Face the Music and Dance
If there was anything Napoleon Solo loved to do, it was dance. Well, there were other things that he also enjoyed, but dancing for him was like breathing. To feel a person in his arms, making that connection, if only for a few minutes, it was what made life worth fighting for.
That was why he watched the bodies gyrating to some noise that was laughingly referred to as music and shook his head in wonder. Where was the melody? Where was the beat? Where was Sinatra? Why the courier wanted to make the drop here was beyond him.
His eyes scanned the room until he spotted Illya apparently arguing with a beatnik or at least Napoleon thought that's what they were calling themselves now. So many changes of late had left him feeling just a little out of sync.
It felt a little odd to not have any women bounce up to the table and try to drag him out on to the dance floor, not that he would have gone. The unrelenting march of time was upon him. The women he favored were all married or divorced and on the prowl. They wanted from him what he couldn't give them, a future. The young women, girls really, they were either too young or too familiar. He'd made the mistake of dating a woman in her mid twenties and he'd very nearly gotten raped before he could get out the door. Whatever happened to a woman playing coy or waiting for the man to make the first move? This new sexual revolution thing was just not working out for him.
Napoleon nursed his scotch, avoiding the fancy drinks with the fancy prices. If he was going to pay that much for a drink, he wanted to be able to taste the alcohol and not bother with a bunch of fruit or froth or cream.
"Got it!" Illya's voice brought him back from his daydreams and he glanced over to see Illya's brow furrowed.
"Are you all right?"
"Music is giving me a bit of a headache."
"Me as well. Let's go." He drained his glass and led the way outside. Their table was snatched up the minute he stood up. Didn't matter, he couldn't get out of here fast enough.
The air was cool and crisp. There was a promise of winter in the air and Napoleon looked up at the night sky. It was steel gray as always. There was no stargazing in New York, not anymore. It didn't matter; he climbed into the car and sank gratefully against the stiff vinyl. Illya reached for the ignition and Napoleon stayed his hand.
"Just enjoying the quiet for a moment longer."
"You are getting old, my friend. We'll drop this off and then I know just what you need." He started the car. "Do you trust me?"
Napoleon caught Illya's arm and stopped dead in his tracks. "Illya, if I'm not mistaken, this is a gay bar."
"Napoleon, I am impressed that you know of such things. Yes, it does cater to a certain clientele, but you did say you trusted me."
"Then trust me a bit longer."
Illya led the way in and Napoleon braced himself. Even though he was a player and would take a man or a woman to bed with the same amount of enthusiasm, he'd always avoided such places. His buddies had dragged him to one of these places in P'ohang and he'd been sickened by what he'd seen inside. It had been the first and the last gay bar he'd been in.
Instead, he'd slowly and very carefully gathered together a list, checking the men out as carefully as he would a suspected THRUSH or prospective Innocent. When the need became too great, he had someone whom he could call who would be efficient, attentive, and confidential.
He followed Illya the same way he'd trail after his partner down a THRUSH corridor, confident in the man's ability, but still wary and prepared.
Illya spoke quietly to the head waiter and the man showed them to a corner booth. It was tastefully appointed and the cushions comfortable. That's when Napoleon heard the music—Rosemary Clooney. He hadn't heard her in years. He settled back and felt the tension start to drain away. Around them couples sat, just as they would at any other restaurant, talking, laughing, and enjoying each other's company. The fact that most of them were same sex couples didn't escape him.
A waiter stopped and set cocktail napkins in front of them and set drinks down on them, a vodka neat and scotch on the rocks.
"How did they...?
"I come here a lot," Illya admitted lifting his glass to Napoleon in a salute.
"And do you frequently order vodka and a scotch?"
"Not as a rule."
Napoleon sipped and nodded. "Very nice."
The menus arrived and Napoleon was delighted. There were no avant-garde items, none of this new push of 'hip cuisine' as he called it. With delight, he started with Oysters Rockefeller, followed it with chicken broth with Parisian vegetables and for his entrée, a nice filet in a Madera sauce.
"And you're going to move after all that?" Illya asked, pulling his glasses from his shirt pocket to study the menu.
"Since you're going to probably eat half of it, I think that even dessert is a safe bet tonight." The waiter approached and Napoleon placed his order. "What about you, partner?"
"I think the Scampi Livornese to start, followed by a Caesar and the rack of lamb."
"Sir, that's for two."
"I know." Illya watched the man walk away, shaking his head. "He must be new."
Corcovado started to play and Napoleon smiled. "Now, at the risk of sounding like my father, that's music."
"Do you want to dance?" Napoleon's dumbfounded expression made Illya smile. "Perhaps I should have let you finish your drink first."
"Um, Illya, we're both men."
"I am aware of that, Napoleon, but as you mentioned, that is real music and you looked so forlorn earlier this evening." Illya shrugged and returned to his drink. "Never mind."
When he looked up at Napoleon who was standing with his hand extended. Wordlessly, Illya stood, and followed Napoleon to the floor.
Napoleon felt butterflies flutter in his stomach as they walked past tables to the small dance floor. There was one other couple dancing, but he only had eyes for Illya. There was no hesitation as they started to dance, moving easily to the music, just as they moved through their daily lives, connected on a dozen different levels.
He'd danced with hundreds of women, tall, short, blonde, brunette, redheads, yet none of them felt this... right. There was nothing petite or refined about the hand that rested in his. It was strong, it had killed, it had saved, he'd felt it in anger, in friendship, a dozen different ways, yet it had never felt this natural.
He'd held Illya before, just as Illya had held him, in desperation as one or the other tried to staunch blood from a wound or just to comfort when coming out of the throes of a THRUSH cocktail. They'd clung to each for support in the bitter cold and driving rain. They'd gotten drunk together and hung onto each other to keep from ending up in the gutter or worse. Yet, never had Illya felt so... well, as if he was meant to be there.
Napoleon wanted the song to go on forever so that he wouldn't have to let go, knowing even as the last notes left the trumpet that the emptiness would be all consuming. Then it was done and they were applauding politely and Napoleon felt a little bit of his heart break.
"You're very quiet for a man who's eating a dozen oysters, Napoleon. Is there a problem?"
"No." He forced a smile. It was what he was good at—making believe he was something other than what he was.
Illya's hand covered his and Napoleon hesitantly looked up. "That might work on someone who doesn't know you, Napoleon, but not me. What's wrong?"
"Nothing, just a touch of mélancolie."
"Why are you melancholy?"
"No reason, the time of the year, the feeling like the world is starting to pass me by for someone younger, faster, stronger..."
"With age comes wisdom."
"I guess I'm just feeling old."
"Huh, you should hear me trying to get out of bed in the morning."
I'd like that, Napoleon thought, or at least he meant to think it, but from his partner's bemused smirk, he realized he must have said it out loud. "Oh, God, Illya, I didn't..."
"I think we need to dance some more, don't you?" And dinner was very much forgotten.
Napoleon felt his climax rocketing through his body, his nerves screaming. It was everything he'd wanted, nothing he'd expected and something he'd kill to have again. Panting, he draped himself over Illya's back, feeling the man struggling to catch his own breath.
Napoleon settled his head against the sweaty skin and could hear Illya's heart pounding. Without meaning to, he tightened his grip and rubbed his whiskered chin against the sweaty skin.
"That was... that was..."
"Yes, it was rather, wasn't it?" Illya swallowed and dropped to the bed. Napoleon caught himself at the very last second and lowered himself to one side. "I'm on the wet spot."
"You left it, it seems fair to me." Napoleon brushed blond hair off Illya's forehead, smiling as it immediately fell back into place. "What did we just do?"
"I can think of over a dozen terms, Napoleon, all of which you are very familiar with."
"No." Napoleon caught Illya's hand and brought it to his lips and then rubbed his face against it. "What did we just do?"
"What we should have done a long time ago, Napoleon, only I was too slow to realize it and then too scared to think the attraction was mutual."
"I can't believe you are afraid of anything."
"I was of this, worried that I might lose your friendship if I was wrong, afraid that you'd have me on the next plane back to London or the USSR. There was a lot at stake here."
"So what changed?"
"In the club, the first one. You looked so sad, so lost, I decided it was worth the chance."
Illya rolled over to kiss him. "Absolutely."
Napoleon reached up to touch the blond hair, tangled from their love making. "So tell me, Mr. Kuryakin, would you care to dance?"
"With you? Always." And Napoleon, again, took the lead.