Title: The Flashpoint of Ice
Gen or Slash: Gen, but feel free to pretend it's pre-Slash.
Disclaimer: Honest to God, I don't have a foot fetish! While I'm sure Napoleon has lovely toes, I have no idea how
his feet came to play such a significant part in my last three stories.
Beta: Thanks go to EH! I'm forever grateful to her for sharing her DVDs and evil inspiration.
Feedback: Yes, please!
The Flashpoint of Ice
You never really know your friends from
your enemies until the ice breaks.
Napoleon had intended to resolve the issue much earlier. In fact, he’d been quite literally walking from Personnel
with the questionable file in hand, when Waverly’s summons had come. He hadn’t thought twice about depositing
the folder on his desk where it sat forgotten for the next two weeks. The fate of the world always takes precedence over
a clerical error.
But now, on his knees in the dirt with a gun at his head and hostile soldiers on every side, it occurred to Napoleon that
his life might very well be resting hands of someone who was not completely trustworthy. A discrepancy in a file might be
nothing, or it might be the single flaw in an otherwise perfect forgery. Napoleon felt the barrel of the gun jab the back
of his head, punctuating the General’s rant, each exclamation mark driven into his skull. He knew he should be paying
attention, taking in every detail, but he couldn’t stop worrying. It would be so easy for Illya to be just a few moments
Napoleon could hear the soldiers around him shuffling their feet, bored already with the General’s speech. Doubtless
they’d heard it all before. He’d know his time was nearly up when they came back to attention, because that would
mean the General was almost done. In the meantime, however, he could wonder how well he knew Illya. A newer agent, the man
seemed competent enough. But missions were delicate things. A mole wouldn’t have to be blatantly incompetent to sabotage
them. Just a minor shift in timing, and U.N.C.L.E. would have one fewer agent.
The dull thud of the gas canisters hitting the dirt was a beautiful sound. Napoleon took a single quick breath, and then
dropped to the ground as the yellow clouds rolled across the compound. A bullet meant for his head parted his hair instead.
A boot thumped into his ribs, but it was an incidental contact. The soldiers were panicking.
Napoleon grabbed an ankle and twisted, pulling the owner down to the ground. A quick scramble forward was followed by a right
cross to the chin. He had a gun now, but he was blind, his eyes burning from the gas. He had to keep moving, find cover.
His lungs were straining, and gray static was pushing in from the edges of his vision.
He twisted, rising up onto his knees. A mask was shoved into his hand, and he held it over his face, gasping for breath.
Then his arm was grabbed, firmly, and he was running after a familiar figure, seeing the blond hair like a beacon through
Illya should wear a hat, Napoleon thought, distractedly. It was dangerous, being a blond in a country of dark-haired people.
Unless, added a small voice in the back of his head, you want to be noticed.
Then he was tumbling into the back seat of a jeep, laying down fire behind as Illya hit the gas. No need for perfect vision,
only a vain wish for a spare clip as the gun emptied and became nothing more than a hunk of metal in his hand. He didn’t
throw it after them. Long habit forced him to ratchet back the slide and make the gun safe before jamming it into the back
of his waistband. The jeep swerved and Napoleon grabbed for purchase.
A bullet spanged off the rear of the jeep, just missing his fingers. He yanked his hand back as more bullets followed the
first. The jeep shuddered, and Illya cursed.
“Problems?” asked Napoleon, hanging onto the back of Illya’s seat.
“The fuel tank has been hit. We need to get off the road.” Illya’s voice was clipped, and Napoleon felt
his hackles go up, his earlier suspicions resurfacing.
“Why didn’t you meet me earlier? Where were you? If I can’t depend on you to be on time--!”
“I saw them setting up the ambush. If I’d met you, we’d both have been taken.” Illya wrenched the
wheel hard to the right and suddenly Napoleon’s vision was filled with a chaotic landscape of green. He felt his stomach
lurch as the nose of the jeep dropped precipitously.
“And then what? Did you stop for a soda?”
He didn’t get an answer. The jeep came to a crashing halt and his forehead hit the back of Illya’s skull. He
heard a yelp, but wasn’t sure if it was his own or Illya’s. Fireworks ignited in his vision, bright stars and
sparklers as he tumbled over the side of the jeep and landed on something soft, wet and unpleasant smelling.
Another suit ruined.
Illya was shouting at him now, and there were more shouts from behind them, so Napoleon picked himself up and ran. His shoes
were sinking into the muck, and he could feel cold water soaking into his socks.
Three not entirely impassable bogs, a lot of mud, and a prickly bush later, Napoleon halted. Illya continued ahead, his head
down, slogging determinedly through the swamp. There was nothing to see in any direction but overgrown scrub and weeds, and
it was rapidly getting dark. “Wait!”
Illya stopped and looked back, breathing hard. He was holding his side.
“Do you have any idea where we’re going?”
A hint of embarrassment crossed Illya’s face. “There’s a road...” Some of the energy seemed to go
out of him, and his shoulders drooped. “And we should have come across it already.”
“Never mind,” said Napoleon, magnanimously. “We’ll stop here for the night. I’m sure we’re
not far and there’s no sense running in circles in the dark.”
Illya simply nodded and dropped to the ground, resting his head on his knees. Napoleon made sure the ground was dry before
sitting down beside him. They were perched on a small hummock in the marsh, screened from view on every side. He patted
his jacket and found his comb. As he fixed his hair, he considered Illya.
Sweat darkened hair, back moving up and down under the thin shirt, sweat stains and dried blood on his side...
“Are you okay?” asked Napoleon, putting his comb away.
“I’m tired and I’m hungry and I want a shower and...” Illya paused.
“And?” asked Napoleon, encouragingly. He moved his toes, hearing sloshing noises inside his shoes. Italian leather
was not meant to be treated so badly.
“And I’ve got a small crease.”
Napoleon immediately forgot about his shoes. “Where?”
Illya quickly added, “It’s nothing.”
“Let’s see,” said Napoleon.
Illya lifted the tail of his shirt. The fading light made it difficult to see. Napoleon peered closely, ignoring the hisses
coming from Illya as he traced the wound with gentle fingers. “Well, the bullet does seem to have gone right through.”
But it was somewhat more than a crease. Fresh blood was still seeping slowly from the half closed wound.
“Satisfied now?” asked Illya, pulling his shirt down.
Napoleon wasn’t satisfied. But they had no bandages, no antiseptics, and they wouldn’t be going anywhere until
morning, so he said, “Perfectly. Though you do realize I’ll have to tell Waverly that you’ve forgotten
how to duck. Do you need a live ammo refresher course?”
Illya shuddered. “Jules Cutter is a madman.”
The deepening shadows amplified the sounds of the forest. The birds quieted as the insect night shift took over, their high
pitched hum warning of a long night ahead. Napoleon’s attempts to find a comfortable spot on the lumpy ground led to
more loud squishing sounds from his shoes, and reminded him of the deplorable state of his feet. He reached down and began
untying his left shoe. “And yet it seems you spent over a year and a half completing the nine month course at Survival
“Ah,” said Illya.
Napoleon poured the water out of his shoe. Then he removed his sock and wrung it out, hanging it over a nearby branch to
“You’ve been looking at my files,” said Illya.
Napoleon emptied his right shoe onto the ground. It was really startling how much water a pair of Italian shoes could hold.
He ignored the midges that homed in on his movements. The tiny flying insects were no doubt already working their way into
his clothes, eager for a feast. Thinking about the bugs too much was a recipe for madness.
“I suppose you want an explanation,” said Illya.
“That would be nice. Carla likes having her papers in order and it upset her considerably when she realized your start
and finish dates didn’t line up.” Napoleon peeled his right sock off, and squeezed the water out. He hung it
next to the other and then stretched his feet out and wiggled his toes. He’d have to see about arranging another pedicure
when he got back to New York.
He heard a soft slap, followed by a quiet grunt of discomfort. Illya was a shadow now in the darkness.
“You’ll get trench foot sitting around in wet shoes,” said Napoleon. “Take them off.”
Napoleon remembered the hole in Illya’s side. “I’ll do it. You can explain to me the discrepancy in your
dates for Survival School.”
A foot lifted obediently. “Do you remember Cutter’s car?”
There was too much mud caked over Illya’s shoe to find the laces. Napoleon tugged on the heel. “Do I remember?
It was an Aston Martin DB2 Coupe. Silver. He liked to make us polish that wretched thing whenever we weren’t measuring
up to his ludicrous standards.” The shoe came loose and he dropped it, fastidiously wiping his fingers on nearby leaves.
He tried not to think about what Illya had been slogging through.
Illya made a rude noise. “It was ridiculous. He didn’t need a car on the island. Where would he drive to?
And the car itself! A six thousand dollar symbol of Western extravagance, and an egregious abuse of power...” He stopped
with an oddly choked sound.
“What?” asked Napoleon, feeling Illya’s foot jerk under his hands. The sock was half off.
“I just said it was ridiculous,” repeated Illya, but he sounded strained.
Experimentally, Napoleon dragged the tip of his finger up along Illya’s arch.
“You’re ticklish!” Napoleon was delighted. How utterly adorable, he thought.
“Give me my foot back!”
Napoleon tightened his grip on Illya’s ankle. “Don’t squirm. You’ll just hurt yourself.”
“Ow, ow, ow.”
“See? I told you. Now, if you don’t want me to tickle you again, say, ‘Napoleon is always right’.”
“Napoleon is an ass.”
Napoleon drummed a brief tattoo on the bottom of Illya’s foot, before allowing him to yank it back. “You’re
lucky I’m such a forgiving man. Now let’s have the other foot.”
A shoe thumped solidly into Napoleon’s thigh, just short of a kick. “Did you hear what happened to Cutter’s
“I recall hearing something about an accident.” Napoleon grabbed the shoe and began working it off. From the
state of the toenails it would appear he’d never had a proper pedicure in his life. He wondered if Illya would be offended
if he made him an appointment when they got home.
“It blew up.”
“Well, technically, the car caught fire first. Then it blew up. I’d warned Cutter that the flashpoint of carnauba
wax is 102 degrees Fahrenheit. In a tropical environment, especially after repeated applications, it was just a matter of
“You blew up Cutter’s car!”
Napoleon felt Illya stiffen. “I did not say that. I merely said that his car blew up.”
“But Cutter had you sent back to the Soviet Union.” Napoleon hung Illya’s socks next to his own on the
branch. There was something pleasantly domestic about all this, and he felt vaguely guilty for his earlier suspicions.
“My superiors were quite annoyed. I spent the next six months in Siberia, where I performed my duties with distinction.”
Napoleon smiled at the tone of offended dignity in Illya’s voice. “How did you find your way back to U.N.C.L.E?”
Waverly had been talking about restructuring Section Two, assigning each agent a permanent partner. He’d been uncertain
about the plan, but now he thought it might not be such a bad idea. He could enjoy getting to know Illya better.
“Each member state is obliged to provide at least one agent.” Illya paused. “And there was an incident
with an igloo.”
“Was it also a symbol of capitalist decadence?”
“Let’s just say that it caught fire. And then it blew up.”
Napoleon leaned back on his elbows, chuckling. “I’m glad you made it through the second time. Even if you have
got us lost in a bog.”
Ignoring the jab, Illya said, “When I returned to the island, Cutter made sure I was kept... occupied. I spent my personal
time assisting the explosives instructor, and I ended up staying an extra month to teach the course myself.”
Something was nagging at the back of Napoleon’s mind. Beyond the wind and the midges, there was a familiar sound, so
distant he hadn’t completely registered it. He sat up, listening harder.
Illya’s hand touched his shoulder in the dark. “Bloodhounds.”
With a sigh, Napoleon reached for the socks. He handed Illya the slightly dryer pair and began pulling on the others.
“The road can’t be much further from here,” said Illya optimistically.
Napoleon didn’t ask about the bullet wound in his side. Once they found the road, they could easily make their way
to the town. And there would be food, shelter and medical supplies. He could get someone to look after Illya, and then finish
the mission himself.
“They won’t expect us to double back to the garrison,” said Illya. “With everyone out looking for
us, it’ll be almost unmanned.”
Napoleon paused, his foot half into his shoe. The sound of baying hounds was growing louder. It occurred to him that he
was too much in the habit of thinking like a solo agent. So to speak.
“I believe,” added Illya, “that I may have spotted the munitions depot on my way in.”
And Illya was hardly an innocent. Napoleon stood up and stamped down hard, jamming his shoe the rest of the way onto his
foot. Reaching down, he gave Illya a hand up. “It would be a tragedy if that lovely garrison caught fire.”
There was a flash of white teeth in the dark. “And then blew up.”