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1. The Vinciguerra Affair

The first time Illya saved the cowboy's life was, of course, when he interrupted Alexander Vinciguerra's very inelegant and muddy attempt at murder.

He should perhaps also count the incident not long previous when he'd interrupted the ridiculous little torture man and his glitchy electric chair. But that would have been a long and drawn-out process, and probably Solo would have come up with a means of rescuing himself before expiring. He has a particular talent for improbable escapes, that one. So no, he'll give the American the benefit of the doubt in that situation.

First time, then, was hurling the wreckage of his own battered motorbike at Vinciguerra's head through that interminable rain. It wasn't a measured or considered action. His ears were still ringing from his own crash, and the mild concussion plus all the rain left him feeling vaguely seasick in a way that actually being out on the water never had, but the horrible fiancee-stealing Italian had managed to retrieve the gun, and Illya just couldn't let that stand. He likely would have turned it on Gaby next, after all. No.

Even if it perhaps would have been easier (in the long run) to wait another half-minute and let Vinciguerra dispatch with the damn cowboy first. Would have saved Illya a great deal of trouble later on, probably.

Illya does have moments of regret on that account from time to time.


2. The Opium Affair

He starts keeping a scorecard somewhere between Montevideo and Cairo, a couple of months into their reluctant partnership. True, Solo managed to eliminate a particularly irritating arms dealer in Istanbul on his behalf, and Illya will grudgingly credit Solo's smooth-talking in surprisingly literate Spanish for extricating them both from an awkward situation in the Mercado del Puerto. But Illya is still well ahead according to his tally.

"You know, cowboy," he remarks, hefting Solo's inert form through a ground-level window in the Bulaq district, "I am starting to believe you enjoy being drugged."

"I've got nothing against opium in general," Solo slurs, with his usual idiotic bravado, "but now that you mention it, I do think Khalil slipped something extra in that pipe."

"He also tried to slip a sword into your belly," Illya points out dryly.

"To be fair, that was after I tried to point a gun at his head."

Illya snorts. "You have terrible aim. Was more like at the window two meters to his left."

"Well, I was drugged, you see."

"Yes, Solo," Illya says, shoving his loose-limbed body into the trunk of Gaby's car. "I do see. Now shut up and pretend to be dead, your friend Khalil has many brothers and they will be happy to finish the job for him. And if you blow my cover, I will be happy to let them."

Solo flaps a hand at him in what might be agreement or possibly a muscle spasm, mouth twisting into a smirk, and Illya slams the trunk shut and turns to deal with Khalil's unhappy relatives.


3. The Affair Affair

Solo's greatest weakness by far is a beautiful woman, as Illya comes to learn very quickly.

It's not that Solo loses his head around women. No, he is almost too cool around them, Illya thinks, smooth to a fault, charming and considerate as he silkily manipulates them into his arms. He is very, very skilled at the honey trap. In particular, Illya notes that he never actually pressures a woman into his bed; she always, always chooses it for herself.

"Can you blame them?" Gaby remarks wryly, in Prague, as they watch Solo seduce a fascist's mistress during intermission at the opera. "Just look at him."

He is handsome in a very American way, Illya supposes, but it is not about his looks. It is his confidence in his own appeal, and his respect for the women themselves. They know that if they do reject him, he will leave them be without question. This is somehow intoxicating to a woman, the power to say no and be heard.

"How did you resist him, then?" Illya asks her.

Gaby shrugs. "I'd like to say that I could see right through him, but to be honest? He never tried, with me. Not like that."

"More fool him."

She gives him an inscrutable look. "Perhaps. Or perhaps he was the smart one."

Illya and Gaby never have taken that final step forward together in the sweet push and pull of their not-quite-romantic relationship. Always there is an interruption, or a good reason to say no, not now. They are better as partners, the two of them. The three of them.

Still, Illya has his regrets.

So no, it is not that Solo loses sight of the mission when he is on the prowl, or that the scent of a particular perfume will distract him from doing his job, and doing it well. But he just never wants to believe that a woman he has loved (and he does love them all, for a few moments at least, in his own way) will be the one to pull the trigger.

Illya idly retrieves the fascist's mistress's Beretta from where it fell to the plush carpeting of Solo's opulent Prague hotel suite. She had dropped it, of course, when Illya slipped up behind her to snap her neck. Solo is still tangled up in the bedsheets, hair rumpled, harsh lines drawn across his handsome face as he stares vaguely in the direction of her body.

"Is not very good gun," Illya decides, after disassembling it on the coverlet, after giving Solo time to process her death (and very nearly his) in his own way. "Not well-maintained. But she had steady hand, and from four meters away, she would not have missed."

"No," Solo agrees coolly. "She wouldn't have." He shakes his head. "Damn waste, though."

Illya does not ask what the mistress's death was a waste of. For all his skill and ruthlessness, Solo can be sentimental about the loss of life, especially if the life lost had belonged to a beautiful woman. He is not overly fond of killing in general. Neither is Illya, but he does not regret it in the same way, either.

She had her Beretta aimed directly at Solo's head. He does not regret this death at all.

"What does that make it now, Peril, nine to six?" Solo asks, smirking up at Illya with traces of his usual sardonic humor, and Illya allows himself to relax, just a hair.

"Ten," Illya corrects him. "You have some catching up to do."


4. The Prado Affair

"Score is currently fifteen to eleven," he informs Solo as they drag themselves out of the Adriatic. At least it is summer. Could have been worse. Still, the open gash on Illya's shoulder is not happy with the salt in the water.

Solo's response is somewhat delayed as he coughs up several liters of seawater. Eventually, he rasps out, "Thirteen to eleven, surely."

"You are not counting horse race in Guadalajara?"

"No, I'm definitely counting Guadalajara, but I still maintain that Reykjavik was dubious at best, and even that would only bring you up to fourteen." Solo rolls over onto his back, wincing. The beach here is rocky, unpleasant. They are somewhere along the coast of Yugoslavia. Gaby and the cavalry will find them soon, Illya is sure, although he is less sure how well the tracker sewn into his trouser cuffs survived its encounter with the Adriatic. Solo's is long gone, of course.

Illya shakes his head as he prods at his shoulder tentatively. Just a flesh wound, not too deep. Will be fine. "Fifteen. Madrid."

"Madrid?" Solo arches an eyebrow at him. "That's -- no, you can't be serious, not the Prado incident! I was never in any real danger--"

"You nearly blew all of our covers over a scrap of canvas--"

Solo looks pained, and not just from the lingering aftereffects of his near-drowning. "An original Hieronymous Bosch--"

"--not to mention the single most mortifying example of thieving I have ever had the bad luck to witness--"

"Listen, Peril, I couldn't possibly have known that Hernandez would have a spot of stomach flu that night--"

"--and you made Gaby cry." Illya glares at him. "I very nearly shot you myself. But I didn't. Fifteen."

"It doesn't count as saving my life if the thing you're saving me from is yourself!"

"You do not seem to understand how close I came," Illya retorts darkly.

Fortunately, the U.N.C.L.E. chopper arrives before they can argue it further and Illya is forced to save the damn cowboy's life a sixteenth time.


5. The Rocket Affair

The T.H.R.U.S.H. agent had actually put Solo into a modified rocket and launched it off the side of a cliff. Illya is KGB and super-spy and has been forced to read the terrible James Bond novels that Gaby has an incomprehensible fondness for, and even he had never imagined anything so ridiculous would actually happen.

"You have outdone yourself this time, Cowboy," Illya grunts, pulling Solo back up the cliff face. Solo clings to the rope grimly, helping as best he can, but there's not much in the way of hand or footholds. Both their hands will be scraped raw by the time he's back up.

"Just think how much more difficult this would be if I hadn't managed to eject myself from the rocket at the last minute," Solo calls up to him.

Another meter or so, and Solo will be able to reach out and grasp the cliff's edge. "Much less difficult, I think," Illya says. "You would be in million tiny bits all across desert, and I would not have rope burn."

Solo clasps Illya's arm, and Illya hauls him up onto solid earth. They both flop on their backs on the ground, panting. "I'm so terribly sorry to have inconvenienced you."

"Eh." Illya shrugs, propping himself up on his elbows. "Would be more inconvenient after. Gaby would have been very angry if you had exploded."

Solo nods sagely. Both of their lives become very inconvenient indeed when Gaby is angry.

They spend a few minutes just lying there, feeling the wind on their faces and watching as the dust cloud kicked up by the rocket impact gradually settles. Then Solo glances back up at Illya. "Say, Peril, did you happen to dispatch with Janovic on your way over?"

Janovic was the T.H.R.U.S.H. agent with a particular inclination towards rocketry and megalomania. "You had just been shot off cliff," Illya points out. "I was on tight schedule. Did not have time to deal with..." The penny drops. "Ah. He is right behind us, isn't he?"

Solo gets to his feet with a sharklike smile, with Illya's secondary revolver in hand. Illya wondered when he'd had the opportunity to lift it. "No need to inconvenience yourself, Kuryakin. I'd like to settle the score somewhat."


+1. The Locked Room Affair

"I suppose we ought to take this as a compliment," Solo remarks, inspecting the solid walls of their prison as best he can given that he's chained to the rock in about twelve different places. Illya himself can barely even move his head from side to side, he's so thoroughly restrained.

"Am not feeling very flattered," he replies grimly. He thinks maybe he might be able to wiggle the smallest finger on his left hand.

"I just mean that T.H.R.U.S.H. has gone through quite a lot of trouble on our behalf today," Solo goes on. It's idle chatter. Illya can see his eyes rove over the stonework, can practically hear the gears spinning in his foxlike brain. Always searching for a way out, that one. "One might almost think that the two of us are dangerous or something."

Illya would very much like to shrug, but the straightjacket makes that difficult. He settles for rolling his eyes instead.

They'd been deliberately off the grid for over a week, just outside of Johannesburg, with no way to contact Waverly or the rest of U.N.C.L.E. Gaby was away on a solo mission in Melbourne. None of their intel had forecasted that the splinter cell they'd been sent to dismantle would turn out to be T.H.R.U.S.H.'s primary base of operations in Africa. They had been underequipped and outmatched, and there had simply been no warning whatsoever.

"Our reputation precedes us, I suppose," Solo muses.

Illya wishes very much that he would stop gabbing already, then regrets this wish very quickly when a vent in the ceiling opens and he can make our the faint but unmistakable hiss of gas.

Solo swears fluently.

"Well," Illya says heavily, as the air begins to fill with haze, "I suppose if I had to die...I would not have chosen to die with you."

Across their prison -- and, apparently, their tomb -- Solo cracks a grin. "And I wouldn't chose to die at all, so no hard feelings there, Peril." He coughs on the gas, but pushes through it, because even poison gas is not enough to shut Napoleon Solo up for any length of time. "But I really do hate that this means I won't be able to overtake you on the scorecard. What are we ending on, twenty-one to nineteen?"

"Twenty-two," Illya insists, coughing, because why not? It's not like he has much breath left to waste anyway.

"I still say that the Prado incident doesn't count."

"Listen, Cowboy--"

At that moment, the wall bursts inward in a shower of rocks and dirt, and he starts choking on the dust (and his own surprise) as well as the gas. But sunlight and fresh air stream in, and there's shouting, and Solo's face is grimy but his eyes are wide and they are still alive. Somehow still alive.

Gaby is there. With a wrecking ball.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, boys," she says briskly, as U.N.C.L.E. agents swarm over the wreckage. "I was held up in Customs. These Afrikaaners just don't know how to treat a lady." She smirks as the other agents work to free Illya and Solo from their restraints. "So where does that put me? Thirty-seven to twelve, I think it was?"

"Thirty-six," Illya argues on general principle, but really, she's far outpaced them at this point, what's the use of even keeping score?