Disclaimer: All characters from the TV show Man from
U.N.C.L.E. belong to the show's owners, not to me. I make no money from
writing, I do it for fun. I have nothing worth suing, so please don't.
Note: Anyone who notices a historical goof on my part, please, please, tell me. I tried to get rid of them all, but I'm not perfect..
Summary: The journey to become an U.N.C.L.E. agent continues through the night..
Alexander glanced over at the boy fighting the tiller. In two long days, Napoleon Solo spoke very little. He took orders quietly, never needing to be told twice. The soft hands of the aristocratic boy quickly became rough from salt water and heavy work. If the man hadn't been watching the boy so carefully, he would have missed the first signs of pain as skin gave way to blisters.
"Come here, son." He kept his voice gentle.
Even so, the boy startled, jerking the tiller. Reluctantly the boy crept close. "Señore?"
"Uncle Alex, Napoleon. You must become used to calling me that." Alexander wondered what exactly went through the brown eyes watching him so impassively. "Do your hands hurt?"
"No, Uncle Alex." The boy answered quietly.
The man shook his head. "If you damage your hands, they will become a problem. No fisherman has torn hands. The water and the fish will make the wounds putrid."
Napoleon did not want to be a burden. He looked away, staring across the dark water. Ever since leaving the city, he had felt lost, cut off from the world. His brother was wounded, his sister silent from fear... all because of him. He wondered briefly if it was worth it. Why was this man taking him to safety when Napoleon was a failure.
"Talk to me, boy. What is going on in your head?" Alexander cajoled his companion. The quiet depression seemed to be deepening and that worried him.
"Why are you taking me to England?" Napoleon asked.
"To get you home," Alexander answered quietly, watching the boy's response.
"I don't deserve to get home, sir."
"And why do you think that?" Alexander knew the boy was on the edge. He had given his word to get the boy to safety and that meant keeping the boy's spirits up. It was too hard a journey to make with if the boy fought him every step of the way.
"Paulo is blind because of me! And Simone..." Napoleon shuddered at the memory of his little sister. She was a pale wraith, unsmiling, scared, and silent. "I should have been faster. Then they would have been safe."
"No, boy. Your responsibility was to get them to the embassy." Alexander kept his words simple. "You did your best. Your parents should have gotten all of you out of Italy a year ago."
"The war has been creeping up, like a vine up the side of a building. Most Americans left Italy before the end of last year." He checked the trim on the sail. "You protected them as best you could and got them to the embassy alive. The doctor says they both will recover."
"I killed a man." Napoleon whispered.
Alexander stared at the boy, his words had been too quiet to be heard but he knew what the boy had said. "And if you had run, all three of you would have died." Napoleon looked up, red rimmed eyes staring at him in disbelief. "It's true, boy and you know that. You are the only reason they are alive."
After a long moment of silence, the boy nodded. Slowly he extended his hands to Alexander, showing him the broken blisters. It was the first step toward life that the boy had shown.
The boat rested gently against the dock, Napoleon watching the gentle rocking of the waves against the boat, more asleep than awake. He was tucked into a corner, a blanket pulled up to his chin and a hat covering his face. In the dim moonlight, he was nearly invisible.
"Are you sure you saw the Englishman here?" The words brought Napoleon's attention to the dock.
"This is his boat." A new voice spoke in heavily accented French. "I am sure of it."
"Is he here?"
"No, he left the boat, I lost him in the market place."
"Good. We'll wait for him."
Napoleon silently slid into the boat next to theirs. He had to warn Alexander that the enemy was waiting for him. Balancing himself carefully, he leapt from boat to boat, not daring to go onto the dock.
It took him far longer than he expected to get far enough away from the boat to feel safe climbing onto the dock. With quick, furtive glances, he assured himself that Alexander had not returned before heading for land. The newly risen moon was high above him before he stepped off the dock. He looked around, scouting out a place to hide himself. He had to see Alexander before the two men waiting by their boat.
Another hour passed before he saw Alexander approaching. Napoleon glanced back toward the boat but didn't see anyone. Cautiously, he stood and walked away from the docks. In the distance he thought he heard someone call to him, but he ignored it, feigning a calm stride as he walked up the street.
"Uncle," he began speaking rapidly, forcing himself to speak only French and hoping against all hope that Alexander understood his Quebecois accent. "your wife is very upset at how late it's gotten. You're lucky she sent me to find you and not one of her brothers."
The Brit nodded, wary understanding in his eyes. "Well, my boy, we must head home then."
Alexander led the way past a pair of buildings before ducking into an alley. The sound of running footsteps ahead of them made the agent freeze. Then, moving quickly, he pulled Napoleon into a dark alcove, keeping his body between the boy and the street.
"How many?" he whispered into the boy's ear.
"Two." Napoleon hesitated. "One barely spoke French."
"My cover's shot then." Alexander seemed pensive. The sound of running footsteps made him tense. A whistle sounded and more footsteps approached.
"Henri! Did you see them?"
"Non, they vanished."
"Merde. The price for the man is enough to keep us in food for a long time." The footsteps paused not far from their hiding place as several men came together at the street corner.
"Who was the boy?"
"I never saw him before."
"Are we sure it was the Englishman? He doesn't normally travel with anyone."
"SS Gruben said he might have an Italian murderer with him. A boy sniper who shoots at innocent men working with the Reich."
Napoleon was startled by the words, only Alexander's heavy hand pushing him against the wall kept him still. The man pulled a weapon and held it ready, his attention steady on the figures on the corner.
"We split up, then?"
"Agreed." The men quickly disappeared into the darkness, each man taking a different route.
Alexander waited, his patience eerie to Napoleon. Several long minutes after the men had dispersed, another shadowy figure crept by, head scanning the street in search of them. Only after it had continued up the alley did the man move.
"Come, Napoleon." Alexander stepped out of the alcove. "we had best get away from this island as quickly as possible. France is far too dangerous for us right now."
"Where are we going then?" Napoleon asked even though he doubted he would get an answer.
The man harumphed softly, moving swiftly through the dark streets. "First we get a new boat and some supplies. Then we head for Spain. I have friends there who can get us to Portugal. From there we can get a freighter to America."
Napoleon pulled up shortly. "I thought we were going to England."
"They'll be expecting that, my boy. I won't risk loosing you to the Nazis. We try for Portugal." Alexander stiffened at a sound. "Run, boy! Run!"
Almost as soon as the man growled his warning, Napoleon heard the shriek of a whistle. The tall man began to run and it was all he could do to keep up. They dodged through the maze of streets and alleys, cutting across closed market areas and small open plazas. Finally, Alexander lead them down an old, half hidden dock. A boat was waiting for them, held to the dock through use of a hooked pole.
As Napoleon leapt onto the boat, he felt a searing pain streak across his side. He marveled at the intensity of the cramp, it felt like fire. Then he crumpled, barely hearing the curses from the man who caught him. He heard himself apologize for landing on the man, wondering to himself why he couldn't move. Rough hands flipped him over, and the man's eyes widened. Napoleon thought he was going to faint as the man shoved his hand against the painful cramp. Red hazed through his brain, a violent red that quickly faded into jet black as the pain overwhelmed him.
"Will he live?" English words whispered into Napoleon's consciousness. He recognized the voice as Alexander.
"Yes, but it was close. He should not be moved any more than necessary." The voice was unfamiliar.
"How goes the search?"
"Every village on the coast of France and Northern Spain has been ordered to hunt for the two of you." There was a strange sound, like metal upon metal. "There were enough witnesses that everyone knows the boy was shot. If you stay, they'll find you both."
A door opened and closed. Fresh air swirled into the room with the newcomers. Napoleon counted four sets of footsteps. He also heard rounds being chambered.
"I found a way to get you to Portugal." A new voice, old and heavily accented. "It won't be the easiest trip."
"We'll make it." Alexander sounded resigned.
"The train leaves at dawn, its carrying produce for the soldier in the mountains. We can slip you aboard. Someone will meet you before the last stop, help you slip away. From there, it will take another two, maybe three days, to get you to Lisbon." The man seemed reluctant. "It will take you close to the fighting. If the boy makes too much noise, they will find you both."
"I'll be quiet." Napoleon whispered, opening his eyes. He noticed the shocked look on the doctor's face as well as the pleased one on Alexander's.
"He should still be asleep."
"No matter. He needs to be awake enough to understand what's going on." Alexander peered down at him. "Do you think you can make it, son?"
"Yes, sir." Napoleon's answer was steady, even if he was not. The man above him nodded, accepting his word. It was mercifully soon that he passed out again.
"Napoleon?" The urgent whisper roused him. The room swayed, making him nauseous. Gray eyes forced him to pay attention. "The guards are searching the train. You must be silent. Do you understand?"
Napoleon forced himself to nod, ignoring the dizziness and pain. Frantically he closed his eyes against the dancing light that flared in his head. He bit his lip against the scream he could feel clawing at the back of his throat. The room bounced heavily and the pain in his side became a roaring inferno. The darkness that followed was a welcome friend.
A gentle hand tilted his head, supporting his back and neck. Something wet wiped across his forehead, drawing away some of the pain. Metal touched his lips and automatically he swallowed the bitter liquid that was dribbled into his mouth. He opened his eyes to meet a pair of very worried expressions. Words whispered in his ears but they made no sense.
Light, bright and warm comforted him. Drowsily, Napoleon opened his eyes. The slatted sides of a truck hemmed in his view of the road. But he still saw green trees and stuccoed buildings. Slowly and carefully he turned his head. Alexander sat leaning on the truck's cab, eyes closed in an uneasy sleep. The man's face had aged... lines of worry and lack of sleep making him seem almost a decade older.
A nagging thirst made him look around and spot the canteen lying at Alexander's side. Napoleon frowned at the way his hand shook when he picked it up. His hand looked so thin and pale he almost didn't recognize it. The water was a welcome relief to his parched throat.
"Awake, are we?" The gravelly voice made him turn to look at Alexander. The man had a hopeful grin on his face.
Napoleon nodded, taking another swallow of the water.
"Don't drink too fast, it'll make you sick." He cautiously set the canteen down. "Feeling better?"
"Yes, sir." Napoleon looked around the truck.
"Good. We'll be in Lisbon in a few hours. I need you to be up and walking by then." Alexander stretched, his joints creaking ominously. "There's a ship waiting for you. The captain is a friend of mine. He'll take you and a small package to New York. You can trust Malcolm. We're almost safe, boy."
"Alexander! What on earth have you brought me this time?" The astonished shout made Napoleon's head ache.
"Malcolm, this is my nephew, Napoleon Smith." Alexander shook hands with the big captain. "I have need of your safe again."
"No problem. State department will be by to pick up the package as usual?" The man led the way into the ship. After a moment's notice he slowed his steps so that Napoleon could keep up with them. "Is he the reason the Germans and their Portuguese friends insisted on checking my guest list?"
Alexander only smiled grimly. "You might want to make sure he has guards, Malcolm. The boy must get home safely. No questions asked."
"I understand, my friend. We'll keep him safe. My purser is ex-navy. I'll tell him to keep an eye out for trouble." Malcolm led the way into a cabin. "This will be his berth."
Napoleon gratefully sank onto the bed. The effort of walking across the port and onto the ship had worn him out. Vaguely he felt gentle hands strip his clothes from him and tuck him under the bed clothes. Before the ship was away from the pier, he was sound asleep, the armed guard at his door giving him all the security he needed. He was going home.