The Home of Nine Treasures
I have forsaken all my entanglements: I serve the True Lord of the Universe. I have firmly attached the Name, the Home of the Nine Treasures to my robe. Sri Granth
It had been a night much like other nights. They had gone out initially to find something to eat and gotten no further than the small bar near UNCLE HQ. It was a safe house as far as the agents were concerned. There was only one door in or out and it would be suicide for an enemy agent to wander in, even if it was only for a drink—detente only went so far this close to home.
They'd headed back to Napoleon's apartment after sharing a few rounds with their coworkers and fellow agents. There Illya had dug around in Napoleon's freezer until he found a bottle of vodka while Napoleon attempted to plate the food they'd picked up.
Illya concentrated upon getting the drinks in his hands to the coffee table without dribbling onto Napoleon's imported oriental carpet. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw something move.
"Napoleon," he said quietly. "Were all your security features engaged when we came in?"
"What?" Napoleon looked up from his battle with the chow mein. "Of course, they were. Why?" He followed Illya's gaze. Something? he mouthed and Illya nodded slowly.
Illya set the glasses down and drew his weapon. Again, something shifted in the shadows and he stared, trying to see through the darkness.
As a team, they approached the bedroom and Napoleon carefully reached around the doorframe and found the light switch with his hand.
"Now!" Napoleon shouted and he clicked on the light.
Napoleon's bedroom stood much as it usually did. The bed was neatly made and all the flat surfaces of the furniture were polished and clear of dust. It left the room smelling faintly of lemons. Clothes were put away, with the exception of a suitcase. It stood packed and ready for duty. At the foot of the bed, Napoleon's old blue robe rested comfortably waiting for him to retire for the evening. In short, it was the scene of normality.
Quickly, they searched the room. Illya checked beneath the bed, pulling out the latest copy of Playboy and flipping it open for a fast look at this month's centerfold before returning it.
"Well?" Napoleon's voice took on a slight teasing, if muffled, tone as Napoleon searched the inner recesses of his closet.
"I swear I saw something, Napoleon. " Illya sat back on his heels and saw the bathrobe. He blinked and shook his head. "What the..."
"What's wrong?" Napoleon reached down a hand to him.
"I must have had more to drink at the bar than I thought." Illya stood, then over-balanced and nearly fell. Napoleon caught him and chuckled softly.
"Maybe you did." Napoleon moved in for a kiss, but Illya pulled back, frowning. "What's wrong now?"
"I swear I just saw your bathrobe move."
"That old thing?" Napoleon laughed and picked it up. It was worn and threadbare in spots, but he stroked it fondly. "Even if it could, it's so old and worn that I don't know where it would find the strength. I've had this for forever. My mom gave it to me just before I shipped out. It was like having a little bit of her with me. I'd put it on and I could feel her arms around me. There's even the joke that it's haunted because a sorceress blessed it to protect me."
"Tell me?" Illya led them back to the bed and sat.
Napoleon's mind drifted back to Korea, the night he'd huddled in that robe, terrified and half dead from cold and a shot-up arm. He'd saved the village, but lost several men in the fight. He'd felt a warm hand on his face, an old woman from the village, a sorceress the locals called her. She'd rattled on for a few minutes, Napoleon's mind too tired to even attempt a translation. He'd managed to rally enough question the medic who was working on him.
"What was that all about?" Napoleon mumbled.
"She blessed the robe, called it the Home of Nine Treasures. She said it would protect you as you protect others." There might have been more, but the sedative took over then and Napoleon drifted away.
From that point on it was the only constant in his life besides UNCLE. Whenever he grew too weary or too heartsick to fight, it was as if the robe was there to renew and revitalize him. It was silly of course, but he swore it was almost alive at times.
He told Illya the story, not mentioning the bad parts. Napoleon remembered the night Sammy left him and how he crawled back to his tent, sorrow and anger ripping his heart in two. Then suddenly the robe was in his hands and he held it, sobbing into the blue fabric and swearing off love forever.
Then there was the night he came home from the hospital. His bride, his future, everything he'd wanted in life was gone, seemingly in the blink of an eye. He'd stumbled through their little doll house-sized home in a daze. She was everywhere he looked until he was nearly ready to claw his eyes out just to rid himself of the vision. Then his hands were full of a soft blue robe, comforting and loving. He'd curled up and wept into it.
"It looks ready for the scrapheap. " Illya's voice pulled him back to reality.
"They'll have to pry it out of my cold dead hands," Napoleon said with a laugh. He tossed it onto the bed's pillows. "I've taken that robe everywhere. I love that silly old thing. It's the only thing I don't pack before a mission. Couldn't bear to go to bed without it."
"Would you two like a moment?"
Napoleon laughed and gave Illya an affectionate punch to the shoulder. "No, I'm good."
"All those bathroom walls will be relieved to hear that." Illya avoided a second punch. "I never took you as a sentimental man, Napoleon," he said as they stood and walked from the room back towards where their dinner sat rapidly cooling. Illya glanced back at the bed before clicking off the light. The robe was back at the foot of the bed. He blew out a mouthful of air and slowly shook his head. "Perhaps I need a vacation."
"We both do." Napoleon settled down into his favorite wingback chair with his plate and glass. "We should take the Pursang out, just the two of us and sail down the coast." Before Illya could protest, Napoleon added, "After getting you some Dramamine, of course."
Illya had taken his usual spot, stretched out on the couch, pausing only to take off his shoes and collect his portion of dinner. And in this position, he could also keep an eye on the bedroom. Something just wasn't right this evening, but he wasn't sure what. He chewed thoughtfully for a long moment.
"We could certainly stand to get away from here... from prying eyes." Napoleon's voice became a purr and Illya smiled.
"Indeed. And what would we do then? Stuck on a boat, by ourselves, miles from civilization, how would we entertain ourselves?"
"Oh, you are a pretty resourceful guy." Napoleon raised his glass and Illya looked around for his, then stopped.
"Napoleon, didn't you throw your robe on the bed?"
Illya looked directly at him. "Why is it on the floor in front of your bedroom door now?"
"What?" Napoleon`s head spun and he grinned. "You got me, partner." Illya looked and then blinked. There was nothing there. Of course there would be nothing there. "I think you have robes on the mind... or would that be disrobing?"
The answering smile was just a little shy and a bit boyish. There were times when Illya looked like a teenager and Napoleon could never quite figure out how Illya managed to go from looking like a cold-blooded killer to a wide-eyed innocent in fifteen seconds flat. He offered Illya a plate of fortune cookies and Illya grabbed the closest one. He cracked it open and chuckled.
"My help is going to be needed in a delicate situation."
Napoleon followed suit. "Mine's better. There's a prospect of a thrilling time ahead for me." He raised his glass again and this time Illya grabbed his without looking at the bedroom.
They talked, drank, and ate until the mood took on a more amorous note. Napoleon swapped the chair for the couch and they spent several minutes letting their hands, lips, and tongues re-familiarize themselves with each other.
"Mm, you taste like fortune cookie," Napoleon murmured. "My good fortune, I guess. Do you want to go to bed?"
"You take the longest time to pick up a lead, Solo." Illya bucked his hips and Napoleon sat back, letting Illya stand.
Illya went first into the bedroom and stumbled over something. "Not funny."
Napoleon's look of amusement vanished as Illya leaned down and tossed something at him. It was Napoleon's robe. "How did this get down here?" He examined it, his face growing more and more annoyed.
"Maybe it's jealous that it's not going to be the one going to bed with you tonight." Illya cocked an eyebrow. "You've had as much to drink as I have. You tell me." Illya changed course for the bathroom.
Napoleon watched him go and then walked back into the living room, out of listening range. The fabric in Napoleon's hands was warm and familiar. Napoleon laughingly referred to it as his security blanket. He'd never had a problem with it and the few dates he brought back here. Then again, Illya wasn't just any date. Napoleon had a very serious sense that the Russian was something entirely different.
"He's all right, you know," Napoleon said softly to the faded blue fabric. "Illya's not like the others. He's not going to leave me, I know this." The fabric remained quiet, of course. "And you're not chasing him away. If it comes down to the two of you, I will send you to the secondhand store. I love you, but not the way I love Illya, so deal with it."
The fabric seemed to go limp in his hands and Napoleon dropped it onto the back of the couch and left to join his lover.
Napoleon got one eye open and groaned softly. "What were we drinking last night?"
"Strychnine with an arsenic chaser." Illya's voice was muffled by his pillow. "We should know better than to eat on an empty stomach."
"At least we don't have to go anywhere today..."
"Speak for yourself." Illya clicked on a light, wincing at the brightness. He propped himself up on one elbow and ran a hand through his sleep and love mussed hair. "For crying out loud, Napoleon, not funny."
"You had to bring it to bed with you?"
Napoleon sat up and frowned. There was his old blue robe, stretched out over the bedspread, one sleeve over each of them. "I guess it's given us its blessing."
"Swell, maybe it can explain things to Waverly then." Illya rolled his shoulders and tilted his head from one side to the other until his neck popped. "Is there any chow mein left?"
"Ugh, how can you even think about food?' Napoleon plopped back down and covered his eyes with his forearm.
"I have yet to meet a hangover that can take on my appetite and win." Illya climbed out of bed and headed for the bathroom.
After he heard the shower start, Napoleon reached down and ran an affectionate hand over the soft fabric, then pulled it towards him. He dropped his other arm and smiled. "Thank you," he murmured, then crawled out of bed to join his lover in the shower. "You'll see."
The robe said nothing, but if Napoleon had stayed just a moment longer, he might have seen the fabric move slightly, as if sighing in patient resignation. But that would be ridiculous—robes aren't alive.