Same as Mine
Cheerfully humming as he packed, Napoleon reflected that it was a very good day indeed. Victoria Vinciguerra was dead. Her husband was dead. Uncle Rudi was dead. They were alive, and the mission was a success.
It had been touch and go there for awhile – too many parameters and everybody had mucked up during it. Illya had screwed up, Napoleon had screwed up, Gaby had screwed up, Waverly had screwed up… but they’d worked it through, improvised, worked harder, smarter, come back together again, and completed it. Twice.
This pretty much had to be the best mission ever. Not in each and every part of it – Napoleon still winced over the alarm on the vault door – but in the way it had really flowed as a whole and come out on top. And they were all alive, and the enemy was dead. Definitely a win.
There was a knock at the door and Napoleon glanced at the clock in surprise. He hadn’t finished packing yet. Woolgathering too much. Or sleeping in.
Cheerfully, he went to let Illya in. The Russian was all doom and gloom as he walked quietly in. Probably due to the fact that there was no Gaby beside him. Napoleon really hadn’t expected she would, but that had to have been a problematic goodbye for them.
Telling Illya to fix them some drinks, Napoleon went back to his packing.
He’d never let a woman get that close to him. Romance them, yes, love them, yes, enjoy them. Respect them for who and what they were – he didn’t make the mistake of thinking women were any less than men. He’d known many men who were less, and many women who were more. It was all in the individual. Gaby was definitely at the higher end of the spectrum, and a strong person. It wasn’t too surprising that the Russian had fallen for her.
Well, yes, it was a surprise. Illya had seemed initially to be too much the KGB agent to have any human feelings, let alone something as vulnerable as that had been.
It didn’t matter now, they were parted and each going their separate ways.
“I guess it’s business as usual now,” Napoleon reflected as he put his clothes carefully in the cases. “Back to how things were.”
There was no reply from the Russian, and Napoleon leaned out to look at him, needling a bit at their supposed opposite sides. “Politics being what they are.”
The supposed became a lot more real as he took in the sick look on Illya’s face, and his attention directed to one side of Napoleon’s bed. Slowly, Illya’s gaze turned to meet Napoleon’s briefly, then continued past to the opposite side of the room. Perhaps the window.
Napoleon turned a full circle as he went back to the suitcase, tracking where… oh.
With a small, internal sigh, Napoleon cursed himself for thinking it was all over, when that was still there. Putting down the shaving kit he’d been holding, he shifted his gun out to an easier grab. It was still holstered, but the movement had only been a precaution. This was Illya, after all.
Illya Kuryakin, the KGB’s best agent.
Napoleon thought he might be sick himself. Gaby’s betrayal was nothing. Nothing at all. This… And there Napoleon had been, just priding himself on the fact that he’d never let a woman get that close to him. Nor ever a man, for that matter. It was somewhat of a surprise to find out he had. He hadn’t quite realized it. It never paid to be smug about other’s misfortunes – the world had a way of getting back at you for them.
I promise not to mock them in the future, Napoleon sent up a silent plea that was more of a curse. He knew how little fate listened.
“Are you… feeling okay?” Napoleon turned to face Illya directly, wanting to see what he could pry out of the Russian – something more definite… or something to dispel his suspicions.
Illya’s gaze reluctantly met his, and the other agent didn’t say anything. He just gave a miserable nod and a forced smile.
Why did they have to be on opposite sides? Why did Illya have to be such a good agent? Now completely sure of what was going on, Napoleon turned back to his packing, loosening his tie in preparation for action. Sadly, he also unholstered his gun though he left it in the suitcase. Not yet. Not until there was no choice. He glanced at the small mirror by his bed and watched Illya watching him. “So…” Napoleon decided to push it a bit more, in the guise of small talk that neither of them now believed. “What now? Mission accomplished… head back to Russia?”
“Something like this, yes,” Illya’s voice was smooth and even, not reflecting even a particle of the tension obviously inside of him. His gaze was more direct this time as well, as if a decision had been made. “You?”
Napoleon admired the voice control, though the earlier performance sucked. What did that mean, something like that?
Napoleon replied absently to the conversation, his attention primarily on Illya, watching through the mirror. The other agent wasn’t even pretending with the drinks now, standing straight and tall, in an action stance, focused on Napoleon. As Napoleon watched, Illya slipped a hand inside his jacket, making his intentions clear. Bastard, Napoleon thought. He hated having his hand forced, but the Russian was leaving him little choice.
Napoleon picked his own gun up, wrapping his fingers around the butt and getting ready to turn. He hadn’t wanted it to come to this. From the slowness of Illya’s actions, the Russian hadn’t wanted it either. Apparently, still didn’t want it, or Napoleon would be dead already.
Illya could be faster than lightning when he wanted to, dodging Napoleon’s bullets that first day before they even knew each other. Now, he moved like molasses and looked pale and unwell. Back then, Napoleon had another chance to kill the Russian, and he hadn’t taken it, because it hadn’t seemed like the right thing to do. Now, it seemed even less like the thing to do. Certainly not the right thing. Napoleon hadn’t rescued him from the frigid waters only to shoot him now.
Napoleon glanced again at his open suitcases, flicking his gaze to the computer tape sitting under his waist jacket at the far end. He almost wished he hadn’t picked it up from the wet ground, there at the end after Illya had killed Alexander Vinciguerra. He should have left it there. Let somebody else pick it up. That wouldn't have fulfilled his mission, however, and he'd been so smug about that before. He'd known it was out in plain sight more or less, but he hadn't thought through what would happen to this rather logical conclusion. Yelling, mostly, maybe a fistfight. He’d actually been looking forward to a fistfight, knowing he had a physical edge over the Russian right now. Putting Illya in a headlock would have been very satisfying.
But Illya was an agent, probably a better one than Napoleon. Napoleon was a thief, and a spy, and he hated the CIA and the CIA hated him. Illya… was the pet of the KGB and practically raised among them. It was more than a job, it was his life, and he was their best. Napoleon knew darn well what Illya’s orders were – the same as his own. His mistake was in thinking that because he wasn’t going to follow through on his, that Illya wouldn’t either. Plus, Napoleon was the one with the tape. Illya was too good an agent to just let it go, and Napoleon had overlooked that part. The only saving grace at the moment was that Illya didn’t really want to and was dragging his feet something fierce. Napoleon had assumed right in that much, at least.
This wasn’t going to end well.
In sick fury, Napoleon's gaze flitted to the other end of his packing, where he’d earlier put Illya’s watch. It was out and within easy reach as he’d planned to give to Illya this afternoon. He’d pictured the joy on Illya's face for getting something back he'd probably believed lost forever. He’d wanted to see that look, and had anticipated it, wanting the controlled expression to crack and maybe get a smile of his own for his efforts. Napoleon was an idiot, and he’d never be able to give the watch to Illya now.
Napoleon's thoughts paused, skipping from scenario to scenario, planning, thinking, evaluating possible reactions. Then he decided. Why not, Napoleon thought. He could be signing his own death warrant, with Illya's reflexes honed to such a sharp edge. But he wanted the chance. Dropping the gun and picking up the watch, Napoleon turned and tossed it at Illya, talking quickly as he did so to hopefully make the Russian realize it wasn't anything harmful. “Almost forgot – got something for you.”
There was a split second where it almost looked like Illya would pull his gun, those instincts sure something bad was coming towards him, but instead he reached out with both hands to catch the watch.
Settling into a careful stance, Napoleon watched as Illya quickly inspected the watch, flipping it over to see the back and the inscription there, verifying it was the real deal. He turned it to the front again, and with fumbling fingers, he put it on his wrist. Once it was secure, he looked across to Napoleon while obviously searching for words. The grim sickness that had been there while he’d been inching his way towards killing Napoleon was gone and instead hope now lived in his face. The difference made Illya look much younger, and incredibly innocent for what they had both been through. It wasn’t the look that Napoleon had anticipated, but it was a thousand times more precious and fragile.
With that same trembling hope, Illya cautiously asked, “Do you know what my mission is?”
The last word was slurred, as close to a contraction in English as Illya had ever gotten. Or maybe it was the urge to use ‘was’ instead of ‘is’ there. Napoleon quirked a grim smile. That was the two of them, professionals to the end.
“Same as mine was,” he replied quietly, careful still not to make any sudden moves towards the Russian. “To kill me, if necessary, to get that.” He laced the last word with distaste and revulsion, as he moved his waist jacket aside to reveal the computer tape in all its glory. It had been their mission that joined them reluctantly together, but in the end, the dividing point between them as well. Their countries each willing to do anything to get it. To unite together temporarily to keep it out of anybody else’s hands, and yet the ultimate goal to bring it home for themselves only.
There was a sound from the other room and Napoleon looked over to see Illya sliding down the wall in a controlled collapse to sit on the floor, his hands raising up to cover his face. There was no evidence of trembling in the fingers, just a general overall weariness.
“I didn’t want to kill you,” Illya said quietly, his hands lowering, but his head still bowed down.
Napoleon snorted. “Oh, that was obvious, Peril.” He walked to his friend and sat next to him, back to the wall, arm touching Illya’s.
Illya glanced sideways at him, not a question, but rather a quick check for injuries that had become automatic during their mission. Napoleon returned the favor. They both weren’t at their best anymore, with Napoleon’s lingering weakness from the shock treatments that had fried his insides out, and Illya’s lingering injuries from the motorcycle crashing down the hill. Up to this point, however, they’d both been carefully concealing it, presenting unblemished and fully healthy appearances to the world, ready for action as needed. And if action had been needed, they would have performed at their best. Collapse could always come after. It said something that Illya was now showing this weakness in front of Napoleon.
“I didn’t want to kill you, either.” Napoleon returned the sentiment, just as quietly.
“I work best alone, but in great part because we are taught not to trust, to tear apart for weakness, to compete for best. They do not trust me, and I not them.” Illya didn’t so much turn the subject as bring it to the root of where they were.
And here Napoleon had thought Illya was the pet of the KGB. But then, not all pets were treated well – it all depended on the owner. Well then. Nobody in the CIA trusted Napoleon at all – never had, and probably never would. Too much in his past, and he didn’t bother to hide his disdain for all of them either. He hadn’t thought that was a point he and Illya had in common. Napoleon quirked a grin, appreciating the irony. “Me too.”
That had been the two of them at the beginning of this mission as well, distrustful and reluctant. Applying their years of knowledge to each other and expecting the same. Added to that, the complications of their countries being on the very edge of open hostilities. They had both expected nothing of each other beyond aggravation and hardships, to accomplish the mission despite the partnership, not because of.
Yet instead this mission had brought them together in ways that Napoleon had never found with any other partner in the years he’d been an agent, or even as a soldier, though that came closer. They matched well together, he and the Russian. And Gaby too, even if they hadn’t known she was another agent until the end. The three of them, working an impossible task, against incredible odds, and succeeding. It was a heady experience, something probably never to be experienced ever again. Which is why they should be celebrating, not trying to kill each other now, after all of that.
“I wish that disk truly had blown up with ship!” Illya burst out, his anger and frustration not hidden in the least, his glare directed at the blue plastic on the bed as if his gaze alone could destroy it.
Napoleon blinked. “That… is a very good idea, my friend.”
Illya glanced at him, puzzled.
With a shrug, Napoleon glanced at the plastic disk, then looked back at Illya with his eyebrows raised.
Illya followed the look, then a smile spread across his face. “Yes. Yes, I think so too.” He nodded decisively, and the gloom that had been layered over him lifted like the sun returning.
And that is what made them such good partners – they didn’t have to talk. Not about the important things. A little bit here and there, to lead or confirm, but other than a few rough starts at the beginning, they now interacted smoothly, connecting with plans and thoughts. They could be miles apart physically, and still working on the same plan that returned them together at the end to bring it to fulfilment, even if it hadn’t been spelled out ahead of time. Napoleon hadn’t ever worked with anybody like that before. In parts, yes, but not the full connection like the two of them seemed to have.
Napoleon put a bit more of his weight into leaning against Illya. He didn’t often do this. Others on him, yes, but not him upon another.
Illya responded, taking the weight and reclining equally back. He made a movement of his arm as if he thought about shifting it over Napoleon’s shoulders, but in the end left them where they were.
To himself, Napoleon admitted that he’d been fascinated with the Russian since the very start. When the very best he could do only barely got them out of Illya’s clutches by bare inches. The KGB agent hadn’t ever given up, and if he hadn’t been dropped in a minefield, Napoleon was sure he would have followed them right over the wall. Nobody was that good, that persistent. Nobody had ever come so close to capturing him before, even in his days as a thief. If Gaby had been a little less skillful herself driving the car during the chase, they would never have made it, and Napoleon wouldn’t have blamed her. Illya had just been that good. Inhuman, Napoleon had thought, but their mission since had proved that the Russian had a very human side indeed. Most of that had been shown to Gaby as the pseudo-innocent had softened the edges, but Napoleon had found his own angles as well. Somehow, his own defenses had disappeared like he'd never even had any up. Napoleon still wasn't quite sure when that had happened or how. But when the boat had caught on fire, Napoleon had known then that he wasn't ever going to leave Illya behind, one way or the other. When Illya had come back for him and rescued him from Rudi’s clutches, Napoleon had been sure of it.
“Don’t ever try to make me kill you again,” Napoleon said, back to the quietness of truths barely shared.
“I was one about to kill you,” Illya replied, his weight solid along Napoleon’s, his voice back to normal, confident and secure.
Napoleon shook his head. “Peril, I know you, and you weren’t even making an effort. You knew I knew. There was only one way that was going to end.”
“It would been self-defense.” Illya’s body rippled in a shrug as he apparently gave up the effort to deny it. Though he added, “Not that I’d thought it through.”
“Or thought about what I would feel, after.” Napoleon relaxed onto Illya.
“You would been alive,” Illya said definitively, like that was the only thing that mattered. He shrugged again. “I had not decided.”
“Don’t,” Napoleon said once more. “Not ever again.” He could and did kill if he had to, and didn’t really care about most of it beyond some basic regrets, but not Illya. He didn’t want to kill Illya, or ever come this close to it again.
“Alright, Cowboy,” Illya replied quietly, serious and sincere. Napoleon breathed a sigh of relief. If Illya said it, he’d trust it. He wouldn’t have to worry about that again.
They both left unsaid that there wouldn’t be any more agains, that they would be each leaving today to return to the opposite sides. Napoleon to the American CIA, and Illya to the Russian KGB. This last drink together would truly be the last, a cap upon the mission and the unlikely partners they’d become.
Napoleon hadn’t been surprised that Gaby hadn’t joined them here at the last. She’d been their partner as well, but she had betrayed them. It had been part of the mission, and purely logical and the only thing that had kept the plan moving forward… but it was still a betrayal and Gaby would have felt it no less than they. They both had forgiven her, knowing they would have done the same. It remained to see, though, if she would forgive herself. And... it had lost something of that needed trust between them, with the mission coming first. It had nearly cost him his life, and while he forgave, Napoleon knew that he would always now look at Gaby with different eyes, with professional eyes to the mission end.
At the same time in this, the opposite had occurred between the unlikely partners. Illya had saved Napoleon’s life, and Napoleon, Illya’s. They were the ones who had expected betrayal or failure from the other, and instead found something very different together. There was no fear between the two of them now of the mission coming first. This was the final surprise test for them, and they both had passed. Or failed, depending on whose point of view one was looking at. Their handlers wouldn't be very happy with them. Tough. They would deal. And Napoleon and Illya would never see each other again. They would, though, never forget. One didn’t forget trust, or family, or gifts so unexpectedly received.
They sat quietly against the wall for some time, not doing or saying anything else. There wasn’t any need for it. Soaking in the time together until the end.
Eventually, Napoleon levered himself up, then turned around to give Illya a hand. The Russian took it unhesitantly and also stood, with a slight grimace as it pulled on his wounds. This close, Napoleon found himself tilting his head back to keep Illya’s face in view. He wasn’t used to being the short one. It was a surprisingly comfortable position to be in.
After a moment, without any words, but without the awkwardness there might have been between other people, they dropped hands and stepped apart.
Napoleon turned to the drink tray and looked around. After a moment, he found a pack of matches and put them next to the drinks. “I’ll take this outside. Bring the disk?”
Without looking at Illya, Napoleon walked out to the balcony.
Listening to the interior as he set up the drinks, he didn’t hear anything for a long few moments, then Illya’s footsteps went into Napoleon’s bedroom. Coming out, the footsteps came straight to him, Illya reemerging into his view, already working on prying the computer disk open to get to the tape.
“You know,” Illya remarked, piling the tape up inside the ash tray, “if Vinciguerra was carrying, there is water damage throughout, and tape will be mostly unusable.”
“Well, let’s take the mostly out of that statement, shall we?” Napoleon lit a match and touched it to the black tape, watching in satisfaction as it quickly caught fire.
Illya reached out and picked up his drink, watching the flames with a smile before he turned to Napoleon with a more personal variation of the smile.
Napoleon raised his own glass and they shared a silent toast to go with the moment.
END - Continue to Chapter 2 for Illya POV and a longer timeframe in the movie