The Wizard War Affair
Xover: MFU/HP Universe
PG-13 (so far so good)
A year and a half after the Return of the Man from UNCLE something evil in England is using what is left of THRUSH for its own ends (1983)
Angst in places.
London, November 1985
Act One: "Wouldn't think it could happen twice in a lifetime, would you?"
"Mr. Kuryakin, you have a visitor."
The blond head bent over a new design did not look up.
"Mr. Kuryakin, I know you don't see people except by appointment, but she insisted I give you this." The very new to the staff assistant set a business card on the desk and vanished out of the office, closing the door carefully behind her.
Illya Kuryakin released his breath in something like a sigh, looked up from the design he wasn't really seeing and picked up the card.
Solo Security and a phone number.
He shuddered and trembled all at once. Dammit. The last thing he needed in his life was a call to arms from his ex-partner. He started to shred the card, then stopped. "She insisted I give you this." Something had happened. He slipped on his kidskin loafers and went out to meet this "she".
He stopped in the shadow of the doorway leading from his private stairway to his private office and took in the woman waiting for him. She was short. Dark hair framed her face in light, spiky curves. The face was almost elfin, pointed at chin and nose, the cheekbones very prominent. Enveloped in a cloak of soft wool, only the ankles and feet of her stylish high-heeled boots showed beneath the deep gray sweep of fabric. Her quick dark eyes were taking in everything around her as she turned slowly, admiring the entry hall.
She stopped as she spotted the doorway. Previously closed, the shadowed opening first drew her attention, then her over to it.
"Mr. Kuryakin, I presume?" Her voice was soft, touched by a fading English accent.
He stepped out of the shadows, his pale eyes searching her face. He did not take the offered hand, though he noted she withdrew the offer as gracefully as she had made it. "Why are you here?"
"I'm waiting for Napoleon to join us. He said to send up the card; that 'Vanya' might not allow me to meet him otherwise." Her smile held mischief, inviting him to share her amusement.
"He was right. What does he want?"
She regarded him for a moment, her head canted slightly to the right as she searched his face for something. "To make certain you're all right. There's – " she stopped, searching for the right words. "Something – dangerous. It should not involve you," she hurried on, forestalling his response. "But it does. Possibly because of your ties to Napoleon. Possibly because – you are you."
His face was stone, giving away nothing of the turmoil beneath the surface. Napoleon had finally deigned to show an interest in him again and he was – was what? Annoyed? Angered? Stupidly praying that whatever brought Napoleon back into his life would make him stay this time? Gods, he was such an idiot. Napoleon had a life. A woman, however unlikely this one seemed, to share that life with. What did he need a surly, isolationist Russian clothing designer for?
"So, he wants to make certain I am all right? I am. Now, I have work to do." He turned to retreat. Too late.
Napoleon Solo made his entrance with his usual impeccable timing. A dark cloak matching the woman's swirled about his tall figure. White was beginning to streak his temples, otherwise, his hair was as dark and full as ever. There were a few more lines at the corners of his eyes. They crinkled up when he smiled as he was doing now. He met the blue glare of Illya's gaze full on and refused to be dismayed by it.
"Illya. It's good to see you." He crossed the floor, removing gloves from his hands and reached out to the Russian. His hands were warm against his ex-partner's cool fingers. "You are all right?" The question was sharp. What did he see that no one else saw?
Illya retrieved his hand and nodded. "This way." He led them up the stairs to his office. Safely behind the big dark desk, he could face the man who meant so much in his life. "What do you want?" he asked again.
Napoleon slowed as he sat down, opening his cloak to reveal one of his exquisitely tailored suits. "Want? I wanted to see my old friend. I know we parted somewhat less than amicably. I was all for dashing back into places I wasn't wanted and you were content to return to this," he waved a hand to indicate Vanya's elegant halls. "I'm sorry."
Illya felt a bit like he'd been hit hard in the solar plexus. Napoleon Solo, man of the world, covert agent extraordinaire, bane and illumination of his life, had just apologized. Illya's gaze flickered to the woman who was standing by the window and back. "For what?" he managed to ask curiously.
"For not being less selfish. For being smugly self-satisfied and for thinking one can go back," Napoleon answered quietly. "I've found out the hard way that you can't. But I can ask if we can move forward."
At a loss for thought, much less words, Illya betrayed his unease by ringing for one of his assistants and ordering refreshments. He looked toward the woman. "Tea?"
"Russian?" she countered hopefully.
"If you wish."
"Oh, I do. It's been – a while since I've been anywhere I could get it well done. Thank you."
Silence fell between them. Napoleon seemed content to just watch the old friend sitting across the desk from him. Illya, pulling his attention from Napoleon, recognized the tension of the woman's occasional glances out the window. He knew that alertness, the knowledge that she was expecting … no, not expecting, but watching for something "just in case". The view from the window was not inclined to capture the attention unless something was going on in the street. He shot a sharp look at Napoleon who returned it without concern.
"What is going on?" Illya demanded.
Napoleon traded glances with his wife again and sighed. "Quite a lot I suspect you would not want to know. Mostly I just needed to assure myself you aren't involved."
"And then see if we can keep it that way. By the way, I'm Roxana." She joined them at the desk, removing her gloves as she took the seat next to Napoleon. Ever alert to details, Illya saw her hands marked her as older than he had thought. Her nails were clipped short and he could see that several of the fingers had been broken and not set quite straight. Another ex-agent?
"One of us?" he asked cryptically.
Napoleon let his gaze rest on Roxana for a moment. "No. Not one of us as you and I were. But she's known some –"
"Difficult times," Roxana supplied. She met the Russian's gaze and did not waver. "My background is – odd, even next yours and Napoleon's. It is my hope we can keep you safely out of whatever peculiarities are headed our way. We needed to be certain they had not found you – al – rea –dy." Her head swung toward the single window as though drawn by some other sense. "Napoleon -" She was moving across the room as she spoke. She gripped a gently carved wooden stick in her left. Illya was aware of a distant pressure, an echo of something he'd felt other times with Napoleon. The window glowed. She stood there for a long moment, as though assuring herself that something would … hold?
"Mr. Kuryakin, please tell me there's a back way out of here."
Her voice startled him out of his focus on the window. With a resigned sigh, he returned to the disturbed world of Vanya. He moved to a section of wall obscured by a muted tapestry. Reaching behind the hanging, he triggered the doorway it concealed. "This way."
Napoleon was through the doorway almost before Illya was through speaking, pulling the smaller man with him and letting the door slide closed before Roxana moved away from the window.
"Napoleon?" Illya couldn't believe he was abandoning his wife to get his ex-partner to safety. When did he become the innocent involved?
"Roxana can take care of herself. You're the one in danger. Get us out of here." The larger man stood back against the wall to let Illya pass him.
Not knowing what else to do, the smaller man took the lead down to the small, exclusive parking area under Vanya's. Once there, he caught Napoleon's arm and jerked him to a stop. "What is going on?" For just a moment, the weariness of their past life showed in the other man's face. He reached out and ruffled the shaggy blond hair, a smile warming his face.
"I had a succession of nightmares, all of them centered on you. Roxana insisted we make certain that they were just that, nightmares." He tried to pass it off lightly, praying the other man would not pursue this aberrant behavior. He'd forgotten what it was like to have the Russian around, to know the strength that flowed from the younger man was there to rely on. It was addictive.
"Nightmares?" There was a world of disbelief in that one word. Illya knew there was more to it than that when Napoleon's eyes dropped. "Napoleon." He watched his ex-partner scan the parking garage and pointedly not look back up at him. "Napoleon?" The dark eyes met his and looked away.
"There's a lot that's happened in the last two years. I was angry when you didn't want to come back, you know that."
"Then I got a pat on the head and shown the door. 'Sorry, but not much place for you here.' What a laugh. They call us in to clean up their mess and then turn us out again as old fogies. Then I was really angry."
A faint smile curved the Russian's lips. He could imagine Napoleon angry.
An answering, somewhat rueful smile lit Napoleon's face. "I went West. I figured San Francisco or Los Angeles would do. Beautiful women, maybe a stint as a private investigator, something would turn up."
Napoleon's face warmed. "Roxana. Not my type. The moment I met her, it was as though I'd been waiting for her all my life. She was – " He stopped with a frown and really looked at Illya for the first time in a very long time. He snorted softly. "Wouldn't think that could happen twice in a lifetime, would you?" he said softly. Was that fear in Illya's eyes? Instinct won over breeding and worry as Napoleon reached out and drew the other man into his arms.
Illya stiffened. Not that he really wanted to be anywhere else particularly, but – but – oh, my what a long line of "buts" there were to melt away in the warmth and welcome of that embrace.
"Children, I know it's been a long time and I'm very happy you've finally managed to – say what needs to be said, but there are a number of extremely annoyed types waiting for us to exit in a mundane fashion. I suspect we need to be a bit less than mundane."
Illya jerked away from Napoleon and whirled to stare at Roxana. She looked tired, but her smile was gentle, welcoming. How had she gotten here without either of them hearing her?
He held out his hand to her. "Sure you want to do this? That's a really fast little car over there." He nodded to one of Illya's small luxuries.
Roxana looked for a moment, then nodded. "All right. It will be less likely to elicit comment. Let's get moving."
Roxana slid into the back seat, leaving the front and the driving to the two men.
A quartet of elegantly black clad young men scattered out of the path of the car. They displayed an excellent grasp of profane English to express their dismay at being out gunned, so to speak. One caught Illya's eye. Flaxen hair fanned out around an aristocratic face as the young man leaped for safety, stumbled to his hands and knees and looked up. They locked gazes for a moment as the car sped past.
Lucius Malfoy scowled at his scuffed shoes and scraped hands. He wanted the vain little designer who was so important to Roxana Logarin's American husband. With a handle on the husband, the woman would soon fall to him and thus to his Master. With a sneer at the complaints of his companions, he straightened his attire and walked away. Soon enough he would have what he needed.
After a few minutes of dashing to safety, Illya asked where they were going. He was not surprised when Napoleon turned to look at the woman. Roxana's gaze was hazy, then sharpened. "Diagon Alley."
Napoleon nodded and gave Illya directions as they slowed to a speed less likely to get them stopped for speeding. The directions took them into a less frequented part of town where the little sports car stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Illya did not voice his misgivings as he parked it on the street and they got out, Roxana bringing up the rear. Again the woman indulged in her faintly latinate mutter. Illya looked around and stopped. He looked past Roxana, then up and down the street. His car was gone. He garnered another mischievous look as she linked arms with Napoleon and the resisting Russian.
"You want explanations?" She was very glad he didn't have anything approaching the evil eye. "Then come along."
"Where are we going?"
"The Leaky Cauldron," Napoleon supplied the answer as they walked up the street to a dingy, unappetizing storefront.
As they walked under the swinging sign, Illya could suddenly see a cheery painting of a witch's cauldron sitting over a fire and the name of the establishment written around it. He lost the vision as they pushed through the doorway.
He hated the sensation of conversations stopping as he entered a room. Instinct kept him behind the other two. An extremely ugly trio of old women suddenly shrieked and cackled, the oldest and ugliest hitching herself off a stool and dashing over to give Roxana a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"Roxy, ducks, it's been ages," the harsh voice grated. Then she leaned toward Roxana, dropping her voice. "Heard u-no-oo got ye, I did."
Roxana gave a gentle laugh and shook her head. "You really should know better than to believe all you hear, Auntie. I'm a great deal more resilient than that. Bugger You-Know-Who," she finished rudely. The hags went off in a spate of laughter again as Auntie went back to her seat and Roxana lead them deeper into the – pub?
A tall elegant gentleman, pale hair hanging to his shoulders, his beard already heading toward his waist and blue eyes sparkling behind his wire rimmed glasses, stepped in front of her next.
She looked up. "Albus. Glad you're here. Napoleon Solo, Albus Dumbledore, an old friend of the family."
The two men took their time looking each other over and evaluating before they shook hands and nodded. The sharp gaze found Illya doing his best "I not here" imitation behind the larger man.
"And this is?"
Roxana turned slightly, still smiling. "Illya Kuryakin. My husband's best friend and the reason we're here."
Nothing of the shock running through Illya's existence showed in his face. Long years of not revealing anything to anyone stood him in good stead just now. Best friend. Once he had thought – but then the world changed and he changed with it. Did Napoleon still -? He chanced a glance upward and saw the warmth in the dark eyes, coupled with worry. Suddenly there was a warm spot deep inside the arctic chill he had harbored for so long. He turned his attention back to this Dumbledore character.
Illya discovered that Dumbledore's gaze could be very disconcerting.
"You have been with the Romany."
It was a statement, not a question. It took Illya a moment to realize the man had spoken in Romany. He nodded, thinking it would be rude to ignore the comment.
"Yes, I can see why. You are most welcome here, Mr. Kuryakin, although I cannot guarantee that you will remain safe. The world is very dangerous these days."
Dumbledore turned his attention to Napoleon and Roxana. "You are both welcome here, as is your friend. I would not count on safety, of course, but then who can?"
"Not many. There was a small committee at Vanya's just as we left. I believe I saw a Malfoy in the crowd. Arrogant little sod." Roxana sounded vicious.
"Yes. I believe it. You're not harmed?"
"No. We surprised them."
That got a smile. "Then go on through, I'm certain you've earned some rest. Do avoid Nocturn, of course."
With a nod, Roxana led the two men on through the establishment to an alley. At the blank brick wall marking the end of the alley, she reached out with the stick and touched several bricks in turn. Illya discovered that Napoleon had a firm grip on his arm as the bricks began to move.
Within the space of a minute, there was an opening in the wall. Beyond it the three could see a bustling street of shops and oddly dressed people. They stepped through onto the street. Illya turned to watch the opening shift back into a wall. Part of his mind was turning over the degree of technology needed to make the wall work. The rest of his mind was taking a deep breath and admitting that he hadn't a clue exactly how the wall did that, nor was he entirely certain he wanted to know.
Illya wasn't precisely happy with the amount of attention the three of them were getting as they set off down the street. The number of pointy hats with wide brims was unnerving. Watching so many of the denizens of the street stop, stare and then whisper to each other was not reassuring either. He resolutely went along with his – friend and Roxana, ignoring the whispers.
They came to a comfortable looking place that seemed to be an inn. Roxana led them over to the desk and signed them in. As they stood there, Illya became aware of a presence next to his left leg. He looked down.
Wide blue eyes stared up at him out of a chubby, somewhat dirty face. One plump hand held a miniature version of the pointed hats the adults were wearing onto the little boy's curly haired head. His mouth was open in awe.
The eyes widened. "Are – are you really a Muggle?" the child asked.
Roxana stiffened, then turned and looked down at the little boy. Her look softened and she squatted down next to the child. "What do you know about Muggles?"
"They eat witch babies," he told her seriously.
Roxana sighed. "No, they don't."
She laughed. "Yes, I am sure. My husband has been friends with a Muggle for years and years and years, and not once has that man eaten a witch child – or any other children."
"Oh." The boy looked up at Illya again, his hat falling off his head this time. "Not at all?" There was a wistful note to his voice.
"You're not frightening at all then. I have a rat."
"Joshua!" The little boy's very curly haired mother swept the little boy off fussing as they went about his talking to strangers.
"Muggles don't eat children," he pronounced very clearly for quite a number of people to hear.
"Well, of course, they don't. Whatever gave you that idea? Your father's waiting for us. Come along –" Mother and child swept out of the Inn.
"Rooms," Roxana forestalled Illya's questions.
Upstairs, ensconced in two very comfortable rooms, Roxana collapsed backwards onto the bed in the one she shared with Napoleon and lay there looking at nothing in particular while Napoleon made sure Illya's room was all right. He returned to find her just staring up at the ceiling, her eyes unfocused. For a moment, he thought she was just thinking. Then he realized her fingers were twitching uncontrollably.
"Roxana," he called softly.
There was no response. He sighed and reached into his pocket for the small vial he carried. He set it on the bedside table so he could remove his cloak before sitting on the bed beside her. He slid an arm around her shoulders and lifted her into his arms so he could tip a bit of the fluid in the vial into her mouth.
He wrapped his arms around her, holding tight and called her name a third time. Sometimes he thought the convulsions were harder on him than on her. She wouldn't remember them, only the sore muscles and the exhaustion letting her know it had happened again. He blinked to keep the tears he felt from falling. She stiffened hard in his arms, then relaxed and breathed out with a sigh. Her eyes closed and opened, focusing on him.
"Oh – Oh, no –"
He tightened his grip around her and buried his face in her hair. "It's all right," he kept muttering into the froth of soft blue-black spikes. "It's all right."
She wriggled her arms free to slide them around his still muscular torso and tightened her hold on him. "No, it's not," she corrected him. "But we'll manage. We have so far."
He pulled back a bit to look into her eyes. "Why the hell did you take so long to find me?" he growled.
"You were busy," she answered prosaically and reached up to kiss him. When he resisted, she forged ahead, finally emerging breathless and victorious. "Were you in love with him?" she asked curiously, pretty much destroying the mood she'd engendered.
Napoleon's mouth fell open. That was one of the things she loved about him, that almost fish out of water, trying to grasp the question before he lost the answer entirely look. "What?"
Her laughter did not help. Nor did her burrowing against him. Even fully dressed it was amazing the kind of response she could elicit from him. "Illya. Were you in love with him?"
"Not even a little?" She leaned back to look into his eyes. "OK, I know, the job and the time would have blocked that kind of response from surfacing. Especially with your reputation to uphold. Maybe I should ask, do you love him?"
She moved in and rested her head on his shoulder again. "Maybe the question's not quite fair."
"Maybe it's crazy."
Her chuckle entranced him as usual. "I like him. I think – " She sat up again, catching his eyes and his full attention. "What did it feel like, seeing him when you walked in?"
What did it feel like? It felt like he – was home – again. He scowled at her. "It felt like I walked in to a room where Illya was."
She punched him lightly in the chest. "This is serious. How did you feel? I need to know. I – I think it's connected to your dreams. I need a real answer."
His eyes searched her face for what she wanted to hear and found no clues, just an anxious look as she watched him. "Like I was home. Again. Roxana – I see you and it's indescribable. I can be anywhere in the world, and I'm – safe. I'm – home. That's the only way I can describe it."
"And Illya does that as well?"
His thoughts in complete disarray now, he nodded. What the hell did this mean? Was he – sexually? – attracted to Illya?
"It's all right, beloved."
"No, it's not," he echoed her earlier answer.
"This time, it is. Even if it doesn't feel like it. You and I are – fated for lack of a better term. You and he are – also fated. If you both want a sexual side, I think you could find a way to accommodate it, but mostly it's companionship, it's yin and yang. We complete each other." She lifted a hand to stroke his cheek, marveling again at having found him. "You and he do also, on other levels. You belong together."
She silenced him with a soft kiss. "Too much. Too soon. Let it go."
Losing himself in her, he did.
In the room across the hall, Illya sat and inventoried the room. There was something about the place, comfortable and inviting as it was, that raised his hackles. The man at the pub who spoke to him in faultless Romany troubled him. He closed his eyes and reconstructed the scene.
There was a lot that troubled him. The woman who greeted Roxana was the least of his problems as he examined the denizens of the room he could see. So many of them were dressed archaically. So many of them looked like characters out of fantasy. And that faint fluttering feeling around him, the currents that weren't air but something else. That something else was like breathing to the people in the pub. Almost – his strained credulity gave out and Illya dozed off.