In spite of what his CIA handler had said all those months ago before Solo found himself Shanghaied into working for the newest group in the alphabet soup of world spy organizations, he was actually very good at hiding his supplemental income. As it were. Sanders and his little spies had a small glimpse of Solo’s side-operations. It didn’t particularly bother him that the man confronted him about it. There had been, admittedly a small moment of panic but he handled it.
These days though, the pay was better. U.N.C.L.E. seemed to have a better budget than the CIA, or at least, they thought his quality of life was worth something. A happy former thief, in theory, is one that won’t steal during missions.
That was the theory.
Unfortunately, Solo had a magpie’s eye for diamonds and no small amount of narcissism about his abilities. Which was why they were running.
“Did you trip the alarm?” Illya snarled.
“Of course not, Peril.” He flashed a suave grin.
“Then why are there alarms going off?”
“Because the marquess must have realized someone stole her her earrings?” Solo phrased it as a question to soften his guilt in some way. “They were really not suited to her. I was doing her a favor.”
“You are worse than child.” Illya shook his head in disgust. “Come on Cowboy, and lose the earrings.”
Solo sighed as they skidded to a stop at the end of the hall. There was a window, no doors and it looked like a four story drop--into the canal the house overlooked.
“We swim.” Illya went to open the window and Solo slipped the earrings out of his pocket, setting them down in the center of the floor.
“In this suit?” Solo complained. "Do you know how much this cost? It's bespoke."
“You caused this,” Illya reminded him. He gestured at the window. “You first.”
“Oh no, after you.”
The tall Russian blinked, considering something for a moment. A moment later, he had Solo by the back of the neck and was tossing him out the window to the dark water below.
Well, this a fine revenge I suppose. Solo thought.
The water was cold, but at least he’d managed not to break his legs on the landing. A very large splash to his right seconds later had to be the Peril, who surfaced a beat after. Solo raised his eyebrows.
“Now what, comrade?”
“Now? We swim.”
Solo had a niggling feeling in the pit of his stomach that they weren’t quite square. He put it out his mind and started swimming to shore, hoping Gaby had managed to snag their intel before his wandering hands caused a crisis. Otherwise, Illya was going to kill him.
Gaby was already back at the agency’s Venice safe house, fresh from a bath with her hair tucked up a towel while she touched up the polish on her toes. She peered at them through her lashes, stifling a laugh.
“What happened to you two?”
“Peril thought we should take a dip in the canal,” Solo explained with signature sarcasm dripping off his tongue. They’d managed to get somewhat dry, but Solo desperately wanted a bath himself. Canal water wasn’t all that it should be.
Luckily, the agency safe house was equipped with multiple bathtubs--and one shower. It was more like a stall at the end of the hall than a full bathing facility, but it was there. It leaked into the hallway anytime someone used it though and for some reason had a window.
“I’m going to wash up,” Solo said after a long moment of silence.
“Yes, good idea,” Illya replied.
Solo glanced at the Russian, uncertain. His hands weren’t shaking, no tapping of fingers indicated an imminent meltdown. Solo blinked. Maybe he’s just going to let it go.
Illya stalked off to the second floor bath, leaving Solo and Gaby alone.
“What happened?” Gaby asked. “He seemed--upset. Why did the alarms go off?”
“I...have no idea. Did you get the intel?”
“Of course.” Her eyes narrowed. “You sure nothing went wrong on your end?”
“I’m sure.” Solo hurried out of the room before she asked any other questions. He had no doubt she’d react violently if he told her he’d caused their less than stealthy exit. For such a tiny thing, she had a mean right cross, as he’d learned intimately on their third mission together.
Solo tried to put that out of his mind and concentrated on ridding himself of canal water. The suit was ruined, he had to admit. Maybe he could convince Waverly to replace it since it was lost in the line of duty. Then again, having to explain to Waverly why they’d needed to make a hasty exit might land him in more trouble than that in inquiry was worth.
He tossed the ruined things in the trash bin and set about washing away the night in a bath treated with delightfully expensive French bath salts. The muscles he’d strained somewhat in the fall were soothed by the hot water and he relaxed for a good quarter hour before washing up properly and getting out of the tub. Clean, dry and dressed in his good Egyptian cotton pajamas and a plush robe stolen from his favorite hotel in London, he headed back out to the living room to get a glass of Scotch and hopefully put this entire evening behind him.
Solo was settled on the couch, glass in hand, when Illya entered, hair wet from his own ablutions and dressed in flannel pajamas.
“Do you want a drink, Peril?” he asked, attempting to broker peace.
“No.” The Russian gave him a very long look. “This is not the first time your itchy fingers have risked the mission, Cowboy.”
Solo set the drink down, crossing his legs and settling into a lounge that was deceptively at ease. “I--It won’t happen again.”
“Unlikely.” Illya stalked forward, looking over him. Solo found it irritating on several levels that Illya was taller than him, but in that moment he found himself--intimidated. He didn’t like it. “I asked Gaby to go to bed. She will not disturb us while we settle matters.”
“Settle matters?” Solo raised his eyebrows. “Oh, this should be good. How exactly do you want to settle matters, Peril?”
“I am going to put you over my knee and spank you until you are sorry for what you have done. If you are difficult, I will use belt.”
Solo blinked. He’d heard Illya threaten Gaby a couple times, which was usually followed by Gaby punching Illya in the face or some other similar display of violence and dominant refusal. He tried to keep violence as a secondary option.
“I am sorry for putting us at risk. See? No need for brutality, Peril. I’ll even write it down for you if you like.”
“No.” He shook his head and Solo noted that now there was a bit of tapping as Illya’s fingers beat against his leg. “You will be punished until you are actually sorry.”
“I’d like to see you try, comrade.” He quirked one eyebrow up.
What followed was a short, bloodless altercation that cost Solo his dignity and killed the glass of Scotch. Illya had proven during their second encounter that he could subdue Solo and he proved it again. This time, Illya pinned the other man over his knee, legs trapped between his thighs while he twisted one arm up until Solo stopped struggling. Somewhere in the chaos, Solo had lost his robe. It lay on the hall floor, discarded when Illya tried to use the garment to get control. Solo hoped it hadn’t torn in the fray.
“You’re a dead man, Peril,” Solo promised.
“I think not, Cowboy.” It was an awkward position. If Solo had been any taller, it would have edged toward ridiculous, but as it was, Illya had a firm hold and a hand on Solo’s ass. “If you take this without struggling further, I will go easier on you.”
Solo had no doubt that if he continued his struggle this night was going to end with him pinned over the couch while Illya took a belt to him. He preferred to avoid such indignity. “Fine,” he muttered after a deep breath.
“Good.” Illya released his arm and adjusted Solo’s position to make him marginally more comfortable before he tugged down the man’s pajama bottoms. “You are not wearing underwear.”
“Less to take off,” Illya shrugged. “Now. You tell me why you are being punished.”
“You heard me. Why are you being punished?”
“Because you’re a sadist.”
That earned him four very hard, very quick, strikes to his posterior. Mindful of his half-hearted promise not to struggle, he grit his teeth and took it. He thought his old drill sergeant would be mildly impressed.
“Why are you being punished?”
Solo unclenched his jaw. “Because I stole those earrings.”
Solo swallowed. “I put my team in danger.” It was nearly a whisper, a harsh confession that managed to make guilt knot his stomach.
“Yes, you did.” Illya struck him again. “You do not put your team in danger.” And again. “You do not steal unless it is part of mission.” And again. “Am I clear?” And again.
“Yes,” Solo hissed.
Illya hit him again. “Yes what?”
Solo nearly bit his tongue.
Another hard slap jarred him. “Yes, sir.”
Solo wasn’t sure he liked being called boy but wasn’t sure he didn’t like it either.
“As I said, we will be done when you are sorry.”
Solo wanted to ask exactly when that was, but lost the ability to speak when Illya began to lay into him. It was measured, steady and relentless. Sure, once upon a time his old man had given him a spanking or two, but this was different. This was worse.
For one thing, the Red Peril had a much firmer hand, and for another--Solo was pretty sure he was actually feeling guilty about it. For three, he might actually (deep down in the deep muck under the guilt) be a little turned on.
It had been impetuous--foolish--to take those earrings. He’d been so confident the marquess wouldn’t notice them missing until they were done. Confident he could fence them to continue the financing of his post-agency nest egg. Confidence could have gotten his team killed. Ego. He corrected himself. My ego could have gotten us killed.
It was a whisper, barely a whisper, that first broke through his unintelligible mutterings in response to the pain Illya was dealing out. A soft, broken, “I’m sorry.”
It was that little whisper that broke open something else. A badly abused gate at the back of Solo’s mind that he’d stuffed his conscience behind those years ago after the war when he realized that money was better than relationships and that working alone was better than a team.
But now he had a team. He had people he cared about. Even Peril. He could’ve gotten them killed.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry, Illya. I’m so sorry.” Silent, broken tears followed after the admittance. “I’m sorry.” His voice was raspy and unsteady. The spanking stopped.
Illya ran a hand through Solo’s hair. “Shh. I heard you.” Illya stood, pulling Solo up with him. “Shh. It’s all right now, Cowboy.” He wrapped his arms around the other man, pulling Solo’s head into his chest. “It’s over now. I forgive you.”
Solo wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do now. He was certain he wasn’t going to stop crying immediately. He was certain he was ruining Illya’s shirt. He was certain he was never going to live this down.
He just didn’t know how he was supposed to proceed once the tears and the shaking stopped.
Once Solo had regained his composure and gotten his pants back on. Illya fixed him another Scotch and they took a seat on the couch. A very ginger seat, in Solo’s case.
“So--well--that happened.” Solo swallowed, suddenly feeling incredibly embarrassed now that remorse and anger and been spent. “I can’t believe you.”
“Yes. I showed restraint.” Illya glanced at him. “You put us in danger again, I will use belt.”
Solo swallowed. “I think I’ll know to run next time.”
“I will chase you.” Illya leaned over putting a hand on the back of Solo’s neck. “I will find you. I always find you.”
The tension between them had changed in some regard, Solo was certain of it.
Solo glanced at Illya’s lips and realized with some surprise that the other agent was stroking the back of his neck with his thumb. Illya smiled and crowded closer, pressing their lips together for a chaste kiss that somehow managed to steal Solo’s breath away again.
Illya pulled back. “Finish your drink and go to bed, Cowboy. You have long day tomorrow.”
“You still must apologize to Gaby.”
Illya smiled. “I think she will be less forgiving than me.”
They’re going to kill me. Solo thought. He finished his drink and headed upstairs to bed, though he didn’t immediately slip under the covers. His ass burned, necessitating he sleep on his stomach but first...Illya didn’t need to know that Solo slicked up his hands with a bottle of Parisian bath oil and came while thinking about Illya’s hard hands and soft lips.
He never needed to know about that.