The Man from UNCLE and its characters are owned by someone else, we don't know exactly who, but no one is making any money off this story.
Note: The author of this story does have an email address listed at the archive, however he has extremely limited internet access so is unable to answer comments left. That doesn't mean he doesn't want to see them. :-)
Illya let his fingers fall still on the keys of his Selectric and sighed, feeling his partner's presence like a pressure against his back. "Must you stand over me while I'm trying to work? The reports are finished and filed. I do not need your supervision."
"I've already read them," Napoleon answered, his voice dropping into the silky register that made the hairs on the back of Illya's neck stand on end.
"Don't thank me."
"I was thinking of buying you dinner."
"—Japanese?" Illya ratcheted the carriage on the typewriter over and cranked the form--white to policy, blue to accounting, canary to administration, green to file, press hard, you are making several copies--and its three sheets of carbon paper out of the typewriter. He slipped the sheets into a folder, and the folder into the locking drawer on his desk. Which he locked.
Napoleon had already stepped back to allow him to rise. "If you know a restaurant."
"I always know a restaurant."
They left Del Floria's single file. Napoleon hailed a taxi; for once, Illya didn't complain. He felt very tired tonight. More tired than a routine investigation, a laughable, torture-free captivity, and a few Thrush agents disguised as space aliens could account for. So tired his hands ached; bone-weary, chest cramping with a loneliness he hadn't felt in ten years.
Since he first left Russia, if he bothered to admit it to himself.
Wouldn't it be funny if we fell in love and got married? the girl had asked. He'd restrained himself from the answer that first leapt to his mind. Do you mean funny ha-ha or funny-peculiar, my dear?
No, it wouldn't be funny at all.
"So," Napoleon said companionably, when they were settled into the back seat of the taxi and Illya had given the driver the name of the restaurant, "the mad scientist's beautiful daughter—"
"You said you read the report," Illya answered, aware that his tone had not softened noticeably.
"I also know you're enough of a gentleman not to put such things in the report if they don't seem pertinent."
Illya shot his partner a sidelong glance. "If I'm that much of a gentleman, what makes you think I'd discuss them with you?"
Napoleon's voice low, generous. Soft enough that even if the cabbie driver's ears were pricked up, he'd catch no more than the occasional phrase. "Because. We have a deal."
Yes, indeed. A deal. Save me from Americans who remember the details of an ill-considered drunken bet. Even when they can't remember anything else of use, half the time. Illya bit his lip. He was in a foul mood, no two ways about it. And Napoleon was being surprisingly forbearing. Almost smug. Chivvying him along, he decided. Trying to gauge his mood, and how deep the irritability ran. And he could guess why, too.
That, he could allow for. "No," he said softly, leaning his head against the seat back, speaking almost without moving his lips. "Lovely bikini. Charming singing voice. Not without a ring on her finger, I imagine. And what about the capitalist pig's beautiful wife?"
"Beautiful," Napoleon answered. "A woman of action. I'll tell you about her after dinner."
Ah hah. Not that he was particularly surprised to be correct. Again. At least I'm getting dinner out of it. He turned, and smirked at his partner for the simple joy of watching Napoleon blush. Mercenary, Illya. "In detail, no doubt."
Half the joy of forcing Napoleon to take him to elegant, ethnic restaurants was watching the look of horror on his partner's face when Illya indulged himself in sushi, seaweed gelatin, and similar delights. He'd been surprised to discover that his partner had a taste for kimchi, however--like many Japanese restaurants, this one also served Korean cuisine--and then he'd shaken his head at his own stupidity.
Just because Napoleon never talked about Korea--
He blinked, set down the tidbit of rice, seaweed, and ikura in his hand, and tried to force his expression toward attentiveness. "Yes, Napoleon?"
His friend's face--so often utterly transparent when he wasn't schooling it to some purpose--was concerned. Worried, even. "If you want to head home early, I'll understand." Napoleon broke eye contact and turned, that effortless ability to dominate the attention in a room serving him in good stead as he caught the waitress' eye. She moved forward smoothly, her kimono rustling around her stiffly upright form. "The check, if you don't mind?"
Illya smiled, the cumulative effect of three glasses of plum wine starting to soothe the tightness between his shoulders. "I'll go where you go," he said, and watched Napoleon's eyebrows rise.
"Home, then." Napoleon bowed his head for a moment, signed his check with a fountain-pen flourish--the ball-point communicators had many advantages, concealability being one of them, but they didn't hold much ink--and tucked the credit card back into his billfold. "And you can tell me why you've been checking in from Mars for messages since we got back from the South Seas."
"I thought you were going to tell me about the millionaire's wife."
"Oh," Napoleon answered, with a casual deliberation that curled Illya's toes inside his dress shoes, "I intend to."
"Mars," Illya said, as they climbed the stairs together. "Really?"
"The Van Allen belts." Illya shook his head. Paper crumpled between his slightly damp palm and the neck of the bottle he carried; they'd stopped off at the package store. "I've been that bad, have I?"
"Bad enough that as your superior officer, I was considering suggesting to Waverly that you needed a couple of weeks of paid leave. Somewhere with pretty girls and coral-sand beaches."
"I burn easily." But he managed to smile when he said it. He'd been planning to continue up the stairs to Napoleon's floor, but found himself stopping on the second floor. "Do you mind if we go to my place?"
"Not at all," Napoleon answered, opening the stairwell door. "As long as you've got something to mix that paint thinner with."
Illya unlocked the door and checked the security, disarming it with the habit of long residence. He could do it in the dark by now, half drunk if he had to. It was only when he glanced over his shoulder to nod Napoleon into the dark living room that his fingers started to tremble. He tucked the bottle under his left arm and rearmed the system, then leaned forward and murmured a code phrase into the microphone before pulling the transistor that controlled the apartment's recording devices.
Napoleon came up beside him. "What are you doing?"
Illya held a loose fist out, waited for Napoleon to reach out with a flat palm, and dropped the transistor into his hand. Napoleon looked down, registered what he held, and looked back up into Illya's falsely calm, desperately level gaze.
I wonder, Illya thought, if that is a sufficient declaration of intent, or if-- the thought cut off in an internal mumble as Napoleon closed the too-small distance between them and then stopped--his chest brushing Illya's chest, his breath across Illya's face, his lips so close to Illya's lips that Illya felt the air shift between them when he spoke. It felt like the current of a van de Graf generator running over his skin, lifting the fine hairs on the back of his neck.
"You realize, of course, that we'll have to file a report on this anyway?"
"You're typing it," Illya answered, as Napoleon's warmth flattened him against the wall. "Eyes only—"
"Oh, I don't think the secretarial pool needs to know." That grin. Roguish, flirtatious. And perhaps a little bit uncertain, as the brown eyes found his and Napoleon leaned in for a kiss.
I didn't think he would kiss me. Hell, I didn't think he'd go through with it. Lips met lips, parted. Illya's hand came up to tangle in greased sable hair--not black, he'd heard a girl say it was black, once, but it wasn't, it was a rich colour like old wood and it caught the light on dark red highlights like mink, like something from home, as soft as mink under his hands--and he had to clench his left arm tight against his side to hold the bottle of vodka against his shoulder holster. Napoleon's hands steadied him: one lightly fisted, cupping the transistor, and the other spread wide open on his waist.
All the blood in Illya's body was concentrating to one pulsing point of heat between his thighs... and judging by the ridged swelling Napoleon was rubbing tentatively against his groin, he wasn't alone.
Illya found his breath softly ragged as his partner stepped back and stepped away. "I think," Illya said, "that it is time for that drink."
Napoleon made himself comfortable on the sofa while Illya found glasses, found ice, found the orange juice for Napoleon and sliced a lime for himself, and breathed deeply and slowly and carefully until his heart stopped trying to break his ribs from the inside. Why did I ever agree to this?
"Why did I ever agree to this?"
Napoleon's fingers brushed Illya's as he accepted the very stiff screwdriver. "Because I was picking on you mercilessly," he answered, and patted the couch between his knees.
Illya eyed it dubiously, and then turned around and sank down on the floor, his back against the couch, cupping his chill glass of vodka in both hands. "You drove me to it."
Big hands in his hair. He almost bolted away from the touch. "I did," Napoleon said. Softly, and Illya settled back between his knees and closed his eyes. Two good swallows of cold, citrus-laced liquor made it easier, burning down his throat to join the wine and the food. He sighed, and forced himself to relax, the way he would in the grip of an enemy.
But this is not an enemy.
"Tell me about your girl."
"The one who has buried two husbands, now?" Napoleon's hands, so soft. Coaxing. Illya felt one of them lift from his neck, knew Napoleon was tasting his own drink, felt the touch return.
"Is everybody widowed?" Out before he could stop it. He felt Napoleon tense, and then relax as consciously as he had.
"Everyone in the world," Napoleon answered, and seemed for a moment as if he would elaborate.
Illya almost choked, and finished his drink instead, letting the ice clatter on his teeth. He leaned back into the touch of Napoleon's hands, trying to remember the last time someone had touched him so calmly, and for so long. The ache in his chest subsided a little under the burn of the alcohol. "So who seduced whom?"
Napoleon's sigh was soft. He must have finished his drink too, because he reached down and slid his hands under Illya's armpits and half-coaxed, half-lifted him onto the sofa. Illya turned to face his partner, feeling ridiculous as he straddled the other man's knees. "She needed to be held."
"And you took unfair advantage?"
His partner's lips twitched. "Is that how you see me?"
"I can see what's in front of my face," Illya said, standing and moving away. Casually, as if Napoleon could not see the way his hands shook, he stripped his jacket off and tossed it on the easy chair. Unbuckled his holster with quick, efficient movements and hung that too. Tugged the edge of his shirt free of his belt--
"What are you doing?"
"I'm not a blushing virgin," he said, coolly. "I do not need to be seduced. And I do not like to be toyed with—" The pressure of Napoleon's eyes on him was almost unbearable. He turned his back and stripped his pullover off in one quick, efficient gesture. "I lost the bet," he said. "I'm ready to pay the piper—"
"You're mixing your metaphors," Napoleon said, and was somehow standing behind him, hands warm on Illya's shoulders, suit-jacket warm against Illya's back. "Do you expect me to, what? Bend you over the arm of that chair and fuck you?"
"More or less. Call it a team building exercise—"
And his partner turning him. Holding him still, hand on his shoulder. Forcing him with one broad hand to meet his gaze. "Who was the last person you went to bed with?"
"Do assignments count?"
"The dates that Waverly provides, especially of the hard-faced blonde variety, do not. That's plain prostitution. Fortuitous encounters while engaged in an affair, on the other hand—"
"Ah. In that case, the infamous--and unlamented--Miss Diketon."
He saw Napoleon swallow, although he knew Napoleon was already acquainted with the details of what had occurred on that horrible little island. The lovely, sadistic blonde nymphomaniac. And her toys. He wondered if Napoleon knew how close it had come to breaking him... especially once he'd seen what had seemed to be Napoleon, blown to bits.
"Anyone who has you on a collar and leash, my friend, hardly counts as a...."
"You didn't ask about lovers."
"I'm asking now."
"Two years ago."
"Yes. Not all of us are—"
"And before that?"
"—it was at Cambridge."
"After Teresa died," Napoleon said, "I didn't touch anyone for four years. Do you believe that?"
Illya blinked at the confession. Blinked. Physically stepped back, as far as Napoleon's grip on his shoulders would permit, and shook his head. "Yes," he said. "I believe you." And then blinked again. "You thought you could make me—"
"I thought," Napoleon said, "that you'd have the wherewithal to go out and get laid if I forced you into an unpleasant enough corner over it. I thought you'd find a girl--any girl, and God knows there are enough of them that want you--rather than drop your pants for a man. And I knew you had too much pride to back down from a bet."
"You were wrong. And you were right. In that order."
"I know. Put your clothes on, Illya. You're shivering. And I'm not enough of a monster to hold you to this, no matter what you think."
Illya crossed his arms over his chest, reaching down through the ache to find his courage, narrowing his eyes, trying to make it look easy. "I'm not cold." He shook his head. "I'm also not about to give you the satisfaction—" Napoleon's eyebrow rose "—of saying that I welshed on a bet. Nor am I about to fucked on the living room couch like a pimpled teenager's prom date. Come to bed if you're coming. If not...." he grinned. "...I'll ask a secretary to type the report."
"Napoleon," he said, softly. "In my position, if I am going to go to the hassle of having a sex life, I prefer it to be with somebody I care for. Otherwise, the paperwork is prohibitive."
"I see." A little silence. "Illya Nikolaivech. Are you saying you care for me?"
"That would appear to be the obvious conclusion. Does that distress you?"
Napoleon's lips twitched. Once, twice. And then he smiled, the broad, smug smile that he only used on friends. He glanced down at his shoes, and at the bare-chested man standing braced like a temple guard in front of him, and down at his shoes again, no longer bothering to fight the grin. "If it distressed me," he said, "I wouldn't have made that bet."
"Napoleon," Illya said, unable to believe the words even as he said them, "come to bed."
"Don't forget your pistol," Napoleon replied. He waited while Illya picked his holster off the back of the easy chair, and followed him through the bedroom door.
Illya didn't turn on the lights. Street glow filtered through the window, enough to make out his partner's outline in the darkness as Napoleon stripped off his jacket and hung it on the doorknob. Napoleon drew his gun from his shoulder holster and laid it on the nightstand, hung the holster itself over the suit-jacket, began unbuttoning his shirt in silence. Illya slipped his Walther under the pillow, checking to make sure the safety was on, and stepped out of his shoes. He balanced on each foot in turn, pulling his socks off, and then turned his attention to his belt while stealing sideways glances at his partner. He was hooking his thumbs in the waistband of his pants when a warm, slick mouth on his shoulder arrested the movement.
Napoleon had stripped down to boxers, and now he pressed the warm length of his body against Illya's back. Illya shivered, the sweetness of Napoleon's mouth on the angle of his neck and shoulder somehow more than he had anticipated. He gasped, a little animal noise, and leaned back into the embrace. Kisses outlined his jaw, his ear, the plane of his cheek. He twisted his neck and turned into them, faint flavour of orange juice and his own skin as he found Napoleon's mouth, bit his lip, was nibbled in return.
The smooth warmth of the other man's chest against his skin was in itself almost more than he could endure. He found himself moving against it, the softness of skin on skin like a blessing as he pressed close, laughing as the rigid spear of Napoleon's hard-on kept him at bay. "I thought you liked girls, Pasha," he said, pressing the stiff cock against Napoleon's belly with the flat of his hand and sliding his groin against Napoleon's to keep it there. There, now that was close enough. He kissed the salty skin of his partner's throat, rubbing his nose on the prickled underside of his jaw.
"I do like girls," Napoleon answered. "But you feel so damned good...."
"So do you," Illya said, and Napoleon finished the disrobing he himself had started, and Illya stepped out of the dark wool trousers and white underwear puddled on the floor. Napoleon's shorts followed. They stood breathless for a moment, arms and hands twined motionless, not so much embracing as paralyzed. And then Illya lowered his forehead to Napoleon's shoulder and laughed. "I've never done this before."
"Neither have I," Napoleon answered. "I—" he laughed. "You realize, when Waverly finds out—"
"He'll probably find even more uses for us."
"Interesting choice of noun. But yes." Illya heard his partner's grin through the darkness. "It can't be helped."
"Oh, well," Illya said, and tripped him onto the bed. They bounced twice on covers smoothed to military standards, Napoleon laughing like a child, and then the wrestling match began in earnest. Began in earnest, and didn't last long; Napoleon had twenty pounds on his partner, and while Illya could quite possibly take Napoleon in a stand-up fight, wrestling was not his sport.
And even if there hadn't been the little matter of the decidedly unnerving--and increasingly delicious--friction of his partner's erection against his own, the Russian would have lost all will to fight the instant Napoleon's dark head dipped down and his soft lips found Illya's nipple. A fluid transition, sharp and sweet, and suddenly he was no longer arching against his partner's body in an attempt to break and reverse his hold, but rather pulling him closer, strong legs intertwined, muscled bodies pressed close. His hands clenched on Napoleon's muscular ass, dragging his partner's groin against his own, and it seemed only seconds later that he found himself thrashing against Napoleon's pinioning weight, sobbing out his release.
He fell back against the pillow, wrung out and fighting back a small green spark of shame. Napoleon's laugh was low and rich, and his hips did not stop moving against Illya's, the contact slippery now. "Now who's the pimply-faced prom date?"
"Considering my recent sexual history—"
"—or lack thereof—"
"—I think I can promise you a second round."
"Some of us haven't finished the first," Napoleon said. Illya saw his teeth flash white in the half-darkness. "How brave do you feel, partner mine?"
Illya searched halfheartedly for the cold core of loneliness he expected to echo the words; quirked his lips in a complicated emotion when the hurt never quite materialized. "Brave enough to settle my debt," he answered slowly. "Although if you think this wager ends tonight, you're sorely mistaken."
"Why don't we discuss the next bet once we've resolved this one?" Napoleon asked, drawing back with obvious reluctance. "I suppose what I need is in the bathroom—"
"Nightstand," Illya said softly, running a hand down his partner's arm.
"Logic suggested one of us was going to lose that bet eventually." Now his own teeth were flashing in the dark; he could tell by the sparkle in his partner's eyes. He closed his own, lay back, composed himself with deep breaths while his partner rummaged in the drawer. "Find it?"
"Yes—" The fingers that touched him were cold, slick. Almost icy, and somehow they still burned when they slipped inside him, softly and more easily than he would have believed possible.
"Yes," he answered. "Good. So far—"
"I think you should—"
"I'm relaxed. I promise."
"—be on top. In case I hurt you."
Illya opened his eyes, saw his partner's close above. "As you wish," he answered, surprised at the trouble that broke out under his breastbone at that glance. Precious trouble. He smiled and sat up, one hand on his partner's shoulder to move him aside. "Lie down."
He was obeyed. He threw a leg over his partner's hips, shocked at his own boldness, feeling the tremble in the hands that brushed his waist, settled just above his hips.
"We're really doing this."
"Yes." We really are. "You and me. Ready?"
"Shouldn't I be asking you that?"
"Hush," he said, and reached between his own legs to get the angle right. "Here we go."
It was new. All new, searingly bright. Not painful at all, though he was braced for pain. Just new, and knowing, and fraught with little awkwardnesses of inexperience and anatomy, with the hitching breaths of accomplishment and pleasure and discomfort and finally--finally--a slow, rolling drive to completion that was more like water than fire, more like the shuddering rumble of a mountain shifting its roots than the consuming detonation of an explosion.
When he came back to himself he was in his partner's arms, distastefully sticky and delightfully exhausted, sore and weary and dizzy with the thick reek of sex.
Napoleon nuzzled his neck. "I don't suppose there's a box of tissues around here anywhere?" Sleepily, and almost as if it were too much effort to talk. "And do you mind if I stay?"
It was a short stagger up the two flights of stairs. And Illya didn't mind at all that Napoleon didn't want to make that stagger. "Two guns are better than one," he said. "Stay there. I'll get you a towel."
"Darling," Napoleon said, with a throaty laugh.
"Call me that again, and I'll feed you something you won't like."
"Sure of that, are we?"
He hesitated with his hand on the bathroom light. Left it off, not wanting to look at his own eyes in the mirror just yet. Not wanting to know what he might see. He cleaned himself at the sink in the darkness, dampened a towel, brought it back to the bed. "I'm not sure of anything anymore," he answered, and gave Napoleon the wet cloth before he slid under the covers, checking to make sure they hadn't accidentally knocked his pistol to the floor. Too late, he remembered the surveillance circuit, and decided to leave it disassembled until the morning.
Just in case.
A warm body curled against his back, comfort soothing the ache between his belly and his breast. He mumbled and covered the hand that rested over his solar plexus with his own, and let his breathing still. "Are you going to tell me about your wife some day?" a silken voice asked the darkness. Illya didn't answer, and the silence deepened as the street noise below began to fade toward midnight.
A little time passed, and his partner stirred against his back, curling closer. "Illya," Napoleon said, so softly that Illya knew Napoleon thought he was asleep. "No one can live entirely alone. Nobody who has to face what we have to face. Nobody can be that strong."
He smiled, the pillowcase smooth against his face. No need to tell Napoleon that it hadn't been the girl's idea to go their separate ways after drinks and dinner. No need for that at all.