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...tangle of sheets, skin against skin and solid muscle, lips tracing angles and planes and so soft so hard so slick, heat and musk and hunger and he doesn't want to stop; gasps and a slurry of words and the tangle of sheets when he wakes up in the morning. Napoleon arches his back and stretches and smiles, the cat with the cream. It's always good with Illya, it's just so good and neither needs the morning after...

Sitting on his sofa, Napoleon's hand absentmindedly strokes the page of a worn book as he reads. In his mind he still hears the poem spoken out loud in a soft dark voice. Words of longing, need, loss; he tries to recite the first few lines himself then stops. The words have too much weight when they're spoken.

...they don't talk about it why should they it happens just now and then all heat and pleasure and strength matching strength, hair sliding between his fingers and sighs half heard. Napoleon arches his back and stretches, he turns over and the sheet next to him is cool now, he thinks of how it was before then he smiles. Cool is how he's always liked his mornings after...

Illya wandered around the living room, picking up the framed picture of Napoleon's grandparents from the mantel and putting it down again, running his hand along the books on the bookshelf without looking at them, inching farther and farther away from Napoleon pouring drinks for them at the bar. "Not quite the Presidential Palace in Querido, but it's home." Napoleon knew he was chattering. "What are you in the mood for? Deli? Chinese?" He looked up to see Illya eyeing the small hallway that led to the front door.

Illya stopped, looking startled at where he found himself. He moved a few steps back into the room. "I'm not very hungry," he said then went over to drop down on the leather sofa. He sat, arms crossed, legs stretched out in front of him. Looking toward the window. Not looking at Napoleon.

Napoleon frowned. What did you do Illya, he wondered. What happened when I wasn't looking? "Chinese then." He put a glass of scotch on the table in front of his partner and went to the telephone.

..nothing's better has ever been better than the blaze of that mouth and the feel of those hands but he wakes up now when Illya's weight shifts, he hears the sound of cotton sliding over skin the snick of a buckle the soft rasp as the holster is lifted from the back of the chair. Illya silent as a cat moving past the tangle of clothes and the chair to the door and Napoleon keeps breathing softly as though he were still asleep because he should be, it's not morning yet as Illya slips away...

Napoleon looked down at the folder in his hands. This should have been my assignment . Illya has no idea how to deal with a woman like that.

"The situation is critical," Waverly was saying, "Angela Abaca believes that Thrush is behind the assassination attempts and is funding the Secret 3. We must find out what is going on in Querido. And quickly, before it's too late."

"She's a formidable woman," Illya said, admiration clear in his voice. "She's making radical changes in her country, I'm not surprised she's become a target."

"We're taking a risk," Napoleon interjected, casually leafing through his papers. "We don't want to be seen as interfering in Querido's politics. How sure are we that Thrush is involved?"

"Rumors, Mr. Solo, rumours." Mr. Waverly was brusque. "But we need to find out. That is your assignment, Mr. Kuryakin; and I expect you to do it as circumspectly as possible."

"I wonder if I shouldn't go as well." Napoleon said.

He didn't have to look to know that two sets of eyes had turned to him, one surprised, the other calculating. Reluctantly he faced both. "It's said the Señora Abaca can be difficult to handle."

"In this case, I prefer to count on Mr. Kuryakin's rectitude," Mr. Waverly answered coolly.

Napoleon pressed his lips together. Mr. Waverly had been extraordinarily displeased by the incident with Angelique last month. He'd misjudged; not completely his fault, no, but the thought still smarted. They managed to conclude the mission successfully in spite of it, but Illya had been polite to him since then and Illya... had never been polite before.

slipping away

Waiting in the cool shadows between two buildings off one of the city's covered promenades, Napoleon watched Illya come down the street, the eyes behind the dark sunglasses gazing warily into the shadows as they searched for him. A stray ray of sunlight drifted through a gap in the roof beams, lit up the blond hair.

"In Querido bullfighters are out and Kuryakins are definitely in," he said in a lightly mocking tone when Illya caught sight of him.

Illya joined him, leaning against the opposite wall, mouth turned down in an unhappy curve. He didn't bother with a greeting. "You were supposed to contact me when you arrived, where have you been?"

They were together a minute only. Illya was remote, distracted; face tense. The Hero of Querido, blue sash and the bright glint of his medal when he shifted his position in the shadows. He kept the sunglasses on, let Napoleon do all the talking.

slipping through his fingers

When Illya stood beside her, later when it was over, Napoleon understood. The beautiful Angel of Querido. The way he lightly touched her arm, tilted his head to listen. Illya tried to catch his eye; he didn't look at him, not then. I can't be jealous he'd though to himself. I don't even know how to be.

...nothing but sparks and flame and strength fighting strength but fever spent he waits for the mattress to shift when Illya sits on the edge of the bed, insubstantial in the faint light like shadows and smoke and he keeps his hands to himself because he's afraid at his touch it will all drift away, smoke and air...

"You taught me a Russian poem once, do you remember?" Napoleon asked as he sat down on the sofa next to Illya.

Illya's gaze turned from the window slowly, he frowned, shook his head.

"You said if I learned it I could seduce any Russian."

Illya's frown deepened. "I'm quite sure that's not what I said."

"Not in so many words perhaps. Still. Я помню чудное мгновенье... " Napoleon started then stopped and let the words fade away. This wasn't what he'd wanted to say.

Illya's eyes met Napoleon's and held them while the air around them stilled until it was almost impossible to breathe. "What do you want Napoleon?" he finally asked. "You keep pushing, but I've never known what you want."

...harder and wilder and desperate now both of them, stoking the heat, needing it grasping at something slipping away but not yet , not while there's this fire and the slide of skin against skin and so soft so hard so good and he wants to hold on forever... the mattress shifts and Illya is sitting on the edge of the bed, the sliver of light coming through the gap in the curtains silvers his hair and when he raises his head he's untouchable, all smoke and shadows and cold cold air, slipping through his fingers...


Napoleon reaches over and his hand circles Illya's wrist. Solid, familiar, necessary; no shadows here. He's holding flesh and bone. He tightens his grip. Illya's pulse is racing as fast as his own.

"Stay," Napoleon says it out loud, "I want you to stay."