Midnight in Moscow
"Ow." Napoleon came to rest on the ground, the leaves doing very little to cushion his fall. He flopped back with a grimace. After a second his partner came to stand beside him.
"Well, that went about as good as it could, Nap."
Napoleon grimaced at the nickname. In his book, they hadn't been partnered long enough for that familiarity. "What do you mean? We left a dozen men dying back there."
"Better them than us to my way of thinking."
"Shouldn't you take cover?" Napoleon didn't want to over-step his bounds, but to present oneself so prominently seemed foolish.
"Why? They can't hit anything even when you paint a bull's-eye the size of a barn on it. How's your shoulder?"
"Just grazed, I think..." Napoleon slipped a hand beneath his shirt and gingerly touched his back. His fingers came away wet and glistening red. "You?"
"Never better. It'll take more than a handful of cock-eyed THRUSH..."
Napoleon never did know what it would take more of. His partner dropped to his knees, his face a mixture of disbelief and pain. Napoleon didn't wait. He rolled, took cover behind the tree and snapped off a shot. It took two more to take out the THRUSH who shot his partner.
He went through the moves, calling for help, reporting an agent down, but he knew it was too late. Oscar was dead before he had fallen. At least THRUSH had been more efficient this time. His last partner had taken an hour to die. Napoleon had tried to make his last moments as painless as possible.
That's when there was a sharp crack and Napoleon felt a searing burn cut through him, making him gasp. Instantly his hands went to his stomach to try to staunch the bleeding.
My God, he was going to die... here in the field. He'd thought he'd have had a longer run. Twenty eight seemed so young. He collapsed slowly on the ground, half over Oscar, covering him protectively without really meaning to. The Solo curse, after all, was still alive and well.
Napoleon came to reluctantly, not eager to embrace the pain he knew was waiting for him. He played the docile patient for awhile, letting all the nurses fuss over him, flirting with them when he had the energy. He missed Oscar's memorial service and that was fine with him. The man had been an idiot of the worse kind. He was reckless and arrogant... well, Napoleon had to concede, so was he, but he also knew when to shut up and keep his head down. Oscar hadn't had that much common sense.
Slowly he got back into the swing of the daily routine. Therapy took more time than he wanted it to, but he had hurt himself during the first go round and had had to start all over again after he'd re-healed. He was desperate to get back out into the field, but his recertification kept getting turned down for one reason or another.
Just when he was ready to completely despair, he was informed by his CEA that he'd been promoted to senior agent, the youngest ever to achieve that. It was nice, but it came as a surprise. Losing a partner was bad luck, losing two was misfortune. Lose four and fellow agents started avoiding you, started looking at you as if you carried the reek of unprofessionalism; this, in spite, of a board of review investigating and finding Napoleon free of any fault. It didn't matter—he was cursed and no agent in his right mind wanted to be paired with a pariah.
He'd been on the shooting range, working on improving his scores when the real bombshell hit. Napoleon didn't really know how to take the choice bit of information or even if he was supposed to know. Waverly had named him his successor... Napoleon had pulled his ear protection back on, shot a perfect round, then gone into the bathroom and thrown up.
Was Waverly out of his frigging mind? The question insinuated itself into Napoleon's consciousness and stayed there. His re-cert didn't surprise him now. He'd walked into Waverly's office, still mulling over the fact that one day, God willing, agents would be walking into this very room to meet with him.
There was a file on the table with confidential stamped across the front and a strap sealing it shut. Waverly manipulated the table around until the file sat in front of him.
"Go ahead, Mr. Solo, you have permission to break the seal."
He did and flipped open the cover. The black and white photo that greeted him made him frown.
"He's close to your age, Mr. Solo."
Napoleon's eyes dropped to that line and he sighed. So he was. "Is this some KGB trick, sir?"
"Everything has been verified and re-verified Mr. Solo. "
"Whew, when does he sleep?" He studied the file, reading it through, then going back and reading it again. "This new agent, sir?"
"Yes, Mr. Solo."
"UNCLE is certain he's... with us?"
"I am certain, Mr. Solo, and that is all I need."
The door chimed and Waverly pushed the open button. The man who walked in looked more like some kid that should still be in high school, should be getting ready for his prom and sitting around with his friends chugging beer and swapping tales.
Except this man had had none of that leisure. This man had been taken from his home at a young age and fast tracked. He'd been given the best education the Soviet Union could provide and when he exceeded that, his government sent him elsewhere, first to Paris and then London. He'd been in the Russian Navy, served with both the GRU and the KGB and now here he was with UNCLE.
"Mr. Solo, meet Illya Nichovetch Kuryakin. Mr. Kuryakin, Napoleon Solo."
Napoleon watched the man tip forward in a slight bow and he stuck out his hand. The one that encompassed his was strong, sure, and confident.
"Sir, Mr. Solo."
Napoleon shot a look over at his superior. He'd been expecting a heavily accented, maybe even harsh voice, not the English accented one that greeted him. Napoleon then grinned; the man probably learned English with a British instructor, so the accent made sense.
Waverly motioned the Russian to a chair and Kuryakin slid into it gracefully.
"You are to be partnered with Mr. Solo. He will, in turn, show you the ropes."
"There is tying involved? I was expecting guns and bombs..."
Napoleon laughed slightly and caught just a glint in the man's eye. Kuryakin was pretending ignorance to put them... at ease? At the risk of making himself look foolish? Napoleon could appreciate that.
"Yes, lots of tying — of us, usually. It just means I will show you your job."
"I understand. Forgive my confusion; I am still uncertain of your American idioms."
"That's quite all right," Waverly replied. "You are dismissed."
They'd almost made it to the door when Waverly called the Russian back in. Napoleon desperately wanted to know what was going on, but instead he used the opportunity to flirt with Waverly's secretary. Normally she wouldn't have given him a second look, but now that he was a senior agent, she had time for him.
The Russian walked out and fell into step beside Napoleon. It was weird, but Napoleon got an odd sense of déjà vu.
He looked over at the blond and shook his head. "How... odd."
"What is wrong, please?"
"I just have this weird feeling that we've done this before."
"Not likely, as I've only been in your country for a few days."
They walked quietly for a moment, then Napoleon said, "There's about eight hours between here and Moscow?"
"I believe so, yes."
"So if it's four p.m. here..."
"It is midnight in Moscow..."
Napoleon chuckled. "I do some of my best work then."
"Indeed, I am looking forward to seeing that." There was a wicked little smile to match the statement and Napoleon gave it right back to him.
They never set out to be the best team in UNCLE. Napoleon just wanted to stay alive long enough to die of old age. God only knew what Illya wanted; the more Napoleon knew about the man, the less he seemed to know. Illya was good in a fight, fearless and competent. He was good in a song and dance, glib and able to make it up as he went along. Mostly, he made Napoleon feel almost invincible. Then he would flash a little smile, or wink and Napoleon felt as weak as a newborn.
His mind had been spinning since they'd returned from France.
"You did say you liked blonds," Illya had teased and the next thing Napoleon knew he was on his feet, jacket off, fists up. Illya was grinning like a maniac and bobbing around. Lavinia had tried to referee, but Napoleon was having none of it.
Napoleon had somehow gotten the upper hand, straddling his partner in a very intimate way when he abruptly realized there was something else he'd much rather be doing with his partner than fighting. In fact if Lavinia hadn't been in the room, Napoleon would have leaned down and kissed the struggling Russian.
He must have had a queer expression on his face for Illya suddenly stilled, his expression of gleeful rough housing turning to something more pensive and , God help Napoleon, incredibly wanton. Then suddenly the moment was gone, and Napoleon was flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling and wondering what the hell had happened.
The thought had persisted through the long flight back to New York, through the debriefing, through the routine of filing paperwork, writing the report, and putting the whole affair to bed.
Napoleon sat in one of his many "flying below everyone's radar" hangouts. The fact that it was a gay bar in the Village meant that he didn't have to worry about running into any of his old girl friends or fellow agents. He could sit and quietly nurse a drink, perhaps talk a bit with someone and, rarely, even make that connection that drove him to a hotel room for a night of sex.
He'd nearly gotten his first scotch and water down to nothingness when he spotted something that made him gasp in surprise.
A blond was sitting at the bar, his back to Napoleon, but he didn't have to see the face to know who it was. The cut of the shoulders, the way the hair moved or the hand that reached out to stroke the cheek of his companion, then cupped to pull it close for a kiss.
Napoleon stood, rattling the table as his knees caught it. It was indecent; it was wrong to watch Illya kissing someone else when all he wanted to do was...
He ran from the bar as if he was being pursued by a dozen of THRUSH's finest. By the time he reached his apartment building, his heart felt as if it would explode from exertion. His side ached and his head was spinning. Somehow, he managed to hold it together long enough to get into his apartment.
He was hurt, he was jealous and he was angry. How dare Illya step out on him like that? He paced the length of his living room, his agitation growing with each passing second. Of course, he'd never let on to his partner about his growing attraction. He'd never hinted that the Great Napoleon Solo might just swing both ways. He let his womanizing blaze on, blinding anyone who dared look too closely.
There was a gentle tap at the door and he spun, determined to ignore it, but Illya was standing there, his expression slightly chastising.
"You left your door open; that is unwise for a man in your position."
"And what position might that be?"
"The head of Section Two, a valuable agent to UNCLE, a prime target for THRUSH." Illya held on to the door frame as if it was the only thing supporting him. "Forgive me, Napoleon, I did not know you were there." He dropped his gaze to the floor. "I will ask for reassignment in the morning, perhaps back to London."
"I saw your reaction at the bar, Napoleon. I should have knows that you realized back in Lavinia's hotel room, but loneliness got the better of even me." Illya sighed and then smiled sadly. "In spite of what you've heard, I am human. Tragically flawed, the truth be told." He turned to leave.
"Wait." Napoleon couldn't move, but he knew he mustn't let Illya leave either. "I wasn't there because of you." He hesitated and took a deep breath. "I was there because of... because of who I am when all the fancy wrapping is pushed aside."
"You?" Illya's face was incredulous, telling Napoleon that the man was being truthful at least with his ignorance.
"Maybe Waverly knows us better than we thought he did."
"But this... it is in none of my records. I have been so careful..."
"Waverly, he's a class unto himself, my friend." Napoleon gestured to his wet bar. "Drink?"
"Please." Illya turned from the door and Napoleon felt the tension starting to ease in his neck, but build in his stomach.
He went through the calming motions of mixing drinks while Illya settled upon the couch. He knew Illya would prefer vodka, but he didn't stock it as a rule. Instead, he sloshed some whiskey into tumblers, dropped in some ice and hoped for the best.
"To... new horizons?" Napoleon suggested as he passed one of the glasses over and sat down next to him, but not too close. It seemed wiser for now.
"I would prefer opportunities..." Illya sipped, then nearly drained the glass, eyes closed as the alcohol hit his stomach.
Napoleon was a bit more cautious. "May I ask who that guy was?"
"No one." Illya set the glass down. "I did not even know his name."
"That's not what it looked like."
"You, if anyone, should understand how deceiving appearances can be."
"Would you have taken him home?"
"No, I very much doubt we would have gotten much farther than the bar stools." Illya sighed. "He was not what I was looking for."
"What were you looking for?"
"Something edgier... something..." Illya's eyes caught and held his. "Harder, more unpredictable. That one... his song would have played out with all too familiar a melody.""
"And a woman wouldn't have done it?"
"It's like the difference between your weak American tea and a cup of Turkish coffee. Both will warm and fill you, but one placates, the other excites. One is soft and easy, the other is hard, sets your teeth on edge... makes you feel alive." He looked down at his hands and at the nicks and cuts their last mission had left there, then added softly. "I need to feel alive tonight."
Napoleon swallowed his mouthful of whiskey and licked his lips. Illya's eyes were back on him and he knew that was what partners did, watching out for each other, keeping you safe, keeping you... whole. "I'm giving you a ten second warning, Illya."
"Before I kiss you. If it's not what you want, then you need to leave now." It was to Napoleon's credit that he waited almost three seconds after getting that admission out before grabbing his partner and pulling him close.
Napoleon had watched Illya kiss women before. He was always so cautious, so careful about it as if worried about hurting them. None of that caution was in the kiss he shared with Napoleon; instead it was open, frantic, and demanding. And Napoleon met it, blow for blow.
That thought made Napoleon's lips curl, even as Illya's tongue was slipping into his mouth. He could feel the roughness of their hands on each other, each of them looking for something to connect with. Napoleon didn't want gentleness.
He tangled the fingers of one hand in Illya's hair; the other hand went to the small of Illya's back. Those fingers dug into tight muscles, undoubtedly leaving bruises in their aftermath. Napoleon didn't think Illya minded. His partner's fingers were doing damage of their own, clutching, digging in, turning Napoleon's self control into nothing.
He could hear fabric tearing, feel buttons popping as material gave way to need. Illya's mouth was on his chest, sucking greedily at any skin it found. Napoleon suddenly rallied and pushed Illya back, onto the sofa cushions and followed. Part of his mind detached itself and was thankful that both of them were in street clothes. Otherwise, they surely would have shot, detonated, or poisoned each other by this point.
Napoleon insinuated his hands between their bodies, fumbling first with his belt and fly and then Illya's. His penis sprang forth, delighted to be out of its confinement, but he was more interested with what his hand discovered in Illya's pants. Soft and wet to the touch, impossibly hard at the same time, he couldn't wait, couldn't bother to entreat or ask permission. He lowered his mouth, luxuriating in the velvet feel of Illya's glans against his lips, the salty slickness of Illya's preseminal fluid, the musky scent of Illya's sweat.
Napoleon attacked Illya's penis as if it was a cool popsicle on the hottest of days, lingering, toying, loving it, even as Illya moaned protests, his fingers clutching the fabric of the couch, Napoleon's shirt as it dangled free, and finally Napoleon's head, frantically dictating the pace.
Then Napoleon stopped, pressing up Illya's body to kiss him again, plunging his tongue into Illya's mouth, probing it as their penises fondled each other.
"This is good," Illya panted as soon as Napoleon gave him the opportunity. "But it's not what I want."
"I know... the bed would be easier..."
"Do you have...?"
"I was a very good boy scout..." Napoleon sat back to let Illya sit up, then he surged forward again, attacking Illya's neck the way a vampire must surely take one of his victims.
"You do that much more and I won't make it to the bedroom," Illya protested, even as he tipped his head back for more, held Napoleon firmly in place.
"That won't do then." Napoleon struggled free and then caught one of Illya's hands, kissing it and tugging him forward.
They stripped as they went and collapsed naked upon the mattress, Napoleon on the bottom. It wasn't what he wanted and yet it was exactly what he wanted, feeling Illya cover him with a sweat slick, sinewy body, feeling the strength and the tension that hummed just below his partner's skin.
When Illya's mouth found his penis, Napoleon let his mouth open in a silent groan, his eyes scrunched shut in agonized pleasure. As much as he wanted something more, he couldn't make his voice form the word 'stop.' The nice thing about being partners was that he didn't have to.
He got to that brink and suddenly Illya backed off, looking around. Napoleon knew what he was after and rolled slightly to open a nightstand drawer.
Illya saw and found what he wanted almost instantly. He squeezed a large dollop of lube on the tip of Napoleon's penis, then gritted his teeth, easing himself down onto it.
In spite of every impulse that tore at his nerves, Napoleon stayed rock still, letting Illya dictate the speed. He listened as Illya's breath caught, watched the veins in his neck stand out, felt Illya pant his way down until Napoleon was buried as deeply as was humanly possible.
"Was that such a good idea?"
"Not as much in hindsight as it appears," Illya whispered through clenched teeth. "But it's too late now. Just give me a minute."
"Take as long as you want. I am going nowhere."
"Oh, you're going somewhere, believe me." And Illya began to move.
Dawn was starting to creep over the horizon when Napoleon stuck his head out from beneath a sheet then rested his head on Illya's thigh. After a moment, he managed to get up on one elbow. "When did the bed collapse?"
"Who knows?" One of Illya's hands was idly stroking his own chest hair and Napoleon grinned. "I think it was right after we put the hole in the wall. Sorry about the cleaning deposit..."
"UNCLE has a way of seeing its way clear about such things." Napoleon grunted as he shifted position on the mattress, making his way slowly up to the head of the bed. "I'm just delighted my downstairs neighbors are away." He ran his fingers through Illya's hair. "How am I going to go back to weak tea now?"
"Who said you needed to go back?"
"What do you mean?"
"We are... partners. This is just one more aspect of our partnership. It's far safer for you to sleep with me than a stranger—"
"Somehow, my body would disagree with you at the moment. The last thing I consider you is safe in bed." Illya's answer was a smile, as open and genuine as anything Napoleon had ever seen. It was almost blinding in its sincerity. "Why don't we just sleep on it for awhile?"
They settled down and Napoleon sighed happily as he drifted off to sleep, content with the world around him.
Had he managed to stay conscious for just a few seconds longer, he'd have felt Illya gently stroking his face with a tender finger, kissing his forehead and smiling. He'd have heard the soft words of loyalty and duty that Illya pledged to him before allowing sleep to claim him as well. Sometimes love can be a beautiful thing.
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