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i love the lie (and lie the love)

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It is before dawn; Illya should be in bed. He would be in bed if not for the fact that he had discovered listening devices that were not American-made tucked into the lining of his favorite hat, and in his jacket pockets, and among his toiletries.

Gaby answers his knock, wrapped hastily in the Cowboy’s robe. If not for the very real threat hanging over them all, his reaction would have been...rich with emotion. He ignores the rush and holds out three fingers, palm down.

She nods and waves a hand, palm down, fingers spread. Many bugs. Her other hand is caught in the lapel of Cowboy’s robe, pulling the material taut against her skin. He wonders if it smells of—

Behind her comes Cowboy’s svelte voice. “Who’s there, darling? Another admirer?” It is only because Illya has been listening for months now that he is able to hear the thread of caution to the American’s voice, the strange wariness in the polished tone that otherwise sounds of sex and smugness.

“He might be,” Gaby says in a low purr, shifting her hand to an open, cupped palm tilted hesitantly in his direction. The robe gapes, exposing the golden line of her collarbones. He will dream of this moment later. Blown?

Non,” Illya manages as Solo steps into the doorway, looming over Gaby. He drapes a protective arm over her shoulders, and if Illya notices he is not wearing a shirt it is only because he is agent trained in details. And for no other reason. “Pardonne-moi; Je dois avoir la mauvaise chambre."

“Well ain’t that a shame,” Solo drawls. His eyebrow lifts in question. Everything okay? “You’re a tall drink of water and everything.”

Excusez-moi?” Illya manages. He repeats the gesture, holding out three fingers, palm down, then nods towards Gaby. “Connaissez-vous la chambre de M. Valcourte?

Gaby has buried her mouth against Solo’s bared chest but now glances over at Illya with a look of strained helpfulness. “Try the front desk?” she chirps, and then taps Solo’s shoulder twice.

Дерьмо. It is the sign to call Waverly. He nods, meeting Gaby’s eyes before looking to Solo for the same moment of reassurance. “Je vous remercie; Je vais.

Bond Swar,” Solo offers, mangling the French horribly. He winks as he says it, though, fingers shifting over Gaby’s shoulder into another semi-hidden gesture. Stay safe.

No mission report will ever include just how quickly Illya makes it from the third floor of the hotel to a payphone fourteen blocks away. It is simply not relevant.

::

prague

Gaby very intentionally lets the lock click before she opens the door. If there is one thing she has learned at the left hand of Napoleon Solo it is that occasionally a spy should announce their presence.

Such as when they are breaking into the rooms of other spies.

Illya is waiting for her when she swings the door open, arms crossed and eyes like Serbian ice. “What are you doing here?” he asks.

Over his shoulder, she finds Napoleon sprawled out on the room’s useless couch wearing wrinkled trousers and what appears to be the tightest shirt known to man. He lifts a shoulder in commiseration but does not get up.

It takes her a moment to realize that it is one of Illya’s turtlenecks. It fits him almost as if it were painted onto him.

“Why shouldn’t I be here?” she challenges, looking back to Illya. “I was not followed. I am not under suspicion. I also was not driven off the road and nearly killed earlier this evening.”

Napoleon groans. Illya looks half-vexed, half-proud. Gaby eyes the coffee table and wonders if it will hold her should she need to stand upon it and yell.

“Peril, please: would you tell Gaby here how far from death I am?”

Illya scoffs and turns away, toward the bathroom. He’s avoiding something, and Gaby suspects it is the same thing she has been wrestling with: the urge to knock Napoleon Solo unconscious and leave him somewhere secret and safe.

She holds up a finger and Napoleon falls silent. One of his hands is twisted in the fabric of his sleeve; she wonders if it is as soft as it looks on Illya. Behind him, Illya paces into view, circling Napoleon warily.

“Did you—or did you not—get thrown off a bridge tonight?”

No response. Illya paces out of sight.

“And was there not also shooting?”

“Cowboy,” Illya growls from somewhere behind her. He sounds exhausted. “Tell her what happened so she does not resort to unfair tactics.”

Napoleon smiles, but it’s a crooked, tired thing compared to his usual. “I fell off a bridge. There was, perhaps, some shooting. I escaped. They may be dredging the river for my body. I may have a scrape or two. They ruined my grey wool and I am inconsolable.”

идиот,” Illya mutters. “They hope him dead. Bad for mission. And grey wool was not flattering.”

Napoleon snaps upright, a hand spread against the dark of Illya’s sweater as if he has been mortally offended; Illya watches from just out of reach, mouth crimped into a precise smile. They are all tension and teeth and ire and—and—

Gaby will admit it to no one, but it is this moment that scares her with the tangible heat of her own want.

::

menton

The safe Napoleon is meant to be cracking is lying open, contents spilled across the office floor. All the bookshelves are empty. Even the desk is tossed, drawers left in piles under the window.

He swears and repockets his picks. From down the hall, he hears careful footsteps approaching so he ducks behind the office door and waits.

Gaby slips out of the darkness in trousers, hair tucked up under Illya’s favorite hat. She pauses and then turns unerringly to find him in the shadows. “Solo. This doesn’t look like your room at the resort.”

Better and better. He tugs his cuff into place and steps out from behind the door. “And this doesn’t look like a casino rendezvous, Miss Teller.”

“Why are you here?” she counters, lifting her chin. Napoleon refuses to catalogue what the sight of that hat on this woman is doing to his brain.

“I might ask you the same question.”

She steps into his space, expression mutinous—but before she can say anything Illya’s low voice is carrying out of the back corner of the office with a muttered curse. “What are you doing here?”

There’s some sort of door tucked behind one of the bookcases; Napoleon can just make out Illya’s profile as he slides through the opening. “Pleasure seeing you here, too, Peril. Never thought I would require so much supervision on a straightforward lookaround.”

Gaby rolls her eyes and lifts a hand to push Illya’s hat further back on her head. Napoleon is not unaccountably turned on by it. “I am not here to supervise you; I am here to investigate Rushovich. He has offices at this address.”

Illya makes a low sound in his throat that throws any attempts on Napoleon’s part to act unaffected out the window. “And I am being thorn in Flauvic’s side, as told. You see how I fix his office for him.”

“How long did that safe take you?” Napoleon asks, making a show of removing his gloves. Gaby is still glaring generally at Illya as she considers this new information, but Illya seems to be watching the gloves with a great deal of interest. It soothes Napoleon’s wounded pride at least a little bit.

“Two minutes. But does not answer question: why are you here, Cowboy?”

Napoleon pulls the letter he’d lifted from Suriken out of his pocket and hands it to Gaby. “I think we’ve found our front, boys and girls. Three different leads brought us to these particular rooms—a mite coincidental, even for an operation of this scale.”

Gaby folds the letter and hands it to Illya who tucks it into his own pocket without looking at it. “Yes, well, we shouldn’t risk getting caught all in the same place, should we?”

It isn’t until they’re nearly outside the gates that the silence is broken, and Napoleon congratulates himself on not sounding nearly as gutted as Illya does.

“Chop Shop—is that my hat you are wearing?”

::

havana

Gaby does not mind the heat. Neither, it seems, does Illya. Somewhat surprisingly, it is Napoleon who turns sour and bearish under the stubborn sun.

They were thirteen days into their mission when he threw down the microphonic cufflinks he’d been trying to repair. “I’m going out. Don’t wait up.” Illya had carefully refolded all his newspapers and nodded to her politely before tailing Napoleon into the city.

That was nine and a half hours ago: somehow she is not surprised when they arrive back at their safe house drunk and unsteady, arms around each other’s necks like foolish schoolboys.

Later, Gaby will lie and say she was not worried. She will arrange her features and her reports to hide any indication that she might have been concerned. There will be a brief mention of unplanned reconnaissance resulting in three pages of notes on Sanchez and his associates gleaned from two very drunk bodyguards. There will be nothing about dislocated shoulders or tense anger or twice-damned feelings.

But that is later. Now—now, she is standing in the doorway trembling from the furious relief coursing through her. “Verdammte Idioten! Where have you been?”

Napoleon glances up, and he is wearing a long-missing pair of her sunglasses perched on the tip of his nose. His hair is all down in his eyes, the ends curling in the high humidity. “Good morning, darling. I’m sorry we worried you; we were just out making friends. And such friends!”

Illya is standing a little crookedly, leaning heavily on Napoleon. “I make no such friends,” he offers in a low counterpoint to Napoleon’s enthusiasm. “Солнышко, he lies. They were not good men.”

Napoleon grins and shifts Illya through the door easily, used to manhandling his partners even while blearily drunk. “Once your shoulder is set you’ll remember them fondly, amigo.”

Illya flicks a finger at the sunglasses sliding down Napoleon’s nose and chortles to himself. “You should hope I remember none of this night, Cowboy,” he mutters, before grimacing as he settles onto the couch. His left arm is pinned close to his chest, held uncomfortably.

Gaby says nothing. If she opens her mouth, everything she feels for these two idiots would come spilling out because she is overflowing with it all. So she says absolutely nothing: instead, she moves to help Napoleon set Illya’s shoulder, passes Napoleon the ice bucket to fill, locates one of her silk scarves for a makeshift sling, presses Illya’s good hand between her own—the simple motions are enough to bleed off the worst of her spinning thoughts.

And if Napoleon meets her eyes over Illya’s bowed head, the sight of her sunglasses pushed up into his mess of curls like a strange stamp of possession—maybe it helps, just a little.

::

stockholm

There is something familiar about the ice in the air that Illya likes. It is cold and cutting and provides clarity for all the strange clamoring in his head.

Or it would, if Gaby hadn’t wandered into their shared common area wearing one of Solo’s shirts—the very one he’d been wearing the day before, if Illya wasn’t mistaken.

Gaby heads directly for the breakfast cart pushed against the wall. “Guten Morgen. What’s our agenda for the day?” She crosses back with a cup of coffee and a piece of bread in hand and he does not stare at the jut of her bare shoulder from the collar of the shirt.

Illya slides the newspaper towards her. “Another day waiting. Still nothing. Where is Solo?”

She grins, dangerously, and plucks at the buttons holding the shirt closed. “I have no idea where Napoleon is. Do you?”

There is an instant where Illya must try very hard not to think about Gaby’s legs or Napoleon’s hands or any other part of either one of them. It would be easier to ignore if he did not have the images of these things imprinted in his dreams.

“Why would I?”

Gaby’s face shifts into careful blandness; Illya knows that she now walks the edges of what she’s afraid to name. He feels the echoes of it in his own chest and leans forward to meet her across the table.

“Wouldn’t you like to know, Illya?” she says into the secret space between them. “Instead of worrying and wondering?”

“Do you—want me to want…that?” They are almost whispering together: Illya’s voice rough with feeling and Gaby’s soft with query and that проклятый shirt holding a space for Napoleon—not between them, no, but among them. A part of them, where he belongs.

I want it, Illya. I want to know where you are, and I want to know where he is. Always.” She shrugs and the collar falls further down her arm; he catches a trace of Napoleon’s cologne. The sensation that spears through him is answer enough: he wants.

“It is that simple, Chop Shop? You want; I want—what about what he wants?”

Gaby shifts, looking flushed. “You do not think he wants us?” she asks, and her voice is a study of steel. Illya feels the sudden urge to strip off his clothes and drop face-first into a snowbank. This woman and that man will kill him if he is not careful.

“I think he is American and does not know what he wants,” he says.

Gaby nods and her expression shifts to the one that is plotting and cleverness. Her hand is tangled in the placket of the shirt. “We will show him. It will be simple,” she says. "As you might say, От судьбы не уйти.

Illya tries very hard not to choke on his coffee.

::

montreaux

“Has anyone seen my blue silk tie?”

Napoleon can hear Gaby and Illya moving around in the courtyard of the private chateau, speaking in low voices. They sound warm and close and it makes something in Napoleon ache to hear it and know what it means. He had tricked himself into wanting indiscriminately and with no clean escape route. He is a fool.

“The one with the spots?” Gaby calls back, voice tight. “Yes; Illya has it.”

Girding himself against the temptation, Napoleon follows the sound of their voices. “It wouldn’t happen to be with my—my—” He stumbles to a halt at the sight of Gaby stretched across Illya’s lap, the necktie one of the few pieces of clothing present.

It’s draped between Gaby’s breasts, which are nearly exposed under one of Illya’s open jackets. Illya is wearing Napoleon’s robe and looking particularly smug behind a pair of Gaby’s oversized sunglasses. They have arranged themselves in the center of the courtyard like some bacchanalian feast.

“Hello, Cowboy,” Illya intones. The sound of it is like fingers along his spine; he’s hard in a breath and numb with the wanting.

“What is this?” Napoleon manages. His throat feels tight.

“What does it look like?” Gaby asks. She runs a hand down the length of the necktie, flattening the silk against her skin. Something in Napoleon’s gut clenches fast.

He doesn’t answer. He can’t; he is drowning in his own confused thoughts.

Gaby swings to her feet and crosses towards him, expression fierce. The tie dangles, waiting to be caught. Behind her, Illya sprawls even more intentionally, lanky and languid and lovely as he watches Napoleon watch Gaby.

“Please; don’t,” Napoleon hears himself say as if from a great distance. Gaby’s face puckers as she reaches out a hand to him.

“Don’t what?” she asks simply. Her fingers pinch at one of his undone buttons. “Want you? It’s too late for that.”

“It’s not enough,” he replies, feeling raw.

Her eyebrows jump and she glances over her shoulder at Illya; his face has gone incandescent behind the sunglasses. “Hörst du das?

Napoleon’s pulse feels like a drumbeat against his ears.

“You do not want just a night?” Gaby asks, tugging sharply at that solitary button to reclaim his attention. “It wouldn’t be enough?” Behind her, Illya unfolds. He prowls across the room to them; Napoleon’s robe is nearly obscene with his great height.

“Yes.”

Her smile is a knife blade in the night: it cuts loose a cascade of emotion in him that is dizzying. “Good,” she says. “Not for us, either.”

Illya folds an arm around both Gaby and Napoleon, tugging them close. “Good,” he repeats, voice rough and low.

Napoleon lets himself exhale, for what feels like the first time since East Berlin. “Good.”