He was working for the CIA when his grandfather's over-priced lawyers finally tracked him down. To be honest, Napoleon had been expecting them, he had hoped they would turn up before he'd got in too deep with the agency but they'd taken their own sweet time - of course, the thing that had prompted them to look for him in the first place had been his grandfather's death, so he supposed he couldn't complain too much about how long it had taken.
Not that he'd even known his grandfather; the former Senator for the state of Rhode Island, Bartholomew Radcliffe, was still alive at the time Napoleon had found himself unwillingly part of the CIA. To be perfectly honest, growing up Napoleon had always thought his mother's tales of her family being well to do were exaggerated at best or an outright lie if he was feeling less generous, but apparently that wasn't the case after all. Of course, he'd checked out the name she'd given, back when he was freshly demobbed from the Army and just before he let himself be led astray into stealing stuff from people who didn't deserve to be robbed; it had seemed legitimate but that didn't prove anything.
Except that apparently it was all true.
His mother, god rest her soul, hadn't lived to see her son survive the war, let alone turn to a life of crime that Napoleon was certain she would have had some opinions about. She had however, it seemed, grown up in the kind of luxury Napoleon himself had never known, and subsequently thrown it all away to run off with Napoleon's father. Who had promptly disappeared not long after Napoleon himself was born, leaving nothing but a pile of debts and the occasional visit from a loan shark still looking for him to prove that he had ever existed. Whether he was alive or dead was something Napoleon never gave a thought to, though he occasionally wondered if his absent father was now an integral piece of some highway flyover in the time-honoured tradition of the mob.
Regardless of where his father was currently, Napoleon now found himself the heir to everything that the Radcliffes had once owned, including enough money to legitimately buy some of the paintings he'd spent so much time stealing in his previous life, and his grandfather apparently had sufficient pull even beyond the grave that his CIA contract just evaporated. The only thing Napoleon regretted was that he hadn't seen Sanders' face when he'd been told that Napoleon was no longer his errand boy - just imagining it was enough to give Napoleon all sorts of warm feelings.
"So what do I have to do?" Napoleon asked, trying to find a comfortable position in the chair he was currently occupying. It, like the rest of this upmarket law firm's furniture, was the triumph of style over comfort - a monstrosity of steel and leather. "There has to be a catch."
The lawyer - Napoleon couldn't remember his name but he was one of a number of lawyers whose names were on the sign that graced the front of the building - shuffled some papers until he found the one he was looking for.
"Your grandfather did have one condition," the lawyer said, looking at Napoleon over the rim of his spectacles. It was an expression that took Napoleon back to his childhood - the principal at his junior high had the same mannerism, though she was decidedly less avuncular than the man currently sat in front of him. "The codicil to his will specifies that you will inherit the entire estate, assuming that you are married before you reach the age of 30 and that said marriage subsequently lasts a minimum of 12 months past that date." He put the piece of paper down carefully. "Will that be a problem, Mr Solo?"
"I'm 30 later this month," Napoleon said, before he could stop himself. He managed to stop himself from mentioning the other, slightly less time-contingent reason why he wasn't married already.
Of course, the lawyers already knew how old he was - they'd have seen his birth certificate in order to track him down - and he wouldn't put it past them to have encouraged his grandfather to include this little nugget, just to get some kind of twisted revenge from beyond the grave.
"Then you had best find someone to marry you, Mr Solo. Someone you can bear to live with for the next year, since that too is a condition of the codicil."
Napoleon considered the concept - he wasn't against marriage in principle, except that he had never really seen the point in settling down with one person to the exception of all others. Add to that the minor fact that he actually preferred men to women and the situation in which he found himself became a little more complicated than he was prepared to explain here and now.
"Let me get this clear: those are the only conditions?" he asked, seeing the tiniest glimmer of light through the smallest of loopholes and wondering if he could exploit it somehow. "That I get married before I'm 30 and that the marriage lasts a minimum of 12 months?"
"Exactly, Mr Solo," the lawyer said. "As you can understand, you will not receive control of the entirety of the Radcliffe estate until that 12 month period has passed. There are also instructions for this firm to check up on your, shall we say, living situation during that time. Without notice, of course."
"Of course," Napoleon said. Better and better, the old coot had really outdone himself this time around. For enough money, though, Napoleon was certain he could find someone who'd be willing to tie the knot with him, hang around for 12 months while living at his expense and then take a lump sum to get lost. "And if I don't meet the conditions?"
"You'll receive a lump sum," the lawyer said, "which some might still consider quite generous."
The way he said it told Napoleon everything he needed to know - the 'generous' payment was likely only a small percentage of what he could otherwise have, even if he had to sweet talk someone into spending the next year in his company to get it. At least there didn't seem to be some kind of clause making him produce the next generation of Radcliffe boys, which he wouldn't have put past his grandfather if he'd thought of it, so that was something. If that had been a requirement it would, of course, have been a little more difficult to manage but still not entirely impossible to organise.
"I'll advise you of my wedding date as soon as it's arranged," Napoleon said, getting up from the torture device they mistakenly thought was a chair. He took the lawyer's hand - somehow, Napoleon had expected it would be cold and clammy but it was warm and dry, the first sign of real life he'd seen from the man. "Since I'm sure the firm will want to send someone along to make sure it's all legal and above board."
"Naturally, Mr Solo," the lawyer said. "We look forward to hearing from you as soon as matters are in hand."
Worse still, he also had no-one to complain to about how unfair it all was.
Everyone Napoleon knew was either ex-Army - in which case they probably knew he'd also been caught selling stolen artworks and narrowly escaped a lengthy prison sentence, since there was nothing former soldiers loved better than dirt on their colleagues - or ex-CIA, which was even worse. He'd made few friends when he was in high school and that experience had also been cut short by his lying about his age to enlist.
At the time, Napoleon had believed that war would make a man of him, which he now knew showed how little he knew about anything, especially the realities of combat.
What it had taught Napoleon Solo was the need to be able to rely on himself - he had to admit that he had found himself in dangerous situations with men he'd learned to trust with his life, since he didn't have a choice about it, but that type of bond had ended when he'd got back to the States. He'd made a conscious decision to sever the majority of those bonds himself, even though he realised later what a mistake that had probably been and how just a few ties to normality might have stopped him getting into trouble.
Not that this was anyone else's fault but his own. Napoleon accepted he'd done the crime, for whatever reason, and he had been prepared to do the time, before the CIA stepped in and bought him, lock, stock and barrel. He wouldn't lose this opportunity to be financially independent for the rest of his life. If he did, Napoleon told himself he deserved to rot in some federal jail, if stupidity had been a criminal offence.
Which meant finding someone to marry him, one way or another.
Maybe he was going to the wrong places. The problem, Napoleon knew, was the time-frame he was working within - he'd need a marriage licence and for that he needed a willing would-be spouse, so he really only had a few days left before that money would slip from his grasp forever. And while the bars he'd frequented hadn't turned up anyone suitable, anywhere else seemed unlikely to produce someone who'd be willing to throw in with him quite so quickly.
Meanwhile, he needed food that didn't come from a takeout container. On the back of an envelope, Napoleon jotted a brief list and then headed out to the nearest store. He had to admit he hadn't shopped for himself in quite a while, so the variety available for pretty much everything he'd written down was a little staggering. Did anyone really need so many choices of potato chip to choose from? It took longer than he'd anticipated, but finally he'd found everything he was looking for and hauled his basket to the checkout.
The store was quiet, since it was the middle of the night and the area in which Napoleon lived was hardly the most stylish of neighbourhoods. While he'd seen a couple of other people working in various parts of the store, mostly stocking the shelves while they could take advantage of the lack of customers, there was only one checkout open and the woman who was meant to be on it was standing a few feet away, her back to everyone. She was also, probably against store policy, currently on her cellphone and trying not to let everyone else hear her end of the conversation. Napoleon put his basket on the counter and studied her for a moment; she didn't seem to realise she was no longer alone and her voice was getting a little more agitated as the conversation rolled on.
"No, you asshole," she said, her voice cracking on the epithet, "I don't care if I ever see you again." From the other end of the line, Napoleon could hear yelling - he had no idea what the voice was saying, but it clearly wasn't anything worth hearing. "Just box up my stuff, I'll get my cousin to come get it later in the week." She was holding it together, Napoleon could see, but barely. "No, fuck you, asshole," she said finally, taking the phone from her ear and stabbing the button to end the call with unnecessary force.
It was only as she was wiping her eyes with the back of her hand that she turned and realised someone was standing there.
"Sorry," she said, and it sounded fairly sincere. As sincere as Napoleon could expect from someone being confronted by a man with a basket full of groceries who'd just heard the end of her relationship whether he liked it or not. "Paper or plastic?"
"Are you okay?" Napoleon asked. She didn't look okay - her eyes were puffy, the mascara running from where she'd clearly tried to wipe her eyes and her voice had that shaky quality created by strong emotion. "If you want to get someone else to ring these up, I don't mind waiting."
She smiled. The badge on her tunic said 'Gaby' and Napoleon wondered what it was short for - Gabriella, maybe?
"And lose my job too?" Gaby said, starting to take the items from Napoleon's basket and ring them up. "One disaster today is enough to be going on with."
She was scanning the items much faster than he could pack; part of him wondered if this was deliberate, but it could simply be that she was expected to work that quickly and once Napoleon had mastered the art of packing efficiently, he'd be able to keep up with her. In ten or fifteen years, maybe, given the difference between her actions and his, but there was still hope.
"You just moved in?" Gaby asked, looking at the contents of his basket.
"Is it that obvious?" Napoleon continued to pack, aware of her watching him. "I've been working away," he said, when it seemed like he needed to give a little more information, "but I'm back in New York for good now."
He probably was, though this was the first time Napoleon had said that to anyone - he actually found himself believing the words. Even if the inheritance fell through, if he was only left with a tiny fraction of what he could have had, he wouldn't be going back to the CIA and would probably need to find something else to occupy his time. And where better to do so than the city that never sleeps?
"And you never learned to cook in all that time?" Gaby asked, handing him one of the ready meals he'd bought. "Seriously, I know we sell those things and some people seem to like them, but they're nothing like as good as the real thing."
"Never really had the time." Except she was right. One thing he was probably going to have plenty of now was time, which meant the possibility of all sorts of new experiences - maybe learning to cook could be one of them. Napoleon had always liked to eat well, had appreciated the culinary arts in others, so who was to say that he couldn't turn out something just as good if he put his mind to it? "I guess you're right, though."
"It has to happen occasionally," Gaby said. "It's not foolproof, but every so often I hit one out of the park."
She rang up the total and he handed over some bills. It was probably a good act, this cheeriness that Gaby was exhibiting now - a professional demeanour suitable for dealing with customers and keeping her job - but Napoleon hoped that the call he'd overheard hadn't been quite as devastating as it had sounded from an observer's perspective.
"Have a nice day," Gaby said, giving him his change. "And seriously, either get yourself to the library or go online and get some pointers on easy meals, your tastebuds will thank me."
And it tasted even worse than it looked, which was quite a feat.
It had been a long time since Napoleon had last been in a New York public library but he still found it less daunting than the idea of launching into the depths of the internet. Maybe he was still a traditionalist at heart, preferring books over pixels, or maybe it was just that he wanted something physical at least for the basics. There was a branch within walking distance of his apartment, in the opposite direction from the supermarket, and after he'd checked out its opening hours online Napoleon set off to try and find something for beginners.
Finding a couple of books that looked like they might do him for now was one thing - getting a library card was quite another. He didn't have a New York driver's licence, since he'd been out of the country so long it hadn't seemed all that important a thing to have, and he didn't have any of the requisite alternative forms of ID on him.
"We close in just under an hour," the librarian said. Somehow, maybe from his time in high school, Napoleon had expected the person behind the enquiries desk to be a greying, stoutly-built woman who would look like everyone's grandmother. Instead, this particular librarian was skinny, with pink hair and a piercing, and Napoleon wasn't totally sure of their gender. "I can keep the books on one side for you till we close, if you can get back with some ID before then."
"I appreciate it," Napoleon said, glancing at the clock. It shouldn't take him more than 15 minutes each way to his apartment and back; the list of possible ID was fairly long and he was certain he'd be able to quickly find at least 2 of those the librarian had suggested. "I'll be back before you close."
"See you soon," the librarian said, with a smile. Napoleon was all but certain it was flirtatious - maybe he'd been looking in the wrong place after all and he should have been hitting the books before now?
Turning, Napoleon almost fell over Gaby, who was standing right behind him. He wasn't quite sure how she'd sneaked up on him without him noticing her - his former colleagues in the CIA would have been rolling on the floor with laughter at such a poor exhibition of tradecraft.
"I thought that was you," Gaby said, with a small smile. "Took my advice?" She nodded towards the small pile of books standing on the edge of the enquiry desk.
"It seemed like the thing to do," Napoleon said. "I'm sorry, I have to get home and pick up some ID so I can follow your instructions." He glanced at the clock again. "But if you'll wait, can I buy you a coffee when I get back?"
Gaby frowned and for a moment Napoleon wondered if he'd misjudged. But she'd approached him, after all, not the other way around - he hadn't even known she was there, so she could have ignored him and gone on with whatever her life entailed without him knowing they had almost met once more.
"Just coffee," she said, finally, after what seemed like an eternity. "I'm not making a commitment here."
"Just coffee," Napoleon repeated. "Sit tight and I'll be back before you even realise I'm gone."
"That seems pretty unlikely," Gaby said, with a smile.
Though he got to his apartment and then back to the library in record time, Napoleon was almost certain Gaby would be gone by the time he returned. Except, she was the one who'd made sure he noticed her, so maybe there was a chance? When he opened the door, scanning the immediate area around the inquiry desk and then glancing at the clock to check he still had time to spare, there was no sign of her. Napoleon shrugged, thinking it was probably better this way - after all, she'd just come out of a difficult relationship by the sound of the call he'd overheard and here he was, asking her to have coffee? If she thought he had ulterior motives, she would be right, since it was currently impossible for Napoleon to think about anything where other people were concerned except how they might help him get his hands on the Radcliffe inheritance.
"Here's my ID," Napoleon said to the librarian, who retrieved his small pile of books from beneath the desk.
While a note was made of the information that was required to be confirmed, copies were taken of relevant documents and a library card generated, Napoleon leaned against the enquiry desk and flicked through one of the books he'd chosen. He'd thought he knew a lot about food, but that was mostly from the perspective of eating it rather than how it got to be ready for him to eat in the first place. Even from these books, which had been some of the more basic on display, Napoleon was beginning to realise that he would have a lot to learn.
"Ready for that coffee now?" a voice asked, unexpectedly. Napoleon turned, finding Gaby standing a few feet away from him, possibly so he didn't fall over her again like he had before. "If you're set to go, of course."
She glanced at the librarian, who grinned at both of them before handing over Napoleon's card.
"Just take this and get those checked out, then you two lovebirds can do whatever comes naturally."
Napoleon frowned, but that didn't seem to have any effect on the librarian's smile, then did as he was told. Life was too short for those kind of arguments - if it gave the librarian some pleasure to think he and Gaby were dating or something, then it was no problem for him. He glanced across at Gaby, who was waiting patiently by a pillar, the pile of books she had been holding earlier now absent.
"Not getting anything out yourself?" he asked, as he handed over card and books to be checked out.
"Not this time," Gaby said, "but I wanted to get those books returned before that asshole sold them for weed or something."
"I'm sorry things didn't work out with your boyfriend," Napoleon said, as he followed Gaby out of the library and they turned right towards a small coffee shop a few yards away.
"Boyfriend?" Gaby sounded puzzled, then seemed to realise the source of Napoleon's own confusion. "No, that jackass on the phone the other day wasn't my boyfriend." She let Napoleon push open the door of the coffee shop and hold it for her. "I was sub-letting and the guy whose apartment it was came back into town unexpectedly, so suddenly I was out on the street. Pretty much, anyway."
She didn't sound too bothered about this, which said something about how regular an occurrence something like this might be. Napoleon wondered what it said about him that he was glad she hadn't just broken up with someone, but was he glad for Gaby or for himself? After all, if she wasn't currently on the rebound and possibly needed some security for the next year or so, then it was also possible Gaby might be just what he'd been looking for.
Now, all Napoleon had to do was figure out how to discuss his current situation without making it sound like he was the lead in a poorly-written romantic comedy, looking for a co-star.
They staked out a table, Napoleon planting his stack of books on a spare chair so they wouldn't get unwanted company, though the coffee shop didn't seem all that busy. It was that odd time between the end of most people's work day if they worked in an office and the start of people going out for the evening - other times, Napoleon had passed here later in the evening and seen the place all but packed, the small raised dais in one corner occupied by someone with a guitar, though that wasn't his kind of thing if he was perfectly honest.
"Order for Napoleon?" the barista called, after a few minutes.
Napoleon had stayed by the counter, rather than going back to his seat and having to start a conversation with Gaby which he knew would be interrupted very soon, but the barista still called his name as if there were lots of customers waiting and someone might get the wrong order. By the time he'd ferried two cups of coffee and two pastries back to the table, Napoleon was able to sit down at last and recognised Gaby's expression for what it obviously was. She was trying not to grin and it took a moment for him to think back, realising what it was that had amused her.
"Go on, you might as well say it," he said, stirring sugar into his coffee. It wasn't the first time, after all, and definitely wouldn't be the last.
"Napoleon?" Gaby's grin was real now, softened only by her breaking off a piece of one of the pastries and sticking it in her mouth. "Were you a very bad child?"
"It's a family name, apparently," Napoleon said, with as deadpan a tone as he could manage. Somehow, the mockery didn't seem quite so bad coming from Gaby as it had from previous people who had made an issue of his name - some of the comments from his former CIA colleagues had been more inventive but there had been an element of cruelty underlying them too that didn't go unnoticed by anyone. "But I think I've heard every possible comment anyone could make by now."
"I bet," Gaby said. "These are really good pastries," she continued, and Napoleon realised she had already finished off the first and was midway through the second without him even noticing. "I hadn't realised I was quite so hungry or I would have suggested we go to the diner instead."
"Well, the night's still young," Napoleon said, raising his coffee cup.
The diner was, as Gaby had explained to him carefully, one of those places which prioritised quantity over quality. Not that the food was bad, it was just that after the first few mouthfuls had settled like lead in your stomach, it was hard to tell any more. Still, it was cheap and cheerful and, Napoleon happily accepted, the kind of place where someone could get a reasonable meal for a small amount of money.
"My treat," he said, as they picked up the menus. Gaby shook her head, turning her attention to making a choice. "Seriously," Napoleon continued. "I just came into some money, it's not a problem."
"I was happy for you to buy me coffee, Mr Bigshot," Gaby said, putting the menu down on the table between them. "But I said no commitment, remember?" She looked Napoleon in the eye, her gaze holding his till he looked away, which didn't take all that long considering he'd been trained to resist interrogation by foreign powers. "You can't buy me with a burger, you know?"
"Not even if I throw a portion of fries in to soften the deal?" Napoleon asked, trying to lighten the mood between them. He didn't want to alienate Gaby, not when she was possibly looking like his best bet to get his hands on his grandfather's inheritance - it would be so easy to blow this if he wasn't careful. "All that grease has to be good for something."
This time he was the one waiting for her to look away, which she finally did with a grin, focussing her attention on the waitress approaching their table with glasses of water.
"You folks ready to order?" she asked, pulling a pencil from behind her ear and looking at the two of them expectantly.
Once they'd ordered and the waitress had bustled off, Napoleon found himself uncertain where to begin. It was possible that once he'd been considered something of a straightshooter, saying what he thought about the situation in which he found himself, but that had been trained out of him by the CIA if he hadn't already lost that particular quality in the war and its aftermath. But spinning Gaby a tale seemed like the wrong way to go - nothing about her made Napoleon think she'd respond well to bullshit.
"Well, spit it out," Gaby said, when they'd sat in silence for a minute or two. She was playing with the paper cover of her straw, tying knots in it while she watched Napoleon more carefully than he really liked. "What is it you want? Bone marrow? A kidney?"
"Nothing like that," Napoleon said, wondering just where that idea had come from - too many medical dramas on TV, probably - and decided that honest was the best policy. "But I do have a problem you might be able to help me with."
The waitress came with their food and left again while Napoleon was still telling Gaby about what had happened, about his grandfather's lawyers finding him and the terms of his inheritance. Of course, he didn't actually mention the CIA, just talked about working in various places around the world and glossed over exactly what it was he'd done and just how he'd come to be doing it in the first place. While he talked, Napoleon tried to interpret her facial expressions, to tell whether she believed him or not, but found that Gaby was very hard to read. If she ever took up professional poker, she'd already have the poker-face down pat in preparation.
"Let me get this straight," Gaby said, poking one of her fries into a pool of ketchup and then studying the end of it as if it held all the answers Napoleon was looking for. "You met me at the supermarket when I was blubbing after getting evicted over the phone, then I literally tripped you up at the library and now you think we should get married?"
"It would be just for the money," Napoleon said, though he wasn't completely sure if that was a selling point for Gaby or not. He didn't know her after all, she might be a massive romantic who would balk at the idea of living in luxury under what were essentially false pretences. "We'd have to live together but that would be it, nothing more, and after 12 months you'd walk away with a pile of cash and be able to do whatever you wanted."
She studied him for a moment, then glanced over his shoulder briefly as if she thought someone else was going to be there. Napoleon concentrated on finishing off his burger, certain that anything further from him could jeopardise everything he'd asked of her - he wasn't sure how he knew that, but it was almost instinctive, this realisation that Gaby needed to make her own decision and he'd said enough for now.
"I keep thinking someone's going to appear out of the kitchen with a camera or something," she said. "You know, one of those dumb reality shows where someone gets made an offer that's totally ridiculous and then gets made a fool of because it was all a trick?"
"No trick," Napoleon said. "I promise, this is all above board."
Oddly, he realised it felt good to say that. It wasn't all that often Napoleon had been able to be honest with anyone - his time in the CIA had kind of precluded that for the past few years and he'd not exactly been an upstanding citizen for a while before that.
"There's only one problem," Gaby continued. "I'm not sure what my boyfriend will think about your offer."
Just when he'd thought his plan might actually succeed. Gaby hadn't outright said she wouldn't do it, she hadn't slapped his face and stormed out, just raised a reasonable objection in the form of a previous relationship. Napoleon supposed he ought to thank her, if he wasn't currently feeling like he'd been punched in the gut.
"I guess we ought to ask him," Gaby said, pulling out her phone.
He felt like the situation was spinning suddenly out of control - surely Gaby wasn't actually planning on, what exactly? Asking for her boyfriend's permission to marry Napoleon, or even telling him they were done so she could get married and then walk away with a sizeable lump sum in 12 months time? Napoleon found he wasn't
"What are you doing?" he asked, as she dialled a number and listened to the sound of it ringing. "Gaby?"
Now, if he had to use any metaphor to describe the current situation, Napoleon was the one wondering where the hidden cameras were. There was no way Gaby's previously-undisclosed boyfriend was going to react any other way than wanting to introduce his fist to Napoleon's face; he wasn't that lucky, especially given his recent run of poor results.
"Yes, we're still at the diner," Gaby said. Napoleon couldn't hear the other end of the conversation from where he sat and he wasn't completely sure he wanted to. "How long till you get here?"
He could still leave; there was probably time for him to get home before the boyfriend arrived, except Gaby knew where he lived now, so what was to stop her telling the boyfriend everything anyway? This could turn out to be one of the biggest mistakes Napoleon had ever made and that was up against some stiff competition from previous events in his life story.
"He'll be here in 5 minutes," Gaby said, hanging up her phone. She cocked her head to one side, looking Napoleon up and down. "You look kind of pale, Napoleon, was it something you ate?"
No time, then, to get out of here before he arrived.
"Now don't jump to any conclusions when Illya gets here," Gaby said. "That's his name, by the way, Illya. He's Russian, over here studying something or other to do with physics at the university."
The bell over the door rang as the door to the diner opened and Gaby half-turned in her seat, only to turn back to Napoleon with a look of disappointment when the people coming in turned out to be a group of women.
That was about all Napoleon could manage before the door opened again, the bell jangling. Gaby turned again, then waved her hand in the air
"Over here!" she called, then slid over in the booth to make space for her boyfriend. "Don't get him started on what he's studying," Gaby continued quickly, "your head will start to hurt in two minutes flat."
The man who joined them was tall, not to mention solidly-built, though he was currently wearing quite a few layers of clothing which probably helped make him look bulkier than he was. It wasn't that cold outside, but it looked like he had been out in it for a while, if the bulging messenger bag he carried was any indication.
"Did you walk over from the university?" Gaby asked, shoving up against his - Illya's, Napoleon's brain corrected itself - side as if it didn't matter that her boyfriend was dressed for the Antarctic. "You know you can catch the bus."
"I like to walk, Gaby," Illya said, "you know this."
Illya began to unpeel the many layers he was wearing, removing his hat and then pulling a scarf away from his face and stuffing them both into the top of his bag. Despite his previous concerns, Napoleon found himself almost mesmerised, watching Illya unwrap himself like he was a present, a gift for Napoleon even though it wasn't his birthday. The hat had covered a shock of blond hair Napoleon should have expected given the colour of Illya's eyes, which were a clear and piercing blue.
"You are friends with Gaby, yes?" Illya asked, seeming to realise Napoleon was still sitting there. He pulled off his gloves, dropping them on the table, then held out a large hand - Napoleon took it, discovering just how cold it probably was outside after all, and noticing both the strength of Illya's grip and the interesting callouses on his palm. "I am sorry, I do not know your name."
Sat beside Illya, Gaby sniggered, turning the snigger into a cough when Illya glanced sharply at her.
"Napoleon Solo," he said, waiting for a response from this man, expecting one given the history between the most famous bearer of that first name and this man's people. "Really, I'm not making that up."
"No," Illya said, after a moment. "I do not see why anyone would."
The waitress had returned to their table during this interaction and was collecting their used plates and cutlery.
"Can I get you anything, sweetie?" she asked, looking first at Illya. "Coffee, I bet? It's bitter out there."
"Da," Illya said, "is cold. Coffee would be very good, thank you."
He smiled at her and, to Napoleon's surprise, she blushed. Of course, Napoleon reminded himself, he'd come here with Gaby so he hadn't had the opportunity to exercise the famous Solo charm on anyone else, if he needed an excuse why someone was apparently more affected by Illya than himself. If he had been that shallow and uncertain of his own appeal, of course, which he wasn't.
"More coffee for me too, please," Gaby said, while Napoleon just shook his head.
The waitress disappeared off, plates in hand, reappearing a few moments later with a mug for Illya and the coffee pot. It had been brewing for a while, if the taste of the coffee Napoleon had previously drunk was any indication, but that didn't seem to have any effect on either Gaby or Illya's enjoyment of it.
"I should go," Napoleon said, reaching for his wallet.
"We need to talk about what you asked me," Gaby said. "Now Illya's here too."
Napoleon's hand stopped inside his jacket, fingers on his wallet. How could she be so cool about this? If their roles were reversed and someone had propositioned his girlfriend, he'd be furious and yet Gaby didn't seem at all concerned about how Illya would react. Illya, meanwhile, was drinking his coffee - he took it black, drinking it quickly despite the fact it must be almost scaldingly hot - and he was now watching the two of them like they were a particularly interesting television show.
"No, we don't," Napoleon said. "It was a mistake. Let's leave it at that."
"Illya," Gaby said, as Napoleon opened his wallet and pulled out some cash. "Napoleon asked me to marry him for money, just for 12 months, and I said we needed to discuss it with you." She glanced across at Napoleon, who was certain he was gawping at them both, open-mouthed. "So, what do you think?"
"You have legal problem?" Illya asked, his tone milder than Napoleon thought he had any right to expect.
"Need wife?" He swallowed another mouthful of coffee. "You know gay marriage is also legal now, here in city."
"I don't even know if that would work," he said, finally. Napoleon had to admit, he hadn't looked at the fine print of his grandfather's will, letting the lawyers tell him what he needed to do even though they'd also given him a copy of it. "But why would you agree to go through with it anyway? You only met me five minutes ago."
"Gaby likes you, she is good judge of character. And maybe marrying man is better for you. Money is also good, always this is true. Still, we are package deal - take one, get both."
Gaby elbowed Illya in the side, apparently a little annoyed with him for some reason Napoleon couldn't quite ascertain.
"What my boyfriend is failing to tell you," she said, "is that he's here in the US on an F-1 visa. Which means, when his studies are over, he's supposed to be on a plane back to Russia."
Illya didn't say anything, just drank his coffee and stared into space while Gaby spoke.
"Now I don't know if you've been keeping up with current affairs," Gaby continued, "but that's not a very healthy place for anyone who isn't one hundred percent straight right now. And Illya has made no secret online of the fact that I am the first woman he's dated in a while."
Napoleon resisted the urge to tell her that, not only was he well aware of what was going on in various parts of the world, but that he and his former colleagues had been responsible for some of it becoming policy. Somehow, Napoleon was fairly sure she wouldn't want to know any of that and he also didn't like the idea of how she might react to it if she did, so he said nothing.
"But if he marries a US citizen, then that helps immensely with any application to remain," Napoleon said, before Gaby could state the obvious. "We wouldn't have to do anything," he said, eyeing Illya carefully. "But somehow I bet that, assuming this idea can satisfy the clauses in my grandfather's will in the first place, I fully expect my grandfather's lawyers are going to want to be even more convinced that we are indeed... husband and husband."
"It is not hardship," Illya said, putting down his now-empty coffee mug. "I am, how you say, easy." His tongue flicked out to catch the last few drops of coffee from his lips and Napoleon was struck, just for a moment, with a mental image of seeing that tongue in action on a part of his own anatomy. "No problem."
"Okay," Napoleon said, getting up from the booth. "Why don't you both drop by my place tomorrow evening and we'll figure out just who is marrying who?"
Outside, leaving the two of them behind apparently mostly so Illya could continue to top up his caffeine levels, Napoleon began to wonder just what he thought he was doing. He'd only just met these people and suddenly he was apparently not only in line to fulfill the terms of his grandfather's will but to also get a live-in third party as part of the deal? Of course, it was quite possible that the two of them were scam artists of some kind, except that even if they were, Napoleon didn't really have a choice. His search for an alternative spouse had been spectacularly unsuccessful and time was running out.
So, he needed a plan of action. Firstly, Napoleon knew he had to check the exact wording of his grandfather's will to see if it specified anything about the gender of the person he was expected to marry - it would probably be worth checking with a lawyer, preferably someone who wasn't representing the interests of his grandfather's estate, but that might delay things more than he wanted. At least, once he knew exactly who it was he was planning on marrying, Napoleon would have enough information about them to do some discreet background checks and ensure he wasn't marrying some lieutenant for the Bratva or mobster's daughter. Knowing his luck at times, anything was possible.
And it would only take 24 hours or so, from getting a marriage licence to actually tying the knot, as long as he and his prospective spouse were prepared to have a civil ceremony as soon as possible - with this odd threesome thing going on, Napoleon realised that they even had a convenient witness now, ready and waiting to stand up with them at their wedding. Now, the only question that remained to be answered was this: would it be man and wife or man and husband?
When he'd looked up the address of the lawyers who'd agreed to see him, just two names on the door of an office in a run-down part of Hell's Kitchen, he was certain they met his criteria. The lawyer he met with seemed competent enough, checking over the copy of his grandfather's will with a quick few glances but able to discuss it at length even so, which gave Napoleon much more confidence in the advice he was about to get even as the conversation continued.
"It's pretty much water-tight," the lawyer said, "but I guess you already knew that." Napoleon couldn't quite recall if he was Murdock or Nelson, though he'd introduced himself when they met.
"I suspected that was the case," Napoleon confirmed, taking a cup of coffee from the lawyer's red-headed assistant with a smile. "But what I'm interested in is an opinion on the clause about marriage."
"I agree, it's unusual in this day and age," the lawyer said. "But it looks like you need to tie the knot if you want the money. And you do want the money, don't you?"
His expression was all curiosity, rather than a bland acceptance that, of course, anyone who might be able to inherit a significant sum would definitely want it, no matter what they had to do in order to get it. Napoleon found himself liking the fact that this wasn't just cut and dried, for either of them.
"I do," Napoleon said. "But I want it on my terms, if possible. So I wanted your professional opinion: is there anything in there, or precedent surrounding this kind of situation, that says I can't be married to a man and still inherit under the terms as stated?"
There, he'd actually said it to someone who wasn't Gaby or Illya - it was real now, the possibility that he might end up getting hitched to Illya, living with both of them, certainly, but with Illya as his husband and needing to make it look real. For it to be real for the sake of his grandfather's lawyers, who would doubtless be even more stringent about their requirements, about proof if he was married to a man. Proof that it was a real relationship, that it satisfied the terms of the codicil just the way a marriage between Napoleon and a woman would.
"At first sight, I can't see that it would be a problem." The lawyer picked up the will again, as if to check the exact wording, though Napoleon would have bet good money that he already knew it off by heart from first time around. "But to really be sure about this, you'll need to give me a couple of hours. Matt and I, he's my partner and the other name on the door, will need to hit the books."
He handed the paper back to Napoleon, who folded it and replaced it in his jacket pocket.
"I have to warn you, though, even if there isn't precedent for objecting," the lawyer said, "the lawyers handling your grandfather's estate could still choose to drag this out. It could be months, or even years, before you get your hands on that inheritance if you go down this path and they decide to make life difficult for you."
"I know," Napoleon said. "But I need to know if it's an option."
"You've got someone in mind?" The lawyer looked curious again, then seemed to realise how personal that question was. "Sorry, forget I asked. Always too nosy for my own good, that's what everyone says."
"Two someones," Napoleon said, surprised at his own desire to tell someone what was going on, someone who wasn't personally involved in all of this and could also realise just how crazy this all was. "Two people prepared to marry me and now I have to decide if I want to make life easy for myself, or be true to who and what I really am." He found himself staring out of the grimy window behind the lawyer's head, watching a pigeon bob its way along the railing of the fire escape on the building opposite. "I like women, but not that way, and I'm pretty sure my grandfather knew enough about me to try and make this as difficult for me to get my hands on his money as he possibly could."
It would have been just like the old buzzard, if the few comments his mother had made in earshot were anything to go by - it would have been easy enough for the former-Senator, or one of his lawyers, to hire a private investigator to find out all about Napoleon Solo. Including, since he'd never been all that discreet about it, who he liked to sleep with. The marriage clause could just be his final attempt at controlling Napoleon's life, since he'd so signally failed to manage that with Napoleon's mother when he'd had the opportunity to do so.
"That's quite possible," the lawyer said, "or it could just be that his lawyers drew this up a while back when same-sex marriage was just a pipe-dream for a bunch of hippies and liberals. Not everything is a conspiracy, Mr Solo."
That hadn't been a particularly successful ruse, though he'd had a more successful foray into cooking pasta and then the buzzer for his apartment had signalled their arrival, far earlier than he'd expected them.
"Are we too early?" Gaby said, when they reached the right floor and Napoleon met them at the door. "I was off today, and Illya was driving me nuts, so we thought we'd come over and find out how things were going."
Behind her, Illya rolled his eyes - he wasn't quite as bundled up as the previous evening, but still seemed larger than life, right here in the doorway of Napoleon's apartment for the first time.
"I just finished eating," Napoleon said, "but I made way too much. Did you eat already?"
Gaby had detoured around him, seemingly following her nose into the kitchen, even as Napoleon closed the door and then helped Illya remove a couple of layers of clothing, now he was indoors and likely to stay there for a while.
"We did, but Illya can always eat," Gaby said, her voice carrying from the kitchen. "He's handy that way."
Illya didn't seem at all bothered about being discussed; he had already made a beeline for Napoleon's bookcase and was studying the spines of the books.
"Is true," Illya said, glancing back over his shoulder to where Napoleon stood; he felt torn between the two of them, not quite knowing to which one he ought to be paying more attention. "I like food, so I am always happy to eat."
He turned his attention back to the bookcase, seemingly also unconcerned that Napoleon was studying him in his turn - Illya might like to eat but there was little indication that this was having any effect on his physique, at least not presently.
"If you'd like some pasta, there's plenty left," Napoleon said. "I made a tomato sauce to go with it, nothing fancy."
Somehow, though he couldn't say quite why it was, this seemed like an important moment between them. The previous evening, Illya had joined him and Gaby at the diner when they were almost done, a late addition to the arrangements Napoleon had been trying to make for himself, so was he now trying to let Illya catch up somehow? Food was a traditional method of courtship, Napoleon knew that, and if Illya liked to eat then maybe him learning to cook was going to be good for both of them...
"I am happy to eat this," Illya said. He had finished his investigation of Napoleon's bookshelves, though he had kept his views on their contents to himself, at least so far. "Is good to be here, with you."
A step forward and Illya was in his space, one hand gripping the sleeve of Napoleon's sweater - Napoleon suddenly found himself being kissed, taking a moment to respond and then becoming the instigator when Illya started to pull back. He'd probably thought he'd read the situation wrong, which he hadn't, just moved a little faster than Napoleon had been expecting.
"Is good?" Illya asked, letting go of Napoleon's sleeve and brushing his fingers over the wrinkles his grip had left. "Gaby tells me you are interested in me, but I was not certain before." His smile was subtle, the barest quirk of his lip, but told Napoleon everything he needed to know about just what Illya was thinking right now. "Whatever happens," Illya continued, "remember, we are package deal."
That was what Illya had said the night before, though Napoleon hadn't thought to take him literally - 'take one, get both' - was it really that easy for him and Gaby to go through with this, no matter what Napoleon proposed?
"Come and have some food," he said, leading the way towards the kitchen. Gaby was still in there and Napoleon was certain she'd left the two of them alone together for just this purpose, so Illya could reassure himself about Napoleon's interest in him and they could get to know one another a little better. "Before Gaby makes all our decisions for us."
"Too late for that," Illya said, following him, a solid presence just a few steps behind. They could make this work, Napoleon was suddenly certain of that, feeling the rightness about Illya being there, Gaby too. "She is always planning, that one."
"You shouldn't talk about me behind my back," Gaby said, though she didn't move from where she was standing by the stove, prodding experimentally with a wooden spoon at the pasta Napoleon had cooked. "Didn't your mother teach you better than that?"
"It is not the Russian way," Illya said.
Even as he spoke, Illya stepped up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her away from the stove and spinning her round into Napoleon's embrace. He caught her, instinct kicking in, and she grinned up at him before squirming out of his arms and crossing to sit at the small table where Napoleon ate most of his meals. He considered that for a moment, realising that this was one particular habit he would have to break if he was about to share his life with two other people - he had a perfectly good dining table, except that it always felt a little large to be eating at on his own.
"So," Gaby said, resting her elbows on the table and cradling her chin on the backs of her joined hands. "Decided yet which one of us you want to marry?"
"Neither," Napoleon said, "if you have your elbows on the table when you eat." He smiled, to show he was just joking, but he could already tell Gaby could see whether he was serious or not, and she didn't move a muscle anyway so that was evidence enough. "What about you?" he asked, turning his attention back to Illya. He was leaning over the leftovers of Napoleon's earlier experiment in cooking except, unlike Gaby, he was actually eating it. "Are you housebroken?"
"We will let you decide that," Illya said, after he had swallowed the pasta he was chewing. Napoleon considered that for a moment, wondering if he hadn't cooked it quite long enough - there was 'al dente' and then there was semi-raw and he was certain the pasta was a little too close to the latter for comfort. "But I believe so."
"Well, I found some lawyers," Napoleon said, sitting down at the table. He was at an angle to Gaby, who turned slightly so she could watch him and still keep half an eye on what Illya was doing. "Basically there's nothing to stop me marrying a man if I want, nothing that will stop me inheriting my grandfather's money, but the estate's lawyers might still drag things out just because they can."
"Assholes," Illya said, bluntly. He seemed to have eaten enough, for now at least, and Napoleon wondered if there was anything left in the pan but couldn't be bothered to check. "So, you must decide." He came over and joined them, though the table now seemed much too small for all three of them to be sitting round. "Marry Gaby and it will be easy, but you are liar. Or marry me and say they can go to hell."
It was a succinct way of putting it, but Napoleon found he couldn't really argue with it as an explanation of his current situation. Either of the two people sitting here with him would make perfectly good, perfectly legal spouses, but only one of them was likely to make his grandfather's lawyers take additional care to ensure that the marriage Napoleon had entered into was a real one, for whatever definition of 'real' they might espouse.
He'd never thought of himself as a social campaigner, but somehow that difference between the two situations just seemed wrong - Napoleon didn't really want to be a test case, but if that was the way things needed to be, then why not him? It wasn't like he had anything better to do, right now at least, and if he was successful in getting hold of his grandfather's money despite being a gay man who was married to another man, then wouldn't that have the old coot spinning in his grave?
"I guess we should do this properly, then," Napoleon said, after a moment. He hadn't really prepared for this, since he didn't have anything to hand for the proposal. "It'll make a good story for the grandchildren."
Both Gaby and Illya just looked at him; this time, Napoleon could tell, she wasn't completely sure he was joking, even as he got up from his chair and then went down on one knee, as was traditional.
"Illya, will you make me the happiest man in the world," he began, "by doing me the honour of upsetting my grandfather's lawyers and becoming my husband?"
Gaby made a small sound that sounded something like a muffled squeak, hands over her mouth, but Napoleon's attention was on Illya, trying to tell if he was surprised or not by his choice. He hadn't reacted in any way, though he must have had some suspicion his earlier words had tipped the balance in his favour.
"Da," Illya said, finally. "I look forward to upsetting them very much." He reached across the table and took Gaby's hand in his; she was grinning like an idiot and seemed almost as happy about it as if she'd been the one proposed to, not Illya. "We will be very happy together, I am sure."
Gaby and Illya had left soon after the proposal, though they'd stayed long enough to drink a large amount of Napoleon's coffee and follow him around the apartment. They would have to move in, after all, once the wedding had taken place - idly, Napoleon wondered if they wouldn't just be better getting somewhere larger, but neither Illya or Gaby had raised any objection to moving in with him there and it had a spare room for Gaby. She'd told him it was bigger and decidedly less rat-infested than her last place, which hadn't filled Napoleon with much confidence, but he wasn't completely sure she had been serious about the rats. As for Illya, living here would mean he had further to travel to the university, but that didn't seem to bother him at all. He had said something the other evening, in the diner, about liking to walk and Napoleon found himself planning to make sure he at least had the choice, rather than having to walk because it was cheaper. He might not be rich, but the CIA had paid him fairly well and that would be enough for them to all live on quite comfortably till the inheritance was sorted out.
When he got to City Hall, Napoleon found both Gaby and Illya waiting for him, though he was a little surprised by the reception he got from Illya - he wasn't quite as bundled up as previously and didn't hesitate to wrap his arm around Napoleon's shoulders and pull him in for a lengthy kiss. Which Napoleon found himself continuing, once he'd got over the surprise of being ambushed on a New York street this way.
"If that's for the benefit of my grandfather's lawyers," Napoleon said, when Illya had finally let him go, "you shouldn't have bothered. They'll be at the wedding, though."
"Maybe I just want to kiss my husband, is not so bad."
"Oh, my turn!" Gaby said, practically throwing herself at Napoleon so he was forced to catch her as she hugged him, wrapping his arms around her so she didn't knock them both flying. "It's so sad, always the bridesmaid but never the husband." She kissed him on the cheek, pulling back with a grin that Napoleon was becoming familiar with, then stepped back, turning so she was standing between the two of them, a hand on each of their sleeves. "I suppose I'll just have to support your endeavours to upset high-priced lawyers, then," Gaby said. "Let's go get a marriage licence!"
Maybe it was a quiet day at the office, or maybe they'd just beaten the crowds for the day, but the three of them emerged soon afterwards with the relevant piece of paper in hand. Since it was a Friday, they would be coming back in just over 48 hours, as soon as the office of the City Clerk re-opened on Monday morning. In the end, it had all been much easier than Napoleon had expected, since he'd somehow kept thinking some problem would arise with the licence or the supporting paperwork but nothing had gone wrong - even his discussion with Illya over whether or not they should keep their own names had been brief and simple enough, with both deciding it would be easier if they did.
Was all this a sign that, even if there were problems with the lawyers, the time they were going to be together would be plain sailing? It seemed unlikely, somehow, since they hardly knew each other and all three of them would be living in a small apartment, but it was possible, wasn't it?
"I have to get to work," Gaby said, as the alarm on her cellphone went off. "Sorry to organise the wedding and run, but my boss is being a real asshole about people getting in on time at the moment." She kissed Napoleon on the cheek again, then grabbed hold of Illya's scarf to pull his face down to her level and kissed him properly. "Don't forget, we're sharing him," she said to Napoleon when she let Illya go, then took off almost at a run in the direction of the nearest subway station.
"She did that on purpose," Napoleon said, "didn't she?" This was going to be entertaining, if nothing else - even if he and Illya didn't get along quite as well as he suspected they were going to, Gaby would keep things lively. "Want some breakfast?"
In response, Illya's stomach rumbled and he grinned, a rueful expression.
"Always," Illya said. "And then I can tell you all about Gaby and how easy it is to make her crazy."
The first diner they'd come to had been busy, despite it being mid-morning, so they'd decided that a better option would be to pick up some pastries and have breakfast at Napoleon's apartment. His coffee was better than the diner where they'd first eaten together and there was no pressure this way to eat up and get out, not if they wanted to linger over their meal instead. It seemed like a good thing too, the idea of spending time alone with Illya, if only to help with the pretence where his grandfather's lawyers were concerned.
While he made coffee, Napoleon could hear Illya moving around the apartment and wondered just what he thought of the place. He wasn't sure what Illya was studying, but it sounded as though it required lab work so it wasn't as if he'd be bringing work home with him and Napoleon was currently officially between jobs so that wasn't going to be an issue either. As for Gaby, he wasn't sure that supermarket job was all that great but it was hardly his place to be telling her what to do after they'd only just met.
"When did you move in?" Illya asked, when he opened a closet and saw there were still boxes there which had never been opened.
"I've been working away a lot," Napoleon said, as he carried mugs of coffee to the table and sat, watching Illya continue to explore. He reminded Napoleon of a cat they'd once had when he was a child, one that liked to thoroughly investigate every corner of the apartment if someone had the audacity to move a piece of furniture more than a couple of inches out of its former place. "Never really got around to unpacking everything."
After he got out of prison, though he wasn't going to tell Illya that - it was more of a surprise that his things had still been there, in the storage unit he'd hired when he left the Army, and that the CIA hadn't carted them off for some reason.
"Do you have much you'll need to move in?" Napoleon asked, taking a tentative sip of his coffee and discovering it was still a little too hot, even with the milk he'd added. "We can always get a bigger place, if you do. Or Gaby, I don't know where her stuff is now."
"Her stuff," Illya said, as if considering a word he had never said before, "is at my place." He came and sat down at the table, then looked at Napoleon's bookcase again, as if measuring it with his eyes. "May need another bookcase, maybe two." He looked around the room, still assessing, then reached for one of the pastries. "Also space for desk, for Gaby's tools, maybe they can go in storage unit for now."
"Gaby's tools?" Napoleon asked. For a moment he was certain he'd heard it wrong, or that Illya had accidentally used the wrong word, meaning something else. "What tools?"
"She did not tell you?" Illya asked, coming to join him at the table. "She is artist."
"So, paints and stuff like that? Brushes and canvasses?"
Illya grinned, getting out his phone and flicking to the photos stored on it. He held it out to Napoleon, who took it and looked at what was displayed there.
"Not paints," Illya said, after he had swallowed a large mouthful of coffee with evident enjoyment. "Gaby is... metal worker. Sculptor, I suppose is best word."
The photos were amazing, the things portrayed in them both intricate and enormous in size, their scale only obvious in the ones where Gaby was also there. She was tiny beside some of them, a welding helmet pushed back from her face, overalls grease and rust-stained, but she still had a happy smile on her face regardless of just how much work must have gone into each of her creations.
"These are..." Napoleon searched for a word, failing to find one which really did the photos justice. He handed the phone back to Illya, shaking his head. "She has a lot of tools?" He thought for a moment again.
"Is she working on something now, somewhere?"
He had to know, had to get to see one of these sculptures as she put it together, the idea of Gaby, the woman he'd met at a supermarket checkout being so many things he'd been oblivious to, made him wonder what else he didn't know - about her, about Illya, even as there were many things they didn't know about him, his recent and not-so-recent past activities among them.
"No," Illya said. "She does not have money for studio space, or materials. Gaby would not tell you this, she hates job but needs money for all these things." He drank some more coffee, then started to all but inhale a second bearclaw, his face unreadable once more. "But you have money, yes? We can all have what we want, if things go well."
"If we can convince the lawyers," Napoleon said, as he watched Illya eat. "And they won't want to be convinced, remember?"
"I remember," Illya said, after he'd eaten the last piece of his pastry. "Which is why I think we have sex now, to help make real."
For a moment, Napoleon wasn't certain he'd heard Illya correctly. It wasn't until Illya started removing his clothes, pulling off his sweater and shirt together as one layer to reveal a significant amount of pale skin beneath, that Napoleon was sure he was right about what Illya was proposing.
"How comfortable is sofa?" Illya asked, getting up from the table and dropping his discarded clothes on the chair where he'd been sitting. "Or would bed be better?" His hands had already dropped to his belt, undoing it as he walked towards the sofa, where he sat and pulled off one of his shoes, then the other. He stopped when he realised Napoleon hadn't moved from where he was sitting, but was just watching him undress. "You do not want?"
"No, I mean yes," Napoleon said. "I want very much. But won't Gaby mind?"
Illya bent over slightly, shoving his shoes out of the way, then leaned back and stretched to his full height, arms resting on the back of the sofa. Napoleon wasn't certain how much physical activity was required for a scientist but he wasn't going to complain about what he saw in front of him, what seemed like miles of pale and flawless skin stretched over an impressive musculature. And apparently all his, not just legally but by right of conquest, if he wanted it.
"Gaby is happy, she tell me so this morning," Illya said. "For someone who wants, you are long way away," he continued, patting the sofa cushion beside where he currently sat. "Come, sit with me, Napoleon."
The way Illya said his name made something deep inside Napoleon resonate in response, a reaction he hadn't expected. This was the kind of thing that happened in the movies, not in real life - in real life, a handsome man didn't follow you home and then suggest you have sex, not unless you were very lucky or very rich. Except that he was about to be very rich, wasn't he?
Stripping under Illya's gaze was more awkward than Napoleon had expected would be the case, but then it was the middle of the morning and bright daylight was shining through the apartment windows - not the most sensuous time for a striptease, even if that had been something Napoleon was experienced with. Old habits, both from the Army and a later desire to look after the expensive clothes in which he'd indulged, meant he wanted to fold things when he removed them, even if this was likely to be something that led to ridicule. Turning to hang his pants over the back of the chair where Illya had been sitting, he wondered how ridiculous he looked and how much it would take for Illya to change his mind about sex. A quick glance in Illya's direction told Napoleon that he was still watching, which was only to be expected, but his expression gave little else away.
"Well," Napoleon said, sitting down beside Illya at last, "here I am."
It seemed strange, both of them half-dressed and sitting side by side on the sofa, even as Illya's hand cupped Napoleon's shoulder and pulled him round, turning him slightly so they were face to face instead. His other hand moved quickly, fingers finding and undoing the fly of Napoleon's trousers before insinuating their way inside, gripping his previously-uninterested cock which reacted predictably at the touch.
"You have had sex with man before, yes?" Illya asked, his fingers curled a little too lightly for Napoleon's tastes, making him shift into his grip in search of more stimulus. "Or is this the American way, to be... bashful?"
An odd word choice and something about it made Napoleon grin in response, leaning forward till he could capture Illya's mouth with his own, showing him just how bashful he really was. Illya shifted where he sat, a quick glance from Napoleon showing that pushing matters between them like this was something Illya was enjoying, if the way his erection pressed against the fabric of his trousers was any indication.
"I'm not sure bashful is the right word," Napoleon said, as he moved so he was kneeling between Illya's outstretched legs, one hand freeing his erection from the confines of his trousers and then wrapping around it when it was finally revealed. Illya had gone commando, that was something of a surprise, but a pleasant one. "I like sex, and I like to think I'm good at what I like."
"Then I am lucky man," Illya said, his voice breaking on the words as Napoleon took him in his mouth. "I have always thought this was good thing."
Somehow, despite Napoleon's best efforts, Illya was still able to string a sentence together - clearly, Napoleon decided, he wasn't trying hard enough. He let Illya's erection slip almost from his mouth, tongue just flicking over its head, before taking it in deep, swallowing around it as Illya moved under his hands. He was holding Illya down with a hand on each hip, controlling how much he could thrust and dictating the pace.
Napoleon glanced up, checking Illya's reaction to this - he still had one hand on the back of the sofa, knuckles white with the grip he had there, the other on the arm and equally tight. Better that than trying to control things, like so many men had tried with Napoleon over the years, to the detriment of more than one handful of hair. As for Illya's face, his eyes were closed and his head was tipped back, tendons standing out on his neck as he tried not to come despite Napoleon's efforts. Enough of that, Napoleon decided, letting Illya's cock slip from his mouth completely till it stood, curved against Illya's belly, the head moist with pre-come.
"What?" Illya asked, eyes opening as he looked down at where Napoleon still knelt. "What is wrong?"
"You're holding back," Napoleon said. "This isn't a one-time thing, remember? Soon we're going to be married and we can have lots of sex." He grinned up at Illya, tongue flicking quickly over his bottom lip and watching the way Illya eyed his mouth avidly as a result. "Unless you want me to ride you instead."
Napoleon could almost see the cogs grind in Illya's brain as he worked his way through all of that; surely some of the blood must be leaving his erection for the sole purpose of helping his mental processes.
"Next time," Illya said, finally, when he'd given the matter sufficient consideration for both of them. "Now I want to fuck your mouth, Napoleon." There it was again, that use of his name striking Napoleon low in the belly and making his own erection jerk in response.
"I could do with a little more give and take," Napoleon said, leaning forward and letting his tongue catch the tip of Illya's erection, just a teasing lick and then back on his heels once more. "It's a good precedent to set, you know, since we're going to be living together."
And having a lot of sex, Napoleon's libido reminded him, as if he'd forgotten that fact in the past couple of minutes.
"What do you want from me?" Illya asked. His hand had moved from the arm of the sofa to the back of Napoleon's neck, fingers curling around it with just the right amount of pressure and definitely preferable to a handful of hair. "You are doing so well without help."
Another teasing lick, the merest flick of Napoleon's tongue, had the effect he'd been hoping for as Illya pulled him forward so his mouth sank over Napoleon's erection once more. There was a steady pressure and Napoleon found himself relaxing against it, letting the head of Illya's cock brush the back of his throat, swallowing around him just to see what noise he could get Illya to make in response. He hummed a little too, liking the way it made Illya groan, then loosened the grip he'd had on Illya's hipbones and let him thrust upwards more. He could breathe through his nose, just about, for long enough at least and this was worth the lack of oxygen for as long as it took.
In the end, it wasn't that long anyway, as Illya shot his load, hand tightening on the back of Napoleon's neck as he held him in place, swallowing and swallowing until he had taken it all. When Illya let go, Napoleon sat back on his heels and licked carefully around his mouth, tongue catching a few stray droplets of come that had eluded him earlier and still all too aware of Illya watching him still.
"Help a fella out?" he asked, putting his hands on Illya's knees and using that grip to lever himself up from the floor.
Napoleon saw the moment that Illya's eyes dropped to his groin, since he was at the right level where he still slumped on the sofa, knew he could see just how aroused Napoleon was. It always took more than just doing it for someone else for him to get off, at least a helping hand or convenient mouth now he was no longer a teenager.
"Come on," Napoleon said, heading back towards his bedroom and not bothering to check if Illya was following or whether he just watched, his gaze avid. "I have a bed we need to try out."
He could almost feel the weight of Illya's eyes on him, since he was surely looking straight at Napoleon's arse as he walked away; say what you would for these trousers, Napoleon thought, they made his arse look fantastic, even more fantastic than it actually was in reality and worth every penny they'd cost as a result. Still, he'd finished undoing them and stepped out of them as they fell, mentally apologising to his dry cleaner for the work which would be needed to bring them back to their usually pristine condition.
By the time Illya appeared in the doorway, Napoleon was sprawled across the bed, one elbow cocked on the headboard as he studied the other man. Illya looked hungry, his eyes dark with lust, and Napoleon found himself regretting that they'd started today's endeavours on the sofa instead of here, on his very comfortable bed. Still, if nothing else it had taken the edge off and Napoleon had every intention of making Illya come at least two more times before the day was over, if he had anything to say about it.
"You want to fuck me," Illya said, the words almost a growl.
Napoleon's other hand casually dropped to the curve of his cock where it pressed against the material of his underpants; its tip was almost poking from the top of them, so his touch was casual because a more definite contact might be a mistake at this stage. He tried to think of things to pull himself a little further back from the brink, thinking about Sanders and the paperwork he'd been made to file when he belonged to the CIA, or the way he'd needed to keep his bunk in the Army and the inspections, futile as he'd always thought they were, of that very subject.
"Lose the trousers and get over here," Napoleon said.
Illya, it seemed, didn't have any particular objection to being bossed around either. At least not if the alacrity with which he lost the rest of his clothing and crawled up onto the bed was anything to go by. This close up, Illya seemed even larger somehow, as if he expanded to take up all the space that Napoleon wasn't already occupying and the idea of 'making' him do something for Napoleon became even more attractive as the moments passed.
"Well?" Napoleon said, as Illya leaned over him, a smile on his face. "Do I need to do all the work here?"
In response, Illya's hands slid up Napoleon's thighs till they encountered his underwear then onto his hips, thumbs catching on the elastic of the waistband and tugging it downwards. Napoleon's erection came free, the material of his pants dragging against its underside and then settling where Illya left it, cradling his balls and still tight around his hips.
"Very nice," Illya said, one of his hands curling around it, the lightest of squeezing motions still sufficient to make Napoleon's cock jerk in his grasp. "Is possible I could just make you come now, we fuck later."
"Not a chance," Napoleon said, bending his knees and using the resulting leverage to flip Illya over onto his back so he was the one doing the looming now, Illya's hand still on his erection even as it was sandwiched between them. "I hope you're flexible, some big guys aren't." Illya shifted beneath him, the movement dragging the head of Napoleon's cock across his abdomen and leaving a damp trail of pre-come behind it. "Well, I guess there's only one way to find out," Napoleon continued, reaching for the bedside table and pulling some lube and a strip of condoms from the drawer.
He sat back on his heels, Illya's hand dropping away - Napoleon was crouched between Illya's legs, which seemed to go on forever, hips already canted up a little as if waiting for Napoleon's next move. A generous helping of lube and Napoleon's fingers were searching for his hole, brushing over it and then pushing in even as Illya let out a breathy moan that wouldn't have been out of place in a porn film. Napoleon felt his cock jerk once more, bobbing against his stomach, just when he thought he couldn't have got any harder than he already was.
"I am not a beginner," Illya said, even as Napoleon stretched him, another finger inside and brushing over his prostate. "Do not go easy on me."
A twist of Napoleon's wrist had him making that sound again, his eyes closing as he did so, and Napoleon wondered how anyone could possibly have had him in their bed like this and let him go. Already, even after the shortest of acquaintances with Illya's body, Napoleon was starting to think of this as a long-term arrangement, permanent even, if he had anything to say about it.
"We'll get tested," Napoleon said, tearing into the condom packet and unrolling one of them onto his cock with one hand, glad of all the practice he'd had in being ambidextrous over the years. "Because I really want to do you on a regular basis, and condoms are a pain in the ass."
Illya snorted, as if the words amused him, and the sensation of his ass clenching around Napoleon's fingers, the thought that he would soon be buried in that clasping heat meant he had to think about what he'd said before he saw what was funny as well.
"Pain in the ass," Illya said, his arm coming up to cover his eyes and his shoulders shaking, as if this was the funniest thing he'd ever heard.
"Laugh it up," Napoleon said, pulling his fingers out and wiping them on the bedsheet. His hands found their place on Illya's hips once more, thumbs across the warm tight skin of his pelvis, as he shifted Illya's position a little till the head of his cock was at Illya's hole. "God, you're so tight."
Even with the preparation, Illya's hole gripped the head of his erection - maybe the angle wasn't great after all, Illya's thighs just resting on Napoleon's and it wasn't too late for him to do something about that. Then Illya's hands were on the small of Napoleon's back, fingers interlacing behind him as he relaxed, pulling Napoleon forward even as he also pressed into him and there, he was inside, a little anyway.
"Stop talking and fuck me," Illya growled, even as one of his legs came up to curl around Napoleon's back and the two of them found themselves more intimately joined, each movement of both their bodies pushing Napoleon deeper into Illya. "Fuck me, like you mean it."
Napoleon leaned forward, hands moving to brace himself either side of Illya's body, his weight moving onto them as he moved his hips and pulled out, then pushing back into that heated embrace. It took a few moments for them to establish a rhythm, a pace and movement that worked for both of them and which made Illya make that sound again, that sound that Napoleon was certain he would never get enough of even if they did this every day for the foreseeable future.
"Jesus," Napoleon said, though he knew his mother and that long line of Catholic teachers he'd had right through high school would have disapproved of his taking the Lord's name in vain, even if they hadn't been shocked insensible by the fact he was currently fucking someone, let alone another man. "So good."
Napoleon could feel his climax coming on, the telltale tightening of his balls and the slight stuttering of the rhythm he'd been so careful to maintain - beneath him, Illya's body was sheened with a light covering of sweat, the formerly pale skin now pink with exertion, his breath a little ragged too.
Napoleon had just about caught his breath when he heard Gaby's voice, not coming from the hallway but right outside the bedroom door - he was barely able to grab the sheet to cover himself before she was pushing the door open and leaning on the doorframe with what could only be described as a shit-eating grin on her face. Beside him, Illya was sprawled naked, but then he was Gaby's boyfriend so it wasn't as if he had anything she hadn't seen before, much closer.
"Getting some practice in?" Gaby's grin didn't diminish, her eyes flicking appreciatively over Illya's body before moving to Napoleon. "I didn't figure you for being shy," she continued.
"I'm not exactly used to an audience," Napoleon replied.
He knew he sounded petulant but really, could he be blamed for that? He'd fallen into bed with Illya at the least provocation, that was true, but he hadn't expected Gaby to turn up in time for round 2. Or was it round 3? Illya stretched out a little more on the bed, also making no secret of the fact that he was already half-hard again and Napoleon wondered at the shortness of his refractory period if that was the case.
"How was work?" Illya asked, as if being naked on a bed with another man was perfectly normal and it was time for small talk and catching up with his girlfriend's day.
"Ugh," Gaby said. She detached herself from the doorframe and came over to the bed, flopping onto it face-down. "My boss is an asshole." Her voice was muffled by the bedclothes, or at least what was left of them that hadn't been kicked onto the floor, and Napoleon found himself staring at the back of Gaby's head as she just lay there, again as if this was normal behaviour. "But he's promised me a raise if I stay on, so I guess I'm stuck for a while." She rolled onto her side, eyeing Napoleon from that angle as if examining him for the first time. "So, now you're making an honest man of Illya, is there any room in your heart for an impoverished artist? I also make good coffee."
"Pah," Illya said, his hand pulling at her ponytail. "You make terrible coffee." He turned to Napoleon, fingers still playing with Gaby's hair as he spoke. "Don't listen to her, she has no skills in the kitchen at all."
"So unfair!" Gaby declaimed, raising the back of her hand to her forehead as if wounded by Illya's words. Despite himself, Napoleon found he was amused - even with the strangeness of this encounter, which must surely rate among the most unusual post-coital experiences he'd ever had, he discovered he was actually entertained by the two of them. "Isn't that an awful thing to say?"
"But is it true?" Napoleon asked, shuffling down the bed so he could lie down again, his head now pillowed on Illya's shoulder. "It's not the end of the world if you can burn water," he continued. "After all, I should soon be rich enough to pay for a housekeeper and a cook, if we want."
The words emerged from his mouth and Napoleon found himself considering them once he'd said them, even as he half-listened to Gaby and Illya argue the pros and cons, thinking about a future with the two of them. A future where, maybe, he would have all the money he could want to do whatever he pleased and also help these two idiots along the way. What had seemed like a massive challenge in some ways, back when his grandfather's lawyers had first laid it out in so many words was now actually starting to look like quite a lot of fun.
"So I admit it, I have... other talents," Gaby said, in a lofty tone that made Solo grin once more. "An artist shouldn't have to stoop to menial labour." She paused, as if thinking for a moment. "Unless she wants to eat regularly, of course."
"That sounds like an excellent reason for doing most things," Napoleon said. "And speaking of eating, have you had anything since we last saw you?" When Gaby didn't answer, Napoleon moved his foot so he could nudge her leg, first gently and then, when she still didn't respond, with a little more force. "Gaby, the term 'starving artist' isn't meant to be taken literally."
He wasn't her boyfriend, but a glance across at Illya told him that the other man approved of his words, probably since they saved him from having the same argument himself.
"I make something," Illya said, but didn't move. After a moment, Napoleon realised the reason for this was partly himself, since he was lying with his head on Illya's shoulder, and partly Gaby's current position, since she was lying with her back pressed against Illya's leg.
"Sounds good," Napoleon said, sitting up and, as if by accident, kicking Gaby again. She moved, pushing herself up from the bed. "But put some clothes on first," he continued. "Unless you're only planning on making sandwiches."
Illya grinned back over his shoulder, walking into the other room still completely naked. Well, if he didn't want to listen and ended up splashing himself with something hot, nobody could say Napoleon hadn't warned him. He shuffled back, sitting up against the headboard and eyeing Gaby, who had sat down again on the edge of the bed.
"Is your boss really that big an asshole?" he asked.
It seemed like the right thing to say, showing empathy for Gaby and her current plight even if he already had the means to make it all go away - would Gaby really be happy to accept his money, though, even though she'd joked about it? In time, she might come to resent him and his involvement in their lives, even if currently she was apparently cool with the idea of him having sex with, not to mention marrying, Illya. Money was often the root of relationship problems, that much was something Napoleon knew even though he'd managed to avoid the worst of it in his life so far.
"Sometimes," Gaby said. "Not all the time, thank god, or else I'd probably be doing time by now for murder." She grinned, all teeth; it was very disconcerting and Napoleon found himself believing that she was quite capable of anything, if suitably motivated. "But art's not cheap and I can't support myself on what I make without something regular coming in."
"I could help with that," Napoleon said, unsure if his nervousness about the situation was coming across in his words or if he sounded like just another entitled asshole. "I mean, once Illya and I are married, we could get a place where you could work on your art." It was pretty feeble, Napoleon could see that even as he said it, but it seemed to do the trick regardless.
"It really was lucky," Gaby said. "You coming in the supermarket, then tripping over me at the library." She got up from where she was sitting, coming round to perch on the edge of the bed beside Napoleon, then quickly hugged him, arms tight around his body. "Like something out of a story."
"It all sounds pretty crazy," Napoleon admitted, even as he wondered just how long Gaby planned to hug him for. Given that he preferred men, and had few opportunities to actually make friends with anyone he wasn't planning to use somehow on behalf of the CIA, it wasn't as if this was a regular occurrence for him. "But maybe that's why it'll work." Gaby let go finally, taking a step back, a quizzical expression on her face. "I mean, who's going to think I'd deliberately make life difficult for myself by finding another man to marry when it would have been so much easier to marry a woman, even if I didn't actually want to go through with anything else?"
"But you do like Illya, don't you?" Gaby asked.
She didn't look particularly happy and Napoleon thought back over what he'd just said. Of course, it sounded like he was just doing this for convenience, which was true in a way, but the sex was incredible and he seemed to have dropped himself into a relationship with two people with whom he could have a good time. A good time, massively enhanced by having no money worries and the freedom to do whatever they wanted, one way or another.
"Very much," Napoleon said, finding he surprised himself a little by how much he meant the words. It wasn't just about the sex, though that didn't hurt, but something more - a sense of family he'd been missing for a while, so long he hadn't even realised it was gone. "And you're not so bad either."
Minutes passed, the warm patch in the bed beside him growing cool as Illya didn't return to it, and Napoleon finally gave in and got up. His underpants were lying by the side of the bed and he pulled them back on; though the thought of a shower had its attractions, his stomach rumbled and he knew decisions needed to be made. He could always shower after eating. And maybe Illya would want to join him, though he wasn't quite sure that his current shower was big enough for the two of them if he did. Maybe there was something to be said for finding another place to live, somewhere with a more generous bathroom and space for everything they might want to do with their lives.
"Are you serious?" Gaby's voice came from the kitchen, followed by her laughter. "Illya, you can't make him eat that."
"Is balanced meal," Illya said, as Napoleon walked through the door. "See, it says so on packet." He was holding out a cardboard sleeve to Gaby, finger pointing to the smallest of print on it, and suddenly Napoleon could imagine him in front of a chalkboard, lecturing students on the finer points of some obscure subject. Even naked, Illya had presence. "Is nearly ready," he continued, spotting Napoleon. "Do not worry."
Behind him, the microwave whirred - through the window, Napoleon could see one of his ready meals turning slowly. It didn't seem to matter what it pretended to be, if his past experience was anything to go by, and Illya apparently still had faith in the promises made by the manufacturers.
"What is it supposed to be?" Napoleon asked, crossing to the coffee maker and turning it on. It had been one of the few things he'd spent a significant amount of money on, his pride and joy, and he used it as much as possible. "Mac and cheese?" he guessed, squinting at the picture on the packet. "But what's everyone else having?"
"Is your apartment," Illya said, as if that explained everything.
"And you're my guests," Napoleon responded, digging through the cupboard in search of clean mugs. "Don't I have a responsibility to look after you?" Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the expression on Gaby's face - she didn't seem particularly bothered by the fact she was currently in a small room with her naked boyfriend and his half-dressed fiancé, but instead appeared fascinated by the discussion they were having. "Or did you think to feed me, then I'd cook something better?" Napoleon turned his attention to the coffee maker, which was making promising sounds, but not so quickly that he missed the look that flashed across Illya's face. "Seriously, that was your plan?"
"Busted." Gaby was grinning now. "After a while," she continued, "you'll find you can read Illya like a book - he goes on about how he was a chess champion back in Mother Russia, but his strategic planning is a pile of crap."
Any response Illya might have made to that was interrupted by the ping of the microwave finishing, the light inside going out a moment later.
"Be careful," Gaby said, as Illya opened the door. "We don't want a repeat of the toaster oven accident."
"Was not accident," Illya grumbled, picking up a dish cloth and easing the ready meal from the microwave carefully onto a plate he held in his other hand. "Was faulty, that is all."
"Toaster oven accident?" Napoleon asked, sure that his eyebrows were almost in his hairline. He had his coffee and, it seemed, some in-house entertainment to go with it, even if the 'meal' he was about to be served left more than a little to be desired. "I'm not sure I should ask."
"Do not," Illya said. He put the plate down on the kitchen table, the yellowy mass inside the plastic container still pulsing with heat. "Is only bad memories."
Gaby shook her head, mouthing the words 'tell you later' till Illya looked sharply at her, at which point she just grinned and said nothing more.
"I need to phone my grandfather's lawyers," Napoleon said, when he'd finished. "Tell them we're getting married on Monday, though I'm not sure what will happen next."
Gaby was sitting between the two of them - she'd insisted on it, saying it made her feel more involved in what was going on. This time, she didn't kiss Napoleon on the cheek like she'd done before, but she took his hand in hers instead. She had callouses too, which was hardly surprising given her artwork, and Napoleon rubbed his thumb across them thoughtfully.
"I also have a dining room table," he continued. "So we don't have to eat in each other's laps like this."
"Is not problem," Illya said, finishing off the last of Gaby's soup as he had already eaten his and eyed Napoleon's with a predatory look which threatened action if Napoleon didn't eat it first. "Unless this makes you uncomfortable?"
He was watching Napoleon, his face unreadable, and Napoleon wondered whether he was starting to have second thoughts about all of this. It had been one thing to have great sex - and it had been great, Napoleon had no doubts about describing it that way - but this was a more substantial commitment. From all three of them, it seemed, though Napoleon hadn't quite figured out how that was going to work.
Maybe that was something to leave till later, though that might cause more problems than it solved in the long run? He barely knew how relationships worked between two people, since he'd not had much experience of any that lasted into double figures, let alone one involving three. And Gaby had been there first, where Illya was concerned, so even if she seemed cool with the idea of Napoleon and Illya having sex, nothing had been said about her ending her relationship with Illya. He thought that she knew he preferred men, but did she also think she'd be having sex with him?
His fingers tightened on Gaby's hand, the only indication of how much was when she squeezed back, unexpected strength that made Napoleon realise what he was doing.
"Starting to freak out?" Gaby asked, cocking her head to one side as she looked at him. "Illya, you owe me ten bucks."
"You had a bet?" Napoleon asked, trying to pull his hand from Gaby's and not succeeding.
"My wallet is in pants, they are... somewhere." Illya didn't move from the table, just watched the two of them squabble. "And yes, we expect you to freak out. I said would be Monday, when we are married, but Gaby said today."
"I'm not..." Napoleon bit back the words, knowing they would be a lie. He was freaking out, to use Gaby's terminology, and clearly he'd done a poor job of hiding it. "Forgive me if I'm not used to being part of a threesome."
He pulled his hand from Gaby's grasp; this time she let him go, if only to start piling up the dishes.
"Is new to us too," Illya said, as he handed Gaby his soup bowl and cutlery. "So tell me, what is problem?"
It should have been ridiculous. Illya was in his underwear, they both were, sitting at a battered table in Napoleon's kitchen and starting to make plans for at least the next year of their lives.
"I want to know how this works," Napoleon said, deciding that attack was the best form of defence. "The three of us, you and Gaby, me and you."
Even as he said it, Napoleon wondered whether he'd been obvious again, in leaving out him and Gaby as a possible couple - he glanced across at her, watched her take the dishes over to the sink, but she didn't seem inclined to comment. Not right now, at least - she hadn't been slow in voicing her opinion before.
"Gaby is girlfriend," Illya said slowly, "and you will soon be husband." The way he said it, as if stating the obvious and wondering why it was necessary, made Napoleon pause for a moment. "If this is problem," Illya continued, "then maybe marriage is not good idea after all." He leaned forward, his voice dropping slightly, and Napoleon found himself leaning forward too, as if the conversation was just between the two of them after all. "Gaby and I, we are package deal, remember?"
He remembered, though he still wasn't sure what that meant in practical terms. It wasn't the idea of Illya and Gaby together, that didn't seem to be what he was struggling with - jealousy had never been one of his character flaws, though Napoleon would have been the first to admit he had many others - but maybe it wasabout Gaby after all. Not Gaby and Illya, but Gaby and Napoleon, and how that relationship would work.
"So you plan to sleep with both of us?" he asked, a little pleased with himself that he'd managed to distill the issue down into so few words. "Isn't that a little... unusual?"
"I am greedy," Illya said, with a smile. "So much good, I want all." He reached out, laying a hand over Napoleon's where it lay on the table. "Is problem?"
It was simply put, a declaration of sorts, and Napoleon found himself considering it for a moment before he responded, equally simply.
"No," he said. "It's not."
Somehow he'd thought it had all been too simple, that clear statement from Illya about his intentions and silence from Gaby - she'd waited, it seemed, till Napoleon was out of the room to air her displeasure with it all, for which he should probably be grateful. He didn't feel grateful, he felt annoyed.
"Just my jackass boyfriend," Gaby said, aiming a scowl in Illya's direction. "For a genius, and he is one, take my word on it, he can be pretty dumb sometimes."
Illya's only response was a shrug, then he got up from where he was sitting and headed past Napoleon without a word. He didn't look like he was in search of a conversation, so Napoleon didn't follow him, instead making a beeline for the coffee machine. He had a feeling he was going to need more caffeine for this conversation.
"If you want us to lay off," Gaby said, "at least while you're married, we can do that."
That wasn't quite what he'd been expecting her to say - Napoleon paused, one hand reaching into the fridge for the milk, then turned his head to look at her. Her expression was serious, which didn't really fit with his experience of her so far, but he could see why that seemed appropriate for this kind of negotiation. And that was what it was, he realised, setting the terms and boundaries for how the three of them would work and trying to find a compromise that would satisfy all of them.
"Or we can just make Illya work for it," she continued, when he didn't respond. "He thinks he's such hot stuff, neither of us could resist him for long."
"Really?" Napoleon said, as he added milk to his coffee - just enough to take the edge off the bitterness, not enough to make it change colour too significantly. "If I said I wanted you two to break up, you'd do that?"
He supposed he shouldn't be all that surprised, given that they'd essentially both been happy to get married to him for money, so it seemed a natural next step to keep him on board. Except that he wasn't sure how this would work for that whole 'package deal' thing Illya had been so insistent about - if their roles were reversed, he wasn't sure he could sit by while Illya had sex with someone else and get nothing out of the relationship but what? Financial security? That didn't seem like such a great deal, even in an expensive city like New York.
"I'm sure we can make this work, the three of us," Gaby said. "Pour me some too, would you?" She waited till he'd retrieved a mug for her from the cupboard, her expression still thoughtful. "But it doesn't pay to let Illya think he's irresistible, trust me on this."
Napoleon drank some coffee, considering the situation from as many angles as he could imagine, leaning back against the wall. They would need to convince the lawyers, that much was likely - more likely now that he was marrying another man, because the lawyers might well be inclined to be more suspicious - but other than that, there was no reason why whatever arrangement they came up with shouldn't work. If all of them wanted it to, and they managed to communicate when it didn't. That last part wasn't likely to be his strong suit, Napoleon knew that, but he found he wanted all of this: not just the inheritance, but the promise of something stable with two people who seemed to a good fit for him, if he could keep them happy.
The only certainty seemed to be this: the apartment was far too small for the three of them, even without considering Gaby's particular need for a space of her own. It would do for now, for the purposes of keeping the lawyers belief that this was a real marriage alive, but in the longer term they would need somewhere bigger. Somewhere, again, that all three of them were happy with - his grandfather's money would help with that, and Napoleon found himself grinning at the idea. If the old buzzard had the slightest idea what Napoleon would do with the inheritance when he got his hands on it, he'd be spinning in his grave right now.
He'd spent most of Friday with Gaby and Illya, seeing the two of them off in a cab in the early hours of Saturday morning and then found his apartment unexpectedly quiet in their aftermath. He knew how it would look if he called either of them and asked them to come over during the weekend, besides which Illya had talked about how much work he needed to get done and Gaby had mentioned her shift pattern, even if Napoleon hadn't quite understood how it worked. They were all adults, after all, the two of them having real life responsibilities that didn't directly involve Napoleon and his future role in both their lives.
He also tried not to think about what they might be doing together, in his absence, and that proved a harder set of mental images to shake loose. It wasn't, Napoleon told himself, as if he was the one being somehow 'cheated on' given that he was the newcomer to them and their relationship with one another. In the end, all he could do was accept that Gaby was right and that this wasn't going to be something that could be solved with just one conversation; it was likely to be an ongoing theme over the next 12 months, if Napoleon's lack of certainty about everything was any indicator.
And then, of course, the paranoia had started to kick in, sometime in the small hours of Monday morning. At least he'd stripped the bed, removing all evidence of his encounter with Illya there on Friday, but that didn't stop it from playing in his head like a stuck loop, notable most likely because it was the best sex Napoleon had experienced in longer than he cared to think about. Maybe, he'd thought, his first instincts had been right and this was just too convenient: first the promised inheritance, though that seemed more likely to be legitimate because its existence could be easily proved when it turned up in his bank account, but then meeting Gaby and Illya, who were so conveniently able to solve the main problem that Napoleon was facing at the time.
He hadn't mentioned he was ex-CIA, in fact he hadn't even said he used to work for the government - even if that work had been unwilling, it was still a fact where his past was concerned - but was all of this just some elaborate shell game designed to use whatever knowledge and access they thought Napoleon had? Illya was, after all, a foreign national. If he'd managed to get more sleep, Napoleon knew he probably wouldn't have even entertained the notion, but somehow at 3 in the morning it seemed almost reasonable.
He'd dozed fitfully after that, waking to the sound of his alarm and wondering how much coffee he would need to drink before he'd feel human again. Napoleon hadn't heard from either Gaby or Illya over the weekend, which probably hadn't helped his overall paranoia, but as he rolled out of bed, Napoleon heard the sound that told him he'd been sent a text. It was from Gaby, the message just a photo and nothing more: a close-up of Illya's hands, his fingers partway through knotting a midnight blue tie. Another chime: a second text, with the words 'see you soon' and a winking emoji. If this was a con, then they were committing to it, Napoleon decided, as he pondered whether or not to respond. In the end, he couldn't figure out what to send, so made up his mind just to get this all over with.
Coffee was the priority, then a shower, then clothes and a cab to City Hall.
He'd called Landman and Zack on Friday afternoon, leaving it as late as he could in the hope that no-one from the firm would be able to attend the ceremony at such short notice, but when the cab drew up to the steps of City Hall it was clear he hadn't succeeded. There was a woman waiting, blonde-haired and sharply-dressed, every inch a lawyer. And by her side was someone Napoleon recognised, even from the back, as he was talking to the lawyer in question and initially seemed oblivious to Napoleon's approach, even when the female lawyer looked over his shoulder and executed a well-practised swerve to put herself in Napoleon's path.
"Mr Solo?" she asked, though the tone of her voice left little room for argument. "I'm Marci Stahl, from Landman and Zack. I've been asked to witness your marriage ceremony."
"Hey." That was the other person who'd been waiting with her, the lawyer Napoleon had spoken with last week, the one whose name he couldn't remember. "I know this looks bad, but I know Marci from law school and when she told me what she was doing this morning, I just had to tag along and see how it all turned out." He held out a hand for Napoleon to shake. "Foggy Nelson, Nelson and Murdock," he continued. "And I hope my advice helped?"
"It did," Napoleon said, as he shook Foggy's hand. "I guess we'll see soon how good it was."
"You seem to be on your own, Mr Solo," Marci said, looking around as if she expected Napoleon's intended to appear in a puff of smoke or something similarly dramatic. "And while it is traditional for the groom not to see the bride before the wedding, I hadn't expected to be kept waiting." She looked at her watch. "We bill by the hour, remember?"
"I'm sure my grandfather's estate can handle it," Napoleon said.
He didn't want to admit it to anyone, especially not a lawyer, but he was starting to be a little concerned himself. Sure, Gaby had sent him that text earlier, but that didn't prove anything. In the end, as he should have expected, it was Illya he spotted first when the two of them arrived and began to climb the steps to where he was standing with the lawyers. Gaby had seen him and waved - out of the corner of his eye, Napoleon saw Marci's impeccable eyebrow raise at that, as well as the way she looked Gaby up and down as if sizing her up for sale. He couldn't wait for her to find out the truth about which one of these two he was marrying.
They'd both dressed up for the occasion, so it wasn't immediately obvious, at least not until Illya - wearing a suit that said volumes about the musculature it covered - reached out and pulled Napoleon to him, initiating a kiss that left both of them gasping for breath when it was over. As he tried to straighten his tie, then ran his hand over his hair, Napoleon saw the look on Marci Stahl's face; it was a mixture of admiration and bewilderment, which seemed perfectly fitting for the occasion.
"Ready to do this?" Napoleon asked, when he was certain his voice would be steady enough for the question.
"I am ready," Illya replied. "Let us get married." He looked at the two lawyers, his expression unreadable. "These are lawyers?"
Napoleon was instantly reminded of the proposal he'd made, the way it had been worded mentioning upsetting lawyers, and hoped that Illya wouldn't take it too literally.
"Ms Stahl is here on behalf of my grandfather's estate," Napoleon said quickly, "and Mr Nelson is the lawyer I went to see last week."
Illya's expression softened slightly and he held out a hand to Foggy.
"You give good advice."
"I like to think so," Foggy said, as they shook hands.
"We'll be in touch," Marci said, when they parted ways after the ceremony was over and all the paperwork complete. "As you can imagine," she continued, "the partners are likely to be a little surprised at this turn of events but they'll have to make a decision soon enough about what happens next. The will doesn't let them prevaricate for long, not now you're married."
She smiled, held out her hand for both Napoleon and Illya to shake, then left with Foggy in tow. As they headed down the steps, Foggy grinned back over his shoulder at the three of them and gave them a thumbs up gesture, before turning his attention back to whatever it was Marci was saying to him. Before they were totally out of earshot, Napoleon was certain he'd heard her suggesting that they get a drink, which didn't seem like a bad idea, even if it was still technically morning.
"Did you have anything in mind for a post-wedding meal?" Gaby asked, drawing their attention back to her. She was practically bouncing, her grin big enough that anyone watching might have thought she was the one who just got married. "Because if not, we know this great Mexican place..."
"No," Illya said, crossing his arms. "Not there."
"You only say that because the waiters always flirt with me," Gaby said, then turned to Napoleon, apparently in search of his support. Suddenly, Napoleon had a vivid picture of what his life, or at least the next 12 months of it, was likely to be like with these two. "He gets jealous, it's ridiculous, but there it is."
"She flirts for salsa," Illya said, his tone lofty, as if jealousy was a concept that had never crossed his mind. "Is not acceptable behaviour on part of girlfriend."
"And how about for a husband?" Napoleon asked, deciding that he needed to get in on this conversation, before it completely spiralled out of control. He slipped his hand into the crook of Illya's elbow, pulling Illya closer as he spoke. "How would you feel if I was the one flirting with the waiters?"
"Also not acceptable," Illya said, the smallest of smiles starting to emerge. "We have marriage licence, you are mine now." He moved his arm so Napoleon's hand was firmly against his side. "Is my job to make sure you have salsa."
"So sweet," Gaby said, as Napoleon found himself looking at Illya. Not the man he'd met only days before, but the one he was starting to get to know and found he wanted to know even better. "Chinese?"