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Partners

Chapter Text

“Mr. Solo. I’ve got important news for you.” Mr. Waverly moved his pipe closer to his mouth but then moved it away again. “From now on you will work with a partner. He’s Russian. Mr. Kuryakin.”

Napoleon eyed his boss looking very surprised. He stopped spinning his pen in his hands and pouted slightly showing that this news is not all that pleasant for him.

“Mr. Waverly, I thought we had agreed. I’m used to working on my own, as you know.”

“I know. But the decisions like this are not up to you, Mr. Solo. He’ll be here tomorrow morning. The young man is a newcomer in this country. He studied in… Sorbonne and got his PhD at Cambridge. Don’t let him think we’re not hospitable.”

“PhD…” Napoleon nodded shortly. “I see. But our section deals with more than brainstorming.”

“Mr. Kuryakin is proficient in physical arts, judo, karate and fencing. Also, he’s a sharp shooter and speaks fluently five languages.”

Napoleon raised his eyebrows looking unflinchingly at Mr. Waverly.

“Is there anything else I’ve got to know about my future partner?”

“He plays practically all music instruments and has deep knowledge of haute couture."

Solo smiled with corners of his mouth and looked down at the pen that was still in his hands.

"I wonder if you’ll still need me when this Mr. Kuryakin appears.”

“We’ll see, Mr. Solo. You may go now. I’ve got a lot of paper work to do.”

Chapter Text

Napoleon parked his car before Del Floria’s tailor shop, got out of it and looked around. He couldn’t see any big guys with heavy eyebrows which meant he didn’t arrive at the same time as his new partner.

A Russian. He never worked with one of them closely before. He thought they were all huge men with blond hair, giant hands and bushy brows and they were a lot easier to be afraid of than respected. No, he had seen other types of Russians as well, but most of them were gloomy giants.

How old would he be then if he had accomplished that much? Must be not younger than forty. So, his partner who is supposed to be in junior position, will be older than him and a lot bigger physically. Hardly a good option. He’d prefer to see his hypothetical partner completely differently if he must exist at all.

Sadly, he couldn’t stay outside any longer and had to enter the U.N.C.L.E. HQs. He said hello to Del Floria who was steaming somebody’s trousers as always, then came into the fitting room and pressed the knob on the left. The hidden door opened and Napoleon found himself in his so familiar secret building.

Sarah who worked in the parlor today smiled widely at him and purred as she was adjusting his badge on his coat: “Mr. Waverly expects you. With your new partner.”

Her eyes lit up as she said “your new partner.” Napoleon playfully frowned and wagged a finger at her.

Corridors, elevators, automatic doors - all things left behind Solo entered his chief’s office. Mr. Waverly was sitting behind the control desk and beside him, his back to the door, stood the ‘new partner’. The only thing that Napoleon guessed right was the colour of his hair. Indeed he was blond. But not at all a giant. He was clearly shorter than Napoleon who himself was of medium height. He looked like a boy because of his constitution.

“Uh, good morning, gentlemen,” attracted their attention Napoleon.

Both turned their heads. Mr. Kuryakin truly was a boy. He had big blue eyes and his face would be almost girl-like if it wawn’t be opposed by his eyebrows. No, not bushy at all, but kind of heavy.

“Ah, Mr. Solo! This is Mr. Illya Kuryakin, your new partner.”

Mr. Illya Kuryakin crossed the room in few big steps and extended his hand for a handshake.

“Very pleased to meet you!” he said smiling gently.

Napoleon smiled in return.

“Pleased to meet you too. Napoleon Solo, as, I’m sure, you already know. Call me Napoleon."

"Yes, I know,” answered Illya with some kind of hidden joy that was seen in his bright eyes but didn’t reflect in the rest of his face, “Call me Illya.”

Chapter Text

It seemed that his first day in U.N.C.L.E. New York lasted a week as it was so intense. The excursion around the building guided by a young girl in uniform took about an hour; another hour he spent recieving instructions on usage of special equipment; its obtainment and registration took an hour and a half. In the lunch time he was escorted to the canteen by Mr. Waverly himself and Illya started to get to know his new coworkers. There were surprisingly many girls: assistants, secretaries, technicians… There were few agents amongst them and Illya thought they were all too complicated personas who were not easy to come near to. Well, and he didn’t really want to. Though maybe he was mistaken and behind their smiles was not only their good breeding. But he didn’t think about it.

After this very long lunch-break that lasted long after its time because even as people stopped eating and started working they still did everything to continue talking to him, Illya was allowed to the archives where he could read any information he needed except for the top secret.

He stayed there untill Wanda who worked at the archives told him that his superior is waiting for him as she blushed trying to hide her smile for some reason. Illya took off his glasses, removed the documents he was reading and went out to the corridor where with his back against the wall in quite a relaxed manner stood Mr. Solo.

“Superior?” narrowed his eyes Illya as he approached his partner at two feet distance. He hoped Napoleon would joke back, otherwise they will never make a good team.

Napoleon eyed him seriously, took his right hand out of his pocket and rubbed his nose.

“We can interchange,” he said and smiled.

Illya smiled back.

“So…” started Napoleon moving away from the wall, “Would you like to have some rest from your work and spend an evening in a pleasant place?”

Illya blinked in surprise.

“There is a nice club nearby with good music. It’s perfect for very important,” Solo winked, “and serious conversations.”

Getting to know each other better! Great! Illya remembered that he didn’t see Napoleon during the day, but now they at last could talk and that was what they needed. Illya patted his partner’s shoulder and they headed towards the exit.

Chapter Text

The club was crowded and full of cigarette smoke. Illya didn't smoke and wasn't accustomed to visiting places like this, so, at the moment he wasn't too comfortable. The manager who clearly recognised Napoleon was standing before them stretched in such a manner that he looked two inches taller than he actually was.

"Can we have a private room, please?" Illya interrupted the exchange of niceties between the manager and his regular customer. Napoleon glanced at him with surprised expression and then looked at the hall.

"Yes," said he between his teeth. "It might work this time," said he slowly, absently looking somewhere.

Illya followed the direction of his glance and saw a trio of young girls who as it seemed came here not too long ago as they were still alone.

The manager led the two men to a private room that was as noisy as the hall but not as stinking of cigarettes. As they walked Napoleon still was eyeing girls and Illya looked at him without understanding. They came here to talk and discuss quite possibly very important subjects, not to spend time with some strange hussies.

"What would you like to drink?" asked the waiter who came to them when they sat down.

"The usual," said Napoleon without a second thought.

"Same as he," almost as rapidly said Illya. The waiter took their order raising his right eyebrow and went away.

When they were left alone Napoleon asked slightly surprised: "But don't you have any preferances?"

"No, I drink everything."

Napoleon half smiled.

"We need to get to know each other and learn to trust. So, I want to know what the 'usual' is," said Illya.

"Excellent," replied Napoleon, "And what's next? We're going to play truth or dare?"

"Good idea," said Illya calmly, "But with no 'dare'."

Napoleon raised his eyebrows.

"And who will start then?"

"If you ask me, then me."

Napoleon frowned not expecting such a rush, but then quickly put on his calm and relaxed look again.

"So, how many girlfriends did you have?" asked Illya coldly.

"I don't think that more than a hundred," fenced Napoleon. "Around... sixty or eighty. And you?"

"It's stated in my file."

"I haven't read it yet, you must answer," said Napoleon slowly and clearly.

"Why? Your answer was with inaccuracy around twenty! I'll answer: from two to twenty two."

"Three."

"No."

"Four."

"Alright, it's my turn!" Illya put his elbow on the table and rested his chin on his palm. He didn't know what else to ask, but then an idea stroke him. "Blondes or brunettes?"

Napoleon smiled with content.

"Any woman is beautiful. But even more so if she has platinum curls." He raised his brows dreamily. "Who was the hero of your childhood?

"Chapayev." Illya suddenly frowned. "And yours?"

"Errol Flynn. So, who is this Tchapayev?"

"And who is Errol Flynn?"

Chapter Text

"Give me your hand!"

Illya opened his eyes and immediately saw Napoleon's hand stretching towards him. It was his left hand with a ring on its little finger, a gentlemen's practice. Illya abruptly put out his right hand and tightly grabbed his partner's wrist.

In a second Illya fell out of the closet and was on the floor. Napoleon held him with his left hand and helped him to get up. Illya recovered his balance with effort and now he was standing on his legs leaning on Napoleon and trying to find the focus.

They were in an expensive suite of some hotel, in a living room. On a sofa there lay a young woman in a blue dress, she wasn't moving, on the floor lay two men in suits. Napoleon held a Thrush rifle in his right hand and was looking closely at Illya.

"How are you, regained your feelings? It's clear in here now. We may leave."

Illya tried to make a step, but only nearly lost his balance.

"I think I need a moment of rest..."

Napoleon's brows gathered.

"So, they gave you not what I thought. It must be CF1, it will work for an hour more."

Solo had to make a decision. He had two options: let Illya to rest for an hour or carry him out in his arms or otherwise. The hotel was safe now, because the Thrush agents had no chance to send a message about their extinction. That's why Napoleon sighed, left the rifle by the closet, shouldered Illya and led him to the bedroom. In there he carefully placed Illya on the bed and sat down beside him. Illya closed his eyes and, as it seemed, fell asleep. Napoleon had to wait for about an hour and he had to occupy himself with something for the time. He went out to the hallway and double-locked the entrance, then, after some consideration, he also barricaded the door with a small sofa that had been standing in the corner, now he was certain that nobody could enter the suite. Although there was basically no one to be afraid of. This and the two nearest floors were empty, U.N.C.L.E. took care of it before the operation, and the hotel servants were accustomed to hearing any kind of noises coming from the suite previously occupied by Thrush. Nobody could come.

Napoleon went back to the bedroom. He freshened up himself before a mirror, combed his hair that was a bit stray, fixed his tie and tucked in his shirt. He still had a lot of time to kill. He went out to the living room, contacted Mr. Waverly on channel D and reported his status. Then he briefly inspected the bodies, didn't find anything special, sat in an armchair, glanced through a magazine that he found on a coffee table. Twenty more minutes... The view from the window was nothing terrific. Idleness wore him down. Napoleon went back to the bedroom.

It was very unusual seeing Illya so calm and relaxed. Normally, he was normally quite tense and almost scowl, always ready for action. But at the moment there was only a trace of his stubborness in the line of his mouth. Strange how it is visible on faces of sleeping people. Some people look like children when they are asleep, they seem naive and fragile, and others even in their sleep stay fighters. Napoleon always prefered women of the second type. They were more interesting both as persons and as lovers. Illya surely was very interesting as a person.

Napoleon chuckled. One can have very funny thoughts at the end of a long day. He placed a chair beside the headboard of Illya's bed and sat in it. When a person wakes up and sees that they're being watched, they come to their senses sooner. Illya will see him and get up immediately. Then they'll be able to leave and stop exposing themselves to unjustified even if unlikely dangers.

He sure has very long eyelashes! Girls would do anything to have these and he's just lucky. Girls must like him, that's for sure. Or do they see him as brotherlike? Would be interesting to know how they see him. Maybe go with him to a good bar and observe. Maybe even today. If only something would start happening. Soon these beautiful blue eyes will open... Beautiful? For a male, yes. He reads too much and it shows. Well, he's allowed to do that, he's not a girl. Even though he has that something. And still, he looks very masculine. It's impossible to imagine him disguised as a woman. It's all because of his jaw. He's got a strong jaw, well-practiced. Of course, considering his appetite! But he's hardly a good kisser. He always seems to keep his lips tight. But they are quite plush. Would be interesting to have a girl kiss him and then ask her. Maybe she could conduct a comparative analysis. That's a good idea, well worth some consideration.

He needed to smoke. Napoleon took his cigarette case out and produced a cigarette, but then remembered that Illya doesn't like the smell. He went off to the living room, smoked and took his place beside the headboard again.

The first thing Illya saw as he woke up was the ceiling. The second were the calm beautiful big hazel eyes that were closely looking at him. Illya was glad to see them.

"The sleeping beauty is awake. Get up. We need to leave."

Chapter Text

Clubs with Latin music, dancers in red and black dresses and waiters with gelled hair were going out of fashion, replaced with more and more exotic and lewd establishments as well as completely bonkers places with rock-n-roll and vodka. Tonight Napoleon and Illya went to this dinosaur of a club outwardly to spend an evening and confidentially to check if Esteban Ramirez, one of the best THRUSH agents in Latin America, would show up here today.

Illya was drinking an outlandishly colourful cocktail and discreetly looking around. Napoleon, lolling in his chair, was attentively following the movements of the dancer set to the gentle weeping of a guitar.

Illya wondered if she had already noticed him. Women usually quickly start paying attention to him. He almost always wins them over. Is Illya envious of his success? No, he's not interested in such victories. He doesn't even need women, they only make things difficult. Especially, in his line of work. A woman wouldn't be able to handle him, he would leave her first to avoid complications. Maybe that's why Napoleon lives with these short lived flings as he can't go on without intimacy. Without sex. He has to call things with their proper names.

Illya glanced at Napoleon. Tense, half open mouth, direct smiling eyes. Sometimes Illya caught himself thinking that such behaviour was unacceptable. But really, why so? Nobody ends up worse because of it, in the contrary, everybody wins. Both parties know the rules of the game they play and they enjoy it. And they play it masterly.

It's always good to see a virtuoso at work. Napoleon's women could be considered lucky, he's always extremely accomodating and careful with them. Hardly a single one of them regretted spending time with him.

Suddenly Napoleon looked at Illya. Illya flinched.

"Let's wait for another half an hour and then scatter. No reason to sit here any longer." Napoleon moved his massive chin forward. "And the birdie might fly away..."

"Birdie. Do you mean a thrush?"

"Ha! I hope not. And you... have you found anyone you like?"

"Not at all..." Illya averted his eyes.

"Okay then, wait for me here then. I'll be back in... five minutes."

Napoleon winked, got up and left for the deep of the room.

Thirteen minutes passed. Napoleon still wasn't back. Illya started feeling uneasy.

It's probably okay, that's just how it goes. Maybe things went better than planned. Then it'll take a long time. Thrush... What if it was one? Illya almost unconsciously moved his hand to the inner pocket of his jacket to get his communicator, but then stopped himself. Half an hour. He has to give him half an hour. Or does he?..

At that moment his communicator went off. Illya took it out of his pocket and turned it on.

"Kuryakin here."

"Illya, I'm in the dumpster by the back door."

"I'm coming."

He hid his communicator, took $20 out of his wallet, placed it on the table and quickly moved towards the exit.

What did Napoleon get himself into? Was the birdie really not that harmless?

In two minutes Illya was already opening the dumpster that was locked with a metal rod. Inside he found a very disheveled Napoleon.

"The birdie's husband had some friends," he said getting out of there and dusting himself off.

***

"You're driving."

Illya liften his left eyebrow as if saying that it was self evident. Napoleon smiled happily. Illya waited for him to get into the passenger's seat and took the wheel. To the right of him Napoleon was doing everything to make himself presentable.

"All your bones intact?" asked Illya leaving the parking spot.

"Mine sure are, but that huge guy could have harmed himself... Ahh, a finger is displaced."

"Can you fix it?"

"I think so. Aaah! That's it now... Damn, it hurts. Now I also feel a bruise on my head."

Illya was following the road and saw Napoleon moving in an attempt to get more comfortable in the corner of his eye. Suddenly, he grabbed Illya's wrist with his left hand.

"Adrenaline has worn off. Do you have anything?"

"No."

"I do, but it knocks you out pretty hard. Damn... Can you get me to the flat?"

Illya threw a serious look at Napoleon.

"I'll carry you."

"Thanks, Illya."

Then he moved a little more and got quiet. The drug took action. It was about five more minutes to home. Illya turned on the radio and heard a song by Billie Holiday. This will do.

***

Napoleon hardly moved his feet, but he tried to walk as well as he could. They took the back entrance and got to the elevator. Even as Napoleon was bigger than Illya, helping him to walk wasn't that hard because he was trying to help as much as he could in his drugged state, and Illya was strong enough not to get tired.

Napoleon smelled of strong, but pleasant perfume, it struck Illya as almost feminine. A smell like this was pleasant to inhale on somebody's thick hair combined with smells of hair spray and warmth after using a blow dryer. But here the bouquet was different. Napoleon didn't smell of sweat which was expected, he didn't smell of anything at all aside from the perfume. Perfect as ever. Even after spending time in a dumpster. Amazing.

Illya's flat was two floors below Napoleon's, so, Illya almost pressed his number in the lift. He'd been to Napoleon's place only once, when he had to urgently pass him a report he wrote at home. Now he carefully took the keys out of Napoleon's pocket and opened the door. The light switch was in the same place as his. The whole apartment plan was the same, but the filling was very different.

Illya led Napoleon to the bedroom. Surprisingly, he walked quite firmly and stayed silent. What self control. Illya sat Napoleon down on the bed. Now, he has to undress him.

"Do you normally sleep in pajamas?"

Napoleon shook his head.

"Well then."

He also needed to see to his abrasions. And check if everything else was okay.

First, to take off the bow tie. Illya bended over Napoleon and carefully pulled on the ends of the tie, then straighened it and took it off with his right hand. He threw the tie over his shoulder and unbuttoned the jacket. It wasn't easy to take it off, because he had to be careful with the hands. Maybe he could leave the shirt on? No, he had to check everything...

He never thought that a shirt had that many buttons. Napoleon was on the verge of falling on his back, but then Illya would have to get him up again, so, Illya was tightly holding him by the shoulder with his right hand and was unbuttoning the shirt with his left hand from top to bottom. When he got to the last button, he had to untack the shirt. He pressed Napoleon's head against his stomach, but as he was trying to get the last one, the head slipped and Napoleon bent in half.

"Well then."

He had to move his hands even more carefully. Finally, he moved the flaps aside, then he only had to free Napoleon's hands of the shirt. It was easier in this position. When the shirt was dealt with and it was laying on the floor, Illya held him and put him on the back. The difficult part was over. He squatted and took off his partner's shoes and socks. Wonderful fabric. Probably ten times more expensive than his.

Now Illya kneeled and started unbuckling Napoleon's belt. This wasn't at all how he'd imagined being an agent of an international organisation. But there was nothing else to do, he agreed to it himself. How to take expensive trousers off of a man who won't move? Now that's not something he'd been taught. So many years wasted!

He got up and checked the body. Perhaps it would be better to turn him on his belly. Hm, in the parts that were directly linked to relationships with the opposite sex, Napoleon was quite impressive. The ribs were fine. Only fingers looked bad.

Taking off the trousers of this firm and good looking from both sexes' standards butt was... weird. Napoleon was winning in all directions. It wasn't very pleasant a realisation. Well, Illya never intended to compete with him. But it so happens that some people get everything and others... Well, he had nothing to complain about. Why would he even try to compare.

Now that Napoleon was wearing nothing but underwear, he had to be put to bed properly. The big warm naked body was pleasant to handle. Illya hadn't been with a woman in a long time and he felt it effecting him. The warmth, the smell, the smoothness of the skin and, why not admit it, the beauty of Napoleon, made Illya turn away a bit too suddenly after laying him and abrubtly leave for the bathroom.

He opened the cabinet above the sink. No iodine, no pills, only cosmetic things. Two toothbrushes. Apparently, some of the cabinet's contents were reserved for his lady visitors. Where is his first aid kid? In the bedroom? Or the kitchen?

It was in the lower drawer of a bedside table. A better half of the drawer was occupied by condoms.

Without knowing why, Illya started getting angry. Napoleon had no serious traumas aside from the finger and a bad looking bruise on his head. Then why did he make such a fuss and force Illya to carry him through half of the city?

He suddenly thought that it was just another leap of faith, an exersice in establishing trust. It seemed likely as they were forced to be closer than family members in the line of work. Of course, putting on this show when you have no reason to be really afraid is safer than waiting for a mortal danger.

"I'll test you as well, pretty boy," muttered Illya wetting cotton wool in iodine.

Chapter Text

Napoleon was watching the skiers descend with his eyes narrowed. Girls in bright tight suits were striking seductive poses and showing off their great phisique. All young, slender and beautiful, as if consciously selected. He pouted nervously letting his disappointment show, he had to sit here at the terrace cafe for god knows how long pretending that his leg was broken and waiting for somebody unknown who was supposed to arrive and take the plans from him allowing Napoleon to finally get up from the chair that had already imprinted itself on his buttocks and spend at least a single day at this elite ski resort at last experiencing its skiness and eliteness.

He was supposed to wait for a week and it had already been four days. The package receipient was supposed to approach the plastered Napoleon and ask for a light and then enquire if he'd been to Vienna two years ago. Then Napoleon would reply that he spent the year in question in China and give him the matchbox with the microplans.

Napoleon fidgeted in the chair a little, changing his pose a bit, and his face took a truly suffering expression. Illya was supposed to join him soon and keep him company untill the cafe's closing time.

Who even came up with using a cast as a cover? It felt like Mr. Waverly did it specifically to torment his restless agent. But then, of course, he needed some cover to sit at a cafe all day while Illya was skiing.

There he was. With his face as unhappy as always. Why does he look like that? He is so lucky! Girls, movement, speed, everything was at his disposition. This idiot simply can't appreciate life.

To hide his annoyance Napoleon bit into the cocktail's straw. At that moment Illya found him with his eyes and his face brightened. He smiled and hastily approached his partner's table stumbling into a couple of chairs on his way.

"How is it going? What's new?" he asked taking the chair opposite to Napoleon's. He left his cocktail alone and answered with metal in his voice:

"Nothing. After this mission I'll need a month of recovery in the Bahamas accompanied by a hundred of tanned blondes. Speaking of, you are weather beaten, the goggles left pale marks."

Illya rubbed his temple.

"Yes, I'm kind of tired of skiing. Every day is the same. I'd swap places with you."

"Haha, would you shut up please, I might punch you."

"I always knew you were a true professional, Napoleon."

Napoleon smiled unwillingly.

"This is the worst mission ever. I'd rather get tortured and wounded than this."

It was getting dark and the waiters started bringing out candles to the tables.

"Monsieur, do you prefer un candle romantique or ordinaire?" asked a tall energetic man with a pencil moustache.

"Is your French accent fabriqué or original?" fenced Napoleon raising his eyebrows with displeasure. "Ordinary, of course."

"Elite resorts. They are used to everything here," said Illya as the waiter left.

"I know," nodded Napoleon. "Do we really look like a couple?"

"I think anyone can pass as one. In the right light."

"In complete darkness."

"Or in the twilight."

Napoleon smiled.

"How about we get completely and utterly wasted tonight? The courier won't be here today anyway," said Illya.

"He'll hardly be here at all. Getting wasted sounds perfect!"

***

Three hours later they burst into their cottage. Napoleon threw his crutches on the floor and took off his fake cast.

"Illya! What do we have in the bar?"

"A moment!" Illya opened the bar. "We have everything!"

"But no girls! We need girls! Can you find some?"

"No, Napoleon, nobody can know that your leg isn't really broken."

"I can do it in the cast, Illya! Wait, I'll put it back on..."

"No, it's too dangerous. You're drunk!"

"You are drunk! I always keep my equamini... my composure!"

"Napoleon. Stop. Do without it, will you?"

"I can't! I saw no action in five days! I need a woman, now!"

Illya approached him holding two different bottles, a liter each.

"Can't you do it on your own, mister equanimity?"

"No-o! It's not supposed to be done this way!"

"Well, I don't know then..." said Illya sitting down on the floor and placing the bottles before himself. "Oh, I forgot the glasses!"

He got up to get them.

"No girls while you still have the cast on!" said he taking the glasses.

"You're cruel, do you know that."

***

An hour later they were sitting on the floor opening the second bottle.

"Why do we drink so much? We have to... live tomorrow..."

"You're gonna live, I'll be merely existing."

"But you're lucky. Even though I'm Russian, skiing tomorrow doesn't look very real."

"Oh, you'll throw yourself into the snow and that's it!"

"Ha! And you won't be able to do the same! You'll keep on drinking your cocktails! And I'll find myself a blonde girl as you like and..."

Illya somehow managed to block Napoleon's well aimed blow to his jaw, but fell on his back. Napoleon pressed him to the floor with his whole weight.

"You'll find yourself a blonde..."

"Get off me now, Napoleon Solo!" Illya pushed him, he didn't resist and sat up gaining his cool.

"I'm drunk. My body demands movement. Let's maybe fight at least?"

Illya thought about it.

"Let's do it. But! With conditions. No punching in the face and no kicking. And let's hit each other as mildly as we can."

"Alright." Napoleon nodded in a calm manner and then threw himself onto Illya again. Illya wasn't acting back and lay almost motionless without trying to stop him. After a few soft blows Napoleon protested:

"You promised me a fight! Do something!"

"Well then."

Illya grabbed Napoleon by the lapels and effortlessly turned him on his back, getting on top of him.

"Should I punch you?"

"Try to!"

Napoleon threw his arms around his neck, then fixed Illya's legs with his legs and pressed Illya against himself without letting him move. Illya grimaced and moved furiously, but couldn't free himself. Now they were on their sides.

"Let me go!"

"Wait a second."

Both of them stopped moving looking each other in the eyes. Napoleon tightened his grasp a little and Illya didn't protest. Their faces moved closer. Napoleon saw Illya's big blue eyes with wide pupils before him. These eyes seemed to be full of longing, they were begging him to continue, ready for more. Napoleon moved his face forward and felt Illya kissing him. His lips were soft, but dry, they opened readily to the kiss. The taste of wine and the unusual sensation of a man's lips made Napoleon act more cautiously and softly then he was used to. The kiss didn't last long and felt more tender than the kisses he was used to.

"Did you want it as well?.." he heard Illya say in a voice lower and deeper than usual.

"I... don't know. Probably. You're beautiful."

"You too."

Illya freed his hand and touched his own lips.

"What now?"

Napoleon knitted his eyebrows.

"What do you want?"

"I want to lose control."

"You won't be able to." Seriously replied Napoleon.

"I know." Said Illya and looked away. "Let me go, I need to go to the bathroom."

Napoleon freed him. Illya got up and threw a glance at him. That glance combined disappointment and gratitude, despair and joy at the same time. How did he manage to do it?

Chapter Text

"Do you have a light?" asked a pleasantly deep female voice with a slight French accent over Napoleon's ear. He turned around and saw a beautiful woman with blond voluminous hair and in a bright blue skiing outfit.

"I only have matches..." he replied and made a face that was a bit silly, taking his time to glance over his new acquaintance.

"It's alright, I'm not that needy. Could I have met you in Vienna two years ago?"

"No, I spent that year in China." He passed her the match box, she took it, smiled seductively and was about to leave. "Wait! My brother was in Vienna at that time," he said confidentially.

She looked at him closely.

"Your twin brother?"

"Almost." He nodded inviting her to sit down. She obliged. "We were born on the same day, but I was in Kentucky and he in Massachusetts."

"Incredible." She smiled again. Her smile was rather reserved, but that made seeing it even more desirable. It was intriguing to see its fuller version.

"Napoleon Solo," he introduced himself and gave her his hand.

"Angelique." She extended her hand for a kiss. "My last name won't tell you anything."

Napoleon slightly, but energetically touched her hand with his lips.

"You could come up with something."

"I could."

"And I was naive enough to tell you everything."

"I don't doubt it, Mr. Solo." She said and gave him another reserved smile promising more with her eyes.

"Would you like to have a drink?"

"Maybe later."

"At my place?.."

***

Napoleon wasn't at his seat. Too early to worry, he probably had passed the plans already and went back to the cottage to get rid of his hated cast.

Illya hurried towards the cottage. The door had the "Do not disturb" sign on it. Illya cursed. So, it meant that Napoleon was having fun with some woman and didn't even tell him anything. It wasn't just annoying, it was also painful. Illya took out his communicator, but then hid it away again. Okay, he will wait at the club. He needed to think anyway.

The club was crowded, noisy and filled with smoke. Illya spent there about an hour, drank a lot of whiskey, got rude with a lady who was trying to make friends with him, laughed at his situation. He didn't even try to get honest with himself or understand his feelings, his head was still heavy after yesterday and whiskey only made things worse.

When he returned to the cottage, the sign was still there. He was getting really angry. Illya opened the door and came in.

"Napoleon! If you think that I will spend the night in the snow drift, you're mistaken!"

"Quiet, darling." Said a low female voice from the living room that was hidden behind a thin screen.

Illya froze in his place. Then he unzipped his jacket, put his hand next to his chest and found his gun.

Out of the living room that was lit with uneven warm light there came out a beautiful blonde of medium height. She was wearing nothing but Napoleon's shirt. Illya stared at her frowning.

"Napoleon is asleep." She said with a gentle smile.

Illya quickly went to the living room past her silently, frowning even more.

"Napoleon! Where are you, bastard?!"

Napoleon's head appeared behind the sofa.

"Have you seen my shirt?" he asked in a husky voice.

"I'm wearing it." Sounded Angelique's voice from behind Illya's back.

Napoleon got up on his feet simultaneously buckling his trousers.

"Angelique, this is Illya. Illya, this is Angelique." He introduced them pointing to them with his chin.

"Very glad to meet you," said Angelique smiling in her usual way without letting her teeth to be seen.

Illya looked at her with disdain.

"Couldn't you tell me what was happening and tell me when to come back?"

"Boys, you'll settle your things later." Angelique softly walked towards the sofa. "Better get me something to drink." She sat down on the sofa and crossed her legs.

Napoleon approaced the bar, poured a glass of wine and gave it to her. She accepted it with a playful smile and took a sip.

Illya suddenly imagined how it would look to someone else. Two ridiculously beautiful people were enjoying a relaxed time after some great love making and he was standing at the door being an angry third wheel in a skiing jacket. He cursed inaudibly and left the living room.

The situation he was in felt false and surreal. It was hard to understand how to act and so, he decided to do whatever came to his mind.

He took off his jacket and his boots and went back to the living room. Napoleon and Angelique were freely lounging on the sofa. He was still wearing only his trousers and she didn't feel fit to put on anything but the shirt. Illya took the armchair opposite to them and started his attack:

"Well, tell me how you met then."

"Two years ago in Vienna," replied Napoleon and his eyes sparkled with joy.

"Or in China," continued Angelique in a relaxed manner.

"Or not us."

"So, that's the person who was supposed to take the microplans?" asked Illya with scepticism in his voice.

"Yes, it's her." Napoleon smelled her hair with his mouth half open.

"And is sending plans on their way not a hasty business?"

"Not everything should be done hastily, Illya." said Angelique.

"Mr. Kuryakin, please."

"Mr. Kuryakin." She slipped out of Napoleon's arms and walked to Illya's armchair with her hips moving steadily. She sat down on the floor by his feet and smiled callingly to Napoleon:

"Your queen has changed her allegiance, Mr. Solo. Win back your positions."

Napoleon was looking at them both biting his lower lip.

"Why would I fight? I can easily win over both the queen and the jack."

Illya who was at his limit, threw a murderous glance at him:

"Who said you were the king?"

Napoleon smirked and got up from the sofa. He took three glasses and a bottle of brandy from the bar, and took his position at Illya's feet by Angelique's side.

"As you wish, your majesty." He said looking up at Illya with his bright eyes.

"This is quite thrilling." Said Angelique getting more comfortable. She placed her elbow on Illya's knees and put her legs on Napoleon's legs, he started gently stroking her ankles. "I can surely be enough for you two, but I wonder, how far can you go with each other?"

Napoleon looked at Illya again:

"How far are you willing to go?"

Illya looked at his knees.

"I'm not homosexual." He said.

"Me neither," replied Napoleon, "But I'm open to trying new things."

Illya put Angelique's arm away from his knees and got up.

"Not today." He said not looking at anybody, he stepped over both of them and quickly went to the stairs leading to the upper floor.

"What a gloomy friend you have." Said Angelique embracing Napoleon's neck and getting closer to him.

***

"Why didn't you kill her? She didn't spare you." Asked Illya standing knee deep in snow.

"She's too good." Replied Napoleon looking with sadness at Angelique who was getting away fast on her skis. The plans were with him again. He also had a new scar on his chest.

Illya shook his head and leaned over the dead body of the real courier.

"Help me to carry him."

Chapter Text

It was already dark outside, but they had a lot of work ahead of them. Usually they managed to finish their reports in a couple of hours, but this case had too many details that clotted the picture and eventually lead to their failure to solve it.

"So, then you're sure he had a mustard tweed jacket on?" asked Napoleon biting his pencil.

"Absolutely." Replied Illya and looked up at Napoleon. "And the other one had a brown one. What's that colour called? A bit reddish."

"Brick red?"

"Yes, brick red! It's called ton de brique in French too."

"Is your French still better than your English?"

"I guess, I think that's just the way, the first language you learn overshadows the rest. I even used to have a French accent in English at first."

"Really?" Napoleon smiled widely. "What about the Russian one?"

"I had it too. It was quite a mixture."

"I can imagine. Did you specifically try to learn all the colours?"

"I did. At Sorbonne. I was interested in high fashion, I tried to understand women back then. I studied them like a textbook, a fool."

Napoleon raised his eyebrows, it was clear that this bit of info was both surprising and funny to him.

"Well, why, this approach is pretty legitimate."

"Thank you, but don't be like this, you know that it was stupid."

"Practice is indeed more useful than theory."

"Of course."

"And so... how was your practice?"

"You can see for yourself." Illya's look became icy and he switched it to the papers.

"It's strange. Girls really like you. If you put a bit more effort in it, you'd be able to get any girl. It works this way. You know, with your looks..." Napoleon made a pause. "If you were a girl, I'd say you were to my liking."

Illya quickly switched his glance from his papers to Napoleon.

"If you were a girl, I wouldn't even come near you."

"We're both lucky we aren't girls."

"Never heard truer words."

***

After ten minutes of complete silence Illya suddenly exclaimed:

"Wait! What if there were three of them!"

"Three of who?"

"Two in brick red and one in mustard."

"Triplets?.."

"Yes!"

"You know, it would make sense..."

"That's why we couldn't get them!"

"We need to inform section four."

"Yes, I'll get in touch with them. And Mr. Waverly as well."

"Don't lose a moment."

Napoleon smoothly left the desk and went to an improvised bar in the office's corner. He poured a bit of brandy into two glasses that were a bit too small for it.

They found the reason of their failure and now they were supposed to let other sections work on it. The triplets would be easy to find, they can't be missed, unlike twins. This meant they could relax and go home. Or maybe somewhere else.

Illya was reporting to Mr. Waverly. Napoleon brought the glasses to the round table and sat down listening to unusually animated Illya's speech. It was, as Napoleon realised, the first time when Illya solved a mystery they were working on. Prior to that Napoleon rightfully thought of himself as the brains of the operation. And now his position was shaky. It felt weird as Napoleon was used to being the best one at everything as much as he wasn't used to being paired with someone.

"That's it! Now we can rest!" said Illya after turning off his communicator.

"Help yourself." Said Napoleon with an inviting gesture.

Illya took a glass and turned it in his hands.

"What if it was a mistake?" he wondered seriously.

Napoleon raised his eyebrows.

"Hardly. It's the most likely version. Deduction, you know."

"Agreed." He took a sip. "But... triplets! It's very uncommon. And for all of them to work for THRUSH."

"We could use agents like them." Napoleon smiled.

Illya sneered.

"Let's drink to it being true!"

They touched glasses.

"Do you have any plans for tonight?" asked Illya.

"Not really. Are you tired?"

"Wouldn't say so."

"Listen, I saw that today there will be a screening of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn."

"Your childhood hero?"

"Exactly!"

"Good. Sadly, it's not likely that they'll show Chapayev here."

Napoleon smiled.

"It's an hour and a half till the seance." He said after checking his watch. "We don't have the time for a proper dinner. How about we get some snacks here?"

"Alright," Illya smiled.

"I'll go to the canteen. What will you have?"

"I don't know, a sandwich, as usual. Ordinary one."

"Okay."

Five minutes later Napoleon came back with a paper bag of food. Illya had already started his second glass of brandy.

"They are the same, nothing out of the ordinary." Napoleon passed Illya a sandwich. "Are you going to keep drinking brandy?"

"Better not to mix drinks."

Napoleon smiled and took his chair.

"Listen, I think we need to talk."

Illya closed his eyes for a second.

"Don't tell me it's about..."

"Switzerland, yes."

Illya sighed.

"Talk away."

"Illya." Napoleon moved forward in his seat. "I want to apologise for everything. I shouldn't have done a lot of what I did."

Illya looked at him in surprise. He expected anything but apologies. It wasn't in Napoleon's character, but he apparently made an effort and swallowed his pride.

"Of course. It's all in the past. I see no reason to keep a grudge." Said Illya slowly pronouncing each word as if afraid to make a mistake.

"Great! It's all in the past." Happily repeated Napoleon and leaned back in his chair.

Chapter Text

Peter Sullivan was a professional. A sweaty, balding and pathetic professional. He was talking to THRUSH Central. The data that he was reporting was repeated on the other end of the line by a pleasant female voice. Peter had already created a picture in his head ending with suspenders of her stockings. Red head, bright red lips, big grey eyes with black eyeliner. A birth mark above her upper lip. No other discerning traits, just a goddess from a pin up poster.

He heard that she replied to him with a smile this time. Yes, he was a professional...

Suddenly the office door burst open and a man with a gun appeared in the door frame. Peter's sharp and exact movement was interrupted by a bullet entering his right shoulder. Peter simultaneously dropped both the receiver that he held in his left arm and the gun, he grabbed the wounded shoulder and screamed. The man with a gun came closer.

"Nobody will come to help you," he said placing a gun before Peter Sullivan's temple with one hand and returning the receiver onto the telephone set with the other. "Everybody's dead. But you can survive if you answer a couple of questions."

Peter Sullivan gulped. He felt sweat drops soaking his shirt. He was excruciatingly thirsty.

"Just kill me, I won't tell you anything."

The man with a gun scratched his forehead with his left hand.

"Well then. Wait a minute."

He took out a pair of handcuffs from his inside pocket again with his left hand.

"Give me your hands. We have no more than ten minutes, don't create problems."

Peter didn't resist. The man handcuffed him behind his back attaching him to the back of his seat, then sat down on Peter's desk and aimed the gun at him again.

"Today you captured an U.N.C.L.E. agent, where is he and what are they going to do to him?"

Peter Sullivan remained silent.

"Do you prefer a broken cheekbone or a cut eyebrow? It's a real question, I'll take your wishes into account."

Peter Sullivan didn't speak.

The man took the gun into his left hand and took a wipe at Peter's nose with the right one. It started bleeding.

Peter lowered his head and bellowed with pain. Blood poured on his shirt, tie and trousers. He parted his feet for it not to get on his shoes.

"If you don't make a choice, I'll choose something else myself. I'm asking again: where is the captured U.N.C.L.E. agent? Is he in this building?"

Peter muttered something under his breath.

"A shot in the leg or the left shoulder?" the man sounded almost bored.

"Leg..."

"This way you'll lose a lot of blood and you might pass out. The shoulder then."

"No! Please..."

"Then reply my question."

"He's in this building..."

"Which floor?"

"Kill me..."

"Which floor?"

"I won't say..."

The man grabbed Peter's left shoulder and pressed a very sensitive spot.

"This is where the bullet will enter."

"He is underground!"

"You're lying."

"No..."

"Tell me the truth. Should I break your finger?"

"You're a psycho!"

"No, I'm a professional. Which finger should I break? You have ten of them."

"He's underground, I swear!"

"Alright. I'll be back in five minutes if I don't find him. Then say goodbye to your shoulder and all ten of your fingers. Your cheekbones, brows and jaw will also take a toll. Don't worry, nothing lethal."

The man carefully took Sullivan's chair and placed in on its side leaving Peter lying on the floor. Then he ran out of the office and disappeared. He didn't return. Peter Sullivan had been a professional.

Chapter Text

The date was called off. Napoleon came home at about 8 p.m. His dark and empty flat met him with dim yellow light coming from the windows and slow tapping of water dripping in the bathroom. He took off his coat and turned on the lights in the living room, bedroom and kitchen. Now it didn't seem so empty. The lights would help him to remember that he had to eat, rest and go to bed. It's not like he would forget to do it otherwise, but when the lights were on, it was easier to do.

Then he went to the bathroom. As he was taking the shower, he was trying not to think of anything. But thoughts still were invading his head. The image of Elaine May Donaldson was coming to his mind. She wasn't the first woman to help him in an U.N.C.L.E. affair and she wouldn't be the last one, but he knew he'd never forget her. She was full of energy and wit and never lost her composure. She thought quickly and was braver than most people he'd worked with. She could make a great agent, but... That "but" was very significant. She didn't need this kind of life. She knew very well what was important to her, and that was her family. And even though he also knew what was important to him, this thought pulled the carpet from under his feet.

Napoleon was at college when he decided to dedicate his life to maintaining the world peace, that's why he joined U.N.C.L.E. He loved his job, really did. Travelling all over the world, having adventures, meeting exciting people, and feeling that your life is not in vain, that you help people. That's what was the most important thing for him. The feeling that he made the world a better place.

But sometimes it didn't feel enough.

He didn't like spending evenings on his own. Usually he came home late, took a shower and went to bed. Today he could also go somewhere and spent there about three hours, but he wasn't in the right mood.

He went to the kitchen after the shower. Did he have any food?.. He found some chicken in the freezer. There was also a bit of cheese in the fridge. He seldom bought food because he had to leave for a long time too often and food would get dry or rot. He sighed. It was too late to unfreeze the chicken. He could make mac and cheese, but it was always problematic: it was impossible to accurately measure it for one serving.

Napoleon didn't like cooking only for himself. When he was a child, meals were about conversations, joy, laughter. The table was always full of food in his family because his sisters helped their mother cook. He also helped, at first he would cut, peel and mix, then he also learned to actually cook. By the time he went to the high school, all his sisters left and now he was the one who helped his mom cook.

He checked if he had spices. Luckily, he did. It meant that he only had to start.

He didn't like cooking for himself alone, he wanted to share this process with somebody. To chat while cooking. To eat wrile talking. Otherwise it was just an empty action devoid of soul.

He went to the living room and turned on the radio. And then immediately turned it off. He didn't want to listen to the news and music was meaningless without a party.

Maybe he could... invite... Illya? He lived very near and it seemed that he was always ready to eat. He never thought of cooking for him.

In two minutes he was standing before Illya's door and ringing the bell. Nobody was coming to answer. Did he go somewhere or something? Maybe he should had called him on the phone... Napoleon was about to leave when the door opened.

"Oh, hi there." Said Illya who looked a bit dishevelled and out of breath.

"Did I interrupt something?"

"No. No! I was just taking a nap. Nothing special."

"Listen. Have you already eaten?"

"Yes, I have, I ate."

"Ah, I see. I wanted to make some mac and cheese out there."

"Hm, mac and cheese... You know, I could eat more."

Chapter Text

"You'll get used to him. He might even grow on you." Said Napoleon before leaving. He left Illya to guard an important witness, a pleasant miniature blonde with big naive eyes. They even looked a bit alike. Yes, they shared the same type. It was funny to look at them when they were together. They were what one might call a perfect couple.

They had a confusing case on their hands. It was obviously very dangerous and demanding of great care. That's why Napoleon said he'd check on them in an hour, even though the whole night was ahead, anything could happen.

He left Marion Raven's apartment and got to the HQs.

There he was expected to work with the data section and Heather. Heather, Heather... Sometimes Napoleon suspected Mr. Waverly of being a matchmaker, but there was nothing wrong with that. Beautiful girls didn't make Napoleon work less effectively, and the rule of keeping your agent happy worked perfectly in his case. The more pleasant it was to go to work, the better Napoleon did his job.

Heather was someone he could take to the best places of the city, she also was a great conversationalist and at the same time she wasn't at all prone to jealousy. Although, almost all of Mr. Waverly's assistants he had worked with were the same. And that was an obvious bonus.

Another bonus was Illya... The strange and still mysterious Russian. There was something about him that could be called unknowable. And Napoleon knew that Illya saw him the same way. It was new and unusual. Building a longterm partner relationship without ever being able to know each other profoundly and properly. Or was there a possibility of that? Napoleon caught himself thinking about it not once and not twice, and that thought wasn't about to disappear. To know each other properly...

Whenever he thought of Illya without actually seeing him, his image was perfect to a silly extend. But really, did that all-around-competent, brave, capable, clever and beautiful Russian have any faults at all? He could hardly be called a good strategist. Maybe. He's a bit gloomy and isn't great at communication, especially, with women. This was more of a skill and it could be developped. Were they all his faults? Hm. Maybe he needed to investigate further.

When he entered the office, Heather smootly got up from behind the desk and slowly approached him.

"Well, how is it going?" he asked when she came close, moving his face an inch from hers.

"We don't have any new intelligence, how about you, Mr. Solo?" she replied in a deep voice, smiling lightly.

"I need information on a yacht named Biella. I have less than an hour, so, ask them to hurry."

"As you say, Mr. Solo."

***

Illya didn't reply to the call.

Napoleon took his gun out of the holster and opened the door to Marion's apartment with a kick.

The first thing he saw was the black sky in the big open window that occupied half of the wall. Then he saw Illya. He was clamped against the wall by the spiral staircase, whimpering like a cowed child. The sight of it was shocking, Napoleon froze in his place for a second.

"Illya!" his tone came out akin to a parent's who was calmly but sternly telling their child to calm down.

"No-no-no-no, leave me-- leave me alone, leave me alone!" bleated Illya.

It was truly scary. Illya always was too brave, maybe even reckless, fearless. What had they done to him? What if it was irreversible? Napoleon started slowly moving towards him, not knowing what to do next.

"Please, go away, don't touch me, don't touch me, please!" cornered Illya acted desperately: he pushed Napoleon away and ran into the other corner of the room where he pressed himself between the table and a wall.

"Don't touch me, don't touch me..."

Napoleon fell on the floor, but got up quickly, looking at Illya who stopped muttering and started whimpering again. Solo made a couple of steps towards him, but understood that it was still meaningless. He had to check the apartment. Marion was certainly kidnapped already, but precautions were still necessary.

He ascended onto the second level and looked around. It was empty. Then he came back down again accompanied by Illya's incessant whimpering that got louder when Napoleon came closer, put his gun on the coffee table and took out his communicator.

"Open channel D."

"Are you all right? I mean, Channel D is open." Heather's voice sounded worried.

"Report for Number One of Section One. Marion Raven is missing. And I'm all right, thank you. Acknowledge."

"Waverly here." The communicator sounded. "Is that--? Is that some sort of animal I hear crying?" he said hearing Illya sob.

"Yeah, something like that." Napoleon looked at Illya. He still wasn't better. "Channel D closed."

He couldn't touch him now, it meant he had to wait.

"Illya..." he didn't know what else to say.

Having put the communicator into the inner pocket and his gun into the holster, Napoleon went to the front door and closed it.

"Illya, you know me. I'm Napoleon Solo. We work together. I won't harm you." He said calmly and steadily, still standing by the door not to worry the poor man. What could he do? Napoleon hadn't been that scared for a long time, but now the fear started receeding. He could finally think rationally. So...

Napoleon put his hands up with his palms facing forward.

"It's alright, they left, they won't come back. It's okay. I'm here to help. I'm your friend. Let me come nearer, I'll help you."

Illya's whimpering became less rapid.

Napoleon made two steps towards him and stopped.

"It's alright."

Napoleon sat down on the floor and drew up his legs.

"This fear will be over soon, you'll see. It's not real fear. It's chemical. I give it no more than another thirty minutes. You can sit in your corner, I won't touch you."

He took a magasine from a coffee table.

"I will be just sitting here and reading."

Illya looked at him with eyes wide with fear.

"Go away. Leave me." He said in a low voice.

"Not in a room with windows like this. But I can move away a bit. As you say."

Illya was silent. It seemed like the drug was wearing off.

In a couple of minutes Napoleon carefully placed the magasine back on the table and slightly moved towards Illya without getting up. Then a bit closer. Now there were only a couple of steps between them, Illya was silent.

"It's alright. I won't do anything to you."

Napoleon moved a bit closer. He lifted his hands and showed them to Illya.

"Nothing, see?"

A bit closer.

"I know you're feeling better already. Look me in the eye, it's okay. You shouldn't be afraid."

Illya didn't speak. It was clear that there was a fight inside him. He looked Napoleon in the eye. Napoleon smiled warmly.

"I want you to be alright, because I care about you. I won't harm you. Please, give me your hand."

Napoleon extended a bent arm with its palm upwards.

"I... can't..."

"Well, that's also good. But you don't want me to leave anymore, do you?"

Illya hesitantly shook his head.

"It's okay."

Napoleon moved a bit closer and leaned towards him a bit. Then he carefully touched Illya's shoulder and patted it a bit.

"See?"

Illya suddenly jumped forward and threw himself into Napoleon's arms. Napoleon embraced him, a bit startled.

"It's alright, it's alright."

He stretched his legs and moved them aside, pulling Illya closer to himself. He buried his face into Napoleon's chest and started shaking with silent tears. Napoleon was stroking his head, looking closely at his yellow hair, and repeating:

"It's alright. It's alright."

He felt the urge to kiss this impudent man who dared touching his deepest feelings. If it was a girl, he would probably do it, but him... He wasn't in a relaxed drunken haze, quite the opposite, he was as tense as a stretched string. He needed to be relaxed. Would he be scared by a kiss? Maybe. And doing it would be dishonest towards both of them. And also, admit it, Napoleon Solo, you don't even know if you really want it to happen. And you'd better know.

"It's alright. It's alright."

Is it really alright? It would make everything so complicated. But you never take the easy way out. Okay, you do want it to happen. Wait for an appropriate moment then.

"It's alright..."

Did he fall asleep in there? What is he to do with him now?!

Napoleon sighed. He'd wake him up in a quarter of hour. And now... now he'll continue stroking his hair.

Chapter Text

Napoleon left the bathroom with nothing but his bathrob on and went to the mirror to comb his hair when the doorbell rang. Napoleon made a surprised face. He wasn't expecting anyone. He put his comb on his dresser and went to open the door in no rush.

Through the peephole he saw Illya. He still was wearing the same tight black suit and a jacket as earlier. Napoleon opened the door.

"Good evening, Robin. Where is your Maid Marion?" he asked, squinting.

"At her castle." Illya hesitated, then looked Napoleon in the eye and added: "Little John."

"Ah, well, this was a bit too much."

"Alright, choose a name to your liking yourself." Said Illya going to the living room.

"I will be Will Scarlet!" Napoleon said loudly to his back. "Like O'Hara," he added quietly, "I'll think about it tomorrow."

Meanwhile Illya in the living room had already poured himself a drink and took an armchair. He put his jacket on the floor by his seat. Napoleon followed his example, got some whiskey and took the armchair next to him.

"Thank you for acting that efficiently." Said Illya after a couple of minutes of silence.

"No big deal, everything according to plan, as usual."

"I'm not talking only of that. Yes, I really am grateful to you for ensuring Marion's safety. But also, something else." Illya faltered. "You acted like a friend."

"Well, how else could I act? We are friends."

"I know that you understand that friends and colleagues are different things." Illya halted for a second. "You could just lock me in the toilet and wait for it to wear off."

Napoleon chuckled:

"This bright idea never entered my mind."

Illya continued speaking without looking at Napoleon:

"I wouldn't mind it at all. You see, there's a clear border for me between friendship and a simple working relationship, and that's important."

"Is this some kind of mysterious Russian nonsense again?" Napoleon fidgeted impatiently and started spinning his glass in the air looking at the ice in it moving.

"No... Yes." Illya looked down at his feet. "We have very different ideas of friendship, Russians and Americans."

"So, you don't believe in friendship at first sight?" Napoleon left his glass alone and glanced at Illya, slightly twisting his mouth.

"You may say so. The thing is that I thought that I had no right to make friends in this line of job." He emptied his glass in one go and put it on the coffee table. "And that's why I left Marion. She's too good of a girl. She deserves more than a relationship with no future."

"Stop it. You're overthinking it. And what do you think you deserve?"

"What difference does it make? Duty is more important to me. And my duty is to cease any attachments like this one."

"Including me?"

Illya threw at Napoleon a serious glance.

"Yes, we should think of each other only as coworkers."

"This is silly. Job doesn't make us less human."

"I'm sorry, but that's how I see it."

"So, you mean, if you were me, you'd lock me in the toilet?"

"No, but..."

"That's it. The problem is solved." Napoleon got up and went to the bar.

Illya blinked in confusion.

"You know it yourself, you can't approach practice with theory alone." Continued Napoleon. "And you make obvious mistakes." He sat back down, his legs crossed. "It's jobs like ours that demand people to care for other people, maybe even more than any other. Besides, you only think of other people's feelings, but how about your own?"

"You're wrong. I do take in account my... interests. I wouldn't want to get attached to someone who can get harmed or die."

Napoleon frowned.

"Anyone can get harmed or die. That's why we should live every day to the fullest. Don't tell me I should explain stuff as self evident as this." Napoleon looked at Illya with a tense stare. He didn't like this conversation as much as Illya evidently. But if he started, he could as well go on. "Don't overcomplicate your life, it's all very simple in fact. You want something - you go and get it. Otherwise what's the point?"

Illya rose abruptly to his feet, refilled his glass and drank it quickly. Then he cleared his throat and turned to face Napoleon.

"You are right. And what do I want... You know what I want, I know."

Napoleon placed his glass on the table, his face grew tense, he couldn't believe it was happening.

"Do I?.."

Illya looked down, quickly approached him and grabbed the collar of his bathrobe. Napoleon slowly got up and they got face to face with each other. The time of conversations was over. Napoleon gently took Illya's hand off his collar and slowly moved his right hand to Illya's face. He touched his cheekbone and then buried his fingers in his hair. It was longer than his, but still shorter that what he was used to. Illya still wasn't looking at him, and Napoleon moved his glance from his eyes to his lips. They looked like they would feel very soft yet passionate. Napoleon moved forward and kissed them. They readily opened. Illya vigorously returned the kiss. Napoleon moved his tongue a bit further, but Illya locked his lips letting him know that it was all for now.

Illya moved away and placed his left arm on Napoleon's shoulder. In his serious eyes there was readiness to go on mixed with uncertainty of what to do next. But he was ready to continue.

"There's no going back now," he said. "But let's act carefully."

"Of course. Nothing we wouldn't want."

Illya ran an eye over Napoleon.

"I think I should take a shower as well. I haven't done it after the mission."

"Yes, sure."

***

After being left alone, Napoleon went back to the bedroom mirror to finally do his hair that was almost dry now. It was very hard to properly comb it and he continued doing it mechanically, looking himself in the eye with a serious and concerned look.

Nothing will stay the same. You're used to putting yourself in danger, Napoleon Solo, but a turn as sharp as this one is too extreme even for you. However you might lie to yourself. Alright. Whatever happens, happens.

***

Meanwhile Illya was taking a shower and hardly processing everything as well. Napoleon just said that they should live in the present, and that's exactly what Illya is doing now. And Illya already knew that Napoleon wasn't against their relationship developping like this. But he himself found it hard to admit. He was afraid of forming attachments, afraid of emotions. Maybe he let this fear grow for too long. Now he wanted to jump into the deep end of this new and scary thing. To know what it was like being that intimate with someone. To know what it was worth being with Napoleon who never left anyone dissatisfied. To know Napoleon himself, finally, the man for whom sex was an integral part of life.

The thrill of it all and curiousity. But that wasn't all. There was something else.

Napoleon evoked real feelings in him. He wanted to scream because of them sometimes, because they left him feeling helpless. Lust wasn't the main component of it. He wanted to press him against himself and grow to be one with him. It was an unexplainable wish, impossible to fully understand. A wish for warmth, oneness and absolute, unattainable safety. It wasn't sexual, but somehow childish and deeply innocent.

But there was very much place for lust as well. He wanted to possess his body. To see it moving, twisting with pleasure, tense and relax. Inhale the scent of his flawless perfume. Feel his smooth skin with his fingers, memorise every scar. See his eyes widen with pleasure, bite his lips, lick his brazen chin.

Illya left the shower and stepped onto the soft carpet with his bare feet. Water was dripping from him and the cool air shrouded his naked body. Illya took a towel from a knob.

There's no going back now, flashed the thought in his brain again. Just let it happen.

***

Napoleon stepped back to the dresser when he heard the bathroom door open. He was instinctively acting like a hunter who didn't want to scare his prey. Illya left the bathroom wrapped in a towel and bare foot. Napoleon glanced him over and smiled softly.

"It suits you."

He came close to Illya and kissed him again. Illya pulled the girdle of Napoleon's bathrobe and moved one of its flaps towards Napoleon's shoulder. The bathrobe opened. Napoleon in the meantime took a hold of Illya's towel, pulled it away and threw it to the side. Napoleon gently changed their kiss into a French one, then, guiding him gently, moved him towards the bed. They slowly descended on it. Napoleon pulled himself away from Illya's lips and dove somewhere. Illya's eyes widened when he felt the touch of his lips on his penis.

"What are you doing?.."

Instead of an answer he felt his dick getting deep enough to feel Napoleon's chin on his balls.

"Goodness, Napoleon!.."

Napoleon was moving steadily and not very intensely, but his lips clasped him tightly, and Illya was twisting in extasy, not knowing what to do with his hands. He grabbed a pillow and pressed it against his chest. It didn't only help him to keep his hands busy, but also make the process a bit longer. It didn't last that long because Illya hadn't had sex in a long time.

Napoleon raised his face that didn't look very happy, stretched his arm to the bedside table, took a napkin from it and cleaned his mouth thoroughly.

"I"m sorry..."

"It's alright. Now I know what it feels like. Useful information."

He got up on his feet, slightly closed his bathrobe and sat down on the bed close to Illya.

"How was that?"

"W-wonderful... Is it my turn now?"

"As you wish."

"And what do you wish?"

"Well, you know, there are two options." He touched Illya's lips with his finger and then drew a line downwards with it that ended somewhere below his bellybutton.

Illya sat up and slided to the floor.

"Okay, and I was hoping..." Napoleon pressed his hands into the bed and spread his legs.

Illya crossed his eyes on Napoleon's penis, moved closer and touched it with his tongue. Then he put his lips around it in an unsure manner and took it as deep as he could.

"Oh boy, you're good!" came out of Napoleon's mouth.

Illya started acting intuitively, getting faster or slower as he felt. The process seemed a bit absurd to him, but the look of pleasure on Napoleon's face let him understand that it was going pretty well.

Napoleon threw glances at Illya's eyes. They never seemed more beautiful to him. Big, blue, fathomless...

"Oh, faster!"

Illya accelerated. Right before reaching his peak Napoleon freed his penis and ended up cumming on Illya's face.

"Sorry."

Illya moved away from his face the napkin he already took and said:

"No problem. Useful information."

Napoleon wiped his dick and got up to pick up another napkin from the floor.

"You don't have to leave." He said.

Illya finished cleaning his face and got up as well. Napoleon took the napkin from the floor and they were again face to face.

"I won't leave." Illya wrapped his hands around Napoleon's neck and moved closer for a kiss. Napoleon finally let his bathrobe fall on the floor and returned the movement by embracing Illya's waist and pulling him closer.

"Don't leave."

Chapter Text

Alarm clock rang at 5:15.

What... what was happening?

Illya opened eyes with effort and realised it wasn't his apartment. Is he on an assignment? Why did he set his alarm for such an early time?..

Wait.

He heard a rustle behind his back.

"You can go back to sleep," he heard.

Illya jumped out of the bed and grabbed Napoleon's bathrobe that was laying on the floor.

"Well, you can get up if you like."

Damn! Damn! Damn! It was actually happening!

Illya put on the bathrobe with hands that didn't want to obey him and tied the girdles too tight.

"It's... too early for me to think so much..." he spitted some nonsense that came to his head and disappeared in the bathroom.

When he came out in ten minutes having more or less gathered his thoughts and put his clothes on, Napoleon wasn't in the bedroom. Illya went to the living room.

"Napoleon?" he called.

"I'm in the kitchen." Sounded the answer.

Illya went to the kitchen. Napoleon was in a morning gown, brewing coffee in a cezve.

"I don't have any food now, I usually take my breakfast on the way to work. I thought you'd want some coffee."

Illya hesitated not knowing what to do.

"Thank you. Do you... always wake up that early? Why?"

"What do you mean, why? I have a lot of things to do." He took the cezve off the stove and poured some of its contents into cups, then put it on a table mat, took the cups and walked to Illya who was still standing in the door frame. "Let's go to the living room."

They sat in the same armchairs as the day before. Illya kicked his jacket slightly when he was getting seated, partially, to ensure that it was all actually happening.

"How early do you wake up usually?" asked Napoleon after taking the first sip of hot coffee.

"After seven."

"And I don't sleep much. Like..."

"Napoleon."

"Yes." Napoleon smiled. "Besides, I have to make myself presentable before going to work."

"I also make myself presentable, but apparently not as much as you do."

"It's noticeable sometimes." He smiled lightly.

Illya reservedly smiled back.

"Where do you take your breakfast?" Napoleon asked.

"On my way to work like you. But usually it happens less than an hour after I wake up. I can't go on without breakfast."

"That's probably not easy to cope with." Napoleon put his cup on the coffee table. "Alright, enough chit-chat."

Illya shuffled uneasily.

"I can see that this is not easy for you. But what happened... can't be undone. We just got to understand how to feel about it. This shouldn't change our working relationship."

"Yes, it shouldn't, I agree. But... the rest?.."

Napoleon's face became serious.

"It can't be serious, you understand that. It was just a fling. We had some fun, now we gotta move on. I'm not saying it can't happen again. After all... Did you like it?"

Illya's face became red. He looked down. The meaning of Napoleon's words didn't reach him at once and it all hit him like a train after a couple of seconds. Can't be serious? Fling? Move on?.. Now the blood left his face.

Napoleon got up, approached Illya and put his arm on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry for putting it so bluntly, but I'm sure that you understand."

"Yes, I understand. It's just that... I haven't had my breakfast yet, so, it's hard to process it all."

Napoleon looked at a clock.

"The bakery downstairs opens in twenty five minutes. They make great sandwiches. There's also a 24/7 shop on the corner, but I think it only sells cigarettes."

"I know."

He realised that if he left now, it could all be over. Completely. Illya cleared his throat.

"Napoleon. Tell me, did you want it to happen?"

Napoleon sat down on the handrest, his hand still on Illya's shoulder.

"Yes. I really wanted it to happed."

"And now what, is that it? You got what you wanted and now you don't want anything else?"

Napoleon stroked Illya's hair.

"No. I would like it to continue. But..."

"Work. I know. What kind of professionals are we if we allowed this to happen?"

Illya raised his head and his look met with hazel eyes of Napoleon.

"We are humans above all, Illya. And we can make mistakes. They're necessary to stay human. Especially, with a job like ours."

"Yes. I know."

"Our working relationship will remain the same."

"And outside of it?"

"And outside of it..."

Napoleon leaned and touched Illya's lips with his own.

"Outside of it everything has already changed." He said and his words turned into a soft kiss.

"I'm afraid, you were wrong about it not being serious." Said Illya after the kiss looking Napoleon in the eye intently and even defiantly.

"I'm afraid we both made some mistakes today."

Illya grabbed Napoleon's waist and pulled him closer.

"Let's make some more." He said in a tone that allowed no objections.

Chapter Text

"She's out of her mind."

"Agreed."

"Warm martini without olives or even lemon? How do people live in this place?"

"Hey!" Illya shifted to Polish. "Pani, bring us better some beer!"

"Thanks. What did you order?"

"Beer."

"I bet there's nothing else to drink here."

"There's also vodka."

"Vodka?"

"And cocktails with vodka."

"Goodness."

"Wines, liquors..."

"What wines?"

"Cheap stuff. Not worth trying." Illya closed the menu.

"Two more hours till the plane."

"Long time."

"Yes, too long. Why can't they give us a charter? We always have to hang in some lousy places and waste time."

"We could spend it with benefit."

"How? By seeing the sights?"

The waitress brought them beer. Napoleon looked at her like a hungry wolf.

"Or else we could..." he started, looking at her. She stopped by the counter and looked at them with a heavy expression.

"Napoleon!"

"What's that, Illya?"

"Nothing."

"But we agreed that I could, Illya."

"Yes, I know, but I... find it difficult to see it. Please, don't do it while I can see you."

"You can see me about eighteen hours a day, and the rest six hours we sleep. I don't understand why you're nervous, we have an agreement."

"Well then, do what you like." Illya sipped his beer and Napoleon did the same.

"You can also do whatever you like." He said after a minute. "How do you like this beauty? Why don't you try?.."

"No. Just be quiet about it."

"Alright. And I think I'll go introduce myself..."

Napoleon tried to get up from the table, but for some reason he tripped and nearly lost his balance. Illya's reaction was to help him stand. Napoleon nodded in gratitude and went to the bar.

Illya saw the room moving before his eyes. Then he noticed Napoleon lean on the counter as if he was afraid to fall down, and then the consciousness left him.

***

Whack!

A slap landed on Illya's cheek.

Whack!

Now it wasn't on him.

"Wake up, you cowards!" he heard a sound of an imperious female voice.

Illya opened his eyes and saw the tavern's waitress before him.

"I had to waste so much sleeping powder on you! Picky fops! What am I to do with the damned spiked martini?! It costs money as well as the sleeping powder!"

"Well, then drink it and calm down a bit..." sounded weak voice of Napoleon. Illya looked in its direction. Napoleon was also tied down to a chair in the tavern they were in before.

The waitress jumped towards him and slapped him on the face again.

"I'll make you drink it! Or even better, I'll just push you both into the river. Conscious."

"But... we're not feathers, you know."

"I'll call Grzegorz to help me."

"Grzegorz? Well, that changes everything..."

Napoleon looked at Illya as if saying that another escape route was gone.

"What did we do to you?" asked Illya.

"You!" now she jumped towards Illya. "You killed my Andrjey!"

"Your Andrjey?" asked Napoleon. "That huge blond guy?"

"Yes! My wonderful tall Andrjey with hair like rye in the sun!"

"Like rye in the sun." Repeated Napoleon exchanging glances with Illya. "Okay. And now you want revenge?"

"Yes, and I will have it!"

"Then what are you waiting for? Why haven't you killed us already?"

The girl put a chair in front of them and sat down on it.

"I'm curious about your conversation."

Illya frowned and Napoleon smiled, surprised:

"Our conversation?"

"Yes, your terrible conversation about which one of you will have me."

"We're begging your forgiveness, merciful lady, we have nothing against you. I mean..."

"He means to say that it was a silly innocent conversation." Interrupted Illya. "And we didn't know you understood English."

"It wasn't innocent, you devils!" she exploaded again. "But who cares, I'm used to this anyway." She cooled down quickly. "I'm interested in something else."

"What's that?"

The girl stood up and walked back and forth a bit.

"Are you... are you lovers?"

Illya looked at Napoleon, but he didn't look back.

"Sorry?.." asked Napoleon looking at her closely.

"I thought so because of your conversation." She went back to the chair and sat down, placing her elbow on her knee and putting her chin on the palm.

"And... what would it change?"

"I've never seen men lovers. It's forbidden here. Is it allowed in America?"

"Hardly..." Napoleon threw a worried glance at Illya.

"I'll kill you for my Andrjey anyway. He was my best boyfriend. But first... I'd like to watch..."

Illya had difficulty breathing and Napoleon froze not knowing what to say.

"Don't worry so much. Just kiss."

Illya and Napoleon exchanged glances.

"And... why would we do that?"

"If you kiss well enough, I'll let you go maybe. It would be more fun than listening to Andrjey's songs about lumberjacks."

Illya started coughing, Napoleon nodded to him.

"You sure loved your Andrjey a lot."

"He wasn't as boring as others."

Napoleon was looking at her in shock, but then regained his composure.

"Our chairs are too far apart. Untie the feet of at least one of us."

The girl looked at both of them contemplatively, then got up, approached Illya and started untying his feet. As soon as she took off the rope, he grabbed her waist with his legs, then pressed her agains the floor with one foot and kicked her in the head with the other. The girl fell down, unconscious.

"Illya!" shouted Napoleon. "It was too much!"

"It wasn't..."

Illya got up and, bent double heavily because of his chair, trotted down towards Napoleon. He placed the chair behind Napoleon's, found his hands and started untying them, it went pretty well. After a couple of minutes of fuss and quiet grunts of pain from Napoleon's side, his hands were free, then he freed his feet and Illya's hands.

"You didn't kill the poor girl?"

"No. The bruise will be healed in a week, but her neck will hurt." Answered Illya stretching.

"How about Grzegorz?"

"Let's leave through the window."

***

"At least we spent the time before the plane."

"With benefit."

"Benefit, sure."

"This kurwa pretended to not understand English!"

"Kurwa?"

"Lady of the night in Polish."

"I always learn something new from you."

"You're welcome."

"Were you... that much against kissing me?.."

"It's not for a stranger's eyes."

"Nobody's here at the moment."

"A flight attendant might go by."

"She might not."

"Alright then."

Illya moved towards Napoleon and kissed him in a more demanding manner than Napoleon was used to.

"You have almost bitten off my lip."

"Well, sorry." Illya returned to his place.

"You know, at first I thought you'd look like that Andrjey with hair like rye in the sun."

"And I thought you'd look like James Bond."

"And... were you disappointed?"

"Oh, immensely!"

Chapter Text

New York wasn't like any other city in which Illya had lived. In the wide, filled with air streets of Kiev, you feel seen and recognised by everybody. There you can be the best football player or a known electronics expert. Everybody knows who to ask for help if your knives got dull or a bike broke. Uncle Kolya will sharpen them, Petro Mikhalych will fix it. All for free.

In the narrow streets of Europe you are a character. Your perception of the architecture ensemble on the nearby square is unique. Somebody likes the bas-relief that's the furthest to the left, someone else holds dear the spire on top. There's an artist in the house next door and two more in yours. You have a torn suit, the pretty Yvonne will take it with a pleasant smile and Monsieur Dubois will mend it with his special stitch, and you in the meantime will have a cup of coffee at sonsy Ivette's. You won't spend much, but you'll get what you want and it will be of the best quality.

But in New York... Who are you in New York? One more shadow in the streets. Unidentified individual. You could spend your whole life honing your skill, but there's somebody across the street who does it better. Do you know the name of the person who washed your shirts? Maybe the cook in that drive-thru is a city madman who poisons his clients? You pay more or less, but nobody can really guarantee what you'll get.

In New York you need to be excentric and charismatic to be somebody.

Illya didn't think himself excentric, he thought of himself as complete. Excentricity implied some extravercy, and it was pretty foreign to him. No, he was exactly complete. Knowing precisely what he could, what he needed, how he would react to one thing or another. Everything inside him was clear and measured. Except for whatever was happening now.

Napoleon was on a single mission somewhere in Canada and Illya was sitting in his flat listening to a Gershwin record set to a tiny volume. Rhapsody In Blue... Millions of people had its larger than life opening notes tied to New York's rhythm in their minds. And Gershwin's parents were from Odessa...

Illya would never become a true American. And his children wouldn't either, because they simply wouldn't exist. This way he'll be the last of the middle Kievan Kuryakins, foreign in the USSR and even more so in the USA.

He realised all of that a long time ago and got to terms with it almost as long ago. But now all of that weighed on him with immemorable heaviness, as if he'd never put in all in place in his head. Surely, he had done it...

His subconsciousness was struggling to rationalise current Illya's situation and bombarded him with panicked and often disconnected thoughts relating to his past. It was foul and scary. Illya realised that it all wouldn't lead to anything good, that's why he turned off the record and went to bed.

Questions of all varieties and angles flashed in his mind the whole night. In the morning he went to work thinking that he needed to buy himself shades.

Chapter Text

Napoleon was lying on the deck, his head pressed between two feet pf two sailors who were sitting to the sides of him, holding his hands.

"Is this grip necessary?" asked Napoleon being loyal to his cheeky self. The sailors didn't move. Illya was standing close to him accompanied by the first mate, bosun and some ship mates. He couldn't do anything, only watch.

Captain Shark slowly went down the stairs holding a leather whip in his hand.

"I think we will get along very nicely once you understand the nature of our discipline." Said Captain approaching the spread on the deck Napoleon.

Then he raised his whip.

"One." Sounded the cold voice of the captain, and Illya, without realising what he was doing, threw himself at him to stop this torment. A punch to the chest. He was taken and dragged away from the deck. He could hear the first lash landing and that Napoleon didn't produce a sound.

***

The ship's brig was clean and empty. So far Illya wasn't able to find a way to break himself out of it. Ten of the best. They will tear Napoleon's back to shreads. He won't show his pain. But the scars will remain.

Illya was trying hard as he could not to think of Napoleon, but he couldn't get out of his head the image of him lying spread on the deck, with his back naked, helpless and subjected to "a punishment". The worst thing was that Illya couldn't help him in any way, quite the opposite, he ended up captured himself. And that might mean that Napoleon would have to save him again. And that's not what they were here for...

Ten lashes. With a leather whip. On his warm back with such soft skin...

Illya buried his face in his hands.

He had to think about the way to escape this ship, taking with them all the passengers and the crew.

The only option Illya could think of was starting a mutiny, but it was very risky, that's why, upon further consideration, Illya threw this idea away. Everything seemed hopeless.

Suddenly the brig's door opened and a ship mate told Illya that he was free to go. Illya was escorted to a cabin.

It was small, but adequately equipped. There was a bunk bed in it, Illya sat down on it. In about a minute Napoleon entered the cabin.

"Napoleon!" Illya jumped to meet him and bumped his head on the upper bunk. "How are you?" he asked rubbing the spot that he hit, and came closer to Napoleon.

"Could be worse." Replied Napoleon. "Nothing too bad. Today we're invited to a party."

"Have you settled the things with the captain? But how?"

"He's a clever man. Maybe a bit out of his mind. I shouldn't have been so cocky with him."

Napoleon approached the bed and started unbuttoning the canvas shirt that he had on. Illya turned towards him and saw blood on his back.

"Your back... It should be treated."

"They already have."

"But there's still blood."

"Is there an aid kit here?"

"Here..." Illya looked around. "I'll take a look."

Illya went to the dresser that was standing by the bed, opened a drawer and found a first aid kit.

"Take off your shirt, I'll clean your back."

"Okay," Napoleon smiled.

"You be careful, it might hurt." Said Illya wetting a piece of cotton in tap water.

"If you kiss, it won't hurt."

"We usually blow on wounds."

"Our way is more fun."

"As always. Lie down."

Napoleon lied down on the bed with his back up and moved towards the wall leaving some space for Illya to sit on. Illya took a chair, placed everything he needed on it and sat down on the bed. Only now he allowed himself to look at Napoleon's back. All ten lashes were visible on it. Illya for the first time in his life felt his hands get weak.

"Now then, it might be itchy."

He carefully touched the wound with the cotton, squeesed a bit of water out of it and then pressed the cotton onto it in order to soak the blood in.

"I have to put water in a glass, why haven't I thought of it before. Does it hurt?"

"Not at all."

Illya was consumed by the process. He was acting as carefully as he could. The dry blood was disappearing under his soft and methodical, almost tender, movements. Soon it was all gone and he saw the clear wounds. The places where the whip touched him more than once were badly mangled.

"We've got to get out of here as soon as possible, you need some professional help. You need some stitches. I could try to do it."

"Could you? Then try."

"I could, sure, but..."

The truth was that he was feeling uneasy.

"I'll go look for some thread and needles."

***

"Aaahhh... Now this was painful..."

"Are you sure you don't want some more bourbon?"

"No... Kiss and it'll get better."

"Stop it."

"No, really."

"Oh."

Illya bent towards Napoleon's back and slightly pecked a spot of untouched skin.

"Kiss it where it hurts."

He kissed a red spot on the upper side of the back.

"That's better."

"And now be quiet, I'm almost done."

Napoleon gave a hum of approval, raised his right hand to his face and bit into his sleeve.

***

Napoleon was standing in front of the mirror tying his bowtie. They found their suits in the wardrobe, and Solo put on every piece except for the tuxedo. Illya in a shirt put on top of a t-shirt but still not buttoned, was sitting behind a small table, his back to Napoleon. He had an untied bowtie on his neck.

"You will notice there are no precautions taken against us." Said Illya pensively.

"Well, there's no need. Ship is a fortress."

"But we might foment a revolution among the passengers." Illya voiced his idea immediately understanding how silly it sounded.

"Hardly. The captain keeps them satisfied. He's clothed them, fed them, provided them with their families. Contentment does not breed revolution."

"Then it seems we are at an impasse."

"Well, not necessarily. We could deprive them of their utopia."

"And how exactly do we do that?"

"We, ah, sink the ship." Said Napoleon approaching Illya.

"We sink the ship?"

"That's right." Napoleon took a tux from the hanger. "We manufacture a bomb, place it in the engine room, blow out the side of the ship. Everybody has to leave. Plenty of lifeboats."

"Excellent!" Illya lit up and turned to Napoleon. "The passengers would have no choice. They'd have to go!"

Napoleon fixed his tux, went to the bed and took a pillow from it.

"That's right. Now, one of us has to make an appearance at the party tonight, so, uh, enjoy yourself."

He gave one end of the pillow to Illya.

"Where will you be?"

Napoleon with one movement took the pillowcase off the pillow, leaving the latter in Illya's hands.

"I am, uh, going to do a little marketing of my own."

He put the pillow case under his jacket and left the cabin.

For a couple of seconds Illya sat there, shocked by the simplicity and odacity of the plan, the pillow in his hands, looking at the place where Napoleon stood earlier. Then he hurriedly started buttoning his shirt.

Chapter Text

Illya was lying naked on the bed. July heat made him stay motionless. He raised and turned his head to look at a clock. It was almost nine. Holiday. For both of them. Napoleon went to get breakfast, it was his turn. Or not. He went on his own accord. Trying to make up for... doesn't matter. Illya forcefully landed his head on the pillow. Silk sheets in such heat... No, not good.

He sat up. Maybe Napoleon would want to take a shower when he comes back home with food. Then Illya could join him and take it for the second time today... They could also spend the whole day in the bathtub, for example, even though it was too small for them both. Not a bad idea. He'd ask Napoleon.

The entrance door opened, he could hear it through the open living room door. Illya got up from the bed and went to meet him bare foot. Napoleon briefly ran an eye over him and smiled happily as he often did for no big reason, just when everything went well.

"I brought us breakfast," he shook the paper bag in his left hand, "And ice cream." He stretched his right hand in which he held two ice pops.

"Huh, good call." Illya approached him to take the ice cream.

"Marvellous foresight." Napoleon didn't let go of the ice pops and took Illya's hand with his pinky and ring fingers. The paper bag landed in the nearest armchair and Napoleon's left hand, now free, rested on Illya's hand. "I think we'd better cool down before breakfast," he said pointing at the ice cream with his eyes, and led Illya to the bedroom.

His left hand slipped down to the naked hip.

"But we'd better eat it quickly."

"Otherwise we'd have to lick it off, I know."

In the bedroom they both sat down on the bed side to side. Napoleon handed the ice cream to Illya.

"Open it, I have to take these off..."

He took off his shoes and his jacket, then tucked his feet. Illya gave him his stick.

"Don't ruin your trousers."

"Should I take them off as well?"

"Why not?"

"Hold it again then."

Napoleon started taking off his shirt and trousers. In the meantime Illya bit into his ice pop, holding the other one in his stretched out left arm. Napoleon took off everything but his underpants and socks, then looked at himself and decided to finish what he started. In a moment he was completely naked.

"I think we could spend the day in the bathtub." Said Illya.

"You think so? Isn't it too hard in there?"

"Probably. But these silk sheets!.."

Illya threw himself on the back. Napoleon's pop that was already heavily melted and hardly clinging to the stick, plopped on the bed near Illya.

"Oh."

"Illya!"

Napoleon who was sitting to the right of Illya, jumped on him and pressed him to the bed.

"Now I'll have to eat your ice cream! And you'll do my laundry!"

"But... but... that's my ice cream!" Illya moved it to his mouth with great effort resisting the grip of Napoleon's left arm and took a big bite.

"Your ice cream is on my sheet! You can lick it off if you want it so much."

"Alright, alright, I'll give you half, let me go."

Illya sat up and handed what was left of the pop to Napoleon.

"What a pity to waste such a good ice cream." He took the stick of the fallen ice cream, there wasn't much left on it as the rest of it stayed on the bed. Illya took the stick in his mouth and sucked it. Then he threw it on the floor, smiled in a lowkey manner and turned towards the puddle of melted ice cream. Napoleon was following his movements and finishing his ice cream. When he finished, he threw the stick on the floor aiming to land it close to its colleague.

"Lie down on your back." Said Illya without turning towards him.

Napoleon made a surprised face but obeyed.

"Close your eyes."

"What are you doing..."

"Do it."

"Done."

"Alright..."

"Aaaahhh!!!" screamed Napoleon in a couple of seconds.

"Don't shout, it's almost warm."

The half melted dairy masse was now resting on the lower part of Napoleon's belly. He made a couple of deep exhales and got used to the unpleasant feeling.

"It was you who told me to lick it off..."

He felt Illya slide to the floor, then his hands on his hips. He moved closer and now his body was between Napoleon's knees. Illya bent over and Napoleon felt the sting of his hot tongue.

"Salty..."

"Of course. I should have taken a shower first."

"No, I like it."

Illya was licking off the ice cream seasoned with the hot taste and thick smell of male sweat.

"If you stop, I could kill you." Said Napoleon in such a manner that it was clear that he was hardly understanding what he was saying.

Illya raised his head.

"Thanks for the idea."

He wiped his face and got up on his feet.

"Illya! Please! It's cruel!"

Illya sneered.

"I'll go on and for that you won't date any girls for a week."

Napoleon shut his eyes with pleasure.

"Alright, you win."

Chapter Text

Illya was looking at Napoleon struggling to understand what he was thinking.

"What do you want?" asked Napoleon.

"A steak."

"A steak? Why don't you try something fancier? There are so many options here..."

"I don't want to be distracted by food."

"But we came to this restaurant in order to... Alright, alright, I got it."

"We need to talk."

"Yes."

"A steak."

"Alright."

Napoleon called the waiter and they made their orders.

"We shouldn't have come here," said Illya when the waiter left.

"Why?"

"It looks weird," Illya looked sideways at other tables. Napoleon followed his gaze: all the tables were occupied by couples.

"It doesn't, it looks perfectly okay. We're just friends who came here to spend an evening."

"Yes, sure, you might also call us long lost brothers. What is this place called?"

"The Pearl Palm..."

Illya rolled his eyes and sighed.

"'Violet fruit parfait'..." he cited the menu. "Who else did you bring here?"

Napoleon raised his eyebrows, but remained silent.

"If you wanted to make things better between us, you could choose another way."

"I give up."

"You still owe me, after all. I saved your life."

"Yes, yes, that's true. I'll do anything you ask."

"Anything?"

Napoleon leaned on the table to be nearer to Illya.

"Well, as long as it's reasonable."

"Of course."

"Well?" Napoleon smiled playfully.

"You will never meet Angelique again, at least, to my knowledge. I don't want to ever see her, nor hear of her. I know that it doesn't depend on you alone, but... You got it. Accepted?"

"Yes. I'm sorry if it was unpleasant for you that I met her again."

"Unpleasant? Napoleon, are you completely--?"

The waiter brought them drinks.

"She tried to kill you!" Illya continued when they were on their own again.

"Well, she didn't."

"Only by accident."

"No, it was you who noticed the spider."

"Napoleon!" Illya raised his voice too much, and then swithed to whispering: "Napoleon, you idiot. I can't always be by your side to save your life."

Napoleon shrugged.

"Listen, what's your deal, are you suicidal?" continued Illya. "Do you want to die without even recognising it?"

Napoleon looked at Illya in an uncharacteristically serious manner.

"I don't want to die, but it still might happen at any given moment. We both need to be ready for that, Illya."

"Yes, we should be ready, but not actively inviting it by playing with fire!.. I forbid you meeting with her."

"Alright, alright, you won't hear of her again."

"Napoleon... you..."

"Do you have any other wishes, oh, my saviour?"

"Shut up. No. I mean, I'll tell you later, after the dinner."

***

"So, what will it be?"

Illya turned away and looked in the side window. They were sitting in the car, Illya was in the passanger's seat. They haven't left the parking lot yet.

Napoleon put his right hand on Illya's knee, he moved his knees closer to each other on reflexe.

"What else do you want?" asked Napoleon softly.

Illya answered without looking at him:

"I want to have you in your butt."

Napoleon touched Illya's cheek with his left hand, then moved closer and kissed him in his ear.

Chapter Text

They left the theatre and dived into the bleak foggy evening. It wasn't raining, but humidity was high enough for cold to easily get through their coats. They wanted to walk closer to each other, but it wasn't possible.

"I told you you'd like it."

"Yes," replied Napoleon with a smile, "Ballet is the sort of art that awakens certain... needs. And certainly not the wish to walk in such cold."

"It's only a couple of kilometers. But yes, it's hardly the best option for a walk."

"Yes. I'm no expert in ballet, but I quite liked it. It was interesting. And a lot easier to take in than opera."

"Opera demands self discipline and commitment."

"Well, good for it, but I already have a job."

Illya smiled to himself and then decided to tell what was eating him for the last couple of hours:

"You know... I could say that the ballet is perhaps one of the main battlefields between Russia and the West for the last fifty years. You are aware of Les Ballets Russes created by Serge Diagilev, right?"

"I've heard of them."

"Well then, since that time, back before the World War 1 and the revolution, there's been that opinion that the Russian ballet is the best in the world. And, to tell the truth, nobody has any reason to disagree with that. And so, Russian ballet schools prepare the best dancers, according to everyone, and then they escape to France, the USA, or other countries they came to with tours. As a result, Russian ballet theatres are probably the most paranoid organisations apart from the intelligence services."

"Mm-hm," said Napoleon with uncertainty in his voice.

"No, you don't understand, it's a real war!" Illya gestured widely with his hands. "A few years ago my mother would write of nothing but Rudolph Nureyev in her letters. He stayed in Paris instead of coming back to the Kirov theatre."

"Kiev theatre?"

"No, Kirov. There's an 'r' in the middle. And so, her letters were filled to the brim with regret that such a wonderful dancer left out glorious motherland, becoming a defector and a traitor."

"Oh?" Napoleon tried to look closer at Illya's face.

"Well, that's the usual tone of her letters. It's because they could be read at the border, you get it."

"Ah..."

"Yeah. That's not a problem. It's just that every Russian who leaves its borders becomes a little bit of a spy. And their relatives as well. We all encrypt everything about us. But that's okay. What I mean to say is that she was clearly invested in his fate. And now we actually saw him, me and you! I need to write her about it."

"Sure. But how do you yourself look at these... 'traitors of the motherland'?"

"To be perfectly honest, I understand what they're feeling. It's not easy living in the USSR. Sometimes I think that I wouldn't be able to go back. But if I had to... I don't really think I'll have to."

"Have you thought about bringing your mother here?"

"I have. I even know that she would live in Jersey. It's the best option, as it seems. Not too far, but at the same time not too near."

"Have you discussed it with Mr. Waverly?"

"I'm only thinking about it, I'm not quite sure yet."

"You'd better do it. It would really be better that way. You'd know that you tried at least."

"Yes, maybe. You know, sometimes I really do feel for these 'traitors' and that's hard to come to terms with. I mean, I was taught differently. And I always thought differently. I really should think that way now too."

"But why? People are people... It's only natural that they want to lead better lives. It's probably very hard for them to make such a step. I've never actually really thought about how do these people feel, I mean, those, who leave their countries. And I'm not talking of refugees, I have dealt with them in my life. But those who run from peaceful lives... That must be really hard. To leave everything for some uneven chances..."

"Yes! You see, it's a step of despair."

"Exactly."

"There are people who expect to succeed right away in a foreign country, but most of them, as I see it, understand that it'd be extremely difficult and their chances are slim. It's almost like they have a death wish. But the opposite. Instead of jumping to their death, they jump to their life. But the unknown of it is as scary as death."

"You know, I never knew that you'd thought of that so much."

"But... don't you think it's just like us? During the whole show I was thinking about how much it was like us... We also jump to our lives, but with different goals. And now I'm not as fearless as I used to be."

Napoleon took a long look at Illya and said:

"Me neither."

For a couple of minutes they walked in silence, in the meantime they reached their apartment building.

"There's something else about these ballet dancers..." said Illya pulling the entrance door.

"Oh? What's that?"

"Their... inclinations."

Napoleon smiled:

"Got it. My place or yours?"

Illya pressed the lift button.

"Mine. You're out of food again."

Chapter Text

Napoleon was standing in the middle of the office sporting heavy spectacles and quite a funny bowtie. His image was complete with a yellow checkered waistcoat, a stick umbrella and hair parted in the middle. The sight of it all was incredible. Illya lolled back in his chair, unable to supress a smile caused by seeing Napoleon like that.

"So, you're the new secretary the agency sent?"

"Yes, sir, my name is Applegate. Edward. My references."

"Why do you think that you're suitable for the position we require?"

"I have a vast experience of working as an accountant, sir."

"Were you a good accountant?"

"Yes, sir."

"Judith, you may go now."

Judith who was looking at 'Mr. Applegate' with a mused smile, was a bit startled when Illya addressed her; she nodded and left in a hurry.

"And so, Mr. Applegate, what can you offer as a secretary?" Illya tilted his head a bit to the right.

"I can do almost anything, sir, my qualifications include typing, keeping--" replied Napoleon without breaking his character.

"How about requests that aren't presupposed by your contract?"

"It depend on the task in question, sir."

Illya nodded and said commandingly:

"Come closer, Mr. Applegate."

Napoleon made two uncertain steps towards Illya.

"Edward, sir."

"Yes, Edward, good. Sit down on the floor."

Napoleon clumsily sat down, using the umbrella to help him keep balance.

"Get on all fours."

Napoleon obeyed.

"Now come closer."

The order was once again fulfilled. Illya slightly slapped Napoleon's butt.

"Put the umbrella between your legs, Napoleon. I mean, Edward."

"In what manner, sir?"

"Hold it tight between your knees and let the handle stick out upwards from behind."

"Alright, sir."

Napoleon obeyed his order and clasped the umbrella between his knees. Illya bent down and stretched his hand to unbutton Napoleon's fly. It wasn't that easy to find it beneath the jacket and the wastecoat, especially, as he wasn't able to see where it was. As a result he had to get off his chair and place himself behind Napoleon, perching himself slightly on the umbrella handle.

Illya unbuttoned Napoleon's trousers and moved them downwards, exposing his seductive juicy butt. Unable to resist himself, he also touched his penis ensuring that it was hard. Then Illya unzipped his own trousers.

"Damn! We don't have any lube," he realised suddenly.

Napoleon fidgeted.

"But, sir..." he said like a student who knew the answer despite not being asked for it.

"Ah, yes."

Illya took the umbrella by its handle and touched Napoleon's dick with it.

"We have something..."

He lied down on his back and moved to be under his partner. Napoleon was standing above him on all fours. Illya wetted his fingers in his spit and started moving them rhythmically around Napoleon's dick. In his right hand he held the umbrella that he was moving between Napoleon's legs.

"Don't fall on me, please, Mr. Applegate."

Napoleon chortled. Illya was moving his hands very methodically and thoroughly. Napoleon was moving in the same rhythm.

"Now..." he murmured quietly after a while.

Illya bent forward and caught Napoleon's penis with his mouth. A few more moves and Mr. Applegate came. Illya always finished what he started. He got out from under Napoleon who got a bit limp, kneeled, crawled back to Napoleon's ass, bent down close to it and spitted out all the sperm he had in his mouth. Now he could commence. Illya slowly entered Napoleon and started moving smoothly. He closed his eyes. There was nothing in the world better than this. He let go of the umbrella. Back and forth, back and forth... This wonderful ass that he was holding with both of his hands became the source of his greatest pleasure. Napoleon was keeping his posture, but it was evident that he was helping the action with all of his muscles. He had very strong legs... Napoleon's sperm in his butt was drying off because of heat and friction, so, Illya added some more spit. Faster, he had to move faster... Illya accelerated and came with a loud sigh.

"You're hired, Mr. Applegate..."

Chapter Text

Napoleon was lying in bed in Illya's bedroom and looking at the ceiling. It was absolutely white and quite smooth. But it was possible to spot the difference between it and the ceiling in Napoleon's bedroom. Uneven paint in some places. Black dots... Napoleon never realised he remembered the differences between the ceilings so well. When did he manage to study them like that?

Illya came out of the bathroom wearing his shirt and trousers, but with no shoes nor socks.

"Carry on," said Illya.

Napoleon pensively looked at the ceiling, licked his lips and continued:

"And then I had to manipulate Mrs. Karda a bit. Otherwise it would never work."

"But really, leopards!"

"Yeah. Maybe I shouldn't have taken the name Applegate." Napoleon looked sideways at Illya who had sat down on the corner of the bed.

Illya chuckled. The sound of that name made blood move faster in his veins.

"But you really did look like Cary Grant character from Bringing Up Baby."

"Yes, I know." Napoleon rubbed his chin meaningfully. "Do you want to go see something else tomorrow?" He placed his head on his palm and looked directly at Illya.

"I don't know, what if we're busy."

"We can't plan anything ahead."

"Never."

"Never." Echoed Napoleon. He winked shortly and nodded towards the bed. "Are you going to lie down?"

"First take off your socks, trousers and shirt. You're not going to sleep here fully clothed."

"Alright."

Napoleon got up from the bed.

"Show me now how you beat up that giant with your shirt." Asked Illya looking at Napoleon unbuttoning his shirt.

"Do you want to get some?"

"Well, come on."

"If it hurst, you asked for it."

Napoleon took off his shirt, held it by the sleeves and showed the hit. Illya dodged it.

"Not impressed."

"Don't duck then."

Napoleon came closer to Illya and repeated the hit. It smacked Illya's hand.

"Ay!" yelped Illya.

"You asked for it." Replied Napoleon unbuttoning his trousers.

Illya snorted, approached Napoleon and threw him on the floor with a quick judo move, now he was on top of him.

"Illya, it's not comfortable on the floor."

"So what."

He touched Napoleon's nose with his nose and got up.

"You know, one day I will save your life and you'll pay for it."

"Dream on." Said Illya looking down on Napoleon.

Napoleon knocked him down from his feet with his leg and caught him tightly in his arms.

"What are you gonna do if I don't let you go?"

"I will bite your chin off."

"Well, try it then."

Illya moved his face to Napoleon's and caught his chin with his teeth. Napoleon laughed and let him go. Illya changed his position and clenched Napoleon's hips between his legs.

"You said yourself it wasn't comfortable on the floor, and now what are you leading towards?"

"A good agent doesn't care for comfort." Said Napoleon and touched Illya's cheek.

"Stop..."

"What?.."

"Being like that."

Illya slipped downwards and removed Napoleon's trousers.

"You deserve it, hero."

He got up, got naked and fetched lube. Then he sat down on Napoleon's hips.

"Are you?.."

"Yes."

He slowly lowered himself on Napoleon's hard penis and started moving.

Chapter Text

"Illya, why..."

He was squatting by the Christmas tree and fixing the fairy lights.

"We can do without these little lights. Aren't they a bit dangerous?"

"But you know that they aren't, mum. Please, stop distracting me, I'm already almost done."

"Alright."

She left the living room and Illya glanced at the now empty door frame. They will have an actual Christmas, as is right and proper.

***

"Do I have to stuff a turkey, Illya? Maybe, I could make a pork stew instead?"

"As you say."

***

In the evening they were sitting in the living room and Illya was drinking whiskey. His mother was reading a book.

"Do you remember... in 1940..." she said without looking up from the book.

"Yes, I do."

"We lit some candles," now she looked at him expecting him to look at her.

"And read Gogol."

"Me and your dad danced..."

"With no music."

"You laughed so hard!"

"And you too."

"It's so sad he isn't with us now..."

"He wouldn't approve of this."

"Of what?"

"This isn't the Orthodox Christmas."

"I think he would understand..."

"Maybe."

Mother sighed and got up from her armchair. She approached Illya and tousled his hair.

"You are not here, you are not with me now."

Illya sighed.

"Where are you, Illyusha?'

***

Napoleon was planning to leave for Monte-Carlo in the morning, but as if his body was acting out of spite, he just couldn't fall asleep. He was laying in his bed alone and counting the hours before morning. He had no more wish to go to Monte-Carlo, he didn't want to spend his Christmas there. Or maybe he did, but... The company was not right. They shouldn't have made that decision. It's been a month. It's been a month already...

It's been a month already since Napoleon and Illya decided that they needed to stop their off-work relationship. Even that what could be called friendship was in the past. Everything started when Marion Raven came back on stage. Napoleon could see that she and Illya were perfect for each other. Illya could never get a second chance like that. And Illya understood it as well. It was a real miracle that they had a chance to meet for the second time.

They dated for about a week. Napoleon decided to get himself a girlfriend as well and started appearing everywhere accompanied by Sandy, a gorgeous stewardess, very funny and very sexy. Then the story with his double happened. After that Sandy didn't last long. And Illya... Illya kept his distance, but it was obvious that the change in Napoleon's behaviour, when he was replaced by his double, distressed and frustrated Illya more than it did Sandy.

But the real Napoleon never saw how anxious and sad he was and he couldn't know... So Illya said to himself.

Illya is better off this way. And now his mother is in Jersey, so, he isn't alone. It's better this way. Napoleon told himself.

***

"Why do you want to celebrate this Christmas with me? Have you got no friends?"

"It's a family holiday, mum."

"But not in our family. There's also the New Year and then our Christmas."

"Yes, but..."

"You shouldn't celebrate it with me. I can see that you need somebody else. You told me you had a friend. Does he spend Christmas with his family?"

"Hardly..."

"Well, who with then? Invite him, what if he comes. I'd love to meet him."

Illya shook his head.

"What, have you quarrelled? You aren't friends anymore? Don't be such a stuck up, Illya! If he's your true friend, just call him and ask."

"Eh... Okay, mum."

***

Napoleon let himself get enough sleep. He decided not to go to Monte-Carlo. At ten a.m. he was standing before the door of Illya's apartment. There was no answer.

When he came back to his place, he heard his phone ring, but it ended before he opened the door. Then his communicator went off.

"What's that, Illya? Nothing happened?.. With you two?.. I... I'll come by, okay."

Chapter Text

"I had two cats in my childhood. Their names were Pushinka and Snezhinka. It would be Fluffy and Snowflake in English. Pushinka was grey. They would catch mice in the yard all the time, but when they were at home, it was hard to tell that they were such good hunters, because at home they were extremely proud and majestic. They were very big and had long thick fur."

Napoleon opened his eyes with displeasure.

"All of that is sure fascinating, but why don't fall asleep?"

Illya was lying on his back, looking at the ceiling, he continued slowly:

"You don't understand, Napoleon, but this is important. I feel like you have to know everything about me. Because I think that this is it, it will last."

Napoleon turned towards him and grasped his pillow under his head. He was looking at Illya fixedly.

"You think it will last?.. I understand where it's coming from, but... I never think about distant future." He said in a somewhat detached manner still closely and tensely looking at Illya.

"Yes... But, you know what, I think that however long out future is, it's going to be common now."

"Illya... Do you really think so?"

"It seems to me this way."

"Listen, it's difficult for me... I..." Napoleon made a deep sigh. "I spent years to stop thinking of the future. That's why I've always been alone. And that's why I'm with you know. Remember, it all started as something we did in the moment. But... yes. You're right. If I tried to think of my future, I wouldn't be able to see one without you. You realise that this wasn't supposed to happen?"

"I do."

Napoleon lied on his back and started looking at the ceiling as well.

"And now... Now I think that I love you. Really love you, and that scares me."

Illya quickly turned towards him, leaned over him and kissed him on the lips.

"We have failed." He said.

"We're finished."

"There's nothing but a sea of troubles ahead and then a painful death."

"Together."

"Together."

Napoleon embraced Illya and held him tightly.

"We're terrible spies, get that?" he whispered him in the ear.

"The worst ones."

"And now let's sleep. You'll tell me about your cats later."

"Alright. But I will tell you everything about them."

"Oh my goodness, what a nightmare, I thought I was casting my lot with somebody else and not a career cat lover!"

"What is that, a proposal, Napoleon Solo?"

"You can tell yourself that! Nobody managed to get me to the altar."

"It's just because I haven't tried yet. I love you too, Napoleon, and you won't escape that."

"I have never heard anything scarier in my life."

"Oh you will hear more. Because I won't stop saying that."

"And you'll keep threatening me?"

"Worse than ever."

That night they fell asleep holding each other for the first time.

Chapter Text

The bar was full of people and smoke. Illya was speaking loudly because otherwise he wouldn't be heard. And he clearly enjoyed almost shouting because he was more emotional at that moment than he cared to admit. Napoleon was answering him as loudly, but not as enthusiastically.

"And then my mum told me, 'Illya, you are already thirty, you need to get married, you are not taking it seriously enough, I am old, I need granchildren.'"

"I can understand where she's coming from, but that's a bit too much."

"She says, 'If you brought me here, then please, be so kind, do this nice thing for me.'"

"A nice thing? For her? But what about you?"

"It's not important what about me. She says she's lonely."

"But you already spend every free day with her."

"She needs grandchildren, not me!"

"Well, did you tell her that your job doesn't allow for marriage?"

"Yes, I did."

"And what did she say?"

"And she said, 'Job isn't a wolf, it won't run away to the forest.'"

"What?"

"That's a Russian proverb. And I told her, it might run away. And she tells me: 'Illya, well, you aren't a fool, you wouldn't bring me here in that case. If your job perspectives were so flimsy, you would had left me in Kiev.'"

"Hard to argue with that logic. But that still isn't a reason to do anything."

"Yes, but you understand... While it stays this way, I'll have to spend every weekend with her. And I'm already tired. We hadn't lived in the same country for more than ten years. I didn't think it would be that hard."

"Well, if you like, I could call you to work on these days."

"It won't work for a long time. A couple of weeks or a month at most. And then the same old story."

"I could visit your mother with you."

Illya finished his whiskey and asked for a refill.

"And what would she think? She'll ask you to find me a wife."

"And I could promise her to do it."

"Well, thank you. That's exactly what was missing in my life."

"If we both visit her, she won't feel as lonely."

"You know, actually, yes."

"Maybe you could find her some friends?"

"What kind of friends? Immigrants from the Russian Empire?.. You know, it could work, but I don't know any of them and finding them is a spy mission on its own."

"Well, if you want, you could take a holiday..."

Illya suddenly froze looking at the far end of the bar.

"What's there?" asked Napoleon cautiously.

"I think it's Esteban Ramirez..."

"Wait, that one?"

"Yes. We need to check if that's him... I'll do it." Illya downed the whiskey glass he had, pulled the shirt cuffs to stick out of his jacket and ruffled his hair.

Illya left the counter and walked in an uneven pace towards the corner where, on a small coach, with his side to them, was sitting a man who looked like Ramirez.

Walking past him he suddenly stopped and grabbed him by the shoulder.

"Manuel! Manuel, it's you!" Illya hugged him. "Manuel, I thought I'd never see you again! I missed you so much!"

Pseudo-Esteban moved further to the corner in shock, and Illya sat down by his left side, placing his right hand on the man's right shoulder and taking his left hand with his.

"Who are you? Go away! I don't know you!"

"You won't even kiss me after such a long parting?.." Illya moved his face way too close to him. "Alright, I'm leaving." Illya realised that a bit more and he'd get hit in the face.

***

"Was it necessary to do it that way?" asked Napoleon who was driving them home.

"It did the job."

"But it wasn't even him, you simply scared an innocent man. You could do it in a calmer way."

"I just tried to do something new."

"Don't do it."

"Listen, stop lecturing me, I get enough of that from my mum. I did what I had to do."

"But you could do it differently."

"What's done is done." Illya turned away to the side window.

"I hated seeing you do that," said Napoleon trying as hard as he could not to look at Illya.

"That's it! That's what you should had started with! What, were you jealous?" now Illya was looking at Napoleon.

Napoleon hesitated.

"No."

"You were jealous."

"Maybe, a little bit."

"No, a lot. Now you understand how I feel?"

"But... you know me. It's never serious."

"And you don't know me?"

"I know you, but..."

"Napoleon, you're a blockhead. But now I know something useful."

"You should drink less."

"And you should flirt less."

"Me? I didn't flirt with anyone today!"

"Hahaha! Today! And yesterday I didn't drink!"

"Listen, I'll drive you to your mother now."

"Don't you dare."

"I'm driving, I can leave you in Jersey."

"Just try! I'll get a wife then!"

"Listen, Illya, tomorrow you'll regret your words."

"Alright, no wife. But... Anyway, I won't tell you anything. Drive me home."

"What's on your mind?"

"As if I'd tell you!"

"Illya!"

"Nothing, nothing. But I think I'll really take a holiday to find my mum some Russian friends."

"I don't like the sound of it."

"Listen, I'm not going to do anything bad, calm down."

"That's better."

"That is better. And this Saturday you're coming to my mother's with me."

"Of course I am."

Chapter Text

It was Saturday and there was no urgent business. That's why Illya and Napoleon drove to New Jersey in order to have their dinner with Illya's mother. She lived in a small apartment in an old building, it had one bedroom and a long history. The flat was cozy and it looked like it's been long since lived it and made perfect for its inhabitant even though madam Kuryakina came here not long ago.

When she met Napoleon for the first time, they agreed to speak French because it was a language they both understood.

"Bonjour, madame Kouriakine." [Hello, madam Kuryakin.] He kissed her hand, she accepted it with dignity.

"Ça va, monsieur Solo?" [How are you, monsieur Solo?]

"Здравствуй, мама", Illya greeted her in Russian.

"Allons à la cuisine." [Let's go to the kitchen.]

"Eh bien," [Alright,] Illya switched to French as well.

She poured them tea in the kitchen.

"Do you like tea?" asked Illya.

"Well, yes."

"Mes chers, ce n'est pas courtois de parler une langue qui n'est pas compris par chaqu'un de nous." [My darlings, it's not polite to speak a language that's not understood by everyone of us.] Mother protested. "Mais j'ai déjà commencé à étudier l'anglais. Et bientôt nous pourrons tous parler la même langue!" [But I have already started learning English. And soon we will all be able to speak the same language!]

"Mais madame Kouriakine! J'ai commencé à étudier le russe!" [But madam Kuryakin! I have started learning Russian!] replied Napoleon.

"Monsier Solo! Vous êtes trop gentil!" [Monsieur Solo! You are too kind!]

"N'est il pas vraiment." [Yes, isn't he.] Illya remarked with no joy in his voice.

"Hein? Ne tu le pense pas?" [Huh? Don't you think so?] asked Napoleon playfully.

"Napoleon, s'il te plaît..." [Napoleon, please...]

"Est-ce que vous voudriez de manger du borchtch?" [Would you like some borscht?] asked mother.

"Maman! Merci! Je ne le mangeais pas par des années!" [Mum! Thank you! I haven't had it for ages!]

"Borchtch? Je ne le mangeais jamais." [Borscht? I've never tried it.] Napoleon raised his eyebrows.

"Oh, vous allez l'aimer!" [Oh, you will love it!] assured madam Kuryakina.

"Oui, Napoleon, si tu ne l'aimes, tu es un fou." [Yes, Napoleon, if you don't like it, you're a fool.] Even though it was a joke, Illya's face wasn't reflecting it.

"Pardon? Madame Kouriakine, votre fils est trop cru." [I beg your pardon? Madam Kuryakin, your son is too rude.]

"Illya, ai de la façon. Je ne t'a nourris comme ça." [Illya, have some manners. I didn't raise you like that.]

"Oui, Illya, qu'est-ce que tu vas m'apprendre?" [Yes, Illya, what are you going to teach me?]

"Arrêtes ça. Arrêtez. Arrêtez vous deux. Est-ce que vous allez vous moquer de moi toujours maintenant? Je ne devais pas vous laisser de vous faire connaissance." [Stop it. Stop you both. Are you going to laugh at me all the time now? I shouldn't have let you meet each other.]

"Oui, Illya, c'était une faute. Madame Kouriakine est ma meilleuse amie maintenant." [Yes, Illya, it was a mistake. Madam Kuryakin is my best friend now.]

"Oh, monsieur Solo! Vous êtes vraiment trop gentil!" [Oh, monsieur Solo! You really are too kind!]

***

After dinner Illya's mother served them coffee in the living room and went to wash the dishes.

"Should we help her?" asked Napoleon.

"No, I proposed her my help many times, but she keeps refusing."

"Your mother is such an educated woman. She's probably having a hard time having nobody to talk to."

"Yes. I was wrong to bring her here."

"No, but it's good that you're together now."

"It depends on how you look at it. You see, the last time we really kept in touch was in the early 50s. Then I left for Europe and never came back to the Union again. I don't even know what to talk to her about now. We're very different. And she only thinks about having me married in order not to worry for my future anymore."

"But you wrote each other letters."

"Writing few pages a month is easier than talking every week."

"Probably. And... have you tried explaining to her that she shouldn't worry for your future?"

"Sure. But she wants grandchildren even if only out of boredom. She has nothing to do."

"She could make a good nanny for hire if she spoke English."

"I need to find her some friends who could teach her. But I only know people who go to jazz clubs."

"Oh? Never heard of them."

"Well, it's my private business."

"Huh, I thought I knew everything about you."

"Far from it."

"I'm intrigued."

"If you really knew everything about me, you'd get bored."

"No. And you said yourself that you wanted me to."

"And you told me to go to sleep."

"Illya, it wasn't what I meant."

"What, am I supposed to read your thoughts?"

"No, but..."

"Okay, I'm sorry, I just don't know what to do with her, that's why I'm nervous."

"That's alright, I understand."

"No, you don't!.. No. Let's leave, please."

"But we..."

"We need to talk. And not with her around."

"Alright."

They told her that they were needed at the office. On their drive home, Illya said that he had to think, so, they rode in silence. To the right side of them was blackness of the ocean, and Napoleon, who was driving, looked at it from time to time, sometimes pausing his eyes at Illya who was also looking at the black emptiness. At the Hudson bridge Illya turned to Napoleon and said:

"Don't think that I have an issue with you. I just don't want to talk now."

"I understand perfectly."

***

An hour later they were in bed at Illya's place. Napoleon was stroking his hair and Illya was speaking:

"This... everything was supposed to be different, you see..."

"I think I do, but go on."

"I... I'm too used to being alone and independent. It doesn't apply to you. You're fine. But now that she's here... You know, it's a bit like when I was dating these girls. They always say things like "why do you look so sad?", "you should go out more", "eat more fruit" and other nonsense like that. And I hate that.

"Well, I also say stuff like that."

"In your case you only propose. It's something that I can think about and make a decision myself. They just say it categorically. As if they understand what I need better than me. I've been living on my own for more than ten years. And I have lived through more than most people. Why do they think then that I can't take care of myself."

"They just show that they care this way. Frankly, I think it's rather cute."

"Maybe my mum should adopt you."

"Maybe. Why not. We'd go to clubs and restaurants and teach each other languages. She's a very intelligent woman and I could talk to her about anything."

"Perhaps you met me just to get to her."

"Perhaps."

Illya took his pillow and hit Napoleon with it. Napoleon pretended to be shocked and hurt and then smiled. Illya put the pillow back under his head.

"You see, with her I feel like I'm eleven again. And when I was eleven, the war was just over. You can imagine it wasn't the best time of my life. And she still continued teaching me French, music and Mathematics, and I saw no point in it. I thought I'd be a soldier like my father had to become. Languages and music didn't help him to survive the war. Right now I of course understand that she was right. But... she just never listened to me."

"I tried to imagine what your life was like back then, when I was reading your file. You had to live through a lot."

"We lived in the Ural during the war, we were evacuated there. I was lucky."

"It's still a lot worse than what we had here."

"Luckily, it's not a competition. I don't want to think of the past. And she reminds me of it."

Napoleon embraced him:

"Yes, let's not speak of the past. The present is a lot more pleasant."

"You're absolutely right," Illya returned the embrace. Only in moments like this he felt like he was truly where he belonged.

Chapter Text

Napoleon didn't like jazz. It was too unpredictable, always filled with sometimes uneven sadness, it had a strange rhythm that he didn't know how to move to. In other words, it was too much like his life in its worst moments, for example, now, as he was on a plane to the Balkans, trying but failing to sleep.

Two weeks ago Illya got a gunshot wound in his shoulder and they hardly saw each other since then. When Napoleon came back to New York, he had enough time only to sleep in a bit and then he had to leave for another mission. The first time it happened, Illya came to him and they managed to talk a little. The second time Illya was at his mother's and he wanted to come by, but didn't manage it on time, because Napoleon was sent to the Balkans. All that time Napoleon missed him, sometimes less, sometimes more. Now he still thought about him all the time, but it was somehow different...

Finally, his mind showed him some mercy by letting him fall asleep. His dreams were fragmented and anxious, there was nothing clear or interesting in them, but there was one constant image that appeared here and there and it was, of course, the image of Illya. In feelings that he caused, Illya was like a force of nature, strong and sharp. Like a punch in the face. But now, when he hadn't seen him for two weeks, this feeling changed somehow. He still wanted to see him and be with him, but if during the first week it exhibited itself as constant numb pain whenever he had nothing to do, now it got even worse.

When he thought of Illya, he felt sad, and that sadness was weighing on him. It was one thing when he could make a call, talk, apologise, make a date, meet up, hug him, kiss him... It was something very different when he couldn't do any of that and the next evening together seemed unreal, far and unlikely. The will to find a solution didn't go away. If that's love and it stays as intense, as heart wrenching even when it has no escape, then he didn't want to be in love.

Short lived romances, affairs and flings were simply wonderful for him. But needing someone, being unable to live without that person, he didn't need that. In half an hour his plane would land and he would have to be quick thinking, efficient and emotionally detached, in other words, the complete opposite of how he wanted to be at that moment.

He knew that it was too late to try to suppress his feelings and that together they both were happier than otherwise. But when they were apart...

He spent two weeks on his own. Yes, he talked to other people, but more than anyone he talked to himself and that didn't make him very happy.

He couldn't allow himself to be sad. He wasn't an artist nor a writer, he was somebody who was supposed to perfectly reflect other people's emotions and expectations towards him in order to be able to penetrate their thoughts. Half of his job was to make those he worked with like him, and he could do it very well. Emotions were supposed to slide on him as on a mirror, without leaving any cracks or scratches, no trace in sight.

And all that time he used that model in his personal life as well. Nobody left any traces, any scratches in many years.

He called the flight attendant and asked for a cup of coffee.

Love... How silly. To fall in love with someone who was... perfect... unbelievably beautiful... intelligent... petty... fond of talking only of himself... simultaneously cute and masculine... complex... different...

Illya really loved talking of himself. But not in a bad way. He could and loved to listen. But he never asked about anything. Did Napoleon want to be asked? About his childhood, about how the War treated his family, about Korea, about who and how much he loved... No, actually, he didn't want that. But on some surface, egotistic, childish level he wanted it to happen. Nothing good could come out of it, even if he was asked, he'd change the subject or refuse to answer. And he knew all of that.

The flight attendant came to take the cup back and tell him to fasten his seatbelt because they were ready for landing. He smiled to her and felt the usual urge to flirt with her. Then came a thought as usual that he was in the middle of a mission and he had to wait.

It was so easy when he would go on a date or two with a girl, make love to her or even just kiss her, and then disappear from her life leaving only a memory. The fact that Illya was jealous was understandable and even natural, but still silly because he seeked in these meetings something very different from what he found in Illya. He liked making them feel good, giving them compliments, seeing their eyes sparkle with joy, their faces light up. He knew very well that many girls were undeservedly harsh on themselves, and sometimes a couple of nice words made them blush. Deep inside he hoped that after a date with him they started understanding what they were worth and got themselves some standards. Long ago he read some French writer say that every girl needed an adventure like this before getting married and he did his part.

Of course, it wasn't all pure humanism. He loved making love to them. He was fuelled by their joy. First dates were his absolute favourite thing. He was curious about what they liked. He loved listening to their stories. Maybe he understood the world of women better than the world of men. But he didn't want to join it. The idea of marriage scared him, he saw it as the killer of love. Inequality was bound to exist in a marriage between a man and a woman. He didn't want to be a tyrant, but he thought that he would become one.

Maybe that's why the idea of sharing his life with a man wasn't that foreign to him. No stay-at-home wife, no children, no sense of guilt caused by ruined holidays or unfinished chores.

Illya understood as well as he did that each time they met was a bit of a miracle. Even the best wife wouldn't be able to understand why his job left him empty on some days and exhilarated on others. But with Illya he missed the female touch. He wanted to go on a date to a silly restaurant, eat a big ice cream, giggle...

And with Illya everything was serious. Way too serious. In all the meanings of this word.

He left the plane and ran down the stairway holding up his coat collar to hide from the cold drizzle that greeted him. If he only had a hat, he'd be a true noir movie hero.

At the airport he found a phone and dialed Illya's number with the American and New York codes.

"Hello, Illya? I've arrived. Thanks. No. I don't know how long. I'll try. I can't use channel D, the craftsmen are too good. Yes. Later. Bye."

The conversation didn't make things easier. On the contrary, he became even more miserable. He left the airport in a fast walk.