He should have expected that response but it still stopped Napoleon in his tracks. It was a quiet rejection of his ideas, a rock dropped in his path with all the inexorable force the Russian could muster.
"What did you say?"
He half-turned to Gaby, who was curled up on a nearby sofa with her current obsession - an owner's manual for the Mark 2 Jaguar, which he suspected Commander Waverly either already owned or was planning on buying in the near future. Either way, Gaby's professional pride would never allow another mechanic to work on her bosses' pride and joy and Waverley would play on that instinct as long as he could. She shook her head, the message clear: your problem, don't get me involved.
"You heard what I said. In case not, I say it again: no."
Kuryakin hadn't even looked up from the chessboard, his finger resting lightly on one of the bishops as he contemplated his next move in the ongoing game he played against himself any time they had a spare moment and a flat surface on which to place the board. If Napoleon hadn't known about the Russian's rating he would have wondered at the way he was able to remember exactly where the pieces all stood, even weeks into an ongoing game.
"It's a perfectly good idea." An appeal to reason, that would do the trick. He hoped. The idea of Kuryakin and Gaby making their own arrangements in New York had all sorts of mental cinema going through his head - Kuryakin would end up in a rat-infested tenement solely to prove his ongoing loyalty to socialist ideals and Gaby? Who knows what she would find for herself, except that it would probably be in close proximity to a source of broken-down transportation of some kind, an easy way to keep herself occupied in lull times between missions. "There's room in the apartment building and it'd be good for us to be nearby in case of a sudden mission."
He watched Kuryakin carefully as he spoke, knowing he was the one he needed to convince. Gaby would go wherever both of them went, as long as her other needs were met, and Napoleon was certain an ongoing procession of unwell vehicles could easily be arranged by greasing the right palms. Given that his doorman always seemed to be able to summon up a cab whenever he needed one, Napoleon was pretty certain he had at least one contact with a cab company and said company would probably be more than happy for some free labour. As for Kuryakin, what did he want from accommodation? That was more of a mystery, and one that Napoleon was determined to solve.
"You are not boss," Kuryakin said, looking up from the chessboard at last. "You do not say 'live here' and I live there, is not how it works."
When they'd first met, Napoleon had been certain that Kuryakin was as unreadable as any spy he'd ever met - though it was easy to get the Russian's temper to flare, a little too easy for Napoleon's liking but he was determined to work on that if time permitted, anything more subtle than rage took a little time to recognise. There was a slight relaxation around the eyes in recognition of agreement, the faintest quirk of the lips to show amusement, and Napoleon was seeing neither of these now. Peril was turning out to be a tougher nut to crack than he had expected, and he needed to pull something out of the metaphorical bag before Kuryakin stuck his heels in for good.
"Not an order," Napoleon said, sitting down on the sofa. Gaby obligingly pulled back her feet, allowing him a cushion at least, and he tried to look more relaxed than he felt. Perhaps if he pretended this didn't matter so much, it wouldn't prove to be such a sticking point? Maybe it was the fact he wanted them nearby, surprising himself as much as he clearly annoyed Kuryakin with the idea, that was the problem here. "As if I'd waste my breath trying to order you around, Peril."
Gaby prodded him with a foot, making him half-turn to look at her.
"Or you either," he continued. "Thanks for reminding me."
"You're welcome," Gabby said, with a prim smile, then turned at least most of her attention back to her book.
"It just seems like a good idea," Napoleon said, suddenly tired of the whole scenario. If Kuryakin wanted to play with rats out in the Bowery or somewhere, who was he to object?
"Okay?" He couldn't quite believe what he was hearing. "That's it?"
"Do not ask for miracle, Cowboy," Kuryakin said, giving him another inscrutable look before returning his attention to the bishop. He moved it confidently, as if he hadn't been studying every possible pattern on the board for the best part of the last hour. "You will be disappointed."
So much for Plan A. It had seemed like the easiest way in, to try and get them all living together - a good first step, at least, to the concept of living in the same apartment if they were still under the same roof even if living 'alone'. He hadn't quite accounted for Illya's stubbornness when he'd made his plan, so that was a factor Napoleon would need to take into account next time around.
"I thought you were more subtle than that," Gaby said, a few minutes after Kuryakin had left the room. She eyed him speculatively over the rim of a coffee cup and Napoleon tried to ignore the way it made him feel - stripped naked, and not in the good way, at least he didn't think so. "The special agent, so good at getting women to do what he wants..."
"Women, maybe," Solo said. "Present company excepted." Gaby smiled, saluting him with her coffee cup. "But you may not have noticed this - Illya is decidedly not a woman."
Gaby shrugged, then prodded Napoleon in the thigh with one of her feet. At least she'd taken her shoes off before sitting down earlier, so that was something.
"Which means you need to think like him," she said. "He is scared of everything, under that big Russian bear exterior, and so you need to coax him into trusting you. Then, like a bear, you can lead him round by the nose." She drank a mouthful of coffee. "Or whatever part of the anatomy you choose, really."
Napoleon laughed, despite himself.
"What is funny?" Kuryakin asked, from the kitchen doorway.
Napoleon looked at him, wondering if Gaby was right - was that at the heart of Kuryakin's refusal to go along with what seemed like a perfectly logical idea, that the Russian was afraid to trust them, trust him, even now?
"We're talking about your cooking," Gaby said, prodding Napoleon again so he would stop staring and agree with her. "You have to admit, it's quite funny."
"Pah." That was apparently just the right answer to get Kuryakin to stomp past, heading out to the car in search of something or other he could pretend they'd forget on arrival.
"See?" Gaby asked. "Scared."
He'd be gruff, of course, and probably more than a little shy as Napoleon focussed all his attention on him. He'd seen the way that being watched, or just the idea of it sometimes, made Kuryakin squirm uncomfortably, so being literally stripped naked should be quite an experience for both of them. He'd seen some parts of his partner already - you didn't work in such close proximity without getting at least a glance now and then - so he knew there were scars but what did that matter? Napoleon had scars too, he'd just been lucky enough to heal well and not have anything really bad happen to him.
He wondered about the one on Kuryakin's face. It wasn't all that large, but it was noticeable, and Napoleon wondered if Illya was self-conscious about. How it would feel to run his fingertips over it, let alone his tongue. How that would make Illya feel - would he blush like a schoolgirl or just want to look away? Either response, or no response at all, was equally possible. Just the idea of finding out made Napoleon start to respond, despite all his best intentions.
And then there was Gaby. In some ways, Napoleon was certain she'd be much easier to court, but somehow he suspected that his success in that field would depend on how things went with Kuryakin. He'd be judged by Gaby on his success in that area, in more ways than one - she had a fondness for the Russian and wouldn't see him mistreated, so anyone who was kind to Kuryakin would be more likely to succeed in bedding her as well. And if that had been the ambition, just a one-night stand among so many others, that would have been fine, if a bit predictable. Except, Napoleon found to his surprise, that wasn't what he wanted at all.
So, Gaby was probably right. He had to make Kuryakin trust him or none of this would go anywhere but Napoleon realised he had absolutely no idea how to accomplish that.