A Tasteful Proposition
Illya dropped the suitcase just inside the door and looked around at the tiny living room. "How many people live here?" he asked over his shoulder as Matt carried a box in.
"Well, when we started, four, but now it is just me and my cat."
"You have a cat?"
Matt glanced around as if trying to spot her."Si, Muscade. She is shy around strangers and she is an escape artist. Could you get the door?"
"I am wise in the way of cats," Illya answered and closed the door before the cat could escape. "It's very... intimate."
"Ah, you think she is small. Well, you are right, but think about it, Cara. We are here to sleep and to study, perhaps bathe and eat, but no more. How much space do we really need? And we are on the bus and trolley line, so we can get anywhere in the City." Matt pushed past him and carried the box a short distance. "This is your spaziosa camera."
Illya glanced in at the 'spacious room' and smiled. "I'm glad you told me. Otherwise I would have thought it the closet."
"You wound me." Matt set the box on the bed. "This is all you have?"
"I travel light." Illya set the suitcase at the foot of the bed, intending to unpack later in private.
"I think you travel with a great burden, eh?" Matt tapped his chest. "A broken heart is heavy."
"Where's the bathroom?" Illya ignored the question and after a moment Matt smiled sadly.
"Come, I will show you and then the kitchen and maybe we can cook, yes?"
Illya had had misgivings about moving in with Matt. True, the redhead made him laugh and momentarily forget his pain. Matt was skilled, open with his knowledge, and so giving of himself. Illya suspected he never would have made it through the first semester without Matt at his back.
So, when Matt came in one morning fuming and raging about his roommate leaving suddenly in the night, it made sense for Illya to offer. He was tired of living in the cut-rate hotel and being bombarded by the dregs of humanity all the time. Matt's apartment was close to the school, in a better neighborhood, and, well, it was Matt, after all. He'd been there for Illya.
The apartment was small but comfortable and Illya did have the privacy of his room for a retreat when necessary. He was unpacking his suitcase and turned at a noise.
A long-haired cat had taken up residency in his opened suitcase and was kneading his socks.
"You must be Muscade." Illya said and a moment later Matt appeared at the door.
"You said something, Illya? Ah, you've met our other roommate."
"And she knows it." Matt entered and sat down on the corner of the bed, scooping the purring animal out. "Lei e una regina di bellezza."
"She is that." Illya picked up a stack of underwear and tucked them into an open bureau drawer.
"So is he, Illya. Who is he?"
Illya glanced back at Matt's comment and saw that he was holding a framed photo of Napoleon. On impulse, he'd grabbed the photo on his way out, intending to use it as a dart board or something else equally ignominious. But he hadn't. Instead he kept it as a reminder of all that he had lost in one moment of betrayal.
"No one," Illya muttered and Matt let the photo drop back to the suitcase.
"Si, I understand. I have a no one in my life as well."
Illya stared up at the ceiling, trying to will sleep to come. They had a full day ahead of them tomorrow and he truly needed the rest. Outside the rain was coming down, drowning out the constant thrum of the city. It should be lulling him to sleep, but no such luck. He'd never had any trouble sleeping when he was an active UNCLE agent. If only he could turn his mind... no, his heart, off for just a few minutes.
"Prff?" There was movement on the bed and Illya realized that Muscade, the rotund little Himalayan, had joined him.
"Hello, cat." Illya held out a hand and waited. A cool wet nose touched his fingers and then he was immediately presented a soft, purring mass of fur. Illya petted the cat slowly, not wanting to spook her.
He could feel the bed move as she walked closer to his pillow and, with a soft mrph, Muscade plopped down beside him, kneading his sheet-covered chest and purring like a trip hammer.
"I'm not used to entertaining ladies in bed, you know," Illya murmured as he continued to pet her. She trilled and rolled beneath his hand, obviously relishing his touch. Illya smiled sleepily and then yawned as she squirmed even closer to him, seeking out the warmth of his body.
She was still sleeping, tucked neatly beneath his chin, when he woke up the next morning.
Illya frowned and looked at the clock. Seven hours? It had been months since he'd slept that well. The cat rolled over onto her back and began to knead the air with her paws. Illya smiled and scratched her chin.
"Muscade, this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Carefully, he extracted himself and prepared to meet the next day of his new life.