"Three Wishes" appeared in the wonderful N.I.F.A.L zine devoted to PWPs, though I altered this version just a bit. Thanks to Jane Terry and Di T and Sarah Lindsay for their once and future editing.
"Take off your clothes," Napoleon Solo said and sat down to watch in his comfortable armchair, the one he read in late at night when sleep eluded him. The bulky chair was worn and as out of place in his exquisitely appointed apartment as a bum at the "21" Club.
Illya Kuryakin threw his overcoat over the back of the sofa on top of Solo's coat. He then began to toe off his socks and loafers as he shrugged out of his suit jacket, almost losing his balance in his haste.
"Slowly," Napoleon purred. "Slowly. There's no fire."
Illya paused as he loosened his tie and tilted his head. "Why would I be removing my clothes if there were a fire?"
"Slowly," Napoleon repeated, on the verge of losing his patience in record time. Why did Illya have to talk so much? Or think?
Illya continued undressing, his movements unhurried yet hesitant, as if he did not quite understand what Napoleon wanted of him. He slid off his shoulder holster and tossed it on the coffee table where it landed with a loud thump. He then removed his tie, throwing it in the same general direction. He started to unbutton his shirt, his fingers clumsy as if still cold from the outside, reconsidered, then unbuckled his belt instead. The trousers and underwear slid off together, his efforts still slow but not inefficient, and he kicked them out of the way. He stood up straight in his shirt, the tails of which hung long obscuring the view.
"Much better," Napoleon approved. "Do continue."
All at once Illya seemed to catch on. As he undid the buttons of his cuffs, his movements slowed, his fingers no longer clumsy as they moved to unbutton the placket. Pausing for effect, he tossed the shirt behind him, his clothing a puddle on the floor. One more article to go and Napoleon grinned, amused, when he saw Illya wore a long-sleeved, waffle-textured undershirt beneath his prim, starched dress shirt. No wonder he had braved the chill of a beastly cold day, his overcoat flapping open while he remained impervious to the stinging wind. The practical, not to mention sneaky Russian had dressed like a lumberjack under his business suit, his slight build disguising the bulk of the long underwear.
As Illya yanked the undershirt over his head, his hair crackled with static electricity, looking momentarily disheveled, as unkempt as the straw of a scarecrow's hair. He patted it into place with both hands and it obeyed the slight instruction as if it had a mind of its own and knew its role in life was to look perfect. Finally, he stood naked and shivered, though the apartment was quite warm. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
Napoleon raked his partner's body over with his eyes, which caused additional fidgeting. Illya stood before him his eyes downcast, his face flushed—from embarrassment, from the cold, from arousal?—Napoleon was not sure. Sometimes he forgot how small his partner seemed. It reminded him of when he met Illya for the first time in Waverly's office almost four years ago. What had he been expecting way back then?—Khrushchev? Rasputin? A Russian bear?—certainly not a delicate-looking, skinny waif with shaggy blond hair and piercing blue eyes. He smiled at the memory, how Illya's chilly blue eyes had challenged him as he shook his hand after Waverly performed the official introductions.
"A pleasure...Mr. Solo." Illya's voice had been low, deferent, and almost inaudible. Napoleon recalled having to lean in closer to hear.
"Please call me Napoleon," he had urged.
"Napoleon?" Illya repeated the name in the same quiet tone, his pouty lips twitching into a slight smirk. Napoleon had picked up on the derision as Illya whispered his unusual name into a disbelieving question.
Yes, it was easy to forget how small Illya really was. This was the man who now watched his back after all, and it startled him to be reminded, again, of just how insignificant Illya could appear when not coiled for action. And yet still he seemed poised for some sort of action. His cock rose slightly from its nest of dark blond curls. Not deadly action certainly, but...
This had not exactly been the striptease Napoleon dreamed of but then Illya was never deliberately sexy. He knew how to flirt, a little, but that was about it. Napoleon found him all the sexier for his lack of pretence, certainly a change of pace. He held up his arms in welcome.
Illya, who probably did not enjoy standing so vulnerably in front of him, almost leapt at the invitation. He propelled himself at Napoleon and straddled his lap, resting his head against his shoulder, kissing him once on the neck. He liked to sit in his lap, something Napoleon couldn't quite fathom, even the first time. And no, it had not been sexual then, more a matter of trust. But if someone ever got blackmail photos of them, Napoleon sincerely hoped they would show him nailing his partner, not cuddling him.
Illya's body felt solid in his arms and surprisingly heavy. Still, he did not weigh all that much and felt lighter than many a girlfriend. Napoleon ran his hands lightly along Illya's ribcage noticing he had gained a little bulk, just a tad beyond skin and bones.
"So that's three already," Illya said, his voice almost a whisper, deep and throaty. He had been fighting off a cold.
"Uh, three?" Napoleon pushed him away and held him by his wiry biceps. Their eyes met, Napoleon's puzzled; Illya's impish. "How did you get three out of that?"
Illya held one finger up as he snuggled closer, almost nose-to-nose. "You asked me to undress." Second finger. "You asked me to do it slowly." Third finger. "And I'm sitting in your lap."
"I didn't ask for the last."
"Implied when you held up your arms. You didn't say anything but you asked all the same." The three fingers, held aloft before Napoleon's nose looked like a promise. An oath.
"No, no and no," Napoleon said, crushing Illya's hand to his heart. "You wound me, Illya. You lose these bets every time because you think I'm stupid. You act as if I'm virtually uneducated. Princeton is a good school, you know. One of the best."
"But you were a legacy. And you can't count to three."
"I attended on the GI Bill, it's not as if Daddy was going to build a gym. I told you about my family; don't rub my nose in it." Napoleon squeezed Illya's biceps and shook him for emphasis. He had shared the particulars of his family's misfortune with his friend and Illya had reciprocated by disclosing fanciful tales of his own background, the last time some complicated nonsense about buried Faberge eggs, harvesting winter wheat (that sounded suspiciously like a chapter in War and Peace) and Gorky's visit to one of the gulags. Illya had even concluded the disjointed little fable with a moral: There is nothing so useless as heirs without a fortune.
Napoleon knew from firsthand experience the truth to that. "You lost, Illya. Fair and square. I learned our state capitals in the fifth grade; I even spent a summer in Cheyenne. And I'm not even beyond one."
"But I did what you wanted."
"You obeyed me, I'll allow that. But you always do. That's not a wish it's a reality. You always do what I say. I like that about you. It's among your finest traits."
Illya shifted in his lap and then nodded. "We're not at zero. Even for you that seems a trifle unfair."
"Yes, I take advantage of you. That too is not a wish."
"What do you want then?"
Napoleon tried to look stern, like a father disciplining his unruly though amusing child. "Let's start again. My first wish is that you curb that pretty but oh-so-sarcastic mouth of yours. All I want to hear tonight is, 'Yes, Napoleon.' 'Thank you, Napoleon.' 'That feels good, Napoleon.' You're wonderful, Napoleon.'"
Illya shivered in his arms and Napoleon could not tell if the idea was attractive or repellent to him. Or maybe he was cold. He could feel Illya's hardness pressed between them and his accelerated heart rate. But Illya was always eager, another fine attribute.
"Am I so sarcastic, Napoleon?"
"Yes! You miss no opportunity to get back at me for whatever wrongs I have done to you and I'll be the first the admit—" Napoleon shrugged and looked away from the bewildered blue eyes. He reached between their bodies and grasped Illya's erection, stroking it intently.
"That feels good, Napoleon." Illya's voice sounded breathless but he had listened to instructions, always a good student. "Please."
Napoleon just held him, no longer stroking. His expression turned smug. "You haven't let this out to play in awhile."
Illya shook his head and tried to shrug but his body just shook. "No," he said almost inaudibly.
"Why not? A dry spell?"
Illya tried to insinuate his erection back in Napoleon's embrace. "I'm not as fortunate as you."
"You are so full of shit. You don't even try. A girl would have to practically strip naked and lie down in your path for you to take notice."
"I do. Try. Really." Illya's voice sounded strangled. He nudged his erection against Napoleon's hand, urging him to continue playing with it.
Napoleon pursed his lips, ignoring the lie; Illya did not try. He ran his index finger down the underside of his friend's cock. Then he repositioned Illya's body so his legs bent over the arm of the chair and cradled his head in the crux of his arms. Illya spread his legs wide. "I've changed my second wish," Napoleon said.
Illya bucked into the encompassing hand. "What do you want?" Illya's face was flushed with desire. Napoleon resumed stroking him until he realized Illya was about to come and squeezed down on his balls.
"Oww." Illya moved away from his hand. "That hurt."
"I told you, no sarcasm."
Illya sighed. "That was heartfelt. You're hurting me. Maybe your other lovers—"
"Here come the caustic remarks. I have no other lovers."
Illya's mouth opened and then he turned away as if willing himself not to speak.
"You are my only lover."
"That's wonderful, Napoleon."
Napoleon shook his head. "It's not 'That's wonderful, Napoleon' it's 'you're wonderful, Napoleon.' You are not fulfilling our agreement. Watch your tone."
Illya smiled and they kissed. They kissed for some time, tongues thick and insistent. Competitive. They both liked to kiss and Illya was surprisingly good at it, or maybe his lips were just designed for kissing—his determined upper lip counterbalanced by a soft, luscious lower lip. Napoleon adored the contradiction of his partner's mouth, especially when he didn't use it to speak.
While Napoleon enjoyed the feel of Illya's lithe naked body against him, he also liked the implications of his own fully clothed body, another contradiction, almost as if he were in control. Which he was and he wasn't. Still, two wishes remained according to his count; Illya had lost the bet.
Finally they separated. "Will you make me a drink?"
Illya straightened in his lap. "Is that your second wish?"
"No. That's an order. As your superior."
Illya made a face and extricated himself from the embrace. Napoleon watched as he walked to the liquor cabinet—lord, you could crack an egg on that ass—and poured two Scotches in Waterford tumblers. Neat. Then he went to the kitchen and added ice and a splash of water to one of the glasses. He sipped the warm Scotch as he returned, comfortable with his nakedness, oblivious to it. Napoleon couldn't keep his eyes off of him. He often wondered if Illya was aware of his own beauty.
"I told you to make me a drink." Napoleon took the neat Scotch from Illya's hand. "Not both of us." He took the iced glass as well.
"Is this another wish? Your twelfth? I've lost count."
"I asked for a drink. And that sounded just a tad sarcastic. Watch it."
Illya raised his eyes and stared at the ceiling. "I just want a little. And I've agreed to hold my tongue. Am I really so sarcastic?"
"Join me but you are still bound by my first wish. And my second." Napoleon handed him his glass.
Illya downed it, Russian style, a graceful tilt of the head and all gone. "What is your second? Did you tell me?"
"It's changed. I was going to insist you stay hard, but you can't help that, can you? I'm just too damned exciting. Instead, I want you to come on my timetable—only when I say."
"Okay." Illya stood and started to return to the liquor cabinet.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going to make another drink."
"I didn't even want you to have one. Come back to me. Now."
Illya was already halfway across the room. He sighed, turned, and set his glass next to his gun and shoulder holster on the coffee table. He then stood before Napoleon, his hands on his hips. "Aren't you going to take off your clothes?" he asked.
"Not yet. No. Sit down again." He pulled him forward by his wrist and Illya resettled himself, this time sitting with his back against Napoleon. Napoleon took a sip of his Scotch and used his free hand to spread Illya's thighs. "And what do you want for Christmas, little boy?" he asked. He grasped Illya's erection, still hard, and felt him shift almost fitfully in his lap.
"Can't we go to bed? I don't think I can hold off if you keep doing that. It does feel good, Napoleon."
"Then just enjoy. Learn some self-control."
Illya leaned back against his partner and gasped, twisting to bury his face in Napoleon's warm neck. Napoleon showed little mercy, his strokes quick and insistent, handling Illya the way he would handle himself if he wanted quick relief. Not that he often had to resort to solo gratification—Napoleon Solo seldom flew solo. He smiled slightly at the very idea. He could feel Illya's muscular ass contracting in rhythm to his busy hand, rising and falling against his own burgeoning erection. The stimulation was not quite as intense as if he stroked himself, not quite the same. Finally Illya reached down and pulled Napoleon's hand away.
"Stop it," Illya said. "You're right. I don't have enough self-control. Does anybody?"
Napoleon took another draw from his Scotch, the ice cubes tinkling against the glass. "Ah, just a bundle of nerve endings, aren't you? And yes, I think most men your age have a bit more self-control. If they got laid more than once or twice a year, that is. Or maybe you should play with it yourself sometime, if you're so selective about your partners. Or did you get thrown in the gulag for beating off too? The problem with Communism, the real problem, is it's just so damn boring."
Illya sat up straight and turned his head toward Napoleon, eyes narrowed. He opened his mouth to respond and then snapped it shut.
Napoleon rested a finger against Illya's full bottom lip, pulling it into a more exaggerated pout. "Nothing to say, is there, when you can't say something withering and unpleasant."
"Do you plan to just taunt me all night? Can't we just go to bed? I'm cold."
"You're very warm, actually. I'll take you to bed. Eventually. I'll roll you on your stomach and fuck you till you see stars. Maybe the memory will be such you can think of it when you're all alone."
"What are you trying to prove?" Illya slid off Napoleon's lap onto the floor.
Napoleon stared down at Illya: What was he trying to prove? These little bets were a diversion, a way to blow off steam and defuse the sexual tension between them. Did he need proof Illya craved his touch? He knew that already and it frightened him. He meant too much to his solitary partner. Illya belonged to him; their relationship was as simple and complex as that. Mine! He couldn't deny it; Illya was his. Worse, Illya did not seem to mind this truth. That was even more disturbing. Sometimes he stared at Napoleon with an expression far beyond longing, an almost perverse mixture of devotion and defeat, as if he worshiped an indifferent and unworthy god. Napoleon hated that look even as he did his best to encourage it. These little bets were a game and games should be fun. But he knew they were far beyond game playing. What was he trying to prove?
"Do you want to go to bed then?"
Illya rolled his eyes. His mouth opened and shut again. He looked away. "Yes, Napoleon," he finally said, a sing-song edge to his voice, just shy of sarcastic.
Once in the bedroom, Napoleon undressed, drawing out the ritual and taking meticulous care with his clothing. He shoved shoetrees in his shoes and lined them up on the left side of his closet, toe-to-toe with his other black dress shoes. He brushed his suit jacket as he hung it in the closet and was mindful of the crease in his trousers as he folded them on a hanger. He opened the drawer of a burled wood jewelry box on his dresser and deposited his cufflinks into it before gently tossing his shoulder holster and gun to the nightstand on the side of the bed in which he slept. Returning to the closet he dropped his shirt into the wicker basket there. His shorts, socks and tee shirt went into the hamper in his bathroom where he finally stood naked brushing his teeth and staring at his reflection in the mirror. Another gray hair? He reached to pluck it out of his head and then saw two more.
He had almost forgotten about Illya until he heard a prolonged sigh. "They make you look distinguished," Illya said. "I'm turning gray myself waiting for you."
Napoleon smiled, spitting the toothpaste in the sink. He rarely allowed anyone to stay at his home. He relished his privacy and often his solitude. In retrospect he realized he had performed the striptease he had longed for from Illya, but it had hardly registered with his single-minded, impatient friend. Napoleon sat on the bed and concocted another uncounted wish. But first he kissed Illya and they ended entwined in each other's arms, their tongues again dueling for dominance. He waited until Illya positioned himself on top of him, until both their cocks were aligned, until Illya was moving frantically against him. "Get on your knees, love," Napoleon purred.
Illya rolled off of him and scrambled to obey, his delicious ass poised high in the air. Napoleon watched him, watched as Illya buried his face in one of the pillows and trembled with anticipation. He still found it difficult to believe his chilly, contrary friend had allowed their relationship to reach this level of capitulation. When they first got together sexually he had imagined mutual masturbation, frottage, at the very most fellatio. They did those things too.
"I, uh, forgot the lubricant," Napoleon said. He tried to keep the smile from his voice. "Would you go find something?"
Illya growled in frustration. He lowered himself to his stomach then turned to face Napoleon, his eyes wide with amazement. He muttered a long oath in Russian.
"Watch it," Napoleon warned. "And how dare you impugn the memory of my sainted mother."
"Your mother is neither a saint nor dead. And I don't think I can stand up."
"Well, I'll wait then." Napoleon picked up a paperback on the nightstand and opened it, pretending to read. He didn't look up but felt the bed dip beside him as Illya left it and then he heard the medicine cabinet door in the bathroom bang shut. Illya returned quickly, he knew how to search a room, especially one as well organized and familiar to him as Napoleon's bathroom.
"Here." Illya waved a jar of Vaseline in front of Napoleon's face.
"I'm sure I have something, uh, less utilitarian. Why don't you go back and look for—"
The thick paperback hit the wall with such force its spine broke. Napoleon did not react. His wish, his first wish, was that Illya not be sarcastic. Whipping his book into the wall moved beyond the realm of sarcasm into an almost petty violence, a rather obvious challenge. Napoleon turned on his back cradling his head under his arms and faced Illya, his expression studiously placid. "Open the jar, my dear," he said, his voice conversational. Deadly. The voice he used when he was furious.
Illya rolled his eyes, not at all intimidated. But his hands shook as he unscrewed the cap and set it on the nightstand behind him.
"Get us ready."
Illya withdrew a dollop of Vaseline and reached forward, beneath Napoleon, smearing it between his cheeks, two fingers insinuating themselves into him. Napoleon allowed the penetration, twisting against the unexpected intrusion that, he had to admit, felt rather tempting. He willed himself not to moan in appreciation or show any reaction whatsoever.
"Who do you think you're kidding?" Napoleon said, his voice once again conversational.
Illya shrugged and smeared a measure of Vaseline on his own engorged penis.
"You lost the bet, Illya. You are mine tonight. Prepare us."
Illya paused and Napoleon could almost see the wheels turning in his head. Their encounters had verged on the edge of ferocity in the past, the competitiveness between them finding a symbolic expression in bed, spiraling almost out of control. They were equally matched, both highly trained operatives. But Illya had lost the bet; he always lost the bets. Napoleon stared at him and tried to stare him down. "You've got it backwards, my little friend," he said.
"Your little friend." Illya glanced down at himself, stroking his own cock. "Who's being sarcastic now?"
Napoleon waggled a reprimanding finger. "It's only you who is forbidden sarcasm. Now get us ready. Properly. Don't pretend this isn't what you want."
"My mistake," Illya muttered, and muttered something else Napoleon couldn't quite decipher.
"What? What did you say?"
"It's not just what I want." Illya again said something incomprehensible as he reached once again into the jar of Vaseline and anointed Napoleon's penis. Napoleon could not quite suppress a moan as Illya smeared the Vaseline on his cock, his fingers grasping it and stroking it. "My mistake," he said again, his head bent, his voice low, his eyes glittering. Flirting. He reached behind himself and arched his back, sighing as he prepared the entrance.
Napoleon grinned at the performance. My mistake indeed! He pulled Illya forward and kissed him. Illya shifted away from the kiss and positioned himself once again on his knees, his face buried in the pillows. Napoleon patted the back of his friend's head, entwining his fingers in his thick blond hair. "I'd like to watch you."
Illya turned his head away from the pillows. "Is that three yet?"
"I'll let you know," Napoleon replied and caressed Illya's face, his touch feathery and gentle. Then he slapped his ass, not quite so gently. "Just be quiet for a change. That's really all I want."
"I can't talk at all? What about the 'you're so wonderful, Napoleon' part?"
Napoleon pursed his lips, flippant a close cousin of sarcastic. "I don't know if I want to hear anything anymore. Are you ready for me?"
The whispered reply unsettled Napoleon by its promise and its conclusiveness. Or did it mean Illya was merely impatient? Illya once again burrowed into the pillows, hiding his face. "I said I wanted to watch you. Why don't you turn on your back so the pillows don't create such a distraction."
Illya growled his disapproval but flipped over spreading his legs wide. "Would you please just do something?"
Napoleon ignored the comment and pulled Illya's legs over his shoulders and pressed forward, initial penetration always a bit of an ordeal. Illya's face contorted as Napoleon spread his cheeks and pressed his cock beyond the tight rim of his anus, pausing before he inched forward. He placed one of the distracting pillows beneath Illya's ass.
"It's okay," Illya said as if trying to encourage. It was unclear whom he encouraged.
"Is it?" Napoleon asked, and watched Illya's face, a picture of scrunched-eyed reluctance, like a kid swallowing a spoonful of caster oil.
Illya nodded his head and lunged upward, taking Napoleon deep inside. He grimaced and moaned an inconclusive, "Ahhh." Then he smiled. "Tell me when I can come." He sounded a little mocking but his voice shook, betraying the insouciance.
Napoleon reached between them, held Illya's wilting cock and shook his head. "This ain't even thinking about coming." He listened to his partner's breathing, rhythmic, managing his pain, working through it. "Just relax for a moment, get used to it. It'll feel good soon."
"It feels good now. Go on."
"Your face tells a different story, not to mention your cock. I'm not about to ravish you."
"Then my face and my cock are disappointed. Move. You want to."
Napoleon experimented with a few tentative thrusts. He stared into Illya's eyes and saw resolution mixed with anxiety. He leaned forward into the warm, tight channel and paused. "Illya?"
"Go on. Just do it."
"Just be quiet." He tried a different angle and Illya blinked and bit his full bottom lip. Napoleon watched his face's face as he moved in him, felt the Vaseline-slicked cock in his hand start to respond, not that he didn't expect it to do so. He checked his own control as he started to move. Sex with Illya did not bore him as yet but it was always the same. Only the terms of the bets they made provided any variance. Still, no matter what he came up with, Illya seemed dazed and sweetly virginal at first, and then just hot to trot. Eager did not begin to describe his reactions. It was as if he wanted to get the whole ordeal over with, wolf down a meal, win a relay race. "Illya?" he asked. He stilled inside of him.
"What do you want?"
Illya grimaced. "You won the bet. It's your call."
"Okay." Napoleon repositioned his line of thought as he repositioned his body, angling his cock more deeply into his friend. "Let me rephrase my question."
Illya nodded but he shifted his head as if searching for the solace of a pillow.
"What do you want?"
"How is that rephrased?"
"Just answer the question."
"It's a rather open question. If I interpret it narrowly, I'd like you to um... you said something about my seeing stars."
"Do I do that for you?"
Illya smiled, a rare sunny smile, not quite mocking but close enough. "You really are wonderful. Really. If you'd just get on with it."
"And if I stroked you and moved in you and stroked you some more...would you find it difficult not to come?"
"Of course." He sighed as Napoleon demonstrated his intentions. His legs trembled against Napoleon's neck. "Truthfully, I don't know how I would resist."
"And still you are."
Illya gasped as Napoleon manipulated his cock and thrust purposefully inside of him. "Napoleon!"
Napoleon released his hold on Illya's erection and stroked his hair instead. "When did you fall in love with me? At first sight or later?"
"Later," Illya gritted his teeth as Napoleon rocked against him. "Not much later but later. Before we were really partners." Illya gasped. "When you didn't drag me back to headquarters when I was so...so not myself." Illya gasped again. "When you held me on your lap instead and let me cry." Illya panted. "And that was three, Napoleon. Your third wish. Or I shall fall right back out."
"Of love. I do love you."
Napoleon almost pulled out in astonishment, even though he had heard Illya say it before. Then he pushed forward. Illya jolted beneath him and met the thrust. Bets were momentarily forgotten as they surged into one another. "When, Illya?" he asked stroking his cock again.
"Can't remember, can't...oh." He squeezed the cock inside of him and moaned. "I'm sorry, I can't remember and I can't—"
Napoleon felt him spurt into his hand, his cock pulsing in rhythm to a primitive melody. He was clearly violating the second wish, but Napoleon hardly cared, one hand cupping Illya's tight ass, pulling them together, the other pumping him dry. He stared as Illya convulsed in orgasm, his friend's features strangely peaceful, his mouth open and silent.
He thrust deeply inside and Illya grunted, his eyes blinking, disoriented. He shuddered. "I'm sorry."
Napoleon hardly heard the whispered apology, too intent on his own pleasure. He withdrew from Illya and lowered him on the bed between his legs, stroking his own erection until he felt certain he had his attention. Illya loved to watch things blow up and watching Napoleon explode in climax was no exception. He came on his partner's stomach, his own semen mingling with Illya's. Then he pressed forward, bending Illya's legs to either side in an ungainly, frog-like position. He tried to kiss him and they panted together, mouths just touching.
As their breathing returned to normal, Illya squirmed beneath him. He had no leverage but refused to give up the struggle. Finally he found his voice. "Off. You're squashing me."
Napoleon rolled on his side and let his partner breathe. "That was wonderful."
"That's what I am supposed to say or 'you're wonderful.'" Illya grinned. "I'm sorry though. You're right, I don't have any self-control."
Napoleon waved a dismissive hand. "You'd hardly be as fun if you did. But I didn't think you remembered." He smoothed Illya's sweat slicked hair from his puzzled eyes.
"That I was supposed to say 'you're wonderful?'"
"No, not that."
"Remember what then?"
"I thought you were too zonked on those drugs. You know—when you first sat on my lap."
"Oh. That. I was. I was so afraid."
"But not of me."
Illya shrugged and shook his head. "Not when I realized you weren't going to drag me back to headquarters until I calmed down. That you would just hold me and damn the consequences."
"It scared me to watch you cry."
"It scared me too. But I couldn't stop."
"You hardly even smiled in those days. What was her name? Maryann, Miriam?"
"I don't know. But you weren't paying attention. Were you fooling around with her?"
"No. Can we talk about something else?"
"Whatever happened to her?"
"She dumped me. Can we please talk about something else?"
"Why did she dump you?"
"Usual reasons. I traveled too much. I broke dates. I was inattentive. She said I was cold. Please can we talk about something else?"
Napoleon pulled Illya into his arms. "Too cold, huh?"
"You don't feel cold to me." Napoleon hesitated, unsure if Illya would even want to hear his next declaration. Then he found he couldn't say it, even as he stared into his partner's unwavering blue eyes, because he stared into those unfathomable blue eyes. "You're not cold," he repeated, wanting to express some sort of sentiment however vague.
They had never really talked about that day when so much changed between them.
Napoleon recalled feeling worried and more than a little angry as he had rushed to the girl's apartment. If he found Illya and her otherwise engaged, as he expected, he'd give his single-minded Russian friend the lecture of his life. You just don't get so carried away to neglect calling in on schedule. Ever! Napoleon well understood the enticements of a beautiful girl but even he had never been so careless.
Napoleon had kicked in the door, gun drawn, and damn the embarrassment of catching his friend en flagrante. It was not the scene he had visualized.
Illya was huddled on the floor and quite alone. He leapt at Napoleon and shoved him with powerful desperation, tearfully imploring him to go away. His voice sounded almost wheedling as he begged Napoleon to leave him alone. Napoleon, bewildered, followed Illya as he slithered under the bar that separated the kitchen from the living room.
The girl was gone, as Napoleon now assumed she would be, and he approached Illya, searching for an explanation. Illya cringed away from him, whimpering like a cornered animal, clearly terrified. Napoleon felt a little fearful of him, or at least respectful. He maintained his distance after determining Illya's shoulder holster was empty.
Napoleon called into headquarters and gave a brief report regarding missing girl, but did not say much about Illya's condition.
"Is that some sort of animal crying?" Waverly had asked.
"Something like that." Napoleon quickly recapped the communicator.
No question—he wouldn't consider bringing Illya back to headquarters in such a state.
But what was he going to do with him? How to approach him? Napoleon crouched down to Illya's level, purposely setting his gun aside and spreading his hands wide in an effort to demonstrate his peaceful intentions. "Illya," he said, crawling toward him.
Illya turned his face away, hiding it against the bar as if it were some sort of refuge. He curled his body into almost a fetal position and rocked himself, bringing his thumb to his mouth. "Please go away," he said in a muffled tone.
"Illya, do you know who I am?" He crawled forward another inch. Was Illya hallucinating? He tried to recall the properties of the fear gas—not a hallucinogen, a depressant.
Illya nodded. His eyes slid toward Napoleon, fearful and confused. Then his expression turned calculating and Napoleon paused.
"Who am I, Illya?" He repeated this three times, careful to use his friend's name each time as he had learned in a suicide prevention course.
"Napoleon," Illya finally answered, his voice unrecognizable, small and childlike.
"That's right, Illya. I'm not going to hurt you. You know that. We're friends." He moved forward another cautious inch and plastered a reassuring smile on his face.
"Don't," Illya warned. He now stared at Napoleon, shaking with fear. His eyes grew wild but they measured the distance between them, searching for escape.
Napoleon had no doubt Illya was poised to attack him. Still, his friend seemed lost in a nightmare. "Why are you afraid of me, Illya?" He asked in a soothing tone. "I've never done anything to make you afraid. We're friends."
Illya averted his eyes and shook his head rapidly in response, backing up into the corner under the kitchen bar, which provided both shelter and leverage.
"Yes we are. Don't you know that, don't you remember?" He smiled into troubled blue eyes but Illya's fear seemed to focus on him. He was the object of it and, though he knew he was being irrational, it hurt him. "We're friends," he repeated.
Illya shook his head more resolutely. "Please go away," he said, pleading to be heard.
"I won't leave you. And you're in no shape for headquarters. I'm your friend. You have no reason to be afraid of me." Napoleon crouched on his haunches, prepared to defend himself while trying to appear unthreatening.
The tears continued unabated. And then Illya said something that sounded incoherent until Napoleon realized he was speaking in Russian, his voice not clear but clearer. Napoleon struggled to translate but could not. "Ah, don't speak Russian. I'm not the linguist you are. You know that."
Illya repeated what sounded like a tirade, again in Russian. This time Napoleon picked up a word here and there.
"You don't think I'm your friend?" Napoleon asked and let the hurt creep into his voice, acting a bit. But he felt as if Illya had slapped him.
"Nyet," Illya said clear as a bell and added a bit to it. He drew his knees to his chest and sobbed out what sounded like an accusation.
Napoleon again struggled with the translation. "Oh," he said. "Really?" He understood enough and didn't want to hear more. "All right then." He moved away from Illya feeling disturbed, no longer acting at all. As he sat in a chair in the living room, he glanced back at his friend, who said he was not his friend. Was this the truth as Illya saw it? "So I'm just your boss. Since when, Illya?"
Illya relaxed slightly, as if comforted by the distance between them. He rubbed his eyes. "Is right, no?" He had returned to a fractured English, the Russian accent thick and unrecognizable.
"No, is not right, no. No!" Napoleon struggled to make his voice calm. "No." He reminded himself Illya was drugged and not himself. But something about Illya's pronouncement expressed all his fears as well. He had been warned on more than a few occasions that Illya was calculating, cold. Had Illya only pretended the friendship between them? Had he seen Napoleon as nothing more than a mistrusted superior, some sort of commanding officer?
"I've been a good friend to you since the day I met you, overlooked your standoffishness. I thought it was mutual. I don't make friends easily either. So we're not friends after all?" Why shouldn't he just call headquarters and get a clean-up crew to collect Illya? Obviously nothing he could say would get through to him.
Napoleon heard a stifled sob and started as a shaky hand squeezed his shoulder, the grip implacable. "Your friendship is important to me." Napoleon said. "You're important to me, little friend," he concluded in a whisper. He turned around and stared up at Illya whose eyes were clamped shut as if terrified to look back. Napoleon stilled and let Illya make the next move.
And then Illya had lowered himself on his lap and hugged him, winding his strong, wiry arms around him in a fierce embrace. He said nothing.
Napoleon hugged him back. Illya continued to cry, burying his face against Napoleon's shoulder. Napoleon held the shaking body, rocking it, frightened by the raw emotion. And comforted by it.
"Wool gathering again?" Illya smiled at Napoleon, at the uncertainty he saw in his friend's dark eyes. "You need to work a bit on your post-coital ritual."
"Tips from the master," Napoleon muttered, pulling Illya closer. "Just thinking."
"It seems to take a lot out of you. What were you thinking about?"
"Nothing much. Just the first time I held you."
Illya grinned into his friend's neck, holding him tight. So he had lost another bet; he made sure he lost them all. Inconsequential to choose Fargo over Bismarck in a part of the United States he would probably never visit—why should he know the state capitals?
He had no wishes really—not one, not three, not an infinite number. Illya smiled at him, at the uncertainty he saw in Napoleon's ardent dark eyes. He was not like his friend. All he wanted he had. He felt a little sorry for Napoleon's restlessness, not that he hoped his friend ever found what he was looking for—he wasn't that altruistic. He curled on his side, searching without much interest for a pillow, too lethargic to reposition the one beneath his hip. He did manage to roll on his stomach and pressed his face into the mattress—sated, happy, tranquil—drifting on a calm sea of memories too sweet to cause seasickness. His eyes filled with tears but not the hot, frightened tears of failure.
Yes he remembered, but not as much as Napoleon assumed. He had been drugged and the drug exacerbated his fear, but the fear existed before the drug. He had liked the girl, Marion, and maybe he hadn't been paying the strictest attention to his duties. He had been showing off a bit and he remembered a grudging nickname he had earned at the Sorbonne: Monsieur Je-Sais-Tout. Though he didn't know much in those days he was a know-it-all, his intelligence arrogant with insecurity.
He had botched the assignment; he had not kept her safe. Napoleon's arrival only intensified the fear, a superior calling him to task. Certainly there would be hell to pay for his failure. Illya had shoved him away, hard enough so they both hit the floor. He couldn't stop crying, lost in a nameless despair.
The rest remained vague. He didn't remember how he ended up in Napoleon's lap, only that his friend—who kept insisting he was a friend—seemed wounded too. As Napoleon held him close and rocked him the fear subsided, though he continued to cry for a long time. The way he had been able to do once a long time ago, trust rediscovered like a forgotten song the words of which he dimly remembered.
He felt the same sort of peacefulness now and started to drift to sleep, only vaguely aware of the bed dipping as Napoleon left it. The warm washcloth reaching under him, swiping his stomach clean, woke him up. He shifted away from the gentle touch, breathing deeply and pretended he was asleep, adding a fitful snore to his ruse.
"I love you, Illya," Napoleon whispered.
Illya sighed in his feigned sleep and devised another losing strategy as Napoleon pulled the covers over them and snuggled against him.
He'd gladly lose another bet. Everything he wanted he already had.