Napoleon had been sitting beside his partner's bed in the infirmary in the Berlin UNCLE office for two days. He had debriefed on the mission just concluded to his superior, Alexander Waverly, but did not feel that leaving Illya to recover in Berlin on his own was a good idea. There was just something about the damage his partner had taken and the disturbing amount of time it was taking for him to come back to consciousness. Illya's repeated attempts to yank off the bandage on his neck were also of concern.
"Come on, partner. You've had the transfusions. You're supposed to be awake and healing." Napoleon ignored the first reaction he had to the pale, unconscious form of his partner laying so still on the bare surface of the stone sarcophagus lid. The cemetery was one of the few to survive bombing damage. Napoleon located his partner inside and ancient looking mausoleum. Nothing had felt right since.
A low moan attracted his attention. The rapid movement of Illya's eyes under his closed lids indicated he was dreaming again. He shifted, his free hand heading for his throat again. Napoleon leaned over and grabbed the wandering hand.
"Illya, dammit. Wake up."
Illya started. Slowly, his eyes opened. He frowned, trying to bring his eyes into focus on the familiar face. He blinked sleepily. The sun was coming up outside the eastern facing window. He frowned at that and muttered something about Napoleon going home before the sun rose.
"What are you talking about?"
Illya shook his head slightly, the cobwebs of his dreams and injuries clearing. He thought about what he'd just said and disengaged his hand from Napoleon's. "You've been here all night. You probably need sleep," he said much more clearly. He met Napoleon's dark gaze directly. He read worry in those eyes. "What's wrong?"
"It's taken you three days to wake up, partner."
Illya's frown deepened. Three days. Three days. There was something about the length of time that worried him, but he couldn't latch onto it. "Must've been worse than I thought."
"No. That's what's had everyone worried."
He blinked. "I'm missing something."
"What's the last thing you remember?"
"Chernin – he – had a knife. He slashed at me with it. There was – a civilian?" He found his memories muddled. It was dark. He was in an alley. The sound of lightly running footsteps came toward him. A young woman, all long dark curls and frightened eyes, materialized out of the darkness. She stopped, looked back over her shoulder and fear drove her on, trying to get around him. The huge bulk of Chernin loomed up behind her, reaching out for the woman, a knife in his other hand.
"A woman. A young woman. She – Did I hit my head?"
Napoleon let out a half laugh. "No. But you almost bled to death."
"Where did you run into Chernin?"
"The alley behind the warehouse."
Solo's eyebrows rose. "That's miles from where I found you."
Illya looked suspicious. "And where was that?"
Illya lurched up, vague unease turning into sharp fear. Napoleon reached to push him back down, but the slighter man was already leaning back into his pillows. "A graveyard?"
The blue eyes were cloudy looking, then he turned his gaze on his partner to see if he was getting his leg pulled again. It was a favorite ploy of the American. "In or out of the casket?" he asked blandly.
"On top of the sarcophagus."
"That's not funny."
"Neither was hearing that you were four and a half quarts low on blood."
Illya ignored the feeling of panic that engendered. "I survived."
"Still reflect in mirrors, too," Solo reassured him lightly.
Now that sounded like the partner he was used to.
Two hours later, the two agents were on the way to the airport. Illya still looked a bit pale, but he felt much better than when he first awakened. His blood analysis finally came back and there were traces of an unidentified compound in his blood. It was the opinion of the doctors that this accounted for the length of his sleep after the transfusions and for any continued lethargy he felt. They sent samples by courier to New York in case the lethargy continued and an antidote was needed.
Illya awoke the next morning in his own apartment with a feeling of being watched. He checked all his security measures, looked out the window and tried to shake off the feeling. He looked at his face in the mirror after his shower. He looked tired. He'd talk to the labs after he checked in to UNCLE NY HQ this morning and see if anyone had started looking for an antidote. He didn't like feeling this tired with no reason.
He ate breakfast, perusing a new article in one of his scientific journals. Thump. He jumped; reached for the gun he wasn't wearing and took a quick survey of his apartment. The window? He eased over to the small aperture and looked out. On the fire escape just outside there was a small fuzzy brown lump with leathery wings. It seemed to pull itself together, shake its small head and get to its feet, using the thumb hooks on its wings to help. It turned toward the window. That was an ugly face. As it waddled to the edge of the landing, he realized he knew that face. The bat took wing and headed for shadows while Illya was trying to correlate one small vampire bat with early morning in New York. His appetite disappeared.
Napoleon Solo, well groomed and as debonair as ever, entered UNCLE's New York headquarters through the secret entrance in Del Floria's dry cleaning shop. The lovely young lady at the desk just inside the hidden entrance pinned his customary badge to his lapel. The badge acted as a passport through the many levels of UNCLE's security. A second very attractive young lady met him in the hall leading to his office.
"Yes?" He looked the redhead over appreciatively. "Miss Nerjini, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is, Mr. Solo. Mr. Kuryakin would like to see you. He's in the lab. He said you'd know which one."
"Ah, yes. Thank you." His eyes lingered on the retreating figure of the woman, but his thoughts were on his partner. Why in the world would Illya want him in the lab unless the mystery content in his blood sample was worrying him. Napoleon, all consideration of possible dalliance evaporated from his thoughts, headed to the lab level.
"Illya?" In spite of Mr. Waverly's insistence that partners should maintain a working relationship and no more, he couldn't quite conceal the concern in his voice. The man looked tired. "Weren't you supposed to take a couple of days off?"
"Probably," the pre-occupied Russian agreed. That was a bad sign.
"The lab counts as R & R?"
Illya looked up from the notes he was studying. "No." The response was blunt, but no more so than usual. He frowned at his partner. "What would you say if I told you that the substance they couldn't identify was a virus?"