He was certain Illya had been there.
It was difficult to remember exactly what had happened, given that he was half-crazed with pain at the time, but Napoleon was certain he'd seen his partner there in the room, heard the ruckus he'd caused in rescuing him - that alone was something it would have been difficult to imagine, even though he'd lived through similar scenes before.
But when he woke it was Gaby sitting by his hospital bed, as he struck up towards the surface from the bottom of a dark lake, back to consciousness and residual pain the edge of which was only just dulled by IV medication.
"About time," she said, leaning forward as if to gauge him more carefully. "I was starting to think you'd sleep all day." Her words were brusque but the sheen of unshed tears in her eyes gave the lie to their tone. "We can't all sleep the day away like playboys, you know?"
"Some of us need our beauty sleep." It was the response she expected and Napoleon saw her relax a little at it, even if he could begin to feel the morphine starting to loosen its grip, unwelcome as that was likely to be. "What day is it, anyway?"
"Friday." Gaby reached out and straightened the edge of his bed sheet, hands running over it as if it was the only thing in the world that could keep her attention. "He rescued you on Tuesday night." Her hands stilled and she leaned forward a little more. "I swear he looks worse than you do."
He almost asked for a mirror there and then.
He could feel the swelling on his face, the tell-tale feeling of a black eye - not his first time in that particular rodeo - and the bandages on his wrists and ankles told another part of the story quite eloquently. Cleaned up, it wasn't so bad, but he wondered what he'd looked like when Illya found him. Nothing pretty, that was certain, nothing he would want anyone whose opinion mattered to see.
Deep breaths weren't too much of a problem, so probably no busted ribs this time around. He remembered struggling, blows falling and falling no matter what he did, or said, or even screamed. Split skin at the edges of his mouth bore testament to how much noise he'd probably made before he'd been gagged and that this had not been gentle. At least, Napoleon thought, running his tongue around his mouth, he still had all of his teeth.
As if aware he was being watched, Illya jerked awake and was tense once more.
He'd missed that sense of being comfortable with each other, over the past few months. When they first met, Kuryakin had seemed like a coiled spring pretty much all of the time, never letting his guard down even when it was safe to do so. Maybe never knowing that it was safe to do so, all things considered. He'd relaxed, gradually, but there was still the possibility of an underlying tenseness and now it was back, this time in spades.
"I wondered when you'd show up, Peril," Napoleon said, relishing the slight curl of a lip that familiar, yet half-loved, nickname always seemed to evoke. Truth was, if it didn't still rile Kuryakin a little, he'd have stopped calling him by it weeks ago. "Been napping on the job since we last met?"
"Finishing your mission."
"Our mission," Napoleon said. "Like it or not, we're a team, remember?"
"You remember." Kuryakin was scowling now, the expression fully-fledged, not the mild irritation of before. "What were you thinking?" The gesture he made encompassed all of Napoleon's body, head to toe, bandages and all. "What if..." Words seemed to fail him then, his hand dropping back into his lap as he looked down, shaking his head.
"It's not as bad as it looks." It struck Napoleon, even as he said them, that those were probably not the best words he could have used. Not in this scenario and not with Illya, given that he'd been the one to extract him from the mess he'd got himself into this time around. "I'm sorry you had to see that," Napoleon continued, finding that those words were more honest than he'd expected he could manage. If he hadn't been taken off the morphine, he could at least have blamed that for this sudden attack of emotion, but he didn't have that excuse any more.
"I finished mission," Illya said, "and this will not happen again."
"Oh?" There was a mutinous set to Illya's jaw that Napoleon wasn't certain he liked the look of. If there was one word that could be used to describe the Russian, 'stubborn' would be at the top of the list of adjectives anyone might choose from. "You know it's part of the job, like it or not."
"You would be okay if Gaby was the one in hospital bed?" Illya asked, crossing his arms. "Is okay for UNCLE to let this happen to her instead?"
Just the thought of it made Napoleon's stomach roll over uneasily - he was used to being on the receiving end of rough treatment, at times had sought it out for reasons best kept between himself and any court-appointed psychiatrist, but Gaby was a newcomer to the trade. While he had a lot of admiration for the way she'd played him and Illya in Rome, that was a million miles away from being able to run a good honeypot scheme without coming out the other end worse off than Napoleon was now. Maybe not physically worse off, but still, there were other places people could scar.
"You know Waverly wouldn't ask her to do that."
It was clutching at straws, Napoleon was aware of that, but he knew it was true. Thank god, she didn't work for the CIA or KGB, who'd have far less scruples about using Gaby in any kind of operation that might come their way.
"And Waverly is good man, but rules are different for you?"
He didn't know how to explain, not to Illya for whom things seemed to often be quite black and white. How to explain that, at times, he not only went along happily with the idea of sex in exchange for information but also found that he sometimes craved it. That he liked playing a role that didn't quite fit with his usual persona, letting himself be used in a way that he'd be embarrassed to admit - the kind of missions he'd been asked to do, at times, had suited him well and met his own needs. And if he couldn't have that outlet, that way of letting off steam that also served the agency for which he worked, then what?
"Leave it alone," Napoleon said, finally. "And let me get some sleep."
At least she'd managed to miss the worst of the bruises, though he wasn't quite sure how she'd done that; he'd taken one look at himself in the mirror and wondered if Illya had thrown him down the stairs after rescuing him, given the variety of bruises he'd managed to acquire.
"Owww," Napoleon said, pulling away from her as much as his still being in bed would allow. "And stop doing that," he continued, when she leaned forward and prodded his arm again.
"You're being discharged today," she announced, as if he hadn't already been aware of the fact. "And you're coming home with us."
"Us?" He looked round and, as he should have expected, Illya was lurking just inside the doorway and looking no happier at the idea than he was. "Gaby, I can look after myself."
She didn't bother to respond to that statement, just started to pull the bedclothes down until he was forced to grab at them - the alternative, he supposed, would be her literally tipping him out of the bed and Napoleon was suddenly glad that it was her who was the instigator this time around, not Illya, or he'd already be on the floor.
"Let me get dressed," he said, holding up a hand to try and stop her. "If you think this is going to happen, I need to get out of this hospital gown."
"Illya can help you," Gaby said, taking a step back and looking towards Illya. He didn't move for a moment, clearly as enamoured with the idea as Napoleon was, then seemed to realise he was beaten just by being there and took a step forward. "I'll wait outside," she continued, half-pushing Illya a little closer as she passed him on the way to the door. "Don't be too long!"
"I wish she didn't think she was in charge," Napoleon said, as the door closed behind her. "It's kind of terrifying."
Not that Illya being there was much better, given that the next thing he was supposed to be doing was getting dressed. Bad enough that Illya had been the one to get him out of there, probably bloody and possibly screaming in pain, but that seemed almost preferable to the idea of the aftermath being seen. An objective view of his injuries, Napoleon decided, would only help Illya be more convinced that Napoleon somehow needed to be protected from his own decision-making.
"I can get dressed without any help," Napoleon said, deciding it was worth the try. "I've been doing it for years."
"You say we are team, but we are only team when you want something, not when there is something you need."
He hadn't moved from where he stood just inside the doorway, so Napoleon supposed that was something. Illya was still close enough to grab him if he stumbled, but just far enough away that he didn't feel like a threat. Which was ridiculous, because he wasn't a threat any more than Gaby and her too-pointy fingers.
"I have everything I need," Napoleon said, wincing as he put on his shirt. The bandages on his back would need changing soon, he'd seen the list of instructions the medics had put together and they didn't look like fun. Maybe he could get some help from his team after all, just this once. "Except someone to wait on me hand and foot," he continued, as if granting a favour. "Know anyone interested in the job?"
He'd just about managed to do up two buttons before Illya was there, his fingers busy with the rest of them and standing just a little too close for comfort. Napoleon was certain he'd jerked back a little at Illya's approach, but at least he'd been sitting down so the move wasn't too obvious and maybe Illya hadn't noticed his reaction. Denial seemed like as good a way to handle the current situation as any.
"Can put on pants?" Illya said, picking up Napoleon's trousers and shaking them out before handing them to him - he would make the world's surliest valet, Napoleon decided, hoping that would never have to be his cover on a mission. "Or need help?"
"Let's get you settled," Gaby said, as she stopped the car. "Then I'll go into town for anything we haven't got."
At least he was able to get out of the car and into the safehouse under his own steam. Napoleon tried to ignore the way Illya and Gaby were watching his every move, practically hovering over him like he was about to collapse, but it wasn't easy. He'd never liked having to rely on other people - the army had been bad enough, but at least when people shooting at you that tended to reprioritise things. But the rest of the time? That was too much like needing someone for Napoleon to be happy with or even admit that it might be nice once in a while to have someone to turn to, if he needed help. Which, of course, he didn't.
He supposed, since neither the CIA or UNCLE were inclined to send their agents to therapy, he would never get the chance to blame how he was on distant parents and a very hands-off upbringing. Napoleon was proud of what he'd achieved, well most of it anyway, though the whole post-war thing had been bad for a number of reasons he hadn't really thought about while it was happening. It had been easy to gloss over where the artwork he'd traded had come from originally, though he'd had plenty of time to think about that during his early days with the CIA.
"That couch should be okay," Gaby said, as she opened the living room door and let him pass her. He was moving more slowly than he liked, more like an elderly man than a capable agent in his prime, but at least that would pass - he'd been beaten up, as well as beaten, often enough to know how his body would respond over time. Not that there was much chance of a repeat performance any time soon, given the way his partners were watching him.
And that was going to be a problem.
It took longer than it ought to have done for Napoleon to realise Illya was back in the room.
"We need to talk," he said. Napoleon had generally tried to avoid relationships, but even with the little experience he'd had of them, he knew those words didn't tend to come before anything good. "Now Gaby is gone, we talk." If anything, that sounded even more ominous, which took some effort.
Illya sat down in a chair opposite where Napoleon was sitting, hands resting on his knees. His fingers were flexing a little, as if he wanted to be anywhere but there, preferably hitting something at the same time, and Napoleon knew exactly how he felt. Unfortunately, given his recent experiences, he didn't think he could make it off the couch and out of the room before Illya stopped him and he didn't want to test that theory.
"Talk about what, Peril?" Napoleon asked, trying his best to look relaxed. As if he had cosy chats with his taciturn Russian partner every day, even though nothing could be further from the truth.
"We talk about sex," Illya said, his face heating a little as he spoke. He managed to get the word out, though, despite his obvious embarrassment. "Sex," he said again, as if proud of his earlier achievement and wanting to prove it wasn't a fluke, "and keeping safe."
He could probably smother himself with a cushion, Napoleon thought, his fingers tightening on the one that lay next to him on the couch. Except that wouldn't be enough to remove the memory of Illya Kuryakin and the word 'sex'. Twice. Two things he'd never considered together, never allowed himself to consider because that way lay madness. He needed this whole arrangement to work, needed UNCLE to be successful - Napoleon was perfectly certain that Sanders would have him locked up in the nearest maximum security prison he could find if things didn't work out, just because he could - and part of making it work was not fishing off the company pier.
Even in his limited dealings with other CIA agents, Napoleon had seen how quickly things like that could go wrong. Besides which, what was there to talk about? He found both his partners physically attractive - he wasn't blind or stupid, after all - but that wasn't enough compared to the possible repercussions when things inevitably spiralled out of control. Napoleon didn't claim to know much about the way things were run in the Soviet Union, but somehow he doubted that there were many gay bars or bathhouses the other side of the Iron Curtain.
"Sex," Napoleon repeated, flatly. "You really want to talk about this. Again."
"No," Illya said, which was honest, at least. "But we will." He leaned forward as he spoke, clearly still a little embarrassed but pushing past it with a visible effort. "You want sex with men. Also have sex with women. And want them to hurt you." He shook his head, though Napoleon wasn't sure what he was disagreeing with - the sex part or the hurting part? Either way, it was none of his business.
"Yes, yes, and yes." Napoleon found he was starting to get a little annoyed with this now, particularly as he didn't see where it was going - Illya wasn't usually the most difficult person to read, but Napoleon was currently having a hard time deciphering the expression on his face. "All of which is precisely none of your business." It didn't hurt to spell it out, since Illya didn't seem to get that simple concept.
Illya's face darkened a little at Napoleon's tone, which had been more abrupt than he'd intended. Except maybe he did intend to be that abrupt - what did this have to do with Illya anyway? None of it was anything to do with him, as long as Napoleon did his job, and that was just the way Napoleon liked it.
"Is my business when you are hurt." Okay, well maybe there was that - a simple rationale about how much they relied on each other being in the best of health, ready for anything. "So now is also my business to make sure you get what you need without being hurt."
It took a moment for Napoleon to work his way through that sentence - by the time he'd got to the end of it, he was sure his mouth was hanging open, which probably made him look like an idiot. Or, more accurately, someone who must be misunderstanding what his partner was saying. Because there was no way that Illya was offering what Napoleon thought he was offering. Was there?
"Get the rest, would you?" she asked, smiling at Illya. Damn.
Illya didn't put up an argument, just got up from the chair where he'd been sitting and headed for the door - they'd both learned quite early on in their partnership with Gaby that it was all but useless to argue with her. It was much easier in the long run to do what she wanted, letting her maintain a benevolent dictatorship that probably worked quite well for all of them, though Napoleon didn't want to admit it and would rather die than tell her so.
"Tell me," Gaby continued, depositing the grocery bag on the coffee table and stopping in front of where Napoleon sat, "had Illya started to explain our little plan?"
Suddenly the whole scenario made a kind of odd sense - thinking about it as being something Illya had dreamed up was just bizarre, but Gaby? She had a kind of sideways approach to things that served her well as an agent and this seemed to be linked to that way of thinking.
"You're joking. He was joking." She was standing between Napoleon's legs now, then had one knee pressed to the sofa cushion between them, which meant she was straddling his thigh. "Wasn't he?"
"We wouldn't joke about your welfare, Napoleon," Gaby said. She leaned forward, her thumb brushing across his bottom lip - Napoleon winced a little as it hit the broken skin at the corner of his mouth but otherwise tried not to move. "Don't you know us both better than that by now?" The fingers of her other hand insinuated themselves into the hair at the back of Napoleon's head, short nails scratching his scalp lightly. "We only want what's best for you. Both of us."
"This isn't happening," Napoleon said, sure he was going to wake up in his hospital bed any moment, only to discover this was some weird morphine dream. Gaby's weight on his leg, her fingers in his hair, all argued the opposite though. "It's a ridiculous idea."
Gaby shook her head, as if a little disappointed in Napoleon's lack of imagination, then leaned forward again - this time it was her mouth on his, not her thumb, stealing any further comments he might have to make on the matter. Her fingers tightened in Napoleon's hair, holding him in place while she kissed him thoroughly, her knee pressing lightly against his growing erection.
"Very nice," Illya said, from the doorway. "If hands were free, I would applaud." He was holding more grocery bags, enough to keep even his appetite under control for a little while, but was watching the two of them like he was the front row audience at a particularly interesting show. "Gaby is good kisser, yes?"
She half-turned to grin at Illya, letting Napoleon catch his breath for a moment and surreptitiously pinch himself. He wasn't dreaming, all this was really happening, which meant that Illya's proposal was also real and apparently it wasn't just Illya who was proposing it. Gaby's free hand had dropped to Napoleon's groin; her fingers were deft, unbuttoning his fly and then finding their way into his underpants. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been this hard, this quick - normally painkillers took the edge off for a while, making it difficult to become aroused, but the ones he'd taken in the hospital had clearly left his system if what Gaby was finding was any evidence.
"Does this look like a spectator sport?" Gaby asked, throwing the words over her shoulder at Illya, who hadn't moved.
"Pah." He turned towards the kitchen, clearly intent on getting rid of his burden and then what? Joining in? Gaby was kissing her way up Napoleon's neck now, the occasional run of teeth along the tendon interspersed. "Someone must make sure we do not starve."
"His loss," Gaby said, leaning back a little as her hand finally freed his erection from his underpants. "Though I guess food would be good." Her hand on Napoleon's cock was sure, confident, all the things he'd suspected might be the case but would never actually ask a lady to prove. Gaby's fingers curled around his length, the calluses an interesting sensation, her thumb flicking over the tip a couple of times. "Still, there's plenty we can be doing while Illya's being all domesticated..."
Napoleon thought back to the first time he'd met Gaby Teller, the moment he'd first seen her as she slid out from under that damned car of hers, and compared it to now. She was still too young and too nice to be comfortable with what she was doing now, no matter what she wanted anyone to think. He could imagine it, so easily. Gaby would shift back a little, deft hands slipping her panties down so she could ride him; she'd be hot, muscles clenching around his erection, making sure Napoleon didn't hurt himself any further by doing all the work, hands on his shoulders and fingers biting in as she came around him.
And it would all be wrong. Something Gaby was doing for a reason Napoleon didn't quite understand and needed to. Because he'd always tried to keep work and pleasure separate and didn't see any way this could go other than wrong. Because she was better than this.
"No," Napoleon said, taking hold of Gaby's wrist and removing her hand from his erection. He was close, close enough that he had to take a deep breath before speaking, otherwise his words would have shaken their way out of his mouth and that wouldn't do. "I don't think we can."