Illya Kuryakin had been accused of possessing nine lives. Today he felt as though one of them might be slipping away.

If blood could drain any faster from a gaping hole in his shoulder then he wasn't aware of the statistics; the bullet had gone to ground in the deltoid muscle of the UNCLE agent's left arm, something only slightly less damaging than had it been his right arm. No doubt Mr. Waverly would have something to say about…

Dizziness was setting in, possibly shock. Why had Napoleon not just stayed where he was? It was going to be nearly impossible to get them both out of here, and Napoleon looked even worse than Illya felt.

Napoleon Solo had a bullet in his right leg and an ounce of something diabolical in his bloodstream, courtesy of Thrush. When Illya had found his partner he had been rambling about flying to Rio for Carnival, his eyes glassy and out of focus. Whatever the mad scientist du jour had given the American was providing another type of flying experience, only not the kind that needed an airplane.

"Napoleon… Napoleon! Stand up… come on tovarisch, you can do it… ouch! Napoleon, please stand up."

Napoleon was standing up. Or at least he thought he was standing up, he meant to be standing because Illya wanted him to and Napoleon really intended to do what his partner asked of him. He looked awful, and when Illya looked awful it was usually really, really…

"I'm trying, Illya. My leg… ow, and my head. Where are you? I don't… oh, there you are. Are you flying too, Illya?"

Illya hefted his deranged partner with his good arm and started the arduous task of getting them both out of this Thrush satrapy. Coming in he had disabled everyone in sight, and had thought it would be one of those easy rescues; right up until the unseen guard took a shot at them, two actually, and right on the money. Napoleon went down first, leaving Illya wide open and easily targeted by the would be assassin. The shot to the Russian's shoulder hit just as Illya's bullet put an end to the other man's burgeoning new career. He was dead as his bullet hit its mark.

Now, bleeding profusely and weakening with every minute that passed, Kuryakin was intent on his mission: get Napoleon out of here and to safety before the explosions that had been set could go off, trapping them here in the expected rubble. One had to work with the plan at hand, and when Illya had arrived his had been to set his explosives and then get Napoleon out in the allotted time. He hadn't expected to encounter a murderous guard, which was an oversight not usually made by the meticulous agent. Illya would not make this mistake again. He hoped, however, that there would at least be the opportunity for it.

Slow progress was being made now towards the only exit. A few unconscious guards lay in the path of the two wounded UNCLE agents, the regrettable end in sight with the impending explosions. Sometimes Illya deeply regretted that his career had been at the expense of so many lives, and he wondered about his choices. Not often, but there were times, like now, as he refused to consider what these other men might be leaving behind.

Napoleon was beginning to sound coherent, his awareness of the surroundings a little more grounded in reality. His leg hurt like hell, though, and he could hear Illya's grunts beneath him as the smaller man pulled him towards the door.

"Illya, I think… let me try and walk. You sound like you're in worse shape than I am."

As the dim corridors began to come to an end, Illya was relieved to let his partner try and move a little on his own. Releasing the weight of the bigger man, he felt himself slump slightly with the loss of counter balance to his own movements. A wave of dizziness washed over the blond just as Napoleon reached around to steady him.

"Hurry, Napoleon, we don't have much time."

Napoleon recognized the tension in his partner's voice, the realization that the Russian always knew how close he was to the edge of destruction, literally.

"I've got you now, we're almost…"

The rumblings of the first explosions began to permeate the air. According to the planned detonations, there were mere seconds left before the last one would rip through the corridor they now occupied. As fast as two damaged bodies could move, the pair were through the door and running, albeit without any semblance of grace or agility, to a spot Illya indicated would be safe.

"Over there, Napoleon! The blast radius won't reach us behind that stand of trees…"

They dove as one behind those trees, rolling down the slight incline as blood sprinkled the grass. The explosion roared out through the open door behind them, smoke and debris and, if they stopped to consider it, body parts from the unfortunates left behind.

Illya lay unconscious, the release of all adrenaline in his body completely extinguished now in the aftermath. Napoleon was aware of the throbbing in his leg but his head was clear, mostly. He reached for his partner, then the communicator that was tucked into the pocket of his black jeans.

"Open Channel D, Solo here."

"Mr. Solo, how good to hear your voice. I trust you have completed your mission."

"Um, yes sir, and lived to tell about it, thanks to Il.. Mr. Kuryakin."

"Oh, and how is Mr. Kuryakin? I take it he is unable to make this call on his communicator due to something unfortunate."

Napoleon smiled that feral smile that sometimes appeared without intention; the one that hinted at his distaste for death and destruction, and bloodied Russians in need of care.

"Yes, Mr. Waverly, we are both in a state of some disrepair, sir. Would it be possible to get some support here? Mr. Kuryakin is unconscious and bleeding profusely. I have a bullet in my leg, and am unable to get much farther than we are currently."

"Yes, Mr. Solo, there is a helicopter dispatched to your location… it should be there within the hour. Will you both last until help reaches you?"

The question was asked in much the same way one might inquire regarding the evening meal. Too much emotion would ruin the façade of authority, if indeed there were any emotion involved. Napoleon believed there was, he hoped for it.

"Thank you sir, I believe we will… just. Solo out."

Napoleon checked on his partner, pulling at the blood soaked sweater until Illya groaned from the pain of invading fingers poking at his wounded shoulder.

"Sorry, Illya. I think you've stopped bleeding, though."

"I imagine I have… probably not much left by now."

That got a slight chuckle from the worried American. How was it that Illya had ended up in worse shape than he? The memory of this day was a little muddled, but he was fairly certain that his partner would fill him in once they were back at headquarters.


There was just a hint of daylight left now, and a chill hung in the air, the last day of winter making itself known before spring could summon the world's attention.

"I'm here, Illya. Waverly is sending someone to pick us up, just hang in there. Tomorrow is the first day of Spring, you know. We should celebrate… go out on the town with some pretty girls and…"

Spring: the promise of new life, the end of the deadness of winter.

Napoleon looked back at the destroyed building as it smoldered, set in the midst of these pristine woods. He hoped for spring to bring some kind of relief to the death. Battling evil took a toll on his soul that he hadn't imagined when this all began.

"Celebrating spring sounds like a good idea, my friend. I could use some new life to grow over this one. I am tired, Napoleon…"

Illya passed out again, and Napoleon hoped the helicopter would arrive in time to get them the help they needed. He wanted to embrace Spring, he wanted to see Illya alive and full of mischief… Napoleon Solo realized that he wanted more from life than the constant prospect of death.

He wanted out.