David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came to Jonathan and asked1 "What have I done? What is my offense? How have I sinned before your father? For he is seeking my life!" Jonathan said to him, "By no means are you going to die! My father does nothing large or small without making me aware of it. Why would my father hide this matter from me? It just won't happen!" Taking an oath, David again said, "Your father is very much aware of the fact that I have found favor with you, and he has thought, 'Don't let Jonathan know about this, or he will be upset.' But as surely as the Lord lives and you live, there is about one step between me and death!"

Jonathan replied to David, "Tell me what I can do for you."

I Samuel 20.3-4

One Step

Illya Kuryakin sat huddled in the corner of a dark room, knees pulled up tight to his chest. He closed his hands over the top of his head as he pushed himself into a ball, head down as low as he could physically manage without doing more damage to his already aching body. Blood ran in slow rivulets from the gash above his left eye making him feel dizzy as well as hopeless. He knew he had at least one broken rib, a result of the beating he had endured at the hands of the enemy. Beyond that he didn't try to conjecture. It would matter very little once his captors had disposed of the body, something that seemed eminent now as he waited for the bullet they boldly promised to provide.

'Enemy, friend…what did it matter now?' the niggling question of loyalties no longer concerned him. They had determined that he must die, had convicted him of crimes that had no defining parameters, only the blind prejudice of political zeal and professional envy, he surmised. That he had the devotion of at least one American, he had no doubt. Still, where was he now? Had they similarly eliminated that threat; was his partner also a target of this scheme?

It seemed so long ago that his life had felt settled, finally, and he had enjoyed a long awaited sense of contentment in his new environment. Many days had been spent trying to adjust to life in America after years of relocation in Europe; Russia, France and England had preceded what he hoped would be a longer sojourn in New York as a member of UNCLE's elite section two. The emergence of something totally unexpected had been his friendship with Napoleon. It was an unprecedented event in the Russian's life to meet someone who could invade what had been a solitary existence built upon the need for survival, from childhood onward. You could have an acquaintanceship with many people, but he knew that true friendship might occur with only a very few. Napoleon was one of the few, quickly tied to him as though fated, if he believed in such things. To consider, now, that his friend's life might also be snuffed out because of his stubborn allegiance to the hated Russian agent caused an aching in his soul so deep that he reckoned he would willingly give up his own life in order to save the American. If only it were an option. He knew it was not.

There were stories handed down through his family, on his mother's side, of connections to the Romanoffs, the tragically deposed royalty of Russia. The Czars had a history of nobility and neglect, and an abominable pride for which they had paid dearly in the glorious revolution, and of which he was often accused. The irony of his demise now, at the hands of this new breed of political zealot in a foreign land did not escape him. Whether or not the tales were true, he was being led to the slaughter amid the frenzied shouts of a different type of proletariat, that segment of the intelligence community whose only possession of significant material value is their labor; in this case, the ridding of America of his particular subversive influence. They would feel avenged of some sense of nationalistic intrusion once he was gone, as though it would contribute to the balance of power being restored in their favor.

He decided to look up and face the executioner, the blue eyes regaining the icy resolve of defiance and, without a doubt, pride. He would not die like this, in a posture of defeat and guilt. He had done nothing to violate his trust with UNCLE, nor the United States of America. It would cost him nothing to refuse to betray the resolve of his innocence. The guilt would be all theirs, and the questions that would come later they would answer with lies or truth, but his legacy would not be doubted due to his submission to their accusations. He hoped they would not kill his friend, and that was all that remained for him in these last moments.

"Sit down Kuryakin. I didn't tell you to get up, you commie bast…" He was silenced before the insult could be completed. In a blast of activity, Napoleon was through the door, a sleep dart finding it's mark as the offending voice fell with it's host to the floor. Two more UNCLE agents held positions in the hallway as the dark haired American made his way to his injured partner.

The only impediment to the mission had been the time necessary to convince their superior, Alexander Waverly, that Illya was indeed alive, being held by some rogue CIA agents. The information had been sketchy at first, but within hours the proof of the abduction and intended execution had become clearly identified when one of their members had succumbed to truth serums and interrogation. Waverly had immediately waived all limits to the actions needed to secure one of their own from the grasp of this new enemy. "Very regrettable this", he had mumbled into his pipe. Everything that his organization stood for rebelled at the thought of this type of tyranny, the antithesis to his charter of peaceful coexistence.

"Illya, can you walk?" Solo's expression questioned him as well. His partner's appearance was haggard and drawn, blood had dried on his face and he was holding his right side, cradling it protectively.

"Yes, I am quite capable…" But he wasn't, and Napoleon was there instantly, at his side to support and propel him through the open door and out of the building to the waiting vehicle. The two accompanying agents trailed behind, making sure that their retreat was unhindered. They had secured the building, finding only the one hostile that had been in the room with Illya. Now they were clear to proceed back to headquarters. The all too familiar trip to medical was greeted with a ready staff, and the unconscious blond, bloodied and gaunt, was wheeled once more, as had too often been the case, into the ER.

Napoleon sat and considered how close it had been…again. He wondered what it would take to exonerate his Russian friend and partner in the eyes of the American intelligence community. Not all of them held the same mistrust, but still it seemed that most of them were unfriendly and waited, expectantly, for some offence or deception to occur. And, they suspected him by association. He and Illya would prove them wrong, even though the burden of proof rested in the hands of the accusers. It was ironic that Illya had come from a place where guilt was assumed, innocence rarely of consequence; and yet, it was here in the land of the free that he had to continually prove himself in the face of life threatening tasks, and in cases such as this, at the hands of those supposedly entrusted with guaranteeing the freedoms they so flagrantly violated.

It wasn't too long of a wait until the doctor came through the swinging doors, a guarded smile on his face as he delivered the news that the young man in his care would recover easily.

"Just a broken rib and the cut on his face, some bruising and dehydration. Otherwise, nothing too serious".

"No, nothing except the dread of facing it all again tomorrow", Napoleon said it mostly to himself, but it didn't escape the hearing of the solicitous physician. He understood only too well what these men endured, at least from a physical standpoint.

"He'll be in the next room…you can wait there if you like. He is going to recover from this, but I'm certain he'll be glad to have you there when he wakes up". Dr. Weston marveled at the devotion, their reciprocation of this process occurring time and again and without wavering. He also wondered what pushed them, energizing them for their pursuit; was it an ideology they represented, or the stubborn refusal to be undone by something more evil that their own weaknesses? He wasn't certain. He only knew that Solo would remain for hours, possibly days, until his friend was pronounced out of danger.

He also understood and yielded to the inevitability that in days or weeks or months from now, the scene would be repeated with one or the other of them at the bedside, willing his partner to live another day, the bonds of their devotion unbroken by hardship or opposition.

Napoleon watched as they brought his friend in on a gurney and transferred him onto the bed, then checked the IV line that provided the prescribed medications. A cup of ice chips was placed on the table next to him, and the lights were lowered to a comforting twilight effect. He scooted his chair to the bedside, content to stay there for as long as necessary. Illya would expect to find him there when he awoke, the routine the same as always to these two warriors.

"Always battling the Philistines, tovarisch. One of these days…" He wondered how long this would be required of them, duly noting however that it was not a matter of conscription, but the intensity of their very real sense of justice that had brought them here.

"Napoleon?" Illya turned his head expectantly, and blue eyes sought the figure of his friend in the shadowy environs, sensing he was there but not yet focused as he emerged from the anesthesia.

"Yes, I'm here. What took you so long?" The smile in his voice met his ears and he saw the familiar face overhead, a hand on his that offered the comfort of safety and filial compassion. "We got them all, Illya. They weren't sanctioned, so it's over".

"For now', the security of his friend's presence not altering the knowledge that it was never truly over.

"Thank you, moĭ brat. Ty v poryadke?" He slipped into his native tongue, the words more expressive in that vast language and indicative of his soon departure from wakefulness.

"Yes, I'm fine…not a hair out of place. Go back to sleep, I'm not leaving". As the words escaped his lips, the blond had closed his eyes, confident of his friend's safety and willing now to drift into an irresistible slumber.

The two friends both slept soundly in each other's silent company. For now they would be comforted by the irreversible depth of commitment and brotherhood for which neither had a reasonable explanation save for the recognition of the soul's desire to be a part of something beyond himself. The simplicity of the bond between brothers amidst the dangers of a world filled with war.

They had no doubt as to the power of one over the other.

Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, "The LORD is witness between you and me; and between your descendants and my descendants forever".

I Samuel 20.42