.

Illya lifted his chin, his eyes dark with a brewing storm. "No, Napoleon, you do not make inquiries of me. You always send your partner down to the labs whenever the two of you need something. It is always he who calls, not you. So please spare me your indignation. I would talk to you gladly. I would give you any information you want personally. But I refuse to deal with that idiot Burke. Your partner can get his information from someone else."

He set his drink down again and stood. "I'm afraid I'm not hungry. I think I shall just go home and go to bed. I have a lot of lab work to do tomorrow and I'm sure you and your partner will have an important mission to attend to," he said, rubbing in the fact Napoleon was still in the field while he was not.

"No! Don't go!" Napoleon jumped to his feet and grabbed Illya's arm.

Illya glanced coldly at the restraining hand.

Napoleon released the arm and stepped into Illya's personal space. "Please. You're right. I have been sending Burke to ask for things, but that is only because I thought you didn't want to see me."

Illya locked his gaze onto his friend's hoping to read the truth in the dark eyes. He saw much reflected in them. Friendship and something more. If Illya didn't know better, he'd think he saw longing. He knew better. Still, Napoleon did seem rather distraught over the idea Illya might not want to have anything to do with him. Although Illya had not actively avoided Napoleon, he hadn't gone out of his way to stay in contact with him, either.

He sighed and turned to face his former partner. "Perhaps I am avoiding you a little. Not because I'm upset at you or don't want to see you again. It's just very hard for me to watch you go out on missions with only Burke to watch your back. It makes me nervous. I . . . I thought it would be better to limit how much time I spent with you. I thought it might be better for both of us. After all, we're no longer partners and so we no longer have reason to be unduly concerned about each other."

Napoleon stared at him open-mouthed. "Why in the hell do you think that? Just because we're not technically partners at the moment doesn't mean I can just turn off any feelings I may have for you. Are you saying you can?"

Illya looked away. Normally, he would say yes, he could definitely turn off his feelings like that. Normally that would be the truth. His relationship with Napoleon was not normal, however, and although he tried hard to turn off his affections, he found he was unable to do so.

Napoleon knew Illya's ability to divorce himself from emotion. He just never thought it applied to him. His friend's guilty avoidance of his gaze jarred him into the painful realization he meant no more to the cold-hearted man than anyone else. He stepped back, unwilling to force himself on someone. He had no need to do so. A snap of his fingers and women would flock to him, some practically begging for him to pay them attention and take them to bed. "Go then," he snapped. "I'm not so desperate I have to force you to spend time with me."

Illya's heart sunk. He hadn't meant to make Napoleon think he didn't want anything to do with him. "I apologize," he said sincerely, reaching out.

Napoleon evaded the hand deftly. "I believe you know the way out." He spun on his heel and stalked to his bedroom, slamming the door behind him. He was angrier than he'd ever been with his friend, but he couldn't bear watching him walk out the door and ending their friendship forever.

A tentative knock sounded on the door. "Napoleon?"

"If you want some stew it's probably ready. Take it and enjoy yourself," he said through the door. His voice was tight with pain.

Illya's confusion at his own actions prevented him from making any quick decisions. He hesitated and then leaned his head against the door. It probably wasn't locked but he didn't want to be rude and open it uninvited. "Napoleon. I'm sorry. I...You're right. I... I haven't been myself lately. Please. You're the only one I can talk to about this." Illya suddenly realized that was actually true. Napoleon was the only one he felt close enough to discuss personal things with. Right now he really needed to talk to someone.

A moment of silence went by and Illya was about to turn and leave when the door clicked open. Illya backed away as Napoleon emerged.

After lowering his head and taking a long breath, Napoleon gave Illya a conciliatory grin. "I guess we're both behaving a little unreasonably. Maybe we should sit down and talk a while."

With that small gesture Illya felt some relief. He could still talk to someone he trusted. Why shouldn't he trust him? After all, Napoleon risked his career to come find him.

"Have a seat," Napoleon said. "I'll pour us another drink. Dinner will keep."

Illya went back to the sofa and sat down. Napoleon joined him bringing the bottle of vodka and some wine for himself.

"Thanks. I guess I have been a little edgy lately," Illya accepted.

Napoleon nodded. "And I guess I've been a little neglectful about going to see you. There's no reason we should be walking on eggshells around each other, Illya. We've worked together too long for that."

Illya nodded. "Yes. I wish I was back in the field with you again."

"We could talk to Waverly."

A scowl crossed Illya's face after downing the vodka. "I'm sure he'll put me back in the field in his own good time. I like working in the lab but personally I like the adventure of fieldwork better."

"It would probably be sooner than later if you showed some sign of an attitude change at work then," Napoleon said not really accusing him of anything. "Everyone has noticed your... grouchiness."

"I... I know. I don't know what's wrong with me," Illya said frowning. "I can't help being so edgy all the time."

"I think I know what the problem is," Napoleon said tentatively. He wasn't sure how Illya would react to the upcoming idea.

"Oh? What is my problem?" Illya replied skeptically.

Napoleon sat back against the cushion in a relaxed non-threatening pose. "Have you been out since we got back from Saudi Arabia?"

Illya shrugged. "Of course I've been out," he replied. "I've been to the store and the Chinese laundry." He knew that wasn't what Napoleon was referring to but it was still too personal for Illya to reply otherwise.

The evasive answer prompted Napoleon to sit closer and place a hand on Illya's thigh. It wasn't an invasive gesture but one of personal contact between friends. "I wasn't talking about that," he said.

Illya felt a jolt of electricity run through him at the touch. His cock twitched in his underwear but luckily made no outward sign to the man he was with. "Wha...what do you mean?" he asked wanting to clear his throat and his mind that seemed to fog at the contact.

Napoleon studied Illya's face for a moment. He could see little signs of attraction. Nervous hesitation. Slight sweating and flushing of the face. The eyes that wouldn't meet his for fear of revealing desire. Was that what he was seeing in Illya? Or was he fooling himself? He needed to take this slow just in case he read the signals wrong. "Illya, when was the last time you came?"

"C-came?" Illya's voice hitched as Napoleon's fingers gently scratched the inside of his thigh.

Napoleon smiled. Oh yes, Illya was definitely attracted. He slid his hand a little higher on the tightly corded leg. Illya's muscles were like iron! His trousers tightened as his cock responded to a sudden image of those iron legs wrapped around his waist and pulling him inside Illya's tight, hot passage. He turned a moan into a slight cough. "When was the last time you had sex?" he murmured.

If Napoleon's hand went much higher Illya knew he would feel the erection and know his ex-partner was a perverted deviate. Illya slipped out from under the hand he knew was meant to be comforting and soothing but caused a reaction neither comforting nor soothing. "Why do you ask?" he said, strolling to the window as though his unease came just from his usual distaste for talking about anything so personal and not because he wanted to roll over and tell Napoleon to fuck him.

Napoleon stayed on the couch biding his time. Illya was as skittish as a wild cat and his claws could be just as sharp. "I just thought maybe that was the reason you've been acting out of sorts. It's been documented that men who don't orgasm regularly tend to be more aggressive." That should appeal to his little scientist's soul.

Illya turned from the window, arms crossed, a tight smile on his face. "Which may be one reason I'm such an effective agent. Perhaps you should try having a little less sex. You might be better at your job."

Insulted, Napoleon sniffed, "I'm fine at my job, thank you. I don't need to be as bloodthirsty as you to be a good agent." His eyes narrowed when he noticed Illya's smile take on a slyness he didn't like. Napoleon quirked his mouth in irritation. "Quit trying to change the subject."

Illya raised an eyebrow and his smile definitely turned into a smirk. "It worked well enough."

"Until I noticed it. That means your little ploy was unsuccessful."

Illya shrugged. "I'll try harder next time." He sniffed the air. "That stew smells good and I'm hungry. Let's eat."

"Ah-ah!" Napoleon was off the couch in a flash and gripping Illya's arm. "You still haven't succeeded in changing the subject. Answer my question."

Illya regarded him coolly. "What question was that?"

Napoleon wondered if it was worth all this work to get Illya into the sack. Maybe not but damned if he was going to let the little bastard win this round. "When. Was. The. Last. Time. You. Had. Sex?" He enunciated every word so his meaning couldn't possibly be misconstrued.

Illya sighed in defeat. "A couple of days ago," he snapped.

Napoleon stared at him in stunned surprise. He swore Illya would say not since Arabia. That was his usual pattern. But a couple of days ago? Could it be sexual frustration was not the Russian's problem? "But you . . . well, ah, you're acting a lot like you do when it's time for a little female companionship."

"That's just the problem!" Illya spat out in self-disgust. "It's not FEMALE companionship I'm craving!" He rushed past Napoleon desperate to get out of the apartment, unwilling to see his friend's regard and affection turn to loathing.

Napoleon turned around to see Illya disappearing out the door of his apartment. What was that? Could it be that Illya?... No. Yes? "Wait!" he called out. The next moment he was on his feet running after the Russian. "Illya!"

Fight or flight. That's all Illya knew in a situation like this and he was running scared. Across the hall he slapped the elevator button but it was on another floor and would take time to arrive. He quickly looked around, saw the stairs, and took off toward them. Illya was three strides ahead of Napoleon when he hit the door and ran through.

"Illya! Stop!" Napoleon called again and then slammed into the closing door with his shoulder.

Illya was descending the stairs two at a time in a blind single-minded panic.

Napoleon launched himself onto the rail and slid down barely controlling his speed. At the first platform he grabbed the rail and swung his body around to intercept the fleeing target. With one arm he ensnared Illya, practically crushing him against the wall.

"No! Let me go! Let me go!" Illya protested.

"Illya. Listen to me," Napoleon said to him holding on with all his might. He could tell the man wasn't hearing him. "Illya!" A last resort. A desperate attempt for contact. The only way to get through to him, Napoleon planted a hard kiss on Illya's lips.

Illya gradually stopped struggling. When Napoleon finally pulled away ever so slightly, Illya was wracked with silent sobs that Napoleon knew could never be allowed expression. Pain he couldn't put a name to. Although Illya's distress remained completely internal, Solo seemed to know and just held him tighter as if to keep Illya from falling apart.

"You must hate me," Illya finally said as his throat relaxed enough to allow him to speak, an almost impossible task for a man who kept his feelings locked up as tight as the gold at Fort Knox.

Napoleon relaxed a little as Illya's tension seemed to disappear and the man went rubbery in his arms. "Come on," he said as he looked around for others in the stairwell. "Let's go back to my apartment and talk. We need to talk about this."

Illya felt like a mute puppet at the moment. Even absorbed in his own tormented thoughts, he still knew Napoleon was the only person he could feel safe with. Someone who could understand him even if it was only to a certain point. Illya treasured it and at the same time believed it to be the biggest mistake he ever made in his life. He followed Napoleon back to the apartment without sense or reason. He was an empty shell, a sensation with which he was familiar but tried to avoid at all costs.

Napoleon checked the hall before they left the stairwell and then he urged Illya toward the apartment. Once inside he closed and locked the door behind them. Leaning back against the door with his head lowered he carefully considered what to say for fear of upsetting Illya further. He looked up and watched Illya head over to a corner of the room like a cornered animal.

He needed to be careful. Non-threatening. Calm and cool and collected. He took a step forward and stopped, letting his voice reach out to Illya. "We've been partners for years Illya. Trusted each other with our lives. Take it easy. I'm not the enemy," he said in softer tones.

After a moment of contemplation Illya nodded and thought about what he could say. How do you put into words the very thing that would label you a traitor to your homeland? A freak. An outcast of American society and all the things Illya had been trained to despise.

"If this is about Saudi Arabia then we need to talk about this. Before it affects your status at U.N.C.L.E." Napoleon was truly frightened about Illya's behavior. He didn't want to lose him.

Illya didn't move. He was more withdrawn than Napoleon had ever seen him before.

"Sit down. I'll get us another drink and we can talk. You don't have anything to fear from me Illya." Napoleon went into the kitchen and turned down the stew to keep it from burning but still stay warm. Then he pulled the vodka from the freezer and poured a stiff one for Illya to knock back.

Illya stared at the front door after Napoleon left. Why he wasn't running for it was beyond him. He wanted nothing more than to disappear from the face of the earth right now.

How was he going to explain this to Napoleon? He couldn't even explain it to himself. He wasn't a homosexual! He wasn't!

What about that time in Naples? supplied the devil's advocate of his subconscious mind.

That was different! It was an undercover role and one he was unwillingly forced into assuming. He had not enjoyed it. He hated every minute of it. Most of it, anyway, he revised. He tried to never lie to himself.

Only because it was never Antonio fucking you.

Illya closed his eyes in dismay. That much was true. He HAD wondered what it would be like to have sex with the big, kind-hearted Italian.

Wondered enough to fantasize about it every day since, his subconscious reminded him.

That, too, was different, Illya argued with himself. Fantasies were just that. Fantasies. Something that one found sexually titillating because it would never truly happen. No one ever wanted to live them out in reality. Women often fantasized about being raped yet they would not want to have it happen to them in real life.

It was not the same as this yearning desire to once again feel Napoleon biting him . . . kissing him, the man's hard cock moving within him. Fucking him. Or was it? Perhaps it was just a fantasy and he was confused because the object of that fantasy was near to hand. After all, Napoleon definitely was a lady's man. There was no way he would return Illya's desire.

He relaxed slightly, one fear retreating into the background. Maybe . . . maybe his problem had nothing to do at all with who he was bedding. Maybe it truly was just about the frequency. Yes! He was sure of it. It had to be because the alternative simply could not be true.

Napoleon exited the kitchen, a tall glass of clear, cold liquid in his hand. Extremely cold, judging by the condensation already sweating off the glass.

"Bless you, my friend," Illya sighed as Napoleon shoved the drink in his hand. He took a long swallow.

Napoleon laughed. "That doesn't mean much coming from a godless heathen like you."

Illya managed a small smile, appreciating Napoleon's attempt to put him at ease with their familiar banter. "At least I have the courage to admit to my atheism. You, on the other hand, proclaim your piety while doing everything your God says you're not supposed to."

Napoleon held a hand to his chest, his face alight with mock despair. "Illya, you wound me! I fully admit to the fact that I am a sinner and everyone knows God forgives a sinner as long as the person is aware of his fallacies."

Illya snorted and his smile came easier this time. Napoleon smiled back, pleased his ploy worked. Illya no longer sat at the edge of his seat ready to bolt if things got too personal and hard to deal with. Illya was a good partner, sometimes bordering on greatness. He was one of U.N.C.L.E.'s best marksmen, had the most brilliant mind Napoleon had ever had the pleasure of engaging, and could blow up an entire satrapy in the middle of downtown Manhattan without disturbing the buildings on either side. At the mechanics of being an agent, the man was phenomenal. When it came to dealing with personal issues however, he was an imbecile.

He was also very slippery, which was why Napoleon sat on the coffee table in front of his friend, close enough to grab him if he tried to run. "We need to talk, my friend."

The pleasure lighting the Russian's handsome face blinked out and the barriers slammed in Napoleon's face. He sighed. Trying to work out a personal issue with Illya was like having a tooth pulled. Worse. He thought he might prefer getting the tooth pulled. Without anesthesia. He put a hand on each of Illya's knees. The better to restrain you with, my dear.

"I thought we already discussed this?" Illya said coldly, a grimace on his face.

Napoleon looked upward as though he might find some help from the man they had already established he didn't pay much attention to. "If I remember right, you left in the middle of the discussion."

Illya squirmed, testing Napoleon's resolve to keep him pinned to his spot. The well-manicured hands squeezed Illya's knees in a vice-like grip, giving him his answer. Illya fell back in defeat. He could break the hold easily enough but not without causing damage to the best friend he'd ever had. One of the few friends...period. With a sigh, he stopped struggling and stared down into his half empty glass. Maybe it would be easier to talk if he couldn't see Napoleon's face.

Napoleon loosened his grip on Illya's legs. He reached over and placed two fingers under Illya's chin, lifting it gently. He wanted to see those baby blues while they talked. It was the only way he could read Illya accurately when he was in this state. The look of pain, confusion, and . . . was that fear? Was Illya afraid of him? Why would he be . . .

Understanding dawned on Napoleon. Illya wasn't afraid of him, he was afraid of his own desire. All words left Napoleon's tongue. Good. They would have just gotten in the way of the kiss. Napoleon leaned forward and took Illya's mouth in a passionate kiss, pushing his tongue into the startled mouth.

Illya leaned against the sofa back but realized with Napoleon hovering over him there was nowhere to go. Worse, he didn't want to. The desire for the man raged through his body even as he tried to deny it to them both. It was wrong, it was oh, so wrong! His mind screamed at him to stop it now before it went too far. It had been too long since he felt like this and the needs of his body were stronger than his will for abstinence. His lips parted wider, inviting Napoleon to take him as he had in Arabia.

Napoleon took the clues from Illya's reactions and pressed in closer. The thought of making love to Illya again thrilled him as much as it had the first time. The difference was that this time Illya came to him wanting it as much as he wanted to do it again.

He slid his hands up between them and tugged lightly at the dark sweater covering Illya's torso. It soon pulled free and Napoleon raised it, running his hands over the slender ribcage while smothering his former partner with fiery kisses. Slowly and ever so subtly he maneuvered Illya to the side, urging him to stretch out on the couch.

"Wha...what are you doing?" Illya asked breathlessly although he didn't resist the motion. He needed to stop this, to push Napoleon away and escape this trap. But he wanted it so badly! He'd never desired anything, or anyone, like this before.

"Giving you," Napoleon said softly between tender pecks on the cheek and neck, "just what you...need." He was a master of manipulation. A ruler of romance. A lovemaking machine, when he got into gear. He was going to give Illya the ride of his life and enjoy every minute of it.

Changing the attention of his butterfly kissing to the now bare chest, Napoleon pushed the shirt over Illya's head. Illya, his mind swirling with desire, could do nothing but comply by shoving it up and off his arms. Then Napoleon felt Illya's strong, nimble fingers reach down into his hair entwining themselves with the dark strands. He could feel the deep undulating breaths of Illya's chest and the heartbeat beginning to race. Every sensation of Illya's growing excitement was another injection of adrenalin in Solo's passion.

Napoleon began undoing the buckle of Illya's trousers as he looked down upon his companion. As he unzipped the pants his tongue danced in circles around the naval showing tricks Illya had never seen before.

In this encounter it was all for Illya. Giving Illya what he needed. Napoleon wasn't worried about his lovemaking partner returning the attentions. That could always come later as they continued their sexual relationship, which he fully planned to cultivate. He was sure they would be doing this a lot more often now that they'd officially begun.

Illya was stripped and every inch of his desperately craving body was explored and satisfied even as Napoleon remained clothed. There were consolations. Napoleon loosened the collar of his shirt and untied the smoking jacket. As his own discomfort from the rising hard-on grew he unbuckled his trousers and shoved them down over his hips.

The look in Illya's eyes as the engorged cock leapt from Napoleon's pants pleased him. This was what they both wanted. This was what they'd both been waiting for since coming back from the desert.

Illya was beyond voice as his body ached for that cock inside him. All reason had left as the endorphins flooded the reptilian part of his brain. The animal instincts of sexuality revolted against his suppressive upbringing and urged him onward, overpowering his will to remain pure to his Soviet roots. It was then that he discovered he was on the floor, the act of moving down from the couch a complete blur.

Never to be caught unprepared, Napoleon felt around in his jacket pocket for the bottle of baby oil he'd stolen from the ledge of the tub in the bathroom. Though Illya said nothing aloud Napoleon could tell by the erection his partner sported that they were going the right direction and he popped the cap on the oil. He squeezed some onto his hand warming it with his fingers to prepare the way.

The touch of slick fingers pressing at his anus brought Illya back to his senses. His eyes widened as he realized what they were about to do. What he was about to let Napoleon do to him. "No!" he rasped. The word sounded like it had been forcibly ripped out of him. He pushed frantically at Napoleon. "No! I can't do this! We can't do this!"

Napoleon looked at him in surprise but didn't pull his fingers away. He placed a hand on Illya's chest to halt his struggles. "Why not? We both want it." He moved his hand over Illya's stomach and grasped the rigid cock rising from the golden curls of his groin. "This tells me you want it," Napoleon insisted.

"I do . . . I-I . . ." Illya stuttered. "It's not . . . right. Not . . . natural."

Napoleon chuckled. "This, my friend, is the most natural thing in the world." He scooted down and gently swirled his tongue around the head of Illya's cock.

Illya bucked, a move which allowed Napoleon to push his fingers in a farther into the tight passage. "No!" Illya screamed his frustration at his conflicting thoughts. It felt so good, so right. But it wasn't right! It couldn't be! Still he made no move to stop his friend. Did nothing to push the invading fingers out of his body. "This is not right!" he practically sobbed, unable to think clearly, to truly put a stop to things.

"Who says it's not right?" Napoleon crooned while slowly sliding the hand around Illya's cock upward even as he continued to gently push his fingers inside his friend and now lover.

Illya's breath caught in his throat. "My government. It's-it's not moral," he gasped even as he pushed down on the questing digits wriggling in his anal passage.

"And how did they arrive at that decision?" Napoleon asked conversationally and kissed the nearest hipbone.

"I-I," Illya sputtered at a loss. He tried to gather up a coherent thought but it was an exercise in futility.

"The Bible, perhaps?" Napoleon continued, dropping kisses down the length of penis in his hand. "But that can't be, can it? We already established you're from a godless, heathen country." He lifted his head and moved up so he could stare into Illya's eyes. They were dark blue with desire. "So by what standard do they decide what is and isn't moral?"

Illya blinked, unsure of what to say. What to think. His intelligent mind was completely engulfed by his instinct based reptilian brain and it was hard to form a logical argument. But this was wrong! Wasn't it? It had to... Was it? So hard to know when it felt so right. It shouldn't feel this right.

"By the same token," Napoleon continued in that same calm, silky voice as he started to nibble on Illya's neck. "Killing is also considered immoral. Yet you do it everyday without a single qualm. My making love to you hurts no one." He leaned up and caught Illya's gaze once more. "Is this hurting you?"

Illya wanted to scream, Yes! It's killing me! It was, but not in the physical sense. It killed a part of his upbringing. His comfortable knowledge of how the world worked. At the same time, it made him feel more alive than ever before. He swallowed hard, his breathing shallow with his Herculean effort to maintain his control.

Napoleon frowned. "Am I hurting you?" he asked, wondering if maybe this really wasn't what Illya wanted.

"Yes," Illya moaned. "No."

Napoleon halted the movement of his fingers, ready to remove them if Illya told him he didn't want to do this. "Which is it?" He listened to Illya's ragged breathing for several long seconds and was about to end this when his former partner-fuck that! His partner, damn it!-shook his head.

"It-it doesn't hurt," Illya whispered. "I . . . It doesn't hurt."

Napoleon fluttered his fingers being squeezed by Illya's anal muscles. God, he was tight! His cock twitched but he ignored it, ready to quit if Illya so desired. "What do you want?"

Illya's answering groan was more a sound of pain then pleasure. That was it. Napoleon started to pull his fingers out of Illya's tempting body. He would rather use his own hand to take care of his needs before he would cause his friend pain.

Illya caught Napoleon's wrist, forcing the fingers to stay inside him. His gaze burned with the flames of desire and need. "I want you, Napoleon," his voice low and husky. "I want you to fuck me."

That was all he needed to know. Napoleon covered Illya's mouth with his own and probed with his tongue as he moved his fingers in and out and around preparing Illya's passage for his own cock. Just imagining the act of penetrating him again excited him. He thought of the last time Illya was fucked and it was he who had done it then too. This could be a steady thing between them. If it helped keep Illya in the right frame of mind Waverly would probably team them up again.

When their lips parted for air Napoleon sat up. He enjoyed the clouded look in Illya's eyes as the man's body gave in to his plans. With great flourish Napoleon picked up the little bottle and, drizzling a light stream of oil over the end of his cock, he coated the shaft generously. This was what Illya craved and he wanted to give it to him.

Napoleon shifted his weight and lifted Illya's hips over his as he positioned himself for entry. He checked Illya's expression one last time seeking permission. Apprehension showed in Illya's eyes, but the flames of desire burned hotter. Napoleon pressed the tip of his cock against Illya's hole and pushed lightly until the man relaxed enough for the head to pop through. With an even steady pressure he slid in slowly and carefully.

Warmth. Tightness. Smooth snug fit. It was as wonderful as the first time. He heard a light hiss from Illya's lips but the man's hands grasping his arms urged him ever deeper.

"Are you all right?" Napoleon asked pausing to let Illya adjust to their union.

A slight gasp as Illya tried to control his breathing. It had been a month since he last had this kind of sex after becoming so used to it. He nodded, worried that confessing his desires aloud was an admission of guilt to his country. He wiggled his hips indicating he wanted more action.

Napoleon obliged with slow undulating motion, fucking Illya slow, seeking a natural rhythm between the two of them. He closed his eyes and with one hand bracing himself on the seat of the sofa and the other on Illya's stomach. He rocked the two of them back and forth and back and forth, speeding up as Illya's legs wrapped themselves around his back urging him deeper, harder, and faster.

A fine sheen of sweat began to glisten on Napoleon's brow as he plunged into his partner over and over again. He watched Illya's cock grow harder and straighter begging for attention. The man must be loving this, he thought to himself. He remembered the last time they were together and the cry that came from the Russian's mouth. Napoleon wanted to hear that cry again.

Napoleon moved his hand to Illya's cock and began pumping the slick shaft as he fucked him faster and faster. "Come on Illya. Let me hear you come," he said wanting to bring the man to ecstasy once more.

Illya believed Laheeb never cared about Sapphire's pleasure. Even then the sex had been good. But this. With Napoleon's hand wrapped around his aching cock, Illya thought he might finally understand the concept of heaven. He couldn't help letting out a groan of pure pleasure.

Napoleon's dark eyes flashed with delight at the sound. Illya felt Napoleon's smile was one reserved only for HIM, not the faux ones handed out to the rest of the world. Napoleon seemed to enjoy bringing pleasure to him as much as he enjoyed receiving it himself. A new experience. Even the women Illya bedded worried more about their own satisfaction than with his. They would orgasm as quickly as possible then act impatient for him to find completion. As with Laheeb, he usually found the whole experience vaguely unsatisfying. Not so now.

Illya's moans of approval spurred Napoleon on and he buried himself to the hilt, leaned down and fucked Illya's mouth with his tongue just as thoroughly as he fucked Illya's body with his cock. Napoleon finally pulled away with a jerk. "Let me hear it, Illya," he growled, voice husky with desire. "I want to hear you come like you did in Laheeb's palace."

The image that had fueled a number of fantasies in the last few weeks flared through Illya's mind, scorching away all rational thought. He burned from the blaze of passion ignited by the duel sensations of the hard steel rod pistoning his passage and the tight hand pumping his cock. His balls felt ready to explode. He clutched Napoleon's arms and arched up to impale himself fully. The invading cock slammed hard into Illya's prostate and what felt like a jolt of electricity shot into Illya's groin. He shouted as the pleasure overwhelmed his senses and triggered his orgasm. Streams of white cream shot onto his stomach and coated Napoleon's fingers. As his muscles contracted with pleasure he felt the hard rod inside him even more acutely. He moaned again, part of him hating himself for loving the sweet fullness of it.

"Oh, God, yes!" Napoleon growled as Illya's contracting muscles squeezed him. He yanked Illya's ass higher and put his entire being into hammering in and out of the hot, tight passage. Within seconds Illya felt Napoleon's cum coat his insides.

Illya hissed in discomfort as Napoleon unceremoniously pulled out and lowered him to the floor.

"Sorry," Napoleon panted as he lay down beside him. "Did I hurt you?"

Illya thought about it then shook his head. "Not really." The euphoria of coming flooded his brain and he felt good for the first time in weeks.

"Good." Napoleon levered himself off the floor and headed towards the bathroom and closed the door. The water turned on.

Illya lay on the floor lazily staring at ceiling. He could no longer deny what he was. At least every time he'd ever had sex with a man before he could justify it as something he was forced to do. That one time in the KGB when the team leader decided to have Illya pose as a male prostitute, then again when a slave of Laheeb. Those instances had not been his idea. This however. This he could not blame on anyone but himself. He couldn't even fault Napoleon for it. He was sure his friend would have stopped the seduction if he had just said no. Shaking his head to clear the disquieting thoughts, Illya took a deep breath.

The water in the bathroom stopped and Napoleon exited wearing a purple robe.

The color of royalty, Illya thought. Of course.

"I'm starving," Napoleon announced walking for the kitchen. "Let's eat."

Illya watched his friend's backside retreat to the kitchen with a frown. This part felt remarkably like the way it was with Laheeb. For some reason he thought it would be different with someone he cared about. Apparently not.

Illya sat up feeling used and a bit abused. Not that Napoleon had been rough with him. The last time he was beneath a man was several weeks ago. He wasn't as used to it as when he was with Laheeb so he felt a little sore. Nothing he couldn't handle, though.

He went to clean up and dress before eating. By the time he returned Napoleon had the food on the table and was already devouring his meal. He pointed to the other chair with the roll he held in one hand. Illya gingerly lowered himself into the chair.

"Hungry?" Napoleon asked moving the stewpot on its trivet a little closer to Illya. "It's pretty good if I do say so myself."

"You would," Illya said as he ladled some onto his plate. It did smell rich and inviting and his appetite returned for some reason.

Solo smiled at Illya's grumbled response. He seemed to be acting more like his old self. "You think maybe we should put in a request for reassignment together again tomorrow?" Napoleon asked seeking to find out how Illya felt about it.

As Illya shoved a large mouthful past his lips he chewed a moment and with muffled words replied, "What about that nit you work with now?"

Napoleon shrugged. "Waverly can assign him to anyone. He's got enough experience. I'll give him a good report for his promotion to permanent agent."

Illya scoffed. "He doesn't deserve it."

"Like it or not Illya," Napoleon explained. "The man has earned his points and proven himself in the field. He has the makings of a very good agent given a little time. You were pretty green yourself once."

"I was never that green," he countered. "I survived on the streets of Kiev during the war. He couldn't beat his way out of a wet paper hat."

Napoleon smirked and let out a small snort. "Bag."


Napoleon looked at Illya's puzzled expression. "Wet paper bag, not hat. He couldn't beat his way out of a wet paper bag."

Illya nodded. "So you agree with me."

Napoleon shook his head. "No. I meant the expression is he couldn't beat his...." He grimaced. The brat did it to him again. Illya often pulled the dumb immigrant routine to get someone, usually one Napoleon Solo, to say what he wanted to hear. "Never mind. That's not what I want to talk about over dinner anyway."

"Then what do you want to talk about?" Illya asked busily shoveling the food into his mouth.

"I don't know. Nobody said we have to talk about work though."

"You were the one who started the conversation," Illya reminded him.

Napoleon rolled his eyes. That was true enough but it was hard to get Illya to talk about anything even on a good day and since Saudi Arabia things have been even more strained than usual. "So you pick something this time."

Illya never talked about personal things. He kept himself a big secret from others. TV? Well he didn't watch much. Books? He hadn't had the chance to read any lately. Jazz music? Napoleon liked symphony and opera. Physics and chemistry? Napoleon wasn't a scientist. Illya pondered what made them so close considering he never allowed that with anyone before. It never occurred to him that it could be attraction in any form. He finally chose to start talking about stories in the headlines of the newspaper. They both read those.

After dinner, which was very filling, Illya was sated on another level. He hadn't felt this good, this normal, in weeks. As he gathered his coat to leave he thought perhaps he could maintain this state of mind and begin living his life like he did before the mission to Mexico. Taking that as a given, he thought he could at last return to fieldwork and even be reassigned to Napoleon as partners again.

"Good night Napoleon. Thank you for dinner," Illya said as he put his coat on.

Napoleon smiled with all his usual charm. "I'm glad you accepted. We should do this again," he replied.

Eat together or fuck? Illya said nothing but nodded noncommittally. "I have to be in the lab early. Experiments have to be monitored," he mentioned as if trying to make an excuse for leaving.

Napoleon nodded unsure if it was the truth or not but unconcerned for the moment. He opened the door but blocked the portal with an arm. Illya stopped and turned to face him.

"Something I forgot?" he asked.

Leaning a little closer Napoleon smiled. "No. I just wanted to say... Thanks for coming." It was a double entendre but he didn't clarify it. Then he dropped his arm letting Illya pass.

Illya walked toward the elevator not daring to look back. He thought it was a long time until the door closed behind him and the elevator arrived. Long enough for him to start thinking.

He wondered how complicated his partnership with Napoleon just became. Always so simple before. They shared work, a sense of humor, some food choices, and an interest in current events. Otherwise they were separate people with separate lives. He had the uncomfortable feeling they'd just intertwined their lives in such a way as to make their relationship much more complicated.

Waverly raised a bushy eyebrow at his Russian agent.

Illya remained still even though he wanted to squirm under hid boss's penetrating stare. He couldn't help but feel like Waverly knew what he and the CEA did last night. Not possible. Unless Napoleon had blabbed. Doubtful. Even if Napoleon wanted to brag, he knew it would be taking his life into his hands to do so.

"I realize Dr Proctor has released you physically, but Dr Kopf not only has not done so, he tells me you have yet to show up for an appointment."

"Yes, sir, I know, but..." He let the sentence hang. Mr. Waverly knew how he felt about doctors of any kind, psychiatrists, such as Kopf, in particular.

Waverly sighed. This was one of his favorite agents. One of his best. Only Solo equaled him. In some ways he was the better of the two. He was also the most emotionally-and, yes in some ways mentally-damaged of the two. There was a price to pay to keep the young Russian with the U.N.C.L.E. and keeping him away from the psych staff as much as possible was part of that. Even he had his limits, however. "I understand your aversion, young man and I run interference for you when I can. But even I sometimes cannot circumvent the doctors. Especially the man in charge of our agent's mental health. You were essentially raped." He held up a hand to stop his agent's protest before it started. "I realize this type of thing was not a new experience." He leaned forward and softened his tone. "No one else does, however. If you wish to keep it that way, I suggest you see Dr Kopf."

"Yes sir," Illya conceded softly.

"Go this afternoon. If he clears you, I will reassign Mr. Burke to a different partner." Kuryakin's eyes clouded in the closest expression of emotional distress Waverly knew he would be allowed to see.

The agent took a deep breath and his eyes cleared, returning to their usual dead stare. "Yes sir." He stood without hesitation and went out the door.

Good man. Waverly had no doubt he would do whatever it took to get in under the psychiatrist's radar. Kopf was good. Kuryakin was better. Still, it wouldn't hurt to run a little interference. He had more pull in that area than he would let the young man know.

He picked up the phone and dialed Kopf's extension.

"Kopf here."

"You will be receiving a visit from Mr. Kuryakin today," Waverly said without preamble.

"It's about time!"

Waverly imagined he heard the man salivating over the possibility. Although Kuryakin was required to submit to a psych exam every six months like the other agents, he was the only one who could refuse to answer questions he found particularly uncomfortable. He answered enough to keep from being pulled from duty, but never really revealed much about himself. Kopf seldom had the chance to examine Kuryakin closely. Waverly demanded the questioning after a mission involving mind-altering be limited to that situation only and not go into the man's background. Rape was something else, though, and Kopf knew it.

Waverly had other ideas. "Doctor, your questioning of Mr. Kuryakin will be limited to what is needed to follow up from the situation in Arabia. No other areas are to be delved into." He settled back into his chair ready for a battle he knew he would win.

Burke drummed his fingers against the desktop as he pondered the latest report on THRUSH. He was sensing a pattern but couldn't quite see it yet. He suspected the situation was screaming at him if he could just put the pieces in the right context.

"Something wrong?" Napoleon asked the man when the rat-a-tat-tat of his fingers started getting to him.

Burke sighed audibly. "I just don't get it. Have you seen these reports?" he asked waving one of the folders.

Napoleon nodded. "Yes." He knew what they meant and he was waiting to see if Burke had figured it out yet. "What about them?"

"It seems a lot of minor THRUSH minions have been spotted in and around a neighborhood on the east side of the river. It's an uncommon area for them to be in."

The CEA was enjoying the look of puzzlement on the new man's face. "So what?" he replied as if unconcerned.

"So what?" Burke repeated as if Napoleon was stupid or something. "THRUSH activity has been slower than normal the last couple of weeks. They are probably up to something new and it could be somewhere in this area." He took the file over to Napoleon as well as the city map he'd been studying. "Look. He drew a circle with his finger and said. "What if they are up to something and it's somewhere in this area. We should go take a look."

Napoleon cocked his head as if thinking about it. "You're probably right. We should go take a look around."

Burke looked pleased with himself. Napoleon was really starting to think of him as a well rounded intelligent partner.

The senior agent picked up the phone and dialed an extension for the labs. "I'll see if Illya can join us."

"Kuryakin?" Burke said brow furrowed in a disapproval that didn't seem to register with Solo. "But he's not on active field duty. He can't come with us."

"We can all go to lunch," Napoleon said. "No harm in that and if we happen to look around while we're out there no one can say anything. An extra pair of eyes can't hurt."

Burke leaned on Napoleon's desk and spoke seriously. "Waverly won't like it."

"Do you propose to tell him?" Napoleon asked raising an eyebrow as if challenging the man. The man was intimidated and in a way Solo was pleased to watch him squirm.

"Uh... Well, no. But if he finds out he won't like it," Burke said as if trying to state a fact now instead of making an idle threat. "He just wouldn't."

"I've known him longer than you and I am sure he wouldn't so we won't tell him," Napoleon said and held up a finger to quell further discussion as he spoke to Illya who finally answered the phone. "Illya. Are you busy?"

"I have an appointment with that crackpot Kopf," he grumbled.

Napoleon frowned. He knew Illya's hatred for any person in the psych profession. He suspected that had to do with Illya's history in the Soviet Union but the man never talked of his past. Not distant past and in fact he rarely even talked about the past that occurred the previous night. Napoleon preferred it that way. He liked having sex but so many of his partners, ninety-nine percent women, always wanted to chat about it days, even weeks afterward. He knew Illya would never want to talk about their interlude.

"Will you be free by lunchtime?" Napoleon asked as Burke looked on trying not to look disappointed.

"I doubt it. Every time that cretin has the chance to get hold of me it's like THRUSH torture until I am rescued. If he has his way I'll be there the whole day...or longer," Illya replied with disgust. The only person he'd ever admitted anything to was Napoleon. To all others at U.N.C.L.E. and outside the organization he was like a clamshell.

"Well if you're not free by four I'll organize a search party." Napoleon joked.

A slight relaxation in his face, Burke was pleased that it appeared Kuryakin couldn't come with them. He stood up and waited patiently for Napoleon to finish the call.

Illya couldn't delay much longer or Kopf would have security come and drag him away from the phone. "I'd rather be in THRUSHes hands," he droned and then hung up so he could get this useless task over with.

Napoleon put down the receiver and looked up at Burke. "Well it's just us. Illya is... occupied with other things this morning." He stood and reached for his jacket from the back of the chair. "Let's go. I'll drive."

As much as Illya hated medical, he hated the psychiatric doctor more. It was with much trepidation that he walked into Medical for his appointment although to look at him you wouldn't see it. Just get this over with. You've survived worse, he kept trying to convince himself.

The smile on the nurse's face drooped when she saw who walked in. "Mr. Kuryakin," she intoned, trying but failing to keep the smile in place. "You have an appointment today?" How the hell had she missed that tidbit of information? If she knew about it, she would have switched shifts with someone. Maggie, maybe.

Illya saw the play of emotions march across her face and his scowl deepened. Good thing she wasn't Section 2. Her emotional control was nonexistent. "That is my name written in big, bold letters," he snapped, pointing to her appointment book.

She turned bright red. Her lips compressed into a thin line. "Sit down and I'll warn him you're here." She angrily slapped the intercom button. "Mr. Kuryakin is here for his appointment."

"He is?" Kopf sounded truly surprised. "Send him in now, please, before he runs away."

Kopf sat anxiously. He'd waited a long time to get Kuryakin into his office for something other than the bi-annual psych evaluation. The man always managed to slip out of sessions that would have been required for other agents. Waverly was at fault there. This time, though, even Waverly had to allow his golden-haired genius to be examined.

He smiled to himself. Yes, Waverly commanded that he could only touch on things that might relate to Kuryakin's ordeal in Arabia. Of course, how is a simple doctor to know what part of the agent's background might affect the agent's handling of rape if he didn't delve into said agent's past? He practically rubbed his hands together in anticipation. Maybe now he would find out what in the Russian's past-and psyche-both Kuryakin and his accomplice Waverly were trying to hide.

In the reception area the nurse pursed her lips and gave Illya a curt nod. "Doctor Kopf will see you, now." She turned away from him in dismissal.

Illya steeled himself for the upcoming ordeal, and then entered the lion's den. He avoided the overstuffed couch, opting instead to settle into a squat, ugly, and decidedly uncomfortable chair. He fixed a cold stare on the doctor, remaining silent. He would not volunteer information. Kopf would have to ask his questions and Illya would decide the best way to answer without divulging any real information.

Kopf's smile appeared too bright and cheery. Forced. "Why don't you lie on the couch?" he invited pleasantly.

"No thank you."

The psychiatrist's smile dimmed a little. Illya idly wondered if the man had a row of light bulbs instead of teeth. If so, one just popped. Now if he could just get one of Kopf's veins to do the same he could get out of here without having to talk too much.

Kopf looked down at his folded hands. When he glanced back up, the high wattage smile was back. Must have changed the blown bulb. Pity.

"There's no law about lying down for a session," Kopf admitted. He looked to Illya as though expecting a response.

Since the man asked no question, Illya felt no answer was needed. He stared at Kopf blankly, neither his face nor eyes giving anything away. They regarded each other mutely for several long minutes. Illya realized he and the good doctor were engaged in what Napoleon called a pissing contest. Illya finally decided to let the doctor win this time and broke the silence. "May I go now?"

"No you may not go!" Kopf sputtered. His face turned a deep shade of purple.

If the good doctor stood next to his red-faced nurse, they would have the beginnings of a rainbow. Add a patient that was green with disgust and he might just find a pot of gold at their feet.

Little bastard! thought Kopf. He pointed a finger at the couch. "Lay down," he ordered, his voice mostly steady.

"I prefer to sit," Kuryakin replied. His voice shook not at all, cold as a Siberian winter.

Icy little bastard, Kopf amended. "I don't care about your preference. I'm ordering you to lay on the couch," he snarled. Kuryakin regarded him, then shrugged and moved to the couch.

Kopf humphed in triumph. He fiddled with arranging his notes and pens for a moment. Let Kuryakin sweat for a bit. "So, Mr. Kuryakin . . . Illya," he amended. A more personal approach usually worked a little psychological magic even in the most stubborn patients. "I have the report about your little unscheduled trip to Arabia, but I want to talk about the parts not in here. Please tell me exactly what happened during your last mission."

A soft snore answered him.

His head snapped up and he stared at the agent incredulously. "Illya?" Only the sound of even breathing came from the couch. Kopf stood and stalked to the couch. He shook the agent, gently at first, then harshly. "Kuryakin! Wake up!"

Illya snorted, mumbled, and then settled down again. The soft snores started up again.

Kopf stared at him dumfounded. How did this man survive the field? He should have come awake punching instead of sleeping so deeply a bomb could go off next to him and he would sleep through it.

The intercom buzzed. Shaking his head, Kopf walked to his desk and flipped the toggle.

"Your next appointment is here, Doctor," the nurse announced.

Kopf heard a rustling behind him and turned to see Kuryakin jump up from the couch.

"I guess that means our session is over," the agent said. "You were right about the couch. I feel much better. In fact, I don't think I'll need anymore sessions. Thank you, Doctor." Kuryakin said all this as he hurried towards the door. He was gone before Kopf recovered from his surprise.

The nurse noticed a black blur speed past her desk, only able to focus in time to see Kuryakin's backside disappear into the elevator just as the doors shut. She sighed. He was a pain in the neck, but he did have a nice butt.

"I don't think I've been in this section of the city before," Burke said as Napoleon drove along the street. "Even Edmonton where I was last stationed in the RCMP wasn't as bad as this place is."

Napoleon thought of the Canadian city of his birth and chuckled. "Montreal is pretty hectic, too. I prefer New York." He glanced around. "I think we're getting close to the area where the THRUSHies have been sighted recently. Keep a sharp eye out."

"Will do," Burke said entirely too perky.

Napoleon pondered his next topic of conversation a moment before speaking. "Listen Burke," he started.

"Yes Napoleon?"

The eagerness in the voice was beginning to get to him. He tried to keep from cringing. "Your introduction to U.N.C.L.E. and New York have been going pretty well so far," he said trying to sound like this would be a good thing he was about to say.

"Yes. Thanks. I think I owe all the credit to you for that," Burke replied praising his partner. "We make a great team."

"Team....yes," Napoleon agreed. "A team... and there comes a time when team players must take up new positions for the benefit of the team as a whole," he explained.

Burke's cheerful expression took on sourness. "Just what are you getting at?" he asked.

"Well it looks like Illya will be back on field duty again and that being the case Mr. Waverly will probably put us together again."

"Why can't Kuryakin partner up with someone else? Is he that difficult that no one else will work with him?" Burke asked sullenly.

A sudden motion made Burke brace himself against the dash with his hand for support. Napoleon slammed on the brakes and pulled to the side of the road.

"Just where do you get your assumptions from?" Napoleon demanded. "Kuryakin is one of the finest agents working for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. The sooner you learn that the more likely it is that you will stay alive."

Burke seemed puzzled at Solo's strong reaction. "You can't be serious. The man is a ticking time bomb."

"And you are well on the way to setting it off," he warned him in no uncertain terms. "If you want to stay with U.N.C.L.E. and advance as an agent you better start reevaluating your priorities or not even I will be able to prevent an untimely accident from destroying your career."

"Are you threatening me?" Burke asked totally stunned.

"That isn't a threat," Napoleon informed him. "Think of it as a friendly warning." He was entirely incensed at the attitude Burke had displayed toward Illya and so focused on the man he failed to notice the person approach the car until the gun was pointed directly at the back of his head.

Burke sat in shock and Napoleon froze at the feel of cold hard metal pressing against the back of his head. He slowly raised his hands.

Alexander Waverly was prepared for the irate phone call he received. The raised voice coming through the receiver was audible through the room.

"That Kuryakin is insufferable. He lay on the couch and actually fell asleep. He refused to answer any of my questions and left without my permission. I'm not signing off on any return to duty report until he co-operates and that's it Waverly."

In a quiet voice full of authority the head of U.N.C.L.E. interrupted the man. "That is 'Mr. Waverly,' Dr. Kopf, and do not fail to address me as such in the future or you may find your career here cut extremely short."

"Uh... er.. yes, Mr. Waverly." He knew he'd surpassed proper etiquette and took a moment to organize his thoughts. Kopf knew he still had the authority to call him on Kuryakin's supposed psych evaluation and was still going to get satisfaction there though. "I will not sign Kuryakin as fit for duty until he resigns himself to submitting for a proper screening. That is it Mr. Waverly. I will take it to the Summit council if it becomes necessary."

Waverly considered his options. "I will instruct him to be more cooperative. However," he added before Kopf could get too smug. "He may refuse to answer any questions he feels has no bearing on the Arabian incident."

"You can't do that! How am I to get a complete picture of his emotional well being if he can pick and choose what he will tell me?"

Waverly sighed. It was so hard to find doctors that understood a field agent. "You can either let him choose what he will answer or he will resort to the alternative."

"Which is?"

The head of U.N.C.L.E., NY rolled his eyes. "Lie, Doctor. He fell asleep in order to avoid lying to you out of respect for this organization."

Kopf snorted. "I've been a psychiatrist for a long time. I know when a patient is lying."

"Perhaps you can tell when a normal patient is doing so. You are new to this organization and to the espionage world. You must stop thinking of these agents like you would any other patient. They are a very different animal."

"They're human and thus subject to human nature," Kopf insisted. "And I am an expert on human nature."

"A field agent is not always human," Waverly explained, his patience more contrived than real. "By necessity these men and women must sublimate their humanity in order to get the job done." He didn't add Kuryakin was probably the least human of all. More automaton or animal. A wolf or Siberian tiger, perhaps. It saddened him somewhat. Kuryakin had suffered a brutal upbringing. But it made him an almost perfect agent, better in some ways than Solo. If the KGB had simply had the foresight to train the man better in people skills, the man would have been unstoppable. As it was, pairing him with Solo, a man with charm oozing out of his every pore, made an unstoppable team. One this man was preventing him from being able to utilize once more.

"Kuryakin is human enough," Kopf declared.

Waverly raised an amused eyebrow. Obviously the doctor did not pay attention to the grumblings of so many U.N.C.L.E. personnel who had found themselves dealing with the Russian. He cleared his throat making certain all traces of humor was out of his tone. "Kuryakin is an accomplished liar. He has to be in order to have survived for so long in a career that is well known for killing those who cannot wield subterfuges as well as they wield a weapon. He is our best infiltrator. Read some of his case files. I suggest you start with the Hong Kong affair. He passed himself off as a Mongolian warlord in that one. Believe me; he could convince you he was the one who posed for the Mona Lisa if he wanted to. If you push him to the wall with questions he's not comfortable answering, we will never know if the events in Arabia will interfere with his ability to perform his job."

"Then I will simply not authorize his release for the field. I'm not so sure I shouldn't do that, anyway. From what I can tell, Kuryakin has never had a comprehensive, in-depth evaluation. That in and of itself is against the policies of this organization."

Waverly's patience had run its course. Proctor declared Kuryakin physically fit this morning. Solo's skills at training already rubbed the rough edges off Burke, making him ready to pair with Saunders, another high potential agent. Only Kopf stood in the way of his putting his best team back to work. "Doctor, you will do as I say or you will look for another job."

"We'll see what the Summit Council says about an agent that has never passed the U.N.C.L.E. psych requirements," Kopf snapped.

"Do you truly believe a former KGB agent would be in this organization without the Council's complete knowledge of said agent's psych records?" Granted not all of them knew, but he wasn't about to tell Kopf that. The two that did, other than himself, of course, were the most important ones, anyway.

Silence fell over the phone line as he Kopf digested the information and the implications about the stability of his continued employment. "I will instruct Mr. Kuryakin to be more cooperative. He may refuse to answer any questions he feels has no bearing on the Arabian incident," he said, deliberately repeating his earlier words exactly.

"Yes, sir," Kopf replied sounding subdued.

The line went dead.

Burke awoke, suddenly realizing the whimpering he heard came from his own mouth. He cut off the noise and started to sit up. A hard jolt of a jackhammer beating at his brain stopped him and he sunk back down onto what felt like a rough concrete floor. "Where are we?" he moaned, hoping Napoleon was nearby and alive.

Solo's face appeared over his. Burke's vision swam, making the senior agent resemble one of those Picasso cubism paintings.

"It seems," the painting with Solo's voice said, "we have found the nest."

Burke sat up rubbing his neck. "What happened? Last thing I remember was seeing a guy with a gun to the back of your head."

"Same here," Napoleon replied. "Our powers of observation have obviously failed us." He stood up and walked over to the door. A tight fitting door at that. Feeling the surface he decided it must be some kind of painted metal. "It's locked," he stated as if that was what he thought in the first place. He felt around in his pockets. "And my pen is gone."

Burke patted his coat. "Mine too." His shoulders started to slump but then his eyes suddenly went wide. "Wait a minute."

Napoleon turned around to look at Burke who was suddenly taking off his shoe.

"What are you..." he began to ask but went quiet as he watched the man flip up the insole revealing a hidden compartment in the footwear.

"Latest novelty from the labs. Thought I'd try it out," Burke replied with a grin and then winced at the pain it caused. "Ouch. Shouldn't have done that."

Napoleon returned to Burke's side and looked on with interest.

Using the hard plastic tip of his shoelace, Burke connected the lead from the battery to the transmitter and then pressed the tiny button to turn it on. "This should send out a distress beacon. THRUSH won't have this hidey-hole for long."

Napoleon smiled and gave Burke a congratulatory pat on the back. "Good man. I'll give you a star on my next report."

Burke puffed up like a peacock with the praise. It was really a stroke of luck that Napoleon Solo and he wore the same size in shoes. He saw the new tracker in the lab just outside Kuryakin's office. The notes, open on the bench beside them, said they were intended for Napoleon so he thought he'd take them back to the office with him. When he noticed they were his size he tried them on for fit and liked the look of them. He didn't think it mattered who tested them out so he didn't bother saying anything to Napoleon about it.

Lisa Rogers watched Kuryakin march by without a word, summoned there by Waverly himself. She surmised it had something to do with the heated conversation between Kopf and the senior head of U.N.C.L.E. New York. She was waved off to her desk after the first couple lines spoken by Kopf and could just imagine the man was spitting nails. Of course if the subject was Illya Kuryakin she could understand the whole thing. U.N.C.L.E. was equipped with sound proof doors though and she would know nothing more of the incident than that unless it was in a report to be filed.

"Mr. Kuryakin," Waverly began holding a stern tone. "Dr. Kopf has given me his verbal report and I am not happy with how the session went. You did have my explicit instructions to answer his questions."

"I did Mr. Waverly. Unfortunately his questions had nothing to do with Saudi Arabia therefore were out of the requirement for my cooperation." He was impassive on the outside but deep inside his guts writhed with a hatred of the doctor.

Waverly waved his hand brushing aside the comment. "I have spoken with the man again. It will not happen next time."

"Next time?" Illya replied raising an eyebrow. "My appointment is over."

"Not so Mr. Kuryakin. He has not signed off on your papers and will not without another appointment and I suggest you cooperate or it will become a messy affair," Waverly insisted. "I would rather rein the man in than lose him. In spite of your dislike of doctors he comes with excellent credentials. I can only do so much in the way of restrictions though. You must also do your part."

Illya was not satisfied but the servitude taught by his KGB masters, still deeply ingrained in his personality, prevailed. He was about to speak when Lisa Rogers broke into the conversation.

"Mr. Waverly. U.N.C.L.E. has a distress signal coming in."

Illya perked up and waited for more information.

"Report Miss Rogers." Waverly replied.

The large sliding wall opened up and a map of the city lit up the room as she entered from the hall.

"The signal is intermittent and an U.N.C.L.E. frequency but it's not one we have assigned to any agents." She flipped a switch on the console and a faint light flashed and then dimmed and flashed again.

Illya studied the board with interest and it dawned on him what the signal was. His eyes went wide and he knew he had to do something. The shoes weren't quite ready for testing and he didn't know how or why Napoleon got them, but he was happy for the mistake now.

"What do you make of this, Mr. Kuryakin?" Waverly asked.

"I'm not sure." It was the truth. He really wasn't sure if that was a signal from the missing shoes. "I could investigate it if you like," he offered nonchalantly.

"Do so." Waverly packed a pipe with tobacco, lit, and waved him on. "Get to it."

Illya scrambled from his chair and hurried out the door. He interpreted his boss's orders on this as the more immediate need, putting his talk with Kopf off until this problem was solved.

He rushed to his lab. More a tiny cubicle, really, but he was satisfied with it. The receiver for the shoe tracer was where he'd left it the day his prototype disappeared. He unlocked his lab cabinet and pulled out a small black device that resembled a wallet. He slipped it into his suit coat pocket. As designed, it would not set off alarms and would only appear to be a wallet in an x-ray scan.

He walked purposefully but unhurriedly. An agent leaving for the day. Nothing more. He handed the receptionist his badge, giving her the same cursory nod as he would under ordinary circumstances, and exited into the underground garage.

"G'day, Mr Kuryakin," greeted the tall, lanky attendant, his Australian heritage coloring every word.

"Hello, Mr Dening," Illya replied. "Do you have a car available for me?"

"Oh, I'm sure we have a fair go, mate, as long as you don't expect a corker."

Illya shook his head. "I don't know what kind of neighborhood I'll be going to, so I need something that can blend in anywhere."

Dening pointed to a small white Ford Falcon. "That one's a bog standard car but it will get you where you're going."

"I don't need any extras. I do need it in good running condition, though, in case I need a quick getaway."

The attendant placed a hand over his heart as though wounded. "I would never supply you field blokes with a bodgy car." His eyes narrowed. "You been talking to that Harrison, haven't you? That bloody whacker has it in for me. Had a bit of a bingle and blamed it on my car rather than his own bad driving. He's got kangaroos loose in his . . ."

"As fascinating as I find your rantings about Harrison," Illya interrupted. "I'm in a bit of a hurry."

A sheepish grin spread over Dening's weather-beaten tanned face. "You blokes always are. I should know that by now." He busied himself with a small card file. He pulled out one of the cards and slapped it on the counter in front of Illya. "You know the routine."

Illya signed out the Falcon while Dening retrieved the keys. Within five minutes he was behind the wheel of the Ford and driving out of the garage. There was a slight grinding noise when he shifted gears, but otherwise the car seemed in good shape. Once away from Headquarters he pulled into a parking space and pulled the receiver from his pocket. He opened the device, unfolding it like the wallet it resembled. The upright panel showed a blinking dot of white light. The lower sported a small keypad and two dials. A small antenna was tucked in the fold between the two panels. He pulled it up and extended it.

The device pinged softly. Relatively strong. Napoleon must not be too far away. He tapped a code in on a small pad and a grid of the nearby streets popped up on the top screen. It was the main advantage of this tracking system, what made it new and better. It used bat-like sonar that bounced off surrounding buildings to give a basic idea of the lay of the land. It wasn't perfect, but it gave a more accurate and detailed location of the signal.

Since the blinking dot was not within the grid Napoleon was not in the immediate area. Not too far, though. Thirty or forty blocks, maybe. Illya followed the signal. Within twenty-five blocks the dot flashed within the latticework of streets. It took him to the warehouse district.

Five more minutes and he knew exactly where Napoleon was held captive. He drove slowly down the street, glancing down at the screen then glancing around the buildings as though looking for an address. He stopped in front of each warehouse to look at the street number. That way it wouldn't appear odd when he did so at the abandoned building.

He drove farther down, finally pulling into a parking lot with other cars. He folded the receiver and got out of the car. Acting like he had business at this warehouse, he walked around the side. Once out of sight of the other building, he made his way to the back of the target building.

He unfolded the receiver once more to utilize the other feature of his new system. He touched a button. Now instead of showing the streets, the grid showed the location of security beams. The door and bottom windows were crisscrossed with them. The upper windows, though, were not.

That was stupid. Anyone with any experience would go high before low. Napoleon knew better than to do that. Burke, on the other hand, didn't know much. Probably what happened too. Napoleon and Burke most likely discovered the nest here. Burke probably tried to sneak in the bottom window in order to impress Napoleon with his feeble skills. And got them both caught.

He didn't dwell on the fact such things had happened to him and Napoleon in the past because of one or the other's stupidity. This time it was highly likely Burke's idiocy was at fault. Illya looked forward to showing the . . . oh, what was it Napoleon called men like that? Oh yes. He looked forward to showing the brown noser the error of his ways.

A quick check revealed no guards on the outside perimeter and no cameras. They obviously expected their alarms to do all the work. Stupid of them. Good for him. He took off his belt and removed the buckle, pulling a long thin length of strong rope attached to it from its niche in the back of the belt. With another couple of maneuvers the buckle transformed into a small grappling hook.

He swung the hook and line up, catching it on the lip of the window. He tugged the line. Hook nicely settled. He quickly climbed the rope, hoping no guard would decide now would be a good time for a smoke. A glass cutter gave him access to the window lock and he was inside.

He took out the receiver one more time. He turned down the sound before activating it. This time the grid showed the layout of the interior of the building. A wolfish grin crossed Illya's face. "Got you, my friend," he murmured. Keeping to the shadows and ever watchful for THRUSH goons, he followed the signal to his lov...friend.

Burke frantically searched for a way out of the cell. Three goons armed to the teeth had injected Napoleon with some vile-looking greenish fluid and dragged him out a couple of hours earlier. Since then, he had tried in vain to find a way out and rescue his partner.

Obviously U.N.C.L.E. was not going to rescue them or they would have been here by now. These damned shoes of Kuryakin's apparently didn't work. Figured. He was beginning to wonder why Waverly kept the man around, anyway.

His mind flashed back to the desert and the Russian's state of undress in the Arab Prince's palace courtyard. Remembered the way the Russian's face looked when that man touched him. Surely Waverly didn't allow that sort of man-and he used the word loosely—work for U.N.C.L.E.

As he pondered their fate idle fingers picked away at the subtle decoration of the shoes. A small piece had come away with just the scratching of his nail. It figured the Russian put all thought into mechanics and none into the quality of the item itself. Losing track of his original thoughts he pulled at the black strand. It came away easier than he thought and then it struck him. It was flexible enough to bend and shape but stiff enough to stay firm. A lock pick perhaps. He glanced down the hall through the small window and then began to work on the lock.

"No.... You made a mistake," Napoleon protested. "I'm a salesman. I was training the new man and we got lost on our way to Newmarket Street."

"I don't believe you Mr. Solo. I'll tell you what I think and I want you to listen well. I think you are THE Napoleon Solo. Chief Enforcement Agent of the U.N.C.L.E. here in New York and you work for Alexander Waverly. Now we have been trying to get a lead on his itinerary for the next few months and you are the one who will give it to us," he said in a sickly sweet tone that now turned malevolent. "You're going to feel pretty ill soon and your tongue will get looser. I can always increase the dosage if necessary but you might not survive intact if I do. It can be nasty stuff."

Napoleon couldn't see straight or clearly anymore as the globulous images swam before his eyes. His stomach turned and alternately knotted and threatened to heave. "I'm a salesman." He insisted weakly as he began to sweat.

"Don't take me for a fool," the interrogator yelled and slapped the prisoner with a vicious backhand. "I'll get what I want from you whether you leave here breathing or not."

The angry THRUSH was drawn away by another of his cohorts. "Mr. Robbins. Please. We aren't fully set up here yet. These men should be moved to our more secure headquarters here in New York."

Angered, the man brushed his underling off. "You think I'm going to give up the chance to impress our leader? We can do this and then all of THRUSH will respect us."

A delicate but firm touch. Slight maneuvering of the wrist. Even pressure. He could feel the movement and Burke waited to see if the little sound alerted anyone. Carefully he twisted the knob and pulled the door open a crack and still the hall remained silent. It seemed rather deserted for a THRUSH stronghold. Judging by the paint and dcor as he walked down the hall it could very probably be a new nest.

At the end of the hall Burke paused to look both ways. The right hall was finished where the left hall still had scaffolding set up. This place was very new and probably not even fully staffed. Handy. It gave him weapons at the ready and he chose a hefty piece of pipe for a club.

A scraping sound caught his attention and then a muffled yell. Burke turned around to focus on where it was coming from and surmised that it must be Napoleon and whomever he was with. Alive and kicking was a good sign and he headed that direction.

Illya dropped into the building and ducked behind a pile of lumber among construction materials. The place appeared to be undergoing renovations. It was no wonder it didn't appear on their list of THRUSH lairs. Before exploring to find the shoes and the probable captives with them he checked his gun. Illya released the safety and checked the chamber. He didn't want to be caught by surprise if he could help it.

He steadied his breathing and put aside thoughts of Burke accidentally getting in his line of fire. Nothing would please him more but chances were Napoleon would be too if that were the case. Illya wanted any and all U.N.C.L.E. agents back alive. The KGB could be cutthroats when it came to their own agents but he was in America working under another organization now. He focused on that instead and moved out on his hunt.

Illya checked his receiver. The shoes were on the move. Either Napoleon had escaped or his captors were taking him somewhere. Didn't matter which. He was sure Napoleon could use his help. Even in the darkness of this part of the facility, he unerringly twisted through the maze of construction, guided by his new gadget. The scientist in him was pleased to see his new equipment doing so well in its first field trial.

A quiet conversation caught his attention as he neared the end of his present row. He slowed and peered around the tall stack of lumber behind which he hid. A hulking man stood alone in front of a door, talking to himself. Illya listened to the low grumblings and amended his first assessment. The man was arguing with himself. In two distinct voices.

Illya shook his head. THRUSH really scraped the bottom of the barrel these days. He waited for the argument to escalate to possible blows before stepping out and placing a bullet in the man's brain. The man's eyes rolled up as if studying the neat, round, red hole blossomed in the center of his forehead. He pitched forward, landing face down on the rough concrete floor.

Burke slowly advanced on the room where the sounds came from. He had to admit these shoes were great for skulking around. The extra soft rubber soles made no sound on the concrete floor. At least Kuryakin did something right.

He could hear voices now and what they said gave him heart. He was right. The facility was not fully staffed. That should make things a little easier. He stealthily made his way to the door. He took a deep breath and rushed into the room, pipe swinging. He thought about the possibility Solo might be closest to the door as his weapon slugged someone on the side of the head. The man went down-not Napoleon, thank goodness.

Another man turned from in front of Napoleon, who was sitting in a chair, and Burke put the pipe in play again. He mistimed a bit and only delivered a glancing blow. It was enough to send the bad guy falling backwards over a roll of carpet.

Burke didn't stop to see if the man was unconscious. He didn't question his good luck at the fact that Napoleon wasn't tied to his chair as he grabbed Solo's arm and yanked him up. "Come on!"

Napoleon stumbled along beside him, not able to do much but try to stay on his feet. He clutched Burke's arm, the only solid thing in his present undulating world. They tripped out of the room and hurried down the corridor as fast as Napoleon was able to travel.

Illya saw Napoleon and Burke lurch out of a room halfway down the corridor in front of him. They didn't see him and turned the opposite direction. That idiot Burke, Illya thought as he started after them. He skidded to a halt when another man followed them out, gun in hand.

If the man's gun pointed towards Burke, Illya might have waited to fire. As it was, he was unsure so he supposed he should shoot now and work on getting rid of Burke later. His bullet exploded the THRUSH man's heart just as Burke and Napoleon rounded a corner.

Illya started after them, running into yet another man tumbling out of the room. Rivulets of blood tracked down the side of the man's face. Two guns came up but only one got off a shot. Blood splattered on Illya's shirt. The THRUSH goon's face registered surprise as he fell to a heap on the floor.

Illya cautiously ran the direction Napoleon had gone. Even though the facility seemed light on personnel, he had no idea how many birds nested here. He came across a guard who tugged his pants up around his waist with one hand while fumbling for the pistol at his side with the other. Apparently he got caught unaware with his pants down.

A well-placed bullet from Illya's gun ended the man's career. Illya sped past him, still trying to catch up to his partner. He finally saw them going out a door at the end of the hallway he just entered. Before he could hurry to join them, he was hit from behind. He staggered and turned. A large ham hock of a fist flew towards his face. Illya managed to dodge it and the blow glanced off his ear. He saw a few stars but still had enough wits about him to kick the man between the legs.

The hulk in front of him doubled over and Illya slammed an elbow down on his neck. He connected with what he thought was the spine. The man slumped over and remained unmoving.

Breathing hard, Illya slammed out the door. He saw Napoleon being almost carried by Burke as they lumbered across the street. As Napoleon's luck would have it, they were going the direction of the warehouse where Illya had parked the car.

He thundered after them. "Napoleon!" he called when he was close enough no one from the THRUSH building would hear.

Burke turned and gave Kuryakin a disgusted look as the man slipped in under Napoleon's other arm to lend a hand. "It's about time you showed up."

Illya ignored the man and spoke to Napoleon. "I have a car over here. Come on Napoleon. It's not far."

The two men practically dragged Napoleon the last few feet as the CEA passed out.

Illya opened the back door and Burke climbed in dragging Napoleon after him. He thought about protesting and making Burke drive but getting away was more important at the moment. He got behind the wheel and burned rubber vacating the parking spot.

Napoleon lay on a gurney being wheeled into medical section followed closely by Burke and Illya. Tension was high among them all as the nurse stopped the two agents from entering the treatment room.

Dr. Kopf saw the group pass by from an adjoining corridor. "What's going on here?" he asked concerned about the CEA.

Burke turned around and quickly explained. "Mr. Solo and I were caught by surprise. They sent Mr. Kuryakin to rescue us."

Kopf's eyes went wide. "What?! He's not on field duty yet." The veins puffed out in his neck. "I've got a good mind to pull you from duty altogether," he growled at the Russian. Before Kuryakin could protest, Kopf spun on his heels and stalked back to his office to call Waverly.

Burke looked at Kuryakin. "Boy. It looks like you're on the guy's bad side."

Illya only sneered at Burke before going to sit by the door to wait for news of Napoleon.

An hour later Napoleon was comfortably tucked into a bed sleeping off the drugs after U.N.C.L.E. physicians counteracted them with the latest treatments. Out of danger he slept, dreaming only of romantic encounters with Illya. Kissing that luscious pouting lower lip. Running a hand down the slender backside to cup the muscular svelte buttock and squeezing it. Nibbling the earlobe as Illya's head tilted back invitingly. Oh, it was one of Napoleon's happiest dreams and he smiled ever so slightly as he slept.

Illya leaned over the bed and brushed a stray strand of hair from Napoleon's face. It would be hours before the CEA was awake but Illya insisted on seeing Napoleon for himself before he would leave. He felt good after being out in the field. That was where he belonged. Not cooped up here talking about his relationship with his mother-what relationship?-to that quack Kopf.

He noticed Napoleon's eyes moving beneath the lids. A dream of some wench no doubt, the Russian surmised. Suddenly Illya drew his hand back. Such intimacy was totally out of character for him. He squared his shoulders feeling uneasy although there really should have been no reason for it.

"Ech hem," he cleared his throat. "I have reports to write. I will be back to check on you later," Illya told his former partner as if he could hear him. He turned with deliberate intent, albeit reluctantly, and left to write his report before leaving for the night.

Alexander Waverly was suffering from about as much as he could take for the day. He rubbed his forehead for the headache caused by Kopf's continual nagging. He went through the reports on the events of the afternoon to make some sense of what was going on with Napoleon and the trainee agent. How Kuryakin ended up in the middle of things mystified him but the reports were beginning to clear that up.

"It was great. Absolutely wonderful," Burke bragged to Saunders as the two sipped a couple of beers in the pub. "Solo and I escaped with barely a scratch. Well he had a few but I got him out of there before they could cause any permanent damage. Kuryakin only showed up after I'd done all the hard work."

Saunders raised his glass in a toast. "Good for you. Rumor has it you'll be paired with full agent status darned soon. "

Burke accepted the praise. "I think it will be Solo. He and I are like this," he said crossing his fingers in example. "It's about time he had someone to count on again. We'll get all the best cases. I'm really going to make a mark in this office."

Saunders raised an eyebrow. "You don't think they'll put Kuryakin back with him again?"

"Nah," Burke said overconfidently. "Why mess with success? Solo and I will be twice the team he was with that red."

"Don't count your assignments before they're hatched," Saunders warned him. "They might surprise you with something other than what you expect."

Burke shook his head and twirled the last of the beer in his glass. "Nah. Never happen."

Morning found Napoleon upright in bed staring at a gluey bowl of plain oatmeal and a soft boiled egg, neither of which he had much appetite for. He sipped the orange juice to get rid of the dry feeling in his mouth as he thought about asking Vera to smuggle him up something from the cafeteria instead. A smile and a little charm along with the dark puppy dog eyes would get him something more substantial and much tastier.

"Vera, my darling," Napoleon drawled turning up the charm full blast. "Seeing you first thing upon opening my eyes is a wonderful way to start the day."

Some women were immune to Solo's lethal charms. Vera was not one of them. Her eyes glazed over as the full force of his personality washed over her. "Th-thank you, Napoleon."

He reached out and snagged her by the waist, pulling her closer to the bed. "It's a shame I don't have any strawberries for my breakfast. I would enjoy feeding them to you . . . with my mouth."

"Oh, Napoleon. It makes me want to go get you some strawberries."

"Would you? That would be wonderful!"

Illya heard a girlish giggle just as he opened the door to Napoleon's room. He froze for a second having second thoughts about visiting at this moment. He hated to watch Napoleon seducing his women in the best of times. Now that Illya was so confused about his own sexuality, especially where Napoleon was concerned, he REALLY didn't want to watch it now. Before he could gracefully exit, Napoleon spotted him.

"Illya!" the bedridden man said with delight. He released the nurse and patted her behind. "We'll continue this later, my dear. Would you be a love and bring some scrambled eggs and toast with those strawberries?"

Vera smiled at Napoleon. "Anything you want. I'll be back in a few minutes." She turned and her smile turned to a scowl for Illya. "Don't stay long."

Illya could read the woman easily. She wanted to get back to letting Napoleon seduce her as soon as she brought him his breakfast. He regarded her coldly as she left.

He should have known Napoleon's desire for him was fleeting at best. No doubt the highly sexed American was now satisfied with his venture onto the wild side and was ready to go back to his usual womanizing ways. Oh, he might decide to have an occasional fling with his male partner just to spice things up here and there; maybe when he needed sexual release but had no available woman. As for anything long term or meaningful between them, sexually, at least, Illya doubted it would happen.

Some of the ice Napoleon had melted in their last lovemaking session solidified once more and left Illya feeling cold and empty. In other words, business as usual. He was used to it. His spent his entire life feeling this way. Why did it bother him so much now? He shoved it all down, locking it away with every other real emotion that had ever threatened to cause him even more pain.

He stepped up to Napoleon's bed. "Doing your usual manipulations with the nurses, I see," Illya said, sounding much more upbeat than he felt.

Napoleon raised his eyebrows, looking insufferably pleased with himself. "Jealous?"

Illya snorted but didn't answer. The problem was that Napoleon was right. He was jealous. To make things worse, he also felt stupid on top of jealous. All in all, he was not having a good day. "How are you feeling?"

Napoleon grimaced. "Sore and headachy. You know how THRUSH drugs and beatings leave you feeling hungover."

"Indeed. Of course, if you had me to keep a better eye on you instead of that green agent, Burke . . . "

"I probably still would have been captured," Napoleon interrupted.

Napoleon might as well have punched Illya in the stomach. It might not have hurt so badly. "Excuse me?"

"Look, Illya," Napoleon explained. "Burke is actually a good agent. He's young and green, as you pointed out, but all in all, he's been a good partner." He didn't want to keep him as such since he desperately wanted his Russian partner back at his side, but he felt compelled to set Illya straight on the subject. "After all, he did get me out of that predicament."

"Excuse me?" was all Illya could say he was so flabbergasted.

"I know you helped, but really, Illya, he pretty much had me out of there single-handedly before you ever showed up."

Illya fought the anger welling inside him. He was relatively sure he would regret killing his partner-former partner-later, no matter how good it might feel right now. He took a step back. "Of course," he said coldly. "Perhaps you are right. I'm sure once you read the reports on the situation, you will come to the conclusion Burke is a better partner for you anyway. I'm sure you two will have many happy missions together. That is, if I don't kill him for stealing the experimental shoes I had designed for you." He spun on his heal and stormed out.

"Illya! That's not what I meant! Illya!" Napoleon called after him. It was too late. Illya was gone in a flurry of indignation and, unbelievable as it was, hurt. He dropped his head back onto the pillow and winced. "You really stepped in it that time Solo," he muttered. His brows beetled as he remembered something Illya had said. "What shoes?"

Illya held himself in rigid control as he stalked down the corridors of Medical. He was almost to the elevators when the voice he hated most to hear sounded. Make that the second most hated. Burke's was the first.

"Mr. Kuryakin!" Kopf bellowed from the nurse's station. "I need to speak with you."

Illya stopped and turned to glare at the psychiatrist.

Kopf shivered and took an involuntary step back. The eyes that regarded him were as cold and icy as the Alaskan glacier he'd once hiked across. This was the hard, dangerous KGB assassin Kuryakin's file outlined. He'd never quite believed that file, unable to wrap his mind around the idea that this small intellectual man could possibly be a cold-blooded killer. He knew Kuryakin's reputation, yes, and knew the Russian was the number 2 Section 2 agent, but he'd always figured Solo was the one who actually got them out of the dangerous scrapes and that Kuryakin was just there to help out with the technical stuff. His mind was able to wrap itself around the idea now. The eyes of the man before him told him not only had Kuryakin killed many times before, but that he would do the same to Kopf without a second thought.

"What?" Illya snapped when the doctor remained mute.

"Uhh," Kopf stammered. He stopped and cleared his throat. This was ridiculous. Kuryakin wasn't about to kill him. The Russian knew that if he did so, he would never get back into the field. Kopf tried not to think about the idiocy of the thought, only to hold onto it in order to bring himself back into his mindset of having supreme authority over Kuryakin. "You have some explaining to do."

"I have some work to do," Illya countered. If the doctor knew what was good for him, he would let this go for the moment. He was angrier than he could ever remember being and he was not sure he could control it well enough to deal with this worm. "I will call and make an appointment later."

Kopf took that as a compromise and relaxed a little. "Confirm it today and I will not interrupt you further," he said and stepped aside.

The best Illya could manage was a curt nod as his steely blue eyes pierced the man like a knife.

Five hours later a freshly discharged Napoleon Solo along with Burke, Illya Kuryakin, and Alexander Waverly were comfortably seated in the U.N.C.L.E. Chief's office around the large round conference table.

"Good to see you not the too worse for wear Mr. Solo," Waverly began. "You were lucky your captivity did not last long. Good work Mr. Burke."

The young agent puffed up proudly. "Thank you sir. I did my best."

Napoleon gave Burke a thank you grin, pleased with his actions in the rescue. "He's been performing well as you've noted in my reports," he commented to Waverly.

"It was good thinking to test the prototype tracking device Mr. Kuryakin was working on. It was a little presumptuous of Mr. Burke to test them out himself without discussing it with you. I understand the two of you left the building on short notice and did not have the time for it to come up in conversation."

Illya seethed on the inside. The only outward appearance of any irritation was the glare he sent Burke's way. It was no wonder the ninny wouldn't look back his way but the shiver that ran up the man's back was good enough.

Confident of his superiority, Burke leaned forward. "I had everything under control but it was good of Mr. Kuryakin to show up in time to give us a ride." He made as little of the Russian's participation as he deemed necessary.

"On the contrary Mr. Burke, if not for Mr. Kuryakin the two of you could very well be dead by now. Single handed, he took out three of their agents and wounded several others catching up to you. A remarkable feat."

Illya retained his modesty and said nothing. Internally he laughed at the flabbergasted look on Burke's idiotic face.

"But...." Burke stuttered.

Waverly raised his hand for silence. "I have some changes to announce if you'd be so kind as to indulge me."

The men fell silent and gave him their undivided attention.

With a satisfied look on his face he folded the files before him. "I have decided to grant Mr. Burke full agent status. He has shown his bravery and quick thinking as well as showing an admirable dedication to the ideals of U.N.C.L.E."

Burke smiled and inhaled deeply as if to celebrate.

Waverly continued. "He will now be paired with an agent on a full partnership basis. Mr. Saunders needs someone. I think the two of you will perform well."

Suddenly the smile went blank as Burke couldn't understand what happened to all his plans. "Uh... Th...thank you...sir?" he mumbled surprised.

Illya crossed his arms and sat back. Surely if he were a cat he'd be licking the cream from his paws right about now.

"As for you Mr. Kuryakin," Waverly stated. "Pending the completion of your appointment in Medical, you will be returned to the field as Mr. Solo's partner once more."

There was no trace of the smugness he felt as Kuryakin nodded his acknowledgement. "I am to schedule my appointment by the end of the day," he replied.

Napoleon felt his heart leap a little at the thought of working with Illya again. He had no doubt things were going to get a lot more interesting with their newfound relationship.

"Now if you gentlemen will excuse me," Waverly said. "I have other matters to attend to and you Mr. Solo are on sick leave for the next couple of days. Mr. Kuryakin. Make your appointment and then see to it Mr. Solo gets home in one piece."

Napoleon was about to protest but then he thought having Illya drive him home might not be a bad idea. He smiled at Waverly and then Illya in turn. "I won't put up a fuss."

Illya rolled his eyes upward as he got up and the men exited the office. "I'll let you know when I'm ready to go," he snapped at Napoleon. "Your friend Burke can help you get there." He stalked away still angry that his partner had defended Burke so vehemently even going as far as believing Illya had nothing to do with the rescue.

He was even more angry at himself. Only himself to blame, after all. He knew this would happen. He knew allowing Napoleon to fuck him would affect their partnership. Knew it would lessen him in Napoleon's mind. Napoleon now saw him as one of his women, weak, vulnerable, and in need of protecting. Not only incapable of taking care of himself, but no longer able to rescue a partner in need. He could only imagine what Napoleon thought of having him back as a partner. He'd said he wanted him back as such, but his behavior today belied his earlier statement.

He knew it would happen yet he blithely went along with it! He berated himself all the way to the office he still shared with Solo. He dropped heavily into his chair and reached for the phone, dialing Kopf's office. Might as well get this ugliness over with so he could move onto the ugliness of his shattered partnership.

"Doctor Kopf's office," the cheery receptionist answered.

"Kuryakin. I need to make an appointment."

The receptionist cleared her throat. "Hold on," she told him, her voice not quite as chipper as before. "He told me to put you through to him."

Great. This couldn't be good. A doctor wanting to talk directly to him when he was just making an appointment never turned out well. Yet it kept happening to him. He used to think that was the usual procedure, but after asking around, he found out he was the exception, not the rule.

"Kuryakin," Kopf greeted.

Okay. So far he didn't sound too bad. "I'm calling to make that appointment," Illya replied warily.

"Yes, I know. Come now."

Illya's eyebrows shot up in shock. "Pardon me?"

"Now. Your appointment is now."

"This is not really a good time," Illya objected.

"Now or I won't schedule it until two weeks from now. That will mean you will have to wait another two weeks to return to the field."

Illya's scowl was lost on the doctor since he couldn't see through the phone. "Very well."

"Good! I'll see you in ten minutes. Not a minute longer."

Napoleon limped in just in time to see Illya gently return the phone into its cradle. Uh-oh. Napoleon didn't need to see the storm clouds in his friend's eyes to know they were there. When Illya was mad, he seldom handled anything gently with the exception of things that might explode. When Illya was furious, he became calm and cool in the extreme.

Illya looked up, his gaze expressionless and dead. Double uh-oh. Slid right past furious and into enraged. This did not bode well for the poor fool who put the Russian in this mood. Napoleon suddenly realized he was probably that poor fool.

Better apologize and apologize quickly if he wanted to keep his own butt intact and if he wanted to see that particular Russian butt naked again. He coughed slightly. "Ah, Illya, about before . . ."

"I have an appointment," Illya announced brusquely. He waited for Napoleon to clear the door before whipping past him and out. He stormed down the corridors, noticing with cold satisfaction the way everyone else practically flattened themselves against the wall in order to get out of his way. He knew it was childish to enjoy such a thing, but it gave him a small sense of control at a time when he felt like he had absolutely none.

He made it to Kopf's office with four minutes to spare.

"Go right in," the receptionist said, cutting him off before he could speak.

Illya acted like she didn't exist and swept by her into Kopf's office. "I'm here, Doctor."

"So I see," Kopf replied. He steepled his fingers in front of his face regarding his patient. Kuryakin appeared composed. New to this espionage world, it took Kopf a little time to realize such composure did not suggest a truly balanced psyche as it would in the mundane world. Oh, no. He found the calmer the agent the more psychological problems lurked beneath that cold exterior. That held especially true of THIS agent.

He and Kuryakin stared each other down for several long moments before Kopf finally waved a hand at the chair on the opposite side of the desk. "Please sit down, Mr Kuryakin." He chuckled. "Forgive me for not offering you the use of the couch, but I think it would be best if you napped on your own time."

Kuryakin glanced at the couch then back. Kopf saw a ghost of a smile play about the agent's lips. Kuryakin gave a condescending nod and made a show of settling into the chair.

As Kopf hoped, treating Kuryakin's previous transgression with humor helped to disarm the agent's aggressive stance. He no longer viewed his Russian patient like he would a civilian one. He saw Kuryakin's true nature in the hall earlier and he had no desire to see that turned against him. He knew without a doubt he would lose that particular argument.

A new tactic was called for with this one. As angry as he was about Kuryakin going out into the field when he had not been released for it, he felt it would be a mistake to take him to task for it at this time. No, Kopf decided to be friendly instead of confrontational. Kuryakin was used to confrontation and could stonewall Kopf effectively. On the other hand, the Russian was so unused to people treating him in a friendly manner, Kopf believed such a tactic would unbalance Kuryakin enough to possibly get some real answers from him.

Napoleon sat in his office trying to figure out how he was going to get around Illya's snit. No doubt he could wait it out, but that might take longer than he wanted. He wanted another night of passion with his partner. Not because he was obsessed, Napoleon quickly tried to convince himself. Only because Illya was a damned good lay.

He leaned back in his chair and scratched the side of his head. Illya must be suffering from a buildup of sexual frustration again. That has to be it. Before the mission to Mexico he was always as solid as a rock.

Thoughts of Illya were interrupted as a knock at the door drew Napoleon out of his contemplations.


A tuft of red hair poked through the door followed by April's bright cheery face. "How's it going Napoleon? I heard they sprung you today."

He sat back and waved her in. After taking a deep breath he sighed very relaxed. "Yeah. I even get a couple days off too. Must be my charm and good looks."

April laughed as she slid gracefully into a chair. "Your ego is intact."

He grinned back. "You know all my secrets." Not really but as much as I hope you ever do.

"So what are you doing sticking around here when you could be home?"

Napoleon shrugged. "I thought I'd wait for Illya. He's got an appointment in Medical and you know how that always puts him in a bad frame of mind."

"He's seemed kind of off ever since you two got back from Arabia. Did something happen there Napoleon? You two have been very close-mouthed about it."

Napoleon went quiet again. That was a touchy subject at best. A closed door to the rest of those in U.N.C.L.E. except for Waverly and the medical division. "We made it back in one piece. I think he's just anxious to get back in the field."

"When do you think that will be?" she asked flipping her hair back with a toss of her head. "He's starting to get on everyone's nerves here."

A smile bloomed on Napoleon's face. "Waverly just told us a little while ago that we are to be partnered again and put back in the field."

The delight April felt could be seen as her wide eyes filled with happiness. "I'm so happy to hear that but what about Burke? I hear he had hopes of being placed as your permanent partner."

Napoleon let out a small chuckle. "He was a little surprised. He was assigned to Saunders. He did a good job of getting me out of that pickle. Of course we wouldn't have made it without Illya's help although I didn't know that at the time."

She shifted in her seat and leaned forward on the edge of Napoleon's desk. "You want to know what I heard?" she whispered although she didn't really have to. Napoleon's office was secure.

"What?" he asked with curiosity.

"Well I heard word is that Burke stole those shoes from the lab."

Napoleon smiled and sat back again. "Not quite. Illya was preparing them for me to test. I didn't know about it but apparently there was a note on them for section one field testing. Burke saw them and decided to bring them up here but seeing they were his size he just thought he'd try them out without saying anything. I wouldn't exactly call it stealing."

"Who knows how these rumors get started," she said and sat back again. "So how long do you think Illya will be? I could drag you down to the cafeteria for some coffee while you wait."

He shook his head. "I should probably steer clear of the caffeine until all the drugs have moved out of my system but thanks for the thought. I could probably stand an orange juice though," he said as he stood up and reached for his jacket.

"Can I get you some tea or coffee?" Kopf offered Kuryakin as he settled in. "Or perhaps a snack?"

Kuryakin looked at him with a strange expression.

"No need to look so puzzled Mr. Kuryakin," Kopf explained. "I thought we could talk a bit about Saudi Arabia and a little refreshment might help."

Illya bowed to the inevitable. "What I would really like, Doctor, is to get this over with as quickly as possible. May we just proceed?" Besides, he doubted Kopf would offer him vodka, which was what he really wanted by way of refreshment.

Kopf gave him another smile. Illya considered wiping the oily thing off his face, but decided the trouble it would cause him would not be worth what satisfaction he might gain from it.

"Very well, Mr. Kuryakin." He paused. "May I call you Illya?" he asked, repeating the question from the last session.

Illya stared at him coldly. "If you must."

Kopf either didn't notice the iciness behind Illya's answer or chose to ignore it. "All right, Illya. We're going to go over the events in Arabia."


Kopf blinked, his practiced speech interrupted. "Pardon?"

"Why must we go over it? It was just a mission gone awry. Happens all the time but we don't come running to you about it."

Kopf relaxed in familiar territory. "Most of those missions don't culminate in the agent's rape. This one did."

Illya licked his lips. Was he raped? Yes. He was forced to have sex against his will. At first. Eventually, he not only liked what Laheeb did to him, he craved it. Illya wanted to shy away from the thought but he made himself examine it. Ignoring it would not make it go away.

It was the first time he admitted to himself just how much he had wanted Laheeb's attention. And the afternoon with Napoleon. Bozhe moi! Now he found himself craving that even more.

He was in so much trouble.

Kopf noticed signs of distress in his patient. Licking of the lips, adam's apple bobbing as though Kuryakin swallowed something completely distasteful. Perhaps the most telling of all was the way the color drained from his face. Finally they seemed to be getting somewhere. "Illya?" he gently prompted.

Illya glanced up in surprise. He berated himself for momentarily forgetting where he was or who he talked to. Stupid. Dangerous. He pulled himself together and gave the Doctor a wry smile. "It was no worse than the torture I have endured at the hands of THRUSH." He thought of the KGB and some of the things they had done to him in the name of training. "And various other sundry madmen," he amended. "In some ways, it was better. Easier." The best way to lie was to throw a bit of truth in here and there. This part was definitely true.

Kopf raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

Illya's lips twisted into a sneer. "That's not what I meant." Oh, yes it was. "There is a lot less pain and humiliation with rape than with some of the other forms of torture." Had a good bit of pleasure thrown in too. He met the thought with a mixture of despair and acceptance.

He HAD enjoyed it. He definitely enjoyed the things he and Napoleon did, both in Arabia and more recently here in New York. He could no longer deny this. On a certain level, he didn't want to.

"So what did you mean?" Kopf asked, breaking into his musings.

Illya hesitated as he formulated his response. "Doctor," he said finally. "This is not the first time such a thing has happened to me. I highly doubt it will be the last. I treat it as I would any other torture." Not quite, but Kopf didn't need to know.

Kopf's eyebrows rose into his hairline. He flipped through the file in front of him. "I don't see any reference to other incidents of this nature in your file." He folded his hands on top of it. "Perhaps you'd like to enlighten me about the other times."

Illya shook his head. "It is classified."

The smile this time had a hint of smugness. "I have top secret clearance. I get to know all of UNCLE's secrets."

Illya's smile was just as smug with an added touch of ice. "It's not UNCLE's secrets I'm talking about."

Kopf's eyes widened in shock. "I see. Well." He looked down in embarrassment and shuffled the papers, closing the file. "Perhaps you can tell me how you handle such things as this and other forms of torture?"

Illya shrugged. "I remove myself from it."

"How can you do that? I'm assuming you are restrained during such things."

"Mentally. I take my mind somewhere else. I am peripherally aware of what is happening to my body, but I simply don't acknowledge the pain." Although sometimes the pain was so intense it yanked his mind back against his will. Again, Kopf did not need to know.

"Really?" Kopf asked, intrigued in spite of himself. "Do all the agents do this?"

Illya threw him a look that suggested Kopf was stupid. "How should I know? I don't discuss such things. I'm only doing so now because I'm being forced to."

Kopf sighed. "Very well. We're done for today."

"For today?" Illya repeated in irritation. "I have done as you asked. I have told you everything I can about the encounter in Arabia. There is nothing more to discuss about the subject."

Kopf graced him with yet another oily smile. "I reserve the right to recall you if I need clarification on anything."

"Doctor," Illya intoned as he stood to leave. "There is no clarification that can be made. What you are most interested in learning about I am not at liberty to discuss."

"Let me be the judge."

"Fine," Illya snapped, tired of the game. "In the meantime, am I field certified?"

Kopf pursed his lips. Kuryakin was holding back, that much was certain. As he stated, however, he would hide behind the label of classified information in order to avoid talking more about it. No matter how much Kopf wanted to learn more about Kuryakin's past, the wall of KGB secrecy would block his way. He sighed. "Yes, I will authorize your return to the field."

"Thank you." Illya scooted out fast, making good his escape. Once outside of Medical he breathed a sigh of relief. That went better than he thought it would. To top it off, he could once more work at Napoleon's side. Not to mention the other things he could do at Napoleon's side.

He stopped that thought dead in its tracks. What did he think he was doing? He couldn't possibly allow that to happen again! But try as he might, Illya couldn't help this wanting that burned him so completely. In the past he shied away from any kind of commitment, sexual or otherwise. This, though, was something different. He and Napoleon already had a commitment to each other as partners. He believed that was why it was so difficult for him to shake off.

Rather than be terrified of the possibility of being Napoleon's permanent lover, he discovered he craved it. That was more terrifying by far and why he knew he had to avoid it at all costs.

Napoleon checked the clock on the wall of their office for the hundredth time, more worried for his partner than impatient to leave. Such a long session with Kopf could not be a good thing.

Finally there was a click at the office door and it inched open. One blue eye and a tuft of blond hair appeared at the crack.

"Illya?" Napoleon asked as he looked up. What kind of mood would the Russian be in?

The door opened farther. "Yes. It is me. I'm done in medical. Are you ready to leave?" He tried to sound as businesslike as possible but in spite of the bitterness of the morning he couldn't help feeling a desire for Napoleon's body close to his again.

Napoleon couldn't believe his luck. No groveling involved it seemed. He got up and picked up his jacket. "So what was the verdict? Are you back on active field duty?"

Illya led the way. "Apparently so."

The two headed outside and got into the old ford Illya was currently driving. As Napoleon buckled up he thought about what might happen later on.

Raw energy pulsed through his veins as sweat beaded on his forehead. Napoleon thrust in and out spurred on by Illya's moans and grunts. He could see the Russian suck in and bite his bottom lip to keep from crying out as their pace of lovemaking increased. Such a tight ass. So hot. So inviting. Gorgeous firm buttocks spreading for his pleasure. He loved the whimper he heard when he reached around to take the cock in hand. The sudden tension as his partner struggled to keep from exploding before reaching that peak. So... so... so...

A fog seemed to lift as a sound interrupted his thoughts. Napoleon looked at Illya must have been talking to him. "Hmm? What was that?" he asked.

Illya half turned in his seat to face Napoleon. "Here is your building. I think you can manage to get up on your own."

Napoleon was amused by the phrase. If only Illya knew how true that was. "Aren't you coming up?"

Illya shook his head and reached across Napoleon's lap to open the door for him. "No. I'm just going to go home and read my journal."

"Surely you can stay for a drink?" Napoleon asked as he got out feeling somewhat abandoned. "I should have some vodka chilling upstairs."

Illya felt the irony in the invitation. The last time he was up there Napoleon practically forced him to stay and he'd fantasized about it several times since. "Get some rest Napoleon. The sooner you are back to work the sooner we can get back in the field." He pulled the door closed and then put the car back in gear. If he didn't go now he knew he wouldn't leave at all tonight.

Napoleon headed toward the entrance. The doorman greeted him as he went in.

"Good evening Mr. Solo. No date tonight sir?" he asked pleasantly.

Napoleon shook his head as he walked by. "No. Just a quiet night in alone I think."

"Then have a good night sir," he said as Napoleon called the elevator.

The lights came on and a fire bloomed in the hearth as Napoleon entered and hit the switch setting the romantic mood of the place. Even though he just gotten out of medical he was feeling fine and the idea of sitting alone at home didn't really appeal to him. Well it did if Illya had come up but his partner declined to stay. Perhaps he was still angry with him and that was why but whatever the reason Napoleon found himself missing the man as he sat down on the sofa.

Trying to get his mind off things Napoleon put his feet up on the coffee table and turned on the television. A war comedy was on. Some movie with Donald O'Connor and a mule named Francis. By the time the second commercial came on Napoleon realized he didn't even know what was going on. His mind was on other things.

Illya drove home and walked up to his third floor apartment. He sighed to himself as he unlocked the entrance. The inside was dim and dingy. No decorator ever crossed the portal. A communist minimalism reigned here. A frayed area rug warmed the feet from the bare floor in front of the sofa. The second hand bookshelf overflowed with journals and magazines detailing the latest discoveries and theories in physics. The small dining room table was littered with wires and circuits; half completed spying units Illya was tinkering with.

He locked the door behind him and thought about doing some work but he wasn't in the mood. Then he thought about having something to eat. There was leftover Chinese food in the fridge but that didn't really appeal to him either. It was that tension inside that left him unable to concentrate.

Damn that Kopf! Making him think of all that sex all over again. It had helped the other night when Napoleon gave him that fucking: yes, gave him a fucking. He didn't make love to him. He fucked him. His partner had satisfied all the built up sexual tension that his body craved and now Kopf had gone and brought it all back. He was beginning to wish he had gone up to Napoleon's for that drink. Maybe Napoleon would have taken care of other things too?

Kopf worked late in his office at U.N.C.L.E. Kuryakin's case file was exceptionally thin in the psych department. Little clues in their conversation, more by what wasn't said that what was, gave him an even deeper desire to get inside the man's head to see what made him tic. What was Waverly trying to keep hidden from the rest of U.N.C.L.E.? It would take time but he would get to the bottom of it somehow.

Illya couldn't sleep. Frustration burned in his veins and sizzled in his groin. Maybe he should have gone up to Napoleon's apartment. He knew very well why Napoleon invited him. He recognized the hungry glint in his friend's dark eyes not only from all the times he'd watched Napoleon seduce a woman, but also more recently when he'd seduced his Russian partner.

He'd wanted to. God-if there was one-knew how much he wanted to go to that apartment and let Napoleon do whatever he wanted to him. It was a bad idea, though, so he forced himself to resist. He simply couldn't allow this thing, this craving, this NEED, to ruin the partnership he shared with Napoleon anymore than it already had. Napoleon already treated him with a subtle difference. Acted as though he wasn't sure Illya could handle himself. After all, any man who would let another man take him like that had to be weak, right? His Soviet masters had beat that idea into his head enough for him to begin believing it.

No, he simply could not let it go on any longer. Not with Napoleon at least. He needed a partner he could trust to watch his back and be there when he needed him far more than he needed a bedmate.

Of course, that didn't mean he couldn't have Napoleon in his fantasies. His partner would not be the wiser and it could not do any harm to their friendship or partnership as long as he kept the fact to himself.

He stripped out of his clothes and made himself comfortable on his bed. He pulled a small jar of petroleum jelly out of his nightstand and spread a large dollop of goo on his hardening penis. It lengthened and thickened as he lubricated his cock with long, slow strokes.

The first images that came to mind were of him on his hands and knees waiting for Napoleon to impale him. Even as he imagined it he wondered what it felt like to be on the other side of the equation. His cock twitched at the thought and his fantasy Napoleon and Illya suddenly switched places.

Napoleon's perfect ass swayed in front of Illya inviting him in. Illya knelt behind his friend . . . lover . . . and slowly, oh, so slowly, pushed inside. Napoleon was tight but not painfully so. Illya's cock fit inside his beautiful lover like his hands did inside his favorite pair of lambskin gloves. Snug. Comfortable. And oh, so hot.

The fantasy Illya began to move, leisurely fucking his dark haired partner, taking special care to hit that sweet spot. Napoleon bucked in pleasure, grunting and growling with sexual bliss. This fantasy Napoleon loved this. He desired to be in this position, letting his beloved partner fuck him into mind numbing ecstasy.

He was so engrossed in what he was doing he didn't hear the light coded knock on his door. He did hear the quiet click of his lock, however. His hand halted in mid-stroke and he listened for any other sounds. A light step sounded just outside his door. Not bothering to drop his cock, he silently grabbed his gun with his left hand-no use getting it greasy with vaseline-and aimed the Special towards his closed bedroom door.

The door squeaked a little as it glided open. Illya left it that way on purpose, figuring it might give him a small advanced warning of visitors. The door swung all the way opened to reveal Napoleon, handsome as always, leaning against the doorjamb, hands in his pockets. His eyes widened when he saw Illya's glistening erection still held in his right hand.

A hungry look sparked in Napoleon's dark eyes. He clucked his tongue in disappointment as he sauntered towards the bed, his gaze never leaving Illya's lap. "You shouldn't have started without me, Illya. "

"N-Napoleon," Illya stuttered, caught completely by surprise.

A slow smile spread across the handsome American's face. "If you'll put the gun down I'll help you with that," he offered, nodding at the erection still held in Illya's hand.

Illya gasped as he realized he still held a weapon in each hand. He dropped his cock as though it burned. He took the time he used to thumb the safety on the Special and return it to its place on the nightstand to gather his wits and regain his control. "Why are you here, Napoleon?" he asked, surprised but pleased to hear the steadiness in his voice.

Napoleon approached the bed, his gaze pinning Illya to the mattress. His look suggested he'd like to pin Illya to the mattress in another, more pleasurable way. A thrill of excitement skittered up Illya's spine. Somehow he managed to keep his breathing steady.

"I was feeling a bit restless and thought I'd see if maybe you were too. I thought we could take the adrenaline edge off each other."

Illya clamped down on the reptilian part of his brain that jumped for joy at the suggestion. "That won't be necessary." He picked up his discarded underpants and used them to swipe the grease from his palm. "I'm fine."

Napoleon pursed his lips. Illya had the sudden urge to kiss them until his partner cried UNCLE.

The dark eyes traveled over the golden body displayed before him. "Yes, I see you have everything in hand."

Illya felt the color rise in his face. Ridiculous! He never blushed! Yet here he was, turning red like some schoolboy talking to his first crush. He hid his embarrassment by giving his partner a scathing glare. "I did until you barged in."

"Ah, well, since I am the reason you were interrupted, the least I can do is to finish the job for you."

Illya would lick his lips, but he had no saliva with which to do so. Against his will, the images that had fueled his fantasy sprang into his mind. "I suppose you could do that," he managed to say sounding relatively indifferent.

Napoleon needed no more encouragement. He quickly stripped off his clothes, folding them neatly and stacking them on Illya's dresser. He climbed onto the bed and crawled over Illya's body until they were nose to nose.

The need to take the lead for a change overwhelmed Illya. He attacked Napoleon's lips, taking his mouth in a hard, demanding kiss. At the same time, he rolled them over so they ended up with Napoleon on his back and Illya on top pressing is hard rod of fleshy steel into his lover's stomach. It felt so good and the idea that he would soon be making love to Napoleon fueled his desire.

With well practiced lips Napoleon gave Illya a thorough lesson in kissing. He practically stole all the air from Illya's lungs with the intensity of the passionate exchanges. With experienced hands he grasped the hard cock of his partner and holding firm he ran a thumb over the head.

Illya arched his back thrusting his hips forward and his cock even deeper into Napoleon's hands. Bozhe moi, this was what he craved. "I'm ready to explode," he pleaded and moved to try and mount the CEA but Napoleon had other ideas.

"Illya... Illya, hold on." Napoleon urged him and shifted away.

"What's the matter?" Illya asked sitting back on his knees. "Isn't this why you came over?"

Napoleon got to his knees and took Illya by the shoulders. He gently but firmly turned Illya onto all fours on the mattress. "I'll show you what a real man does," he said proud of the pleasure he could give to Illya. "You'll be so satisfied you'll be floating in ecstasy for a week."

Illya's mood had lessened but the first touch of Napoleon's cock on the sensitive ring of his anus reminded him of what he started on his own. The words that stung faded as the head popped inside and Napoleon's strong hands gripped his narrow hips. A warm sensuous feeling created a tingle in Illya's stomach and the shiver ran up his spine setting off primal responses and Illya pushed back slightly practically begging for the cock to fill him completely.

The snug slippery tunnel gripping the shaft of his cock gave Napoleon a thrill like none other. Carefully he closed his eyes and buried himself as far as he could just absorbing the feelings. The smooth silky skin, where not scarred by the brutality encountered in their jobs, invited Napoleon's exploratory touches. He leaned over Illya's back, his balls slapping against the other man's, and ran his palms up over the chest to the nipples. The whine escaping from Illya's lips gave Napoleon a sense of conquest.

"Your body is so wonderful," he whispered and then bit the back of Illya's shoulder lightly.

Illya gasped and gulped air. Napoleon knew how to play him like a fine violin. His cock grew harder and he reached down to give it the attention it desired as Napoleon fucked him slowly. "Faster. Please Napoleon. Fuck me faster."

Napoleon brushed Illya's hand away. "Let me," he whispered and ran a hand over the solid belly to the sweet curls of hair around the eager shaft. The head of his own cock sliding up and down constantly nudged the wall over the prostate sending sparks through Illya's mind. "I'm going to send you into orbit," Napoleon vowed aloud as he found and grasped Illya's weeping penis.

Vacillating between thrusting into the hand and pushing back against the cock invading his rear passage, Illya was soon barely able to contain himself.

Acutely aware of reading his partner, any bed partner for that matter, Napoleon increased the pace and depth of his penetrations and tensed upright against Illya's ass. "I'm coming," he called out in a strained tone as his balls flooded Illya's insides.

Following a mutual feeling Illya pressed back against the piercing rod and his own cock gushed out its load of semen into Napoleon's hand. He let out a long groan as nerves triggered a storm of synapses firing in his brain. It was quite some time before his spartan apartment reformed around him and the first thing he felt was his own muscles feeling the consistency of jelly.

The two men separated and relaxed on the bed, both breathing heavily to catch their breath. Gradually the street noises filtered in and the pounding of their hearts in their ears returned to the calm serenity of true peace.

"Well Illya?" Napoleon asked quietly. "Was I telling the truth or what?"

Illya chuckled lightly. "You never lie to me Napoleon," he said looking forward to returning the pleasure after some rest. "Is it always that way for you too?"

"Nobody's ever complained," he replied casually.

Illya rolled onto his side and propped himself on one elbow. "So you've done this a lot?"

Napoleon shrugged not taking the subject too seriously at the moment. "What do you mean a lot?"

"You know. Had sex with another man."

An eyebrow rose on Napoleon's forehead. He wasn't sure he liked where this could be heading. "On occasion. What are you getting at?"

Illya reached out to stroke the side of Napoleon's face with the back of his hand. "When did..."

Napoleon grabbed the hand and pulled it away. "Oh my. I didn't notice the time. Dr. Proctor is going to kill me if I don't go home and get some sleep."

"But I thought..." Illya started to say he expected Napoleon to spend the night.

The dark haired man was up and pulling on his clothes as fast as possible while still trying to look like he wasn't running away, although that was exactly what he was doing. "Can we talk about this later? I really have to go."

Illya was confused by Napoleon's sudden desire to depart. "Well I...I suppose so. Why do you have to go?"

"I feel fine but you know the doctors at UNCLE," Napoleon said pulling on his pants. "I wouldn't put it past them to be calling up to make sure I'm home." I can't do this, he thought to himself. He wasn't gay. Perhaps bisexual. He thought of what he'd just done to Illya. Definitely bisexual. He wasn't afraid of male on male encounters and had entertained the notion over the years, although he'd never followed through until now. Even if he had, he was sure he would still prefer women.

Even these dalliances with Illya were just a form of entertainment, at least for him. It appeared it might be more for Illya, something Napoleon would never have thought possible. He wasn't ready for that. "I'll see you tomorrow at work," he told Illya while tugging on his jacket. "It will be you and me again just like before."

It will never be the same, Illya sighed inwardly while showing no sign of the hurt he felt.

"How did you get here? Aren't you going to call a cab?" the Russian asked.

Napoleon was already headed through the door. "I'll call from downstairs. You get some sleep. I think we could both use a good rest."

Illya stared at the closed door for a minute, then moved to the window. He watched Napoleon exit the building, stepping into the shadows when the dark haired man looked up towards the apartment.

Napoleon pulled up the collar of his jacket and started towards the phone booth near the building. He glanced up at the apartment once more as if checking to make sure he wasn't observed, then entered the glass box. He dropped a coin in and dialed a number without the aid of the phonebook. He spoke into the receiver, a seductive smile crossing his face. A nod, another smile, replaced the phone onto the hook. He exited the booth and instead of waiting on the curb for the cab he said he was going to call for, he started off down the sidewalk.

Illya's suspicions rose into his throat, threatening to choke him with the pain of Napoleon's callous treatment. The Russian spun away from the window and quickly dressed. If he hurried he might be able to catch up to him and follow. He rushed down the stairs, then exited the building carefully in case his partner looked behind him.

Napoleon was still in sight. Illya started after him keeping to the shadows. He expected Solo to feel himself being followed and take appropriate actions to lose whoever it might be. Illya knew Napoleon's ways of shaking someone though, so he was able to keep him in sight.

After walking ten blocks, Napoleon stopped at a brownstone and buzzed the doorbell. The door opened and Eileen, one of the girls from Communications, smiled at the handsome man. Napoleon pulled her into his arms, kissed her passionately, and then whispered something into her ear. She gave a throaty laugh, nuzzled his neck, and led him inside. The look on Napoleon's face could only be described as pure lust. One would think he hadn't had an orgasm in weeks, rather than less than an hour before.

Illya walked home with a heavy heart. For some stupid reason he thought he meant more to Napoleon than just another notch on his bedpost. He didn't expect a passionate love affair. Didn't want one of those, either. Still he thought he would rank higher to Napoleon than just another fuck. He never would have thought the man who was supposed to be his best friend, his partner, the most intimate relationship Illya had ever known or even allowed, would use him just for sexual gratification. It hurt to realize Napoleon was really no better than Laheeb.

He didn't have to accept it. Illya had more pride than to be Napoleon's rent boy, available whenever Napoleon craved a fuck that Illya believed left the American much more sexually satisfied than with a woman. He was not Napoleon's puppy, waiting around for his master to throw a few crumbs of attention his way. He was a man, just as much of one as Napoleon. It could never be the same between them again and it was just as much his fault as it was Napoleon's. More.

Napoleon was right. They simply couldn't afford to take their relationship to a higher level. They shouldn't have let it get to the present level. Friendships didn't belong in their world. Close ties often proved too dangerous in the long run. Illya knew that. He should have never let Napoleon past his barriers.

That part of their partnership ended now. It needed to remain on a professional working level only, not personal. He would go back to square one, back to the time when he possessed not a heart but a block of stone encased in layer upon layer of ice; one that pumped icy water instead of blood. One surrounded by solid impenetrable walls. No one, especially Napoleon Solo, would be able to breech his new defenses.

He would do his job, he would do it well, he would keep his partner as safe as possible. At the end of the day or the end of the mission, he would return to his apartment or hotel room. . . alone. No more friendly dinners. No more Broadway plays. No more trips to Coney Island to play shoot-em-up and bring home all the stuffed animals.

No more sex. Not with Napoleon. He would just have to satisfy his craving some other way. He managed it before and he could do so now. He would wean himself off regular sex. For those times he needed it too badly to control, he would find a partner other than Napoleon to scratch his itch. Preferably one that liked the bottom position at least part of the time. Easy enough, at least now that he finally admitted his sexual preference. One or two UNCLE men had made it clear he was welcome in their bed. They would be more than happy to help him with it.

If all else failed, he could buy sexual gratification. The Village had plenty of male prostitutes from which to choose. He did know, however, he would never return to a steady diet of women. He had his doubts he would ever pursue another woman for sex, except, maybe, for the sake of a mission or for appearances.

No. He was a deviate. He accepted it. Now he just had to deal with it. At least he no longer lived in the Soviet Union. That would make his perversion easier to live with.

Napoleon would no longer be a part of that. He was dangerous because Illya cared for him. That, too, would no longer be a problem. He started his emotional purge by strangling the part of him that mourned the loss of Napoleon's friendship. He rolled it into a tight ball and locked it away in the darkest, coldest, emptiest chamber of his soul. He sacrificed the friendship in the hopes of saving the partnership.

Eileen let Napoleon in and took his coat. "I wasn't expecting you. I heard you got out of medical today."

Her voice was sweet and soothing. Napoleon could always count on her comfort. "I needed some air. It was rather stuffy sitting at my place alone."

She escorted him to the living room and invited him to sit down. "Would you like a drink or do you have doctors orders to avoid it."

He shook his head. "No but no thanks anyway. I just needed some company."

Eileen sat down beside him and used a slender finger to tuck the loose strand of hair over his ear. "So what's up? You don't usually stop by this late without a reason."

He smiled and looked into her face. Eileen was always someone he could count on. They spent semi regular nights in bed together but both knew the other wasn't interested in a relationship. Although sexually active with each other they were more friends than lovers. "You can always tell when something's on my mind, can't you."

She returned the gentle smile with one of her own. "That's what friends are for. So do you feel like talking? I can make some tea if you like."

"That would be nice. I think I'd like that." He settled back and waited as she busied herself in the kitchen making the tea.

Oh Illya. What do I do now? I want you but I can't be with you. It wouldn't work. You need more than I can give you, Napoleon thought to himself as he stared at the ceiling. What would Waverly say if he found out about us? He knows what happened in Saudi Arabia but I doubt he'd be tolerant of us continuing with a relationship like that.

Napoleon carefully avoided the admission that he couldn't bring himself to commit to anyone, male or female, at this point in his life. He really didn't know how to say this was the one person for him in life. A promiscuous father and overbearing mother in his young years didn't instill a value in life for that. They taught him money and politics and business when grooming him for a future but displayed nothing about love for another person. He was uneducated in forming a lasting loving relationship. People were to be used as servants, business contacts, or pleasure. They were out to get you or your money. Trust a person and you would lose everything you own.

Eileen was safe though. She wanted nothing from him other than the pleasure of his company. She was a woman who knew what she wanted in life and love and marriage weren't conducive to her goals. She cared not that he slept around but was always around to talk if he needed a sounding board.

"Cream and sugar Napoleon?" she called from the kitchen.

"Cream please," he responded and relaxed now that he was in safe territory. "Do you have any of those Amaretto cookies?"

"A fresh bag. I'll bring some with the tea," she answered and came out a moment later with a tray. She set the tea and cookies on the table and joined him once more on the sofa. "Now tell me," she said as she poured. "Why have you dropped by so suddenly?"

"Can't a friend drop by in the middle of the night for no reason?" he said trying to keep it on the light side.

"Of course you can," she admonished him and handed him the tea. "But you my friend always come when you want more something a little more than that."

He smirked and gave her a little kiss. "And you always let me in too."

Eileen accepted the little smooch on the cheek. "Okay. Now tell me." She sat back to listen.

Napoleon contemplated just what he wanted to say over the next few moments as he sipped the lovely hot tea. "I had a date tonight."

"Common but not unusual."

"Very true. I guess I went out hunting for that one though."

She raised an eyebrow. Napoleon had several prospective dates at any one time. The statement going out hunting for that one set off bells in her head but she remained quiet so he could talk.

"We had a good time. I can't deny that but..." He left it at that and took another drink as if to stop saying something even he wasn't sure about.

Napoleon is in love, she thought to herself. "So what happened? It's a little early for you to end a date and show up here if it was going well."

He shrugged. "I think I ran off because they wanted more from me than I was willing to give," he finally admitted.

That had to be it. Napoleon was in love but wouldn't admit it to himself. "That's a good thing then," she told him. "If feeling trapped makes you uncomfortable then leaving was the best thing to do for both of you. There's always tomorrow. You're still young yet."

He smiled. She was always right when he felt confused about relationships. His sense of guilt began to fade. He couldn't name the feelings he had right now but there was always tomorrow. He and Illya were both young. They needed time to sort out their feelings, desires, everything. He knew Illya would wait. Illya didn't do that sort of thing with anyone else. Not of his own volition anyway. They could still do things together and think about the future until they knew what they both wanted. There was nothing wrong with that.

Napoleon smiled and put his head on Eileen's shoulder. "You always know what to say. Thank you." He felt this way and more with only one other person on earth. Illya. They'd work it out. He was sure of it. Meanwhile all he had to do was take life one day at a time just like he always had.

Illya had a restless night. He tossed and turned thinking about the past months. Thinking about Kopf. Thinking about U.N.C.L.E. and the KGB. What's happening to me? Who am I? What am I doing? Life was more mixed up than it had ever been before. He didn't feel safe. He didn't feel comfortable.

The thought stopped him cold. Such a Western thing to think. What did his comfort have to do with anything? His comfort was NEVER an issue. The KGB taught him that in no uncertain terms. HE was not important. His desires, his needs, his wants . . . not important.

His country, the KGB, U.N.C.L.E., the world . . . THOSE were what he needed to focus on. Anything else was pure selfishness. He flung off the bedcovers and got out of bed. Of course he knew who he was. Illya Kuryakin, Soviet citizen and number two of Section Two, U.N.C.L.E. New York. Nothing. Else. Mattered.

He went into the bathroom and took an icy shower. The better to remind him of his roots. A child of the Soviet Union, as much a part of the frozen Siberia as of Moscow. Not a spoiled Westerner who expected his hopes and dreams to actually come true. By the time he was dressed and on his way to work, he was once again the KGB trained agent on detached service to the U.N.C.L.E., very much the man who stepped foot for the first time in New York three years ago. Napoleon Solo was now regulated to associate, colleague, and partner. Nothing more.

Just as he exited his building, his communicator went off. He slipped into an alley and looked around to make sure he was alone before assembling it. "Kuryakin."

"Mr. Kuryakin," said Waverly. "I want to see you as soon as you get in. When will that be?"

"Thirty minutes if the subway is running on time. Longer if not."

"The traffic is light this morning," Illya's boss replied gruffly. "Drive in."

"Yes, sir," Illya said before realizing he was talking to dead air. Mr. Waverly already closed out the communication. He sighed, returned the device to its pen persona, and turned around to fetch the car. This likely meant an assignment.

He'd hoped to have a couple of days in the office to get used to being around Napoleon in a more professional and less personal manner. This might be a good thing, though. With his mind occupied by work, he would have less time to think about having sex with the man. Nothing like bullets whizzing past one's head to keep a man down, so to speak. Danger excited him, but not sexually.

As usual, Waverly was right. He managed to make it to Del Floria's in less time than if he took the subway. The man was downright scary sometimes. Illya sometimes entertained the notion Waverly had the power to call the mayor of New York and demand he stop traffic so U.N.C.L.E.'s agents could make it into work faster.

As he hurried to Waverly's office, he hoped this mission would require only his services and leave Nap . . . Solo in New York. No such luck. As the door whooshed open he saw his partner sitting in his usual place looking as well groomed as ever, a smug and very relaxed smile on his face.

Illya felt anger twist in his gut. It took all his discipline to keep his expression and demeanor neutral. "Good morning, Mr. Waverly."

Solo smiled up at him, looking genuinely pleased to see him. Illya felt a slight sense of relief. The partnership would survive even if the friendship did not. He nodded impersonally to Solo and sat down in the chair beside the handsome agent.

No need to sit far away nor to be angry. They were both professionals and he intended to act that way. No more of this schoolboy infatuation. Such things could get them both killed. He sat back in his chair and focused all his attention on his boss.

"A babysitting job," Napoleon complained when they left the office.

Illya shrugged. "Proctor has only released you for light duty." Of course a babysitting job could go as badly as any other mission, but Waverly considered any assignment rated as low risk light duty. "I, myself, am glad to finally be out of headquarters, even if it is just to show a dignitary the sights of New York City."

Napoleon scowled. "I've seen the sights enough for one lifetime. Some of them from upside-down," he added, alluding to the time a THRUSH minion had hung them from the tines of Liberty's crown.

Illya almost laughed but stopped himself. That was what a friend would do, not a partner. "If that happens again, you will be happy because it would no longer be merely a babysitting job. Besides, it will leave the next few evenings free for dates you know you won't have to break." He swallowed down the hot jealousy that arose at the thought. Solo could be with whomever he wanted. Except him, of course.

Napoleon heaved a mental sigh of relief. Like he had thought, this would work out between them. Illya accepted the fact that Napoleon had no desire for a monogamous relationship. They could have their fun together-he could give Illya what he needed as far as sexual gratification went-and he could also have his fun with women. A win-win situation.

He relaxed. He thought Illya seemed to act a little differently towards him earlier but apparently that was just his own imagination. He still felt a little guilty about running out on him last night so that was probably it.

That wouldn't happen again, though. Not now that he knew Illya felt the same as he did. He could continue to enjoy an occasional fuck with Illya between women and not have to worry about his partner forming an unwanted attachment. It was stupid for him to think that, anyway. This was Illya Kuryakin, the man known in U.N.C.L.E. as an iceberg. The idea Illya would form an emotional bond with anyone, including him, was idiotic. He ignored the tightness in his gut and the way his heart seemed to miss a beat at the thought. Indigestion.

He waited until they were in their shared office before saying anything more. Because he and Illya were so often involved in highly classified affairs, their office did not have regular surveillance. The cameras and listening devices only kicked on in the event of an internal alarm going off, an unauthorized entry once they'd set the security when they left, or if either of them hit one of the panic buttons mounted on the underside of their desks.

Illya picked up a stack of files out of his in-basket and sat down in his chair.

Napoleon cleared his throat. "Ah, you know you're right about my being able to set dates without worrying about canceling," Napoleon began, getting ready to set one right now. His cock twitched at the idea.

"I want to clear away some of this debris before the dignitary arrives," Illya interrupted. He waved an imperious hand towards the door. "Go make your dates and leave me in peace so I may do so."

Napoleon swiveled the chair around and leaned down, his hands gripping the arms, effectively trapping Illya. "I was trying to ask YOU for a date, you ninny," he purred. He looked into Illya's lovely blue eyes.

They say the eyes are the window to a person's soul. Napoleon knew that with Illya that was not the case. With one exception. For the last two years, Illya's used his eyes to speak to him in a way he never did with anyone else. Not only was it handy in the field, but Napoleon felt privileged that the enigmatic Russian allowed him access to that closely guarded soul.

Until now. For the first time since the beginning of their partnership, Illya's eyes were shuttered against him. A sharp pang of fear sliced through him as he questioned his previous assessment of their situation. "Illya? Is something wrong?"

Illya's gaze softened slightly but remained expressionless. "No, Napoleon. Everything is fine. I just want to get this work done."

"You haven't answered my question." Napoleon's heart pounded with a fear even a THRUSH interrogator couldn't raise in him. He didn't want to lose Illya. Not as a partner, a friend, or even a lover. He just wanted to keep things on a surface level for the time being. At least the lover part. He made himself calm down. Everything was fine. He was sure of it. Illya was just being Illya-difficult and obtuse when it came to personal matters.

Illya planted his feet on the floor and pushed the chair back enough to break Napoleon's hold on it. He spun it back towards his desk. "What question was that?"

"Want to get together with me tonight?" he asked, rocking on his heels.

Illya's pen hesitated for a fraction of a second, then resumed. "No, thank you. I have other plans." He didn't actually, but since he didn't like to lie to Napoleon, he would make some. Frank in the lab had dropped more than one hint of interest in the last couple of years. He would probably be willing to go to dinner or a movie tonight. He was handsome enough and quite smart. Illya enjoyed his companionship in the lab and had no doubt he would do so outside of it, as well.

Napoleon became very still. "Plans? With who?"

Illya's brow puckered in puzzlement. Napoleon's tone suddenly had a dangerous edge to it. Who was he to sound like a jilted lover? Illya was not the one who had run out on Napoleon last night as if his touch would give him the plague.

"Who do you have plans with?" Napoleon repeated.

Illya carefully set down the pen and stood up. "That is none of your business. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to tidy up a few loose ends in the lab." Before Napoleon could either answer him or stop him, Illya fled the office, intent on convincing Frank to go out with him tonight.

Napoleon gritted his teeth and deliberately stopped himself from following Illya. The impulse to grab him by the arm, spin him around, and kiss him until he relented was hard to squelch but he managed by shear willpower.

Who would Illya have plans with? Most people at U.N.C.L.E. barely tolerated Illya let alone associated with him on a friendly basis. Napoleon sat back down and thought about Illya's sudden interest in socializing with someone else. That wasn't like him at all. It occurred to Napoleon that Illya was just blowing out a smokescreen and he would do like he always did. Sit at home and listen to his jazz albums while reading the latest Scientific America magazine.

Illya entered the lab and headed to his personal workbench. He thought about how to approach Frank. Unfortunately he lacked Napoleon's finesse in situations like this. He kept his head down, eyes fixed on the folder in front of him but didn't really read the report.

How do I do this? How do I do this? Illya didn't have the faintest idea on how to approach someone for a...a... yes. A date. Scientifically when one wanted to approach a problem one had to identify the components first. That was it. I have to approach this from a scientific point of view, Illya reasoned.

Frank Webber noticed Dr. Kuryakin enter the lab and head over to his bench. He had some strange attraction to the blond man although Dr. Kuryakin never showed any sign that he'd noticed. It was somehow comforting to have him back after his long absence even though the others remarked on the feeling of relief that permeated the building when he was gone on assignment. Frank tried not to let his feelings show. He didn't make any overt gestures but he couldn't help stealing a glance or two unrelated to the work they were doing.

Watching for a few minutes he noticed that Dr. Kuryakin didn't seem terribly busy. The 5th street dry cleaner report on the chemicals found in the storage barrels was ready. It wasn't high priority but it would require a signature from one of the department heads sooner or later. This was probably as good a time as any to approach him. Something about getting near the man was a little bit of a thrill even if he seemed distant and removed.

After taking an affirming breath, Frank picked up the file and casually walked over to Dr. Kuryakin. He took a second or two on the walk to admire the back view. Being a field agent certainly kept the man toned and fit. In some ways Frank was glad for the lab coats they wore. The erections he sometimes got when fantasizing about Illya Kuryakin were safely hidden.

"Excuse me Dr. Kuryakin. Can I have a moment of your time?" he asked in the same voice he always did.

A flutter ran through Illya's stomach. I can do this...I can do this... "Yes. What do you require?" He cringed inwardly. That was a rather cold start.

A flicker of a smile passed over Frank's lips. "Uh... Well if you don't mind I have the 5th street cleaners report here. It needs signing off on."

"Ah yes," Illya said officiously. He took it and began to read the overview. I'm doing very badly at this mingling thing. Perhaps a change of venue. He closed the folder and snapped it under his arm. "Why don't we go over this in the office so we don't disturb the others?"

Frank was caught by surprise. Kuryakin had never made such a request before. "," he said. " want me to come too?"

Illya led the way making no obvious sign that he hoped Frank would follow.

After a moment of hesitation Frank quickstepped to catch up. "Is there a problem with the report Dr. Kuryakin?"

Illya remained silent until they were in the office and the door closed behind them. "Have a seat Frank."

The response was wide stunned eyes.

"Please sit down. It is Frank is it not?" he said trying to be friendly but the awkwardness came over as sounding snooty.

A little leery, Frank sat down and sat rigidly. He repeated the question. "Is there a problem with the report?"

Illya took a seat and shook his head. "I don't think so. The people at U.N.C.L.E. are very thorough and efficient. I trust you without question."

"Oh." Frank shifted uncomfortably. "Then what did you want to discuss?"

Illya chewed the inside of his bottom lip while he tried to figure out what to say. "I have, uh, noticed . . . I mean, I was wondering," he started, stuttering uncharacteristically. Frank's eyes grew wider and Illya saw the fear lurking in their lovely green depths.

Illya looked down at his desk feeling a little defeated. "I'm doing this badly."

"What?" Frank prodded, hope springing up to mix with the fear.

Frank really did have nice eyes. The hope gave Illya a needed shot of courage. "What kind of music do you like?" he said, hoping to encourage Frank into making the first move since he couldn't quite bring himself to do it.

A look of stunned pleasure settled on Frank's relatively handsome face. "Music?"

"Music," Illya confirmed.

"I, um, well, I like all kinds. I guess I would say jazz is my favorite."

Illya brightened and he gave Frank a big smile. They had something else in common! "I'm very fond of jazz, too."

Frank basked in the glow of Illya's now smiling face. He didn't think he'd ever seen Dr. Kuryakin smile before. God, he was even more beautiful when he did that. Frank's insides wobbled like jello. "Really? I'm especially fond of Coltrane."

Illya sat back, relaxing into the conversation. "He's one of my favorites, also. I think I prefer Mose Allison just a little more, though."

"He's pretty good. How about the Ella?"


"Is there another Ella?" Frank teased.

"Certainly not. She's the queen. What else can I say about her?"

Frank laughed and nodded. "I'm glad to see we're on the same wavelength. You know, there's this new guy at a club I like to go to. He sounds a lot like Allison."

"I'd like to hear him sometime. Any idea when he might be performing next?"

Frank saw his opening and jumped to fill it. "It just so happens he's going to be there tonight. Interested in going?"

"With you?" Illya replied. "That would be acceptable."

Frank's heart pounded with excitement. This was going so well! He wondered if Kuryakin knew he was about to go out with a homosexual. Frank decided now was not the time to tell him. Maybe later if things seemed to go well, he would broach the subject. "Perhaps we could have some dinner first?" he ventured.

"Why don't I pick you up at seven?" Illya replied taking charge of the date now that Frank had made it. "That should give us plenty of time to eat and get to the club. Club performances don't really get going until ten."

Frank shook his head and chuckled. "Jazz," he mused. "I never would have thought you'd like something like that."

Feeling relieved at the turn of events and therefore a little more relaxed, Illya leaned forward. "Don't tell anyone. It would ruin my killer reputation," he teased in a stage whisper.

Frank let out a bark of laughter, appearing almost as relieved as Illya. He canted toward the Russian. "Your secret is safe with me, Dr. Kuryakin."

"I think at this stage of the game you can call me Illya."

"Illya." His name rolled off Frank's tongue like a warm caress.

Illya shivered and his cock hardened in response. He forced himself not to shift in his seat. He wasn't sure how far he wanted to take this so he didn't want Frank to know how aroused their conversation made him. "I'll see you at seven, then."

"Seven," Frank agreed, giving Illya a bright smile. "My address is . . ."

"I know it," Illya interrupted. "I am a spy, after all."

Frank laughed again. "Yes you are and a very good one from all accounts. I'll see you tonight, Illya." He stood and left, looking like he was walking on air.

Illya pushed away the feeling that he somehow cheated on Napoleon by going out with Frank. After all, it was Napoleon who rushed from his bed into that of a woman several minutes later. If there was any betrayal going on, it was on Solo's end.

He rolled the thought of his infidelity into a tight ball and stuffed it into the ice chamber with all his other emotional upheavals. Once he'd done that, he realized he actually looked forward to tonight.

"He was great!" Frank exclaimed.

"Yes he was," Illya agreed as he opened the door to his Village apartment. He had enjoyed his evening much more than he imagined he would. He enjoyed their conversation enough he invited Frank over for a drink and a continuation of their discussion. So far they talked about work, new science discoveries, and now the finer points of the jazz performer they just experienced together.

The man wasn't Napoleon Solo, but then there was only one of those. Frank had one advantage over Napoleon, though. He was not heterosexual at all and Illya doubted he would ever leave his bed to run to that of a woman's in order to prove to himself he was still a man. Illya felt that was the only explanation for Napoleon's callous behavior towards him. He rather hoped so, anyway. The idea that he might actually just be another of Napoleon's "women" was so galling it didn't bear considering.

It didn't matter anymore, he reminded himself. He and Napoleon were once again working partners only. Illya needed to move on and find other ways to take care of his baser needs. Frank would fit the bill nicely. An interesting and intelligent man, two very important attributes in a date as far as Illya was concerned.

Illya placed his hand in the small of Frank's back as he escorted the man inside the apartment. He locked the door behind them and reset the security system before making a quick sweep of his apartment to make sure it was free of listening devices and hiding enemies.

Frank's brows knitted together as he watched. "Do you do that every time you come in?"

Illya shrugged. "I don't have to, but I have found doing so will prolong my life."

The other man shook his head. "Wow. I don't think I could live that way."

"One gets used to it. I hardly notice I'm doing it anymore." He motioned to the well-worn but comfortable couch. "Sit down while I get us some drinks. I have vodka and . . ." He checked his liquor cupboard. "Hmm. I have vodka."

Frank laughed. "I love vodka."

Illya flashed him a bright smile. Frank's eyes softened and filled with warmth and what Illya recognized as desire. Nice. Illya's cock twitched in response. Even nicer. This would work out fine.

Napoleon Solo was in a foul mood. He'd called Illya several times last night to no avail. He'd actually considered using the communicator but Waverly tended to frown on personal usage.

After Illya's announcement of having plans, Napoleon made a date with Rita from Records in front of Illya. Two could play that game. He'd received the satisfaction of seeing a look of jealousy pass over Illya's face, but his friend and lover had not said a word. Illya acted normal the rest of the afternoon, which irritated Napoleon no end.

Not to worry, though. He would get a reaction once he started regaling his partner with the particulars of the evening. Never mind most of it would be a lie. Oh, he'd had sex with Rita, but he didn't enjoy nearly as much as he planned to make it sound. As a matter of fact, he'd found it rather unsatisfying. Surprising since he'd had Rita before and was thoroughly sated that time. This time it was . . . not the same. He shied away from thinking about WHY.

The door to the office opened and Illya sauntered in. "Good morning."

"Morning," Napoleon mumbled, eyes narrowing as he studied Illya's face. He knew that expression. It appeared his partner also got lucky last night. Luckier than he himself did, if the completely relaxed and satiated posture was any indication.

Napoleon shuffled the papers on his desk without point. "Sleep well?" he asked trying to sound casual.

"Very," Illya replied saying nothing more.

"Hit the sack early?"

Illya ignored that Napoleon was asking for more. "Something like that. What is on the agenda for today?" Their babysitting job didn't start until tomorrow.

After clearing his throat Napoleon pulled out the schedule. "I'm reviewing the training school graduates today. I suppose you'll be in the labs. You'll have to check with Waverly's office."

"I'll do that." Illya picked through the mail in the inbox. It consisted of the usual romantic notes for Napoleon, of course. Illya managed to stifle a flare of angry jealousy over them, but just barely. He supposed they were a good thing. A reminder of what he didn't have and would never have. Could never have. They would serve to help him keep his resolve about ending this doomed affair. He dropped them along with the other business for the CEA. The one scientific journal was for him, which he took and stuffed under his arm.

As Illya started out the door Napoleon felt a sense of urgency. "Wait!" he blurted although he wasn't sure why.

Illya stopped, turned, and paused. "Yes?"

Suddenly Napoleon was lost for words. He fumbled awkwardly for something to say. "Well... I was just thinking," he finally said.

"Thinking what?" Illya asked in an impatient tone.


"Maybe what?" Illya quickly buried a surge of hope beneath a mask of neutrality. How pathetic he was to pine over a man who obviously thought nothing more of him than a partner and occasional bedmate. He simply couldn't help it, though. Napoleon awoke things inside him that he thought had been beaten out as a boy under the thumb of the KGB. The sense of hurt was made all the worse by the strangeness of the emotions churning inside him. He angrily shoved it all away. He had to stay firm.

Napoleon softened his expression to a more romantic tone. "Maybe we could get together tonight for dinner or something?"

Illya's answer was short and to the point. "No." He turned on his heal and disappeared down the hall.

Emptiness grew in the pit of Napoleon's stomach. An aching rose up into his chest with a void even air could not fill. Even breathing was too much to do right now.

Why Illya? Don't you realize how hard it was for me? I changed who I am, altered my LIFE just to be with you! How could you walk out on me like this?

Napoleon returned to his desk and pulled up another file to read but couldn't read any of the words.

We made the best pair in U.N.C.L.E. Ever. Everyone said so. I gave you more than I gave any other partner I ever had. More than I ever gave anyone. More than I gave Clara. More than I even gave my wife. Can't you see that Illya? Was all I ever did for you wasted? Didn't it mean something to you?

Napoleon's jaw tightened as he refused to say the words in his mind. "I love you," were cheap meaningless words to say to a date in bed. Illya had to know that already. What he and Illya had together meant so much MORE than the trifling emotions he'd felt for the women in his life.

Oh, God! This was what he ran away from the other night! Not from Illya, not from the way he thought Illya felt about him! He ran from what, on some level, he knew he felt about Illya! Oh, God!

To make things worse, Illya obviously didn't care for him the same way. Illya who went looking for others. Illya who slammed the door on their affair. Napoleon was the jilted lover left pining.

The longer Napoleon pondered what had just happened the more he realized that he was wrong. He swallowed hard as the most intense pain he'd ever experienced tore at his heart. No THRUSH torture came close to the overwhelming agony of suddenly realizing love was far from meaningless and that he was not only in love with Illya, he knew he always would be.

No one could ever take the place that Illya filled within him. They were two opposites that made a whole. Yin and Yang. Night and Day. Without one the other was nothing. Even though they would remain partners and friends-he hoped-life would never be the same again.

Illya fled to his lab and locked the door. Turning Napoleon down was the most difficult thing he had ever had to do in his life. He felt as though he had just shot himself in the heart and his life's blood drained out of him, leaving him empty.

He'd felt like this only one other time in his life. Even then he had not experienced the overwhelming pain which now twisted his guts into knots. He was glad he decided to end the affair now. It would completely destroyed him if he'd waited until Napoleon finally tired of the affair and discarded him.

Perhaps the worse part of it all was the fact that he now realized just how much he wanted someone to love him. He'd lived without it his entire life, convinced by those who raised him that he neither deserved nor needed such a thing.

A strangled noise escaped him, sounding frighteningly close to a sob. Damn you Napoleon! he thought, trying to turn his pain into anger. You couldn't leave well enough alone! You had to pursue what had started in Arabia instead of letting it drop! Now look where it has brought us! What will become of our partnership now?

If they had continued as they were he had no doubt their partnership would have ended the moment the affair did. At this point, though, he thought at least that, if not his emotional stability, might be saved. It had to be. Losing Napoleon as a lover was difficult enough. Losing him completely did not bear thinking about.

They would continue to be partners and, Illya hoped, friends. They would still save each other from THRUSH torture and THRUSH cells. From Medical long before the doctors wanted to release the injured one. From boredom. Never, though, from the emotional purgatory they now found themselves in.

They would both face this life alone.

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