Be Afraid

by Charlie Kirby

Napoleon glanced out of the corner of his eye, watching the figure beside him. Enraptured by the action on the field, the young boy's attention never wavered, never strayed from the players.

"Is he going to try for a double, Grampy?" Alexander's sticky fingers found their way unerringly into the box of Cracker Jacks and then into his mouth. Leon and Lisle were going to have Napoleon's hide if they found out what their son had eaten this afternoon, but Napoleon, the ever indulgent grandfather, had no intention of letting them know. Besides, what was a baseball game without the popcorn, hotdogs, soda, and Cracker Jacks?

Napoleon couldn't help but smile at the boy's enthusiasm. But then again, how much more perfect could his day be? The weather was perfect, the Yankees were in top form and he was spending precious time with his grandson. He readjusted the ball cap on his head and grinned. What would his counterparts in the rest of the world think if they saw Napoleon Solo like this?

He glanced around at the immediate crowd, knowing that there were at least half a dozen Section Three agents watching him, guarding the head of UNCLE NY and keeping them safe. When he'd first taken the position, he'd hated the intrusion, but Illya hadn't been swayed in the least. If he wasn't with Napoleon, then a select, handpicked few accompanied Napoleon everywhere. By now, the Section One No. One barely noticed their presence. He also couldn't think that these guys hated having an afternoon out of the office like this.

There was a sharp crack and the crowd was on their feet, screaming and chanting. Alexander stood precariously on his seat, desperately trying to see the action and Napoleon took pity on him. Reaching down, he hefted the child up and repressed the desire to groan. He wasn't going to be doing this much longer. At five, Alex was getting too heavy for Napoleon to pick him up easily.

He pointed to the player running. "Better than that, Alex, he's trying for a triple play." The runner slid into home and a sudden hush fell over the crowd until the umpire waved a hand and the loudspeaker blared.


A roar went up from the crowd. "What happened, Grampy?"

"We won, Alex."

"It's over?" Nothing could hide the disappointment in the boy's voice.

"I'm afraid so." Napoleon let the child slide back to the ground. "It's time for us to head back and rescue Illya from the clutches of your sister."

"I wish Poppy could have come today." Alex immediately took his grandfather's hand as people started milling about.

"He needed to stay home with Irina and the twins. I don't think they would have appreciated this."

"No, Irina is such a girl."

The dismissal in Alex's voice made Napoleon suppress a grin. "And what's wrong with girls, Alex?"

"They're girls, of course."

"So is your mother."

"No, she isn't."

"Have you discussed this with your father? It would come as a great shock to him."

"He says she's a force to be reckoned with..."

Napoleon didn't bother this time. He laughed as he led the boy out of the stadium and to his waiting sedan. "Okay, I would agree with that."

As they climbed into the car, Napoleon reached up to remove the ball cap from his head, but stopped at Alex's worried look. He'd faced armies, the complete destruction of the world, he'd stared down the barrel of just about any sort of gun you could name and yet he couldn't resist his grandson. He left the cap in place and tried not to think of the comments Illya was going to make when they got home.

Napoleon let Alex unlock the door to the house and immediately appropriated the key from him. He'd learned the hard way just how quickly and efficiently the boy could lose things.

"Illya?" he called as they entered. He took off the light windbreaker he was wearing and helped Alex struggle out of his.

"Up here." Napoleon glanced up the stairs and nodded. It made sense that Illya would be in the nursery.

He stopped at the downstairs bathroom to wash Alex's hands and face. Straightened up, he caught sight of himself in the mirror and smirked. His nose was red and his cheeks flushed. His normally impeccably groomed hair was squashed flat and hidden by the cap, letting only his graying sideburns and just the smallest amount of hair peek out from beneath it. Add that to the polo shirt and poplin slacks he wore, no one would peg him as the leader of one of the world's most important peacekeeping organizations.

Napoleon had to admit, it had felt good to shrug off the oppressive harness of leadership, if just for the afternoon. Unlike Waverly, who lived and breathed UNCLE, Napoleon tried to keep a balance in his life. He split his time between work and his son's growing family. If anyone would have told him ten years ago that he would quite happily spend the afternoon playing dress up with his granddaughter or Tinker Toys with his grandson, he'd have laughed.

He felt so lucky that Leon and Lisle wanted him and Illya to be such a large part of their daily lives. When they had suggested the two agents move in, Napoleon had initially resisted. There was plenty of room, that wasn't the problem. But they were two old bachelors, both rather set in their ways and Napoleon didn't see how it could work. And yet it did, almost seamlessly. By the time Leon had worked through his defenses, the top floor of the house had been refurnished for them. It proved a welcome retreat when the grandchildren became a bit too much or when one of them needed space from a bad day at the office.

Napoleon discovered that having a family had made him more compassionate and at the same time more determined to keep the world safe. Or at least keep his part of it safe. It helped that Illya was out of the field and very rarely attempted anything more physical than his prescribed work out. At first, Illya had been more of a hands-on leader of Section Three, but Napoleon had watched him gradually shift to a more sedate style as the harsh reality of age and a dangerous youth settled in.

Illya did his best to downplay his old injuries, pretend that everything was fine, but Napoleon could tell his partner struggled some days just to function marginally. He'd even caught Illya using a cane a couple of times in the last few weeks and Napoleon's heart ached. He knew Illya was nearing the breaking point and would soon have to submit to more surgery on his hip. Until then, Napoleon pretended it was all fine and turned a blind eye and ear to Illya's plight, while going out of his way to make sure he eased Illya's burden without being obvious.

To that end, Napoleon had become the more physical of the two now, wrestling with Alex, chasing Irina through the park while Illya contented himself on a bench with the twins.

"Come on, Alex, let's go rescue your grandfather, shall we?"

"Poppy? What's he need... oh, Irina..." Alex nodded knowingly. "I understand." He grabbed Napoleon's hand and started up the stairs. "She is going to love our hats, Grampy." He tried to take the steps two at a time like his father did.

Napoleon rounded the door to the nursery and slammed to a stop. It wasn't that Illya was sitting on the couch, holding a baby in one arm and a bottle in the other. It was rather the dozens and dozens of tiny pink bows Illya had decorating his blond hair. Irina looked up from her work and grinned.

"Grampy!" She abandoned her spot behind Illya and ran to Napoleon, her arms open. Napoleon scooped her up, delighted that she was still well within his 'pick-upable' range.

"Hello, sweetheart, did you have fun this afternoon?"

"We played beauty parlor." She wrapped her arms around Napoleon's neck and hugged him tight, whispering, "I painted his toenails Sunrise Pink." Napoleon started laughing as Irina slid from his arms and reassumed her position behind Illya. "Now I'm giving him beautiful hair."

"Told you that you needed to get a haircut," Napoleon quipped and Illya glared at him.

"Shut it, Napoleon," Illya warned. "I'm still licensed to carry, you know." He adjusted his position and the baby in his arms whimpered a protest. "I'm not taking your bottle away from you."

"I'm guessing you're feeding Peter?" Napoleon didn't want to admit that he had trouble telling the twins apart, but he did.

"Still... the child never seems to get full."

"Of course not, he's pure Kuryakin, that one." Napoleon paused at the playpen to chuck Inessa under her chin. The baby gurgled and reached for him. "And how are you today, my sweet one?" Then he winced as an unmistakable smell drifted up to him. "Uh, not so sweet, I think."

"Would you change her?" Illya asked, sighing as yet another bow was added to the multitude of pink ribbons festooning his hair.

"I wouldn't change her for anything else in the world. I like her just as she is, dirty diaper and all." He picked up and gave her a wiggle to which the baby giggled wildly.

"Her diaper, Napoleon. Change her diaper. Unless you want to be part of the Night of a Thousand Bottles." He held up Peter and Napoleon shook his head. There would have been a time that he would have rather waded through a swamp of alligators, had his genitals smeared with honey and left on an ant hill than change a diaper. These days, he was an old hand at it.

He changed her and settled down beside Illya, who had Peter over one shoulder and was patting his back. A lusty belch followed and Illya pulled the child away to stare at him before realizing it had been Alexander.

"That is rude, Alex, say excuse me."

"Why is it okay for Peter and not me?"

"First he can't talk, second he's a baby and doesn't know any better. You do."

Irina glanced up from her work. "You're not the cute one anymore, Alex, live with it." She leaned forward and kissed her grandfather's cheek. "You are beautiful, darling."

Illya winced and Napoleon couldn't resist it. He leaned forward and kissed Illya's other cheek. "You really are... darling." He batted his eyelashes at Illya. "And your nails, that color is so you."

"Go ahead, Napoleon, take your hat off, I dare you."

Irina smiled hopefully and Napoleon chuckled. "Not for all the money in the world, partner. Of course, if you'd just get it cut like I suggested."

"Tomorrow, I swear, I'll do it tomorrow."

Napoleon smiled sweetly at his granddaughter. "Then you'd better hurry, sweetheart. It looks like a clear case of 'hair today gone tomorrow.'"

Illya groaned and Irina frowned. Obviously she didn't understand, but that didn't stop her from reaching for the next color of ribbons, blue to go with her Poppy's eyes. It was apparent, at least to her, that she had her work cut out with these two.

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