Part of the Furniture

by Di T

Napoleon Solo's apartment, January, 1966:

"We have come a long way, my friend." Illya suddenly announced.

I looked up from the sofa where I was trying to read The Looking Glass War, the latest John le Carre, although the plot was already taxing my overtired brain and I was half asleep. "Yeah, about 3000 miles as I recall."

"Not from Italy." Illya gave a small laugh. "You know . . . us."

"Ah." I closed my eyes again and stretched out on the sofa, letting the book flop onto my chest, too sleepy for a philosophical conversation. One of Illya's more endearing qualities was his capacity for companionable silence. I wanted to wind down ready for sleep. It had been a long day.

But he persisted. "I just want you to know that I . . . I've been happy with the way things have turned out."

What had brought this on? The fact that we'd completed yet another successful mission against the odds? Today's wild and messy lovemaking the second we were through the door? If he was referring to either then yes—things had turned out pretty well.

Or maybe he was speaking more generally. A sudden and unwelcome thought occurred to me. "You're not thinking of leaving are you?" I opened my eyes a slit to gauge his reaction.

But he shook his head. "No, never. At least not in the foreseeable future unless Mr Waverly . . . you know . . ." He shrugged.

I decided to deliberately misunderstand him. "Good, because I don't have the time or the energy to look for a new partner. I'm happy too. Very. Speaking of which, I'd be even happier with another drink." I said this last while yawning hugely. I should go to bed. I stretched out a languid arm and picked up the empty whisky glass from the floor. "Any more in that bottle?"

"You should go to bed." Illya the mind-reader—although he didn't have to work very hard to read my mind then. He heaved himself out of the armchair and took the glass, contemplating it thoughtfully. "You've even managed to wean me off vodka."

Not a drop of vodka since we came back from London, three months ago. London—that disastrous, wonderful, life-changing mission.

I watched him pick up his own glass as well and go over to the sideboard where he splashed a little Glenfiddich into each. Leaving one glass on the sideboard he returned to the sofa and offered me his arm. "Come on, take this to bed."

I was glad of that strong arm pulling me upright. Maybe I was a little drunk as well as tired. Good. I'd sleep soundly. He put the whisky in my hand, collected his own from the sideboard and sat down again in the chair that seemed to have become his. Odd—I could hardly remember what that chair looked like without him in it. "Aren't you coming?" I asked.

"Later. I'm not sleepy yet."

I didn't argue. He seemed in a strangely pensive mood. And I had a feeling if he came to bed with me right now he'd want to keep talking and I was too tired. Let him have a little longer to wind down. I reminded him of the meeting Mr Waverly had rescheduled for nine thirty the following morning.

He smiled a crooked half smile. "I'll wake you in time, don't worry."

Insolent Russian.

But the smile, as always, lit up his face. It didn't matter that his eyes were hooded, his long hair dishevelled, he looked—content. I couldn't resist ruffling his hair a little more on my way past and he caught my hand and kissed it.

How comfortable to have Illya here in my apartment. After London, when things changed between us, he'd been in the habit of treating this as a second home. He even kept a few clothes here, although he also liked to make free with mine. He's an easy guest. Hardly a guest. He always did have a knack of fitting in places, becoming part of the furniture.

So what caused that sudden affirmation? He's not given to making those kind of remarks. It seemed to me as if there had to be a big 'but' coming. But no, he'd sunk into silence. Contemplative. Tapping his finger on the arm of that chair. The one that's become his.

"Goodnight then," I said, dropping a kiss onto his hair.

"Goodnight, Napoleon."

As Napoleon staggered towards bed, I settled back down in the armchair and took a sip of the whisky. The surprise trip on the Adriatic Express had turned out to be unexpectedly enjoyable, even the company of the little model girl on the train who pursued me relentlessly. Napoleon and I saw in the New Year with her, together with Eva, the naive apprentice beautician and several bottles of champagne. How he and I laughed when we virtuously said goodnight to them and retired to the expensive sleeping compartment Mr Waverly complained so vociferously about funding.

Of course he then ordered us home by the cheapest route. "And next time, find somewhere inexpensive to stay overnight, Mr Solo. You young agents are altogether too profligate with your expense accounts. Double up, I say!"

If only he knew.

I took another thoughtful sip of whisky and swept my eyes round the room, so familiar, so dear. My own place is home, of course, but after a tiring mission, going into a cold, empty apartment is conducive only to sleep. Coming here to wind down was something I looked forward to more than anything. My needs are simple—food, rest and Napoleon. Not necessarily in that order.

Sometimes I can't wait. I was hard by the time the taxi dropped us off at Napoleon's building. We were so tired we'd hardly spoken during the taxi ride, but I could see from the way Napoleon kept raking me with his eyes that he felt the same. I made my intention clear in the elevator by deliberately crowding against him—easy, since the elevator's tiny—and by the time we arrived at the top floor we were wrapped around one another. Napoleon's hands shook so much as he tried to get the key in the lock that we giggled like schoolboys and almost fell through the doorway once it opened. Naturally, the intruder alarm went off. Napoleon dived for the switch while I kept my arms locked firmly around his waist and unfastened his belt and trousers.

We made love right there in the vestibule. I shamelessly floored poor Napoleon while he was hobbled by his pants, yanking off my own pants and underwear in frenzied haste. Our lovemaking was more like a wrestling match, each thrusting against the other—my climax swift and intense between our bellies as I kissed him fiercely, reclaiming him after the long mission.

I took Napoleon in my mouth then, an act that not so many years ago I'd thought was only the stuff of guilty fantasy . . .

Paris 1960:

It was winter in Paris and the city was in the grip of a big freeze. He entered the jazz club, La Grenouille, and sat at his usual table in the corner but near the band. The bass player, Guy Jordil, smiled at him in recognition. Illya ordered his customary vodka and sat back to lose himself in the music. The atmosphere was smoky with Gauloises and people came and went, got up to dance or just sat and listened to the music. Nobody took any notice of the slight, blond man in the corner. Except Guy.

Guy had caught his attention the very first time he had visited. After a while they had exchanged nods of recognition, then chatted about music after the band had finished, and even had the occasional jam session late at night, Illya taking a turn on the piano. Guy was a wonderful bass player—subtle, clever, never dominating the music, but always a solid ground complementing the improvisations of the sax and piano. He was also quite beautiful.

The band took a break. After a few moments, Guy came over to Illya's table and sat down. He took out a packet of cigarettes and offered him one. He declined with a smile. This was a running joke between them.

"When will you grow up and smoke, my friend? You can never play in the band if you do not have a cigarette afterwards."

"It is a condition?"

"Why of course. You must smoke one after each session. It refreshes the mind and clears the head."

"So I have heard."

Guy moved closer. He leaned over so his brown, luminous eyes looked directly into his own. "It is good after other pleasures too."

He twitched his lips. "I have heard that also."

"But you have not tried it. I can tell."

"I told you, I do not smoke."

The brown eyes crinkled with amusement. "That is not what I mean. You know it, my friend."

He did not respond, but stared levelly at Guy through the curling smoke.

Guy laughed and drew deeply on his Gauloise. "Of course, I saw you with that little blonde student. You sat at this very table. But I think you and she . . . no?" He covered Illya's hand with his own, stroking the wrist-bone.

Just at that moment, the rest of the band returned to their instruments. Guy smiled apologetically and got up to leave. They clasped hands in a perfectly seemly handshake, French style.

"Will you come and play a little after the set?"

"Perhaps." He knew he would not.

"Salut, mon vieux."

He watched Guy take his place in the band, hoping nobody else noticed the deep blush that crept up from his boots.

Later that night, in his cold little attic room, he lay in bed with his thoughts churning. So Guy was homosexual. But he had seen him kissing women at La Grenouille. And why did Guy infer that Illya preferred the company of men? Was it possible to like both women and men? He'd always believed he was a man of the world, but that was not quite true.

It seemed he had much to learn.

And why did the image of Guy smoking his cigarette languidly, naked and sated on his bed, keep insinuating into his imagination? He tried to put it out of his mind, instead imagining Solange, a fellow student he was friendly with—the witty and amusing little blonde Guy had noted—in his mind's eye. But she only laughed at him and the next moment, there was Guy once more, holding his hand, running his thumb over his wrist-bone, his eyes sardonic, luminous.

He had become unbearably aroused even while he denied it to himself. Getting out of bed, he went over to the draughty window and stared at the lights of Paris, hoping the freezing air would make his erection subside; but instead another forbidden picture flashed into his mind: Guy, on his knees there in front of him, his big brown eyes gazing adoringly into his own, and sliding his pink tongue along the length of his cock. Then he opened his wide, smiling, sensuous mouth and took him.

With a groan, he grasped his erection and after only a few strokes splattered the window-pane and the floor. Leaning his forehead against the cold glass, heart pounding, his mind in turmoil, guilt and shame warred with a growing realisation.

He never returned to La Grenouille, but he never forgot Guy, nor did he forget what he had discovered that night. Soon afterwards, he was posted to New York to join Section 2.

Napoleon's apartment, January, 1966:

How naive I had been then. Too ashamed and confused by my feelings to act upon them. My upbringing saw to that. Since Paris, I did approach a couple of men, by way of an experiment. It was well away from New York and U.N.C.L.E—I also discovered that homosexual love was no more acceptable here than back home. However, nothing really matched up to my fantasies about Guy. Sometimes it's easier to follow the conventional path and when I felt the urge, I stuck to girls thereafter.

But you don't get a choice when it comes to love. And since when did I choose the easy path? Gradually I realised my fantasies of Guy were being replaced by fantasies about someone closer, but equally unavailable. Friendship and admiration had turned into something deeper.

"You should go now, Mr. Kuryakin." The nurse fussed round, straightening bedclothes, checking monitors. The figure on the bed, festooned with wires and tubes, remained still.

"I will stay, thank you." His eyes did not leave the book he was pretending to read.

The nurse looked at her watch. "Mr. Kuryakin, you have been here four hours. There is no change in Mr. Solo's condition. It is late and I want to settle the patients down for the night."

He did not move or change his expression. The truth was, he was too exhausted to even contemplate the short trip to his apartment, and his heart was joined to this man on the bed.

They had been in a building when it collapsed. Napoleon had been badly injured, but not knocked unconscious. He was bleeding and Illya had known Napoleon was going gradually into shock. All the while he dug frantically to free him; afraid that rescue would come too late. He had talked calmly but insistently to his friend—keeping him awake, reminding him he had something to live for.

Not being a naturally garrulous person, he'd striven to find things to talk about that would keep Napoleon interested. As his friend's replies became less and less coherent, then gradually stopped altogether, he'd spoken of his arrival in New York.

He'd told Napoleon of the loneliness of those first weeks, when nobody wanted to know the "Commie". He'd spoken of the excitement of their first mission together, after other missions where he had been less than politely treated. He spoke of his gratitude that Napoleon, out of all the agents he had met, had accepted him for what he was, had become his friend.

He had used words he had never spoken before—" You are my dearest friend, Napoleon."

But Napoleon had not heard him. Napoleon had been close to death. His life still hung in the balance.

Now those words were burning in his heart and nothing was going to make him leave his dearest friend until he awoke.

He settled himself more comfortably in the chair and looked up at the nurse, removing his glasses so he could look her in the eye.

"Just think of me as part of the furniture,"

Yes, I was good at being part of the furniture.

I bided my time. Napoleon was such a consummate ladies' man that my infatuation seemed destined to be one-sided, but there was something in the way he was always touching me that kept a spark of hope alive and my intuition proved to be correct one night late last Fall in London of all places

We were lovers at last. I'd meant what I said to Napoleon that evening. I was content—more than content in fact. I'd say I was happy. I'm easily pleased—I've never had much love in my life and was content without it but now I was actually happy.

But was Napoleon happy? Was he happy with me? He'd said so, in a throwaway remark, but I couldn't help wondering if he would soon tire of me as a lover. After all, he never kept a girlfriend for long. Here today and gone tomorrow. I didn't want to be gone tomorrow.

It's never easy for either of us talking about the important matters. Discussing work's no problem; smart remarks, joking and playacting, our continuing rivalry on the shooting range and the wrestling mat, all that's easy to talk about, but our innermost feelings seem to be off limits most of the time.

I wanted to ensure that I remained part of Napoleon's life—more than just professionally. I didn't want to be dropped like a hot cake the moment a pretty girl walked into his path. I didn't want him falling for someone else because he was tired of me.

Of course I knew Napoleon's roving eye. I also knew that his dating would continue—if only to keep his reputation alive. I didn't mind too much. As I said, he loved them and left them mostly. What was worrying me a little was that the sex we had wasn't enough for that experienced, well-practised lover that was my partner.

Too much thinking. I was tired, yawning and ready for sleep. I should go to bed. I finished the last of my drink, rose from the armchair, yawning again, and went through to the bedroom.

I heard Illya enter the bedroom of course, I'm trained to sleep lightly, but I didn't open my eyes. I heard him undressing although he did it almost silently—cat-like even at home. After a short interval, he climbed in beside me.

Warm breath in my ear. "Are you asleep, Napoleon?"

"I was," I murmured.

"Mmm. Sorry." Illya wrapped himself tightly around my back, his strong arms pulling my hips into the hollow of his belly. How I loved the sweet softness of that belly, the silkiness of the underside of those wiry arms, the downiness of the hair on my partner's chest.

The softness of Illya's skin had been a revelation. Somehow I'd not expected it. Years of sleeping with a variety of women had taught me where the softness lay, the erogenous areas, even the off limit areas—few of my girlfriends ever liked their hair played with, for instance, complaining that it spoiled their expensive hair-does. A pity because I'm drawn to pretty hair. Illya's hair always fascinated me, the silky quality of it, the myriad colours. Long before we became lovers I had an urge to run my fingers through those slippery strands. But I'd never expected my partner's skin to be so touchable.

Despite our earlier lovemaking, I felt strong stirrings of arousal. Thinking about his pretty hair, and the way he was wrapped around me reminded me of that morning in London when everything changed. When for the first time we realised how much we cared for each other.

I grasped Illya's hand and guided it towards my hardening cock.

London, September 1965:

The hotel room was dingy and smelled faintly of stale cigarette smoke and something even less pleasant. He was sore, courtesy of Thrush, but it was more than the pain of his bruises keeping him awake. In the twin bed beside him, Illya slept as if poleaxed—several weeks of nightmares, added to the stressful mission, finally catching up with him.

Neither man gave much away about his past; it was easier that way, but that night, he'd learned a little of what sometimes gave his partner nightmares. His heart ached for his friend, but oddly, Illya seemed to be at peace for the first time in weeks. Maybe it was therapeutic to examine things from a different perspective, however painful at the time. But the exercise had left him feeling both drained and in turmoil.

It was simply a hug—an impulsive hug between friends. A comforting hug, meant to console. But for the few moments he stood there, holding Illya in his arms, something changed between them.

Illya had wound his arms around his neck and held on tight as if his life depended on it, shivering, leaning heavily against his shoulder. A pain shot through his bruised ribs as Illya leaned a little too heavily, but he managed not to flinch, just stroked the back of Illya's head, ran his fingers through the damp, sweaty hair.

And kissed the side of his head, just above the ear.

He couldn't help it. It was spontaneous, like the hug. Illya didn't seem to notice. He kissed Illya's hair again and this time an electric charge shot from his lips to his groin. A jolt of arousal surged through his bruised body, obliterating all other feeling.

Taken aback, he steered Illya towards the bed and unwound the suddenly boneless arms from around his neck. Had Illya felt the frisson? "Better?" he asked as Illya slumped down onto the bed.

Illya said nothing, but nodded dumbly. He continued to shiver.

"Get into bed. Are you cold?"

"I'm all right now." Illya sighed and lay down, closing his eyes. "I want to sleep."

"And so you should. No more shouting and waking the neighbours."

"No, Napoleon." A hint of insolence. That was a good sign. Illya pulled the sheet and grey blanket around his shoulders and sighed again.

And that was it. Illya slept immovably and he lay awake and wrestled with his emotions.

What, exactly, had changed during that hug? Had they suddenly become closer than before—perhaps because Illya allowed him to share his fears? But he'd seen Illya frightened before, seen his blue eyes wide with fear, had even hugged him before. To be honest, he liked to touch him and often did—within the bounds of acceptability—a tweak of the lapel or tie, a tap on the chest, a slap on the back. He was fond of his irascible partner—loved him, in fact.

Loved him. But desired him sexually? Wait a minute.

He wasn't sexually attracted to men—at least not these days. There had been a time when he was in the army . . . but that was different, that was—expedience because few women were available. It was different now.

He wasn't sexually attracted to Illya. He wasn't. He couldn't be. Could he?

Apparently he could.

His world had just turned upside down with that one embrace.

The more he tried to deny it to himself, the more his body told him otherwise. The memory of holding that hard, wiry body and stroking that soft, thick hair, of breathing in the familiar scent of his partner, of kissing his hair...

He must have eventually fallen asleep because suddenly he felt someone stroking his forehead and hair. For a brief moment he thought he had a girl in his bed but then he remembered where he was and who was there with him.

Illya was sitting on the bed beside him. "Good morning."

He blinked. Yes, it was morning. Pale grey light leaked in through the flimsy curtains. He heaved himself into a half sitting position and groaned as his bruised ribs protested.

Illya gave a sympathetic grimace. "Hmm. I was going to ask how you feel, but I think I know the answer." He was gazing at him the way he often did, but this morning those blue eyes seemed somehow wider, the gaze softer. "Want some aspirin?"

He nodded and watched as Illya crossed the room and rummaged in his case, shaking two aspirin out of a small brown bottle, went into the bathroom and reappeared with the tooth-mug half full of water. His pyjama top was hanging open, showing the blondish fuzz on his chest. The trousers were slightly too long and caught under the heels of his bare feet. His hair was askew and his eyes huge and dark-smudged in his pale face. He looked scruffy, tired and very desirable.

"Here." Illya sat down on the side of the bed and handed him the aspirin, placing the water carefully on the night-stand. Then he stretched out a hand and stroked Napoleon's hair back from his forehead.

Once again a bolt of desire surged through him. What was Illya doing? Unlike himself, Illya was not usually physically demonstrative. How did he know? The answer was easy. There was no mistaking what had passed between them yesterday. Illya had simply not acknowledged it at the time.

Suddenly he had to use all his willpower to keep from grabbing Illya and kissing him. "Illya . . ."

"It's all right, Napoleon. We have plenty of time. Let me see." Illya opened the pyjama top and ran a hand expertly down his ribs. Illya's touch sent electric shocks through his body.

Illya had examined him like this before—they both had during past missions when either of them had taken a beating—but now those warm hands made him shiver with desire. As that desire began to manifest itself, he tried, half-heartedly, to create a diversion. "How are you this morning? No nightmares?"

Illya's lips twitched into a little smile. "I'm fine. Thank you for asking."

He swallowed as he realised he'd not seen that smile for a long time. "I mean are you really all right?"

"Yes, really. I'm sorry you had to be dragged into my nightmares. I am. But I'm fine now." Illya ran his clever fingers quickly and gently over the bruised ribs again.

More fireworks that were nothing to do with pain.

Illya's tone was sympathetic. "These bruises are going to be glorious technicolour by the time we get back to New York."

"I don't think there's anything actually broken" It didn't matter. Illya's earlier problems had been far greater than any physical damage to himself.

Bruises were the least of his problems.

Now there was another all-consuming problem. He kept getting this urge to kiss him again. Damn, this was embarrassing!

"Ah—about last night . . ." He really wanted Illya to keep touching him. Illya was sitting so close that he could feel the heat given off by his skin. He was gazing at him so lovingly . . .

Despite the fact that he wasn't given to casual caresses, Illya often shared his personal space and he would notice him staring fondly, rather as an adoring younger brother might. But this morning even Illya's usual familiar body language seemed to have subtly changed. Was he reading the signals correctly or was it just wishful thinking? He caught hold of his friend's hand and held it to his chest, wondering if Illya could feel the wild beating of his heart.

"Last night I felt . . . no, this is going to sound silly." Maybe he was wrong. He firmly removed the hand from his chest and placed it back in Illya's lap, but somehow couldn't bring himself to let go.

"Go on." Illya seemed unabashed by the hand-holding.

But he let go Illya's hand. "No, it's nothing. Well, what I mean is . . ." He looked away, and then glanced back at Illya.

Illya lifted an eyebrow.

A deep breath. "What I mean is, last night I felt very . . . close to you." He frowned. "I'm not explaining this well. Forget it."

But Illya's ears and cheeks flushed red. He looked down at his hands and examined his fingernails. "No. Let's not forget it, Napoleon. I will never forget." He fell silent for a moment or two, picking at a hang-nail. Was he really all right? Maybe that's what all this was about. When Illya looked up, after what seemed an age, it was directly at him and his blue eyes were soft and bright with—what?

And then it happened again. He reached out and put his arms around Illya. Illya leaned into the embrace as he had last night, but this time it was Illya who pushed him back onto the pillow and suddenly they were lying on the bed together, locked in each other's arms.

An unnerving sense of unreality surrounded him as he found himself once more stroking Illya's hair. But today Illya's face was buried in his neck and he could feel the heat of his breath on his ear. Pulling him in tighter, the pain of his ribs was anaesthetised by the sudden, growing arousal that was surging through him.

Then he felt Illya kiss the side of his neck.

Napoleon's Apartment, January 1966:

I woke early, as is my habit, despite the whisky and the late night. It was still dark, but I could see from the bedside clock it was just after six a.m. Time to lie and enjoy being in bed with Napoleon beside me. His apartment is so luxurious, especially the ample space of that large bed. I have a double bed of sorts at home—but not so lavish and not with such decadent sheets. Napoleon's sheets are softest Egyptian cotton and the comforter, a deep burgundy that matches the curtains, is puffy and light like the abundant pillows. I'd no idea such luxury existed, even in America, until I saw for myself.

And we had used every inch of the bed, rolling around, making love in all manner of imaginative ways.

All manner except one.

The previous night, when I finally staggered to bed, I had a strong notion to take Napoleon from behind—really take him. As I wrapped himself around my sleepy partner's back, I imagined, as I slipped between Napoleon's thighs, my hand pumping his cock, that I'd actually penetrated that small opening that rested so snugly against my lower belly.

Napoleon gripped me hard with his strong thighs, providing such delicious friction, that what with my imagination working overtime as well, I came hard and quickly, lasting no longer than earlier in the evening.

Penetration is not something to be undertaken lightly and when my partner was half asleep was the wrong time to broach the subject, but I began to wonder if the way to keep the status quo was to change—or at least move on.

It wasn't that I was dissatisfied. Far from it—I'd had more sex in the last three months than I'd had in the previous three years. Much more. Napoleon's reputation was well deserved—his libido was impressive. And I was pretty impressed with mine too, considering how rusty and out of practice it was, although part of me wasn't surprised. After all, I had the man I wanted, the man I loved.

Yes, I loved Napoleon. I'd known that for a long time. I'd even admitted to myself long ago that I desired him sexually. But it was a bolt from the blue to discover that Napoleon felt the same desire towards me. He seemed at times almost aggressively heterosexual. Often he'd glance up smugly while kissing a girl, as if by doing so he was asserting his superior sexuality. Sometimes, I used to imagine I was on the receiving end of the kiss and then I would turn away, lest my momentary jealousy show. But more often I thought of Guy, who liked both men and women, and waited.

Napoleon loved me. I knew it.

How strange that it had been at that vulnerable moment when we were both low, Napoleon with minor but painful injuries and I battered by my psyche, that our love chose to manifest itself.

It was odd the way things had turned out. It struck me especially when I was in Napoleon's bed, in Napoleon's arms, in Napoleon's thrall. These days, Napoleon often took the lead in our lovemaking, unlike that first occasion.

London: September 1965:

Napoleon groaned. "Ah, Illya."

Illya felt another kiss planted on the top of his head—soft, but not a mere brush of the lips, a real kiss.

Napoleon wanted him.

He hadn't been aware of how aroused he had become, but now he pressed suggestively against his partner's thigh, turned his head and began a series of small kisses up and down Napoleon's throat, feeling the roughness of the unshaven whiskers against his already sensitive lips.

At once he felt his partner pull back a little. "Illya . . ?" Was Napoleon unsure? Had he read the signals wrongly? Surely not—he could feel a hardness against him that matched his own.

Illya lifted his head. "Napoleon?"

His friend's face was close enough now to kiss on the lips. Desire was raging through him, and he realised he was already unbearably hard.

"Illya—are you really all right? Do you . . ." Napoleon trailed off.

. Illya pushed himself up onto his side and reached out to stroke his hair once more. He gazed into Napoleon's troubled brown eyes.

"I'm really all right." But was Napoleon all right?

"It's just that last night I . . . I felt . . ."

"I know. You said."

"Do you really want this?" Napoleon's voice was shaking. Illya had never heard his voice sound as tentative. Napoleon always seemed so confident. His partner seemed as nervous as a teenager on his first date.

His first date.

It suddenly struck Illya that this was the problem. Was this Napoleon's first experience with a man?

"Shhh." Illya covered Napoleon's mouth with his own. For once, his limited experience was the greater. He felt a weight of responsibility. After all, he had made the first move. He'd started this. He'd felt Napoleon's desire last night and had decided to act upon it. And he had been right. Napoleon wanted him. He could feel his friend's desire.

Napoleon's mouth opened. Illya had imagined this moment so often when he had watched Napoleon kissing girls. Kissing was his speciality—his area of expertise and Illya felt consumed by the sensuousness of those lips on his. Without thinking about it, he began exploring Napoleon's mouth with his tongue.

It was strangely familiar tasting Napoleon's mouth. Illya realised he knew how he would taste. Close proximity in many different situations had primed his senses.

Napoleon began to kiss back.

Napoleon's apartment, January 1966:

I awoke to the touch of Illya's warm skin against my own. He nearly always woke first when we slept together, unless it was a day off—then he would slumber on as if his internal alarm clock had been reset. It was something to do with my partner's incredible internal radar. This morning, after the late night and the tiring mission, my body was reluctant to come to and cried out for coffee.

I knew we would make love again before we left for work. Making love in the morning when you're still both a little sleepy is a particular pleasure. And yet only a matter of months ago, I had been like a teenager on his first date—nervous and apprehensive, desperately wanting it, but wondering what my partner would ask of me . . .

London, September 1965:

At last they broke away, gasping for air.

What had they started? Napoleon's mind kept trying to bring him back to reality, but his body was already at the point of no return.

Illya was taking the lead, and that, in itself, was unfamiliar. It was unfamiliar and yet Illya seemed strangely confident—confident and determined. This feeling of being putty in Illya's hands was unnerving as much as it was exciting. He swallowed. What now?

Illya kissed him once more, briefly on the lips, then knelt up on the narrow bed and straddled him. He caught a glimpse of Illya's hard cock, pushing out of his pyjama fly. His own cock already felt at bursting point and he wondered if Illya would touch it, because if he did . . . God he really wanted Illya to touch him, and yet still his mind was screaming caution. "Illya . . ."

But Illya laid a finger over his lips. "Shh, Napoleon. Don't talk. Please."

"But . . ." He still felt out of control. Now what? He desperately wanted this. He shouldn't, but he did. He was out of his depth, overwhelmed with excitement but at the same time apprehensive. What if . . .

"It's all right, I know what to do." Illya always could read his mind.

A shuddering sigh. What if Illya wanted . . .? It was so much safer with girls, when he was in control.

Illya looked at him shrewdly, the blue eyes narrowed. "Napoleon?"

He wanted this. He was safe with Illya—his Illya who would never do anything to hurt him. "I'm okay. It's just that . . ." *there's something you need to know*. "It's just that it feels so good." And it did.

Illya once more ran his hands over his body. This time the hands shook a little as if Illya were keeping himself in check. He felt a brush over his nipple. "Oh!" That was good. He could sense Illya's excitement, not just in the shaking hands that toyed with the other nipple now, sending shivers through his body, but in the flushed face and the way Illya kept moistening his lips with his tongue, the heavy breathing matching his own.

It would be all right. It was all right. This was Illya . . . He relaxed.

He was in Illya's hands and it felt right.

Those hands roamed all over his hips, snagging the pyjama bottoms and pulling at them. He lifted his hips and allowed the trousers to be drawn down. His cock sprang free and Illya stared at it for a few moments before very gently running a finger along the length of it.

"Uh!" His cock jerked as if an electric current had passed through it. This was the Rubicon.

He trusted his partner. They both wanted this. This was it. It was all he could do not to cry out and beg Illya to touch his cock again. Instead he moaned with frustration.

Illya bent over and ran his tongue along the same path his finger had taken, stopping when he reached the swollen tip and looking up at him, his blue eyes large and bright, the pupils dilated. He swallowed hard and gritted his teeth—he felt ready to come at any moment.

Illya blinked once and then engulfed the tip with his mouth.

"Illya!" His hands reached out of their own volition and entangled themselves in Illya's hair and he was quite unable to stop himself lifting his hips once again to encourage more of his cock inside the wet warmth. He could feel Illya's tongue, in an echo of the previous kisses, rolling round and round the tip, poking into the sensitive slit and causing him to gasp and writhe.

The hands that had been toying with his nipples and roaming up and down his chest—gently enough to cause him no pain from his injuries—now cupped and kneaded his buttocks as he lifted his hips higher and higher. Then suddenly there was the most delicious suction and Illya drew him almost all the way in.

He thrashed on the bed, rolling his head from side to side as he felt the inexorable build up of pressure. He somehow had enough wit to realise he had hold of Illya's hair in such a way that it could only be painful. He let go and grabbed a fistful of sheet. But by letting go of Illya's hair, he also let go of his control and he came in an overwhelming rush of sensation. He felt Illya's hand pump his spurting cock while the warmth of his mouth never left him. He wanted it to last forever, to keep this moment of climax going on and on, but at last his orgasm faded to a few twitches and he flopped down onto the bed again, his cock pulling free of his partner's mouth.

A moment later there was a gasp above him and he felt a warm splatter on his chest. He opened his eyes to see Illya leaning over him, his face contorted, pumping his own cock with his left hand. He grabbed Illya's head and pulled his partner down for a kiss, tasting his own semen in the warm mouth, feeling another splash as Illya continued to come.

It was a while before either of them could speak. As his pounding heartbeat lessened, he realised, as the thrumming at his ribs dwindled, that Illya's heart was also slowing down.

"Uh—where'd you learn to do that?"

"Do what?" Illya's voice was languid.

Insolent Russian. "You know."

"Oh, that." Illya gave a little laugh and rolled away, almost falling off the narrow bed. "Another of my hidden talents."

"Remind me to look and see if you have any more hidden anywhere." He looked round for something to clean himself with.

Illya handed him his discarded pyjama trousers. "As a matter of fact I have several you don't know about."

As he dabbed at the mess on his chest, he realised he hadn't contributed much at all. He'd just lain back and taken it. He made a wry face. "I'll do better next time."

Illya leaned over and kissed him. "We both will."

So there would be a next time.

"It's just that it was all rather unexpected." An understatement if he ever heard one.

Illya sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. "Unexpected? Really, Napoleon." He raised his eyebrows.

A flush of heat suffused him. This mission was turning out to be a memorable one in many ways. "I didn't think you noticed—last night I mean."

Illya's eyes widened still farther for a moment. "Napoleon—the one thing that I am not is unobservant. I admit I was somewhat surprised."

"But not shocked?"

Illya smiled. "On the contrary, I was growing old waiting." Then he stood. "We should get ready. We don't want to miss our flight home." He still had on his pyjamas, although they were even more askew. He divested himself of them and headed for the bathroom.

He didn't pursue it. It was enough that Illya's radar was obviously in full working order, despite his recent trauma. As he heard the antediluvian plumbing clank and rattle into life, Wasn't it strange how they so often came up with the same thought at the same moment?

Maybe this had been one of their better ones.

Napoleon's apartment, January 1966:

It seemed neither of us was very experienced with men. Napoleon and I learned together, being inventive, learning what each of us enjoyed, what turned us on, where the ticklish bits were and what were no-go areas.

Napoleon soon discovered that he could reduce me to a quivering jelly by merely blowing in my ear. He sometimes did it for badness when we were at work and went away smiling smugly as I would blush to the roots of my hair and turn away lest my instant arousal would show.

I was a little surprised that the notion of back-door sex had not been raised before now. It must have crossed Napoleon's mind, since he was so well-versed in matters sexual. I wondered if he'd already had experience—perhaps not with proper little American girls, but some of those foreign lovelies that he's romanced over the years could have suggested it. For myself, I had done it just the once, with a rent-boy in Khatmandu for whom I cared not a fig. He seemed to expect it and I, in my innocence, was happy to oblige. While I recovered my wits, he almost made off with my wallet. Almost. I taught him the error of his thieving ways and he taught me that fucking a man was not only possible, but most enjoyable.

My fantasies were getting the better of me. Thinking about it now was making me hard. I reached out and put my arm around Napoleon, who had fallen asleep again and snored softly beside me. I felt for his penis and found it soft, curled between his legs, as asleep as he was.

The touch caused Napoleon to stir and snuffle. "Wha'time isit?"

"Ssh—early. You can go back to sleep." But I left my hand where it was and was rewarded by a twitch and a gentle uncurling. My own organ swelled some more.

Napoleon gave a grunt and removed the hand firmly. "Need coffee." He yawned. "And a shower. Go make yourself useful."

"I thought I was."

"Hmm." Napoleon started to get out of bed. "Coffee first . . ."

"Stay there—I'll get it." I should humour him. I got up and went into the bathroom for Napoleon's robe, my hard cock bobbing before me. I looked down at it ruefully. When had I last been in this almost continual state of sexual arousal? Not since I was sixteen and frustrated by the lack of outlets for all that emotion.

Napoleon's dark blue robe hung on the bathroom door and I snagged it and put it on. Another luxury—Napoleon always wore it after a shower and it carried his distinctive scent.

As I put out the cups and waited for the percolator to run its course, I decided to have a shower while the coffee was brewing in preparation for what I hoped was to come, but the bathroom door was closed. Napoleon was obviously awake enough to be driven up by calls of nature. My shower would have to wait.

Back in the kitchen, pangs of hunger assailed me. We had been too tired to eat much last night and dined on canned beans and some rather old bacon, so I poured a large bowl of cornflakes before remembering we'd not had time to buy milk. A search through the larder produced a can of orange juice, which proved an unusual but palatable substitute. By the time I'd greedily dispatched the lot, including a refill, the percolator was ready and I poured the coffee. Life was good. I picked up the two mugs and carried them through to the bedroom.

Napoleon was sitting on the bed, naked. The sight of his beautiful body made my heart turn over. I had it bad. I held out the mug of coffee and sat beside Napoleon. Already my cock started to harden once more. Napoleon looked at it, pointedly.

"I see you're ready for action."

Insolent American. I sipped my coffee, which tasted strong, just the way we both liked it. "The day is halfway over." I made eyes at him and blinked suggestively.

"Come here you gorgeous Russian." Napoleon put his mug down and kissed me on the forehead and then on the nose. "I'm going for a shower. I'll be back."

I noted with satisfaction that Napoleon's cock was also now at half-mast. "I thought coffee was mandatory before any action. If I'd known you could—uh—rise without it. . ."

"The old tricks are the best," Napoleon smirked. He took a large slug of the coffee before heading off once more for the bathroom.

The shower in Napoleon's apartment was another feature I have always admired and envied. For a start, instead of being over the bath, it's in a self-contained cubicle—a large cubicle that comfortably accommodates two slim UNCLE agents.

Perhaps now was the time to take a shower.

I drained my coffee and after a moment or two, followed Napoleon into the bathroom.

The water ran down my face, completing the waking process that the coffee had started. I wasn't too surprised when I heard Illya come into the bathroom and shut the door.

How like Illya. He couldn't quite shake the Communist in him. He believed in sharing—clothes, toothbrushes, bathwater—and showers. I pointed the spray away from the door as my partner entered the shower. The sight of his naked body, as always, caused a certain fluttering in my chest and a visceral jolt down below.

"Ah—waste not, want not, as my grandmother used to say."

Illya shut the door and pulled the spray back so that it covered us both. "I am glad you listened to her advice."

"Stand still." I reached for the shampoo. If Illya wished to share, he could at least give me the pleasure of washing his pretty hair.

Illya allowed himself to be shampooed, twice. Nice and docile. Illya had certainly mellowed since we started having sex. Maybe his previously uncertain temper had been due in part to sexual frustration. Not that Illya had lived entirely like a monk, but so little sex couldn't be good for one . . . With my thoughts turning to sex as usual when we were alone together these days, my half-hearted erection of earlier rose in all its glory to a very eager hard-on. A quickie in the shower would be nice.

Some more vigorous mutual soaping, a few wet kisses and he was as hard as I was, ready for anything. Amazing how Illya could reduce me to a state of gibbering need with so little effort. He didn't need expensive meals, flowers, chocolates, trips to the theatre or the opera—although admittedly Illya would probably enjoy all of those with the possible exception of the flowers. There's definitely a lot to be said for sex on an equal footing. How many of my women friends would have brought me coffee in bed after staying up half the night drinking whisky? Some of them hog the bathroom in the morning too, so I'm forced to shave in a hurry. No, Illya was—I searched my mind for a suitable adjective—perfect.

I grabbed Illya's small, neat buttocks and smeared them with soap, massaging them hard while his big, capable hands did amazing things down around my thighs and balls. I soon had him squirming against my hands and I pulled us in close so that our soapy cocks rubbed and pressed together between our foamy bellies. I lost myself in the exquisite sensation, letting it flow over me like the water.

The repeated stimulation of his cock against mine was driving me to state of ecstasy and I reached between us to take hold of them, thus bringing those sensitive tips together in the way we both loved best. As I did so, I felt Illya's hand slip around my buttocks and then into my crack.

The invasion happened so quickly that it took me unawares. My reaction was violent and completely involuntary and I yelped and pulled away as if burned. My sphincter clenched tightly in outrage and I lashed out, without realising what I was doing. The next moment Illya was sprawled on the floor of the shower, the water pouring down on him and shock written all over his face.

My heart thundered like a sledge hammer and I felt momentarily sick. Somehow I got myself under control—a moment of deep breathing got rid of the worst of it, but I was still trembling with shock. At once I realised Illya was still sitting on the floor of the shower, staring up at me with an expression of disbelief. Letting out a shaky breath, I reached out a hand to help him up.

My erection had wilted. "I . . . I'm sorry. You caught me off guard." I pulled Illya to his feet as I willed my heart to slow down.

Illya rubbed his elbow, which had obviously made sharp contact with the tiles. "That was the idea, Napoleon." He smiled tightly and shrugged, but it was obvious that he was hurt and confused. I was appalled at the strength of my own reaction. It had taken one touch—that was all. I owed Illya an explanation but my mind refused.

Illya's blue eyes looked at me shrewdly. His erection had also deflated. He said nothing, just stared.

I didn't blame him. Disappointment and embarrassment warred in my mind, along with a residual queasiness inside that I really didn't want to identify. I could only stare back dumbly. If I could only bring myself to explain it, I would have.

I tried to grin self-deprecatingly to defuse the situation. "I guess I'm rather . . . a prude," I said, at length.

"Really?" Illya's eyes narrowed and he looked him me and down. "I hadn't noticed before." He turned the water back on and started to rinse himself, purposefully.

"Illya . . . you really don't understand. It's . . ." I wanted to reassure him, tell him it wasn't his fault. Perhaps if I'd had some warning and prepared myself—but the thought made me shudder.

"You don't have to explain." Illya patted me on the shoulder briefly, then exited the shower and began to dry himself, his movements brisk.

It was like cold water poured on our relationship. My rational mind told me not to be silly, this was not a big deal. Illya was surprised and a little hurt, but probably more so by being knocked down. He'd soon forget all about it and we could pick up where we left off. But my gut told me I'd just created a barrier. And my gut was usually right. Illya was going to be a little bit wary from now on.

The bond between us had cracked.

I turned off the shower and after a moment or two, followed Illya.


He usually enjoyed trips in the car, but today, as he sat on his mom's lap watching his daddy drive, the grown-ups seemed sad and grim and nobody played 'spot the truck' or read the road signs to him.

His mommy said he was sick and had to visit the doctor again at the hospital, but he didn't feel sick. He wanted to stay home and play with his new model car—the one grandpa had given him for his birthday. It was a Cadillac—a beautiful dark red. His daddy's car was black. A Plymouth—an old model. He preferred his red one.

"May I bring my car?" he had asked as Mommy buttoned him into his coat, ready for the drive.

"Not today, honey." She buttoned the coat right up to the neck. He undid the top button—it was too tight. He was getting too big for such a small coat. But his mom fastened the button again. "You have to keep warm, Napoleon, I don't want you catching cold as well."

Now he looked out the window again, watching the people walking as he whizzed past in the Plymouth. How come he was sick? He didn't feel hot; he'd eaten all his breakfast; he hadn't vomited. Why did he have to go to the hospital to see the horrid, red-faced doctor again?

A sudden fear made him shudder. "Mommy?"

His mom didn't answer at first. He pulled her face round to look at him. "Mommy?" he asked again, "Will the doctor use his needle? I don't want a shot."

"I don't know, honey. But Mommy will be there with you."

She didn't smile, but still looked sad, as if she were about to cry. He felt her stroke his hair and he snuggled into her fur jacket that smelled of mothballs and scent as she tightened her grip on him.

He didn't ask any more questions.

U.N.C.L.E. H.Q. January 1966:

Mr Waverly's meeting almost never happened. The weather was mild enough to walk to work. I walked alone. Illya had gone back to his apartment to collect some papers.

As I strolled along, giving the appearance of nonchalance, I tried to rationalise the morning's events.

It wasn't a big deal for God's sake. I'd known that sooner or later Illya would want to experiment with more than mutual masturbation and occasional fellatio. Amazing we'd continued for so long without the question of penetration being broached. I should have warned Illya about my problem in that area, but after that first, apprehensive moment when I'd wondered what he'd ask of me, I'd simply put it to the back of my mind and enjoyed the easy relationship we had.

Part of the charm of our affair was the intense but often rather fumbling, desperate nature of our lovemaking. Such a change from my usual encounters. I never had to say no before because I generally made most of the moves, maintaining a suave sophistication, all while keeping my excitement in check to make sure the lady had a good time. I was very good at it. I was good at saying goodbye too.

It was different with Illya.

Illya and I made love on an equal basis. I knew what made Illya feel good because it made me feel good too. The almost telepathic way we worked together often extended into our lovemaking. It had been easy to become complacent.

I should have been open straightaway and told Illya the truth. Illya would understand. Hadn't I helped him face his own problems only a few months ago? I decided to sit down and explain it to Illya that night.

I was just rehearsing in my head what I would say when I noticed a strangely familiar face in a shop window. A bespectacled man was arranging a twig hung with artificial pears—a pear tree? Why did that ring a bell? A partridge in a pear tree. A Partridge. A scraping sound above set the hairs on the back of my neck into overdrive and I leapt out of the way just as a brick hurtled down towards me—and cracked a huge hole in the sidewalk.

And so we were catapulted into another affair—in the Yukon this time.

Several days and several explosions later we found themselves side by side in the hospital with almost matching minor injuries and a chance to rest up for the first time in weeks.

Murphy, the little Inuit girl who had helped us, gave a twirl to show off her new outfit. She was leaving for McGill and had come to rub noses with both of us, although I suspect she was more interested in my partner's aristocratic nose. I very much hope so—she was much more his type.

When she left in a cloud of cheap perfume, I got out of bed and limped over to Illya, who was slightly more incapacitated with his leg in plaster. "She seems to like you."

Illya shrugged with his eyebrows in that endearing way he has. "I like her. I hope she gets on well."

"How long before that plaster comes off?" I wanted to test the water—to see if he'd forgiven me. I would need to tread very carefully. Illya could hold a grudge when he had a mind to.

"Another two days, apparently." Illya closed his eyes and settled himself on the pillow. "Not long enough. I could sleep for a week."

He probably would too. Illya has an amazing capacity for sleep, unlike me. I consider sleep a necessary nuisance rather than something to be actually enjoyed. I stretched out my good hand and ruffled his hair in my accustomed fashion. Behave as if nothing untoward had happened. "And you'll have to stay off that leg for a while after that."

"Fine." Illya sighed contentedly. "I shall look forward to it."

"So shall I." Might now be a good time to see if Illya was still okay with the Napoleon and Illya Affair? I wanted to be sure Illya had not taken the little incident in the shower as a more general rejection. After a pause, during which I itched to run my fingers through Illya's hair again, I offered, "Want to convalesce at my place? It makes sense with the elevator and all."

Illya turned his head and opened his unbandaged eye a crack. "Mmm," he replied, sleepily and, judging by the tiny smile that played around his lips, affirmatively.

In fact it turned out to be more than a week before the two of us were once again in a taxi on our way from HQ to Napoleon's apartment.

I was feeling more than rested. After a few days the inactivity had begun to pall. I'd caught up on my sleep and then some, read the only book the harassed nurse had been able to find—a predictable story about a young nurse who fell in love with and eventually married a deceptively grumpy doctor—and spun out the meals as long as was humanly possible. Most of the time I was bored.

Despite the attentive nurses, Napoleon had been bored too and we'd amused each other by reading the story aloud, I translating it into French and Napoleon Spanish, which he spoke with a slightly less execrable accent. To add some spice, we also added asides of our own which had become more and more prurient as the story progressed.

The little game racked up the sexual tension in the hospital room, but to my great relief, Napoleon had not, as far as I knew, even asked any of the nurses for her telephone number.

Although Napoleon did not shy away from the sexual signals I was lobbing at him, at no point did we attempt to touch one another. I couldn't help but wonder if I'd blown it that morning in the shower. Nothing had prepared me for that reaction to the merest touch. Something was deeply amiss.

Why had Napoleon reacted so strongly? I'd been mulling over the possibilities in my mind throughout the hospital stay. The last thing I wanted was to lose him. The very reason I'd started thinking about fucking was to ensure he didn't get bored with me. I knew my partner's fickle nature and while I hoped what we had was deeper, more special, there was always that fear in the back of my mind that he'd love me and leave me like all the rest.

Perhaps Napoleon's aversion was to do with the American obsession with cleanliness—I had never washed as thoroughly or as often as I had since coming to New York. Or maybe it really was just prudishness. Back home, nobody bothered to cover themselves the way Americans did. I'd never owned a robe before—a pointless garment, particularly given the temperature most people kept their homes—but I soon realised that walking around naked in front of others, even male workmates, was simply unacceptable here.

After the incident in the shower, I'd been even more afraid Napoleon would turn away from me and go back to the relative safety of one-night stands with girls. But all seemed well. It seemed Napoleon had forgiven me for the faux-pas. Now I had to somehow make it up to him. I had to make it clear that I would do whatever pleased him—whatever pleased us both. More than anything, I wanted to remain part of Napoleon's life

I was looking forward to making amends.

I limped into Napoleon's living room and lowered myself carefully onto the sofa. My cane clattered to the hardwood floor.

"Try not to break the furniture with that thing." Napoleon called from the kitchen, where he was putting the few essential groceries we'd picked up on the way home into the refrigerator.

It was wonderful to be home. Removing my jacket, I kicked off my shoes, which elicited a stab of protest from my injured leg. My shoes clunked down onto the floor. I took off my shoulder holster and let it fall too. Napoleon appeared in the doorway.

"Must you make yourself at home so resoundingly?"

I ignored the remark as I always did when I knew he didn't mean a word of it, and leaned over to select a record from the bookcase beside the sofa.

Napoleon's taste in music was almost as execrable as his French accent, veering towards syrupy shows and light opera of the type I detested. I'd tried to widen his repertoire by buying him a few 'presents' of music I could enjoy while I was here, steering clear of anything too way out of course. I selected a Beatles album I'd given him a while back. "May we have music?" Napoleon had not continued to collect Beatles LPs, but last year's would do. "It's been too quiet."

"I thought you said you wanted peace and quiet."

"That was then. I've had enough quiet now." I'd had enough inaction too. I wanted Napoleon to stop playing around in the kitchen and come and play with me instead.

'Oh yeah, I'll tell you something . . .' sang John Lennon. I hummed along, making eyes at Napoleon, who stood in the doorway, amusement playing on his face.

"I'm going to change," Napoleon announced, winking roguishly.

My heart gave a thump. Good sign. Hauling myself to my feet, I followed, limping heavily without the cane and trying not to slide in my stocking feet. The leg was only really painful if I tried to walk on it now. I stood at the threshold for a moment, still humming along to the song, while Napoleon divested himself of his suit, then, as he sat down on the bed to remove his shoulder holster and tie, I limped over and sat beside him.

I started to unfasten the buttons of Napoleon's shirt.

"And when I touch you I feel happy inside . . ." I sang, with John.

"It's such a feeling that my love I can't hide . . ." reposted Napoleon, slightly off key, and caught my face between warm hands, silencing us both with a kiss.

In no time, I found myself undressed and underneath a naked and very ardent Napoleon.

More than two weeks was a long time for my partner to be celibate. We kissed long and hard, devouring each other, licking and sucking at the skin around our necks and faces. The harshness of Napoleon's five o'clock shadow abraded my skin and heightened my senses. I could smell the faint whiff of aftershave from his skin even now. I drank it in and began to kiss him, our lips soft and puffy with need.

It had been a long time for me too and I was more than ready. A hair trigger away. Two weeks of yearning for my partner's touch overwhelmed me.

I thrust strongly into my partner's belly. As I felt Napoleon's hard cock rubbing deliciously and insistently against mine, an image flashed into my mind—that Napoleon was filling me. It brought my climax in a rush.

As the thundering sensation receded, I felt disappointment that I'd come so fast. It was too soon. I wanted more. I wanted us to spin this long-awaited encounter into more than just a race towards climax. Napoleon groaned as I wriggled out of his grasp.

"Illya . . . don't stop . . .please!" Napoleon gasped as I suddenly let go of his cock from between my thighs and the swollen organ wobbled free.

He was almost there, desperate for release, as I had been. Perhaps now would be a good time to try something else I'd been pondering during the long hours spent in that hospital bed.

My heart thumped and I swallowed in trepidation. I would be the bottom, which I believe is the technical term for what I was about to offer. But if Napoleon couldn't stand a finger exploring him, penetrating him with my cock was out of the question for now. Maybe this way would work. I was willing to try anything to keep Napoleon.

I decided to go for broke. "Napoleon, wait. Don't move." I rolled across the bed, my deflating cock still wet, my come dribbling down my chest and stomach. Smearing some between my hands, I rubbed them gently over Napoleon's ready erection. Napoleon groaned with pleasure and started to thrust. I stopped him by grasping the base hard. "Please, Napoleon. I want you in me."

Napoleon's luminous brown eyes widened. "Oh!" Then, as the words actually sank in, he frowned. "Illya—are you sure?"

I nodded. I was sure. I watched my friend's face carefully to check that the idea was not repellent. I'd wondered if Napoleon would find the whole idea of penetration distasteful, whatever way round, but he seemed compliant. More than compliant. "Please, Napoleon," I repeated, and then added, "If you'd like to."

Napoleon sat up, breathing hard and pushing my hands away from his penis, wet from my semen and his own pre-come. "Of course I'd like to." He rubbed a little of the semen around the head of his hard cock and my heart gave a lurch at that erotic sight. "If you're really sure."

I swallowed again and smeared some more of the semen that was caught in my pubic hair backwards, making myself ready. Fortunately, the enforced abstinence had ensured that my emission was profuse. I gasped with pleasure at the sensation and Napoleon gasped too, watching me, his eyes huge. Already I was imagining it was Napoleon touching me there. My cock, which had never entirely deflated, began to fill once more.

Napoleon watched, his face and chest flushed, his lips swollen to a sensuousness that I wanted to kiss. "God, Illya—what're you trying to do to me?"

Trying to hide my own apprehension. I grinned and waggled my eyebrows lasciviously. But I could feel myself beginning to shake from excitement and nerves as my cock continued to lengthen and swell.

My leg wasn't up to kneeling, which was my first instinct. That was the way I'd done it before and imagined using with Napoleon. I compromised by pulling the pillow under my hips. "Like this?" I asked. It felt so wanton that I couldn't resist a small thrust into the pillow. I heard Napoleon make a little squeaking noise that I took to be affirmative.

I was already as hard as I'd been earlier. A moment later I felt Napoleon's warm breath behind my ear. "All right?"

I breathed out the breath I'd been holding and swallowed. "Yes. Get on with it, Napoleon."

Then Napoleon's hands started to massage around my buttocks, slipping into my crack and causing a surge of excitement and arousal as the warm fingers caressed me. I heard Napoleon's intake of breath and then felt the blunt, slick head of his penis nudging at my opening.

It didn't hurt at all. I relaxed a little. "It's okay. Go in further," I ordered.

"I don't want to hurt you. Are you okay?" I could feel the pounding of Napoleon's heart and hear the shake in his voice as he kissed the back of my neck. Napoleon was holding himself in check, but only just. The thought made my cock twitch. Yes, I was okay. I was very okay.

I pushed back on Napoleon's cock to show how okay it was and suddenly something gave and it slid in. "Oh!" I gasped. My own cock twitched again and I pressed it convulsively into the pillow.

"You like that?" Napoleon sounded doubtful.

Chyort! Yes I liked it. "More!" I managed to squeak. I consciously relaxed myself and felt Napoleon slide in deeper.

"Argh!" It hurt and felt wonderful at the same time.

Napoleon hesitated. "Okay?"

I clutched the pillow beneath me. The pain lessened. "Keep going—it feels good, it's okay."

Napoleon reached round and wrapped a hot hand round my now very excited cock. Adjusting my position to make room, I groaned. "Oh! Yes, Napoleon, that's good." I wanted more.

"It doesn't hurt?" Napoleon's voice shook. "It feels incredible from this end."

I was desperate to feel what it was like all the way in. "Go on," I gasped. "You can move."

"Illya, if I don't go for it now I'm going to come before I can do anything. Are you ready?"

More than anything. "Move, Napoleon—please." I moved my own hips and clutched at Napoleon's hand.

"Oh God, Illya, that feels so good . . ." Napoleon froze then moved a little. He groaned. "Uh—I can't hold back much longer."

And then I felt him slide all the way in and an electric shock hit me. Something big. Something unprecedented. I couldn't stop myself crying out and pressed backwards once more. "Now, Napoleon! Do it!"

"I can't, I'm going to come—oh God!" Napoleon started to thrust, gently at first but then wildly, yanking my hips against him and each thrust hit that spot again and again, the hand round my penis echoing the movements. I felt the inexorable pressure build up and with the next hard thrust I exploded outwards, everything clenching inside. Napoleon growled with pleasure and then lost rhythm completely. I felt a hot rush inside me as the last spurt left my own body.

"All my lovin' I will give to you . . ." sang Paul, faintly from the living room.

"Illya, that was wonderful. It was amazing. It was . . ."

I was face down, breathing hard, sprawled on top of Illya, my cock still inside him. The prone body beneath me didn't move or speak.

Apprehension suddenly swept through me. Illya was hurt. How could I have lost control like that? I prided myself in never losing control.

"Illya—are you okay?" I pulled out quickly, but as gently as I could and rolled off him "Illya—speak to me." Oh God, please say he wasn't hurt. I shook the bony shoulder.

"Ungh." Illya rolled onto his side.

"Are you okay—I didn't hurt you?"

Illya blinked, then frowned. "Apart from almost suffocating me with your considerable weight, you mean?" Then he smiled. "No, Napoleon, you didn't hurt me. Quite the reverse in fact."

I exhaled the breath I'd been holding, that familiar feeling of momentary apprehension when I thought my partner was lost or injured replaced by an equally familiar relief. Illya was fine. We were both fine. I couldn't believe it. I'd never come so fast inside a lover since I was sixteen and fumbling with Suzie Schreider on her parents' sofa. I heaved myself up onto my elbow. "That was truly amazing."

Illya said nothing, but flopped onto his back, hair haloed out on one pillow, arms above his head, hips still raised on the other, his lax cock resting on one gold-fuzzed thigh, a picture of wantonness. I mentally photographed that scene for future enjoyment.

"Stay right there." I slid off the bed and went to the bathroom for a towel. Illya really did look all right. He looked more than that—the expression that sprang to mind was 'well-fucked'. I used the towel to clean myself up a little and went back into the bedroom. The bed looked well-fucked too. Illya hadn't moved.

Sitting on the bed next to Illya, I carefully cleaned him. Illya allowed my ministrations with an expression of contentment but said nothing. His eyes watched me with that bright blue stare I had come to know so well—assessing, waiting for my move.

A stab of doubt hit once more. "Are you sure you're okay? I completely lost it at the end. It's kind of embarrassing—I usually last longer." I gave a little self-deprecating laugh, hoping I didn't sound as anxious as I felt.

"Napoleon—I wanted it, I really wanted it. Of course you lost it at the end—I did too. It'll be easier next time."

Illya sat up, wincing a little.

Wincing. I swallowed. If I'd hurt Illya . . .

He tried to cover up another wince as he rolled off the bed. Alarm bells clanged inside my head. "What's the matter? You are hurting."

Illya made his exasperated face. "In case it has escaped your notice, I have an injured leg. As for the rest," he looked himself up and down with an expression of distaste, "it's nothing a shower won't help. Really, Napoleon, I'm fine." He limped off towards the bathroom. When he reached the door, he turned and said, "And by the way, you're right, it was truly amazing."

With that he went into the bathroom, shutting the door but not locking it.

I sat on the bed, allowing the tension to seep away. This was like a dream, the sort of dream where you find yourself on a roller-coaster and can't get off. Don't want to get off. But in the end it makes you sick.

I'd been worried that attacking Illya in the shower might have put off any further approaches. Illya always knew when it was time to back off, but as he had just demonstrated, he usually had a Plan B up his sleeve.

I'd never have suggested Plan B myself, but in the heat of the moment I'd been carried along with it. Illya seemed to enjoy it—to really enjoy it. And it had felt wonderful to be inside him, to be so intimately joined, surrounded by him, to feel the heat of his being. But now that feeling was overridden by worry.

I looked at the wreck of the bed. It was rumpled and messy from our emissions. Maybe next time we should take some precautions. Lay a towel or something. Then I almost laughed. What was I thinking? Sex with Illya was so different and exciting for the very reason that it was messy and crude and spontaneous. Heaven forbid that we should start laying towels!

But my stomach turned over again. It had been a close thing. I could have so easily hurt Illya. Maybe we should have used some proper lubrication—Vaseline or something. Penetrating a man was a whole different ball-game from doing it with a woman, although it felt equally as good. Better in some respects—Illya was as tight as a virgin and just as vulnerable. More vulnerable.

If there was a next time I must try to have more control.

I pulled the sheets from the bed and bundled them up with the soiled towel, throwing them to the corner of the room. I could deal with those later. I heard the toilet flush and the shower start, so I went to join Illya in the bathroom. "Room for two?"

I didn't enter the shower straight away, however, but sat on the side of the bath where I could see through the clear glass of the shower door as Illya soaped himself. His expression seemed to be one of extreme concentration as he lathered around his ass. He was going carefully, gently, as if it were tender.

Even though Illya had assured me he was fine, my obsessiveness set my heart racing.

I couldn't help mentally reversing our positions. The thought made me shudder, clutching the side of the bath, my stomach clenching. My rational mind told me that despite a certain amount of pain—and there had been some; I could tell when Illya was hurting, however much he tried to cover it up—despite that, Illya had found the experience intensely exciting.

But I also knew for a fact I could never reciprocate and that bothered me more than I cared to admit.

I'm an excellent lover. I pride myself on pleasing my partners: I can be gentle and considerate, passionate, even a little kinky—whatever the lady wants; no holds barred. I like to think I'm the consummate lover. And except for that first time in London, I had been so with Illya. I was good. I was the best. Until now.

Of course I'd thought about fucking Illya as a possibility, but knowing my problem, had pushed the question to the back of my mind because what Illya and I already did together was imaginative, novel and satisfying. Everything was on an equal footing and this was what made loving Illya so different, so special. Whatever I did for Illya, Illya could do for me. Until now.

The balance was suddenly upset.

The shower door opened and Illya's wet head peered through the steam. "Are you coming in?"

Time for some serious explanation. "Yes, yes. I was enjoying the view." I entered the shower, kissed my partner's beautiful mouth and stood under the spray. Illya immediately started to wash me.

A twinge of unease as the memory of the last shower we'd shared resurfaced.

"Don't worry, Napoleon, I'll be careful of your delicate bits." Illya grinned, as usual reading my thoughts.

I bit the bullet. "Ah—I've been meaning to explain about that."

Illya inclined his head but said nothing. He continued to soap me.

"Are you listening to me?"

"Lift your arms please." Illya carried on washing me. "I'm listening."

"I want to explain." I took hold of Illya's shoulders. "Just stop doing that a moment and hear me out."

Illya stopped, looked me in the eyes and gave that faint smile that always made my heart turn over. "Really—there's nothing to explain. We all have our little problems." He shrugged.

Always the master of understatement. "Actually, this could prove quite a big problem for us. I guess it's a phobia of sorts."

Illya gave a brief laugh. "As I said, we all have our little problems." He reached over and kissed me on the lips and then on each cheek. "Remember what I said the other night after Italy?"

I thought back. Where was Illya going with this? "You mean when you said we'd come a long way?"

"Yes." Illya smiled. "And we had—mostly by slow train. But what I meant was I was happy with how things have turned out. I am happy." Taking my hand in both of his he placed it over his heart, caressing it as he spoke. "I like it. And I like what we did just now." But then his expression changed to serious once more. "I don't expect you to reciprocate, if that's what worries you. There's no need. I believe it's quite common to have a preferred role."

Preferred? How could Illya prefer that? He was a man too. Surely he would want the experience of being surrounded by his partner in all that heat and tightness . . . Despite all my qualms, I felt a stab of arousal remembering how I'd fucked Illya. I wanted Illya to feel that good too. We always reciprocated. That was how our affair was—a meeting of equals.

And now we were no longer equal.

Pulling my partner into a slippery hug, I squeezed him hard. Illya didn't flinch but leaned into the hug while the water cascaded down on top of us, and squeezed back fiercely. He felt so good in my arms.



"If I wasn't so hungry I'd take you again, you Russian bear." But I knew I wouldn't. Pushing him to arm's length, I admired the lean, muscled torso, the sturdy limbs, the half-tumescent genitals. I could see love shining in his face, clear as day. We might fight, wrestle or whatever, but we'd never hurt each other. Ever.

I wanted to keep it that way.

I forced my face into a grin. "Or should I say bare Russian."

Supper was an exercise in indulgence. Too much bland hospital fare had made both of us long for something with a bit of taste and texture. I pushed the last of the huge steak around my plate, willing my stomach to expand a tiny bit more to fit it in. Napoleon had abandoned the last of his and was sitting back quaffing the Rioja.

I noticed Napoleon watching me again. "What?"

He seemed to have been monitoring me throughout the meal. Surely he wasn't still watching for signs of discomfort? Now he looked almost guilty.

"Nothing. More wine?" Napoleon put down his fork and picked up the half empty bottle.

I held out my glass. More wine might help indeed. "You were staring at me. You keep staring at me." It was truly getting on my nerves and making me uncomfortable. The tension in the room seemed palpable.

It no longer felt like home.

Napoleon poured some of the wine into both glasses. "I like watching you eat. You derive such obvious pleasure from it. When I first knew you, I didn't have you down as a gourmet, you know. You seemed so ascetic."

A bluff, but I went he along with it. "My Communist roots were showing? Did you assume I retired to my garret each evening and dined on cabbage and beets?" I decided to clear the table. Maybe some action would help the atmosphere. "Have you finished with that?"

Napoleon pushed his plate towards me and I piled it on top of my own. As I rose to take them over to the sink, a stab of pain lanced through my injured leg.

My involuntary wince was not lost on Napoleon. "What's the matter?"

Enough. This had to stop. I sighed, putting down the plates down on the table and leaning forward towards Napoleon, looking him straight in the eyes. "Napoleon—nothing is the matter. My leg still hurts a little when I put weight on it, that's all. Just forget it. Apart from my leg, nothing is wrong with me. Really. What's wrong with you?"

"You know." Napoleon looked away.

I didn't know. I'd thought offering myself to be fucked was a way forward in our affair. It seems I was wrong. I didn't bargain for this bizarre reaction from Napoleon. Since when were we so openly solicitous to each other unless there really was a serious injury? There was no reason for all this concern and I didn't appreciate being wrapped in cotton wool.

Frustration caused me to lash out and I snapped, "If you're going to start treating me like one of your girls I'm going home."

"If I treated you like one of my girls, I'd be the one going home," he reposted, anger flaring in his face.

There was some truth in that. Napoleon maintained he never entertained women in his own apartment. I cherished the idea that only I shared that huge, decadent bed.

"Can't you see that I'm simply concerned about you?" Napoleon turned away and rose from the table, banging the chair back unnecessarily hard. "Coffee?"

No, I couldn't see. All this agonising by Napoleon was unprecedented and pointless. I tried, unsuccessfully, to rein in my temper. "No thanks. I'd prefer to finish the wine." I couldn't help myself adding, "That is, if I'm to remain here."

Dumping the plates into the sink with a clatter, I ran water over them. I didn't really want to leave. I loved to be here—it was home, but not like this. Not on these terms.

I began to wash the plates, rinsing each one under the cold tap, still trying to control my anger. I heard Napoleon splash the last of the wine into the glasses and toss the empty bottle into the trash. Only when I had completed the task did I trust myself to turn to Napoleon once more. "Well?"

Napoleon was sitting down at the table again. "Do what you like," he said, and drained his wine in one gulp. "But hear this: I have never had any intention of treating you like a woman."

There was a passionate tone in his voice that made me feel both uncomfortable and rather moved.

I was first awake the following morning. I glanced at the clock—6.45. Illya lay beside me, his breathing quiet and even. I turned and Illya stirred, grunting and settling down again. We were due into work today. My Waverly, while admitting that neither of us was fit for fieldwork for the time being, nevertheless made it clear that our presence was expected at HQ. He did not hold with his agents languishing at home if they were fit enough to hold a fountain pen or peer down a microscope.

The atmosphere was still a little cool. The previous evening, after that little spat, I'd made a conscious effort not to monitor Illya's every move. His mood had softened a little as the evening wore on but it was clear he was still unhappy.

It didn't help that I was responsible for Illya's crankiness. But I just couldn't control my mind, which insisted on replaying, over and over, the evening's sexual encounter. Part of me couldn't wait to repeat it, but deep in my gut, I knew it was wrong.

Illya had said he did not want to be treated like a woman.

Hadn't fucking him been doing just that?

Fucking Illya had been exciting as hell. I'd been carried away with the heat of the moment. It had been so long and Illya was irresistible. Being inside him had felt so good. So damned good.

Here was the rub though. How could he possibly have enjoyed it? Illya, who refused to be treated like a woman. Why did he offer himself like that?

He'd most surely wanted it. Other male couples practised sex that way and other men found it acceptable. Maybe Illya had done it before with another man, although judging by the nervousness he'd not entirely managed to hide, it seemed unlikely he'd been on the receiving end.

My mind would not leave it alone, and foremost was that first cry of pain from him.

But at the end something had suddenly driven him wild—wild enough to discount the obvious pain he felt at the penetration. I felt myself flush hot as I thought of that pain—the pain I'd inflicted on my partner—my lover. I swallowed convulsively as my heart began to beat faster. It must have hurt him—it must have . . .


The doctor bent down to peer at him and his florid, puffy face distorted into a frown. "Now young man—I hear you've been giving your mother some trouble."

"No. No trouble, sir." He would never upset his mom. He hated to see her cry. She had been crying again today before Daddy drove them to the hospital. "And I'm not sick so I don't need any shot."

"She tells me you've been complaining of a stomach ache and waking up at night."

"Yes, sir. But I didn't complain. I haven't been bad." He looked up at his mother for affirmation. She didn't smile. Her eyes were looking sad again. He didn't want her to be sad. He smiled at her to cheer her up, and then turned to frown at the doctor, who puffed out his cheeks and blew tobacco breath at him.

"I think we should have a look at you, young man. Would you like to take your coat off for me?"

"No, thank you." He clutched his coat defensively round him.

"Oh come now, I can't look at your tummy if you keep your coat on, can I?" The doctor turned to his mommy. "Would you . . . Mrs Solo—are you all right?"

He looked up at his mom and saw that she was crying again. The doctor spoke into his telephone. After a moment the door opened and Daddy came in. He put his arm around Mommy and gave her his big hanky. Mommy dabbed at her eyes and blew her nose. "I'm sorry, Frank—it's just this place."

"Why don't you take your wife outside for some air, Mr Solo? We'll be all right, won't we, young man?"

He swallowed the big lump in his throat. Whenever Mommy cried it made him want to cry too. He frowned again at the doctor, but nodded, bravely. He didn't like the doctor much. He smelled funny and he kept calling him 'young man' instead of his proper name. But he had a thing round his neck for listening to your heart and he had allowed him a listen when he came to see Celie. Perhaps if he took his coat off for him, the doctor would let him listen again. He started slowly to unbutton the coat.

Mommy and Daddy left the room. He watched the door close. Then the doctor spoke on his telephone again. The door opened once more and a lady in a white apron came in. She said nothing, but stood beside the doctor. She had a red face too, and strangely yellow hair showing from beneath a white hat that perched on the top of her head and looked as if it might fall off. He wondered if he was going to be taken away like Celie.

"I don't want to go anywhere." He started to fasten his coat again, a sudden panic seizing him. Celie had been taken away by Men in Jities. He didn't know what jities were, but suspected they were white, because the men who took Celie away wore white coats.

"Don't be silly, Napoleon. Come with me." The nurse tried to take his hand.

"No!" he snatched his hand away. "I don't want to go anywhere and I don't want a shot."

"You're not having a shot, silly boy. Just come behind the screen and we'll take your coat and shirt off so the doctor can examine you."

"No. I'm going home now," he said, firmly, heading towards the door. Just as he reached it, he was seized tightly around the waist, lifted, kicking and yelling, behind the screen, and plonked onto a very high, black table.

"Now you just sit there and stop that noise. Your mommy can't hear you. She's gone outside with your daddy since you made her cry. You're a naughty little boy to upset your mommy so."

He stopped yelling and glared at her. Why did she think he was the one who made Mommy cry? It wasn't him. She'd been crying so much, ever since Celie went to live with Jesus after the Men in Jities came. He sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve just as the doctor walked round the screen. He was carrying his listening thing and a tray with a lot of shiny items on it.

U.N.C.L.E Headquarters: Three weeks later:

"I'll make it up to you, Illya—really I will."

Illya sneezed and glared balefully at me over his glasses. "You're too late, Napoleon. I already caught a cold."

I moved closer to my partner's desk and pushed the glasses back up onto his aggrieved face—if there was one thing worse than Illya's ugly reading glasses, it was Illya's reading glasses halfway down his (extremely out of joint) nose. "I assure you it was all in the line of duty."

He made a noise halfway between a snort and a sniff, then took out his handkerchief and blew his nose loudly. "It's fortunate for you how often your duty lies in the arms of some pretty girl, isn't it?" he sneered, after a dramatic pause.

Ouch! Well at least Illya was speaking to me now. Yesterday he'd frozen me out completely. It was time to appeal to the inner man. "How about if I take you out to dinner? Freddi's?"

Was that a momentary flash of interest, or another sneeze coming on?

I pushed further. "Actually I have a table already booked." It was true—sort of.

"Will this be before or after your date with whatshername—Jojo?"

Uh-oh. Jojo. As I'd suspected.

"As a matter of fact I no longer have a date." I made a mental note to phone Jojo and make my excuses the minute I was out of Illya's earshot. I didn't particularly want to go out with her anyway, but I'd made the date to fend her off from the week's vacation I'd so rashly mentioned. Old habits die hard.

But why was Illya acting so put out? We never made any promises to each other to give up dating. Illya knew quite well it was sometimes necessary for the job, but it was more than that. I can't help it that my sexuality almost defines me. If you've got it, you've got it and I've got it. Or at least I used to have it. Maybe I needed a little affirmation that the there's life in the old dog yet.

What's more, Illya's perfectly capable of dispatching a couple of Thrush on his own, rainstorm or not. Wasn't it a measure of my complete confidence in Illya that I'd allowed him to do so unhindered? There was no point in both of us getting soaked at the cemetery.

Illya capped his pen and shuffled the papers into a pile, the frown on his face etched between his brows. "There—if you can spare the time." He pushed the pile towards me with a sneer. "And you may as well cancel the table at Freddi's unless you want to go yourself. I don't feel like going out." As if to emphasise his point, he sneezed enormously once more.

Once it was safe after the inevitable nose-blowing that ensued, I leaned forward and straightened his tie, more askew than usual. I removed the ugly black glasses. He really did have a knack of looking woebegone when he had a mind to and I only just managed to stifle a laugh as he regarded me with a tragic stare from watery blue eyes.

Apologies were called for. "Okay. I'm sorry. I meant what I said—I'll make it up to you."

"How?" Illya's shoulders slumped, the fight suddenly gone out of him.

How to appease him? Best to fall back on the tried and tested. "Well, if you don't feel like going out, how about you come over to my place tonight and we eat in. Feed a cold, you know."

Illya shrugged. "All right, if you insist on salving your conscience."

"Chicken soup from George's deli?" A ghost of a smile at that suggestion. Good. Comfort food for the sick. "I'll stop by George's on the way home. I should be finished with these in half an hour." With that I picked up the pile of papers. "Want to go on ahead?"

I used the key Napoleon had given me weeks ago to let myself into the apartment. I felt tired and shivery. It was hard work staying mad with Napoleon all day and I hadn't the energy to keep it going any longer. Besides, this was really where I wanted to be. It was impossible to stay mad with him for long, especially when there were offers of comfort and soup.

I wondered if sex was on offer too.

Nothing had been quite the same since our last sexual encounter. Napoleon seemed somehow different, more distant. Was it possible now to re-establish what we had before? I very much wanted to.

At the cemetery, he'd smugly abandoned me to fight while he canoodled in the car with that irritating blonde woman—she of the foolish name. It was as if he wanted prove something—to show me that I wasn't the only pebble on the beach.

I have to admit that time he slugged me in the shower shook me. It was fortunate we'd had a cooling off period, but then it had still gone wrong. The nonsense after we actually fucked irritated the hell out of me. What was wrong with him? He'd never treated me as if I were made of glass before.

Suddenly I was no longer so sure of my place as part of the furniture in Napoleon's life. Maybe this offer of dinner was his way of softening the blow that I'd outstayed my welcome.

I dropped my briefcase on the floor of the vestibule and went into the bedroom, making the usual checks on the way. A shiver ran through me as I took off my suit jacket and draped it over a chair. I don't usually feel the cold, but today I'd been chilled on and off as if my thermostat was off kilter.

I decided to take a bath to warm myself up and was still in there when I heard Napoleon enter the apartment and call out in a fake Southern accent, "Honey, I'm home!"

It was a joke but it rankled. Another reason to have words with Napoleon about treating me like one of his women. I seemed to have lost my sense of humour. With an effort, I stood up, sloshing water onto the tiled floor.

"Are you all right in there?" There was a sharp knock on the bathroom door. "Illya?"

I reached for the towel. It was pleasantly warm from the radiator. "Just coming."

Napoleon's head appeared round the door. The dark eyebrows waggled and brown eyes raked up and down my body and my heart melted. "No hurry. Take as long as you like." The head withdrew.

I dried off and donned Napoleon's robe. The shivery feeling had been replaced by an almost overwhelming sleepiness. The smell of chicken soup wafted from the kitchen. I wasn't sure which urge was greater, but my stomach growled, even as I looked longingly at the bed, the bedclothes invitingly turned down.

Napoleon appeared in the bedroom doorway carrying a tray. "Special treat for the sick and suffering. Get into bed."

No mention was made of sex, one way or the other. Napoleon stayed, sitting on the bed and chatting about the day's events while I ate and I began to feel easier. I didn't need to contribute much to the conversation, which was fortunate, because once I'd finished eating, all I wanted to do was sleep. My eyes were closing even before I took the last mouthful.

Napoleon removed the tray and pulled the bedclothes up around me. "Comfortable?"

Yes, I was comfortable. Very. Suddenly things were looking up again. I felt warm and full. I was in my favourite place, Napoleon's bed. Napoleon wanted me there. Even the discomfort of my sore throat and congested nose seemed less. "Mmm."

I felt Napoleon smooth my hair and feel my forehead with his cool hand. "I'll see you later."

Did he intend going out with Jojo after all? I opened my eyes, but he wore his dressing gown and slippers over his shirt and pants, his tie and shoulder-holster were on the chair with mine. I relaxed.

I felt rather than heard Napoleon slip into bed. Opening my eyes and glancing at the clock, I saw it was almost midnight.

"I'm sorry, I was trying not to wake you." He kissed me on the forehead. "Feeling any better?"

I did, and told him so, then turned and draped an arm over him, enjoying the feel of his bare skin next to me. "If you want . . ."

But Napoleon kissed me again, lightly on the cheek. "Let's see how you feel in the morning. Sex isn't the only reason I like having you in my bed. Go back to sleep."

I curled myself around him, revelling in the warmth that emanated from his body. Sex wasn't the only reason I liked being here either. I just liked being with Napoleon, in his bed, in his home, part of the furniture. I wanted to keep it that way, and bring back the equilibrium we'd enjoyed before.

I woke to the sound of snuffly snoring. Illya was lying on his back, breathing through his mouth. For some reason the sound of his snoring was amusing. He didn't usually snore. It must be his cold.

Of course I'd been wakened by the sound of snoring before—some of the women I've been to bed with snored. They would have been horrified if I'd told them so, and I never did.

No such qualms with Illya.

"Turn over, you're snoring." I gently pushed my sleeping partner over onto his side and spooned myself behind him. The snoring stopped immediately.


"It's okay, go back to sleep. You were snoring fit to raise the roof."


I pulled Illya's bony backside snugly into the hollow of my belly. It felt good. Actually it felt delicious. My cock, never missing an opportunity, started to fill. I tried to ignore it—Illya was not here for sex tonight, but the sensation of skin on skin was irresistible.

"Mmm." Illya pressed his bottom more firmly against my belly. Mmm indeed. He guided my hand around him into his groin and I felt the stirrings of an erection there. Illya must be feeling better.

I pulled Illya's hips in, thrusting gently against him. Memories of the last time I'd done this surfaced—a pang of anxiety. What if Illya wanted to be fucked again? I felt myself clench up, as if I was the one who was about to be invaded. My erection faltered a little.


"Now, are you going to stay there and be a good boy?" The lady in the white apron began to unfasten his coat, none too gently.

He wriggled out of her grasp. "I can do it myself." He finished unbuttoning it and the lady pulled it off him. She turned to the doctor who had put the tray down and was polishing his glasses on a large handkerchief.

The high, padded table he was sitting on was harder than a bed, but it had a pillow so it must be for lying down. He sat with his legs dangling over the edge, ready to make his escape if they tried to give him a shot or take him away. The red-faced lady unfastened his shoes and pulled off his socks; then she unfastened two buttons and pulled his shirt and undershirt off together, over his head. The cuffs of his shirt stopped his arms from pulling through. He glared at her. Didn't she know anything?

"You're supposed to undo all the buttons first."

She yanked harder, sharply, and his hands pulled free, one of the buttons flying off onto the floor. "Now lie down, Napoleon."

"No." He folded his arms over his bare stomach, holding himself stiffly.

The doctor stepped forward. "Thank you nurse. Remain here please. Now then young man, I want you to lie down on this bed so that I can have a look at that tummy of yours that has been causing trouble."

"No trouble," he said, gruffly into his chest. Glancing up, he could see the listening thing gleaming on the doctor's chest. "What's that called?" he asked.

"It's a stethoscope. If you're a good boy I'll let you listen through it."

Reluctantly, he lay down on his back. As he did so, the lady stepped forward and whipped off his trousers and undershorts. "Hey!" He struggled upright up again.

"Thank you nurse. Come and hold him down please."

He looked from one to the other. Why did he need to be held down? Why did they take away all his clothes? He hoped his mom would finish crying and come back soon. There was something in his chest like a bird trying to get out and he didn't like it. But then he caught sight of the doctor's stethy-scope. Giving the nurse lady a hard stare, he lay down of his own accord.

"Now lie nice and still so I can feel your tummy," said the doctor

"And then I can listen?"

"Only if you're a good boy and do what the doctor tells you," said the nurse lady. She held his shoulders down. He looked up at her. She had a red bump on her chin with two hairs growing out of it. She didn't smell too good either.

He allowed himself to be poked and prodded. Every time the doctor asked if something hurt he answered no. The stethy thing was cold and it tickled. At last the doctor took it out of his ears and hung it round his neck. Now maybe he would let him listen and then he could go home. He sat up, eagerly, but the doctor walked away behind the screen and began speaking into his telephone once more.

He tried to get off the high bed, but the lady caught him and lifted him back, holding onto him tightly. "Stay there. The doctor hasn't finished with you yet."

He wondered why his mommy hadn't come back into the room. She must have done crying by now. Daddy usually made her better. "Where are my mommy and daddy?"

" I expect they've gone home." The nurse lady turned away from him and began arranging the shiny instruments on the tray.

A nasty, sick feeling came into his chest and the bird fluttering started again. Why had his parents left him? Were the Men in Jities going to come for him too? He glanced nervously around.

The lady picked up his clothes from the chair and went behind the screen with them. A moment later she came back carrying a dark orange bundle that she laid down beside him. He could smell that it was something made of rubber. "All right, you can get down for a moment but stand still." She lifted him off the bed.

"What's that for?" he asked, suspiciously, as she spread the orange rubber over the bed.

"It's to keep the bed clean. Now, up you go again." She lifted him back on the bed. The rubber felt cold and unpleasant on his bare bottom.

Just then he heard the door open. A moment later the doctor came round the screen. His heart raced in sudden fear. The doctor had taken off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. He was wearing a big orange rubber apron and was carrying a white pail. Behind him was another lady in a white apron. She was fatter than the red-faced lady but she wore the same thing perched on her head. She carried what looked like a long orange pipe, all coiled up.

"What's that?" he asked, fear making his voice tremble.

Nobody answered him. The red-faced lady took him by the shoulders and forced him down onto the cold rubber. "I've got him. He's a wriggler, this one."

He screamed in fear as the other lady grabbed his legs and pinned him down on his side.

"Bend your knees, sonny." She wrenched him so that his knees were bent.

"No!" He tried to straighten his legs but they were held tight. He yelled at the top of his voice. "Let me go!"

"Napoleon, stop that noise. Do you want to upset your mommy again? I'll tell her you've been a silly boy." Red-face gave him a little shake.

The smell of rubber was almost choking him. "I don't like it! Let me go!" He could feel the rubber getting all wet and slippery.

He heard the doctor's voice. "Lie still, Napoleon, or I shall have you strapped down." The voice sounded harsh and unkind.

"Let me go! I don't want to! I want to go home!" The more he yelled and tried to kick, the tighter the grip on him became. He started to cry in earnest. He really wanted to see his mommy. Where was she? Where was Daddy? He needed them.

Big hands were all over him, holding down his shoulders, his legs. Now he was sure that the doctor was one of the Men. He thrashed and kicked harder. "I want to go home! I don't want to go to live with Jesus!"

He managed to get a leg free and kicked one of them.

"Ouch! You little . . ." He felt a stinging slap on his bottom and howled.

"That's it. Strap him down."

There was nothing he could do. The more he struggled and kicked, the harder they held him. He shut his eyes and screamed, but still he was firmly strapped to the bed, his face squashed into the slippery, malodorous rubber. Now the straps as well as the nurse ladies held him so tightly he couldn't move at all. Only his head thrashed from side to side.

His terror mounted as he felt the cheeks of his bottom stretched apart. "Ow! Ow! No—stop! Please stop . . ."

Napoleon's apartment: 1966:

Illya covered my hand with his own, moving it up and down, impatiently. "Napoleon—don't start something if you don't intend to finish it."

I jerked back to the present. "Turn around," I whispered into his ear.

He turned and kissed me on the lips. "You're going to catch this cold," he warned when we broke the kiss.

"Good. Then you can look after me and give me chicken soup and tuck me up in bed and then make love to me." And maybe he'd forget all about the idea of fucking and things could go back to the way they had been.

I snaked my hand down between our bellies, fondling both hard cocks together.

Afterwards, I lay dozing, waiting for the alarm clock to tell me it was time to get up. I was suffused with pleasure. There had been no hint of invasion; neither of us had to ask what the other wanted; our connection had been absolute. It was instinctive. That was what I loved about Illya. That was why it felt so right to have him in my bed. Sex with my partner was infinitely more satisfying when we could share everything, like this morning.

Illya rolled over and reached for a tissue from the rapidly dwindling box of Kleenex. Sitting up, he blew his nose vigorously. "I don't suppose this cold warrants breakfast in bed?" he inquired, dabbing carefully at his red-tipped nose.

"Not a chance. I don't want more crumbs all over the sheets."

"You said you'd make it up to me."

"And so I did. Chicken soup—that's enough to atone for a little rain."

Illya opened his eyes wide and entreating. "Besides, you said yourself one should feed a cold."

How could I resist? "I suppose there is time. Not that I believe you're sick any more. This is definitely the last treat."

Three weeks later:

The room was stifling. Air conditioning was one of the many luxuries the island did not boast. I lay sleepless on the sagging double bed. Once again, Mr Waverly's parsimony had worked to our advantage, although Napoleon's overheated body beside me seemed enough to render it a disadvantage right now.

"Are you still awake, Napoleon?"

"Mmm. Too hot."

Time for a gloat. "This time tomorrow you'll be married." I chuckled. I was interested to see how he was going to wriggle out of this one.

He groaned. "And won't you be glad to dance at my wedding?"

"Napoleon, you know I don't dance," I protested, enjoying it immensely.

"You have to sing then."

"Mmm." I hummed a few bars from 'Lohengrin'. It should at least be entertaining. How glad I was I had not been the chosen one. Napoleon was much more accomplished in matters matrimonial.

"That's enough, smart Russian." Napoleon sighed. "I guess you're too hot to, you know . . ."

I rolled over and kissed him, tasting salty sweat. "You're almost a married man, remember? You should be saving yourself for tomorrow night. Although I wouldn't mind some 'you know.'"

We fondled each other languidly, mindful of the thin walls and the creaking bed. Maybe now was a good time to test the waters. I whispered into Napoleon's ear, "Do you want to fuck me?"

The hand on my cock faltered. Immediately I had my answer and wished I'd kept quiet. "It doesn't matter," I whispered, quickly, "This is nice."

But Napoleon rolled off me and lay on his back once again. "I wish . . . Illya, I can't . . . I just can't."

Why? I wasn't asking to fuck him. I'd taken on board that there were issues concerning his ass being touched, but the other way about? I'd really enjoyed the sensation and would have liked to try again. "What is it? What's wrong?"

"I can't do it to you again. I'm afraid . . ."

"Afraid? You seemed happy enough last time." What was the problem? It was obvious that Napoleon had found it as exciting as I had, and once I'd convinced him I was all right . . . Light dawned. "Ah—you mean you're still afraid of hurting me?"

Napoleon turned his head away.

"But I told you—it was wonderful. I accept . . ."

He turned onto his side and hit the pillow with his fist. "Yes, I'm afraid. I love you. I don't want to hurt you." I could feel tremors running through his body, shaking. "Dammit, Illya, don't you see it was a mistake? We can't do that again."

He sounded so anguished. Almost roughly, I pulled him over again and caught his chin between my hands, looking him straight in the eyes. Even so, my voice cracked. "You didn't hurt me, Napoleon. Did someone hurt you?" I smoothed the dark hair back from his forehead, my movements feeling clumsy.

Napoleon closed his eyes and I felt him shudder even more. "I'm sorry."

Obviously there was a lot more to this problem than mere prudishness. Something was very wrong. "What happened?" Worry made my voice gruff.

Napoleon seemed to collect himself. "It's okay—I wasn't raped or anything if that's what you're thinking."

I swallowed and realised that was what I'd been thinking. I stroked Napoleon's soft, damp hair again. "It must have been something . . . unpleasant."

He sighed. "It was. Something stupid and unnecessary, but not uncommon. I've come to believe my problems are more because of the association and the way in which it was carried out. However, unfortunately, understanding the problem doesn't make it go away."

"Do you want to tell me about it?" I wasn't sure I wanted to know, but perhaps it would help. After all, Napoleon had been subjected to details of my own dismal past not so very long ago. It had brought us together. I wanted to help him if I could, but didn't know how. I bent over and kissed his forehead, tasting sweat again. "It doesn't matter. I love you too, Napoleon."

"And me almost a married man." Napoleon gave a short laugh. "Come here." I found myself enfolded in a hard, sweaty hug. It felt good. It felt like home.

As I lay with my head on Napoleon's chest, listening to the beat of his heart, Napoleon told me about the death of his older sister.

"She died of meningitis. It was very sudden—one day she was all right, the next she was gone."

Now it was my turn to shiver, despite the heat. It stirred memories of my own that I preferred to keep under wraps.

Napoleon went on: "I was really too young to understand or appreciate what had happened to her. All I remember is that she wasn't there any more and my mother was always crying and my father was away a lot. I suspect he had his own ways of coping."

It didn't take too much imagination to guess what Solo Senior used as a coping mechanism if his son was anything like him. But I could identify with my partner's situation as a young child. "Did you blame yourself?" I asked, remembering my own problems.

"No, it wasn't that. I guess at four-years-old I just wanted things to go back to normal, but my mother became very over-protective of me. Every time I sneezed, she put me to bed for a week."

That made me smile. "And fed you chicken soup?"

"Nothing so pleasant. Castor oil was her remedy of choice. She was obsessed with everything that went in and came out of me. She watched every mouthful of food I ate and I had to report every visit to the bathroom."

I was beginning to get the picture. No wonder Napoleon was a little prudish. But did that really explain the strength of his reaction to being touched? "That must have been tiresome," I commented.

"But it got worse," Napoleon continued. "She called the doctor constantly. I'm quite sure most of it was in her mind. I was really quite a healthy kid. I hated the doctor and I guess he must have hated me eventually."

I could sympathise with that; Napoleon still hated doctors. "So I take it the doctor found nothing wrong with you?" I suggested.

He laughed shortly. "On the contrary, he must have known he was onto a winner. Money for old rope. I had my tonsils removed—I remember the ice cream. I don't remember too much else, just interminable days in bed, but there was one occasion with the doctor . . ." He trailed off and shuddered again. "It was very soon after Celie died. Apparently I hadn't reported sufficient visits to the bathroom." He paused.

I could tell he was struggling with the memory even now. "You don't have to tell me."

"No—it's stupid. It was just an enema—nothing unusual even, but I was terrified. I thought . . . I thought I was never going to see my parents again. I thought I was going to be taken away like Celie."

Taken away? "You thought you were going to die?"

"I was too young to understand the concept of dying, but I knew she had gone away. I was scared I'd go too. I must have made it very difficult."

No wonder Napoleon had bad associations. "And I take it the doctor was not sympathetic."

Napoleon sighed. "I was so traumatised, I really did become sick. I refused to eat. It must have been quite serious because I ended up in the hospital again. My mother tells me I could have died too, although to be honest, I think that may be exaggerated—part of her paranoia about me."

So that explained a lot. Childhood experiences accounted for the strangest things. Something struck me, though. "I'm glad of one thing," I announced, after a pause.

"Silly, isn't it? Glad that I didn't starve myself to death?"

I ran my hand up and down Napoleon's well-muscled chest. "I'm glad of that, naturally, but I'm also glad it is not something physical."

He became agitated. "Illya, believe me, if there was a way to get over it, I would. I've tried . . . I even went to a shrink once following a rather—ah—difficult routine medical exam."

"And no doubt tricked him into thinking he had cured you. I know you, Napoleon." I raised myself onto my elbow and smiled at his sheepish expression. "Now that I understand the problem, we can get over it."

Napoleon started. He shook his head vigorously. "Oh no . . . no, I can't. I really can't . . ." He rolled over, right to the edge of the sagging bed. His eyes were screwed up as if trying to shut me out along with all the memories.

I was suddenly full of remorse.

Why had I even entertained the idea of fucking? Things had been wonderful before that. I should have left things as they were. Nice and comfortable, how I liked it.

But then I remembered why I had thought of taking the step in the first place. I'd been scared of losing Napoleon. I liked being part of his life, part of the furniture, and didn't want to be discarded like last year's model. I was happy and content. I should have had faith.

How to retrieve that equilibrium? Reaching over, I yanked Napoleon back on top of me, caught hold of his ears and pulled his head down, kissing him hard, while thrusting upwards. The bed creaked alarmingly.

Napoleon resisted at first but I stroked his hair while I kissed him. "It's all right. It doesn't matter," I soothed when we broke the kiss. "Let's forget it. I liked everything we did before."

"Mmm." I began to feel the tension seep away from his tight muscles.

"Sit up." I wriggled out from under him and sat with my back to the creaking headboard.

He obediently sat up facing me. "I liked it too." The worry was leaving his face.

I pulled Napoleon closer so that our cocks met. "I particularly liked doing this.

We spent a few moments rubbing the tips of our hard cocks together, grinning and gasping by turn. It felt delicious. It felt delicious particularly because it was Napoleon.

I wrapped my hand around both cocks and Napoleon wrapped his hand around mine.

"Ah—yes." Napoleon moved his hand up and down. "And this also—" The bed creaked threateningly. "Perhaps we should move to the floor. We don't want to shock the islanders," he suggested.

"Especially on the eve of your wedding." Maybe things could be all right after all.

Work kept us apart for a while, following my narrow escape from matrimony, and then I had a week's vacation due. I decided to spend some of it of it working on my boat, the Pursang, getting her ready for the sailing season which was only weeks away.

As I drove to Port Washington where she's berthed, inevitably my mind turned to sex. I can't help it—that's just the way I am. I'd been celibate for too long. It would be nice if Illya were with me. I had to admit I missed him when we worked apart.

My partner had really got himself under my skin.

And now Illya had a taste of whatever it was that was so wonderful about anal sex—and the thought still made me shudder—wouldn't he want it again? On the Greek island, he'd wanted it, hadn't he? And I couldn't give it to him. I didn't measure up. Oh yes he backed down when I explained matters to him. He understood all right.

But my worry still remained. If I couldn't give it to him, maybe he would go looking elsewhere.

Illya had his needs too, that had become obvious. Sometimes I'm apt to forget it. I was so used to him obeying me—albeit sometimes grumpily—that I didn't always put him first when I really should. Was he dissatisfied with what we had? Were the signs there all along and I missed them?

But he'd told me how happy he was when we got back from Italy. Then straight away he wanted to change things. Why? What happened to his 'radar'—usually so sharp at picking up my thoughts? Perhaps, after all, our affair wasn't what I'd thought it was. I loved him more than I'd loved anyone. Didn't he know that?

Although we'd never made any promises that our affair would be exclusive, the thought of Illya with another man was, to say the least, unsettling for me. Lately, the thought of Illya with anyone except me was unsettling and yet now this thing stood between us, bound to rear its ugly head again sooner or later. I began to feel as if my whole world was unsettled. Damn.

As much as anything, my self-esteem was feeling more than a little bruised. I was unused to any kind of failure, particularly sexual failure, and I'd failed as a lover.

I needed an ego boost and I needed to take my mind off my problems. Working on the boat would help. Maybe as well as hard physical work I should look for some of my other favourite therapy.

Unlike Napoleon, I had no vacation booked but on my day off decided to drive across to the marina and join him for the day. I preferred Pursang in harbour, not sharing my partner's love of sailing.

I was hopeful that the night on the island had been cathartic for Napoleon and had cleared the air. I'd decided not to put any pressure on him, but I was also very keen to continue our affair—to try to claw back what we'd shared before.

The silly thing was, the very reason I'd suggested we move our sex on a step was that I was afraid of losing him. Now I seemed in danger of losing him because of it.

Perhaps Napoleon's unburdening had helped, but there was no doubt he was still troubled. I knew his pride had taken a blow and I was not naive enough to be convinced that all would go back to normal straight away.

My partner needed time to think and with any luck this vacation was giving him just that.

This period of instability had convinced me that I needed Napoleon more than I needed a particular type of sex. I needed him more than I needed anything or anyone. Him. Napoleon.

For me least, the sexual fun and games was only part of it. It was exciting, the same way as matching each other on the shooting range, wrestling, even playing a challenging game of chess together. The sex was intimate, but I'd been intimate with others and it wasn't the same.

No, my bond with Napoleon was more than the sex, more than friendship. It was emotional. It was love. It was that sense of being at home, wearing a comfortable pair of shoes, being part of the furniture.

I planned to have some down time together with him, to let him know how much I needed him and perhaps begin to re-establish that comfort.

The day was sunny, if cold—cheerful weather—and I whistled along with the radio station as I drove towards Port Washington and Napoleon.

"Honey, I just love this cute little boat of yours, it's so cosy." Tammy yawned and snuggled up to me in the narrow berth.

It had been a good night. Tammy was accommodating as usual, warm and soft in my bed. She was also blonde, witty and I enjoyed her company. Up to a point.

That point had now been reached. It really was time to get up and do some work but Tammy showed no sign of moving. It was already almost ten in the morning and I had some repainting to do—if the varnish was to dry on the foredeck I must get the first coat on before midday.

"She has a cute little galley too," I pointed out, "where one can make coffee," I added, hopefully, reflecting how much easier it was to get Illya out of bed. I didn't have to beat about the bush with Illya.

"Have I worn you out, Napoleon? You need coffee to keep you awake?" Tammy pulled me down and kissed me extravagantly.

She smelled of Shalimar and sex and I was briefly tempted once more, but I pulled out of the kiss and sat up, resolutely unwinding her arms from around my neck. Her father kept a large cruiser—a gin palace that rarely went further than a few hundred yards offshore—but Tammy enjoyed sailing and she often joined me. She never demanded more than the occasional chance to be my crew and the odd steamy night in my berth. I admit I'd invited her this time to see if having a girl in my bed once more would ground me, and in a way it had. But now I'd had enough and wanted her out. I would have to be tactful.

I was just rehearsing in my head what I would say to shift Tammy without giving offence when there was a sharp tap on the wooden hatch. "Hello, Napoleon—are you in there?"

It was Illya's voice.

"Expecting company?" Tammy sat up, her blue eyes wide.

Illya. This was going to be a little awkward but I couldn't stop a smile breaking out on my face. "It's my partner," I whispered, then called out, "Just a minute."

I felt ridiculously pleased to hear those lightly-accented tones. There was, however, the question of Tammy. But there was no time to do anything about her and it was hardly an unprecedented situation.

The hatch was not locked and I heard the scrape as it was opened. Sunshine streamed in and Illya's legs appeared at the top of the wooden ladder.

"What kind of time is this to be lollygagging around—Oh! I did not realise you had company." Stopping halfway down the ladder, he scowled at Tammy, who pulled the blankets up around herself. I was amused to see her look him up and down appraisingly.

"Oooh! Pretty—come on down, handsome."

Obviously dear Tammy was not in the least abashed. Illya ignored the invitation and continued to glare disapprovingly. Clambering out of the berth, I pulled on my shorts hastily and greeted him. "Illya! What brings you to this neck of the woods?" My tone sounded just a little too hearty.

He completed his descent into the cabin and tucked his flannel shirt back into his jeans. They were the tight corduroy ones he'd been wearing recently and which left little to the imagination. I saw Tammy's eyes widen still more.

His eyes swept round the cabin and then met mine, coldly. "I came to give you a hand, but it seems you have company."

I winked at him and glanced at the hatch, trying to indicate that Tammy was about to leave, but he stared levelly at me with that burning blue gaze that turns my legs to jelly, then went over to the galley and started filling a small pot with water. He turned on the gas and lit it, his stiff spine telling its own story.

Of course I was delighted to see him, even though he was now in one of his moods. The sight of those tight jeans was giving me goosebumps. I buttoned my shirt, then performed the introductions. "This is my partner, Illya Kuryakin. You remember me telling you about him, don't you? He's come to—ah, help me varnish the deck. Illya—Tammy Holden, my sometime crew and . . ."

Illya turned round, grudgingly. "Pleased to meet you." He did not look in the least pleased.

Tammy smiled. "So you're the Russian guy Napoleon talks about." Her eyes drifted downwards and she turned back to me. " But Napoleon, you've neglected to mention a thing or two." Her blue eyes looked anything but innocent and she patted the berth beside her, invitingly.

Illya 's face became a picture. It was obvious he had no idea whether to be flattered or indignant. He appeared to settle for mutinous.

No, I could not quite see my irascible partner taking kindly to the idea of a threesome. But his arrival was serendipitous nonetheless. It gave me the excuse I needed.

"Tammy, I'm sorry, I lost track of time. Illya's come all the way from New York to help me varnish the foredeck," I said, trying to look regretful, but then added, firmly, "We must get to work soon. It has to be dry enough for a second coat later today."

Illya folded his arms and raised an eyebrow. He really did look most endearingly vexed to discover I had company. I could not help but be gratified. And Illya knew I found those jeans irresistible. Hadn't I told him so on several occasions in the Yukon recently? I was beginning to feel better and better.

Tammy continued to smile sweetly. After a moment she hissed, "Napoleon!"

"Oh!" I started, dragging my gaze away from my partner's tightly packed jeans. I'd momentarily forgotten poor Tammy. "I think we should repair to the—ah, cockpit." I gestured towards the steps.

Illya snorted. "Yes, let's do that, Napoleon." He gave Tammy one more hard stare before skipping nimbly up through the hatch, turning to look back for a moment so that his tightly encased crotch was at eye level. "The cockpit it is."

Suppressing a laugh and playfully batting his delectable behind, I followed him aloft, closing the hatch behind me to give Tammy some privacy to get dressed. "Why didn't you let me know you were coming?" I demanded, when we were out of earshot.

"So that you could clear the decks of young ladies? Really, Napoleon, I guess I shouldn't be surprised."

No, he shouldn't, but I was somewhat embarrassed. "Hardly." But I could see that Illya was surprised—and still somewhat annoyed—at Tammy's presence. "I was lonely, she was there. You know how it is." I shrugged.

Illya rolled his eyes. "Yes, I know how it is with you."

"She's a nice girl, Illya, so try to be pleasant." Despite all that had happened, I would not have expected Illya to be so jealous. Even now. He knew my libido and my habits; in fact he'd always seemed rather indulgent about my roving eye. However, first Jojo and now Tammy had come in for more than their fair share of Slavic disapproval.

"If you say so." The expression on Illya's face did not change—he was still not amused, despite the joke we'd shared. He sat down, still frowning, moving a tin of yacht varnish. "Well, do you want me to help with the varnishing or not?"

Stupid question. "Grab a brush, tovarisch."

My emotions were mixed as I drove back to New York that evening. In some ways the visit had been a success. After Tammy left, we'd worked hard on the boat, which was both enjoyable and relaxing. But it seemed no sex was on offer and I thought better of suggesting it. Presumably Napoleon was sated from his night with Tammy. But he'd been pleased to see me for sure. He could hardly get rid of the girl fast enough. I almost felt sorry for her. Almost, but not quite.

The niggle at the back of my mind, that Napoleon would turn away from me in favour of his more conventional tastes, became more of a reality after seeing Tammy.

I knew he'd never give up women, and for that matter, neither would I. Our love was an extension of our working partnership where no promises could be made. We both knew it had to be that way.

But I'd loved what we'd built up between us—expressing our love for each other through sex, yes, but all the other ways as well. I loved being close to him, part of his life that he just took for granted. He could turn round and I'd be there—just as happened when we worked together. That was my ideal and that was what I could now see slipping away, slipping from my grasp.

Could we really go back to the way we were before? Could we recapture what we had? Napoleon still loved me, didn't he? We could work this out, couldn't we? I tried to convince myself we could.

Suddenly, I wasn't so sure.

Perhaps after all it would not be possible. Napoleon saw his 'problem' as a failure on his part. Failure was anathema to my partner. I knew for a fact that he would rather stick pins in his eyes than remain in a situation where he had no hope of succeeding.

That night on the island I'd tried to make clear to Napoleon that anal sex did not need to be an issue; that I was willing to forget all about it; that I was happy with what we'd had before. After all, fucking was simply one way of expressing our love and if he didn't like it—no problem.

But would he take that on board? Napoleon, who considered himself the master of seduction and all matters sexual had failed. That was how he saw it. My innate Russian pessimism made me dubious as to whether his pride would deal with it.

The encounter with Tammy had brought home to me that by pinning all my hopes on getting things back to the way they were was putting all my eggs in one basket—maybe unwisely. My heart was heavy, but as usual, my mind was pragmatic.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to prove to myself and to Napoleon that I too could keep my options open when it came to bed partners.

Two weeks later, U.N.C.L.E. H.Q:

"I thought you told me you didn't dance."

"I don't. That is why Tavia is giving me lessons."

"A lifetime of lessons?" Sitting at my desk opposite Illya, I was aware of a petulant squeak in my voice and collected myself, tweaking my cuffs and twitching my jacket more comfortably onto my shoulders.

Illya lifted a pile of papers into his 'out' tray and capped his pen. He looked rather smug. In fact he'd been insufferably smug ever since redeeming himself so successfully by finally stopping Mozart and his killer bees. Moreover, he'd somehow charmed that rather pretty Hungarian girl, Tavia, and seemed uncharacteristically sweet on her.

So what was planned after the dancing lessons?

I tried not to analyse my feelings too much, but the truth was, I was miffed. It wasn't that I wanted Tavia for myself—I'd no doubt that if I really wanted a date with her I could do it—in fact I already had two tickets for her dancing school. No, she was Illya's girl and what was more, she wasn't really my type—too serious and probably a vegetarian. But all the same . . .

Illya interrupted my thoughts. "I thought I would take Tavia out after class. Do you know any vegetarian restaurants?" He stood up and headed towards the door, picking up his briefcase.

Damned mind-reader! "Hmm. Perhaps you should ask her." I couldn't help smiling. "I'd love to be a fly on the wall at this lesson. Do you have any dancing shoes?"

Illya had always maintained he didn't dance, but he'd once let slip that he'd had some ballet training and he was both nimble and musical. It seemed unlikely that he'd have problems learning the skills of social dancing.

"You think I have two left feet, don't you?" Illya looked aggrieved.

How could I resist a little teasing? "Next time we have to go under cover, I shall bear in mind your newly acquired skills. Let me see:" I started counting on my fingers, "convict, bass player, art collector, hairdresser and now dancer. How about you audition for the part of Sugar Plum Fairy?"

Illya dropped the briefcase and strode across to lean over the desk, grabbing my lapels in mock belligerence.

"Okay, okay. Maybe a Jet in West Side Story." I held up both hands.

Illya raised an eyebrow, speculatively. "Hmm. Maybe I will borrow your dancing shoes—those shiny ones."

"They're a left and a right—Umph!" I flinched as Illya pretended to head-butt me, but suddenly his mouth was so close to mine that our lips almost met. My insides begin to melt. Almost a kiss. Illya's face softened to a momentary tenderness.

But the moment passed and Illya stood up. "Time to go. "

"If you want to borrow the shoes stop by my place." Why was I aiding and abetting him anyway? "Give Tavia my regards."

"I shall give Tavia your regrets."

I watched him go. My partner was lobbing my own behaviour back at me. I had some hard thinking to do.

Illya did not stop by on his way to Tavia Sandor's dancing school, but just before I was about to retire for the night, I heard him give his coded signal knock and let himself into the apartment.

"Good. You're still up. Do you have any of that Glenfiddich left?" Illya looked tired and slightly dishevelled, his bow tie loose around his neck. He went over to his customary chair and pulled off his shoes with a groan. "I should have borrowed your dancing shoes. I swear these are about worn through." He turned one upside-down and inspected the sole, then dropped it on the floor with a clatter and pulled the coffee table close, putting his feet up on it and wiggling his toes, an expression of bliss on his face. "Ah—that's better."

One of his black socks had a hole in it.

I couldn't keep the amusement out of my voice. "You seem to have worn out your socks at any rate." I handed him a large belt of whisky from the decanter."

He knocked it back, Russian style and held out his glass again. I did not refill it. Good single malt whisky was for savouring. If he just wanted to get drunk he could drink the cheap stuff. I told him so. His expression turned sorrowful. "Napoleon, if you had just been through what I have . . ."

"I have no need of dancing lessons. I would have politely declined and taken her to dinner instead."

He looked pained. "It seemed churlish to decline. But Napoleon—she had invited all her friends to the class."

That sounded like a dream scenario, although I could see why Illya would find it trying. And since when had he worried about seeming churlish? I raised my eyebrows in question.

" They were all women—I had to partner them all, one after the other." He lifted one of his feet—the one with the hole in the sock—and massaged it.

"Sounds wonderful—dancing the night away with a roomful of beautiful women. Reminds me of that fairy tale—the Twelve Dancing Princesses. They wore out their shoes too." No wonder he was complaining. Socialising on that scale was not Illya's forte.

"Hmph." He turned his massaging attention to his stomach and burped extravagantly. "Sorry—it's the beans. And they were not beautiful. Certainly no princesses."

"I take it you found a vegetarian restaurant?" I relented and poured him some more whisky. I poured one for myself and sat down on the sofa.

"Thank you. Yes—I don't recommend it. The food was—how can I put it—robust, although after all that dancing I was ready to eat anything." He made a face and sipped the whisky. "That's better." Leaning back in the chair, he closed his eyes and burped again.

At least he felt at home. "Make yourself at home, why don't you?" My tone was sarcastic, but it felt right to have him back here. I realised I'd missed his company at home, irascible though it could sometimes be. Missed it a lot.

But there was nothing irascible about Illya tonight. We sat in comfortable silence until I realised that he'd fallen asleep and his glass was in imminent danger of tumbling onto the floor. I went across and gently removed it from his limp hand. He stirred and opened his eyes, staring blankly for a moment as if trying to remember where he was.

It was time to take him to bed. Back where he belonged. "Come on." I started to heave him out of the chair. "Bed time."

He allowed himself to be heaved. "May I stay?"

Did he have to ask? "Do you think I'd send you out in with holes in your socks?"

I lay still, letting Napoleon sleep on the next morning. We were both naked, the bedclothes were on the floor and my head was on Napoleon's chest, once more listening to the comfortable beat of his heart. Last night we had made love again for the first time in several weeks. Actually, Napoleon had made love to me—I'd been almost passive. It seemed to be what he wanted, and I was happy to give him exactly what he wanted right now. Tired as I was, it was wonderful to lie back and allow my partner to do what he did best.

And I have to admit Napoleon was a master. He played me like a finely-tuned musical instrument, bringing me to the brink again and again until I'd begged for release. Only when I was almost weeping with need did he pull me into his lap and allow me to come, timing his own orgasm to almost coincide, so that our juices mingled and we collapsed back onto the pillows in an exhausted heap, falling into sleep and remaining tangled together until morning.

In other words, it was back to business as usual.

What had happened? What had suddenly changed?

Napoleon stirred and I rolled off, kissing him on the forehead. "Morning."

His arms reached out and pulled me back. "Cold—come here and keep me warm."

"Wait a minute." I retrieved the tangled bedclothes from the floor and pulled them roughly over the pair of us, then I snuggled back into the crook of his arm and sighed with pleasure, "That's better."

"You made a mess of my bed."

"Mmm. I think that was you, actually."

We lay in silence a few minutes and he stroked my hair, the way he often did. "Did you sleep with Tavia?" he asked, suddenly.

The question took me by surprise. I'd quite forgotten Tavia and last night. Was he jealous? He had no need to be, and indeed no right to be, since he must have slept with at least two girls since we'd last had sex together. I noticed that his heart had speeded up as he asked the question. I lifted my head so that I was looking up at him.

"No, but I would have." If it sounded challenging, he meant it to be.


Good? I'd not been expecting that reaction either. I raised my eyebrows, watching his face. Something had changed. Napoleon seemed to have his confidence back. Was that was a good sign? I scrambled to a sitting position beside him and leaned back against the headboard, drawing my knees up. "Are you trying to tell me something?"

"Sort of." Napoleon heaved himself up and sat beside me. He didn't meet my eyes but stared into the middle distance. "I love you, you know that, don't you?"

My heart thudded. "Yes." What was coming next? It seemed Napoleon had reached a decision and I was a little afraid of the answer.

"And you love me, don't you?"

I swallowed a lump in my throat. "Yes." His face was too serious. "Get to the point, Napoleon. I've told you before, I'm not one of your women who has to be treated gently."

He appeared to ignore the protest. "And we're a great team—in everything we do together?" Emphasis on the word, 'everything'.

I nodded assent. The best. Please don't let this be Napoleon's way of telling me he'd rather keep his sex-life conventional. I thought of Jojo and Tammy and their predecessors. Could Napoleon really prefer to keep his sex life on such a casual basis, separate from his emotional one?

He turned towards me. I tried to meet his gaze, but trepidation led me to drop my eyes and stare down at the rumpled bedclothes.

"We know each other so well. Even our secrets—well some of them," he continued.

It was true—Napoleon knew about the worst moments of my life. Being able to share those moments was something I'd once never have contemplated. But sharing them had been one of the best things I'd ever done because it led directly to my giving my heart to this man. It was a very long time since I'd given my heart to anyone and I thought it unlikely I'd do so again.

He'd also shared something traumatic that had happened to him. Did anyone else know? I suspected not—or at least not the whole story. Napoleon was a master at clever evasion and there was still a lot that even I didn't know about him.

Such as whether sex with me measured up to sex with women.

I wasn't sure I wanted to know the answer to that. Instead I answered Napoleon's question. "Some of them," I agreed, guardedly, picking at a bobble of fluff on the blanket.

Napoleon continued. "When we make love, it's like when we work together—we're in synch like a well-oiled machine. We can be rough or gentle, fast or slow, serious or hilarious, it doesn't matter. What does matter to me, and I think to you as well—correct me if I'm wrong of course—is that we're partners, equal partners."

I looked up and saw that Napoleon was smiling, but his eyes were anxious as if they mirrored what I felt inside. I tried to smile too but it wouldn't come. "Napoleon—I don't know where all this is leading, but I want to say that I feel,"—I groped for a suitable word but could only come up with a mundane one—"happier here with you than I have anywhere." I released the bobble of fluff and started work on a new one. "Yes, I would have had sex with Tavia; yes, I know you had sex with Tammy and Jojo and all the others, but I don't mind—it's not the same."

"No, it's not the same, and that's my point," Napoleon agreed, taking hold of my hand, removing it from the blanket, pushing the blanket away, "You're special—even when you pick holes in my bedclothes."

A thud of my heart. Was Napoleon saying he wanted us to be together after all? Or was this the gentle let down? "Sorry," was all I could manage.

"And when we make love, it's not the same either. What we do together is special to us and is different."

I could identify with this. It mirrored my own feelings exactly.

He went on, "I want it to remain different. The yin and yang thing is for men and women—you know what I mean. Men need to spar, to wrestle, to . . ."

"Sword play?" I grinned, beginning to like where the conversation was leading.

He still had hold of my hand. Now he placed it in his lap and I felt with pleasure the hardening erection there. "Yeah—sword-play—that sort of thing."

Arousal coursed through me. My own penis began to stir and I looked down at it in fascination. Napoleon could have that effect on me with a single touch. I closed my eyes, savouring the moment.

I felt Napoleon take hold of my eager cock, stroking it gently. "For me, this is the way I enjoy making love with you, being on equal terms, man to man, so to speak."

I opened my eyes. Napoleon was smiling at me. He continued. "I'm not going to say it's better or worse than sex with a woman because it's entirely different. I don't know if you've ever loved a woman, but I have and I know it's different."

It was certainly different. An understatement. "What do you mean?" I was not sure whether I should be flattered or not. I fondled Napoleon's balls with my left hand, gently fingering the now hard cock with the other.

Napoleon went on, "With a woman I feel protective, in control, dominant if you like . . ."

I'd give him dominant! I gripped the cock in my hand hard until he yelped. I knew how he was around women. It was not the way I wanted him to be around me. Not at all. "I've told you never to treat me like one of your women," I agreed. I loosened my grip a little and ran a thumb over the head of his penis.

He hissed appreciatively, then became serious. "Neither of us should play the woman. It's a whole different ballgame with us." He shuffled himself closer so that our hips were touching.

I couldn't contain a chuckle at the unwitting pun. The sense of relief was overwhelming and I liked Napoleon's reasoning. "It certainly is." I felt the cock in my hand twitch as he got the joke.

"I prefer it like this." It was true. I wanted to be with him whatever.

"Do you?" His face went serious again. "Do you really?"

I knew he was referring to the time we had fucked. I could answer honestly, "Yes I do."

And I did. I preferred to have Napoleon, if not entirely to myself in my own special way. I didn't want something as trivial as distaste for a certain form of sex to come between us. What we had was deeper than that.

He kissed me briefly. "I've decided to go and see Fletcher." Fletcher was the most senior of the U.N.C.L.E. shrinks. "It's not professional to ignore something that Thrush could take advantage of."

At least some good had come out of this. I smiled. "As long as you don't tell him the real reason."

But his face remained serious. "That is the real reason. What we do together is ours, Illya. Let's keep it that way between us."

"Yes let's." The relief continued to wash over me. Napoleon had come to terms with his problem in his own way, rationalised it and found a solution. If, as a spin-off, he could be cured of his phobia, well and good.

"I see you've thought through the ins and outs of it," I added, my heart light.

Napoleon grabbed my hips and pulled the two of us together. "Mmm. And despite the ups and downs we've had . . ." He thrust his hips playfully.

"We'll stick with the ballgames?" I thrust back hard.

"And we'll leave the yin and yang thing to the ladies?"

We rolled over on the bed, locked together. We kissed, and as our tongues sparred and our cocks thrust head to head, we both knew that for now it was going to be all right.

Much later, showered, shaved and wearing the maroon jacket that I kept in Napoleon's wardrobe along with my dress trousers and one of his many white shirts and black ties, I carried my bowl of Cornflakes into the living room so that I could eat them sitting in my favourite chair. As I sat there, munching away, I recalled last night and Napoleon telling me to make myself at home.

At home. Part of the furniture. Napoleon's furniture.

I had what I wanted. Actually, I was more than just part of the furniture now. Napoleon loved me—he had told me so several times. I intended to be a fixture—something permanent in my partner's life. Well, as permanent as anything could be in the life of an U.N.C.L.E agent. I smiled to myself and scraped the last few Cornflakes from the bowl.

I found Illya sitting in his accustomed chair. I had brought two cups of black coffee with me and gave one to him, and then sat down on the sofa, switching on the radio to a news station. "Better find out what's going on in the big wide world."

We listened in silence for a few moments, drinking our coffee. It was a war correspondent from Saigon reporting on 'Operation Birmingham'.

"The war continues," he remarked.

"And I daresay Thrush has something up its sleeve to continue as well. Drink up." I stood. "The big wide world awaits."

"Just a moment." He remained seated in the chair. "Notice anything out of the ordinary?" His blue eyes were wide and innocent.

I looked at him closely. Nothing seemed to have changed. "Nope. You still need a haircut, you have a self-satisfied expression and you're wearing my shirt. Business as usual, tovarisch."


What was my enigmatic partner getting at? "Why'd you ask?"

He shrugged. "Oh, no reason. I wanted to be sure of my place."

His place was at my side. Right here. "Your place—in that chair?" I couldn't help laughing. "So I never get to sit in my own chair these days."

"Just think of me as part of the furniture." The wide blue eyes blinked.

Adorable Russian. I pulled him up out of the chair and hugged him. "Part of the furniture, huh? I think you're a little more than that, partner mine. Why else would I put up with you eating all my cereal, drinking my good Scotch like it was cheap vodka and causing my bed to look like an earthquake just hit?"

"I told you, that was you."

"We did it together." I kissed him on the lips, "like everything else," I added when we broke the kiss. "And now, let's go and do the other thing we do best—save the big wide world from Thrush."

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