Illya's eyes widened as he watched rivulets of blood finding their way down Napoleon's cheek after glass shards from the bottle ricocheted off the door and struck him. "Oh god, Napoleon, I'm so sorry, I didn't…" his voice trailed off as he looked down at his shaking hands, unwilling to meet his friend's eyes.
Napoleon clenched his jaw, not from pain, but rather in attempt to hold his temper. Without a word he crossed the small living room, glass crunching beneath his shoes, and entered the kitchen to grab some towels to staunch the flow of blood. He also set the coffee percolator on the stove. He looked over his shoulder at his partner. Illya hadn't moved, hadn't said another word, but the slump of the shoulders told of the demons of doubt and defeat that haunted his friend. Napoleon contemplated his next move. What he did or said next could very well set into motion the end of their friendship. He prayed that wouldn't be the case and prayed that Illya would eventually forgive him.
While waiting for the coffee to finish brewing Napoleon rummaged through the pantry and found a meager selection of canned goods. The icebox was nearly as devoid of food. Finding some bread and sliced cheese he made a grilled cheese sandwich and warmed up a can of tomato soup. When the food and coffee were ready he placed them at the dining table. He purposely did not take the meal directly to Illya.
"Illya, come eat."
"Illya?" Napoleon moved to the couch into his friend's line of vision. Illya still avoided even looking in Napoleon's direction. He was mortified that he had injured Napoleon and couldn't bring himself to look at the man.
"Agent Kuryakin! You will get your lazy ass over to the table and eat…now!"
"No!" Illya shouted…..then almost a whisper, "No."
Napoleon grabbed Illya by his shirt, then lifting the man by his arm pits, he forcibly put his friend into the wheelchair. To his dismay, there was no resistance, no fight at all from Illya. He just let himself be put into the chair as if he had no will of his own.
Here goes, oh God, please let this be the right tactic. "Well, I thought I'd never see the day!" he started with his best CEA no nonsense voice.
"I never thought I'd never see the day that Illya Kuryakin would make a liar out of me!"
"What do you mean, Napoleon?" Illya's voice was flat with no hint of true interest in what his partner was saying.
"I told the doctors that you were a fighter! That you were the toughest, bravest man I know, and that you would never quit! But, obviously I was wrong. No wonder Mr. Waverly has decided to rescind your certification for Section 2. He doesn't believe in quitters either."
Those words got Illya's attention. He felt the fury build up within him as he finally fixed a cold stare on Napoleon's face.
"Be very careful, my friend," his voice seethed through clenched teeth. "You don't know what you're saying. I am NOT a quitter."
"Bull shit! You are nothing but a quivering puddle of self pity. You're content to sit in that chair and let people feel sorry for you and do your beck and call, and when life throws a curve ball you just give up! Here goes.. "I guess I need to call Stephen Kessler's parents and apologize to them. Apologize that he died for no good reason. That my partner has made a mockery of his sacrifice."
With a roar, Illya pushed himself up and out of his chair launching himself with full fury at Napoleon. He tackled him at the waist bringing them both crashing down to the floor among the broken glass. He brought himself up on his knees, drew his fist back and landed a right cross against Napoleon's left jaw.
"That's not true! You know that's not true!"
He brought it back to strike his friend again when Napoleon grabbed Illya's fist.
"Illya…look!" Napoleon's voice strained from the pain in his jaw.
The Russian's momentum was arrested by Napoleon's hand, but the rage was still present in his eyes.
"Illya! Look at yourself!"
And he did. He was on his knees. He was bearing weight on his knees! Dropping his arm, Illya sat back and rolled his hips to one side. Pushing himself with his arms he was able to lean against the side of the couch. Flooded with emotions that ran the gambit from remorse to elation several half sobs, half laughs erupted from deep within the man's soul.
Napoleon picked himself up and moved over to the couch, as well, settling down next to his friend. He reached a hand over to cover the top of Illya's hand. In a gentle, soft voice he said, "I'm sorry, Tovarisch. I didn't mean any of those things I said. I just had to find a way to prove to you that you still had fight left in you. I know this has been a trial for you, but I also knew that if you gave up on yourself you would never recover. Forgive, Tovarisch, please."
Illya's eyes met Napoleon's. "There is nothing to forgive, my friend, except for the fact that I ask your forgiveness for my behavior." He looked at his friend's swollen face. "Hmm, I believe you are going to have a beaut of a black eye. Come on, my icebox may be nearly empty but I do have ice for the swelling. Together they uprighted the wheel chair and Illya lifted himself into it. As Illya ate the dinner, Napoleon had prepared, he listened as his partner filled him regarding the conversation he had with Mr. Waverly.
" I guess there is one thing that is true, Illya, and I'm sorry. Mr. Waverly has temporarily rescinded your Section 2 certification." His eyes searched for Illya's face for a reaction, there was none. "He did say that he would be happy to reinstate you if your physical condition improved, but he still wants you at headquarters working in either Research or Security."
Illya stopped eating long enough to reply. "It's okay, Napoleon, I'm surprised he delayed his action this long." He gave a half smile, "But as long as he understands it is only temporary…and I think that, thanks to you, we've just proven that indeed, it will be temporary."
Together they cleaned up the apartment, going over the floor several times with the vacuum to find all the broken pieces of glass. Napoleon bid his friend good night and headed upstairs to his own apartment. Illya secured his door and headed to bed. For the first time since the accident when he dreamed of walking through forests or running on the beach he knew it wasn't a fantasy but a forecast of things to come.
The next several weeks Illya Kuryakin spent much of his time at headquarters working out in the physical therapy unit. With renewed energy his legs strengthened and moved at his command. The doctors and therapists also began using a medical technique that had been widely used for hundreds of years in China, but only beginning to be accepted in western medicine. With the help of acupuncture, the constant pain that plagued Illya began to subside and then go away all together.
A month after the incident at Illya's apartment, Stephen Kessler's parents were visiting their son's grave site at Memorial Gardens cemetery. They stood quietly arm in arm with their heads bowed when they heard a car drive up. They paid no attention to it as many people to visit the graves of loved ones. Their ears were drawn to the sound of tapping and a slightly shuffling gait as it grew near. They turned to see a slight young man making his way towards them. The blond man walked slowly with the aid of two canes carefully placing his feet with each step. Even in the cool weather they could see beads of perspiration on the man's face from the effort it took him to walk the short distance from the car to them. He stopped in front of them.
"Mr. and Mrs. Kessler? My name is Illya Kuryakin."
Napoleon had stayed by the car as he watched his friend make perhaps the longest walk of his life. He watched as Illya approached the couple standing next to Agent Kessler's grave and extended his hand in greeting. He could see Illya speaking for several moments, but couldn't hear what was said. Suddenly, the couple pulled Illya into a warm loving embrace.
Xxx xxx xxx xxx
Six months after Illya had been transferred to Section 8, he stood outside Mr. Waverly's office. He had been summoned there moments before by Miss Rogers, saying that Mr. Waverly had made an urgent request for his appearance.
Illya hadn't seen much of Mr. Waverly's office since his transfer. Dressed in his lab coat with his blue triangular badge signifying his department, he stood patiently waiting for Mr. Waverly to call him into the inner office. Napoleon wandered into the waiting area, greeted Illya and indicated that he, too, had been called.
The door opened. "Ah, gentlemen, please come in." Mr. Waverly looked up from a file folder and indicated for his men to have a seat. He took a few more moments to finish reading the file before him then looked up. He fixed his blue gray eyes on the Russian.
"Mr. Kuryakin! I believe that you are out of uniform!"
"You heard me."
"Excuse me, Sir?"
"Mr. Kuryakin, you are to surrender your badge immediately!"
The Russian kept his face impassive and without argument hesitantly removed his blue level badge. "Yes, sir," he answered quietly. Napoleon smiled secretly. Illya placed the badge on the huge round table and turned it so it now sat in front of Mr. Waverly.
Immediately, Alexander Waverly picked up the blue badge and replaced it with a yellow badge and spun the table back around to the perplexed man. "Mr. Kuryakin, you are from now on to wear attire that is appropriate for a field agent, do you understand me?"
Illya picked up the yellow badge that bore his old number 2 and stared at it. Realization reflected on his face and he broke out in a broad smile. Napoleon laughed and pounded him on the back. "Welcome back, Partner!"
Mr. Waverly also breaking into a rare smile stood and walked over. Shaking Illya's hand he spoke, "Welcome back to Section 2, young man. It's been too damn long!"
Swallowing hard, trying to find his voice, Agent Kuryakin responded with a heartfelt, "Thank you, Sir!"
"Now gentlemen, we have a problem!" He handed each man a file. "It seems that THRUSH has been kidnapping diplomats from a few embassies from several of the smaller west African nations. I need you two to fly immediately to our South African office and put together a team to investigate the situation and put an end to this problem. Take these files with you and review them on the plane. You leave within the hour. Good day, gentleman and good luck.
"Yes Sir." The two men chorused as they turned on their heels and left.
The Old Man puffed on his pipe and smiled as he watched Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin walk shoulder to shoulder through the corridor on the way to their next assignment.