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Arno doesn’t quite slam the door. It’s a near thing, but he refrains from applying the finality needed to make the door rattle within its frame as it shuts. He breathes deeply, attempts to calm the racing of his heart and his pulse, which thuds loudly in his ears.

 

Showing his face in Les Halles is never an incentive that ends well, lest he takes a traipse off some rooftop close by, and cowers in the shadows all the way to Napoleon’s front door.

 

Which, speaking of. He’s fairly certain of that the city guard did not catch a glimpse of his coattails twisting into this particular door entrance — he’s been chased down steep alleyways in less intricately planned neighborhood around the city, after all — but, alas, one can never be too careful.

 

He leans into the door and shuts his eyes. He pressurizes forth the Sight quickly enough these days, the specific way of going about it easy as viewing anything else.

 

He sees — and hears, a small squadron of four skid around the farthest corner, up onto the street. Lead by a sous-lieutenant Arno recognizes as a royalist of the most troublesome kind, who’s pushing people out of his way and bellowing throaty commands so loud they carry through the insulation in the building, coming decidedly closer by the second.

 

He mutters a Je vous salue Marie beneath his breath, and lays a palm safely on his rapier. The other, he draws behind his back, on the pistol stuffed hastily down the sash at his hips. There’s a slim chance they come in here, of all doors, especially since most of the city-stationed guard knows where higher-ranking officers dwell. But, caution, and all that.

 

He can hear the group approaching. The sous-lieutenant is still screaming, now a little less incomprehensible, about “finding that soulless creature, do you hear me? There is a reward the size of — “

 

“Would you like for me to disperse of them?”

 

Arno twists around. Napoleon is standing at the inception of the stairs. He raises an eyebrow. “It’s easily done. Directing their attention elsewhere.”

 

“Really now,” says Arno, “Then how about redirecting their attentions permanently?”

 

“That would be a show in exercising remarkable influence, certainly.”

 

Arno’s smile is a little less genuinely pleased, and more sharp with teeth, than he’d perhaps intended. “I wasn’t aware you’re currently lacking in influence.”

 

“Nor I,” says Napoleon. The galloping of the officers are growing ever louder, ever closer. “But it would present an unnecessary risk. Displaying my — allegiances, so staunchly.”

 

“Your allegiances,” says Arno. Despite himself, he feels something tug on his gut, at the words.

 

Napoleon steps closer to him. “You disagree with the expression?”

 

Arno allows for the hand that’s closed around the butt of his pistol to slip. To hang at his side. “The wording makes it sound so — clear cut. Where it’s anything but.”

 

Napoleon tilts his head. “Very well,” he says, “I suppose you are, at that, right. Our agendas align in certain matters, but our doctrines do differ. My affections, then.”

 

The party, Arno hazards, is about three doors away. He looks at Napoleon. He motions upstairs. “Surely affection has nothing to do with it. However, should they feel the incentive to do peek about in here — the privacy of a superior officer’s bedroom isn’t theirs to despoil, is it, Commander?”

 

Napoleon looks at him with the particular look he gets when he allows Arno his clever quips. When Arno can deduce from the set of his mouth that he’s impressed with how he carries himself, or what he makes of a tight spot of a situation.

 

“There are guest quarters on this floor,” says the Commander.

 

“I’m well aware,” replies Arno, quirking a smile, and bows with flourish as he steps away from the door.

 

He’s made it safely, if with haste, inside the mentioned bedroom, when the booming knock on the entrance door echoes throughout the vast foyer. Arno flattens himself against the closest wall. One hand he retains on his rapier, just in case. He stands utterly still.

 

“Gentlemen,” says Napoleon, as he unlocks the door and pushes it incrementally open.

 

The sous-lieutenant’s heavy breath hitches. Arno tempers a chuckle. The city guard isn’t only on one particularly moronic incarnation, it seems, but also misinformed.

 

“I — Sir, Commander. I apologize for the intrusion. Sir.”

 

To anyone, Napoleon’s tone sounds inane, blandly polite. To Arno, who has kept his company for quite a while, he can discern his well concealed amusement. “Not at all, Lieutenant. What brings you here?”

 

The sous-lieutenant hesitates. Arno deciphers the silence as an internal debate: he did (correctly) see Arno make it inside this, if not one of the neighboring doors. Any assassin seen wearing their traditional robes is bounty hunted, government-approved, within Paris’ borders. He could confess that he lost a dangerous mercenary in the street and by happenstance knocked down a Commander’s door first, with little to no evidence of this being the door which he fled through, and risk looking incompetent for losing him in the first place. Or he could plead ignorance and claim he and his patrol were going elsewhere, now that he’s most likely seen that nobody appears to be in immediate peril.

 

“We’re patrolling the area, sir. Some thug disappeared this way — was makin sure everyone’s alright.”

 

Well then, Arno thinks. A common thug now, is it.

 

“As is your duty,” says Napoleon, “For which our city thanks you. I’ve noticed no disturbances. Well — certainly no more than usual.”

 

There is an uneasy, short snort at the back of the group.

 

“That’s alright then, sir,” says the sous-lieutenant. “We’re sorry for intruding, once again. Didn’t mean to cause an interruption.”

 

“That’s quite alright. You were acting as you should, per your assignment. For which I commend you.”

 

Napoleon shuts the door with far more care than Arno did, just a short while earlier. It clicks gently shut. The lock mechanism slots into its proper place with a well oiled snap.

 

“Inflating their egos isn’t what I’d call a diversion, as far as diversions go,” says Arno, conversationally, as Napoleon walks into the guest quarters.

 

Napoleon stops in the mouth of the door. “We do serve the same cause,” he says, raising an eyebrow, “Commending them on their service was the least suspicious course of action, given the situation.”

 

“Not like proclaiming your allegiances — or was it affections?”

 

“Yes, the Commander of the Interior Army proclaiming his support for a lawless band of assassins, whose actions, more than anything, have been implicit in inspiring the chaos and revolt the city has fallen into recently. You see how well this would go down with certain people, of course.”

 

“Very crass, Commander. Are we not fighting for the people? The people who are, at this time, very supportive of chaos and disorder?”

 

Napoleon steps up to Arno, suddenly. “You’re very insistent on petulance today, Arno.” Napoleon’s breath is quiet on Arno’s throat, on his jaw.

 

“One could be forgiven for thinking that your guard posts would show more lenience to someone you’ve called for.”

 

Arno’s hands slip from their defensive curls around the closest weapons on hand, and settle on Napoleon’s waist. “Just a thought.”

 

Napoleon’s snort is soft with humor. “He could,” he agrees, “He could also dress in a manner less conspicuous, and thus not draw the city guards’ attention to himself.”

 

Arno tips his head forward towards Napoleon. He feels hot with anticipation, his stomach churning not wholly unpleasantly with the promise and beckon.

 

“But where would the fun be in that?” he murmurs, centimeters from Napoleon’s mouth.

 

“Given the difference in our respective occupations, I wouldn’t know,” says Napoleon back, barely at any distance at all, but loath to close the remainder.

 

“A philosophical debate,” mutters Arno, “I love that.”

 

“You’re at the helm of a cult, Arno. There must be a part of you that revels in exploring matters of philosophy.”

 

“Well, in different circumstances, I assure you you’ll find me most interested in such explorations.” His hands curl in Napoleon’s commissioned robes, thread count on par with what he’s learned not to expect out of life anymore. Silk, and silk-spun cotton, has a tendency to color with blood, and is remarkably difficult to work out of stains.

 

“We could move upstairs,” suggests Napoleon.

 

Arno quirks an eyebrow, “Do you find this room unsuited to your current needs?”

 

He almost jolts with the ghosting touch of Napoleon’s lips against his own. He quells it, but barely. The touch is almost incidental. Napoleon leans incrementally closer, and then tips back again. As if he were moved simply by forgetting to remain absolutely still and in his place.

 

“There is nothing in here that does not suit my needs, per se. Since there is only one thing that does suit my needs.” He tips his head back. Arno sees his eyes, a darker blue than usual. The pull of desire across his face. “It is a more private space, upstairs.”

 

Arno appreciates the thought for what it is. They’ve grown distanced to each other over the years. He has grown weathered, more involved in the Brotherhood’s movements globally. His attentions, and his trips, do not just span Paris and its adjacent boroughs anymore. Nor Napoleon’s, certainly.

 

The twenty three year old lieutenant of artillery Arno happened upon in the King’s private study during the sacking in 1792, who rented an apartment in the very same neighborhood, but that he struggled much paying for, is not the same man that he has turned into now. He was always clever, close to whip quick wit and the ability to read the room. He was just, but struggled little with seeing the skewered justice in Arno’s practices. For that, they’d begun their relationship on an unequal basis: Napoleon struck with the unequivocal wrongness of what Arno does, but unable to lose his fascination with it.

 

They are a little closer in standing now, he thinks. It hasn’t affected his views, much. He is still on the murky side of the spectrum, and he’s found that he minds it less with each name he draws a line across, in their agenda, on the board mounted to the wall in his study. Perhaps Napoleon, less blinded with idealism, has just grown closer to his side of things.

 

He is pushed onto the bed, almost as soon as they make it across the threshold and into what serves as Napoleon’s private study, as well as his private chambers.

 

“You’ve grown quiet,” says the Commander.

 

“Just thinking,” says Arno.

 

“Tell me.”

 

“Dull stuff, I assure you.”

 

“Tell me anyway.” Napoleon’s eyes, still dark, become shaded with shadow once he climbs to straddle Arno.

 

“It’s been some time.” He moves to places his hands on Napoleon’s thighs. He can see, beneath the waistcoat, the bulge growing in his trousers. He makes circles atop the fabric with his thumbs.

 

“As I recall, you’ve been most preoccupied.”

 

“And you’ve been to war.”

 

“You are more than capable of making it cross-France to visit. Making it past the camp guard would’ve provided you with little to no hardship.”

 

“When you say camp guard, you mean soldiers especially posted at several strategically sound points to provide ample protection from outside hostility, to a camp of soldiers.”

 

Napoleon’s fingers are deftly at work unbuttoning Arno’s shirt, beneath his pushed open robes. “You are incessant,” he mutters, “As though you couldn’t have simply disguised yourself. You have manners as well as acting capabilities. You also know your way around military men. No one would have looked twice.”

 

Arno doesn’t suppress his smile, this time. He allows his hands to wander further, up towards the junction between Napoleon’s thighs and pelvis. “I have been preoccupied, to be fair.”

 

Napoleon has stiffened. Only barely, but enough to be noticed. “Of course. As I said.”

 

Arno ceases moving. He looks up at Napoleon, directly. “That’s unfair,” he says.

 

“What, of it, do you consider unfair?” Napoleon’s gaze doesn’t wander. He’s almost sharply alert now, assessing in a way that tells Arno that — it tells Arno a number of things.

 

“We’ve no commitment to each other,” he says, carefully. He carefully moves his thighs upwards, to dislodge some of Napoleon’s weight from them. He goes easily. Arno scoots up, allowing him down when he’s managed to wedge his elbows beneath himself. “Different doctrines, remember?”

 

“I asked you to come with me. To provide council.”

 

“I am no field marshal, Napoleon, no more than you could do what I do.”

 

“Direct conflict must surely be easier to direct than it is to execute an assassination attempt,” Napoleon objects, though Arno knows that it isn’t anything he believes himself.

 

Arno purses his lips. There’s a slight strain that runs through his abdomen, having to hold himself up at half mast, by his elbows. “I don’t leave anything to chance.”

 

“Neither do I. But then neither, supposedly, does my enemy.”

 

“There’s a difference.”

 

Arno knows that what they’re talking about owes its undercurrent to something that doesn’t as much have to do with the fact that Napoleon had requested he come with him to Toulon, and his refusal to do so, than the position they’re currently in. They had seen little of each other in ’95, but Arno had still followed the events of Napoleon’s life at distance for as much time has he could spare.

 

“You could have asked me to come,” says Arno. His voice is lower, he’s tipped his chin, perhaps as a sign of submission, he’s not sure, “In an unofficial capacity.”

 

Napoleon’s smile is mirthless. “Unofficial?”

 

“Not as council,” Arno clarifies.

 

“The two cannot overlap?”

 

What he means to imply by addressing his desire for Arno’s council as part of something dual does not pass him by unnoticed. He doesn’t think Napoleon intended for it to. “No. Your affections, as you say, cannot possibly overlap with your position as the head of an army. Just as my position, what I do, cannot overlap with what you do.”

 

Napoleon quiets for a while, and then says, just as abruptly, “I have been given the Italian campaigns.”

 

“That seems logical,” says Arno. “I suppose congratulations are in order.”

 

“Ingenuity doesn’t suit you,” says Napoleon. He presses down across Arno’s lap. Arno’s hips twitch up involuntarily, despite himself. Despite the moment.

 

“The congratulatory part isn’t disingenuous,” replies Arno. He slowly eases down from his elbows again, allows for himself to relax, a little bit, into the soft bedding. “What will, inevitably, come after, perhaps isn’t to my liking. But that’s the world, is it not?”

 

“That makes you seem pacifist, if anything.”

 

“My quarrel isn’t with entire countries.”

 

“No,” says Napoleon, a hint of sarcasm in his voice, “Only with the people ruling these countries.”

 

“What do you want me to say, Napoleon? That I’ll turn my back on the Brotherhood, on what I was born to do — to come with you on a nationalist campaign in the Italian mountains? To what end? To share your tent and say no where you might else go too far?”

 

“I have wanted you by my side in whatever capacity since the day we met,” replies Napoleon sharply. He rocks down and into Arno harder, the snap of his hips harsh. “I have never led you to believe otherwise.”

 

Arno’s cock twitches in his breeches, fills up and pushes against the confines of his trousers.

 

“That’s what you asked me to come here for?” he says, but cares little for the actual reply. He knows it is why.

 

“Yes,” says Napoleon. His fingers have resumed struggling on Arno’s buttons, his back curled a little to accommodate and to shrink he space between them. Arno feels the pulse of Napoleon’s cock against his own, and bites down on a subvocal sound that threatens to spill from his throat.

 

“Clothes,” says Napoleon, pointedly, and eases off Arno.

 

They will leave the source of their verbal conflict at that. It will fester, not unlike an infected wound. Arno is no more capable of making Napoleon’s wish come true than he was the last time they spoke of the matter, before the battle at Toulon. He knows that the Commander knows, but Napoleon has always had the avid ability to believe that whatever he says might come true. That he can make it so, through whatever means disposable.

 

Napoleon pulls at his clothes with the impatience of a man who has been denied his desires for longer than he would have liked. He moves on to Arno with as much vigor, tugging at his breeches and pushing his shirt from his shoulders. Pushing him down, again, onto the mattress, and following suit.

 

Napoleon is both vocal and active. He palms down Arno’s side, and bites at the sharp inception of his jaw. He notices a fresh, reddened scar across Arno’s left collarbone, and traces his tongue around its tip. He fits himself in the hollow between Arno’s parted thighs, and presses them flush together, as he bows down to kiss him.

 

Arno rakes his nails down Napoleon’s side, and swallows his following groan. He pushes his hips up, feels Napoleon’s cock slide against his own, already slick with pre-come. He feel his own heartbeat reverberate back at him, through his wrist held solidly against Napoleon’s ribs. He licks his way into Napoleon’s mouth, and moves his hand to rest on the curve of his ass.

 

“You’ve not missed this?” murmurs Napoleon, into Arno’s mouth.

 

“As far as physical exertion goes?” quips Arno, “It’s certainly trading up what I would have been doing today.”

 

Napoleon responds do this by making a very long thrust, rubbing up along Arno in a motion that makes his breath stock in his throat. When he looks up at Napoleon, he looks remarkably pleased with himself. “You were saying?” he murmurs.

 

Arno snorts, and tugs Napoleon down onto himself wholly. “I stand by it, as such.”

 

“That does not mean I could persuade you to abandon your stance?”

 

“Napoleon,” says Arno, pointedly. Napoleon answers in turn by biting down on his unharmed collarbone, teeth scraping harshly over the thin skin.

 

“You answered to the King,” says Napoleon, partly muffled by his approximation to Arno’s throat, “I’m sure your — brethren, have served in his wars, in some capacity or other. How come you are so adamant to stay out of this?”

 

Arno doesn’t want to pick the conversation up at that point — at any point. He hooks his calf around Napoleon’s leg, and uses both of his, currently unoccupied, arms, to leverage his way from beneath Napoleon, at the same time has he pulls him over on his side. Napoleon, a head shorter in statue, leaner and less muscled than Arno, would in any way be easy to manhandle. But the Commander goes easily, his mouth lax and smiling, despite them being at current odds. He rights himself, laying flat on his back, his hair long and fanned out warmly auburn on the white sheets. Arno moves off him, and has to stifle his own smile at the noise Napoleon makes at the loss of contact.

 

“You revel in baiting me into a fit of temper, don’t you?” says Arno. He settles between Napoleon’s thighs. He strokes his palms down his sides, across shallow, almost invisible lines of scarring that’s most likely come from sparring, or childhood accidents, rather than active duty. Napoleon bites at his lower lip, worrying it between his teeth until it’s swollen with blood.

 

“I’m arguing to make you see reason,” replies Napoleon, after a while, “It’s not baiting. And I’ve never known you to be quick to a temper.”

 

Arno thinks he’s never been quite able to beget his temper in all of his life, however short it’s thus far been. Perhaps they’ve just never clashed a lot. They go surprisingly well together, never sawing off of one another that they might, given how much their world views supposedly differ.

 

“Will you keep interrupting something that’s, admittedly, very nice, to argue pointlessly?”

 

“Well, you’re currently not doing much to dissuade me from arguing.” Napoleon’s reply is a lazy challenge, and Arno feels childish for feeling the welling up of the urge to prove him wrong in his stomach.

 

“Does that mean you’re bored with me?”

 

“I’ve never been bored with you, Arno. Right now, my physical desire simply isn’t enough to quell my interest in making you change your mind about coming with me to Genova.”

 

“That, Commander, is almost insulting.”

 

Napoleon laughs, low and hoarse. “Is it? You’re welcome to prove me wrong, of course. To, ah, dissuade me, from arguing any further.”

 

Arno’s mouth quirks, “And that’s a challenge,” he says, before scooting further down.

 

He kisses his way down Napoleon’s side, quivering with withheld breath and noise. He sucks a bruise into the junction in his thigh, and strokes three fingers down the inner, soft skin. He licks a stripe down the thick scar that crowds the top of Napoleon’s thigh, not fatal but a slash that had been thick and deep into the muscle. He knows, realistically, that there is nothing sensitive about it, but Napoleon moans as though struck. Struck with a phantom sensation that somehow has dug deeper. It makes Arno sucks in a breath.

 

“Am I proving you wrong yet?” he breathes.

 

Napoleon lifts his head until he’s able to look at Arno wholly. His cock twitches, curled upwards on his stomach, slick with pre-come. He breathes, “You’re well on your way,” sounding reverently pleased about the whole ordeal.

 

“Mm, right. Not quite there,” says Arno, and bows his head to lick a long stripe up Napoleon’s cock.

 

Napoleon’s hips twitch upwards, and the ridge of Napoleon’s cock bumps against Arno’s lips. Arno inches upwards, a little unable to school himself against the friction it provides when he pushes his pelvis down into the sheets and mattress.

 

When Arno takes the head of Napoleon’s cock into his mouth, sucking, the Commander arches off the bed, something soundlessly vocal escaping him. Arno pushes up from the bed until he’s kneeling, until he’s able to push down and relax his throat to take Napoleon deeper. “Arno,” he breathes, sounding drunk, slurred, fingers fisting in the sheets.

 

Arno hums around his cock, something which makes Napoleon jerk upwards again. His one hand shoots up to bury in Arno’s hair, curling against his scalp and tugging on the strands that have been fashioned into a loose plait he’s worn throughout the day. It slides down over his shoulder to droop in the hollow of his collar. Arno reaches to loosely grasp the root of Napoleon’s cock, slips off just enough to be able to fit most of his palm around it, to begin jerking his wrist in motion with the slow bobbing of his head.

 

“You’re absolutely incredible,” Napoleon breathes. Arno looks up beneath his eyelashes, meets Napoleon’s gaze. He’s pushed up somewhat on his elbows, apparently too fascinated with the mechanics to lay still. The broad muscles of his thighs keep clenching, moving, the same with his abdomen, but Napoleon does not tear his gaze away.

 

Arno hollows his cheeks, and bends further down to take as much of Napoleon into mouth as he can. His own cock aches, he’s desperately hard, heavy between his thighs. Napoleon moans again, stuttering and outdrawn. He lifts his hips just a little, but the motion feels as though he’s restrained part of it. “Arno,” he says again, scratchy and fraught, as though reverent. It makes Arno twitch, something curl painfully in his stomach. He reaches down to palm at Napoleon’s balls, roll them in his palm. The Commander, wisely, shuts up then, content to swallow a high pitched noise down into his throat again.

 

He can feel the tell tale signs of Napoleon getting close: the continued twitching of his hips, his pitched breathing, the unconscious way his nails begin digging into Arno’s scalp, almost painfully.

 

He hasn’t changed his mind: or, perhaps, more accurately, he hasn’t changed his view on coming with Napoleon. He hasn’t, per se, changed his mind on it either. But it picks, insistently, on the inside of his skull. The possibility of Napoleon needing his council. That possibly, it has more to do with need, than needless pleasure.

 

Arno pulls off Napoleon’s cock, coming away with a wet pop and a trail of saliva down his chin. Napoleon surges up to half seated again. There are blotches of color high on his cheeks, and his chest is rapidly falling and declining. His cock blurts more pre-come, and he bites at his lower lip again.

 

Arno crawls the inches he has to, to be able to fit them together again: hips against each other, Napoleon’s stomach still heaving beneath Arno. The lower part of his stomach is wet, and it makes Arno’s cock slide against it, bump against one sharp hip bone. He sucks in a breath between his teeth. Napoleon reasserts his fingers threading into Arno’s hair, and pressures his skull in the cradle of his palm until Arno relents. Napoleon kisses him messily, ravenously, with teeth and tongue and rutting up against Arno.

 

“Is this what you imagine us doing in Italy?” he murmurs, once they break apart, “Do this whilst you’re surrounded by your men. On the eve of battle. In the aftermath.” Napoleon keens, and Arno wants to swallow the noise down and keep it inside, “I could fuck you, quietly, drawn out,” he murmurs, and feels himself out of breath, punched in the stomach with desire. “I’ll come with you. Is that what you’d like me to say? That I’ll be there, throughout the campaigns. Forego my duties here — for you.”

 

Napoleon is quiet, uncharacteristically, when he comes. He shakes, pulling Arno down and kissing him with bruising intensity, gasping his release that spurts hot and thick between them. “Please,” he whispers, and digs his fingers into Arno’s shoulder blades. “Surely — you could operate out of Italy. Tell me you will.”

 

Release doesn’t quite slam into him, but it still takes Arno by surprise. He snaps upwards, and Napoleon thrusts down to meet him, and the wet pressure all around him makes him trip over the edge. He screws his eyes shut, and clenches his hands around Napoleon’s shoulder and in the sweat damp hair that curls around his ear. Blood rushes in his ears. He shudders in the finality of it, riding it out into the juncture in Napoleon’s thigh.

 

He props himself up on a somewhat steady elbow, easing off Napoleon incrementally. The Commander, who, while not socially inept, makes a habit of holding one’s gaze unusually long, far longer than what is comfortable, does so now. He is still flush with color, strands of his hair darkened with sweat and sticking to his forehead. His eyes are searching Arno’s, open wide with question. “Did you mean it,” he says, rather than maintaining the silent conversation.

 

“I’m not sure why you would want me to come so fiercely,” says Arno.

 

“You are unprecedented, Arno Dorian,” replies Napoleon, “Your mind is invaluable. Is that not good enough?”

 

“Like I said: I’m no field marshal.”

 

“I do not need a field marshal,” says Napoleon, dismissive, “I will have enough of infantrymen, however significant or insignificant in title. A soldier’s opinion won’t have an impact on the course of the campaign. Only on a looming battle, if at any time at all.”

 

“I wouldn’t suppose I am particularly good at warfare, either.”

 

“Are you undermining what you’ve done in Paris during all these years?”

 

Arno hesitates. “That’s — different.”

 

Napoleon tilts his head. “How so?”

 

“It’s not a battlefield, is one,” he looks at Napoleon, effectively silencing him where he would have most likely protested, “Don’t be coy, Napoleon.”

 

“Perhaps I am also a little bit infatuated.”

 

Napoleon says it honestly, blandly, as if being obtuse about these things will serve him no good. It shocks Arno to silence. When no other response is forthcoming, or instantly detected, he looks up at Napoleon again. His impossibly blue eyes and the serious moue of his mouth. “You actually mean that,” says Arno.

 

“You take surprisingly little at face value,” says Napoleon.

 

“You would too, in my profession.”

 

“I’m not in your profession.”

 

“That’s true. Taking things for what they are when merely spoken of can be very dangerous.”

 

Napoleon traces two fingers down a particularly jagged scar across Arno’s ribs. His eyes track his movements. “Life is dangerous. I believe you, of all people, would agree with that sentiment.”

 

“It’s not going to be less so because you bring me with you on your battlefields.”

 

“’A man’s worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions’,” says Napoleon, “I believe that you can aid me in this campaign. In seeing where to progress, when most would think us to be done.”

 

“You would quote a man who spent most of his ruling days on the battlefield, when making your point about waging warfare,” says Arno, too comfortable to be pointed, but not convinced enough to allow himself to be amused.

 

“Marcus Aurelius was a great thinker,” argues Napoleon. He twists onto his side, closing what little distance between them that had formed. “And I believe so. I believe I realized that the size of my ambitions was feasible, despite the sizable obstructions that would doubtlessly be in my way, when I made your acquaintance. I believe you have played a large part in where I have thus far come.”

 

“So I’m part of your career advancement,” quips Arno. He threads a few fingers through Napoleon’s fringe, and watches his eyelids slip shut as he begins working through a tangle. “At least you’re kind enough to tell me when I’m being taken advantage of.”

 

Napoleon hums. His eyes remain closed. “I see a number of options, after Genova.”

 

Arno looks out the closest window. Dusk is nearing; late October meaning the sky becomes red and lilac and descends into twilight at early afternoon. Large buildings topple out and into the remainder of the district, just outside. Saint Eustache looms, a threatening behemoth, to the left, barely in the periphery of the window.

 

“We’ve got time, I suppose,” he says.

 

*