She's My Kind of Girl
"Lei versa come una vecchia (You pour like an old woman)."
"Lei mescola come un vecchio (You stir like an old man)."
"Sono vecchio (I am an old man)."
"Chi prova lei a scherzare? (Who are you trying to kid)? I've walked by your house at night. Those noises don't come from an old man. Sounded more like a pollo being strangled."
Napoleon Solo listened to the two men bicker back and forth and grinned. Here were two of the highest ranked premier chefs and they bickered like old women. Napoleon carefully set the four bottles he carried down on the metal countertop, just as the phone rang.
"Somebody get that!" Illya shouted and, as Matt took a step, he added, "Someone other than Matt! You keep pouring, old woman."
"Keep stirring, old man." Matt was laughing now.
"I could put you up against the wall, you know." Illya never took his eyes off the sauce pan. Napoleon didn't know how he was able to keep up the stirring. Surely anyone else's arm would have fallen off by now.
"Ah, cara, you remember what I like." Matt's voice became a purr and Napoleon's possessive streak flared. Instead of saying something, he caught the phone before Rand or Henry could.
"Taste. Kitchen, Napoleon speaking."
Both Illya and Matt looked over at him, obviously surprised at his presence. Napoleon nodded back tightly at them. If there was anything he loved, it was taking his partner unaware.
However, a familiar voice from their past pulled his attention immediately. "Napoleon, hi, this is April."
"April, what a surprise!" Then he frowned. "Wait, how did you get this number?"
"Once a spy... well, you know the rest. Listen, we were thinking about coming out there for a little visit and wondered if we could stop in and see you two."
"Of course. When were you thinking?" He saw Illya frown and shake his head. No one took reservations except Roxanne. It was too confusing otherwise.
"Well, we have some stuff to do in San Francisco, but maybe the week before? Will you be around say the middle of April?"
"We are always here." Napoleon reached for a scrap of paper. "When you've firmed up your times, let me know. Will you be wanting reservations at that B&B or will you stay with us?"
"The B&B, I think. I'll explain more when I see you. Napoleon... thanks."
"Not a problem. Always have time for you."
"Bye... give Illya my love."
"Always." He cradled the phone and tucked the sheet of paper into his polo shirt's breast pocket. Then he walked up to a scowling Russian and planted a kiss on his cheek.
"Don't try and make good with me, Solo. You know I don't like anyone but Roxanne taking reservations. Go put that in the book right now."
Napoleon smiled. "But April didn't ask for a reservation, just called to see if we were going to be here in April."
"April... she was the lady with the... ah... capelli grandi."
"Si, si, like me." He shook his head, which didn't do much since his hair net compressed his hair into a neat red cap.
"There is no one else like you, Matt. Did April have an afro the last time we saw her?" Illya frowned, trying to remember. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
"A permanent, I think he means. " Napoleon leaned in to inhale the steam coming off the stock. It was heavenly.
"Are you through yet, old woman?" Illya muttered.
Matt tipped up the container he was pouring from and a last drip fell free. "I am done."
Illya switched hands and reached to turn down the flame beneath his pot. "Finally! Now we reduce and hope for the best."
"If this one isn't right, vecchio, I say we use the veal stock next."
"You are pushing your luck." Illya set a cover half on the pot and adjusted the flames a bit more. "So April is coming out?"
"Yup, I think Mark may be coming with her, she said we that way."
"Good, it will be good to see them after all these years. To what do we owe your surprise visit?"
"You asked for some cabs to try with a new dish. I brought you four I thought might work."
"Excellent. Thank you." Illya rolled his right shoulder and pulled the soiled towel that was tucked behind his apron ties out and wiped his hands, shouting, "Henry, how are you doing?"
"On time and within budget, Chef." Napoleon knew that meant Henry's prep was on schedule.
"The same. Jesus delivered the bread and I put it in the walk in. I'm going to slice it next."
"What did he bring us?" Illya tossed the hand towel into a dirty laundry bin.
"Half French sourdough and half walnut bleu cheese."
"Good. Our patrons can't seem to get enough of the walnut these days. I'll be in the office if you need me."
Illya walked away and Napoleon followed, winking at Matt as he passed. Once inside, Napoleon pushed the door closed and eased down into a chair. It wasn't so much that he was worried about straining anything, but quite frequently the chairs in the office were there because they couldn't handle the traffic in the dining room any longer. Sit down hard and one might well end up on the floor.
Illya wasn't as worried and flopped down in the desk chair, absentmindedly massaging his right shoulder.
"Too much stirring?" Napoleon asked, reaching for a nearby invoice. While he wasn't their bookkeeper any longer, he still liked to keep an eye on expenses. He glanced at the bottom line and sighed. It was getting so expensive to run the restaurant.
"He pours like an old woman... when I said to pour slowly, I didn't mean at a snail's pace," Illya muttered and pulled his tee shirt neck away from his body, flapping the cloth in an attempt to cool down. He stopped and looked over at Napoleon. "Does it bother you when we tease each other like that? You know that neither of us would do anything to hurt you or Rocky."
"Part of me knows, but another part, the part I'm not very proud of, wants to punch Matt in the face and take you right where you stand, just so that you remember you are my partner and no one else's and damn the consequences."
"I'm sorry we don't mean... it's just reflex with us."
Napoleon stood up and rounded the desk chair. Without preamble, he began to work the knotted shoulder muscles. For several minutes, there was no sound except Illya's occasional grunt when Napoleon applied too much pressure.
"Better?" Napoleon moved from the shoulder on down Illya's right arm.
"You keep that up and I'll let you have your way with me tonight." Illya winced and then pulled away from Napoleon.
"You should see the doctor if your arm is bothering you." Napoleon caught the limb and held it.
"I just spent the last fifteen minutes stirring non-stop. It will be fine."
Napoleon lifted Illya's hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it, then turned it and kissed the scarred palm. "I just worry about you, Amante."
"I know." Illya smiled at him. "Thank you, but I really am fine. When did April say she was coming?"
Napoleon noticed the smooth shift of topics, but didn't push. "She didn't really say, sometime mid-April."
"That's when the Foothills are at their best, warm but not hot, and lots of flowers. It'll be nice then."
Napoleon brushed Illya's bangs back. "It's pretty nice now."
Illya caught Napoleon's hand and squeezed it gently. "And if you keep that up, my sauce will burn and Matt will let it, just because he thinks we're two lovesick old fools."
"We are." Napoleon angled forward for a kiss, but there was a tap on the door and Illya eluded him.
"Keep that thought. Yes?"
"The sauce, she is ready, Vecchio," Matt called through the ajar door.
"Pardon me, old friend, I must go kill una vecchia." He gave Napoleon a fast peck and was gone.
Napoleon watched the last customer leave Vinea and sighed as Connie flipped the open sign over to read 'closed.'
"Finally," she muttered and rubbed her neck. "My face aches from smiling today."
Don closed the reinforced metal shutters and fastened them firmly shut. They'd already had a couple attempted break-ins and Napoleon wasn't taking any more chances. It seemed rather sad though. When he'd first arrived here, people didn't even lock their doors.
"What was going on today?" Sarah looked over at the mess behind the counter. "I don't think I've served that much wine since ever."
Jeff started gathering glasses to carry to the glass washer in the back. Napoleon remembered how he'd feigned excitement the day Illya presented him with it. Now he celebrated the moment frequently, particularly after days like today. Connie picked up a pad and began to scribble down the numbers of bins that needed to be replenished along with the count.
Napoleon smiled at his staff. They had been rushed off their feet all day and yet not one of them balked at the remaining tasks to be done. Sarah started to close out the register. Napoleon started cleaning up the numerous plates and utensils left from the folks who'd wanted some small apps with their wine tasting.
"The trout mousse was a real hit today, Boss. I think I served more of that than anything else."
"Really?" Don asked as he looked down at the plates in his hands. "I was about to say the tea-smoked duck breast. That was flying off the rack today."
"And last week it was the shaved fennel and parmesan and the Steak Tartar. I don't know how Chef does it."
"It's what he does." Napoleon carefully set a stack of dishes in the large section of a busing tub and dropped the utensils into the smaller one. "It's also what keeps people coming back to us and Taste." He wiped his hands on a dishtowel and looked over at his hardworking staff. "Connie, when you are done there, why don't you open a bottle of that Mourvedre Estate?"
"Ah, Boss, that's a $30 bottle of wine." Connie made a face when she realized Napoleon knew that. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it. In fact, open two. I think we all earned it. Jeff, is there anything left in the back to eat?"
"Some cheese sticks, half of a chicken and crawfish terrine and the deviled lamb tea sandwiches."
"Bring them around. Better we eat them than we throw them out." Even though this was a ritual when Napoleon worked until closing, the staff acted as if it were a rare occurrence. Napoleon racked it up to keeping his staff happy and motivated.
An hour later, the tasting room was restocked, clean, and ready to face a new day. His staff had a glass of wine under their belts, or two, if they weren't driving, and had gone away with their stomachs filled and their hearts happy. Napoleon took a moment to just look at the tasting room.
Napoleon couldn't believe how much satisfaction this little shop gave him. Once, shortly after he'd started calling Jackson home, Napoleon had asked Illya why he did what he did day after day. "I make people happy, Napoleon." At that point, he hadn't understood. Now he did. Napoleon loved seeing folks excited about their purchase or finding exactly the right wine for some occasion. He loved listening to people rave about his lover's creations and then thrilled when the customer remarked at how well the wine went with the food.
Napoleon glanced over at the restaurant as he pulled the door shut and locked it. The parking lot was full and a handful of people stood out on the covered porch, their collars turned up against the gusty wind and spitting rain. Part of Napoleon urged him to head over to Taste and plunge into the thrum of happy diners. Another part of him urged a hot bath and an early night.
A cold gust of wind caught his jacket and made it dance. With a shudder, Napoleon headed home.
Napoleon had just settled another quilt on the bed when he heard the front door opened and the alarm reset. He took no chances these days. After the incident with Velon, Illya was a bear about setting the alarm. If it gave his mate peace of mind, Napoleon would set the alarm every hour on the hour.
He tossed his robe onto the foot of the bed, crawled in, and opened his book only to stare at the page. Napoleon didn't want to read, even though he'd pulled on his glasses. He wanted nothing more than to feel Illya's body, warm and familiar, pressed against his. Even though they weren't making love as much as they used to, Napoleon still relished the closeness and could never get enough.
Five minutes turned into ten, then fifteen. Napoleon took off his glasses and stared anxiously at the door. He knew Illya was downstairs, puttering away, having once again lost track of time. He was just about to put his robe on and go track down his partner, when he heard Illya's step on the stairs.
He entered the room with a plate in one hand, a glass of water in the other and three cats escorting him and singing little kitty arias around his ankles.
"They love you." Napoleon shut his book and set it aside.
"They love tuna," Illya muttered and passed the plate and glass to Napoleon. Immediately the cats abandoned Illya for Napoleon.
Illya stripped out of his work clothes and stood naked for a moment.
"Happy to be home?"
Illya flopped down face first on the bed and sighed. A second passed and he got to his hands and knees and crawled up to the pillows. He found his way in between the sheets and held out his hands for his dinner. Instead Napoleon filled them and kissed the man soundly.
"Is something wrong?" Illya's tone was worried.
"Glad to see you, glad you're home, glad the day is finally over, take your pick."
"Which one will garner me another kiss?"
Napoleon answered nonverbally, setting his lips and tongue to a more intimate task. Illya responded as Napoleon knew he would, wrapping strong arms around him and holding him close until Illya was satisfied with the state of affairs.
"You need to let me go," Napoleon whispered.
"Why?" Illya's arms instead tightened.
"The cats are about to eat your sandwich."
"What?" Instantly, Napoleon was released and Illya lunged for his sandwich, snagging it a mere second before Roux got a claw into it. "Animals!" Illya snarled at them, but was met with only wide-eyed looks of innocence.
"Somehow, I don't think calling an animal an animal constitutes much of an insult."
"What can I say? I'm tired and hungry."
Still bantering, Illya wolfed down the sandwich, making sure there were a few little bits left on the plate, and drained his glass.
"Premier chef in the country and you eat a sandwich for dinner."
"Uh huh, I know what I like." He set the plate on the bed and the three cats greedily attacked it. "You'd think they'd not seen food in a month."
"Maybe they think they haven't. Cats are odd little creatures..."
Illya angled in for a kiss and Napoleon winced. "What's wrong?"
"Don't get me wrong, but tuna fish and Colgate don't really complement each other."
Illya chuckled and threw back the covers. "Mea culpa. I'll go get cleaned up." He picked up the plate and moved it to the floor. "Don't start anything without me."
A month passed and then another. Life in the Foothills melted from winter to a glorious spring. They survived Valentine's Day, although Napoleon's feet hurt for a week afterwards. Then it was the rush for Easter, early this year, and another holiday Napoleon was glad to see the back of.
He walked down the stairs, his shirt open and his shoes in one hand. The other hand he kept on the railing just in case. The cats had the habit of dashing up and down the staircase, never worrying about whom or what they might upset with their mad antics. Napoleon had already had one sprained ankle and a twisted knee because of a cat and he wasn't going to get another, especially with a flight of stairs tossed into the mix.
Napoleon hit the bottom step and turned reflexively towards the kitchen. He could smell fresh brewed coffee and it called to him like a siren. He pushed opened the door and looked around. The kitchen was messy in an 'I'm in the middle of something and I'm taking a break' way.
Pouring a cup of coffee, Napoleon took a deep swallow before looking for Illya, even though his location wasn't much of a mystery, not on a sunny morning like today. Walking to the porch door, he stopped and smiled. Illya was sitting on the top step, his face turned upwards to the sun, eyes closed, in complete and utter surrender to its warmth. When he was like this, Illya was almost feline.
Napoleon walked out onto the porch and sat down beside Illya, leaning over to kiss a sun-flushed cheek.
"It is now." Illya turned his head and gathered a kiss for his efforts.
"The sun has put you in a good mood."
"No, you did that last night." Illya's lips curled into a smile. "For an old man, you demonstrate surprising vigor and stamina."
"I'm only as good as my partner." Napoleon took Illya's left hand and kissed the wedding band there. "The sun is warm," he murmured after a moment.
"You should have daffodils opening in the next day or so."
"I was rather expecting another answer from you, but it is perfect weather for them."
"Speaking of such, did you ever hear back from April?"
"Nope, I haven't heard a word. When I tried to call, I got an answering machine."
"I suspect she will let us know when she's coming."
There was a knock on the door and the two men exchanged glances. "Not a chance, Kuryakin," Napoleon scoffed as he handed Illya his cup of coffee to hold and went to answer the door.
"No, let me."
"It's Tuesday and it's nearly ten. Odds will give you even that it's a delivery for the restaurant."
Napoleon watched Illya answer the door and give Napoleon a wave as he exited. The man knew the delivery routes better than the drivers in some cases.
He was just finishing his coffee when the phone rang. Since Illya wasn't here to make a crack, he rose with a satisfying grunt and caught it by the third ring.
He grinned at April's voice. "Good morning, my sweet, we were just talking about you. Were your ears burning?"
"Not as much as my eyes are. We just got in from a Red Eye. How is your schedule tomorrow?"
"We've both got a full plate, but I'm sure we could accommodate one more thing. Do you want me to make reservations for you?"
"No, we're taking care of that."
"Let's just say I have a surprise or two for you both and leave it at that."
"Okay, well, then give us a call when you hit town."
Illya came in a few minutes later, wiping his brow with the back of one of his work gloves.
"You'll never guess who just called."
"Ed Sullivan and he's booked you for next Tuesday."
"Ha, ha, and he was only on Sundays. You are such the comedian. April and Mark will be here tomorrow."
"Where are they staying?"
"Don't know. She said she had a surprise."
"Okay, I'm wild about surprises."
Napoleon smirked at that. "Oh, you are, are you?"
"And if I were to surprise you in the next few minutes?"
"It wouldn't be a surprise then, would it?" Illya poured himself another cup of coffee and took a long swallow. "By the way, that shipment wasn't mine. It was yours."
Illya grinned. "Surprise."
The day started dark and menacing. By the time Napoleon crawled from bed and brushed his teeth, the first few angry drops of rain were splattering against the window panes.
"April and Mark picked a helluva time to drive up the hill," he shouted over the rushing water of the shower. "It's going to be pouring in another minute."
"That's another problem with the spring up here. It's pretty, but it's fickle." Illya peered around the shower door, water dripping off his chin. "You want this now?"
"Do you know how beguiling you look all wet and drippy?"
"Not very, I would imagine."
Napoleon dropped his towel and stepped into the shower stall, pressing up against Illya, his penis stabbing into Illya's stomach. "Someone disagrees with you."
"Someone needs glasses."
"Oh, now talk about creating a stir at the optometrist!" Napoleon reached for the soap and began to lather up his hands. When he was satisfied, he let them trail down Illya's sides until he reached the man's semi-flaccid penis.
Grasping Illya's penis, Napoleon began to move his hand up and down, smiling as the organ swelled under his ministrations.
"I've already washed that, you know," Illya mumbled, his head and back blocking the stream of water. His eyes were closed and just the tip of his tongue was licking his lips.
"Let's just say I thought it needed a little extra attention." Napoleon bent slightly so he could get his hand around both erections.
He worked his hand for a few minutes, not even noticing when the water changed from hot to cool, but Illya did.
"Napoleon," Illya murmured. "Don't think for a minute that I don't appreciate your attention, but I've got to stop."
"What?" The tone of Illya's voice shook Napoleon from his stupor.
"The hot water gave out and I'm freezing my ass off."
Napoleon made some apologetic noises. "Can't have that, especially since it's such a nice ass." He stepped aside and let the rapidly cooling water rinse the lather from his hand and their penises. That accomplished, he shut off the water and followed Illya from the stall.
Illya tossed him a towel and wrapped his around his waist. His penis tented the front and Napoleon pursed his lips.
"Seems to me that the only way I could make it up to your very cold ass is to make it very... warm." He gestured to the bed and the still rumpled bedclothes.
Quickly they moved from the bath to the bedroom and swapped towels for sheets and blankets. Napoleon plastered himself up against Illya's back, letting his penis slip happily into the cleft created by Illya's ass cheeks. "Mmm, now that's what I call my kinda sandwich." He applied pressure to either side and worked himself up and down. "I could do this all day."
"I couldn't," Illya muttered and Napoleon moved his hands from back to front and gently massaged the extremely erect penis with one hand. The other hand he applied to Illya's balls, rolling them and squeezing with just enough pressure that Illya was a moaning mess.
Then Napoleon released his delightful handfuls just long enough to find a tube of lube and squeeze a dollop onto his fingers. He slid one arm around Illya so that he could recover this delightful handful of penis and began to move it as he teased his way into Illya's body with the fingers of the other hand.
Napoleon could tell from the hitch in Illya's voice that he wasn't far from climaxing, so he rapidly exchanged his fingers for his penis, sliding it in all in one slow gentle push. The truth of the matter, Napoleon wasn't far from completion himself and it only took two or three thrusts to make him ejaculate.
In spite of wanting to stay still and savor the moment, he continued to move while increasing the speed of his hand. Illya suddenly stiffened and his head tilted back. Napoleon kissed his shoulder even as Illya's ejaculate made a warm and sticky mess of Napoleon's hand.
His contented and lax penis slipped out of Illya's body and Illya turned so that they could kiss. A few years earlier, this would have been merely a ramp up for even more sex, but now they were both sated and content to be so. Napoleon was discovering the more he knew about married life, the better he liked it.
Napoleon was studying the financial section of the Wall Street Journal and Illya a restaurateur's magazine when there was a soft knock at the door.
"Who on Earth could that be at this time of the morning?" There was a look of annoyance on Illya's face. They were both dressed, although still in sweats.
"Illya, it is almost ten." Napoleon set the paper aside and stood.
"That's practically the crack of dawn in my world." Illya shut the magazine and tossed it onto the coffee table. Instantly it took refuge in the dozen other magazines that littered the surface. He didn't rise, but rather put a glum expression on instead.
Napoleon shook his head and went to answer the door. He didn't need a second glance to immediately recognize the woman on their doorstep.
"I didn't wake you, did I?"
"No, we've been up and down for a couple of hours now. Come in... are you alone?"
"No, Mark is parking the car." She looked over her shoulder at the car angling into a space in the lot Taste and Vinea shared.
"Well come in and get out of the rain. Illya, look who's come to disturb your grumping."
"Well, at least it's someone of breeding and taste," Illya said, getting up off the couch. He and April embraced and then he led the way back into the room and away from the front door. Napoleon hovered there waiting for Mark to arrive.
"So, to what do we owe this visit, April? While the foothills are pretty this time of year, it is much more pleasant in the late summer or early fall."
"The reality is we had this planned flight and stopping here seemed to be a good idea." April looked towards the door as there was a soft knock. "As I said before, I have a couple of surprises for you."
Napoleon grinned as he opened the door. "Let me guess—you and Mark finally decided to get married?"
"How did you know?" April asked.
"Stands to reason. There is an attraction between partners, or at least good partners, it can't be denied. You were never as happy in any other relationship other than the one you had with Mark." Napoleon's mouth then dropped open at the sight of Mark standing there holding a young child.
"Actually, there is another reason why we tied the knot." April walked to Mark's side and tried to stroke the girl's cheek. The child pulled away from her touch. "Gentlemen, may I introduce you to Galina." Almost instantly the child began to wail and Mark let her wiggle free from his grip. Immediately, she huddled against the coat rack, burying herself among the coats and jackets that hung there.
"Galina means calm or tranquil," Napoleon said, wincing at the shrill cry that couldn't even be muffled by his trench coat. "I suspect she's neither calm nor tranquil at the moment."
"She's pretty tired. We flew from Vladivostok straight to San Francisco. We thought flying to New York might be a bit too long. She's rather high strung."
Galina was choking out one phrase in between sobs, " Помогите мне (Help me)!"
Mark gave both men a small smile. "We don't know exactly what she's saying. But she's been saying it a lot."
"She's not high strung, she is saying help me. She's scared." Illya walked over to the child and knelt. "Меня зовут Illya Nickovetch (My name is Illya Nickovetch)."
"Вы говорите на русском языке. Вы—русский (You speak Russian. You are Russian?)" A fist came up to rub a red-rimmed blue eye. She sniffed and studied him.
"Я являюсь украинским (I am Ukrainian)."
"Папа был украинцем. Он мертв и Мама—также (Papa was a Ukrainian. He's dead and so is Mama)."
Illya frowned and stood to look over at April and Mark. "Tell me what happened."
"Her parents were murdered. She was left with the bodies for nearly a week before someone came looking." Mark sighed and shook his head. "We've tried to reassure her that we weren't going to hurt her, but she doesn't understand English and we don't speak much Russian. That's sort of why we are here."
"I'm not following you."
"You and Napoleon both speak Russian; you can teach us to communicate with each other."
April's voice was small now as she was watched by frightened eyes. "We just need her to know that we won't hurt her ever. We want to be her parents."
"She's frightened." Illya said. "You've taken her from the only family she recognizes at the moment and for you to tell her that you are going to be her... parents. She probably remembers what happened to the original set. Tell me you wouldn't be afraid in such a situation."
"Why didn't she act like this at the orphanage?" Mark asked.
"The nurses and doctors didn't call themselves her parents. It's probably the names that are triggering most of her fear. I suggest that you find different titles for yourselves first off." Napoleon walked over to the little girl and asked, "Привет, я—Наполеон. Хотят есть Вы (Hello, I'm Napoleon. Are you hungry)?"
She nodded and Napoleon held out his hand. After a moment, she took two of his fingers and Napoleon led her into the kitchen.
April turned to her former co-worker. "Illya, you have to help us. This is the only chance I have for having a child."
"April, don't think me crass for asking, but what's wrong with the regular way?"
"I... we can't. Just like you and Napoleon can't. All that crap THRUSH exposed us to, fed us, shot us up with, I can't have children... neither of us can. We were turned onto an adoption agency back in New York. There are so many children in Russia who need a family. Adopting was my...our only hope of having a family."
Mark ran a hand through his sandy brown hair and sighed. "We don't have to speak it like a native, mate. We just have to be able to communicate with her."
"No, she has to communicate with you. If you speak Russian to her, she will never speak English. You need to know enough Russian to be able to understand what she needs, so you can teach her the English words. That's where we will start."
"You'll do it?" April's voice was hopeful.
"What can I say?" Illya asked as Napoleon and Galina came back out of the kitchen, cookies in hand. "Like my partner, I am a pushover for blue-eyed blondes." He smiled shyly, then walked rapidly up to Napoleon. "You gave her cookies?"
"What should I have given her?"
"Something not full of empty calories for a start. Продвиньтесь, Галенит, я сделаю Вас некоторым борщом, точно так же, как Бабушка имела обыкновение делать.(Come on, Galina, I'll make you some borsch, just like Grandma used to make)."
"You and me, okay?" He hefted her up and looked solemnly into her eyes.
"Okay." She smiled hesitantly.
Illya held up a flashcard of a bed and looked at April. Her brow furrowed and Galina wiggled in her lap.
"No, Galina," he said patiently. "Let Äiti." He was so tired that he was ready to fall asleep as they sat at the picnic table in the small enclosed patio off the kitchen. The sun was beating down and he had been rushed off his feet the night before. Napoleon was tending to Vinea, so it was Illya's turn.
"Кровать," April said abruptly and Galina jumped up and down.
"Da, Da, Äiti." Once they had decided upon Isä and Äiti, Finnish for Father and Mother, Galina had been more accepting of Mark and April. In the three weeks the small family had been in Jackson, Galina was slowly beginning to open up with them. Taking Mark's hand as they walked, suddenly kissing April's cheek. They were baby steps, but always moving forward.
"What is it?" Illya said, speaking slowly to her. She suddenly stilled and sighed. "What is it?"
"A hint?" Illya sighed and snored. She giggled wildly and clapped her hands.
"She only does that because you make her laugh."
"I know. Galina, what is it?"
"Bed," she managed to choke out between giggles. "It bed." And she snored again. She slid off April's lap and ran up to Moutard.
"Here, kitty." She stuck out her fingers and he gave her a head butt. She laughed and tried to hug him before he got away. Lacking a hug, she found a piece of stick and began to wiggle it. Moutard attacked it with intent and efficiency, as if he almost knew what he was doing.
"How are the nights?"
"She still has nightmares. They don't seem to be as bad when she sleeps with us. The fact that we are right there when she wakes up helps a little. We are still working with the potty training, but I'm not sure who is training who at this point."
Napoleon came around the corner and gave them a wave. Galina saw him and raced to Napoleon, arms outstretched. Napoleon grabbed her and lifted her high into the air.
"Airplane," she squealed.
"Yes, well this Cessna is turning into a jumbo jet. What are you feeding her, Äiti?"
"She eats everything, especially if Illya cooks it."
"Do Illya Nichovetch!" Galina pointed to Illya. He smirked as Napoleon grinned.
"Oh, I'd love to do Illya Nichovetch." Napoleon waggled his eyebrows at Illya.
"Airplane!" Galina shouted
"He's a little big for that, Galina. Plus I think right now, he's about ready for a nap."
"Can't." Illya looked at his watch and stifled a yawn. "I've got to go to work."
April caught his hand and squeezed it. "Do you know how much we appreciate you two doing all of this for us?"
"I do." Illya squeezed her hand back and released it, smiling as Galina raced by, Moutard hot on her heels. "And it's not just you I'm doing this for."
Illya Kuryakin walked into the house and resisted the urge to punch the alarm as it beeped at him. As much as it would have satisfied him, at least until the pain set in, instead he punched his code into the keypad and then shut the door behind him. He locked it carefully and reset the alarm. No one came in or left without his knowing about it now.
The whole night had been one disaster after another. The toilet had clogged in one of the rest rooms, and one of his waiters quit in the middle of service, leaving the rest of the room to try to absorb the load. That meant tickets went out slowly and that led to a very unhappy chef in the kitchen. Matt and Rocky had had a disagreement that hadn't stopped at the kitchen door and that made a tense atmosphere even worse. The customers went away happy and the disgruntled couple made amends, but none of that had comforted Illya.
His neck and back felt like they were on fire; his head was pounding so loud that he swore his eyeballs would pop from his skull at any minute. Even his teeth ached from the unresolved tension in his body. A night like this when he was with UNCLE would have sent him straight to the gym for a good workout with his trainer, a long steam bath, and then a rubdown. Now all he had was staircase, a leaky shower, and a sleeping partner.
More than that, he missed April, Mark and Galina. They'd been gone nearly three weeks now and the messages were getting fewer and fewer. At first they had been daily, but now, as the little family settled into their New York home, their time in Jackson was forgotten. It was as it should be, but it didn't mean Illya had to like it.
Food held no appeal for him, not after cooking for seven hours, and as he headed for the stairs, he saw that the message light was flashing. That struck him as odd. If the phone had rung with Napoleon here, he'd have answered it. His partner usually was the one to pick up messages and leave them tacked to the refrigerator door for him to deal with in the morning.
Illya punched the message button and made a face at the sound of April's voice. The time he'd spent with April and Mark hadn't been as productive as it could have been. Both of the former agents were nervous and tense, in spite of Illya's and Napoleon's attempts to get them to relax with the language.
"Illya and Napoleon, hi! This is April. I have someone who wants to say something to you." There was some whispering and then a soft voice came on. Illya had to strain his ears to hear it. "Hi, I love you. Bye, bye."
Illya smiled and looked over as Napoleon came up to hug him. April's voice came back on. "And tonight she called me Mama. Thank you both so much. You really are my guardian angels. I'll talk to you soon. Bye."
"Guess it worked out for them after all," Illya said as the machine announced that was the end of the messages.
"All they had to do was relax and let their love talk for them." Napoleon kissed Illya's sweaty neck. "You had a bad night."
"Who called you?"
"No one, I can see it in your eyes. Feel it in your body when I touch you. Want to talk about it?"
"Want to yell about it?"
"Want to grab a long hot shower and then let me give you something that will make you forget all about it?" Another kiss, this one just behind his ear and Illya shivered.
"I was hoping for a rubdown."
"That as well... eventually."
"Not everything is about sex, Napoleon."
"But there's nothing that love can't fix."