My thanks to Tafizgurl, Georgiamagnolia and Myredk9s for their Beta, help and advice with this one and to Suchafangirl, who was sad, but very helpful.
"This seat taken?"
Napoleon Solo didn't bother to look up from his glass of single malt scotch. He merely shook his head and nursed the alcohol.
"Vodka, neat, please."
He didn't know too many people who drank vodka neat and Napoleon hazarded a glance to his left and nearly dropped his glass. The man beside him focused violet-colored eyes on him. "You got a problem, mister?"
The blond shook his head slowly, studying him. "No, but I sort of get the feeling that you wish I was." The man's voice was smooth and very polished, with no room for any sort of accent in it. He opened his leather jacket to the warmth of the bar. The shirt beneath was green, worn and soft looking,
"Sorry, you just took me by surprise. You look just like my partner... a guy I work with."
"If I had a nickel for every time I heard that pick-up line." He accepted the shot glass the bartender set in front of him, nodded his thanks, and sipped the contents.
"No, you're definitely not him. He doesn't sip vodka," Napoleon admitted, raising his own glass in a toast.
"My father taught me that only fools and madmen gulp vodka. It's too easy to get drunk that way." He set the glass down and offered his hand. "Yuri."
"Napoleon." They shook hands and Napoleon noted the grasp was firm but casual, betraying nothing.
"Listen, it's okay if you don't want to give your real name; most of the clientele in here don't, but you should pick something a bit more believable."
"I'm serious. It's my real name."
Yuri whistled long and low. "Boy, your parents must have had it in for you." He sipped again, nearly draining the glass. "I haven't seen you in here before. Looking or hiding?"
"A bit of both, I guess." Napoleon signaled the bartender. "Can I refresh that for you?"
"Man after my own heart. So tell me, Napoleon, what brings you to this side of the tracks?"
"The obvious reasons."
"Well, if you don't mind me saying, you're a good looking man; your partner must have been an idiot."
"Or blind. To let you go."
"We never quite got to the holding stage... sadly."
"Does this guy know?"
"Does he care?"
"He does, but he's in a stable relationship. I can understand him not wanting to give that up."
"That's what I thought too. Thought mine was rock solid, but now her parents won't even let me see my sons. They thought I was a wonderful father, attentive, loving, and caring until I came out of the closet. Now I'm a monster that should be locked up so I can't molest my own flesh and blood." He drained his glass and laughed joylessly. "Yup, it's a great, big, beautiful world we live in, Napoleon, my boy. So you're just waiting around and hoping he gets tired of the other guy?"
"He's not like that. Once he commits, that's the way it is." The bartender set the drinks down and pushed a bowl of bar mix closer to them. "Thanks."
"So here we sit, the hopeless and the helpless. Nostrovia." Napoleon choked on his mouthful of scotch and gasped. "Shit, he's Soviet, isn't he?" Yuri pounded him on the back and Napoleon just nodded, since his breath was still playing silly buggers with him. "Sorry, I didn't know."
"It's okay," Napoleon wheezed and cleared his throat one last time. "I can't get over how much you look like him though. You could be his twin... if he was five inches taller and about ten pounds heavier and if your hair was blonder and your eyes blue." He stopped and chuckled. "Come to think of it, you don't look very much like him at all."
"And unless his papa was playing free and easy with the Georgian girls...what? Don't tell me he's Georgian?"
"No, but he went to the university there."
"Small world. So, Napoleon, what are your plans for the night?"
A twinge in Napoleon's side reminded him of his last attempt to hook up with someone and how badly that had turned out. "Sorry, a little gun shy at the moment."
"I so get that. Well, maybe next time then." Yuri tossed back the rest of the drink and stood. "It was nice meeting you, Napoleon."
"And you, Yuri." He watched the blond saunter towards the door, the small ponytail he wore swaying in rhythm with his gait. He very nearly called out to the man, but then turned back to his drink and his own thoughts.
He didn't have cause to venture back into the bar for over a month and as he stepped in, he scanned the crowd, hoping beyond hope to see a certain face among the male patrons. Nothing, but that wasn't surprising, not really. A man who looked like that probably didn't have to worry about his sheets cooling.
He sat, ordered a double scotch and let his mind wander. It hadn't been the best of affairs, but at least both of them made it out under their own power, although Napoleon was still not exactly sure how. They had been beaten, drugged, kicked around, and even tossed from a moving vehicle, but they still managed to come back behind their shield rather than on it. As usual, Illya had seemed to bear the brunt of the abuse, but that didn't prevent him from getting in a few licks of his own in the end. That particular THRUSH had nowhere to go but down when the Russian finished with him.
Napoleon was so buried in his thoughts that it took a minute for the voice to scrabble its way through to him.
"So, hey, handsome, buy a helpless Georgian a drink?"
Napoleon turned his head slightly and grinned. "I wondered if I'd run into you here tonight."
Yuri settled on a stool and signaled for the bartender. "Boilermaker, my good man. I haven't seen you in awhile. Figured you might have struck it lucky." He reached out and gently touched the bruise on Napoleon's cheekbone. "Or maybe you just got struck. Someone not want to buy what you were selling?"
"More like someone was trying to make me buy what I didn't want or need." Napoleon pulled away, more to increase the distance between them than out of pain. The air was fairly crackling between them.
"Yeah, I've had a few of those myself. So how is the present and distant co-worker?"
"Still present and still distant."
"Alas, poor heart." He wrapped a long-fingered hand around the shot glass and downed the whiskey, then reached for the beer. "The offer still stands, Napoleon. Cheers." He drank deeply from the glass and Napoleon watched his Adam's apple bob with the action. It reminded him of something he'd seen, something he'd have preferred not to, although he understood at the time why Illya had taken that path. Suddenly, Napoleon came to a decision.
"You're shittin' me, man." Yuri grinned and set down the glass. "I'm not going to even let you have the chance to change your mind."
Yuri studied Napoleon's foyer while Napoleon went through the motions of setting the locking system in place. "Nice digs. Much better than the flop house I'm crashing at."
"Well, it's actually my brother's place, so it isn't really that bad, but I can't exactly bring home a date either. He has kids and there's stuff about their Uncle Yuri they don't need to know right now and I don't want to explain."
"Good thing you don't have to." Napoleon moved closer to him and there was a moment's hesitation between them and then Yuri dipped in. His mouth tasted of the whiskey and beer, mixing with the Scotch Napoleon had been sipping. It was a heady cocktail and Napoleon drank deeply of it, feeling Yuri's hands roaming over him, encouraging, exploring, and discovering Napoleon's body.
Just the opposite, Napoleon kept his hands on Yuri's waist, the muscles there flexing and contracting as the man moved. Instead, he concentrated upon the kiss, only the kiss, pouring his considerable expertise into it until Yuri was moaning.
"How did you learn to kiss like that?"
"Lots of practice over many years," Napoleon said, slipping the man's jacket off his shoulders. Yuri shrugged, helping to send it to the floor. Tonight he wore a red silk shirt and Napoleon couldn't decide whether he wanted to run his hands over or under it first, so he opted to drop his hands to Yuri's waist again and reached around to cradle his ass.
He wasn't sure how long they stood there, kissing and fondling, but Napoleon became aware that they needed to move one way or the other, either finishing each other off here and now, or take it to the bedroom and continue to play.
Even as he was stripping Yuri, there was just the slightest hope that this could have been one of Illya's little games until he saw Yuri's circumcised penis. Definitely not Illya. Even he wouldn't go that far in his quest to fool Napoleon into thinking he was someone he wasn't. As they continued on, Napoleon discovered he was losing himself in the dance, forgetting about Illya and THRUSH and even UNCLE. For the moment, it was just them and no one else mattered.
It was just before dawn when Yuri slipped out of bed, dressed, and kissed him good bye. Even while he wished he'd stayed, Napoleon was glad to have some time alone to collect his thoughts before slipping into a peaceful sleep.
He woke with a smile on his lips, one that didn't leave him throughout his shower, breakfast, and the drive to Illya's apartment. For the first time in months, Napoleon felt content and happy with his world. While he might not have Illya as a lover, he suddenly had someone in his bed and that felt good.
He tapped his fingers in time with the music as he waited for Illya. One song bled into a second and then a third and Napoleon felt a coiled snake of concern start to unwind in his belly. Illya was never late, not if he could help it. The Russian didn't oversleep or lose track of time, not when they were working.
Hurriedly, Napoleon found a parking spot and pulled in, nearly running up the stairs to Illya's small apartment. He pounded on the door, but there was no answer.
Napoleon fumbled for the key as he frantically tried to remember his partner's plans for the preceding evening. Illya had been as ambiguous as usual when it came to actual events, but Napoleon had been left with the impression that he was going to be spending time with his lover...um, Eli.
He got the door open and stopped at the threshold. The apartment had been ransacked, no, not ransacked, destroyed. Pictures were torn from the walls, books and paper littered the floor, furniture was overturned, broken, or tossed aside. More unsettling was the blood that smeared damaged surfaces of the walls.
Damn it, while he'd been happily rolling in the hay with Yuri, Illya had been attacked and taken, probably THRUSH, but possibly not. The agent had enemies across the globe, not just because of their organization. Napoleon pulled his communicator out.
"Open Channel D—top priority."
"Go ahead, Napoleon." He couldn't even think of the woman's name at the moment as she answered.
"I need a crew to Mr. Kuryakin's apartment. It would appear that he's been..." Then Napoleon saw something in a shadow shift. "Stand by." He pulled his pistol free from its holster and flipped off the safety. As he neared, he felt his knees go weak with relief at the sight of a disheveled Illya. "It's okay, he's here. Solo out."
Napoleon stuck the communicator back into his jacket pocket and shook his head as he holstered his weapon. "Christ, Illya, you scared the hell..." That's when he noticed it, the blank stare, a total lack of response to his voice. Concern took over again and he knelt beside the Russian, sucking in a breath when he caught sight of Illya's hands. "Illya?" He took the square jaw in his hand and forced the man's head up. "Illya? Agent Kuryakin, report!" he spat out harshly and it seemed to have gotten through. Blue eyes locked with his and Napoleon smiled, calmingly. "Illya, what happened? What did you do?"
"He's dead, Napoleon." The voice was flat, without inflection, without emotion.
"Who's dead, Illya?"
"Eli. He's dead and they wouldn't even let me see him."
"His family, the doctors. They said I had no right... that I was only his... his... fag lover and I didn't matter. Why would they say that, Napoleon?"
"Because people are heartless bastards, my friend."
"I knew something was wrong when I left, but he said everything was fine, that I worried too much. He was just tired from working too hard. He was losing weight because he was dieting. Not dieting... dying... and he never said... he had cancer and I just believed him. I trusted him... why did I trust him? Why did he lie to me?"
"He probably thought he was sparing you."
"From what?" Illya looked down his hands, staring at them as if they were something he'd never seen before. He smiled slightly. "I can't even feel them. Why can't I feel anything?"
Napoleon studied the man, recognizing the onset of shock all too well. Again, he pulled out his communicator. "Open Channel D. I need a medical team sent to these coordinates. Urgent."
"Understood. Channel D out." For once, Napoleon was thankful that the communications operator didn't try to flirt with him. He sat down beside Illya and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. He could feel the trembling running through Illya's body, but the agent gave no outward signs of anything, just the blank expression of someone whose world had been abruptly destroyed and the shards of it handed back to him matter-of-factly.
"Why would they do that, Napoleon? Not let me see him?" Illya's voice sounded so dead, so empty. Napoleon struggled to think of something meaningful, something calming, but his mind was a blank "Why would they... would they... I didn't even get to say good... good..." Illya's voice caught and the dam within him broke. He began to sob, deep, gut-wrenching sobs. Napoleon grabbed him and just held on.
It wasn't the first time he'd seen Illya cry, he'd seen him cry in pain, in frustration, in anger, but now, crying because of all three, Illya was a force to be reckoned with and it took all the strength Napoleon could muster to keep him from hurting himself further in his blind rage. That must have been what happened to the apartment in the first place he decided as he kept Illya's arms pinned to his side.
The medical team burst through the door a few minutes later and Napoleon mentally tipped his hat to them for their speedy response. The head doctor, whose name Napoleon couldn't even remember at the moment, was instantly aware of the need to calm Illya down and hastily administered a sedative. Even then, Napoleon didn't let go; he held on as he felt Illya grow slack in his arms, a dead weight against him, rocking him gently the way his mother had rocked him as a child.
"What the hell happened here, Napoleon?" the doctor asked, seeing his partner's damaged hands for the first time.
"Not a clue."
It was a line he repeated many times that morning. Napoleon sat by Illya's bedside, each of the Russian's hand encased in a heavy plaster cast. The doctors did as much as they could by way of repair, but even they weren't certain of their work and Napoleon had to come to grips with the reality that Illya might be permanently crippled by this, his career effectively ruined by the insensitivity of idiots.
"What happened, Mr. Solo?"
Napoleon glanced over his shoulder at his superior, Alexander Waverly, and merely shook his head. "I don't know, sir, I arrived and found him like this." If Illya wanted people to know, then Napoleon would let him tell them. Until then, he vowed to remain tightlipped.
"Very well." Obviously Waverly didn't like his response, but wasn't inclined to push. A former agent himself, the Old Man seemed to understand the Code of Silence between partners. "Stay with him, Mr. Solo. Help him."
"Yes, sir." Like anyone would be able to drag him from Illya's side. He watched Waverly depart and turned back to his still-unconscious partner. "Don't worry, partner, I have your back."
He sat there in silence for a long time, listening to noises come and go in the hallway, the nurses coming in to check vitals and then departing with nary a word spoken between them.
His head bobbed up to see Illya looking sleepily at him. "Hey, partner."
Illya frowned as if trying to remember something half forgotten. "I thought you left."
"Never." Napoleon settled his hand on Illya's shoulder. "Not going to happen on my watch."
"I can't... something happened." Blue eyes, cloudy with drugs, fought to focus. He looked down at his hands. "What happened?"
"It's okay, don't worry about it. There's plenty of time."
"But you won't leave?" Illya was already drifting back to sleep.
"Scout's honor." Napoleon held up a three-finger pledge and he realized in that moment that he'd not be going back to that bar and that he'd never be returning a call to Yuri. He'd wait, through the healing process, through the inevitable nightmares of reality to come, through whatever the future handed him. Maybe he'd never have Illya as a lover, but by God, he'd be the strongest, most steadfast friend he could possibly be instead and that would be enough. This time, he wasn't letting go.