Across a Crowded Room

by ChannelD

"Napoleon Solo is the best lover I've ever had," the woman sitting down the table from Illya sighed. "He was gentle—but a little rough, too. He can go all night long , he really knows how a girl ... what?" Her friend was jogging her elbow, and the woman across the table from her was rolling her eyes at Illya, who was pretending to be oblivious. "I see him. I'm sure Illya's heard girl talk before—right, Illya?"

"Excuse me?" He put down his sandwich and regarded her politely.

"I said I'm sure this isn't the first time you've seen a girl swoon over Mr. Solo—come on, confess, you've heard it all before."

"Yes I have," Illya said, and put his napkin onto his tray. "But Napoleon doesn't like it."

"Doesn't like what?"

"Being talked about the next day." He pushed back his chair and rose. "It doesn't bother me, you're right. But he thinks it indicates a lack of ..." he looked her up and down. "Well, of something. Ladies ..." he carried his tray over to the counter, ignoring the buzz that started up behind him.

"That's it, Marcia," her friend said. "Your first and last date with the best you've ever had."

"You don't think Illya will tell him!"

"Are you kidding?" She jerked her head at Illya, who at that moment had been intercepted by Napoleon Solo himself, just arriving for lunch. "He tells Napoleon everything. Everything," she repeated, emphasizing each syllable.

"I hear you had a pleasant evening," Illya was saying as he scraped his tray and handed his utensils to the woman behind the counter.

"Yes I did." He narrowed his eyes at the table Illya had just left, nodding in return to Marcia's little wave. "Very pleasant. How much did you hear, exactly?"

"More about you than I wanted to know," Illya said, and watched Napoleon's mouth tighten. "But maybe it's just me. The rest of the table seemed interested enough. And it's nice to hear that you're so gentle, although how you manage to be rough at the same time ..." he let his voice trail off, shocked at himself. He didn't know why he'd added that last except that he didn't particularly like Marcia, who had been called down twice for gossiping. He'd put the final nails in the coffin of her future relationship with Napoleon, that was for sure. He flushed a little. "Well. That isn't my business and I'm sorry I said it."

"No, I'm glad you did. I need to know these things. I was looking for you, actually. We've picked up a communique, in a dialect no one else is familiar with The computer translated, but there are several colloquialisms I want you to clear up for us."

"All right."

"Wait for me. I'll grab a sandwich to go."

"All right." He leaned against the wall and watched Napoleon get in line, noting that this time Marcia's finger waggle was ignored. But she was not a woman—or girl, as she roguishly called herself—to be put off. She got up and walked over to Napoleon, putting a little extra hip sway into it as she did so.

"Napoleon. Hi." She smiled at him.


"Have you thought any more about coming over to my place for dinner and drinks again next weekend?"

"I don't think so, Marcia. I think it best if we just call it a day."

"He said something to you, didn't he?" Her eyes snapped, her cheeks flushed. "Listening in on a private conversation and then running to you like ..."

"A conversation in the cafeteria is hardly private, although the matter under discussion undoubtedly was. And I like my privacy, Marcia. I haven't bandied your name or technique about our work place, and your doing so leaves me cold. Permanently."

"Fine," she said viciously. "Just—fine. I can do better than you any day of the week." He didn't answer her, turning to select his meal. Her nails dug into her palms. "But doesn't it make you wonder why he told you? Why should he care who you date unless he's interested himself? Why —" Napoleon caught her arm, drew her aside.

"Illya guards my back, as I do his. And if you refer to him that way one more time ..."

"You could have that little blond thing with one snap of your finger, Napoleon Solo! A girl can always tell! And ..." the look in his eyes made her stop.

"Two reprimands for gossip," Napoleon said softly. "That should have given me pause. It should give you pause now. This is not an organization where loose talk is tolerated. I trust you are describing someone I do not know."

"No," she mumbled. "I mean yes. I mean—you don't know him" she stumbled. "Her. You don't know her. She doesn't even work here."

"Glad to hear it," Napoleon said and watched her leave. Then he turned to signal an apology to Illya for keeping him waiting.

Illya had been frankly watching the little scene. He was thinking how handsome Napoleon was in his cold displeasure, and how well he was handling Marcia because no one else was even paying any attention, and how glad he was Napoleon never looked at him like that, and how really Marcia had no business talking about Napoleon as if he were ... were ... well, as if he were just anybody. Then Marcia walked off, and Napoleon looked his way.

And Marcia was right. Bitch that she was, she was right because Illya's face was soft, and open, his eyes were filled with admiration and when he saw Napoleon look at him he flushed up and smiled and he didn't know, that was as plain as the other. Illya didn't know how he felt. Napoleon smiled back, held up one finger and went back to the counter, collected his neatly wrapped package. When he rejoined Illya Illya smiled again. "I'm sorry if I started something," he said, and Napoleon shook his head, walked with him to the elevator.

"Not at all. She's a spiteful little tramp and I should have known better." He saw Illya shiver. "What?"

"That's not how you felt yesterday." The dichotomy between Napoleon's feelings before and after chilled him—not for the first time. "Yesterday you told me she was smart and capable and amusing."

"That was then," Napoleon said. He was still reeling from the shock of what he'd seen on Illya's face. Illya had those feelings for him? Even unaware—and he was unaware, that was certain. Look at him now, face troubled but not condemning, no, he was blaming himself for the impulse that had caused him to speak up right then because he never thought poorly of Napoleon, everything Napoleon did was well done to him Why had he never seen it before?

"I should have waited," Illya was saying. "I shouldn't have said anything until later."


"You know—tonight. At dinner." Then, quickly, "We are still having dinner, right? We don't have to, if you're busy, but it's the third Tuesday .."

"I know. I didn't forget, Illya. That's my most important standing ..." he almost said date but caught himself in time "appointment."

And how cold the word appointment sounded. But what else could you call it? And Napoleon had said it was his most important ... "all right. But I don't want you to think you have to."

"I don't. My life is filled with have to. It's nice to have a want to in there." And should he be leading Illya on this way? Was this leading him on? They'd been meeting for dinner the third Tuesday of the month for years—ever since they'd been deactivated from Section II, ever since the fieldwork ended. Dinner the third Tuesday, lunch every other Thursday, one weekend a month together doing something—museums, camping, ordinary tourist excursions. Napoleon had laid it all out after that final meeting for Illya, who had been visibly stricken by Waverly's parting remark.

"It's been a fortuitous partnership, gentlemen—for UNCLE and for the civilized world. Well done.'

"So we're not partners anymore?" he'd said as soon as they were alone. "I mean—I suppose I knew that—I'm in Section V only, now, and you —" he smiled a little. "You're a big shot."

"And going to be bigger," he said complacently, wanting to make Illya laugh and when he didn't stopping them both in the hall. "Come in here." He followed Illya into the empty staff room they'd been passing. "Of course we are still partners." He put both hands on Illya's shoulders, looked earnestly into his eyes. "We will always be partners."

"But you know how it will go." Illya was disconsolate. "We'll never see each other at work unless it's at a meeting, and you'll be busy, and I'll be busy ..." he bit his lip, and looked away.

"Nonsense," Napoleon said with authority. "Why—we're having dinner tonight."

"We are?"


"Since when?"

"Since right now. Tonight—and it's, what, the third Tuesday of the month? Every third Tuesday from here on in."


"Yes. And we'll have lunch together every other—ah, Thursday. Every other Thursday you meet me in the cafeteria at one o'clock and we'll have lunch."

"You don't have to."

"I want to. And furthermore next weekend we're taking that Circle Line cruise you've always wanted to try. And every last weekend of the month thereafter we'll do something. We'll take turns picking it."

"But ..."

"No buts. This" he tightened his hands "is the only real, meaningful relationship in my life. It is not expendable to me. You and I—we trust each other. How rare is that?"


"All right then. Meet me at—let's see. You liked La Crepe, didn't you? When we were following Roberts?"


"Meet me there at seven-thirty."

"All right." Illya smiled at him, and no doubt the truth had been on his face then as clearly as now, and neither of them noticed. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me. I want to. Thank you—for being the friend that you are." And Illya had blushed. How could he have missed that? Had blushed, and lowered his eyes, and Napoleon had patted his back. "Partners," he'd said firmly and Illya had nodded, and they had gone their separate ways but met for dinner that night and every third Tuesday thereafter . It was still the only real relationship in Napoleon's life, and he wouldn't snap his fingers at Illya, he wouldn't even think about it anymore because Illya didn't know. Illya didn't need to know, ever, but Napoleon thought about it anyway. He thought about it a lot.

That night he found himself watching Illya when he thought Illya didn't see. It was a shame, really, that things weren't different because—well, of all the women he'd dated he'd never met one he would even consider spending the rest of his life with, but Illya—he and Illya could live together in perfect harmony. If Illya were a woman—but no. Illya was who he was, and Napoleon had no desire to change him. Well, then, if he himself were otherwise inclined—but again, no. Then he would be different. If he were a man who—if he were gay—but he wasn't, and didn't wish he were. He enjoyed his sex life, enjoyed it thoroughly.

He looked again at Illya, who was apparently deep in thought himself. Was Illya—was he attracted to men? He certainly spent a lot of time with Jess Coleman, the openly gay Chief of Security. Were they an item? He had wondered about that before, and had resolutely decided it was none of his business. But were they? Coleman went through men the way Napoleon himself went through women. And of course Coleman would be attracted to Illya—how could he help it? Illya was—Napoleon looked at him again. Beautiful. He himself wasn't so rigid in his thinking that he couldn't see that. Illya's hair was the color of gold, and he wore it long—past his shoulders, pulled back tightly into a ponytail, tucked under his shirt collar. For a lover he would take it out and it would be—it would be beautiful. Under those deep bangs his eyes were a vivid, sparkling blue; wide, set at a fascinating little slant, exotic, enigmatic, and—beautiful, shaded by ridiculously long eyelashes. Napoleon had teased him about them before. He came from Russian nobility, and the centuries of breeding behind him showed in those high, elegant cheekbones, the pure modeling of his jaw, the aristocratic nose. His chin was hard, indicative of a stubborn streak that went so deep—and his mouth was generous, mobile—lovely. His bone structure was fine—he appeared delicate, and that apparent fragility had fooled many an opponent into taking him lightly but Illya was strong, and fast, and deadly. Napoleon dropped his eyes to Illya's hands, one of which was lightly holding his wine glass, the other extended on the table. His skin was fair, almost translucent—yes, Illya was beautiful. When one also considered his courage, his proud, sensitive spirit, that brilliant mind—if Jess Coleman were indeed his lover, Coleman was a lucky man. If one were inclined that way. Which Napoleon wasn't.

But how wonderful it would be, he and Illya together. We trust each other, he had said and it was true. He could give Illya his heart and know it was in safe keeping. Could give Illya his life and take Illya into his own—and they would be happy. He and Illya could be happy together for the rest of their lives. If only it weren't for the sex. Because there seemed no way around that. His sex drive was strong, and what kind of relationship could they have, with him dating every attractive woman who caught his eye and Illya—doing whatever it was he did. Again Napoleon thought of Jess Coleman, and frowned. Then Illya laid a hand on his arm.


"Yes?" How blue Illya's eyes were, and the sweater he had on matched them. In fact, hadn't he given Illya that cashmere sweater? Yes. Two or three Christmases ago. He'd been caught by the color, then by the material—Illya was like a child in his response to luxury, and Napoleon indulged him whenever possible.

"Is everything all right?"


"You're so quiet."

"I know. I'm thinking." Napoleon smiled, to prove it was all right, and Illya withdrew his hand, smiled in return.

"Just checking."

"I'm sorry—I'm not being very good company."

"You're fine. You don't have to entertain me—I like being with you." How candid Illya was. I like being with you, he'd said and the warmth in his eyes confirmed it. Napoleon smiled back at him.

"I like being with you too." And there was that blush again and how endearing it was. He wanted to brush Illya's cheek with the back of his hand, to find out if Illya's skin warmed as well as colored up and what would Illya do if he did that? How physical could he get with Illya, anyway? Illya was extremely reticent about touch, but he clearly enjoyed Napoleon's. He never drew back, he grew very still, as if wanting to prolong the moment—no, Illya's response could be taken as a given. Even now he was looking at Napoleon with that softness in his face that no one else ever saw. Unless—"What's the deal with you and Jess Coleman?" he asked bluntly, and saw Illya's surprise.

"What do you mean? There's no deal."

"Are you lovers?"

Illya choked on his wine, coughing and strangling. Napoleon leapt up, went around behind him, caught both wrists with one hand and held them over Illya's head, rubbing his back with the other hand and Illya gasped, coughed some more. Bent over him like this Napoleon could smell his hair and how sweet it was, and fresh—like new mown hay, like rain, like ... "You all right?"

"Yes." Illya turned his face into his shoulder and coughed again. "I am."

"Good." Cautiously Napoleon released him and, when there was no recurrence, went back around to his own seat, handed Illya a napkin for his streaming eyes. Illya wiped his face and looked at him.

"Why would you ask me that? Have you heard something? Because it's not true, Napoleon. Jess and I are friends but we're not ... I'm not ... no. We're not."

"Hasn't he tried?" Was Jess Coleman blind? Or stupid?

"Well, yes. He asked—I said no."

"And that was that."

"If it wasn't, we wouldn't be friends anymore."

"I suppose that's so." He regarded Illya some more. Would gender make such a difference? What exactly would be involved? Holding, and touching, and kissing ... could he kiss another man? No, rephrase that. Could he kiss Illya? He looked again at that mouth. Illya had his lower lip between his teeth now as he pondered Napoleon's unorthodox line of conversation and that was adorable, no question. Yes, he could kiss Illya. Could hold Illya, and touch him—could he touch him there? Well, he touched himself—it wouldn't be that different. It wouldn't necessarily have to go further, although it could, he was no stranger to anal intercourse and in fact enjoyed it immensely, but from the dominant position only. He was not the least bit interested in finding out how it felt to be on the receiving end despite the obvious pleasure his women took in it. "So if not Coleman, who."

"Who what?"

"You must have some kind of sex life, Illya. You can tell me."

"No. I don't."

"Why not?"

"I don't want to."

"Why not? It's fun."

"It must be, I know. Otherwise people wouldn't waste so much time chasing after it. But ..."


"It's so intimate. I've just never met anyone I trust that much."

We trust each other, he had said. He threw caution to the winds. He would try this new thing, he would ... so he smiled. "As a general rule," he confided, "I avoid virgins." Unexpectedly, Illya laughed.

"I know."

Napoleon laughed too. "I suppose you do know. But in your case I'm considering making an exception."

"You don't mean ..."

"Yes I do. I'm thinking ..." he gave Illya his best, most smoldering look and saw Illya's eyes widen and this was fun, Illya was enchanting in his surprise and confusion. Napoleon's blood was up now, this was what he liked best, full pursuit "For two people who trust one another as much as we do, who like one another as much as we do, who enjoy one another's company the way we do, it makes perfect sense to take our relationship to the next level."

"It does?"

"Yes. It would be wonderful, Illya. Don't you think so?"

"Would you still like me after? I mean would, wouldn't you? It wouldn't be like Marcia."

"No. Of course not. Trust, remember? We trust each other."

"Yes. And you do stay friends sometimes." Illya was very serious now. "There's Jerri, and Karen, and Marie ... you're still friends with them, and sometimes you do it with them again."

"Sometimes I do."

"And you really want me?"

"Yes." He did. Now that he had let himself think the forbidden he was aroused, painfully so although he would hold it in check because first times took longer, first times required more care and Illya—oh, he would make it good for Illya, his partner and soon to be lover.

"I may not know what you like" Illya was saying, looking a little nervous now. "I mean—aren't most of your women experienced? I may not know what to do. In fact I won't. I won't know what to do. You won't like it." His mouth had curved downward, a little, and Napoleon wanted to kiss it right then.

"You won't have to do anything," he promised. "I'll take care of it all. You know how much I like being in charge, Illya."

"Yes." Illya smiled at him, and that made Napoleon want to kiss him more. "I do. All right. But don't be rough, Napoleon. Marcia said ..."

"I won't. I will be so easy, and so careful of you—I promise, Illya. You have nothing to fear from me."

"No. I don't. So when ... I mean—tonight?"

"No," Napoleon said and when Illya looked disappointed he was delighted. "Not tonight. I don't want the alarm going off the next morning and us having to jump out of bed and get ready for work." But he couldn't bear Illya's disappointment, he couldn't ... "unless you want to take tomorrow off." Illya brightened.

"Can we?"

"I can." He was looking at his calendar. "Yes I can."

"I can too."

"So tonight it is. Are you finished with that?"

Illya looked down at his plate. "Yes. Now? You want to leave now?"

"Right now." Napoleon called for the check. They walked outside, and as they waited for the maitre d' to hail them a cab, Illya hesitated.

"I don't really know what to expect," he said and his fingers were twining nervously in his jacket material. "I mean ..."

"I will lay out my strategy for you, then," Napoleon said, following Illya into the back seat. "When the door closes behind us at my apartment, I will secure the lock," he lowered his voice even though the divider between them and the driver was closed "and take you in my arms. I am going to hold you close, and kiss your forehead before pressing my lips to your temple to feel your heart beating. I will kiss your cheek, to see if your skin can possibly be as smooth and soft as it looks. You then will turn your face up to me ..."

"Forehead, temple, cheek, then look up at you ..." and Napoleon laughed out loud.

"Very good. And I will kiss you, long, and slow, and deep ..."

"Oh." Illya looked away. His hands were shaking.

"And from there we will let nature take its course." And what could be more natural than he and Illya together. "Trust me, Illya. This will be a night to remember."

"I do, Napoleon." He smiled at his partner, a smile that went straight to Napoleon's heart. "I do trust you." They rode the elevator up to Napoleon's penthouse apartment and, when they stepped inside, Napoleon locked the door. When he turned back, Illya was right there. His forehead was cool under Napoleon's lips, but when they brushed his temple his pulse was racing.

"Even softer," Napoleon whispered, after kissing one cheek. He kissed it again, and again.

"That wasn't in the plan."

"I know. You are so sweet, Illya." He kissed the other cheek.

"If you're not following the list I won't know what to do." Napoleon's deep chuckle rumbled in his chest, and Illya smiled.

"Now, Illya. Look at me now." Illya did, and Napoleon cupped that beloved face between his hands, leaned in, and their lips met.

Cliches whirled in his head as Illya's lips parted. Time stopped, the world vanished, the earth moved—all true, and then language deserted him. He took his hands from Illya's face to wrap both arms around him, holding that slim body hard to his own, bending over him, Illya arching backward, reaching around his neck to cling to him. Napoleon's hands, moving restlessly, found the hair band and he pulled it off, plunged into Illya's hair, combing through it, one hand moving down to cup Illya's hard, tight bottom, grinding his hips against him, sending his tongue exploring. Illya's tongue met, and twined about it and then his phone rang. For a long moment he ignored it but when it rang again, and again he groaned aloud into Illya's open mouth and straightened. Released him. "Sorry," he said and turned to pick up the receiver. "What," he snapped, then listened, sighed. "Yes, all right. Yes, fine. Pick me up in twenty minutes." He hung up and turned back to Illya. A great wave of hunger swept him at sight of his partner, hair spilling down his back, face flushed, one hand to his mouth as if curious about the new sensations there. "I'm sorry," he said again. "I have to go."

"Go?" Illya looked as stunned by the interruption as Napoleon felt. He seized Illya again, held him fast.

"I'm sorry," he said for the third time. "They're picking me up in twenty minutes. I'm flying out tonight and I won't be back until that embassy function Friday. I'm sorry."

"It's all right," Illya said and Napoleon dropped his arms, strode into the bedroom. He packed with the speed of long practice and turned, suitcase in hand.

"I'm really sorry."

"You don't have to keep apologizing. You don't have to explain your work to me, of all people."

"Of all people," Napoleon echoed. "But I tell you what, Illya. I'll see you at the Embassy dinner Friday night. Get us adjoining rooms at the hotel. Wear that same exact sweater, and as soon as the party is over we'll discreetly retire to our separate rooms and then ..." he crossed over, touched Illya's face, shocked to see that it was his hands now that were shaking. "We'll pick up right where we left off."

"If you still want to."

"Oh, I'll want to. I'll dream about you tonight, looking at me just like this, with your hair down and the mark of my kisses still on your mouth."

"It is?" Illya touched his lips again. Then he smiled. "Good. Have a safe trip, Napoleon. I'll see you Friday."

"Stay the night here. I want to think of you in my bed."

"All right."

"And I have my heart set on going where no man has gone before, so don't let Coleman get carried away while I'm gone."

Illya laughed. "I won't."

"Tell me the truth," Napoleon said, smiling too. "Are you disappointed—or relieved?"

"Disappointed. Very disappointed." Napoleon kissed him again, quickly.

"Let me show you something," he said. He reached down, between Illya's legs and ran a thumbnail up the length of his organ which throbbed against his hand. Illya gasped, hips moving forward and Napoleon stepped back. "See you Friday." He waited in the hall until he heard Illya set the alarm system, and walked to the elevator.

The Embassy party was in full swing. It was held at the Ambassador Hotel in midtown Manhattan and Illya had, as requested, reserved two adjoining rooms for himself and Napoleon. He had checked in but had not unpacked, hoping that he wouldn't spend any time in 'his' room, hoping that the two rooms were for appearances only, hoping he would go straight to Napoleon's room with him and stay there. Also as requested he wore the blue cashmere sweater with a navy blue dinner jacket and matching slacks. He wondered what Napoleon would think when he saw it. Would Napoleon even remember? Perhaps Napoleon had changed his mind while he was gone—a fleeting impulse, now past. Still—Illya thought of that kiss, thought of Napoleon's hands in his hair, on his ... he blushed and accepted a glass of champagne. Napoleon had specifically told him not to let Jess Coleman—not that he was going to—did that mean Napoleon also hadn't—had waited? Unlikely. Beautiful women threw themselves at Napoleon and Napoleon welcomed their advances. He wished Napoleon would arrive—he felt he knew Napoleon well enough that one exchange of glances would tell him all he needed to know, would end this suspense one way or the other. His body was thrumming with excitement, had been thrumming all week, wanting Napoleon's touch, wanting ... "Illya Kuryakin?"

"Yes?" He turned and smiled up at the tall, handsome man standing behind him. The man had coal black hair, cut short and combed sleekly. His eyes were black also, and cold; mouth red under his trim black mustache. He spoke with a distinctly Russian accent and was eyeing Illya now with a curious air of expectancy. "May I help you?"

"You don't recognize me?"

"No—I'm sorry—should I?"

"One would think so." He switched to Russian. "I knew you long ago, before you left for America."

"Oh." Illya was puzzled. He searched his memory—a teacher, perhaps? No, this man didn't look like a teacher. He looked like a government official. Politely, he too spoke in Russian. "From the school?"

"No. Earlier."

"Oh. I was very young when I entered boarding school. I don't really remember anything from before that. You knew me then?"

"Yes. It is truly remarkable that you have no memory of me. The mind is an amazing organ, is it not? Adaptable, self protective—you remember nothing of me?"

"No. As I said, I was very young."

"You were eleven. Most people can remember being younger than that."

True. Illya nodded But it was a matter of indifference to him, and his smiling shrug said as much. "I am sorry if we have met before and I forgot. Is there something I can do for you now?"

"Not yet. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Petrovich. Ivan Petrovich." He was watching Illya very closely as he said it but Illya only nodded, and when the man walked off turned away. And saw Napoleon.

The odd little encounter was instantly forgotten. Illya caught his breath. How handsome Napoleon was! He was in a tuxedo, faultless white shirt, black satin vest. He was scanning the room, and when his eyes fell on Illya he smiled, said something to the men he had come in with, and crossed the room. He reached out, brushed Illya's sweater. "You remembered."

"Yes." How could he have forgotten?

"You got the rooms?"

"Yes. Here." He handed Napoleon his own key.

"I may be late," Napoleon said regretfully. "I have a meeting scheduled with these gentlemen after the party ends. But I'll be there."

"Good. I mean—all right." Napoleon smiled again.

"I have thought about you day and night," he said in a lower voice. "I have seen your eyes in my dreams, have rolled over in bed reaching for you countless times."

"I missed you too." What nice things Napoleon was saying. But that was his style, wasn't it. To flatter and woo ... I romance them out of their clothes and into my bed before they know what happened, he had told Illya once, laughing. "You don't have to say all that, Napoleon. I've already told you yes."

"Illya ..." then they were interrupted. They didn't talk again. And much later, when most of the guests had gone he looked for Napoleon again, but Napoleon had left as well.

Illya closed the door and turned to look at his room. Having given Napoleon the only key to the other one he supposed he would have to wait in here. But he wouldn't unpack. Wouldn't even undress. Would just ... a knock on the door brought him to the peephole. Looking through it he saw the same dark man he'd spoken to at the party, the man who knew him from before. "Yes?"

"Agent Kuryakin." He held out his credentials. "I have an important message for you from my associates. It is—rather private."

"All right." Illya unfastened the chain, slid the bolt over and opened the door. Petrovich entered.

"And so," he said softly. "You truly do not remember me."

"No. Your message, Mr. Petrovich." The man lunged, seized Illya by the throat in one powerful hand, lifted him, slammed him into the wall. "You will remember me!" he shouted directly into Illya's face. "Insolent brat—remember me!"

Illya gagged, caught completely off guard. He kicked out but the man's arms were too long and he held on easily while staying out of reach himself. Illya chopped at his elbow, hard, and it buckled. Released, he fell to the floor and the man kicked him viciously in the side. And kicked him again, taking the air right from him. Blackness began to spin him about, as if he were caught in a whirlpool. As he looked up at the man towering over him memory poured through the floodgates his mind had erected all those years ago. If he could have screamed aloud he would have.

How could he have failed to recognize him? This man had ruled his childhood with an iron fist, had beaten him repeatedly, had starved him and punched him and choked him and held his head under water. He tried to crawl back, away, all his fighting techniques and skills lost. Then his clothes were being ripped from him and he struggled, shaking his head, finally capturing a breath of air and crying aloud. The man punched him in the stomach, taking back the air he'd regained, and threw him on the bed. Naked. Naked on the bed with him on top ... the black horror of that long past night was back, and it was as if he had never escaped. He tried to scramble across the bed, to fall off the other side, to make it to the door but a thick arm was around his throat from behind, his face pressed into the pillow, smothering any sound. There was a weight on him ... he managed to turn his head, dragged in a lungful of oxygen and cried out "No no no no no —" the arm tightened, choking him. He couldn't stop it, he couldn't make him stop, it was going to happen again just like before. He jerked forward a little, just enough so the first jab missed and was punched in the head with that great fist, not hearing the crash when it came.

Napoleon let himself into his room, stretched in luxurious anticipation and unknotted his tie. Then he stopped, frowning. The hotel was a well constructed one, and it was surprising to hear sounds from the next room. There it was again, a—was it a scuffle? In Illya's room? Napoleon grabbed his gun and went to the door connecting the two rooms, listened. Then Illya's voice, high and wild with fear "No no no no" and Napoleon kicked the door, hard and fast, knowing just where the lock would be weakest. The door flew open and he stepped into the room.

For what felt like an eternity he gaped at the scene before him although it could only have been a fraction of a second. Illya, naked, on his stomach on the bed. A man on top of him, fully clothed except for his open trousers, holding his stiffened penis with one hand, the other arm over Illya's throat, poised on the edge of ... Napoleon moved swiftly around the bed so he was facing the assailant, held his gun out, saw with immense satisfaction the man's eyes bulge with sudden terror. He pulled the trigger, the impact disintegrating the handsome face even as it threw him backwards off the bed, off Illya, into the wall.

Silence. Then Illya drew an agonized breath and cried out again, seemingly oblivious to Napoleon's presence. "No! No no ..." he rolled off the bed, landed hard, scrambled up, fell, one hand to his side, where bruises were already spreading. Crawling towards the door, he collided with the body and recoiled, gasped again, a thin sobbing sound. Napoleon set the gun on the bed, strode to him, lifted him off the floor. Held him close.

"Illya. Illya. It's me. Napoleon. It's all right, it's over, it's all right, I'm here ..." he was talking too fast, too shaken up himself to calm another. He lowered his voice, stilled his body. "Illya." Illya cried out again.

"No! No no no no" and then the English was gone and he was talking in rapid fire Russian. Napoleon carried him out of the room, stopping once to retrieve his gun and again to grab Illya's suitcase, his ruined clothes; carried him away from the rumpled bed, from the smell of blood and cordite, from the corpse on the floor.

In his own room he sat on the bed and held him, tried to comfort but Illya was beyond comfort, beyond reason it seemed, gasping and crying out and talking so fast, ragged through his bruised throat. Grimly Napoleon lifted the phone, thought quickly, called a man who owed him a favor, a big favor, a life changing favor.

"I'm sorry," he said to Illya and clamped a hand over his mouth, the sudden silence making it possible to hear the voice on the other end of the phone. "Jackson. Solo."

"Napoleon!" Uneasy joviality. "It's been a long time."

Yes it had, Napoleon thought. A long time since he had saved Jackson's career and his marriage, saved him from a certain prison term and Napoleon Solo never did favors without expecting a return, everyone knew that. Jackson cleared his throat, took a deep breath. "What can I do for you?"

"There is a dead body at the Ambassador Hotel on 48th St. in room 1611. I want it removed. Immediately. I want all traces of anyone removed. I want to never hear about it again."

"That's it?" The disbelief in Jackson's voice was plain. "That's all?"

"That's all."

"Then we're square?"


"Thanks! I mean—I'll get right on it."

"Not one word back to me—or anyone else. Ever."

"You got it." Jackson was nearly hysterical with relief. "Sure! No problem!"

"Thanks, Jackson." Napoleon hung up, took his hand off Illya's mouth. But if he had been hoping that Illya had regained some rationality during the interval he was quickly disabused. Illya gasped, cried out again, in Russian, and the terror in his voice made Napoleon's eyes blur. "Illya. Illya—love. My love. Please ... please hear me. You're safe now. It's over."

The child screamed, screamed again and again, feeble outcries smothered by the weight of the man on top of him. His uncle had always hurt him, those big hands striking him, squeezing him, pinching him, choking him but this ... this was the very worst thing that had ever happened to him.

His uncle had come home sullen and angry, and the child knew enough to keep out of the way when he was like that, had gone straight to bed and cowered there, listening to him stomp around, listening to the clink of the vodka bottle, whimpering when that heavy tread came up the stairs, down the hall. He could smell the alcohol across the room and then his uncle was on him, fast as the bear the child had once seen running in the forest behind his house, heavy and savage and reeking like that bear. He screamed and screamed, sounds of agony beyond comprehension, terror beyond that. When finally his uncle lay still, sprawled on top the child had screamed and cried and then after a while had realized his uncle was unconscious. He had squirmed out from underneath, scrabbled in his drawers for his warmest clothes, pulled on his boots and his mittens, his hat, his coat, tying the hood tightly, and ran into the snowy night. He ran and ran, still crying, ran and fell and got up and ran again.

He never knew how long he ran, but finally he had run off the edge of an embankment and fallen, tumbled head over heels onto a hard ice packed surface. The wind was knocked out of him and a glaring light was on him. A loud grinding squealing filled the whole world and he curled into a ball, screamed into his mittened fists. The sound stopped, a tumult of voices came and someone was shouting into his face.

"Little boy! Little boy! Are you all right? Where are you coming from? Who are you? Where are your parents, letting you run around at night in this blizzard? Can you hear me? Answer me!"

"I don't know," he'd said, frightened. And he didn't. Somewhere in his maddened flight he had lost himself, had lost everything except the knowledge that he needed to get away. He tried to get away now but was lifted with ease, deposited in a warm place, surrounded by the soft exclamations of women, their sweet perfume filling the air, furs wrapped around him, a flask pushed between his lips. But at the smell and taste of the vodka he had screamed, and screamed ...

"Illya." Napoleon rocked him, patted him, trying everything he knew, and then he picked up the phone again, covered Illya's mouth again. He called someone else, spoke tersely, then hung up. He removed his hand and the endless tumble of Russian continued. When the knock came at the door he set Illya aside and went to answer it, accepting the little parcel, handing over several large bills. He returned to the bed to find Illya curled into a tight knot, rocking himself and talking, talking, gasping and talking. Napoleon knew little Russian, but he knew "nyet" all right and that was the main word, a frantic, pleading negation. Something needed to happen now so he opened the package and filled the hypodermic. He wiped Illya's upper arm with the antiseptic swab provided, said, shortly, "You'll feel a stick" and jabbed the needle in. Illya cried out against it, tried to push him away but Napoleon was implacable, holding his arm, slowly depressing the plunger and even before he'd removed the hypodermic Illya had quieted.

"Ow," he said, voice slurred. "What are you—ow." He rubbed the sore spot and Napoleon, who had never been so glad to hear English in his life, rubbed his back.

"That won't last the night," he said. "Here. Take these." He offered two pills but Illya only stared at them uncomprehendingly. Napoleon tried to open his lips, couldn't, but noticed their dryness. He touched the water glass to them and they parted. Quickly Napoleon poked the tablets in, then followed with the water and Illya choked a little, drank, coughed and drank some more.

"Help me," he managed. "Help me Napoleon" he turned, clutching at Napoleon with icy hands. "I'm falling, help me."

"I'm right here. You're not falling, I've got you. You'll go to sleep soon. When you wake up you'll feel better." Surely he would. The medication would knock him out for hours. By then the initial trauma would have passed, healing begun. He had seen it over and over again. The brain needed time, to recover from certain massive shocks. He would give Illya that time, would hold him and protect him and keep him safe, and when Illya awoke he would feel better. Surely he would. He pressed his lips to Illya's temple. In the other room he could hear the faint sounds indicating that Jackson was carrying out his commission. "Illya. Did you unpack?"

"No. I thought—I hoped—I'd be in here."

"Good. Come with me." He pulled Illya to his feet, supported him into the bathroom, turned on the shower. He stripped off his own clothes, got them both under the spray, washed first Illya, then himself, thoroughly. He didn't think that either of them would be implicated in the mysterious disappearance of whoever that had been—Napoleon had a recollection of seeing him at the party—but it never hurt to cover all the bases. He washed Illya's hair while Illya slumped against the wall, eyes unfocused, then he washed his own. By the time he was toweling them off Illya was almost asleep, so Napoleon carried him to bed, got in beside him, wrapped him up in the safety of his own embrace.

And here they were. Naked, in bed together, just as he'd planned and not at all as he'd hoped. He had decided, over the past week, that he was glad they had been interrupted, last Tuesday night. Their first time together shouldn't be some sort of light hearted experiment. He had thought about it the whole time he had been gone and now, despite the circumstances, holding Illya in his arms, bare skin to bare skin, Illya's head on his shoulder, Illya's wet hair strewn on the pillow, Illya's breath soft on his throat, he was happy. He was happier than he'd ever been, and instead of their first lovemaking signaling the end of a romantic evening it would be the beginning of an adventure that might last—could last—would last, the remainder of their lives. He would see to it.

Napoleon's face was the first thing Illya saw when he awoke the next morning. Napoleon looked worried, but he smiled when Illya's eyes met his, and Illya smiled back. He lay for a while and let memory return—not in a tidal wave this time but in slow gentle combers. The old memories and the new one—he considered them, then smiled at Napoleon again. "Thank you," he said, for all of it. For the nick of time rescue. For the comfort, for the closeness—even for the medication that had allowed him to leave it behind for a while. For his smile now.

"I love you," Napoleon said, and Illya lost his breath again. He knew Napoleon's views on that subject. I never say that, he had told Illya. Because it means too much. It means—everything. If I said that to a woman it would mean everything. It would mean commitment, monogamy—marriage. I could never say those words lightly. Which means, he had sighed and laughed at the same time, that I will most likely never say them at all. But now he had said them.

Illya didn't insult Napoleon by asking if he were sure, if he meant it. He lifted his head to kiss Napoleon's cheek, and Napoleon's arm went under his neck, supporting him, turning so Illya's lips touched his mouth instead and they kissed for a brief moment. "I love you too," Illya said, and knew Napoleon would remember that, too. Well, I've never said it because I don't really know what it means, Illya had responded. I hear people talk about it, but I suppose the closest I've ever come is friendship. You—and George—that's the closest I've ever come.

Napoleon leaned down and kissed Illya, kissed him again. Then he lay back. "So what was the deal?" he asked finally. "He just came to your room—and attacked you?"

"Yes. He said he had an important message for me from his associates. I didn't remember him then, so I opened up. He had me by the throat before I knew what was coming. After that I tried—but it was too little too late."

"What do you mean, you didn't remember him? You knew him?"

"He was my uncle. He—he raised me. He ... what?" Napoleon had sat up.

"He was your uncle? Your biological uncle? Your guardian?"

"Yes. Where are you going?" Despite himself his voice rose a little as Napoleon jumped out of bed.

"Nowhere." He picked up a plastic bag, emptied it onto the floor and Illya stared at his own torn clothes. "Listen to me," Napoleon went on, and his voice was urgent. "We don't have much time. You came straight here last night. Here. You were never in the other room. If he came looking for you you don't know anything about it. I came straight here as well. We spent the night together—as planned before I left Thursday night."

"Well, that part is true."

"It's all true, Illya." Napoleon came back to bed and Illya turned gratefully into his warmth. "They're bound to find out you were related. Did he approach you at the dinner?"

"Yes—but I didn't know who he was."

"Forget that. No one will ever believe it. You were seen talking to him?"

"I suppose so."

"He ..." Out in the hall, someone pounded at the door to the adjoining room. Napoleon pulled Illya's head onto his shoulder. "We're asleep," he said, and obediently Illya curled even closer and closed his eyes. His hall door slammed open, and the tread of at least three people could be heard in there. Then the knob to the connecting door turned, but the bolt was shot on thir side. A pounding came on that door now, and Napoleon put a finger over Illya's mouth.

"Not yet," he called, voice heavy with sleep. "Come back later." The pounding was repeated. "I said come back later!" Napoleon sounded irritated now. "You can clean the room after we leave."

"Solo! Open up!" It was Jake Davenport, Section Chief of New York Branch and Napoleon's superior. "Open up right now!"

"Yes sir." Napoleon got out of bed again, grabbed his robe, tied it around him, and slid the bolt over. The door opened and he stepped back. "What the devil ..."

"Where is Agent Kuryakin?" Davenport snapped. "He's not in his room."

Illya sat up, knowing that he was obviously naked under the covers. He shook his hair forward, so it covered the marks on his throat, and clutched the bedspread to him, concealing the bruises on his side. Davenport stopped talking and the two men who came in right behind him also stopped in their tracks.

"I'm in here," he said unnecessarily. He watched Davenport's eyes sweep the room, pausing at the ripped clothing on the floor. He raised an eyebrow at Napoleon.

"This is an unexpected development," he said coldly, and Napoleon shrugged.

"What can we do for you?"

"Where were you last night?" Davenport demanded of Illya.


"All night?"

"Well, I was at the party ..."

"Where you spoke to a Mr. Ivan Petrovich."


"Describe your acquaintance with the gentleman."

"He is my uncle. My mother's older brother. He was my guardian." They already knew all that, he thought. UNCLE would never have accepted him without investigating those lost years. He had been a fool not to have considered it before.

"Were you glad to see him again?"


"May I ask why not?"

"He was cruel and abusive to me," Illya said, and his voice hardened. "He—when I was eleven he assaulted me."

"In what way?"

"Sexually." They knew that, too. Why were they making him say it? Well, he would say it then, loud and clear. "He assaulted me sexually. He nearly killed me. When he passed out I ran. I was picked up by a motorist and taken to the hospital. From there, I was sent to a private boarding school in Moscow." He remembered it all now. The heat of the car had started the bleeding the bitter cold had suppressed, and by the time he was admitted to the hospital his pants were soaked with blood and more coming. They had operated—he remembered the ether cone coming down over his face, and he had stayed in the hospital for weeks. They had sought his family, thinking he had been attacked while walking in the woods, but when his uncle had come to see him ...

"We've found your family, sweetie," the nurse told him, and the child, who remembered nothing before nearly being run over by the car, sat up eagerly. But when the tall dark man came in he shrank back and screamed. He screamed and screamed, and even through his terror he was aware of the other adults in the room turning first to stare at him in surprise, then in accusation at his uncle, who attempted to bluff it out. But when the child's hysteria only grew, when he tried to climb off the bed and crawl under it despite the intravenous lines in both arms the nurses surrounded him protectively and the doctor came and ordered his uncle to leave. Illya had never seen him again, until the party. He cleared his throat.

"He nearly killed me," he repeated. "I was not pleased to see him. I told him to leave me alone."

"Did he threaten you?"

"I threatened him. I told him I could still press charges, even at this late date. I told him I could—and would—ruin him." He saw them exchange glances. "That was the last I saw of him."

"What happened then?"

"Napoleon came in. We had—we had made plans for after the party." He could feel the color mounting in his face but he met and held Davenport's gaze levelly. He wasn't ashamed to be found here, in Napoleon's bed. "We confirmed those plans, and he said he'd be late—he had a meeting. He told me to wait in here for him."

"And your room? The one next door? You expect us to believe you never used it?"

"It was for decorum's sake only." Illya lifted his shoulder in a way that clearly said they had tried to maintain appearances, and it was this unwarranted intrusion that had brought their liaison into the open. "No, I never used it."

"I see." Davenport was silent. Then, "So if someone were to say she saw you enter that room, that would be a lie?"

"A mistake," Illya said calmly. "The doors are identical—and very close together. There was nothing in that room I needed, Mr. Davenport. Everything I needed" he looked at Napoleon, "was in here. Or was about to be."

"And what time was it that Agent Solo arrived?"

"I don't know," Illya said. "I wasn't watching the clock. He said it would be late—I think it was. I had time to shower, and wash my hair—it was late."

"It was exactly twelve fifty-seven," Napoleon said. "I came straight here from the meeting. I rode up in the elevator with five people, who saw me go in my door."

"And you have been together ever since."

"Ever since," Napoleon agreed, and Illya nodded.

"Why are you asking all these questions?" he wanted to know.

"Mr. Petrovich did not return to his room last night. He has not been seen or heard from since."

"Oh." Illya didn't say'is that all, but another shrug implied it. Davenport watched him closely, then nodded.

"Well, gentlemen—thank you for your time. Agent Kuryakin—if the gentleman should contact you again please let me know immediately."

"Yes sir." When the door had closed behind the three men Napoleon crossed over and shot the bolt again—loudly. Then he climbed back into bed, and Illya turned into his embrace gratefully. Napoleon kissed his temple. Neither spoke, both aware that a listening device of some sort had probably been planted during the visit. Napoleon sighed. He brushed Illya's hair back from his face, and smiled into his eyes.

"You're coming home with me," he said, and it wasn't a question.

"Yes," Illya said.

"And never leaving again."

"Well, Napoleon—I do have to go to work."

"You do, do you."

"Yes. Sadly."

"Ah huh. But today is Saturday, Illya. No work today—or tomorrow."

"And Monday is Presidents' Day."

"So it is. But that's not a holiday for us."

"It should be."

"You think so."

"Out of respect for all those Presidents."

"I see. It's funny you should say that, Illya, because I too have always believed in respect for former Chief Executives. Think of George Washington."

"Or Herbert Hoover."

"Hoover?" Napoleon laughed. "Why Hoover?"


"Or Reagan."

"Harding ..."

"Both Roosevelts—you are absolutely right, Illya. We should take Presidents' Day off. And stay in bed all day."

"All day," Illya agreed.

"And this time it won't be some sort of trial run." Napoleon was serious now. "This time—is for keeps."

"For all the marbles."

"For the whole enchilada."

"For the Big Mac."

Napoleon laughed again, and the joy in the sound made Illya laugh too. How wonderful this was going to be. "The Big Mac? What does that mean?"

"I don't know, Napoleon. I ran out of analogies. For .. for ..."

"For better or worse," Napoleon said, and he wasn't laughing any more. Illya looked at him, and Napoleon stroked his cheek with the back of his thumb. "Sweet," he whispered, as he had before and Illya rubbed his face against Napoleon's hand.

"As long as we both shall live?" he said, and he couldn't help the question mark. Napoleon kissed him.

"As long as we both shall live," he promised and they kissed some more, and Illya thought that since they no doubt had had audio witnesses to their vows it was probably binding if not altogether legal in the State of New York so he kissed Napoleon thoroughly before getting out of bed, wincing as his bruises protested the sudden move.

In another hotel room Jake Davenport took the ear buds out and laid them on the bedside table. He looked at the man with him. It seemed evident that Solo and Kuryakin had not given the matter of Ivan Petrovich's disappearance another thought once they were alone—indeed, what was evident was that they were completely wrapped up in one another. And with that being the case, their mutual alibi of the night before—well, that must be true then, mustn't it. But Davenport didn't think so. He thought it much more likely that Petrovich had come knocking on Kuryakin's door some time before Solo's return, and that Kuryakin had killed him—for revenge, or in self defense, or both. Solo had then no doubt helped him dispose of the body. But it could never be proven, and was probably justified. Davenport had seen the hospital reports, and Kuryakin had told no more than the truth. And since it was almost as likely that Petrovich had taken fright at Kuryakin's threat to expose him and disappeared, that was how they would close the books. And he wouldn't be surprised to see two requests for personal leave on his desk for the upcoming President's Day. Davenport smiled. No, he wouldn't be surprised at all.

As they rode up in the elevator Illya's fingers started twining nervously in his jacket again. "You said you'd take care of it all," he reminded Napoleon, who held the door open button for him.

"Oh, I will." Napoleon looked him over. "I am going to eat you alive. You are my own personal sweet treat, my bon bon, my truffle."

"Your what? I told you, Napoleon, you don't have to say all that." He followed Napoleon in the door.

"Don't you like it?"

He loved it, was embarrassed to admit it, and blushed. "You promised you wouldn't be rough," he said instead watching as Napoleon began unbuttoning his dinner jacket.

"I won't. Not until you want me to."

"Why would I ... do you want me to undress too?"

"No," Napoleon said, dropping his jacket to the floor and starting on his shirt. "When I am finished with my clothes I will remove yours. You just stand there and admire the view."

"You're crazy." But the sight of Napoleon's naked chest made him feel—well, the way he'd felt when Napoleon had rubbed against him and why should that be so? He and Napoleon had been naked together so often, and never before had it made him tingle, made him ... "I suppose it was that kiss," he said, thinking it over and Napoleon chuckled, kicked off his shoes, unbuttoned his fly.

"What was?"

"Never mind." Napoleon was down to his briefs now and on impulse Illya reached out, ran a finger along the length through the cotton, just as Napoleon had done to him. Napoleon inhaled sharply, then caught his wrist.

"Don't do that."

"All right." He was disappointed, and hurt, too. He had been right to begin with. He didn't know how to do it and Napoleon wouldn't like it. But Napoleon was kissing the hand he now held, kissing his palm ... Illya shivered.

"Because I want to take my time, and be careful with you, and make sure you enjoy it too. If you get me going now I may not be able to do any of that."

"Why not?"

"Because your touch sets me on fire," Napoleon whispered, and kissed the inside of Illya's wrist. "It makes me want—to not take my time, to finish this in a blaze of passion right here on the floor."

"Oh." He supposed he did know how to do it after all. He could arouse Napoleon so violently just by a touch? It was a pleasant thought, although he was pretty sure he didn't want to finish it right here on the floor in a—what had Napoleon called it? A blaze of passion. Napoleon, who was watching him closely, chuckled.

"We have the rest of our lives for that," he said. "Tonight—tonight is for tenderness, and patience and slow, sweet lovemaking." He began unfastening Illya's own jacket.

"You just want me to stand here and let you ..."


Well, that sounded simple enough. So he stood and marveled at how exciting it was just being undressed, a task he performed every day—sometimes more often than that if he went to the gym, or out after work—when his shirt was pushed off his shoulders he went ahead and kicked off his own shoes, his face burning at the feel of Napoleon's hands on his waistband, undoing the little snap, lowering the zipper, hooking his thumbs in so Illya's undergarment came off with his pants, both sliding down his legs and he stepped out of them. He shut his eyes, because this was so personal, it was so ... he felt Napoleon tug at the hair band and then it was off, and his hair fell around his shoulders, brushing his arms, tickling his back. Napoleon drew him into an embrace, and they were naked again, bodies pressed together, and Napoleon's arousal was hard and burning against his hip.

Napoleon cupped his face between both hands, as he had done that last evening and smiled down at him. Illya closed his eyes, and felt Napoleon's lips brush his lashes, his cheekbones, the little indentation below his lower lip, his chin. Down his throat, and when Napoleon's mouth teased his ear he cried out. Napoleon kissed him there, hot breath making his legs buckle so he clutched at Napoleon's arms to stay on his feet, astonished at what he was feeling. Napoleon was still kissing his ear, wet sucking kisses, and when he started working his way around to the other ear Illya shivered and shivered again with anticipation. Napoleon was moving so slowly, lips traveling across his throat, up his neck ... "Please," Illya whispered, wanting him to hurry, moving to get his ear closer to Napoleon's mouth, nearly swooning with delight when Napoleon obligingly kissed it, sending his tongue inside this time. Illya's legs did give way, at that, and Napoleon caught him up and carried him in to the bedroom.

He went over every inch of Illya's body with lips and tongue and fingers, kissing him everywhere but there, from the soles of his feet to the top of his head, touching him and kissing him, finally touching him intimately but lightly, fingers barely making contact, brushing along the length, tickling the hard tight pouch underneath and Illya cried out again, trying vainly to press himself into Napoleon's hand. Napoleon shook his head, kissed his mouth. "When I say," he ordered and Illya nodded, obedient, helpless and obedient, but his lips curved a little too because he thought that Napoleon was certainly teaching him a lot, and maybe next time it would be Napoleon begging him. Napoleon kissed the tip of his organ and Illya reached for him, but Napoleon sat up and turned him over, onto his stomach, and started all over again. He kissed first one shoulder blade then the other, laid a trail of warm wet kisses down his spine. Illya gasped, head sideways on the pillow, hands clenched around the pillowcase because he had to hold on to something, he had to ... Napoleon kissed the backs of his knees, and who knew that was such a sensitive place? Napoleon kissed him there again, and again, licked him before shifting position slightly and caressing his buttocks, making him jump at the flood of sensation, face buried in the pillow now to muffle his cries. "Please," he begged again, made frantic by those hands that knew so much, that seemed to know him so well ... "please, Napoleon, oh, please."

As if in answer Napoleon paused, then gripped Illya harder, fingers digging into flesh and spread him wide, revealing the secret hidden place and then there was a long time when he just looked. Illya, face burning, feeling terribly exposed, and terribly vulnerable, waited. Napoleon's eyes scorched his skin and he moaned again. It seemed he should be ashamed to be so open but he wasn't—he trusted Napoleon and still he waited. Just as it seemed the tension between them had to break Napoleon bent, tightened his grip and pressed his lips to the place.

Illya couldn't even plead any more, could only gasp, feeling himself against Napoleon's mouth, melting and then Napoleon released him and was moving up, licking, sucking, nibbling, hot breath on the nape of Illya's neck. He gripped Illya's buttocks again, spreading them wide again, waiting as if for some cue. Illya gave it to him, arching back, wanting that hot wet touch and there it was—but different, harder, stronger. Napoleon was whispering in his ear "All right?" and there was no alarm, just this deep aching emptiness.

"Yes," he whispered back and Napoleon filled him, with one smooth motion he was filled. Napoleon reached around in front and squeezed him, not light any more, no more teasing, squeezing and pumping. Illya groped blindly, needing to hold on, needing to grab Napoleon and hold on. Napoleon slid his free arm under Illya's face and Illya's hands closed on it. Napoleon groaned, thrust harder and Illya clung to him and moved under his relentless pounding, inside the tight sheaf of his hand. Then he was floating free, aloft and soaring with Napoleon deep inside him, Napoleon's hand caressing his face, he kissing Napoleon's fingers, hearing Napoleon's own hoarse exclamation and oh, this was bliss, this was—everything. The waves of pleasure kept rolling through him, again and again and again and he was crying out now against Napoleon's palm which had closed over Illya's mouth although Napoleon himself was shouting aloud, and then it was over. Napoleon fell onto his side and Illya turned immediately, seeking the haven of his embrace after the dizzying flight. Napoleon kissed him once more, and when Napoleon sucked on his tongue he felt another throb of pleasure, and then finally everything was quiet.

Quiet. For a very long time they lay there, breathing slowing, heart rates returning to normal, neither wanting to move because separation was intolerable. Finally Napoleon left, returning with a warm wet cloth. He cleaned first Illya then himself before coming back to bed. He tugged the covers up over their shoulders, pulled Illya closer, and settled in for sleep. "As long as we both shall live," he whispered. "I love you, Illya."

"I love you too, Napoleon. Till death do us part."

"Death won't part us," Napoleon said. "The universe couldn't be so cruel. We are together—forever. Forever, Illya, my sweetheart, my own true love. Forever."

"Forever," Illya echoed, and after another moment his eyes closed, and even in sleep they were not parted.

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