Things had gone just about as badly as they could.
Granted Illya had made a very neat job of blowing the bridge of the trawler. Granted ending up in the drink was not unforeseen.
But the water had been freezing and they were further out than they had intended, the swim back was an agonising fight in the pitch black against numbing cold. When they had finally beached themselves on the grit sharp sand they were exhausted.
Neither of them had remained conscious for long and when they awoke they were in a tile lined white cell. It didn't take much imagination to guess who had picked them up. Their jailers had not yet made themselves known, but someone would turn up sooner or later to gloat, someone always did.
Napoleon was sitting on the floor of the cell, his back against the wall. He had been sitting there for a while and he was beginning to worry about Illya. Illya was sitting on the far side of the cell, hunched up and shivering. They had both been cold when they had first come round, but Napoleon had recovered as his clothes dried out. Illya seemed to be having a tougher time warming up.
''You alright?'' asked Napoleon.
''Fine'' chattered the Russian with a faintly amused smile, as if his predicament somehow tickled him.
Napoleon picked himself up from the floor of the cell and hauled the Russian to his feet. ''You don't look fine'' he said, rubbing Illya's arms vigorously, trying to chivvy some warmth back into them.
''I'll be fine in a minute'' Illya protested through rattling teeth. Napoleon pulled Illya against him, rubbing his back, trying to share some of his own body heat with his freezing partner. Illya was so cold, no part of him had any warmth.
''You need to keep moving, get the circulation going'' said Napoleon.
Illya didn't seem overly impressed with this idea ''It may have escaped your attention'' he rattled out ''but we're a bit short of space for track and field.''
Napoleon's mind grasped at straws ''Press ups'' he said ''maybe try some press ups?''
Illya looked at him for a long moment, considering his options. Then reluctantly relinquishing the warmth, he pulled away and settled himself on the floor with a graceless awkwardness. His limbs beginning to seize up on him. He rolled over to take his bodyweight on his arms, but they just gave way beneath him. He remained on his stomach for a moment as if unable to comprehend the problem, then he rolled back and made a clumsy attempt to sit up ''I don't seem to be able to'' he said, bemused.
Napoleon was really starting to worry now. ''We have to get you warmed up'' he said, moving to the front wall of their prison. It was composed entirely of bars with a door let into it, painted white like the tiles, as was the cell opposite and, from what little Napoleon could see, so was the cell next to that, and the cell next to that, repeating on down the line on both sides. ''Hey'' he shouted into the echoing emptiness ''anybody there?''
''Napoleon don't'' said Illya ''I'll be fine.''
Illya's teeth had stopped chattering. Napoleon turned back to look at him, still in a heap on the floor, apparently lacking the will or the strength to get up. He had stopped shivering and was instead turning a disquieting shade of grey-blue.
''Come here'' ordered Napoleon, moving from the bars and pulling Illya up once again. He manhandled him to the back of the cell. A raised and tiled platform ran the length of the back wall, obviously intended as a bed. It had no bedding, but neither was it the floor.
Napoleon worked himself into a corner and tugged and pulled at Illya until he was leaning back against him. The Russian had put up a token protest but hadn't had the strength for anything more. Napoleon wrapped himself around Illya trying to get as much heat into the ice cold body as he could. ''Better?'' he asked.
''Better'' conceded Illya.
''Good'' said Napoleon ''You just hang on in there OK?''
''I will be fine'' repeated Illya.
''Illya, these tiles have a better colour than you do right now'' chided Napoleon.
''I am fine'' insisted Illya ''what we need is a way out of here.''
''Well they've left me with nothing useful'' said Napoleon ''how about you?''
''Unfortunately I have nothing either'' replied Illya ruefully.
''Well that leaves the guards'' sighed Napoleon ''at some point they have to open that door and when they do, we jump them.''
''Brilliant'' sneered Illya despondently.
''Do you have anything better?'' asked Napoleon.
''No'' admitted Illya, defeated ''but I will give it some consideration.''
''You do that'' said Napoleon ''let me know what you come up with.''
''You shall be the first to know'' responded Illya with mock formality.
Napoleon hefted Illya's weight companionably in his arms ''Are we feeling any warmer?'' he asked.
The Russian pondered this for a moment. ''I'm not any colder'' he said, after due consideration.
''Well I suppose that's something'' said Napoleon, unconvinced.
''Just tired'' added Illya casually.
That set all kind of alarm bells ringing in Napoleon. He shook the Russian firmly and instructed ''No, you don't. You hear me Illya, you are not to go to sleep.''
''OK. Alright, Napoleon'' acknowledged Illya peevishly, shifting about irritably in his arms. Napoleon was glad of the fight in him, giving in was a prelude to giving up, but he knew he needed to keep the Russian talking.
''Tell me what you want to do when we get out of here'' he prompted.
''I don't know'' said Illya, still irritable ''I'm still thinking about how we get out of here.''
''Come up with anything?'' asked Napoleon.
''Not yet'' admitted Illya.
''OK then, when we do get out of here, what's the first thing you want to do?'' Napoleon repeated.
''Napoleon, it is pointless to discuss what we will do when we get out of here until we have actually found a way to get out of here and for that I need some peace to think'' Illya protested caustically.
Napoleon knitted his brows. While it was true that Illya's capacity for being irritated was all but inexhaustible, he was worried that the continued peevishness could be signposting a deterioration. However, on the up side, he had to admit the irritation was keeping the Russian awake and talking, so he persisted. ''Humour me, I'm curious, what do you want to do?''
''I intend to recheck the existing regulations with regard to shooting one's partner'' said Illya darkly.
Napoleon stifled a smirk, there were obviously some parts of Illya that were frost proof. ''I'm fairly convinced the standing instructions are against it'' he replied, grinning.
''I shall lobby for their immediate revocation'' responded Illya, stubbornly sullen.
''And I shall recommend against it'' said Napoleon still smiling and then ''C'mon Illya, you must want to do something when you get out of here. You want to get warm don't you? Say a nice long hot soak in the tub?''
''I admit that does have a certain appeal'' relented Illya.
''See?'' prompted Napoleon ''anything else?''
''OK, if we're playing that game'' sighed Illya in resignation ''a fire, a nice warm fire in the grate, something to take the chill out of your bones. Just watching the flames and being warm, I wouldn't say no to that just now.''
Napoleon wrapped himself a little tighter round Illya, the Russian had sounded like he really needed that fire. ''Sounds good, got anything else?'' he asked.
Illya's head suddenly dropped back against his shoulder and was instantly pulled away. It was obviously starting to cost him to hold it upright. Napoleon brought a hand up to his forehead. Illya shook it away impatiently. ''I'm alright'' he insisted grumpily.
''You have a temperature'' Napoleon informed him.
''We all have a temperature'' retorted Illya acidly.
''Yours is up'' said Napoleon unruffled.
''I'm alright'' reasserted Illya ''I'm just tired.''
''I know you are'' said Napoleon ''but you can't go to sleep.''
''OK. I won't sleep, but I'm still tired'' Illya responded a little incoherently. The Russian was still unnervingly cold. The beginnings of his fever didn't seem to be doing anything to change that.
''Tell me what else you'd like'' encouraged Napoleon softly.
''Vodka, I could do with some vodka. Or Cocoa, yes a nice hot Cocoa with maybe some vodka in it'' mumbled Illya none too clearly.
''Some what?'' queried Napoleon, leaning in a little to catch Illya's answer.
''Some what, what?'' repeated Illya confused.
''What were you talking about?'' Napoleon prompted gently.
''What was I talking?'' mumbled Illya ''I can't remember. Please Napoleon let me sleep now. I'm so tired, let me sleep. I just need to be able to sleep.''
''No, no sleeping Illya, you need to stay awake'' Napoleon instructed the dopey Russian.
''OK, no sleeping'' acquiesced Illya sleepily, his head falling back against Napoleon's shoulder, the continuing strength to hold it upright gone.
''Illya?'' tested Napoleon, shaking him.
''Yes Napoleon what is it?'' breathed Illya, starting to drift.
Napoleon shook him again. ''Stay with me'' he ordered firmly. Illya didn't respond. Napoleon shook him harder ''Illya'' he reprimanded.
''What? What is it? Please Napoleon, leave me alone. I'm so tired. Please let me sleep'' the sleepy Russian begged.
Napoleon felt a chill of his own grip him and he pulled Illya in tighter, willing a little of his own strength to transfer to his frighteningly cold partner. ''You can't sleep, you were coming up with a plan'' he reminded gently, bringing up a hand to stroke Illya's hair from his eyes.
''Plan?'' echoed Illya.
''Yes, what's the plan, how do we get out of here?'' Napoleon repeated.
''Plan? Plan...I suppose we could...we could...'' Illya dutifully struggled, using the last of his strength to fight the fog in his brain, then Napoleon felt him sag as the last of his reserves were exhausted and the fight went out of him. ''Napoleon, I can't. I can't think. I need to sleep. Please Napoleon. Please let me sleep. I can't think anymore'' he pleaded, drifting away.
Napoleon tried shaking him again. ''Illya'' he insisted ''Illya'' trying to rouse the unconscious Russian, but the unconscious Russian wouldn't be roused. Napoleon extricated himself from under his partner's weight, laying Illya down on the cold tiling of the platform. He began rubbing Illya's arms and legs, roughing him up in the hope of warming him enough to surface.
After nearly ten minutes the exercise was pointlessly warming Napoleon, but Illya had begun to shiver once more. Napoleon reached for his forehead, his temperature was starting to climb. ''Illya, don't do this'' he muttered half to himself, half to the uncooperative Russian. He climbed back behind Illya, grabbing him up in his arms, wrapping himself round him, willing the heat to transfer to the impossibly cold body of his partner.
Slowly Napoleon felt Illya warm a little, he stirred slightly and opened his eyes. ''Illya?'' Napoleon tried, hoping to capture and keep his attention.
''Napoleon?'' queried Illya, barely above a whisper.
''Yes it's me, I'm here'' said Napoleon ''think you can stay with me now?''
''I'll try'' said Illya without conviction ''where are we?''
Napoleon tried Illya's forehead again, his hair was becoming damp and he was burning with fever, but he was still chilled to the bone. ''THRUSH; we're in a cell'' Napoleon replied.
''Oh'' said Illya disinterestedly ''when are we leaving?''
''As soon as we can'' said Napoleon, wishing with everything he had that it was true.
''Good'' said Illya ''because I don't feel so great.''
''I know'' said Napoleon gently ''you have a fever.''
''I don't think so'' responded the confused Russian ''I'm too cold.''
''I know you are, but I need you to hang on for me, do you think you can do that?'' asked Napoleon. He struggled to shrug himself out of his jacket and wrap it round Illya.
''I'm not sure'' mumbled Illya ''I'm so cold. I just want to sleep.''
''Just try for me Illya'' Napoleon pleaded softly, he could almost feel the Russian slipping away from him.
''I just want to sleep'' repeated Illya incoherently, closing his eyes. Napoleon tried shaking him again but there was no getting him back this time.
Napoleon held onto his partner for a long time, grateful for each breath he took. Illya didn't stir again. Napoleon let his own head fall back against the cold white tiles behind him and closed his eyes, trying to think of some way to get them out, to get Illya out, to persuade whatever twisted mind was holding them that there was an advantage to Illya's continued existence. Eventually he fell asleep himself.
He woke hours later, relieved to find Illya still breathing, icy cold and wrapped in his jacket. He shifted his weight a little under the motionless Russian, stretching the stiffness from his limbs. Then he pulled Illya tight back against him, trying to warm the pitiless chill from the terrifyingly cold body.
Illya stirred and opened unfocussed eyes. ''Napoleon?'' he asked.
''Yes'' said Napoleon tenderly ''I'm here. How are you feeling?''
''I'm sorry'' Illya murmured in reply and then his eyes glazed and closed for a final time.
Something reached in and grabbed Napoleon's stomach, twisting it into an almost unbearable knot as he realised that the Russian had just said goodbye. Napoleon dropped his head to rest against his partner's, whispering uselessly into the damp blonde hair ''Not like this Illya, not like this.''
But the Russian wasn't listening, his breathing was slowing even as his temperature was rising. He was soaked in cold sweat and Napoleon held him, no longer caring what THRUSH wanted or didn't want or whether they turned up at all.
Time seemed to stand still, everything collapsing in on the faltering sound of Illya's increasingly laboured breathing. Napoleon's senses seemed to drift. The endless white numbing them. Numbing him until he was lost, drifting on a sea of white, unable to distinguish reality from dreaming. The only thing that was real, the only thing that mattered, was the weight in his arms and the sound of another man's breathing. He closed his eyes listening to each breath, silently pleading for the next, living only from inhale to exhale. Mesmerised by the declining rhythm until reality left him altogether.