by Cord Smithee

© 2004

Author's note: "Impediments" is the second part of the story begun in "Leather". It contains some kink, as well as IK/OC (m) and NS/OC (f), but it ends in a happy place.

As far as I know, these characters belong to Norman Felton and some massive media empire. Any monies should be directed to those people, not me.


Illya slipped his arms into the jacket without rising from his crouch, looking up at Napoleon with a wicked gleam in his eyes. "A little early in the day for the balcony," he said, shrugging the coat into place on his naked shoulders. "But if you'll just stand back against that wall—"

Napoleon obeyed. He pressed his hands flat to the pale yellow plaster, forcing himself to breathe evenly, carefully, the emotions and needs piling one on top of another in his belly, a low, visceral twist. The scent of that scarred leather jacket surrounded him. The room smelled raw: leather and the tang of the ocean, the pungency of Illya's sweat and semen, the unmistakable reek of sex. He moaned softly, in anticipation, and his partner hadn't even touched him yet.

"Hang on tight," Illya instructed, dropping one knee to the floor. He pressed his hands flat against Napoleon's hip bones and forced him against the wall by main strength. The air was summery, even a little too warm; it was not the bone-locking cold of memory that sent a shiver up Napoleon's spine.

Hang on tight. He didn't need a second invitation. He slid his fingers through his partner's hair, turning the layered colors over in his hands, and then curled them into the armored leather on each strong shoulder. It was good: permission to be thoughtless, self-indulgent. Permission to give up control.

To give it up before it was taken away from him.

The jacket creaked under his grip. He could smell the warm skin it covered. The roughness of Illya's palms against his hips, of Illya's cheek against his thigh, a long slow moment of drawn-out anticipation--and then the heat of breath, of a clever tongue, of warm lips and an agile, velveted mouth, a long smooth stroke, two, and then a coy, retreating kiss....

Napoleon moaned, low in his throat, and dropped his chin to watch. He could have closed his eyes, concentrated on the sensation... but his partner was in the mood to tease, and besides, there was that amazing contrast of stark, scarred leather and pale, warm skin, the way Illya's belly creased when he curled forward, the sated cock resting against his thigh, the hair ruffled and disarrayed with sleep and lovemaking.

The hands were powerful, imprisoning--a contrast to the gentle precision of that mouth. Napoleon arched against them, dragging at the jacket, giving his control up to the tease the way he knew Illya wanted him too. He gave Illya the raggedness of his breathing, the irresistible sway of his hips, the drops of sweat that slid from the tip of his nose and rolled into his eyes as his head fell forward on a slackened neck. His knees wanted to buckle; something was uncoiling inside him, a snake rising out of the pit of his stomach, a phoenix from the pyre. Illya held him up, held him back, caught his wrists when he strained so hard at the damnable leather of that jacket that he almost dragged Illya up off his knees.

Illya made it last until Napoleon thought he'd faint, until it was only the blessed warm plaster wall against his back and the strength of his partner's hands that held him up, made it last until breakfast was a foregone conclusion, and Napoleon's breath hurt his throat, and until they'd have to share the shower if they were going to make the plane. Until Napoleon's manicured nails worked another set of half-moon marks like a hunter's trophy notches into the shoulders of that old black jacket, until when he came, finally, finally, it felt like his balls and his guts and his heart and his soul and most of his rational mind went with it.

He hoped his strangled scream sounded like somebody who'd just tripped over the edge of the bathtub getting out of the shower, if anybody was listening below the open window.

And then Illya stood calmly--an armful of leather and sweat--caught his face between rough hands, kissed his mouth with a mouth that tasted of starch and bitterness, grinned, and murmured, "You'd better hurry, or you'll miss that plane."

Napoleon couldn't shake the quiet, when he wasn't flirting with the stewardess. She'd brought him several extra helpings of peanuts, which Illya had appropriated, and now they sat side by side in silence, Napoleon on the aisle, Illya by the window, and both pretended to doze. They were somewhere south of Iceland when Illya bumped Napoleon with his shoulder. "Something wrong?"

Napoleon favored him with a quick flash of a smile. "I was just thinking."

"Don't strain yourself."

"Hah. That was sort of our anniversary, then."

"If by 'sort of' you mean it was a different time of year, a different city, and a completely different set of circumstances, I'd have to agree. It sort of is." He kept his voice dry enough that Napoleon had to glance over twice to see if he was joking, but let the sparkle show in his eyes.

"Good," Napoleon said, glancing down at his hands. "It's settled, then."

"What's settled?"

"In another thirteen years, eight months, and four days, we'll celebrate again."

"Madman," Illya said, and he said it through a smile. But then he shook his head, and looked down at his hands as well, and he tore open another cello bag of peanuts and popped one into his mouth, staring out the window at the ocean far below.

Napoleon watched under lowered lashes and nibbled quietly on his thumbnail. It tasted faintly of rawhide, a lingering reminder of the source of the pleasant ache and weariness that warmed his body. Illya had traded the leather jacket for a suitcoat and tie, thankfully for Napoleon's composure. It was Illya's composure, however, that worried him.

Illya's composure, and the peculiar nostalgia of the business with the leather coat, and the way Illya had admitted to him--thirteen years, eight months, and four days after that first, searing encounter that had changed both their lives--had admitted to him, for no apparent reason, the true nature of that particular rough seduction...

Illya wasn't nostalgic. Illya could be surprisingly generous, spontaneously kind, unexpectedly courteous, shockingly sentimental to the eye of a Puritanism-tainted American. Napoleon hadn't ever forgotten the particular awkward sideways manner in which he'd confessed his unearned love for Napoleon, once, only, and more than a decade ago. They hadn't spoken of it again, ever, as if Illya had wished those words unsaid, or, having once said them, considered it sufficient--like the old joke about the New England farmer who told his wife he loved her on her wedding day, and presumed she'd understand by that that he'd let her know if anything changed.

They'd never needed to talk about it, since. Illya was most comfortable with his cards so close to his chest that they picked up sweat stains, and Napoleon liked to play his apparently face up on the table in front of him, while keeping an entirely different set that nobody ever saw tucked up his sleeve.

They knew each other. They knew their arrangement. They were partners, and what one asked the other one gave--freedom, occasional sex, last minute rescues, lazy Sunday afternoons reading the Times out loud to one another. Covering fire, and healthy competition, and a sly, aggravating, comfortable sort of possessiveness, and no questions ever. They were, and they were free with what they were, and it wasn't quite lovers because lovers was such a small thing. Such an insignificant thing, in the face of a friendship that made most marriages seem like cages, and small cages at that.

Illya was the constant in his life, in a life that meant moving house every four to six months, that meant never falling in love, never marrying, never dating the same girl for more than a month or two (even the ones that he and Illya and occasionally Waverly and once--a truly stinging blow--even Slate, stole, and stole back, and stole back from each other again). It meant never so much as bringing home a houseplant or a pet, never being able to fill out his real job on loan paperwork, never being able to bring it up in casual conversation with casual strangers who invariably asked, second question if it wasn't the first one, what is it that you do?

It was a life that meant living like a shark, swim or die.

And that was fine. That was more than fine; he'd made his choice when he was hardly more than a boy and choking on grief, but he was ready to live with the price. As long as he had this one small mouthful of humanity, of stability. Just once in a while.

Napoleon didn't understand the change, and there wasn't much in the course of human behavior that wasn't transparent to Napoleon Solo on brief inspection. There shouldn't have been anything in the makeup of Illya Kuryakin that wasn't transparent to Napoleon Solo on brief inspection.

He didn't like it. He didn't like it at all.

Nothing should have changed.

There was no reason anything should have changed.

But Illya had given in to nostalgia. And Illya wasn't nostalgic.

And Illya had planned what had happened in that hotel room, he now understood. Down to the smallest detail. Planned it as a gift, as a benediction. As a... remembrance?

The thought made him cold.

Three days of inactivity in the New York office, long enough for the cord burns on Illya's wrists to scab and begin to heal, did nothing to alleviate his peculiar coolness and distance, and his off-duty unavailability. The warmth was still in his eyes, sometimes, when Napoleon looked up unexpectedly, but their normal bantering relationship had retreated behind lines of cool professionalism. His two attempts to corner the Russian and maneuver him into conversation netted him nothing; despite the fact that Illya appeared to paying more than the usual level of chivalric attention to the biologist Marnie in the bioweapon-countermeasures lab, he was barely in the building for two hours at a stretch. When Illya broke their standing Sunday night dinner date and did not appear for work on Monday morning, Napoleon decided it was time to admit defeat. He presented himself at Mr. Waverly's office, Illya's familiar personnel file in his hand--much thicker now than thirteen years before--having asked to discuss a human resources issue with the old man in private.

Napoleon laid the folder on the big rotating table and didn't sit. "Sir, uh. About Illya."

"Yes. About Mr. Kuryakin. Are you nerving yourself to inform me that your extracurricular activities have begun to affect your ability to complete your duties, Mr. Solo?"


Waverly's eyebrows knit, his expression reminiscent of an offended terrier. "Surely, Mr. Solo, you don't think his propensity for engaging in a spot of discreet buggery with a certain superior officer has escaped my notice."

"Sir." Napoleon swallowed, dry-mouthed. "That would have been a foolish assumption on my part." Somehow, he managed to stop his tongue before continuing, the buggery isn't precisely one-sided, sir. He supposed, if he were being quite so open, he should add that there was a certain amount of oral sodomy involved, too...

Mr. Solo, admonished an inner voice not all that different from that of the real Mr. Waverly, this is not the time for hysterics.

"You seem shocked, Mr. Solo. I hope you don't think me so unworldly as that. You young people these days think you invented sex. I tolerate your relentless pursuit of my female agents and my secretarial pool, within limits. I do think Mr. Kuryakin is at least as well equipped as Miss Rogers or Miss Dancer to defend himself from your advances, should he find them unwelcome. And frankly, your job performance has improved since--what is that crude term the young people use?--oh, yes. Since the two of you 'hooked up.' Vivid bit of imagery there."

"No, sir, it's nothing to do with that. I hope—" Except it did have something to do with that. Or with Illya's odd behaviour, at least.

"Good. He keeps you focused. I approve."

"It's just that he's seemed different, lately. Withdrawn."

Waverly harrumphed and shuffled papers before reaching out to flick Illya's file from Napoleon's fingers. "Mr. Solo. If your... attachment to that young man is going to make you curious,"—as if curiosity was the dirtiest word Waverly could imagine—"we can see about having you reassigned somewhere with fewer distractions. Pretoria, perhaps. Or transferred to Section three. You might do very well there."

"Section three?" He barely managed to rein in his outrage. "Sir, it has nothing to do with curiosity. I'm simply concerned about Illya."

"Oh, you don't imagine I'd demote him over your poor behaviour, Mr. Solo. I assure you, his job is quite secure."

"Sir, I—" How was it, he thought bitterly, that Mr. Waverly somehow always managed to run rings around him, without even trying? He'd completely lost command of the conversation--frankly, even his own half of it.

"Mr. Solo. Can you do the job, or can't you?"

He broke. "Sir," he complained, "I don't know what the job is."

Waverly smiled, his eyebrows lifting over the caverns housing his eyes, producing an entirely different cast of feature: grandfatherly, rather than his more usual aspect of a stern and knowing God. "That's because you don't have need to know, Mr. Solo. And your relationship with Mr, Kuryakin does not provide that need to know. Carry on."


"Dismissed, Mr, Solo."

"Thank you, sir."

The door had slid shut behind him before he managed to ferret out the important part of the conversation, the thing that Waverly had oh, so carefully not told him, while telling him plainly none the less. The old man was good. The old man was kind. The old man cared for every one of his agents, despite his constant assurances that they were expendable, that their personal lives were the first casualty of their professions, that they had two choices: swim or die.

And the old man had let him know, without ever quite letting him know, that Illya was on the job.

And Napoleon was not about to let his partner go out there--where ever there was--without backup. Which meant finding Illya. Which meant...

...complications. Still, Waverly hadn't told him not to seek Illya out. Rather, he'd told Napoleon that, without knowing what the mission was, he was to act as Illya's partner... in all things. And Napoleon was more than a little shocked to find that out.

But that meant Napoleon should trust his instincts, and do what he would have done normally if Illya were acting odd. Which is what he wanted to do anyway. He detoured far enough afield on the way home to pick up two bottles of Chardonnay, a large package of fried chicken and all the fixings from a soul-food restaurant, and a bottle of slivovitz. He did not carry them up to his own apartment, but paused two floors lower and banged on Illya's door, a knock in Morse code that combined Illya's initials and his own. Translation: open up, I know you're in there.

Illya opened up. He stood blocking the doorway, and Napoleon gained admittance by the simple expedient of handing him the chicken and bulling past him. "Thought you could use some company, as Waverly has you on the sick roster."

Illya's eyebrows did that dance they did, the very complicated one that furrowed his brow terribly. "He does?" As if it were unimaginable that such a thing obtained.

"According to the papers on my desk, it is."

"Interesting," Illya said, and then clammed up and locked the door again before ferrying the chicken into the kitchen, where Napoleon was already sliding one bottle of wine into the fridge and opening the other, which he judged still sufficiently chilled. He'd hurried.

"Why interesting?"

"Because he told me I was being placed on administrative leave," Illya answered quietly. "He must not want it on my permanent record yet."

Napoleon paused with the wine half-uncorked. "Get glasses," he said. "I need one. Administrative leave? On what possible grounds?"

Napoleon wasn't prepared for the silence that followed, or the wry, reluctant answer. "Because I told him I was seeing somebody."

"Seriously enough to warrant a security check?" Napoleon bit down the wrench of panic that threatened to overwhelm him. Illya could see whoever he wanted. Illya was still his, always his. It didn't matter. "That's not a reason to put you on leave, unless you tried to skate reporting it—"

"Napoleon," Illya said, quietly. "It's a man. And—"

A man. Napoleon's training as the only reason he didn't knock the bottle of wine all over the table. Instead he went to Illya's cabinet, collected two white wine glasses from their accustomed place--he knew Illya's apartment like his own--and filled them both. "And, Illya? It's unlike you to hesitate."

Illya's fingers brushed Napoleon's softly as he accepted the glass. He made no effort to avoid it, but said, "and he's married."

Napoleon didn't drop the glass, but he did drink the entire thing in one painful swallow, and reach out blindly to pour another. "Married?"

Illya smiled and sipped his wine. "What does it matter? So am I, more or less. More less than more, but beggars can't be choosers, and there's no church or government in the world that would make it legal--but if you and I aren't as married as any couple on earth...." His voice trailed off. He set his glass down with a solid, decisive click. "Well, that doesn't matter."

"How can you tell me you're leaving me on one breath and then—"

Illya reached out, took the wine glass from his hand, and came a little closer. "I never said I was leaving you," he murmured, and pinned Napoleon to the wall with a swift, hard, uncomplicated kiss. "But you have your entertainments, and so do I."

Napoleon had thought he was shocked before, between Waverly's admission and Illya's confession. It couldn't shock him as much as the sudden, prickling, blood-flushed tautness at his groin, the raw need that spiked through his body. He kissed Illya back, hard, darting tongue and scraping teeth and a total lack of finesse that would have shamed him, had it been anyone else, any other time. "Entertainment?" he asked, when they broke apart so that Illya could set the glass down. "Is that what I am to you?"

"You know better than that, Napoleon." Blunt fingers unknotted his tie and opened his collar. "But what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander."

The first words of Napoleon's complaining reply were cut off by another kiss. He persisted. "...ling me a goose?"

"If the beak fits—"

"Oh, that does it." He wasn't waiting any longer. Wasn't granting Illya the illusion of control any longer, either. When Illya's hands clutched at his shoulders, pushing him back again, he shifted forward and swept his partner's legs out from under him. They both went down on the tiled kitchen floor, Napoleon taking most of the impact on his hands, but Napoleon was very careful to make sure he landed on top. His tie cut the back of his neck as Illya hauled himself up the dangling ends to kiss and kiss again, his mouth sweet with saliva and very, very wet. The tie slipped from around Napoleon's neck; Napoleon knelt back, pressing Illya to the floor, a hand on his shoulder, a hand on his collar. Mine, he thought, and fisted his hands in the cotton of Illya's shirt, and tore.

Buttons flew. Cloth shredded. Illya yelped in protest and grabbed Napoleon's hands. "Surely the bedroom—"

"Now," Napoleon answered harshly. He pressed his hips to Illya's, grinding hard, feeling the rasp of cloth on cloth and the sudden sweet yielding when Illya opened his legs, wrapped them around Napoleon's, and pulled him tight, meeting him thrust for thrust. Hard, uncompromising, and Illya was unbuttoning his shirt, sliding it down his shoulders, biting at his mouth and throat. Somebody's shoe thumped off the wall. Tile hurt, hard as rock against his knees, and from the way Illya arched, cold as ice against his shoulders and the small of his back as Napoleon tossed what was left of his shirt to one side. He stripped his own pants and socks off while Illya wriggled out of his, limber as a snake, and then hesitated. Something slippery.... something cold.

He grinned, and opened the icebox.

"Napoleon—" Illya, propped on his elbows to watch, one knee drawn up in unselfconscious grace.

"Hush," Napoleon said, peeling the waxed paper off a stick of margarine. "Remember the time we were locked in the trunk of that car?"

"Extremely well."

"Do you know what I woud have liked to have done, if we weren't on a mission?"

"I think I can guess," Illya said, lifting his torso as Napoleon knelt between his legs. He planted both fists under his ass, raising his body, opening himself, offering himself.

Napoleon's hands were greasy from the margarine; he scraped the edges smooth with a thumbnail--quickly, before it could soften--and looked into Illya's eyes, which were slowly going wider and wider. "Napoleon—"

"Hush," he said again, and reached between Illya's straining, wide-spread legs to guide the smoothed tip of the ice-cold stick of margarine against Illya's opening. Illya gasped, a terribly surrendered sound, which he bit off quickly. He let his head fall back on the tile, and closed his eyes. The next gasp drifted into a moan, as Napoleon, with a quick, steady pressure, slid the whole damned stick of margarine home. It vanished into Illya's body effortlessly; his fingers followed it, pressing it farther in, and Illya arched off his fists and gave in unconditionally to Napoleon's touch.



"That's cold."

"Good," Napoleon answered, clutching Illya's hips with greasy fingers. "This isn't." Legs folded, kneeling, he slid under Illya's raised body and guided him onto his cock, closing his eyes to feel the flutter and pulse of Illya opening to him, arching to him, to feel the low, deep vibrations as he moaned and squirmed closer, sweeter, until his ass rested on Napoleon's thighs, his fists pressed against the floor on either side of Napoleon's legs, his muscled body arched back on a powerful curve, his hair spread out like pools of sunlight on the tile. "Good," Napoleon said, the cold of the misappropriated margarine melting deliciously into Illya's heat, Illya's slick tightness. "More—"

He reached back, stroked his hands along quivering thighs, found Illya's knees and hooked them, drew them up, opening him wider, pressing himself deeper. One of them moaned, animal noises, grunts of effort. Sweat sprang up on the flesh under Napoleon's hands as he slid them down to Illya's calves, to his ankles. "Napoleon—" once more.

"Are you going to tell me to stop?" He had the ankles now, thick and strong. Illya's body molded to him as he lifted them, brought Illya's knees over his arms and lifted until his partner's calves rested over his shoulders. He pressed forward, coming up off his heels, more leaning than thrusting, and felt Illya's body meet, resist, and sway with the pressure, rising to accept him. Illya moaned, hollowing his back, abdominal muscles fluttering as Napoleon stroked both hands up them. He rolled Illya's nipples between thumbs and forefingers, feeling his partner's body clench with pleasure, a sudden tightness that very nearly milked a premature orgasm from him. He stopped, thinking about his breathing, calming his heart, waiting for the feeling of teetering on the precipice to end.

"Don't stop," Illya murmured. He locked his ankles behind Napoleon's head, his fingers clutching, scrabbling, biting deep into the muscle of Napoleon's ass, pulling them together. Napoleon followed the pressure, supporting them both on locked elbows as he bent down to kiss his partner, Illya's mouth greedy, his body flexing like spring steel under Napoleon's weight. "More."


"Harder. Yes...." Half-dreamy, half-demanding. Napoleon dropped to his elbows, braced his knees, braced his toes, drew back against the hungry grip of Illya's hands, Illya's legs, and put his weight behind a savage, claiming thrust. Illya swayed under it, resilient as a drawn bow, taking his weight, pushing back, pulling him tighter, his strength more than equal to the task of bearing his partner up and holding him close, all at once. He was bent double under Napoleon, his balls and cock pressed between their sweat-slick bellies, his mouth devouring Napoleon's as Napoleon, knowing it was futile, nevertheless staked his own claim in return.

They were not quiet. Illya grunted harshly with every thrust, and Napoleon answered with ragged, panting breaths that caught in his throat; not quite moans, and not quite not-moans either. Melted margarine dripped down the front of his thighs, made Illya's ass slippery where they rubbed together, slicked the floor under his knees. Napoleon's hips moved hard, fast, an irresistible rhythm. He couldn't close his eyes, couldn't look away from Illya's searching gaze or step back from the rough contact. His partner was making low, purring growls now with each thrust. Napoleon leaned back, pulling against the iron grip of Illya's legs. He settled on his heels, holding Illya's hip tight with his left hand, and wrapped his right hand around the base of Illya's cock. "Do you want this?"

The expression on Illya's face told him that Illya understood the game, even as he refused to play it. "Yes," he said, quietly. "I'm flat on my back on a cold tile floor with my legs in the air and your cock inside me, Napoleon. Of course I want it. I want you."

Napoleon let his hand slide from the base of Illya's cock to the tip, rubbing his silky-soft foreskin against the firm, resilient head. He felt Illya's muscles squeeze around him as Illya reacted, breathing raggedly, his hips lifting and falling as he squirmed under Napoleon's touch, fucking himself on Napoleon's cock. Indescribable. God. "Do you let him do this to you?"

Out before he could stop it, and with it the white rush of jealousy that rose like a wall, threatening to fall down on him, to crush him under. Illya blinked at him, suddenly still, and offered an open, searching look that wanted to swallow Napoleon whole. "Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answers to, Napoleon," he said. "I will do you the same courtesy."

Dammit. That woke determination in him, to make it last, make it good. To be better, less selfish, more giving than Illya's other lover, whoever he was. He slowed, matching the rhythm of his hips to the motion of his hand, keeping the strokes long, smooth, powerful. Illya let his legs drop and planted his feet, lifting himself to meet Napoleon's rhythm. Blindly, he reached out and pried Napoleon's fingers from his hips, clutching Napoleon's hand, fingers interlaced, squeezing hard. Napoleon stroked him in a heavy rhythm, counterpoint to his own thrusts, watching Illya's face, his eyelids flickering every time Napoleon's hand enfolded him, every time Napoleon's cock slid unerringly home. He loved fucking Illya this way, loved watching his expressions and the utter transparency in his eyes, loved remembering that Illya loved him, that Illya would never look at anyone else with quite that same naked adoration.

He felt Illya's orgasm from the inside. Felt it curl through him like electric shock, flexing every muscle, arching him into Napoleon's hand, convulsing him around Napoleon's cock. Napoleon managed four more thrusts into Illya's shivering, blissful body before a bright spark bridged low in his pelvis and he heard himself moan through an open mouth, sagging jaw, heard Illya say "That's right... give it to me. Give..."

He gave.

They clung together, Illya pulling him down slowly until they lay in a chilled, drowsy heap on cold tile, Napoleon nuzzling the stubble along Illya's jaw. "I love you," he said into Illya's hair, surprised at how easy the words were, and how they still left him feeling scraped raw inside. He hadn't said those words in two decades, even though he'd known them to be true.

Illya turned his face and kissed Napoleon's forehead. "I know you do," he said. "I never doubted. Come on. Let's get cleaned up, and eat."

The next day, Napoleon set about stalking his partner. It wasn't easy, especially as he had to do it around his normal work schedule--including two short affairs that took him to Boston and Schenectady--but he rented a car, and with the assistance of a battered fedora and an unexpected slouch, he made himself inconspicuous. Two days--and three different rental sedans later--he was lucky enough to catch Illya leaving their building at about seven in the evening. He'd told Napoleon earlier that he had plans for dinner.

Napoleon proposed to discover the exact nature of those plans.

He was surprised when Illya caught a cab. The frugal Russian walked almost everywhere, or took the subway, unless Napoleon drove him. This taxi dropped Illya off on 14th and 8th, nowhere in particular, and Illya set off walking briskly after he paid the cab driver. Napoleon followed discreetly as Illya covered several city blocks into the West Village and paused in front of a wooden door stenciled with green and gold letters that Napoleon couldn't read from the car. A man about Napoleon's own age hurried up the sidewalk to meet Illya--dark hair, slender, of average height--and Napoleon watched with stunned disbelief as he took Illya's face in his hands and kissed him on the mouth.



As if he were kissing his wife.

And Illya smiled and kissed him back, and turned and led him into the bar.

Napoleon parked the car, pulled his hat down over his eyes, and followed. There was a booth near the door that was empty; the place hadn't filled up yet. Still, he blinked at what he did see; a dozen or so men, some conservatively dressed, some less so, all polished and fit and young. Hustlers, he thought, but he noticed a couple slow-dancing to a juke box, rubbing their bodies together as provocatively as teenagers doing the Dirty Boogie. Another couple were leaned up against the bar, trading kisses and less subtle caresses in between gulps of beer.

Illya and his... date had chosen seats at a table near the unlit fireplace, and were just sitting down, having apparently collected their drinks at the bar. Napoleon slid into the booth. A particularly bored or particularly attentive waiter was at his side in a moment; he tried to peer around the man's tight blue-jeaned pelvis to keep an eye on Illya and the dark haired man.

He was a good looking fellow. Napoleon could admit it. Strong, regular features, a high brow, mobile and intelligent expressions. "Hey, you gonna order?" the waiter asked, not unkindly.

Napoleon glanced up at the line of bottles over the bar. "Rolling Rock," he said. Moments later, a green bottle was sweating on the table before him, and the waiter had taken his dollar bill with a smile. Napoleon wished him back blocking the view quickly enough.

Illya had slipped his shoe off and was running the side of his foot up and down the inside of the other man's leg. Napoleon flinched and looked down, and quickly looked back again. The waiter came back with his change and Napoleon left it on the table. His eyes hurt, but he couldn't close them as Illya slammed back his drink with a too-familiar gesture, plucked his assignation's glass out of his finger and tossed that back as well.

Now he'll grab the man's arm and pull him to his feet. Now he'll give him a little squeeze and step away, expecting him to follow. Will he take him home? Will--

It hurt like hell, the familiar gestures. But they weren't leaving. They were heading toward a dimly lit stair at the back of the bar.

The dark-haired pretty boy stopped Illya at the foot of the flight, though, and pushed him against the banister. Illya went willingly, allowing the other man to thread his fingers through long, silky hair that shimmered in the dim light like a beacon. Napoleon wanted no-one else touching Illya's hair. He wanted no-one else touching Illya, period.

His heart almost stopped when he watched the other man bend Illya back over the railing and kiss him as if someone's life depended on it, watched Illya respond, watched every eye in the place turn to his Russian and his paramour as they rubbed themselves together, giving the whole bar an eyeful and a taste of what would be going on upstairs.

And Napoleon had no doubt at all what would be going on upstairs.

He grabbed his Rolling Rock and finished it in one hasty gulp. It hit the roil in his stomach like a handful of ice tossed into the stormy Atlantic. Nothing. He stood, about to head for the door, and almost walked into the waiter. Who smirked at him. "You like the blond?"

Walk out. But Napoleon's body wasn't responding to his very sensible commands. Instead he nodded, coolly, and frowned. "So?"

"So," the waiter said, "you can watch, you know."

He couldn't possibly have heard what he just heard. "Watch?"

"There are rooms. Thirty dollars. Fifty if you want privacy—"

"Do they know?" Illya. Not just fucking another man, but on display doing it. A peepshow. Napoleon felt rather as if somebody was winding his intestines onto a winch through a hole in his navel.

"Not most of 'em," the waiter said. "Does it matter?"

"No," Napoleon said, and pulled a crisp fifty from his wallet, "I don't suppose it does."


If anyone had asked Napoleon Solo for a personal definition of hell, this would have come close to it. A close little room, provided with a straight-backed chair, a box of Kleenex, a bottle of Vaseline Intensive Care hand lotion... and a one-way mirror. Napoleon found himself looking through the spotted glass, memorizing the layout of the small, well-furnished room on the other side as if he expected to get into a fight in it.

Which he did, he realized. He expected to go bursting through the glass and rescue Illya, despite the fact that Illya patently and obviously did not care to be rescued. Despite the fact that Illya was currently straddling another man's hips on the wide bed that was the only significant article of furnishing in the little room beyond, other than two other mirrors that Napoleon would wager were also one-way glass.

Top UNCLE agents arrested in wake of brawl at homosexual sex club, Napoleon thought, and kept his clenched hands resolutely stuffed into his pockets.

In any other circumstances, he would have read Illya the riot act for his carelessness. Anybody could be watching, filming, taking photos. Anyone could be behind the other mirrors, watching the dark-haired man's hands knead Illya's tight, muscular ass through his worn brown corduroys. Watching Illya's incongruously soft-lipped mouth make wet unhurried trails across the other man's throat and down his collarbones, Illya's clumsy-seeming hands move with considerable deftness as they unbuttoned his own shirt.

His own shirt. That was the sort of thing that lovers of long standing did, undressing themselves, without ceremony, shrugging the shirt down over their own shoulders, impatiently revealing their bodies to the touch of their beloveds. The quiet concentration on Illya's face, the flicker of his lapping tongue as his lover unbuttoned his own shirt, baring his chest to Illya's attentions.

Napoleon was reasonably sure that his heart was literally ripping itself apart in his chest. The pain was physical, intense, so every breath came into his lungs with a sensation like dragging flesh over broken glass. The other man knew how to touch his Russian--the right way to knot his hands in Illya's hair, pulling just hard enough to make Illya moan appreciation but not hard enough to get that irritable shake of the head that meant stop that, it's annoying me; the way Illya liked firm touches on his shoulders and a thumb stroked over the curve of his ear, his lips, nestled into the notch under his beautiful mouth.

Illya lifted himself, swung his legs off the bed and stood, dropping his trousers and underwear on the floor with a few efficient gestures, stripping his socks off and leaving them crumpled on top of the pile. The other man followed suit, an a moment later, they rejoined each other on the bed. Suddenly, painfully, Napoleon wanted to leave, to scurry down the stairs in ignominy and go home and get very very drunk.

But he couldn't leave Illya like this, exposed, vulnerable, with nobody to watch his back... and how stupid was Illya, anyway, to put himself in this position, a position where he could be blackmailed and so could the other man? Napoleon could see the gold ring glittering on the stranger's left hand as it knotted in Illya's hair again, as Illya sprawled between the other man's outflung legs and gave him a reason to knot that hand, his head rising and falling in a leisurely rhythm.

Napoleon's gut twisted and his dick twitched. He glanced down at his shoes and then forced himself to look up, to think, to process what he was seeing professionally, coolly. Illya was propped on his elbows, displaying the muscles of his slender torso, his cheeks hollowing and his eyelashes fluttering as he swallowed the other man's cock with professional aplomb.

That ring caught the light, reminding Napoleon of the one Illya wore, and always had... a married man. Illya's on the job. One-way glass. Mr. Solo. Can you do the job, or can't you?

Napoleon blinked. Waverly wouldn't. Wouldn't use Illya that way....

The hell he wouldn't. He'd used Napoleon that way, more than once. With women, it was true, but that didn't change a thing. And Illya had done this sort of thing before, with Napoleon, even, although in the end the Russian had refused that particular bit and the bridle that went with it.

Napoleon almost choked on relief. It's an affair. He smirked at a dirty-minded pun. In more ways than one.

Can you do the job, or can't you, Mr. Solo?

The job, he suddenly understood, was the same as it always was. Watching Illya's back. More literally than usual this time...

Except Illya didn't look workmanlike. He looked enraptured. Napoleon could hear the little sounds he made, appreciative, hungry, could almost feel himself what that tongue, those lips, the soft depths of that throat would feel like. Muscles rippled as Illya drew one knee up, his erection revealed in all its glory, the pink softness of the protected places of his body. Napoleon's mouth watered, and it was only half nausea. His balls ached with need, and as fast as it had come, the conviction that Illya was here out of obligation rather than desire flickered and faded. Very Freudian, this state of denial, Mr. Solo.

And then Illya drew back, before the other man had finished, and smiled a wickedly inviting smile that Napoleon knew very well indeed, and murmured something Napoleon couldn't quite catch. Oh, God. I don't want to see this.

This is what you get for spying on your partner, Mr. Solo.

He needs me here.

Are you saying you're NOT spying?

He sighed. Of course I'm spying. I'm a spy.

He stood there and watched as Illya arranged himself on his belly, his face pillowed on folded arms, and Illya's lover reverentially stroked his back, his buttocks, and his thighs. Illya relaxed into the touch, giving himself up to it as if they had all the time in the world. Napoleon saw the intensity on the other man's face, the concentration, and had to bite down on his own hand to stifle a groan. He knew, suddenly. Knew why this man had staked such a claim to Illya, why the public kisses and the assignation in a room upstairs from a faggot bar.

Because it was the closest thing this man could do to shouting it from the rooftops that Illya was his. And Napoleon couldn't even pretend he didn't understand the urge. He did it himself--the little touches, the jealous remarks, the way he invaded Illya's personal space and teased him about his hair, his girlfriends, his clothes.... mine, they all said. Mine, mine, mine.

Illya's lover pulled a small blue tin of cold cream from the pocket of his discarded pants and knelt between Illya's spread thighs. Napoleon closed his eyes, but couldn't close his ears on Illya's soft, pleased moan at the touch that must have followed. He also couldn't close his ears on the disapproval in the other man's voice when he said, "You've been with him."

Illya answered tiredly. "That's my business, Claude. My time is my own."

"Is it still your own when he leaves bruises? Crap, Illya, this is nearly a handprint. How can you let him do this to you?"

A rustle against the bedclothes. Napoleon turned his back, leaned his head against the wall beside the one-way glass. I bruised him? Christ...

"Sometimes I like it rough," Illya said in answer. Napoleon turned over his shoulder and looked back. The other man--Claude--was bent over Napoleon's partner, infinitely tender, careful in his preparations.

I'm not always rough with him.

No, but you were Monday night.

He's been just as rough with me.

He had, too, and more than once. It was one of the joys of taking someone to bed who was an equal in strength, in passion, in every possible way. And Illya was still sprawled loose-limbed on the bed, and Napoleon didn't think the casual, pleased, remembering smile playing around the corners of Illya's mouth had anything to do with what Claude was doing to him.

And Claude was in perfect profile.

Napoleon pulled his cigarette lighter from his pocket and snapped a quick photo while lighting a cigarette he didn't feel like smoking. He'd be developing that film himself, and printing and cropping the enlargements. And burning the negative, too.

And then he put the camera back in his pocket and he sat down in the straight-backed chair to watch as Illya unfolded his arms and reached down to hook his hands behind his knees and pull his legs up, lifting his ass, pressing his chest and face into the bed in flagrant, wanton offering. "Are you going to fuck me, or conduct an interrogation?"

Presented with a clear-cut choice, Claude went with the obviously better option.

The name Claude and one good photo were enough, with a little sweet-talking of Sally in Records and the promise of a Saturday night date, to net Napoleon a surprisingly thick file. One look at it told him exactly why Waverly had placed Illya on leave pending an investigation of his new lover.

The dark-haired pretty-boy was none other than Claude Trevelyan. Doctor Claude Trevelyan, who was distinguished by a list of accomplishments nearly as long as Doctor Kuryakin's, for all Illya was a year or three older. He was a medical doctor, a neurologist, with a degree in electrical engineering. He was a known affiliate of Thrush. And his recent research...

Focused on telepathy.

Oh, Napoleon thought, and closed the file. Oh, fuck.

He couldn't tell Illya. Because either Illya did know, and was in grave danger, or he didn't know--and Napoleon wouldn't put it past Waverly to send Illya into harm's way without telling him thing one about the mission, the subject, or the dangers--especially in a situation where a mind-reading device might be in use. In a similar situation, in fact, Waverly had done exactly the reverse, to Napoleon--using him as a Judas goat to decoy Thrush into going after the wrong target.

But if that was the case, Waverly would have a flag on Trevelyan's file, and would know that Napoleon had pulled it. The good news was, if anybody had been reading Napoleon's mind during his trip to the bar in the Village, anything they would have gotten would have confirmed that UNCLE had no clue who Trevelyan was, that Illya was innocent as to the fire he was playing with, and that both he and Napoleon would make ideal dupes....

Presuming, of course, that Mr. Waverly is pulling the strings here--mine and Illya's--and the whole situation is not simply the result of remarkably poor judgement on Illya's part and my own. Napoleon had to be aware of his bias. He had to be ready for it, and take it into account. Because the truth was that he badly wanted Trevelyan to be one of the bad guys. And he badly, badly wanted Illya not to be in love with anyone else.

Which was a very hard thing to admit to himself, because the obvious corollary was that he shouldn't want to be in love with anyone else himself. Not that he had been, not recently anyway. Oh, there had been a few girls... Mara, but her innocence had palled after a while, and truthfully he'd been a bit relieved when she deemed him too cold and too obsessed with his work, and given him his walking papers. It wasn't that he didn't want to sleep with anyone but Illya.

It was just that Napoleon had everything else he was ever likely to need.

Swim or die. Live like a shark. He loved his job, his life, the risks, the good he accomplished. If the rootlessness chafed, so be it. He had to live like a shark. It was what he was.

And a shark's mate, if there was a place for such a thing, could only be another shark.

Napoleon finished for the day, let his secretary know he was going home, postponed his date with Sally until the following Saturday—"Casework. Sorry, sweetheart."—and sweetened the deferment with a quick, dirty, effective, and very unprofessional round of cunnilingus behind the mimeograph machine. There were reasons why Napoleon was popular with women, and it didn't all have to do with the dimple in his chin and the twinkle in his light brown eyes. Once he'd figured out why the worldier girls of UNCLE Northwest preferred the European agents for their inevitable, serial one-night stands, it hadn't taken long for one particular American rookie to start giving the big boys a run for their money. And once he'd tried it, he hadn't been able to figure out what the big taboo was, unless it was more of the American foolishness prohibiting women from doing anything that might feel nice.

The encounter didn't help the leftover ache in his groin any, however. He called Illya on his communicator while sitting in traffic on First Avenue. "Do you have a hot Friday night date?"

Illya's voice was warm, but a little wary. "No. I was just about to order in."

"Do you want one?"

"You asked two women out for the same night again?"

"I haven't asked any women out," Napoleon said, letting his voice drop into its lower register. "How do you feel about ordering in for two?"

A hesitation. "What do you have in mind?"


If the communications girl was listening, she'd no doubt be wondering why Illya burst out laughing. "Greek it is."

"Call it in to the usual place, and I'll pick it up on the way home. Ciao."

Napoleon smiled. Ah, the problem of dating a married man. Fridays and Saturday nights would be pretty much off limits. And the way to Illya's attention was always through his stomach. Well. Almost always.

Napoleon was smiling as he carried the paper bag up the stairs. Illya opened the door before he finished knocking and pulled him inside. "You surprised me."

"How'd I manage that? You always get the souvlaki."

"I thought, after Monday, when you didn't call...." Illya shrugged.

Napoleon felt a pang. "I just needed some time to get my head on straight," he said, as they crossed the painfully tidy living room. He set the bag on the counter and started pulling out entrees as Illya fetched down plates.

"And is it?"

"Is it what?"

"On straight?"

"More or less." Napoleon divided the food onto plates and provided silverware. Illya fetched two glasses and a bottle of retsina from his heavily stocked liquor cabinet, and they retired to the small table in front of the window. "I have no right to be jealous of you."

"You're right," Illya said, picking up his fork. "But it is kind of amusing."

"Sometimes." Napoleon speared an olive out of the salad and sucked it off the tines of his fork, deliberately provocative. Illya watched through slitted eyes. "You don't mean to leave me?"

"Never," Illya said.

"That's all I need to know," Napoleon said. "I don't mean to leave you, either."

Illya smiled his shy, flickering smile, and Napoleon smiled right back. The food was good, the wine tangy and resinous, and they finished the meal in silence, with occasional lingering glances across the table. "You don't have to not be jealous," Illya said finally, laying his fork down.

"I'd be lying if I promised that, anyway."

"I know." He finished the last swallow of his wine and stood, reaching for Napoleon's plate. Napoleon caught his wrist.

"Leave the dishes."

Illya met his gaze. Napoleon stood too, and let Illya turn the eye contact into something different: a slow, lingering, exploratory kiss. Illya's hands came down to cup his ass, and Napoleon sighed. "Come with me."

He led Illya to the couch and posed him there, just in front of it, and then knelt down and helped Illya out of his shoes and socks. He unzipped Illya's jeans and tugged them down along with the underwear, freeing a cock that was thickening and hardening with noticeable speed. "Sit down."

Illya obeyed, sprawled on the couch in a black short-sleeved turtleneck, his heavy steel watch, and nothing else at all. Napoleon stood, and started to disrobe--consciously, carefully, making a display of himself. Illya's eyes grew bright; by the time Napoleon sank to his knees in front of the sofa, they were almost gleaming. "Spread your legs. Scoot forward."

Illya obeyed. He smelled wonderful, clean and sharp and richly musky, overlaid with the tang of soap. Napoleon crawled forward, conscious of his own movements and the way Illya watched him, all sharp-eyed anticipation. Napoleon's cock was hard enough to hurt, his balls aching with unspent need. It would have to wait.

He lifted Illya's cock with his fingertips, kissed the tip, and darted his tongue against the slit, exploring. Illya moaned and flexed, urging more contact--harder, deeper—and Napoleon let him have control. Without looking, he reached out and found Illya's hands with his own, plucked them from their grip on the sofa, and knotted them in his own hair as he shielded his teeth with his lips and swallowed Illya's cock to the root. Illya swore in Russian, his hands clenching, immobilizing Napoleon's head as he struggled to control the irresistible pumping of his hips.

Napoleon held his breath while Illya fought for control; he was fine as long as he swallowed, and kept swallowing, and didn't try to breathe. Finally, Illya's deathgrip on his head eased, and he backed up enough for a breath before pressing forward again until his nose was buried in the dense wheat-brown curls of Illya's groin. He knew Illya was curled forward, watching, because one hand slid down his cheek and wiped the involuntary water--not really a tear, just his body's protest at near-suffocation--from his face with incredible tenderness.

Illya tasted of salt and earth and something faintly sweet. He moaned when Napoleon swallowed around his cock, and he moaned when Napoleon wet two fingers in his saliva and lightly outlined Illya's opening, provoking a quick, helpless thrust that Illya tried desperately to control. Napoleon choked, but didn't back off; the whistle of Illya's breath through his teeth was enough encouragement, even without Illya stroking his hair, fondling his ears, whispering his name almost brokenly.

It couldn't last. The first gentle slide of Napoleon's fingertip across the sensitive nugget of his prostate, and Illya exploded, bucking reflexively, a wordless shout erupting from his lips. That'll wake the neighbors, Napoleon thought with satisfaction, as he let Illya's softening penis slide from his mouth.

Illya's fingers raked through his hair, and he looked down at Napoleon as if in fascination. "You're so hard."

"You do that to me," Napoleon answered, with a silent apology to Sally.

"I haven't even touched you yet." Illya smiled suddenly, that wicked, knowing grin that could turn Napoleon's knees to jelly at a thousand paces. "I have a very naughty idea. Come to bed."

"How much do you trust me?"

Napoleon considered that, in all its possible implications and permutations. He trusted Illya with his life, with his body, with his heart. He considered it further as he watched Illya light a hurricane lamp beside the bed, a light they'd made love by more times than he could count. It gilded Illya's skin as Illya stripped his turtleneck off, leaving it in a pile on the floor. He'd trusted Illya to torture him--literally--and he'd trusted him to bring him back from the dead.

"As much as you need me to," he said, and smiled when Illya glanced over at him.

"Lie down on the bed," he said.

It was made to military perfection, but the covers were anything but; patchwork quilts and a duvet covering an eiderdown, with huge fluffy pillows and a few hard, square cushions. Illya vanished into the bathroom momentarily and came back with several towels and an economy-sized jar of Albolene, which Napoleon eyed with some trepidation.

"Are we planning on making a mess?"

"I'm still mopping margarine out of the cracks in the tile," Illya said. "By rights, I should make you do this in your bed."

"What are you planning?"

"It's a secret. Lift your hips."

Again, Napoleon obeyed. He raised his hips and let Illya prop them up with a hard cushion swathed in towels. The position left him vulnerable, his back arched, his head thrown carelessly back, but it wasn't unaccustomed. Nor was the way that Illya leaned over him and smiled and kissed his mouth, almost wonderingly. "That amazing mouth...."

"I'm glad you like it."

Illya laughed and stroked the hair out of his face. "You must promise me you will lie very still, even when it is difficult, and you will tell me if anything hurts you. You must not try to be brave."

"I promise," he said, his mouth dry. He was starting to get an inkling of what Illya was planning, and it tightened his balls and his gut in equal measure. "I trust you."

"Good," Illya said, leaning close, the lamplight making his eyes bottomless and dark.

"Now tell me what you're going to do to me, please."

And Illya smiled, bent over him again, and kissed him on the mouth until Napoleon kissed back, helplessly, aching with arousal, needing more than he had ever needed in his life, and then Illya held up one enormous, thick-fingered hand, a hand as big as a hardball glove, and he said "I'm going to put this inside of you, my love."

Napoleon almost came right then and there, with just the smell of Illya's breath across his face and the sound of his velvety voice in his ear. He shuddered, pressing himself to the warmth of his partner stretched against his side. "You must be kidding."

"Would I hurt you?"

"Define 'hurt,' for the interested parties."

Illya's hand stroked his chest, slid across his hips, warmly cupped his balls. He pressed into the contact, lifting his head enough to let Illya curl his arm around Napoleon's shoulders, supporting his head. "Would I do you physical or emotional injury, except in the line of duty, or as necessary to preserve your safety?"

"No." It came out easily. Of course not. Illya would rather cut off his own hand than hurt Napoleon.

"You will trust me to do this?"

"I don't understand why you think you need to...."

"Because," Illya said softly, against his neck, "you want a piece of me that no-one else can have. So here it is."

Oh. "But you've done this before."

"I have not performed it." Warm lips on his ear. "This would be... just yours."

The obvious corollary, then, was that Illya had received it. "What's it like?" How much is this going to hurt?

"It's"—a pause, as if the normally surgically precise Russian sought elusive words. "—intense."


"No. Not really. Not quite. It's something else. It takes rather a long time, however. And it cannot always be accomplished, the first time. You'll tell me if there's pain, and we will pause, or we'll desist. Do you approve?" Illya's hand stroked him slowly, lightly, the hardness of callus rough on tender skin. Napoleon moaned and pressed himself into it, knowing Illya was keeping him intentionally at an aching pitch.


He heard the smile in Illya's voice. "It will be my very great pleasure."

Illya never stopped touching him, teasing him, stroking him. He kissed Napoleon's thighs, laved his balls with an agile tongue and took turns sucking them into his mouth, made Napoleon moan and cry out softly with the lingering caress of his lips and tongue. Somewhere in the middle of the slowest, most elegant, most languorous blowjob Napoleon had ever experienced, he felt cool, slick fingers outlining his opening. He pressed against them, accepting Illya's penetration, allowing, encouraging the touch. Nothing new there, nothing to be frightened of--not the sort of fear that discouraged him, in any case. Only the shark's fear, the hunger, the need to keep moving, searching...

Illya slid two fingers inside him with ease, never lifting his head or releasing Napoleon's cock. Napoleon writhed around the hand, rocking back and forth between the penetration and the warm slick wetness of Illya's mouth. His thighs strained, and he reached up and caught the brass bars of Illya's bed in both hands. Just the thought of what was about to happen made the edge, the pleasure more intense, riding that little wave of fear. Illya added a third finger and sprawled flat on his stomach, tilting his head so his tongue could flicker summer lighting around the stretch and ache of those fingers, coaxing, relaxing.

Napoleon gripped the railing until he heard the metal creak, and told himself to relax. He remembered the first time, the very first time he'd asked Illya to fuck him, and the careful way Illya had readied him, the utter reverence on the Russian's face as he opened Napoleon, so meticulously. He'd thought it was something he was doing for Illya, a sort of sacrifice, lying down for him as Illya had laid down for Napoleon.

He'd been completely unprepared for that first long, smooth, encompassing thrust, the power behind it, or the white shock of pleasure that had snapped him into a sort of jacklit awareness--frozen, infinitely connected, glorious. It was better, Christ, how could it be better? But there it was, and now he wondered how this could possibly be more terrifying than taking a cock up his ass. That was the huge taboo, lying down for it, as if it would unman you to offer that to a friend or a lover.

Illya was talking to him, crooning to him, nonsense words in a half dozen languages, focusing his attention on picking out a meaning. Napoleon listened, murmuring an answer when he could, trying not to writhe around the burning, wrenching fire of Illya's four fingers resting unmoving inside him. It wasn't a fist... whatever he was doing with his hand, it didn't seem like it matched the ugly terms Napoleon had heard--fist-fucking, punch-fucking. There was no fucking involved, just resting, and slow pressing, and the seductive flicker of the tongue, and the coolness of another finger full of cold cream. Napoleon heard himself hissing Illya's name, over and over and over again, incoherently, the sensation of his body relaxing around Illya's hand as sharp as sunburn and as unmistakable, but not pain, not quite.

And Illya, infinitely patient, meticulous wasn't a strong enough word, really, as he permitted Napoleon's body to accept him another quarter-inch.

And then there was the holding still for it. Every nerve on edge, the long muscles of his thighs fluttering as he forced himself to patience, to endurance. He breathed deeply, feeling Illya's breath and heartbeat matching his own as Illya kept him right there, on the edge, in a place where pain didn't exist, only the power of his own body and the strength of the trust in between them. He lost control for half a second and bore down, rocked against Illya's hand the way he would rock against his cock.

The pain was enlightening. White, pure, uncomplicated. His body locked, frozen, suddenly convinced that to move was to tear itself to shreds, every muscle and every nerve trembling in the anticipation of pain. His senses buzzed, a heightened awareness like combat, like a first time, like losing his virginity all over again. Swim or die.

"I've got you, Napoleon," Illya said, a breathy whisper against his skin between the soft flickerings of his tongue, that extraordinary, intermittent suction. "I'm right here. Do you need me to stop?"

Napoleon considered that, amazed at the clarity of his own thought despite the thunder of awakened nerves. For the first time in his life he felt as if he were his body; not merely inhabiting it, but possessed of it, grounded in it, totally connected to and loved in every inch of it. He could feel the little ridges of Illya's knuckles, each individually, the bump on the heel of his hand that was the thumb folded inwards, made small. I'm going to put this inside you, my love.

Suddenly, he believed that Illya could. "God, no," he said, his voice made thready by the effort of keeping still. He opened his eyes, having just realized they were closed, and looked down the glistening length of his own body to see Illya propped between his thighs, smiling up at him, his hair draggled with sweat and his skin shining with moisture. Napoleon smiled back, breathlessly, and felt his body unravel another centimeter.

After two hours of careful preparation, that was all it took. Suddenly, Illya was no longer edging in, softly, carefully. Suddenly Napoleon's body was greedy, devouring, dragging Illya's hand inside of him, molding it into the compressed ball of a fist, holding it there, Napoleon's opening fluttering, squeezing hard against the bones of Illya's wrist. Suddenly, Napoleon's body was in command, and he and Illya were simply along for the ride.

The pressure was unbelievable, exquisite. Like being taken apart and made anew; a hard unsubtle bulge against his prostate that... oh. That made him shiver and rock hesitantly, tentatively against it, the way a woman did when he ever so gently, ever so carefully slipped the hood of her clitoris back and brushed the tiny pink trigger hidden there with the tip of his tongue, a place too sensitive for crude fingers, for anything but the lightest, sweetest touch, the most delicate he could manage. He understood now, understood the thing that made them tremble, too weak to bear their own weight up, even on locked knees. That sometimes made them weep with pleasure, as he was sure he was weeping now, hot tears running trails down into his hair...

How lucky, he thought, to have all that capacity for pleasure right there in the open like that. And that made him sad, because he knew perfectly well how many women never experienced that pleasure, that power. He felt so powerful, suddenly.

"Oh," Illya said, and let his head fall against the soft flesh of Napoleon's thigh, very still, his face pressed against Napoleon's cock, his breath tickling Napoleon's balls. Which was when Napoleon realized that he hadn't lost his erection, the way he always did when Illya fucked him, but that instead it was a rather demanding presence, so hard the tight-drawn skin itched, needing, needing to be touched. "Oh, Napoleon."

So much awe in that voice, so much sharp love and agony that Napoleon couldn't understand how he'd ever doubted this man, ever considered the possibility that he might lose him. It couldn't happen; they were partners, sharks together, dangerous beings linked by their own appetites. It didn't matter if Illya took other men to bed, other women, or if Napoleon did; they were more than lovers. Lovers didn't cover a tenth of it.

"Illya," he said. "I need—"

"Shhh," Illya answered. "I have everything you need right here." And then he didn't talk any more, because he was doing other things with his mouth, sweeter things, and Napoleon didn't talk any more, because he lost the capacity for rational discourse.

He didn't sleep in Illya's bed, as a rule, but this was different. And, he realized, it wasn't exactly as if they had to conceal the relationship from Waverly any more.... if they ever had. And by the time they were done, it was completely beyond either one's resources to contemplate any task so complicated, say, as bathing, or rolling over, or blowing out the light. Illya managed to push the smeared towels onto the floor beside the bed, and they collapsed together, holding hands, too spent even to flip the edge of the covers over themselves.

In the morning they arose and shared the shower, Napoleon moving gingerly until he discovered that the only lingering effect was long muscles sore and limp as if from a skilled massage, and a certain persistent tenderness. The sky opened up around eleven AM; they spend the day over a protracted game of chess conducted between bouts of refrigerator raiding. Napoleon won the chess match, as he usually did. Illya won the refrigerator raiding, also completely in character. They lay on the sofa and read for most of the evening, and then Napoleon took Illya to bed indecently early.

It pained him that he couldn't tell Illya what he knew, that he was forced into keeping secrets even as their mouths met and their bodies rubbed together in unhurried pleasure. But it was right there in Trevelyan's file, in Waverly's hints, in Illya's bizarrely careless actions: research focused on telepathy. In the fact that UNCLE had brainwashing techniques and amnesia drugs of its own, ones focused on removing sensitive information from the minds of its employees when they left UNCLE's service... but which had other uses, too. And which it wasn't shy about using on agents, when the need arose.

Illya was on the job.

And Illya didn't even know it.

Which meant Napoleon was on the job too, and his job was making sure his partner came home safe, and as emotionally intact as possible.

Monday. Napoleon had spent Sunday night in his own bed, had let Waverly know via communicator that he was chasing a lead and might be out of the office for a day or two, and told the girls in Communications that if Illya called, he was to be told Napoleon was on an affair and would get right back to him. And then he propped himself in the front seat of a rental Buick, opened the New York Times against the steering wheel, and staked his own apartment building out.

Illya left around noon, and again he took a cab. Same routine as last time, but this time Napoleon didn't follow him. Instead, he drove ahead, and managed to be firmly ensconced in the darkest corner of that wood-paneled West Village bar when Illya walked in out of the sunlight. His date was waiting for him at the bar; Napoleon bit his lip as Trevelyan stood, meeting Illya half-way, and pulled him into a long, melting embrace.

If Napoleon had thought it would be different, somehow, he was quickly disabused of that notion. Illya kissed Trevelyan willingly, openly, and the jealousy and ache that flared in Napoleon's chest was as heavy and bleak as stone. Obviously this was a lunch-time assignation, and Trevelyan was in a hurry, because he took Illya by the elbow and led him upstairs without ceremony, and Illya went, laughing softly at some murmured joke.

He cares for him. Or was programmed to care for him. It didn't matter, really; the effect on Illya, the sense of betrayal, would be the same. He could imagine Trevelyan's quiet gloating, imagine the little machine that let him read Illya's every thought (would it have a Geiger-counter-like aspect, like the one that Stephen Cantrell had died to keep out of Thrush hands?), imagine Trevelyan's sick delight in knowing that he was fucking an UNCLE agent who had no idea about his, Trevelyan's, associations with Thrush. Imagine his pleasure when another UNCLE agent stumbled across their assignation and watched helplessly, reduced to the role of jealous boyfriend.

Napoleon imagined Illya's memory of their weekend, thirty-six hours that Napoleon was coming to think of as sacred time, pawed over by crude, cawing technicians, and he swallowed a mouth full of bitter gall.

How they must be laughing, behind the scenes.

Napoleon chose to believe they would not be laughing long. Waverly might be willing to see Illya raped, mentally and physically, to get his hands on Trevelyan and Trevelyan's damned machine, but Napoleon wouldn't permit it to go on another moment. Nor would he see Illya's sacrifice made in vain.

If Trevelyan was using his device to read Illya's mind during their assignations, to sort for secrets, it must be here. In the building. And there was only one logical place for it to be.

Napoleon flashed a folded bill to the waiter--the same waiter--who hurried over and slipped him a key. "Those two have quite a fan following," the young man said, with a knowing smirk. "Maybe I should take my break now."

A little bell that Napoleon never ignored went off deep inside his head. Other people called it luck; he knew the truth. It was intuition, simply honed pattern-recognition skills. "Fan following?"

"Yeah, there's a guy who always shows up about half an hour before they do and takes one of the private rooms. It's by arrangement. We're not supposed to rent the other rooms, but what they don't know doesn't hurt us—" The waiter's eyes got big, suddenly. "You're not going to cause any trouble, are you?"

Napoleon smiled and stood up, the key pressed between his fingers. "No trouble," he said. "Don't worry. I can show myself up."

One of the basic skills an agent developed was the ability to understand a structure's layout from glimpses of the interior and exterior. The biggest pane of one-way glass would be the room, as the waiter had phrased it, without privacy. Which meant that the other private room could logically be in only one location.

Napoleon found the door without trouble, discovered that his key did not fit this lock, and burned the lock plate with a magnesium charge. This had the unfortunate effect of alerting the technician at work on the telepathy device--which did, in fact, look like a Geiger counter--but a sleep dart handled that with smooth efficiency.

And then Napoleon turned to the one-way glass. Trevelyan, naked, slowly stroking a long, uncircumcised cock, lay upon the bed. Illya was standing with his back to the mirror, his shirt dangling from one hand, head bent as he toed out of his shoes.

Napoleon kicked the mirror down and shot Trevelyan over the breastbone with a trank dart. The not-so-good doctor collapsed without a whimper, and Illya spun into a fighting crouch, reaching with one hand for a gun that wasn't there and with the other for Napoleon's throat, and then went stock still when his eyes met Napoleon's. He blinked. And his brows knit together in that white kind of fury that gave even Waverly pause. Angry enough that he was stammering, which Napoleon had heard perhaps five times in approximately thirteen years, eight months, and eighteen days. "I thought I'd, we'd addressed your, your... insane jealousy, Napoleon."

Napoleon smiled and slipped his pistol back into the holster. "Illya, how much do you trust me?"

His Russian swallowed, but never glanced down. His lips pursed, and his eyebrows un-knit and climbed. He straightened, his hands falling to his sides. "Since you put it that way...."

Napoleon smiled, and dug a pair of handcuffs from his hip pocket. He tossed them to Illya. Illya caught without looking. "Cuff him and stuff him back into his pants, would you?"

"While you do what?" But Illya was already moving toward the bed as he spoke. He rolled Trevelyan over, preparatory to cuffing his hands in the small of his back, and glanced up to examine Napoleon through the hole in the wall.

Napoleon stepped to one side, opening a line of sight and revealing the technician slumped over the bench. "I'll be, ah, taking care of the other one."


Napoleon was pacing like an expectant father, and he knew it. He was surprised none of the psychiatric nurses or technicians had come to shoo him out, frankly, or politely suggest he get a cup of coffee in the UNCLE commissary and get the hell out of their waiting room. Especially since he'd been at it for a good six hours, as subtle as the proverbial elephant in the living room, and he looked to be at it for six or seven more. Unwinding the knots that had been tied in Illya's brain was a delicate procedure, and it bade fair to take the better part of the night and morning to sort things out.

Napoleon was determined that the first thing Illya saw when they released him from his hypnotic state was going to be Napoleon, and the second thing was going to be a cheeseburger the size of Manhattan. And so he waited, and he paced.

It was perhaps two AM when the door of the waiting room slid open. Napoleon glanced up, hoping for the friendly smile of a nurse delivering good news. His heart dropped into his bowels when instead he registered the droopy hound-dog countenance of Alexander Waverly, who looked pensive. "Sir—"

"Mr. Kuryakin will be fine," Waverly said, holding up a flat palm that arrested Napoleon's diatribe mid-word. "He's being released as we speak. There's some paperwork. You can meet him at medical in five minutes. You did excellent work, Mr. Solo, fulfilled my every expectation in your ingenuity."

He flushed with the praise, but it didn't take the edge off the wrath for Illya's sake that burned through him. "Sir, about my partner—"

"Mr. Kuryakin will receive a commendation, Mr. Solo. First level. The files on this affair will be sealed and placed among my personal records, and any record of his having been placed on administrative leave will be expunged. Does that suffice?"

"Sir..." Those glowering eyebrows drew together, Waverly's gnarled fingers tapping on the bowl of his unlit pipe. Napoleon took two deep breaths and forged onward. "Sir, I think the organization owes him a bit more than that, considering the nature of his sacrifice."

"Mr. Kuryakin volunteered for the duty, Mr. Solo."


"Mr. Solo." But Waverly's eyes were not unkind. "Take the rest of the week off. You and Mr. Kuryakin both. Go someplace tropical."


"That's an order, Mr. Solo." Waverly glanced at his watch. "In the meantime, I believe your partner will be ready for you in a moment. Perhaps you should hurry."

Bastard, Napoleon thought, brushing past his superior as Waverly moved aside. Judging by the twinkle in his eyes, Waverly didn't need a telepathy device to know it, either.

Illya was waiting for him, standing by the discharge desk looking worn clean through and a little bruised around the eyes. Napoleon reached for his arm, carefully, aware of the duty nurse watching as if Illya might pitch over at any moment from sheer exhaustion. He looked as if her concern were warranted.

"Food?" Napoleon asked, trying to make his hand on Illya's elbow look proprietary rather than panicky. Once the elevator doors closed, Illya leaned on him in relief.

"Please. I'm too tired to be hungry. Bed."

"You're sure?" It was hard to imagine a sentence that could have alarmed him more. Illya was never too tired to eat. "I'm supposed to tell you we have the week off."

"Not administrative leave?"

"Paid vacation. Doctor's orders. How do you feel about Key West?"



"I like Cuba better."

"Not on an American passport, you don't. Tahiti?"

"Tahiti," Illya said, and sighed, and forced himself to stand straight as the elevator doors dinged open.

Napoleon could see what it cost him. "You're not mad at me?"

Illya blinked fuzzily. They paused at reception to turn their badges in. "Shouldn't you be mad at me?"

"For what?"

"For not telling you what I was doing."

Del Floria nodded to them on their way out. Illya gave him a very thin smile. Napoleon waved in passing. "You didn't know what you were doing."

"I knew what I signed up for."

"Illya," Napoleon said, and took his shoulder, there on the street at the top of the stairs, in plain view of everybody who might be awake at two thirty in the morning on a nondescript Tuesday, and turned him around until they were standing very close--too close, indeed, for decorum's sake, even if they were not quite kissing—"We both signed up for this. A long, long time ago. If you swim with the sharks, you have to keep moving. But that's another thing. Sharks don't hold grudges when other sharks act like sharks, you know? It's just part of being a predator. It's what they are."

Illya blinked, slowly, but didn't step away. He tilted his head and frowned, Napoleon's words obviously about as sensible as so much yammering in his ear. "No," he said. "I don't know. You're not making any sense." He shook his head. "Napoleon, I want to go to bed."

Napoleon smiled. "Yours or mine?"

"Yours, of course, if it's an option. Although I won't be much good for anything tonight."

"That's okay," Napoleon said, leading Illya, staggering, toward the rented Buick. "If we're already in the same place, we can get a jump on the morning."


Illya Kuryakin awakened in darkness and knew instantly where he was. Napoleon's big four-poster bed with the white chenille bedspread, the scent of bryllcreme tickling his sinuses, Napoleon's arm thrown across his waist and Napoleon's early-morning hard-on brushing the back of his thigh. Right, he thought. We're going to Tahiti today.

A million years ago, the freedom to show his UNCLE identification, a plane ticket and his passport and step onto any plane in the world, going anywhere at all, would have seemed incredible. There were no gauntlets of bureaucrats to be run, no papers or ideology to be examined, nothing but the almost terrifying freedom to go anywhere, any time, finances and UNCLE permitting. Or, as the case often was, demanding.

As demanding as the nudge of Napoleon's cock as Napoleon shifted in his sleep, cuddling closer. Napoleon was a handsy bedmate at the best of times, and Illya supposed he couldn't blame his partner for coming over a little more possessive than usual, given the last two weeks. And then he smiled, thinking specifically about the last four days, and rolled over in the darkness and threw one leg over Napoleon's hips.

Napoleon came blearily awake as Illya insinuated his left hand between their bodies and began slowly, firmly, to stroke Napoleon's cock. The ability to take off for Tahiti at a moment's notice wasn't the only freedom to be treasured in an UNCLE agent's life.

Napoleon purred and rolled onto his back, letting his legs drift apart, improving Illya's access. Illya rolled Napoleon's testicles in the palm of his hand, tugging gently, leaning over to kiss Napoleon's mouth, an island of softness in a sea of stubble. "Beard burn," Napoleon warned.

Illya laughed. "Vacation," he reminded. "I can do this if I want to." He rubbed his own stubbled cheek against Napoleon's, hard enough to hear the whiskers rasp and feel the roughness like a bristle brush dragged across his face.

"Are you sure you're up for this?"

"Napoleon," Illya answered, "I need this more than you can possibly imagine. Please." He kissed Napoleon's throat above the collarbone, letting him feel the prickles. Absolute pain stopped him short, and he said quietly, "Unless you don't want to."

Napoleon laughed, a low sweetness that stirred the hairs on Illya's neck. "What was that you said about cold tile floors? Why on earth would you think I wouldn't want to?"

Illya wasn't good with words. Words were Napoleon's forte. How could he explain the conviction, the certainty he'd had that once Napoleon found out about Claude--about Trevelyan, he reminded himself firmly--that Napoleon wouldn't want Illya any more? How could Illya explain the programmed compulsion that had kept him returning to the Thrush scientist even when he had thought it would cost him everything, cost him Napoleon?

How could he explain how badly he'd underestimated his partner?

It would be an insult even to try, so instead he said "I thought you might be too tired," and tightened his grip.

"Never too tired for you."

The catch in Napoleon's voice sparked a flood of rough emotion that left Illya wordless all over again. It was love, and gratitude, and something else as well. "I want to be inside you," he whispered, because he couldn't explain. "Is it too soon?"

He was gratified that Napoleon didn't answer him immediately, but instead closed his eyes and assessed himself for a moment. "No," he said. "Not a moment too soon."

Napoleon turned to lie sprawled on his stomach, head pillowed on his arms, his whole attitude epitomizing trust. Illya kissed his hair, between his shoulders, the soft down along his backbone, murmuring encouragement when Napoleon flexed his spine and lifted his hips, bracing with feet and knees. The mechanics were practiced now; fumbling was years behind them, but Napoleon's soft, choked sound of pleasure and surrender when Illya slid into him could never be anything but new.

Old married couple sex, Illya thought, tracing both hands down the relaxed line of Napoleon's back as Napoleon sighed and softened against him. He molded his chest to Napoleon's back, but didn't reach around to find Napoleon's cock. Napoleon hated to be distracted when Illya was fucking him, and Illya found that inexpressibly charming.

Not as charming as the hot, silken grip of Napoleon's body, though, or the way he writhed in slow, thoughtful circles around Illya's cock. Illya didn't thrust so much as press himself in deep, hard, and cling tight, letting Napoleon control the movement. And Napoleon seemed to want it long and slow, unhurried but not particularly gentle either, all the strength of his shoulders and arms and back focused on bearing Illya's weight as Illya leaned into him, balanced, panting softly.

Napoleon cried out, more a series of half-vocalized breaths than any coherent sound. Illya closed his hands over Napoleon's and nipped the back of his neck, skin to skin along the length of their bodies. Napoleon moved into it. "Forgive me?" Illya said against his ear.

"Nothing to forgive." Napoleon's words were softly strained. "Sharks, remember? You were--oh--doing your job."

"As you were doing yours."

"Pre... precisely."

It could have left him colder than it did. Doing your job. Precisely. But Napoleon had said he loved him. And Napoleon had proved it, hadn't he? Was proving it now, cursing softly, in extremis, as Illya slowly, slowly accelerated the pace, pressed him down against the bed, made him moan, and later, his own needs seen to, made Napoleon beg, just a little.

And Illya loved it. Loved every second of it, except the hollowness that filled his chest afterwards, when Napoleon absently riffled his hair and crawled out of bed to make coffee, humming 'Mack the Knife' under his breath. Just doing his job.

It was bullshit, and he knew it. All bullshit, from the way he kept looking up from his scrambled eggs and bacon to try to catch Napoleon's unguarded expressions--as if Napoleon's expressions were ever unguarded--while Napoleon called the UNCLE travel desk and arranged their plane tickets, to the prickly fretful sensation that kept him pacing the apartment while Napoleon grabbed his always-packed suitcases from the hall closet.

There was no reason for Illya to have come over needy and desperate for reassurance as a schoolgirl who'd let her boyfriend go a bit too far. He was a grown man--an experienced man, a trained man, a killer and a spy--and it was beneath him to fuss and fret over his partner's attentions.

They were in Napoleon's car on the way to the airport before Illya managed to nail down exactly what bothered him so much. The irony would have made him chuckle bitterly, if he hadn't been sitting next to Napoleon--a Napoleon who was holding forth on the relative merits of tropical rum drinks and obviously considered Illya an enthralled audience. Because he was upset and cold and abandoned because Napoleon wasn't angry, wasn't jealous, wasn't twitting him and riding him over Trevelyan, over the assignment. And while Illya would have thrashed and sniped and bitten if Napoleon had been acting jealous, the fact that he wasn't was a tremendous, unsettling blow. Because Napoleon had been jealous, had always been jealous of Illya--possessive, even a little controlling, the most obvious external evidence of his unprofessional feelings for his partner.

And if Napoleon wasn't jealous, that meant that he understood on an emotional level that what Illya had allowed himself to be programmed into doing with Trevelyan was strictly a business transaction, and never had been anything else, no matter how Illya had thought he felt at the time. And if Napoleon could accept that, on the deepest unconscious level, it meant that he had never quite stopped thinking of Illya the way Illya had tried very hard to stop thinking of himself: as a simple, straightforward whore.

Except Napoleon didn't think of him that way, and Illya knew it. How much do you trust me ? One blood, one heart, one skin.

It was bullshit, what he was feeling. If he could just convince himself of that. But if it was bullshit, why wasn't Napoleon jealous? And more importantly, how could Illya win him back?

Traffic stranded them in the Queens-Midtown tunnel, never Illya's favourite place to find himself at a dead stop--the less so when he was rapidly becoming late for a flight. The radio was useless a dozen meters under the East River, of course, and the tunnel stuffy and echoing with futile honking.

If Illya were a religious man, he would have blasphemed in the darkness. The long trailer of a semi blocked them on the right side, the cab parallel with the windows of a dark blue Ford delivery van. The tunnel wall was on the left. They weren't going anywhere. He hummed "The Lady is a Tramp" under his breath and kept his eyes on the tail-lights of the Ford.

Napoleon licked a six-cent stamp and affixed it to an envelope, squinting over the address in the inconsistent light. "What do you want to bet they'll hike the rates again next year? You know, it was three cents my whole life, and then they hiked it ten years back and it's been rising ever since-—"

"It's no doubt due to the godless communists," Illya said, with a sideways glance. He couldn't quite read the address, even when he squinted. Napoleon's handwriting was legend. "Aunt Amy?"

"Breaking a date with Sally Clark. She'll kill me—"

"Will she now?"

"Yes," Napoleon said, stuffing the envelope into the visor. "I had a date with her last Saturday, too. Remind me to mail this from the airport. And to take her to the ballet when we get back."

Somehow, there was a calm reassurance in the fact that Napoleon would rely on Illya to keep track of his lovers for him. The Ford edged forward two feet, coming even with the nose of the semi. Illya closed up the space, glad for once that Napoleon's big Plymouth was an automatic. "I'd offer to turn the car around, but I think we'll be spending our vacation in the tunnel—"

"That's fine," Napoleon said. "I can work with that." And before Illya could quite react, Napoleon slid his left hand under the steering wheel and wiggled Illya's zipper down.


"Hush," Napoleon said. "You wouldn't want anyone to overhear."

Illya caught his breath as Napoleon unbuttoned his fly and slid his hand inside the waistband of Illya's briefs. Long, warm fingers encircled Illya's cock, stroking it to hardness. Illya gripped the steering wheel until plastic creaked and groaned low in his throat. Somehow, he got his voice under control, kept it level and in its lower register as nimble fingers worked his foreskin against the head of his cock. "Napoleon, don't you think it's a little... tacky to hop out of bed with one lover, scribble a mash note to another, and then make another pass at the first without so much as washing the ink off your fingers?"

"Are you telling me to stop?" Low, sultry: when Napoleon's voice slipped into that register, he meant business. "Would you rather play SuperGhosts?"

And that would be a first. He never had told Napoleon to stop. Neither had Napoleon; it was an unwritten rule of the partnership. Where one led, the other followed... although they'd never been... together as much as they had been recently. Don't be coy, Illya Nikolaivech. What you mean is that you don't usually get to fuck him every week. Or even every other week.

He may not care enough for jealousy, but there's something to be said for offending his Capitalist sense of property rights once in a while. The toy is more fun when somebody else wants to play with it too. "No," he said, and checked the rear view mirror. All he could see was the eager bulldog on the grille of another Mack truck. Napoleon's hand tightened. "Of course not."

"Good." Napoleon let his fingers ripple from the base of Illya's cock to the head. "And another thing," he said. "You're not my lover. You're my partner. And don't you ever forget it, tovarisch."

Grinning, he slid down onto the floor and ducked under the steering wheel, spreading broad hands across Illya's thighs. Illya bit his lip, struggling to keep his face impassive, whimpering a little when hot breath caressed the underside of his shaft. Bastard, he thought, but really, it was fair--more than fair--of Napoleon to make things so plain. Not my lover. No.

No, he wasn't.

He let his right hand slide off the steering wheel and knotted his fingers in Napoleon's short, silky-fine hair--rough, unhesitant--and pushed Napoleon's open mouth down over his cock. He felt the prickle of breath on taut skin and then the wet heat of saliva, the ripple of Napoleon's throat around his cock as Napoleon swallowed hard, yielding to Illya's abrupt, almost savage motion. Illya heard a little gasping sound as Napoleon choked, but he controlled it gamely, his head trapped against the steering wheel as Illya arched his hips, fucking Napoleon's mouth while Napoleon's tongue ran lazy, relentless circles around the flared head of Illya's cock.

Napoleon didn't seem to mind at all. In fact, his hands tightened on Illya's hips, hard, bruising. Illya whimpered, pressing against them, the rasp of Napoleon's hair audible between his fingers as his fist tightened. Napoleon's tongue flickered into the slit, danced in slick-rough circles over the tip of Illya's cock, slipped into the velvet-soft crevice between foreskin and head. Somehow, Illya kept his right foot on the brake, nailing it to the floor as he pressed himself stiff-legged against the back of the seat, spreading his legs as wide as possible. Adrenaline surged through his veins, intoxicating, making his head spin. This is stupid. This is dangerous.

Please, please, please don't stop.

Napoleon's mouth felt like... like... "Oh," he said, and it felt so good he said it again, over and over and over again, wishing he could close his eyes, throw his head over the seatback and give himself up into the incredible floating pressure of Napoleon's mouth.

Not his lover. Well, fine. That's just fucking fine with me--

Oh. Oh. Oh....

And then suddenly, the brake lights of the van in front of them dimmed as it began to roll forward, and Illya had a problem on his hands. "Shit," Illya said. "Napoleon, we're rolling."

Napoleon snaked from under the steering wheel like a professional, patting his hair into place before he slid gracefully into his seat. He fitted a cigarette between his lips as if it had rolled under the seat and he'd just ducked down to retrieve it. Illya almost rear-ended the Ford, trying to somehow, one-handed, coax or coerce his saliva-dewed and quite painfully unsatisfied cock back into his trousers while not watching the catlike way Napoleon flicked the tip of the filtered Chesterfield against his upper lip and smiled.

One-handed, it took Illya a good four minutes to arrange his clothing in a manner that was unlikely to result in immediate arrest and prosecution. It wasn't particularly comfortable, however; his balls ached with sparked and frustrated desire, and every time Napoleon smiled at him through lowered eyelashes his thwarted hard-on twitched. He'd bet there was a small circle of wetness seeping into the crotch of his pants; thankfully, they were black, and it wouldn't show.

"How many hours is it to Tahiti?" Napoleon asked innocently, rubbing Illya's thigh with a friendly, casual gesture as they emerged from the electric-lit darkness of the tunnel into the brightness of morning and the Long Island Expressway. His eyes twinkled. He licked his lips cruelly. "We're booked from New York to Los Angeles on Pan Am, then Los Angeles to Honolulu, and Honolulu to Papeete. Almost as bad as flying to Japan..."

Illya kept his eyes on the road. His hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel, he bit his lip, and groaned.

Illya Kuryakin hated Napoleon Solo with a passion.

Upon landing in Papeete, it turned out that Solo had not in fact made hotel reservations on the main island, but instead had rented a thirty-foot sailboat, fully provisioned, and made plans to continue their journey eastward, into the scattered archipelagos of French Polynesia. The Windward Isles were all very exotic-sounding in a pirate book, Illya thought, but when one was the subject of an intermittent, lingering, and infuriatingly cruel seduction by the famous Napoleon Solo, palm trees, coral reefs and warm breezes were lacking a certain il ne sait quoi.

And Napoleon was determined to be cruel. Cruel enough that Illya would have considered masturbating in a bathroom to relieve the pressure if he hadn't known perfectly well that it would take long enough to bring himself off that Napoleon would twig, and he wouldn't give Solo the damned satisfaction. Especially not considering the painful lengths Napoleon had been going to to keep him on edge--the casual touches, the smiling glances--and how strictly Illya had been regimenting his responses.

So instead he stood on the deck of the yellow-hulled boat and scowled, while tropical breezes toyed with his hair. The weather was mild, the sea even; the boat lay at anchor off an uninhabited cove while Napoleon was sprawled in a deck chair in his swimming trunks with a Travis McGee novel spread open across his eyes, serving as a sunshade. It would serve him right if I swam to shore and found a big-eyed island girl. Or two. Or three, for that matter. As raw as he felt, three might just about suffice.

On the other hand, it would also serve Napoleon right if Illya paid him back in kind. Illya smiled in anticipation, glanced around the horizon quickly to see if anyone was in sight, and padded barefoot across the deck to where Napoleon lounged, napping. He kneeled down fluidly, silently between Napoleon's knees; Napoleon didn't hear him. Didn't react at all until Illya hooked his thumbs into the waistband of Napoleon's shorts and pulled them down without so much as a by-your-leave.

Then he startled and jerked upright, knocking The Quick Red Fox flying, grabbing wildly for Illya's shoulders and catching Illya a sharp clout on the side of the head. Illya ignored it. He had a firm grip on Napoleon's balls, anyway, and Napoleon wasn't going to fight him for long.

Especially not when Illya closed his mouth over Napoleon's soft, sleepy penis and began to tease it gently with his lips and teeth and tongue. "Oh," Napoleon said, not at all the way Illya had said it in the car, but low in his throat, pleased, wondering. Napoleon's smooth, pink chest was glossy with cocoa butter; Illya, who preferred a suntan oil that protected his fair skin from uncomfortable burns, decided he liked the taste of it on Napoleon's skin as he tugged Napoleon's trunks down his thighs, following with his tongue. It wasn't chocolately, but there was something chocolate-like about it.

Napoleon moaned, squirming, and Illya tossed his trunks aside and reached for the brown and yellow tin of cocoa butter in the shade under the deck chair. "I assume you checked for sails?"

He leaned forward, sliding over Napoleon while Napoleon slipped Illya's shirt and swim trunks off. "A good sailor never leaves his post," Illya answered, resuming his grip on Napoleon's cock.

Napoleon flinched. "That was terrible."

"So are you." He kissed Napoleon hard, letting Napoleon taste his own skin and the creamy flavor of the cocoa butter, and then licked and sucked Napoleon's sweating neck, his chest, his belly. Napoleon, languorous with sun, stretched himself out and gave himself up to the kisses. His flesh was hot to the touch, solid, salt and sweet and a little musky with the sea and his own healthy sweat. Illya nuzzled through soft curls of pubic hair, his hands slick with cocoa butter and busy between Napoleon's wide-spread thighs. Napoleon slid closer to the edge of the deck chair, canting his hips just so as Illya came up against him. They moved together, and both of them groaned low in their throats, as one.

Illya wasn't going to last, wrapped in the hot, sensual embrace of Napoleon's striving body. But that was all right, too; he wrapped his hand around the base of Napoleon's cock and squeezed, tugging, despite Napoleon's annoyed grab at his wrist. He moved, hard, savagely, rocking the chair against the deck, and Napoleon's grip on his arm turned into something else as Napoleon rose to meet every thrust, bit Illya's lips puffy, pulled Illya's hair a little too hard as Illya fucked him a little too roughly, squeezed his cock a little too tight. He wanted Napoleon hard, wanted him to ache, wanted to claim him that way, to know he was hungry and unsatisfied, wanted to punish him, just a little, for being so perfect and so unattainable, even when he was being fucked.

He'd never needed that before, and it scared him. It was supposed to be Napoleon needy, Napoleon wanting just a little more than Illya would give him, Napoleon clinging to him as if Illya might slip through his fingers like sunlight and be gone. It wasn't supposed to be Illya, needing that much, and Napoleon, assured, taking smug pleasure in Illya's need while Illya tried to stake some kind of foolish claim, lay some brand on him.

It hit him hard when he came, too quickly, more pain and relief than pleasure, and followed by a lingering ache. Napoleon made a small sound of disappointment as Illya shifted away.

"Your own fault," Illya told him, and grinned, and squeezed Napoleon's still-hard cock one last time before he dumped his naked partner over the edge.

The water closed over him warm as blood when he dove in after Napoleon, washing the residue of sun and sex off his skin. Napoleon was still spluttering when Illya came up beside him, and the glare he shot him could have peeled the paint off the boat's metal hull. And then Napoleon's eyes must have caught on something in Illya's, because, treading water awkwardly, Napoleon began to laugh. "He who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind, huh?"

Whatever Illya had been angry about, he couldn't remember now. He looked at Napoleon, laughing, his hair black with seawater and draggled into his eyes, and started to laugh himself. He had wanted Napoleon hard, wanted him to ache, wanted to claim him that way, to know he was hungry and unsatisfied, wanted to punish him, just a little, for being so perfect and so unattainable, even when he was being fucked.

Just the way Napoleon had wanted him.

Of course. Of course Napoleon had let him go. Of course Napoleon had had to come circling back, and stake his claim another way, make Illya need him another way. So perfect and so unattainable. Of course.

He couldn't stop laughing. Napoleon had to slip an arm around him to hold him up in the water, supporting them both with an elbow hooked through the rungs of the yellow sailboat's trailing rope ladder. "Sharks," he said, between gasps. What was that you said about cold tile floors? How can you tell me you're leaving me and then—

No, of course not. Leave Napoleon? As soon leave his right hand behind, his liver, his honor, his teeth. Don't be ridiculous. You left lovers, jobs, countries, homes and wives. You didn't leave your dog, your calling, or your partner. The only thing that had changed was that Napoleon knew it now, and now so also did Illya. "Partners. Oh, I get it. You bloody American, I finally get it."

"Good," the bloody American said, and kissed Illya's soaked, draggled hair. "Now get your ass up that ladder, so I can swab the deck with it."

Illya shinnied up the ladder with a will. Under his breath, he was humming:

well that shark bites with his teeth, dear--
and he keeps them pearly white.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

--William Shakespeare, Sonnet CXVI

--Lyrics from "Mack the Knife" from Threepenny Opera by Bertoldt Brecht: I've been unable to determine who did the English translation of this version.

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