Recent bookmarks

  1. Public Bookmark 1

    Tango by Banshee Caoine

    Fandoms: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (TV)

    This work isn't hosted on the Archive so this blurb might not be complete or accurate.

    06 Jun 2021


    Buenos Aires in the Spring reminded Napoleon of an old aristocrat he had once met in Paris. Like that lady, the city was somewhat frayed around the edges, somewhat past her prime, but she was rich with character, and an intriguing sparkle in her eyes. Behind him, the scratchy radio at the small outdoor café sang a plaintive Carlos Gardel song, “Mi Buenos Aires Querido” He listened absently for a few seconds admiring the depth of the sad nostalgia in the words then sighed. As classically Argentinian as the song was, he wished they would switch to something a little cheerier, for Illya’s sake if nothing else.
    A mustachioed waiter crossed the patio with a metal tray bearing all the accouterments of a traditional presentation of cortado, the locally famous café au lait equivalent. Napoleon quietly admired the precision with which the man laid out a small silver box of napkins, two small glasses of sparkling mineral water and a tiny plate of macaroons in the center of the small marble table. With great ceremony he then took the two small cups half-full of espresso and topped them off with steamed milk from a silver pitcher he had carried in on the tray.


    06 Jun 2021

    Bookmarker's Notes

    With a sweeping move that would have done a matador proud, the man efficiently slid one full cup in front of each man without spilling a drop, bowed sharply and departed.
    Napoleon risked a small sip. The cortado was perfect, strong, addictive and bracing. As he reached for a macaroon, he noticed that Illya had neither tasted his own cup nor as much as reached for the tempting cookies. Normally Napoleon would have had to be quick to even get any of the macaroons. He pushed the small plate closer to his partner’s cup to tempt him, disappointed at the total lack of response he got.
    Solo glanced over once again at his too quiet partner who was staring absently out across the plaza. They had just come to the end of an uneventful mission in Argentina. Thrush had been attempting to co-opt a local scientist whose expertise in Earth’s magnetic fields was deemed worth acquiring and their counterparts had tried their standard heavy-handed tactics. The two UNCLE agents had been assigned to protect the scientist and his family while rooting out the conspirators who planned to kidnap him and they had done just that.
    It had been an unremarkable assignment. Illya had been a little more underfoot than normal, but Solo attributed that to fatigue. They were both tired. Solo knew that their immediately previous assignment against Barnaby Partridge had been a hard one on Illya. The Thrush leader had captured him and subjected him to brainwashing in a nearly successful attempt on Solo’s life.
    Napoleon had already shrugged it off but Illya seemed to still be agonizing over the incident. His guessed his partner was having a hard time pardoning himself. For the first time ever, Napoleon was worried about Illya’s resilience. He could only guess that perhaps the psychological abuse he had suffered at the hands of Partridge had cut apparently deeper than Illya had admitted. His tight-lipped partner refused to even broach the subject with him.
    Solo knew how intensely the Russian relied on his self-control and of how mortified he was at losing grip over his free will. He sighed. A big part of this was his fault as well. As CEA he should have protested their immediate reassignment more stringently. Perhaps the fact that they had went right into this mission without downtime had been too much for even his blond friend’s remarkable stamina.
    Illya wasn’t sleeping well lately either. At first Napoleon had attributed the insomnia to the adrenalin buildup they both experienced from being on duty. But even now after the completion of the mission, Illya was still waking up in the middle of the night. He was spending the dawn hours walking, apparently on the beach because he returned every morning by breakfast with sandy shoes and dark, increasingly haunted eyes. The Russian’s famous appetite had dropped off precipitously even as his apathy had grown. Napoleon was afraid his friend was having a breakdown.
    Their grateful host from the University had been wining and dining them for three days now. Normally Napoleon would have politely declined but he was hoping the change in routine would help jar Illya out of his withdrawn mood. Instead his misguided efforts had had the reverse effect. He had seen the Russian’s quiet demeanor darken even more into something decidedly less healthy.
    They only had one more night in the city. Tomorrow they were returning to New York. Perhaps jumping from springtime in Argentina to winter in New York would help. He sat the half-eaten macaroon back on the plate suddenly having lost his appetite as well. Studying the back of the blond head, he worried silently, but what if it didn’t?
    The men’s shoes clicked on the hard surface of the red ceramic tiles in the entranceway to “La Chacra,” considered to be Buenos Aires’ foremost parrilla or steak restaurant. As their host led the way past a large stuffed black bull in the lobby, Illya noticed that Solo passed on the opportunity to make a quip about the creature. He sighed silently. He knew his withdrawn behavior was worrying his partner, but he dare not let up his regimen of strict self-control. The agent was grateful for the unwitting help that Professor Varela had given him by dominating the conversation over the last couple days. It helped excuse his own silence.
    On the way to their table they passed the asador, an open fire pit. Gaucho-dressed waiters tended slowly turning skewers of roasting beef, lamb, goat and pork, cutting thick slices off to order for the customers. Normally the very smell of the meats roasting would be enough to set Illya’s mouth to salivating, but tonight it had no absolutely effect on him. He sadly stared at the back of Napoleon’s head as he led the way, willing this night to be over as soon as possible.

  2. Public Bookmark 1

    To Live in Interesting Times by Taliesin

    Fandoms: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (TV)

    This work isn't hosted on the Archive so this blurb might not be complete or accurate.

    23 May 2021


    I was born in Russia in the Changing Times. My father said with pride that I was born the very day the famous statue of Lenin fell. He claimed it made me special, but I think he said it more to convince himself than me, for he had lost my mother in my birth, and a great loss it was to him.

    The walls came down, the monuments fell, and the people of the Soviet Union experimented for the first time with democracy. It was a heady time then, before the millennium, especially for the young. A time of freedom. Freedom to speak your mind, freedom to act your desires, freedom to rule yourself. And freedom to starve.

    It was a hard time. Capitalism made paupers of us all. No doubt the people had envisioned an Americanesque utopia as the instant result of our political upheaval. But the Americans had had centuries to practice their capitalism. They had experience; all we had was idealism. Idealism is an insubstantial thing. It lifts the heart, but leaves the stomach empty. You can't eat dreams.

    I was a child then. I had never experienced the privations of communism, never known the world of my father and grandfather. All I knew was the hunger. I didn't understand the freedom that was part and parcel of the want.


    23 May 2021

    Bookmarker's Notes

    There were many times I heard my grandfather, or even my father, speak of the old days with nostalgia, affection clouding their voices and their eyes. There were times when it had been better than it was now. The times it had been worse were often easier to forget.

    We moved to Kiev when I was still a boy, my father and grandfather and I. It was said there was work in Kiev. The same was said about a lot of places. There was always work, somewhere else. A child in a house of adults, I grew up quiet and scholarly. As soon as I was old enough, they sent me off to school. I saw little of them. Better, they thought, to send me to live apart from them, to a place where room and board were provided, than to raise a child in the midst of such uncertainty. The school was not much better, and there were many times I focused my prodigious attention on my lessons to distract myself from my empty belly.

    It was a military academy, where privation was used to teach fortitude and obedience. The first lesson I learned exceptionally well, the second only when it suited me. If nothing else, my schooling made something useful of the hunger, and groomed me for a place in the rising government.

    My father was proud, I think, when I took my place in the democratic regime. I can only thank the fates he was not around to see it, and me, fall.

    The millennium changed everything. It was only the passing of one year, but with it passed the century, and the world slowly became a colder place. Violence was easy and quick; right and wrong difficult concepts, too amorphous to grasp. Money was power, and power was everything. As the rich became richer, the poor suffered, and this was true of countries as well as people. And somehow, no one was poorer than Mother Russia.
    When the desperation became too great, the people began to turn back to the world they had once known. Nostalgia ruled their minds and their memories. The old ways, though harsh, were easier, for the rules were known; decades under their sway had made them familiar. The rules for capitalism were harder to understand, not as clear cut or easy to follow. I think none of us were prepared for the speed with which the existing government was torn down in favor of a return to the old. I should have foreseen it; but then, I had not been around to see the downfall of the previous government. I did not, then, know enough of the world, and of the people in it, to correctly predict the path desperation would take.

    Unfortunately, I was no better then than I am now at choosing my allies. I cannot control the choice of my heart. I was a nobody; second-rate and second-string to those holding true power. But I had chosen to ally myself with a man of principle and ideals, a man whose very name was a threat to the new communist regime. For that loyalty, the price was high and absolute.

    Thus it was I found myself on a train in the dead of winter. Chained up in a cattle car with others whose very existence was politically embarrassing, on my way to Siberia, there to work out the remainder of my probably very short existence. To say I was depressed would be putting it mildly. It became a point of pride not to allow it to show.

    I withdrew into myself, as I had on many occasions in the past when I found the world too harsh for bearing. In my mind not cold nor hunger nor hardship could touch me. I was safe there.

  3. Public Bookmark 1

    With a Bang by Taliesin

    Fandoms: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (TV)

    This work isn't hosted on the Archive so this blurb might not be complete or accurate.

    15 May 2021


    "Napoleon, look out!"
    Illya's warning, the hard impact of his body against Napoleon's, and the explosion occurred simultaneously.

    Napoleon sheltered under the weight of his partner's compact body as debris rained down around them. His head was shielded by Illya's arms, his hand instinctively pressing his partner's vulnerable face against his shoulder.

    When the explosions subsided, Illya tried to rise, only to find himself trapped in Napoleon's desperate embrace. "Napoleon, you can let go now. Napoleon?"

    Napoleon blinked and loosened his grip, letting Illya slide free. The Russian stretched, rubbed at one bruised shoulder, and frowned at his partner, who still hadn't moved. "Are you all right?"

    Napoleon blinked again, shaking his head slowly. "Yeah, I think so." But he didn't rise until Illya stood and held out a hand to help him to his feet. And he retained Illya's hand longer than was necessary.


    15 May 2021

    Bookmarker's Tags:
    Bookmarker's Collections:
    Bookmarker's Notes

    The arrival of an U.N.C.L.E. medical team prevented Illya from voicing the questions visible on his face. Luckily most of the strike force had been farther from the blast, so there were few injuries. The enforcement team operated with smooth efficiency, already mopping up the remaining Thrush forces. Illya immediately proclaimed his own well-being in the face of officious concern. Before Napoleon could follow suit, Illya handed him over to the chief medical officer with an injunction to check him for a concussion. Still a bit dazed, Napoleon shrugged, and followed the man obediently.

    He was unaware how much that silent compliance added weight to Illya's concerned gaze, which remained on him until he passed from sight.

    Though Napoleon passed all his medical checks with flying colors, and was subsequently released from Medical Section, he spent the remainder of the day in a distracted fog. Luckily, Waverly wanted to know the formula of the new explosive Thrush had so ably demonstrated, and ordered Illya off to his lab to run tests on the debris. Napoleon had no contact with his partner for the remainder of the day. It was just as well; Illya would certainly have noticed that something was wrong.
    Napoleon, of course, knew precisely what was the matter with him. No matter how hard he tried, he was unable to forget those brief moments when Illya's body had been pressed close to his own and fear for his partner vied with arousal, paralyzing him. It had never happened to him before, and he wasn't entirely sure what to do.

    Finally, his course of action decided, mind as much at peace as it could be under the circumstances, Napoleon made his way down to the lab just after five. As he'd expected, Illya was alone in the large, antiseptically white room. He glanced up when Napoleon pushed through the door.
    "How'd the medical check go?" he asked, his quick glance piercing, judging Napoleon's well-being for himself.

    For a moment, Napoleon drew a blank, having almost forgotten the indignity of the unnecessary check-up. "Fine," he managed before Illya became suspicious. "Clean bill of health."

    Illya favored him with a small smile before returning his attention to the report he was putting the finishing touches on. Waverly wanted instant results, Waverly got instant results, or as close as was humanly possible.

    Napoleon inobtrusively wiped his palms on his trousers. Ridiculous to be in a cold sweat over such a simple thing. But the evidence was irrefutable; he was as nervous as a teenage boy asking his current crush to the prom.

    "You doing anything tonight, Illya?"

    "No, why?" Illya didn't look up from the lab report. Napoleon didn't mind; he was just as happy not to bear the brunt of his partner's perceptive attention.

    "I thought maybe you'd like to have dinner. With me." Illya glanced up, a slight frown on his face. "My treat," Napoleon added hastily, and the frown darkened a second before clearing suddenly.

    "I never turn down free food."

    It was as clear an indication of acceptance as Napoleon was likely to get. "Come on then. I'm hungry."

    Dinner had been a mistake.
    More nervous than he could ever remember being, Napoleon talked too much and drank too much. Not enough to impair his judgment or reflexes, but enough to loosen his tongue. He was deathly afraid he'd blurt out something which couldn't be taken back. The alcohol didn't help.

    Illya looked at him oddly the third time he cut himself off abruptly, but didn't comment on his behavior. The Russian worked his way steadily through his meal, offering the food his usual close attention. Napoleon was both relieved and irritated to come in second to a plate of lasagna.

    Still, by the time the evening was over and they got in the car for the ride home, Napoleon knew he'd be better off as far from his bewitching partner as possible.

    "Why don't you come up for a drink?"
    "No, thank you." Napoleon pulled to a halt outside Illya's apartment building and waited impatiently for his partner to get out.

    "Look, obviously something's bothering you. I think we should talk about it."

    "No, thank you." He'd learned the polite curtness from Illya himself.

    Though Napoleon could feel Illya's concerned gaze focused on him, he didn't turn to face his partner. He was in enough trouble as it was; prolonging the evening would only make things worse. It was with both relief and disappointment that he heard Illya sigh and open the door.

    Napoleon was completely unprepared for his partner's sudden about-face. Illya leaned over, turned the key in the ignition and removed it with a quick twist. He was out of the car and striding rapidly toward the door before Napoleon could stop him.

    And he had the keys.


  4. Public Bookmark 9


    "They had chosen a job that was full of danger, knowing that their life was not worth much, was something to bargain with. That death could happen at every step, but this knowledge still did not prepare for the reality."
    Illya dies on a mission his partners did not know about; and now Gaby and Napoleon have to find a way to live without him.

    Written for the "The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Winter Holiday Gift Exchange 2017".


    22 May 2020