Division of Labor

Fandom: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Category: gen

Rating: G

Word Count: 728

 

The room was filling with smoke from the ruin of the big machine. Illya had managed to switch out the programming card for the special one that UNCLE had provided — made of finest quality plastic explosives — and it had done its job well. There was a great hole in the ceiling and the entire floor above was crumbling and falling at inconvenient intervals.

We got separated during the blast, but we were supposed to be making our way out of the building. While he chased down the THRUSH baddie, my job was to bring out Dr. Lager — if he hadn’t been killed already.

I had found the room where he was being held, but he hadn’t been alone. I found Illya’s guy and my guy — the former about to execute the latter.

Now I watched as the barrel came up in pain-staking slow motion. The revolver chamber was rolling over, the hammer throwing sparks into the thickening air, the solid slug of lead spitting from the gun —

Something moved between us — some dark shape with a halo of gold — and then time surged forward and the next thing my amazed brain registered was that I somehow had the gun and the man who had been wielding it was clutching a broken jaw.

Illya was on the floor, hugging his chest and rocking. I knelt, cupping my hand to the back of his neck. “Illya?” He was struggling to draw a breath, batting at my hands when I tried to move his arms. “Stop fighting me, you stubborn Russian! Let me see where you’ve been hit.”

“It’s — nothing!” he managed to say with a strangled gasp. “L-Lager! Get —” he wheezed “h-him out!”

“There’s an idea,” I said dryly. “And I’ll just leave you here to bleed to death. Or burn,” I added, noticing the blackness of the smoke roiling along the rafters. I shouted at Lager, who was cowering beneath the window, “Time to go, Doc! Grab an end.”

He took Illya’s feet and together we toted him out of the building. He wouldn’t have been much of a burden even for just one of us, but he kept squirming in our arms. I didn’t mind; dead men don’t wiggle.

“Put me down please!”

They don’t whine, either. I couldn’t help but smile, it spread across my face as we set him down on the grass some distance from the burning building. He sat up right away, tearing at the shreds of his shirtfront.

“Damn… it’s ruined!”

“There, there, Illya,” I patted his arm. “We can always buy you another shirt.”

“Not the shirt, Napoleon. This.” He held out the computer card he’d stolen when he’d planted the explosive in its place. It was dented; the bullet that could have killed either of us had torn through the delicate matrix of wires and plastic and embedded itself. There was a smear of scarlet on his fingers, and I could see where the sharp edges had abraded his skin. “Mr. Waverly will not be pleased.”

“He will be when we bring him the man who can build him another one.” I placed my hand over his heart, relieved to feel the hammering beneath my fingers and the clean handkerchief, and helped him stand. “Thanks, by the way. I owe you another one.”

He snorted softly. “We’ve never kept score before. Why start now? Besides,” his dry chuckle had only a small hitch “it’s what we do. You save the day… and I save you.”

“Except when it’s the other way around.”

He let me steady him as we walked, and he didn’t fight with me as I handed him to the UNCLE medical team. Mr. Waverly arrived right after the ambulance, and I turned to give him a report. When I turned back, Lager was in the hands of the medics, and Illya was nowhere to be seen.

That slippery Russian! I knew where I’d find him, so I didn’t worry. He’d be at the office, typing up our official report and ready to hit the town as soon as I got there. Staring in the face of death, it gives you a certain clarity; I could see it all, and it made me smile more.

But my hands shook a little as I folded the bloodstained handkerchief and slipped it in my pocket.

This one had been too close.

 

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