Theremin's Protege Part II, Chapter 9
-a Man from UNCLE slash fanfic by Taylor Dancinghands
Pairing: Napoleon Solo/Illya Kuryakin
Genre: slash, h/c, BDSM, A/U: BDSM Universe (Origionally created by Xanthe )
Warnings: explicit BDSM (Duh!) + m/m sex
Rating: adult, aka NC-17
Beta: The highly precise and efficient spikesgirl58 Thanks!
Length: 3 parts. Part 1 (4 chapters) ~19,000 words. Part 2 (5 chapters) ~23,000, Part 3 probably similar.
Summary: In Moscow, Napoleon must play the Top as never before, as Illya has lived the life of an obedient sub for weeks. Once transported to the abandoned and radiation contaminated city of Ozyorsk for the challenge, however, they must become agents and partners again. Never before has so much depended on Napoleon and Illya sticking, and fighting, together, so naturally their enemies will do anything to split them apart, including cheating.
Chapter 1 and Index
The next morning, they took stock over breakfast. They'd both grabbed a clutch of C-Ration bars before leaving their camp yesterday morning and had enough to last them through today, or today and tomorrow if they scrimped. Their water supply was more problematic, however, as they'd drunk liberally from Napoleon's canteen yesterday and only a cup or two remained.
"Looks like we'll be making a trip to the well first thing," Napoleon said as they washed down their food bars with carefully rationed sips. "Luckily I've still got a few water purifying tablets here." He patted one of his jacket pockets, "But no more Tang, unfortunately."
"I can't say as I noted the addition of this flavoring as any particular improvement," Illya commented. "I am satisfied to know we can render the water potable at all. I am also happy to recall that we left the bucket at the well."
"That will save us a lot of fuss and bother. The question in my mind, however, concerns the capacity of our canteen. Under normal circumstances it holds just barely enough for the daily consumption of two adults. We'd need to refill it every day… assuming we're planning on being here after today."
Illya nodded. This was the main question which would determine their immediate strategy. "It seems to me," he said, "that now that we have evened the odds, there is no reason to delay here any longer."
"You think we should head for the center?" Napoleon said. "Draw the remaining two out and meet them there?"
"If we can force them into a fair fight on open ground know we can easily defeat them—and so do they. Our challenge will be avoiding any ambushes or booby traps on the way."
"And there you have hit the nail on the head, partner mine," Napoleon said. "If I was in their shoes I'd have all the major approaches to the town center blocked or trapped, so we're going to have to get creative in planning our route."
Maps laid out on the floor of the stair landing, Illya and Napoleon worked out a route which would take them from the well, to their north and west, further west still, then south-eastward, to circumnavigate the area immediately west of the center, through which their enemies would mainly expect them to travel. It involved a large detour and meant that they would have a long day of walking ahead of them, so they packed up their scant belongings and set out forthwith.
As they skirted the block adjacent to the row of garages they could still detect a faint odor of burnt rubber and masonry dust and knew that the remainder of Reznikov's team would have no difficulty determining the fate of its four missing members. That would only pertain if the remaining team members bothered looking for them, however, and the fact that they had not returned to their own base last night with Illya in tow probably told enough of the tale that there would be no point in their seeking further details. Determining what had gone wrong, in this case, would only waste time.
No, Reznikov's two remaining Tops would be laboring, even now, to secure all approaches to the town center. Ozyorsk's town square was far from being laid out like a fortress, however, and sealing it off from the likes of Illya and Napoleon would not be an easy task. More than likely their opponents would begin with the most obvious approaches and the longer it took the two of them to get there, the more approaches would be closed or trapped.
On the other hand, the more their opponents had to wait, the more uncertain and impatient they might become. That factor had worked to their advantage yesterday, but Illya suspected that the remaining members of Reznikov's team would be less subject to boredom and carelessness. In the end it would come down to something like a race to see whether Illya and Napoleon could get to one of the eastern approaches to the town center before Reznikov's team blocked them all.
It was frustrating, then, to have to go more than a mile out of their way in order to refill their water supply, but inarguably necessary. They took a calculated risk in proceeding with little caution, figuring that their enemies would be too busy elsewhere to bother them here. Illya certainly felt none of the scalp-prickling sense of being watched that he'd experienced yesterday and so they made good time.
They drank off the remainder of the contents of the canteen before refilling it, then hid the bucket again, thought they hoped never to see it again. Then they made one more consultation of the map, confirming their route, and struck out with all due speed for Ozyorsk's town square. They walked briskly, breaking into a jog from time to time when the way seemed clear.
They stopped to consult their maps again every few blocks, which did slow them down, but not as much, Napoleon pointed out, as getting lost would. Certainly, it would be easy to get lost here among the repetitive vistas of grey, unimaginative Soviet architecture. The dull, block-like buildings had become slightly scabrous, as large chunks of their concrete facade had flaked off and now littered the sidewalks in little heaps here and there. Even so, it lent nothing in the way of personality to any of them. Many were ornamented with rusting industrial detritus, such as exposed gas pipelines, sagging power and phone cables with their ranks of shattered and intact insulators, or other less obvious support structures. None of it lifted their surroundings above the level of dismal.
On a sunny day the rust and glass might have contributed a few smudges of color to the scene, but this morning had dawned overcast with the grey clouds hanging low in the sky. Later in the morning the clouds began to unburden themselves, treating Illya and Napoleon to a faint drizzle which they largely ignored. In case of a serious downpour, they each carried a compactly folded emergency rain poncho, but these would only hinder them now. Instead their jackets slowly went from damp to wet to sodden, though the two men remained dry and warm enough beneath them.
Around midday they stopped in a bus shelter to eat another food bar each and check their progress on the map. Illya had been carrying the tracker all morning, though it had shown them nothing at all so far and he handed it off to Napoleon now.
"It seems ungrateful to say that I wish it had a longer range," Illya said, "but I'm afraid I do."
"Actually, 'You'll wish it had a longer range' was more or less what Theremin said when he gave it to me," Napoleon replied with a wry smile. "But I told him we'd be grateful for any advantage."
"And it is true that it has saved us a lot of trouble already," Illya commented, thinking of the attack they'd foiled on their first night. "But we always knew that we would primarily have to rely on our own talents."
"Which are by no means inconsiderable," Napoleon rose and stretched. "Though they will be far more formidable if we can manage to get to the town center before dark. We need to hit the road, partner."
Illya was already standing himself, stretching as Napoleon had done against the rusted bush shelter bench and closing up his jacket. "This street for two more blocks and then a jog right and then left, yes?"
Napoleon confirmed with a nod and the two of them set off again. The clouds had begun to disperse while they rested. Now they could see that the sun had reached its zenith already and was tracking towards the west with dismaying speed. They made good progress through the empty city streets and when they reached the point where the center was due south of their position they began to move in a more southerly direction. By then the shadows were beginning to grow long and in the deepest of them the air was already turning chill. All these things served to prod them to make haste, and so they did.
It was haste, in the end, and the monotony of the long day, that led then to carelessness, just as they were approaching their goal. They were headed west and a little south by the time they'd come within a few blocks of the center, so that their own shadows stretched out tall before them, or skewed off to their left. Their last obstacle soon stood in front of them. It was a massive office complex which covered a three-block expanse without break and stood between them and the center. Going around would be time consuming and almost certainly lead them into a trap, but their maps had revealed an alternative route.
They indicated a passage, and former shopping arcade, passing under the building at ground level. It was a common sort of venue for European cities which Illya was more than familiar with, so he was confident that there would be a clear and open passage from one side of the building to the other. That was, unless the building had become unstable over the last decade. What they'd seen so far in the abandoned city told Illya and Napoleon that this was a distinct possibility, so they approached the passage —appearing as a dark and foreboding maw at the base of yet another dull, blocky office complex— with all caution.
Going through without their pocket torches would not be an option. They both needed to be on the lookout for telltale piles of fallen masonry which might be their only clue that the mass of building above them could be ready to collapse. It was this careful scrutiny which saved them from the tripwires. They spotted the first only a few yards in from the entrance and they traced it to what looked like it might be a hand grenade—decidedly not among the permitted weapons for the challenge. That was not what bothered Illya about it, however.
"This does not make sense," he puzzled. "Tripping this would likely bring the whole building down and kill us both, which is not at all what Reznikov wants."
"Definitely not," Napoleon agreed. "But I'm not so sure this was placed here by Reznikov's team. Have a look at the dust, and the corrosion on the wire here. I think this was the work of some other bunch of players, from a previous challenge, who knows how long ago."
"Well that's an unsettling thought," Illya said, backing carefully away. "Not only are we passing under a possibly unstable building, but it's been rigged with aging, also probably unstable tripwires. I strongly recommend moving as expediently as possible."
Napoleon allowed as how he did not disagree in the least and they continued forward, eyes scanning constantly for more traps, as well as signs of imminent building collapse. They passed another tripwire somewhere in the middle of the passage, stepping over it with exaggerated care, and then Napoleon paused to check the tracker again. Illya understood this urge, as he was starting to get that 'watched' feeling again. His uneasiness urged him forward to where the day-lit opening of the passage beckoned.
All around him were the sad remnants of a formerly thriving community's shopping district: yellowed and curling signs promoting sweets, tobacco products, home appliances and headache cures. Each shop front was now rendered forbidding rather than welcoming by neglect and the passage of time. The darkened openings represented only potential hiding places and the hair at the nape of Illya's neck was starting to rise. There was someone watching them from one of these dark recesses, he was sure of it.
Illya turned back to check on Napoleon's progress and to alert him to his own foreboding feelings, when he saw Napoleon turn suddenly to his right, shining his flashlight into the dark. "You!" he cried suddenly.
Immediately Illya began to run to his Top's side, his eyes never leaving the place where Napoleon stood, torch in one hand, cosh in the other. Then Illya saw him drop suddenly, not in the manner of one struck, but a dodge —but dodging what? Then Illya saw the silvery projectile which flew out of the shadows, caught in the beams of both their flashlights, missing its target and gaving itself away. It was another one of those ball bearings, which Napoleon had dodged once before and which their pursuer, who Napoleon had recognized, most likely as Curly, was now firing from within the shadows at the easy target Napoleon made while holding his flashlight.
More would surely follow and Illya ought to be closer to his Top, to shield him from further easy targeting, but even as these thoughts flashed through his consciousness Illya was still following the path of the shot that had missed Napoleon. It had been fired from a low angle and now sped on past where it should have intercepted its target, to strike the ceiling, knocking loose some of the tiles that still barely clung there. For one long breathless moment nothing in the passage seemed to move save for those falling tiles, all eyes tracking their trajectory… right onto one of the tripwires.
"Run!!" Napoleon commanded immediately from where he crouched, but for a fraction of a second Illya hesitated. Leaving Napoleon's side at this crisis moment seemed terribly wrong, but other instincts overrode this urge. For one thing, his Top's command was unmistakable and for another, Illya had older, far more ingrained instincts concerning live grenades. He bolted, even as he counted the seconds —guessing at five— utill the blast would come.
Illya continued running as his count proved accurate, feeling fragments of masonry pelt him in the back of Napoleon's leather jacket in the wake of the blast, hearing the whole building around and above him groan in its imminent death throes. Run! Get out! he silently begged his partner as he heard the crashing thud of the passage collapsing behind him, even as he knew how unlikely it was that Napoleon would be able to escape. Those critical few yards would make all the difference and if Illya had stayed closer to his Top as he ought… then he'd be suffering the same fate as Napoleon now.
Running as hard as he had ever run in his life, Illya stumbled into daylight almost by surprise. He stopped when he fetched up against a crumbling concrete bench —one of several facing a dismally decrepit fountain at the center of what had once been a small square. Lungs heaving, he turned back to see what he had escaped and saw that the massive building he had just come out from under was still collapsing into its center, horrific cracks appearing and growing in the outer walls before Illya's eyes. A dense plume of dust was being ejected from the passage he had just fled… but nothing living emerged.
A sort of numbness came over Illya then, but not paralysis. He had to go back in, on the smallest chance that Napoleon had survived and needed help. It made no matter whatsoever that reentering that passage was tantamount to suicide. Moistening a bandanna from one of his jacket pockets in the residue of rainwater in the basin of the fountain, Illya tied it over his nose and mouth and turned to enter the dust-laden air near the entrance of the passage. He had not gone more than a few steps, however, before another figure entered the square… and it was not Napoleon.
"And where do you think you're going, submissive?" he asked. Everything became depressingly clear to Illya in that moment.
The man Napoleon had recognized in the passage must have been 'Curley',who they had not noticed because he had no tracking beacon. This last opponent must have been waiting here, out of the tracker's range. He would be the last survivor of Reznikov's team, and he must be counting himself victorious now for he was still alive while Napoleon Solo was dead. He had placed himself between Illya and the entrance to the passage, making Illya's first choice of actions problematic. His second choice… Illya's heart pounded in his chest as he examined the available options.
On the other side of the square from the passage and his pursuer, Illya noticed another building of seven stories or so, with another rusted fire escape climbing one side. Seven stories, he calculated emotionlessly, would likely be enough. Sparing the last of his would be captors only the briefest glance, Illya pulled the now-unnecessary bandana off his face. He turned away from the ruined building where his Top and partner and love of his life lay buried and turned toward the object that would aid him in his last free act.
"Stop! Come back here!" the man shouted, but Illya was deaf to his cries. He walked quickly and with purpose to stand below the fire escape while the last of Reznikov's men looked on in puzzlement. He would not be puzzled for long, so Illya leapt up to catch hold of the ladder, feeling the sharp powder of rust abrade his hands. The ladder descended most of the way, then jammed, but it was low enough for Illya to pull himself up onto it easily. The man was running now, probably getting an idea of what Illya had in mind.
"Submissive! Illya!" he shouted. "You come down this second! Obey your Top!" It was ridiculous, really, how he seemed to expect Illya to comply merely because a Top commanded it. There was only one Top who could ever command him, and he… would never command him again. Illya climbed on.
"For pity's sake, Kuryakin! What do you think you're doing?" The man really had no clue and Illya would not deign to give him any. He would draw his own conclusions eventually.
That end was drawing near as the top of the fire escape grew closer. The entire structure was groaning with the unaccustomed weight and was patently unsafe, but that was of no concern to Illya now, save that he reach the top before the whole thing came crashing down. Upon achieving the uppermost platform Illya tested the railing. If it simply broke away then he would not have to climb over it, but it seemed relatively sturdy.
His pursuer stood at the base of the fire escape now, not daring to follow Illya up. "Kuryakin! Stop these ridiculous dramatics immediately!" he shouted, and now Illya could hear the traces of fear in the man's voice, though he was trying to sound conciliatory. "It's time to come home to your new Top now. He'll take good care of you. You can have a good life, but he won't be pleased to hear about this behavior. Come down now and I'll say nothing about it."
It would be laughable if Illya weren't contemplating his own death. The death he contemplated looked, at the moment, like the weedy patch of gravel at the base of the fire escape, some eighty plus feet below. Drawing in a steadying breath, Illya swung one leg over the railing.
"Dammit, Kuryakin! Don't be a fool!" He was starting to sound desperate now—so desperate he had actually begun to climb the fire escape—and Illya almost felt sorry for him. Any ambitions his pursuer had for improving his position in Reznikov's eyes would be dashed completely if he failed to return a healthy, living submissive to his Master. But this was no concern of Illya's anymore. He closed his eyes. There was nothing more he needed to see.
"You stupid bastard! You can't possibly think that anyone will believe this pathetic attem…"
Illya's eyes blinked open at the sudden silence. In that silence he heard the ringing plink, clink, clang of a steel ball bearing, pin-balling its way down through the fire escape to the ground. Hands clutching white knuckled on the railing he straddled, Illya swung his gaze up and out and saw… an almost ghostly figure standing just behind the ruined fountain —'wrist rocket' launcher still perched on his arm. He was white with caked masonry dust from head to toe and now began to walk toward the fire escape slowly, as a man in pain, but Illya knew in an instant who it was who walked like that when he was hurting, knew his form and figure like he knew his own hand.
Illya would never be able to remember how he got from the top of that fire escape to the ground. Clear in his memories was his desperate need to descend as quickly and yet carefully as possible, so as not to bring the rickety structure crashing down around him. He had no memory of stepping over or around the still, fallen form of Reznikov's last man, nor of climbing down the last stretch of rusted ladder. He remembered only finding himself at Napoleon's side, then dropping, compelled by some primal instinct, to his knees to abase himself before his Top.
He had done much the same at the hearing when he had been commanded to greet his Top, but that had been a considered move, for all that it had felt utterly right when he did it. What he did now came without any thought or consideration, under the command of a force as fundamental and undeniable as gravity. He laid his cheek against his Top's thigh, heedless of the dust and dirt there, mindful only of how profoundly relieved he was to feel the warmth and solidity of it. There were no words in him, nor would there ever be, for what he felt in that moment.
In the hearing, Napoleon had reached down to touch him with affection, speaking soft, comforting words, but now it seemed that Napoleon had no words either. Instead he fell to his knees as well, wrapping Illya in arms that shook with emotion. Napoleon's embrace was crushing, desperate, and echoed everything that Illya felt himself. He returned Napoleon's gesture so that their heads rested on each others' shoulders, and the two of them knelt there in silence for a long, timeless moment.
They rose together, eventually, pulling each other to their feet, and Illya came to note the nature of his Top's injuries. Illya led them back to the square and carefully sat Napoleon on one of the more intact benches. He tended to his Top then, first removing and wetting his bandana again to wash the dust off his Top's face. Next he opened Napoleon's coat and raised his shirt, seeing the bruising there which he'd suspected he would find, suggesting cracked or broken ribs.
Using first-aid supplies which they'd both secreted in various jacket pockets, he taped Napoleon's ribs and replaced his shirt. Then he moved to address the foot he'd noticed Napoleon favoring, removing the boot and sock to wrap the swollen and purpling ankle, then easing the boot back on when he was done. He worked in silence, demonstrating his devotion with knowing hands and careful touches. Napoleon remained silent as well, save for the occasional small sound or intake of breath when something pained him. He would reach out to touch Illya's face from time to time, caressing a cheek or smoothing his hair, but did not speak.
When Illya had finished securing Napoleon's more serious injuries and washing the dust from his various cuts and scrapes, he lifted himself up to sit beside his Top on the bench, letting his head fall to rest on Napoleon's shoulder. Napoleon took hold of his hand and they sat in this manner for some time as the sun dropped down below the city skyline and the little square became a pool of shadow. The air began to cool as well and Napoleon reached an arm around his sub to pull him in closer.
"I only had the one shot," Napoleon said at last, without preamble. "I knew I couldn't fight him, so I had to make it."
"And you did," Illya answered quietly. "You always make your shot when it matters."
Napoleon nodded and was quiet for another long moment before he spoke again. "It was… terrifying, seeing you up there, ready to jump… but at the same time I was glad." Illya blinked, turning his head to stare at his Top with surprise. "I knew then that I didn't need to worry," Napoleon explained. "If I… if I hadn't made it, I knew then that you would never be forced to live the rest of your life as Reznikov's submissive. You had the strength to see it through… that's what I was glad of."
Illya swallowed, remembering how close he had come to seeing it through. "I am glad that I didn't have to," he said eventually.
"Me, too," Napoleon said with a pained smile. "The crazy thing is that it was 'Curly' who saved my life. I'm sure that wasn't his intention when he pushed me out of his way in his haste to get out of that passage, but when he did he put himself right under that falling beam instead of me." Napoleon shook his head in bemusement. "It cost me four whole seconds to get that wrist rocket off his hand afterwards, and I thought it was a maybe a stupid waste of time, but in the end it saved us both."
"Solo's luck… it remains with you, still," Illya said with a wry smile.
"With me, yes," Napoleon said with a trace of bitterness, "but not necessarily with you. You know they're going to expect me to be hard with you tonight, physical limitations notwithstanding. The Top they saw at that hearing wouldn't let a little thing like cracked ribs stop him from punishing his 'runaway' sub."
Illya nodded, though he had not thought this far into the future yet. "I understand." he said.
"And there's another thing they're going to expect…" Napoleon continued. "Take that bandanna you were washing me with and rinse it out, please."
Not quite sure yet what Napoleon had in mind, Illya did as he was asked. Napoleon took the black bandanna from him then, wrung it as dry as he could, folded it neatly into a narrow band and asked Illya to present his neck. Now Illya knew what Napoleon meant to do.
"I know this probably feels like the real thing right now," Napoleon said as he tied the bandanna in place around Illya's neck. "And in a way it is. There's a part of me that needs to do this and I'm betting that there's a part of you that wants this just as badly, but we both need to remember that this isn't who either of us really is."
Illya nodded, swallowing hard as he felt the makeshift 'collar' on his neck and felt the implication of it deep in his submissive soul. He did want it and could not imagine wanting to be free of it, but at the same time he knew Napoleon was right. Napoleon did not really want him—or anyone—as his collared submissive, and Illya did not really want any Top's collar. At the moment, however, it was hard to keep that in mind, and he said so to Napoleon.
"Believe me," Napoleon said. "I'm feeling exactly the same at the moment, but this isn't really us and it isn't our life. We'll get back to that life soon, and then we'll both remember who we really are. We'll do this carefully every step of the way, though, and I'll never hurt you. You know that."
"I do," Illya said. "I trust you as I always have and that trust has never needed a collar and never will." He took Napoleon's hand and squeezed it and Napoleon bent to kiss him on the lips.
"I am honored by your trust," he said, "with or without a collar. Now," he continued, beginning to stand painfully. "Let's get out of here and get the rest of this farce over with."
Instinctively, Illya helped his Top to his feet and supported him as they made their way across this little square to the larger one beyond, where the guard station lay. Napoleon's arm over his shoulders probably appeared possessive to the guards in the tower who looked down upon them as they arrived, but Illya was actually carrying much of Napoleon's weight. There was truth, however, in the illusion, and illusion in the truth. It was how they managed much in their business and from this Illya understood that all would be well with both of them, in the end.
Coming Next: Part III - Reset to default