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it's not like they aren't pretty

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It’s December 24th and it is freezing.

Napoleon Solo adores his job (with some limitations), but being in a muddy ditch the night before Christmas is an all time low. He’s got standards, as any well-meaning man should, and this is a travesty.

 

He also may be shivering.

 

“You cold, Cowboy?” Illya says, with a look of derision. “In Russia, this is nothing.”

Solo sneaks a look at the thermometer in his watch. 23 degrees is nothing to scoff at. He wonders if U.N.C.L.E will pay for him to get replacement toes if they freeze off. “We’re not in Russia though, are we, Peril?”

 

They’re not. They’re in Poland and it is cold.

 

“You Americans are weak.” Illya says, with a triumphant flick of his hand. He turns away and looks through his binoculars at the building in this distance.

“Sure you don’t want to cuddle, Peril?” Solo snarks, “Warm up? I’ve been told I’m a positively brilliant lay.”

“If you two don’t shut up I’m shoving you both out of this ditch.” Gaby Teller, the third (and smallest) member of their party, hisses. She wipes a smear of mud off her cheek and looks through her own binoculars.

Solo shuts his mouth. Fair enough. There’s a reason they’re here, after all.

It’s a “they caused an international incident and now members of three international agencies are on their tail so they’re hiding in a ditch’ reason, but it’s a reason nonetheless.

 

To be fair, Solo didn’t actually know that the vase he broke was priceless, and that the damages were the cause of great offense to more than one country at the time, but it had been a great learning experience.

 

He certainly isn’t ever going to break any more vases.

(If they manage to survive Poland, that is.)

 

“Clear.” Gaby hisses. “Go.”

 

They haul their packs out of the sludge of mud and snow and run towards the abandoned house, keeping low as to avoid detection. And bullets.

 

“Oh, thank God.” Solo sighs when they get inside. It’s so warm.

 

Warm (at least in comparison to the freezing cold and sharp wind outside).

 

He starts peeling off his gloves.

They shouldn’t stay still for long, but the draw of the abandoned shack had been too much to resist.

 

Gaby, without prompting, starts going through the cupboards in the kitchen. Illya barricades the door by carrying a full bookshelf in front of it, and Solo rifles through their packs for their primus stove. They’ve got to stay warm. Cold is a killer, especially in this part of the world.

 

Technically he’s not supposed to use the primus inside but he’d rather die of kerosene poisoning than of freezing to death.

(He does sit just below a window, though, just in case.)

 

Melting some snow takes some time and he’s happy to watch Illya pace and Gaby fiddle about around the kitchen. They’re both as anxious as he is, fire burning in their veins, wanting to throw themselves outside into the snow to finish the job. But they can’t.

 

Inside is good. They’ll stay inside. He shivers and pulls his scarf even tighter around his neck as a gust of wind blows through the room. Still cold. Too cold.

 

“Drink up, kids.” Solo says, once the snow is melted, and carries the pot of steaming water over to Illya.

“I am not a ‘kid’.” Illya says petulantly, pacing slowing to a halt.

 

Gaby’s still digging around in the kitchen, which is filthy and utterly barebones, but she comes out anyway, holding a package of something tightly in one hand.

 

“It’s.. uh.. for...you know, hot chocolate?” Illya says, unprompted, obviously translating the thick Polish font on the front of the package.

“Hot chocolate!” Solo couldn’t be more delighted. It’s a perfect way to keep them warm and alive until the morning. “Find anything else?”

“Nothing, unless you like off milk?” Gaby replies, and rips the package open. She pours half of it into the pot of water and stirs it about with a finger. “Well, drink up.”

 

Solo, ever the gentleman, offers the pot to her first.

She rolls her eyes but takes it anyway and drinks some. Illya gets the pot next, still looking a tad sulky, and drinks.

 

The hot chocolate is still great when Solo finally gets it. It’s a good decision all round.  He nearly drops the pot as he puts it back down. Cold fingers. They’re not the best things in the world. Now, if he only had a good red and some sandwiches, it’d be ideal.

(They’d still be stuck in a derelict shack on Christmas Eve, but he’d be able to compartmentalise that bit.)

 

The hot chocolate is warming, but hardly good enough. This cold cannot be good for them.

 

He’s not sure what time it is because his watch doesn't seem to be working right, but it’s pitch black outside and he feels tired, a heavy fatigue settling in his limbs and dragging him towards the floor. They’ve been on the run for three days and hardly had time to just be still. “Can we sleep?”

“Yes.” Gaby says firmly. “That’s a good idea, don’t you think?”

 

Solo thinks that she mightn’t want him and Peril bickering anymore. They’ve spent most of their escape sniping at each other - which really isn’t that surprising - and he could see it getting on her nerves.

(Secretly he enjoys it and he’s fairly sure Illya does too.)

 

Illya shrugs. “I will watch.”

“You will sleep.” Gaby says, even more firmly. “We’ll take shifts. I’m exhausted and you should be too.”

 

“Well, now that you mention it-” Solo begins, just as Illya interrupts him.

“-I am not.”

 

Gaby huffs and starts unrolling the tarpaulin they managed to steal from a barn several miles ago. She lays it on the floor, presumably trying to keep the freezing cold from coming through the floor and killing them all.

 

Then, she settles on the window edge of it, with her back against the wall and says, “I’ll take first watch. You two come and keep me warm. Yes?”

It’s not a question.

 

“Yes.” Napoleon can’t exactly stop the wide grin spreading across his face as he hunkers down next to Gaby.

Come on, it’s not like his teammates aren’t pretty.

(Volatile, dangerous and incredibly good at their jobs they may be, but they’re certainly not not pretty .)

 

He snuggles up next to her, leans his head on her hip, and appreciates how warm she is already. She’s burning like a firecracker, with flames in her veins, and it feels good.

But something’s missing. The Russian. It’s always the Russian.

 

He hums into her hip, sighs, and turns over, mourning the lack of contact already.

 

Illya’s standing near them, shifting from one foot to another and looking more uncomfortable than Napoleon's ever seen him. If he was a braver man, he’d say the Russian looks ashamed.

 

“You’re missing out.” He says, lightly, “she’s very warm.”

“I just… stay here.” Illya replies, slowly, as though he’s confused about something. “Not cold.”

 

And even if he was, he’d never say so. Illya’s just that kind of man. Not nearly as ‘free-wheeling’ with his affection as Napoleon is (or really, at all) , if he hadn’t noticed some of the side glances the man had given him, he would have thought that Peril was tragically (as the Russians say) гетеросексуалист .

 

But perhaps he’s… less confident... around the whole thing. And that’s fine. Someday he’s sure that men will be able to lie with men freely, without judgment, but that day is not today. He understands Illya’s hesitance.

 

“I don’t bite.” Napoleon says, feeling the cold from the ground starting to seep into his bones again. “I’m serious.”

“You biting is not problem, Cowboy.” Illya mutters, looking even more uncomfortable.

 

Huh. Well. That changes things.

 

“I will sleep here.” He points at the wreck of a sofa, with almost all of the stuffing pulled out of it. There’s genuinely a fairly high chance that it’s less comfortable than the carpet-and-tarp covered floor.

Gaby shifts behind him. “Illya, look at me.”

 

Napoleon ducks down to make it easier on him. Damn, if he knew that he would be trying to tempt someone into ‘bed’, he wouldn’t have come on this mission.

Hell, who is he kidding? Of course he would have.

Illya might be Russian and terrible nearly all of the time, but he’s a good terrible. A snarky, joyous, very pretty kind of terrible. Gaby, in contrast, is far too good for the pair of them. He doesn’t know how she does it.

 

“Illya, I promise that Napoleon will keep his hands to himself.” Gaby stresses.

 

Napoleon whines low in his throat, momentarily put out. He can keep his hands to himself! He usually just doesn’t need to.

 

“It’s cold and I know you’ll be cold over there, even though you’re stubborn enough not to say so. And I’d…” she hesitates, looking awkward for the first time in the entire day, “... prefer it if you were both close by. For security.”

 

Napoleon knows that it’s not just ‘for security’.

 

Illya sighs. “I’m in middle, Cowboy.”

 

Napoleon laughs under his breath, because who’d have thought?


-

 

It turns out that Illya’s a bit like a cat. A very awkward, sometimes-volatile, giant Russian cat.

He really likes cuddling. (Once he’s stopped being weird about it.)

 

He rests his head on Gaby’s lap, and she cards her fingers through his hair. He’s even give Napoleon permission to wrap his arm around his waist and run his fingers gently over the muscled plains of his stomach.

He’s snoring now, shoulders relaxed for the first time in three days. It’s a good look on him, and a look that Napoleon wishes he could wrench out of him more often than once in a blue moon.

This is a start. It’s nothing more than a cuddle pile between friends, but it feels like a start.

 

Outside, the wind blows snow against the windows of the old shack, but inside, something feels warm and comfortable and right.