It was only after all was said and done that Illya realized he probably was supposed to have been intimidated by Napoleon Solo. But after being awake for thirty hours in which he had been shot at, pitched off a cliff (by Solo, no less), and had to jump from an airplane without a parachute, all he wanted was some sleep. So when the only available hotel room in the village came with one somewhat rickety double bed, it seemed like a fitting end to an entirely unsatisfactory affair. His first, and probably his last, field assignment, Illya thought with some regret.
He perched tentatively on the left side of the bed, and quickly decided that he'd slept in far worse places than this. He kicked off his shoes, stripped down to his shorts, and was under the covers on the verge of sleep before he remembered that there was some sort of protocol for situations like this. Solo was the senior agent. Illya probably should have offered to take the couch.
As Solo stepped out of the bathroom, Illya heard a soft chuckle that seemed to ring with genuine amusement. Then there was a creak and the click of the light turning off as Solo settled onto his half of the bed.
"Sleep well, Mr. Kuryakin," Solo said almost to himself. "You've earned it."
Too tired to reply, Illya relaxed into sleep, hopeful that Mr. Solo would forgive him any breach of protocol this one time.
Of course, Illya had been sound asleep in his Copenhagen hotel room after a routine courier run when Mr. Waverly had signalled him that one of their agents had narrowly escaped from Thrush and was in need of a safehouse for the night, or at least what was left of it. Illya, still rubbing sleep from his eyes, had barely set the communicator down when there were three quick taps at the door and an UNCLE identification badge being held to the peephole. Illya, gun in hand, opened the door to admit one slightly rumpled Napoleon Solo and a very battered briefcase. Solo's face transformed to a smile when he stepped into the room and closed the door.
"Ah, Mr. Kuryakin. They didn't tell me it would be you."
"At your service," Illya answered with a nod of his head. He supposed he could be forgiven for not being more formal given that he was in pajamas and bare feet. He laid his gun back on the bedside table.
"I do apologize for the inconvenience," Solo said, already stripping off his suit jacket and starting to unholster his gun. "I just need a place to lay my head for a few hours until I can get back to New York with the information I've appropriated from Thrush."
"Mi casa es su casa, Mr. Solo."
"Much obliged. And please, call me Napoleon."
Illya turned on the bedside lamp and realized that Solo was looking a little worse for wear after his encounter with Thrush. The man had a black eye and a cut that had dried to a crust of blood along his jaw line.
"Do you require medical attention?" Illya asked.
Solo laughed. "It's all cuts and bruises, nothing important. Just another day at the office."
"I see." Illya averted his eyes to give Solo some privacy as he slipped out of his shirt. The bruises continued across his back, and Illya wondered momentarily if this was really the life he wanted–that of a field agent. "I'll send down for some extra sheets. Please, take the bed."
Solo stopped with his hand on his belt and peered around the small dimly-lit room. "And where will you sleep? This room doesn't even have a couch."
"I'll be fine."
"Yes, you will. Just crawl back in there before you freeze your feet off. I'm going to wash up." With that, Solo headed for the bathroom, leaving Illya standing beside the bed wondering what he was supposed to do. They'd managed the last time, and truthfully, the sharing didn't bother Illya. It was no different from sharing with his cousin Petr growing up.
Illya was still standing there when Solo exited the bathroom, now clad in a pair of silk pajama bottoms that must have been in the small briefcase he'd been carrying. He didn't give Illya another glance before climbing into the bed and closing his eyes.
"Turn out the light, will you?"
"Of course," Illya murmured. He slid between the sheets and doused the light.
They had flown all night from Paris to New York, and now, without even a chance to change clothes or grab a sandwich, they were back in the air on the way to South Africa. Illya rubbed at his eyes.
"I don't know if we're coming or going anymore," he said.
"Going," Napoleon answered.
"How can you tell?"
"It's much less enjoyable."
Illya made a face at Napoleon's innuendo, and settled his head back against the small pillow the stewardess had brought. He'd opted for the window seat, knowing that Napoleon was more likely to be restless on such a flight, more likely to want to stretch his legs, at least as far as the nearest flight attendant.
Illya wasn't aware he'd dozed off until the light drape of a blanket settling across his shoulder brought him back to awareness.
"Go back to sleep," Napoleon murmured, and Illya let his eyes fall shut again, certain there was nothing that needed his attention.
"You might be more comfortable in an empty seat, Mr. Solo," a soft female voice said.
"This is just fine," Napoleon answered, and Illya could hear the soft rustling of another blanket and pillow being handed over.
"Are you certain? It's no trouble if you want to move to a–"
"Thank you, but this is fine. Really. We'll be fine."
Illya felt a smile lift the corners of his mouth, although if anyone had asked, he didn't think he'd be able to explain.
"Well, this is awkward."
"Your affinity for understatement never fails to amaze me, Napoleon."
"Can you move your–?"
"You don't even know what I was going to say!"
"Whatever it was, I'm fairly certain I can't move it without doing considerable harm to you or myself."
"Really, Napoleon, there are times when, however damaging to your pride it might be, it is simply best to lie still and wait for rescue."
"And this would be one of those times?"
"Tied naked together on a bed of nails? Yes, this would be one of those times."
Illya came back to consciousness when he felt Napoleon's grip on him loosen.
"I'm right here."
Illya blinked through a badly swollen eyelid to see where they had ended up after the run from Thrush across the Siberian plains. "Here" seemed to be an old stable, and the smell of livestock and hay filled Illya's nose. He sneezed.
"You're not allergic to hay, are you?" Napoleon sounded disapproving, but not surprised.
"Apparently when I'm swaddled in it, I am." Illya sneezed again. "Why have you stuffed me in a haystack?"
"For warmth. We've got to get some rest, and I prefer neither of us freeze to death while we're doing it."
"I'm all in favour of that plan."
"I thought you would be." Napoleon dragged some old horse blankets over to where Illya was half-buried in the hay. He burrowed in beside him and wrapped the blankets around them both. "Go to sleep, Illya."
"Did anyone ever tell you you're bossy?"
"Yes. You. All the time." Napoleon pulled Illya closer and rubbed his hands up and down his partner's back. "We'll make it."
Illya sneezed again. "You take me to the nicest places."
"I'll have you know that a bed of hay and a soft horse blanket is not the worst thing I could've come up with."
Illya painfully arched an eyebrow in Napoleon's direction even as he moved closer, seeking Napoleon's warmth.
"Would you have preferred the pig barn a mile back?" Napoleon asked pleasantly.
At the thought, Illya's stomach turned and he shook his head burying his face against Napoleon's broad chest. He could hear the rumble of laughter rising up within even as Napoleon wrapped his arms tightly around his shivering partner.
"Rest, Illya. We're not far from the contact point. I'll get us out of here in the morning."
"Thank you, Napoleon," he murmured, letting his eyes fall closed.
"Don't mention it."
"Illya, could you explain to me in as few words as possible why Senator Kelvington's widow told me she thought us very brave?"
"Perhaps Waverly mentioned The Heidelberg Affair."
"And why she thought we should be commended for our openness?"
"You can be very open, Napoleon. It's an admirable quality."
"I somehow think she meant something more."
"She also thought it terribly progressive that UNCLE allowed agents like us to share accommodations with their partners."
Illya turned his face into the pillow, muffling what sounded like a snort of laughter.
"Anything you'd like to share with me, Illya dear?"
"I think not, Napoleon. Could you get the light?"
"I should knock your lights out for–"
"Did you not enjoy your evening?"
"Would you have enjoyed it more being paraded about like some exotic pet on the arm of the widow Kelvington?"
"If my love life suffers because of this ..."
"Napoleon, I can't imagine such a thing happening. Besides, some women will only look on it as a challenge."
"Alright, but don't do that again."
"I wouldn't dream of it."
"Illya, wake up."
Napoleon shook his partner gently. Illya murmured again in his sleep, his body rolling restlessly, and Napoleon tried to catch some of the words.
"If you're going to mutter in your sleep, you could at least do it in English." Napoleon gripped Illya's shoulder, shaking him a little harder.
"Nyet! Nyet!" Illya said, hands pushing at Napoleon's chest.
"Illya. Dammit, wake up."
Napoleon was anticipating the blow–startling Illya out of sleep was never wise–but he'd miscalculated the width of the bed, and as he rolled to avoid the fist fired in his direction, he found himself rolling backwards, right off the edge, and onto the hard wooden floor.
"Napoleon? Where are you?"
"On the floor."
"What on earth are you doing on the floor?"
"Oh, nothing. Checking for Thrush agents."
Illya peered over the edge of the bed, and Napoleon could see his expression even in the dim light, a mixture of amusement, apology, and sadness.
"Shall I toss you a pillow, or will you be returning to bed?"
Napoleon sighed and sat up, ignoring the crack of joints as he stretched and got back into bed. Illya's nightmares were infrequent, but often enough that Napoleon worried for his partner, wondered what haunted his sleep.
In the darkness, Illya's voice was soft, more accented than usual. "Did I strike you?"
"I'm too fast for you, old friend."
"Da." He paused. "Napoleon?"
"It's a long story. A difficult one."
"We've got time."
Mr. Waverly turned over and addressed his two senior agents sternly from the vast spaciousness of the queen-sized bed he had opted not to share with anyone: "Gentlemen! Cease and desist your bickering. If I had wanted to listen to such childishness, Mrs. Waverly and I would've had children."
"My apologies, sir."
"Thank you, Mr. Kuryakin. Mr. Solo?"
"He started it."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Waverly."
"I sincerely hope the two of you are better behaved than this when you're on a mission."
Waverly tried to ignore the wave of quiet laughter that came from the other bed. He shook his head, but couldn't suppress a smile. Boys would be boys–apparently, even when they were well over thirty.
"Take the restraints off him."
"But, Mr. Kuryakin," the nurse started.
"Now." Illya thought he was showing considerable control given that he'd left Napoleon's hospital room for ten minutes to check in with Waverly and returned to find Napoleon strapped to the bed. Without waiting for the nurse, Illya began unfastening the restraint at Napoleon's wrist.
"Mr. Kuryakin, he was yelling, thrashing around. We were worried he might hurt himself." Or someone else remained unspoken. "It's for his own good," the nurse said, but she started to undo the other strap. Her reluctance showed in her movements.
"I will take full responsibility." Illya rescued Napoleon's wrist from the restraint and rubbed gently. His skin was still clammy, and he moved restlessly beneath the sheets. Illya quickly flipped the edge of the covers up just to make sure they hadn't secured Napoleon's feet as well. Honestly, sometimes he would've sworn the infirmary staff were just an extension of Thrush.
"I'm right here, Napoleon." Illya slipped his hand into his partner's, gratified when Napoleon's grip tightened in response.
Napoleon was pale against the blue infirmary sheets, his body shaking with the effort of sweating out Thrush's latest drug. It was never easy to see Napoleon hurting, but this was pure agony. The doctor had assured them both there was nothing to do but let the drug run its course, but no one had prepared them for what that meant. Napoleon had already been in a delirious pain-filled fog for more than six hours, and there appeared to be no end in sight.
"Illya, where's Illya?" Napoleon's eyes opened wide, pupils dilated as much as Illya had ever seen, and his hands started reaching for something Illya couldn't see. The nurse took a step back, "I told you so" clear on her face, and Illya caught both Napoleon's hands in his own even as Napoleon continued to struggle.
"Mr. Solo could be dangerous in this condition."
"Both our weapons are secured." Illya didn't think it necessary to point out that Napoleon, even incapacitated, could kill someone with his bare hands. "There is no danger."
"If you say so."
The nurse just shook her head as she left the room, clearly expecting to find Illya's rapidly cooling corpse on her next bed check.
Napoleon thrashed violently, and Illya, tired of watching his partner suffer, settled himself on the thin edge of the bed and nudged Napoleon gently with his hip.
"Move over, Napoleon."
The brown eyes seemed to focus for a moment, and Napoleon shifted slightly, his body still shaking involuntarily in tiny tremors. Illya stretched out beside him and reached an arm across Napoleon's chest, gently gripping his shoulder, lending him some stability through the worst of the shaking.
Gratefully, Napoleon murmured his name, and Illya just nodded, leaning his head against Napoleon's, trying to give him what strength he could offer. He'd never been much of a talker, but he knew Napoleon took comfort from conversation, so he let himself ramble about simple things: the mission report, what the cafeteria was serving, the abysmal quality of the coffee in the hospital vending machines. Napoleon responded, sometimes with incomprehensible phrases, sometimes with a nod of his head or a flailing hand. It was enough.
Sometime before dawn, Napoleon's fever broke and he drifted into a still and silent sleep. Illya, equally exhausted, fell asleep beside him, his arm still draped protectively across his partner's chest.
Exhausted, the two agents stumbled into the room and headed straight for the bed. Four shoes hit the floor in a matter of seconds.
"I'm so glad that's over," Illya murmured, one arm across his eyes.
"We saved the world."
"You saved the girl."
"You saved her husband–thank you for that, by the way." Napoleon was only mildly sarcastic.
"Don't mention it. You disarmed the bomb."
"Only after you'd figured out the code."
"Yes, but you saved me from certain death at the hands of Thrush."
"I did, didn't I?"
"Well, after you rescued me from that locked room."
"It's always a locked room."
"Well, wouldn't do much good to put us in an unlocked room, would it?"
"I suppose not."
Napoleon loosened his tie and yawned. "We saved the world."
"And we'll have to do it again tomorrow."
"That's what I love about you, Illya. That boundless optimism."
"We saved the world today."
"Yeah, we did."
"Sleep well, Illya."