“I must say this is proving rather inconvenient,” Napoleon sighs, testing the bonds on his wrists and noting that they don’t seem too terribly well made. They’re simple rope, not great for the skin, but helpful if you have a Russian bear sitting in your corner.
Unfortunately, the man in question is too busy glaring at Napoleon to be of much use. “Why did you throw your gun? Stupid move, cowboy.”
“Because I didn’t exactly have anything else worth throwing. Not all of us can casually toss around heavy machinery like you, Peril.” Napoleon keeps working on the ropes, tightening the knots to get some slack, working his wrists at the coarse material to test its resistance. “And, if I recall correctly, there was another gun being pointed at your head.”
Illya’s eyes narrow and his face darkens. “Would have handled it. You did not need to throw away weapon.” Finally, his arms flex and the ropes binding his hands behind the chair creak at the pressure. “Now we are stuck here, probably going to have more guns pointed at both our heads.
As if waiting for their cue, the door swings open and a line of men file in, all dressed in nondescript blue jumpsuits except for one who’s in a plain black suit. And it’s the suit that comes to stand between both him and Illya- middle aged, balding, a tension to his shoulders that betrays his unease. He’s new to this, then. That could prove to be dangerous or beneficial.
“Good evening, gentlemen,” he smiles, too much strain at the corners of his mouth. Napoleon notes that down as he returns the gesture with an easy smile of own. Illya glowers at them both. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to introduce yourselves, seeing as you’ve decided to come in uninvited.”
“Ah, yes, but you’ve put us in a bit of a bind, haven’t you?” Napoleon says smoothly, “Not much of an atmosphere for pleasant introductions.”
“Perhaps not,” the man nods to the men waiting along the wall and two of them step forward, a gun pointed at Napoleon’s temple and another at Illya’s. “Does that help improve your mood?”
“I’d have to say it doesn’t,” Napoleon keeps up his easy demeanor, all poise and nonchalance, and he can see how it grates on the man’s already frayed nerves. A vein in his neck pulses and Napoleon’s grin gets a little bit wider, a little bit slicker. “You could always introduce yourself first, break the ice.
It goes on like that for a while, a twisting dialogue of honeyed words and thinly veiled threats that Napoleon is resoundly winning. The man’s anger steadily mounts as the minutes pass and Napoleon notes that Illya is almost entirely forgotten in the exchange. It’s fortunate, because the next remark is the breaking point, tension snapping and the man losing his composure, backhanding Napoleon across the face so forcefully that he can taste blood where his teeth have broken the skin inside his cheek.
“Enough!” the man bellows, voice entirely too loud for the small space.
“No need to yell,” Napoleon admonishes. “You’ll seem terribly out of control and lose their respect,” he nods towards the jumpsuited men. One of them shifts awkwardly under the sudden scrutiny. Illya is watching him carefully from the other chair, eyes hard and calculating, the muscles of his arm twitching occasionally as he works at the ropes holding him in place. They just need a bit more time, just a bit, until Gaby comes to get them. And Napoleon has done a remarkable job of stalling, silver tongue put to good use, but it seems their time has run out.
The man backhands him again then barks out an order in something Napoleon recognizes as some kind of Czech before his head swims, everything going spectacularly bright for a moment after his temple is hit with the butt of a gun. He hears Illya growl lowly into the few feet separating them and he shakes his head minutely, lifts his eyes to meet their captor’s.
“Enough,” the man repeats. “Whether you like your treatment or not is of no concern, you will tell me who you are and why you are here or I will cut out your tongue so that your silence will no longer be your choice to make.”
The man steps forward into Napoleon’s space, hand a vice around his jaw as he forces Napoleon’s head back and bares his throat. A show of dominance before he’s suddenly released and backhanded again. He carefully swallows the blood pooling in his mouth.
He’s had worse, will no doubt see worse again in the future. He can handle this easily. The man is quick to anger and lacks finesse- torture and interrogation obviously not in his usual repertoire. Regardless, Napoleon’s thankful his insolence has earned him the man’s full attention, giving Illya time to work at the ropes and saving him from any abuse himself, as well as stalling for time for Gaby to arrive.
Then, suddenly, the game changes when the door bangs open and another man steps in, walking up to their interrogator’s side and whispering something in his ear. His face freezes, emotions flashing behind his eyes and some of the color draining from his cheeks before his face turns red and he lashes out, pointing to one of the guards along the wall and barking another order.
A knife is pressed to his hand and before Napoleon or Illya has time to react the blade plunges into Napoleon’s thigh. He grits his teeth and holds back a grunt of pain. Illya jerks and bares his teeth in frustration where he’s still tied up across the room.
“International intelligence!” The man cries. He leaves the knife in Napoleon’s thigh to stand up and pace a few steps away. “To think you tried to pass for petty criminals. There will be people looking for you.” He turns and Napoleon sees fear and desperation in his eyes, a kind of mad fury that tells him the rules of this game have suddenly changed.
The man whirls on Illya. “You will tell me what you know, how you found me, or I will kill you both.” He advances quickly, grabbing the gun from the guard closest to Illya and pressing it hard against his skull. Illya’s face remains impassive.
Napoleon, however, isn’t quite so ready to see a gun in the hands of a madman that close to his partner’s head. “You know,” he says, voice and posture still poised and put together despite the blood dripping from his chin. “You’re really not going to get anywhere in life with manners like that. Pity we didn’t get away with stealing that Renoir of yours, I’m not certain someone of your questionable tastes knows how to appreciate it.”
The next few seconds seem to happen in fragmented pieces, broken up by each of the reactions Napoleon catalogues as he glances quickly around the room. The man’s eye twitches, Illya looks at him like that hit to the head has done permanent damage, and the guard closest to him backs away just a fraction before his boss storms over and punches Napoleon in the side of the face. Repeatedly. His chair threatens to tip but the man stops it, pulls him back by the hilt of the knife still seated in his thigh.
Napoleon knew it was a calculated risk. The painting had been well-framed, well-lit, kept in the most pristine condition-- obviously something its owner treasured. But so long as the fury stays directed at himself, Illya has a chance. And since Napoleon isn’t going to be able to get himself free regardless, this is the way he’s most useful. He can’t break rope or level a room of guards, but he can keep them distracted long enough for his partner to do the job.
Illya doesn’t seem quite as impressed, not with the way his eyes narrow and his face gets a fraction tighter. His arms twitch where they’re pulled back behind the chair and Napoleon imagines the slight tremor that must be making its way down to his fingers. But he doesn’t get to imagine it for long, because suddenly the man’s hand is in his hair, forcing his head back again, and the knife is plunging into his thigh with an enraged howl, coming back red before it’s pressed to the line of his throat.
“You- You I will kill now. Information, I can get from the other one. You, I will cut up slowly no matter what you have to say.”
He tosses the knife to the ground then draws back and pulls a gun from a holster at his back, pointing it at Napoleon’s head while two guards untie him from the chair and hoist him to his feet, dragging him out into the hall. They only make it as far as the next corridor before he hears a low, echoing yell. The guards around him freeze, attention diverted and allowing the perfect opportunity for Napoleon to escape their hold, leg nearly giving out on him as he kicks one guard to the ground and slams the other into the wall, dodging frantic bullets from their boss in the process.
When Illya shoots, it is calculated and unfailing, not lacking in fury but controlled. The bullet pierces the man’s head, splatters gore against the wall. Napoleon allows himself a smile as Illya takes purposeful strides in his direction. “Loving your work, Peril,” he says, looking at the mess of red on dull beige. “A true masterpiece.”
“You are stupid,” Illya answers, large hands grasping Napoleon’s shoulders, eyes raking over every part of Napoleon they can reach. “Can you walk?”
“I’ve come this far, haven’t I?” he takes a step forward to prove his point but can’t quite hide the way his leg gives, Illya immediately pulling an arm over his shoulders and taking most of his weight. And the way Napoleon’s head spins at the sudden motion is another issue entirely, making him sway further into Illya’s side as they make their way down the hall. He keeps his feet moving, one in front of the other, but he can’t quite keep the world from blurring and tilting like a ship tossed in the foamy sea.
“Cowboy?” Illya asks, pulling them suddenly to a stop and cupping one hand to Napoleon’s face, shaking him slightly.
Napoleon stares up at him and frowns. “Peril?” He eyes the hand at his cheek. “Particular reason you’re choosing this moment to discover the more tactile side to our relationship?” He means for it to come out as a quip, teasing, but it sounds like he’s been drinking too much scotch, words just barely slurred at the edges.
“You are losing too much blood,” Illya says, pushing Napoleon up against the nearest wall and pinning him there with one hand while the other paws at his thigh.
“At least buy me dinner first,” Napoleon says, ignoring the pain in his jaw and the fire in his leg, the way the world suddenly blurred and tilted.
Illya glances up at him and his eyes are dark. “Not time for jokes."
“Not a joke,” Napoleon hears himself say, although muted and far away, like he’s underwater. He coughs and his head spins and something warm trickles down his chin.
Illya stands abruptly and strips off his jacket, catching Napoleon before he can sway too far forward and tying the garment tightly around his thigh, applying as much pressure to the wound as he can. Then they’re moving again, Napoleon losing pieces of time as they rush from the winding corridors into the fading evening light.
When he feels grass under his feet and can’t quite remember how that happened, he coughs to clear some of the blood from his throat then leans into Illya’s shoulder, much closer than it should be. “Think I might need a minute, Peril.”
“No minutes. Gaby is almost here.” Is Illya’s response.
“Then I’ll need to ask a favor,” Napoleon laughs lightly, feels the world fading fast around him. “Make sure to tell her you didn’t have to carry me the whole way out.”
He hears his name, feels a hand on his face, and then the world goes dark.
“He would not stop talking.”
“That sounds like our Solo.”
“I do not like when he is so quiet.”
A beat of silence, broken only by the sound of air rushing by.
Somehow, the words seem more important than they should. A strong arm has him pinned against something solid and warm and he lets out a hiss of pain when the world jolts and a hand presses harder into his thigh. The pain gives him some clarity, though, and he opens his eyes long enough to register the familiar sight of Illya’s turtleneck, the line of his jaw; much closer now than they’ve ever been before. But there’s too much pain for this to be a dream.
“Cowboy?” He feels the word as much as he hears it, a rumble where he’s pressed to Illya’s chest. He blinks sluggishly and the world goes dark again.
When he wakes up the next time the world is no longer spinning and instead of dark it’s light-- obnoxiously so. The sheets are an offensive shade of off-white, as scratchy as they are unattractive, and he surmises anyone who’s taken the time to tuck him in like a child must not mean him too much immediate harm. He opens his eyes wider and takes in the room in full, from the pale walls to the IV attached to his arm. One of his arms. The other arm has something entirely different attached to it, something large and blond and decidedly Russian.
“Peril,” he says, more like chokes, voice raspy and jaw tight with bruising. His heartbeat picks up slightly in his chest at the warmth he now recognizes along his side.
Illya’s head snaps up and piercing blue eyes meet his, something flashing in their depths before he stands and disappears from the room without saying a word, leaving the side of the bed cold in his wake. Napoleon’s brow furrows. He doesn’t have time to dwell on it for long before Gaby strides in, taking up Illya’s deserted chair and fixing him with a look so potent and searching his mother would be proud.
“I’ve done something, haven’t I?” he asks, “Something that is apparently more distasteful to the two of you than usual.” He tries to wrack his brain for what it might be, but all he remembers is breaking away from the guards, Illya killing the man, and then a patchwork of hallways and a moving vehicle, words and warm hands against his face.
She lifts one slender eyebrow.
“Illya’s more upset than you are, did I betray a greater love for capitalist decadence? Or did I say something particularly uncouth in his mother tongue?”
Gaby keeps a smooth face through his attempts at levity then carefully examines her nails, the bracelet on her wrist, waits until she knows Napoleon is listening. “He said you deliberately put yourself in danger, jeopardized the mission.” Napoleon opens his mouth to retort but she cuts him off, “When we went in to cover up, we found where you both had been held. The room was a mess, as were the bodies in it. Waverly wasn’t pleased.”
Napoleon’s eyes widen slightly and a shiver travels down his spine. He’d heard Illya yell, saw the twitch in his muscles-- he’d known what was coming. But he never imagined the fit to be quite so destructive, especially with how seemingly calm Illya had been getting them both out.
“I suggest you two figure it out,” she says, pinning him with a look that leaves no room for discussion. She strides out of the room in the same purposeful way she entered, door clicking shut behind her.
Napoleon sighs at the ceiling, closing his eyes and wondering how he managed to get partnered up with two of the most complicated individuals on the planet. Dangerous, frustrating, complicated individuals. And also the two people he trusts most in the world. He would give anything not to lose what they have, complications and all.
The door handle clicks and Napoleon carefully remains staring at the ceiling as Complication Number One steps into the doorway, hovering there until Napoleon finally sighs and turns his head, taking in Illya’s shuttered face.
“Are you going to sit or do you insist on looming?”
Illya takes the chair by Napoleon’s side but still doesn’t say a word, just staring at Napoleon with his jaw clenched tight.
The tension in the air reminds Napoleon too much of the crackling of electricity, charged and ready to snap. “You know, I almost think I’d prefer it if you’d try to punch me.” Illya’s eyes snap up but Napoleon refuses to meet them, barreling on regardless of how Illya stands and clenches his fists at his sides. “I won’t just lie here and take it, mind you, because I’ve done nothing wrong, but I think it would at the very least clear the air.”
Illya remains silent for a moment more before finally letting out a low growl, “Nothing wrong? You think mission was a success?”
Napoleon blinks, “Yes. We got the information, we got out. I’ll heal and neither of us is in a body bag, I’d consider that success.”
“You are wrong,” Illya says, looming over Napoleon and placing a hand on his temple, where a bandage is covering a neat row of stitches and a purple bruise. “This is not success.”
Napoleon wants to say something, to argue back, but his mind has been temporarily put out of comission by the way Illya’s thumb is rubbing gentle circles into his cheekbone, tips of his fingers at Napoleon’s pulse point like he needs a reminder.
“You are not working alone anymore, Cowboy. You cannot act like your loss will not affect others-- will not affect Gaby, will not affect me. It is selfish.”
“Well, I am rather well known for that particular vice.”
Illya’s hand tightens on the side of his face and he can’t hide the slight wince that follows. “You-” Illya shakes his head and starts to pull away, eyes that were momentarily so open starting to darken again. But Napoleon catches his hand, keeps it in place, presses into it until Illya turns to look at him again.
“Peril, I did my job. And I knew you would get out and come get me, because that’s your job. I was never working alone.”
Illya stares at him for a long time, considering, but the tension from before is no longer present. His hand never leaves Napoleon’s face, but the other does come up to join it.
“Next time, find different way to do job.”
Napoleon lifts one eyebrow in challenge. “Or?”
“Or I will put you over my knee,” he bends down slightly and looks between Napoleon’s eyes. “Понимаешь?”
Napoleon nods, voice once again lost at the hands of one Illya Kuryakin, the only man to silence him and he’s now done it twice in one day. It might just be his undoing, but he can’t bring himself to care, not when hands that were trained to destroy and kill are brushing the hair back from his forehead, fingers tangling in his hair, one thumb brushing over the curve of his lips. “Peril?” he finally manages to say, clearing his throat momentarily to pull himself together.
The man lifts an eyebrow in question.
“Do I need to send you a gold embossed invitation or are you going to kiss me?”
A soft smile curves up one side of Illya’s mouth, hand tightening in Napoleon’s hair before he leans down and presses lips to the curve of Napoleon’s throat, the edge of his jaw, stopping at the corner of his mouth. “Take you to dinner first,” he says, voice low and teasing. “Then we will see about invitation.”
His fingers brush back through Napoleon’s hair as he stands, blue eyes warmer than Napoleon’s ever seen, laughing softly at the indignant glare he receives for pulling away. He takes his place back in the chair at Napoleon’s side, his hand finding Napoleon’s on top of the sheets and holding tight. “Понимаешь?”
Napoleon brushes his thumb over the backs of Illya’s knuckles and smiles, “Понимаю.”
They will never be alone again.