The Good Cop
This is a prequel to only the last part of "Crossing Boundaries"—as such, "Crossing Boundaries" is both a sequel and a prequel to "The Good Cop." I thank my past and present (sequel and prequel?) betas: Jane Terry, Sarah Lindsay and Astrid Keynes. "The Good Cop," in a similar but not quite the same incarnation, first appeared in the zine Clandestine Affairs #1.
Napoleon Solo smiled at his reflection in the mirror, arranging the Thrush beret on his head at a rakish angle. "This is getting old," he thought, toeing the unconscious, underwear-clad guard with an indifferent foot before he shot him with another sleep dart. Last time he had exchanged uniforms with a Thrush goon, Illya Kuryakin had been with him. They had argued vehemently about who looked better in the Thrush regalia. Each spent an inordinate amount of time adjusting the leather-rimmed maroon berets on his head at increasingly absurd angles. Illya had started laughing first, and Napoleon joined him, always delighted when his almost terminally self-possessed partner lost control.
Napoleon appraised his handsome face once more, mentally planning the rescue. Illya had been held captive for almost three days at the Thrush satrapy above an old-fashioned haberdashery in midtown Manhattan. The shop was so out of step with the times it would almost have to be a front. Napoleon knew the installation well, having spent a chilly night in its executive suite less than a year ago. It bothered him that Waverly had let this go on as long as he had. The U.N.C.L.E. chief was growing, if anything, more ruthless in his old age. Illya had not been on assignment when he was caught and there should have been a certain honor among thieves. Outrageous he should be abducted outside his own apartment, beyond bad form.
When Napoleon returned yesterday from a dull policy meeting in Geneva, he had been dismayed at Waverly's blasé reaction to his partner's capture. The Old Man was curious about the effectiveness of U.N.C.L.E.'s newest programming techniques, whether they would prove impervious to Thrush's state-of-the-art truth serum. Napoleon had worried about other forms of interrogation, especially if the drugs proved as ineffective as Waverly hoped. But Waverly assured him Kuryakin was not being tortured; how he knew, Napoleon could not be sure. A fair amount of information passed between U.N.C.L.E. and Thrush's Manhattan headquarters, not all of it trustworthy.
Then Waverly rehashed that tired old chestnut about their unprofessional friendship, the equally tired old threat he might be forced separate the two for the good of the organization. As if he would separate his two best agents—really! But there had been a decided subtext to this lecture. Napoleon sighed, weary of being called expendable by his boss, wearier of Illya being called the same and knowing in his heart it wasn't really true. He couldn't conceive of leaving his partner out in the cold, treating him like little more than a Guinea Pig. Illya had plenty of secrets, not all of them protected by the programming of the able U.N.C.L.E. psychiatrists.
Napoleon tried to keep his anger in check, promising to procure a sample of the new truth serum if that held more value to the Old Man than Kuryakin. Waverly had acquiesced, as he always did, and even had the good graciousness of seeming nonplussed by Napoleon's thinly veiled fury. Still he had pinned his CEA with an ambiguous, penetrating gaze. "Go see to your friend. And his secrets."
Now having infiltrated the Thrush satrapy, Napoleon consulted a map of the installation and could almost hear Illya's criticism of his map-reading skills. True, maps mystified him and his sense of direction was, if anything, worse. Not to worry, he'd still find Illya—they were almost attuned to one another—a sixth sense more valuable than any map. He picked up the Thrush automatic, and walked purposely out of the janitor's closet into the hallway. He backtracked only once before finding the cell where Illya was imprisoned.
Napoleon hurried by the cell and took a position just around the corner in a dead-end corridor, where he could observe, not quite in plain sight, though not quite hidden. The cell was neither small nor big—just right? Iron bars and a steel door formed the front of it. Otherwise it was just a room, with the usual cell-like accoutrements: stainless steel sink and toilet, narrow cot, harsh fluorescent lights.
Illya was wearing a retro black and white prison outfit that looked like pajamas. The costume was almost reminiscent of an old Warner Brothers prison movie or even what Elvis wore in Jailhouse Rock. He appeared to be asleep on the floor, having ignored the somewhat more comfortable cot that hung by metal chains against the far wall. Illya lay curled in a fetal position, one arm shielding his eyes against the bright overhead lights, the other cradling his head.
"Pssst. Illya!" Napoleon hissed. He crouched in the shadows of the second hallway, scanning the main corridor for guards.
Illya's head lifted. Napoleon watched his friend's eyes flash hopefully as he looked around, his nose twitching as if he could smell rescue in the air. "Napoleon?" he breathed, trying to sit up. His ankles were manacled closely together but he was otherwise unencumbered. He looked in fair enough shape, though his pupils appeared to be dilated, the black almost eclipsing the blue, despite the bright lights in the cell. His movements were uncertain. His face was ashen with exhaustion, dark smudges beneath his eyes.
"Illya!" another voice boomed.
The voice came from the opposite direction and Napoleon pressed himself against the wall, out of the way. He could see friend's face collapse, his pouty mouth frowning in disappointment. He looked like a little kid about to cry, a little spoiled kid at that. His brow puckered with dismay; Napoleon could read more in that brow than in his partner's shrewdly expressive eyes. Napoleon backed up, into the shadows, giving himself time to assess the situation.
A tall, almost gaunt man in his mid-forties approached the cell, shaking his head. His curly black hair jostled with the movement, wiry gray strands noticeable in the flickering fluorescent light. His dark brown eyes glinted, lively with curiosity and intent on Illya. "Why are you on the floor?" he asked. "Do you want me to help you up on the cot? I'm sure it would be more comfortable."
"Ah, the good cop," Napoleon thought. He flashed back to a Survival School lecture: The Good Cop Is Not Your Friend. He had learned all sorts of strategies to withstand torture in Survival School, but like sex education courses—well—one really had to learn by doing. Good torture, like good sex, involved skilled foreplay, intuition and a certain intimacy. Breaking under torture sometimes felt as good as an orgasm. Often the morning after was filled with the same sort of shame and regret. Napoleon had run this theory by Illya once and his partner had just rolled his eyes and asked caustically: "Despite evidence to the contrary—how bad can your sex life be?"
The good cop let himself into the cell. "How's your ankle?" he asked, reaching down to rub it. Illya drew away from him, returning to the fetal curl. "Illya honey, let me look." Illya skittered to the corner of the cell and started straight ahead.
Napoleon almost laughed at the "Illya honey." Even he did not take the good cop role quite this earnestly when he played it.
"Oh, honey, what happened to your collar? Where is it? I can't control you without it, you know that. You're too violent."
"Hurts," Illya muttered. "Go. Go then." Illya's voice was slurred and thick. He sounded drunk, but not hypnotized, more animated than that. "You again. Go away. You said you were going away."
The good cop laughed. "You're hurting my feelings. Now where'd you put it?" he asked, almost chiding. He looked around the cell, smiling almost merrily, as if they were playing a game, perhaps an Easter egg hunt. He knelt down beside Illya and stroked his hair. "Where is it?"
"Toilet," Illya replied almost automatically, the truth serum working its wonders. "Would not flush." The Russian accent was pronounced.
Napoleon moved to the other side of the auxiliary corridor and watched as the good cop fished the errant collar from the toilet. He ran it under the faucet in the hand sink and dried it on the front of his gray trousers. "How'd you get this off?" he asked. "You're very clever." Illya let out a low growl as the good cop reattached the metal band to his neck, but did nothing to prevent it. "Honey, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to make sure this works. Water might short-circuit it."
"Hope so," Illya mumbled.
The good cop almost grimaced in regret and squeezed his eyes shut as he turned the dial of a remote control device he took out of his pocket. "Okay, here goes."
Napoleon took a step into the main corridor hallway and raised his Thrush automatic. He backed away when he saw the good cop held not only the remote control gadget but a pistol. The gun hampered his movements but apparently he was being a very careful good cop at the moment.
Illya writhed briefly in pain. "It's fine," he gasped. "Works fine. Stop."
"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry." The good cop picked Illya up off the floor and set him on the bed, smoothing his hair in a gesture of comfort. He sat down next to Illya and put his arm around him as he holstered his gun. "You're okay," he soothed.
Illya tried to extricate himself from the embrace, pushing feebly against his captor. "Don't," he warned, sounding weak and exhausted, rather than threatening. "Go away. I'm tired of you. You are boring."
Despite Waverly's assurances, Illya looked a little worse for wear. The dark circles under his eyes, Napoleon now noticed, looked as if they were caused by more than exhaustion. It made him angry, the unprofessional aspect of his relationship with his partner coming to the fore. This good cop was really pissing him off too. He took another step forward and froze.
"Who's in there?" a voice called.
Napoleon backed up and pressed himself against the wall, willing himself invisible. A Thrush goon sauntered around the corner from the direction Napoleon had traversed earlier, but paused to peer inside the cell. Napoleon held his breath; the guard stood only a few feet away.
"It's just me," the good cop said. "Would you leave us, please?"
"Where's Charlie?" the man asked. "You are crazy if you think you don't need backup. You're not supposed to be here."
The Thrush guard held his ground. "Have you seen Charlie? He was supposed to be watching this little animal."
"Shoo," the good cop said again, this time waving his hand at the intruder. "Get us some coffee. Please. Or look for Charlie; I don't know who he is. But leave us. That's an order," he added, no force behind the command.
The guard nodded and made his way down the corridor, walking right past Napoleon. It often amazed Napoleon what people could not see when they weren't looking.
"I thought we could talk a little," the good cop said to Illya, as the guard's echoing footfalls faded. "You know, continue where we left off."
Illya shook his head almost wildly.
The good cop grinned and seemed entranced by the adamant refusal. "Has anyone told you, you have beautiful hair?" he asked, gazing at it with a fond appraisal.
"Yes." Illya was on drugged automatic pilot.
"No one else?"
Napoleon started to emerge from his hiding place and then paused, wondering what Illya would say. He had to admire Illya's attempt to drag this seemingly innocuous line of questioning to its disturbing conclusion. They had been taught to do that as well, the fine art of breaking in slow motion. The direction of the interrogation bothered him; in fact, the hairs on his neck pricked a warning he never ignored.
He decided to listen.
"And?" the good cop prompted.
"Napoleon," Illya whispered, as if it were a secret. And it was.
"Of course." The good cop did not sound surprised. "Why would he comment upon your hair?"
Illya managed a lopsided shrug. "I don't know. Because it's pretty?" He seemed unsure.
"When did he tell you this?"
Illya started to struggle, visibly uncomfortable with the question. "I don't remember," he said. "Why are you back? This isn't what you want to know."
"But it is, Illya. You can tell me. No one else understood."
"Illya, when did Napoleon tell you your hair was beautiful?"
Illya struggled again not to respond. "Washed it."
"When he washed it." Illya lifted his chin briefly, looking like a strung-out version of himself, both belligerent and uneasy.
Napoleon considered stepping out of the shadows. But he could tell from the good cop's reaction, this was hardly new territory. Better to find out what this Thrush fellow knew and what he intended to do with his discoveries.
"Your partner washes your hair?"
"Then what does he do?"
Napoleon smiled as the good cop exploded with laughter. Ah, his literal partner! It drove him nuts too.
"You're a pain in the ass, Illya," the good cop said. "Had anyone ever told you that?"
"Yes." The response was as slow and drugged as the others.
Illya added to the previous group—his grandma, girlfriends, a few professors, a few commanding officers—he named them all—Mr. Waverly and finally...Napoleon.
The good cop cupped Illya's chin and pulled his face close. "Does your partner give you a pain in the ass?"
Illya blinked, bewildered, the line of questioning much too subtle for his drug-addled mind. "No." The response sounded unsure, almost like a question.
"Okay. What I mean to say is, do you give it to him or does he give it to you?"
Illya stared as hard as his unfocused eyes would allow. "I have never washed his hair," he said solemnly.
"Illya!" The good cop was trying not to laugh. "Forget the hair for a moment, could you?" He brought his face closer. They were almost nose to nose. "You fuck your partner, right?"
No hesitation. "Yes."
"Okay. Who's in charge?"
"I don't understand." Illya sounded almost bereft at his inability to grasp the question. "Napoleon is my superior," he offered. His eyes darted vaguely. "Professionally," he clarified.
Napoleon caught the distinction and felt irritated, though the discussion amused him. No surprise really, he knew Illya thought himself the more intelligent. Maybe he was. Better educated surely, but his mind lacked subtlety, moved from point A to B like a bulldozer, would chew through the entire alphabet without a thought.
"Illya, I am going to be as clear as I can. Do you know what a cock is?"
"Excellent. Do you put yours in Napoleon or does he put his in yours?"
"What? Cocks don't fit in each other."
The good cop shook his head. "Are you always this obtuse?" he asked rhetorically.
"Your questions are imprecise," Illya replied. "I will only answer what you ask."
Napoleon noticed Illya's speech had become somewhat less slurred and wondered if the drug were wearing off. Still, its effects appeared different from other truth serums. Illya responded like an automaton but his ego had not been obliterated.
"Let me try once again, honey. Do you take it in the ass?"
"Much better," the good cop said. "So sometimes you give it to Napoleon and sometimes he gives it to you?"
Illya looked confused. Napoleon felt equally confused and his expression almost mirrored his partner's. "No, Napoleon, um—" Illya struggled again against the effects of the drug. "Napoleon, um, no we don't take turns." Again the chin lifted. "He, um, he..."
Illya tried to shrug. "Yes," he said. "But there are nuances to that word. It means more than the act. Layers of meaning that don't apply."
Napoleon noticed Illya's answers had grown more complex. Even he was unsure of their meaning.
The good cop rubbed Illya's cheek. "You mean you like it."
"So you don't feel fucked in some senses of the word."
"That's all right," the good cop consoled. But like an able district attorney he returned to the previous subject. "You said you only sometimes take it in the ass."
"Yes. Sometimes. With Napoleon. Sometimes."
The good cop sighed, confused. "I don't understand. You've never taken Napoleon."
"Where? Oh. No."
"But you said you take turns. You said you only take it sometimes."
"No and yes." He answered each question in turn. "What do you mean then?"
"We are not exclusive. We both have other partners."
"Ah." The good cop was finally catching on. "So you fuck other men?"
Illya started to struggle again with his response. "I, um, have."
Napoleon's face fell, shielded by the darkness. "Hold on," he admonished himself. "Get a grip." Of course their relationship was not exclusive; they didn't even get together with any regularity. Still, he never chose to imagine Illya with other men. Wasn't that implicit in their association? Didn't he give Illya what he wanted? He reined in his anger with effort and listened, an eavesdropper now. He was curious and his curiosity felt like an exposed nerve, edged with a giddy dread.
"What about girls?" the good cop asked.
"What about girls what?"
"Do you like girls? Or just men?"
"Girls are fine," Illya said listlessly.
"Well, I think they are too," the good cop said, his dark eyes glinting with amusement. "But I wouldn't want my sister to marry one."
Illya just stared at him as if he did not understand the joke or perhaps didn't think it was funny.
The good cop cleared his throat self-consciously. "What I'm asking is, do you fuck girls too, or just men?"
"So when do you have time for Napoleon?"
Illya's head bowed. "When he asks."
"You're always available when he wants it?"
"What about when you ask?"
"He doesn't comply with your wishes?"
"I do not ask."
"I don't know. I've never asked. Anyone."
"Okay." The good cop sighed wearily. "Why don't you ask?"
"Don't have to." Illya's head fell forward. "Could I go back to sleep?" he asked. "Why are you so interested in my sex life anyway? I really don't have much of one. If you want to capture an U.N.C.L.E. agent for prurient purposes, you really should have gone after Napoleon. Not me. Why don't you help that clueless fellow look for Charlie?"
The good cop stroked Illya's head and smiled. "I don't know Charlie. And I disagree. I find you fascinating. That's why I came back." Illya rubbed his cheek against the good cop's shoulder like a cat, a very sensual cat.
Napoleon bristled. He loved that gesture, Illya rubbing sleepily against him, and never dreamed it was just part of a bag of tricks, thought it was for him alone. His little pussycat and about as discriminating as a cat! He stepped forward once again, tired of the puzzling charade, and heard distant footfalls. Damn! He should have ended this when he had the chance. Curiosity killed the cat. Damn it to hell! Waverly was right; he was becoming unprofessional.
"No one lets me sleep," Illya whined. " I am...tired. Very." Illya's head fell on the good cop's shoulder, his eyes unfocused.
"But you haven't been very forthcoming. All those bullshit computer passwords. We managed to infiltrate U.N.C.L.E.'s softball team lineup and then the bowling league teams. My colleagues are not happy."
"Oh." Illya did not sound surprised or concerned.
"I gather you're not really the shortstop."
"Hmm? The what?"
"Do you know what a shortstop is?"
"No." Illya reconsidered. "Between second and third. Baseball. Infield. Six."
Napoleon perked up, pleased their one excursion to Shea Stadium, two years ago, had proven so memorable. He had tried to explain baseball to his Russian friend, tried to teach him how to keep score, imagining he would enjoy the intricate endeavor. Illya had paid polite, perplexed attention, but seemed more intent and much more skilled at waving down beer and hot dog vendors. But six was correct, the scorekeeper's notation for the shortstop. Apparently something had sunk in between concessions.
Illya held up one finger. "The pitcher is one," he began slowly. "The, um, the man the pitcher throws to, the um, catcher is two, the first baseman is—"
"Oh Lord!" the good cop exclaimed. "That's enough. You are the shortstop then?"
"Do you play any sports?"
"No. Not really. Not team sports. I'm not very good at them."
"I know. I can play chess. Is that a sport?"
"Not in my old neighborhood." The good cop rubbed Illya's cheek and Napoleon watched, not understanding the line of questioning. Did the good cop just want to talk? He surmised Illya was almost purposely drawing out his answers, his only defense against the truth serum, and he did not understand all of what Illya said. He did not want to and wished they would just discuss baseball, a frequent psychiatric dodge, at least for American agents. This seemed more like a seduction than an interrogation. His partner was responding pretty much the way he did to either encounter: reluctant and baffled, his defenses firmly in place.
Napoleon pressed his back against the wall at the same Thrush guard reappeared, holding a single cup of coffee in one hand, his automatic in the other. The good cop smiled at him without warmth.
"What about for our guest?" he asked.
"That little animal? Your 'guest' kicked me in the balls and bit me. I may need rabies shots."
"You may," the good cop agreed, his thin lips smiling with even thinner amiability. "Why don't you see to them and leave us?"
"Have you seen Charlie?" the guard asked.
"No, I wouldn't know him if I saw him."
The guard walked right by Napoleon who once again held his breath, vowing not to let the next chance pass him by.
"Will you tell me the passwords?" the good cop asked.
"Can't. I don't know them anymore. You essentially erased them with the drugs."
"That's okay." Again a comforting stroke to Illya's hair and again Illya rubbed his face against him. "I'd really rather hear about your partner."
"Oh." Illya slumped slightly in the good cop's embrace.
"Do you love Napoleon?"
Napoleon felt ridiculously pleased by the lack of hesitation in Illya's response and wished this would be the end. He peeked around the corner of the hallway, ready to make his move. The guard was still in sight, having paused for a coffee break midway down the corridor. Napoleon waited for a better opportunity, patience a damn unsatisfying virtue.
"Does he love you?"
Illya shrugged awkwardly. "Sometimes. Yes. I guess so."
"Does he love you?"
"I don't know."
"Why not? You said he fucks you."
Illya shuddered. "Sex and love are not always synonymous."
"Does he love you?"
"No." Illya spoke quietly, defeated—another secret—apparently even from himself.
Napoleon longed to step forward and contradict him. He felt almost as ambivalent as Illya's response. He really did love Illya, had for a long time. Illya was the one constant in his life. But it was like a weakness, this love, made them both vulnerable. The sexual part of their relationship just made them idiotic—their reckless bargain with one another born of enforced association, mutual boredom, shared curiosity—wasn't it preordained? The love was something separate. Or was it?
The good cop was stroking Illya's face. Illya grimaced in response, pushing against him. "It's okay, honey," the good cop cooed, tightening his grip on Illya's slumped shoulders. "All you are saying is you love Napoleon and you both have sex with other people. And you don't know if he loves you."
"Oh." Illya seemed appalled at the simplicity of the good cop's explanation. His body withdrew slightly. "Yes?"
"Who did you last sleep with?"
Napoleon grinned, so proud of his partner. He must be driving them insane.
"No, no, no," the good cop reproved. "Who did you last fuck?"
"Oh. A girl. An old girlfriend. Not really a girlfriend, just a—" Despite the drugs, Illya blushed. "Someone I met on a train and saw again in London. A model. She wants to be called Candice now, not Candy. She wants to be an actress and Candice is a serious name. So I called her Candice. I didn't remember her name to begin with."
The good cop snorted in appreciation. "So when did you last sleep with Napoleon?"
"In New York. A few weeks ago."
"In New York. In his apartment. In the shower."
"And before that?"
"In his bed."
"When was this?"
"The same day."
"Okay. Before that."
"On the sofa."
"Was this also the same day?"
The good cop sighed. "And?"
"In front of the fireplace."
"Was this a different night?"
"Can we move beyond this memorable occasion? When did you have sex before this?"
"Yeah. I'm trying to establish how often you get together. A pattern, if you will."
"I'm not sure," Illya said, his voice fairly clear. "Lisbon. The Ritz Hotel. We shared a bowl of very small strawberries that cost a fortune for dessert. They were wonderful." Illya's eyes sparkled with the memory.
Napoleon bit his lip, suppressing a sigh. He had been almost certain that particular night rated over the dessert, though the strawberries had been exquisite and so costly Accounting would not approve them on their expense report. Oh, maybe the sex that night had been rushed; hell, they had to share the room with that Kansas girl. But she had left in the morning. Surely, Illya remembered the morning more vividly than the strawberries?
"The Ritz is a lovely hotel, isn't it?"
Illya paused, as if trying to remember. "Yes." He paused again. "May I ask a question?"
"All right. Go ahead."
"Would it be so odd if I were the shortstop?"
"Yes, it would." The good cop grinned. "You seem more like a right fielder to me. And I think someone needs another injection. You are getting a little sly again."
"I am answering your questions," Illya said petulantly. "Why do you care? What difference does it make?"
"That your partner and you fuck or that you're not a shortstop? I suppose not much in the vast scheme of things." The good cop pulled Illya close and whispered something in his ear. Illya shook his head vehemently. "Just once," the good cop said. "I'll let you go then. I'll help you escape."
"No." Illya started to struggle and yelped in surprise when he landed on the floor of the cell. He pulled himself away, dragging his hobbled legs and curled up in the corner of the cell.
The good cop smiled and pulled the remote control device from his pocket. "Honey, don't make me use this. Come back here. Be a good boy."
Illya clawed at the band around his neck. Then he composed himself, pulling his arms around his knees and waited. He stared at the good cop, his blue eyes intense and hopeless. "No," he said. "I do not sleep with the enemy."
Napoleon glanced down the hall. The coffee break was over and the guard almost out of sight. Napoleon stepped out of the shadows, Thrush automatic raised to defend his partner's uncertain honor. "Do you need some help?" he asked, but not of Illya. "Are you in trouble?"
Illya looked up at him, blinking in consternation. He blinked again and shook his head, then cowered into the corner, staring with unbelieving eyes. Napoleon was well acquainted with Thrush truth serums, knew the psychotropic drugs contained hallucinogens. Illya seemed almost frightened by what he thought he saw, not his partner so much as his mind unraveling, playing cruel tricks.
The good cop sighed and stood up to open the door of the cell. "Are you Charlie?" He affixed a searching but not mistrustful gaze upon Napoleon. Still, the good cop pulled his gun as if something were not quite right. "Your buddy's looking for you."
"Charlie? Nah. Don't know him. I heard a scuffle, that's all." Napoleon held his breath, letting the lie float between them like a refreshing breeze.
The good cop extended his hand, the other still clutching the gun. "Woody, uh, Woody," he paused and laughed. "Woody Woodpecker? No, no, no, make it Woody Wren. Not my name, of course. Woody's right, I really am Woodrow."
Napoleon shook his hand and tried not to laugh. He had heard rumors of a recent directive from Central imploring Thrush employees to select bird-inspired pseudonyms but he assumed it was a joke. Now he wondered. "Ray, uh, Redfinch." He chose alliteration too but added an unknown bird, though not a cartoon character, for good measure. It sounded reasonable enough—not like Woody Woodpecker. "I'm a replacement from Long Island," he explained. "The flu's going around. Do you need some help with," he affixed his partner with a withering glare, "this one?"
The good cop, Woody, shrugged. "The drugs are wearing off and he is a violent thing. Just bring him over here and I'll reinject him." Woody withdrew a syringe from his pocket and then a vial and busied himself preparing it as he set his gun on the cot next to him.
Illya shivered as Napoleon hoisted him into his arms. He buried his face in Napoleon's neck, sniffing, and Napoleon could almost feel the smile of recognition. So strange the olfactory sense should prove surer, as if it would not deceive when the others did. Illya allowed himself to be lifted and dragged back to the cot, back to Woody, whatever his last name was. His nails dug into Napoleon's biceps like a baby animal's—a vicious baby animal at that—a grizzly bear cub perhaps. Rabid? Napoleon swatted at the claw-like grip, wincing in pain. "Relax," he whispered into Illya's ear. "Just go along."
Napoleon was not able to retrieve his partner without putting down the Thrush automatic. Woody watched the two agents intently, his kind brown eyes narrowing as if he both caught onto the ruse and refused to believe in it. His attention focused, for a beat, on the Thrush automatic Napoleon had placed near the cot.
"Pull his sleeve up," Woody told Napoleon. "You're very good with him. He brained the last guard who tried to touch him. He's probably the flu you heard about. Russian flu." Woody smiled absently, absorbed in his task. "A particularly virulent strain."
Napoleon plastered a pleased smile on his face, sitting Illya almost on his lap as he bared his arm, pulling the coarse black and white striped cotton away. At the same time he toed the automatic closer to him. He started to grab for the syringe but Woody was surprisingly quick and efficient. Illya stiffened as the needle entered his vein and turned briefly to stare at Napoleon, his eyes unfocused and confused, almost accusing. Still he sniffed, breathing in the familiar scent, resting his head against the familiar shoulder in a gesture of trust. Napoleon squeezed him in response.
"Oh well," Napoleon thought. He had promised Waverly the truth serum. "So I bring it back in Illya's bloodstream."
"Do you know who this is?" Woody asked. "U.N.C.L.E.'s Enforcement number two."
"Illya Kuryakin." Solo eyes widened.
"The Russian," Woody said. "Do you know his partner?"
"His name. I've never met him. Napoleon Solo—we all know Napoleon Solo. We've all heard of him."
Woody nodded but quickly deflated Napoleon's ego. "I've never heard of him myself, but I'm new to the East Coast, still finding my way. I understand he's very handsome."
Napoleon perked up again. "Yes, I've seen pictures," he said.
"And the consummate ladies man. Except," Woody pushed Illya's head away so he could talk directly to Napoleon, "except, he fucks this one. And, can you believe, the morons here want to break into U.N.C.L.E.'s computers, can't get beyond that goal? I don't think they got what he was saying." Why was Woody Wren was confiding in him? Did he sense a kindred spirit of some kind? He played along, lowering his eyes and pursing his lips in a pantomime of a kiss.
Illya growled and managed to break away from the two of them, hurling himself back on the floor. "Stop it," Napoleon said and Illya froze, accustomed to obeying him, accustomed to perplexing orders in the field. "Come back here. Now."
"Yes," he said. "I'm sorry."
Napoleon took the opportunity to retrieve the Thrush automatic from the floor and pointed it in Illya's direction.
Woody Wren and Napoleon pulled Illya back on the cot and settled him between them like a shared trophy. Illya's head lulled forward, his eyes dull yet strangely alert, glittering both from the drugs and the hope of escape. "What does this Napoleon Solo look like?" Woody asked, as if they were in high school, as if he was sizing up an adversary.
"Actually he looks rather like me," Napoleon replied daringly. The interrogation would not go on much longer.
"You?" Woody seemed disappointed.
"Beret," Illya mumbled thickly. "I told you. Bad on you." Illya reached up and pulled the beret from Napoleon's head and smiled.
"Is he better looking than this one?" Woody asked, inclining his head toward Illya. "I can't imagine."
"Different," Napoleon replied. "More classically handsome, not so cute."
Illya growled again.
Woody smiled. "I prefer blonds myself. Always have."
Illya lifted his head, the smile playing on his lips growing blissful. He opened his mouth to speak and then closed it suddenly, his hand fluttering to his lips. He bit his fingers and shuddered. When he finally spoke, all he said was, "Sleep, please, sleep," the words muffled and indistinct. He affixed Napoleon with an adoring, unfocused gaze. "Handsome? Pretty. Beautiful." His hand moved to Napoleon's face and touched the mole there. "Beauty mark. Like Marilyn Monroe."
Woody watched the interplay with profound graciousness, the good cop role apparently ingrained in his nature. "I think you've scored a conquest," he said.
Napoleon raised his automatic, sweeping Woody's gun from the cot with his other hand. He then reached inside of the Thrush coveralls, pulling his U.N.C.L.E. special from his shoulder holster, ending the charade before Illya short-circuited it with his flirting. "You're going to get us out of here, Woody," he purred in a low, throaty register that seduced and demanded while it betrayed.
"Shit," Woody said without heat. "Napoleon Solo. I suppose I should have guessed. I think I did. The other guards are so unbearably stupid, not to mention unattractive." He raised his hands in amiable surrender. "I'll get you both out of here. I will. I was going to let him go anyway; that's really why I came back. Don't get mad. I sort of had a little crush—nothing serious. He's been about as susceptible to my charms as the Virgin Mary. Don't kill me over it. I've been very good to your partner. Haven't I, Illya?"
No hesitation and no amplification: "Yes."
Napoleon was not entirely sure what this particular "yes" meant but focused on the escape at hand, a surprisingly easy one as it turned out. Woody merely led them to a freight elevator, Illya almost dragged between them, his movements hampered by the drugs and the manacles on his ankles. And that was it. They never even saw another person. Woody accompanied them in the elevator, the consummate host, the best of good cops.
"Look," he said. "I will sound the alarm after giving you a decent interval to flee, or to catch a cab at least. You have my word; nothing Illya said will go any further. I respect your relationship, such as it is. I do think you two need to talk though—you know, work things out. I am a romantic at heart."
Napoleon continued to aim his gun at Woody, wondering if he had been misled. Perhaps the good cop could be your friend. Set free in an empty lot behind the building, he found himself unable to even shoot him with a sleep dart.
"Take care of him, Mr. Solo," Woody called as they walked slowly away. Napoleon put his arm around Illya, their progress slow, and finally stood in midtown Manhattan, dusk falling but not nearly dark enough to obscure their odd attire. Still it was almost impossible to really stand out in New York. The passersby did just that—passed by—perhaps affording them a little more space than necessary but hardly a second glance. Napoleon hailed a cab, dragging his partner inside of it.
"Where to, gentlemen?" the driver asked, eyeing their bizarre clothing with a cabby's seen-it-all apathy.
Solo gave the Del Floria address and the driver pulled into traffic.
"No, no, no," Illya protested. He gave his own address, haltingly.
"I've got to take you back to Headquarters for debriefing," Napoleon explained.
"No! Are you mad?" Illya repeated his address.
Napoleon reconsidered. Bad idea. Illya was pumped with truth serum and the truth would not set him free by any stretch of the imagination. To the U.N.C.L.E. psychiatrists it would be like shooting fish in a barrel, so exposed was Illya's dangerous subconscious. "Let's go to my place. It's closer," Napoleon suggested. He gave his address.
The driver stopped the taxi in the middle of midtown traffic and turned to regard his passengers with a jaundiced eye. "Hey gentlemen, let's make up our minds." He focused on Illya. "I wouldn't risk the Village in that get-up. I wouldn't be dropping any soap, if you know what I mean. Isn't it a little early for Halloween?"
Napoleon recited his address again and the cab lurched forward, horn blaring. The driver thumped the steering wheel and made a rude gesture in his rearview mirror, as if he had not been the cause of the obstruction. Illya glared at the back of the cabby's head and then looked out the window, his body drawn as taut as piano wire. Napoleon squeezed his knee. The trip to Solo's apartment took less than ten minutes. Napoleon paid the fare and helped his partner out of the taxi, instantly regretting his choice of destination. Illya's apartment had no doorman; Billy, Napoleon's doorman, flung open the door and greeted them with studied disinterest, a game face almost bursting with controlled hilarity. "Hello, Mr. Solo," he said. He nodded at Illya as if he looked familiar.
"Hi, Billy," Napoleon said, chin leading with wounded dignity. "We're just coming from a costume party," he explained lamely. "You remember my friend, Mr. Kuryakin."
Billy grinned. "Of course. Great costumes." He looked at Napoleon. "But what are you supposed to be?"
Napoleon just smiled and dragged his partner toward the apartment building. Illya could barely walk but he wasn't about to pick him up, at least in front of Billy.
Billy watched them, suddenly on equal footing with his usually impeccable tenant. He looked down at his own mustard yellow, pseudo-military garb. "It's always Halloween for me, Mr. Solo."
Finally safe in the apartment, Illya almost collapsed in the foyer. He crawled toward the living room and Napoleon watched him, cock twitching in anticipation, the black and white prison outfit an unexpected turn-on. God, Illya had a beautiful ass! He watched his friend's progress, smiling with a predator's calculated disinterest as Illya pulled himself awkwardly to the couch. "Give me a pick," Illya said. "I've got to get these off." Illya gestured with his hands toward the manacles imprisoning his ankles. Napoleon joined him on the couch and shook his head.
"I have a few other ideas," he said.
Illya pushed him away. "No." He slid to the floor out of Napoleon's reach and started to remove the cushions from the couch, searching methodically.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"I'll find a hairpin in here." And he did. He found two. He sidled away and worked on the manacles. Napoleon watched, amused, then pressed his partner to the floor, kissing him.
"Let's play a little first." The idea of taking Illya in his prison outfit appealed to him in a perverse way, but not quite as much as taking him under the influence, so to speak—of asking him questions and hearing honest responses for a change. Do you like when I touch you like this? Am I the best lover you have ever had? Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? Of course he'd say 'yes.' Yes, yes, yes!
"No!" Illya tried to push Napoleon away and tried not to engage in a kiss. "These hurt," he said. "My ankle is swollen. I want them off."
"Oh, but I want them on," Napoleon said. He reached inside the drawstring black and white pants and stroked Illya, anticipating a response. Do you like when I touch you like this? His partner often needed to be coaxed into new ideas, not quite as obedient sexually as in the field but far less controlled. Illya's penis did not jump at his touch, remained obstinate—the drugs perhaps?
They had done this before, played while one or the other wore one of their many disguises, the more outlandish the better. It broke the ice playing variations of themselves. Napoleon remembered Illya in a burnoose limping into their hotel room. He stared out the window, his sunburnt face reflecting a golden radiance, his mouth turned down, pouting with anger. "Oh, don't be a shit," Napoleon had scolded, approaching him warily. "You really do look fetching in that dress." The blue eyes glared a warning. Napoleon spread his arms and started to sing: "I'm the sheik of Araby. Your love belongs to me. At night when you're asleep. Baby, into your tent I'll creep." The blue eyes widened, flashing with an incredulous glow, struggling to ignore the joke. Laughing, Napoleon drew Illya into his arms and, still singing, danced him toward the bed. "And you'll rule this crazy land with me. I'm the sheik of Araby."
They had resisted each other's pull for years but the force proved as inescapable as gravity.
Disguises somehow gave them permission, their secret aphrodisiac in a very secret relationship. Napoleon as the great white hunter in pith helmet and safari outfit holding a flexible bamboo riding crop; he hadn't sung that time. Illya in his horn-rimmed glasses, stammering with shyness. Napoleon as a wimpy, high-voiced male secretary fussily demurring. Illya as a barefoot, ragged Chinese, his bright blond hair obscured by a pointed straw hat, his blue eyes rimmed in eyeliner that lent them a sexually ambiguous Oriental cast. They played in different languages, in fake accents, in made-up voices. They played silly games and they giggled over them, free to pretend until they were naked and freer still.
"Stop, please." Illya tried to remain reasonable, but he glared at Napoleon, his eyes narrowing into furious slits. "Don't." He played his trump card. "Napoleon, I trust you."
Napoleon paused. "So trust me," he purred. "Haven't you liked my ideas before?"
Illya shrugged and risked a brief kiss. "Please. My ankle hurts. Don't do this."
"What's the matter? Can't we just play? You like our games. No?" Maybe this wasn't quite the same. Illya did not wear a disguise of his choosing and worse—better?—he was an open book. Napoleon knew it was not fair. Really making love—that was a game they hadn't yet tried and the temptation of it almost defeated Napoleon. He kissed Illya, his hands entwined in his hair, his knuckles white with a painful yearning. "Please," he whispered into Illya's mouth. "Can't you humor me?"
Illya's attitude altered, his face turned blank and hopeless. "Don't I always?" he asked. He turned on his stomach, offering himself so automatically he killed the mood.
Napoleon sighed and reached inside his coveralls to pull a pick from his pocket. Illya was better with locks than he, but he worked on the shackles, freeing Illya's ankles, then undid the collar around Illya's neck, setting them both on the gleaming glass and chrome coffee table in a display of reluctant goodwill. "Is that better?" Napoleon asked.
"Yes. Thank you." Illya's voice sounded thick and uncertain. He pulled his knees to his chin and stared straight ahead, not meeting his partner's eyes.
"You're welcome," Napoleon said ungraciously. "You know, you can be very dull sometimes. Variety is the spice of life." He paused considering. "But apparently I don't need to tell you this, do I?"
Illya shook his head, rubbing his swollen right ankle. "Could I go to sleep?" he asked.
"Yeah. Sure. I'd like to ask you something though."
"Yes." Illya's voice assumed the acquiescent drugged cadence. His eyes, however, glared with disdain.
"If you are unhappy with your role, why haven't you said anything? I don't get it."
"I don't understand? What role?"
"Don't drag this out. I'm not interrogating you."
"Yes you are. I don't understand. And don't do this."
Napoleon hesitated, struggling with the ethicality of the situation. Illya was not only exhausted but drugged. It was hardly fair to ask him questions but still so tempting. No one is all good, and Napoleon could not quite resist. Illya would never discuss their relationship otherwise, he rationalized. It existed in a dimension neither acknowledged, one of disguises and unexpressed longing. "You want to be on top sometimes?"
Illya's eyes widened sleepily. "Yes."
"But you've never asked."
"No you haven't," Napoleon contradicted. "I just assumed you were happy with our arrangement. Was I wrong? Apparently I was wrong."
"What does 'no' mean? You are happy or you're not?"
"I don't understand." Illya ducked his head. "Happy?" he asked as if this were a decadent and wholly unfamiliar American concept that perhaps had no equivalent in his Russian mind.
"I don't make you happy? I don't satisfy you?"
"Yes. You do."
Napoleon recoiled at the fearful tone of the response and wrestled with his guilt. They were not on equal footing. But maybe they never were. "Illya. I want to make this clear. We've had sex quite a few times and I always enter you when we do it like that. Right?"
"But that's not what you always want, is it?"
"This is marvelous truth serum," Napoleon muttered. "I know you speak English well enough to know yes and no have two different meanings, some would almost say opposite meanings. Can you just try to explain things to me? What is going on in your convoluted little brain?"
Illya cringed and distanced himself from his partner. "I like having sex with you," he said.
"Thank you," Napoleon replied sarcastically. "But you want to be on top sometimes?"
Napoleon sighed with exasperation. "So why are you fucking other men?"
"Because I want to, um, be on top."
Napoleon resisted an urge to scream. He stared into Illya's unfocused eyes. "You are not making any sense. Do you want to be on top or don't you?"
"Napoleon. Don't. I don't want to be on top of you. I trust you. I don't trust—" Illya tilted his head as if an idea had just occurred to him. "You wouldn't let me. Would you?"
Napoleon smiled and reached forward, pulling his partner into a warm embrace, a kernel of understanding popping in his mind. He sincerely did not know the answer to Illya's question. "I feel jealous," he said, only sure of that. "I don't want you sleeping with other men. Can you understand?"
Illya nodded into his shoulder. "I don't want you sleeping with anyone," he replied. "But you do."
Napoleon squeezed him tighter, enjoying the possessiveness of Illya's declaration but feeling possessive himself.
"It's easier with men, less complicated," Illya continued. "No dinner, no dancing, no flowers, no movies, no broken promises. You get it up, get it in and get out."
Napoleon pushed him at arm's length and stared at him, stunned. Illya's voice was slurred and quiet, his eyes unfocused and heavy lidded, fluttering slightly. His version of the truth sounded forlorn and sordid.
"And that's what you want?" Napoleon asked.
Illya shrugged. "Sometimes."
Napoleon shook his head, displeased and confused. "I don't sleep with other men. Not like you. I'm faithful in, at least, one way."
Instead of conceding the point, Napoleon pressed his lips to Illya's. "Can't you see a difference? Or is that what we have together, just sex without-?" he asked into his partner's compliant mouth. "Sex without?" He wasn't sure how to continue. Without love, without obligation, without complications. Is that what they had? Sex disguised as nothing at all. Napoleon had to admit it was something damn close. They professed no commitment to each other, made no promises they would ever break, and yes, the sex was easy in many ways. Still, get it up, get it in and get out—they had more than that together—their friendship alone meant more than that.
Illya pulled away. His head slid into Napoleon's lap and he sighed, pillowing himself against his thighs. "Rationalization. Semantics. Must you keep talking to me? It isn't fair. I can't stop talking."
"You haven't answered the question. And it's nice to finally talk to you, have a real conversation for a change, even if I don't like what I hear."
"I don't know what we have together, Napoleon. I can't answer the question. Please stop this. It's something we shouldn't explore."
"Do you have a better idea?"
Illya nodded, clawing at Napoleon's crotch, bewildered at the barrier created by the coveralls. "Where?" he asked, sliding a splayed hand between his occasional lover's legs.
Napoleon pushed Illya away and pulled off the coveralls. He cupped Illya's neck and pulled him back, freeing himself from his trousers. He was already hard. He watched Illya suck on him. He loved blowjobs, but particularly from Illya, loved to watch the blond head between his legs. Illya was hardly a demonstrative lover, almost insultingly indifferent if Napoleon were honest about it. He seldom whispered endearments, his moans of appreciation were grudgingly few and far between, his climaxes so controlled he could have them at church, if he had ever been in one. He often hid his face in the covers, in the pillow, in his own hands, hiding his reactions—that is—if they existed at all. And when he did talk? Complaints, instructions, demands—as if he were working out a complicated equation—totally focused on the solution and impatient with the process.
When he gave head, however, his silence was understandable, his technical expertise welcome. Still Napoleon longed to hear him talk, sensed the unspoken emotion behind the façade. Do you love me? He had never expected to hear the answer or even wanted to. He preferred playing games.
Napoleon sometimes wondered why he even bothered with Illya. They were almost polar opposites, their lovemaking styles as different as their hair and eye colors, as different as they were. Still—to see Illya's fleeting sweet smiles, to see his blue eyes shine with dazed abandon, to feel his body tremble with unexpected desire—that was almost worth the obstacles.
And Illya liked to kiss. They shared this typically feminine preoccupation, sometimes necking for hours before moving on to more satisfying activities. Napoleon had mastered the art of kissing as a means to seduction. Illya, he sensed, liked to kiss because it was novel, something no one bothered to do with him, even his girlfriends. They were probably too afraid he'd escape if they wasted too much time on the preliminaries.
Kissing was like dancing in a way, a means to seduction. Napoleon had learned to dance and liked to dance for the same reason he liked to kiss. It was part of the natural progression to what he really enjoyed. Illya could dance a bit. He had been trained in the social graces, though he could be a stiff and wooden partner when not sufficiently lubricated with alcohol. Dancing seemed to bore him almost as much as small talk. Seduction to him was no art, but a chore. Hadn't he so much as admitted this?—get up, get in, get out—so why did he like to kiss? It didn't make sense. Or maybe it did. Kissing was for lovers and Illya loved him.
Napoleon remembered a long-ago Christmas party in U.N.C.L.E.'s commissary. Illya had been in America for a little over two months, his icy persona already firmly in place, the Cuban Missile crisis not exactly rolling out the welcome mat for U.N.C.L.E.'s lone Russian National. He led a group of giggling secretaries in an intricate and vaguely Slavic version of The Stroll and Napoleon remembered watching from the sidelines, entranced. The CEA at the time, Russ Armstrong, leaned in close and whispered to Napoleon: "It's worse than I thought. This little Commie fucker's going to steal our secrets and then our girls. And not necessarily in that order." They both laughed at the absurdity of it as they watched the dance. Let's go strolling in wonderland.
When the song ended, Illya stared at Napoleon shyly, as if he were the only one who mattered, ignoring Armstrong with a predator's dismissal of something inconsequential in the landscape. Armstrong had celebrated almost as many 39th birthdays as Jack Benny. It was no secret Waverly was searching for a new CEA and had not yet made his selection. Illya apparently had. He knew which way the wind blew. "Peasants excel at group dances," he explained, face flushed with exertion or embarrassment. "I can also do 'The Locomotion.'" Napoleon had to admit, in retrospect, he fell a little in love that day, even when his briefly sociable coworker, his occasional partner, left with the girl he had been after for weeks, chosen precisely for that reason.
"Napoleon? What do you want?" Illya's voice was muffled by the soft cock in his mouth. He pushed back and withdrew, staring at his partner with questioning eyes. "I'm too tired to prolong this much longer."
"Sorry. I was just thinking."
"You tell me not to think. What are you thinking about?"
"Oh. Still it seems to take all your blood away, this nothing. You need it all to think?"
Napoleon rolled his expressive eyes heavenward and considered gagging his partner with his cock, choking him on it. Instead, he pulled him into an embrace. "Illya, could we talk instead? You never talk to me."
It was Illya's turn to pitch his eyes to the heavens. "What about? What do you want to know?"
Napoleon smiled at him. He looked so sweet. He wasn't sweet. But still... "Do you love me, Illya? You said you did."
"Yes." He said nothing more and looked angry, hardly the declaration Napoleon had hoped to elicit.
"I love you too," Napoleon said.
"Oh," Illya responded. "Really? May I go to sleep? Please. You love me? Why?"
Napoleon smiled. "I don't know. I do. I always have. For a long time. Since you did "The Stroll" at the Christmas party way back when."
"Oh? Please don't lie to me." Illya stared, his eyes wide with skepticism, the familiar blue obscured by dilated pupils. "Because I'm having trouble lying."
"All right," Napoleon agreed. "Look, I have to call Headquarters, let Mr. Waverly know what's going on. I don't think he'll be too happy I brought you here but I'll think of something."
"Okay," Illya said. "Like what?" He didn't wait for a reply and struggled to his feet, wincing as he put weight on his right foot. He limped toward the galley kitchen, barely able to walk and collapsed into one of the tall stools around the counter.
Napoleon joined him. "What should I say? Do you have any ideas?"
Illya shrugged. "You could start by asking him why the hell he left me there. Maybe I should call. What's that expression?—the best defense is a good offense. Or is it the other way around? We are on the defensive, are we not?" Illya's voice remained sluggish and slurred, but his eyes sparkled almost impishly. "Let me call, Napoleon. I can talk. I've had lessons."
Napoleon considered the offer. Illya wasn't gregarious but articulate and devastating in argument. Then he remembered and shook his head. "I don't think talking to Mr. Waverly, drugged to the gills, is a particularly good idea. I think he suspects about us."
"He won't ask me, Napoleon. It won't come up."
"Why? What do you mean?"
"You are in charge of me. I am not in charge of you."
Napoleon felt his face flush, an unaccustomed sensation. He reached for his communicator, not eager to explore the nuances of Illya's statement. "Open Channel D, number one, section one."
"Yes, Napoleon. Are you okay?" The low breathy voice oozed concern, invited conversation.
"Yes, Sharon. I'm fine. Put me through to Mr. Waverly."
"Yes, Mr. Solo." Sharon sounded outraged.
Illya smiled almost sympathetically. "Poor Napoleon," he said. "So difficult to please all of the people, all of the time. Easier to fool them, no?"
"Mr. Solo, where are you?" Waverly sounded far more outraged than Sharon.
"At home, sir. Illya is with me. He seems to have sprained his ankle."
A pause. A long pause. "And?"
"Otherwise he is fine."
Napoleon and Illya grinned at each other, hearing Waverly clear his throat. "Why is he not at Headquarters? Or do you consider yourself superior to our medical staff?—which I employ at considerable expense, I might add."
Illya chimed in, protecting his partner as he protected himself. "I am tired, sir," he said. "I don't wish to be questioned any further. I asked Napoleon to bring me here. I said nothing, our programming techniques proved effective. They—Thrush—have nothing from me. Nothing. I am fine. Thank you for your concern."
Waverly cleared his throat again. "Mr. Kuryakin, while your welfare has been of utmost importance to me, we have much to learn from this newest truth serum, we—"
"Sir," Illya interrupted, drawing out the respectful form of address like a sarcastic enlisted officer. "Napoleon has a kit here. He will draw my blood. I'll give a urine sample. But you understand I cannot be a Guinea Pig any longer. It has been three days. I have not slept or eaten. If Napoleon had not returned from Geneva, would I still be there?"
Napoleon stared at his partner, amazed at his boldness. He was like a belligerent drunk; aggressive and holding to his own version of logic. Perhaps the truth would set him free.
Strangely, Waverly backed down. "I do not wish to add to your ordeal."
"Thank you, sir," Illya replied, and introduced a note of meekness to his voice belied by a triumphant gleam in his eyes.
"However, I will see the both of you tomorrow. 8 a.m. In my office, after you drop off those samples to Medical. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," Illya and Napoleon chorused together.
Napoleon laughed first, a hollow sound. "I did promise Waverly I'd bring back a sample of the serum. And you, of course," he added. "How did you get away with that?"
Illya yawned and looked down at the counter. Normally that would have signaled the end of the conversation. He seldom answered direct questions but now Illya could not help but respond. "I didn't get away with anything," he said, his voice quiet and slurring slightly. "He is regrouping for tomorrow. I can only hope this drug wears off before then."
Remembering the promise of blood and urine samples, Napoleon went to retrieve his medical kit. He returned to the kitchen, shaking his head to see Illya hopping back to the barstool, holding a dollop of peanut butter on a spoon. While Napoleon extracted the blood sample, Illya watched dispassionately, sucking on the spoonful of peanut butter. "Go pee into this," Napoleon said, handing Illya a small vial.
Illya sighed and hopped back to the cabinet and dug the spoon in the jar of peanut butter again. Napoleon rolled his eyes and Illya frowned. "I'm hungry," he said. "They didn't feed me."
"Well, don't put the same spoon—" Napoleon paused. What difference did it make? No one ate peanut butter in his house except for Illya. It was not exactly the type of fare he reserved for his girlfriends. "Look, pussycat, they probably couldn't afford to feed you. Do you want me to make you something to eat?"
Illya nodded, staring with a rapt expression, one Napoleon had seen at the suggestion of food and seldom in bed. He felt ridiculously jealous of his partner's response, as if he couldn't compete with a jar of chunky Skippy or a bowl of tiny strawberries. Though Illya was eager to please in bed and easily pleased, he was difficult to engage, single-minded yet often bored once he had been sated. He responded and elicited response, and Napoleon did not seek or imagine another male partner. Illya understood about Napoleon's girls; he had always understood. Oh, occasionally he flew into a snit and Napoleon relished the jealousy. Napoleon, too, allowed Illya his occasional flings, told himself he welcomed them, but, truth be told, they drove him nuts. He knew it was unfair but he wanted Illya for himself and often ran interference between Illya and the object of his sporadic desires.
He hadn't known about the other men though. That rankled. Illya wanted to be on top but not with him. That's what he was saying to good cop. What was that all about? Who the hell was Illya fucking? He said it was easier with men but, except for his frequent disinterest, Illya had little problem attracting the attention of the opposite sex. Hell, if they were both after the same girl the odds were only slightly in Napoleon's favor. What had he said to Woody? He never asked, he didn't have to. There was arrogance behind the statement but truth as well. He did never ask. Napoleon always made the first move, apparently just like everyone else. He resented being like everyone else.
Illya hopped to the bathroom with the vial as Napoleon rummaged through his refrigerator. He hadn't been home for awhile and the pickings were slim but Illya was not a fussy eater, far more concerned with quantity than content. He'd make an omelet and he busied himself with preparations, slow, waiting for Illya to return. Illya liked to watch him cook; it made him horny.
Napoleon smiled to himself at the thought and the memories.
"What are you making?" Illya asked. He was wearing Napoleon's burgundy bathrobe, his hair wet from the shower.
"Isn't it obvious?" Napoleon had waited and cracked the eggs with one hand, one after the other, sure of Illya's silent regard. He felt disappointed at the change in attire and not just the change from the prison stripes. He had bought Illya a bathrobe, a hooded light blue one, and begrudged his wearing his burgundy robe with the petty resentment of an only child unused to sharing. Illya looked good in blue—it suited him—but Napoleon also liked him having his own clothing in his apartment. It made some sort of a statement, as if he were not a visitor but belonged. He had noticed in the past, however, Illya wore the burgundy robe when he could get away with it, oblivious to the gift. "Where's your prison outfit?" he asked, adding dill and ground pepper to the egg mixture.
Illya shrugged, yawning. "On the bathroom floor. And don't ever ask me to wear it for you," he said. He cradled his head in his arms on the counter.
"Where's your own robe?"
Illya shrugged again from his prone position. "In the other bathroom? I don't know."
"Why didn't you get it?"
His gaze turned unfocused. "Because I like how this one smells." Napoleon was at first charmed by the sweetness of the statement until Illya continued. "The other one, mine, smells like dust, dusty. Unused. Like it hangs around on the hook of a door. Which it does. I didn't look for it."
Napoleon added a small measure of water to the eggs and poured the mixture into a copper frying pan, rolling it around over the heat, momentarily distracted and once again the showy cook. "I don't even have my own robe at your place." He kept his voice even, disinterested, as he prepared the omelet.
"But we're so seldom at my hovel," Illya said, using Napoleon's term for his apartment. "I'll get you a robe if it means so much to you. I'm sorry for my oversight." He didn't sound sorry as he watched Napoleon cook. "I don't know if I can stay awake. But it smells wonderful." He meant the omelet, not the robe. He had made his point.
"You know, Illya, you are the quintessential Renaissance man. Which do you like better, sleeping or eating?"
Illya did not respond. Apparently he liked sleeping better. Napoleon finished making the omelet and set it next to his partner's nose. Illya roused himself briefly, eating a few forkfuls. Then he pushed the plate away. "Thank you," he whispered.
Napoleon tousled his wet hair, smiling indulgently. Illya was so adorable when he was asleep, almost like a cliché. Try to wake him and the cliché became menacing.
The phone rang and Illya started, his right hand reaching uselessly to one side before his head fell back on the counter, cradled once again in his arms. Napoleon answered it on the first ring, annoyed by the sound.
"Yes." Napoleon sat on the chair next to Illya and stroked his head so he did not wake up.
"Woody. Woody Wren. How is Illya?"
"How did you get my number? He's fine. Tired. Asleep."
Woody sighed grandly. "I'm afraid we kept him up a bit. I despise interrogations. But there was no rough stuff—not really—that was all your partner's doing. You can ask him."
"Don't ever call me at home," Napoleon warned. "If you cared about—"
"Oh, don't hang up," Woody said. "Don't. Are you okay?"
"Of course. I'm just fine. Why wouldn't I be?"
"But you overheard some of what Illya and I talked about. It's so obvious you two are in love but the confusion almost broke my heart. I am a romantic."
"So you said. Far be it for me to break your heart."
Woody sighed. "You are both so cynical. You don't believe in love. I may be Thrush, but I do. Believe. I think someone waits for us all."
"Great, Woody. Thanks for calling."
"He loves you."
Napoleon almost hung up the phone. "And I love him too," he said, the declaration offhand and dangerous. "You've cleared everything up for us. Don't even think of calling again."
"So make it work," Woody said, almost pleading. "There is so little love in the world."
"So Thrush can exploit it?"
"Is that what you think of me, of us? That we do not love? 'If you prick us do we not bleed?'"
"I hope you bleed like a pig." Napoleon laughed, a chilly sound. "Woody, I have known you for all of twenty minutes. You seem like a swell guy, just a peach. But Thrush is Thrush. A rose by any other name, a rose in sheep's clothing is still—"
"But Mr. Solo, I have a secret too. I am a homosexual. It is not accepted in my organization, any more than in yours."
How dumb did this irritating good cop think he was? "Woody, I'm that far along in the program. Maybe you should have let my partner jump you."
Napoleon heard an enraged hiss on the other end and then a bitter laugh. "Or maybe you should. Can't you take it like a man, Mr. Solo?"
Napoleon was at a momentary loss for words, dumbfounded by this unexpected twist on the definition of masculinity.
"I protected your partner," Woody continued, "unlike your organization. Our bond is stronger than our philosophical differences. No one understood what he was saying and I steered the conversation away from such topics until we had the opportunity to speak alone. You have no quarrel with me. I just called to remind you of what you really have."
"Illya, of course. You have his love."
"You know, Woody, this all sounds like a bad song."
"Does it? Well sing it sometime, my dusky beauty, and maybe you won't live to a lonely old age. Goodbye."
The dial tone buzzed in Napoleon's ear before he thought to hang up the phone. Illya's head lifted from the counter, distracted by the sound. "Who was that?" he asked.
"No one," Napoleon explained.
Illya smiled and yawned. "A disappointed girlfriend? I could probably sleep in your linen closet if you want me out of the way."
"Illya, I never want you out of the way. And it was more like a disappointed boyfriend."
Illya flushed. "I didn't know you had those."
"I have you."
Illya rubbed his eyes and yawned again, then noticed the half-eaten omelet. He pulled it toward him and ate some more of it. "What does that mean?"
"You are disappointed with me."
Illya paused, an upside down forkful of the omelet near his lips. He met Napoleon's eyes, his own black with truth. The fork clanged back to the plate. "I'm not disappointed with you." He looked at Napoleon, his brow creasing with bewilderment. "Why do you think I'm disappointed? Who were you talking to?"
"No one," Napoleon explained again. "You don't even think I love you and still you love me."
Illya withdrew slightly, his brow still furrowed with consternation. "So maybe you do love me. I stand corrected. And then what?"
"Would you ever be faithful to me?"
Illya's mouth twitched and then frowned as if he thought better of grinning. "Me? You're asking me?"
Illya did smile now, his lips curling into a parody of a mocking grin, lopsided and vague. "What about you? What are you asking? I'm supposed to change and you are not? We don't have sex often enough. Even for me."
Napoleon reached forward and took Illya into his arms, pulling him off the barstool. "I don't know. I want you to be mine and only mine and I'll try." Napoleon could not promise more. He already promised too much.
"You'll have to do more than try." Illya hugged him back. The truth serum kicked in and he struggled against it and sighed against his partner. "I love you, Napoleon. That's what you want to hear, isn't it?" Illya sounded reluctant and sincere. "I love you," he repeated as if expressing all his misgivings.
Napoleon smiled. "Illya, believe it or not, I love you too. Do you really love me?" He wanted to hear it again and sounded a little smug.
"You heard me."
"Would you make love to me?"
"Now? Napoleon, I couldn't even stay awake through dinner."
They both laughed and Napoleon hugged Illya, swaying against him. "I don't mean now, though I wouldn't turn you down."
"Have you ever turned anyone down?"
Napoleon tilted Illya's head toward him. "Be serious," he admonished. "Could we ever dispense with the disguises, with the artifice, with the games? Could we ever just make love and see what that's like?"
Illya stared at him, his pupils still dilated, his eyes almost rolling in an effort to remain focused. His right eye wandered and he attempted to control it and shivered. "Don't you know what that's like?"
"What?" Napoleon watched the movement of Illya's eyes.
Napoleon paused, lost in thought. "No."
"But you must. You do. Know." Illya stood on his toes. They were almost the same height. "You do." Illya wrapped his arms around him holding on, unsteady. His voice remained certain. "You do," he repeated.
"But I don't. I've never been in love. Does that surprise you?"
Illya lifted his head and his mouth curled into a bitter smile. "Yes," he said. "Didn't you just get through saying you loved me?" He slumped in Napoleon's embrace, almost dead weight in his arms.
"Do you love me?"
Illya nodded. "I love you, Napoleon. I keep telling you. Why do you keep asking? I love you."
"You've never said so before. Ever."
"I thought you would not want to know. I thought it would scare you off." Illya was clinging to him now, struggling to stay on his feet.
"So we have whatever drug this is to thank for—"
"Can we put off our gratitude till tomorrow?" Illya's smile twisted into a grimace. He laid his head against Napoleon's chest and closed his eyes. "Maybe things will be clearer in the morning. My head feels as if it is tethered on a sting." Illya's fingers beat a slow tattoo against Napoleon's shoulder as if he were measuring something, as if calculating sums on an abacus. "You have never been in love but you say you love me and I love you. I am babbling with truth serum and you have this sad, pitiful story about never being in love, even though you say you love me. I am confused. Don't I count?"
Napoleon held Illya close held him so he would not fall. He reached down and tried to pick him up but found him surprisingly heavy and stumbled sideways. "Maybe things will be clearer in the morning," he repeated. "And, of course, you count. But you've never made love to me. Not really."
Illya sighed against him and struggled to keep to his feet, winding his arms around Napoleon's neck more securely. "I can barely stand. That's certainly clear enough."
"Yes. Let's drag you off to bed, shall we? But things are clear to me. You count. Don't ever think you don't. I'll work on showing you how much you count...in the morning. I love you and we'll show each other."
Napoleon put his arm around Illya's waist and dragged him down the hall to his bedroom. He felt the strength of the truth serum as he lowered his partner onto the bed. The serum was more potent than he had thought; it appeared to be contagious.
Maybe the good cop could be your friend and maybe the truth could set you free.