To Love You
Illya stood at the front desk and waited for the clerk to find him another room. He had been at this quiet English bed and breakfast for two weeks, helping to facilitate a series of meetings among five different government agencies. The spiteful backbiting and quarrelling had gotten him down, and the late night phone calls, the intermittent knocking at his door, bringing him out at all hours to settle various disputes, had left him tired and a little depressed. So when the delegates left this morning he had requested, and been granted, three days leave before returning to New York.
He couldn't think of anyplace better to spend them than here. But if he was staying here, he had to change rooms. He and Napoleon had had adjoining suites during the conference, which was too great a security risk with a stranger. And Napoleon had made no secret of his desire to get away from this country inn as soon as possible.
Napoleon was even now on the phone, talking to a woman he had met here. She had left the day before, but they were reuniting in Monte Carlo. Bright lights, glamorous women, high stakes gambling—Napoleon had been practically licking his lips as he told Illya about it. Although, to give him credit, he had invited Illya along, had offered to pay for his meals and his lodging, had offered to spot him some chips at the casino. Illya had been flattered, but had declined. Peace and quiet, some time with his thoughts, were all he desired. It was a shame that he and Napoleon had such different views on relaxation, because all things being equal, there was no one he would rather spend time with than his partner. Of course Napoleon... Illya looked at him again, smiling into the phone, in full wooing mode even though the object of his desire was half a continent away... felt differently. But even as Illya watched him Napoleon's face darkened. He looked somber suddenly, and Illya wondered what he was thinking.
Napoleon listened to Dori expand on her plans for the two of them. She had arranged brunch with a member of the royal family, and dinner with a popular singing star. They had a free pass at one casino, and a special table for a late supper and floor show at another. He had been enthusiastic at first, but the more she talked, the less he wanted to listen. Instead he watched Illya, who was studying a chart. Picking his new room, no doubt. Napoleon wondered what he could possibly find to do out here in the middle of nowhere. He wondered what the attraction was, that Illya had turned down his well meant invitation. "I have another call coming in," he interrupted Dori. "I'll get back to you." Hanging up the phone, he strolled over to the front desk.
"What's up?" he asked Illya, who frowned at him.
"I'm having trouble," he admitted. "Another convention is coming in tomorrow, and most of the rooms have been booked. Look at this." He angled the chart so Napoleon could see it too. "I have the choice of a double on the main floor —"
"Out of the question," Napoleon interrupted. "Too easy access through the windows. You need second floor at the very least."
"Or a single on the top floor but right beside the elevator," Illya continued as if Napoleon hadn't spoken.
"You could always come with me. I guarantee you any room you want. Dori knows the hotel manager."
Illya wrinkled up his nose. "I'm sure she does. No, thank you."
"What on earth will you do with yourself for three whole days? This place is as dull as dishwater."
"Well, this afternoon I planned to take the walking trail across the moor. Don't you think it's beautiful, the way the sky seems to come right down onto it, and the way the hills just roll into the distance? I've tried walking it twice already, and been interrupted both times."
Napoleon gave an exaggerated shudder. "It looks cold and dreary to me." But as he looked out the window he saw what Illya meant. The grey land faded into the grey sky, giving a feeling of infinite space. A man could walk there for as long as he pleased without breaking stride.
"From there I'll go into the village," Illya went on. "There's an antique bookstore I want to explore. Then I'll get a take out dinner from the village pub. They make wonderful sandwiches and chips."
Napoleon shuddered again. "Greasy and salt laden."
"I'll pick up a bottle of dark ale, and take my books and my dinner back to my room. It's supposed to rain tonight. I'll stay in and read, and eat, and my phone won't ring and no one will knock at the door. When I go to sleep I won't need to leave a wake up call, and when I get up tomorrow the whole day will be ahead of me. There are several historical bus tours, and there's that lake. I'd like to swim across it. It's supposed to be much warmer tomorrow and the water is so clear you can see the bottom, even though it's over five hundred feet deep. The lodge will pack me some sandwiches and beer and I can stay out all day if I want to."
Napoleon looked at Illya. He was sincere, no question. And suddenly the picture Illya so vividly painted brought a wave of yearning so strong he could hardly stand up under it. Suddenly he wanted to be there, to be part of that picture. To walk the moor with Illya, talking or not as the mood struck them. To watch Illya pick out old books, to walk behind him and snatch up the ones he had wistfully discarded as being too costly, and buy them for him. To present them to him, perhaps as they waited for their supper to be packed up, and see his delight. To sit with him and read, or watch television while the rain fell outside and no phones rang inside. He wanted it so badly it hurt him to turn away. But he did turn away, because the main element in Illya's plan was solitude. Illya wanted to be alone, and Napoleon didn't blame him. It had been a stressful two weeks. He was relieving the pressure with wine, women and song, as the saying went. Illya was relieving it his own way, and the fact that his way looked far better than Napoleon's was hardly his responsibility. So Napoleon turned away, and felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Napoleon?" Illya tapped him. Napoleon had looked somber again, as he had on the phone. It hurt Illya to see it, so he offered the only thing he had—his own company. Sometimes that was enough. "You are more than welcome to stay, if you like. We could keep the adjoining rooms—they're expensive, so they haven't been spoken for yet."
"Ah ha," Napoleon said. He turned back and pointed a finger in Illya's face. "You just want to keep that whirlpool tub."
"No. I mean yes, of course I'd like that, but if I didn't want you here I wouldn't ask you."
"I thought you wanted to be alone."
"There are very few things better than solitude," Illya said, and smiled at him. He could see that Napoleon was tempted, and it pleased him immensely. "One of them is being with you."
"Oh." Napoleon cleared his throat. Then he smiled back. They stood there at the desk, smiling at one another, and then Illya called the clerk over, told him they were keeping the adjoining suites after all, rolled his eyes and nodded when the clerk warned that they could not pay the convention rate since their group had departed, and signed the form. He pushed it over to Napoleon, who signed it too, and produced his bank card. Illya opened his mouth to protest, then closed it. Napoleon liked to indulge him, he knew that. So he only smiled again.
"Don't you need to call Dori?" he asked. "I think she's even now icing the champagne."
"She'll find someone else to drink it with her," Napoleon said but he went over to the phone and sat down with it. Illya collected some pamphlets and went upstairs, so happy he bounced a little with each step, so happy that he beamed at everyone he passed. Napoleon was staying on. Wanted to stay on. Wanted to be with him. How wonderful that was. Three days, just him and Napoleon, walking and talking, eating and reading, exchanging quips and sharing confidences—how wonderful. He stepped out of the elevator, unlocked his door and went inside. He hurried to the connecting door and opened it, propping it with a brick the way he had the whole time they had stayed here. Napoleon tended to wander in late at night looking for something—a bottle of water, a magazine, some conversation. Illya had felt a pang, closing and securing the door before leaving this morning. Now he spread out his pamphlets and hunted up his sturdy walking shoes, full of good will and anticipating nothing but pleasant times ahead.
And it all turned out exactly as both had hoped. They walked for hours across the moor, in silence for the most part. Illya went ahead, because he wanted to set his sights on the misty place where grey sky met grey earth and head towards it for as long as he could. Napoleon was right behind him, and the sounds of his feet crunching on the path, his even breathing, his occasional comment on a bird in flight, or a flock of sheep grazing in the distance, lifted Illya's heart more than the deepest delights of solitude. Having Napoleon along was like having the best of both, he thought. He could lose himself in reverie all he pleased, but there was no loneliness, and no feeling that he had to keep looking over his shoulder because Napoleon was there, at his back. It gave an extra sense of security, a layer of companionship which was very pleasant. He turned around and smiled at Napoleon. Very pleasant indeed.
Napoleon had been watching Illya's ass. It embarrassed him, with all this scenery around and about him, and periodically he forced himself to look away, to admire the patchwork effect of the heather, to look at the birds as they were flushed out by their footsteps, to tip his head back and study the cloud formations. But always his gaze returned to those hard, firm buttocks, flexing and bunching as Illya strode along.
He had never been so aware of another man before being paired with Illya. He had noted other men's looks, as a means of comparing himself against them, to judge whether a woman would be attracted away from him and towards another. He had known, for example, that Sabine was a handsome man, a very handsome man indeed. He had registered Mark Slade's urchin charm, and its effect on the ladies. But Illya... Illya was in a class of his own. Illya's eyes, Illya's hair, Illya's skin... his generous mouth and his aristocratic nose, those high planed elegant cheekbones, the pure, clean line of his jaw and chin... all had struck him forcibly on that very first meeting, and he had never really grown accustomed to their effect on him. Sometimes it took his breath away.
And Illya's body was perfect—hard and taut, lean muscle under soft skin. Watching him in combat, when Napoleon had the leisure to do so, was like watching an exotic jungle creature in its own milieu, doing what it was made to do. Yet in relaxation Illya was beautiful too. He had the gift of seeming to belong in whatever setting he was in, whether he was hopelessly outnumbered and fighting for his life, or lying on a sofa with his feet up, reading a book. Or, as now, walking along a rock strewn path. Napoleon sighed. He had it bad, and he knew it—had always known it. The only consolation he had was that nobody else knew it. Even Illya. Especially Illya.
They flirted with one another, sometimes mildly, sometimes with a heated intensity that had brought Napoleon three reprimands from his superiors. "For heaven's sake, Mr. Solo," Waverly had scolded him at some function or other. "He is your field partner, not your prom date. Kindly remember that." Napoleon had flushed up hotly, but the words of denial had died unspoken in the face of those sharp eyes, those quizzical eyebrows, and he had turned away without replying.
If Illya was aware of any of this he never let it show. But he batted his eyelashes at Napoleon shamelessly, teased him and sent him those slanting sideways looks that always made Napoleon want to grab him by the shoulders, grab him and hold on to him and... but he never had. He couldn't. It would be dangerous, and unethical. He wouldn't.
But all of that had changed. It had been six months since they were retired from Section 2 and promoted. Both currently worked in administration—Napoleon in Personnel, Illya in Science. Their ranks weren't equivalent, because Napoleon was now second only to Alexander Waverly, but Illya was as much his equal as anyone in UNCLE could be. No longer out in the field together, they could—if they chose—take their friendship to another plane. But to do that someone would have to say something, do something. And thus far, no one had.
It was as he was thinking that, and still watching Illya's ass in those tight blue jeans, that Illya turned around and smiled at him. Napoleon smiled back. He quickened his pace, so they were side by side and, before he could lose his courage he stopped, and extended his hand. Illya stopped too, and regarded it for a long moment. Napoleon had no idea what he was thinking. Funny, how that still happened. Illya seemed just as likely to strike his hand aside as he was to take it. Finally Illya tipped his head back, and looked directly into Napoleon's eyes.
"I'm no innocent," he warned and that could mean so many things that Napoleon didn't know which of them to address. So he only nodded.
"I've had my fill of that," he answered and he meant that one way, only one way. You only and forever, he thought, and turned his hand so it was flat, palm up. If I were ever so fortunate as to bring you into my life, it would be you and only you.
There was another long pause, and then Illya smiled. He smiled and the sun came out, striking fire off his hair, making those blue eyes sparkle. He took Napoleon's hand, squeezed it and they fell in step together, fingers linked, shoulders brushing slightly with every step, walking towards that intangible place where clouds and road met, and were one.
It was over two hours later that they reached the path that led to the village. They had talked little, but those few words had been to the point. After all these years, they didn't need much conversation. That they had it anyway was because they liked to, because they liked the ebb and flow, the occasional sharp striking of sparks, flint against rock. But today, with the great silence around and above them, they spoke in the peculiar shorthand they had perfected over the years.
"Move in with me," Napoleon had said.
"I need some space," Illya had warned.
"Aunt Martha's been dead for a long time now," Napoleon returned, knowing that Illya would understand from this that he was being offered the enormous back bedroom suite that had been the old lady's, and now stood empty. Napoleon favored the smaller, brighter suite closer to the living room.
"But not forgotten," Illya returned and Napoleon smiled. Illya was referring to the dark bed coverings and drapes, to the assortment of knick knacks that stood on many little tables scattered around the room. He had never bothered to clean it out so it stood as it had when Martha Solo lived there, a monument to a Victorian era she had never known but had very much admired. He chuckled.
"Do what you like with it," he said, and squeezed Illya's hand. "What's mine is yours."
"Is it?" Illya tipped his head sideways and looked up at him. "All of it? You don't have to do that."
So it was plain speaking now. "Illya. When have you ever known me to do anything halfway?"
"So all the way?"
"All the way. Forsaking all others." And because this seemed to call for something more, he stopped and took Illya's other hand, turning him so they were facing one another. Illya quirked an eyebrow at him.
"A bold move, Napoleon Solo. Are you sure you don't want some sort of trial run first?"
"Our whole lives together have been a trial run for this. This moment right here..." he leaned in and Illya closed his eyes. His mouth was so inviting that Napoleon paused to look at it, to savor this, this final breath before their lives changed irrevocably. Irrevocably... and for the better. Illya opened his eyes as if to see what was taking him so long and, when he saw Napoleon's expression, he took a step closer so their bodies were touching, and Napoleon kissed him.
He sank deep into Illya's kiss, deeper and deeper still. He never remembered moving, or Illya doing so, but when they finally came up for air their arms were wrapped tightly each about the other. Napoleon gasped. "Illya," he whispered, to see if the name felt different, sounded different now, but it didn't. It sounded, as it always had, like the sum total of his world. He thought he couldn't possibly be any happier, and then Illya laid that blond head down on his shoulder and that filled him with so much joy he could barely breathe. The trust it implied, the sweetness of it... he kissed Illya's temple and felt Illya tremble against him. Another wave of emotion flooded him, and his arms tightened.
"Till death do us part," Illya whispered, his breath warm against Napoleon's skin, and Napoleon kissed him again.
"I love you," he said because he couldn't remember saying that yet, in all these words and silences.
"I love you too, Napoleon," Illya said, and managed to get even closer. "I have always loved you." And they kissed some more at that, and when they moved apart they turned off the path and headed towards the village.
A fine mist had come up, harbinger of the forecast rain. It sparkled in Illya's hair like diamonds, and Napoleon found himself enthralled by it, enchanted with it. He reached out and touched it, and Illya turned to look at him questioningly. Napoleon licked the droplets off his finger, and Illya flushed, before turning away and walking down the cobblestone street. Napoleon followed, wondering if Illya were as nervous as he was, if Illya too were unsure and uncertain. He himself had never been with a man, although there had been temptations. About Illya's past he knew nothing. Illya was attractive to, and occasionally attracted to women, Napoleon knew that for a fact, but it was all tangled up with the job. What he did when off duty—and with whom he did it—had always been a mystery. What was Illya thinking now, right now, right this minute? Was he regretting those words, that kiss? What would happen when they got back to their rooms, after this book shopping expedition, after the mile long walk to the inn, after—no doubt—dinner? Napoleon couldn't imagine, and that was a new experience for him. He always knew each step, every move, in a seduction. This time—this time he was clueless, and if this were anyone but Illya he would already be making his excuses and backing out. But this was Illya, and he trusted Illya. Nonetheless, he wished he had some idea what Illya was thinking.
Illya was very aware of Napoleon's eyes on him. They had tracked him all the way along the street and now, as he turned into the antique bookstore he had spotted the day before, they were a palpable presence, making him so jumpy that when Napoleon had touched his hair earlier he had nearly leapt out of his skin. It was a disconcerting feeling, and he couldn't stop wondering what the rest of it would be like. If just the brush of Napoleon's fingers had made him feel so much, if just the sight of Napoleon licking those drops off his finger—oh, Napoleon was skilled at this, no question. Without a word or a more overt gesture than that he had Illya quivering all over, nerves so raw they felt exposed, as if Napoleon's next touch would reach right through his flesh. Would Napoleon take control of the situation when it finally happened? Would he use all those well honed skills to romance Illya out of his clothes and onto the bed before he knew what hit him, as Napoleon had once phrased it? Illya shivered at the thought. Generally he kept his encounters brief and to the point, and always he avoided members of his own sex. He had learned all he thought he wanted to know about that when he was very young, and desired to learn no more. So when the need arose, and a convenient female wasn't being thrust at him in the line of duty, he sought one out. They didn't threaten him, the way men did, so he buried himself in their warm wet flesh and then put them aside. He never slept with the same woman twice, no matter how she might call him and pursue him. Emotional involvement was anathema to him, and he had found it easy enough to avoid it.
But now, here and now, he had pledged himself to Napoleon without hesitation. Napoleon had asked it of him and he had acquiesced, as he always did, and now here they were. He picked up a book, looked at the price and set it down. Here they were, on the brink of an act that would change everything. Indeed, everything had already changed, with those words, and that kiss. That kiss. His tongue came out and he touched his lips with it. It seemed he could still taste Napoleon there.
He hoped Napoleon would take control. He didn't want to have to do anything tonight. Back in the bad old days, when his body had been for sale to the highest bidder, he had had to do a lot. He had had to manipulate them, tease them and coax them, wrap his lithe little body around theirs and bring them to climax. Or worse, they had fallen on him like beasts, spreading him and fucking him with no regard for anything besides their own pleasure. But with Napoleon it would be different. Surely it would. Illya turned to look at him, to gain reassurance from that familiar face, and caught Napoleon red handed paying for a stack of books that Illya had put down as being too expensive.
Napoleon was trying to be stealthy. He was lounging against the counter talking to the clerk, surreptitiously pushing books across to him, sliding his credit card into the other man's fingers. When he saw Illya watching him he reddened, then grinned. "Surprise," he said rather lamely and Illya laughed. He couldn't help it, he threw his head back and laughed. And with the laughter came release of the tension that had been building in him. How sweet, and how typical of Napoleon to do this for him. And how absurd to be nervous about Napoleon. Napoleon would... Napoleon would do just what Illya wanted. All Illya had to do was let him know. All he had to do was say something like... what? Take me, I'm yours? He laughed again and Napoleon laughed too. He came over to Illya, carrying the neat brown parcel, and shook his head at him.
"I'll get you your own bank card," he said, and tousled Illya's hair. "Don't ever feel anything is too expensive again. You can... we can afford it."
"I see," Illya said, and he did see. Napoleon was a romantic, under his so carefully cultivated man of the world veneer. Illya had seen it before, many times. And now all that was to be unleashed on him? Along with Napoleon's passion, and his dark fire, which was in those eyes now as they drank him in, and when had anyone ever looked at him like that, as if he were the center of the universe? Never. He wouldn't have to do anything after all, he could feel it. Napoleon no doubt was already planning the evening, every move calculated in advance. But then Napoleon held out his hand, and when Illya looked at it he could see that it was shaking.
"I am so nervous I can barely stand," Napoleon admitted. "I just want to put that out there because... be gentle with me, Illya." He laughed a little as he said that, but it sounded forced. "I've never been this worried about an encounter. The stakes are so high—frighteningly high. I've never cared before, if the woman stayed afterwards, or left—in fact I rather preferred it if she did leave. But you... now, with you... I..." he floundered for a moment. "I care," he finished simply. "I care desperately. I want to woo you, and win you... and keep you."
"You have me," Illya said, and what a lovely thing it was that Napoleon was nervous too, that Napoleon cared so much that he should like it. "You had me when you touched my hair before. You had me with that first handclasp, back on the path. You had me with hello, all those years ago. You have me now."
"I don't want to put you off, with the great Napoleon Solo technique. But it's all I know."
"Go with your strength," Illya answered and that struck him as funny somehow. "I've seen the technique second hand more times than I can count. The only issue I ever had with it was that it didn't mean a thing. But if it did..."
"Well then." And, wanting to offer Napoleon something, because he still looked ill at ease, he added, "I'm very nervous too, Napoleon. I thought you'd tease me if you knew, but I am. I can't even imagine what it will be like."
"Me neither. I guess we should go find out."
"After dinner," Illya added, and shook a finger at Napoleon. "Nothing till after dinner. I'm starving."
"Then pay for your books and we'll go to that pub and order take out. Just like your original plan."
"Just like that," Illya agreed, and they beamed at one another for a moment before Illya carried his own stack of books to the cash register.
The pub was overheated and noisy. Pleasant, really, after the chill damp of the streets outside. They ordered sub sandwiches and fried potatoes to go, and some bottles of dark ale. Each drank a glass of ale on tap while they waited. It was too loud for conversation so they sat, and drank, and cut their eyes at one another.
"Want it in something waterproof?" the bartender asked as he pushed an untidy grease stained packet across the counter to them. "It's coming down pretty good now."
"It is?" Napoleon asked, dismayed. It was impossible to tell from in here. "Are you sure?"
"Just finished loading firewood on the truck," the man answered. "It's pouring."
Napoleon thought of the mile long hike along a dirt trail, and groaned. The bartender looked sympathetic. "Far to go?" he inquired as he put the packet in a plastic bag and tied it shut.
"We're staying at Granger's," Napoleon said. "And we're on foot." Why hadn't he worn a raincoat? Or carried an umbrella? He looked at Illya, who was also not dressed for the weather. Of course they had gotten wet before, many times, and it wouldn't kill either of them, but still... "Damn. I thought we'd beat it."
"Well if you're heading for Grangers," the bartender offered, "I can tell the wood truck to wait up for you. That's where he's delivering. If you don't mind sitting in the back—there's a tarp," he added. "To keep the wood dry. Sound better than walking?"
"Yes," they said in unison, looked at one another in surprise, and laughed. The bartender laughed too, and went into the back.
Napoleon turned to Illya, and bowed slightly. "After you," he said.
So it was that they sat, feet dangling off the back of the truck, rain drumming on the tarp over their heads, being bounced and jolted as the truck climbed the hill to the inn. They were dry enough except for their feet, and enticing smells drifted up to them from the package on Illya's lap. They were very close together, and every bump rubbed their shoulders against one another's. Illya could smell Napoleon, the damp wool of his jacket, the spicy scent of his aftershave and under that the warm, familiar odor that was him. He inhaled. He was so happy it was frightening. Here they were, side by side, as it had always been. As it always would be. He dropped his head to Napoleon's shoulder to feel him as well as smell him, fabric rough against his cheek. It felt good, and he rubbed his face on it, smiling. He heard Napoleon catch his breath, and then Napoleon's arm came around him, pulling him even closer. Joy piled upon joy and he had to express it somehow so he kissed Napoleon's shoulder.
Napoleon kissed his hair, and he shivered. Napoleon's arm tightened, as if trying to warm him which was good because he was cold, he was very cold. He shivered again, and then they came to a stop. Napoleon released him and they eased off the truck, slipped in the mud and clutched at one another. Illya fumbled the sandwiches and almost dropped them, grabbing the bottom of the bag just in time. Napoleon steadied him, and they came around to thank the driver. Napoleon offered him a twenty, but it was refused. They parted amicably, and went inside.
Just as he had planned, Illya thought. Just as planned. He had gotten out of his damp clothes and wet shoes, setting them to dry by the fire, which had been blazing away when they came in. Now he was wearing his old but very warm bathrobe, feet propped on the hassock, unwrapping his meal. His book was lying on the table beside his chair, the rain was still coming down, making the room an oasis of warmth and peace. Just as he had planned—with one difference. One vital difference.
Napoleon came out of the bathroom toweling his hair. He had gotten his clothes from his room and now was in neatly tailored pajamas and robe and slippers. He came over and felt Illya's bare feet, frowned. "Wait," he said, and disappeared again into the adjoining room Illya did, although he began eating his sandwich. He was very hungry, and the food at that pub was wonderful. He had begun working his way through their menu his first night at the conference, and tonight had reached the hot roast beef with mustard and melted cheese. What was Napoleon doing? Getting something for his cold feet no doubt, and the thought warmed him all over. Sure enough, here Napoleon came, carrying a pair of thick socks. He pulled them over Illya's toes, worked them around his heels and up his ankles while Illya watched in complete enjoyment, making no move to help. Napoleon grinned at him, and it made Illya's heart skip a beat. He smiled too. "Thank you."
"Sure." Napoleon sat beside him on the sofa, propped his own feet up beside Illya's. They sat and ate in silence. Illya was reading, pleasurably aware of Napoleon's presence, his occasional sideways look. It made it hard to concentrate, and he found himself reading the same page over and over, but that was all right. That was just fine. Whatever the next step was, it was up to Napoleon to take it. That had already been established. This was Napoleon's show, and Napoleon would carry it through... all the way through...with his usual finesse. Illya could wait. But he wondered what Napoleon was going to do next.
Napoleon shifted position, put his wrapper down. What should he do now? Illya wanted him to do it all. Go with your strength, he had said. So now Illya was sitting with his feet up, waiting. Waiting for the great Napoleon Solo to make his move. Waiting for... what?
"Tell me what you want," Napoleon said abruptly, and Illya turned to look at him, eyes widening. Napoleon looked into them, into those blue depths, and felt dizzy. He reached out, took Illya by both shoulders—whether to pull him closer or hold him off he couldn't have said. But Illya went boneless against him, head dropping back, body arched against his, and closed his eyes. It was an invitation, a blatant invitation, so Napoleon bent over him and kissed him.
Illya's lips were so soft. Normally he kept them hard and tight, so Napoleon had never dreamed they were really so soft, and so warm... he kissed them, nuzzled them, moved his mouth against them gently and Illya moaned.
Illya moaned. The sound struck Napoleon to the heart because this was Illya, his partner, and suddenly a kaleidoscope of images filled his mind. Illya, grinning at him over an explosive device he had cannily wired together from assorted bits and pieces. Illya, raising a sardonic eyebrow on finding him—once again—in the arms of the enemy and enjoying it too much. Illya, filthy dirty, an equally filthy cigarette jauntily clenched between his teeth, digging a trench in the hot sun. Illya disappearing into a vat of cement. Illya, head at the business end of a guillotine. Illya, Illya, Illya... now in his arms, warm and trusting in his arms, reaching around his neck now to cling to him, pressing their bodies together. Illya.
"Tell me what you want," Napoleon whispered again, directly into his ear this time, and felt him shudder. "What do you want that they..." all those faceless men, all those years... honey trap, Alexander Waverly had told him way back at the beginning. A KGB honey trap. Such pretty words, such a lovely image, for such an ugly role. "Never gave you," he finished, and Illya drew back.
"You know. You haven't been with a man since you joined UNCLE. There has to be a reason for that."
"There is." Illya's face had set, his eyes shuttered and it was impossible to believe he had ever been kissing Napoleon, ever been pressing that lovely body against his. "I didn't think you knew."
"Waverly felt I should know. He felt that if we ever encountered anyone who knew you from those days, that I would be at a disadvantage if I didn't know."
"Ah. And you're bringing it up now why? Just to break the mood? Because you have, and very effectively too. Where's my ale? Give me the remote control. Never mind, I found my book." He was pulling away, turning to seek the items he was rattling off, but Napoleon wouldn't let him. He tightened his hold and Illya turned back. Now he looked affronted. "Let me go!"
"No. No, sweetheart, no. I'm not letting you..." he stopped because the endearment, so unwittingly dropped because that was how he thought of Illya, how he had always thought of him, had ripped Illya open. He saw that clearly; Illya suddenly, achingly vulnerable to him, and this time when Napoleon pulled him in he went.
"Oh," he whispered against Napoleon's neck. "Is that... is that how it is? Is it really?"
"Yes. That's how it is. And I didn't mean to offend you, I didn't mean that at all. I just thought that I wanted this time, this time out of all those other times, to be perfect. So if there's something you wanted that they never did, or something you don't want that they did anyway, I need to know about it. My usual technique... my strength, as you called it... it's not good enough. Not now, not here. Not with you." And, when Illya had said nothing for too long, he whispered again. "Please?"
"I don't know."
"I think you do."
"No, I don't. It's not as if there were some specific technique I wished they'd use, although I suppose some sort of lubricant would have been nice..." he gave a choked off laugh when Napoleon reached around, picked up the little bag he'd gotten at the drugstore, and shook it. "Just care, then," he finished in a sudden burst. "Just care how I feel about it. No one ever cared how it was for me, if I liked it or hated it, if it shamed me or hurt me... it was them and what they wanted and that's all that it was. All that it ever was. And I never liked it, I always hated it, it always hurt me and shamed me and made me wish I had died before they ever touched me."
"Do you?" Illya lifted his head from Napoleon's shoulder and stared hard at him. "Do you really?"
"Yes. I do." He did. He saw a boy, a thin love starved boy being bent to some anonymous man's will for the benefit of a cadre of shadowy officials who would take whatever was to be gained from that act for themselves and give him nothing... except another assignment. He tightened his arms. "My love," he whispered into Illya's hair, and felt him quiver. "I care. And if at any point you don't like what I'm doing, or you wish I would do something else, just tell me. I'll... all I want in the whole world is to please you, Illya. To please you and make you happy for the rest of our lives. Yes?"
"Yes," Illya said and lifted his face for another kiss. Napoleon obliged, and they kissed for a very long time, soft sweet sucking kisses and then Napoleon slid one hand up Illya's side, under the robe. They stumbled to the bed, Illya dropping the robe as they went, Napoleon leaving his pajamas in a heap on the floor.
It was all a blur after that, a blur of soft skin and hard muscles, of lips and teeth and hands... their bodies knew one another very well, after all their years together and it wasn't hard at all, to find out what Illya wanted and give it to him, to seek out his pleasure, to make him writhe and tremble and plead. Napoleon used all his well honed skills, and all his deep knowledge of his partner and in doing so he found pleasure as well, pleasure beyond his deepest most secret fantasies. He was trembling too, as he used the lubricant, arms shaking as he braced himself to keep his weight off Illya who clutched at him and dragged him down anyway, rising to meet him, legs wrapped around his waist, arms wrapped around his shoulders, their bodies moving in perfect unison, their voices muffled in one another's mouths because, after all, they weren't the inn's only guests.
There was one last moment of coherence when Napoleon opened his eyes and was looking directly into Illya's. They stared at one another, into one another before the world disappeared from around them, the room lit with blue fire, and they were one. Napoleon sank in a maelstrom of pounding thrusting pulsing ecstasy that repeated over, and over, and over again. He clung to Illya because that was all there was, Illya, Illya, Illya, and Illya's gasping outcries, his frantically clutching fingers, his thighs like steel clamped around Napoleon's hips, said the same was true for him.
There was a tremendous crash, and again the room flared with blue light. This time Napoleon was able to put words to it—lightning. Lightning, and thunder. How long had that been going on? He looked down at Illya, lying under him with arms and legs outflung, eyes closed, gasping for breath, and watched the lightning catch his hair, his skin, the drops of sweat on his upper lip. Napoleon licked them off and became aware that besides the strobe effect of the lightning the room was pitch dark—even the numbers on the electric alarm clock were out. Outside their window the rain poured down, a deafening sound even without the thunder which at that moment crashed again, and lightning forked the sky.
"Is this part of the technique?" Illya asked, and Napoleon laughed silently and fell over onto his back, beside him. Immediately he reached out and closed his hand around Illya's because even that brief separation, even for that moment, was intolerable. Illya was continuing. "I'm impressed." He squeezed Napoleon's hand.
"Just this once," he answered, and squeezed back. "Just for you."
"Ah. Well done."
"Was it?" Napoleon propped himself up on one elbow so he could look into Illya's eyes again. They smiled at him tranquilly, and he smiled back. "Was it well done?"
"Why do you even have to ask? You were there."
"Yes. It was very well done. It was... it was wonderful."
"Nothing missing? Nothing you didn't care for?"
"No, Napoleon." Illya was looking at him now with a curious tenderness. "It was perfect, you were perfect... we. We were perfect. Are perfect."
Napoleon gave a satisfied grunt and lay down again, moving closer, sliding his free arm under Illya's shoulders, turning him, pulling him closer. Illya tucked his head into the crook of Napoleon's neck and sighed. "Goodnight, Napoleon," he said, voice already fuzzy with oncoming sleep.
"Goodnight, Illya." He tightened his arms in one final hug, and felt Illya's lips press a last drowsy kiss to his sweat dampened flesh, and then, as the rain beat on their window, as the thunder grumbled a distant farewell, they slept.