Two Men in a Boat
"So what are you doing with your days off?" asked Napoleon Solo, bounding into the office he shared with his partner, Illya Kuryakin.
Illya looked up momentarily from the report he was writing and shrugged. "Not much—catching up on my sleep I suppose."
"Don't you want to get away from this heat?" demanded Napoleon.
The two agents had been on back-to-back assignments for the last three months with hardly a day off between. Now, to add insult to injury, New York was sweltering in an early summer heatwave.
Then Mr Waverly had unexpectedly announced that they were both due to take some leave; week to be exact. Napoleon could only put this unusual turn of events down to the fact that they were both ailing slightly—himself with the remnants of a heavy cold, which he could not shake off, and Illya with a recurring headache, which caused his temper to be even less predictable than usual. Added to that, both had minor wounds, on the mend but still causing discomfort. Now the Russian took off his glasses and massaged his forehead.
"I shall restrict my vacation activities to places with air conditioning."
"You should get out of the city for a day or two," persisted Napoleon. He planned to take his 30ft yacht, the Pursang, for few days' cruising, perhaps as far as the Hamptons if the wind was fair. By that time he should be sufficiently relaxed to do some serious socialising and he knew just where to find the girls to do it with.
"Napoleon," said Illya, reasonably, "the reason I am so tired is that I have been away constantly. I have almost forgotten what the inside of my apartment looks like."
"Well perhaps when you remember, you'll decide to take a real vacation. I'm aiming to take the Pursang round Montauk Point to the Hamptons, maybe stop off a night or two or just sail right back again."
Illya looked a little wistful for a moment, but he replied acerbically, "I take it your crew are already packing their bikinis."
Napoleon started to reply but a fit of coughing stopped him. Illya poured him a glass of water from the carafe on his desk and handed it to him without comment. When the attack had passed Napoleon took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes, then drank some of the water. Once he was able to speak again, he gave a wry smile.
"I'm a health hazard. I don't want to end up playing doctors and nurses when they succumb to this cold I've gotten. No I'm going by myself—unless you want to come?" In fact, Napoleon nearly always sailed single-handed, relishing the time alone and preferring to do his socialising on land.
Illya gave a dry laugh. "What, you're asking me because I didn't catch your exotic foreign bug in Morocco? How can anyone catch cold in Morocco?"
"It's a special kind of hot-weather cold, which is why I'm going to treat it with some fresh sea air. Seriously, why don't you come? The weather forecast is good. You're not worried about being seasick are you?"
Illya glared at him.
"You did look a trifle—ah—green on that rubber raft last year, but the Pursang doesn't bob around like that thing, she rides like a dream."
Napoleon's eyes grew misty as he thought about his beloved boat. She was an extravagance, but although he did not manage to make as much use of her as he would like, he could not bear to part with her. He had once heard it said that owning a boat was akin to standing under a cold shower, tearing up dollar bills. Well, if that was what it took to keep the Pursang, then so be it. She was all his, and it meant that at times like this, when he just had to get away from the city, she was ready and waiting. A faithful mistress. He smiled at the analogy, then amended it—no, a faithful friend.
The one other contender for that designation growled, "You just want someone to pull sails up and down and steer you away from rocks while you sit sipping martinis, I suppose."
Solo laughed. "Yeah. Something like that. What do you say?" He waggled his eyebrows up and down and grinned.
"I know nothing about sailboats, as you well know. My experience has been mainly confined to frigates."
"Now's your chance to learn. We'll have some fun together for once. Bring your guitar."
Illya's face took on an expression of horror. "On a boat—it would get wet!"
"Well you could bring the old one," laughed Napoleon.
Illya was tempted. The heat just exacerbated his headache and he was awash with painkillers. Fresh air would be wonderful. He was a little prone to seasickness to be sure, but in the Russian navy, where he'd served for six months as a teenager, it had always cleared up after the first day. Solo proposed to be on the water for several days.
"Will I be able to sleep or are you expecting us to keep four hourly watches and then sling a hammock?" He asked, yawning hugely and rubbing his sore head again.
Solo's grin became mock indignant. "The Pursang isn't an old naval tub. She's a beautiful example of marine engineering. She sleeps six at a push. Two in perfect comfort." He sat down on Illya's desk and leaned towards him. His voice became enticing. "Just think of lying on a bunk rocked by the water, the soft sound of the wind in the rigging gently lulling you to sleep, and the cry of seabirds the only noise you'll hear for days."
Illya still wasn't convinced. "What about the eating arrangements? I don't wish to spend my vacation eating beans out of a can."
"I've never known that to be a problem for you before, as long as there are plenty of them. But don't worry. I intend to have her well provisioned. And if it's to be two of us in the one cabin, I promise, no beans."
"And you're aiming for the Hamptons?" Illya was nibbling the bait at the mention of food. "I've heard there are some good restaurants there."
"The best. And nightclubs. We can go and pick up a couple of girls and . . . "
Illya grimaced. "You mean you'll pick up someone and I'll be left with her friend . . ."
"Who'll probably be a devastating conversationalist and be able to wow you with her knowledge of modern physics. Come on Illya, you know the intelligent ones always fall for you."
"Oh yes," sneered the Russian, sarcastically, "like that intelligent model on the Adriatic Express last month. All she wanted to talk about was her latest brand of makeup and where to get a good vodka martini."
"I didn't notice you and her doing much talking. You were too busy . . ."
"All right, I'll come."
Napoleon jumped off Illya's desk and slapped him on the shoulder delightedly. Illya winced at the effect Solo's exuberance had on his headache. Napoleon changed his expression to one of concern. "Ah—only if you really want to. I can sail single handed."
"I want to. Now will you please go and let me get on with this report or it will be a mute point."
"Moot." corrected Napoleon and left the office grinning widely and humming 'A Life on the Ocean Wave'.
Illya wondered what he had let himself in for.
Napoleon went down to the marina in Port Washington, where the Pursang had her permanent berth, a day earlier than Illya. He wanted to oversee the preparation for their trip and take care of the provisions. The services of the boatyard were excellent, but he had not had the chance to see his beloved boat since she had been put back in the water after having her keel scraped and anti-fouled. There was a lot he wanted to check.
He rightly assumed his partner might find the whole preparation business boring. Illya had, however, shown an interest in the navigation charts and was last seen heading towards the public library for books about the geology and ecology of the area they planned to visit.
When Illya arrived at the marina the next day, he was overwhelmed by the sheer number of boats, of all shapes and sizes. There were so many berths that he did not know where to start looking for Napoleon and the Pursang. Their arrangement had been loose. "See you at Manhasset Yacht Club Sunday," had been Napoleon's exact words.
Then, suddenly Illya had a brainwave. He reached into his pocket and took out his communicator.
"Illya?" came his partner's surprised voice after a few moments. Napoleon had obviously had to scramble for his pen, "You gave me a fright. I thought it was the Old Man to say this vacation was all a dream and to get my ass back to HQ."
"No, it is I. You may want to send me back to HQ when you see how much I've brought. Do we really need all this stuff?"
"Relax. The Pursang has plenty of room. Why don't you just come aboard?"
"I would if I knew where you were. I didn't realise sailing was such a popular sport. There must be a fortune tied up round here."
"Stay where you are and I'll come and get you."
Several minutes later Napoleon appeared, walking jauntily along one of the pontoons. Illya hardly recognised him, he looked so different from his everyday self. This Napoleon sported a skipper's cap and sunglasses, casual navy trousers and a dazzlingly white tee-shirt. On his feet he wore leather deck shoes. He looked every inch the weekend sailor. Illya had already noticed that this appeared to be the accepted dress code at the marina.
The Russian regarded his own worn jeans, his pale blue plaid shirt he always wore to relax in and his disreputable sneakers, and felt inadequately attired for this environment. He picked up his bag, his waterproof coat and his second best guitar and went to meet his partner, feeling like a hippie in the Ritz.
"There she is!" announced Napoleon, gesturing grandly at a medium-sized, freshly painted, red and white yacht, moored a little way out in the deeper water. To Illya's eye, and from this distance, it looked no different from all the others they had passed.
"Well, what do you think?" demanded Solo.
"Um—nice colour. Are you going to pipe me aboard?"
"Aye aye Admiral Kuryakin. This way." He stepped into a smallish rubber dinghy with an outboard motor. Illya threw in his bag and coat, but kept a hold on his guitar as he climbed aboard and sat in the bow. Solo started the engine and cast off. Once at his boat he killed the motor. "Welcome aboard the Pursang."
Napoleon gave Illya a quick guided tour and showed him where to stow his luggage. Back in the open cockpit he handed his friend a cold beer, which he seemed to produce from nowhere. Then he sat back, legs crossed, cap pushed back on his head and sighed. "This is the life, eh tovarisch? Why do we bother with all that spy business?"
Illya accepted the beer gratefully. The weather was still hot, but at least here there was a cooling breeze over the water. However, he would reserve judgement about the merits of the sailing life until he'd had a little more experience.
"Hmm. I can see why you don't visit the Pursang very often. It took so long to get here. Why don't you moor it somewhere closer?"
Napoleon considered and then laughed. "What, you think I should keep her in the lake in Central Park? No, look around you. Within half an hour I can be out in open water and you'd think New York was a million miles away. Besides, I know she's well looked after here."
Illya's lips quirked as he had a mental picture of Napoleon trying to sail his 30 footer round Central Park Lake among the rowboats and the ducks.
"Well I admit the breeze is welcome, as is the beer," he said.
Napoleon regarded his friend steadily. He looked pale and tired. They both really needed this time out. "How's the headache?"
"Still there. It seems to have taken up residence. How's the cold?"
"Much better already. We'll soon blow them both away." Napoleon was anxious for Illya to enjoy himself. Having persuaded him to come, he wanted to show his best friend the delights of sailing the Sound.
"I thought we'd have lunch first and then get under way," he added, by way of an extra temptation. " We can just have a leisurely sail this afternoon. Find our sea legs. The wind is perfect now but will probably drop by early evening. I know a nice, quiet place to tie up for the night. No watches. I intend to sleep."
They lunched at the clubhouse and motored out of the marina that afternoon. Illya enjoyed the feeling of the wind whipping his face and hair as they left the shelter of the harbour. The motion was a little choppy but the slight nausea it caused was manageable. He noticed his headache notch down a degree.
Napoleon stood at the helm, his white tee-shirt gleaming, his face and arms already tanned. He looked remarkably at home. "When do we hoist the sail?" the Russian asked.
Napoleon killed the engine and moved over. "Here, you take the helm and I'll get the sails up now. Keep her head into the wind for the moment."
"I hope we don't end up going backwards." Illya knew perfectly well the principles of sailing, but it was all part of the game. He took the tiller.
"Uh oh. Trust me. Just keep her steady on this course and you'll see what I mean."
Illya watched Napoleon's practised movements, his strong, competent hands, as he uncovered the big mainsail and hauled it up. It flapped noisily in the wind while he scrambled nimbly forward and unfurled the foresail. At last he swung back into the cockpit, tidied the complicated arrangement of ropes and smiled contentedly at his partner.
"Now you'll see. Ready? Let me take the helm."
He took over from Illya and turned a little. The mainsail immediately filled, the boat heeled over and they suddenly began sailing, faster than Illya had expected.
"Pull the left hand sheet hard now," he ordered and Illya obeyed. "Harder. Bring it right in. That's it. Fasten it in the cleat. Now sit up here and enjoy."
The foresail had filled and, as Illya pulled it in tighter, the boat picked up speed. He felt a thrill of exhilaration as they slid through the water. The noise of the diesel engine had been replaced by a gentle swishing sound. The choppy motion became smoother and his stomach appreciated the change. He felt a peace settling on him. The wind blew his hair and cooled his skin. The headache notched down another degree. He sat back, enjoying the moment.
Napoleon eyed his partner from behind the dark lenses of his sunglasses. The Russian had a little more colour in his face already. His blond hair, whipped by the wind, blew awry. Playfully, Napoleon plonked the skipper's cap onto his friend's head.
"See, I've made a proper sailor of you already."
They beat back and forth for an hour or so, Napoleon demonstrating how to tack and practising the manoeuvre a few times before handing Illya the tiller. They changed direction and Solo proudly showed his partner how the Pursang could make six knots on a beam reach, just in this gentle wind. He continued to observe the Russian carefully. There was only a small swell to the water and Illya's lunch had so far remained in its rightful place. By the contented look on his face, he was enjoying himself.
They continued sailing, chatting amiably and taking it in turns to steer, for the rest of the afternoon and early evening. As Napoleon had predicted, the wind dropped to almost nothing and now they just idled along. Illya half closed his eyes behind his sunglasses and again watched Napoleon. He had a dreamy look Illya had never seen before. His guard was down. He was completely at ease. Illya felt absurdly pleased to be witness to this other side of his friend. He had been right to accept his partner's invitation. He was going to enjoy this vacation.
The light began to fade as they approached the shore once more.
Illya had imagined that Napoleon would want to stop somewhere for the night where he could seek out some female company. For his own part, he planned to do some reading and play his guitar—something for which he had all too little time these days. He was surprised, therefore, when they headed into a small, quiet bay with just a few mooring buoys, none of which was occupied.
Illya hung over the port side, a boathook in his hand, ready to grab the mooring as Napoleon guided the Pursang in under a single sail. After an anxious moment or two the chain was safely hooked. Solo dropped the sail and showed his partner how to make her fast.
"Aren't you going ashore?" Illya wondered.
Napoleon smiled. "There's not much around, just big houses hidden away for the rich and famous. I was planning on staying aboard. You go ashore if you want."
"I wouldn't mind a swim."
"You could take the dinghy."
"No." Illya started to go below to change, "I fancy a swim. You coming?"
Napoleon shook his head. "No. I'll make a start on dinner. Sea air always gives me an appetite."
Moments later, Illya reappeared, wearing a pair of brief black swimming trunks. He descended the ladder at the stern cautiously, testing the water with his toe. But it seemed it was the perfect temperature, because he smiled and lowered himself into the brine.
The dinner did not take long to put together, since it was just a case of putting out salad and cold salmon from the cool-box and cutting up bread. The wine was still cold as well, as was the vodka and scotch for later. Napoleon assembled the food in the tiny galley, then returned to the cockpit to watch his friend enjoy his swim.
Illya was an exceptionally strong swimmer, much better than Napoleon, and seemed almost as at home in the water as on land. Napoleon had often wondered about that, considering the Russian had grown up in war-torn Kiev, as far as he knew. It was unlikely that he had learned to swim in childhood. He realised there was a lot about his partner that he didn't know.
After a while a fair head broke the surface and the Russian waved and swam round to the Pursang's stern. He climbed the ladder and stood, dripping on the deck, looking a little sheepish. Goosebumps covered his fair skin, which made the golden hairs on his limbs and chest stand up, glistening in the evening sun. His gold-lashed blue eyes were blinking from the combined effects of salt and sun.
"I don't suppose you could get me my towel?" he asked. "I forgot it."
Napoleon looked him up and down and raised his eyebrows. He lifted a lock of limp, wet hair and let it go with an expression of mock disgust. "I guess I'd better. I don't want you dripping all over my cabin." He disappeared and came back with a towel. "You want me to dry you as well?"
Illya rudely snatched the towel from him and started rubbing his wet hair and body vigorously. He removed his swimming trunks and draped them carelessly over the rail, then sat down and continued to dry himself. Napoleon looked on, amused.
"Your lack of modesty is almost as astounding as your lack of manners."
Illya paused in his drying and gave one of his half smiles. "You mean there are people with binoculars and telescopes out there?" he asked, gesturing at the deserted farmland on the shore, "Or are you worried about me corrupting a passing seagull?" He snorted and disappeared below for his clothes, leaving the damp towel where he dropped it.
Napoleon picked up the towel and hung it beside the swim trunks. He straightened the trunks, fingering their silky material—they were still warm.
The sun was going down as the two men ate a leisurely dinner below deck. The wine, followed by vodka and scotch made them both sleepy, and afterwards Illya leaned back comfortably against the bench seat, quietly strumming his guitar. His pale hair fanned out on the cushion like a halo. Napoleon sat opposite him, his game of solitaire half finished.
"Play something Russian."
Illya started strumming 'Kalinka Malinka' noisily.
Napoleon shook his head. "No, not that. Too lively. Play something quiet and slow."
His partner thought for a moment or two, then started to play and hum a slow, haunting tune. After a few bars he put words to the music, closing his eyes as if searching far back in his memory.
Solo tried to make out the Russian words, but Illya's voice was soft and a little husky with wine and vodka. It sounded sad, and the quality of the Russian's voice hinted at some strong feeling. Napoleon leaned back and closed his eyes, enjoying the music and enjoying having his partner aboard.
When he woke an hour or so later, Illya was also fast asleep in his berth in the forepeak, lying almost on his back, one arm flung out carelessly. His hair fell in shiny disarray, spilling back onto the bunk. The guitar lay on the bench and Napoleon quietly moved it beside the Russian and organised his own berth. He lay for a long time, listening to the sound of the water and Illya's gentle snoring. He felt amazingly content. He slept and, oddly, dreamed of running his fingers through silky blond hair.
The next morning Napoleon wakened first. Illya slept on in his little nest in the forepeak. He had hardly moved in the night and his face was flushed with sleep, a hint of golden whiskers showing. Napoleon felt a warm rush of feeling towards this habitually distant partner of his. Last night, when Illya was singing that Russian song, his voice had been full of emotion. That was so unlike the Illya Solo knew at work, the one who kept up the cool facade under the most difficult circumstances; the one who rarely showed his feelings to the world. Napoleon wondered what the song had been about. He would like to hear it again.
Then, with a jolt, he realised that it wasn't the song he wanted to hear again. It was his partner's voice the way it had been last night, husky and filled with emotion.
He immediately set to work cooking breakfast in the tiny galley, chiding himself for such foolishness. "You have to get laid and soon, Solo," he muttered to nobody in particular.
"What?" Illya's voice came sleepily from the forepeak. He sniffed appreciatively. Ham and eggs. "What did you say?" he asked, stumbling towards the tiny head, his morning erection evident beneath his white undershorts.
Napoleon quickly tore his eyes away from that sight. "I thought we'd make for Shelter Island today before setting off round Montauk Point tomorrow. How does that sound? It might be fun to pick up some female company for the evening."
Illya gave a snort of laughter. "A night of celibacy too much for you on vacation? I knew it would be. You don't have to hold back on my account. I realise I'm here for the ride." He disappeared to wash and shave, emerging a few minutes later stark naked. Napoleon fervently wished he wouldn't do that.
He concentrated on cooking the breakfast and tried not to watch his partner. The intimacy of the tiny space in the boat was suddenly stifling. He put the eggs and ham onto plates and carried them up to the cockpit.
"Let's eat in the fresh air." He swallowed as a shiny blond head emerged. His stomach clenched as he saw his partner's bright blue eyes shine with pleasure at the sight of breakfast on a perfect summer's morning in a deserted bay. He felt a visceral jolt as he saw Illya was wearing only his swimming trunks.
"I was hoping for a quick dip before we set out again. I promise to wash the dishes first."
"I should think so. You have to work your passage on this voyage. Steerage only."
"You called me Admiral yesterday." Illya teased and lifted blond brows in mock admonishment.
"That was before you almost missed the mooring. You are demoted to galley slave until further notice."
Illya downed his breakfast with relish. Napoleon discovered his appetite had left him, but forced it down anyway. As Illya took the dishes below and started to investigate the peculiarities of the water pump, Napoleon attempted to compose himself. Somewhere between last night and this morning he had begun to look at his partner differently and it was disturbing him.
Why, he wondered, as he tidied the cockpit, ready for setting sail, was Illya suddenly beguiling him like this? They had been partners for more than two years and had certainly become exceptionally close. So close that each seemed to know what the other was thinking. But this was different. This was almost physical attraction. Damn it—it was physical attraction. He was finding the Russian damned alluring all of a sudden.
The physical evidence of that attraction was making itself felt and Napoleon hurriedly turned away as his partner emerged from below, brandishing his towel. "Sure you don't want to join me?"
There was nothing Napoleon would have liked to do less than put on a pair of revealing swimming trunks at that moment.
"Um, no thanks." He coughed. "My cold's still not quite gone so I'd better not. I'm going to get the sails up. Don't be too long." He tore his eyes away from the sight of Illya's tight little backside in those slinky black trunks and concentrated on making the Pursang ready for sail.
The wind had picked up after yesterday evening's calm and they set sail early to make the most of it. By mid morning they had reached the widest point of the Sound and both shores looked distant. The wind was against them and they were both kept busy as they beat a zigzag course towards the tip of the North Fork.
By early evening they had rounded Orient Point and were heading for the haven of Shelter Island. The wind was behind them now and they made excellent speed. Solo had put up the spinnaker and Illya sat happily and contentedly at the bow, making tiny adjustments to the massive, colourful sail to keep it properly filled.
Illya was proving an able crew and was enjoying himself immensely. For most of the day, Napoleon had been quiet, restricting his conversation to orders and comments about the wind or the trim of the sails. This suited Illya fine. He was happy to do as he was told and happy to be left alone with his thoughts. He had been delighted to wake up that morning with no headache, for what seemed the first time in weeks. He was not interested in looking for company tonight when they arrived at their next port of call, but knew that Napoleon would be restless if he did not have some female attention paid to him soon. Well Napoleon could go off and enjoy himself and he would look after the Pursang. He had a riff in his head, which was crying out to be developed when he had the chance to play his guitar. He hummed it quietly and watched the clouds drift by in the azure sky.
There were several other boats in at the little jetty where Napoleon planned to spend the night. They dined on board as it was already quite late when they arrived. Illya tried his hand at cooking, which consisted of opening a can of steak and boiling potatoes. Afterwards, he served canned apricots and condensed milk, all of which they both consumed as hungrily as if it were haute cuisine. Napoleon continued to keep his own counsel and Illya put this down to anticipation of the evening to come. The Russian had been for another quick swim while the potatoes were boiling and had been aware of his partner's scrutiny as he climbed back aboard.
"It's all right Napoleon. I'm not going to disgrace you. I'll go below to take off my trunks."
More's the pity, thought his partner, and then firmly pushed that thought away as he secured the Pursang's mainsail in its cover.
Napoleon got lucky that night when he went on the prowl. He met up with two girls and their brother who had returned earlier from a day sail in their 40ft cabin cruiser. Their parents were building a house on the island and the whole family came most weekends from Connecticut. Mandy, the older girl, a vivacious redhead, took a shine to Solo instantly and after a decent interval, they paired off.
Napoleon enjoyed a pleasant night, strolling the deserted beach, hand in hand or with his arm around the pretty young woman. They sat down on the moonlit sands and he kissed her, testing the waters. She responded with enthusiasm though with a considerable lack of sophistication or skill. He found he was wholly unable to bring himself to take things further. She was a sweet, innocent girl and her family was nearby. He accepted her offer of a drink aboard the family yacht and allowed himself to be introduced to Mom and Poppa. He spent a sociable hour fabricating a life for himself and promising to visit when he came by again. Then he politely took his leave.
Aboard the Pursang once more, he found Illya asleep in his bunk. His partner snapped awake at his arrival, but on seeing Napoleon, turned over and shut his eyes again, mumbling, "Oh, it's you. Did you make out?"
"If by that you mean did I have a good time, then yes, thank you, I did."
The Russian made an unintelligible noise, which may have been a snort or was perhaps merely a grunt. In any case, he made it clear he was going back to sleep. Napoleon quietly made himself ready for bed.
Once in his bunk, however, he found he was restless. He had been somewhat aroused by Mandy, but her naivety had prevented him from even contemplating sex. Now he found himself uncomfortably hard and thinking not about the pretty redhead, but once again about the blond Russian only a few feet away from him.
He could smell Illya's soap and shampoo. He must have had an all-over wash in the tiny head, probably to get rid of the salt. He could hear his soft, even breath and the little grunts he made in his sleep—so familiar, so . . . beloved. With a groan, Napoleon admitted to himself that Illya had somehow become the most important person in his life. Why else would he have invited him on this trip? Why, when he valued the autonomy the Pursang afforded him on vacation, did he want his partner to accompany him? Somehow, subconsciously, might he have thought it would lead to something more than mere friendship?
He had loved Illya for a long time. That much he knew. But he had always regarded his feelings for his partner to be agape—brotherly. Now he desired him and that was dangerous.
He indulged in a moment or two of imagining them both as lovers. Stolen kisses behind locked doors. Illya spending the night in his bed, then creeping back to his apartment to preserve appearances. U.N.C.L.E. was broadminded enough to turn a blind eye to Napoleon's playboy image, but same-sex relationships were frowned upon. A relationship between U.N.C.L.E.'s two top agents would, apart from anything else, be an open invitation to blackmail if it ever got out.
If it ever got out—it was not going to happen!
That Illya was entirely oblivious to Napoleon's feelings was evident. Otherwise he would not have almost flaunted his body the way he had these past few days. Illya was never consciously sexy. He occasionally flirted when a situation arose which required it, but he never actively pursued sex, to Napoleon's knowledge. Girls came after him and he either tolerated them or not, and occasionally took things further and went out with them. Presumably his sex life was adequate for his needs. He'd certainly not appeared to show an interest in men. And neither had Napoleon. Up to now.
No. Stop right there. This was an absolute no go area. Napoleon castigated himself for even thinking about it. How could he? The archetypal womaniser, Napoleon Solo, desiring another man! And not just any man but his partner. No, no, no.
He turned over in his bunk and concentrated on clearing his mind.
But the discomfort in his groin refused to allow him to relax. Ten minutes later, with a sigh and a practised hand, he began to stroke himself, trying to bring a sexy image of Melissa, a particularly hot blonde of his acquaintance, to mind.
She wouldn't stay. Instead, silky blond hair, fanned out on the pillow, and a certain tight little ass in a pair of brief swim trunks kept intruding. As Napoleon gasped in completion, he visualised shining blue eyes, watching him as that sensuous, pouting lower lip and the delicately sculpted upper lip, both swollen with lust, closed over his straining cock.
The next day dawned cloudy and the wind had changed direction and strengthened. Boats were setting off early to catch the tide and the wind and the two U.N.C.L.E. agents in the Pursang were no exception. By nine o' clock they were well under way and heading northeast towards Montauk Point. The wind direction was changeable around the various islands and the sea was high. Napoleon handed his partner a lifejacket and put one on himself.
Illya was at the helm. He felt a bit seasick and staring at the horizon was easier on the equilibrium than being rocked about among the rigging. Napoleon was glad to serve as crew. It kept his body occupied and his mind well away from the events of the previous night.
Illya, as well as feeling queasy, was also concerned about Napoleon. He appeared to have undergone a sea-change. The Napoleon who had first set sail had seemed like a different person from his working self, one Illya had not seen before, but one with whom he felt comfortable and at home. He had been quiet yesterday, but not morose. Illya had assumed he was just relaxing as he himself was.
But now, for no good reason Illya could make out, Napoleon had become distinctly brooding—so unlike his usual self that the Russian was worried. Solo had hardly met his eye all morning. When Illya had confessed to feeling sick, instead of the expected playful barb or clever comment, Napoleon had been seriously solicitous. He had stood over him while he took Dramamine, but had then all but ignored him, merely shouting course changes or comments about the wind direction.
As they drew closer to the place where the ocean met the sound, the sea grew more turbulent, and the strong wind, coming from the northeast, became quirky. They were now beating hard against the wind to pass the point before evening and there was no longer any land in sight. The Pursang heeled well over.
A sudden lull in the wind unexpectedly brought the boat upright.
Napoleon, about to step off the cabin roof after putting a second reef in the mainsail, was taken by surprise by the upright movement. He staggered to windward, tripped over an inconveniently placed winch and tumbled backwards overboard.
He went over with a roar that was almost lost in the wind. Illya had his eyes closed briefly, fighting nausea, and almost missed it. He had a brief glimpse of his partner's orange buoyancy-aid flashing past, a gut-wrenching moment of blind panic and then, automatically, training kicked in and he quickly assessed the damage.
Napoleon got such a shock, one moment on the boat, the next hitting the water, that he was disorientated for a moment or two. He surfaced, choking and spitting water and looked around frantically for the boat. When at last he spotted it, the Pursang seemed to be disappearing into the distance.
"Illya!" he bawled, "Let the sails go, let the sails go!" He knew Illya would be unlikely to hear him above the noise of the wind and water. He tried to swim towards the boat, but it was difficult to make progress and the Pursang just seemed to get further away. "Illya!" he shouted again, waving in desperation.
But this was his cool, competent partner at the helm. Illya might not be an experienced sailor, but as usual, he kept his head. Napoleon had fallen over the port side. He could still just see him bobbing in the water, waving his arms, the bright orange of the lifejacket keeping him visible. Illya turned the boat into the wind and let go the mainsheet so that the sail flapped wildly. Then he swiftly undid the foresail from its cleat and let it flap as well, all the time never taking his eyes from the tiny, receding figure in the water.
Solo saw the sails flapping and sighed with relief, just as a large wave washed over him and he swallowed a load of seawater. Choking and spluttering as he emerged, he could only watch and tread water. Then he thought he heard the diesel engine kick into life and saw his partner turn the Pursang around.
The rescue was clumsy, as these things tend to be. Illya managed to bring the boat within ten yards of Napoleon but overshot before he was able to stop it and had to turn round and try again. This time he managed to get nearer and Napoleon swam towards the boat. Illya turned the engine off so his friend wouldn't end up minced in the propeller, as Solo swam around to the stern to try and haul himself in. Illya threw him the life belt and did his best to help, but he kept getting himself tangled up in ropes and stays, shrouds and flapping sails. For one awful moment it seemed both agents were going overboard. At last, a drenched and distinctly crestfallen Napoleon tumbled into the cockpit.
Illya grabbed him round the waist as he rolled, trying to steady him in the wildly rocking boat, but they both toppled over onto the deck and landed in an inelegant heap, with the sails flapping wildly overhead and Pursang pitching from side to side like a mad thing.
Suddenly, at the same moment, they both started to laugh. It was the crazy kind of laughter that went on and on until tears were running down both their faces. They clutched one another in the tightest of bear hugs, the laughter still shaking them. They just lay together, adrenaline coursing round their bodies, relief washing over them both until at last they flopped apart.
"K'chortu!" growled Illya, wiping his eyes on his sleeve, "Don't ever do that again."
Napoleon looked his partner up and down, " Ah—I didn't plan a swim. These things are supposed to happen to you!"
"Well you only had to ask."
Solo laughed again, still looking at his partner with amusement. "You're as wet as I am. We'll both have to change."
They managed to get shakily to their feet and Napoleon immediately started to haul down the mainsail.
"What are you doing that for?" demanded the Russian, puzzled.
"Can you get the jib? I don't know about you, but I'd like to get changed out of these wet things and then warm up with a cup of coffee."
Once the sails were safely down and the jib stowed in the locker, the two men were able to go below to change. The wild rocking had steadied. Illya suddenly noticed that he had stopped feeling sick. He relayed this information to his partner, who grimaced.
"Hmm. I'm sure there must be less dramatic ways of curing it. Next time stick with the Dramamine."
"It was you who fell overboard." Illya stepped out of his trousers.
Napoleon stripped off his soaking shirt and threw it at his partner. "And you who darn nearly left me behind. Dammit Illya, I could almost have swum to Montauk Point by the time you managed to turn around and rescue me." He pulled off his shoes and unzipped his trousers.
"Maybe I should have just left you. You've been miserable enough today." Illya threw his wet trousers playfully at Napoleon and knocked him off balance. Solo stumbled backwards against the bench seat, trousers still round his ankles, grabbed the table to break his fall and ended up almost lying along the seat. Illya dived on top, wrestling his arms above his head. Napoleon wrenched his arms free and grabbed his partner's flying blond hair, pulling him towards him.
"Ow! Ow! Umph . . ummgh." cried the Russian as his senior partner suddenly covered his lips with a hard kiss.
The kiss went on too long to ignore. Napoleon held Illya's head in an iron grip and kissed him fiercely, pushing his tongue roughly into his mouth and exploring. He felt a surge in his groin, which he felt matched by a slight but definite hardening from Illya on top of him.
Napoleon suddenly let him go and declared, shakily, "That's for rescuing me." Illya just stared, stunned. His blue eyes became huge and his face, already pale, drained of colour. He rolled off Napoleon abruptly, trembling.
Horrified, Napoleon turned away. He sat up and pulled the sodden trousers from round his ankles. Furiously, he hurled them across the cabin. His penis was hard. He couldn't hide that. He buried his face in his hands.
"Illya, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me. I am so sorry." He groaned into his hands. His shoulders began to shake.
Illya was at a loss. He had no idea what to do. He was in a state of shock but still had enough of his wits about him to realise that he had responded to the kiss. Unbelievably, it had excited him. His still tumescent cock was all too obvious. Those hard lips and strong, probing tongue had sent a bolt of electricity straight to his groin. Tentatively, he put a trembling arm around his partner's shaking shoulders.
"Napoleon. Don't. It's OK. It wasn't just you."
He tried again. "Look, it was my fault as well. It just happened."
Napoleon looked up. His face was white. He turned stricken brown eyes on his friend. "No. That's not true. It didn't just happen. I've wanted to do it since yesterday, maybe even before. It didn't just happen."
Illya frowned in bewilderment, "You've been wanting to kiss me since yesterday? But I thought you went out with that girl yesterday. You told me you had a good time, I assumed . . ."
"Nothing happened. We walked on the beach. I kissed her. We went back to her parents' boat and had drinks with her parents. We made small talk. I came back to the Pursang. That was it."
"You just kissed her?"
"Yes, and all the time I wanted it to be you. Dammit Illya, you're driving me wild walking about naked, being so close."
"So it's my fault."
"No, yes . . . in a way it is. You're so damn beautiful." Napoleon put his head in his hands.
"Well you're not bad looking yourself." Illya gave a short, harsh laugh. "But I fail to see how this has suddenly become an issue. Do you want to kiss me again?"
Napoleon sat up straight. "What?"
"You heard. You can kiss me again. I liked it."
"Illya! You nearly fainted with shock!"
"Yes, I agree it was a shock. But I still liked it. Do it again."
"But . . ."
"Napoleon, please. We're sitting here in the middle of the ocean, stark naked. I'm getting goosebumps. Kiss me now or I'm putting my clothes on." And with that, he pushed his dumbfounded partner roughly down onto the bunk.
Napoleon felt as if his heart was going to burst out of his chest. He wrapped his arms around Illya and, before he had a chance to change his mind, pulled his mercurial, unpredictable, beloved Russian into a fierce embrace and a long awaited kiss.
The rest was all over in minutes. Napoleon just couldn't hold back after being in a state of semi-arousal all day and Illya had not had sex for weeks. Frantically they clawed at one another, stroking, thrusting, gasping, both desperate for release. Afterwards, as they lay, sated, in each other's arms. Napoleon stroked Illya's damp hair.
"So beautiful," he murmured.
Illya rolled out of his grasp. He looked down at the mess they had made. "This is the moment I wish the Pursang had a shower."
Napoleon stood up unsteadily. "I'll get a cloth." He disappeared into the head and returned with a washcloth and towel, which he applied to Illya's stomach.
The Russian watched with amusement. "You know some people will go to ridiculous lengths to get laid."
"Hmm. You know not what you say, Kuryakin."
Later, in dry clothes, Napoleon hoisted the sails once more and set their course towards Montauk Point. Illya climbed into the cockpit, carefully carrying two mugs of coffee.
"Here. I've tried not to spill it but it's not easy in this sea."
"Be thankful we're not beating. At least we're reasonably upright."
"I think born sailors must have one leg longer than the other."
Napoleon took the coffee and kissed him on the nose. "Has anyone ever told you you're perfect?"
Illya snorted. "Of course."
"Name one." Napoleon's eyes glittered and his brows went up and down teasingly.
"My mother." Illya answered unhesitatingly.
"Hmm. A woman after my own heart then. Shall we stop off for the night at Montauk? There are wonderful, deserted beaches there. You can swim and I can watch your cute little ass in those trunks that have been driving me wild."
"Watch your language. Nobody calls me cute."
"They do so! There was . . ."
"Watch out! We're going to jibe!" Illya ducked as the boom came swinging across, lethally near his head. Napoleon reluctantly turned his attention to sailing once more. Illya wagged an accusing finger, once he had secured the foresail on the opposite side. "You'd better keep your mind on the job or we'll both be shipwrecked. One rescue in one day is as much as my constitution can stand on vacation."
"Talking of constitution, seasickness still cured?"
"Da. It was a drastic measure but it worked."
Napoleon was as good as his word and found them a deserted beach. The wind dropped and the weather cleared, the sky becoming blue and cloudless with the evening. They dropped anchor offshore and used the dinghy to get to the beach. Then they swam until their skin wrinkled, the clear, cool water exquisitely cleansing.
At last Napoleon emerged and retrieved his towel from where he had left it. He looked carefully around. There wasn't another soul about. Illya followed him a few moments later and they sat amiably, side by side, letting the late evening sun dry them.
"Want to walk?" Illya asked after a few moments.
"I want to make love to you. Slowly this time."
Illya raised his eyebrows, then shrugged and lay back on the towel, closing his eyes. "OK. Tell me what you want to do and I'll decide." He said, teasingly.
Napoleon considered. "Well, first I'm going to kiss you very gently, starting from your ears . . ."
"Yes, then I'm going to work my way all round your neck and spend a long time on that gorgeous mouth of yours . . ."
Napoleon obliged, taking his time. When he reached the Russian's mouth, Illya was squirming, trying to get on top of him. He pushed him off, onto his back.
"Oh no you don't, not yet. There's no rush this time, I've not nearly finished with you. Now I'm going to lick all over that nicely tanned body. Lie still." And he proceeded to do just that, pausing at one pink, golden-ringed nipple and sucking it erect, then biting it gently.
Illya yelped and thrashed and Napoleon took hold of the other nipple and rolled it between finger and thumb. "Ticklish eh?" He continued his assault for a moment or two longer, loving the way the Russian wriggled with such abandoned pleasure. Then he transferred his attentions to the hard, flat abdomen and the pink whorl of navel.
"Napoleon . . . you're torturing me . . ." Illya was panting and squirming, his cock pressing hard against the black swim trunks. Napoleon took no notice and carried on poking his tongue into his partner's belly button, twiddling the little nubs of nipples and blowing occasionally, which caused Illya to cry out in frustration.
At last Illya could stand it no longer. He grabbed his own straining erection in his hand and started to stroke it, groaning with need. Napoleon caught the hand firmly and stopped him.
"Oh no, not yet my impatient little Russian." He sat up and peeled the black trunks down, freeing his partner's hard cock. Then he bent down and ran his tongue lazily up and down its length.
"Aah! Napoleon, please. . . . please . . ."
Napoleon stroked and fondled the golden-fuzzed balls a little, then he circled the twitching cock with his fist and licked the bubbling tip a few times, very gently. Just as Illya thought he was going to die from sensory overload, Napoleon pulled the foreskin right back. Illya's head thrashed from side to side, his hips raised involuntarily and he thrust hard twice into Napoleon's hand and came, semen spurting across his stomach. He was trembling from head to toe.
Napoleon smiled down at the panting Russian. "My, my. So impatient. Come here you little firecracker. If I'd known you were this eager I'd have done this long ago." And he gathered Illya up for a long, deep kiss.
When he finally let him go, Illya lay back on his elbows, his eyes huge and his face flushed. "Wow!" he said at last.
Napoleon stood up. "OK? Put your trunks back on. Let's go for a stroll." He handed Illya the discarded black trunks.
Illya looked pointedly at the bulge in the front of Solo's own swim trunks. "But you . . . "
"Never mind me just now. Let's walk."
"I don't know if I can."
"Of course you can. Just around that headland. Come on." He set off along the beach.
Illya hastily pulled his trunks back on and followed him. They padded in their bare feet without speaking until they rounded the headland. Here, sand dunes with rough sea grass began to replace the flat beach and Napoleon headed towards them. "Nice, isn't it?"
Illya followed him, "Very nice." He agreed, wondering what Napoleon had in mind. The American was very obviously still hard and was breathing heavily.
"And very private." Napoleon grabbed his hand.
"So was the beach back there, I hope."
"Hmm, but I want a change of scenery, and besides, I want to do this to you. Come here." He yanked his partner into another crushing embrace and ground his achingly hard cock against the slim hips. He grabbed the Russian's firm little buttocks, rubbing his hands up and down them and they kissed again.
Illya felt his knees go weak. He had never experienced anything quite like this kissing. No wonder Napoleon had such a reputation. Unbelievably, he felt himself becoming aroused once more.
"I . . . I'd like to taste you." He said, a touch of huskiness to his voice. Napoleon's cock leapt. Illya's voice, when he was aroused, sounded almost the way it had been when he sang that song. Almost. Illya felt the twitch and pushed against him harder, his erection growing by the second. Napoleon groaned.
"You don't know what you're doing to me."
Illya grinned, delightedly. "Oh but I'm learning," he purred.
He slid down, his hands trailing down Napoleon's sides until he came to the indecently bulging swim trunks. He hooked his fingers in the top and, without pausing in his descent, slid them down to the ankles, letting Napoleon step out of them. Then he traced his hands up the inside of his partner's thighs, following with hot, breathy lips until he came to the tender, almost hairless spot level with Solo's balls. He ran his tongue round that spot and gently fondled the balls in shaking hands. Napoleon's skin fluttered at the touch. He groaned.
"Aah. Illya. That's so good. Please . . ."
"Now who's impatient?" His partner breathed, in that wonderful purring voice.
But he took pity on his friend and licked his cock experimentally. It tasted of salt and sand and musk. Napoleon gasped, and looking down in a haze of passion, saw his fantasy come true as his cock was suddenly engulfed in Illya's sensuous, wet mouth. He cried out in ecstasy.
Illya was no expert, and if truth were told, Napoleon had probably been given better blowjobs in his time, but what he lacked in expertise, he made up for in enthusiasm. Within moments, Solo was sighing and panting, clutching his partner's shoulders and thrusting into his mouth.
"Oh, oh . . . yes!" He came with a shout of triumph and Illya suddenly found his mouth filled with warm, salty ejaculate. He drew back hastily and spat it out, massaging the last drops from his friend with his hand. Napoleon pulled him to his feet and the Russian thrust his slender hips against the softening erection. The feel of it was enough to send him over the edge again and he grunted and bathed his partner's stomach in yet more seed.
They clung together, panting and gasping. They both felt drained.
At last Napoleon stepped back and disentangled himself from his exhausted partner. He held him at arm's length, his eye roving up and down the slight, well-muscled body.
"I can't believe we've been together all this time and I've not noticed how gorgeous you are, tovarisch."
Illya gave one of his little snorts. "Let's go and swim again to clean off."
Napoleon looked at the setting sun, glowing orange and pink in the west. "It's almost dark. We can swim by moonlight." His voice was dreamy.
Another snort. "Don't please go all romantic. Sex I can deal with. Romance and I might have to throw up."
"OK, OK you Russian Philistine. One step at a time. Let's go swim."
They ran and splashed joyously into the cool water. It instantly energised them once more. Illya waved his trunks above his head and danced around, leaping in and out of the waves. Napoleon chased and splashed him, throwing handfuls of water. There followed a frantic water fight and wrestling match, and somehow Napoleon's trunks got lost and they couldn't find them anywhere.
"Lucky nobody's around." laughed Illya, throwing another handful of water.
Napoleon lunged at him. "Just you wait, IK. I haven't finished with you yet."
That night, they both slept like the dead, rocked on their anchor in the gentle lull of the ocean. Solo dreamed of blue skies and blue eyes and walking hand in hand with someone he loved. Illya dreamed of his mother and sitting safely on her lap while she sang to him.
The following day the wind had dropped to almost nothing. The sun shone. Solo wakened first, as was becoming his habit, washed and shaved and put on print shorts and a clean white tee-shirt. He admired his reflection in the tiny shaving mirror and adjusted his parting to its usual perfection.
Then he went over to his sleeping partner and kissed him on the forehead.
Illya snapped awake and lashed out, hitting Solo on the nose. With a yelp of pain and surprise, Napoleon fell backwards against the bench seat. His nose poured blood down the front of his tee-shirt. Illya leapt to his feet, wild-eyed. He regarded his injured partner with dismay.
"Napoleon! What are you doing? I could have killed you!"
"Ow! I'm not sure you haven't. I may die yet." Napoleon dabbed at his poor nose with his ruined tee-shirt. His eyes were watering. "What made you do that? Look at me," he complained.
"Bozhe moy! You know better than to startle me when I'm asleep. Have you gone mad?"
Napoleon knew he was right. Waking a Section 2 agent was a task to be approached with caution. He would have reacted the same. He said nothing but scrambled to his feet and went into the head to attend to his injury, leaving Illya guiltily watching him.
When he came out, minus the tee-shirt and with the bleeding stemmed with a towel, his remorseful partner had assembled breakfast and was boiling up water for tea.
His head was down and he looked at Solo through golden lashes. "I'm really very sorry." He meant it.
Solo dabbed at his nose again with the towel. "It's OK. I'll live."
Illya was still mortified. "No I really mean it. It was an automatic reaction. You know I wouldn't hurt you."
"Yes I know. I accept your apology. Now let's just drop it shall we?"
But Illya persisted. "What got into you? Why did you startle me?"
Napoleon sighed. "Well if you must know, I wanted to wake my lover with a kiss."
"Lover!" Illya almost squeaked.
"You don't call what we did yesterday love?" Now Napoleon was genuinely puzzled. Had Illya forgotten the passion they had shared?
The water boiled and Illya made the tea in silence. His lips compressed and he looked uncomfortable. He handed the mug labelled 'Captain' to his partner and sat down opposite. His mug had 'First Mate' written on the side.
"Well?' asked Solo, impatiently.
Illya dropped his gaze to the floor. He put both hands round the mug as if warming them. "I don't know," he mumbled.
"But you're not telling me you didn't enjoy it, what we did?" Napoleon could not understand why his partner was being so evasive.
"What was there not to enjoy? Yes, it was wonderful. I think I needed it too. It's been a long time."
Napoleon could have strangled him for being so obtuse. "Needed it!" he exploded. "Needed it! Didn't you want it?"
Illya considered a moment before replying. "Well yes, of course I wanted it. I would not have done it otherwise."
Napoleon opened his mouth to say more, but prudence prevented him. He had no wish to quarrel with Illya. Hell—he was in love with the guy. But it seemed the feeling was not mutual. He needed time to think. Maybe Illya needed time to think as well. Think through the implications of what they had done. He drained his tea.
"I'll go and get the sails ready."
"Don't you want breakfast?"
"Not really hungry. You have it. You hardly ate a thing yesterday. You certainly won't be seasick today, it's a flat calm."
Indeed, there was so little wind that Napoleon contemplated motoring. But there were things he needed to sort out in his mind before he reached the social scene of the Hamptons. He opted for drifting with maximum sail to catch whatever wind there was going. The sun beat down.
The sun was too strong on deck for Illya, with his northern colouring, and he spent the time below, picking his guitar and humming quietly. He was disconcerted over Napoleon's level of involvement after yesterday's shenanigans. He had thought he was doing the right thing. After the initial shock, he had assumed his partner was overwrought after the fall overboard and horny after the disappointment of the night before, and had turned to him for physical release. That was how it had seemed at any rate. A release of stored adrenaline.
Illya had experience of buddy sex. When he'd served in the Navy, it was very common. Impossible to have a group of young men together with no female company and not expect them to turn to each other sometimes. With his looks, he had been a popular choice. On the whole he had enjoyed it, although he had never allowed penetration. Even at the tender age of eighteen he had been able to look after himself.
He thought he had been doing the same for his senior partner. His partner's strong sex drive was legendary and he chased women even on assignment if time allowed. And, well . . . wow, could the man kiss? He was a maestro. Illya had not enjoyed such exciting sex since his first experience long ago in Kiev. But when Napoleon had referred to him as his lover . . . that put a different perspective on it.
Illya loved Napoleon. Of that he had no doubt. Napoleon had been his best friend almost from the moment they had become partners. Maybe even before, when the handsome young agent had taken the lonely, unpopular Russian under his wing and helped him to find an apartment and shown him around New York. Oddly, they had just clicked, been on one another's wavelength straight away, and now they were a formidable team.
Illya did not want anything to jeopardise that friendship and partnership. And he certainly could not see how he and Napoleon could be lovers without doing just that. He had been foolish to allow it, but in the heat of the moment, he had been unable to resist.
It had been wonderful sex. It was exciting and cathartic in the boat—they had both been wound up and needed release. On the beach it had been exhilarating and incredibly erotic. The kisses had left him breathless.
But then what else would he expect from Napoleon? He was the best. And he had the reputation to prove it. Napoleon had bedded practically every female in HQ and so many others it made Illya dizzy to think about it. He would doubtless continue to bed every available woman and that was one reason Illya shied away from the designation, "lover". He wanted to be more to Solo than these passing fancies of his.
He very much wanted to have sex again with Napoleon sometime. It was a new and exciting dynamic to their partnership, but it was one of which his prudent, Russian nature was very wary. Discovery would almost certainly lead to disgrace and dismissal. Napoleon was his dearest friend. He could not lose him.
What was more, their professional life was packed with danger and excitement. Illya preferred to keep his personal life free of those qualities.
His childhood and adolescence had been fraught with peril, heartbreak and insecurity. He tried to restrict the memories of his former life to the vague, warm images he had of the time before the Great Patriotic War. His favourite was of sitting on his mother's lap while she played the piano or sang to him. Whenever he played or listened to music, especially Russian folk-tunes, that scene was evoked in his subconscious and it gave him a sense of security and comfort. He guarded these moments jealously.
Becoming Napoleon Solo's lover would effectively turn his private life into yet another hazardous situation.
Illya didn't think he could handle that.
Up in the cockpit, Napoleon sat alone with his thoughts. He could hear his partner strumming away below, playing the same riff over and over, then varying it a little, singing along. Suddenly he recognised the chord sequence and realised Illya was playing the song he had played the first night they were aboard.
Napoleon shivered, remembering the deep feelings that song had evoked in his usually composed companion. Remembered the deep feelings the husky voice had evoked in himself. It had led him into this emotional entanglement. Unwittingly seduced him.
And now he was hooked.
Dammit, he hadn't wanted this. Illya obviously didn't want it. But it had happened.
They were both to blame. He had been prepared to pull back. He had apologised. They could have just left it there and he would have gotten over the embarrassment eventually. Put it all down to stress following the rescue. They often did crazy things after a near miss—getting drunk, quarrelling, playful fighting—why not kissing?
And Illya had liked it. He'd said as much. He'd more than liked it for God's sake! He'd loved it, same as he had.
So why had he reacted like a frightened virgin when the word "lover" was mentioned?
They had to sort this out before they reached land again. Napoleon looked at the still water and the limp sail. There was so little wind. They were virtually becalmed. He freed the sails, lashed the tiller on the present course and went below.
"Phew! That sun is fierce. Want a beer?"
Illya looked up from playing the guitar. "I always want a beer."
Napoleon handed him a bottle from the cool box and took one himself. Not very cool any more. Like him. They both drank in silence for a moment, then Napoleon said, "How about me?"
Illya's eyebrows shot up. Did Napoleon mean what he thought he meant?
Napoleon put on his best leer and said in a soft, seductive voice, "Do you want me?"
Illya took another long swallow of beer before replying, warningly, "Napoleon . . . "
Napoleon cut him off. "I think you do. Look at your cock." Illya's traitorous body had reacted instantly to that lascivious note in his partner's voice. He blushed.
"Napoleon . . . "
Napoleon sat down beside him and took his partner's face in his hands, preparing for another scorching kiss. Illya pulled away.
Napoleon ran his fingers up his partner's sweat-damp thigh, pausing before he touched the rigid erection beneath Illya's shorts. "Come on, I know you want to. You're trembling. And this says you want me." He cupped the hard bulge in his hand. Illya grabbed the hand and put it firmly back in Napoleon's lap.
"Of course I want you. Yesterday proved that. I just don't think it would be . . . prudent." Illya's face had gone from blushing to white.
Napoleon had the opening he needed. He leaned back on the bench seat and took another drink of his beer. "OK. So what's your problem? Talk."
Illya sighed. How could he make Napoleon understand this? How could his partner, who thrived on dangerous situations, to whom risk-taking was meat and drink, possibly see Illya's need for a safe place, an oasis of calm in his life? He couldn't really explain it to himself, let alone to his devil-may-care partner. He thought for a moment or two then took a deep breath.
"Napoleon, what would you do if you could not work for U.N.C.L.E. any more?"
"What's this got to do with our love?"
"Please don't use that word. Go on. Think about it. What might you do?"
Napoleon thought. After a moment he said, "I'd probably go into business. Something exciting. I'd make time for seeing you of course."
"Leave me out of it for now. Your scenario."
"I might get married. Have kids. Do more sailing. Why are you asking me this?"
"You see a life for yourself beyond U.N.C.L.E.?"
"I don't want it yet, but, yes, I can see it if I have to."
"What do you think would happen to me if I could no longer work for U.N.C.L.E.?"
"You? Same sort of thing I suppose."
Illya winced. "Wrong," he replied. "Think again, Napoleon. I am Soviet. I would have to return. I am only here on Waverly's good grace. If I were to offend him, lose favour, I'd be back on a plane to Moscow faster than you could say U.N.C.L.E."
"I was thinking about after retirement from the field."
"I meant in the more immediate future. We both know Waverly has plans for you in Section One. If you keep your slate clean you'll be promoted. If I keep mine clean, I might be allowed to remain in my present position. I don't have your security. My position in this country is tenuous at best."
Napoleon shifted uncomfortably. He could see now where this conversation was leading. If Illya were to be the victim of some scandal within U.N.C.L.E. then he stood to lose a lot more than his job. As if he was reading his thoughts, his partner continued:
"If I was sent back because of the nature of my relationship with another agent . . ."
"The penalty for such things is harsh in the Soviet Union?"
Illya gave a short, mirthless laugh. "You could put it like that. I have spent enough time in institutions not to be willing to risk it again."
Napoleon sighed and stroked Illya's hair. This time Illya allowed the caress, closing his eyes as if very weary. After a while he continued.
"You see now that I have much to lose. But the greatest of those losses by far would be your friendship. I do not think I could bear that loss."
"But Illya, it doesn't have to be that way. We could be careful. Dammit, we're both spies—we're used to being careful!"
Illya rubbed his cheek against Napoleon's stroking hand. He did love him, but he could not afford the risk. Could not cope with the ever-present danger of discovery. Needed the security of his friendship and the knowledge that it would not be taken from him. He went on:
"Sooner or later we'd make a mistake. We're good but we're not perfect. U.N.C.L.E. is an organization made up of spies. The odds are not in our favour. I don't want to lose you, Napoleon."
"Nor I you, tovarisch. But what happened between us yesterday was wonderful. I'd like it to go on."
Illya sighed again. His voice hushed and Napoleon heard, with a visceral lurch, that level of emotion that he had so craved. Now it made him unbearably sad.
"I can't be your lover, my friend, because of how I love you. I need your friendship, our partnership, like you need this boat. The Pursang is part of your life that you can't let go, a security symbol. U.N.C.L.E. and all it stands for, but above all, yourself—well, you are mine. That is why I can't let us risk it. Do you understand now?"
Napoleon put his arms round his friend and pulled him close. He stroked his hair and kissed the top of his head. He whispered into the sweat-darkened, blond hair:
"I don't like it, but, well . . . I do understand, tovarisch. And you are too precious to me to lose."
They sat silently, entwined like that for a long minute. Napoleon felt the front of his shirt dampen, but they were both very warm and it could have been sweat. After a while, he said, quietly, "I have an idea."
Illya did not lift his face from Napoleon's chest. Instead he whispered, his voice muffled and a little bleak, "What, a cunning plan?"
A smile. "Not really. Just a compromise. How does this sound? We make love one more time. I want it badly and I think you do to. Let's make this really special. Then, if you still feel the same way, we call it a day. No more. Finish."
Illya sat up and looked at him gratefully, his blue eyes huge in his pale face. "Then never again?" His feelings were so mixed up. His heart soared at the thought of one more time, but he felt desolated that it had to be the last. At the same time he was convinced it had to be so and was relieved.
"Well, I don't think we should promise never again—if the perfect opportunity were to present itself . . . " Napoleon trailed off a moment, hopefully, but seeing his friend's chin go up in that stubborn gesture of his, he continued, "But we'll say not for the foreseeable future."
Illya nodded dumbly and Napoleon went on:
"And I suggest after that, we make for the Hamptons with due speed, go ashore and find a couple of gorgeous babes, then get ourselves royally laid. The beaches are perfect for love, this time of year. I know of some amazing seafood restaurants and the nightlife is the best if you know where to go. And I do." He winked and waggled his eyebrows enticingly, although his chest felt constricted with an almost unbearable pain.
The first smile he had seen on his friend's face since yesterday appeared. That little, mischievous half-smile that twitched the corner of the lips and made Napoleon's heart turn over.
"And I get to choose my own date?"
"You can have the pick of the bunch. But that's for tomorrow. Today we are becalmed at sea. We have all the time in the world and I want to make sure you remember what you are missing every time you see me."
"I will remember what I have every time I see you, moy droog. And I will remember that I never want to lose you."
Napoleon groaned inwardly. He was dangerously close to tears. This was going to be the hardest thing he'd ever had to do for his friend. He did not know if he could let go. He swallowed hard, reached out and tousled the golden hair of his dreams.
"Come on then, partner, let's make some indelible memories."
And he gathered Illya into his arms again. For a while they embraced, each wrestling with an emotion he could not deal with.
Then suddenly, Illya broke free, and pushed Napoleon down onto the bench. He straddled his waist and began to kiss him, roughly, as Napoleon had done the first time. His tongue explored his partner's mouth and he could taste the salt of the unshed tears. He ran his hands through the dark hair and began to cover Napoleon's face and neck with desperate, needy kisses, feeling the roughness of the dark stubble and relishing the harshness of it against his lips.
Napoleon caught the back of his partner's neck and pulled him even closer, welcoming the assault. Illya bit his ear almost savagely, then thrust his tongue into it. Napoleon gasped and ground his rock hard cock against him. This was not what he'd had in mind but it excited him beyond belief. Illya continued to attack him with his tongue. Tears ran down his face. He was possessed.
The Russian squirmed his legs back and their cocks met, chafing through their shorts, straining against one another. Then he began to suck hard on one brown nipple, one hand still raking through Napoleon's hair and the other groping for the other nipple. When both were hard, standing erect, he moved breathlessly down his partner's body, nipping, licking and sucking, muttering to himself in Russian, until he reached the line of dark hair leading into the shorts. He rubbed his hot, wet cheek against his partner's hard belly, then nuzzled the hair, his breathing harsh.
By this time, Solo was groaning and pushing his hips upwards to meet the probing tongue. He tried to make Illya slow down by grabbing his head, but the Russian would have none of it. He wriggled out of Solo's grip and continued his frantic assault.
Illya swiftly divested Napoleon of his shorts and freed the straining cock. Running his hands up and down his partner's torso and legs, he licked the quivering muscles of the tanned belly once more, his tears mixing with the saliva. Then he ran one calloused hand up and down the bubbling shaft, while he rolled the dark fuzzed balls with the other, gripping them almost painfully, causing Napoleon's head to thrash from side to side. Solo was infected by the Russian's desperation. He sat up abruptly and grabbed Illya under the armpits, pulling him upright.
"Get your shorts off," he panted, reaching out and tugging at the faded blue denim.
Illya, blinking and shaking, looked dazed, his face wet and flushed. He unsnapped the fastener and stepped out of his shorts. Napoleon yanked the Russian into his lap. His cock pushed upwards beneath Illya and he thrust hard, creating an irresistible friction. It took only a few strokes before he came with a roar and a sob, burying his face into the hollow between Illya's shoulder and his neck. Illya wrapped wiry arms around him. Their hearts hammered and pounded together.
When he could breathe again, Napoleon pulled his partner more closely into his lap, turning him and pulling the slim hips snugly into the hollow of his belly, against his softening cock. With his right hand he encircled Illya's weeping shaft firmly. With his other hand he stroked the Russian gently, soothingly. Wanting to calm him.
"Shh, take it easy."
Illya shifted himself more comfortably on his lap, "Hold me tight."
"I won't let you go. Come for me now."
And he began to pump his partner's cock with a touch that was both gentle and firm. Illya leaned his head against his partner's shoulder and closed his eyes. He moaned and his body went rigid. Semen spurted over his belly and thighs and his friend's hand. He sagged against Solo, sticky with sweat, tears and semen, but suddenly overwhelmed by a deep, warm comfort.
As they sat, wrapped together, breathing heavily, hearts still pounding, Napoleon dropped a kiss on his partner's hair again, sniffing the damp saltiness of it.
"I can't lose you, tovarisch."
Illya's head was filled with music. He felt safe. He was no longer crying. He wanted to laugh and sing. Instead, he said, softly, "We made a pact, moy droog."
"I love you, you . . . " But Illya stopped him with a finger on his lips.
Napoleon closed his eyes and allowed his breathing to slow down. There would be other times. He was sure of it. Let Illya have his way for now. Give in to his fears. There would be other near misses, other releases, other moments of closeness. What they'd shared would not go away.
They had each other, and they had this. That would have to be enough. For the present. He sighed and stroked the golden head.
Illya closed his eyes as well. He was overcome by a dimly remembered contentment. He wanted this moment to last forever. He wanted to stay here, on this boat in the open sea, in the sticky warmth of the cabin, with his best friend.
Slowly, reality reasserted itself. Napoleon shifted. Illya was heavier than he looked. Illya disentangled himself and stood up.
"I need to swim."
"Go ahead. We're not going anywhere till I get the engine running."
"Don't leave me behind."
"Wouldn't dream of it. Who would rescue me next time I go overboard?"
Illya went up on deck. Napoleon followed, smiling as he saw his friend dive smoothly into the calm blue water. Solo lowered the bailing bucket and pulled up seawater to tip over himself. It felt good. He felt good.
A blond head appeared on the starboard side, grinning. Then Illya swam round the Pursang several times. Napoleon sat down to watch him, enjoying the heat of the sun after his cold shower.
At last his partner hauled himself up the ladder at the stern and stood, dripping and naked.
"Um . . . You couldn't get me my towel? I seem to have forgotten it again."
Sincere thanks to Cindy Walker for providing such excellent information on Long Island and the waters round about. I couldn't have managed without her generous input. Many thanks also go to LeeTheT for being such a patient and helpful beta reader.