Disclaimers: To my intense disappointment, I don't own The Man From UNCLE or his wily Russian partner.
Notes: Thanks to Allison, Betty, Carla, Kellie and Shay for beta and hand-holding. Hugs to my usual SORT suspects.
More notes at the end. With spoilers! Shhh!
Illya's voice was cool. Firm. Incredibly irritating.
"Oh for God's sake, why not?" Napoleon wrenched himself away and off the narrow bed, settling on its twin. The small, dingy hotel room allowed only a few feet between the beds, so he was sitting face to face with Illya across the gap. He glared at his partner. "This is ridiculous."
The sound of revelry from outside the window did nothing to improve the ambiance. Songs, shouting, even fireworks. Independence Day in this miserable hellhole of a country, and the citizens here would never know how close they'd come to losing that independence today.
"It may be ridiculous. But it is my decision," Illya lifted his chin, his voice quiet.
God damn it! He was impossible. The last few weeks had been like Napoleon's prep school dating career all over again, only in reverse. All hand jobs and explosive orgasms. No kissing. Not a single kiss.
In prep school, he had acquired the art of getting girls to come across with the hand jobs when all they wanted to do was kiss. Unfortunately, he hadn't yet figured out how to convince his obstinate Russian partner, who gave hand jobs like a pro, that the world wasn't going to end if their lips met once in a while.
"Look. It was just a kiss." Napoleon ran his hand through his hair. "I wanted to kiss you. So sue me."
"It would not be worth my time. I would just end up loaning the money back to you," Illya said, poker faced.
Napoleon shook his head. Incredible. Illya looked gentle and angelic, but he was really hard and cold and prudish and power tripping. Nobody knew his ruthless side better than Napoleon, unless it was the poor THRUSH bastards who dared to take him on—but then most of them weren't talking anymore.
It wasn't as if he wanted to marry the guy. He just wanted a little bit more—more engagement. He wanted to know that Illya considered him more than a firm hand and a flexible wrist. More than a way to blow off some steam and kill the time in these godforsaken hotel rooms. And Napoleon liked kissing. It was something he did well, and he enjoyed it.
Illya's resistance frustrated him. Hell, even messing around with the guys back in prep school, there had been kissing.
The kissing had stopped only once he'd graduated to anonymous blowjobs in the restrooms of bars. Guys rarely expected a kiss before they got down on their knees and, even if they did expect it, Napoleon had always been adamant. But this was different. He and Illya were . . . well, they weren't strangers groping each other in the men's room.
This constant bickering over kissing, though, made him wonder if Illya didn't see it that way. Maybe Illya felt that he might as well be getting off with a handsome stranger.
Sometimes in his daydreams, Napoleon would feel Illya nibbling his earlobes or licking the back of his neck, sending chills down his spine. He jerked off—more often that he'd like to admit—to the thought of Illya's tongue on the head of his dick. Sometimes he imagined himself on his knees taking Illya in his mouth. Or even taking him in elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Illya never revealed the slightest interest in doing anything other than this friendly, nearly anonymous, mutual jacking off. No interest in cuddling or kissing. And certainly no interest in having a conversation about it.
Well, Napoleon was sick of it. "How come you get to make all the decisions here, partner?"
Illya paused for a moment before he responded. "I don't. I only make the decisions concerning myself. What I will and will not do."
"Well, I don't see why you're making such a big deal about it."
Illya's eyes went cold. "I think you're the one making a big deal about it, Napoleon."
That was unanswerable. He tried another tack. "It's normal to kiss. Even if you're just fooling around. Like we are."
Illya was silent.
"You know, for a guy who's traveled all over the world, studied at Cambridge—lived in Paris, for God's sake—you're not very sophisticated about these things."
Napoleon saw Illya's jaw clench, but he still didn't say a word.
"I'm a pretty good kisser," Napoleon coaxed. "The girls I date—"
Wrong tactic. "I am not one of your women, Napoleon." Illya's voice was in the subzero range now.
"No kidding!" He wanted to strangle his obstinate partner. "'My 'women' are only too happy to—," he caught himself. Snarling at Illya wasn't helping, and it wasn't a point he could successfully argue. He took a deep breath and rubbed his hand over his eyes. "I don't know why you even started this."
"I didn't start this. You did."
Napoleon couldn't argue with that, either. He had started it.
He'd started it in a hotel room just as shabby as this one, only it had a double bed. It had been a sweltering Honduran night and they had been reading—Napoleon sprawled in his boxers across the foot of the bed with a newspaper and Illya propped up against the pillows speed-reading one of the cheap paperback mysteries he loved, this one in Spanish.
Illya's thin cotton bathrobe had shifted, exposing one golden thigh, and the fair hairs had glinted in the lamplight. It had been . . . distracting.
Napoleon had tried to focus on his newspaper, but all he saw was Illya. He could almost feel Illya's tanned skin under his fingertips, still damp from the shower. He told himself he felt grateful to the man who had once again saved his skin. That was all. He felt loyal. Like partners felt. Partners who were both men.
Only . . . the reckless voice in his head told him to pursue something that was decidedly different from a collegial pat on the back.
Napoleon had put the newspaper down and reached out. Caressed Illya's calf. Illya had jumped at the touch and put down his book, frowning, but Napoleon didn't draw back.
"Napoleon?" Quiet, although the walls were not particularly thin. Not angry. Just . . . puzzled.
Napoleon had moved his hand up to Illya's knee. And beyond. Hot smooth skin over hard muscle and bone.
Without looking at Illya's face, Napoleon had continued to slide his hand up the thigh, feeling the heat and a slight trembling. "Let me?" he'd whispered.
And, amazingly, Illya had allowed it. Had pushed his head back against the pillow and groaned quietly. Had, after a moment, stroked his own fingers down Napoleon's abdomen and taken him in a hot, firm hand. A hand that knew exactly what to do, as it showed an embarrassingly short time later, when Napoleon shuddered and came all over himself.
He'd finished Illya, too, of course, when he had recovered. He had opened his eyes to find Illya waiting, watching, panting and flushed and more desirable than Napoleon could have dreamed. Illya's blue eyes had looked electric that night—as if he had been as excited by this as Napoleon. As if he had been as exhilarated by watching Napoleon come in his hand as he had been when they had cheated death a few hours earlier.
Napoleon had eyed Illya's cock, as arrogant and demanding as the rest of him and, for the first time, he had wondered how it would feel to take a man in his mouth. He wanted to feel that smooth, hot flesh on his tongue. He wanted to taste the fluid he could see welling up on the dark, swollen head. But there was no opportunity—Illya was thrusting faster into Napoleon's hand. Ah, well, next time, perhaps, he'd thought as he watched Illya's orgasm appreciatively.
"You're not going to claim I forced you?
Illya shook his head. "No."
"Then why did you go along with it?"
He hadn't expected Illya to answer, and was startled when he attempted to, red-faced, staring at the floor. "Because I . . . I wanted—"
Napoleon knew what he was trying to say. "You were curious. You wanted to mess around. I understand. That's all I wanted . . . all I want."
When he looked up, Illya's face was the same mask he showed to strangers. The Ice Man. The Stoic Russian. To Napoleon's more discerning eye, it was not very different from the expression he wore when he was resisting THRUSH torture.
"I know that. I've known that all along," Illya said quietly.
It didn't make sense for Illya to seem so stricken. This was all just for fun. "So? What's the problem then?"
"Napoleon, I have no problem, except that you want more than I am prepared to give," Illya picked at the bedspread with his long fingers. He paused. "This was not a good idea."
How could he say that? It had been a great idea. Sure, there were some problems, but Napoleon had been having some of the hottest sex he could remember. And it was obvious that, when he wasn't being impossible, Illya was enjoying himself, too. If only Illya would loosen up and—
"Perhaps you need a different partner."
Napoleon drew in a quick breath.
Illya looked puzzled, and then his eyes widened with realization. "Oh, no. No, I didn't mean that. I meant a partner for . . . this." Illya waved his hand vaguely between the two of them, encompassing both rickety beds.
The moment of relief Napoleon felt was short-lived. Though Illya wasn't suggesting they split up their work partnership, it might be the next step. And Napoleon didn't want a different partner. He couldn't ask for a better one. He trusted Illya and got along with him. Enjoyed spending time with him. Found him good company. He also found him dangerously attractive, which is how all the trouble started in the first place.
He held up his hands in surrender. "Okay. You win. No kissing."
"No, Napoleon." Illya shook his head but didn't meet Napoleon's eye. "It's not only the kissing. We shouldn't be doing any of this. It's too . . . distracting. Since we are just . . . amusing ourselves, it should not be difficult to find other outlets."
Napoleon swallowed hard, and schooled his face to a carefree smirk. "Sure. No problem. I'll, ah, plan on sleeping elsewhere then."
He didn't have to spell it out. Illya would know, from experience, exactly which of the pretty women in the hotel had caught Napoleon's eye. There were always a few. With tonight's celebration, it would be easier than usual to scoop up one of them. Easy, simple, uncomplicated. Perhaps he even felt reckless enough to approach one of the rather sultry young men who worked behind the front desk.
One of them would probably be delighted to kiss him.
Illya didn't even look disappointed. Just that same unemotional mask. "I'm sure you'll find someone who can offer exactly what you want."
"Okay," Napoleon managed, keeping his expression bland and unemotional. He was damned if he'd let Illya think he was disappointed. "See you tomorrow. Breakfast at seven?"
Illya nodded coolly.
Mind carefully blank, he picked up his shaving kit and put it into his leather case. His hand shook slightly and he hoped Illya wouldn't notice. Must be tired from the mission. It had been a hell of a day. He'd try to get more sleep tonight, if only it wasn't too hot. And if the revelers out on the street would just settle down and go home. Of course, that would be later. After his encounter with . . . whoever.
Case in hand, he walked to the door, called a jaunty "goodnight!" over his shoulder, put his hand on the doorknob and . . . froze.
Heart racing in sudden panic, he squeezed the knob, but it wouldn't turn. His fingers slid helplessly on the metal knob, as if it had been greased. He tried again. Nothing.
His feet felt nailed to the floor, his hands numb and clumsy. He dropped his suitcase with a dull thud.
What was wrong with him? Some type of delayed-action THRUSH immobilizing drug? Except he hadn't been drugged this time—just a little bruising and the threat of something worse. He could breathe—in fact, he was panting a little—so his lungs weren't affected.
Something was wrong. He needed help. He needed . . . Illya. His lips shaped the name, but no sound came out. Illya would help him. If only he knew what to ask for.
He tried to respond, but the words wouldn't come. He shifted his weight forward and pressed his forehead against the cool, smooth wooden door. From the street outside he smelled gunpowder. Strange how normal people celebrated by setting off fireworks. In his job, he'd heard more than enough explosions for one lifetime. Under the window, a group of men sang loudly in Spanish. Not far away, a woman laughed. The sound mocked him.
Now the drug, or whatever was keeping him frozen at the door, had completely taken hold. Maybe it was a truth serum instead, because he felt something rising up within him—a reckless desire to speak. To say something ill-considered, something he knew he'd regret.
He clamped down on the impulse. Gritted his teeth, bit his tongue, but still the words welled up, demanding expression. He didn't know what he was going to say, but the icy knot in the pit of his stomach told him it wouldn't be good. He didn't want to think it, much less hear it. He had to distract himself. He pulled out his trump card—thought about his first girlfriend, his first kiss, his first lover, even that cocktail waitress he had slept with after the last mission. She'd made him come three times in two hours, but all he'd been able to think about the whole time he was with her was Illya.
It wasn't working. The impulse to talk was still there, stronger than before.
"Napoleon? Are you all right? What's wrong?"
Illya was close. Just a few feet away. Coming to help. A feeling of relief, mixed with a strange new anxiety, surged through him. The relief loosened his control, and the anxiety made his voice strain as he spoke. He was surprised by his own words. "I . . . can't."
"You can't . . . what?" Illya's breath was warm on his ear and the back of his neck. A trickle of sweat ran between Napoleon's shoulder blades and he shivered.
"Can't . . . leave you." He'd have bitten his tongue if he'd known that was coming. As it was, he bit his lip before he said anything worse. He winced at the taste of copper in his mouth. Wished he could sink through the bare wooden floor. Evaporate from the heat. Burn up in a flash like one of those fireworks out in the street.
"Napoleon." Not a question, this time. Just a whisper.
Illya's hands closed on his shoulders and released Napoleon with their touch, but he didn't know where to go. Illya turned him around with unusual care, and Napoleon closed his eyes. Illya had seen him helpless before—drugged, broken, bleeding—degraded in almost every way a man could be degraded. Partners were there for one another. He'd seen Illya the same way, but tonight he was too raw. It was too humiliating.
A finger traced his lips, and he breathed out a moan. He felt a hand brush back the lock of hair on his forehead. Illya's hands guided his chin, tilted his head and then he felt Illya's breath on his face. He opened his eyes in time to close them again as he felt Illya's warm mouth on his own.
Illya gathered him into his arms, and his tongue flicked across Napoleon's lips before moving inside. After all of his struggles, he was just where he most wanted to be, and he wasn't even sure how he'd gotten there. When was the last time he was held so closely in the arms of someone who cared for him? He felt a clenching ache in the pit of his stomach, as he often did when fighting back tears.
A wall of heat pressed against his chest and hips, and he was held firmly against it. In contrast, he felt the hard cool surface of the door behind him. Illya was whispering to him, gently, with the same sibilant sound he might use to soothe a frightened horse. It didn't make a great deal of sense. Sweet nonsense syllables and words like "I didn't know" and "please" and "kiss me" and "Napasha". Just a méof words people used. Words lovers used.
He could no longer tell whether the fireworks were outside in the street or in his own head. He could no longer smell the gunpowder, just the warm musky scent of Illya's skin and the vodka on Illya's breath. He pushed his own tongue into Illya's mouth, seeking more of that flavor, and heard Illya groan. Hands slid up and down his back, caressed his chest, unbuttoned his shirt and touched his skin. Then Illya began to unfasten his trousers.
He moaned into Illya's mouth, moaned again when they shifted and he felt Illya's erection against his hip. He was hard himself. He had been since Illya's finger touched his lips, but now he felt almost desperate.
Illya pulled him away from the door and they danced awkwardly, urgently, over to one of the beds.
Napoleon found himself on his back, staring at the water-stained ceiling, while Illya pulled off his shoes and trousers. He tossed the clothing on the floor with a total disregard that Napoleon would have ordinarily found annoying. As it was, it felt like just another symptom of this perfect abandon.
He held out a hand to pull Illya down to him, but Illya just shook his head and smiled gently. When he took one of the musty pillows off the bed and dropped it on the floor, Napoleon's eyes widened. Illya fell to his knees on the pillow, still with that soft smile, and Napoleon's cock twitched.
Illya leaned forward and kissed the inside of his knee, and Napoleon shivered. Their eyes met, and there was that smile again. He was naked. Not just physically naked, but emotionally exposed. No THRUSH torturer could have done a more thorough job of removing his defenses. But he was safe here. Safer here than with anyone in the world, because this was Illya, and Illya cared for him.
He wanted to watch, but his neck couldn't stand the strain. He let his head fall back and felt Illya's hand grasp him and explore gently. So gently that when Illya's hot mouth closed over his cock, he shuddered in surprise as well as pleasure.
Illya was good at this. Napoleon hadn't known how good—how could he have? The man who, an hour ago, wouldn't even kiss him, now had his cock in his mouth. Illya's tongue swirled. His hand pumped smoothly and he sucked with a slow, deep rhythm.
As Napoleon's excitement increased, he realized that Illya was rubbing himself against his calf. And that was just one more piece of evidence that his partner's attitude was more than friendly, more than caring. This wasn't just a man helping his partner out. The complete focus, the delight that Illya displayed as he took his time, tonguing every inch of Napoleon's cock, fondling his balls—it all spoke of something deeper.
He stroked Illya's soft hair and tried to remember not to grab his head. To distract himself, he stared at the mildew stains on the walls, the bare light bulb, the small crack in the window, but his surroundings did nothing to tarnish the sweetness of the moment. Beyond the window, more fireworks exploded and Napoleon thought he might know just how they felt. In certain sophisticated circles, he was known for his staying power, and he called on that strength now.
Except, when he raised his head to warn Illya, their eyes met, and the sight of his cock moving in and out of Illya's mouth, the fierce devotion in Illya's eyes, and the sudden, surprising touch of Illya's finger moving behind his balls, lower, and actually a little bit inside his body, had him shuddering and crying out, spurting into Illya's mouth. He'd meant to warn him, but any fool could see that Illya wanted this, wanted to take him in and swallow him down, and that realization made him shake one final time.
When he'd recovered enough to be aware of his surroundings, he was wrapped tightly in Illya's arms, and Illya was stroking him softly, fingers rough and callused. The tenderness of the touch was overwhelming, communicating without words how much he meant to his normally irascible partner. This was what he'd wanted. Needed. Exactly. He just hadn't known how to reach into Illya and find it. How to convince Illya to give it to him, to let him see it. He suddenly realized that the nonsense syllables Illya had been whispering over and over weren't nonsense after all. They were words. Just not English ones. "Moya lyubov."
Beloved. Yes. That was it. And he hadn't even known he needed that, until now. He kissed Illya's mouth, holding him close and touching his softly stubbled cheek. "I love you." Illya smiled in response and held him closer.
In the comfortable silence between them, the singing and cheering outside the window seemed to be for them alone, and it fell on them like a benediction.
A sense of calm and relaxation filled him. His earlier pain and humiliation had been cancelled out by Illya's surrender to his need.
The feel of Illya's still-hard cock against him reminded him that he had responsibilities—pleasurable responsibilities. He caressed Illya softly through his trousers, but Illya smiled and shook his head. "No, Napoleon."
"But don't you want . . .? I'm not sure, but . . . I can . . . ."
Illya's smile was both amused and affectionate. Napoleon basked in the warmth of it until he thought about where he'd seen that smile before. It reminded him of the one Illya used on THRUSH agents who thought they'd gotten the upper hand until . . . . Uh oh.
"Yes?" he asked warily.
This story was conceived as my contribution to the Blow It With Feeling Challenge in January 2004. I, uh, missed the deadline by a few days. Thanks to Thamiris and ACampbell for the challenge and the inspiration. My assigned emotion was "tenderness".