Desires and Adorations

by Joolz

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin sat at their desks, each trying to appear to be working. Of course neither was fooled, but the pretense of industriousness covered a tension they were loath to acknowledge.

Eventually Illya gripped his pen tighter and commented without looking up, "If you think of it rationally, there is simply no reason for there to be any problem at all. There hasn't been until now."

Though apparently engrossed in reading a report Napoleon responded quickly, his voice holding a hint of doubt. "You're right, of course."

Illya frowned and continued, "But we know that rationality carries little weight in this instance."

The senior agent put down the paper he had been pretending to read and looked at his partner. The blond head was bent, the mouth pinched tightly. The blue eyes were fixed on the writing before him, which upon closer inspection appeared to actually be a series of tight spirals. Napoleon grew even more concerned.

"Illya," he said gently, "I know that in many cases your ability to anticipate the worst-case scenario can be a strength, but this isn't one of them. Don't worry so much."

When the eyes finally turned toward Napoleon they were sharp and cold, an expression he knew merely hid the other man's deeper emotions. When Kuryakin spoke, his voice was brittle.

"Don't worry? How can you be so blas? We're not talking about justifying a new suit on your expense account."

Napoleon sighed, but replied firmly, "I know quite well what's at stake. I'm simply pointing out that anxiety is a waste of energy. I would expect you to appreciate that."

Illya's gaze softened. "You're not worried?"

There was no way Napoleon could lie. His shoulders slumped slightly as he admitted, "Yes."

They each returned to their tasks, falling into a thoughtful silence. The senior agent surreptitiously cast glances at his friend. Yes, he was worried. About Illya.

In many ways this was harder on the Russian than on himself. Napoleon speculated that it might have to do with the circumstances of Illya's upbringing and training. Whereas Napoleon had grown up in a liberal and relatively egalitarian society, Illya had been conditioned from childhood to actively seek the approval of his 'superiors'. (It was Napoleon's personal opinion that there was no one actually 'better' than Illya Kuryakin.) In Illya's world the good opinion of those higher in the chain of command was necessary not only for advancement but also for basic physical survival. That was a powerful motivating force to guarantee respect for authority.

In a sense this essential trait was actually exacerbated by Illya's experience in the west, with UNCLE. In Alexander Waverly the Russian had found a leader that he could respect not out of fear or nationalistic obligation, but because of his character and sincere devotion to making the world a safer place for the common man. It was through working with Mr. Waverly as much as through working with Napoleon that Illya had learned to truly trust himself and others. This lesson alone led the young man to care deeply about Waverly's opinion of him and strive to deserve the position that he had achieved.

Napoleon doubted that any of this was actually foremost in his friend's mind. No, in all likelihood Illya would be worrying about Napoleon. It seemed that his partner took Napoleon's career more seriously than he himself did. It was of great importance to Illya that Napoleon realize his potential and had in the past ruthlessly suppressed any threat to his partner's position as Chief Enforcement Agent.

And now Solo and Kuryakin had earned the wrath of the chief Section One officer of the North American bureau, the most prestigious in UNCLE. The status that both Section Two enforcement agents had earned over the years could be stripped from them at any moment, not to mention the personal regard that may already have been lost.

For Napoleon it was simply not knowing if or when the axe would fall that was bothersome. His concentration was focused in a way not unlike being on a dangerous mission, and knowing them as he did, he was sure of their ability to face any situation that might arise. But while Illya's instincts as a strategist and in the thick of the action were as good as they came, Napoleon was actually better at the waiting part. Waiting gave the overachieving Kuryakin brain a chance to entangle itself with the unknowns.

And now they were waiting. Napoleon and Illya had been partners for three years and been together in a personal sense for more than one of those, but their boss had either not known or had not had his suspicions confirmed until last week. Personally, Napoleon was surprised that they had evaded UNCLE's security apparatus for as long as they had.

Waverly's initial reaction to the revelation had been angry and explosive. They hadn't known that the decorous English gentleman was capable of using such language. After expressing his shock and profound disappointment, Waverley had informed them that they were to go about their business while he considered the appropriate response to their transgression.

The pair had concluded their ongoing assignment with a minimum of fuss, hoping against hope that the storm would blow over. Today, however, when they had met with Waverly to debrief on the results of the mission the grandfatherly figure had expedited the interview with gruff, preemptive snarls and had not deigned to look directly at either of the unsettled agents the entire time. Obviously the storm had not blown over.

This was the cause of their current apprehension. While Napoleon also held the bureau chief in the highest regard, he found himself angry that anyone could consider his relationship with Illya sordid or reprehensible. In general, intimate pairings of comparably ranked agents were discouraged, but it was clear that the male/male aspect of the situation was what disgusted their superior. That attitude, while not uncommon, was not something Napoleon could respect. He was more than ready to face the music, as it were. To have it out and get it over with.

He spoke again. "We expected something like this to happen. We discussed it thoroughly before we ever acted on what was between us. Nothing has changed. We know what we may have to do."

They had covered all the bases. They had planned what they would do in case UNCLE tried to separate them as partners, or tried to send Illya back to the Soviet Union, or to eliminate one or both of them. They would attempt to find the mildest solution possible, but if necessary they were fully prepared to disappear from the face of the Earth. Napoleon had no doubt that they could do it.

Illya laid his pen down on the desk with slightly more force than necessary. "Yes, yes, of course I know all that. But you must admit that it is more difficult in fact than it was in the abstract." A sour expression passed across his face. "I am angry at myself for allowing you to convince me that there could be a satisfactory conclusion to this matter. I now feel that any outcome other than you continuing as CEA and eventually as Mr. Waverly's successor in Section One is simply unacceptable. But I have assured that that will not happen, haven't I?"

Napoleon rose to his feet and approached his partner's desk. With his back to the door to block the view of anyone walking in, he perched on the edge and grasped Illya's hand firmly between his own.

"Don't you ever blame yourself. You know that there is only one outcome that I insist on, don't you?"

The fiery blue eyes dropped to the desktop and there was no answer.

Napoleon prodded, "Illya?"

Head still bowed, there was a mumbled response, "That we shall be together."

"That's right. Are you saying that you've had a change of heart and no longer want to be with me?"

Illya finally looked up, sadness now evident in his eyes.

"No, Napasha. My heart could never change in such a way. It is simply that," he searched for words, "you know."

"Yes, my love, I know." Still holding Illya's hand tightly in one of his own, the other rose to cup his beloved's cheek. "Remember that there is nothing and no one more important to me than you. You make me human. Without you I would just be an automaton, a robot, going through the motions of life. Remember how much I love you, how much I need you."

A twinkle of humor returned to the Russian's countenance. "That was quite a speech." Then more seriously, "I will remember. And yes, all right."

Now Napoleon was slightly confused. "All right what?"

"I will stop worrying. Whatever happens, we shall prevail, you and I."

Napoleon nodded emphatically. "Yes, my friend, we shall." He leaned forward and lightly touched his lips to Illya's, then pulled back and grinned down into his face. "I don't know about you, but I'm starved. I could eat a horse."

The playful smile that few people other than Napoleon had seen played across the handsome face. "Well, if you could eat a horse, then I could eat a horse and a water buffalo. You have never been able to consume more than I, and I suspect that you never will."

Napoleon stood and pulled his partner to his feet. "Prove it."

"All right. As long as you're buying."

Napoleon laughed. "I'll be buying for a long, long time."

Alexander Waverly left his spacious apartment overlooking Central Park in a foul mood. As he rode the elevator down to the ground level he decided that he would come to a decision today. He found it extremely vexing to be put in this position and resolved to have it sorted out as soon as possible. He had quite enough on his plate with the dreadful affair that was going so badly in Philadelphia.

The worst part of it was that Napoleon Solo had shown such promise. Against his better judgment Alexander had come to consider the Chief Enforcement Agent to be his protégé, almost a son, and his eventual heir. He knew that in this business it was unwise to count too much on any one agent. After all, they had nearly lost Mr. Solo on a dozen occasions in just the last year. But this young man had seemed ideal. His charm would allow him to work well with his other Section One counterparts as well as the agents under his command. He was unattached, the banal womanizing notwithstanding. Alexander could think of no one who understood the machinations of Thrush, not to mention the politics of UNCLE, as thoroughly.

Waverly snorted with distaste and the security guard by his side studiously refrained from reacting. The elderly man reflected with bitterness that he would have rather Mr. Solo be killed on a mission than lose him in this way. Even if he allowed the agent to stay on in some capacity he would have to start grooming another successor, and all that work would be for nothing. To make matters worse, the next person in the queue to succeed him was Mr. Kuryakin.

Although he knew it was probably unjust, he couldn't help feeling that this was in some way Mr. Kuryakin's fault. He had genuinely come to like the taciturn Russian whose talents so flawlessly complemented those of Mr. Solo, but a line had been crossed. Certainly, the pair were closer than most partnerships within the organization, but it should have gone no farther than that. How had his protégé, a man so like himself, been lured into the bed of another man? He shuddered to think of it.

Neither man had any indication of this type of depravity in his record and it rankled how completely he had been fooled. Perhaps if they had come to him in the first place.... No, no allowances could be made for this sort of thing. His duty was clear, if unspeakably disappointing.

The elevator car reached the lobby and the door pinged open. As the head of UNCLE stepped out he was immediately flanked by two more security men who escorted him across the opulent foyer.

As they neared the front door there was a loud popping sound somewhere behind the group. Waverly's bodyguards were immediately on alert, but they appeared to be staggering slightly, as he was himself.

While Alexander Waverly toppled to the floor his last thought was that indeed, this was going to be a ghastly day.

Illya was just setting his briefcase on his desk and preparing to begin the workday when a female voice boomed out of the loudspeaker, "Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin, report to Mr. Waverly's office immediately."

Solo lifted his eyebrows at his lover, who merely shrugged his shoulders in response.

"Well, IK, shall we go see what's so urgent? It'll either be the firing squad or our next assignment."

Illya didn't think that was very funny, but somehow felt ready, energized even, as he walked beside his partner down the familiar halls.

When they reached the portal to their supervisor's office the door slid open and Lisa Rogers, Mr. Waverly's administrative assistant, herded them quickly into the room. Without preamble she began to speak.

"Twenty minutes ago Mr. Waverly was abducted from his apartment building by Thrush. His escorts are either unconscious or dead and were unable to follow. Mr. Solo, under these circumstances you become acting Chief of Policy and Operations."

The Russian agent felt a surge of adrenalin as the supremely efficient woman continued in a formal tone.

"You, Mr. Kuryakin, are now acting Chief of Operations and Enforcement." She picked up a folder from the round table and handed it to Napoleon. "As bureau head you will need to familiarize yourself more thoroughly with the Liberty Bell Affair."

Napoleon was obviously concerned, but his drawled response was so characteristic it made Illya's heart jump with affection.

"Yes. That's the one where everything that can go wrong has, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir. Our agents there are in quite a lot of danger and the affair is quickly coming to a head. Further action on our part may be required at any moment."

Napoleon shifted easily into command mode. "All right. Illya, I want every available operative on this immediately, designating a few to remain on standby to fly down to Philadelphia if needed. Have them call in every favor, every informant we have. I want to know where Mr. Waverly is and I want to know now. He's probably still in the city at this point and we need to get him back before he can be taken anywhere else."

"I'll get right on it, Napoleon."

The new commander strode toward the communication console already studying the open folder in his hands, giving no more acknowledgment as Illya left. The voice of Illya's Soviet past whispered in his head that when a superior officer went down, it created opportunities for those below. He snarled the voice away; it was no longer his. His duty, his loyalty to UNCLE, everything that he now was called him to retrieve Mr. Waverly quickly and intact, no matter the personal consequences.

Illya was pleased to see that his stern countenance made everyone he came in contact with stand straighter and move faster. The search was swiftly organized, the not insignificant resources of the agency deployed.

Barely an hour later Illya and Napoleon were bent over a map on Waverly's table when one of the newer enforcement agents, Davenport, rushed through the door and came to an excited halt.

Solo snapped, "What is it?"

As the young man approached, dark hair tousled and dark eyes shining, it was hard to tell if he was more in awe of being in Napoleon's presence or more intimidated by Illya.

"Sirs, we've gotten some leads. Thrush personnel have been identified going into a butcher's shop down in Little Italy. Also, there's been some suspicious activity, not Thrush for sure, at a warehouse in Brooklyn."

Napoleon nodded, "Thank you, Mr. Davenport." Then he continued, "Illya, you and I will check out the butcher's shop..."

Illya cut him off softly, "Napoleon. I will check out the butcher's shop. You have other responsibilities."

The American sucked in a sudden breath as his eyes locked with Illya's. In a brief moment his gaze communicated both the desire to act and a need to accompany his partner into a potentially dangerous situation. Just as quickly he accepted the situation. The cleft chin lifted slightly and he continued professionally, "Of course. You'll go to Little Italy. Send Mark and April to check out the Brooklyn site. Have everybody else keep looking in case those don't pan out." His final, "Keep in touch," was actually saying, "Be very careful."

Illya assured him, "I will," and guided Davenport out the door.

Waverly's mood had not improved. The chair he was seated in wasn't particularly uncomfortable, but being bound and unable to move was less than pleasant. The sound of motorized saws cutting through animal carcasses was not completely blocked by the ceiling overhead, through which the smell of blood also permeated. He really wanted his pipe.

Mostly, though, he was frustrated. It was a damned inconvenient time to be captured by Thrush. Not, it had to be admitted, that there was actually a convenient time for that. He wasn't afraid to die, but it was quite tiresome to be used as a pawn or subjected to the indignities of interrogation.

Alexander knew that Napoleon Solo would be taking his place at HQ, and despite everything he took some comfort in that. However confident Thrush might be, there was a very good chance that Solo would foil their plans.

He had been alone in the room since he regained consciousness and had surveyed the distasteful dcor. He wondered if the chains, hooks and sundry instruments of torture were standard butcher shop basement accoutrements, or if they were added to please the dubious tastes of Thrush operatives.

After some time the door rattled and burst open. Alexander frowned deeply as Mr. Kuryakin was manhandled into the room. His arms were held tightly behind his back by a behemoth nearly twice the Russian's size. The man's thighs and arms were like telegraph poles, his barrel chest bursting from his shirt. Kuryakin was in perhaps the best shape of all of UNCLE's agents, his agility allowing him to score higher than even the body-building types, but it was doubtful that he would be able to overpower this giant, who stood at least a foot taller.

Intelligent blue eyes found him and Illya said casually, "Mr. Waverly. It is good to see that you are relatively well."

Alexander harrumphed. "I hope this isn't your idea of a rescue, Mr. Kuryakin. Your technique is sorely lacking."

The half-smile the Russian gave him was wry. "I'll keep working on it."

Another man entered the room, whom Waverly identified as one Guiseppe Renato, an ambitious mid-level and middle-aged Thrush operative. The man checked quickly to make sure that Waverly was still secured in place and then turned his attention to the UNCLE enforcement agent.

"Well, this is a treat. I've followed your career Mr. Kuryakin, and have long hoped to make your acquaintance. I'm so glad you were found lurking in the alley."

Kuryakin, still held immobile by Goliath, replied drolly, "The pleasure is all yours, I assure you."

"Yes, exactly. The pleasure will all be mine. While I must deliver your Mr. Waverly to Thrush Central, you are mine to do with as I will. Do you care to guess what I have planned for you?"

"I would expect nothing good from a criminal such as yourself, Renato."

"Very good! You are just as perceptive as I had hoped. A criminal is exactly what I am, in every sense. And I have certain proclivities you will be experiencing for yourself. The pleasure will all be mine."

The man smiled brightly and looked Kuryakin over from head to toe in a most inappropriate manner. Alexander's frown deepened.

Their captor explained to the UNCLE agent before him, "Crime is the soul of lust. What would pleasure be if it were not accompanied by crime? It is not the object of debauchery that excites us, rather the idea of evil."

Illya responded conversationally, "The Marquis de Sade. How original."

Renato's face lit up. "Right again my dear Mr. Kuryakin. De Sade is a particular hero of mine. He understood human nature more profoundly than any other modern thinker, and he wasn't afraid to act on his knowledge. He's had a rather strong influence on me, I'm afraid." He quoted again, " 'One must do violence to the object of one's desire; when it surrenders, the pleasure is greater.' And I do desire you, sweet Illya. The master shows us that the pleasure of subduing someone similar your own self, an equal, is greater than that of destroying someone weak and powerless. That is a large part of your allure, you know. I'm aware of your power. It will give me pleasure to take it from you." He ran his hand down Illya's chest and belly to cup the groin area.

Kuryakin's face hardened and Alexander felt it was high time he intervened in this travesty. He needed to distract the madman and at all costs prevent what he knew the man intended to do.

"Now, Mr. Renato! I am disappointed in you. Yes, most disappointed indeed. If you are aware of who Mr. Kuryakin is, then you should also be aware that he is nearly as valuable to Thrush Central as I. You would do much better to hand him over to your bosses unharmed. I'm sure they would reward you most handsomely. I would hope to be captured by someone intelligent enough to understand that."

The Thrush agent answered without taking his eyes or hand off of Illya. "Mr. Waverly, your beautiful little Russian is all the reward I desire."

"Yes, hum, well. He may be Russian, but little is not an adjective I commonly associate with Mr. Kuryakin. If you proceed to injure him in any way, I shall make it my personal task to see that you are severely punished."

Renato finally turned to look at Alexander and smiled. "Having you here is such a boon! Knowing that you are watching will make the humiliation almost unbearable for him, won't it?" That smile was truly an ugly thing to behold. "But your voice does nothing for me at all." He motioned to a flunky hovering in the background. "Silence him."

Illya now turned to look toward Waverly in alarm. Renato patted his cheek. "Don't worry. Him I'm ordered to deliver intact."

The flunky moved into the room and found a roll of duct tape. Tearing a piece off, he slapped it firmly over Alexander's mouth.

At that moment a shrill noise sounded from Kuryakin's suit coat pocket. Renato pulled out the communicator pen and briskly snapped it in two. He ordered the lackey, "Go outside and make sure there aren't any more like him around."

The man nodded sharply. "Yes, sir!"

Renato turned the disagreeable smile back to Illya. "Now, shall we get started?"

"Let's not."

The Thrush agent looked to the giant and prompted, "Evan."

Evan released Kuryakin just enough to yank the black suit coat back from his shoulders, confining his arms behind his back. Illya took advantage of the momentary shift to lunge forward, freeing his arms with one pull.

Renato stepped away quickly, so Kuryakin turned to defend himself from the man Alexander continued to think of as Goliath. The experienced agent promptly landed two blows that would have disabled any other man; one to the sternum and one to the throat. The giant merely growled in anger and swung a massive paw, hitting the side of Illya's head and throwing him to the ground. Before he could rise Goliath loomed over him and delivered two punches directly over the smaller man's right kidney.

Alexander cringed internally. He knew exactly how much that hurt.

Illya blanched and gasped for breath. Largely incapacitated, he offered no resistance as Goliath hauled him upright and held him by the arms as before.

Renato swaggered nearer. "I do love it when they put up a fight. The victory is so much sweeter. Bring him."

Kuryakin was maneuvered over to where a pair of chains with manacles hung from the heavy-beamed ceiling. Renato considered him for a moment and then ordered, "First we remove this."

With the large man's help Renato unbuckled the leather holster worn over the white shirt, and gently, almost tenderly, eased it away from Illya's shoulders. He then grasped one of his captive's wrists and fastened it to the manacle overhead. Doing the same to the other wrist, Goliath released him and Illya stood on his own, recovering from, or ignoring, the shock of the blows to his kidney.

The arrangement positioned the young man with his back to Alexander but angled slightly so that he could still see Illya's face. Firmly bound, and with his mouth covered, he could do nothing but watch as the drama continued.

Renato was now free to inspect his victim. He stood close, fingering the high cheek-boned face and rubbing his fingers through the fine blond hair. He continued to caress every part of the Russian's body, moving around him in a circle for ease of access. He also murmured soft words which Alexander couldn't quite hear, and wasn't particularly keen to anyway.

For his part, Kuryakin's face had gone completely blank, his eyes vaguely focused on the cement wall in front of him. Alexander approved. The agent was protecting himself by taking himself 'out' of the scene and denying his tormentor the pleasure of seeing him react.

After his intimate perusal, Renato wandered over to a rack of nasty looking implements and fingered several of them. Apparently satisfied with his choice he turned back to the chained man.

"Well, Mr. Kuryakin. I think it's time to begin the pain segment of today's criminal activities."

The Russian gave no response as Renato cracked the thick leather whip in the air. Waverly felt his stomach tighten and could only assume that the agent was feeling considerably more apprehension.

With the next crack, the whip connected with Illya's back, leaving a red slice in the pristine white shirt. The flail fell again, and then again. As the blows continued the shirt became mere tatters.

At first Kuryakin's face maintained its impassivity, then slowly his eyes closed and his hands tightened around the chains connected to the manacles.

By now Waverly was angry and shocked. Certainly, in his younger years he had experienced first-hand quite a lot of what intelligence work exposed one to. He was no stranger to torture. And no one was more aware of the dangers that UNCLE agents faced; didn't he read the mission reports each and every day? Hadn't he often told the agents and demonstrated directly that they were all expendable in favor of the greater good?

And yet it had been quite a long time since he had been personally exposed to the violence and horror in quite such a intimate way. The smell of blood permeated his nostrils, and it wasn't from the butchery above. The sound of human flesh tearing echoed in his ears. The sight of the young man's stoic endurance broke through his usual reserve.

How, he wondered, did these men and women withstand constant exposure to this type of malicious violence and evil without losing their minds? He marveled at their bravery to continue going out again and again, knowing what they could be facing.

And he was angry. That piece of Thrush excrement was doing this to his agent. His agent! A man who never shirked his duty, who would walk into any situation Waverly decreed. A man who had suffered more in his young life than most people could ever imagine. That he should continue to bear the brunt of such brutality was simply not to be borne.

Frustrated at Kuryakin's lack of reaction, Renato swung his instrument with extra force, knocking the Russian forward where he stood. Illya gasped, and that seemed to satisfy the Sadist.

After replacing the whip on its rack, Renato returned to stand in front of Illya, his face just inches from the other man's. Illya's eyes were still pressed closed and his breathing was labored as he struggled to control the pain. Renato just watched his face for a while, reveling in the results of his handiwork.

Then he raised his hands to undo the tie, unbutton Illya's shirtfront and pull the tails free. Circling around behind, he began gently lifting the blood soaked strips of cloth away from the abused back.

"There, there, lovely Illya. That was wonderful, wasn't it? Do you feel it yet? Can you tell where this will inevitably lead? To your utter destruction, lovely Illya, that's where. And the day is yet young."

Renato tore the rest of the shirt off the captive body. He motioned to the giant, who came forward, knelt in front of Kuryakin and removed the shoes and socks from the unresisting feet. Then between the two of them they stripped off Kuryakin's trousers and briefs as well.

Renato stood back to admire the now naked man in front of him.

Despite the mangled flesh and the dripping blood, Alexander had to admit that in a purely aesthetic sense it was a beautiful physique. All the proportions were near the human ideal of athletic good health. The shoulder muscles bunched where the arms were stretched upward. The well-defined chest blended into narrow hips and then strong, lean legs. The sudden feeling of appreciation made it that much harder to bear the damage being done to the body.

Alexander was disgusted to see that their captor was rubbing the bulge at his crotch as he stared lasciviously at Illya. Males really could behave quite rudely.

The man murmured, "Yes, oh yes. So much better than I ever imagined. Wonderful."

He took a step forward and then stopped as the door clanged open again. Another UNCLE agent was shoved through with his hands bound behind him. Davenport.

The young agent scanned the room, his eyes first resting on Waverly, then shifting to Kuryakin, where they widened in astonishment.

Renato placed his hands on his hips. "Well, who do we have here? More UNCLE's?"

At that Illya's eyes flew open and his head swung toward the new arrival. His lips pursed in disapproval as he surveyed the young agent.

Renato swaggered forward and grasped Davenport by the back of the neck, pushing him farther into the room, saying, "Well, since you decided to join us you might as well make yourself useful."

Steering Davenport in front of Illya he pushed him face first against the cement wall. Then he picked up a pistol from a nearby table, placed it at the back of the agent's head, and pulled the trigger.

Alexander himself gasped as the head shattered and blood splattered everywhere. Then a strange kind of calm descended over him. His thoughts narrowed to survival and, uncharacteristically, revenge. He must survive and Kuryakin must survive, and then he would make Renato pay. The amoral animal must be put down.

The animal in question turned to Illya. "You know, when he first came in I thought he was that handsome partner of yours, Mr. Solo. Pity that it wasn't. If it had been, then it would be Napoleon Solo lying there without his brains. That would have made an even greater impact, don't you think?"

Illya was unable to hide the wave of revulsion that passed across his face before it was carefully schooled back to neutrality. Given the two agents'...relationship, that must be a truly appalling image.

Alexander felt sorry, so sorry, for both the victims before him. Davenport had been barely starting his life, and now it was tragically over. Kuryakin might not have been that much older in chronological terms, but in life experience he was several generations farther advanced. And now he would have to carry the gruesome image of the blood-soaked wall and the lifeless corpse along with all the other horrors he had experienced.

Renato sighed happily. "What a good day this is turning out to be. Having killed, I feel even more aroused."

Illya returned his blank gaze to the gore-splattered wall as Renato approached him again. The Thrush agent unzipped his trousers, released his engorged member, and began fondling it. "Oh, yes. The pleasure is mine. Hmm. I think I need some lubricant."

He moved around Illya and brushed his hand through the fresh blood dripping from the wounds on his back. As he circled to face his captive again, the red hand wrapped around the erect organ and began to stoke. "Your blood, Mr. Kuryakin, the life draining from your body, is the perfect lubricant."

Despite Kuryakin's empty stare, Alexander knew that he was completely aware of everything that was going on, and he commended the man's self control. He hadn't spoken nor given more than minor reactions since the very beginning of this shameful affair, even in the face of the most calculated provocation.

Renato groaned with pleasure as his hand moved over the blood-slicked phallus. Pausing behind Illya once again he rubbed the head of his penis against a naked buttock.

When gunfire sounded overhead, he froze in place. The next moment the door burst open and one of the enemy henchmen burst in.

"Boss, come quick!"

Renato growled, "More of these UNCLE people, no doubt. Very well, I'm coming." He reached around Illya's body and grasped something in front, which Alexander couldn't see but could imagine quite well. Grinding against Illya's backside he promised, "I'll be back, and we'll finish with this, lovely Illya."

The moment Renato left the room with his minions Illya turned to Waverly, his eyes once again bright and sharp. Alexander was fairly stunned when the man assured him, "I'll have you free in just a moment, sir."

The Russian grasped the chain attached to one wrist and pulled himself up, then grasped the other chain and repeated the action. Back torn to ribbons and with a probable bruised kidney, the sleek, muscular figure rose toward the ceiling with astounding dexterity. Once there he threw one leg over a support beam and hung from it while using a nearby hook to pry into the manacle on his wrist. Within moments the mechanism sprung open and he moved on to the other. Dropping the chains, he nimbly climbed down one, the gymnast's grace in evidence.

Landing on the floor, the unselfconsciously naked Kuryakin crossed the room and knelt by Waverly's side.

"Sorry, sir. This might sting."

He tore the tape off Waverly's mouth as swiftly as possible. Of course it stung, but Alexander barely noticed. "That's quite all right, Mr. Kuryakin. Just get on with it so we can leave this place."

"My thought exactly."

Illya loosened the ropes confining Waverly to the chair and then as the older man got to his feet and stretched, he picked up his trousers, luckily still in one piece, and pulled them on. Slipping on his shoes, the agent moved to the door and opened it a crack to peek out.

Waverly repositioned himself at the Russian's side and they listened to the distant and not so distant gunfire.

Alexander inquired, "And would that be our Mr. Solo leading the rescue party?"

"I doubt it. Napoleon will have stayed at HQ to monitor the Philadelphia situation."

Alexander grunted, but privately approved once again.

They heard someone running down the hall outside the door, and at the correct moment Kuryakin burst out and incapacitated the Thrush operative. Retrieving the fallen man's gun, he motioned for Waverly to follow him. Before long they were being ushered out of the building by a phalanx of UNCLE agents and bundled into a waiting car. As the vehicle sped back to headquarters, Illya leaned forward in his seat to avoid putting pressure on his raw back.

Just before they pulled up in front of Del Florio's Waverly found himself saying, "Mr. Kuryakin. You handled yourself very well today. You are to be commended."

At that a bewildered look came over Illya's face, like a child who was being praised for the first time and didn't know whether to believe it. Alexander acknowledged that he was perhaps a bit undemonstrative in his appreciation of the agents below him. It simply wasn't his way to say such things, nor appropriate.

The car doors burst open and the two of them were hustled into the building, where Solo joined them in the hallway outside of Medical. He surveyed his partner's flayed back, grabbed his arm and pulled him into the infirmary, where Waverly followed.

Swarming medical personnel pushed Solo away to stand next to his boss by the door. Waverly's second barely spared him a glance, his attention riveted on the other agent, but he did manage to state, "I'm glad to have you back, sir."

"Good to be here, I must say. I take it everything is under control."

The patient was sitting rigidly erect as he was attended to. One nurse was connecting an IV while another drew blood and the doctor went to work cleaning his back.

Napoleon didn't answer for a moment, then started as he realized that a response was expected.

"Ah, yes, sir. The Liberty Bell Affair has been quiet today. Fortunate, since we've been fairly occupied elsewhere."


The nurses moved off and Napoleon filled the gap, standing in front of Illya with his hands clenched behind his back, dark eyes intense.

"Look what you've done to yourself, Illya Nikovitch. Do you know how much I worry when you go off without me to look after you?"

The other man grimaced. "Perhaps nearly as much as I hate going off without you. But today, my friend, I can't tell you how sincerely glad I am that you weren't there."

Napoleon studied Illya's face as though he realized there was a story behind that statement, about which he would inquire later, but all he said was, "Is that so?"

Kuryakin flinched as the doctor prodded the bruise forming over his kidney, then continued, "Besides, things worked out all right."

"All right?" Solo glanced over Illya's shoulder to check the damage. "How do you figure that?"

Illya shook his head. "My injuries are negligible." Then he stated flatly, "Davenport is dead."

"I know."

"But the mission was successful. We achieved our objective." The youthful face hardened again. "In addition to anything else one might say about him, Renato was stupid. He should have transferred Mr. Waverly to another location the instant I was discovered. But he was so focused on his pleasure," his voice twisted with scorn as he said the word, "that he allowed himself to be distracted and eventually defeated. As a result Mr. Waverly has been returned safely, so we can be grateful for that."

Alexander was somewhat humbled that despite what he had endured the man considered the mission successful for his sake.

The doctor spoke, "Mr. Kuryakin, would you please recline on your side as I finish this?"

Solo's hands leapt from behind his back to support Illya's shoulders as he leaned over onto the pillow and pulled his legs up onto the bed. He brushed the stray hair away from his partner's face, letting his fingertips linger. Squatting until his face was level with Illya's, they maintained eye contact.

Now that it was clear that Mr. Kuryakin was going to be all right, Waverly felt it was time to get back to business. He cleared his throat meaningfully.

Napoleon stroked the pale forehead and murmured, "It's all over now, Illya. You can give a formal report later, but for now you should rest and recover. You're safe, friend of mine. It's over and you can let it go."

The doctor, having finished with the cleaning and stitching, draped a large piece of gauze over Illya's back and left. Before Alexander's eyes the injured agent began to melt, the tension draining from his body as he listened to the reassuring voice continue.

"I have to go meet with Mr. Waverly for a little while, but then I'll be back to sit with you. I'll be here to watch over you, so you can rest peacefully. You're safe with me now, Illyusha."

The blue eyes had grown sleepy, but they shone with contentment and love. "Thank you, Napoleon."

It suddenly occurred to Waverly that perhaps this was how they managed to face all the horror that they did without going mad. That in this partnership they gave something to each other that allowed them to go on and still remain good men.

He turned on his heel and left the room.

Napoleon caught up with Mr. Waverly as the older man was entering his office. After a brief update on the hostile situation in the City of Brotherly Love, he returned to the incidents nearer to home.

"Our team was able to capture almost all of the Thrush operatives stationed at the butcher's shop, but I'm afraid that Renato got away."

Waverly's voice took on a hard edge. "Pity. I believe that we shall make his apprehension one of our priorities. The man is too dangerous to remain at large. He is out of control, beyond even normal Thrush wrongdoing. There was absolutely no call to summarily execute poor Mr. Davenport. It was murder in cold blood, simply for the sake of sexual gratification. No, he must not be allowed to go free."

Fear stabbed through Napoleon's belly. He had seen that Illya had been flogged, but...

"Uh, sexual gratification? Sir, I have to ask. Did he...? Was Illya..?"

Waverly looked up. "What? Oh, no, no, no. Admittedly it was a very close thing, but the cavalry arrived in time."

Napoleon nodded and thanked God. Then he noticed his boss watching him intently. He took a step towards the door. "If that's all, sir."

"One moment, Mr. Solo."

The older man lifted a pipe from the desk and continued observing him. Napoleon felt nervous under the scrutiny but projected his usual air of cool detachment.

At length Waverly spoke again. "Mr. Solo, after the events of today I believe it is time to increase your familiarity with Section One procedures. Oh, I'm not planning to retire next week, or even next year, but it's better to be prepared in case of some unforeseen eventuality. There's a meeting at The Hague next week. I'd like you to go in my place. It will be good experience for you."

Napoleon wasn't sure that he was hearing correctly. "You mean you still want me to..." He waved his hand to indicate the room they were in.

"That is what I said."

Solo took a deep breath. "Thank you sir. I'd be honored."

"I've had some additional thoughts on our organizational structure that you might reflect upon. For instance, I'm quite concerned at the attrition rate among the junior agents. Mr. Davenport's unfortunate demise is one of many losses we've suffered recently. I believe the times are changing, and not for the better. Our adversaries are more ruthless than they used to be, and the cost of continually bringing in new blood only to have it spilled is unacceptable.

"Certainly, UNCLE Survival School prepares these young men and women for much of what they will face as agents, but I believe the time is coming where our subsequent learn-by-doing policy will no longer be enough. I'm considering instituting a position of Procedural Instructor to give the new, and perhaps even the old, agents additional training based on first-hand experience."

Napoleon agreed tentatively, "That sounds like a good idea."

"I'm glad you think so. I'm of the opinion that Mr. Kuryakin would be an ideal candidate for that task. In fact, after spending some time with him there should be little that Thrush could do to unnerve them, don't you think? It will be a pity to lose Mr. Kuryakin's skills from active service, but the potential improvement of survival rates might make it worthwhile. I imagine that it will take some time for this to come about. It should be, err, ready to go about the time I retire."

Napoleon was feeling slightly light headed and hoped that his mouth wasn't hanging open. Did Mr. Waverly know that the one thing he questioned about assuming the role in Section One was his ability to send Illya into the field alone or with another partner?

He managed to choke out, "I think you might be on to something, sir."

This was all very unexpected, to say the least, and Napoleon felt the need for complete clarity.

"Does this mean that you have accepted the relationship between Illya and myself?"

The prodigious eyebrows jumped and the end of the pipe jabbed. "I expect you and Mr. Kuryakin to maintain your personal affairs with the utmost discretion. There will be no further discussion of the matter. If for any reason there is cause for it to be brought to my attention you may expect serious consequences. Is that understood?"

"Completely, sir."

"Good. Be on your way then."

Napoleon moved toward the door then stopped and turned around. There was one thing left undone, something he felt strongly he had to do.

He held himself erect and faced his superior. "Mr. Waverly, if we'll never be talking about this subject again, then there's something I want to say."

"Out with it."

"I don't know what it is you imagine about Illya and me. Maybe you think that it's some tawdry sexual aberration, but that isn't the case at all. Not that the sex isn't great. It's fabulous, blissful, ecstatic..."

His face flushed and he grinned broadly with happiness before he was able to regain control of his features and continue more seriously.

"What I want to tell you is that the major factor in our relationship is a profound personal commitment. We are as devoted to each other as any husband and wife, and from what I've seen perhaps even more so. I can't be without him. You need to understand that, and to know that I will never act in any way that might betray our commitment. Not even for UNCLE."

Waverly considered the statement for a moment and then responded, "Understood. Shouldn't you be in the infirmary with your partner?"

Napoleon relaxed. He hadn't realized how great a weight he had been carrying until it suddenly dissolved away. He favored Mr. Waverly with a genuine Napoleon Solo smile.

"Yes sir, and thank you."

His heart and his step were lighter than they had been in quite a long time as he hurried back to where he knew his love was waiting.

Illya undulated his hips, stroking in and out of his lover's body slowly and languorously. He savored the sensation of the smooth glide, feeling the texture of each inch of the slick walls inside Napoleon's channel. They had exhausted the passionate need earlier, and this time was just about the connection.

He marveled at how different his life was now than it had been just a week ago. He and Napoleon were on a path to a future they were both very pleased with, more pleased than he ever could have anticipated. He and Napoleon were together and had the acceptance if not the approval of UNCLE. They didn't even have to worry about Renato. Waverly had received a message revealing where they would find the Thrush agent tied up and waiting. Apparently Thrush was displeased with his performance and happy to let UNCLE apply the penalty. Mr. Waverly had taken personal charge of that endeavor. Someday Illya would have to find out the fate of their tormentor, but for now he was content in the knowledge that Renato would never hurt anyone again.

Looking down as he moved, Illya observed Napoleon's face. His head was tilted back, eyes closed, mouth slightly open. He was breathing deeply, just short of a moan, and relishing his pleasure. His erection was pressed between their bellies, receiving a gentle massage. Napoleon's fingertips rested lightly on Illya's healing back, pressing in occasionally to signal a wave of delight.

The Marquis de Sade believed that any pleasure felt by another person diminished his own enjoyment, and that the ultimate human experience was to take by force. Illya knew that there where people who felt that way to one degree or another. Some were abusive husbands or fathers, some were common rapists, others were deeply disturbed sociopaths such as Renato or power-hungry dictators. He could almost pity them, because the paths their lives had taken were so sad and desolate. They would never experience the transformative bliss that he and Napoleon shared.

Napoleon's pleasure fed his, and his fed Napoleon, until Illya could almost see the love and belonging flowing between them in a circular pattern; fluid energy, the essence of life, coursing from his body to his lover's and back again. In those moments they ceased to be two and became one. It was enough to make him consider the merits of spirituality.

He loved these slow, deep, sensual thrusts. Illya didn't feel that he was in any way dominating Napoleon; their bodies were freely shared.

At the deepest point he stopped moving, feeling the heat bonding them together, and Napoleon stilled beneath him. Then he began to withdraw slowly, until he slipped all the way out of Napoleon's body. Eyelids opened revealing languid brown eyes, which followed Illya as he shifted to lean over him. Illya positioned himself and sank down on the waiting phallus, his own opening still stretched and moist from before.

Napoleon drew in a ragged breath and did emit a rough moan as Illya enveloped him. Never taking his eyes from Illya's face, Napoleon caressed the firm thighs pressing against his sides, then slid his hand up to wrap the palm around Illya's sensitive, heated penis.

The cool, rough texture stroking him made Illya whimper and shudder. He began to move, resuming the leisurely rhythm of before, and Napoleon's caress met the tempo. He felt the hard extension of the other man's body filling any emptiness that remained in his soul.

Illya rocked gently, his head dipping and rolling in a slow dance. He did not try to hide his emotions from Napoleon as the American drank in the visual feast. He had already given everything to his lover, there was nothing left to hide.

Somewhere along the line, the urgency began to increase. His movements became more insistent and Napoleon matched him stroke for thrust. The need was building, the yearning for more.

Illya stopped again and separated their bodies. As he knelt back, Napoleon slid his hands behind his own knees and pulled them up against his chest. His lungs heaving with desire, Illya looked at what was displayed for him. He was transfixed by the wet, pink cavity, glistening in welcome.

When he lowered the tip of his cock to touch the exposed flesh, Napoleon threw his head back, pulled his legs open wider, and finally spoke, saying only, "Illya."

Illya pushed in, returning to the fatherland, the place of his rebirth. He thrust forward, taking his rightful place. Now need was overtaking him, urging more, urging deeper.

The tempo of their lovemaking set the bed to rocking, squeaking out the timeless rhythm. As he raced toward climax, Illya consciously rubbed his belly against Napoleon's organ, causing his lover to buck and writhe beneath him. Illya slammed home, felt the spasm of Napoleon's orgasm, and joined him in ecstasy a moment later. He cried out wordlessly, riding the wave of pleasure, a pleasure he knew he shared with another.

Before long he collapsed onto the mattress and was immediately pulled into a tender cuddle. They cooperated in plastering themselves together everywhere their bodies could reach, then settled to rest.

They were no longer one entity, but under the right circumstances being two could be a very agreeable thing.

Desires and Adorations,
Winged Persuasions and veiled Destinies,
Splendors, and Glooms, and glimmering Incarnations
Of hopes and fears, and twilight Fantasies;
And Sorrow, with her family of Sighs,
And Pleasure, blind with tears, led by the gleam
Of her own dying smile instead of eyes,
Came in slow pomp.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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