The Halloween Costume Affair
Napoleon smiled and nodded to Del Floria as he made his way through the tailor shop. He had the right to be in good spirits, he thought to himself as he pulled on the coat hook; after all, he had just successfully completed a mission without any damage to his clothes. True, it had been a straightforward courier run, albeit with some high level documents, but these things had a way of being very hard wearing on his wardrobe, and it was always a relief to get through them without having to fill out a reimbursement form for a new outfit. Of course, he usually managed to offload much of the paperwork from assignments to his partner. With that thought, a frown creased his face, and he barely acknowledged the agent on duty in the reception area as she handed him his badge. He hadn't spoken to Illya for the past few days, and they hadn't exactly parted on the best of terms. They had had one of their extremely rare fights...and it had all been because of a Halloween Costume...
A few days earlier, Napoleon had been lying on the bed in his apartment, flicking idly through a magazine. Illya had been scrambling around the room trying to retrieve his clothing, which had landed in a haphazard pattern as he had undressed prior to climbing into the bed beside his partner.
Illya was freshly scrubbed from the shower and wearing only a towel around his waist as he mentally ran down the list of his attire upon entering the apartment, comparing it with the growing pile of clothing beside him. "Napoleon?" he said, a note of irritation in his voice. "Have you seen my underpants?"
"Hmm?" asked Napoleon. "Oh yeah, I think they're hanging off the light shade." He went back to his magazine for a few seconds before glancing up and asking, "Say, have you decided on a costume for the party?" The party in question was the annual Halloween Costume party organized by Mrs. Waverly in order to raise money for charity. UNCLE provided a visible security for the party, which was always attended by a number of dignitaries and celebrities, but there were also a number of agents assigned to attend the party in an undercover capacity. The undercover parts were widely regarded as cushy assignments, and in order to avoid accusations of favoritism were traditionally awarded at random. This year Napoleon had been assigned to one of the undercover roles, and had pulled a few strings to get Illya listed for the duty as well. He was quite looking forward to it...if he could only think of a good outfit to wear.
Illya shrugged. "I will probably borrow a tuxedo and go as a secret agent."
"Boring!" grinned Napoleon. "Don't you want to get all dressed up and paint your face and everything?"
"I do enough of that while on assignment," pointed out Illya, as he reached under the bed and wondered just how his second shoe had ended up wedged there. "Besides, it is such a waste of time and money. The food, the costumes...if all the guests simply wrote out a check for the amount they spend on the evening...far more money could be raised."
"You are such a party pooper," grumbled Napoleon, as he went back to his magazine. He was interrupted by Illya climbing on the bed, but to his disappointment, it was simply so that he could reach under the bed from the other side. Dropping the magazine, he grabbed Illya's bare leg and in a smooth movement, pulled the younger man up the bed towards him.
Illya twisted impatiently in Napoleon's grip. "Napoleon," he said, a note of exasperation in his voice. "I do not have time for this. I have to get dressed and go home."
Napoleon let him go and frowned, "You're always rushing away. Why don't you try staying the night once in a while." He walked his fingers up along Illya's leg. "It could be fun..."
"And have to get up an hour earlier in order to return home and change? No thank you. I would rather have the extra hours sleep."
"Well you could bring a change of clothes here...maybe leave a few things in the closet," suggested Napoleon hopefully. It had been almost three months since he and Illya had started sleeping together, but in that time, Illya had never spent a full night with him. It was ironic that he had had no problem with staying the night when he was sleeping on the couch, but now that he was sharing the bed, he always showered and dressed and was gone by midnight.
"No," said Illya, stubbornly. He removed the hand from his leg and scrambled off the bed. "I have to get dressed," he said, pointedly as he pulled his shirt on. His voice was muffled as he added, "Have you decided what to wear on the party assignment?"
The change in subject didn't go unnoticed by Napoleon and he sighed inwardly wondering just how long it would take him to convince Illya that their relationship was not simply a series of one-night-stands. He knew that that was the reason why Illya resisted any suggestion that he make their relationship more 'official' by leaving personal items in Napoleon's place. That was also the reason he had insisted that it not become public knowledge at headquarters that they had become sexually involved. Napoleon had decided not to press him on the matter, hoping that as time passed, he would be able to convince Illya that he was not simply going to cast him aside when somebody new caught his eye. Keeping his thoughts to himself, he said out loud, "Not really. I thought perhaps a pirate or maybe a highwayman. Don't you think I'd look dashing with a long black cape and a mask?" Napoleon twirled an imaginary moustache.
Illya snorted. "You would do well to wrap a ribbon around yourself and attach a label reading 'from God'," he said. "After all, you do imagine yourself to be 'God's gift'..." There was a note of sarcasm in his voice as he pulled on his trousers.
Napoleon was taken aback, "What the hell brought that on?" he asked, surprise in his voice.
Illya hesitated as if regretting his words, but then shrugged and continued, "Just the way you behave with all the women that cross your path. Every day I see you flirt with them in front of me. I know that we did not promise to be 'exclusive' to each other, but you could at least have the decency not to be so...so attentive to them in my presence."
"Now wait a minute," said Napoleon, indignantly. "You were the one who said that you didn't want to go public, that we should behave as normally in front of other people. Well being 'attentive' to women is normal for me." At the back of his mind, Napoleon knew that Illya's complaint was a little justified. He had to admit that there were occasions when he deliberately flirted with women right under Illya's nose in the hopes of provoking a public reaction from him. But he had reckoned without the Russian's self control, and any overt displays from Napoleon towards other women had usually resulted in him receiving the silent treatment while in public, followed by noisy sex in the bedroom. "And besides, I don't always initiate the flirting...I just respond to it. And maybe they wouldn't be so forward if they knew I wasn't available."
"Oh, so it's my fault that the women throw themselves at you," said Illya, sitting on the floor as he roughly tied his shoelaces. "You are so full of it Napoleon." Without another word, he had stood and left the room.
Napoleon heard the front door slam behind his partner, and he cursed under his breath. A part of him wanted to go after Illya and set things straight, but he was used to the Russian's occasional bouts of moodiness and figured that the best way to deal with the situation was to give him time to cool off. Time enough to sort things out in the morning, he had figured as he turned off the lights.
But Napoleon hadn't been able to sort things out with Illya in the morning. Arriving into Headquarters the next day, he had been immediately ordered off on the courier assignment without even being allowed time to contact Illya. Still, he had thought, maybe the time apart would do them both some good.
But now as Napoleon headed for his office, he wished he had made more of an effort to contact Illya once the assignment had been completed. He was also vaguely disappointed that Illya hadn't tried to contact him. Oh well, he'd soon be seeing him in person and they could sort things out then.
Napoleon was so lost in thought that he barely even acknowledged the two secretaries that stepped on the elevator with him, except to notice that they seemed to be getting younger every day. But they seemed equally intent on their whispered conversation, and didn't even give him a second glance. Staring at the numbers as they flashed past, Napoleon only caught snatches of their conversation.
"...heard that they had to carry him out of the building, just before it blew up," said the blonde secretary.
Her friend, a redhead replied, "That poor guy...do they know if he'll ever be the same again?"
"...doc's couldn't say for sure..." The doors opened and the two walked out, leaving Napoleon alone. The last thing he heard them say was, "poor Mr. Kuryakin...what a terrible thing to happen..."
It took a few seconds for the words to penetrate Napoleon's mind, and once the significance hit him, he hurried forward to catch up with the two women. But his timing was off and the doors to the elevator shut in his face. Thumping them in frustration, he pulled out his communicator and flipped it open. "Solo here. What is the current location of Mr. Kuryakin?" he asked the radio operator without a trace of his usual charm.
"He's in sickbay, Mr. Solo," replied the woman. "How was your trip?" But Napoleon had already closed the channel and was hitting the button for the sickbay level.
"Where's Illya?" asked Napoleon, concern evident in his voice as he accosted one of the nurses in sickbay.
"Room 3, but he's..." The nurse's voice trailed off as Napoleon turned immediately and headed for the indicated room.
The lights had been set to their lowest level, but Napoleon could see the bandage swathed figure lying motionless in the bed. There wasn't an inch of skin visible and he slumped into a chair, gazing in horror on his friend. "Oh God, Illya," gasped Napoleon. "What...what happened to you?" There was no response and Napoleon instinctively reached out to take his friend's hand, but drew it back quickly, afraid that even his gentle touch could cause further damage.
Biting his lip, Napoleon wondered just what could have caused so much damage to Illya, requiring him to be covered in so many bandages. If it hadn't been for the yellow badge with the number 2 on it that had been pinned to his chest, he wouldn't have even been able to tell that it was his friend underneath it all. And what if he never saw his friend again...what if Illya didn't recover from his injuries... Napoleon wished that they hadn't parted on such bad terms...he didn't want his last memory of Illya to be of him storming out of the apartment.
"I...I'm sorry Illya. I should never have let you leave that night. I should have apologized to you. The truth...the truth is that I have been deliberately flirting with women in front of you. It...it's because I wanted to provoke you...I wanted you to get jealous, and show it in public. I never...I never wanted to keep our relationship secret, and I thought...I thought that I could push you into going public with it. I am sooo sorry...I know why you wanted to keep it secret, and I should have respected your reasons instead of trying to manipulate your feelings."
Napoleon took a deep breath before continuing, "But I love you, Illya Kuryakin. Yes, I know that I've never said it to you before, but it's true. I've never felt this way about anyone else that I've shared my bed with, and that's the reason I want to make a big deal about us. But I promise you, that if you just wake up now, I'll respect your feelings more...I'll never flirt with another woman. I won't hassle you about spending the night. Just don't...don't leave me...please Illya." Blindly, he reached out to touch the bandaged hand, only to recoil in horror as he felt how cold it was...cold as a corpse...
"Oh God, no...no NO!" screamed Napoleon. "ILLYA!"
"Please Napoleon, don't shout. I already have a headache," came Illya's voice from behind him.
Napoleon whirled around to see Illya standing in the doorway to the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist, and another one in his hands with which he was drying his hair. Even as his jaw dropped in shock, a part of his mind noticed the drips of water on the floor, which indicated that Illya had been standing there for some time.
"But...but...but..." stammered Napoleon. "You...you're there..." he pointed at the bandage swathed figure in the bed.
Illya tried unsuccessfully to hide a grin, "I was there," he explained as he continued to dry his hair. "I don't know what it is about me and mummification, but I accidentally fell into the hands of yet another mad scientist who wanted to try out an experimental process on me. Unfortunately, this one decided to use a rather quick setting plaster of paris with his bandages, and by the time I was rescued, it had completely solidified. I had to be carried out of the building...most embarrassing."
Napoleon kept looking from Illya back to the figure in the bed.
Illya continued, "Anyway, they finally cut me free, but it was a painful process. I don't suppose you've ever had a full body wax, no? Well let me tell you that it is not an experience to be repeated. I have spent the last hour in the shower trying to get all the dust off my skin. You would not believe how difficult that was. And as for my hair...well, I don't think it'll ever be the same again." He ran his hand through his still damp hair, which was indeed looking a little paler and thinner than usual. "I would have waited until you showed up, so that you could help me...but I wasn't sure if you would want to...not after the childish way that I behaved the last night at your apartment." He bit his lip and there was an embarrassed expression on his face as he continued in a contrite tone, "I am sorry Napoleon...I was behaving like a...a pig in the manger...not willing to be attentive to you in public, and then resenting the attentions that you did get..." He was rushing his words, almost stumbling over them, a sure sign of his emotions getting the better of him. "Can you forgive me?"
Napoleon simply stepped up to Illya and wrapped his arms around him, not caring that Illya's wet skin was dampening his shirt. "It's me who should be asking for forgiveness," he said, giving Illya a quick kiss before pulling away. To his surprise and delight, Illya pulled him back into an embrace and a long lingering kiss.
"It's amazing how much thinking a person can do when they are totally immobilized," said Illya, softly once their lips parted. "And all I could think of was how much I trust you in our professional lives...and wonder why I could not do the same for our private life."
Napoleon opened his mouth, but was silenced by a finger on his lips. "Shh," said Illya, "And I realized that it was not because I did not trust you...but because I did not trust myself. Our relationship...it was so good...so right, that it scared me. I was afraid that like all good things in my life that it would fade away or be taken from me, and I felt that if I kept it hidden that it would last all the longer."
Illya let his head fall against Napoleon's shoulder...the wet strands of his hair brushing the older agent's cheek.
"We should have had this conversation a long time ago," said Napoleon.
"Better late than never," said Illya, his voice muffled. After what seemed like an eternity...or maybe just an instant, depending on your perspective, he pushed away from Napoleon, saying, "I had better get dried. Dr. Harte is keeping me here overnight for observation, just in case there were any unpleasant chemicals in those bandages."
Napoleon glanced at the figure in the bed. "Looks like it's going to be a little crowded in there."
Illya made a noise of exasperation, "That is the medical section's idea of a joke. No wonder they were careful not to cut it into too many pieces. Still, it should make a nice souvenir."
"You want to keep it?"
Illya shrugged, "It is not as if it would fit anybody else. But I don't really have room for it at my place. Would you mind if I left it at your apartment?" There was an impish grin on his face as he added, "After all, you were complaining that I never leave anything of mine there."
Napoleon laughed, "Okay, okay, I guess I asked for that." He put his arms around Illya and kissed him again.
"Napoleon?" said Illya when their lips finally parted company. "About the costumes for the party..."
"It's okay," interrupted Napoleon, "You don't have to dress up if you don't want to."
"Actually, I was going to say that I don't mind dressing up...on one condition."
"Just don't ask me to dress up as a mummy..."