The coffee room on the second floor of UNCLE HQ was practically custom designed for eavesdropping. The actual coffee pot, cream, and sugar were around a corner at the back of the room, which meant that there was no way that someone coming in to sit around the little table could see if there was anyone already pouring themselves a cup.
If not for that little detail of architecture, Napoleon would never have heard the conversation. It wasn't the kind of thing that anyone would want to bring to the attention of their CEA.
Really, he shouldn't have even been there to overhear. There was a lounge on the third floor for enforcement agents, which meant he didn't need to come down to the second floor for his coffee. But this morning the upstairs pot was broken, and Napoleon had been up late the night before. Coffee was a necessity.
He'd just lifted the pot to fill his mug when the soft whoosh of the door opening and closing caught his ear. Pausing, Napoleon listened for a clue as to who it was.
"...Sandy last night."
"That's supposed to be juicy gossip? Please. Is there anyone in this building that Napoleon Solo hasn't slept with?"
"Don't be catty. There are plenty of women who haven't been lavished with his attentions."
"Sure. All the ones who are married or over thirty."
"He hasn't been out with you, and you're not married or over thirty. Jealous, maybe?"
"Hah! I wouldn't go out with a man like that, no matter how charming he is."
"A man like what?"
"You know what I mean."
"So he's a bit of a skirt chaser. He's never nasty or creepy about it. I'll have you know that most of us were perfectly happy to be caught."
"'Just a bit of a skirt chaser,' indeed. That's a double standard for you. A man sleeps around and everyone's indulgent and tolerant. If a woman behaved like he does, she'd be a slut and you know it."
"Really. Do you have to be so crude?"
"I'm not being crude, I'm being blunt. Tell me it isn't common knowledge that if you want a fun evening with no strings attached, all you have to do is catch his eye and show a little leg."
"I think you're exaggerating."
"Well...maybe a little. But not about the no strings. That man couldn't make a commitment if his life depended on it."
"Maybe he just hasn't found the right girl yet."
"After all the looking he's done?"
"You'd rather he picked someone at random, just to prove he could? There's something to be said for not making promises, you know. When he does make them, it ought to be for someone he wants to make them for."
"When? You are a hopeless romantic, if you think Mr. Solo is going to fall head over heels for some woman and swear fidelity 'til death do us part."
"It could happen!"
"I just hope you haven't got your heart set on him."
"Don't be silly. It won't be one of us. Napoleon needs someone...someone special."
"You are a romantic, but this isn't a fairy tale. There isn't anyone that special."
"Oh, don't be such a killjoy. I believe there's someone for everyone, and don't tell me any different. I wouldn't want to think there isn't anyone out there for me, either."
"Of course there is. You're a sweetie. Why, Jack down in imaging..."
The conversation went on for a good ten minutes after that, but Napoleon tuned it out, waiting instead for the sound of the doors closing behind the women. It came at last, their coffee break over, and he retreated back to his office, empty handed.
Illya sat at his desk, head bent over the report he was writing. "You took your time getting that coffee," he said without looking up. "Were you waylaid by a young lady, or are you just trying to avoid your share of this report?"
"The former," Napoleon forced a light note into his voice. "I wouldn't abandon you to this sea of paperwork."
Naturally, Illya heard beyond the false cheer. The put on was for the benefit of other ears. Mostly a habit, here in HQ, but it was best not to break some habits. His eyes narrowed speculatively at his partner, but all Illya said aloud was, "Of course you would. But you're out of luck this time, my friend. I saved it for you."
Napoleon settled in, his grumbling even less convincing than his cheer had been, and did his best to lose himself in the mind numbing details of the bureaucracy that is generated by any large organization. Fragments of the overheard conversation kept intruding on his concentration, which spurred him to concentrate harder, which resulted in his finishing his paperwork before Illya. A rare occurrence, and one that only deepened the concern he could see in his partner's clear blue eyes.
If Illya was letting him see that concern, Napoleon could count on having a 'surprise' visitor to his apartment that evening. There were half a dozen things he could say to head that off at the pass, but he voiced none of them, instead glancing at the clock.
It was going to be a long day.
The knock on his door came just as Napoleon was about to put two laden dinner plates in the oven to keep warm. He left them on the counter instead and went to the door to let his partner in. Illya cast an eye over the plates. "Expecting company?"
"Company is here," Napoleon said, waving him toward the food.
"Am I that predictable?"
Napoleon smiled at that. Illya, predictable? "No," he answered. "I just know you that well." Settling himself at the dinner table, Illya raised an eyebrow and inscribed a circle in the air with his fork. "All clear," Napoleon assured him. "I checked when I got home."
"Then will you tell me what is wrong?"
It was a stupid thing to be upset about. Napoleon knew that, but he also knew better than to say so. Illya wouldn't tolerate that sort of evasion. But maybe a delay, until he could do something more than eat after. "After dinner?"
Illya pursed his lips and considered a moment. Either Napoleon's request or Illya's hunger won out, because he conceded by putting fork to food. Dinner went slowly, though neither of them spoke. But finally the dishes were washed and dried and returned to their places in the cabinets, and Illya was waiting.
Napoleon suppressed a sigh and rubbed the back of his neck. "It's nothing," he said, but went on before Illya could argue. "I was just presented with the inevitable results of my reputation a little more bluntly than usual."
"Someone said something to you?" Illya asked, surprised.
"No, no," Napoleon waved the suggestion off. "I overheard a couple of the secretarial pool gossiping."
"And what is the gossip today?"
Napoleon leaned back against the sink, bracing his hands on the edge by his hips. "Apparently I went to bed with Sandy Emerson last night."
Illya's eyes glittered in amusement. He stepped up close to his partner and curled his fingers around Napoleon's hips. "Really? Then who was that in bed with me?"
"I don't know why they jump to these conclusions," Napoleon muttered, less amused than he probably should have been. "I had her home by ten o'clock."
A warm, broad hand came up to cup his cheek gently. Gentle blue eyes captured his gaze. "It is very fortunate for us that they do, Polya," Illya said seriously. "Now tell me what else they said."
Closing his eyes, Napoleon turned his cheek into his lover's touch and took a breath, savoring the clean scent of him. "I've slept with every woman at HQ who isn't married or over thirty," he confessed, as if it were true. "I couldn't make a commitment if my life depended on it. I'm a slut. And anyone who thinks I could ever really fall in love must be a hopeless romantic."
Illya let out a soft breath replete with understanding. Not opening his eyes, Napoleon slid his arms around that familiar body and drew Illya into his embrace. He pressed their cheeks together and relaxed a little as Illya's arms went around him in turn.
"You remember," Illya said after awhile, "that it's good that they say those things. We've worked to make sure that they believe in your reputation even in the face of the inevitable inconsistencies."
Napoleon opened his eyes at last. "I know." He laughed softly, without amusement. "It's funny. I never cared what they thought, before. But now...now I want them to know that I can love, and do. I want them to know that I can be faithful, and am. I want them to know how incredibly special you are."
Napoleon could feel Illya's smile against his cheek. "You are a romantic. If only they knew, your reputation would never recover."
Softly: "I don't want that reputation anymore."
Illya pulled back and cupped Napoleon's face in both hands. "Think of it as protective camouflage," he advised. "It is not you. It's just something you put on and take off as needed."
A smile crept onto Napoleon's lips. "Is this work creeping into our personal life again?"
"Oh no," Illya murmured. "We have no need to hide from each other." With the pads of his fingers, he prompted Napoleon to bend his head for a kiss. It was a soft, sweet meeting of mouths, sharing breath, so tender that it made Napoleon's heart ache. They pulled apart only for a moment, more to brush lips than because they had any real need to.
"I love you," Napoleon murmured, his lips touching Illya's with even that small movement.
Illya leaned back a bit to share a smile with him. "I know," he assured his partner. He let his hands fall and took Napoleon's touch from his waist, twining their fingers together instead. "Come to bed, Polya. Let me remind you what makes our little charade worthwhile."
"I don't need reminding," Napoleon protested, but he let himself be drawn into the bedroom without any resistance.
"Perhaps not," was Illya's only response, his attention being rather more absorbed in divesting Napoleon of the layers of his suit.
At last they crawled in between the sheets together. Napoleon sighed in soft satisfaction at the touch of fresh, clean cotton against his bare skin, and sighed again as Illya pressed him down on his back and blanketed him with his own body. "You feel good," he whispered, lifting a hand to slide his fingers into the mop of blond hair.
Illya leaned into the caress for a moment, but only a moment. "It gets better," he promised, and leaned down for another kiss.
Napoleon eased his legs open, allowing Illya to settle even more closely against him, their thighs interlocking like puzzle pieces. "I fit with you," he said, softly, like a prayer, like a plea. Napoleon filled one hand with the smooth curve of Illya's buttock. The other he took from Illya's hair in favor of putting it around his lover's back. Hanging on.
"You do," Illya assured him. Then he began to move, languidly pushing against Napoleon's body with his own. "We're good together. We're always good together."
Warmth seemed to sink into Napoleon skin from all sides at once. He pulled Illya into another kiss, intent on sharing the warm glow that suffused him. Almost absently Napoleon began kneading the firm flesh of Illya's ass. Illya moaned and deepened the kiss suddenly, his thighs closing hard around Napoleon's.
Chuckling, Napoleon let the kiss come to an end for the moment and gazed up into dazed blue eyes. "Look at you," the American said huskily, "and people think I'm the hedonist."
"This isn't hedonism," Illya argued breathlessly and closed his eyes, rubbing intently against Napoleon. He could have been seeking his own pleasure, or his partner's; the way they were entwined now, any movement by either caressed both. "It's communism at its best."
Napoleon pressed his head back into the pillow and let his hands wander up and down Illya's back, fingers stroking the hollow on either side of his spine. Such smooth skin there...neither of that had come quite that close, yet.
"How do you figure that?" Napoleon asked at last, the question having only slowly sunk through the fog of pleasure.
Illya leaned down and met his lips for another long, slow kiss. A smooth, subtle intensity was building in Napoleon, lapping at his nerves like the incoming tide. Lazily, he drew it into the kiss they shared, felt Illya pulse with it. Slowly, the Illya pulled away and licked Napoleon's lips, quick and soft.
"We are sharing what we have," the Russian answered, burying a hand in Napoleon's hair and stroking his thumb along his jaw line, "and taking what we need. Yes?"
Napoleon laughed and arched beneath him. "Da," he answered, the syllable stretching out into a long 'ah' of release as his climax rolled through him.
Illya followed close behind him, as he always did, and Napoleon welcomed him with a soft brush of his lips. "We should clean up," Napoleon murmured, sleepily. But the bed was warm, and Illya was here, and he felt relaxed at last...
"Go to sleep, Polya," Illya whispered. "I'll take care of it."
Oblivion beckoned, but there was still something to say, wasn't there? Oh yes. "Love you," Napoleon managed.
"I know, Polya. And I love you."
That was it.