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The Better Gadget Affair

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The Better Gadget Affair:

 

Napoleon held out the cufflinks in the palm of his hand as if they were poison. "They didn't work."

"I don't have time to listen to your complaints, Solo."

Napoleon clenched his jaw. "Listen, Roberts, when you give me equipment, and tell me it does something, I expect it to do what you've told me it will do." Napoleon couldn't understand what had happened to the man. While Roberts had never been the friendliest of men, nor a genius by anyone's standards, since his promotion a year ago to Lab Director, his attitude had taken a severe nose dive. Napoleon tuned back into Roberts' words.

"And isn't it interesting that the equipment always seems to work for everyone else. You're the only one that comes in here to tell me these things don't measure up to your exacting standards." The sarcasm was barely veiled.

"I find that hard to believe."

"Well, go cry on somebody else's shoulder. Waverly's got me up to my ass in crocodiles getting an order done for London. Though why they can't do their own goddamn work is beyond me." The man jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "Go see the new guy." He sneered. "The commie. I'm sure he'll set you right up. Maybe give you something that will explode while you're still wearing it." He muttered something unflattering about Waverly hiring an enemy right into the heart of U.N.C.L.E. and then turned back to his project, essentially dismissing Napoleon.

Napoleon didn't like being dismissed. He didn't like it at all. But he also knew when he'd lost a battle. He wouldn't get anything further out of this fool without direct orders from Waverly. He lingered over the delightful notion of shooting Roberts but decided he wasn't worth the effort.

Once out in the hall he noticed a new nameplate on the lab next door. Napoleon ran his fingers over the embossed letters. Illya Kuryakin, Ph.D. Ah, he thought, Roberts' commie.

Napoleon glanced through the window and saw a man staring intently into a microscope. All he could see was blond hair and a black outfit under a white lab coat. Napoleon entered after the door slid open. "Excuse me?"

The man looked up and blue eyes, which now stared intently at him, temporarily arrested Napoleon.

"What?" the man snapped.

Not the most welcoming of speeches, but Napoleon pressed on. "I'm looking for Dr. Kuryakin."

"You found him."

Napoleon's eyes widened. This guy didn't seem old enough to have a Ph.D. But, he was hardly going to argue the point. Napoleon held out the cufflinks. "I have a complaint."

The blond eyed the cufflinks, glanced at Napoleon, took in his outfit from his tie down to his expensive shoes and went back to his microscope. "Take it up with your couturier."

Napoleon snorted. "They're explosives."

That got the man's attention. The cufflinks were scooped out of Napoleon's hand and closely scrutinized. "What exactly is your complaint?"

"They don't work once they get wet."

"Then I suggest you not go swimming prior to detonation."

Napoleon had a sharp retort ready to go when he saw a flash of humor in the blue eyes. He found himself grinning instead and turned it into a wry smile. "Thanks. I'll take it under advisement." He put his hand out. "Napoleon Solo."

His hand was gripped firmly. "Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin." Introductions over, the cufflinks were placed on the counter, and Illya went back to his microscope.

Napoleon felt dismissed again and his goodwill toward the blond started to evaporate. "Aren't you going to fix them now?"

Illya glanced at him. "Do you need them now?"

No, he didn't, but that was hardly the point. "Yes."

"No, you don't."

Napoleon frowned. "How do you know?"

"Because if you needed them now, we'd be having a completely different conversation."

Napoleon bounced on his toes, momentarily stymied. He managed to rally. "Well, I need them by tomorrow."

Illya flashed him a look of disbelief but he nodded. "Fine, I'll have them by tomorrow."

Napoleon waited for him to pick up the cufflinks and start working on them but he went back to his microscope. Napoleon wanted someone to act as if he mattered, as if the fact that he was the one out there getting beaten and shot at and tortured counted for something. He pointed at the defunct gadgets. "You're not even looking at them."

Illya kept his eyes focused on whatever it was he was looking at. "It's no wonder you're a spy with such keen powers of observation."

Napoleon beat his fingers in a single drum roll on the counter and decided he'd hold off strangling the man until tomorrow when his cufflinks would no doubt still be sitting on the counter in the exact spot they were currently sitting in. Without another word he left the lab and headed back to his office to finish up the report on his less than stellar mission, within which non-exploding cufflinks had a starring role.

 

*****
Napoleon returned to the lab earlier than intended the next morning, having received an unexpected call from Waverly with instructions to depart within the hour for a new mission. He decided to share - with his new comrade - his frustration over his lack of sleep, the fact that he was going to a decidedly untropical location, and that he was going to have to miss his date with Candy tonight.

He slammed into the lab and saw the cufflinks, as expected, still sitting on the counter. Kuryakin had the temerity to still be staring into that damn microscope. Napoleon rapped the counter none too gently, anticipating the opportunity for a verbal sparring from which he intended to emerge the victor. "Are these done?"

"Yes."

That took the wind out of his sails. His eyebrows rose. "They are?"

Illya pulled away from the microscope. Napoleon was tempted to go take a peek; maybe there was some sort of microscopic peep show on that slide. "You said you needed them today, didn't you?"

Napoleon had, but he certainly hadn't expected them to be done. Lately, no one in the labs had anything done when he needed it. They always brought it up to his office the day he got back, when his arm was in a sling or bruises were darkening his face. Roberts' bad attitude seemed to be contagious.

It was gratifying that the man had done as asked, but it left Napoleon feeling a bit breathless. As if he'd thrown a punch expecting to come into contact with a hard punching bag and instead now found himself freefalling through Jell-o. It made him snappy. "Are they waterproof?" He gave the cufflinks a suspicious stare, sure they were getting ready to make a fool of him again.

Illya took the cufflinks away from him and put one on the counter. "They won't hold up for a channel swim, but they should survive a dip in a fountain."

Napoleon's eyes narrowed. That was exactly what had happened to him; during a fight with a Thrush agent he'd been thrown into a fountain. Then incarcerated. Obtaining his freedom had taken much longer than expected because his stupid cufflinks had decided to malfunction. He glared through his narrowed eyes. "How did you know that?"

The blue eyes twinkled. "Lucky guess."

Napoleon frowned. The only way he could have known about the fountain was if he'd read Napoleon's report. And that was classified information. He opened his mouth to question the scientist but was sidetracked by his next comment.

"I changed the way they work."

Ah, Napoleon thought, here it comes. He should have known there was a catch. "What do you mean?" He didn't have time for this.

"It seemed to me they were impractical. You needed both cufflinks to make one explosive device, one cufflink being the explosive, and one being the detonator. Correct?"

Napoleon nodded. Very correct and very aggravating. Getting both cufflinks free when your hands were tied took extra time.

Illya continued. "If you need the explosives, you would need easy access and as little manipulation as possible." He held the cufflink up. "So, each one is now explosive and detonator all in one. Watch." Using one hand, so as to demonstrate how easily it could be done, he braced the cufflink against the base of his thumb, holding it still with his pinky and ring finger. Then Illya used his thumb and index finger to twist the top, three times.

Then he held up the cufflink and showed Napoleon the firing mechanism. "Push it together with a snap, like so," his fingers tightened and the mechanism snapped together, "and you have ten seconds to toss it near whatever it is you wish blown up. It has the same explosive power as before."

Napoleon was mentally counting down ten seconds, growing a tad apprehensive as he approached zero. "Um…"

Still using one hand, Illya gave the mechanism a half twist and held it in his hand. "And that defuses it."

Napoleon was astonished. When Napoleon had first arrived there'd been staff here that had done their best by the agents. But over the last year Napoleon had lost count of the suggestions he had given them for items that were smaller, or more concealing, or less cumbersome to use, and instead he got gadgets that proved unreliable, or would have made better prank gifts than tools of the trade for men and women putting their lives on the line.

Now, in less than a day, this man had heard his complaint, fixed it, and then, without any prompting, made it better. He almost hoped he'd get a chance to try them out. Napoleon flashed Illya a grin. "Thanks." He began to work the cufflinks through his cuffs.

"Don't thank me yet. They're prototypes."

"They always are." He straightened his cuffs, and adjusted his suit sleeves.

Illya flashed him a mocking smile. "I hope you don't play with your cufflinks when you get nervous, Mr. Solo. I'd hate for you to blow your hands off by accident."

Napoleon gave him a dirty look. "I don't get nervous."

"Well-dressed and nerves of steel. I can see the fate of the world is in good hands." He tapped his watch. "Hadn't you better go?"

Napoleon's eyes narrowed again. "How do you know that?"

Illya ignored him. "Let me know how they work. That is, if you manage not to blow yourself up." Illya walked him to the door.

Napoleon wasn't sure why he was allowing himself to be ushered out. "If I get blown up, it will be your fault."

"Of course, I'll accept full responsibility," Illya said dryly, opening the door.

In a very smooth maneuver Napoleon could only envy, he found himself on the other side of the door to the lab. He turned and peeked through the window. Illya was back at his microscope. Napoleon let out a soft laugh, glanced at his cuffs, experienced an absurd moment of feeling warmly protected and then, knowing the minutes were ticking by, picked up his suitcase to catch a taxi to the airport.

 

*****
They worked. He couldn't believe it but they worked. And after they got wet. Amazing. Napoleon let himself into his apartment, glad once again he'd made it home alive. And this time, he owed it to a Russian. He let out a snort for the delicious ironies of life and headed for his bar. He had to push a few bottles aside but he found a bottle of Stolichnaya, still unopened. He poured himself a glass and toasted the good Doctor Kuryakin in absentia.

The next morning he went down to the lab. Napoleon opened the door into Illya's lab and frowned when he found Roberts there. "Where's Kuryakin?" The last person he wanted to see was Roberts.

"Why? What'd the commie do now?"

Napoleon let out a long breath. "Roberts, don't start with me. Just tell me where he is."

"Hopefully in an unmarked shallow grave."

Napoleon knew he shouldn't bother. It was impossible to win a fight with Roberts. He was like a damn bulldog who hung on to his beliefs, rational or not, like a well-chewed butcher bone.

But, Napoleon couldn't leave it alone. He poked his finger into Roberts' chest. "That commie, as you call him, is better at this job than you've ever been. So, do me a favor and tell me where he is and then go slink back to your lab."

"I'm right here."

Napoleon turned and saw Illya standing in the doorway.

Roberts used the moment to move away from Napoleon and head for the door. Illya slowly got out of his way. As he left, he murmured, "God damn commie-lover."

Napoleon felt a spurt of anger on Illya's behalf and gave him a tight smile, saying, "Charming fellow. He's always the first name on my guest list."

Illya moved to his counter, his hand touching the microscope as if for reassurance. "He doesn't by any chance have a nervous habit of twisting his cufflinks, does he? I could make him a personal set."

Napoleon laughed, delighted at Illya's sense of humor.

Illya's lips formed a half smile. "I see you managed to avoid blowing off your hands." His fingers lightly grazed the papers lying next to the microscope, and then he cast his eyes over the other counters in the lab where a couple of experiments were clearly in process.

Napoleon watched him for a second, and then figured out what he was doing. "It didn't look like he was touching anything."

Illya nodded. He gave Napoleon a wry smile. "You will make an enemy of him if you defend me like that."

Napoleon heard the hidden thanks and leaned back against the counter by the microscope. "Considering how close he's come to killing me with one malfunctioning gadget after another, I don't know how it could get worse if he were an enemy." He smiled. "By the way, thanks. The cufflinks worked great."

That got a satisfied nod out of the Russian. "Good." He opened a drawer and pulled out another pair. "Here."

Napoleon took them gladly. His communicator went off, and he pulled the mechanism out of his inner suit pocket. "Solo here."

"Ah, Mr. Solo." It was Waverly. "Have you finished your report yet?"

Napoleon let out a silent sigh. "I'll have it to you within the hour."

"Very good."

Napoleon eyed the communicator with some displeasure and put it away. He gave Illya a rueful smile. "The exciting life of a spy."

"You best get to it, then, Mr. Solo. Duty calls."

"Napoleon. Call me Napoleon." He was charmed by the shy smile his request drew from the Russian. Napoleon found himself reluctant to leave. "Are you sure you don't have anything around here that does paperwork?"

Illya gestured at the cufflinks in Napoleon's hand. "You could throw one of those at the file. It would certainly eliminate the need."

"Yeah, and get me thrown in a detention cell."

"Chances are you wouldn't have to do any paperwork while you're there."

"Thanks, but I think I'll pass on your suggestion, Dr. Kuryakin. I'll just go finish writing my report."

"Have it your way." Illya gave him another shy smile. "And you may call me Illya, if you wish."

Feeling as if he'd won some undefined victory, Napoleon gave Illya a warm smile as he left the lab.

 

*****
It was five days and one mission later when Napoleon ran into Illya again. Napoleon was getting some lunch from the commissary, loading his tray to make up for going without eating for two days while he was tied up in some abandoned barn in the middle of nowhere.

As he made his way to a table with his laden tray, he heard some grumbling behind him. It only took a few words for him to identify Roberts as the speaker. "Someone needs to send that damn commie home. He's got no business being here."

Napoleon turned around and saw that Illya had just entered the commissary.

The grumbling continued. "We don't need his kind here."

Roberts' attitude made Napoleon furious and he was determined not to let the man infect anyone else. He called out. "Illya."

Illya focused in on the voice and waited, eyebrows up.

"Come have lunch with me." Napoleon gestured toward a back table.

Illya's glance took in Roberts and he hesitated a moment. Napoleon wondered if he would turn and leave, but then, to his relief, Illya gave him a small smile and a tight nod, and moved to get his food.

Roberts sneered up at Napoleon.

Napoleon put his hand on Roberts' shoulder, hard enough to make a point. "Don't. Just don't. He's working here, same as us, and that makes us all part of the same team." Napoleon saw several pairs of eyes watching him, and he hoped he was making his point to those willing to listen. Although, Napoleon suspected Roberts surrounded himself with the likeminded.

Illya began to make his way to the back table. Napoleon gave Roberts a warning look and left to join the Russian. There was a moment's awkwardness as they both settled. Finally, Napoleon decided on the direct approach. "The man's a bigot, Illya. He doesn't speak for us all."

The small smile appeared again, fleetingly. "He speaks for quite a few."

Napoleon reached out and touched Illya's arm. "Well, he doesn't speak for me."

Illya glanced down at the hand that was lightly touching him and frowned.

Napoleon followed his eyes and saw the rope burns on his wrist. He pulled his arm back and shot his cuff down to cover it. He gave Illya a wry smile. "Souvenir."

Illya pursed his lips, his head cocked to the side. "Are your hands usually tied in front or in back?"

Napoleon thought about it for a minute, his arms moving a few inches forwards and backwards as he mentally reviewed the last few times he'd been tied. "Both, I think. Sometimes over my head." His face scrunched up. "I hate that. Can't protect yourself." His eyebrows waggled. "Why? Are you going to invent another gadget?"

"Possibly."

"Good. I'd just as soon not have to depend on Roberts to save my life."

Illya gave him a quick flash of a real smile, just enough to make Napoleon wish he'd seen more of it. "Want me to kill him for you?"

Napoleon snorted. "Would you please?"

Illya nodded. "I'll take care of it."

Napoleon laughed, but then he took in the look on Illya's face. "I'm kidding. You know that, right?"

Illya looked disappointed. "I'd be doing the world a favor."

"I know, but they'd probably deport you, and then who'd make me my exploding cufflinks? I think I'd rather keep you around, even if it means we both have to put up with Roberts."

Illya sighed. "All right."

Napoleon looked at Illya's eyes, and was relieved to see a twinkle there. It would be a challenge to keep on top of the Russian's sense of humor. Napoleon found himself looking forward to it.

 

*****
On his next mission, Napoleon was again tied up and, for several reasons, his thoughts drifted toward Illya. The most obvious reason Illya was on his mind was because Napoleon's hands were tied over his head and it brought to mind the conversation he and Illya had had over lunch.

He was also thinking of Illya because Napoleon wished he'd stopped in to see Illya before he left. Maybe the Russian had invented some sort of gadget that might be coming in handy just about now.

There was a third reason Napoleon was thinking of Illya and it was much less utilitarian. He simply found it comforting. He wasn't even sure why. Napoleon had only talked to the man a handful of times, but he liked the Russian. A lot. Something in him reached to something in Napoleon.

Napoleon could hear footsteps and he brightened. Having the enemy around meant he might end up a bit bruised and battered while he was tied this way but it would also, if he were lucky and if he played his cards right, provide him with a means to escape.

Two hours later he'd retrieved his gun and communicator, called for backup, found the formula for the new chemical weapon, and only paid for it with a cracked rib or two and a few bruises. Napoleon thought it was a more than an equitable trade.

When he got back to U.N.C.L.E., while he was leaning over for the receptionist to pin on his badge, she flipped through some messages. "I have a message for you. Yes, here it is. Dr. Kuryakin would like to see you."

That worked fine for Napoleon as he needed to deliver the formula to the lab anyway. He had been planning on giving it to Illya, but had been surprised when Waverly told him to make sure that the formula was only to be given to Illya. Napoleon found it gratifying that the old man clearly trusted his Russian addition.

Napoleon snuck by Roberts' lab, not wanting to deal with the unpleasant man, and entered Illya's. Once again he was sitting at the counter, staring into his microscope. "What could possibly be so interesting that every time I come in here you're staring at that thing?"

Illya looked up and flashed Napoleon a quick grin. "Hundreds of tiny pictures of naked women."

Napoleon grinned back. "I knew it." He handed Illya the formula retrieved from the Thrush satrapy. "Just in case you get bored, here's something else to keep you busy."

Illya took a quick look at it. "Mr. Waverly said you'd be dropping it by." He folded it and put it in his pants pocket.

Napoleon leaned against the counter, not in any hurry to leave. "Missy said you wanted to see me?"

Illya nodded and he reached around Napoleon to open a drawer. Napoleon couldn't keep a wince off his face as Illya inadvertently brushed against his bruised ribs.

Illya quickly pulled back. "Are you hurt?"

Napoleon was both impressed and annoyed that Illya had noticed. "I'm fine."

"What happened?"

Napoleon shook his head as if to dismiss the man's concern but then found himself answering. "They got in a few lucky punches." He made as if to demonstrate his hands tied over his head, but winced once more as the movement pulled on his ribs.

Illya frowned. "Over your head again?"

Napoleon waved a nonchalant hand through the air, wanting a subject change. "I got the formula. All's well that ends well."

Illya shrugged, apparently agreeing. He walked around Napoleon this time so he wouldn't touch him when he opened the drawer. It crossed Napoleon's mind that he hadn't given it a thought that Illya had leaned across him, touching him before. It hadn't even occurred to him to feel that his personal space was being invaded.

Illya retrieved what he had been going after. He held out a watch. "Here."

"Oh, you shouldn't have." Napoleon showed Illya his watch. "I have one already." He grinned.

Illya rolled his eyes. "Take it off."

Napoleon complied. "What does the new one do?"

Illya demonstrated a small button on the side that once depressed caused a small, but wicked looking serrated blade to eject. "This should help cut ropes in the future."

Napoleon gave Illya a lopsided grin and took the watch.

Illya cautioned him, "Be careful, it's very sharp."

Napoleon nodded. He snapped the knife back in place and depressed the ejector button himself. "This is great. Does it do anything else?"

"It tells the time."

Napoleon grinned.

Then Illya took it back. He pointed toward the face of the watch. "It's also a compass." The corner of his lips quirked up. "Oh, and it's waterproof."

Napoleon gave Illya a look, took back the watch, slowly turning himself, holding the watch steady until he was pointing true north. "This will come in handy." He gave Illya a grateful grin. "For some reason, they almost always leave me my watch. I guess they want me to be able to keep track of how long they're making me miserable."

"Why don't you have a partner to get you out of these scrapes?"

Napoleon let out a sigh. "I'm supposed to have one. There wasn't anyone available when I came on and now I've gotten used to working by myself."

Illya moved back to where he had been standing by his microscope and fiddled with the light knob. "Will they let you continue to work on your own?"

"Waverly has up 'til now, but he's starting to grumble. One of these days I'm sure I'll get called up to his office to be introduced to my new partner." Napoleon let a sour expression cross his face.

"You don't sound too happy about that."

Napoleon raked his fingers through his hair. "If I had the right partner it wouldn't be so bad, but what are the odds of that? I mean, the rest of the agents here are good, but I don't like the idea of trusting my back to just anyone." He pointed at his chest with a thumb. "At least I usually know what I'm thinking."

Illya's lips curled up in a small grin. "Only usually?"

Napoleon nodded, smirking. "Sometimes I surprise myself." He put his new watch on and admired it. "Thanks again for this."

Illya shrugged. "I'd tell you that I hope you don't need to use it, but it sounds like you invite trouble on a regular basis."

Napoleon mock snarled at Illya. "Hey, I resent that remark. No matter how true it is." He slipped his own watch into his pocket. "I better go."

Illya nodded, eying his microscope. "I need to work on this formula anyway."

Napoleon "You free for lunch?"

Illya gave him one of his shy smiles.

Napoleon was captivated again and wished he had a reason to stay. But, he didn't and he still had a report to write. "I'll meet you at noon, then. Okay?"

Illya nodded.

There really wasn't anything else to say, so Napoleon told his feet sternly to head for the door and was relieved when they obeyed him.

 

*****
Napoleon tried to rein in his temper but he was only nominally successful. "Roberts, all I need you to do is tell me if you have something I can use."

"And I already told you, if you need to cut through that safe, you need an acetylene torch, and if you need an acetylene torch, that's what we have." He pointed to a briefcase which held the torch in question and a canister of gas.

"And I already told you, it's too large. I have to be inconspicuous."

"What could be more inconspicuous than a briefcase?" Roberts objected.

"I'll have to open it up at their security checkpoint. What reason am I supposed to give for carrying an acetylene torch in my briefcase?"

"That's not my problem, Solo. I've told you what we have. That's all anyone would have. If it isn't going to work then it sounds like you need a new plan."

Napoleon chewed the inside of his cheek. What he really needed was Illya, but when he'd come down here yesterday morning to discuss what he needed for this case, his lab was locked, and the man was nowhere to be found. "When is Illya going to be back?"

Roberts' eyes shot daggers at him. "How the hell am I supposed to know? Just because I'm the Chief of this section and supposed to be the commie's boss, do you think anyone tells me anything? No, he just up and vanishes. And when I talk to Waverly, he just tells me to mind my own business, that the little queer is allowed to do as he pleases."

Napoleon's eyes hardened. "The little what?"

"You heard me. Queer. It's not bad enough that the man is a stinking commie, he's also a faggot."

Napoleon tried very, very hard not to punch the man. "Roberts, I already told you that your bigotry is out of place in an organization like this. It's blinded you to the point that you wouldn't recognize talent if it steamrolled right over you."

Roberts gave him a suspicious glare. "You seem to spend a lot of time with him. What's that about? And I hear about the gadgets he's making you. What are you doing for him? Giving him head?"

Napoleon wondered, and not for the first time, why a man like this was still working for U.N.C.L.E.. He started weighing out the possible consequences if he just beat the crap out of Roberts. When he had all but decided that any consequences would be worth the satisfaction he'd derive from the experience, he suddenly saw Illya at the window to Roberts' lab gesturing at him to come out.

Without another word Napoleon pushed past Roberts and followed Illya to his lab. He waited until Illya unlocked the door before he spoke his peace. "Where the hell have you been? I've been having to deal with that--with that--excrement."

Illya grinned at him. "Sorry."

Napoleon snorted. "You don't sound like you're sorry at all."

Illya's eyes twinkled. "I have something for you."

While Napoleon would be thrilled at any gadget Illya gave him, what he really needed what a miniature acetylene torch. He muttered, "I hope it's an acetylene torch."

"It is. A miniature one." Illya took a pen out of his pocket and handed it to Napoleon.

Napoleon gaped at the pen in his hand. "This is a torch?"

Illya nodded. He unscrewed the pen and flipped up the small nozzle. "It doesn't hold much, needless to say, so I made you two." He pulled out another pen. "This one is a mechanical pencil." Using the pencil, he fully demonstrated its torch workings by flipping up the small nozzle and pushing up a switch until a small hissing was heard.

Taking a lighter he flicked it and the torch was lit. "Each one will only last for forty five seconds." He shut off the gas. Reaching into his pocket he took out two small tubes that looked like ink cartridges. "I made two replacement gas canisters." He showed Napoleon how to change it out. "That will give you, seeing as I've just used about four seconds of gas, about two minutes and fifty-six seconds."

Napoleon was speechless. Then his eyes narrowed. "Not that I'm not grateful, but how did you know I needed this?"

"Lucky guess?" Illya said with exaggerated innocence.

Napoleon shook his head. "I fell for that one once already. I only got the case file the day before yesterday and it hasn't been out of my office."

Illya stuck with the innocent look for a couple more seconds. Then he spoiled it all when he said, "Speaking of your office, do you need a good lock pick?"

Napoleon's eyes widened. "Illya, did you break into my office?"

Illya let out a tsk tsk noise. "You really should have Waverly beef up the security in this place, Napoleon. It was ridiculously easy to get in."

"No, the fact is that I shouldn't have to worry about people breaking into my office, especially U.N.C.L.E. employees."

"But if I can get in, Thrush could get in." Then Illya hesitated, his head cocked to one side. "Well, that's probably not true, but the point remains that I was able to get in too easily."

Napoleon blew out a frustrated breath. "That file was top secret. If I reported you, you'd get yanked in front of a security hearing."

Illya shook his head. "I have top security clearance."

Napoleon stared at Illya. "You have top security clearance?"

Illya nodded.

"Why?"

Illya shrugged. "Does it matter?"

"If you have top security clearance, why did you break into my office to see that file? Why didn't you just ask to see it?"

"It wouldn't be as much fun."

Napoleon was speechless, but not for long. "As much fun?" At Illya's nod he let out a short laugh. "Kuryakin, I don't believe I've ever met anyone quite like you." He frowned. "Are you sure you have security clearance?"

"Quite sure. Check with Waverly if you don't believe me."

Napoleon glanced down at the small gadgets in his hand. "So, let me make sure I understand this. You broke into my office to read the case I'm working on. After reading it, you somehow came to the same conclusion as I did that I'd need a miniature torch, and that's why you've been gone, to make me one?"

Illya scrunched his face up. "It does sound a bit farfetched, doesn't it?"

Napoleon was overwhelmed. No one had ever done something like that for him. It was as if Illya had made it his own personal responsibility to make Napoleon succeed at his missions and get home safely. Like Illya was his guardian angel.

Napoleon realized that if anyone else had done this, his sense of privacy would feel invaded. But, somehow with Illya, it just made him feel like his life couldn't be in better hands. A slow smile formed on his face. "Promise me you won't ever go away, all right?"

The smile he got in return was incandescent. "I'll do my best." Illya pointed at the lab next door. "What was Roberts ranting about?"

Napoleon snorted in derision. "Apparently, I'm exchanging sexual favors for your gadgets."

Illya's eyes widened and he looked down at the devices in Napoleon's hand. He grinned at Napoleon mischievously. "It might take you some time to work off these."

Napoleon snickered. Then he gave Illya a glance, remembering what Roberts had said. For a second he wondered if Illya meant it. For a second he found himself considering it. Then he shook it all off. Of course Illya didn't mean it. Napoleon was embarrassed he'd even thought such a thing. And for some reason he didn't choose to explore, he felt a little disappointed.

He met Illya's eyes and saw amusement in the Russian's gaze, almost as if he were following Napoleon's disjointed thoughts. Napoleon rolled his eyes. "I have to leave this afternoon, but when I get back, I owe you dinner." He clenched his fingers around the small torches. "Thanks for these."

Illya waved off his thanks as if it were nothing, as if magically meeting Napoleon's needs was an everyday occurrence. "Just come back in one piece and try not to burn yourself."

Napoleon echoed Illya's earlier words. "I'll do my best." He turned to leave but then he mock glared at the Russian. "And next time? Just ask me for the file, all right?"

Illya just stared at him.

Napoleon sighed and held out his other hand. "While you're plying me with new and revised products you might as well give me whatever lock pick you used. If you can get into my office with it, it's better than anything I have."

Illya pulled out a slender bit of wire from his pocket and handed it to Napoleon.

Napoleon took it and frowned. "This is it? It looks just like a lock pick. I'm disappointed. I would have expected you to disguise it as a tie tack, or a cigar."

Illya flashed him a disgruntled look. "I'm working on it."

Napoleon beamed at him. "My friend, I'm sure you are."

 

*****
Napoleon made his way up to Waverly's office. Lisa waved him on in. "He's expecting you, Napoleon."

Napoleon gave her one of his most charming smiles and entered his boss's office.

"Yes, Mr. Solo?"

"I wanted to talk to you about Illya Kuryakin."

Waverly gave him a sharp glance. "I do trust you're not going to complain about his place of origin."

Napoleon frowned as he realized that too many people must have been doing that to get Waverly in a snit about it. "No. I think he's great. He's already made me some gadgets that are better than any I've seen. As far as I'm concerned he should be in charge of that lab."

Waverly harrumphed. "I'm glad to hear it. So, what is it you want to say? Or was that it?"

Napoleon cleared his throat. "Does he…ah…does he have top security clearance?"

Waverly sucked on his pipe for a second as he eyed Napoleon. Napoleon tried very hard not to fidget. It was never comfortable to get all of Waverly's regard. "Yes, he does."

Napoleon was relieved to hear that, but he was still confused about it. "May I ask why?"

Waverly tapped out his pipe into his ashtray. "No, you may not."

Napoleon frowned. "May I ask why I may not?"

"No, you may not."

Napoleon sighed. None of this was making sense. The man worked for Roberts but he seemed to answer to Waverly, and Waverly was keeping secrets. Well, Napoleon would see about that. He was a spy, after all.

"Is there anything else, Mr. Solo? I do have one or two things that are calling for my attention."

The sarcasm wasn't lost on Napoleon. "Just one more thing. I need to let you know about Roberts. He's saying some very unpleasant things about Illya. I don't normally rat on my fellow employees but his comments are a bit beyond the pale."

Waverly packed some new tobacco into his pipe. "I'm well aware of Roberts' attitude toward our newest acquisition."

That wasn't good enough. Napoleon knew that Illya would never complain about it and it needed to stop. "Are you going to speak with him?" At Waverly's look, Napoleon saw he'd overstepped his bounds. He stood.

Waverly's voice was dismissive. "I believe you have a mission to attend to."

"Yes, sir." Napoleon quickly left the office before Waverly could give him something unpleasant to do.

 

*****
One week later, Napoleon was none the wiser. He'd charmed his way into personnel, only to find that they didn't have a file on Illya. Next he used the lock pick Illya had given him and snuck into Roberts' office.

When he managed to get the locked file cabinet open and saw the man's employee files, including one on Illya, he let out a sigh of satisfaction. He lifted it out and sat at Roberts' desk to read it. Napoleon frowned when he opened it and found only loose-leaf paper inside. Curious, he picked up the top sheet and began to read.

He didn't get far before he dropped the page, afraid the virulent ravings on the page might poison him. He cautiously peeked at the other pages and found more of the same. Roberts had written page after page of narrative about Illya, all of it vituperative. Openly hostile, suspicious, casting Illya in a one-man plot to take over New York and then the world, all while engaging in deviant sexual acts.

Napoleon closed the file and rapped his knuckles against his lips. As far as Napoleon was concerned, Roberts' thoughts on Illya declared him as unstable. He debated whether he ought to show this file to Waverly, but then he'd have to explain how it came to be that he was in Roberts' office in the first place. And that meant telling Waverly that he was ignoring his order to leave the issue of Illya alone which wouldn't endear himself to the old man. He decided to leave it alone for the time being. Hopefully Roberts would hang himself if he were given enough rope.

Napoleon stood and slipped the file back in place, relocking the file cabinet, and then Roberts' office door. He stood in the hallway wondering where to look next. If Illya's file wasn't in personnel and it wasn't in Roberts' office, then it meant it was probably in Waverly's office. Napoleon wasn't foolish enough to even think about trying to break into the old man's inner sanctum.

He made a few phone calls to London HQ but that didn't garner him any information. It was as if Illya had just materialized into his U.N.C.L.E. lab. Not that Napoleon wasn't thrilled about that. His gadgets had already helped him succeed in his missions several times over. He'd come home from his last affair without even a scratch.

But it wasn't only the gadgets. Napoleon found himself liking the man more and more. Despite the fact that they were from opposite ends of the earth, Napoleon felt more comfortable with him than with anyone else of his acquaintance.

What he didn't like was having a mystery so close to home. Because it meant that Illya could disappear as easily as he had appeared and that wasn't even remotely okay. Now that Illya was a part of Napoleon's life, he wanted to keep it that way.

 

*****
Napoleon spent a bit of energy smiling at life's latest ironies, knowing it might be the last thing he ever found amusing. He tried to draw a breath, but there was barely enough oxygen left to feed his starving cells.

He was surrounded by all of Illya's gadgets. His watch with the serrated knife, compass showing he was lying with his feet pointing due south. His exploding cufflinks were at the ready, or one of them at any rate. He had one of the mini torches in his pocket, and Illya's newest gadget, a smoke bomb, hidden in the heel of his shoe.

But none of them would help him now. He was locked in an airtight room. There were no windows, and the one door was steel with an airtight seal and no mechanism to open it from the inside. He'd already tried one of the cufflinks on the door and gotten nothing for it except several minutes of coughing from smoke that had nowhere to go.

This seemed such a stupid way to die. Napoleon assumed his incarceration had something to do with the case he was on, but as he'd been knocked unconscious before being thrown in here, he couldn't be positive who his captor was.

Apparently he wasn't even going to be interrogated, just left here to die. And die he would, probably in a few more minutes. He glanced at his watch, knew that he'd now missed the second arranged check-in time. That meant that U.N.C.L.E. would be out looking for him, but no one knew where he was.

So that meant he was going to die. A surge of anger went through him at his fatalistic attitude. Despite the fact that it was probably true, he couldn't stand the thought of so thoroughly cooperating with whoever had thrown him in here.

He gave the room another cursory look, hoping that maybe he'd missed something the last 100 times he'd done this exercise. Nothing. The room was completely empty, concrete floor, no furniture, no window, and the sealed, featureless door. No vents, nothing.

Napoleon pulled himself across the floor until he was sitting in one of the corners. He found himself thinking of Illya, wondering if the gadget genius himself could find a way to break out of this room. Napoleon wished with all his heart that Illya would just appear. Just materialize into this room the way he had in the lab but with some gizmo that would blow the room to smithereens.

His breaths were coming in little gasps now, and he knew it wouldn't be long before he lost consciousness. His head sinking to his knees, he wondered who would defend Illya from Roberts now if he died in this room.

"Napoleon!"

Napoleon tried to lift his head, but he had no strength left.

"Napoleon! Are you in there?"

Napoleon smiled when he realized who the voice belonged to, but then he frowned. If he was going to hallucinate about Illya, the least he could do was show up inside the room.

"Napoleon, if you can hear me, get away from the door."

At least it sounded as if his hallucination was obliging his wishful thinking by bringing something that would blow the room up. That was nice. The door exploded with a loud bang and slammed into the room. Napoleon was glad he hadn't been sitting there. That would have hurt.

Then Illya was there, shaking his shoulders. "Breathe, Napoleon. Take in a deep breath."

Napoleon was beginning to wonder if maybe this wasn't a hallucination after all. But it had to be, because why would Illya be rescuing him? He decided to play along and drew in a deep breath. He could feel the fresh air entering his body and it made his lungs ache. He let out a groan and dropped his head against Illya's chest.

"That's right, keep breathing."

Napoleon obeyed, feeling safe and warm as Illya's arms supported him. He snuggled in against Illya a little more. After all, this was his hallucination; he could do what he wanted.

He smiled as he felt Illya's hand touch his hair, as he listened to Illya croon at him in Russian. He had no idea what he was saying but it sounded nice.

Napoleon's head began to clear. And as his head cleared, he began to realize that this wasn't a hallucination. That he could breathe, that the door had been blown off his prison, that his rescuer was Illya, and that he was currently practically in the man's lap. And, he didn't particularly want to get off.

But, apparently Illya was monitoring him and could tell he was coming around. He pushed Napoleon away gently until he was sitting against the wall again. "Are you all right?"

Napoleon nodded. He took in the door which was lying askew on the ground. "What'd you use?"

"Hand grenade."

"Who else is here?"

"Just me."

Napoleon shook his head to try to clear away the rest of the cobwebs. "Just you?"

Illya nodded.

"Why?"

"You missed two of your check-ins."

"I know that. But why just you? Where's the rest of the team?"

Illya shrugged. "I suspect they're looking for you in the wrong place."

Napoleon let out an exasperated laugh. "How, and mind you, I'm not complaining, did you happen to know the right place to look?"

Illya tapped Napoleon's watch. "Homing beacon."

Napoleon looked at the watch. "There's a homing beacon in this?"

Illya nodded. "It's a prototype."

"And I'm your guinea pig?"

Another nod. "I didn't think you'd mind."

Napoleon grinned at Illya. His guardian angel had struck again. "No, I don't mind." He glanced out the open door. "Did you see anyone when you came in?"

Illya shook his head. "I didn't do a complete search as I was homing in on your signal but no one tried to stop me from getting in."

Napoleon let his head fall back against the wall. "I don't suppose it occurred to you to let one of the agents know about the watch and let them come and get me? If there'd been enemy agents here you could have been killed."

"It occurred to me."

"Let me guess. It wouldn't have been as much fun, right?"

Illya flashed him a grin.

Napoleon shook his head in mock dismay. "Illya, Illya, Illya, what am I going to do with you?" Then a thought occurred to him. "How did you know I missed two of my check-ins?" He pointed a warning finger at the man. "And don't tell me it was a lucky guess."

He was amazed when Illya's face reddened and turned away.

Napoleon reached out a hand and grabbed Illya's chin, turning his head back to face him. "Do you always keep track of me when I'm on a mission?"

The red grew deeper and Illya jerked his head out of Napoleon's hand. "I think it's time to go, don't you?"

Napoleon supposed it was. After all, he still had a mission to finish. "I need to look around, see if they left any clues."

Illya stood and gave Napoleon a helping hand to stand up. "I will help you."

Napoleon guessed it was safe enough. "I don't suppose you saw my gun and communicator lying around anywhere, did you?"

Illya shook his head. At Napoleon's scowl he gave Napoleon a dry smile. "At least they left you your watch."

Napoleon slung his arm around Illya's shoulder. "That they did, my very clever Russian, that they did."

 

*****
Three days later, his gun and communicator successfully stolen back from the Thrush agent who had taken them, wearing a grin due to the successful demise of another satrapy, Napoleon made his way down to Illya's lab. He peered in the window and lost his grin when he saw Roberts in with Illya, apparently giving Illya a piece of his mind.

Illya's face was as stony as Napoleon had ever seen it, which seemed to be infuriating Roberts. Napoleon could hear him yell, "Are you listening to me?"

Napoleon had to grin at Illya's response even if he knew it wouldn't score the Russian any points. "It would be difficult not to."

Napoleon watched as Roberts' face grew beet red. The explosion was not pretty. "Listen you goddamn commie bastard, if you think you can come in here and play traitor with no one the wiser, you're out of your damn mind. I'm watching you." Roberts punctuated his angry words with a finger that poked at Illya's chest.

With a quick motion, Illya shoved the hand away. "Do not touch me."

Napoleon couldn't believe Roberts stayed there. If anyone had looked at him the way Illya was looking at Roberts, Napoleon would have either started to run or drawn his gun. But Roberts was almost frothing at the mouth and beyond caring. He shoved Illya, hard enough to push him against the counter. "I'll touch you if I goddamn want to. Don't you ever tell me--"

Napoleon didn't need to see or hear anymore of this. He prodded the door open. "Oh, am I interrupting?"

Roberts spun to face him, sneering. "Oh, it's the fucking commie lover."

Napoleon counted to five in hopes it would keep him from slugging Roberts. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, indicating the door. "Out."

"You're not CEA, Solo, in fact, you're far from it. You're just a lowly agent. I'm the Director of this lab and that means I can be wherever the hell I want in it."

Napoleon opened his mouth but Illya beat him to it with an angry look. "Napoleon, keep out of it." He turned to Roberts. "Get out, now. If you don't like it, take it up with Mr. Waverly."

"Oh, sure. Throw that in my face. What the hell did you do to talk him into letting you come here? Do you suck his cock, you goddamn queer?" Something in Illya's face must have finally gotten through because a flash of panic crossed Roberts' face and he barreled his way out the door.

When he was gone, Illya turned back to Napoleon. "I do not need you to fight my battles for me."

Napoleon shot his cuffs and adjusted his tie, trying to let the adrenaline fade a little. "Seeing as how you're always watching my back, it seems the least you could do is allow me the right to do the same every now and then."

Illya blew out an exasperated breath. "It is bad enough he hates me, now he will just hate you too."

Napoleon let out a short laugh. "Sorry to burst your bubble, Tovarisch, but he's never liked me either. We're in this one together."

That got a quick grin out of Illya. "I've been with worse company."

Napoleon sketched out a bow. "Why, thank you, kind sir." He turned to the door. "Want to go get some lunch?"

Illya took off his lab coat, and shrugged into his suit jacket. "As long as we eat somewhere Roberts can't slip poison into our food."

Napoleon let out a rueful laugh. "Good thinking. Let's go out to eat."

 

*****
Napoleon sat at the oval table, waiting for his boss to finish up his call. When Waverly was done, he harrumphed and furrowed his brow. "Yes, Mr. Solo, what can I do for you?"

"It's Roberts, sir. He continues to harass Illya, and I think it's bordering on violence."

"Yes, yes, you've shared this with me before."

"I think it's getting worse."

"I'll take it under advisement. Is there anything else?"

"I'd like to know what you intend to do about Roberts."

Waverly flashed Napoleon one of his looks. "I do not believe this matter concerns you."

"But--"

"You've brought the matter to my attention. Now, if there's nothing else." Waverly rose to retrieve a file.

Napoleon rose also, frustrated with how this conversation was going. He didn't trust Roberts, and he sure as hell didn't like how he treated Illya. He tried one more time. "I thought you wanted a Russian scientist here."

Waverly looked up and frowned. "Are you still here, Mr. Solo?"

"Yes, sir."

Waverly followed the conversation back to the question. "I do. That's why Mr. Kuryakin is with us."

"So--" Napoleon tried to ask the question as respectfully as possible, "why do you allow someone like Roberts to undermine him?" He sincerely hoped he hadn't pushed too far. Napoleon had caught on pretty quickly that Waverly didn't like being questioned. But he'd be damned if he didn't try to do as good a job protecting the man who spent so much of his time protecting him.

Waverly gave him a long and pointed look, but Napoleon stayed his ground. When Waverly completely changed the subject, Napoleon wasn't sure whether to be annoyed or relieved. "Have you given any thought to a partner?"

Napoleon let out a small sigh. "No, sir."

"Perhaps your time might be better spent in that direction. If you do not have someone chosen by the end of the month, I'll choose someone for you."

Napoleon thought about complaining for a moment and then decided he'd get thrown out on his ear. As Waverly seemed to be focusing completely on the file in his hands, Napoleon let himself out.

 

*****
The next day as Napoleon made his way down to the lab, he realized that he was starting most of his days like this. At least the days he was at headquarters. His day just seemed to flow better after stopping in to visit with his Russian genius.

The thought stopped Napoleon in his tracks for a moment. It hadn't really occurred to him how quickly he'd become accustomed to having Illya in his life. He saw him first thing in the morning, had lunch with him when they were both free. At least once or twice a week they went out for dinner or went to listen to music. Napoleon grinned. He spent more time with Illya than everyone else combined.

He'd never had anyone just steal their way into his life so easily. It was a bit disconcerting. For a few seconds Napoleon thought about going to his office and skipping the routine visit. He wasn't sure he liked his dependency on Illya; Napoleon worked hard at keeping all his relationships on a surface level. But somehow Illya had gotten past all his alarm systems. Napoleon muttered, "I might as well be dating him."

One of the secretaries looked up in passing. "Did you say something, Napoleon?" She had a hopeful look on her face.

Napoleon looked at her while he decided whether he'd rather be with her or with Illya. He let out a quiet snort. No contest. "No. No. Just muttering to myself." Wanting to avoid any other conversation, he headed to where his heart had already been leading him--to the lab.

When he approached the door, he heard conversation and wondered if he'd be breaking up another altercation between Illya and Roberts. Despite his complaints to Waverly, it didn't seem as if anything had changed. Roberts was as vitriolic as ever.

But when Napoleon pushed open the door, Illya was talking to another Section Two agent, a man named Bellingham. Napoleon felt a surge of something unpleasant wash through him when he saw Illya handing Bellingham a pair of exploding cufflinks.

Bellingham closed his fists over them. "Thanks, Dr. Kuryakin. You're the best. These are so much better than the last model." Still smiling, he turned and saw Napoleon. "Hey Solo. I see you've found the best place to come for gadgets, hmm? This guy's a damn genius." With another nod of thanks at Illya, Bellingham left.

Napoleon tried to figure out what he was feeling. He normally liked Bellingham. He was good-natured and knew how to handle himself out in the field. If Bellingham didn't already have a partner, Napoleon might have considered him for that role. But right now, all he wanted to do was run after him, take those cufflinks back, and tell him to stay away from Illya.

He could see himself doing it. Saw himself grabbing Bellingham's hand, snatching the cufflinks, brandishing them in his fist as he yelled, 'Mine, mine, mine.'

"Are you all right?"

"Hmmm?" Napoleon looked up to find Illya's blue eyes gazing at him with some concern. His little fantasy must have taken longer than he'd realized. "Yeah, sure, why?"

Illya shook his head. "Never mind."

Napoleon moved to the counter and leaned against it. "I didn't realize you were making gadgets for other agents." He hoped he was coming across with the right degree of indifference.

Illya raised his eyebrows. His voice was dry when he spoke. "I hardly think Waverly would find it efficient to hire me to make gadgets exclusively for you."

Napoleon frowned. "No, I suppose not. I just--" He just what? Thought that Illya was only his? Thought that Illya was just making gadgets for him? Maybe Illya watched out for all the agents. Maybe he rescued all of them from certain death. Maybe he should have asked whatshername for a date.

"Napoleon? Are you sure you're all right?"

Illya's touch on his upper arm brought his train of thought to an abrupt stop. When Napoleon saw the large hand curled around his triceps, a lick of heat flushed through him. Illya was alarmingly close to him. Too close. Not close enough. Napoleon shook his head in frustration. "I'm fine. I guess I didn't get enough sleep last night."

Illya gave him a considered look and then moved to open his magic drawer; the one that contained gadgets that Napoleon used to imagine belonged only to him. Illya drew out a lighter. "I made something new."

Napoleon looked at it, some of the wonder of it lost in his jealousy. "Did you give one to Bellingham, too?" He almost cringed at the whine in his voice.

Illya's fingers closed around the lighter and his head cocked to the side as he scrutinized Napoleon. Napoleon felt like something on one of Illya's slides. Then Illya took Napoleon's hand and placed the lighter in it. "No. I told you that you were my guinea pig. I try them out on you. If you like them, I make them available for the other agents."

That made Napoleon feel marginally better. But not completely. "So, do you--do you break into everyone's office?" He closed his eyes, willing the blush he felt heating his face to go away, annoyed at how needy he felt. He was definitely spending too much time down here.

He felt a touch on his face and he opened his eyes to find affectionate eyes staring at him, Illya's fingers grazing the cleft of his chin. When Napoleon's eyes met Illya's, the Russian's lips curved in a gentle smile and he dropped his hand. "No, Napoleon. I only break into your office."

Even through his jealousy Napoleon could appreciate how silly the conversation was. He grinned at Illya. "Yeah, well, keep it that way. You never know where those other office doors have been."

Illya rolled his eyes. "May I show you how this works now or do you need further reassurance that I live and breathe only for you?"

The tone and the expression were pure sarcasm but the words made their way into Napoleon's ears and lodged inside his heart. He wished he knew what was going on in Illya's head, if there was any truth at all to the sentence he'd just spoken.

Napoleon glanced at the lighter. "Let me guess. It's a lighter."

"Very clever." Illya scooped it off Napoleon's palm. With a few adjustments, he handed it back to Napoleon. "It's a gun. A small gun, I'll grant you, and it only holds two bullets of fairly small caliber, but it might come in handy."

Napoleon gave Illya an admiring look. "I like it." He held it up, aiming.

Illya scrounged around in the drawer and came up with two bullets. He demonstrated loading it. Then he dragged Napoleon across the room to where he had some heavy padding against the wall. "You need to be close for it to penetrate any distance." He pointed at the padding. "Shoot it."

Napoleon took him at his word, ignored his small wish that the bullet would punch through the wall and accidentally hit Roberts, and fired. The gun barely recoiled and, after checking, he saw that the bullet punctured but didn't make it through the padding. He would have to be close. But even one of these bullets at close range would put someone out of commission long enough for him to get away or finish the job with something else.

Napoleon fired again, this time checking its aim. Satisfied, Napoleon closed the mechanism up. Then he clicked open the lid to the lighter and flicked it. He flashed Illya a grin when a small flame resulted. "Illya, my friend, you've outdone yourself. I owe you another dinner."

Illya opened the drawer and handed him two more bullets. "These are the last two. I'll have more made and get them sent up to your office."

Napoleon gave him a mock wounded look. "You're going to have them sent up? You're not going to break into my office in the dead of night and leave them in a basket with some chocolates on my desk? I'm crushed."

Illya blinked at him and shook his head. "Go away now so I can think of someplace sinfully expensive for you to take me to dinner."

Napoleon surrendered ungracefully. "Just don't ask me to light any cigarettes for you. My finger might slip."

Illya let out a chuff of laughter. "If your finger slips, you'll be back to Roberts and his gadgets."

Napoleon shuddered at the thought. "I'll leave the lighter at home." He looked at his watch. "Gotta go. I'm due at a meeting."

Illya acknowledged his words with a nod, and moved back to his microscope. One of these days, Napoleon was going to take a look in there and see what kept Illya so fascinated. With a jaunty wave, Napoleon left the lab.

 

*****
When he walked in his office the next morning, he laughed out loud. There, on his desk, resting on top of a chocolate bar, were a dozen bullets. On his way down to the lab to thank the crafty Russian, Waverly waved him down and sent him on a mission.

 

*****
What Napoleon needed was a miracle. They knew he was there, and they were guarding the exits. Even if he was able to start picking them off one by one they could always go get more reinforcements. Sooner or later, probably sooner, he'd run out of ammunition and then they'd have him. He was beginning to come around to Waverly's point of view. A partner would come in handy right about now.

He glanced at his watch and a small smile graced his face. He hadn't missed a check-in yet, so even assuming Illya was keeping track, he wouldn't be coming in for a last minute rescue. Not that Napoleon wanted Illya here. It wasn't safe even for a trained agent, as said trained agent was more than likely going to end up dead right along side Napoleon. The last thing he wanted was for Illya to die here, too.

He risked a quick peek and a bullet whined past his head. "Damn." He looked around again, searching for another way out. He could probably get out a window but he'd either have to be a gymnast--which he wasn't--or find something to stand on, and they'd take him out before he got something moved.

He tried his communicator again. Nothing. To add insult to injury, his communicator wasn't working. He wasn't sure if the signal was being jammed, or if the damn thing just decided now was the perfect time to give up the ghost.

Napoleon had two choices. He could sit here and hope that after he missed a check-in or two, Waverly would dispatch a team to come after him before it was too late, or he could brazen it out and see if he could take enough of them out to get him to one of the exits.

As he had no intention of hanging around like a sitting duck waiting to die, it really wasn't hard to make a decision. He'd have to slowly work his way around, making sure that no one was sneaking up behind him. He looked to the right and the left, trying to decide where the closest cover to him was and decided to go for the huge crates to his left.

Working up his nerve, he gave himself a count of five. On five he burst from his cover, firing his gun as he lunged for his destination. He felt a bullet wing him and, ignoring the blossoming pain, he ducked and rolled until he came to rest behind the crates.

Napoleon allowed himself five seconds to catch his breath. Then he was crouching again, vigilant to any sounds of men moving in on his position. He glanced down at his arm, hoping it looked better than it felt. He grimaced. It didn't. Gritting his teeth he touched it gingerly, trying to assess the damage.

It didn't hit the bone, but it had taken a chunk of flesh out of his upper arm and done enough damage that he couldn't make the arm do much. It was also bleeding profusely. Napoleon undid his tie and spent an awkward minute trying to tie it tight enough around his upper arm to act as a temporary tourniquet. He kept expecting to look up to find a Thrush agent holding a gun to his head.

Knot finally tied tightly, Napoleon took stock of his situation. It had been bad before, now it was damn near impossible. His odds had just taken a significant dive. He was down to one useful arm and the pain wasn't helping. But he was still determined to go down fighting. Napoleon was just afraid that he'd go down a little faster than he wanted to.

He scoped out his next cover. It was farther than his first mad dash had been, but it was his only choice. If he succeeded, it would get him much closer to one of the exits. Of course, that meant it would also get him closer to the Thrush agents guarding the door.

He thought of Illya again. Napoleon found it interesting that while staring death in the face his mind consistently turned to thoughts of Illya. Contradictory thoughts about Illya. Wishing he were here, glad that he wasn't. Wishing he had the chance to say goodbye, equally determined that Napoleon would be seeing him the next day in his lab, wondering if Illya would miss him, promising himself if he saw the damn Russian again he was going to give him a big hug and maybe never let go. He wondered if Illya really were queer and found his stomach doing a couple of flip-flops at the thought. Excited flip-flops.

He heard a yell and a thump. Then he heard another one. Curious, yet cautious that this might be a trick to make him break cover, he looked in the direction he'd heard the sounds from. What he saw made his eyes widen. Two Thrush agents were down. Listening intently he heard it this time. A soft phftt as a gun fired twice in quick succession through a suppresser, and he watched as two more agents slumped to the ground.

He looked behind him as he could tell it was fired from that direction but there was no one there. He wasn't even sure what he was looking for because whatever had made those men fall wasn't a bullet. There had been no blood and they'd gone down too fast.

"Psst."

Napoleon furrowed his brow.

"Psst. Up here." The voice was whispery soft, soft enough that Napoleon could barely hear.

Napoleon looked up and his jaw dropped. It was Illya. Napoleon blinked and looked again. It was still Illya. He watched in disbelief as Illya aimed and took down the last three Thrush agents who were standing over their fallen comrades in stupid disbelief.

Then, after holstering his gun, and looking like a damn monkey in a jungle, Illya swung from beam to beam until he dropped down in front of Napoleon. "Are you all right?"

Napoleon still hadn't closed his mouth. He glanced up at the ceiling again and its crosswalks of beams. "How--? What--?

Illya pointed behind him and said, as if he did it everyday, "I came through the window." Illya grinned, obviously enjoying the look on Napoleon's face, and pulled out his gun. "New gadget. Thought you might like to see how it worked." He pointed at the fallen agents. "Sleep darts." Illya tapped his watch with the muzzle. "They'll start waking up in a few minutes. We should go."

Napoleon was beginning to recover. "Are you crazy? What the hell are you doing here? You could have gotten yourself killed. And where the hell did you learn to shoot like that?"

"U.N.C.L.E. survival school."

Napoleon's jaw dropped again. "You went through survival school?"

"Top of my class." Illya flashed Napoleon a mocking grin. "Beat out a couple of your scores while I was there."

"If you went through survival school, why are you stuck in the lab? Why aren't you an agent?"

"Because Waverly didn't need an agent, he needed a scientist, and I happen to be one of those, too." He leaned in to take a closer look at Napoleon's bullet wound. "How do you keep getting yourself into these situations, Napoleon? It's a wonder you've managed to keep yourself alive all these years."

Napoleon thought about smacking him but then he remembered his promise to himself. He yanked Illya even closer and wrapping his good arm around him, he gave the Russian a hug, hoping Illya didn't shoot him with his new dart gun.

It took a few seconds, but Illya finally returned the hug, and then seemed perfectly content to stand there as long as Napoleon wanted to. Which, now that Napoleon had Illya in his arms, could turn out to be a damn long time.

Napoleon found himself running his hand down Illya's back. It occurred to him that despite Illya's slender appearance, he was nothing but muscle. Someone to depend on. Someone he could depend on. Still holding on, he whispered in Illya's ear, "I know I sound like a broken record, but thanks."

Illya's hands were busy making their way down Napoleon's back, and for a disconcertingly thrilling moment, Napoleon thought they might continue down to his ass. He fought back a flush of regret when the hands began to rise. Illya whispered back, "You're welcome."

Illya's breath in his ear caused a curling flame to lick through his body. Napoleon would have paid a thousand dollars on the spot for someone to tell him what the man in his arms was thinking before Napoleon did something he might end up regretting. Sighing, he pulled out of the hug and found himself drowning in blue eyes.

It would only take the work of an instant to lower his head and kiss Illya, and Napoleon was captivated by the thought. And terrified. He froze, wracked with indecision, praying Illya would make the first move. Illya's tongue darted out to lick his lips, and Napoleon almost groaned at the way his stomach and parts south responded.

Then, a noise sounded, and Illya stepped away, turning to the downed Thrush agents. One of them was stirring. "We should go."

Napoleon shook his head. "I haven't found what I'm looking for."

Illya pursed his lips, walked over to the agent and shot him again. Speaking calmly, as if he'd sprayed some pesticide on a rose bush, he said, "It will be interesting to see if they have more effect when administered at closer range." He bent down. "It doesn't appear to have killed him."

Napoleon raised his eyebrows. "Little on the bloodthirsty side, aren't you?"

Illya shrugged. "They are the enemy, da?"

Napoleon could hardly argue with that. "Well, you keep one eye on the sleeping beauties and one eye on the exits, and I'll look for the shipment I was sent here for."

Illya nodded and started reloading his gun.

One-handed, Napoleon flipped open the top of the crate nearest to him as he watched Illya. "How many of those darts do you have with you?"

"Five more. I'll have to use real bullets after that." He frowned at the bodies at his feet. "I could just kill them now, and then I could help you look."

Bloodthirsty indeed. "Maybe you could just tie them up."

Illya let out a soft sound of surprise, as if that less grisly solution had never occurred to him. He pulled a knife out of his boot, cut some rope off the crates nearest to him and began to truss the agents up.

Napoleon watched, approving of his technique. He found himself smiling at the idea of a scientist in a lab going around with a knife in his boot. He didn't believe there was anyone else in the world quite like Illya.

In a few minutes, Illya came over to join him. "What are we looking for?"

"Weapons."

With a small grunt, Illya moved to the other side of the warehouse and started poking around. By the time they were done they were being glared at by six angry Thrush agents, the seventh still fast asleep, and they had found fifteen crates of weapons, everything from handguns to grenade launchers. Napoleon tried his communicator one more time, wondering if it would work now that Illya was here. It did. Naturally. He frowned at it as he called for some assistance to retrieve the bound Thrush agents and confiscate the weapons.

He held up the communicator case toward Illya. "This wasn't working a few minutes ago."

Illya nodded. "I know. Someone outside was jamming your signal."

"Ah. I assume you took care of that?"

"Yes. But now that you mention it, I want to get a closer look at the device he was using." And with that, Illya pushed open the door and walked outside.

Napoleon shook his head, chuckling, as the door shut behind him.

 

*****
Napoleon spent the night in the infirmary. After his surgery was over he thought he saw Illya standing by his bed, but the drugs did their job too well and pulled him under.

When he woke up the arm was stiff, but he figured he'd live. He was allowed, with stern instructions to not overdo things accompanied by dark expressions of disapproval, to go back to his office. Napoleon grimaced at the mountain of paper work on his desk. This would be another good reason to have a partner; he could stick them with half of it. Maybe more.

Napoleon yawned and decided he needed a coffee break. There seemed to be a lot of activity in the hallways. He half listened to the excited conversations as he made his way to the cafeteria.

"Can you believe it happened here, right under everyone's noses?"

"How did they get in anyway?" A disdainful sniff. "Doesn't say much about our own security."

"How bad is it?"

"Well, I heard everything was ruined."

"Does anyone know why it happened?"

"Well, it had to be because he's Russian, don't you think? I mean no one--"

Napoleon didn't wait to hear what else was being said as he ran toward the lab. His heart pounding, he pushed his way through the door and when he saw Illya standing there, apparently unhurt, he took his first real breath since he'd started his sprint.

Then he perceived the unhappy expression on his friend's face and took a good look around. The lab had been vandalized. Shattered glass was all over the floor; in fact, he'd stepped on some and hadn't even noticed amidst his concern for Illya.

Stepping cautiously, Napoleon made his way over to Illya. "Are you all right?" He looked Illya up and down, making sure he was in one piece.

Illya gave him a terse nod.

"When did this happen?"

Illya prodded the remains of his microscope with his foot, his expression disconsolate. "Some time early this morning after the last security check. It was like this when I got in."

"Why didn't you call me?"

Illya gave him a haunted smile. "Last time I looked you were heavily sedated in the infirmary." His eyes gave Napoleon an examination of their own. "You look better."

"I'm fine." He looked around the lab again. The counters were bare, everything had been thrown to the floor and, if it hadn't shattered, it had been trampled on. In between the shards of glass and pieces of metal were thousands of tiny pieces of paper. Napoleon assumed they were reports and notes. He couldn't even imagine someone taking the time to do this.

The more he looked the angrier he became. This was no random act of violence. It was purposeful and directed right at Illya. Someone wanted to make a point by not leaving a single thing in the lab whole. Napoleon noticed that a tarp had been taped to the wall. He pointed to it, his eyes questioning.

Illya gave him permission with a small nod of his head.

Napoleon walked across the lab and peeked under the tarp. In huge black letters someone had spray painted the words: Go home. Napoleon wanted to kill someone. "Illya--" Napoleon stopped, having absolutely no idea what to say. Regardless of the gossip upstairs, it had to be an inside job; no one else could have gotten into these offices.

Napoleon felt a hot flash of shame boil through him that one of his own countrymen or women had done this to someone so undeserving of their hate. He had no idea how to make it up to his friend. His eyes must have communicated his dismay because Illya patted him on the shoulder. "It's all right, Napoleon."

"No, it's not all right." Napoleon watched as Illya started picking up the pieces to his microscope. He bent down to assist and saw the sadness in Illya's eyes as he held the shattered convex mirror in his hand. Napoleon swallowed against the lump in his throat. "It's not all right at all. I can't tell you how sorry I am."

Illya dropped the mirror on the floor. "Nothing is salvageable. I suppose I should just let housekeeping clean it up." He stood, surveying the ruin.

"Did they catch anyone on the hallway monitors?"

"They were disabled."

Napoleon scowled. "Do they have any idea at all who did it?"

Illya flashed Napoleon a look. "We both know who did it, Napoleon."

"Are they questioning him?"

"He has an alibi."

"Damn it." Napoleon wanted to wring the bastard's neck. "Did he really get everything?"

A small grin graced Illya's face and he shook his head. "Not everything." He pulled out his key ring and unlocked the magic drawer. "He didn't get in here."

Napoleon couldn't help but grin at the sight of exploding cufflinks and other paraphernalia. That was their drawer, and it had emerged unscathed. "Anything else?"

Illya prodded his briefcase. "Fortunately, after finding him in my lab a few times, I started taking most of the open files with me at night."

Napoleon's eyes opened wide. "Illya, you're not supposed to take any of that stuff out of the building."

Illya flashed him a real grin this time. "I didn't. I left it in your office."

Napoleon flashed Illya a pained smile, chagrined he'd never noticed. "Come on, let me go buy you a drink."

Illya glanced at his watch. "It's not even 10:00 in the morning."

"Good, then I can buy you lots of drinks. I'm supposed to be on medical leave, and Waverly certainly can't expect you to work until they get this cleaned up."

Illya thought about it for a few seconds and then he nodded his head. "I could use a drink."

"Great. Relock that drawer, grab your bag and let's go."

As the two men walked down the hall together, Napoleon saw someone he wanted to talk to briefly. He put a hand on Illya's arm to stop him. "Wait here, I'll just be a second."

Illya sighed but stopped, leaning against the wall.

Napoleon walked over to Sally, one of the managers of the Central Supply department. He'd seen her try and flirt with Illya. "Did you hear?"

Sally nodded, frowning. "Yes, and I think it's just terrible."

"He'll need to get everything replaced."

"I'll make sure he gets everything he needs, Napoleon. You can be sure of that."

"Oh, and Sally, he'll need a new microscope. Find out what he was using and make sure you order him something even better. Let's make sure he knows that some of us are glad he's with us."

Sally leaned forward and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I'll get him the best of everything. I promise."

"I knew I could count on you." He gave her hand a squeeze and then walked back over to Illya. "Ready?"

Illya flashed him a dirty look. "I'm not the one keeping you waiting, in case you hadn't noticed."

Napoleon returned the dirty look with a smile, full of charm.

It didn't appear to have any affect and simply elicited a scowl. "Securing a date for tonight?" Illya asked, annoyed.

Napoleon smiled again, daring to hope that jealousy was prompting Illya's question. "No need." He chucked Illya gently under his chin. "I've got you."

Something flickered in Illya's eyes, but it was gone too fast for Napoleon to identify what it was. But he did catch the small quirk of Illya's lips, as if he was doing his best to hold back a smile. It was good enough for Napoleon and he grandly gestured for Illya to start walking again.

 

*****
When they started getting a little the worse for wear, Napoleon moved the proceedings to his apartment. He wanted them both inside his high security home if they were going to get any drunker. No point making it too easy for Thrush to pick them off.

He poured another shot of vodka for Illya and a scotch for himself and sat back down on the couch. "You know what I don't understand?"

Illya was down to taking sips of his vodka. "What?"

"When I got back in yesterday, Waverly debriefed me. When I told him that you had bailed me out, it didn't even faze him. Didn't raise his eyebrows or let out an annoyed harrumph. Nothing. And on that other affair when you rescued me, I put that in the case report, and he never said a thing." He frowned at Illya. "Why is that?"

Illya shrugged. "Perhaps you should ask him that."

"I mean, I'm thinking that if I told him Roberts had shown up to save my bacon, he'd have hauled Roberts into his office and asked him what the hell he was doing out in the field."

"I don't imagine Roberts has gone through Survival School."

Napoleon scowled and waved his hand. "Just because you've gone through Survival School doesn't mean you know how to survive in the field. It just means you passed a series of controlled tests. So, what I want to know is why Waverly seems to take it as a matter of course that you're out there acting like an experienced agent?" Napoleon took a sip of his scotch, keeping a close eye on the Russian.

"I also don't imagine that Roberts has worked as an agent for the KGB."

Napoleon almost spit out his sip of scotch. He swallowed it quickly. "You were an agent for the KGB?"

"When I wasn't being a scientist. Yes."

"Which do you like better?"

"You mean the KGB or U.N.C.L.E.?"

Napoleon shook his head. "No, being an agent or being a scientist." An idea was forming in the back of his mind.

Illya finished his drink and leaned forward to refill his glass. Napoleon was sure that when he sat back again he was a couple of inches closer. "It doesn't matter. Waverly hired me to be a scientist, and he made it clear to me that that is where he wants me to stay."

Napoleon fought back his disappointment as he saw his idea go down the drain. "He does?"

Illya nodded. "The new gadgets I've been making for you have not gone unnoticed."

"I'm sure that's helped you become one of Roberts' favorite people."

Illya flashed him a wry grin. "No doubt."

"We have to get some proof on him. His alibi's got to be contrived or else he hired someone else to do it and gave them the codes to get in the building." Napoleon finished off his drink and poured himself a new one. When he leaned back, he managed to end up even closer to Illya. He flashed a quick look at the Russian and caught Illya staring right back at him, although he quickly looked away.

Napoleon's eyes wandered up the strong thighs, taking in the mound at Illya's crotch, wondering if he had enough Dutch courage to take what he wanted. Wondering if he had enough courage to even think about taking what he wanted. He allowed his eyes to continue wandering up Illya's chest, to his neck, to that full bottom lip that made him lick his own, and then found himself eye-to-eye with the object of his blooming desire.

He stood up quickly, panic swelling. He swayed on his feet for a second as he tried to think of something to say. Finally he pointed toward the hallway that led to the bathroom. "I'll be right back."

Illya nodded, and Napoleon fled. While in the bathroom he used the facilities and washed his hands. Holding the hand towel, he stared at himself in the mirror, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. He was no blushing virgin. He'd participated in enough wild orgies in his college days to have done most of everything there was for willing bodies to engage in. What was he so frightened of?

He thought of the man back in the living room and realized that that was what he was frightened of. Screwing that up. Screwing up their friendship, making the wrong move and losing something that had come to mean more to him than anything. Napoleon tried to think back over the last few weeks to see if Illya had given him any sign that he was interested in something more than friendship.

He blew out a frustrated breath. Nothing definitive. Small things that could be interpreted either way. Those hugs and long looks, and the way Illya took care of him and watched out for him, the way Illya looked to him for friendship while not seeming to give anyone else the time of day.

But what did that all mean? A wrong choice in either direction came with too high a price. If this was not something Illya would welcome, and Napoleon made a pass at him, he could lose the friendship. If it was something Illya would welcome, and Napoleon played it safe and didn't touch him, they could miss out on something extraordinary. Something Napoleon was sure he'd been waiting all his life for. Something worth taking a risk for.

He squared his shoulders and headed back to the living room. He sat down next to his friend. "Illya."

This time Illya stood, shifting nervously from one foot to the other. "Now it is my turn."

Napoleon leaned against the back of the couch and nodded, thinking about Illya's eyes and body language. Illya was nervous. Napoleon sat there for a while until he realized his friend was taking an inordinate amount of time. He frowned, glancing at his watch. A few minutes later he stood and moved to outside the bathroom door. "Illya?"

There was no response. Napoleon listened intently but he didn't hear anything. He couldn't believe that Illya had somehow snuck out of his apartment without him hearing. He called again. "Illya?"

Napoleon heard a sigh this time, and he took a chance and opened the door, finding it unlocked. Illya was standing in front of the mirror, washcloth in his hand, almost a mirror image of how Napoleon had been standing a few minutes before. As if the answers to his life lay in the reflection staring back at him.

Their eyes met in the mirror and a quick thrill traveled down Napoleon's body right to his groin. He moved to stand behind and a little to the right of Illya. "You feeling all right?"

Illya gave him a tight nod, his eyes focused on Napoleon's image in the mirror. "Yes, I--I've been thinking." He put the washcloth down, hands resting on the counter.

Napoleon grinned at Illya's reflection. "Do your best thinking in the bathroom, do you?"

Illya gave him a scathing look.

Napoleon let his eyes wander down the image of Illya in the mirror. Noticed how the black turtleneck hugged his body, how his knuckles looked white from how hard Illya was grasping the edges of the counter. His gaze rose again to look at Illya's face. "What were you thinking about?"

He saw a quick flash of panic in the blue eyes and, for some reason, Napoleon suddenly felt calm. He watched as Illya shook his head, not wanting to reveal his thoughts.

Napoleon stepped in a little closer until he was only an inch from Illya's body. He could feel the heat coming off the Russian and barely kept himself from swaying against him. "Tell me."

"About us," Illya finally said.

Napoleon took that last step, moving his right leg until it rested between both of Illya's, his groin resting against the left cheek of Illya's ass. "About this?" Napoleon asked.

"Yes," Illya said, shifting his body so Napoleon's cock rested in the cleft of his ass.

"It sounds like we've been thinking about the same thing," Napoleon said, letting his hand graze Illya's groin, rejoicing in the hardness he felt there.

Illya spread his legs, his invitation clear. Napoleon moaned and his hips thrust, his cock instinctively looking for connection.

As Illya turned his head, Napoleon found himself millimeters away from those lips he'd been admiring for so long. He closed the distance and finally satisfied his desire. They were as soft and tantalizing as he'd known they would be, and the first kiss only whetted his appetite.

With one hand fisted in Illya's hair, he held him captive as he swept his tongue into Illya's mouth, thoroughly exploring the warm cavern. He growled when Illya's tongue mated with his. Each successive kiss was better than the one before, until every sense was inundated with the taste, the smell, the sound of Illya's moans, the feel of Illya's hair and his strong body.

Illya tried to turn fully in his arms but Napoleon drew his attention back to their reflection. "Look at us."

He watched as Illya turned his head and their eyes met in the mirror. They complimented each other. Dark hair and blond. Brown eyes and blue. Both sets of eyes currently darkened with desire, their lips swollen from their kissing. Watching Napoleon's eyes, Illyas rubbed his ass against the hard cock trying to press into him.

"Pazhalsta," Illya said.

Napoleon shrugged out of his suit jacket and let it fall to the floor. He toed his shoes off, using the movement to brush against Illya, loving the look on Illya's face when he did that. "What does that mean?" he asked.

"Please," Illya translated. "Seychas." With a smirk, he added, "That means now." He reached behind him to start unbuckling Napoleon's belt.

Napoleon helped, and in a few seconds he was stepping out of his pants and briefs, shoving them away with his foot. He reached down and took his socks off. He nuzzled at Illya's neck, letting out little gasps of pleasure as Illya touched his cock, stroking it from root to its velvet domed head. With clumsy fingers, Napoleon undid the buttons of his shirt and tossed it aside, followed shortly by his undershirt.

He found it deliciously wanton that he was naked while Illya still had all his clothes on. He leaned into Illya, watching in the mirror as Illya's clothed body hid most of Napoleon's reflection. Reaching around, his hands caressed the Russian over his clothing, while Illya continued to explore what he could reach of Napoleon's naked body.

Napoleon buried his head on Illya's shoulder, lost in the sensation. He'd stopped counting a long time ago all the people he'd had sex with, but this time felt different. It felt new. Real. He found himself suddenly desperate to feel Illya's skin.

He untucked the turtleneck from Illya's pants and worked it over his head, taking a good look at his friend. He had a beautiful physique, slender but well muscled. Napoleon groaned as Illya stroked him again. He grabbed for Illya's hands and brought them around front. "Things will be over much too soon if you keep that up." He placed Illya's hands on the counter. "My turn to play."

Napoleon watched every expression on Illya's face as he ran his hands over his chest and nipples, down his abdomen, over the tight fabric covering his crotch. He'd never seen anything so enticing. The words were out before he could stop them. "I love you."

Napoleon stared at the mirror, eyes wide, aghast that those words had just left his lips. Astonished that he meant them. Worried that Illya would think it too much, too soon, or even worse, mock him. Feeling more vulnerable than he could remember, he waited for Illya's judgment.

Illya turned in his arms and if Napoleon had felt kissed before it was nothing compared to the tempest he now held in his arms. He clutched at Illya, wishing he could crawl inside him, thinking he'd never get enough of the man.

Then Illya pulled away and Napoleon felt momentarily adrift, until he saw that it was only so Illya could pull off the rest of his clothes. Then, when Illya was as naked as Napoleon, he turned again, facing the mirror and pulled Napoleon's arms around him. "Pazhalsta. Seychas." Illya pressed the cleft of his ass against Napoleon's hard and weeping cock, leaving no doubt as to what he wanted.

Just the thought of it almost pushed Napoleon over the edge. He clenched his teeth and held Illya tightly. "Don't move." Napoleon fought off his impending orgasm until the urgency passed.

When he was back in control, Napoleon stroked Illya's cock, watching it grow even larger under his ministrations, watching Illya's lips part as he panted for breath, his tongue darting out to wet dry lips. Beautiful man. Napoleon couldn't take his eyes off of him.

Not letting go, Napoleon reached into the medicine cabinet for lotion. Glancing at it only long enough to make sure it was appropriate for his use, his eyes went rapidly back to the mirror and to the sight of Illya aroused with wanting him. It was a sight Napoleon planned on seeing regularly.

Illya grabbed the bottle from him and poured some of the lotion into his hands. He warmed it in his palms and then reached a hand behind him to slather it on Napoleon's cock.

Napoleon held out his hand and Illya poured more on his fingers. Napoleon smiled at the Russian and nibbled on Illya's neck. The taste of him made Napoleon want all of him. Napoleon ran his fingers down the cleft until he felt the puckered opening to Illya's body. He could feel it spasm under the light touch of his fingers. He caught Illya's eyes in the mirror. Napoleon said, "I do, you know."

Illya pushed back against the fingers, demanding penetration. He glanced at Napoleon. "You do what?"

"Love you." Napoleon slipped a finger inside Illya's body.

Illya's eyes closed, face rapturous. Napoleon moved his finger, coating the inside walls, looking for that magic spot. Illya's groan and the jerk of his body told Napoleon he'd found it. "More? Do you want more?"

Illya nodded, his eyes still closed, his tongue darting out to catch a drop of sweat on his upper lip. "Da."

Napoleon worked in a second finger. "You feel so tight." And hot and perfect.

"Do it now, Napoleon." Illya opened his legs wider and bent over a little, his elbows on the counter. "Do it now."

Napoleon hadn't thought he could get any harder, but he was wrong. He watched his fingers go in and out of Illya's body and it was the most erotic thing he'd ever seen. "I don't want to hurt you."

Illya groaned. "Pazhalsta. You're killing me."

Napoleon grinned at that. "In a minute, my friend." He slipped a third finger in and began scissoring them, stretching the muscle. He reached around with his other hand, stroking the silky smooth hardened length of Illya's cock.

Illya let out a growl.

If Napoleon hadn't already been in love, that growl would have done it. He slowly withdrew his fingers. Using both hands, he held Illya's ass cheeks apart, and pressed his cock against the still spasming hole. Once he was through the first muscle he slid right in, up to his balls, and it was all he could do to not come in that instant. He looked into the mirror. "Open your eyes."

Illya obeyed, his eyes growing darker as he gazed at their joined bodies, their skin flushed with passion.

Napoleon withdrew almost to the tip of his cock and then plunged in again. "Look at us." They were perfect together.

Illya's eyes avidly watched Napoleon as he withdrew again only to thrust back in. It pulled a deep groan from Illya, who pushed back forcing Napoleon even deeper inside.

Napoleon kept one hand on Illya's hip, and moved the other one to encircle Illya's cock. It was the best porn ever. His eyes roamed greedily over Illya even as he plunged into his body over and over again, his hand echoing his movement on Illya's erection.

Finally Napoleon couldn't hold back. He thrust harder, stroking Illya faster as well, wanting them to go together. He could hear the fevered grunts coming from his own mouth as he tried to pull in adequate breath. Then, like a lightning bolt, Illya's orgasm hit, and Napoleon watched as the semen jetted out of the Russian's cock, rising like a geyser to fall back over his fingers. In response, Napoleon's body exploded in the most mind-numbing orgasm he'd ever had.

Neither man had strength to stand after that, and like a pair of marionettes whose strings have been cut, they both slithered to the ground, Napoleon's arms around Illya, Illya holding tightly to the arms supporting him.

Minutes later, or it could have been hours, Napoleon started feeling the cold linoleum under his butt. He hugged his friend, now lover, tightly, and pressed a kiss to his neck.

Finally they rose, had a quick shower, and made their way into the bedroom. They lay cuddled on Napoleon's bed, seemingly as close as they could get to one another. When Napoleon kissed the top of Illya's head, Illya shifted even closer. Napoleon laughed softly. "You keep that up, you'll be on the other side of me."

When Illya tried to inch away, Napoleon pulled him right back. "That wasn't a complaint. Remind me to send Roberts a thank you note."

Illya frowned. "For what?"

Napoleon grinned. "For this," he said, gesturing at the two of them. "If he hadn't trashed your lab we'd both still be at work."

Illya put his hand on the bandage on Napoleon's arm. "How is your arm, by the way? I forgot it was injured."

Napoleon chuckled. "So did I. It's a little sore, but trust me, the last thing I was thinking about in that bathroom was my arm." He let out a sigh as, despite their nakedness, his mind focused on business. "We need to figure out how he did it, you know. We can't let him get away with this."

"I know."

"Do you have a plan?"

"I do."

"Does it involve gadgets?" Napoleon asked, smiling as he felt Illya's silent laugh shake his body.

"Very complicated gadgets." Illya rolled them both until they were side by side, and he kissed Napoleon's lips. "But, I do not want to talk about this now."

Napoleon played innocent. "You don't?"

Illya's hand swept its way down Napoleon's body until he was cupping his genitals. "No, I don't."

Napoleon moaned happily as he grew hard from Illya's touch. "What do you want to talk about, then?"

"I don't want to talk." Illya started kissing his way down Napoleon's chest, laving his nipples, first the left, then the right.

Napoleon was enjoying the game. "Why not?" He let out a whimper when Illya tugged on a nipple with his teeth.

"Because I have better things to do with my mouth," Illya said, continuing to demonstrate.

"Ah, oh God--like what?"

Illya moved south. He nuzzled the brown curls that surrounded the base of Napoleon's cock. "Like this." He engulfed Napoleon's cock in his hot, wet mouth.

Napoleon almost came off the bed at the sensation. Deciding he'd much rather have Illya do this than talk, Napoleon shut up.

 

*****
The next day, Napoleon had Illya wait in his office while he went down to make sure the lab was presentable. Only promises of sexual delights later in the day convinced Illya to let him play vanguard. Napoleon couldn't wait to fulfill those promises to his insatiable new lover.

He walked into the lab and looked around with satisfaction. The walls had been painted, the floor scrubbed clean, and the counters and floor were littered with boxes of new supplies, including a microscope.

Napoleon heard a noise and looked up, really not surprised to see Illya standing there. He put on a mock frown. "You were supposed to wait for my call."

Illya rolled his eyes. "You're not my mother, Napoleon." He shut the door behind him and then moved to stand close to Napoleon. Very close.

Napoleon ran a hand down his back until he was caressing the firm curves of Illya's ass. "Thank God for that." Napoleon knew this wasn't the place for touching like this, but he couldn't resist. He took a reluctant step away to stop himself from further indulging. "I'm guessing you'll be busy most of the day. Think you can squeeze me in for lunch?"

Illya whispered in Napoleon's ear. "I can squeeze you in anytime, Napoleon."

Napoleon decided he better leave before they ended up on the floor. He gave Illya a look that was part warning, part promise, and walked out of the lab.

A few minutes later he stood outside Waverly's office. Lisa waved him in. Eventually, Waverly looked up. "Yes, Mr. Solo?"

"I wanted to talk to you about Roberts, Sir."

"I believe we've had this conversation before."

Napoleon pursed his lips, marshaling his thoughts. "Both Illya and I think he's responsible for the damage to Illya's lab."

Waverly's sharp eyes glared at him. "Do you have proof for this serious accusation?"

Napoleon let out a frustrated sigh. "No, Sir."

"Then this conversation is at an end."

Napoleon tapped his fingers on the table but then quickly lifted his hand when he saw Waverly's stare. He couldn't understand why the old man seemed so reluctant to even discuss Roberts. It was true Waverly played his cards close to his chest, but Napoleon was starting to smell a rat. He just wished he knew what its name was. He stood and moved to leave.

"Mr. Solo?"

Napoleon stopped and turned. "Yes, Sir?"

"You and Mr. Kuryakin might want to find that proof."

Napoleon bit back a grin at the implied permission to start investigating Roberts. "Yes, Sir." With a much lighter heart he left the old man's office.

 

*****
When Napoleon returned to the lab, Illya was putting his new supplies away. Napoleon gazed at a spot on the empty countertop. "Where's the microscope?" He had fully expected to see Illya in his usual place, staring down at some unidentified specimen.

Illya nodded toward the corner of the room where a big box sat on the ground. "I haven't put it up yet."

Napoleon grinned. "And you're not going through withdrawal?"

Illya glanced out the door to make sure no one was in the hallway and he pressed a quick kiss on Napoleon's lips. "I seem to have found a new obsession."

Napoleon kissed him again. "You know we can't do this here."

Illya leaned into him, nibbled at his lower lip. "I know. Much too dangerous to touch each other at work."

Napoleon let out a moan as Illya moved down to his neck. "Much too dangerous," he agreed, turning his head to give Illya better access.

Illya snaked a hand down to cup Napoleon's hardening cock. "Maybe I should just set up my microscope."

"Mmm." Napoleon found Illya's lips again.

A noise in the hallway caused them to step away. Both men shot sheepish looks at each other. Between desire for Illya and almost getting caught, Napoleon's heart was pounding. It didn't stop him from wanting to kiss the Russian again. When Illya made as if to move close again, Napoleon put up his hand. "Don't."

Illya looked sulky for a moment but then he nodded and, with a sigh, went back to his supplies.

Napoleon could see Illya's hands were a little shaky. It made him feel better to know they both affected each other so strongly. "So, when can you get out of here?"

Illya didn't even look at him. "Napoleon, it's no where near time to leave."

Napoleon glanced at his watch. A few short kisses and his mind went on hiatus. It would be hours before he could get Illya someplace private. He didn't think he could stand it.

Illya interrupted his pity party. "How'd your talk with Mr. Waverly go?"

Napoleon's eyes widened. "How did you know I went to talk to--?" He let out a short laugh. "Is there anything you don't keep track of?"

"What did he say?"

Napoleon gave Illya an appraising look, wondering what it was he was probing for. "He suggested you and I prove that Roberts was responsible for the damage to your lab."

Illya blew out a breath and nodded. "Let's go to your office."

Napoleon furrowed his brow. "Why?"

"I have something I need to show you."

"So show it to me here."

"It's up in your office."

Napoleon rolled his eyes. "That's right. I forgot you like to pretend that my office is your private file cabinet."

Illya lowered his voice. "You have no windows in your door."

That was good enough for Napoleon. "Let's go." He moved to the door and opened it, gesturing impatiently. "Come on, come on, let's go."

Illya flashed him a grin and then composed his face as he swept out into the hallway. Neither man spoke as they made their way up to Napoleon's office. The door slid open, both men stepped inside and away from the entrance so the door could slide shut. Napoleon locked it and found himself pressed up against the wall as Illya began a thorough exploration of his mouth.

It took every ounce of self control Napoleon could muster not to throw all caution to the winds. All he wanted to do was get naked. He wanted to fall to his knees and work Illya's cock out of his black pants and suck on him until he came in his mouth. He wanted to have Illya push him down on the couch and do some scientific exploration on his body from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet.

He wanted Illya to touch him like he'd touched Illya last night. Put those big fingers inside him and, when he was ready, Napoleon wanted Illya to ram that beautiful cock deep into Napoleon's body.

Napoleon self control slipped away as his mind supplied him with pictures that inflamed his body until he was past the point of reason. Fuck reason. Fuck control. He reached for Illya's belt buckle.

Illya was the one who stopped things this time. He grabbed Napoleon's hands. "Stop. We have to stop."

Napoleon didn't want to stop. He let go of the buckle, and slid his hand down to cup the bulge in Illya's pants.

Illya swallowed a groan and stepped back.

Napoleon followed him.

Illya moved until the desk stood between them. "Napoleon. You have to stop."

Napoleon stared at Illya. Saw how the Russian's eyes were dark with desire. He looked down at the desk, imagined Illya, naked, lying there, beneath him. He licked his lips.

As if he could read Napoleon's mind, Illya let out one of his growls in response.

Napoleon lifted his eyes again, knew that Illya was right, knew that neither of them had any control right now and that doing what they wanted, here in Napoleon's office, was insane. He licked his lips again, tasted Illya there and wanted more.

His voice thick with desire, Illya said, "We'll have tonight. We'll have every night."

Every night. Napoleon liked the sound of that. He looked at his watch again. Hours. He closed his eyes and focused on the noises around him. The air coming from the vents, the sounds of phones ringing, typewriters clacking, muted voices coming from the hallway. His ardor started to cool. He stepped back until he dropped onto the small sofa, rubbing his face with his hands as if to scrub the last of his desire away. He glanced up at Illya, a rueful grin on his face. "You, Kuryakin, are some kind of aphrodisiac."

Illya dropped into Napoleon's chair. He gave Napoleon a delighted grin, looking completely unrepentant.

Napoleon let out a snort. Never had he gone up in flames that fast. He was surprised he hadn't come in his pants like some post pubescent teenager. He rested his head on the back of the sofa, closing his eyes, still not completely back to normal. He wasn't sure he'd ever be back to normal if Illya was in the same room with him. His body was attracted to the Russian like a magnetized compass needle was to the north.

He heard Illya walk to his book shelves and slide something out. His curiosity got the best of him and he opened his eyes again. Illya sat down by his side and handed him the file.

Okay. Back to business. He risked a quick glance at Illya, saw that his blue eyes were still dark with desire, his lips slightly swollen from kissing. He shook his head. "Like some damn drug." He took the file and opened it.

It took him a minute to find his concentration. When he did, he frowned. There were pages of information here on Roberts. "How long have you been watching him?"

"Since I arrived."

Napoleon's brain was still not firing on all cylinders. "Do you mean to tell me that the minute you met Roberts, you decided he merited investigation?"

Illya shook his head. "No."

Napoleon's brow furrowed, trying to reason it out. There was only one other possible solution. He scowled. "That's why you're here, isn't it? That's why Waverly brought you in, to investigate Roberts?"

Illya nodded.

"Does that mean," Napoleon asked, his chest tight, "that once this is done you're going to disappear? Are you some sort of international Internal Affairs?"

Illya laid a reassuring hand on Napoleon's arm. "I'm not going anywhere. Waverly did need a scientist. With me, he was able to kill two birds with one stone."

Napoleon started breathing again. He scowled. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I couldn't. I had my orders."

"So Waverly was waiting for me to get nosy enough to bring me in on it?" Napoleon wasn't sure he liked that idea at all. He gestured at the two of them. "Was this all part of it? A way to get me involved?"

Illya's eyes widened in dismay. "No." He stood and took a few steps backward. "How can you even say that?"

Napoleon stood, too. "What do you mean? How can I not say it? I don't know anything about you. Where you came from, what you do. Maybe this is how you operate. Make someone fall in love with you, rope them into your schemes." Napoleon glanced at Illya, saw the painful effects of his words.

Napoleon swore, tossing the file folder on the couch. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I just--" He pulled Illya into his arms. "You make me crazy." He let out a tight laugh as he pressed his forehead on Illya's shoulder. "You're just everything I ever wanted and I guess--" He held on tighter, willing Illya to forgive him.

"I swear to you," Illya said, "you were never a part of this. You were an unexpected surprise. A very good surprise."

"So Waverly didn't tell you to bring me in?"

Illya shook his head, stepping back so they could more comfortably converse. "No. I've never even mentioned you in any of my briefings with him. But he's not blind. He had to know we were becoming friends."

"And that you were rescuing me on a regular basis." Napoleon bit his lower lip. "Maybe when your lab got destroyed he decided you could use some back up." Chagrined, he added, "I went a little crazy at the thought that this wasn't real."

Illya quickly kissed Napoleon. "It's very real." He reached down and picked up the file.

Napoleon drew in a long breath. "Okay, then. Let's start at the beginning. What did Waverly think Roberts was up to, to warrant bringing you here to spy on him? Not that I'm not grateful."

Illya gave him a smile and sat back down on the couch. "He's been suspicious of Roberts for a while. He thinks he's been trying to sabotage the lab and that Roberts is selling information garnered from here to the Russians."

Napoleon's eyes widened in surprise. After thinking about it for a minute he gave Illya a wry smile. "Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much?"

"Yes. His hatred of me as a Russian is a bit overdone."

"But real and, I'm afraid, echoed by others who work at U.N.C.L.E. He probably hoped it would be sufficient cause to be rid of you."

"I knew it wouldn't be easy, Napoleon. I didn't walk into this thinking I was going to be anyone's best friend. I didn't expect to be anyone's friend at all."

Napoleon grinned at him. "We Americans are full of surprises."

Illya snorted out a soft laugh. "To say the least." He opened the file.

Napoleon paced a few steps away. "Don't take this the wrong way, Illya, but where do your loyalties lie? I mean, I know you work here at U.N.C.L.E., but you are Russian. Why does Waverly trust you? And if he can trust you, which I'm sure he can, what contacts do you still have in Russia that you can trust?"

"I defected, Napoleon."

Napoleon thought he should be getting used to Illya's unexpected announcements. "You're American?"

"English, actually. I met Mr. Waverly in England, and he told me of his vision for U.N.C.L.E. and I wanted to be a part of it. The Soviet Union had already chosen to decline membership in U.N.C.L.E. so I had to make a choice. Waverly sponsored my defection, and has been seeing to my education and training. He knows where my loyalties lie."

"And your contacts in Russia?"

"Old friends. Friends I can still do favors for in exchange for favors of my own. One of them sent me the plans for a gadget I'd designed while in France. My friend recognized my handiwork and thought I might be interested to know that the design had made its way to Russia. I brought that information to Waverly, and he, already wary of Roberts, suggested this plan."

Napoleon said, "Have you caught him at anything?"

"Just enough to convince Waverly and myself that he is the leak. Now I need to catch him at it. Roberts may be an ass but he's clever."

Napoleon nodded his agreement. "That just means we need to be even cleverer." He glanced over at Illya. "And the two of us together beat his clever any day." With that, they started to design a trap to snare a traitor.

 

*****
Two weeks later, Illya took a close look at the notes he'd left on the counter in his lab. He and Napoleon had finally decided what they would bait the trap with. It was a new gadget. A new communicator. Illya didn't like the boxy ones that U.N.C.L.E. used. They were too hard to conceal and broke too easily.

This particular design was a failed prototype, but it looked impressive, and Napoleon and Illya knew that Roberts wouldn't be able to resist it.

Illya's lips curved into a small smile. It appeared that the trap had been sprung. No other eyes would have noticed it, but Illya could tell the papers had been slightly shifted. No doubt for photographs.

Illya glanced up at the camera he had installed on the far wall. It would have captured Roberts in action. Now all that remained was for the design to emerge in Russia and they would have the incontrovertible proof they needed.

Leaving the papers where they lay, Illya noticed the time. He was due to meet Napoleon for lunch in just a few minutes. Illya moved to the wall where the camera was situated and carefully removed it. He pried the film out of the back of it and slipped it in his pocket. He then locked the camera in his gadget drawer.

Illya headed out of the office, moving toward the stairwell. There were few things in life he hated more than being stuck in a small space with someone who wanted to engage in small talk. The chances of running into anyone on the stairwell were slim as they were inconveniently located. And ugly. As they were so rarely used, budget dollars weren't spent on beautifying them. The stairs were rough cement and the lighting poor.

Illya pushed open the doorway to the stairs. It happened too fast for him to see anything; all he felt was a hand on his back, forcefully shoving him. Unable to catch his balance, missing the rail as he desperately grabbed for it, Illya plunged down the cement steps.

 

*****
As Napoleon poured himself a cup of coffee in the commissary he couldn't stop grinning. He'd been grinning ever since Illya had become his lover. Napoleon would catch people giving him odd looks and realize that the grin was back. He couldn't help it. Napoleon had never had a lover who suited him the way Illya did.

They matched. They matched in strength, cunning, and stamina. And Illya understood his job. He understood about the bruises and the rope burns and the odd hours. Illya had this psychic sense of how a mission had gone, and he'd be waiting at Napoleon's apartment with either a bottle of champagne and a turned down bed, or a bottle of scotch and a shoulder to lean on.

And if the mission had gone badly Illya would be in his lab the next day, trying to devise some gadget that would make Napoleon's life a little easier the next time he was faced with the same situation.

Napoleon wanted to return the favor. It always seemed as if Illya were bailing him out of one situation after another. Napoleon knew Illya didn't see it that way. As far as the Russian was concerned it was the other way around. He kept telling Napoleon that their relationship had made his life worthwhile.

Napoleon didn't think anyone had ever said a better thing to him. To be told he made Illya's life worthwhile was heady praise indeed. Just the fact that he'd said it had stunned Napoleon; Illya thought flowery speeches were a waste of time. Napoleon didn't care. He was grateful for Illya's taciturn nature, as it had left him alone and available for Napoleon to scoop up. And now that he had him, Napoleon had no intention of letting go. Ever.

He glanced at his watch and realized Illya was late. That was odd. Illya was never late. No matter how involved he got in his research, Illya never missed an appointment.

A sense of unease filled Napoleon. He tried to shake it off, knowing Illya was in his lab and safe in U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, but the feeling persisted.

After a couple of minutes, Napoleon couldn't stand it anymore. He left the lunchroom and headed for the elevator. As he stood there waiting for the lift to arrive, he found his attention being drawn toward the end of the hall where the stairs were. Remembering that Illya always took the stairs, Napoleon decided he'd do the same, increasing the odds they'd run into each other rather than passing like two ships in the night.

He took a second to glance down the stairwell in hopes of seeing Illya on his way up. Napoleon's brow furrowed at the silence; it felt oppressive. With a sense of trepidation, he raced down the stairs. He found Illya at the bottom of the flight of stairs leading to the floor below his lab. For one heart stopping moment, Napoleon thought he was dead.

Then he saw Illya's chest rising and Napoleon expelled the breath he hadn't even noticed he'd been holding. He ran to Illya's side, crouching, trying to assess his injuries. "Illya?" Napoleon reached out a tentative hand and brushed the blond hair away from the Russian's face. "Illya?"

To Napoleon's sharp relief, Illya moaned and made an effort to open his eyes. After a few moments he was successful and unhappy blue eyes looked up at Napoleon. "Ouch."

Napoleon barked out a sharp laugh. "Ouch, indeed. How badly are you hurt? Can you tell?" He glanced around with a narrow-eyed gaze. "What happened?" Illya was too sure-footed to slip and fall.

Illya confirmed his suspicion. "Someone pushed me." Illya struggled to sit up.

Napoleon assisted him, using the opportunity to run his hands down Illya's torso and limbs, checking for broken bones. "Did you see who it was?" When he saw the abrasions on the side of Illya's face that would soon be a colorful bruise, Napoleon had to swallow back his rage.

Illya shook his head and then let out another moan, cradling his head in his hands, as if to keep himself from making any more injudicious movements. He spoke softly, "No."

Not that it mattered. Napoleon knew it was Roberts. The stakes had just been raised to an intolerable degree. "Are you hurt badly enough to go to Medical? And tell me the truth, please."

Illya's brow was scrunched up in pain. His next breath out was mostly groan.

Just the fact that Illya didn't say no was enough for Napoleon. "Do I need to go get some help or can you make it if you lean on me?" When Illya still didn't respond, Napoleon started to lay him back down. "I'll go get help."

That seemed to rouse Illya. He grabbed Napoleon's arm to keep him from leaving. "No." Illya swallowed and squinted up at Napoleon. "Do you have aspirin in your office?"

Frustrated, Napoleon said, "Illya, I don't think aspirin is going to do the trick. You probably have a concussion, and--"

Illya put two fingers over Napoleon's lips. "Just take me to your office. I don't want to give Roberts the satisfaction of a job well done." Illya let out a snicker. "Although considering the fact that I'm alive, I think we can consider this one of his usual failures."

Napoleon didn't find it amusing. Just the possibility of finding Illya dead, here on the staircase, was too horrid to think about. He wrapped his arms around Illya and held him, needing to feel the warmth and strength of his body to take away the painful image.

"Ow."

"God, I'm sorry." Napoleon released Illya. "Sorry, I just--"

"It's all right." Illya closed his eyes and dropped his head to Napoleon's chest. "I'll be fine. I just need aspirin and some ice. Maybe rest for a while until my head stops spinning."

Napoleon wanted to argue, but he understood Illya not wanting to give Roberts anything to feel triumphant about. "Then we have to get you up, and you're going to have to walk. Can you do that?"

Illya nodded, looking very determined. Napoleon took that as permission to move and made his body available for Illya to use as a prop to get himself up. It took them a couple of minutes, but they finally got Illya standing.

Napoleon was afraid the Russian was going to pass out, but he remained vertical. Illya was hurt predominantly on his right side, so Napoleon moved to his left, standing close. "You sure you can do this?"

Illya gave him a tight smile. "I think I'll take the elevator this time."

Napoleon chuffed out a laugh at Illya's dark humor. "Smart Russian." Bracing Illya against the wall, Napoleon opened the door to the hallway and took a quick look. Traffic was thankfully sparse down here. He moved back to Illya and helped him out to the hallway, then toward the elevator.

Before they got far, Illya's eyes opened in alarm and he felt in his pocket. A look of relief crossed his face as he pulled out a small roll of film. Illya tightened his fingers around the film and gave Napoleon a satisfied look. "Roberts."

Napoleon smiled his predator smile. "That bastard's going down." With that spoken epithet, Napoleon put his mind toward getting Illya someplace comfortable.

Napoleon got Illya settled on the couch in his office and gave him his promised aspirin. The refrigerator down the hall in the break room yielded the necessary ice, and Napoleon helped himself to all of it. Illya looked like he had fallen asleep in the few minutes he was gone.

Napoleon moved to the couch and sat down next to Illya. "Hey. Sleeping beauty. You really asleep?"

Illya let out a grunt. "Not with you making all that racket."

Napoleon rolled his eyes. "I need to see where I should put the ice. Strip down for me."

"If you wanted to get me naked, Napoleon, you didn't need to go to such drastic lengths."

"Ha ha. I mean it. Strip." Napoleon started doing it for him. He still wasn't convinced that Illya didn't belong in Medical. Between the two of them they got off Illya's shirt and pants. Illya's hip was one massive bruise, and his entire upper arm from elbow to shoulder was equally injured. Napoleon figured Illya must have slid down the whole flight of stairs on that side. He looked over at the bucket of ice and wasn't sure he had enough.

Sighing, he got up and started making ice packs, using the towels he'd borrowed from the break room. Getting Illya situated on his left side, Napoleon iced his right side up as thoroughly as he could, and then covered Illya with an afghan. He crouched by the couch and kissed the end of Illya's nose. "I should just take you home, but I have to get a few things done. If you insist on staying here I'll need to wake you every hour, you know."

"I know."

"I love you."

Illya gave him a small smile and closed his eyes.

 

*****
Napoleon glanced at his watch. Almost time to call it a day. He looked over at his sleeping lover and moved to sit on the edge of the couch. His anger at Roberts was unabated but he kept it out of his voice. "Time to go home, Illya."

Illya grunted.

Napoleon retrieved the bottle of aspirin. "Come on, take some more aspirin and then we can be on our way."

These words were met with a long suffering sigh. Then Illya squinted, slowly opening his eyes. "Can't I just stay here?"

Napoleon smiled. "Whiner. Let me take you home and then you can call in sick tomorrow and languish all day to your heart's content."

"At your penthouse?"

"But of course."

Illya held out a hand for the aspirin, and when he'd tossed them in his mouth, he shifted himself upright enough to swallow a sip of water. "You missed your calling, Napoleon. You should have been a nurse."

"And wear a uniform every day? Please. You'll give me nightmares."

That got a grin out of Illya. With Napoleon's help, Illya sat all the way up. "I can't languish tomorrow, unfortunately. Roberts took the bait and I have to be on the alert for messages."

Napoleon's lips curved in an unfriendly grin. "Good. I'm looking forward to dragging his ass down to the interrogation rooms."

Illya let out a noise of agreement.

Napoleon's communicator went off. He pulled the device out of his inner breast pocket, noting Illya's disgruntled frown with a grin. Illya hated the communicators and was annoyed that he couldn't get the new design right. "Solo here."

Waverly's voice came through loud and clear. "Ah, Mr. Solo. I have need of you. I hope you have a packed suitcase ready to go."

"Where are you sending me?" he asked unhappily. Napoleon didn't want to go anywhere, not with Illya wounded, not with Roberts taking a turn to the homicidal.

"Canada. There are some files I need you to photograph."

Napoleon opened his mouth to argue only to find Illya shaking his head. He mouthed, "Go."

Napoleon tightened his lips, covered the microphone, and whispered, "I don't want to leave you."

Illya whispered back. "If you tell him that, he'll just put me in Medical."

"If I'm not here, I'm thinking you should be in Medical."

"Mr. Solo. Are you still there?"

Napoleon glared at Illya, who glared right back. "Right here, sir. When did you want me to leave?"

"Tonight. Your flight leaves in 90 minutes. Miss Carlisle has all your travel documents."

Ninety minutes. Napoleon wouldn't even have time to get Illya home.

"Mr. Solo." Waverly was starting to sound annoyed.

"Yes, sir. I'm on my way."

"Hmph. See that you are."

Napoleon replaced the communicator back in his suit jacket pocket with a sigh. "Illya, you're in no shape to deal with Roberts if he decides to come after you."

Illya glowered at him. "I have been hurt worse than this before and somehow managed to survive. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."

That might be true, but Napoleon didn't want to put it to the test. "I still don't want to leave you alone."

"I'll be careful, Napoleon." Just the corner of Illya's lips curved up. "And I promise to stick to elevators."

Napoleon was in no mood to be placated. "You better be careful. I just found you, I don't want…" Rather than finish his sentence, Napoleon wrapped his arms around his lover and held him carefully. "Just be here when I get back. Please."

"I promise." Illya's good arm came up to hold Napoleon in return.

The two men stayed like that for a few minutes. Then Napoleon pulled away. "Can you drive? Or maybe you should take a cab?"

"A cab, I think."

"Then let me help you get one. And stay at my place, the security is better. That way you'll be there waiting for me when I get home."

"Languishing?"

Napoleon let out a soft laugh. "Yes. Languishing. You're such a slacker."

Illya struggled to stand and Napoleon gave him a hand. Illya said, "You need to get going."

"I know, but I want to see you in a cab, first."

"Yes, mother."

"Humor me, all right?" Napoleon was filled with apprehension at the thought of leaving Illya on his own. It was possible that Roberts' attack on Illya was simply a moment of madness based on an instant's opportunity, but Napoleon didn't think so. "Let me get my ticket, and then we'll leave. I'll take a cab to the airport as well."

Illya nodded. "Go. I'll stretch out my muscles while you're gone."

Napoleon let go of him, making sure Illya wasn't going to take a nose dive to the floor. When it appeared he was fairly steady on his feet, Napoleon headed for the door and Miss Carlisle.

 

*****
Napoleon had Illya on the brain. There wasn't really anyway around it: use the red filter light Illya created for the binoculars to sight the target; wonder how Illya was feeling. Use the small fuse and detonator Illya made to blow the lock on the chain link fence; wonder if Illya remembered to take more aspirin.

Use the pick lock Illya gave him to get into the office; wonder what Roberts was doing. Use the camera Illya had given him to take pictures of the documents Waverly wanted; clench jaw and swallow back panic at how easily Illya could have been killed today.

Note the time on the watch Illya had given him. And on it went, distracting to say the least. Napoleon heard some footsteps and swore under his breath. If he didn't pull himself together and start paying attention he'd be wondering about Illya from inside a Thrush detention center or from six feet under.

He moved quickly to the door and made sure it was locked. He stood to the side, hoping the footsteps belonged to a guard who was merely checking locks. The door knob was jiggled and then the steps continued on their way. Napoleon blew out a breath. Waiting until the footsteps were completely gone, he cracked the door open. When all seemed quiet he poked his head out and found an empty hallway. Smiling to himself he shut the door behind him and left the building the same way he got in.

His flight home wasn't until tomorrow so Napoleon made his way back to the hotel. Even though it was late, very late, Napoleon picked up the phone and called his apartment.

The phone rang fifteen times but finally it was answered. "What?" a grumpy voice rasped into the phone.

Napoleon grinned, relieved. "It's me."

"'m sleeping."

"Do you always talk in your sleep?"

"Hmmm."

Napoleon let out a soft laugh at Illya's attempts to fade away on the phone. "Just tell me you're all right and I'll let you go back to sleep."

"'m fine. Wish you were here."

Napoleon did, too. "Me, too. The earliest flight I could get won't get me in until late afternoon tomorrow and I'll need to check in at headquarters first. Hopefully I'll get home just in time to make you dinner."

"Hmm. Okay. Love you."

Napoleon liked this version of sleepy vulnerable Illya. While the Russian showed Napoleon that he loved him in so many ways, he rarely said the words. "I love you, too. Now go back to sleep."

"Hmm hm. G'night."

Napoleon waited for Illya to hang up but then he heard a soft snore and realized that Illya had gone to sleep holding the phone. Napoleon imagined him cradling it to his chest and it brought a tender smile to Napoleon's face. "Sweet dreams, Illya." He hung up the phone and then, after stripping his clothes off, crawled into bed.

 

*****
Napoleon was hailing a cab at LaGuardia Airport when his communicator went off. "Solo here."

It was Waverly. "Mr. Solo, are you on your way back?"

"Yes, sir. My flight just arrived. As soon as I get a cab I'll be on my way to headquarters." There was a pause from Waverly's end and for some reason it made Napoleon's gut clench. "Sir?"

"Have you heard from Mr. Kuryakin?"

"I spoke with him last night and again this morning. Why?" Feeling a sense of dread, Napoleon threw himself into the next cab.

"Hmph. He missed a meeting with me early this afternoon," Waverly said in a voice that was half complaint and half worry, "and he's not answering his phone or communicator."

"Illya stayed at my place last night. He might still be there." Napoleon decided to head for his penthouse and gave the cab driver his address.

"That explains why he isn't answering his phone," Waverly said pragmatically after a pause. "It still doesn't explain why he missed an appointment and isn't responding to his communicator."

Napoleon swore under his breath, annoyed with himself he hadn't insisted Illya go to Medical. "He was attacked yesterday. Someone pushed him down a flight of stairs."

"Here? At Headquarters?" Waverly sounded shocked.

"Yes. We're both certain it was Roberts." Napoleon grimaced at the traffic.

"Why wasn't this reported? And why wasn't he taken to Medical?" There was censure in the old man's tones.

"Roberts took the bait yesterday afternoon. We didn't want anything to get in the way of the investigation. Illya stayed in my office most of the afternoon, and then I sent him home to my place. It has better security than Illya's apartment, and I felt better having him there on the off chance Roberts wanted a rematch."

Waverly harrumphed and said, "I suggest you head for home and see if he's all right."

"I'm almost there, sir. I'll call you when I get in and assess the situation." Napoleon could see the outline of his building just a few blocks away.

"Very good."

Napoleon could heard the click that meant Waverly had signed off. He glanced at the tower again. Napoleon desperately hoped Illya was just deep in a healing sleep, dead to the world. But he felt a chill creep down his spine and couldn't shake it off.

Encouraging the cab driver to hurry, Napoleon sat back, biting his lower lip as the seconds passed by. Finally they arrived. He threw some money toward the driver as he grabbed his bag, and Napoleon ran for his building.

The security guard gave him a wave. "Evening, Mr. Solo."

"Evening, Scottie. Has anyone been by?" He stood by the elevator, his foot tapping impatiently, waiting for both an answer and the lift.

Frowning at the tapping toe, the guard checked the papers on his clipboard. "A Mr. Johnson came by to see your friend. His ID checked out, and he knew the password." A worried scowl crossed his face. "Is there a problem?"

Napoleon answered him with a scowl of his own. He wondered how Roberts had gotten hold of the password and a fake ID. Perhaps it wasn't Roberts at all. Maybe a Mr. Johnson really had come to see Illya. Napoleon didn't think that was likely. He noticed that the guard was still waiting for a response and Napoleon shrugged. "Not sure yet, Scottie."

"Want me to come up with you?"

Napoleon shook his head. "No, you better keep an eye on things down here." Napoleon gave the heavyset man a brief grin. "But, if you see someone trying to make a run for it, do me a favor, and sit on him."

Scottie grinned. "Will do, Mr. Solo."

Napoleon watched the floor indicators and willed the cars to move faster. Despite how long it seemed to be taking, the lift was the fastest way up to the penthouse. No matter how in-shape Napoleon was, there were too many flights of stairs not to end up winded by the time he reached the top. Not the best way to meet with an enemy.

The elevator finally dinged, its doors opening. Napoleon used the card that would take the lift up to the top floor hoping Roberts didn't have it rigged to alert him of someone's arrival.

When he got to his door Napoleon heard the sharp cadence of Roberts' angry voice. He tried the door and found it unlocked. Napoleon rolled his eyes. Once inside, following the sounds, Napoleon inched his way toward the bedroom. When he peeked into the room, Napoleon wanted to kill Roberts. Several times. As painfully as possible.

Illya wore only sweat pants, his wrists were bound and tied to the headboard. Roberts was brandishing his gun and Illya had several new bruises to add to his collection. Roberts looked as if he was at the end of his rope. "Where is it?" he demanded of Illya. "Where's the film?"

Illya, somehow, managed to look bored.

It almost made Napoleon laugh. If he hadn't been so furious, he might have. With a lunge, Napoleon tackled Roberts, forcing him to the floor. Roberts' gun went flying under the bed and his chin hit the ground hard. Napoleon took advantage of the man being momentarily stunned. He grabbed the handcuffs out of his bedside table and cuffed one of Roberts' arms. Then, without concern for his comfort, Napoleon dragged him to the foot of the bed, attaching him to one of the heavy wooden legs.

He then retrieved Roberts' gun and pointed it at the prone man. Napoleon wanted to put a bullet right between his eyes to make sure he never caused Illya any more harm. All it would take was a twitch of his finger and Roberts would cease to exist.

"Napoleon." Then again, "Napoleon."

The persistant voice penetrated Napoleon's anger and his finger eased off the trigger. Napoleon didn't let the gun waver, but he risked a quick glance at Illya.

"Napoleon, he's not worth the cost of a bullet."

Napoleon's eyebrows rose. "You're advocating for him? You don't think he deserves to die? Or are you under the mistaken impression that I'll stay awake at night guilt-ridden for killing the bastard?"

"I think I know you too well for that. But this is too easy for him. He doesn't deserve such a merciful death. If we give him to U.N.C.L.E., they will put him where they put all traitors: down a deep hole where he'll rot the rest of his life."

Napoleon thought about it for a minute. He liked that idea. U.N.C.L.E. didn't like traitors. Roberts would never see blue sky again for as long as he lived. Napoleon laid Roberts' gun on the bureau, out of Roberts' reach. "I like the way you think, my Russian genius." Napoleon moved to the bed and untied Illya, rubbing his abraded wrists gently, helping restore circulation. Napoleon felt another surge of anger. "Are you sure you don't want me to shoot him? I'd be glad to."

Illya nodded wearily. "I appreciate the thought, though."

Napoleon waved him off. "Think nothing of it."

Roberts, apparently no longer stunned, glared up at Napoleon from the floor at the foot of the bed. He stupidly tried to woo Napoleon to his side. "You're going to listen to this Russian queer? I didn't do anything wrong. He's fed you some cock and bull story and you've swallowed it like the fool you are."

Napoleon bit back a smile at the unintended double entendre of Roberts' colorful words. "Shut up, Roberts, or I'll stuff a sock in your mouth."

Roberts wasn't ready to give up. "It's just his word against mine, Solo. Do what's right. We Americans need to stick together."

Napoleon rolled his eyes in disgust and moved to the bureau. Opening a drawer, he pulled out a pair of rolled socks. He looked at them then put them back. "I like those socks." He reached for another pair. Before he had a chance to put them to work there was a knock on the door. Napoleon glanced at Illya. "Expecting more company?"

Illya gave him a look. "I wasn't expecting this company."

Napoleon grinned, pulling out his gun. He moved to the front door and peeked through the peep hole. "It's Waverly," he called to Illya. Opening the door, he made a grand gesture, inviting Waverly and his accompanying agents into his penthouse. "You're only our second group to arrive. Drinks are on the bar, hors d'oeuvres in the kitchen."

Waverly gave Napoleon a sour look. "I presume from your levity that Mr. Kuryakin is unharmed?"

Napoleon scowled. "Not unharmed, but he's alive. Roberts got in a few licks before I arrived."

Waverly's eyebrows went up. "Roberts is here?"

Napoleon pointed with his thumb over his shoulder. "He's in the bedroom, handcuffed to the foot of the bed. He came to relieve Illya of some film catching him in the act of photographing Illya's new communicator designs."

Napoleon watched as Waverly's eyes lit up with the fierce exultation of fixing a wrong, mixed with chagrin at the knowledge that an agent had gone bad. Waverly let out a sigh and directed the two men who had arrived with him to follow Napoleon. "Perhaps you could accompany Mr. Solo and take Mr. Roberts off his hands."

Napoleon handed one of them the key to the cuffs. The group moved en masse to the bedroom. Waverly and Napoleon stood silently as the agents uncuffed Roberts, recuffed him, and then manhandled him out the door. Then Waverly looked at Illya. "Mr. Kuryakin, you seem somewhat the worse for wear."

Illya shot Napoleon a look. "Yes, well, it appears I was given some misinformation about the level of security here."

Napoleon frowned at Illya as the three of them walked back to the living room, Illya moving slowly, Napoleon trying not to hover.

Waverly looked at the front door, the cut wires dangling uselessly. "Hmph. Perhaps when you're back in the lab, Mr. Kuryakin, you might want to design a better security system. I'll make it mandatory for all agents to install in their homes."

Illya nodded, already looking distracted, his eyes roaming the room. Napoleon was sure his brilliant mind was busy working on a new design already.

Waverly turned to go. "Oh, by the way, Mr. Solo, have you given any more thought to a partner?"

Napoleon looked at his boss through narrowed eyes, thinking hard. No matter how he sliced it, Napoleon could only think of one reason why the old man would have brought that particular subject up at this particular time. Napoleon grinned. "Yes, sir, I have. As a matter of fact, I've given it considerable thought." He turned to Illya and pointed at him. "I choose him."

Illya's eyes widened and then they both turned to Waverly.

"I applaud your choice, Mr. Solo." Then he frowned disappointedly. "Although I must say you took longer than expected to reach your decision."

Napoleon bit back a retort, too pleased with the situation to take umbrage at his boss's words.

Waverly looked at Illya. "I assume this arrangement is to your satisfaction?"

Illya just nodded.

"I still expect you in the lab in your free time. Can't put all that education to waste."

"No, sir." A small grin appeared on Illya's face.

"Harumph." Waverly made a vague waving gesture toward Illya. "I suggest you have your new partner see to your wounds. Consider yourself off duty until Monday." He cast a beady eye on Napoleon. "You I expect to see in tomorrow. Can't have agents just lazing around."

Napoleon suddenly wanted Illya to himself. He walked to the door, hoping to close it and have Waverly on the other side. "I'll be there bright eyed and bushy-tailed."

"See that you are." With that, Waverly left. Napoleon shut the door behind him, shooting the deadlock, instinctively moving to set the alarm, only to stop with a wry smile on his face.

He crossed the room and sat down next to where Illya had landed, gingerly pulling the Russian into his arms. "I thought I was going to lose you."

Illya rested his head on Napoleon's shoulder. "I'm not that easy to lose."

"Promise me that's true."

Illya lifted his head to give Napoleon a kiss. He broke it off immediately, wincing, finger on his split lip. "Ow."

Napoleon stood, encouraging Illya to do the same. "Can you make it to the bathroom so I can get you cleaned up?"

Illya used a helping hand from Napoleon to stand. Before Napoleon could move, Illya wrapped his arms around his waist, looking up at Napoleon. "I promise you, Napoleon, I am a lot tougher than I look."

Napoleon placed a gentle finger on the cut on Illya's lips, and eyed the bruises and other cuts on his face and body. "Try not to feel that you need to keep proving that to me. I'm willing to take it on faith."

One side of Illya's mouth, the uncut side, curled up in a small grin. "I'll try to keep that in mind."

"Good." Napoleon walked them slowly to the bathroom.

 

*****
A good while later, after seeing to Illya's wounds, medicating him with aspirin, cleaning up the bedroom, and changing the linens, Napoleon got Illya settled back in bed. Napoleon stripped down and crawled in beside him. "Where don't you hurt, so I can touch you there?"

"I think there's a spot behind my left knee."

Disregarding his lover's words, Napoleon gently pulled Illya into his arms. "The last two days haven't exactly been kind to you."

Illya made a drowsy sound of agreement. He nuzzled a kiss into Napoleon's neck. "This, however, is very nice."

Napoleon couldn't agree more. "Do you think he planned it this way all along?"

"Hmm? Who? Roberts?"

"No, Waverly. Do you think he planned for us to be partners all along? That it was one of the reasons he brought you here?"

Illya licked a spot behind Napoleon's ear. "Probably. I'm sure he knew that you would never settle for anyone but the best."

Napoleon snorted. "Nice to know Roberts didn't beat any of your modesty out of you."

Illya made a disgruntled noise. "Would you settle for anyone but the best?"

"No."

"Well, then, there you go. The best for the best." He yawned in Napoleon's ear and then settled his face in the hollow of Napoleon's shoulder.

Napoleon yawned back. "The best for the best. I like the sound of that." He kissed Illya's forehead, avoiding bruises. "Thank you for staying alive until I got here."

Illya mumbled something unintelligible.

Napoleon smiled. It might have been a 'you're welcome' or it might have been something else entirely. He didn't care. It would be fine with him if Illya were singing Russia's national anthem. Illya was alive and in his arms, Roberts was on his way to a deep hole in a prison somewhere, Napoleon had himself the best partner there was in every sense of the word, and all was right in his world.

As he was surrendering to sleep, he saw the moonlight reflect off the set of exploding cufflinks resting on his bureau and he slipped off to sleep with a smile on his face.

The End.