Ripped in Two
It had been an uncomfortable day for both of them and Illya had been in rare form when it came to being moody.
They'd gotten off on the wrong foot when Napoleon had insisted they tarry in bed. Illya had tossed off Napoleon's hands twice before finally sighing and nodding his agreement. While Illya seemed to enjoy their bout, it made them late for their meeting with Waverly.
Waverly had been neither amused nor convinced by Napoleon's less-than-fresh excuse. That had resulted in a stern lecture about timeliness and a dressing down.
Illya had disappeared for about half an hour and returned in an even fouler mood, if such a thing was possible. Their late arrival had spelled an untimely demise to one of Illya's experiments. He'd found Napoleon in the canteen and snapped at him until Napoleon headed for their shared office for sanctuary. It was only then they discovered their desk tops filled with various report folders- their apparent punishment from Waverly for their lack of punctuality.
Napoleon, in an attempt to make amends, got coffee, only to spill it over some freshly finished files. Now granted, it wasn't his fault that a stack of file folders had been left just to the right of his desk and nearly invisible to the naked eye, it didn't change the fact that he tripped and dumped a large coffee all over Illya's desk.
Illya was seriously not amused. Rather than risk losing valued parts of his anatomy to the Russian's sharp tongue, Napoleon retreated to the safety of the secretarial pool. The women made him feel gallant and suave. They gave him back the confidence the morning had robbed him of.
Everything was looking up until the loudspeaker crackled to life and requested his presence in Waverly's office. Illya was already there when he arrived and, from the look on his face, he hadn't mellowed at all.
"You are to escort the Prime Minister through the Museum," Waverly began without preamble. Napoleon felt as if he'd come in mid-sentence, but it was just Waverly's way of keeping his agents off-balance.
"Sir?" Napoleon tilted his head to one side in question.
"He and his wife are visiting from Betruvia and while they are in New York, they are UNCLE's responsibility. See to his safety, Mr. Solo, personally. Mr. Kuryakin can act as their tour guide."
Napoleon had to agree with that. "Illya does know more about those dead masters than live ones."
"Just keep them alive, Mr. Solo." Waverly's voice was tired. "I'll be happy if you can accomplish that."
Napoleon nearly saluted, but resisted. Illya merely scowled at him as they stood and walked out. They walked down the hall in silence until Napoleon could not stand it any longer.
"What is wrong, Illya?"
"I know more about dead masters than live ones? What were you insinuating, Napoleon? That I am incapable of keeping our targets protected?"
"Nothing, it was just a joke. I was trying to lighten the mood. What has gotten into you to you today?"
"You were there," Illya snapped and headed into the elevator. Napoleon had no choice but to follow. He wanted to wave his hands in an effort to displace the thick black cloud that had settled around Illya, but he had no doubt Illya would find some offense with that as well.
They checked out the car, picked up the Prime Minister and his very charming wife, and headed for the museum.
They had spent a long afternoon playing host to their visitors. Napoleon trailed after, keeping his eyes moving, although they did come to rest back upon Illya's ass again and again. So he had given into his desires this morning and they were a few minutes late. It wasn't like it was the end of the world, but Illya thought it was.
He turned a corner to see the PM being whisked away by two Section Three boys and Illya spun on him.
"We're through," he snapped and stalked away.
He's leaving me. The bastard is really going to do it. The words came, unbidden, Napoleon's mind as he watched his partner walk away.
Returning to work held no appeal, neither did their shared apartment. He headed for a bar instead, one where he could disappear for an hour. That became two and then four. When he finally headed home, the lights had come on and a steel gray, New York's version of nightfall had settled upon the city.
He walked in and stopped. Illya was standing at the window staring out through the glass at the cityscape beyond.
"Where were you?" His voice was so soft that Napoleon nearly didn't hear it.
"Murphy's—I didn't want to come back to an empty apartment."
"Why would the apartment have been empty?"
"You said we were through."
"With the assignment. I waited in the car for nearly half an hour before coming back to look for you." Illya turned and studied him. "Napoleon, in spite of what you might think, I would never leave you."
"You seemed pretty unhappy today."
"It's a bad day for me. You usually don't notice because we are not together. Back home, this is a day to mourn and remember our dead. For me, it's doubly hard, for I am one of the mourned."
"To my family, I am, in essence, dead. Certainly they can call and speak with me, but I am no longer family; I am a merely a stranger with a familiar name."
"Christ, Illya, I didn't—"
"And it's better left that way. I could never go back home with you and I would never go home without you, so I mourn for what can never be." He smiled sadly, then held open his arms. "And celebrate what is."
Napoleon embraced him, letting his body say what he struggled to say aloud. "Illya..."
"I know. You, as well." And for now, that was enough.
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