Facing the Fear

Napoleon Solo sighed and closed the channel, looking over towards his shivering partner. He had no idea what had happened, but one of the most fearless men he knew had been reduced to a whimpering heap in the corner.

Drugs, probably, he thought, noting no visible injuries on his partner's body. Even if he had been injured, though, he would not react like this. Napoleon had seen the other man face torture more calmly than he was dealing with...whatever it was that was affecting him right now.

If he wasn't worried and perplexed, he'd probably give into his anger at THRUSH. When (and if, that small voice at the back of his head which he always fought to keep quiet but sometimes lost control of reminded him) Illya came out of this, he'd be embarrassed, if not outright humiliated, at this total loss of control on his part. Napoleon knew how much the other prided himself on his calm demeanor, and even slipping up in front of his best friend was not something he enjoyed. He even faced down death with the same equilibrium, mixed perhaps with a wry comment or two or even some exasperation. Only when Napoleon's life was on the line would he allow himself cracks in that precious composure, and even then it was not something he usually mentioned in post-mission briefings.

Perhaps Napoleon couldn't patch these rather significant gaps himself right now, but the least he could do for him was deal with this himself, to keep the audience to this little breakdown to a minimum. He'd deliberately kept the details of what was going on vague in his dispatch to HQ, just promising that he and Illya would be over shortly. As soon as the latter was no longer terrified of his very presence, that was.

"Illya?" he asked, doing his best to keep his tone quiet, gentle even. The last thing he needed was to startle the blond further.

"N-no! Don't come any closer!" Illya cried, wrapping his arms even more tightly around himself, doing his best to look even smaller than his diminutive form would allow. Napoleon heaved a sigh. Calming him was not going to be easy, but it was something he would have to do on his own.

"Okay," he said at last, sitting down. "Okay, tovarisch. I'm staying right here."

Illya gave him a wary look before continuing his whimpering, turning away from Napoleon to crush himself against the wall. What was he even afraid of? He couldn't possibly be afraid of Napoleon, could he? The last thing the CEA would do was hurt Illya, and the blond knew it. Their partnership had already become famous among Section Two agents, and indeed among all of UNCLE, for its stability and deep foundations. There was no one Illya trusted more than his American counterpart.

Napoleon drew his knees up to his chest and continued watching Illya for any sign of change, on edge himself but doing his best to remain calm. There was an added time pressure here, and he knew it. Besides the fact that he was worried for his friend, Marion Raven was missing. Until Illya was coherent enough to explain what had happened to them both, she would probably remain that way. There was no other way to know what had happened to her.

And there was the little fact that he had no idea how the drug had been administered. He'd secured the apartment already, and there was absolutely no sign of a lingering THRUSH presence. All the possibilities sprang into his head, one after the other, each more fantastic than the last. He took a deep breath, counting to five. With Illya down for the count, it was up to him to retain a cool head. As soon as the other was calm enough to say something other than a variation of "leave me alone!" and clear-headed enough to think about something other than his own terror, he would ask.

After what seemed like an eternity, Illya grew quieter. Napoleon watched him carefully, doing his best to look at least mildly disinterested, as the other gave him an appraising look. It still wasn't his usual cool once-over, but at least he was no longer driven out of his mind from fear at the mere sight of Napoleon.

"You know who I am, right?" Napoleon asked carefully, a horrible possibility springing into his mind. Thankfully, it was crushed quickly when Illya nodded, slowly, cautiously. The brunet shifted his position, keeping his movements slow and deliberate, and above all in full view of the other.

"Can I-can I get closer?"

Another nod, though this one was a bit more timid.

"Alright. Just, ah, tell me if you want me to stay where I am, okay?"

Could that have been a little bit of relief? Was Napoleon just looking for something for his own comfort? He didn't know, but kept his eyes on his friend as he edged closer. Perhaps Illya's eyes widened imperceptibly as Napoleon got closer, and his hands shook a little more, but he remained on the whole as calm as he could be in this state.

Finally, he came to rest right in front of his partner, close enough that he could touch him if he wanted to. Last time he'd done this, he'd quickly been shoved out of the way, and had no doubt that if Illya were even a fraction calmer, he could have done much worse. Even drugged, Illya Kuryakin could be a fearsome opponent.

Thankfully, though, he remained calm, if shaky, peering at Napoleon through too-large eyes and staying curled in a fetal position.

"Thank you, Illya," Napoleon said with as much sincerity as he could muster. "Thank you for letting me get closer." And for trusting me. Even drugged out of your mind, you trust me. That should have been no surprise, really, but after Illya's earlier terror it was a relief to see that it had been restored.

He just got a shaky nod in response as Illya now refused to look away. His fear had seemingly mutated, or at least his response to it had. Where before he had been to frightened to even look at Napoleon, enough reason had returned to him that he figured looking was safer. When he could see, he could monitor everything, watch for sudden movements, plot the nearest escape route (and Napoleon had left him one, just in case things went south and Illya wanted to skitter away again).

"May I-" Napoleon slowly reached a hand out. "I won't hurt you, tovarisch. May I touch you?"

Illya shook his head to this, pupils dilating and face contorting in mindless fear, so he slowly retracted the hand, sitting back and waiting for a few moments. After a moment, though, Illya seemed to change his mind, or maybe the fear-inducing drugs changed yet again, for it was his turn to inch towards Napoleon. The CEA could almost see the gears working behind his wide, fearful eyes; even drug-addled, Illya was doing his best to strategize, doing his best right now to see where he'd be the safest. Perhaps whatever had happened to him was wearing off, if he was able to even try to think logically.

Finally, the blond settled down next to Napoleon, close enough that their shoulders were touching. He took a deep, shaky breath, and looked away, the two simple actions releasing tension Napoleon himself hadn't known he'd had. Illya was fighting to regain himself, that much was clear. That he was now aware enough to do so was an extra relief in itself.

He resisted the urge that had suddenly come over him to throw his arms around his friend and promise that things would be okay. Somehow, he figured that even drugged, Illya would be uncertain about it, not to mention embarrassed about such actions in anything other than a life-or-death situation. Maybe he could compromise, though.

"Is touching you okay now, Illya?"

This time, he got a small, somewhat uncertain nod.

"Are you sure?"

"Y-yes, Napoleon," said Illya in a tone which was almost totally quivering and full of terror. However, there was a dry weariness beneath it all that was so very Illya that Napoleon knew that it was alright. Keeping his movements slow, he reached an arm between the wall and Illya's torso, gently curling his fingers around his friends still-trembling shoulder and tracing them slowly across the fabric. What little fear Illya had of Napoleon seemed to evaporate at that moment, and though he was still shaking like a leaf and constantly looking around for any sign of trouble, he at least let himself go limp, leaning into Napoleon's touch with a small sigh.

The CEA smiled in spite of himself. With his friend fighting to recover himself, it would not be long before he could tell him what had happened and Marion could be recovered. In the mean time, his untouchable veneer would remain in the eyes of all but Napoleon, and Napoleon wouldn't breathe a word of this without Illya's explicit consent. All would be well, and soon.

There was nothing THRUSH could do, not to Illya and not to Napoleon either, that they couldn't handle so long as they were side by side.

Author's Note: Hi, everyone! New fandom here for me! After having fallen in love with this show a few months back (it took one episode to grab my attention and two more to completely solidify my love for both Napoleon and Illya), and having been embraced as enthusiastically as I have been by the 60s-era Man From U.N.C.L.E. fandom, here's this first contribution to it!

Anyway, as one quite fond of hurt/comfort and angst so long as it's not too over-the-top and gets a happy resolution (both of which this fandom on the whole excels at, I must say!), I was surprised to see the dearth of fanfics exploring the fear gas scene from The Quadripartite Affair. You'd think everyone would have taken a crack at writing this scene; between Act I and Act II, Napoleon presumably had to deal with a drugged and disoriented Illya, all the while having even less of an idea of what happened than the audience, since he had missed the scene when the drugs were administered. And even if I were used to THRUSH's day-to-day schemes, administering fear gas via a chocolate box might be a bit far-fetched. If I were to continue writing, I'd probably have had him figure it out. However, he's rather distracted right now by Illya, so that would have to happen later.

As I haven't seen many of the episodes yet, I can't attest to the in-character-ness of either of the leads. Since Illya's heavily drugged, I guess I could get away with a bit of OOC-ness, but I want them to both be as in-character as possible. I figured that Napoleon, who as I've mentioned on my blog before has struck me as a surprisingly warm individual, would want to do his best to help Illya out. Yes, there's a mission to do, and I know in other circumstances he would probably put that first, but until he's got his partner calmed down a bit, there's really no way to proceed with that. Please let me know how I did on all that.

As always, thank you for reading! Drop me a review with what you liked, what you hated, and what I should do better.