by Cord Smithee

I'm used to watching my partner dance.

He dances with the enemy. He dances around the truth. His eyes dance with merriment, and he leads me a merry dance, too. But right now, collar open in the evening's heat, he's dancing with a girl, a pretty honest-faced girl named Susan, who's finally stopped watching me out of the corner of her eye as if I might bite.

That's nice. Nice to know I've redeemed myself in her eyes, at least a little. I might bite her anyway, if Napoleon gives me half a chance.

She looks like the type.

I curl my fingers around my glass, swirling bourbon over the ice. It's the color of Napoleon's eyes, when I hold it to the light. Ice rattles against crystal; my hand is shaking. I drink quickly, to silence the telltale and kill the memory of Napoleon's flesh against my fingers, clammy as the glass I hold.

His heart hadn't stopped yet. And now he's dancing in Las Vegas, with the girl I won for him, the girl I've been teaching to count cards in blackjack, although the casinos frown on that. They frown on anything that might decrease their chances of rooking the marks, if it's legal or not.

Life is funny, sometimes, yes?

He almost died on me. It's not the first time. It's not the last. Someday it will be the last, and I know it, and a part of me selfishly hopes I die on him first. But this time, for the meantime, I twine my fingers in his bowtie, thrust into my jacket pocket after he stripped it off and handed it to me, and I force myself to breathe evenly and watch him dance with the girl. A girl who keeps shooting me smiles over his shoulder.

Oh, what the hell. I'm going to gnaw my wrists open if I sit here any longer. I finish my drink in one gulp, the ice clicking my teeth, and cut in on Napoleon. After all, we're not on duty anymore. "You look thirsty, Napoleon, and so does Susan. Why don't you fetch a couple of drinks, and I'll keep the young lady entertained?"

He gives me a baleful glare, but there's a twinkle behind it. "A drunken jewelry salesman, after all, can't be trusted near the bar." He stalks away stiff-legged.

Susan laughs, and snuggles into my arms. Not as closely as she was dancing with Napoleon, but from the sidelong glance she gives his retreating back, she's not above making him a little jealous, too. "Mr. Kuryakin," she says. "Are you sure that's quite appropriate?"

"You were the one embarking on a life of wickedness," I remind, eyebrow arching. "What could be more wicked than playing two men off against one another? Cruelly toying with their affections... why, Napoleon might never be the same."

She laughs. It comes out a schoolgirl chirp. She schools it to something she must think is sultry, but it's not quite Rita Hayworth and not quite Marilyn Monroe. "Do you think I could be a femme fatale, Mr. Kuryakin? If I worked at it?"

Poor child. "Any woman can be a femme fatale if she can make a man willing to die for her." Not my line, alas. Stolen from poor Achille, who I knew and killed in Paris, when I was another man, with different loyalties.

Still. He wasn't using it anymore.

"Do you think I, I mean, do you think I could—"

I look through my lashes. Napoleon has retrieved the drinks. He's coming back toward us, and the look on his face tells me he means to reclaim his dance partner. I wonder if they're lovers yet. I wonder if he was her first. I always feel bad for those--not because Napoleon is an unkind lover, nor because I believe that foolishness that a virgin's heart must always belong to the man who plucked her, nor because Napoleon lies to women to make them willing.

He doesn't have to lie. He knows enough to look for the ones determined to be wicked, when he's seeking more than an evening's company. And so do I.

No, I feel bad for them, because I suspect they will not be so well-served by future lovers, as they had been by my Napoleon. Ah, is that shocking? That I know that, that I know him well enough to call him my Napoleon? Does that shock you?


"Do I think you could what, Susan?"

"Would you be..." She's too shy to say it.

"Would I die for you?" Yes, but I don't say that. Yes, because it is my job, it is my calling, it is my expiation for Achille and all those like him. My life is forfeit for the foolish, ignorant choices of a patriotic boy, who did what the motherland told him, without question. But I am privileged to choose the manner of that forfeiture.

And if I am lucky, to prolong its duration.

But she doesn't wish to know that I would die for her because it is my duty to die for her, her and the whole world full of her. She wishes to be told that I would die for her because she is desirable, because she is a desirable woman. And yet she's a child, who cannot quite bring herself to say the words.

She nods.

"Kiss me," I say, "and I'll tell you."

Napoleon has taught her a thing or two. I recognize his technique on her mouth. And she has some native talent of her own. Not terribly adept yet, but not nearly so shy, once I open my mouth and coax her to slide her tongue first across my lips, and then between my teeth. She gains confidence quickly, and I don't bite. Not yet. Soon she's as bold as she was in action in the field, and her right hand has come up to twine in my hair.

When I look up again, her drink is on the table, and Napoleon is nowhere to be seen. "I think you could be," I say. Her eyes sparkle.

"If I'm wicked enough?"

"Oh," I say, and kiss her one more time, quickly, "never fear."

She nuzzles my shoulder next to a sharp, irregular red circle of pinpoints, the marks of her teeth. She's neither sleepy nor sated, but she's also not bold enough to drop a hint about her desires that's too broad to be ignored. Her hair's soft as corn-silk, the skin of her hips and thighs so soft it's like sliding my hands through warm buttermilk. The heat of her body pools in my palm as I cup it over her sex. She sighs.

I press my face into her hair. I can still smell Napoleon's cologne on her body. I lip her ear, and she shivers, until I whisper, "Who was better?"

Her eyes flash wickedly in the light of the bedside lamp. She's angry I asked. Good; that will make her honest. "He was," she snaps.

I laugh out loud, which shocks her. "Good," I say. "Then all is as it should be. Would it be better if I told silly jokes in bed, recited ridiculous poetry, like Napoleon?"

She pales. "How did you know—"

"I know because I know," I say. "If you want to run with the wolves for real, Susan, you must grow fangs of your own." She starts to shove me away, but my lips find the curve of her breast, the curve of her belly, the slick, sweet-salty valley between her thighs. There's no tang of blood or rawness, so I guess she had some experience, beforehand. I also guess she's just tripled it, from the way her thighs quiver under my hands like the flanks of a racehorse.

She yelps with shock and pleasure as I turn my head and catch her clitoris lightly between my teeth. I nurse it, teasing the swelling inside the hood with my tongue, the way I'd slip my tongue-tip into the os of Napoleon's penis as I mouthed the head. Her moans are frantic, shattered. Her spine flexes like the spine of a fish on a deck. She tastes faintly of latex, the residue of the condom I wore to fuck her.

Her fingers tighten in my hair; her breath squeals between her teeth. She's coming, hard, already. I slide two fingers inside her to feel it, to feel the way she flutters inside, long, convulsive movements I wish I could have felt with my cock. So quick, so easy, so hot. I bet Napoleon got her to come with his cock. I bet he got to feel her—

Oh, there she goes again. Lovely.

She lies still, gasping, her hands dragging at my hair, shivering in time to my breaths as they caress her clitoris. I know better than to touch her again. She'd scream. She'd come off the bed like a popped mouse-trap, and she might take my ears with her. So I kiss the inside of her thigh, tracing the shivers that follow the touch with my tongue, and then I wipe my face on my arm before I slide up beside her.

She stares at me, eyes dewy, and then turns away. I kiss her cheek. She shivers.

"Never accept anything less," I whisper in her ear. "No man worthy of the name would leave a lover in discomfort."

She doesn't answer. I tuck her hair behind her ear, roll off the bed, find my trousers and get out.

Napoleon slides into bed tousled, smelling of sex and a woman's perfume. My bed, not the untouched one across the narrow walkway. I smile in the dark. "You could have showered first."

"I can't hear you when you mumble against the pillow, Illya."

"I said—" I sit up "—you could have showered first."

Napoleon's smile is bright enough to shine through the darkness. "You didn't," he says, and pins me to the bed, his hands tight on my wrists, his face buried in the crook of my neck. "You smell like her. Your breath smells like her."

"I brushed my teeth," I argue.

"It doesn't matter. How was she?"

"You know perfectly well how she was."

"Nice, eh?" His mouth on my throat. He rolls between my legs, his cock as hard against my thigh as mine is against his belly. Yes. I saved myself for him, and he saved himself for me. At least a little. That's how it works.

"Nice." The skin isn't powdered soft, like Susan's. It's hot and moist. He wraps his hand around me, something Susan was too shy to do, and strokes my cock with slow, hard precision. "Yes, nice is the word for her."

"Yes," he says. "We need to do something."

"It's done." I close my eyes and swallow. "It's her choice now, if she wants to be wicked, or nice."

His hand stops. He breathes against my neck, heavy and warm. "What did you do to her?"

"No harm." It stops on my throat. No. I just showed her that we're not tame, Napoleon and me. If Achille had known that, he wouldn't be dead now. And I can name twenty more the same, who wouldn't be dead if they'd known. And hundreds more I couldn't name, even if I had to. If you held a gun to my head--an ironical twist. I must have killed seventy-five or a hundred when we rescued Marion Raven from that Thrush base and I imploded the mountain on their heads.

"If she wishes to be like us, Napoleon, she will need to know that not all wicked men are. Like us, I mean. If she wishes to run with wolves, she must know that wolves have teeth. Even tame wolves. Or wolves that may appear to be tame."

He kisses me, and smiles against my mouth. His hands are still loose cuffs on my wrists when I tangle my fingers in his hair. "You are the soul of chivalry, Illya Nikolaivech."


"What else would you call it?"


He shakes his head, his hair moving against my hands. "It's not cruelty when it saves a life. It's surgery." His hands slide from my wrists, knot through my fingers, cover mine. He draws my hands to his mouth, kisses my knuckles. "These are not a butcher's hands."

He couldn't have said anything more shocking. "A fabulous lie."

"It's true." He kisses the palms, a touch of love and consideration that knots my breath in my windpipe. "They're my friend's hands. A musician's hands."

"I've killed more men with them than I've written songs."

"And that's butchery? I've done it too. Killed men."

"Not like I have. Not men who trusted you."

"Illya," he whispers. "Would you kill me?" His mouth moves down my throat, across my chest. He releases my hands. I could push him away, but instead I rest them on his head, stroking his hair.

"Once I would have."

"When I was five, I pulled the wings off a fly. Does that make me a monster?"

"When I was twenty, I put a bullet in my best friend's back. What does that make me?"

"A soldier," he says, and kisses my mouth to silence. It doesn't make it better. It doesn't make it hurt any less. His mouth slides lower, leaves filigrees of coolness on my chest. His hands run down my thighs. In a moment he'll have his mouth on me, his slick rough tongue caressing my cock, his hand cradling my balls. And then I will return the favor, and he'll smell of me, and not whatever nameless woman he picked up in whatever bar.

It makes me sad to think of it. It makes me sad to think of all those girls, the ones we shared, the ones we stole back and forth. It makes me sad to think that the warm, beating heart under my hand will stop someday, and even if I am not the one who stops it, someday I will not be able to get in between it and the bullet that does the job. "Why did you let me have the girl?"

He chuckles against my belly. "You did the dirty work in the vault. The mines, the drainage ditch—"

I sit up and this time I do shove him away. He rolls to one side and blinks as I flip on the bedside light. "A reward? If I improve my grades in Spanish, may I have a lollipop as well?"

"No, I—" He doesn't sit up. He reaches out left-handed. "Illya... I almost got you killed down there!"

"You almost—" But he isn't kidding. The light catches and pools in his smoky eyes. I can see the sincerity in them. "Napoleon, I was late. You almost suffocated."

He comes back, sweeps me into his arms. A hug, I think at first, but it isn't a hug that ends with a quick squeeze. He's sliding down again, determined, to judge by his kisses. "If you hadn't been late, Illya, the wall would have blown. I was late getting into the vault."


"Yes," he says, after a few long seconds of introspection. "Oh. I thought—I thought I was going to... that I'd hear the explosion, and I would know you were gone. My best friend. The best man I know. And that... that smarmy, useless... Rudolf would be there to sneer at me."

It might not make sense to anyone else, but I remember the clamminess of his flesh under my fingertips, and I draw a slow thinking breath. "Napoleon, will you fuck me tonight?"

And his breath stops. "...Illya?"

"I mean it."

"I—" He stops, his face pressed against my groin. He sighs. "I've never."

"I don't believe it. The great Napoleon Solo?"

His hands are very still on my hips. I can feel his breath against my skin. "The great Napoleon Solo doesn't normally...."

"...bugger his friends?"

"Illya!" He starts up, leaning over me. "And have you?"


"Mmm." Smug. "I thought not. So... " He shrugs. "We wait until we can... I don't know. Get a book or something."

"A book? Do you think there are books? And where would you go to get such a thing?"

"Good point." Napoleon hesitates, rubbing his cheek against my thigh, breathing deeply. It strikes me with sudden, heartbreaking pressure that he's breathing me, memorizing my smell. His hips rock against the bed, giving the lie to his restrained, quiet voice. Of course; I can imagine how I would be feeling if he had asked the same of me. Illya, will you fuck me?

Oh, someday.

I stroke his hair softly, absently outlining his ear with my fingertip. I feel his jaw move as he speaks. "We could try it. See how it goes. It's not like—"

"It's not like either one of us is a blushing innocent," I answer, and he smiles. He caresses my balls, a tickling touch that slides underneath them. I spread my legs as he traces a line between my thighs, up the crease of my ass. It feels good, sweet, not ticklish. "We'll need something slippery, I think..."

I prop myself on my elbows. I look at him. He looks at me. I reach out with my left hand, open the night-stand drawer, brush my fingers across the freshly-oiled action of my semi-automatic, and feel what I am reaching for: a small plastic squeeze bottle, holding a couple of ounces of translucent fluid. I hold it up for his inspection.

He starts to laugh. "Ballistol?"

"Suitable for lubricating all your firearms. It's nontoxic. It's safe. The Germans used it for disinfecting wounds..."

"It smells like sweatsocks."

"It's slippery." I waggle my eyebrows. He heaves a sigh.

"Give me that."

He takes the bottle out of my hands, and then looks at me, frowning. I can figure out what the puzzle is. "Bent over would be more convenient, wouldn't it?"

"We have a lot to learn." He weighs the bottle in his palm as I stand and then kneel again, bending over the seat of the green armchair in the corner, my head down on my hands. "Maybe I should try... Maybe we should take it slow." His hand's on my hip. He crouches alongside. Not immediately behind, as if that would be too powerfully suggestive. Ridiculous, given what we're planning—

The oil is sharp and a little rotten-smelling. Organic, piney, unmistakable. Somehow appropriate, as Napoleon's hands caress my balls and cock, the oil warm from his hands, his hands even warmer. He knows the rhythm I like. He finds it, one-handed now, leaning over me. The smell makes me laugh. It makes me feel like a weapon in Napoleon's hands, something to be cared for meticulously, because your life may depend on it. The Ballistol is slick, not really greasy, not sticky--a smooth, velvety substance that almost seems to vanish between my partner's skin and mine. It clings and spreads and insinuates itself into crevices, which is why it's so useful for so many things.

The little river of oil he trickles between my buttocks is cool, dripped directly from the nozzle. I hear him set it down beside the chair, and then I feel his fingers, stroking, not probing, gentle... he's touched me there before, sometimes, lightly, and I remember the musky taste, the way he came in searing spurts through my fingers the one time I dared to kiss him there.

He presses. It doesn't hurt, but it makes my heart thunder in my throat. His finger, one finger, slides inside me, and I moan. Just one finger, and it feels like a mountain. I wonder for a moment how women manage.

I wonder how I'm going to manage his cock.

The thought sends a shiver through me, and I feel it inside and out. He must feel it too, because he gasps, his right hand tightening on my cock. "Wow."

Wow doesn't begin to cover it, because it's hard not to move when his hand moves, and when I rock forward and back, I'm essentially fucking myself on his long, thick finger. He nuzzles my hip. One of us makes a sound of need. "Oh—"

"Are you okay?"

"I'm—yes. Okay. Good."

"Okay," he says. "Here's two."

I wonder if he's so gentle with his women, so careful, so worried, with the sidelong glances and the thoughtful breaths. But women are designed for this, aren't they? Surely they don't feel as if they're being split painlessly in two, as if the burning urgency inside them is bigger than they are, better defined, pressing them into the walls of their body.

His fingers rock slowly inside me as I move against his hand, against his voice. "Okay?" he asks.

"Okay." There's something about the feeling... an ache, a sort of instinct that makes me squirm just so, press myself onto his fingers just so. More, I want to ask him, but I don't know what more is, so I whimper.


"Need," I answer, and he laughs.

"Okay. More Ballistol. I'm going to let you go for a second—" He does, and I moan again, and there's more oil, more slickness on his hand, on my ass, I don't know where else. All over the rug, probably, and who cares—

When his fingers slide out of me, I want to beg. Then he's behind me, fumbling, and something that feels huge, a sea-serpent, a rocket ship, bumps against me. I want it.

I can't believe how much I want it.

"Napoleon," I say, and press myself back onto his cock.

He whines, a high-pitched keening that edges between his teeth, and then he's moving forward as I move back, both of us making small frantic noises. His cock must be endless; I can still feel it filling me, sliding forward, isn't that all of it yet? Isn't that—

Oh. I yelp and he panics and I calm him down somehow, because it wasn't pain. It was a hard, definite rub, a searing sort of tickle, and that driving instinct says yes in the back of my head, demanding, in no uncertain terms. Yes. This. Yes. His hips and thighs press my ass, and I reach back and grab his ass in both hands, yank him hard against me. He doesn't try to pull back, or move, or anything--just leans into me as if he could somehow get closer, his fingers rippling on my hips, and breathes through his nose, a low, pained pant.

"Napoleon?" No answer. "Napoleon?"

Something wet streaks my back. I can't turn well, but I brace myself with both hands and twist, trying to see under his hair to his bowed head, his eyes fixed on his hands as they flex against my skin, a wet droplet quivering on the tip of his nose. "Illya," he says, his scratchy tenor breaking in three places, "I'm inside you."

"I know." I couldn't kiss him if I tried, but I can reach his hand. If I lie across the chair and ease the strain in my neck and back. So I reach back and take his hand and squeeze it, and he sniffles once, hard, and squeezes back. "Okay?"

"Okay," he says. And gathering himself, he starts to move inside me, and I bite down on my forearm so I don't wail as shamelessly as a cat in heat. He's slow, and I'm grateful, because I can feel a burn that isn't pain but is the sensation of the tenth rep with the heavy barbells, the stretch and strength of muscle working hard, and I can feel my body warming around him, relaxing, taking him in.

He leans down, his weight on my back. It's comforting, sweaty-sexy. The ache inside goes piercingly sweet with the shift in his weight, and I moan encouragement—"Don't stop."

"Wouldn't dream of it," he says, the old Napoleon again, the humor back in his voice as he bites the side of my neck. His callused palm grazes my cock. I thrust into it as he wraps his fist around me again, the motion echoed inside me, and I hear him curse under his breath. I know that tone, know its savagery. He's close, terribly close, his hips shivering with need, and if I could see his face, he's have his eyes tight shut and the wrinkles between them would be deep as rivers.

There must be a way to manage this so that I can watch his face. The spasm passes. "Ready, tovarisch?" he asks.

"You go on ahead. I'll catch up."

"Not this time." A silk soft touch the length of my spine makes me squirm. He presses me against the chair, his hand tightening, his cock rubbing that place inside me again that makes me shiver and twist, and murmurs in my ear—"I objurgate the centipede, / A bug we do not really need—"


But he's unstoppable. Ogden Nash, may it please the court. I acted in self-defense, your honor; he was fucking me to Ogden Nash. "At sleepy-time he beats a path/ Straight to the bedroom or the bath. / You always wallop where he's not, / Or, if he is, he makes a spot."

It's no use. I start laughing before he's even to the fourth line, and there is nothing quite so disconcerting as laughing like a hyena in between gasps of excruciating pleasure, while pinned between a busy hand and steel-hard cock. I can hear Napoleon's pleasure in his voice. "Do you have any idea how good you feel inside when you laugh like that?"

"Next time you can show me."

He laughs himself, and I feel that. "It'll be my pleasure."

"You have no idea."

He tries another ditty or two, but the moment has passed. It's just us, now, us, and our slick bodies, the taste of sweat and the sharp, unpleasant odor of the gun oil and the rasp of carpet against my knees, the polishing stroke of Napoleon's free hand across my back, as if he means to make me beautiful for someone. His breath hitches in his throat, and what's been flickering in me is rising like a wave now, all glitter-sharp facets reflecting sunlight. It's good, so good, so powerful, so amazing, dancing with him this way—

He chokes out my name when he comes, and only two or three hard strokes of his hand later, I follow him into darkness, and up out the other side. The way I suspect I'll be doing as long as his heart is beating, the way I can feel it beating now.

As long as I keep on getting there in time.

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