Genre: Man from UNCLE
Word Count: 1559
For gevr who posted a shot of a truly freaked out looking Illya and wondering what could have scared him so. My thanks to her and to sparky955 for her beta.
Illya stared up at the ceiling in his room. It was a familiar sight by now. Having been bedridden with a severely infected leg, he’d passed the better part of the week studying that ceiling. However, today was different. After a week of non-stop pestering and complaining, Mr. Waverly had relented. Today he was heading home… well, almost home.
Since his apartment building had no elevator, Napoleon convince Illya that his own apartment would be a better choice. Illya didn’t really much care about where he stayed as long as it was well away from Medical and its constant smell of antiseptic. And most of all he was ready to be done with the bland tasteless meals. No matter what, they always punctuate by a large bowl of Jell-O for dessert. Illya was ready to be well rid of them and ready to eat something of substance, something that didn’t jiggle and shimmer in the fluorescent lights.
“Are you ready?” Napoleon appeared with a wheelchair and a nurse clutching a clipboard.
“This is a list of what he can and can’t do.”
“I’ll make sure he obeys it to the letter.” He gave Illya an exaggerated wink. Medical knew how well Section Two agents followed Medical orders.
“You’ll love the guest bedroom, Illya. There’s a private bathroom and it gets plenty of light.” Napoleon helped Illya transfer from the wheelchair to the car. “And privacy.” There was a slight curling of Napoleon’s lips. “Lots and lots of privacy.”
“Any place is better than here,” Illya muttered, trying not to jar his leg and he made his way into the passenger seat. It ached from this small effort and the smallest doubt nagged at the back of his mind that perhaps this was too soon. When he saw Napoleon’s downfallen face, he instant slapped himself. “I’m sorry, my friend. I do appreciate your generosity and I know it will be both comfortable and restful. I am sure it will be wonderful.”
“It’s okay,” Napoleon said with a smile. “I know what you are going through and you are right. Any place is better than Medical. Despite the lovely nurse, anywhere is preferred. I’ll try to not hit all the pot holes from between here and there.”
But he didn’t miss many of them. By the time they arrived, Illya’s leg ached and pounded in time with his heart. It throbbed so much that it made his ear ache and his vision swim. It was still too early to take another painkiller, so he gritted his teeth and prayed for the strength to hold out long enough to get back into bed. All he needed to do was stretch out and he’d be fine.
Napoleon pulled up in front of his apartment building and parked, racing around to help Illya from the car.
“I can do it,” Illya said through clenched teeth.
“I know you can, but it will be easier if I help. What are partners for?” Napoleon eased him out and left Illya clutching the car door for support long enough to grab a pair of crutches from the back seat. “Here you go.”
Illya maneuvered the crutches into place and started the slow, awkward path to Napoleon’s apartment. The contrast between his tiny place nestled in between nondescript row houses and Napoleon’s apartment were day and night. Illya’s Brooklyn Heights apartment was tiny, dingy and loud. He could hear his neighbors, the traffic outside, even planes. But it was his and his alone. He didn’t have to share with anyone and when he was there, he could do as he wished.
Napoleon’s place, on the other hand, was in upper Manhattan at an address that made many New Yorkers sigh. The carpeting was thick and lush, the corridors and apartments designed with the resident’s comfort at heart. His building even came complete with a doorman and, mostly importantly, an elevator. As much as Illya wished he was home, he never would have made it up all those flights of stairs.
Once in the elevator, Illya leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. Music played softly, some inane five-note song over and over. He’d heard it before, but couldn’t put his finger on it.
“Are you in much pain?” At Illya’s slight nod, Napoleon patted him on the shoulder. “When we get there, you go straight in and go to bed. I’ll bring you something to help wash the pills down.”
“Thanks, Napoleon. I really do appreciate this.”
“Hey, who play nursemaid to me when I got the terrible food poisoning?”
Illya managed a smile at that thought. “True.” The elevator stopped and Napoleon kept the door open until Illya had cleared it. Then Napoleon quickly headed down the corridor and opened the door to his apartment.
“It’s the first door on the left.” Napoleon pointed in a haphazard direction as he locked up and engaged the alarm. “There, no one will bother us now. You can rest easy.”
Illya nodded and carefully moved down the short hall. A door stood slightly ajar, so he pushed it open and stepped inside, only to stop and gasp.
The entire room glistened and gleamed as the sunlight played across their jeweled surfaces. He moved slightly and the chair next to him jiggled in response. He touched it and his finger poked a shallow hole in its cushion. Reflexively, he brought the finger to his nose and then his tongue.
“Jell-O?” Surely, that wasn’t possible. He knew if could be molded, but not like this.
He heard a noise and looked over his shoulder at Napoleon, who was approaching with a tray. On it was a glass of water and a bowl of…
“No!” Illya tried to retreat, but the rug clung to his ankles, trapping him in place. “Not… not… that”
“Yup, Jell-O. The medical staff told me how much you love the stuff, so I wanted you to be comfortable.” Napoleon studied the room proudly. “This took us a while to concoct and it’s a little soft now, but once the sun goes down, it firms right up. Try the bed. It’s raspberry.”
“I don’t… I can’t…” Illya struggled to move now, but his legs were held in a vise like grip.
“Oh, sorry.” Napoleon set down the tray and scooped him up as if he were a mere child. He carried and dropped Illya onto the bed. It was like being tossed onto a balloon filled with water. He bobbed and rocked, his leg screaming a never-ending protest.
“Napoleon, let me go. This isn’t right. I need to leave – NOW!”
“On that? Napoleon pointed to Illya’s leg. “You need to wait for the process to finish.”
“Oh, it’s a little uncomfortable, but you’ll get used to it.” Napoleon leaned over and tore open Illya’s pants leg. His leg was a frightening green.
Illya stared at it, sick to his stomach. “Gangrene?”
“Lime.” Napoleon yanked his own shirt open. “Don’t worry. I’m Jell-O, too.” He scooped a finger out of his stomach. “It’s cherry. I’m delicious. Try me.”
“NO!” Illya sat straight up and Napoleon glanced over from the doorway where he was conferring with Illya’s nurse.
“Illya, what’s wrong?” He was immediately at his partner’s side. “Are you okay?”
The nurse came up with a thermometer and stuck it into his mouth. She placed a cool hand on Illya’s forehead and he leaned into it. “He’s burning up. Stay with him.” She ran from the room, shouting, “Doctor!”
Illya grabbed for Napoleon who easily evaded the hands. “Illya, you need to be still.”
“My leg, my leg.”
Napoleon pulled the sheet back. “What’s wrong with it?” The doctor raced in at that point and Napoleon said, “He says his leg.”
“Oh, god.” There was a stinging in his arm and then nothing but cooling darkness.
He opened his eyes and stared up at the familiar ceiling.
“Hey, look who’s awake.” Napoleon came into view. “How are you feeling?”
“Better. What happened?”
“Your leg. That infection was a lot worse than they thought. If you hadn’t been here, you probably would have lost it. Good thing I didn’t take you home like I planned.”
“Undo your shirt,” Illya murmured
Napoleon loosened his tie, his expression confused but obliging. “Um, Illya… ah, I know what you’ve heard about me, but really…”
Tan skin met his eyes and Illya pressed a finger against the firm muscle. “You’re not Jell-O.”
“Coach Bryon might disagree. He says I’m getting soft. We’re going to have to push your release date back a few days.”
Illya found himself nodding and breathing deeply. “Yes… yes, I think that is best.”
“Okay, then. You… ah, get some sleep, partner.” Napoleon backed away, buttoning his shirt, his gaze never wavering from Illya.
“Yes… I will.” Illya leaned back against the pillow and heaved a sigh of relief.
The nurse appeared just then. “How is he doing?”
“Not bad, but he’s just going to sleep.”
“Oh, I brought him some Jell-O, his favorite.”
“I think he’s got Jell-O on the brain right now. Maybe you can try later with something else, maybe something chocolate.”
“He’s going to look funny in chocolate.”
Illya’s eyes snapped open and he stared at the pair. That’s when he realize the nurse was holding a fondue pot and Napoleon just started to grin.