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From Clear Blue Skies

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i.

The sound of heavy footsteps slamming down the hallway behind them forced Illya’s steps just a bit faster, his hand on Napoleon’s wrist directing him down a side hall. Gaby’s voice rang in their ears through their small communication devices, trying to tell them where to go.

“I do not think we will make it out of here without fight, Cowboy,” Illya said as they pounded down the hall. Solo slid to a screeching halt and started ripping off his gear. “Cowboy-”

“Stay behind me and don’t hesitate to pull your trigger if you get an open shot,” Napoleon instructed, rolling his shoulders and shoving his sleeves up to his elbows. He stuck his cufflinks in Illya’s trousers pocket and handed over his gun. “Don’t miss.”

“I never do,” Illya replied. He moved to crouch in the shadows, Napoleon’s gun in one hand, his own in the other. He trusted his partner to do his job, if nothing else. “Do not make foolish mistake.”

Napoleon grinned at him with a flash of ivory teeth in the darkness. “I never do.”

As soon as the five henchmen whirled around the corner, all heavy footfalls and blazing guns, Napoleon was on them, a flurry of fists and flips that left Illya stunned. He knocked their weapons out of their hands and had them all pinned to the ground in moments. Illya stared in surprise as Napoleon stood from the last henchman, blood staining his knuckles. Chest heaving, he smiled at Illya.

“What was that?” Illya asked, stepping over the men, neatly putting bullet holes in ten kneecaps. Napoleon fished his cufflinks out of Illya’s pocket and started refastening his cuffs.

“It’s called Musti-yuddha,” Napoleon answered. He held out his wrists, and Illya tucked their guns into his holsters, freeing his hands to fix Napoleon’s cuffs. “Mukki boxing. I learned it a couple years back.”

“Useful,” Illya commented, releasing Napoleon’s wrists. Napoleon shook himself out and grabbed his gun from Illya’s holster. “We must leave.”

“We really ought to,” Napoleon agreed. Their earpieces crackled.

“Please do,” Gaby said, and Napoleon laughed as he led their way out of the mansion.


ii.

Illya had a newspaper open on his lap, sizable hands wrapped around the edges of it. He flipped the page, even though he had not been reading it for some time. He glanced out the window, barely even paying attention to the scene outside. He could feel Gaby’s eyes on him as he stared into the middle distance.

“Are you quite finished moping?” Gaby asked. When Illya looked up at her, she was blowing on her nails, which had turned a bright crimson while he had not been paying attention.

“Excuse me?” Illya folded his newspaper and set it down in his lap. Gaby raised an eyebrow at him, lips still pursed to dry her nails.

“I asked if you were quite finished moping,” Gaby repeated. She settled her hands in her lap gingerly. “I know Napoleon has been gone for a couple of days-”

“This has nothing to do with-”

-But,” she continued, as if he had not spoken, “he should be back today, so you can calm down.”

“He should not have gone on solo mission,” Illya said, and Gaby laughed. “Is not funny. Waverly should have sent me to Russia with him.”

“It’s a quick mission, and he didn’t want you to be compromised,” Gaby reminded him, as she had frequently had to over the past couple of days. “In and out, remember? Plus, this mission requires more Napoleon’s skill set than yours.” A knock at their hotel room door broke both their attentions. “Speak of the Devil.”

Illya got up and checked the peephole before unlocking the door to let Napoleon in. Napoleon strode in, hands in his pockets, grinning away. Illya locked the door behind him.

“Miss me?” Napoleon asked, falling down onto the sofa. Illya took the spot beside him, abandoning the armchair he had previously been occupying.

“You have no idea,” Gaby said, kissing the top of his head as she stood, and Illya barely held back from glaring at her over Napoleon’s head. “Bring me anything?”

“You? No, not this time, unless you want to stop by tonight,” Napoleon teased, winking, and Gaby scowled playfully at him. “You, on the other hand,” Napoleon said, pointing at Illya, “I did bring something back for.”

“What?” Illya tracked his movements as Napoleon reached into the inside pocket of his coat. “You did not-”

“I did,” Napoleon interrupted, handing a bottle over to Illya. Illya could have recognized the brand without even reading the bright green label, but he did, mind clouded by surprise.

“Moskovskaya?” Illya looked up at Napoleon. “Where did you get this?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Napoleon said. “I got it for you. You’re always complaining about how none of our drinks are strong enough.” He nodded in the direction of the bottle. “Now you can get wasted just like you used to in the old country.” He pat Illya’s knee and stood. “Now, I’m beat. I’ll see you two charmers in the morning.”

“Goodnight, Napoleon,” Gaby said, offering up the side of her face, and Napoleon kissed her cheek. He clapped Illya on the shoulder.

“Goodnight, Cowboy,” Illya said, lifting his head. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it,” Napoleon said, squeezing Illya’s shoulder before disappearing into one of the bedrooms, the door clicking shut softly behind him. Gaby tutted at Illya’s face and leaned over to run her thumb over his cheek.

“You poor thing,” she murmured, and Illya glared at her.


iii.

Illya stalked into the building with all the rage and fire that tended to build up in a man when his partner was stolen from him. Brimming with flame, he knocked the door down and shot the first man who tried to approach him. The silencer on his gun quieted the shot, but he wanted the blast, the sound of it, the feel of the pull in his callused hands; he wanted blood.

“He should be down this way,” Gaby whispered, touching his wrist lightly to guide him as she slid, ghost-like, down a hallway. Illya followed at her back, light on his feet, gun poised and ready to take down anyone who threatened her lead. Before they entered the room that all their intelligence and spying and planning said should contain Napoleon, Gaby paused, hand on the doorknob, and looked up at Illya.

“Don’t do anything rash,” she said, soft, careful. Illya shoved the door open and moved around her. It had been days, days since they took Napoleon, days since Illya had started searching for a way to get him back, days in which anything could have happened, and God only knew Napoleon’s track record with getting himself kidnapped and tortured.

He had taken the hit so Illya would not have to. That was enough of a surprise in and of itself.

Napoleon was in the room, because Gaby was damn good at her job, and Illya at his. Gaby took Illya’s surrendered gun, and Illya went to Napoleon’s side where he was sat on the floor. Manacles held his wrists and ankles tightly to the stone floor, skin rubbed raw under them; parts of him were flayed open, flesh pulled back to expose muscle and bone underneath, the rock beneath him stained rust-red. Napoleon flinched from Illya’s hands, then tipped his head back to squint at him. He laughed, breathless.

“You’re here,” Napoleon said, and Illya broke the chains on the manacles on his wrists before moving to his ankles. Napoleon’s head lolled against his shoulder. “I was starting to think you’d never be here.”

“We’ll always come, Napoleon,” Gaby assured him, standing ready in the doorway still. She smiled over her shoulder, briefly, at Napoleon, as Illya snapped his ankle manacles. He hoisted Napoleon to his feet, but he hissed, knees buckling.

“Can you walk?” Illya asked, quiet, and Napoleon got his legs under him.

“Whatever you need me to do,” Napoleon answered, and Illya stared at him for a second. Napoleon felt his eyes and met them. “I didn’t give them any information.”

“Did not think you would,” Illya said. Napoleon leaned on him for a beat, blew out a harsh breath, then straightened.

“Alright, let’s go.” Napoleon tugged the ragged shirt that was all that was left of his clothes closer around him and set off into the building. He led Gaby and Illya to each and every room containing a member of the organization, then brought them to the basement, where dozens of women were chained, just like he had been, but, luckily, looking rather less flayed.

“You’re safe,” he promised each and every one as Illya broke manacles and Gaby found the keys and unlocked some of them. A few of them fled to Napoleon immediately, and Illya wondered, not for the first time, what happened while Napoleon was there.

“We have to get them to a hospital,” Gaby insisted, unlocking the last woman, who hugged her tightly and refused to release her hand.

“You will be safe,” Illya said, trying to seem less imposing, more safe, and Napoleon smiled tiredly up at him before passing out, which he would fervently deny later. For the time being, however, Illya just hauled him up to his feet and dragged him out to the car, where he tried to pretend his own heart was not pounding its way into his brain and out through his eyes.


iv.

After Gaby went to bed - long after Gaby went to bed, actually - Illya was still awake, still sitting in the living room the three of them were sharing in the hotel. He had given up on any facade of an activity and was nursing two fingers of Moskovskaya vodka in a short glass tumbler. He took a small sip of it as a shadow crossed the lamplight.

“You do remember we have a flight in the morning, don’t you?” Napoleon asked, and Illya did not even look up. Napoleon fell onto the low coffee table, knees brushing against Illya’s where Illya sat on the sofa. He pulled at his robe and leaned forward. “Are you okay?”

“Fine,” Illya answered, taking another sip. Napoleon snapped his palms against his thighs.

“You don’t seem fine,” Napoleon countered. Illya kept looking down into his tumbler. “Hey. Peril.” He tipped his head down to better meet Illya’s downcast eyes. “Illya. It’s okay to not be fine.”

“I am fine,” Illya said, making to stand up, but Napoleon’s hand on his knee stopped him. He glanced up at Napoleon’s face; it seemed longer and exhausted in the lamplight and night shadows. He still had a bruise coloring one eye, a scar forming from stitches on his jaw. Illya hated to see the marks on him.

“It’s okay to not be,” Napoleon repeated, and Illya stared at his face for another moment before dropping his head into his hand. Napoleon gingerly lifted the tumbler out of his hand and set it on a coaster on the coffee table. “Hey. Sometimes, you know, it just hits you. All at once. And it’s okay to not be fine when that happens, because you’re fine when you need to be.” Napoleon’s hand left his knee, and Illya missed the warmth in the split second before Napoleon’s fingers wormed their way into his. He tangled their fingers together, then scooted forward until their legs bracketed one another’s. “You’re human, Illya. It’s okay to not be fine sometimes. That’s why Gaby and I are here.” He smiled. “I’m your partner. I’ll take care of you, like you take care of me.”

Illya watched Napoleon’s face, watched the shadows track across it, and found himself startled by the seriousness of his words, the genuineness of his tone, the sincerity of his face.

“I do not need taking care of,” Illya replied, and Napoleon saw the response for what it was. He squeezed Illya’s hand.

“It’s okay,” he said, one last time. He stood, tightening the belt of his robe, then leaned down to read Illya’s watch. “I think it’s time to get some sleep, don’t you?”

Illya nodded and heaved himself off the sofa. He let Napoleon prod him to his bedroom, where he did not leave until Illya had taken off his shoes. Napoleon offered him a wave before disappearing from his doorway. Illya blew out a harsh breath and wished, absently, that he had drank the whole bottle.


v.

Illya remembered every second of that afternoon vividly, even if he wished he would not, sometimes, because it was so bright and wild and clearly did not mean what he thought it meant, and even if it did mean that, it should not mean that.

Anyways.

It was sunny and happy and everything was wonderful. The bruises on Napoleon had all but faded, the stitches removed, the scars forming and healing. Gaby laughed and smiled like she was safe from everything bad in the world. Illya made a single joke that had Gaby gasping with laughter and Napoleon slapping him on the back, so he felt like smiling a little bit, too. They were drinking fruity drinks Napoleon had expertly made them, sitting on the terrace, waiting for Waverly to show up with their next assignment.

“And that,” Napoleon said, with a flourish of his hand and a flick of his wrist, “is how you take a watch from a trained agent without him noticing.” He produced Illya’s watch, and extended it to his partner, who snatched it incredulously.

“Unbelievable,” Illya murmured, and Napoleon started laughing all over again before reaching over to fasten the watch back onto Illya’s wrist. The K carved into the back of it was hot on Illya’s skin.

“See, Peril,” Napoleon began, nimble fingers working at the buckle, “that’s why I love you,” and Illya froze, even if Napoleon chose not to notice, or truly did not notice, “because you are just so easy to steal from.”

Illya wondered if Napoleon knew, if he knew how true that was, his mind racing, his heart pounding, Napoleon says nonsense all the time, Napoleon always manages to surprise him, how did Napoleon come up with that, how did he know exactly how easy it was for him to steal from Illya, steal things Illya had been safeguarding for so long-

Of course, his outward expression did not change, but Napoleon still noticed his shift. Of course he did.

“Hey, you okay?” Napoleon asked, and Illya nodded before pushing his chair screeching back across the patio floor. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Did not upset.” Illya cleared his throat. “Waverly will be here any minute. We should-” He motioned at the table. “Clean up. Prepare.”

Napoleon’s brow furrowed as he stared up at Illya in stark confusion, eyes flickering over Illya’s face, before his whole expression cleared. His mouth twisted in a half-smile, his eyes glowing with some sort of recognition, some kind of understanding between them. Fear tightened in Illya’s chest.

“Understood, Peril,” Napoleon said, standing, his own chair shrieking across the tile. “I love it when you tell us what to do.”

Gaby laughed behind her hand. Illya stared at Napoleon and wondered when he became so predictable, or otherwise so easily surprised.


+i.

Napoleon waited for hours in the same spot. Well, that would actually be kind of a lie, because he did move from the sofa, to the arm chair, to the coffee table, to the floor, to the window, then started the cycle over again, while waiting for Illya to return. Illya was clearly taking his sweet time on purpose, and Napoleon’s fingers snapped impatiently against the window as he watched the street below, tapping at the glass.

The door opened behind him, and he whirled. “Peril,” he said, “I didn’t see you come up.”

“Came in back,” Illya answered - more grunted, really - and moved to head for his bedroom. Napoleon was quicker, though, swift on his feet, and he was blocking his path in seconds. “Excuse me.”

“No,” Napoleon pushed at Illya’s chest, for all the good it did him. “You’re going to tell me what I did wrong. Did I push you too far? If I did, I’m sorry. I know teasing is one thing and flirting is another, but I thought-” He cleared his throat. “You know, doesn’t matter what I thought. I’m sorry if I went too far.”

Illya just kept frowning down at him, but that tended to be his normal state, so. Napoleon sighed. He could have sworn Illya had been interested in him, which would have been all Napoleon normally needed to make a move, but he could have also sworn that he was interested in Illya, which made him hesitate before pulling any moves. Illya was taking the time to distance himself; Napoleon wondered when he got so bad at reading people, especially his partner, damn.

“So, that’s it.” Napoleon backed up a step. “If it really bothers you, I’d get it. A lot of people- Well, nobody’s really there yet. But, you know, you can be Gaby’s partner, if you’d prefer that, and I’ll just go stag.” Illya still did not respond, so Napoleon went back to the window and leaned against it, fishing a cigarette and a box of matches from his pockets. “So. That’s it. Sorry.”

Illya was still standing still, seeming confused. After a moment of deliberation, in which he glanced towards his bedroom and Napoleon briefly (viciously) thought, Don’t you fucking dare run, Peril, he made his slow way over to where Napoleon was standing. Napoleon glanced up at him, smoke trailing out his mouth. When Illya made eye contact with him, Napoleon blew out the smoke in his lungs, and Illya frowned.

“I…” Illya trailed off, then frowned. “Not… angry.”

“That’s a start,” Napoleon blew a puff of smoke, then took another drag from his cigarette. He glanced out the window. “Beautiful day, don’t you think? Great day to tell your partner why you won’t talk to him, or touch him, or look at him, or-”

Illya seized the front of Napoleon’s shirt and pulled, hauling him in, collar, tie, and all coming wrinkled and loose in his hand. Napoleon’s brain only logged a split second of surprise before Illya’s mouth was on his, hard and unforgiving as the man himself, and Napoleon dropped his cigarette. Illya moved, crushing the lit end of the cigarette under his boot, and Napoleon wasted no time gripping the back of Illya’s neck in one hand, the other hand cupping Illya’s cheek. Illya’s hands fell from his throat, one going to his upper arm, one falling to his waist, then inching to the small of his back. He yanked Napoleon against him, compelling his smaller body to bow under his, and Napoleon gasped into his mouth. Illya retreated after a hot second.

“That…” Napoleon blew out a breath, then laughed. “I was not expecting that.”

“You taste like ash.”

“You taste like vodka.”

Napoleon and Illya sized each other up for a tense second that seemed silent, but was actually quite loud, due to the blood roaring in Napoleon’s ears, likely because it was taking the bullet train south. Illya’s hand twitched, and the moment was broken, Illya slamming Napoleon up against the wall. Napoleon groaned, and Illya’s mouth went to his ear, his jaw, his neck, one massive hand pinning Napoleon’s wrists up and away, the other hand working at his shirt.

“Guess the dam just up and broke for you, didn’t it, Peril?” Napoleon attempted breathlessly, and Illya backed up a step. Napoleon whined. “Come on, damn it, don’t-”

“Not angry,” Illya repeated. He seemed to hesitate. “You said you loved me.”

“Is that all?” Napoleon reached out and took hold of Illya’s collar, hauling him in. “I knew it.”

“You did not.”

“I did so,” Napoleon argued, and Illya bent to his level. “You never fail to surprise me, Peril.”

For some reason, Illya laughed. “The same to you, Cowboy.”

Napoleon opened his mouth to speak again, but Illya shut him up, hot and happy and very not angry, and Napoleon found himself inclined to let him.