"I am not smiling, Napoleon. You continually misread my facial expressions."
The Russian was a little hot under the collar. Well, he was actually a little wet from the dunking he had taken when the Thrush goon hefted him over his shoulder and tossed the smaller blond into the moat. Yeah, a moat, just like the kind you'd find encircling an Arthurian castle. This moat was intended to protect a Thrush satrapy that Illya and Napoleon had recently decimated with some well placed explosives. The only thing they hadn't figured on was the giant who also inhabited this strange fairy tale; the one who didn't like blonds or Russians, especially when blond Russians were UNCLE agents.
"C'mon Illya. You have to admit, finding a real live giant outside of a castle that was protected by a moat... that was like something out of the Brothers Grimm. I tried to stop him."
The smirk on Napoleon's face was unmistakable, and Illya was in no mood to cooperate with his partner's attempts to mollify his ire. Illya was damp and cold; his suit was probably ruined and, in spite of the warmth of their current location, he didn't think the chill was ever going away.
It had taken Napoleon a little longer than usual to take care of the Thrush giant. After throwing Illya into the moat, the big man had dived in after him, apparently in an effort to finish off the offending UNCLE agent. You would have thought the castle belonged to him, which seemed doubtful. Napoleon was certain he'd heard nothing like "Fee, fie foe fum" coming from his lips. Thinking of that did make him smile...just a little.
Illya saw the smile, and he flared up again with a renewed sense of indignation at the scene he was certain Napoleon was reviewing.
"I suppose you got a big kick out of that one, didn't you. You certainly took your time getting him off my back...literally."
Oh, the scowl that Russian was capable of producing. Napoleon wiped the smirk off of his face, and decided to try a different approach. Perhaps he was lacking in compassion, but something about the entire episode had taken the edge off of his formerly foul mood. He was sorry it was at his friend's expense. Really. Really sorry.
He snickered again, immediately wiping the smile away and changing his tone to one of a conciliatory counselor, anxious to comfort the injured party. Uh, yeah, that would be Illya.
"You know, I had to use two sleep darts on that guy. I was working as fast as I could, and I didn't want to hit you by mistake. What else was I supposed to do, you know...I was worried sick."
Illya turned to look at his friend, blue eyes slanted into a scrutiny that defied Napoleon to continue. Nope, there was no getting around it this time. Illya Kuryakin was mad as a wet...hen.
Napoleon guffawed once more, the image of his partner as he emerged from the shallow edge of the moat with the giant floating close behind. Illya's hair did sort of resemble feathers when he was wet like that, and trying to control his laughter was wearing Napoleon down.
"Okay, I'm sorry. Really, I am so sorry. Illya, I darted the guy, I helped pull you out and here we are. How long are you going to stay mad at me?" Illya considered that for a moment. They had been so close to escaping the scene of the explosion before he was grabbed by that behomoth of a man and thrown into the moat. If not for Napoleon being there to dart the Thrushie, Illya would probably be drowned by now. Napoleon's suit didn't even get wet. Maybe that was the problem...
"You're right, Napoleon. I guess it was just the adrenaline keeping me on edge. I apologize. Ummm...do you mind if we go back and take a look while the clean up crew is still there? I want to be certain nothing was left behind..."
Illya's expression had gone from being challenging to a friendly, almost saccharine demeanor. Alarms started going off in Napoleon's brain, but he didn't have a good reason to not go back and satisfy his partner's curiosity.
"Oh, well sure, if that's what you want Illya. Let's go, then shall we."
So, they went back to the smoldering remains of the Thrush castle, now overrun by UNCLE agents and several fire trucks. Illya didn't see the embers that had escaped attention near the edge of the moat. It was uncanny, and without his usual attention to detail (that part of his mind being centered on how best to get his partner into the water and thereby gain some equanimity in the ruined suit department), Illya didn't realize it when the cuff of his trousers caught fire and started to smoke. He noticed it about the same time that a burly fireman snatched up the smaller blond agent and dunked him into the moat for the second time that day.
"Chyort! What the ..."
Napoleon watched in a mixture of concern and uncontrollable mirth as the big fireman hurled Illya into the murky waters. It had been a reflex action. As he came up out of the water Illya was sputtering and cursing in both Russian and French, which was only slightly less shocking to the well meaning rescuer than it might have been.
"Hey, are you ok?"
Illya glared at the fireman, aware of his own partner standing close by, but completely dry... again.
Sometime later, the two agents found themselves in the same warm room, with Illya looking the same as he had after his first dunking in the moat. He was mostly dry, his hair only slightly ruffled after drying it roughly with the same towel he had used several hours before. The blazing blue glare had returned, but Illya was considering not aiming it at his partner this time. He was stripped down to his undershorts, wrapped securely in a warm blanket. The suit looked beyond help, even that of Del Floria's.
Illya sneezed, the effects of the cold moat and his repeated emersion in its waters were beginning to take a toll. Napoleon offered him a dry handkerchief, demurely holding it by a corner as his damp dry partner retrieved it just in time to sneeze again.
"Thank you, Napoleon. I shall return it later, if you don't mind."
Napoleon smiled, his eyes reflecting friendship and concern. The earlier humor was still present, but replaced more fully now by his genuine affection for the somtimes irraceable Russian.
"Illya, I am sorry you've been dunked repeatedly today. I apologize for my earlier insensitivity. I imagine it was a harrowing experience to have that giant of a fellow pushing you down. Even an expert swimmer such as yourself would have a moment of ...''
Illya flinched a little.
"Fear? Yes, it was a tad frightening. I'm glad you were there to take care of things for me. Truly, Napoleon, I am grateful."
"It was all in a day's work. Charge in, blow it up and then battle our way out. It was just a fluke that you ended up in the moat twice, tovarisch. I'm sure it won't happen again."
Illya smiled, finally. The humor had finally settled in as the warmth of the room began to permeate his body. The Bourbon bottle was evidence of a different type of heat, and even that didn't begin to measure up to the warm feelings between these two. Save a life, save your own. For, as surely as the sun would rise the next day, if Napoleon hadn't saved Illya from the giant in the moat, he would have lost something of himself there as well. That wasn't going to happen.
Napoleon raised his glass, offering a toast to his partner.
"To you, Illya. I don't ever want to do this job without you."
Illya smiled, a real smile.
"Nor I without you, tovarisch. Here's to the storming of castles, and an unlimited supply of sleep darts."
As their glasses clinked agreement, each man settled back in his own chair, warmed by the fire, the liquor and an inestimable friendship.