Chapter 1: Her Name Is...
So, I'm currently in the end stages of a Pacific Rim fic and was happily writing along during the holiday break when, alas, my family decided to push all the wrong buttons.
You see I have a deep and abiding love for the spy genre. I can recite the entirety of Goldfinger (The Craig movies aside, it's the best Bond movie ever made, hands down), own several versions of all the Bond movies, maybe watch TMFU movie too often, etc...
And then my brother did a thing. He discovered TMFU all on his own and we spent a whole day hiding in his room watching the first season of the TV show. I have vague memories of watching the show with my grandmother as a kid, but I haven't really had a chance to go looking for the episodes in recent years. My beloved little brother did it for me.
Of course this meant a wild Plot Bunny appeared with the idea for a mash-up of the Ritchie film and the camp of the show and it wouldn't let me be. This is the result. Enjoy!
April, 1950, New York City
“Have a seat, Sophia.” The man said, aiming for charming but coming across like a snake in the grass. Sophia hesitated for a split second, but took a seat anyway.
She usually sat in these chairs for good reasons. This was the principal’s little conference room. She’d been here only a week ago receiving an award for her charity work. Both her parents came and her Opa, even though he was so frail now. He’d been proud of her.
“Why am I here?” She finally asked, once she realized that these men wore the same suits as the men who followed her father to and from work. They worked for the government.
“It’s come to our attention, Sophia, that you are an incredibly accomplished young woman.” He smiled at her and she reaffirmed her suspicions of his reptilian nature. “Your family is quite wealthy for such new immigrants, which has afforded you a very prestigious education. You’re currently ranked second in your class and your test scores indicate that you are far more intelligent than your peers. You do extensive work with the Russian expatriate community here in New York, promoting integration into American society and tutoring other Russian Jewish children in Manhattan and Brooklyn. In short, Sophia, you are exactly the kind of person I’m looking for.”
“What is it you need me for? Mister?”
“Sanders. Mr. Sanders. You’ll be going to college in the fall, Sophia. You’ve applied to several schools, according to your records. Do you have a first choice?”
Sophia worked her jaw as she studied Sanders. He was baiting her, trying to see how much she’d admit about herself. “Bryn Mawr, Mr. Sanders.”
Sanders sat back in his chair and smirked. His grin was too wide for his face and his eyes too cold and calculating for the expression to reassure her at all. “Now Sophia, why would you lie to me?”
Fine, she thought. No more need to play the well-bred debutante. She straightened her posture and brought her hands up to the tabletop. She began tapping her fingers, playing an imaginary performance of Mozart’s Requiem. Sanders seemed to pick up on the tune immediately and the smirk dropped.
“Mr. Sanders, you are a strange man who has pulled me out of class unexpectedly and has created quite the file on my accomplishments as you called them if that folder is anything to go by. I do not know you. And, you’ll forgive me sir, but I’m Russian. When strange men come to your school to ask you questions, suspicion is an automatic response. I may have lost the accent sir, but the motherland left its mark.”
The smirk came back with a vengeance, Sanders showed teeth with his grin this time. “Sophia, how would you like to go to any school you want?”
“I already will be, Mr. Sanders.”
“Valid point. How would you like to have a job that will not be a secretary, nurse, or teacher after you graduate?”
Sophia narrowed her eyes. “I’m listening, Mr. Sanders.”
Chapter 2: Escape From...
June, 1965, Athens
The three U.N.C.L.E. agents relaxed in their charming Victorian styled suite, all of them restless after six days of surveillance. Athens was a lovely city, but their target was decidedly dull and none of them were particularly happy. Waverly was punishing them for the fiasco in Oslo two months prior.
The phone rang, unexpectedly, and Napoleon rose from his chair to answer it. Neither Gaby, who was nursing a bottle of scotch, nor Illya, playing himself in chess yet again, showed any inclination to answer any non-scheduled communication. Besides, he was expecting the pretty young woman three floors down to call.
“Firebird.” Answered a breathless voice on the other end of the line.
Napoleon frowned and glanced down at his wristwatch, seventeen hundred local time. “Phoenix.”
“Oh thank god, I hoped that British prick wasn’t lying to me.”
“Where are you?” Something in his tone must have betrayed his growing panic because Illya stopped playing his game and his eyes shot up to look at Napoleon. The American turned his back and refused to hold the Russian’s gaze in the mirror over the side table.
“Sofia. It’s as close as I could get to you. Your superiors were frightfully distrusting of me, even after they confirmed my identity. Only that Waverly fellow seemed willing to help.”
“Can you get across the border?” Napoleon frowned. Illya and Gaby both were certainly listening in now. They watched him with suspicion and concern respectively and he shot them a charming smile. No use in hiding now.
“I’ll be in transit in three hours. How fast can you get to Thessaloniki?”
He didn’t know, but he could make it happen. He had enough local contacts to get him on the next train or loan him a fast car. “I’ll be there by morning at the latest.”
“Aristotelous Square then?”
He grinned, he’d see her nowhere near there. “Of course. Be safe.”
“Always. I’ll see you soon.”
“Good luck.” He hung up to the sound of her breathless chuckle. He took a moment to finish his drink and call down to the desk and check train times. There was a nineteen hundred train to Thessaloniki that evening. He had the concierge book him three tickets on each of the next three trains heading north and then turned to face his coworkers.
Illya was tense, watching him for any sign of, well Napoleon didn’t know what his partner was looking for, but the grim visage looking back at him said that he hadn’t found it. Gaby was eyeing him with less suspicion, but she was edging towards anger faster than the Russian. She knew that he’d be leaving them on their own and things between her and Illya had cooled recently. It was part of the reason Oslo had ended so badly, despite the completion of their objective.
“Who was that?” She asked.
“An old friend. I’ll keep my communicator on, but don’t expect me back for a few days.”
“You are going to abandon mission?” Illya asked, incredulous.
“No, Peril. I’m simply picking up a side mission. I’m sure Waverly will be on the phone within a few moments confirming my necessary intervention in this matter. If you need me, I’ll endeavor to return with all due haste.” Napoleon clipped out, already heading into his room to pack his valise. Gaby huffed in annoyance and took a large swig from her scotch. Illya followed him into the room.
“That is my rifle, Cowboy.”
“I’m aware of that, Peril. I may need it.” He responded, field stripping the weapon so it would fit into the case. He added in Gaby’s pistol and extra clips as well as three of the grenades Illya swiped from Section VIII under the pretense of a “field test.” He packed an extra communicator and every bit of ammunition he could fit for the three guns he was taking with him.
“Why will you need my rifle?”
Napoleon glanced at his partner’s hands. No tremors, but a further study of Kuryakin’s face and the vein throbbing at his temple revealed his rising annoyance. Napoleon glanced out into the sitting room at Gaby’s relaxed form. “What would you do if she were burned? How far would you go to keep her safe?” Napoleon whispered as Illya followed his gaze.
The Russian said nothing, walking purposefully out of the room and shutting his own bedroom door a moment later. Napoleon sighed and strategically packed a spare suit, his lock picks, and first aid kit around his weapons. He was surprised to see Illya reappear a few moments later with a small zippered bag.
“Here. Take this. Is special ammunition for rifle.”
Illya steadfastly refused to look at Napoleon’s face as he passed the bag over. Solo was not behaving normally. And, as far as Illya was aware, the only friends the Cowboy had were women who regularly tried to kill him. This call was different, brought out a deadly glint to Solo’s gaze that he’d only seen in defense of Gaby, and on rare occasions, himself. It made him uncomfortable.
“Thanks, Peril.” Napoleon snapped the valise closed and scooped up his suit jacket. The dove gray with subtle navy pinstripe made every bit of Solo’s impressive frame stand out. He felt justified in his wardrobe choice today as he needed every bit of distraction working in his favor.
Illya said nothing as Solo walked out the door, case in hand. He retreated into his room and collected his tracking equipment. The transmitters from the trackers in Solo’s shoes, valise, and lapel pin all registered immediately as he scanned frequencies.
“He is right, you know. You do have a problem bugging your partners.” Gaby piped up a few moments later bringing up an old argument between them.
“You do not complain when I save your lives.”
Gaby smiled and then took another swig of scotch. She was worried about Napoleon and his “old friend” too.
-----Two Days Later-----
Illya and Gaby trailed their mark and successfully planted several bugs on his person throughout the day. Now they sat in the hotel suite, listening in to the frequencies as the smuggler arranged for the transportation of weapons into the Caucasus. Suddenly a series of thumps and heavy footsteps sounded in the hall and Illya shot to his feet, gun trained on the door.
He was crossing the room to open the door a moment later as Solo tapped out the “all clear” code. Instead of finding his partner, a woman, about his own age, stumbled in on nearly broken stilettos. Her dark hair was matted with blood at the temples and her make up smeared where someone grabbed her face. She had suspicious bruising on her neck and arms. She was not Napoleon’s normal type. There was no great beauty to her, despite her rough appearance. The woman swayed past him as Napoleon pushed her into the room, none too gently.
“Christ, Solo. I have a concussion, not a mortal wound. You can let up with the mother hen act.” The stranger snapped in the same upper-class Manhattan accent that Napoleon couldn’t quite hide. There was a hint of another accent underneath and Illya frowned. He didn’t like this situation at all.
“You will do as I say, Sophia.”
Illya and Gaby both gaped at Solo as he carefully manhandled the young woman into his bedroom. They immediately heard him fussing at her about unnecessary risks and stupid decisions. Neither of them had ever seen this side of him. He emerged a moment later with a dangerously determined look on his face.
“Who is she?” Gaby asked.
“An old friend.” Napoleon quipped as he gathered first aid supplies from around the room. He turned to go into Gaby’s and paused. “Would you mind terribly if I pilfer your things for some feminine supplies, Gaby?”
She waved him on and returned to the bugs on their mark. She’d had a lengthy discussion with Waverly about Napoleon’s disappearance and needed no more information than he was willing to give. Illya was not so easily dismissed. He followed his partner around, becoming a pack mule, as Solo collected supplies from Gaby’s room. Then he frowned profusely as Napoleon waltzed into his room and pilfered a button down shirt and his supply of Belgian chocolate.
“You did not ask if you could take these things, Cowboy.”
Napoleon stopped his movements to take everything Illya held and glared at him. “Well, pardon me for thinking you’d be willing to help me while Gaby stays on mission, Peril. I suppose I’ll just go tend to the concussed, bleeding, and traumatized young woman by myself then?”
The American stormed into his room and slammed the door. Illya stood terribly still for a long moment, astounded at Solo’s behavior. He stared at the door for several long minutes. Solo, in two years of working together now, had never actually yelled at him. Tonight was a first. Illya decided he hated Athens.
“You deserved that, you know.” Gaby commented, headphones still on and taking notes on their mark’s conversations.
“He has never yelled at me before.” Illya said, feeling like a scolded child.
“Yes he has. Most of the time there is too much gunfire for you to hear it.”
Illya scoffed and returned to his chess game, translating some of the mark’s Turkish for Gaby here and there. He couldn’t help glancing at Napoleon’s closed bedroom door every few minutes. He’d heard no grunts of pain or pleasure, both noises he would have expected from his partner and this woman. He finished first one, then two games against himself and the mark had long gone to sleep by the time Napoleon emerged from his room. Gaby retreated some time before and changed into pajamas and was now comfortably reading a book on the chaise.
His partner’s suit jacket was gone and his shirtsleeves, dotted with blood spray, were rolled to his elbows. His shoulder holster was still on, but the gun itself was in Solo’s hand and he removed the clip to set it on the table. The American’s hands were shaking.
“Should I take a shopping trip in the morning?” Gaby asked, concern wrinkling the edges of her eyes.
Napoleon barely concealed a jolt, as if he’d forgotten his colleagues were there. “If you don’t mind. We lost everything but her purse and my valise on the way.” He glanced at the door. “She’s asleep now, but I’ll need to wake her in a few hours.”
“You need to sleep. Is it alright if I sit with her?”
Solo considered the offer. “That is more than fine. Thank you, Gaby.”
The German woman cupped his cheek and pressed a quick kiss to his forehead before quietly entering the bedroom. As the door clicked shut behind her, Napoleon focused on Illya. “I feel I owe you an apology for earlier, Peril.”
“Yet I do not hear one, Cowboy.”
Napoleon smirked and sat down on the sofa across from his partner. “No, you do not.”
“Who is she, Solo?” Illya asked, tone calm but brooking no argument.
“I suppose there’s no need to hide it from you. I imagine your superiors will be contacting you soon about my role in her extraction.”
“She is CIA.”
“Hmm…was CIA. Thirty-six hours ago, my former handler, you remember him? The small man with the short leash? Yes, well, he burned her. Exposed her to the Soviets as an American spy. She was stationed in Warsaw, deep cover.” Illya clenched his jaw. He now knew that the blood on his partner’s clothing was quite probably that of his countrymen. He found he was not angry about that development, at least not in the way he expected, and frowned. “Honestly, Peril, I’m surprised you didn’t recognize her. You’ve met her before.”
Illya tensed. He catalogued his brief study of the girl’s face and snarled. Yes, he remembered her. He remembered her quite well. Deep cover indeed. She’d been married to another KGB agent he’d done several operations with during his early days.
“Her real name is Sophia Mussgorsky. Perhaps you’ve heard of her?”
He had. Agent Mussgorsky was one of the CIA’s most successful operatives, mostly because the KGB did not know her face. There were no clearly identifiable pictures that could be tied to her. Not even records from her education in various private schools could be confirmed. All anyone knew was that she was of Russian descent and highly intelligent. Oleg believed that the CIA had groomed her from a young age.
“What of her husband, Yuri? He is KGB.”
“Ah, yes. You see, Peril, that’s where this gets complicated. Sophia is a friend. A true friend. I was one of her training officers and Sanders paired us together for quite a few operations over the years. I trust her with my life. Do you understand?”
Illya frowned again and sat back in his seat to study Solo. In two years, they’d formed a unique partnership. Numerous kidnappings, firefights, and torture had not shaken the camaraderie they’d cemented in Istanbul after their first outing in Rome. The Russian twisted his father’s watch on his wrist, reminding himself of the kind of man Napoleon Solo was. He wondered when his own loyalties shifted so drastically away from his homeland. If he stayed in this room and listened to this story, then he was acknowledging that he thought of Solo as his friend. That he trusted him. Illya exhaled slowly and dropped his hands to the chair’s armrests.
Napoleon nodded and exhaled slowly. A grim smile picked up on his lips as he realized, as ever, that it was the words unsaid which were important between them. “Her mission was to infiltrate the KGB in Warsaw and report on any information she could find out. She got herself hired on as a secretary and soon found herself courted by the second-in-command, Yuri Rostov.”
He paused to pour himself a glass of scotch. “They were married by the end of the year. She and I kept in touch after the transition to U.N.C.L.E. Yuri is not a stupid man, nor did he get to his position by being unobservant. He figured out she was a spy. They’ve been spying on each other for two and a half years now.”
Illya nodded, already guessing where this was headed. “Sophia asked me to put in a good word for herself with U.N.C.L.E., seed the ground as it were. Something seemed off with her, so I did. Every communication I’ve had with her since this assignment began has become increasingly more cryptic. She’s had me worried. Last week she met Sanders in East Berlin for a check-in. He had a particularly unpleasant bit of news for her. It seems she’d blatantly disregarded his orders during an operation just before our little outing in Rome. It was successful despite her improvisation and, well, Sanders is a petty man. While his superiors were patting Sophia on the back, he went digging for anything to discredit her. It took him three years, but he found it. What do you know about Josef Ivanovich, Peril?”
“He was high ranking Party member. Josef Ivanovich served in WWI, earning rank of Combrig after Revolution. His son was a favorite of Stalin. He advised against deal with Hitler. Was demoted for insubordination and sent to Stalingrad. Josef fled to Switzerland in 1939. Pyotr and his family disappeared during the siege. Stalin declared the whole family traitors to Revolution.” The Russian answered immediately. The Ivanovich family were good friends of his father. Already things were falling into place.
“That is the gist of it. What if I told you that the family didn’t disappear? What if Josef Ivanovich secreted them out of the city and they all set up camp in Manhattan as Russian refugees fleeing from Stalin’s regime?”
Illya’s mouth dropped open. If the family survived… “Stalin sent firing squad to execute them before city fell. They were gone, building was bombed.”
“A masterful escape. I couldn’t have planned it better myself.”
“My country would gladly see them all dead, Solo.” Even though Stalin was long dead, his grudges still carried weight.
“I hope you won’t be sharing this information.” Illya barely controlled his expression. Revealing the whereabouts of the family to his people hadn’t crossed his mind. Then he noticed the pained expression on Napoleon’s face and his hands twitched in response. His Cowboy was nervous.
“I will not.” Illya replied to Napoleon’s shaky sigh of relief. “If Sanders burned her, will he do the same to her family?”
“I contacted them for her. Waverly secured them personally in Vancouver twelve hours ago.”
“What are we to do with her?”
“Considering she put a bullet in her ‘husband’s’ thigh twelve hours ago, Waverly has advised that we conclude our business here quickly and escort her to headquarters.”
Illya nodded. He stood and walked across the room to retrieve Solo’s valise. He set about cleaning the hastily stowed weapons inside, noting the blood and hair caked on the butt of his rifle. He tutted at the use of his weapon as a club, using the sound to cover a frown as he noticed how much ammunition Solo must have used while extracting his friend.
Napoleon watched him, a treacherously fond expression on his face, until he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. He left his Russian partner to finish his task and snuck back into his bedroom. Sophia had woken, because she and Gaby were whispering to one another in German as he walked in.
“Oh, don’t mind me ladies.” He smiled charmingly, but Gaby narrowed her eyes.
“You will take my bed tonight, Solo. Fetch some clothing and leave. I will watch over her.” Solo couldn’t help the grin that split his face. He did love it when Gaby revealed the steel in her spine. Sophia rolled her eyes at him, then winced as the motion made her dizzy. Napoleon set about following his petite handler’s orders. “Illya?” Gaby asked.
He turned to look at her. “He is fine.”
Despite all evidence to the contrary, Solo believed his own words.
Chapter 3: Mission: Paris
August, 1966, Paris
Illya slammed the door to the third floor of the safe house. It opened a split second later and the current bane of his existence sauntered in, carefree smirk teasing him. The former KGB agent snarled and stomped into the bathroom to compose himself.
“I take it the reconnaissance went well, then?” Napoleon Solo drawled from his position on the sofa. The normally unflappable ex-thief was stripped down to his undershirt, suspenders dangling from his hips.
Sophia smirked down at her sweating colleague. “He really must learn to walk away from a fight.”
“What happened?” Solo asked, sitting up to look at her.
“Someone made unsavory remarks about mine and Miss Teller’s honor. Illya overheard and punched him. He didn’t break his cover, though. Gaby tells me this is an improvement.” The woman smirked down at him.
“He broke something didn’t he?”
“No. I did. Illya punched him then the man got up and tried to pull a knife. I broke his wrist. Gaby is on the phone with Waverly’s secretary explaining why the gendarmerie nearly blew our covers.”
“She is the best at explaining away our missteps. Did you lose the mark?”
“No. He actually insisted on bribing the officers for us. And once he learned that Gaby was dear Illya’s cousin, not his wife, the invitations to lunch couldn’t spill out fast enough. He’s taking her to the Ritz tomorrow at one.”
There was a suspicious thump in the bathroom and the former CIA agents shared an exasperated look. Sophia stared her friend down until he begrudgingly rose from his position on the sofa and headed towards the bathroom. She retreated out of the room and back downstairs to help Gaby prepare for the next day. Solo could handle Illya. The thought made her grin.
“Peril, I hope you’re not destroying anything. You know the ladies will never let us share if you do.”
The door swung open and six-foot-five-inches of flustered Russian pushed past Napoleon to head towards the kitchen. Late-Summer in Paris led to some sticky nights and this evening was no different. Three years of cajoling and teasing had finally convinced the Russian to vary his wardrobe. Tonight, in deference to the location of their reconnaissance, Napoleon had wheedled his partner into a summer suit in deep navy blue. The jacket had come off in the bathroom and now Illya was wandering around with the pale lavender shirt half unbuttoned and shirtsleeves rolled up. A faint sheen of sweat hung at the edges of his hairline.
“Sophia is gone?”
“Yes, I imagine she is downstairs with Miss Teller.”
Illya crossed to the door and locked it. He glanced at a confused Napoleon and then went to close the windows and balcony doors as well. He retrieved his bug sweeper and began a thorough search of the room.
“I swept this morning, Peril. Since I’ve not left all day, it’s highly unlikely anyone else has managed to plant more.”
“Take your shoes off and your belt.”
Three years of partnership and trust made Napoleon obey the order with nothing more than a confused eye roll. He handed the items over and Illya promptly shut them out on the balcony.
“Peril, would you please explain what exactly has you behaving this way?”
Illya finished sweeping the room and collapsed into a chair. “We were followed today. KGB.”
“It’s happened before.” Napoleon answered immediately, though his frown betrayed his concern.
“Not since Zurich, Cowboy. Even after Athens, we were not followed. Only one thing has changed since then.”
“Mmhm. This is her first assignment since her extraction.”
“Did you recognize the KGB tail?”
Illya turned away from his partner and swallowed thickly. “Ivan Dragomir, Bulgarian, horrible man, and Yuri Rostov.”
“I thought the KGB would kill him after she was burned.”
“They almost did. I made contact while Gaby and Sophia were busy with gendarmerie. He knew she was a spy as you said. He had enough information on her and her contacts to save his life. He was reassigned to Ukraine until six months ago as punishment. He has orders to kill her.”
Illya stared down at his hands. They weren’t shaking. “Oleg believes I have developed relationship with her.”
Napoleon’s eyes widened in surprise, but he carefully controlled the rest of his reaction. “Why does Oleg believe that?”
“Sophia is Russian.” Illya said, enigmatically.
“Ah.” Napoleon breathed out. He knew the two of them spent time with each other whenever their little unit reappeared at headquarters. Sophia was just as busy with assignments, but was running Section Three these days. Her extensive work in the field and language skills weren’t as applicable with kill orders out on her from both the KGB and CIA, despite U.N.C.L.E.’s repeated demands to remove them. However, those skills made her the perfect choice to head the Enforcement and Intelligence division. This was only her fifth time out in the field since Napoleon extracted her the year before in a hail of bullets and blood. Sophia was a force of nature in the field. Unassuming and manipulative, she could get close to a mark quicker and easier than anyone. When pushed, she rivaled the destructive capabilities of Illya and Napoleon combined. Napoleon grinned as he remembered his first meeting with the woman, a lifetime ago. “I didn’t realize you’d gotten so close, Peril.”
“We share similar interests.”
“Terribly depressing Russian literature, good food, and weapons?” Napoleon teased, though his face betrayed much more.
Illya frowned. “Yes. Is there problem, Cowboy?”
“Nothing whatsoever, Peril.”
“She is a good friend. We are only Russians in U.N.C.L.E.”
Napoleon sagged. He knew that tone. Illya only used that tone to speak about one other person, Gaby. “Still doesn’t explain why dear Oleg thinks you’re sleeping with her.”
Illya turned beet red. “We went to club in Village two months ago. There was a misunderstanding with another patron. Sophia kissed me.”
“And you didn’t realize that your former employers were tailing you?”
The Russian huffed. “Of course I did. Kiss was distraction.”
“But they’d already seen the two of you gallivanting around Manhattan and made an assumption.” Napoleon shook his head. “Why would Oleg care?”
“My transition to U.N.C.L.E. was not as easy as it appeared. Waverly had to assure my superiors that I would not be asked to reveal any information about KGB or I would be eliminated. Is why Waverly did not want us anywhere near Russia for so long.”
“You think Oleg believes Waverly is using Sophia against you, an internal honey trap.”
Illya nodded. “Dragomir made accusations about my supposed betrayals. I do not think Yuri believes them.”
“Small favors. He may not kill you.”
“I do not think it is so simple. Yuri was not happy.”
“Well, they sent him here to kill the woman who lied to him. I don’t think I’d be happy either, Peril.”
“No, Cowboy. He was jealous.”
“Jealous? Of you?”
Napoleon grinned. Sophia could really pick them. “Oh, I can work with that.”
-----The Next Day-----
Illya and Sophia strolled down the pathways of the Tuileries Garden in Paris. The heat finally abated enough for the midday walk to be comfortable. Sophia squeezed Illya’s hand and pointed towards a particularly ridiculous American tourist arguing with a tour guide. The two agents grinned and turned towards the Arc de Triomphe.
The two men following them trailed behind slowly, appearing as nothing more than businessmen out for a walk at lunchtime. Leading the KGB agents on a meandering path through the park, Illya and Sophia kept their communicators open to listen to the inane chatter the THRUSH operative was boring Gaby with several blocks over in the Ritz. The mark finished his one-sided discussion on the merits of eugenics, so Illya and Sophia turned back towards the hotel. Their shadows followed them. As they ducked into an alleyway to cut across traffic, they found themselves hemmed in. The U.N.C.L.E. agents shared an exasperated look and waited for the KGB agents to converge.
“Yuri, it’s been a long time, darling.” Sophia called out.
The stocky Russian man smiled at Sophia as his partner loomed over her five foot eight figure. “Yes it has. You nearly got me killed.”
“Nearly. I must be losing my touch.”
The KGB agents both ignored her and faced the giant Red Peril. “Tovarisch, are you going to interfere?”
Illya frowned and said nothing. Sophia stepped away from him, tense and wary. “So much for friendship. Oh, what is a girl to do?”
Yuri chuckled. “You seem to think this will be easy, Sonya.”
“You seem to forget who it was that shot you, Yura.”
“Stop flirting.” The large Bulgarian demanded. He stepped in and crowded Sophia against the wall as Yuri put himself between Illya and the pair. “You will pay for your betrayal, whore.”
Illya bristled at the word. Sophia merely smiled. Yuri distracted him at that moment and he found himself looking down at the man he’d called friend with barely concealed fury. “I could not ask you yesterday, how long have you been sleeping with my wife, Tovarisch?”
“We are not together. She is my friend.” Illya snapped, trying to get around the smaller man.
“I thought we were friends, Kuryakin.”
“So did I. If she dies here, I will not allow you to live.”
“I don’t plan on killing her today.” Yuri answered.
“He does.” Illya snapped as the Bulgarian slapped Sophia.
Or tried to, because the woman suddenly wasn’t there. Instead she was standing above the raging Dragomir, pinning him to the ground with her heel. She pulled her Walther from her thigh holster and pointed it at her attacker.
“Your first mistake was allowing me to keep my weapon. Your second was getting that close to me. Stand up.”
Illya shoved Yuri aside as Dragomir scrambled to his feet and charged Sophia. The man swung wildly, backing her into a corner. Illya reached in to pull him away and was startled to see Yuri yank Sophia away from the man. The Bulgarian turned and faced off with Illya who dispatched him with a quickly broken neck. When he turned around Sophia had Yuri pressed against the alley wall, gun pointed in his face.
“You let me keep my gun as well. I think the KGB is slipping, darling.”
“We do seem to have a weakness for you, dusha moya.”
Sophia grinned and returned the gun to its thigh holster. Illya frowned, more than a bit confused. A shadow and a chuckle revealed that Solo finally arrived on the scene. Illya turned to glare at him as Yuri drew Sophia in for a kiss.
“What is this, Cowboy?”
“That, Peril, is true love.”
Illya scoffed. He was not sure why he felt any surprise around the former CIA agents any longer. “Help me with body.” The two men hefted the dead Bulgarian up and into a nearby dumpster. Yuri and Sophia soundly ignored them as they exchanged kisses and a few tears. “She lied to us.”
“That she did, Peril.”
“This was planned.”
“It appears so.”
“You are not angry?”
“Not in the slightest.”
“She was nearly killed.”
“Was she?” Napoleon teased. And suddenly it was clear to Illya what happened. Sophia used him. She knew that the KGB would eventually send Yuri after her and that he wouldn’t be alone. She made sure that it was Illya with her when it happened. For months, every time she made an appearance in public, Illya was her companion. She knew he would easily and dispassionately dispatch anyone who threatened her, no matter who they sent along with Yuri. Illya hated spies.
“She is a better spy than you, Cowboy.”
Napoleon smiled at him. Not one of his challenging smirks, or the wicked grins that drew in his marks. No, a true smile. The American cast a glance at his friend and her husband. “Of course she is, Peril.”
Illya shook his head, rolling his eyes at the antics of his American counterparts. He truly did not understand how the USSR hadn’t achieved victory in the Cold War yet. As per the usual on their missions, this is when things went downhill. Gaby suddenly appeared at the head of the alley driving a Rolls Royce Phantom V that he was certain belonged to their mark.
“Get in!” She shouted and everyone scrambled to crawl into the limousine. “Who’s this?” She demanded seeing Yuri in the rearview mirror.
“Drive.” Illya commanded. Two cars were driving recklessly in the distance, gaining on them. Gaby stepped on the gas and tore down the busy Parisian streets, putting the Phantom’s engine through its paces.
Twenty, then thirty minutes passed as the group escaped the city. Their tails disappeared in the heavy traffic after Napoleon and Illya took turns shooting out their tires. Gaby took the longest and most complicated route to the U.N.C.L.E. safe house just south of Fontainebleau. Napoleon grinned like a child at Christmas as the large, cream-colored house appeared in front of them.
“That is a work of art, my friends.”
Illya rolled his eyes. His partner was a hedonist of the worst sort. He assessed the house and its secluded acreage. A light came on as the limousine pulled up to the doors. An elderly woman exited the house, holding a sawed off shotgun. Yuri and Illya both drew their weapons.
“Dans le ciel des hommes, le pain des étoiles me sembla ténébreux et durci, mais dans leurs mains étroites je lus la joute de ces étoiles en invitant d'autres.” She recited. Illya thought it might be a poem. The rest of the group noticed a faint thumping from the limousine’s trunk. Gaby shrugged, a smirk on her face, then circled to the back of the car.
Napoleon smiled sweetly at the old woman and raised his hands up. He’d taken his suit jacket off in the car, his shoulder holster and the Browning HP it held were clearly visible. The old woman swung the shotgun around to Illya as he moved to his partner’s back. Napoleon shook his head minutely and Illya stowed his Makarov back in his own shoulder holster. “Emigrantes du pont encore rêveuses; j'en recueillis la sueur dorée, et par moi la terre cessa de mourir. Rene Char. Not my first choice for a code, but effective.”
“You are Solo?” The old woman asked, shotgun now hanging from her bent arm.
“Oui, madam. I assume our arrival was expected?”
“Every safe house within a hundred miles was alerted after Miss Teller contacted headquarters. You will need cellar I see.”
Napoleon and Illya both turned to find their mark, Pierre Batelier, being pulled none-too-gently from the trunk of the Phantom by Gaby and Sophia. Yuri had his sidearm trained on the irate man. Batelier had a sizeable bruise on the side of his head. Illya looked at Gaby who smiled. When he turned back, Napoleon was watching the scene with unrestrained glee.
“It appears we will.”
“I will retrieve key.”
Napoleon and Illya followed the woman inside and were greeted with a rustic nineteenth century home. She retrieved a heavy key ring from a drawer and pushed past them to guide their companions to the cellar door outside. Napoleon trailed a hand across the baroque furniture dotting the main room and Illya heard him gasp as he stepped into the kitchen. Illya followed his partner in and was greeted with a spacious room that reminded him of several bourgeois restaurants where he’d assassinated targets.
“Peril, this kitchen is gorgeous. I would happily hand over a Degas for this kitchen.”
“You have more than one?” Illya asked as he studied his partner’s happy face. The man was normally unflappable, taking joy in conning and stealing from their marks, but remaining untouchable otherwise. This mission, Solo had been all smiles. It confused Illya. He thought he understood his partner.
Napoleon grinned. “I have three of Degas’ works. Perhaps I’ll show them to you one day, Peril.”
A noise across the room drew both of their attention and a door opened to reveal the old woman, Sophia, Gaby, and Yuri ascending from the cellar. The woman placed her shotgun on the counter with the key ring and eyed the group.
“I stay in town. Phone should not ring unless I call. Outgoing calls are routed straight to headquarters in London. There is food here for a week. If you stay longer I will return with more. Guns are stored in every room. I clean them regularly. There are five bedrooms. There should be clothing left over in each. A retrieval team should bring your luggage to me in two days. I will deliver it then. Au revoir.”
“Comment tu t’appelles, madam?” Sophia asked from her position near the doorway.
“Merci, Madeline.” She responded. Madeline nodded and swept out of the room with the air of a duchess dismissing her servants.
Napoleon clapped his hands together as the sound of a motorbike echoed in the darkness outside the house. “Well, I’m starved. Let’s see what dear Madeline left us. Yuri, you stay and help. Sophia tells me you make a fantastic beef stroganoff.”
Sophia frowned and made an attempt to stay in the kitchen but Gaby dragged her into the next room. A moment later Illya heard both women reporting in to an obviously annoyed Waverly. The Russian settled at the kitchen table and stripped down his pistol for cleaning. Madeline, clearly prepared for the arrival of the agents, had left a small case on the table containing a comprehensive kit to clean a dozen weapon types.
Napoleon quizzed Yuri about recipes, music, his opinions on French poetry, anything of no consequence as the two men prepared dinner. After three years, Illya knew that the American was subtly probing the KGB agent for information on his motives. Despite Illya’s own relative ease of transfer into U.N.C.L.E., there was no other KGB agent in the organization. If Yuri meant to follow Sophia, Napoleon and Illya both would rake the man over the coals before he set foot in headquarters.
Illya finished cleaning his gun and stood up from the table. His movement drew attention of the two men and Napoleon grinned at his partner. “Ah, Peril. Finished there? Would you mind checking on our guest in the cellar?”
-----Three hours later-----
Sophia and Yuri leaned drowsily against each other on the sofa. Their clasped hands drew Napoleon’s eye and he resisted the urge to grin. Sophia was one of the few people in the world he called a friend and she’d worked hard to pull Yuri from behind the Iron Curtain. She’d apolgoized profusely to Illya as she admitted to using him and a supposed relationship as bait to tempt the KGB to send Yuri after her in a jealous rage. Luckily for them, Yuri didn’t particularly like the idea of a jealous rage. Instead he was more hurt by the idea that she’d moved on from him. They’d spent the better part of dinner whispering apologies to one another.
Gaby was asleep in an armchair, tucked under Illya’s comically large leather jacket. Illya was quietly playing chess against himself, yet again. Napoleon, unnerved by the calm tableau when they had a high ranking THRUSH operative in the cellar and left behind a dead KGB agent in a dumpster, stood slowly and stepped out onto the balcony.
He breathed in the clear summer evening air, taking in the scents of the flower garden below. He didn’t have many fond memories of this part of France. Enlisting at sixteen out of spite for his absent parents seemed like a great idea at the time, but tromping through the French and German countryside killing Nazis for a year and then two tours in Korea burned all of the idealism out of him. He took his Sergeant’s E-5 rank after Heartbreak Ridge and got out.
After eight years of running stolen Nazi and Japanese artwork, using the connections he made as a soldier, he got cocky and went after the Vermeer paintings in the Rijksmuseum. He made off with The Love Letter but returned it and half of his private collection when he was caught eight months later. He was young, naïve. Never again would he go after such a well-known painting without a better plan.
The sound of the door opening drew him out of his plans to break into the Louvre and he glanced over his shoulder to find Illya leaning his back against the balcony. Napoleon bent and rested his forearms on the railing as Illya stared through the glass doors into the living room.
“Come to check on me, Peril?”
“Yes. You look like you are planning. Is never good. I find art and jewels stolen when you have this look.”
“You know me too well.”
Illya chuckled. Napoleon grinned and turned to lean against the railing next to his partner. They lapsed into a comfortable silence watching the people inside sleep. It wasn’t often a mission that ended with an unexpected death and kidnapping was so peaceful.
“KGB will not be happy with Rostov.” Illya said after a while.
“No. But if Sophia’s debriefing is anything to go by, then I think Waverly is going to spin it as us capturing him. They don’t want an international incident revealing their presence in Paris. I think the prospect of having another agent in U.N.C.L.E. will appeal to them as well. You’ve been with us too long to be trusted completely, Peril.” Napoleon said, a wry smile on his face.
“They stopped trusting me after Zurich, Cowboy. I was ordered to let you die.”
Napoleon bit back a retort. Two Stasi agents had kidnapped him while Illya and Gaby played the perpetually engaged couple for a simpering offshoot of the Hanoverians. The woman was one of the Vinciguerra’s major investors and it was that mission that revealed the existence of THRUSH. The Stasi interference had led to Gaby breaking her arm and a gunshot wound to the calf for Illya as Napoleon wasn’t available for support. He’d spent four days in the Stasi agents’ company, under interrogation for CIA secrets and questions on Illya’s loyalty.
Illya stormed in and shot both men in the head without hesitation and then spent the next month in Russia after Oleg recalled him. Gaby spent the whole time babysitting Napoleon as they both healed and Waverly firmly banned them from interfering with any other U.N.C.L.E. agents and their missions.
Waverly campaigned, successfully, to have Illya permanently and irrevocably assigned to U.N.C.L.E. When Illya returned, his own wounds healed and eyes a bit haunted, they were immediately sent into the field and quickly became the most effective team in Section Two.
“They let you come back after Zurich. They let Waverly take you.”
The Russian glanced at his partner. Napoleon was confused. “I lied to them. Created story about agents’ attacking me during your interrogation.”
He didn’t answer immediately. Neither of them were prone to letting the masks slip, even with each other. Illya took a moment to look hard at Sophia and Yuri. They left everything behind for each other, for U.N.C.L.E. and its promises.
“You are my partner. We do good work together.”
“Peril, that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” Illya rolled his eyes, his lips twitching. Napoleon smirked and followed his partner’s gaze. The smirk fell a bit as he realized who Illya was watching.
“You think he’s trustworthy?”
“I think he loves her.”
“We both know that isn’t enough.”
“No. I trained with him. He is good man.”
“Not a good agent?” Napoleon teased.
Illya glared at Solo. “He is a very good agent. Was always a better man.”
Napoleon hummed in response to his partner’s serious tone. “Waverly wants our approval before they bring him to headquarters.”
The former KGB agent nodded and crossed his arms, already cataloguing his interactions with the man in past few hours. As he watched Rostov and Sophia sleep, another question burned his tongue but he couldn’t bring himself to ask it. It spoke volumes about their partnership that Napoleon asked it a few moments later.
“Do you ever wonder if you could have that, Peril?”
“Have what, Cowboy?”
“Someone who’d give up everything for you.”
“She didn’t do the same for him.”
“But she did. I didn’t think about it at the time, but she did everything in her power to put the blame on herself. She’d had an escape route set up from day one, a good one too. Sanders burned her, and her whole family, but she stayed long enough to let Yuri stage a scene. She purposefully left him enough information to keep him alive and then didn’t kill him when he chased her. I don’t think she’s seen her family since Waverly brought them to headquarters last year. Every spare moment she’s had was spent planning his defection. She could’ve left him behind, made a clean break.”
“She loves him.”
“I don’t think anyone has ever loved me like that. Makes me a bit jealous.”
Illya couldn’t stop himself. “Have you ever loved someone like that?”
Napoleon didn’t answer him. Instead he drained the glass of scotch he’d brought out with him and clapped a hand on the Russian’s shoulder. “I think that remains to be seen, Peril.”
Chapter 4: Circular Story
January 1967, New York City
Napoleon studied his new badge. The material was reactive to sensors at every door in headquarters and would change color if he went into any unauthorized area. He gave himself at least a week to figure out how to subvert the technology involved. Not that there were many areas he was unable to access. As the head of Section Two most of headquarters was open to him. It made the challenge of breaking into those restricted areas that much more tantalizing.
Illya sat in the corner of their office, his new badge a stark contrast to his dark turtleneck. He’d barely blinked when told he’d be Number Two three years ago, only quipped that Napoleon was more likely to die and it was better for morale if leadership was long-term.
“Peril, that badge clashes horribly with your outfit.”
“I do not care, Cowboy.”
“Well I do. It is an assault on my eyes. Something must change.”
“Cannot change badge.”
“Then we will change your outfit. Surely you’ve not thrown away the clothing I’ve gifted you with over the years.”
The tips of Illya’s ears turned pink, but he steadfastly refused to look up from his paperwork. “I do not dispose of gifts. Is rude.”
“So you choose not to wear them?”
Illya cleared his throat. “Is nice clothing. Do not want to damage it.”
Napoleon smirked. “Why, Peril, are you asking me for an excuse to wear your nice clothes out?”
“No.” Illya snapped, but he was ignored.
“Of course you are. Luckily for you I have two tickets to Tristan und Isolde at the Met tonight. I’ll pick you up at seven.”
As their office door closed and the sound of Napoleon flirting with their highly capable secretary, Brigitte, a woman they’d stolen from Section Four after she stabbed a double agent with a poison tipped hatpin, filtered through the thick wood, Illya thumped his head down on his desk. His partner really tried his patience.
Gaby swanned in an hour later, clad in a smart Givenchy pantsuit and sporting motor oil under her short nails. She flopped into the chair across from his desk and began sifting through the mission briefs piled up there. She didn’t say anything, just picked up a pen and began scribbling notes and suggestions for suitable agents to assign for each one. Illya allowed her to wait him out, she’d gotten quite good at it in four years. Napoleon thought it terribly funny that it only took her a few minutes of pointed silence to make him talk when he’d gone through the most intense training and torture a spy could withstand, all without uttering a word. Fifteen minutes with the tiny German woman and he became fidgety and uncomfortable.
“He wants to take me to the opera tomorrow.” He finally ground out as he filled out evaluations on several agents from Section Three.
“Hmm… Which show?”
“Tristan und Isolde.”
“Tragic love affair doomed by fate and circumstance. How appropriate.”
“Is not like that.”
“It isn’t?” She responded, innocence painted all over her face. She truly was the best liar of the three of them. He almost believed the look himself, despite his years of dealing with her.
Illya’s head snapped up. “What?”
“It is a pity,” she said. Writing furiously in the margins of a mission brief that involved the use of an Italian racing team as a front for international smuggling.
“Why do you say this?”
“Because he is a better agent when he thinks you care about him.”
“He is my partner. I care.”
“Yes, but you remind him quite often of his own inadequacies.”
“We are team, skills balance out.” He snapped.
“And yet every time you two fight he disappears with some woman for days or weeks at a time. Then some important piece of art or jewelry goes missing and he’s suddenly back here, acting as if nothing is wrong.”
“He returns most of it.”
“Only when you ask.”
Illya clenched his jaw and tried to ignore her again.
“You brood whenever he is gone. Section Eight’s secretaries have special protocols for when the two of you fight, because you set up camp in the laboratories and do not leave for days. You retreat into your beloved technology and hide behind transmitters and complicated physics problems with the scientists.”
He gaped at her. “I do not.”
“Diana is the one who brings you blini and tea. Stephanie makes sure no one bothers you. Brigitte alerts every member of the secretarial pool whenever you two so much as glare at each other so that the various Sections will be prepared.”
“This is ridiculous.”
Gaby arched an eyebrow. “I’m glad we agree.”
“It makes us sound like married couple.”
The slow grin that spread across Gaby’s face was terrifying. Illya regretted ever training her to be a better agent.
-----The Next Day-----
The taxi pulled up to Lincoln Center Plaza and deposited its passengers before the famous fountain. Illya marveled at the new home of the Metropolitan Opera, the building’s modern design was one instance of America’s capitalist decadence he could enjoy.
“Coming, Peril?” Napoleon called, already ahead of Illya and looking back for his partner. Illya kept his face impassive at the sight his partner made, silhouetted in the soft lights from the opera house.
“Of course, Cowboy. Merely admiring new building.” He’d been mostly admiring the new building.
“Not too ostentatious for your Soviet sensibilities then?” Napoleon teased.
Illya ignored him, but couldn’t help it when his lips twitched upwards in a small grin. He at least managed to control it until he’d walked far enough ahead that Solo couldn’t see him. Or he thought he did until Solo caught up with him, a wildly smug smirk on his face.
During intermission, Solo insisted on getting a drink and stretching his legs. Illya joined him, needing a break from the perfume of the woman sitting in the box next to them on the Parterre. They found a spot at the bar where they could watch the other audience members network and shake hands on multimillion dollar business deals while their wives destroyed each other’s reputations. Napoleon provided a running commentary on most of them, reminding Illya that his partner grew up the pampered son of wealthy New Yorkers. These were the people he was raised with, and by, the thought made Illya suddenly sad.
A figure moved on Illya’s right and he turned his head to find the one statuesque blonde he never wanted to see again stalking towards them. Angelique, and no they’d still not learned her surname, appeared on the fringes of their more violent episodes with THRUSH. Napoleon noticed her arrival and stopped cold. Illya subtly placed himself between the woman and his partner. No need for flowers with deadly passengers this time around.
“Angelique, you look stunning tonight.” Napoleon drawled, although his hand had twitched minutely towards the pocket inside his tuxedo jacket that held his knife. Illya covered the movement with his more overt display of crossing his hands behind his back where his own KABAR was sheathed against his spine. Napoleon had teased him about bringing such a large knife along with them.
Illya did note, however, that Napoleon was correct. Angelique was perfectly coiffed and wearing her furs with all the grace of a queen. She smiled at both of them, her eyes lingering on Illya’s posture and looking for his hidden hands. “You flatter me, Napoleon. Mr. Kuryakin, a pleasure as always.”
“What are you doing here, Angelique?” Illya ground out, managing to sound polite.
“Why I’ve come to see the opera. It is one of Wagner’s finest works.”
“I suppose our attendance has nothing to do with your appearance?” Napoleon asked smoothly.
“None whatsoever. Though a little bird has informed me that there is a particularly dangerous pair of snakes in U.N.C.L.E. these days.”
“U.N.C.L.E. employs quite a few deadly creatures, Angelique. But,” Napoleon smirked at her, already playing the game. “It would seem that your little birds are the ones who enjoy the company of cold blooded reptiles.”
Angelique bristled at the obvious once-over Napoleon gave her with his words. Illya successfully contained the urge to smile. She snarled at Solo, all pretense of civility from their last physical meeting three years ago gone, and turned on Illya.
“You two have played this game far too long, Kuryakin. One of these days, your indifference will kill you.”
“Is not indifference. We simply do not stoop to play games with children who throw tantrums when their parents leave the room.” For all that Solo was the verbose and charming agent, he forgot that Illya could be just as scathingly deadly with his words. A small chuckle escaped the American’s lips as Angelique, certainly here to intimidate them after THRUSH’s latest abysmal failure at world domination, pouted like a petulant child. Napoleon wondered why he’d ever been attracted to her when there were much more capable and deadly women in his life.
“Enjoy your evening gentlemen and remember that our little birds are everywhere.” Angelique spat and marched away.
“It is always so lovely to see her.” Napoleon said after finishing his drink.
“She seemed much more…I do not have the words.”
“I think you’ve hit it dead on, Peril. She simply was much more on our first meeting. After so long fighting her cohorts and our own respective former employers, seeing her again is disappointing.”
“Do you think she will interrupt performance?” Illya speculated, sipping on the vodka Solo insisted on purchasing for him. It wasn’t half bad.
“Perhaps. It’s more likely that she was here to intimidate us.”
“And her, what is word, insinuations?”
“Hmm. It was a rather dramatic turn of events that landed Sophia and Yuri on U.N.C.L.E.’s payroll. And it has been months, perhaps it is time we investigate them.”
“Would be better to run full inquiry on all staff. Make THRUSH think we are taking them seriously and allow us to hunt out multiple spies.”
Napoleon grinned wickedly. “Peril, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you want to loom menacingly over our colleagues and see how many you can make cry.”
“Who said you know any better, Cowboy.” Illya taunted, a matching smirk on his lips. The lights dimmed and both men downed the rest of their drinks to return to their box.
Chapter 5: Out of the Garage
May 1967, London
Gaby dove to the right, dodging a hail of bullets that shattered the windscreen of the Maserati she’d pilfered for this mission. She brushed broken glass off herself and threw the car into gear. The man holding the submachine gun didn’t expect her to drive towards him and found himself plastered against the hood of the car as she sped down the street. He flailed, trying to hold on and she slammed on the brakes. He slid off and she drove over him, listening for the satisfying crunch of car on bone, before reversing and returning to her position outside the Imperial War Museum.
Napoleon was inside liberating a repurposed piece of nineteenth-century experimental technology from two MI-5 agents who, until now, had secretly been working for THRUSH. They’d not expected any resistance so Illya was trailing the agents’ handler, a mid-level MP that Waverly described as a “degenerate waste of humanity.”
“Solo,” she barked into her communicator. “I have just ruined the suspension on this car. If you do not hurry, I will leave you.”
Napoleon’s breathless chuckle echoed over the line along with automatic gunfire. “My sincere apologies, Miss Teller. I will have my personal mechanic see to the state of that, admittedly, gorgeous piece of machinery tomorrow. You’ll love him.”
A shadow moved in the rearview mirror and Gaby turned to aim out the back windscreen. Two quick shots and the shadow crumpled to the ground. Four more figures converged on the car and Gaby dispatched them with a single shot each, reaching into the passenger seat for a new clip.
“Napoleon, I have too many friends arriving.”
“I’ll be with you in a moment, my dear.”
“Der Scheisskerl!” Gaby swore as a small explosion drew her eye to the museum’s lawn. Waverly did so hate it when they damaged public property. She was going to kill Napoleon.
The man himself was currently swinging over the top of the museum’s fence, a large object strapped to his back. He deftly shot at his pursuers and three others as Gaby dispatched two more assailants. He wrenched open the passenger door and crammed his large frame into the sports car.
Gaby reached over and swatted him in the face as she sped off into the night. Scotland Yard’s finest were already converging on the scene. She dodged a half dozen patrol cars as she sped out of the city center. Ten minutes later she pulled into a nondescript garage and grabbed the package to transfer to the more sedate Fiat parked outside on the street. She secured the box in the trunk and turned to see Napoleon lowering himself gingerly into the back seat.
“Solo, are you alright?” She asked gently. He never liked getting hurt when it was just the two of them. It turned Illya into an overprotective bear. The last time, she’d earned a concussion and Napoleon a nasty knife wound that became infected, and the Russian hovered uncomfortably over the both of them for a month.
“I believe I’ve been shot in the shoulder. Didn’t notice it until now, I’m afraid.”
“Do we need to find a doctor?”
“Not sure. We can’t miss the rendezvous with Peril to find out. Drive on, I’ll be fine.”
Gaby frowned but drove the Fiat away from the garage. Four circuitous routes later she pulled up to a stately townhome in Kensington Gardens. Illya appeared immediately and threw himself into the small car. “Drive.”
She did just that, her jaw clenched in anticipation of his inevitable outburst finding Solo injured in the backseat. It took him thirty whole seconds to realize where Solo was and then to snarl at the sight of blood soaking into the upholstery.
“I should have been with you.” Illya snarled.
“How exactly would that have stopped people shooting at me, Peril?” Napoleon snapped as he set about removing his shoulder holster. Gaby sighed. The American became even more insensitive and annoying when injured.
Illya, to his credit, didn’t respond. Four years working with Solo meant the two knew when to pull back on the fighting, most of the time. He turned to look at Gaby and frowned at the dozens of superficial scratches on her face and arms.
“You are hurt too?”
“Windschutzscheibe.” She clipped out. “I am fine, Illya.”
His face said he didn’t believe her. He turned, as much as he was able in the small car, and watched Napoleon peel his shirt away from the wound. The fabric stuck and made a tacky noise that caused Illya to wince. Gaby resolutely focused on delivering them to the hotel.
“Through and through. Nothing serious. I’ll live.” Napoleon quipped from the back seat, though Gaby could hear the pain beneath the glib tone. Illya huffed as his partner slipped his suit jacket back on, using the bloody shirt as a compress underneath the fabric. Gaby pushed her speed a bit more.
When they finally arrived two streets away from the Connaught, Napoleon was listless from blood loss and Illya had to half carry his partner up to the front door. Gaby snuck in the back as the boys played drunken guests returning from a wild night out on London-town. When she met them in the suite, Illya already had Napoleon corralled in his bathroom, stripped down to his shorts and stitching the wound closed.
Gaby snuck a look in to check on them and couldn’t help her smile. Illya was whispering quietly in Russian to his partner, telling him a fairy story. Napoleon, gritting his teeth as the needle passed through his skin, had his hands wrapped around Illya’s waist and his face buried in the man’s stomach.
Watching them for a moment, she backed out of Illya’s bedroom and into her own to check in with Waverly. After she hung up on her annoyed but satisfied boss, she resolved to push the idiots a bit.
Chapter 6: We Have A Location
June 1967, Hong Kong
Illya snarled at his captors, looking less like a man and more like a captive grizzly with every passing second. He was strapped to a steel table at the mercy of Dr. Egret. Their last encounter on the Riviera two years ago ended disappointingly for everyone involved.
“It’s no use Mr. Kuryakin, I specifically designed those restraints for you. You won’t be going anywhere until I say so.”
“You will regret this.”
Dr. Egret paused and eyed him carefully a smug smile on her beautiful face. “And why would that be, Mr. Kuryakin?”
She was far too smug. Illya clammed up. Normally he tried to keep THRUSH’s scientists talking, but Egret seemed more interested in hearing his voice than her own this time. He wasn’t sure what she was after, best to wait her out.
“So, you’re not going to tell me? That is a pity. And here I wanted to hear more about how I will regret this.”
“No. It will become clear soon.”
“Hmm. I suppose you mean when Mr. Solo inevitably shows up to save you from my clutches.”
Illya clenched his jaw. Dr. Egret picked up a scalpel and dragged it slowly down Illya’s exposed chest. Blood welled up from the cut and he concealed his cry with a hiss instead. He glared at her and gave her nothing more. She tutted and turned the scalpel, bisecting her first shallow incision.
“Have you heard of lingchi, Mr. Kuryakin? The Chinese outlawed it over sixty years ago, but those of us who study the human condition through pain have kept the process alive.”
She set her scalpel down and motioned for one of her many beautiful henchwomen to approach. Illya kept himself tightly in check as he caught sight of what the girl carried. Dr. Egret gleefully collected the bottle of hydrochloric acid from the girl and poured a small quantity into a bowl of water.
“Lingchi, Mr. Kuryakin, is roughly translated as ‘death by a thousand cuts.’ My mentor, Rudolph von Trusch, was a proponent of the method. You and your partner callously burned him alive. He preferred to innovate, though, while I, Mr. Kuryakin, prefer to perfect the methods of the past.”
She dipped a cotton ball into the acid solution and dragged it slowly across the open wounds on Illya’s chest. The acid tore into his skin, inflaming the cuts. He breathed heavily through his nose and stayed silent.
Time passed slowly after that. Dr. Egret would come and go, always cutting him and then cleaning the wounds with acid immediately. Illya lost track of the days after she carved a piece of skin from his hipbone. He remembered screaming then. Dr. Egret’s henchwomen remained as omnipresent sentinels in the corner of the room. They never looked at him and he soon became used to their presence.
After a particularly long session of short, shallow incisions along his back, Illya heard Dr. Egret call for one of the women to come forward. It was never good for him when they delivered their little gifts. This time, though, the girl stayed nearby.
“I believe, Mr. Kuryakin, it is time for us to take this to another level. You see, your organization has made several attempts to discover your location while you’ve been here. I would like to know why they are so insistent on the return of a less-than-perfect specimen. You must know something and this,” she waved a syringe full of clear liquid in front of his face. “Will encourage you to talk.”
She moved to inject him in the neck and Illya tensed, knowing it would take everything in him to resist at this stage. The henchwoman moved suddenly though, and Illya saw a scalpel appear at Dr. Egret’s throat.
“I think your little experiment is done, Doctor.” A familiar American drawl echoed in the wide room. “I’ll take that if you please.”
Sophia snatched the syringe away from the furious Dr. Egret and, without hesitation, plunged the needle into her throat. The doctor seized in surprise and Sophia delivered a vicious blow to the back of the woman’s neck, rendering her unconscious.
Illya nearly sobbed. Sophia jogged over to the far side of the room and collected a package from underneath one of the tables. Then she set about freeing him from the heavy leather straps keeping him face-down on the metal slab.
“Oh, Illya, I’m so sorry. I had to wait days.”
He didn’t trust himself to speak as he sat up. Every inch of him was sliced up in one way or another, everywhere except his face. He offered her a grim smile and accepted the loose clothing she offered him. He winced as the fabric stuck to the dozens of healing incisions on his body. He sagged heavily against Sophia as he slipped into the sturdy slippers she brought him as well. He always knew she was stronger than she looked because she took his weight easily and kept her face completely impassive.
“Can you walk? Our extraction window is in five minutes and we have a bit of ground to cover.”
Illya nodded and grit his teeth as he stood up. Sophia studied him and then turned to deliver a swift kick to the prone form of Dr. Egret. She pulled two holsters from the package that contained his clothing. She strapped one over her thigh and pulled the second over her shoulders. Three guns appeared as well and Illya huffed in appreciation.
She insisted he lean against her as they navigated the labyrinthine hallways of the THRUSH facility. There was no idle chatter, only the steady determination to escape. They finally reached a T-intersection and Sophia pulled off one of her earrings. A quick series of taps against the hidden transmitter inside it and she returned it to her ear.
As par for the course, it was at this time their escape was discovered and Sophia pulled two of her guns and trained them on the directions where the sound of running boots echoed. Illya sagged against the wall and motioned for her to hand him one of the weapons.
“Not a chance, Illya. Your hands are flayed open. I’d like you to retain their use in the future. Trust me.”
He growled low in his throat, still too weak to verbalize exactly how insane she was. Damned Americans and their insistence on doing things the hard way. He distantly wondered where Napoleon was, but settled himself in the fact that someone was here for him, even if it wasn’t his partner.
Sophia began picking off their pursuers with carefully aimed shots, covering all three angles of attack efficiently and swiftly. She didn’t miss, and she didn’t panic. Not even when a dizzy but still deadly Dr. Egret appeared at her back. Illya grunted out a warning and Sophia whipped around in time to shoot the doctor in the calf, bringing her down.
Before the doctor could shout out, a series of beeps sounded from Sophia’s earrings. The agent shot Dr. Egret again, this time in the kneecap and shouted at Illya to cover his head. He barely had time to register her body covering his when the far wall exploded. Gunfire resumed as Yuri Rostov and Mark Slate, a new U.N.C.L.E. recruit, poured into the hole with lethal grace. Sophia tossed her weapons to the men and hoisted Illya up.
He had time to see Dr. Egret, bleeding and vacant-eyed, buried under a large piece of rubble as Sophia shoved him through the concrete wall. Waiting before him in the muggy night air were Gaby and a heavily reinforced jeep.
Sophia pushed him into the back seat and strapped him in gently. Gaby turned in her seat and smiled softly at him. All his pain washed away seeing her and he did what he’d not done for Dr. Egret, he broke. Tears streamed down his face as she reached out to run a thumb along his cheekbone. The sound of grenades exploding made her turn away and he sagged against the seat, heedless of his injuries. The other two agents clambered into the jeep as Gaby was already driving away.
-----Three days later-----
Illya woke from his drug-induced slumber to find Napoleon Solo lying unconscious in a hospital bed next to his. Someone pushed the beds together and the American had Illya’s left hand clasped firmly in his own as he slept. A quick survey of the room showed him Gaby curled up on a cot near the window and Sophia calmly filling out the New York Times Crossword at the foot of both beds.
“He’s fine, Illya, just sleeping. They had to sedate him again last night. He pulled his stitches trying to get to you.” Sophia said quietly, in deference to their sleeping friends and without looking up from her crossword.
“What?” He garbled out and she stood up to help him sip water. “What happened?”
Sophia glanced over to Solo’s bed with a pained expression on her face. “He gave himself up to get your location. Walked right into a trap, as usual, and did everything he could to find you. They had him for two days before Agents Dancer and Slate were able to pull him out.”
“Who else? Angelique.”
Illya snarled. “How long?”
Sophia’s eyes snapped up to his face. He was glad it wasn’t Gaby telling him these things. She had a tendency to soften the truth when her boys were hurt, severely at least. Solo’s erstwhile friend and colleague could always be trusted with brutal honesty.
“Twenty-seven days. Egret had you for twenty-seven days. When you missed your second check-in, Waverly recalled every agent except those under deep cover. Then she started sending in the tapes. They appeared at Gaby’s apartment, mine, and Waverly’s after that. We heard everything she did to you. Solo was nearly out of his mind. He broke into Waverly’s office and found the last credible sighting of Angelique. He set himself up as bait and walked right into one of her traps.
“She’s currently housed in interrogation room twelve by the way. He got his information and two nasty stab wounds to the stomach and finally let us know where he was. Waverly personally debriefed him on the way to headquarters and passed your location onto myself and Gaby. We collected Slate and Yuri and were on the next flight to Hong Kong. I infiltrated the facility and worked out your location. You were out forty-eight hours after that.”
Illya didn’t have anything to say. He turned his head slowly, the healing cuts along his collarbones did not appreciate the action. He squeezed Solo’s hand tight causing the man to twitch in his sleep.
“You both are expected to recover fully. It will take time, though. They’ve said you’ll both be out of the field for at least three months. I personally negotiated that time frame, you two will not be back any sooner. Am I clear, Illya?”
He nodded and then noticed that Gaby was awake and watching them. She regarded him carefully and then cast a significant look at their entwined hands before catching his eye again.
That is all.
Well, that and some snappy dialogue.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
September 1967, Rio de Janeiro
Napoleon lounged comfortably on the balcony overlooking the beach. Illya was inside the penthouse suite frowning wildly at everything in sight. Despite his partner’s delightful reaction to their impromptu vacation, Napoleon was happily enjoying the privacy the Belmond Copacabana offered to its wealthy guests. Not a single person batted an eye at the sight of their healing scars whenever room service and concierges entered the room.
“Peril, quit hiding in the room and come out here. The view is beautiful and the weather is perfect.” Napoleon finally called as he heard the unmistakable sound of Illya’s chessboard being set up.
“No. I will burn. Is bad for scar tissue.”
Solo couldn’t help the incredulous look he shot through the window at his partner. He couldn’t. That the Red Peril of all people was concerned about a sunburn of all things was ridiculous. He realized he said that all out loud when Illya looked up from his game to glare at him.
“Christ, Peril, it is a gorgeous day and we are in a gorgeous city and you are ignoring it all in favor of hiding indoors. I truly don’t know what to do with you sometimes.”
Illya muttered something under his breath as he stood up, abandoning his game, and disappeared into his bedroom. Napoleon frowned and slumped down into his chair once again, now watching the condensation from his drink drip down his chest and along the rapidly tanning new scars on his stomach. Two of the thin white lines were from the frankly horrifying Bowie knife Angelique plunged into his gut after he escaped her clutches. The other three were surgery incisions where the delightfully overqualified doctors at U.N.C.L.E. put his insides back together.
Movement drew Napoleon’s gaze to the open balcony doors and he gamely kept his mask in place. Illya had retreated, not in annoyance, but in resignation and come back out in his own swimsuit. His whole body, from the neck down, was a collection of white lines on his already pale skin. A large square patch peaked out from the edge of the shorts where a large piece of skin had been surgically flayed from his body and Napoleon barely stopped himself from snarling at the sight.
Illya tossed a bottle at Napoleon and frowned at his partner. “Stop looking at me like that. She is dead. Sophia shot her and dropped a wall on her. You cannot bring her back to kill her again.”
Napoleon softened his gaze and then looked at the bottle, sunscreen. Illya arched an eyebrow and turned his back on his partner. The American rose slowly and kept his mind completely focused on other things as he rubbed the lotion into his partner’s scarred back.
He backed away quickly once he finished and collapsed into his chair once more to watch the hotel’s other guests frolic on the beach. There weren’t many, it was still the off-season as high summer wouldn’t reach Rio for another month or so. But Waverly, Gaby, Sophia, their delightful secretary Brigitte, and pretty much every other person they respected in U.N.C.L.E., doctors included, forced them out the door four days ago with orders to spend the next two weeks somewhere relaxing before they went back on active duty.
Illya slipped on sunglasses and, actually listening to Napoleon for a change, relaxed into his chair. They sat in comfortable silence with one another for a long time. Three hard months of inactivity paired with grueling physical therapy for both of them had left them on edge. They’d yet to talk about their respective experiences with the deadly ladies of THRUSH.
The former KGB agent highly suspected that Gaby organized this little vacation out of spite. She’d made herself very clear in the early days of his and Solo’s confinement to U.N.C.L.E.’s medical ward. The status quo was no longer acceptable for her. Not when THRUSH was actively using the blind devotion between Illya and Napoleon against them.
“Why?” Illya finally asked. Gaby called him a coward before she unceremoniously shoved him out of his office door. He would not let anyone call him that again.
“Hmm?” Napoleon responded, lost in his own thoughts, face hidden behind his own sunglasses.
“Why?” He kept his gaze resolutely on the beach, but could not possibly miss his partner’s entire body tense in the warm afternoon sun.
“Because I’d already gone through three weeks of torture. I could handle a bit more pain if it meant stopping yours.”
Illya reached out and took Napoleon’s glass from his hand. He picked up the pitcher of caipirinha and poured more into the glass, then began sipping Solo’s new favorite cocktail. Napoleon watched the whole exchange avidly and had to wrench his gaze away when Illya turned to look at him.
“She wanted to break me. I did not know she wanted both of us broken. I am sorry you had to hear everything.”
“Yes, well, I didn’t actually. Everyone tried to hide the tapes from me. Brigitte is the one who told me about them. She knew what they were, secretarial privileges with Sarah and all that, but she didn’t want me thinking you were dead.”
“You thought I was dead?”
“Not consciously. I knew deep in my bones you were alive, but everything around me said that you were dead. You hadn’t gotten a message out, THRUSH hadn’t taunted me, I was prepared for the worst I suppose. Brigitte told me about the tapes because she said, and I quote her here, ‘You are wasting away in front of me and I won’t have that, not when there’s a chance for you to save him.’ She and Sarah got me into Waverly’s office after he left that evening and I listened to eight hours of Egret torturing you. Waverly walked in the next morning and I decked him.”
Illya frowned at that, but couldn’t fault his partner. If their positions had been reversed, he would have done more than throw a single punch.
“Three days later Sarah snuck me in again and I had everything I needed to find Angelique.”
“We should bring them something nice.”
“Sarah and Brigitte.”
“Already taken care of, Peril. Brigitte has a permanent reservation with Mr. Kenneth, which only cost me a Monet. Sarah and her husband will spend a week for the next four years in a city of their choosing.”
“Is not enough.”
“No it isn’t but it’s all they asked of me.”
“Perhaps I should…”
“I said no. You are not a former art thief with three trust funds and a half dozen Swiss bank accounts.”
“U.N.C.L.E. pays me well.” Illya groused.
“They do, but I’ve got more than enough money and art that the CIA never touched. Besides I’m fairly certain the ladies would kill you if you did anything more than bring them sweets. They were worried about you.”
The Russian grumbled but let it go. Solo’s comment about the CIA sparked an unpleasant line of thought. “Your fifteen years are up in May.”
His partner was up and out of his chair in a fit of nervous energy, hunting down a new glass as Illya wasn’t relinquishing his. Napoleon flopped gracelessly back into his chair and poured himself a liberal portion of caipirinha over ice.
“I’m more than aware of that.”
“What do you plan to do?”
Napoleon frowned. “Well, I originally planned to walk out of headquarters and disappear.”
“Now I don’t know. I’ve played this game, in one way or another, for twenty years. But, aside from my extensive skills as a thief, this job is something I’m very good at. Not sure I could walk away.”
“You’re a terrible spy, Cowboy.”
“So you keep reminding me, but do remember who outranks you here, Peril.”
“You are terrible spy because it is not who you are. You are good at job, yes, but you are far too easily distracted from mission. You never stopped being a thief.”
“I don’t know whether that’s a compliment or not, Peril.”
“You are a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”
“Do not quote Churchill to me.”
They fell silent once again, sipping their cocktails and steadfastly ignoring the topic at hand. The sound of a car backfiring a few blocks over made them both jump. Napoleon closed his eyes and tipped his head back, a nervous chuckle escaping his lips. He cracked his eyes open and noticed that Illya was tensed up completely, frozen and staring forward.
“Peril.” Nothing. “Peril.”
Illya remained unresponsive, the glass in his hand began to crack under the force of his grip. Napoleon stood up slowly and leaned over his partner. He gently pried the glass away and placed his other hand on the back of Illya’s neck. He tipped their foreheads together at the gentle hitch of his partner’s breath.
“Illya. You’re alright. We both are.”
The Russian didn’t respond immediately, sagging into his partner like a puppet with cut strings at the sound of his name on Napoleon’s lips.
“I asked you a question once. You didn’t give me a satisfactory answer.” He finally said.
“What question was that?” Napoleon responded, pulling away to lean against the railing behind him. He suddenly hated Illya’s sunglasses. His partner was as expressive as a brick wall when his eyes were covered. Napoleon could always read the truth in his eyes.
“Have you ever loved someone enough to give up everything for them?”
Napoleon sensed Gaby’s hand in this. She was the only person who could push the stoic Russian into doing anything that frightened him. She worked her wiles on Napoleon too, but he always saw the end game, knew what she wanted. Illya was consistently blinded by her and allowed her leave to make him uncomfortable. He lost himself in thought long enough that Illya got impatient.
“I think I’ve answered that question quite plainly, Peril.”
“And I think you’re still hiding behind words.”
“Ah, but as the saying implies, my actions have said much more.”
Illya nodded and slipped his sunglasses off. Napoleon found himself crowded between the six-foot-five frame of his partner and the railing, blue eyes staring down at him. “I think my words have not been clear.”
Napoleon cleared his throat and licked his lips. The action drew Illya’s eyes downward before they flicked back up. They remained motionless for an eternity, watching each other with all the tense anticipation they usually reserved for impending shootouts.
“What exactly are you trying to say, Peril?”
“You should call me Illya.” The Russian paused, gauging his partner’s blown pupils and the twitch in his muscles. “Napoleon.”
The sound of his name spurred Solo to action. He pushed Illya back, inside the room and down to the floor. He pinned the taller man’s wrists and studied his face for a fraction of a second. Then he kissed him. It was the most chaste kiss Napoleon could remember giving anyone. Illya did nothing for a frighteningly long moment and then broke Napoleon’s hold. He twisted their bodies around and pushed Solo to his back.
A quick sweep of Napoleon’s body had Illya smiling and bending down to kiss Napoleon again. Unlike the first kiss, it wasn’t chaste. Illya had his partner gasping against parted lips immediately. Napoleon reached up and pulled Illya down, wrapping his legs around until his ankles crossed. Illya’s arms buckled and he propped himself up on his forearms instead as Napoleon’s hands traced every scar he’d spent the last three months memorizing.
They lay like that until the sun dipped below the horizon, the cool ocean breeze filtering into the room. Napoleon thought he could stay like that forever, lost to Illya’s hands and lips. Unfortunately, as with most of their endeavors, someone distracted them.
Napoleon pulled away from Illya, he’d managed to pin the man to the floor again, and stood up quickly as a porter knocked on the door with their scheduled room service for the evening. Illya threw a hand over his eyes and willed his body under control as Napoleon flung the door open with an uncharacteristically mean look on his face. The young porter wilted at the sight and, though Napoleon still tipped him handsomely, practically scampered away once he was informed they did not need his assistance. Napoleon drew the cart into the room and rounded on his partner who was now standing up, arms crossed and an amused look on his flushed face.
“I think I understand you and then you surprise me. You do not like being interrupted.”
“Do you?” Napoleon snapped, turning away to inspect their dinner.
Illya smiled fondly at him. “No, but you are supposed to be collected and charismatic one. I am meant to be frightening. You scared the boy.”
Napoleon slumped as Illya drew a finger down his spine, shivering under the touch. “I don’t particularly care.”
“Hmm.” Illya answered, taking the plate cover from Napoleon’s hand before biting down hard on his shoulder. The American’s knees buckled and his partner caught him effortlessly, turning him towards the closest bedroom. “I think we will eat later.”
Napoleon found he didn’t care much to argue, not when there was an insistent motivation to follow Illya’s lead poking him in the back. His partner shoved him towards the bed, kicking the door closed behind him.
“Strip.” Illya ordered. Napoleon complied without hesitation, watching his partner do the same. Illya climbed over the top of him and kissed him desperately. Napoleon arched under Illya’s wandering hands and decided to do his own teasing. He slid one hand down and grabbed Illya’s cock roughly, teasing the head with his thumb. The other hand snaked down Illya’s back as he thrust into Napoleon’s fist and teased Illya’s opening. The taller man groaned madly and pulled away from Napoleon’s lips, his eyes blown completely black.
Napoleon hummed. “I wondered. You can have me however you want, Illya. I’m not picky.”
“No.” Illya shook his head. “There was…during training for Spetsnaz. He wanted me…But I…”
“I see.” Napoleon responded. He reached up to cup Illya’s face. “Like I said, you can have me however you want.”
Illya’s face went blank. He bit down on the tip of Napoleon’s thumb and ground his hips down, making Napoleon gasp.
“I want you. Then I want to take you apart.”
Napoleon’s face broke into a wide smile. He pushed Illya away and climbed off the bed. A quick rustle inside his luggage and he had what he needed. When he turned around Illya was watching him with unrestrained hunger, eyes roving the length of his body.
“We do not need those.” Illya gestured at the condoms in Napoleon’s left hand.
“Is that right?” Napoleon teased, climbing over the other man, dragging his hands and cock slowly across the miles of pale skin on display.
“I saw your medical chart. You are clean. So am I.”
“You are entirely too paranoid for your own good, Illya.”
“You say this. But you do not complain when it works in your favor.”
Napoleon smiled warmly down at Illya. “Of course not.”
He clicked open the small tube of lube and coated his fingers. Illya drew him down for a kiss and sighed when the first finger breached him. Within minutes he was begging for more as Napoleon worked a third into him, carefully and slowly, despite Illya’s demands.
Napoleon was wholly unprepared for Illya to flip them over and pull his hands up to the headboard. “Keep them there.” His partner demanded and Napoleon found himself unable to do anything but comply. He was further unprepared for Illya to slick up his cock and plunge down onto it with a keening moan. It took everything he had, and several quick memories of his first tour of Korea, to control himself and not come right then and there. He gripped the headboard hard enough that the wood began to creak as Illya leaned down to kiss him.
“That was cruel.” He ground out as Illya moved his hips experimentally.
“I am not a nice man.” Illya responded breathlessly, reaching up to pull Napoleon’s hands loose from the headboard. He braced himself on those hands and the two quickly found a punishing rhythm that kept them both panting hard.
Sooner than either of them expected, after a particularly vicious upward thrust, Illya came with a muffled shout against Napoleon’s lips. The sensation pulled Napoleon after him and both men lay very still, wandering hands unconsciously tracing scars on both bodies. Eventually Napoleon slipped out of Illya, to an upset moan.
Illya flopped over to the side and Napoleon took the initiative to survey his partner. He’d seen Illya relaxed before. Even seen him in a similar post-orgasmic haze after stumbling into his partner’s room during a mission and encountering the Russian with one of his own female companions. Neither man was celibate, hard to be when your enemies kept throwing beautiful and dangerous women at you. Especially difficult when even more enticing and positively lethal women were your colleagues.
He’d never seen Illya with a man though. Napoleon’s own role as the charming con man of the group and his own flexibility meant his partner had caught him more than once with members of both sexes. Now though, admiring the miles and miles of his partner’s exquisite form, he couldn’t recall feeling so sated. Nor could he remember any time when Illya had that particular look of bliss on his face.
Despite the rather spectacular orgasm he’d just had, Napoleon felt himself hardening at the sight. He’d not felt so ravenous for a partner since his early twenties. A partner. He almost laughed at the thought. He’d truly been gone on this man a long time, and now they were partners in every sense of the word.
“You are thinking too hard.” Illya growled, startling Napoleon.
“I’ve got a lot to think about.”
“No. Not now. No more thinking.” The man grumbled and pulled Napoleon closer to him. He used the sheet to clean them both off and tucked his head into Napoleon’s shoulder. They dozed quietly until the breeze began to cool and woke them up.
Napoleon roused himself first and slipped on a robe. He closed the windows and doors, shutting out the wind and the surf. Turning to retrieve the dinner cart, he found Illya leaning in the doorway watching him.
“No. You don’t get to look at me like that right now. I am starving.”
Illya huffed and stalked toward him, naked. “I will never turn down something delicious.” He whispered against Napoleon’s lips. “You know this.”
With that he pulled away and began inspecting the now only warm selection of food. Napoleon grit his teeth and let the other man pass him a plate. They ate quietly, legs entangled on the sofa. Napoleon finished first and watched Illya as he savored dessert, chocolate mousse disappearing into his mouth with desperate little moans.
The sounds made him harden under his robe, especially since he could see Illya’s own arousal returning. His partner hadn’t made any effort to cover himself and Napoleon was enjoying the view. A small grunt drew his attention back to Illya’s face and he found the man staring at him.
His expression was one Napoleon had seen numerous times. Illya made that face whenever he was calculating exactly how to dismantle an enemy, a bomb, a chess opponent. Napoleon rarely had that look turned on him and he found it delightful.
Illya set his plate down and stood up. He pulled Napoleon up and turned him back towards the bedroom. Napoleon managed to stay silent and impassive, somehow, until Illya pushed him away from the bed and against the wall instead. The taller man’s hands reached down and began a campaign of teasing touches. Napoleon leaned forward for a kiss, but Illya leaned back and ripped the robe off his shoulders instead. The familiar click of a bottle opening forced Napoleon to look down and he found Illya had set the lube on the dresser next to them.
“You are a sneaky bastard.” Napoleon breathed out heavily. Illya was already teasing him with two fingers. Considering he was still relaxed from earlier, Napoleon didn’t mind rushing things a bit now.
Illya licked a stripe up Napoleon’s neck and pressed two fingers into the knuckle. He laughed at Napoleon’s breathless moan. He knew he’d read the other man right earlier. Napoleon liked things a bit rough. He pressed hard on Napoleon’s prostate and reached down with his other hand to wrap one of Napoleon’s legs around his hip. He ground their cocks together and teased Napoleon until the man was sobbing into his neck with need.
“Illya. Goddamn you. Now. I’m ready. Now.”
“No.” Illya said, grinning against Napoleon’s lips. He kept his fingers twisting and pressing against Napoleon’s prostate and sank to his knees. He drew the head of Napoleon’s cock into his mouth and sucked hard. His partner’s knees buckled and Illya had to press him against the wall. He didn’t try to take any more of his lover’s cock into his mouth, just teased the head mercilessly until Napoleon dug his hands into Illya’s hair and tugged hard.
“Illya, I…I’m…” He stuttered out and Illya took as much of Napoleon’s cock into his mouth as he could. He sucked hard, cheeks hollowed out completely and eyes locked on Napoleon’s wrecked face. The American’s eyes rolled back in his head and he came hard down Illya’s throat.
Illya licked him clean and stood up, fingers still buried in Napoleon’s ass and gently stroking his oversensitive prostate. “Are you ready now, Napoleon?” He whispered before licking a trail of tears off Napoleon’s neck.
“No. No more.” The man answered, even as he leaned heavily into Illya searching for another kiss.
“I think you can, Napoleon.” Illya responded. He denied his partner his kiss and instead pulled his fingers away, despite the desperate whimpers those actions brought him. He hefted Napoleon’s large body up and onto the dresser next to them. He patted Napoleon’s cheek until the man opened his eyes and looked up at him.
Dr. Egret and Angelique tried to break both of them with pain. They obviously did not pay attention properly. It was never pain that would break men like them. It was happiness, pleasure. They’d not chosen easy lives for themselves. They thrived on danger and violence and the challenge. If either of them died at the hands of the enemy before now, it wouldn’t have broken them. Now, though, knowing the depths to which they made each other happy, that would break them. They were not men bred for joy and softness and so it was those things that were their weaknesses.
Illya thought all of this and stroked his Cowboy’s face gently. “Beautiful.”
Napoleon surged forward and bit down hard on Illya’s lips. He held the taller man’s neck in one hand and with the other reached out and grabbed hold of his cock. Illya took the hint and plunged forward into the tight heat of Napoleon’s ass. It was too tight, not quite slick enough, but he plowed into Napoleon anyway after the man dug his hands into Illya’s ass and kept him from reaching the bottle of lube.
The dresser was, luckily, sturdy enough for their frantic movements. The walls however were not so fortunate. Napoleon threw his head back as Illya drilled into his prostate and left a sizeable dent in the plaster. He clenched down hard around Illya’s cock and earned himself a growl.
“You want more?” Illya panted.
He received a desperate nod and a moan. “Make me feel this for a week, Illya.”
The smile that broke out over Illya’s face was feral. He hefted Napoleon up into his arms and carried him to the bed. He threw the man down on his stomach and plastered his long frame over his back. “Don’t make this easy for me, Napoleon.”
Over-sensitized and desperate, Napoleon clambered to his knees and buried his head into the pillows. Illya drove right back into him and leaned over to bite Napoleon again. He grinned against his partners back as the sound of ripping fabric greeted his ears. When he looked up, feathers floated through the air and the remains of a pillow went flying across the room.
Napoleon pulled himself up and braced his arms against the headboard. He pushed back against Illya’s strokes and angled his hips just right so that his prostate felt every bit of movement. Illya raked his nails down Napoleon’s back and hammered in harder and harder with each thrust.
Despite the fact that this would be his third orgasm of the night, a feat not achieved in years, Napoleon held out for a remarkably long time. Illya, on the other hand, was quickly losing himself to the sensations. He wrenched away from Napoleon, the pained cry he got in return twisting his guts painfully, and flipped the man to his back. He pinned Napoleon’s shoulders down and slid back in, finding a slower, but no less intense rhythm. He slipped a hand around Napoleon’s head and pulled his hair, hard.
Napoleon returned the favor and scraped his nails down Illya’s chest, leaving behind bloody welts. With that, Illya toppled over the edge and collapsed over Napoleon. He kept thrusting his hips, despite his softening cock and reached between them to pull roughly on Napoleon.
“Come for me.” He whispered into Napoleon’s ear and was rewarded with a full body shudder and the feeling of warmth spilling over his palm. They fell asleep that way, wrapped up in each other, for several minutes.
They woke together this time and Illya kissed Napoleon slowly. He slipped gently out of Napoleon and pulled the pliant man to his feet. Both wobbled towards the bathroom for a shower that was more about mapping each other with their hands than getting clean. When they stumbled out they took one look at the destroyed bed and laughingly made their way to Illya’s unused bedroom.
Side Note on Brigitte's gift: Mr. Kenneth was a famous NYC hair stylist in the 60s. He was responsible for Jackie O's bouffant and essentially created the women's hairstyles that we think of at the time. You know minus the looks that those damned dirty hippies were trying to pull off. :-D
Chapter 8: Take You Down
Jared Harris is a delight.
Sanders is a prick.
That is all.
December 1968, New York City
Solo sauntered casually up to the table at the chic little Italian bistro and cheerfully planted himself in the chair across from an irate Sanders. He flagged down a waiter and ordered a glass of white wine and a caprese salad to start. His former handler was practically turning purple.
“What are you doing here?” Sanders demanded.
“Joining an old friend for lunch.” Napoleon quipped.
“We are not friends, Solo. Leave now.”
The waiter returned with his wine and caprese. Napoleon tucked in, spearing a piece of fresh mozzarella with a happy smirk on his face. “I wasn’t referring to you, Sanders. We are not, have not, and will never be friends. No, I meant her.”
The former CIA agent gestured over the other man’s shoulder with his fork, too concerned with the deliciousness of his food to care much about manners at that moment. Sanders turned his head and nearly groaned aloud. Sophia Mussgorsky was crossing the street.
The woman gracefully sat down after Napoleon gently draped her coat over the back of her chair and pulled it out for her. He shared his salad with her and they both waited for Sanders to crack.
“What do you two want?”
“Who says we want anything?” Sophia asked sincerely. “We could be here to provide you with something, after all you used to be so eager to use our services.”
“Yes, then you absconded to another organization. You, I discovered to be the granddaughter of a goddamned war criminal and the most prolific fence on the Upper East Side.” Sanders gestured to Napoleon and Sophia respectively. His former employees exchanged a gleeful look and Sanders was suddenly thrown back to an extraction in Finland in 1959 and the horrendous international incident he’d had to cover up in their aftermath. “So, I ask again, what do you two want?”
The U.N.C.L.E. agents both smiled winningly at him, and not for the first time, Sanders wondered if they weren’t siblings. His investigations into both of them would’ve turned up a connection like that by now though. Besides they looked nothing alike.
“Well, Sophia is here for a particular reason, but I’m here to tell you a story.” Napoleon finally said after the waiter delivered Sanders’ lunch and took orders for the spies.
“You’ve got thirty minutes, Solo.”
“Yes, sir.” Napoleon took a generous sip of his wine and leaned back in his chair. “This story begins with Janus Mussgorsky, and his flight to Switzerland. You see, Janus wasn’t this man’s given name. He was actually Josef Ivanovich.”
“I know this story, Solo.”
“Pardon me, sir, but no you don’t. You see Josef fled Russia, not because of Stalin and his oppressive regime. No, he fled because his son-in-law, Anatoly Vasechkin, was caught smuggling stolen art from Russia through Turkey. Josef knew that it was only a matter of time before Anatoly’s activities were traced back to him so he resigned his military post and, instead of retiring to the Black Sea, he took his daughter, son-in-law, and their family to Switzerland. His son Pyotr remained in Russia.”
Two men sat down at the table next to them and Sophia glared at them pointedly until they got up and moved. The rest of Sanders’ security detail followed suit and they suddenly had a ring of empty tables around them.
“You see,” Napoleon continued. “Pyotr was an idealist and considered Stalin a friend. It wasn’t until von Ribbentrop showed up that Pyotr realized exactly what kind of man Josef Stalin was. He adamantly opposed the non-aggression pact and earned himself a demotion and a one-way ticket to Stalingrad.”
Napoleon stopped to take a few bites of the delicious risotto he’d ordered and steal a bit of Sophia’s pasta carbonara. He sipped on his wine again and composed himself. Sanders watched them both suspiciously. He really didn’t know what these two were doing.
“Pyotr languished in Stalingrad for nearly two years until Hitler’s invasion reached the city. His nine-year-old daughter and wife refused to follow his father into exile, at least not without him, and so for six months the women helped Pyotr defend the city from the Germans. Six months until Anatoly Vasechkin appeared on their doorstep with fake papers and a plan to bring the family to Switzerland. They refused at first until one of Pyotr’s soldiers showed up informing him that a kill order had been issued from Moscow. It seemed that Stalin was already planning to use the siege to clean house as it were. Pyotr and his wife took their daughter and followed Anatoly to Switzerland.
“A year later, Josef Ivanovich, now renamed Janus Mussgorsky and his family arrived in New York City. Unlike most other refugees, the Mussgorsky family were incredibly wealthy. You see Josef kept his business in trading stolen art alive and well in Zurich. Since many of his customers were wealthy Americans, Josef was able to arrive with most of his fortune intact. The family set up their new home on the Upper East Side and Pyotr opened an antiques shop where his father and brother-in-law began fencing stolen goods out the back door.”
Sophia glared at her former partner. “It was not the back door, Solo.”
“Beside the point, Sophia. Their business dealings rewarded them and by the time the war ended a scant two years later, the Mussgorsky’s were counted amongst Manhattan’s elite. Shortly thereafter, the influx of war profiteers looking to unload art from all over Europe brought the family to the attention of the authorities. Unlike the FBI, however, the CIA took a different tact, they focused on the brilliant daughter. Pyotr’s only child was completely immersed in her new culture. She had no accent, was highly educated, and could speak three languages. So the CIA set out to recruit her. With her, they had leverage over a lucrative criminal empire as well as a potentially talented field agent unusually suited for deep cover operations.”
“As I said before I know this story.”
“Ah, but here is what you overlooked when you stumbled upon eighteen-year-old Sophia Mussgorsky. Her friends and neighbors. You see when her family moved into Yorkville, they could really only communicate with their neighbors in German and broken English. Little Sophia was the youngest child and quickly found herself befriending some of the older children in the neighborhood as she learned English the fastest and was willing to teach her new friends how to swear in a new language.
“She quickly earned herself a particular friend in one young man who shared her passion for art. This boy, fueled by his family’s indifference, falsified his birth certificate and enlisted in the Army in 1945. He spent a year hunting Nazis across the European countryside and earned himself the rank of sergeant during the US occupation of West Berlin. He kept in touch with the girl from home, telling her all about the beautiful art he saw and how carelessly the Nazis treated it. He also wrote letters to the girl’s family, and sent them packages full of stolen artworks. In 1949, his unit was transferred to Korea and he cultivated new contacts dealing in pilfered Asian art from Japan and China. He passed those contacts along to the Mussgorsky family.”
Sanders stopped him with a raised hand. “You’re telling me, that you two knew each other long before I partnered you together in ’55?”
“Indeed I am.”
“Well this explains quite a bit. I’m still not sure why I’m hearing this.”
“You see, sir.” Sophia said before taking the last bite of her pasta. “You made a fortunate mistake in recruiting me, and another in assigning me to Solo as a trainee. Fortunate for you so long as you held tightly to Solo’s leash and kept me in the dark about your side projects.”
Sanders frowned. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me, sir. You never asked the right questions when it came to myself and Solo. You never wondered who his fences were or why the taskforce couldn’t recover much of what he stole. You never asked how he learned Russian, only concerned yourself with the fact that he knew it. You only ever pushed him to be your pawn because you knew he’d run given the opportunity.
“As for myself, you saw me as a piece of leverage and a specifically designed tool rather than an agent. I was useful to you so long as I obeyed you. Once I surpassed your ability to control me, I became expendable. You had no idea the depths to which I’d infiltrated the CIA and KGB. I learned my best lessons from thieves, criminals, and the wealthy after all. Always have an escape plan, leverage, and a mask. You never knew that I was playing you. Not once. I made it to U.N.C.L.E. with ten-years-worth of intelligence and six stolen computer disks. In the last two years, you’ll have noticed that CIA and KGB missions have both gone sideways at the unexpected appearance of rival agencies and the local authorities. That was all my doing.” Sophia finished smugly.
“You see, Sanders, the point of this was to inform you of your dreadful oversight in pursuing us after our departure from the CIA. You should have let things lie. Instead you’ve spent the past few years hunting us and interfering in U.N.C.L.E. operations. The KGB has done the same thing of course and Oleg is hearing a similar conversation in East Berlin. We are also here to inform you that the CIA has received incontrovertible proof of your double dealings and unsanctioned wet work. They’ve decided to fire you which is why your communicator isn’t working and your security detail was so easily cowed by Sophia’s look. They’ve offered Sophia your job, seeing as she’s the one who exposed your corruption.” Napoleon gleefully explained.
“You bitch.” Sanders turned on Sophia who had replaced her butter knife with a KABAR.
“Indeed, Mr. Sanders. You walked into my life eighteen years ago and ruined it. My family were perfectly content to stay out of international politics and sell their wares. Instead you gave me an impossible choice and forced them to wonder when KGB assassins would appear on their doorstep. You turned me into a weapon and pointed me at your enemies without compunction. Then you enslaved my friend to your ridiculous veneer of patriotism and used every opportunity to get him killed. Your days are done, Sanders. Now, if you’d so kindly hand over your gun and follow Mr. Solo.”
“I’ll do no such thing. He still owes six months on his sentence and you are a damned traitor.”
Alexander Waverly chose that moment to enter the bistro. Sanders turned an apoplectic shade of violet at the sight of U.N.C.L.E.’s Number One. “What in the hell are you doing here?”
“Now Mr. Sanders, is that anyway to greet a colleague?”
“Your organization has cost me a lot of good people over the last few years, Waverly. Good people and a chance to win this goddamned Cold War.”
“I’m afraid that is not entirely my doing. U.N.C.L.E. exists to keep the balance between nations Mr. Sanders, we are here to prevent another world war. It is not my intention to hinder any one nation’s activities, but keep you all in check. The doomsday clock must remain at five minutes to midnight, as it were. Mr. Solo, what would you recommend, that risotto looks delightful.”
“It is, but I think you’d prefer the primavera, sir.”
“Hmm. It does sound good. A pity Mr. Kuryakin isn’t here, I believe he is the only one of my agents whose palate is more refined than yours. Alas, he is making a much needed point to his former employers.”
“Gentlemen, we are here for a reason.” Sophia gently reminded them after their waiter returned with her Tiramisu and took Waverly’s order.
“So we are, Miss Mussgorsky, my apologies. Mr. Sanders, the FBI is waiting for you outside, ready to prosecute you for illegal activities on US soil. My own former employers are ready to spirit you away for that nasty bit of business in Edinburgh last year, MI-6 does not take kindly to Americans blundering into their operations. I’ve also been informed that the Bratva are quite keen to intercept both organizations and remind you why it is you do not coerce Russian immigrants into working for you.”
“Your family is Bratva!” Sanders practically shouted at Sophia.
“No. But Papa does do a lot of business with them. He is quite good at helping defectors leave with their fortunes and bodies intact. And I am not the only person you pressured into working for the CIA.” She responded, savoring her dessert.
“Yes, as I was saying, Mr. Sanders. There are three very unhappy groups waiting to arrest you or kidnap you the moment you leave this delightful restaurant. Mr. Solo and Miss Mussgorsky came here to offer you an alternative. You can avoid all of these rather irate people and surrender yourself to U.N.C.L.E. We will provide you with a new identity, a job in an U.N.C.L.E. facility, and a life expectancy longer than what you will face with anyone else.”
“You expect me to take this offer?”
“I do. Your career is over with the CIA, Mr. Sanders. Too many unsanctioned operations that did not benefit the Agency, I’m afraid. As I’m sure you’ve been informed, Miss Mussgorsky here has been offered your job. Unfortunately for me, she has decided to take this position, though she assures me there will be a great deal more cooperation between our organizations from now on.”
Waverly’s primavera arrived and he tucked in with gusto. Napoleon, now drinking espresso turned a smug look on his former handler.
“I suggest you take the offer, sir.”
“I suggest you keep your nose out of this, Solo.”
“Only trying to help, sir.”
“You’re a goddamned disgrace to your country, Solo.”
“Pardon me, Mr. Sanders, but you will refrain from speaking to my agents in this manner. It was Mr. Solo who suggested this plan. He seems to think you could be useful for us.” Waverly intoned coolly.
“Is he sucking your cock along with that giant Russian’s, Waverly, or are you just stupid? He wants to kill me himself.”
Sophia glanced at Napoleon and gently wrapped her leg around his under the table. His face was blank, but his eyes were blazing. She wondered if any of these damned spies would finally get it through their thick skulls that Solo and Kuryakin were wildly dangerous on their own and only worse when together.
“Mr. Solo is an exemplary spy, Mr. Sanders. An asset you were never able to fully utilize, and now I see why. If you make any more derogatory comments towards my agents, this offer will be rescinded and you will be left to the mercy of the people outside. Am I understood?”
Napoleon smiled slowly. Waverly was a terrifying man when pushed. Most of the time he was simply the affable British public school alumnus, a capable combination of posh manners and silver tongue. It wasn’t often he was brought past annoyance and into true anger. It truly only happened when his agents were threatened. He was remarkably similar to a mother grizzly at these times.
Sanders looked between the two men, slowly realizing his mistake, but still uncaring. He didn’t believe a word these people told him. The first rule of spy work was to never trust another spy. “I’ll do as I damn well please, Waverly. Your section head here is sleeping with his direct subordinate, another man, I’ll be damned if I believe a word that comes out of his mouth.”
Waverly took the last bite of his pasta and a long drink from his glass of wine. He glanced to Sophia who nodded and stood up. Every other patron in the restaurant stood with her. “Da Svidania, gentlemen. Sanders, it’s been a pleasure, sir.”
Twenty people left en masse as Sophia pressed a kiss to Napoleon’s cheek. Napoleon was reminded of the Café Gustav four years ago. Then the stagecraft had been to keep a détente between the CIA and KGB, and he’d felt the same contempt for Sanders then. The difference four years made was drastic. Sanders no longer held his leash, a much better man did and it wasn’t Waverly.
His boss pushed his plate away. “Mr. Sanders, you’ve made a serious error today. You’ll be dead within a year. As for the personal aspersions you’ve made against Miss Mussgorsky. She is a wildly capable woman and even though society is not overly fond of such character traits, our organization encourages them. She is not a ‘bitch,’ nor is she a traitor. You underestimated her and underutilized her to your own detriment. As for your comments about Mr. Solo, I am distinctly unaware as to why you seem to dislike this man so much. He served this country with distinction, despite his criminal tendencies, through two wars and ten years of coerced employment to your former Agency. While I do not approve of his compulsion towards theft,” Waverly tipped his head to his agent. Napoleon twitched his lips and shrugged. “Make no mistake that Napoleon Solo is one of the most valuable agents in my employ. He is a good man and you would have done well to recognize that. Goodbye, Mr. Sanders.”
With that, Waverly stood and left the restaurant. Napoleon studied Sanders as he shook with anger. They stared each other down for several long minutes.
“What is your partner telling Oleg?”
“That you’ve been disavowed by the CIA and unless he wishes his own extracurricular activities exposed to some less than trustworthy elements in the KGB, he will be nothing but cooperative with U.N.C.L.E. operations from now on.”
“You honestly expect him to agree to that?”
“Because unlike you, Mr. Sanders, he is not the head of a multinational organization of terrorists bent on world domination.”
Sanders sat back, nonplussed. “What in the hell does that mean?”
“Well, you see, sir. THRUSH was founded by Colonel Moran shortly after Moriarty’s unfortunate demise at Reichenbach. In honor of him, every leader of the organization has been named ‘The Colonel’ since then. When you burned Sophia two years ago, it was not only because you’d found out exactly who her family was, it was because she’d stumbled upon who you were. It took her some time to put it together of course, ten years of documentation took quite a bit of effort to wade through, but she did find the links. Too many bits of intelligence referring to you as ‘The Colonel.’ You assumed leadership of THRUSH shortly before Udo Teller’s kidnapping and you alerted the Vinciguerra’s to the joint operation in Rome once it became clear that Miss Teller, Kuryakin, and myself would possibly succeed. Gaby’s calculated betrayal was icing on the cake, you didn’t know she worked for Waverly.”
“No I didn’t, the British bastard can be sneaky at times.”
“You also didn’t think our partnership would work. Granted, after mine and Kuryakin’s first meeting, how could you? But we did work well together and in a crucial moment, we chose not to kill each other and were promptly whisked away from our employers. Oleg took it much better than you did. He had an agent inside a multinational agency and thus had gained a foothold for Russia to interact in more favorable terms with its neighbors. You on the other hand began actively opposing U.N.C.L.E., despite your superiors’ warnings. You interfered with dozens of operations under the guise of your CIA employment. All the while you were directing your cadre of insane neo-Nazis towards even more ridiculous plans to subjugate the world’s population.”
“Hitler was a moron.”
“Frankly, sir, so are you.”
“THRUSH will go on without me. You know this Solo. Why try to incorporate me into U.N.C.L.E.?”
“I had this vague notion that we could use you against THRUSH.”
“But you had to know I’d never accept.”
“I only hoped.” Napoleon stood up and walked towards the counter, he graciously handed over several hundred dollars to the shocked waiter. Returning to the table, he leaned over Sanders. “If you survive the week, Sanders, do yourself a favor and do not come near myself or anyone I call friend. You will regret that decision.”
“Will I, Solo? Or are you afraid I’ll let slip to the KGB that their best has been turned into a faggot?”
“I’m not afraid at all, Sanders. I’m certain that the KGB doesn’t give a flying fuck about Kuryakin’s bed partners. Not after we’ve supplied them with the name of thirty agents and party members who work for THRUSH. I hear that Brezhnev and Kosygin themselves are eagerly awaiting the chance to place the traitors’ heads on spikes outside the Kremlin. Besides, Oleg personally groomed Kuryakin to be the best. He did marry Kuryakin’s mother after all. The man has a soft spot a mile wide for his stepson.”
Sanders frowned. That was a piece of information he didn’t know.
“Goodbye, Sanders.” Napoleon intoned. He shrugged his coat on and swanned out of the restaurant.
The next morning, he exited his bedroom to find Illya quietly reading the morning paper and drinking tea. He pressed a kiss to the top of his lover’s head and set about making them breakfast. A quiet tutting noise from across the room drew his attention and he found Gaby watching him fondly.
“Good morning, Miss Teller. I wasn’t aware you’d be joining us. Would you like breakfast as well?”
“What did you plan to cook?” She said, taking a seat across from Illya at the table.
“Peril prefers to eat an omelet after a transcontinental flight.”
“An omelet sounds wonderful.”
Napoleon grinned at her and set about retrieving ingredients from his fridge. The three of them shared several domestic moments in the last four years but this morning felt more like a victory than any other.
“Oleg sends well wishes for the holiday.” Illya said a few minutes later as Napoleon plated an omelet for Gaby.
“Does he now?”
“Not explicitly. But I expect to find packages at dead drop in Central Park this week.”
“Did he agree to our terms?”
“Yes, no more interfering. No matter what my mother says.”
“You two are tooth-achingly sweet.” Gaby said after a few bites of her omelet. She gestured between them. “I do not know what to do with this.”
Illya and Napoleon shared a look. “You pushed us to it” Napoleon reminded.
“I know. I’m just wondering how much of this is an act for my benefit.”
A knock sounded at the door and Illya rose to answer it. Napoleon deposited the rest of their breakfast at the table and sat down. “We’re riling you up, Gaby.”
“I knew it.”
“You know us too well. We should have taken your hints much sooner.”
“I think it is better you didn’t.” She whispered as Illya appeared with their guests. Sophia walked over and pressed a kiss to Napoleon’s cheek while Yuri simply walked into the kitchen to fix himself a cup of coffee.
“Good morning.” Napoleon said, frowning at them both. “I thought we weren’t to associate with each other so soon.”
“I have made an exception.” Sophia responded, picking a strawberry from the fruit bowl.
“Why?” Illya asked, also clearly perturbed by their extra company.
“The Colonel is dead.”
“That didn’t take very long.” Gaby snarked.
“No. It seems THRUSH eliminated him themselves. MI-6 had him for less than twelve hours before someone stuck a needle in his neck."
The five agents shared a solemn moment. “Who is the frontrunner as his replacement?”
“It appears Mother Fear is back from the dead and the Sweet Brothers seem to think they can take her on.”
“That won’t end well for them.” Napoleon quipped.
“She’s really just fronting for Emory Partridge.” Sophia continued.
“This will create chaos.” Illya said slowly.
“That’s CONTROL’s problem not ours.” Yuri teased from his spot leaning against the kitchen counter.
“Well, my darlings, I’m off. First day back at the CIA and all that.” Sophia accepted a quick hug from Gaby and well wishes from Illya and Napoleon before swanning out of the apartment. Yuri stayed behind for a few moments, drinking his coffee.
“Who is being promoted to head Section Three?” Gaby asked him.
“Not sure. Waverly said he had to clear choices with other Section One heads. I think we’ll know by this afternoon.” Yuri answered.
Illya and Napoleon shared a look. They knew exactly who Waverly wanted to replace Sophia. Yuri eyed them carefully. He wasn’t following his wife to the CIA, said he had standards and if he wasn’t with the KGB anymore U.N.C.L.E. was the only place worthy of his attention.
“You two know who he wants.”
“Not a clue.”
They responded at the same time. Gaby narrowed her eyes.
Yuri shook his head and finished his coffee. “Enjoy your leave, gentlemen. Brigitte has us all well in hand in your absence.”
Once he was gone, Napoleon sagged against Illya. “Three days is not long enough after the last few days.”
“Quiet, Cowboy. Three days is plenty of time.” Illya quipped, reaching up to grip the back of Napoleon’s neck, hard.
“I believe that is my cue to leave.” Gaby crossed around the table to clasp both their hands tightly. “Please behave yourselves. I’ll see you at headquarters in a few days.”
“Don’t worry, Gaby. I doubt we’ll leave the apartment.” Napoleon said, grinning madly.
She rolled her eyes and collected her purse and coat. “I mean it, no stumbling on THRUSH plots at the Patisserie. No calling into headquarters to check on us. Nothing. Relax. You’ve just beheaded the hydra. The other three heads won’t grow back for a bit.”
She kissed them both on the cheek and exited the apartment.
“She’s come such a long way.”
“Little Chop Shop Girl is all grown up. You agreed with Waverly’s decision, yes?”
“Of course. Sophia tempered her tendency to follow our ridiculous plans and she’s not cut out to be a field agent forever. She’s much better suited to ordering others around.”
“This is true.”
“So, Peril, what are your plans for the next three days.”
January 1968, Gingins
Napoleon gestured towards the house. Illya walked up to the heavy wooden doors and used the key to open them. He stepped inside to find that the restored medieval chalet was minimally furnished. Napoleon followed him as he walked through the house admiring the stonework and the carefully maintained artwork on the walls.
He climbed the stairs, investigating the bedrooms. He turned wary eyes on Napoleon each time he encountered a masterpiece hanging in carefully maintained cases on the walls. Sculptures lined the hallways and bedrooms as well. Each piece of art was lovingly displayed and Illya suddenly knew why Napoleon would disappear for a week every few months.
“Is every room like this, Cowboy?” Illya finally asked as he studied the carved four poster bed in the master bedroom.
“More or less.”
“This is everything you could not sell.”
“This is everything I would not sell, Peril. There is a difference. Sophia’s grandfather would return quite a bit of what I stole to the families of its original owners, if he could. The rest earned us both enough money to retire comfortably. So that’s what I did, I purchased a run-down chalet and set it up to my exacting standards. The CIA, U.N.C.L.E., no one knows this place is mine. Not even my cleaning lady has ever seen my face here.”
“Until now.” Illya whispered.
“Until now.” Napoleon repeated. “I’d like a drink, come downstairs there’s a room you missed.”
Illya followed him back down the spiral stone staircase towards the main room. There was, indeed, a room he missed. The wooden paneling on the walls concealed a hidden door that Napoleon opened to reveal a collection of art that made him gasp.
The floor had been dug out and down to create an open space underneath the house. Along all four walls hung two dozen artworks, all inside temperature and humidity controlled cases. Illya recognized two Monets, a Kandinsky, several works of Asian origin. He turned to Napoleon and pointed at a particular work on the far wall.
“That belongs in Moscow.”
“The Tretyakov has a painstakingly recreated forgery, I’ll keep this one.”
“When did you acquire it?”
“Four years ago.”
Illya’s gaze snapped away from the Repin masterpiece of Ivan the Terrible and back to his partner. Napoleon grinned at him and stepped towards a low cabinet. He retrieved two tumblers and a bottle of vodka, pouring them both a glass. The room was quite chilly and so the drinks needed no ice.
“Why take it?”
“It reminds me of you.”
“Because I share name with artist?”
“No. We’ll discuss it later. Turn around and look at the three paintings behind you.”
Illya complied, taking a swig of his vodka. He did not recognize the paintings immediately, but he was very familiar with the style. These were the Degas works Napoleon mentioned a long time ago. He was a bit overcome for a moment with what this all meant. Illya had no secret places to share with Napoleon, his were all inside his own mind and heart. Napoleon did not work that way. He kept his heart locked away in a Swiss chalet overlooking Lake Geneva. Everything he held precious to him, he brought here.
“What do you think, Peril?”
Illya studied the three paintings. One was a battle scene, a cavalryman drawing a bow on his unclothed enemies. Another depicted a young woman with two red ibis. The third depicted a dancer, tilting up on her toes, arms flung up to balance gracefully.
“They were worth the wait, Cowboy.”
Napoleon beamed and reached for him. Illya went willingly. “I’m glad to hear it.”
The works Illya sees in Napoleon's hidden room are as follows:
The Grand Canal, Venice 1908, by Claude Monet
Houses of Parliament, Stormy Sky by Claude Monet
Composition, VII by Wassily Kandinsky
The Pine Trees, Panel by Hasegawa Tohaku
Dragon and Tiger, screens by Hasegawa Tohaku
Gukjeong chumyo by Byeon Sang-byeok
Nine Dragons by Chen Rong
Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581 by Ilya Repin
Dancer Tilting, 1883
Young Woman with Ibis, 1862
Scene of War in the Middle Ages, 1865
I am fully aware that these works are all nestled safely in their museums and collections. But I am writing this fic in a fictional world that shares space with Sherlock Fucking Holmes and Dr. John Hamish Danger Watson. I don't doubt for a second that our intrepid Mr. Solo could acquire these artworks given five minutes and the proper tools.