(What if something happens to Illya while they are not on assignment? How will Napoleon handle it? Damn if I know.)
Normally Napoleon Solo enjoyed celebrating the New Year. He nearly always starting it out with an enjoyable bang...providing THRUSH didn't try to do him in first. This year the female staff of U.N.C.L.E. seemed intent on pestering him about his plans for New Years Eve. What plans he had were now irrevocably changed. And now it was New Years Eve.
The day had proven to be the longest Napoleon could ever remember. It was all he could do to keep his mind on year-end reports. Eventually Solo arrived at the reception area, anxious to leave.
“Na-pooo-leon?” a sultry female voice sang as he started to exit through the changing room into Del Floria’s.
Solo closed his eyes and silently counted to ten before snapping. “No. I don’t want to join anyone. I don’t want to celebrate. I just want to be left alone.”
“Really, Napoleon,” Mark Slate's voice rang out indignantly. “That is no way to talk to my partner.”
Napoleon opened his eyes to look at the woebegone face of April Dancer. His voice softened. “I’m sorry April. I thought you were someone else.”
“It was my fault. I should have realized,” April apologized. “Mark and I are having a quiet evening at my apartment. Why don't you join us?”
“No,” Napoleon refused, his voice sharp. He took a deep breath, then softened his refusal. April did not deserve the anger that he had directed at her. “Thanks for the offer, but I don’t think I’d be very good company.”
“Look, old man,” Mark offered. “If you should change your mind…”
Napoleon sadly shook his head, not trusting his voice enough to thank them for the thought. He just wanted to leave U.N.C.L.E. and everyone in it behind.
The sounds of happiness cut through him like a knife as he made his way to his apartment building. Once inside he automatically locked his door and set the alarm. He pulled out the envelope, with his name written across the front in his partner's scrawl, that the Legal Department had handed him before his departure and stared at it. For the first time since the events on Christmas Eve Napoleon, finally alone in his apartment, broke down.
On this particular Christmas Eve all the section two agents that were in town had adjourned to the commissary to help decorate a Christmas tree. Egg nog had been passed around and there was Christmas music playing softly in the background. The decorations were either handmade and edible ornaments, or castoffs from previous Christmas'. Even his stoic Russian partner had been there, a rare occurrence. Napoleon remembered Illya moving toward him to take an ornament that he held out in his hand, a pleased smile lighting the Russian’s face when...it happened.
He remembered the shocked look on Illya’s face as a shot rang out and the bullet struck the Russian agent in the back. That moment was forever burned into Napoleon’s mind. He would forever remember the light leaving the blue eyes as death claimed his partner and friend. In the background Napoleon barely heard the shrieks from the clerical staff, nor noticed the medical personnel’s quick arrival, as he held his partner in his arms. All to no avail. Illya was gone.
In spite of being frozen inside he had managed to snap out of it, becoming all business, doing what had to be done. Ordering that no one move, that everyone stay in place. Only the medical staff and the Russian’s lifeless body had been allowed to leave the room. Everyone was a suspect and a special team had to be called in to investigate. Finding the gun had been easy. Finding the person who had pulled the trigger had not. After an intensive investigation, they had found the culprit. The worst of it was not finding out that someone he had known had pulled the trigger. The worst of it was that Illya had not been the intended target. He had.
He had even managed to hold it together, although he felt like an actor in a bad movie playing a part as he attended the funeral, saying a final goodbye. Remarks had been made that he was cold and unfeeling toward his partner’s death, but he couldn’t help it. It was his job. And it wasn’t true; a part of him had died that day along with his partner.
How he had managed to get through the past week he never knew. He only knew that he had no desire to see the New Year in. Not without his partner. Alone in his apartment he gave himself permission to finally grieve, then he made himself a drink and withdrew his gun from his holster and laid it on the counter.
Only then did he open the envelope. He started laughing and was unable to stop. The sheets of paper were entirely blank. Tears were running down his cheeks, of course they were blank. The Russian with his warped sense of humor had probably used invisible ink.
Napoleon downed his drink in one shot, and brought the barrel of the gun to his head.
Outside Napoleon’s apartment Mark tried to pull April back. “April, we shouldn’t be here. Napoleon needs some time alone.”
“Mark, I just have this terrible feeling,” April protested as she started to knock at the door. The report from a gun cut off anything further April might have been planning to say.
“Oh, shit,” Mark cursed as he threw his shoulder against the door.
A specter dressed in black watched from the corner of the room. It had been strange watching his lifeless body being carted away, but oddly liberating. He’d approved of Napoleon’s professional handling of the incident. He had been following Napoleon around not knowing what else to do. For some reason, there had been no white light to take him to a better place. Fortunately there had been no fire and brimstone waiting for him either.
He had tried many ways to get the American’s attention, but nothing worked. He had even stood at his side, at the gravesite. He had not mistaken his partner’s reticence for not caring, as had others. He knew the dark-haired agent better than that. He would have left Napoleon alone if he could have.
He knew that Napoleon was deeply upset at his loss. So much so that he was near to taking his own life. If only there were something he could do. He just needed time to figure out how to stop this travesty. Unfortunately, time had no meaning for him and it was fast running out for Napoleon. It was one moment until the clock struck midnight.
He moved closer to the despondent agent and did something he had never done before. He prayed. Miraculously his prayer was answered.
January 1, 1970
Napoleon Solo squinted, his eyes partially open. Where was he? He tried to move his arms, but they were strapped down. He looked down at his body and found himself clad in a hospital gown. A hospital? Is that where he was? Why was it that hospital personnel always refused to turn out the lights?
A dark form loomed to one side. His eyes focused as the silhouette assumed the shape of his partner.
“You’re dead,” Napoleon croaked.
Illya nodded. Must Napoleon state the obvious? Death still felt unreal. He existed, yet he didn’t. He was neither hot nor cold. He just was. He could still feel the fear that ran through him as Napoleon brought the gun to his head, and he realized there was nothing he could do. In his present state of nothingness, he could not connect. Somehow, by accident, he managed to slide inside Napoleon, becoming a part of him. That and the knocking at the door were the only things that managed to avert the tragedy that was about to happen.
“I’m not dead,” Napoleon stated, sounding disappointed.
“Be thankful that you are not. It is not something I would wish upon anyone,” Illya replied solemnly, surprised when Napoleon turned to the sound of his voice. He hadn’t been sure he could be heard.
Napoleon dropped his head back onto the thin pillow. “I’ve really screwed up this time.”
“No more than usual.”
“What would you call waking up finding yourself strapped to a bed and talking to someone who isn’t there?”
“A typical assignment?”
“You’re dead,” Napoleon repeated emphatically.
“Obviously,” Illya observed dryly.
Their discussion was cut short by the sound of a key turning in the lock and the door opened to admit the doctor. Seeing his patient awake Dr. Samuel Reins said with fake joviality. “Well, Mr. Solo, how are we feeling today?” At the sight of Napoleon’s fierce glare, the doctor cleared his throat before continuing. “Yes, well. Let’s get started then shall we?”
“First, could you do something about this?” Napoleon asked, pulling against the restraints that held him down.
“All in good time,” the doctor stated as he pulled up a chair next to the bed and flipped through his chart, his pen poised to write. “Tell me what you remember.”
Illya read the chart over the doctor’s shoulder. There were a lot of conjectures, no real facts. “Tell him you don’t remember.”
Napoleon lifted his head, the lines in his forehead creased, to look at the image of his partner. “Um…about what?” he asked the doctor.
“Hmmm,” Dr. Reins said, tapping the pen on the chart. “What is the last thing you remember?”
Illya was pacing. “Whatever you do, do not tell him you tried to kill yourself. Tell him the last thing you remember is decorating the tree in the commissary.”
Napoleon frowned. “Being in the commissary decorating the Christmas Tree.”
“And your partner?” queried Dr. Reins.
“Illya? He was there too.” Napoleon kept the pain he felt from showing on his face. “What’s going on? Why am I here?”
Dr. Reins looked intensely at Solo for a few minutes before slowly closing the metal covering of the chart. “Tell you what, why don’t you just rest for a while and I’ll get right back to you.”
As the doctor rose from his chair and made for the door, Napoleon demanded, “Hey, let me loose first.”
“You need to sleep.”
“No. What if I wake up and you're gone.” Napoleon stretched out a hand.
Illya had no answer for that. He didn’t know if he would be there longer or not. Illya reached for the outstretched hand, his own, sadly, slipped through. Unable to connect in an ordinary fashion, Illya once again slid through taking possession of Napoleon’s body. He had no idea how he managed it, he just did.
He could feel Napoleon’s body shudder in reaction. Then the laughter that filtered from his mouth. “When I thought of you being inside me, this was not how I pictured it.”
Illya rose halfway out of Napoleon’s body, staring in astonishment at the recumbent form. “You’ve thought about me that way?”
The dark brown eyes crinkled with amusement. “Not often, but yes.”
It was shocking in a way. Napoleon was handling this very well. Much better then he was himself. “You don’t think I’m a figment of your imagination?”
“If you are, I wish never to be sane again,” Napoleon said with feeling.
Illya lowered himself again, finding shape and substance. He experimentally raised a free arm, surprised that he could do so. He touched the face, feeling the cleft chin, the distinctive mole. He ran the fingers through dark hair.
He willed the eyes to close and they did. Shortly after he felt Napoleon slip into sleep, and he lay within him keeping watch. He was debating on doing something he had never done before, exploring Napoleon’s body with Napoleon’s hands when the door to the room opened admitting a nurse.
She checked Napoleon's vital signs, then brushed an errant strand of hair back, before leaning forward to plant a chaste kiss on Napoleon’s forehead. Illya decided it would be best to leave the exploration of Napoleon’s body to another time and place, when there could be no embarrassing interruptions.
He lay there and surprisingly enough his consciousness faded too.
A feeling of panic engulfed Napoleon as he opened his eyes the next morning. 'Please don’t let last night be a dream' he thought sincerely. He fought to regain control of his breathing as he looked inward, and managed to breath easier when he felt the stirring of his partner’s presence.
The doctor entered, his eyes upon the medical chart in his hand, and cheerfully started remarking on the state of Napoleon’s health. Napoleon had to press his lips tightly together as Illya murmured droll comments that were interspersed with the doctor’s. Comments only he could hear.
After making some notes, and consulting the chart yet again, the doctor decided that Napoleon could be sent on his way. A much relieved Solo, hurriedly dress and left U.N.C.L.E. headquarters post haste.
Once Napoleon returned home he paced his apartment, going from one room to another. His release had been too easy. He was right to be worried. In each and every room he found a hidden video camera.
Since the night before his discharge he hadn’t felt his partner’s presence. Without Illya there to center him he felt bereft. He stood in the middle of his living room trying to come to some sort of decision. Should he disable the cameras? Bad idea, they obviously didn’t trust him, after all why set up cameras? Hell he didn’t trust himself. Would they let him work in the field again? Problematic.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them, Illya, a wicked grin upon his face, was sitting on his sofa, his arms stretched out across the seat back and his feet, ankles crossed and clad in flip flops, propped on his coffee table.
Napoleon did his best to keep his face blank and walked out the door of his apartment. Illya was already in the hallway waiting for him.
“Where have you been?” Napoleon asked and felt foolish doing so.
“Isn’t that my line?” Illya blinked.
“They have cameras all over my fucking apartment,” Napoleon ranted. He frowned. “What’s with the weird footwear?”
“What? They are no different from those stupid clogs you wear. Calm down.” Illya ordered. “Do you trust me?”
Napoleon looked doubtful. “Trust you? I’m not sure that I trust me!”
“Trust me.” Illya demanded and pointed to the door.
Going back inside, Napoleon held the door for Illya only to find that he was already in the apartment.
“I wonder if they’ve bugged the bathroom,” Napoleon muttered, he felt a headache coming on.
From that day forward they had a new type of partnership. One that U.N.C.L.E. was not aware of. Napoleon became the best 'solo' agent U.N.C.L.E. had and that was because he wasn't alone.
"Owww!" Napoleon moaned from the cot. Having been caught and worked over he wondered what had happened to his early warning system.
Napoleon turned his head, finding Illya looking down at him through the bars of his cell.
"Where the fuck have you been?" Napoleon groaned.
Illya shrugged. "I'm not really sure. One moment I with sitting next to you in your car, the next I was...elsewhere."
Sitting up slowly and somewhat painfully, Napoleon asked. "Can you get me out of here?"
Early on they had found that Illya could now manipulate things. Locks, guns, lights. And hands. Napoleon was familiar with masturbation, but jerking off had taken on a new meaning with Illya. Strangely that talent had saved Napoleon's ass on more than one occasion. It was an interesting way to keep Napoleon's mind distracted when things went wrong. When things got rough on an assignment, Illya got horny. Half the time it kept Napoleon incapable of chasing after a pretty skirt, usually the wrong skirt, and landing in more trouble.
Normally Illya focused on the lock and within seconds there was a click. Not this time.
"What?" Napoleon snapped. He turned his head in time to see Illya fade from sight.
Five years later, on New Year's Eve, Napoleon limped down toward the banquet hall of a local hotel. The limp had been a souvenir of his last official assignment as an agent and the last time he'd seen of his partner. Tomorrow he would no longer be employed and he wasn’t sure how he would handle that fact. All his friends were to be here to wish him a fond farewell. He stopped in front of a full length mirror to check his attire. Reflected in the mirror was a face he thought never to see again. The man who had shot Illya all those years ago stood behind him aiming a gun at Napoleon's back, his face twisted into cruel snarl. Napoleon had thought him still in jail.
Napoleon went to pull out his gun, debating on switching from sleep darts to real bullets when suddenly Illya appeared in behind him like an avenging angel just as the assailant's gun went off.
“Noooo!” Napoleon cried out. Not again, he can’t go through this again. He couldn’t help but watch the refection in the mirror. There was a look of surprise on Illya’s face, which quickly changed to anger. His hand reached into his advisory’s chest and pulled out a beating heart. Illya’s face took on a stunned look as the blood dripped through his fingers.
“Hell, Illya, just how am I supposed to explain that?” Napoleon demanded as soon as he got his breath back.
Illya threw him a devilish grin, the grin left his face as the heart slid from his hand when Napoleon slumped to the ground just as everyone came pouring out the banquet room. Even the most hardnosed of them were sickened by the gruesome sight. . Lying splayed out in the middle of the marble floor was the one man that Napoleon would have thought had everything. Stefan Valdar, the husband of the only woman that Napoleon Solo had truly loved. His blue eyes wide open in horror, his bloody heart lying atop his chest. On the floor in front of the mirror Napoleon's body lay crumbled. Screams rang out from every side.
Though nobody notice, standing in his place was a much younger Napoleon then the one from that Christmas that had ended his life. Napoleon moved closer so that he was standing next to Illya to stare down at the body
"I suppose I should never of had that curse put on him," Illya said pragmatically.
Napoleon looked up dumbfounded. "What curse? And why?"
"It was nothing, really. You were hurting, even the gypsies could see it. Sooo....when they offered..." Illya shrugged.
Napoleon shook his head and stared at Illya with amazement. "All this because of Clara Richards? Do you have any idea of how guilty I've felt all these years?"
Illya just stood there, his head down. The curse had given the man boils, caused his farm to decline, made him lose his hair. But he had never lost the one thing that should have mattered most to him. The love of his wife. So, no, it was not because of Clara. Not that Illya would ever say so.
"So what now. Heaven or hell?" Napoleon asked. The past already forgotten.
"Damn if I know," Illya responded.
Napoleon slung his arm over Illya's shoulder and the two walked off toward whatever the future might hold.