Been an Angel All Year

by TheRimmerConnection

A/N: Clearly, even at this festive time of joy and gift-giving, no-one has seen fit to make any of them my property. On the other hand, I am the proud and slightly thankyou-puddled recipient of a wonderful illo for this fic, by the very lovely Spikesgirl58, which (with a bit of luck) you can see here:

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still.

Lord Byron: The Destruction of Sennacherib

Every year one section of UNCLE draws the Christmas nativity play. There's a Christmas show too, but that's the drama society's bag, and you won't find many Section Twos in that—we'd miss too many rehearsals. This year Section Two was landed with nativity duty, and that's a real pain in the ass. Mr Waverly gives his blessing to the whole thing, except that he has no sympathy when I, as CEA, have to make the decision as to whether or not I should send Mary and Joseph out into the field three days before Christmas. I almost feel obliged not to, except that the bad guys don't stop for Christmas, so neither do we. At least now we have a woman to play Mary; the sight of Richards in a dress, a veil and three days' beard growth is more than most of us want to stomach.

I don't know whether outsiders would expect us to be a religious lot or not. Our job certainly calls for unholy acts on an unpleasantly regular basis, but then again, most Section Two agents call out to God far more often than we'd ever admit, and any kid brought up in 'One nation under God' is likely to have at least a few dealings with the Old Man from time to time. So this is what we do at Christmas, and as Section Two New York is one of the smaller sections, we're all meant to join in, even if it does make it hell handing out assignments.

Well, I've explained it to you; how do you explain it to your good little Soviet partner, who had the good fortune to arrive just after the last lucky year and so has never yet been called upon to prostrate himself before the Spirit of Christmas UNCLE?

Internal justice dictates that the higher ranked personnel in each section are liable for the greatest humiliation, of course, but we also have the power to pull the strings better, so I can usually get a part of which I approve. I hold that Illya is damned lucky that April Dancer turned up before our turn came around, or he'd be first choice for the Mother of God—not many of us have the ability to look remotely innocent enough, but Illya can do it—and if that were suggested, I suspect somebody would be spending Christmas trussed up in Medical, and it wouldn't be me.

You think you've left all that behind when you leave kindergarten, and then you find yourself playing the innkeeper at thirty. Actually, I like being the innkeeper: nice and short, easy lines, no kneeling on the ground. Plus you look kind-hearted, which is one up on Joseph, who just looks exhausted and weedy; or any of the assorted kings and shepherds who have to humble themselves in front of the terrifying plastic baby.

Now, I hate to say it, but Illya is a prime candidate for the Angel Gabriel. Hell, he doesn't even need tinsel! Just shine a torch at that delicious golden hair and you've got a halo the Blessed Virgin herself would kill her granny for. Nevertheless, I would never have suggested it to Alfie, the producer, if it weren't for the fact that my brilliant, insufferable partner had been unbearably insubordinate on our last mission. True, he'd done it to rescue me, and I would not have disciplined him in any official capacity, but a certain smugness in him was getting to me, and I found myself casually mentioning that Illya would make a fine angel and would Alfie mind not letting slip that I had said so.

Well, Illya found out. Don't ask me how, but he found out. At least, that's the only explanation I can think of for why instead of getting the Innkeeper, poor, beleaguered Joseph, or even a king, I have found myself playing a shepherd, the ultimate knee-wrecking, lowly... Not to be ungracious, but the CEA should be able to veto being made a shepherd, yet according to the rules, I'm not allowed to. Now Alfie, good, experienced member of Section Two that he is, would never have cast me as a shepherd of his own volition, and the look on Illya's face when they announced the casting in our monthly Section meeting was too smug for him not to have known about his part and mine. In fact, I'm not sure his role worried him all that much. Not as much as I thought it would, at any rate. After all, Gabriel is actually a good part—decent lines, nice costume, plenty of lording it over everyone else. I may have miscalculated here. I would never class Illya as an exhibitionist, but somehow this seemed to suit him, and it flashed in his eyes every time I looked at him when we were rehearsing. I won't pretend that it actually galled me to prostrate myself before my lower-ranked partner and look up to see him grinning like an idiot at me, his arms outstretched to bestow peace and goodwill to all men. After all, that is our purpose at UNCLE, and it was entirely my fault that he was up there and I was down below. Besides, grudging him that would mean grudging myself the opportunity to stare unashamedly at him, and usually I have to make excuses when I do that.

I had to send Illya out on assignment on his own, three days before the show. Or rather, Waverly did. It was a one man job and my partner, cat-burglar extraordinaire, was the obvious choice. I hate sending him out alone, it makes me feel impotent, but at least I was his contact for the job.

I grabbed his wrist as he went to leave the office to go get ready.

'I want you back in one piece,' I said. He nodded, serious. There's never any need for me to tell him, but I need to do it for myself, to remind him that he is appreciated. An unloved agent is frequently a careless agent. I try to give Illya a reason to come back. I already have a reason to always come back. Him. Not that I would say that to him—it's too important to me. He's... well, let's just say that if headquarters were blown up, he'd be the first person in there I'd risk my life to save. Even if he had just been playing the smug partner for me.

'We need you for the nativity,' I added, just to make it perfectly clear that it wasn't for my own sake that I wanted him back.

There is no real reason not to have the nativity on Christmas Eve. After all, as Mr Waverly is at frequent pains to point out, THRUSH do not take Christmas off, but on the other hand, nor are they more active than usual, so we're all in as usual around the big day, but ready for a little light relief. So our dress rehearsal was on the twenty-third and we were not on any sort of alert. Intelligence had no information, and I presume Waverly himself had not heard anything, or he would have had more security in place. Illya had made it back late the night before, a little dishevelled, but otherwise in good health, and so I was in a pretty damn good mood.

I was kneeling down in my most humble position, raising my eyes from under my tea-towel every now and again to glance up at Illya—doing his best declaiming, and teaching us all that the most authentic-seeming angels have slight Russian accents. Nonetheless, I wish they'd consented to let him wear long white pants under his robe—that view is one I know I covet, but I'm not happy to share it with the other scruffy specimens kneeling with me on our fake-grass hillside. It's a terrific robe—the UNCLE dress-up box is surprisingly good, and every year, some of the girls volunteer to make any necessary alterations. They really went to town on Gabriel's costume this year. Not that that surprises me in the least—I often get the impression that Illya's actually more popular with them than me, but I suppose I don't blame them—good job he's so prickly with them most of the time, otherwise I would be in a constant state of jealousy, which I know for a fact is unattractive. The robe as it appeared this year is a white shift with sleeves that dangle all the way to the bottom all the way around when Illya lifts his arms. There's some tinsel round the bottom and the neck, which makes him itch badly; and down the length of the sleeves, sewn in rows all the way from arm to floor, are strips of lametta, so that when he spreads his arms, he has a pair of glittering wings, which shimmer and rustle in the light. They put a tinsel halo on him too, though I still say he doesn't need it.

See how he distracts me? As I was saying, I was kneeling down, and he was hanging from his wire, suspended in a harness from the ceiling, when all of a sudden, chaos descended upon us. We had a small audience—a load of people who would not be in for the actual performance, and a bevy of hangers-on, who were mostly in it for the rare opportunity to laugh at Section Two brought down to the level of mere mortals (as they see it). Out of the crowd, a man jumped up waving a gun. I thank the God on whose behalf Illya had just started making speeches, that for some reason the invading army was inexperienced and sloppy—perhaps even THRUSH has problems getting the upper echelons to do overtime at Christmas. If they had known what they were doing, they would have knocked off Gabriel first—Illya was in a perfect position to shoot them down, but he was also a sitting target. Now, having my partner shot right in front of me would really have spoilt my Christmas.

As it was, they shot at me instead. I had jumped up at the first hint of trouble, and I was stuck in front of the hill, no cover, no chance to get out of their line of fire. Luckily they caught me in the leg, rather than anywhere more vital, but it knocked me over and I guess I caught my head on the corner of the scenery and it knocked me out for a second or two. When I came around, I was lying on my back, propped against the back of the hill, largely out of sight. One of the other agents had shot down my attacker and propped me up, but having thrown the room into disarray, it seemed our first attacker's job was done. From the corridor outside, without even a single siren going off (these are the same sirens that will haul us all off our desks if a cockroach chooses to go home by a different route), we were suddenly invaded by a veritable flock of THRUSHies. I couldn't move my leg enough to get under my stripy dress to reach my gun, and besides, I could barely move at all in fact, so I watched as the other Section Twos waged the battle for me. And then I looked up.

Illya was sitting in his harness, fiddling with the clasps with one hand while his right hand fired his Special until the clip ran out: 'the wrath of the Angel of the Lord from on high', as my mother's old Bible might have put it, or maybe the Angel of Death from Byron's Destruction of Sennacherib, spreading his wings and breathing death at the sleeping gentile enemy, saving the Jews from being roundly beaten the next day. Suddenly he managed to work the main clasp loose, and he dropped to the ground, shaking the wooden hillside, his skirts billowing around him, his lametta flying in the breeze of his descent.

If you have never seen an angel in full heraldic garb fighting hand-to-hand with a man in a boiler suit, you ain't seen nothing. I imagine it is pretty terrifying to be assaulted by a man who is not only utterly deadly when he attacks with his bare hands, but is also surrounded by a blinding whirl of glittering tinsel and appears to be doing the whole thing in a dress. I watched him do his whirling dervish bit along the aisles between the seats set out in the assembly room, laying out a THRUSH with a well placed upper cut on one side, while out of the corner of his eye, he judged the distance for a judo-kick that would flatten the man who thought he was successfully creeping up on this arc-angel from the side. He lost his tinsel halo while head-butting another one in the stomach, flying across the room with him in a flurry of white and gold, getting to his feet on the other side as if nothing had happened, and taking out another with a good knee to the groin and a punch and twist of the arm that knocked the man's gun out of his hand and his shoulder out of its socket.

With Illya working at his best, his bizarre, costumed best, and the other agents lending a hand when he let them near a THRUSH, we soon had a heap of semi-conscious men, piled up at the far end of the room, with a couple of security men going through their clothes for weapons and knocking them out again for good measure if they looked like causing trouble. Then Illya turned, looking for me, and saw me lying there in my little bloody heap.

Have you ever seen an honest-to-goodness angel walk towards you? If they don't look like Illya did then, I never want to see a real one. Sometimes in movies they have some sort of white, shining being stride towards camera, but not like this. As he stepped onto the stage, the bright lights caught his hair and made the white robe glow. My vision was still a bit fuzzy, and that made the glints from the tinsel and lametta form starbursts in front of me. All I could see was his face, bright blue eyes in pale skin and a giant halo of blinding white, gliding towards me at high speed. I was right: he didn't need the other halo. Then he knelt next to me and I could see the concern on his face.

'Where?' he asked, and I was surprised to hear his normal voice—slightly out of breath, but not the mouthpiece of Heaven that my brain had been fooled into expecting.

'My leg. It's not that bad, really.'

He pulled his knife out from his boot and proceeded to cut my legs free of my costume—the baggy pants will not see another year.

'You are truly the luckiest man I know, Napoleon,' he said as he prodded at me and swiped at the blood oozing across my leg with the corner of his sleeve.

'Don't wreck your costume,' I muttered. 'You did a good job just now.'

'They shouldn't have gone for you first,' he said, smiling sweetly. 'That made me quite angry.'

'I noticed,' I said, smiling back, loving the feeling that he had been angry on my account. I spend a lot of time being angry with people who have treated him badly, but I never really let him know it. Maybe I should.

Some Security came up with the intention of moving me down to Medical. Illya waved them away.

'I've got nothing better to do, I'll take him down there.' They eyed him uncertainly, but I nodded—better Illya in a dress than two rough and ready unknowns manhandling me any day. He grabbed me round the chest and heaved me to my feet, pulling me tight against him to keep me off my bad leg. I hung on—it's not every day I get to legitimately hug my partner—we usually leave each other to our own devices if we're conscious... it's a pride thing I guess.

We bumped into Nancy as we staggered down the corridor. I took her out a week ago for a pre-Christmas dinner. Took her home afterwards, spent a pleasant evening appreciating her curves and wishing her lacquered hair was less impenetrable, then enticed her into bed with very little effort and to our mutual satisfaction. Then I excused myself, made my way home and went to bed alone to dream about a blond Russian who may not have curves in all the right places, but whose mere presence in a room makes my heart beat faster. Why is it that we can't chose who we fall in love with based on looks? I mean, don't get me wrong, the way Illya looks is a pure delight, but he lacks certain attributes of which I am very fond. Yet I'd give it all up for... For this. For tottering down a corridor with his arms around me, my leg hurting, his tinsel tickling me, the remains of my baggy pants trailing behind us, while Nancy from Records looks on, trying to decide between concern and laughing at the ludicrous picture we make.

We passed her, shaking our heads at her dutiful offers of help, and he got me into the elevator and down to the entrance to Medical, where a stern doctor was waiting for us, alerted by someone or other that we were on our way down, and wanting to know why we hadn't called down for a stretcher and some medical personnel. Illya scowled at him, told him that the last thing the staff need to see before Christmas is the CEA being rolled out on a stretcher. He watched them heave me into a bed and said he'd wait with me while they sorted themselves out.

'Thanks,' I said, when it was just us. He put his hands flat on the bed next to me and used them to support his weight while he loomed over me.

'Your leg isn't bad,' he said, not unkindly, 'I checked. I want you up there with me tomorrow doing this ridiculous pageant, so no messing around—get them to let you out as soon as you're stitched up. I'll take you home and bring you back tomorrow.

'What's the matter? Scared you'll forget your lines?' I jested. He gave me a withering look.

'No: you're the furthest shepherd forward. If you're not there, somebody else will have the grandstand view up my skirts, and no-one is entitled to that except you. So be there.'

I stared at him. My brain tried to rationalise quickly: Illya and I have seen each other naked and at a disadvantage so many times in the field that we have nothing to hide. That's all. But he stretched out a hand and cupped my chin, pressed the fingers of his other hand to his mouth, kissed them and then brushed them momentarily against my lips. Then he winked at me, swung around and strode from the room, his robe flapping, his sleeves whipping at the doctor who pushed past him into the room. And I was so, so glad that I was his friend, not his enemy, because even then, I could see the energy that crackled off him.

I was very good with the medical staff. I told them everything they wanted to hear. I told them how little my leg hurt and how well I felt in myself. I let them stitch me up without a murmur and then I told them that the hordes of hell could not keep me in Medical over Christmas. I also managed to be completely non-committal when the doctor in charge suggested that I should pull out of the nativity. No. I was under orders from Gabriel himself, and if I wasn't there to take the front row spot, I was damned if he was going to be in that harness, and I don't think the producer would have taken too kindly to losing his Gabriel for no good reason.

They finally agreed to let me out, so I pulled out my communicator and called him, slightly nervily. That brush of his fingers still burnt on my lips, yet seemed impossible. He had never... Never once in all the time we had worked together had he given any indication that the desperate, hopeless longing I feel in his presence might be replicated in him. Never, till now. What did I do to suddenly deserve this? Is this what comes of humbling yourself as a shepherd? If it is, I might be persuaded to put an end to the constant background rumble of my mother turning in her grave and set foot in a church again. Just a brief visit to say thanks, you understand... let's not go overboard here.

He answered as normally as if nothing had happened.

'Wait there, I'll come down for you. I'm just changing. We finished the rehearsal without you, but I've told them you'll be there tomorrow.' That says everything about Section Two agents. It says we ought to be worried at how blasé we get about mortal peril. We could all have died in there if they had been quicker and we had been even slightly less highly trained—that is, if our Gabriel hadn't been a match for them all. And instead of getting worked up about it—at least until Waverly sends for everyone in a high temper to find out how they got in in the first place—Section Two finishes their rehearsal. While I was waiting, I sat on the edge of the bed and listened to the music piped into the room through a speaker over the bed. Eartha Kitt was singing, Santa Baby. I laughed. There was only one thing I wanted this Christmas and that was a certain blond Russian, and it actually looked like I might just get him. Santa was surpassing himself this year.

...Been an angel all year...

Well, perhaps it wasn't Santa's doing. You could hardly call what either of us had been doing all year 'angelic'. On the other hand, I thought, as he walked through the door, back in his usual, appalling suit, scowling at the nurse fluttering around him, my coat over his arm; if angels were selected on looks alone, I had, perhaps bagged my very own.

'Ready?' he asked.


He pulled me to my foot and we did our three-legged walk back up through headquarters to the car. Then he drove me home, walked me up to my apartment, sent out for food, ate with me, cleared away, checked I could get myself to bed all right, and left, without any indication that this was the same man who had stolen a kiss from himself and given it to me.

Have you ever tried to sleep when someone has just made you believe that an aeon of not having anyone to call your own is about to end? Believe me, I could never complain that I lack bed partners, or even that I am not loved. Some of the girls fall in love with me, and maybe, for a brief while, I am in love with them, but it is not something that lasts on my part, nor something I allow to last on their part. Letting a girl down gently is a speciality of mine. Letting myself down gently is not. How is it that no matter how much you tell yourself that fantasising about your partner is stupid and bound to end in tears, you still keep yourself awake half the night, wondering what it would be like to kiss him? The problem for me was that my mind can conjure up a picture of Illya without the slightest difficulty, and imagine his hands gripping my upper arms, his face hovering just above me, his eyes staring straight into mine, his long, straight nose pressed, smooth-skinned against my cheek. Or his forehead pressed sweatily against mine, my fingers gripping firm muscle on his back, his legs straddling my thighs, my erection bumping his stomach, making my balls tighten with his every movement, just because my body is so achingly aware that it is him... You see what I mean? I was lost before I started.

On Christmas Eve morning, I had just managed to get myself up, breakfasted and dressed, when Illya arrived at my door, steadied me down to the car and drove us to work.

'Heard anything about yesterday?' I asked, yawning, as we drove along. He scratched his neck, eyes fixed on the road ahead.

'Yes. Mr Waverly called me this morning. He thought you were out of action, otherwise he would have spoken to you. Intelligence brought him a very interesting file just after the incident yesterday. A little stack of papers that somehow never made it into the system from the information centres. I believe we have three less personnel this morning, and we are all invited to attend a fun-filled meeting after Christmas to decide on some security checks and new systems to implement in the new year. I'm sure that's the Christmas present you were hoping for?'

'I already got a bullet in the leg for Christmas, thank-you,' I replied. He frowned.

'You are okay to do this, aren't you? I know what I said, but I don't want you to be stupid about it.'

'I know what you said, and I'm not being stupid. I'll just have to kneel in a slightly unorthodox fashion, that's all. I'm not having someone like Farnham looking up your skirt.' He glanced at me for a second, nodded and turned back to the road.

We made it in in good time, and even had time to get the utter joy of filling in an Internal Incident Report Form each out of the way. After lunch, we headed to the makeshift dressing rooms behind the stage, where our fellow agents were changing. The hubbub from the audience was already audible—the opportunity to take the time off work has always helped with the response the nativity gets.

Illya helped to haul me into my shepherd gear. Someone had managed to rustle up another pair of pants from somewhere, and although they could have been a little looser round the waist, at least I was decent. It took him only a second or two to shimmy into his robe, then he was back, prodding me in the chest with an accusatory finger and speaking low so that only I could hear him.

'Do not further damage your leg. If you're going to spend ten minutes staring up my skirts, I expect you to take me out for dinner later.'

Farnham came wandering over, his tea-towel over one eye, looking for someone to tie the cord around it. Illya shrugged and disappeared, presumably to go and get into his harness behind his little screen, and I leaned against the wall, tying the cord around Farnham's head and feeling like my heart was about to beat itself clear out of my chest. I would never have believed that Illya was capable of flirting so openly, and certainly not with me.

The time had come. I watched Richards, in the far more suitable role of the innkeeper this year, go out and deliver the lines I usually get to say. Mary and Joseph went and installed themselves in the straw bale and fence-panel construction in the corner and discreetly pulled out the baby by its head from behind a bale, and dumped it in the manger, which had, until the day before, been a parcel rack down in the mail room. Then it was the turn of the shepherds and the three of us—me, Farnham and Bailey—trooped out, with Bailey carefully propping up my bad side so that I didn't limp too badly and put queries about the significance of one of the shepherd's bad leg into the audience's mind.

I managed to get down to the floor, leaning on my little bit of hill, and knelt on my good knee, with my injured leg sticking out behind. I mimed conversation for a moment with my fellow shepherds, before the lights dimmed, a spotlight shone above us, and Illya ascended into the light, coming to a halt, perfectly blocking the light from my eyes and giving me a stunning view up his robe. A stunning view, largely due to the fact that today, of all days, Illya had chosen to do without his underwear. I averted my eyes in the time-honoured manner, until the point at which Illya said 'Fear not, for today...' I looked up and enjoyed the sight of my partner, dangling from a wire over my head, outlined in light, stark naked where it mattered, and visible to none but me, and with my blood staining the right sleeve of his otherwise perfect robe.

We got off our hill at last, made our way to the stable rather more slowly than suggested in the script, presented our lambs from a standing position so that I didn't have to get down to the ground again, waited for the kings to join us, and sang a relatively tuneful O Come All Ye Faithful with the audience while Illya dangled, a safe distance away, picking at his nails since his light was turned off and no-one but me was looking.

Then it was back to the dressing rooms to struggle out of my costume and limp to our office before Illya could stop me, and book a table at a restaurant I thought he'd like, for a ridiculous sum this Christmas Eve, just in case he meant what he'd said earlier. He turned up just as I put the phone down and leaned on the desk, eyes flashing at me.

'Booked us a table?' he asked insolently.

'I might have done. Why? Hungry?'

'Starving. Hanging from the rafters always makes me want to eat.'

'Why?' I asked. I probably should have elaborated, but my mind was jumping around and I couldn't really concentrate with his eyes boring into me like that.

'I don't know. Maybe I'm used to being stuck there for longer and not being fed afterwards.'

'No, no. I mean, why are you doing this all of a sudden?'

'All of a sudden? No, Napoleon. I'm simply letting it show more now, because you made it perfectly clear what you wanted when you stared at me in rehearsal, and I also realised that you are utterly incapable of noticing subtle hints. I've been trying to tell you for years.'

'Oh,' I said. I couldn't think of anything else to say. He pushed off the desk and stood up, pulling on the jacket he'd been carrying up to now.

'Coming?' he asked.

'I didn't book till seven,' I said.

'In which case, we have time to go home, change and have a drink before we go, yes? That is the way we do these things?'

I shrugged, too stunned to reply. He leaned back down, smiling worryingly.

'I'll bring my costume with me, shall I?' He grinned broadly and cannot have missed the appreciation of the the gesture on my face. 'Come on then.'

I walked with him up to the street and let him drive me home, stopping by his place for a bare five minutes while he changed his shirt, leaving me in the car, actually shaking with anticipation. In my apartment, he glanced at the clock on the mantlepiece.

'We had better put you into some proper clothes right away, or there might not be time.' He flicked on the radio to give us some music.

Although I could easily have managed by myself, I did not stop him as he pulled me out of my clothes and back into the fresh set I indicated with a rapidity that told too well of the hundreds of times we have helped each other out after injuries. Then he headed over to my bar and poured drinks, bringing mine over to me on the sofa, handing it over and proposing a toast with his leg jammed hard against mine.

'To costumes with skirts.'

'To angels,' I said. 'Particularly Russian ones.' He smirked. As we knocked back our drinks, Eartha Kitt was singing on the radio:

...Been an angel all year...

He reached across and turned it off,

'Well that's not exactly accurate. My angelic leanings stretch to one dress rehearsal and a show, and yours are practically non-existent.'

I raised an eyebrow at him and he leaned across to take my glass away.

'I'm not going to dinner with you until I'm sure this wasn't just about looking up my skirt.' He grabbed my lapels, held me at arm's length and raised his own eyebrows expectantly.

If there is one thing I know how to do well, it is kiss someone who wants to be kissed. I pulled him close, touched my lips to his, waited for him to join in. When he did, and I tasted the alcohol on his lips, I took the time just to press our lips together, then to trap that delicious, plump bottom lip between my own and tug on it. His hand shot up to hold the back of my head, pulling me closer, then, with his fingers worming unconcernedly through my slicked-down hair, he pressed his tongue against my teeth. I opened up and discovered what it is like to be kissed thoroughly by Illya. He straddled me, just as he had in my daydreaming, but carefully, keeping his weight on my good side. I let my hands fall on his back and opened my eyes to look at his face, eyes closed and so abandoned, his hair mussed across his forehead. His lips left mine as he took a breath, and his eyes flicked open.

'Do you really want to go to that restaurant this evening?' I asked hopefully.

'Yes,' he said, nodding, and grinning as his hand slipped down to cup the bulge in my pants. 'So you'd better think of something to get rid of that. I'm not missing dinner just because you can't control yourself.' He ran his hands around my neck until his palms were flat on my chest, and pushed himself off me. 'Having said which, we should really go.'

I could not have wanted to go to the restaurant less, and yet being with him in a public room, with Christmas decorations all around sending starlight into his eyes, and him flirting outrageously and utterly unnoticed by the busy, laughing tables-full of people all around us, was a treat I could not have dreamed for myself. He ate five courses, where I could barely manage one, though I picked at them and made them look half-eaten, and all the while, a manic energy seemed to spring from him. Still, I was desperate to take him home, and pestered the waiter for the check, as Illya's eyes bored into me over the rim of his coffee cup.

We got home and once the alarms were set, I pulled him closer, ignoring the pain in my leg. He wrapped his arms around me, holding me up, and kissed me. I felt myself melt like a fool. Happiness flooded through me and I smiled against his lips, wishing my leg would stand up to me grabbing him and throwing him towards the sofa. Instead, he walked me backwards to it, lowered us so I could sit, then broke away.

He stood up, reached behind the sofa and drew out the bag he had brought with him earlier, opened it and then left it. I watched him, confused. He took off his jacket, threw it onto the chair by the door. Took off his tie, unbuttoned his shirt. He was not playing: this was no sexed-up strip for my benefit, but it might as well have been. I was painfully hard and desperate for him to come back. He kept his eyes on me, shrewdly judging my reaction as he threw the shirt after the jacket. Then he reached into the bag and drew out something white. He let it drop out of its folds, and put it on. His angel robe tumbled to its full length around him, and hitching it up at the sides, sliding his hands behind the folds of fabric, he dropped his pants without my ever getting a glimpse of him.

He let the robe fall and walked towards me, standing under the ceiling-light, lit from above and glowing from within.

'Illya, you're...' I was going to say 'beautiful', but I thought he might hit me. It would have been the truth though. Who needs curves when you've got angles like those?

'What?' he asked, and now his voice was the husky voice of the passionate, and I had never heard it from him before, so I listened, staring at him—stunning in his costume, even when he ran a finger absently around under his collar to soothe the tickle of the tinsel. I thought for a second that in this robe, this dress, I could be forgiven for thinking of him as a girl, but I was wrong. No girl moves like that, no girl has that raw power in every motion.

No girl has a tent like that halfway down the front of her dress.

I reached out a hand and laid it on his hip. Sitting up, I sent my other hand up under his skirt, ruffled the hairs on his lower leg, caressed his knobbly knee, stroked his thigh for a while, then settled down to listen to his halting sigh as I reached the top of his legs, found his hot, heavy balls and lifted them against the underside of his erection, then took that in my hand and squeezed, gave him a single stroke to the top, a quarter-twist at the very tip, just the way I like it, and felt his legs go under him, so that he fell onto me, still avoiding my leg, and wrapped his arms around me, spreading his legs so that I could reach to stroke him again, and I fell into the familiar rhythm, altering it only slightly to suit him, listening for the hitch in each breath that told me when I'd gotten it right. His tinsel scratched my cheek and I caught his lametta in the crease of my elbow with every stroke, but he was a shining heap in my lap and the memory it called up, of his hidden, yet oh so public display pushed me further towards the edge.

He was fumbling with my belt, single-handed, and I shifted on the sofa to make it easier. The first touch of his fingers was a charm; rough and strong, they set my penis free with a fabric-ripping sound I couldn't have cared less about. He worked me differently, craning his neck to kiss me while his fingers tweaked and pulled at me, an unfamiliar motion that nonetheless did what he intended. I could barely think, barely persuade my hands to keep giving him pleasure. After a while, I gave up, and he shifted in my lap, straddling me again, his robe falling over my legs as he worked my pants down, and stood for a second to get them past my knees, before returning, pressing our erections together. The soft-hardness, velvet over steel, felt so good against me, and he knew it. He held us together, moved against me, softly, then harder, and my mind whirled, my body stopped worrying about the normal things. I was vaguely aware that his knee was pressed against my wound and there was pain, but truthfully, I barely felt it and I did not want him to move. He bent closer, his hips pumping against me now, and he pressed his lips to the corner of my mouth, his nose buried in my cheek, the stuff of fantasies. His breath rolled over my lips, flowed into my breaths, stuffy and scented with him.

I couldn't move my hips with him there, could not thrust as my body yearned to do. The confinement seemed to intensify whatever he did, and I could feel my whole being rushing down into my groin, preparing to explode onto that dreamlike plain where I might see clouds and blue skies, as I sometimes do when I come hard, but this time I might also see an angel in blinding white, dancing on the clouds. Then I came and I saw the blue sky and the clouds, but it wasn't until I opened my eyes that I saw the angel, flying on the ascent to his own orgasm, his eyes squeezed tightly shut, his mouth open, deep, hoarse grunts coming from him as he pressed against me hard once more, reached down between us and pumped the last of his ejaculate out of himself as his head tipped down against my shoulder and I kissed the top of it because at last I was allowed to.

I held him in my arms, aware now that my leg was throbbing badly and would probably take twice as long to heal now. I didn't care. I stared at him lying there with his tinsel hanging off, a fallen angel now. He opened his eyes and looked at me.

'For behold, I bring you good news of great joy,' he muttered.

'If it isn't about us, then I'm not interested,' I murmured back. He sniggered, his body shaking slightly in my arms. I winced as pain shot through my leg and he grimaced.

'I'm sorry, I wasn't very careful of your leg.'

'It doesn't matter. You never know—Santa might bring me a new one.'

He looked confused, 'New what?'

'Leg,' I explained. He tutted in disbelief, rolled off me, stood up a little unsteadily, pulled the robe off over his head and stretched.

'That tinsel itches, and I'm not really the robe-wearing type,' he said in justification. Inwardly, I begged to differ, but watching his stomach muscles jostle each other as he arched his back drew all my attention and when he held out a hand to help me up, I took it, feeling incredibly shaky all of a sudden, and I followed him to bed, where instead of falling back into my arms, he tucked me down onto his shoulder and enfolded me in his, pressing a kiss to my forehead as if we had been doing this forever.

I revised my reworking of Sennacherib. Back at the dress rehearsal, I had cast the THRUSH as the Gentiles, myself as the dozing Hebrews. But as my body sank against him, shaken and too content to be my usual commanding, controlling self; my mind lazily tripped through the last verse, memorised and repeated beyond forgetting long ago at school, and I had no choice but swap to the Gentile side where I so obviously belonged:

And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the eyes of the Lord.

Happy Christmas!

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