I don't want to fall asleep. My body has other ideas, however, and my head lolls forward in slow motion. I jerk upright, blink and stare out the window, trying to concentrate on the black silhouettes of trees and barns going by on the horizon. But soon my head sags again, my eyelids heavy, the voices around me growing distant. Again I snap to alertness.
"Lean on me," Napoleon says.
He's sitting on my right, Pat Ferguson on my left. Chang, Norton, and Rodriguez are in the front seat. My partner touches my arm, coaxing me to lean sideways, to let him support me. I'm accustomed to doing just that when I'm injured or ill, but I'm neither, just exhausted from holding off four Thrush goons earlier in the evening until the others arrived. I don't feel particularly at ease leaning on Napoleon in our colleagues' presence. It's not inappropriate, but I think of it as a rather private thing between us. We've supported each other in dank cellars, in cargo holds, many places. But we're usually alone.
The lights on the dashboard illuminate Ron Chang's eyes as he glances at me in the rearview mirror.
"Come on." Napoleon's tone is no-nonsense as if he were giving doctor's orders, and I lean sideways until my head meets his shoulder, sliding down in the seat a bit, settling against him, closing my eyes.
The agents in the front seat talk quietly, sometimes asking Napoleon a question. I feel the vibration through his body when he responds. The car slows and I hear the clanging of a railroad crossing, see the caution lights blinking on the insides of my eyelids. We stop and a train whistle pierces the night—two longs, a short and a long. The rumble of freight cars is upon us. I open my eyes to see Rock Island Line race across my field of vision and I smile. Napoleon and I spent a night in one of their boxcars once, making an escape. We'd heard what we thought was a rat in the opposite black corner of the empty car, and Napoleon had flung an empty whiskey bottle in that direction, resulting in a screech. "Bullseye," he'd said, and we went to sleep sitting up, leaning shoulder-to-shoulder against each other.
I don't remember seeing the end of the train. The car is stopped again and the harsh slam of a car door wakes me. The odor of gasoline has wafted in from outside and I realize we're in a service station. I straighten up, conscious of the civilian who will fill the tank. A swirling pattern of white obscures the view as the attendant soaps the windows, followed by the squeaking swipe of a squeegee blade.
"Feel better?" Napoleon says. I nod but don't look at him. The tank is filled and Ron Chang pays the attendant, gets back in and starts the car, the ding ding sounding when the tires cross the hose.
"The guy says there's a storm brewing," Chang tells us as he pulls back on the highway. He clicks on the radio and I can see its glow. "...rain moving in from the west, becoming heavy, then tapering off to showers through morning," the announcer says. "If it was any colder, folks, this would be snow."
I shiver. There is frost in my Russian blood and the cold can only make me shiver when I'm very tired. Napoleon touches my arm again, and I hug myself and lean against him once more to resume my sleep. The next sound I hear is the muffled voices of my fellow agents outside the car. We're not in the U.N.C.L.E. parking garage, not even in the city.
"Illya." Napoleon is nudging me and I sit up. "We're staying here instead of driving home tonight."
Napoleon gets out and I follow, a little unsteady but he doesn't support me. We all walk up the wood steps and onto the broad porch of the Blue Rose Inn, just as the first cold sprinkles begin to fall.
"Welcome, gentlemen!" our plump, pink-cheeked hostess says as we enter the warm reception area filled with flowered and ruffled upholstery. "Would you sign the register, please?" Napoleon peruses the surroundings, nods to Ferguson, and the agent steps to the desk to sign all our names, or rather our impromptu aliases. The six of us are almost an U.N.C.L.E. agent convention. The woman reads them aloud. "Mr. O'Hara, Mr. Ryan, Mr. O'Toole, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Riley, Mr. Nolan." She looks uncertainly at Chang, and Napoleon is amused. He steps forward.
"Your establishment comes to us highly recommended," he says to the woman with his effortless charm and Italian equivalent of blarney. "We appreciate your last-minute hospitality."
"Oh, well," she says, blushing at his attention, "as I explained to the first gentleman, you're welcome to squeeze into the two rooms that are still available." She turns to the cupboard where the numbered keys are hung in rows, choosing two. "Number twelve is on the second floor at the end of the hall, and number ten is right next to it. Twelve has two double beds, and ten has one double bed. I hope you'll all be comfortable."
"Thank you, kind lady," Napoleon says with a dip of his chin.
Napoleon and I have privilege of rank, and we take the more private room for ourselves. It is meticulously clean, starched, and orderly. I toe off my shoes, shrug off my jacket and fall face down onto the handmade quilt on the bed. There's a gentle tap on the door while Napoleon is still locking it and he inches it open again. "The kitchen is closed," Ferguson says, "but the woman says there's a diner about a mile up the road that makes a good burger. You want to come with us?"
"No," Napoleon says, "but bring us a couple."
He shuts and locks the door. I'm relieved he's staying with me so I don't have to be on my guard. He takes off his jacket and assembles his communicator. "Open Channel D." Headquarters answers and Napoleon recognizes the voice on the other end.
"And how is the ravishing Julia this evening?"
"Hello, Napoleon," she says with a purr. "Are you out in the cold?"
"I'm afraid so, for now," he says, "but your voice has a warmth that will stay with me all night."
She laughs. "Is that why you called?"
"Oh, that's right," he says with a chuckle, "I have a message for Mr. Waverly."
"The weather upstate has turned ugly, so the six of us are, ah, staying put for the night. We should arrive at the office by noon tomorrow."
"Just a wish for pleasant dreams, my dear."
"Thank you, Napoleon," she says with a smile in her voice. "Sleep tight."
He caps the communicator, and turns his head to look at me. "You've got to wear that suit into headquarters tomorrow."
I moan and roll over, unzip my trousers and shove them down my legs, pulling my feet out of them. I scoot back to sit up against the headboard, tucking my legs under the quilt and pulling it up to my waist. "Did I understand there is food coming?"
Napoleon plucks my trousers from the bed and hangs them in the tiny closet, then pulls a curtain aside and squints into the blackness as the rain lashes the windows. "If Ferguson and the rest of them can find their way back." He turns off one of the lamps and comes to sit on the edge of the bed, bending to take off his shoes, then scoots back onto the bed to sit side by side with me. He leans his head back and rolls it to look at me. "You can nap until then."
I feel very close to him. I wish we were in the car so I would have an excuse to feel his solid warmth again. "I'll wait until after supper."
"Suit yourself, O'Hara."
I smile. "What type of cuisine should I expect?"
Napoleon stares at the ceiling. "Hamburgers and fries probably."
He chuckles. "Only in your dreams."
I close my eyes again. "I'll give that a try."
I must have dozed off because someone is tapping at the door again. Napoleon answers it quickly and receives a white paper sack from Ferguson. The wonderful aromas of hamburgers, french fries, and coffee fill the room. It's surprising how compatible they are. There's no table or desk, so Napoleon selects a hand towel from a stack on the dresser, shakes it out with a flourish and covers my lap with it, doing his best impression of a waiter at a posh restaurant. He serves me the food, one waxed paper-wrapped parcel at a time, and asks if I'd like to try the coffee.
The hot liquid delivers a flush of warmth through me and I pronounce my satisfaction. "What the vintage lacks in taste, it compensates for in temperature."
He sits down next to me and we disassemble our hamburgers. He gives me his onions; I give him my pickles. I finish my fries; his are unguarded and I filch a few. He ritually objects. "Hey."
"They're just going to get cold and your gourmet sensibilities will be put off."
He drops a pile in my terrycloth lap. "Stuff yourself." I do. I love every bite and every minute and that we're shoulder to shoulder, sharing our deep fried communion, together and safe at the end of the day.
There's a rumble on the other side of the wall, the sound of furniture being moved, and the muffled voices of our colleagues. The activity signals the inevitable card game.
"You can join them if you want to," I tell my gregarious partner. "I'm going to sleep."
Napoleon clears up the mess, crumpling papers and stuffing everything into the oil-spotted white bag. "I'm tired, too," he says, standing and heading for the door. "A quick trip to the bathroom and I'll be ready for bed."
I take my turn when he comes back, and I return to find him in bed in his underwear, his t-shirted shoulders and arms sticking out from under the covers. We have no other clothes but what we have on, so I strip down to my shorts and undershirt, turn out the light and slide in next to him, my body settling inches from his. The poker game is still going on in the next room, our fellow agents occasionally forgetting themselves and hooting loudly at the turn of a card.
Napoleon falls asleep quickly. I lie awake and listen to the activities next door winding down until all falls silent. The clock says l1 p.m.
I begin to drift off until there's a loud bang on our door and I jump, grabbing my Walther. Another bang and I instinctively go for cover. I turn and throw my body over Napoleon, rolling us both off the bed and onto the floor with a thud, sheet and blanket and quilt coming with us.
I scramble to my knees and extend my arms over the mattress in a two-handed aim at whoever is daring to breach our sanctum. I'm prepared to shoot to kill.
"Mildred?" an inebriated voice says. "Mildred!"
Hurried footsteps approach, the slap slap of slippers, a harsh whisper. "Sir!" The voice of the innkeeper. "Sir, people are trying to sleep!"
"Whe—where's my wife???"
"Mr. Harris, you're in number two, at the other end of the hall," she says in a scolding stage whisper.
"Oh," the drunk says, his bluster gone, his mood turning syrupy sorrowful. "I didn't mean to say those things to her. . ." the voice trails off as they walk in the other direction. "I just had to get away for a little while. . ."
"I'm sure she'll be glad to see you, now SHHH."
A door opens, "Harry!" and clicks shut again, and Mr. Harris is delivered into the arms of his wife. The slap slap comes toward us again, thumps down the stairway and is gone.
I relax and sink down, then realize I'm straddling Napoleon's middle. He chuckles and I start to move off him but my legs are entangled in the bedclothes. We manage to extricate ourselves and get onto our feet, and I try to make sense of the braided covers. He gets on the other side of the bed, and together we manage to spread them out in the right order. We climb back in and I curl up with my back to him, imagining what might have happened if we'd been on the floor together in a very private hotel room. I feel myself becoming aroused and banish the thoughts.
Napoleon seems to be asleep again, his back so close to mine that I feel the warmth of him. I wish I could go out for a drink and wonder where Mr. Harris had gone. I finally drift off again.
I stir and my feet come in contact with Napoleon's. They're like ice and so are mine.
"Illya, come here," he whispers.
I don't grasp what he means and ask over my shoulder, "What?"
"There's no heat. A line must be down." His hand rests on my waist.
I roll over, not thinking twice. His arms come around me and he rubs my back, generating heat with the friction.
"I didn't know I was going to be manhandled," I whisper, trying to sound annoyed.
"You don't mind it, do you?" he asks, nose to nose with me in the dark.
"Mind what?" I ask dumbly.
His hand goes to the nape of my neck and he tucks my head under his, his breath in my ear. "This." He holds me tighter, and my cock hardens against him.
I pull my head back to look at him, to look into the brown eyes that have found enough light to have a spark. "Of course not." Then, in a moment of insanity, I blurt out. "I love you."
A second passes that seems like an hour.
He smiles. "I love you, too, partner." He says it with a casualness that amazes me, and I wonder if he means it as I do. "I want to kiss you."
Before I can respond his mouth is on mine, soft, coaxing, serious. His hands go under my t-shirt and it excites me further. His fingertips trace my spine and I shiver. His lips withdraw. "I'd like to kiss you. . .here. " He touches me intimately.
I'm giddy and afraid at the same time. This can't be happening. His mouth is suddenly on my nipple, then my belly, sucking the sensitive skin. All my nerve endings are awake and alert, waiting each for its turn. Napoleon's head disappears completely and I feel the waistband of my shorts being eased over my erection. I wait for the all important contact, my cock so ready for the touch of his lips that I'm afraid I might come just from the anticipation.
I feel him then. There, at the root, working his way up. I want to moan, gasp, scream, and I bite my lip but a whimper escapes. The wind and the cold rain on the window cover the sound. He kisses up the underside of my cock, reaches the head and sucks it into his mouth. To my total astonishment, he seems to be experienced at this. His lips catch my foreskin and draw it forward over the tip, pulling it, nibbling at it. His fingers hold it while his tongue slides beneath it. I picture him doing what I feel him doing, and the image is overwhelming. His tongue probes and wiggles, and I feel like I'm going to explode. My hands close on his shoulders, urgent, and he sucks hard, about to finish me. At the last second his mouth leaves me but his hand does not, and he massages my cock as I arch and stream onto his throat, his fingers making sure my orgasm is complete before he releases me.
He appears again and takes me in his arms. "I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry I couldn't swallow you down," he whispers. "I've never done that to anyone before. But I will next time; I promise."
I kiss him, smelling and tasting myself in his mouth, and thinking "next time" again and again. Napoleon says there will be a next time.
"I want you," I say, wishing I'd expressed it with more eloquence.
"You can have me," he says with need in his voice. He lies back and I throw the covers off, ignoring how cold the room is. I push his t-shirt up and kiss his chest, his belly, then pull his shorts down and kiss his groin, nuzzling all around his erection. I lick his balls and around the root of his cock, sucking at the base of it, sensing him stifling his moans. My mouth never stops moving, up and down his smooth shaft, covering it with saliva, a slurp escaping now and then as I eat him like a starving man. I think how appropriate that is, how I've yearned for him, for the pleasure of having him like this. My head bobs up and down as I take him in my mouth as deep as I can and suck him harder, faster. He comes in my mouth and I swallow. It's bitter but satisfies me like nothing else could. His body convulses, his stomach quivering. I go back up to him and see that he's biting the pillow to keep from making noise, nostrils flaring with the need for oxygen. He relaxes and his mouth opens, releasing several long sighs. I lie next to him, my arm and leg around him, looking at his profile. I kiss his cheek, his jaw, his neck until he turns his head to me and smiles.
"I owe you one," he whispers, trying to keep things light, but I see in his eyes that our first lovemaking has meant as much to him as it has to me. I have no doubts that we'll be lovers for a long time.
"Next time," I say with a smile, "when we can be more. . .free."
His eyebrows steeple. "You mean you can be more uninhibited than that?"
"We'll find out, won't we?" I lean in and kiss him again and he pulls me on top of him. His throat is sticky from my cum. His semen is inside me. I wonder if I'll ever get used to that, if I'll ever be able to think of it matter of factly.
We're awake most of the night, talking in whispers, reining in our strongest urges but unable to stop exploring each other, getting to know each other's bodies. We both come again with our mouths together, our hands wrapped around each other, giving and taking at the same time. My fatigue disappears in the euphoria.
It's six a.m. The storm is over and only soft sprinkles click on the window panes, and Napoleon muses as we rest in each other's arms.
"I love rain."