"Illya! Down!" Napoleon's shout caught him on the stairs with his gun in his hand and no cover in sight but he instinctively obeyed.
Wincing at the bruises he could feel forming as he slid down the steps, the shots that almost parted his hair moved him even more quickly down to the protection of the lower hall. The sound of the shots told him where the shooter was and the dull thud told him his partner had taken care of that problem. Napoleon was perhaps even more protective now that they were lovers than he had been before.
And at the moment, he was rather grateful for that all-seeing gaze. A slight click reminded him that there was more than one shooter and he fell flat, rolling down the foyer until he had the Thrush agent in his sights and could snap off a shot. He felt a sting along his arm and resigned himself for yet another trip to the clinic.
But he at least had the satisfaction of knowing that the enemy agent would be right there with him. He sat up, stoically ignoring the reddening sleeve and got up to follow after his partner. His left arm was beginning to hurt but he kept moving until a shrill whistle sounded the all clear, only then dropping his arms and holstering his gun.
Napoleon appeared in the door of the rival lab, his sharp eyes taking in Illya's wound with one glance. "We need to work on your ducking skills, my friend. But on a more positive note, it appears we caught them napping. I found notes and a working computer that has the security ... off."
"Thank goodness. Mr. Waverly will be pleased. Let me see the computer." Illya tried to go around him into the lab but Napoleon stood his ground.
"Sorry, Illya. We're going to let the lab boys have fun while you and I report in and Dr. Keyes can have some fun stitching up that bullet hole that you're trying to hide." His partner's tones were mild but Illya knew better than to protest, even though he really wanted to explore the lab and the interesting experiments they'd caught wind of.
"Yes, Napoleon." He gave in meekly because his arm was starting to hurt and the muscle had gone numb.
"All right, that's it, we're going in right now." Strong hands on his shoulders turned him around and urged him down the hall, propelling him past the security men who were securing the building and out to their car. He got in and watched Napoleon get behind the wheel.
"It's nothing so very bad, Pasha. You warned me in time to duck."
"I hope you're right. But this is the fourth time this year they've deliberately targeted you. He had a shot at both of us and he picked you." Napoleon's voice was tight, his driving sharp and controlled.
Illya had nothing to say to that since it was quite true. He laid his head back against the headrest and watched his partner cut through traffic like the professional driver he was. He loved watching him drive and it took his mind off the burning pain that was traveling up his arm to his shoulder.
The rest of their trip passed in silence and Illya automatically went to the clinic while Napoleon reported in. Dr. Keyes probed the bullet site and shot his arm with a couple of numbing agents before sewing up the gaping wound. It only took five stitches but he prophesied more pain since the bullet had nicked a nerve. A broad-spectrum antibiotic shot in the ass had Illya scowling but the doctor just smiled and helped him get dressed.
He insisted on a sling and Illya was definitely pissed when Napoleon walked in, gauged the tension in the air and smiled charmingly at the chuckling doctor. "Any instructions, Bill?"
"Here's some oral antibiotic that he's to take for the next ten days to hopefully keep any infection at bay. And here's the codeine for the pain. And it will hurt when the local wears off. Keep him drinking fluids, no alcohol and don't let him use it more than he has to." He watched Illya stalk from the room. "And Napoleon . . . good luck, you're going to need it."
Illya kept silent after answering the formal debriefing questions. Napoleon kept looking over at him nervously but since it was taking all his control to not show how much pain he was in, he had no energy to reassure him. Dr. Keyes had been quite right about the local wearing off and he could feel the flush of fever spreading from his ears on down.
As the Americans said so descriptively, this really sucked.
He tried heading back to Green Lab to pick up the working notes of the project he'd left hanging when pulled for the Thrush assignment. But Napoleon scowled at him and turned him towards the exit, walking slightly behind him and to his right side so he could stop any attempt at escape. Illya removed his badge and acknowledged the guard's sympathy with a smile.
The constant health concern that all Americans expressed still amazed him. Even strangers would comment on colds, casts and slings. Illya pondered why his adopted country was so obsessed with being healthy, staying on diets, eating enough fiber and exercising until they dropped. It seemed odd to him and he started to ask his partner but he remembered in the nick of time that he was mad at Napoleon.
"Don't pout, Illyusha, you know that it makes me want to kiss you." His grinning partner had the car door open for him.
"I just wanted my notes to study while I am recuperating, Napoleon." Illya slid in a little awkwardly, bumping his arm and barely keeping his exclamation to himself.
"Tomorrow." Napoleon closed the door and moved unhurriedly to the driver's side. "I'll get you anything you want tomorrow. Tonight, you're going to let me pamper you. Soft pillows, some soup and crackers, that guava nectar you like and me, waiting on you hand and foot."
Illya thought about it while they departed the parking ramp and headed home. "I want chocolate chip ice cream for dessert."
"And I want to listen to Rimsky-Korsakov on the stereo."
Napoleon sighed. "Agreed."
"I'll need a foot massage."
He grinned and cast a quick look at Illya. "Now, you're getting into the spirit of things. I promise to massage you right into ecstasy, lover."
"And you'll read me to sleep with more Shakespeare?"
"Then, you have my permission to pamper me, Pasha." Illya laid his head back and tried not to think of the pain.
"Thank you, Prince Illya. I can't tell you how honored I am."
Illya smiled sweetly at him. "It is an honor, isn't it."
Napoleon laughed out loud and let a silly little Volkswagen cut in ahead of him. Illya felt a gleam of satisfaction at his successful attempt at teasing. He was learning from his partner and Mark how to make others laugh. April was giving him flirting lessons and he practiced whenever he could. But only with Napoleon, only with the man he loved more than life itself.
"Is the pain very bad, love?" The car had stopped and Napoleon was leaning towards him, one hand hovering over his left arm.
"A little. I was thinking about how much I love you, Pasha."
"Then why the worry line?" Napoleon smoothed a finger between his eyes.
"Because I don't tell you enough. I don't have the right words." Illya sighed and wished that he could be charming like his partner.
"You have the words, Illyusha. You just said them. I love you, too. All the flowery adjectives in the world can't replace those three simple words. Sit still and wait for me to open the door for you."
Illya wavered a bit when he got out, the sidewalk seeming to move beneath his feet. Napoleon gave him an arm to hold onto and they made it up the steps to their front door. The pain was a constant now, radiating up his arm across his shoulders and down the other arm. He was panting by the time Napoleon sat him down on the bed in his room.
"Stay there and don't move. I'll go get some water for your pills." The tight voice was back, the one that Illya only heard when he got hurt. That seemed to be rather often these days.
He could feel his temperature rising and he kicked off his shoes so he'd be ready to lie down after taking his pill. The bed looked so inviting, all smooth linen in a light blue that didn't hurt his eyes. He tried to get his jacket off but that wrenched his arm and he had to bite his lip hard to keep from crying out.
"Don't, love. Let me help with your clothes. Open up." Napoleon held out a pill and Illya obediently opened his mouth for the capsule, drinking it down with the cold water that his partner had brought.
The next few moments were trying ones while Napoleon eased him out of his clothes. Once he was down to bare skin, his partner covered him up and eased a pillow under his left side so he couldn't accidentally roll onto his bad arm. The codeine was making him float and he watched Napoleon puttering around the room, putting away clothes and changing out of his suit into jeans and a polo shirt.
"I like you casual, Pasha. You look younger somehow." His tongue seemed very thick and it took a lot of energy to get the words out in the right order.
"I like you casual, too, Illyusha. Sometimes I feel as if I was robbing a Russian cradle. You look about sixteen some days." Napoleon smiled at him and leaned over the pillow to kiss him. "I'm going to go down and get some juice for you. Anything else you'd like?"
"Just you, Pasha. And some ice. It's so hot in here."
He must have dozed because Napoleon was back and urging him to take another pill. Time moved very slowly or maybe it was quickly, he thought muzzily and wondered why Napoleon kept changing clothes on him. The pain came and went, staying sometimes for an hour at a time. When Dr. Keyes showed up, Illya thought fearfully that he would say something about finding Illya in his partner's bed.
But he didn't say a word, only unwrapped the bandage on his arm. The alarm in his voice then prodded Illya out of a fever dream and he wondered at the swollen skin around the incision and the purple streaks that radiated out from the angry red scar. But then he was being wrapped in blankets and Napoleon was carrying him down the stairs and out the front door. The pain was so bad that he let himself pass out then, knowing that Napoleon would keep him safe.
"Illya! Don't you dare leave me."
"Promise me, Illya. Stay for me."
//It's so bright.//
"Illyusha. Don't leave me alone."
The warm hand that held his was familiar and he flashed back to the last time he'd awakened in a hospital. The smells were right but the sheets felt much nicer so he must be back in the clinic at UNCLE headquarters. And that meant that Napoleon was sitting up with him again.
"Right here, love."
A warm drop landed on his hand and Illya opened his eyes to see Napoleon dash away tears from his cheeks. "Don't cry, Pasha."
"Don't you ever do that to me again, Illyusha." His partner kissed the fingers he held so tightly. "You almost left me."
"Never leave you, Pasha. Remember? Till the light calls." He recalled the vows they'd made to each other in Switzerland.
"I remember." Napoleon held on even harder. "It almost called for you this time. The bullet was coated with a slow acting poison. Bill analyzed the damn thing after he took it out of your arm and spotted something odd under the microscope. By the time he got to you with the antidote, your system was already in the process of shutting down."
"Sorry. 'worrying you." Illya could hear his words slur and he knew he was going to sleep again.
"Sleep, love. It's the best healer."
This time, the light didn't hurt his eyes and the smell of hospital didn't make him sick to his stomach. When he opened his eyes, he found April Dancer giving herself a manicure. "April?"
The wide smile lighted her whole face. "Welcome back, Illya. You had us all worried there for a while."
"He's in a debriefing of Mark and my last mission. We got in this morning with some very interesting news about THRUSH Europe. Or rather what's left of their European branch." Her smile was smug but more importantly, she was pouring him a glass of cold water and he licked his dry lips in anticipation.
She bent the straw and let him sip it slowly. It tasted so good that he closed his eyes in enjoyment.
He awoke to the sound of voices talking over him. Napoleon's voice was heated while Mr. Waverly's was patient. Opening his eyes, he watched them square off across his bed.
"He needs rest and recuperation time."
"I agree, Mr. Solo. But you do not and I need you to take over Section Five now." Mr. Waverly gestured with his unlit pipe.
"And I'm very grateful to be offered the position but right now is when Illya needs me the most. He will need careful nursing for at least two weeks."
"At least two, perhaps three."
"I can spare you for two weeks but no more. We can hire a nurse to take care of him if need be but you must be here for the summit meeting on the fifteenth." The look he gave Napoleon was ferocious but Illya could see the concern that he was hiding.
"That sounds about right." Illya decided to enter the conversation.
"Illya, you're awake." Napoleon leaned down and for one scary minute, he thought he was going to kiss him right in front of Mr. Waverly. But he just brushed his cheek with the back of one hand. "It's about time you stopped sleeping your days away."
"How many days?"
"It's been a week, Mr. Kuryakin. Welcome back. I'll send in Dr. Keyes on my way out."
"Napoleon will attend your summit, Mr. Waverly."
"Hush, Napoleon. In two weeks I will be right in the middle of healing. The scar will itch, I'll be bad tempered and irritable because it's not healing faster. My sarcasm will be at an all time high and I'll contradict everything you say just because I can."
Napoleon's lips twitched and he bit the lower one hard. "Good heavens, what was I thinking of. Of course I'll be back by the fifteenth."
The faded blue eyes twinkled at Illya and Mr. Waverly winked at him before taking himself out of the room with a harrumph. Napoleon tried to keep his laughter inside but a chuckle escaped before he could catch it. Illya lay contentedly watching him, holding on to him with his good hand.
"I love you, Illya Kuryakin. Don't ever leave me again."
"Never, Napoleon. I'll never leave you if I have any say in the matter." His eyes drooped and he fought them open again. "I keep falling asleep. Was April here?"
"Yesterday, she sat with you while I went over some very interesting material that she and Mark brought back from France. When you're on your feet again, part of the ton of material they shipped back has your name on it."
"When can I get out of here?"
"When Bill says you can. Do you remember a while back when I promised you a picnic?" Napoleon stroked his hand tenderly.
Illya thought back to their picnic on the roof. "Yes. I'm not sure I'm up to a picnic right now, Pasha."
"That's all right. When you get out of here, I'm going to take you to our picnic site. Then, when you're feeling better, we'll go on our picnic."
"Will I like it?"
"I hope so. It's one of my favorite places in the whole world and I want to share it with you."
"Then I'll like it. I'm falling asleep again, Pasha." Illya's eyes closed and wouldn't reopen.
A warm kiss brushed against his lips and the lovely Napoleon-taste made him smile. "Go to sleep and dream of me. I love you, Illyusha. Thank you for staying."
"Love you, too." Illya fell asleep before he could say anymore.
End part three