Heartache to Heartache (post Fiddlesticks Affair)
I spared myself nothing in my report on what some stupid clerk - where do they get these people, and why are they in charge of naming missions? - had dubbed "The Fiddlesticks Affair". This on a cursory review of our initial report, which was brief but had unfortunately mentioned the unfortunate girl's unfortunate turn of phrase. But I am getting away from my point. Which is that I excoriated myself, flaying myself alive on paper. I listed each and every time that damn lighter wouldn't catch, each and every time it caught only to go out again, each and every time the fucking torch failed - every stupid move that had led to Napoleon's suffering and near death of asphyxiation.
"I triggered the lighter and it went out," I typed carefully. "I triggered the lighter again and it went out. The torch caught, then went out. I ..." but you get the picture. I should have checked the equipment more extensively, although I had, of course; I had checked it repeatedly as I always did before a mission. I should have had a second lighter as a back up. I wrote that down too, scourging myself with words. Because the bottom line was that I was late getting into the vault, and because of that Napoleon had nearly died. Had suffered agonies and finally passed out, slumped against the wall, waiting for me. Waiting for me to come through as promised. Waiting in vain. Well, almost. Of course I did get there in time - just - and resuscitated him. Oh, and the other man. Rudolph. But Napoleon came first and I wrote that down too, not in a way to call attention to my lapse - because civilians should come first always, but I phrased it in such a way that it came across as my needing Napoleon's help to get everyone out alive and of course that is true. I'm good - except when I am fucking up royally by not checking equipment thoroughly enough, by not having a fallback lighter - but with Napoleon I'm superb. As is he. As are we, together.
But today I almost killed him. So I spared myself nothing, and turned in my report.
He called me back to our office within the hour. I had gone to the chemistry lab to begin the task of developing a new igniter, a better igniter, one with its own back up system. I can lose myself in science, always - it is a gift. But today it failed me. I kept seeing Napoleon as I had seen him then, face ghastly, lips blue, to all appearances dead.
Dead. I thought he was dead. I wanted to die myself, to just drop down on the floor and feel nothing else, nothing more, not ever. But first I had to try and help him, however futile it would be, so I put the mouthpiece to his lips - his lips, oh, how I love his lips. How I love to trace them with my tongue, to bite them lightly, to feel him take over, kiss me with all the skill at his disposal - which is considerable. But surely that is over now. He will have been wondering why I was late, and when he reads my report he will know that it was due to nothing more nor less than carelessness. My carelessness. I was careless with the equipment, careless with the mission, careless with his life. So I will never be kissed by him again, but at least he is alive.
I can still feel the way my heart jolted in my chest when I realized that I was in time. It jumped so violently that my sudden death didn't seem such a remote possibility after all. It skipped a beat, thudded wildly, and skipped a few more. I nearly passed out but I didn't. I brought him around then went over to Rudolph and did the same for him. We finished out the mission with our usual aplomb, and came straight here to write these reports. And even in my physics lab, even here in my refuge, I could think of nothing else.
And then I got the summons. His voice over my intercom sounded just as usual - calm, but with a wry inflection that makes me tremble when he uses it in bed, commenting perhaps on the ease with which he can arouse me, or the futility of my attempts to pretend I am not hopelessly, helplessly, in thrall to him. Now, of course, it must mean something very different.
I went to him with my usual brisk stride - there is no point in prolonging the inevitable, and at the very least I can remain professional. I stood in front of his desk and waited. He raised an eyebrow at me and indicated my report.
"So that's what kept you," he said. "I wondered. I think you are a little hard on yourself, Illya. It was standard approved issue. It had been vetted at headquarters before you ever received it, and I know full well you checked it out again. It was just one of those stupid things that happens sometimes. I want you to rewrite this without the excess emotionalism, please."
I bristled, but then he handed me another sheaf of paper. "Read mine over for me, if you would. I'd appreciate your input."
I did, and within a moment had to sit down. I groped behind me for a chair and nearly fell into it. Napoleon's report was fully as self incriminating as mine had been. He spared himself nothing. "I should have foreseen the possibility - the probability - of a time trap," he had typed. "I should have allowed more time. I blame myself entirely. I was late to the vault. I was late turning off the alarms. If Agent Kuryakin had not been delayed, he would have been blown to pieces. I accept full responsibility for his near demise." That was as far as he had gotten. I stared at the paper for a moment, then lowered it and stared at him. He stared back.
I don't know who moved first - him, I suppose, because he had to come out from behind the desk whereas all I had to do was rise. But whoever it was, we were in one another's arms before I could blink. He clutched at me, and I at him. We clung to one another, overwhelmed by the nearness of it, by the astonishing synchronicity of it.
He was late with the alarms. I was late opening the vault. If I had been on time, I would have been killed. And then Thrush agents would have swarmed the area, trapping Napoleon in the time lock, capturing or killing him. But here we both were, alive and well and in one another's arms. Because of a lighter, and a torch. Because of a blessed, wonderful, malfunctioning lighter and torch. I pushed my face into his neck, breathing in the good scent of him. He squeezed me so hard I couldn't breathe for a moment and that was all right, that was just fine. I would die here, in his embrace.
But I didn't, of course. I twisted a little, my body demanding air, and he loosened his arms. "Illya," he said hoarsely. "Illya, I died inside sitting in our metal tomb waiting for that explosion. Rudolph sat across from me and mocked me and I couldn't even muster up anger at him. All I could think of was you, trusting me and igniting the explosives. I thought I had lost you."
"I thought you were dead," I whispered against his skin. "When I saw you lying there, I thought I had killed you. I thought ..." I couldn't continue. He shook his head, I could feel it against my hair.
"But you didn't. Here I am. I thought you were dead."
"No." He squeezed me again, and I squeezed back. "Let's go home," he whispered directly into my ear, making me shudder so violently we both nearly fell over. "Let's rewrite these reports - just the facts, this time - and go home."
"Yes." So we did rewrite them. I said that both the lighter and the torch had seriously malfunctioned. Napoleon said that he had been trapped in a time vault. We left it at that.
We walked through the halls together, as we always did. Side by side, Napoleon that half step in front which suits him because he has to feel like the leader in whatever situation he finds himself, and which suits me because I feel I am watching his back. People greeted us, and we nodded, or spoke, depending on what seemed appropriate at the time. At the front desk I saw that Amanda was on duty. Usually Napoleon flirts with the girl at the desk while I roll my eyes, but Amanda fancies me so I obligingly fulfilled my end of the exchange. I leaned in so she could remove the badge herself and purr something like `have a nice weekend, Illya." Napoleon tossed his badge onto the desk and gave me an annoyed look. I smirked at him and allowed Amanda to brush my cheek with her lips. "You look beautiful in pink," I told her for good measure and she blushed and thanked me. Napoleon gave an audible `hmph' and walked out the door. I winked at Amanda and followed.
We took a taxi to Napoleon's apartment, greeted his doorman politely and rode up in the elevator, the picture of decorum. But as soon as the door closed behind us Napoleon was on me, pulling at my clothes, dragging me down to the floor.
I didn't want to do it on the floor. It is hard, and uncomfortable. Napoleon's bed, on the other hand, is soft; yielding yet supportive, and enormous. So I wriggled free and ran for the master bedroom. He tackled me, bringing me down again, tearing my shirt off, throwing it aside, starting on my pants. I fought back but rather half heartedly, because his hands were busy with more than my garments. I wanted him so desperately it would be worth it to be on the floor if that was my only option. But it wasn't, damn it, there was a perfectly good bed just a few steps away. I rolled us over and he went willingly - Napoleon is nothing if not adaptable - but as soon as his weight no longer pinned me down I scrambled to my feet and headed for his bedroom again. He came after me, laughing. I misjudged, thinking that the laughter was slowing him down, and turned in the doorway to laugh at him in my turn, only to see him nearly on me. I threw my hands up in surrender and he grabbed me, tossed me onto the bed.
Now this was more like it. I bounced a couple of times and then he fell on top of me, driving the air right out of me. "Oof," I complained, and then he silenced my complaint with his open mouth.
Oh, that mouth, and those kisses. I had thought never to feel them again. I kissed him back with urgency and he responded, as he always responds to my needs. I needed him to completely possess me, to completely own me, to prove, with his body as well as his words, with my body as well as my sight, that he was alive. But when he responded to that as well, when he nudged my thighs apart with his knee, when I felt his erection prodding my entrance, I froze up.
No, I thought. No, no, no, no. This act - this ultimate act that we have not done, although we have done a great deal and with enormous passion - this act is ... is ... horrible. Terrible. Agonizingly painful, humiliating, and degrading, it always left me wretchedly, desperately, despairingly ... I ran out of mental adjectives. But my erection was gone and I was rigid in Napoleon's embrace, deliberately freezing him out, freezing him away and ... and his erection was gone too. I could feel it, soft against my inner thighs.
I couldn't even imagine how angry he must be, and I was angry too. How dare he presume, why would he want to do that to me when I thought ... when I thought he loved me.
But then he kissed my cheek, my temple, my forehead. He kissed my nose and my mouth, briefly, chastely, before rolling off of me, onto his side, drawing me closer, gentling me against him with flat palmed caresses and his warm body against mine. Disgracefully, tears sprang to my eyes and I hid my face in his shoulder to conceal them, realizing too late that he could no doubt feel them, damp against his flesh. But if I had expected him to mock me - and I did, a little, and that lack of trust shamed me further because he had done nothing to warrant it - I was mistaken. Mistaken because he only cradled me closer. We lay there for a long time, and just as I was beginning to think he had fallen asleep he spoke.
"I'm sorry," he said softly. "I don't know what I was thinking. Well, I wasn't thinking at all, that's clear. No preparation, no lubricant - it's not like you're a ..." he stopped talking and despite all my inner turmoil I had to laugh a little. `Girl' was what he had been about to say, and not for the first time either. Whenever he caught himself treating me like one of his dates - when he paid for my movie ticket, for example, or opened a car door for me - he'd say `Sorry, Illya. I know you're not ..." and stop himself from saying it. But now I was intrigued. How would Napoleon Solo know about something like lubricant? Not that I had any first hand experience with such a thing myself, but still ...
"What would you know about lube?" I snapped and was sorry, because I hadn't meant it to come out that way. It was only because I was struggling so hard to hide my emotions. By way of apology I moved closer to him, let myself relax against him, and he tightened his arms.
"I have known women - not many, but a few - who prefer it that way. One was terrified of pregnancy, despite my little French letters. One wanted to be a virgin on her wedding night. And I remember two of them who liked it better ... er, there. And I distinctly recollect that lube and prep were called for. So I'm sorry, Illya. If I had just gone ahead my own selfish way I would have hurt you. And I never want to hurt you. Not really. Not seriously. I mean when we're not fighting. I mean wrestling. You know what I mean."
"Yes." I did. Napoleon and I often sparred with one another - in the gym, and, more entertainingly, in the privacy of our homes - well, his home. He has the carpet. I have bare floorboards that tend to give off splinters. And when we do spar, we don't spare one another. He'll trip me and bring me down, I'll kick his feet out from under him, he'll twist my arm, I'll knee him in the kidney - we can take it and we know it and there is something exhilarating about it. It often leads further and that can be rough and tumble too. I have often gone to work bearing the marks of hands and teeth on my skin, and so has he. But this would be different, and I understood that too. I relaxed further.
"I don't want to do that," I said, and he nodded.
"All right. We certainly don't ... although if you want to, we could try it the other way around. I've never ... but I trust you, Illya, and I have heard that it can be - ah, good. In a different kind of way."
I didn't know how to respond to that. Napoleon clearly had no idea how terrible - but he'd done it, he'd said. To women, but surely that part wouldn't be that different. It couldn't have been terrible for them or he would never have repeated it. And now he was offering - it was too much to take in and I only shook my head. He rubbed his cheek against my hair.
"I love your hair," he whispered, adroitly changing the subject. "It's so soft, and it smells so good - it smells wild, like grass or an ocean wind." He kissed it and I shifted, uncomfortable with the words even as they pleased me. He kissed my cheek again and started down my body, kissing my chin, my throat, my chest - pausing at each nipple to lick it and nip it into hardness then, as he moved on, the cooler air in the room on the warm wetness he had left made me shiver. I reached for him, helpless to do otherwise, but he pushed my hands away and kissed my stomach. Oh, it felt so good, it felt so good. I touched him again, stroked his hair, my hips rising and he turned in the bed and took my cock in his mouth. I hadn't even realized it was hard until it was engulfed by hot, wet ...I clutched at his hips, pulled him closer and drew his cock - hard too, now - in as well.
There was moaning, and crying aloud, voices muffled by flesh. There was gripping - more bruises, I thought and didn't care, gripping even harder. There was a building, growing, swelling pleasure that spiraled higher and higher, taking me with it until with a strangled cry I came. He wrapped both arms around me like iron bands, holding me so I couldn't move, couldn't thrust, could only scream and that sent him over the edge too, over the edge and down my throat and I took him greedily as he was taking me and then we both collapsed.
I lay there, dazed with pleasure, with completion, with joy. Joy. He had seen my fear, had felt the bite of my anger, been frozen into impotency, even if temporarily, and he still wanted me. Still wanted to make love to me, wanted to find a way I could accept, wanted to bring me pleasure, and that had brought him pleasure too. He must - he must love me. Even though he had wanted to do - that. The two seemed incompatible, but as Napoleon turned back around so his head was on the pillow with mine, I accepted the paradox. He just didn't know how it was. He had thought he would make it good for me - still thought so, from his talk of lubrication and preparation. He was willing to offer it to me, if I wished. I didn't, of course, would never dream of doing that to him, hurting him, humiliating and degrading him, but if I did want to, he would let me.
"I would never do that to you," I said from the very edge of sleep. "I love you. I would never - you don't have to worry that I would, or even that I want to. I would never."
"And I would never do anything to you that you didn't want me to do," he whispered back. "All you ever have to say is stop. You don't have to call in the Ice Prince for my benefit."
"Don't you like him?" Perversely, I was a little hurt. I couldn't even begin to say why. But he laughed, a deep rumble in his chest and I liked that, moved so that my head rested there, so that if he did it again I could hear it better, feel it against my ear.
"I can't deny there's a certain element of challenge, and satisfaction in melting those glaciers," he said, and chuckled again. I smiled, and rubbed my cheek against his chest hair. "But when you bring him out because I've hurt you, and you're defending against me - no. I don't like that. It means I've failed you somehow. Like I did in that vault." And it was he who was cold, suddenly, cold in my arms, holding me frantically as if against the image of an explosion. And it was me rocking him, brushing the hair back off his face, kissing his forehead, kissing his mouth finally, warm breath to warm breath, life giving and sweet. He quieted, but his grip never loosened, even when his very faint snore told me he was asleep. I wriggled a little, to get comfortable within that grip, and fell asleep myself.