Memories and Promise
Illya lay on the bed, panting and laughing a little. Napoleon laughed back down at him. "So it was that good."
"Yes." Illya pushed sweat damp hair off his face and smiled. "As always."
"We aim to please," Napoleon said, and deposited a light kiss on that generous mouth, which curved upward.
"You do very well," Illya said when the kiss ended, and they smiled into one another's eyes. Then Napoleon rolled off and lay flat on his own back, still trying to catch his breath. He wanted to hold on to this moment forever, this moment lying beside Illya in the dark, both of them naked, both still dazed with pleasure. It was piercingly sweet despite—or because of, he was never sure—its inherent brevity. He turned his head to look at Illya's profile, pure and clean against the dark. He wanted to draw Illya into his arms, wanted to hold him close for a long time. They could lie there in one another's embrace, perhaps stirring finally to make love again, perhaps just falling asleep together. Instead he turned over, and sat up.
It was many years ago now, that he had first been introduced to the slim young Russian newly arrived from the Soviet Union. He had approached Illya Kuryakin warily, and had seen the same wariness in those blue eyes. He had extended his hand, and the other man had taken it. Their eyes had met, and held. Napoleon had wondered what his new partner was smiling at, then realized he was smiling himself. They had stood there, smiling at one another, and a spark had been lit.
Over the years there had been other men whom Napoleon had found attractive, but he had never acted on it. The risks seemed to outweigh any potential benefits, and there were always women. He enjoyed women thoroughly, and so other passing thoughts were easily and quickly dispelled. But now—Illya drew him irresistibly in. He was drawn by that brilliant mind, that sharp intense ferocity. He was captivated by that shy smile, by those blue eyes. And he had hot sweaty fantasies about that hard, lithe body. He wanted to put both hands in Illya's hair, examine every shade of gold contained therein, feel it against his bare flesh. Furthermore he had a very good idea that his attentions would not be rejected. Illya's sexual orientation was a matter of record. And Illya outright flirted with him, batting those thick gold lashes, sending him those sidelong come hither looks—just the way Illya said his name was an invitation to seduction.
So when it had happened, about two thirds of the way through their first year together, Napoleon wasn't surprised. It had been a routine mission, and had been neatly wound up ahead of time. They had shared a motel room and, on seeing the one double bed had cut their eyes at each other. Illya had smiled, and Napoleon had put the chain on the door, and they had gone at one another's clothing with fervor.
Illya had been surprisingly aggressive in bed and Napoleon had responded in kind. They had rolled around, grappling and shoving hard against one another until Napoleon pushed Illya away, gasping. "No," he said and it was less than an order, but more than a request. "Not like this."
"How, then?" Illya had stilled, and Napoleon looked into his eyes. He kissed Illya, for answer, and Illya's lips parted. They kissed for a very long time, and when it began again it was slower, and they were careful with one another, coaxing response instead of demanding it. They found themselves doing everything to prolong it, making it last, making themselves wait until finally they couldn't wait anymore and wrapped themselves around one another crying out and shuddering, kissing at the end, kissing and kissing, Napoleon's hands moving restlessly through Illya's hair, Illya's fingers digging into Napoleon's shoulders.
They settled back onto the lumpy mattress. Illya lay quietly, and Napoleon turned onto his side, propping himself up on one elbow. He opened his mouth to say something—he wasn't sure what, but he wanted to express his gratitude for the lovely thing that had just happened to both of them. Illya was watching him, eyes wide and questioning but as Napoleon was about to speak his communicator went off. They stared at one another for a moment, then Illya turned away, already reaching for his clothing as Napoleon opened the channel. Within thirty-five minutes they were in a taxi on their way to the airport and the moment was lost.
They had never found it again.
Napoleon heard Illya often enough complain about the possessive airs his sexual partners tended to assume. "I hate being grabbed and clutched at," he'd said, scowling. "Just because of my size, you know, they think they can. I disabuse them of the notion quickly."
Napoleon paid attention. He heard these words, or a variant of them often enough to know he had to tread carefully to avoid making Illya feel the same way about him. He had to keep it light, to enjoy their liaisons without seeking to prolong or repeat them—coming to it every time as if by chance, as if by surprise, taking pleasure and parting afterwards. He had to keep it light because everything about Illya proclaimed that he preferred it that way. Even now, nearly a full year since the fieldwork had ended for both of them, he kept it light because that was how Illya wanted it.
It never occurred to him that Illya might have the same misconception about him.
Illya watched Napoleon from under his lashes, and when Napoleon rolled over in bed, sat up and began putting on his clothes the pain was so great it made his heart ache. He put an arm over his face, as if casually, as if the light from the bedside lamp bothered him, to hide it. He wished Napoleon would stay. He wished—no. He wouldn't waste one moment of this time with vain regrets. Napoleon was as he was, and Illya would take him as he was. That seemed his part of the tacit arrangement they had. Napoleon played the field, dating one beautiful woman after another, like a honeybee going from flower to flower. He returned to Illya periodically—for what, Illya was never sure. Perhaps only for a taste of something different or, perhaps, to enjoy being with someone he trusted.
Illya maintained the pretense of an active sex life, but the truth was that he no longer wanted any man but Napoleon. They never discussed it. If Napoleon even thought Illya was being faithful to him, he would doubtless end it. Napoleon had made almost a religion of casualness, and Illya knew their own relationship would last only so long as he believed Illya felt the same. His mouth drooped, thinking of it and watching Napoleon dress to leave. Then Napoleon turned unexpectedly, to pick his belt up off the floor, and was looking Illya full in the face. He paused, pulled Illya's arm down, and looked harder.
There was no time to recover, no time to paste a false smile over the unhappiness Illya knew was plain to be read there. They stared at one another for a moment, then Illya turned away. Napoleon said, voice sharp with anxiety, "Illya. What is it?"
"Leave me alone."
"No. You look like you just lost your best—" he stopped abruptly. Then, slowly, he lay back down on the bed, fully clothed except for his shoes, on his side, facing Illya.
"I leave because I think that's what you want."
Startled, Illya turned onto his own side. Their eyes met, and held. Then Illya said, very carefully, "Why would you think that?"
"Well, you're always saying—you know, that you're just lying there waiting for them to leave."
"I always say that?"
"Once you did. You've said other things. Similar things."
"You said you can't wait to get out of there. You said you flee the scene quite without shame."
"Yes, but that's—that's—well. That doesn't apply to you. I thought you knew that." Then, as if aware how naked Illya felt now, now that his feelings had been laid bare for Napoleon to see, he went on. "Sometimes—sometimes when I leave here I sit in my car, and put my head down on the steering wheel because I want to be back in here with you so badly I could weep from it." He said all that very fast and he wasn't looking at Illya now. Illya touched his arm.
"Napoleon—I had no idea. Of course you can stay. I want you to stay. I—you saw that. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know."
"Why do you want me to stay?" Napoleon whispered. Their faces were very close now.
"Because you're—you're you. You can always stay."
"And you're you. And I'd love to stay." They smiled tentatively at one another. Then Napoleon cleared his throat. "So what are we doing now? Are we actually going to take this to another level after all this time?"
"The stay the night and maybe the weekend level?"
"I'd love it if you stayed the weekend."
"Me too. Do you want to know something else, Illya Kuryakin?"
Napoleon laughed. "True. Of all my affairs, you are the only person I would call a lover. In that sense, you are the only lover I have ever had."
"Oh." He couldn't say more, his voice gone. He let his eyes speak for him, and saw Napoleon's face change, become more intent. He leaned closer still.
"In fact—I love you, Illya. I love you with everything that is in me."
"I love you too, Napoleon. And you are my only lover as well." Napoleon's face was so near his their lips were touching. Then Napoleon moved just that last little bit and they were kissing again, a storm of kisses, and then they were making love, and speaking of love, and looking love one at the other until love took them gently into sleep.
When they woke up they talked, and when they were finished talking they made love some more. The next day Illya moved all his belongings into Napoleon's penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park. They made love again there, in Napoleon's enormous bed, and they were still joined when they fell asleep.