by Meris

It was a night of all thumbs.

The stakeout had caught the wrong person, a water meter reader who really was a water meter reader and bewildered by the attention he'd garnered. Their guns had fallen in the backed up pool when they tackled the meter reader, they were soaked, the communicators had been cracked by the same fall. The rain was freezing. Their normal car was unavailable, the replacement too small with not enough heat.

Illya sat and shivered in the cold car. He'd found a pay phone a couple of blocks away and had reported their failure, wincing a little at Waverly's patient tones and the admonition to stay put until morning to see if their bird would still alight in its little nest.

Why did they do this? Why on earth had he chosen to be a spy? Why endure all the craziness that came with trying to save the world? Why hadn't he just stayed in Mother Russia and been a good drone, worked for the good of the motherland, been a scientist who could save the world in the comfort of a dry lab?

Even as the bleak little thoughts skimmed through his mind, he struggled to throw them out, knowing that the moodiness was temporary. Just part and parcel of being what they were, dealing with the conditions as they happened. It was nobody's fault that saving the world also had to happen on cold, rainy nights of total boredom.

The cough of the ignition was a faint discord in his reverie, a lying promise of heat to come.

"Don't worry, tovarisch. You win some, you lose some." Napoleon's hard clasp on the back of his neck roused him from the circular trudging path of his thoughts. Illya turned to look at him, and Napoleon smiled at him even as his thumb massaged the stiff tendons of Illya's cold neck. "Hmm, you'll need a good mug of cider when we get home. We'll put a little schnapps in to heat us up, turn on the morning show, watch the news, go to bed." Then both hands returned to the steering wheel and Napoleon paid attention to the road, leaving Illya looking at him, his mind suddenly stretched between the opposing pulls of his negative thoughts and the cosy, everyday world he heard below Napoleon's words, as if all the world's woes came down to a riddle.

What was the sound of Napoleon smiling?

And Illya was enlightened.

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