Switching Sides

by nickovetch

Korea—March 1951

"Never volunteer," he'd been told early on in his military career. The seasoned soldiers had always quoted it as gospel and now he knew why. His sergeant needed one man to get an urgent message down the lines to the commanding officer. The commo lines had been cut and the engineers weren't repairing them fast enough to suit their ranking NCO. This particular unit was dangerously close to being overrun and Sgt. Becker needed confirmation of his orders to bug out.

Becker had lined up B Squad and told them of his predicament. "I need one man who's fast enough and healthy enough to get to Checkpoint Delta before nightfall tomorrow. Any volunteers?"

PV2 Evans had a sprained ankle, PFC Jackson was fighting walking pneumonia and Slicksleeve Watson, well, Watson wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. His entrance scores qualified him to be a cook, and the army in its infinite wisdom had given him a rifle and classified him Infantry. A man didn't have to be smart to shoot the enemy.

But Napoleon Solo was smart, very smart; smart enough to avert his eyes when Becker glanced his way. He could feel the older man's gaze on him, judging, sizing him up. That's when he made his mistake. He looked up and met the intense green eyes with his own brown ones.

"Solo. You were some kind of track star in school, weren't you?" Solo nodded sheepishly. "Well, that makes you it, then." Napoleon heard the quiet sighs of relief from the other three men as they drifted away to hunt up lunch. Sgt. Becker jabbed a meaty finger into Solo's rank patch on his upper sleeve. "Corporal," he spat derisively. "How'd you get that so soon?"

Solo looked at his face defiantly. He knew the Sarge wouldn't like the answer. "ROTC. I had two years before I enlisted."

Becker remained silent for a moment. When he next looked at Solo, there was grudging respect in the expression. "College boy, huh? And you could have stayed in; got a deferment. But you enlisted, anyway. How come?"

He knew Becker didn't want to know the real reason he had enlisted. Hell, he didn't want to remember what had driven him to the enlistment office that day that seemed a lifetime ago. She would have turned twenty this fall....

Corporal Solo looked at the tops of his scuffed and worn boots. No spit and polish required in this unit. "It, ah, seemed like a good idea at the time, Sarge."

Becker snorted once, clapped him on the back and asked, "Starting to have second thoughts now, son?"

He thought of the bad food, squalid living quarters and the biting wind that cut straight through his army issue like a knife. Napoleon smiled and said, "Every damn day."

Becker roared and tugged on Solo's arm, directing him into the command tent. They sat in collapsible chairs and Becker drew Solo's attention to the map spread out on the table. "We're here. Checkpoint Delta is here. You probably marched past it two months ago when your group of replacements got here. Look familiar?"

Solo checked the orientation and squinted in the afternoon gloom. He recognized the terrain. Marching across it had a tendency to etch it in your body's memory sense. He knew too well the hilly, rocky and wholly inhospitable country that the Republic of Korea boasted.

"Yes, I know where it is."

Becker grunted. "Your field pack up to regs?" Their unit was having trouble getting supplies. The North Koreans were getting more from Uncle Sam than his own soldiers were.

"I'll need to draw C-rats and first aid supplies."

Becker nodded and added, "Take an extra blanket. Cold snap coming down from the north."

Solo sighed. He hated the cold. He'd promised himself a trip to southern California when his tour was up.

"Once you get there, check in with Captain Sommers, grab any supplies they'll let you have, and wheedle a jeep out of them for the trip back. I need every available body back here by day after tomorrow for the next push. Or, to bug out with, whichever comes first."

Solo nodded and got up to grab his gear. Becker stopped him with a hand to his shoulder. "And Solo, watch out for snipers. Last big push, 1st Cav took some high ranking NKs. Our Soviet counterparts don't like the idea of their intel leaking out. They send their own boys in to plug it up. You keep your eyes peeled and listen to your short hairs, all right?"

"Yes, Sarge." Napoleon shook the meaty hand offered him and stepped out into the blustery wind that seemed determined to leech all his body heat away. Lovely, he thought. Cold snap, my ass. It's freezing....

It didn't take long to gather what meager supplies his unit could spare. Evans, Jackson and Watson gathered around his cot and added their bounty to his loot. Relieved but feeling somewhat guilty that Solo had been picked, they had pooled their resources. Evans held out two extra C-rats.

Napoleon smiled when he saw the label. "Ah, Ev, you shouldn't have. Beanies and Weenies." He kissed his fingers and made an expansive gesture. Evans blushed and stepped back. Sometimes, Solo felt like the old man here at nineteen. His squad consisted of boys just out of high school. They were too poor to buy their way out of the draft and not smart enough to get into college. Wars always seemed to be so populated.

Jackson had a bundle behind his back. He pulled it out and Napoleon saw it was a wool blanket, brand new and still clean. He held a hand out, attempting to refuse, but the soldier's face darkened and he said, "Take it, Lee. You're the one who's gonna need it. You drew the short straw, not me." Solo nodded his thanks and added it to his bedroll.

Watson held his hand out with a full pack of cigarettes in it, his entire Red Cross ration. This time Solo did refuse, but he softened the rebuff. "Thanks, Brian, but I can't smoke while on patrol. Enemy might smell me. Do me a favor and hang on to them for me. We'll all have one when I get back, all right?" Brain nodded, his red hair flopping into his eyes.

Napoleon felt his throat tighten as he said goodbye. He had only been here two months, but war had a way of bonding men together in a short time. Swallowing hard, he shook hands with each soldier and said, "Watch your backs while I'm gone. Things could get bad in a hurry."

"CYA, Lee?" Evans asked, grinning.

"Yeah, Ev. CYA, buddy." Solo swung his pack onto his shoulders and adjusted the straps. He gave his M1 Garand a final check: locked and loaded. He heard the men talking behind him but did not look back.

Brian was needling Ev about something. "What's CYA mean, Ev? Huh?"

Evans just laughed and didn't answer. Napoleon repressed a grin as he heard Brian try Watson. He, too, refused to answer.

As Solo walked into the deepening afternoon shadows, he heard Watson's wheedling, "Aw, come on, fellows. Somebody tell me." It made it that much harder to keep going.

He followed a small defile that ran away from the camp. In the rainy season it would be a thick gorge choked with water and brush, but now it was just a dry gulch graveled and treacherous to foot traffic. Solo kept a careful eye on the terrain ahead but cast around every few seconds, scanning the horizon for anything moving or out of place. Of course, if there were a sniper, he'd never see him before it was too late. That thought caused an itch to start twitching between his shoulder blades where his pack was centered. He sighed. Cut it out, Solo, before you start talking to yourself.

Gusts of wind buffeted him every so often, making him stagger and curse under his breath. He pulled his field jacket tighter around his midsection with the drawstring and covered the strip of skin on his exposed wrists with the woolen glove inserts. He kept the pace brisk to cover ground quickly and keep him warm as well.

Napoleon reckoned he had covered close to five miles when the hair on the back of his neck prickled. He took meager cover in a copse of stunted trees and waited. The wind drifted and swirled around him, making listening difficult, but he heard nothing and saw nothing. He waited a few minutes more to be safe and then cautiously crept out of his cover. Napoleon shook his head, hoping he was just being paranoid. Maybe Sarge's dire warning had shaken him up more than it should have.

He lost himself in the steady cadence of his stride, the beating of his heart, and the caustic bite of cold air as it entered his lungs. His chest was beginning to ache from the frigid air and he pulled his woolen scarf up to cover his mouth. It trapped warm moist air and funneled it from the vee of his neck to his mouth. He felt warmer immediately and his chest stopped hurting a moment later.

Wanting to put at least fifteen miles in before stopping for chow or rest, Solo nevertheless had to stop for a call of nature. He left the worn defile and aimed for the thicker overgrowth of bushes to his right. It took a moment to unfasten enough of the thick wool layers that he could relieve himself on a convenient bush. Idly he watched the spray of his steaming urine as it dribbled and ran down the thin branches of the poor excuse for a shrub. There was a spot on the backside of the bush that looked as if something had stirred the ground surrounding it. Recently. Very recently, his mind screamed at him.

Not wanting to be caught literally with his pants down, Napoleon quickly finished and zipped. He appeared to be taking a breather, but he was carefully scanning the immediate area. There weren't any cigarette butts left behind, no garbage or pieces of human flotsam or jetsam scattered about, but Solo's sixth sense told him that someone had squatted next to this very bush and watched him coming.

The first instance he could shrug off as nerves. This second one.... He was certain he was being watched, if not outright followed. He was listening to his short hairs after all.

He meandered casually back to the thin trail and tried to appear bored and unaware. A half-mile or so ahead he could see where the rocky slopes of a saddle encroached on the defile. A plan formed in his mind and he headed for the narrowest part of the stricture. Once he was sure the outcropping hid him from view, he sprinted to the left, circling around one side of the saddle. Adrenaline surged through him, making his tired leg muscles pump, his arms catching handholds to speed him along. He checked the rifle, making sure the safety was off.

As he rounded the short side of the saddle, he watched for his quarry. He'd been fast enough to catch him from behind before the enemy passed through the narrows, but as he drew nearer he saw no one there. What the hell?

Solo crept slowly forward, hugging the rocky slope as he searched the crags. He saw a rock zigzag its way down from the right side of the saddle. He tensed and saw a number of the rock's cousins join it. All right. I've got you now, he thought.

He brought the rifle sights up and focused the weapon on the top of the small slide. Now that he was closer, he could hear the crunch of booted feet on the loose gravel at the top of the hillock. The sound stopped abruptly as his pursuer realized his prey wasn't in sight. A moment later a camouflaged figure entered directly into his line of fire. North Korean uniform.... Solo's finger tensed on the trigger.

Just before he fired he saw distinct surprise register on the square face of his target, and the man bring his sniper rifle up quickly. Not quickly enough to make much difference. Solo's rifle cracked in the silence, sounding like thunder to his ears. Napoleon watched with mixed awe and horror as his round hit the target, driving him back with the impact and staggering him. His head covering flew off with the appulse of the bullet and Solo was shocked to see bright blond hair beneath. A blond Korean?

He surged forward to check on the enemy's condition. The soldier was down on one knee, breathing like a bellows. He heard Solo coming and tried to get to his feet. His weapon was still in his hand though hanging from nearly nerveless fingers. The smallish man risked a look at his attacker to gauge the distance. Frantically, he pushed himself to his feet and tried to throw himself over the top of the hillock to put distance between them. He almost made it.

Solo watched as the scene played out before him. He was too far to stop him and too close not to see the disastrous result in living color. The man stumbled to his knees once again as his legs refuse to take his weight and began to slide down the sharp incline. His rifle clattered from his hand and reached the bottom a few seconds before he did. Napoleon winced as he clearly heard the soldier's head strike the ground as he landed hard.

Expecting the worst, Solo crossed the trail and advanced on the downed foe. He was lying on his side facing away from Solo. His weapon was a few feet from his left hand. Napoleon covered the body and carefully kicked the weapon out of reach. A low moan came from the inert form and Solo tensed, walking in front of him to see how badly he was hurt. Napoleon used his boot to turn him onto his back.

The man—a boy, really, from the looks of him—stared up at him in shock and despair. Solo's shot had taken him through the left side, blood staining the uniform front and back. Through and through, Solo registered. The pale features were matched by paler blue eyes, dilated with fear and hazy from the head wound. Blood seeped from a gash on his right temple and an ugly knot was growing there as well.

Solo stared at his prisoner and wondered what the hell to do with him. He was wearing a North Korean uniform. Napoleon would be well within his rights to shoot him as a spy and be done with it. Obviously, he was Russian. Probably KGB. GRU at the least. He looked so young, though....

Solo shook his head and decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. He set his rifle out of the boy's reach and shrugged off his pack. "Do you speak English?"

There was no response save for painful panting. Solo opened his first aid kit and took out a field dressing. He showed it to the young man and said, "I need to stop the bleeding. Understand?" He fished out a packet of sulfa as well and knelt beside the Russian. The blue eyes widened a bit as Solo tugged gently at the uniform top, exposing the wound in his side. It wasn't pretty and it bled alarmingly. The blond tried to sit up and look himself, but subsided with his hand pressed against his temple, moaning. Solo placed the dressing and tied it as tightly as he could. His charge bit his lip against the pain and tried to roll on his side. Napoleon quickly rolled him over and held his head as he retched again and again. His stomach must have been empty, as only thin brownish liquid came up. The pain vomiting caused must have been severe as he panted against it, obviously trying not to show the enemy how badly he was hurt.

Solo sat on his heels trying to formulate a plan. He was too far away to carry the prisoner back to camp and too far from Checkpoint Delta to do either of them any good. It was fast approaching dark and they were out in the open. He made up his mind and retrieved his gear and scooped up the Russian's rifle. He returned to the narrow place in the trail and shook one of the blankets out on the ground against the leeward side of the defile.

The American returned to his prisoner and carefully pulled him up to a sitting position and then hefted him over his shoulder. He tried to ignore the cry of pain his rough handling elicited. The soldier barely weighed a hundred fifteen, hundred twenty pounds tops.

"Sorry." He picked his way back cautiously and gently set the boy down on the blanket. He placed the first aid pouch under his head and saw the uncertainty and confusion race across the pain-etched face.

"I'm not going to hurt you, understand?" He pulled out his flashlight and pointed to the man's face, his eyes. Solo quickly checked his reflexes, wanting to know the extent of the head trauma. The pupils were equal but sluggish. The knot was bleeding less but growing darker and more bruised. Solo soaked another dressing in water from his canteen and placed it over the lump. The kid swallowed a hiss at the pain and gulped once or twice.

"Hurts like hell, huh?" Napoleon didn't know if he understood or not, but his choices for conversation were limited. "I'm sorry I can't give you any morphine with that head wound. Just try to lie still, eh, tovarisch?"

The blue eyes opened wider at the use of the Russian word for friend. Napoleon shrugged. "Well, it's better than 'Hey, you.'" He looked pointedly at the Korean uniform and said aloud, "You're the funniest looking Korean I ever did see."

He decided to try the few words of Russian he knew. "Kak vas zavut?"

The boy narrowed his eyes at him as if gauging the question. "Kuryakin," he said weakly. "Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin." A coughing fit overtook him and he tried to roll over. The American steadied him again until the spasms passed. He seemed to breathe easier on his side so Solo propped him up with part of the blanket.

"Govorite pa-russki?" Illya asked between breaths. He was growing paler by the minute, and his voice was a bare whisper. Solo checked the bandage and was concerned at the amount of blood loss.

"Nyet, nyet." He wiped the blood from Kuryakin's face with the wet dressing and was glad to see the head wound had stopped bleeding.

"Is all right. I speak good English." The Russian almost smiled.

Solo laughed. "Well, Mr. Kuryakin, was it? That's great because I don't speak Russian, good or otherwise." He noticed his prisoner shivering, his body trembling with shock and cold. Solo sighed and pulled out the remaining blanket, covering the small body with it as well. He tucked it around the smaller man and heard him sigh.

Solo sat next to him and asked gently, "How old are you?"

He looked puzzled for a moment and then answered, "Eighteen."

"Try again."

The blue eyes closed in pain and resignation. "Sixteen." The word was slurred and indistinct with shock. The Russian's face relaxed as he lost consciousness. Solo checked his pulse and couldn't rouse him. He changed the bandage and noted it looked like the wound was clotting to some extent. Still, he didn't think the kid had much chance of making it through the night. That would at least solve my problem if he dies. The American felt a stab of guilt as the words ran through his head. Solo exhaled loudly in sheer frustration and looked morosely at the hard scrabble of rock where he had been sitting. He placed his rifle within a quick grab's reach and took his .45 out of his pack, securing it in his waistband at the small of his back.

He sighed, then lay down on the blanket and used the second one to snug around them both, placing his body next to his prisoner's, spooning up as close as he could without risking injuring him further. He heard a small sound from the boy. It sounded like, "Mikhail" or something like it. Obviously, he was delirious. Napoleon said, "Da, da," and felt the small body relax in the loose embrace. A moment later he was asleep as well.

Hours later Napoleon started awake. Disoriented, he felt the body next to him shivering with cold and remembered. He placed a hand on the Russian's forehead and felt the cold, clammy skin where it wasn't lumpy with bruises. The kid moaned in his fitful sleep, mumbling incoherently in Russian.

Solo felt the wind plucking at the edges of the bedroll, its intensity increasing as the temperature decreased. He swore and pulled the slight body closer to him, throwing the top part of the blanket over their heads. Their combined body heat and warm exhalations soon had them cocooned in relative comfort. At least he's still alive.

Napoleon listened for a few moments, hoping to hear the roar of a jeep engine or the chug of a deuce and a half but heard nothing more than the howl of the ever-present wind. Illya's shivering became less pronounced and he wormed his way backward toward the heat of Solo's body. Another couple of minutes and the Russian sighed complacently and drifted deeper into sleep. There was nothing else to do but wait for dawn, so Solo went back to sleep as well.

The sun had already risen, but the hillocks surrounding them kept the light and heat from reaching the two sleeping men. Napoleon's bladder was better than an alarm clock, however. He drifted slowly awake, the quiet and the warmth surrounding him lulling his body and making it difficult to rouse completely. As he stretched he felt his prisoner beginning to wake as well, and he slowly and carefully rolled away.

The wind had died during the night and it was eerily still now. Solo got to his feet, every muscle protesting a night on the hard ground. The Russian was just beginning to stir and the older man took a quick trip to the bushes before he woke completely.

Solo swung both rifles on his back and returned the pistol to his pack, out of Kuryakin's reach. He squatted next to the man, waiting until the bleary blue eyes opened and stayed open. Kuryakin tried to sit up and stifled the cry that tried to eke out. He gasped quietly instead, shutting his eyes as weakness swamped him. In a moment his eyes opened once again and he glanced to the side. He didn't try to hide his look of disappointment that the American was still there.

Solo read the look and smiled. "Yep, still here, I'm afraid. I wasn't a dream."

The young man sighed and looked straight ahead. "I thought perhaps you were a... a nachtmare?"

Solo laughed at that, and patted Kuryakin's shoulder gently. "Nightmare. Yes, I can see where you might. You had a rough night from the sounds of it."

The Russian's face pinched with embarrassment. If he'd had enough blood in his system, he would have blushed. As it was he merely appeared less pale for a moment or two. "I am sorry. I don't remember last night. But thank you for keeping me from freezing to death."

Solo shrugged. "We kept each other warm. Worked both ways." He eyed the blond man critically. "Will you let me check you out? I promise not to hurt you." Anymore, he thought ruefully.

Illya looked away, resigned. Solo pulled the blanket back and removed the bandage. The skin around the entry wound was purple and swollen and there was a pronounced bulge in the lower abdomen. Napoleon gently probed the site and heard Illya whimper in pain once before the sound was grimly bitten back. He was down to his last dressing.

The Russian was silent and kept his eyes averted. Napoleon took his pulse and felt a steady but weak rhythm. He tapped the hand closest to him and saw Illya's pain-filled eyes move to meet his. "Can you drink something? Just a little? You're getting badly dehydrated."

The boy nodded. He avidly watched Solo take out his canteen and pour a bit into the cap. Napoleon supported Kuryakin's head as he poured the liquid between the chapped lips. Solo talked to him as he drank. "I don't think the bullet touched stomach or intestines. It should be all right for you to drink small quantities. Your spleen is enlarged from the looks of the swelling. That's where the pain and bleeding is."

The injured man regarded his captor with a puzzled look. Solo noticed the scrutiny. "What?" he asked.

Illya sighed before he answered. "Why you are taking care of me like this? Why you do not just shoot me and get on with your mission?"

Napoleon thought about his answer. This one deserved the truth and would probably see though a lie, anyway. He finger combed his forelock back over his head and sat down on the rocky ground. "Well, Americans don't normally shoot their wounded prisoners. And it's against the Geneva Convention. If you've been told otherwise, it's a lie." He grinned a lopsided smile at Illya before winking at him. "Besides, I honestly don't know who's likely to come marching down that path first. Yours or mine. It never hurts to hedge a bet."

The Russian soldier looked puzzled at that phrase. He looked a question at Solo.

"Hedge a bet means play the odds in your favor. Try to turn the outcome around."

Illya nodded. "Like gambling?"

"Uh huh. So tell me, Mr. Kuryakin, how does a good Communist know about gambling? I thought that was reserved for decadent Amerikanskis."

Illya snorted and then caught his breath. "And for the Politburo."

"See? We're not so different, you and I, my Russian friend."

Kuryakin narrowed his eyes. "That is second time you have called me friend. Do all Americans act this way?"

"Ah, well, probably not. But we're in a bad situation and the two of us at each other's throats won't make it any better, will it? Seems to me cooperation is in order."

Illya shrugged. "I don't believe there is much I can do for you at present time."

Napoleon sobered. "Just remember this if I end up your prisoner, all right?"

Kuryakin looked disturbed and dropped his chin on his chest.


"The North Koreans don't take prisoners. And the Soviets certainly do not. If my people arrive first, we are both dead men."

"Both? Why would your own people kill you?" Napoleon's face betrayed his shock. He was very American and not used to the cannon fodder philosophy of most armies.

"I am... how is it... disposable?"

"Expendable?" Solo asked.

"Yes. Expendable. I am wounded and have not fulfilled my mission. They would shoot me in back of head and leave me behind." He saw the look of horror flash across the American's face. "You, they would interrogate and then shoot."

Solo shook his head, not believing what he heard. "Well, let's just hope my people find us first." He thought for a moment and then regarded the boy. "Look, I'm starving. Do you think you could eat anything?"

Kuryakin shook his head adamantly. The pressure in his abdomen was nearing intolerable levels. Just thinking of food made him nauseous.

Solo gave him another drink of water and then moved to the rock ledge. He took out a C-rat and tore into it, stomach growling loudly as he opened the cans. He ate the beans and weenies, crackers and cheese and peaches, but saved the chocolate bar for later. He'd need the energy. He drained the peach juice from the can into his canteen cup and went back to Kuryakin. He was nearly asleep again, and his color was worse.

"Hey, Illya, wake up, boy."

Kuryakin stirred and didn't object when Solo propped his head on one knee. "Drink this. It's okay. It's just fruit juice." Kuryakin swallowed the thick sweet liquid and gagged.

"Slower. Just try to get this down. You need the fluids and the sugar."

Illya took deep breaths and finished the cup. Solo leaned him against his chest and ran his hands up and down the cold arms.

"All right. You try to wake up a bit and keep that down. I've got an idea." Solo thought aloud, letting Kuryakin hear in case he had a better suggestion.

"Waiting here is getting us nowhere. You need medical attention in the worst way. I'm not thrilled with the idea of the North Korean Army stumbling on us, either. Way I figure it, we've got two options. We can go back the way I came and hope my unit is still there. Or we can go forward and get to my company commander's base."

The Russian stirred slightly. "There is other option."

"Let's hear it."

Solo felt the slender body stiffen. "You shoot me and leave me here and get back to your men."

Napoleon wondered at the mindset that could think the way this Russian did. "That's not going to happen."

Solo's no-nonsense tone appeared to get through to the soldier. Illya's voice sounded very young and frightened as he spoke again. Napoleon was quickly reminded that this soldier was only a teenager. "What..." He took a steadying breath and finished, "What will your people do with me?"

Mindful of the indoctrination this Russian had received, Solo told him the truth. "You'll receive medical attention. When you're stable, you'll be interrogated." He felt the shoulders tighten at the word 'interrogated.' "Don't worry, Illya. We don't use torture or drugs. You'll be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention, I promise you."

The younger man shrugged, obviously not believing it. "My country laughs at the Conventions."

"Well, perhaps that's one of the reasons my country is over here fighting for these people."

Solo cleared his throat when Illya didn't answer. At least the boy had relaxed a bit. "How're you feeling now? Good that you kept the juice down."

"Better, I think."

Napoleon got to his feet and looked down at the Russian, noting that his color had improved. "No time like the present. Can you get to your feet?"

"I will try."

Solo leaned into him and gently pulled while he staggered to his unsteady feet. Kuryakin bent double, but refused to sit down. The soldier weaved, nearly fell, Solo's strength keeping him up.

"Just take it slow and easy. Get your sea-legs."

Illya seemed to get the gist of the words if not their meaning. He slowly raised his head and grimaced, lips set in a thin line. He removed Solo's arm and stood on his own, wavering just a bit. The American stayed close and watched his prisoner's face. When it appeared he would stay vertical, Solo left him long enough to gather his gear. The Soviet standard issue Mosin-Nagent rifle, Solo broke down and threw to the four winds.

The American frowned at the uniform his charge still wore. "Ah, look, Illya, it would be better if you didn't show up wearing a NKA uniform. Technically you could be shot as a spy for wearing it. You being Russian and all." He glanced at the worn trousers. They wouldn't give anything away as they were threadbare and nearly worn out. Solo helped Kuryakin out of the woolen blouse, carefully pulling it away where blood had pooled and stiffened the fabric. Next he placed one blanket across Illya's shoulders and rolled the second one up onto his pack.

A thought struck him as he looked the disheveled man over. "Do you have any identification papers that we should dispose of? Anything in your pack worth going back for?" He hoped there were medical supplies at least.

Illya shrugged. "I only had one extra magazine and a compass. My unit does not carry any type of identification for obvious reasons."

Solo sighed. "No food or first aid supplies?"

"I ran out of food days ago." Illya hung his head in shame. This American seemed to have everything and he had nothing to contribute.

Solo's head came up sharply. "When was the last time you ate anything?"

The Russian shook his head. "What day is it?"


"I shot a rabbit on Monday. My rations ran out a few days before that."

Napoleon swore loudly in Italian. "How do they expect you to do your job under those conditions?"

"My superiors expect me to fulfill my mission or die trying. We do not know any other way."

Napoleon's heart went out to this young soldier whose short life had been dictated by men in authority over him. Hell of a life, he thought. "Well, I can honestly say that you'll be better treated by your enemy than your own countrymen." Illya seemed to not hear him. Napoleon decided to let the lecture go but added, "You'll have to come up with some kind of story as to why you were here. I'm assuming your country sent you here to 'educate' the backward North Korean Army in the fighting ways of Mother Russia?" Kuryakin looked embarrassed but nodded anyway. "All right. From what we've heard from the U.N. forces that story will work. Let's get moving."

Solo went to Illya's bad side, placing the Russian's left arm across his shoulders and wrapping his own right around his waist. He felt the smaller body tighten in pain, but there was no sound. "Ready?"

"Not quite." The Russian looked at him and Solo was startled to see how blue his eyes were this close. Napoleon raised his eyebrows at him in a silent question.

"I would like to know your name. You have not told me. Your name tag says, 'Solo.' Is this real name, yes?"

Solo chuckled. "Yes, but wait 'til you hear my first name." He leaned closer and whispered it in Kuryakin's ear.

The Russian's eyes widened and his first real smile broke across the boyish face.

Napoleon matched the smile. "Come on, tovarisch. We've got 'miles to go before we sleep.'"

"Robert Frost."

Solo goggled at the young Soviet.

"We do have books in Soviet Union, my Amerikanski friend."

Solo shook his head in wonder. There was more to this kid than met the eye. They took a tentative step. Illya hissed in pain but kept going.

"So tell me, Professor. What do you think of Homer?"

Solo kept up the banter as they made their painful way together.

The American decided going back the way he came was the better choice. The distance was shorter and the chances of meeting resistance from the enemy less. He wasn't overdue yet, so he knew it was too early to expect his unit to miss him. Looking at the drawn face of his traveling companion, he knew it wouldn't be long before he'd have to carry Kuryakin. Or leave him behind to get help on his own. He didn't like that option and kept it to himself.

For his part, the Russian was gamely putting one foot in front of the other. But his breathing was harsh and painful and his steps were getting wearier. He stumbled heavily against Solo and moaned. "How... far have we come?" he asked hopefully.

Solo lied, "About five miles." It was closer to three. Sister Mary Cabot would forgive him a white lie, wouldn't she? He knew Kuryakin was near collapse but didn't let on. "Let's take a breather."

Illya groaned in agreement and slid down Solo's body wearily. Napoleon took out the extra blanket and draped it over the lower half of Kuryakin's body. He propped him up against his chest and listened to the struggle for breath going on in the slim body. Illya had a gray tinge to his lips and his fingernails were turning blue. Napoleon sighed and laid his head on top of Illya's hair gently. He hugged him against his body and tried to give him some of his own warmth. It won't be long now.

Kuryakin's head lolled against Solo's shoulder as he drifted in and out of consciousness. He woke abruptly, stiffening and crying out, "Papa! Papa, gde ty?"

Napoleon's eyes brimmed with tears as he listened to the Russian words. He didn't know them but he understood just the same. "I'm sorry, Illya. I'm so sorry. Another time, another place, we might have been friends."

Kuryakin roused a bit and looked around him. He took a few measured breaths and then said, "Napoleon." It was the first time he had called Solo by his first name.

"Yes, Illya?"

"Go. You must go."

Solo grasped his shoulders tightly. "I won't leave you here like this."

Illya shuddered. A sharp sound of agony came from him and the tears finally spilled down Solo's face. "Then... give me your pistol and... walk away."

"No!" Solo shouted. "I won't! I'll carry you the rest of the way if I have to."

One pale hand drifted up slowly to take Napoleon's. "We both know this is... is far as I go."

Napoleon buried his face in Kuryakin's hair, his tears wetting the crown. "I can't, Illya. I can't...."

Kuryakin squeezed Solo's hand weakly. "I know, tovarisch. That is why you're going to leave me the gun."

Napoleon started to argue but he knew the Russian was right. If their positions were reversed, he'd want the same consideration. He shrugged out of his backpack and reached in for the M1911. Through blurry eyes he checked the ammo and made sure it was loaded. He jacked a round and they both flinched from the cold hard sound.

Solo wrapped his arms around his new friend one last time, telling him goodbye. He wanted to tell him more, but he knew the soldier in each of them understood the other despite their differences in ideology. He placed the .45 in Illya's right hand and slowly edged away, and then came around to the front and looked into his eyes. Solemnly, he kissed him on both cheeks, Russian style. Illya smiled a weak smile as he tried to brush Solo's tears away with a hand that was too weak to lift. His fingers brushed Napoleon's lips gently and the American surprised them both by leaning in to kiss him on his cold lips. It was a tender and sweet embrace, and both men were rocked by the promise of it.

Napoleon broke the contact and then laid Illya down gently and covered him as best he could with the blanket. He did not look back as he forced his feet to move away. He knew he couldn't get far enough away not to hear the shot. He kept moving anyway.

The wind had freshened again. He heard it growing as he rounded a bend in the hilly terrain. His vision was dim and it took a minute for his fogged brain to register another noise in the background. It grew as he walked on and it suddenly became clear to him. A jeep! It was the straining sound of a jeep loaded down with too many bodies. He knew that sound well. His elation was short lived as he jumped into the nearest depression. Just who was driving the jeep?

The vehicle came into view a few seconds later and he jumped up as he recognized Sgt. Becker. He waved frantically and leaped into its path. "Stop! Stop, it's me, Solo."

Becker stood in the cab as it lurched to a stop inches from the soldier. "Solo!" he bellowed. "What in Sam Hill are you doing, you idiot?"

Napoleon dropped his pack and his rifle next to the bewildered man. He took off at a frantic run and said, "Follow me."

"Follow....Where the hell are you going?"

Solo had indeed been a track star in college and he ran now like he'd never run before. He tore up the ground, legs pumping and arms pistoning as he flew back to Kuryakin. Almost there... almost there, Illya, hold on. He rounded the bend again and then he heard it. The distinct sound of a .45 firing. No, God, please, no! Not now, not when I'm so close....

He scrubbed viciously at his eyes as he covered the rest of the distance. One last twist and then he was there. Kuryakin's body lay still on the blanket, unmoving. The hand with the .45 lay limply at his side. Smoke still curled lazily from the barrel.

Solo dropped to his knees where he was, too sick at heart to go any further. "Illya, Illya, no...." He didn't want to see the beautiful face marred by the violent end. He covered his face with his hands. A sudden breeze picked up a sound from the blanket. It sounded like his name. Just the wind playing tricks on me. I will not lose it....

He heard it again. "Napoleon?" The faintest stirring of Illya's voice drifted to him. He surged to his feet and ran toward the blanket, spewing gravel over the form as he skidded to a halt. "Illya? Illya!" Kuryakin looked up at him, too weak even to smile. "What happened? I heard the shot?"

"Couldn't hold the gun—too heavy...." There was a scorch mark on the blanket next to Illya's head where his hand had fallen back a split-second before it discharged. Blood seeped from his right ear from the concussive blast.

Napoleon placed his hand on Illya's cold cheek and closed his eyes. Thank you, God, and thank you Sister Mary Cabot. Solo heard the jeep squeal to a stop and the harsh voice of Becker yelling at him.

"What the hell are you doing, Solo?" He saw the body on the ground and strode over, hand automatically going to his sidearm when he neared the scene. Solo placed his hand over the holster.

"No, Sarge. He's my prisoner. My responsibility."

Becker pulled the blanket from the soldier and saw the blood-covered undershirt and sodden field dressing. "Medic!" he ordered. "You shoot him?" He chewed on the stub of a cigar as he asked questions. It had gone out miles ago but he'd held onto it. Now, he threw it to the ground. He had something else to worry.

Solo nodded. He'd slipped under Illya to support his head and was holding the .45 loosely. Even Becker had to agree this man was no threat. He was barely alive.

A medic ran up carrying a field kit. "How bad?" He started when he saw a blond-haired, blue-eyed 'prisoner.' He immediately started an I.V. and pumped in fluids rapidly.

Solo helped and he soon had a unit of plasma in place as well. The corporal finished with a shot of penicillin and inspected the wound. "Nasty. Probably needs a spleenectomy. We get him stable enough that he can live through the operation, that is."

Napoleon nodded and only then met the eyes of his sergeant.

Becker said, "Guess you got some story to tell, huh, Corporal?"

Solo recited an edited version of his story, saying that he had surprised a lost Russian soldier cut off from his unit and that he'd been forced to shoot him in self-defense. He helped the medic move Kuryakin to the bed of one of the deuces, making an impromptu litter out of a slab of wood and a sleeping bag. They hung the bottles of I.V. fluids and made the Russian as comfortable as possible. He was unconscious but his color improved by the minute. Becker had tried to relieve Solo, but he refused to leave the prisoner's side. "He's my responsibility, Sarge. Besides, he'll need to see a familiar face when he wakes up."

Becker scowled at his subordinate. "What do you care, Solo? He is the enemy, you know."

Solo sighed. "Well, Sarge, this enemy is barely old enough to shave. Look at him, he's just a kid."

"Hell, half this platoon ain't old enough to vote, either, in case you hadn't noticed. Doesn't stop them from blowing the bad guys to hell. Won't stop this one either."

"Look, Sergeant Becker, I accept full responsibility for this prisoner. I personally guaranteed him he would be treated according to the Geneva Conventions. I don't give my word lightly." The fire in Solo's eyes flared brightly as Becker took another step nearer.

The sergeant was used to being obeyed, but he also allowed his men to think for themselves when it was warranted. Solo had obviously been through a lot already and making an issue of this man would be counterproductive.

Becker fished into his right blouse pocket and pulled out a third of a cigar. He took his time lighting it and drawing on it until it was going satisfactorily. He pointed the stubby end at Solo. "All right, son. You get to baby-sit the Commie." A cloud of blue smoke gusted from him as he added, "You just remember one thing, though. The only Russians you gonna find 'round here are snipers and assassins. Which one you reckon that cherub-faced Soviet is?"

Napoleon started to reply when a small cough came from the deck. "Corporal Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin. Serial number SVN2249537."

Becker's eyebrows disappeared into his hairline. "Hey, he speaks English." He squatted next to the boy and asked, "What's your unit, and who is your commanding officer?"

Kuryakin laid his head back wearily and recited in a bare whisper, "Corporal Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin. Serial number SVN2249537." He drifted off again, the warmth of the sleeping bag and the first aid lulling him into peaceful sleep.

Becker tromped to the end of the deuce and bellowed. "Kaminski! Get your skinny butt over here on the double."

The unit's dark-haired radio operator came trotting as fast as his gangly legs could bring him. "Yes, Sarge?" he panted.

"Get on that horn and tell HQ we got us a prisoner. A Soviet prisoner name of...." He looked at Solo.

"Kuryakin, Illya Nickovetch."

Becker glared. "What he said, Kaminski...."

"You got it, Sarge."

Becker jumped down from the tailgate and gave one last look to the two soldiers in the truck. "Guess his side should know where he is, at least. There might be somebody missing him."

Napoleon remembered Illya calling for his papa in his delirium. "I hope so," he said. "He did say his own people would kill him if he is returned to them."

The Sarge sighed in frustration. "Look, we had to bug out early this morning. We're so close to the enemy we are the front lines." He seemed to think for a moment and then yelled again. "Evans!"

Evans appeared a moment later. He grinned at Solo and said, "Hiya, Lee, welcome back."

"Thanks, Ev."

"Pardon the interruption, but would you mind breaking it up long enough to get me a uniform?" Becker blew smoke in Evan's eyes and watched him cough and sputter.

"Uh, sure, Sarge. What size?"

Solo answered. "Small-short." He was way ahead of his NCO. "Smart idea, Sarge."

"Well, at least they won't know who they got if we get overrun. Cover up that blond head while you're at it, Solo. Least until he gets an American uniform on." He walked away screaming orders as he went. "Twenty minute chow break. Smoke 'em if you got 'em."

Solo relaxed against the side of the truck. Illya was out cold. A familiar face peeked into the truck bed and smiled at him. He held out a pack of cigs.

Napoleon beamed back and said, "Well, hey, there, Brian. I see you remembered my cigarettes." The older man took the pack and opened the seal. He lit two of them and handed one back. Watkins and Evans appeared as if drawn to the smell of the cigarettes. Ev tossed the uniform to Solo and Solo tossed the pack to his buddies. They all drew the smoke deeply into their lungs with sighs of pleasure.

The guys watched avidly as Solo stripped the soiled and bloody clothes from his prisoner. When he had Illya down to dingy gray briefs, Napoleon got a good look at the condition this Russian soldier was really in. Skinny to the point of emaciated, the pale body shivered in the cold air. Every rib stood out starkly and his collar and hip bones were well defined.

Jackson spoke first. "Geez, don't they feed their guys?"

Evans added, "He's just a kid, ain't he, Lee?"

Solo nodded and rapidly began dressing the injured man. Pulling socks over the cold feet, he noted the soles were covered in sores and blisters. He carefully disconnected the I.V. lines long enough to pull the t-shirt and fatigue blouse over the skinny arms. The trousers hung on the scarecrow frame and he had to snug the waist tabs as tight as they would go. He finished by zipping the bag up as far as he could and then threw another blanket over Illya's chest and upper body.

Sitting back down, Solo enjoyed a moment with his friends. "So how's it going with you boys?"

"Not anything to write home about," Jackson answered. "We got the word that the NK were gonna push our way today so we bugged out before we could get orders confirmed. Sarge says we're just gonna meet up with Company HQ and then regroup."

Evans nodded to the Russian. "So what's the story on this guy, Lee? You shoot him?"

Solo nodded. "He was trying to get the drop on me, but I got him first."

"Atta boy, Lee," Brian said and then regretted it when he saw the look on Solo's face. "Aw, gee, Lee. I didn't mean nothing by it."

Napoleon let him off the hook. "I know you didn't, Brian." He flicked his cigarette butt off the tailgate and took a swig from his canteen. "Brian, go tell the medic he needs another round will you?" Both I.V. bottles were nearly empty.

The truck engine started with a growl and the men jumped down, getting back to their assigned vehicles. "We'll see you later, Lee," Jackson said.

The medic, Cpl. Juarez, hopped into the truck, shoving a box of C-rats into Solo's hands. "Okay, fellows. Thanks for the reception." Napoleon watched his prisoner's new solutions being set into place and dug into his food.

A full stomach and the contented snores coming from the sleeping bag lulled Solo to sleep within a few minutes of the convoy's start. He was propped against his backpack next to Illya when the unmistakable sound of an AK-47 ripped through the air. More weapons joined the melee and the American heard the return fire from BAR's and shouts of alarm and surprise. The truck lurched to a halt and the cry of "Medic!" rang out loud and clear.

Juarez hightailed it out of the truck and went to tend the wounded. Solo jerked his rifle up and placed his pack next to Illya. He wanted to join his squad but knew his first consideration was to guard Kuryakin. He was awake, his eyes wide and fearful. "Schto?" he asked.

"Just lie still. I'll try to take a look around...."

His words were cut off by the intrusion of a small round face at the corner of the truck's flap. "NKA!" Solo shouted, bringing his weapon to bear on the small target. He fired and heard the roar of his enemy's weapon going off at the same time he pulled his trigger. His shot went wide and he felt a searing pain in his right shoulder. He dropped his rifle and staggered backwards from the impact. He landed against the front panel of the truck and saw the barrel of the AK-47 point at his head. It looked like a cannon at this distance and Solo knew his luck had just run out. Another roar went off in the close quarters and he jerked, expecting to be dead. The NK went down with half his head missing.

Napoleon felt like he was mired in molasses. He turned his head to see Illya clutching his .45 automatic. Shaking his head, Solo slumped next to the Russian, ears ringing and shoulder burning like fire. He heard Illya's concerned voice from a long distance.

The next few moments went by like time-lapse photography. Solo could hear his own stressed breathing, and orders being shouted around them. He tried to lift his head but had no strength.

The truck flap was thrown back sharply and Becker filled the opening with his large angry body. He had blood running from his forehead and was loaded for bear. What he saw in the truck was a Soviet soldier holding an American issue .45 auto and Solo lying next to him bleeding heavily. "You Commie bastard," he growled as his finger tightened on the trigger of his sidearm.

Illya dropped the weapon and recoiled. Solo seemed to wake suddenly, aware of the danger at once. "No, Sarge!" he screamed and dove across the Russian's body covering it with his own.

Becker swore and pointed the gun upward. "What are you doing, Solo? Have you gone completely crazy?"

Napoleon's voice was shaky with shock, but he managed to say, "Look under the truck...."

His sergeant followed the blood trail and pulled what was left of the NK out from under the wheel well. He let the body fall to the ground in disgust. His green eyes bored into the prisoner and he pointed the gun at him. "Don't move, understand?"

Kuryakin nodded. His hands were held out in front of him, still poised to ward off the shot. Solo rolled to his back with a groan. "He saved my life, Sarge. The NK had my number for sure...."

Becker jumped into the deuce and ripped into Solo's uniform. The wound looked bad, bright red blood pulsing out with each heartbeat. He pulled a dressing from his kit and pressed it hard into the wound with the heel of his hand. Solo gasped in pain and felt his right hand being taken in a warm grasp. Illya. If Becker noticed, he said nothing.

It was quieter outside and the sergeant yelled at the first body to run by. It was Evans. "Evans, get the medic back here, now."

Evans took a quick peek in the back of the truck and took off at a dead run. "Juarez!"

Napoleon was shaking with shock, his teeth chattering together. Kuryakin threw his blanket over the wounded man and said quietly, "Napoleon?"

He turned his head to the side and saw Illya's concerned face. "Thanks, kid.... I owe you one."

Kuryakin tried Becker. "Skirmishers?"

The large man nodded. "Didn't have much fight in them. They're all dead."

A small voice came from the vicinity of Becker's boots. "Anybody else hurt?"

"Nah. You're the only stiff who gets to go to a nice clean hospital with gorgeous nurses." The bandage was soaked through and he applied a second over the top. He put his knee into the works and heard Solo groan before he passed out.

Juarez jumped in beside him and took over. "I got him, Sarge."

Evans wormed his way in also, and Becker backed off, needing to go supervise the cluster hump outside. They needed to get moving again to reach HQ. Now there were two casualties that needed evac.

Shouting at the top of his lungs before his boots even hit the ground, Becker took charge and two minutes later the convoy roared off again.

Napoleon heard voices all around him, hushed and low as in a church. He swam up from unconsciousness a layer at a time, feeling nothing but softness surrounding him. His nose registered smells now, the sharp antiseptic odors of a hospital. He remembered his sergeant's parting words to him about gorgeous nurses and smiled.

There was a figure in white bending over him. He tried to focus on her but his vision was still blurry. A warm hand lifted his head gently and he felt a cup pressed to his lips. He drank a few sips and then sighed. Opening his eyes again, he nearly gasped. The ugliest woman he'd ever seen was sitting at his side with a cup of water in her hands. He tried to regain his composure and squeaked out, "Ah, thank you, Miss?"

A deep bass voice replied, "Hey, don't let the dress fool you. I'm all man, bud."

Solo shook his head, trying to make sense of it when he heard someone call, "Klinger. Get this man to x-ray, stat."

The man in the starched white nurse's uniform grumbled, "A woman's work is never done," and moved off to collect his patient.

Solo was dumbfounded and looked around. He was in a M.A.S.H. unit by the looks of it and the beds were half full. His head whirled dizzily and he closed his eyes until the vertigo passed. When he could, he opened his eyes and slowly took in the scenery. He didn't recognize any of the patients and then a sharp memory hit him like a brick. "Illya," he whispered.

He tried to sit up and a flash of pain ran through his right shoulder. He groaned aloud and sank back down into the pillow. An I.V. dripped steadily into his arm and he was fuzzy around the edges. Morphine, he reasoned.

He heard footsteps and saw a tall, thin doctor with gray-flecked dark hair take his chart from the end of the bed and then sit next to him. "Corporal Solo, is it?" Napoleon nodded. The doctor smiled at him and briefly placed his palm against Solo's forehead. "No fever. Good, very good."

"Where am I, doctor?" he asked politely. "And is it still Thursday?"

The man's eyes crinkled when he smiled. Solo thought he had a nice honest face. "You're at the 4077th. The best M.A.S.H. in the entire R.O.K. Not that that's saying much, I know, from what I've seen of the R.O.K. In fact, I don't think the R.O.K's A.O.K. at all, do you?" He laughed at his own joke and Napoleon smiled back. "And, no, it's not Thursday anymore. You skipped right past most of yesterday. Slept right through my talented surgical procedure on your shoulder, I might add. I was highly insulted."

Between the morphine and the anesthetic hangover Napoleon wasn't sure how to take this man. It was like having Henny Youngman for a doctor. He winced as he tried to get comfortable.

"Don't move around too much. I wouldn't want to have to go back in on that shoulder. The name's Pierce, by the way. Dr. Hawkeye Pierce." He shook Solo's good hand and checked the drip rate. Satisfied, he asked, "How do you feel?"

Napoleon sighed. "I'm not sure. I'm a bit fuzzy around the edges. I think I just hallucinated a large hairy woman."

Pierce laughed out loud and patted Solo's leg. "That, unfortunately, isn't a morphine hallucination. That's just Klinger. Our resident Section Eight candidate. You know he just got that nurse's cap in the mail today. He's quite proud of it."

Solo squirmed in impatience. "Doctor Pierce? There was another man that may have been brought in with me. A Russian prisoner named Kuryakin. Do you know what happened to him?"

"Blond kid, skinny?"

Solo sighed in relief. "Yes, that's him. He was my prisoner. I, ah, was the one who shot him." Solo wouldn't meet the doctor's eyes.

Pierce felt the waves of guilt coming from the young man and put him out of his misery. "He's doing better now. We've had him in Critical since his surgery last night. In fact he's going to be transferred here later today."

Napoleon let his head drop in relief. "How bad is he?"

Pierce frowned. Why was this soldier so interested in the Russian? "Pretty bad. He nearly didn't make it out of surgery. I removed his spleen and we've been transfusing him all along. His blood count's coming up and I think he's out of the woods for now." Pierce watched the emotions play across the younger man's face and asked gently, "Why are you so interested in him?"

"He saved my life. Shot a NK who was about to kill me." Solo sighed. "And that was after I'd shot him. I promised I'd take care of him." He looked away for a moment, the drugs taking away some of his emotional control. He turned back to the surgeon and asked, "When they bring him in, can you put him next to me? He's just a kid, and he's going to be scared."

Hawkeye was taken aback at the genuine concern this soldier seemed to have for someone who was the enemy. He rarely saw that emotion at this end. He liked this kid instinctively. "I'll see what I can do."

The young man nodded. He seemed much relieved. "Thank you for everything, Dr. Pierce." The dark eyes radiated sincerity as he reached his left hand out. Pierce took it and shook it solemnly.

"Get some, sleep, uh...."

"Napoleon," he said sheepishly.

"No kidding? And people say Hawkeye's odd." He winked at his patient to show he was joking. Solo drifted off again, content that his new friend was alive at least.

Napoleon woke to loud voices intruding in the quiet hospital atmosphere. He blinked awake, trying to get a grasp of where he was. The tall man, Dr. Pierce, was arguing loudly with another man in fatigues. He was shorter, stockier and had the air of someone who was used to giving orders and being obeyed.

"I don't care if he's Stalin himself, he's my patient and I will treat him to the best of my ability." Pierce's voice had an edge of steel to it that Solo recognized. "You are interfering with this man's treatment. Get out of my way or I'll go over the top of you, Flagg."

Napoleon tensed, waiting for the outcome of the verbal war. The other officer, Flagg, was a lieutenant colonel and obviously outranked Captain Pierce. He narrowed his eyes and tried to look down on the gangly doctor. It didn't help that he was a good eight inches shorter. Flagg poked his index finger in Pierce's chest and said, "Your patient is a Commie, Pierce. A Russian Commie. That makes him my responsibility."

The doctor pushed forward onto the stabbing digit and spoke so low that Solo had to strain to hear. "Let me explain something to you, Flagg. I'm the ranking surgeon here. This is my shift. That makes it my hospital. That makes him my patient. If you interfere with his treatment anymore, I will have you escorted off the hospital premises and you can lodge a complaint with the O.D." Pierce snapped his fingers and Klinger appeared at his side with a "Guard" patch on one shoulder of his pink nightgown. He had matching fuzzy pink slippers. But he held a BAR in his hands.

Flagg's eyes disappeared into his weasel-like face as he stared at Pierce. He grunted and stepped back. "I should have expected this kind of behavior. Bunch of Pinko Commie-loving deviants in this unit." He stared at Pierce and then shook his head at Klinger. Klinger blew him a kiss.

Flagg backed up further, trying to distance himself from them, disgust clearly showing. He whispered to his aide and the man left momentarily. He came back with two beefy-looking MPs. The three of them stood in the middle of the doorway to the critical bay. They blocked the gurney trying to get through until Pierce took one of the ends and barreled right through them.

Napoleon sighed in relief as he recognized the man on the litter. His eyes met Pierce's and the doctor motioned to the empty bed next to Solo. He spoke to the orderly opposite him. "Nice and easy, Igor." They transferred Kuryakin to the clean bed, attached the I.V. poles, and tucked a blanket up to his chin. He was still terribly pale and deeply unconscious. Dr. Pierce checked his vitals one last time and winked at Solo.

"Are you through, or do you want to tell him a bedtime story while you're at it?" Flagg shouldered his way to the other side of the Russian and placed the MPs on either side of the cot. They snapped to parade rest with their rifles touching the floor.

"You watch this Commie bastard every second. I want to know the minute he wakes up." Flagg stalked off to find the company commander's office.

Solo heard Pierce talking to the guards as he left: "Yes, watch yourself around this man. He's terribly dangerous. If you aren't careful he might bleed on you."

Solo nearly laughed out loud at the remark but schooled his features. The MPs could make things complicated and Napoleon didn't want to add to the uproar. Pierce sat on his bed and checked his bandages. He kept his voice low and asked, "How's the pain?"

"Not too bad now. I'm stiff more than anything. May I sit up a bit?" Solo wanted to be able to keep an eye on Kuryakin and, with Flagg still around, that might be a tall order.

Dr. Pierce helped him sit up a bit with the aid of a pillow. While he was adjusting the sling he whispered to him, "Your friend is doing fine. He should be waking soon." He moved to the end of the bed between the two patients. "I've ordered you supper. Feel up to eating?"

Solo's stomach rumbled loudly at the mention of food, even army chow.

Pierce smiled. "I'll take that as a yes."

A few minutes later, Igor carried in a metal tray with toast and some fruit. He helped Napoleon get settled and let him sip some of the apple juice before he went to the next bed. Solo, being one-handed, had a hard time with the slippery fruit but gobbled down the toast. He was nearly done when he saw Col. Flagg trailing behind a full bird, yelling about the Russian commie again. The colonel was short, bandy-legged and undoubtedly regular army. His lack of size didn't keep him from being completely in control of the situation. He turned to Flagg and barked at him like a pit bull.

"Don't quote regulations to me, Flagg. I was giving orders when you were still in short pants. I've talked to Dr. Pierce and the Officer of the Day. The soldier in question doesn't appear to be much of a threat."

He pointed a finger in Kuryakin's direction. "That him?" The colonel took the patient's chart and looked it over carefully. The Russian was still asleep, looking small and pale against the olive drab blanket.

"Flagg, my diabetic mother could guard this pathetic excuse for a threat. I believe two MPs are a bit much, now don't you?"

The blustering intelligence officer sputtered, "But, Colonel Potter...."

Potter turned smartly on his heel and glared at the younger officer. "I will allow one and only one guard in this room. And he will be stationed at the door and not by the bed getting in my doctors' way." Potter snapped, and one of the guards moved away instantly to Flagg's side. The colonel glared at the second man and he, too, moved to stand at one side of the bay's door. Solo watched in awe at the way the older man held sway.

Flagg's face had been slowly turning from mottled red to purple as Potter undermined his dubious authority. "I'm going to lodge a protest with General Mitchell as soon as I get back to Seoul, Colonel Potter."

"You do that, Flagg. And don't let the door hit you in the rear echelon on your way out."

Flagg collected his MP and stormed out. Potter shook his head and muttered to himself, "And that man's in Military Intelligence. Frightening." He moved through the door, giving the remaining guard a stern look before he left.

Solo did chuckle at that, laughing quietly as he dug into the rest of his meal, his appetite back in spades. He heard a hushed voice saying, "What is so funny?" Illya.

He turned a little too quickly and gasped as his stitches pulled. But he smiled through the stab of pain at the sight of Kuryakin's blue eyes looking back at him.

"Hey, you're awake." Napoleon signaled the prisoner that they were being watched. Illya's quick eyes flicked to the MP at the door and he nodded fractionally.

"I believe that may be overstatement." Kuryakin shifted on the bed and grimaced.

"How do you feel?"

He shrugged. "Better than last time we talked." He took in the room around him. Most of the other soldiers there were more interested in their supper than in the Russian. The smell of food made Illya's mouth water. He tried not to let on how miserably hungry he was.

The MP had sent an aide to get the ranking officer now that the prisoner was awake. Col. Potter appeared a few minutes later and sat on the empty bed on the Russian's other side. He looked the young man over for a minute and then said, "I hear you speak English?"

Illya nodded. Napoleon could tell he was nervous. He hadn't seen these doctors in action like Solo had and didn't know what to expect. He wanted to help, but knew better than to interfere.

"Yes, sir. Corporal Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin, serial number...."

Potter waved him silent. "Yes, we've gotten all of that, son. You can relax. I'm not here to interrogate you. I'm the commanding officer of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. M.A.S.H. for short. I'm also one of the doctors on staff. I generally put people together here, not take them apart."

At Illya's puzzled look, Solo cleared his throat. "Sir, if I may?"

Potter nodded and Napoleon explained to the confused Russian, "He's one of the good guys, Illya. No one here's going to hurt you."

Potter narrowed his eyes at Solo's use of the Russian's first name. He glanced at his chart and nodded. "Ah, yes. Hawkeye told me your story. You two seem to have been through a lot together in a short time."

Napoleon nodded and pushed his supper tray away. He noticed Illya trying hard not to look at it. "Sir, my, uh, your prisoner hasn't eaten anything for days. Would it be possible to get him some chow?"

Potter looked dismayed and then checked the orders in the chart. "Of course. He can have some bland food. And in the army that means just about anything."

Solo laughed at the man's sense of humor. "Thank you, Colonel Potter."

The C.O. nodded and patted Solo on the knee. "Both of you get some rest. Don't worry about Flagg. I keep him on a very short leash." He winked at Solo before he went out the door.

"Thank you, Napoleon," Illya whispered.

He whispered back, "You're welcome. I told you I'd take care of you, didn't I?"

A short, round Polynesian nurse came back with a tray of matching toast and fruit for Illya. She pulled a chair next to him and gently extricated Illya's arms from the blanket so he could eat. She propped him up and asked, "Are you all right? Take it very slowly; we're not in a hurry here." She flashed beautiful white teeth as she spoke.

"I am fine, Miss, thank you." He reached out for the toast with hands that were shaking terribly. Obviously embarrassed, he let them drop to his sides.

Nurse Kelly looked over at Solo. He smiled at her and she felt butterflies start in her stomach. What a looker, she thought. She turned her attention back to her patient. She gently raised his head and let him drink some apple juice. "My name is Nurse Kelly. Just start with this. Your blood sugar's bound to be low."

After he drained the glass he tried the toast again. This time he made it to his mouth with the triangle of bread. Kelly beamed at him. "Now you've got it. You finish and then I'll be back to give you a sponge bath." She winked at him and watched his pale color turn pink. She gave one last look to the dark-eyed soldier in the next bed, sighed, and then checked on the other patients.

Solo teased Illya unmercifully. "A sponge bath? How did you rate that?"

Kuryakin was too busy eating to answer. The American felt a twinge of guilt knowing it had been days since Illya had eaten real food. He knew he'd be well taken care of now.

As he settled back on his pillow, he saw a bleached-blonde bombshell wearing oak clusters come in and ask for a report. Kelly gave her a quick rundown of patients' conditions and then she glanced his way. "Where's the Russian prisoner?"

Illya meekly raised his hand. The nurse seemed surprised he spoke English. She drifted over and Napoleon noted with approval the womanly hips and the smell of expensive perfume. He sniffed appreciatively. Now this is my kind of nurse....

Major Houlihan also read the chart and looked at the half-empty tray. "So you like American food, do you?" She looked to the MP and said, "Keep a close eye on him. Make sure you get all the utensils back." She then glanced Solo's way. She liked what she saw in the dark looks and thick wavy hair. "How are you doing, soldier?"

When she smiled at him, Napoleon was reminded of a barracuda he ran into in the Pacific once. A shudder ran through him and the major noticed.

"Are you cold? I'll get you another blanket. Nothing's too good for our American troops." She stressed the word American and glared at Illya's bed.

"Ah, no, ma'am. I'm fine, thank you."

"Very well." She stood and winked at Solo before she moved on.

Nurse Kelly returned with a steaming basin and clean white towels. "Are you through?" Illya nodded as she took the tray and set it on the floor. The guard picked it up immediately and counted the silverware.

Kelly frowned but then efficiently began stripping Illya's gown away. She kept his lower half covered and began washing the tense body. Every rib protruded and his collarbone jutted from the white skin. Cleansing him gently, Kelly talked soothingly to him to ease his embarrassment. Kuryakin kept his eyes averted the entire time and bit his lip as she removed the lower half of his gown. She reached hip bones and tried to keep the shock from showing on her face at Illya's condition. Tears welled up in her eyes as she tenderly ministered to the Russian.

As Nurse Kelly finished with his swollen and oozing feet, Maj. Houlihan walked by and stood at the foot of the bed. She, too, was troubled by the man's physical infirmity and shook her head. He may be the enemy but he was still a patient. She softened her stand and looked at Kelly. She had finished with the bath and covered her patient with a clean gown.

"Kelly, see if you can get him some more apple juice, and maybe some applesauce. Looks like he could use it." As her subordinate left, Houlihan covered the Russian with a clean sheet and blanket but rolled the bottom part back, exposing the infected feet. She told the Russian it would help them heal if left open to the air. "It will, however, give you a bad case of cold feet."

Illya didn't get it, but Napoleon laughed. Houlihan smiled at both of them. The skinny Russian kid smiled at her, and she nearly gasped at what the blue eyes and gorgeous smile did to her. The tough-as-nails nurse left before she made a fool of herself. Solo beamed at her as she departed.

As he watched Illya dig into his applesauce, Solo sighed happily. They were both full, clean and comfortable. Napoleon thought of his friends still on the front lines and wished them well. He knew his injury would be enough to send him stateside for the remainder of his tour, if not get him home all the way. Worry began gnawing at his gut as he wondered what would happen to his new friend. Dr. Pierce said they'd be sent to Seoul and then to Tokyo, but at some point Illya would be taken from him. It was likely he'd lose track of him and never see him again. His heart clenched at the thought. Solo had his college degree to finish and an uncertain future ahead of him, but nothing like what his Russian friend had in store. He began trying to think of ways to help Illya in his peculiar situation.

Napoleon looked at the friend in need as he lounged against the pillow he was propped against. He drained the last of the apple juice with a sigh and glanced at Solo. He smiled and the look on his face sent shivers all the way to Solo's toes.

The American glanced down, a bit embarrassed by his response. What was it about this man that affected him in new and exciting ways? Solo decided not to worry or question the feeling but just enjoy it.

He leaned carefully closer to Illya's bed and whispered, "Illya, we need to talk." Kuryakin saw the serious look on Solo's face. He eyed the MP, but the man was more interested in flirting with a nurse than watching the threat to democracy currently in Bed Two.

"You know you're going to be questioned by our government, don't you?"

"You mean, your government?" The Russian smiled disarmingly.

"Right. Have you thought about what you're going to say?"

The blond frowned. "I can't tell them anything. It would be treason."

Now Napoleon frowned as well. "Illya, listen to me. You told me your own people would kill you if you went home."

"Yes. I failed in my duty and was captured as well. They will assume that I told my interrogators everything I know and would sanction me." The Russian said this with no outward show of emotion as if he knew it to be a fate that he was powerless to change.

"Well, what if you could stay in the United States? Stay with me? Would you do that if you could?"

Illya looked stunned. It wasn't anything he'd even thought was possible. "But how, Napoleon?"

Solo was elated. Illya didn't question the lifeline he'd just thrown him. He'd merely grasped it with both hands. "You tell the officer in charge here, Colonel Potter, that you want to defect. He'll offer you political asylum. They won't send you back to a government that will kill you."

Illya looked lost. "Defect?" He stared at his hands clasped tightly in front of him. "I... I don't know...."

Solo's heart went out to him. He didn't know what he was asking Illya to give up back home. He thought back to the delirious soldier crying for his papa and swallowed. "I'm sorry, Illya. I didn't think it through. I'm just trying to find a way to help." The American lowered his dark eyes and whispered, "Do you have family back home?"

Illya seemed to come back to himself at the question and sighed sadly. "No, Napoleon. Not anymore. Stalin took care of that with the purges. That is why I am..." he looked around nervously, "in sniper unit. The army comes to orphanages and takes us to fight. I was very good with gun. Very good."

"So they trained you and sent you to kill or be killed without any consideration of what would happen to you." Napoleon felt his face flush with rage. He imagined truckloads of Ukrainian and ethnic Russian teenagers being dumped like garbage in war-ravaged Korea merely to gain favor with the Chinese.

"Illya, my young Russian friend, you just tell that same story to Colonel Potter. You are the type of person the Americans are here fighting for."

The Russian wiped the moisture from his eyes as he looked at the man beside him. Illya's face was calm but the look in his eyes showed his inner turmoil.

"It will be all right, tovarisch. Didn't I tell you I would take care of you?"

"Da, moy Amerikanski friend."

The next morning Dr. Pierce was doing rounds. He checked the Russian first, noting the improved general condition and that the surgical site was healing well. "You're doing well, comrade."

"Thank you, doctor. I wish to tell you I have much gratitude for you." Illya hung his head shyly. He only seemed to lose the timidity when he was talking to Solo. The American had to admit it drove the nurses crazy and had them lusting all over the skinny little body. They kept bringing him extra tidbits to eat, especially Nurse Kelly. Solo thought he may yet have to beat them off with a stick. Jealous? Solo thought to himself.

Hawkeye patted the kid's head. "Don't mention it. I got to twist the knife a bit in Flagg's side. Did I tell you I really hate that guy?" He beamed at the Russian and shook the proffered hand solemnly.

Pierce moved on to Solo. His shoulder was mending well and his mobility was coming back. "Looks like you'll be able to lose the sling in a couple more days."

Solo nodded. "How much longer will we stay here before transferring to Seoul?"

Hawkeye didn't answer at first and seemed reluctant to spit it out. "You're going out day after tomorrow. Your friend here...." Illya looked nervous at the doctor's discomfiture. "Colonel Flagg and his Traveling Band of Paranoia arrive in the morning to question Kuryakin. I thought you'd both want to know."

Solo looked to Illya and nodded, sharing his strength, giving him courage. Now, he mouthed.

The smaller man seemed to wilt and then drew in a deep breath. "Dr. Pierce, I have statement to make, please."

Thinking it was another thank you, Hawkeye turned to the Russian with a half-smile on his lips.

"I, Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin, wish to defect."

The smile died on his face as Pierce realized what the Russian said. Napoleon laughed at the look of shock that replaced the smile. "Not what you were expecting, eh, doc?"

Pierce snapped his mouth shut and stood up. "I'll, uh, go get Colonel Potter." The long legs took him out of the room in record time.

Solo beamed at Kuryakin. "Boy, kid, do you know how to clear a room or what?"

All hell had broken loose at the 4077th and one small blond Russian was the cause of it. Napoleon Solo sat back and watched it from the front row. Colonel Potter had indeed returned with Hawkeye and had listened as Illya had carefully repeated his bombshell.

Twenty minutes later, both MPs were back at his sides, Col. Flagg was choppering in from Seoul, and one particular American was wearing the biggest grin he'd ever manufactured in his life.

Kuryakin was stymied by all the attention and fuss. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry so he did neither. Potter told him that a Russian interpreter and an ambassador from the Russian consulate in Tokyo were on their way to boot.

"You've sure stirred up a hornet's nest, young man. Are you sure about this?"

"Yes, Colonel. I wish to defect."

Potter sighed. "Well, I can't say as I blame you knowing what you'd go back home to. How old are you, son?"

Illya's blue eyes flicked to Solo quickly. He nodded. "Sixteen, sir."

Shaking his head, Potter looked the young soldier in the eye. "Do you understand what this means: defection? You can never go home again. You'll be leaving everything you ever knew, everyone you ever loved behind. You will have no one."

Illya dropped his head, sorrow mingling with his newfound hope. Eyes welling, he heard a small sound from the bed next to him.

"Ah, sir, that's not exactly true." Solo looked at his friend and saw the sad face lift to his. "He'll have me."

Illya turned away as tears finally spilled down his cheeks. He rubbed them away quickly. Potter had to clear his throat before he could speak. "All right, I think you know what you're doing. There are going to be some uncomfortable moments in the next few days. You'll be coerced, strong-armed and downright threatened before the Soviets will give up."

He stood and extended his hand for the Russian to shake. "But know this, Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin. If you wish to become an American citizen, I won't let anything stop that. This is my unit, my army and my job. You, and millions like yourself, are why I became a soldier in the first place." Illya took the offered hand and Potter said, "Welcome to freedom, son."

It was soon after lunch that Col. Potter made another appearance. "Corporal Kuryakin, the Russian ambassador is here. Are you ready?"

Illya sat up straighter in his bed and replied, "Yes, sir, I am."

Potter frowned. "Now he's going to make a lot of noise and stir up the water but don't you worry. I had a mule like that back home. He can't hurt you and he can't take you against your will. These guards here are to protect you, not him. Got it?"

Kuryakin nodded and took a deep breath. "Bring him in."

Col. Flagg entered first, moving aside to let in a pair of steely-eyed, no-nonsense types in bad suites. KGB, Solo decided. They scanned the room and seemed to be satisfied that it was secure. One of the pair motioned behind him and a tall bear of a man strode in, wearing the full ceremonial dress of an ambassador in the service of Mother Russia. He puffed himself up to full stature and then stood in front of Potter. An interpreter kept close to his left elbow, hanging on every movement and utterance. Another man wearing a tweed jacket entered last and kept to the back of the contingent. He puffed on an unlit pipe.

Flagg moved in and made brief introductions. "May I introduce to you his Excellency, Boris Andreivich Paslov, Ambassador to the Russian Consulate, Tokyo, Japan. Comrade Paslov, Colonel Sherman T. Potter, commanding officer, 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital." Flagg's voice seemed to catch on the words 'Excellency' and 'comrade' as if they were rancid. The interpreter parroted every word. Bad Suits One and Two flanked the ambassador.

Potter bypassed the salutes and instead shook Paslov's hand. The big man looked shocked at first but grinned at the little officer's courage. Paslov then locked eyes on Kuryakin and grunted. He spoke in rapid-fire Russian with the interpreter struggling to keep up.

"So this little one is the reason for all the fuss? He is hardly worth our efforts." Paslov drew closer to Illya's side and addressed him. "So tell, me, little one, is this true what they tell me? I must hear it in your own words."

Kuryakin was mortified at being addressed as 'little one' in front of so many soldiers. His face was scarlet but he looked Paslov in the eyes as he said clearly in Russian, then English, "I wish to defect."

The ambassador made a dismissive noise. "Such big words from such a small person. I have your military records. You are sixteen, yes? What does a child know of the world outside his own home? Why would you want to leave your homeland at such a tender age? I think these Americans have been stuffing your head with nonsense and clouding your judgment. Put all this behind you and come home with me now, Illya Nickovetch. Your country will forgive you the indiscretion of youth."

Illya sighed and linked his arms across his chest. He addressed Paslov. "It is true I am young. But not so much as you think, Comrade Paslov. Comrade Stalin made sure that I grew up before my time. My parents were murdered before my eyes in a pogrom of our 'Beloved Leader's' design. I was sent to an orphanage where I was taught whom to hate and how to kill. My homeland placed a rifle in my hands and sent me to a foreign land to kill their ally's enemies. And because I failed in my mission and was captured as a result, my same country will gladly put a bullet in my head as soon as I reach Mother Russia." It took a minute for the interpreter to translate the entire speech. Illya took a breath and looked Paslov straight in the eyes.

"So you see, Comrade, I am not as innocent or as stupid as you believe me to be. As for the Americans stuffing my head with nonsense...." Illya looked at Napoleon for the first time since the summit began. "It took an American to show me that there are people in the world who care enough to fight against such injustices, and who are brave enough to try to stop them from happening. I would be very proud to be one such as this."

Paslov turned purple with rage and his meaty hands clenched in impotent fury at the insolence of the young soldier. The KGB bulldogs moved a half step closer to the bed, eyes flicking from each other to the prisoner. The MPs instinctively moved closer, becoming more of a presence than before. The ambassador saw the direction this meeting was heading and didn't like it. He had seen the way the child had looked at the American soldier in the bed next to him. He backed up a step in disgust and said, "It is obvious you are a traitor to your own kind and a deviant as well." Paslov looked pointedly at the dark American. "We have no desire to keep such perversion in our ranks. You are a disgrace and an embarrassment to every loyal Russian who ever lived." Paslov drew himself to his full height and spat on Kuryakin's face. His spittle ran down Illya's cheek, but he did not try to wipe it off. He simply stared defiantly at the ambassador. Potter took a step closer, but Illya made a small gesture.

The diplomat snarled, "I would suggest you stay very far away from Russia, malenkiy izmennik. The next time you see Russian soil will be your last." He gestured to the entourage and whirled on his heel, his greatcoat flapping behind him as he marched away.

Flagg followed the party with a smile on his normally sour face. One Commie one-upping another Commie. Maybe today won't be such a loss after all....

The tweedy gentleman stood where he was for a moment longer.

Napoleon looked at his friend. Col. Potter walked over and offered him a handkerchief. He was too stunned to notice. Potter reached over and gently cleaned the young man's face. Solo threw his covers back and carefully got to his feet. He sat heavily on Illya's bed and placed his good arm around the shaking man's shoulders. Illya seemed to come to his senses and turned his head to see his friend smiling at him. "You all right, Illya?" Kuryakin looked lost and alone and the sight made Solo's heart ache. He felt responsible for everything that had happened to this young man.

The Russian nodded slowly and then asked quietly, "What will happen to me now?"

A cultured British voice came to them from across the room. "That, young man, depends entirely on you." The man in tweed crossed the room to stand directly at the foot of Kuryakin's bed. Solo went back to his cot and sat on the edge.

Col. Potter pointed a thumb at him. "Corporal Kuryakin, this is Alexander Waverly, late of MI-6. We go back a long way, and he's someone you can trust. He owed me a favor, so I called it in." Potter winked at the middle-aged man and pulled a chair over for him to sit next to Kuryakin's bed. "I'll be in my office when you're through here, Alex. Come by for a drink. I've got a bottle of Glen Fiddich hidden away."

"I shall do just that, Sherman. I believe I have an offer to put on the table concerning these young men here."

Napoleon watched the older man, surprised to be included in the meeting. MI6? Likely, but there was something else going on with this operative. Something he couldn't place, exactly. Talking surely wouldn't hurt, and his own options were limited by the army and his remaining tour.

"Now, I'm certain you want to know just who the devil I am and why I should be interested in a Russian defector and his self-appointed guardian angel." He arched bushy eyebrows at Solo and smiled to let him know the jest was in good humor.

Napoleon colored anyway and cleared his throat. "Devils and angels. Well, at least I'm in good company, sir." Sister Mary Cabot, are you pulling strings up there? he thought as he regarded the Englishman.

Waverly chuckled. "Yes, well, as am I. And the current company I am keeping is with an organization called the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement."

"U.N.C.L.E.?" Solo guessed. Odd name for a police department.

Illya turned puzzled brows his way and shrugged. "How would we fit in with such a place?"

"That remains to be seen. But my organization is international and non-political. You, sir, are a man without a country and therefore just what I am looking for. And your friend, Mr. Solo, is it? He has demonstrated the unique ability to look past national and ethnic considerations to see the humanity involved. That is indeed a rare gift and one which I seek in my operatives."

"But, sir, I have the rest of my tour to serve. And Illya's only sixteen...."

"Quite. Quite so. I have an offer to make to both of you. I have the full cooperation of the Army and the United States government. Mr. Solo, you may avail yourself of the G.I. Bill and finish your college degree when you get stateside. The remainder of your contract with the Armed Services will be fulfilled with U.N.C.L.E. upon graduation and your acceptance of our employ."

Waverly turned to look at the young Russian. He was fidgeting in his covers, unsure of what this all meant to him. "And, as for you, Mr. Kuryakin, you will be given citizenship no matter what you decide. It is your right and there will be no strings attached."

The blond turned to Napoleon again for interpretation. He quickly answered, "Ah, no restrictions on your freedom, Illya. You can refuse the offer with no ill effect."

The boy nodded and Waverly continued. "You are far too young to be sent to our Survival School as yet. We would enroll you in the finest colleges available and educate you according to your interests and aptitudes. At the culmination of your education, you would serve the U.N.C.L.E. the equivalent number of years of study our group provided. After that obligation is fulfilled you would have free choice as to your direction." The spymaster stopped and sat back in his chair, allowing the men time to let his words sink in.

"Now, if you will excuse me, gentlemen, I have a bottle of very fine Scotch awaiting me." He handed a business card to each of them and said, "I will be contacting you once you reach Tokyo and before you are sent to the United States. I assume that Mr. Solo will be your designated sponsor to the U.S., Mr. Kuryakin?"

Illya threw a look to his friend who nodded and smiled. "I would be honored, Mr. Kuryakin."

Waverly stood and then solemnly shook hands with each soldier. "I know this a lot to throw at you both. But I believe my organization is the finest of its kind in the world and that we could mutually benefit from each other's involvement in it. You have time to mull it over and Colonel Potter is an outstanding judge of character. Seek out his opinion as well if you feel so inclined."

He finally lit the cold pipe and sucked on it until satisfied of its draw. "It has been a pleasure meeting you both. I hope to see more of you in future. Good day."

"Good day, sir," came simultaneously from both beds. Waverly left the bay with only the scent of his pipe lingering.

Napoleon took off his sling and gave his shoulder an experimental shrug. He winced, and got back under the covers. He glanced at Illya who looked dazed. Solo was sure his face mirrored some of the confusion as well. "So, what do you think, chief?"

Illya frowned. "I was about to ask you same question."

Solo began to reply when he saw Nurse Kelly come in with a heavily-laden lunch tray. She stopped at Kuryakin's cot, of course. He beamed at her and she blushed. She left to get a second tray.

"Well, in my family, we never make an important decision on an empty stomach." He watched indulgently as Illya dug into his food. "And from the looks of it, you agree with that."

Kuryakin stopped chewing long enough to reply, "We have similar saying in my country."

Solo grinned. "Yes, well, are you sure you aren't Italian?"

Cambridge—July 4, 1952

Stepping off the train, Napoleon looked around the platform at the ebb and flow of travelers surrounding him. He pulled at his collar and shot his cuffs for the tenth time in a half-hour. It was dreadfully hot for England in July. His fingers were sweating where they were wrapped around the handle of his travel case. Why am I so nervous? he wondered.

His destination was the Nyton Hotel in nearby Ely. He'd been told it was walking distance from the station. Solo felt the rivulets of sweat running down his sides and opted for a taxicab. He stepped to the curb to wait for an available black cab. A very proper-looking gentleman tipped his hat at Napoleon as he stepped into the cab ahead of him. He had only a moment's wait until another car pulled over.

He tossed his case into the back and climbed in. "Nyton Hotel, please."

"Yes, sir." The driver pulled the meter and took off in a cloud of sooty exhaust. Napoleon watched as the quaint shops and businesses rolled by. The prevailing architecture was French Gothic and the ornateness was breathtaking to the American. Illya would have to take him on a tour after they'd had a chance to catch up. Solo smiled as they drove recklessly on the wrong side of the road. He'd never be able to get used to that. A double-decker strained past his cab, loaded with vacationers and students taking summer reading sessions. Solo was lucky that Illya had a weekend off, what with his murderous load of academics next term.

Kuryakin was bound and determined to catch up with Napoleon in education and advancement if not in actual age. Solo had one more year at Kansas University and then he would join U.N.C.L.E. immediately after graduation. Alexander Waverly had taken a keen interest in these two men and had guided their steps as their paths led to New York.

U.N.C.L.E. tested Kuryakin soon after his arrival in London and found an amazing intellect hiding in the shy, unassuming boy. After some needed tutelage to bring him up to standards, Cambridge had welcomed him to their halls with open arms. The Russian had just turned seventeen when he began his course of study in quantum mechanics. Instead of falling behind his older classmates, Illya had buckled down and left them in the dust. His scores were uncanny.

Solo didn't know it, but his friend's obvious Russianness combined with his natural reticence was responsible for Illya's alienation where his classmates were concerned. They had little in common with the wunderkind and so avoided him with great regularity. He had written Napoleon, and kept the friendship alive and used it as a lifeline. Only the thought of graduation and his future with U.N.C.L.E. kept him from despair. Illya worked like a man possessed and his benefactors saw the benefits.

Solo saw the consequences. Illya didn't come out and say it, but he was numbingly lonely. He studied alone, ate alone, and lived alone in his one-room staircase. It was just as well that he had a single since no one seemed willing to have a "Mad Russian" for a roommate. Napoleon had read between the lines in Illya's letters and seen through the glowing reports Mr. Waverly forwarded to him. Ambassador Paslov's words came back to taunt Solo. Illya truly had no one.

Every football game Napoleon attended, cheering with his friends, weighed on him. Every girl he went out with, dance he enjoyed and late night pizza party reminded him that his friend was halfway around the world, sitting at his desk wondering when he would see the American again.

So Solo had scrimped and saved and used part of his G.I. Bill stipend to pay for a trip to England. The Fourth of July was on a Friday this year, giving Napoleon enough time away from his summer job to schedule the trip. He had just managed to pay for one night at the hotel, wanting to get Illya away from the university environs for a bit at least.

He held the postcard Illya'd sent him telling him he'd meet Solo at two o'clock at the hotel. The postcard had a picture of a "Bump Race" on the River Cam. Napoleon looked at the smiling faces of the rowers and wondered if Illya had actually gone to watch any of the contests.

The taxi lurched to a stop outside the Nyton and Solo paid the fare. He pulled his suitcase from the floor of the cab and wiped sweat from his brow. Upon entering the hotel's lobby, he felt a cool breeze slide over him and sighed with relief. The thick stone walls kept the heat of the midday out nicely. A bellboy took his bag and waited while he checked in. "Solo. Napoleon Solo. I have a room reserved."

The manager checked his calendar and nodded approval. "Yes, Mr. Solo. I have your reservation. A single on the second floor. Will that be suitable for your needs, sir?"

"Perfectly, thank you." The American dabbed the sheen of perspiration from his upper lip. "Is it always this warm in England in July?"

The man smiled. "No, sir, it is usually much wetter this time of year. But I'm sure our accommodations will keep you comfortable. If you have need of anything, anything at all, sir, please do not hesitate to ask."

"Ah, yes, I need to leave a message for a friend. Please see to it that he is shown to my room when he arrives." Solo pulled out an envelope with Kuryakin's name on it and passed it to the concierge.

"Very good, sir." He clapped his hands. "Peter." The bellboy took the suitcase and the room key and led the way.

Solo had at least an hour before Illya was scheduled to arrive. He took a cool shower, washing away the grime of travel and heat and felt measurably better. He perused the travel brochures and looked at the local maps, planning the rest of the weekend. There were wonderful cathedrals and castles nearby and he hoped they'd have time to poke around in them. Like most Americans, he was intrigued by the antiquity of Europe.

Solo looked at his watch and wiped his sweaty palms on his trousers. He was unaccountably nervous at the thought of seeing Illya again. They'd last been together in New York, compliments of Alexander Waverly and the U.N.C.L.E. Before they had signed letters of intent, the old fox had wanted to show off his state-of-the-art steel and glass castle. He'd given a personal tour and both Napoleon and Illya had been impressed by the place. It had sealed their commitment to the organization just as Waverly knew it would.

Now here he was one year later, a bit wiser and a bit older and sweating like a nervous pig. The feelings that had surfaced for Illya in Korea had not dimmed despite their separation. If anything, their forced absence had, indeed, made his heart grow fonder. Said heart was beginning to beat faster as the hour approached. Solo sighed and sat down on the old-fashioned four-poster bed. He forced himself to calm and drank a glass of water from the bed stand. Damn, it was hotter here than back home.

He nearly dropped the glass as someone rapped on the door. "Mr. Solo?" It was Peter from the lobby. Napoleon set the glass down with a slightly shaking hand and drew open the door. His breath caught as he saw Illya in the hall just behind the bellboy. His eyes were still the same brilliant blue he'd almost forgotten. Peter took a step to the side and asked, "Is this your party, sir?"

More than you'll ever know, kid, Solo thought. He nodded and slipped a coin to the young man. "Thank you, Mr. Solo, sir." He left and then Napoleon was alone in the doorway, drinking in the sight of his Russian.

They grinned at each other and Solo broke the silence by grabbing the thin form and hauling Illya into the room bodily.

"Privyet, moy droog." He greeted Illya Russian style, giving him a bear hug and kissing him on both cheeks. Kuryakin blushed furiously and then drew Napoleon into a hug of his own, tender and welcoming. Napoleon grunted softly in surprise. Illya was by far less demonstrative and the fact that he was initiating contact told Napoleon more in a few seconds than he'd gleaned from Kuryakin's letters in the preceding year.

He hugged back, luxuriating in the feel of the slender warm body in his arms.

Illya pulled back and they stayed linked loosely, their hands on each other's forearms. "You're still too skinny, Illya. Don't they feed you here?"

"And you, my American friend, are getting fat. Too much beer and pizza, I'd wager." Solo's jaw dropped and he looked at Illya for a moment before he burst out laughing.

"What is so funny?" Illya's brow puckered as he tried to figure out his friend.

"You; you big oaf. You have an English accent!" Solo looked at the shocked face and laughed even more.

"I most certainly do not." The more he spoke the more pronounced his accent became and the larger the smile on Solo's face grew. Illya dropped his hands and sat in one of the wing-backed chairs near the fireplace.

"Methinks you doth protest too much," Solo retorted in his best English accent, which was actually fairly awful. Illya smiled his shy, sweet smile and Napoleon felt his heart do a quick roll-over.

"Hmmpf. If I do have a bit of a local accent, it's merely self-preservation. I've learned to try not to sound too Russian." The way he said the last made Solo cringe. He sat opposite Illya in the matching chair and leaned forward, their knees almost touching.

"Has it been very bad here, Illya? Tell me the truth; you know I can tell if you're lying. On paper or in person."

Kuryakin sighed. "It has been hard without you. But the professors are great men and they treat me with kindness. I am learning so much here, Napoleon. I know I will make Mr. Waverly proud. That is worth it all."

"Worth the loneliness, moy droog?" He edged closer, touching his knees to Illya's.

"I have been much worse than lonely in my lifetime, Napoleon," Illya whispered.

Those words broke something inside the American and he rose, pulling Illya into his arms once again. "Then let me begin to give you new memories, Illya, mine." He caressed the pale skin of Illya's neck, sliding fingers gently up the soft cheek and across to the full lips. Illya threw his head back in delight at the long-awaited touch, pressing forward into the heat of Napoleon's body.

Napoleon wrapped his arms tightly around Illya's back, replacing his fingertip touch with his lips. Starting at the point of Illya's chin, he worked his way across the Adam's apple and ended under his earlobe, sucking the soft flesh into his mouth, nibbling eagerly on the tender morsel. The deep moan spurred him on as he repeated his ministrations across to the other ear, tasting it as well and comparing the flavor to its twin. Illya was panting, eyes closed and delirious with passion.

The American breathed in the alluring Illya-scent, nuzzling in the soft hair above his ear and whispering how much he'd missed him. Other than one goodbye kiss in Korea, they had not been physical with each other. Napoleon had thought Illya too young and innocent and had wanted to be patient and gentle with him. There was little of that boy remaining now as Kuryakin took the lead and turned his face, capturing Napoleon's mouth in a passionate kiss. Solo was happy to let him lead, allowing his lover to suckle at his mouth, tasting him with a wet and inquisitive tongue. Napoleon moaned and delved into Illya's mouth as well, savoring the first taste of his passion.

They broke for air, gasping in tandem, hearts beating furiously. Illya looked into Napoleon's hazel eyes and saw what he was hoping to see mirrored there. He took his hand and led him to the bed, then lay down and drew the larger body to him.

Solo kicked off his shoes and helped Illya out of his. Their shirts were drenched with sweat and were removed hastily. Solo blanketed Illya and sighed blissfully as he felt the soft smooth skin beneath his own. He kissed him again, licking and nibbling at the full lower lip that he'd dreamt about in his dorm room late at night. Illya's hands were restlessly roaming across his back, caressing the hard muscles there. "Illya," he groaned as he felt him move lower and sweep across his ass.

Napoleon thrust his hips against the hard pelvis beneath him and felt Illya's erection respond with a jerk. Illya hissed and said, "Napoleon, please. I have to touch you. I need to...." Nodding, Solo moved off enough to remove the rest of his clothes as he watched Illya do the same. The Russian was uncircumcised, the heavy head of his cock bobbing as he sat up on the bed. Napoleon was mesmerized by him, and reached a shaking hand out to caress the jutting flesh. His hand was barely able to close around the thick cock, and he played gently with the foreskin.

Illya nearly sobbed and suddenly Solo was flat on his back, his own erection begging for attention. "Krasiivy, Napoleon. Krasiivy." He opened his mouth to ask for a translation when he felt the hot wet mouth descend on him. Rational thought left him as Illya suckled the head and rimmed him with his tongue. Solo threw his head back in ecstasy as Illya happily drew him deeper, adding his hands to the sweet assault.

Even in his fantasies, Napoleon hadn't dreamt it could be this good. But he had wanted a much slower lovemaking than Illya seemed ready to accept. He took deep breaths, calming himself and then gently guided Illya's mouth back to eye level.

"What?" Illya frowned. "Did I do something wrong? I know I don't have much experience...."

"Illya Kuryakin, will you shut up? Any more of your 'inexperience' and I would have gone off like a rocket. Come here." He positioned them side by side where the foreplay could be reciprocal. "I want to taste you as well." He then began a slow inventory of the luscious young body before him, mapping and exploring every hidden hollow and hotspot with tongue, lips and fingers. He latched onto one puckered nipple and Illya arched into his mouth, babbling in Russian. Grinning around the hardening flesh, Solo slowly tongued his way to the other and bit gently.

"Bozhe moy," Kuryakin whispered and dropped his head, kissing the top of Solo's dark hair. Lapping gently, Solo trailed his slick tongue down the trail of blond hair to Illya's navel, stopping to kiss his way all around it. His lips came up against a ridge of flesh and, puzzled, he drew his head up slightly. A puckered line of scar tissue ran along Illya's left side, a reminder of a time when they were enemies and bent on killing each other. It brought Solo up short, and he drew in a deep breath, rattled.

Illya felt the change in his lover and touched the dark head. "Napoleon?" he asked worriedly. "What is it?"

Solo gently outlined the wound with a trembling hand. "This."

Illya let his head drop back. "Oh. I know. It is ugly isn't it?" He sighed in sorrow. "I'm sorry I'm not so pretty as you wish me to be."

Napoleon was on him so quickly Illya didn't even see him move. The dark face was clouded in anger, and he took Illya's face in his hands, holding him fast. "Now you listen to me, Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin. I almost killed you once. The only thing ugly about that scar is the reminder that I was the one who gave it to you. You are the most beautiful man I've ever seen. I only hope you can forgive me for hurting you so badly."

Illya exhaled, relieved. "Oh, is that all?" he joked. He saw the pain in Solo's eyes and sobered. "Napoleon, we were soldiers. If I had seen you first, it would have been I who shot you. If I had, would you forgive me now?"

"You don't need to ask, Illya."

"Then neither do you, Polya." Napoleon heard the diminutive of his name and decided he liked it. "Now, can we get back to more pleasurable topics?"

"Just what I had in mind." Napoleon's erection had flagged during his detour, but the taste and the sounds of his lover brought it back with a vengeance. He was throbbing and nearly at the edge. He had to have Illya now. The Russian's erection was hard and leaking and Solo licked the pink tip just peeking from the surrounding skin. Illya groaned and wadded the bedspread in his fists as he tried not to thrust up into Solo's mouth.

Napoleon had never fellated a man before, and was at a loss as to what to do about the foreskin. He grasped Illya in one hand and rolled the loose flesh back with his other. Illya seemed to take great pleasure at that, so he used the covering to massage the head of his cock back and forth. After a few strokes Kuryakin growled and began to rock his hips with the motion, panting faster. Napoleon wondered what it must feel like, since he had never known anyone not circumcised. It was a definite turn-on, giving Illya this much pleasure with only his hand. He had to know what it would feel and taste like as well.

Slowly he lowered his head, trailing along the abdomen and hips with his lips and tongue, reaching the base of the thick cock and kissing his way up its impressive length. When he nuzzled the hidden slit, Illya could take no more and surged upward, the head of his cock entering Solo's open mouth. His lips grazed the foreskin, automatically sliding it back as the thick shaft worked its arrogant way into Napoleon's throat.

Napoleon gagged a bit, then took the shaft in his hands and controlled the depth. The tip of Illya's cock was velvety soft, and slick with pre-come. Napoleon delighted in peeling the foreskin back with his tongue and then sucking it forward with his lips. His palm kept a steady pull on the rest of the straining cock and it was only moments later that Illya cried, "Napoleon!" as he pumped into his warm mouth. Thick hot jets of come pulsed into Solo's mouth, and he swallowed before he could give it much thought. The taste was acidic and mildly abrasive. He decided it wasn't too bad as he sucked and licked the deflating member, cleaning all traces of Illya's essence from the pulsing cock.

Illya sagged, devastated by the release and by Napoleon's loving act. Napoleon mouthed his way up the slender body, and then took Illya's mouth in a searing kiss. Their tongues tangled and Illya was shocked to taste himself in his lover's hot mouth. He moaned into Solo's open lips and reached a hand between their sweaty bodies. Napoleon was rock-hard and just one caress had him pleading, "Illya, yes. Touch me."

Illya knew he was near the edge and took pity on his need. He snaked down the well-muscled abdomen, slipping fingers over the taut musculature there, memorizing the line of this body. He blew a warm stream of breath across the straining phallus inches from his full mouth and heard Napoleon actually whimpering in response. The wine-red head jerked and then Illya pounced, taking the bulbous knob with his lips and sucking the fevered flesh in a quick and unforgiving rhythm.

"Ahh, Illya, I can't... wait if you do that."

Illya smiled around his mouthful and began pumping the shaft with a firm stroke. Solo surged forward, but Illya was ready and waiting. He swallowed the flesh repeatedly, using his throat muscles to milk the length of his lover's cock, and reached under the tightly drawn pouch to rub his finger on Napoleon's perineum.

"Illya, Illya...." Solo went rigid and snapped his dark head back. "Ah, ahh, ahhh!" Words failed him as he felt his orgasm coiling in his gut before racing out of his body. He felt the come blast out of his cock and into Illya's wickedly talented mouth. The little fiend swallowed every spurt and kept sucking until Napoleon thought he would pass out from the pleasure.

A minute or an hour later, he looked down to see the blond head resting on his shoulder. Illya's slick tongue was rasping across the whorled indent where a North Korean bullet had ripped through the thick muscle there. He kissed the old wound, scarred from the surgery done to repair it. Baptized with fire, both soldiers had survived and had the scars to prove it.

Napoleon hadn't the strength to lift his head. He closed his arms around Illya's sweat-slick back and sighed, happier than he had been in a long time. Illya relaxed into the embrace and drowsed. Solo felt the warm weight on his chest and smiled against Illya's hair. He wrapped one leg around Illya's, rubbing the calf with his instep and tickling the sensitive skin of his inner thigh with his toes. Illya twitched against his chest. Napoleon did it again and the Russian actually giggled. A broad smile broke out on Solo's face. He'd never heard Illya giggle. So he was ticklish? There were so many other places to experiment on and so little time. They only had until tomorrow checkout for the room. After that, they'd have to move to Illya's staircase.

His eyes traveled around the room, taking in the airy color scheme and the light-colored furniture. A clean breeze drifted through the yellow sheers at the window, reminding him of summers back home. His arms tightened around Illya and he sighed blissfully. "Nice room, huh?"

Illya stirred minutely. "Room?" He lifted his head with an effort and glanced quickly left and right. "Um. I hadn't noticed." He started to drift again and Napoleon shook his shoulder firmly.

"Oh, no, you don't. I didn't travel all the way to England just to watch you sleep, you lazy sod." He slapped Illya on the ass and kissed him as he yelped in surprise. "Let's check out the plumbing and then you can show me the scenery."

Napoleon filled the old-fashioned claw-footed tub with warm water and added some bubble bath. Lilacs. Smells like spring, he thought. He set thick towels near the tub on the sparkling white-tiled floor and stepped into the forming bubbles. Illya's eyes gleamed at all that warm sudsy water and he practically jumped in after his lover. Water swamped over the side and nearly drenched the towels on the floor. "Hey! Easy there."

"Oh, sorry. It's just that I don't have access to a tub or even a shower very often. If we want a wash we have to dash across the commons in our robes in the wee hours of the morning. Communal bathrooms...." Illya sighed blissfully as he fully immersed himself. He leaned back against Napoleon's slick and soapy chest, his wet hair tickling the American's shoulder.

Solo smiled and kissed the conveniently located collarbone. He ran quick fingers across Illya's ivory skin, playing in the thick hair in the center of his thin chest. He explored the muscles of Illya's arms, kneading the strong bicep and triceps and trailed along until he reached the blunt fingers. Illya's upper body had filled out nicely with the added weight and he had obviously been working out. "Weight-lifting?" Solo inquired as he slipped his hand across the taut abdominal ridges.


"Machines?" Solo asked quizzically.

"No, the real thing. Rowing is the big pastime here. Also, you can rent a punt and go out on the River Cam. The scenery is beautiful and you can get away from everything and just drift along."

"Mmm. Sounds nice. Maybe we can do that tomorrow when we get to Cambridge." Solo continued to explore, his hands below the water line now. Illya caressed Napoleon's thighs and ran his fingers up the sleek flanks. Kuryakin gasped as Napoleon's questing fingers grazed the crease of his ass. He arched his neck and sought Solo's lips blindly. His lover was eager to please. Napoleon sat a bit straighter in the tub and devoured the soft lush lips of his Russian. Their tongues slipped over each other, playing erotically. Solo captured Illya's rising erection in his palm and used the bubbles to piston up and down frictionlessly. His other hand cupped the fuzzy balls and rolled them gently back and forth.

Illya felt Solo's heavy cock trapped under his hip and he rolled his body to accommodate his need. Napoleon thrust his hips and his erection settled between Illya's cheeks, making the Russian whimper in delight.

"You like that, Illyusha?"

"Oh, yes, Polya. Yes." The younger man squirmed across the thick cock, helping Solo rub against the soft flesh between his legs. Illya reached down and took the head of Solo's cock in his fist, pulling on the tender skin, running his thumb across the slit. Napoleon gasped, biting Illya's neck and sucking the white skin across his clavicle, lost in the wonderful sensations. Solo released Illya's balls long enough to wrap one arm across the narrow chest, snugging the slender body against him and pressing their groins even closer together. Napoleon began a shallow thrusting, feeling Illya's fingers tighten around his snub head with each upstroke.

His hand was busy as well, pulling on the thick cock rhythmically, listening to Illya's moans of ecstasy. As their passion rose Solo began thrusting harder and pulling back further each time, his cock gliding easily against Illya's sudsy skin. On one deep stroke, Solo's thick head nudged Illya's opening and an electric current seemed to shudder through the Russian. He cried aloud, arching back against his lover's body, hungry for more. "Napoleon! Bozhe moy, da, da..."

Napoleon thrust again, the soapy water allowing him to sink into Illya's flesh easily, the flared head of his cock seeking contact as if it were alive, desperate to find a home in the warm body. He didn't think, merely let instinct guide his cock deeper into his lover as Illya thrashed in pleasure above him.

"Uh, un, Polya, yes, yes," was all Illya managed to eke out as Napoleon rode him gently at first and then with mounting urgency. Illya placed his hands against Solo's hip bones, using him for leverage to rise up and down on the pistoning cock. Solo let him control the depth and the angle, wanting the pleasure to build in his smaller partner as it was in his loins. Illya was clenching down on his cock, causing shudders of delight to ripple through the older man, tearing moans of joy from deep in his throat. He was seconds from exploding and he wrapped his hand around Illya's surging cock, conveying his desperation.

The bite of the strong callused fingers around his taut flesh set Illya off. He slammed down one last time onto Solo's hardness, and felt the thick head nudge against his prostate.

Illya cried aloud and Solo watched as thick streams of come shot out of his lover, his cock spouting like a whale in the frothy water of the tub.

Napoleon felt Illya's body clamp down on his, the orgasm spasming muscles around him. He thrust into the tight channel and heard himself howl as his release roared out of him. He watched Illya's cock still jetting strongly and felt as if he were watching his own orgasm as he twitched with the pulses of semen leaving his body to join his lover's.

Illya sagged against him, utterly limp with contentment. Napoleon held the heaving chest against his wildly beating heart and felt incredible joy flow through him. He had never imagined their relationship moving this fast and a sharp stab of guilt caused him to shudder. Illya felt it as well, and turned slightly to see Solo's face.

"What is it, lyubov?" He caressed the brunet's face gently with a warm sudsy hand.

"Illya, I didn't mean for things to... to get out of hand. Did I hurt you, love?" He could feel himself softening and he wanted to slip from Illya as gently as possible. He tried not to move at all.

Illya smiled and answered, "Oh, no, my Polya. I have wanted you so very much." Napoleon tightened his embrace and laid his head along the curve of Illya's neck. He felt their bodies separate and couldn't stop the groan of disappointment. Illya's slight hiss told him he was indeed sore at least.

His lover made as if to get up and Solo stopped him. "Stay in the warm water for a while. It will help with the discomfort."

"You worry too much, Napoleon. I am fine." His blue eyes flashed and he laughed. "I am more than fine."

"Well, then, just humor me, all right?" He lay back against the tub and pulled the slight body down with him. They snuggled together until the water turned cool and their skin wrinkled like leather.

Solo reached for the thick towels on the floor and Illya stood, water sluicing off his fair skin like a dolphin's. Napoleon pulled the plug and dried the dripping body of his lover. Illya returned the favor and they kissed once more before dressing. The American pulled the sweet smelling body close and nuzzled the ends of his wet hair. He felt himself growing hard again and stepped back, grinning.

"What are you smiling about?" Illya asked as he stepped off the wet rug.

Solo took one of his hands and slid it slowly, sensually down his towel-covered body until Illya felt the swelling of his passion beneath his firm touch. Napoleon growled and pulled Illya to him once again. "What is it about you that I can't get enough of?"

Illya traced his fingers across Solo's manhood and caressed him gently. "I hope you never figure it out, Polya."

Solo dipped his tongue into his lover's mouth and explored hungrily. "A puzzle wrapped in an enigma. It just may take a lifetime to figure you out, my Illyushka."

Kuryakin started at hearing the pet name and nearly gasped as he heard the words and their meaning. He looked into the chocolate eyes and saw the rest of their lives there. He pulled away and walked into the bedroom to retrieve his clothes. Napoleon frowned and followed him.

"Did I say something wrong, Illya? Am I coming on too strong for you? I'm sorry...."

Illya sat heavily and sighed quietly. "No, Napoleon. Quite the opposite. I was unsure of how you felt about me and how our separation would affect our relationship. Truly, I was sure you would find someone else in America and forget all about me."

Solo sat next to Illya, close but not touching. "Quite the opposite, my fine Russian," Napoleon said as he reached for Illya's hand. "The time I've spent without you has just shown me how much I miss you. And how much I want you. Truthfully, I haven't even looked at anyone else since I've been at school. Male or female. Whenever I'm out with a group or socializing I'm always thinking how much better it would be if you were at my side. Or if I were at yours."

Illya pressed the hand he held against his cheek and closed his eyes. He looked up and took Napoleon's face in his hands. "I love you, Napoleon."

Napoleon leaned forward and took Illya's lips in a gentle kiss. "I love you, too." They sat, foreheads touching, lost in the emotion of their admissions. Illya stirred first and stood, pulling Solo up with him.

"Come on, get dressed. I have a surprise waiting for you."

Solo leered at him and said, "Again?"

Illya punched his shoulder and said, "No, not that kind of surprise. At least, not yet."

Solo finished dressing and gathered his things. Illya took the lead and led the way down the stairs, stopping at reception. The concierge disappeared for a moment and then returned with a wicker picnic basket on one arm. "Here you are, sir." Illya thanked him and left a generous tip.

"What are you up to, Illya?" Solo's eyes danced as he thought of what he might do to the Russian on a picnic blanket.

Illya tried not to blush and motioned to the front door. They exited the hotel and walked into the blazing sunshine. Illya walked down toward the river, Solo hard at his heels. He handed the basket to Solo and walked over to a funny looking canoe chained to a concrete retaining wall. There were several moored there and they all had brightly painted names on the sides. Solo read some of them. "Little Pig, Hat Trick, Blind Mouse." Illya's boat was named "Menage." It took him a minute but then he grinned at his friend. "All threes?"

Illya grinned back. "Very good, Napoleon. Since I am at Trinity...." He unlocked the boat and drew out a long pole and motioned Solo over. They placed the basket in the middle and Solo had a moment's trouble getting in the slab-bottomed boat. He got his balance and settled in as Illya began by pushing off the bank.

"Menage? Are you hoping someone else will float by?" His eyebrows waggled and this time Illya did blush.

"'A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou,' is all the threesome I need, Napoleon." He skillfully began polling them along, carefully timing his dips and retrievals.

Napoleon had the best seat to watch the artful maneuvering needed to keep the boat moving. Illya's strong arm muscles bunched and released with each push and his blond hair shone in the dappling light. They moved from bright light to shadows and back again, and Solo leaned back and enjoyed the show. He sighed with pleasure and Illya looked back, his blue eyes eclipsed by the black of his pupils in the gloom of the overhanging trees. Solo caught his breath at his beauty and Illya looked into his eyes solemnly. They understood each other perfectly in the clarity of that one suspended moment.

Back to reality, Illya pointed out one of the sights they were punting past. "There's a nudist colony just here if you really want to audition for a third." He winked at Napoleon's feigned shocked expression. The greenery on both sides of the Cam was a pleasant diversion and they took advantage of the quiet and just drifted along. About an hour into the trip the river emptied into a marshy area.

"This is where we have to work a bit. The river changes depth and we have to negotiate the rollers here to get past the weir. We'll have to see if we can get a strong lad or two to help us over and back in." Illya smiled broadly. "Don't worry, Napoleon, I'm sure we can find a big dumb rugger-bugger to help."

Illya scanned the small grassy area near the pub and whistled loudly at a group of young men sitting in the garden there drinking a pint. "Oy, fellows, a little help?"

Two of the largest lads set down their glasses and trudged down the embankment. Illya shook hands and together the four of them managed the punt out of the river, across the concrete path and down the rollers.

This close, Napoleon could see what the rollers were, and understood. Rows of cylinders allowed the boat to slide over them and get to the lower part of the river.

Illya panted over to Napoleon and grinned. "Now comes the tricky part."

"Great. I thought the rollers was the tricky part...." Solo looked forlornly at his wet shoes.

"Well, you won't melt at any rate." He winked at Napoleon and then took the pole and holding it aloft, jumped into the punt as his impetus pushed it hard into the river and toward the trees close on the other side. He bobbled a bit and then got his balance and said, "Get ready," to Solo as he came up quickly against the other side. The punt lurched and Illya went with the motion, hunkering down until he was steady enough to use his pole again. He pushed off the trees and sent the boat off toward Napoleon again. Grinning like a March Hare, he was in his element and Solo returned the smile, tickled that Illya was having so much fun. Solo squelched his way into the punt again, giving up on keeping his shoes dry. They waved thanks to the lads and promised them a pint if they ran into them later.

They continued on, Illya keeping up a running commentary on the history of the area as the scenery rolled past. He pointed out Silver Street Bridge, the only structure that allowed vehicular traffic. Napoleon lounged and let Illya ramble on. An odd structure loomed and Illya announced, "Ah, the famous Mathematical Bridge. It's rumored to have been originally constructed by Sir Isaac Newton without benefit of any nails. Of course, some Fellows here just had to take it apart and see how it worked. Unfortunately, they couldn't put it back together without using nails...."

They floated past Kings Bridge, Illya taking care of the pole as they neared. "It's traditional for lads to try to grab the poles as the punts go by," he explained.

"Is it also traditional to get out and beat the crap out of them if they do?" Napoleon asked, deadpan.

"I can see you might have a problem with the legacy and customs of this place, Napoleon." Illya shook his head at his impetuous American friend. "Although legend says that it's still legal to fight a sword duel on King's Bridge if you get permission from the Proctor. So I suppose you could assuage your pride if some brigand took your punt pole."

Napoleon laughed and savored the moment. Illya was being downright chatty today and Napoleon was only too eager to accommodate him. The cares of the world and the lives they would have to return to melted away into the swirling waters of the Cam. Solo merely nodded and encouraged Illya's tourist prattle as they neared Trinity College.

Deftly directing the punt to shore, Illya jumped out and pulled it to ground as Napoleon secured the basket and came ashore as well. Kuryakin returned the lock and key to the punt attendant there and they headed off on the footpath to a grassy area for their picnic. Illya's shirt clung to his body with a mixture of sweat and river water. His pants were wet on one side from the pole and he looked a bit worse for wear. "I'd like to get you out of those wet things, Illya," Solo whispered to him as they walked along the Backs.

Illya looked down and gave him a sideways smile. "I think we can find a bit of privacy. But, right now I'm starving."

"Think we both worked up an appetite," Napoleon said as he briefly stroked the wet flesh underneath Illya's trousers.

Illya gasped, secretly pleased that Napoleon couldn't seem to keep his hands off him. He knew of some secluded areas nearby that would be deserted now that the students had gone for the summer.

They spanned Trinity Bridge and headed down the Avenue. Crossing the Queen's Road, Illya headed them toward Fellow's Garden, where the trees were dense and they would have all the privacy they wanted. The ten minutes of brisk walking had Illya's clothing nearly dry and Solo's soaking wet from sweat. Illya detoured into some thick trees and was pleased to see the little glen he'd discovered was empty. He shook out a plaid blanket and began to set their impromptu table. He pulled a bottle of red wine out first; bread, cheese and a tin of meat followed. Napoleon poured the wine as Illya readied two plates piled high with the simple fare. They ate quietly, enjoying each other's company and the solitude.

Half the bottle gone, Illya stretched out on the blanket and rolled toward Solo. "So what do you think of my corner of the world?"

Napoleon looked at the flushed cheeks of his companion and replied, "I think it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." He reclined as well and moved the remnants of their feast aside. Inching toward Illya, he gently draped himself over the smaller man and drew him close in his arms. He tasted Illya's lips and the residue of the sweet wine left there. Moving on to his neck, Solo trailed his tongue over the salty skin, savoring the unique Illya flavor he was just now growing accustomed to.

Throaty groans spurred him on as he unbuttoned Illya's shirt and worked his way across the heaving chest, paying attention to the pink buds of nipple. Illya's strong fingers buried themselves in his dark hair as he worked Illya up with his talented tongue. Illya grabbed Napoleon's hand and directed it to his straining erection, begging him to touch him. Solo smiled against his mouthful of nipple and gently swept across the prominent bulge between Illya's legs.

Illya moaned and thrust upwards, grabbing Napoleon's head and kissing him with near brutal force, his tongue slithering in and out of his lover's mouth. Returning the assault, Napoleon gasped as they grappled with one another, lost in a haze of burning need. While Illya was distracted, Solo opened the fly of his trousers and grasped the hot flesh in his strong fingers. He pulled at the foreskin, rubbing the tender head with his thumb, and watched the effect on his beautiful lover. Illya's head arched back, his neck elongating, giving Solo a new and delicious target. He latched on the pale flesh and sucked hard, hearing the mewling sounds deep in Illya's curving neck.

Before the Russian could come to his senses, Solo snaked down the sweaty body and tugged the pants and underwear down in one impatient tangle. Illya's hard cock sprang up, red and weeping for Napoleon's touch. He rubbed his face against the hard rod, reveling in the feel and smell of Illya's musk. His own cock was begging for release but he continued on, driving Illya out of his mind. Diving onto the jutting cock, he swallowed the head, pulling the foreskin back with his lips and greedily searching for the velvety-smooth skin surrounding Illya's slit.

He jabbed his tongue into the tiny aperture and Illya nearly screamed, his hips straining upwards, pushing as much of his cock as he could into Solo's willing mouth. His lover swallowed, moving up and down on the shaft, needing more than anything to please Illya, to hear him call his name, to empty himself into his mouth.

Illya stiffened, looked down to see his cock disappearing in Napoleon's mouth, and then his eyes rolled back, and he had to stifle the scream that wanted to erupt. He whimpered with the strain, feeling the suction on his cock increase and then he was jetting strongly into Napoleon's hungry mouth. He felt the tightness around him constrict even more as Napoleon swallowed him over and over, increasing the intensity of the already mind-blowing orgasm. A deep-throated groan escaped him as he felt the release all the way down to his toes. He felt himself pulse two, three more times and then he went utterly limp, his cock still seated in Napoleon's wicked mouth.

He vaguely felt Napoleon cleaning him with his tongue, pulling up his clothes and tucking him back into his pants, but he had no strength to help. He panted, his heart racing and he felt Solo's body drape over his. After a moment he opened his eyes and saw the American's very smug and satisfied face above his own. He pulled Napoleon to him and kissed him gratefully, tasting his own semen. He grinned and suddenly wanted to taste Napoleon in the worst way.

Solo straddled him, sitting lightly on his pelvis. He unbuckled his belt slowly, Illya's tongue snaking out to lick his lips in anticipation. Napoleon felt a jolt of desire seeing that and his hands shook slightly as he undid the snap. He let his hands fall away from his fly and watched the desire mount on Illya's beautiful face, watched Illya's hands reach to undo the zip.

Napoleon shook his head and pushed Illya's hands away gently. He arched his back, letting Illya see the thick bulge under the fly, straining to find release. His head stretched back and he teased Illya by running his hand across his crotch, his erection nearly painful now.

Solo finally took pity on his lover and yanked down the zipper and tugged his jeans and briefs down in one motion. Illya gasped at the sight of the dark red cock, the head so heavy with need it bobbed up and down over his stomach. As much as Solo loved Illya's foreskin, Illya was enthralled with the circumcised head and thought Solo's member was just like the man. Powerful, deeply masculine and worthy of respect. He couldn't wait to taste him.

Illya meant to get up and move to Napoleon, but Solo pushed him flat on his back again. His brown eyes were shining with lust and he wanted to be in control. Illya lay back quietly and let him have his way.

Napoleon took his cock and pumped it a few times, feeling it harden even more with the pressure. He gasped and then slowly advanced on Illya, crawling on his knees until his thighs straddled Illya's head. His weeping cock swayed inches from the blond's expectant mouth. Illya grasped Napoleon's ass in his hands and tugged him closer. Solo kept his own hand on his cock, directing it into Illya's hot mouth. Illya's hands were urging him on, and he wanted nothing more than to thrust into the wet warmth. He held back, fearful of gagging Illya. But the Russian pulled at his fevered flesh, trying to draw more of him into his throat. He suckled him strongly, telling Napoleon he wanted more.

Solo growled, nearly incoherent with desire and began pumping his hips, thrusting his cock deeply into the cavern of flesh surrounding him. Illya's grasp tightened even more, his hands digging into the white flesh of Solo's ass. Panting with the exertion, Napoleon fed inch after inch of his thick cock into the grasping mouth, marveling that his lover was able to take him all. He started fucking Illya's mouth, faster and stronger, losing himself in the rhythm until nothing else mattered but coming.

He was nearing the point of no return when he felt Illya's fingers delve into the crease of his ass and then one strong blunt finger buried itself into his opening. Napoleon did scream then, his entire being flashing into a white heat of release, his cock blasting come deeply into Illya's throat, his hips pistoning even faster as his semen pulsed over and over into the waiting opening. He felt the smooth throat of his lover working him deep, swallowing every drop that spasmed from him. Illya's finger was doing wondrous things to him as well, and he finally stopped pumping, collapsing weakly onto his arms, still covering Illya's head in a push-up position. His arms trembled with the strain and he feared he would fall on top of his lover. Reluctantly, he pulled out of Illya's mouth, feeling the quick tongue rasping his sensitive head on the way out. He hissed and collapsed to the side, pulling Illya over with him. He held onto the wiry body, burrowing into the sweet-smelling Illya scent and waiting for his heart to stop hammering.

Gentle hands rearranged his clothing and he helped Illya tuck everything back into place. They were in a public area. Napoleon's hands sifted through the gold of Illya's hair, feeling the silk of it run across his fingers. "I can't seem to get enough of you, love."

Illya smiled and Solo felt his heart jolt. He was happier than he had ever been in his life. He pulled the blond head down over his heart and Illya lay still, listening to it beat. "You hear that, Illyusha? You make it beat harder than anyone I've ever known."

The Russian sighed against him and reveled in the feel of the strong arms surrounding him. They would have such a short time together; he wanted to make every minute count. He tightened his grip on Solo's shirt, and Napoleon felt the change. "What is it, love?"

Illya didn't answer at first. He didn't want to spoil the moment. Napoleon sat up slowly and held Illya loosely, turning him in his lap. "Don't think too much. We have right now. And that's all that counts." He bent to Illya's lips and kissed him slowly and tenderly. The tension drained out of the younger man's body with the kiss and Solo took his time, hands caressing the fine hair and roaming across the hard body.

Illya melted against his lover and, when they parted, simply laid his head on the strong chest and drowsed, listening to the birds singing and feeling the sun warm his back. They stayed that way for a good while, needing nothing but each other's company.

Napoleon looked down at the small pillow he hugged to his chest, wishing it were Illya he held instead. He was somewhere over the Atlantic, cruising home in a 707 to the U.S. and his temporary home, Kansas State. Home, he mused. Hardly that without Illya.

He tried not to remember the look on his lover's face as they parted at Heathrow. Napoleon was naturally gregarious. He would search out companionship at school when he returned. Illya, on the other hand, would retreat into his studies and his lonely staircase.

Solo was glad of one thing: Illya had a housekeeper who took care of his wing of staircases. He'd introduced Millicent to Napoleon when they'd vacated the hotel and gone to Cambridge. She'd had the look of a mother hen about her and dutifully clucked around until Illya gently shooed her away. Millicent had winked at Solo as she left, with an, "I'll keep an eye out for this one" in her eyes that only Napoleon had seen. He'd winked back to her delight.

Even as the plane flew further away, Napoleon began to feel some of his heaviness abate. Illya was tough. He would stick it out, and they would be together in a year, two at the most. One more year and Solo would be sent to Survival School and then Waverly had promised him a New York posting if his scores held up. Which they will, he thought arrogantly. Solo would not allow anything to get in the way of his plans.

Positioning the pillow under his head, Solo stretched out as much as he could and tried to sleep. His thoughts wandered to the future, when he and Illya would be partners, plowing their way through the bad guys and wreaking havoc on the evil-doers. He fell asleep with a smug smile on his lips.

Manhattan, Kansas—April, 1953

This was just the ticket, Napoleon thought as he raced around the oval track for the tenth time. He'd been hitting the books hard lately, studying for his senior finals, and the stress needed an outlet. He'd cruised the first two and a half miles but now quickened his pace, wanting the conditioning that only sprinting obtained.

It was warm for early spring, and his sweat pants and t-shirt were clinging to his supple body, a fact not lost on the coeds watching from the stadium seating. They would coo and giggle when he ran past, elbowing each other and making comments. Napoleon smiled as he passed them, wondering what they'd do if they knew the truth about his inclinations. He had a gorgeous blond on his mind, but not one like his current crowd of admirers. The thought of Illya in sweat pants running just ahead of him made him pick up the pace, racing as if he trailed the Russian even now. He wondered what Illya was doing at this exact moment.

Two more laps, he told his straining lungs and tired thighs. He felt the exertion begin to tax him but held the fast pace more out of pride than anything else. He did have an audience, after all. Rounding the second turn on the next-to-last circuit, Solo noticed additional hangers-on in the stands. He didn't have the time or the energy to do more than glance as he went by, but he saw a flash of yellow hair shining in the Midwestern sun.

Napoleon smiled as he thought of Illya so far away, probably studying or getting ready for bed. Alone. A shiver crept across Solo's spine as he devoutly wished to be sharing that particular bed.

One last lap, he told himself, panting with the effort to keep the speed constant. He passed his coterie and saluted them as they stood and cheered for him while he swept by. Around another turn, he asked his aching body for one last burst of speed and turned on his kick. He barreled down the backstretch, eyes looking for his lone blonde admirer and not really disappointed when she was gone. He spared none of his waning energy on the puzzle. Chest heaving, legs burning, Solo saw the finish line looming and dove for an imaginary tape.

Sweat poured off him as he slowed and placed his hands on his hips, trying to pull in enough oxygen to stay upright. Forcing himself to keep moving, he walked another half a lap before he got control of his laboring lungs and began to cool down properly. His track coach had imprinted the correct way to train for the sport, and even though the season was well over, Solo still followed his rules. He slowed again, breathing deeply and beginning to lose the stitch in his side at last.

Leaning against a convenient rail, Napoleon stretched his strained calf muscles and shook out his tired thigh muscles. He wanted to stay in peak shape for Survival School. He really didn't know what to expect but had an idea it would be much harder than basic training. Solo remembered his army buddies and wondered if they'd ever thought of him. Sarge had been killed at Porkchop Hill, defending a fallen comrade. He'd gotten the Medal of Honor posthumously. Evans was sent home with a bad hip injury, but he'd gotten out alive. Jackson and Watkins were killed when their helicopter was shot down over Panmunjon. Napoleon had kept in contact with Evans for a year or so, but they had drifted apart, like most army buddies do when returned to the real world. The American remembered how young they had been and how scared. And he remembered the unusual way Illya'd entered his life. He'd never thought of the enemy as a nameless, faceless entity since. He hoped the lives of the men they had touched had been changed as well.

Getting a whiff of himself, Solo wrinkled his nose and headed for the showers. He tossed his bag on one of the empty locker room benches. Grabbing towel and toiletries, he stripped out of the sodden sweats and took the spigot furthest from the door. After getting the temperature just right, Solo eased under the water and groaned at the relief the pulses gave to his abused body. He soaped quickly but allowed himself the luxury of a leisurely shower. Halfway through his shampoo he heard another spigot turn on and leaned into the spray to rinse.

Turning, Solo cleared the water from his lashes and flicked his dark dripping head. He shook like a dog after a rain and his muscles rippled, the water cascading from his slickened skin in a riot of disorderly drips and drops. He heard a sharp intake of breath.

Looking across the tiled floor, it was Solo's turn to gasp. He blinked his eyes again and rubbed them, disbelieving what they told him. A naked, wet and thoroughly pleased Illya Kuryakin stood no more than ten or twelve feet from him.

The pouty lips were upraised in a smirk as he said, "Aren't you going to 'lather, rinse, repeat,' Napoleon?"

Shock kept Solo rooted to the floor, his mouth forming a surprised, 'O.'

Illya took a long, leisurely appraisal of the nude form so near. He lingered on the strong chest and licked his lips as his gaze worked down the beautiful body.

Solo finally spoke. "Illya? How... where...."

Kuryakin closed the distance and stroked Solo's face with his fingertips. Napoleon closed his eyes and leaned into the welcome touch. His eyes flew open as he realized how public their reunion was likely to become if they weren't careful.

"Relax, miili moy. I booby-trapped the outer door. We'll hear anyone coming." The Russian moved closer, running his warm hands across the newly heaving chest of his lover.

Solo groaned and pulled the slim body flush against him, latching on to the wet skin of Illya's neck and suckling like a newborn. Water beat against his back as he nuzzled and licked his way across Illya's body, renewing his familiarity with it. Illya stretched back, allowing full access. His busy hands were remembering Solo territory as well.

"Illya. Illya...." Napoleon was intoxicated by the smell and taste of his lover and licked the water droplets from his chest. Kuryakin took hold of the thick hair on Solo's head and pulled his mouth up to his. His tongue rasped across the full, swollen lips and then delved inside the heated depths.

Matching breath to quickened breath, Napoleon realized his earlier workout hadn't even blunted his ardor. Illya's alluring presence was enough to rev him to full wakefulness, his body responding in quick delight. He couldn't bear to leave the haven of Illya's welcoming mouth, and settled for pulling him tightly against his wet and slippery skin. Illya's response was easily registered, and Solo thrust his hips against him, once, hard. The resulting moan of desire from his Russian was the sweetest sound Solo'd heard in a long time. He felt Illya push back, the jabbing erection insistent on release.

Napoleon sucked Illya's tongue into his mouth and fellated it with his lips. Kuryakin let go of his hair and slid his soapy hands down across Napoleon's fevered skin to cup his ass, crushing them more tightly together and giving their erections direct contact.

Both men groaned and began thrusting, lost in the erotic and loving act.

Breaking contact only long enough to suck in air, neither man wanted to relinquish the other's lips, needing to taste and remember the other's essence.

Rhythmically, they began a point-counterpoint that had all the finesse of a freight train. Shallow thrusts became surges and surges became pounding. Neither could withstand the onslaught of pure pleasure. All too soon, Napoleon slid across Illya's lips and gasped against the corner of his mouth. "Illya...."

Kuryakin buried his fingers in his lover's crease and felt him stiffen. He shoved hard up against the tight abdomen and felt himself spurting strongly against the soft skin there.

Napoleon felt the warm pulses hit him and cried out, his voice ringing and echoing in the tiled room. His orgasm roared out, hot fluid joining with his lover's to splatter against them both.

The embrace was all that kept them on their feet. Both bodies sagged with release and used the strength of the other to stay upright. Their gasps filled the small room like steam.

Illya looked down at the mess between them and smiled ruefully. "Good thing we're in the shower." He backed Solo up until they were sharing the spray and cleaned them both. Solo grabbed one shoulder and pulled Illya to him in a needy embrace. He held tightly and Kuryakin allowed the indulgence, smiling at Napoleon's emotional display. The Russian leaned into one flushed ear and whispered, "I've missed you, too, lyubov."

Once over the shock, Napoleon took Illya on a tour of the campus. They started with the quad, sitting quietly on a convenient bench and talking about nothing and everything. As they watched the ebb and flow of students mill around them, Napoleon sank into the seat and just soaked up Illya's presence. After a long companionable silence, Solo spoke very softly. "Not that I'm complaining mind you, but just what the hell are you doing here?"

His broad smile let Illya know he was on safe shores. "Oh, I've always wanted to see Kansas. You know, Land of Oz, home of Dorothy and Tojo." Kuryakin looked straight ahead, and Solo couldn't see his expression.

Solo snorted loudly. "It's 'Toto' you mad Socialist, and you know it." He added quietly, "Land of Oz, my ass...."

Illya leaned very close and sighed into his ear, "Ah, now you know the real reason." Solo promptly turned bright crimson, and Illya laughed out loud. "Don't ask the question if you don't want to hear the answer, Napoleon."

Solo leaned back and listened to Illya talk. The British accent still intrigued him. He could pick up the Russianness when he paid attention. It was endearing. Grinning happily, he nodded at the appropriate places.

Illya stopped and studied his friend's face. "Sorry. I've been nattering along, haven't I?"

"Don't apologize. I'm just happy you're here." Napoleon wanted to hug him but settled for elbowing him in the side.

"I decided that Easter Break wouldn't be any kind of holiday at all alone. I'd saved up enough to come to your graduation, but now I have exams that week. This is the only time I could get away." His face fell as he said, "I'm sorry I won't be here when you get your degree."

Napoleon nudged closer and said, "It's okay, Illya. I just can't believe you're here now."

Quietly, they sat together and enjoyed the moment. The spring sky was a glorious blue and the clouds were perfectly white. Oz, indeed, thought Solo. He cleared his throat and caught Illya's eye. "Are you hungry? We can eat here or go off campus."

"I'm famished. Haven't eaten since England." His stomach rumbled to prove the point.

Napoleon stood and pulled Illya up with him. "I know just the place. Burgers and fries. A staple here in Oz."

Illya gave him the lopsided smile that made his heart ache. "As long as it's not fish and chips, you're on."

Settled in a booth, they happily munched on greasy diner food. Illya loved the food and the décor. He goggled at the roller-skating waitresses and tried three different hamburgers and side orders. The heavily made-up girls flirted with him as they skated his mound of food over. Their poodle skirts swirled around their hips as they flounced away.

Solo smiled at the plethora of potato surrounding his lover. He'd gotten a chili-dog and onion rings. Illya reached over to snag one of his rings and he swatted the quick hand away. "This is my food, Illya."

Sighing in mock regret, Illya began to pack the food away. Never a picky eater, he had found British food a bit on the bland side, and rejoiced in the spicy barbeque and mustard sauces in a tray before him.

He tried every combination possible while Solo looked on with amused tolerance.

Illya loved the Coke and quickly ordered a refill. The redhead who delivered it batted her eyes at him and pouted when he didn't notice her. Napoleon almost felt sorry for the girl.

Illya stopped eating long enough to speak. "Should I get a hotel room? Do they have guest beds here?"

Solo finished his dog and dumped the last of the rings on Illya's plate. He beamed with gratitude. "You can stay in my room. My roommate went home for the weekend to be with his girlfriend. And to do his laundry at mommy and daddy's."

"What's he like?" Illya seemed curious, not jealous.

"Drew? He's all right. He's a junior. Spends most of his time thinking about his girlfriend. He's got it bad."

Illya smiled. "Which is good for us, anyway." He waggled his eyebrows. "Privacy."

Napoleon's eyes smoldered at his beautiful lover's words. He shifted in his red plastic chair, hoping Illya would finish soon. He had plans for the afternoon that did not involve touring.

Illya noticed the change and the look in Solo's eyes. He dropped his napkin on the table and drained the last of the Coke. "I think I'd like to see your dormitory next, Napoleon. If you don't mind."

Solo grinned, dropping a generous tip for the poor redhead.

They walked off part of the meal on the way back to campus. It was a fine afternoon, and Solo did his best to point out anything Illya would like. They looked in the windows, and had to stop at a candy shop. The Russian was amazed at the variety and color of the candy. He went from one display to another, dazzled by the selections. He laughed out loud at the wax Coke bottles. "Napoleon, I have to have some of these." He pulled out some bills, dismayed that they were British pounds. The disappointment on his face vanished when Solo waved a five-dollar bill at him.

"Have at it, Captain Cavity."

Illya placed the bill on the counter as the clerk handed him an empty bag. "How much will this get me?" he asked.

The clerk looked at Napoleon and then back at Illya. "More than you can carry out of here."

"Don't bet on it...." Solo replied.

The clerk set another bigger bag on the counter.

Napoleon leaned back against the counter and watched Illya prowl around the store, stopping every few feet to put something else in the bag. Solo noticed his Russian accent became more pronounced the further into the goods he went. Seeing Illya having so much fun delighted the American. Even though he studied in England, Solo knew Illya led a sheltered life at school, the officials and U.N.C.L.E. keeping him cloistered on the grounds. Neither wanted him to run afoul of his former countrymen.

Solo shook his head, chasing the darker thoughts away, and merely watched Kuryakin. He took Pez dispensers, Red Hots, Milk Duds, Slo Pokes, and, of course, a handful of Nik-L-Nip wax bottles. His head came up and the blue eyes fixed on Solo.

"Napoleon, what is a 'Moon Pie?'"

Solo looked at the clerk and shrugged his shoulders. "It's... ah... well. Just get one and try it."

Kuryakin grinned and put two in the bag. He placed his sack on the counter and watched the clerk total it up. Illya took one of the wax bottles and put it aside as the rest went back in the bag.

"A dollar forty-two."

Illya's eyebrows rose and he looked at Napoleon. "It's all right," the older man replied. He paid the clerk and handed Solo the change.

"I think I've created a monster."

The clerk smiled at them and said, "Bring him back any time, sir."

"Not likely...."

Illya took the wax bottle and held it up to Solo. "What do I...."

"Just bite off the top and drink the liquid. Some people chew on the wax, but I don't."

Illya nipped the wax neck and upended the brown fluid. He looked puzzled.


"It doesn't taste like the Coke I had in the diner."

"It's not supposed to."


They walked slowly down the street as Illya dug through his candy and sampled a bit of everything. He saved the Moon Pies.

Solo groaned watching him. "How can you eat so much?"

"They asked me the same thing at Hall at Cambridge." He was quiet for a few strides. "I guess it just comes from not knowing when my next meal would be when I was growing up."

Napoleon sighed and put his hand on Illya's shoulder. "Geez, I'm sorry, Illya. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."

Kuryakin waved it off. "You didn't. You just asked a question."

Napoleon resolved to be more diplomatic in the future. He steered Illya across the street and pointed out the squat, red brick building. "The Emerald City awaits."

"It's red."

"It's a joke."

"I don't get it."

Napoleon rolled his eyes skyward and pushed Illya along. They went inside and Solo pointed out the plaque on the wall. "Gibson House."

"Who's Gibson?"

"Someone with a lot of money."

Solo indicated the stairway and they climbed up three flights. The house was nearly deserted, most of the residents away or out partying. One of the doors at the far end of the hall had a hanger on the knob. Solo waggled his eyebrows. "I see I'm not the only one who has company tonight."

He opened the door with his key and ushered Illya inside. Once the door was shut and relocked, Solo pulled the slender Russian to him and kissed him hungrily. Illya tossed the bag of candy on the bed, the Moon Pies forgotten.

"I've missed you so much, Illya." Solo began slowly stripping the clothes from his lover. He stopped to lavish kisses on each body part as it was revealed. Illya allowed the attention, reveling in it. Kuryakin kicked off his shoes, but left the rest to Solo.

His buttons undone, Illya squirmed as warm hands ghosted across his chest, pausing to tickle the fine hair in the middle. A callused thumb tweaked his nipple and he groaned at the contact. Solo tried to swallow the sound with his tongue down Illya's throat. The white shirt was pulled free of Kuryakin's trousers and then dropped to the floor. Solo started at Illya's pale neck and slipped quietly across the goose-pebbled skin. His tongue rasped against Illya's Adam's apple, and Solo felt him swallow impatiently.

Napoleon slowly knelt in front of his lover and trailed kisses down the center of his body. Illya slipped his hands into Solo's hair and then placed them on his strong shoulders. Napoleon nuzzled Illya through the fly of his trousers, causing the younger man to jump at the contact. He slipped his hands around Illya's ass, holding him in place.

Illya looked down his body at the wet line of saliva and shivered. Solo looked up at him just as his teeth grazed the head of his erection through the layers of cotton. Illya's eyes rolled up and he sagged into Solo's body, groaning. Napoleon maneuvered them both onto one of the beds and then worked the fly of Illya's pants open. He left the clothing more or less in place, teasing and working his busy tongue into the opening of both pants and briefs.

Illya bucked up and cried out, "Napoleon!" Solo reached one hand up and covered Kuryakin's mouth. He felt the Russian's tongue licking against his palm and tried not to moan himself. His lover got the message, however, and kept quiet.

Only when Illya's erection worked free of its restraints did Solo finish stripping him. He positioned Illya at the edge of the bed and then took the hard cock fully into his mouth. Both men groaned quietly, unable to keep silent. Solo worked the foreskin back and forth, making Illya squirm and ball his fists into the bedclothes. The smaller man panted and thrashed beneath him. Napoleon used his free hand to tuck under Illya's balls, rolling and warming them gently.

Illya's hands shot out and grasped Solo's head. His fingers entwined in the thick black hair, but he did not pull or hurt his lover. He had to touch Napoleon, be a part of the lovemaking since he couldn't talk. When Solo sucked deep, Illya's fingers tightened. When he backed off, Illya relaxed, massaging the scalp. He wanted Solo to feel what he was doing to him as well.

Now, Solo thought. I have to have him now. He pumped faster on the head and rolled his tongue against the flared crown. Illya's fingers clenched and relaxed, clenched and relaxed. Solo swiped his tongue against the uncovered slit and Illya spasmed, holding tightly to his head. Napoleon reached back and stroked the soft skin behind Illya's sac and took him in, swallowing the cock. That was all it took, as Illya mewled softly and spurted into his mouth as Solo milked him again and again.

Slowly, Illya's body calmed and he sank into the mattress with an exhausted and pleased sigh. Napoleon draped his larger body over the slender form and nuzzled into Kuryakin's sweaty neck. Gradually Illya became coherent and caressed the still-hard cock of his lover. Solo had to bury his face in Illya's shoulder to muffle the needy cry. "I want you, Illya."

"I want you, too, lyubov." Illya glanced around the small dorm room. "Do you have anything...."

Solo thought and came up empty. "No. Not here. In my gym bag, but we left that in the locker. Damn...." He was eager for his lover, but wouldn't risk hurting him. "Wait a minute."

He moved off the bed and opened Drew's closet. He cried, "Aha!" and produced a small bottle of corn oil. Illya looked puzzled until Solo said, "He uses it to make popcorn on a hotplate. We're not supposed to, but...."

Illya shivered as Napoleon came back to bed and opened the bottle, dribbling some on his hands. He spooned behind Illya, easing one leg forward. "Are you sure?" Illya shoved back against his erection, trying to speed things along. "All right, all right. Calm down, love." Napoleon gently eased a finger into Illya, caressing him internally. He did groan then, at the tightness and the wonderful heat surrounding him. It had been so long. "Illya, I don't want to hurt you, but I want you so badly."

"Then take me, my Polya."

"Not yet." He slipped another digit inside, biting his lip at what it did to his fraying self-control. Illya pushed back onto his slippery hand and Solo couldn't wait any longer. He coated his cock and replaced his fingers with the head of his erection. One gentle push buried the head deeply and Illya sighed in completion.

"Am I hurting you?" He felt Illya contract his muscles around him and groaned between clenched teeth, "I'll take that as a 'no,' then?" He did it a second time and Solo growled deep in his throat and slid deeper into Illya.

The Russian whimpered and thrust backwards. Napoleon pushed forward; Illya pushed back. Pulling him up, Solo came behind Illya and used his strength to snug him against his straining thighs. He draped across the strong back and began thrusting deeply. Laying his head along Illya's sweaty flank, Solo felt the shivers that raced through his body. Solo changed his grip and felt the angle of his penetration change. Illya jolted as if struck by an electric charge. Napoleon pulled nearly clear and then seated himself fully. Illya shuddered and gasped.

Reaching around his hip, Solo bumped across Illya's straining cock, fully hard with the hammering of his prostate. He stroked along the length, keeping time with his rhythm. Illya rose up to meet him, Napoleon's lips right at his pink ear. "Come, Illya. Come for me, please. I want to feel you."

The feel of the hard cock sliding through his hand as he slid in and out of his lover made Solo feel connected to Illya as never before. Nearly sobbing, Solo thrust faster, pounding into Illya now as they raced to the finish together. Illya stiffened, pushed against Solo one last time and erupted all over the helping hand.

The feel of the hot semen covering his hand took Solo over as well. He pushed into Illya two more times and then felt himself come in a rush, shooting deeply into his lover's body. The spasming pulses nearly made him scream, and he bit Illya's soft shoulder to keep from crying out. His entire body joined in the release and he felt every muscle contract.

His quivering body gradually stilled, and Solo sagged across Illya's back. The labored breathing of the two spent men filled the small room. They came down slowly, hearts and lungs calming, bodies cooling. Solo could feel his sweat dripping down his side to land on Illya. His softened cock slipped free of his lover's body and they both sighed with regret. Napoleon moved off to the side, pulling Illya to him, spooning once again.

He grabbed a t-shirt and cleaned them both, then snuggled against the lax body. Illya was drowsing, the time change and jet lag catching up to him. Napoleon felt utterly content.

He was nearly asleep when he felt Illya stir slightly. Lifting his tired blond head, he said, "Hey, we never got to the Moon Pies...."

Solo hit him with his pillow and drifted off.

Now it was Illya's turn to miss Napoleon and think about him on the long flight back to England. The American would graduate in June and then go immediately to New York headquarters to spend some time under Mr. Waverly's tutelage. Solo was scheduled for Survival School in July. The two spy hopefuls had talked about "The Island" and Jules Cutter and how bad it really might be. Napoleon had seemed a bit nervous, but confidant that he would get through just fine. Illya had his own doubts about finishing, having heard rumors about how Cutter would take to having a Russian Communist in his camp. Stubborn as he was, he wouldn't tell Napoleon of his fears, knowing the older man would feel responsible for alleviating them.

Illya sighed as he mentally ticked off the days until they would see each other again. Solo had been promised time off after Survival School and before his posting to NY-HQ. He'd made Illya promise to come visit him in New York. The Russian tried not to project too far into the future, but it was difficult not to fantasize about being partnered with Napoleon on and off the job. He knew better than most that they'd have to be circumspect and discreet to the extreme, but the benefits of the relationship would far outweigh the disadvantages.

Kuryakin settled against the seatback and decided not to think too much. Soon enough he'd be back at school and busy with his own plans. The future would be here in its own time. He was fast asleep before the stewardess finished her safety speech.


The year passed quickly for both men. Solo finished Survival School with the highest scores ever recorded for a trainee. Although Jules Cutter wouldn't come out and say so, the hard-bitten instructor had been impressed with the young man named Napoleon Solo. Whatever Alexander Waverly had seen in him earlier had come to fruition under the auspices of the Command. Cutter held final approval of Solo's assignment to the New York office, and he okayed the paperwork with a handwritten addendum at the bottom for Waverly's eyes only.

Keep an eye on this one, Alex. He's got great instincts, and a flexible mind. He's cocky, maybe too much so, but being in the field will shake that loose from him. If he lives through his first year, he'll be a top agent.

Napoleon Solo stood on the tarmac awaiting his transportation. He was on the last leg of his journey. A private plane was coming to whisk him away to NY-HQ. He was leaner, meaner, and much more serious than the man who had arrived at the training island. Cutter had seen to that. Survival School melted away the civilization along with the pounds. Solo had been exposed to hardships that even combat hadn't prepared him for. He'd met all the challenges and overcome them, but he knew he had changed as a result.

One thing Survival School had taught him was that he didn't know everything: far from it. His weaknesses had been pointed out to him with great frequency and decibels. Solo discovered he wasn't very good with languages or mechanics. He'd received passing marks, but had excelled in marksmanship, diplomacy, seduction, and leadership skills. Napoleon was pragmatic about his deficiencies. All the students had them; he'd work hard to eliminate his.

While he waited for the plane to fuel, his thoughts turned toward Illya. He was in his last year at Cambridge, and they were planning a reunion after graduation. Waverly was pleased with Illya's hard work and his stunning marks, and wanted him to continue his schooling with a doctorate from the Sorbonne in quantum mechanics.

Solo sighed. Illya was doing as well in his field as Solo. Their competence only seemed to drive them further apart. It might be longer than they'd first thought before they'd be together. The impatience of youth screamed at him that they were wasting valuable time, but the newer more mature Solo knew they'd both be better men for it. He just hoped they each liked the new, improved versions of each other.

Illya Kuryakin tried to concentrate on his studies. He was supposed to be memorizing electro-magnetic radiation and the effects of the differing wavelengths. His professor had his back to him, scribbling on the blackboard. Illya wondered what Napoleon was doing just then. He is probably on his way to New York by now, he thought. Solo's letters had been few and far between, with Survival School keeping him hopping. Illya had understood, but it was hard to be so far removed from his best friend and lover.

They had a rendezvous planned at the end of this term, and Illya's graduation. Solo had gotten a bonus from U.N.C.L.E. for graduating at the top of his class, and Napoleon chose to send the cash to Illya for his trip to New York. Now it was a mere five months away and Illya found the wait harder to endure.

It was nearing Christmas, and Illya's classmates had their holidays all planned. Most would go home to be with their families, but Illya had nowhere to be and planned to stay on campus. Napoleon promised to call him on Christmas Day from his Aunt Amy's penthouse. It gave the lonely Russian something to look forward to.

Illya shook his head and dispelled the gloomy thoughts. It did no good to moon over Solo's absence. Kuryakin was doing splendidly in school with nothing to distract him from his studies. So well, in fact, that Waverly had promptly arranged for him to go directly to the Sorbonne for his advanced degree. Illya could not have refused the offer without good reason. He had accepted graciously and gratefully, but had asked to be allowed a short vacation between the two terms. Waverly had asked if Kuryakin would consider spending the summer break in New York, giving him the opportunity to learn the ropes at headquarters.

Grinning now at the thought of U.N.C.L.E. footing the bill for his reunion with Napoleon, Illya wondered if Mr. Waverly knew their true relationship. He suspected he did. An apartment waited for Solo, compliments of the Command, but Illya knew he dared not stay there. The Russian noticed that England was freer with her countrymen's sexual liberties, but he had been raised in Communist environs, and knew well enough to hide his true nature.

Illya would stay in bachelor quarters within the building proper, and whatever time he would find with Solo would be enough. After more than a year apart, a day together would seem like a banquet. And Illya Kuryakin was starving....

New York—June, 1955

Napoleon Solo, officially Number Eleven, Section Two, drummed his manicured fingers on the top of the circular desk. Mr. Waverly had summoned him a few moments ago, but had not arrived himself. Solo's suit coat was exquisitely tailored, Aunt Amy seeing to it that he was well-turned out, but he shot the cuffs anyway, trying to make the jacket hang properly. He gazed around the room for the umpteenth time, amazed at all the circuitry and gadgets that Waverly used with aplomb. The Old Man expected Solo to be a quick study and clucked disapprovingly when his favorite student forgot the use of one or two of the buttons.

The thought of his boss caused him to sit straighter in his chair and he heard the door whoosh open behind him. He stood automatically, staring straight ahead, waiting for the tweedy form of his mentor to appear and take his customary chair. Solo's nose registered the pungent aroma of Waverly's pipe before his eyes tracked the stocky figure as he sat. A second later, his ears informed him that the doorway had not closed, just as Waverly waved someone in with a, "Come in, sit down, sit down."

Solo turned, and almost sat again in his chair in surprise. Illya Kuryakin stood in the doorway, smiling the shy smile he was famous for.

"Yes, sir," Kuryakin replied, and crossed the room to sit next to his friend. Illya smiled wider and held out his hand. "Napoleon," he said quietly, and felt a shiver run through him as Solo returned the handshake firmly.

Mr. Waverly cut through Solo's shock with a curt, "Are you going to stand there all morning, Mr. Solo?"

The American agent looked from Waverly to Kuryakin and back again. He carefully lowered himself into the chair. "No, sir." Illya laughed under his breath and Napoleon shot a look at him. But his brown eyes twinkled at the sight of his lover.

Waverly cleared his throat and set his pipe in the ashtray. "Mr. Kuryakin has joined us for the summer until his studies begin at the Sorbonne." The elder man watched the interplay between the two agents carefully. Solo recovered from his shock quickly enough, and stared straight ahead. Kuryakin seemed to be amused for some reason but remained silent.

Their boss continued, "I am pleased with the progress you both have made under U.N.C.L.E.'s auspices. I expect that trend to continue. You have a great deal to learn about this organization and how it functions. I realize Mr. Kuryakin is not a field agent, but he will benefit from your experience, Mr. Solo. He will be tutored in French by Miss Adcock in Languages for the time being, and I want you to show him around the office. He has an apartment he needs to be settled in as well. See to it."

Solo had been around Waverly long enough to know a dismissal when he heard one. He stood and inclined his head in Waverly's direction. "Yes, sir."

Illya rose as well, and followed Napoleon out the door. Once in the hallway, he took Solo's arm in a gesture of brotherhood and said, "Congratulations on becoming an enforcement agent, Napoleon."

Solo returned the compliment and said, "And to you for graduating summa cum laude."

They walked down the hall, trying not to show the excitement they felt. Napoleon pointed out the various departments as they passed, and Illya pretended to see them. "Are you hungry? Do you want to go to the cafeteria?" Solo asked politely.

Illya shook his shaggy head. "Actually, I would like to see my apartment. I had my things sent down there already."

Solo's pulse sped up immediately. He took a deep breath and replied evenly, "Of course."

They took the nearest elevator and waited inside, watching the numbers go by. The guest level lit up and Solo ushered Illya into the hall and down to his apartment. Kuryakin used the code he'd been given that morning, and the door slid open at his command.

Solo stepped in first, and waited for Illya to come inside. The door shut and they were finally alone. They looked at each other, a few feet separating them. Illya swallowed, Solo's proximity all but crumbling the reserve he'd built up today.

Napoleon was sweating, rivulets of perspiration running down his temple to drip onto his too-tight collar. He closed his eyes and whispered, "Illya...."

Kuryakin started, the pull of that voice nearly impossible to resist. He took one step toward Solo before he managed to speak. "Security?"

Napoleon was puzzled for half a beat until he realized Kuryakin's intent. "Ah, these are agents' quarters, Illya. No intrusive devices allowed."

Kuryakin relaxed visibly and loosened his tie. The jacket was shucked and thrown over a convenient chair. His white shirt was sticky with sweat and plastered to his thin frame. Solo gulped when he saw the outline of Illya's stiff nipples jutting through the fabric.

"You've... you've gained weight, finally, Illya. Filled out. Nicely." Solo took a heaving breath as Illya drew closer. He had put on bulk, rowing and weight training in preparation for Survival School.

"And you have lost weight, Napoleone mio. Such sleekness...." His hand slipped across Solo's waistline, approving of the taut lines under the tailored jacket and the firm buttocks in the finely-cut slacks. Solo groaned and Illya pulled him closer and let his hands roam over the chiseled body. Solo was like a panther, honed and defined in a powerfully dangerous way.

Illya undid the tie and pulled the jacket down, trapping Solo's arms against his waist. He slipped down each button and exposed the sweaty chest, kissing and licking the perspiration away. Once the shirt hung open he pulled it from the slacks and yanked both garments away with one motion. Napoleon was bare from the waist up, but that wasn't good enough. It was, however, a start, and Illya resisted the urge to continue the disrobing long enough to run his warm palms across Solo's chest, making the nipples pull into hard nubs. Solo hissed and watched with lidded eyes as Illya bent down to suck one taut point into his eager mouth.

The Russian's mouth worked magic on Solo's body as he threw his head back in delight. The tailored slacks were tented, Solo's interest apparent. Illya drew shaking hands across the swollen front and caressed gently. He went down on his knees and slipped one hand inside the waistband, pulling Solo ever closer. The other hand drew down the zipper and disappeared into the white cotton beneath.

Napoleon's knees nearly buckled when Illya grasped his hardening penis, and he lurched toward the couch. Kuryakin went with him, refusing to release his long-sought-after prize. After removing the pants and underclothes, he lay on top of Solo and worked back up his chest, kissing and licking every tanned inch of skin. Once his tongue felt the cleft of his lover's chin, Illya groaned, the first sound he had made. He targeted Napoleon's mouth, wasting no time on delicate forays. He thrust his tongue insistently into the open lips, his tongue dueling with Solo's, and his hand continuing to caress and stroke. Illya's thumb passed over the weeping slit and Solo jerked in response.

Solo growled, taking Illya by surprise, and flipped him over to land on top of the smaller frame. They nearly fell onto the carpeted floor, but a last-minute save had them righted again. Napoleon thrust his pelvis against Kuryakin's clothed body and sat up, eyes blazing.

He grabbed Illya's shirtfront and yanked hard, watching in satisfaction as the buttons pinged off in every direction. Illya leaned into him for another hard kiss, and he used the motion to remove the ruined shirt. The pale white skin of his lover was dewed with sweat and Solo whispered as he bent over him, "Mine, all mine...."

It was the last coherent thought he had as he swept over the body beneath him, suckling and laving every inch of skin presented. He bit one nipple hard enough to make it bleed and then apologized by kissing the offended part over and over. Illya moaned and sobbed beneath him, arching his pelvis and begging Solo to continue. Napoleon crawled up the slick body, nibbling behind each ear in turn and latching hot lips on the smooth neck. Illya tensed, trying to get Solo's attention lower, but the American would not be distracted. He grabbed Illya's thick hair and pulled the vulnerable neck back, applying enough pressure to get Kuryakin's attention. He stilled immediately, allowing Solo free rein.

Napoleon rumbled against the exposed throat, knowing the trust his lover had in him. He rewarded Illya by loosening his grip and plundering the delicious mouth once again. Taking Illya's wrists, Solo pulled the muscled arms back and above the blond head. He delved into the soft hair of his armpits, inhaling the sweet smell of Illya-sweat. He encouraged the Russian to grasp the arm of the couch and then started down a sensual journey across the jumping muscles of Illya's chest and abdomen.

Napoleon smiled when Illya seemed ticklish around his navel. He spent time there, turning Illya into a physical wreck. Only when his lover bucked hard enough to nearly unseat him did Solo continue south to the annoying trousers still more or less in place.

Nearly bursting with his own need, Solo had a difficult time keeping his hands from yanking the clothes off his lover's gleaming body. He took deep breaths and watched Illya's face as he ran a large hand across the cloth-covered bulge. Kuryakin closed his eyes and groaned from the depth of his soul. "Pazhalusta, Polya...."

Solo bent level with Illya's crotch and teased him with his lips and tongue, rubbing against the hard cock beneath. Illya tensed upward, but did not release his grip on the couch. Solo approved of his tenuous restraint and took pity on the younger man. He tried to control the tremors in his hands as he loosed the last barrier of cloth between their rigid bodies. Pulling the pants and briefs down and off took far too much time, and the impatient Russian growled as Solo snaked down his body to pull off the restraining shoes and socks as well. When Solo's head went past his erection, Illya tried to thrust against it, blind with lust from Solo's slow assault.

Napoleon laughed softly and decided poor Illya had had enough for one session. On his way back up the hard-muscled thighs, Solo kissed and teased the softly-downed legs, licking aggressively at the crease where hip and thigh met. Illya cried out and finally lost control, letting go of the arm of the couch and grabbing Solo's head with his blunt fingers.

"Take me in your mouth, Polya. I'm dying...."

Solo looked into the brilliant blue eyes. "Not yet, you're not, caro mio."

He kept eye contact as his lips captured the weeping head of Illya's erection and pulled it into his mouth. Kuryakin wanted nothing more than to watch, but he was so close he had to close his eyes or come from the sight.

Napoleon used his tongue on the rim to push the foreskin back and forth. Illya thrashed and squirmed beneath him, trying to push deeper into the incredible moist heat. Solo thrust his own heated cock against Illya's hard thigh, trying to get purchase for his own desire.

Illya felt the needy pressure and groaned deeply, pulling Solo up to his lips by the thick dark hair. He kissed Napoleon again and again and felt him nestle his erection against his perineum, trapping Illya's cock between their rock-hard abdomens. "Yes, Napoleon. Now, now!"

His lover began to thrust, each backward and forward motion creating an incredible friction. Illya pushed against the sweaty skin of Solo's stomach and cried out at the sensation.

Illya's needy cry touched Solo and he lost all control. "Illya, Illya, I can't wait any longer...." He buried his face in the hollow between Illya's neck and shoulder and thrust once, twice, three times against the exquisitely tender skin. "Illyusha!" he cried as his orgasm roared outward, his cock jerking in the close quarters.

The strong warm spurts hit Illya's sensitive skin and he groaned as well, pulling Solo hard against him as he pushed into the body on top of him. Illya came hard, panting and going rigid with the release. His fluid coated both of their stomachs, joining with the pool of sweat already there. Napoleon collapsed, his weight bearing Illya deeper into the couch, his dark head dropping onto the pale shoulder.

Both men gasped for breath, trying to recover some sense of self. Solo tried to lift his head, and dropped back weakly. Illya's arms went around the heaving chest, and he kissed the crown of the brunet head. After a few minutes, Solo stirred and took some of his weight off by sliding across the slick body beneath him. Illya turned and spooned up against his lover. Solo gathered him in his arms and they rested together.

When he could speak, Solo bent to the small ear and whispered, "Welcome to New York, Illya Nickovetch."

Illya laughed and tightened his grip of Solo's forearm. "I must remember to send a thank you note to the welcoming committee...."

Solo glanced down at their sticky bodies. "Ah, Illya? Message received."

Both men chuckled and settled against the other's body contentedly. Illya sighed deeply and wondered what the next three months would bring. It wouldn't matter; he would be with Napoleon, where he longed to be.

"It will be difficult to leave here for the Sorbonne in the fall."

Solo tightened his embrace. "Here?" he gestured to the apartment, and U.N.C.L.E. "Or here?" he asked as he caressed the smooth hairless skin of Illya's inner arm.

"You know what I meant."

"I know, caro." Napoleon kissed the side of Illya's neck. "But we're getting closer. Finish your degree, tackle Survival School and then we'll be together again."

"You will wait for me? You promise, dushka?"

"I promise. I love you, Illya."

"I love you also, Napoleon."

They were silent for a while, thinking about what they meant to each other, and the long winding road that had led them here to this place and this time.

Illya had nearly nodded off when Solo shook him gently. "Illya?"

"Hmm?" Kuryakin murmured sleepily.

"What does 'dushka' mean?"

The Russian stirred, trying to translate the endearment into American. "It, uhm, means 'soul.'"

Napoleon's heart constricted to know that Illya called him that. "I thought all good Russians were atheists, my Illyusha."

Illya smiled and kissed Solo's hand. "You have much to learn about Russians, milli moy."

Napoleon kissed him back. "Well, isn't it fortunate that I happen to be in love with a Russian?" Solo rolled Illya onto his back and covered the smaller frame with his body.


"And that we have the rest of our lives for lessons?"

Illya smiled broadly and pulled Solo to him. "Now you are beginning to think like a Russian."

"Da, da, da." Napoleon fervently hoped he would become fluent in Illya.

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