You Can't Keep a Good Man Down

by nickovetch


The voice, the nuance of speech. It was he: I was sure of it. The world crazed and I suddenly found myself wondering how Napoleon had managed to keep such a polished shine on his Italian leather loafers in Hell. I wondered because I was currently staring at them while lying on the floor.

I heard him swear and felt my shoulders gently supported and cradled in his strong arms. My vision swam in grays and blacks, vertigo forcing me to close my eyes to dispel the dizziness. If this were a dream, I didn't want to wake up anyway. And if it were reality, so much the better. Reality is such a fickle thing, though, and one shouldn't come to rely on it entirely. Reality told me that Napoleon Antony Solo was dead. I should know, because I was there when he died.

So it was rather disconcerting that I should now feel the familiar arms of my partner and lover hugging me to him, and smell the well-loved scent of the man I cherished more than life itself. I basked in the aura of him without opening my eyes, letting my lesser senses tell me what my vision was not ready for.

He was crooning to me, letting his soft endearments gently speak to me until I was ready to process more. English became Italian became Russian. It was all honeyed to me, as it was Napoleon's voice. I must have made some inarticulate reply as he chuckled low in his chest and said, "That's it, lyubovnik. Take your time, beloved."

I felt the stubble of his cheek graze mine and that touch of normalcy caused me to shudder and finally open my disbelieving eyes. I was lying across his lap, my head resting in the bend of his elbow and his warm hand caressing my face with the sure touches that only come from a lover. Blue met hazel and I felt the vertigo beat against me again as I tried to moan his name.

Napoleon smiled down at me and said, "Take it slowly, Illyusha. We have plenty of time." He kissed my forehead, nose and each cheek lovingly as I drank in the sight of him.

My lips formed the name but I couldn't speak. Repeated attempts at speech failed miserably and I gave up, instead reaching up to cup the cheek of him to feel the solidity and convince myself he was indeed real.

Napoleon turned his head and kissed my palm and held it against his face for a long moment. He was so warm and responsive under my hand that I began to allow myself to believe that he truly was alive.

Girding myself I tried again. "N-N..." was all I managed. It was a start. I saw the corners of those beautiful eyes crinkle as he laughed gently at my feeble attempt at speech. I outlined the cleft of his chin with my finger and that seemed to break the spell I was under long enough for me to sigh, "Napoleon."

The dam broke at the utterance of his name, and I buried my face in his chest and wept openly. His arms closed around me and he rocked me in the circle of his embrace and added his tears to mine.

"I'm sorry, sorry. If there had been any other way..." Later, much later, I was sitting on Solo's couch wrapped in a blanket and drinking hot tea to ward off the remnants of shock still lurking in my traitorous body. I still trembled occasionally, and Napoleon sat next to me rubbing my cold hands and hovering at my elbow as if proximity could alleviate the guilt that encompassed him. I luxuriated in his nearness, however, and was much too grateful for his presence to worry about the hows and whys of it.

Napoleon is different temperamentally, though, and was determined to explain away his complicity in my recent bereavement. I let him stew for a time and then gave him an out. Turning to look at the worry-lined face, I asked, "Do you wish to talk about it?" A sigh gusted out of him, one I am sure he'd been holding since I had passed out on him. His face fell and I knew this was excruciating for him to relive. I laughed to myself at that. Chyort, I was the one who had watched him die...

"First of all, Illyusha, know this; if there had been any way in hell I could have warned you, you have to know I would have done so."

I squeezed his hand gently to reassure him I understood. My mind did, anyway, but my body still quaked inside.

"I received information from a reliable source..." he began.

My eyebrows quirked up at that. "Serena?" I asked, a faint smile on my lips. Napoleon had the good grace to blush. "Reliable? Try notorious..."

He grinned at me, knowing I was the jealous type. Ruffling my hair he looked into my eyes, and I saw the sadness that he couldn't hide. I had to admit that this affair had been equally hard on him, and I let him know it. We held the look for a moment longer and he continued.

"Well, anyway...she told me that Thrush hadn't given up on the double ploy. They figured we'd never expect them to try it a second time and had another agent in place to take over once they eliminated me. And, you, of course. No one knows me like you do, Illya. She also warned me there was a mole in our Command; someone who was feeding information about our current assignments and whereabouts to Thrush."

I stretched and burrowed into his embrace further. "Do you think they know we are lovers?"

He sighed and said, "Serena knows."

I must have stiffened against him, for he closed his arms tighter around me and said, "A woman like that knows when there's competition. She knew there would have to be a good reason for me to lose interest in her. And, Illyusha..." He tilted my face to his and brushed my lips gently. "You are a Very. Good. Reason."

I relaxed into his arms and let him convince me. Not that I needed much debate on this issue. I trembled as his fingertips danced across my neck and worked the t-shirt off and over my head. Goosebumps rose immediately on my chest and Napoleon seemed determined to kiss every one of them away. I arched into his mouth to encourage his ministrations. He chuckled quietly against my throat and I sighed.

The next few minutes were a blur as I was completely and professionally taken apart and put back together in a different order. I was surprised to discover that I was thoroughly naked and Napoleon was similarly disposed. And lying full length across my sweaty body. Not a bad way to come back to awareness. I managed to find my voice long enough to whisper, "Polya" to him before the need for words was extinguished by his talented mouth. I felt his tongue enter my mouth and lazily met it with my own. I was still weak and fully prepared to let Napoleon do all the work. Well, almost all the work...

What Napoleon can do with his tongue has long been the subject matter at the secretarial water cooler. I'm pleased to say that by reason of empirical evidence, I can verify it is all true. And it was beginning to look like I could add another chapter to the legend by the feel of things.

I felt him shift his hips against me and gasped as I felt his erection jerk against my thigh. I pushed back against him, and we began a give and take that had me nearly delirious with emotions. To swing from utter despair to utter joy in such a short span of time short-circuited my control. I felt myself nearing completion much too soon and conveyed that to my lover.

Napoleon smiled against my mouth and continued to devour me from the inside out. He encouraged me with a murmur. "Illyusha, Illyusha...let go. I'll catch you." Always one to obey orders, I thrust up into his hard flesh one last time and erupted in a torrent of need. I heard my name called from a distance and felt an answering wetness on my belly. I wasn't sure whose arms tightened and whose arms grew lax, as we seemed to be one flesh. The matter of identity didn't seem to matter at all.

Time dissolved into heartbeats and panting breaths and nothing else. I felt the cadence and rhythm of Napoleon's spirit intertwine with mine and exulted in the brio it represented. This man was my life and without him I was nothing. That had been driven home with cruel intensity recently, but now it was reinforced by an unbreakable bond that I intended to cherish fiercely.

We repositioned ourselves on the couch and Napoleon pulled the afghan down on top of our sweating bodies. He turned and made room for me in his arms and I felt the pull of sleep beckon to me. Truthfully, I hadn't slept in days, and now my body was trying to make up for lost time. I kissed his hand and said quietly, "I love you, Napoleon Solo. Next time, I get to die first."

"No, you don't, my Illushka. We get to die together having sex when we're eighty-five and eighty-six," he smirked.

"That young, huh? You forget, Polya, that we Russians have extremely long life spans."

He yawned and pulled me closer. "Okay. I'll work on it." "You'd just better," I answered before falling heavily asleep.

The clatter of kitchen utensils drew me from sleep as I took stock of my bearings. The delicious aromas coming from behind the couch convinced me I was not in my apartment. Nothing delicious ever came out of there. Well, except Napoleon Solo on occasional mornings...

Napoleon. Napoleon heart clenched once as my mind remembered what my body was trying to tell me. Napoleon was gloriously and miraculously alive, and currently cooking breakfast. And he had morning hair. I laughed out loud at his appearance as he emerged. He frowned at me gruffly and I laughed even harder. He had never looked so wonderful to me as he did now. He yelped once in surprise as I pulled him down to me and kissed him breathless.

"Well, good morning to you, too, partner," he groused, but I knew he was pleased. "How do you feel?"

I glanced down at my sticky and hickey-covered body and grinned. "Perhaps you should answer that question?"

"Ah, but you already know the answer, my love." Napoleon's eyes shone at me and he swatted my shoulder playfully. "Breakfast will be ready in ten minutes. Why don't you shower and we can talk?"

He began setting the table and I headed to the bath. There was a towel and a shaving kit laid out for me and I smiled. Being Napoleon's lover was an exhilarating experience. He was the most giving inamorato I had ever known. He exulted in being generous and in taking care of me. I certainly had no complaints. No one had ever taken care of me before, and once I allowed it, I discovered I liked it.

I also liked his truly hedonistic shower. It was large enough for two as we had demonstrated on more than one occasion, and it never ran low on hot water. I luxuriated under the needle-fine spray and sluiced the evidence of last night's passion from my body. I was somewhat disoriented from the recent happenings and took longer to clear the cobwebs than I usually allow. By the time I dried off, Napoleon was waiting in the hall to wrap me in his large blue robe. It smelled like him and I disappeared into it gratefully. He pulled me against his chest and I was reintroduced to his coffee-flavored mouth.

I pulled back regretfully as my stomach growled loudly. Napoleon laughed and pulled me toward the dining room. "Come on, Illya. Food first, love later."

I sat across from him as he heaped bacon and eggs onto my plate. I hadn't had an appetite since his "death" and had lost weight. I believe Napoleon was trying to fatten me up in one meal. He jumped up as the toaster popped and brought back a tray of English muffins. He knows my weaknesses too well. I looked at him and grinned at the amount of food on the table.

"Where's yours?" I teased as he reached for another plate. He began to draw his hand back as I leaned forward and touched his face gently. I spooned half my food onto his plate and when he protested, I said, "If you stuff me to the gills I won't have any room for dessert."

"Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin, you are wicked."

"Yes, and you love it."

Napoleon grasped my hand as it reached for a muffin and he replied, "If you keep this up, I won't be able to wait for dessert." He ran his thumb along my wrist and I groaned under my breath.

"'Good things come to those who wait,' Polya. Besides, I'm hungry." He relented and we dove into the food for quiet moments. I hadn't realized how much Napoleon had reawakened all my appetites. I suddenly wondered how sturdy his dining table was...

My curiosity was sidelined by Napoleon clearing his throat. I knew that look and asked what was on his mind.

"The mission briefing. We were, ah, distracted from it last night."

"And how." I willed myself to act professionally and leaned back into the chair, sipping my coffee.

Napoleon pushed the dirty dishes aside and poured another cup. His bearing changed and he was once again C.E.A. I straightened in my chair in an almost visceral response to his authority.

"As far as Thrush knows, we're both dead. It needs to stay that way indefinitely, Illya. Serena's intelligence proved out. She tipped me to the newest imposter in time to turn the tables on our competition. We got the fake Solo and interrogated him before he could do any damage. He sang like a canary and told us about the set-up."

Napoleon got up and paced the length of the room like the predator he is. Moving always helps him think, and it gives me a pleasant view at the same time. He turned and frowned at me and then continued.

"We were to be killed in an ambush of Thrush's design, far enough from HQ to keep it quiet. UNCLE would know nothing about our deaths. Thrush's Solo would then be substituted to take your body back to Waverly and concoct any story he deemed likely." Napoleon's grip on the edge of the table tightened, and his face clouded in anger at the thought of my body in an imposter's hands. I shuddered at the thought.

He smiled at me and said, "Fortunately, we drugged the double and brainwashed him enough to go through the motions until we could take action. We kept him away from you as much as possible and then got word of a fake Thrush payroll transfer that we would have normally jumped on with both feet."

"The Juniper Street warehouse...I thought you seemed a little distracted. And we had no backup. Although that's not particularly unusual for the 'Dynamic Duo.'" I grinned at Napoleon and he threw a napkin ring at my head.

"We went in together and then split up to section the area. We had backup, Illya. More than you'd ever imagine. I ducked behind a row of crates and the Solo-lite was let loose. That's when our feathered friends put in an appearance."

I interrupted with an observation. "I saw the first goon and yelled a warning. I saw at the target and he went down. I was busy with two more thugs and lost contact for a minute. I heard your Special blasting away and figured you were all right. I took out my two and worked my way back toward your last position and that's when I...when I saw..." I stopped and swallowed. I must have paled for Napoleon walked to me and knelt down beside my chair. He took my shaking hands in his and held on.

"I saw the man with the machine gun cut you down, Napoleon. It was like slow-motion photography. I saw him aim at you and you didn't see him because you were looking at me. I tried to take out the gunman but you stood up and..." Napoleon raised one of my cold hands to his lips and kissed it softly. "I know, Illyusha, I know. I saw the look on your face from where I was hidden. And I also knew I had a split-second to react. You were going to take that goon out no matter what happened to you. I could see it in your eyes."

He took a deep breath and started in. "Do you remember what happened after that?"

I tried to remember past the red haze I had been in after seeing my partner shot to death. I looked at Napoleon and shook my head.

He laughed somewhat shakily and said, "That's because I darted you. You went down a fraction of a second before the machine gunner let loose in your direction. Scared the shit out of me, I might add. Cut it a little too close."

I gaped at him. "You darted me?"

He looked pleased with himself as he replied, "Yep. With a new formula our lab came up with. Instantaneous unconsciousness that keeps a man down for about two minutes. Not even long enough for you to realize you'd been out."

He pulled a chair close to mine and finally sat next to me, keeping bodily contact all the while. "It worked, too. The Thrushie thought he had killed both of us and the fortuitous arrival of the local gendarmes forced him to beat a hasty retreat. We had planted incendiaries in the building and he saw them go off before he high-tailed it. He was clear to report to the Council 'mission accomplished.' We left five bodies burned beyond recognition for their forensic team to find later. They were convinced."

Eyes downcast, I spoke very softly, "So was I. I woke up and thought I had hit my head on the way down and saw your...his...body on the floor. The smoke was getting thick and I tried to get you out of there. I just couldn't leave you like that..." Tears sprang to my eyes as I remembered seeing the bloody and lifeless body of my best friend splayed on the concrete.

Napoleon had matching tears in his eyes as he confessed, "I saw the look on your face, Illya, as you held the double thinking it was my body. I had to stop myself from breaking cover and taking you in my arms. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, leaving you there to face that. I'm sorry, Illya. More than you can ever know."

I stopped and composed myself before continuing. "I must have passed out from smoke inhalation because I don't remember any more. I woke up here in the safe house and they told me you were dead."

I dropped my face into my hands and sagged with the memories. Napoleon hugged me to him and we rocked gently together. "Why didn't you tell me this when I came to? Why did I have to go through this hell, Napoleon? Why?" I was angry now and not above showing it. The naked pain on Solo's face reflected his feelings as well.

"Waverly's orders. We still had the mole to worry about, and he had to keep a lid on things at HQ. The Old Man and I were the only ones who knew about this double plan, and that's the way he wanted it. I guess he figured keeping you under wraps was the best way to prove your innocence. If any intel leaked out while you were sequestered, then you were in the clear. Someone did contact Thrush in the last two days verifying that both of us had gone missing." My partner grinned at me and said, "So, I guess I can trust you, huh?"

I wouldn't let him off that easily. I still glared at him, but my eyes softened and he recognized the look. It gave him courage to continue to try and placate me. "The double was to receive a communication to let him know to follow through with the infiltration. I went straight from the warehouse to the prearranged location and waited. It was the longest two days of my life, partner. Waiting and knowing you were missing me, mourning me, going on without me."

I listened to him and understood then. If our positions had been reversed, I know how I would have felt. We had both been through our own personal hells. The anger melted from me and I took Napoleon's face in my hands. I kissed him Russian style and said, "I know you had to do it, Polya. I forgive you."

He sagged with the unburdening of it and I took him in my arms this time. He was shivering and I wasn't in much better shape. "What do we do now, Napoleon?" I kissed his neck, his ear, the soft curl of his hair.

"You stay out of sight. I go to HQ tomorrow with the story Mr. Waverly and I concocted about being captured and making one of my brilliant escapes. I will have the sad duty of informing him that Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin was killed in the line of duty."

I snorted. "No doubt I died heroically, saving your clumsy behind from a Thrush bullet or worse. Make me larger than life, all right?" Napoleon chuckled against my chest. "I'll embellish. The upshot is that Thrush thinks I'm their man. And I'm going to let them believe it for a while. We can strike at the heart of them with this, Illya. I can draw out some of their top-level agents, if not a council member or two. We have a rare opportunity to take advantage of here."

I sighed. "And I have a rare opportunity here myself, my Napoleon." I stood and tugged him closer to my body. "I believe we missed dessert earlier, eh, Polya?"

"Why, Mr. Kuryakin, I believe you're right. I would be remiss in my duty as a host to let you go without dessert. What is your pleasure?"

I nuzzled along his strong chin and whispered seductively in his ear. "Solo Flambé."

He growled at me and bit down on my ear lobe as he responded to my passion. I tried to stay in control this time so I could drive the action instead of being swept along by it. After the last few days, I needed to be in control of something, and right now Napoleon seemed to be open to suggestion. I grasped both his wrists and pinned them to his sides, surprising both of us by the show of force. Napoleon stared hard at me trying to gauge my mood. The next few seconds would be crucial. My lover would either acquiesce and play along or up the ante. This was where having a male paramour made things exciting. Strength pitted against strength and ego matched ego in a dangerous game that we both enjoyed playing. Napoleon lowered his gaze and lay his head on my shoulder quietly. My heart fairly burst knowing that this untamable warrior would submit so fully and trust me so deeply in this. I kissed the short hairs on the back of his neck and rubbed my fingers across the red marks on his wrists. Sometimes my need for him can frighten me. But I want no other way than to love him this deeply.

I led him down the short hall to the master bedroom. It hadn't been slept in for days and I yanked back the bedspread and nearly tangled us in it in my haste to tumble us into its comfort.

I saw a smile lift the corners of Napoleon's mouth as he read my impatience correctly. He began to undress and I stopped him with a hiss. I wanted that particular pleasure. He let his arms drop to his sides as I crawled on top of him and began to remove his shirt buttons with my teeth. He watched in fascination as I spit them across his bedroom floor with the precision of a tobacconist. I made short work of the pants as well and noticed by the large swelling there that I had gotten Solo's complete attention.

Since I was wearing only a robe there was not much to impede his visualization of my own need, and I felt his warm hand take hold of my erect cock. I gasped and thrust into the tight heat and heard him moan as he discovered how much I desired him.

We had kept silent but now I had to speak. "I want you, Napoleon. I want you now..." I was almost frantic in my single-mindedness, needing this possession of his body to assure me of his nearness. Last night had been an affirmation of life. Today would be a declaration of love.

We rolled together and I wrapped my arms around his barrel chest in an attempt to merge our bodies ever closer. I urged him on to his side and nudged up close behind him. Napoleon likes to take me from the front, to be close to my lips and nipples since they are such erogenous zones for me. I prefer the side or the back position, myself. It gives me the freedom to roam over his incredible anatomy with both hands. I raked fingers across his chest as I rubbed my weeping cock against his ass and was rewarded with a moan of desire. He pushed back against me as I pinched one of his nipples and slid a wet finger into his body. He tensed like a live wire and cried out as I finger-fucked him mercilessly. I didn't want hearts and flowers right now and Napoleon likes it rough as much as I do.

I had an awkward moment as I had to reach across him to get at the lube in the nightstand drawer. He saw the problem immediately and solved it by grabbing the tube himself and smearing the cool gel on his hand. I saw him reach between his own legs and coat himself and then I felt his rough palm slick down my hard cock. I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from coming at the eroticism of that act.

He was panting and I heard him groan, "Now, Illya." I was in complete agreement as I grasped his ass cheeks in both hands and slid forward into his body in one long, hot glide. We both sucked in oxygen as we hung on the moment; the sweet beginning that was always so fleetingly lost. I remained perfectly still; content to be sheathed in the hot recess of my lover.

Napoleon wanted more and began grinding against me, silently begging me to move. I growled at him and bit the back of his neck and reminded him who was in control. He stilled, willing to let me master the moment, and I rewarded him by reaching in front of his body and caressing his erection.

Only when I felt the steel of that rock-hard rod in my fist did I let my passion for him begin to overtake my possession of him. I thrust into his body as I drove my fist down on him and then reversed the motion, driving Napoleon wild with the simultaneous stimulation. After a few thrusts I pushed him over onto his knees and drove into him with all my strength. Napoleon cried out and arched his back allowing me to penetrate him to the fullest. My grip on his hips had to be bruising as I jerked and snapped my hips forward into the velvet vise of my lover.

Pounding into him now, I was vaguely worried I would hurt him, but he was a wild thing beneath me and gave as good as he got. I managed to wrap one hand around his thick cock seconds before I began to come deep inside him. I rubbed my thumb across the sensitive slit and heard the cry spring from his lips as the hot wash of semen spurted into my palm. I came with him, breathing raggedly as I felt each jet of come leave my body and join his. We were locked together in a seizure of pleasure as our orgasms wound down to a dull roar, leaving us spent and limp with relief. I sagged onto his slick back and he did not complain at the weight. He collapsed onto his stomach, rolling me with him and keeping my cock inside his body for the time being. I was still hard within him, my orgasm shattering in its intensity but my need still heavy.

He moved against it, cherishing the feel of my love for him, flattered that I still wanted him. I thrust leisurely into him, content to just be connected to him and enjoying the electric shocks my post-coital erection still felt. I touched his manhood and began to stroke him to an answering hardness. This time would be a slow assault and a sweet release. I had my lover in his bed and the day stretching out before us. I was at peace.

Hours later I woke to Napoleon resting his head on my stomach sleeping like only the sated can. We were sticky, sore, and limp as wet noodles. The bed was a wreck but even my fastidious self didn't care. Sex with Napoleon Solo was like going to Disneyland. You just never knew which ride it might be.

Making love with Napoleon...well, that was indescribable. It seemed to me that I had been given a second chance to have a life with him. Even though intellectually I knew he had never died, it now seemed that every minute with him was that much sweeter, rarified and cherished. So I lay there, unconcerned at the time or the state of the bed or what was waiting for us outside these walls. I stroked his hair and reveled in the feel of his body on mine.

I did something then that I hadn't done since I was a young child. I prayed. I prayed to God thanking Him for giving me this man and this heart that I didn't deserve but which I so fully embraced. I thanked Him for keeping him safe and returning him to me even when I had acknowledged that he was gone forever.

Napoleon stirred and mumbled my name. I rolled into him and wrapped my arms and entwined my legs with his and breathed deeply the scent of our mingling. It smelled like home and relaxed me enough to drift off and join Napoleon in his dreams.

I woke to the sound of the shower at full blast. Napoleon. He does everything at full blast. The thought made me smile as I got out of bed and stripped the linens. After pulling fresh sheets from the hall closet I carefully remade the bed, tucking the sheets under with military precision. Some habits never die, and I smoothed the spread free of wrinkles and almost finished by bouncing a quarter on the top of the cover. The shower was still running, and another old navy custom surfaced—conserving water. I slipped into the bath quietly and watched the body silhouette behind the glass for a few voyeuristic moments. Napoleon's body draws me like a moth to a flame and the thought of him freshly washed and slick with water droplets caused me to shiver.

I slowly slid the glass door back to reveal my partner blinking water out of his eyes and shaking his head to send a spray of droplets from the ends of his dark hair. I caught my breath at his beauty and hesitated. He smiled at me and spit a stream of warm water directly into my face. I sputtered and jumped in after him and held his head under the shower spigot until he cried, "UNCLE !"

Napoleon soaped and scrubbed every inch of my body and then carefully poured shampoo onto my hair and washed that, too. He loves playing with my hair, and I would never admit to him that I enjoy the feel of his strong fingers slipping through it as well. I'm sure he knows, however, since the merest touch from him brings out a contented rumble from me that he teasingly describes as "purring." I may bite, growl and scratch, but I do not purr. After toweling each other dry we spent the next few minutes dressing and tidying up. Napoleon would be back at work tomorrow and I seemed to be at loose ends.

I reminded him of that. "What am I supposed to do while the 'Fake Solo' carries on business as usual?" I asked. He grinned evilly at me and I was sure I wouldn't like his answer.

"You could stay barefoot in the kitchen and have dinner waiting for me when I got home, dear." He smirked and then ducked as I reached for my Special.

"Call me 'dear' again and you'll be missing an ear lobe."

"All right, all right. You know you're cute when you pout. Stay put tomorrow until lunch and I'll bring home a C and C kit for you to play with. That way you can cover and conceal anything you want and come back to work as one of your alter egos."

I though about it and he continued, "So what's it, er, who's it going to be this time? Sherpa? Lumberjack? Female Impersonator?" His eyes grew big at the last guess and he leered at me. "Boy, now that one has possibilities. Think you could pull that off? And here at home, too?"

That did it. I'd had enough of playful Napoleon. I grabbed the heaviest pillow I could reach and let him have it. He fell back onto the bed with a loud "Oof," and snatched the matching pillow and smacked me across the side of my head. We tangled like demented children and were reduced to fits of giggles in no time. Napoleon disarmed me by sitting on my 'weapon' and tossed his across the room out of reach. He draped across my upper body and waited for our breathing to slow and then gently and softly began kissing my sweating face.

"Give up?" I asked, meeting his tongue with mine and licking across his upper lip.

"Declaring a truce," he replied as he sucked my lower lip into his mouth and bit teasingly.

I groaned his name, "Napoleon..."

"Too tired?" he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Too hungry," I said as he began to shake with laughter. "What?"

"You're like a shark, Illya. All you want to do is eat, sleep and make love."

I frowned at him. "What's wrong with that?"

Still chuckling he got up and pulled me off the bed. "Not a thing, Illyushka. Not a thing." He kissed me deeply and thoroughly and then released me with a swat to my ass.

"Carcharodan charcharias, Napoleon," I said cryptically as I left his embrace and headed toward the kitchen.

"Huh?" he replied and gave me a puzzled look.

"Great White. You said I was a shark. I'd have to be a Great White since I am a man eater." I winked at him and just missed his lunge as I took off down the hall with him close behind.

Unfortunately, Monday morning came right on time and interrupted our weekend of relaxation and reintroduction. Watching Napoleon dress for work made me vaguely nervous, so I puttered around the living room pretending to be interested in the newspaper and the weekend's mail. I hated not being able to accompany him to the office, and I paced like a caged panther.

Napoleon came into the living room and frowned at my agitated state. "For crying out loud, Illya, you're going to wear a path in my Persian rug. Cut it out."

I flopped into the recliner and sighed dramatically. Napoleon would have none of it. He rolled his eyes to the ceiling and said, "I'll be home around one o'clock. Surely you can stay out of trouble for that long?"

I stared at him balefully and replied, "Don't bet on it. And stop calling me Shirley."

He groaned at my favorite in-joke and squatted down in front of me. He pushed the bangs away from my eyebrow and his statement softened. "I know you want to be by my side, partner. But this is the way we have to play it." My brows rose as I started to give a warning, but he placed his finger on my lips to stop me. "I'll be careful. I promise." He then kept me from further words by capturing my lips with his and derailing my train of thought. He has an annoying habit of doing that to me.

We broke the kiss and he winked at me and gathered his briefcase and overcoat. I watched him walk out the door and then reluctantly rose and reset the alarms. I knew he was right, but I didn't have to like it.

What would Thrush ask of him? And how far was he willing to play the double-sided game? He was walking a very thin and dangerous line, and no amount of reassurances from him could deny that.

I was determined to get back in the game as quickly as possible and not sit on the sidelines. Napoleon had my shopping list of supplies and would secure the proper documents and identification that would allow me access to headquarters again. I would have to be cautious, myself, and keep to my cover in order to be effective in this affair.

I smiled as I briefly considered "going girl" as Napoleon so crudely put it yesterday. I was small and slender enough to pull it off, but there were logistical problems that were daunting. To say nothing of the stockings and high heels. I may be a highly trained and efficient operative, but those things could kill a person. I decided to stick with my best bet. Not too far of a stretch to make the pose wearing if the game went long, but not so rudimentary that my colleagues might see through it.

I woke up as Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin, Russian national and Number Two, Section Two. Too bad I was dead. I would leave this apartment later today as Angus Duncan MacLachlan, Scottish designate to the U.N.C.L.E. on loan to Section One. I had picked up a variety of accents while at Cambridge, and a Scottish brogue was one of my better ones. With the addition of curly red hair, beard, moustache, sideburns, and green contact lenses, I would step into a stereotype and blend into the multi-national arena with ease. I was actually looking forward to the persona. I'd decided that "Angus" was going to be the exact opposite of myself; loud, brash, and not exceptionally bright, the usual Section Two material.

Mr. Waverly had agreed to take "Mr. MacLachlan" under his wing and train him in the ways of Section One. Supposedly this training would be put to good use when I, he, returned to the Edinburgh command. It was a good ruse since it would give me instant access to everything I would need to help Napoleon play his part. Waverly knew just how huge this opportunity was to deal Thrush a major blow. Solo and I had carte blanche in this endeavor. And an unlimited budget.

I heard the key code slide at exactly one o'clock and looked up to see Napoleon shoving the door open with his foot. His hands were full of packages and I relieved him of the ones that looked like food. He shook his head at me and dropped the other parcels on the floor. "I might have known you'd grab the take-out. All this other stuff is for you, too, you know."

"I know, but I'm hungry. I have to eat before I transform, anyway. Come on, and tell me about this morning."

Napoleon filled me in on the rather routine day at HQ. He'd received no coded messages from his contact but was expecting something this afternoon. I shoveled pork-fried rice into my mouth and replied, "Good. I'm going stir-crazy here."

"Illya, you've been here alone for precisely," he looked at his watch. "Five hours and thirty-nine minutes. That's not exactly an eternity."

"It is to me. Now you know why I never voluntarily take vacations."

We finished our lunch and I rummaged in the field kits my partner had brought home. I found what I needed and disappeared into the bathroom. Half an hour later Angus came out and bounded into the living room with a boisterous, "Napoleon Solo, you old scoundrel. How the hell are you?"

Solo goggled at me for a minute and then laughed until he cried. I frowned sternly at him and asked what he found so humorous.

Wiping tears from his eyes he said, "You. You look like a leprechaun. A Russian leprechaun."

"Well, I'm neither, ye daft bullock. I'm Scottish."

"Oh, right. I'll keep that in mind, Angus."

I rose to my full height in Gaelic indignation. "That's Mister MacLachlan to you, sir."

He sighed and said, "I can see that this is going to be an interesting affair." He called a cab for me and gathered his things to head back to HQ. "I'll meet you in Waverly's office at three o'clock. Everything's arranged so you'll have no trouble at reception. Wanda's there this afternoon."

I nodded in agreement and Napoleon surprised me with a quick kiss. "Hmm. I always wondered what it would be like to kiss a bearded man."

"So what's it like?" I prodded.

"Hairy." He smoothed my tweed lapel and turned on his heel and out the door.

I waited five minutes and then hurried to the lobby to catch the cab. "Del Floria's tailor shop," I ordered and in a few minutes I was at the familiar curb. I walked down the steps and pulled open the door. Del was there and he looked at me skeptically. I gave him a nod and made my way to the booth. I feigned a bit of uncertainty when in the cubicle and purposely fumbled with the hook for a second until I turned it the correct way. I stumbled into reception and almost fell on my ass much to the delight of Wanda.

"Ah, Mr. MacLachlan. We've been expecting you. Welcome to New York."

I gave a quick glance to the hidden camera, knowing Napoleon was watching and snatched Wanda's hand and parked a hip on the corner of her desk.

"Ah, my bonnie lass. How I would love to introduce you to the beautiful green hills of my highland home. But I fear they would pale next to your loveliness." I kissed her hand and gave her the full effect of my green eyes.

Wanda smiled at me and rubbed the inside of my hand sensuously. "I'd be glad to give you a tour later, Mr. MacLachlan." She had her back to the camera and winked at me. "A private tour."

I winked back and said sadly, "Aye, but it's business I'm here for, lassie, and I'll have to be passing up that tempting offer for now."

She placed a white badge on my lapel and slid her hand along my chest on the way down to her desk. She pressed a button and the door whooshed open revealing a Section Two agent waiting there.

"Mr. Scanlon will escort you to Mr. Waverly's office, sir." Wanda pushed a button no doubt alerting Mr. Waverly of my impending arrival.

I smiled at her one last time, sighed, and released her soft hand. "'Twas a great pleasure making your acquaintance, lass." I nodded at the young agent in the doorway and followed his lead. We wound through the labyrinth of corridors seemingly haphazardly, and I feigned discomfiture at keeping my bearings.

"Did a submariner draw up the floor plans for this building?" I joked. The Section Two man grimaced at my attempted humor. He did not reply and I turned my attention to the wealth of female pulchritude ebbing and flowing around me. I had been watching Napoleon leer at every female in the building for years, so I had quite a reference for this behavior. I was looking at a particularly pert south-going agent when I ran headlong into Mr. Scanlon, a rather surly north-going agent. He barely contained his contempt for my behavior as he ushered me into Mr. Waverly's outer office.

I waved jovially after him as he left and he shook his head as he walked down the hall. I turned to Lisa Rogers and attempted to charm her as well. Her stern look caused me to close my mouth as she greeted me professionally, if not coldly. "Mr. MacLachlan. Mr. Waverly is waiting to see you." I saw no glimmer of recognition in her eyes or her manner. Perhaps she hadn't been told of my impersonation. She buzzed his office and a panel in the wall slid open. I walked briskly into the room and stood at attention at the large circular table in front of me. Napoleon was seated to my right and Mr. Waverly was in his customary position. I raised an eyebrow to Solo and he answered my unvoiced question.

"It's all right, Illya. We're alone and I disabled the security monitors." He smiled at me and asked, "So how are things in Brigadoon?"

I sighed and took my usual chair. "Great. I have a date with Wanda, Lisa already hates me, and Scanlon is no doubt casting aspersions on my heritage as we speak." I looked at our boss and he was smiling behind his briar as he listened to my report.

He turned his sharp gaze to me, looked me over critically and huffed, "I've not told Miss Rogers of our game yet. I knew she would be a great hurdle for you to overcome. If she didn't recognize you, no one will."

I relaxed into the chair and scrutinized my partner. He seemed at ease, as if this were just another briefing. I could sense the wire he was strung on, however, just under the surface, keeping him on alert. "Any bites?"

He ran a manicured hand through his thick hair and sighed. "No, but I'm expecting one any time now. He patted his breast pocket and brought out the transmitter/receiver Thrush had given him. It looked like an ordinary transistor radio, though a bit smaller. I glared at it evilly and Napoleon slid it over to me. "Care to try it out?"

"Och, no, man. We dinna hae yon things in Edinburgh." I grinned at him and he put the device away.

Mr. Waverly cleared his throat and we turned to regard him. "Mr. Solo. Do you have any indication of Thrush's interests in your position here?"

"No, sir, not as yet. I assume their first forays will be of a minor import. Probably something official but not crucial. Testing the waters as it were."

"Yes, quite, I agree. We'll just have to stay our hand until they throw out a line." He buzzed Miss Roger's desk and a moment later she came through the steel doors.

"Yes, Mr. Waverly?" She gave a quick glance to Angus and let her eyes wander appreciatively across Napoleon before settling on her boss.

Her boss caught the byplay and reined in the smile threatening. "Ah, yes, my dear. I'd like you to expedite the paperwork for Mr. MacLachlan. He'll be working very closely with Mr. Solo and myself, and I'd like for him to get settled quickly."

Lisa appraised the red-bearded man again and came up wanting. There was something about him she just couldn't place and that disturbed her. Waverly caught the look on her face and asked, "Is anything the matter, Miss Rogers?"

She frowned at him and then said a little too quickly, "No, sir. I...Mr. MacLachlan, have we met before?"

I smiled at her and said, "I believe I would remember such an encounter, lassie, if it were true." My now green eyes sparkled at her and she looked down for a moment, puzzled at her reaction.

She shook off the feeling and said, "Well, then, if you will follow me, sir?"

Looking to my boss I saw the merriment on his features. He didn't get the chance to stymie his personal whirlwind very often and was clearly enjoying her discomfit. Waverly nodded once to me and I turned toward her retreating form and said in my own voice, "I'd gladly follow you anywhere, Lisa."

The pretty woman stopped dead in her tracks and turned slowly in my direction. "Illya? Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin, you little..." I backed up a step as she descended on me and wrapped me in a bear hug. "I thought you were..." she stopped and choked back a sob.

Returning the hug gave her a moment to recover. I pulled back and kissed her on the forehead and she blushed. She remembered where she was and stepped back, letting her arms fall to her sides.

Glaring daggers at the two seated men, she stood silently, not trusting what would come out of her mouth if she opened it. Napoleon coughed and looked away, and Waverly suddenly found something of great import on the table before him. He must have cringed inwardly thinking of the many ways Miss Rogers would find to repay him his duplicity.

Napoleon rose and walked to her with a placating grin on his face. "Now, Lisa, don't blame Mr. Waverly for this little device. This was all my idea."

He filled her in on the subterfuge, and she calmed down enough to realize that this was the only way the ruse would work. It didn't stop her from giving Mr. Waverly a look that would send stronger men diving for cover.

He cleared his throat nosily and said, "Yes, well. Now that it's all in the open, I believe we shall wait for Thrush to make the next move. Gentlemen, and lady," he stressed the latter slightly, "you are dismissed."

The three of us moved through the door to the outer office. Once the door whooshed shut, Lisa sagged and sat down. I went to her side and placed an arm around her shoulders. "I really am sorry, old girl," I apologized. Napoleon went one better and got down on one knee to take her hand.

"Forgive me?" He gave her hazel eyes at full blast and she sighed between our attentive ministrations.

"Maybe. But you two owe me so big..." A smile lit up her face and Napoleon and I looked at each other nervously.

"And I know just how to get even with Mr. Waverly." She had a smirk on her face that could only be described as evil.

Solo spoke first. "Now, Lisa, you're not going to sneak him Capsule B or dart him are you?" he asked worriedly.

The smile was still in full force as she replied. "Of course not. Nothing so drastic. I just happen to know that he's overdue for a physical, a complete physical, and Dr. Ivanov is filling in for Sanders while he's on vacation."

We paled as I declared, "Ivan the Terrible?"

Both of us shivered as we remembered our own encounters with the doctor and his enormous hands. Napoleon whispered he'd need to be very, very nice to Lisa from now on.

As we left the office I remarked, "I believe that woman's skills are being wasted here. If she were in Section Two, Thrush would fall in a matter of days."

Solo was working alone in his office when he got the call. The receiver vibrated against his side and he pulled it out and switched it on. "Ah, Solo here," he said carefully.

A tinny voice spoke from the microphone and said, "Good to know you're in place. We have a little test run for you."

"I was waiting for further instructions."

"Any problems? We have to make this short."

"No, everything is going according to plan." Solo smiled as he thought, my plan, anyway.

"Excellent. Proceed to Drop Point Two and follow instructions. We will contact you soon. Out."

Not exactly chatty, he thought as he put the receiver back. Solo went directly to Waverly's office where Illya was already working.

I looked up as he entered and was vaguely concerned at the smirk on my lover's face. I knew that look. "They throw you a hook?"

Solo nodded and said, "Line and sinker, too. I have a package to pick up at one of the prearranged dead drops. I'm leaving now to get it."

I rose immediately. "You'll need backup..."

Napoleon laid a hand on my arm and said softly, "Not this time, Illya."

I looked at Waverly who nodded. "If Thrush gets wind of a tail of any kind, they'll know we're on to their operation. No, Mr. Solo must go alone."

My dark look spoke volumes but Solo brushed it off lightly. "I'll be fine, Illya. They're not going to expect any trouble. They'll be watching, you can bet on that." "All right, Napoleon. But let's stop at your office and pick up a tracer. You can at least wear that as a precaution."

Waverly wished him luck and watched as we departed. This operation could prove to be very deadly to Thrush if it were played right. He had the best team in place to ensure its success. Time would be the proof.

We walked quickly to the elevator and once the doors closed and the lift engaged, I pushed the stop button and turned to my partner. "Napoleon, I'm not comfortable with this. No one in Thrush knows 'Angus' and I could easily be your back-up."

Napoleon read the tension in my body and stepped closer to me. "I know you're worried about this affair, Illya. But it's the best chance we've had in a long while to strike at Thrush from the inside. We can't pass it up and we can't screw it up. Just trust me, will you?"

"Always," sighed out of my mouth as Napoleon pulled me into an embrace and kissed me gently. We parted as Solo pulled the stop button out and then continued. I hit the down button and Solo's eyes drifted to my green ones. "We don't need to go to your office, now. I already planted a tracer on you." I smiled a bit guiltily as Solo realized when I would have planted it.

"Why, you sneaky Russian, you."

Stepping out near reception I watched Solo go. He looked over his shoulder and winked at "Angus" once and slipped through the door. I sighed and headed back to Waverly's office. I'd have to trust that Napoleon knew what he was doing, but it didn't make the waiting any easier.

Waverly looked up from his desk display as his C.E.A. entered the room. I allowed a quick flash of relief to flit across my face and then dropped my gaze.

"Mr. Solo? I trust the exchange went smoothly?" Our chief pushed his chair back and settled more comfortably into it as he waited for his subordinate's report.

Solo smiled. "Very."

There was an uncomfortable silence as we waited for news of the instructions. I broke it by clearing my throat and looking expectantly at my partner. "Well?"

"Thrush went true to form again. They want money. Specifically, access codes to Swiss bank accounts that U.N.C.L.E. holds."

Waverly balked at the idea. "Good heavens, man, we can't give them that information." He puffed faster on his briar, a sure sign of his turmoil.

Napoleon was smiling broadly now. He turned to his worried boss and said, "But that's the beauty of it, sir. I don't have those codes nor would the real Napoleon Solo be allowed access to them. All I have to do is relay that to them."

I was puzzled. "But won't that cause them to mistrust you?"

"No, not at all. I really think this is another test. They want to assure themselves that I am their Napoleon Solo and not the real one. They have to know that even the head of Section Two wouldn't have access to critical information like bank codes. So if I did give them the accounts, they would know the jig is up." Napoleon looked rather smug as he continued, "They played right into our hands without even knowing it."

Mr. Waverly chewed his pipe stem a moment longer and nodded. "Quite right, Mr. Solo. I believe you have worked it out correctly. Proceed with the operation."

Solo inclined his head in my direction, and we left our superior encased in a fog of Isle of Dog #22. Heading to their office, Solo and "Angus" bantered small talk about the Edinburgh office and its operations. Once inside the secured room Napoleon drew close to me and purred in my ear, "Have any dinner plans, Angus?"

I replied, "Och, no, man. Care to have a bit o' the haggis wi' me?"

Solo blanched. "Scotland's not exactly known for its cuisine, now is it?"

His discomfort tickled me and I continued, "Well, who could resist blood pudding, sheep's stomach and beef tongue?"

Pulling me flush against his body Solo said, "I'm hungry, Illya, but not for food."

Swallowing audibly I shifted against my lover so my interest would be apparent to him.

My voice husky with need, I kept my mind on the mission by the thinnest of margins. "Don't you have to check in, Napoleon?"

The persistent man was sniffing my neck and rubbing his cheek against the fake beard when he realized that I had spoken. "Ah, what, Illya?"

"Check know, report?" I tapped the Thrush transmitter in Solo's trouser pocket and continued to slide my palm across the expanse of living warmth. Napoleon hissed and drew back a bit to clear his head.

Sighing loudly, Solo broke the embrace and capitulated. "All right. I'll call my feathered friends and you go get the car and meet me in the garage. Ten minutes?"

Nodding I said teasingly, "Verra good, Mr. Solo. I'm sure you'll be wantin' to see what a Scotsman wears under his sporran." I walked jauntily away and Napoleon watched me go.

"If I knew what that was, you'd be in big trouble, Illya Nickovetch." He pulled out the radio and proceeded to contact Thrush.

Eight minutes later Solo walked into the garage and waved me over. I pulled up to the curb and Napoleon got in the passenger side. "Does Angus have a driver's license?" he joked.

I produced an official New York license with Angus' name typed and signed. "We're awfy thorough in Auld Reekie, ken."

Raising his eyebrows, Napoleon said wickedly, "I'm about to find out just how thorough, Mr. MacLachlan."

My paleness gave me away as I blushed, although the beard hid some of the reaction. I drove impatiently, getting home in near-record time and almost hitting a dog, two cats and a boy scout along the way.

By the time we reached the apartment, I was shaking with desire and shedding clothes at a prodigious rate. Napoleon crushed me against his chest and nibbled his way across the exposed skin of my neck. I continued to shed my alter ego by pulling off the beard, moustache and wig and gasped as Solo's tongue delved into my ear.

"Shower," I was covered in spirit gum and wanted to get my hands on Solo's body while I made myself presentable. Shucking the last of my clothes, I headed for the shower, giving Napoleon a terrific view and incentive at the same time.

Solo disrobed more carefully but just as quickly as he hung his items over a convenient chair and followed me into the bath. I could hear him slide back the shower door as I scrubbed my face and neck clean of the sticky glue. He stepped into the steam a moment later and slipped behind me and molded his larger body against mine.

I groaned when I felt the heat of my lover's body plastered to my back and rocked backward into the embrace. I felt the hard erection against my hip and a moment later gasped as it settled between my cheeks insistently. Napoleon licked the warm water from my back and shoulders and surprised me with a bite to my shoulder. I yelped at the feel of the sharp teeth and heard Napoleon growl out a command.

"Turn around."

Barely able to think, I asked, "Schto?"

Napoleon bit me again, harder. "Turn around. I want to see your face, milii moi."

Solo's voice was thick with desire and I obeyed instantly. I raised my eyes to his and saw the quick look of bewilderment there a moment before Napoleon started chuckling softly.


Solo quieted and pulled me to him. "Sorry, dushka. It's the contacts. You forgot to remove them, my green-eyed beauty..."

"Chyort," I cursed and bent my head to take them out. Solo's hand snaked out and caught my wrist and prevented it.

"Leave them in." His eyes were shining with lust, the green specks more pronounced that ever. "It's like making love to you, but...not you."

My cock leapt at those words and I moaned into Napoleon's ear. "Lyubov, I've wanted to get my hands on you all day..." I proved the point by rubbing sensuously against the hard body so near. Napoleon molded us tighter together by sliding his hands around and grasping my ass in a bruising grip. Our erections dueled and tongues matched the rhythm in a dance ages old.

I was swept along by the heady desire of my impatient lover. Napoleon thrust against me harder and faster and I matched the movements, wanting to slow the assault our flesh waged, yet unable to calm the raging need in my own body. As the flashpoint neared I pulled enough rational thought together to cry out to my lover. Wanting to join with Napoleon in this and all things I moaned, "Polya, Polya..."

Napoleon growled against my mouth and sucked harder on the wet tongue. His finger grazed between my cheeks and then slid into me in one quick thrust.

My resulting scream would have cracked the plaster had Napoleon not swallowed it along with my tongue. Biting my swollen lips, Napoleon jerked as he felt the gush of thick semen spurt against his belly and he twitched spasmodically one last time as well as he returned the gift. Grunting with each pulse, Napoleon clenched me harder against his cock as his orgasm roared out of him and left him holding on for dear life.

We broke the kiss to suck in oxygen, our bodies depleted from the shattering release. We panted in counterpoint, and eventually our respirations quieted and became concordant.

I lay my head on Napoleon's shoulder and brushed my fingers across the sticky evidence of our mingling. I was too tired for words and let my touch speak for me. Solo sighed against my damp head and kissed the crown. He reached for the soap and cleaned us both turning me to rinse and then washed our hair. I was practically out on my feet and Napoleon kissed my closed eyelids and turned off the water.

Wrapping me first, he then tucked a towel around his waist and led me, dripping, down the hall and to the master bedroom. I protested sleepily once as Napoleon turned down the bed and tucked me in. He was turning to leave when I softly called to him.

"Polya? Don't go. Stay with me, please?"

Napoleon's face softened as he heard the need in my request and he padded quietly back to the bed. Lying down beside me, he turned off the lamp and drew my cool and damp body against him, warming me with his strong hands. I sighed blissfully and was nearly asleep when I felt Napoleon kissing my shoulder. He must have felt the teeth marks where he'd bitten me earlier, for I felt him soothing the red skin with his lips and silky tongue. I marveled at how I seemed to bring the animal passion out in him, the primal lust, and the longing need. He fell asleep against my back and the warm exhalation of my lover's breath soothed me to sleep.

I was late for work the next morning. Mainly as I had to find all of the Angus parts that were strewn from one end of the apartment to the other. By the time I was put back together and arrived at Napoleon's office, he was immersed in paperwork and on his second cup of coffee.

"Keeping banker's hours are we, Angus?"

"Och, no, mon. I'm just on Edinburgh time. We're ahead of you in all things, don't you know?" He scowled at me but there was a glimmer of amusement in his eyes. "Get yourself a cup of coffee. You're going to need it. Mr. Waverly called down for you two minutes ago." He pointed to the door.

The pot was strong and I sniffed at the aroma wafting from my cup. "Is anything wrong, Napoleon?"

"No, but there will be if you make the Old Man wait. Go on, get out of here." He waved his hand dismissively. I hurried from the room and made my way Number One's office. Napoleon grimaced and pulled the Thrush transmitter out of his pocket. It was vibrating and blinking red. He pushed a stud at his desk and sealed the room before activating the device.

"Solo here." "Is it secure?" a gravelly voice asked tersely. "Of course." "Splendid. We're pleased with the progress you've made in such a short time. So much so that we've decided to move up the timetable. Phase Two will begin immediately. Now listen carefully..."

I looked up as Napoleon entered Mr. Waverly's office. His demeanor was tense and Waverly nodded to him. "You've heard then?" "Yes, sir. Just now in my office." Puzzled, I turned to watch him for a moment. Why hadn't he told me earlier? He Gave his attention to Waverly and cleared his throat. "They want the location of the Fifth Entrance." I saw Waverly bite down a bit harder on his pipe stem and he chewed thoughtfully For a time. I couldn't blame his reticence nor his desire to keep some Section One secrets to himself. Rank having its privileges and all. A moment later he replied. "I imagined it would be something like that. Can't be helped." He turned back to his console and said, "Mr. Kuryakin, if you would leave us now. Mr. Solo and I have some business to discuss." "Of course, sir. Napoleon." I brushed by my lover on the way out, touching base gently with him. He gave me a small smile and nodded once. I could tell the stress of being Thrush's dupe was beginning to wear on him. Even the Great Napoleon Solo had his limits. I wanted to stay by his side but I was always one to obey orders. This was not my place and I left the room to the Number Ones.

On my way back to Solo's office, I wondered at Napoleon's recent behavior. Something about it niggled at the back of my mind though I couldn't put a finger on the reason for my anxiety. I worried about how much this double agent business was affecting my partner. He was showing signs of stress and playing both ends was telling on him. I shook my head and decided it was just my Slavic pessimism showing.

Sighing, I turned to work to take my mind off the problem. There were files piled up In the "In" basket and I grabbed the top one. "Illya" might be dead, but Napoleon was still finding ways to foist the paperwork on him. As I typed, the drudgery and familiarity of paperwork soothed and calmed me and I lost myself in the job.

I was midway through the second report when Napoleon eased through the door and casually glanced over my shoulder. "I see Angus is a much better typist than my last partner."

"Yes, and he charges by the page. So, how did it go?" "Fine," he said noncommittally.

"Your report?" "Sent it from Waverly's office. The ball's in their court now." I frowned at the look on his face. "Napoleon..." He shook his head. "No, Illya. Don't ask. I can't tell you." I rose to leave and felt his warm hand on my elbow. "I'm sorry, Illyusha." The pain and regret in his voice drew the anger from me like a poultice.

"Don't be. You're just doing your job. Now it's about time I get back to mine." I brushed my thumb across the back of his hand just once, gently telling him I understood. Walking through the door I turned just before it closed and saw him drop his head into his hands. Wanting him, needing him, I nonetheless continued to Mr. Waverly's office and my duty instead.

Once there I marveled for the hundredth time how our chief managed it. Hunched over his desk, he monitored field agent's reports, dispatched information by phone, gathered intelligence scrolling by on the computer screen, and all the while keeping up a barrage of questions to the operatives in the room. Agents came and went in response to summons or to report on a new development. Napoleon did not make an appearance the rest of the day and that worried me.

I had no time to dwell on it, however, as Mr. Waverly kept me hopping and I despaired of ever keeping up with the man. Exhausting hours later, he dismissed me for the night. I stretched and gathered my coat, looking back to see him glowering over some figures, still at his desk. I was sure he would still be there hours later, though he had given me leave to go.

I popped my head in Napoleon's office and asked, "Ready to call it a night?" He looked up from his station, telex reports and yellow flimsies strewn about him and reams of paper piled against both sides of the desk. "'Fraid not, Angus. Looks like I'll be here awhile. You might as well go on home." I gave him a look and opened my mouth to reply when he cut me off. "It's all right. Go on, now." I was stung by the curt dismissal but knew better than to argue. I was sure neither of us would get any sleep tonight, each worrying about the other and keeping his own counsel. I trudged toward the elevators and home.

My suspicions were confirmed when I arrived the next morning to find Mr. Waverly and Napoleon in yesterday's suits. They had been given fresh shirts to change into by their secretaries, but they were haggard and hollow-eyed. Napoleon was using an electric razor to freshen up with and I marveled at how good he looked. Even rumpled and weary, he was gorgeous. My lover would look good in a potato sack, I mused. Or maybe you're just relieved to see him, Illya. He smiled when I entered and asked, "Sleep well, Angus?"

"Like a rock, Mr. Solo," I lied. He knew it and made sure I understood. I sat heavily in an empty chair and looked at my shoes. Napoleon looked anywhere but at me. Mr. Waverly dismissed the agents milling in his office with a wave. Most were going off duty and were glad to go. When the room was empty he swiveled his chair toward us and reached for his pipe. He spent moments filling and packing the bowl meticulously and only when he was satisfied with the results did he look our way.

"Gentlemen. We are certain that Thrush will make an attempt to infiltrate this building in the very near future. I have put the Command on Alert Status One until further notice. I want both of you to stay in this room until notified otherwise." He lit the pipe and tended to its draw.

"Mr. Solo, I want you to go over Crypto's latest report and see if you can find anything useful. Mr. Kuryakin, run Security's latest intelligence gleanings and try to discover if our foes have let anything slip." Our chorus of, "Yes, sir" made him smile and he turned away to his console again. Several hours later I was at a dead end and Napoleon's demeanor suggested he had found nothing as well. I stood up to stretch my legs when I heard a strange noise. Astonished, I looked on as one section of the wall drew up and slid open like a garage door, sliding into the juncture of the cornice work and the ceiling. I got a quick glimpse of an elevator-like opening behind the wall as three men armed with automatic weapons poured out of the opening. My instincts finally took over and I jumped in front of Mr. Waverly. Napoleon's instincts were faster as I saw him draw his weapon and back up to give him room to maneuver, I assumed. What stopped me cold was where Napoleon pointed the gun. The muzzle of his Special looked larger than normal as it was centered directly over my heart. The look he gave me was unreadable and I froze as I took in the bizarre situation.

A fourth well-dressed man of indeterminate age stepped out of the elevator and came to stand in front of Waverly's desk. He nodded at Napoleon and said, "Mr. Solo. So good to finally meet you." He spoke with a British accent and I saw Waverly stiffen with recognition.

"And so I have bearded the lion in his own den, what?" The intruder beamed with pleasure and revealed uneven, yellowed teeth. "Mr. Waverly, so nice to make your acquaintance. Let me introduce myself. I am..." Waverly interrupted with a sneer. "You are Terrance Hadley-Smythe. Number Three in your New York Satrapy. A little out of your dimension here, aren't you, Smythe?" The smile left his face as he squared off with his prey. "We shall see, Waverly. All in good time." The hired goons spread out, one of them covering Mr. Waverly closely. I made a move to intercept him and Napoleon ordered, "Stop right there, Angus. Your gun. Take it out very carefully and kick it to me."

Sighing, I reached into my jacket and took out my Special. Placing it at my feet, I gave it a push with my shoe and it skidded over to stop in front of Solo. He recovered it and stuck it in his waistband.

"Sit on the couch, on your hands." When I hesitated, one Thrush pulled back the bolt on his sub-machine gun threateningly. "Now," Solo ordered. I sat as requested and tried to make sense of the insanity.

Mr. Waverly was red-faced with indignation and spat at Solo, "After everything this organization has done for you, Mr. Solo! How much did they pay you to turn?" His shaking hands were on top of his desk and he glared at his Enforcement chief.

I watched as through a fog as I heard Waverly say, "You won't get away with this, Solo. I won't allow it." His hand touched a recessed control and a hand gun sprang out of its hidden compartment. Livid with rage Waverly turned the gun on Napoleon.

Everything seemed to slow to stop-motion photography as I watched my deadly partner swing his weapon to aim at our chief. There was no hesitation as he calmly fired three shots point blank into Waverly's chest. The shirt that had been pristine white this morning now bloomed with red as he recoiled from the impact.

Waverly slumped forward, falling facedown on the desk, eyes open but unseeing. I came off the couch, trying to aid my mentor in some way, and one of the Thrush agents clipped me on the temple with the butt of his gun. I slumped back against the couch, the world graying around me. Through the haze I heard Napoleon's desperate voice trying to regain control. "Stop. Don't kill him. We may yet have some use for him."

Smythe's voice replied, "You've already changed our plans, Solo. Waverly wasn't supposed to die yet."

"You saw him. He was going to kill me. I had no choice."

I heard Smythe pacing and my vision cleared enough to get a look at Napoleon. He was watching me intently, expecting more rebellion on my part, I assumed. I couldn't read his statement and that worried me a great deal.

Smythe stalked to me and said, "Get up." I stood up a bit unsteadily and he motioned me to stand at the side of Waverly's desk. I saw where this was leading and didn't like it. I stood where I was told, arms hanging down loosely, ready for anything. Smythe stood back behind Napoleon and said simply, "Shoot him."

Napoleon merely asked, "Why?"

The Thrush chief laughed and said, "He does have a use for us. Your agent here, Angus, was it? Yes, Angus assassinated Mr. Waverly and you were forced to kill him." He clapped his hands together and beamed. "Marvelously clever of me, don't you think? You take control during the ensuing chaos and when things settle down, we come in and take over permanently. Oh, jolly good."

Smythe sat on the edge of Waverly's desk and said, "Well? What are you waiting for?" He pulled his personal weapon from his jacket and made sure Solo knew he would use it if need be.

Napoleon calmly walked closer, only a few feet between us. His back was to the others and they couldn't see his face. A look of intense sorrow crossed his features and he mouthed, 'I'm sorry' before he fired three shots directly into my chest. I heard the reports and felt the painful impact of the rounds hitting me. Looking down in shock I saw blood running down my chest just as it had Waverly's moments before. I had time for one last look into my lover's haunted eyes before I crumpled to the floor, gasping for breath.

My eyes remained open and I could hear Napoleon herding the Thrush men back into the elevator. "Hurry. The security force will be here soon. I'll contact you when I'm in control here."

Smythe was laughing. "Oh, good show, Solo. Jolly good show..." I felt the vibrations against my cheek as the secret door closed once again.

Solo's feet pounded to the intercom and I heard him yell, "Medical team to Number One's office. Agents down, I repeat, agents down." My chest was throbbing horribly and the last thing I remember thinking was, it's a little late for that now, Napoleon, as I surrendered to nothingness.

Being dead is a lot noisier than I imagined, I mused as I took in the shouts and the rattle of equipment around me. I heard Napoleon's voice directing the chaos. "Take care of Waverly first. I've got Ill, er, Angus. Oh, hell," he said as I felt fingers gently removing the wig and beard from my face. I was lying on something soft and tried to make sense of my surroundings. My shirt was ripped open and something wet was dragged across my chest. It hurt and I moaned despite myself.

Napoleon's warm breath touched my ear and he said quietly, "Easy, Illya. I've got you." There was something vaguely disquieting about that statement, but I couldn't pin it down and let myself float. I heard the metal doors whoosh open and Napoleon's relieved, "Good. Give Waverly the antidote first and get me a second dose for Illya."

Antidote? I felt a sharp sting to the inside of my elbow and a rush of heat began to envelope my body. I panted against it and heard Napoleon say, "It's okay, Illya. You'll be all right now." My eyes opened and I realized I was lying half on the couch and half on Napoleon.

Not the most dignified of places to be but I was in no shape to do anything about it. I turned my head and moaned at the nausea that overwhelmed me, clutching at the side of the couch for balance. "Lie still, Illya. Give the antidote time to work." I felt Napoleon's fingers at my jugular worriedly counting the heart rate. "How's Waverly?" he asked tersely.

A voice across the room replied. "He's holding his own. A bit shocky but vitals are stable." A relieved sigh gusted out of Napoleon and he tightened his grip on my shoulders.

I looked up into the worried brown eyes and smiled slightly. Napoleon placed his hand on my forehead. I heard him ask for a blanket and felt a soft warmth envelope me and warm hands tuck the blanket ends around me just as my body began shivering uncontrollably. I tried not to let my teeth chatter and took deep breaths.

"Give me an update," Napoleon ordered and the medic replied quickly. "Number One's coming around. He has the constitution of an ox. Sir," he added quickly. Napoleon smiled and I took his hand in mine under the blanket and squeezed. He squeezed back, hard, and I looked over at my chief. He was still at his desk, lying back in his reclined chair in a similar state of indisposition. I turned away, allowing the man his privacy.

"Napoleon. I'm fine. Let me sit up now?"

He snorted and said, "That why you're green and sweating bullets?" He helped me to sit, still leaving me reclining against his chest. Another bout of vertigo swamped me but it was less severe and I rode it out. After it passed, I scooted away from Solo and sat leaning against the arm of the couch. A medic gave me a cup of water and I sipped it slowly. I heard painful coughing from the desk and my stomach tightened in sympathy. Waverly.

"Are you going to tell me what's going on, Napoleon?" "Later, Illya. Right now the two of you are going straight to Medical. You have experimental drugs in your systems, and I want you monitored around the clock."

He waved to the orderly and two gurneys were wheeled into the room. I tried to stand but tripped on a blanket end and fell heavily against Napoleon. He picked me up and carried me to the nearest gurney.

I sputtered with indignation but he silenced me with a quick, "Illya? Don't."

Our bickering was cut short by the sight of two grim-faced Section Two agents carrying Mr. Waverly gently to the other bed. He was barely conscious and muttering, "Damn fool contraption. I can walk, you know." I decided if the Old Man's dignity could bear it then so could mine. I let my head fall back onto the pillow and closed my eyes wearily. I felt Napoleon's hand touch my forehead again as if to convey his closeness. It was the last thing I remembered for a while.

Something was itching. I reached across to scratch my chest and felt a hand grab mine and hold it fast. I opened my eyes and scowled at Napoleon's interception. I slapped at him with my other hand and saw the I.V. line snaking down from it.

"Stop that," I said grumpily.

"Then stop scratching." He grinned at me and released my appendage.

"But it itches, Napoleon." He untied the hospital jonnie and allowed me to look at my chest. It was covered in red blotches and had three marked raw and irritated patches. Looking distinctly uncomfortable, Napoleon did the gown up quickly. He sagged into the chair next to me and looked at the floor. "All right, partner. What the hell is going on?"

Napoleon dropped his face into his hands and peeked at me through his fingers.

"You're not going to like it," he said. "I don't like it already. Talk."

"Mr. Waverly and I came up with the plan last night. That's why I was here all night instead of being with you." He stopped and sighed. "Go on," I prodded. "We knew Thrush was coming but they didn't tell me any specifics. It was Waverly who came up with the idea of me 'killing' him to impress the bad guys with my loyalty." I interrupted. "But those weren't sleep darts." "No. They weren't. And that was the one part of the plan that worried me. We had to make it look real enough that they would believe Waverly was dead." My fog-shrouded brain was beginning to catch up. "The new formula. The one you used on me at the warehouse." The memory of Napoleon's recent deception still haunted me, though it was fading with the revelation of this new information.

He coughed. "Ah, not exactly. This was a stronger, untested variation. It had unpleasant side effects in the lab tests." "No kidding." "That's why we were up all night trying to work the bugs out of it. We had volunteers willing to test it, but Waverly wouldn't hear of it. How does it feel to be U.N.C.L.E.'s newest lab rat, Illya?" He laughed at the look of revulsion on my face. "You were in the wrong place at the wrong time, my friend." I gaped at him as the implications sank in. "Yes, Illya, you and Mr. Waverly were the field trial."

The anger of being lab fodder faded as the scientist in me came to the fore. "Exactly how was the drug administered?" Napoleon grimaced as his complicity was explained away in clinical details. He shook his head and continued. "We modified the standard sleep dart projectile. Added some power to the payload so the dart would penetrate further and give the appearance of a ballistic round."

I tried to scratch my chest again and Solo shook his head at me. "Ah, ah, ah..." "We could only put half a milliliter of the serum in each dart and the lab boys figured it would take three rounds for the full effect." Napoleon stood and parked a hip on my bed. "Worked in my favor, though. It gave me the chance to blast away at my former co-workers and made me look like a blood-thirsty maniac."

He sobered and looked at me seriously. "I was worried as hell that you would go off all Russian on me and get yourself killed before I could shoot you myself." I looked into his eyes and said, "So you gave me a clue." "I was hoping you'd pick up on it, yes." Napoleon looked at me the way a teacher eyes his favorite student. I let him off the hook. "You called me 'Angus,' not 'Illya,' after you had apparently turned traitor. If you had truly turned, you would have called me 'Illya.' There wouldn't be any need to continue the ruse."

"You're the only one who would have caught it, Illya." I exhaled and replied, "I did, but the sight of you blasting away at our boss and then pointing the smoking gun at me was a bit disconcerting, you know."

I plucked at the blanket covering me and broached the subject we both avoided.

"Why didn't you tell me, Napoleon?" He lowered his gaze and replied softly, "Because Waverly ordered me not to. He wanted honest reactions from you and for the drama to unfold unrehearsed. You have to hand it to him, partner. It worked like a charm." I had to admit to the truth of it and couldn't hold on to my anger any longer. "All except the part about the Fifth Entrance. Shame we had to give that up." Solo smiled. "Who said we did?" I goggled at him. "What do you mean?" He looked at the ceiling and whistled tunelessly. "Napoleon? There's another secret entrance?"

He winked at me. "You didn't hear it from me, all right?" I shook my head, which reminded me how much my head hurt. Napoleon caught the look and I distracted him.

"How is Mr. Waverly?" "He's fine and is already back at his post." I scowled at my present disposition and moved to get out of bed. Napoleon held me down with a hand to my chest and said, "Don't even think about it. Mr. Waverly is under the eagle eye of Dr. Ivanov, and he doesn't have a concussion as you do." I fingered the bruise on my temple and winced. "It's nothing. Inconsequential." Solo disagreed. "It's enough to keep you here overnight." I started to object but Napoleon silenced me. "Don't, Illya. If you behave yourself I'll be by in the morning to spring you. If you misbehave, I'll have to see how many tests 'Ivan the Terrible' can subject you to." I started to tell him where he could put his tests when a gentle finger rested against my lips. Napoleon leaned close to my ear and whispered, "Rest, dushka. I'm exhausted and plan on sleeping for the next twelve hours anyway." I replied quietly, "But I'd rather sleep with you tonight, Napoleon." He squeezed my hand once more and said, "Later, Illya. When we're both up for it." I groaned at the double meaning as I watched my lover leave the room.

True to his word, the next morning Napoleon poked his head in the door and said cheerfully, "Ready to get out of here?"

Glaring at him, I took the bag he held in his hand and looked in it carefully. I groaned with recognition. "Not him again. Napoleon, do I still have to be Angus?" "Sorry, old chap. I haven't reported to Thrush yet and we can't have any rumors of Illya Kuryakin, deceased, suddenly roaming the halls, now can we?" I glared at him and reminded, "Isn't Angus supposed to be deceased as well?"

He smiled patiently and replied, "Yes, but only the three of us and the Medical section know that. They've been briefed. Angus is going to make a miraculous recovery." "Too bad." I grumbled under my breath and took the bag into the bathroom. "I'll never be so glad to get rid of anyone like I will Angus. I'm sick to death of him." I heard Napoleon snort and say, "I don't know, Illya. That little redhead is a real firebrand in bed." I stalked out of the bath and advanced on Solo. "I'm a very jealous man, Napoleon.

If I ever catch you sleeping with anyone else, I'll have his balls for bolos." He reached out and patted me on the head. "That would be very painful for you in your current position, Angus." Remembering my present guise, I closed my mouth against further protestations. Retreating, I was sure I heard Solo chuckling under his breath. "If it will make you feel any better, Mr. Waverly is hiding out in one of the bachelor apartments. He's driving Communications and Security crazy with modifications." Minutes later, my change complete, I stood next to my partner. "Where to?"

"Waverly's office. I'd like to have some nasty surprises in store for our feathered friends' arrival." I smiled evilly and replied, "I think I have a few of those up my sleeve." Napoleon matched me grin for grin. "I thought you might. After you, Mr. MacLachlan." We made our way to Section One and Lisa met us in Waverly's anteroom. She smiled at us and reported, "Security is finishing up with the modifications you asked for, Napoleon. Mr. Waverly sent up the passwords for his files." She handed Solo a sealed envelope.

"Thank you, Lisa."

Two coverall-clad agents came out of the office and handed the work order to Napoleon to sign. He grinned at me and said, "Number One's work is never done."

I rolled my eyes and said disdainfully, "Absolute power..." I did allow Napoleon to enter the office first. He was at least technically in charge.

As I passed the east wall, I took a closer look at it, trying to see the hidden opening now that I knew where to look for it. I ran my hand along the smooth surface, checking for any imperfections.

Napoleon stood behind me with his hands in his pockets, looking on bemused. "Never know it, would you?"

I glared at him, annoyed. "Napoleon, did you know..." He drew his hands out of his pockets and held them above his head in surrender. "Not me, Illya. I'm a lowly Section Two lackey, remember?" Still scowling, I made it clear I didn't believe him. "Yes, well, today you're Number One, Section One." Pointing to the "Big Chair" I asked, "Going to try it on for size?"

Napoleon circled the chair with a mixture of awe and trepidation. He ran his hand along the seatback and a wistful look came to his face. I looked down at my shoes, giving him a moment of privacy. I then took my customary place across from him.

He hesitated for a fraction of a second and then sat gingerly in the seat. A look of dismay crossed his features.

"What?" "All this time wanting this chair, and now I find out it's damned uncomfortable." I laughed out loud at his discovery. "Well, Napoleon, Mr. Waverly's been telling you that for years." He harrumphed and a chill ran down my spine at the echo of Waverly in that particular mannerism. I dismissed the thought and inquired, "When do you contact Smythe?"

"Later this morning. After our preparations are in order, I'll let him know that U.N.C.L.E. is ripe for the picking." "Their reception will be more on the rotten side than ripe, I'll wager." Solo nodded. "Count on it." He pulled out a notepad and began diagramming his plan on the table. I moved in closer and we formulated the details together.

Later that same afternoon I was waiting in the anteroom with Lisa and a platoon of Section Two agents. Solo's office was wired for sound and the intercom was open. Having this many enforcement agents in one room obviously annoyed Lisa for she glared at any of them who dared to fidget or make too much noise in her opinion. I hid my smile with a fake yawn and tried not to get in her way. Glancing at my watch I signaled, "Showtime" to the operatives and the tension in the room rose another notch. Lisa pressed a button on her console to inform Solo of our readiness. He signaled back silently. We were as ready as we would ever be. A familiar grating sound came over the line as the Fifth Entrance was again opened. It was odd to be able to hear the action but not see it. I silently sent Napoleon a mental message to be careful. Footsteps rang on the floor, at least four men from the sound of it. Jacobs caught my eye and held up four fingers. I nodded. A man's voice, a familiar one, greeted Solo. "Mr. Solo. We meet again. And under such happy circumstances, what?" Smythe was clearly in his element and milking the opportunity for all it was worth. I imagined Napoleon giving him one of his killer smiles. I almost snorted at the word "killer." Lisa caught the expression and glared daggers at me.

"Mr. Smythe. Yes, it is a wonderful day for Thrush, isn't it?" How those words must have grated Napoleon to say, I thought. Well, it wouldn't be long now at any rate. Smythe laughed and said, "Let me introduce Number One from our New York Satrapy. Mr. Andrew Collinsville, Napoleon Solo. 'Our' Napoleon Solo, at least."

The new man brushed the pleasantries away and said impatiently, "Yes. Enough with the introductions. Let's get on with it, shall we?"

I heard Smythe say ingratiatingly, "Of course, Mr. Collinsville."

Napoleon's voice grew closer and I heard Waverly's chair squeak as a much heavier man sat in the seat. "Your men won't need those autos. Everything is secure, I assure you." Good job, Napoleon. Now tell us more about the party.

Smythe again. "Yes, yes. You two may stand down. Stay alert, however." Every agent in the room jerked as we heard the receivers on two machine guns being slid back. "All right, Mister Solo. I trust you have the passwords for Waverly's files?" Collinsville was very anxious to get his fingers in U.N.C.L.E.'s pie. "Wouldn't want to trip any alarms the first stroke." "Don't worry about that, sir. I've taken care of it." I heard a rustling of paper as Napoleon handed the codes to the head Thrush.

"Excellent. I've been looking forward to this day for longer than you can imagine." Smythe spoke up, toadying as ever. "And no one deserves it more than you, Mr. Collinsville." I was certain Napoleon had the same thought come to him as I did and smiled.

I heard Collinsville tapping keys on the console. "Let's see. I want to look at something personal first. Something Waverly had worked on recently. Oh, here we are. Files, recent documents... access code... looks like it's working... wonderful, wonderful!"

There was a pause and I leaned in, unconsciously stilling my breathing to hear. The other agents were tense, waiting for the sign from me to move in. There was a change in Collinsville's voice as he registered puzzlement. I heard the chair creak as it turned on its swivel. "What's this, Solo?" Napoleon must have walked to the screen as his voice became more distant.

"Looks like a recent document. The date shows it was accessed three days ago." "Excellent. Just what I want to see." I heard the tapping of keys and then an affronted voice. "Just what is the meaning of this?" Thrush number one exclaimed.

He seemingly read from the screen in front of him. "'The Rise and Fall of the Thrush Empire' by Alexander Waverly." There was a derisive snort from the direction of the console.

Collinsville sputtered indignantly, "What is this drivel? Purely fiction, of course."

That's when I heard the sound I'd been missing: Napoleon's voice, the voice of Chief Enforcement Agent Napoleon Solo, acting head of Section One; the voice that could etch stainless steel when he wanted it to. I love that voice... "Fiction?" He purred venomously, his voice calm and low, excruciatingly dangerous.

"Not today. I'm certain that today it's non-fiction." I heard the Special slide out of his holster and yelled, "Now!" to the agents poised to strike. The first pair went in low, the second high, U.N.C.L.E. training giving them the edge in this situation. I saw Jacobs nod once at me and wave me in. I walked smartly through the steel door, staying in the mechanism's electric eye to keep the door open. Our men were holding the interlopers at bay, the first two having already disarmed the guards and the second team keeping the Councilmen in their unwavering sights.

I glanced at Napoleon and said once, "Secure." He came around to the front of the table and said to the nearest man, "Let me introduce myself, Mr. Collinsville. Solo. Napoleon Solo. The original, in fact." He looked at me and winked once. A smile began to cross my face as I watched the Thrushmen sputter. Smythe looked from me to Napoleon and back again. "It can't be," he reasoned. "You're dead. Both of you."

I snorted and quickly pulled the wig and facial hair away. "So am I, from what I hear." "Kuryakin?!" There were gasps of recognition from our own men as well at that revelation. "But... but... you died in the warehouse... I... I..." Alexander Waverly chose that moment to waltz through the open door looking every bit the continental chief that he was.

Smythe was still reeling, his victory slipping through his fingers as he watched. "You're dead. You're all of you, dead!" His voice trailed off in a fit of apoplexy. Mr. Waverly said evenly, "Well, for a room full of corpses, we appear to be holding the upper hand."

I couldn't help myself for the second time. "Rumors of our demise were greatly exaggerated. Again." Waverly beamed at me and then gave a smile to his Number One. Clearly enjoying himself, he moved across the room to his accustomed place. Napoleon backed off a respectful distance. Our chief sat down, a look of total satisfaction on his face. He turned to Solo with a twinkle in his eye and asked, "Tell me, Mr. Solo. How did the chair fit?" Napoleon gave his boss a look of fond affection and replied, "There's only one man who fits in that chair, sir." Waverly looked pleased at that and settled more comfortably in his rightful position. He looked squarely at Smythe and said, "Your victory seems to have been short-lived, Mr. Smythe. And you, Mr. Collinsville. Your long awaited date with destiny seems to have taken a detour. How unfortunate for you both."

Smythe was red-faced with rage. He took one step toward Waverly and stopped, Napoleon's gun trained directly on his head. Collinsville took him by the arm and pulled him back with a hiss.

"You fool. Learn when to leave the field. The day is theirs." He gave Waverly a sincere look and said, "There will be other opportunities, Alexander. U.N.C.L.E.'s days are numbered. You will fall, and Thrush will be around to pick up the pieces." Waverly reached for his pipe and began to tend it. "You are entitled to your opinion, Andrew, of course. But whatever the outcome between our two organizations will be, you will not be around to see the result." He waved the enforcement agents over to collect the prisoners. "Take them to detention. Standard interrogation protocol." A look of fear flashed across Smythe's face, his bravado fading in the face of reality. His superior merely shrugged, straightened his shoulders, and left the room with his head held high.

As the agents filed out, I realized that my hands were shaking. Holstering my weapon, I sat heavily on the couch. I looked at Napoleon and he came over to join me. He held out his hand and said, "Welcome back, Illya Nickovetch." I took it and noticed that his palm was sweaty, too. Unused adrenaline surged through us, a by-product of the self-preservation mode agents live and die with. I grinned at Napoleon and held up the remnants of my disguise. "I'm afraid Angus has met with an unfortunate accident..." Solo placed a hand on his chest and said with a flourish, "The King is dead." He turned to Waverly with a half-bow. "Long live the King." Waverly blustered, "What? Oh, poppycock." He pushed a button and spoke into the intercom, "Miss Rogers? You may come in now." Lisa entered with a tray balanced on one shapely hip. An expensive bottle of champagne and three glasses sat on top. Napoleon and I did a double take and then looked to Mr. Waverly. He was drawing on his pipe, an extremely smug look on his face. Lisa set the tray down in front of our boss and made to leave. The chief stopped her with a look. "Miss Rogers, please stay. I believe I owe you somewhat of an apology." He reached behind him and pulled out a fourth glass. Napoleon crossed to the desk and opened the bottle, expertly filling the glasses and handing them out.

I took my glass and held it in front of me, pausing to enjoy this rare moment of victory and camaraderie. Napoleon's eyes were shining, and he looked at me intently for a beat and then moved his attention to the Old Man. Lisa surprised me by making the first toast. She held her glass at eye level and said, "I guess it is true, then." She gazed at Napoleon, then me, then Waverly. "You can't keep a good man down." We all answered, "Hear, hear," and drank deeply.

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