Knowing Me, Knowing You
My thanks to Myredk9s and Georgiamagnolia for their Beta and to Sparky for inspiring it to begin with
All poetry used in this story belongs to Georgiamagnolia and is reprinted here with her permission. More of her exception work can be found here.
Napoleon Solo stared restlessly off the porch into the misty gray day and the rain as it pounded down on the roof and gushed out the drain spout. He wrapped his arms around himself and his eyes grew sad as a bit of melancholy drifted into them. His friends always called him an eternal optimist, but he didn't feel very positive at the moment.
"And you make me talk and you make me feel and you make me show what I'm trying to conceal. If I trust in you, would you let me down? Would you laugh at me? Would you feel the same way too? I wanna know, what's the name of the game?" Rocky came out of Taste, singing ABBA as usual, and glancing over at Napoleon, waved. Napoleon raised a hand in a halfhearted return and the waiter was by his side in a few fast steps.
"Hey, Mr. S, what's going on?" No matter how much time passed between them or the depth of their friendship, the waiter insisted upon calling Napoleon that. "You look like someone just broke your shiny new truck."
"The weather, I think. It gets in my bones and reminds me that I'm no longer the man I used to be."
"None of us are. You should hear Mattie when he tries to get out of bed. He's starting to sing Chef's morning song these days." Rocky ran a hand through his hair to brush the rain from it. "He grunts and groans until I have to check to make sure he's alone and not getting some on the side."
Napoleon felt a guilty flush rise to his cheeks and he dropped his gaze to the decking of the small house he shared with his partner and lover, Illya Kuryakin. As per usual, the man was in the kitchen of the restaurant he shared with fellow chef Matt Tovay. Both had been scheming for weeks, planning the perfect Valentine's Day dishes. Taste had been booked solid since New Year's Eve and both chefs were determined that the evening would be over the top. Because of that, Napoleon was seeing even less of his partner these days than usual and the thought of spending Valentine's Day alone made him even more melancholy.
"What's that look for, Mr. S?" Rocky's voice lowered. "You're not thinking of stepping out or that Chef is?"
"What? Not on your life. It's just... do you have a couple of minutes?"
"For you? Of course."
Napoleon led the way back into the house and over to the desk. He sat and started to go through a drawer, searching for something.
Moutard started to rub against Rocky's leg and he lifted the cat up. "Hello Yellow Cat, do you have some sugar for your old friend today?" The cat responded with a throaty purr as Rocky scratched the furry chin. After a moment, though, the cat started to struggle and Rocky dropped him onto the couch as Napoleon pulled out a sheet of paper.
"I've been threatening Illya with spring cleaning for a week now. I was upstairs going through a bureau and found this." He offered it to Rocky and the waiter took and scanned the sheet.
Some take cold showers
for what ails them~
Mine are always hot.
In that heat
starts to remember
what your fingers felt like in the rivulets that run down the backs of my knees
the small of my back
But the water runs down
and so my memory of you the vapor slips under the door All I have left of you.
"You recognize Illya's handwriting, don't you?" Napoleon asked, his voice soft.
"This is Chef's hand, sure, but what's the problem? Mattie has a shoebox full of these somewhere. Chef used to write a lot when he was just starting out. Matt said it was cheaper than him getting a shrink and safer than him getting drunk every night. Chef was going to burn them, but Matt saved them, said they might be worth something if their cooking careers failed." Rocky handed the sheet back and Napoleon again buried it back in the drawer, well hidden in sheets of paid invoices and receipts. "He was just missing you, Mr. S. I know for a fact that he never stopped loving you."
"That's what had me so introspective today. I can't believe how much I must have hurt him and I never intended it, not for a minute."
"Hey, Mr. S, you want a fairy tale with a happy ending?"
"Fairy tale, Rocky?"
"You know what I mean..." The waiter chuckled and settled his weight down onto the arm of the couch. "Life is what happens when you're making plans otherwise. You didn't mean to hurt him, you did. He didn't have to leave, but he chose to. He made a rash decision and lived with it for years, always regretting his decision, but far too stubborn to do anything about it. Then suddenly, you were both offered a chance to make amends. He loves you; you love him. You're both here now, don't borrow trouble by rehashing the past."
"It's just... well, I never knew he wrote poetry. He doesn't now."
"According to what Matt told me, Chef had a hard time expressing himself after your break up and that poetry was the shape his sorrow took. He doesn't need it now. He's happy and content."
"How do you know?"
"We, the lowly staff of Taste, would know if Chef wasn't happy. If he ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Chef in a bad mood is nothing compared to Chef in a shitty mood; trust me, I have the scars to prove it."
"I just can't stop feeling guilty that I caused him such pain."
"It was what was needed for him to become the man he was meant to be. Perhaps you saved him."
"I mean that literally. What if you hadn't and the next day, he'd been killed? Considering what you two used to do, it was possible. Fate rolled the dice and decided your path. Besides, it's in the past, Mr. S. It doesn't make any more sense to worry about that than it would to beat yourself up for Adam taking a bite out of that apple. In short, shit happens. It's what we make of that shit that defines us." At Solo's look, Rocky grinned. "Masters in Philosophy."
"What are you doing working as a waiter?"
"You can't feed yourself philosophizing except in front of a class. I started working as a waiter in college and enjoyed it. I loved meeting new people and enjoyed the interaction. It gave me a chance to practice what the professors preached and a way to see life from all angles. The more I worked, the more I liked it and then I hired on here and I haven't regretted a minute of it." Rocky checked his watch and stood. "And speaking of such, if I don't get back, there's going to be hell to pay." He brushed the cat hair from his pants. "Think about it, Mr. S."
He dashed from the room and headed back to the restaurant. He took a second to check his appearance and then started singing. "Knowing me, knowing you, it's the best I can do." He walked in through the front door and immediately Roxanne spun.
"Where have you been? Matt has been pulling his hair out."
"That would be a different look for him. What's wrong?" Rocky settled back into his former task of polishing the silverware for the evening's first service.
"We have a booking problem. We have seriously over-booked our second seating and there haven't been any cancellations."
"Many places would pay to have our worries." He glanced down at the appointment book and grinned, pointing out a few names. "I know these people. A bottle of wine and they'll change to any night you want."
Illya Kuryakin came out into the main dining room, a food stained apron on over his pants and shirt. "All right, Roxanne, you said there's a problem?"
"Taken care of, Chef," she said, winking at Rocky.
"That's what I want to hear." He glanced over at the waiter as well. "Do you have something, Rocky?"
The waiter stood and took Illya's arm, leading him out of Roxanne's hearing range. "Yes, you need to write your husband a love poem."
"I need to write who what?"
"Mr. S is feeling a bit neglected. He could use a little reassurance."
Illya nodded slowly. "I wondered where you'd disappeared to."
"He's feeling guilty for what he sees are past wrongs. A little attention from you would set him right."
Illya nodded and sighed. "I am afraid that I have been taking advantage of his good nature as of late. You are probably right... and for the record." He pointed to himself and shook his head. "Not the wife."
"Oh, I dunno, Chef, I've seen you, barefoot in the kitchen. That's how my dad defined..." At Illya's glare he grinned widely. "Not the wife, got it."
Napoleon Solo came awake so gradually, he wasn't even aware of it at first. There was just the hint of music, soft and flowing, barely audible. He concentrated upon it for a long moment before recognizing it as Vivaldi. That was a change. For some reason, classical music wasn't the first option in this household. Something jazzy or blues were usually his lover's first choices. This was nice for a change. Napoleon liked Vivaldi.
Then he realized he was alone in bed. Cracking open an eye to stare at an alarm clock showed that it was still extremely early. What would Illya be doing up this early when he could sleep in? Didn't the man have any sense of propriety?
There was motion to his left and Napoleon felt the bed dip. "Illya?"
"Shh, it's early still." Illya stroked his back, calluses rough against his skin as the lamp on Illya's side of the bed came on, casting a golden glow about the immediate area.
Who would he wake up? Just the cats and if Illya showed any sign of movement, they would already be down in the kitchen, singing for their breakfast before his feet hit the floor. Still, this was nice, feeling Illya's gentle touch against his skin, the fingertips just barely brushing the surface.
Then he felt something warm, a bit like lotion, and he shifted slightly to look.
"Hold still," Illya ordered quietly. "Now I shall have to start again." Before Napoleon could ask the obvious question, he felt Illya's tongue licking his shoulder. What the hell? He started to move again and a hand pressed him down against the sheets. "Just trust me, Napoleon. Will you do that for me?"
"Of course." Why wouldn't he? So he relaxed and waited. The sensation came again, but he was ready this time. He concentrated instead upon the feeling, the trickle of odd, warm wetness against his skin. Finally, just as he was about to come out of his skin, he heard Illya sigh.
"You're done," Illya said, as if that would explain everything. "I wrote you a love poem... well, more of a dirty limerick actually."
"On my back? In what?"
"Chocolate. It somehow seemed appropriate, given the day."
"Shame I'll never get to read it." Napoleon propped himself up on his elbows and glanced back over his shoulder in an attempt to do so anyway.
"Matt said I needed to work on my lettering skills. Rocky implied something entirely different. Two birds, one stone." There was a flash and it took Napoleon a moment to register that a photo had been taken. Illya set the camera aside and stretched out beside him. "I'll be developing that roll myself."
"Just when I think you can't surprise me, Kuryakin, you surprise me."
"Now all that remains is the clean up."
Napoleon caught the glint in his partner's eye and smiled. "I'm guessing a shower is right out."
"Certainly in the immediate and foreseeable future." Illya surged forward to kiss him and then resettled himself again, licking at Napoleon's shoulder. "I made sure to use very good chocolate."
"I'm getting the distinct feeling that this was your Valentine's Day gift to yourself. I just seem to be the medium."
"Nothing about you is medium, my friend." Illya continued his ministrations, his hands working Napoleon's arms, legs and other places only Illya could reach. It reminded Napoleon of a cat kneading a pillow. Each squeeze and each lingering lick shot little jolts to his groin until Napoleon was ready to jump out of his skin.
He felt Illya tug on one of his shoulders, rolling him. Obligingly, Napoleon let himself be turned, unashamed and unapologetic of his arousal. Illya smiled and leaned down, kissing Napoleon with sticky lips. "And now the second part of your gift..."
Napoleon licked his lips and smiled. "You did use a good chocolate."
"Only the best for you." Illya kissed him again, gently almost reverently, making love to Napoleon's mouth while his hands caressed Napoleon's shoulders.
Normally, Napoleon was a fully participatory partner, but he got the sense that this morning his job was to lie still and just enjoy. And this he did to the fullest of his abilities. Illya's strength and his own need were held fully in check as he moved slowly down Napoleon's body, his mouth tasting every inch of Napoleon's skin, as if looking for some hidden spot previously unexplored.
By the time Illya finally reached Napoleon's penis, it was so hard Napoleon could have used it as a towel rack. Just Illya's breath on it was enough to make Napoleon groan.
Pulling back slightly, Illya reached out and Napoleon was startled when instead of lube, Illya retrieved a pastry bag.
Eyes widening slightly, Napoleon waited, anticipating the feeling of silky chocolate being drizzled over his penis. He was surprised when Illya instead opened the other end of the bag and dipped two fingers into the bag. Then he carefully moved the bag well out of the line of fire and smiled at Napoleon.
"I touch you and you will go off like a sky rocket. I think a bit more foreplay, yes?" He let the tips of his chocolate covered fingers tickle Napoleon's lips and he greedily sucked them in, working the digits with his tongue until every bit of chocolate had been licked from them. As he did it, Napoleon watched Illya, satisfied with the undisguised and open pleasure his lover was taking in the act.
He could feel Illya's erection, just as needy as his own, pressing against him, anxious and eager, but as he reached for it, Illya moved away.
"Please, Illya, I want to touch you."
"But isn't this my gift?"
"Then I want to touch you... please?" He waited for just a second and tried again. This time, Illya didn't elude him and Napoleon smiled happily at the familiar shape in his hand. He was starting to understand how this game was being played and he shifted slightly. "Mmm, much better." He pulled Illya closer and abruptly shifted position so that Illya's penis was just a fraction of an inch from his mouth. He darted out his tongue to run it against the shaft and Illya started to retreat again. Napoleon's hand held him firm.
"Napoleon, I can't..."
"My gift, remember?" He paused at Illya's look of unhappiness. "Okay, just like in everything else. Together?"
Illya nodded. "That I can live with; together then."
Mutual fellatio always carried the risk of getting too involved one way or the other and it wasn't too long before Napoleon struggled to keep his concentration on just one thing. It didn't take much longer for him to realize that was exactly what Illya had hoped for. Napoleon rocketed his way to a climax, Illya following him a moment later.
But the Russian wasn't finished with his surprises yet. Napoleon exited the bathroom to find breakfast waiting for him, Eggs Florentine, fresh pastries and strong coffee, just the way he, if not Illya, preferred it. They ate, talked and as if the coffee was mere water, both drifted back to sleep, sated and content in each other's arms.
Napoleon woke with a start and immediately grabbed the bedside clock. He couldn't believe that he'd slept as long as he had. Normally he beat Illya out of bed, but today had been the exception. He knew instinctively that he was alone in the bed, albeit a sticky and rumbled one. He reached out to where Illya was normally burrowed to test the heat of the sheets. That would give him an idea of just how long Illya had been gone. The sheets were cool and his hand brushed against something. The afternoon was overcast and the room just dark enough that Napoleon had to turn on a light to study the note Illya had left for him.
I shower before
Laying down next to you
Washing blank the
Slate I am to you
I am canvas
Painted by your desire
Sculpted by your touch
Coloured by your scent
Imprinted by your
Vision of what you see
When you look at me
Which is so different from
What I perceive in the mirror.
He read it twice, his cheeks coloring slightly as the words began to take shape in his mind. This was new, not one of the old ones he had found, for he recognized the paper used in the restaurant. For all the craziness and pressure of the upcoming Valentine's Day dinner, Illya had somehow found the time to write him a love poem. He smiled and ran his fingers over the words, written in Illya's careful script, as emotions built inside him. Trust his partner to set the bar so high, Napoleon would get a nosebleed trying to jump it.
Smiling, Napoleon rolled over to open his bedside table. Pushing past the half used tubes of lube, he found both pencil and paper. After thinking for a long moment, he began to write. Illya wasn't the only one with a gift for words.
When he was finished, he read the words out loud, weighing each one carefully against the other to measure their worth. Content, he rewrote it as neatly as his hand would permit.
Your voice is so dear to me
softly gentle in my ears
then hoarse in commanding me
to bend me willingly to you
shivering in my blood
pounding to the core of me
Air and Water you are to me
sustaining me bit by bit
one moment at a time
bringing from the depths of me
desire I hardly recognize
leaving me inarticulate and
voiceless myself with need
You fill me with yourself
Spirit reaching out to mine.
It was sentimental enough to make Napoleon smile and yet not so sweet that Illya would roll his eyes while reading it. Now the method of delivery... He'd found a very expensive bottle of imported vodka, one he'd been assured by an unknowing Illya at the time, as being the best of the best. Napoleon had immediately bought it and squirreled it away for the perfect occasion.
It took him a minute to remember where he'd hidden the bottle, but he finally found it stashed at the back of his closet. Taking it out, he taped the note carefully to the box, and wrapped it. He stripped the bed, exchanging clean sheets for soiled and made it back up, tucking the box under Illya's pillows. Not the most inventive of deliveries, but Illya would be surprised.
That accomplished, Napoleon headed for the shower, pausing to smirk at the photo stuck to the corner of the mirror. It was hard to make out the exact words, He frowned as he read,. "There once was a man from Nantucket, who carried his..." Napoleon tried to make out the word. "In a bucket. The women would shout when he took it out, but didn't..." something he couldn't read... "To blow or to..." Napoleon felt his cheeks color. Oops, Illya wasn't joking when he said he's written a dirty limerick.
Snickering, he showered and shaved carefully, then dressed and headed over to the restaurant. As expected the restaurant was a blur of activity, with couples coming and going, some arriving in limos for what they felt was the highlight of the social life in Jackson. The local paper had done a spread and people had crowded the porch, parking lot and the bar in an attempt to snatch up any cancellation or unclaimed reservation.
Napoleon headed for the bar, nearly packed to the point of everyone having to breathe simultaneously. He smiled at Celeste who nodded to a stool at the end. A 'reserved' sign had been placed there and Napoleon smiled his thanks to her. A moment later, a double single-malt scotch was in front of him and Napoleon was engaging in his favorite pastime, people watching.
When applause started, he'd had to guess that Illya and/or Matt had made an appearance. From the buzz of conversation, Napoleon knew the two had delivered the culinary event they had worked so hard to achieve and the crowd was appreciative.
Because of the complexity of the menu, only two seatings had been scheduled. Even then, it was apparent that all the staff was being pushed to their maximum.
When Rocky suddenly appeared at his elbow, Napoleon wasn't surprised that the man seemed a little breathless and tired looking. There was a flash of something gold and Napoleon caught Rocky's wrist to hold his hand still. The diamond in the ring sparkled and shone even in the dim light of the bar.
"Nice. And you gave him?"
"A watch. The hands are a knife and fork. You?"
"Mine was of a more physical nature."
"With Chef, I'm not surprised. He's been smug as hell all afternoon. You'll have to tell me all about it... tomorrow. After I've slept for about ten hours and gotten my wits back around me." And he gathered up his drinks and was gone.
Napoleon thought about the poems, both the one from Illya and the one he'd written. Certain parts of their day they would share, but he knew, from experience those would be private, only theirs, just like their love—strong, binding, and a gift meant just for each other to share.