JUST IN TIME
Illya is caught in a trap - can Napoleon find him and rescue him in time?
An established relationship story.
Written: February 2013. Word count: 3,700.
Illya opened his eyes, groaned and closed them again as his eyes were assaulted by a brilliant white light that had been positioned perfectly so that it shone directly onto his face. Even with his eyes shut he could still see the light burning through his eyelids. Thus resigned to the fact it was going to hurt, he slowly opened his eyes again, blinking hard as the light once more violated his eyes.
The light was so bright it physically hurt him and his head was pounding as he slowly turned it as far to the left as he could get it while fighting the nausea that was rising inside of him. Even with his head turned the light still blinded him and it took him quite some time before he could make out anything beyond the light.
Finally though, at the same time as he won the battle with the nausea, his eyes began to adjust to the light and the feeling that someone was sticking pins into them faded somewhat and he was able to work out where he was. Although as he stared around him he almost wished he wasn't able to.
He was lying strapped and tied to a table, both his hands and feet were tethered and there was a half-hoop over his neck - it wasn't touching him, but when he tried to raise his head he felt something sharp press against his skin; he hastily lowered his head again. However, the straps and hoop wasn't his major concern - something else was. Suspended from the ceiling directly over him was a thick piece of wood, the same size as the table, and sticking out from the wood were a multitude of spikes - all of which looked incredibly sharp.
And if that wasn't bad enough he could see and hear a clock ticking - except it wasn't any ordinary clock. The big hand stayed static at twelve o'clock while the other hand moved far more slowly than any normal hand moved. It didn't take a genius to figure out what would happen when the other hand joined the one that sat at twelve o'clock. Illya had no desire to be turned into a pin cushion, but even he could not at that moment see a way out of the situation he was in.
He could hardly move his hands or feet and even if he could have moved them properly, it wouldn't have helped as he had been stripped down to nothing more than his shorts - and even he didn't conceal any weapons or tools that might have helped him escape in his shorts. It appeared his life was, as it had been on many occasion, firmly in the hands of his partner - unless whomever it was who had captured him had a change of heart and he really couldn't see that happening.
However, never one to leave anything completely in the hands of others, even if one of those 'others' was his partner, Illya did try to work his hands and feet free from the constraints and wriggled on the table testing how securely he had been tethered. He stopped when he witnessed the bed of spikes above him move infinitesimally closer towards him.
Whoever had set this up knew him - and knew him well. Thus, no matter how much it pained him to do so, he had no choice but to stay where he was, unmoving, strapped to the hard table, a bed of spikes above him, a blinding light blazing into his face, watching and listening to the clock that might be the last thing he ever saw or heard.
Napoleon paced around the apartment he shared with Illya. To the eyes of a mere casual observer without training it would look as if he was simply pacing in an indiscriminate manner without paying attention to anything around him.
However, he wasn't. His movements were quite deliberate and as he paced around the various rooms his eyes scanned every piece of furniture, every fixture, every fitting as he checked and checked again and checked for a third time for any clues as to how his partner had been abducted from their apartment, by whom and where he was. It should, given the level of security (which Illya had insisting on fitting himself) have been impossible for anyone to have got into the apartment, surprised Illya (not in itself an easy thing to do) overpower him (slightly easier, especially if more than one person had been involved) and spirit him away - especially without leaving any hint of a clue.
There wasn't even a blond hair, well there was, but not where one shouldn't be; or a scruff mark on the rugs or walls; not a piece of furniture was out of place; none of the handful of pictures on the wall were crooked; none of the books had been pulled out of the bookcase, nor had the teetering pile Illya kept on the nightstand by their bed fallen over; nothing was broken, upturned, askew - and the security locks had been reset as had the code. It was as if Illya hadn't been taken from their apartment and yet Napoleon was certain he had been.
He'd left Illya preparing dinner while he returned to U.N.C.L.E. to see Mr. Waverly. He'd been gone for less than half an hour (their current apartment being less than a five minute walk from U.N.C.L.E.'s HQs) and when he'd returned it had been to find the place empty. The chicken Illya had been frying was still in the frying pan on the stove, but the gas had been turned off and the butter had been put back into the refrigerator.
It was almost as if Illya had left their apartment of his own volition to go to somewhere, to the store to buy something he'd forgotten to buy, maybe. However, Napoleon knew his partner well enough to know that had that been the case, Illya would have let him know because he would have known Napoleon may have returned to their apartment before him and would be worried if he'd found Illya not there. And Illya would never deliberately worry Napoleon.
Thus, Illya had not left their apartment by choice. However, he had apparently opened the door to his abductors and given them the code to set the security locks - both things worried Napoleon almost as much as the abduction of his partner did. But what worried him even more was that he had no idea who had spirited Illya away. They weren't actively involved in an affair at that moment, of course they had long standing enemies who would like nothing more than to take one or both of them out - but something, he didn't know what exactly, told him Illya had not been abducted by Thrush.
He had no leads; nothing to go on; just an almost over-whelming fear that maybe, just maybe for once he wouldn't be able to save Illya. Just for a moment he paused and sat down on the arm of the chair and allowed himself to wonder for the first time whether becoming more than just friends, more than just working partners with Illya had been a wise thing to do. Would he be quite his concerned, quite his afraid, quite this desperate if they didn't share a bed as well as an office?
He knew that had been Mr. Waverly's concern when they had told him of the change in their relationship and their boss had made it quite clear that if the fact they shared a bed as well as an office ever once had an impact on the way they did their jobs that they would be faced with a simple choice: end their relationship or end their partnership. So far Napoleon believed that nothing had changed and given they hadn't been called into Mr. Waverly's office and offered the choice, he believed their boss must be content as well with the way they conducted themselves and the way they did their job.
As he sat there, his gaze wandering around the room, checking things and places he had already checked he knew the answer: yes, he would still be as concerned even if he'd never taken Illya to bed because the way he felt now was no different from the way he had felt all the other times Illya had been abducted - times before they had become lovers.
Happy now he had an answer he stood up and once more began to pace around the room. The sound of the doorbell caused him to start slightly and he pulled out his gun and moving silently made his way into the hall and towards the door. "Who is it?" he called.
Illya lay still strapped and bound to the table, still watching and listening to the clock, still glancing from time to time at the bed of spikes above him; not that he really needed to look, he could see it even if he turned his head to one side as far as he could get it. He'd even tried tugging on the restraints again just to see if he hadn't imagined the bed of spikes moving, if it hadn't been some kind of optical illusion caused by the light; it hadn't.
His eyes had become quite accustomed to the blinding light and he barely noticed it now - not unless he looked directly into it. His head still pounded and he had to fight wave after wave of nausea which left his shaking and damp with perspiration and even though he was lying on his back, his body felt too large for his skin and also extremely heavy. He wasn't particularly surprised by these feelings given he knew he'd been drugged in the apartment and quite possibly again since.
He found he had a morbid fascination with watching the clock and seeing the hand move, watching it creep slowly towards the other hand. He'd tried to figure out how long he had left before the bed of spikes crashed down onto him, but no matter how hard he watched the clock and how hard he tried to compute it, he couldn't figure it out. It seemed as if the hand moved at different speeds at different times. However, given it was now on ten minutes before the hour he was quite certain of one thing: Napoleon had very little time left in which to save him.
He allowed himself to think of the man who was his partner, his friend and amazingly his lover; the man whom he knew would grieve for him, the man who would in some way blame himself for not finding a way to rescue him in time, the man who would want revenge but who would be prevented from taking it by Alexander Waverly - the man Illya respected above all other. The man who had given Illya a chance, the man who had been prepared to put aside the Cold War and had partnered an American with a Russian.
He had enjoyed working for U.N.C.L.E. - despite the number of times he'd been shot at, captured, hurt, stabbed, had suits destroyed, come close to death, been knocked unconscious. However, even though he had enjoyed it, he knew one thing: had it not been for Napoleon, had they not been partnered, he wouldn't have stayed in Section Two. He would have requested a transfer to the science section - but even though he was strapped to a table and about to be turned into a pin cushion, he had no regrets.
As the hand of the clock moved to nine minutes before the hour, Illya sighed softly as he realized he had accepted that this time there would be no rescue. He frowned and wondered quite when he had given up on his partner and why he had done so. It was unlike him to do so; on previous occasions even when he'd been seconds away from death, even when it had seemed impossible that he could be rescued he had not given up hope - he had believed in Napoleon, believed in what bound them together - and yet this time . . .
This time he had accepted this was the end. Maybe it was the drug he'd been injected with; maybe it was just that even he had to accept that Napoleon would be clueless as to where he was and who had abducted him - neither of which he knew.
He could remember moving carefully around their apartment, just as he did every day, avoiding knocking anything over or askew; he remembered turning the gas off under the chicken he'd been frying, he remembered putting the butter back into the fridge, he remembered walking to the front door and he remembered keying in the code of the security locks. And he remembered doing all these things quite calmly as a low voice ordered him to so. There had been four men (he made the assumption they were men) but he was unable to recall anything about any of them other than the low voice giving him orders. And the one thing he couldn't remember was how they had got into the apartment in the first place. And why he had opened the door to them.
Maybe that was why he had accepted that Napoleon wouldn't find him in time: he had left no clue at all. He had left their apartment just as he would have done had he left by choice. He had been unable to leave Napoleon even the smallest of clues - and while his partner was many things, a magician was not one of them.
The hand clicked up to eight minutes before the hour.
"Who is it?" Napoleon called again. Again only silence answered him. He was beginning to think whoever it was who had rung the bell had either done so by mistake and had thus hurried away once they realized their mistake or it had been someone playing a trick on him. And then the bell rang again, once, twice, three times, four, five, six -
Napoleon couldn't stand it any longer. He cocked his gun, undid the safety chain on the door, unbolted the door and opened it. Standing outside his finger poised over the bell was a man; he was tall, thin, and unkempt; his clothes didn't really fit him, he looked grubby but when Napoleon sniffed the air, he didn't get the impression that the man need a bath; the man had long hair, wild eyes and when he parted his lips Napoleon saw that more than one tooth was missing. Napoleon had never seen him before in his life.
He stared at the man who met his gaze for a moment before glancing away and beginning to look around him as he fidgeted and twisted his hands around. Slowly, keeping his eyes on the man at all times, Napoleon uncocked his gun and lowered it. "Who are you?" he asked.
The man turned to look back at him and grabbed Napoleon's wrist, instantly Napoleon raised his gun again and the man let go and took a step back. Napoleon lowered the gun again and the man pointed to Napoleon, then to himself and then along the corridor.
Napoleon frowned. "You want me to come with you?" The man nodded; again he pointed at Napoleon, at himself and along the corridor again. Napoleon hesitated, what if it was a trap? The man seemed uneasy, afraid even, but that could all be part of the plan. "Who are you?" Napoleon asked again.
The man frowned, shook his head and opened his mouth. Napoleon gasped, he couldn't help it, as he saw the man hadn't got a tongue. "Did someone do that to you?" he asked, the man stared at him, took a step backwards and then another as he glanced around him. Napoleon caught his arm. "Don't go," he said, making the decision, "I'll come with you." He pulled the door shut behind him, automatically keyed in the security code while noticing the man looked away, before he put his gun into his pocket and turned to the man who stood watching him, a wary look on his face.
Napoleon knew he should pull out his pen and contact U.N.C.L.E., he knew he could be walking into a trap that would mean the demise of both Illya and himself, but something, maybe it was the lack of a tongue or the clear fear the man was showing, made him trust him. "Are you taking me to Illya he asked? Do you know where he is?" The man frowned and shrugged. "Blond hair, about this tall, blue -" The man nodded frantically and grabbed Napoleon's arm and dragged him along the corridor.
Illya now stared at the clock and only at the clock; he had ceased to hear it ticking its way down to his death, just as he'd ceased to be blinded by the lights and just how he no longer saw the bed of spikes above him and no longer felt pain in his bound wrists and ankles.
All he could do now was to focus on the clock. Stare at the hand that moved to one minute before the hour. It had definitely moved more quickly between seven and four, slowing down after that until with excruciatingly slowness it moved from two to one.
He had no idea how long he had left - would there be an actual minute? Or longer? Or less? He didn't know, he had not been able to work out a pattern - other than there hadn't been a pattern. He wondered for a moment about closing his eyes rather than staring and seeing the moment of his death, but decided to face death as he'd always faced life: with his eyes open.
For a moment he allowed himself to wish he could have had more time with Napoleon, more time to show him how important he was to him, more time to manage to tell him he loved him, more time to laugh with him, more time to argue with him, more time to kiss him, more time to get frustrated with him, more time to make love with him, more time to - He pushed the thoughts from his mind. He didn't have more time and regret was futile. Any moment now he'd -
"Illya! No!" he heard the cry as he saw the hand move up to join the longer hand on the twelve. In spite of himself he did close his eyes and braced his body to meet the plunging spikes - but instead he gasped as he was jolted so much his entire body screamed in pain and he opened his eyes to see the bed onto which he'd been tied was against the wall and the screeching of the legs sliding over the floor still rang in the air.
He turned his head and raised it a little, ignoring the prick of the sharp point that was inside the hoop over his neck. He saw the bed or spikes on the floor and he saw . . . He saw . . . "No," he murmured, fighting the nausea that once more threatened him. "Nyet. No. No. Napoleon!" Again he struggled as hard as he could against the restraints that held him, but they just continued to hold him.
Then he heard a groan and allowed himself to hope and then from behind he now realized rather than beneath, Napoleon staggered towards him. "Lusha," he whispered; the softness of his tone as well as the brightness of his eyes told Illya so much.
Just as Illya was about to answer another figure rose from the ground and shook himself and staggered towards Napoleon's side and grabbed his arm and waved his other hand. Napoleon nodded. "You go," he said, gently pushing the other man who hesitated and looked at Illya.
Napoleon dug into his pocket and pulled out his wallet and held out a bundle of notes. "Thank you," he said. "Thank you." He held the notes closer, but the man shook his head and backed away. "Please take it," Napoleon said, taking a step towards him. However, the man just glanced at Illya again, glanced back at Napoleon and shook his head before he turned on his heel and raced from the room.
Napoleon stood for a moment and watched him before pushing the wallet back into his pocket and turning back to Illya. "Lusha," he said again as he began to move slowly towards Illya who could see he was trembling, pale and his eyes were once again bright.
Something told Illya this was not a moment for a romantic reunion - or any other kind. So foregoing what he would have liked to have said to Napoleon, he rolled his eyes and said, making sure he put just the right about of irritation into his tone, "What kept you?"
The look in Napoleon's eyes, the faint smile that touched his lips, the way he stopped trembling, stopped moving slowly and instead became U.N.C.L.E.'s CEO as he hurried to Illya's side and calmly and crisply unshackled Illya, before pulling his suit coat off and holding it for Illya to slide his arms into, told Illya it had been the right thing to say.
However, he made no objection when Napoleon caught his hand in his and led him out of the room, out of the building and into an alleyway where he made a call to U.N.C.L.E.
He made no objection when Napoleon, still holding his hand, helped him into the back of the car being driven by Mark.
He made no objection when Napoleon opened the door to their apartment and still holding his hand led Illya inside.
And he certainly made no objection when, after closing the door and securing the apartment, all the time still holding Illya's hand, Napoleon turned, pulled him into his arms and kissed him.
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