This is my first Man from U.N.C.L.E. fic. All my others (bar one) have been Torchwood. I've loved MFU since discovering the repeats on the telly when I was a child in the 80's. David McCallum was one of my earliest crushes. (Still is a crush to be honest. Even at the age of 80, those blue eyes and shy smile make me weak.) I hope I've done our boys justice.
Illya Kuryakin stood motionless in the centre of his kitchen. He was at a loss following the affair at the Figliano School. It wasn't the torture which had affected him; that was something he could handle and work through. It was hardly the first time and certainly wouldn't be the last.
His back was a mess of red welts and broken skin where Mother Fear had taken the strap to him. The Russian had allowed U.N.C.L.E. medical in Geneva to treat the wounds and had been ordered to report to medical in New York when they got back there. Illya however had ignored the order, staying at HQ just long enough to debrief and write his report. He hadn't even bothered to inform Napoleon when he left the building.
Moving for the first time in fifteen minutes, Illya flung open the freezer and retrieved a trusty bottle of vodka. Deep in his heart he knew the cause of his uncharacteristic disquiet. Hopefully, the vodka would be enough to numb the little kernel of memory threatening to bloom and overwhelm him. Turning a kitchen chair around, Illya sat backwards on it, in order to protect his damaged skin. He took the lid from the bottle and sent it flying across the room, before guzzling down a third of the liquid.
Illya rarely got drunk, preferring to keep his wits about him and his defences guarded at all times. He always felt the need to be ready for anything. Today however, he wanted, no needed, temporary oblivion. Taking another swig, he drank the second third of the clear liquid. The quiet agent began to wish he'd chosen a different method for forgetting. Illya wanted to suppress his memories, but vodka instantly brought his homeland back to him. He was dragged from his reverie by someone hammering on his door.
"Illya? Open Up"
The Russian should have known Napoleon wouldn't be far behind him. Medical would have informed him of Illya's failure to report to them.
"Uydite!" (Go away!)
"No can do, Partner Mine," the American called through the door. "I'm afraid this is one of those 'pulling rank' situations."
Illya rolled his eyes and sighed deeply. Napoleon was his superior, though it wasn't something that played much of a part in their partnership. Nevertheless, Illya had been trained in Russia, Europe and America to obey authority. He already disobeyed one direct order, so reluctantly, and taking his bottle with him, Illya went to open the door.
On the other side, Napoleon Solo was worried. It wasn't unusual for Illya to avoid medical, but Solo had seen the injuries and he knew him enough to know something else was bothering him. Napoleon didn't like pulling rank on his friend, but he'd found it was quite effective when necessary. The door opened and he was greeted with a sorrowful sight. Illya stood with his head hung, his shirt open and his vodka clutched to his chest.
"Pozhaluysta, ostav'te menya pokoye," (Please, leave me alone.) Illya pleaded.
"After you've told me what's going on."
Solo waited patiently for the other man to weigh up his options. He could have easily pushed his way into the apartment, but that was something he wouldn't do. The small dwelling was Illya's sanctuary against the world, and Napoleon would never enter without invitation.
After a couple of minutes of staring, Illya conceded and motioned for his partner to enter. He was fully aware, that if he didn't resolve this issue, he could be pulled from the field and referred to the psych department. For Illya, that prospect was worse than attending medical. Talking to Solo seemed to be the least of all evils. He offered the vodka to Napoleon, who had settled himself into an armchair. The senior agent accepted and took a small swig. He wasn't overly fond of vodka, but accepted it, knowing it was Illya's way of offering an apology. Handing the bottle back, Napoleon watched as Illya drained the remainder of the sprit. Eventually the Russian spoke.
"When I was a child," he began, hesitantly. "The men and older teenagers of the village went away to fight in the war. Before they went, they taught the younger boys how to defend the village. Seeing the children in the school, with their guns, was difficult for me. It reminded me of a time I had pushed to the back of my mind."
Illya began pacing and gesturing wildly with his now empty bottle.
"Children shouldn't have guns. They shouldn't be taught how to kill other people. Once a child kills another person, all innocence is lost!"
Napoleon was surprised by the vehemence in Illya's voice.
"Illya," he said softly. "How old were you when you first killed another?"
The blond agent turned away from his partner, not wanting him to see the pain in his eyes, or the tears which were threatening to fall.
"I was eight," he replied hoarsely. "Food was scarce, and people often raided other villages in the endless fight for survival. Two men came one night and tried to steal my Aunt's two remaining chickens. I didn't even stop to think, and I shot them both. Everyone congratulated me on my skill, but I was scared. I couldn't believe how easy it was to end a life. I had nightmares for months after that night."
Napoleon knew a little of Illya's childhood but hadn't fully realised just how hard life had been. Solo came from a wealthy family. A family, for whom, hunting was a normal pastime. He fired his first weapon at the age of four and had been exhilarated by it. He didn't kill a human until he joined the army. It was staggering how different his upbringing had been to that of his friend.
"How is your back?" he asked suddenly, wanting to spare the Russian anymore emotional pain.
It was rare for the blond agent to show this level of emotion or to reveal any part of his past. Solo was in no doubt that he was the only person who would be this privileged.
Illya turned back to face Napoleon, with red rimmed eyes and a sad smile.
"I'll be sleeping on my stomach for a while."
"Maybe you should try that now, Chum," Solo chuckled. "You seem to be swaying a little."
"Nonsense," Illya retorted, his accent thickened by alcohol. "A good Russian wouldn't get that drunk on one measly bottle of vodka."
"That's as maybe," Napoleon countered, while standing up. "But, they probably don't put said vodka on top of powerful pain medication."
Prising the bottle from Illya's grip, Napoleon took hold of his forearm and guided him to the bedroom. He helped him to remove his shirt and prompted him to lie face down on the bed, before removing his shoes. Pulling the sheet's up to Illya's waist, Napoleon realised the Russian was already asleep. His communicator chirped in his pocket and he answered it quickly.
"Solo here," he spoke quietly into the pen-like device.
"Ah, Mr Solo," came Alexander Waverly's voice. "What is the situation with Mr Kuryakin? Medical tells me he didn't report to them."
"You know Illya Sir. He doesn't much like it there."
"All the same Mr Solo, get him to attend there as soon as you are able."
Napoleon tucked the communicator away and looked back down at his partner. He'd give him three or four hours before dragging his sorry ass back to HQ. He wasn't going to allow Illya to dwell on this, and getting his back healed swiftly was the first step.
"Sleep peacefully Tovarisch," he muttered, then went into the sitting room to wait.