Leaving Clemency to her ice cream soda, Napoleon walked Illya to the door. Napoleon gestured surreptitiously back to the girl. "Are you sure you don't mind?"
Illya made a sour face. "She is not my type, Napoleon. You are welcome to her."
"Why'd you ask her out then?"
"Because I knew you probably already had." One corner of Illya's lips curled up in a small lopsided smile.
"So you didn't want to go out with her?" Napoleon felt a bit irritated. It wasn't as much fun if Illya wasn't put out by his dating her.
"Nyet. I almost died because of her. I think I will be safer if she is not thinking of me. I wish you all the best." He gave Napoleon a serious look. "But I do not think she is your type either, my friend."
Napoleon glanced back at Clem, who was happily spooning out the last of her ice cream. "She's pretty. That makes her my type."
Illya shook his head. "Be careful of this one. I suspect she wants a husband, and has decided that you will do."
Napoleon snorted. "Smarter women than she have tried to get a ring on my finger." Napoleon took a closer look at his partner and frowned. "Are you feeling all right? You look pale."
Illya shrugged. "I am tired, that's all. I have been rather busy of late."
Napoleon grinned. Then he reached out to grab Illya's chin and turned his face first one way and then the other. "All the bat bites cleared up?"
Illya jerked his head out of Napoleon's hold. "Most of them." His fingers, as if with a mind of their own, touched the side of his neck just for a second.
Curious, Napoleon pulled down the neck of Illya's black turtleneck. He grimaced when he saw the bite there. "Ouch. Are there more like this?"
Illya took a step back to remove himself from Napoleon's prying hands. "That is the worst one."
"It looks like a vampire bit you." Napoleon bared his teeth and covered his face with an imaginary cape, and spoke with a heavy, and painfully incorrect, Romanian accent. "I vant to suck your blood." When that got no response from Illya, Napoleon sighed. "Any news on Count Zark? Did the local team find him?"
Illya shook his head. "No, he seems to have gotten away."
Napoleon let out a half-laugh. "He was a piece of work. He and Transylvania were made for each other." Getting back to the business at hand he gestured at Illya's neck. "Has Medical seen that?"
Illya frowned. "Yes, they have seen it. I am fine. Go lavish your attention on your clairvoyant and leave me alone."
"Grumpy, grumpy. Are you sure you're not sore that she's going out with me?" His tone was hopeful.
"Quite sure." Illya nodded toward her with his chin. "Better hurry. She's finished her ice cream soda. She may start gnawing on the furniture next."
Napoleon could almost believe it. Clemency could eat an amazing amount of food. Almost as much as Illya. Napoleon found himself reluctant for his partner to leave. "You could come with us, if you want."
Illya snorted. "And here I thought you were my friend. Sorry, but an evening at the Purple Unicorn watching you parade Miss McGill around on your arm does not sound appealing."
Napoleon took in Illya's pallor, and felt a surge of protectiveness. "I could just take her back to the hotel, tell her something's come up."
Illya's brow furrowed. "Why? Go. Have what passes as fun for you. I am going home to relax. I think I deserve it after saving all of Europe."
Napoleon frowned. "All right. But call me if you need me."
"I am going home to my vodka and my music, and the three of us will have a wonderful evening together. Why would I need you?" With a small smile, Illya turned around and left.
Napoleon watched him walk off and had to overcome a strong urge to chase after him. Shaking off his mood, he turned and sat down across from Clemency. She gave him a bright smile. "I purely do love these ice cream sodas."
"Shall I order you another one?"
"Better not." She ran her hands down her waist. "After all, a girl's got to watch her figure."
Napoleon gave her a dashing smile. "I've been watching it, and it's just fine."
Clemency lowered her head and blushed. "Why, shucks, Mr. Solo, you'll turn my head."
"I thought I told you to call me Napoleon."
She smiled, batting her eyes. "Napoleon." Her eyes flickered to the door. "How's Mr. Kury-ay-kin?" She put her hand on Napoleon's arm. "I can't tell you how bad I feel about putting him in such danger. Lawd almighty."
"It's Kuryakin." Somehow her mispronouncing Illya's name wasn't quite as charming as it had been the first dozen times.
"That's too much name for my tongue to get around. Back in the mountains, we don't get too many foreigners."
Napoleon pursed his lips as he gave her a look, then he stood, gracing her with a quick smile. "Let's get you back to your hotel so you can get ready for our evening."
She let out a delighted giggle. "I do declare, I'm so excited about bein' your date tonight, I could just bust."
Napoleon felt an unexpected pang of longing for Illya's company and wished he hadn't made plans. He and Illya had been apart too often lately working different ends of their missions, and in the three days they'd been back from Transylvania they hadn't had a moment to themselves.
But, he did have plans and he had no intention of disappointing a lady. Taking in Clem's expectant smile, he winked at her, and directed her toward the door.
Napoleon always enjoyed the presence of a lovely woman, so the evening passed pleasantly enough. He'd taken Clem to dinner, and then to the Purple Unicorn, as promised. Napoleon sipped his wine, watching the sway of Clemency's hips as she made her way to the powder room.
His groin tightened in anticipation of getting the lovely lady into bed. Napoleon knew he had his work cut out for him. She was, in his estimation, a born cock tease. Napoleon suspected Illya was right. She was going to try to go for the brass ring, or the gold ring, in this case.
Napoleon held his left hand out, giving his ring finger a lopsided smile. She wasn't the one. He wasn't averse to the idea of commitment, to marriage, but he'd never found the right one. There'd been glimpses, but something had always interfered, and in retrospect, Napoleon had been grateful.
Truthfully, Napoleon liked his life the way it was. His job was important, with a compensatory salary to make up for the danger. He had women whenever he wanted them, and he had Illya. A soft smile lit his face as he thought of his partner.
Napoleon liked people, and he'd had many friends in his life, but he'd never had a friend like Illya. In Korea and during his college years, he'd met men he liked and trusted, men he expected to stay in touch with. Yet, somehow, over the years, they'd fallen away, eventually ceasing to be essential. But Illya was different. Illya was essential.
The memory of Illya's pale face caused Napoleon to frown. More often than not, Illya was the one who got hurt on assignments, as Napoleon ended up succoring the innocent who got caught in the crossfire, and this latest affair had been no exception.
Napoleon glanced up to see Clemency returning. Ever the gentleman, he rose to seat her. As her fingers tapped in time to the music, Napoleon held out his hand. "Would you care to dance?"
She gave him a brilliant smile. "I purely would."
One hand on the small of her back, Napoleon worked his way to the dance floor. Then, with effortless grace, he moved with her to take their place among the other dancers.
Back at the hotel, Clemency kicked off her shoes and rose up on her toes to kiss Napoleon. She sighed as she rested her head on his chest. "You sure do know how to set a girl's heart on fire."
Napoleon grinned into her hair. He pressed a few kisses down her face. "I'd be glad to set the rest of you on fire, if you let me."
Clemency took a step back. "Now wait just a minute, there, Mister."
Napoleon lifted his hands in surrender at the tone in her voice, hoping to avoid another homespun sermon. By the look on Clem's face, Napoleon knew he was not going to be that lucky.
"My granny warned me about good-lookin' men."
Napoleon gave her a tight smile. "I'm sure she did."
"And do you know what she said?"
"No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me."
"She said, Clem, you best be on your guard against good-lookin' men. They think the world owes them a favor."
Napoleon frowned. He had never met Clemency's grandmother, and never would, God rest her soul, but he already didn't like her much.
Clem continued on her soapbox. "Yes, sir. She said that a good-lookin' man will try and help himself to the milk without buyin' the cow first. You know what I'm talkin' about?"
Despite the coarse analogy, Napoleon knew exactly what she was talking about. He'd known this wouldn't be easy and answered with a volley of his own. "Perhaps I'd best say goodnight, then."
Clem frowned, and Napoleon bit back a grin. She clearly hadn't been expecting him to give up so easily. Napoleon decided he was tired of the game. He glanced at his watch, wondering if it was too late to drop in on Illya.
Her voice sullen, she answered his unspoken question. "He's asleep."
Napoleon glanced up at her, surprised at the volunteered information. It was the first time all evening she'd said anything that smacked of her ESP. "Are you sure?"
Clem nodded. She took a step toward him and snaked her arms up his chest to wrap around his neck. "You can kiss me again if you promise you won't take advantage of me."
Napoleon had to work at not rolling his eyes at her ploy. He sincerely hoped she couldn't read his mind right now; he didn't think she'd be too flattered. He reached up, took her hands and gently extracted himself from her clutches as he shook his head. "I don't believe I can be trusted to make any such promise. I think I had better go. I'll call you tomorrow."
Clem worked her lips into a pout. "Promise?"
Napoleon chucked her under the chin. "I promise. Mr. Waverly's assigned me to you until we get all those repeat tests done on your ESP, now that you don't have that comb anymore."
Clem tried to wrap herself around him again, practically purring. "I purely am grateful for your time, payin' all this attention to a little ol' country girl like me."
Again, Napoleon extricated himself, pasting a charming smile on his face. "Time well spent, my dear." His thoughts wandered to Illya, and for some reason a shiver ran down his back. He glanced at her. "Are you sure he's asleep? And he's fine?" During this mission, even taking into account Thrush's interference with her clairvoyance, Clem had been unusually tied in to Illya.
"I told you he was sleepin'." Her voice was annoyed.
Napoleon leaned forward, gave her a small peck on the lips, and backed away. "I'll be by to pick you up in the morning."
She batted her eyes at him. "I'll be waitin'."
With a last smile, Napoleon made good his escape and headed for his car. Despite the lateness of the hour, and the fact that Clem had said Illya was asleep, he still toyed with the idea of dropping in on his partner. Napoleon sat in his car and finally chose to go home, deciding that what Illya probably needed most was a good night's sleep.
Clem stared at herself in the mirror. She frowned. "Don't you be lookin' at me that way. I told the truth."
This was an old game to her, bouncing her ideas and thoughts off her reflection. Home had been lonely since her granny had died and the sound of her voice helped fill the void.
Clem stuck her tongue out, making a face. "It was the truth. He is sleepin'. 'Sides, it ain't natural for a man to think about another man so much. I declare Napoleon spent more time thinkin' about that partner of his tonight than he did me."
A guilty face stared back at her. She sighed, knowing she wasn't doing right by the poor man. Clem tried again to convince herself she had the right to do what she was doing. "He is sleepin'. It weren't no lie. Anyway, I want Napoleon to pay attention to me. How am I gonna get him to fall in love with me if he's worryin' about that other fella?"
She still felt guilty. For a few seconds, she thought about calling Napoleon to tell him that he might want to check on his friend. Then, she watched as that stubborn look took over her face, and she knew she wouldn't. Maybe she'd tell him tomorrow. Maybe. After all, it was only bad dreams. Everyone had bad dreams. With that, she flipped off the light and headed for bed.
Illya had done everything he could to try to stay awake. He'd drunk enough tea to keep the Titanic afloat, had gone for a long walk, even tried to read some fictional spy story for a laugh, but it had been three nights now with too little sleep, and his body was craving rest.
The dreams were disturbing. And considering the nightmares Illya had been plagued with most of his life, that was saying a lot. These were unlike any dreams he'd ever had. They felt real, the people, the touching, the pain, the blood. All of it, too real. Since these particular dreams started, he'd wake up each morning, forcing back panic, while he examined himself for the blood he was sure he'd find on his hands, or in his mouth, disgusted at the proof of his ejaculations.
Illya ran his hands over his face, fighting back the exhaustion. He almost called Napoleon, but couldn't imagine asking him to come over because he was afraid to go to sleep. Napoleon would laugh himself sick. He'd come over, but his method for keeping Illya awake would be to tease him mercilessly.
Illya thought about getting up and taking another cold shower, but his body wouldn't obey. His eyelids were drooping, and his body grew heavy. Finally succumbing, he curled up on the couch and fell asleep.
The hunger consumed him. It had been too long since he'd fed. Walking the streets, he could hear the heartbeats of a thousand men and women, smell the blood coursing through their veins and arteries. The anticipation made him lightheaded.
His eyes searched the crowds, looking for the perfect victim, one who would be easy to cull from the herd. Then he saw her and he waited until he was sure she was alone. She was absorbed in the merchandise being offered for sale in the store windows. It would be the last thing she ever did.
He waited for her to move further down the street, away from the potentially protective eyes and ears of her fellow humans. She strolled along, blissfully ignorant of the fate awaiting her. He sprang from the shadows and dragged her into the alley, one hand over her mouth, the other secure around her body.
He was too strong for her to fight back. There were few strong enough to stop him from taking what he wanted. He saw the fear in her eyes and fed off of it. Her terror was as vital to him as her life force. He needed both to survive.
He drew her further into the darkness until he was sure no one had seen him. Then, unable to wait another second, his hand still securely over her mouth, he shifted his hold on her enough to bare her neck. Licking his lips, exposing the sharp fangs, relishing her new burst of panic as she realized what lay in store for her, he pierced the soft flesh and began to feed.
He could feel it surge through him; it sexually aroused him. The taste of her filled his mouth, the salty, viscous fluid rolling over his tongue, heating his throat, filling him with power, feeding his erection. It was while he was feeding that he felt his immortality like a living breathing presence. Nothing else made him feel alive like this; even the orgasm he experienced paled in comparison to the texture and vibrancy of her pulsing sacrifice.
He was disappointed when she fainted. Her fear had been delectable. He'd have to pick a man next time; they fought harder, and they lasted so much longer before the blood loss weakened them past the point of consciousness.
Her life force flickered, and then died, passing from her to him, and he dropped her dead body to the ground. She was of no further use.
Illya snapped awake with a gasp. His neck throbbed. He put his hand up and pulled his fingers back to find them covered with blood. Illya jumped from the couch and moved to the bathroom.
The bite on his neck was bleeding. It bled after every dream, no matter what he did. Pressure dressings, topical coagulants, nothing seemed to help. The dreams made the puncture wounds bleed.
He could still feel the woman's death. It rested on his conscience as if he'd been responsible. He could feel the moisture in his crotch, knew that he'd ejaculated, that his body had found enjoyment in her demise. It sickened him.
Illya yanked his clothes off and turned on the shower. Standing within, letting the cool water flow over him, watching the blood from his neck wash down his body, he was desperate to understand what was happening to him.
Napoleon glanced up when the cafeteria door opened and frowned when it still wasn't who he'd hoped it would be. He was brought back to his tablemate by a whining voice.
"Napoleon. You're not payin' me the least bit of attention."
Napoleon flashed Clem an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry. I know I'm a bit distracted. I'm just wondering where Illya is this morning."
Clem rolled her eyes. "I do declare, you worry somethin' awful about that man."
Napoleon supposed he did at that. He pointed at Clemency's head. "Why don't you do your thing and tell me where he is."
"Well, shoot fire and save the matches, do you think all I do is keep track of Mr. Kury-ay-kin?"
Napoleon didn't even bother to correct her pronunciation. He was tired of doing it and it certainly didn't help. "You do seem to always know where he is or what he's doing."
Clem made a sour expression as if that idea didn't exactly appeal.
Napoleon gestured again, his need to know stronger than his usual good manners. "So, come on. Where is he?"
Clem glowered at Napoleon, but then she obediently shut her eyes. After a few seconds she opened them back up and nodded definitively. "He'll be along shortly. He's just--" She paused and then touched her neck. "He's fiddlin' with somethin' on his neck." She brightened. "Maybe he's puttin' on a tie."
Napoleon didn't think so. That bite on his neck had looked nasty, and after three days, it should have been mostly healed. He reached for his communicator. "Is he home?"
With a sigh, she closed her eyes, and then shook her head. She caught Napoleon's eyes and pointed. "He'll be comin' in that door any second."
His partner walked through the door just then and Napoleon was up and several steps away before he remembered Clem. He turned and smiled at her. "I'll be right back."
Clem sat back in a huff.
Napoleon strolled over to Illya and cast a worried eye on his partner. "You look like hell."
"Thank you. Good morning to you too."
"No, I mean it. You look like hell. Are you all right?"
Illya waved off his concern. "I'm fine."
Napoleon had heard that phrase before and too many times it was a complete lie. He reached up and, before his partner could stop him, pulled Illya's black turtleneck away from his neck. He scowled when he saw the bandage and the stain that indicated fresh blood. "It's still bleeding?"
Illya jerked his head away, but he answered the question. "It won't stop."
Napoleon grabbed Illya's arm and gave him a determined look. "I'm taking you to Medical."
Illya frowned. "I've been there already."
Napoleon could tell that Illya wanted to lie, but instead let out a sigh. "No, not today."
"Then we're going right now." Towing Illya behind him, he headed for the door.
Illya dug his heels in, and stopped the forward momentum. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
Napoleon looked at him, puzzled. "What?"
Illya nodded toward Clem. "Your lady friend doesn't look happy that you're abandoning her."
Napoleon let out a noisy sigh and then tightened his lips. He pointed a scolding finger at his partner and then at the floor. "You. Stay right here. Don't move, don't go to the office, don't get anything to eat. Stay."
Illya rolled his eyes heavenward and stood, folding his arms across his chest.
Napoleon gave him one last look of warning and then headed back to Clem. On the way he grabbed a Section III agent and brought him to the table. "Clem, this is Fred Knight. Fred, this lovely lady here is Clemency McGill."
Clem smiled at Fred, and he smiled back.
Napoleon smiled at them both. "Fred, would you please escort Miss McGill down to the conference room in Section IV? Dr. Evans is expecting her in fifteen minutes."
Fred looked like it was his lucky day. "It would be a real pleasure, ma'am."
Clem gave Fred a smile, but then her lips formed a charming pout as she gazed up at Napoleon. "I thought you were assigned to take care of me."
"I am, but something's come up that I need to take care of." He gave her his most placating smile. "How about I come get you at noon and we'll have lunch together?"
Clem batted her eyes at Napoleon. "You wouldn't be foolin' me, now, would you?"
Napoleon put a hand over his chest in protest. "Your lack of faith wounds me."
Clem waved him off, her sharp eyes looking up at him through long lashes. "For sure you're foolin' with me now."
Napoleon glanced behind him quickly to make sure Illya hadn't strayed from his assigned position. All that got him was glares coming at him from both directions. Deciding Illya wouldn't stand still for much longer, he smiled at Clem. "I'll see you at noon, then." Without waiting for her agreement, he turned and without a word grabbed his partner's arm, dragging him out the door.
Illya let out a dramatic sigh. "I do know the way. I have been there once or twice."
Napoleon flashed him a disgusted look. "And you've managed to evade the place more times than I can count. If I let go of you, you'll disappear down some hallway and you won't surface until you've bled to death."
Illya's unusual silence tickled Napoleon's early warning system. He gave Illya a careful look, taking in the pallor. "How much has it been bleeding?"
Illya looked annoyed. "I haven't exactly been measuring it."
Illya shrugged. "I don't know."
"That's not a very scientific answer, Doctor Kuryakin."
"Believe it or not, I don't go to bed with beakers and pipettes on the bedside table."
Napoleon could hear something in Illya's voice that told him that whatever was going on, it had Illya worried. He didn't bother to ask Illya to confirm his opinion; he knew the Russian would deny it to his dying breath. Napoleon firmed up his grip, as if Illya might take off at a run, and didn't let up until the door to Medical closed behind them. When Dr. Sadler appeared, Napoleon called him over. "Hey, Eric, I need you to look at Illya's neck."
Eric cocked his head at the Russian. "Is it still bothering you?"
Napoleon answered, much to Illya's obvious displeasure. "It's still bleeding."
The doctor looked surprised, his eyebrows rising. "It's still bleeding?"
Illya gave another shrug. Napoleon risked getting his hand ripped off and pulled down the turtleneck again. The reddened bandage spoke for itself.
Eric hmmed and gestured toward one of the examining rooms.
Napoleon watched in surprise as Illya meekly obeyed. Screwing his mouth up, he followed behind, his instincts on full alert. Whatever it was must really be bothering his partner to make him this uncharacteristically docile.
Eric patted the gurney and Illya hopped up on it. At another gesture from the doctor, he took off his holster, and pulled off his turtleneck.
Being a firm believer in the get it over quick philosophy, the doctor ripped the bandage off of Illya's neck.
Illya glared at him, but kept his mouth shut.
Eric prodded the bite a little. "Does it hurt?"
"No. It's nothing."
"Your CEA doesn't seem to think it's nothing."
Illya glared at Napoleon. Napoleon ignored him. He spoke to the doctor instead. "It shouldn't still be bleeding, should it?"
Eric shook his head. "No." He crossed the room and gathered supplies. "But I did some checking on vampire bats after you got back and it made for interesting reading. Their saliva contains three active ingredients to keep the blood they're feeding on flowing. One of the main ingredients is an anticoagulant. Then there's a second one to keep red blood cells from sticking together, and the third ingredient keeps the veins under the bite from constricting. They're the most remarkable creatures."
Napoleon considered his words. "So you think the bleeding is because of bat saliva?"
"That seems as likely a reason as anything else."
Napoleon didn't miss the flash of relief in Illya's eyes. It made him curious. What had Illya thought was going on?
The doctor glanced at Illya. "Does it bleed all the time?"
Illya shook his head. "It only seems to bleed in the morning. After a while it stops." He shrugged as if unconcerned. "I probably pick at it in my sleep."
Napoleon heard that tone again. His brow furrowed. He tried to imagine a world where he could ask Illya what was bothering him, and Illya would simply tell him.
Eric cleaned off the neck wound with some alcohol, and then let it dry for a few seconds. He hmmed, and then said, "I think I'll suture it closed. That should take care of it. But I'll collect a blood sample to make sure we're not missing anything." After donning sterile gloves, he pushed around the wound to make it bleed and then drew up a small amount of blood into several capillary tubes. He reached for a suture kit. "Want some anesthetic?"
Illya shook his head no.
Napoleon rolled his eyes. "Illya, let him numb the area first. It's not like you're out in the field, with nothing but me and a rudimentary first aid kit patching you together."
Napoleon thought Illya would argue again, but instead he gave a terse nod of agreement. Napoleon crossed his arms, drumming out a beat with the fingers of one hand against his other arm.
Illya gave him a look. "What is it?"
Napoleon looked down at his nervous fingers. He stilled their movement. "Nothing."
The next look Illya shot him made it clear his partner didn't believe him. "Go back to your office, Napoleon. I believe that Dr. Sadler is capable of performing this procedure without an audience."
Napoleon didn't want to leave. He tried to think of an excuse to stay, but he really didn't have one, other than wanting to be with Illya. Maybe they could have dinner. Then he remembered Clem and he scowled. It was doubtful that Illya would want to join them, and he was quite certain that Clem wouldn't appreciate sharing him with Illya any more than she already did.
Illya sighed. "Napoleon. Your facial expressions will make the doctor nervous. I'd just as soon he had steady hands as he approaches my neck with a needle."
Napoleon flashed his partner a disgruntled look. "All right, all right, I'm going." He followed that up by his most pointed CEA look. "Don't do anything strenuous today. In fact, you should probably go home and sleep."
Napoleon didn't imagine the brief flash of alarm that crossed Illya's face and it made him even more reluctant to leave. Illya covered it well. "I will go to my lab, and do nothing more strenuous than read notes, and pour liquid from one container to another." He flashed Napoleon a teasing look. "I may have to walk across the room a few times, assuming that's all right with you."
Napoleon let out a sarcastic laugh. "Very funny." He spoke a brief farewell to the doctor, and reluctantly left.
Eric grinned at Illya. "Bit of a mother hen, isn't he?"
Illya smiled tightly in return but he chose not to respond. Right at this particular moment, he was feeling grateful for Napoleon's mother hen tendencies. The bite had been worrying him, but he would never have come to Medical on his own. He was relieved it would be sutured closed, eliminating the problem. He tried hard not to think about the dreams.
They were back in Clem's hotel, snuggled on the couch, watching TV. Napoleon had tried to let his hands wander a couple of times just on general principle, but Clem was having none of it. Her appeal was rapidly fading. Sex might have made listening to copious amounts of mountain truisms worthwhile, but without it, Napoleon was getting bored. There wasn't much going on behind the pretty face.
The only thing that was still amusing was Clem's firm belief that her attempt to turn Napoleon into husband material was working. And because she was so committed to her path, Napoleon had no intention of sleeping with her, even if she threw her naked body at him. Knowing her, she was as fertile as a rabbit, and even with a condom, Napoleon was taking no chances.
His thoughts kept wandering to Illya. He had gone to the lab twice during the day to check on Illya only to be shooed away both times. When he'd checked in one last time before leaving with Clem, it was only to find that Illya had already left.
Napoleon heard a harsh sigh. He guessed that Clem had clued in to the direction of his thoughts. Napoleon supposed he should be grateful she only picked up on his thoughts about Illya. Suddenly annoyed with her consistent pique at his concern for his friend, Napoleon turned to her. "Haven't you ever had a good friend?"
"Shoot fire, of course I have me some friends."
"Then why does it bother you so much that I'm worried about Illya?"
"It just ain't natural."
Napoleon frowned at her. "What's not natural?"
"How much you care for him."
"What's wrong with caring for him?"
"You love him."
"Of course I love him. He's my best friend."
Clem flounced back against the couch. "It just ain't natural."
Napoleon moved away from her and considered the woman, his lips pursed. "We're back to that. What exactly are you saying isn't natural?"
"Men lovin' other men."
Napoleon frowned at her. "I can understand that the idea of a man being sexually involved with another man might be unsettling to someone of your upbringing, but surely you've been around men who care deeply for their male friends."
"What do you mean someone of my upbringin'? Are you tryin' to tell me that you don't think it's unnatural?"
Napoleon shook his head. "No, I don't. As long as it's consensual, it doesn't bother me at all. Love comes in all shapes and sizes." He held up his hand to stop her from interjecting. "But, despite my feelings on the subject, Illya and I are just friends. If we were anything more than that, I'd hardly be here with you like this."
Clem gave him a horrified glance. "You don't think there's nothin' wrong with a man touchin' another man?"
Napoleon shook his head again. "I already told you that I don't."
"Well you should. It's a sin against God. God made men and women to be together. Anythin' else is unholy."
Napoleon couldn't imagine how he'd gotten in this conversation, or why he'd been foolish enough to argue with her. Along with all her folksy sayings, she'd inherited a mountain's worth of stubbornness from her dearly departed mama and granny. He went for a major distraction and pulled her back into his arms. "Well, now, that hardly affects us, does it?"
She wasn't ready to move on and pulled away. "It does if you think of Mr. Kury-ay-kin that way."
Napoleon tried to control his temper. "Clemency. First of all, it's pronounced Kuryakin, and I'd like you to try to remember that. Second, as I already said, Illya and I are just friends."
Napoleon found that he couldn't help needling her a little. "I think I'd know if Illya and I were lovers."
She almost recoiled. "How can you even say that out loud? It's disgustin'."
Napoleon got up and fixed himself a drink. "I don't expect you to understand this, but when you stare death in the face on a regular basis, the inconsequential facts that ordinarily set people apart lose their hold. They just don't seem to matter as much when your mortality is being shoved down your throat."
Clem's expression was censorious and not open to change. "It's just wrong."
"Why?" Napoleon thought about his homosexual friends, the strength of some of their relationships. "Why is it wrong?"
"It just is."
"It says so in the bible." She looked around the room and then headed for the bedside table. "I'll show you."
The last thing Napoleon wanted was Clem getting out the Gideon's Bible and finding scriptures to back up her viewpoint. He grabbed her arm. "Clem. Let's not argue about this."
Clem gave him a long hard look. For a few seconds, he watched as she had second doubts about him as husband material. Then, a cunning look crossed her face. He knew she had decided that she was the one to save him from his sinnin' ways. Napoleon had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. He reached for his coat, deciding he wasn't in the mood for her type of redemption. "I think I'll call it a night."
She tried to talk him out of leaving, but after only a few kisses, Napoleon was free and back in his car. He glanced at his watch as he turned the key. Almost midnight. Giving in to temptation, he pulled out his communicator and called his partner.
"Why aren't you asleep?" Napoleon grinned; he could almost hear his partner's frown.
"If you were worried about me sleeping, why are you calling me so late?"
"If you'd been sleeping, I would have sung you a lullaby until you fell back asleep."
"Fortunately, I don't need to avail myself of your services, thank you anyway."
"Are you making fun of my singing?"
Napoleon chuckled and switched subjects. "How's your neck? Has it been bleeding at all?"
"No, I believe Dr. Sadler has taken care of that."
"Good. So, you're all right then?"
"I'm fine, Napoleon. Stop worrying about me."
"Can't. It's in the partner rulebook. Thou shalt worry about one's partner."
"Where's Miss McGill while you spout mythical rules at me?"
"In her hotel room, pouting."
"I take it she's failed to elicit a proposal from you?"
Napoleon snorted. "I think you were right, Illya. She's definitely not my type."
There was a short grunt of agreement. "Then go home. Go to bed. I'll see you tomorrow."
Napoleon hesitated, not sure why he still wasn't buying Illya's nonchalance. Something was wrong. He knew it. "You're sure? I can come over."
The ensuing hesitation startled Napoleon. He had fully expected Illya to snap at him for being so persistent. Finally the rebuff came, as he knew it would. "I do not need a babysitter. Go home. If you're that desperate for something to do, go drinking. Or go back to your Miss McGill."
Napoleon sighed. "Fine, fine. Reject me. See if I care."
There was another unexpected hesitation. "Napoleon, I--I do not want you to think that I don't--" He broke off.
Despite the incomplete sentence, Napoleon got it, although he was surprised that Illya was willing to comfort him. "I don't. Like I said, that's what partners--and friends are for. Just try to get some sleep."
"Goodnight." Napoleon recapped his communicator and headed for home.
It was raining. He could smell the wet earth, and the pall of depression that lay over the city. It had been raining for days. He loved it. The overcast skies allowed him to move about during the day, although he kept to the shadows as much as possible.
It was time to feed again. The general misery elicited by the weather had been lovely, but he needed blood. And sex. It had been too long for both.
He didn't like going without. But, he'd come close to discovery in the last town, and had had to leave. He had been exploring this new town for a week, learning its alleyways, discovering the areas where people were apt to be the most distracted, ripe for the picking.
Now it was time. He found a bar: dark, seedy, a place for loners, and for those who were different. There were three men at the bar and he made brief eye contact with them all as he took a seat and ordered a drink. Then he waited.
He was a handsome man, always had been. Always would be. He never changed, never aged. It didn't take long. One of the men slid over next to him and started up a conversation. Implied in the words was an invitation. He had every intention of taking the man up on his invitation, although he planned to take much more than what was being offered.
Within minutes they were heading out into the cold and wet, the man leading him to his small and dingy apartment. He sneered, thinking the man should be grateful that his paltry life would be ending soon.
He embraced the man, enjoying the feel of his hard body, the clear evidence of his desire pushing against his own hardened cock. Taking a woman was a delight, but taking a man was heaven. Submission meant little when there was such an unequal spread of power. Tonight, a woman would be too weak for him. He wanted a man to dominate.
Clothes began to make their way to the floor. He shoved the man against the wall, unleashing just enough of his strength to give the man pause. When the man's eyes widened with a small touch of alarm, he drank it in.
His need was growing. He wrapped his fingers around the man's throat, and started to tighten them. He needed more than a touch of alarm; he craved the fear. His wish was granted.
The man started to fight back, tried to pry away the fingers, to punch at his body. He ignored it. The man's strength, although more than a woman's, was still, after all, nothing compared to his own power.
He felt something sharp stick his side and, surprised, he glanced down to find he'd been stabbed with a letter opener directly below his ribs. The pain was annoying, but it would fade quickly. He yanked the opener from his body and threw it across the room. The fear in the man grew stronger.
He closed his eyes for a moment to enjoy it. Feeling the man weaken, he loosened the hold on his neck a little. It was too soon for him to die. Much too soon. He dragged him over to the small kitchen table and forced him to turn around and bend across it.
The man struggled, his legs kicking, his fingers aiming for his captor's groin, not for pleasure but to try to inflict hurt. He subdued him, holding him down, then entered him with one brutal thrust. The cries of pain were like a symphony. With a driving force, he took his pleasure. When he could feel his climax approaching, he bent over the man, pulling his head back, exposing his neck. As the first spurt of semen jetted out of his cock, his fangs sank into the carotid, and he drank from the man.
There was nothing he liked more than the dual sensation of ejaculation, and feeding. It emptied him and it filled him. The little death coupled with immortal life.
He pulled out of the man, and let his body slump to the ground.
It was early, perhaps he'd feed again before dawn.
Illya jerked awake, breathing rapidly, his heart pounding. The dreams were so real. Every night he killed, every night he took pleasure in it. Men, women, children, he had no conscience, only the need to meet his own gratification.
Illya hated the man in his dreams with a vengeance, and was deathly afraid it meant that this sickness, the ability to do this much harm, was inside of him. What else could the dreams mean, when they came night after night?
He glanced down at his pants and saw that he'd ejaculated again. Touching his neck, he could feel the wetness there and felt a moment of despair. Despite the stitches, he was bleeding again.
Getting up, he headed for the bathroom, pulling off his pajamas as he went. He stood naked in front of the mirror and investigated his neck. Around the stitches, two tracks of blood were making their way down his neck, heading toward his chest now that the fabric of his pajamas was no longer soaking up the blood.
He glanced at his abdomen, saw a few glistening drops of semen. Then he noticed more blood. Fear swept through him. He was cut, exactly where the letter opener had been jabbed into his body in the dream. And it was seeping blood.
Illya just stared at it. His thoughts chaotic, he tried to find a rational excuse for the wound but found none. All he could think was that his dreams were starting to come true. He felt caged by confusion, betrayed by his body. He couldn't bear to even look at himself. With a harsh wrenching motion he turned on the shower and stepped within. Grabbing the soap he began to wash himself, scrubbing as hard as he could in hopes it might cleanse away the residue of the dreams.
Napoleon was already ensconced at his desk behind a mountain of paperwork before Illya made his way into the office. He'd been fighting the urge to call his partner, wanting to make sure that he was all right. In another minute he would have given in to the urge and braved the Russian's morning grumpiness.
When Illya walked in, Napoleon's relief was short-lived. He frowned. "Remember when I said you looked like hell yesterday?"
Illya moved to his desk. "Vividly."
"Well, I lied. Yesterday was just a warm-up exercise, apparently, because today you really look like hell."
Illya sat, pulled a file toward him. "Your poetic observations leave me speechless."
Napoleon got up and moved to Illya's desk. He perched on the front edge, to Illya's left. "What's going on? Are you sick? Do I need to take you to Medical again? Talk to me." He didn't care if Illya did snap at him, it was time to get to the bottom of this.
Illya put the file down and let out a beleaguered sigh.
Napoleon braced himself for a Russian tempest. Nothing happened. He reached out a hand and raised Illya's face with a gentle nudge to the underside of his chin. "Illya?"
Illya tried to turn away, but Napoleon wouldn't let him. He closed his eyes.
Napoleon could see the conflict on his partner's face. He sensed that Illya wanted to confide in him, but was faced with his own natural reluctance to reveal a weakness. When Illya opened his eyes, Napoleon was taken aback at the acute anxiety exposed. He dropped his hand, but stayed silent, not wanting to say anything that would make the Russian withdraw.
"Napoleon." There was a pause. "I've been--I am--" His communicator went off. Illya reached for it, and flashed Napoleon a small, tired grin. "Saved by the bell."
Napoleon glowered at him, and crossed his arms over his chest, making it clear that the conversation was far from over.
Illya uncapped his communicator. "Kuryakin here."
It was Waverly. "Ah, Mr. Kuryakin. Please come to my office immediately. I am in need of your services."
"I'm on my way." Illya recapped his communicator and stood, glancing at Napoleon. "Duty calls."
Napoleon frowned. "I'm not so sure that you're fit for duty." He cocked his head to the side. "Are you?"
Illya snapped, "I'm fine."
Napoleon was silently damning Waverly for his timing. Another minute and he was sure Illya would have spilled the beans. He flashed Illya a disgruntled look. "And why just you? Why not both of us?"
Illya gave him a dry smile. "You have an assignment already."
Napoleon grimaced. So he did. Clemency. "Still."
Illya put his hand up to stop his partner. "He said immediately. I have to go."
Napoleon gave up for the time being. "Let me know what he wants." When he did not receive the affirmation he expected, he gave his partner a warning glare. "I mean it, Illya. And this is your CEA talking as well as your friend. If it's too strenuous a mission, Waverly may need to find someone else."
Illya nodded. "I will let you know."
Napoleon grinned mischievously at him. "We could always swap assignments."
Illya shivered. "No, thank you. I think I'd be safer in the jungles of Peru."
"She's not that bad." All he got for that was a roll of Illya's eyes. As Illya left, Napoleon cursed Waverly again, and then he cursed his partner. This wasn't the first time, and Napoleon expected it wouldn't be the last, that he wished he could crawl inside the Russian's brain and see what he was hiding.
Napoleon tapped his fingers in annoyance on the fine damask dining cloth.
"Land o' goodness, you're gonna give me a fright with that expression on your face, Napoleon."
Napoleon glanced up at his dinner companion and smiled tightly at her. He took a sip of wine, and continued to think of Illya, not caring a whit what Clemency thought about it.
Illya had obeyed the letter if not the spirit of his request. He had called to let Napoleon know about his assignment, but instead of speaking directly to Napoleon, Illya had left a message, knowing it wouldn't be picked up until it was too late to stop Illya from going.
Napoleon had been relieved that it seemed little more than a babysitting job, escorting a physicist to the Pentagon for a think tank session. Apparently the man had refused any escort until he was informed that the agent assigned to him was also a physicist. All Illya had to do was drop him off. At that point, the FBI would assume responsibility for him.
The annoyed tapping was mostly due to the fact that Illya had said he'd check in when he successfully delivered his package. He was overdue. Not by much, but, nonetheless, he was late. If he didn't call in the next five minutes, Napoleon was going to call him even though he knew Illya wouldn't appreciate it.
"He's gonna call you right soon enough, Napoleon."
That got his attention and he looked up to see a churlish look on Clem's face. Despite the boon it would have been to his department, he was relieved that the tests had not gone well as it meant she'd be going home to stay. Apparently, without Count Zark's cortical stimulator, Clem's knowin' way became closer to a guessin' way. "Are you reading my mind or his?"
"His, I think."
It was odd that the one thing she seemed in cosmic rapport with was Illya. Except that she continued to insist that he was fine, and Napoleon knew that he wasn't. "Where is he?"
She concentrated for a minute. "I'm not sure, but I'm seein' a big old statue of Abraham Lincoln." Clem shot him a calculating look. "Is it really that big? I'd purely love to see it."
Napoleon smiled. Most of the smile was for Illya. He loved that statue and dragged Napoleon to see it, the Washington Monument, and all the war memorials whenever they were in the Capital and had time on their hands.
The other part of the smile was for Clem's last-ditch efforts to plant herself in Napoleon's future. "It is a great statue. You should try to arrange a trip. Maybe you could take a tour with some of your women friends."
She smiled at him, that sultry smile that promised everything, and delivered nothing, and he knew she was toeing off her shoes under the table. "I'd sure rather see it with you. I bet you could tell me everythin' about that city."
Napoleon's communicator went off. He flashed Clem an apologetic look, and rose to take the call someplace more private. He found a dark alcove and opened up the silver cylinder. "Solo here."
"Napoleon? It's Illya."
"I take it you arrived without mishap?"
"Other than almost being talked to death."
"Well, you know what these scientific types are like. Especially the physicists. They either talk too much, or they don't talk at all."
There was a long pause. "I'm sorry, Napoleon. I didn't want you to stop me."
"I gathered that much." Napoleon put on his CEA hat, that being the priority, regardless of his friendship with Illya. "What would you have done if someone had gone after him? Would you have been up to it?"
The answer was stiff. "I would not have put him at risk. I would think you would trust me enough to know that."
"And I would think you would have trusted me enough to discuss the mission before you left." That bothered Napoleon the most, that Illya hadn't trusted him.
There was a long, tired sigh.
He sounded so weary it made Napoleon switch gears. "When are you coming home?"
"As tomorrow is Saturday, I thought I'd spend the night here. I think I could use a night away."
That bothered Napoleon too. "A night away from what?" He hoped it wasn't from him.
There was another sigh. "I don't know, exactly."
Napoleon could almost picture him. Head sagging, body bowed. It made his heart hurt. "Illya, tell me what's wrong. What's happening?"
Abruptly, Illya changed the subject. "Where are you right now? Am I interrupting anything?"
Napoleon was glad to hear the slight tease in his voice, even if he wasn't pleased that Illya was continuing his evasions. "I'm enjoying my last supper with Clemency."
There was a short and mostly silent laugh. "Does that mean you are truly enjoying her company for this last evening, or that you are enjoying the fact that it is your last?"
There was another soft chuckle. "I miss you, my friend."
Napoleon listened to the nervous silence that followed that most unexpected confession. He could imagine Illya's face, his eyes wide with dismay that he had let that one slip through the internal censor. But, Napoleon was very glad it had. The words warmed him through and through, running like brandy over his skin. "I miss you, too. I'm putting my assignment on a plane tomorrow, so let's have dinner tomorrow night."
"Are you buying?"
"Yes, but you're talking."
"Will you bring the veridicals?"
"If I have to." Napoleon paused. "Will I have to?"
Another long pause. "No. I think I--I think I need to talk about it."
"Good. I'm glad to hear it. Call me when you get back in."
Napoleon heard the connection break, and he recapped his communicator. He was frowning as he made his way back to the table, not sure if it had been a satisfying conversation or not. It bothered him that Illya was two hundred miles away.
Clem was impatiently waiting for him. "I thought you plumb forgot me, Napoleon."
Napoleon gave her an apologetic smile, not feeling sorry at all. "That was Illya."
She rolled her eyes. "I told you he was all right."
Napoleon's lips tightened. "I know you keep saying that, but I don't believe it any more." He didn't miss the guilty look that flashed across her face. He felt a spark of anger as he realized that she knew more than she let on. "What do you know? What haven't you been telling me?"
She shook her head. "Nothin'. He's a grown man, after all."
"He's just havin' bad dreams. That's all. I didn't figure it was any of your business."
Napoleon sat back in his chair. Dreams. This was all about dreams? Illya was falling apart because he was having nightmares? He didn't buy it. Nightmares were a regular part of Illya's life. Napoleon had woken him up from enough of them to know that. "What else? There must be something else."
Her voice grew stubborn. "Just dreams. I don't know what they're about, I just know they're botherin' him. And I know his neck is botherin' him and he's not sleepin' much."
Napoleon pressed her again, but she had no further information, or she was refusing to tell him anything more. He also wasn't buying her excuse for not telling him. He suspected jealousy was the main reason for her silence. He mentally counted down the hours until he would be watching her plane go down the runway.
He glanced down at her plate. "You done?" She nodded, smiling coyly, still not giving up the fight. Napoleon had to admire her tenacity. He stood, moving to hold her chair for her as she rose. "Let's get you back to the hotel, shall we?"
Her fingers walked up his chest, and caressed the cleft of his chin. "You will come up, won't you?"
Napoleon supposed he better. Waverly would give him quite a dressing down if he abandoned Clemency on her last night in New York. He was almost tempted to call his boss and see if he still wanted to take her to some cultural event. Napoleon suppressed a sigh and smiled. If there was anything he was an expert at, it was being charming, even when he didn't feel like it. "Of course."
He watched as she slipped her shoes on and then he escorted her to the door.
Illya walked around the city for hours, and then found a small jazz club to while away more time. Anything to keep the dreams away. Anytime he thought about going to his hotel to sleep, all he had to do was touch the stab wound on his side, or feel the useless sutures in his neck that somehow didn't stop the bleeding.
It was only when he started to doze off in the club that he finally made his way to his room. As bad as it was when he was alone, it would be infinitely worse to awaken from one of those dreams in a public place.
As he sat on the small couch in his room, he couldn't remember feeling more weary. He'd certainly gone this long without sleep before; sleep deprivation was a common form of torture. But at least there was a point to that. There was no point to this, unless it was to prove that he was a danger.
He suddenly wished he had gone home, that he could call Napoleon and have him come over. He didn't want to be alone. But, he hadn't gone home, and he was alone, and he had to sleep.
Keeping the lights on, Illya curled up on the couch, hoping it would be just uncomfortable enough to let him doze, but not let him fall into a deep enough sleep to dream.
She had golden ringlets. She couldn't be any more than three years of age. And she had a mother who kept letting her run off. Perfect. Children held a special allure. Their blood tasted so pure. A flush of desire for that cleansing draught ran through him.
He knew he should refrain. After all, it was the death of that child in the last town that had brought the villagers after him. But he didn't have the strength to resist. And there were many towns.
He lay in wait, watching the mother, waiting for a moment's carelessness, anticipating the mother's misery when she realized her daughter was gone. The moment came, and he struck, picking the child up and drawing back into the shadows.
He put his hand over the young girl's mouth, and covertly observed the mother so as to make an appetizer of her fear before taking time for the main course. He smiled as the mother began to look around, as she called the young one's name, as her anxiety grew when there was no answer.
As the mother's calls grew more frantic, the child began to struggle. He ignored her. She bit him. Surprised, he pulled his hand away, and she cried for her mother.
Cursing, the vampire clamped his hand over her mouth again, and withdrew further. The evening's voyeuristic moment was over. It was time to leave. He had no intention of not feeding on the golden haired child.
He heard a noise and glanced up to find that the mother had unerringly followed the sound of her daughter's voice. She screamed when she saw him holding her child. With no thought of her own safety she hurtled down the alley in pursuit.
The vampire waited a moment to see if anyone had heard her scream, if anyone would follow her into the alley. He smiled when no one else appeared. The streets were noisy, and people were busy, rushing about on their own business.
He let her come to him. She reached for her child, but his grip was too strong. She railed at him, imploring him, but he stood fast, savoring her distress. Then she started to claw at him. She raked his face, and his arm, trying to rescue her daughter. And she screamed again.
It was the screaming that decided him. Holding on to the young one with one arm, he reached out the other and snapped the mother's neck. For a moment he had hoped he might get to feed on them both, but it was not to be. There was no joy in feeding from a dead body. The blood had to be alive, had to be pumping.
He withdrew further and smiled down at the golden child. Her eyes were wide, and tears streaked her chubby cheeks. He turned her head to the side, and exposed her neck. He could feel his penis start to stir.
Illya's thrashing caused him to fall off the small couch and it woke him. He lay on the floor, his heart pounding, fear congealing in his gut. He reached up to his neck and felt blood oozing. His hand tightened into a fist and he felt a sting of pain. He glanced at his hand and felt sick to his stomach. There was a bite mark there on the side of his index finger that had drawn blood.
Not wanting to look, but knowing he must, he forced his eyes to his arm, to where the woman had raked him with her nails. There were gashes there, all bleeding. He raised his hand to his face, and felt the welts from where she had scratched him.
Illya felt something tickling his face and he opened his hand. A few strands of golden hair fell to the ground. Illya let out a cry and crawled backwards across the room as if he might find some escape.
But there was no escape. Illya crawled into the corner of the room, and hugged his knees tightly to his chest.
Clem's gasp woke him up. Napoleon looked around, momentarily disoriented. Then he remembered. Clem had not wanted him to leave. She had finally decided to sacrifice her virtue in hopes it would tie him to her.
Napoleon didn't want it. He had put her off, and they had ended up cuddling on the couch, watching a movie until they dozed off. He glanced at her. "What is it?"
She touched her neck and looked at her fingers, rubbing them together as if there were a substance there to feel.
Somehow Napoleon knew what that gesture meant. "Is it Illya? Is he okay?"
She shook her head, her expression worried. "No. No, he's not."
Napoleon lunged off the couch and grabbed his suit jacket, yanking out his communicator. He patched through to Illya's and then impatiently waited for him to answer. "Damn it, Illya. Answer."
Finally he heard the connection, and Illya spoke in a voice Napoleon had never heard coming from his partner. It was frantic. "Napoleon, is that you?"
"Yes, what's wrong? Where are you?" The panic in his partner's voice was so unexpected it galvanized Napoleon, shooting adrenaline into his system. He stalked across the room, listening to Illya's shaky breaths. "Illya. Talk to me."
"Yes, I'm here. Talk to me. What's wrong?" More ragged breathing. It almost sounded as if Illya were gasping for breath. "Illya! What's going on?" He spoke in his most commanding voice, hoping it might get through to his partner.
"Keep me awake, Napoleon. Don't let me sleep."
Napoleon remembered Clemency's words. "Are you having nightmares?" Across the communicator came a noise that sounded suspiciously like a sob. The noise almost undid Napoleon. It slithered down his spine and crawled into his intestines. Illya crying? What could be that bad? He couldn't even imagine. Napoleon tried to speak in soothing tones. "Illya, I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere. I'll talk to you as long as you need me to."
Napoleon glanced down at Clem, saw that she was following the conversation with bated breath. He felt a strong need to protect Illya's privacy and he walked to the bedroom and shut the door. "Illya, are you still there?"
There was a heart-stopping pause, then, "Yes."
"I need to know what's going on. I need you to tell me what's happening? Are you alone?"
A shaky breath. "Yes."
"Where are you? Are you in your hotel room?"
"I can't do this, I can't--" His voice trailed off.
Napoleon barked into the communicator, "Illya, talk to me. You told me not to let you sleep, remember?" He got a grunt in return. "What happens when you sleep, tovarisch?"
Illya let out a moan, and it chilled Napoleon to his marrow. "Something is happening to me when I sleep."
"What's happening to you? Tell me." Napoleon hated that Illya was so far away. He wanted to be there. Now.
"I'm bleeding again. I keep bleeding. Every dream there's more blood. It started with my neck, but now it's everywhere." Illya's voice rose in pitch as his recitation continued. "He stabbed me and it keeps bleeding, and then she scratched me and now my face and my arm is bleeding, and the girl bit me and my finger is bleeding. Everywhere I look I see blood."
Napoleon was tempted to believe that Illya was hallucinating, that someone had slipped him something in a drink. But he remembered that neck wound. He had seen it bleed long after it should have healed. "Are you bleeding now? Should I call an ambulance?"
Illya let out another moan. "No. No one can see me. Not like this. I'm not safe."
"What do you mean, you're not safe?"
"I think I'm killing people, Napoleon. Her hair was in my hands. She had golden ringlets and, when I woke up, her hair was in my hands. I killed her mother, and then I killed her. Just like I killed that man last night. Every night I kill them."
He sounded completely insane and Napoleon was momentarily speechless. Then his reason returned. He didn't believe Illya was killing anybody. But it was clear that Illya thought he was, or he was dreaming he was. He focused on the immediate issue. "Illya, I need to know you're safe right now. How badly are you bleeding?"
"I don't know. I don't want to look. I can't stand to look at myself anymore."
"Illya, you're not killing anyone. They're just dreams, no matter how real they feel. I promise you."
"Why did I have her hair in my hands, then?" Illya's voice was desperate, begging for deliverance.
"It must have been your hair, you must have pulled some out."
"Why am I bleeding? Why are parts of the dreams coming true?"
"I don't know, but it doesn't make you a killer. Someone must be doing something to you. Hypnotizing you or drugging you. It's not you, Illya. You're not killing these people."
Illya let out a low moan. "Napoleon, I can't do this anymore."
Napoleon glanced at his watch, already mentally on the road. "I'll come right now. Someone else can take Clem to the airport. I can be there in three hours, less maybe." He'd have to break every speed limit between here and there, but he didn't care.
Clem burst into the room, and Napoleon glowered at her interruption. She ignored his look. "It's that count fella."
Napoleon furrowed his brow. "What?"
"That count fella, the one we met in Transylvania, with all the bats. He did somethin' to Illya."
Napoleon wanted to strangle her. "How long have you known this?"
"Just now. After I heard how bothered Mr. Kury-ay-kin was, I felt real bad I didn't say somethin' before now. So, I started concentratin' real hard and it just come to me."
Napoleon thought for a second. It actually made sense. "Illya, did you hear that? Clem thinks Zark is doing something to you. He made Clem have all those visions, couldn't he be making you dream?"
Illya wasn't buying it. "Why am I bleeding? Why did I have her hair in my hand?"
"I don't know, but I'm calling Waverly, and then I'm coming to get you, and we're going after Zark."
"Can you stay awake for a while? I need to call Waverly, and get in my car. Then I'll call you back, and we'll talk while I drive. Will you be all right for a few minutes?" Napoleon's heart was already in his car and he was annoyed there were things to do first.
There was a long pause, then a hesitant, "I will try."
Not good enough. "Go to the telephone and read me the telephone number." While Illya moved, he searched for a pen and paper. Illya began reading off a number and he wrote it down. "What room are you in?"
"Okay." Napoleon snapped his fingers at Clem. When she looked at him, he covered the communicator. "Call him, now. Talk to him."
She shook her head. "He don't wanna talk to me."
"I don't care. If he's awake enough to be annoyed with you, that's good enough for me. Call him."
She scrunched her face up, but she moved to the phone. She reached for the piece of paper and began to dial. When Napoleon heard her ask for Illya's room number, he spoke to Illya. "Illya, your phone's about to ring. Answer it. When you pick up, I'm going to call Waverly."
He could hear the phone ring, and then he heard Illya's voice. "Hello?"
Clem started in on her apologies. Napoleon hoped it got Illya nice and riled. He headed into the other room to call Waverly, to somehow convince him that he and Illya needed to take an unplanned trip to Transylvania.
Napoleon's voice was hoarse. He'd been talking non-stop for two hours, about his childhood, his sexual exploits, his family, office gossip, favorite and worst classes in school, anything he could think of to keep Illya engaged.
A highway patrolman had stopped him once, but a flash of his U.N.C.L.E. ID was all it took to get him on his way again. Napoleon wasn't sure if the policeman radioed ahead, but he wasn't bothered again even though he was pushing 100 mph.
He'd lost Illya a few minutes ago. No matter how much he yelled through the communicator Napoleon couldn't rouse him. He could hear the moans though, and he pushed on the accelerator a little harder, watching the needle climb.
It had taken some fancy footwork to convince Waverly. Fortunately, Waverly had also noticed that Clemency had been particularly clued in to Illya's circumstances during the entire night flight operation. The comb in her hair hadn't accounted for her knowing he was in a bullring, or that he needed to avoid the piranhas, or helped her know the numbers in his head from the stolen document.
So Waverly had finally consented, and within minutes Napoleon had directions to Illya's hotel and tickets to Transylvania. He hoped to God Clem was right, and this wasn't some wild goose chase, or that Illya hadn't truly lost it.
Napoleon was desperate to see his partner. Once they had started talking, Illya had tried for a normal tone, pretending this was a conversation like any other conversation, but Napoleon could hear the fear in the Russian's voice.
Napoleon almost missed his exit. He slammed on the brakes and turned the wheel hard, praying that he wouldn't scrape the guardrail. His hand searched for the written instructions and he squinted to read them in the teasing light of passing streetlights.
Within a few minutes he was pulling into the sheltered entrance of the hotel. A bellman came out and opened his door. Napoleon handed him the keys, and bolted for the door. He found the elevators and pressed the up arrow.
After what seemed like hours, the elevator arrived. Napoleon went through the same waiting exercise as it slowly climbed floors. When the door opened he stepped out, read the signs to determine his direction and headed for Illya's room.
When he was standing in front of the door, he hesitated. It was late, or very early depending on your point of view. Hardly the time to be pounding on a hotel door yelling Illya's name. He wondered if he should have flashed his badge downstairs and gotten a second key.
He did have some explosive, if required, but he hated to destroy hotel property. Napoleon remembered he had a lock pick and he began to work its way out of his collar. Before he had it fully extracted he looked at the door and wondered. Hoping he was wrong, at the same time wishing it would be this easy, he tried the doorknob.
The room was unlocked. That, almost more than anything else, told Napoleon how on the edge Illya was. When this was over, Napoleon was going to read him the riot act. If he couldn't even remember to lock the damn door, he had no business being on a mission, even a relatively low risk one like this.
He opened the door, and stepped in. Every light was on so it was easy to find Illya, even if he was curled on the floor in the corner of the room. Napoleon took a second to shut and lock the door and then moved quickly to Illya, crouching down beside him. He laid a gentle hand on his partner's arm. "Illya?"
Illya's eyes started open and he jerked back hard enough to bash against the wall.
Napoleon tried to keep his voice calm, even though the look in Illya's eyes speared him through the heart. "It's all right. It's just me. You're all right." Napoleon was gratified to see some of the fear drain away as his partner focused on him.
"Napoleon?" Illya reached up to touch Napoleon's face.
"Yes, it's me." He curled a hand around Illya's arm. "Can you get up?"
Illya had no idea if he could get up or not, but he didn't care. All he knew was that Napoleon was there and that meant he wasn't alone with his nightmares anymore. He shook off Napoleon's grasp, but only to slip his arms around Napoleon's waist and hold him tightly.
Napoleon was initially stunned at his partner's display, but then the warmth of the embrace poured through him like syrup. He held Illya's head to his shoulder, and ran his fingers down the soft hair.
Finally Illya pulled back and he glanced up at Napoleon, his face blushing, his smile rueful. "I hope you brought your straitjacket with you."
Napoleon nodded. "It's in my suitcase."
Illya checked out the room and frowned. "You don't have a suitcase."
Napoleon snapped his fingers in mock frustration. "Damn. I'm fresh out of straitjackets then." He stood and held out his hand. "Ready to get off the floor?"
Illya nodded and made the attempt to get up. Napoleon lent his strength to the process and walked Illya across the room and sat him on the bed, taking a good look at him. The Russian looked a wreck. Between the scratches on his face and arm, the holes in his neck, and his torn up finger, he was covered in blood and looked like he'd just come off some mission gone bad.
And that was just the overtly physical symptoms. He looked like he hadn't slept or eaten in days, which Napoleon suspected was true, and his eyes were bloodshot and haunted.
Illya sat on the bed as if he were in a trance. Finally he turned and looked at Napoleon. "I'm sorry. I feel so…" He shook his head, his vocabulary deserting him.
Napoleon sat down next to him, and put his arm around his shoulder. "Don't apologize. I'm sorry I believed you when you kept saying you were all right."
That got a small grin out of Illya. "You should always believe everything your partner says."
Napoleon snorted. "Yeah, except when he lies to me." He stood. "We need to get you cleaned up so I can take a good look at you." Napoleon walked to the bathroom, and turned on the shower. He walked back in and pulled Illya up. "Come on, partner, strip out of those clothes and go in the bathroom. I'll be in there as soon as I order you some food."
"I'm not hungry."
"You will be once I wave a plate of food under your nose." If Illya didn't eat, Napoleon was putting him in the hospital. Nothing got between Illya and food unless he was inches from death, and not even then sometimes.
Illya gingerly worked his shirt off.
Napoleon took in the wound on Illya's side. It did look like a stab wound. He pointed at it. "How did you get that one?"
"He stabbed me with a letter opener."
"Who stabbed you?"
"The man I was…" Illya shook his head, dropping it to his chest. "What's happening to me?"
"Zark is happening to you. I'm sure he planted something on you or in you when he had you in his castle. Remember how much he was able to affect Clem's thoughts with that comb in her hair? And didn't you tell me you were unconscious for a while?"
It took Illya a minute to remember events that had happened only days ago – it felt like years - but then he nodded. "After I fell through the trap door."
"See? He must have done it then. I'll check you out, see what I can find." Napoleon thought to check Illya's fingernails, to see if there was blood and skin under his nails, proof that he had self-inflicted the wounds to his face and arm.
There was nothing to indicate Illya had been the perpetrator. The wound on his finger did look like teeth marks, and small ones at that. Despite Napoleon's belief that somehow Zark was behind all of this, he had no idea what he could have done to account for all these different types of wounds.
Initial investigation over, Illya went back to his assigned job. His hands were shaking as he worked the fastener to his pants.
Napoleon gently swatted Illya's shaking hands away and undid the fastener to his pants, working down the zipper. Then he left the rest of the stripping to Illya as he went to check the temperature of the water.
When he walked back in, Illya hadn't gotten far, and in fact, had sat back down on the bed, his eyes half shut with sleep. Napoleon kept an eye on him as he called for room service. He selected half a dozen easy-to-eat appetizers and then hung up.
Napoleon got Illya up and stripped off the rest of his clothes. "Okay, let's go." He walked his partner into the bathroom, and assisted him over the lip of the tub. Making sure Illya was safely leaning against a tiled wall, Napoleon stripped out of his own clothes and joined his partner.
Grabbing a washcloth, he began to wash the blood away, investigating all the wounds, trying to see how deep they were.
He and Illya checked out his body for any unusual marks, any unusual moles, or bumps, anything that might be a hiding spot for a tiny receiver. They came up empty. Napoleon frowned at Illya. "Did your teeth hurt?"
Illya's brow furrowed, lost at the non sequitor. "What?"
"While you were with Zark. Did your teeth hurt? Could he have put something in one of your teeth?"
Illya thought about it for a minute and then shrugged. "I don't know. I was dropped down a hole, beaten up by thugs, including one who was a dead ringer for Frankenstein, and then attacked by vampire bats. I wasn't at my best."
Illya rolled his eyes but complied. Napoleon wasn't exactly familiar with the inside of Illya's mouth, but nothing looked out of the ordinary. Napoleon leaned against the opposite wall of the shower and ran his eyes over Illya's body, thinking hard.
A part of him couldn't help but notice that Illya had a very nice body. Very nice.
Illya stood there, the water pouring over his head, enjoying the sensation, glad to feel awake again, even gladder that Napoleon was with him. He ignored the odd and slightly disquieting fact that they were both naked in the shower together. He worked even harder at ignoring the fact that it felt surprisingly comfortable.
He opened his eyes and glanced at Napoleon only to see him frowning in contemplation as he considered Illya's body. Illya took a moment to return the favor. He was impressed. Not that he hadn't seen Napoleon naked before, but he'd never really looked. No wonder the women were beating the doors down to get to him.
A knock at the door startled them both. Napoleon moved first, and exited the shower, drying off quickly. He wrapped it around his waist and then turned to Illya. "You're all right?"
Illya waved him off with a disgruntled motion.
Napoleon took that as a yes, and headed for the main room. He stopped at the closet, was relieved to find two guest robes hanging, and slipped one on. Within a few minutes the food was ready, the waiter tipped and on his way, and Napoleon walked into the bathroom to hand a robe to Illya.
He found his partner staring in the mirror, his hand gently probing at the scratches on his face. Napoleon looked up to meet his eyes in the mirror. The haunted look was back in full force.
Napoleon didn't say anything. There wasn't anything to say that hadn't already been said. "Do you have your first aid kit?"
Illya nodded. "In my suitcase."
Napoleon went to retrieve it. Then he leaned Illya against the counter and applied antiseptic cream to all the wounds. None of them were bleeding anymore so he decided not to bandage them.
Illya tightly smiled his thanks, and slipped on the robe.
Napoleon steered him back to the bed, and sat him down. Then he rolled the food in front of him. "Eat."
Illya flashed him a look, but he obeyed. He picked up a chicken wing and started to gnaw on it.
Napoleon reached for a stuffed mushroom and popped it in his mouth.
Illya reached for a second chicken wing. "I guess I was hungry."
Napoleon grinned. No hospital for Illya tonight. He focused on the calamari for a few minutes. The two men ate in silence.
Napoleon was glad to see a little color in Illya's face. "Where is this lock of hair of yours?"
Illya stopped eating and Napoleon could have slapped himself for bringing up the subject. Illya shrugged guardedly. "I don't know. I dropped it." His terse words held a wealth of emotion. He gestured toward the small sofa. "I was sleeping there."
Napoleon twisted his mouth to the side. "That can't have been very comfortable."
"That was the point."
Napoleon made a silent 'oh' of understanding and got up to search the area. With a small cry of victory he pulled up several strands of hair. He felt the texture. "I'm sure this is your hair, Illya."
Illya glanced up at him, his eyes anxious. "How can you tell?"
Napoleon sat on the bed next to him. "You said ringlets, right?" He held out the strands. "Nary a curl in sight. It's the same color and texture as yours. You must have yanked some out, maybe trying to wake yourself up."
Illya wanted badly to believe it. Then he glanced at his finger and his face dropped. "And then I bit myself with a set of children's teeth?"
Napoleon sighed. "Yeah, that's a bit of a stumper." He gestured at the food. "You done?"
Illya nodded, his appetite gone. He gave Napoleon a serious look. "Napoleon, promise me something."
"If I fall asleep, and start to dream, don't touch me."
Napoleon looked at him askance. "Why?"
Illya looked away. "Because I am afraid of what I become in these dreams, and I don't want to hurt you."
Napoleon felt a sharp pang of pity for his partner, wishing he knew how to make the pain go away. "I can protect myself."
Illya shook his head. "Not from this, you can't. Promise me you'll stay away."
Napoleon shook his head. "I can't make that promise, tovarisch. But I can promise that I will do everything I can to keep us both safe."
He shook his head again. "If you were at full strength right now, I'd be concerned, but you're not. And I don't care what you say, you're not turning into a homicidal maniac while you're asleep. They're dreams, nothing more."
Illya looked down at the scratches on his arm, dubious. "Maybe it would be better if you left."
Napoleon gave him an incredulous stare. "After driving three hours to get here in the middle of the night? I think not. I'm not arguing about this anymore. I'm here because you need me to be here. And the shape you're in I could beat you with one hand tied behind my back. Besides, maybe if I'm here, you won't have any nightmares."
A flash of hope flickered through Illya's eyes, followed by a spark of fear.
Napoleon sighed. "Maybe you'd better tell me a bit more about these nightmares of yours."
Illya shook his head and actually stood, backing away.
Napoleon didn't think Illya even knew he was doing it, the fear of the dreams overriding his rational mind. "Illya. You know better than this. You never want to tell me your dreams, and you always feel better after you do. So, let's skip the arguing tonight, and move right into you telling me about them."
Misery swamped Illya's features. His voice was so soft Napoleon could barely hear him. "You'll hate me."
Napoleon snorted. "Because of a dream? Please. Between you and me, we've covered every cardinal sin and then some in our dreams. Spill."
Illya ran a hand down his face, and winced when he felt the scratches. The pain seemed to decide him. He began to pace. "Every night it's the same. I need to feed; I need to kill. I hide in the shadows and watch the people. When I am most hungry I look for the weak ones, the stray ones. The ones no one will miss.
"When I want to play I choose the ones that will be missed the most. I take children away from their parents, and steal wives away from husbands. Sometimes I steal the husbands." Illya moved to the window.
A shiver went up and down Napoleon's back. He had a brief sensation of sitting around a campfire as he and his friends exchanged ghost stories. He waited for Illya to continue.
"I am immortal, I have been alive for centuries, living on the fear and death of innocent strangers to stay alive. Their blood quickens my own, their fear and anger, as I leach their life away, sparkles like an intoxicant through my bloodstream. I could draw you a picture of each one of their faces, tell you the words they used as they pleaded with me to let them live."
Illya let out a weary sigh and rested his forehead on a window. "I use them sometimes. I rape them. Men, women; it doesn't matter. It heightens the experience, lengthens the time I have to feel their pain, their humiliation, their terror." Illya moved his hands up to rest them against the window, fingers spread apart. "It sexually excites me. Every time when the dream ends I wake up and find that I've…"
Napoleon glanced up when the sentence trailed off to catch Illya making an aborted motion toward his groin. "You've ejaculated?"
Illya nodded, still staring out. "Why Napoleon? Why does my body respond that way? I hate this thing. I hate what it does." He glanced at Napoleon, wanting an answer.
Napoleon stayed silent, having no answer, and not wanting to stop the flow of words with a trivial response.
The eyes returned to the dark night. "But while I dream, it is unlike anything I've ever experienced. When I am drinking their blood it flows through me like holy wine. It connects me to the earth. As their heart pulses out the warm blood that fills my mouth I can sense the rhythm of life, sense my existence, the centuries behind and the centuries ahead."
Illya was lost to the remembered sensations. "They never believe it's happening until it's too late. Some of them try to fight; I love that the most. Especially the men."
The sound of Illya's voice was suddenly giving Napoleon the creeps. He stood and moved closer to Illya. His eyes widened as he saw Illya's hand running up and down his crotch, the clear outline of an erection under his fingers. "Illya?" He moved a little closer.
Illya turned to look at him, his eyes bright with lust, and a hint of madness. "The men always think they can fight me. Even when I use my strength to take them, even after that they think they can still fight me." He touched his side. "Like this fool, thinking he could stop me with a piece of metal. I pulled it out and laughed at him. Then he saw his death in my eyes."
Napoleon searched for his friend, but saw little trace of him. He spoke louder, his own heart pounding. "Illya."
Illya fully turned to face Napoleon. "Young, old, male, female, I choose and I feed. Their lives belong to me." He lifted a hand and ran it caressingly down Napoleon's face. "Just like you belong to me."
Napoleon reached up to stop Illya's fingers.
With a surprising show of strength, considering the shape he was in, Illya held Napoleon's hand captive in his other hand while he continued his exploration, his fingers finding the seam of Napoleon's robe, touching the flesh beneath. "You're a pretty one. Perhaps I'll keep you alive for a while."
Napoleon felt momentarily in thrall, his own body responding to the sensuality of Illya's voice, his touch and his strength. An endless instant of panic burned through him as, for one hellish moment, he actually wondered if Illya had become a creature of the night.
Then he remembered Zark. A caricature of a vampire. With an ax to grind. Napoleon snapped out of it. He jerked his hand out of Illya's hold, grabbed his partner's shoulders and shook him hard. He yelled at his partner, "Illya!" Illya blinked and when he opened his eyes, Napoleon was relieved to see that his friend was present and accounted for.
Illya glanced down and saw his own erection, saw his hand inside Napoleon's robe, his fingers touching a pebbled nipple. As if he'd been stung he stepped back, shame and fright on his face, his body trembling.
Napoleon interceded before Illya could even get started. "Don't. It's all right. You're sleep-deprived, and those dreams are making you a little crazy. That's all it is."
Illya was back in the corner. He slid down the wall and hugged his knees to his chest. "You have to go."
"Not on your life, buddy. If I go, you go."
"It's taking me over. This thing inside of me."
Napoleon moved over to him, crouching, cutting off any avenue for escape. "No, it's not."
"I wanted you, Napoleon." He blushed.
Napoleon felt his own face redden in return. He had seen the look in Illya's eyes and the unmistakable bulge in his groin. For a second his mind burned with the image of Illya's body in the shower. He shook his head to shake the vision away. "No, you didn't. That was the dream talking. Not you."
Illya's eyes were pleading. "Does it matter? If you hadn't stopped me--" He turned his head away, ashamed.
Napoleon forced Illya to look at him. "What? What would you have done? Raped me? Turned into a vampire and sucked all the blood out of me? You and what army?" Napoleon shifted to his knees and took his partner in his arms. "It's all right. You just need to get some sleep."
Illya resisted for a moment, and then surrendered to Napoleon's warmth. He muttered, "I can't sleep."
"You have to sleep. I'll be right here, and when you wake up, I'll be able to reassure you that you didn't turn into a monster and go out and ravage D.C." Napoleon stroked Illya's back. "And then tomorrow, we'll be on a plane to Transylvania."
"You really think Zark did something to me?"
Napoleon smiled into Illya's hair. His partner sounded like he was ten years old, needing reassurance that there wasn't a monster hiding in the closet. "Now more than ever. Bats and vampires." Napoleon snorted. "He might as well have left a calling card." He felt Illya let out a long tremulous sigh. Napoleon held him tighter in response.
They stayed that way until Napoleon sensed Illya's breathing slowing down, growing more regular. Slowly he sagged against Napoleon, becoming dead weight as he fell into a deep sleep.
Napoleon managed to somehow get Illya to the bed without breaking his back, or waking up his partner. He crawled into bed right along with him, hoping that as his touch had helped relax him enough to go to sleep, it might also keep the dreams away. Besides, he admitted to himself, Illya felt good in his arms. He shut off the light, and then spooned himself behind his partner.
He didn't need to feed but he wanted to hunt. He roamed the streets looking for prey with the right characteristics. Someone with stamina. Someone with determination in his or her eyes, who wouldn't give up too easily. He dismissed one possibility after another…too young, too old, too drunk, too weak.
It was past midnight when he spotted his quarry. A man, darkhaired, dark eyed, his eyes angry, no stranger to fighting. He smiled. This man would give him a worthy hunt. A hunt that would stimulate his appetite. All of his appetites.
He began to follow, allowing his footsteps to be heard, dislodging an occasional pebble.
The man turned. "Who's there?"
He kept silent, wanting the dread to slowly build.
The man listened for a few moments, then began walking again.
He allowed the man to gain some distance, and then again followed him, smiling, his anticipation growing for the games ahead.
The man slowed his footsteps, his head cocked, listening. He pressed his body against a wall, protecting his back as he waited for stray sounds.
He could be absolutely silent when he chose to be. He continued to advance until he was only a few yards away, hidden in the shadows, able to hear the man's heart beat. He closed his eyes and allowed the syncopated rhythm to stimulate him. He could almost taste the pulsing liquid. He licked his lips and purposely scraped against the wall.
The man turned sharply in his direction. "I'm armed. Come no closer."
Armed. Perfect. He stepped away from the shadows that were hiding him.
"What do you want? I've no money."
"I have no need of money."
"Then what do you want?" The man's voice was angry.
He sniffed the air, enjoying the anger. It was a lovely emotion. Not as lovely as fear, but he'd have that soon enough. He took a step toward his prey. "I am merely looking for entertainment."
The man gestured back up the street. "The whorehouses are at the other end of town. You'll find no entertainment here."
He raked his eyes over the man, his intention plain. "I disagree."
The man's eyes narrowed. "You've chosen badly. I have no intention of providing any entertainment for you or anyone. Be gone with you."
The man would pay for his condescending dismissal. "I have chosen. And that leaves you no choice."
The man pulled a dagger from his boot. "I do not wish to harm you but I will if you come any closer. I suggest you find your entertainment elsewhere."
He smiled. And for a second he allowed his true nature to show. His feral eyes, his sharpened teeth. Then he slipped back into his human guise.
The man pressed back harder against the wall. "What are you?"
He spread his hands in a gesture of peace. "I am a man." He took a step closer. He was near enough to strike, but he was not ready for the game to be over. He wanted to make the man flee. The fear was growing. It felt like what he imagined sunlight used to feel like; it touched his skin, heated him.
The man shook his head as a human visage faced him now. "These shadows play tricks with my eyes." He pulled away from the wall, standing tall and firm, his dagger out in front, in a position of defense. "I again ask you to turn and be on your way."
It was time to start the hunt. He allowed the disguise to drop again and snarled. "I must refuse. I have chosen. You will be mine."
The man did the sign of the cross over his chest. "May God protect me."
He breathed in the heightened fear. "Not tonight. Your god has abandoned you." He gestured toward the wood at the edge of the small village. "I suggest you run." Then he smiled. "I will give you a few minutes. Perhaps you will be lucky. Perhaps I will not find you." The words were a lie. The smell of the man's fear clung to him and would leave a trail, like blood to a hound.
The man clutched his knife more tightly, as if considering the option of fighting.
He snarled again. There were few people, men or women, who did not succumb to fear when faced with a nightmare. Especially a nightmare that promised death.
The man ran.
He gave him five minutes. He could have given him an hour; it wouldn't have mattered. The fear drew him like a magnet. He allowed the man moments when he thought he'd shaken his hunter, but then he'd make his presence known and with a cry, the man would run again.
Finally the man ran himself into a dead end. He turned, cornered, knife held up, ready to fight for his life.
He approached, his nostrils flaring at the smell of fear and pounding blood. It gave him an erection. He moved into sight, wanting to see the widened eyes, the labored breathing, the man's muscles tightened for action. He kept his distance at first, watching, allowing the man's apprehension to grow. It gave his own appetites time to grow apace.
The man shifted his stance, anger and fear on his face. "Why do you not fight? Why do you stand there like a coward?"
He smiled. This one had courage to dare to say such a thing to him. "I am giving you time to accustom yourself to your fate."
The man glared at him. "If my fate is to die then get on with it."
He let out a laugh. Such courage. It was almost a shame to kill this one. Perhaps it was time for a new companion. Companions rarely lasted for long; a vampire's innate need for dominion drove everyone away, sooner or later. But, it could be good for a while. Hunting together, feeding together. And sex with another immortal was like drinking nectar of the gods. "Perhaps it is not your night to die."
"What game do you play now?"
"You intrigue me."
The man snorted in derision. "Much as a mouse intrigues a cat, I think."
He smiled again. "Yes, perhaps." He moved closer to the man, close enough to invite attack.
The man lunged at him.
He dodged more swiftly than any human.
"What manner of man are you?" The man lunged again.
Again, he moved, the knife slashing into empty space. "Now it is I who intrigue you."
The man bided his time, his sharp eyes looking for a weakness, a moment of distraction.
He knew better than to provide either. Instead he made his move and in a moment's breath, disarmed the man. He twisted the man's arm behind his body. "I once was a man. But now I am much more."
The man struggled to get away but his efforts were in vain.
He reached up and caressed the man's face, his fingers touching a dark brow, smoothing over a cheek, and sliding over a firm jaw. His thumb traced the edges of the man's lips. "I am your Master."
The man jerked his head back, trying to move away from those fingers.
He could sense the man's heart rate increase, the temperature of his skin rise as blood flushed his skin. "I can smell your body responding to me. No one can resist the touch of an immortal."
He was pleased to see the man was not ready to capitulate as he continued to fight for his freedom. His struggles brought their bodies into even closer contact, and he made sure the man felt his erection.
Napoleon woke up, suffused with a sense of danger. He reached for his gun and slowly sat up, looking for an intruder. The room was empty. He glanced down at Illya and saw that he still looked to be sleeping soundly. Napoleon took a moment to gaze at his friend. He seemed absurdly young when he was sleeping. It was his eyes that gave his age away. They'd seen too much, and the wariness with which Illya approached life was reflected in those blue eyes.
Napoleon's gaze shifted to Illya's hair, noting the many variations of color, every shade from dark brown to almost white. He wanted to touch it, but he didn't want to take the chance of waking his partner from what he hoped was a dreamless sleep.
He frowned when he took in the scratches on Illya's face. He spent a satisfactory moment imagining himself pummeling Zark into the ground. Suddenly, the sense of danger was back, sharper than ever.
Napoleon lifted his eyes and found Illya's were opened, staring at him. He gave his partner an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry. Did I wake you up?"
Illya lifted a hand and touched Napoleon's face. "Do you see now that it is pointless to run?"
Napoleon shook his head, confused. "What?" Then he took a closer look at Illya, at his eyes, and realized that the man looking at him was not his friend. He had the same look in his eyes as when he'd gotten lost in the telling of his dreams. Napoleon reached out and touched Illya's shoulder. "Illya?" Napoleon found himself flat on his back, Illya lying on top of him. He could feel Illya's erection against his thigh. "Uh, Illya?"
Illya lightly grazed Napoleon's lips with his own.
Napoleon needed to put a stop to this. He pushed back, trying to roll them over, to get Illya off of him. He was a bit stunned when he realized that he couldn't, that Illya's strength more than equaled his own. He pushed harder.
All he got for his troubles was Illya grabbing his hands and holding them above his head in a vice-like grip. "Do you still intend to fight me? Do you still intend to keep from me what is mine?"
This time Illya took Napoleon's bottom lip in his teeth and lightly bit it. He followed the bite with a touch of his tongue. A flash of desire swept through Napoleon, and it disconcerted him.
Illya began pressing kisses on Napoleon's face at the same time he molded his body to Napoleon's. "You were made for me. Do not fight this. I can make you feel things no one has ever made you feel."
For a hysterical moment, Napoleon completely believed him. There was something extraordinarily erotic about being held against his will, having someone else flaunt their seductive powers over him. He felt a longing to surrender. A part of him realized that if this was truly Illya, he probably would. But it wasn't. It was whoever was controlling his partner.
He fought his own desire, both for the situation, and unexpectedly, for Illya. He bucked up against the Russian's body, trying to dislodge him. "Illya. It's me. Snap out of it."
Illya glanced down at him, laughing. The sound of the laugh sent chills down Napoleon's spine. "You have spirit. But, you cannot win this fight." Holding Napoleon's hands with one of his own, he swept his other hand down and untied the belts of the robes, pushing the fabric aside until their naked bodies were flush against each other.
Napoleon began to fight in earnest. He got one hand free and backhanded Illya across the face. "Illya!"
Illya shook it off as if it had been a love tap and captured Napoleon's lips in a bruising kiss.
Napoleon hit him again.
Illya pulled back from the kiss, confusion in his eyes. "Napoleon?"
Napoleon let out a sigh of relief and relaxed back on the bed. "Jesus, Illya."
There was a pause, then, "Napoleon? Shto? Mne ne--" He laid his head on Napoleon's chest, trembling.
Napoleon wrapped his arms tightly around his partner, wanting to communicate that it was all right. "I've got you, Illya. I've got you." Without thought, he pressed a kiss against the blond hair tickling his lips.
Illya stilled in his arms and then pulled away, lifting up enough to look down. "Napoleon?"
Napoleon opened his eyes at his name. Illya's voice was husky, touching a chord deep inside his gut. He took in the awakening desire in his partner's eyes, the fact that they were as good as naked, Illya lying on top of him. Desire ignited. Reaching up, he pulled Illya's head down and started his own exploration, his tongue tracing the seam of Illya's lips, asking for admittance.
Illya growled and opened his mouth.
Napoleon growled back, a curling flame licking through his body. He pushed the robe off Illya's body, his hands following the fabric until he was clutching Illya's ass. Illya's small moans of passion gave wings to Napoleon's hands. He couldn't touch Illya enough, explore enough. Want surged through him.
When Illya reached between them and aligned their cocks, holding them nestled together, and thrust against Napoleon, he groaned, arching his own body up to meet the Russian's thrust. His tongue plunged into Illya's mouth in a matching cadence.
It didn't take them long. They swallowed each other's moans as they jetted out their completion, slicking their bellies. They lay there, Illya still atop Napoleon, catching their breath. Napoleon ran a hand up and down Illya's back, his other hand carding through his partner's hair. Even now, he couldn't touch Illya enough.
Illya laid his head on Napoleon's shoulder, body sated, but mind still ringing with confusion. He finally spoke. "What happened?"
"Hmmm?" Napoleon's fingers were enjoying the softness of Illya's skin, and the feel of rock hard muscle underneath. It was an alluring combination.
Illya decided he didn't want to move, or force a conversation. Napoleon's touch felt too good. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been touched this way.
Napoleon spit out a drop of moisture, assuming it was sweat. He reached up to wipe it away and when he looked at his fingers, they were red. "Jesus." He pushed up and rolled Illya to his back. "You're bleeding." He looked at his partner with alarm. "You're bleeding everywhere."
Illya closed his eyes in despair. The brief moment of peace was over. The nightmare was back.
Neither of them got any sleep after that. Napoleon got Illya to the bathroom and cleaned him up. There were no new wounds, but all the old ones had started bleeding. It took a while for them to stop.
Illya tried to ignore the fact that he was sitting on the toilet lid, naked. That Napoleon was tending to his wounds, also naked. That they'd both just had sex. Together. He and Napoleon. Good sex. Great sex. And he had no idea why. As the minutes ticked by, the silence grew harder to ignore. He glanced up at his partner. "What happened?"
Napoleon looked up from the first aid kit. They had almost used all its contents. He'd been trying hard not to think about it either, although he was finding it an impossible task. All he wanted to do was take Illya back to bed. Illya. Napoleon was having a difficult time wrapping his mind around the extraordinary thoughts exploding in his brain. Illya. It was Illya. Illya was the right one.
He tried to focus on Zark and on all of Illya's wounds because that made him angry, and angry was better than dumbfounded, better than getting an erection while he was tending to his partner. He remembered that Illya had said something. "What?"
Illya let out a sigh. He ran a hand over his face and winced when he felt his jaw. He stood, brushing Napoleon's hands away, which were currently dressing his stab wound. Illya looked at himself in the mirror, saw a bruise forming on the side of his face. He tried to think back on his dream, if the man had hit him. His eyes caught Napoleon's in the mirror and he saw a guarded look appear. His eyebrows rose in question.
Napoleon made a vague gesture. "Sorry about that."
Illya's eyebrows rose even higher, internal alarms going off. "Sorry about what?"
Illya's voice rose a notch. "You hit me?"
Illya's internal alarms were screaming now as he anxiously observed Napoleon's body for signs of injuries. "What did I do?"
Napoleon waved it off. "Nothing."
His voice demanded an answer. "Napoleon, what did I do to you?"
Napoleon wasn't sure how to answer that question given how the interlude ended. "Ah…" He flashed Illya a half smile, half grimace.
It suddenly became disturbingly clear to Illya what had happened. "I sexually accosted you, didn't I?"
"It wasn't you, Illya."
Illya sliced the air with a sharp move of his hand, disagreeing. "It was this body, this thing I'm turning into." He sank back down on the toilet, despondent, defeated. "I should be locked away." He refused to meet Napoleon's eyes.
While Napoleon was thinking of something to say, he decided some clothes were in order. Both robes were stained with blood so he threw on his briefs and slacks, and brought the same to Illya. As he held them out he spoke. "A. No one's locking you up. B. I was able to snap you out of it. And C. We're going to figure out what's happening to you and stop it. Today."
Illya stood to slip on his boxers and black slacks. He shook his head. "I attacked you and I didn't even know I was doing it. I'm not safe for anyone to be around, including you." He turned to Napoleon. "Did I hurt you?"
Napoleon couldn't help but grin, part of it nerves, part of it remembrance of just how good Illya had made him feel. "Not exactly."
A blush stole over Illya's face. "Napoleon."
Napoleon let out a short laugh. "Okay. I admit you had me spooked, and you were a lot stronger than I thought you'd be, but I was able to get you back. And, well, while I didn't expect, uh, I mean, I hadn't really thought about--but there we were and--you--" Napoleon let out a sigh of disgust at his incoherence.
Illya found himself fighting back a grin, watching the unusual sight of his partner tongue-tied. Then he remembered what he had almost done, might have done if Napoleon hadn't been able to hit him hard enough to bring him back from wherever he'd gone. He felt a sense of horror at the thought that he might have raped his partner, or killed him, or both.
Exhaustion swept over him in a rising tide. He desperately needed to sleep, but that was the last thing he could do. Illya walked across the room and picked up the phone.
Napoleon furrowed his brow. "Who are you calling?"
"Room service. I need coffee, lots of it." But, rather than ordering, he replaced the phone, as if just picking up the phone had exceeded his depleted resources.
"What you need is more sleep." Napoleon hadn't missed the weariness in his partner's stance.
Illya shook his head. "What happens if you can't bring me back? It's stronger than you. It has no compassion. It takes what it wants."
Napoleon was inordinately relieved that Illya was referring to it as an it this time. "Fine, then order me some too." He glanced at his watch. "Our flight is in five hours." He grimaced. Five hours seemed like forever.
Illya saw the grimace. "You should sleep."
"Who's going to keep you awake?"
Illya's lips tightened and he moved near the window, sagging against the wall, his head hanging.
Napoleon crossed the room to him and wrapped his arms around his partner. "Illya. We'll figure out what it is. You'll get better, have a good night's sleep, and the world will seem a better place. I promise."
Illya allowed himself the luxury of resting his head on Napoleon's chest. He inhaled the scent of his partner. "Napoleon, I'm sorry."
"For all of this. For putting you through this. For forcing myself on you. For putting you in such a compromising position."
Napoleon snorted. "I'm used to being in compromising positions." He took advantage of having Illya at such close quarters and slowly slid his fingers through the blond silk. It seemed inconceivable that a man's hair could be so soft. His hand swept down Illya's back, his fingers delighting in the soft hard feel of him. His blood began to sing. "In fact, I could get used to this."
Illya pulled away and lifted startled eyes to Napoleon. When he saw the desire in his partner's eyes, he allowed the magnetic pull of those dark eyes to envelop him. He lifted himself up and met Napoleon's lips half way, the warm moist taste intoxicating. He pressed in close, naked chest against naked chest, his arms sweeping down Napoleon's back, until his hands were full of tight ass. He growled deep in his throat.
Napoleon was hard so fast he was afraid he'd shoot off in his pants. It had been a long time since he'd wanted someone this badly. He swept his tongue in Illya's mouth, claiming his territory.
Illya growled again, mating with Napoleon's tongue. His hands began to open Napoleon's pants as he slowly walked his partner backwards to the bed. He stopped, pulled away from the kiss, and shook his head.
Napoleon looked down at him, eager to resume their kiss. He frowned at the look on Illya's face. "You all right?"
Illya nodded. A few seconds passed and then he nodded again. He smiled up at Napoleon. "Where were we?"
Napoleon grinned and swooped down to claim Illya's mouth again. He muttered against his partner's lips. "Right here."
Illya moaned agreement and continued the trek to the bed. When Napoleon backed into it, Illya pushed him down. He straddled him and ran his thumbs over nipples already hard with arousal. He toyed with one of the dark nubs with his tongue. He smiled at Napoleon's groan. "You want me?"
Napoleon arched up under him as teeth teased his nipple. "God, yes." Suddenly he let out a yelp as teeth bit him too hard. He pushed Illya's head away from his chest and saw that Illya had blood on his lips. He saw the spot where Illya had bitten him, drawing blood. "What are you--?"
A frisson of fear shot down his spine when Illya's tongue flicked out to taste the blood on his lips. The fear congealed in his gut when Illya leant down and licked the wound on his chest, sucking at the blood.
His heart pounding, Napoleon tried to scoot backwards on the bed. "What the hell are you doing?"
Illya looked up at him. "I can taste your strength." He pinioned Napoleon down with his body. "Your blood will make me strong." Illya forced Napoleon's head back, and licked his neck.
Napoleon bucked up and was stunned at the strength of the body holding him down. He tried to think, tried to get past the horror consuming him.
Illya nibbled the area over Napoleon's carotid. "I want your life force. I want to feel the heat of your blood pulsing down my throat."
Goosebumps rose all over Napoleon's body and the thought of Illya ripping into his skin with his teeth almost made him throw up. He swallowed the acid in his throat.
He used his fear to feed his resolve. There was no damn fucking way he was losing either one of them to this thing. He spoke in a low husky tone. "I want you to touch me first." He hoped he could keep the nausea at bay while this thing ran its hands over him.
Illya loosened his hold and that was all Napoleon was waiting for. He pushed hard enough to throw Illya off the bed. He picked up the desk chair and brandished it in front of him like a lion tamer.
Illya lay on the floor for a moment and then sat up. He glanced up at his partner, took in his stance, the chair, the blood on his chest. The taste of blood in his mouth. "Oh, God." He just made it to the toilet before he began to retch.
Napoleon sagged in relief and put the chair down. Entering the bathroom behind his partner he wet a washcloth and placed it in his hand. Then he backed away. He didn't dare get too close for too long. For the first time since they'd met, he didn't feel safe with his partner. It was an excruciating feeling.
Napoleon cleaned up the tear by his nipple, doused it with antiseptic and put the last bandage on. Then he left the bathroom to finish getting dressed. He could hear Illya brushing his teeth.
When Illya came out of the bathroom, Napoleon put up his hand to forestall any conversation or apologies. "Just don't. It wasn't you. But, you're right. I'm not safe with you. Not alone at any rate. So, we'll go to the airport, and we'll wait there. And we'll both drink lots of coffee."
Illya looked so sad and lost, it was all Napoleon could do to not take him in his arms and tell him he loved him, and that this didn't change anything, but until Illya was all right, this changed everything, and they both knew it.
Illya nodded, and silently got dressed, shoving his belongings back in his suitcase.
Without a word, they left the room.
Napoleon kicked a stray computer component across the floor in frustration. The castle was empty. The lab was empty. Abandoned. He'd been so sure they'd find the answers here. So sure.
The last twenty hours were like a nightmare. Forcing himself to stay awake so he could keep Illya awake. Watching Illya withdraw more and more deeply inside of himself in fear and shame. Fighting his own fear when he saw traces of the thing that tormented Illya's sanity. Seeing it malevolently glaring out of challenging blue eyes for a second before it faded away and the familiar gaze of his partner returned, only to be replaced with a look of such despair that it broke Napoleon's heart.
Napoleon made another circuit of the lab. There was nothing to see. And nothing to say. He avoided making eye contact with Illya, who was slumped against a counter. Napoleon walked across to the barred door that was the entrance to the bat cave. Napoleon could hear the chittering of bats in the distance. He felt the solidness of the bars and hated what he was thinking. He should have realized Illya would follow his thoughts.
"You must lock me up in there so you can sleep."
Napoleon shook his head, but he knew Illya was right. He had to sleep if he had any hope of figuring out what to do next. The emotional roller coaster of the last day coupled with his exhaustion was making it hard to think.
Lips tight, he jerked open the door. Silently, Illya moved within and sank down to the floor. "Lock it."
Napoleon stood there, staring down at his partner.
Illya got up and pulled the door shut. "Lock it." He looked away and then back. "Please. I couldn't bear it if I--" He looked away again.
Napoleon nodded. The large rusty key was hanging on the wall by the door. He locked the door and slipped the key in his pocket.
Illya sneaked his hand through the open grille work and touched Napoleon's hand. "Sleep."
Napoleon grabbed Illya's hand for a brief moment, squeezing tightly. "We'll figure this out."
Illya nodded wearily and sank back down to the ground. He didn't believe it anymore. The thing was eating him up alive. It was becoming a struggle to fight off its presence when awake. He was petrified of what he'd do when asleep. Of what it would do to him. He wondered if he'd go to sleep and never awaken as the man he used to be. Illya dropped his head to his knees and let out a low moan.
Napoleon sank to his knees on the other side of the door. "Come here."
Illya couldn't resist the offer of comfort. He inched to the door and leaned back against it.
Napoleon sat down and then worked his arms in and around Illya's chest, holding him as close as the door would allow.
Illya laid his head on the upper part of Napoleon's arm, feeling his strength, the rock hard curve of his muscles. It made Illya feel like a child again, teasing to life the faint memory of being held, being loved, before his world fell apart.
It was too much. The lack of sleep, the betrayal of his mind and body, the fear of losing himself, the knowledge that he had hurt his partner, that Napoleon couldn't count on him, in fact, needed to protect himself from attack, it was all too much. His emotions beyond his control, he felt tears well in his eyes.
Napoleon felt the tears as they dampened his shirt. He swallowed against the painful lump in his throat. "I'll be right here, Illya. I promise you that."
A sob shook Illya's frame. Just one. Napoleon could feel Illya fighting for control after that, his muscles rigid. Napoleon began to run fingers through Illya's hair. He wished he knew the words to say, the thing to do, the enemy to vanquish, anything that would allow him to hold Illya the way he wanted to, to get the sparkle back in his partner's eyes.
But, out of ideas, he just held Illya, until he felt the Russian relax, and then sag in his arms. Despite his need for contact, he knew he had to let go, so as not to be caught by Illya's alter ego. He gently worked his partner down to the ground, and then withdrew his arms. Napoleon crawled across the room, lay down on his stomach, his head on his arms, and let exhaustion pull him under.
When Napoleon woke up his hands were tied tightly behind his back. In a panic he rolled until he could peer into the cave, wondering if Illya had somehow gotten loose. But he could see him still lying there on the other side of the grill door.
"I vas vondering vat vas taking you so long to arrive."
Napoleon managed to sit up so he could face his captor. He felt, despite the ropes holding him fast, a ridiculous thrill of delight at seeing Zark and hearing his words and annoying accent. If Zark was here, and expecting them, then he had to be the cause of Illya's nightmares.
He wasted no time on pleasantries. "What the hell did you do to him?"
"Temper, temper, Mr. Solo. You are hardly in a position to make demands."
Napoleon struggled against his bonds, the anger and deadly purpose in his eyes forceful enough to make Zark take a step backwards, body poised to run. Napoleon sent him a scathing look. "Tell me what this is all about, Zark."
Zark relaxed when Napoleon was unsuccessful at freeing himself. "I vas distraught vhen Operation Night Flight vas ruined." He gave Napoleon a wounded look. "Many of my bats vere killed that night."
Napoleon rolled his eyes. "I'll send you flowers. Is there a point to this?"
"I vould suggest you not anger me further."
Napoleon clenched his jaw to keep from responding. Angering Zark probably wasn't the best move as he momentarily had the upper hand. Momentarily. That would change. Napoleon glanced at Illya, his eyes darkening with worry. "What's happening to him?"
"I vould think that vould be quite obvious."
"Just answer the damn question."
"He is going insane, of course."
Napoleon wanted to wipe that superior smile off of Zarks' face. "What did you do to him?"
Zark began to pace from one side of the room to the other. "Thrush vas not happy vhen my plan failed. They laughed at me, said that I vas a bungler." He let out a sinister laugh. "But I vill prove my vorth to them." He pointed dramatically at Illya, who was still sleeping. "Vith him."
Napoleon needed more information. He also needed more time, as he tried to surreptitiously loosen the ropes binding his hands. "I don't understand."
"Of course you don't. I am a genius. No one understands me."
Napoleon worked hard to keep from rolling his eyes. "Try to explain. I'll do my best to keep up." Zark was no different from most of their Thrush enemies. They all loved to hear themselves talk.
"It is my new invention. You have heard of schizophrenia?"
Napoleon nodded, a sick expression dawning on his face.
Zark rubbed his hands together with satisfaction. "Through a small device, similar to my cortical stimulator, I can control a person's mind, suggest a different reality to them until they start to believe it. Much like I've been controlling Mr. Kuryakin's."
"How are you making him bleed?"
Zark stalked across the room and stared down at Illya, smiling, as if at a prize pet. "He is doing that to himself. It is quite extraordinary. The mind is a powerful tool and vith the proper incentive the mind can make the body capable of amazing things. Surely you have heard about mothers lifting cars to rescue their children, or holy men sleeping on beds of nails, or valking on coals."
Zark went back to pacing. "I have read many case studies on patients vith schizophrenia. Did you know that there are quite a few cases vhere one personality manifests a disease that other personalities do not?" He nodded. "Yes, the mind is very powerful."
"You still haven't explained why he is bleeding. Why he wakes up from his nightmares with wounds."
"His dreams are becoming reality to him. His body is simply following the dictates of his mind. Whatever happens in his dream, he is making happen to his body. His injuries are symbolic of his waning sanity. You might say they are his stigmata. Soon, his dreams vill take over his life, and even those he cares for vill not be safe."
Something on Napoleon's face must have given him away because Zark laughed again, a delighted laugh that grated on Napoleon like sandpaper. "Ah, this is too marvelous. It has already begun? My invention vorks better than I had hoped it vould."
Zark's eyes lit up. "Imagine, vorld leaders, commanders of armies, bank comptrollers, all slowly going mad." He flapped his cape around him. "Thrush will velcome me back with open arms."
Napoleon could imagine they would. This sort of twisted scheme was right up their alley. "How did you get it in him? What exactly is it?"
Zark touched his neck. "I injected it, here."
Napoleon's eyes narrowed. "So that wasn't a bat bite?"
Zark threw his head back and laughed delightedly. "Clever, no? I see you are impressed."
Napoleon was impressed. Impressed with how much he wanted to kill this man. This had gone way beyond Illya at this point. This invention had to be destroyed before the world was led into chaos. "How do you stop it?"
Zark tsked at Napoleon. "You must think me a fool, Mr. Solo."
Napoleon could feel the knots loosening and kept the conversation going. "Why a vampire? Why make him think he's a vampire?"
Zark moved back to the door of the bat cave. "They are misunderstood animals, you know. Such lovely creatures."
Napoleon didn't think Zark was entirely sane himself.
Zark spun to face Napoleon again. "The legends say that vampires can shapeshift into vhatever creature of the night they desire. For centuries, the stories have told of vampires turning themselves into bats. Do you vant to know vhy?" He raised his eyebrows, staring at Napoleon.
Napoleon shook his head. "No, but for some strange and unhappy reason, I'm sure you're going to tell me."
"Both require blood to survive. Just like their namesakes, vampire bats also come out at night to feed. They can sense the blood of their prey and feed by puncturing the skin of their victims. Many similarities, no?"
"Fascinating, I'm sure. But you haven't answered my question."
"I suspect that, as the years have passed, some of these vampires chose to keep their animal forms, or perhaps they lost the power to change back. I vould not be surprised if a few of my bloodthirsty pets have remnants of vampire blood in them. Vhen your partner vas bitten, they infected Mr. Kuryakin vith their own memories of the ancient past."
Napoleon let out a disgusted sigh. "Spare me your dramatic rhetoric. You don't actually expect me to believe that there are or were real vampires."
Zark gave the agent a slow smile. "What is a real vampire? Hmm, Mr. Solo? Can you answer me that? There was once an Austrian Countess by the name of Elizabeth Bathory, a member of one of the oldest and vealthiest families in Transylvania. As she aged, she decided that the blood of young girls vould keep her youthful. Over a period of fifteen years she had 612 young girls murdered and drained of their blood, vhich she then bathed in. She documented all their deaths in her diary."
The smile widened. "Surely, Mr. Solo, you can understand that a man who believes he is a vampire can do as much damage as a real one, especially a man as dangerous as Mr. Kuryakin. Killing vould be second nature to him."
Napoleon could understand that. He'd seen the look in Illya's eyes; no one would be safe from him. His eyes ran over Zark, and he gave him a caustic smile, hating him intensely. "I think you chose to give him these dreams. I think in some pathetic, twisted way you wish you were a vampire, and you're living it through Illya vicariously." His gaze lowered as his partner let out a low growl.
Zark glanced down at the Russian. "You may think vhatever you like, of course. It is of little concern. Even as ve speak, he is dreaming of killing." He leered with anticipation and held up the key to the cage. "And now, Mr. Solo, you vill join your friend. I vill be filming the two of you and vhen I show Thrush a film of your partner ripping out your throat vith his teeth, they vill take me back, and give me an office vith my name on the door."
Through an impressive show of strength, Zark dragged Napoleon across the room. Much to Napoleon's dismay, he rechecked the ropes, and tightened them. Then after opening the door, and rolling Illya away, he dragged Napoleon across the threshold. Then Zark backed out and relocked the door.
He pulled a gadget out of his pocket and Napoleon watched as he turned a dial. Illya let out a pained cry in immediate response. Napoleon glowered at Zark. "What did you just do?"
Zark replaced the gadget in his pocket. "Just helping to further blur the lines between reality and fantasy." He wrapped his cloak around him. "Goodbye, Mr. Solo."
Napoleon watched Zark leave, and then he turned his attention back to his partner. Illya was still asleep, but his muscles were tight, his face gaunt, shadowed. Small convulsions ran through his body. Napoleon began working on the ropes again and started a mental review of any possible weapons he might have on him that Zark wouldn't have known to remove.
He had explosives in the heel of one shoe. A remote detonator in his watch. He had lock picks, and a garrote, a lighter that would fire two bullets, take four photographs, and light a cigarette. An embarrassment of riches, and nothing that would do him much good right now even if he could reach anything. What he needed was a knife. Or Illya.
Napoleon rolled closer to his partner. Maybe if he woke him up quickly, the dream would have less hold on him. If not, and if Illya was going to wake up convinced he was a vampire and kill Napoleon, it didn't matter if he did it now or in an hour. Dead was dead.
He prodded Illya with his toe. "Illya, wake up."
Illya thrashed at the air with his fingers curled, as if they were talons, and he bared his teeth.
His heart trying to batter its way out of his body, Napoleon ignored the voice inside his head screaming at him to stop and prodded Illya again. "Illya! Wake up. It's Napoleon."
There were bodies everywhere. He had killed everyone he'd found as he searched for his quarry. The hallways of U..N.C.L.E. were littered with dead agents, dead assistants, dead scientists, dead innocents. He'd been indiscriminate with his violence. If he happened upon them, they died.
Some he drank from; he could empty a body of its vital liquid in seconds if he chose. He snapped the necks of others, others he killed with their own weapons, guns, knives, it mattered not.
He had expected the screams to lure his prey, but his intended victim remained elusive. He swept down another hallway. When he saw the dead lying on the ground, he realized he had been this way before. He snarled. The man had to be here, he would not escape this easily.
He turned back down the main hall, looking for hallways unexplored. He could see the face of his target: dark hair, dark eyes. He let out a snarl.
Napoleon stared at Illya, the snarl freezing his blood, not sure what to do, whether he should continue trying to wake him, wondering for a sickening moment if he should try to kill him. A well-placed kick might break his neck.
He found a door that hadn't been there before. He knew he would find his objective within. Opening the door he found the man seated at a desk.
The man stood, and he smiled. "I've been waiting for you."
He felt a moment's confusion. No one waited for him, not willingly. "I have come to kill you."
Napoleon closed his eyes, picturing Illya in his mind, his wry smile, the bright blue eyes filled with silent amusement, his unswerving support, the times Illya had saved his life, taken bullets meant for him. Then he pictured Illya, as he'd been last night, his face flushed with passion, the touch of him, the taste of him, the cries that had set Napoleon on fire.
He opened his eyes and stared at his friend again, and felt a surge of love. He couldn't do it. Even if it meant his own death, Napoleon couldn't kill him. It would be like killing himself. Surrendering to the hands of fate, he prodded Illya again.
The man smiled again, his face alight with affection. "I know. It's all right. Whatever you need, all you have to do is ask."
The confusion continued and it angered him. "I ask for nothing. I take what I want. All that you are already belongs to me."
The man took a step toward him, then another. He held out his hand. "I know. I am yours."
He was discomfited. Why would this man expose himself thus? He reached out and dragged his quarry close, baring his neck. "I could kill you right now, if I chose."
The dark-haired man wrapped his arms around the vampire. "Whatever you need. I love you."
Illya's eyes snapped open. Napoleon couldn't stop his body's recoil. He could tell that Illya was still in the grip of the dream. He held his breath, bracing himself for the blow.
"You love me?"
Napoleon's eyes widened. "What?" Those weren't exactly the words he'd been expecting.
They were repeated. "You love me?"
However unexpected, the question needed to be answered. Hoping it was the right answer he nodded. "I do." He looked for his friend in the bewildered blue eyes, but they were still the eyes of a stranger. Napoleon wondered who Illya had been talking to in his dream, and felt an absurd moment of jealousy that even this unwelcome stranger in Illya's face and form might love someone other than he.
"Why? Why would you love me?"
Napoleon had no idea what the right answer to this question was and he was sickeningly sure that the wrong answer would bring the killer back ending this conversational respite. He took a guess. "Because--because we belong together."
The eyes darkened, the voice displeased. "I belong to no one. You belong to me."
Napoleon nodded, trying to recover ground. "Yes, yes, that's right, I belong to you."
Illya rose to his feet. "You would choose this of your own free will?"
Napoleon nodded again. "Yes." He took a chance, banking on this creature being as possessive as he was violent. "You need to know that someone's trying to kill me."
Sparks almost shot out of Illya's eyes. "Who would dare touch what belongs to me?"
"His name is Zark. Count Zark. He tied me up." Napoleon half turned to demonstrate his bound hands.
Illya glanced down at the dark-haired man and his brow furrowed. He remembered arms around him. This man's arms. How had he come to be tied? "He bound you?"
Illya crouched down and grabbed Napoleon's chin with a tight and painful grasp. "Did he touch you?"
Napoleon swallowed, realizing that belonging to this being did not mean freedom from pain. He had no doubt that he'd be punished right along with Zark if he answered yes. "No."
Illya straddled Napoleon's body, oblivious to Napoleon's grimace as his body bore down on his tied hands. "He still must die."
Napoleon grimaced again. "Why don't you untie me and we can go look for him together?"
Illya ran his fingers through Napoleon's hair, then fisted his fingers and pulled Napoleon's head back, baring his throat.
Napoleon closed his eyes, his heart pounding, fear and sadness in equal measure coursing through him. He hoped that Illya never got his sanity back so he wouldn't have to live with what he was about to do.
But instead of teeth, he felt lips. Lips that slowly made their way up his neck, to his jaw, and along his chin.
Napoleon had to work at not shivering. This wasn't the touch he wanted. Or it was the touch, but the wrong man was directing it. He couldn't help the words that escaped. "Oh, Illya, come back to me."
Stranger's eyes still looked down at him, and the fingers tightened in his hair. "Napoleon, who is this Illya you speak of?"
Napoleon frowned. "You called me Napoleon."
"Is that not your name?"
"It is, but how did you know it?" Napoleon felt a foolish grin form on his face. "Were you dreaming about me?" He knew it was ridiculous, and dangerous, but he was intensely pleased that there was no phantom competition for Illya's attention, sane or otherwise.
Illya's eyes grew confused. "Was it a dream?" The fingers tightened to a painful, almost hair ripping, grip in Napoleon's hair. "You do not love me? Do you dare to play games with me?"
Napoleon muttered, "Oh, boy." He smiled as convincingly as he could. "No, no game. It was me. I said it. I do love you."
Illya's lips descended on Napoleon's in a bruising kiss. He could taste blood as the pressure of the kiss caught his inner lips on his own teeth. He swallowed it, not wanting the taste of blood to give this Illya any ideas. When there was a pause in the kiss, Napoleon pulled his head away, pressing kisses on the stranger's neck. "Untie me, so I can hold you."
Napoleon's lips were taken in another kiss, this one no more pleasant than the first. But halfway through the kiss, something changed. The fingers gripping his hair started exploring, the lips became softer, the biting gentle, the tongue asking, instead of taking.
Napoleon felt his body start to respond. He found it disconcerting. And then he found it wonderfully familiar. "Illya?" He pulled his head back to find his friend's blue eyes staring at him, perplexed, distraught, but thoroughly Illya.
Napoleon let out a quick gasp of relief and wasted no time. "Untie me. Hurry."
Illya quickly got off of Napoleon and began working on the knots. "What happened? Did I tie you up?" Illya's nimble fingers made fast work of the ropes and they slid to the ground. He moved back around to face Napoleon, his eyes anxiously looking for any wounds. "I didn't hurt you?"
Napoleon gingerly felt the inside of his lips with his tongue. He decided now wasn't the time to discuss over-enthusiastic kissing as he had no idea how long Illya would be in this rational state. Napoleon also forced himself to refrain from giving his partner a hug, not sure if more touching would keep Illya with him or bring the other back.
Illya grew nervous at Napoleon's silence. "Napoleon, answer me. Did I hurt you?"
Napoleon shook his head. "No. You didn't." He stood, stretching out his arms and shoulders, shaking some feeling back into them. "Come on, we have to get out of here."
Illya shook his head. "You need to get out of here. I must continue to stay here, away from you."
Napoleon reached to grab Illya's arm, and then thought better of it, again, not sure what would push Illya too far. "It's Zark, Illya. He put something in you, some miniature device. He told me all about it. He's trying to drive you insane. You're his test subject. If it works, he'll use it at Thrush's behest to drive all the world's leaders slowly insane.
Illya gave him a horrified look at the thought, which quickly segued to an intense look of relief. "It's not me? I'm not doing these things?"
Napoleon hesitated. "Not yet, you're not. But if he succeeds, you would be." He took a gentle hold of Illya's fingers. "Are you all right? Are you in control?"
Illya's fingers curled convulsively around Napoleon's. He could feel it, its presence, like a darkened corner of a room where you know danger lies. A shadow that ebbed and flowed, one that could consume him easily. Illya truly didn't know if he had the strength to keep it away. He glanced up at Napoleon. "I don't know."
Napoleon gave Illya a long searching glance, watching his eyes. He could see the shadows there, but he could also see his friend. Raw resolve swept through him. They would defeat this. He tightened his grip on Illya's hand. "I love you, my friend, and I don't want to live without you. Maybe knowing that will help keep you with me."
The smile he got in response took Napoleon's breath away, and for a few seconds the sparkle was back in his partner's eyes. Napoleon couldn't help but smile in return. "Come on. We have to find Zark."
He saw Illya's determined nod.
"No need, gentlemen."
Both Illya and Napoleon looked up to see Zark standing there, outside the bars, a pistol in his hands.
Napoleon pushed Illya behind the outcrop, and pressed in behind him. He retrieved his cigarette lighter and reconfigured it into a small gun.
"There is no vhere to go, Mr. Solo. The bat cave is blocked off at the other end. This is the only exit."
Illya took the initiative and followed the bat cave around the corner to the tunnels that would have normally led them to the outside. He was back in less than a minute and shook his head at Napoleon, confirming there was no exit.
Zark spoke up again. "I have the advantage here, Mr. Solo. Surely you see that. Perhaps Mr. Kuryakin is sane for the moment, but it vill pass."
Napoleon stayed silent, and cautioned Illya to do the same. His only hope was that their continued silence might cause Zark to unlock the door to investigate, although even that wouldn't even the odds enough. While his small gun offered some protection, it provided insufficient defense against Zark's weapons, both the one in his hand, and the one in Illya's mind.
Illya suddenly went down on one knee, holding his head with both hands, his face grimacing in pain.
Napoleon went down as well, one arm around his friend. "Illya, fight it. You have to fight it." He didn't need to look to know that Zark had the gadget in hand, increasing the effects of his invention.
Illya tore away from Napoleon, staggering to the wall across from him, putting him in Zark's sights.
"Ah, there you are, Mr. Kuryakin. Or do you have a new name now?"
Illya's face was scrunched up, and his hands pressed against his temples, in the effort to stop the pain. Grunts of distress accompanied every breath.
Napoleon yelled to Zark. "Stop it, you're killing him."
Apparently his words had some effect as Illya's body suddenly relaxed, sagging to the ground. Napoleon wanted to go to him, but he didn't want to put them both within reach of Zark's gun.
Zark anticipated him. "You can go to him, Mr. Solo. I have no intention of shooting you. I still plan to leave your death in your partner's hands."
Napoleon thought about it for a second and then decided to believe Zark for the time being. He scurried across the cave and grabbed Illya, dragging him around the corner.
Zark laughed and spoke to Illya. "Can you smell his blood, Herr Vampire? Can you hear it pumping through his body?"
Illya's eyes opened and he stared at Napoleon. He licked his lips.
Zark's voice continued. "Kill him. Kill him now. It is time to feed."
Ignoring every one of his killer instincts, Napoleon lowered his gaze, trying to appear submissive to his partner as he pleaded with him, "He is the one who is trying to kill me. He is the one who tied me up. I have already given myself to you, remember?"
Napoleon longed for it to be his friend asking that question, but it wasn't. "Yes, it's me, Napoleon." Napoleon kept the illusion going. "I belong to you. You said that he must die for tying me up. Remember?"
He watched as Illya, or the being within him, tried to remember. Napoleon ached for what was being done to his friend's mind.
Zark was not willing to be outdone. "Do not listen to him. He is nothing. Kill him as you have killed countless before him. After you have fed I will show you how to escape."
Sanity fought for purchase in Illya's eyes, like sunlight trying to pierce through on a cloudy day. Napoleon softly encouraged him. "Try to remember me." He hoped that his words would suit whatever realm of reality Illya found himself in.
Illya looked down at his hands, turning them over, as if looking for his answers there. He reached up and felt his mouth, running a finger over his teeth.
Zark pressed his suit. "Kill him. He is trying to confuse you."
Illya lunged toward the entrance, snarling. "Shut up." His voice was as menacing as Napoleon had ever heard it. "Shut up or I promise you, when I get through this door I will kill you."
Napoleon could almost hear Zark's marrow freeze as the man let out a frightened 'eep'. He wished he could see Illya's eyes. He spoke softly. "Illya?"
Illya turned and faced him. "You shut up, too. All of you, shut up, leave me alone." He dropped to his knees, the heels of his hands pressing against his forehead.
Napoleon shut up. He wanted to grab Illya, get him away from the entrance, not wanting to give Zark the opportunity to rethink his plan and shoot him. He listened, trying to hear if Zark was still standing there. Maybe Illya's threats had frightened him to safer ground. He dared a look. There was no one there.
Napoleon approached the door, his small gun at the ready. Zark didn't appear to be around. He slid his gun in his suit jacket pocket and, placing his fingers around the bars, he shook the door, trying to determine how solid it was.
He turned to see how Illya was doing, and found him curled up on the floor. Napoleon forced himself to the task at hand and took off his shoe, digging out the explosive in his heel. After slipping his shoe back on, he worked his hand through the bars and pressed the soft putty into the keyhole. Then he pulled off one of his buttons, and slipped free the fuse that was coiled along its insides. He inserted one end in the explosive and began to uncurl the remainder.
The end fell out of the explosive. Muttering a curse, Napoleon crouched down and reached for the fuse. His hand was flat on the ground stretching for the thin wire when a large foot stepped on it.
Napoleon cursed himself for his inattention, and attempted to pull his hand free. At the same time he looked up and saw Zark smiling down at him. Napoleon slowly moved his other hand, trying to reach his gun only to find Zark's pistol pointed at his head. "Please do not move, Mr. Solo."
Napoleon stopped all movement, his mind searching for alternatives. "If you kill me, it will ruin your little plan. None of the Thrush boys and girls will want to play with you." Napoleon tugged his hand to free it, but Zark shifted his weight so more of it crushed Napoleon's hand. He fought back a cry.
Zark smiled. "Put your other hand through the bars."
Napoleon shook his head. "I don't think so."
Zark shifted the gun so it was pointing at Napoleon's leg. "I vill shoot you in the leg. Shall we see vhat the smell of fresh blood does to your comrade?"
Napoleon sighed and put his other hand through the bars. In seconds both his hands were tied. Zark put the gun under Napoleon's chin, lifting his head. "You may be vondering vhy I do not shoot you anyway, yes, Mr. Solo? If this does not vork, I vill shoot you, of course. But I vant to see if he vill choose to kill you vithout the extra impetus of spilled blood. I must be sure my invention is a complete success."
Then reaching in, he grasped the dark-haired agent's hair and pulled it, forcing Napoleon's head to the side, exposing his neck. He called to Illya. "Mr. Kuryakin. Mr. Kuryakin!"
Napoleon could hear movement behind him, and soft mutterings. He tried to open his mouth to talk, but the gun was jammed more forcefully to the underside of his chin and all he succeeded in doing was biting his tongue.
"Mr. Kuryakin. I have something for you."
Suddenly, Illya was there beside him. Napoleon tried to see his face, but with the way Zark was holding his head, all he could see was the side of Illya's body.
Zark pulled harder on Napoleon's hair, baring his neck even more. "Come, see the feast I have procured for you."
Napoleon could feel Illya's body pressing in close to his. He felt his breath along his neck, could hear the indrawn breath. Lips rested over his bounding pulse. It was all Napoleon could do not to scream.
Then, faster than his eye could follow, Illya's hands were through the bars, grabbing the wrist of Zark's gunhand, snapping the bones. As Zark let out a cry and fell to his knees, Illya's hand moved to the man's neck, and his fingers tightened.
Napoleon caught his breath and spoke. "No, Illya, don't kill him. We need to question him."
Not letting go of Zarks' neck, Illya turned to Napoleon and snarled. "Who are you to presume to tell me what to do?"
Napoleon's blood froze; that snarl did it to him every time. "Oh, shit." He had thought he was dealing with his own Illya. He thought, hard.
"He is the one who bound you, yes? And now you wish him to live?"
"Oh, shit." He thought harder. "Ah. Wouldn't you rather, uh, torture him, than let him die this easily?" Napoleon gestured at the wire on the floor. "If you give me a minute I can have us out of here, and then you can do whatever you want with him."
Illya looked at Zark, who was slowly going purple. He was already unconscious. Illya let him go and he dropped to the floor. "Free us."
"First you have to untie me." Illya did so. Then Napoleon stretched again, trying to reach the wire. It took him a minute, but he was finally able to reach it. He stuck the end back in the explosive, wedging it in tighter.
Then he uncurled it to its full length. He motioned Illya to back away, and lit it with the lighter, dropping it, stepping around the corner.
There was a loud pop and sizzle and Napoleon moved back to the door and pushed. It opened easily. Risking Illya's wrath he scooted out the door first and began searching Zark's pockets. He found the gadget and drew it forth. Eternally grateful that there was a simple on-off button, he switched it to off.
He turned to Illya, only to find him poised over Zark's body, his mouth hovering over the man's neck. Thoroughly alarmed that switching the power off had done nothing, and not able to watch his partner kill someone in this fashion, he grabbed Illya's arm. "Illya, don't."
He found himself flat on his back, Illya lying on top of him, teeth bared. "Are you offering yourself in his stead?"
It had never crossed Napoleon's mind that the damage done to Illya might be permanent, that even without further stimulation, his sanity might have been irreparably breached. He couldn't stand that thought, and he felt the sting of tears. He wrapped his arms tightly around Illya, holding him close, so close he was probably making it hard for Illya to breathe. Napoleon wanted to feel at least this touch before everything fell to pieces around him.
For a brief moment, Napoleon could feel Illya fighting the embrace, but then he suddenly capitulated and began to hold him back. Napoleon waited, not wanting to say or do anything that might make him pull away. For a short time he wanted to believe that everything would be all right.
At first he didn't hear the words, but it finally sunk in that Illya was saying something in his ear. "What?"
"Is it over? Is it all over?"
Napoleon rolled them over until he lay half on top of Illya. "Is it you?" He ran a hand down Illya's face, that beloved face, with the right gaze staring out of familiar blue eyes.
Illya hesitated, then nodded. "I think so." His eyes clouded. "I can still feel it, though." His eyes grew fearful. "What if it's not gone? What if I can't stop it?"
Napoleon looked down at him, his face determined. "You can. You've fought it while that thing was working in you, so you'll be able to fight it now that it's not."
"How can you know for sure?"
"Because even when he cranked it up, you didn't kill me." He neglected to mention that there had been several moments when Napoleon had been sure Illya was going to kill him. He tenderly ran his fingers through Illya's hair. "Sometimes it takes a while to get over a bad dream."
Illya blew out a long breath, and stared up at Napoleon. Then he glanced at Zark. "Is he dead?"
Napoleon shook his head. "No. At least I don't think so." He began to shift off of Illya's body to check out Zark.
Illya's arms shot around Napoleon, clasping him tightly. "No. Don't go."
Napoleon glanced down at him, looking anxious. "Why? Is it coming back?"
Illya shook his head, a small grin turning up the corners of his lips. "No, I just think I like you here."
Napoleon barked out a laugh, rejoicing in how good it felt to laugh, to feel good enough to laugh. The last couple of days seemed like years. Then he felt Zark stir. Reluctantly, he pulled away. "Duty calls."
Illya scowled, but allowed Napoleon to leave his arms. He stood and looked down at Zark, noticed the dark mottling around his throat and the wrist at an odd angle to his arm. He swallowed. "Did I do that?"
Napoleon gave him a quick look, then nodded. "Not that I blame you." He moved to the cave door and picked up the loose rope. "It's just that I thought we should ask him some questions."
Illya picked up Zark's gun. "Did he seem frightened of me?"
Napoleon glanced at Zark's wet crotch. "Does that answer your question?"
Illya grimaced. "I thought I smelled something unpleasant." He retrieved a chair and brought it to Napoleon. "Tie him up. I will make him believe I am still thinking I am a vampire. I will make him talk."
Napoleon hesitated. "I'm not sure that's a good idea. Won't acting like a vampire make it a little too real for you right now? Maybe you should let me question him."
"We have to know if he's already injected anyone else. We already know he's afraid of me. It will be the fastest way to get the answers."
"And if it takes you over again?"
Illya handed Napoleon the gun. "Shoot me."
Napoleon put his hands behind his back. "I'm not going to shoot you." When Illya insisted, he took a step back. "Illya, I'm not going to shoot you. And I'm not willing to take the risk of you going over the edge again. I'll question him. You can just pace around and snarl. We'll pretend I've become one of your minions or something."
Illya grinned. "One of my minions?"
"Yeah. What's so funny about that? Don't you think I could be a good minion?"
Illya grinned wider and shook his head. "No, Napoleon, you'd be a terrible minion. There's not an obedient bone in your body." His eyes grew distant for a second. "Although I do remember you saying that you belonged to me. So, I suppose that does give me the right to boss you around."
Napoleon scowled. "Yeah, very funny. I said and did a lot of stuff to keep you from killing me. Don't let it go to your head." He turned back to Zark to finish tying him, and missed the uncertainty that flickered through Illya's eyes.
Later that evening, Napoleon lay on the bed, stripped down to his underwear, and scowled at the ceiling. This was not how he had intended for this day to end. While he had expected to be lying in bed, he had anticipated sharing it with a blond-haired, blue-eyed agent of his acquaintance. Instead, he was here alone, and Illya was three floors up and in another section of the hotel.
Napoleon scowled again. He still wasn't sure what had gone wrong. Zark had sung like a bird with barely any persuasion. One look at Illya and a well-timed snarl had broken through any resolve the Count might have had.
The local U.N.C.L.E. team had shown up to participate in the interrogation. Then, with the local team's help, and Zark's information, they found his new lab, searched it for all the information regarding his new invention, and thoroughly dismantled it.
Napoleon took great pleasure in destroying the remote controls to the mechanism in Illya's body. Zark's notes made it clear that the implanted stimulator would fall prey to the body's immune system within two weeks of injection. In the meantime, without the controls, no one could do any more harm to Illya.
Zark was taken off for more questioning, and the possibility of rehab. Napoleon almost hoped they were successful. It might be nice to have someone with Zark's genius on their side. But then he thought about what he had done to Illya, and all he wanted to do was throttle the man and finish what Illya had started.
Illya, even for him, had been uncharacteristically quiet throughout the entire proceedings. He'd made little eye contact with Napoleon, and only spoken when directly spoken to.
Napoleon had kept a close watch on him, wondering if Illya was still struggling to stay oriented. He saw a bewildered look cross his partner's face every now and then, but he never seemed to lose touch with reality.
After the lab was taken apart, given the late hour, he and Illya were deposited at this hotel. Their flight back to the states was scheduled for late the next afternoon.
When they'd reached the desk, it was Illya who had asked for two rooms.
Napoleon had pulled him aside. "Two rooms?"
Illya nodded. "I need to be alone for a while."
"Do you think that's such a good idea?" Napoleon thought it was a terrible idea, and not just because he was worried for Illya. He didn't want to be alone. Or more specifically, he wanted to be with Illya.
The eyes grew mutinous. "I am fine, Napoleon."
Napoleon frowned, not understanding. "What if you have bad dreams? I think we should get one room, or at least adjoining rooms." He reached out and touched Illya's arm. "I want to make sure you're all right."
Illya pulled his arm away. "I will be fine. I just need to sleep." He walked back to the desk and got the clerk's attention. "Two separate rooms."
Napoleon knew better than to argue with Illya when he was in full recalcitrant mode, so he'd acquiesced, and watched as Illya took the north tower elevators to his room, as he'd slowly walked to the south tower elevators to reach his.
And that left him here. Alone. Without a clue as to why. Napoleon rolled onto his stomach and rested his chin on his arms. Could he have misread everything so completely?
He grabbed a pillow, and buried his face in it. Did he misread those breathy cries of Illya's as he found his release in his arms? Just the thought of those cries started to make him hard. Napoleon reached beneath his body and adjusted himself. He sighed into the pillow.
Had he misunderstood the look in Illya's face when he'd told the Russian that he loved him? Misunderstood that brilliant smile? Had he misunderstood when Illya had held him tightly to keep him from getting off of him to tie Zark up, and told Napoleon that he liked him there?
Napoleon groaned as he relived the feeling of Illya underneath him. He'd been so sure that something wonderful, despite being wholly unexpected, had been established between them. Yet somehow, between lying on top of Illya and now, whatever had been established had disintegrated.
He punched the pillow, trying to pound it into a shape that suited him. He was unsuccessful. Napoleon tried to remember exactly what had happened. He rolled onto his back again and reasoned it out loud.
"I was on top of him. He didn't want to let me go. We had a discussion about minions. He said I'd be a terrible one." Napoleon scrunched his eyes shut, replaying the scene. "He said something about me saying I belonged to him, and that gave him some rights and then I said--"
Napoleon sat up in bed and slapped his forehead with the open palm of his hand. "Stupid." He stood up and started to get dressed. "Stupid, stupid, stupid."
Illya reached one side of his room when he turned and paced the length of it again. "Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid." He knew better than to think that something he wanted so badly was just going to be handed to him on a silver platter.
Of course Napoleon had only said and done all those things to keep them both alive.
It was all jumbled up in Illya's brain. Scenes and words and touches. It was difficult to remember which had been dreams and which had really happened.
He could remember having sex with Napoleon. Wonderful sex. Curling his toes sort of sex. He could remember wanting to do it again. For always. But he could also remember kissing Napoleon and hurting him, threatening to rape him. Illya shook his head, the memories raising a confusing dissonance within him.
He could remember Napoleon saying that he loved him. The problem was that he could remember it several times. He could even remember Napoleon telling him that in his office at U.N.C.L.E.. Illya was fairly certain that particular memory was a dream and that made everything suspect.
Illya ran his hands over his face, rubbing vigorously, ignoring the sting of the scratches on his face. He didn't like being foolish. And he definitely didn't like feeling so bereft, a consequence of his foolishness. That was the problem with hope and expectations. When they fell through, it made a perfectly reasonable and orderly life feel empty.
He turned and headed across the room again. The only person who consistently met his expectations was Napoleon. He trusted Napoleon to watch his back and to keep them alive. Which he had done, using every trick in the book. It was hardly Napoleon's fault that Illya had begun to believe it was all true. It was hardly Napoleon's fault that, in more ways than one, the edges between reality and fantasy had blurred.
Illya scowled. It might not be Napoleon's fault, but Illya had still acted as if it was. He'd ignored him all afternoon, and then rejected his offer of companionship for the evening. He knew his actions had distressed his partner. He could still feel Napoleon's hurt and puzzled eyes following him to the elevator.
That had been badly done. Napoleon was his friend, and deserving of his gratitude for using every skill he had to keep them both alive. He needed to explain. Napoleon would understand why Illya had gotten confused, had drawn the wrong conclusions. Illya knew his friend would take it in stride. He'd tease him about it for the rest of his life, and bring it up every chance he got as a way to preen, but it wouldn't affect the friendship at all. At least not from Napoleon's side.
Illya wasn't sure the same could be said for him. He didn't know if he could be with Napoleon and not want to touch him, not want to feel his strong body against his, not want to see the passion rise in Napoleon's face knowing he was responsible for it.
Illya reached down and adjusted his hardening penis. He let out a frustrated noise. He didn't like this kind of pain. The pain of wanting and not having. It was why he did everything he could to avoid the wanting. It never paid off.
He thought about calling Napoleon, inviting him to go for a drink, apologizing for his behavior, crediting it to his ongoing lack of sleep and blood loss. Illya moved to the phone, picked up the receiver, held it in his hand.
He hung it up. It was too soon. He'd told Napoleon the truth. He did need to be alone. He needed to work this need out of his system. In a day or two, things would be back to normal.
Illya lay down on the bed. An arm swept across the empty space beside him. With all that he was, he wished Napoleon were lying there.
A knock on the door startled him. "Illya? Open up, it's me."
For a second, Illya thought about not answering. But the pounding of his heart, and a flare of hope he couldn't suppress, had him across the room and flinging open the door.
The next thing he knew he was surrounded by Napoleon's arms, held tightly against the body he'd been thinking and dreaming about. Nothing had ever felt as wonderful. He briefly wondered if he was dreaming again. "Napoleon?"
Napoleon was kicking the door shut and then kissing his neck, kissing his cheek. "I didn't mean it like that." He found Illya's lips and made himself at home.
Illya couldn't have formed a coherent sentence to save his life. His blood began to heat in his veins and he could have spent an eternity kissing Napoleon.
Napoleon felt his heart soar when Illya kissed him back. More than kissed him back, met him and matched him.
When Napoleon paused for an instant to catch a breath, Illya chased his lips, capturing them again, not willing to stop the enticing activity. But then he did pull away to glance up at Napoleon and shook his head with a sense of wonder. "I can't believe you're here. I thought I imagined it--this."
Napoleon gave Illya a wry smile. "I'm not surprised given what I said to you. But I really didn't mean it that way. Certainly some of what I did was to keep us alive, but not--" He ran his hand down Illya's body, softly cupping a rounded ass. He nibbled on Illya's lower lip. "Not this part of it."
Illya closed his eyes, reveling in the feel of Napoleon's hands on him. But a part of him wanted more. He wanted to know that there was more to it than just the sex. Not that the sex wasn't going to be great. More than great. Mind blowing. His body could barely stand the wait. Despite the overwhelming physical longing, his need for more forced him to speak. "Was it only this part of it that was real?"
Napoleon smiled into Illya's shoulder. He could hear that insecurity again in his partner's voice. It reached right into his heart and made it ache with love. He lifted his head and ran his fingers through Illya's hair. It came to him suddenly how much he loved doing that. And a sense of joy flowed through him when he realized he could do it anytime he wanted, at least when they were alone.
He found Illya's blue eyes and gazed back at him, letting his emotions shine through. "No, partner of mine. A lot more of it was real."
Illya lifted a hesitant hand and caressed Napoleon's face, touching his mole, the cleft in his chin. "Tell me." He hoped it was the words he wanted, the words that would unlock the walls around his heart, melt all the ice, free him into a world of belonging.
Napoleon cradled Illya's face in his hands. "I love you, I need you, and I want you." He watched Illya's face, waiting for his reaction, sure that the words would be welcomed, but feeling a tad nervous nonetheless. A shot of pure love, like adrenaline, raced through his being when he saw Illya's eyes fill with tears.
Illya lifted his hands to wipe the wetness away, and his face flushed. He mumbled, "Sorry."
Napoleon shook his head. "Don't be. I love it. I love you." His voice switched to a gentle teasing. "I had no idea you had all these emotions hiding inside of you." And he hadn't. Of course he knew Illya was not the ice prince his reputation proclaimed, but even when he was relaxed, he kept his emotions in check.
Illya dropped his gaze, embarrassed. "You--" His gaze lifted and he gave Napoleon a narrow-eyed stare. "I trust it will stay our secret."
Napoleon laughed and hugged Illya tightly. "A wonderful secret, my friend. And only for me."
Illya rested his head on Napoleon's chest. "Only for you."
They stood that way for a minute, soaking each other in.
Illya's hands started to stray first, working their way under Napoleon's suit jacket, his fingers running over the strong muscles that he relied on so much. He raised his head, kissed Napoleon. "I want you to make love to me. I want you to make me yours."
The words acted like an aphrodisiac to Napoleon. He groaned as they made their journey from his ears directly to his groin. His hands cupped Illya's ass, and pulled his body in tight, groin to groin, chest to chest. Napoleon pressed fevered kisses along Illya's jaw, his eyelids, his temples. He began to back them to the bed.
The back of Illya's knees hit the bed, and Napoleon tumbled him down, lying on top of him, balancing some of his weight on his elbows. "I distinctly remember you saying something about liking this."
Illya gave him a lopsided grin. "I think I must have been out of my mind."
Napoleon frowned at him. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
The lopsided grin turned into a full one as Illya tugged on Napoleon's suit jacket. "I find the layers of cloth in between us to be most distressing."
Napoleon's cock grew even harder. Never could he have imagined this sensual creature hiding underneath Illya's stoic demeanor. He felt as if he'd discovered buried treasure. He grinned down at Illya as he lay on the bed, blond hair fanned out, blue eyes sparkling with mischief and desire. No, he hadn't discovered buried treasure, only found the treasure map. He'd be spending the rest of his life following the clues to unearth the gold and precious gems that lay before him.
And he wasn't planning on wasting any more time. It took them a few minutes to work their way out of their clothes, their kisses and caresses causing them to lose track of where they were more than once, but finally Napoleon found himself skin to skin with his partner.
The sensation was almost more than he could bear. His skin felt effervescent, his cock was so hard it hurt, and he knew he would never have enough of this man.
But then, suddenly, Illya wriggled out of his arms and stood. Napoleon frowned at him. "Where are you going?"
Illya didn't answer at first, just looked at Napoleon, his eyes alight with admiration. Napoleon felt his cock get even harder. Then Illya reached out and touched Napoleon's shaft, running his finger along its length.
Napoleon couldn't help the groan that escaped. Just that simple touch and it was enough to almost make him explode. "Come back to bed."
Illya just smiled a little. "I'll be right back." He turned and walked to the bathroom.
Napoleon rolled to his side so he could watch the perfect ass as it walked away. He let out a sigh. "Jesus, Napoleon, you have got it bad." He let out a half laugh. He rolled on his back, and stared at the ceiling, waiting, imagining Illya's touch, the weight of him as he lay over him. His hand snaked down to touch himself.
Illya flicked his hand away. "You're doing my job."
Napoleon lifted startled eyes to his partner and grinned. "So, get to it."
"Hold out your hand."
Napoleon obeyed and held out his hand. Illya slapped something into it. Napoleon glanced at it and saw a bottle of oil. He hadn't allowed himself to think that far, but now his mind was filled with pictures of him taking Illya, in every conceivable way, on his stomach, on his back, over the couch, on the table, he could barely keep up with his imagination. The excitement spread outward from the pit of his stomach to his cock and radiated to every square inch of him.
He lunged off the bed and captured Illya in his arms, dragging him down with him. His kiss was demanding, devouring, as he began to stake his claim. Napoleon had to be inside of him, he had to be. Now. Never had he felt this urgency, this need to thrust and plunder and own. Illya had woken something in him and it wouldn't be satisfied until Illya belonged to him in every way.
Napoleon had never done this before, suspected that Illya hadn't either. But he had been anally stimulated so he had an idea of what was needed. He'd liked it, especially when the questing finger knew just where to stroke. Napoleon clenched his ass with the thought. He fully intended to have Illya plunder him at a later time. But right now, it was his turn.
He laid Illya down on the bed, taking another moment to appreciate his beauty and to revel in the desire and trust in those crystal blue eyes. His hands were shaking as he poured oil onto his fingers.
Napoleon spread Illya's legs apart. There was no hesitation on Illya's part. He did as directed, wantonly displaying himself for Napoleon's pleasure. He poured some oil on Illya's body, rubbing it on Illya's cock, on the soft sacs below, watching the excess run between his legs, leading the way to his goal.
He followed the oil with his fingers, softly touching the entrance to Illya's body, barely teasing the entrance. Napoleon glanced up at Illya only to find those blue eyes fastened on his. Illya's mouth was open, already panting, his tongue just peeking out. It was all Napoleon could do not to take that tongue in his mouth and suck on it. He blew out a breath to calm himself. There'd be time for everything.
Illya must have felt the exhalation. "Are you all right, Napoleon?"
Napoleon let out a pained laugh. "I just wish there were more of me. I want to be kissing you, and sucking you, and ramming my cock inside of you. You make me so goddamn hot."
Napoleon watched as Illya reacted to his words with a groan, and a thrust of his hips. His voice was low and husky. "Do it, Napoleon."
Napoleon slipped a finger inside. He felt the channel grip his finger and he imagined it doing it to his cock. He sincerely hoped he'd last more than five seconds once he found his way inside.
He pulled his finger out and poured more oil on his hand. He prompted Illya to lie on his side. Napoleon spooned behind him, loving the feel of all that skin against his. He prompted Illya to raise a knee, giving him easier access. This time he worked two fingers in. The lining inside his body was so soft; it felt like velvet. Napoleon rested his forehead on Illya's back, taking another deep breath to keep from ejaculating all over Illya's ass.
He searched for that magic spot and was rewarded by a low groan from Illya, who impaled himself further on the fingers, wanting a repeat of the sensation. Illya shifted his body enough to stare at Napoleon with astonished eyes. "What was that?"
Napoleon grinned at him. "That, my friend, was your prostate. Did you like that?" He touched the spot within again and felt Illya's body respond as he let out a low cry.
Trying to remember the ultimate goal, Napoleon scissored his fingers, stretching the muscle. Every few seconds he stimulated Illya inside, not only because he knew it felt good, but mostly because he couldn't get over how sexy Illya was when passion ruled him.
His partner was incoherent, speaking in fractured Russian, pushing back on Napoleon's fingers, hands fisted around the sheets, his knuckles white.
Napoleon worked a third finger in. The low groan that came from the man in his arms almost made him come again. Making Illya lose control like this gave him a sense of power he had never felt in bed before. He felt like the goddamn king of the world. He whispered in Illya's ear. "Roll over on your stomach."
Illya instantly complied.
Napoleon moved over him, urged him up on his knees, secured a pillow for his head. He held open his ass cheeks, exposing his destination. He took one last deep breath, and pressed his cock against the entrance to Illya's body. "Tell me if it hurts and I'll stop."
Illya didn't bother to speak, just pushed back, communicating with his body that he wanted Napoleon to get on with it. Napoleon was more than willing to grant his wishes. He felt a moment's resistance but then he was through the outer muscle. God, it felt good. "Are you all right?"
Still no words, just a groan, and another backwards thrust of his body. Napoleon grinned ferociously. He held on to Illya's hips and began to work his way in, thrusting gently, withdrawing, advancing, until he felt his balls brush Illya's ass. Napoleon let out a groan, and stopped, wanting to fully experience this incredible moment. He felt an indescribable possessiveness come over him. "You're mine now, Illya. You belong to me."
The words were panted. "Da, da. Ya lyublyu tebya. Seychas, Napasha, seychas."
Now. Yes, indeed, now. Napoleon began to thrust, one hand holding Illya's hip, the other now holding Illya's shaft, stroking him in concert with the pounding of his cock into Illya's ass. He could tell every time he hit Illya's prostate by the cries it elicited.
His sweat christened Illya's body as he rammed into him, finding a raw pleasure in taking Illya that he'd never known before. He felt free. Illya was his perfect match. He met him stroke for stroke, muscle for muscle, trust for trust.
Napoleon felt Illya's cock jerk and he knew he was about to come. Illya let out a cry and Napoleon felt the hot sperm shoot over his hand, baptizing the bed. He was unprepared for the spasm of Illya's orgasm and it clenched around his cock so incredibly and wonderfully hard that it pushed him to his own climax.
He collapsed on top of Illya, glad that Illya's strength could bear him for a minute until he could think, or see, or move again. It took a few minutes before Napoleon decided his body might do what he asked it to. He rolled off of Illya, and collapsed on the bed.
Napoleon thought that maybe he fell asleep. A warm washcloth playing over his penis woke him up. He looked up to find Illya cleaning him off. He jerked a little, his penis still excruciatingly sensitive. But, he loved that Illya was doing this for him. He smiled up at his partner.
Illya gave him one of his real smiles. He launched the washcloth into the bathroom and crawled into bed, right into Napoleon's arms.
That was fine with Napoleon. His arms closed around his partner, acknowledging that that was exactly where he belonged. In his arms. In his bed. Wherever that bed was. He nuzzled Illya's neck. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"
Illya flashed him a lopsided grin and let out a soft laugh. "That was the most incredible--I've never--Napoleon, I--" Illya gave up and rested his head on Napoleon's chest.
Napoleon let out a soft laugh of his own and tightened his hold on Illya. "Me too. Ever."
Illya lifted his head, his eyes wide with surprise. "Ever?"
Napoleon cradled the back of Illya's head and prompted him forward for a kiss. "Ever."
That got another smile, and another kiss. And that one kiss led to long minutes of kissing. Soft, languorous kissing, leisurely exploring one another's mouths, discovering the initially unexpected but then alluring texture of beard stubble as they nibbled and kissed jaws and chins.
Napoleon felt more sated than he ever had in his life. He let out a long satisfied sigh. "Will you do that to me later?"
The words held a hint of surprise. "You want me to?"
Illya lifted his head up, propping it on his hands on Napoleon's chest. "Have you done that before?"
Napoleon shook his head. "Just fingers. You?"
Illya's lips quirked up at the corners. "No. But only because I had no idea what I was missing." He grinned at Napoleon. "If I'd known, I'd have attacked you long before this."
Napoleon tweaked his nose. "I guess we'll have to make up for lost time." He glanced down at his totally quiescent penis. "But not for a while, you completely wore him out."
Illya placed a proprietary hand over Napoleon's genitals and gave them a gentle squeeze. "I will look forward to doing it again."
Napoleon smiled. "Me, too." He ran a hand through Illya's hair. "Think you can finally sleep without nightmares tonight?"
"If you have one, wake me up."
Illya looked at him with eyes full of love. "I do not think I will dream. You have destroyed my nightmares, and no good dream could be better than this."
Napoleon pressed several short kisses against Illya's lips. "Hmm, the way you talk."
Illya practically purred as the kisses continued. The horrors of the last week slowly ebbed away under the gentle caresses. "Napoleon?"
Illya's toes started to curl as the kisses moved down to his neck, and behind his ear. "I find, ah, that I am not ready to--Bozhe moi--not ready to sleep."
Napoleon chuckled in his ear. "Me either, partner, me either."