The car came to a smooth stop in front of the manor house. Doyle killed the engine and leaned back with a long sigh.
"You okay?" Bodie asked.
Doyle turned, ready to tell Bodie, and the world at large, how sick he was of that question. The concern in the deep blue eyes stopped him, turned his anger into warm exasperation. "Just a little stiff."
The blue eyes flicked away, the emotions on the handsome face shutting down. Doyle frowned. Bodie had been turning away from him more and more in the past few weeks, not that Doyle could blame him; they'd been practically living together for the seven months since he'd been shot. If Bodie needed to retreat a bit, get his own life back, he certainly deserved it. There was a twinge of regret as Doyle realized he would miss their new formed closeness.
"Ray?" Bodie's voice snapped Doyle's attention back to the present. Bodie was regarding him with a concerned expression. "Sure you're okay?"
A rare smile lit the slanted eyes. "Fine, just day dreaming."
Bodie's face hardened. "Get yourself killed doing that, 4.5 -or have you forgotten that in the past seven months!" He swung out of the car, slammed the door, leaving a very surprised partner staring after him. Doyle sighed, it was doing to be a very long weekend.
Doyle climbed out as Bodie opened the boot and jerked their bags out. Doyle reached for his, only to be stopped by a cold glare. After five years as partners Doyle knew the easiest way to make Bodie happy was to let him have his way, so he dropped his hand and let Bodie carry both bags toward the house.
Cowley's description of the place as "a modest country estate" was in line with his normal understatement. The front lawn could have served as a soccer field; to the west a massive rose garden filled the spring air with fragrance, and from the stables in the back of the house came the soft nicker of horses demanding their lunch. A touch of envy went through Doyle and he berated himself for it. Only a few months ago he had been overjoyed to be alive, whole and with Bodie beside him.
The gravel crunched under their feet as they moved forward, both unconscious scanning the house for weaknesses and defenses.
"Baby-sitting," Doyle said in disgust as he knocked. "What a great way to start back."
"Have to start slowly," Bodie said firmly. "Don't worry, sunshine, you'll.. we'll soon be back as Cowley's top team." Doyle would have questioned the strange pause but Bodie plunged on. "Did it seem to you that the Cow was extremely pleased with himself when he was giving us this assignment? I wonder what..."
The massive oak door swung in and a familiar, accented voice said, "Good afternoon, gentlemen."
"Bloody hell," Doyle smiled, "Illya!" He extended his hand toward the blonde Russian. "How are you?"
"Fine." The UNCLE agent clasped the slender hand. "How are you, Ray? We heard about the shooting."
"Getting bloody tired of being asked how I am," Doyle said with more heat than he intended.
"Ignore him," Bodie said, shaking hands. "He's been confined too long. Where's your other half?"
"Upstairs, playing sheik." Illya picked up one of the bags.
"We're guarding an UNCLE agent?" Bodie asked in amusement.
Illya started up the stairs. "It may not be as easy as you think. I'll give you a chance to clean up then we'll go over it." He smiled. "Then I'll arrange an audience with his Highness."
The room he lead them to was as spacious as the rest of the house. Heavy, dark chairs rested next to green velvet curtains; a door to the left ran into what had started life as an enormous closet and was now a bath. The whole room was dominated by a four poster bed that was covered in the same fine green velvet. Bodie unceremoniously dumped his case on the bed. Illya sat the one he held on the floor.
"It's not that long of a drive," Doyle insisted. "Why don't you brief us as we unpack?"
Bodie turned, started to say something then jerked back to his case. Illya noted the move but didn't say anything, only made himself comfortable in one of the overstuffed chairs and cleared his throat.
"Sheik Mohammed Malosta started receiving death threats about two weeks ago during a visit to New York. UNCLE took over when the first bomb showed up."
"Bomb?" Bodie's voice went slightly higher than normal.
"There've been two so far. Obviously we found both."
"Obviously," the dark agent commented flatly.
Doyle came out of the bathroom. "I don't fancy disarming any bombs."
"There haven't been any since we arrived two days ago. But the phone calls started again last night."
"Solo's bait, is he?" Bodie nodded passing Doyle as he went into the bath.
"And two CI5 agents made the whole thing look more believable," Doyle concluded. "By the by, where is the real sheik?"
Illya smiled. "On his way to Las Vegas, to sample the night life."
The two British agents finished their unpacking. Doyle lay flat on the bed and stretched, moaning in pleasure as his spine cracked. He sat up to find Bodie smiling at him, a strange, soft smile, with a hint of something Doyle couldn't identify. But when he tentatively smiled back Bodie's eyes cooled again, became distant. Doyle almost reached out to him, stopped himself, knowing that Bodie didn't like to be touched.
Illya noticed the sudden tension in the air but merely said, "Ready to meet with his royal highness, the most exalted third son of His most royal highness Sheik al Kamimar, the ruling prince of..."
"How much longer does this go on?" Bodie queried. "I haven't had lunch yet, you know."
Doyle walked by and patted Bodie's stomach. "And civilization, as we know it, could end if he isn't fed properly."
Bodie smiled patiently back, and for just a moment things were back to before the shooting. "Growing boy, aren't I?"
Illya only raised one eyebrow. "Follow me."
The walked down the long hall, pass the stairs they had come up, to a double door at the opposite end. The blonde tapped twice. "Sheik Malosta, the English agents are here."
"You may enter." The voice was familiar, the accent was not. Illya opened the door, motioned the two CI5 agents inside.
If the room they had been given was large the one they entered was massive. And it was only the sitting room, through a door straight ahead they could see into the bedroom. A figure in white robes and stripped burnoose was standing next to a bar that dominated the side of the room.
The man turned around. "Welcome, honored gentlemen," Solo said in a fair imitation of an Arabian accent.
Bodie smiled. "Well, if it isn't Sheik Whatisname."
The dark haired American came across the polished floor. "Bodie." They shook hands and he turned toward Doyle. "Ray, how..."
"Don't ask," Illya and Bodie warned him.
"Yes, I can understand that," Napoleon admitted.
The UNCLE agent's good humor and relaxed manner made Doyle return the smile and answer the irritating question. "I'm fine, thank you."
"You had better luck with him than I did," Illya commented.
"I'm also good with wild beasts and small children," Napoleon explained.
Bodie laughed, ruffled his partner's wild curls. "That's the most concise description of Ray I believe I've ever heard."
Doyle glared at him as they followed Napoleon toward the bar and watched him pour four glasses of scotch. With a flourish of robes Napoleon took one of the chairs. "So, infidel dogs, what can I tell you?"
"How about who is trying to blow your royal arse out of England?" Doyle sipped his drink slowly.
"We don't think it's political," Solo told them. "The Sheik's part of the world is fairly stable, he treats his people well and isn't involved in anyone else's mess."
"He does have two weaknesses," Illya picked up, "horses and women."
"Only you would consider those weaknesses, Illya," Napoleon quipped.
Illya ignored the jab. "Okay, maybe not the horses. But the women, or should I say, woman."
"Jealous husband?" Bodie inquired, giving Doyle a leer.
"Jealous suitor," the blonde answered. "It seems the Sheik would like to pick up another wife, to join the three he already has, but is having some competition from a neighboring Sheik."
"But we can't prove anything," Napoleon added.
"MO?" ex-copper Doyle's asked.
"Phone calls telling him to leave things alone, but not saying what things, and the two bombs. One came in the mail, er, post..."
"We're just lucky it didn't go off en route," Illya added.
"And the other was under his BMW."
Bodie sneered. "Amateurs."
"Or someone who wants us to think so," Doyle glanced over at his partner. "Can't get too cocky."
"We have two other agents on the grounds, one is the stable master and the other is the gardener. They take turns checking the mail." Napoleon drained his glass, stood up and poured himself another with out offering the others any.
"Two of us will patrol the grounds while one stays with his royal highness," Illya said.
Bodie took the hint, stood up and shook Doyle's arm. "Time to get our hiking boots, Ray."
Behind them Napoleon and Illya exchanged quick glances. Napoleon scratched casually at the side of his nose. "It might look better if one of you were inside."
"Doyle stays with me."
The statement was low and final. The normalcy that had taken over while discussing the case vanished like summer lightning.
Doyle's temper flared, he stood up, closed the distance between the two of them. "Bodie! Damnit, I am not..."
One look at Bodie's set face cooled his anger. There was fear there; the same fear Doyle had seen as he fought to stay alive on the floor of his flat, the same fear that Bodie had tired so hard to hide during the past seven months. Doyle reached out and gripped Bodie's tense arm.
"Bodie," he knew now was not the time, "it'll be okay."
With a quick lowering of his eyes, Bodie shrugged off the hand on his arm. "Yeh," he agreed with a strange smile, "you go on, Doyle."
The sudden concession and loss of touch disturbed Doyle, but he could see Illya watching him intently from the door. It was harder than he would have thought to turn away and follow the Russian out.
Napoleon watched Bodie force himself to relax, to turn away from the closed door. He smiled at the British agent. "If I remember from those long hours waiting for our respective partner's to get out of the hospital, you play a mean game of backgammon."
The smile the other man gave him was genuine, if a bit distant. "I cheat."
"So do I."
"Lead the way, mate."
A breeze, touched by roses, had come up while they were inside. It was a beautiful summer day. Doyle didn't notice. He noticed the things that were important; the gardener on his knees in the roses brushes, the clear perimeter and closed gate, but his thoughts kept going back to Bodie. Beside him Illya kept the silence.
They rounded the back of the house and the smell of fresh hay and wood shavings covered the roses. A tall, heavy set man wearing tweed jodhpurs and a matching hat, was lunging a gray pony in the yard. He waved at the two agents and Illya returned the gesture.
"Jackson, a good man," he commented to Doyle.
"Just the six of us here?" Doyle asked.
"How did you and Napoleon end up here? What happen to the recruitment only idea?"
"Boredom set in," Illya answered blandly. Warily he added, "And it seemed like an simple assignment."
"Napoleon would say, 'I have a bad feeling about this.'"
"And what would you say?"
"That there are wolves out tonight."
Doyle smiled. "I'd say that there's something about this case has my neck itching."
Illya was silent for just a second before he said, "Seems to be bothering Bodie, too." He knew he was going for a nerve and was please when Doyle responded as he had expected.
"Bodie's had a rough time of it," Doyle defended. With a touch of weariness he added, "Can't blame him for being a bit.. protective; he's had to take care of his invalid partner for a long time. Can't blame him for wondering if I'm able to handle it."
Illya watched the green eyes scan the grounds. He wondered if Doyle really thought that was the problem. Without warning he changed the subject. "Well, I'm sure you're fit, if what I've heard about your Mr. Macklin is half true."
Doyle smiled and winced at the same time. "Oh, it's all true mate, and I've got the bruises to prove it." He pointed toward a stand of trees. "Has one of you blokes gone through the woods there?"
Illya shook his head. "After you."
Napoleon watched as Bodie checked his watch again. Casually he shook the dice out. "Be dark soon. They'll be in then."
Blue eyes looked up, complete innocence in their shading. "Wasn't worried about them. Was just wondering when dinner was is all?"
The older man laughed. "We had lunch; we had a mid afternoon snack, then we had tea and cake; which, by the way I don't believe is in the CI5 contract, then," he rattled an empty biscuit tin, "you finished off my cookies..."
"Biscuits," Bodie corrected, taking his turn with the dice and moving.
"Cookies," Napoleon insisted. "They were from America, I brought them, that makes them cookies. What this all comes down to is, where the hell do you put it all without getting a spare tire?"
Blue eyes went wide. "A what?"
"A roll?" Napoleon tried, then indicated a circle of fat around his waist. "You know, fat."
Bodie grinned like a cheshire cat. "Ah, well, it's all the natural energy I have, got to keep it fueled." His smile faded, and he quietly added, "I haven't been snacking as much lately."
Seeing the change in mood but not the reason for it Napoleon asked, "Why not?"
"Didn't have anyone to do it with, did I? Doyle," Bodie said evenly, "was on a strict diet."
Silence filled the space between them. Napoleon didn't push, knowing from the short time they had been together before that Bodie would talk when he was ready and not before. He picked up the cup, dumped the dice and smiled when he saw their lay.
"I win again." It was his third win out of four games. They were both cheating but Bodie wasn't doing very well at it.
Bodie only nodded.
"That was the waste of a good day," Doyle complained as he tossed his pants against the chair.
He and Illya had come in just before dark. The alarms, already double and triple checked, were turned on in the house and everyone settled in.
"The walking should be good for you," Bodie commented flatly.
"I'm tired of things that are good for me," Doyle answered just as blandly, starting on his shirt. Wistfully he added, "I want to get completely pissed, or take on three bikers at once, or three birds at once." He smiled over at Bodie, waiting for some rude commitment.
Bodie was silent, staring at the still clear scars on Doyle's chest. As Doyle watched the look on his partner's face went from sorrow to cold detachment.
"Bodie, we have..."
"Goodnight, Doyle." Bodie rolled over, pulled the quilt over his shoulder.
Knowing that if he pushed now it would mean a long, hard fight Doyle took several deep breaths to control his temper; he didn't want to fight with Bodie. He lay down on the other side of the bed, feeling very alone in the room.
Bodie was already down to breakfast when Doyle woke up. Doyle joined him as he was finishing and they ate in silence.
"Because I'm bored silly," a sharp American voice carried through the door to the two British agents.
Bodie actually smiled at Doyle. "Our sheik is starting to sound like you, Ray."
They opened the doors to find the two UNCLE agents glaring at each other over a well laden, breakfast cart. The two older men looked up, then at each other, but neither moved.
Bodie ambled slowly over to the cart and helped himself to danish. "Now then, gentlemen," he said between chewing, "what seems to be the problem?
"The Sheik, who seems to think he is bullet proof, would like to go for a morning ride," Illya said harshly.
"The Sheik," Napoleon countered coolly, "intends to be bullet proof, and is going for a morning ride."
"Sounds like a good idea to me," Bodie said.
"Why?" Illya asked warily.
Before Bodie could state his reason Napoleon restated his. "Because we have had no contact for two days now, because none of the threats before involved a rifleman and because if I don't get out of this room I'm going to go nuts."
"Yeh," Bodie jerked his head toward the dark American, "what he said."
"And because," Doyle added seriously, "if there is someone out there this will flush them. Then we can wrap this up and go home."
"That, too," Napoleon said calmly, staring at his smaller partner.
After a second's hesitation Illya reluctantly nodded, then turned and went into the closest. He reappeared carrying two kevlar, wrap around vests. He hand one to Napoleon, started to hand one to Bodie. Doyle's hand flashed out and took it before Bodie could move. Illya stepped back out of the way.
Bodie shook his head, extending his hand for the vest. "No way, Doyle. We established yesterday that I stay with his Highness."
"I'm the better rider, Bodie. We both know that." He started to put on the vest. "And you're the better rifleman. We'll gallop around the ground to the south, you can cover us from here with the armalite."
Bodie jaw tightened, but by his silence Doyle knew he had won. He had decided that if, like when they had first been teamed he had to prove himself then that's what he would do. Maybe then everything would get back to normal. Bodie was slipping further and further away and it scared him. When he met the blue eyes he found a weary, resigned look that confused him; as if Bodie wanted him to go out and do well, but was afraid of it at the same time. For the second time in a as many days Doyle fought away the urge to reach out to him.
"Don't worry, mate," Doyle said, "just keep an eye out and we'll be fine."
Napoleon pulled part of his burnoose up to cover his face, winked once at this blonde partner and lead the way out.
Bodie and Illya immediately moved toward the closest to pull out the long range rifles. Bodie slammed the cartridge home. When he straightened up Illya had finished checking his own rifle and was watching him.
"It's tough, isn't it?" he asked quietly.
Bodie purposely misunderstood the question. "What is?"
"Getting back to normal."
"What would you know about it?" Bodie said ruthlessly.
"I know all about it," Illya said levelly. "It cost me my partner for fifteen years."
Bodie's head snapped up, but Illya had moved away toward the window.
This time Doyle did notice the beautiful day, the feel of the fine animal under him. He had always loved horses, had promised himself long ago that if he lived long enough to retire he would have one. He fancied Arabians especially, feeling a certain kinship with the small, agile creatures. He vaguely wondered if Bodie would like one too. Bodie reminded him more of a Lippazaner, big, massive but still graceful. He sobered, for the first time wondering if Bodie would even still be with him after this assignment. He pushed the thought firmly away.
Napoleon watched the play of emotions over the face of his young guard. "Bodie's still worried about you," he said.
"Got a right to be, doesn't he?" Doyle found himself defending his partner again. "You and Illya have an annoying habit of asking the same question too many times."
Napoleon was the soul of innocence. "Really. I hadn't noticed." Seriously he added, "I consider Bodie to be a friend, we spent a lot of time together waiting for you two to mend."
Doyle shrugged. "It's hard to go from wet nurse back to partner." He grew more introverted. "I put him through hell."
The American was silent as they round the corner of the house, faced the open field. After a minute Doyle said softly, "I've tried to give him the time to get his life back, to get away a bit. There are times when things are almost normal, then it's like he remembers he is suppose to be pulling away and he goes all cold and aloof on me."
"You think that's all he needs?" Napoleon asked casually, "To get more of his own life back?"
Doyle glanced over at him. "What else would it be?"
"He's your partner, you tell me." Deep brown eyes caught sea green ones. "I'll tell you this, if you can't figure it out he won't be your partner for long." Without warning Napoleon suddenly said, "Race you to the trees!" And galloped off, leaving Doyle to grab at the mane as his horse followed the first.
"That was a damn fool thing to do," Bodie complained as he watched Doyle just barely catch his balance.
"He won't break if he falls off," Illya said.
Bodie leaned away from the window, knowing he'd been caught again. The two men continued to study the surrounding area but there were only the two men below cantering in slow circles and the far green hills around them.
Casually he asked, "What happened with you and Napoleon?"
"I had a building fall on me," Illya said bluntly. "We were evacuating Vienna HQ because of a bomb threat, only it was more than a threat and I didn't get out in time."
The Russian shifted to get a better look at the field beyond the two riders. "Napoleon took care of me after I was released from the hospital." Even now a touch of confusion still shaded his voice as he said, "The night before our first assignment back together, he called and said he had resigned."
Bodie waited, but Illya was silent. Finally he asked, "Did he give you a reason?"
Light blue eyes flicked over to him. "Some rambling thing about getting too old and having a desire to do something else."
Again he was silent, forcing Bodie to ask the question. "What do you think his real reason was?"
Blue met blue unflinching this time. "The same as yours; fear." Before Bodie could voice a denial Illya stood up. "They're headed around to the barn, Williams and Jackson will pick them up there."
Napoleon slowed his horse to a walk and waited for Doyle to come up beside him, then he waved toward the two men upstairs and they started an easy walk back toward the barn.
Without any warning Doyle said, "Bodie cares too much. He's scared it will happen again."
"Maybe," Napoleon said blandly.
They rounded the last corner of the house and the barn came in sight. The tall man waved at them.
"You realize, of course," Napoleon continued in the same voice, "that we could be in big trouble here."
"You mean just because 'Jackson' was waving with his left hand.." Doyle started.
"And Jackson is right handed," Napoleon finished.
The horses ambled closer to the barn. "Three choices," Doyle said with a false smile, "the way we came, the woods or the front of the house."
"Could be more of them in the woods, or back the way we came." Napoleon stopped, let his horse drop its nose to the ground. "The only cover near the house is the brushes and our partners."
"Who may still be upstairs, thinking that Jackson has us covered on this side." He smiled over at Napoleon, gestured with a flourish. "Your choice, mate, age before beauty."
Brown eyes grimaced at him over the burnoose. "I'll be gracious and pretend I didn't hear that." He tugged the horses head up, tightened the reins just a bit.
Doyle settled himself a little deeper into the saddle, his horses head came up as it sensed the change in attitude of its rider. The nod between the two agents was infinitesimal. They heeled the horses hard, spinning them at the same time toward the front of the house. There was a shout from behind them and a split second later gunshots broke the summer calm.
Bodie was halfway down the stairs with Illya only a step behind him when the too familiar sound shattered the peaceful day. They moved, sprinting down the stairs, hands going for the guns under their arms. Illya reached the door first, threw it open, ducked back as a shot hit the door frame. Galloping hard across the lawn, weaving, were two horses, their riders hanging to their necks, crouched against the hail of rifle bullets.
Napoleon was in the lead by only a few yards; he turned his horse just at the edge of the gravel drive, bailing off the opposite side at the same instant. He hit the ground in a roll, came to his feet. Doyle came down only a few yards behind him. The assailants knew what they were doing, no bullets came near Doyle as they tried for the Sheik. Doyle shoved Napoleon ahead of him, firing haphazardly over his shoulder. Covering fire erupted from the house as their two partners pinpointed the assassin.
Five feet from the meager safety of the brushes Napoleon jerked back, went to his knees. Doyle grabbed him under one arm, hauling him up and forward; they crashed through the hedges. Bullets clipped the branches, raining debris down on them. The returning fire died down as Bodie and Illya waited for their partners to get ready for the final dash.
"Okay?" Doyle asked Napoleon as the noise died down.
Napoleon arched back, winced. "I believe I'll have some great bruises tomorrow." He peeked over the greenery. "Well, mission accomplished."
"Oh yeh," Doyle agreed sarcastically, "we did a lovely job of drawing them out."
Napoleon smiled at him, ducking against another assault of shots. "Anything for an interesting life."
"On the count?" Doyle inquired.
"Right in front of you," Napoleon assured him.
Doyle took a glance toward the front of the house. From his angle it was impossible to see Illya or his partner. It didn't matter. Bodie always claimed he had good lungs. He looked at Napoleon, held up one finger ... two fingers ... he stood up...
Shots opened up from the door, Doyle's .38 blending with them. Napoleon moved, ran weaving and crouched. He took a dozen strides, then a sharp right and disappeared from view. As soon as he was out of sight the shooting stopped. Not being one to believe in good fortune Doyle still fired as he sprinted the last distance and flew into the house. Bodie grabbed him as he started to slide on the marble floor, yanked him behind the solid wall.
For the shortest of minutes Bodie held his arm, his grip so tight Doyle had to stop himself from crying out. Green eyes tried to search blue but Bodie had turned away, releasing him without a word.
"I'll refrain myself from saying 'I told you so.'" Illya told his partner dryly.
"I would be grateful," Napoleon admitted.
Bodie only smiled wolfishly. "At least you..."
"Drew them out," Doyle finished for him.
A hail of bullets sent the four agents to the floor. "Shit," Bodie commented, "that was from a different angle."
The shots died, leaving an ominous silence to claim the area. Napoleon peeked cautiously around the window. "They're gone."
Without a word Illya suddenly crawled over and grabbed the telephone. He held the receiver toward them. "Dead."
"Uh, oh," Napoleon said softly, reaching into his pocket just as Bodie reached for his R/T.
Napoleon flipped open his small radio, a high pitched whine answered him and he shut it with a grimace. The sound didn't stop when he shut it though, it continued to issue from Bodie's R/T. Mumbling in Russian Illya came back to them and snatched Napoleon's radio out of his hand.
"Now, this is really too much," he protested. "They are jamming our signals."
Calmly Napoleon looked across at Bodie. "He hates it when his toys don't work." Seriously he added, "Gentlemen, I suggest we start battening down the hatches. It looks like rough water ahead."
"Holing up here might appeal to you, mate," Bodie informed him, "but I've done it before and will decline the offer. I say we make a run for the car; even if they follow, we stand a better chance of outrunning them than four of us trying to hold the whole house."
Behind him Illya had started pulling the shutters closed. "That would be the better part of valor except," he looked over at Bodie, "what would you expect the Sheik to do if he knew he was surrounded and cut off?"
"Make a run for the car, of cour... which is wired to blow the minute he grabs the handle." Bodie concluded.
Doyle smiled at his partner's disgusted look. He came across and put an arm around the square shoulders. "You take the back hall, I'll do the kitchen and servants entrance."
Fifteen minutes later all four of the agents came back into the main hall. No one needed to ask if everything was secure.
"What now?" Bodie questioned.
Napoleon crooked his finger at them and lead them toward the back of the room to what looked like a coat cupboard. It was misleading, when he opened the door LED's and telltales winked at them, two video screens rotated pictures of the different doors, windows and halls of the house, the rose garden and front entrance.
Bodie smiled at Napoleon. "You, mate, have been holding out on us."
"It's always a good idea in our business to keep a few secrets," the American told them.
"Let's just hope they don't figure it out and cut the power to the house as well as the phone," Illya told his partner.
"Pessimist. It's ten, we're due to check in at noon." He glanced over at Doyle. "UNCLE needs to be a little slow in getting the idea that we could be in trouble. How about your Mr. Cowley?"
Doyle looked a little sheepish, scratched the side of his nose, glanced over at Bodie for help, but Bodie was suddenly very intent on the monitors. "We have a reputation for not being very punctual."
"Which means?" Illya asked.
"If check in is at noon," Doyle thoughtfully chewed on his lower lip, "he'll probably send someone round to check by three -four."
"Five - six hours of holding them off," Napoleon summed up.
"No worries then," Bodie said confidence.
"We're going to look awfully silly if they really have left and this is all for nothing," Illya told them.
"Illya," Napoleon pointed toward the monitor trained on the front gate, "I don't think that's going to be a problem. Two cars had pulled to the gate to be met by the fake Jackson who was on the inside. There were two men, all Arabs, in each car. They were carrying several Uzi's and a pump action over and under shotgun. As they watched Jackson blew the control box and the gate swung open.
"Nasty," Doyle said with a soft whistle. "Knows what he's about with explosives."
"Remind me, Illya," Napoleon told his partner, "to find out from the Sheik what the hell this is really about."
"Given up on the jilted lover idea, have you?" Bodie asked innocently. Doyle scowled at him.
"Looks like they're going to take some time about it," Illya noticed.
"Good, I always prefer a well planned attack to a haphazard affair," Napoleon explained patiently.
"Two of us here, two to carry down the weapons and ammo from upstairs," Doyle suggested, looking at the other three to confirm the plan. The two UNCLE agents nodded; Bodie ignored him.
"Illya will take first watch," Napoleon said.
In a bad, upper crust English accent, Napoleon explained, "You can't have the Crown Prince wandering about with holes in his shirt, old son."
"Sorry, my mistake."
"I'll bring down the weapons," he added seriously.
"I'll help," Bodie volunteered, his statement that he and Doyle stayed together apparently forgotten. Without so much as a glance toward his partner he started to follow the older man out.
Doyle touched his shoulder lightly, smiled at him. "No heroics, Bodie."
"Yeh, you, too." The smile Bodie returned was like that of a friendly stranger, a new man on the squad.
Doyle's spirits sank just a little more.
Napoleon slipped out of his shirt and the dirty burnoose, eased off the hot kevlar. Behind him Bodie whistled.
"I was impressed," Napoleon said dryly. He gestured toward the opposite side of the room. "Equipment's in the closet, in the trunk."
While Bodie hauled out the large trunk Napoleon pulled a white shirt out of the second closest nearest the bath. He turned and disappeared into the bath, a few seconds later Bodie heard water splashing against marble.
By the time Napoleon emerged, clean and refreshed, buttoning his shirt, Bodie was surrounded by a very respectable arsenal of guns and ammunition. He smoothly finished loading a clip.
"The UNCLE motto must be 'be prepared.'"
"One of many qualities we share with the Boy Scouts."
"Still looking for recruits?" Bodie asked easily.
Napoleon didn't look up from tying his tie. "Always." He finished, looked over at the British agent. "You plan on telling Doyle, or just running?"
Bodie glared at him. "I don't think that's any of your damn business."
"No, it's not," Napoleon conceded. "But that's never stopped me before."
Bodie would not be drawn out, went cold and silent. Napoleon watched him closely for a moment before turning toward a mirror to comb out his wet hair.
"Have you considered telling Doyle the truth?" he asked bluntly. In the silver framed mirror he watched Bodie flinch slightly, but he offered no answer.
Napoleon turned around, leaned against the edge of the antique dresser. His continued silence goaded Bodie into looking over at him. The two gazes met and held.
"You're in love with Doyle," Napoleon said softly.
Bodie's face remained impassive, but Napoleon saw the flicker of panic in the deep blue that he couldn't hide. Bodie tore his eyes away.
"We've already had this conversation, mate," Bodie reminded him in a friendly tone. "You and Doyle while waiting at hospital, then me and you..."
"That's not what I said," Napoleon crossed his arms in front of him. "I said you're in love with your partner."
Bodie came off the bed, his panic turning to soft, cold anger. "What the hell do I look like?"
"You look like someone who spent the last seven months watching the most important person in his life suffer." Napoleon's tone was touched with experience.
A flicker of pain crossed Bodie's handsome face.
"What are you afraid of Bodie?"
The anger in the bigger man vanished, lost under the honest concern. "Losing."
"You could try giving Doyle the benefit of the doubt." Napoleon said softly.
"Like you did Illya?" Bodie said harshly.
It was Napoleon who flinched this time, nodding marginally in concession. "Touché. I deserved that."
Napoleon slipped his coat on, came across and started gathering the weapons. Bodie helped him. Neither said anything more.
Doyle glanced once more at his watch. "They've been up there a while."
"Napoleon is probably talking."
The bland statement made Doyle chuckle. "It must be part of international teaming rules." In an commanding voice Doyle said, "One member of the team shall be a yakker."
Illya smiled at that. "Yes, except that, this is just a hunch mind you, but I think you're the talker."
Doyle shrugged. "No argument there. Trying to get anything out of Bodie is like pulling teeth." He grew serious. "Illya, in hospital you mentioned that you and Napoleon had separated... Christ, I sound like I'm talking about a marriage."
"You might as well be," Illya agreed.
"You separated for fifteen years." He ran a hand through his curls. "I don't mean to pry but, lately, Bodie's been... distant. I thought he just..."
"Here they come," Illya interrupted.
Doyle leaned forward, all but the job forgotten. He scanned the monitor. "They're going to try two men on a side."
Illya flicked a switch, picked up a mick. "Napoleon? Bodie?"
"What?" an American voice said from the door behind them.
The two whirled around to stare at their weapons laden partners. Doyle snatched an Uzi out of Bodie's hand. "It's about time."
Illya was changed angles on the hidden cameras. "It looks as though they plan on trying for windows twelve and seven; the front door, how novel, and the garden entrance."
"Bodie, top of the stairs," Napoleon ordered. "Doyle and I down here in the dining hall. Illya can stay here and use the intercom to let us know exactly which way they are coming in. We'll move into whichever room they try for; Bodie, can pick them off as they try to make it back to the trees."
"Sounds reasonable," Doyle agreed. "Let's go."
He turned around, looked up at Bodie. He wanted to say good luck or make some flip comment but the response he had received the last time stopped him. The feeling of awkwardness and loss made him sick. Without a word he slipped past him and out into the hall. Bodie stayed, studying the shots over Illya's shoulder for a second before hoisting his rifle and moving out.
They had barely arrived in position when Illya's first warning sounded throughout the house. "Doyle! One headed for the south window in the library. Napoleon, you have two coming up toward the north side, one's headed for the kitchen window. I can't tell where the other one is going yet, he's holding back."
Two shouts of acknowledgment came back to him.
Doyle rounded the corner of the library in time to see the edge of a pry bar appear under the solid shutters. He didn't wait to see his target. The Uzi rattled, destroying glass and wood and Doyle heard the too familiar sound of a man crying out in pain, then a thud as something heavy hit the ground. From somewhere in the house came the heavy boom of the .44 that Napoleon had been carrying.
"One down, Doyle." Illya's voice informed him through the tiny speakers. "The third man is headed... damn!"
Napoleon's voice sounded ghostlike across the house. "Illya?"
"They've taken out one of the cameras. The last man, I can't tell where...."
Glass and wood exploded inward from the window Doyle had just shot through, hurling shrapnel into the immaculate room. Pain lanced through Doyle's arm as he drove for cover behind a heavy stuffed settee. The combination of two showers of heavy bullets had obliterated the shutters and glass. Another rain of bullets sprayed the inside of the room, Doyle hugged tighter behind his cover, looking up just in time to see a dark suited figure dive through the window into the room.
The intruder surged to his feet, gun coming up, just as Bodie stepped full into the doorway.
"Bodie!" Doyle came to his feet firing blindly at the terrorists. Another gun spoke. Doyle's bullets struck home, knocking the man back into the window frame. Doyle whirled, afraid to see where the man's shots had gone. Bodie was staring at him from the door; a shelf of books next to his head had been chewed up by the barrage.
Dark blue and sea green met. Bodie smiled at his partner, the same smile he had used those few horrible times before when something had gone wrong and it was only Doyle's shooting that had saved him.
"Two down, seven to go," Bodie quipped.
Doyle gave him a rueful smile and felt time slip backwards to dark hallways and grassy knolls. Then Bodie's eyes moved, face going very white.
"You're bleeding." Bodie voice was hoarse.
Doyle followed his partner's eyes, noting with vague surprise the blood tickling down his arm. He tugged at the green shelve now going crimson. "Glass got me. It's not bad. You can help me..."
There was a whisper of sound. Doyle looked up - Bodie was gone.
Napoleon appeared in the doorway, looking back over his shoulder at the retreating man. He glanced at Doyle. "Everything all right?"
"No!" Doyle flared. He stalked past him, following Bodie. "But it will be."
Napoleon didn't say anything, just turned to secure the room.
When Doyle threw open the door to their room Bodie was checking his gun at the ornate desk. He didn't look up when Doyle slammed the door behind him. Trying to get his temper under control, Doyle paced the floor several times before he sat down and turned his attention to the man trying so hard to ignore him.
"Look, Bodie," he started slowly, "I know it's hard thinking of me as your partner again. But I am not an invalid. What does it take..."
"I'm resigning as soon as this one is over," Bodie informed him calmly.
Stunned silence filled the room. Doyle felt the world tilt under him. "Bodie..."
"UNCLE still needs men." Bodie came over and stood in front of Doyle, waited for him to look up. "Ray, it's nothing to do with thinking you're an invalid. It's just..."
The sorrow in the blue eyes and something in the soft, sad way Bodie's voice faded brought Napoleon's question back to Doyle - 'You think that's all Bodie needs?'
Doyle had his answer, and it was like sunshine after a long rain, blinding, sparkling; it was an answer he'd know all along, shown in the pain Bodie had tried to hide, the fear in twilight blue eyes.
While the calm wonderful thoughts tumbled through Doyle's mind Bodie stepped around him to sit on the edge of the bed and put the reloaded clip in his Browning. "Sorry, Ray," he said easily, "but it's for the best."
Doyle spun. "For the best!" He couldn't decide if he were going to laugh or cry or beat the hell out of his partner. "You stupid, bloody moron! What the hell gives you the right to decide what's best for us? You don't have the brains to get out of doors when people are shooting at you!"
Doyle didn't remember moving, but he was suddenly straddling Bodie's hips, pinning him to the feather bed. The kiss was hard, rough, full of desperation and relief. Cold reality kicked Doyle in the guts; he jerked away, staggering back three feet. Bodie pushed himself up on his elbows. They stared at each other across the six feet of dead space.
Reactions to his own recklessness, his overwhelming certainty of what Bodie wanted, shot through Doyle - shock mostly, but tinged with amusement. "Bodie... Christ, mate..." he put a hand over his mouth to cover the insane urge to laugh. "I didn't..."
Bodie moved, pushed off the bed and went pass Doyle like he wasn't there. All of the emotions playing along Doyle's nerves died, leaving him cold and empty. He'd been wrong. He waited for the fatal sound of the door closing. It didn't come.
Doyle forced himself to turn. Bodie had one hand on the door handle, the other splayed against the fine wood half-way up, his forehead rested on his outstretched arm. In five years as partners, Doyle had never seen Bodie look so hopeless and helpless.
"I never knew you were a coward, Bodie," he whispered.
"Neither did I," carried softly to him.
"I'm not letting you go, Bodie." Doyle came to him, touched the tense back lightly. "You can't run from me."
The bigger man turned to him, gentle hands cupped Doyle's face, wiped away tears he hadn't felt. In that instant Doyle knew, no matter what happened, Bodie and he would see it through together. Relief, hot and dizzying replaced the emptiness. He smiled, now all he had to do was convince his stubborn partner.
Bodie sighed. "Ray, I know you care, it won't help. It won't keep me from going round the twist every time you're hurt."
"Bodie," Doyle actually chuckled, "you've always gone loony when I'm in trouble."
"I never," Bodie protested automatically.
"Just like I do when you're in trouble," Doyle continued, pressing closer as Bodie's fingers traced along his broken cheek.
With a sudden twist Bodie shoved away, putting space between them. "Christ, Doyle, I can't! Do you know what it was like? What I went through when I found you lying in your flat? Do you..."
"I imagine," Doyle interrupted quietly, "that it was like what I felt when they wheeled you into hospital punched full of knife holes."
Bodie stared at him. "You've really cared that long, haven't you?"
"And you haven't?" Something changed in the room, shifting slowly with the smile that grew shyly across Bodie's face. Time went backwards again, and this time Doyle knew it would stay that way.
But he wanted to make sure his partner had his point. "Bodie, Napoleon and Illya spent fifteen years trying to get away from it, trying not to break the rules, trying to believe they didn't care. All they did was make themselves miserable. Let's not repeat their mistake."
Drawn by the glow in sea green eyes, Bodie tangled his hand in rich brown curls. "It's more than just care; I think I love you, sunshine."
"That's the first time you've called me sunshine since we've been back in the field," Doyle whispered softly, wrapping both arms around the strong body in front of him, mischief lit the green eyes. "What would it take to change that 'I think' into 'I know?'"
Still the pessimist Bodie said, "It can't be this easy, Ray."
Doyle only smiled. "Yes, it can."
The kiss was slow and gently, bonding them together.
Illya came in bearing a tray full of sandwiches and drinks. Napoleon glanced over his shoulder, then returned to staring at the monitors. "Merci, my good man, I'll see that you are tipped handsomely."
"Every little bit helps." Illya told him wisely, picking up his lunch. They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes. Illya gestured up. "They've been up there a long time."
Napoleon mumbled something incomprehensible around his roast beef.
"I hope they haven't killed one another," Illya commented.
"Can't," Napoleon said, "I took away their guns."
Illya chuckled at that, then stared thoughtfully at the floor.
"Illya?" Blue eyes came up to met Napoleon's. "What's wrong?"
It was not a question that was easy for Napoleon to ask. For too many years the question always had the same answer - "Fine." It didn't matter if Illya were hurt, or exhausted, or troubled. "Fine." But slowly, through the years the answer had changed, become more honest, more trusting. Until Napoleon resigned. Now, again, the answer was, "Fine."
For a fleeting moment Illya looked away and Napoleon thought he would get the usual answer. Then Illya looked back, and with a horrified mixture of dread and hope Napoleon knew what was coming.
"Napoleon, you didn't leave UNCLE because you were bored, did you."
The shock echoed along Napoleon's nerves, he took a deep breath and heard another question asked not long ago. 'Like you did Illya?' It was time for a choice, keep running or try a little truth.
Napoleon tugged at his lower lip, swallowed hard and looked up into the sky blue eyes. He was lost then in memories of laughter and danger, anger and relief. Struggling to frame his answer, to explain what he had been scared of, what he was still scared of, Napoleon watched the neutrality in the lovely eyes change to hope, then back to careful waiting. Napoleon would have to be the one to say the words they both needed.
He cleared his throat. "Illya..."
"Look out," Illya pushed passed him, pressed the button to move one of the cameras, "here they come again!"
Training covered Napoleon's relief that the question had been temporarily aborted. "I hope the other two are finished," Napoleon said as he hit the intercom switch. "Bodie. Doyle. We have several visitors requesting your attendance in the main hall."
"They are headed for the camera," Illya informed him calmly.
"Bloody hell," Bodie's voice carried quietly to them.
Reluctantly Bodie held up a clean shirt for Doyle. He had stripped off the bloodied one for Bodie to play doctor. Somehow, Bodie's jacket had come off as well, and his shirt lay open to the waist. Doyle gave his partner a loving, exasperated smile; he reached up and started buttoning the buttons he had just gotten undone. Bodie returned his smile, tucked Doyle's shirt back into his tight jeans. The kiss was soft, promising.
When they pulled back a shade of doubt colored Doyle's eyes. "Bodie..."
Bodie managed to look insulted. "No, Doyle, I won't change my mind."
Feeling an odd combination of relief and embarrassment Doyle kissed him lightly on the cheek, then sighed. "You know the trouble with most villains?"
"Timing." they answered together.
They sprinted out onto the landing in time to see Illya and Napoleon emerge from the surveillance room. They both had their Specials out; Illya had a grenade belt looped around one shoulder. Doyle drew his gun as they started down.
"They've cut the surveillance cameras," Napoleon shouted up. "We'll have to guess which..."
The explosion was deafening, shattering the two front windows, wrenching the solid, double door off its hinges and slamming it against the wall. The blast knocked Bodie's feet out from under him but he somehow grabbed the bannister with a hand and stay up. Doyle started to fall, felt a strong arm grab his waist, change his direction, and throw him into the bannister.
Gunshots followed the thunder, sounding like popguns over the ringing in their ears. Bodie started down, dragging out his gun, Doyle a step behind him. Below, Illya was on his stomach, firing through the gaping hole in the front wall. Napoleon was beside him, face down in the debris.
Doyle shoved pass Bodie. "Grab Solo!"
Staying low, weaving Doyle made it to the window, crouched next to the hole and fired carefully. He felt grim approval as one of the attackers went down. It gave Illya a chance to move, sliding across the floor to join him on the opposite side of the doors. Behind them Bodie hoisted the unconscious Napoleon up and over his shoulder.
"I see brawn does have it's uses," Illya quipped over a lull in the shooting. But the remark couldn't cover the concern in the light blue eyes.
"Ready?" Doyle asked.
Illya nodded, not arguing over who went first. "One..."
"Three!" Illya sprinted away, went halfway up the stairs and back into a crouch. "Go!"
Doyle surged up, fired three more shots then turned and made for the stairs, passing Illya, sliding safely down behind the top railing. Illya turned and made it up the last few stairs while Doyle gave him cover. From their position they could see Bodie through the two open doors laying Napoleon on the bed. The firing stopped. Illya reloaded while Doyle keep watch, then Doyle did the same.
"How many do you think are left?" Doyle questioned.
"You and Napoleon each got one yesterday," Illya reminded him. "And we each got one just now."
"Four," Doyle said wearily. "Halfway there, and three hours to go."
"I think from here on they will be more careful." Illya said as he slipped off the grenade belt and handed it to Doyle. "I'm going..."
"I know," Doyle told him quietly.
"I'm going to see if I can find some more cover for us here." Illya said evenly.
Illya went through the first set of doors. Once inside, the sight of his partner laying on the bed in the other room made the reason for his search fade and he found himself drawn into the room.
Bodie was loosen Napoleon's tie. There was a hastily retrieved bowl of water and face cloth on the table next to him. No blood was visible on Napoleon's face but when Bodie rolled him partial over a wide dark red stain showed on the white satin. Napoleon groaned. Illya drew closer, touched his partner's shoulder.
The soft shaky tone didn't arouse Napoleon but Bodie's head snapped up and he watched as Illya gently touched one square shoulder.
The bed creaked as Bodie sat down and touched the damp cloth to the back of the man's head. "He'll be okay." Bodie reassured Illya. "It looks worse than it is."
"That's what they always say," a quiet American voice informed them. "And do you two have to talk so loud?"
Illya smiled, then fought it down to a neutral look as brown eyes opened blurrily to look up at him. "Since it looks like I won't be needing a new partner, I'd better get out there and lend Doyle a hand."
He retreated quickly, closing the door behind him and leaving Bodie to tend Napoleon. Bodie watched him disappear, saw the sad, weary look that went over the other man's face; recognized it from the face that had stared back at him from the mirror the past few months. He finished wiping the cut, a little more roughly than was necessary, took Napoleon's hand and placed it over the pad.
"Hold that. Bleeding should stop in a moment."
"Is everyone okay?" Napoleon asked, struggling to sit up.
"Yes." Bodie said stiffly.
Napoleon looked over at him out of one eye. "Did I miss something or do you always get irritable after a firelight?"
"Cowardice irritates me."
"Coward..." Napoleon stood up, ignoring the headache that rattled him with the move. "What the hell are you..."
"You're in love with your partner," Bodie said firmly.
"What the fuck are you..." Napoleon's Midwestern accent came out as his anger grew. "That's my line. And of course I love my partner! We've been through..."
"That's not what I said," Bodie gave Napoleon back his words, crossing his arms in front of him. "I said you're in love with your partner."
With visible restraint Napoleon reined in his temper, reached for the loosened tie. "It seems to me that you should be the last one giving advise to the lovelorn, considering your record."
Bodie only smiled, glanced carelessly at his watch. "My record improved immensely about twenty minutes ago." He studied Napoleon for an intense moment. "You asked me what I was afraid of, when I said losing you assumed I meant Doyle."
Napoleon nodded carefully. Bodie shook his head.
"I was talking about myself."
Napoleon stared at him for a minute, then laughed shortly. "Maybe I'm too old a dog to learn new tricks."
"And maybe you're too goddman stubborn to break the rules!" Bodie snapped, then his eyes grew dark. "Or maybe you just won't risk the loss?"
The heavy chest Doyle was dragging cut into the hardwood floor and jammed. Before he could curse it Illya was there lifting the other end. The chest joined the other lattice of furniture protecting the top of the stairs. They both looked at the barricade and nodded their approval.
Doyle sat down next to an overturned dresser, leaned back against it with a sigh. Illya sank down next to him, eyes wandering toward the closed door. Intense green eyes watched him.
"What are you two going to do?" Doyle asked levelly.
Illya's looked around at him. "Do about what?"
Doyle gave him a half-hearted shrug. "About the fact that you and Napoleon love each other."
The Russian's entire body went stiff. He glanced away, at the floor, at the wall, at the gun in his hand. Minutes stretched by in silence.
Finally, in a very small voice Illya said, "Nothing."
"Why not?" Doyle pressed, knowing he could get punched any minute.
Instead of getting angry, Illya only returned the other man's shrug. "I can't."
That got Doyle's attention. "You can't? What do you mean you can't?"
The horror in his voice actually made the blonde smile. "I don't mean, I can't, I mean, I don't want to scare him off again." Hesitantly he added, "I've never had a male lover. I don't know if it would work."
Doyle didn't argue. He kissed him, slowly, gently, begging a response. Illya froze, then tentatively returned the kiss. There was no passion, only a hesitant experiment, like a lonely child reaching out for reassurance.
They eased apart, Doyle smiling at the surprised pleasure on the blonde's face. "That's bullshit, mate."
"Bullshit. You and Napoleon have already been apart, you found each other again, loved each other again. There's only one more rule to break."
A rifle shot exploded the window behind them, sending them to the floor, weapons coming out. The bedroom door opened and Napoleon and Bodie slithered onto the landing with their partners. Illya shied away from looking at Napoleon but Doyle smiled slyly at Bodie.
Bullets chewed up the fine furniture around them. "This is really getting out of hand," Napoleon stated firmly. He looked to where the two CI5 agents were crouched. "I don't know about you two but I have better things to do than sit here and be shot at."
Another shot shattered what was left of the window, tore through the heavy drape and slammed into a chair next to Doyle's head.
"They must have one up in a tree to have enough height. We've got to take him out before we can do anything else." Napoleon concluded.
Bodie said, "Just one problem - does any one have a plan?"
"The roof," Illya said suddenly.
"Only two problems with that one," Bodie explained. "Besides the bloke in the tree having free shots at us, we can't fire down on the others, not with the overhang in the way."
The Russian smiled, held up the grenade belt. "No, but perhaps we can convince them to come in and give us a better shot."
"That still leaves the monkey man."
Napoleon moved, crawling on hands and knees, into the bedroom. The others waited. Within seconds he was back with a scoped high powered rifle. He smiled at them. "Not everything was in the trunk."
Doyle and Illya both reached for the rifle. Bodie and Napoleon shared amused glances.
"Met Champion, three years running," Doyle said.
"UNCLE champion, seven years running," Illya countered.
"Getting a bit old for it now," Doyle said, ignoring the snicker of laughter from the dark haired American.
"'Experience is the only thing that counts,'" Illya quoted solemnly.
Bodie looked puzzled. "Who said that?"
"Will one of you take the damn thing!" Napoleon demanded.
Green and light blue continued to stare in competition. Doyle blinked first. "You just make sure you get the bastard. I've only just talked some sense into Bodie, I don't want him getting anything useful shot off."
His remark was ignored as the two UNCLE agents checked their weapons. "We'll start up a diversion here, give you a chance to make the roof." Napoleon told them.
Illya hefted the rifle, checked the load and the sights. "Give us," he checked his watch, "five minutes, then one of you try to get a shot out of him, preferably without getting hit."
Bodie started crawling toward their bedroom. "Hope there's only one."
A hand caressed his ass as he went by and Doyle said seriously, "Be careful."
They made the bedroom door without attracting any fire. Doyle sweep the scattered glass out of the way with his foot and took up position by what was left of the window. Napoleon picked a low open spot behind him so he could fire through the bannister. Through the door Illya pointed up, the signal that they were ready. Their partners opened fire. There was a barely audible creak as the ladder came down.
They lay down the barrage until Bodie's legs had disappeared up the ladder. With a sigh Doyle leaned back, ejected his clip and slammed home a fresh one.
"So far, so good," Napoleon said, glancing at his watch.
"Whose turn is it to play target?"
Napoleon looked uncertain. "What day is it?"
"Mine," he said firmly, adding quickly, "and please spare me the 'getting-too-old' routine."
Doyle smiled. "Been pushing it a bit, have I? Okay, it's your go."
Five minutes passed like five hours, but there was no gunfire, which they took to mean that no one had spotted their partners on the roof. Doyle glanced up from his watch, nodded at Napoleon.
The American stood up directly in front of the window, fired two shots then hit the floor as two return shots ripped through where he had been and destroyed another antique.
There was a single rifle shot from above them. "Sounds like Illya got him," Doyle said. "I won't tell him how you got that shot. Standing in front of that window wasn't the easiest way to get the job done."
Napoleon somehow managed to look very innocent. "What window?"
A explosion rocked the house again, only this time it was just outside the front door. Shouts of panic, in Arabic, carried up to the two men crouched on the landing. They smiled, ducking as sporadic shots hit their wooden shields. Doyle peeked through the bannister, watched a shadowy figure inching toward where the windows use to be. He took careful aim shot, just to the side of where the shadow stood, splintered the wooden frame. The figure ducked away just as another grenade rearranged the front lawn.
More shouts, followed by the sound of something metal clattering against the stone walk, then Illya's voice shouting out something in Arabic.
Three men, with their hands on their heads, walked slowly into what was left of the entrance hall. Doyle and Napoleon rose, guns aimed. Doyle moved cautiously down, Napoleon close behind him. Doyle gestured the men toward the camera room.
The action was sudden. The last man in line turned and slammed into Doyle. Doyle staggered but managed to throw his weight against the door trapping the other two. With no gun the single man presented only an inconvenience. Napoleon's gun was coming down into line as the man grabbed toward his jacket. Before the American could fire the man had a grenade in his hand, raised it above his head, one finger looped through the pin.
Doyle and Napoleon froze. The man shouted, and even in Arabic, the meaning was clear; he wanted the guns down. Neither agent moved. The man jerked the pin, tossed it at Doyle, shouted again. There was a sudden noise at the top of the stairs.
Bodie and Illya walked casually onto the landing, took the scene in on one glance, their hands moved away from their weapons but it was too late. The Arab panicked. The grenade sailed in an arch up onto the second level. Bodie yelled a warning but it disappeared under the roar of the explosion. Napoleon hit the Arab, and the force took them down. The house rocked, knocked Doyle off his feet, and shattered the remaining windows.
Napoleon rolled off the prisoner, searched for Doyle in the dust and smoke. But Doyle was already on his feet, moving toward what was left of the stairs. The American flipped the terrorist over; the man's head rolled back, his neck broken. Napoleon caught up with him and they staggered to a stop, staring at the devastation. Even the massive old wood beams had been no match for the small grenade.
"Oh, Christ." Doyle's voice broke. "Bodie."
"This way," Napoleon called.
Part of the bannister, still in one piece had fallen straight down, forming a dangerous ladder to the unstable ruin of the landing.
"You hold it at his end," Napoleon said, "I'll hold it at the other."
Doyle nodded, unable to trust his voice. Napoleon went up slowly, stopping once when another beam fell close by. Doyle went up in one swift move; the makeshift ladder more stable after someone had settled it. As Doyle reached the top there was a crash of plaster and wood from near the quest bedroom. Part of the wall was down, the door resting at a ninety degree angle on the wall.
"Bloody hell..." an awed voice sounded out of the ruin.
"Bodie?" Doyle held his breath.
"Ray?" the voice sounded stronger.
"Hang on, mate, we're coming."
Carefully, not wanting to make it worse, they started shifting pieces of the wall off. It was only seconds to uncover the door.
"Get that end," Doyle said, reaching for the door.
With slow maneuvering that lifted the door. Bodie rolled partially over, blinked blurrily up at them.
Before he could say anything Napoleon said, "Where's Illya?"
Bodie shifted a little more and they realized that the smaller man was under him. As gently as possible Doyle helped Bodie up and off, to sit down in the nearest clear spot.
"Sit right there, Bodie," he told him firmly.
He turned to help Napoleon, worried that while Bodie's luck had held, Illya's might not have. They moved the rest of the debris off and Doyle stood back as Napoleon knelt by his partner, lifted the slender body in his arms. What Doyle could see did not look encouraging, blood streaked the gold hair and pale face. Napoleon was almost as pale as his partner. Doyle moved away to leave them alone and to wrap a comforting arm around his dazed partner.
Napoleon brushed the dust away from the slow bleeding wound that lay across the Russian's forehead, his hand slid down the pale throat to check for a pulse. His touch elicited a low moan. A little color was returning to both drawn faces. Napoleon stroked one grime covered cheek. "Illya, please wake up."
Illya moaned again, lips falling partial open, eyes slitting open just enough to hint at their color. Napoleon was lost. He closed the last few inches, brush soft lips against Illya's.
The blue eyes opened wider. Illya stared up at his partner. "Napoleon?" A shaky hand came up, wiped a single tear off Napoleon's cheek. "Napoleon, what are you doing?"
Napoleon stared honestly into azure lights. "Learning to bend rules."
Illya's confusion made Napoleon smile, he kissed him again, slowly, sweetly, trying to give himself to the man that meant everything to him. Illya's arms came up and wrapped around Napoleon's back. But there was still doubt when he looked up.
"I thought we had broken enough rules that we didn't have to bend any," Illya observed.
"We've always broken them for others," Napoleon explained. "This is for us." The casual cockiness in his voice returned. "Besides, I never repeat a mistake."
"Be sure, tovarich," Illya pleaded quietly, "I've waited a long time for you to stop running."
Napoleon's answer was to kiss him again, pressing close, letting the terror of the past few minutes collide with the terror from years before and letting it all vanish in the warmth and tenderness being etched along his nerves.
"Was it worth it?" Bodie asked into the silence.
Doyle and Napoleon turned puzzled glances his way.
"What you two just went through," Bodie explained, "after that grenade exploded." Anxious, beautiful blue begged an answer from warm green staring so intently at him.
Doyle smiled very softly, tightened his arms around Bodie, and pulled the dark head down to his chest. Bodie accepted the answer, leaning into the warmth, letting it dispel any final doubts. He glanced over at Napoleon and was answered from there with a single nod and a wink, while it seemed cavalier, Bodie saw the light in the brown eyes as the older man looked down at his partner.
Doyle released him after a minute, knowing that it couldn't be very comfortable cuddling on a pile of oversized splinters.
The dark hair man looked over at the UNCLE agents, blinked. "What are they doing?"
"Kissing," Doyle said reasonably. "Wanna have a go?"
The ominous drumming of a helicopter reached them. "Jesus Christ," Doyle groaned, "now what?"
Settling Bodie back against the nearest wall he drew his gun and picked his way to the gap where the windows use to be.
"Ah, bloody hell," he said softly.
"More of them?" Bodie questioned.
"Worse," Doyle said, leaning his head against the wood, "it's Murphy."
"So, after the Sheik called Sir John to tell him to expect trouble," Doyle explained after getting off the restored radio, "Cowley sent in the cavalry."
He had rejoined his companions in what was left of the front room. They had managed to get upstairs and retrieve their things and were waiting for transport back home.
"I knew it," Bodie said arrogantly, "had to be more to this than romance. What was it - money?"
"That's where you're wrong, mate," his partner informed him. "It seems this really was a lover's spat. Only it was the lady in question that set it all up."
"For the other Sheik?" Illya questioned.
"No," Doyle smiled at this, "for this one's son. Seems they've had a thing going for a while."
"But according to Islamic law she had to marry the father, unless.." Napoleon started.
"Unless he died," Bodie finished. He looked over at Doyle, blue eyes glinting with mischief; he ruffled the wild curls. "The things some people won't do for love."
"They have to be crazy," Doyle said with a knowing nod.
Napoleon smiled, went to ruffle his partner's fine blonde hair. Illya turned a murderous gaze on him. Napoleon only smiled, let his hand drop.
A car horn sounded out the front. "That's us, Bodie," Doyle said. "It'll be nice to get home." He smiled at his dark partner. "Think I'll spend the next two days in bed."
Bodie's eyebrow went up. "Two days?"
"Oh, didn't I tell you," Doyle said in all innocence, "that the Cows given us two days off."
"That's not like the old..." Bodie stopped, then laughed quietly. "That old bastard. That's what he was grinning about."
"What?" Doyle asked.
"He knew that if we talked to Illya and Napoleon about what happened to them that we'd stay together." Bodie surmised, smiling in admiration for his boss' way of thinking.
Snaking one arm around Bodie's waist, Doyle said, "I'll bet he didn't know how close we'd be staying together."
Outside the horn sounded again. Bodie and Doyle smiled at the other two, shook hands all around.
"Illya," Doyle shook, "try not to take too many easy assignments."
"Bodie," Illya said simply, then he picked up their bags and followed Doyle out.
Napoleon and Bodie smiled fondly after their partners, then flushed in embarrassment at having been caught. With a dazed sort of smile Bodie said, "It's a long way from Lisbon alleys, isn't it?"
"No," Napoleon shook his head. "No, it's not very far at all."