Another Town, Another Train
Napoleon settled on the bed and winced. It certainly wasn't as comfortable as their bed back home, but the cold didn't help. While it was late fall back home, here in Moscow it was winter, both outside the window and in Napoleon's heart.
He looked around the room and sighed. They were staying at the best hotel Moscow had to offer—the Ritz Carlton — and their suite was certainly carefully decorated and appointed to suit the taste of a Western traveler.
Napoleon faintly remembered some of the traveling he did with UNCLE and was fairly certain he'd not stayed in anything as posh as this during their last visit here. They'd still been under the protective umbrella of UNCLE. Now, everything was different.
Back then, Illya had been a Russian citizen. Now he was a US citizen. Then he'd been at the top of his game, cunning, capable, and, most important, young. Now he was a chef and, while at the top of his field now, it was an entirely different set of rules and Napoleon was worried. Old enemies had long memories and he had felt ill at ease upon their arrival.
More than that, a car had collected Illya this morning and it was fast approaching late afternoon. Napoleon had gone out and attempted some sightseeing, but he was fairly certain he was being followed. The feeling finally got the better of him. He cut through Gorky Park and grabbed a taxi to take him back to the hotel.
Napoleon approached the desk and asked if there were any messages, but there weren't. Illya had been gone for six hours and Napoleon was slowly coming unglued.
He finally gave up and threw himself on the bed and tried napping. The circumstances that had brought them there kept running through his mind again and again.
The letter had arrived registered mail and Napoleon knew it was trouble the minute he saw the postmark.
Illya came in from the back porch, stamping his feet and swinging his arms. Of course, Illya was wearing a thin tee shirt and sweat pants without socks or shoes and there was a frost predicted for the evening. "It's going to be cold out tonight, Napoleon, and the heating at the theatre is dicey. You will want to dress warm before—" He stopped and studied Napoleon. "What's wrong?"
"You have received a letter from Moscow."
"Too late for my recall notice," Illya joked, then sobered at Napoleon's obvious distress. "Napoleon, it's fine. I was just joking." Illya plucked the letter from Napoleon's hand and dropped it unopened onto the table. He then insinuated himself into Napoleon's embrace. "They have no power over me. Not anymore. You forget. I'm an American now."
"No power. I should be so lucky," Napoleon muttered and rolled off the bed. Outside the window, he could see Red Square and the city beyond. Illya was alone out there, unprotected and unarmed. Napoleon was about to come out of his skin. He rested his arm against the glass, ignoring the bite of the cold from outside.
They had called and Illya had come, just like the good Soviet that he was. It was the holiday season and there was nothing that could rip Illya away from Taste at this time of year and yet they had. Illya said that they didn't control him and yet it was only a matter of minutes between reading the letter and Illya being on the phone, calling the Russian Embassy in San Francisco for a visa. Worse, he'd not let Napoleon see the letter or even hinted at the details. He initially protested when Napoleon insisted upon joining him, but Napoleon held firm.
"You don't need to come, Napoleon." He'd discovered Illya packing and immediately began his own arrangements. With the sort of money Napoleon had at his beck and call, it was easy to secure a Russian visa of his own.
"Since when? I don't like the idea of you being over there alone."
"I'm invited to speak and be honored at a private luncheon at Le Scarletta." Illya closed his suitcase. "It's not a big deal."
"Illya, it is the holiday season at Taste. I've known you to not take a day off during the next two months."
Illya shrugged his shoulders. "It'll do Matt some good to handle a bit of the holiday traffic and I'm only going to be gone a week."
"We are only going to be gone a week." Napoleon shut his suitcase and squared his shoulders. "I'm not letting you do this alone."
Yet in the end he did, although it wasn't his intention. They'd gotten into the airport and a hotel limo had whisked them to the hotel. After check-in, Illya had placed a wake-up call for nine.
Napoleon woke at ten and Illya was gone. There was a note telling Napoleon that he'd been sleeping so soundly, Illya decided to let him sleep. And that was that. Napoleon made a call to the restaurant, only to be told that it was closed for renovations.
That was when all of Napoleon's anxiety kicked into overdrive.
Napoleon sighed and turned back to the room. The décor was so general that it could be any hotel room in any city. Just for a moment, Napoleon closed his eyes and imagined they were in The City with Matt and Rocky just down the hall. He longed to hear Rocky singing ABBA's latest and dancing into the room. He longed for the familiar smells of home and for Matt's laughter. He longed for...
Napoleon jumped as he was embraced. "What the...?" He fought against those arms, muscles protesting and grating as he struggled free. Panting, he stared at the figure and then realized it was his partner standing before him and Napoleon hugged Illya hard. "You scared the beejesus out of me!"
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. You were so lost in thought, you never heard me come in."
"Thank God you are okay." Napoleon held him at arm's length, studying him for any signs of abuse. The eyes were tired but clear, no sign of having been drugged. Even better, Illya's forehead was smooth and not puckered with pain, just weariness. He didn't appear to be bruised or cut.
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"Where were you? Was it the KGB?"
Illya laughed. "I wasn't summoned by the KGB, Napoleon." He hugged Napoleon again. " I told you, I was invited..."
"The restaurant is closed, Illya."
"My brother was being brought up on charges of crimes against the State. I was asked to testify in his behalf."
"You what? Why didn't you tell me?"
"He was being charged with homosexuality, Napoleon. I thought it better to not flaunt my own choices in front of the council."
Napoleon scrabbled out of his arms, his face dark. "Are you ashamed... of me? Of us?"
"No, of course not, but I didn't see how it would benefit him. I wasn't the one on trial, but I most certainly could have been the one to condemn him to prison."
"That's why you lied to me?"
"Yes." Illya pulled away and took off his dark top coat. "I was trying to spare you hours of intense discomfort, but had I known you would be so worried, I would have invited you along. It was quite the barrel of laughs, but at least Mykyta is safe for now." He was wearing a conservative suit beneath it and looked so different.
"It's been years since I've seen you in a suit," Napoleon said softly and Illya nodded. "I like the look. It suits you. When did you buy that?"
"This morning on my way to the trial in an attempt to look normal. I'm glad you like it." Illya loosened the tie. "Nothing I brought fit properly." Illya patted his not-as-flat stomach. "I can't believe I used to live in one of these."
"Well, one like it, but I'm willing to bet you could buy about ten of the suits you used to wear with what you spent on that one."
"It is a bit nicer than the old ones, yes." Illya ran a hand through his hair. "I have reservations in the main dining room. I thought it would be nice to treat you to a night on the town."
"Cancel them. I want to stay in tonight."
"Any particular reason?"
"You're safe. Do I need another? I was so concerned, Illya. I was being followed and watched. I imagined the worst. You grabbed and stuffed away in the Lubyanka." Napoleon hugged him tightly. "I was so scared. Do you think less of me?"
"Not at all. You are my partner. You'd have found me."
"I'd prefer not to run the risk, so let's stay in. You won't be disappointed."
"A man after my own heart." They kissed and Illya sighed. "It feels odd to be home and yet feel so displaced. Vyetka asked if we would stay for the New Year's celebration with the family and I said—"
"Are you sure that's wise? You still have a couple of major events to handle and then school is starting and you're teaching and I have auditions—"
"That we couldn't." He kissed Napoleon again. "When are you going to believe me, Napoleon? There is nothing for me here."
"I don't not trust you. It's just that you haven't seen your family in years and I thought you might get roped into staying."
"They are strangers to me now. My family, our family, is back in Jackson and as nice as it was to come back here for a short while, I have no desire to stay any longer than we have to. Until then, we will play happy tourists. Tomorrow Mykyta will be released to the family and the day after that, we will be on a plane back to California. Will that make you happy?"
"You safe, that makes me happy." Suddenly, Napoleon didn't care where they were. In Illya's eyes, he saw truth and love reflected back to him. With Illya, he was home and that was all that mattered.
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