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The Master

Chapter Text

MFU 4

Napoleon stood at the bottom of the staircase in Illya's apartment building and wondered why his partner insisted on living there. Some days he had no heat, and there were days when he had no hot water. The excuse that he was rarely home anyway just didn't cut it. Napoleon knew for a fact that Illya could afford something better.

It had been a longer day then he had expected. He let out a deep sigh and slowly made his way up the three stories to Illya's apartment. Fortunately, Dr. Wilds had changed the lumpy and heavy cast for a newer, lightweight boot that had just been developed and Napoleon no longer needed the two crutches and was now relegated to a cane.

His normal cheery mood was darkened with each step following his lack of getting answers. He'd learned a lot. For instance, not everyone had actually seen the report. Of those that did, ninety-five percent didn't care one way or the other. Some were concerned about Illya, realizing that he didn't ask for what happened to him. Others were under the impression that Illya swung that way anyhow and weren't surprised at all. Still, others seemed to think he and Illya had been doing it for years. It didn't help that when Napoleon was leaving one of his fellow agents called out. "Hey, Solo. I knew you'd run out of women one day, but did you have to be so rough?"

Napoleon paused at the door, trying to get his act together. He tapped the door with the head of his new cane. He waited and waited. He heard someone come up behind him and quickly whipped the sword from his cane, whirled around and placed it against the throat of his would be assailant.

Illya dropped his grocery bag and froze, the tip of the blade pressed against his Adam's apple. "Napoleon, I knew you were angry with me, but..." he croaked.

Napoleon smoothly slid the sword back into the cane. His brow furrowed as he asked, "Like my new cane? Why would I be angry?"

Illya picked up his scattered groceries and unlocked his door, ushering Napoleon in. He headed toward his small kitchen to put away his purchases. "Mr. Waverly dropped by."

"The hell you say," Napoleon blurted out as he plopped onto the only couch in the room. So that's why he was unable to connect with the old man.

"It appears we were set up," Illya continued. "By UNCLE Northeast."

"Beldon!" Harry Beldon had always rubbed Napoleon the wrong way. "I always felt he was in the pay of THRUSH."

Illya nodded bitterly. "And I gave him all the ammunition he needed."

"What ammunition?"

"He has all of it on tape."

"So?"

"Napoleon, don't be dense," Illya hissed. He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Napoleon. "Nobody will want to work with me. Not with a ..." He looked away, unable to say it.

"A fag?" Napoleon shook his head amused. He patted the sofa with his cane and ordered, "Sit."

Illya reluctantly sat on the far side of the sofa, which considering its size wasn't that far. He stared down at his clasped hands, hanging between his spread thighs.

Napoleon considered where to start. How do you ask your partner and friend about his sexual preferences? "Illya, look at me," he requested softly.

Illya refused.

"Does this affect your ability to blow things up?"

Illya looked at him from beneath long blond lashes. A small smile crossed his lips as he shook his head.

Napoleon nodded thoughtfully, then he had to ask, "How long have you known that you were ... you know?"

Illya looked up in surprise and squirmed. "I didn't - until ..."

"I'm not surprised," Napoleon said solemnly, and he wasn't. He never suspected something like that of Illya and he was rarely wrong.

"But...but, I responded and ... enjoyed it."

Napoleon laughed and drew Illya's hand to his groin. Illya snatched it back as if burnt.

"That proves nothing. You get hard at the drop of the hat."

Napoleon winked. "True. In fact I even enjoy having something shoved up my ass." Memories of pleasure he'd received at the hands of a few women of his acquaintance fresh in his mind - women he had never seen again for fear of where that pleasure might lead.

Illya paled and scooted as far as he could get from Napoleon. He pointed at him and accused. "You ... you're one of them... a pervert?"

Napoleon was highly insulted. "Hey, if I'm not mistaken it was just a few minutes ago that you thought you were one."

Illya straightened up in surprise. "Oh, that's right."

"The point I was trying to make is that you're still you. Just because something feels good, it doesn't make you any less of an agent." Napoleon took his cane and patted Illya's leg. "Did you bring food or do you want to go out. I'm sure you're hungry." He grew thoughtful. "I always thought I was a pretty good judge of character and I never would have thought you preferred men."

"I don't... prefer men."

Napoleon wondered if it was possible to be gay and not know it. Suddenly a strange sound emanated from Napoleon's midsection reminding him that he'd not eaten that day. He glanced up just as Illya tried to hide his grin, Illya's stomach was usually the one growling.

Napoleon leaned back and drawled, "Got anything eatable in your lawder?"

Illya burst out laughing at Napoleon's deliberate mispronunciation and gracefully got up, heading for the cramped quarters that qualified as a kitchen in his apartment.

Settling back on the sofa, Napoleon reached under his thigh lifting his healing leg to the coffee table. Pain was starting to set in. He reached for his pain meds, wishing he had thought to ask for some water when, as if by magic, Illya returned with a glass and just like that things were back to normal.

***

A month later they were both back on the job. By chance they happened to meet up at the same hotel in the Balkans.

"Fancy meeting you here," Illya said with his usual snarky manner.

Something twisted in Napoleon's gut. It must have shown on his face because Illya asked with a frown, "You did know I was going to be here?"

Reluctantly Napoleon sighed and shook his head no.

"Oh, Mr. Solo. A message arrived for you." The manager behind the counter waved a folded sheet of paper aloft as he called out.

Deja Vu, Napoleon thought as he plucked the note from the man's hand. Illya was undoubtedly looking over his shoulder so there was no need to read it aloud.

"Not again," Illya muttered. "Well, old boy. Shall we adjourn to your room for a drink to celebrate our fortuitous meeting before going off?" Illya asked loudly with fake cheerfulness as he clapped Napoleon on the shoulder.

"Absolutely, old chum," Napoleon agreed as he pocketed the note and his mind raced rapidly through various scenarios in response to the anonymous invitation that duplicated the last one they'd received even as Illya dragged him away.

Once in the elevator Illya asked, "We're not planning on walking into a trap, are we?"

"Nope."

Napoleon put a finger to his lip, then hoisted a thumb upward. Illya looked up at the trapdoor in the ceiling of the elevator and rolled his eyes before placing one foot in Napoleon's laced hands, accepting the boost up through the ceiling. Turning he reached down and helped hoist Napoleon up. No sooner was the trap shut when the elevator stopped and the two held each other to keep from falling over.

Shots rang out beneath them, then someone yelled. "Hey, they ain't here."

Napoleon and Illya hurriedly pulled the elevator door open and scrambled out, rushing to the find the nearest stairs. Illya followed as Napoleon swiftly led them up three flights and out onto the rooftop. They reconnoitered before leaping to the next roof and kept going until they ran out of roofs and hid behind a smokestack just as the door to the roof access flew open. They were far enough away that they couldn't hear what was said.

Once things quieted down across the way, Napoleon sighed heavily.

"Where you expecting something like this?" Illya asked leaning over him to look around the chimney.

"Not really. It had occurred to me that something might happen, so I have a contingency plan in place," Napoleon said. "Follow me."

In no time at all, they were back on the street and weaving through back alleys and breaking into a rundown garage. There was nothing inside but a tiny BMW two-seater.

"Take off your clothes," Napoleon ordered as he went to open the hood.

Napoleon didn't notice that Illya had stopped in his tracks, his mouth open in shock. They'd never really talked about the last time they were in this predicament and he knew that Illya was fine with that. Napoleon had not taken advantage of him in any way shape or form until now. By the time Illya started breathing again Napoleon had pulled out a couple of suitcases and opened one, withdrawing clothing.

Napoleon looked up and notice the look of apprehension in his partner's eyes. He thought back to what he'd just said and started laughing as he tossed a set of clothes over. Now Illya was looking hurt. "I'm not laughing at you. I'm laughing with you," Napoleon said as he stripped his briefs down and pulled off his socks.

"You will note that I am not laughing," Illya said as he followed suit, his face reddening.

Napoleon didn't stop there, he looked down at his hand and pulled off his pinky ring, then did the same with his watch, throwing both of them on his discarded clothing.

Illya didn't seem sure of what to think of that, but he followed suit, reluctantly taking off his wedding band and his watch. By the time he was done, Napoleon was pulling on fresh clothes, certain that even though Illya had no idea why they were getting rid of their jewelry, he had enough respect for Napoleon to follow his lead.

By the time Illya had finished pulling the black turtleneck over his head and slipped on some shoes, Napoleon had jumped into the driver's seat and started the car. Illya no sooner opened the door to slide in, when Napoleon revved the motor and took off. Making a tight turn Napoleon tossed an incendiary on the pile of clothing setting it on fire.

Illya turned in his seat to watch as the flames went higher. Then he turned to Napoleon. "Have you lost your fucking mind?"

Napoleon glanced at him before turning his attention to his driving. "Does your mother know you use that sort of language?"

Napoleon laughed to himself as Illya slumped back in his seat and crossed his arms over his chest. He could tell that Illya was growing increasingly alarmed the further they drove and he recognized the route while Napoleon was racing down winding roads as if the devil were after them and maybe he was.

"Don't you find it odd that we wind up in the same town at the same time and we get another invitation?" Napoleon called out.

Illya sat up, taking an interest in the conversation for the first time.

"I did a little investigating and found that nobody did a follow up on what happened to us. Tell me you don't want to do something to put this all behind us."

"What do you plan to do?"

Napoleon looked a little guilty. "I thought we'd go where this all started and see what happens."

Napoleon could tell that Illya wasn't sure if that was such a good idea. True Illya had a lot to settle with The Master, in fact it seemed as thought he'd dealt with what had happened. Perhaps Illya wasn't sure why he couldn't put it behind him, after all he'd managed to put his childhood behind him to the best of Napoleon's knowledge.

All of a sudden Napoleon put on the brakes, sending the car into a skid. He looked through the windshield then he looked at Illya. As one they both rose and sat on the back of their seats looking over the windshield. They both were surprised to see that the road ended. The road in front of them was ... empty.

Napoleon pulled out the road map. He'd been so sure that this was the right road. He sensed Illya getting out of the car and look down into the deep chasm in front of them. "This can't be right. This is the only road listed." He looked up and watched Illya toss a rock into the chasm. He certainly never expected the rock to bounce back and to almost hit Illya in the face. Fortunately Illya's reflexes kicked in and he dropped to ground before it could happen.

Napoleon reached down and pulled Illya up. "Are you all right?"

Illya dusted himself off. "I wasn't expecting that."

The two men looked at the realistic chasm, both reaching out at the same instant and coming into contact with a hard surface. Two pairs of hands roamed over the smooth shell, the closer they got the more pixilated the screen became.

"Unbelievable," Illya muttered.

Napoleon nodded his agreement. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make it look like the road ended here. "We need to move the car. Then we need to find out how far this thing goes."

They stashed the car a fair distance from the road, where it could not be seen. When Napoleon opened the trunk and tossed Illya a loaded field pack.

Shouldering his pack Illya asked, "Do you know where you're going?"

Napoleon gave him a disgruntled look and continued walking back to the road. Unfortunately Napoleon's sense of direction wasn't as good as he'd like and they ended up bumping into a wall, literally. As they ran their hands over the screen, trying to find some way in, Illya shook his head. "I can think of only one organization that has the technical knowledge to pull something like this off. THRUSH?"

"Or U.N.C.L.E."

"You don't really think U.N.C.L.E. is behind all this."

Napoleon shrugged. "I'm not discounting them." He opened his back pack and pulled out a folding shovel. He tossed it to Illya. "Dig."

Illya looked as if he wanted to argue.

"If you are worried about someone spotting us, remember this place is pretty isolated and probably doesn't get any traffic, except for those who use this place. Unless you want to wait for them to come to us, I suggest you get digging," Napoleon ordered.

Illya shrugged and did as he was told.

It was nearing dusk when the hole was deep enough to crawl under. As it turned out, they edged out on the other side behind some bushes saving them from having to scramble to find cover. The wall behind them was blank and no sounds, not even crickets, could be heard.

"What now?" Illya asked, only no sound came out. They must have a sound dampener somewhere. "Sound dampener?" he asked silently.

"At least we don't have to be quiet," Napoleon mouthed as he pulled a U.N.C.L.E. automatic out of the backpack. It was eerily quiet as they carefully made their way around the side of the building, keeping to the bushes, and on to the door. A sudden break in the bushes had them both looking up, both remembering landing in this very spot.

Lit from a nearby window let Napoleon see Illya's blue eyes turn a stormy grey as he was assaulted by vague memories of what had happened. Illya still was not sure how they got away, what with Napoleon's leg broken as it was. Suddenly Illya found himself wrapped in strong arms and Napoleon let him know that everything would be okay.

Napoleon felt Illya relax in his embrace and knew without a shadow of a doubt that today The Master would pay for what he had done. The two separated and, with renewed determination, set out to enter the fortress.

They slipped into the hallway, hiding behind statues that lined it and felt surprised that the halls were empty. Slowly they made their way through the downstairs, until they came to the door of the dining room. They separated to stand on each side of the door, their guns at the ready. Napoleon counted down to three before they burst into the room and froze.

They lowered their guns, stunned to find the room almost empty, devoid of the furnishings and wall coverings that they remembered from their last visit. Well, not completely empty, as in the middle of the room, on top of the dining table, was a coffin.

They exchanged looks and Illya indicated through sign language that Napoleon should go look. Napoleon wanted to argue to point and remind Illya that he was senior agent by two years and insist that Illya do it himself, but couldn't bring himself to do it. Damn Illya and his superstitious ways. Girding his loin, he bravely walked the ten feet to where the coffin rested. He took a deep breath and lifted the lid.

What he saw had him jumping back in shock and coming up against his partner. There was indeed a body in the coffin and it was The Master's.

Napoleon Solo didn't scare easily, but the smile on the corpse's face sent shivers down his back. Oddly enough the body was dressed in a white nightshirt and the hands were crossed over the chest. In them was an envelope.

Illya had no intentions of crossing the floor to see what was inside that coffin, but evidently he wasn't going to stay at the doorway by himself. So as soon as Napoleon moved forward, he didn't know that Illya was right behind him. He had glanced over Napoleon's shoulder and caught sight of The Master's body and part of him cheered. Hopefully he was now ready to put the past behind him. Napoleon was unaware that something, a flash of something out of the corner of his eye perhaps, had caused Illya to bend down. Underneath the table was a familiar device, red numbers flashing as they counted down the minutes. Illya tugged at Napoleon's trousers and immediately Napoleon stooped down next to him.

The choice was easy. Napoleon snatched the envelope, grabbed Illya, and ran. They made it out the door when they were flung across the lawn by the force of the explosion. Suddenly there was sound and Napoleon covered his head as all sorts of things rained down on them. When things had died down, he tried to get to his knees but couldn't. Something heavy held him down.

"Don't move," Illya cautioned him, as he whipped off his turtleneck to smother the flames that were a tad too close for comfort.

Napoleon slumped down, waiting until Illya gave him the okay to move. Once the weight was lifted off of him and he was able to get up with Illya's help, they raced back to the car. They leaned up against the car, panting heavily. It was then that Napoleon noticed that Illya was shirtless. "Where's your shirt?" he asked.

Illya gasped for breath and held his crisply fried shirt in the air, which in Napoleon's opinion went along nicely with the way his head felt. In the distance they heard sirens coming down the road.