Illya Kuryakin opened his eyes and immediately frowned. There was something he was supposed to be doing, wasn't there? He sat up and looked around at the confusion that surrounded him. He was lying on a gurney set to one side and Illya wondered why. He felt okay. He felt better than okay. He felt like he'd had a snootful of Mother Russia's finest nectar and, damn, did he have to pee.
Illya rubbed an eye and looked at the elastic bandage that wrapped the hand. Okay, that was…okay. He got down from the gurney and almost clipped his chin as his legs buckled and he very nearly collapsed to the ground. After some firmly-issued commands, Illya got his legs splayed enough to actually achieve something close to a standing position. One issue solved, now to the problem of obtaining a little privacy.
The streets were crowded with emergency vehicles and the usual gawkers. Illya looked around and wondered what had happened. He couldn't really… he snapped his fingers. Well, he tried, but his fingertips seemed to have developed a mind of their own. Napoleon would know… so where was Napoleon?
Illya scanned the crowd, but didn't see his partner. Well, if he wasn't here, he must be home. Illya would go there now… no, first he'd find an alley or something. Straightening his jacket and tie as best he could with his free thinking fingers, he staggered a step and then two into the gray afternoon.
This had been Charlie Frye's first real assignment. He'd been on a few milk runs, but this time they'd gone out on a courier drop. Sure Kuryakin was keeping an eye on them, but he was calling the shots. Or at least he was until a truck sideswiped a bus and started a chain reaction. He and his partner had been okay, but Kuryakin had been in the line of fire. At first, they both thought he was dead, but the paramedics assured them that he was mostly just banged up. "Where is he?"
"Who he?" Colin Monroe pulled his attention from watching the firemen trying to wrench a door open to free a trapped woman. Both he and Charlie had tried to help, but after being led firmly to the sidelines and told to stay put, they finally had.
"Colin, I'm serious, where's Kuryakin?"
"Over on the stretcher." Colin pointed over his shoulder and grimaced at the sound of groaning metal.
"No, he's not."
"He had a frigging truck parked on him and a million milligrams of pain medication, it isn't as if he could just get up and walk away..." Colin turned to gesture at the… empty gurney? "Where the hell is he?"
"I am so not making this call to Waverly." Charlie handed the communicator to his partner.
"But where the hell is he?"
Horace Starr was a man whose life was a picture of the mundane. His career with THRUSH hadn't been bad – he was a secret agent after all, but he still had to change his own sheets and do his own dishes. He'd been in the field for years and had nothing to show for it, not even a scar. His life was safe - well as safe as one can be when carrying a weapon- boring, and predictable. He wished that just once something exciting would happen. Something that would make his superiors at THRUSH Central sit up and take notice of what swell guys he and his partner were.
Larry DeRecco was just the opposite of his partner. He enjoyed the fact that they were both just months from leaving the field. Strangely enough, he was a man who really didn't care for violence. He'd gotten into THRUSH by accident and never quite got around to leaving… Where Horace bemoaned the fact that nothing ever seemed to turn in their favor, i.e. no gun battles, no car chases, no hassles, Larry celebrated that fact each and every day. He liked the quiet and the non-risky path his life had taken. Who needed excitement?
"Larry, look! Over there!"
"Huh?" He'd been working a crossword puzzle during their lunch break. They had been scheduled to intercept a courier, but the whole thing had ended up in this fourteen-vehicle pile-up. Problem solved and all it had taken was a little rewiring on his part to make all those traffic lights turn green at once. The UNCLE agents were history, the drop was scuttled and they got an extra long lunch hour. It would have been nice if the sun was shining, but you couldn't have everything.
"It's Kuryakin!" Sure enough, the blond was swaying down the other side of the boulevard, seemingly unaware or unconcerned with his surroundings. Every few feet, he stopped and then lurched forward again.
"It can't be Kuryakin. He's dead."
Horace grabbed Larry's head and swung it around. "Then who is that?"
"My God, it is Kuryakin. He looks dead. He walks like he is."
"We bag him, we are on Easy Street for the rest of our careers. You get him, you get Solo. Solo, you have an Express train to Waverly." Horace was on his feet. "Come on!"
Illya frowned and glanced down an alley. It didn't look as if he was going to have much more opportunity than he did here. Mid step he changed direction and staggered down the alley. At least there was a trash dumpster he could lean against.
He actually managed to get his fly down and not piss on his shoes. His fingers permitted him that dignity, although few others. He'd just carefully tucked himself away when he noticed a subway token. Very cool, he wouldn't have to walk to Napoleon's place, he'd just ride the subway. There was a stop down the street from Nap… no, wait, was that his apartment? He was confused now, but that didn't prevent him for bending down and nearly toppling into a pile of garbage pails. Still he was eventually successful and stood upright triumphantly and nearly passed out. Oh, he had to get to Napoleon's apartment…
"Where is he?" Larry wasn't amused. "He was right here a second ago."
It had taken them nearly five minutes to get across the road. They didn't dare to jaywalk. There was a cop watching them closely. Or at least it felt as if he was. So they were solid upright citizens who used the crosswalk and obeyed the traffic lights. And they were rewarded like this.
"Crap, he couldn't have gone far, not walking the way he was." That was when Horace spotted the subway entrance. He pointed and Larry nodded in agreement. They raced down the wrong side of the stairs, pushing aside people as they did.
Once on the platform, they pushed, shoved, in short, acted like two men desperate to catch the boarding train. Once on board, there was a mad scurry to either end of the train. Larry popped out a minute or so before Horace and hunched his shoulders as he shook his head.
That's when they both saw Kuryakin staggering into the middle car, then out, then in as if he couldn't quite make up his mind.
Illya stood there, trying to remember if Napoleon's apartment building was on a subway line or if it was a bus line. His head, while apparently still attached - he'd checked, felt as if it was taking a slight break from reality. Colors seemed to have sounds and sights seemed to have taste.
He was about to lurch off the subway one more time when the train started and he dropped. Just then a very large woman, resplendent with a full day's worth of pillaging came to stand by him. She was obviously getting into position to depart at the next stop. She looked down at him and shook her head.
Illya tried to get to his feet, but with the movement of the train and the samba his knees were dancing to, he couldn't even quite achieve a kneeling position. When he figured out just what the hell vodka he'd been drinking, he'd make sure to avoid it in the future.
There was a flurry of activity around him and the train banked, sending him ass over teakettle. Some people raced by; he could see their feet as they passed.
"Enough," he muttered and crawled backwards until he ran into the woman's legs. "Pardon me."
"Sir, are you all right?"
"I don't think so… not really." He sat back and heard the woman gasp. He brought a dirty hand to his face and sighed.
"Sir, we have to get you to the hospital."
"No, I just need to find Napoleon. He knows what happened; he knows everything… somehow."
"Sweetheart, you need to lower your voice," the woman cautioned, smiling as the subway employee walked by. "They'll throw you off the train if they think you're drunk."
"I think I am drunk… or something, I feel very… peculiar." Illya paused then. "Napoleon would know."
"No, his bones are together…" Then Illya laughed, sort of… "Solo, my partner… he can… he will… do you know Napoleon?"
"No, but I think you'd better come home with me." She wrapped an arm around his waist as the car lurched to a stop.
"No, that's what Napoleon does; I'm not allowed to go home with beautiful women." Illya shook his head sadly. He brought a swollen finger to his lips. "And you are very pretty."
"Well thank you." She helped him from the train and turned to pick up her packages.
Illya saw an exit sign and headed towards it, helped along by a sudden crush of people. When he finally managed to fight his way clear, he was standing in front of Central Park. How the hell did that happen?
"I don't see him anywhere, Larry."
"But he's on the train, we saw him get on."
"Maybe he spotted us and ducked out."
"He wasn't moving very fast. I don't think so." Horace sighed and ran a hand through his short cropped hair. "Son of a … look!" He pointed through a grimy and scratched window. "There he goes!"
And the train lurched into movement again.
"And here we go. We'll have to double back."
"I can't believe this," Charlie muttered, sitting on the bench and rubbing one foot. "According to the ambulance drivers, he shouldn't have even been conscious enough to breathe, much less walk."
"Well, we've all heard the stories…" Colin leaned back and stared up at the sky. "At least the rain has held…" A few drops splattered his face. "…off. Any idea why he's headed this way?"
"Only one. Solo lives around here. I hear the senior agents have aome sort of sonar… radar… something that lets them home in on each other. I might be wrong, but I'd bet bed knobs to broomsticks he heads in this direction."
"Let's find us a nice mounted police officer and see if he'll get the word out for us."
Had they tarried just a few minutes more, Illya would have practically fallen into their laps. Illya tried to call to them as he watched them walk away. At least he knew where he was now. Central Park, a bit of wild in the midst of the City and Napoleon's apartment complex was… He looked around, trying to figure out exactly where he was. He didn't remember the park being this big… or maybe he'd just gotten smaller, like Alice after eating that cake thing…
Illya started to move again for he feared that he'd fall if he stayed still. People were either openly staring at him or shying away. He'd checked his zipper, just in case… he had no clue. Oh, there was a tire print across his chest. That was interesting. He slammed into a brown wall and staggered back.
"You need a little help, son?" The mounted policeman gestured to his partner and dismounted.
Illya pointed to his shirt and then looked up at him. "I think something happened."
"Mary, Mother of God, Clarence, call for an ambulance."
Illya gestured and became transfixed by his hand. "Oh, they already did that. Do you know where Napoleon is?"
"Probably in his tomb back in France."
"No, my Napoleon." He patted himself on the chest and nearly knocked himself from his feet. "I feel a little funny."
"I'm not surprised." The policeman led him to a bench. "Why don't you sit down?"
"I'm not?" Illya sighed again. "Oh, I don't feel well."
"Again, not surprised." He got Illya planted on the bench and went back to his partner. "How's the ambulance coming?"
"It's on its way. There's an APB out on this guy."
"It's okay, I got him over on the bench."
Illya had gotten tired of them talking. He wasn't getting any younger, you know. He got up and took a few steps and crashed through a bush. He stumbled, flailed and half ran down the path. A tree suddenly jumped in front of him and Illya twisted, coming to a stop on a fairly comfortable pile of detritus.
But this wasn't Napoleon's… but this was nice and he was so tired. Illya took a deep breath and nearly inhaled a leaf. No, he spoke firmly to his limbs; they giggled back at him. Oh, someone was going to pay for making him feel like this.
Illya watched the two policemen who'd pestered him by putting a horse in his way run by. He wanted to call out to them, but couldn't exactly remember if they were helping or hindering him. He would have to ask Napoleon. Where the hell was Napoleon?
"Are you sure he's in the park? Why would he come here?"
"That's what the ticket guy said. As bashed up as he is, Kuryakin makes an impression." Horace grimaced as the rain spit down on him. "This is just what the hell we need." He pointed to a clump of trees. "Let's take a short cut through there. The museum is on the other side."
"Museum? In his condition?"
"To see if anyone's seen him. You are so frigging thick at times."
Larry followed after him, wondering just how much longer he was going to put up with this crap. They hadn't reported in, which was going to mean a reprimand. If they brought Kuryakin back, the chances of their superiors going easy on them would be a gimme. No Kuryakin, and life could be grim.
They just started down the path when Horace grabbed Larry's arm and pointed. "Look, it's him."
There was no mistaking the blond or his sort of sideways stagger.
"Finally." Larry ran forward and grabbed the UNCLE agent's arm. "Hold it right there, Kuryakin."
Rule No. Three in the THRUSH handbook was never surprise an UNCLE agent without suitable backup. Larry never even knew what hit him.
Something grabbed Illya's arm and an afternoon of confusion, exhaustion, and just plain annoyance shot through Illya and went directly into his fist. He spun and slammed it into the face of the guy who'd caught him. The blow knocked the guy backwards and before Illya could think to apologize, there was another fellow there, trying to crush him in a bear hug. Or maybe he was just being really friendly. Illya didn't know; Illya didn't care. He broke the clutch by slamming his elbows back.
The first guy was trying to stand, so Illya hit him again, just because he wanted to. The second guy, he got a solid kick to the stomach and a knee to the chin. Adrenaline started pumping through Illya's veins, giving him more energy than he'd had for the last few hours.
When he was sure neither of them was moving, he reached into his jacket pocket and found his ID card. He stuck it on one of the fallen men's forehead, but it wouldn't stay there. He made a face and licked the back of it and tried again. Ah, sweet success, not to be spoiled by the nasty taste the card had left on Illya's tongue. He staggered on.
The doorman blinked and slapped a hand over his mouth when he saw Illya. Illya was getting really, really tired of this. He needed a mirror or something.
"Mmmmmr. Kuryakin… ha… haow are you?"
"Is Napoleon here?" Illya tried to put a plaintive edge on the question, but honestly he was more annoyed than anything else. That bastard had better be here after all Illya went through.
"I think he's arriving in just a few minutes. Why don't you go on through?"
"Okay, great…" Illya somehow managed to get through the door, it had been harder than the bushes and stumbled through the lobby. He got to a bank of elevators and after a moment, punched the up button. The door opened and Illya walked in as casually as he could.
As the elevator moved up, he glanced over and shook his head. "If you don't mind me saying so sir, you look like shit." He was unaware that it was his reflection; he just decided the guy was too good to answer him.
He found Napoleon's door just as a woman was walking out. Typical, I'm staggering all over the city and he's screwing. That was when Illya realized it was the cleaning lady.
"Trudy," he said, happily. "Please tell me he's in."
After she finished the apparently obligatory stare, he'd finally figured out that it had to be some weird American holiday or tradition or something, she stepped aside. "Why don't you wait for him in there?"
Illya had never been so happy to be in Napoleon's apartment. The familiarity of it settled around him. After a minute, he wrestled his way out of his jacket and holster, stopping to wonder where he'd lost his gun. He attempted to hang them on the coat rack, but all the little hangie thingies kept dropping the jacket, so after the third attempt, he just left it on the floor. At least he'd know where it was.
Then came the shoes and oh, that made his left foot feel so much better, lighter, almost. Illya continued to undress until he was down to his underwear. Oh, it just felt so good to stand there in the air conditioning… and then Illya spotted Napoleon's bedroom. Surely his partner wouldn't mind…
Charlie Frye bolted out of the elevator the moment the doors permitted such a thing, then he slammed to a stop so fast that his partner nearly knocked him off his feet.
"What the hell are you playing at?" Colin Monroe wasn't amused. He'd stopped being amused when an incident of two men down in the park came over his communicator. It had come as something of a shock to see Kuryakin's ID card stuck onto the forehead of one of the THRUSH agents. Pumped to his teeth with pain meds and he was still able to take down two enemy agents. Oh, the tall tales this would generate.
Waverly was standing at Solo's door and both junior agents immediately started to back pedal towards the only escape route.
"Ah, gentlemen, why don't you join the party?" Solo's voice was definitely not that of a happy camper.
"Mr. Solo, Mr. Waverly, what are you doing here?"
"Would either of you gentleman want to explain to me why I have a half naked UNCLE agent in my bed?"
"You have really good taste?" Colin tried and Charlie punched him hard in the arm.
"Ow… no, no, sir, no explanation at all, but I bet it's going to be a lulu when Kuryakin tells it."
Illya slowly opened one of his eyes and turned his head to see what time it was. Or rather tried to, that motion alone made him groan involuntarily as the pain shot through him. He felt as if he'd been dragged behind a train. Everything hurt from his eyebrows down to his toenails.
"Take it easy, partner." Illya shifted only his eyes this time and then realized he wasn't in his bed or even Medical.
"Napoleon, what am I doing in your bed? And why am I in my underwear?"
"We were sort of hoping you could tell us. I just got in from Brussels and found your stuff all over my apartment. What's the last thing you remember?"
"Ah… courier drop… something happened… I don't… oh, I don't feel well."
"The doc just left or would you like me to call him back or to go to Medical?"
"Not necessarily… I just…" Napoleon held up two small white pills and a glass. "Oh, yes, please." It was a bare whisper. Napoleon helped him sit up enough to swallow the medicine and then eased him back down.
"You don't remember anything?"
"No, not really… I just… really needed to tell you something." Illya touched his face gently, even that hurt like hell. Napoleon wrung out a washcloth and settled it over Illya's forehead. "Thank you."
"Illya, you walked away from a massive traffic accident that, from what I was told ended up parked squarely on your chest. You have a tire print on your stomach."
"My shirt… you mean…"
"No, your stomach." Napoleon moved the washcloth to one cheek. "You were pulled from the wreckage and given pain meds once they stabilized you. You apparently decided that you had another agenda. And you captured two THRUSH agents along with everything else."
"Yes, I told you, I needed to tell you something."
"Don't remember now." The pills were starting to kick in and a nice little 'who gives a rat's ass' feeling was settling around him. He could hear music… Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours maybe? "I just knew I needed to get here."
"Well that will do for now."
Then he remembered and he started to struggle back out of the soft fuzzy pit he'd nearly fallen into. "I 'member now. Napoleon, I remem.."
"What is it, Illya?
"You good partner." If Napoleon answered, Illya didn't know. Illya could sort of feel Napoleon's patting something, but Illya couldn't tell what. He didn't care, he'd gotten here and that was what mattered. For now, that was enough and Illya suspected it always would be.