Illya leaned his back against the lamp post and pulled his coat closer around him. He’d always been told about sunny California summers. No one had ever mentioned cloudy California winters. Of course, it would have been so much better if they had been able to wait inside. He glanced longingly at the inside of the station not that far away.
"They should be here soon," Napoleon said, without looking up from his newspaper.
"I don’t know why we can’t wait inside."
Napoleon gave up fighting the wind that blew along the platform. He folded his paper and tucked it under his arm. "Because Waverly told us to wait for them here, though for the life of me I don’t understand why. You would think we’d be a bigger target out here."
"Perhaps Dr. Palmer has an aversion to train stations."
Napoleon snorted. "Though, apparently, not to trains. Do you know how long it’s going to take us to get to New York? Almost three days."
"If we are lucky. Passenger trains may use these tracks, but freight takes precedent. If there happens to be a conflict in schedules, this train will have to wait until the freight train goes by."
"Oh, that’s just great. Just when I really want to be home for Christmas."
"And why is that?"
"Oh, I think you know why," Napoleon responded with a wink.
Illya smiled. "Do you know, it will be the first time that we will both have Christmas off."
"That was the plan. We should have known better. What’s so important about this guy, anyway?"
"According to the report, he has perfected a way to precisely disperse large amounts of viral or bacterial matter in cases of crop disease without affecting any nearby vegetation."
"And leave it to THRUSH to come up for some more nefarious uses for that."
"Is that all we know about this character?"
"Oddly enough, yes," Illya answered with a frown. "It’s unlike Mr. Waverly to give us such paltry information."
"I got the impression that the only reason we were chosen was because we just happened to be in the area."
"That’s never been an issue before." Illya nodded toward the other end of the platform. "Here they come."
Napoleon followed his gaze. Two men, with a third bundled up so much you couldn’t make out any features, walked toward them. "That’s Paul Collins on the left, isn’t it?"
"With his partner, as always."
Napoleon grinned. "You’ve never particularly liked Ron Meadows, have you?"
"No, not since I was shot due to his incompetence." Illya frowned. "I’m surprised that Mr. Waverly has entrusted so important a person as Dr. Palmer to those two."
"Collins is all right. And I really do believe that Meadows was just having a bad day."
"Is that why he ended up with a bruised jaw?"
"Hey, I can’t help it if his face got in the way of my fist."
"I can take care of myself, Napoleon." Illya softened the criticism with a smile. "Though I appreciate the gesture."
Illya felt his face heat from the look Napoleon gave him and lowered his eyes. He was still getting used to their becoming lovers. It had been completely unexpected, yet totally inevitable.
"Paul, Ron, it’s good to see you."
Illya looked up and nodded at both men. Neither man was especially tall, but, standing between them, Dr. Palmer appeared tiny. The suitcase he carried looked almost too heavy for him.
"Not as glad as we are to see you," Collins responded.
"Trouble?" Napoleon asked.
"Nothing we couldn’t handle," Meadows interjected. "A couple of THRUSH agents tried to run us off the road on our way here. Needless to say, we’re not the ones stuck in a ditch…though the car will need some repairs."
"Can we get on with this, gentlemen?" Dr. Palmer asked.
Illya’s eyebrows shot up. Glancing at Napoleon, he saw the same look of surprise on his friend’s face. There apparently was a great deal about Dr. Palmer that they hadn’t been briefed on.
Collins grinned. "Dr. Palmer, these are agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. They’ll be taking over your protection. Napoleon, Illya, meet Dr. Avery Palmer."
Dr. Palmer pushed back the hood of her coat. "I’m sure it’s lovely to meet both of you, but can we defer introductions until we’re in the car?"
"Car?" Illya asked.
Collins nodded toward the tracks next to them.
"Is that wise?" Napoleon asked. "Putting other passengers at risk?"
Collins didn’t say anything, only took the steps onto the back platform. He pulled a key from his pocket and unlocked the door. He motioned for them to follow him. "Inside, gentlemen… and lady."
They let Dr. Palmer go first, with Meadows right behind her. Napoleon and Illya grabbed their suitcases and brought up the rear.
"This doesn’t seem the safest way for us to be traveling, does it?" Napoleon asked Illya in a low voice.
Illya only shrugged. He hadn’t liked this assignment to begin with. He disliked it even more now.
"This wasn’t quite what I expected." Napoleon stood in the middle of the car and slowly turned. "But it will most certainly do."
Illya had to agree. From the outside, it had looked like an ordinary train car whose curtains had been drawn. Inside, most of the windows had been completely covered with metal siding and the entire car reconfigured. They had entered into a good sized sitting area. Chairs and a small table sat beneath one window with a long couch pushed up against the back wall. A kitchen sat off to one side. Toward the back, Illya could see doors leading off into three more rooms.
"There are only two bedrooms, so two of you are going to have to double up," Collins said, what with what Illya could almost think of as a leer.
Dr. Palmer removed her coat and tossed it on the couch. "As long as it gets me to New York, I wouldn’t care if I had to sleep on the floor."
"I’m sure it won’t come to that," Napoleon responded. He gave Dr. Palmer one of his most ingratiating smiles. "It would be totally unacceptable for someone as lovely as you to have to put up with anything less than the best."
Collins rolled his eyes. "I told you he’d make a play, didn’t I?"
Meadows agreed with a grin. "Just on cue, I’d say."
Illya tried not to scowl. He’d thought this all behind them, Napoleon’s skirt-chasing.
"I find it quite appealing, myself." Dr. Palmer said. She approached Napoleon and offered her hand.
Napoleon took it and brought it to his lips. "The pleasure is all mine, Dr. Palmer."
"Avery, please. We’re going to be in too close of quarters to be so formal, don’t you think?"
"I couldn’t agree more."
"Well, you seem to have everything well in hand, so we’ll be on our way," Collins said.
Napoleon finally released the doctor’s hand and turned to his fellow agents. "Don’t let us keep you, gentlemen," he said as he ushered them out.
"If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, what time does the train leave?" Illya asked. He almost managed to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
"Oh, yeah." Meadows looked at his watch. "In about fifteen minutes. Have a good time, you two…um, I meant you three," he added. This time, Illya had no doubt about the leer.
"If you two don’t mind, I’d like to freshen up, maybe take a short nap. Any preference as to rooms?" Dr. Palmer asked.
"You should take the one toward the back. Just in case," Napoleon said.
"All right. Call me for dinner if I’m not up by then." She picked up her suitcase and coat and, with a small wave, walked toward the back of the car.
"I shall put ours away," Illya said between clenched teeth. He grabbed both suitcases and started toward the second bedroom.
"Hey, is something wrong?"
Illya swung around. "Wrong? Why should anything be wrong?"
"I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking."
"Nothing is wrong, Napoleon. Everything is exactly the same as it’s always been."
"What’s that supposed to mean?"
The look on Napoleon’s face was that of true ignorance, which made Illya that much angrier. "You figure it out," he snapped as he entered the bedroom and soundly closed the door.
Illya gazed out the window as the train took the curves through the Sierra Nevada. He had seen plenty of snow in his life, been through plenty of brutal winters, but all of that paled in comparison to what spread out around them. The rugged terrain was overwhelming, and Illya couldn’t help but think if its ill-fated history. Especially since snow had been falling for almost an hour. Somehow, the train carried on on its journey. Illya hoped it continued to do so.
He turned at the sound of the bathroom door opening and closing. Napoleon walked out clad in sweatpants and shirt, his feet bare. He used the towel in his hands to vigorously dry his hair as he came over to stand next to Illya.
"It’s really beautiful, isn’t it?" Napoleon asked. He dropped his towel onto the table and placed a hand on Illya’s shoulder.
"And as so much that is beautiful, quite deadly," Illya said as he looked up at Napoleon. He covered Napoleon’s hand with his own, but removed it after only a few seconds and turned away from his partner. He didn’t know which he thought the most deadly, what was on the other side of the glass, or the man who stood beside him. He certainly knew which could cause him more pain.
It had been rough, watching Napoleon charm Dr. Palmer. And while he had to admit that Napoleon had toned down his flirting as the day had progressed, the doctor had made it perfectly clear that she was more than interested. Once again, Illya had found himself being the proverbial fifth wheel. He’d tried to include himself by asking about her work, but she had been completely reticent when it came to that.
"It’ll be fine. After all, the train travels these tracks all the time," Napoleon said, totally misreading the reason for Illya’s mood.
"Yes, except for the time in 1952 when a blizzard struck and the train got stuck here for three days. The passengers had to wait until the nearby highway could be plowed and then they were driven out by car."
"How do you know that?"
"I researched the entire route."
Napoleon chuckled. "Why am I not surprised? In any event, we’ll be out of it soon."
"Yes, and then there will be something else to worry about. It will be much easier for THRUSH to make a move as we travel through the desert."
"I’m more inclined to think that they’ll wait until we’re further east. There’s a huge stretch of the country that’s practically deserted. It would be the perfect place for two UNCLE agents to conveniently disappear. I think we’re safe, for now." He squeezed Illya’s shoulder. "I’m turning in. Wake me up if the snow gets really bad."
"I’m not sure what good that will do, but I will appreciate the company. Take it from me, blizzards can be quite boring."
"Especially up here." Napoleon glanced back at the bedroom doors before leaning over and quickly kissing Illya on the cheek. "Well, goodnight."
Once alone, Illya couldn’t keep his thoughts from circling back to Napoleon’s earlier behavior. Less than a month ago, Illya would have ignored the entire episode. Well, he would have tried. He had wanted Napoleon for a very long time. Had loved him almost as long. But at least it wouldn’t have seemed to be such a betrayal. Napoleon would have ended up bedding the woman, while Illya tried not to hear too much. If that were to happen now…no, Napoleon would never do that.
He swore softly to himself. He never should have gone with Napoleon to Napoleon’s Aunt Amy’s for Thanksgiving. Or, when he was shown to the one guest room which they would share, he should have thought up some excuse to get himself out of there. But he hadn’t. Truthfully, he really hadn’t wanted to. They so rarely had time together when they didn’t have to be constantly looking over their shoulders. And he would practically have Napoleon all to himself.
The dinner had been wonderful, and they had both drunk their share of wine. Enough, apparently, so that crawling into bed together with only their briefs on seemed the most natural thing to do.
Illya had fallen asleep almost right away. It was still dark when he had been awakened to find Napoleon’s body pressed against his own, and Napoleon’s cock pressed firmly against his back side. Somehow sensing that Illya was awake, Napoleon had lost no time in wrapping his hand around Illya’s quickly burgeoning cock. Things had moved swiftly along after that.
Illya squirmed in his chair and tried to readjust his pants. He could still remember the feel of having his cock buried deep inside his partner’s body, still remembered the deep moans and quiet cries Napoleon made as Illya slowly and thoroughly fucked him.
The next morning, Napoleon had woken him with a kiss, and a smile of happiness that Illya could have sworn was genuine. They had managed to be together only three times since, and Illya had continued to believe that what Napoleon felt was real and true. Until today. He should have known better. A leopard does not change its spots.
He heard the bedroom door open and close again.
"Unable to sleep?" Illya turned, only to find that it was Dr. Palmer who had appeared.
"I think I may have drunk a little too much wine with dinner. I woke up dying for a glass of water," she said as she walked through the sitting area and over to the small kitchen. She poured herself a glass of water, and then joined him at the window. She took the chair across from him, sedately pulling her legs up under her and covering them with her robe.
"It’s so dark out there. What is it you’re looking at?" she asked.
She gave him a look.
"It makes it easier to hear anything out of the ordinary if you are looking at nothing."
"Ah." She nodded her head in understanding.
The silence between them grew awkward. Illya fell back on the only subject he felt was safe. "I congratulate you on your work. It is not often that there is such a large breakthrough in your field."
"Yes," she responded with a nervous laugh.
"If you do not mind me asking, what made you think to use that particular enzyme as your catalyst?"
She stared into her glass for a moment. "It just sort of came to me."
Illya looked at her in surprise. "Enzymes are known to catalyze more than 5,000 biochemical reaction types. I find it hard to believe that the one that actually worked ‘just sort of came to you.’"
"Well, your field isn’t biology, is it?"
"No, but I do have a working knowledge of it. Perhaps you could walk me through the steps you took to get the effect you did, especially with so little destabilization of the substrate ground state."
"I’m sure you’ll just be bored out of your mind."
"On the contrary. I would truly appreciate knowing."
She coughed nervously and then gave into a yawn. "And I’d really love to tell you, but I’m really quite tired." She finished the rest of her water and then stood. "I think I’m ready for sleep now. Goodnight, Mr. Kuryakin."
Illya watched her hurry to her room and close the door. If he didn’t know better, he would have sworn that the woman hadn’t understood his question. Something wasn’t right. It wasn’t enough to make an issue of. Not yet. But Illya was going to keep an even closer eye on the doctor.
Napoleon stood and watched as the train ate up the miles. Mountains had given way to desert, and they had left the snow behind, at least for now. Maybe that’s why it seemed warmer in the car. So much so that he’d left off his coat and rolled up his sleeves. Of course, the quick grope that Illya had surprisingly allowed him this morning certainly hadn’t helped.
You shouldn’t be thinking about that.
He willed away the start of an erection. But it was hard not to think about Illya, so warm and inviting under the covers. They hadn’t had near enough time together. Napoleon shook his head. They had known how things would be. No use dwelling on his disappointment at the loss of their time off together.
"Good morning, Napoleon."
Napoleon turned from his musings. "Good morning, Avery. I trust you slept well."
"Better than I would have expected."
"I thought you enjoyed train travel." He motioned toward the kitchen area, using the cup in his hand. "There’s coffee."
She walked over and poured herself a cup before joining him at the window. She sat, swiveling the chair toward Napoleon. "Not exactly."
He gave her a puzzled look.
"I don’t exactly enjoy traveling by train. It’s that I hate flying. Scares the living daylights out of me."
"That must be pretty inconvenient, given your standing in the scientific community. I would imagine you’re called on to do quite a bit of traveling."
"I am. Most of the time I drive, but given the situation…."
"You would be harder to protect under those circumstances."
She nodded absently, her attention caught by the scenery. "Where are we?"
"In Utah, somewhere. Illya would be able to tell you exactly where."
"He seems to know a lot about a lot of things."
"That he does," Napoleon said with a smile. "But don’t tell him I said so."
She returned the smile. "I promise. Besides, I don’t think he likes me very much."
"Why do you say that?"
"I don’t know." She shrugged. "I guess because he’s always so proper. Always Dr. Palmer. Never Avery."
"That’s just the way Illya is. It takes him awhile to warm up to people."
"How about you? How long does it take you to warm up to people?" She sat back, looking over her cup as she took a drink of coffee. She crossed her legs and let her robe slip open so that plenty of leg was on display.
"Probably longer than it used to. Being an UNCLE agent, we don’t exactly meet up with many people who we should warm up to."
"But you are friendlier than your partner."
"I suppose so." Napoleon took a swig of coffee, and then placed the empty cup on the small table between them. He had wondered how he’d react the first time this situation arose. Now he knew. Not very well. "But Illya has his reasons for being somewhat standoffish."
"Somewhat standoffish? That’s been generous, I think. I can’t imagine how it would be to work with him."
"It took us awhile to get used to each other, but he’s the best partner I’ve ever had, not to mention my best friend." And so much more that Napoleon didn’t dare admit to.
"That’s really nice of you, standing up for him that way. But then, you just seem so very nice, in so many ways."
"Thanks, but you don’t know me very well. I have my days."
"Well, I think you’re just lovely."
She leaned forward and placed her cup next to his, allowing the front of her robe to billow open. Her sheer nightgown did little to hide the rounded fullness of her breasts or how her nipples had peaked. Napoleon felt his cock swell as he envisioned them completely exposed, his face buried between them.
She stood and came over to wrap her arms around his neck, her body pressed along his side. "Very lovely, indeed." She tilted her head up and began kissing along his jawline.
"Um, you really shouldn’t be doing that."
"Why not?" She lowered her hand to the bulge in his pants and gave it a gentle squeeze. "You like it, don’t you? This seems to say you do."
She silenced him by bringing her mouth to his and pushing her way in with her tongue.
Her body felt good against his, and her hand was doing crazy things to his cock. For a second, Napoleon found himself giving in. But only for a second. He wrapped his hands around her upper arms and forcefully pushed her away. "Stop it, Avery."
"Why? Don’t pretend you didn’t enjoy what I was doing."
"It’s not that."
"Then what? After everything your two co-workers told me, I certainly didn’t think you’d mind."
"You can’t always go by a little gossip."
"A little gossip?" She laughed. "I haven’t heard so many stories about a man’s conquests since Flynn was in."
Napoleon tried not to scowl. After all, he’d probably earned his reputation. "That’s ancient history."
She gave him a speculative look. "Is there someone special?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, there is."
"Really? Who is she?"
"That, Dr. Palmer, is none of your business."
"So, it’s Dr. Palmer again." She shrugged "You can’t blame a girl for trying. You were talked up so much, I was looking forward to finding out if it was all true. Oh well, I suppose I better go get dressed."
As soon as the door to her bedroom closed, Napoleon dropped down on the chair. He rubbed his forehead and chuckled nervously. God, that was close. But it proved that he was well and truly caught in Illya’s web. He took a shaky breath. Truth be told, he couldn’t imagine a better place to be.
"I’ll take two cards."
Illya dealt out the cards, eyeing Napoleon with suspicion as he did so. "You’ve been winning much too often for my taste."
Napoleon grinned "The Solo luck, remember?"
Illya gave himself three cards, then looked over at the doctor. "Doctor?"
"I’ll take three."
Illya dealt out another three, then focused on his own hand.
Napoleon wondered at the frost in Illya’s voice. His partner had been barely civil to the doctor since waking up and joining them. Illya tended to be taciturn, but this was more than that. In a moment of horror, he imagined that Illya had seen what had happened between himself and Avery. He almost shuddered before realizing that it couldn’t be that. No, if Illya had seen that, Napoleon would have been frozen out, too. Or shot.
He looked at his hand. "I’ll bet ten dollars."
Illya nodded toward Napoleon’s stash. "You’re running out of toothpicks."
"Dollars, Illya. Dollars."
Illya studied his cards for a moment before throwing them down in disgust. "Fold."
"So that leaves just you and me, doesn’t it?" Avery gleefully noted.
"What an astute observation, Doctor," Illya coolly responded.
"Hey." Napoleon grabbed Illya arm, only to have his hand shrugged away.
Avery looked from one to the other. She set down her cards and started to rise. "I don’t think I want to play anymore."
"So much the better," Illya muttered under his breath.
Napoleon stood and grabbed Illya by the arm again. "We need to talk."
"Not here." He pulled Illya from his chair. "If you would excuse us, Avery."
Napoleon hustled Illya into their room. He closed the door and turned to his friend. "Would you mind telling me what the hell’s the matter with you?"
Illya nodded toward the outer room. "There’s something not right with her."
"What’s that supposed to mean?"
"It means that I don’t think she is who she says she is."
"That’s not possible, Illya. Not unless she’s managed to fool everyone in UNCLE, starting with Mr. Waverly."
Illya grimaced. "I realize that. But whoever she is, she’s not Dr. Avery Palmer."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because she doesn’t know the things that she should know. I suspected something was wrong yesterday when she was unwilling to speak about her work. So earlier, when you were taking a shower, I started asking her questions."
"What sort of questions?"
"Questions. Questions that every biologist should have no trouble answering."
Napoleon gave him an exasperated look. "You’re going to have to be more specific than that."
"All right, for one thing, she referred to Crick and Watson as Crick and Wilson."
"Okay, you got me, who are Crick and Watson?"
"Just the winners of the Nobel Prize in medicine for the discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule."
"So she got one name slightly wrong."
"She shouldn’t have! There are probably no two more famous biologists in the world. It would be like me not remembering Einstein’s name."
Napoleon rubbed his jaw. "I see your point. But it’s hard to imagine that she works for THRUSH. She doesn’t seem the type."
"And what type is that?" Illya asked, the sarcasm heavy in his voice. "The type that wants to take you to bed?"
"That’s not what I meant, and you know it." Napoleon put his hands up in surrender. "Fine, fine. Given everything, I suppose she bears watching."
"Just as long as you don’t watch her too closely."
Okay, he’d had enough of this. "If there’s something you want to say, just say it."
"All right. I have seen the way she looks at you. And how you look back."
"That’s crazy. Yes, I’ve been friendly, but that’s all I’ve been."
"Yes, you kiss every woman’s hand."
Napoleon sighed. "I did that for Paul and Ron’s sake. After the comments they made, I knew they expected me to make a play for her, so I did. But it didn’t mean anything."
"This was a mistake." Illya shook his head. "We never should have started this."
"What? Being together?" Napoleon ran a hand through his hair. He couldn’t believe where this was going. "You knew how things would have to be."
"I thought I could handle it. I may have been wrong." Illya looked away. "Perhaps we should forget the whole thing."
"No," Napoleon shouted. He glanced at the door, then forced himself to calm down. "No. I don’t understand. I haven’t done anything wrong, yet you’re willing to throw everything away on a suspicion." He studied his partner. "Illya, is it me you don’t trust, or yourself?"
"Now who’s speaking in riddles? Why would I not?"
"I don’t know. Maybe because you expect this to fail, so figure on getting out before it does. Before you get too hurt, because it’s almost as if you’re just waiting for me to do something stupid like be with a woman. But that’s not going to happen. I would never hurt you."
"You don’t know that, Napoleon. Anymore than I know that I’ll never hurt you."
"But that’s a chance I’m willing to take. I want to be with you, for as long as you’ll have me."
"There is so much that can go wrong."
"Illya," Napoleon stepped forward and put his arms around his partner. "Everything will work out."
"A hug isn’t going to hurt. And I really doubt that Dr. Palmer will walk in on us." He smoothed his hand down Illya’s back. "We’ve both lost people before, people that we cared for a great deal. But I’m hoping that this time will be different."
Illya finally brought his arms up and around Napoleon’s waist. "You sound so sure."
"Maybe because I can’t imagine my life in any other way. All I want right now is for us to be home, together. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?"
"No, I suppose not," Illya reluctantly agreed. "Yet I can’t help but believe that this will not last. There is so much going against us. Society is certainly not on our side. And you have desired so many women. I find it difficult, sometimes, to believe that you never will again, that suddenly you desire only me."
Napoleon chuckled. "Well, it wasn’t exactly suddenly. I’d wanted you for quite awhile before I had the nerve to do something about it. Nerve, and a generous serving of alcohol."
"Ah, yes, I do remember–are we slowing down?"
Napoleon stilled. "Maybe we’re approaching Denver."
Illya pulled away and started for the door. "No, we’re still at least an hour away from there."
They both hurried out to the sitting area. Dr. Palmer was standing in the middle of the room. Her attention was fixed on the ceiling. And she had a gun in her hands.
"There’s someone up there," she said without taking her eyes off the ceiling.
Napoleon unholstered his gun and joined the woman. "I take it you’re not really Dr. Palmer."
"Agent Roberta Evans." She worked out her badge from her pocket with one hand.
"There’s a town up ahead. It must be why we’re slowing down," Illya said. He stood against the side of the car, next to one of the windows, his gun drawn.
"Either that, or someone has commandeered the train," Evans said.
"I wouldn’t put it past THRUSH, but I think they’d try to take Dr. Palmer with as little fuss as possible."
The train continued to slow as they approached the town. It had almost come to a full stop when the door to the car blew violently open.
Napoleon and Evans used the kitchen table and chairs for cover as best they could, while Illya rushed into the bedroom. When he returned, it was with three gas masks. He huddled next to the other two. "Put these on," he said as he handed them over. "I’ll almost bet we’re going to get a little surprise in the next few seconds."
He was right. They barely had time to put the masks on when a gas grenade was thrown into the car. It quickly filled with smoke, and Napoleon barely saw the first person come through the door when all hell broke loose.
"I hope I didn’t cause too much difficulty," Evans said as she took Napoleon’s hand.
Her left arm was in a sling, where she had taken a bullet.
"I’d say you got the worst of the deal."
She looked down at her arm. "I’ve had worse. And may have had again if I hadn’t been with the two of you."
The three of them stood on the train platform in Denver, next to the a little worse for wear car. UNCLE had sent a crew to take the four THRUSH agents, two dead, two alive, off of their hands. Napoleon had heard stories about the main interrogator out of the Denver office. He didn’t envy the THRUSH agents. Evans would also be leaving them, taking the opposing train back to California.
"And the real Dr. Palmer?" Illya asked. "I assume she is already safely ensconced at UNCLE headquarters in New York."
"She arrived shortly before we were attacked. I received a call from Mr. Waverly while the two of you were," she gave them both a speculative look, "in conference."
Napoleon felt his face flush, but tried to pretend a normalcy he was far from feeling. Would he ever get used to what his life was now? He was certainly going to try.
"You did not fool us as much as you think you did, Miss Evans," Illya remarked. "You are lucky that Napoleon was able to convince me in that conference not to shoot you."
Napoleon squelched a laugh. From the look on Roberta’s face, she half believed him. "And us? Why the subterfuge? Why not just have us protect the real Dr. Palmer?"
"Mr. Waverly felt that that’s exactly what THRUSH would think, that she would automatically be placed in the care of Waverly’s top team."
"In other words, we were the bait." Illya shook his head. "Lucky that things turned out the way they did."
"Mr. Waverly was pretty sure that THRUSH would follow the two of you, and allow the other agents to get Dr. Palmer to safety. And it worked," Avery added with a smile.
"So what’s next for you?" Napoleon asked.
"My partner is waiting for me in LA. After that, who knows? You know how it is."
"When will your train be leaving?"
"Not until morning, but there are plenty of gift shops and bars in the train station to keep me occupied. Or maybe I’ll just get a room at one of the nearby hotels and get some decent shut eye."
The train whistle blew, announcing their departure. Since the car was already paid for, Waverly had balked at buying them plane tickets. It would take a bit longer, but they would eventually get home.
"That’s our cue. It was nice working with you, Roberta."
She gave him a wicked smile, and ran her tongue along her top lip. "It was my pleasure, Napoleon." She looked over at Illya. "Same goes for you, Illya. It’s not often that I get to work with two such good looking men." And with that, she turned and started down the platform and into the station.
"I knew she wasn’t a scientist."
Napoleon rolled his eyes. "Yes, you were right about that, but I was right that she wasn’t the type to work for THRUSH."
"That was a lucky guess." Illya grabbed Napoleon’s arm and pulled him toward their car. "Come, I think you will be lucky in other ways very soon."
Napoleon quickened his pace.
Illya sat up in bed and pulled the curtain open. Outside, cornfields stretched in every direction, their dead stalks powdered with snow. The sun was a red half-ball at the horizon. He picked up his watch from the shelf inside the headboard. Just passed six.
Next to him, a warm and very satisfied Napoleon slept. Illya had spent the first few hours of their journey fulfilling his promise. Napoleon had been very lucky, indeed. But then, so had he. The movement of the train had been a rousing counterpoint to his thrusts into Napoleon’s body.
Afterward, he and Napoleon had talked about their relationship. It was not going to be easy, hiding what they were. They would never be able to be together except when no one else was around. That made Illya a bit sad, but he had never been one to rail at the gods. They would be glad for what they had, for as long as they had it. If it were up to him, it would be for a very long time, indeed.
He stretched, and then slid back down under the covers. He wrapped his arm around Napoleon’s waist and gently pulled his body toward him. A plane awaited them in Chicago, and they would be home for Christmas. Illya could finally think in terms of home when it came to Napoleon. Think of it, and know it to be true. But they had hours before they would arrive in Chicago. All day. Plenty of time to be lucky again.