Illya was aware of the uneven ground he was lying on. A gnarled root was pressing into his lower back, a contrast to the soft moss under his arm and in his right hand. He dimly recognized the fresh smell of forest, of fir needles mixed with the salty smell of someone bleeding. He blinked and tried to look for a victim, but his sight was blurry and he couldn't seem to make his body move.
Resigned, he let his head sink back against the warm, hard pillow it had been resting on. It was good, and he realized that the pain, which had been troubling him, was mostly gone now. He couldn't even feel his left arm. He concentrated on what he could feel. Something wet was dripping onto his face, trickling down his neck. He could hear the crackling of a fire, and what had to be yelling, but sounded like whispers coming from a well.
Closer, near him, Illya almost recognized the vibrant voice murmuring urgently. To him? Yes, it had to be. He was Illyusha, wasn't he? But why the urgency? He was not going anywhere. He opened his mouth to say as much, to explain that he would indeed stay, right where he was. His voice did not cooperate; the broken sound couldn't come from his throat.
It did not matter anyway, because everything was so fuzzy, so quiet, and so black.
Napoleon couldn't believe this was happening. He observed, as from a distance, his tears dripping onto Illya's pale face, mingling with the blood leaving Illya's body, and trickling down in pink stripes. Illya was unconscious, maybe dying, at least wounded and broken.
But he needed his partner. He needed Illya, awake and talking.
Someone tugged at Napoleon's shoulders, and grasped his hands to pry them loose from the grip he had on Illya.
Paramedics. That was good, wasn't it?
Napoleon sat back, feeling dizzy, watching foreign people do incomprehensible things to his partner.
Napoleon watched the paramedics slide Illya's limp body on to a stretcher and run toward the helicopter with it.
Napoleon turned toward the voice. "Uh?"
"I was told to report to you." The voice came from a young agent Napoleon vaguely recognized.
He could do this. He surreptitiously dried his face with a bloodied sleeve, and swallowed. "Yes, agent...?"
"Heinzer, sir." Napoleon could see the young man trying not to notice his distress. Well. He didn't much care just now. Illya might be dead.
"Heinzer. Is everything under control?"
"Yes, sir. The evidence is secured, two Thrush villains are apprehended; the mission was successful."
Successful? Napoleon turned around and heaved, puking up the breakfast he had eaten in Vienna earlier that day. Breathing carefully through his nose, he jerked loose a handful of the green moss and dried his face. Behind him he could hear Heinzer cough, a small, unsure sound. Napoleon spared a thought to his own, unusual behaviour. It wasn't every day a senior agent vomited upon hearing of a successful mission. But the word unsettled his stomach. The cost was too high today.
"Good," he croaked out. "Get me a car." His legs shook when he stood up.
"A car, sir?"
Did everyone have to be so polite? "Yes." Goddammit. "A car."
In the end agent Heinzer drove him to the hospital himself, for which Napoleon was grateful. He didn't believe he would have been able to handle the heavy traffic without shooting somebody.
At the hospital, Napoleon jumped out of the car and rushed in, stopping only by the reception desk to charm the young lady sitting there into giving him Illya's location.
It didn't help him much. Illya was in the operating theatre, and would Mister Solo please calm down and sit? So he sat, in the fake cheerful waiting room, gnawing on the plastic cup with stale coffee he was given. He was joined by Heinzer, who urged him to go to the bathroom to clean up.
Back in the waiting room Napoleon paced up and down, scared the nurses, and finally slumped down in the uncomfortable, hard chair again. He felt exhausted, both from jetlag and the day's disaster. His mind wandered...Illya would be so sad when he learned that his favourite pilot jacket was ruined. It was soft and brown and Illya loved it.
The first time he had fucked Illya Kuryakin had been on a dingy hotel bed in Panama. High on adrenalin after a successful mission; after too many drinks and no available women. He had thought he had seen a glint in Illya's eyes saying "Yes, okay. I need the same."
Napoleon hadn't questioned his luck, only stumbled with Illya up the stairs and into their clammy room. He had expected a mutual jerk to calm down, but Illya had laid down for him, urging him on in no uncertain terms. Napoleon had done his best, and proceeded to fuck them both into unconsciousness.
Napoleon shivered at the memory. Illya was an active lover, and more verbal than many co-workers gave him credit for. He had heard Illya yell and scream both in tortured agony and in passion.
That time had probably been a huge mistake, one he shouldn't have made. But since then they had fucked on a regular basis, whenever one of them seemed to need release. Napoleon thought Illya's hard body and sharp wit were a good variation from the soft and timid women he often dated, dined and carefully seduced.
Illya, Napoleon believed, liked their arrangement, often initiating their brief bouts of intimacy, giving back as good as he got. The rest of the time, Illya did business as usual in his cool and somewhat arrogant manner. No one suspected a thing, it was as if their deal didn't exist.
But it did. And that's what maybe was a mistake. It left Napoleon open now, to repressed memories; Illya's critical condition having flung the doors to the closed parts of his mind wide open. There he saw Illya cringe, a hurt look in his eyes every time Napoleon flaunted a new conquest in front of him. He saw Illya turn around when he flirted with one of the secretaries.
One time, when he had taken a stewardess for a long weekend of romance and pleasure on the Pursang, Illya had gone on a three day bender, drinking himself to oblivion. Napoleon knew because Mark, their friend and fellow agent, had met Illya. Or rather, had picked him up, taken him home, and had been rewarded with mutterings and yelling in Russian and some languages Mark swore he didn't understand. But Mark had been staring accusingly at Napoleon ever since. He guessed Mark suspected something, and it was not good for Napoleon.
So. The understanding he allowed himself to have of his and Illya's partnership, it was less than the truth. Napoleon hadn't wanted to add up the evidence, and now, he groaned, now it was probably too late.
He gave up on resting and opened his eyes a fraction. Heinzer, the faithful agent, sat slumped and sleeping in a corner. He was probably assigned watch duty, in case Mr. Solo suddenly became unhinged and neeed rescue.
Napoleon stealthily rose, sneaked out of the depressing room, and walked quietly till he stood in front of a door marked Intensive Care. Carefully, he opened the door and peeked inside the room.
There was Illya. IV tubes were sticking out of his arm; he was covered in bandages. What little Napoleon could see of his face was pale, so pale. Illya's beautiful, soft hair was sticking up in damp spikes.
Napoleon slipped in, hesitantly grabbed Illya's limp hand and held it carefully between his own. Illya didn't stir.
"Illyusha." He felt Illya's pulse; his heart was still beating.
A noise at the door made Napoleon hurry. "Illya. I know." Napoleon kissed him softly. "Love you, too."
"Mr. Solo. I must ask you to leave immediately."
I'm here, Illya." He patted Illya's hand reassuringly, turned around, and dared the nurse to throw him out. "We're partners."
Napoleon relaxed in the terrace chair, letting the memories from that day fade. He kept his eyes closed and let the afternoon sun warm his tired body. The fresh smell of the white roses Illya had planted enveloped him. No matter how hot and polluted the city air became, the light breeze permeating their roof garden always made it a good place to be. Napoleon sent a grateful thought to his aunt Amy who had left him not only her penthouse, but this much-used terrace as well.
From the kitchen he could hear the sounds of Illya preparing dinner. Napoleon smiled to himself. The souffl disaster days were in the past, Illya had developed into a competent cook over the years.
"Napoleon, set the table, would you?" Illya's voice was close.
Napoleon craned his neck and looked up at him. At fifty, Illya was just as beautiful as he had been as a young man, Napoleon thought. The smile on his lips was just as sweet now as then.
Lines on Illya's face told about a life lived fully, on the edge, and hidden by Illya's clothes were scars Napoleon could trace by night, see shimmer in the pale light from the moon. How close he had come to not experiencing this, this life with Illya. His throat constricted, and silly, sentimental tears pressed their way up to the corners of his eyes.
"Napoleon?" Illya's smile vanished as he kneeled on the floor beside the chair.
"Ah, Illya." Napoleon raised his arms to tug Illya closer. As always, Illya understood his mood, and climbed up over him, one knee on each side of his thighs.
Napoleon met Illya's affectionate glance, and felt Illya thumb away the treacherous moisture seeping out of his eyes.
"Poleon." Illya kissed him softly. "It is that day of the year again, njet?" Illya leaned forward, their foreheads touching. "You remember the day I almost died?"
Nothing else had made him cry, ever. "How could I forget watching you flying through the air, clothes smoking, then finding you in the shrubs, broken and bloody? Illya, you weren't breathing!" Napoleon clutched Illya's hands.
"Hush, Pasha. You fixed that."
"By yelling for paramedics, swabbing futilely at the blood oozing from your wounds, and dripping tears on your face?" Napoleon sighed. "I wasn't much help, Illya."
"You were there, Napoleon." Illya looked sincerely at him. "How can you say it was a bad day when you told me you loved me?"
Napoleon pressed Illya to him, kissing him with all the passion he felt, drawing back to watch a dizzy-looking Illya, and grinned. "And don't you forget it!"
Illya grinned back. "I expect you to remind me later. Repeatedly. Just to confirm it is still true."
The glint in Illya's eyes betrayed him. Oh, yes. His Russian was exactly as fierce and passionate now as then.
"But first," Illya climbed off him, "dinner." He walked inside and turned. "The salmon is ready when you have set the table."
"Hungry as always, eh?"
"I did not have time for lunch today, as you well know, Mister Number One, America, Who Makes His Secretary Pick Up Lunch For Him." Illya only looked halfway as if he was joking. "My lab assistants have better things to do with their time."
"We all need to eat, Illya. What has become of my starving Russian?" Napoleon sat up. "Besides, you only say that because you missed us having lunch together today."
Illya shook his bangs, rolled his eyes, and disappeared inside.
Napoleon followed, going into the dining room to pick up two plates, two glasses, silverware for two, placing it on a tray. As an afterthought, he brought out the bottle of good cognac and the correct glasses. They had survived their years as field agents, and now they enjoyed their life together in relative peace.
After all, it was a day to celebrate.