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ACT I: The First Word


"I bet you ten dollars you can't do it."


Napoleon was hanging on a moss encrusted stone wall by wrist cuffs, clad only in his boxers, filthy, bruised and shivering as he spoke. His 'questioning' by Thrush operatives had been fairly light compared to his partner.


Illya hung on the opposite wall in worse condition, blond hair hanging over a bruised and bloodied face. Solo got a low mumble and limp head roll in reply.


He continued anyway. "Are you insinuating that I won't honor that bet? If you win, of course; and that looks pretty doubtful right now if you ask me."


"I didn't." Solo’s voice barely registered with Illya’s consciousness. Just shut up and let me . . .


"Well, I take it as an affront to my character. Come on, I dare you. You can't do it, can you?"


Illya was content to keep his eyes closed, but his hearing wouldn't be shut off so easily. He tried to ignore the voice and pain and simply float away from all . . .


"Your reputation is at stake, you know.”


Illya jerked at the intruding voice.


“If I win this bet I get bragging rights. And nothing is safe from the tale I'll tell, like a thorough description of the briefs you're wearing. Honestly, Illya, with your pay you can afford better than that."


The blond one felt a stab of annoyance through the unrelenting pain. He rolled his head aside and peered with one swollen eye through his shaggy bangs at his partner. "My clothes are functional. Yours are . . ." His tongue wasn’t working quite right; his voice didn’t seem to match what he was thinking.


"What? Mine are what? Come on, you smart Russian, tell me what you think. Speak up."


The realization of what his partner was doing dawned on Illya through his foggy thoughts. "I know what you're doing," he slurred. Giving in to the fog would be so easy, but his partner was obviously not going to let that happen.


"What you're doing is saving your reputation and taking my bet. Come on, I bet you can't get your legs over that pipe."


God, he's annoying. Illya turned his back to the inviting fog and moved toward the light of consciousness. He slowly looked up.


ACT II: The Last Word


The ceiling of the damp stone basement supported a half - dozen pipes with new brackets. The old German castle had been updated recently for use as a Thrush satrapy.


Illya's head swam as he tried to focus his eyes. The beckoning fog was everywhere. "Pipe?"


"Yes, there above you. I can't reach them to show you how it's done, but if you don't think you can . . ."


"Oh, shut up. My head is pounding." Illya blinked slowly, wrestling his tongue to sound clearer. The realization of where he was slowly sank in as the pain of his body surged. He rolled his head and took in his surroundings, which faded in and out of focus.


"The pipes are on the ceiling. And I thought you were a trained observer." Solo clucked.




"Stay with me Illya. Pipes. Like water pipes, not smoking pipes."


"What?" His mind wandered. Was Waverly here?


"Illya, come on already. I don't have all day. I have an appointment." He glanced at the thick, wood door. His inner clock told him they would have company soon – and he doubted Illya could take much more 'questioning'. "Did I mention that I still had story telling rights even if you don't take the bet?"


"Not fair." Illya squinted at the dancing pipes.


"CEA privileges. It's in my contract that I can set terms on bets."


Illya mumbled a curse.


"What did you say, Illya? I couldn't hear over your whining."


"I . . . don't . . . whine!" Emphatically grunting the last word, he swung his legs up in a move that would make a gymnastics coach gloat, catching the pipe with his knees. Unconsciousness threatened.


"You aren't unhooked yet!" Solo saw that the maneuver obviously took a lot from his partner, as his already pale face drained instantly of the previous flush of exertion. "It's a simple hook, Illya."


Illya grunted. His body shimmied like a flag in a gust to unhook his hands, then he fell to the dirt floor with a sickening thump and was still.


"Illya?" Solo began to sweat.


The heap of agent groaned and twitched.


"Illya, your lockpick! The one in your hem! Illya!"


The fog was peaceful, but that foghorn had to go. Illya cracked an eye and tasted dirt on his tongue. He rolled aside and groped at the hem of his briefs with numb fingers, eventually working out the thin wire. The pain was nearing unbearable.


"Bring it here."


Illya simply obeyed, finding the foghorn voice was now a beacon. He managed to get to Solo, stand, and pass the wire to him before he folded to the floor.


Quickly free, Solo helped his semi-awake partner out the door and up the dark stone stairs. At the top, he let go to fight a lone guard and steal his weapon. He pulled Illya out an exit where three guards’ reaction to two men in their underwear gave the agent an element of surprise; all three dropped without firing a shot.


Illya finally passed out in the courtyard. Solo slung him over his shoulder and managed to shoot two more guards before an alarm sounded. Darting through a hedge, the panting agent found a small car and dumped his partner inside. Hotwiring was fast and simple, and after Solo exchanged gunfire with two more guards and crashed through a gate, they were away.


Illya stirred minutes later.


“Wake up!” Solo yelled, shivering. “We have to find some clothes!"


Illya cracked one eye, glared at the CEA and clearly growled, "I did it. You owe me ten dollars."


The End

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