He didn't know how it had happened, except the first time they'd both been drunk. Not so drunk that they didn't know what they were doing, but drunk enough that, when Napoleon's hand had rested on Illya's shoulder a little too long and he'd turned to ask what he wanted, Napoleon had kissed him. After which he had pinned Napoleon to the wall and kissed him back, repeatedly, till they were both out of breath.
From there, things had taken their natural course and the two of them had ended up in bed together. Illya wondered if he should have been surprised to discover that Solo was comfortable with the idea. He'd known the American had blazed a trail with the women he met, both on and off the job, but had never pictured him having sex with men. However, if anything Solo was a hedonist, that much was clear, liking the best of things and rejoicing in a wealth of experiences, so it made sense he wouldn't limit himself in any way.
In contrast, Illya had always known he preferred the company of men to that of women. Not as friends, he was quite happy to count Gaby as one of those and flattered by her interest in him, but he preferred to have sex with other men. Naturally, given his line of work, he had to be more than unusually discreet and the thought of the possible repercussions if he were caught had acted as an effective control on his libido for longer than he cared to remember. And then Napoleon Solo had arrived in his life and turned everything upside down.
It wasn't fair to blame everything on the American, tempting as it was. It wasn't, after all, Napoleon's fault that Illya was in love with him. He hadn't done anything to try and cultivate those emotions - if anything, quite the opposite. Nothing about his behaviour had changed since they had started having sex on a regular basis and this had left Illya feeling more than a little uncertain about where he stood. He knew how he felt for Napoleon but doubted that his feelings towards the other man were shared.
Illya could, of course, tell himself that the other encounters Napoleon had were work-related, done for the purpose of gathering information or shoring up a less than perfect cover, but that didn't make it any easier. At least there were no grounds for comparison when Napoleon was expected to bed an heiress or a stewardess, given that those encounters could never replicate what he had experienced with Illya. And they always took place on mission, never in the bed that they shared.
At least that had been what Illya believed, right to the moment he found evidence to the contrary.
That was all Waverly's fault - he seemed to have decided that the best thing to do between official UNCLE missions was to keep them as busy as possible, on the basis that idle hands were the devil's playthings, according to Solo. That wasn't a proverb Illya had encountered before, as his English language lessons had known their fair share of idiom but could not be expected to give him knowledge of them all. He got the gist, however, and where Solo was concerned, Illya had some sympathy with the idea, even if it meant they went to bed together and he woke up alone.
It was an odd sensation, waking up in Napoleon's apartment and knowing he had left it - minutes or hours earlier, who could tell? - if he was still here, Illya would be able to hear him moving about and the quiet of the building let him know he was alone. He was almost getting used to this, since they spent most nights together, when they were in New York at least, because home and missions were something to be kept very separate.
They didn't have sex while on a mission and Illya wondered if that was a way of encouraging each other to get the job done, so they could come back to New York and take up where they'd left off. It would also have been unfair to Gaby, who teased them enough when they were keeping their hands off one another, so Illya didn't want to imagine how ruthlessly she'd mock them if they were more intimate. They worked as a three, so they had to do missions as a three, not a pair and a spare - that would have been untenable, not to mention unprofessional in the extreme.
Illya stretched, one eye on the window as he tried to guess what time it was. He'd undressed in something of a hurry the previous night, since things had started off in the shower and then moved to the bedroom. He could imagine the aftermath, now Solo had been up and about while he slept on; he'd be more than a little surprised if his clothes weren't folded neatly and piled up somewhere waiting for him. Illya rolled over, seeing the familiar shape of his father's watch on the bedside cabinet. He reached out and picked it up, checking the time even as his stomach growled its disquiet with a lack of breakfast.
Checking the curtains were closed, Illya got out of bed and padded into the other room, heading for the kitchen. On the worktop he found a brown paper bag, to which was pinned a note. 'You are an appalling sluggard', it said, in Solo's handwriting. Illya grinned, then opened the bag to reveal a bearclaw - regardless of the contents of the note, Solo had obviously gone out this morning to the bakery before he'd left for the airport. He started a new pot of coffee to go with his pastry and headed to the bathroom for a shower.
Illya went back to the kitchen, towelling his hair dry as he went. He poured himself a cup of coffee, savouring the smell as he added sugar and then all-but-inhaled it on the spot. There was nothing quite like that first cup, regardless of the source - the caffeine was more important than the quality of the brew, which meant awful gas station coffee could be just as acceptable as the finest Arabica if the need was there.
Time to get dressed and head back to his own apartment, then off to UNCLE. It was never quite the same when one of them was away, though Illya understood the need to keep up appearances and keep the various agencies with which they worked happy, which sometimes meant trips to New Orleans and the like. At least he hadn't drawn the short straw this time around, since this had a military aspect to it and the US Army were understandably jumpy about a Soviet liaison, regardless of UNCLE's reputation.
And that meant paperwork, instead of being out in the field. That had never been Illya's favourite part of being an agent but he understood its necessity and always tried to apply the same dedication to the parts of the job he enjoyed less. It was quite possible he'd find some way of keeping himself entertained, particularly as Gaby was likely to be at headquarters and she would probably want to show off whatever she'd made recently.
From being an expert with cars, she had quickly diversified on starting with UNCLE and now any spare time she had found her tinkering with some project or other, usually something that was practical rather than theoretical. She had even dragged him along to some ridiculous spy film and, ever since, he'd always secretly thought of her as being their real-life Q, though she had yet to supply him with anything quite as ridiculous as the character in the movie.
When he was dressed, Illya sat down on the bed to tie his shoes and, finally, went to pick up his father's watch. A noise outside the window made him jerk instinctively, hand reaching for a non-existent gun - Waverly didn't much like them being armed when they weren't on a mission, regardless of America's relatively liberal gun laws - the sudden movement making his watch fall between the cabinet and the bed. He stood, going to the side of the window so he could see out without making himself a target, but though he stood there for a long couple of minutes Illya couldn't see any threat.
Bending over to retrieve his watch, his fingers brushed against some kind of material, something soft against his fingertips, under the bed. He caught hold of both this and his watch, pulling them both out; the material turned out to be silk, dark red in colour, and clearly a pair of women's pants, given the amount of lace and ribbons adorning them. Once he realised what they were, Illya dropped them on the floor, kicking them back under the bed almost without thinking.
Somehow, he was able to keep calm long enough to put on his watch and look for his coat, though his mind was already racing. He'd thought Napoleon had been honest with him, that their relationship was real, but he'd clearly been mistaken. What other secrets did Napoleon Solo have? How often were others in the American's bed, the nights when Illya wasn't?
He'd been a fool to trust Solo in the slightest, he thought, as he slammed the door to his apartment behind him. One of his neighbours opened their door, as if to protest at the loudness of his exit, but took one look at Illya and retreated rapidly, closing their door much faster than they had opened it.
He wasn't certain about that. It might be best to go to Waverly and ask to return to the KGB, rather than have to deal with the fallout from this ridiculous mockery of a relationship taking its inevitable course. Illya told himself he had been an idealistic fool to think that there could have been any other outcome, given Solo's reputation, but he'd let himself be talked round and eventually into bed with the other man. It was probably his modus operandi, with Illya being only the latest in a long line of conquests, just that most of them weren't either male or Russian.
Waverly wouldn't be happy, of course, that his little project hadn't worked out, but he could blame that on Solo's inability to keep a promise. That too shouldn't have been a surprise to any of them, least of all Waverly, who must have known what he was getting when he acquired Solo from the CIA. If nothing else, Solo was consistent - untrustworthy to the core.
He'd miss Gaby, of course, and New York too. It had been a while since he'd spent any time in the city and Illya had forgotten how fond he'd become of it last time around, but the thought of staying there, of continuing to deal with Solo himself, was the last thing he could ever want. No, it was best to chalk this up to experience and move on. Back to the Soviet Union, where his talents would probably not be used as well but at least he knew where he stood.
He would speak to Waverly when he arrived at headquarters, Illya decided, paying little attention to his surroundings except to try and cross at the light rather than jaywalk. That was about the extent of his ability to concentrate on what he was doing, he realised, when he was almost at headquarters and discovered he had little recollection of making the journey.
It was, of course, quite possible that he'd even passed the woman who owned those silk knickers in the corridors of UNCLE. The thought sent a chill down Illya's spine - did she know about him and Solo? Was she, even now, laughing with her friends about how he thought Solo was faithful to him, while all along she (and how many others, he wondered) was also in his bed on a regular basis. That thought sealed his views on a future with UNCLE. It was impossible to contemplate staying somewhere like that, a place where he couldn't trust the people around him.
That sense of outrage carried him right through to Waverly's office and only began to fade a little when he stood before of the man himself.
"Take a seat, Mr. Kuryakin," Waverly said, gesturing towards one of the chairs in front of his desk.
Illya sat, marshalling his thoughts, which had seemed so clear on the walk from Solo's apartment but which now seemed fragmented and uncertain - he didn't know how much Waverly knew about their relationship and was reluctant to hand him more ammunition to use against whatever plan Illya could come up with. His actions with Solo could potentially cause him many more difficulties back home than they would in the US, even though many of the acts they'd indulged in were still illegal here in New York. He had no illusions about Oleg's likely response to discovering Illya had gone to bed with a former CIA agent and the impact that would have on his life expectancy back in the Soviet Union.
"Something I can do for you, Kuryakin?" Waverly asked, when Illya didn't say anything.
Illya had the sense that Waverly could see right through him, that any kind of pretence was pointless, but he still had to try, if only to salvage whatever position he was likely to be returning to in Moscow.
"I have request, sir," Illya began, conscious of Waverly watching him and certain he could see Illya was measuring out his words carefully. It was like walking on the thinnest of ice, sure that it would not hold his weight but needing to trust that it would to get through this. "I miss my home, so I would like to return to KGB."
Waverly didn't respond for what seemed like an eternity, just steepled his hands and looked at Illya.
"Is there a problem with Mr. Solo or Miss Teller?" he asked, the question going straight for the bone. "Of course, Mr. Solo is in New Orleans, but I believe Miss Teller is in the building." Waverly leaned across to his telephone, pressing a button to alert his secretary. "Miss Rogers, could you locate Miss Teller and ask her to come to my office?" From the other end of the line, Illya heard what must have been an acknowledgement of that request, even as his heart sank.
"Would you like some tea while we wait?" Waverly continued, the question alone making Illya even more uncomfortable. He'd had many conversations with Oleg, but none of them had involved an offer of tea that he could recall.
"Maybe I make mistake," Illya began, wondering if it was possible to get himself out of the hole he'd begun to dig. Waverly seemed to ignore him, getting up and crossing to a snall table which held an electric kettle and a teapot, among other things. "Yes, I think maybe missing Soviet Union is not enough for me to return." He was certain he was babbling, only the fact that Waverly was apparently more intent on making tea than listening to him allowing him to try and backpedal this way.
The door opened.
"Ah, Miss Teller," Waverly said, turning to greet her with a smile. "You're just in time for a cup of tea."
Gaby returned his smile, which disappeared as soon as Waverly had returned his attention to the kettle. She crossed to the other chair, settling herself in it with an expression on her face which didn't bode well for Illya and his welfare.
"What's going on?" she asked, quietly. "Lisa said you wanted to go back to Moscow."
"Lisa?" It took a moment for Illya to realise that Gaby meant Waverly's secretary, since he didn't think he'd ever heard her first name mentioned - Waverly was always formal, with both agents and secretaries alike, and Illya didn't have much dealings with Miss Rogers other than when he came to Waverly's office. "She listens?"
"Is it true?" Gaby asked, brushing over Illya's question as if he hadn't spoken. "Has Napoleon done something?"
Illya was saved from answering by the appearance of Waverly, cups of tea in hand, one placed in front of each of them.
"Yes, Miss Teller," Waverly said, returning to his chair. "I was wondering that too: has Mr. Solo done something that has impacted on your working relationship?" His expression was intent, all the mild-mannered actions of making tea seeming as though they had never existed. "You can speak in confidence," he continued.
He had a choice, of course. Illya knew that, just from the way Waverly asked the question. Solo had a reputation and most of it wasn't good, but was it fair for him to be punished for just being himself? It was Illya who had made the mistake, trusting Solo could be different - he was reminded of the story about the frog and the scorpion, the likelihood that some things were just in a person's nature and was it really fair to blame them for those actions if that were the case?
Gaby liked Solo too, Illya reminded himself, as he took a mouthful of tea to hide the fact he was still thinking about how to answer Waverly's question. She'd be disappointed in him - probably disappointed in both of them, if he was totally honest. It was nice to consider that Gaby could still be disappointed by someone's actions, that she wasn't already cynical enough to believe no-one could ever change. Though she'd probably think Illya had been an idiot to trust Solo's intentions and not bear his past actions in mind when it came to letting himself believe the American was trustworthy.
No, there was no good way forward if he chose to throw Solo under the metaphorical bus. It wouldn't work out well for any of them.
"There is no problem with work." True enough, as far as it went. "I just want to go back to KGB."