Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
Sharp clear air was the first thing he sensed upon waking. That and a fervent wish that he still slept with his gun so he could shoot the bird that persisted in a two-note song just outside the window. Obviously song birds were wasted on those with hangovers to nurse.
It was only October, but already the smell of winter was intermingling with the scent of fallen leaves. Illya Kuryakin reluctantly opened an eye, arguing that as long as the other stayed closed, he was still technically asleep. Without moving, he glanced over at the bedside clock and inwardly groaned. One more minute and he'd officially have to wake up and this morning he desperately wanted to stay in bed.
No matter, he reached out a sluggish arm to cancel the alarm. Napoleon was still burrowed beneath the blankets and sheets—no use both of them being miserable at the same time. Bracing himself, Illya pulled back the covers and slipped from the bed. It was just about time to either start leaving the window closed at night, turning on the heater or putting on pajamas.
Still, the cold helped shake a bit more lethargy from his limbs and he stretched, wincing at the pull in certain muscles. His lower back ached and he felt like he'd been reamed with a Brillo pad—and of all the nights to break down and pander to his love of hot Thai cuisine. Going to the bathroom was going to be a double treat this morning.
These are the things you never think about in the heat of passion, he thought as he padded his way to the bathroom. By the time he got shaved and into the shower, the aspirin he'd taken had kicked in and he was starting to feel halfway alive again and his mind was already starting to mull through the daily tasks that lay ahead.
He toweled off and headed back to the bedroom, found his favorite pair of sweat pants, still desperately in need of new elastic, and pulled on a tee shirt. Napoleon mumbled something and rolled over, but Illya let him continue to sleep.
Fifteen minutes later Illya was back, this time bearing coffee. He set the cup on the nightstand and laid back down, snuggling up against Napoleon's back and wrapping an arm around him.
Nuzzling the hair at the back of Napoleon's neck, Illya murmured, "Wakey, wakey, sweet prince." He kissed the skin briefly.
"God, Illya, don't you ever tire out? You're like a freaking rabbit." The protest was half hearted at best as Napoleon stirred to blink sleepily at him over his shoulder. "I hate to admit this and will deny saying it until my death bed, but I don't think I'm 'up' for it right now, amante."
"Then I shall alert the media and mark it down on the calendar. This was the morning Napoleon Solo refused sex." Illya brushed Napoleon's sleep ruffled hair off his forehead and smiled. "Look, are those pigs I see flying by the window?"
"Enough!" Napoleon tried to sound forceful, but Illya merely chuckled and offered him a mug. "What were we thinking last night?" Napoleon rearranged himself so he could both handle the cup of coffee and wrap an arm around his lover. "This reminds me of a very bad joke I heard once." Napoleon took that first sip and closed his eyes in a rapture that only a coffee drinker could understand.
"The Norse god, Thor, decides that he's feeling a little anxious, so he takes on the guise of a human and comes to Earth. After a brief time, he finds a willing woman in a bar and they retire to her home where they have copious amounts of enthusiastic sex..."
"I see where this reminds you of us..."
"Stop interrupting." Napoleon ordered as he took another sip of coffee.
"Anyhow, the next morning, he's feeling a little guilty about having had this woman without even formally introducing himself, so he rolls over and he says, "Madame, I'm Thor." And the woman looks at him and says, "You're thor? I'm so thor I can hardly pith."
Illya stared at him for a long moment, his face devoid of all emption. "Oh, that was the joke then?"
"Well, laugh." Napoleon nudged him with his shoulder.
"Actually, those were sort of my exact thoughts earlier, after a fashion." Illya shifted to try and find a more comfortable position and then he grinned. "I think we need a new mattress."
"I think I need a new back...or possibly a new body."
"But I am so fond of the current one," Illya protested, pushing the cup aside for a kiss. "Warts and all."
"Remember that when I'm 84 and you're pushing me down the driveway in a wheelchair."
"I intend to." Illya kissed him again and then wiggled out from beneath Napoleon's arm. "You've got about 30 minutes to shower and shave before Matt shows up. No going back to sleep, Napoleon," he warned as the dark head started to droop slightly.
"You're a harsh task master," Napoleon muttered, but Illya merely smiled and winked at him.
Breakfast was a brainless task in Illya Kuryakin's opinion. It just didn't seem to offer him the challenges that other meals did. Most people, if you gave them breakfast meats, eggs, and bread or pastries of some sort, they were happy. That didn't mean it kept him from enjoying the food he made for the meal; it was just an automatic thing he did on Sunday morning like feeding the cats or starting the coffee.
He was sauting some onions in preparation for a picante sauce for his avocado huevos rancheros when two strong arms slid around his waist and a hand moved down to gently cup his genitals. He smiled contentedly and then one corner of his mouth lifted in a smirk.
"Well, that's either you, Napoleon, or Matt. Want to give me a hint?" The hand tightened threateningly and Illya chuckled. "Napoleon, it is then."
"One can never be sure." Illya stirred the onions around as the hand began to caress. "None of that now," he warned, but tilted his head obligingly as lips started to nuzzle his neck
"Can't I let you know how sexy you are to me?" Napoleon whispered. "Or how much I love you?"
"Of course, but your timing is somewhat awkward, since we will have a houseful in a relatively short amount of time."
Napoleon sighed and, with one final stroke, brought his hand up Illya's stomach and chest to rest on his shoulder. "What would you like me to do?"
"Do you feel up to fanning the avocados for me?"
"You trust me to do that?"
"I trust you to tell me if you think you can't." Illya pointed to a cutting board. "If you prefer, you can practice on some strawberries first."
"Gimme, gimme, gimme a man after midnight. Take me through the darkness to the break of day." Illya glanced up at the singing voice that floated through an open window and over that of the new Dave Brubeck tune playing on the radio.
"Mmm, what an excellent idea," Napoleon said, grinning. "Oh wait, been there, done him."
"You are on a roll this morning, Solo," Illya said, chuckling again. "I am going to go out on a limb and say Matt convinced Rocky to come with him this morning." He pointed at Napoleon. "Don't say it! You had your chance earlier. As I recall, you turned me down." He paused to flip some eggs in a frying pan.
"Enjoy the rest as it's unlikely to happen again." Napoleon opened the kitchen door just as Matt was pulling back his hand to knock. The redhead had learned the hard way that knocking was safer than just walking into the small chalet style house now that Napoleon had moved in. "Cara," Matt said, hugging Napoleon briefly before abandoning him for his partner. "And how are you this morning, Chef?" He brushed some hair from Illya's face to study it and, after a moment, smiled. "My grandfather would say that you look like someone rode you hard and put you away wet." When Illya turned his head to protest, Matt kissed him and quickly stepped out of arm's length, grinning.
"That's a fair estimate of our evening after you left," Napoleon said, accepting a platter of fruit from Rocky, who kissed Napoleon's cheek and smiled as he flushed. It was obvious that Napoleon still felt a bit awkward with the more open physicality of Illya's friends and co-workers.
"You got to learn to pace yourself, Cara. I don't want to assume sole responsibility of the place because you and your dark-eyed canaglia scopata te a morte."
"Matthew, do you kiss your mother with that mouth?" Illya snapped. "And I'll have you know I'm far from dead -just a little tired. You're not looking as spry as usual yourself, I might add."
"Well, I'm not as young as I used to be." He paused to wrap his arms around Rocky as he passed by and grinned. "But I'm not as old as I'm going to be."
"Excellent, in the meantime, youngster, help Napoleon with the avocados. I'm just about ready to bake this. "
"And me, Chef?" Rocky washed his hands quickly.
"You can go get the coffee cake and slice it. Jesus said that he'd leave us two loaves in the walk in in the restaurant."
Rocky touched a forefinger to his head and immediately left. "So when are you going to make an honest man out of him, Matt?" Napoleon asked, concentrating on making his slices evenly spaced. Matt, on the other hand, made it look easy as he quickly sliced through the fruit. "I'm thinking at Christmas. He's already hinting that it's the perfect time to receive jewelry."
"He's right. That when I gave Illya his first piece...of jewelry, I mean."
Matt laughed out loud. "Oh, Cara, we are corrupting you. And, yes, I knew what you meant." He finished slicing his avocado and pressed gently on the end to make the slices fan. He moved closer to Napoleon and slipped his hand over the top of Napoleon's, carefully guiding the knife. "And then like this." He positioned Napoleon's fingers and pushed. "Look at that, better than Chef could do."
"You're a wonderful teacher, Matt. Have you ever thought about give all this up for the classroom?"
"He just does it because he thinks you have soft hands, Napoleon." Illya interrupted as he layered the tortillas, refried beans, eggs, lettuce, tomatoes. "If you two are quite finished with those...?"
"And leave the limelight of slaving back in a kitchen?" Matt carried the cutting board to Illya and held it as he slid the fruit off and into the pan. Illya sprinkled grated cheese over the top and waited as Matt opened the oven. "Perish the..." Rocky's abrupt entrance interrupted him and he immediately frowned. "Cara mia, what's wrong?"
"There's a guy crawling all over the front of the restaurant." He set the platter down. "He tried to follow me inside and when I told him the place was closed, he started asking me all sorts of weird questions. Chef, he's kinda scary looking."
A hard look settled in Illya's eye. "What kind of questions, Rocky?"
"When you'd be there, would you be out front or in the back, how vested are you in Taste, stuff like that."
"Matt, would you mind watching things here?" Illya grabbed a towel to wipe his hands off.
"Do you need help?" Napoleon had no trouble slipping into his former role of enforcement agent. While it was true neither man was up to the level they had been as top UNCLE's agents, both were still in good shape and very fit.
"Just as back-up for now. Watch me from the living room in case."
Illya walked out of the kitchen and through the small courtyard. Leaving by a side gate, he entered the parking lot and headed purposefully to the restaurant. Sure enough there was a stranger standing on the front porch of the establishment, trying to peer through a darkened window. Illya set his field agent persona in place and approached.
"May I help you?" Illya asked politely, but with a 'who-the-hell-are-you?' tone in his voice.
"You the owner?" The stranger towered over him, but Illya wasn't deterred. When you were as short as he, you got used to it quickly. "Yes."
"We've had some complaints." The man started to reach into his jacket and Illya took a step backwards. Alarm bells were going off in his head and he'd only become an older spy by listening to them. However, instead of a gun, the man pulled out a small black book.
"Complaints?" This was news to Illya. While it was true he didn't have his finger on the pulse of the restaurant like he used to, he still was well aware of everything that went on with the place.
"Accusations that need to be checked out."
"I'm sorry, but if you would like to come back during business hours, I'm sure we can handle all your questions." Illya hazarded a look towards the house and immediately Napoleon moved out, walking noiselessly along the short path. Because of the bend in it, he was invisible to the man on the porch.
"Are you Tovay or Kuryakin? What kind of names are those anyway? Why can't you have American names?"
"Because neither of us are Americans," Illya explained. "What exactly is the nature of these complaints, sir?"
"I'll have to get them to you later. Are you open tonight? It says that you're open tonight."
"Yes, sir, we are and I'd be please to put your name down for a reservation should you care to dine with us."
Napoleon let himself be seen then and the stranger took a step back. "Later, maybe, yeah, whatever." He turned and hurried away.
"What the hell was that all about?" Napoleon softly asked as he watched the man jump into a car and leave.
"I have no idea, but I don't like it." He turned to leave and then paused. "Napoleon, do you have any plans for tonight?"
"Nothing outside the usual, why?"
"I would feel better if you were in the front of the house tonight. If you could just hang around in the bar and keep your eyes and ears open, it would be appreciated. I don't like the looks of that man."
"No problems. I can flirt with the Twinkle Twins."
"They would literally shoot you if they heard you call them that."
"A risk I will be glad to take for a few moments of their wide-eyed charm."
"Let me know how that works for you."
They walked back toward the house, but Illya hesitated. The car had stopped just at the corner and the stranger was watching them. "There is something very odd here."
"What would be the point? I'm of no use to them any longer, except perhaps in the revenge sense and he'd have had ample time to snatch or kill me if that was indeed his game." Illya shook his head and walked back to the small vine-covered courtyard. "He'll be gone soon enough when everyone else shows up.
When the restaurant had first opened, Illya had started the tradition of having a Sunday morning brunch/ staff meeting. People, especially those in the culinary industry, felt more comfortable about talking when there's food involved. It was a way to let his staff know that he appreciated them as well as valued their input. This was a time to talk freely without worrying about repercussions or to make suggestions. Everything was permitted during this time and Illya had learned to listen patiently to everyone, even the dish man. Mike had saved him thousands of dollars more than once simply by advocating the use of one type of crockery over another.
Halfway through the meal, Illya stood and cleared his throat. The good natured bickering that was going on between some of the staff stopped and the conversation that Rocky was having with two of his waiters stilled. Illya rarely addressed them during this time, preferring to sit back and listen instead, so this move in itself stood out.
"I need to say something to all of you and you must focus and be serious for a moment." He waited for everyone to settle down. "This morning, there was a stranger poking around the restaurant. I confronted him and he said that there had been complaints leveled against us. Complaints and allegations of a nature he wouldn't discuss with me. Does anyone know what he's talking about? Has a customer spoken to you or has anyone receive a letter that they didn't feel otherwise inclined to share with me? These are serious charges and I need to know what you know."
A chorus of protests, cries of innocence and general disbelief, went up around the table. Illya locked eyes with Rocky. "There is nothing to your knowledge? Matthew?"
"No, Cara, nothing. We have received nothing but praise that I'm aware of."
"Napoleon, anything from the business end?"
"Not that I wouldn't have already mentioned to you. All our creditors are paid and happy."
"I thought as much. That's what bothers me about this situation." Illya leaned on his knuckles and surveyed each member of his team. "Tonight, this gentleman is going to be joining us as a diner. I want you to act professional. Do not be deterred by his questions, or go out of your way to answer them. Be honest, be patient and by all means possible do not let him get under your skin." Illya stopped and took a deep breath, choosing his words with extreme care. "Napoleon will be in the bar tonight. For reasons you might not understand, trust me when I say he's the one you want at your back. If at any time you feel threatened, coerced or insulted by this man, go to Napoleon. If he tells you to get me, I want you to do just that and then begin to quietly escort our guests from the restaurant. Do it quietly and quickly. Agree to whatever it takes to get them out of Taste. Am I understood?"
"Can we ask why, Chef?" Roxanne had pushed her plate away and was studying him with an anxious look in her eyes.
"No, not now, I'm sorry." Illya smiled to soften the harshness of the words. "I will explain it all later. Let's just get through the night, okay?"
A buzz of conversation exploded the moment he sat down and Napoleon leaned forward. "You're really worried, aren't you?"
"Yes." Illya reached for his coffee cup and stared into it. "If something happens, it would finish the restaurant. I...we can't afford this right now." He locked eyes with Napoleon for a long moment and then murmured, "And I won't have any more blood on my hands." He stood back up and walked into the house.
Matt stared after the blond. "Napoleon, what did he mean by more blood?"
Napoleon rose stiffly and glanced back towards to the kitchen. "Matt, would you help me get the...um, you know?"
"Sure, right, I can do that." The redhead masked his confusion well as he followed suit.
"Need help?" Rocky looked anxiously about the table, still obviously trying to digest Illya's words.
"No, I shall be right back." Matt kissed the shaggy brown head and trailed after Napoleon.
Illya was standing in the kitchen and looked over as Napoleon and Matt came through the door. Napoleon ushered Matt thought and then locked the door behind him.
"What is this?" Illya shifted his attention from one man to the other. "Some kind of intervention?"
"Matt wants to know what's going on and I think we owe it to him." Napoleon sank into a chair at the small kitchen table. "How much do you know about our pasts?"
"Just that you two used to be an item and then Illya left you."
"You didn't tell him anything?" Napoleon addressed this to Illya, who shrugged. "And you, Matt, you didn't notice anything strange about the way Illya acted or...looked?"
"Looked?" Matt was openly puzzled and then realization hit. "You mean all the scars?" He chuckled as he admitted, "It never crossed my mind to ask. Some of us have a rougher time coming out than others. We often attract undue attention and have the shit beat out of us. I figured Illya would tell me what he wanted me to know."
"Now you know one reason why I slept with him," Illya muttered. "No questions asked."
"Illya and I used to be part of a very specialized enforcement organization. Some of the people we fought were not especially taken with our continued existence." He paused at Illya's snort.
"God, Napoleon, just come out with it," his partner snapped, his humor all but gone. "We were spies. We ran around the world killing people."
"Our job was to protect the innocent and make sure that good had a fighting chance over evil," Napoleon corrected.
"I don't understand." Matt sat down across from Napoleon, but his eyes never left Illya.
"We were trained killers. We slept with our guns...or anything else to get the job done." The Russian had gone back to the window, looking out at the people milling about the long table as they talked and cast sidelong looks at the house. "And it looks like it might just have finally caught up with me."
"Us," Napoleon corrected gently. "We're both equally involved in this, Illya. We were, still are, partners."
"Well, that explains a lot," Matt said, rising. "And I can understand why you didn't feel like sharing. That would sort of put people off. You think this guy is a bad guy?"
"I don't know, but I'm not willing to take a chance. How many covers do we have tonight?"
"First seating is pretty much gone, about half with the second, nothing really on the third."
"When he calls, put him in third preferable or second if necessary. I don't want him there any longer than is possible."
"Gotcha, Chef." Matt moved towards the door and then stopped as he was reaching for the doorknob. "You do know we are all in this with you, all of us."
"No—if it comes to that, just Napoleon." Illya smiled slightly. "He's been watching my back for a long time—no use changing that now." Matt nodded once and slipped back outside.
"He's hiding it, but he's scared." Napoleon came to stand by Illya's side, slipping an arm around his waist.
"He's not the only one, Napoleon. We've been out of the loop for a long time. We're rusty, both of us."
"Couldn't this guy be someone else, like a food safety inspector?"
"They always arrive during business hours and announce themselves." Illya sighed. "No, this is something completely different. Still, there's no use worrying about it now. Let's get cleaned up."
That night, with Napoleon safely settled in the bar, business went on as usual in the small restaurant. Illya was in the middle of butterflying lamb chops when Rocky came into the kitchen. The fact that he wasn't singing or even smiling, drew immediate attention from Matt.
"He's here, isn't he?" the redhead asked, setting down the knife he'd been using.
"At table six."
"Good," Illya said, settling the chops onto a plate and wiping off the rim with a cloth. "It's time to do what we do best and that is to serve him. Rocky, I want you to take the table. Dee will understand. Be professional, be patient and if you need to..."
"Yes—He'll be watching you from here on out as well. If there's something going on he doesn't like, he'll let you know."
Rocky took a deep breath and looked over at Illya, who nodded and turned back to the plate as Matt stepped in for a kiss. PDAs weren't encouraged, but it seemed to be what the man needed at the moment.
Thusly armed, Rocky started humming the "The Impossible Dream" and headed for the double doors.
A few minutes later, Rocky was back. "Chef, table six wants to know if he can do a split plate on the starters?"
"Depends, which ones?" Illya afforded him little attention as he tried to keep the contents of three pans all moving.
"He wants to split the mushroom ravioli and the meatballs."
Illya turned to stare at him. "On the same plate? That would be disastrous—those two sauces would battle each other the minute they touch...wait." Illya paused. "Mike, do we still have that sample dish, the one that looked like a figure eight?"
Mike turned from scraping a plate. "Um, last I saw it was on a shelf in the office." He pointed in the general direction with his spatula. "I'll go look, Chef." Roxanne dried her hands off on her apron and walked quickly from the kitchen. She was back in a moment with the piece.
"Tell the man yes, Rocky," Illya said, returning to the stove.
And so it went all evening, a constant stream of requests from table Six- could Chef do this? Would Chef do that? Would he do the specialty of the house, but change the starch? Illya's first chef had drilled into his head, indeed into every one of his students' heads, that the answer was always yes—what was the question? If the customer was happy, it didn't matter that your principles were compromised, that your dish was changed or that the choices made no sense what-so-ever. It was quite the challenge for Illya to remember that as he struggled to find the balance between the requests and keeping true to his own vision of the dishes.
Rocky walked wearily into the kitchen. He too was feeling the burn as he struggled to keep this one customer content. He'd given up singing or even humming. The dark head bobbed wearily as he leaned back against the wall.
Matt glanced over and smiled at him before pulling a tray of souffls from the oven.
"I'm sorry, Chef," Rocky murmured after a long moment.
"Did you finally punch him out?" Mike wanted to know. "I'd have done it about half an hour ago."
"Sadly, that goes against every bit of my training. I have done everything except offer him gratuitous sex, but to no avail. He wants you, Chef." Rocky shook his head sadly. "And he doesn't look happy."
Illya glanced over at the clock and shrugged his shoulders. "It's time anyway." He pulled off his food-stained chef's coat and tossed it over on a convenient counter. Turning his equally stained apron inside out so the clean side was now facing the world, he pulled on a clean jacket and buttoned it to the neck.
When they started Taste, it had made sense to have both him and Matt visible in the dining room. It gave them a direct line to their patrons, to find out which dishes were, or more importantly, weren't working. Matt loved the social interaction and Illya, like now, found it a necessary evil.
Giving Rocky an affectionate pat on his shoulder, Illya said, "Rocky, you were outstanding tonight. I don't say this often enough, but you are a vital part of the restaurant and we would suffer without you."
"Thank you, Chef, but I feel like these are your parting words."
"They very well could be. Napoleon is still in the bar?"
"Never took his eyes off me."
"With Celeste and Stella there? I find that hard to believe." Illya smiled and walked out of the kitchen. As was his habit, he started with the left side of the room, carefully choosing a path to some of his regulars first. All the time, he watched table six from the corner of his eye. The man seemed anxious and equally attuned to where Illya was in the room. Passing close to the bar, Illya caught Napoleon's eye for the briefest of seconds and he nodded to his lover. Then, squaring his shoulders, he approached table six.
"You made it back. This morning, I wasn't so sure." Illya kept his tone neutral.
"Yes. You cooked everything tonight?"
"I did. Is there a complaint?"
"Chef, to be honest, I couldn't come up with one if I had to." The man offered his hand and Illya regarded it warily for a moment before taking it in a careful grasp. You could tell much of a person's intentions by how they shook your hand. The stranger's grip was firm without being crushing, very businesslike. "I want to compliment you upon your staff as well. My waiter couldn't have been more accommodating, especially with some of my more avante garde requests."
"I'll be sure to let him know—thank you."
"Do you do this kind of business every night?"
"This is a fairly typical Sunday." Illya looked around the room. About half the seats were filled by diners just finishing up, lingering over their coffee or drinks.
"You should expand."
"This is about the food, not money. I will never expand the restaurant beyond this."
"How about opening another?"
"My partner talks of it, but, no, I have no plans." Illya returned his attention to the man. "This is enough for me."
"A chef without dreams of greatness?" The man folded his napkin and placed it before him. "Do you lack ambition or just suffer from insecurity?"
"Excuse me?" Out of the corner of his eye, Illya saw Napoleon stand and he shook his head. "Neither and now, if you will pardon me..." The man grabbed Illya's forearm and then hastily released it when a cold blue stare was leveled at him. "Thank you for dining with us this evening." He kept his voice level, but the tone of dismissal couldn't be ignored. Illya turned and walked back into the kitchen.
Matt, as well as the rest of the kitchen staff, was there the moment he'd cleared the doors. "All is well, yes?"
"All is well," Illya repeated. "Rocky, he loved your service. For some reason, the fact that we aren't planning to expand seemed to trouble him more than it should." Illya rubbed his eyes, trying to coax the headache away.
"Five loved the souffls, Chef." Dee, another of Taste's long-standing waiters, sang through the pass through. "Oh and Napoleon wants to know how much longer you're going to be."
"Send him back to me, would you, Dee?" Illya walked into the tiny closet they laughingly called an office and collapsed into a chair, closing his eyes. He didn't need to see Napoleon to know the moment his lover walked into the room. A sense of peace and reassurance suddenly settled upon him and he knew Napoleon was close at hand. A breath later and he felt gentle pressure on his temples rubbing them tenderly.
"Now I am." He let his head loll forward. "Is our friend still here?"
"He was collecting his bill last I saw."
"Would you be so kind as to make sure he finds his way successfully off the property, old friend?" Illya smiled as soft lips pressed against his temple.
"Your wish, my command."
"My wish, against the law...but then and again, when did that ever stop us? I'll be another hour here."
A reassuring squeeze to his shoulder and Napoleon was gone. Immediately, the world felt a little less kind and generous.
The rest of the evening played out without incident or excitement, something for which Illya was thankful. The stranger still bothered the hell out of him and he even paused to ascertain the conditions of the windows and doors downstairs—all locked—before wearily heading upstairs. In the old days, he would have dropped to the couch and been done with it, but those days were past. He'd not sleep on the couch when he had Napoleon's arms instead.
Napoleon was stretched out on the bed, his attention firmly held by the latest best seller, something political by the looks of it. There had always had rumors of the dark haired agent being shallow and without interest in anything not wearing a skirt—Illya smirked over that thought. He knew that Napoleon was highly intelligent and well read, both in the classic and the modern sense. Illya, in fact, didn't know anyone who actually read more than Napoleon, himself excepted.
No reading tonight though, not for him. Illya sat on the edge of the bed to toe off his shoes and take his jacket and tee shirt off. He didn't have the strength or desire to go farther than that. He fell back on the pillows and sighed.
"You're not going to sleep with your pants on," Napoleon said after a long moment. He slipped his book mark in place and glanced over at the blond.
"I lack the energy or the desire to do more," Illya muttered, his gaze firmly affixed on the ceiling. "What the hell was all that about tonight?"
"I have no idea." Napoleon set the book upon the night stand and settled back on the pillows himself. "Suppose you tell me?"
"He wasn't THRUSH, that's for sure, but then who the hell was he?" Illya rolled over onto his stomach and buried his head into his pillow.
"I could make a couple of discreet calls if you'd like." Napoleon let his fingers trail up a long thin scar on one of Illya's shoulder blades. A path of goose bumps followed the movement and Napoleon smiled. "After all, I'm still a former agent in good stead."
"Not worth the effort." Illya's voice was muffled by the pillow.
Napoleon smiled slightly and began to run hand over his skin. Illya permitted himself to sigh encouragingly at the sensation and Napoleon hand's first began to trace small circles and then to knead at the stress tightened muscles.
"You need a good rub down, my friend." Napoleon's lips followed his hands.
"That's not what I need, Napoleon, not really." Illya rolled over and captured one of Napoleon's hands. He brought it to his mouth, kissing each finger carefully, his eyes never leaving Napoleon's.
"And what is it that you need, Mr. Kuryakin?" Napoleon let his mouth play into a smile as Illya reached up and pulled him down into an embrace.
"I'll give you a hint. It starts and ends with you." He pushed Napoleon's robe off his shoulders and swept it aside.
"Hmm, I'm liking the sound of that." He shifted so that Illya was on top, a clear invitation.
"I thought as much." Illya started a slow but deliberate caress with his lips and tongue down Napoleon's neck, nipping, sucking, laving his tongue over his pulse point and down to the junction of his neck and shoulder.
He followed the path back up, rubbing his whisker-stubbled face against Napoleon's clean- shaven cheek before returning to that mouth he loved. He thrust his erection against Napoleon's thigh and Napoleon reached for him, but Illya stayed his hand, entwining their fingers and guiding the hand down to the bed, pressing it against the mattress—a definite message.
Smiling, Napoleon relaxed beneath his lover's body, happy to simply respond to his touch, comfortable and confident in his role as the submissive in this case. Thus assured, Illya stripped off and returned to his assault, following an oft-travelled path to first one nipple, then the other before trailing down his stomach. He paused in between to savor a cicatrix or two along the way, running just the tip of his tongue over raised scar tissue—a reminder of what had brought them to this point in their lives.
Hair didn't appear on Napoleon's body until just below his navel, something so different from his own body. Settling between Napoleon's legs, he paused to admire the burgeoning erection his lover sported. It was hard to believe, looking at his penis that it was as well attended as it was. Rock hard and weeping pre-seminal fluid, it looked like it had been denied its very existence for months. Illya knew better and for a moment, he waivered, anxious to feel Napoleon entering him, stretching him, loving him.
A knot of tension tightened in his stomach and he shook his head. No, tonight he would lead, anything to break the grip the day's events held upon him. Grasping Napoleon's penis with one hand, he worked the base with his fingers while plying his tongue to the tip.
A movement broke his attention and he flicked his gaze up just as Napoleon was grabbing the lube from the nightstand. Smiling, Illya returned to his task of seeing how close to the edge he could bring his lover without sending him over. Without slowing either hand or mouth he reached out his remaining hand and Napoleon obliging squeezed a generous amount of cream onto those fingers.
Thus armed, Illya worked his free hand down and in, massaging, stretching, preparing Napoleon to receive him, all the while never pausing in his oral stimulation until it became apparent that he either needed to finish Napoleon off or change tactics. He reached for the tube again, slathering his own extremely eager penis.
Napoleon hitched up his hips and stuffed a pillow beneath his back. Unlike Illya, he wasn't quite as flexible, but then again, he didn't find himself in this position as often as the Russian did.
Illya position himself and pushed gently, stopping as just the tip of his penis entered the tight band of muscle. Napoleon hissed and Illya bent his head back, savoring the sensation.
"Oh my God, you feel so good," Illya murmured.
"It always amuses me to hear an atheist say things like that," Napoleon panted as Illya slid a bit further in, then pulled back only to press in deeper.
"This is almost enough to make me believe in heaven." Illya repeated the movement again and again until he was fully sheathed. "Are you ready?"
"Once around the moon I think." Napoleon managed before breaking off into a moan of carnal delight. Illya set the pace, picking it up as he drew closer to the edge. Napoleon's fingers clawed at his ass, fingers digging in and Illya balanced on one hand as he worked his lover's penis with the other. Suddenly he started slamming into Napoleon's body with all the force he could muster, each thrust being met with a welcoming grunt of pleasure.
Then a breath, a mutual half groan/half cry of triumph and Illya leaned back, chest heaving as he ejaculated. Beneath his hand, he felt Napoleon throb to his own climax, the resulting muscle contractions drawing Illya's climax out just a bit further.
Despite the coolness of the room, Illya was covering with a fine sheen of sweat and he panted as the last tremors left him and he felt Napoleon's body slowly casting him out. He used Napoleon's robe to wipe his partner's semen off his stomach and hand. He flopped down alongside Napoleon capturing and kissing his left hand and the gold band there.
"Thank you," he murmured as Napoleon returned the gesture. He didn't ask if he'd hurt Napoleon, trusting his partner to have said something earlier if the situation had become more than he could bear.
"You needed it. I can remember feeling like that—all stressed up with no one to kill." Napoleon smiled sleepily, pulling the pillow from beneath his back. "Why don't we do that more often?"
"Napoleon, if we did that any more, we'd never get out of bed..."
"I meant the other. I don't mind you...driving." Napoleon ran a hand through Illya's hair, letting the strands fall free from his fingers.
"No idea really, things just never turn out that way it seems. Almost didn't tonight."
"I sensed that, but let me be the first to thank you for your single-minded purposefulness."
Illya pulled himself free of Napoleon grasp and stood. "I need a shower."
"You...ah..need some help?" Napoleon caught his hand.
"Think I can handle it, thanks, but maybe later you can come in and scrub my back."
Napoleon's mouth played at a smile. "I think I could arrange something."
Illya wasn't sure what woke him. He came to an instant awareness, something born in his days as an agent. Beside, Napoleon was nestled down into a cocoon of blankets and pillows, still deeply asleep. There was something Illya couldn't put his finger on. He slipped from the bed and grabbed a pair of jeans from the chair near his side of the bed. It took just a moment to wiggle into them and shove his feet into a pair of boots. That accomplished, he grabbed a shirt and tugged it on. He abruptly realized it was one of Napoleon's, but it didn't matter. He buttoned it as he went down the stairs. Then a voice stopped him.
"Illya what the hell are you doing?"
Illya glanced up the stairs at Napoleon and smiled slightly. "I heard something, so I thought..."
"You'd go out and look for it alone? Did you get up on the stupid side of the bed today? You don't go into anything like this without backup." Napoleon pulled on a sweatshirt as he reached the bottom of the stairs. "And to think I used to call you Smart Russian."
"Okay, you've made your point. I just didn't think it was anything."
"Let's just leave it with you didn't think period."
"Can we just drop this for the moment and find out what I did or didn't hear?" Illya opened the front door. The gray day had given way to a miserable night and mist was starting to gather in low spots. Illya snatched up his jacket from the coat tree and slid out into the night with Napoleon on his heels.
For a moment, he just stood there, breathing deeply, letting his sense awaken to the sounds, smells and sights of the night. A whisper of noise drew his attention towards the restaurant and he pointed off to the left to Napoleon. He nodded once and slipped away. Illya moved quietly in the opposite direction, taking care to stick to the shadows. He glanced across the empty parking lot, but saw nothing. Still, he flanked the neat fence that separated the lot from the hedge, using the foliage as a cover. He came up to the back of the restaurant and hesitated at the sight of two dark forms, intent on the kitchen door.
"Okay, Tommy, try it now," one shape urged the other.
Smiling softly, Illya stole up behind them. "It works better with a key, Tommy," he whispered to the closest form. The man, Tommy, jumped back in surprise and Illya took the opportunity to slam a fist into the kidney of the other shape, presumably the first man's partner in crime.
A sharp cry and the second men fell to the ground as Illya turned his attention to the other. "Do you have any idea how dangerous breaking and entering can be as a profession?" Tommy made the mistake of trying to land a punch. Illya blocked it and returned one of his own, feeling satisfaction as his knuckles made contact with a fleshy jaw. Tommy staggered back a step and Illya crouched, ready to launch himself at the man.
A searing punch to his side reminded Illya that there were two assailants and he dropped, rolling easily back up to face them both. Then came the blow to the back of one knee and Illya grunted as the leg went from beneath him.
"That why it pays to have a look out man, Blondie," Tommy murmured. Both men moved in, trying to capture the Russian's arms to hold him still, an easier task on paper than in practice as Illya eluded them for a time. The problem was that Illya, while in good shape generally, was far from his fighting fitness. Working with weights and occasional sparing matches was nothing compared to the daily onslaught he'd faced at the hands of THRUSH and it had taken its toll, as had time. Illya wasn't a young agent any longer and eventually his arms were pinned. He instinctively tightened his stomach muscles against the blows he knew was coming. He gave voice to each punch that landed, knowing that it would keep his attacker from laying heavier ones. He let his head roll when the blows switched from low to higher up.
Illya decided he'd had enough and was about to drop to his knees in an attempt to loosen the firm grip on each arm when he saw movement in the night and then heard the soft voice of his partner.
"I think we've had enough exercise from one night. What do you think?" Napoleon leveled the P-38 at the attacker's temple and cocked the gun. That stayed the punch he was about to deliver and he started to glance in Napoleon's direction. "No, eyes front, if you don't mind." The man complied. "Illya, are you okay?"
"Fine, couldn't be better." He spit out some blood and pulled himself free. "Just what I want to do on my night off is have my ass kicked by a bunch of punks." He wiped his mouth off and glanced at the blood, glittering black in the half light. Abruptly, he drove back an elbow, dropping Tommy to his knees and then brought a stiffened hand down onto his neck. Tommy went to the ground, unconscious.
Not to be outdone, Napoleon slammed the butt of his gun against his man's neck and he too was down for the count. "And that leaves us with you, sir." He leveled the P-38 at the remaining man. "Let's talk."
"It was their idea, man. They were the ones who said this place was rolling in cash, not me. I'm just an innocent bystander who got caught up in it."
"I see." Illya rubbed one fist into the palm of the other. "And the prisons are filled with innocent men, aren't they, Napoleon? The morgues, on the other hand, remain blissfully open for business."
"What? No, you can't kill me."
"Correction," Napoleon said as Illya disappeared into the night. "My friend can easily kill you a dozen different ways, and all of them impossible to prove or even trace."
Illya returned carrying a roll of wire and wire cutters. With very little wasted movement, he attended to his unconscious guests first, trussing them up as if they were Thanksgiving turkeys. He made sure the wire was tight enough to be wiggle proof, but loose enough to not cut into tender skin. He'd only been restrained with wire a few times in his tenure as a guest of THRUSH, but it wasn't something he was eager to repeat. Hopefully, these men would come to a similar conclusion. That accomplished, he turned his attention to Napoleon's burden. "We can do this the hard way or the hard way, which ever you prefer." The man sat down obediently and Illya twisted the wire about his wrists and ankles.
"Ow, that hurts."
"Good, then you know you're still alive." That accomplished, Illya finally acknowledged his partner. "Excellent timing as usual."
"You want to call Milt or should I?"
"Guess I should be the bearer of bad news. Can you keep an eye on these three for me while I do that?"
"It's why you pay me the big bucks," Napoleon said, with a smirk.
"Among other things."
Illya had to give Milt credit. The sheriff was there quickly, in spite of the lateness of the hour. He hustled the men into the back of his sedan and pointedly glanced down at the gun shoved into the waistband of Napoleon's trousers.
"A permit to carry?" Napoleon guessed. "Yes, Sheriff, I do."
"I was gonna ask if you had the safety on," Milt amended . "A shot there might cripple a man for life."
"Rest assured that was the first thing I did before stuffing it down there, Sheriff."
"There might be another one out there, Milt." Illya looked up from signing the police report. "There was a guy hanging around the restaurant all day and night. I'm thinking he might have been a front man. They should crack pretty easily. You want me to take a spin with them?"
"No, I think you should see a doctor and then maybe get some sleep. Leave the police work to those of us who know what they're doing."
"Fair enough." Illya handed back the clipboard and watched the man ease himself back into the car and drive away. "Do you think we should tell him?"
"Naw, let him work it out for himself. After all, it's the Law of the West." Napoleon punched him lightly on the shoulder and Illya winced. "Come on, old man, let's go get you patched up and then we need to have a long talk about things."
"What sort of things?" Illya started to walk back towards the house.
"Why you have this inane desire to end your life early?"
"They wouldn't have killed me, Napoleon. They were just kids." He stopped to look back at his partner.
Napoleon was clearly agitated and punctuated the air as he spoke, "So were we when we joined UNCLE and we killed quite efficiently from what I remember. The only reason we weren't killed ourselves was because we looked out for one another, watched each other's back. Why do you keep insisting upon stuffing me in a corner like I'm some God damn porcelain doll?"
"You're really angry, aren't you?" The question was so soft Napoleon almost didn't hear it.
"Yes, I'm furious. You're not 20 anymore, Illya and, damn it, I don't want anything to happen to you now that I just gotten you back again." Napoleon grabbed him by his upper arms, fingers digging painfully into his biceps. "Do you hear me, I won't lose you again."
Illya closed the gap between them. "You won't lose me, Napoleon. I swear." He took a deep breath. "I'm just not used to having to check with someone when something needs to be done. I just got used to taking care of it myself."
"Not anymore." Napoleon hugged him, holding him tightly.
"Not anymore," Illya repeated. "Can we go to bed now? For some reason, I'm very tired all of a sudden."
"Sure." Shifting his position, but keeping one arm firmly around the slender waist, they walked back to the house.
Five weeks later
"Illya?" His name was half sung into his ear and Illya reached out to push the speaker away. He'd been already kept up much the night by the same voice, singing the same song.
"Go away," he mumbled. If he'd had the strength or motivation, he'd have rolled over onto his stomach and buried himself beneath the pillows, but that would offer far too tempting a target for his over-amorous lover. Instead he draped an arm over his eyes.
"Illya, guess what?" Napoleon tried again.
"Napoleon, it's my day off and I'm sleeping—go away."
"Just guess and then I'll let you go back to sleep."
"How about you just tell me and I let you live?"
"Okay," Napoleon murmured. "I just wanted to let you know that it snowed out last night." He unceremoniously clamped two freezing hands onto Illya's bare stomach. The man was out of the bed with a shout, a curse and the look of sheer murder in his eyes.
"What the hell are you doing?" Illya managed after a moment. Solo's hands were beet red from the cold and Illya had every intention of staying away from his lover's grasp at all cost.
"Just thought you'd like to know, that's all." Napoleon's smile was devilish. "But now that you're up, you have 45 minutes before we're due at Matt and Rocky's."
"What?" Illya grabbed the bed side clock even as he was drying his stomach off with the corner of the bedspread. "What? This can't be?" Illya gasped as two arms snaked around him and cold hands cupped his genitals. "You are so going to die, Solo."
"Mmm," Napoleon agreed, holding the naked body even closer to his. "Promises, promises."
"I'll promise you this. When you least expect it, expect it." Illya suddenly tipped a shoulder and easily tossed Napoleon onto the bed. Thus assured that his dignity was intact, Illya headed for the bathroom.
Carrying two bottle of Chianti in one hand, Illya let himself into Matt's rented house.
"Hey, Mattie, we're here!" he shouted when the only thing to greet them was Rocky's floppy-eared young beagle. "Hi, Chiquitita, how are you? He reached down to scratch the hound's head. He was still ill-at-ease around dogs, but since he'd known this one practically from birth, he was reasonable sure it wouldn't try to eat him.
"We're in the kitchen, Cara," Matt sang out. Napoleon had never been in the house and glanced around at the entry hall, a neat little alcove with doors leading off from three walls and a staircase erupting along the fourth. Illya headed towards the farthest one, after sitting briefly to remove his snow-crusted boots and his jacket. When he stood, Napoleon followed suit. Illya was wearing a soft blue sweater that he knew was Napoleon's favorite, just as Napoleon had donned a pale yellow cashmere sweater over his shirt because he knew Illya liked it.
The kitchen was warm and steamy as a large pot of water boiled on the stove. Rocky was sitting at the table, polishing silverware, and Matt was slivering peppers.
"Mmm, smells like home." Napoleon took a deep breath before handing the wine to Rocky. He collected a brief kiss for his efforts as Illya walked up to Matt.
"Let me guess, ah, paglia y fieno?"
Matt popped a piece of pepper into the Russian's mouth. "With a side order of sweet spicy sausage for my friends who crave that as well."
"Hay and straw?" Napoleon translated, coming up to Matt and squeezing his shoulder.
"With tomatoes. It's called that because of the green and yellow peppers, along with the egg and spinach spaghetti you serve it with. My grandmother used to make this dish all the time." Matt turned his attention to Illya and nodded to a pot that was standing off just to one side by the sink. "Cara, would you peel and seed the tomatoes for me?"
"Seeing how you hate doing that, yes, it wouldn't be a problem." Illya pulled up the sleeves of his sweater.
Rocky was up and rummaging through a nearby hutch drawer, tossing an apron to him in a causal fashion. Illya tied it about his waist and moved to the sink. Napoleon had turned his attention to opening one of the bottles of the Chianti.
Illya was about halfway through chopping the cleaned tomatoes when there was a knock on the front door. "You were expecting someone?"
"Not me,Cara. All my guests are already here. Rocky, could you grab that?"
Rocky was out and then back a moment later. "Shelly has a piece of registered mail. It's addressed to Taste." Illya frowned and rinsed his hands off. Matt set the sausages he'd been browning off the heat. He hooked an arm around Napoleon's neck and they moved into the entryway.
"Looks like I hit the lottery when I gambled you might be here," Shelly, Jackson's only postal carrier, said, offering the clipboard to Illya. "Either one of you can sign it—it has both your names on it."
Illya signed and exchanged the clipboard for the letter. He turned it over in his hand and his breath caught.
"What is it, Illya? Bad news?"
"Oh my God—it's a summons. We're being closed," Rocky guessed.
"It's worse...it's from Michelin."
"Somebody sent you a registered letter about tires?" Napoleon looked from one chef to the other, not understanding their distress.
"Napoleon, these are the people who award the stars..." Rocky swallowed, reaching down to scoop up the eager beagle and hold her close. "Or take them away..."
"Okay, so open it up and find out which one," Napoleon said, excited. "It's like getting a letter from the college of your choice to see if you've been admitted."
"You had a choice? I was told." Illya said, still staring at the envelope. "I don't think I can do this." He offered it to Matt, who held up his hands and stepped away.
"Not in a hundred years."
"Oh, for crying out loud." Napoleon took the envelope and carefully tore it open. A single sheet of paper slid out and he opened it up. He scanned it quickly and then refolded it slowly and put it back into the envelope. "Huh, what do you think about that?"
"Napoleon?" Illya's voice had dropped to a whisper. "Please..."
"Oh, you want to know what the letter was about?" Napoleon's expression was all innocence.
"Yes!" Matt's voice rocked the hallway and Chiquitita squirmed anxiously.
"Well..." Napoleon rubbed an eyebrow, drawing out the agony a bit longer. "All I can say is, I don't know where you have your tattoo, Matt, my boy, but I hope there's enough room to accommodate one more star."
"What?" Illya snatched the envelope from Napoleon as he leaned forward to kiss Illya's forehead. A combination of the adrenaline, wine and sheer excitement made the blood rush in his ears and his vision started to darken.
"You got your fifth star, Chef," he said softly, then grabbed Illya as the man threatened to sag. "Illya? Now, wait, you didn't faint when I proposed," he muttered, his voice muffled against Illya's neck and Matt and Rocky danced around jump and shouting. The puppy picked up on the excitement and started to howl as well.
Illya used the moment to take a few deep breaths and then nodded. "You I was expecting. This was a total surprise. That crazed madman, the one we thought as a front for those burglars was really a Michelin inspector," Illya murmured, his eyes still on the letter—"that's why he was asking all those bizarre questions. If I'd thought about it a moment before jumping to a conclusion..."
"Can't fault you for that, we both did. Well, it's over a month early, but Merry Christmas, amante." Napoleon angled his head around to capture Illya's lips and then grinned at the besotted expression. "I think a few phone calls are in order, what do you say?"
"I think perhaps a drink first," Matt interrupted. "And then if you're very good, Napoleon, I will let you see that there is more than adequate space for my tattoo."
"NO!" both Rocky and Illya shouted at once and Napoleon grinned.
"Think I'll have to take you word for it, Matt, my boy. For some reason, it makes the natives restless otherwise."
Later that night, Illya lay in his lover's arms, sticky, sweaty and feeling very satisfied with his life in general.
Napoleon kissed the corner of his eye. "Happy?"
"Told you I'd bring you luck." Napoleon brushed damp blond hair from Illya's eyes.
"You've brought me more than that, Napoleon. You always have. You always trusted me, believed in me when no one else did. Those first few months at UNCLE—New York were hard ones, but you never wavered. You were right there from the beginning."
"To the end." Napoleon kissed his temple again. "Till death and all that—I meant it, Illya, all of it."
"I know, as do I." Illya shifted slightly to reach for a glass of water. "It's been a helluva year, Napoleon. If someone had told me this time last year that I'd be happily married now and running a five star restaurant, I'd have laughed them out of the state."
"As long as I can keep you laughing and loving me, then I'm happy."
"Always." Illya settled back down and closed his eyes. Tomorrow would bring new challenges, more attention, more game playing and hard choices, but for now, all was right in his world. Thusly, safely wrapped in his lover's arms, he slept.