“You have a strange definition of the word luck, Doctor.” Napoleon resumed his pacing of the waiting room, needing the activity to prevent him from shouting, punching the doctor, or both. “You’re standing there, telling me that my partner might not ever walk without the aid of a cane, which would mean the end of his career in section two, and you think that’s good luck?”
“Mr. Solo, often the kind of torture your partner underwent can result in death, paralysis, or insanity. I’ve only ever had one patient beaten at the soles of his feet, and that man died hours later from a blood clot to the brain. Mr. Kuryakin will survive, and after a period of recovery he will walk again. That’s more than luck, it’s a miracle.”
“What are the chances of a full recovery? You did say that was a possibility, right?” He stopped, mid pace, and turned his stony gaze on the doctor. Dr. Standard, long experienced with enforcement agents, was only slightly intimidated.
“It is a possibility, but I can’t tell you by how much. We’ll have to wait and see.”
“Make sure to stay out of Illya’s range when you tell him that; he’s not really the ‘wait and see’ type.”
“You enforcement agents are all the same. There is more to life outside of U.N.C.L.E. Would it really be the end of the world if he couldn’t return to section two?”
End of the world; how easily people used that phrase. They didn’t understand how fragile the world really was, how close it came to ending on a regular basis. “For the world’s sake I hope not.”
He must have fallen asleep, because this time when he opened his eyes it was to the familiar sight of his partner sitting in the chair next to his bed. Napoleon’s feet were propped up on the corner of the mattress, his head leaned back and eyes closed. The sadists who ran the UNCLE infirmary did not even grant the small favor of having clocks in the patient rooms, and without a window he had no way of knowing if it was even day or night.
Without thinking he tried to move his leg, intending to kick Napoleon and wake him up. His legs, however, did not move. They were both in traction, raised by a pulley system a foot above the bed. It was hardly the most dignified position he had ever been in. He was going to have to speak to Napoleon about keeping visitors out of the room until the doctor released him from the ridiculous contraption. He tried to raise his head to get a better look at his feet, but did not have the strength to move more than a few inches.
“Choyut,” he growled. The doctor must have given him a muscle relaxant in addition to the painkiller that he had received to dull the throbbing in his feet.
“Wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, Illya?” Napoleon moved his feet from the edge of the bed, sat up in the chair and opened his eyes.
“I didn’t wake up on either side of it. As you can see I’m firmly tethered in the middle.”
“Yes, that is a rather interesting look for you, my friend. One for the scrap book, I think.” As he spoke Napoleon straightened his tie and tried to brush the wrinkles out of his clothes. He must have been sitting in the chair for a while, because he looked rather less dapper than usual.
“Don’t even think of coming in here with a camera unless you want it to end up in little pieces,” Illya threatened, even though he was mostly sure that Napoleon was joking.
“Now Illya, if you growl like that I’m not going to give you your presents,” Napoleon scolded lightly. Illya narrowed his eyes in his partner’s direction, but was pleased when he saw his glasses were perched on top of a stack of books that sat on the bedside table. Even better he spied a box wrapped in gold paper. “I stopped by your place to pick up a few things I thought you might want.”
“I didn’t have any chocolates at my apartment.” He eyed the gold box, sure that he could make out the sticker on the lower corner that bore the name of a confectioner.
“Oh these?” Raising the lid from the box, Napoleon confirmed that they were chocolates. He also held them conveniently out of reach. “The lovely ladies in the secretarial pool sent these up for you.” He let his hand drift over the box before making a selection and popping one into his mouth.
“Those are mine,” Illya said, reaching for the box.
“I don’t know. Maybe I should check with the doc first, see if you are allowed to have them.” Napoleon grinned as he held the chocolates only a few inches from seeking fingertips.
“There is nothing wrong with my digestive system, and no medication that would interact badly with chocolate. Now give them to me, Napoleon.” Illya twisted his back in order to stretch his arms a little farther, but was stopped by the counter action of moving his legs. Damn, he had forgotten. The position was not painful but it was awkward, and he fell back to the bed.
“Are you okay?” Napoleon rose from his chair in a hurry.
“I’m fine, I just forgot about the constraints.”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have...”
“Don’t apologize for treating me in a normal manner. It is annoying.” He swatted away Napoleon’s hand as it flitted about. “However if you feel the need to do something you could pass me the chocolates, my glasses and a book. The Tolstoy, perhaps; I have the feeling I’m going to have enough time to read it.”
“About that, Illya. I talked to Dr. Standard,” Napoleon paused, searching for the best words to use, knowing they didn’t exist.
“It’s alright, I know already.”
“You forget sometimes that I had a life before UNCLE. Other countries aren’t so... squeamish... about their interrogation techniques. My education includes information about many things, enough that I know I am fortunate that Standard thinks I will walk again, even if it is with assistance.” His voice was flat, as if he was reading from a rather boring book. Napoleon wondered if it was the result of the drugs he was on or if he simply hadn’t processed all that had happened yet. The Illya he knew would not take the possibility of lifelong crippling so calmly.
“I think Standard’s mistaken. A week in this place and you’ll be running out of here, nurses chasing you and doctors bellowing about not giving you permission to leave. In the meantime how about some lunch before you settle down with that Russian tome of yours?”
“As long as lunch is something more substantial that that watery broth they tried to pass off as food earlier.”
“Let me see what I can do.”
He would have brought Fassem in alive if the man hadn’t run. That had been the mission when he was called away from his partner’s bedside a scant two days after their return from Turkey, and despite his personal feelings for the man and the four days it had taken to track him, Napoleon honestly meant only to detain the crooked millionaire. He even had visions of trussing the man up like a turkey and making him travel in the belly of the plane. But Fassem had run, firing a gun behind him, and Napoleon did what he had to to stop him.
When he told Waverly as much the old man’s response had been to tap his unlit pipe against the desk. “It’s a shame Mr. Solo. He might have been able to give us the name of his Thrush contacts.”
“If he hadn’t been such a poor shot he would have given you a dead agent,” Napoleon, exhausted, couldn’t stop himself from commenting.
“All part of the job.” Waverly waved his hand dismissively. “I expect your report tomorrow morning. Now why don’t you go see that partner of yours, give the nurses a few minutes of peace.”
“Yes sir.” Napoleon walked out of the room at a normal pace, but sped up as soon as the door closed behind him. He had been tempted to visit Illya before he made his verbal report to Mr. Waverly, but knew that it would not please his boss. Now he jogged down the flights of stairs that separated the offices from medical.
The first thing he saw when he rounded the corner to the hallway that led to Illya’s room was a tray flying out of an open doorway and crashing to the floor. A moment later a young nurse ran out of the room.
“Good afternoon Nurse Pamela,” he said as he caught her before she could run into him. “And where are you going to in such a hurry?”
“Oh Mr. Solo I don’t understand how you can be partners with that man. He is an absolute terror. Did you see what he did with his lunch tray?”
“Illya was not bred for captivity, my dear. You’re only seeing the worst side of him right now. Why don’t you go get a couple of sandwiches, a cup of coffee and a cup of tea, preferably with a bit of jam stirred into it. I’ll go see what I can do about soothing the savage beast.”
“Alright, Mr Solo, but I’m not giving the new tray to that man.”
“Don’t worry, I will do everything in my power to protect you from flying lunch trays,” he reassured her, struggling to keep his facial expression serious. He waited until she was gone before grinning. Illya must be feeling better if he was throwing things. Five days ago he had still been spending most of his time sleeping, and showed very little emotion when he spoke.
“If you are bringing more of that insipid food don’t bother,” Illya’s voice called out the moment Napoleon’s shadow crossed the open doorway.
“No food, insipid or otherwise. The only thing I come armed with is my charming personality.” He leaned against the doorframe for a moment, surveying the room. The pile of books next to the bed was larger, but his partner was paler and thinner than he had been a week ago. The only positive sign was that Illya’s feet were no longer elevated in traction.
“Armed is right, when one takes into account the way women fall at your feet. Charming, however, is debatable.”
“I missed you too.” Napoleon abandoned the doorway and walked across the room to settle in the plastic chair next to the bed.
“From the little I have been able to glean from my visitors and the nurses you did not have time to miss anyone. Fassem led you on quite a goose chase, did he not?”
“He did. Three doubles and all of his wives sent out in different directions. While you’ve been lazing about here I’ve crossed Turkey three times and been shot at by two men calling themselves Fassem before the real one tried to kill me.”
“Obviously he did not succeed.” Illya squinted his eyes slightly as if he could see any bullet holes that might be hidden under the clothing.
“No, Fassem’s the one who ended up flying back in the pine box.”
“Good.” Illya nodded shortly, and failed to avoid glancing at his feet. “Now we can discuss more important matters.”
“More important?” He’d expected more of a reaction.
“Yes. Namely how you are going to get me out of this place before I am forced to crawl away. That would not be very dignified.”
“But it would be amusing.”
“Napoleon,” he warned.
“Sorry. What did Dr. Standard say about when he would release you?”
“Bah. That man thinks I will stay here until my feet are healed, another four weeks. If you were not back by tomorrow I was going to coerce April and Mark into helping me get to my apartment.”
“Where you would do what? Languish on your couch, staring at the refrigerator you couldn’t reach? Or perhaps you were planning on setting up a cot in the middle of the kitchen?” He probably shouldn’t give Illya any ideas; the man would do anything if it meant getting out of medical. Not that he could blame his partner, of course. He’d been known to sneak out of medical more than a few times.
“I won’t stay here.” The muscles of Illya’s forearms strained as he pulled himself up into a seated position.
“I know. Let me find out from Standard what you need then I’ll take you home with me.” He had barely stopped by his apartment for long enough to drop off his suitcase, but he had found the time to toss a set of sheets for the guest bed into the wash, scrounge for an extra toothbrush, and make sure a bottle of Illya’s vodka was in the freezer.
“I would say that I can take care of myself, but it would be a lie and you’d only argue with me anyway. So will will say thank you, and accept your offer.”
“Gracious as always, my friend.” A soft coughing called Napoleon’s attention to the doorway, where a nervous Nurse Pamela stood holding a tray. From the way she was eyeing Illya he knew she wouldn’t be coming close to the bed, so he rose from his chair and walked towards her.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Solo, but they didn’t have any jam. I brought some honey, I hope that’s alright.”
“It’s perfect. Thank you, my dear, for all your help, and for putting up with my friend’s temper. And please, call me Napoleon.” As he took the lunch tray he flashed her a smile, one that even Thrush agents responded to.
“It was no trouble, Mr. So... Napoleon.” Dazedly she backed out of the room.
“I’m not a misbehaving child, that you need to go around apologizing for my behavior.” When Napoleon turned back to the room Illya was glaring at him.
“Yes, I’m sure you had a very adult motive behind throwing your tray earlier.” Setting the new tray on the bedside table Napoleon passed his partner one of the plates, waiting until he set it on his lap before giving him the tea.
“The food they expect me to eat is worse than what prisoners are fed in the gulags. It’s even worse than the food downstairs in the cafeteria. I was merely making that point clear to them.”
“It’s not the nurse’s fault. You scared the poor girl.”
“One smile from you and she seems to be feeling better. Take her out tonight and I’m sure she’ll make a full recovery,” Illya remarked sarcastically.
“A wonderful idea, but I already have plans for this evening.” Napoleon took a sip of the coffee. It was barely lukewarm and tasted terrible but he drank it anyway.
“That’s quick work even for you, considering you only arrived in New York a few hours ago. Or is this date one you arranged before you left?” Raising one eyebrow Illya looked at his partner, making sure to keep any disappointment from showing in his expression.
“No, I just made this date.” He leaned forward and smiled mischievously. “You see, I’m bringing a blond home with me today.”
“I am not one of your women,” Illya said, but he was forced to hide a smile by taking a sip of tea.