Third Time's the Charm
There wasn't another sound in the night except for their breathing, panting and fraught with their love making. It was just them, perfect in both moment and time, as they moved together towards completion, both lost in the feeling of being connect, totally as one, with each other. So perfect, so wonderful that it couldn't last. It never lasted. Collapsing on the blanket, they lay quietly, waiting for their hearts to calm. The brunet sighed deeply, contentedly. "That was... good."
"Good? Only good?" Illya Kuryakin propped himself up on his elbows and frowned. "Are you saying I've already peaked?"
"What was I thinking? Forgive me, dushinka. That was better than good." He sighed again. "Are you happy, Illyusha?"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"Just checking." He slipped his arm over Illya's stomach, tracing lazy circles on the bare skin. "I can't believe I have to ship out in the morning."
"It won't be bad, Sergei. We can write and there are shore leaves." The wool pants from Illya's uniform made a scratchy pillow beneath his head.
"Eighteen months isn't forever."
"It'll seem like it—that long without you." Sergei brushed Illya's cheek with tender fingers, then dropped his hand to examine the tiny medallion he'd been given. The mate to it hung around Illya's neck, occasionally catching a reflection from the nearby campfire. "Make love to me again, Illyusha."
"You're going to kill me."
But it wasn't Illya who died. It was Sergei, cut down as he climbed from a trench. The Germans didn't even stop to see if it was a clean kill, just slogged by. Illya hoped that it was, for the thought of his lover slowly dying in the mud and muck, alone and forgotten, nearly broke his heart in two. So he ran, hiding out on a submarine, just one man among many. But he never took the medallion from his neck. It kept him from getting too close to anyone else.
It took him a long time to care again and he was surprised at the form it took. Marta was a dark haired Estonia with a generous heart and very warm lips. He didn't think he could love again, not after Sergei, but she proved him wrong. And in her arms, he started to feel again. To be with her was as natural to him as breathing and he woke one morning with her in his arms and knew he wanted to wake every morning like this.
To say his decision to marry surprised his parents was an understatement. They had already surrender to their oldest son's proclivities; surrendered and accepted them as being part of Illya. To suddenly be presented with a daughter-in-law delighted them and astounded the, but not as much as did her ensuing pregnancy. His mother sang every day and his father strutted as if his chest would explode. Illya was happy, so unearthly happy, that it was inevitable that it would end. Again, it would be a bullet, although this one was an unknown assailant. Marta had merely been in the wrong place at the wrong time, bungled into a bank robbery and became one of a dozen victims of the day.
This time, Illya's heart truly was gone. He continued to wear his wedding band as a reminder to not permit himself to get too close any more. He had friends, good friends that surrounded and nurtured him, but no lovers. When the physical need grew too strong for him to resist, he found relief with a nameless prostitute. Twice he'd give love a try and twice it had nearly killed him—no more. Again he ran, this time to France and then to England away from his home and his memories.
He had his studies and those took up as much time as he gave them. Then there was his work. At first, he worked with the military, then the KGB and finally GRU, splitting his time as needed. When his superior called him into his office and told him of an opportunity overseas, he jumped at the chance. It represented an escape from the memories that Mata and Sergei left him with. He knew the language, the customs and he knew he was very, very good at his job. To represent the U.S.S.R. in an international organization was indeed an honor and they made it sound like he was making a tremendous sacrifice for his country, when, in fact, all he was doing was running away... again.
What Illya wasn't prepared for was the isolation. He'd experienced some of it in France and England, but it was nothing compared to what he faced in America. There he was the enemy, so much so that he hid his Russian side as much as possible, cultivating the British accent he'd picked up at Cambridge, doing his best to keep his beliefs and culture hidden, an island onto himself. It was lonely, but it was safe.
At least it was until a dark-haired American waltzed through his door and announced they were to be partners. Illya rebelled, as much as his strict Russian discipline permitted. Back home to defy your superiors usually meant a one-way ticket to the coal mines in Siberia. Been there, done that and it had only been his intellect that prevented him from dying there.
Slowly, Napoleon Solo weaseled his way into Illya's life until the two were practically joined at the hip. They spent more and more time with each other, although Illya was careful not to cross any lines. His partner was blatantly heterosexual and dedicated to the advance of skirt chasing. Illya would just shake his head and step aside whenever Napoleon flashed him that 'look.' A glance down at the ring on his finger made it less of a slight and more of a relief, so he kept the band there. And a fast touch to the chain on his neck helped remind him of the folly of love and regain his focus.
Then UNCLE started to economize, one room instead of two, cramped overseas flights, throwing the two men into closer and closer contact with each other until Illya was sure he was going to go insane. Every day it got harder for him to resist, more difficult to deal with not only his emotions, but his own fear until he had no choice.
"What the hell is this?" Napoleon threw to folder down on his desk with more force than necessary.
"It's a form UN/24-5-6, Napoleon." He kept his voice calm, not rising to the bait.
"I know that, but what is this? Imagine my surprise to be called into Mr. Waverly's office to be told my partner is requesting reassignment." Napoleon stopped pacing and his face softened. "What's wrong, Illya? I'm your partner; you can talk to me... about anything. You know that."
'That's the problem, Napoleon, I can tell you anything... except that I'm in love with you.' Illya kept his gaze study, refusing to back down to Napoleon's alpha dog attitude. "I need to do this, Napoleon. It is either reassignment or resignation; I thought the reassignment was the lesser of the two evils."
"I don't understand."
'Nor could I make you, my friend.' Illya's heart ached, but twice he'd loved, twice he'd lost. He wouldn't permit it a third time. Not Napoleon. He would not have Napoleon's death on his conscience as well.
That night, he sat in his apartment, restless, but lacking the will to start packing. He'd loved his time in America, with its shameless decadence and pursuit of capitalism, but England was good too. And he would be close enough to visit home more now. His parents were aging and he missed them and his siblings more than he would normally admit to himself. So he drank his vodka and stared out the window at a landscape that would soon be just a memory.
There was a knock at his door, but he ignored it. No matter who was on the other side of the door, he wasn't interested. And it only came as a small surprise when he heard a key in the lock. He really should have demanded the key back earlier that morning before Napoleon stormed away.
"Illya?" Napoleon stood in the doorway, the hall light framing him.
"Napoleon, what part of 'leave me alone' don't you understand?"
"All of it actually," Napoleon admitted, moving into the apartment. "Why are you doing this?"
For a moment, Illya considering lying, then the ring caught his eye and he decide that perhaps, just perhaps, this would be a good time for the truth. It didn't matter anywhere. His reassignment had been approved. In two day, he would be gone, running again. "Because I have to, Napoleon, I have to do this to keep you safe."
Then, in halting, broken sentences, he talked, truthfully talked, for the first time in what felt like forever. He reminisced about making love to Sergei by firelight, the joy when Marta told him she was pregnant, and the agony their deaths had caused him. He talked, not even knowing or caring if Napoleon was still listening. It just felt good to unburden himself after all this time and be free, of only for a few moments, of the weight he carried.
That's when Napoleon kissed him. "But haven't you heard of the old saying, 'three times the charm?'"
"I can't. Please, don't make me..."
"Make you what, Illya?"
"Don't make me love you."
"You must." Napoleon kissed him again and there was no room for argument, no time for rational thought. It was as if had to be and in his heart, Illya began to mourn again.
And mourn he did for a good many of his friends, co-workers, family members, but never for Napoleon. Somehow they beat the odds and one day Napoleon replaced the ring on his finger with a band bearing three diamonds. Illya still had Marta's ring and Sergei's necklace, but they were no longer symbols of what he'd lost, but rather a reminder of all the he'd gained. And he was happy.