The Back From the Dead Affair
The men worked as fast as they could. Not just because they were in a graveyard, but because they were cold. They weren't used to the cold. It made what they were doing seem even more of a sacrilege, as if even nature was turning against them. Yet still they dug, until the sound of metal hitting stone told them that they had reached their objective.
They redoubled their efforts. First to appear was the plain, stone cover. Hurriedly buried, the coffin had been chosen more for function than appearance. And only a casket of heavy stone had been thought capable of holding in the evil. The men stopped only long enough to give the sign of the cross, before going back to their digging.
It seemed to take forever, but finally the coffin was exposed. There were enough of them that, between them all, they managed to haul it out of the ground. Shivering, they lay their shovel aside and stared at the sarcophagus as it sat on the carpet of white, daring them to continue.
"Let's get this over with," their leader growled. He grabbed his shovel and with one blow broke the lid into pieces. He used the head of the shovel to push aside the chucks of stone.
The men shuffled forward and stared into the coffin. It had been a big man who had been buried here, but the burlap-wrapped body inside had shrunk during its time underground. Eyes wide, they stared at one another and then at their leader. The man's hands were clenched into fists as if even he lacked the courage to take this final step.
Yet, that was exactly what they had been paid to do. Swallowing his fear, the leader grabbed one end of the corpse. He nodded at one of the men. "You, grab the other end."
Together they lifted the body out of its casket. With the other men as a macabre honor guard, they carried it away.
"I thought we'd have at least a couple of days off," Napoleon complained as he and his partner walked the halls of UNCLE New York. They had come off of an affair only the day before and already they were being called into Waverly's office.
"Perhaps he just wants to talk to us about a previous mission," Illya said.
"I doubt it. He would have just called our office if that were the case. No, he's got something planned."
"Will this upset your plans, Napoleon?" Illya innocently asked.
"You know damn well it will. It took me almost a week to get Olivia to agree to a date."
"Almost a week? You must be losing your touch."
"Actually, it's sort of the reverse. I wasn't sure whether I should go out with her or not."
Napoleon shrugged. "Just a feeling. She strikes me as the type who's looking for a husband."
"And you have no plans to aid in her search," Illya said. "Really, Napoleon, I don't understand why you even bother. What exactly is the point of all of it?"
Napoleon only grinned as the door to their boss's office slid open.
They walked in and took their seats. The large, round table separated them from him, yet Napoleon could still see the tension in the man's normally placid demeanor.
Waverly spun the table's carousal until the file he'd been perusing lay in front of Napoleon. "Your next assignment, gentlemen."
Napoleon picked up the file and opened it. The top item was a newspaper clipping. He scanned it and then handed it to his partner.
"A dug-up grave? Wouldn't that be best handled by the local authorities?" Illya asked.
"More than that, Mr. Kuryakin," Waverly replied. "Not only was the coffin dug up, but the body was also taken."
"Still, sir, why would UNCLE get involved in a case of ordinary grave robbing?" Napoleon questioned.
"Hardly ordinary, Mr. Solo. Notice where this occurred and who was dug up."
Illya reread the article. "La Puerta Del Cielo. Why does that name ring a bell?"
"Well it should, Mr. Kuryakin. For the body taken is that of... well, I suppose his real name doesn't matter since you knew him as El Supremo."
"Someone dug up El Supremo?" Napoleon took the file from his partner, scanning it with obvious distaste. "Whatever for?"
"That, gentlemen, is what you are being sent to find out. Find out why the body was taken and by whom. And if at all possible, return it to its resting place."
"The article is two weeks old. Why are we only being called in now?" Illya asked.
"President Delgado wasn't concerned at first. He thought perhaps it was more an act of vandalism than an actual threat. But since then, there's been the start of an uprising against his presidency. He believes that, whoever took the body, is using its possession to gather supporters."
"Using a corpse as a rallying figure. Rather gruesome, isn't it?" Napoleon flipped through the other items in the file. "There's been some deaths."
"Exactly, which is why this has been given top priority. Your flight leaves within the hours, so you had best get on with it."
Napoleon stood up and tucked the file under his arm. "We'll do our best, sir."
"See that you do, gentlemen. See that you do."
They walked out and started toward their office. Both kept a suitcase there, fully packed, for just such emergencies. There had been too many times in the past when they'd been caught on a mission with no change of clothes.
"So, you will have to break your date after all," Illya said as they entered their office."
Napoleon walked to his desk and picked up the phone and began dialing. "Won't be the first time, though I think it's the first time I've had to do it in order to find a corpse. God, imagine what it must look like. It's been, what, two years since he died?"
"Almost three. After so much time, I wouldn't think there would be anything left but bones."
"Unfortunately, we'll probably find out." Napoleon held up his hand. "Olivia, it's Napoleon. I have some bad news..."
"We should be landing soon." Illya looked out the plane's window as the airport came into sight. "The president is supposed to have a car waiting for us."
"That's good. I didn't care for the hotel service last time," Napoleon responded. "Dead bodies in the closet—"
"Lovely young ladies in the shower," Illya added with a smile.
Napoleon grimaced. "Lovely, yes, but not exactly my style. I prefer my women a bit more sophisticated than Suzy."
"She wasn't exactly taken by your charms, anyway."
Napoleon only shrugged.
"Anyway, whatever is going on, President Delgado is worried enough that he insisted on us staying in the Presidential palace."
"That, and the fact that he's already lost several men. I assume he doesn't want one of us to be next."
Illya grimaced. "I would prefer that one of us not be next."
Napoleon smiled his agreement. Minutes later, the plane touched down.
They disembarked and collected their luggage. As the plane had been only half full, it didn't take them long. Nor were there many people in the airport. Loss of revenue was apparently another thing the president had to worry about. The country was a poor one; it couldn't afford to have its tourists scared away.
A limousine was waiting for them. The driver stowed their luggage in the trunk and hurried them into the car, all the while looking covertly around. They reached the Presidential palace without incident and were led directly to the president's office by the doorman who seemed to be doing double duty as a guard.
"Ah, Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin. It is good to see you again." President Delgado stood and came around his desk and shook both men's hands.
"You also, Mr. President." Napoleon studied the man. He seemed to have aged at least ten years since they had last seen him.
"I am afraid it isn't in the best of circumstances," Delgado responded as he motioned them over to a grouping of couches. He sat down across from them. "Who would have believed that you would be called on once again to come to my aid."
"What, exactly, is the problem, Mr. President?" Napoleon asked.
"You have heard about El Supremo's body, have you not?"
"Only that it's missing," Illya responded.
Delgado shook his head. "If only that were all. Ever since his body was taken, there has been a steady growth of rebellious activity. I have lost five cabinet members, two from actual attacks. I, myself, have been shot at more than once, and several churches have been burned."
"Churches?" Napoleon asked.
"Though voodoo has certain connections to Catholicism, its deeper roots are in the beliefs brought to these islands from West Africa. The churches are seen as enemies of the voodoo religion."
"But what has all that have to do with El Supremo's body?"
"The people think he's come back from the dead, don't they?" Illya asked.
"Yes," Delgado wearily responded. "Or that he was never dead to begin with, only under Mama Lu's spell."
Napoleon gave the man a puzzled look. "But she's dead."
"Just as dead as El Supremo," Illya sardonically replied.
"Exactly. As much as I would like to say that I am above such superstitious nonsense, I cannot, for I, myself, have felt the power of a voodoo curse."
"But we were able to prove that El Supremo's and Mama Lu's power was more that of chemical know-how. Once you were given the antidote to the drugs you were given, you recovered."
"I am not speaking of that time, Mr. Kuryakin. I am speaking of the recent past. My beloved wife died just a week ago from a voodoo curse."
The two agents looked at each other. That hadn't been in the report.
"We're very sorry to hear that, Mr. President," Napoleon said. "She was a truly lovely and gracious woman."
He was saved from saying more by the door opening. A servant entered.
"Their room is ready, Mr. President."
The man stood. "Diego will show you to your room. Much of the palace is not yet fit for habitation, so I hope you do not mind sharing a room."
"Not at all, sir," Napoleon responded.
"I will be in meetings all day tomorrow, so I will not see you again until the evening. If you have need of anything, just ask Diego. Have a good night, gentlemen."
"Nice," Napoleon commented as they entered their room.
Illya had to agree. Though not opulent, the room appeared comfortable. There was only one bed, but it was a large one. Through the open door on the right, he could see a large tub set in an equally large bathroom. But it was the immense fireplace, and the table and chairs grouped in front of it, that dominated the room.
"Is there anywhere near here where we can get a meal?" Illya asked. He had pushed aside the thick drape covering the window and was peering out into the dark.
"No, señor," Diego responded as he lit a fire. "Nothing stays open once it gets dark. If you wish, I can have something sent up from the kitchen."
"That would be fine." Illya turned to Napoleon, who was ostensibly checking the room for bugs. "Anything in particular?"
"Something warm—with perhaps something strong to wash it down."
Diego smiled. "That can easily be arranged." He finished laying the fire and exited the room.
Illya walked over to the fireplace and threw himself down on one of the chairs. "Strange how cold it is. The town reaches up onto the central mountain of the island, hence the name, but I didn't think it got this cold."
Napoleon joined him, taking the chair across from him and toeing off his shoes. "Remember the picture? There was snow on the ground."
"I wonder if that's what has everyone so jittery. I noticed President Delgado's hands were shaking."
"What, more voodoo magic?" Napoleon shook his head in amusement. "It's probably just a freak weather pattern."
"I'm sure it is, but don't underestimate the hold that superstition has on these people. Anything out of the ordinary will invariably be blamed on voodoo."
"I suppose." Napoleon stood. "I'm going to take a quick shower. Yell when they bring the food."
Illya nodded, though his thoughts were already elsewhere. When he heard the bathroom door close, he leaned back and closed his eyes. Voodoo magic was the least of his worries.
Napoleon was still showering when Diego brought their food. While he set out the food on the table, Illya used the time to question the man. He'd often found that the help knew far more than their employers. Diego had just left when Napoleon came out from his shower, briskly drying his hair.
"Aren't you cold?" Illya asked as he eyed Napoleon's attire. Though his partner had donned a robe, it wasn't tied and he wore only pajama bottoms underneath.
Napoleon continued drying his hair as he walked over to join Illya. "That's an odd question coming from you. Most of the time, you don't wear anything at all to bed." He tossed the towel over the chair back and sat down.
"Well, I brought something this time." Illya motioned toward the food and sat across from Napoleon. "The fire won't last all night." He filled his plate as he continued. "I wonder how the people are managing. I doubt most of their houses have any kind of heating."
"Maybe, maybe not. This high up, it's bound to get somewhat cold in winter. But at least there isn't snow on the ground anymore. Maybe it's beginning to warm up."
"We'll find out tomorrow. I thought we'd start at the cemetery."
"Why there?" Napoleon asked. He tasted the stew they'd been served. "This is good."
"Yes, it is. Regarding the cemetery, according to Diego, there have been some odd goings on there."
"What would be considered odd around here?"
Illya smiled. "Good point. But it's mostly been noises in the dead of night coming from the area near where the body was taken. And apparently people are going missing again."
"Now, that's interesting. Okay, we'll start with the cemetery."
Later, as they lay in bed, the room dark except for the light from the banked fire, Illya's thoughts continued to circle. Napoleon was turned away from him, his bare back and shoulder slightly illuminated. Illya turned onto his other side to face away and watched the wood burn down to embers.
The next morning they discovered that no one was willing to drive them out to the cemetery. Not even the soldiers wanted anything to do with that place. And no amount of money would sway any of the servants. With no other options, they borrowed one of the presidential cars. It wasn't ideal, the big car might have trouble navigating the dirt roads near the cemetery, but it would have to do. Getting directions from one of the servants, it was well past noon before they were on the road. But they made surprisingly good time, and it was only a little over an later when they reached their destination.
"It must have taken several men to do this," Illya remarked as he studied the grave site. The sarcophagus had been left where it had been discovered. Several feet away, a large hole showed where the original burial plot had been.
"I don't understand why they didn't just remove the body from the coffin. It certainly would have been easier." Napoleon unzipped his jacket. "I was right, it is getting warmer."
"Thankfully, yes." Illya backed away from the coffin. "Perhaps they felt it would create more fear this way."
"I suppose. Come on," Napoleon pulled out his gun and nodded to Illya. "Let's take a look around. There's got to be a dozen crypts just in this area. Any one of them could be used to store an extra body—or something else."
After an hour, with nothing to show for their efforts, Napoleon called a halt.
"This is going to take forever. I think we should split up. We've only got a couple of hours of daylight left. I don't know about you, but this place gives me the creeps."
"Everyone here is dead, Napoleon. I doubt they could do us any harm," Illya responded.
Napoleon snorted. "It's not the dead I'm worried about. No, I just have a funny feeling about this place."
"If that's the case, maybe splitting up isn't such a good idea."
"Maybe not, but I don't relish the idea of coming back here tomorrow. Let's just finish and get the hell out of here. If I don't hear from you before then, I'll meet you back here in two hours."
Illya reluctantly agreed and started off in a direction opposite to the one Napoleon took. He kept a wary eye out, but couldn't help worrying about his partner. It was silly, of course, Napoleon could take care of himself. Yet something was niggling at the back of his mind, something that was telling him that letting Napoleon out of his sight was a bad idea.
He shook his head. Maybe Napoleon was right. This place did give a person the creeps, as his partner had so colorfully put it. Mentally scolding himself, Illya continued his search.
He went through dozens of crypts and found nothing. Most of them were locked, but a little judicious lock-picking took care of that problem. He found nothing, other than what he expected. After two hours he was covered with dust and ready to call an end to his search. Brushing the cobwebs from his hair as he exited yet another crypt, he started back to their meeting place.
Sitting on a stump he'd spied when they were here before, he made himself comfortable as he waited for his partner. After ten minutes he began to worry. He pulled out his communicator.
"Open channel D. Napoleon, are you there?"
After many attempts and five frustratingly long and silent minutes, Illya put his communicator away and set off in the direction he had seen Napoleon take. He was able to follow his footprints for a time, but eventually they petered out, and he was left once again going in and out of crypts as he searched for his missing partner.
It was completely dark by the time Illya finally gave up. He knew that, wherever Napoleon was, he wasn't going to be able to find him on his own. Napoleon could have been taken anywhere on the island.
Even as he approached the car, Illya still held out hope that his partner would suddenly appear, perhaps with a girl on his arm. Of course he didn't, so Illya got in the car and drove away.
Illya stood by the window and watched as the sky darkened. Napoleon had been missing for two days, and they were no closer to finding him than they had been at the beginning. He rubbed his eyes. He was so tired. He'd been forced to return early to the mansion because he could barely stand, much less continue searching. But sleep still eluded him. He'd lain on the bed and stared at the ceiling for what seemed hours. He'd eventually fallen into a light doze, but it couldn't have been asleep for very long. Unable to stand it any longer, he'd gotten up.
He turned at the knock on the door.
He'd expected one of the servants, but it was President Delgado.
"How can I help you, Mr. President?"
Delgado stepped into the room. "I was hoping that somehow I would be able to help you. I've ordered you something to eat. Starving yourself will not help your partner."
"Have the rest of the searchers returned?"
"Most of them have. There are only two or three who have not."
"I assume they haven't found him." Illya closed the drapes and approached the president. "I'm grateful for the help, but I need to be out there searching for him."
"And you will be, but you must rest first. You will be better in the morning."
"Napoleon may not have that much time left."
"Do you know if..."
"If he's still alive?" Illya shook his head. "No, but I won't believe that he isn't until we find him—or his body."
"There are not many more places to search."
"He's got to be on the island somewhere." Illya thought a moment. "There was something... a house near the cemetery, the one where your wife had taken you after leaving New York. It would be a perfect place to hide him." Full of purpose, he walked over to the table where a map of the island was spread out. He sat down and started scanning it. "I remember it being somewhere over here," he said, his hand making a vague circle over an area. "It's strange that I don't remember passing it while we were out there."
"That's because it was razed to the ground. It held too many bad memories for my people—and me."
"Oh." Illya sat back. It was hard not to feel defeated.
"I am sorry, Mr. Kuryakin. But don't give up hope. Mr. Solo may turn up yet."
There was a soft rap on the door, and then Diego entered pushing a food cart.
"I will leave you to your meal." The president nodded and then left the room.
"I hope you enjoy your meal, Señor Kuryakin. The cook made it especially for you."
"Thank him for me, will you, Diego?" Illya sat forward and uncovered his dish. The food smelled wonderful, but he had no appetite. He forced a spoonful down. "It's delicious."
"I should go now. It is getting dark." Diego cast a fearful look toward the window.
"Do you live nearby?"
"Unfortunately, no. I live past the cemetery. But I will be taking a longer route, so that I don't have to go near it. After what I have seen...."
"There's nothing there. We've checked. You shouldn't worry about walking by it."
Diego shook his head. "No, Señor, there is something there. I saw it, just last night."
"What did you see?"
"Lights coming from the ground. And sounds, terrible sounds."
"Could you show me where, here on the map?"
Diego approached and hesitantly sat next to Illya. He looked at the map for a moment before pointing to a location. "There, is was there."
Illya studied where the man was pointing. "That's where the house used to sit."
"Yes, that is the place. We told them that tearing down the house would change nothing. They didn't listen."
Illya got up, his food forgotten, his fatigue gone. He had a direction, and somehow he knew that that direction would lead him to his partner.
Illya turned off the flashlight. If someone was around, he didn't want to give his presence away. He sat down and settled in to wait. He was hidden within the underbrush near where the house had once stood. From here he had a clear view. No attempt had been made to move the debris away, and a house-size pile of wood and brick now took the place of the dwelling.
His back against a tree, he tried to stay awake. His body had decided that, yes, now was a good time to demand sleep. His eyes felt as if they were full of sand and he couldn't quit yawning. The third time he jerked awake, his head almost to the ground, he stood up and decided a walk would help clear his mind.
He kept the house in sight as he circled around. On his third pass, he spotted a flash of light coming from under the remains. Silently approaching, he knelt down and pushed aside some of the debris.
There it was again. He quickened his efforts, pushing aside everything in his way. Five minutes later, he uncovered the cleverly hidden trapdoor. The debris had been used as camouflage, and the wood of the door was so ingrained with dirt that it blended in perfectly with its surrounding. He looked around for some kind of handle. When he couldn't readily find one, he took out his knife and with the blade pried open the door.
It was dark inside, but with the light cast by the full moon, Illya could easily see the flight of stairs that led down into the earth. He took the steps, quietly lowering the trapdoor behind him. Once it was closed, he turned his flashlight back on.
The steps went down a flight and then opened up on a long corridor. Doors on either side opened to rooms dark and abandoned. Some still had furniture in them, mostly desks and filing cabinets, but most were completely empty. In some, water had pooled and there was the rank smell of decay. Illya thought that this must have been the building's original basement.
He kept going until the hall split off in two directions. To his right was a flight of stairs going up, probably the original stairs into the house. They were choked with debris. To his left was another door. He opened it. The flashlight revealed another set of stairs, these going down. They looked old, and not entirely safe.
Suddenly the lights flashed on again. Momentarily blinded, he didn't see whatever it was that impacted against his skull.
"Ah, you've decided to rejoin the living—at least for awhile."
Illya lifted his head. He was in a large room, perhaps thirty by fifty feet. It had the look of an unfinished basement, with pipes crisscrossing overhead. There were a few bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, their weak light leaving much of the room in shadow. The floor was dirt. Along one wall were makeshift cubicles made from rope and canvas.
Sitting about six feet in front of him was a man in a military uniform. His arms were crossed, but a gun dangled from one hand. He was light-skinned, as El Supremo had been, but rail thin. Illya had never seen him before.
He looked around, playing for time as he tested the ropes that bound his wrists together. They were tied behind his back, his arms stretched around the support beam that was helping to hold him up.
"Where am I?" Illya finally asked.
The man stood up and approached him. "You're in El Supremo's new headquarters."
"El Supremo is dead."
"Perhaps, perhaps not. It all depends on your state of mind, doesn't it?"
"You're either dead or you're not."
"That's what you believe, but that doesn't make it so."
Illya eyed the man. "And who are you?"
"I was El Supremo's second in command." He bowed his head dramatically. "Colonel Nuñez, at your service. But you can call me El Supremo."
"Is that what you want the people to think? Sorry to break it to you, but you don't look anything like him?"
Nuñez spread his arms. "You mean my size?" He laughed. "Being in the ground for three years can change a man's appearance quite a bit."
"And the real El Supremo's body?"
"It's down here, safe and sound, where no one can get to it."
"If you were his second in command, it must have been you who had him dug up."
"That is so. We needed him, you see. Certain sections of the population had to be convinced of the rightness of our cause. They needed to know that El Supremo had returned."
"And those who weren't?"
"Ah, well, we have ways of convincing just about anyone." Nuñez grinned. "Would you like to see an example? Yes, I think you would." He walked across the room and pulled aside the opening of one of the cubicles. He motioned to someone inside.
In the subdued light, all Illya could make out was that it was a man who followed the Colonel over. As Nuñez stepped aside, it was all Illya could do to keep his distress from showing. From the moment he had discovered the trapdoor, Illya had suspected that Napoleon was being held down here, but it hadn't imagined that his partner was being held like this.
The man in front of him had the vacant stare of someone either drugged or deeply traumatized. Illya fervently hoped it was the former. Napoleon's clothes were gone and all he wore was some sort of loincloth. The skin around his wrists and ankles was raw, as if he had fought against now-missing bonds. There were bruises all over his body and his left eye was almost swollen shut. Yet it was the emptiness in his eyes, the vibrancy that had always marked his partner gone, that most disturbed Illya.
"What have you done to him?" Illya asked without taking his eyes off of Napoleon.
"He has become the newest member of El Supremo's followers. It took some convincing, but he was finally persuaded to see the rightness of our cause. And with his knowledge of weaponry, he'll make a fine soldier. Maybe even an officer. Imagine what UNCLE will think of that."
"He can hardly walk. I doubt he'll be leading anyone any time soon. And it'll be perfectly obvious to everyone that he isn't himself."
"Oh, this?" Nuñez gestured toward Napoleon. "This condition is only temporary. We were able to improve the drugs used to create zombies. Eventually, it will be impossible to tell that he's anything but the agent they originally sent. The only difference is that he'll have switched sides."
"I don't believe it. No matter what you've done to him, Napoleon would never compromise his principles."
"You think not? I guess I'll have to give you a demonstration. Let's see, what would it take to convince you?" Nuñez rubbed his chin, and then his eyes lit up. "I've got it. Your friend is a well-known womanizer, so..." He turned to Napoleon. "You desire this man. Show him how much."
Illya tried to pull back as Napoleon slowly advanced on him. When he stopped, only an inch or two separated them. Hesitantly, as if something inside of him was fighting it, Napoleon brought his hands up. He wrapped one arm around Illya's waist, while cradling Illya's head in his other hand.
Though he had known what was coming, he gasped in surprise when Napoleon's lips settled on his own.
It was all his partner needed. His tongue dipped into Illya mouth and began a thorough exploration. He tried to pull away, but Napoleon's hand was exerting pressure against the back of his head, making escape impossible.
Not that Illya truly wanted to escape. No matter that Napoleon was only doing this because he'd been brainwashed, Illya had dreamed of this for years, so it didn't take long for his own defenses to crumble and he found himself returning the kiss. He opened his mouth wider and his tongue joined Napoleon's in seeking out the other's depths.
Napoleon broke the kiss and buried his face in Illya's neck. His hands dropped to grab Illya's ass as he pulled their bodies tightly together. Illya could feel the hard length of Napoleon's cock through the clothing that separated them. He caught his breath as it brushed against his own erection.
His friend began a slow grind, his groin hard against Illya's. Their cocks rubbed against each other as Napoleon unhurriedly undulated his hips. He could hear moans slipping passed Napoleon's lips, and after a time his motions became more urgent, faster.
Engulfed in his own arousal, Illya was brought jarringly back to earth as Napoleon abruptly pulled away. With eyes still glassy, he stepped back to his original position, leaving Illya bereft.
"Disgusting, but it proves my point. Even a Casanova like Mr. Solo is more than willing to kiss a man while under my control. He would even allow himself to be sodomized if I so ordered it." He motioned toward Illya's groin, where his cock bulged against his pants. "I think you would enjoy doing that, wouldn't you? Unfortunately for you, you will never get the opportunity."
Nuñez walked over to the now passive Napoleon and placed the gun in his hand. "Kill him."
Napoleon brought the gun up. Seconds passed.
"Kill him!" Nuñez reiterated.
Almost imperceptibly, Napoleon's hand began to tremble. Sweat trickled down his forehead and his breath hitched.
"You remember me, don't you, Napoleon? I'm your partner, Illya." Illya searched Napoleon's eyes, looking for the friend locked behind the drug-induced conditioning. "Try to remember."
Napoleon's breath became harsher and, finally, his eyes seem to clear. But they held only confusion.
"That's it, you can do it. You've got to remember," Illya coaxed.
"You, shut up!" Nuñez advanced on Illya and slapped him, hard. He turned toward Napoleon. "I told you to shoot him!"
Illya flinched as the sound of the gun thundered through the room. Looking down and finding no bullet hole, he looked over at his partner. Napoleon held the smoking gun, clearly puzzled.
With a look of surprise, Nuñez slowly slumped to the ground.
"That was about it, Mr. Waverly. With their leader dead, the insurrection fizzled out and died. El Supremo's bones were re-interred without incident."
"I haven't heard much from you, Mr. Solo." Waverly turned his attention to Napoleon.
"I don't remember much," Napoleon responded. "I was taken prisoner, but after their first methods proved ineffective, I was drugged. The rest is a blank. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in our room back at the president's mansion."
"I managed to get Napoleon back to the President's mansion where the president was able to neutralize the drugs that were left in Napoleon's system."
"I was under the impression that the drugs used to create the zombie state were infallible."
"Apparently, Napoleon's sense of duty was stronger."
"As well it should be. Very well, gentlemen, you're dismissed. And I don't wish to see you back until Tuesday."
"Well, imagine that, three days off," Napoleon commented as they left Waverly's office. They were back in the halls of UNCLE New York as if nothing had changed. But, for Illya, everything had changed.
Once Napoleon had killed Nuñez, Illya had managed to convince his still-confused partner to free him. He'd found Napoleon's clothes and got him dressed. They'd stayed long enough for Illya to find Nuñez's cache of drugs hidden in yet another cubicle. Then they'd made their way out of the underground prison and, as he'd reported to Waverly, back to the presidential palace. Once there, they had been able to figure out which drugs would counteract those in Napoleon's system.
Illya had stayed close to his friend as much as possible as Napoleon's mental fog slowly lifted. He had left him only to help in rounding up the last of Nuñez's cohorts. It had taken a few days for the confusion to pass completely, before Napoleon was once again the man he knew. Once that had happened, they'd taken the next flight home.
But Illya had left much out of the report. He'd said nothing of Napoleon's state of dress when he'd been found or of his seduction by Napoleon. Certainly, he wrote nothing of his own reaction to it. Nor could he mention his anxiety over what his partner's reaction would be once he remembered what happened. But apparently his fears had been unfounded, because Napoleon's memory of his time while drugged still hadn't returned. With any luck, it never would.
"Are you all right?" Napoleon asked. "You seem distracted."
"I'm fine." Illya kept his eyes cast down on the floor. "Just thinking about the affair."
"What about it? As far as I'm concerned, we carried it off without a hitch."
Illya finally looked up. "You don't even remember what happened."
Napoleon grinned. "Exactly. Hey, you want to go to dinner? I'm starving."
"No, I just want to go home. I'm tired. It wasn't easy hauling your carcass all around the island."
"I helped a little, didn't I?"
Illya gave him a look. "A very little. You go ahead. I'm sure you'll find someone who would love going to dinner with you."
"That, my friend, goes without saying."
He left Napoleon flirting with the girl at the front desk who took their badges. He didn't know her name. The woman who sat there tended to change somewhat regularly. Illya supposed handing out badges got a bit boring—even when you were handing one out to Napoleon.
When he entered his apartment, he set the security locks and then headed for the liquor cabinet, kicking his shoes off as he went along. He intended to get falling-down drunk.
He grabbed a bottle of vodka and, foregoing a glass, headed for the couch. He propped his feet on the coffee table and took a swig of vodka. He rested his head on the back of the couch and closed his eyes.
He could still feel Napoleon's body against his, still recall his total surrender to that false seduction.
How long had it been? At least a year since he'd finally admitted it to himself. It was during the Gurnius Affair that the full force of his attraction to his partner barreled through him. No, he had to be honest with himself. He'd already accepted the attraction. It was the love that had taken him completely unaware and turned his world upside down. An agent didn't fall in love with his partner. It was too dangerous.
But he had fallen in love with his partner, and he'd known he'd had when he'd realized just how badly his having to torture Napoleon had effected him. Bad enough when someone else hurt his partner. To do so himself had torn him apart. He'd carried the guilt for weeks. It was only Napoleon's gracious refusal to acknowledge that guilt, his adamant declaration that Illya had nothing to feel guilty about, that had finally healed his self-inflicted emotional wounds. But that hadn't gainsaid the love. On the contrary, it had only given him more reason to love the man.
So what did he do now? Napoleon didn't remember what happened, but Illya always would, and he would forever long for what he'd only had a taste of. He took another swig from the bottle and then set it on the table. He hadn't lied to Napoleon. He was tired. More tired than he could possibly say.
He didn't know how long he'd sat there when the doorbell rang. He got up, grumbling as he cautiously approached the door. He pulled his gun from out of his holster. "Who is it?"
"It's me. Napoleon."
Illya grimaced as he undid the locks and opened the door. "What do you want?"
"My, my, who's the bear with a sore head?" Napoleon quipped as he walked in. He lightly shook a paper sack in front of Illya's face. "And here I came bearing gifts."
Illya grimaced at the pun. "And we remember how well that worked out."
Napoleon walked over to the couch and sat down. He laid out the food as he spoke. "I decided I didn't want to go through the trouble of finding a date. Besides, I had a yen for Japanese."
Illya groaned. "If you're going to keep that up, I'm going to ask you to leave."
"Sorry, I couldn't help myself." Napoleon finished opening the cartons and handed Illya a plastic fork. "Here, I bought all your favorites."
Illya took the fork and started sampling the fare. They ate in silence, and Illya slowly relaxed, relieved that they still had that comfort with each other. "And to what do I owe all this?"
"How about to the fact that you saved my life?"
Illya waved his fork around in dismissal. "We do that for each other all the time."
"Then how about to me finding out how much I'm loved?" Napoleon responded, his voice little more than a whisper.
His fork halfway to his mouth, Illya froze, his eyes darting up to lock with his partner's. "What are you talking about?"
Napoleon took the fork from Illya's hand and laid it down. "You know what I'm talking about. Desire is one thing. I've seen it often enough to know. But what happened between us, that was so much more than desire."
Napoleon nodded. "It started coming back to me on our way back home. Bits and pieces that didn't make any sense at first. But gradually they started forming a pattern. After you left, I realized that I didn't want to spend the evening with anyone else, that all I wanted to do was be with you. And then suddenly it all fell into place."
"Are you saying what I think you're saying?"
"That I feel the same way?" Napoleon smiled. "Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying."
Napoleon hushed him by placing a finger over Illya's lips. "There's really nothing more to say, is there?"
Illya thought about it and had to admit that, no, there really wasn't any need for more words. Not right now, anyway. Anything else he needed to know, well, they'd have years, wouldn't they? He kissed Napoleon's finger and then took his hand with his own. He stood up and led Napoleon into the bedroom.
It was short work to remove their clothes, to pull back the covers and climb into bed together. On his back, Illya reveled in the weight of Napoleon's body covering his. Before, there had been the restriction of clothing. This time, he could feel every inch of Napoleon's warm, smooth skin against his, the feel of Napoleon's hot, pulsing organ aligned with his own.
"God, you feel wonderful," Napoleon whispered as he nuzzled Illya's neck.
Illya could only moan a response. Their bodies fit together so well, as if made for one another. As far as Illya was concerned, that was true. Nothing could feel as wonderful as the weight of Napoleon's strong yet lithe body slowly surging against his own. Illya had been with men before, bigger men. Probably, stronger men. But those men had not been Napoleon.
They took their time, each learning the other. But finally, Illya slid his hands down Napoleon's back, carefully avoiding the bruising that still colored his partner's body. They came to rest on his partner's ass. He couldn't wait any longer. He tried to go slow, to be gentle, but Napoleon would have none of it.
"I'm not fragile, you know. And I can handle a little discomfort. I've waited to long for this for you to hold back now."
It was all Illya needed to hear. He pulled Napoleon's body hard against his own and quickened their pace.
It was just like, and nothing like, that other time. There was the mutual desire, but this time it was real. This time, they both gave voice to the passion and love they'd so long denied.
It was the heat on his belly, and Napoleon's soft cry that tipped Illya over. He threw his arms around Napoleon's neck and buried his face against his partner's chest as he came.
They slept, neither much concerned over the semen that coated their bellies or the fact that it wasn't even noon. When Illya woke, it was to find Napoleon staring down at him.
"What are you doing?" Illya asked around a yawn.
"Watching you sleep. Do you mind?"
Illya scowled. "Just as long as you don't make a habit out of it."
"I'll tell you what, I'll only watch you sleep when I wake up first. The rest of the time, you can watch me. Deal?"
Illya didn't even have to think about it.