Notes: This is my first full-fledged multichapter venture in the MFU fandom, so I have high hopes for it. I know I'm not the first to do a Gurnius aftermath fic, but I'm hoping my spin on it is unique enough. Also, in addition to focusing on the dynamic between Napoleon and Illya, as I usually do, I'll also be featuring their interactions with some of their fellow colleagues (namely Mark, April, Mandy, and George).
Illya had been quiet during most of the initial debriefing of their encounter with Gurnius's lot; Terry Cook had been the one doing most of the talking—gushing to Waverly about what an adventure it had been, and how Illya was a phenomenal actor.
"I really thought he was an evil creep!" she had exclaimed. "I mean, the way he was zapping Mr. Solo with that machine, and then using that poison capsule on him, or whatever that was…!"
She had accepted Waverly's instruction that no one on the outside was to know what had happened—but that didn't stop her from talking Mark's ear off as he escorted her out of their headquarters—not caring about the other agents who were hearing her blab.
Napoleon didn't even bother saying a goodbye as she left; he watched her go from the hallway, his expression rather blank. Baba Yaga, the Office Cat that technically belonged to him and Illya, attempted to get his attention by rubbing up against his shins. He came out of his daze and smiled, picking the cat up and gently talking to her as she purred away in his arms. It was then that he noticed Illya hovering a few feet away, and he carried the cat over to him.
"I think she missed us," Napoleon mused. "And speaking of missing things, you know what I've missed?"
Illya arched an eyebrow, wondering what exactly he was referring to.
"Bagels—authentic New York bagels!" Napoleon reminded him. "I say we go out and get ourselves some bagels to celebrate our triumphant return!"
"It's half past midnight, Napoleon!"
"…When has that ever stopped your appetite?"
Illya gave his partner an indignant look, but then paused as he noticed the genuine look of warmth on his partner's face—that this was Napoleon's way of reassuring him that nothing had changed between them as a result of this mission. And Illya smiled back.
"Da. Now that you mention it, I am hungry."
"When aren't you?" Napoleon teased. "Alright, a bagel run, it is! I think I'm in the mood for a nice jalapeño bagel with that spicy cream cheese—and roasted peppers…."
"…Of course," Illya said, shaking his head in amusement. "I shall enjoy a simple, plain bagel with reduced-fat cream cheese."
Napoleon's gaze immediately went to Illya's waistline.
"I don't think you have to worry about reduced fat, but it's your bagel, so I guess that's your prerogative…" He trailed off as Baba Yaga let out a loud meow, alert now at the mention of bagels. Napoleon chuckled and gave her a few more scritches behind her ears. "Of course, my dear; we'll bring you a bit of lox like we always do… It's uncanny how you've learned to associate our bagel runs with your lox-" He grinned as she meowed again at the mention of the word, illustrating his point perfectly.
"She is a little genius," Illya said, fondly. "Very well, then; let's be off."
"Just a moment, Mr. Kuraykin, Mr. Solo."
The duo turned to see Waverly behind them.
"I would like to get an additional, individual briefing from both of you, given the… nature of this case."
"Sir, I resent the implication that Illya has done anything wrong," Napoleon said, a noticeable edge to his voice. "He did exactly as I would have done in that situation, and I say that as both his partner and as CEA."
"I never accused Mr. Kuryakin of anything, Mr. Solo; I merely want to get a separate account from each of you. You first—you can go home and recuperate after that."
Napoleon sighed and glanced at Illya with an apologetic look, who gave a nod of understanding back.
"It's alright, Napoleon," he said. "We can go out for bagels another time. …Or, if you prefer, I can go and buy the bagels, and after you have finished with your debriefing, we can have them here…" He smiled as Baba Yaga meowed again. "And, of course, I shall bring some lox for our little genius."
"Alright; we'll see you in a bit," Napoleon said, carrying the cat with him back to Waverly's office.
Illya watched them go, maintaining his outwardly calm appearance while trying to ignore the tugs on his heartstrings. He knew he was a lucky man to know someone like Napoleon—someone who still trusted him unconditionally, regardless of what Illya'd had to do on the mission. And Illya also knew he was lucky, as so many things could have gone wrong on that last mission.
There had to be more than just bagels to show Napoleon just how grateful Illya was to know him—but they were good for a start, anyway.
He headed down to his other desk in Section VIII, where he kept some of his petty cash reserves. It was on his way down that he suddenly became aware of the whispers and stares following him.
Puzzled, Illya arched an eyebrow and looked back at them, but those who whispered and stared quickly averted their gaze. This was odd and most bizarre; something like this had happened when he had first transferred to New York, but it had soon stopped. Why was it starting again now?
An unpleasant feeling began to well up in Illya's gut, and he pushed the thought aside and headed to his desk. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the other Section VIII members glancing at him, silently.
He turned around once, and they all returned to whatever it was they were doing, much to his vexation.
"Well?" he asked them.
No one met his gaze, and Illya bit his lip, but ignored them; he got the money for the bagels from his desk, and had been about to leave when Mark, April, Mandy, and George all entered the lab.
"Oh, hello," Illya said.
"Hello…" April offered. She looked to Mark and cleared her throat.
"We were just wondering how you were," Mark said.
"I'm fine," Illya said. "Did Miss Cook make it home alright?"
"Oh, yes; she did," Mark said. "She was talking ears off until she got out of the building."
"Speaking of Miss Cook talking ears off," George said. "Some of the things she's said have been… Well, is there a metaphor for hearing something so unbelievable, it's like your ear really does fall off?"
"One can always say that they were knocked over by a feather," Illya said, an edge working its way into his voice, now.
"Well, the feathers are flying all over the building," April said.
"Those feathers are… something else, alright. And you'd be surprised how quickly they've spread here in the building," Mandy said, sheepishly. "We just wanted to make sure you were alright."
"If the rumors are spreading, then would it not make more sense to ask Napoleon how he is feeling?"
"Well, we didn't believe the rumors for a moment!" Mandy protested. "That's why we came to see you—so we could make sure that no one was giving you a hard time over something that's clearly not true!"
Illya suddenly slammed his desk drawer shut, causing the others to stare at him in concern.
"Illya?" George asked. "Are you alright…?"
"Direct your concern and sympathy towards Napoleon," Illya quipped. "The rumors are true."
He stared at the desk for a moment, blankly, before glancing back at the others. George and Mandy looked stunned while Mark and April looked sympathetic.
"You had no choice," Mark realized. "Been there before, Chum—my first partner. One of the first things I told April was that it was altogether possible that something like this could happen between us—and that we'd have to have the nerve to go through with it."
"You always hope it never has to happen," April sighed.
"Wow…" Mandy said, quietly. "Why did I ever think that I wanted to be a field agent?"
April looked to her and smiled.
"It's not a bad life, you know. Though, sometimes, I think I envy your relatively safe desk job."
"Really?" Mandy asked.
"…Sometimes," April repeated.
"Wow," George echoed. "Look, Illya, we never meant to put you on the spot. Sorry we brought it up."
"It's fine," Illya said. "It was that woman who brought it up, and whether or not it had been true, it would have traveled through here at the speed of light." He pocketed his money and looked a bit thoughtful. "Napoleon is being debriefed right now; I expect that, once he's finished, he'll find a way to quash the rumors soon enough. …He's a bit of an expert at that."
"Well, he'd have to be, wouldn't he?" Mark mused. "He's had years of practice…"
"And that rumor was actually true, too," George said.
Illya chuckled, feeling better now, and was about to say something when one of the messengers now entered the lab.
"There you are," he said to Mandy. "I've been looking all over for you; you're not at your desk! There latest batch of reports to be translated was just delivered at the Lower Manhattan drop point!"
"Oh," Mandy groaned, checking her watch. "Can't they wait until morning?"
"You're on night duty for a reason," the messenger said. "How about you do your work instead of socializing with the field agents and the lab technicians?" He cast a glance at Illya. "And the backstabbers?"
Illya's improving mood soured in a heartbeat; the messenger ignored his glare, as well as the others', and left.
"How quickly he forgets that you saved his life the last time a THRUSH infiltrator got in here," Mark muttered. "Ingrate."
"Just wait until Napoleon hears about this," George said. "Then that guy will be singing a different tune-"
"I wouldn't want Napoleon to get dragged into it, either," Illya sighed.
"Well, as much as I want to continue this conversation, I guess I have work to do," Mandy said. "Hang in there, Illya. I'm sure this will all blow over soon."
"Thank you," Illya said, and then he paused. "You know, there's no reason for you to go out this late; I'm going to pick up bagels for Napoleon and myself; I could pick up the reports for you while I'm out."
"Oh, could you?" Mandy asked. "I'd really appreciate that! Thank you so much!"
"Of course," Illya replied, with a nod.
"And I'll help you with those translations so you can leave early," April offered her. "I can grab some snacks from the vending machine to get us through it. What do you say—girls' night in?"
"Sounds great to me," Mandy said.
"Yeah, I can grab my latest project and join you, too…" George began, but trailed off when April and Mandy glanced at him in amusement. "Oh, you mean…?"
"Not us, Chum," Mark translated. "But you can show me your latest project; I'm sure it's intriguing…"
The four of them went off, leaving Illya with the other lab technicians, who were still staring at him, having heard the whole thing. Again, they looked away as he glanced in their direction, prompting him to roll his eyes in exasperation as he left the lab, and ignored the stares from others as he walked out of the building.
The Lower Manhattan drop point was a block from Napoleon's favorite bagel place; it wasn't much of diversion, and after retrieving the reports, Illya soon procured the bag of bagels and lox.
He was, admittedly, lost in thought as he walked back towards the nearest subway entrance. He'd been in New York for seven years, and, easily, the best part about those seven years had been Napoleon—his kindness and genuine caring, always unconditional… the welcoming smiles and the tight bearhugs. Illya normally wasn't one to wear his heart on his sleeve, but Napoleon was, easily, the most important person in his life; how anyone could accuse Illya of intentionally wanting to hurt Napoleon was beyond him—and, no doubt, beyond Napoleon, as well.
Illya exhaled as he continued to walk, taking a shortcut through an alley. Even though he was no stranger to stares and whispers and questions about his loyalties, he had to admit to himself that he was looking forward to spending a quiet day in the apartment with Napoleon, away from any suspicions and accusations…
He smiled to himself as he pictured Napoleon's warm smile; Napoleon would want them to share a nice meal together, and then probably relax in front of the TV, and they would talk, forgetting all about Gurnius and the rumors…
A piecing pain suddenly erupted in his side, jolting him from his thoughts; the image of his smiling partner vanished in the haze of pain as he was brought to the ground of the alley, the bag of bagels and the reports falling beside him.
His hand went to his side automatically, and he let out a quiet gasp as he felt the blood coming from the wound. He'd been shot, he realized; he hadn't even seen his attacker coming, having been preoccupied with his muddled thoughts.
He cursed his foolishness and lack of vigilance; footsteps caused him to glance in that direction, pausing as he saw a silhouette framed by a nearby streetlight, a gun held in the figure's hand. Illya made a feeble grab for his Special as they drew nearer, but a foot came down upon his hand, causing him to let go.
"And you're supposed to be a top agent?" his attacker hissed in a harsh whisper—no doubt done to disguise their voice. "Pathetic. I could finish you off right now, but I think I'll let you bleed out instead."
The attacker struck Illya across the shoulders, and as Illya's vision faded and he saw the attacker reaching for the fallen items he had been carrying, the Russian's last coherent thought was him wishing more than ever that his partner was with him right now.