Author's Note: This is an updating of the A-Team episode, The Say UNCLE Affair. I see this story as taking place five or so years after The 8x10 Glossy Affair. The reader should keep in mind that Napoleon and Illya have been updated to the present day in this "universe" with Napoleon around 40; Illya at 30. This makes the A-Team, with their roots grounded in the Vietnam War all that much older.

The Parallel Lives Affair

By Anne Higgins (

25 Years Ago

It had gone bad from the start, though he was certain neither of them had made a mistake. There must have been a leak on the command end of the operation for they’d walked right into a trap. Small comfort as the whip cut into his already-shredded back.

Javelin. They wanted the Javelin Network, but he couldn’t give them that. Twenty-seven lives depended on his silence. And he just managed to keep it by fixing a face in his mind. His strength, his love. He would not, could not disappoint that image.

He held that focus so tightly that it took him a moment to realize the whip had fallen silent. Done for the day? He prayed for that to be true. He needed to see Hunt, needed desperately to see that he was still alive.

The chain suspending him went slack, and he dropped the few inches separating his feet from the floor, but days of torture had left him too weak to stay upright. His legs collapsed, then he fell in a heap on the floor.

It took him a moment to feel the hands on his body, hands ripping off what remained of his clothing. "No," he whispered, then screamed when the first man went to work on him.

An hour later they dragged him back to the cell he shared with his lover and partner. Apparently assuming that he was too weak to move, they didn’t bother to re-chain him, just threw him inside the door. He smelled of blood, sweat and spent sex, but he was still alive, and more importantly, he had not talked.

He could just make out Hunt, still bound to the wooden pillar near the center of the room, and he knew that it would be all right. The Cubans had made a serious mistake leaving him free. Somehow he would get his partner loose, then Hunt would get them out of here. They’d done it many times during their ten-year partnership, though he had never been so badly hurt or... raped.

Forcing his mind away from what had just been done to him, he crawled forward, his body shaking violently with the effort. He’d only covered half the distance separating them before he had to stop for a moment and rest, but he’d moved close enough that shadows no longer kept his lover’s face hidden.

He sought the sight of warm brown eyes, reached out for reassurance and strength. He saw disgust and loathing. He saw Hunt turn his face away, unable to tolerate the sight of him.

The faintest of cries escaped his lips, and all that he was, was shattered.

London One Week Ago

Ivan Trigorin woke with tears streaming down his face. As he had almost every night for twenty-five years, he had dreamed of Cuba and his lover’s betrayal. He wiped away the tears in annoyance, wishing that time and reason had taken away at least some of his pain. He had been so foolish back then. Foolish to look to another for strength, to trust a fragile thing like a human heart to the care of a man like Hunt Stockwell.

The signs had all been there, long before Cuba. Looking back, he could see them quite clearly. Hunt had always had a passion for beautiful, unspoiled things. Ivan had turned thirty only days before leaving on their final mission. Far from old, but no longer young. The first strand of silver had appeared in his sandy blond hair just weeks earlier. The loss of youth, the beginning of decay. No longer what a man like Hunt would want. It had been inevitable, but the Cubans had pushed up the time table.

He’d talked, of course. And for that, he felt that Hunt shared equal guilt. If the damned bastard had just pretended to still care for the sake of the mission, they might have made it out, and twenty-seven people might still be alive. Instead, his rejection had left Ivan a broken man without the strength to get them free or endure the next torture session.

The fact that Hunt had not seen it that way had made it easy to kill him, though the memory of it gave him no satisfaction. Did nothing to ease the pain.

He sighed and dragged himself out of bed. He still loved him. More fool he.

A shower, a comfortable set of sweats and a nice cup of tea helped push the past away, and he felt as alive as he ever had since Cuba as he sat down at his computer. After logging on, he started the e-mail he’d downloaded the night before, but had found himself too weary to read.

He read the posts from academic lists he belonged to first, but posted no replies. Just didn’t have the strength for it. Usually didn’t. He smiled to himself. After Cuba he’d correctly identified his own mind as his worst enemy and had set out to learn all that he could about it. That quest had made him a highly-respected member of the psychology community and had led to a few best sellers and a professorship at Oxford. All of that made him highly qualified to diagnose the depression that was his constant companion, but knowing it existed never had, and never would, rid him of it.

His list posts finished, he moved on to his private e-mail, mostly from former students and colleagues, all wondering when his "indefinite sabbatical" would end. About half way down the list, he found a message from someone he hadn’t heard from in years -- an old colleague from the CIA.

With mild interest, he opened the post and started reading. Immediately, he sat back in astonishment as he read "so glad you have decided to end your self-imposed exile to Britain. LA can be truly wonderful this time of year, smog notwithstanding. Sorry I won’t be able to get to your lecture at UCLA."

What in the world? Los Angeles? He hated smog. And a lecture at UCLA? He never gave lectures outside of classrooms. He had a well-deserved reputation as a recluse, had even refused to have his picture printed on the jacket covers of his books to avoid recognition by strangers. He intended to keep that reputation. Then his blood ran cold as he came to the final paragraph. "Seems like old home week, news-wise. Grapevine says that Hunt is up to his old tricks again. Some fools just don’t know when to retire."

Hunt alive? No, it wasn’t possible. He’d pumped a full clip into him before the body had tumbled into the river. It just couldn’t be.

Act I
"Not the only one good with putty noses"

Los Angeles

The Present

General Hunt Stockwell saw to the disposal of the body personally. Opinions varied on whether this was an act of morbid fascination or a final farewell to a dear friend who had gone bad. Opinions, however, never varied on Stockwell himself. Like the A-Team, the clean-up crew thought the man a son of a bitch with an American flag where his heart should be. Any sign of emotion over having killed Ivan Trigorin was seen as an aberration, not character development.

Stockwell heard most of the whispered comments -- his ears far sharper than anyone apparently realized -- but chose to ignore them. He simply saw the van and its contents shipped off to disposal, then said his goodbyes.

Over three hours after he’d pumped a full clip into the van carrying his dearest friend, he arrived back at the apartment that served as his home in Los Angeles. He was still seeing the way the van had exploded, when he pushed open the door. "Tell me you’re here," he called into what seemed like an empty set of rooms.

"I am." A man in his twenties emerged from the bedroom and studied Stockwell with large blue eyes. "Are you all right, tovarish?"

Stockwell didn’t answer. He just hurried across the room, then pulled his lover tightly to him. To his relief, Illya Kuryakin did not protest about still being on assignment and therefore off limits. Instead, the young Russian let his body mold itself to Stockwell’s and his lips parted to admit the older man’s tongue.

Illya was never one to admit to strong emotion, nor was he fond of being treated, as he put it "like a sack of potatoes", but he didn’t protest when Stockwell lifted him up, then carried him back into the bedroom. That told the General he wasn’t alone in being rattled by this affair.

Flipping on the light switch as he passed it, he laid his handsome armful on the bed, then stripped him of his clothing. Though aroused, Illya stayed still and allowed the older man to examine him. A gentle kiss marked the spot of every bruise Illya hadn’t had before this little scheme started.

"I didn’t take very good care of you this time, did I?" Stockwell lamented after counting over a dozen bumps, cuts and bruises.

"You seldom do," Illya answered, the usual whisper of a smile touching his lips. "But I assume it was worth it."

Stockwell nodded as he took off his own clothing. "I think we have all we need to satisfy the Pentagon."

"Then shut up and kiss me."

He began to make love to Illya, but without his usual abandon. His mind full of deadly explosions, he needed to take it slow, using each caress and taste to reassure himself that his lover was alive and well.

Illya allowed the indulgence for a time, but when Stockwell finished his examination only to start all over again, the Russian stopped him by rolling them both over. Illya stretched out on top of his lover and looked down at him. "Enough, tovarish, I am fine," he said, then smiled. "Or I will be once I’ve had my way with you."

Stockwell smiled, his hands giving Illya’s delectable rump a squeeze.

The young man moaned, his back arching. The motion seemed to give him an idea, for he began to thrust. Stockwell matched him, bringing them both to a quick, much-needed release.

For a moment, spent, they lay in each other’s arms, then he moved to kiss Illya, but the blond stopped him. "I am tired of Stockwell, tovarish," he said, pushing him away. "He tastes of plastic."

"Killjoy," the older man muttered, but reluctantly slipped from the bed.

Though he wanted to just rip them all off, the appliques he eased from his face were far too expensive for that. He silently ordered his still-hungry cock to calm itself for the moment and did the job right. The slight chin appliance, the neck, the set of wrinkles around the eyes and an altered hairline all went into a case on the dresser top.

All the plastic removed, he went into the bathroom. He considered quickly washing his face, then diving back into bed with his Russian, but a glance at the large shower stall reminded him that a lot of messy work was between him and his last shower. While he was humoring his lover’s taste buds it might be a mercy to consider his sense of smell as well. "I’ll just be a minute, Illya," he called, turning on the water.

Any reply from the bedroom was lost as he stepped under the stream of deliciously hot water. Make-up mingled with soap bubbles as they swirled down the drain at his feet, then he reached for the shampoo bottle.

The door opened while he rinsed his hair, and he smiled as a pair of strong arms wrapped around him. "I got tired of waiting," Illya whispered in his ear.

"I’d hoped you might," he answered, turning in the embrace, then kissing the mouth that opened to receive the probe of his tongue.

"Napasha," Illya murmured when his lips were released.

His youth restored for yet another night, Napoleon Solo smiled at the affectionate Russian nickname. "Do I have to redye my hair or can you tolerate Stockwell’s greying temples?"

Illya smiled and gave a toss of his restored bright blond hair, an act that Napoleon felt all the way down to his toes. "It does give you a distinguished look, quite an absurd contradiction on you, but I think I can tolerate it."

Napoleon gave his partner what he hoped was a scathing look, but knew it was a lost cause when Illya reached for the bar of soap. "Just what do you have in mind, tovarish?"

"You never wash properly behind your ears," Illya answered, soaping up his hands. He kissed Napoleon again, his soapy fingers stroking behind his lover’s ears.

The impulse to purr a strong one, Napoleon concentrated instead on staying upright while his partner conducted his own inspection. The soapy caress moved down his jaw, his neck, then over his shoulders, a push of the hands getting him to turn with his back to Illya.

Napoleon groaned in pleasure as the gentle slippery touch teased its way down his back, over his buttocks, and down first one leg, then the other.

A sigh escaped Napoleon as those talented fingers moved to explore the puckered flesh hidden within the cleft. It wasn’t really what he was in the mood for, but if it was what Illya wanted.... But Illya abandoned his exploration, then tapped Napoleon’s right ankle. "Lift your foot."

Napoleon obeyed, but scowled. Even if it hadn’t been precisely what he wanted, he was more than ready for something, and Illya damned well knew it. "Have I ever told you just how annoying you can be?" he asked, glancing over his shoulder at the blond kneeling behind him.

"Constantly," Illya answered, taking his time soaping up each toe, then he repeated the process with the other foot.

When he finished, he said, "Turn around, Napasha."

His heart pounding with anticipation, he obeyed. He watched Illya stand, then resoap his hands. Those hands made him tremble when they touched him again with a simple caress of his chest. Napoleon couldn’t help but hold his breath as the caress moved down his torso to his straining erection.

The fingers caressed the cock for a moment, then fondled first one ball, then the other. "Illya, have a little mercy."

That got him a smile. "And when have my appeals for mercy ever done any good?"

Napoleon’s lower jaw shifted in his usual expression of exasperation, and he wondered if it was possible to have a stroke from the conflicting desires of wanting to fuck his lover and to strangle him.

Illya sat back on his heels, letting the water rinse away the soap. "Mmmm, all nice and clean. I think I shall be able to suffer your attentions now."

"Illya..." His voice carried a satisfying balance of menace and passion.

The Russian smiled, then leaned forward.

Napoleon groaned loudly, his fists clenching as Illya’s tongue slid along the underside of the cock, then teased the head before taking the organ into his mouth.

Illya’s mouth sucked and his tongue caressed until Napoleon felt as though he would explode, then, just when he was on the brink of paradise, Illya stopped. Standing, he whispered, "Do you want me, Napasha?"

"Always," he answered, a bit awed by the truth of it. Their job made absolute fidelity out of the question, but given a choice, Napoleon wanted nothing but the hard masculine body pressing up against him. "Always." Sometimes he felt on the verge of making such promises....

Illya gave him an enigmatic smile that said he knew precisely the power he held over his lover and tilted his head back a bit to bare his throat.

With a growl, Napoleon fastened his lips on the soft flesh, sucking until yet another bruise marked the young Russian’s skin. "Illyusha," he whispered, his lips stroking more gently along the throat.

Gently but firmly Illya pulled out of the embrace holding them so tightly together, then he turned his back to his lover. "Take me, Napasha," he murmured, his voice just loud enough to be heard over the water falling over them. He spread his legs and braced himself against the tile wall. "Take me, now."

With Illya’s muscles warm and relaxed from the shower, it took just a bit of soap to ease Napoleon’s way into the body he loved so well. It felt so wonderful, he had to stop a moment and just hold Illya against him. He nuzzled the Russian’s neck and whispered, "I love you, Illyusha."

Soft Russian words repeated the sentiment, as if Illya needed his mother tongue to make certain his feelings were definitely known, then the smaller man pushed back against him, deepening the penetration.

The sensation ripped a gasp from Napoleon, and he began to thrust with the smooth, hard stroke Illya preferred, while Napoleon’s hand reached around to give Illya’s cock a similar touch.

With each push, Illya loudly voiced his appreciation, the normally staid Russian’s moans the most erotic sound Napoleon had ever heard. All too soon they came, their respective releases only seconds apart.

For a moment they just stood there, enjoying the sensation, then Illya wiggled a bit. "I love how that feels."

"Me inside you?"

"Of course, but I meant your coming inside me. It makes me feel so..." his voice trailed off. The language of romance was one of the very few things Illya did not excel at, but it was more than enough for Napoleon.

He hugged his lover hard. "I wish you’d let me make those promises," he said as their bodies came apart, and Illya turned off the water. "I’d keep them, Illya. I swear I would."

"I know you would, tovarish," the blond answered, gently moving out of Napoleon’s embrace, then he pushed open the door and snatched up two towels.

He handed one to Napoleon, but used the one in his own hand to begin drying his lover with the same meticulous care with which he’d washed him. "You never break your word, but I do not want you because you made me a promise, Napoleon," he said when he’d finished. "I only want you for as long as you want me. I am selfish enough to hope that it will be the rest of our lives."

It will be leapt to his lips, but Illya anticipated it and covered Napoleon’s mouth with his hand.

"No promises, Napasha," he repeated the only condition he’d ever set on their love affair. Or at least the only condition he’d demanded Napoleon actually respect.

Napoleon sighed in defeat, then began to dry Illya. "All right, no promises," he conceded, and just managed not to add I promise.

Illya gave him a look that said he’d heard it anyway, then with a quick kiss, he vanished back into the bedroom.

Already aroused again by the sensuous drying session, Napoleon forced himself to straighten up the towels before following. By the time he’d finished with Illya tonight, he knew he would need a morning shower, and he hated facing a messy bathroom first thing in the morning.

It took him all of two minutes, but when he walked into the bedroom, Illya was in bed, pretending to be asleep, despite the erection straining clearly against the sheet that covered him.

With a growl, Napoleon pounced onto the bed, then pulled Illya firmly up against him. "You’re lucky I’m not into spankings."

It was an old joke between them, but Illya still smiled. "You could never hurt me, Napasha," he said, then the smile faltered. "But I hurt you."

Napoleon sighed, settled the handsome Russian back onto the bed, then nuzzled Illya’s smooth jaw as he eased the sheet from between them. "It was all part of the plan, Illya. The others had to believe you were torturing me."

"Yes, I know. Not one of your better schemes, tovarish," he grumbled, helping Napoleon position his legs.

"Actually, the entire operation was brilliant. Now, shut up and let me love you."

Despite an exhausting day, Napoleon found himself too much in need of the Russian to even think of sleeping until he’d filled the young man with his seed several times.

In the morning, when they woke up, he did so again.

Trigorin stood off to one side of the stage watching the security guards chase down the would-be Frank Sinatra before the sell-out crowd’s amusement turned to anger over the delay.

A week’s worth of research had given him few answers about his lover’s resurrection, but several times what files he had been able to hack into had indicated a link with something called the A-Team. Information on the four men who made up that team had not been quite as difficult to obtain. He had determined that this one, Captain ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock, was his best chance for finding Stockwell.

He had not been charged like the others for some robbery near the end of the Vietnam War. He guessed that unless Murdock was in the company of the others, he would not be watching for signs of pursuit. Trigorin considered just following him as he had done since Murdock had left the hotel, but LA traffic made him a bit leery of being able to keep it up. He was, after all, quite out of practice.

A sigh slipped from him as, with a final rush, the guards managed to catch the madman, and he fingered the small homing device in his pocket. The hat, he decided. He might change every other article of clothing, but the hat would remain until the Sinatra fixation passed, and Murdock’s medical file suggested that would take another few days.

They made it easy for him. As the guards dragged him off stage, Murdock struggled valiantly, protesting that his fans awaited. The hat went flying in the scuffle, practically landing at his feet. Trigorin picked it up, slipped the homer into the band, then followed the miniature parade to a waiting squad car. "Your hat, Mr. Sinatra," he said, placing it back on Murdock’s head just before they forced him into the vehicle, then he turned and walked away.

The muffled roar of the crowd as the real Sinatra took the stage reached him as he walked toward his car. Order restored to their universe, they cheered with a joy he’d never felt. But soon, he would at least have the order.

He got into the car, then started back toward his hotel. Some food, a few hours sleep, then the men he had hired would begin arriving. Trigorin might have been out of the game for a few years, but he had a few contacts left, a sizeable bank account from his book sales, and Hunt had made many enemies. We will see you dead, my love, he promised the heavens. And this time, I will bury you myself.

Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith sat back on the sofa and chewed on the end of an expensive cigar. He was of two minds about the last few days. Though in the end everything had worked out, something had felt off since Stockwell had ordered them to recover the Russian jet.

Why the A-Team? He could think of at least a dozen organizations better equipped for such an operation. He’d pointed that out to Stockwell, but only a stony silence had answered him. They’d gone, of course, despite the fact that none of them even spoke Russian. What choice did they have with their pardons constantly hanging on the whims of a single man?

Actually, their choices were quite clear: do whatever Stockwell ordered, go back to life on the run and pray no one caught them, or leave the country forever. Up to now the choice had been obvious, but one more assignment like this one and the balance might tip.

He sighed and stretched out. Though tired, he wasn’t quite ready to go to bed, and he didn’t mind at all having the suite to himself, even if his brain wouldn’t shut down and let him enjoy it. Over and over it kept coming back to him -- why had Stockwell sent the A-Team to Russia? What had they done that no one else could? Instead of an answer coming to him, the question began to broaden in his mind. Why had Stockwell needed them at all?

All ego aside, and Hannibal admitted he had more than his share of that, the A-Team was woefully redundant on the international scene. Sometimes he wondered if the government was simply trying to get them killed. They were good, damned good, so they were still alive, but the sense of satisfaction he’d felt during those years on the run when they’d helped every-day people in extraordinary circumstances was gone.

The phone rang, cutting into his musings, then he groaned when the desk clerk relayed a message to turn the television to channel eight. "Damn, doesn’t the man ever sleep?" he muttered, picking up the remote. And why couldn’t he just use the telephone like everyone else?

A moment later, the very attractive image of Stockwell’s assistant filled the screen. "Good evening, Colonel Smith," she said, through the modified television. "I’m afraid we have another problem."

"Stockwell forget to put the cat out for the night?"

"It is about Stockwell." She spoke softly, as though afraid someone might overhear her, and his irritation faded enough that he noticed the signs of strain on her face.

"What’s up?"

"It’s about the body in the van."

"You mean Trigorin?"

She shook her head. "It wasn’t Trigorin."

"So Trigorin is alive, and you’re afraid he’ll go after Stockwell."

"No, I’m afraid that may be the least of our worries."

"Spit it out, sweetheart. It’s after my bedtime."

"The General... Colonel Smith, there was no body at all."

Hannibal stared at her. He’d watched Stockwell and an ambulance crew go though the ruined van, then bundle a body bag into the meat wagon. "Are you certain?"

She blushed. "He’d ordered the body bag sealed and stored until he decided what to do with it, but I opened it. I... needed to see what kind of monster would betray a man like Hunt Stockwell."

Just resisting the urge to vomit at such misplaced admiration, he tried to think. If there was no body, Trigorin was alive, and, if he was, Stockwell knew it; it had to have been part of some sort of cover up. The word "why" seemed to be coming up a lot lately when dealing with the bastard.

In his silence, she went on. "The only possible answer is that the man you rescued isn’t really the General."

"I was standing next to him when he called in for a voice print verification," he reminded her. No, it was a hell of a lot simpler than a switch. Stockwell had gone bad. The very possibility made Hannibal’s heart sing.

Illya got out of the shower, dried himself and his hair, then pulled on his usual jeans and black sweater. Napoleon, or rather Stockwell, had already left. A few more final details to wrap up before they returned to New York and Stockwell returned to the oblivion where he so richly belonged. Not a very charitable thought, Illya realized, but one the bastard deserved.

He put on his shoulder harness, then slipped his gun into place. His partner’s luck holding true to form, Napoleon was off to some ritzy breakfast meeting while Illya was left with a bowl of Cheerios and the tedious details of getting the Russian jet back to the Russian government. Something that would have been a lot easier if he had simply stolen the jet from those insurrectionists himself, then flown it straight to Moscow. As usual, Napoleon schemed, and Illya did all the work. It all seemed a trifle unfair, but Illya was accustomed to it, and his lover had promised to make it up to him tonight.

Pulling on his jacket, Illya sighed. Time was when he could resist Napoleon’s advances for an hour or two, now he found himself practically purring at the thought of being in the older man’s bed. He decided that he must still be a bit light headed from this morning’s rather strenuous activities and vowed to play hard to get tonight -- for at least a minute or two.

He deliberately stalled around until after rush hour, so that when he drove out of the parking garage, traffic was actually moving. He made fairly good time, reaching the turn off from I-101 in just under an hour. The jeep easily handled the few bumps on the relatively smooth dirt road.

With luck it would be as easy for him to fly the jet out of the canyon as it had been for Murdock to fly it in. Otherwise, he was going to have to call in some heavy transport which would raise eyebrows and put this operation over budget. Never a good combination.

Two guards had been placed on the jet to ensure no one stumbled upon it and got into mischief during the night, and he caught sight of them as he rounded a turn. If not for them, he might not even have noticed the aircraft hidden almost perfectly beneath some heavy camouflage netting. He pulled the jeep off the side of the road, then got out.

Later, he would be furious with himself. The moment you didn’t expect trouble was precisely the time to expect it. He knew that, but he was halfway between the jeep and the jet when he bothered to take a good look at the guards. Face and Murdock. Damn. The A-Team had obviously figured out they had been had, which left Illya in big trouble.

He could run for the jeep, but even as he thought it, a powerful engine roared and a black van whipped into sight, then screeched to a halt between Illya and his transportation. Illya muttered a Russian curse, then threw in an Arabic one for good measure. Definitely not one of your better schemes, Napoleon.

The van doors swung open, allowing Hannibal, M-16 in hand, to emerge with a smirk on his face. Face and Murdock, the business ends of their rifles also pointed at Illya, closed in from the other direction.

With an inward sigh, Illya raised his hands in surrender. They’d obviously expected Stockwell, or at least one of his men, but the astonished looks on their faces as they each realized who he was, or had been, told him that they had yet to figure out the depth of this little plot. "Good morning, gentlemen," he said with his usual glacial calm. "What can I do for you?"

B.A. grabbed him by the sweater and the waist band of his jeans, then hauled him up into the air. "Where’s Stockwell, fool?" he growled.

Illya’s eyes narrowed. Though B.A. outweighed him by 100 pounds of solid muscle and stood a full half foot taller than his own five feet, ten inches, Illya said, "If you do not put me down in the next three seconds, you will lose a kneecap, at least one kidney and your ability to reproduce."

He never bluffed, the promise of his ability and willingness to carry out exactly what he’d said sounding loud and clear in his voice. B.A. was either too angry or too proud to hear that, but Hannibal obviously did. "Easy, B.A.," he said, a gentle push on the big man’s arm getting him to set Illya down.

As soon as his feet touched the ground, Hannibal took Illya’s gun, then did a more thorough search. "Nice make-up job, kid," he said dryly.

"You are hardly the only one who is good with putty noses, Colonel," Illya answered, allowing Face to handcuff his hands behind his back, while Murdock serenaded them with yet another Frank Sinatra classic.

"Where is Stockwell?"

"In a meeting."

That would have earned him the back of anyone else’s hand, but Hannibal just gave him a ‘don’t push it, kid’ look. "Want to tell us what he’s up to?"

"A most interesting question, Colonel Smith," an unfamiliar voice announced, though Illya stiffened at the Russian accent.

It was shaping up to be a very bad morning, Illya thought as he and the A-Team were surrounded by a group of mercenaries led by a short, dark blond, fifty-something man with blue eyes. Trigorin, the real one, said, "Perhaps we can persuade our young friend to give us some answers." The gas canister exploded a moment later.

Act II
"Day Four of the Cuban treatment"

Damn make-up itches like crazy. Through a considerable act of will, Napoleon resisted the urge to scratch it into oblivion, consoling himself with the thought that this was the last day he would ever have to wear it. He didn’t know how Illya put up with wearing constant disguises. This little charade had nearly driven Napoleon to drink several times.

As he walked through the headquarters of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, Los Angles, he reminded himself that it had been his own decision to put on the make-up this morning, instead of waiting until just before it was time to contact Smith. Part of it was wanting to maintain the psychological advantage he’d discovered in looking like a man in his fifties. He was headed for a meeting with two men who wielded considerable influence in the United States government. Experience had taught him that such men tended to dismiss even the Chief Enforcement Officer of U.N.C.L.E. as a brash young man. But not when he was under all of this glop. They responded to what their eyes saw, despite what their brains knew.

Yes, a very logical reason for putting up with the discomfort, one he’d been able to sell to his partner. Hadn’t had a thing to do with wanting Illya to fuss over him for an hour instead of an anonymous make-up specialist here. He smiled, knowing he hadn’t fooled the Russian a bit, but Illya did so love having a reason for doing something besides just humoring Napoleon.

"Well, don’t you just look like the cat who got into the cream," a voice cut into his musings. "Kuryakin must have given you a warm welcome last night."

Napoleon’s smile broadened, instead of fading. Thanks to a quite complicated operation to bust a Thrush blackmail ring, he and Illya had not only become lovers, but the existence of their relationship was very well known throughout U.N.C.L.E. After a long, uncomfortable period of adjustment while everyone either seemed to scorn them or walk on tip toe around them, such a good-natured comment was music to Napoleon’s ears.

"Ah, Lewis," he said, clapping the dark-haired man on the back, "just let me reassure you that everything they say about blonds being more fun is very true."

Lewis Stephenson made a face. "Nice to know someone enjoyed last night. I’m still knocking the water out of my ears."

He gave the other man a look of exaggerated sympathy. "Is it my fault that you’re such a tough nut to crack? Let’s see, they dunked you all of two times?"

"Three," Stephenson sniffed. "Didn’t even hold me down long enough to drown a kitten."

Napoleon suddenly felt a bit like a father whose sons had just been deemed idiots. "Interrogation techniques weren’t exactly part of their military training."

"Yeah, I could tell they’d learned it all on the late, late show." He shook his head. "Shit, Napoleon, those guys were a combat unit, not intelligence agents. What the hell is Washington trying to do to them?"

"Hopefully, nothing more after today."

"Well, glad I could help. Even if I’ll never hear the end of it from Kuryakin." Stephenson smiled. "Thinks my Russian accent is just awful."

Napoleon had to agree that it would never fool a native Russian, but it was precisely what most Americans thought of as a proper Russian accent. He said his goodbyes, then continued on down the hall. It had been important that Smith and the others not waste their time tracking down Russian leads, so Napoleon had sent in Stephenson and his partner to make certain they looked in other directions. The Russian connection eliminated, Smith had made the Chinese connection with ease.

Far from idiots -- just men out of their field of expertise. He stopped in front of heavy oak double doors. Now all he had to do was sell that notion to the men on the other side. He took a deep breath, then walked inside.\tab

General Harridan Andrews, army chief of staff, and Wilson Brand, one of the President’s favored advisors, were already seated at the oval table that practically filled the room. They exchanged greetings, then Napoleon began the briefing. He started out with something he knew he could get them to agree on. "I believe it’s time we closed down Stockwell’s operation."

A smile crossed Andrew’s beefy face. From the beginning he had made his dislike of the set-up quite clear, but the slight man next to him frowned. "The President is rather fond of having his own, secret, intelligence group," Brand said.

Napoleon and Andrews just looked at him for a moment. Before his death, Stockwell had set up an information network comprised of many so-called retired operatives, and no one, Napoleon included, wanted to see that resource lost. But Stockwell had also established an \'e9lite group at the top, a group who took orders only from the President.

Alexander Waverly, head of U.N.C.L.E., North American Hemisphere, had gotten wind of it, and the more he’d learned the less he’d liked. Stockwell’s powers would have been a bit too broad, a bit too much like something out of Nazi Germany. But before anything could be done about it, Stockwell had been killed in South America by someone matching the description of Ivan Trigorin. That should have been the end of it, but the information network had been too valuable to lose.

Fortunately, Stockwell had kept mostly out of sight since the Cuban d\'e9b\'e2cle, his network and storm troopers gathered together by phone and computer links, not face-to-face contact. Beyond the age difference, Napoleon matched the man’s general description, and it had been child’s play for U.N.C.L.E. to alter all personal identification records. So Hunt Stockwell had ended up food for the fishes along the Amazon River, while an imposter had received his promotion to General and command of his network.

The assignment had been simple enough: play along with reasonable Presidential requests while slowly absorbing the information network into U.N.C.L.E. Like Stockwell, he did most of it via phone or computer, but he made a few personal appearances. He’d been ready to close down the command structure and just let U.N.C.L.E. take over about four months ago, but before he could do it, the A-Team had ended up assigned to him.

Napoleon would have been all too happy to say "tough luck" and still walk away, but one of the ‘little people’ the A-Team had helped out during their years on the run, had been one of Waverly’s nieces. So it had been "tough luck, Napoleon" and on with the charade.

He’d despaired at ever getting rid of his ‘second job’, but then a group of Russian insurrectionists had stolen a top-secret jet, something the President decided ‘his’ A-Team should handle as a personal favor for Yeltsin. Personally, Napoleon was delighted that he hadn’t voted for the idiot. He didn’t even want to think about what would have happened to Smith and the others if he hadn’t sent Dancer and Slate in secretly to act as cover.

At the same time an international ring of Chinese arms dealers based in Los Angeles had grown to be a big enough nuisance to warrant U.N.C.L.E.’s attention. Illya had drawn the operation. Inspiration had dawned, and Napoleon had flexed his C.E.O. powers to combine both operations in a bid to rid both the A-Team and himself of Hunt Stockwell.

It was Andrews who broke the amazed silence. "Wilson, perhaps it has missed your attention, but the President’s private little group never did a damned thing without Alexander Waverly’s approval."

Well now, that wasn’t quite true. Napoleon had never really done more than brief the old man after each operation, but now was not the time to argue semantics. He was not a happy man. He could and would close down Stockwell’s group without approval from anyone, but he’d hoped for a cheerful consensus before springing part two of his plan. He sighed. Some days it just didn’t pay to get up in the morning.

A headache not quite as intense as the one that usually followed an encounter with knockout gas greeted Illya’s return to consciousness. In the darkness behind his eyelids, he decided that the formula must be different from the concoction favored by the usual opposition. That meant Trigorin was working freelance, not necessarily a good thing. Thrush could be quite nasty, but they were a trifle predictable.

Of course Illya had read Trigorin’s file, had based his entire performance on the man’s destruction, and he knew exactly what Trigorin would do to him. Definitely a bad day.

Careful not to show that he had come around, he assessed his situation. The handcuffs still immobilized his arms, but they were tighter now, the metal cutting into his wrists, and he was hanging from them, increasing the pain. His sweater was gone, a proof of his grim expectations, and there was a bit of a chill in the air.

The soft moans of the A-Team as they came around told him he wasn’t alone -- but they sounded off to the side, and muffled as if they were wearing gags, while he was not. Apparently he was slated for the floor show.

A sharp slap across his jaw informed him he’d played possum quite long enough, so he opened his eyes. Trigorin stood in front of him.

The older Russian held a heavy whip in one hand and with the other he held up Illya’s identification. "Illya Kuryakin: Section Two, Number Two, Enforcement," he read, then dropped the card. "Now what would one of U.N.C.L.E.’s finest be doing playing pranks on a bunch of has-been soldiers?"

Illya said nothing, which earned him a slap across the opposite side of his jaw. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

For a moment it seemed that Trigorin would explode into a rage, but then he smiled instead. He raised the whip and gently caressed Illya’s chest with the coils. "I’ve actually heard of you, Kuryakin. You enjoy a certain reputation that I find intriguing. It is said that you cannot be broken."

"Rubbish," Illya answered. "The right drugs can make anyone talk."

"Ah, yes, drugs. They are quite effective nowadays, but where is the fun in them?" Trigorin asked, flicking the whip so that it nipped at Illya’s right nipple.

The young man flinched, but said nothing.

"As you said, everyone talks, so where is the humiliation in it? How can you know your worth as a man if no one pushes you to the brink?"

Again the whip bit, this time on his left nipple, again he stayed silent.

"Where is my old friend Hunt Stockwell?"

"Dead." And Trigorin should know since he was the one who had probably killed him, but that was the trouble with no body. It always left doubts -- even in the killer’s mind.

"Liar!" Trigorin backhanded him across the jaw, and Illya tasted blood. "These men have worked for him for months!"

"He is dead."

Trigorin stepped behind him, then the whip cracked and cut deep into Illya’s back.

Illya cried out, then braced for the next blow, but several seconds lapsed before it came. He blinked in surprise when it finally struck. Little more than a sharp sting, it certainly did not break the skin. Over and over the leather slapped against his back in a sort of parody of a real beating. Except for the first strike, he could feel that none of the blows had even cut his skin.

Finally, the older Russian tossed the whip aside, then jerked Illya’s jeans down around his thighs. An unlubricated cock thrust against his anus and, for the second time, Illya cried out in pain. At the cry, the angle changed, the hard organ pushing between his thighs instead of into his body. In just a few quick thrusts hot sticky fluid flooded over Illya’s skin, then he was lifted from the hook and tossed to the floor.

"That is just a taste of what will happen to you during the next few days. I’ll leave you to think about that," Trigorin said, zipping up his pants.

Illya noted that his captor’s face looked unnaturally pale. Just who was torturing whom around here?

The older man turned his attention to his underling and said, "Come along, Klaus. I find I have a taste for champagne."

The door to the vault-like room closed, leaving the prisoners alone. How utterly convenient -- no guards and his hands had been left cuffed in front of him. Yes, very convenient, but Illya had to play along for a while.

He pulled his pants up so that they no longer restricted his movement, then, easily ignoring the mild pain in his back, he worked his pick from the seam running along the inside of the right leg of his jeans. A good hiding place and a small pick, but still he knew that it should have been found. He went to work and sprung the lock within seconds.

Pushing himself to his feet, he fastened his jeans, then zipped them up. He went to Murdock first because he knew the captain could also pick locks.

"Pardon me," he muttered, then resorted to climbing up the taller man’s torso to reach his wrists. Again the lock sprung in seconds.

"You okay, kid?" Murdock asked the moment he pulled his gag free.

It oddly touched Illya that the pilot looked so utterly sane at that moment. No funny voices, no resorting to his current Sinatra fixation, just a look of pure concern and a question. "I am fine," he answered, handing him the pick. "Free your friends."

On closer examination, Illya realized the room was an old meat locker with thick insulated walls and a heavy metal door. The lock looked sturdy, but not unbreachable.

While considering his options, he reached down and pulled a silver pen-like communicator from the hidden pocket inside his boot, then switched it on. "Open Channel D," he said, "emergency relay to Stockwell." That should warn Napoleon to take care with what he said.

A brief pause followed, then a filtered version of Napoleon’s voice said, "Go ahead, Illya." The crackling would make it impossible for anyone to identify the speaker one way or the other.

"I hate bothering you with details, Hunt, but Ivan Trigorin and some well-armed muscle have insisted I stay the night with them. It occurs to me that you might want to make arrangements for another dinner companion."

"Where are you?"

"I have no idea. My friends and I were sleeping quite soundly when we arrived."

Napoleon ordered someone to trace the signal, then turned his attention back to his partner. "Your friends?"

"Yes, four rather irritated-looking soldiers," he said, carefully leaning against the wall. The pressure increased the mild throbbing in his back, but the coolness was soothing. "I believe they have some questions for you."

"No doubt. Has he hurt you?"

Illya tried to think of an answer, but faltered long enough that it became unnecessary.

"How bad?" He could tell from the sound that Napoleon was moving. Headed for the helipad no doubt.

"Day Four of the Cuban treatment, though he kept it surprisingly mild and the last of it exclusive," he said, knowing his partner had read the reports of what Trigorin had suffered while a guest of Castro’s minions. A gang rape had been the least of it. "If it’s all the same to you, tovarish, I would prefer to be gone from here before he decides to start passing me around."

"Keep cool, Illya," Napoleon answered, though they both knew that Illya was never otherwise. "I’m on my way."

"Be careful, tovarish. I can’t help you. All I have left is my jeans."

"Understood. I’ll signal when I’m in position."

It was a trap, of course. And quite a sloppy one at that. Though unlikely, a thorough search might have missed the lockpick, but never the communicator. Trigorin obviously didn’t want to wait until Illya broke, his impatience to exact his vengeance on Stockwell making him careless. Or he thought Illya incapable of escaping without outside help, no matter how obvious it was that he’d been maneuvered into calling for assistance. A somewhat insulting notion, but Illya had an idea or two that would teach his captor to pay a bit more attention to details other than how well one held up under torture.

He looked at his four fellow prisoners and said, "I suppose you want a few answers."

"That’d be a nice change," Face muttered.

Illya smiled slightly, understanding how they felt if not appreciating the hostility directed at him. He couldn’t even begin to tell them the truth here, but what was one more set of lies on top of all the rest? "Despite all the pretty speeches at your court-marital review, your government wanted absolute proof that you were not criminally inclined. That was the real reason they assigned you to General Stockwell during your probation period.\par "Quite frankly, he had better things to do than babysit the four of you, so we arranged a rather splashy demonstration to prove you could resist temptation." At least that much was true. The A-Team had been offered an opportunity to rid themselves of a man they had every reason to despise and negotiate the sale of the jet to the Chinese for enough money to make them wealthy for the rest of their lives. Instead they had rescued Stockwell and kept the jet safe.

"How thoughtful," Hannibal said dryly. "Seems like you stepped on the wrong toes in the process."

"It happens."

"Ah, Hannibal, I think he’s already been... reprimanded for that," Face pointed out.

"That happens too," Illya said, with a matter-of-fact air that seemed to rattle the others. They must think he was going into shock. "Actually, it was all very reminiscent of my ninth birthday. Having survived that, I suspect I’ll live now."

A long silence followed, one that Illya couldn’t quite describe as hostile. The shrill trill of his communicator twenty minutes later made everyone jump, but him.

He didn’t bother to answer. Instead his hand flashed to the waist band of his jeans. As the handle on the door began to turn, he yanked off the top button, twisted the back of it, then threw it.

The blast blew the door off its hinges and quite thoroughly killed the two men behind it. Illya snatched up a gun from the closest corpse, then fired off three rounds that downed three more of Trigorin’s men. That gave Hannibal enough cover to get to the second corpse’s gun.

Soon all five of them were armed and Trigorin’s men were caught in a crossfire between the A-Team and Napoleon’s rescue party.

Trigorin saw the inevitable and ran for it with one of his men, but Illya followed.

It took him a minute to close the distance, then a simple running tackle stopped Trigorin, who commanded enough loyalty or paid a high enough salary that his man turned to defend him. Built like B.A., the man’s smile suggested that he expected an easy kill.

His gun emptied in the firefight inside, Illya went low as the goon made a grab for him. He spun on his heel, swinging around in an arc that put the full force of the turn into a kick that connected just to the side and against his attacker’s knee. Beneath his boot heel the knee cap popped out of position to the accompaniment of his victim’s howl of agony. Another kick struck under the chin, and the mercenary went down.

The rustle of gold chains behind him told Illya he had backup, that Trigorin should have been dealt with, but he took nothing for granted. Diving to the right, he caught hold of the fallen mercenary’s gun, rolled, then came up ready to shoot. Instead of firing, he cursed, as he discovered that his own conquest had not been the only big man to overestimate himself today.

B.A. lay curled on the ground, his face contorted in agony, his hand clutched protectively over his groin. Trigorin stood over him, a small caliber handgun pressed against B.A.’s temple. "I believe the advantage is mine, Mr. Kuryakin."

"Shhh, it’s a secret"

Napoleon brought the butt of his rifle up into the jaw of yet another mercenary then, as the man fell, he spun to face his next opponent. To his bemusement, there wasn’t one. He shared a brief smile with one of his agents. Better too much than too little.

He started barking clean up orders, satisfied himself that the injuries among his people were minor and being tended to, that the prisoners were being secured, in essence letting himself coast with the job, until the fear began to claw at him. Illya should have joined him by now. Where was he? He’d caught sight of him during the fight, even the brief glimpse reassuring him that his partner had not been badly hurt, but a lot could happen in a firefight.

Which direction...? He took two steps before he heard the helicopter his team had abandoned a half mile away in favor of a silent approach. It lifted up over the trees, then headed due east. Not for a single moment did he doubt that Illya was in that chopper. Illya and Trigorin. Though he had little hope, he snapped out an order to radio for pursuit and a radar search, then went in search of the reason his ruthless little partner had ended up a prisoner.

What he found just over a small rise didn’t surprise him. There were only two ways for a single person to capture Illya -- take him by surprise, which was damned hard to do, especially when he was expecting trouble, or make him surrender by threatening someone else.

He looked at B.A. in disgust, leaving such sympathetic gestures like calling a much-needed ambulance to others. The man had used the fact that he was built like a tank to intimidate others for so long that he’d forgotten to use any sense of tactics he might have known about dealing with smaller, highly skilled opponents. Despite the fact that the big man might have suffered a permanent injury, it was all Napoleon could do not to fracture his jaw as well. "Stupid bastard!" he hissed, then turned away. Right into Hannibal.

Hannibal’s own eyes blazed with fury. "We need to talk, Stockwell."

Another time Napoleon might have managed some empathy with him. He’d seen enough of his own friends and co-workers hurt, even killed, to know exactly how the man felt, but not now. Not with Illya still in danger. "Go to hell," he snapped.

To his utter delight, Hannibal made the mistake of taking a swing at him. Napoleon blocked the punch easily, and sent his own hurtling toward the older man’s jaw. It knocked Hannibal flat.

He did a fast turn, but discovered, to his irritation, that his men had stopped Face or Murdock from coming to either of their teammates’ aid. So much for a nice brawl to relieve tension.

"Hannibal, no," he heard B.A. gasp, then looked down to see the Colonel preparing to get back a bit of his own. "No time for that."

His concern for his own man apparently more important than his anger, Hannibal gave B.A. his full attention. "What is it?" he asked, kneeling beside him.

"Trigorin. He took the kid. All my fault. He took the kid," he forced out the words, then he blacked out.

Illya opened his eyes to find himself lying on a bed. He could hear wind, some birds, but no engines of any sort, and the air had an almost painful crispness to it after the smog of LA. Some place isolated then, probably the mountains.

The ceiling overhead was vaulted and had that fake rustic look that often graced million- dollar homes and high-priced resorts. All his clothing had been removed, and the sheets against his bare body felt like expensive silk. Some place isolated and exclusive.

He also found that he could not move, though he could feel no restraints. Had he been shot in the back? No, he could feel his limbs, he just couldn’t move them. What had happened?

His thoughts felt a bit murky, but he remembered turning to find B.A. a prisoner, remembered catching the syringe Trigorin threw to him, the biting sting of the needle as he’d injected the unknown drug into his own arm, then nothing. Some sort of tranquilizer then, but with side effects he’d never experienced before. It almost felt... pleasant. A bit like the warm laziness he felt when he woke up on a cold rainy morning and knew that he did not have to get out of bed. The image captured his imagination, and he could almost feel Napoleon in the bed beside him. He smiled, knowing they would spend the day gently loving one another. "Napasha."

An unfamiliar laugh snapped him away from the dream trying to claim him, then the bed dipped a bit as someone sat down beside him. "I knew that there would be someone like you, someone young and beautiful." Trigorin leaned over him slightly, replacing the view of the ceiling. "So I brought you pretty dreams in a needle. Do you like my present?"

A delicious feeling, but a bit disconcerting. "Yes. No," he answered, then realized, "truth serum. I thought you did not believe in it."

"Actually, I said it was not a test of character, but it has its uses." He leaned over even further, then brushed his lips against Illya’s forehead. "Does Hunt know you call another man’s name when you dream?"

Illya had the strong suspicion that it might not be in his best interests to reveal the fact that he had not been lying when he’d said Hunt Stockwell was dead. He actually managed to fight off the urge to answer for a full second before it just spilled out. "Never met him."

A frown marred the face hovering above him. "You work for him."

"Uh uh. Kuryakin, Number Two, Section Two. U.N.C.L.E."

The poor fool looked a bit relieved. A pity for both of them that it would be short lived. "But you work with Hunt?"

"Uh uh. Not my partner."

Trigorin had said he’d known of Illya, which meant he had to know who his partner was, but it took him several moments to say, "That would be Napoleon Solo?"

To his irritation, Illya felt a rather sentimental grin fix itself on his face. He did not like this drug. "My Napasha."

"Then Solo is your lover?"

"Hmmm, loves me, love him." He not only despised this drug, but he recognized it as well. A Thrush agent had used it on Napoleon during the Thunder Head Affair, but he doubted his partner had been subjected to this embarrassing line of questions.

"What about Hunt?"

He fought it so hard. Even took some satisfaction from the fact that he apparently lasted longer against the urge than Napoleon had, but within seconds, he damned himself. "Dead."

The color drained from Trigorin’s face. "How?"

"You killed him. We kept it secret. Shhhhh."

Act IV
"Old Blue Eyes is back"

Two hours. Hannibal looked at his watch in despair. Two hours since a gurney carrying B.A. had disappeared down a hospital corridor where his friends could not follow. What was it that blond kid had said? If you do not put me down in the next three seconds, you will lose a kneecap, at least one kidney and your ability to reproduce.

Apparently, Trigorin didn’t give warnings. Hannibal could see it all in his head. B.A. had grabbed Trigorin just like he’d grabbed the kid. The first kick had hit him in the crotch and had made him let go. Given the force of that kick, the next blow hadn’t even been necessary, but no one liked being intimidated and after years of getting away with it, B.A. had finally been taught a lesson. The second kick had caught him in the lower back, deliberately aimed at the kidney.

He felt sick to his stomach with worry, but a part of him understood why Stockwell had been so angry. If B.A. had viewed his opponent with respect, had put him down hard and fast, B.A. wouldn’t be in surgery, and the kid would be safe instead of God only knew where.

How --?

"Dammit! How could he have been so stupid?" Face exploded, completing Hannibal’s unvoiced question. The handsome man flinched, then lowered the volume of his voice. "After what happened to Frankie, how could he think we were dealing with pushovers?"

Hannibal just shook his head. Frankie Santana, the quasi-official member of the team, had run afoul of the fake Trigorin. Though tough and quick, Frankie had been laid out flat within seconds, the bruising bad enough once the adrenaline of the original operation had worn off that he’d been left behind when they went to stake out the jet.

"Out of practice, Faceman," Murdock answered, both the hat and Frank Sinatra consigned to a garbage bin until there was something to be amusing about again. "Been fighting too many punks and not enough soldiers."

Face nodded, but said nothing.

Then Murdock, the one who was supposed to be insane, looked at Hannibal and said, "We’ve got to stop, Colonel. We keep this up, and we’re all going to end up on the wrong side of the waiting room."

"Or just old and alone," Face sighed.

"That sounds like a man who wants to settle down," Hannibal pointed out.

"Maybe I do," Face snapped back.

"You’ve never acted like that’s what you wanted."

Face stared at him like he was crazier than Murdock had ever been. "And what choice have I ever had? We were on the run for years, and now we keep going on these ridiculous suicide missions. Not exactly the kind of lifestyle that leads to a wife and kids."

Hannibal looked at Face and Murdock. Really looked at them. He’d always known they hadn’t shared his love for excitement, but they’d always gone along with him. They’d always stayed together, when they might have had the lives they wanted if they’d split up after escaping from military prison. They’d all cared too much for one another for that, and he’d taken advantage of it. Maybe it was time he gave a little instead.

"I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. About when we complete our probation. Thought we might set up some sort of troubleshooting firm. A more formal, legal version of what we did when we were on the run. Maybe hire some good, but younger men to do the hard work. What do you think, Face? How’s being an executive strike you?"

They had the money put away to do it, and for a moment the other two men’s faces lit up with the possibilities. A way to help others, but in a job they could not only grow old gracefully, but one in which they could actually grow old. Then reality swept over them.

"Sounds wonderful, Hannibal," Face sighed. "But I don’t think we’ll get out of government work alive."

The depression filled the room, and they sat in a gloomy silence for another half hour before the doctor finally appeared. She gave them the good news first. "Your friend came through surgery just fine, and he should recover without incident."

"But?" Hannibal prompted.

"But he lost one kidney. Sometimes the other kidney will shut down under these circumstances."

She talked to them for a few minutes, outlining his recovery, and, though relieved, Hannibal knew that they were in trouble. The A-Team had just lost a powerful member, perhaps permanently. All bets would be off with the government deal. They could run, but it would mean leaving B.A. and Frankie behind.

The doctor left, and he looked at his two remaining teammates. He knew the question was in his eyes.

"We stay together," Face said.

Murdock nodded. "Absolutely."

"I’ll call Stockwell," Hannibal said, then started for the door, but found the KGB agent from yesterday standing in the doorway.

"No need, Colonel," he said in a voice utterly devoid of any Russian accent. "I’ll take you to him."

Unaware that he’d even drifted off, Illya woke at the pinch of a needle entering his arm.

Trigorin smiled at him. "Just a mild booster to keep you cooperative."

His limbs not as heavy as they had been, Illya managed to turn his head toward his captor.

As he had earlier, Trigorin sat on the edge of the bed, but this time he wore no clothing and he held Illya’s Walther in his hand.

None of it quite made sense. Trigorin had questioned him until he’d gotten every detail not only of the Stockwell Affair, but of Illya’s relationship with Napoleon. He hadn’t the slightest need to keep Illya alive a second longer, and Illya had to admit to a considerable amount of surprise to discover that he’d ever been allowed to wake up.

Trigorin ran the barrel of the handgun along Illya’s chest, the motion almost the gentle caress of a lover’s hand. "An excellent weapon," Trigorin said, his voice soft. "Lethal, efficient, just like its owner. But not quite so beautiful."

Ah, so that was it. Trigorin intended to rape him again before killing him, though such unmotivated cruelty had not been part of the man’s profile. No matter. His life had almost ensured that this would be his end, a fact he had accepted long ago. His only regret was the pain it would cause Napoleon. Illya closed his eyes and willed the man to get it over with.

Napoleon paced slowly through the office he was using while in LA. He didn’t even try to pretend to work as he waited. Despite it all -- every highly trained operative, every source of information, every scrap of technology -- it had all come down to waiting. Waiting for Illya to free himself or to somehow call for help. It had always worked in the past. They had always found each other, but a cold dread he’d never known before settled into his stomach and refused to leave him in peace. Somehow he knew that Trigorin would win.

He’d returned to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in a rage, ripping Stockwell from his face as though it were the man himself he was rending limb from limb. Needing desperately to be rid of him, he’d showered, even redyed his temples, hoping to never see the slightest sign of the man again. But of course he would. In thirty years, it would be all he would see every time he looked in a mirror. Disquieting to see oneself prematurely aged like that, but he’d taken comfort in the certainty that another lined face would share that mirror with his own.

Bile rose in the back of his throat at the thought of losing that dream, and he swallowed it down hard. If he lost Illya, he would cry for him, mourn for him for the rest of his life, but he could not do it now. He had to think, had to do something.

He slammed his hand down on the intercom button, "Dammit! Where the hell are those name and property checks I asked for?" he bellowed.

"The computer run has almost finished," a calm, feminine voice answered, one he couldn’t attach a name to. "I’ll have it in your office in five minutes."

It was a long shot, but they’d paid off in the past. The helicopter hadn’t had enough fuel to go more than somewhere within a one hundred square mile radius, half of which was under the Pacific Ocean. Every possible source of fuel had checked out negative, that meant he had to have reached his designation. Trigorin had not lived in this country since the early seventies, and a check of his own name and all known aliases had come up empty. But some of his old colleagues were still around. The computers were checking for any property within the target area owned by any of them. Unfortunately, that distance covered a lot of prime real estate, and he expected several possible sites. A very long shot, but something to do.

The door opened, but instead of a harried computer operator clutching a printout, the A-Team stormed in, then stopped short when they got a good look at him. He’d told Stephenson to brief them on the way from the hospital, but had known they probably wouldn’t believe it until they saw him.

He was younger than any of them, and now they could see it as well as know it. At another time, he might have enjoyed the expression on their faces, but not now. He offered no apologies, simply looked at them and said, "Your Presidential pardons will be delivered to you by this time tomorrow. Thank you for your assistance."

Though he’d fought hard for the right to say that, it gave him no pleasure now. Only hours ago, but the battle he’d waged for them seemed years past, and he had far more important things to do.

He nodded to Stephenson, a silent instruction to take them wherever they wanted to go, then nearly leapt past them as a woman raced into his office.

"We have twenty possibilities," she said, even as he scanned the list. The need to hide only one man made a business office just as likely a hiding place as an abandoned warehouse, but he could only go to one. He had to get to Illya. He had to choose right.

It was the last item on the list, as if it were an afterthought even for the computer. One of the names held a time share at a condo near a small, private lake. A time share that covered this part of the year.

The A-Team forgotten, he passed the list to Stephenson. "I’ll take the last one, have the other places checked out. At least two-agent teams. No one goes alone."

He hit the intercom button again. "I need a helicopter. Have it gassed up and ready to go by the time I get to the roof. I’ll fly it myself."

"No." A hand closed on his wrist, and he paused when he should have been running for the door. "I’ll fly it. No one goes alone."

He looked at Murdock, then glanced toward Hannibal. The older man shrugged. "We still work for you until this time tomorrow."

The drug kept him afloat in a near-sexual haze. Hands and lips gently caressed him. But Illya felt nothing. The correct touch in the correct spot made him respond a bit, but only physically and only briefly. Many things could rouse him physically until he could perform, but a long history of sexual abuse and torture had ensured that nothing could ever touch him emotionally. Nothing but Napoleon.

He had regained a small amount of control over his arms and legs, but he lacked the strength to fight off more than a newborn baby. Helpless, he could do nothing more than lie still and endure the odd, sensuous rape with the same pragmatism with which he would have survived a violent one.

Again and again the older man moved over him with first his hands, then his lips, seemingly unwilling to allow a single inch of Illya’s body to go untouched, untasted. And he was gentle, oh, so gentle. As he was turned onto his stomach for the third time since this exploration of his body had began, Illya’s mind finally focused on the word he’d been seeking. Cherish. It was as if Trigorin cherished him.

Yes, that was it exactly, he realized, hearing Trigorin’s mournful moan as the man’s fingertip once again traced the half-dozen places where a whip wielded in the past had cut deeply enough to scar. Scars similar to the ones on Trigorin’s own back.

Is it my pain or your own you seek to banish? Is this what you prayed Stockwell would do for you? That he would touch you with love, fill you with himself until he washed away the memory of every person who took what you wanted to give only to him?

Illya felt the sting of tears in his eyes and mourned for the man touching him. Once they could have been the same person, but Trigorin had lacked the strength that had given Illya peace with his existence, and had never really found the love that gave Illya joy.

Then those tears vanished into horror as Illya understood what was really happening. He had been cast in the role of Trigorin. But if he was a young, fragile Trigorin, then Napoleon had been cast as the man who had destroyed him.

He tried to scream his protest, tried to say something, anything that would pull the man’s mind from this odd repetition of the past, but he could not speak. It was as if Trigorin had known that Illya would know what to say to stop him, so he’d doctored the shot to silence him. Stay away, Napasha, he pleaded in silence. A useless hope. Napoleon always found him, as he always found Napoleon.

Trigorin sat back on his heels and looked down at the beautiful body spread before him. His attentions had given the soft skin a rosy glow, and he found it drew his touch yet again. He’d had plans, so many plans, but this one had told him his love was dead.

For a moment he’d considered just leaving. He could be halfway home to London before his prisoner recovered enough to call for help, but he could not face that joyless existence again. He needed his exorcism, needed to rid himself of all the anger and pain. But Hunt was dead, unable to repent all he had done to destroy the one who had loved him.

Then it had come to him. He could save this young one. Save him from the torment of a shallow man’s selfish version of love. He could show him that treachery before his very life hung on the need for one comforting touch. Yes, that would be his exorcism, his own redemption. He would stop history from repeating itself.

He nuzzled the scars one last time, then pulled himself away from the flawed skin’s lure. If he was right, he did not have much time left.

He opened the desk drawer, then took out a tube of KY jelly. He could not harm this beautiful boy. He’d learned that much in the meat locker. So if it must be done, he would do so with love. His hands spread the lubrication on first himself, then into Illya. With great care, his fingers relaxed the anal muscle, and only when he was absolutely certain that Illya could take his entry with a minimum of discomfort did he push his cock into him.

Once inside, he did not begin to thrust. Instead he reached for something else he’d kept hidden in the drawer. Illya’s communicator. He’d watched and listened via a hidden camera as Illya had used it earlier, so he had little trouble activating it. "Open Channel D," he repeated what he’d heard. "Emergency relay to Stock... to Solo."

A moment later a voice free of artificial static answered, "Solo."

"Ah, Mr. Solo. I believe I have something you want."


"Yes." He set the communicator down on the bed, next to Illya’s hip so that the sound of what he was about to do would be unmistakable.


"He is... beautiful," Trigorin answered, and began a series of long, slow thrusts. "Tell me where you are, Solo. Tell me right now before a trace can be run. Tell me you are on your way to the proper place or I will kill him now."

Napoleon’s throat froze up in horror at Trigorin’s demand. He was playing a wild hunch, nothing more than a wild hunch. If he’d guessed wrong.... He tried to force the words out that would mean his lover’s life or death, but Hannibal relieved him of the terrible responsibility.

"We’re in a helicopter. Fifteen miles out from Pine Ride Lake."

A silence gripped them as they waited for the sound of a gunshot, but heard only a wet, sucking sound. Napoleon knew that sound, and though it was not exactly the same as a man thrusting into a woman, the others seemed to pick up on what it meant as well. The tension level remained high when Trigorin chuckled, then said, "Very good. Not only are you clever enough to figure out where he is, but you are too intelligent to come alone."

The sound continued, ripping into Napoleon’s already-raw nerves. During their partnership, he’d patched Illya up after more than one rape, had held his hand while doctors dealt with others, but he’d never had to watch him being raped. Or listen. "Stop it," he hissed. "Stop hurting him."

"Oh, I would never do that, Napoleon. There is only one person who can really do that," Trigorin told him. "You should know that I have several men hidden in the woods. Get through them, and you may have your Illya back. But delay long enough for reinforcements, and I will kill him."

The conversation was clearly over, but the connection remained open. Napoleon did not dare close it for fear of enraging a man he realized was quite insane. He just sat through the rest of the flight with his fists clenched, his gaze fixed on some neutral point in the sky, and listened to the sounds of the man he loved being raped.

Hannibal reached over and broke the connection just before it was time to start giving orders. Three pale, grim faces looked to him, but he centered his gaze on Napoleon. Hannibal had thought a lot and heard a lot in the last few days about how just barely adequate his team was in the intelligence game. Leave it to the experts, he’d told himself over and over again, echoes of the whispers of others. Well, now he was the expert. He just needed to know if the hot-shot super spy would work with them or let his ego blow this operation before it began.

Tightening facial muscles warned him an inner battle was being fought inside Napoleon’s head, but to his surprise and relief, the young man said, "It’s your show, Colonel."

Hannibal nodded. "We’ll give you cover, you go for the condo."

Not one of his more elaborate plans, but he knew Solo’s cooperation would end the moment he suggested otherwise.

Since they were expected, they didn’t bother with a silent approach. Murdock brought the chopper in fast and low for a quick pass. Hannibal and Face fired from the chopper, laying down a withering field of fire that knocked four of Trigorin’s men out of the fight.

They swung out over the water, then came in slower. One by one, Face, Hannibal, and Napoleon bailed out, hit the ground, then came up shooting.

Trigorin increased his speed as he heard the sound of gunfire. Given the layout, the number of mercenaries guarding the place, it would have taken Hunt about five minutes to get from the edge of the lake to the condo. To be safe, he guessed four minutes for Napoleon.

At precisely three and a half minutes, he let himself come, spilling his seed deep inside the beautiful bottom. "I will be here for you," he whispered into the young man’s ear, promising both of them that he would be there to soothe the jagged pain of Napoleon’s inevitable betrayal.

He got to his feet, picked up the gun, then stepped back a bit from the bed. From his position he had a clear shot at Illya’s head, but was shielded from a shot from the window or the door. Napoleon would have to come into the room.

Napoleon obliged him five seconds earlier than expected. He burst through the door, diving low, his momentum carrying him behind a sofa just inside the room. A clear shot after all, but Trigorin had his finger on the trigger. The odds were good he could pull it as he died.

Neither of them moved for a moment, then a ragged whisper came from the bed. "Shoot."

Hunt would have obeyed, probably would have shot before the request and damned the consequences, but oddly enough, the sound of Illya’s voice caused Napoleon to drop his rifle, then he stood, slowly with his hands raised.

"No, Napasha. No." The whisper came again and, his arm trembling with weakness, Illya reached for his lover.

Trigorin held his breath. Illya smelled of sweat and spent sex, but still he was fool enough to reach for the source of his destruction.

Napoleon moved slowly forward, careful to keep his movements non-threatening, but he went straight to Illya.

As Trigorin watched in amazement, Napoleon dropped beside the bed, slowly took Illya into his arms, then with a fast jerk, pulled Illya down to the floor and out from underneath the muzzle of the gun.

For a moment it didn’t make much sense, then Trigorin realized, Napoleon had managed to put his own body between the gun and Illya. He was going to die for him.

Before he could totally absorb the impact of that, he heard Illya’s gasps of protest, saw the young man struggling with all his feeble strength to push aside his human shield. But Napoleon would not let him do it.

Eyes blazing with hatred fixed on Trigorin, but Napoleon’s touch and voice were gentle as he soothed his lover. "It’s all right, Illya. He won’t hurt you any more. I have you."

The disgust, the hatred, they were all there, but for Trigorin, not for Illya.

Time slipped away, and Trigorin found himself standing in a dank, putrid cell. As he watched, a young blond dragged himself across the floor, his body foul with blood and semen. Exhausted he collapsed, but reached for a dark-haired man bound to a pillar.

Pain and love shone in equal measure in warm brown eyes. "It’ll be all right, my love," a voiced soothed where touch could not reach. "I’ll get you out of here. Somehow. It’ll be all right."

The words continued in a soft croon as the blond started to crawl again, first across the floor, then literally up his lover’s body. Twice he almost passed out as he worked on the knots, but their heads nestled together, and he drew strength from their nearness.

Trigorin gave a soft cry of pleasure as the ropes fell free. He watched the dark-haired man gather the blond into his arms. They would get out. It would be all right. And they were still in love. In that moment a marvelous wave of joy passed through his body. In that moment, he pulled the trigger.

At the gunshot, Illya screamed against Napoleon’s chest, but the body holding him so tightly did not convulse in death. Instead it sighed as another body thudded against the ground.

Illya pushed against Napoleon again, and this time his partner yielded enough for Illya to see across the room. One side of his head a bloody pulp, Trigorin lay on the floor a few feet away, Illya’s gun still clasped in his hand, an odd smile on his face. So he had finally found the peace he had been looking for.

The drug had worn off enough that Illya had control of his mind again, and he found himself regretting that there was not enough haze left to let him cry for the poor bastard. "It has to come from inside," he said, his voice still little more than a soft whisper.

Napoleon looked at him. "What?"

"Strength." He relied on Napoleon for many things: warmth, joy, companionship, love, but he had always been strong himself. He would have died long before they ever met if it had been otherwise.

Illya nestled up against Napoleon’s chest and listened to the music of his steady heartbeat. Still alive, still his. There were was nothing about that heart that he did not know, and it had left him with only one fervent wish -- that Napoleon would die before he did. For despite the horrible pain Napoleon’s death would cause him, Illya knew that he could go on, but Napoleon would shatter. Poor Ivan, you had it wrong. It is not me who was like you, but Napoleon.

"I should go see how the A-Team is doing," Napoleon said, obviously reluctant to leave him.

"No need, 007," Hannibal smirked, walking into the room. "The situation is well in hand. The kid all right?"

"The kid is fine," Illya growled, his voice an indignant squeak that did little to disprove the point, and he felt the chuckle Napoleon managed to swallow.

Hannibal’s grin broadened, then faded as he caught sight of Trigorin’s body. "Guess I’d better do something about that," he said, pulling a soiled sheet from the bed to cover the body.

"He can rot for all I care," Napoleon muttered.

"No," Illya protested. "Don’t hate him."

"Dammit, Illya, he raped you. Twice."

"No, Napasha. He didn’t even touch me. I wasn’t even really here."

Napoleon looked far from convinced, but at least he changed the subject. "Can you stand?"

Somehow, having the body covered allowed the mood in the room to lighten a bit, and Illya fell into a familiar pattern of banter. "No, but I thought you enjoyed carrying me."

Napoleon’s lower jaw shifted. "Tovarish, there is a rather heavy difference between carrying you and lifting you while I try to stand up."

"Oh." Opting for the obvious solution to the problem, Illya shifted out of his partner’s lap, a movement that had more in common with the flopping of a dead fish than with his usual grace.

Again Napoleon managed to swallow the laughter. Illya glared at him. "You’ll hurt yourself if you keep doing that."

"Then stop making me do it," he shot back, getting to his feet. A fast check of the closets found a reasonably soft blanket that had nothing to do with the bed. "Ready to go home, gorgeous?" he asked, holding it out.

Via the U.N.C.L.E. infirmary. Illya scowled at him, wondering just who Napoleon thought he was kidding. "I do not need a doctor."

"Of course you don’t," Napoleon agreed immediately and with utter insincerity. "Um, Hannibal could you give me a hand here?"

They both studied the problem for a moment, while Illya sat on the floor and fumed, then Hannibal said, "I think I should hold the blanket, you get the kid."

"Brilliant," Napoleon answered at the same moment Illya snarled, "I am not a kid."

They ignored him, of course. Napoleon pulled him to his feet, then held him there, while Hannibal draped and tucked the blanket around Illya, careful to keep his arms free, then Napoleon simply swept him up off his feet. "Ah, all nice and cozy."

Hannibal beamed. "I love it when a plan comes together."

Illya refrained from comment, but gave them both a menacing glare. This time Napoleon did laugh, for which he would pay dearly later. Still, it did feel cozy, and he was rather tired. As he was carried out the door, he found himself cuddling up against Napoleon, something that must have been a precious sight, for he heard Murdock go, "Awwww," then the man burst into song.

"When somebody loves you, it’s no good unless he loves you all the way...."

Hannibal sighed. "Old Blue Eyes is back."

"A most interesting choice of songs," Illya whispered, his sadness returning. He felt Napoleon’s hold tighten into a brief hug, and he looked up into shining brown eyes. Perhaps he would let him make just a few promises.

The End