Gaby shifted in the seat and her fingers drummed the steering wheel impatiently. They were late. The plan had been relatively simple- sneak into the compound on the south side, break into the main building, and swap the computer disk with the fake Waverly had given them. They were to deliver the confiscated disk to Waverly who would take it through the necessary channels to expose the high profile shipping company as the illegal smuggling ring it truly was.
They had agreed it would be an easy mission to pull off- no elaborate covers or extended stays in distant countries. Illya and Napoleon only had to enter through the shipping yard undetected, cut through the fence, break into the safe, swap the disks, and rendezvous with Gaby a few miles northeast of the compound where she would take them back to the safe house. Shouldn’t be too difficult for two highly acclaimed international spies. Waverly had arranged for a pickup the following morning to take them back to London for business as usual.
Everything had been organized down to the last detail. Gaby was ready in a small car parked inconspicuously at the edge of the wooded area leading to the compound. Her part had been easy, once again filling the role as
get-away driver as Napoleon liked to put it. She was fine with the role, that is if she had someone to drive.
She gave a groan of frustration and was about to get out of the car to look for any sign of her partners when she saw two figures stumble out of the woods. She knew from a glance that it was Napoleon and Illya. Her worry did not lessen as the back door flung open and they both tumbled inside onto the seat.
Drive Gaby but don’t rush. They are looking for us and we can’t draw attention to ourselves, Napoleon’s voice was tight, something that Gaby was not used to with the laid-back American. She pulled the car out onto the side road and began a calmly drive to the safe house. A quick glance in her rear view mirror gave her no indication on the condition of her teammates.
I’m going to need your shawl Gaby, Napoleon continued calmly, his voice still laced with concern. Gaby slipped off the cream colored designer cashmere shawl without question and held it up for him to take.
How bad? She was impressed that her voice did not betray the rapid beating of her heart as Napoleon took the garment from her. His hand was slick with blood.
I’m handling it, was Napoleon’s curt response. Just drive Gaby interpreted. She saw the flickering of searching flashlights in the distant woods as she calmly turned the car and continued down the main road on the way to the safe house.
EARLIER THAT EVENING
“What is taking so long?” Napoleon sighed as his impatient Russian partner interrupted him yet again.
“I can promise you it would go unbelievably quicker if you would just let me work,” he continued to twist dials and listened to the corresponding clicks of the safe opening. “Why don’t you be a good spy and stand over in that corner?”
Illya scoffed, “I have to keep watch of you. For guards.”
“We are far more likely to be caught by the guards if I have to continue to stand here in front of this safe so quit distracting me,” Napoleon fixed his partner with an exasperated gaze. Illya didn’t move. Napoleon paused, raised one brow and shooed him to his corner with a dismissive hand wave. “Go on now Peril.”
Illya rolled his eyes and went to his designated corner (ignoring his partner’s smirk). He really needed to practice his safe cracking skills, Solo was unbearable when he knew he had something on the Russian agent. Illya’s eyes tracked the darkened room outside the glass walls of the office they were in, looking for signs of the rotating guard.
Neither agent was comfortable with the exposed location of this safe- the main building was only two stories high but the safe was located on the back wall of an office at the end of a large open room. The only thing separating the office from the open area was a glass wall with double glass doors. If the guards were to enter the other end of the room Napoleon would be spotted at the safe immediately.
Napoleon’s exclamation of success grabbed Illya’s attention. “See Peril? Told you I just needed a moment’s peace.” He pocketed the computer drive and slipped the copy in its place. He was just closing the safe when he was abruptly thrown to the ground and the entire room exploded in chaos.
Illya was glad to see that his partner had finally cracked the safe but his happiness was short lived as he saw movement from across the room. Two guards had just entered and immediately saw Napoleon at the safe, raising their weapons in unison. Illya had no time to react. From his corner he did not have a clear shot at either guard, but they had a perfect line at Napoleon’s turned back. Illya did the first thing he could think of- he launched himself at his partner in a flying tackle as the guards opened fire, crashing into the American spy as broken glass rained down on them.
Napoleon felt Illya roll off of him and didn’t even allow time for the air to come rushing back into his chest before he was crouched in position. He took care of the guards with two rapid hissing shots from his silenced gun.
“A little warning next time would be nice Peril,” he coughed, rubbing his chest from the less than gentle tackle.
“No time,” was his partner’s short response. “There will be more, we must get out.”
Napoleon nodded and jimmied open one of the windows in the small office. “Fancy a stroll?” he asked gesturing to the courtyard below. Illya waved him to go through first and Napoleon slipped gingerly down the ridged building side, crouching behind some shrubbery below. His partner climbed out after him and scrambled his way down with far less grace.
“Not much for climbing?” Napoleon teased as Illya landed with a muffled grunt.
“I am sure you have much more experience escaping from windows,” Illya bit back and Napoleon didn’t bother to hold in a chuckle.
“Okay,” Napoleon started, “There are gates on the east and west sides. Once they notice their dead friends that will be the first place they go.”
“We escape through the shipping yard then?” Illya asked in a hushed voice.
“No that is the easiest way out- plus they may notice the space where we broke in. They would expect us to go that way….which means,” he glanced to the northern side of the compound. To the concrete wall across the courtyard in front of them…the wall that was over nine feet tall.
“Which means,” he continued, “We need to hop over that wall and go east through the forest to where Gaby is waiting.” There. Simple enough. Napoleon looked across the dark open lawn and sized up the wall. Nine feet…maybe if he got a running start. He lurched forward to start his dash but was halted abruptly by Illya’s hand on his shoulder.
“Wait,” Illya hissed and gestured as a group of guards rounded the corner of the building. However, Napoleon was not watching the guards (who were being directed into action by a very irritable voice on the radios). His attention was fixed on the hand on his shoulder. The hand that was coated in blood. The guards dispersed and Napoleon watched as Illya moved said hand to wrap itself around his side and press. Hard.
“Okay, we go for wall,” Illya whispered as if nothing was amiss.
“You’re hit,” Napoleon interrupted.
“It is fine,” Illya responded immediately. “We go now,” and he began to get out of his crouched position before his partner could object. Napoleon followed him and went at the wall with all the speed he had to try and launch himself to the top in order to pull himself over. He leapt into the air….and didn’t even feel his fingers brush the edge.
“I can reach,” Illya said from behind him, “I give you lift and then climb over.” As much as he hated it Napoleon nodded his consent. Sometimes it paid to have an inhumanly massive partner, to do things like boost you over nine foot walls.
“Drape your jacket over the edge when you are on top,” Illya instructed quietly and interlaced his fingers to serve as a stepping point for his shorter partner.
Napoleon grasped the top of the wall and pulled himself to balance with ease. He placed his jacket to hang over the edge of the wall as instructed and hopped catlike to the other side. Only a few moments passed before he saw the hands of his partner appear on the top of the wall. With what sounded like a pained growl, Illya pulled himself up onto the top of the wall. He paused just long enough to grab the jacket before coming down the next to his partner. He attempted to land standing but his legs crumpled on impact and he ended instead kneeling, hunched over at Napoleon’s feet.
“You have all the subtlety of a-” Napoleon started but let the insult die as he saw his partner. Illya had one hand wrapped around his midsection once again and his other arm was rigidly holding him upright. His breath was coming in gasps through tightly clenched teeth.
“Peril,” Napoleon started quietly, kneeling next to his partner, “Let me see,” but the Russian twisted away, instead trying to stand.
“They will be looking,” he said shoving the jacket back at Napoleon, “We need to move.” As Napoleon shrugged back into his jacket he paused. He ran his hand down the fabric and it came away bloody where Illya had rested against it while climbing over the wall.
Illya glanced up, “Blood on wall would have given us away,” he explained. Napoleon nodded grimly and crouched down, wrapping one of Illya’s arms around his shoulder.
“Keep pressure,” he said gesturing to Illya’s injured side. They stood and Illya was not able to suppress another groan of pain. “Let’s get out of here,” Napoleon said and began the trek through the forest, supporting as much of the Russian’s weight as he could.
The distance from the compound to where Gaby was waiting was not long, perhaps a ten minute jog had both agents been in typical condition. Now their path was arduous and Napoleon found his strength waning rather quickly as they stumbled over roots in the darkened wood. The night was clear so at least they had intermittent patches of moonlight to illuminate their path.
Over fifteen minutes had passed and Illya seemed to be staggering more than walking. His head hung low and he subconsciously curled himself in toward his injured side. Napoleon had a grip on his partner’s wrist to help stabilize him and noticed Illya’s hand start to tremble as they continued on, and for the first time Napoleon knew that this was not in anger.
“Come on now Peril,” he encouraged, “Just a bit further.” Illya gave no response and Napoleons gut churned in worry.
“Peril, you still with me?”
“Ya,” the Russian bit out after a moment. The short response was followed by a few wet coughs and when Napoleon glanced over to his partner he saw a dark stain of blood trickle from Illya’s lips. He cursed and increased their pace, all but dragging Illya along with him. They had to be nearly there. He could hear the distant sounds of a search party leaving the compound when they broke through the forest’s edge.
Gaby couldn’t help but push the speed limit as she put distance between them and the compound. Her frequent checks in the rear view mirror confirmed two things- they weren’t being followed yet, and Napoleon was still quite talented at remaining unseen in the back of a car.
Napoleon for his part was all but straddling his partner in the back seat of their small vehicle. He needed to stay low as to not attract attention to the car as they made their escape. The position also allowed him maximum leverage over Illya to try and stanch the bleeding. He had Gaby’s designer shawl balled up and pressed into Illya’s side where two bullet holes resided. It seemed like the Russian’s spectacular tackle earlier came at a price. Illya hissed in pain as Napoleon pressed harder.
“Sorry partner,” Napoleon said half to himself, “You’ll thank me later.”
“Nearly there,” Gaby said, her voice tight with worry. Napoleon didn’t know who she was reassuring, Illya or herself.
“S’okay Gaby,” Illya murmured reassuringly and Napoleon would have been lying if he said he wasn’t relieved to see that his partner was still aware of his surroundings. Illya’s encouragement however, was followed by a few coughs that had the Russian twisting away to spit a small amount of blood onto the floor of the car.
“Hospital?” Gaby asked glancing yet again in the rear view mirror (as if seeing the two men would give her control over the situation).
“They will be checking especially once the find out the disk we left is a copy,” Napoleon shifted slightly to gain more leverage, “I can handle this.” Gabby nodded, trusting her partner.
A few more tense moments and they were pulling into the safe house. Gaby was out of the door practically before throwing the vehicle into park and Napoleon allowed her to help guide Illya from the back seat. The short trip to the door was awkward but once inside Napoleon directed them to the dining room table so that he could assess his partner’s condition. The expensive centerpiece was brushed uncaringly to the floor by Gaby as Napoleon gently guided Illya down on the table. His hand still pressed the now blood soaked shawl to Illya’s side.
“What do you need?” Gaby asked in a breathless voice as she threw on lights.
“Hot water, towels, and the med kit. Should be in the bathroom,” Napoleon directed. He used a knife to cut away the Russian’s shirt that was now tacky with blood and clinging to Illya’s abdomen. There were two bullet holes, clustered close together on Illya’s right side.
Napoleon tilted his partner slightly, running a hand down his back to check for exit wounds and let out a quiet curse. Only one exit, the other one was still inside. “Okay Peril,” Napoleon began, “Looks like we may be doing some digging. No exit on one of these.”
“Digging? You could….phrase better,” Illya replied haltingly. A quirk of bloody lips implied the joke.
Napoleon chuckled quietly as Gaby rushed in with the supplies. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He dunked a washcloth in the hot water and proceeded to clean the blood away from the area. Gaby placed herself at the head of the table, wrapping her arms over Illya’s shoulders in a move that both seemed to stabilize him and hold him. She murmured soothing phrases under her breath in German.
Napoleon prepared sutures and grabbed both the alcohol to disinfect and the instrumentation he needed to extract the lodged bullet. “Ready?” he asked, poised for action. Illya sucked in a breath and gave a curt nod. “Gaby, don’t let him move,” he warned before splashing the alcohol on the wounds. Illya bucked up and tried to twist away, unable to keep in the snarl of pain. Gaby rushed forward pulling him to her and he seemed to relax back down.
Napoleon caught her eye over the Russian’s head. He held a scalpel in his hand. “I need to get the bullet out and stitch the wounds,” he explained quietly. His gaze didn’t waver, “Gaby keep him grounded.” Gaby nodded and Napoleon began.
Time stretched infinitely as Gaby watched. Illya had his eyes screwed tightly shut and his head whipped from side to side randomly as though he could simply negate the pain of what was happening. One hand had clenched white-knuckled around the edge of the table and the other was shaking as he balled it into a fist. Gaby reached forward and took his hand in hers. “Shhh,” she coaxed, “Focus on me.” His eyes shot open and pain-blown pupils locked with hers. “That’s it Liebling,” she murmured, “It will be over soon.”
His fist loosened and she intertwined her fingers with his, ignoring the tacky feeling of the drying blood. He coughed as he tried to even his breathing and Gaby winced as she saw red flecks escape his mouth. She clenched his hand tighter. Suddenly his back arched and he let out a groan through clenched teeth. Gaby quickly grabbed his other wrist as he tried to push Napoleon’s hand away. Napoleon had dug into the bullet hole with forceps and was proceeding to twist something out. Illya cried out again and slurred something haltingly in Russian. Gaby didn’t understand what he said but the tone was pleading.
Whatever it was caused Napoleon to visibly flinch. “I’m sorry Illya I’m not trying to hurt you,” he said quietly, guilt not quite hidden from his face. He glanced back over to Gaby. “Nearly got it.”
“Hear that?” Gaby relayed, “Almost done.” The tension decreased from Illya’s other arm and she let it rest on the table side. She placed a hand to his cheek to capture his attention once again. “I’m sure this is nothing to the KGB’s best, hmm?” she asked around the lump in her throat. To her surprise, his hand reached up and brushed across her cheek to wipe away tears she did not even realize were there. Somewhere in the back of her mind she heard the clatter of a bullet hitting the table top but her attention was focused on Illya’s face. His brows knitted.
“Why…do you cry?” he whispered thickly.
“I don’t like to see you hurt.”
His lips twitched slightly in something reminiscent of a smile. “Don’t worry…little chop shop girl.” With that his eyes rolled back and his hand fell limply across his chest.
Gaby felt as though she swallowed her heart. “Illya?!” she gasped, dropping his hand to check the pulse point at his throat. It was weak but present. Her desperate eyes caught Napoleon’s who was working silently on the sutures.
“Just passed out Gaby, he’ll be fine,” his voice was deceptively calm and Gaby found herself clinging to it like a lifeline, willing her heart to slow. Napoleon finished shortly after that and they took a moment to wrap bandages around the wounds. Napoleon looked with a critical eye at the white coverings and let out a nearly inaudible sigh of relief when no red seeped through. Gaby helped Napoleon maneuver their unconscious teammate to the couch where she pulled his head into her lap running her fingers through his hair soothingly. Napoleon walked into the other room to call Waverly and inform him of the mission’s outcome.
Waverly moved the pickup up as far as he could when he received Napoleon’s call. The American was as nonplussed as ever, giving a business-like report of both the mission’s outcome and Kuryakin’s condition. Napoleon had stated that his partner was stable at the moment and requested a medical team to be sent with the extraction. Despite his controlled demeanor, Waverly knew the agent well enough to tell the situation was serious. As it was, Waverly found himself walking briskly to the front door of the safe house as the first rays of dawn lit across the sky.
The house was dark and silent and for a moment Waverly feared the worst. He held a hand out to the med team he had discreetly standing by and peaked through the cracked curtain of the front window. There he saw his team, the American CIA trickster and supposedly dispassionate womanizer, the KGB’s most efficient weapon, and the German spitfire from behind the Berlin wall, all curled up sound asleep on the sofa. Illya was sprawled across the length of it with his head in Gaby’s lap. She had curled herself forward, leaning close over him with her hand still entangled in his hair. And Napoleon Solo himself was sprawled on the floor with his back resting against the sofa front and his head resting back on Kuryakin’s shin. Seeing this, Waverly couldn’t help but smile. Not wanting to be caught witnessing that unguarded moment, he moved to the front door knocked rather loudly, schooling his expression.
Moments later a slightly ruffled Solo opened the door and lead Waverly and the med team in. Gaby sat up groggily and bent over Illya to see if she could rouse him.
“Illya?” she asked softly.
“I am awake,” he said rather hoarsely, keeping his eyes closed. They started slightly, all thinking the wounded Russian would not be so attentive. Illya opened his eyes and took in their surprised expressions. “It is difficult to rest,” he explained and moved to sit up wincing and sucking in a pained breath as one arm inadvertently wrapped around his side. Gaby’s hands were supportive at his back. His lips twitched upward as he looked at his new team.