I have already had two different betas volunteer but wind up unable to help me out thanks to other commitments, and the fic has now been in various stages of limbo since July. If anyone is in a position to wade through this monster for me in relatively short order, I'd be very grateful.
For some idea of what you're getting into, one partial scene under the cut.
( The other half of the trouble with Napoleon is that no matter how many women Illya may have had to watch him woo, there are still those moments that make him... wonder.Collapse )
The other half of the trouble with Napoleon is that no matter how many women Illya may have had to watch him woo, there are still those moments that make him... wonder. For a man so incurably fond of flirting with each and every member of the opposite sex to cross his path, Napoleon sometimes seems to forget to stop flirting when there isn't a woman in sight.
"I am afraid," Napoleon announces, buttoning his cuffs in front of the mirror, "that I will have to deprive you of my fine company for a few hours. Do you have everything you need?"
Illya frowns, upsetting the balance of the ice-pack resting on his brow, and forcing him to shove it back up out of his eyes. The only woman he can clearly remember meeting today had been a THRUSH medical technician holding the syringe. He tries to recall whether there'd been any attractive nurses back at the hospital earlier in the afternoon, but his head swims with the effort. "When did you manage to line up a date in all the excitement?" he asks, suspicious.
Napoleon's smile is rueful. "The only date I have lined up for this evening is with the town mayor. I'm told he wants to know on whose authority people have been detonating explosives within reverberation distance of his constituency. UNCLE has deputised me to smooth things over."
"Ah." Now that Illya looks again, Napoleon isn't dressed for an evening out. He needs that second look – everything in his field of view is still fuzzy around the edges, thanks to whatever they'd given him in the hospital to help bring him down. "How lucky they had someone so uniquely qualified to explain how that came about."
Napoleon catches his eye in the mirror. "He may have some questions about reports of a nearly-naked man attempting to make a getaway over a rooftop too, of course," he adds, which Illya supposes is much the retort he's been subconsciously waiting for for some time. But if Napoleon wants to laugh at him, he's probably earned it.
"Then you can tell him his nearly-naked man has been reunited with his pants and is recovering comfortably in your hotel room," Illya suggests. Not the same pair he'd been wearing this morning, admittedly, wherever those might be now. Lost in the blur that is nearly everything after his THRUSH captors had wheeled him into the boardroom on a gurney is the key detail that would explain why he'd been down to his underwear when Napoleon finally got to him out on the roof. Perhaps the lab techs had wanted him to look vulnerable? It's certainly possible. Illya thinks he'd rather prefer that to be the case, when the alternative is that he'd rid himself of his pants later on his own initiative, for reasons he has little hope of reconstructing now, and even less desire to try.
A captured UNCLE agent must have seemed the ideal subject for a live demonstration of their new fear toxin: after all, if the drug could reduce a professional enemy spy to a paranoid wreck, it could surely do the same for anyone. Having experienced first hand the devastating effects of Gervaise Ravel's own fear agent, Illya would hardly have been inclined to argue the point, and had resigned himself to the inevitability of another experience very much the same vein – at least up to the point where his adrenaline-fuelled thrashing had overcome the restraints holding him to the gurney, leading to an altercation in which he had apparently wrestled a gun away from a guard and wounded at least three people before climbing out a window. It was probably for the best he was out of bullets by the time Napoleon got to him with a syringe full of the antidote – by then camped out under the overhang of an access stairwell on the roof, glaring blearily out into a world that was bright and sharp and over-full, and he himself distinctly under-dressed.
Here in the present, Napoleon raises his eyebrows in amusement, and it's only when Illya sees his expression that it occurs to him that the part about 'recovering in Napoleon's hotel room' probably came out sounding more suggestive aloud than it had in his head.
"You'll understand if I might word that one a little differently in case there are any little birdies still hovering in our vicinity." Napoleon's eyes faintly glitter with amusement. "I should probably check in with the clean-up crew while I'm out."
"Let me know if they've found my dignity in the rubble," says Illya, who is too mature to attempt to hide under his pillow from the trainwreck that has become of his day, but only just. "I suspect it will be right at the bottom, probably in several pieces."
Napoleon winces, and has the decency to look fuzzily sympathetic. "You know I would have offered you my coat for the way down..."
"If you wanted to complete my image of the neighbourhood flasher lurking in the bushes behind the playground, certainly."
"I don't know that it's so bad as all that," Napoleon tries, his wince settling into something more in the vicinity of a pout.
"I'd argue with you, but I honestly don't remember much of it," Illya admits. "I'm going to have to read your report just to find out what I've been up to all day, which I can't say I'm looking forward to."
"I don't know what you mean," says Napoleon, straightening his tie. "Agent Kuryakin performed an admirable diversionary service, shaking off the effects of the latest THRUSH paranoia toxin to disable at least three guards before making his escape, leading them all on a merry chase across the rooftops and providing Agent Solo with ample time set the charges and plan their exit strategy."
Illya shoots another look at the mirror, though it's far too high up to reflect his own face from where he sits on the bed. He must look truly dire if Napoleon is working so hard to lift his spirits. Perhaps for once, defensive pessimism has done its job. "So. No date then?"
"None lined up at this time." Finished with his tie, Napoleon pats him on the ankle as he passes the bed. "But you never do know how the evening may turn out."
Illya feels uncomfortably certain he can see the shape of his own already. "If the mayor has a beautiful daughter, I'd advise you to leave her alone."
"And risk having to admit that to our superiors? Illya, you wound me."
Napoleon, Illya decides, is far too chipper for a man whose own partner had very nearly taken him as an enemy plant earlier that day. "One would almost think you'd spent enough time wrestling nearly naked people to the ground for one day."
"Or vice-versa," Napoleon comments, or mumbles, in an off-hand sort of way that Illya is less than sure he was supposed to have heard at all. From the depths of the crowded fog of his recollections, a memory stirs. Illya experiences a sudden and vivid flashback to what may have been his first moment of clarity in what had felt like countless hours of being hunted across the rooftops of the compound by a seemingly infinite army of armed THRUSH enforcers, dogging his footsteps and imitating the voices of his friends. Then, in the midst of all that fury, the terrible the realisation that what he'd taken as an enemy impostor posing as Napoleon was no enemy at all but the real thing, in incalculable danger from an untold number of THRUSH snipers peering from shadowy stealth helicopters over their heads, if Illya couldn't get to him right now...
"Please tell me I didn't." Sense memory is a vicious thing, and Illya fervently hates it. Why the thought of Napoleon having to tackle him in order to stab him with the syringe of the counter-agent should be the substantially less mortifying option is beyond him to justify; all Illya knows is the very organic fear that this could be one he'll never manage to live down.
Stopped in the doorway, Napoleon looks back over his shoulder with a playful smile. "Illya," he says, tapping the side of his nose, voice pitched low as if sharing some particular secret, "a gentleman never tells," and leaves Illya alone in their hotel room with a bag of ice on his head and a warm, fluttery feeling in his gut he'll later try to blame on the cocktail of drugs working their way through his system, or perhaps indigestion – anything, really, except the sinfully low pitch of Napoleon's voice as he flirted shamelessly to reassure his convalescing partner.
(There are a couple more such snippets over on my tumblr, if you're curious. The dates on those demonstrate pretty neatly how long this poor thing has been stuck in limbo by now.)