"Oh, that man makes me crazy!" Doc Wallach stormed into my office and collapsed down in one of my guest chairs. I glanced up from the report I was working on. It didn't take a rocket scientist to know who was pissing him off. There was only one man who could turn the good doctor into a tower of raging frustration.
"What's Illya up to now, Doc?" I knew that if he was coming to me, it was because he wanted to shift the monkey from his back to mine. For anyone else, I might protest, but for Illya, well, it goes with the territory.
"He's being.... non-cooperative." Some of the steam had gone out of the doctor's bluster when he realized I wasn't going to protest or argue with him. Not me; if anyone knows how stubborn my partner can be, it's me. And when you've got Illya's back to the wall, he's a force to be reckoned with.
"I would be fast to check for an imposter if he went with you willingly. He doesn't like to be poked or prodded," I said, smiling as kindly as I could. It would be my turn in the hot seat all too soon. Yet, I couldn't help adding, "Physically or mentally. He considers it a violation of privacy."
"He has no privacy, not as a Section Two." Wallach crossed his arms and glared at my abstract painting for a few seconds. Any more than that and your ears will start to bleed and still I keep it on my wall. "And I'm not asking for the world, Napoleon, just for him to relax enough to let me do my job."
As our resident shrink, it was the doc's job to get in our minds, make us spill all those nasty little secrets we hold onto, the doubts, the fears and the frustration. He helps us to ingest and embrace them, tucking them away so that we can continue to do our job without eating the muzzle of our own pistol. I don't care much for the experience, the releasing of control, but I do know it has kept me able to climb out of bed each morning, sane and whole.
Illya, on the other hand, was not a fan. He keeps his secrets held closer to his soul than anyone else I knew. I am his partner, I know more about him than any other living person and what I know would fill a piece of 8 &fraq12; by 11 paper. The problem is, he'll tell you anything you want, but it will never be the truth and it will never be the same story twice. He really should have been a fiction writer with his imagination. You want proof, ask him about his ring.
So now you know the doc's frustration. To do his job, he needs to lower Illya's defenses... and no one can make Illya do that without his full permission.
"Have you gone to Waverly?"
"A fat lot of good that did me." Wallach starts playing with my perpetual motion toy, five balls lined up, lift one and let it go and the ball on the opposite end reacts. It always sort of reminds me of my partner and me. "Ooooo, your partner!" He thumped his hand on the desk.
"If he doesn't do this?"
"I will pull him and even that threat doesn't seem to matter to him anymore. He knows he's too valuable to be pulled for this and he's pushing back."
The trouble was Illya really was in desperate need of some serious mental recalibration in my opinion as CEA of Section Two. If it had been anyone else, they'd have been in a nice padded room in a loose jacket with sleeves that tie in the back. I knew he wasn't sleeping, was hardly eating and was too on edge to be of much good to anyone. I send him out in the field like that and it's asking for trouble, but he's my partner and I didn't want to go out into the field without him at my back. I made a snap decision and prayed that God and Illya would be merciful when the dust settled.
"Tell you what, Doc. I will do this once because quite frankly - once is probably the only chance I'll get." I started to put together a list of things that I needed. I was going to betray a trust here and I only hoped it would be worth it. "I'm going to need some stuff and we're going to need to take this off site."
"Anything! I will get you anything you need; just tell me." Doc's eyes got really excited as I scrawled out a list. "Okay, now release him and let me go to work."
Illya sighed and sprawled back into his armchair. It was a nasty thing that had seen its better days around the turn of the century, but he loved that chair. It was where he read, wrote and most importantly, drank.
Now, I'd only made the mistake once of trying to drink my partner under the table. It took me two days to sober up and about a week to get rid of the hangover, during which time Illya acted as if he'd done nothing more than suck down water all night. Yet it had been on one of these little binges that I learned a deep dark secret about my partner. One he never shared with anyone; I'm not even sure he knew that I was aware of it.
We'd had a great meal at DeRicco's and I'd carefully monitored my partner's alcohol intake. A quick visit to the bar, via a trip to the restroom, and I'd been drinking ice water all night as opposed to cold martinis. Illya had been slamming back double shots all night and he was just starting to show a little wear around the edges.
We'd had dessert at the restaurant, but I knew Illya would never turn down some of Mother Rosa's tiramisu. She'd looked at me oddly when I made my request, but I was too good a customer for her to turn me down. I think she also hoped she could still get me and her daughter together and I played off of that as well.
I worked quickly in the kitchen, putting together a lethal cocktail for my partner and made like I was preparing dessert for us both. It took a minute to find a tray and it was in the form of a bent and discolored cookie sheet, but that was okay. It was vital that I only make one trip.
"What's this?" Illya managed to sit up after a couple of attempts and eyed the dessert eagerly. He eyed the drink even more so.
"Tiramisu and something special. I like to call it my 'evading the doc' drink." I took one of the two glasses and held it up in a toast to him. "Cheers!"
One of Illya's faults and one of my lucky breaks - the man doesn't sip drinks. He drinks drinks, straight down and without thinking much about it. Then he plunged into the tiramisu as if he hadn't eaten in a week. I deftly exchanged his empty one as my own barely touched one and watched him down that as well.
Within ten minutes, he was grinning like a madman and I took my communicator out of my breast pocket. "Open Channel L. Doc, are you ready?"
"Then he's all yours."
Illya looked up as the doc came through his apartment door and greeted him as if he were a long lost friend. My partner's defenses were truly down now and the doc wouldn't have any trouble at all getting him to submit to hypnosis or whatever other trick he had up his sleeve.
As the nurse helped Illya into his bedroom, Doc looked back at me with admiration in his eyes. "How did you do this?"
I shrugged my shoulders and sighed. Illya was going to be a handful when he came to the next morning and realized what had happened. And it would be a long time before he let me serve him another drink.
"We were in Jamaica," I said, carrying the cookie sheet back to Illya's tiny kitchen. "I found out he had no tolerance at all for rum. He can handle any other sort of alcohol, but not that. Goes straight to his head." I placed one of the glasses on the counter and the doc picked it up and sniffed it.
"It smells... different."
"I had to hide the smell of rum because Illya wouldn't drink it if he knew it was in there. That's why I had you pick up that hickory milk. It's so sweet smelling, it masks just about anything."
He tasted it and frowned. "But what is it?"
What can I say? I was going to go through seven kinds of hell tomorrow and quite probably for the next week because of this. I deserved a last shot at some fun.
"Easy. It's a hickory daiquiri, Doc."