In Absentia, longer version
"Take me home." Napoleon Solo could barely hear the whispered plea from Illya Kuryakin, his partner through thick and thin.
"We'll soon be there, Illyusha, c'mon, let's find the car." Napoleon patted Illya's cheek reassuringly, knowing the lure of his "wroomish" sports car would take his mind off the noisy and crowded hall that scared him so.
He tightened his grip on Illya's sweaty hand in his, and surveyed his surroundings. They were standing in the middle of the main hall of Grand Central Station, Terminal, Napoleon, as his partner normally would have corrected him. But the situation wasn't anywhere near normal. It was fifteen days and some hours since normal had left their lives, slipping out the door and banging it closed. He wished to god that he could make it open again. Soon.
Napoleon smiled at Illya, his face shockingly close, his blue, innocent eyes level with his own. It was easy to forget how adult Illya's body was, when the mind currently occupying that body was all of seven years old.
"Poleon, Can I sit in front? Please? Teddy, too?" Illya shook his hand in front of Napoleon's face, the head of the teddy clutched there lolling alarmingly.
And who was born that could resist those wide, pleading eyes? Not Napoleon. "Sure, Illya. Let's hurry, maybe we'll be back in time for Children's Chemistry on the television."
They jogged out, zigzagging through the crowd of busy-looking travellers.
Illya jumped up and down, eager, as Napoleon unlocked the door to his sleek, pale gray car. The second he jerked the key out of the lock Illya was in the car, in the passenger seat, strong hand poised over the dashboard.
"Ah-ah, busy-boy." Napoleon admonished with his finger, too, for good measure. This Illya was death to instruments. Illya had shown he could winkle things apart faster than Napoleon could blink with his eyelids. "Be good, and we'll buy ice cream at Jason's." Jason, their local ice cream vendor would give Illya a cone anyway, but no need to tell him that. Napoleon could use the edge.
"Caramel fla-vo-red, Poleon?" At Napoleon's nod, the sudden lump in his throat preventing him from responding in words, Illya smiled toothily, turned and pressed his nose flat against the passenger seat window.
The ride back, with Illya preoccupied, gaping at the chaos that was New York traffic, gave Napoleon another unwanted chance to berate himself.
Illya hadn't remembered New York when he found him; he didn't remember much of anything from his adult life. Luckily the Thrush drug dripping into Illya's vein had not had time to erase everything, or so the Section Eight people had comforted Napoleon. Random skills and knowledge had stayed in Illya's mind. And somehow, for which Napoleon was grateful, Illya instinctively trusted him, although he didn't remember they were partners, he hadn't remembered him at all. Napoleon's chest gave an aching twinge every time he thought about that. Why didn't Illya remember him? He did remember that he liked dim sum.
So Illya had a rudimentary English vocabulary, probably from his first year of learning foreign languages. Although that little sneak often returned to the Russian he had spoken those first, scary days when he wanted something. Napoleon was only relieved Illya hadn't discovered that he would give him anything, without any prompting at all. He was no better than Jason. He stopped to wait for the green light, wondering when—if—he could give Illya what he most needed; his memory.
"Poleon!" A tug at his shirt sleeve jolted him out of his broodings. "Lookee!" Illya pointed and whispered in awe at the fire engine passing at top speed, blinking and blaring. His partner had a thing for mechanical devices, no doubt about that. There wasn't any doubt in his mind that tomorrow would find them at the New York City Fire Department Museum either.
Napoleon drove over the junction, unable to stop his mind from rerunning clear images from those first, harrowing hours after Illya had reverted to a child. He had taken Illya directly to medical, where a then conscious Illya had been thoroughly examined. But the doctors couldn't say much more than he had guessed himself. Illya had lost his memory, had forgotten he was a grown man. Illya thought he was back in a war-ridden Kiev. Illya thought he was a little boy.
Later that same day, Napoleon had convinced Mr Waverly that he needed to take his sick days, his accumulated holidays, any days, to take care of his partner in familiar surroundings. Threatening to quit his job had probably helped, too. But after nearly a week, Napoleon still couldn't see any changes. He refused to give up hope. The experts at medical had assured him that the chemicals might take longer than this to leave Illya's body. If there would be any permanent damage, nobody seemed to know.
That first night Illya, scared out of his wits, had refused to sleep in the guest bedroom, no matter how much the door was ajar and the lights were on. It had taken Napoleon all the persuasion he had in him to make Illya lie down. But after a while, listening surreptitiously in the hallway, Napoleon hadn't been able to resist the subdued sobbing coming from under the bedcovers. He had led Illya into the master bedroom, tugged him into the side farthest from the door, and slid into his own, customary side. Illya had snuggled into his arms, put his head on Napoleon's shoulder; he was sleeping within moments. It had taken Napoleon longer.
"You go on to Jason's, Illya, I need to empty the trunk first," Napoleon waved Illya on as he locked the car in the spot outside their building.
Illya nodded eagerly, Teddy still clutched in one hand.
It hurt to let Illya out of his sight, even if it was only for moments. His mind jumped guiltily back to the last time he had talked to the adult Illya.
It had happened on an ordinary day. He was having dinner with someone for appearances' sake and he couldn't recall whom anymore. Illya was away on a routine mission, so simple there was no need for both of them to go.
Napoleon's pen communicator had shrilled in his suit jacket pocket. He had excused himself, irritated at being disturbed in the middle of the meal, but the job came first, and all that...
"Napoleon?" It had been Illya, not Waverly.
"Yes. Illya. Need help carrying the packet?" He cringed at the sarcastic tone of his voice, now. In retrospect. If only he had...
"No, listen, Napoleon. I may need your help." Understatement of the damned year. Luckily, the professional part of his brain had registered Illya's distress, and reacted.
"Where, Illya? I'm coming." Illya had given him the coordinates, and he had been on his way. He vaguely remembered tossing a wad of money on the table, excusing himself to the still nameless lady, and running for his car.
Napoleon walked up the street, saw Illya securing an enormous cone of ice cream in his hand, and smiled wistfully, his mind wandering back to that day, again.
He had driven as fast as his car could go and he had not misread the map this time. When he arrived at the satrapy he had, as far as he knew, killed off at least five Thrush guards, sprinted through the usual maze of corridors, and quickly found Illya, strapped down on a lab bench.
But it was still too late to save the Illya he knew.
The syringes dripping poison into Illya's arm had already done much harm to his mind. Luckily Napoleon hadn't known that, then. He had called for backup, yes, Mr. Waverly, I should have done that immediately upon receiving the emergency call, slung Illya's limp body over his shoulders in a fireman's grip, and staggered the same route out. It was a good thing Illya was unconscious, he had thought, or else he would have violently protested the undignified position.
Napoleon tried to pay Jason, who only smiled sadly and nodded his cap towards Illya, who was happily licking away at his huge ice cream. "That's my pay, Mr. Solo."
He led Illya by the elbow towards their apartment building. He nodded back to the doorman, a junior UNCLE agent doing his time of boring guard duty, and manoeuvred Illya into the mirror walled elevator.
"Grimses, Poleon, please?"
He had never been able to resist Illya's pleads.
He even managed to avoid Illya's sticky fingers and dripping caramel ice cream.
Napoleon breathed a sigh of relief when he unlocked the door to the penthouse and listened to Illya's running commentary about the day and their trip up country.
"You saw the lo-co-mo-tive, was huuuge, da?"
"Was that not ex-ci-ting, Poleon?
Napoleon hummed a yes.
"Can we see animals other day?"
"Uh, uhu, Illya," Napoleon answered and suppressed his dislike for caging animals that should be free.
Inside, Illya, after Napoleon's stern pointing, ran to the bathroom to wash up, then galloped back to the living room to tear open the bag containing his new t-shirt. It was a brilliant blue with a shiny red and yellow car printed on. Apparently a young Illya was partial to primary colors.
"Yes, it was the finest one they had, Illya," he answered his question about the t-shirt. "I'll order dinner. What would you like?" Illya slung his dirty t-shirt over the back of a chair and pulled the new one over his head.
"Pizza, Poleon? Cheesy crust?" Illya's muffled voice sounded pleading.
Napoleon groaned and rifled through the stack of take away menus he had acquired after letting a boy into his household. Pizza with cheesy crust it was. He couldn't warn a seven year old about cholesterol levels. Besides, he had never been able to resist those blue eyes when they were combined with ruffled hair.
Illya ate with a never-ending ravenous appetite. At first he had crammed the food down until he started gulping, on the verge of vomiting. And after finding ill-smelling leftovers in Illya's pockets, Napoleon had gently explained that there would be food tomorrow as well.
Napoleon knew. He also knew why Illya was afraid of strangers, why he was scared of starving, why he cried for his Boba in his sleep.
Napoleon stared out of the kitchen window while he waited for the pizza delivery. The evening sky was pink, yellow, pale blue, and the last fading rays of the sun glittered faintly.
Not so long ago Illya had been plagued by a recurring nightmare, resulting in his reliving the murder of his grandmother and his baby sister Masha, by German soldiers. Illya was six, and living in an occupied Kiev. Once Illya had remembered these repressed events, the nightmares had disappeared. Napoleon guessed that some of the irrational guilt of not being able to do anything, remained, though. Now, the loss of memory had brought it all back as if it had happened recently, making Illya's grief and guilt fresh and strong.
"Ding-ding." Napoleon was jostled out of his reminiscing by the doorbell.
"Pizza man, Poleon. You go?" Child-Illya was not able to conceal the wisps of fear in his voice and expression. Napoleon suppressed the urge to hug him and hurried towards the door.
"I will go, Illya. You can stay there." Napoleon nodded toward the kitchen nook, and Illya jumped up on a stool, looking relieved. The boy Illya couldn't have trusted many people. Had he had any friends at all? At least, Napoleon admitted to himself, if Thrush showed up, Illya wouldn't go with them voluntarily.
He buzzed the delivery guy up and took the delicious smelling pizza box, hearing Illya singing away in Russian from the kitchen. "Ah, the radio. It's impossible to find a good station these days."
"Try Radio 24, they play American music." The pizza guy was trying to be helpful, Napoleon knew, so he nodded and tipped him generously before locking the door and setting the alarms again.
"Have you set the table, Illya?" Napoleon had insisted they use plates after that first day of Illya's pizza fest. Paper napkins just weren't enough.
"Yes, Poleon." Illya squirmed enthusiastically on his stool and patted the countertop. It was set with the necessary plates and two colorful plastic glasses filled to the brim with milk. Brandy was for drinking straight from the bottle, head inside the cupboard.
Watching Illya eating his pizza slices was maybe more bizarre than anything. He attacked from the point of the triangle and didn't stop chewing till he had the crust pasted to his face like a happy, crazy smile. Then he crunched that down, looked up at Napoleon and let his hand hover uncertainly over the remaining slice.
"How's your tummy, Illya?" Napoleon tried to hide a smile.
Illya scrunched his face into a thoughtful expression. All fake, Napoleon suspected.
"It says it...there is room for one more slice."
"Well, eat up, then, partner."
Napoleon broke the rule from his own childhood about never leaving the table before everyone had finished, and started clearing up. They were both tired, and he still had work to do. He had taken leave from fieldwork to look after Illya, but he hadn't been able to dodge the paperwork Mr. Waverly had insisted he do. He still had to go to his office, albeit on a flexible schedule. It was a small price to pay to be able to stay with Illya, but he was allowed to curse the fact that his partner didn't remember how to write reports and calculate his budget, wasn't he?
Most people at HQ only knew that Illya had been injured and was in recovery. They hadn't a clue to the nature of his illness. Mr Waverly was in on the secret, of course, and a few others—among them the personnel in Section Eight, who were frantically searching for a serum to counteract the effects of the drug. Illya knew where to find Del Floria's and he had his own communicator pen, moderated to two frequencies only.
If Illya's condition didn't improve soon, Napoleon would have to go back to work, full-time. He had already started planning with the other Section Eight employees to set up a special tailored lab for Illya, where he could stay during work hours. They knew him, and Illya would be provided with a babysitter/tutor. It was the best solution, Napoleon knew that. But he didn't have to like it.
Napoleon didn't jump as high as he could have when Illya's pocket shrilled loud. Illya nearly fell off the stool, though, and glanced at Napoleon with a sheepish smile while he tore his pen from his pocket.
"Uncle Wavy? It is Illya."
"Good evening, Illya. How are you?" Waverly had grandchildren, Napoleon knew. That explained a lot.
"Fine!" Illya nodded happily. "We went to zoo." He launched into a long tale about his day and Napoleon listened avidly. Illya's ability at sharp observation even now, amazed him.
"We saw train man and he let me see the lo-co-motive, uncle Wavy. It was fun and...scary." The last word was whispered, as if Illya couldn't quite admit to being afraid. This time Napoleon just had to walk over and hug him.
Illya hung around Napoleon's neck while he said his goodnights to Mr. Waverly. "Uncle Wavy wants to tell you something, Poleon." Illya enthusiastically thrust the pen up into Napoleon's face.
"Mr. Solo. You are doing an excellent job of taking care of young Illya I hear."
"Yeah, urm, he's easy to amuse."
"Well, listen carefully, Mr. Solo. We counted on Thrush thinking you were among the deceased in the explosion at the lab you destroyed. Unfortunately, Thrush here in New York may have discovered the truth."
He had known that would happen, sooner or later; it wasn't as if he was hiding. Napoleon tugged Illya closer to his side, sitting on the bar stool next to him. He wouldn't let anyone get close to his partner in the vulnerable state he was now. "Sir..."
"Don't worry, Mr. Solo. I've posted guards outside your apartment, and tomorrow morning you will be taken to a safehouse."
His heart gave a lurch and doubled its beat. "A safehouse? I don't want to go to a safehouse. They're never safe enough."
Illya responded to his agitation by pressing himself even closer to Napoleon, practically sitting in his lap.
Napoleon sighed. He had been doing a lot of that lately. After going through the night ritual—brushing teeth, changing into pajamas, telling a story, hugging—Illya had finally let him tug him in to sleep. But not after giving him puppy dog eyes that clearly said why are not you coming to bed so I can cuddle up to your warm body? Napoleon sighed again and allowed himself a decent glass of brandy, corked the bottle and sat down in one of the club chairs. Why do we need new chairs, and leather Napoleon? Are not the old ones perfectly useable? In the end though, they had bought two brown leather chairs, and Illya had learned to appreciate sitting comfortably while listening to his records and reading. Illya still managed to read, albeit only easy readers and the old children's books Napoleon had been handed down from his mother and had saved in an old shoebox on the upper shelf of his closet.
The first day with child-Illya Napoleon had stood on a taburet, had taken down the dust-covered box, and revealed the content to Illya. He had watched Illya painstakingly spell through, and gush over the colored pictures....And linger over the immature signature on the first pages, reading for example: This book belon to Napoleon Solo. Pulis riturn to owner.
Napoleon sipped his brandy, ridiculously happy that Illya was asleep so he didn't have to stick his head into the cupboard to do so. The prudent advice all agents were given: do not have children, made sense now. If he ever were to sit in Waverly's chair, he would advise the same. The annoying sentimental streak growing in him, he had almost given in to the puppy dog eyes this time, would affect him when in the field. He simply could not afford to let his feelings interfere. It was difficult enough as it was, not to put the concern for his partner before the mission. After all, they breathed danger most of the time. Besides, he loved the irritating bastard.
He swallowed down more of the burning liquor, wondering briefly if he dared turn on the late news. Yes, Napoleon, that would be a smart one. Illya would come galloping back, demanding to watch with him. His eyes would widen dramatically, that cursed beautiful voice would say no tired, Poleon, see, see, while he was pointing at his bulging eyes. It was late, anyway. He was not so lucky as to have been blessed with every parent's joy: early bedtime. Illya was an adult in all but memory.
Chugging down the rest of the brandy, he persuaded his body to move. Setting the alarms and double-checking the perimeter was routine. He peeked through a slit in the curtains, and yes, there was the car from UNCLE with extra guards. Who would be so lucky to have drawn night watch duty? Maybe it was April and Mark, who had finally forgiven them for not openly telling them of their relationship before they found out on their own. After that, Illya and he had changed their policy and started subtly telling the important people in their lives. Napoleon shuddered; that had been a close one, he and Illya had been abducted from this very room, leaving April and Mark to go through their apartment for clues. Which April had found, thank god.
The apartment was as safe as it could be, he couldn't avoid his lonely bed any longer.
Now for easing the pressure within him. A quick jerk in the shower at night was all he got these days. He stepped into the shower, adjusted the temperature and let the spray hit his chest. The rivulets of hot water streamed down his abdomen and over his groin, down his legs. Ah. Heaven...almost. One important part was missing; Illya. Napoleon stroked his hands down his belly, over his hips and back to cup his buttocks in a firm grip, parting them. Exposing himself, open and ready. But it should have been Illya's hands parting his buttocks, Illya's fingers searching the slit, probing his hole. Napoleon cupped his balls in one hand and stroked himself to firmness with the other, wanting quick relief and no more thinking.
A sound at the door alerted him that he was no more alone. "Illyusha?"
"Could not sleep, Poleon. Hurts." Illya parted the curtains and peeked into the shower.
"Illya! Wait." Napoleon tried to hide his arousal.
"Poleon. Me too." There was no mistaking what Illya was pointing at. "I help?"
"No, absolutely not." Napoleon was sick for just thinking about it. But god he wanted Illya's big, strong hands on him.
"Poleon." Illya stamped his feet. "Silly. I can help." Napoleon thought he saw a glimpse of the adult Illya in those eyes, but that had to be his imagination.
Indecision gripped him, he couldn't decide whether to stay and cover himself or to risk it and jump out to hide behind a towel. Before he could get his brain in gear, Illya had shed his pajamas and jumped into the shower with him.
Napoleon shrunk back into a corner, still covering his genitals with his hands, and gulped. "Illya!" His voice sounded hoarse.
"Poleon...see? Me too." And fuck, Illya was holding his cock, erect and proud, head peeking out from the circle of his thumb and forefinger. He wiggled his other forefinger between their erections (Napoleon's partially hidden, but only partially, his mind supplied, behind his hands.), saying: "Hurts a lot, Poleon. We two."
He nearly corrected Illya's grammar when the reality of the situation struck him with full force. "No. Illya, no." He swallowed around the lump in his throat, turned off the shower, pressed himself past Illya and ran for the bedroom. Once there, he dived under the covers and closed his eyes, only a soft bump told him that Illya came after him and lay down beside him.
There was nothing he could do with his ears, though, Illya's sobs and hiccups were impossible to shut out.
In the end, Napoleon couldn't stand it. He reached out a hand and clasped Illya's shaking shoulder. "Luskha...c'mere".
Illya shook his head, face buried into the pillow and wet hair shaking droplets in a halo around him.
"Illya." Napoleon tugged and was rewarded with an armful of wet Illya, who conveniently had changed his mind. Illya buried his face in Napoleon's neck, pressing a cold nose into the skin under his ear.
Gradually Illya's shaking stopped, and he lay still, curled into Napoleon like an over-sized teddy. Napoleon cringed at that image and hoped Illya had fallen asleep, saving them both from making moral decisions. Tomorrow he would have to talk to the psychiatrist at Headquarter. He needed help.
Napoleon closed his eyes and prepared to go to sleep, naked and wet.
He should not be so lucky. A tentative hand was curling around his unabated erection, making it pulse and fill impossibly more. Napoleon's body was clear on what it wanted, but it was wrong, so wrong.
He tried to push Illya away, only to be met with adult-strength protests and a hard length pressing into his hip.
"Polya, please?" Illya raised his head to meet his eyes. Up close in the dim light it was impossible to distinguish this Illya from his usual Illya. "You have first shower tomorrow?" Illya smiled hopefully at him and closed his hand around his cock and moved his fingers.
Napoleon groaned. How could he deny them this? He hugged Illya closer and cupped his firm buttocks, rolling him on top with Illya's arm between them.
"Alright Lushka. Together."
Illya nodded, looking happy, moving a little and Napoleon could feel him aligning their erections and moving his hand out from between them and up to hold his shoulder.
"Good, Poleon," was all he said, rubbung against him, creating the heavenly friction Napoleon needed so much. This was clearly not among the skills Illya had forgotten. Maybe it was instinctual behaviour, something the body remembered. And maybe he should stop analysing this and enjoy.
It didn't take long; after all it had been days since they had touched like this, before they both came, shuddering out their release. Illya slumped down beside him... thank you for small favours...said thank you Poleon and promptly fell asleep.
Napoleon chuckled; some things didn't change. He carefully extricated himself and went to the bathroom to clean up. He brought a washcloth back, dried off Illya who didn't even stir, and lay down again. What was done was done, and he couldn't find it in his heart to regret it. Had he taken advantage of an innocent child? It didn't feel like it, but he would add this to the list of questions he had for people with better knowledge about this. He spooned up behind Illya, holding him safely in his arms, and closed his eyes again.
The next morning they got up when the alarm sounded. Illya, with a smug little grin, offered Napoleon the first shower while he tried to fix breakfast for them both.
At Headquarters Napoleon made an appointment to meet with their psychiatrist in the afternoon, but he was prevented from keeping it. At noon, Illya disappeared.
"Phew, it's hot outside." April loosened her flimsy scarf and imitated a fan with her hand in front of her face.
"Really?" Napoleon couldn't resist. "I hadn't noticed. Some of us have to work, you know."
"Wipe that smile off your face, Napoleon. You got the better deal, staying inside today is a blessing." She unbuttoned her tight little jacket and shucked it off her shoulders, distracting Napoleon from finding a smart comeback.
"Where have you hiden Illya today?" She grabbed her purse, "I'd like to take him outside for a soda, it's not every day he is so, well, huggable."
"He's playing with gadgets in our office, I'm sure he would like a change. I've been cooped up in meetings all morning, with no chance to entertain him."
They walked towards the office Napoleon and Illya shared. "We both need a break, April. Let's fetch Illya." Napoleon's chest ached for not having taken the time to check in on Illya earlier.
"Illya? Up for a break?"
But no Illya was present in their office. Napoleon felt his pulse speed up even as he assured himself that Illya most surely had just taken a trip to the bathroom, or maybe gone in search of a water fountain. His partner was reluctant to follow orders at the best of times, and a young Illya was no exception.
A frantic search through the hallways and the bathrooms showed no Illya. Reluctantly Napoleon knocked on Mr. Waverly's door.
"Yes Mr. Solo. " Waverly looked up at him over his glasses. He was nose down in papers, as usual.
"You haven't happened to spot Illya recently?"
"Why, Mr. Solo, we have been, as you well know, tied up with meetings all morning. Mr. Kuryakin has not been to my office."
He would never, never touch an ice-cream again. Illya swallowed around the lump in his throat. Why could he not think before he listened to and did what his body wanted? Polya had told him not to go out on his own. And he had promised to stay inside. It was just that he had been so warm and thirsty. And the ice-cream in the commissary didn't taste so good as the one he could get outside.
He struggled against the hands holding him tight. Where was Poleon? He'd better come before he started crying, because big boys did not cry. He was sure someone had told him that.
"You want me to tie you up, Mister Kuryakin?" The ugly face of one of his captors came so close he could smell the breath from his mouth. It reminded him of cabbages left to ripen on the field after a night of frost. Not like Poleon's breath at all. Illya bit his lip. He was a big boy and he would not cry when the bad man called him mister—and not in the funny way Poleon did; sweet like an apple and looking at him like he was the only mister in the world.
He had to be brave. "No tying."
"Thought not," the man smiled that creepy smile at him again. Why hadn't he seen how scary that smile was? He had been tricked into coming with him. "Solo asked us to take you to the zoo." Sure he had. How stupid could one Illya be? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Forgetting his talking-pen and name-card stupid. That was true. And now Poleon would lose his mister, and...
Illya swallowed again. He wished he had Teddy, but he had left him somewhere. This morning he had sat him in Poleon's chair back in the room he called office. But after that? He wasn't sure.
He had to fix this alone. He was a big boy. He straightened and looked out the window. Trees. A park. Not a forest. "I must go to the bathroom," Illya whispered.
"No," cabbage-breath man said.
"Ye-e-es," he tried to sound needy, he really did. For good measure, he squirmed a little in his seat. It creaked under his butt.
"You must wait," the other, the older one said and held his arm harder.
"I must...or do you want me to..." Illya waved his hand uncertainly in front of his fly.
"Stop! I don't want the car soiled." Cabbage-man touched the driver's shoulder.
Illya bit the inside of his cheek, hard, to keep from smiling in glee. Instead tears welled up; he had not known how much biting there would hurt. But no matter. Yes! He knew how to hide among trees.
"You don't know where you are, so running is futile," cabbage-man smacked him on the side of the head and dragged him out of the car, which had stopped on the side of the road.
Their car was not as nice as Poleon's car, and the seats were hard, not soft. Ha! Stupid men. But he must follow what was happening. He stumbled after his captor, into the park, through some bushes and past some trees. He was pushed up against one tree and told to hurry.
"Yes," Illya said to the man's back. It was easy to use his fist to punch the man hard in his kidney and to his neck so he doubled over. It was even easier to kick him straight in his face when he turned, saying "what the fu....", and then kick him once more for good measure. For Poleon. The easiest though, was to turn and run, not thinking, as fast as he could. Illya stopped when there was no more breath in him, just like he had back home when the German soldiers had come to his village.
Only...only now his body knew how to fight. He knew where to hit to make it hurt. He had kicked another man! And he was not sorry. But...nausea curled in his belly, making him want to vomit between the gulps he made for air. He fell to his knees, heaving. But nothing came up. He sat back, he must focus. On something. He looked up from his shoelaces, which were still neatly tied with the small loops on each side.
Fate was nice to him, despite how naughty and disobedient he had been. Right in front of him was a small grey building. And best of all; it had the "man-sign" Poleon had taught him. A loo.
Illya struggled to his feet and staggered in. The smell made his eyes water and the floor was full of rubbish. Over the ure...urinal someone had written You don't have to look for no joke. There's one in your hand. He checked his palm; only dirt and sweat.
He had lied about the peeing but he was thirsty. The sink was dirty, not clean like the one back home, which Poleon made him scrub, but that didn't matter. He drank until he felt he would burst. He was sure he could hear the water slush around inside his belly. Perhaps he should use the loo? No peeing in the bushes, Poleon had told him. This is America. Illya did not understand it, but if Poleon said so, then it must be so.
It turned out it was a good thing that he had ventured into one of the stalls in the little building, because he recognized the angry yelling coming from outside. Their raised voices were clear even over the flush-sound from the water.
"Mister Kuryakin, are you there? Come out! Solo doesn't want you. We have ice-cream." Did they think he would be fooled by that twice? Stupid men.
A screeching groan told him that the door was opened, and heavy clacking sounds told him that someone walked around outside his stall. But he could be sneaky! He was already standing on the closed seat of the toilet, pressed against one wall. His nose was touching the P in GIVE PEACE A CHA____ those who had been here before him had been in a hurry. The door he had opened ajar so that the stall would appear empty from outside.
It worked. But to be sure, Illya waited until the only sound he could hear was the distant barking of one of those huge dogs sweaty women liked to run around with. He could not hear anything nearby, no voices and no rustling of bodies moving. While he waited, he had spelled through everything written on the wall. O boy did he have new words to tell Poleon! Some of them were long, like ce-lib-acy is not he-redi-tary. But first he had to find him. Illya wobbled down and out to the dirty room with the sink. Then he sneaked towards the door, but not until he had waited as long as it took to count to one hundred ten times.
He tip-toed to the doorless exit and stopped just inside and held his breath. Was that another's breath? Was that the rustle of a jacket? No, Illya thought not, and stepped out on the gravelled pathway.
Outside, he only had one thought in his head. He had to find a way to get home or to find Poleon. But he was sure Poleon had not missed him yet. Poleon was talking with other grown-ups and not looking for him.
"So. Our runaway had to pee after all."
"Lisa? Have you seen Illya?" Napoleon clutched the hope that she had.
"No. Should I have?" she looked up from the percolator and frowned at him.
"No, I...he isn't in our office. Nor is he in the bathroom."
"Checked the commissary, Napoleon? He is awfully fond of the cakes there, you know." Lisa smiled encouragingly at him.
"Ah. He probably got hungry and decided not to wait for me. He never was good at taking orders. Why should that have changed now?" Napoleon grinned. Illya had probably gone down there without him to get a special treat from the serving lady. Illya knew he would have been told no by Napoleon had he been there. It wouldn't do for Illya to get flabby; he would raise hell when he got his memories back and would no doubt accuse Napoleon of not taking proper care of him.
Illya must be hungry, that was it. It had only been a couple of hours, but Illya was never the patient one.
Illya shuddered. The voice of the car-driver-gorilla who was one of his capturers was the last sound Illya wanted to hear and before he knew what he was doing he had knocked the gun out of the beefy hand and kicked him in the head. Illya's ears rang painfully from a loud noise, but he ignored it.
His captor whooshed backwards, dunked his head on the corner of the house and fell to the ground with a big thump.
Illya grinned. Neat! He hadn't known he could do that either. But ouch! His foot hurt.
He stared down at the black, shiny gun lying at his feet. He could hear Poleon's voice in his head; do not touch a gun Illya. It's dangerous! But Poleon could not mean he should let the bad man have it? Illya's head screamed take it, take it! He bent down to retrieve it, but the movement hurt him and made him fall to his knees. Oh Boba! He was bleeding; it had already soaked through his shirt. That was the pang-sound he had heard. A bullet...in him!
He could not hold back a sob. What if...no. He would manage. Poleon needed him; he had said so. He needed to get away before the bad man woke up again, and how cool was it that he had kicked him? Grown-ups had fun too, and Poleon had not told him that! He would not listen to the whisper in his head saying it was bad to hurt people. Illya picked up the gun, very carefully, using his shaking thumb and forefinger. Before anyone could see it, he put the gun into his pocket, holding his palm just so to conceal the part sticking out.
Everything around him looked wobbly, but when he used the wall for support, he could walk. Breathing slowly, he staggered around the little house and in among the trees on the other side of the path. In the distance, when he shook his head a little, he could spot people walking and dogs jumping. Perhaps...but who could he trust?
Illya pressed one hand against the bleeding slash in his side and trotted on, looking back every other step. This was not fun. He wished he had never left Poleon's side, even when he only talked grown-up talk in those boring meetings. Most of all he wished for Poleon's woodsy smell and that good feeling he got in his chest when he was safe with Poleon's warm body curled around him. He would even promise to wash both the sink and the toilet without complaining, if only he could feel Poleon's strong arms holding him again.
On the other side of the trees something glittered. Water! And...that person not moving...a statue? Yes. Itchi Andersen. Poleon would know where he was, then. Illya dragged his body forward and sank down between the legs of the fairy-tale man. Strange images fluttered before his eyes; he was in prison and Napoleon looked in at him through the bars. He was tied to a tree, waiting for Napoleon to come, he was in the desert, and he was, worst of all, watching a pendulum ready to slice Napoleon's body in two. Panic raced through his body, he could feel it twitching and he tried to fight it but it was getting difficult to think, and finally—cool darkness.
Napoleon hunched his shoulders and stepped down to the door to Del Floria's. Illya had vanished. April, Mark and he had checked all the shops and vendors in the streets around Headquarter, but no Illya. Nobody had caught as much as a glimpse of him. It was time to report him missing and admit that he hadn't been able to look after his partner.
"Mr. Solo?" Del stopped him.
"You...I...Are you looking for your partner?"
"Yes." Napoleon stopped on his way to the hidden entrance, feeling April stop right behind him. "Have you spotted him?" And why hadn't he thought of asking the tailor?
"Yes, but it's a while ago. I thought he was meeting somebody."
"Meeting? Napoleon growled impatiently but didn't care. Couldn't the man hurry up?
"Yes, seeing that he talked to that lady and drove away in that automobile."
"What car?" Napoleon crunched his teeth together.
"The white one."
"White. It was just an ordinary automobile. Mr. Solo. Is something wrong?"
Napoleon didn't answer, just rushed out, and passed April, aiming for his own car.
"Wait, wait, Napoleon!" April ran after him. "You can't just drive around without a plan."
"Can I not? What do you suggest I do?"
"Let's check the police stations and the hospitals first, then Thrush's known hideouts. And, Napoleon?" she watched him with serious eyes. "There's no call for rudeness, you know. I love Illya too. As a friend I mean," she added and Napoleon could, to his relief, see small sparks of humour in her green eyes.
The round to the closest police stations proved fruitless. "Let's call the hospital emergency receptions; this takes too long, Napoleon."
When Illya woke up it was all white around him. He was in heaven then. Boba had told him it would be shiny, warm, and clean. But the smell was not right; it reminded him of something unpleasant. And was it necessary to stick something up his nose? Why could he not move? He decided to find out...after he had slept a little more.
It was an established fact among agents that hospitals should be feared and shunned by every means. So Napoleon didn't care about the shudders that raced through his body when he opened the entrance doors to the ER and got his first whiff of the characteristic smell. But it reminded him of how much he hated hospitals.
"I hate hospitals," April said as she hurried past him and into the reception area.
Napoleon raised an eyebrow. "You don't say."
"I say. Let's get this over with. If it's not Illya they have admitted I want to be on my way...far away."
Following directions, they quickly reached door 401 and stopped. There was an armed policeman from the Central Park Precinct sitting outside on a straight-backed chair.
"We are UNCLE agents." They showed him their identity cards." And you would be here because?" Napoleon gave him his most freezing gaze.
April clutched his elbow and spoke, sotto voce. "Ssh, Napoleon. He might be on guard duty for Illya's safety." She might have a point, Napoleon conceded, but nevertheless let his right hand curl into a fist.
The police officer jumped up. "Why shouldn't I be here? We found an armed and bleeding man. There has obviously been a fight. Until we can verify his identity I'm staying."
Lucky for him, Napoleon thought when the officer sat down again and did nothing to prevent them from entering the room. He stopped just inside and looked at the form occupying the only bed. He was asleep.
Napoleon cleared his throat.
"Poleon!" Illya turned, sleepy and rumpled, towards him. He sounded jubilant; the whisper was music to Napoleon's ears. But Illya's smile died as quickly as it had appeared on his beloved face. He aimed sad eyes at Napoleon and clutched the bedcovers with his hands. "Sorry. 'm sorry Poleon."
"It's okay, Illya, I'm sorry too. I promise never to leave you out of my sight again." Napoleon hurried forward and sat on the edge of Illya's bed, taking Illya's hands in his. But his touch was too late, Illya was unconscious again.
Later when Napoleon thought hours must have passed and April had returned to Headquarters, and his stomach was still protesting the hospital fare he had forced down earlier, Illya opened his eyes again. They had a calculating glint and focused on Napoleon unerringly.
"Napoleon. Take notes." Illya sat up a little and Napoleon winced with him.
"I will never wash the bathroom again."
Napoleon was certain the tears on his cheeks were from laughing. He fished out his impeccable, white handkerchief, which he had bullied Illya into ironing, his mind told him with a little pang of remorse, and dried his eyes. Without a word he picked up the glass of water with the little bent straw in it and held it up for Illya to drink. He did, greedily, before letting the straw slip out from his lips again. There was no smile on Illya's face.
Napoleon sighed and sat the glass back down on the side table. Time to face the music.
Illya tugged at his elbow and Napoleon looked up. There was a tiny spark in Illya's eyes that told Napoleon that Illya wasn't as serious as he pretended. He rose from his chair and sat at the edge of Illya's bed, careful to avoid the equipment he was hooked up to.
"Illya." Napoleon bent over him, mindful of the wound, and kissed him softly on the cheek. "My Illya." Napoleon could feel himself choking up again and cursed the sentimental streak in him that he never could suppress. He rested his cheek against Illya's.
"Napoleon. I do remember everything." Illya lifted his free hand to caress Napoleon's neck. "I..." Illya whispered. "You...called me yours even when I did not remember you."
Napoleon opened his mouth to whisper back but Illya turned to him and captured his lips. Illya tasted of hospitals and medicines and Napoleon trust his tongue into Illya's mouth in an effort to lick it all away. He only broke the kiss when he heard someone coughing behind him.
"Am I interrupting something?"
April. Carrying a bag and a balloon.
"Yes," Napoleon tried to override Illya's weak no, but let go of him and rose to stand protectively at Illya's side.
"Illya, how are you today? Feeling better?" She stopped and searched Illya's face. "You're back!"
"That I am...umfh" April hugged him, all the while mumbling. "We missed you. I missed you. I missed your sarcastic comments." She leaned back for a moment, and then bent forward to hug him again. Now I'll miss your hugs."
"There could be hugs later," Illya's muffled voice reached Napoleon's ears and made him growl. He would make sure nobody touched his Illya in a long time.
"So," April let go of Illya and tied the balloon she still held by the rope to the metal headboard. "I guess you'll have no need of this, then. She held up the bag she had brought.
"Gimme," Illya said.
Illya put his hand into the bag and took up a box of Chocolate Snaps, a small bag full of Black Jack gum packets, and a candy bar. He peeked inside the bag. "My favourites...and the fruit; very healthy." He stuck his hand down into the bag and went completely still.
"Illya?" Napoleon tensed.
"I am fine, Napoleon. It's..." Illya turned pleading eyes at him. Napoleon looked up at April. "Eh, could you..."
She nodded, understanding showing in her eyes. "I'll come back later then. Good to see you are recovering, Illya." She managed to sashay out of the hospital room.
"I...she brought Teddy. I was afraid I had lost him."
"Ah. It...he was at the office. I guess you don't have any more need for me then? "
"Do not be ridiculous, Napoleon. We will always need you." Illya tugged at Napoleon's sleeve and winked playfully at him.
"Take me home Poleon. I can distinctively feel that my need is growing."
What else could he do but obey his Illya?