The Snow Angel Affair
Illya lay on his back in the snow. Arms and legs spread wide, the furry hat had tumbled from his head, to leave his golden hair exposed. In the early morning light, it looked like a halo surrounding his head. His eyes were closed, and only a slight tinge of pink on his cheeks and lips betrayed the fact that this was no marble statue, hewn by an artist and cast aside to lie in the snow.
Napoleon sank to his knees beside the motionless figure, hardly daring to reach for a pulse. When he did finally summon up the courage, to reach out, his hand brushed against skin that was as cold as the very marble it resembled. "NOOO!!!" screamed Napoleon...
...as he sat upright in his bed, covered in sweat and breathing heavily.
The blankets and sheets had tangled around his body and Napoleon pushed them away impatiently, swinging his legs around to sit on the edge of the bed. Taking a few deep breaths, he tried to calm himself. "It's only a dream," he told himself...just like he had told himself all the previous times he had had that exact same dream.
It had started about six months earlier. Napoleon had come home, eaten dinner, gone to bed...and woken up in a cold sweat after dreaming about finding Illya's body in the snow. It hadn't been the first time that Illya had featured in his dreams, nor yet the first time he had dreamed of Illya's death, but previous times had usually happened after the conclusion of a mission. Usually one in which either he or Illya had had yet another narrow escape. During his last mandatory annual session with the U.N.C.L.E. staff psychiatrist, Napoleon had mentioned those types of dreams off handedly and had been slightly reassured to find that it was a normal consequence of the life he led. "After being through an ordeal in which you or your partner could have died, it's only natural for your subconscious to deal with it in the only way it knows how," the psychiatrist had assured him. "Just keep telling yourself it's only a dream."
But that night, the first time he had dreamed of finding Illya in the snow, it hadn't been as a result of a mission. In fact for the previous week or so, the most dangerous thing either he or Illya had done was to open a box of paperclips. Napoleon hadn't really thought much about it...until a few weeks later when he had the dream again...and then again less than a week later. Since then, at least once or twice a week, he had relived that scene over and over again, finding himself running desperately through the snow, knowing that his partner needed him, only to find himself too late yet again.
Once, during his waking hours, he had asked Illya if he believed in premonitions or psychic dreams. The surprised look that had been turned on him was enough to make Napoleon come up with a cover story that he'd overheard one of the ladies in communications talking about it and wanted to be able to work it into the conversation as a prelude to asking her out. Illya had smiled his usual 'let's humor Napoleon when he's in flirt mode' smiles and had proceeded to give him a long lecture on premonitions and psychic phenomena and why they were scientifically proven not to exist. "I would recommend you choose a different topic of conversation, Napoleon," he had finally said, "One that is perhaps not as taxing, mmm?"
Napoleon hadn't been convinced however, so the next night he woke up from the dream, instead of simply sitting there, trying to catch his breath, he had reached for the notepad and pen on his bedside table and scribbled down as much detail as he could remember, hoping that if the circumstances in his dream ever came to pass, then maybe he could change them so that the outcome would not be fatal.
To that end, he had managed to avoid getting himself and Illya assigned to missions taking place anywhere in the slightest bit chilly. Being the top two agents in the New York office had its benefits, Napoleon mused as they returned from yet another trip to Africa. But he knew it couldn't last. Winter with all its associated characteristics was just around the corner, and he didn't think that Mr. Waverly would agree to assign them both to the Sydney Headquarters until spring came to the city.
Napoleon started checking the weather forecasts on an almost hourly basis, praying that it wouldn't snow. He rummaged through Illya's closet one night when Illya was cooking dinner for him, almost sighing with relief when the furry hat failed to make an appearance. That was the point when he decided that he had become obsessed with the dream. And it was probably all his obsessing about it during the day that was making him dream about it at night. With a smile on his face he had washed his hands in the bathroom, to keep up the alibi that had allowed him the few minutes to check Illya's clothing, and returned to the feast that was being dished up for him.
That night he hadn't bothered getting the weather report from Headquarters and had slept soundly, untroubled by the dream.
The next morning, Napoleon woke up refreshed from a good night's sleep. Yawning, he had pulled back the curtains of his bedroom, only to recoil in horror as he saw the snow that had fallen on his balcony during the night.
A few minutes later, he was on his way to Illya's apartment block.
As Napoleon rounded the corner, he could see Illya coming out the door. As Napoleon was about to call out to him, he saw Illya reach into the voluminous pockets of the coat—the coat that had been thrown over a chair the previous night and not in the closet—and pull out a furry hat, which he placed on his head. By the time Napoleon had recovered from his shock, Illya was half way down the block.
In spite of the early hour, there were a considerable number of people on the streets, and that, combined with the icy conditions prevented Napoleon from catching up to Illya. By the time they had reached the nearby park, Napoleon's instincts as a spy were beginning to assert themselves. What was Illya doing heading into a park at such an early hour? Was he meeting someone? Although he didn't look as if he was trying to avoid being followed, Napoleon still hung back as he entered the park, trying to look inconspicuous. Of course going into the park meant leaving behind the camouflaging crowd of people, so Napoleon was forced to hang well back to ensure that Illya would not spot him. He knew the layout of the park, and after seeing which trail Illya took, he quickly hurried along another trail and into the woods, knowing that it would lead him to the same clearing that Illya's trail led to, but with plenty of shelter so he couldn't be observed.
Once concealed by the trees, Napoleon abandoned all attempts at nonchalance and concentrated on speed. A few times he nearly came a cropper on the icy path, but the Solo luck and his natural grace assisted him and he kept running. Finally he came to edge of the woods overlooking the clearing, and leaned against a tree to catch his breath.
A few seconds later, Illya came into view. Napoleon watched as he walked to the center of the clearing and then stepped off the path. If Illya were meeting somebody, then this was a good place to do it, well away from prying eyes. Napoleon hated himself for even considering the possibility, but he couldn't think of a better explanation. His heart was thumping so loudly, he was sure that Illya must hear it.
About half a minute passed as Illya slowly looked around him. Napoleon waited to see what was going to happen next...and then Illya slowly toppled backwards into the snow. "NOOO!" screamed Napoleon, drawing his gun, even as he ran forward to Illya's side, heedless of the fact that he was exposing himself to whatever assassin lurked in waiting. Whoever it was must have used a silencer, thought Napoleon, even as he cursed himself for not simply calling out to Illya before he had gotten as far as the park.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity, Napoleon covered the short distance between him and Illya.
Illya lay on his back in the snow. Arms and legs spread wide, the furry hat had tumbled from his head, to leave his golden hair exposed. In the early morning light, it looked like a halo surrounding his head. Only a slight tinge of pink on his cheeks and lips betrayed the fact that this was no marble statue, hewn by an artist and cast aside to lie in the snow.
"Illya," said Napoleon, numbly as he sank to his knees beside the motionless figure. "Oh God..."
Illya turned his head to look at him, "Napoleon," he said, his voice a mixture of annoyance and embarrassment. "What on earth are you doing here?"
"Illya? Oh God, I thought you were dead," said Napoleon, "Don't move...where were you hit? I'll call for help." His fingers were numb from cold and he fumbled impatiently with the buttons on his jacket pocket, trying to free his communicator.
"Hit? What are you talking about?" Illya sat up, propping himself on one arm. "I'm fine..." A dull flush was starting to make its way across his cheeks.
Napoleon frowned, but stopped fumbling at his pocket. "I saw you fall...I thought you'd been shot. What happened? Did you slip?"
"I did not slip," said Illya, his cheeks now bright red. "I...I fell deliberately." His words came quickly as if in an effort to escape before he could stop them. "You told me about your childhood before...how you and your cousins played in the snow..."
Napoleon remembered the conversation...it had been during one of their less busy times about six months earlier, and he had told the Russian about some of his family's holiday get togethers...and he had told him of the games they played in the snow...suddenly it hit him, and he smiled at Illya as he said, "You were trying to make a snow angel?"
Illya blushed even redder and nodded, "It has been a long time since I saw the snow as anything other than an obstacle to a mission...when you told me of making snow angels with your family...I have been waiting six months for an opportunity to try it..." He looked around at the disturbed snow. "I admit that I fail to understand the popularity of the pastime."
"Maybe you're not doing it properly," said Napoleon. Pushing himself back on his heels, he stood, holding his arm out to Illya who grasped it and stood. For a few seconds both men stared at each other, their faces only a few inches apart...so close that Napoleon could feel the heat from Illya's face as his blush faded. It seemed only natural for him to lean closer to that heat until their lips touched.
Napoleon could feel Illya's gloved hand—cold from the snow—on the back of his neck, preventing him from pulling away from the kiss, even if he'd wanted to. When Illya finally moved his lips away he said, "We will make our snow angels, together, that is part of the fun, da?"
"We will make a lot of things together," said Napoleon, stroking Illya's face gently, "But I think I already have my snow angel here in front of me."