Does Your Mama Know You're Out
To believe in serendipity would be to admit that forces other than man move and manipulate the universe and that would be contrary to everything that Illya Kuryakin believed. Yet when he heard that familiar laugh, he nearly dropped the saut pan. A moment later, he talked himself out of the idea and shook his head in disbelief at his foolishness. How could Napoleon Solo be here?
Still, it wouldn't hurt to check the front of the house. He slid the veal onto the warmed plate and carefully dabbed off a drip from the plate rim. He handed it off to his sous chef and walked across the kitchen to peek out the pass-through window. There seemed nothing amiss out there. The tables were full, the bar looked to be packed, as per usual for a Saturday night, and everything seemed to be moving smoothly. Then he saw him and his heart caught, sputtered and flared up suddenly. After all these years, how could this even be possible?
He turned back to the bustling kitchen and leaned against a prep table, breathing deeply and trying to rein in his emotions. His sous chef and business partner happened to glance over and immediately dashed over to catch the man's elbow and slid an arm around his waist.
"You, okay, Cara? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"Maybe I have." He dragged Matt over to the pass through and pointed.
"That man over there."
"The one with the bow tie and Mohawk? Don't blame me, chef; he has on a shirt and shoes, that's all we ask for here. We can't regulate hairstyles."
"Not him, you idiot, the next table over, 12."
"Ah, the three piece with the Grenadine veal, oyster starter and Chateau St. Jean. What about him?"
"Is he with anyone?"
"Came in solo." At Kuryakin's flush, he shook his head. "Illya, I'm serious, you look like you're going to pass out. What did I say?"
"His name...his name is Solo."
"Hey, what are the chances? Wait, you mean, THE Solo? Napoleon Solo?"
The door flung open and Rocky came into the kitchen, as usual, the chorus of an ABBA song on his lips. He slid a platter full of dirty dishes down on the dish cleaner and started dancing around to his own beat. "Gimme, gimme, gimme a man I can cling to." He scooped up an empty tray and headed back to the floor.
"I swear when we open Hemisphere, we should hire only wait staff who aren't into ABBA or musicals," Illya heard Matt grumble, but within a moment he was singing along with the young man, his red hair bobbing along in rhythm.
"And do let me know how that works for you," Roxanne muttered as she slipped two more plates under the warming lights. "I need a bird, an order of fois gras and a veal for table seven." Illya remained staring out of the pass through, a bell clanging inside his head. "And can I get you anything, Chef?"
"Oh, I think I know the answer to that question," Matt said, grinning at his business partner. "How about table 12 to go."
"Funny." Illya almost pulled off his chef coat and headed for the table, but common sense and a restaurant full of diners told him otherwise. After all this time, Napoleon would have moved on. Just because he couldn't didn't mean others were equally encumbered. No, in all likelihood, Napoleon had settled himself into a nice quiet hetero relationship and was simply out for a night on the town. Of course, that would usually mean someone to share it with, but it wasn't his place. At least, not anymore it wasn't.
Illya shook himself free of the memories. Of coming home early and finding Napoleon entertaining, of being betrayed by the one thing he'd never doubted or questioned and storming out. He'd mailed his resignation, ID and weapon in and disappeared. And disappearing was apparently the one thing he was very good at for no one came looking or even attempted, to his knowledge—so much for his supposed importance to either his employer or his lover. God, after all this time, the emotions simmered right below the surface, just waiting to bleed forth.
"Now you look sad, Cara mia." Matt wrapped an arm around the blond's neck to whisper in his ear. "Bad memories?"
"Worse, good ones," Illya admitted with a faint smile. "The time I was with Napoleon was probably the happiest in my life."
"Want to tell me what happened?" For a minute, Illya almost considered it, but then shook his head. No, this was neither the time nor the place for that conversation. "No, huh? Maybe later tonight then."
"Maybe, but for now, we have a restaurant to run." He saw Rocky catch Matt by the arm to murmur something in his ear, but he dismissed it. Only the gods above knew what those two were co-conspiring on.
And for awhile, Illya actually believed that he was okay. He went on with cooking for his patrons, finding a mindless satisfaction in the preparation of the food. When he'd left Napoleon and UNCLE, he didn't have many mundane skills to fall back on, but he did like to eat and he didn't mind hard work. It had taken awhile, but he'd managed an apprenticeship with a chef out west and went from there, working his way up the ranks and polishing his own skill. Matt had come on with the same chef after him and the two had struck up an instant friendship.
For awhile, they'd even pursued a more physical relationship, but it hadn't turned out well. Illya was still too gun-shy to trust and Matt a bit too high maintenance to make it work. Still, their friendship had remained intact enough so that when this restaurant had come on the market, they'd scraped up the funds bought it. It had been a good decision. Nestled deep in the foothills, it was small enough to be manageable, yet big enough to turn a marginal profit. As their reputation grew, so did their client base and their recognition. It seemed strange to find a four-star restaurant in a sleepily little town like Jackson, but there they were, none the less. Granted they didn't have two pennies to rub together most days, but their bills and their staff were paid on time, even if they weren't. Anyone who thought you opened a restaurant for money was obviously dreaming.
He let the last of the brandy flame up and shook the pan, flipping the contents with a casual air that belied the turmoil churning in his stomach. Just that one look at Napoleon and he was ready to toss everything aside and jump right back into a relationship. And he knew how well the last one ended. Napoleon just wasn't the sort of who could tie himself down to one person, be it man or woman. That hadn't saved him from lying in bed at night, berating himself for all the things he should or could have done differently. Or from feeling the hot trickle of tears burning paths down his cheeks until he rose at dawn, so tired that even breathing was an effort and knowing that all he had to look forward to was fifteen hours of back-breaking work so he could repeat the performance the next night and the one after that.
He added a ladle of stock to the pan and turned the heat up to encourage the liquid to reduce. He checked that the scallops were seared, but still tender and plated them amid a bed of shredded lightly sauted zucchini and one single sweet potato gnocchi.
Rocky came back into the kitchen, belting out another ABBA song as he made his way through the kitchen. "Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen." He placed a hand on Illya's shoulder and Illya glanced at him, a question in his eyes. "Hey Chef, you got compliments from Table 12. He said that the veal was the best thing he'd put in his mouth in a long time."
Illya said a fast prayer to whatever force looked out for fraught chefs that he didn't have a pan in his hands when Rocky said that. "Please tell me you're paraphrasing again, Rocky."
"Would I do that with a compliment, boss man of mine?"
"It's been known to happen a time or two, yes."
"Not this time, oh, and he wants to meet the chef."
"No, I can't...Matt, you go. It's your menu tonight—I'm just cooking the stuff." Illya spun back to the stove and flipped off the burner beneath the sauce. "I'm busy here."
"If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I'd be a wealthy man." The voice was so familiar it shot straight to his groin.
"Napoleon." He let the word slip from his mouth as he turned to face the man he'd walked out on so many years before.
"The first time you see me in God knows how many years and that's all you can say?"
"With a kitchen full of staff, it was the safest thing I could come up with and probably the cleanest." He looked into the brown eyes and just shook his head, doing his best to stamp out the fire that was searing its way through his body. Thank the gods that chef pants were baggy or he'd be in seven kinds of trouble at the moment. "You shouldn't be back here. It isn't safe."
"And when has that ever stopped me?" Napoleon glanced around the kitchen and at the people who openly stared at him. As if a switch was suddenly flipped, they all simultaneously turned back to their tasks. "I thought maybe we could talk...or something."
Illya had spent years erasing this man's face, his touch, his scent from his memory and yet it was like it had never happened. The way Illya saw it, he had two choices. He could have his ex tossed from the kitchen by Rocky, Matt and a couple of the dishwashers and continue with his lonely, yet predictable path. Or he could drag Napoleon back to the small house he called home and pretend that nothing had even happened—make the man see the mistake he'd made years earlier. Common sense told him one thing, but his body wasn't really listening anymore.
He began to unbutton his chef's coat. "Matthew?" The man appeared at his elbow. "Yes, Chef?"
"Don't burn the veal." He pulled off the jacket and tossed it to him as he leveled a blue-eyed stare at Napoleon. He grabbed the man by the hand and pulled him through the kitchen.
"Hey, Mattie?" Rocky hefted his tray back up to his shoulder and started to leave.
"Yea, Rocky?" Matt glanced up from his task of buttoning up the chef jacket over his soiled apron.
"I know that look in Chef's eye—you owe me $25."
Without talking, Illya led the man from the kitchen and down a short path to the small house that had come with the building. Only when the Russian reached into his pockets for the keys, did Solo venture. "Never thought I'd see you in Swiss chalet."
"It came with the restaurant." He unlocked the door and immediately two cats greeted him, meowing loudly as they burst out into the night. "As did they."
"Oh I see...so what else came with this place? That red-head in the kit..." Napoleon never got the words out; his mouth was suddenly much too busy fending off insistent lips and an invading tongue. It went on long enough to make his heart pound and his lungs cry for oxygen. "Napoleon..." Illya pulled back just a few inches from him, licking his lips.
"Uh, huh?" He was incapable of anything more than that.
"You're right, the veal is good tonight, but there's a little too much brandy." Illya worked his way down to Napoleon's neck, latching onto a remembered sensitive spot, sucking, biting and licking alternatively, marking the man.
"That was me. I had a nightcap while I was waiting for you to make up your mind." Napoleon, eyes closed, arched his neck to allow more access. "You want to tell me what happened?"
Illya ground up against Napoleon, his erection speaking volumes. "It seemed pretty straight forward to me."
"It wasn't what it looked like."
Illya pulled away, breathing hard and swallowed. "Napoleon, you had your dick in that woman's mouth. What was I supposed to think?"
"Well, okay, that was what it looked like, but that's not what I meant. I was like a kid in a candy store with you. Suddenly I had everything I wanted, all the sex I could possible handle. Then I saw the report from Medical and what it was saying about you. How run down and tired you were. Illya, I thought all that sex was killing you."
"So you went to someone else for it rather than asking me straight out? I was anemic, Napoleon, always am slightly. It doesn't have anything to do with having sex." He rested his head against the man's shoulder. "I'd never refused you, not once and all I could think was that somehow I wasn't enough, wasn't giving you what you needed when you needed it. It just didn't make sense to me."
"You never even let me explain. You left that night and it was like you'd walked off the planet. "
"And yet here you are." Illya's mouth resumed its path downwards, even as his fingers began unbuttoning the crisp white shirt.
"It's amazing what you can find when you're not looking for it these days." Solo's breath caught as supple fingers left his shirt to caress the front of his trousers and his erection before moving to his fly. "And I'm sensing that you'd lost some of your wide-eyed innocence between then and now. You used to always ask first. You were always so hesitant to let me know what you wanted." His voice caught at the soft breath blowing across the head of his penis, the even softer tongue that followed.
"Oh, my asking days went by the wayside long ago. I found if you want something in this world, you take it." Illya said before speaking became impossibility.
Napoleon tilted his head back, his eyes closed in pleasure at a remembered caress of lips and tongue. When Illya pulled away, he moaned in protest and reached for the blond head that lingered so tantalizing close to his penis.
"Tell me what you want, Napoleon." He drew just the tip of his tongue over the velvet soft flesh.
"And what guarantee do I have that you won't leave again?" Another gentle flick of the tongue.
"Because, Illya, I never left in the first place."
He was right about that, Illya had to concede him that point. He smiled and wondered just when his common sense had flown out the window. Five minutes with Napoleon and he'd already moved on to the oral sex. He used to complain that Matt had a hair trigger and here he was ready to come in his pants. It had been more than a while and he was more than ready. And there was no denying what Napoleon wanted.
He resumed his manipulation of flesh and blood, hearing Solo groan and even more faintly, hearing Rocky belting out yet another song. "Why, why, why'd I ever let you go? Mama mia, here I go again. How can I resist ya?"
It took two attempts for them to actually make it as far as the bed and by then, the only thing either man had in mind was catching their breaths. Napoleon smiled as he buried his nose in the Russian's hair as they stretched out beneath the quilt. "Your hair smells like food."
"It's how I always smell these days. You should be around me when I'm making sausage. According to Matt, I reek of garlic for weeks," Illya offered by way of explanation as he leaned into the caress.
"Mmm, have I ever told you that garlic is an aphrodisiac?"
"Napoleon, breathing is an aphrodisiac to you. Not that you ever needed any help in that department." He pulled away from the man slightly to regard him seriously through heavy-lidded eyes. "So what now, Napoleon?"
"Well, I'm an old...er man, give me a few minutes and we'll take it from there. I'm sure there's still some steam in my stride."
"That's not what I meant and you know it." Illya reached for a glass of water and took a long swallow, refilling it before offering it to Napoleon.
He took it, sipped and made a face, "You drink water now? It always used to be vodka." He handed the glass back.
"The kitchen dehydrates you, so I drink water—a lot of it. Or at least I do when I'm at work. At my leisure, I still like vodka. Although, being in the wine country, there is a certain affinity that grows on you here for that." He returned to glass to the bedside table. "And you're avoiding the question."
"I'm here, willingly, with you now."
"But for how long?" Illya settled back against the pillows. "Until you decide you know what's best for me and make another error in judgment without consulting me?"
"I think I sort of learned my lesson on that front."
"I won't leave the restaurant or Matt."
"So you and he are...?"
"Business partners, equal owners in this place and slaves to the same mortgage."
"Not for a long time." He reached out to touch Napoleon's hair, smoothing it back into place, drawing his finger along the man's cheek. "I had trust issues and he was needy—it was doomed from the start. There really hasn't been anyone since you."
"Would you believe me if I said the same thing?"
"It's true. After your rather abrupt departure, my Aunt Amy passed away, left me everything I could want, except someone to share it with. The people that kind of money attracts aren't pretty." He gathered the man back into his arms. "I found there was no one I could trust, not really. Everyone's' motive are ulterior."
"Try owning a restaurant some time."
"Okay." Napoleon pulled back to gaze into the man's face, caressing his lips with a soft finger. "How much you want for the place?"
"You couldn't have that much money." Illya closed his eyes, reveling in the sensation.
"Try me. How much do you still owe?"
"No, even if you could, I wouldn't take it."
"See? That's what I was talking about. That's what makes you different from all the other people who tried to call themselves my friends or worst tried to maneuver themselves into being my lovers."
"Then, it's just a good thing you asked me and not Mattie. He'd have taken it in a heartbeat and sink it in the other place. He's nothing if not practical."
"You still owe on this one and you're opening another restaurant?"
"I promised him one of his own after we got Taste on its feet. He's a good chef in his own right. He deserves a chance to shine on his own, not stagnate under me. It was his menu you had tonight. I just cooked it."
"Stagnate is never a word I would use for you, my love. And four stars? I'd say this one is more than on its feet." Napoleon drew a finger through blond chest hair, leaving a trail of goose bumps behind in its wake, drawing lazy circles against warm flesh and his mouth retraced the path.
"I agree, but it's going to be very quiet without him in the kitchen every night. No matter how he denies it, he'll take Rocky when he goes and I'm going to miss the ABBA fest every night."
"Would someone in your bed make up for it?" Napoleon let his lips linger over a nipple.
A sharp intake of breath "You think I'm that easy?"
"Right now I'm making book on it."
"Ask me again in the morning."