Make Your Bed and Lie in It
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognise belongs to me. Now isn't that a surprise? ;)
'Just coffee. Black.' Illya's eyes sparkled and Napoleon continued his gentle urging, knowing that he was, quite ill-advisedly, using his bedroom voice. He couldn't help it when Illya looked at him like that.'What? You're not having a sundae?'
'No. Thank-you Napoleon. I am perfectly happy without.'
'Just a small one. I'll go halves with you.'
'No. Thank-you. Why are you so keen for me to have an ice-cream? What are you up to?'
'I'm just offering you dessert. Why aren't you eating?'
'It's nothing. I've had a very trying few days.' He dropped his voice so that they wouldn't be overheard, but Marvin's sister was otherwise engaged. 'Marvin was rather intractable under the influence of those flowers. He refused to move without a lot of...of hugs, and you may have noticed he wasn't much better on that wretched mountain.' Napoleon grinned, but kept his head down so that Illya wouldn't notice. 'I'm not very good at hugging strange men,' Illya finished sulkily.
'You're not all that great at hugging familiar men,' Napoleon added under his breath. Unfortunately, Illya's sharp hearing caught it.
'What exactly are you suggesting?'
'I'm suggesting you have a dessert.'
'That doesn't really answer my question.'
'You didn't answer mine very satisfactorily.'
'Why are you so keen for me to have a dessert?'
'Because I worry about you when you don't eat.'
They left the ice-cream parlour at last, taking their leave of Miss Clump and Mr Quartz, and strolled back to the hotel, a couple of miles away. Napoleon wished he had followed Illya's example and just had the coffee; his choco-fudge-mountain sundae was sitting very heavily in his stomach. It hadn't helped that Illya had smirked all the time he was eating, his smirk getting broader as Napoleon struggled more and more to finish the enormous dessert.
'I don't know how you finished that ridiculous sundae,' Illya said tiredly. He was stumbling slightly, his natural grace a little diminished by his weariness, so that he bumped into Napoleon from time to time. They climbed the stairs to their room and Napoleon gently pushed Illya in ahead of him. He shut the door, checking the lock was properly set, then sat on the bed that practically blocked the way into the tiny room. Illya slumped down next to him, hands clasped in his lap, and turned his head towards Napoleon. Napoleon laid a hand on his shoulder.
'Bit of a heavy day, wasn't it?' Illya nodded.
'I've had easier. A tussle in a cemetery after two transatlantic flights in as many days isn't my favourite way to end an affair.'
Illya's eyes were half-closed, a sultry look on his face that invited intimacy. His lips parted slightly and Napoleon felt him lean in fractionally. Napoleon took a deep breath. Maybe this time...it was right: now was that unexpected opportunity he had been waiting for. He rested his other hand on Illya's other shoulder, tilted his head, leant in and pressed his lips to Illya's.
Illya's lips were firm and warm. For a moment, Napoleon thought he was leaning into the kiss, then the sensation was gone and there was nothing, just an unyielding mouth on an unwilling man. Then Illya put a hand on his chest and hissed,
'Let me go! Napoleon, if you value your life, let me go!'
Napoleon drew back, getting up and stepping away from the bed.
'Ah, I, uh, sorry, I thought...'
'No, you didn't,' Illya butted in, also getting to his feet. 'You didn't think at all.' He turned his back on him.
'I won't do it again,' Napoleon said.
'No. You won't,' said Illya softly. It didn't sound like a threat, just a statement. He sighed and went on, 'Take your desserts and your oh-so-charming manner, and go to sleep Napoleon.' He pulled off his shoes, jacket and holster, crawled across to the other side of the bed, dumped the discarded items in a pile on the chair there, pulled back the covers and got under them, hauling them up over his still-clothed shoulders, his back to Napoleon.
Napoleon took more time undressing, going down to his vest and shorts. He sat on the edge of the bed to remove his socks. He had a strong urge to bury his head in his hands, but he refused to do that. What had he read wrong? What aspect of Illya's behaviour in the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months even, leading up to that moment, had he misread? If that look hadn't been a come-on, Napoleon had lost his touch. If Illya's behaviour in the ice-cream parlour hadn't been teasing and significant, Napoleon had never heard sexual overtones before. If the looks Illya had been giving him for the last affair, the touches he had been unnecessarily laying on Napoleon for...well, probably a year or more now, weren't an expression of interest, Napoleon had never... Well, perhaps he hadn't. Certainly he'd blown it now.
He gingerly lifted the covers and crawled in next to Illya, lying on his back in the half-darkness, contemplating the ceiling, twiddling his thumbs on the outside of the covers. The way Illya had said 'No. You won't,' played over and over in his head. Not a threat, not nasty. Just a statement, as if Illya trusted him not to even try it again. Maybe it would be okay. Maybe. He still wasn't quite sure why he'd done it at all.
'Why did you?' came a slightly irritable, muffled voice from next to him. Napoleon jumped. He hated it when Illya seemed to read his mind like that.
'Why? Because...' Napoleon considered for a moment, twiddling his thumbs faster to hide from himself the fact that his hands were shaking. 'Because I've been fighting doing that for so long. You have a habit of looking desperately desirable at the most inappropriate moments. You looked so...' He gave up and turned his head to look at the back of Illya's head. Illya rolled over to lie on his back and stared at the ceiling for a while. Then he nodded slowly. Napoleon stared at him, his mouth falling slightly open.
'Napoleon, it really doesn't matter. You won't do it again. I know you won't.' He turned back onto his side, muttering, 'You said you wouldn't.'
Napoleon scratched his head in embarrassment. He nodded and stared into the darkness until he fell asleep.
Illya sat there looking relaxed and just slightly mystified when Napoleon entered the cell. He shrank away as Napoleon approached to try and snap him out of it.
Napoleon didn't dare put his arm around him. His promise of months ago still resonated in his head whenever he came near his partner. Not that he was about to lose control and just kiss the man, no matter how tempting it was, but he didn't want to give Illya the impression that he was pushing his luck, and he preferred himself sticking to his own rules, even when Illya was in no condition to care. He grabbed his hand,
'Come on, gimme a hand with this!'
He had to help Illya into the mask. The last thing he needed was Illya passing out on him. He yanked it down over his face. Illya just stood there, looking vaguely about himself as if he'd never worn a gas mask before. Hopeless. He helped him up to the blasted window and wrapped his arms around his legs to give him a boost. The effort not to rest his cheek on those muscular legs was almost unbearable and he shook himself into an abrasive temper to block out any more awkward feelings. It helped as he grabbed his hand and they ran across the lawns, down the steps, darting to and fro, over the wall, through the fence and down to the road.
The end of the affair was unsatisfactory from Napoleon's point of view. His rightful and sworn revenge was snatched from him. To kill the man who had put Illya's life in danger was denied him and he sulked his way back to headquarters. Once there, it filtered through his angry mind that it was probably just as well—U.N.C.L.E. agents were not supposed to exact cold-blooded revenge on the enemy, not unless they were under orders, anyway. He was relieved to have his partner back, so much so that he persuaded him to come on his date with the girl afterwards, saying she was a possible danger, an unknown and it would be worth having a chaperone around. He was too worried about his partner to concentrate on the date in any case. He was still acting a little too laid-back for Napoleon's liking.
He pulled on his coat in the office he shared with Illya, wondering how his partner was doing. He had left him in Medical, griping and fidgeting while a harassed-looking doctor tried to check him over for any after-effects of the treatment to which he had been subjected. The thought improved Napoleon's mood considerably—some things never changed. He should probably go and rescue him, before he actually started snarling at the medics. He took the coat back off and laid it across his arm. He hurried down to Medical and paused at the reception desk to sweet-talk the nurse there into telling him where Illya had ended up. He tapped her fondly on the nose and wandered nonchalantly along the corridor, hands in pockets, stopping outside the door, which was slightly ajar.
'There's nothing wrong with me—I'm fine. Please, please can I go?'
'Ah, excuse me?' Napoleon coughed and poked his head around the door. The doctor looked around and glared at him. Napoleon assumed he'd get an angry memo about this tomorrow, CEA or not, but it was worth it for the grateful look on Illya's face.
'I haven't quite finished with Mr Kuryakin, Mr Solo. What are you doing here?
'Mr Waverly wants the two of us to go and collect something. Really, we ought to be going.'
'Mr Waverly should know that medical clearance takes time—especially when the patient is so uncooperative.' He glared at Illya who looked supremely innocent. 'Very well, go, but I want you to bring yourself back here if you notice any strange feelings, any odd sensations, unusual emotions, dizzy spells...'
'Yes, yes,' snapped Illya, leaping off the couch. He sped to the door and stood behind Napoleon, tugging at his jacket.
'I'll see he does,' said Napoleon, touching an invisible hat to the doctor and turning a raised eyebrow on Illya, glancing meaningfully at the tugging fingers. Illya let go and they hurried down the corridor, out of Medical, and out of the building.
'What does Mr Waverly want us to collect?' asked Illya.
'Oh, he heard my stomach rumbling and said that we should pick up some dinner.'
Illya grinned, a real grin, and tutted.
'What? I didn't lie. Got you out, didn't it?'
Illya nodded. Napoleon looked up and down the street, rubbing the back of his neck.
'Wanna get take-out or do you want something more civilized?' Illya huffed and swung his arms.
'To tell the truth, I've spent just a little too much time indoors recently. Can we get take-out and eat in the park?'
They got their food and found a secluded bench behind some rocks and shrubs where they could eat in peace. When they had eaten, they sat watching the birds flying between the trees ahead of them, until Napoleon glanced at his partner's blank face and spoke,
'Do you remember anything from while you were in that cell?'
'Pretty much everything. I was perfectly aware of what was being said. I just couldn't make much sense of it and I couldn't do anything. You were a bit frantic, weren't you.'
Napoleon shifted a little, 'I was keen to get out. Plus, I was worried you were going to do something weird and get yourself killed.' Illya looked hard at him and got up, waiting for Napoleon to copy him before he started to walk beside him, hands in his pockets.
'You were very...restrained. No, actually you were downright unpleasant. Thank-you. I knew I could trust you.'
'I beg your pardon?'
'You thought I looked cute. I could see it in your eyes. You didn't take your hand off my neck for ages. I could feel your fingers playing with my hair. But then you just got on with it.'
'Hell Illya, I was trying to get us out of there alive. If I'd had the right to slam you against a wall and kiss you stupid...stupider, I still wouldn't have done it. The whole thing was a little rushed, if you didn't notice.' Illya nodded and they walked in silence to the edge of the park, before Illya said he was going to get some supplies for his long-empty apartment, and made it clear he was doing his shopping alone.
Napoleon looked across at Illya, who was, unusually for him, distracted from his report. He was twiddling his hair between his thumb and forefinger and watching his pencil flicking backwards and forwards between the fingers of his other hand. Napoleon sat back in his chair, glad of a reason to look up from his own work.
'What's the problem?'
'I need to talk to you. Can we meet after work?'
Napoleon frowned slightly, then shrugged,
'Sure. Come to my apartment?' Illya nodded and Napoleon watched him leave, heading back to the labs. He'd been a little off since they had returned from the Gurnius affair. Napoleon had assumed it was the after-effects of having to inhabit the persona of such a monster, but Illya had played plenty of roles in the past and shaken off even the most unpleasant after a day or two. Napoleon returned to his work, but failed to concentrate and achieved nothing more useful than a bad doodle of Illya's eyes in the margin of one of the personnel reports he was trying to file. He scribbled it over and stuffed the pages back into his in-tray, deciding to wander over to the secretarial pool offices as an antidote to his unusual nerviness.
'Come in. Drink?'
Illya nodded and removed his coat, throwing it onto the hooks near the door. He followed Napoleon around as he poured their drinks, not asking what Illya wanted. Illya kept quiet and Napoleon glanced at him every now and again, but did not press him to explain until they were seated on the sofa with a glass each in their hands.
'Well? Spill it then.' Illya looked vaguely at his drink for a second, then seemed to register what Napoleon meant and knocked it back in one gulp. He set his glass on the coffee table and remained there, leaning forward, hands in his lap, not looking at Napoleon.
'Terry said you told her our friendship was being strained.'
Napoleon stared, then remembered what he had said as she released him from the electrocution apparatus.
'Oh, Illya! I was in a lot of pain. I didn't mean it...it was just something to say to her, take my mind off that machine. It hurt.'
'Yes. It hurt, Napoleon. It hurt a great deal.'
'I was grouchy. What did you expect? Thanks?'
Illya remained silent and Napoleon kicked himself. 'I'm sorry. You're right. You do deserve thanks. You saved my life. I know. I'm an ungrateful bastard.' He sighed. If only he could take Illya in his arms, soothe him as he would if a woman looked at him that way, but he'd promised and, apart from the odd white lie and the necessary deceptions of the job, Napoleon Solo kept his promises.
'I'm sorry, Illya. I didn't mean it, it was just...small talk, you know?' Illya's arms were still folded in front of him and Napoleon rubbed at his eyes to stop himself looking at Illya. 'Sorry, I'm sorry. I know it was hard. I know. I didn't say it to you. I didn't mean it to you.'
'No. No, I'm sorry. Not your fault, I know. It was just...'
Illya wished he could take Napoleon in his arms and hold him, to tell him it was really all right, but he'd blown up that bridge already. No going back, not with any semblance of honour or dignity. It wouldn't be fair anyway. Napoleon would never know where he stood with him again. Stand firm. That was the only answer.
They sat in silence for a while. Illya slowly sank back onto the sofa, ending up shoulder to shoulder with Napoleon. Well, he may not be able to hold him, but there was nothing to stop him leaning on him, just as he always had.
It was awkward sitting this close to Illya without putting an arm around him. Not just because that was what he wanted to do, but because Illya was cutting off the circulation in his left arm, and the best way to avoid the creeping numbness would be to get his arm out of the way, and the only way to do that without moving away, which would look like he was trying to brush him off, would be to put the arm around Illya's shoulders. Of course, he could just tell Illya about his arm. He opened his mouth to tell him, but stopped short when he saw an odd look in Illya's eyes. It was a strange sort of pleading look, almost as if he wanted...
Napoleon sat still. Illya glanced at him and frowned a little. It was his own fault. He had caused Napoleon to make a promise. Why did the man have to be so noble, so gentlemanly, so...oh to hell with it. He leaned his head back on the sofa, dropped his right shoulder a little, letting his head fall almost onto Napoleon's shoulder. Napoleon turned his head and gave him a piercing look. Illya looked up into his eyes and his mouth turned down ruefully. Napoleon raised his other arm and patted his shoulder, raising an eyebrow. Illya's face went completely blank and Napoleon faced front, smoothing his hands over his knees, working the creases out of the fabric. He felt Illya's head drop onto his shoulder and an increase in pressure as he leaned on him more heavily. It was impossible. He extricated his half-numb arm from between them and laid it along the back of the sofa. Too high really, but safe. Illya felt the arm go and moved into the vacated space. Napoleon tried to speak again, but couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't sound provocative in any sense of the word. After a while, Illya started to snuffle slightly, and Napoleon realised he'd fallen asleep. Hell, he had to be really tired. Probably wasn't sleeping. This latest affair had been enough to give anyone nightmares. To be that similar to a man that depraved, to be able to take on his persona so easily. It had to be worrying. He left his arm where it was and allowed his eyes to close.
He woke up again with Illya drooling half on, half off his shoulder. Napoleon's arm was wrapped tightly around him, and Illya's own hand was resting on his shirt front. Napoleon felt guilty and started to pull his arm away. Illya shifted and woke up. He slowly realised where he was and looked faintly embarrassed. He took his hand away and tried to sit up. Napoleon gave his shoulder a squeeze before letting him go.
'Tired?' he asked.
'Mmm,' Illya grunted, running a hand through his hair and gazing blearily at his watch. Napoleon brought up his own wrist and said,
'In the morning?' Illya sounded incredibly Russian for once. Not just Russian, but dopey and sluggish, his tousled hair flopping down over one eye, making him squint. Napoleon brushed the hair out of his eye without thinking, then winced,
'Don't fuss me, Napoleon,' said Illya, but there was no menace in his voice.
'Sorry,' said Napoleon again.
'Oh, don't be. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have...' He stopped and leaned back, closing his eyes.
'Hey! Shouldn't have what?'
'Shouldn't have fallen asleep,' finished Illya, unconvincingly. He hauled himself off the sofa and went to the hooks to fetch his coat. He shrugged it on, while Napoleon watched.
'You could, ah, stay here, you know,' Napoleon said, raising an eyebrow at him. Illya shook his head. 'The spare bed's all made up,' Napoleon clarified. Illya twitched a smile and shook his head again.
'Thank-you, Napoleon. I must go home. I have things to do.'
'Yeah, well, you be careful. Plenty of strange men about, this time of night.' Illya shot him a withering look and left, pulling the door shut behind him.
Illya stood up as Napoleon fell. That last shot from the molecutronic gun had been too close, knocking him over the edge of a steep drop. Illya was being observed, watched by the Thrush and now they were suggesting that he could be the next test subject. It would have made him smile, if his heart hadn't been cracking into a hundred pieces. They may be watching him, but they weren't very good at reading him. If Napoleon was gone... being shot would be a comforting option. However, with their lethal new weapon apparently broken, that particular option seemed to be closed to him. He felt the magical effects of good training kick in as he was led back to captivity. At least while he was on this mission his heart could keep its destruction to itself, he had no use for a broken heart in the field, so he ignored it.
There was only one moment when he thought it might get the better of him. On the phone to Mr Waverly, he had to report Napoleon's death. He kept his head down, stared at the dust, imagined himself to be reporting the death of a total stranger, and only heard the faintest tremolo colouring his voice. Then it was back to work, getting the gun back to headquarters, checking it in, beginning the painstaking job of disassembling it. It all kept his mind occupied until the moment they heard that Napoleon was alive.
He knew he couldn't carry on with the delicate work on the gun, his hands were threatening to shake uncontrollably, so he begged the necessity for him to follow up on the crackly call. Mr Waverly allowed it, too, which didn't surprise him until he thought back on it later. Mr Waverly was usually all for one person seeing through one task unless they were compromised. Perhaps he had known how badly Illya was compromised.
Then there was the realisation of the import of Napoleon's call, the crazy rush down to the bomb-disposal bunker, the anxious seconds that seemed to last for hours as they secured the bomb, lowering it, waiting for the detonation. Then the flood of relief (not to mention water) when it was all over, which was not just down to the safe disposal of the bomb.
Illya stood in the office, watching as Napoleon tried to persuade the girl to go out with him. He was having no success, which made Illya want to laugh out loud, but he kept to a reserved smile. He wanted her to go, to leave him with Napoleon.
'Well, get on with it,' he prompted, knowing the little half-serious, half-joking scheme Napoleon had worked out. He watched as Napoleon presented her with the safety pin she had provided to help save all their lives. He watched stoically as Napoleon kissed her briefly, and with a little more amusement as she graciously accepted the joke and took her leave.
Napoleon let Lisa Rodgers walk her to the exit, which surprised Illya: Napoleon usually made a point of at least walking their female guests back to the outside world, even if he couldn't go any further with them. When the door had closed, he turned to Illya and looked at him hard, the lights reflecting harshly across his slightly sunburned face.
'You all right?' he asked, staring into Illya's eyes, allowing no deception. Illya nodded.
'I would have been a whole lot better if you'd made more of an effort when they were shooting at you.'
'You scrambled around on those rocks like a novice. I kept thinking you'd found a good line of cover behind some nice substantial rocks, I'd just start to relax, and then up you'd pop again in full view. Idiot. I'd have failed you on the survival course if you'd been in my class.'
'Did you get to try running on those rocks?' asked Napoleon defensively, knowing that Illya was right. He'd known at the time that his strategy was all wrong, but he was too scared to think straight, too well aware of the alleged power of the thing. His whole body was shouting 'oerun!' and instead of ignoring it and following his training, he'd played headless chicken and almost got himself killed. 'It wasn't as clear where I was as it may have looked, particularly with the, ah, ground shaking around me like that...all those explosions, you may have spotted from where you were,' he went on. Illya sniffed derisively.
'Napoleon, there were boulders ten feet tall down there. It wouldn't have taken much to keep behind at least one or two of them.'
'Ah, well, you're welcome to do it next time,' Napoleon said appeasingly. Illya pressed his lips together to hide the grin threatening to erupt. To help himself out, he said,
'You scared me. I thought you were dead.'
'Now you know how I feel, a lot of the time.' He drummed his fingers on the table and Illya bounced on his toes, trying to maintain an even temper.
'I already know that,' he said firmly. Napoleon looked up and shrugged,
'Do you?' He stared at Illya who held his gaze unflinchingly.
'Yes. I do. I also have work to do. Are you going to come and help, or am I about to be coerced into writing your report again? I warn you, asking that girl on a date has already alerted me to the fact that you don't have one organised for tonight, so you can't use that excuse.'
'No wonder you got your promotion to number two; deductive skills like that, whoowee!' Napoleon whistled with a shake of his head. He pouted, blowing little raspberries with his bottom lip. 'In that case, it seems I have no choice, I'll write the report. You probably deserve the break, anyway.' Illya raised his eyebrows at that unexpected concession, then ushered Napoleon ahead of him, just to make sure he did actually get as far as their office.
Two and a half hours later, Illya blew a few strands of hair away from his eyes and looked up. Napoleon was watching him; not just watching him, actually staring; so much so that he was no longer really seeing him and failed to respond when the object of his stare noticed what he was doing.
'Napoleon?' Napoleon jumped and sat back nervously, running a hand through his hair.
'Have you written your report?'
'Uh? Oh, yeah. All done, ready for marking.' He winked. Illya narrowed his eyes, but didn't say anything as he looked down again to gather his papers together and deposit them in his out-tray. Napoleon let his gaze fix on Illya's hair once more, watching the golds, whites and browns shifting in the light. Illya looked up through his eyebrows and cleared his throat.
'You're staring,' he said softly. Napoleon nodded,
'Sorry,' he said, but he didn't look away.
'You're meant to stop what you're doing when you apologise for it.'
Napoleon gave an apologetic smile.
'I know it. Have you done?'
'Yes. If I had anything left to do, I could hardly carry on with you watching me like that.' He grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair and slung it on, coming round to sit on the desk next to Napoleon. 'Well?'
'Well? Well what?'
'Are you going out or going home? Do I get a ride or am I walking?'
'Well I didn't sit here waiting for an hour just to dump you at the door of Del Floria's now did I?'
'An hour? You mean you finished your report an hour ago?' Illya said in disbelief.
'More or less,' Napoleon replied, rubbing his chin pensively, 'I've been writing those things for years. My side of it was less fun-packed than yours anyway.'
'You mean there was less of it you could actually report.'
'I don't suppose Mr Waverly really wants to know what you got up to with that girl.'
Napoleon raised an amused eyebrow and stood up, patting Illya on the shoulder.
'Don't worry about it. I was a bit too preoccupied to, uh, do anything with her except walk and escape. You would have found my behaviour exemplary.'
'Your behaviour, in public at any rate, is always exemplary, Napoleon. That is half the problem. Are we leaving? I really don't want to spend the night here when I don't have to.'
'Home then.' Napoleon grabbed his own jacket and strode out of the office. Illya followed him and they marched side by side out of the building and round to the car Napoleon had parked earlier.
'Got any food?' asked Illya as they pulled away.
'Some. Why? Don't you?'
Illya screwed up his face, thinking.
'From memory, I have half a loaf of stale bread, some probably mouldy cheese, an open tin of soup that might just give me food poisoning, and a cold pork chop that definitely would.' He smiled endearingly at Napoleon, who took his eyes off the road just long enough to ascertain that he was being manipulated. 'What have you got?' Illya asked.
'A loaf-end of rye bread, some eggs that might explode if they're not handled with care, a bottle of flat soda and a most likely black banana.' He stole another look at Illya and grinned at the disappointment on his face. 'But I also have a chocolate gateau in the freezer, next to your vodka, and Luigi's number on the wall next to the entry phone, so you can call him for pasta while I liberate the dessert. How's that sound?'
'Tempting,' said Illya, closing his eyes and leaning back in his seat, 'You have an account with Luigi?'
'You mean, ''Will I have forgotten you helped to eat it when the bill comes in''? Yes, in all probability.'
'In that case, it sounds like an excellent idea.'
An hour later they sat side by side on the sofa, munching on pasta and complimentary garlic bread, listening to the crusty bits flying across the room and keeping a commentary.
'Floor by the window.'
'That one went in the fireplace.'
'Under the armchair.'
'Almost to the front door.'
'That one doesn't count, you flicked it on purpose. It has to be bona fide shrapnel from biting down on it.' Napoleon wagged an admonitory finger at Illya, then popped the last piece of garlic bread in his mouth, wiped his fingers on a napkin and sat back. He watched Illya finish off his own piece, glance back at him and pick up the last of the pasta. Napoleon shuffled round to get a better view and Illya paused, fork half-way to his mouth,
'Is that gateau soft enough to eat yet?' he asked. Napoleon rolled his eyes,
'The packaging said 'Let stand for two hours at room temperature.' Thanks to Luigi's lightning service, we've only given it half an hour.'
'That will do, won't it?'
'It'll still be frozen.'
'Well, we can always suck it.' Illya's slight lisp chose that moment to show itself and Napoleon groaned inwardly. The last thing he needed was to sit there and watch Illya sucking on slippery slices of semi-frozen chocolate cake.
'I'm not sure that's a good idea. You don't get the flavour if it's too cold. It's not designed to be eaten frozen.' Illya put down his pasta bowl and got up.
'I'm going to check on it.'
Napoleon watched him enter the kitchen area, go up to the cake and drag his finger across the surface, leaving a deep furrow in the top layer of chocolate cream. He watched the finger disappear into his mouth and come out clean and Napoleon looked away, breathing out carefully. Illya looked across at him and called to attract his attention,
'The top's thawed. I'll bring it over. Where are your knives?'
'Uh, top drawer next to the oven.' He heard the drawer slide out and in again, then looked round in time to see Illya approaching as carefully as a child with a full plate of dinner: gateau held before him in both hands, knife between his teeth, both eyes focused squintily on the cake.
'Mind the rug!' yelled Napoleon, as Illya's foot came perilously close to catching under it. Illya lifted it at the last second and successfully deposited the cake on the table amid the debris of their main course. Napoleon reached forward and took the handle of the knife, wincing slightly as Illya opened his mouth and he carefully drew it out.
'Didn't your mother ever tell you not to put knives in your mouth?' he asked, looking at the damp blade, shrugging and wiping it on his shirt. Illya watched him do it, the corners of his mouth twitched and he shook his head.
'My mother was more interested in whether there was anything worth cutting up with the knife. If it was better than a potato she wouldn't have minded all that much if I'd run in holding it up to the hilt between my teeth.' He took the knife and started to cut the cake, preventing Napoleon from asking further about this little piece of his personal history. The knife sank easily through the top, but stopped as it reached the frozen centre. Illya worked the knife up and down, trying to hack through it, then gave up, wiping imaginary sweat from his brow.
'Here,' said Napoleon, gesturing to be given the knife. Illya turned the cake so the knife handle faced Napoleon, who took it and pushed down.
'Face it Illya, you're going to have to wait,' he said after a few moments.
'But I'm hungry. Maybe we can do it together?' He put his hands over Napoleon's and together they pushed down. The knife slid painfully through the icy layers and after a little more effort, they managed to cut two mis-shapen slices. Illya took the biggest and started to eat, licking off the soft topping, chocolate curls sticking to his upper lip, then he slid the point of the frozen lower half into his mouth and sucked. He glanced at Napoleon, then did a double-take. Napoleon's slice was melting between his fingers. He hadn't touched it. He was staring at Illya, swallowing. Illya flicked his eyes down guiltily, then looked up again. He popped the rest of his slice into his mouth—an indecently large portion that distended his cheeks and made breathing awkward. He shook himself, gave Napoleon a 'cake's good' sort of thumbs-up and waved at him to eat his.
Napoleon put the point of his slice into his mouth and tried to bite it off. No chance. The base was rock solid. Illya was gulping as his chocolate and cream melted in his mouth, but Napoleon wasn't going to try that. The only choice was to follow Illya's example. He sucked the frozen dessert, pulling it out from between his lips, then returning it for more. By the time he was halfway through, he realised that Illya had fallen silent. His mouth apparently empty once more, he was staring, just as Napoleon had stared earlier. His lips were parted, traces of chocolate still clinging around them. Napoleon hesitated, then put the gateau back into his mouth for another slow suck. He heard Illya swallow and looked back at him. Okay, he thought to himself, what the hell are we going to do now? I'm not falling for that one my friend. You're not going to catch me out like that. That's how you got me last time. He gave up on the cake and put it down. He looked at his hand and tried to wipe the chocolate off on his napkin, but there was too much of it and it was too sticky. He made to get up.
'I'm just going to, ah, wash this off...' he said. Illya held up his own sticky fingers,
'Why?' He raised a chocolate covered digit and licked it. Napoleon shook his head,
'No, Illya. I can't take it. I can deal with everything else, but I cannot, with the best will in the world, sit here and behave myself if I have to watch you doing that.' Illya's mouth fell a little further open. and that old yearning look appeared in his eyes again. He slowly raised the next finger and licked it. Napoleon slapped his own knee in frustration, then wished he hadn't. He glared at the sticky mark on his suit, then snapped his eyes up to meet Illya's.
'What do you want?' he asked fiercely. Illya did not flinch. He put a third finger in his mouth, pulled it out slowly, then replied,
'I'm not going back on what I said, Napoleon.
He was trying to sound firm, but it came out all wrong. He didn't want Napoleon to think he was fickle, but he refused to lose his right to lick his fingers in front of Napoleon whenever he wanted to. If that was a problem...then Napoleon would have to...to...' He couldn't think of anything he'd rather Napoleon do than take his fingers and lick them for him. He held out his other hand, just as sticky, to Napoleon, who stared at it,
'Uh, that one's covered in chocolate too.'
'I know. I thought...' He couldn't offer that. Not without going back on himself. He withdrew the hand and sat next to Napoleon in silence. After a minute, Napoleon spoke again,
'I meant it, Illya. What do you want? I'm sitting here watching you pose and lick and suck and show off like you're trying to get into my bank account, not just my bed, and all I can get from you is that the second option there isn't actually an option at all. Which is it? Either you are the meanest, cruellest tease that ever came in male form, or you don't realise yourself that your mind and your body are not saying the same things.'
'I know what I want,' said Illya, but it came out shakily and the words died almost before they'd left his lips. Napoleon leaned closer,
'I know what I... I can't Napoleon. I won't go back on what I said.'
Napoleon sat up straight, grabbed Illya's sticky fingers and squeezed.
'Do. You. Want. To?' he asked slowly, enunciating each word with infinite care. Illya looked up, scared, his eyes flicking back and forth, looking for the exit. Napoleon kept hold of him.
'Do you want to?' he repeated.
Illya nodded miserably. Napoleon sighed and sat back, not letting go of Illya's hands.
'Thank God for that,' he said, and raised one of Illya's hands to his lips, sucking a finger into his mouth and licking off the chocolate and hearing Illya's little gasp of astonished pleasure as it slid back out. He took the second finger into his mouth, tonguing the rough callous that revealed the spot Illya used to pull the trigger on his Special. Illya watched him take the third finger and shifted a little.
'Hey! That's my cake you're eating!' he said. Napoleon glanced at the half-uneaten slice on the table. He nodded his head at it,
'You can have mine.'
Illya moved closer and Napoleon let his finger slide from his mouth. He rested his forehead against Illya's so that Illya could smell the chocolate on his breath.
'I would kiss you, but I promised I wouldn't.'
'Did I make everything much more difficult than it should have been?' Illya asked, not moving. Napoleon nodded, rolling his forehead up and down against Illya's.
'And I'm not sure why. You could tell me, but I suspect you won't.' Illya closed his eyes,
'It would be better if I didn't.' The point of his nose searched down Napoleon's face, helping his mouth to find Napoleon's without having to open his eyes.
Napoleon opened his mouth to the kiss, then tilted his head to give him room to speak,
'Even so, it's always better to start, ah, this sort of thing, without a great big secret hovering around, hmm?' Illya grunted a grudging acceptance and snuggled his head into Napoleon's shoulder.
'I didn't want to be one of your infatuations. I was worried that I was. You know, you didn't really show any interest earlier, so I thought—well, I thought you'd get over it after a while, and I didn't want to get involved if you'd just forget me in a few weeks.'
'You thought I'd do that to you?'
'Not on purpose, no, but Napoleon, you spend so much time pretending to be in love with girls who you actually just have a crush on, I didn't think you knew how to do it properly any more.'
'You think I'm in love with you now though?' Illya gave him a sharp look,
'If you're trying to make me feel insecure, it's not going to work. I knew I'd made a mistake, almost as soon as I'd pushed you away that first time, but I couldn't go back on it. I couldn't stop watching you though, more than I had before. You've been so ridiculously well-behaved, but you've also been watching me like a hawk. I thought at first you were worried you might have damaged our partnership, but-'
'Not really, you weren't. I made it perfectly clear that I didn't mind; you picked up on that quickly enough. You were more worried about doing something that would change that. Well that's not normal for you.'
'If a girl brushes you off, you're polite to her, but you don't hover round her, you don't keep on and on waiting for an opportunity.'
'I didn't mean to...'
'No, you're not listening. It doesn't matter that you did or did not, the fact is, you couldn't stop yourself. That's enough for me.'
'How'd you come to be so damn self-assured?'
'In this? It's you. And I know you. I was terrified I'd never find a way to tell you it was all right now. I didn't want you to think I'd changed my mind. I never changed my mind, I just...'
'...didn't trust me at first.'
'Of course I trusted you,' Illya snapped. 'If I didn't trust you I would have kicked you out of the room when you tried it, and applied to Mr Waverly for a transfer the next morning, though it would have broken my heart to do it.'
'Okay. Okay. Calm down. Can I ask you a question?' Illya raised his eyebrows encouragingly.
'I, ah, just wondered whether you actually... Well, you said I was in love with you. Am I allowed to make the complementary assumption regarding your feelings?'
Illya shook his head, which threw Napoleon for a second and he began to frown, but it wasn't that sort of head-shake, as it turned out.
'Of course I am. You're not that blind, surely?'
'I think,' Napoleon said awkwardly, 'that I might be.' Illya took his hand and sucked a finger into his mouth. Napoleon closed his eyes. Illya shuffled closer.
'I have been in love with you since the first time you told me to take care during a mission, and I realised that you didn't have to.'
'Gee, I'm gonna have to watch my words more carefully if saying ''take care'' is enough to push people over the edge.'
'Shut up Napoleon. You are released from your promise, you know?'
'I know,' replied Napoleon, slowly and seductively. He pulled Illya closer and put a sticky-fingered arm around his shoulder. 'Your move though.' Illya looked up at him, glanced at the table, leaned forward, and picked up Napoleon's unfinished slice of cake. He sat back in the circle of Napoleon's arm and Napoleon opened his mouth slightly. Illya ate the cake, biting the well-thawed slice in half, then popping the last piece in his mouth with a satisfied little grunt of pleasure. Napoleon raised an eyebrow and gazed at him, a grin spreading slowly across his face. Illya noticed him staring and licked his lips.
'I'm hungry,' he explained through a mouthful of chocolate, shrugging.
'So am I,' muttered Napoleon.
Illya licked his fingers again and leaned back. He raised his hand and stroked a stray lock of hair away from Napoleon's eyes. His fingers rested on his forehead a moment, then stroked down over his closed eye, rasping the lid with their rough tips, then on down, brushing his lips. Napoleon pushed, cat-like, into the touch, letting his eyes remain closed, and cried out in surprise as Illya grabbed his lapels and suddenly jerked him forwards, pulling him upright into his arms. Napoleon felt slightly sticky hands come to rest on the back of his jacket. He expected to feel the touch of Illya's lips on his at any moment, and puckered up slightly in preparation, but instead he felt the pressure of Illya's grip increase and he was pulled in tightly against him, Illya's head buried in his neck and the scent of chocolate and Illya swirling all around him.
Instinctively, Napoleon's own arms came up to wrap around Illya. He felt him inhaling in the crook of his neck, and his hand coming up to ruffle the short hairs just above his nape, pulling him closer.
Napoleon shifted, stuck at an uncomfortable angle, and felt Illya's arms tighten, as if he was afraid that Napoleon was about to let go of him. Napoleon squeezed him reassuringly and turned his head towards Illya's.
'Illya?' He half expected (though it would have shocked him,) to see tears in Illya's eyes when he looked up, but he was not crying. He looked at Napoleon out of the corner of his eye and took a deep breath.
'You smell good,' he said simply, still keeping his arms wrapped tightly around him. Napoleon finally managed to shift into a more comfortable position, but as a result was caught completely off guard when Illya rolled his head enough to press his lips to Napoleon's.
In time, he could feel the urgent prod of Illya's erection in his side, feel the discomfort of restriction and body-shaking pumping of blood to his groin. Somehow, though, it didn't feel as imperative as usual. Normally this level of arousal would have found him loosening his belt, starting to strip his partner, hastening towards the relief of climax, but he hadn't had his fill of just holding Illya yet; just kissing him softly; just stroking back the fine hair from his broad forehead.
He felt Illya's movement, felt his hand drop from his neck, and on down to his waist, as if to initiate something more, but instead, he just plucked at the fabric, easing the pressure, then returned the hand to skim fingers over Napoleon's neck.
It would be so easy just to let their hands slide back down, slip between waist-bands and flesh, let the frenzy of sex and passion carry them away, until they were at it, hammer and tongs on the sofa, or the floor, or the bed, but it was better this way, when they could read each other so well, and when they both knew that somehow, that wasn't what either of them wanted. Not tonight. Not when they had already waited too long; so long that another twenty-four hours would hardly make a difference.
'Illya?' Napoleon asked. Illya looked at him through sleepy eyes, his lips still trailing over Napoleon's jaw.
'Are you okay here? I mean, are you comfortable?'
'Not really, but you are assuming I care, which I don't, so long as you're not planning on going anywhere.'
Napoleon sat back, away from Illya, but keeping a hand on his shoulder.
'How does a cup of cocoa sound? To go with your cake, I mean.'
'You don't think we've had enough chocolate?' Illya grinned mischievously.
'I didn't think so.' Napoleon leaned forward to kiss him again. Illya allowed it, but then pulled back to look at his watch.
'It's half past ten. We both have to be at the office for 8.30 tomorrow morning. I ought to go home.'
Napoleon's face fell and he let his hand drop down to play with Illya's fingers.
'You're, ah, leaving?' Illya stared levelly at him and he stuttered a little. 'I, I just thought—maybe—well, you'd stay. N-not that you should, uh...' He ran a hand through his hair and down over his face. 'Sorry, I just thought we'd be more comfortable in—in bed. I don't mean to say that we—I know we can't, not now, not -'
'I know. No. You're right. I'm ridiculously tired, Napoleon. I haven't really slept for about a month, and then, when I thought you'd been killed... But,' he went on, 'I would love to stay. Just don't expect anything out of me tonight.' Napoleon grinned.
'Of course not. I didn't really-'
'Intend to,' finished Illya. 'I know. Let's get that cocoa.' He climbed up off the sofa, grabbing Napoleon's hand and pulling him to his feet, which lost him his balance and made him clutch at Illya for support, aware at the first touch that it felt an awful lot better than not being in Illya's arms. He kissed him again and walked them towards the kitchen.
Illya actually giggled, there was no other word to describe it. 'You're going to have to get this out of your system, Polya.' Napoleon's eyes widened in delight at the unprecedented diminutive. 'I think it might be a little inconvenient in the office.'
'You'd better help then,' said Napoleon. 'Come on.'
They took their cocoa back to the sofa and sat side by side, drinking and demolishing more of the gateau. Then they sat in companiable, chocolatey silence, watching the city lights through the window, growing more and more drowsy until Napoleon prodded a slightly nodding Illya, heaved himself to his feet and put out a hand to pull Illya up.
'Come to bed with me?' Illya nodded, his cocoa mug dangling from his finger. Napoleon took it from him and put the mugs down in the kitchen. He put an arm around Illya's waist and pulled him through to the bedroom.
Napoleon watched Illya slowly removing his clothing and rubbed his face. He really didn't think he could cope with being naked next to Illya all night, though he'd done it without thinking in the past.
'It gets very cold in here at night—the thermostat is broken. I'll lend you some pyjamas.'
'Thank-you,' replied Illya, secretly relieved. He wasn't sure he could control himself all night if they were naked in bed together, though they'd done it without thinking in the past.
'I'll get them just as soon as I've been to the bathroom—I'm sorry to be such an appalling host, taking the first turn,' Napoleon said, heading for the door, 'But I'm absolutely bursting and -' he hurried away and Illya stood, nursing his persistent and irrepressible erection, gazing fondly after Napoleon.
A considerable time later, Napoleon returned, looking a little sheepish.
'Sorry to be so long. The bathroom's all yours.'
'Thank-you.' Illya dashed to the bathroom, leaving Napoleon searching for the pyjamas.
He rummaged through his chest of drawers for the pyjamas, and when he had found them, headed to the bathroom. He didn't think twice before knocking and immediately entering—after all, they had shared bathrooms during affairs for year, and if the new set of circumstances didn't give him more right to interrupt than ever, he'd lost his judgement.
He was in time to catch Illya, sitting on the closed lid of the toilet, panting, chest heaving, his head lolling back against the wall. He flicked his gaze to Napoleon, looking extremely guilty.
'Napoleon, I- I didn't lie to you. I really am horribly tired. It was just that I don't want to be half asleep the first time we- and I couldn't have got to sleep in the condition I was in.'
'Me neither,' said Napoleon, winking cheerfully and holding out a roll of toilet paper to him.
'You mean you-?' Illya grinned, trying to look disapproving and failing. Napoleon nodded. 'We could have saved each other the bother,' said Illya mock-mournfully, taking the toilet roll to clean up.
'No, I'm with you, you're tired. I don't want to make love to you for the first time when you're completely out of it. Plus, I really did need to pee, and it just wasn't practical.' He held out the pyjamas and Illya took them and hauled them on. Napoleon waited for him and as he came to the door, he took his face in his hands and kissed him carefully, feeling his whole body relax as he did so.
'Bed,' he said, slapping Illya's backside lightly. They climbed into the bed and Napoleon flicked off the lights.
Even then, they could have done more. Napoleon itched to run his hands all over the man at his side. Illya had a drowsy notion that carrying on kissing Napoleon would be good, but he didn't really have the presence of mind left to order his body to do that sort of thing.
Napoleon pulled Illya close, wrapping an arm around him, but Illya wriggled out of the way.
'Too hot,' he muttered apologetically. He took Napoleon's hand and held it against his chest, intertwining their fingers, before drifting easily off to sleep.
Napoleon gently squeezed the sleep-lax fingers between his own, where he'd really always wanted them to be. It felt like every time he had grasped Illya's hand to haul him up over the edge of a cliff, onto the roof of a train, over a high windowsill. It was every time they had staggered along a corridor together to escape, being showered with cordite and concrete and falling rafters. It was every time he or Illya had been drugged out of their skull and the other had led them to safety. It was every time they had been forced to sleep in a tiny, confined space, and had gone to sleep, wrapped around each other, without the slightest suggestion that it was anything other than necessity and comfort.
He closed his eyes, made sure his fingers were tightly laced with Illya's and drifted easily off to sleep.