Incident in a Stairwell
by Debra Hicks
"Yes, sir." Murphy put the file down. "The Minister approved it."
"He would," Cowley said sarcastically.
"Said it would show our support for their organization."
Cowley looked up at the new agent. "Take care of your own doorstep before trying to clean someone else's." He sighed. "Who do they wait to see?"
"Macklin, for their survival school, McNeer for their computer section and four field agents: Ledoux and Bennett, Bodie and Doyle."
Cowley scowled. "Macklin will never leave England. Neither will Bennett or Ledoux, they've got families here. McNeer maybe." He looked thoughtful. "Maybe Doyle."
"Doyle?" Murphy questioned. "I would have put money on Bodie."
"Bodie's done his adventuring. But Doyle, Doyle's never been further than Paris. They can offer excitement, exotic places, important work." He stood and paced to the window. "And where goes Doyle, goes Bodie."
Murphy didn't comment. You didn't argue a fact. "Shall I clear him, sir?"
"Very well, tell the desk officer to send him to the briefing room. He can start with Ledoux. I'll be up to offer official greetings after I've briefed Bodie and Doyle."
The tall, dark agent held out a new stack of papers. "Last item, sir. Prisoner transfer. MI6 is here to claim Hoffman."
"And good riddance." Cowley sat down, pushed his glasses up and hastily scribbled what passed for his signature. "Anything else?"
Cowley stared down at his desk, hiding his faint smile. Murphy had been an outstanding constable, would be an even better field agent. All he needed was the right partner. Murphy was being patient, waiting for Cowley to make his choice, trusting in the man's talent for teaming men.
"Yes, sir." The other man gathered the scattering of papers, closed the door quietly behind him.
Cowley stood to stretch his bad leg, glanced out the window. It was still raining, cold and hard, lightning flashing in the dark clouds. Directly below a red Capri whipped in close to the curb and Ray Doyle hopped out. The car, with Bodie at the wheel, zipped away toward the underground car park. The CI5 controller smiled. Sometimes his instincts for teamings worked out even better than he would have hoped.
A slender blonde man, well dressed, and dry under a large umbrella, politely held the door for Doyle as he darted in. Doyle shook the water off his curls.
"Thanks." He headed for the stairs. The other man went toward the lift.
"No good," Doyle called, "it doesn't work."
"Thank you." The voice held a slight accent. "Perhaps you could tell me where to find Mr. George Cowley?"
"You'll have to check in first but then you can follow me," Doyle suggested.
Doyle waited as the man went to the desk and spoke briefly to the guard. The man rejoined him and Doyle lead the way up. As they reached the second landing Doyle heard the main door open. The blonde took the first few steps up the next section as Doyle turned to wait for his partner.
The world exploded in the thunder of gunshots. Cold pain hit Doyle in the side, the impact throwing him against the wall. The blonde slammed into him and they went down in a tangle of limbs, blood spotting the walls around them.
From somewhere far away Doyle heard Bodie shouting his name, then footsteps on the wood stairs. More shots thudded into the walls. He fought for breath, desperately wanting to yell a warning to his partner, tell him to get the hell off the stairs. But consciousness wavered and all his effort went into clinging to the edges of light. The shots stopped and for one fleeting moment Doyle wondered if Bodie were down as well. Then the reassuring sound of Bodie barking orders carried up to him.
Doyle could feel blood pooling under him, his body trembling, waited for the pain to start. He was facing the wall, on his side, with the other man partially covering him from the waist down. Very slowly, fighting the darkness and the fear of bringing down more shots, he inched his hand toward his inside jacket, got a hold on his R/T. He eased it close to his lips, locked the transmission button down.
"Bodie?" he whispered.
"Ray?" Relief was strong in Bodie's voice. "Are you okay?"
"Still up there."
Doyle felt a cold wind on his exposed back, the helplessness chilling each nerve. "I'm hit." There was a hiss of breath from Bodie. "So's the man with me."
"Lay still, Ray, we'll get you." The door behind him creaked open.
"Bodie." Cowley limped out of the emergency stairs, followed by Murphy. "Over here."
Bodie took an anxious glance up at the landing, straightened from where he was crouched, gun out, and moved over to join his boss and the tall, dark-haired agent. Cowley was rubbing his leg with his right hand, had an R/T in his left. "And Taggert?" he demanded into the remote.
Jax's voice sounded back, "Down, near the rest room door."
Cowley scowled, "Get me Chanber."
Bodie's worry wore through, transformed into anger. "What the hell is going on? What happened to our security?"
"Be quiet, Bodie," Cowley said calmly. "We're still finding out what happened. It would seem that MI6 lost this one. That's Hoffman up there."
Bodie's lips tightened. Hoffman was a terrorist, a killer willing to eliminate anyone to get what he was after. "Bloody hell. What...."
"Cowley!" A sharp voice echoed down the stairwell.
The three men moved to the bottom of the stairs. "This is Cowley. You've got no place to go, Hoffman. Give it up."
Two shots blew holes in the plaster inches above Doyle's curls. Bodie lunged, tried to get up the stairs. Murphy grabbed him, threw him against the wall. Bodie glared, his grip on the Browning tightened.
"Bodie." Murphy said resaonably, "What good will that do?"
Before Bodie could reply the voice continued, "Don't think about talking me down, Cowley. Think about the easiest way to get me out. I want a helicopter, tanked and with a legitimate passport in the seat."
The emergency door opened. A solid built man in an off the rack suit joined them. Cowley looked levelly at him. "Chanber." Cowley's tone was calm but left no room for evasion. "What happened?"
Chanber straightened, stood a head above Cowley, fists clenched at his sides. "We don't know yet."
"You don't know," Cowley restated in a voice that would cut plate steel, carrying easily over the thunder. "I have one man dead, another wounded, held hostage and you don't know."
The MI6 officer cringed, then got angry. "Need I remind you that I have also lost a man."
The CI5 controller didn't even blink. "Then I suggest you find out what happened."
"What the bloody hell difference does it make?" Bodie exploded. "What do we do now? Doyle'll bleed to death if...."
"Bodie!" Cowley started to reprimand him for shouting, stopped when he saw the barely concealed fear in the blue eyes. "Aye, what now?" He moved past Bodie, spoke into the R/T. "Jax, we need his position. Can we get a shot at him?" He clinked off. "Chanber, we need to know how he's armed. Did he get an extra clip or just the loaded weapon? Murphy, check with the desk and find out who the man with Doyle is."
"His name's Illya Kuryakin," a smooth American voice said from behind them. "He's with me."
Bodie turned to find himself facing a man about his height, older, dark hair going gray, but fit and muscled under an expensively tailored suit. The man came forward, dried his hand on the gray slacks.
"I'm Napoleon Solo. We're with UNCLE." He extended his hand, shook briefly with Cowley.
"Cowley. CI5," the controller answered tersely.
A muttered comment escaped Bodie's lips. Solo glanced over his shoulder, brown eyes scanning the younger man in one sweep. He smiled, seemed to know what the British agent was thinking. "Don't worry, I'm not going to get in the way. I just want my partner back."
Since Bodie's objective was the same thing he only frowned at the American and remained silent.
"Murphy, get upstairs with Jax, see if you can pull Taggert's body in without getting yourselves shot." Cowley glared at the other men still standing around him. "Go," he commanded. They did.
"Cowley!" Hoffman yelled again. "I want answers. Or I start playing target with Curly down there."
"These things take time, Hoffman," Cowley answered, the voices echoing up and down the narrow stairs. "You can't just walk out of here and into Heathrow. You know that."
"Not Heathrow, two blocks from here in the empty lot. And you'd better get on with it. I'm not waiting long."
"Nice guy," Solo commented, standing next to Bodie at the edge of the stairs. He squinted up at the two completely still bodies on the stairs.
"Yeh," Bodie replied without thinking. "A real nutter."
"Bodie?" A weak voice sounded from the R/T Bodie still had out. "What's...."
"Hang on, sunshine. We're working on it."
There was a light tap on his shoulder. Bodie turned to snap a hasty reply, but the concern in the dark brown eyes mirrored his own, stopped him short.
"My partner?" Solo asked, voice almost casual.
Bodie frowned, asked softly, "Ray, the other bloke, can you tell if he's alive?"
There was a long, long pause. Bodie wasn't sure Doyle was still conscious to have heard the question but just before he could repeat it there was a very slight groan from the communication unit.
"He's breathing." Doyle's voice was slurred, the pain overriding his control.
Behind them Cowley was speaking quietly to Jax over the R/T. He cut off, leaned over Bodie's shoulder. "Doyle?"
"Can you move enough to get a fix on Hoffman?"
"Sir!" Bodie protested. "If he moves Hoffman will...."
"Jax can't see his position," Cowley explained patiently. "We need to know exactly where he is."
"Can't move without shifting the other man." Doyle's voice drifted back. There was a pause, a sharp breath that made Bodie wince. "I'm not up to it."
Cowley's stern features softened the tiniest bit. "Okay, lad. Lay still, we'll have you both out soon." He went silent, thoughtful. "We have to keep him busy."
"Keep them talking, keep them interested," Bodie quoted the manual sharply.
"Hoffman!" Cowley shouted. "I won't trade for dead hostages. I'm sending a medic up to check them."
"Do that and you'll have a dead medic."
"I have the Minister working on your demands, but I want proof those men are alive. They bleed to death and it's over for you." Cowley refused to give in. "I'm sending a medic up. One move against him and the whole deal is off."
The three men at the bottom of the stairs waited, tense, hopeful. Finally a condescending voice drifted down. "Letting them bleed to death would be a waste. I don't like waste. Send up the medic."
Solo started stripping off his jacket. Bodie and Cowley turned toward him. He proceeded to the tie. "I'll go."
"Why you?" Bodie demanded.
"He doesn't know me. And the fact that I'm older makes me look harmless." Moving the .38 from under his arm to behind his back as he said it gave a certain ironic note to the statement.
Two older pairs of eyes met. Whatever Cowley saw there he trusted. Nodding to the American agent he raised the R/T again. "Jax, get the aid kit down here, and a white coat from the lab. Fast."
"What do you know about gunshot wounds?" Bodie asked lowly.
Napoleon cocked an eyebrow at him. "More than I care to." He meet the blue eyes. "I'll take care of them."
"Get Doyle into a sitting position, if you can," Cowley told him. Jax emerged from the stairs, joined them, passing over the large medical kit.
Slipping the coat on Napoleon opened the kit and checked it. "What about a weapon?"
The Scot frowned. "If you think either of them can handle it, and if you can get it to them...."
"Unseen," Napoleon finished. He snapped the case closed. "Ready."
"Hoffman, he's coming up," Cowley shouted.
Bodie touched the other man's arm as he started past. "Luck, mate."
The smile that answered him was feral, for the first time showing the cold agent lurking under the smooth exterior. "Luck is my specialty."
Solo took the steps warily, keeping his hands always in the clear. There was no reaction from the man with the gun. Solo sighed as he looked down at the two wounded agents. Carefully he shifted Illya off Doyle. The blonde remained silent but the sudden shift of weight elicited a moan from the British agent. As much as he wanted to check his partner first Napoleon forced himself to attend to Doyle. If they were to improve the odds of getting them out alive it was Doyle who would make the difference.
The CI5 agent was resting on his uninjured side and Solo left him that way as he knelt next to him. Pushing the rain spotted leather coat aside he eased the bloody shirt out of the tight jeans and wiped what he could of the gore away. The bullet had gone in at an angle just below Doyle's ribs and exited in front just above his hip. The blood was dark, seeping slowly. Doyle was breathing hard but there was no rasp, no ominous gurgle of a bleeding lung. Napoleon breathed a little easier, it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.
"Can you sit up?" he asked Doyle softly.
The curls bobbed as Doyle nodded. As gently as possible Solo shifted him up so that his back rested against the wall facing down the stairs. It seemed to the American the safest way of letting Doyle watch the terrorist without being too obvious. With careful maneuvering the R/T stayed tucked just inside the leather jacket, near Doyle's shoulder.
As he leaned back hazy green eyes met with deep brown for the first time. Doyle stared, confused and too dizzy to think straight.
Napoleon smiled at him. "Well," he said in a low voice that didn't carry to any further than the wounded agent. "It would seem that London stairways aren't much safer than London alleys."
Doyle's confusion cleared. He tried to smile but had it destroyed by a sharp cough. "Lisbon alleys still as bad?" he managed to whisper.
"I wouldn't know. I haven't been in one lately." Quickly and efficiently Napoleon stuffed gauze into the wound, ignoring Doyle's whimper of pain. "The big one downstairs belong to you?" Doyle nodded. "Nice that you trade hospital visits."
Trying to get his breathing under control, Doyle gestured toward the slender body next to him. "Yours?" Napoleon nodded. "His turn again, was it?"
A fond, exasperated sigh escaped Napoleon, a frown deepening the lines around his eyes. "Seems like it's always his turn."
"Napoleon," a weak voice scolded, "don't exaggerate."
The older man smiled. "I never exaggerate, Illya."
"Pulled you...out many times," the Russian accented voice continued.
"True," Napoleon admitted, moving to his partner. "But I tend to be in one piece when you do, tovarich."
Doyle smiled. When he or Bodie used the word tovarich it seemed to come out in the same tone as bastard. The way Solo used it was like when Bodie called him sunshine, warm and comforting. He leaned his head back, let his eyes close.
Around Doyle the world faded out a little, the soft American voice beside him becoming a vague mumble. He had no idea how long it was before he felt a slight touch to his arm. Prying his eyes open he met the same concerned look he remembered from a cold hospital waiting area long ago. There was no need to ask the Russian's condition. The look in the older man's face said it all.
"Doyle," Napoleon said slowly, hoping the CI5 agent was coherent enough to understand. "I need your help."
"lllya's been hit twice, chest, and shoulder. It's the shoulder I'm worried about. I can't get the bleeding stopped. I need you to keep pressure on it."
Doyle looked down the stairs, could feel the fear in the midnight blue eyes that never left him. "Good partners are hard to find." He returned Napoleon's words to him. "Watch yours...if you'll watch mine?"
"Deal," Napoleon agreed. He looked down at the fair Russian. Illya had drifted off again. "I think you have the easier job."
"Know I do." Doyle smiled.
"That's enough!" a hard voice demanded from above. "It shouldn't take that long to see if they're alive."
Before Cowley could answer Napoleon said levelly, "They're alive. I'm making sure they stay that way."
He leaned over Doyle, ignoring the threat of the gun at his back. In a single move he pressed a gun under Doyle's leg. Green eyes controlled their surprise. Doyle had missed seeing the American palm the gun. Napoleon flicked him one quick glance then proceeded to move his partner closer to Doyle.
"Put him up here." Doyle motioned to his lap. "Warmth, should help."
Smiling his thanks Napoleon shifted the blonde head up onto Doyle's thigh. He moved Doyle's hand to the bandage over the blood soaked shirt. "Keep it as tight as you can." Doyle complied and Napoleon sat back to survey his work. He shook his head. "You two look like forty miles of bad road."
With a reassuring pat on Doyle's arm Napoleon laid spare bandages within reach, packed the kit and went back down the stairs. Before he could report to the two impatient CI5 men Hoffman's voice carried loud in the still lobby.
"Cowley! You've had your demand. Now, here's mine. One hour. One hour or the blonde plays target."
Bodie glanced automatically at Napoleon. The concern was carefully hidden behind years of training, years of Lisbon and London alleys.
"Hoffman..." Cowley started.
"One hour," Hoffman commanded.
"How are they?" Bodie asked, as Napoleon stripped off the soiled white coat.
"Not good," Napoleon said shortly. "Illya has one in the shoulder that's nicked an artery, and one in the chest. Your partner took one in the side, may have hit a rib on the way in but it missed his lung and there doesn't seem to be much bleeding."
The report relieved some of the tension in the small hall. Cowley looked thoughtfully up the stairs. "He'll take one with him, I'm willing to bet on it. Promise to release him at the pickup." He looked at Solo. "Would Doyle be able to move if he had to?"
"No." Napoleon shook his head. "Hoffman could probably drag him to his feet, but he's on the verge of passing out right now." The agent smiled slyly. "He does however have an open radio and a loaded gun."
"Good," Cowley said. "He may need it."
There was a movement behind them and the MI6 commander was beside them again. "Hoffman only got the one weapon," he informed the other three quietly. "No reloads."
"He's fired eight or nine," Bodie said calmly. "That leaves more than I want to think about running up against."
Cowley frowned, pressed the switch on the R/T that seemed to have become part of his arm. "Doyle?"
"Sir?" The reply was faint.
"Can you see Hoffman?"
"Just." There was a pause, then very softly, "In the corner...watching us from up the stairs."
Jax choose that moment to appear from the main desk. "Mr. Cowley, the PM is on the line for you."
Cowley nodded. "Hoffman. I'm going to talk to the PM right now."
"You've got fifty-five minutes," Hoffman shouted down.
The CI5 commander, followed by Chanber left. Bodie barely noticed, his eyes continually being drawn back to the two men on the stairs. Napoleon sighed beside him, crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall. The silence closed in around them.
"I've met your partner before," the UNCLE agent said suddenly, to ease the tension.
"Yeh?" Bodie glanced over at him.
"A year ago. At St. Paul's. In the waiting room." He watched Bodie's reaction to this, waiting to see if he remembered the incident.
The dark head nodded. "I remember." Bodie's expression was neutral, carefully blank. Outside the wind picked up, whistled around the door. Thunder rumbled over the old streets.
Napoleon frowned, wondering if the smaller agent had said anything to his partner after their little discussion. He knew better than to ask. "Glad to see everything turned out okay."
"Same here," Bodie said sincerely.
On the landing Doyle blurrily watched the two temporarily matched partners. He hoped that Bodie would have his usual partner back soon. The warm weight on his leg shifted. He glanced down at the fair head resting in his lap, sky blue eyes looked back.
"'lo," Doyle said softly.
"You and Napoleon...have met." It was a comment, not a question.
"When you and Bodie were in hospital," Doyle explained. "Met in the waiting area."
"Oh, yes. Last trip to London." The accented voice was very faint, laced with pain. "Napoleon mentioned it."
"Bit old for this, you and him, aren't you?" Doyle asked.
A flicker of arrogance went through the dulled blue. "Not field agents," Illya said. "Recruitment."
Doyle laughed, grimaced. "Who you going to recruit?"
A very slight smile curled the pale lips. "You two."
Pleased surprise lit the jade green eyes. UNCLE was a very elite organization. "Yeh?" He was silent for a minute. "I don't know, mate. Seems kind of dangerous."
The blue eyes slid closed. "They're your stairs."
There was not much Doyle could say to that.
Minutes crept by as Napoleon and Bodie waited for Cowley to return with official word. He came back with a grim expression. Bodie and Solo knew the situation even before he spoke, had known before he left. They hadn't expected anything different.
"No helicopter, no visa," Cowley confirmed.
"We let him get away with this?" Bodie snapped.
"You know better than that," Cowley reminded him sharply. "If we can't take him out here, we get him out of the building and take him out at the pickup."
"Sir," Bodie spoke up again, "a hostage that could move would simplify things."
"You?" Napoleon questioned.
Bodie nodded. "Get him to take me, instead of Doyle. I can get out of the way when the time comes."
"Doyle won't like it," Napoleon commented.
Bodie looked at him, fire in the blue. "He's not in much of a position to protest, is he?"
"No," Napoleon agreed. "That's why he asked me to do it."
Outrage colored Bodie's face. "He did, did he? And what makes you...."
Napoleon gestured toward the stairs. "He's looking after mine, I'm looking after his."
Lips pursed tight, Bodie stared at him for a moment before turning away. An agreement like that was not something any half of a team would take lightly. It meant that Doyle trusted the American and would want him to do the same.
"Enough," Cowley commanded. "Hoffman's no fool. He'd never agree to switching a helpless hostage for a lively one."
"How about a helpless medic?" Napoleon suggested.
"No," Bodie said firmly.
Napoleon glared at him. Then smiled, accepting the desperation born stupidity of the suggestion.
Cowley looked over at the American agent. "How long can they hold out? What kind of time limit are we on?"
"Doyle should be fine for two-three hours. But Illya?" He looked thoughtful. "An hour would be pushing it, hour and a half will be too late."
Two pair of older eyes locked. Gently Cowley said, "That doesn't give us much time."
They all heard the real warning in the simple statement. Napoleon looked steadily at the CI5 commander. "It's taken me twenty years to get Illya trained. I'd hate to lose him now."
Cowley flicked the R/T, "Jax?"
"Sir," the young agent's voice answered instantly.
"Get me a floor plan." He clicked off, glanced at the other two agents. "Let's find out his plans." He raised him voice. "Hoffman?"
"This better be good news, Cowley."
"You have a deal," Cowley lied easily. "You'll have a helicopter here in forty-five minutes."
A faintly nervous laugh carried down to them. "Then in half an hour Curly and I will expect a car by the front door."
"The man can't be moved," Cowley said firmly. "He's seriously wounded."
"I'll worry about that! You just have a car waiting by the front door in thirty minutes."
For the first time since the shots had sounded Cowley smiled. "Good," he said to himself. "He hasn't thought it out. That's to our advantage. And Doyle being wounded will slow him down."
"Could do more than that," Bodie said. It was his turn to smile, coldly. "Doyle's armed. If Hoffman goes to haul him up Doyle can stick that pistol in his ribs and empty the bloody clip."
"Chancy," Solo commented. "He may not be conscious enough to know what's happening."
"It's a possibilty," Cowley reluctantly admitted. "For now though we'll concentrate on getting a shot at him while he's still our guest."
He moved away, leaving Bodie and Solo at the bottom of the stairs. Napoleon slid slowly down the wall to sit with his legs crossed in front of him. After a minute Bodie joined him, his tension evident in the lines around his mouth and the white knuckled grip on his gun. Napoleon watched, thought about the differences between the waiting here and the waiting in a small, too bright hospital room.
"Well," Napoleon stated, "at least you don't pace."
"What?" Bodie glanced over at him, then smiled slightly. "Yeh. Forgot you've been through this before." He looked steadily at the older agent. "How does this compare to Lisbon alleys?"
"Ah, I wondered if Doyle had said anything about our conversation."
"Said more than I ever expected to hear," Bodie conceded. Rolling thunder almost covered his quiet addition. "Almost more than I wanted to hear."
Napoleon understood. "That much responsibility can be overwhelming."
"Wasn't the responsibility." The slightest color highlighted the pale face. "Was...having someone care." A smile touched the tight lips. "Took me two days to recover enough to say anything coherent to him."
"Well," Napoleon said lightly, remembering his own shock of discovery, "that's better than I did. It took me five years before I admitted what having a partner meant."
Bodie snorted. "Even I'm not that stubborn, mate."
On the landing Doyle listened to the distant voice of his partner, wished he could hear what he was saying. The R/T crackled near his arm, but there was nothing coming over it. A barely contained moan alerted him to his charge's return to consciousness. He tightened his hand over the already soaked bandage.
"Back among the living?" he questioned.
"Not much like your partner, are you?" Blue eyes forced themselves open to look at him in confusion. "Be giving me the recruitment sale by now, wouldn't he?"
A soft smile answered him. "Very probably." A deep, shaky breath. "I don't do recruitment talks."
"What do you do then?" Doyle swallowed hard. The smell of blood was making him nauseous.
Downstairs it was Bodie's turn to worry over the so far, so near voice of his wounded partner. "Least they're both still conscious," he said quietly.
Napoleon stood a little stiffly, rubbed his back. "I could do with some coffee, or tea, or something." He looked down at Bodie. "Which way?"
Bodie stood. "I'll get it."
"That's okay." Napoleon knew it took a lot of effort for him to volunteer to leave. "I'm used to being far away from things."
"No, I'll get it." Bodie turned his charming smile on the dark haired American. "Have to look after my partner, don't I?"
As he moved away Napoleon checked his watch. He was shocked to see that less then forty minutes had passed since he had come in to find disaster instead of the simple days recruitment. And only five minutes since Cowley had moved upstairs to try and find a way to get a shot at Hoffman. On the stairs he bit back a curse as he saw Doyle change the pad on his wounded partner.
"Easy," Doyle muttered to Illya. "Moving won't help."
"What will they try?" Illya whispered.
Doyle shrugged as much as he could without causing himself pain. "Get a shot at him. If not here, at the helicopter."
"He'll take...one of us...along," Illya stated. "You."
"Yeh." Doyle felt the world do a quick spin around him. "Pass right out on him, I will."
Concerned blue eyes studied him through their own pain. "Better...get a shot at him from here."
"Not much chance of that," Doyle replied. He glanced down to see Illya staring off at something he couldn't see. "You okay, mate?"
The blue eyes focused on him, the light dimming in them as consciousness faded. "Elevator doesn't work," Illya told him clearly before he passed out.
Doyle blinked, wondering which of them was delirious. Then comprehension dawned. Concealing his smile Doyle let his head drop toward his shoulder. "Bodie?" he whispered urgently into his R/T. "Cowley?"
Bodie thrust the two coffee cups at Napoleon and yanked his R/T free. "Ray? You okay?"
"The elevator isn't working," the faint voice said.
Bleak glances went between the two agents at the bottom of the stairs. If Doyle were getting delirious.... "What?" Bodie asked into the R/T.
"The elevator isn't working," a Scottish voice said from behind them. Bodie and Solo looked at Cowley then at the elevator. Napoleon saw it in the same instant that Bodie elbowed his arm and pointed to the top of the ancient mechanism.
"It'll be tricky," Cowley continued. "One shot. Miss the first time and he'll have you."
Bodie nodded, smile gone, face set, determined. "Have to be a hand gun, too tight for a rifle." He looked over a Napoleon. "Are you going to try to volunteer for this too?"
"No." Solo shook his head. "Gave up rope tricks for Lent." Seriously he added, "You'll have to be on your knees when you shoot. What you need is a distraction."
Cowley looked at him, nodded. "Doyle?"
"Maybe he could use another visit from a medic," Napoleon suggested.
"Hoffman may not allow that," Bodie agrued. "The storm is getting worse. What about switching the lights off? Blame it on the storm."
"No." Cowley frowned. "He might panic and start shooting. We'll go with the medic. If he doesn't allow it the argument alone should be enough to cover your landing."
Bodie looked at Cowley. They had a plan. The waiting was over.
"On your bike, lad," Cowley commanded.
With a quick wink at Napoleon Bodie disappeared up the emergency stairs. Cowley turned toward Solo, spoke into the R/T. "Doyle?"
"Bodie's coming down. Understand?"
"But he needs help. On my word I want you to start yelling to Hoffman that you need the medic back. Understand?"
"On your word," came the slightly stronger reply.
"Bodie?" Cowley switched over to the other half of his best team.
"Murphy, sir. Bodie's getting a vest." There was a muttering in the background. "Says that way if he is hit he'll still have a chance at Hoffman."
"The lad's actually showing some intelligence at last," Cowley commented dryily over his shoulder to Solo. "Tell him to give...."
"Cowley!" Hoffman shouted. "I'm coming down."
American and British exchanged panic looks. It was too soon.
"That wasn't our agreement!" Cowley yelled. "The helicopter's not ready. The storm has it slowed down."
"Now, Cowley!" There was movement on the stairs.
"Bodie!" Cowley whispered harshly into the radio. "Go!"
From above there was the whisper of cloth against rope then the faint but telling thud of boots on metal. Hoffman was three steps from Doyle, he spun, gun coming up. From his new angle the whole top of the elevator was open to him.
Doyle saw Bodie land, watched Hoffman spin, weapon lining on his partner. Doyle willed his arm up, moving as fast as his shocked system would let him, knowing it would be too late. He cried out, a harsh sound of pain and fear for Bodie.
Shots rang out, bullets from downstairs striking the wall next to Hoffman. Hoffman threw himself to one side. Bodie had him. The first shot took him in the chest, another followed, struck the same place, slammed him spreadeagle against the wall. The terrorist was dead on his feet, slipping slowly to land face down on the stairs.
Time held for long minutes before being broken by chests rising again, deep long breaths to calm the nerves. Bodie looked over the edge of the decorative, ancient elevator. Napoleon, still in shooting stance, looked up at him and smiled charmingly.
"You missed," Bodie said flatly.
"Ah, yes, well, didn't have a chance of hitting him from here, did I?" Napoleon answered in his worst British accent.
Bodie checked the angles again. "I reckon not," he countered in a fair imitation of John Wayne.
Before Bodie could get back up the rope the stairs were swarming with ambulancemen.
"They still look like forty miles of bad road," a smooth voice said from the door way.
"Cat wouldn't touch either of them," another voice agreed.
Both Doyle and Illya looked over at the door, noting with disgust their respective partner's expensive dress and glowing good health. Doyle was closest, propped up on two pillows with a closed motorcross magazine on his lap. Illya was flat on his back in the next bed, having only been taken out of ICU that morning.
"What are you two dressed for?" Doyle questioned. "Seeing the Queen this evening, are we?"
"No," Bodie answered. "Having found someone who appreciates the finer things in life, unlike some people, we are going...."
"To Che Cheval's for a seven course meal..." Napoleon picked up.
"An expensive bottle of wine...."
"Then a few drinks at Bodie's local."
Doyle and Illya listened in silent ill-concealed amusement. Doyle caught his smile, frowned instead, pointing at Bodie. "Well, just you remember who to blame when the funds run out before the pay comes in."
"My treat," Napoleon said with a winning smile. "After all what are partners for?" He and Bodie nodded to each other.
"He'll pay," Illya said flatly. All three looked over at him. He looked at Bodie. "You'll have to listen to his stories."
Napoleon looked at Doyle. "I understand he's heard the one about Lisbon alleys."
The warm green eyes went to familiar midnight blue. "Yeh. Told him that one. In small words, so I think he even understood it." Bodie only smiled fondly at the insult.
Next to them sky blue and deep brown connected. Napoleon said softly, "There are some stories that only partners understand."
-- THE END --
Originally published in Chalk and Cheese 3, Agent with Style, 1989