And Miles To Go
April swore as she broke the heels off her designer shoes, sure that Thrush had something to do with the invention of high heels. The brush and rocky terrain made going barefoot dangerous, so she slipped her newly made flats back onto her small feet.
"That's going on my expense account, Napoleon," she said to the dark agent next to her.
"Along with my jacket." Solo fingered the bullet hole in his suit's shoulder, just above the seam. They were hunkered down behind some thick elms, waiting to see if they'd outrun their pursuers.
Both agents whirled at the sound of leaves crunching, fingers tightening on their trigger guards. Solo noticed the white teeth of his partner and relaxed, waving him over.
Illya Kuryakin sagged to the base of another tree, breathing heavily. He was sweaty and plastered with dirt and debris. "I didn't see anyone as far back as the stream. I think we're in the clear for now."
Napoleon nodded at the Russian. "Hopefully, they high-tailed it back to report we're on to their little operation here."
"Here" was a heavily-wooded area of Minnesota seemingly devoid of any life other than bird-sized mosquitoes. Solo and Dancer had infiltrated a nearby hamlet as married vacationers looking to do a little birding. They'd been hoping to find a few Thrush as well. Illya had been hired as seasonal help at the lumber mill outside the small town of Blackduck.
U.N.C.L.E. had gotten wind of a Thrush experimental chemical that would make Agent Orange look like Kool-Aid. Area residents had noted patches of dead and dying vegetation spreading outward in a growth pattern that the local Forest Service agents had never seen before. They were stymied. The federal government had stepped in and forwarded samples of diseased foliage to the New York command for testing.
Illya had studied the previously unknown chemical concoction, and been alarmed enough by its destructive potential to flag the attention of Alexander Waverly. Their boss sent them to investigate the next day.
Now that they had a sample of the dangerous chemical tucked away in Solo's pocket, they were trying to find the quickest way out of Dodge. Illya had seen to the destruction of the lab itself, and had lagged behind Solo and Dancer. However, three obvious strangers traveling together would surely be noticed by the locals.
Solo knew where the hamlet was behind them. He didn't know the immediate area ahead. It went against his grain to retreat, knowing Thrush was possibly behind them. "What do you think? Fall back or move forward?"
April pointed ahead. Solo tossed a small stone at Illya. He looked up, a vague look in his eyes for a second. Solo frowned. "Illya?"
"All right. Let's go." Dancer took the point and Solo nudged his partner as he passed. "You all right? Get into any mischief while I was gone?"
Illya grinned. "I'm fine. Just winded."
Solo smiled back. "Well, make sure you keep up. I'm all out of breadcrumbs." He trudged through the thick foliage after April.
Illya wiped the sweat from his forehead, watching his hand shake as he did so. He swore in Russian and followed Napoleon.
They hiked in silence for a few miles, stopping occasionally to catch their breath and drink from a shared canteen. There was no sign of civilization and it was getting progressively darker. Not wishing to be caught in the open, Solo decided to press on as long as they had light enough to see.
While April found some needed privacy, Solo took a closer look at his reticent partner. His face was flushed and he was breathing more heavily than normal. Solo passed him the canteen and held it as Illya's hand reached for it. Napoleon could feel the tremors in his hand as Illya tried not to shake. Kuryakin snatched his hand back and swore. Now that they were still, his body shook despite his efforts to control it.
"Illya." Solo tried to look in his partner's eyes, despite the deepening gloom. "Look at me."
Kuryakin glared at him, his disgust at his own infirmity apparent. His eyes were glassy and his face becoming more flushed.
Illya sighed. "Headache started back at the lab. The shakes, a little while ago."
Illya shook his head. "Or Dengue if I'm really lucky."
Solo grunted. "Yes, I'm sure the local satrapy was remiss in giving you your quinine tablets during your Jakarta stay. Can you keep going?"
Illya gave him a look. "Of course."
April came back through the trees and felt the tension between the two senior agents. "What's up?" she asked warily.
Napoleon sighed. "Illya's temperature, for one thing."
"Napoleon..." Illya started to complain but Solo held up one hand.
"She needs to know. It affects her, too."
Dancer moved a bit closer to Illya and placed a hand on his forehead gently. "Oh, Napoleon, he's burning up."
Kuryakin jerked away and said, "I'm fine."
Dancer snorted. "Well, lucky for you my little excursion proved more than just relieving for me." She pointed at the men and said, "Gentlemen, follow me if you will."
Solo looked at Illya, shrugged and helped him up. They tramped through the dense undergrowth, swatting insects all the way. A quarter mile further and the cabin suddenly appeared in a small clearing. A rusted truck sat on blocks next to a pile of firewood. A fish cleaning station tottered on three legs drunkenly. The cabin itself seemed to be in good shape and not recently occupied.
Solo motioned Dancer to stay near Illya. He pulled his Special and walked once around the perimeter of the building. An outhouse was set back from the rear and a water pump was by the back door. He tried the handle but would need water to prime it. He hoped it would work. They'd need water to keep Illya hydrated. Seeing nothing amiss, he tried the door. Unlocked. He smiled. Backwoodsmen were nothing if not trusting. He swept the interior quickly, noting the cobwebs and smell of disuse. He hurried outside to his waiting agents.
"Come on in. Not the Ritz-Carleton, but it will do." As Dancer passed, Solo whispered to her, "Thank your bladder for me, April. Nice work."
She blushed and set about looking for a lantern and some matches.
Solo walked to his partner and steered him to a musty couch. "Sit."
Illya grumbled but didn't fight him. Napoleon watched April place mantles on a lantern and fire them up. She grinned at him when it caught and blazed to life. The cheerful little circle of light did wonders for their situation.
Solo dug through his pack and produced a tin of aspirin. He gave Illya two and made him wash them down with the last of the canteen's supply. "You and April do what you can here. I'm going to find some water and prime the pump out back. It should be potable if I can get it flowing."
He motioned Dancer to the door. "Keep an eye on his fever. I'll be back as soon as I can. I think it's safe to build a fire. We should be remote enough not to have to worry about the smoke."
Dancer squeezed his arm as he went out the door. "Be careful, Napoleon."
He kissed her on the forehead and said, "I always am."
Solo went to the pump and took the rusty bucket from the handle. It looked like it would hold water. He looked over his shoulder at the cozy picture the cabin made. One window reflected the flickering light from the lone lamp as April's form passed by. Worry gnawed at him as he thought how sick Illya might become. He'd have to deal with it later.
Right now, survival was top priority.
Half an hour later, Solo had the pump primed and was clearing the water line. The flow went from red to orange to clear and he tasted it. Sweet and cold. He rinsed the bucket and filled it with fresh water.
"April?" he called as he went in the back door. She met him and took the bucket. Her eyes told him what he needed to know.
"He's worse, Napoleon. Fever's bad and he has violent chills."
Dancer had a fire going and Napoleon told her to warm some of the water. He smelled something wonderful and noticed a can simmering on the hearth.
He went to the couch and saw Illya draped with a blanket, rolled on his side, curled in a ball. His teeth were chattering and his body shivered violently. Solo touched his forehead and was alarmed at the heat wicking from his skin. "Illya?"
The blue eyes opened and tried to focus. "Napoleon?"
"I'm here. We've got water and food. Think you can keep anything down?" He ruffled the sweaty hair affectionately.
Illya shook his head. "Water, maybe."
Dancer brought a coffee cup with lukewarm water in it. "Wouldn't cold water bring his fever down?" she asked.
"Cold water makes the stomach cramps worse. Tepid water is better in this case. Ever had malaria?" Dancer shook her head no. "It's no picnic. Cold chills followed by high fevers and then copious sweating. Sometimes you get a brief respite before it starts all over again."
Solo helped Illya sit up and encouraged him to drink small sips. He was dizzy and pushed the cup away after a few swallows. Solo saw the look on his face and scouted for another receptacle. An ash bucket stood next to the fireplace. He emptied it outside and then placed it beside the couch.
He motioned Dancer to the kitchen. "I'm going to move the mattress from the bedroom out here in front of the fireplace. We can bunk down on the floor and stay together. Illya's going to go from one extreme to the other and we'll just have to make him as comfortable as we can."
Napoleon shook his dark head, his cowlick falling across his forehead. Dancer pushed it back into place, kissing Solo on the cheek. "How bad can it get?"
"Bad enough. The aspirin will help the fever, but he really needs quinine tablets. I can't risk using the communicators with Thrush in the area. Near daybreak, I'm going to hike back to Blackduck and break into the pharmacy. If we can get some medication in him, he might be well enough to wait it out until we can send for help."
Solo went to the small bedroom and pulled the mattress off the frame. He dragged it into the main room and put it near the fireplace. He retrieved the covers and threw them on top. "We should be cozy enough."
Illya was stirring restlessly and he went to see to him. Dancer got the cans of stew and readied their meager dinner. Kuryakin was becoming delirious; his fever alarmingly high. Solo pulled the blanket back and unbuttoned Illya's shirt. He wet a dishrag and mopped Illya's exposed skin with the cool cloth. Illya moaned as the cold registered on his hot skin, calling out for his partner.
"I'm here, Illya. I'm here." Solo's face was dark with concern. Dancer hovered at his elbow, wanting to help. "Napoleon, go eat something, please. I'll take care of Illya for a bit." He nodded and sat at the kitchen table, eating the canned stew ravenously. He'd need to keep his strength up for the trip out and back tomorrow.
April passed the cloth over Illya's chest and abdomen, watching the gooseflesh rise as she cooled his fevered body. She got a second cloth and placed it over his forehead, the way her mother used to do when she was ill. She wondered if Illya remembered his mother. Dancer knew little about Illya's childhood, but enough to know he had been orphaned at an early age. The Russian mumbled in his delirium. April spoke Russian well enough to understand most of the ramblings. She caught the words "mother" and "danger" clearly.
She leaned over the slight form and kissed him on the forehead, murmuring to him all the while. "Shhh, Illyushka, moi lyubov. Mama zdes'. Spi." He seemed to quiet at her words or her touch and Napoleon watched her, amazed at Dancer's effect.
She looked up at him and he beamed at her, grateful she could comfort his partner. Illya was quiet now and April joined Solo at the table.
"Thank you." He dished some of the stew into a bowl for her. She dug into it, the fresh air and the hiking making her hungry.
"Illya's been there for me, too, Napoleon." She winked at the handsome man, his smile causing her to shiver deliciously. She knew Solo and Kuryakin were more than just partners, but that didn't stop her from fantasizing about both of them. She was both dreading and looking forward to sleeping with Solo tonight. She sighed and Solo looked at her intently.
She stopped him before he could go on. "It's all right, Napoleon. I know."
He stared at her. "Know what?"
She smiled at him. "About you and Illya being more than just partners."
Solo's eyes grew large. "Did Illya tell you?"
Dancer laughed. "He didn't have to. Oh, don't worry. You keep it well hidden. It's just something a woman like me can pick up on. I am a trained spy, you know."
"Too well-trained, I think." Solo tried to be gruff but failed. Truthfully, he was glad Dancer knew.
"It's rather a new relationship, though?" Dancer wasn't sure how much Napoleon would want to tell her.
"Ah, well, yes. After the affair with Strago and Miss Diketon, Illya confronted me with his feelings. Seems watching me 'blow up' tipped him over the edge. The business in Terbuf made him realize he cared for me more than as merely a partner." Solo actually blushed, remembering Illya's passion as he bared his soul to him.
Dancer patted him on the arm. "Don't be embarrassed, Napoleon. In this business, if you can find someone to care for, grab them with both hands. And don't let go."
Napoleon placed his hand over her arm. "Thank you, April. For understanding. And for caring." He rose and went back to Illya, fussing with the blanket and wiping down the sweat starting to form. "Fever's down. And he's starting to sweat. This should be the end of the cycle for a while."
Solo gestured to the mattress. "When you're done eating, why don't you get ready for bed? The outhouse is in useable condition. Just watch out for spiders..." He grinned at her look of revulsion. "I'll take the first watch."
Napoleon watched over both his agents while they slept; April deeply and Illya fitfully. Illya was still sweating profusely and couldn't get comfortable enough to doze off. Napoleon wiped him down, rubbing the tired and sore muscles and helping him stretch his aching joints. A couple of hours later, the sweat cycle broke and Kuryakin went limp with exhaustion. His partner covered him with the blanket and turned him on his side. Equally tired, Solo woke April and reported Illya's condition. He fell on the mattress and was immediately asleep.
Dancer made some coffee and regarded the sleeping men. Illya, the deadly, meticulous agent looked like a small boy with the covers tucked up to his chin. And, Solo: well, April couldn't watch him sleep without wondering what he would be like in bed. She shook her head and tried not to think of Illya and Napoleon in bed together.
From the small porch, April watched the sun come up. She needed to wake Napoleon so he could get to Blackduck before the town was stirring. A whimper caused her to head back quickly. Illya was shivering, twitching under the blanket. He seemed to still be asleep. Dancer shook Solo's shoulder gently, speaking to him.
He roused quickly, rolling over and rubbing his eyes. He smiled at her and asked about Illya. "He's restless. I think another cycle is starting."
"Damn. I was hoping he'd get more respite." Solo checked his partner, gently feeling for fever, and pulled back an eyelid to check for jaundice. Illya woke fully then, smiling weakly as he touched Solo's hand. He pulled back quickly when he realized where he was. "It's all right, Illya. April knows." Solo placed his hand on Illya's head, needing to touch him. The Russian's eyes widened and then he looked at April. She winked at him and he blushed, ducking his blond head.
Solo pulled his head up and held his gaze tenderly. "I'm hiking into town to get you some quinine. April's holding the fort until I get back. Behave yourself and take your medicine, all right?" He tossed the aspirin to April who shook two out and got another cup of water.
"I always behave myself." Illya stirred. "I need to go to the bathroom."
Solo took his arm and helped him upright. He put his shoes on his feet and steered him to the back door. April called to them as they walked out into the yard. "I hope you like spiders, Illya."
He heard her giggle and looked at Napoleon. "Spiders?"
Solo laughed. "Never mind."
Illya was shaking so hard, Solo feared letting go his hold on his arm. So he turned him toward the open door and held him up from behind. Illya fumbled with his fly and had to lean on Solo to keep from falling. When he was done, he felt Solo turn him around and envelope him in a warm hug. Illya sighed and melted into him. His shaking began to turn into violent tremors and Napoleon bent to lift him bodily. He carried him quickly across the yard and into the house.
April was waiting with another blanket and wrapped it around Illya. Solo placed him on the mattress near the fire, hoping to warm him. He stoked the fire, and covered him with the other bedclothes. April turned away as Solo bent to whisper something in Illya's ear. Solo kissed him softly on the lips before he left.
Napoleon took April out with him onto the porch. "Get as much water into him as he'll take. If he vomits, start over. He's getting dehydrated and the fever hasn't even started yet." April knew he was torn between going for help and staying with his friend.
"Get moving, Solo. I'll take care of him. Go do your job."
Solo smiled at her bossy tone. "Aye, aye, sir." He took the empty pack and a canteen of water. He glanced back at the blond head gleaming next to the fireplace and then took off at a blistering pace, heading for Blackduck and help.
Illya shivered under his blanket, his body undergoing violent tremors as the malarial cycle kicked in again. His joints ached horribly and moving only made them flare up agonizingly. He tried to sit up to stretch and nearly fell into the andirons. April heard his moan from the porch and ran inside, helping him sit up.
"Need to move, April. Hurts."
Dancer shifted her feet to take his weight and gently pulled him upright. He tottered a bit but stood his ground gamely. April draped the blanket across his shoulders like a cape as he moved painfully toward the back door. "Outhouse," he said.
April placed his shaking arm across her shoulders and let him lean on her. "Okay, but take it slowly."
Illya tried to smile. "Only way I can."
The tremors worsened as he used his muscles and he twitched painfully against Dancer's body. She could feel the heat beginning where his skin touched hers and she hoped they would make it back before he collapsed. She helped him up to the open door and then backed away carefully. "Can you manage?"
"Since I was two, I think..." He gave her a smile that made her toes curl.
He closed the door and April moved back a bit, wanting to give him the illusion of privacy. A few minutes later, the door squeaked open and Illya stood shakily. He was white and barely able to take his own weight. Dancer moved to his side and helped him make his painful way back to the cabin.
Once inside, she made him comfortable and gave him water. He drank half the glass and then made a face. April quickly retrieved the ash bucket and placed it at Illya's side. "Just in case."
She let him settle a bit and then made him drain the glass. "You're getting dehydrated. Napoleon said to force fluids." Illya grimaced and pushed the blanket down. April felt his forehead and frowned. "Fever's back up. I'll get you some more water."
The rest of the morning went by as Illya yo-yoed between shivering and sweating. No sooner would April pull the covers up to his chin than he'd yank them down, complaining of burning up. The redhead pestered him to drink, Illya trying his best to slake the terrible thirst the fever left behind.
After one bout of teeth-chattering shakes, Illya rolled on his stomach, exhausted but not able to sleep. April tried to soothe him, giving him a massage to loosen the taxed muscles and joints.
"I'm sorry, April," Illya mumbled between spasms.
"About what, Illya?"
"Your having to baby-sit me."
"You'd do the same for me."
Illya snorted. "Well, Napoleon certainly would." The Russian sighed as April worked his shoulder loose. "Does it bother you?"
"About you and Napoleon?" April considered for a moment. She wanted Illya to have an honest answer. "Yes," she answered, feeling Illya tense under her hands. "It bothers me that I can't have either one of you gorgeous men."
Illya chuckled at that and rolled onto his side, taking Dancer's hands in his. "April, if any woman ever tempted me, it would be you." He kissed the back of one hand gallantly.
Dancer smiled and asked him, "Is Napoleon..." She couldn't finish the question and looked at her lap.
"Gay?" Illya laughed then, holding his aching stomach muscles. "No, no. Napoleon is...he's opportunistic."
"That's for sure." April laughed as well, and patted Illya's hand. "Try to get some rest, Illya."
Napoleon stopped behind a thicket and caught his breath. He couldn't remember running this much since college track. He was in good shape, and knew he could push himself to the limit. He was worried leaving Illya with Dancer, but the young female enforcement agent was proving her worth with each mission she was assigned. April was cunning, smart and nearly foolhardy when it came to courage. Solo smiled, thinking she reminded him of a younger version of himself.
He checked his watch, hoping to get to town near seven a.m. The pharmacy opened at nine, giving him plenty of time to get what he needed and get out. He'd been there once with April, replacing some first aid supplies; so he knew it was well stocked. His main worry was what shape he'd find Illya in when he got back to the cabin. Shaking off the intrusive thoughts, he covered the last couple of miles in record time.
Getting in and out of the pharmacy was easy. Sleepy downtown stores rarely had any decent type of security. Solo might not be as good as his Russian partner at breaking and entering, but he could give him a run for his money. Taking only what he needed, Solo left money in the register for the supplies. He resecured the store and slipped silently back into the woods.
Detouring slightly, Napoleon checked the smoking ruins of the Thrush laboratory. There was no activity, no perimeter alarms, and no personnel anywhere. Satisfied Thrush had bugged out, Solo took out his communicator. Even if the enemy were monitoring, they would think he was part of the mop-up operation. He would send a coded transmission, giving the coordinates closest to the cabin's position. As remote as they were, it would still be at least a day before any help could arrive.
Satisfied he'd done all he could, Solo set off again.
Breathing hard and covered in sweat, Solo reached the cabin around ten o'clock. He knocked a code on the door, waiting a second or two before opening it. He slid inside, setting the backpack on the couch. April had him covered with her weapon, but relaxed when she saw his face.
Napoleon didn't ask how Illya was doing. The look on April's drawn face was enough. She was spooned up behind Kuryakin, one arm under his head. He was covered in sweat and panting, delirious and thrashing occasionally. Solo moved to his side, talking to him. There was no response, and Napoleon ran a cool cloth over his face and chest. The cloth was lightly tinged with yellow, Illya's sweat colored with bilirubin. Solo frowned and rolled Illya on his back. April sat up and helped him take the soaked shirt off. Feeling gently, Solo checked Illya's spleen and liver. He could tell the spleen was enlarged, but he couldn't isolate his liver. He hoped that meant it wasn't enlarged as well.
Illya called out, "Nyet, nyet" and pushed Solo's hands away.
"Easy, Illya. It's me; it's Napoleon." He retrieved the pack and drew out his supplies. Illya was too far gone to give quinine orally, so Solo mixed up an injectable solution and added it to a liter of sodium chloride.
"All right, April. Get under his head and shoulders and hold him tightly. I've got to get a catheter in his vein." Napoleon swabbed the inside of Illya's arm and placed a tourniquet around his bicep. He held the arm still as Illya thrashed a bit, mumbling incoherently. After he stilled, Solo jabbed the needle into a prominent vein, watching as the hub flashed with blood. He released the tourniquet and hooked the intravenous line up to the port. After adjusting the drip rate, Solo sighed with relief that the drugs were in.
"This cycle has been worse, Napoleon. He's had vomiting and diarrhea and barely kept any water down. He's so hot..." She stroked the high forehead and finger-combed the sweat-damp hair.
Napoleon watched how tenderly she comforted Illya and reached out to cup her cheek. "The fluids will hydrate him and the quinine will give him relief. He'll be all right, April." He ran a critical eye over her and said, "I'll take over for now. Stretch your legs and get something to eat, all right?"
April nodded, and adjusted the blanket over Illya before getting up. She went outside and then rummaged in the cupboards for more canned goods. Napoleon stretched out on the mattress beside Illya, cuddling up to him and protecting the arm with the I.V. in it. While April was occupied in the kitchen, he pulled Illya close and whispered to him, "It's all right, now, Illya. You're going to be fine. Rest and I'll take care of you."
Illya whimpered, not really responding to Solo's words but seeming to know he was near. April crept to the hearth and put two cans of soup next to the grate. Napoleon winked at her and closed his eyes, nearly as exhausted as Illya.
Solo woke hours later by the looks of the fire. Illya's fluids were almost empty. April was sitting on the couch, watching over them. She smiled at the picture of a sleep-mussed Solo and said before he could ask, "Two-fifteen."
Solo rose and stretched and made a quick trip to the outhouse. April had another can of soup warming when he got back. Illya slept on as he set up another liter of fluids. His sweating had slowed considerably and his fever was down markedly. "Soup smells great."
April handed him a bowl. "You must be starving."
"And you must be exhausted. I'll eat if you sleep. Deal?"
"Fine by me. I haven't heard anything from HQ. Think they're coming?"
"Yes. They're just following procedure. 'Radio silence if otherwise unsure of enemy monitoring.' The extraction team will contact us when they're closing on our position. Relax, April. The cavalry will be here."
She rolled on her side and grumbled, "Well, I'm not fixing them soup when they get here." A moment later she was fast asleep next to the sleeping Russian.
Napoleon rummaged through Illya's pack while the two agents slept peacefully side by side. He knew his partner never went anywhere without a book or two. Smiling, he pulled three small hardback books from the interior. Two were in Cyrillic but the third was in English. He teased Illya about being a bookworm and expending the energy toting the tomes around. But his brainy partner never minded hauling the extra weight. Now he was glad Illya had packed the books.
He settled in comfortably and started reading. It was a science fiction novel; not really his thing but he was bored enough to give it a chance. The hero was just blasting off from a frozen moon when he heard his partner's soft voice calling for him.
Solo dropped down beside his partner and stroked the soft cheek. "Hey, welcome back. How do you feel?"
Illya frowned and tested his limbs carefully. "Dessicated."
Solo laughed quietly and helped him drink some water. The fluids still dripped into his arm and his color was better. Illya glanced at Dancer's body next to him. "Everyone all right?"
"We're fine. Extract team's on the way. Might be tomorrow morning before they get here. How are you holding up?" Solo helped his partner sit up and steadied him as a dizzy spell hit.
"I need to go to the bathroom."
Napoleon grabbed the bucket next to the fireplace. "You're not steady enough to walk. You can go in here."
Illya eyed the bucket disdainfully. He glanced behind him to Dancer. "No, I can't. I can walk if you help me." Blue eyes met brown and Solo felt his heart beat faster.
"Please, Polya. I need to move around a bit. I'm very stiff."
Solo sighed. He understood. Illya was a very private person, and too much a gentleman to relieve himself in front of a lady. Even if the lady was an enforcement agent. He nodded and disconnected the I.V. line. "Just out and back, no more."
Illya grinned at him. "More water, please?" He was rapaciously thirsty, the fever and the copious sweating making him feel like a prune. Illya downed two more glasses before letting his partner help him to his feet, swaying drunkenly with his loss of balance. "Quinine?" he asked, recognizing the drug's effects on his vestibular center. He tried to ignore the sudden attack of nausea.
"Uh, huh. You going to make it?"
He took deep breaths and kept the water down by sheer stubbornness. "Yes. Hurry, Napoleon. I really have to go..."
Solo chuckled and steered him around the furniture. "Not that it would matter if you wet yourself, my friend. You're a mess, anyway."
"I love you, too, Napoleon." He sniffed. "And you don't smell so good yourself."
Solo agreed with the assessment. "You know, April still smells wonderful. How does she do that?"
"She's a woman. Don't bother trying to figure it out."
"For once, I agree with you."
After settling Illya on the couch, Solo rummaged in the bedroom, coming up with old but clean and comfortable sweat pants and t-shirts. He gave Illya a quinine tablet first, then helped him out of his soiled garments, bathed him as well as he could with a bucket of warm water, and dressed him in the pilfered clothes. He cleaned up as well, changed shirts and saved the other tee for April. After hooking up the I.V. again, Solo piled the blankets on Illya's lap and made him eat some soup. He stopped after a few spoonfuls, but it was a start.
April stirred with the smell of food, rolling over and regarding both men sleepily. "Well, Illya, I must say you look much improved."
He ducked his head and said, "Thanks to you and Napoleon."
Solo threw the clean shirt to her and said, "Freshen up and I'll fix you something to eat. There's warm water in that bucket." She smiled at him and went outside, then cleaned up and dressed in the bedroom.
Feeling more human, she sat next to Illya on the couch. "You two look better. And smell better." She ate her canned tuna with crackers slowly, enjoying the company. She offered a cracker to Illya, watching him eat it.
Napoleon tidied up and flipped the mattress over, clearing out the debris and taking the garbage out to the empty burn barrel. He stoked the fire, filled the bucket with cold water and set it near the grate. Not tired enough to sleep, he sat against the couch at Illya's feet and picked up his book. He offered it to April but she read the title and wrinkled her nose. He pulled the other two out and she picked one. "I can read Cyrillic passably. Just so they aren't physics texts." She sighed in relief. "Russian poetry. Why, Illya, you little romantic, you."
Illya smiled, content to be warm and clean and have his friends surrounding him. His eyes drooped a minute later, and he dozed. Dancer tapped Solo on the shoulder. They positioned Illya with his feet in Dancer's lap, and Solo leaned against the other end of the couch, close enough that he could feel Illya's breath on the back of his neck.
He and Dancer read quietly, enjoying the quiet. When it grew dark, Solo lit the lantern and brought it over to the couch. He disconnected the empty fluid bottle and taped up the catheter. Illya's fever had returned, but it was slight as of yet. He'd save the last bottle in case he got worse.
"What's left to eat?" Dancer asked, stretching on the couch. She was hungry.
"I saw some canned pork and beans if you're desperate."
"Good enough. I'll heat 'em up. We can save the crackers and the last can of tuna for Illya."
"Team should be here by tomorrow; hopefully earlier than later." Solo stretched and said, "I set perimeter alarms. I'll go check on them and then we can stand down tonight. Get some real sleep for a change."
"Sounds good to me." She poured them water and stirred the beans. Not exactly a feast, but better than going hungry.
Solo returned and they ate leisurely, enjoying their last night of relative peace. "Not a bad place to spend time together."
"We were lucky to find this old place."
"You were lucky, April. You've done a terrific job on this mission. I wanted to thank you for taking care of Illya. And me," he added quickly.
She blushed. "All part of the job description."
Solo raised his water glass and clinked it with her metal canteen cup. They cleaned up the leavings and Solo checked on his partner. He was shifting uncomfortably and nearly fell off the couch. "Napoleon?" he mumbled.
Solo felt his cheek, feeling his flushed skin. He held a glass for him to drink from. The shivering began to become more pronounced. "Illya, I want to move you to the mattress. You'll be more comfortable if you can stretch out." He lifted Illya from the couch, noting how much weight he'd lost already. Dancer helped to tuck him under both blankets, trying to warm the shivering body.
Napoleon turned the lamp down low and removed his shoes. He slipped under the blankets and spooned next to Illya, warming him with his own body heat. Kuryakin moaned with the added warmth and snuggled back against Solo's body. He was shivering violently and constantly now. April followed Solo's lead and lay on the other side, allowing Illya to nestle between them like spoons in a drawer. After a bit, Illya's tremors lessened, and finally stopped altogether. Solo spread the blanket across the three of them and whispered in Illya's ear. "Sleep now, Illya. We're right here. You're safe."
"Yes, I'm here. Go to sleep."
He listened to his partner's breathing even out and fell asleep soon after he felt Dancer's body relax as well.
The blanket covering him was thrown off abruptly, waking him out of a sound sleep. Illya was moving restlessly, tossing the bedclothes off his sweating body. April had moved to the far edge and was just stirring as well.
"Illya? Can you hear me?" Solo checked for fever and was relieved to find it much lower than the other cycles. The blue eyes opened and then closed quickly, Illya's hands clutching his head as though to keep it on his shoulders. He tried not to moan.
"Bad?" Napoleon found the aspirin tin and gave him two along with another dose of quinine and a full glass of water. He pulled the blond head into his lap and massaged Illya's temples and the back of his neck, wishing he could do more for the pain. "Hang in there, Illya. We're on the downside of it. Your fever's much lower than before and the last set of shakes only lasted a half hour. You're coming out of it just fine." His strong, blunt fingers eased the knots in Illya's neck and shoulders, and he felt the thin body begin to relax under his hands.
As Illya slipped into sleep, Solo eased him down and covered his lower half with the discarded blanket. The American got up and stretched, wishing desperately for a cup of coffee.
"I'll check the alarms and be right back, April." Dancer nodded, nibbling on half a cracker. She filled the bucket from the pump and set it next to the fireplace. April had never wanted a shower so much in her life. She sighed and sat at the kitchen table and sipped a glass of cold water.
Solo came in the back door and said, "Nothing. Hopefully, we'll hear from the team any time now."
Dancer nodded at Illya. "He's sleeping. I think I'll visit the little girl's outhouse."
Solo called after her, "Say hello to Boris. He's the large black spider living out there. I named him. Might take him back with me."
"Not if I'm in the car with you, you won't." She shuddered at the thought. If Thrush ever found out about my fear of spiders...
Illya was up, eating crackers on the couch when Solo's pen went off in the quiet cabin. They all jumped, and then looked at each other sheepishly.
He adjusted the gain and heard a familiar voice on the other end. "Napoleon? Santiago here. We're very close to your position. Any little welcoming surprises we need to know about?"
Solo smiled as he answered, "No, José, I'll turn off the perimeters and you can come on in."
Napoleon glanced at Illya. "We'll need a stretcher. Illya's down but not out." He ignored the baleful stare from his partner. Solo went outside and turned off the alarms, gathering them in his backpack. April was tidying inside, putting their equipment away and checking to make sure they left nothing.
They both dragged the mattress back to the bed and put things back more or less the way they'd found them. 'U.N.C.L.E. will find the owner of this place and reimburse him for our foraging," Solo said. He put the fire out and stirred the wet ashes.
Illya stood on shaking legs and wrapped the blanket around him. He walked to the porch and the other two agents joined him, flanking him in case he faltered. Illya smiled at their protectiveness, understanding it. They were bound together by their profession and by their friendship.
The sun was just up and shining through the thick foliage, rays catching on the dewy leaves and the blades of grass. He sighed and quoted, "'The woods are lovely, dark, and deep...'"
Solo smiled and picked up on it. "'But I have promises to keep...'"
"'And miles to go before I sleep...'" added April.
"'And miles to go before I sleep,'" they finished together.
They'd all slept in the U.N.C.L.E. jet waiting for them at the Bemidji airport. Illya had been triaged at a hospital on the way and pronounced well enough to travel. He'd been sedated and now snored happily on one of the cots. After settling his agents in, Solo had dropped onto another couch and passed out.
Awakened by the flight crew just before landing at La Guardia, they were a sorry sight as they limped off the jet together. Illya refused the stretcher and Solo and Dancer tried to hover at his elbows without appearing to hover. They failed miserably. Illya faltered at one point, and they both grabbed him and refused to let go until they were in the limo.
Once settled, Dancer breathed a sigh of relief. She would be home soon and in her own shower and bed, in that order. Illya reached for the bottle of vodka, and Solo intercepted him. "Ah, ah, ah, Illya. Your liver is quivering and your spleen is super-sized. No booze for you for a month at least."
The Russian national rolled his eyes and pleaded to Dancer, "Shoot me, April. Put me out of my misery."
The redhead laughed and said, "Sorry, my love. Napoleon's the boss."
"Just once I'd like to hear Illya say that." Solo grinned at his cranky partner.
"Don't hold your breath, Napoleon."
Hours later, April in her bath, no doubt, the two weary men entered their shared apartment. A perfunctory report to Mr. Waverly had been signed, and they had spent two hours in Medical getting Illya checked and discharged for a couple weeks' of sick leave. Dr. Martin had warned Illya off alcohol and told him to come in for anemia tests in a couple days.
"Good luck baby-sitting him, Napoleon," he'd said, smiling as the partners left his office. Illya was basically okay, but he'd need to take it easy and allow his red blood cells to repopulate. The Russian had glared at Dr. Martin and Solo had pushed him out the door.
Once home, Solo stripped and headed for the shower. "I'll take a quick one and then you should take a long soak in the tub. Your joints have got to be killing you."
Illya sighed and plopped on the couch. "I am a bit stiff."
Solo stuck his head out and leered. "I hope so..."
Illya countered with, "Go soak your head."
Twenty minutes later Illya was up to his neck in warm water, luxuriating in finally being clean. Napoleon brought him some Russian tea and sat on the commode while Illya soaked. "Raspberry. Your favorite." He pulled a packet of cookies out of his pocket. "Royal Dansk. We had some hidden away on the top shelf."
"Where I hid them from you, no doubt." Illya allowed Napoleon to feed him bites of cookies while he soaked his aching joints. "Ahhh..."
"Feeling better?" Napoleon took a washcloth and knelt beside the tub, soaping the rag and running it across the Illya parts that were accessible.
Solo smiled at his suddenly hedonistic lover. "Duck under and get your hair wet. I'll wash it."
"I did that in the shower."
"I know. Let me anyway."
Illya smiled. He allowed Napoleon a few indulgences where their love life was concerned. His partner had a thing about his hair. Truth be known, Illya craved the feel of those strong hands carding through his hair, pulling gently on the ends, tugging his head to Solo's wonderful mouth.
He pulled away from Solo's lips reluctantly, and ducked under the water. The shampoo was cool on his warm skin and he purred as Napoleon scrubbed his scalp. The talented hands had him limp with pleasure and he closed his eyes, nearly sliding under the water again.
Napoleon used a cup to rinse the suds from Illya's hair, sluicing the bubbles until they were gone. "Illya."
"Come on, you're nearly asleep. You'll drown."
"Illya!" Solo tugged on his arm and roused him enough to get him to stand. He wrapped a bath sheet around the dripping form, frowning at the loss of weight that caused his hip and collarbones to protrude.
"Napoleon," Illya said sleepily, laying his head on the shoulder of Solo's thick robe. Napoleon grabbed another towel and rubbed Illya's head with it, finger-combing it when he was done.
He walked the groggy man to their bed, settling Illya in and spooning up behind the cooling body. A sigh of utter contentment rose from the other pillow and Solo had to chuckle in response.
Napoleon moved in and snuggled.
"Illya, if I get any closer I'll be inside you."
"That's the idea." Illya pushed his hips against his lover suggestively. Solo felt himself harden immediately.
"No, Illya. You're not up to this yet."
Illya guided Solo's hand to his erect cock. "Oh, really?"
Solo grunted. "You know what I mean."
"Yes, and I know what I want. You inside me. Now."
"My little dictator. Who knew?" Napoleon thrust against Illya's hips and asked, "Are you sure?"
Illya growled, "Napoleon!"
Napoleon smiled against Illya's neck and caressed his hard cock. He reached for the jar of ointment in the drawer and slowly, leisurely, opened Illya for him. Kuryakin bucked against him, willing Solo to hurry. Napoleon tried to soothe his little hellion. "Easy, Illyusha. We'll get there. Calm down." He stroked Illya's erection slowly, trying to distract him from what his fingers were doing. Illya would have none of it.
Napoleon sighed as he bent Illya's leg forward and pushed the first little bit into his lover. Illya whimpered when he stopped after the head of his cock penetrated the tight ring of muscle.
"Duvai, duvai." Illya pushed back, causing Solo to groan and grasp the Russian's thin hips, stilling him.
"Please, baby, I don't want to hurt you. It's been so long..."
Illya growled back, "Too long, milii moi..."
Napoleon continued to push slowly, slipping into Illya one wonderful inch at a time. Both men grunted with the sensation, loving the exquisite closeness that only this act gave them. All too soon, Napoleon was fully sheathed in his lover's body, his balls tucked against Illya's ass. Solo heard his partner pull in a deep breath, waiting for the older man to move in him.
He waited until he felt Illya relax and then drove back and forward, sliding in and out with slow thrusts. Illya groaned and pushed back on each forward motion. Napoleon buried his face in Illya's hair, trying not to let the wonderful feelings swamp him and make him lose control.
They made love slowly, content to be in each other's arms and safe in their bed. Illya reached down and placed his hand over Napoleon's on his cock, squeezing harder and pumping into Solo's hand faster. Napoleon got the message and began milking Illya, thrusting harder and faster as what he was doing to his lover reverberated through the smaller man's body and shivered through his as well.
Napoleon finally allowed himself to lose a bit of his control, as he thrust deeply and heard Illya's joyous shout. "Da, da!"
Solo brushed the tips of his fingers across Illya's crown and he felt the slender body stiffen, arching back and growling as he came all over Napoleon's grasping hand.
The heat of the outpouring and the sound of Illya's pleasure took Solo along as well, and he pumped hard and fast into the body underneath him. He cried out Illya's name and went still, his cock spurting strongly and deeply into the body of the man he loved.
They panted their way back to reality and remained locked together, unwilling to separate. Solo kissed Illya's neck and said quietly, "I love you, Illya. Do you know how hard it was for me to keep my hands off you? All I wanted to do in that cabin was hold you close and make you better."
"I think April would have liked the show..."
Solo snorted. "Bratik."
"I'm so tired, Polya." Illya yawned and pulled Solo's encircling arm
tighter around him as he began to drift.
"Then sleep, lyubov; sleep."
His lover squeezed his hand once more before dropping off. Napoleon held him tightly as he slept, marveling at how they had come together. Solo wondered at Illya's courage in finally telling him how he felt, and at his own resilience in coming to terms with it and admitting he felt the same pull.
Now, lying with their bodies still connected, their chests rising and falling in the same rhythm, Napoleon couldn't imagine loving anyone else. His life had always seemed bound to this man in other ways; now it was a deeper communion.
Napoleon Solo drifted off, as content as he had ever been in his life.