Stupid. There was no way around the fact that he had been incredibly stupid. All this work, all toward a specific end, and the means had destroyed the end.

Illya poured another glass of vodka, realized that the bottle was already well more than half emptied from tonight alone, and necked the amount he'd poured into the glass before taking the rest of that bottle as well as a full one with him to the sofa-bed. If he was going to drink the whole damn thing, why bother transferring the liquid to a different container before downing it?

He sat down heavily, full bottle on the coffee table he'd made of an old cabinet door and stacks of books he didn't much care for. The half-empty vessel stayed in his hand as he leaned back, staring at the ceiling. It was quite dark now and he should have drawn the curtains and flicked on the lights at least an hour ago, but then he wouldn't be able to bear staring at the lighting fixture up there.

Not that he wanted to stare at the lighting fixture specifically, but it was right above the sofa, right above where he sat, so it was the thing he had to stare at if he wanted to be in the position he was currently in.

He let out a breath. Of course, he didn't want to be in this position. This ridiculous, self-inflicted position. Stupid.

Before the bottle had made it to his lips again, there was a knock at the door. After the knock at the door, he took another swallow. Once he'd felt the burn course down his throat, he plunked the bottle on the table with its companion, grabbed his sidearm from the holster hanging on the coat rack, and leaned a shoulder against the doorframe.


"Solo," was the response, but Illya kept his weapon at the ready as he unlocked the door and opened it a crack. Once he saw the American smiling at him through the narrow opening, he shut the door again and unhooked the chain. He started back to the couch, setting the gun by the vodka bottles and reclaiming the mostly-drunk one, knowing Solo would recognize the tacit invitation and let himself in.

As expected, Solo opened and then shut the door, locking it behind him. "It's a little dim in here. Mind if I hit the lights?"

"I'd rather you abuse your own electrical switches, but you may if you must."

A chuckle and the lights came on and Illya shut his eyes for a moment against the onslaught.

"I'll get the curtains," Solo announced, which was the only way the curtains would be got, since Illya wasn't about to get up again to get them, even if he should to protect his privacy in the now-brightened room.

"Why are you being this way?" Solo asked, sitting down next to him on the sofa-bed, and Illya muttered, "Have a seat."

Another chuckle and the American's smile came on and Illya shut his eyes for a moment against the onslaught.

"I don't know," Illya belatedly responded. He slit his eyes open again. "I suppose it depends on what way you think I am being."

"Melancholy," Solo supplied, and Illya played the word-association game by returning, "Choler."

"You're being melancholy," Solo repeated more insistently. "Sitting in the dark, drinking vodka from the bottle, wearing the same clothes as yesterday… you're depressed again."

"That would imply that I had been depressed before."

"You were. Then I thought you were getting better. Then I find you in your frigid little prison cell of an apartment with all the lights off—say, would you mind if I turned up the heat?"

Illya leaned forward and nudged the unused bottle in Solo's direction. "Try this."

"I'm afraid I'm not in the mood to play a Russian stereotype, my friend," the American said, smile softening. "Heat?"

Illya leaned back again. "As you will." He took a large sip. "I have my heater."

"You've had too much of your heater," Solo countered, getting up and turning up the thermostat and then returning to his spot beside his partner.

As they sat there, Illya eventually realized that Solo was expecting to be told things and would not leave until that expectation had been met, so to speed along the process he supplied, "I'm not depressed. That's the problem."

"Why is it a problem?"

Another drink. Another explanation. "I don't want to kill myself."

"And why is that a problem?"

Illya sat up a bit, turning his face to regard the American's clueless expression. He extended his thumb, determined to lay this out as clearly as possible to get this done as soon as possible. "I wanted to kill myself."

"Okay," Solo nodded, presumably in acknowledgement of the statement rather than encouragement for him to go ahead with that action.

Extended his index finger. "That was not possible: I was not alive so I could not."


Middle. "I joined U.N.C.L.E. I started living."


Ring. "I started living. I don't want to stop."

"Even better."

Pinky. "I started living so I could die. Now that I'm living…." He swallowed the rest of the bottle and, noting that Solo hadn't taken his offering, replaced the empty with the new.

A third chuckle, and Illya gritted his teeth. He knew this was a ridiculous scenario, but he didn't need the American rubbing it in. Why had he even let the man into his apartment in the first place?

"You're mourning," Solo observed, and that didn't seem in keeping with his sound of amusement, so Illya glared at him. Utterly unperturbed, Solo went on. "You don't have to want to kill yourself. You already did."

Illya blinked at the American for several moments too long. When had he stopped understanding English?

Illya blinked at the bottle on the table. Had he given himself alcohol poisoning?

Illya blinked at his hand holding the new bottle, whacked the vessel onto the coffee table, and, still holding onto the neck, glared again at the senior agent. "What?"

"By wanting to live, you've destroyed the self that wanted to die. You're a new person."

Illya blinked again at the brown-haired man still smiling at him, processed his pseudo-philosophical commentary, and demanded, "Why are you here?"

"You invited me over."


"Yesterday. At the office."

Blink. Blink. "I did not."

Solo shrugged and capitulated with, "I asked if I could come over and you didn't say no."

Illya sighed.

"I know, but you love me anyway."

Illya sighed louder because, even though Solo was the most obnoxious human he'd had the dubious pleasure of meeting, the man was probably the best friend he'd ever had. That probably said something about Illya, but he'd had a little too much of the heater to allow himself to mentally tangle with that at the moment.


"For Pete's sake, Illya, you know my first name."

Illya pretended to ponder for a moment. "Pete?"




"Go away and let me mourn in peace."

A fourth chuckle and Napoleon rose to his feet. "Okay, I'll see you in the morning." He hesitated. "You'll be alright?"

"I already am. Good night, my friend."

"Good night, partner."