“All I can say is thank god for benevolent uncles.” Napoleon sighs wearily as he sinks into his favourite armchair. Beside him, Illya lets out a snort but doesn’t comment any further. He’s exhausted. They all are.
It’s been a long month. Hell, it’s been a long year. Ever since the formation of U.N.C.L.E. Waverly has been working hard to prove to everyone that his organization is worthy of recruiting the best agents from around the world. And that has meant mission after mission after mission. It’s not been all bad, though. Illya and Gaby are good partners now that they’ve gotten over the teething issues of their first mission, and working for Waverly sure beats working for Sanders and the CIA.
But, damn, he’s exhausted, and he can tell the others are too without even looking at them. Illya’s barely reacted to his teasing the past few days and every time Napoleon so much as breathes in Illya’s direction Gaby looks as if she’s about to murder them both. Which is probably why Waverly sat them all down this morning and told them he was giving them a week off to rest up and enjoy Christmas. Napoleon hadn’t even realised that’s what date it was, he was that tired, but even so he’d insisted Gaby and Illya come back to his place for a drink. It was the closest to HQ, plus he was the only one guaranteed to have something actually worth drinking.
“So,” Gaby asks after she takes a sip of one of Napoleon’s finer scotches. “What are you boys planning on doing with the time off Waverly has given us for Christmas?”
Though he may be exhausted, Napoleon is never one to turn down an opportunity to flirt with Illya. Since they got past the whole trying-to-kill-each-other thing, it’s just something they’ve fallen into. Napoleon flirts, Illya pretends to be annoyed but indulges him, and so it continues. Maybe, one day, Illya will realise that it’s not entirely a joke. Now that they’re friends, Napoleon can admit to himself that he’s been attracted to Illya since the first day they met. Who wouldn’t be attracted to a tall, strong man who has the strength to tear off the back of a car? And now that he’s gotten know Illya he’s seen how passionate, intelligent, and brave his partner is.
Napoleon isn’t one to use the word love, but his feelings for Illya are probably as close as he’s ever going to get to it. It’s one of the reasons he hasn’t simply bedded him and moved on. Feelings make things more complicated. For now he’s content to just flirt and let Illya think it’s some meaningless fun.
He stretches languidly on the couch and smirks in Illya’s direction. “There’s a lot to be said for spending a week in bed. What do you think?”
Illya drains his glass and sets it down a little too heavily on the table. “I think if you choose to spend your time lying around like that you are going to get fat.”
He ignores the frustrated sigh coming from Gaby and instead focuses on Ilya. There’s none of the usual humour in his voice. Instead he sounds on edge, almost the way he was back when they first started working together. He knows he should just let it drop and change the subject but he can’t help himself.
“Oh, I’m sure I can think of things that can be done in bed that will ensure I stay fit.”
Napoleon blinks in surprise. The outburst hasn’t come from Illya but from Gaby who is currently on her feet and glaring at him with such ferocity that he’s mentally calculating where all his weapons are stored and making sure none of them are within easy reach of her.
“You,” she points a finger at him which is trembling in her anger. “You’re not usually all talk. I’ve seen you take people to bed with far less flirtation than this. You want Illya. I can see it, he can see it, everyone can see it. So stop talking and do something about it because if I have to sit and watch you two doing whatever this is for much longer I’m going to ask for a transfer. It’s almost as bad as when you hated each other.”
“Gaby…” She whirls on Illya when he softly says her name and Napoleon winces as she gears up for another onslaught. Illya may be tall and strong but they both learned that their physical strength is nothing compared to Gaby’s tongue when she’s angry.
“And you! I see you staring at him when you think no one is watching. You want him as much as he wants you. Sort yourselves out and do it fast!”
Before either of them can respond, she grabs her coat and storms out, slamming the door behind her.
Well, that escalated quickly.
He stares at the door, still blinking in surprise, until the sound of Gaby’s footsteps fades into nothing. He turns back to Illya, ready to ask him if he has any idea what prompted the outburst, only to find Illya on his feet and shrugging into his jacket.
“I have to go.”
Illya won’t meet his eyes and Napoleon knows right then that Gaby has hit a nerve. This is why he never lets feelings get involved when he sleeps with people. He knows he should just let Illya go, tone down the flirting and pretend that Gaby was just imagining things. But Illya’s shoulders are slumped in defeat, somehow making him look small despite the fact that he’s still a good few inches taller than Napoleon. And right then Napoleon knows he can’t let Illya go.
He reaches out and puts his hand on Illya’s arm.
Illya sighs. He’s still refusing to meet Napoleon’s eyes, but not making any attempt to pull his arm free.
“This is a bad idea,” Illya finally says softly.
Yeah, it probably is. But Napoleon has never let a bad idea deter him from what he wants in the past and he’s not about to start now.
“Why?” he asks. “I want this.”
Illya’s breath hitches but he doesn’t say anything.
“Apparently Gaby wants us to do this,” Napoleon continues, “and unless I’ve been totally misreading the signs you want this too.”
“It doesn’t matter what I want.” Illya’s voice is small and sad and Napoleon honestly doesn’t know how to react to that. He’s seen Illya angry, determined, protective, and there’s always been a passion there. Now he just sounds lost. Napoleon can feel something swell in his chest. A strange urge to just pull Illya into his arms and tell him everything will be all right.
“Is that what they teach you in the KGB?” Napoleon asks gently. “What you want doesn’t matter? Only the mission matters?”
Before Illya even answers, Napoleon hates Oleg even more than Sanders.
Finally Illya’s eyes meet his, and Napoleon is almost relieved to see a fire blazing there.
“You think it is a bad thing to not be selfish?”
That takes Napoleon aback. Does Illya really care so little for himself that he considers being happy to be a selfish act?
“Selfish? Illya, this isn’t selfish. Being happy isn’t selfish. If we do this it’s not going to interfere with our missions. It’s not going to harm anyone.”
“It will harm me!” Illya snaps. “When KGB take me back and I have to leave you, it will harm me. So please, Solo, let this be. Is easier for all of us.”
Napoleon’s hand slips from Illya’s arm. “The KGB wants you back?”
“No,” Illya sighs. “Not yet. But is only a matter of time. I am one of their most effective operatives. They will not lend me to U.N.C.L.E. indefinitely.”
“So this is an attempt at self-preservation?”
Illya tucks his hands into his pockets, a sure sign that he’s attempting to hide their trembling. They’ve been working together long enough now that Napoleon can recognise the signs of an impending rage. This isn’t that. If anything, this is worse.
“Illya…” Napoleon lays his hand back on Illya’s arm. “I promise that if the KGB ever tries to take you back, Gaby and I will fight it with everything we have. Waverly will too; I know it. He might not outright say it but he respects you, and no one can deny that between the three of us we get results.”
A shrug is all he gets in response, and Napoleon wonders how long he’s been thinking about this.
"Hey." He gently tugs Illya’s arm and gets minimal resistance as Illya turns to face him. “Just answer me this. If something were to happen between us you’re worried about it hurting if you have to leave, yes?”
Illya nods his head silently.
“So how would you feel if they let you stay here and you have to spend years denying yourself something that you want? Or if the KGB does ask for you back, and for whatever reason we can’t stop it. Would it hurt less having to leave knowing you could have had something great, even for a little while, but you didn’t even try?”
Illya finally meets his eyes and Napoleon sees uncertainty now, and a little bit of hope. Napoleon decides to help him make up his mind one way or another and gently presses a kiss to his lips.
The response is immediate. Illya pulls Napoleon close until their bodies are flush against each other, kissing him back like he’s been starving for it.
Napoleon grins when they finally break apart for air. "I guess I made a convincing argument."
“Shut up,” Illya growls and kisses him again, steering Napoleon towards his bedroom.
“You make a pretty convincing argument yourself,” Napoleon adds when he finds himself flat on his back with Illya standing above him slowly removing his shirt.
“You are wearing too many clothes,” Illya points out, and Napoleon is quick to rectify that situation.
Napoleon is accustomed to waking up with someone else in his bed, but the warm feeling that spreads through his chest when he sees Illya’s sleeping face is definitely something new. Usually at this point, he’d wake up his companion with a kiss and they’d go another round. This time, however, he’s content to just lie there and look. He’s seen Illya sleeping before, of course, on missions where they’ve been forced to hide out together. But he’s never been this close. Illya looks relaxed in sleep, the frown lines and creases of his brow having faded away, his usually stern mouth softened into almost a smile. Right then Napoleon realises that if Illya’s worst fears do come true and the KGB tries to take him back, Napoleon will do anything to stop that from happening, even if it means kidnapping Illya and spending the rest of his life on the run.
He smiles when Illya’s eyes flutter open, clouding with confusion for a moment until he realises where he is.
“Good morning,” Illya says, the soft smile of sleep spreading into a full and happy one.
Napoleon returns the smile and leans over to kiss him. “No regrets?”
Illya shakes his head. “I should, but no. You were right, and it is not often I say that. We should enjoy this while we can.”
It’s probably not the best time to mention his ‘kidnap Illya and go on the run’ plan. They can cross that bridge if it becomes necessary.
“Breakfast?” Napoleon asks. “Or something a little more pleasurable?”
Illya’s stomach growls before he can answer, causing him to blush an adorable shade of pink. Really, why had they not done this months ago?
“Breakfast,” Napoleon confirms, slipping out of bed and pulling on his robe.
“More pleasure after?” Illya suggests with a twinkle in his eye.
“I like the way you think. Come on, let’s load up some plates and eat in bed. It’s Christmas after all.”
He rummages in his wardrobe for a spare robe and tosses it to Illya, enjoying a brief glimpse of naked flesh before it is tragically covered up.
He pads into the living room and stops so suddenly that Illya crashes into his back.
“What…?” Illya asks faintly, and Napoleon can only shrug.
It looks like Macy’s has exploded in his apartment some time during the night. There’s a huge, fully decorated, tree in one corner with wrapped gifts underneath, streamers are hanging from the ceiling, and there’s a wreath hanging in the window.
“Uh…” Is all Napoleon can manage to say.
“Oh, good, you’re finally awake.” Gaby emerges from the kitchen, a half full champagne glass hanging from her fingers. “Merry Christmas.”
Illya has moved over to the tree which is almost as tall as he is and is examining some of the ornaments that are hanging from the branches.
“How?” Napoleon’s brain is still trying to catch up with what’s happening. He’s always prided himself on the security that surrounds his home, yet it seems Gaby has somehow not only managed to break in but to bring half of the North Pole with her.
She shrugs. “I may have mentioned to Waverly that if my plan had worked that we were going to have a nice Christmas together. He offered to send some people to help make it a nice Christmas for all of us.”
“Your plan?” Napoleon felt like he was about to get the punchline to a joke that he hadn’t realised was being told.
“Anyone with eyes could see how you and Illya feel about each other. You just needed a push.”
Illya looks faintly horrified. “And Waverly knows of this?”
“Of course. He says congratulations by the way. He’ll buy you both a drink when he gets back from England.”
Napoleon is back to thinking of his kidnapping-Illya-and-going-on-the-run plan and Illya looks like he’s about to throw up. Napoleon takes him by the hand and tugs him close, squeezing his hand to reassure him. He also doesn’t miss the way Gaby smiles when she mentions Waverly’s name and that’s a conversation they will be having at a later point.
“Well, I suppose we should be thankful we have such a forward thinking employer.”
“There’s a goose in the oven,” Gaby says, taking a sip of her champagne and apparently opting to change the subject, “and I managed to find a recipe for Borscht. This can be an American, Russian, German Christmas.”
Illya smiles, no longer looking like he’s about to throw up or pass out, and leans forward, pressing a kiss to her cheek. “Thank you.”
Her cheeks flush pink and she smiles. “Yes, well, the nice Christmas is as much for me as it is for you. I should offer my own congratulations by the way. At least now I will now no longer want to kill you both when we’re on a mission together.”
Napoleon grins and pulls Illya closer to him. “Oh, I don’t know about that. I imagine we’ll be rather disgusting.”
Illya lets out a small grumble of protest but doesn’t made any attempt to extract himself from Napoleon’s arms, and Napoelon can’t keep the grin from his face.
His eyes drift over to the tree and the gifts sitting underneath.
“You’ve been busy,” he points out. “Illya and I haven’t exactly had time to go shopping for gifts.”
Gaby smirks. “I can imagine. But not need to feel guilty, Solo. These are from Waverly. Thanks for all our hard work. Why don’t you both get dressed and then we can open them.”
Napoleon nods and pulls Illya back into the bedroom.
“If you’re not out and fully dressed in five minutes, I’m leaving and taking all of this with me,” Gaby calls through the door.
Napoleon chuckles as Illya pulls on his pants. “Well, there goes my plans for a fun Christmas morning.”
Illya smirks and moves over to Napoleon, slowly fastening the buttons on his shirt. “Day is not over yet. We still have tonight.”
Napoleon can’t stop the shiver that runs through him, and he runs a hand up Illya’s arm. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Fully clothed, they emerge from the bedroom where Gaby has taken a seat on the chair, leaving the couch free for them. Her champagne glass has been refilled and two extra ones are sitting on the table.
Napoleon sits and Illya takes a seat next to him, their thighs pressed together. Napoleon picks up a glass and hands the other to his partner. He clinks his glass against Illya’s.
“Merry Christmas, Illya.”
“Merry Christmas, Napoleon.”
Gaby raises her glass. “Merry Christmas. You two are idiots.”
Napoleon can’t really argue with that, but at least they got there in the end.