Notes: this fic is an expansion of an idea I'd had some time ago-what if Napoleon's parents ended up being innocents on a mission? As always, Napoleon being the same as Albert Stroller (from Hustle) is Robert Vaughn's own headcanon, which I am borrowing here-and why I have Napoleon's mother's maiden name as Stroller.
There was no doubt that Napoleon was in his element from the moment he and Illya had landed in Las Vegas for their mission. The casinos beckoned with their call, and Napoleon was more than eager to answer—it was lucky that their mission was to investigate a casino whose owner was supposedly allowing THRUSH to use it as a supply and finance depot.
"A fairly straightforward mission, when you think about it," Napoleon said, eagerly looking around at the green felt tables upon which several games were being played. "All we have to do is get proof that the owner of the Paradise Hotel and Casino is knowingly allowing THRUSH to use this place, and we can bring him in."
"And here he is," Illya said, taking out the photograph that had been in the briefing files. "Thomas Rex, owner and proprietor. He's been in the gambling business here in Las Vegas since the 1920s—of course, gambling was illegal until 1931, but there was quite an underground gambling ring back then. Needless to say, I'm sure he has made agreements with many a shady character over the decades if it meant lining his pockets with a little extra."
"He probably doesn't realize how dangerous THRUSH is," Napoleon intoned. "Once he is no longer any use to them, they'll kill him."
"If we can convince him of that, then he will hopefully give us all the names of those he's interacted with," Illya said. "Then, it will simply be a matter of chasing them down. Do you think he will talk?"
"It's been my experience that when money is involved, as well as a lack of understanding about the level of danger, they usually end up talking," Napoleon mused. "…Sometimes, more money is required, but I consider that an investment, especially if we can round up some THRUSHies from it."
"While I understand that, I do hate the thought of giving that opportunistic, greedy fellow money," Illya frowned.
"Not that he'll have much chance to enjoy it in prison if we can prove he was complicit."
"Now that, I can live with," Illya said. "What do you suggest we do first?"
"Well, if we can somehow bring Rex out into the open, that'll be good for starters; we could see if you can get one of your handy trackers on him without him realizing it," Napoleon said. "He's bound to have passageways here in case he needs to hide money or make a quick exit; a tracker will help us find exactly where he is."
"True," Illya nodded. "But how do we flush him out?"
"Easy—have someone win so much that it grabs his attention," Napoleon grinned. "And I am just the man for that job."
"You certainly are," Illya mused. "The amount of luck you have is truly extraordinary—such as being able to indulge in gambling despite being on duty."
"…Hey, we want to drag him out here, right?"
"Enjoy yourself, Napoleon," Illya said, with a smile. "I was only teasing. You are correct, it is a good way to get him out without making him suspicious. I will look around and see if anything seems out of the ordinary—and cover you in the process."
"Thanks," Napoleon returned.
So, as Napoleon sat down at a poker table, mingling with the other players and the dealer, Illya kept a watchful eye on him, making sure that any THRUSHies weren't going to try to sneak up on him, assuming he was noticed.
Illya was so absorbed watching that he didn't even notice when two very familiar people entered the casino—at least, not until they approached him.
The Russian whirled around, not expecting to see Napoleon's mother standing beside him in the middle of a mission.
"Mother!" he exclaimed, quietly, addressing her as such by her request (she had long since considered him a member of the family). "What are you doing here?"
Before answering, she held out her arms to him, and he obliged her with a hug.
"Oh, it's such an unexpected surprise to see you!" she said. "Well, it turns out that Leopold and I were talking about how we hadn't taken a vacation in so long, and so, we decided to visit Las Vegas—we hadn't been here since the '20s! …It certainly has changed, hasn't it?"
"…I shall take your word for it, Mother," Illya said, looking over to make sure Napoleon was doing alright. He was, thankfully. "Where's…?"
"Leopold? Oh, he's getting us some drinks; if I'd known you and Napoleon were here, I'd have had us all sit down for a drink together."
"How did you know-?"
"I can smell his cologne a mile away," Cora said, with a roll of her eyes. "If I've told him once, I've told him a thousand times not to overdo it with that Bay Rum… And he used to wonder how I knew when he snuck out and back in again? He never figured out that I literally used my nose." She turned around towards the poker table. "Aha, see? There he is. Oh, and what do you know? There's an open spot at the poker game… I think I'll go surprise him…"
"Mother, I don't think that's a good idea; we're in the middle of-!"
He stopped himself, not wanting to blow his cover, and just cringed as Cora sat down next to her son. She didn't draw any attention to herself, thank goodness; she was acting as though she hadn't seen him.
Napoleon, who had been counting his stack of white poker chips, quickly glanced to the side as she sat down and looked back, resuming his counting. He then froze as he finally registered what he had just seen, and did a priceless double-take to confirm that it was, indeed, his mother sitting beside him.
"Ahh, I'm done here," he said to the dealer, and he collected his chips, gave a nod of greeting to his mother, and got up from the table.
Cora shrugged and started playing the game despite Napoleon having left. Napoleon, in the meantime, sought Illya out and headed to him.
Illya merely greeted him with a "tsk-tsk-tsk."
"For shame, Napoleon—not wanting to play cards with Mother?"
"You've never seen Ma play cards, have you?" Napoleon asked.
"Nyet, but I have seen you play cards, and you are quite the shark."
"Let me put it this way, Illya… Do you remember when I told you about who taught me how to play poker?"
"Da; you said it was your grandmother. She also taught you how to grift."
"Exactly. That was my maternal grandmother."
Illya's eyes widened, and he glanced at Cora for a moment before glancing back at his partner.
"You don't mean to tell me that Mother-!?"
"That's exactly what I mean," Napoleon said. "You just watch—she's going to clean out everyone at that table, and if I hadn't gotten out of there when I had, I would have been collateral damage!"
"The apple does not fall far from the tree, evidently," Illya mused. "But I have a difficult time believing that Mother could be a shark!"
"Believe it," Napoleon's father said, from behind them.
The duo turned to see Leopold standing there with the drinks; they exchanged greetings, and then Leopold cast a wistful look at his wife.
"The first time I met her was in a speakeasy casino here in Las Vegas, 45 years ago."
"…What…?" Napoleon asked, staring at his father as though he had just spoken an alien language. Illya, on the other hand, looked intrigued. "But… wasn't there a law against gambling back then?"
"And you think you mother and I didn't know about the time you took the car for a joyride when you were 14? The '20s were quite a time, Boys, and the forbidden fruit often was the most tempting," Leopold said, as Napoleon went bright red.
"Bay Rum in the car…" Illya murmured under his breath.
"What?" Napoleon asked.
"Anyway," Leopold said. "That's how I met Cora—a poker game. …And she cleaned me out, mercilessly."
Illya was looking at Cora now with a new admiration as she added to a rapidly-growing pile of poker chips.
"I must say, I am quite glad to be a part of this family."
Napoleon just gave a nod.
"But, do tell me," Illya went on. "What is this about you and taking the family car on a joyride when you were 14?"
There was a long, awkward pause.
"I'm going to, ah, hit the blackjack table," Napoleon said, trying to ignore Illya's quiet snarking.
It was best to focus on the mission, anyway; between him at the blackjack table and his mother at the poker table, they were sure to lure out Rex, as far as he was concerned. That was going to be the easy part; the complicating factor now would be trying to continue with their mission now that his parents were there and would, undoubtedly, want to spend some quality time together with them.
Illya was already finding that a challenge—he had quickly sobered once Napoleon and Cora both continued playing games. Leopold, in the meantime, still had a drink in each hand. With a good-natured shrug, he offered the second drink to Illya, who responded with a wan smile.
"That is very kind of you, but I think I shall refrain for the time being," he said, politely. "I'm sure Mother will come back for that drink, anyway."
Leopold blinked, suddenly understanding.
"…You and Napoleon didn't come here for a pleasure trip," he realized. "You two are on duty, aren't you?"
"Er… yes. I'm sorry, Father; we did not expect you two here at all, and we must get back to work," Illya said, apologetically. "…Exactly how much time were you and Mother planning to spend in the casino?"
"…Er…" Leopold said. "I'm sorry, Illya, but we have reservations in this hotel." He gave Illya a sympathetic look as the Russian's face fell. "Cora and I, we've been wanting to celebrate the anniversary of the day we first met. And, naturally, we thought that coming back to Las Vegas, where it happened, would be a great way to celebrate. It was a bit of an impulse decision, and, as a result, finding reservations wasn't easy; this hotel was one of the last ones with available rooms…"
"It cannot be helped," Illya conceded. "You understand, of course, that our concern is that if any of our enemies realize that you are Napoleon's parents, they will not hesitate to attempt to use the two of you as leverage."
"I know," Leopold sighed. "Cora told me all about the time when that Emory Partridge fellow tried to kidnap her; it's a lucky thing for all of us that he underestimated her ability to defend herself."
"Very much so," Illya agreed.
"Rest assured that neither of us have any intentions of allowing ourselves to be used as leverage against you boys."
"Thank you," Illya said. "Just try to keep a low profile; with any luck, Napoleon and I can finish the mission quickly."
"We'll try to stay out of your way, then," Leopold promised.
"Right. And if you happen to see the owner of this casino, see if you can let us know—as discreetly as possible, of course," Illya requested.
"Of course," Leopold echoed. "But how will know the owner?"
"This is him," Illya said, showing the picture from the mission briefing file.
Leopold stared at the photograph, a look of dawning recognition—and horror—growing on his face.
"…Is everything alright?" Illya asked, knowing all too well that it wasn't.
"No," Leopold said, his normally good nature changing rapidly. "This man… Is his last name Rex?"
"Da, Thomas Rex," Illya said. He paused, about to ask the obvious. "…You know him, don't you?"
Leopold's expression changed to a deep frown.
"All too well," he replied. "Well, Illya, you and Napoleon can cast aside all worries about Cora and I drawing too much attention to ourselves—we're checking out of this hotel right now. Excuse me, please."
Illya stared, stunned, as Leopold handed both drinks to him and made a beeline straight for Cora and the poker table. Obviously, Leopold and Cora had some very unpleasant history with Rex if Leopold wanted them to leave—and without any guarantee that they'd get reservations elsewhere.
And as Leopold continued to head towards Cora, Illya now headed towards Napoleon, who saw him coming and finished up his hand, collecting his chips as Illya approached; the look of concern didn't escape him.
"What is it?" Napoleon asked. "Did you see Rex?"
"Nyet; but something is happening. Did either of your parents ever mention Rex before—anything at all when you were young?"
Napoleon shook his head and looked over at the poker table. Leopold was pulling Cora aside, and showing her the photograph that Illya had given him. Cora noticeably paled; she said something to her husband and nodded, turned back to the poker table, collected her chips, and moved to where she could cash them, with Leopold right by her side.
"Ma and Dad both know Rex," Napoleon realized. "And, clearly, the memories are not good ones."
"Clearly…" Illya said.
Napoleon was torn, wanting to check up on his distraught parents, yet knowing that he couldn't afford to break his cover.
"They were checked in at this hotel," Illya went on. "But now Father wants to leave—without any guarantee that they'll get reservations elsewhere. Napoleon, what could it be that got the two of them nervous enough to run? Even Mother—she is normally as stubborn as they come, but even she seems eager to avoid running into Rex again."
"You're right; I've never seen Ma this nervous, and that includes the time she was with Partridge," Napoleon said. "I wish we could help…"
"I know, but we best not—we can't have them linked to us when we've got THRUSHies around…" Illya trailed off. "Oh, dear…"
"…Rex got smoked out after all."
Napoleon and Illya could only stare, helpless, as Rex emerged from a back room, making a beeline for Cora and Leopold as they attempted to leave.
"'Oh dear' is right," Napoleon sighed.