I love you, there's nothing to hide
It's better than burning inside
I love you, no use to pretend
There, I've said it again
I've said it, what more can I say
Believe me, there's no other way
I love you, I will to the end
There, I've said it again
Napoleon Solo looked at the man sleeping in his arms and marveled at the sight. Not so much that there was a man there, but rather that it had taken so long for Napoleon to get together with him. He glanced down at the scarred hand resting across his chest and lifted it to kiss the palm gently, almost reverently. It had been such a long and twisted journey for both of them.
The phone rang and Napoleon grinned. Finally he’d been given a sign that there was a kind and merciful God somewhere. He’d been avoiding cleaning out this one particular closet all morning and had run out of excuses. He knew he needed to just get on with it. The movers would be here tomorrow and he needed to get everything of value packed. The rest of the penthouse stood a silent testament to his life with Yuri. In every corner of every room Napoleon could still see the Georgian, laughing, talking, loving life. He missed his long time partner, although he wasn’t sad Yuri was gone. The pain Yuri had been in the last month of his life had been terrible and Napoleon prayed every night that he’d get the call from the hospital; even entertained taking matters into his own hands a time or two, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t the man he used to be. Now he was the benevolent leader, the kindly voice of reason, not the trained assassin of years earlier.
Then it was over, and the whirlwind of preparations for Yuri’s funeral made thinking unnecessary. Napoleon had known about Yuri’s family, never met them, but they had made the effort to appear at the funeral and had been unexpectedly kind to him. Napoleon had anticipated the worst and had been given the best and somehow that made letting go of Yuri a bit easier. His heart was at peace, if a little empty.
Four months had passed and Napoleon, while still busy during the day, found his nights in the apartment much too long now. He’d made the decision to sell it and move closer to UNCLE HQ. At least his memories would be his own there.
Then the phone rang and he dropped the box of newspaper clippings to hurriedly snatch it up, secretly thanking the telemarketer or wrong number that had given him the excuse to stop.
“Mr. Solo, I’m sorry to bother you on an unsecured line, but I thought you needed to be made aware of something.” His secretary was the model of efficiency.
“Yes, Ms. Tamarin, what can I do for you?”
“We had a call come in from one of the old numbers. The caller said he used to work with you, but had lost track of how to contact you.”
That was odd, Napoleon thought. He’d not moved in years. “Yes, go ahead.”
“He said his name was Cur… I can’t read the tech’s writing…”
“Kuryakin?” Napoleon’s voice almost caught in his throat. “He was my former Section Two partner.”
“That must be it. Anyways, he said he was in town and needed to see you. He said he’d be at the usual place tonight. I’m afraid he didn’t leave a phone number at which he could be contacted.”
“He wouldn’t.” Napoleon smiled. “Thank you, Ms. Tamarin.” He hung up the phone and scratched his jaw, rough with whiskers. What would Illya have meant by the usual place? Then he snapped his fingers and grinned. Of course, the old bar by headquarters. It used to be the hang out when they had been Section Twos. It was near enough to work to be fairly safe, yet far enough away to give one the sense of being able to hide from the world. They frequented it along with just about every other Section Two and Three agent. He’d not been there in years; he didn’t even know if it was still in business.
Napoleon slapped his hands together and looked around his half empty apartment. It took him a minute to remember where he’d left his suitcase. This was to be his last night in the place; he was moving into a hotel until he’d settled on a new apartment. He glanced at his watch and started to whistle. For the first time in what seemed forever, he looked forward to nightfall.
Drawing a deep breath, Napoleon paused by the door to the bar and frowned up at the sign. ‘Out of the Cold’ it read. What were the chances of that, he thought. That had been the name of the night club Illya had owned and operated back in London. Now that had been a good trip. It had been wonderful to see Illya and know that he was happy and content with his life. It had been interesting to be introduced to the insane asylum Illya called his family. He meant to go back there with Yuri, but first this and then that came up, a month passed and then another. Work got crazy and then Yuri got sick and Napoleon’s world shifted yet again.
A sharp wind tugged at the hem of his coat and he shivered slightly. No use standing out here in the cold when there was refuge just inches away.
He stepped through the door and caught his breath. For just a moment, he was a young man, in his prime, fresh from an affair, adrenaline thrumming through his nerves. Illya would have all ready preceded him and staked out a table in the back with a clear view of the door. Napoleon would collapse in the chair beside him, lifting the drink that was waiting for him and then they’d talk. Or they’d laugh; sometimes other agents would join them, but frequently they were avoided, left to their own company and that was fine with them.
The music was the first thing that caught his attention. It was old, older than he was used to hearing in bars these days. That was a nice change from the hard hitting rock or country western he heard in his usual spots.
Out of habit, he looked towards the back, but strangers sat at those tables now and then he saw some of his own men, all of them wearing ‘deer-caught-in-the-headlights’ looks. He grinned, thinking how he would have felt if he’d seen Waverly come through that door. Probably exactly the same, he thought walking to the bar.
“Mr. Solo, is everything all right?” Felipe Trinity was one of his better men, destined for Section Two, CEA the way he was going.
“Everything’s fine, Mr. Trinity. I’m just meeting an old friend here tonight,” Napoleon assured him and the bartender glanced sharply over at him.
”You’re in the back. He’s waiting for you there.” The man indicated a doorway and Napoleon nodded. At the same time Trinity stood.
“Is there a problem, Mr. Trinity?”
“Sir, how well old you know this old friend?”
Napoleon laughed and patted the man’s shoulder. “He was my partner and many times, I trusted him with my life. It will be fine. I’ll be fine.”
He followed the short hallway to its conclusion. Three doors met him, two were easy to discern from the signs on them, but the third said authorized personnel only. He paused, tapped once and walked in.
His grin started the moment he saw Illya sitting at the desk, feet propped up on a wastebasket, an old fashion glass in his hand and a phone receiver in the other. Illya motioned him in with a jerk of his head.
“Yes, I understand. No, do what you think is best. I trust your judgment in that and if not, I know where you live. You too.” Illya cradled the phone and stood. Again, Napoleon felt a sucker punch to his gut, in spite of the years, Illya never seemed to change. He’d gotten thin again, but his hair was still long, just a darker shade of blond than in their early days. Napoleon’s hand instantly went to his waist. Yuri had been a creative chef and then months of eating take out had done his waistline in.
“You look good, old friend,” Illya said smiling.
“You look better.”
“Always did.” Illya grinned and then they were hugging, two old friends celebrating their reunion.
“What are you doing here?”
“Long story,” Illya said, sitting and gesturing to a chair. Napoleon sat and smiled, noticing a double Scotch sitting there, the glass just starting to sweat.
“I’ve got nothing but time.” He sipped and nodded. Single malt ,the good stuff. “What are you doing here?”
“I got tired of London and thought I might come back here for awhile. When I was driving around, I noticed this place was for sale and here I am.”
“When did you get back into town?”
“A few months ago.”
“Yuri’s dead,” Napoleon said suddenly, although he wasn’t sure what prompted it.
“I know. I saw his obituary. I was at the funeral, but you never saw me.”
“Why didn’t you…?”
“It was your time to mourn Yuri, Napoleon. You needed that and he deserved it. You were with friends and family. I would have… pulled your focus from where it needed to be at that moment.”
“You still haven’t answered my question. Why are you here? Is everything okay with Ernst?”
Illya set the glass down and sighed. “Turning fifty was hard for him. He decided he needed to find himself. Last I knew he was backpacking around China with a young man he met in Italy.”
“And you’re okay with that.”
“Surprisingly enough, yes, I am. We started drifting apart after the twins were born. He wanted to travel, I’d had my fill. I wanted to be there for the kids; he couldn’t understand. We parted amicably.”
“Well and still living in the house. Once the kids hit college age, it was time for me to go. Our relationship was more complicated than most, but that was okay too. She’s happy and expecting her first grandchild any day now.”
“Yes, but it’s easier for her this way. She wanted children, not a husband. We remain close friends, but nothing more.”
Silence fell and stretched into a few seconds before Napoleon could stand it no longer.
“So here you are.”
“Here I am.” Napoleon watched as Illya reached out to toggle a switch. Sam, could you bring us another round? Thanks.”
“How are the hands?”
Illya sat back and regarded his hand. “They’re… workable. The last round of surgery was pretty successful, but they’ve gone about as far as they can go, given modern surgical procedures.”
There was a knock and the drinks were delivered. New glasses replaced used one and Napoleon stared at the clear liquid in Illya’s.
“Are you drinking again?”
“Vodka tonic without the vodka,” Illya admitted, lifting the glass. “They say it’s the thought that counts. To use the common vernacular, that thought sucks.”
“So why did you pick now to call?”
“It seemed time. I was settled in and the business was moving forward and to be truthful, I was lonely. I thought perhaps you might be as well.”
“The nights are hard,” Napoleon admitted exchanging one glass for another. “Perhaps we could be lonely together.”
“To old times,” Illya touched his glass to Napoleon’s. “When we were too young and too stupid to think we’d ever get old.”
“Amen to that.” Napoleon glanced around the room and shrugged. “You want to get some dinner?”
“No.” Illya hit a switch and music filtered through the speaker. Vaughn Monroe was singing an old World War Two ballad, There, I Said it Again. “I want to do something I should have done years ago.” He stood and held out his hand. “Dance with me, old friend.”
Without conscious thought, Napoleon stood and in a heartbeat, they were in each other’s arms and moving gently to the music. After years of wondering how this might have felt and then years of knowing it would never happen, Napoleon was afraid he might suddenly wake up and be in his bed, alone. Instead, he concentrated, focused on just the moment alone, feeling Illya’s breath against his neck, smelling Illya’s own particular scent and a sense of peace settled over him. He was vaguely aware that Illya was softly singing along with the song, “I've said it, what more can I say? Believe me, there's no other way. I love you, I will to the end.”
Suddenly, Napoleon was kissing him and nothing else mattered to him anymore.
Their lovemaking hadn’t been exactly what wild carnal sex dreams were made of. It had been slow and careful, each very attentive to the other’s needs. Only in the end, in those last few minutes when the need to climax overruled every other thought in his head, did Napoleon let his aggression surface, calling out Illya’s name again and again as if it was a mantra as he climaxed and the last missing bit of his soul slid into place. Illya’s came with a half groan, half cry that Napoleon was pretty certain was heard into the back reaches of Siberia.
Illya stirred in his arms and came slowly awake, looking sleepily at him in the half light of his bedroom. “Problem?”
Napoleon pushed aside the blond hair and smiled. “Not anymore.” He tightened his grip, the combined scent of their bodies and their earlier lovemaking sending happy little messages to his groin. “But I have to know, why now?”
“Ernst had my heart, Eli my soul.” Illya loosened a hand and stroked Napoleon’s cheek. “You were, you are the only one who ever had both. I knew I had to be patient.”
“Did you ever sing to them?”
“Then sing to me…”
I've tried to drum up
A phrase that would sum up
All that I feel for you
But what good are phrases
The thought that amazes
Is you love me, and it's heavenly
Forgive me for wanting you so
But one thing I want you to know
I've loved you since heaven knows when
There, I've said it again