Most people wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Napoleon Solo was cursed. However, most people didn’t know. Even the CIA hadn’t figured it out as this particular curse didn’t interfere with his work at all. When he’d been officially transferred over to UNCLE from the CIA, after a long series of negotiations that the CIA walked away from smugly certain that they’d gotten the better deal, there had been another review of his history and a brief interview with Waverly. All he’d been asked is if there was anything not in the file that Solo felt was relevant to his new work. The curse hadn’t even come up. It had never been a problem before, why should it be now?
You’re a liar, Napoleon Solo. And now you’ll never be able to speak the truth of love ever again.
Those had been her exact words.
Well he wasn’t exactly in a line of work that was conducive to forming loving relationships, nor was that due to change anytime soon, so whatever that meant he wasn’t going to let it bother him.
He insisted on taking Illya and Gaby out for a few rounds of drinks to celebrate his liberation from the CIA and their first night as a true UNCLE team. Illya’s own transfer from the KGB had been surprisingly painless compared to Napoleon’s, something Napoleon tried (and failed) not to be bitter about and Illya tried (and failed) not to be smug about.
“It seems that once again the Soviets have proven to be ahead of the Americans,” Illya commented, taking a sip of his drink, “Wouldn’t you agree, Cowboy?”
“Perhaps,” Napoleon responded, “The Americans wanted to be sure they were thorough when handling such an important task. After all, one can never be too careful, Peril.”
“And I think you’re both missing the really important thing.” Gaby downed her beer and picked up the second one she’d ordered in advance, “It doesn’t matter anymore. We’re not CIA, we’re not KGB, we’re not who we were anymore, we’re who we are. To us,” She held up her drink, “Prost.”
Gaby switched to a stronger drink after her third beer but only got two vodkas in before Napoleon and Illya silently agreed to cut her off and take her home. Napoleon had heard the recounting of what had happened in Rome and didn’t feel like being the next person Gaby tried to dance -or wrestle- with. The hardest part was trying to get her out of the bar and into a cab without making it look suspicious, given the size disparity and Gaby’s clear intoxication, but in no time they were settled into a cab, Gaby propped up between the men, and on their way to her apartment.
“Next time we should go dancing,” Gaby mumbled into Illya’s jacket, “A real celebration has dancing.”
“Couldn’t agree more,” Napoleon told her. “We’ll start there and move on to drinking afterwards. What do you say, Peril?”
“Have fun. Don’t get into trouble. I know that will be hard for you, Cowboy, but you like a challenge, da?”
“You wound me. Ah here we are. Shall I escort Miss Teller in or would you like to?”
“If you’re not sure you can handle her then I would be happy to.”
“Yes because you handled her so well last time. I believe she said she tackled you to the ground, did she not?”
“Shhhhh,” Gaby took Napoleon’s hand and pressed it to his mouth, “You two talk too loud.”
“I’d say you both have things well under control,” Illya said, not even bothering to hide his smirk, “dobroy nochi, Chop Shop Girl, watch out for her elbows, Cowboy.” He shut the cab door and drove away before Napoleon could respond.
Napoleon sighed and helped Gaby into her apartment. She was still awake enough to cling to him like a tiny German koala so he ended up carrying her back to her room and depositing her on her bed. He left her struggling with her shoes while he went to get her a glass of water and aspirin for the morning. When he returned she’d managed to get one of them off before flopping down onto the bed, so he took the other one off and sat her up to take off her jewelry and let down her hair to make her more comfortable.
“Here,” he passed her the water, “Drink this, you’ll feel better.”
“Illya needs to learn how to have fun,” Gaby said, “he’s very attractive, I want to see him smile. Isn't he attractive, Napoleon?”
Napoleon hummed noncommittally, “He has classical good looks and a nice physique.”
“You would know, I've seen you checking out his ‘nice physique.’ You like him, don’t you?”
“You’re very drunk, Gaby.”
“And you’re avoiding the question. Come on, it’s just us, tell me the truth.”
Yes. Napoleon looked down at her, and for a brief moment considered it, but the words stuck in his throat. So he smiled and kissed the top of her head, “Good night, Miss Teller.”
When Napoleon got in to the office the next day, Illya was already there and working. Napoleon set the coffee he’d brought in next to the one already sitting on Gaby’s desk, sharing an amused look with Illya, and sat down to look over his own work. Gaby arrived only a little late, sunglasses on and hair pulled out of her face, with her own coffee cup in hand. She blessed both of them in very tired German and settled in to kill her hangover. Luckily they were still in the research and recon stage of their current mission so, barring any emergencies, they didn’t have to worry about travelling anywhere that day.
By lunch time Gaby had recovered enough to focus on her work and it looked like they would be flying out to Ireland to catch a boat to a semi-remote island where THRUSH was rumored to be setting up a mysterious base for nefarious purposes. Again. While Gaby and Napoleon finished up their preliminary reports and started making travel plans, Illya ducked out to pick up lunch. He returned with food from a deli down the road that made super greasy sandwiches Gaby craved when she was hungover. Napoleon smiled but didn’t comment on how soft Illya had gotten working with them. Like he didn’t go to the corner shop that had a soup Illya would never admit to being fond of.
Once they got to Ireland they hit the ground running. It was going to be too risky to try any recon on the island itself given that it was quite small and quite crawling with THRUSH agents so they gathered as much info as they could remotely. They'd checked into a small hotel, each in a room facing the direction of the island, under separate covers to avoid suspicion.
The first few days they were there, one person would stay in for the night while the other two headed off in different directions to get eyes on the base. Just before sunrise, they’d all meet back in one of the rooms and compare notes on guard movements and general personnel. Covert aerial surveillance by UNCLE also gave them more information on the size and layout of the base.
They decided that the best course of action would be to execute a multistage infiltration and destruction of the base. Gather as much information as possible about what THRUSH was working on and lay down explosives as they went. Once they were all back at a rendezvous point they would detonate the explosives and make their escape under the cover of night, and explosions.
That had been the plan at least.
And what a lovely plan it was , Napoleon thought to himself as he and Illya ran through the halls of the base, THRUSH agents hot on their heels. He can only hope that they’d been able to place enough explosives to take down the base before getting caught. It wasn’t clear if they’d been lured into a trap or just very unlucky but at the moment that didn’t matter as much as reaching Gaby in the getaway boat.
Unfortunately, their bad luck seemed to be on a rotten streak, because the door that they burst out of wasn’t the one that led into the forested area that would give them cover as they raced to the water. No, the door they burst out of opened out to a cliff face. The only way out was down.
Why do they even have that door? Is what Napoleon thought. What he said was, “Go,” pushing his bag with intel into Illya’s hands and grabbing Illya’s gun, “I’ll cover you.”
“If you argue we’ll both end up dead or captured. I'll be right behind you,” he lied, “I’m just going to buy us some time.” Buy you some time. Don't die. “Tell Gaby to drive like hell.” Don’t wait for me. Run. Save yourselves.
Illya started his descent down the rocks, but not before giving Napoleon a look that told him a lecture was coming in his future. Never thought I'd be sad to miss one . Napoleon turned to face the door, putting a full magazine in the pistols. If I'm going down, I'm taking as many of you with me as possible.
He didn’t go down. He was outnumbered in guns and manpower. He managed to get some good swings in before they grabbed him and dragged him back inside.
The room they put him in was eerily reminiscent of the room where Rudi Teller had... probably best not to think about that right now. But there weren’t any wires going to the chair so he felt confident this would be a more standard in-torture-gation. He was still working on making that an official UNCLE term. So far the only support he’d gotten was from a few guys in R&D.
I hope they don’t instate it after this. What a terrible legacy to leave behind.
As Napoleon’s luck tonight would have it, he was about to get an up close and personal experience with THRUSH’s latest experiment. The lab they’d built in the base and the documents that Napoleon had grabbed all pointed to the development of some type of drug or chemical, which is what he guessed they were injecting him with now. A man sat in a chair across from him and waited, staring, for the drug to kick in. Napoleon didn’t feel any different but the man seemed to know when enough time had passed and started speaking.
He cycled through a few different languages, settling on English when that got a response Napoleon hadn’t intended to give. “What is your name?”
“Napoleon Solo.” The words came out without thought or hesitation. Ah, so that’s what it does .
“Who do you work for?”
“Who is your employer?”
“None of your business.”
“How did you find us?”
“We were looking for you.”
“You have a habit of doing things that are harmful to other people. Seemed best to put a stop to it as soon as possible.”
“Who was the man you were here with?”
“What’s his name?”
“I call him Peril.”
“What is his name?”
The man frowned, “How did he get off the island?”
Thank God . “I’m not entirely sure he’s human. It's entirely possible he swam.”
“Tell me more about him. What’s he like?”
He’s the most ridiculous man I've ever met, which shouldn’t be nearly as endearing as it is. He cares so much but acts like he doesn’t and I want to steal his heart away and put it where no one can hurt him ever again. I want to knock his stupid hat off his head and kiss him senseless. His eyes are oceans, hiding untold mysteries in their dark depths, things I should be afraid of but I'm not. I trust him with my life. I'd give my life for his. I have given my life for his. You won’t get him, I won’t let you. I will protect him.
The man’s eyebrow started to twitch as Napoleon sat there in silence, all the words trying to pour out of his heart getting stopped before they could.
You’ll never be able to speak the truth of love.
The witch's words rang in his ears and suddenly he understood. He understood everything. Napoleon wasn’t sure if he wanted to laugh or to cry, but before he could do either an explosion echoed down the hall. The man got up from his chair and went to the door in time for someone on the other side to kick it open with great force, knocking him backwards and out cold.
“Excellent timing, Peril, as usual.”
For a moment, Illya just stared at Napoleon strapped down in the chair, no doubt remembering the last time he saw something like this, then he was at Napoleon’s side pulling away the bindings. “Stupid American cowboy,” He muttered as he helped Napoleon up, “You lied.”
Napoleon winced as his bruises were jostled, “I did." I had to
I wish I could tell you . “Long story.”
They continued down the hall in the opposite direction of the explosion, catching up with Gaby on the way who was holding a detonator in her hand. “Get to the boat, both of you ,” she gave Napoleon a pointed look, “Let’s get out of here.”
“You are adorably terrifying when you’re angry,” Napoleon told her. “Lead the way, Peril.”
They made their way through the forest, Illya keeping a hand on Napoleon’s arm for support and guidance. And probably to make sure I actually come with him thought the less rational part of Napoleon’s brain. Gaby was close behind them, backlit by the continuing explosions of the base. Before he knew it they were speeding away from the island back towards the mainland. Safe.
Once they’d gotten Napoleon back to his room, Gaby left to call Waverly and report in while Illya stayed to take care of Napoleon. He knelt down and took Napoleon’s head in his hands, looking him over for signs of concussion or other head trauma. “Are you alright? What did they do to you?”
“That new drug they’re working on, it’s some kind of truth serum. They wanted information.”
“Did you tell them anything?”
“Nothing helpful. It’s still in me though so if you have any burning questions you want to ask then now’s your chance.”
Illya frowned and shook his head, standing up, “Sleep, Cowboy. Don't try to do something you’ll regret in the morning.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time. Though it has been a while. Care to join me?” He smiled up at Illya, leaning back on the bed.
“Even drugged you still make stupid jokes.”
What if I'm not joking . Napoleon tried to think of something else clever to say, but the truth seemed to have stuck good this time and he was left just looking up at Illya.
“Why did you tell me to go ahead?” Illya asked, “Why did you lie about following?”
To keep you safe.
“Of course, now you’re quiet.” Illya sighed and rubbed a hand over his face, pushing his hat back a little.
Knock that stupid hat off and kiss him senseless.
Illya turned and walked into the little bathroom in Napoleon’s room to retrieve his first-aid kit. Napoleon took his shirt off and let Illya examine his bruises without protest or quip. No bullet had hit him, the luckiest thing to happen all night, but he was still going to be sore for a few days. Even when Illya applied the ointment that Napoleon always complained ruined his shirts, he said nothing.
Finally, Illya put the kit aside and pulled a chair over to the bed to look at Napoleon, “You are being too quiet. Are you alright? Are you sure they didn’t do anything else to you?”
Napoleon shook his head, looking down at the floor so he didn’t drown in Illya’s eyes while he was choking on the truth.
“Napoleon,” Illya said softly, putting a hand on Napoleon’s knee, “Talk to me. I promise I won’t judge.”
I wish I could.
Still he said nothing. Illya pulled his hand away and stood, “I will go get Gaby.”
Napoleon’s hand shot out and grabbed Illya’s, preventing him from turning away. He opened his mouth, trying to force the words, any words, out. Nothing. Tears started to form in his eyes and he gripped Illya tighter.
“Napoleon?” Illya knelt down so he could see Napoleon’s face, “What’s wrong?”
Napoleon stared at him, breathing harder as he choked on the tears that had joined the words in his throat. Illya’s hand came back up to cup Napoleon’s face. His eyes, those deep oceans, called out, asking to understand.
I love you. I fell for you before I had a chance not to. If I could do it all over, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love you, Illya Kuryakin.
Desperate, broken, and tired of lying, Napoleon leaned forward and kissed Illya, trying to put all the words he couldn’t say into that kiss. Something uncoiled and released inside of him, and the sheer relief finally tipped him over the edge. He pulled back for air, caught between laughing and crying, tears streaming down his face. Illya was still cupping his face, stunned from the kiss, but not pulling away or yelling or starting to show any signs of anger.
“Illya,” Napoleon finally said, “Oh thank God.” He dropped his head down onto Illya’s shoulder and took a few bracing breaths. He felt Illya’s hand move to the back of his neck, gently rubbing at the tension point right at the top of his spine. “I had to save you,” He confessed quietly, “I had to make sure you got away.”
“What about you?”
“Didn’t matter,” Napoleon shook his head, “Just had to protect you.”
“Napoleon,” Illya pushed him back to look him in the eye, “Don’t say that. Don't say your life doesn’t matter. It matters to me. If you ever pull a stupid move like that again, I'll kill you myself.”
“You’ll have to rescue me again to do that.”
“I’ll always come for you.”
“Why Peril,” Napoleon said, falling back on humor in the face of vulnerability, “I didn’t know you cared so much.”
“Nor I you.”
“That’s my fault. I wish I could have told you sooner.”
“Why couldn’t you?”
“It’s a long story. But it doesn’t matter right now. I-” He hesitated. “I don’t want to risk losing the chance to tell you again.”
“Then tell me.”
“I love you, Illya.”
“I love you too, Napoleon.” Illya leaned in to kiss him, hesitated, then was pulled in by Napoleon grabbing onto his ridiculous turtleneck.