October 25, 1962
Alexander Waverly was not a man to put things off. He had called a meeting with his top two agents within minutes of receiving the telex from his secretary. It was an "Eyes Only" memo and took only seconds to absorb notwithstanding that it was in Cyrillic.
Waverly sighed, his shaggy eyebrows trying to knit together into one as his face reflected the disturbing news. These were very trying days, what with the missile situation in Cuba and the general unease that pervaded the nation. A tense situation all around, made more so by the inclusion of a Russian national in his fold.
The Russian in question was on his way now, along with his very American and very protective partner. It had not always been so, he recalled bemusedly. He remembered the resentment his chief agent had shown when he had first been paired with Kuryakin. Good heavens, had it really been three years ago? Waverly mused.
October 2, 1959
Alexander Waverly tossed the report onto his circular desk a little harder than decorum allowed. Mr. Solo was beginning to get on his nerves...truthfully, had been on his nerves for a while now. This latest report only confirmed what he already knew about the rogue agent. It was time someone brought him up short. He buzzed Miss Rogers and asked her to summon Mr. Solo immediately. Best not to put it off at this point.
Waverly's eyes returned to the second folder on his desk. A smile played at the corners of his mouth as an intriguing idea began to form in his active mind. Of course, how had he almost missed it? The answer to his little personnel problem lay at his fingertips.
Emboldened by the thought, he pulled his favorite briar from the rack and began to tamp his special blend into the wide bowl. A stroke of genius like this deserves a reward, he thought, actually allowing himself to light the bowl and smoke the aromatic mixture.
Napoleon Solo sauntered into the outer office of his superior and winked at Lisa Rogers. She did not return the gesture. It was then that Solo smelled the tobacco smoke just beginning to waft into the hall. He paled slightly, knowing that when the Old Man actually lit up, it was either very good or very bad. Lisa suppressed a smile and said very lightly, "Mr. Waverly will see you now, Mr. Solo." She pressed a green button at hip level as she spoke.
"Ah, thanks, I think." Napoleon squared his shoulders and put on his best devil-may-care look as he breached the inner sanctum.
He walked across the brilliant shine of the tiled floor and sat at his customary seat directly in front of Mr. Waverly. At least he assumed it was Waverly, as a thick cloud of Isle of Dogs #22 currently obscured his head.
"You sent for me, sir?" he asked formally. Waverly touched a control and an exhaust fan began to suck the thick smoke out of the room.
"Yes, indeed I did, Mr. Solo. I apologize for the smoke. It should clear momentarily."
"No problem, sir."
"Actually, it would seem we do have a problem, Mr. Solo. A rather large one, I might add. But, fortunately, one I seem to have the answer to."
"Just what problem would that be, sir, in particular?" He had been mentally reviewing his last few missions to try and head off the trouble that seemed to be brewing as thick as his boss's pipe smoke. He hadn't come up with anything out of the ordinary. However, he'd had to admit that he had never been an ordinary kind of guy.
"It would seem you have been skirting the regulations again, Mr. Solo; going in on your last mission to Geneva without adequate back-up, neglecting to make regular check-ins, failure to report to the local station, neglecting to turn in reports in a timely manner, and your expense vouchers..." He shook his gray head once and scowled at the younger man. "What is this item about language lessons from a Miss Ilga Nilsson?"
Napoleon cleared his throat. "Ah, well, that, sir, it was, ah, necessary for me to affect the local dialect for my cover. She was a very good teacher. Sir," he added quickly.
Waverly scowled at his agent. "I've no doubt she was, Mr. Solo. However, as we have just started a new fiscal year, there will be a concerted effort at the Command to keep an eye out for unwarranted expense vouchers." He eyed Solo suspiciously and suppressed a grin when the young man had the good grace to look down at his lap.
"As far as the other infractions are concerned, I believe I have a stopgap measure that put into place will eliminate most, if not all, of the indiscretions."
Solo held his breath, sure that the Old Man had concocted some terrible revenge to foist on him. He envisioned himself slaving away in his tiny office, forced to type all of Section Two's reports for the next quarter. He suppressed a shiver at that thought. He looked up at his boss with the air of a man being sent to the gallows.
"Yes, well. I have a new man coming in to Section Two from the London office. He's fully field qualified and expert in small arms, demolitions, languages, and has a Ph.D. in quantum physics. And he types over one hundred words per minute. Extraordinary."
"And he's transferring to Section Two?" Solo asked. "Why?"
"He requested the transfer. I believe he finds the lab section to be a bit mundane." Ah, to be that young and adventurous again, Waverly thought.
Waverly couldn't help but pause, enjoying the moment of discomfort his arrogant enforcement agent was experiencing. He needed to be reined in once in a while and this was a perfect opportunity to do so.
"He'll need a partner to show him the ropes, Mr. Solo. He's young enough to be foolhardy and I don't want him in the wrong hands."
"Yes, sir. I'll check the roster and see who's available..."
The chief interrupted, "No, Mr. Solo. That won't be necessary. I'm assigning him to you."
The look on Solo's face was priceless, well worth the strained nerves from his past imprudence. Mr. Waverly was almost gloating.
"Me? A partner? But I've always worked alone..." He looked thunderstruck at the blow to his composure.
"Precisely, Mr. Solo. And that solitude has brought you up short one time too many. A partner will help settle you down, give you a cushion to fall back on, complement your rough edges." And prick that ego of yours to some degree, he wanted to add, but refrained. "I've started the paperwork already, so you may as well get used to the idea. Your days of soloing are over." He did allow a small smile at his cleverness.
Napoleon almost protested again, but the look on Waverly's face told him it was a fait accompli. Anything more would seem petulant. He sighed deeply and nodded once.
"All right, sir. What's the agent's name?" Nigel, Bruce or Basil? he thought disdainfully. "And when do I meet him?"
"His name is Illya Kuryakin. And you'll meet him this afternoon when you pick him up from the airport."
"Isn't that a rather odd name for a Brit?" he asked, puzzled.
"It is a Russian name. And since he is Russian, it's not odd at all."
Now Solo was really perplexed. "I thought he was coming from the London office? How did a Russian get assigned there?"
"The same way he was assigned here, Mr. Solo. He is a volunteer."
"But, sir, a Russian? Isn't that unusual, even for U.N.C.L.E.?"
Mr. Waverly considered the question and decided it was a fair one, and not one born of prejudice. "Mr. Kuryakin may be the first Russian national to join us, but I daresay he will not be the last. The Soviet Union is fast becoming a world power, a fact not lost on Thrush. It is inevitable that we work together to conquer a common enemy."
He looked sternly at his agent. "I trust his nationality will not be an issue with you, Mr. Solo?" It was phrased as a question but the authority was thinly veiled.
"No, of course not, Mr. Waverly. I just need some time to adjust."
"Well, see to it that you adjust by three o'clock this afternoon. That is when you'll be meeting Mr. Kuryakin's plane."
Waverly handed the agent's dossier over to the American. "All the information you need is in here. Drop it off to Medical on your way out. They'll be starting on Mr. Kuryakin's processing as soon as he arrives. Shepherd him through the procedure and then both of you meet me here tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. for debriefing."
Solo sat in the chair a little dazed by the look of it. He flipped open the folder and glanced at the I.D. photo. A very young-looking man with the bluest eyes stared back at him. He drew in a breath and asked a little too quickly, "How old is he? He looks about eighteen."
"Mr. Kuryakin is twenty-six. I shouldn't be concerned about his youth, Mr. Solo. The KGB recruited him when he was sixteen. Finished his doctorate when he was just twenty-four. Graduated Survival School at the top of his class. And we both know how hard Mr. Cutter would have been on a Soviet."
Solo nodded, remembering how hard it had been for him, and he had come directly from the army. But, the KGB? How did Waverly expect him to feel about that?
"Memorize that dossier and we will meet tomorrow morning. That is all, Mr. Solo."
Solo walked out the door with a little less exuberance than usual, Waverly noted. He wondered if he had made the right choice. Only time would tell.
Time had been the proof, after all. These two agents seated before him had become the best team U.N.C.L.E. had ever known. It hadn't happened overnight, assuredly, but it had happened despite their misgivings about each other at first.
Waverly turned from his monitor display and opened the file in front of him. The telex was on top and he looked from it to his two agents.
"Gentlemen, I received a communiqué from Moscow bare minutes ago." There was a minute tightening of the set of Kuryakin's shoulders at the mention of Moscow, although a casual acquaintance would not have noticed the change.
Napoleon Solo was anything but a casual acquaintance. He clasped the armrest a bit harder at the news, and looked over at his partner. They had both been expecting something like this but had not discussed it, fearing the airing would bring about the actuality. Illya's worried eyes locked onto Napoleon's for the barest of an instant and then returned to his superior. He was outwardly calm, but felt his world beginning to tilt on its axis a bit.
Waverly caught the byplay and understood the trepidation. He confirmed their suspicions as he handed the telex to the Russian. "I'm sorry, Mr. Kuryakin. There seems to be no leeway allowable."
Illya's face paled as he read the order. Napoleon tried to read it over his shoulder, but his Cyrillic was abysmal.
"What does it say, Illya?" he asked gently. He already knew the answer judging from Kuryakin's expression, but he had to know.
Illya sighed. He let the paper fall to the desk. "It says 'By order of Premier Khrushchev you are recalled to national service immediately. Come home, Illya Nickovetch.'" He couldn't look at Napoleon and hung his head in frustration.
Solo wanted to say some words of comfort, but there were none that would suffice. He looked up at Mr. Waverly and entreated, "Isn't there something we can do?"
The Old Man sighed. "I'm afraid not, Mr. Solo. Mr. Kuryakin's tenure here has always been temporary at best. We have no position of authority in this situation."
"What if he resigned from U.N.C.L.E.? Couldn't we intervene then for a private citizen?"
Illya interrupted. "I'm not a private citizen, Napoleon. Far from it. I am a Russian national on foreign soil. I have no option if I wish to retain my position back home. I must go." The misery written on his face was so unguarded that Solo reached out to grasp his shoulder.
Waverly broke the moment by clearing his throat. Solo let his hand drop from his friend.
"Mr. Solo, if you would leave us, we have some things to discuss that require privacy."
Illya did not look up as Napoleon stood. He brushed by his partner in leaving and felt the tremors that were shaking the small body. He almost requested to stay. If it had been anyone else but Waverly he would have refused to go. Napoleon walked slowly to the steel doors and barely had the will to continue through them. He waited in the outer office knowing that returning to the space he shared with Illya would be too much.
Solo wasn't sure when the Russian had become so important to him, or just when the partnership had begun to take on a life of its own. He thought back to the day he'd met Illya and how that day had changed his entire life.
October 2, 1959
Solo searched for the correct gate, reading the schedule to confirm the flight from London. He was ten minutes early and settled in a hard plastic chair to wait. What was Waverly thinking, assigning him a partner like a rookie? Hadn't he proved himself in the field time and again? His efficiency rating was one of the best, even if his expense reports were a bit over the norm. Now he would have a green egghead to deal with, on top of his other duties. He'd have his work cut out for him just keeping him alive. A Russian KGB agent. He couldn't get it out of his mind that they had been the enemy in Korea. But he would have to get past it, as Waverly said. There was no room in U.N.C.L.E. for prejudice. Officially, anyway. He shook his head and decided to stop obsessing over it.
The flight was announced and he saw the crew rolling stairs towards the aircraft for the passengers. He decided to stay well back to give him an opportunity to observe the agent beforehand. He knew what Kuryakin looked like: he had the advantage.
A steady stream of passengers disembarked, the first class patrons deplaning before the rest. Knowing that U.N.C.L.E. would have purchased an economy ticket Napoleon bided his time. He saw Kuryakin emerge from the plane, his shock of bright hair making him stand out markedly. He had a suitcase in each hand and was wearing a lightweight suit that was terminally ill-fitting. Can't fault him for that, Solo thought. Russia's not known for its fashion.
Solo noted the angular body, thinking him too thin and scrawny to be transferring to enforcement. He'd have to put on a few pounds, Solo thought wryly.
The young man looked around and not seeing anyone interested in him, he continued into the gate, settled his bags and sat wearily in a nearby chair. He looked tired and drawn from the long flight, but he was so pale it was hard to tell. The short blond hair was trying to fall over his forehead despite his efforts to quell it. Napoleon suppressed a sigh. Twenty-six? He didn't look old enough to shave.
Knowing he was only delaying the inevitable, Solo pushed off the chair and walked over to the smaller man. He was looking out the observation window as Solo approached.
Napoleon cleared his throat. "Mr. Kuryakin, I presume?"
Illya turned toward the sound of his name and gave Solo an appraising eye. He stood up gracefully and extended his hand, if a bit warily. Solo shook it, feeling the surprising strength in the grasp. "Napoleon Solo. Number One, Section Two, New York," he said formally, leaving no question as to who was in charge here.
Kuryakin looked puzzled and replied, "You are the C.E.A.? I was expecting someone from Section Six, actually." His soft voice was a mixture of British and Russian accents. Quite unusual at the least.
"Yes, well, consider me the welcome wagon." At a look from Kuryakin, he explained, "Ah, welcoming committee." Kuryakin smiled and bent to pick up his bags. He waved off the offer of help from Solo. He looked around him at the immensity of the airport and shrugged. "Which way?"
Solo pointed to the main concourse. "Not far. I've got diplomatic plates so I'm allowed in the red zone." Kuryakin started at the term 'red zone' and looked at Solo. He was used to a certain amount of hazing but was surprised to hear it coming from a section head. A beat later, Napoleon understood and explained, his face slightly reddening, "No, I meant the red tow-away zone. Sorry, I wouldn't joke about something like that."
The Russian visibly relaxed and blushed himself, turning a rose color. Napoleon decided he now looked about twelve and reminded himself to watch his idioms around the new man. He didn't want a diplomatic incident on his hands at the start.
He initiated conversation as they walked to the exit. "Mr. Kuryakin, I'm supposed to take you to HQ for processing, but if there's anywhere you want to go before that, let me know."
The Russian frowned and looked at his feet for a moment.
"What?" Solo inquired.
"You'll think it silly."
"No, I won't, honest. Tell me.'"
"All right, but only if you call me Illya." He pronounced it carefully as 'Ee-lee-ya.' Napoleon made note of the correct pronunciation.
"I'd like to see one of the metropolitan libraries. I never had time to in London, and I've heard New York ones are immense." He looked up from under his pale eyelashes and Napoleon realized just how good-looking his new partner was. A little on the skinny side, but definitely competition. He pushed the thought aside and smiled at the younger man.
"I think I can manage to hit one on the way to HQ." The smile on Illya's face was thanks enough and he ushered him into the sedan. He was beginning to relax around the Russian and had to admit he wasn't what he expected. For an egghead, he had quite a good personality.
Thirty minutes later they parked in front of the New York Public Library on Forty Second Street and Solo herded the stunned agent inside. It was the biggest library in New York and Napoleon had picked it purposefully. Illya had insisted on bringing his suitcases in with him, sure that the atrocious New York crime rate would make short work of his few possessions. Napoleon shook his head and let him go.
"I'll watch your bags, Illya. Go prowl, professor."
Illya demurred and said, "I don't use the title, Mr. Solo," and blushed again when he realized the C.E.A. had been joking.
"Just how many titles do you have, Illya?" Solo teased.
"More than I need, thank you very much." He grinned that sweet shy smile again and headed for the card catalogs. An hour later, Solo was kicking himself for not giving him a communicator earlier. He was about to have Kuryakin paged when he caught sight of the blond head just visible above a stack of books with legs.
Kuryakin placed the teetering tower carefully on the table in front of Solo. Napoleon caught a few of the titles and groaned softly. He is an egghead. Maintaining Coherence in Quantum Mechanics, Schrodinger's Equations, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and a few more he couldn't decipher were on the bottom of the stack.
Illya seemed to be in his element. He was practically glowing with discovery.
"Don't they have libraries in Russia, Illya?"
"Not like this, Mr. Solo. Most books are old and worn out and the ones that are good are stolen. Did you know the clerks wear roller skates here? You tell them which books you want, and they roll off and get them for you. It's wonderful!" He was grinning widely with giddiness.
Solo felt like a parent at Christmas with his young charge. "Well, let's get those checked out so we can get out of here."
Illya was taken aback. "Checked out?" he asked.
"Yes, as in borrow. You know, take them with you?"
Illya grimaced. "And now you are pulling my limb, are you not?"
"Pulling your...oh, good heavens, Illya. Pulling your leg. And, no, I'm not. Pulling. You can use my card to check them out. We'll get you one as soon as your paperwork clears."
Solo took his library card from his wallet and took half the stack to the desk. Kuryakin trailed behind him with the rest. The clerk smiled at them both and inked the inside sticker of each book until the stack was back to its imposing height.
"These are due back in three weeks, sir." She smiled at Solo and grinned even larger at the blond, blue-eyed wonder standing in front of her.
Kuryakin was still a bit stunned. He smiled back at the interested woman and said with a little bow, "Thank you very much." The smitten female practically gushed with pleasure and said, "Not at all."
Solo rolled his eyes and grabbed some of the books. Illya followed his lead until they were back at the car and dumping the lot in the back seat. "Do you have room in your suitcases for those?" Solo asked.
"I'm afraid not."
"Why not?" Napoleon inquired.
"They're full of books."
When Napoleon stopped laughing, he realized that he was beginning to like this Russian. Quite a lot.
October 25, 1962
Solo's reverie was interrupted by Illya's hasty exit from Waverly's office. He looked dazed and Napoleon fell in step with him. They kept silent until they reached the elevator. After the door closed, Illya sighed.
"What are you going to do, Illya? You're really not going back, are you?" Solo asked nervously.
"I...I don't know, Polya. Mr. Waverly gave me an option that I hadn't considered. I have to think about it."
"What option?" Napoleon asked impatiently. He had never seen Illya this upset before. The younger agent was trembling as if in mild shock.
"Let's get to our office. We can talk there." Illya was stone-faced and silent until they reached the office they shared.
Napoleon waited for his partner to sit at his desk before he sat on the corner of it. "All right, Illya. Just what option were you talking about?"
Illya seemed to forget that Solo was in the room. He blinked and looked up at him groggily. Solo got up and poured him coffee and made him drink it. It helped, and Illya looked at his worried partner's face.
"Mr. Waverly reiterated that U.N.C.L.E. couldn't officially sanction my... defection." He spat out the word as if it were distasteful to him. "I have the choice of applying to the State Department for political asylum on two grounds for cause. Religious persecution or sexual discrimination."
Napoleon swallowed hard. "Illya..."
"I know, Polya. I can never admit my orientation. It would be career suicide. But I can't lie about my religious state as I don't have one."
Napoleon chuckled. "Well, I always envisioned you as a Druid, myself, milok. Illya, just pick something and say you're that. It won't make a difference if you get asylum. Weren't you Russian Orthodox as a child? It wouldn't be lying if you claim that as your religion of choice."
Kuryakin sighed and looked at his hands. "I will use religious persecution as grounds if I must. But I don't wish to hide behind religion to get what I want, Napoleon."
Very softly, Napoleon asked, "What do you want, Illyusha?"
Illya did look up then and said simply, "You, Polya."
The misery on his face was so evident that Napoleon broke one of his own rules and stood up and pulled Illya into an embrace. He could feel Illya's heart pounding and his body shaking. He whispered in his ear, "It will be all right, Illya. We'll work it out, and we'll get through this like we've gotten through everything else. Together, partner. Together."
Illya allowed the embrace and recalled when they had started on their road together.
October 3, 1959
Illya Kuryakin had had an uncommon day. The processing at HQ had been unremarkable as they all were. He had submitted to the physical and mental tests grudgingly, and the security checks as well. He was now officially assigned to U.N.C.L.E.-NY in the enforcement section. He had expected all of that. What he hadn't envisioned was being paired with the hotshot up-and-comer, Napoleon Solo.
Mr. Waverly had dropped that particular bombshell on him during his debriefing. Solo was not present and the look of total shock on the young agent's face prompted Waverly to ask if Solo hadn't told him already.
"No, sir, he did not."
"Perhaps he wanted to wait until your processing was complete. No matter. It's official now." Waverly stood and extended his hand to his newest charge. "Welcome to U.N.C.L.E.-New York, Mr. Kuryakin."
Kuryakin shook the hand respectfully. "Thank you, sir."
"Now if you will catch up to Mr. Solo, I believe he will get you settled in your apartment."
"Yes, sir. Good day."
Kuryakin walked down the hallway to Solo's office. Why didn't he tell me earlier? he wondered. Was it a slight of some kind? Perhaps he wasn't happy being paired with a Russian, after all. But he had seemed friendly enough. Illya decided to try not to dwell on it, but his feelings had been hurt by the snub.
He nodded at Solo when he entered the office.
"How did it go? Old Man didn't scare you off, did he?" He grinned at the blond.
"No, of course not. He officially welcomed me to U.N.C.L.E.-NY. And assigned me my partner." The last was said casually enough, but there was a twinge of hurt in the voice that Solo picked up on.
"Look, Illya, I didn't say anything earlier because I wasn't sure you'd be happy with me as a partner. I wanted to give you a chance to ask for another agent when you met with Waverly. I knew if I'd told you about it beforehand that you would have considered it etched in stone. That's all I meant, I swear." He stopped and looked hopefully at the new man.
Illya considered the statement and was sure it was an honest one. His discomfort evaporated as Solo held out his own hand for him to grasp.
"Welcome to Section Two, partner."
They clasped hands for a long moment and then disengaged. Illya blushed again and said, "Thank you, Mr. Solo."
"Illya, if we're going to be partners, I think you can call me Napoleon."
"Napoleon...is that really your name?" Kuryakin grimaced, not meaning to sound critical. "I'm sorry. I'm sure my name seems odd to you, also."
"Not really. You're Russian, aren't you? At least your name fits. I'm not French nor do I have an overriding sense of grandeur. I did have, however, a father with a historical obsession. And, unfortunately for me, the object of his obsession was Napoleon Bonaparte."
Illya tried to remain serious but the look on Napoleon's face and the humorous explanation had him reduced to laughter. Both men broke up and Solo realized it was the first time he had heard Illya laugh. He wanted to make sure it would not be the last.
"I'm sorry, Napoleon. But, you know, it could have been worse. Your father could have been a Wagner buff."
"Good grief, Illya, you're right. 'Siegfried Solo.'" He shuddered.
"Or 'Wotan Solo.' Don't forget about Wotan."
"You know 'Napoleon' doesn't seem half bad, now, does it?" Solo admitted.
Illya smiled and the room seemed much brighter than it had in weeks. Solo thought he could just get used to this partner thing.
Kuryakin's doubts about the teaming evaporated when he saw the grin on his partner's face. They might have a go at it after all.
Napoleon stood and stretched. "Ready to go see your apartment?"
"Yes, I'd rather like that. Thanks."
Solo wasn't sure he should mention it, but they were partners now and needed to get to know each other. "You know, you sound terribly British for a Russian."
Illya smiled and nodded. "Yes, I hear that a lot. I spent four years at Cambridge. My superiors thought I should try to blend in as much as possible."
Solo decided to try again. "Your superiors? KGB?" he asked neutrally.
Illya sighed. "Yes. Does that bother you? I am still commissioned in the Russian navy but have a unit designation as KGB."
Napoleon decided Illya deserved the truth. He returned the sigh and said, "I'm not doing handsprings about it, Illya. But I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Unlike some people around here..." he said by way of warning.
"Don't worry, Napoleon. I've dealt with prejudice and threats before. I guess I'm so used to it, I expect it." The last was said very quietly and the anger began to build in the American at the thought of the abuse the Russian had most likely suffered.
"Well, it won't happen on my shift, partner. And if it gets bad, you're under orders to tell me, understand?" The look on his face told Illya Napoleon was serious. It touched him more than he cared to admit.
He nodded, unsure of his voice just then.
Solo cleared his throat and pressed on. "Okay, let's get going. You need to get settled in and get some rest."
They signed out a sedan and Illya placed his bags and collection of library books in the trunk. "Want to drive?" Solo asked with a wink.
"I do not have a license, Napoleon. And I think it safer for you to drive since I don't know the city as of yet."
"Okay, I'll play chauffeur today," he said as they settled in. "You give the order, guvnor?"
Illya smiled broadly at Solo's attempt at British and said, "Home, James."
A few minutes later Solo parked in front of an ageing brownstone with a massive stoop. He took all the books and left Illya to the bags. He held the keys in his teeth until they reached the elevator, then dropped them into Kuryakin's hand and said, "Four."
The Russian pushed the button and the doors slid shut. There was a loud creaking as the lift engaged and Napoleon glanced sideways at the blond. "At least no one will sneak up on you."
They exited on their floor and went down the short hall to number 404. Illya turned the key and held the door for his partner. Solo went through and noted with relief that it was furnished. It was small, almost cramped, but clean and tidy. It would do for the time being, Napoleon thought. He put the books on the kitchen table and turned to see a look of disbelief on Illya's face. He thought he should set him straight right away.
"Don't worry, Illya. This is just temporary until..."
Kuryakin interrupted with, "This is my apartment?" He looked shocked.
"Yes, well, I know it's not much, but we can get you something else later..."
"For just me? I don't have roommates?" He began to walk down the hall to the bedroom and laughed out loud when he saw the full bath.
"No, Illya, no roommates. This is your apartment." Solo began to understand. To an American, this would seem to be below average digs. But for a Russian used to the military system, it must seem like a castle.
"I can afford this?" he asked, amazed by the prospects of privacy and decadence.
"Sure. Your U.N.C.L.E. housing allowance will more than cover it. It's rent controlled, too."
"What is 'rent controlled'?" He went to the kitchen and tried the taps. Hot water dribbled out eventually to his delight.
Solo smiled. "It means the landlord can't increase the rent as long as you stay here without a court order."
"America is amazing, Napoleon." He suddenly paled at his words and looked around nervously. "Is it bugged?" he whispered worriedly.
Napoleon was aghast. "Bugged? Certainly not. Illya, you never have to worry about that from U.N.C.L.E. An agent's off-duty hours are sacred. And this little beauty," he indicated an electronic circuitry box hidden under the countertop, "will let you know if Thrush has been snooping while you were out."
Illya examined it with unabashed interest. "Frequency modulator, jamming circuit, Napoleon, this is fantastic."
Solo couldn't help but grin like an idiot. Illya was like a kid in a candy store. Or in Illya's case, an electronics store. He picked up the suitcases and deposited them in the bedroom. Nice double bed and some worn furniture, but not bad, he decided. Illya had followed him and he asked, "Are you having the rest of your things shipped, Illya?"
"No, I brought everything with me."
Solo sat down on the bed in dismay. Illya's entire life had been packed into two suitcases? He made a mental note to work up a care package from his amply stocked apartment, and as soon as possible. He smiled thinking it was high time to introduce his new friend to the pleasures of Western living.
October 25, 1962
Illya was pacing Napoleon's apartment like a caged tiger. Siberian, of course. They had decided it would be safest for him to stay with the Section Head, as Moscow would soon be up in arms over the defection. They were going to the State Department in the morning to file the formal declaration of defection. Kuryakin was understandably on edge and was driving Napoleon crazy with his agitated state.
"Illya." Solo stopped his partner in his tracks and pulled him down to the couch. "If you don't sit down, I'm going to have to dart you."
He sat, but his entire body screamed of tumult. Napoleon took his hand in both of his and turned him to look him in the eyes.
"I know it's rough, Illya, but it will be over soon. We'll get the red tape started and soon you'll be an American. You'll have to stop looking over your shoulder, then," he kidded the stoic agent. "And, of course, start paying taxes..." he trailed off as a look of intense sorrow passed over his friend's face. Napoleon tightened his grip on Kuryakin's hand. "What, Illya? What is it?"
Illya got up and went to the darkened window, staring out into the blackness. It seemed a fitting subject since his heart was just as bleak. Napoleon went to him and wrapped supporting arms around his waist, hooking his chin on Illya's shoulder. After a moment he turned his friend around and searched the drawn face for an answer.
Solo was taken aback to see tears in the Russian's eyes. They did not fall: he had never seen him cry, but they were unmistakably there. He drew closer to the smaller man and caressed his cheek. "Tell me, Illyusha."
Illya dropped his head at the endearment and almost cried aloud. A moment later he spoke very softly.
"That's just it, Polya. I'll be an American. Not a Russian. Not anymore and not ever again. I don't know if I can..." He stopped and a tear coursed down his pale cheek. Napoleon kissed it away and pulled his lover into his arms. Illya resisted for a beat and then leaned into him, grateful for the support.
"I'm sorry, Illya. I didn't think how this would affect you. If you want to change your mind, I'll understand." Napoleon said the words but his heart screamed for a retraction.
Illya pulled back and searched Napoleon's face. "As much as I will miss my homeland, Polya, I would miss you so much more. No, I won't change my mind. I will carry my love for Russia in my heart and in my soul always, just as I do the love I have for you." He laid his head on Solo's shoulder and they quietly mourned the loss together.
Minutes later, Illya searched for Napoleon's lips and guided him back down onto the couch, needing the warmth of his body to comfort him. Napoleon started gently, then hungrily stroked and aroused the passion in his lover. He wanted Illya to forget, at least for a short time, what lay ahead of him tomorrow. He encouraged Illya to undress and did the same. Solo stretched Kuryakin out on top of him and felt the answering need in his lover's body. He growled his approval and rained kisses on his chest and nipples. Illya moaned and arched like a cat, thrusting his erection against Napoleon's with a quick jerk. Carefully, Napoleon reversed their positions and settled between Illya's legs, reaching to take the heavy flesh into his hand.
Illya's long neck stretched back and he closed his eyes at the pleasure Napoleon lavished upon him. He looked down at his lover just as he felt the heat of Solo's mouth find him. Illya whimpered and fought the urge to thrust, wanting this interlude to last.
Napoleon sensed the change in his partner and took his time pleasuring him. Instead of stoking the fire he merely kindled it and watched the results with mounting desire. No one had ever made him feel the way his Russian tiger did. He marveled at the feelings but didn't try to analyze them out of existence. He only knew he had to please this man, love him, or die trying.
Kuryakin was wanton with desire at this point, moaning his lover's name and begging with his eyes for more. Napoleon slid a wet finger into the pale flesh below him and stroked leisurely. A little too leisurely, as Illya demonstrated by thrusting hard onto his hand.
"Na. pol. eon. Please..." Illya grated out from clenched teeth as he tried to pull Solo's sweating body down onto him.
"Oh, I will, Illyusha, I will." Solo grinned seductively as he plundered Illya's mouth while his finger sent shivers of delight through the blond's body. Illya kissed back hungrily, trying to keep the mobile tongue captive with his own. Too soon, Solo pulled away and before Illya could protest the loss, he felt the incredible white heat of impalement thrill through him. He arched back and screamed, "Yes..." as he was driven into the couch by Solo's weight. Napoleon placed one leg at a time over his shoulders and began thrusting into the smaller man with a slow, methodic rhythm. Seeing the rapture on the pale face was almost enough to make Napoleon come, but he held back and deepened the gliding motion to insure Illya's pleasure.
Illya felt the deep stroking stimulate him internally in small shocks and almost wept with delight. Napoleon returned to his mouth and the oral mastery almost drove him out of his mind. No one, man or woman, had ever kissed him the way his Napoleon did. Between the two assaults he was almost incoherent with desire.
Napoleon quickened his tempo and knew he would not last much longer in the velvet warmth of his lover's body. As he neared the edge he looked down at Illya and grunted, "Gonna come, lyubov..." as he gathered the weeping cock in his hand and stroked him higher and faster with every touch. "Come with me, Illya..." As his lover's name left his lips, the first ripples of his climax raced along his nerve endings and he shouted hoarsely, Illya's simultaneous howl echoing in his roaring eardrums.
Time seemed to suspend itself, and the only sound was that of two men panting their way back from the brink of mutual oblivion. Napoleon came to his senses first with enough awareness to withdraw and slide off Illya's cramped body. The groan their separation wrought emanated from Illya but was echoed in the depths of Solo's being. Napoleon drew the sated and sweaty body of his lover into his arms, and they spooned together on the narrow couch. It was a tight fit, but neither man cared.
Just as Illya was drifting, he kissed Napoleon's shoulder and sighed. "If this is what it's like to be an American, sign me up."
Napoleon smiled against the soft skin of Illya's cheek and listened to the gentle exhalations that told him his lover was blissfully asleep.
October 4th, 1959
Illya finished hammering the wooden planks together and stepped back to check the work. Pleased, he carried the finished bookshelf into his bedroom and placed it against the wall next to his dresser. He pulled his treasured books from the battered suitcases and carefully arranged them alphabetically by author, the way he liked it.
He sighed and perused the bedroom. It certainly looked more like home to him now with the addition of the bookcase. He had enough wood to make one more for the living room, and started on it immediately. He glanced at the stack of library books on his kitchenette table and smiled. It still amused him that they had let a Russian national take so many and use an American's card to get them to boot. He thought America was a wonderful place. He liked it even better than England, which had been nice enough, but its people had been much more aloof and unapproachable than he could fathom.
It had been a lonely and frustrating time at Cambridge, but his studies had kept him sane, and the KGB had been delighted when he'd graduated magna cum laude. The assignment to U.N.C.L.E.-London had come as no surprise, and he'd done the best he could given the circumstances. The loneliness remained, however, and had finally prompted him to request a transfer. He was shocked when it had been approved so quickly. Perhaps London hadn't been happy to have a Russian in their family, either.
So it was all the more puzzling to him to have been greeted so warmly and openly by the New York office, and by the C.E.A. especially. Illya shook his head at the thought of Napoleon Solo, the suave American, taking his partnering in stride and allowing the fledgling agent under his competent wing.
Illya had read Solo's file and knew the tour he'd taken in Korea. Of all people, he had expected Napoleon to be leery or at least suspicious of a KGB operative. The unabashedly friendly agent had sneaked under Illya's radar at the start and hadn't allowed him to erect his stoic Slavic barriers in time. It was much too late now to do so, and Illya was extremely grateful for the friendship.
His mind wandered as he thought of the dark-haired, dark-eyed man, and a blush crept up his neck as he imagined one possible turn of their friendship. The blond shook his head and reminded himself to live in the present. He remembered his grandmother saying, "Better to have a good friend than a bad lover." He smiled at the memory of his babushka and a wave of homesickness washed over him with fever intensity.
It was too quiet in the apartment. He wished for a radio and promised that he would treat himself with his first paycheck. Just as he picked up the hammer the doorbell rang. Sighing, he tried to shake off the melancholy that had settled upon him like one of London's famous fogs.
Spying through the peephole, Illya felt the sadness drift away like a receding ocean wave. Napoleon was staring back at him, a cocky grin on his face, arms loaded down with brown parcels.
He heard his muffled voice through the solid door, "Thrush delivery service. We please to aim."
Illya laughed as he unlocked the door and waved Solo in. He had obviously been home for he had changed into an oxford shirt and chinos. Illya was taken aback, as he had never seen the senior agent in anything but an impeccably tailored suit. Solo thrust a box at his partner and said, "Well, don't just stand there gawking. Help me unload this stuff, will you?" Illya jerked back to the present and carried the parcel to the table. Napoleon had one more in his arms and another in the hall.
"What is all this?" Illya asked carefully.
"Just some odds and ends I've been meaning to get rid of. Might as well let you look through it before I give it away." He grinned at Illya and took in the ongoing carpentry. "Domesticating, are we? Feathering the nest?"
"Never say 'feathering' to an U.N.C.L.E. agent, Napoleon," Illya chided. "Besides, I had to have some place for my books."
"Yes, of course. And now you'll have to find some place for this, too." Napoleon drew a compact record player out of the last box and flipped open the cover. He heard a gasp from Illya at the discovery.
Solo kept the grin from his face as he downplayed the gift. "It was sitting in storage at my place, anyway, Illya. You have a use for it?"
The Russian picked up the turntable, taking great care with it, and immediately began checking the functions and testing the cartridge. A minute later, he plugged it in and disappeared into his bedroom. He returned with one of the two jazz albums he had managed to bring over intact. His hands shook slightly as he placed the record on the spindle and set the arm. Charlie "The Bird" Parker began to fill the quiet apartment.
Illya's face took on a look of intense joy as he closed his eyes and listened. Napoleon had seen the battered album covers in Illya's suitcase and knew he had nothing to play them on. He vowed to never let on that he had given Illya his own personal record player. He could replace the machine: he could never replace the joy this simple gift obviously gave his new partner.
Illya seemed to be oblivious of everything else but the jazz strains coming from the record. He started guiltily a moment later.
"I'm sorry, Napoleon. It's been so long since I've been able to play this. I bought the albums in London and couldn't leave them behind, even if I didn't have anything to play them on." His shy smile was enough to make Napoleon's heart do an odd flip-flop, and he wondered at its cause.
Uneasy, Napoleon began to unpack the remains of the boxes. He concentrated on his task and tried to tell himself it was just the excitement of pleasing his partner that made the room seem uncomfortably warm.
Illya had no such behavioral constraints as he oohed and ahhed over each item the American deemed to classify as rubbish; a toaster, a set of old dishes, some mismatched towels, pots and pans, and a chessboard.
The last item had him backpedaling a bit. "Napoleon, really, this is too much. I can't accept this." He fingered the onyx chess pieces carefully and hefted one, feeling the solid weight in his palm.
"Now, Illya, it's bad form to try to give back a present. Besides, what's a Russian without a chess set?" Napoleon reached into the last box and pulled out an ice-cold bottle of Stolichnaya. He grinned widely. "Or a bottle of Stoli?"
Illya sat on his haunches for another moment. His eyes were misty for some reason and Napoleon's image wavered for a moment. He blinked rapidly and got up quickly. Napoleon watched him go to the kitchen ostensively for glasses but knew enough to give him a moment of privacy.
He placed the chess pieces on the board and set it on the coffee table, then sat on the couch and waited for his opponent to return.
Kuryakin's eyes were slightly red but he had a warm smile on his face. "Thank you for all the wonderful things, Napoleon." He looked down at his feet. "Forgive my emotional display. It's just that no one has ever welcomed me like this before." He looked up at Napoleon through the blond fringe of his bangs and the brightness of his smile seemed to blind Napoleon to anything else for a brief moment. Solo decided to test one of the theories that had been forming in his mind the last two days or so.
He stepped closer to the younger man and asked huskily, "Has anyone ever welcomed you like this, Illya?" The apartment seemed to shrink around them as Napoleon drew his partner into his arms and tasted the full lips for the first time.
Illya was caught off guard as he stiffened in the embrace for the barest of moments, then relaxed into the kiss. His Solo fantasy seemed to be coming true sooner than he'd hoped. Napoleon released him and pulled back to look at the features of the surprised agent. Illya licked his lips as if to keep the taste of Solo on his tongue and that one act sent a shock of electricity singing through the American.
Bright spots of color were decorating Kuryakin's pale cheeks and his eyes were an even deeper blue close up. Solo took one wrist and pulled the smaller body against him, noting the rapid heartbeat beneath his thumb.
A smile that was half predatory and half encouraging ran across Napoleon's face and he leaned close to one ear and purred seductively, "Welcome to America, Illya Nickovetch." He began a slow inventory of Section Two's newest member, starting at his eyebrow and continuing to his ear lobe.
"You, mmm, are the 'welcome wagon' are you not, Napoleon?" Illya teased. He pulled his partner's head back to his lips and grazed them with his tongue. "I am certainly beginning to feel welcome."
"By the time I'm done with you you'll feel like part of the family," Solo said as he nibbled his way across the fine cheekbones.
Illya moaned softly at the contact and closed his eyes in contentment. "You mean, like an uncle?" he quipped, opening his eyes and gazing laughingly at the dark-haired agent.
Napoleon groaned at the remark and silenced Illya by the simple expedient of covering his mouth with his own. As he felt the slippery intrusion of Solo's tongue, Illya decided that silence was indeed golden.
October 26, 1962
Illya sighed as he remembered their first lovemaking. Napoleon had surprised him with his passion, and he had surprised himself by matching it. He glanced over at his lover and smiled at the answering grin.
"A penny for your thoughts, lyubov." Napoleon leered at him and turned his attention back to the road where it belonged.
"I believe these particular thoughts are worth much more than a penny, Polya." He blushed as he looked out the window at the buildings rushing by. Though he could name them one by one, he had never felt like he was at home in this sprawling city. He only felt that way when in his apartment or in his lover's arms.
He felt Napoleon's hand take hold of his and he grasped it gently. He surprised Napoleon by bringing it up to his lips and kissing the back. Illya had never been one for public demonstrations.
Shaken by the uncommon display his partner asked, "Are you all right, Loosha?" Napoleon knew the bureaucratic wrangling they had just been through had taken its toll on the slighter man.
"I'm fine, Polya. Don't fuss."
"Define 'fine', Illya. One never knows with you. 'Fine' as in, 'I'm bleeding from a gunshot wound,' or 'Fine' as in, 'I've just had sex with the great and astounding Napoleon Solo?'"
Illya did laugh then, a full-throated sound that Napoleon heard too rarely in his opinion.
"Oh, Polya, I do love you," he admitted, stroking the paw he held in his lap.
Napoleon drove on in silence, incredibly content.
In due time, Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin was officially granted American citizenship. The papers had come by courier to Mr. Waverly and he had summoned his two agents to his office.
As the men filed in and took their customary seats, Waverly smiled at them and recalled a previous meeting and the reason for it.
"Well, gentlemen. This is a much happier occasion than our last conference, no?" He spun the turntable to deposit the telegram directly in front of Kuryakin. The agent picked it up, scanned it, and handed it to his partner to read. Solo did so as a large smile broke out on his face.
"Congratulations, Mr. Kuryakin." Number One, Section One stood and formally held out his hand to his young agent. Illya clasped it and swallowed hard at the overture from his staid boss. "Welcome to your new home, Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin." It was the closest Waverly had ever come to calling him by his first name, and Illya was nearly overcome by the gesture.
He felt Napoleon take his elbow and he turned to his partner. Solo's eyes were very bright as he shook Illya's hand. "Congratulations, partner." It was all he said, but it was more than enough.
They walked to their office slowly, as Illya was a bit dazed by the proceedings. Once inside, Napoleon grabbed him in a bear hug and kissed him on both cheeks, Russian style. Illya pretended to look affronted and sat down at his desk.
They tried to concentrate on reports, but every few minutes a co-worker or two would stop in to welcome the newest American. Illya took it all with good grace, but Napoleon was worried about his emotional state. By the end of the day, Illya was visibly strained. Solo took their coats and ushered Illya out the door at the earliest opportunity.
Well-wishers continued to offer comments as they left the building. Illya returned the greetings politely and thanked Rebecca at reception when she hugged him as he turned in his badge. They exited Del Floria's and found themselves alone at last, or as alone as one could be in a city of millions.
Napoleon raised his hand to flag a taxi, but Illya stopped him. "I'd like to walk home, Napoleon. Do you mind?"
The air was October crisp, and despite the turbulent political situation, it was a fine night for a walk. Napoleon said so and the two men set off for home. Illya was very quiet, and Napoleon didn't press him. He knew Illya had been stretched to his emotional limits today and let his friend set the pace.
When they reached the apartment building, Illya surprised him by sitting on the stairs. He had never seen Illya stoop-sit. He settled beside him and watched the neighborhood denizens going about them. Kuryakin was quiet and in a contemplative mood. At last he rose and offered Napoleon a hand up.
"I know I am an American now, Polya, but tonight I feel very Russian. Would you come inside and play chess with me and drink some very cold and very good Russian vodka?"
Napoleon thought back to another night like this and gazed tenderly at his lover. "I'd be honored to, Illya Nickovetch."
They walked up the stairs shoulder-to-shoulder, ready to face the brave new world together, like always.