Written for today’s short affair prompt at Section VII.
Summary: Napoleon is seeing dollar signs after their latest mission; Illya gently brings him back down to Earth.
Notes: this piece takes place in 1963 (so they’ve been partners 3 years) and references the events of my Monkees fic “Manchester Jones and the Golden Curse,” the events of which take place years after this piece.
Cross-posted to AO3.
Napoleon was quiet as he pondered over the old drawing in his hands; he and his partner had seized it from a THRUSH agent they had arrested in England who had been apparently stalking a man, claiming that his intended victim had two ancient artifacts out of a set of three that, according to legend, could create endless gold when brought together. The THRUSHie had waved this drawing around—a drawing of a crook and flail, the kind held by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. It was the kind of mysterious story that intrigued Napoleon, who had always believed in the strange and the unexplained, and left him wondering if there was any grain of truth to the legend.
Illya, naturally, dismissed the entire thing and had been more focused on ordering room service to their hotel room, having figured that they’d earned a good meal after their success at apprehending the THRUSHie. After placing the order, Illya put the phone down and glanced at Napoleon.
“Are you still thinking about that?” the Russian queried.
“You have to admit, it’s an interesting story,” Napoleon countered.
“And nothing more,” Illya reminded him.
“Well, maybe not,” Napoleon said. “The ‘endless gold’ part could be metaphorical, but these three items could be keys that unlock some hidden chamber full of gold.”
“And I suppose you would wish to go on a quest to find this chamber of gold?” Illya asked. “What would you even do with it?”
“What does anyone do with a room full of gold?” Napoleon said, glancing at the ceiling with a dreamy expression on his face.
“Well, I certainly wouldn’t know,” Illya stated. “Though I now have an image of you in golden regalia.” He rolled his eyes as Napoleon grinned in response, clearly picturing it himself. “Forgive me for bursting your bubble, but the antiquities laws would forbid you from claiming any artifacts for yourself, anyway—antiquities laws that you, as an U.N.C.L.E. agent, are expected to enforce. So unless you plan on going rogue, you can forget your chamber of ancient gold.”
“Still, it’s nice to think about…” he said. “I mean, don’t you ever think of getting a sudden windfall?”
“And I ask you the same question--what would I do with it?” Illya queried.
“Well… buy things, of course?”
“Everything I want, I have.”
“Not even a nice mansion?”
“Too much to clean.”
“Well, you’d have cleaning staff.”
“Napoleon, that is utterly pointless—buying rooms upon rooms I will never use and a staff to clean them because they are dusty from never being used!”
“Okay, okay, so you don’t need a mansion or all those luxuries. But what about a nice nest egg for a rainy day?”
“I have emergency funds saved,” Illya countered. “Napoleon, really, I have no use for a windfall. I have what I need; I do not feel as though I lack anything. And I think, once you get past your initial daydreams, you will find that your life will remain mostly the same.”
“Oh, I think there’d be a lot of changes…”
“Really?” Illya asked. “Say you were to receive a quarter of a million dollars tomorrow…”
“…Not quite a roomful of gold, but believable. And still a very pleasant thought,” Napoleon said.
“Da. What would you do with it?”
“Hmm, well… I’d say, save most of it, and have at it with about $5000—the best food, the best drinks, some new clothes, maybe some other things… Maybe I could spend some more and get a new car, and a house…”
“And then the rest of the money sits there in the bank, rotting away?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say that; it gets interest, and it’s there for a rainy day,” Napoleon said. “Maybe I’m materialistic, but it’s just a vice I live with.”
“I do not think that vice is as controlling as you think,” Illya said. “For one thing, even if you had the extra money to pay for everything you need for the rest of your life, would you leave U.N.C.L.E.?”
“But you would have all the money you need. Or are you saying that the money cannot give you the sense of purpose this job gives you?”
Napoleon gave him a look.
“Okay, you’ve made your point,” he admitted. “Money isn’t everything—but it is still nice to have. That extra quarter-million you mentioned is something I can use regardless.”
“Well, I seem to recall, last October, you were offered a quarter of a million dollars in exchange for handing me over to some rogue agents.”
“…That’s different. Nothing about that was legal, and even if it had been legal, I could never…” Napoleon trailed off, shaking his head, and then exhaling. “Alright, you win. As much as I would enjoy more money, I really do have all the important things already—and that includes you.”
He cast a glance at the drawing of the artifacts and put it away; Illya smirked in triumph, and then perked up he heard a knock on the door.
“Ah, the food is here!”
Napoleon suppressed a chuckle and, once the food was brought in, decided to dig in, suddenly feeling hungry.
“So tell me the truth, Illya,” he said, as he loaded up a plate. “If I did win the lottery and get a quarter-million dollars that way, and if I wanted to share it with you… Would you accept it?”
“I think you would,” Napoleon said.
“Yeah. Because I know you. We’ve been partners for three years now, and by this point, what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours. So, technically… You already have a lot more than you think you do.”
“…Perhaps I do,” Illya admitted, after thinking about it.
“Of course you do. After all, what are partners for?”
“To know you better than you know yourself.”
Napoleon blinked, and then grinned broadly at the reply.
“I’ll drink to that!”
They clinked two glasses of champagne together and partook in the meal, grateful to have each other.
And at that moment, nothing else really mattered.