He falls in love with Napoleon in Oslo. This is a name for it, love.
The snow is nowhere, the ground green, and sun is everywhere, dripping from treetops and swimming over their shoulders, dancing in the wind that tangles Gaby’s hair. The job is done--messy, if well--and they are in a park for no reason, watching Napoleon dance.
The girl in his arms is a child, no more than 12. Part of a school picnic that Napoleon has decided to crash. She is wearing white and her face is open and happy and she is making Napoleon laugh. Not at her, as Illya had first thought, but with her, at whatever nonsense is tumbling from her as Napoleon twirls her expert over the grass. The other children are dancing, too, limbs flailing along to the teacher’s small radio, to music that is more jazz than waltz. They are throwing themselves about, these little ones, boys in short pants and jumpers, girls in dresses and cardigans; winter flowers, they are, joyfully greeting the sun.
Gaby is sprawled at his side, making short work of the champagne, her head bobbing along to the music, her fingers sliding ragged through the air. She is dressed for summer, her slim legs tucked into sandals he’d picked out in Nice. Even Cowboy has an open collar and his shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows, his jacket laid neat over the top of the hamper, his shoes lined up beside it. His feet are bare as he weaves the girl through her classmates, his dark hair shining like metal in the bright, bright June light. She is so small, this young one who grips onto his hands. It looks like he’s dancing with fairy.
That his eyes are fixed to Napoleon is, he tells to himself, nothing new. It is his job to watch this one, especially now that they are colleagues. His foolishness, his hedonism, his smart-too-much mouth; these are things that now can get Illya and Gaby killed, too; not just Napoleon’s neck does he risk.
But there is no danger here, in the shade of a blooming pink tree, watching the American dance. Is there? No. Not danger of the getting dead kind, that is.
He had seen too much of Cowboy over the last nine months, Gaby, too; some days, it feels as if he had not had a moment alone. It is the nature of their business. They are a victim of their own success, or so Gaby tells him when he grumbles too loudly, when she bears her teeth sweetly and says: Never mind your hermit-like tendencies, Il. Why would Waverly dream of splitting up team that always gets the job done, and how.
But what he cannot say to her, what he cannot explain, is why so much time with Napoleon irks him, why hours spent in hotel rooms with the man crawl so deep under his skin.
His hands itch when they are too long together. This is what Illya knows. His hands itch and his muscles curl up like fists. He aches to move, when Napoleon is lounging about, reading the paper and chuckling to himself or drinking too much or soliloquizing about pretty woman or pretty man and saying something like my, how friendly people are in this country, Peril. It’s extraordinary. Don’t you think?
Have not noticed. Unlike you, I am working.
And Napoleon will laugh, that smooth, electric sound that Illya knows is carefully practiced. Makes something in him shudder anyhow. Why, Illya, you wound me. So am I.
In Oslo, under the warm brush of the sun, this is what makes his ears prick up: he hears Napoleon laugh.
But it is not laugh of late in the evening, of too much whiskey, of him rising from his chair and slipping someone else’s room key from his pocket with a shrug and a smirk. The laugh of saying something like duty calls. No, this laugh, this sound from Napoleon’s wide, smiling mouth, is rich and startled, laughter born out of delight, of surprise. It makes Illya sit up straight, and squint.
The child is still in Napoleon’s arms, holding to him like a butterfly to a bear. Her head is tipped back and her face is all blossom and Napoleon is laughing, his whole body shaking with it; there is nothing about him held back.
He is beautiful, Illya thinks, does not want to. He is always beautiful. But never more so than like this: his face creased and his eyes closed and his mouth open. All about him relaxed. He is everything in moment that Illya is not and this is not new, either. But he is beautiful, so and so, and all at once, always, Illya’s hands itch, they ache. Not for a fist, but to take.
Il. Gaby’s voice. Her shoulder bumps into his knee. What is it?
Really? This gets him a poke, an insolent sweep of her eye. Nothing is why you’ve gone all statue? Come on. If something’s wrong--
Nothing is wrong! he says, almost shout, trying to make words that are louder than the sound of his heart.
She sits up with a sigh, legs folded beneath her, akimbo. You’re a terrible liar.
His eyes are still on Napoleon, who is still beautiful. But he’s turned his back now, sweeping the girl in a neat, perfect circle. Still smiling, probably. But the moment that was is now gone.
He keeps eyes ahead, though. No good to let Gaby look at him; no doubt she would see. No, he says, gruff, you are too busybody.
She laughs, champagne bubbles laced with motor oil. Well, yes, she says. That’s my job.
She is half asleep by the time Napoleon is done charming schoolchildren, by the time he glides back to their blanket to retrieve his shoes.
Not a bad day’s work, he says in Illya’s direction. Two marriage proposals from the ladies of the junior school, and one from a young gentleman on behalf of his mum.
Illya means to bite his tongue; this had been his plan. He forgets. You had fun, then.
Yes, I suppose so. Napoleon sits on the edge of the blanket, carefully avoiding Gaby’s sprawled limbs, and unbundles his socks. Nice to be around real people sometimes, don’t you think?
You know what I mean, Peril. People who don’t know what true dangers the world holds for them. People who can, oh, I don’t know, have the simple joy of going on about their lives unencumbered by all the awful shit that people like us have to know.
Illya blinks. Surprised. There is no glib in Cowboy’s voice; no, as he might say, no fooling. And these are not words he has ever said before. Not to Illya.
Napoleon looks up, his fingers still busy with his laces. He is not laughing now. I like to be reminded that such people exist. That most of the world isn’t like us, Illya. Not a damned little bit. Not at all. They are far, far more fortunate.
There is a bitterness in his eyes that turns the blue dark, towards green. There is ache in his voice, an almost bruise. There is pain.
You know why they have this joy, people like this. His voice is strong, the words so simple. So clear. These children, their teachers. Their parents? Is you. What you do. Without that, day like this would not be so sweet. Without you, they would not know peace.
Napoleon stares at him. He is blushing. He knows this.
You forgot something, Napoleon says.
Soft words, almost whisper. What I do, I don’t do alone.
Illya swallows. Is better than talking. Is better than leaning across Gaby’s legs and doing something foolish, trying to say to this beautifully human man that which suddenly seems urgent to communicate with his hands, with his tongue, with his mouth.
For an instant, a half dozen, his hand is moving, his body is, and it is not his imagination, is it, that Napoleon is still. That he stays.
And then Gaby stirs like an elephant, a theatrical cat who pitches up in an overdue stretch, and the moment is gone, gossamer through the fingers, a burn of disappointment that he cannot keep from his face.
What? she says, her eyes half-closed. Her hair is loose, her sweet voice slack. We’re still here?
Come along, Peril, Napoleon says. Normal voice. Normal handsome, orderly face. We need to get this one home. She’s dead weight when she’s like this, you know.
He falls in love with Napoleon in Oslo, it’s true. But he does not know this until New York.
In New York, a storm comes. Summer is not so nice there.
The heat is physical thing, alive, almost; it leaves tentacles of wet in his hair. Gaby hates it, too; spends her days in places that advertise Air Conditioning and Icy-Cold Air. She sees a lot of movies and drinks a lot of beer.
They are on a break, Waverly says, whatever in West this means. It a stop from months upon months of work and, after the first few days he spends tense, hair trigger, Illya starts to see it as a good thing. His bruises start to heal, his cuts have a chance to close. He closes his eyes at a reasonable hour, unburdened by anyone but himself. He can draw the curtains and welcome the absolute dark and not have someone make a joke about night lights or monsters that make their home under the bed.
My mother had a foolproof way of chasing them away, Napoleon had said one night in Prague, ages ago. Before Oslo. It was a night when the bed was so lumpy that Illya envied him the couch. Gaby was in the next room--her cover’s apartment--entertaining a prudish Yugoslavian guest. From the sound of the springs, Illya would have killed for her bed. And for some distance from Napoleon. Since dinner, even through bad game of chess, the man had refused to shut up.
You tell me this way, Illya had said through gritted teeth. I know monsters who should go away.
Napoleon chuckled. My dear friend, you wound me.
Tsk. Well. You’d be hard pressed to recreate her methods, Peril.
Why is this?
There was a sigh from next door, a shudder, and in the dark, he saw the edge of Napoleon’s shadow, the jut of his hip as he turned on his side.
She drank a lot , Napoleon said. I think it’s fair to say she was a very dedicated lush. Which, given that booze was technically illegal, was a quite a feat in those days.
Illya blinked. Oh .
And certainly, having a heavily intoxicated parent had its disadvantages, surely, but there were one or two perks. One being the aforementioned ability to chase away creatures of the dark.
How would she do it?
Napoleon shook his head and laughed again. Not at all funny. She’d blow into my bedroom in the middle of the night, summoned by the bottom of the bottle or some far-flung parental sense of conscience. Maybe both. She’d storm in and I’d bolt up and she’d already be on her knees, her head shoved between the bottom of my bed and the floor. And she’d scream like a damnable banshee, loud enough to wake the neighbors, and then pop up smiling at me and say --here Napoleon’s voice went brittle like glass-- No more monsters there, kiddo. Now you can sleep . And then, zip, there she went. Right away.
It was the first time he had ever mentioned his mother. Not that Illya spoke often of his. His own silence came from grieving what was not, what could not be ever again. And, too, when he thought of her, there was something like shame. He wondered now if Solo’s was the same.
Were you frightened of monsters, Napoleon?
Never. He heard the sardonic kind of smile. Why should I have been? I already lived with one.
Behind him, on the wall’s other side, there was a wail, a shout echoed by an ugly, heaving grunt.
Ah , Napoleon said. The sweet sound of victory. Well done, Gaby. Well done.
There was quiet for a time, a handful of breaths. Illya was not sure what he should say.
Finally, there was only: I am sorry.
For what? Napoleon yawned, a great lion thing. You had nothing to do with it. I’m the one who brought it up, god knows why.
Still. Illya blinked at him in the darkness. He was startled to find his fist clenched. Maybe something in his chest. To see such a thing. You were child.
Never, Napoleon repeated. This time the word stung like needle. Surely you know that about me by now, don’t you? I was never a kid when I should’ve been. Now, I’m just making up for lost time.
So there is no talking in New York when he wants to sleep. No noise other than what is in his own head. This is good. But it is also lonely, he finds. After three days of so much quiet, he minds.
It is late and and he is restless. Pacing around small nice rooms that are his, Waverly says, whenever they are here like this, on a break. He has piled the shelves with books already, secondhand tomes and a few they call paperbacks. His clothes are neat in the closet and his towel is lined up with bar, perfect. His shoes are by the door.
Outside, the heat has broken and the sky is a mess. Lightning again and again, thunder. Buckets and buckets of rain.
He is restless and he wants to go out but the windows are open enough so he can feel wind and the welcome cool of the rain. Tomorrow he will need to find a raincoat. What Gaby calls galoshes. And big umbrella, he thinks. Very big.
He is pacing and it is too quiet, even with the roar of the storm. He catches sight of the phone and hesitates, his foot frozen midstride. He could ring Gaby. Hear the pretty bird catch of her voice as she swears at him, probably, for calling so late or interrupting her date.
Or Solo. He could call Solo. Oh, he wants to.
He stands still on the carpet, too soft, and curls his fingers into his palms.
That feeling from Oslo, from that bright, perfect day, it has not, despite his best efforts, done the good thing and gone the fuck away. It’s been weeks. There has been time for him to shake free of it, the spell of the sunlight on Napoleon’s face, stripped free and soft. There has been time, too, for him to be annoyed by the man again, to be put off by his oozing, self-centered charm. But he has found himself stuck in it, powerless in raven-haired web, with no desire in him to fight.
No, truth be told, he has accepted it, the snake of want in his belly when he looks at Napoleon too long, the crawl of heat when Napoleon catches his eye and looks back. What he sees in Illya’s face, God himself only knows; never has Solo said. No teasing, no pulling of tail, only business as usual. And if Illya feels a burn of disappointment at his own cowardice, that is, he knows, on him.
It is better like this, the not knowing. He likes the room it leaves him to pretend. Here, in the quiet, when all is said in the distance between them, he can compose whatever meaning he likes, can convince himself if only for the length of glance that Napoleon--brilliant, vain, and brittle--wants him, too.
He turns aways from the telephone and runs his hands through his hair, holds on, the tips of his fingers digging into his neck. No. Distance is better. He should not call. After all, it has been three days and Solo hasn’t reached out to him. Maybe he, too, needs this space.
Besides, he knows tale that talking on telephone when there is lightning means zap! The lightning can get you, make you die with fingers still on the rotary. Survive bullets and bombs and reckless American partner and get killed trying to make a phone call. He laughs to himself, shakes his head. No, is not way to go.
There is a bolt outside, very close, and a split second later, a bang, thunder that echoes in the hall. He cocks his ear. No, thunder that is in the hall.
It is not thunder, it is a fist. One that is booming on his door.
He reaches for his pistol and edges towards the noise, towards his poor door that is now shaking. Stays away from the eyehole.
Who is it? he calls. Better to know who you’re shooting.
The banging stops and voice comes: It’s me, damn you, and I’m soaked to the bone. Open the door already please, Peril!
He can’t quite believe ears. Solo?
Illya. Voice quiet now. Dangerous. Shall I slip my ID under the door? Or perhaps you’d prefer fingerprints. Or a recitation of my height, weight, and blood type? Or--
He opens the door before the or and Napoleon is right there, dripping, the hook of an umbrella slung from one arm and a sodden bag tucked under the other. His summer suit is a mess and his collar is akimbo. Illya has never seen his hair looks so flat. His eyes are coals and his mouth is clinging awful to a smile and somehow, he is still beautiful.
You look terrible, Illya makes his mouth say.
Napoleon’s lips twitch, hint of real grin. Me? This is what every drowned rat is wearing this season. He taps a foot on the threshold. Can I come in or is this some kind of cruel tease? You warm and dry and me not.
Illya moves from the door and makes room. Grumbles when Napoleon sloshes all over the nicely clean floor. Should have put down newspaper first.
Napoleon just laughs, like air zipping from a balloon, and shoves the bag at him. Here. Put this in the kitchen. Leave me here for a moment to drip dry, hmm?
What is it? Illya says, but he is already going. Feels like the bag is dissolving inside of his hands.
That , Napoleon calls, is dinner. Or it should be. Illya hears the sodden slap of cloth on floor, a muted sound of disgust. Put the steaks in the fridge, please. They’ve been abused enough already tonight.
Is steak in the bag, two of them. A bottle of wine. A couple of sturdy looking potatoes. Illya sets the wine and the potatoes on the counter, puts the steaks in the icebox. Frowns. These things, Cowboy’s presence, they make no sense. A few minutes past and he was thinking fond things about Solo, even missing the sound of his voice, and now the man is here, just few feet away, and Illya finds he can’t square how he was feeling to the fact of Napoleon here, in the flesh.
And flesh he is, or very nearly, when Illya ducks out of tiny kitchen to see bare chest and bare arms and pile of soaked clothes by the door.
You need a towel, he says. It comes out gruff and Napoleon glances up. There is snow of red on his face.
So I do, he says.
Here. Come to bathroom.
He leads and Napoleon follows across carpet; drip, drip, drip.
Towel, Illya says, pointing. Another in closet there, if you need.
Napoleon ducks under his arm and treads on the tile, ugly squash sound of his shoes. Thank you.
And you need clothes.
Illya clicks his tongue to teeth. Does not shiver. After all, he’s not the one who is wet. Have things, a few. Will set them outside.
Napoleon looks at him. A real, tiny smile. Won’t do any good to argue with you, will it?
No. He lets himself smile back. Never does.
Well, then. Thank you.
By time that Napoleon comes into kitchen, there is butter in a pan with potatoes and Illya's knife is halfway through an onion.
What in god’s name are you doing?
Cooking. What it looks like?
I was going to bake those. Napoleon is at his elbow, peering into the pan. Brush the skins with oil--assuming you had any, you heathen--and let them bake merrily away.
Their arms brush, short sleeves leaving skin against skin. Illya shrugs. You were busy. I was hungry. So I cook.
So I see. He can feel Napoleon’s eyes on his face. He keeps his on the knife. What would you have me do, then?
Open bottle. Have wine. Stay out of my way.
Damned hard to do. What, did you ask for the smallest kitchen known to man, or did they surprise you?
They ask if kitchen was big deal. I say only, need to eat, so I cook. That’s enough.
Yes, well, you should speak to Waverly. Such a miniature space devoted to the enjoyment of food, Peril, is practically cruel.
Tch, Illya says. He can’t stop smile. Stop talk and pour wine.
Napoleon chuckles. Fine. But I’m cooking the steak.
They eat in the living room at a small table, the one Illya uses for chess. Outside, the storm has softened, grown quieter, though still, there is rain. They talk about nothing. They talk about cooking. About Gaby’s new paramour: a sailor, Napoleon says, a boy younger than her.
You watch, Napoleon says around a mouthful of wine, our girl’s gonna make him a man.
The sweatpants Illya gave him are too big; too broad in the waist and long in the leg. But he has them rolled up somehow, cuffed, and at first glance, they look tailormade. The undershirt, though, almost fits. Is too long, yes, but across the shoulders and chest, nicely tight. The dark hair that peeps out from beneath it, caught in the v of its neck, is especially distracting. Even with a full belly and red wine on his lips, it is a fight for Illya not to stare.
Will be good for him, Illya says, reaching again for the bottle. But she will set high standard. He will always be disappointed in person he makes his wife.
Napoleon laughs. Are you saying she’ll spoil him for all other women?
Yes. Illya thought this was obvious. Of course she will. And if he is smart, this Navy, he will be grateful for it.
This makes Napoleon only laugh harder. Oh, Illya, he says when he can talk again, not everyone regards her with the kind of courtly love that you do.
Courtly--what? You make no sense, Cowboy.
Not everyone she sleeps with adores her, my friend. Not the way that you do. You’ve put her up on a kind of a pedestal, which is rather fascinating, frankly, given that you must know how she hates that.
Illya hides face in his glass. She is good person.
Do you think so? Napoleon leans back. Hmm. I don’t think of her as especially good or bad. Gaby is just herself, through and through, and in my experience, that’s a rare thing. That kind of confidence, that ability to not give a fuck, it’s what makes her so goddamn good at her job. That’s what I think.
She is fond of you, Peril. Voice is softer now, less porcupine quill. I’m sorry things didn’t work out.
Illya frowns. What things?
You and she, you know. Napoleon’s hand is a bird in the air. Your little flirty flirty kiss thing, hmm? I’m sorry it didn’t go anywhere.
That was long time ago. Wasn’t it? Felt like ages. Figured out quick she did not need protecting.
Hmmm, Napoleon says, in a way that tells Illya he’s said too much, that maybe too much has he drunk. Was that what it was?
None of your business.
A shrug. Maybe not. But interesting history nonetheless.
Illya swallows. Feels like nails. Why are they talking about this?
Why are we talking about this?
I don’t know. Just following the tides of conversation. Napoleon makes a show of looking down at the table, of tapping his fingers to the bottle. If you prefer, we can talk about this red.
Why are you here, Solo? The words come out before he can stop them. Why you come out in a storm to pound on my door?
I didn’t pound, Napoleon says. I knocked loudly.
Illya leans across the table, even more adamant. Why?
A beat of silence, a far-away crackle of lightning.
Maybe I missed you.
I doubt it.
Napoleon sets his teeth. Does not give an inch. Fine. Maybe I needed to see you, as utterly ridiculous as that sounds.
Is ridiculous. Illya’s heart is pounding. He wants to punch it back. You are lying. Playing some sort of game. You are bored, probably.
Maybe. But not in the way that you think.
I’ve had too much time to think the past few days. There’s been far too much quiet. And the usual tricks, the everyday slights of hand, they didn’t do shit to keep my head on straight. He stops, his eyes drifting towards the phone. Snap straight back. Tonight, I was on the edge of doing something stupid, of making a terrible fucking mistake.
The air around them has pulled tight, like bear trap, the teeth of the night biting into Illya’s flesh. Solo’s face is drawn, too, pale now, made more so by mouth stained by wine.
I wanted to do this thing so badly, Illya, and if I’d given it, it would have been a disaster. You don’t know. You can’t know. And I tried other ways to blot it out before I came over here, believe me. I picked up a girl. I sucked off a guy, I-- He turns his face to the storm, to the wet lights of the city. Well. Other things.
These did not help.
No, they did not. His fingers dig into the table, the ring on his small finger winking. Quite the opposite, really. And so I started to walk: no direction, no plan, a shockingly weak-ribbed umbrella. Hardly my finest hour. I walked through the heat and the people and the stench and then, my friend, oh and then, I thought of you.
Here his eyes drifted to Illya, a dark, open wave. It was hard to breath under it.
I thought , Napoleon went on, that I’d pick up food and come to you and say something about missing your company, being professionally bullied. Makes noises about Waverly and Gaby, maybe. Spend the evening not alone but with you, talking shop.
And this would keep you from the bad thing?
Yes. Solo’s fingertips brush his hand. I thought that it would.
But then it started pouring like the goddamn Ark was coming and I ended up a drowned goose on your doorstep, didn’t I?
Napoleon’s face twists. And what do you do, you stupid, beautiful bastard? You let me in. You gave me your clothes to wear, for god’s sake.
Beautiful. The only word part of his mind hears is beautiful. No. Napoleon is beautiful. Not him.
Why is that bad?
You weren’t supposed to be nice to me. You were supposed to argue with me. Tell me what a fool I am, incompetent, an idiot. Mock me for seeking you out. His eyes turn up and suddenly they are blue, sky blue, like spring again, not summer, and Illya cannot draw a breath. But you couldn’t even do that right, could you?
His nails find Illya’s wrist and dig, make tunnels that go right to his heart. I mean, don’t get me wrong, tonight is serving its purpose; you are fantastically distracting. But believe me when I say that I didn’t intend for this to happen. Not like this.
I want you to take me to bed. There is no guile there, no fooling. Only something raw, something stripped to the bone. Want, yes, desire that pours off of him, but another thing, too. More like pain. I want you to hold me down and have me and let me have you until neither of us has anything left. Can you do that? Will you?
He says yes with his words, with the turn of his hand. He says yes when he pulls Napoleon to his feet and pushes him into the bedroom, holds him firm on the sheets. He says yes when their mouths meet at last, when Napoleon arches beneath him, when together, they groan.
He says yes in a hundred ways, more, before he makes Napoleon come from his fingers, from the hot, eager suck of his mouth. He lets the slick drip from his lips and onto his fingers and shoves them in again, stark and deep, and the sound Napoleon makes shatters something inside him, stained glass giving way, his fragile hold on good sense.
Yes , Napoleon says, his turn now, the word a full, hungry chorus. That’s right, Illya. Come on. Fuck me.
It is dark where they are, curtains drawn against the night, and he wants to see everything, wants to see Napoleon’s body swallow him. Wants to watch his cock sink in slow and slide out and slam home hard again. But he can’t see that now; there are too many shadows. He can’t let Napoleon go long enough to fumble for the light.
Napoleon writhes under him, clawing and scratching, grunting with each shove of his cock. He is pinching Illya’s nipples and biting at his throat and stroking himself again, his dick thick and big between them. Every noise that comes out of him is profane.
Harder, he says, his heels thudding against Illya’s back. God, do it harder, Illya. Do it harder and you’ll make me come.
There is a snarl in Illya’s throat, a half-swallowed scream, and Napoleon drags it out of him with the huffs of his breath, the vise of his body, the sweet sour taste of his mouth that won’t stay still as their bodies collide, that tries to, that can’t.
Illya slams in fast, he can’t help it, and Napoleon groans, words flooding out in a gasp. Big boy, aren’t you? he chokes. So big, jesus. Such a pretty dick. Doing such good things for me.
You talk too much.
Yeah? You seem to like it.
Sweat on his skin, his palms slipping on cotton. Shut up.
Napoleon preens. His fist between them moves faster. Mmmm. Make me.
There is a moment of haze, of hot fury, and then Napoleon’s not touching him anymore, he can’t; Illya has his wrists pinned, his mouth tucked against the red column of Solo’s throat, and then it is inevitable, crashing, perfect that he is coming inside of Napoleon’s body, way down in the deep, a rush of heat that goes on and on until he can’t breathe, until he is gasping, until Napoleon is whimpering and kissing him and spurting between them, great, eager jerks that fill the air with the smell of sex and desire and the simplest sort of need.
Don’t let me go, Napoleon whispers when he lifts his hips, draws himself reluctant from that sweet darkness, that heat. Please don’t.
Won’t, Illya says, the word a petal on his tongue. Come here, миленький. I won’t.
Outside, the shadows are damp. Even the lights of the city seem heavy, dripping like trees with sodden leaves. Illya can hear cabs and cars now; the thunder has receded. No more the pound of the rain.
He turns his head, kisses the soft dark of Napoleon’s head. Hmm?
I didn’t come looking for this tonight.
You said that already.
Napoleon strokes the bow of his chest. I know, I just--it’s important for you to understand.
He is fragile like this, Illya’s Cowboy. A man made not from steel but from sighs, he seems. The real Solo. This is what Illya thinks.
You wish it had not? he says. Is not hard to say. He knows the answer.
I don’t think that’s what I said. Napoleon’s hand finds his face, tugs it down. Quite the opposite, I assure you. As if you couldn't tell.
Yes? Breathless again. Too easy.
Napoleon nuzzles his chin. Finds the open curve of his mouth. Oh, yes.
Napoleon? he says later, his voice hoarse, his spunk spreading all over Napoleon’s belly.
Hmm? Napoleon’s fingers are turning, rubbing Illya’s come into the heat of his skin.
What is the bad thing that brought you here tonight? Will you tell me?
Napoleon’s hands still. Illya hears him swallow. Not now. Perhaps in the morning.
Perhaps, eh? He leans down for that dark head, the king of the shadows, licks into the warm hollow of Napoleon’s mouth.
Is that all right? I don’t like to make promises that I can’t keep.
Illya nods and kisses him again, kisses him until Napoleon is moving again, making soft, hot sounds that fill Illya’s ears with joy. So much good. Is all right, he murmurs, turning on his side, drawing Napoleon with him, reaching for the place where Napoleon is still open, still wet. Is all right for tonight, darling. You’ll see.
...why the hell is there so much of this? I blame Daylight Savings Time.
When he opens his eyes, some of him is surprised that Napoleon is still there. He is curled into himself, face pressed hot against Illya’s neck, clutching, breathing, steady and deep. Illya’s arm is around his body. There are pins and needles. Illya cannot bring himself to care.
Peril. Word is rusty. It’s not polite to stare at people when they’re sleeping.
He strokes the curve of Solo’s ear. Not staring. Admiring. And you are awake, anyway.
He feels impossibly tender, like new purple bruise, and when Napoleon sits up and stares down at him, mouth twitching, fingers teasing at his ribs, feeling only grows, like greedy balloon, pulling and sucking up air.
You need a shower.
Eh. So do you. Maybe we go together.
A grin. I’ve seen your shower. It’s not big enough for two. Hell, it barely looks big enough for you.
There is American innuendo there, somewhere. Illya can almost see the words, sketch them. He could find them, probably, if he reached. But Napoleon’s throat is bearing his kisses, signs of last night and his teeth, and he’s touching Illya still, hand warm and wide on his stomach, his chest. Is hard to think beyond that.
Mmph, his mouth makes.
What was that? Napoleon’s voice is purr, great hungry cat. Oh, my. Look at that. Shame on you, Illya. And you only just awake.
He doesn’t know he’s hard until Napoleon touches him, a rough, greedy squeeze. Same sort of noise comes from him, can feel in his teeth, in the bow of his hips. In the bloom of heat on his face.
Hmm? He gets big stroke now, one that has him gasping. I’m busy now, darling.
There is seed on his skin, the stretch of sweat. And his cock has been in-- боже мой--!
A hand on Napoleon’s shoulder. Stop. Wait.
Oh ? The grip is gone. There are blue eyes on his face. What’s wrong?
Not clean. I’m not.
I don’t mind. Napoleon’s lip between white teeth. Debauched is a good look on you.
Illya’s hips roll up, stupid, and his cock bobs against his stomach. Mad at him, asking: why did he make Napoleon stop?
Want your mouth on me, he gets out.
Want to come down your throat.
The light in Cowboy’s eyes is lightning. Yes, please.
Need to be clean first. Before you can.
Napoleon holds up his hands, a nice kind of surrender. Well, then. That sounds like a small price to pay.
Napoleon is right; they don’t fit. So they hurry. He makes Napoleon get in first.
Then for him there is hot water and soap, good aches in forgotten places. Impatient noises from other side of the curtain.
If you don’t hurry up, Napoleon says, I’m going to start without you.
He tugs back curtain, looks, see Napoleon wearing towel. Barely. Hair wet and hands braced on sink, expression almost murderous. Gorgeous.
He gives grin like the sun. There problem, Cowboy?
There’s about to be if you don’t get out here. He rubs hand over towel, over line of pretty cock there beneath. I’m not going to be in the mood to blow you if I’ve just come all over your nice clean tile.
Tsk, tsk, Illya says, red flag before bull. Americans. So impatient .
He lets Napoleon drag him out, growling, lets himself be pressed back against sink. The shower is still running. The little room full of steam.
Oh dear, Napoleon says on his knees, anger forgotten now, eager. I don’t think all this is going to fit.
Illya slides nails into hair and digs in softly at scalp. Please try.
Napoleon laughs, lays the sound against his cock. Looks up with expression that is hard not to kiss. You don’t need to ask twice, believe me.
There is no tease to it, no tricks, just the hot well of Napoleon’s mouth and the slide of dark curls in Illya’s hands; gentle at first, feeling, then fierce when he can no longer stop himself, when Napoleon lifts his head up and asks:
Come on, darling. Let me have it. I promise you that I won’t break.
It is this that erases good sense, this and the curl of Napoleon’s fingers around his thighs, tight to bruising, the low sound of want in his throat every time Illya thrusts, and when he comes, his balls aching and twitching, Illya knows nothing, feels everything, pours what he has down Cowboy’s warm, willing throat.
When he stands, Napoleon is jelly, his mouth tender, his cock leaking and painfully hard. He whimpers when Illya touches him. Wraps his arms around Illya’s neck and turns his face under Illya’s chin and groans. Illya cups his ass and jerks his cock with shaking hand and listens to Napoleon pant, no fancy words now, no cover of darkness to hide what this is, what he feels.
Like this ? he murmurs in Napoleon’s ear. You like this, don’t you?
Something like a laugh, pale and beautifully tattered. Peril, if you have to ask--
When Napoleon is close, Illya kisses him, laps at taste of his own bitterness, breathes, and Napoleon clutches at him and cries out and lets Illya drink up each and every last moan.
That is hand towel, Illya says when time starts again. For drying hands. What are you doing?
Cleaning you up. And me. An insolent swipe, a second. Unless you’d like to brave what’s no doubt now an ice-cold shower.
Let me guess. They only have cold showers in Moscow.
He has to kiss that smirk. He has to. No, Illya says after a moment. Have hot. But they only let you take cold.
They eat toast in the kitchen, standing too close, side by side. Drink strong, sweet tea. There is no talking. There does not need to be.
At the door, Napoleon stands with hand on knob, wrinkled, in suit not quite dry from night before. I think , he says, frowning down at himself, I’ll just take a damn cab.
You could wear my things , Illya says again, argument long lost. I trust you to bring them back.
Napoleon smiles up at him. Ah, no. Thanks. A little damp is far preferable than wearing clothes designed to sweat in out of the house. You don't do that, do you? Please tell me you don't.
Illya kisses him again, pressed hard to the door. Napoleon holds hard to his shirt, fingers digging into planes of his back.
Thank you, he says when they part. For all of this. Everything. You saved me last night, you know that?
Ah, Illya thinks, remembers. The bad thing. He’d forgotten. Did I?
Napoleon nuzzles his cheek. Keeps their eyes apart for a moment. I was going to call my mother, Illya. I woke up yesterday dying to, for no good reason. Couldn’t do a damn thing to shake it. It was like a rabid dog clamped to my leg.
His mother. Illya’s blood runs ice. The one who drank. Who acted like monster. Oh, he says. Oh .
We haven’t spoken in, what is it now? 15 years? He makes sound like laughter. It isn’t. We’ve never agreed on any damn thing, she and I, but I’m sure we’d concur that no good would come of it now.
Oh, Illya says again. It seems like enough.
Napoleon tips his head back and blinks into Illya’s face. Do you know what would’ve happened if I had given in to said mad impulse?
Illya smooths curls from his face. Lets his hand linger. No.
She would have cursed at me. Screamed, probably, if she thought she could get away with it. Or if she was too blotto to care if the neighbors could hear. I’m an embarrassment to her, you see. Only son and all that, Army hero. Someone she can brag about. First useful thing for her that I ever did. And then whoops, what do I do but get kicked out of the ranks, court-martialed, and take the one thing about me she ever liked and piss it away. She couldn’t even rub everybody’s noses in it anymore, her son the war hero. 15 years and she hasn’t forgiven me. God knows she never will. Hell, as far as she knows, I’m still in federal prison.
Illya thinks of his mother, worn down to ashes. Missing his father, always, a struggle, but never angry with Illya a child, never bitter. Not cruel. What would it have done to him had she been? Would he have built a shell as thick as Napoleon’s? As carefully carved, like marble, hard with softness hidden far beneath?
Napoleon sets his jaw, his words stronger now, knives. So if I’d called yesterday, he said, if, I would currently be at the bottom of the biggest damnable bottle I could find. A veritable sewer. Spiraling deep into vices I’ve worked very fucking hard to leave behind. I wouldn’t go there willingly, mind you, or happily. But I know myself well enough to foresee the whole tragic play. Ugly, ugly stuff.
You, Cowboy ? His thumb now on Napoleon’s chin. No. You are beautiful.
Napoleon’s face twists. Right now? Hardly.
Yes, now. Always.
It is a fact, a given like gravity. He does not mean for it to sound tender.
Are you going soft on me, Peril? Hmm? Napoleon holds hard to his sides. Eyes wide now, open. You can’t do that, you know. I need you to stay my whetstone. That’s kind of your job.
No, it’s not.
Yes, it is.
No, it’s not. He dips his head, touches their noses together. Is your job to keep me sharp.
Napoleon’s mouth lifts. Oh, you’re the blade in this operation, is that it?
Tch, Illya says. Yes.
His lips are soft, Napoleon’s, soft and easy to make fall open. He likes this, Illya thinks, dizzy, to kiss.
If I don’t leave now, it’ll be lunchtime.
So there’s no food in this house, is there?
Napoleon’s hands slip under his shirt. Make him gasp. I have food.
Nothing that’s worth eating. I looked.
Go home, then. Am not keeping you.
A chuckle. Aren’t you? Damn. I’ll have to try harder.
You are the one who wanted to leave.
I have to. A long kiss, deeper. Have to go home and change. I have an appointment.
He pins Napoleon’s hip and nips at his tongue. Break it.
I’m an old man, Peril. I can’t keep getting it up every time you get handsy.
Another kiss, sweeter, the kind that tastes of spring, of champagne, of soft sunlight on Napoleon’s face. Come back to bed, Illya murmurs. Will let you rest your old, creaking bones.
Napoleon grins, stretches warm in his arms. I don’t need you to take care of me, Illya.
Yes, Illya says, word like thunder, a whisper. Oh, yes you do.
I think this is the end, which is a damn shame. I like writing for these two.