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The Gulag Affair

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06

Three days with nothing to do except walk and worry. Napoleon’s had longer time to burn—he once spent the whole of two weeks just getting a target’s attention—but he’s never felt as anxious as he does now.

Gone is the itch in his palms to take an heiress’ bracelet or a rich mayor’s watch. In its stead is the need to get his finger on the trigger of his gun and kill every single Russian who isn’t Illya Kuryakin.

Napoleon wants this mission done quickly, wants Illya on a plane back home so he can play chess and read his physics books like he always does when he’s not on an assignment. Napoleon curses under his breath and once again wishes the camp weren’t as secluded and difficult to break into as it was.

So he makes up for it by trudging on, barely taking any breaks. When he does, he finds a quiet nook or a tall tree where he can take a nap with the least possibility of a guard running into him in such a vulnerable state.

And every time he feels fatigue seep into his bones or thinks about luxuries like a nice cup of coffee or his pipe back home, he thinks of Illya. He thinks of the file Waverly gave him, thinks of everything he’s heard about Gulag, thinks of what they could be making his partner do right this very moment.

Illya has been in there for six days, Napoleon thinks. He doesn’t need another.

 

 

02

“What do you mean I can’t go?”

“This is a one-person job,” Waverly says easily, his tone as pleasant and unassuming as ever. “Solo happens to be better at breaking into places.”

“I can handle it,” Gaby says, and Napoleon can tell it’s taking all of her self-control not to bristle. “He’s the one who lost Illya in the first place.”

“I’m going to get him back,” Napoleon says, his jaw setting.

Gaby laughs, humorless. “I still don’t trust you enough to believe you.”

“Well, then believe me, Miss Teller,” Waverly says, finally cutting into their argument. “Solo is going on this operation. You’re going to stay here and hope he follows through.”

Gaby purses her lips, still obviously unenthusiastic, but she doesn’t say anything.

“Good,” Waverly says. Then, turning to Solo, “You leave in an hour. Feel free to take as many gadgets as you’d like.”

Illya has been in there for two days, Napoleon thinks. He doesn’t need another.

“Yes, sir.”

 

 

09

Napoleon watches, for now.

He watches the prisoners, watches them live in squalor, and watches them be pushed around. He tries not to look for Illya, and yet he still searches those dressed in drab grey for fair hair and a grim set of the mouth. Napoleon never finds Illya but wonders what would have happened if he did.

Every day, he learns something new about the guards’ schedules and routines. Every day, he thinks of another way to kill one of them without attracting any attention. Every day, he thinks of another way to break Illya out from this hellhole and leaving the guards a big fuck you.

Illya has been in there for nine days, Napoleon thinks. He doesn’t need another.

Still, Napoleon waits until he’s absolutely ready to strike. Better to be sure than to take a poorly calculated risk.

 

 

00

No one expects it, but then in their line of work, the same can be said for plenty other things.

“Just another day’s work,” Napoleon is saying as he and Illya climb into their car.

“We have not died yet,” Illya agrees. “How long do you think Waverly will force us to rest this time?”

Napoleon hums. “A week? Perhaps two, for your bruised ribs.”

“Perhaps three, for your sprained wrist,” Illya counters good-naturedly. Napoleon wonders how things were when Illya seemed to be nothing but curt and furious; he’s already forgotten.

“What do we do then, with three weeks of downtime?”

“Tonight, we eat dinner at that place you take Gaby to on your nights out.”

Napoleon turns to look at Illya, eyebrows raised in surprise. “Not really your scene, Peril. Gaby’s said plenty of times that you don’t like to dance.”

Illya shrugs, says, “Perhaps it is time for change.”

But before Napoleon could even open his mouth, there’s that damned T.H.R.U.S.H. gas wafting in the air again, and when he wakes up, he’s all alone, head bleeding against the steering wheel.

Illya has been gone for three hours, Napoleon thinks. He won’t lose his guard again.

 

13

Napoleon sees Illya today.

He sees bruised skin and cuts upon cuts upon cuts. He feels anger bubbling in his stomach, feels it quickly turn into rage. His hand is on his gun and he’s barely able to stop himself from shooting the guard who’s holding Illya’s hands behind his back.

Napoleon has his gun ready to fire for the entirety of Illya’s trip outside. His hand has never been so steady.

Illya has been in there for thirteen days, Napoleon thinks, and despite that, he still holds himself high, back straight and expression grim yet determined. He still looks like same old Illya and Napoleon wonders how much this façade is costing his partner.

Illya doesn’t need another day in that hellhole.

Tomorrow, Napoleon thinks. Tomorrow he’s finally going to break Illya out.

 

 

14

All those days of observation pay off. Napoleon has never felt so grateful for his history as a thief than he does now as he sneaks around the complex, looking for Illya.

When he finally does find Illya, it turns out that he doesn’t want to leave just yet. Of everything he could have done in Gulag, Napoleon muses, making friends is certainly the least expected.

Napoleon is hesitant, of course, but there hasn’t been any trouble yet, and he’s sure he could break in tomorrow just as easily as he did today.

So Napoleon leaves Illya after a quick embrace and a kiss pressed onto his temple—any more would have made it harder to walk out—and when he settles back in his hiding place, he turns on his radio and asks for a bigger plane. It’s the least U.N.C.L.E could do.

After all, Illya has been in there for fourteen days, Napoleon thinks. He needs just one more.

 

 

15

Things get a bit complicated, of course. Illya might as well have wanted to bring along the whole camp. It’s both frustrating and endearing at the same time, and so Napoleon cannot say no.

They end up drawing too much attention with three jeepneys full of prisoners driving at full speed towards the gates. They get shot at and Napoleon gets thrice as much injuries as he would have if it were only Illya he had to break out of here, but it’s all worth it anyway.

Gulag’s no more than a T.H.R.U.S.H. establishment at this point, and every opportunity to strike them down is a must-do in Napoleon’s opinion.

Besides, Illya has been in there for fifteen days, Napoleon thinks. He deserves to go out guns blazing and making the most damage possible.

 

 

16

Illya’s stuck in Medical, of course, but he has Napoleon to entertain him so perhaps it isn’t so bad.

“You’re, uh, looking better,” Napoleon says, eyebrows furrowed as he reads the paper, trying to distract himself from looking at Illya’s glum face.

“Liar,” Illya accuses, eyes narrowed.

“Flatterer,” Napoleon corrects, one corner of his lips turning up into a small smile.

Illya hums. “Either way, you are telling lies.”

“I’m not,” Napoleon protests, finally putting the paper down. “You always look good anyway.”

Illya rolls his eyes. “Even when I’m in hospital gown and have bandages all over my face?”

“Of course,” Napoleon says, as if offended that Illya would think otherwise.

Illya considers him for a moment. Then, “Come here.”

Illya was in Gulag for fifteen days, Napoleon thinks, and now he’s been in the hospital for one. He’d appreciate things going his way for the next few days.

Napoleon shuffles his chair closer to Illya’s bed.