Fair Trade (Man from U.N.C.L.E. story)

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Title: Fair Trade
Author(s): Theresa Kyle
Date(s): 1995
Genre: slash
Fandom: Man from U.N.C.L.E.
External Links: online here

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Fair Trade is a slash Man from U.N.C.L.E. story by Theresa Kyle.

It was published in Intimate Affairs.

Reactions and Reviews

An intricately plotted tale of desire and yearning. The author skillfully keeps the reader on edge through every twist and turn in the story.[1]
Fair Trade by Theresa Kyle is one of my all-time favorite stories. Right from the astounding opening scene, the twists and turns in the angst-ridden plot keep the reader on edge.[2]
It starts with Illya giving Napoleon a blow job.

Unfortunately, all it not as it seems. Illya cares for Napoleon, desires him very much...but insists on initiating all their sexual encounters and refuses to let Napoleon reciprocate. Needless to say, Napoleon does not take this well...but he's too blinded by lust to turn Illya away.

Is it love? Is it lust? Why is Illya so cold?? When an assignment in California goes wrong, Napoleon has to face up to these burning questions.

The highlight of this story is the dialogue. There's this sense of intimacy in their conversation that hints at their growing emotional closeness. They open up about their previous sexual experiences, their past histories...and argue about their issues with each other. And yeah, they still run and jump and shoot and do all those other espionage-type things. Napoleon is typically portrayed as suave and charming, but he spends much of his time off-kilter, angry and confused...and human. When he's almost tearing his hair out over Illya's coolness, it's hard not to sympathise. For all his toughness, he's really a sweetie.[3]
The story Fair Trade has some common elements with ["Pas de Deux," a story in Night Moves by Kyle] but they are not immediately apparent. It is a h/c story, but at first it seems that Napoleon is the one being hurt and by Illya, of all people. It starts out simply enough: after Napoleon sustains a gunshot wound, Illya unintentionally reveals his desire. Napoleon is flattered, and more than happy to reciprocate. But Illya has a few conditions before they jump into bed:
"First some ground rules. " he said Napoleon sighed. "All right. What?"
"First, as you said, no promises. No exclusivity. Each of us can go our separate ways whenever we wish."
"Second, I like to be the aggressor in a sexual relationship. That means that you wait for me to call you—not the other way around."
Napoleon stared at him. "What? You're kidding."
Illya shook his head. "No, I 'm not. I have no intention of being another casualty of the famous Solo charm. Your power to manipulate other people is legendary, and I don 'I care to be manipulated. At least if you allow me the upper hand I have a chance of keeping my self-respect intact."
Napoleon felt his jaw tighten, but he managed to say, "All right. What else?"
"Only one more. Third, when we're in bed together, I can touch you, but you can't touch me."

What kind of slash relationship can come out of this? As Ms. Kyle shows, a most unfulfilling one. Illya's almost pathological distrust leads to major conflict.

As a reader and an Illya fan, I must confess to welcoming this role-change. Napoleon should suffer more often in fanfic. I here, he does: shot a few times, physically satiated by Illya but emotionally wounded by his coldness. Illya comes across as being callous, almost inhuman at first. However, the subtle references to canon in some of their confrontations make it believable. And as in all good stories, there is a valid reason for his actions, which is later revealed.

For those who like some espionage with then slash, this tale will satisfy as well, since it is set against the backdrop of a case involving a new Thrush drug. The details and events that occur during the case are intertwined with their relationship, to the point where it even helps further their growing intimacy. There is nothing like the threat of imminent death to bring out raw naked feelings. And thank goodness for that. Where would slash writers be without it? [4]


  1. ^ from Z.I.N.E.S. v.1 n.2
  2. ^ from Z.I.N.E.S. v.2 n.1
  3. ^ a 2004 comment at Crack Van
  4. ^ from Z.I.N.E.S. v.2 n.2, the article "Theresa Kyle: A Retrospective"