You 4 Me
Napoleon Solo stood in front of his bedroom mirror and knotted his tie. Outside his window the sun was shining and the trees below were stirring in the warm breeze. It was Saturday of the long Memorial Day weekend and he was getting ready to go in to work. He didn't have anything especially vital waiting for him, but time hung heavily on his hands and he felt he might as well be there as anywhere else. His sister Jillian had invited him over for a Memorial Day barbecue, and he had accepted with the same weary resignation, but even that wasn't until Monday. In years past he would have had a date lined up for today, but of late his social life had been flat. It was just too familiar a pattern—the meeting, wooing, wining and dining and dancing—ending up in bed together which was pleasant, no denying it, but it hardly seemed worth the effort. In his younger years he had not understood why men patronized professional prostitutes—now he did understand. Cut to the chase. Enjoy the sex, pay your bill and get out. He sighed, attached a tie tack and turned to go. His phone rang.
Illya Kuryakin stood in his West Village apartment, tapping his fingers nervously as he waited for Napoleon to answer. He had been bored, and restless—lonely. His closest friends besides Napoleon were all out of town. He had had several invitations to join one group or another for a weekend get together, and had turned them down, hoping that Napoleon would call to set something up. But Napoleon probably had a date—although—Napoleon hadn't been dating much lately. What's the point, he had said when Illya had asked him about it. I thought the sex was the point, Illya had answered somewhat flippantly, and been sorry when Napoleon's face darkened. It's a lot of useless chatter for seven minutes of pleasure, he'd answered finally, and Illya's eyes had widened. Is that all it takes? and Napoleon had laughed. That's how long the good part lasts, he'd said and Illya had frowned. Isn't it all good? Not anymore, Napoleon had answered, and Illya had fallen silent. But he had looked sideways at Napoleon when he thought Napoleon wasn't looking, and when it turned out he was Illya had blushed and looked away.
He had thought about that conversation since—thought about it often. If Napoleon were tiring of women—if Napoleon no longer—did that mean—could it mean that there was a chance... every time his thoughts wandered that way his cheeks burned and his heart pounded. Was it so far fetched? When a man slept with so many—so very many women—didn't it sometimes mean—couldn't it mean—Illya couldn't even formulate the thought. He had always assumed that if Napoleon had any idea how Illya felt about him, if he knew that his least touch sent waves of sensation through Illya's whole body, that when he smiled right into Illya's eyes in the way he had that Illya felt hot, and cold, and dizzy; that Illya dreamed of him at night—torrid fantasies that left him sweating and shaking—if Napoleon knew any of that Napoleon would pull away from their friendship, would look at him differently, think less of him, be uncomfortable around him. But lately—Illya wondered. Those touches were more frequent than ever now, and no longer so brief. Napoleon laid his hand on Illya's shoulder, took his elbow to move him through a crowd, brushed errant strands of hair off his face—had even taken to hugging Illya when they were about to be separated for more than a day or two, and hugging him again when reunited. And being in Napoleon's arms was like coming home. Their bodies fit together precisely, Illya's head at just the right level to rest on Napoleon's shoulder, is arms around Napoleon's waist. They kept their lower bodies the polite distance apart so Illya didn't know—but he wondered. He himself never became aroused at these times because the idea of Napoleon feeling it frightened him so—but he wondered about Napoleon, he wondered a lot. He wanted very badly for them to spend this Saturday together. He had woken up and looked at the beautiful day waiting for him, and remembered another beautiful day years ago, when they had still been actively engaged in fieldwork.
They had walked through Central Park; Napoleon in his usual three piece suit, Illya in his equally usual turtleneck and slacks. It was too warm for both those outfits, but this hike had not been scheduled. They had been on their way in to report on their latest mission when the call had come telling them that two high level Thrush agents had been spotted apparently making their way for a rendezvous in the Zoo. So they had parked their car and headed that way on foot. As they crossed the Great Lawn they had had to detour around a group of college students playing Frisbee. "Look at that," Napoleon had said. "They're really no younger than you are, Illya." Illya had looked, and nodded. "Wouldn't it be nice," Napoleon had gone on, and his voice was decidedly wistful now, "if we were here only to play Frisbee and eat a picnic lunch and then go out on the lake? Without having to look over our shoulders, without deadlines and secret assignations—with just the prospect of a pleasant day and maybe dinner later? Wouldn't that be nice?" Illya had looked at him in surprise, and for one moment Napoleon's face had been softer than he'd ever seen it, and in that moment Napoleon too seemed of an age with the carefree students around them. He had seen Illya's ready sympathy and smiled wryly, reached out, tugged at Illya's ponytail. "Instead we're off to save the world," he'd said, and Illya had flushed up with pleasure at the touch, and nodded.
He was flushed again now, with nervousness and excitement as the phone rang in his ear, and when Napoleon picked up Illya nearly dropped the receiver.
"Illya." The open pleasure in his voice made Illya flush even further. "What's up?"
"I thought—I wondered—if you can't, or you don't want to, that's all right, but I just remembered—I mean I wondered—" Napoleon laughed softly.
"You're starting to repeat yourself."
"Do you want to go to the park today?" Illya blurted it out all in one breath before he could lose his nerve. At the silence on the other end he hurried on. "It's a nice day and I was remembering—I mean—I thought maybe we could play Frisbee. And eat a picnic lunch. And we could rent a rowboat" he felt foolish. What had made him think Napoleon would remember that conversation, that day, from so long ago? Not so long in years, perhaps, but seeming like another world now. "I mean—if you want to. If you're not busy. Or something." Stop talking, he told himself, fingers twining in the phone cord, feeling breathless. Stop talking for one minute and give him a chance to think. He'll say no, of course he will; he's going to work, or he has a date, or he's going out on the Island to see Jillian... give him a chance to think of a way to say no gracefully.
"And maybe a nice dinner later," Napoleon said, and Illya closed his eyes, tightening his grip on the receiver. "I remember, Illya. And I'd love to."
"Oh. Good. I mean—I'm glad."
"Want me to pick you up?"
Illya had thought they'd meet there, if Napoleon had said yes at all, and the prospect of riding both ways together made him giddy. "Yes. I do. Yes. Thank you."
"Not at all. I'll call Richards and have them fix us a hamper. Sound good?"
"Yes." It sounded wonderful. It all sounded wonderful. "But you don't have to—I mean we don't have to have dinner. If you have a date. Or something."
"I do now," Napoleon said, and his voice had changed, deepened. Illya swallowed.
"Should I—I mean should I bring a change of clothes then?" Napoleon liked formal restaurants, he knew, and the outfit that would be suitable for a day chasing a Frisbee in the hot sun would not be at all appropriate for that.
"Why don't we eat here? I'll call ahead and we can pick up a gourmet feast for two to go. Would you like that?"
"Yes." He would.
"In fact, you could spend the night."
Illya swallowed again. Napoleon didn't mean it that way, he knew; Napoleon was thinking of his spare bedroom, but even so the afternoon he had envisaged now stretched deliciously out into tomorrow. He was so happy he could barely stand it. "Thank you. I would like that. Thank you very much."
"Thank you," Napoleon said in that same, somehow intimate voice. "Thank you for thinking of me."
"I always am," Illya said, and could have bitten his tongue off. "I mean..."
"I know what you mean."
"Yes. Because I think of you, too."
"Oh." It was all he could say.
"I'll pick you up in about an hour."
"Um—good. Thank you. I'll be ready."
Napoleon was as nattily attired as ever—dressed in a khaki shorts set that looked straight out of a gentlemen's catalog. Illya himself had settled on denim cut offs and a blazing red T shirt that brought much needed color to his face because he was pale and nervous and almost wishing he had never made that phone call. Why this day should be different from all the other days they had spent together he didn't know, but it felt different—Napoleon had sounded different on the phone and he felt newly shy of Napoleon, not wanting to meet his eyes, jumping when Napoleon accidentally brushed his leg as he got back behind the wheel. Illya hoped the bright red shirt would give him courage. He was wearing sandals over bare feet, as opposed to Napoleon's sturdy lace up running shoes, and he clutched a brand new Frisbee in one hand. Enticing odors came from the back seat where a wicker hamper rested. After several blocks, Illya could stand the silence no longer.
"That smells good."
"Chicken, I know, and their home made potato salad—a cherry cobbler and I don't know what else. Hungry?"
"No." He wasn't. His stomach was a tight twisted knot. Napoleon found a parking space not too far from the Park ,and turned off the ignition.
"Look at me."
Cornered, Illya did, and at the warmth in those brown eyes he colored, wanted to look away, couldn't. Napoleon reached out, brushed the tip of Illya's nose with the back of his thumb. "It's only me," he said softly, and Illya swallowed.
"I know." Napoleon's thumb was on his cheek now, and he couldn't help it, he tipped his head to press it closer. Napoleon turned his hand, stroked Illya's face, and Illya sat very still. With his other hand Napoleon reached behind, pulled Illya's ponytail out from under his shirt, stroked it smooth on his back. His hands were shaking now, not much but enough for Illya to feel it.
"You have the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen," Napoleon whispered and Illya lowered them, face hot. "And your eyelashes—" he wrapped the ponytail around his other hand. "And your hair... and your mouth." He ran his thumb across it and felt Illya tremble at the touch. "I have something I want you to think about, today, while we're chasing Frisbees and eating cold chicken and what not."
Napoleon's thumb was still caressing his lips and quite without meaning to, Illya kissed it. He froze, then, frightened at his own temerity, but Napoleon didn't seem to mind—he moved closer. "Give me your left hand."
Illya held it out and Napoleon released his hair, took it. Spent a minute studying it, folding those long fingers inside his own, then pressed his lips against them. They jerked a little, in his palm, but Illya made not attempt to pull away. Napoleon kissed his hand again, mouth hot and leisurely on the third finger, where a wedding ring would go, promising everything—and anything. Then, quite deliberately, he brought Illya's hand down, pressed it against his lap. Illya's whole body jerked, then, and Napoleon opened his own hand, leaving Illya's free to withdraw and but he didn't, he just sat very still, then bent his head, and stroked Napoleon there. Napoleon didn't move while Illya explored him through his shorts, touching the tip with one tentative finger, sliding down the shaft, reaching below to cup him, then withdrawing. "You won't hurt me," he said, and it wasn't a question. Napoleon shook his head.
"Yes," Illya said, to everything and anything and when Napoleon reached out, touching in his turn, his own fingers not tentative in the least but bold, and knowledgeable, making Illya gasp, and bite his lip, and wish the gear shift weren't between them and that he could get his legs open further in the close quarters of Napoleon's little Alfa Romeo and wasn't it a good thing that Napoleon had those tinted windows—Napoleon stopped.
"Well," he said and Illya thrilled to hear the tremor in his voice. "Now we both have something to think about."
"Yes." He met Napoleon's eyes again and why had he ever been nervous when this was Napoleon, his own dear Napoleon whom he'd loved since the day they met. Napoleon, who had never been anything but kind, and so protective of his young partner that half the people in the organization thought they were already doing what—what they had just been doing. Illya smiled at him and Napoleon leaned over and kissed him. He kissed Illya for a very long time, their lips primly closed but warm, and soft, and now both of them were grateful for the tinted windows as the sounds of the city went on around them and they as hidden from view as if they were on another planet.
Napoleon released the Frisbee and it skimmed across the grass. Illya scooped it up and sent it back without missing a beat. Napoleon caught it expertly and gave it an upward twist so Illya had to leap for it, body taut and perfect, catching it as it nearly soared past him, spinning around to send it back again, slightly off center so Napoleon had to jump to the side. He made Illya stretch even higher this time, enjoying the sight, enjoying the day, laughing out loud when Illya returned it fast, and so hard that it stung his palms when he caught it. They had been at it for over an hour now and neither had missed once, as perfectly in tune with this activity as in everything else they did, and Napoleon was willing to bet that later, tonight, when he brought Illya down onto his king sized bed and gathered that lovely body into his arms that they would be in tune there, too. His hands were sweating as he released the plastic disc so it went much higher than he'd planned and Illya, seeing it, backpedaled hastily, eyes on the Frisbee, arms reaching... running right into the dog behind him and going down in a heap. Napoleon ran to him, but by the time he arrived Illya was sitting up and trying to wrest the Frisbee away from the dog, a large black Lab mix who held the other end of it between his teeth. "Give it," Illya said, exasperated. He gave a tug and the dog tugged back, shook its head vigorously from side to side. Illya pulled harder and the dog growled.
"Hey," Napoleon said, startled, and looking equally startled Illya let go. The dog pranced around them in triumph, then took off, still carrying his prize. "Are you all right?"
"Yes. But I guess the game is over."
"Only one game is over."
"Is it a game?" Illya looked up at Napoleon, frowning slightly. Napoleon looked back at him, and wanted to kiss the little furrow between his eyebrows, kiss the corners of his mouth until they curved up again, kiss the delicious little indentation under Illya's lower lip, and then draw that lip into his mouth... he sat down too.
"Are you sure? Because if it is—I'm not sure I want to play. The stakes are too high."
"And the house always wins."
"I don't know what that means."
"Neither do I." He laughed at himself and after a moment Illya laughed too. "I'm just trying to maintain the light banter the occasion seems to call for."
"We do banter very well together."
"We do everything very well together." His voice had deepened again, and Illya looked away, traced a pattern in the dust with his finger.
"I've already said yes. But I won't be able to keep anything back. Not from you. Are you sure—are you sure you want so much from me?"
"I want everything. I promise, Illya—you will be safe in my keeping. And in return..."
"I will give you everything as well." He meant it. And when Illya lifted those blue eyes to his face, searching it, Napoleon waited; feeling himself laid bare to that scrutiny, having nothing to hide. He held that out, seeing in his turn Illya's terrible vulnerability to him. "You will be safe with me," he repeated and Illya nodded, accepting.
"And you with me."
"Yes. We've been moving towards this since day one. And now here we are."
"Here we are," Illya echoed. Their eyes held for another long moment, and then someone yelled.
Startled, they turned and saw a man standing at the other end of the field. The dog was jumping at his feet. "Sorry about that! Catch!" The Frisbee soared towards them and they both dove for it, collided and went down in a tangle of arms and legs, both laughing again and then Illya snatched it up and leapt to his feet, ran. Napoleon pursued him and when it appeared he was closing in Illya threw the Frisbee once more, high over his head, making Napoleon pound across the turf to retrieve it. When he returned Illya had settled on a large sun warmed rock and was digging in their picnic basket.
"I'm starving," he said happily. "And look." He held out the bottle of fine French wine. "Is this such a good idea on a hot day?"
"It's a wonderful idea." Napoleon opened the bottle while Illya laid out neatly wrapped parcels of chicken, big roast beef sandwiches, chicken liver pate with crackers, bananas and apples and potato salad. They sat in the shade and ate, and drank wine from the crystal goblets provided. It went right to their heads and soon both were giggling, and talking nonsense, looking into each other's eyes as they drank, making up ridiculous toasts. "To a shared bathroom," Napoleon said and Illya drank. "And to not worrying about putting the toilet seat down." Illya laughed so hard at that he got wine up his nose and had to put his goblet down to recover.
"Now it itches," he complained, rubbing at it.
"To your itchy nose."
"To your sun burnt knees."
"To each and every freckle on your face."
"To the hairs on the backs of your hands."
Napoleon held them out. "This? You like this?"
"It makes me weak," Illya whispered and Napoleon refilled his glass.
"To the adorable little ridges between your nose and your upper lip."
"To the dimple in your chin." Napoleon stroked it complacently.
"Yes, that was a fortuitous gift of nature. Will you kiss it?"
"No. That's one thing" he looked over Illya's shoulder at the couple entwined on the blanket behind them. "We'll never have."
"Do you mind?"
"Do you want to kiss it?"
"That is more than sufficient. To your temples, because I know if I could press my lips there now, I'd feel your heart racing."
"To your throat. Where the same thing is true."
"To your..." he leaned in and whispered something indecent in Illya's ear, delighting in the way Illya blushed, lowering his eyelashes, then lifting them. "And to the way you flirt with me."
"I do not!"
"No? Bat those eyelashes at me again."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Illya put his nose in the air, looked down it at Napoleon, gave his eyelashes a decided flutter. Napoleon laughed.
"Illya—I am so glad you called me."
"I'm glad you said yes."
"I'm glad you wore those shorts." He ran his eyes along Illya's long, sun bronzed legs and Illya leaned closer.
"I'm glad you let me touch—you know. That."
"He's glad too," Napoleon said solemnly, and they laughed again. "Ready for that boat ride?"
"We don't have to do that. I thought you'd want to go straight back to your apartment." Napoleon shook his head, eyes dancing.
"No, we're going to carry this all the way through to the end. Boat ride, dinner—we have our whole lives ahead of us, Illya."
"Yes we do."
"Our whole lives—together?"
"I thought that's what you said yes to."
"Well then. But this is the only first time we're going to get. We're not going to rush through it."
"All right." Illya looked at Napoleon again, face serious. "I've never—I mean, I don't know—what I mean is all the experience is on your side."
"Good. You won't have any bad habits to unlearn. Place yourself in my hands, Illya. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Or sorry."
"I may not know what you like."
"I'll show you."
"I may not be very good."
"You take my breath away with every move, every gesture. I am falling more deeply in love with you with each moment that passes. Good has nothing to do with it."
"Are you going to say things like that to me all the time now?"
"All the time."
Illya looked at him sideways. "Word around the office is you're very good."
"Oh, I am. I'm extraordinarily good. Trust me."
"I do, Napoleon. I trust you. What should we do with the hamper?"
"I think we can check it at the boat dock. If we have to we can bring it with us."
"Do you want me to row?" They were walking side by side towards the lake.
"No, I will. And I will remove my shirt so you can admire my musculature while I do so."
Illya's laugh pealed out. "Don't you want to admire mine?"
"You just stretch those legs out where I can see them, and untie your hair. Anything more than that and I won't be responsible for my actions."
"You like my hair?"
"Yes, I do."
"I like yours too."
"We," Napoleon told him as he dug money out of his pocket, "are going to be quite insufferably pleased with ourselves. I can see that already. We'll be one of those couples who make other people roll their eyes behind our backs."
"How will they know we're a couple?" And just that word made him so happy... he settled himself in the rowboat and, as Napoleon had requested, untied his hair, shook it out so it fell below his shoulders, shivering at the expression on Napoleon's face. And when Napoleon pulled his shirt off over his head Illya shivered again. "Your musculature is most impressive," he said and Napoleon, under cover of fumbling for the oars caressed Illya's calf.
"What do you mean, how will they know? When I list you as my cohabitant the word will spread."
"A lot of people think we already are."
"I know. And now they're right. Illya—when the sun hits your hair that way it's like a fire."
"When you get that little bit of sweat on your chest I want to lick it off."
Napoleon missed a stroke. "You know, we don't have to stay out the full hour."
"I thought you wanted to wait."
"I remember saying that. I just can't think of why."
"You said we weren't going to rush through it because it was the only first time we would get."
Napoleon smiled at his partner. "You never forget a thing, do you."
Illya shook his head and waved a fly away from his face. "Have you changed your mind? I'll go back now if you want."
"Let's stay out a little while longer." He shipped the oars, and watched Illya, who was staring across the water at a flock of geese. He wondered what Illya was thinking. He suspected he might never really know. Illya was private—even secretive. He could ask Illya what he was thinking and Illya would answer him, some brief response having to do with the migratory habits of geese, no doubt, but that would be only the top layer of whatever was going on in his mind, and the depths underneath would remain unplumbed. I could drown in your depths, trying to penetrate them, Napoleon thought. I could spend the rest of my life learning about you, and find at the end that I never knew you at all. Illya seemed so remote right now, despite his proximity—Napoleon reached over and laid a hand on Illya's where it rested on the seat. Illya turned his head and their eyes met.
Illya's eyes were so clear—no guile, no hint of holding back—and that meant absolutely nothing, Napoleon knew. He had worked with Illya for too many years in a dangerous and treacherous job to take Illya's mild facade as truth; Just so had Illya looked at Dr. Larson, for instance, with whom he had worked in a Thrush lab for three months; engaging him in a technical discussion about their current project, blandly keeping from his face and voice Napoleon's approach from the rear, gun in hand. And when all was over, and Larson was in custody he had shouted at Illya in a rage. "You betrayed me! You treacherous snake—you betrayed me!"
"For me to have betrayed you I would have to have been with you in the first place," Illya had pointed out reasonably.
"But I thought that you were! You led me to believe that you were!"
Illya had lifted an eyebrow and shrugged, nodded at the guards and turned away while Larson was removed, still shouting accusations; turned to Napoleon and asked him about their travel arrangements.
Illya's hand was wet where he had been trailing it in the cold water, and Napoleon told himself that was why the hairs had stood up on the back of his neck. "Napoleon?" Illya was looking at him oddly now. "Is something wrong?
"I love you," he said, needing to say it, needing to see Illya's response, and it came in a warming, a softening. "What were you thinking?" he asked, then, hastily, "I mean besides the geese and why they're here at this time of year."
Illya laughed out loud. "It is late for them, Napoleon. Weather patterns in Canada must be... I was thinking about you. Wondering—why. Why today, all of a sudden. I just saw you Tuesday and you didn't seem... you didn't... even your voice was different, on the phone. And now—you've touched me, and I've touched you—we've kissed—why today?"
"Is there a problem with today?"
"No. But I've been yours for the taking for years now." Napoleon caught his breath at that, tightened his grip. "And out of the blue you reach out your hand," he squeezed it, and Napoleon squeezed back, "and gather me in—you tell me you love me..."
"I know. You would never lie to me, I know that. And I—I love you too. But you've only ever looked at women, the way you're looking at me now."
"I've never looked at anyone, the way I'm looking at you now."
"No." Illya frowned, clearly trying to find a way to express himself. "I see that. But..."
"I was standing there in my neat little grey little world, putting on my grey suit getting ready to go to work on a holiday because that was all there was in my life. Then you called me."
"I almost didn't. I was so nervous..."
"How could you possibly be nervous about me? After all we've been through together."
"I don't know. But I was."
"You were when you got in my car, too. I could tell. You didn't want to look at me, and you jumped when I touched you."
"Were you offended?"
"I was enchanted."
"Oh." Illya smiled at him shyly. "I enchant you?"
"Yes. When I heard your voice on the phone color rushed into my sterile black and white life, and when you said you wanted to spend the day with me I was filled with joy. And with that flood of joy, and color—came desire. I wanted—I want—to spend every day with you."
"Just like that."
"Just like that."
"And you won't change your mind just as suddenly? Just as inexplicably as this seems to me? Because if you did—I don't know, Napoleon. How could I watch you walk away with my heart?"
"Do I have it?" He reached out, laid his free hand against Illya's face, looking into those eyes, hoping, after all, to plumb those depths, and Illya veiled them; but the love he felt—had always felt for his partner illuminated his face, and Napoleon was satisfied. Illya loved him. That would be something he could count on, as they had always been able to count on each other. Their love would color both their loves, and Illya didn't need to answer after all because Illya's heart was on his face as he gave it away.
"Yes," he whispered anyway and Napoleon released his hand, lifted his hair and pushed it behind his shoulders.
"And you have mine." He wanted very badly to kiss Illya, then, but there were other people around them, and he wouldn't expose Illya to harsh words or insults for the world, so he drew back. "Let's go home now," he said, voice unsteady and Illya nodded. By the time they reached the dock he had tied his hair neatly back into its ponytail and looked as cool and unruffled as ever. Napoleon smiled at him, not fooled in the least because surely Illya was as filled with desire and anticipation as he himself was, and since this was Illya's first time there was no doubt a little fear, too. Just a little, not too much because Illya trusted him and he would—he would soothe Illya's fears and teach him how sweet it could be—and learn, too, because despite Napoleon's years of experience, despite his practiced moves and well honed skills this was his first time too, in more ways than one. He was a little nervous himself but not too much because it would be glorious, he knew it, and when his door finally closed behind them he pulled Illya into the embrace, joy flooding his soul.
Illya laid his head on Napoleon's shoulder the way he loved to do, and this time the length of their bodies was pressed together, and he could feel Napoleon's arousal, hard and burning, against him. He couldn't imagine what would possibly happen next, but surely Napoleon knew... he trembled, frightened, and ashamed of himself for feeling that way. Maybe Napoleon would be insulted, think Illya didn't trust him and he did, he did trust Napoleon but he couldn't stop shaking either. He'd been so confident earlier—almost bold—but now his courage had deserted him. "It's all right," Napoleon whispered, and Illya nodded obediently against him.
"I know." His arms were wrapped tightly around his own body because there was more than a little fear now, there was a lot, too much for pleasure. Napoleon patted his back, smoothed his hair.
"It's all right," he said again. "We don't have to do anything more than this if you don't want to."
"D—don't you?" And was he relieved or disappointed? He couldn't tell.
"I want to." He kissed the top of Illya's head. "But I can't when you're so afraid."
"I'm sorry." He pressed closer and how strong Napoleon's arms were, and how gentle his hands—how kind his voice. Illya relaxed a little, under that kindness, and Napoleon kept talking.
"Did you have fun today?"
"That dog had a mean streak, growling at you."
"I know. I decided he could have the Frisbee if he wanted it so much." And why were his arms all tight against his chest like this? He unlocked them, slid them around Napoleon's waist and oh, that was better, that was much better.
"Richards puts up a good picnic."
"Yes. I liked the potato salad."
"They're known for it. What about the wine?"
"I liked that too."
"I have another bottle chilling in the kitchen, if you want some."
"You don't mind?" He'd rather expected to be in Napoleon's bed already, being initiated into whatever mysteries lay ahead of him, and Napoleon's unrushed manner was reassuring.
"Sweetheart," Napoleon kissed the top of his head again. "I am so happy just to be here with you. I don't mind anything. I've never been this happy."
"Oh." Napoleon smelled good, where Illya's face was in his neck and he inhaled deeply. "Then yes, I'd like some."
"You go on and get comfortable. I'll bring it to you." He released Illya and went into the kitchen and Illya, feeling a little lost without Napoleon's arms around him, wavered for a moment, wanting to follow, then crossed the foyer, went down the two steps into the living room, curled up on the sofa. Napoleon was right behind him and he settled on the sofa too, very close, and handed Illya a cold glass. He touched his own to it. "To us," he said, and Illya drank. Then he stared into the golden depths of his glass, wishing Napoleon would hold him again and in a moment he did, putting both arms around him, moving closer.
"I like that your living room goes down," Illya said, feeling obligated to make conversation because he certainly wasn't entertaining Napoleon in any other way. "It's my favorite thing about your apartment."
"I'm hoping you'll consider it your apartment too."
"But how can you say that when you don't even know—I mean we haven't—well, what if you don't like it?"
"I like it now."
"But we're not... I'm not... I'm sorry, Napoleon. I'm ready, if you want to." He swallowed. "I mean, I do want to."
"Let me see," Napoleon said in that teasing way that made Illya smile despite his nervousness and then he touched Illya the way he had in the car and Illya jumped and dropped his wine. It spilled cold all over his lap and Napoleon's hand, and Napoleon burst out laughing. After a moment Illya began laughing too, and they both put their heads back on the cushions and laughed, and then Napoleon put his own drink down and kissed Illya's open mouth. Illya gasped, drawing Napoleon's tongue in and how could anything feel so good? He sucked on it, tasting wine and under that Napoleon's own taste. He heard Napoleon moan, and when Napoleon used the very tip of his tongue to make tantalizing patterns on the roof of Illya's mouth Illya clutched at him, pulling at him, not even really noticing when Napoleon pushed him down onto his back, leaning over him, so lost was he in the bliss of those kisses. Napoleon's tongue left, then, and he whimpered, pleading and now there was a warm, wet tugging on Napoleon's side and his own tongue was being drawn in, sucked on. He groaned aloud when Napoleon came down on top of him, full weight, stretched out, their bodies so close, Napoleon's hardness against his own... Illya arched his hips, trying to press closer still.
Napoleon laughed a little. Illya opened his eyes, blinked up at him. "What? What's funny?"
"Well, here we are. Like a pair of teenagers making out on the sofa."
"Here we are."
"You never had that, did you. For whatever reason."
"For whatever reason—no, I didn't."
"Well, your time has come, Illya Kuryakin. I am going to give it to you, all of it, everything you missed out on." His organ leaped and, feeling it, Illya smiled. Napoleon smiled too. "He likes you." He moved against Illya, hard and urgent, and Illya managed to get his hand in between them, reached down, and touched Napoleon there.
"I like him too." He patted it again. It was an odd sensation, because against the back of his hand he could feel his own arousal and it flustered him, made him pull his hand free. Napoleon moved against him again and it felt so good... nerves he'd never known he had were awakening, making him gasp, fingers tangled in the fabric of Napoleon's shirt, feeling Napoleon's face buried in his throat, Napoleon's lips hot there. Napoleon was saying things now, calling Illya his sweetheart again, telling Illya that he loved him and Illya wanted to reply but language was deserting him, thought was deserting him. There was only this feeling, spiraling higher and higher, out of control now and he couldn't lose control, he couldn't... newly terrified he began trying to push Napoleon away but Napoleon, oblivious, only moved faster.
"Stop it," Illya gasped, finding words after all. "Napoleon—please, please stop it."
Napoleon did, but the effort it took was obvious. He raised up, propped himself on his elbows and peered into Illya's face. "What?"
"I don't... I don't know what"—Illya's body, so close to completion was shaking now, in frustration and fright. He could feel his hard pounding as if he'd been running for a very long time, and Napoleon's heart against him, pounding too.
"Am I hurting you?"
"Are you sure? Am I too heavy for you?"
"No—I'm afraid, Napoleon. I'm sorry—I know I'm ruining it—I'm sorry."
"No." Napoleon pressed his lips to Illya's forehead. "You're not ruining anything. You're fine. What are you afraid of?"
"I can't... I can't think, I feel like I'm blowing away and I don't know what's going to happen next and—and I'm sorry."
"Well." Napoleon kissed his forehead again. "Do you want to stop?"
"Yes—no." He didn't want to stop, not really, his body was clamoring for more, his body wanted to move, the way Napoleon had been moving. "I want to do it, I just don't want to be afraid."
"We can fix that. I don't want you to be afraid either. You do exactly what I tell you, and you'll be fine. All right?"
"All... all right." How good Napoleon was. How could he be afraid of anything, wrapped in Napoleon's love as he was? "What do you want me to do?"
"Put your arms around my neck, like that, yes—lift up a little so I can get mine around you." Napoleon's arms closed around him, warm and tight, solid against his back. "Can you get your legs around my waist?" Illya could, and Napoleon groaned. "Now you hold on tight," he instructed. "You can't blow away if you're holding on to me. Am I right?"
"Yes." Napoleon was, and when Napoleon's mouth closed over his, kissing him deeply, well, that was the safest thing in the world, wasn't it, to be breathing Napoleon's scent and tasting Napoleon and... the feelings started spiraling up again and the higher it went the more tightly Illya clung, clutching at Napoleon's back with his fingers, squeezing his thighs together against Napoleon's hips, feeling as though Napoleon was drawing the soul right out of his body with his kisses. There was a final frenzy and then there was glory, there was rapture—words failed him again, thought left him and there was only this shining radiant center where he and Napoleon were one.
After an endless time he became aware of the physical again, of Napoleon on top of him, still now, and heavy, mouths no longer together because they both needed more air than that. His own body was limp, arms and legs unable to hold on any more, he was letting go of Napoleon whether he wanted to or no and a faint sound of protest escaped him. Napoleon kissed his cheek. "All right?"
"Don't go, don't get up..." Napoleon's chuckle tickled his neck. "What's funny now?"
"The idea of moving. Seriously, Illya. Are you all right?"
"Yes." He felt foolish, remembering his panic. "I'm sorry I—oh, Napoleon. Is that really what it's like?"
Napoleon smiled, still not lifting his head. "Magnificent. It's never been like that for me before. It was... it was downright metaphysical."
"It was!" Illya's eyes opened very wide. "It was like I was outside my body, like we were somewhere else. But together."
"Together," Napoleon echoed. "Illya—what if we get up, get naked, take a shower, get in my bed, with its cool clean sheets and big comfortable mattress, and do this all over again?"
It did sound attractive, to get undressed, to be in the shower with Napoleon, to go to bed. "You think we can do it again?" He reached down, felt Napoleon. "I don't think..." it twitched faintly against his palm and he caressed it. It stirred again. "Can we?"
"I have every confidence in his—our—powers of recuperation." Napoleon rolled off, landed on the floor, found himself smiling right into Illya's face. Illya smiled back. "Just so you know," Napoleon told him. "I am more enchanted than ever."
"You were very nice to me, Napoleon." Illya thought of all the years past. "You've always been very nice to me."
"You haven't seen anything yet," Napoleon said and got to his feet, using the sofa as a brace. He gave Illya a hand up. "Come on. I hate my pants now."
"Me too. But I love you."
He cupped Illya's face in both his hands, kissed each eye closed, kissed his nose, kissed his upper lip and his lower, holding him close now and Illya felt both their bodies harden. He smiled, and Napoleon did too. "See? I told you we could do it again."
"Will it be the same?"
"It will be endlessly different, and ever the same." He pulled Illya's hair band off, ran his hands through that heavy mass. Illya shivered.
"I like that," he whispered, and when Napoleon's hands continued down his back he whispered something else, something that made Napoleon grip him tightly, fiercely, once more, before they separated and went into the bathroom. Napoleon undressed him slowly, item by item, making him shiver again, and again, and then he did the same for Napoleon before they stepped together into the pouring water, washing each other with careful, loving hands and it was hard, to wait until they were finished, dry and in bed but Napoleon insisted it would be worth it so they did.
Napoleon's sheets were indeed cool, and clean—soft—and Illya ran his hand over the one he lay on. Napoleon had thrown back the other covers, tossed them to the floor and now he was at the window, adjusting the shades. Illya felt all his original fears returning. Napoleon, standing with his back to the bed; nude, powerful body gleaming in the dim light, suddenly seemed a stranger. "Your sheets are nice," Illya said, feeling he should say something and Napoleon turned.
"Thank you. I put them on this morning, after you called."
"So—you knew we'd..."
"I hoped." He sat on the edge of the bed. "You know what I just realized?"
"We forgot all about dinner."
"Oh!" Illya stared at him. "We were going to pick something up on the way home."
"We'll call out for something later," Napoleon said, stretching out on his side, propped up on one elbow, smiling into Illya's face. "How does that sound?"
"Fine. Napoleon—I'm really sorry about before. You said that was the only first time we'd ever get, and I ruined it."
Napoleon reached for him, drew him close and both caught their breath at the contact. "How can you think of that ending and say you ruined it?" He ran his hand down Illya's spine, smiling as Illya arched against him. "Besides, I was wrong about that."
"About what?" Illya shivered as Napoleon trailed caressing fingers up his side.
"About it being the only first time. It wasn't."
"No?" Napoleon was using both hands now, up Illya's back again, across his shoulders, up to his face, stroking his hair. Illya tensed and Napoleon stopped his caresses, and just held on.
"No. Because this is the first time in bed together. And maybe tomorrow morning will be the first time I put my mouth on you, here," he touched Illya there, lightly, and Illya tensed even more, fingers closing on Napoleon's shoulders. "And you'll put yours here," he took Illya's hand, placed it there, gasped as Illya's fingers curled around it. "And that's just off the top of my head. We have a lifetime of firsts ahead of us."
"You—you really want to do that?"
"You know, what you just said. About your mouth." He couldn't look at Napoleon and say these things so he turned his face into Napoleon's shoulder. "And mine."
"Yes. And you do too, if you think about it. Illya—I wish you weren't still so afraid of me."
"I'm not afraid of you." He wasn't. How could he be afraid of Napoleon? "I'm sorry. I don't know what's wrong with me. I want to—I know I want to. At the park—in the boat—before that, years before that, every time you touched me I wanted to."
"Yes. But now—and earlier, on the sofa—I don't know."
Napoleon was silent, and Illya knew what he was thinking. Napoleon had, on occasion, voiced his suspicions about his partner's childhood, which Illya didn't remember. Illya remembered nothing before his arrival at boarding school at the age of eight. Napoleon thought that was strange enough, and that Illya's lack of curiosity about those lost years was even stranger. But he had never pressed it, and Illya was glad because perhaps some things were best forgotten. And if the time ever came that that curtain was drawn back, well he would deal with it then. But now was not the time. He shook his head wordlessly, and Napoleon kissed his cheek. "It's perfectly natural," he said soothingly. "Does this feel good?" He was stroking Illya's hair again.
"Yes. It all feels good."
"Well, then, You just relax, while I keep on doing what I'm doing—loving you."
"Love me," Illya whispered back. It was just what he had needed to hear. "Yes, oh, yes. Tell me again."
"I love you." He laid his cheek on Illya's abdomen, rubbing it against Illya's flesh and Illya put his hands in Napoleon's hair, combing through it, feeling it crisp against his palms. When Napoleon turned his head, pressed a kiss deep into Illya's belly Illya cried out, fingers tightening and he thought that maybe he did want to do that thing Napoleon had described, and maybe he didn't want to wait for tomorrow. But Napoleon's kisses were moving up now, up to his throat and oh, Napoleon's hot mouth behind his ear sent a sizzling current of desire through his whole body. Napoleon's hands closed over him—there, and Napoleon's mouth came down on his mouth and Illya turned to him, reached for him blindly, clung to him and there was no fear, just pleasure, pleasure so strong—he would have cried out again if Napoleon hadn't been kissing him but Napoleon was kissing him so he kissed Napoleon back, wild, sweet kisses while his body was transported again to that other place, that other plane. Then it was over, and he lay panting. Why on earth had he ever been afraid? There was nothing to be afraid of, here, or in that magical place where they could travel any time they pleased. Napoleon held him fast while his heart slowed, his breathing evened out. He shuddered once more as a faint echo rippled through him, and then all was still. Napoleon kissed him again.
'"Mmm." He opened his eyes and was looking directly into Napoleon's own, smiling at him. He smiled back. "I love you, Napoleon," he said and Napoleon's smile softened.
"I love you too, Illya. And the enchantment persists."
Illya laughed a little. "Really?"
"Yes. Enchanted, besotted, infatuated—head over heels in love."
"Are you. You're besotted with me, too?"
"Yes. It's going to be disgraceful, the way I'll fall all over you. You'll be ashamed of me."
"No I won't. I'll be awash in admiration, the way I am now."
Illya looked at him sideways and Napoleon promptly seized him, kissed him thoroughly, an action not marred in the least by Illya's muffled laughter. "Why did you do that?"
"Every time you look at me that way I'm grabbing you," he tightened his grip, "and kissing you breathless."
"What if we're at work?"
"You wouldn't do that to me at work."
"I might. Or I might do this." Illya gave him a quick, upward glance, lowered his lashes, lifted them briefly then lowered them again and Napoleon groaned. They kissed some more and Napoleon, who was still almost painfully aroused, groaned again.
"We'd better stop this or I'll..."
"Never mind." He rolled onto his back and lay with one arm across his face, breathing deeply, and Illya reached for him. He tried to remember what Napoleon had done, how it had felt when Napoleon touched his sides, his back—how good it had been when Napoleon kissed his stomach. He leaned over and did so, rewarded by Napoleon's taste and Napoleon's scent—greedy, suddenly, he kissed Napoleon's hips and his chest, up to nuzzle Napoleon's throat, remembering Napoleon's lips behind his ear, doing the same, hearing Napoleon's guttural exclamation. He wanted to taste Napoleon everywhere, and after all, Napoleon had said... so he moved down again, feeling Napoleon's hands in his hair urging him on, not pushing but rewarding him for every inch with pats and strokes and inarticulate sounds. Illya's mouth closed over him and Napoleon cried out, wrapped Illya's hair around his fists, crying out again, and again, and finally falling back, gasping, hands open, legs open, mouth open, breathing in great gulps of air. Pleased with himself, Illya kissed his way back up Napoleon's body, pausing to lick the droplets of sweat off his chest, moving up again until Napoleon reached for him, turned, wrapped Illya up in his arms and his legs and held him close. Illya, feeling utterly secure and at peace there, pressed his lips once more to Napoleon's shoulder. Promising himself it was only for a minute, because he was hungry and surely Napoleon was too, he waited, although—Napoleon looked to be falling asleep. Illya watched him for a little while, smiling, then fell asleep himself.
Napoleon felt himself smiling even before his eyes were open. The sun was pouring in the window, he could feel its heat on his back, and Illya was equally warm against his front. He opened his eyes to see the back of Illya's head, that glorious mass of hair lying across Illya's slim shoulders, spilling onto the pillow, a hundred and one shades of blond, from rich honey to silver gilt, with strands of copper running through it like flames. They were pressed up against one another cozily, his chest against Illya's shoulder blades, Illya's hard, tight little bottom snug against his loins. He felt himself stir, there, and moved away because Illya was still sleeping, and the moment was so sweet, so rich with promise he wasn't ready to end it just yet. Everything he needed in the whole wide world was right here in his arms, and that was a thing to be savored, not rushed through. His right arm was outstretched and Illya's head was pillowed on it—his other arm was draped around Illya's waist, and one of Illya's hands was tucked inside Napoleon's own; Illya's other hand out flung, fingers slightly curved, translucent in the morning sun. And now Illya was stirring, sighing, fingers opening in Napoleon's palm, turning to clasp Napoleon's hand, shifting a little, pressing himself back up against Napoleon's erection, which grew to truly impressive proportions at the contact. Illya murmured something Napoleon couldn't quite catch, and Napoleon moved down just a fraction, so he could slip himself into the juncture of Illya's thighs, not ready yet for the ultimate act, not sure how it would be received, not wanting to twitch the corners of that curtain aside even a little. Illya tightened his legs, squeezing Napoleon, making him nearly frantic with the desire to move, so he released Illya's hand, reached down, squeezed Illya in his turn and it came on them in a whirlwind, with no time at all between those first stirrings and the final explosion. Finished, they lay panting, then Illya turned over to smile into Napoleon's eyes.
"It was all right?" A little frown had appeared on Illya's brow, and Napoleon kissed it.
"It was wonderful."
"Oh. Good." Illya looked relieved. "It was wonderful for me too."
"And this is the first time we've done that, isn't it."
"Yes it was."
"We still didn't do that other thing, you know. That you talked about last night."
Napoleon chuckled. "You're just bursting with curiosity about that, aren't you."
"I've tried to imagine how it would feel," Illya explained seriously and Napoleon couldn't help but kiss him, and Illya kissed Napoleon back. "I mean—you really seemed to like it last night, when I did it to you."
"I certainly did." He was smiling down at Illya now, admiring that lovely face, so perfectly sculpted; high, exotic cheekbones, blue eyes set at that intriguing little slant, extravagant eyelashes. Aristocratic nose, pure clean line of jaw and chin—the chin, ending at a stubborn angle that he just had to kiss because it was true, Illya was stubborn. He was positively hard headed. He could set that soft mouth into an unyielding line and hold his position regardless of reason or common sense but it wasn't set now, it was curving upwards so Napoleon had to kiss him there too, and Illya's lips parted willingly. They kissed for a long time, both too sated for it to lead any further, just the kissing was enough, and who knew how long they would have stayed there on the sun dappled bed, kissing, but then Illya's stomach announced its empty state and Napoleon, startled, laughed out loud which effectively ended the kiss. Illya pushed him away.
"Don't laugh at me." But he was laughing too, despite his efforts to hide it. Napoleon grinned, turned, and laid his ear against Illya's flat belly.
"What did you say?" he inquired politely into Illya's navel and Illya's stomach obligingly spoke again. "Oh. Hungry?" Illya was trying to push him away, but not very hard. "I can't hear you." But Illya's stomach was silent now and Napoleon shrugged, lay back down. "I must have been mistaken," he observed and Illya rolled away, sat up.
"I am hungry. I'm very hungry. Aren't you?"
"Not especially—" and then Napoleon's own stomach growled and Illya pounced on him.
"Yes you are too! And you have the nerve to laugh at me! Yours was much louder than mine!"
He was trying to turn Illya over, to pin him on his back but Illya was securely ensconced on top, with one knee digging into Napoleon's solar plexus and his elbow across Napoleon's throat. Napoleon tickled him, and when he laughed Napoleon twisted, threw him off, and flopped down on top, his superior size and weight trapping Illya hopelessly, pinning him deep into the mattress. Perfectly content to be there, Illya smiled up at him. "Aren't you going to make me something to eat?"
"That's right. You don't cook at all, do you."
"I can drop it off and pick it up."
"No, and you don't either, Napoleon Solo. Don't try to tell me. I can vacuum."
"I have a cleaning service."
"I know. That's why I felt safe offering. What are you making for breakfast?"
"What do you feel like eating?"
"I don't know. Surprise me. I'm taking a shower."
"I'm coming with you."
"Good." They managed to get out of bed, and Illya looked at the tangled linens in dismay. "We'll have to wash those before tonight."
"Behold." Napoleon threw open the door of his linen closet with a flourish and Illya looked approvingly at the stacks of identical cotton sheets.
"That's another thing I like about your apartment."
"And the linen closet. I have to cram mine in with my towels on two open shelves."
"Not any more."
"No." Illya patted the sheets before Napoleon closed the door again and they went into the shower.
Later, fully dressed and cooking breakfast, Napoleon watched Illya, clad only in one of Napoleon's bathrobes, wander through the large apartment; pausing to look out the window at the vista of skyscrapers and, far below, city streets. He had a sudden mental image of a shy, brightly colored bird that he had somehow coaxed into his hands and then promptly shut up in a luxurious cage. Illya, he knew, loved his Greenwich Village neighborhood. Many times Napoleon had come by to pick him up and found him sitting on his stoop, laughing and talking with a motley group of people, or standing in a crowd watching a street entertainer perform. Once he had been meeting Illya in Washington Square Park and after a search finally found him knee deep in the fountain, engaged in a game of water tag with several children and their parents. And again, one evening, instead of waiting for Napoleon at the Arch as arranged he had been playing tambourine with a scruffy pair of guitarists, and when Napoleon had peeled him away they had presented him with his share of the night's takings—seven dollars and sixty-eight cents in quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. He had treated Napoleon to a hot dog and soda and, on seeing Napoleon's covert attempts to dispose of it had snatched it from him and devoured it along with his own. Napoleon had visibly shuddered.
"Illya—you don't know what's in that and the vendor hasn't washed his hands any time this month."
"That is what builds a healthy immune system," Illya had said and laughed. Now Napoleon stirred eggs and thought, and later, watching Illya eat, he thought some more.
"Tell me something."
"What else do you like about this apartment? The sunken living room, the linen closet and what else?"
"The quiet," Illya answered without even having to think about it. "I love that it's so quiet here. You'd never know we were in Manhattan. My building is noisy—I try to ignore it when I'm working or sleeping, but it gets to me after a while. And the comfort. Everything is very comfortable. Even the bathroom. Everything. The carpet and the furniture—everything."
"The fireplace." Illya looked approvingly at the gas hearth in the living room. "I want to sleep in here sometimes in the winter."
"Your bed." He gave Napoleon a wicked smile. "I like your great big bed with that soft mattress. Mine is all right..." Illya had a single Murphy... "but yours is much better. Especially for two people."
"Why do you ask?"
"Just wondering. Just—hoping you'll be happy here."
"You're here, Napoleon." Illya put down his fork and rested his chin on his linked hands, watching Napoleon seriously. "I'd be happy anywhere you are."
"Me too, sweetheart." Napoleon held out his hand and Illya took it. "I don't know how I lived all those years without you."
"Call me that again."
"I like that." And what a beautiful smile Illya had, how it began at the corners of his mouth and spread across his face to sparkle in his eyes. "You must really love me, to call me that."
"I do, Illya. I really love you. I love you with my whole heart."
"I love you too." Illya turned their joined hands, kissed Napoleon's palm.
"Illya—do you mind very much if I have some business I have to take care of today? I'll meet you someplace for dinner. Unless it's a problem. If it is, say so."
"No, that's all right. I have some research I can do at the library." He kissed Napoleon's palm again, lips caressing him, making Napoleon catch his breath. "Do you have to leave right now?"
"No." He stroked Illya's face, ran a thumb across his lips. "In fact, there's time to satisfy your curiosity about a certain act I told you about last night."
"Well, that would be good for now," Illya said practically. "Because from your description we shouldn't have to shower again after."
Napoleon laughed, pushed back his chair. "And would it be so terrible if we did? Have to shower again?"
"Well, no, Napoleon. After all, cleanliness is next to—something good. I just thought you were in a hurry to get to your business." He followed Napoleon into the bedroom, waited while Napoleon stripped first the bed then himself, and helped make it. "Now what?"
Napoleon frowned, considering. "Am I too heavy, when I'm on top of you?"
"Oh, no. I like it. It makes me feel—secure. Like you're protecting me."
"From what?" It was an idle question, but Illya's eyes darkened.
"I don't know." Then he shook himself a little. "Everything. You always make me feel that way. Like you're between me and the rest of the world, and I'm safe behind your strength. Inside your strength."
"You are, Illya." Serious now, Napoleon stood very close to him, looked directly down into his eyes. "All my power, my prestige—my wealth—my life, stands between you and anything that threatens you."
"Yes." He laid his head on Napoleon's shoulder. "And I'll fight for you, too, Napoleon. With every breath in my body."
Napoleon, well aware of what a fierce, indomitable fighter Illya was, put his arms around him. "Yes. If the whole world should be against me..."
"I am for you."
"And you for me."
"Yes." He smiled against Illya's hair. "These are deep waters for two people about to engage in a fairly frivolous activity."
Illya smiled too. "Tell me what to do."
"You're not afraid any more?"
"Oh, no. No."
Illya wasn't. His body was starting to thrum with anticipation as Napoleon pushed the robe off his shoulders, his skin feeling hypersensitive to Napoleon's touch, and just the brush of Napoleon's naked thigh on his was so intense—he couldn't imagine how it would feel to have Napoleon's mouth on him there but he remembered Napoleon's taste well enough, and couldn't wait to taste him again. Napoleon seemed to be in no hurry, though, so Illya reached down, stroked him, smiling to himself as it leaped in his hand and Napoleon's grip changed, tightened. Illya stroked it again and in a minute found himself lifted off his feet and dumped on the bed. Under Napoleon's wordless urging he stretched out on his back and Napoleon came down on top of him, thighs clasping his head between them, the musky scent of him hot in Illya's nostrils. Before he could react to that Napoleon's mouth was surrounding him, engulfing him and he opened his own mouth in astonished delight and Napoleon dipped in. He closed his mouth and nothing, no nothing, could have prepared him for this; it was like none of his imaginings and more than his wildest dreams. In giving pleasure and receiving pleasure they made a perfect circle of desire, a circle that began revolving, spinning, faster and faster and then like a tornado it swept them up, clinging desperately each to the other, wordless cries smothered against the other's flesh, slowing, slowing, barely drifting now, then stopping. Silence. Stillness.
Napoleon smelled so good, Illya wanted to stay just like that forever, but when Napoleon moved, turning so he could gather Illya into his arms, press Illya's head against his chest, that was bliss too and he felt like a leaf after a storm, drifting down, and down... "Will we always go to sleep after?" he managed to ask, and felt rather than heard a faint echo of Napoleon's rich chuckle.
"It would seem so. Just for a minute..." his voice trailed off and they were floating away, sleep so close, and very welcoming. Illya gave one final sigh, feeling, with fading consciousness, Napoleon's arms growing lax around him, and then the phone rang. Both started, the sound jarring them awake. It rang again, and Napoleon groped for it, knocked it off the table, swore, leaned way over Illya, near crushing him but that was all right, Illya thought, and then Napoleon was off him and sitting up with the receiver to his ear.
"Solo here" he said and Illya marveled at the composure in his voice, as if he were sitting at his desk in a business suit instead of naked and in bed. "Jillian." He held the phone out a little, eyed it askance, then winked at Illya, pulled him over so Illya's head was in his lap and he could tangle his hands in Illya's hair while he talked. "No, I just dropped the phone. Yes, I'm still coming tomorrow." Covering the receiver, he whispered "I forgot all about that." He returned his attention to his sister. "But I'm glad you called. I need you to put another steak on the grill for Illya. Yes, he's coming. I know you do. I'm glad, Jillian, because—well, because he'll be coming with me every time from now on. Yes, he will. Yes—yes we are. I know it's about time." He winked at Illya again. "Yes, he is. He's right here. All right." He held the phone out to Illya. "She wants to talk to you."
Illya took the receiver. "Hello, Jillian. I—thank you. Yes, I promise. Thank you. Thank you very much. Yes, I am glad." He paused, listening, then laughed. "Of course he doesn't! What do you—no, he doesn't. No, I wouldn't let him but he never... yes. All right. I'll see you tomorrow. Do you want to talk to Napoleon again? All right. Good-bye, Jillian." He gave the phone back to Napoleon and turned over, burying his face in Napoleon's stomach, loving the way he felt, the way he smelled, remembering the way he tasted.
"Jillian what on earth" Napoleon laughed out loud. "I was not that bad. I think bullying is a very strong word. No, of course I won't. And Illya would give me what I deserved if I ever tried it. Yes, I am happy. Yes. Very happy. Well, thank you. We'll see you tomorrow." He hung up. "Jillian claims I bullied her when we were little," he said, grinning. "My memories are rather different."
"That's what she said to me." Illya turned over onto his back, laughing a little. "She said you were a terrible bully and not to let you push me around. But I don't believe her, Napoleon. I know you were always very nice to her."
"Well," Napoleon laughed again. "Maybe not always. But she is glad for us. She said she's seen it coming all these years and what took so long?"
"What did take so long?"
"I can't imagine. I can't imagine what I was thinking. Me, with all those women I didn't care a thing about, and you—with no one."
"Telling myself I wasn't interested," Illya said, and he laughed too. "Thinking I was a little bit above all that sweaty thrashing about everyone set such store on."
"And now here we are."
"That was wonderful, Napoleon. You know. What we just did. I liked it."
"Mmm. Me too. You do that very well."
"You certainly do."
"So do you."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it."
"And that was another first time."
"Yes it was. Illya—despite the inherent cleanliness of that act I'm still feeling not so fresh. Let's take a fast shower before we get dressed and go out."
"It is sweaty," Illya said, and licked at a drop rolling down Napoleon's stomach. "I was right about that."
"Don't start up again. We'll never get anywhere."
"Would that matter so much?"
"Actually, yes." He rolled over and up off the bed, and by the time he had the water at just the right temperature Illya was there with him, and it wasn't as fast a shower as Napoleon planned, but it was thorough.
Later, standing by the front door, Napoleon patted Illya down, Illya laughing and pretending to try to push him away. "What? What are you doing?"
"Making sure you're carrying your pen."
"I always carry my pen. Just in case."
"Good. I'll call you and let you know where to meet me."
"All right. Have a good day, Napoleon.
"You too." And Napoleon couldn't help it, he had to kiss Illya, one more time, had to hug him and Illya closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around Napoleon's neck, and kissed him back. It was hard, after that, to tear themselves apart, but Napoleon reminded himself he really did have important business to attend to and so it was he who lowered his arms, who stepped back, and Illya smoothed his hair down and they left together.
Illya loved research. It was pure joy to him, unraveling data, whether on the computer screen or, as today, in the pages of books. He was in the private stacks of the New York Public Library, despite UNCLE's own excellent facilities, because he liked the atmosphere here and because he was unlikely to run into anyone he knew who might interrupt. He had several thick volumes around him, and was perfectly happy reading and taking notes and setting aside items to be copied when his pen beeped at him, reminding him of the world outside. He opened it, whispered hastily "I can't talk to you here, call me back in a minute," and headed for the stairs. Outside in the bright sunshine he leaned against the wall and waited, and when his pen beeped again he answered it. "Hi."
"Hi yourself. Where were you that you couldn't talk to me?"
"In the library. I told you."
"Can you get away to meet me in an hour?"
Illya looked at the people walking past him and wondered how it was he was able to keep this joy within himself so they didn't all stop to stare at the thin young man doing a jig on the library steps. He smiled. "Yes I can. Where?"
Napoleon gave him an address. Illya lifted his eyebrows. "That's not far from where I live," he observed. "I can stop by and pick up a few things I need."
"Don't bother yet."
"Why not?" Illya was suddenly alarmed. "I thought you wanted me to move in! Have you changed your mind? I thought..."
"No, of course I haven't changed my mind. Just—I don't want you to be late. I'm having a meeting at a private home and we'll go out to eat right after. There'll be a key on top of the lintel if I'm not there when you arrive. Go on in and wait for me—it's empty."
"A secret rendezvous in an empty house? What's going on?"
"Illya—you know full well there are things I can't tell you. Just let yourself in and wait for me."
"And no one will be there?"
"When I say empty I mean not lived in. Uninhabited. No one better be in there. If they are..."
"Shoot to kill."
Illya laughed. "Napoleon—you know full well I don't carry any more."
"Then you'll have to resort to" Napoleon dropped his voice to a whisper "unarmed combat."
"Is this official authorization to use deadly force?"
"Illya—if there's so much as a cat in that house I want you to use all means necessary to remove it."
"A cat would be nice. I've always wanted one."
"Please don't say that. You know how I feel about animals in the house."
"Or a dog would be even better."
"I'm begging you here, Illya. Because I really do want to fulfill all your heart's desires. But the idea of an animal living in the house with people repels me. It's unsanitary. It's unnatural. It's..."
"What about fish?"
"Fish maybe I could live with. We'll talk about it."
"Some people have potbellied pigs," Illya offered and burst out laughing at Napoleon's horrified silence. "Fish are fine, Napoleon. I'm excited about fish. Do you really think you'll be late?"
"I might be."
"Then why should I..."
"Never mind. You check out or whatever you have to do and go downtown. I'd like to be there when you arrive, but if I'm not just make yourself comfortable. I have to go."
"I love you, Illya."
"Oh." Illya flushed with pleasure. "I love you too, Napoleon. I'll see you soon."
Illya climbed the stairs from the subway station and drew a deep breath. He would miss his neighborhood, no question about it. He didn't regret the decision to move, because being with Napoleon anywhere was better than being anywhere without him, but he would miss it. He had lived here for a long time, since his first arrival in America. He knew all the shopkeepers, street people, city workers and commuters in the area. On his way to the address Napoleon had given him, he passed the salon where he got his hair cut. On impulse, he went in. He had a standing appointment once a month to maintain the perfect blunt cut just below his shoulders, but Napoleon's evident pleasure in it had made him think maybe it could be a little longer, and besides, he was bursting to tell someone his news—someone who wouldn't look shocked, or shake a head over Napoleon's career. That thought worried him a little, and maybe they should talk about it. He frowned, and then heard his regular stylist's unmistakable voice.
"Goldilocks! What are you doing here? Am I seeing things? This is not your regular time!"
Illya laughed. "Henri. No it's not. I was passing by, and thought I'd stop in."
"Always welcome, sunshine, you know that. 'Henri' was a big black man with an accent that came straight from the streets of the Bronx. He had been cutting Illya's hair for years. "What's up?"
"Well—I was thinking I might want to grow my hair longer."
"What? A change?" Henri clutched his chest, staggered backwards and sat heavily in his chair. It swiveled around at the sudden weight and Henri gave it a push, spinning it back. "Sunshine, we've been doing the same careful trim for all eternity. What makes you... oh, no. Don't tell me. You have yourself a gentleman friend."
"Well," Illya began, ticking off the items on his fingers, "he is a gentleman. And he's definitely a friend, and," he gave Henri a mischievous smile, "he likes my hair. A lot."
"What's not to like? Longer, hum?" He got up, walked around Illya. "Yes, yes, right about here?" He touched the middle of Illya's back. "Or here. Drive him wild." One finger delicately on his lower spine.
"Yes. There. He's pretty wild already, but more is better." He smiled and Henri laughed out loud. "Should I still keep my appointment? It's in two weeks."
"Have a seat." Henri ran a comb through Illya's hair, studied it carefully, took scissors and snipped at several places that were not perfectly in line. Then he examined Illya's face, did the same for his bangs. "No. Come back in, say, two months and I'll even it out again. Oh, sunshine, I hope he appreciates you."
"He gives you a hard time you tell me. I got friends. Is he rich?"
"Actually he is. The bad news is we'll be living uptown. But I'll still come here for my haircuts."
"You're moving in with him? So soon?" Henri shook a finger at him. "That's a big mistake. Jacques—tell our little powder puff here he's making a big mistake."
"Big mistake." Jacques, a thin, ferret faced young man who tried to conceal it by wearing his hair poufed out and teased, made a clucking sound with his tongue. "He'll take you for granted. And what about when he gets tired of you? Where will you live then?"
Illya started to answer, but Henri made a shooing motion at Jacques. "I said give him good advice, not spout nonsense! Look at him! Who's going to get tired of that? Especially some rich up towner—and he's much older than you, right? Am I right?"
"Well, yes—about twelve years—but I've known him for a long time. It's not like we just met."
"Get your name on the lease," Jacques advised. "That way you have some leverage."
"He's got all the leverage he needs under those oh so tight blue jeans," Henri said, and Illya laughed. "But Jacques is right. Get your name on everything."
"You're both crazy. So I'll see you in two months? What do I owe you for today?"
"Nothing, sunshine. Consider it a wedding present. But remember—I got friends'll rearrange his face for you if you want."
"Thank you, but that won't be necessary. 'Bye."
"'Bye, Goldilocks. Congratulations."
"Yes, congratulations!" Jacques chimed in. "Felicitations and all that happy crappy."
"Now you sure you know what to do?" Henri asked, leaning on his broom. "It's been so long for you your legs might have grown together."
"What—oh!" Illya blushed furiously, to their great delight. "Shut up. They have not! And I'm not—shut up!"
"Ooh, look at him turn red! Don't worry—I'll give you lessons." Jacques made a kissy sound and Illya held up his hand, palm out.
"Goodbye Henri, Jacques. Thank you for the trim, Henri."
"Any time, sunshine, any time. What about your friend? He need his hair done?"
Illya laughed again. "No, thank you. He gets it cut uptown, near his office."
"Oh, uptown!" Henri swooned back into his chair. "He gets it cut uptown! Bring him in anyway, so we can look him over for you."
"I don't think so. But I'll see you in two months." Illya left the shop and walked up Fifth Avenue, smiling. No, he would not bring Napoleon in there for a hair cut or for any other reason. Napoleon would not be amused. He would probably... Illya turned onto a little cul de sac off Fifth Avenue, only blocks from Washington Square Park.
Seven townhouses were on the courtyard, three on each side and one, larger, at the end. A perfectly restored carriage house sat beside the end brownstone and Illya walked over, fascinated. Why would you need... oh. It was a garage. He peered in through the window and saw it was large enough for two cars. Looking at the front of the house he saw the number corresponded to the one Napoleon had given him. He walked up the stone steps, three of them and, flanking them, two stone lions. He smiled at them and rang the doorbell. It chimed musically from within the house and, after a moment, when no one answered, he rang again. Still nothing. Climbing onto the door sill and standing on his toes, he reached up, felt along the ledge for the key, retrieved it. Carefully he opened the door and went inside, closing and locking it behind him.
Napoleon had been right—the house was empty. Nevertheless Illya called out. "Hello? Napoleon?" Only echoes came back and, curious, he looked around. He was standing in a spacious vestibule. Ahead of him a flight of stairs rose to the second floor, and under his feet was the gleam of polished hardwood. To his left an arched entryway led to a library—empty now, all the walls lined with built in shelves, except for the far end where there was a big picture window. A cushioned window seat invited him over, and he crossed the room, looked out, onto a low brick wall separating this property from the neighboring yard. He wandered across the hall and found himself in another large room, with a view of the side of the garage. Morning glory vines covered it, and a neglected little garden ran along the border. Down the hall, behind the staircase was a spacious, bright kitchen with the most modern of appliances. Even more curious now he climbed the stairs and was faced with three closed doors, one directly in front of him, and one on each side of the staircase. He started on the right, and found a small room, clearly a guest room or a study. It too overlooked the garage. The double doors at the head of the staircase led into a living room. One wall, all windows, offered a lovely cityscape. Three steps led down to a built in sofa facing a fireplace. This part was smaller than the similar space in Napoleon's apartment—our apartment, he corrected himself, and the fireplace was wood burning rather than gas. Illya sat on the sofa. He wished Napoleon would hurry up. This big, echoing house made him lonely. And it was so quiet. He realized he hadn't heard a sound since he walked in. Normally he would have appreciated the silence, but right now it only deepened his sense of isolation. Where was Napoleon? Why wasn't he here? As if in answer his pen beeped. He snatched it from his pocket.
"Napoleon! Where are you? I miss you."
"I miss you too. Did you find that address?"
"Yes, I'm here now. But I'm all alone, Napoleon, and surely that's not right. I thought you were meeting me."
"What? Oh, this one? Yes, it's wonderful. It even has a sunken living room like yours. Ours," he amended hastily. "Like ours."
"Does it. So you like it?"
"Of course I like it. What's not to like? It's perfect. Except that it's empty, and I want you."
"You really like it?"
"Napoleon—what difference does it make if I like it or not? Someone's going to be very happy here, but I'm not because you're gone. Where are you? How much longer is it going to be?"
"They're drilling in the Avenue at the end of our street." Indeed, Illya could barely hear Napoleon now through the noise. "Can you hear that?"
"I'm not deaf, Napoleon. Of course I can hear it."
"I mean before I called. Could you hear it then?"
"No, not a sound. Napoleon..."
"You like that, right?"
"Not now. It just makes me lonesome for you. You're right outside? Why aren't you coming in? Is something wrong?"
"Just waiting for... ah. Here it is. Give me fifteen minutes, then open the door."
"You've been a spy for too long," Illya complained. "Why can't you just..." but Napoleon had disconnected. Illya scowled. Fifteen minutes. Why did he have to wait fifteen minutes when Napoleon must be right outside? Maybe he could see him, if he could find a view out the front. He left the living room, pulling himself out of the overstuffed sofa with difficulty. The sofa itself was much bigger than Napoleon's—nearly filling the little sunken space. There would be room for two people to stretch out full length on it, especially if one was on top... Illya blushed and went in search of a front view. He opened the last door on a master bedroom. It did indeed overlook the front of the house, and he could see the construction crew Napoleon had mentioned, and a small panel truck making its way over the cobblestones, but there was no sign of Napoleon himself. Disappointed, Illya checked his watch and turned to go.
There was another wood burning fireplace in the bedroom. He had missed it when he came in, so focused was he on the window. Now he stood and admired it. The mantel and hearth were tiled in a deep, luminous blue, and wouldn't that be nice, to lie in bed and watch the flames die down. He went down the stairs, trailing his hand on the carved wood banister, and opened the front door. It wasn't Napoleon climbing the steps. It was two big men carrying... Illya blinked. Carrying what looked very much like the frame to Napoleon's bed. But that couldn't be... he saw Napoleon coming up the steps behind them, and as the men excused themselves and struggled to maneuver the headboard through the door he knew. He knew just what Napoleon had done. Napoleon had—Napoleon had—Napoleon was smiling at him now. "Well?"
"Napoleon—that's your bed!"
"What's it doing here?" But he knew, and the knowledge was shining on his face, in his eyes, and seeing it Napoleon came in, moved Illya out of the way of the two men carrying the box spring, and brought him into the library. "Napoleon—what have you done?"
"I've bought us a house. Let me make sure I've got all the bases covered. Sunken living room, fireplace in the bedroom, linen closet in the hall, thick nineteenth century walls to shut out the hustle and the bustle—and all in the heart of Greenwich Village, which I know you love, and hated to leave. As for the comfort level, I will see to it that you are surrounded with comfort, ensconced in luxury, swathed in..." Illya was laughing, and he began laughing too.
"But you—you've always lived uptown!"
"And now I live here."
"Oh, Napoleon." Behind them, the movers passed by with the mattress and one man followed with a box marked 'Linens'.
"The rest can come tomorrow. But I thought we'd need the bed for tonight."
"Do you really like it? Because I can cancel the whole thing if you don't."
Illya nodded, face glowing, and Napoleon smiled. "Thank you," he said as the movers came back downstairs. "You can move the rest of the items I indicated from the apartment tomorrow. I have another crew arriving at your doorstep—your old doorstep—at nine AM," he explained to Illya. "You can tell them what you want moved. They'll do all the packing."
"Oh, Napoleon." It was all he could say. But his eyes said the rest, said it all, and Napoleon cleared his throat. "Let me escort them out." He did, and when he came back Illya met him at the front door. "I love it."
"And you haven't even seen the lap pool yet."
"There's a lap pool on the lower level."
"No there isn't!"
"Yes there is." Napoleon opened a door behind the stairs. "Observe." He turned on a light switch and they went down a narrow flight of steps. At their feet was a lap pool, running the entire length of the house. "It has a power switch," Napoleon explained, "so you can set any strength current you like. I was already sold on this house, and when I saw that—well, I knew it was ours."
"Oh, Napoleon. You did all this today? For me?"
"And all I did for you was arrange to let my hair grow out." Napoleon shouted with laughter.
"What do you mean, arrange to let it grow? Does it need special permission? Not that it isn't a fine idea." He lifted it in his hands, kissed it, let it trickle through his fingers.
"I thought you'd like that."
"I do. Illya—we are going to be so happy."
"And if we're not," Illya said, shaking a finger at him, "I'll tell my hair stylist and he knows people." How wonderful it was, to hear Napoleon's laugh—how wonderful to feel Napoleon's arms go around him, and when Napoleon lifted him off his feet, carried him into a narrow little elevator off the stairs and began kissing him, kissing him as the elevator rose, decanting them right outside the master bedroom, that was wonderful too. The bed waited for them, and Napoleon set Illya on his feet. One on each side they made it up with fresh sheets and Napoleon's goose down comforter and then they fell together onto the spread, and the wonder lay in front of them for the rest of the night, for the rest of their lives.
Napoleon stood at the dining room window, and looked out onto the street. They didn't really need a dining room, eating their meals in the kitchen as they did, but Napoleon had insisted. "I might have to entertain," he'd said, and Illya had raised an eyebrow at him.
"It could happen."
"All right. I mean, I don't care, Napoleon—a dining room table is as good a piece of furniture to put in this room as anything else" referring to the large room across from the library. "It's just that I've never once known you to entertain anyone at home except for your lady friends. And you don't do that anymore."
"I don't do that anymore," he had agreed, laying his arm across Illya's shoulders. They had been standing in the entrance to the room in question. It had a bow window facing the street, and Napoleon had already ordered a window seat be installed there, a bigger one than the cozy nook in the library, so they could share it. "But what else would you suggest we do with it? We already have a living room, and a library—unless you've changed your mind about sharing an office." They had both moved their computer stations into the smaller bedroom and Napoleon had thought it was working out well. Illya shook his head.
"No, I like that. A dining room is fine, Napoleon. I just don't know when we'd ever use it."
"We could have Jillian and Lloyd over. Or Charles." Napoleon's brother had been as pleased about their new arrangements as Jillian had been. "We certainly owe Jillian."
"That's true." Illya's lips twitched. "I must say, Napoleon, I'm surprised at your newfound interest in home decorating. Having your own house has certainly brought out the lord of the manor in you."
"Well," Napoleon tightened his arm, pulling Illya up hard against his body. "If I'm lord of the manor..." he kissed Illya, then, in a most lordly fashion. Illya obligingly swooned in his arms. Napoleon swept him off his feet, carried him into the living room. "Stop laughing," he ordered, and Illya put his face in Napoleon's chest.
"Gasps of passion, my lord," he said and this time Napoleon laughed. He laughed so hard he dropped Illya onto the sofa, and they laughed together all the way through it, and lay giggling together at the end.
Now Napoleon sipped his whiskey and thought of that conversation, smiling. He had ordered a baronial dining room set; a long table that could seat twelve, great wooden armchairs, a massive breakfront filled with the antique china he had inherited from his Aunt Martha and never unpacked. Illya had insisted on eating there the first night it had been delivered, solemnly seating them at opposite ends of the table so they had to call down its length to one another, drinking champagne and laughing until finally Illya had gotten up, carrying his glass and sat in Napoleon's lap, accepting food from Napoleon's plate, finishing his champagne, sliding down onto his knees—Napoleon shifted position, remembering. It had also been Illya who had decreed that they welcome each new piece of furniture, starting with the dining room table, by finding new and inventive ways to make love there. Napoleon had finally drawn the line at their work stations.
"These are delicate pieces of equipment," he had lectured. "They should not be subjected to sudden changes of temperature. Let's go back to the sofa." The great cushioned built in sofa in the sunken living room was his personal favorite after the bed itself and although Illya had demurred, and hung back, and pretended not to be interested it hadn't taken very long before Illya was flat on his back on that very same sofa and Napoleon was... he smiled again.
They had been together nearly two months now and it had only gotten better. Better, and better—he leaned forward as a yellow cab turned off the Avenue and came slowly up the street. Illya had been gone for three days at a science conference and Napoleon had missed him intensely. It had surprised him, the depth of his longing as he lay awake in their bed at night—alone, as he came through the front door after a day's work—alone, as he fed the fish in the salt water tank that took up one whole wall in the living room—alone, as he came down the stairs in the morning—alone. He had lived alone his entire adult life, but now it was intolerable.
The taxi had drawn to a stop and Illya climbed out of the back seat, carrying his two overnight bags. The sun struck fire off the top of his head and Napoleon drew back a little, not wanting to be seen yet, wanting to watch Illya undetected. He came up the steps, doing his usual zigzag so he could pat each stone lion in turn, set the suitcases down and dug in his pocket for his keys.
Illya stepped inside the cool vestibule and put his suitcases down again. He hung his keys on the hook provided and smiled at the framed Frisbee directly above the key rack, a Frisbee that, if you looked closely enough, revealed the clear marks of doggy teeth. "Napoleon?"
Illya came into the dining room still smiling. "Fed any company yet?" he teased and then ran across the room to leap into Napoleon's arms. He had missed Napoleon abysmally, had woken several times during the night both nights reaching for him. Now he clung around Napoleon's neck, feeling Napoleon's strong arms holding him off the ground then slowly letting him slide down, down the length of Napoleon's body and as soon as his feet touched the floor again Napoleon kissed him. Illya pressed up against him, feeling Napoleon's hands in his hair, pulling the band out, making hot restless patterns against his scalp, making him moan, taking advantage of that moan to send his tongue exploring. When the kiss ended Illya laid his head on Napoleon's shoulder, and Napoleon pressed his lips to Illya's hair, breathing deeply.
"We can't do this now," he whispered and Illya shook his head in wordless rebuttal. "No, we really can't. We have that dinner, remember? You need to get dressed."
"I am dressed. You need to undress me."
"We'll be late."
"Would that be bad?"
"Oh." Illya drew back. "You look very nice." Napoleon did. He was in full formal wear, his elegant black tuxedo fitting him to perfection. He looked so handsome, and so distinguished, that Illya had to put his arms around his neck again, hanging on him shamelessly, smelling his after shave, pressing his lips to his throat, disappointed when Napoleon groaned, then firmly took his shoulders and moved him away.
"Don't do this to me now."
"All right. I won't." Illya batted his eyelashes and laughed when Napoleon grabbed him again. They kissed some more, then Illya drew back. "I'll go get ready. I don't have a tuxedo, you know. Will my grey suit be all right?"
"No, and yes you do. It's in your closet. Although I must say this is a fine time..."
"What's in my closet?"
"Since when... oh. Thank you."
"I hope you like it."
"I'm sure I will. Tell me about this dinner. I remember you mentioning it before I left—I did try to get an earlier flight out but I couldn't." They were walking up the steps together.
"Illya—you remember every insignificant thing—I refuse to believe you forgot that you're being honored for winning the Goodwin Prize."
"That's right. I knew there was some reason I had to show up. This is very nice, Napoleon." Illya removed the tuxedo from its protective bag and looked at it approvingly. It was midnight blue, appearing almost black in the light, with a sky blue shirt to go with it. "It's beautiful."
"I didn't want us to appear as matching penguins," Napoleon said and Illya laughed. "They had a charcoal grey which I liked for you too, and that one will be finished and delivered next week."
"Why do I need two?"
"You just do."
"Are you sure we don't have time even for a little togetherness? I could just unbutton your..."
"No. It's been so long—well, three days." He laughed. Illya laughed too, and began stripping off his travel clothes. "It would be over too quickly." Illya was naked now, his hair falling down his back, and Napoleon held onto his resolve. "I want to wait," he repeated and Illya smiled at him. He crossed the room, stood very close to Napoleon, careful not to touch.
"Do you know what I want to do?" he whispered and Napoleon reached for him. He gathered Illya in, and Illya, unprepared for the effect of Napoleon's clothes against his bare skin, cried out.
"Don't touch me," Napoleon warned, reaching behind him, capturing both wrists, holding them in one hand, caressing with the other. "Or I might do something I'll regret."
"Napoleon, Napoleon." Illya vainly tried to pull his hands free, but they were securely pinned behind him. "Please..."
"Later," Napoleon said and released him, stepped back. "You still need to dress."
"I need to shower too—it was a long flight. But I want to tell you something first."
Illya came very close again, stood on his toes. "I want to" and he whispered in Napoleon's ear. Napoleon drew back, visibly startled. "You do?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I kept dreaming about it while I was away, but I always woke up just before... you know."
"You did, did you."
"Yes. And I wake up wanting you so much—wanting that so much—unless you don't want to," he added quickly. "You've never mentioned it, but I thought I remembered that you like that."
"When you were dating Sondra." Illya smiled a little. "You said that was her favorite thing, and it was your favorite too."
"I can't believe I told you that."
"You used to tell me all about them." Illya went into the bathroom, opened the sliding glass door to the stall shower.
"Did it hurt you, hearing it?"
"Sometimes." He started the water, and let it spill down his back, smiling at his own arousal. Napoleon had been aroused too, and that was an exciting thought. He ached all over, for Napoleon's touch, for Napoleon's mouth, for—everything. Everything.
The dinner was going well, Napoleon thought later, holding his Scotch and soda in one hand while he talked to Geneva Butler and scanned the room. It was his and Illya's first public appearance as a couple; the first time they had gone anywhere together since their move. People had stared, and whispered, and women Napoleon had dated hung on him prettily, pouting and asking him what it would take to win him back over, but all in all it had been fine.
Illya, cool, slim, and elegant in his new tuxedo, had been repeatedly congratulated on his recent award. No one, as far as Napoleon could tell, had said anything of a personal nature to him—Illya's demeanor discouraged familiarity. Occasionally their eyes met across the room and each time it was as if a current passed between them. Napoleon thought of what they were going to do when they returned home. He had nursed the one drink, not wanting to dull his responses, or blunt his sensitivity to Illya's feelings. This first time, out of all the first times they had shared, had to be special. It had to be good. He thought of that curtain, and resolved to make Illya want it so badly that no thoughts of those first shrouded eight years could possibly intrude. Of course, Napoleon supposed that might all be in his imagination, but somehow he didn't think so. He didn't think so at all. So it had to be special. He would make it special. That was in his eyes the next time their glances caught, and held... and Illya blushed, looked away. Napoleon smiled, and turned his attention back to Geneva who was regaling him with a story about the latest project she had worked on with the London Section.
Illya picked among the appetizers, feeling his cheeks burn. The way Napoleon looked at him was so... so... what would it be like, when they got home? What would it feel like? He couldn't imagine. It seemed it should hurt, but he knew better, really, knew plenty of people, male and female, who enjoyed it. He remembered Sondra, and how she had called Napoleon, and pursued him, and she wouldn't have if it had hurt her, would she. Besides, Napoleon would never hurt him. The last few times they had made love it had been wonderful, it was always wonderful, but he had ached, deep inside, for more. He ached now. Smiling a little, amused at himself, he turned from the buffet table and saw a man standing by the door.
Everything else in the room fell away as Illya stared at the stranger. He was sure he had never seen this man in his life—but then why was his heart racing, why were his hands shaking so badly he spilled his drink and had to set the glass down, why—why couldn't he breathe? It was as if the atmosphere around him had disappeared and he stood in a vacuum, unable to hear, unable to speak and the next breath—where was it? What was wrong with him? Was he dying? It felt that way. A great wave of dizziness swept him, and he groped for something to hold on to. The man turned and their eyes met.
Sound rushed back, vision sharp, and too clear—Illya gasped and gasped again and he did know this man, knew him far too well, knew him intimately. Terror washed through him, his whole body felt loose with it, as if he might fall apart, fall to the ground, his heart beating so hard it seemed everyone must hear it. The man's face registered shock, then contorted with fury and he started forward. No! Illya tried to step back, to back away, to run away, but he was paralyzed and could only stand there, watching the man cross the room, brushing people aside, heading straight towards him.
Napoleon laughed at Geneva's story and once again glanced around for Illya, wanting that contact, wanting... there he was. Then Napoleon excused himself brusquely because Illya was standing, transfixed, staring across the room at something—or someone. His face was white, his eyes enormous. He had a hand to his chest as though it pained him, and one to his throat as if choking. In all the years they had worked together, with all the dangers they had faced, Napoleon had never seen such an expression on his partner's face and he quickened his step, at the same time trying to follow the direction of Illya's gaze and see what had... a man. A tall, dark man in evening dress who was even now striding across the crowded room, heading for Illya who seemed frozen in place. Napoleon increased his speed, cutting a diagonal, putting himself on an interception course, the stranger moving so quickly that Napoleon just reached Illya in time to put himself between them. He had to put his arm out and shove the other man away, and the black eyes blazed at him.
"Like hell," Napoleon said shortly, feeling Illya's hands clutch at his jacket from behind, feeling Illya's shaking as he pressed his forehead into Napoleon's back. "I don't know who the devil you are but you need to back off." He pushed again, forcing retreat. The man's lips curled in a snarl and he spat something in what Napoleon was pretty sure was Russian. Illya flinched.
"Translation, please," Napoleon said and the man's fists clenched, rose.
"Nyet!" he shouted past Napoleon at Illya, and Napoleon shook his head.
"That I understood. But you do not give orders here. Agent Kuryakin. Translate the preceding statement for me."
"Get out from behind him and come to me," Illya said obediently, and flinched again when the man shouted something else.
"Illya, what was that please?"
"I'll drag you through the coals of hell for this," Illya whispered and Napoleon lifted his hand, made a gesture. Two security guards appeared. Napoleon indicated the stranger and they moved in close, one on each side. The man looked at them in disbelief, then back to Napoleon.
"You," Napoleon informed him coldly, "are a guest of this organization. You are not to threaten my agent. If you cannot control yourself, I will have you escorted out. I can have your visa revoked. I can have you on the next plane out of here. Am I making myself clear?"
It took a fearful effort, but the man brought himself to heel. The black eyes still promised retribution but the voice, when he spoke next, was calm. "I may have expressed myself poorly," he said in perfect English. "I was so overcome with emotion at sight of my nephew, whom I have not seen in many years."
"Your nephew," Napoleon repeated. Behind him Illya's fingers tightened in the fabric of his jacket, and he could feel Illya's heart pounding against him. He had a brief mental image of a curtain being yanked aside, fastenings clattering to the floor to reveal—what? A beast in evening clothes. "I do not believe Agent Kuryakin is interested in a reunion."
"Come out!" the man snapped. "Come out and face me if you can! You ran from me once! You dare not run again!"
Slowly Illya moved so he was standing beside Napoleon. He had released his grip on Napoleon's jacket to transfer it to his arm. He was shaking so hard he could barely stand, but he couldn't cower behind Napoleon forever. His uncle was right. He had run once. He would not run now. "Don't let him touch me," he whispered so only Napoleon could hear him, and Napoleon's lips thinned. He made another hand motion and the two security guards closed in tighter, edged the man further back. He made a move as if to shake himself free of them but when both their hands went to their weapons he stopped. He and Illya stared at each other for what seemed an eternity and it was Illya, finally, who spoke.
"What do you want?"
"What do you think? I will punish you as you always knew I would."
Illya paled further, and Napoleon made an impatient sound. "Escort this gentleman out," he said flatly. "Escort him back to his hotel, and see that he stays there."
"Agent Solo!" It was the Russian charge d'affaires "What is this? Why are you holding one of my men?"
"Your man has twice made threats against my agent."
"Threats?" He laughed uneasily. "Nonsense! A difficulty in translation, I am certain."
"The last threat was made in excellent English. There is no mistake."
"Ivan" he said something incomprehensible and Napoleon looked at Illya. Illya swallowed.
"What do you think you are doing? It is imperative that we maintain a positive presence here. You jeopardize everything and for what?" The diplomat had turned to face Illya now, clearly dismayed.
"Your translation is faulty," he said without conviction and Illya shook his head. His uncle snorted.
"Do not make a greater fool of yourself than you need to, Pyotr. This is my nephew. He grew up in my home. His translation was flawless." He gave Illya a deadly look. The other man looked surprised.
"Then this is a family matter? Well really, Agent Solo, I hardly see the need..."
"I will explain the need," Napoleon said and at the controlled fury in his voice Pyotr blanched. "This is my partner. My partner, Illya Kuryakin. If you are so new to this service that you do not know what it means that this man," he indicated Illya's uncle, "has insulted and threatened my partner, then I suggest you find out. I suggest you locate someone who is not new, and tell him that one of your representatives threatened to lay hands on Napoleon Solo's partner. Meanwhile I want your man dealt with, or I will deal with him myself. At this point it would be a distinct pleasure."
The charge drew Illya's uncle aside, and they conferred in hoarse, urgent whispers. Illya swallowed hard. His legs still felt as if they were about to give way, and he stiffened them. With Napoleon standing up for him so decisively, the least he could do was stand with him. He was wildly grateful to Napoleon for protecting him, for continuing to protect him. His uncle shot him a venomous look over the charge's head as the two men talked and Illya had to close his eyes so as not to see it. His fingers tightened convulsively on Napoleon's sleeve. Napoleon patted his hand. Then the charge returned. "He will stay well away from your partner," he said. "Will that suffice?"
"Illya? Will that do? These two guards and I will guarantee it. If you want him to leave, however, I will see that he leaves. And if you want to leave, that is all right too."
Yes he wanted to leave. He wanted to leave and go home and lock the doors and put on the security codes and lock the door of the bedroom and crawl under the covers and into Napoleon's arms and stay there forever. He had never known such fear—except that he had. He had lived the first eight years of his life in this fear, inhaling and exhaling terror with each breath, eating and drinking terror with every meal—he wished he could stop trembling because he knew his uncle could see it—they could all see it—and the satisfaction it gave him was plain on his face. Illya lifted his chin.
"I'm not leaving," he said, and Napoleon patted his hand again. "I haven't... I have a speech I have to make later." It was true. He was being honored here. Why should he leave? He looked at Napoleon. "I do want him to leave."
"No!" his uncle snapped. "I refuse to leave!"
Illya moved even closer to Napoleon, wrapped both arms around Napoleon's own arm. Memory was washing over him like a series of ocean waves, battering him, threatening to drive him to his knees right here in this banquet hall. "I told," he said, remembering. "I told him—I told him what you did."
Tell me, the English speaking doctor had pleaded to the eight year old boy lying in a hospital bed in the post surgical unit. Two IVs ran from the child's arms, and bruises covered the delicate little face. I am a visiting surgeon. I owe him nothing. He cannot take my job, he cannot have me sent to a prison camp—he can have me expelled from the country and that is all. I see your past records—I see what he has done to you now. Will you wait until he kills you? I will get you safely away, to boarding school abroad. I will pay for it out of my own pocket. I cannot leave you in this terrible position.
The child looked at him mistrustfully. He hurt all over, hot pain stabbing him every time he moved, where this doctor had operated to repair the latest damage. Do you know what he will do to me if I tell? he had whispered, frightened at his own audacity. Do you know what you are asking me to do?
I see they send you home with him time and again. It is a disgrace. It is—a crime. Give me the weapon I need to set you free.
What weapon? What did he mean? He had no weapons—he was small, and helpless and so frightened... what do you mean?
Your words. Say the words. I cannot say them for you. But I know you have them. You are an intelligent little boy. You know that sooner or later he will kill you. That will be a great tragedy. But the greatest tragedy is that you will never have really lived. Tell me.
The child trembled. Did he dare speak? Did he dare not to? When would such a chance come again? He will punish me, if I tell.
He will not find you. I promise.
The child thought, then took a deep breath. What do you want to know?
What did he do that injured you so badly, that put you here, in the hospital? He says you fell. What do you say?
He beat me. He beat me with his fists. He kicked me. He... he hurt me. Humiliated, he covered his face. He always hurts me. The doctor patted his shoulder.
You are a brave little boy. And do not be ashamed. The shame is his, not yours. It was never yours. Now things are going to happen rapidly, do you understand? But I will see you are protected.
And the doctor had been telling the truth. Illya had never seen his uncle again. Other men had come and questioned him and he had answered them the same way and then he had been given clothes, put on a train, and then an airplane.
Somewhere on that journey, he lost himself. He stepped off the plane at Heathrow Airport into a future as unknown and terrifying as if he had just been born and in a way he had. He never thought about his past again, remembered nothing about it—until now. Until now, when the two of them faced each other again. Illya set his mouth.
"I told," he repeated. "And if you come near me now I'll tell again. They put people in prison for what you did to me. You'll lose your job. Leave me alone, or I'll tell." How odd, he thought, looking past his uncle's white angry face. Right here in this little corner of the room the earth was moving under his feet. Elsewhere the party went on just as it had—people laughed, and talked—drank and picked at the dainty hors d'oeuvres—oblivious to the little knot of people—himself, Napoleon, his uncle, the Russian charge d'affaires, the two security guards. And then, incredibly, his uncle stalked away, flanked by the guards who would, Illya knew, see that he left, just as Napoleon had promised.
"I am in awe of your courage," Napoleon told him and Illya shook his head but he was pleased, too. He stood up straighter and Napoleon released him, settled his jacket on his shoulders, straightened his tie.
Illya accepted his award half an hour later. He made his speech, letting his eyes touch Napoleon's face periodically, that contact steadying him because he felt ungrounded, as if he might float away suddenly. Individual scenes from his early childhood kept coming up, slapping his face, yanking on his shoulder, but he talked on. Finished, he sat back down and although he couldn't eat he pushed his food around, listened to the conversation, and with Napoleon beside him got through the dinner somehow.
"I want to go home," he whispered after the plates had been cleared away and Napoleon walked him out without another word, walked him to the car, put him in it and drove him home. Inside Illya watched as Napoleon set the alarms, locked the door, called for a security patrol to watch the front and back of the house. "Do you think..." Illya said, and couldn't finish.
"No. Not really. You scared him green, Illya. You were so scared yourself you couldn't see that, but everyone else did."
"Illya." Napoleon took Illya's shoulders in both hands. "I need you to be very brave, now."
"What—I don't know what you mean."
"I need to go out for a little while."
The world fell away beneath his feet. "No. No, Napoleon. I don't want you to go. Why would you leave me now? Don't you love me anymore? I'm sorry I wasn't braver, I'm sorry I let him—I couldn't make him stop, Napoleon. I was just little. I couldn't..." Napoleon was holding him and Illya put his head on that hard shoulder, relieved. "You're not leaving me, are you. You wouldn't do that to me, would you."
"Illya—I promise I am not leaving you. I just have to—I have to go into the other room for a little while."
"The other—oh." It was an old code between them. It meant Napoleon was going someplace and doing something secret, and Illya needed to know as little as possible—for both their sakes. "You're going into the other room? Tonight? Now?"
Illya bit his lip. It seemed he had used all the courage he had in facing down his uncle. Now he was being called upon to summon up more. But it was Napoleon asking it of him, and he had never denied Napoleon anything. "All right. But be careful, Napoleon. The other room—the other room can be dangerous."
"I will be careful. And tonight," he touched Illya hair, his hand warm and strong. "Tonight I am dangerous too." Illya kissed him good-bye, then followed him down the stairs to the basement. Beside the lap pool was a side entrance Napoleon had had put in right after their move. Illya watched him go, then went back upstairs.
There was no question of sleep. Illya sat in the living room, watching the fish swim back and forth, the sea anemones open, waving their delicate fronds, the small octopus which had so delighted him when Napoleon had bought it for him. He thought of those lost eight years, his first eight years. How could he have forgotten? Because he had needed to forget. He had arrived at boarding school with no past, only a bewildering present full of confusion and strangers and unfamiliar customs. No one had troubled him, but no one had had time for him either as he tried to make a place for himself there. He was too shy to make friends readily, but he learned to enjoy the sports they all had to participate in—learned that he was quick and strong, despite his small size, and could excel in any game he played. He embraced his studies with relief—here was something he knew he could do, he had always been at the head of his class even with everything else that went on in his home and now, with no distractions, he shot to the top of the school and stayed there. They gave him a private room, a favor for which he was grateful without remembering the doctor who had arranged it. Illya never heard from him again, and wouldn't have known him if he had, but his bills were paid promptly and after the first year he received a full scholarship.
When the boys around him began having romances with the girls from the neighboring school Illya held back. If someone—of either gender—propositioned him he recoiled. When he joined UNCLE, when he met Napoleon Solo, he gave himself without hesitation, and in that giving learned how powerful the needs of his body could be.
And now they were together. Together. How fortunate he was. But he wished Napoleon would come home. He hoped Napoleon was all right. He wondered what could have been so important that it had taken Napoleon from him tonight, of all nights.
It was a long night, and the sky was pinking up when Napoleon appeared in the doorway. He had returned as he had come, a shadow among shadows, unseen even by UNCLE's top notch security patrols. Illya reached for him and Napoleon crossed the room and caught his partner up into his arms. Illya clung, pressing his face into Napoleon's neck. "Oh, Napoleon. Napoleon. I'm so glad you're home."
"I have something to show you."
"Here." Napoleon laid a small snapshot on the lamp table, and they both looked at it.
It was a picture of a man, dead. A man with black hair and a cruel mouth, dead on the floor with a bullet hole between his eyes. The entrance wound was small, almost neat. The jagged exit wound was hidden, but the quantity of blood soaking into the carpet around him was not. Illya stared in silence. Then he lifted his eyes to Napoleon's face.
"He knew why," Napoleon said. "He knew why as soon as he saw me."
"But—won't you get in trouble? Won't they know it was you?"
"I hope they do. But each member of his party will also suspect another one of them did it, to remove an embarrassment. And after all, I never left the house tonight. Four of UNCLE's finest will swear to that."
"That's right," Illya said slowly. "After all, you only went into the other room."
Illya straightened, turned away from the picture to face Napoleon. He began to unbutton his jacket, then his shirt. He removed every item of clothing, carefully draping the new tuxedo over the sofa back. Napoleon said nothing, just stood and watched him. When Illya was naked, he pulled the band out of his hair, shook it free, moved into Napoleon's arms, which closed around him. He put his hands behind his back.
"Hold them," he whispered. "Hold them, just like you did before."
Napoleon reached around him, pinned both wrists together. "Are you sure" he began and Illya nodded.
"Now touch me. Touch me, Napoleon. This is right where we were before. I wanted you so much then. I thought about it at dinner—until I saw him. I'm not letting him ruin it. I still want you to do—what we were going to do."
"Illya—sweet—you have nothing to prove to me. We don't have to do that." But he was stroking Illya, he couldn't help himself, stroking his back and his sides, fingers feather light on Illya's buttocks, making him moan, and press himself closer.
"I do want to. I know you won't hurt me."
"Or shame me, or scare me—so much." He laid his cheek on Napoleon's shoulder, and Napoleon shook his head in denial of any shame, or fear. "He scared me so much," Illya whispered against his throat. "And I hated him so much. How could I have forgotten all that pain and fear and hatred? How could that be?"
"It was probably a good thing. You couldn't have dealt with it then. Now, as an adult, you're better equipped to assimilate it and move on."
"You knew, didn't you. You've always known."
"I wondered." Illya was fully aroused, and ready for him. It was taking Napoleon longer. He had to release Illya's hands—it felt too much like coercion even though Illya had said... and when Illya put his arms around his neck, rubbing against him, clearly aching with desire Napoleon laid him down on the sofa and began making love to him. He stopped worrying about his own state and concentrated on Illya, concentrated on bringing him along slowly, leading him towards the edge and then away, bringing him close, then easing back, and Illya following, so responsive, and so beautiful—he pulled at Napoleon's clothes, pleading wordlessly and Napoleon stepped away, stripped.
He let his own tuxedo fall to the floor—it would be disposed of later, and when he kicked the trousers away his erection surprised him. He had been so focused on his partner he hadn't even noticed when it had happened. He came down on top, pressing Illya into the soft depths of the cushions, still taking it slowly, still entirely concentrated on Illya's every movement, his every breath. When that breath caught, when Illya sighed, and his lips parted, Napoleon kissed him deeply, leading him to the edge once more, close, so close to the brink of the precipice, moving on him as he had that first night then holding back, moving down to prepare him. He readied Illya for that final act with infinite care, using his fingers, his lips, his tongue... Illya moaned.
"Please," he begged finally, hands in Napoleon's hair. "Please, Napoleon, please—I want you. I want you now, please oh please..."
Napoleon didn't know that was what he had been waiting for until he heard it and, hearing it, knew he need wait no longer. He allowed Illya to bring him back up, settled over him. He slid his arms under Illya's neck, cradling his head, watching his face, pressing, pushing. Illya arched up to meet him, and when it happened they each closed around the other, and neither could tell where one ended and the other began because each was the other, and there was no end or beginning, and all was love.
Done, they lay panting. Napoleon recovered first, and lifted his head. "Did I hurt you?"
"No. You know you didn't. You know it was wonderful."
"Yes." He rolled off Illya, onto his side, and Illya turned into his embrace, tucking his face into the crook of Napoleon's neck and how strong Napoleon's arms were, as they gathered him in, how gentle his hands, as they brushed loose hair off his face, how kind his voice, as he said "Goodnight Illya, my love, my own true love" that last word their last awareness as sleep covered them both.
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