Notes: This is a ficlit I wrote for the Shakespeare challenge at Section 7; all Hamlet quotes are public domain. It's a fun little romp, and since Robert Vaughn was one of the (if not the) biggest Hamlet fans around, I'd like to dedicate this ficlit to him.
Illya had been expecting to see a lot of people in costume as they investigated a Shakespeare festival's celebration of the Bard's work. But the Russian hadn't expected that his partner would be among those in costume; Napoleon was dressed as Prince Hamlet, in all black, with a tunic embroidered with gold threads on the shoulders and collar, and black tights—and even a touch of black eyeliner. Illya had stared at him for a good five minutes before just shaking his head and realizing that nothing was going to change Napoleon's mind, so he didn't even bother trying.
"Dare I ask where you got that costume from?" Illya inquired, as they walked past numerous craft tents and small, open stages where amateur performers were reciting from the Elizabethan plays.
"Oh, it's mine," Napoleon said, with a grin. "Birthday gift from Del Floria one year—been waiting for a chance to use it."
"I, for one, am astounded that you did not wear it to one of the Halloween parties we throw each year."
"Oh, I wanted to," Napoleon admitted. "But I like it when our costumes coordinate, and I didn't think you'd want to be Horatio. …Though you could pass for him if no one took a second glance…"
"What? I do not look like…" Illya trailed off as he looked at himself in his black turtleneck and matching black pants. He sighed and rolled his eyes, hiding his amusement. "I did not plan for this."
"Oh, I know," Napoleon said, with a chuckle. "Like I said, this doesn't seem to be your thing."
Illya arched an eyebrow, and then began to recite one of Horatio's lines from the first act—
"Season your admiration for a while with an attent ear, till I may deliver, upon the witness of these gentlemen, this marvel to you."
Napoleon froze as he began to speak, and then turned to face Illya with an absolutely giddy expression.
"For God's love, let me hear," he quoted in return, but truly meaning it, as well; the admiration was evident in his voice.
But Illya merely smiled.
"Later, Napoleon; we are on a mission, remember?" he teased.
Napoleon scoffed as they continued past the vendors and actors.
"You've been holding out on me," he said.
"I assure you I have not," Illya insisted. "There has never been a necessity to quote the Bard on any of our missions before."
"Didn't have to be in missions. We could have gone as Hamlet and Horatio last Halloween."
"What, you want us to bore everyone at the part by quoting sections from the play all evening?"
"No one could find that boring," Napoleon insisted, scoffing again. "With lines like this? 'Tis now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn…" He paused and grinned as a passerby, impressed with either his costume or his delivery (or both), gave him a thumbs-up, and he silently acknowledged the praise. "Speaking about churchyards, what do you think about our mission objective?"
"The crystal skull?" Illya asked.
"Yeah. THRUSH claiming that they want to get their hands on an ancient crystal skull—one of a set of thirteen with, allegedly, powers beyond our imaginings," Napoleon said. He was a bit more open to the idea of the supernatural than Illya, but even he was finding this one hard to swallow.
Illya, sure enough, shook his head.
"I have no desire to even acknowledge that," he said firmly. "Regardless, the fact remains that the skull is a valuable antiquity, is stolen property according to international antiquities laws, and it cannot be allowed to fall into THRUSH's hands, lest they sell it to fund their schemes."
"Considering that most of the crystal skulls are still lost, it's a mystery in and of itself as to who found it and subsequently stole it," Napoleon said. "As well as why they would want to make the sale here—in a Shakespeare Festival, of all places."
"Oh, I can answer why they would choose this place," Illya said. He indicated Napoleon's costume. "This is the one place where someone could carry around a large skull and no one would give them a second glance. Now, we must find our crystal Yorick before THRUSH does."
"Working on that," Napoleon said, indicating the list of vendors and actors that the organizers of the fair had given him. "We'll have to check on the Hamlet performances—all the amateur ones, and the official one tonight."
"That can be your area," Illya said. "You would enjoy it best."
Napoleon grinned again.
"I would, indeed," he said. "That leaves you to appreciate all the crafts booths and hope that one of them…" He trailed off, suddenly frowning. "What…?"
"What is it? You found a suspect?"
"You could say that…" Napoleon said, handing him the list and watching as Illya perused it.
Illya then paused, his eyebrows arching.
"…Edward Partridge?" he asked, looking to Napoleon in surprise. "Not…?"
"We'll find out," Napoleon said, pulling out his communicator. "George? I need you to look up something for me in our database. You know your way around that computer better than anyone else I know."
"Thanks for that vote of confidence," George said. "What do you want to know?"
"Our file on Emory Partridge—does he have any known relatives?"
"Oh, that's easy to find out; just give me a second…" George said. There was a pause. "Well, you know about his wife, Edith."
"We've met," Napoleon agreed.
"His sister, Hester? It says she's deceased."
"We've met her, too," Napoleon said. "But we didn't stop to think that they were related."
"Hester Partridge had two children—a son, Barnaby, and a daughter, Victoria…" Geroge continued. "Barnaby's status is deceased; Victoria's is unknown."
"We have met them, too," Illya said, scowling at the reminder of Barnaby Partridge and what had transpired at Club Thanatopsis. "Is there anyone in his family named Edward Partridge?"
"Um… Actually, yes."
"Another nephew?" Napoleon asked.
"What!?" Napoleon and Illya exclaimed, in unison.
"Yep," George says. "Says right here that Emory and Edith had one child, about your age; he had gone off to further his studies well before you chased his parents into the jungle. Why do you ask? Is this about the crystal skull mission you're on?"
"It sure is; he might be the one selling it to THRUSH. Why are we only finding out about his existence now?" Napoleon asked.
"Because Edward Partridge has done an excellent job of keeping his head down since the first time you exiled his parents," George said. "Just be careful with him, you two. The both of you had his parents arrested after that Eastsnout incident. And then you tangled with Emory again in the Yukon, and then led to the deaths of Hester and Barnaby. Edward has had a long time to decide that he'd ally himself with THRUSH since you are their sworn enemy. You know the old saying-the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
"So, not only do I have a Horatio, but it looks like I've got a Laertes, too."
"Never mind; I'll explain it later," Napoleon said. "Well, thanks for confirming that we have a prime suspect. Hopefully we can recover Yorick without too much trouble."
"Anytime," George said. As the channel closed, they heard him quietly mutter, "Yorick?"
"Shall we pay a visit to Edward Partridge's vendor tent?" Illya asked.
"Let's," Napoleon said.
It took a bit of time for them to find the tent, but they found it soon enough. Edward Partridge was mostly selling what claimed to be replica of armor and weapons that would have been used in the various plays. There were also a few skulls on display, all of them made of crystal.
"One of them must be the antiquity," Illya realized. "He is waiting for a THRUSH representative."
"Illya, I need a distraction."
"Consider it done," the Russian said.
Without anther word, Illya dashed forward, grabbed a rapier from the ones that Edward was selling, and ran. Napoleon watched as Edward took one of the crystal skulls with him, closed his tent, and then engaged in pursuit.
Napoleon exhaled again as he, too, joined the chase; in hindsight, he should have expected that Edward wouldn't have left something so valuable unguarded. Still, he had saved them time by helping pinpoint which of the skulls had been the genuine one. Now, they had to get it from him.
Illya was already one step ahead; he had darted behind a tent once he had seen Napoleon give chase; as Edward continued the chase, Illya punched him squarely in the jaw. The force of the hit sent Edward falling backward, and the crystal skull fell from his grip. Napoleon dove to catch the skull, succeeded, and then got back to his feet and continued to run with Illya.
"He's quite green, isn't he?" Illya commented. "He should have seen that coming."
"He was smart enough to take Yorick with him; you ought to give him credit for that," Napoleon mused. "The question now is, how do we go about apprehending him, too?" He glanced over his shoulder again, pausing in his tracks as he realized that Edward was not following them.
"We do need to know his THRUSH contacts," Illya agreed. "But trying to find him in this fair will be difficult."
"He might have gone back to his tent—rally some supporters he can charm in order to try to stop us," Napoleon said. "We've got to make a choice—be content with just recovering Yorick, or try to get him, too."
"This is your case; I would say it is your call to make," Illya said.
Napoleon thought over this for a moment.
"Well, I'm feeling lucky—and greedy," Napoleon said. "And besides, if he escapes, he'll probably use the chance to come up with some crazy revenge scheme like his dear old dad has done on occasion."
"True. And we have the perfect bait to lure him out," Illya said, indicating the skull that Napoleon was holding. "THRUSH is expecting that skull; Edward Partridge is smart enough to know that if they do not get what they are expecting, it will be a dark day for him."
"Let's get to his tent—we'll approach together, but cautiously, in case he has a small army with him."
They began to walk back towards the tent, pausing as, from a distance, it was clear that the tent was open again—and empty.
"Did he leave already?" Illya asked, puzzled. "Before THRUSH would arrive to see his failure?"
"I guess that's also possible," Napoleon said, sounding disappointed. "Well, let's return with this and see if we can track him down-"
Napoleon trailed off as an arrow zipped past him and embedded itself into a nearby tree, narrowly missing his head.
"He hasn't run; he's hiding—and fighting back," Illya said, dragging Napoleon into the crowd. "Although he is still very green—why does he not use a gun?"
"I, for one, prefer this method of attack," Napoleon said, wryly. "Come on; the nearest exit is this way; we'll get to the car and call for backup to help with apprehending him."
They dodged another arrow, but soon found that the crowds around them provided to be as much a hindrance as a way to disappear; trying to go against the crowd, towards the exit, was not working, and the duo found themselves swept along near one of the stages—it was one of the amateur stages, which was allowing any attendee to come up and recite. People were applauding someone who had just recited a soliloquy from another play—and left the stage from behind, away from the crowd.
"Illya," Napoleon said. "Follow me; I've got an idea."
He took the Russian by the hand and hopped onto the stage, sweeping past a couple who had been ready to go on as Romeo and Juliet; Napoleon quickly apologized, and the couple graciously let them cut ahead in line.
Napoleon cast a glance out at the crowd; not seeing Edward, he held the crystal skull in his hands and, moving to ensure that he was not an easy target, and began to recite—
"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!"
Both he and Illya kept their eyes open, not seeing Edward, and as Napoleon and Illya finished the scene and people applauded them, they took their bows and moved to retreat backstage.
But Edward suddenly appeared from backstage, brandishing a rapier, blocking their exit and leaving the duo wondering how he had managed to get back there before him.
Napoleon thought fast and signaled to Illya, who quickly handed him the rapier he had taken from Edward before.
"Come, for the third, Laertes: you but dally," Napoleon quoted. "I pray you, pass with your best violence; I am afeard you make a wanton of me."
Edward sneered at him.
"Say you so? Come on," he returned.
They began to fence as Illya watched on, cautiously, his hand going for his Special in his pocket, waiting for the right moment to use it; the crowd seemed to be focused on the duel, so all he needed was an opening…
He got it as Napoleon and Edward both drew back, aiming to run the other through; Illya's silencer was on, and no one heard the pop as Edward was tranquilized and dropped to the stage like a stone.
Napoleon, still holding onto the crystal skull, now sunk to the stage as well.
"Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee," he gasped. "I am dead, Horatio. Wretched queen, adieu! You that look pale and tremble at this chance, that are but mutes or audience to this act, had I but time-as this fell sergeant, death, is strict in his arrest-O, I could tell you-But let it be. Horatio, I am dead…"
Illya gathered Napoleon in his arms, acting his part by gently placing his forehead against Napoleon's, and the two of them acted out the rest of the scene, culminating in Horatio's famous line—
"Goodnight, sweet prince," Illya quoted. "And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"
The crowd burst into wild applause, and Illya gently carried Napoleon backstage, and then came back to drag Edward off, as well.
Finally, they made it back to their car, with the still-tranquilized Edward handcuffed in the backseat, as they headed back to the nearest U.N.C.L.E. outpost.
"Well, I have to say that this was one of our more enjoyable missions," Napoleon said.
"Of course you would think so…"
Napoleon grinned, and then pondered over something.
"Say, Illya, after we leave the younger Partridge in one of our holding cells, I don't suppose we could-"
"You wish to come back here to the festival once we have dropped him off?" Illya finished.
But Illya responded with an amused chuckle.
"Very well, Napoleon; I, too, would find it an interesting time. Perhaps you will regale even more people with your Hamlet recitations."
"We," Napoleon corrected him. "I couldn't have made it this far without my Horatio, after all."
And Illya smiled now—a genuine smile, one of the rare ones that he would only let slip in front of Napoleon.
"Likewise, Napoleon. Likewise."
And the two of them chatted as they headed back to the outpost, eager to enjoy their upcoming downtime.