LOVESICKNESS. Symptoms include sore throat, cough, low grade fever, fatigue, itchy eyes, depression. Often mistaken for a cold or flu, lovesickness is actually a psychosomatic reaction to falling in love. [Psychosomatic means that the symptoms are real, but the cause is psychological- in this case, it's due to falling in love]. It is possible for one person to trigger the other into becoming lovesick if feelings are requited. If not, the illness runs its course. One theory is that it evolved as a way for people to show their dependability, another theory is that it's spread via pheromones and it's a reflection of biological compatibility.
“Well, it’s not a cold and it’s not the flu. It looks like you're just lovesick, Mr. Solo. Twitterpated! As they say.”
Napoleon stared at the doctor with red eyes, his easy smile slipping away. His hand tightened around his handkerchief. The words that the doctor had spoken have clearly been meant as a friendly joke but Napoleon can’t speak.
There wasn’t much that Napoleon planned in advance for. His current running long term goal was to ‘survive the next one, celebrate with a good meal, keep good company, and look good doing it’. So far, so good. He hadn’t entertained the thought of love or lovesickness for many years. He had been planning his life staying that way but it seemed fate did not care about his plans.
It wasn’t that Napoleon didn’t believe in lovesickness. He actually knew some real life examples.
When Napoleon was a little boy, his mother had told him the story of how she had found her partner. She always said that, one day she looked over at her new friend and realized that she was smitten. Her symptoms progressed quickly and before long, the neighbor was bringing over homemade soup and worrying over her. ‘It’s love,” his mother had explained to them, leaning into her partner. “It almost felt like the lovesickness was just my body's way of getting my attention and showing how happy they made me.”
People still fell in love without without experiencing lovesickness. Napoleon had been of the assumption that he would be one of the latter. Unfortunately, Napoleon knew exactly for whom this lovesickness was for. And that is where his agony lies.
He is told by the doctor to drink plenty of fluids, tea and hot soup, and things he could get from the pharmacy if need be. He's so out of it when he leaves the clinic that he begins walking instead of grabbing a cab. He stops to pick up the prescriptions and buy the first tea he sees on the shelf. Napoleon’s last stop is on the corner near the apartment, where he buys a fresh bowl of deli chicken soup that makes his stomach growl. His head throbs from the long walk as he approaches the apartment, he was just so tired.
They'd been working with U.N.C.L.E for about six months and based out of New York for most of them. After their latest mission, Waverly had said he needed to secure some funding for his still-fledgling agency and had given his new agents a long ‘holiday’ along with the large, furnished New York City apartment he'd just so happened to have. It was a good thing at the moment, as Gaby was nursing an injured wrist that she’d gotten in rather impressive hand to hand combat and Illya was keen to assist her.
At first, Napoleon had kept up his usual social habits before realizing that the CIA wasn't monitoring him closely now that he wasn’t their problem and he could finally relax. He usually played up his role as the suave secret agent even when he didn't work, careful to keep superiors and coworkers at arm's length. It was those dates he would take, men and women he knew he'd not see more than a handful of times, he'd allow them to see him a little more of the real Napoleon. Enough of his unguarded self to relax, but not enough to leave himself exposed-- at least, that had always been the plan.
Until this lovesickness business.
At the very least, Napoleon knew the U.N.C.L.E. safe house apartment that they were in was safe- at least, from others aside from Illya. Another result of the paranoia of his partner was that Illya would often sweep for new bugs. Napoleon had seen the security system, different locks in the elevator, hallway, and their front door. He had thought to himself that it seemed secure enough but not enough for the Red Peril. But it certainly felt safer than any place he'd rested his head in the last decade.
Napoleon had been pleasantly surprised to find that Illya was very agreeable to company. Which was a delight, as Napoleon really did enjoy cooking and Illya was surprised to find that Napoleon could hold his own in a chess match he actually paid attention to. Illya would call all of Napoleon's strategies 'trickery' with a crease of concentration between his eyebrows as he pinched his lower lip between big fingers. Eventually, between Napoleon's dates and whatever Illya got up to in the city on his own, they were often together- restaurants or bars that were recommended to either of them.
On the evenings that it was all three of them, Napoleon would go all out. Multiple courses, paired wine, hors d'oeuvres, perhaps a decadent dessert. Napoleon hadn't been given access to such a beautiful kitchen in years. Eventually, the number of nights they were in started to increase-- which Napoleon took as a compliment, staying in more often himself.
While Napoleon had briefly considered avoiding the New York apartment, he concludes that his disappearance would only arouse suspicion from his paranoid Russian partner, and that wouldn't be fair to put on Gaby. If he was to be a bother, Napoleon decided, he would leave the apartment later and take up in a hotel somewhere until he was better. Mentally preparing himself the exact same way he would for an interrogation, Napoleon slipped the bag under his arm and took a moment to ensure he looked as put together as he could and less miserable than he felt. Then, he proceeded up the stairs to the apartment.
Stepping through the front door was easy enough to act casual about, but it was easier still when Napoleon realized the apartment was silent-- empty.
Letting out a gritty sigh, Napoleon's shoulders slumped as he shrugged off his overcoat and tossed it on the chair by the coat rack. Leaving his shoes next to their cubby, he rubbed at his face and went to the kitchen to put on a kettle.
Napoleon opened the tea, ripping the bag and cursing as bits dusted the counter. Sweeping it out of the way with his hand, he left a cup ready with the tea waiting. When he went to eat his soup, Napoleon couldn’t be bothered to do much more than pry off the lid and sip at it. His stomach both protested and grumbled with hunger, he’d not eaten before his appointment. Napoleon hadn’t had much of an appetite after dragging himself out of bed at an early hour. He manages half of the bowl of soup before his eyes start to close and the kettle began to whistle.
Pushing himself off the counter— when had he slumped over it to eat?— Napoleon made his tea, turned off the stove, leaving the kitchen with his mug of tea still steeping. Even if it hadn’t reached full flavor, he sipped it anyway to get some more of the hot water on his sore throat. He forgot about the soup on the counter.
When Napoleon collapsed into an armchair, he was only planning to sit there to finish his tea. He thought he’d go put his suit away, get into his pajamas, turn off the light, go to bed, and hope he would be left alone.
Setting his tea down on the table next to the chair, Napoleon leans back and folds his hands in his lap. He’s asleep in minutes.
Illya pushes a handful of Gaby's bags through their front door and nearly trips on a pair of shoes in the doorway. Glancing down at them first in annoyance, Illya double takes when he realizes that they're Napoleon's expensive, brogue leather shoes. The cowboy had deliberately bought a piece of furniture to house his shoes safely and wasn't even using it.
Looking up, Illya sees that on the chair in the entryway is his coat, which he had never seen Napoleon not hang up. Dropping the bags out of the way, Illya moved both the shoes and coat to their appropriate place with confusion on his face.
Gaby strode inside a moment later, having parked the car, and almost ran into him. "What?" Gaby asked, toeing off her heels and leaving them there haphazardly as she usually did. "Something wrong?"
Illya shook his head, thinking to himself that it was nothing. He left the bags, stepping into the kitchen and the same confusion settled right back in- loose tea scattered over the counter, a half-empty container of cold soup? There was a pharmacy bag on the counter, making it quite easy to connect the dots.
Gaby found Napoleon first, her small gasp brought Illya into the room immediately.
Napoleon was on his side, curled up in the smallest armchair in the entire apartment, fast asleep. There was a cup of tea next to him, barely touched. The man himself was obviously not well, still fully dressed while lying like that. His hair was loose and curled over his forehead, eyes closed and soft but red-rimmed. His breathing didn't sound perfect, like there was something stuck in his throat.
Illya stepped closer.
A wonderful, cool hand presses to Napoleon’s forehead and he hums confusedly with his eyes closed.
“Does he have a fever?” Gaby’s voice, it sounded tinged with worry.
“Light one. He already saw doctor, there is prescription bag in kitchen.” Illya’s, tinged with something, too. Also worry? Napoleon wondered, sleepily
Napoleon blinks his reddened eyes open, eyelids heavy. Illya was behind Napoleon's chair, standing over him in his usual black ensemble with his brown leather coat still on. Gaby was on the other side of the coffee table looking at Napoleon with concern.
Twisting his wrist to squint at his watch, Napoleon sees that he's been asleep for a couple hours. He so wanted to get back to that, preferably with that cold hand still on his forehead. Instead, Napoleon turns to put his feet back on the ground. He yawns, “Welcome back. How was the city today? Beautiful weather.”
“Yes, it is. We didn’t know you were sick, Napoleon,” Gaby says, clearly unhappy about it. Her arms were crossed disapprovingly, wrist splint resting on her arm. It was painted to match her usual white and orange, blending in like a glove.
Napoleon smiled. “It’s nothing, Gaby. Allergies.” Napoleon starts to loosen his tie to remove but it’s too much trouble to properly untie so he just pulls it off and stuffs it into his pocket.
“Allergies do not give you fever, Cowboy,” Illya said with a downward twist of his mouth. He didn’t cross his arms, but it felt like he had. “Come on.” Without asking, he begins hauling Napoleon to his feet. “Is it the flu?“
“No, no. It's... it’s mono. You won’t catch it unless you start trying to kiss me, so relax,” Napoleon said, proud of himself for the newer, much more believable lie. He misses the way Illya briefly goes still. As he starts going toward his bedroom, the Russian starts to walk with him with an arm raised, as though poised to catch him if Napoleon might suddenly collapse. "I can walk, Peril."
Gaby, behind them, speaks up. “Mono? Glandular fever? I don’t think so, your voice would sound a lot worse, your throat would actually be swollen... we would have noticed you getting worse, especially since we would probably have caught it too,” The two men both stopped moving, both turning back to ask how she knows so much about mono. She rolls her eyes, clears her throat and they turn right back. She says, “I suppose we just thought you were out on dates. I’m guessing you were avoiding us?”
Napoleon coughed instead of answering.
“Could get used to quiet,” Illya said with a little humor that made Napoleon a little grumpier at him. This was entirely his fault, after all. Not that he knew that.
Napoleon took a seat at the edge of his bed, already deciding he was just going to sleep in his suit because he didn’t want to deal with buttons right now. He opened his mouth to say so to Illya when the large, Russian bear paws that Illya called his hands began to unbutton the waistcoat for him.
“That’s a little forward,” Napoleon quips, but the fingers don’t still. Closing his eyes so he doesn’t have to watch and simultaneously rest his aching eyes, Napoleon’s pulse races and he’s suddenly thankful for the fever that he can blame the warmth on his face.
Illya is efficient in removing the waistcoat and jacket. Through his shirt, Napoleon can feel each of Illya’s fingers and they’re just as cold as when they touched his face. And dammit if Napoleon didn’t want to grab him and curl up with the living snowman.
Without the extra layers, Napoleon feels so much more comfortable. He turns toward his pillows, intending to bury his face into them, when Illya grabs his shoulder. Napoleon resists a shiver.
“Pajamas,” Illya said, turning and getting them for him. The set on top, a neatly folded set with blue stripes. He dropped it onto the bed and looked at Napoleon. “Please tell me you do not need more help with this, useless Cowboy.”
Napoleon glares and grabs the pajamas, standing up and walking into his adjoining bathroom. As inviting as the idea of those cool, soothing hands undressing and redressing him, he knew a joke when he heard one. He changes quickly, leaving his trousers and button up in a crumpled heap. “Good night, Peril,” Napoleon says pointedly, when he comes out and Illya’s still there.
“Is barely noon. Tell me what did this doctor say, Cowboy?” Illya's paranoia had reared its head with the usual lack of aplomb.
Napoleon certainly wasn't going to admit he was lovesick, much less lovesick over Illya— because it didn't matter, Illya would never want to be with Napoleon. In fact, Napoleon was confident that he could accurately predict many things that Illya would list as for why he would be a terrible romantic partner:
Doesn’t play chess “correctly”.
Shrugging and badly pretending the question doesn’t make him nervous, Napoleon avoids Illya's eyes walks past him to his bed. “It's-It's my private... medical... things. Private! You don’t need to know,” he said, pulling the covers of his bed to get in. “I’m okay, really.”
Illya made a noise like a growl in his throat, recognizing the barely concealed lie. It bothered him greatly that Napoleon’s usual mask of indifference, the smirk, all of his barriers were stripped away and he was pushing Illya— his team away.
“You’re wrong. I already know you're not okay, Cowboy.” Illya turns away and, to Napoleon’s surprise, he goes into the bathroom and brings his wrinkled clothes to where Napoleon always hung his dry cleaning. That’s when Napoleon notices his suit jacket and tie are in there, the tie unfolded and laid flat over the shoulder of the jacket.
Illya continues talking while he hangs Napoleon’s clothes with jerky movements that punctuate his words, “If you were ‘okay’, you’d not sleep in your suit, leave clothes on floor or even small mess in your precious kitchen. Those ugly shoes left by front door, where they could be stepped on? This is not like you.”
Napoleon could concede those were a few things outside of his normal habits. “Yes, okay, I forgot to do those things, I’m just feeling a little— under the weather, Peril. That’s all! And those shoes are not ugly!”
At that moment, Gaby appeared in the doorway with a steaming cup of tea in her good hand. “For the patient,” she said, handing it to Illya. She looked at Napoleon with a weary eye, having overheard a lot of the argument. “Don’t worry us any more, Solo. You are too grumpy like this, I don’t like it.”
“Very sorry,” Napoleon said with a tight smile, eyeing the fresh cup of tea. “I really am fine, though... and I’m saying that as a fully grown adult man who is over thirty years old, you both realize?”
Illya went tch, crossing his arms and shaking his head as though he could argue against that.
Gaby’s eyebrow arches. “So? Being cared for is wonderful, especially when it’s by people who actually care about you. I would think you'd love this, being spoiled. And you know, when someone helps you, you say...” She held her hands up, encouraging him to finish.
“Thank you, Gaby,” Napoleon answered dutifully, warming a little when she said they cared about him. Ridiculous. “And thank you, Peril, for the concern. Really, I’m fine.”
“Not fine,” Illya grumbles, but Gaby steers him out of the room before he can continue.
Gaby calls, “Drink that tea and get some rest,” before they close the door and leave him be.
Napoleon can hear the sound of them talking in the living room but he doesn’t try to listen. Half of the team out there was the cause of this in the first place, though he hated lying to Gaby. She was so eager to prove her trustworthiness ever since Rome which had most recently resulted in her badly sprained wrist, and he’d already long ago forgiven her for her not-role in his torture by her uncle.
Illya... Napoleon just didn’t know what to do about him. He couldn’t talk to Gaby about it so that left him with almost no close options.
Leaning against the baseboard, Napoleon notes that his muscles were starting to protest from sleeping curled up in a small, overly firm armchair. Or they were the same muscle aches he’d been having for days, it was difficult to tell them apart. He picks up the tea he’d been brought and breathes it in, warming his hands.
Eyes closing again, Napoleon focused on the scent and remembered the sensation of cold hands on his forehead. What was it Napoleon could even hope to have with Illya? As two spies from countries on either side of the Cold War with no end in sight, Napoleon could only pretend it was possible.
It was a sweet little fantasy-- good food, chess, conversation, scotch, jazz on the record player. The sound of laughter. In another lifetime, Napoleon could see them walking through museums hand-in-hand, Illya’s eyes narrowed as he takes in the art in his own quiet, contemplative way. His handsome face smiling, ice-blue eyes brightening. If Napoleon allowed himself, Napoleon could imagine kissing the Red Peril. Being kissed. Big hands that had been unbuttoning his waistcoat minutes ago, unbuttoning his clothes in other contexts...
But wasn't that the least likely outcome?
It was confusing for Napoleon to even just consider having a future, it just seemed like he'd eventually be forced into an early retirement by an enemy’s lucky shot. More present day, Napoleon just wasn’t sure how to be part of a relationship. And again, he reminds himself that Illya would never be interested, anyway.
Napoleon sips his tea in torment, mind going in circles. He wished he had someone to talk to, but the options outside of the room weren’t exactly ideal for this. Wetting his lips with his tongue and drumming his fingers on the cup, Napoleon glanced at the phone on his bedside table. He had a phone number that he’d memorized years ago, but hadn’t called in a long while. Reaching out, he picked up the receiver. Staring down at it, he listened to the dial tone for a moment before reaching for the base and dialed slowly.
While it rang, Napoleon was caught in a coughing fit and almost missed the tinny little voice respond with a hesitant, “Hello?”
Napoleon almost couldn’t tell, hesitant. “Yvonne? I-it’s me.”
The voice gasped. She must have turned, he heard a shout. There was a flurry of sound, a few people talking so rapidly and so far away that Napoleon could barely make out any of it— he thought he could recognize some voices.
“Napoleon?” A different voice, breathless on the other end and so, so familiar. “Are you okay?”
For a moment, Napoleon considered hanging up. He was feeling a stone of guilt in his stomach for not calling and now, for not calling just to talk. Clenching his eyes shut, he covers them with his hand as a couple hot tears leak through. He takes a shaky inhale, trying to keep himself calm, wondering if he can make it through this phone call. He realizes he hasn’t said hi yet and knows his mother is starting to worry.
“Hi, mom,” Napoleon says, his voice breaking. He kept his eyes covered. Four words from his mother had done it, broken the dam.
The sound must have been loud enough, because his mother makes a soft noise of alarm. On the other end, he hears his mother hush and shoo away the voices from before. Her voice comes through clear, “Bluebird, talk to me. What’s wrong?”
Face crumpling, the tears start to spill behind Napoleon’s hand, so hot that it’s almost painful. There’s no one in the world he wants to see more than her, right now. “Mom,” he said, voice thick. “I... I’m lovesick. It’s... It hurts so much and I needed someone to talk to...”
His mother’s voice is very firm. “Napoleon. Where are you?”
Mrs. Solo was in New York City within eight hours, heels clacking rhythmically on the airport floor.
Without even having seen a picture or description, Gaby knew it was her. When she walked, it was with a sway that Gaby now recognized from parties for rich, important people. Her curled, silver-gray hair was worn to her shoulders and Gaby wondered if it had once been jet black like Napoleon’s. Gaby was staring up at the beautiful, tall woman who had a wide smile very reminiscent of the man she worked with.
“Ms. Gaby Teller,” Napoleon’s mother said warmly, taking Gaby’s hand when offered and squeezing it affectionately. “Thank you for picking me up, dear.”
Gaby nodded, then said, “Of course. Uh, I’ve got the car this way. Um, actually- Napoleon didn’t tell me your first name—?”
“Leona, please call me Leona,” she said with a smile, tilting her head looking at Gaby with blue eyes that matched Napoleon’s. She looked every bit like his mother, right down to dressing in beautiful clothing- though Gaby would have to say she wore ‘importance’ in a way he didn’t. Her sheath dress and coat looked like something Gaby had seen in the store that very morning. “You work with my son?”
Nodding again, Gaby finally remembered to lower her sign that said ‘Mrs. Solo’ on it. “Yes, we are on the same team.”
“Wonderful,” Leona said, leading them out of the airport. Just like Napoleon, she seemed to breeze her way through the crowd as if they parted just for her. "So sorry about the late flight, there weren't many flights available and the poor crew looked so overworked. It was difficult to find a private plane I could borrow. So, tell me, Gaby--" She asks Gaby little questions about herself, nothing invasive. Her hobbies, her favorite scent, that sort of thing.
It wouldn’t raise alarm with a regular person, but Gaby wasn’t a regular person anymore. She was special, a woman with secrets. And her casual mention of a private plane with her carefully impersonal questions give Gaby the impression that Leona is also the kind of woman with secrets.
And Gaby was dying to get to know her.
Illya paced in the apartment, ignoring the increasingly late hour. His worry had gotten worse ever since the Cowboy had called specifically for Gaby. She had agreed quickly. As she had left, she told Illya that Napoleon had asked her to pick up his mother that night from the airport and that she was terribly worried because she was sure that he had been crying.
Napoleon’s mother? Napoleon crying?
Illya had been sure that Napoleon was an orphan according to all information that the KGB had dug up on the man. He desperately wanted to go into Napoleon’s room to get the truth.
The front door clicked open. Gaby’s voice called out to let them know it was her. She was standing there with a tall woman, whose heels almost brought her up to meet Illya’s eyes— something that did not happen very often. She was dressed well enough that Illya could easily believe she was Napoleon’s mother if not for the striking resemblance in her eyes alone.
“Mr. Kuryakin,” Napoleon’s mother said with a smile, setting her bag down. Gaby closed the door behind them, looking at Illya with wide eyes before going to the kitchen to put on a kettle. “You’re Napoleon's other partner, are you not? Leona Solo.”
Leona held out a hand for Illya to shake and he did, finding her handshake firm and her gaze searching. He just allowed his usual, slight smile, allowing it and shaking her hand back. “Mrs. Solo,” he said, nodding. “Yes, I am. It is... good to meet you.”
Leona looked at Illya as though studying him, before looking around the apartment and before she could ask anything else, there was a scratchy voice from down the hall. “Mom?”
With a soft gasp, Leona kicked off her heels and hurried in that direction.
Napoleon had heard the door open and it had snapped him out of sleep. Yvonne had decided to buy tickets while they were talking. Leona had come up first, Yvonne had to take care of some things and would come out later for a day or two. He’d been too busy crying to tell either not to and while his mother was a stubborn woman, Yvonne was— though seemingly meek and quiet— even worse.
Napoleon had heard a familiar voice. He scrubs at his face with his sleeve before throwing the covers off. His throat burns and he wishes he had more of that tea before he called out.
Leona came down the hall and had him in a tight hug in seconds. He held on, suddenly feeling how much he had missed her.
After a moment, she leaned back to look at him. “Hey there, bluebird,” she said, smiling and brushing his sweaty hair from his face. “You feeling any better?”
“She’s a jewel thief,” Gaby said, eyes wide. “Leona Solo was that famous jewel thief from like, the 1920s? She just mentioned it in the car casually, like it was the same as telling someone where you were born or where you went to university.”
Illya blinks. Ah. That explained Napoleon’s file. It was unexpected, but at the same time... not surprising. Napoleon or his family could have altered it. He didn’t know if the KGB would be interested in this information and he barely even considered telling his superiors. The idea was dropped before he’d even picked it up. Mostly, it was fascinating to think that Napoleon had followed in his mother’s footsteps. He had clearly been skilled from a young age, after all. It was obvious when Illya considered that Napoleon, the supposed orphan from New York, had a taste for fine things that must have started before he was in the army.
It’s also obvious that Gaby was smitten with Mrs. Solo.
“She only retired because she met her spouse and decided to go legit so they could build a life together,” Gaby said, shaking his head and smiling. “She’s so...”
Illya lets Gaby marvel over Leona, infamous jewel thief, while he tries to piece together why she was here in the first place. What was wrong with Napoleon and why wouldn’t he talk to Illya? After Rome and the mission in Istanbul, he felt they’d found their groove. They were working well together, they got along.
Had Napoleon noticed...?
“Oh! She told me the cutest story” Gaby continued. “She and her partner were living next to each other while Leona spent several months casing a building for a heist. But after being around the neighbor for a while, she became lovesick!”
Illya thinks that he remembers what lovesickness is, a cold feeling in his stomach. His eyes narrow as he rolls the English word in his mind for a moment, looking toward Napoleon’s bedroom. He started to cycle back in his mind, his memory of the preceding days. Who had Napoleon gone out with in those nights? Who was it? Who had done this to him?
Who had been foolish enough to make Napoleon Solo cry?
“Leona caught lovesickness and her fever was—“ Gaby trailed off, hand rising to her mouth. “Oh.”
“So," Illya murmurs tonelessly, "Cowboy fell in love.”
Leona leaves the room once to throw together a pot of soup and bring Napoleon a bowl that he eagerly devours. His mother tells him about the place she and Yvonne had bought since his arrest, since their communication had been mostly one-sided while he had been working for the CIA.
“Everyone who had ever known me would never guess I would own a farm,” Leona said with amusement. “Your mother was the one who got everything done in the beginning. Now I can help but she’s the only reason it worked out. As usual.”
Napoleon laughs, still barely able to believe she was there. He doesn’t know if he’s okay with her openly traveling with ancient warrants still out for her arrest, but pushed the worry to the back of his mind. “A farm,” Napoleon said, smiling with brows furrowed. “I really can’t imagine you in your pearls, mucking out the stables.”
Leona grinned. “My secret agent son knows what mucking is. I’m so proud.”
“You know I’ve ridden horses, Mom.”
Napoleon finishes the soup, moving the bowl to the side table and picks up his steaming, delicious tea. He drinks deeply. Next was medicine, to keep the worst at bay, followed by the rest of his tea.
Leona waits until he’s settled back before she asks, “Do you want to talk about it, yet?”
Napoleon shakes his head and she waits, something knowing in a tiny curve of her mouth. He eventually sighs and nods. “It’s just... this is all so stupid,” Napoleon said, looking at her like he doesn’t know how to explain and at the core— that’s the problem.
“Of course it is,” Leona said promptly, tiny smile widening. “It’s love.”
Leona had asked if Gaby if she wouldn’t mind fetching her wife from the airport so that she could talk to Napoleon.
Of course, Gaby had agreed immediately. She didn’t think to be flustered about the fact that Leona had said my wife until she was looking for her sunglasses. While living in East Berlin, Gaby had gotten to know many different people who were also keeping low profiles. Including people of many identities, who kept them secret and ‘acted normal’ every single day of their lives.
It actually felt like something within Gaby loosened, just thinking about those two words and the fearless way that Leona had said them. My wife.
Yvonne stands around the same height as Leona while wearing flats and, in incredible contrast to her wife, was at the airport wearing slightly dirty overalls. Her own hair was short, dark brown with gray and silvery salt-and-peppering throughout. Upon meeting Gaby, Yvonne had laughed at the Mrs. Solo sign and pressed a box of cookies into her hands before she apologized for making her wait. "It’s so wonderful to meet you, Miss Teller. I got a little too excited last night and couldn't sleep so I made those," she says, lightly blushing and beaming. "I’ve never been to New York before!"
From one of the bags, Yvonne also produces a silky-soft white knitted hat that she hands to Gaby. “Got so bored on the plane, though. I hope it fits!”
Then, Yvonne notices Gaby’s wrist brace and frets, assuring her that she can drive if she wanted to rest her poor wrist. She also started rustling in her bag for something, looking for something for Gaby. Gaby stops her with a smile, “I’m fine, Mrs. Solo,” Gaby says, noticing her eyes brightened a little. “It’s a slight sprain. I promise.”
Then, just like her wife, Yvonne asks Gaby questions. But she asks many questions, even the kind you just don't ask a secret agent. The kind you ask when you really want to know someone.
Gaby adores her before she’s even started the car. She had half a mind to move to the farm and ask the Solo family to adopt her. Napoleon as a brother, though... well, it would probably be very similar to the dynamic they had now.
So Napoleon tells Leona about Rome. Technically, it’s all classified— but one’s mother was probably an exception. He tells her about how he met Gaby, how Illya tore the trunk off the car and lifted most of a motorcycle in the same week. He tells her about how they met, how they’d fought, how they’d saved each others’ lives— downplayed the electric chair— and how he’d found the watch, about when Illya had chosen the third option.
He skipped ahead a lot, detailing a few times when he’d just... noticed little things and they’d piled on, over time. Gestures, words, actions. All things meaningful to him that he’d unknowingly begun to collect and care about until that one night, at a bar in Paris.
“I told a joke. It was some very bad pun in German that didn't make sense, I was a little drunk. But it was so bad that Gaby— very drunk by this point— laughed so hard that the table tipped and the drinks all splashed... all over me. It was...” he tries not to laugh and fails, “I was shocked at first, it was cold... and then Peril started laughing so hard that he was in tears and I...” He let out a shuddery breath, still smiling but somehow it hurts.
Napoleon sniffs once. “I don’t know. I just. I thought about how nice it was to see him happy,” he said, blushing. “I just want... I don’t want him to find out and then, I don’t know. I’ll... never see him again.”
His mother holds out a tissue box and Napoleon takes a couple. He hadn’t realized he’d almost started doing the particularly horrible sort of crying— burning and raw. Aware of it, he managed to tamp it down and blink them away. Wiping his face and under his nose, he waits a second before he continues. “If I even did tell him, if he even considered it— which he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t.”
“Napoleon,” she said, “You don’t have to do anything. I think you want to, but you don’t have to. You always worry for everyone else, put others first,” Leona said admiringly, “It’s a very good thing, but I think you take it too far and never ask for what you really want. You worry about me and the law and it kept you from visiting for over five years. Five years, Napoleon! Do you know how many photo albums I have in my bag? Three. Three photo albums! And you’re going to look at them all, and you’re going to come to the farm and see the other three photo albums I could not fit in my bag.”
Napoleon couldn’t help a smile and soft chuckle. Leona shoots him a look and he closes his mouth.
“I know you, Napoleon. You are a good man with a big heart,” Leona told him, then her lips quirked. “...and a very questionable taste in careers.”
Napoleon looked wounded. “Mom!”
“You keep holding people at arm’s length like you do, I think you will regret it. You keep thinking that no one will come for you, that people don’t want you in their lives, but we are all here for you even if you push us away,” Leona says softly, hand on his arm and squeezing for emphasis. “You are worthy of love, Napoleon.”
Napoleon took a break from talking, so Leona showed him photos of the farm and told him a lot of news from back where he had actually grown up. The area was filling up with people again, eager to stake out a living. Slowly, she said, but it was wonderful to see.
Eventually, Yvonne arrived from the airport, eager to relax. After Yvonne cried at the sight of her son and got a long hug, everyone had a new cup of tea while they relaxed in Napoleon's room.
“Napoleon, I know I’ve told you the old story,” Leona started. “How I found your mother all those years ago. How she came to my rescue, sat up with me while I battled that hideous fever...”
Napoleon had heard that, of course. He nodded.
Then Leona had looked at him then with a half smile, shrugging the shoulder on the same side. “It was... partially a lie,” and before he could say anything, she continued, “She was actually engaged at the time. Her fiancee was away visiting family while she helped me and though we both felt something, we never mentioned it and nothing happened between us. I left town after I felt better. I didn’t tell her how I felt, or where I was going.”
Napoleon didn’t say a word, watching his mother.
“I thought it would be better. I was still ‘working’,” she smiled a little, rolling her eyes. “I had thought she was happy. Who was I to ruin it?”
Even though his mother wasn’t likely to mention it directly, Napoleon understood what she meant, that she’d thought Yvonne was happy. Even though he’d spent most of his life calling her ‘Yvonne’ in front of others, he did call her ‘mother’ too. She had been called a boy at birth, quietly lived as one for decades. Though their marriage was technically legal and they had been able to produce children together, their family was still cautious. To most, in passing it had looked like a pair of unmarried sisters, perhaps a husband lost in war. For the most part, they’d been left alone in a small town in the more sparsely populated area where he’d grown up.
Napoleon prompted, eager to know. “How did you even get together, then?”
Leona smirked. “She sent me a book of erotic poetry in the mail.”
“Mom!” Napoleon laughed abruptly, turning to Yvonne who was innocently knitting in the armchair with her feet propped up on the bed. “You really did that?”
Yvonne’s eyebrows rose, not looking up from her needles. “It wasn't that erotic. There was also a copy of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. ‘Praise God that I’m a woman!’” she said, smirking to herself. “I also wrote her a very long letter. I burned that one, wrote a shorter letter. Threw that one out. Then, I wrote another letter and a lot of poetry... and before I could throw it out, I sent it.” She shrugged. “I was lovesick and emotional, had broken up with my fiancee— who was grateful, believe me. They’d just started doing talkies, she wanted to act and she is still acting. It's only luck that your mother left a piece of mail with her post office box on it.”
Leona interrupts, “Thank god for my aunt insisting on sending a Christmas card.”
Smiling, Yvonne tilted her head toward her wife as she counted her stitches. “And... it took a couple weeks, but I finally got a response.”
“I showed up at the door,” Leona said sideways to Napoleon, looking at her wife fondly. “With lots of notes in the margins and some topics to discuss.”
“We had a long discussion,” Yvonne said, gaze finally sliding away to her knitting again with a grin on her face. “A very long discussion.”
“Uh. Mom...” Napoleon says, clearing his throat and trying not to laugh again. “So, why haven't I heard this story?”
“You’re the one who hasn’t been around,” Leona points out, reaching over for her own cup of tea. “The army, your ‘art venture’, getting caught, the CIA... Whatever this is. Five years, we haven’t seen your face.”
Yvonne looked up at him too. “Five. Years.”
Napoleon nods. “Yes. I know. Five years. I will try harder, I promise.”
“Ooh, he promised,” Yvonne says, fiddling with her knitting a bit. She pulled her feet down, circling the bed before plopping the navy blue hat on Napoleon’s head with a thoughtful hum. “Perfect.”
Leona points at him. “I’m holding you to that, Napoleon.”
Reaching up to take the hat down to admire the stitching, Napoleon smiled. “I won’t disappoint you.”
Leona leaned over and hugged him sideways. “You never do,” she said, tightening her arm and kissing the side of his face. “I’m proud of you. Your mother is proud of you. We’re all proud of you.”
“All of you are?” Napoleon asked, question in his tone but not daring to voice his real question. They had avoided the topic the entire visit, so far. He surprised himself by asking, “Even uh... You-Know-Who?”
Yvonne and Leona looked at each other, then both partially shrugged one shoulder.
“Uh... Well, you’ll have to come home and find out,” Leona said with a sigh, “But have you decided what you want to do for now?”
“I don’t think I should do anything,” Napoleon said, twisting his hands. “But that’s exactly what that story was about, so it’s not... really an option.”
Yvonne sat on his other side, leaning over to hold him sideways like Leona had. “No, you really don’t want to do nothing,” Yvonne said, rubbing his shoulder. “You, your mother, and I— we all handle these things differently. I think you have a way that you will take care of this and it just might be as simple as talking to him”
Napoleon thinks to himself that talking to Illya might be the most difficult thing he could do, even if he were good at it. But the overwhelmed and terrified feeling in his chest was diminished, having been filled with a hopeful warmth that he just couldn’t ignore anymore.
“Tomorrow,” Napoleon says, a promise in his smile.
Yvonne is eager to sight see with her wife while they can spare the time from the farm. When Illya emerged from his room while they are finishing getting ready, she was quick to open her bag. "Just a couple things," she said as she produces a smart, knitted hat in black and another box of cookies.
Illya had not received a gift in some time, eyed the cookies before trying the hat on. “It is very kind of you,” he says, blushing as she looks up at him. “Thank you.” The cookies are delicious, Yvonne looks pleased when several are quickly gone and Illya didn't immediately remove the hat.
Gaby goes along to sight see, volunteering to drive. Illya almost suggests asking Waverly to help them find a guide before remembering Leona’s past. It was likely the Solo family wanted to avoid the head of an international intelligence agency, considering her former career.
After they left and Illya was alone in the living room, he made a decision. He was going to talk to Napoleon.
Napoleon was asleep when they left and Illya settled in the chair of Napoleon’s room with a reference book in his lap. It’s a big, hardback book of classical art and many of the pages were dog eared. Some pages had large creases in the top corner and a few had corners folded at the bottom. “Sacrilege,” Illya murmurs as he traces the poor, bent paper with the tip of a finger. He let out a sigh through his nose as he notes the artwork that correspond to which bent corner.
There’s a mixture of landscapes and figure studies marked by the bent pages. The ones that were dog-eared twice were quite famous for having been stolen and a couple were still missing, Illya notices.
“I didn’t steal all of them, but,” Napoleon said in a scratchy voice from the bed, “the double folded ones I may have. But Interpol only knows about most of them.”
Illya arches the brow on the scarred side. “So this book is... trophy case?”
“Mmm, no. My trophy case is hidden and you’ll never find it. But nice try. Stop asking,” Napoleon grinned and Illya shook his head with a sigh. Napoleon added, sitting up, “It’s more like a scrapbook of places I’ve been. Art I loved enough to want to take home and look at whenever I wanted.”
It’s a novelty to consider Napoleon simply enjoying art rather than just stealing it. The thought makes Illya smile, but he remembers why he wanted to talk to Napoleon. He closed the book, putting it down on his lap for a moment as he drew a deep breath. He had to stay calm for this, it wouldn’t do any good to lose his temper. Illya didn’t know how this discussion could result in smashing furniture but he wasn’t exactly rational when it came to Napoleon.
“Who hurt you, Cowboy?”
Napoleon’s face fell. “...What?”
“I know someone has hurt you. They made you cry... just give me their name. You don’t have to say anything else. I don’t need to know what happened, but... This is the only way I can think to help you-” Illya looked a little lost, frustrated, and his finger was twitching a little. But he was meeting Napoleon’s eyes, so he was still there, in control.
Napoleon didn't know where Illya was coming from but the intent... was so clear. Illya didn't know why Napoleon was upset, he didn't know who was responsible but he was ready to defend him. Just wanted a name, no questions asked.
Illya’s terrified for a moment because Napoleon just stares at him, eyes wide and red-rimmed. He watches Napoleon drop his chin to his chest, taking a deep breath. He looks back at Illya with his eyes shining and smiling. Napoleon looks so blindingly beautiful in that moment that Illya almost misses him say—
“Illya,” Napoleon says, voice rough but clear. “Illya Kuryakin.”
Napoleon continues, “I... fell in love with him when I made him laugh for the first time.” He blushed, fidgeted with the blanket over his lap. “And a few days ago, the doctor told me I was lovesick and I knew exactly who it was for.”
Staring with his mouth slightly open, Illya can’t find his voice for a moment before he says. “You... with me? But Gaby— I broke your heart? How?”
This time Napoleon is confused. “You didn’t- What?”
“Gaby said- You are lovesick because I did something to hurt you? What did I do, Cowboy? Please, let me-”
Napoleon held a hand up. “Illya, you didn’t. What are you talking about?”
Illya’s brow furrows and asks, using their bridge of his native Russian to confirm, “'Bol’shoye gore', does that not mean same thing as Lovesick?”
Bol’shoye gore’, which translated into heartbreak, which Illya had misunderstood earlier.
Napoleon shakes his head quickly. “No, no. Being ‘lovesick’ is... different.” he said, blushing furiously and averting his eyes. He draws a breath and says, “Tomyashchiysya ot lyubvi,” Saying it in Illya’s native language is somehow more embarrassing than his previous admittance.
There’s a pause, stillness that makes Napoleon’s skin crawl for only seconds before Illya’s cold, big hand closes around Napoleon’s, taking back his attention with surprise. Illya’s knee touches down on the bed slowly, fingers tilting Napoleon’s hand in his as he sits next to him. “I had this for you last month, Cowboy. Lovesick.”
Napoleon stares. “You— When—“
“The mission where we split up for ten days to gather information. I never got a high fever, so I was fine,” Illya shrugged, bringing Napoleon’s hand to his mouth and pressing his lips to his knuckles. His pale blue eyes were soft, lip curled up. “Do you want to know when I knew?”
But Napoleon so rarely gets to be the scolding one. “You were ill... while you were working alone—“
Illya ignores him and continues, “At airport, you said something rude. Something about my clothes. But then you called out—“
Napoleon interjects. “‘Don’t get shot’.” He laughs, shaking his head a little. “That’s when?"
“No, no,” Illya shook his head as though that were preposterous. “During my flight, I realized I hadn’t said it back. I became... concerned after I remembered how often you’d gotten injured in past six months—“ He looked pointedly at Napoleon, who could only shrug. “My seat neighbor did not enjoy my company after I muttered it to myself over and over, the same three words. Don't get shot. The closer I got to my destination the more I was thinking of you. Why it was so important to me that you didn’t ‘get shot’,” he smiles wryly, “I knew I wanted to see you again, I realized I already missed you. Working alongside you, arguing with you, protecting you, those times we eat together, talking late into night. I thought about how lucky your dates were, to get to talk to you so intimately, to be with you, this beautiful man. Even our marks, who get moment with you. I thought many times, about kissing you.”
As Illya spoke, Napoleon's free hand covered his mouth to hide his smile, then up to hide his blush, before he was eventually trying to hide his entire face. He mumbled something into his palm that sounded a curse.
“Can I kiss you, Cowboy?” Illya asked softly, stroking his thumb over the hand in his.
Napoleon peeked through his fingers and asked, “Can I take a shower first?”
Illya stared at him for a moment, then snickered. It turned into an actual laugh and he said, “No, Cowboy, definitely unnecessary. I really must kiss you immediately. Please, please let me.”
“But I-I’m disgusting. At least let me brush my hair—“
“Napoleon,” Illya said gently, stroking his hand. “I love you, even if you were disgusting- which you are not, I promise. I even loved you when you wore that ugly suit last week.”
“That was designer- oh, fine.” Napoleon dropped his hand into his lap, looking shy and sheepish in the most adorable way Illya had ever seen. His eyes were still a little red, pillow lines imprinted on his cheek, his hair an absolute mess. Illya couldn’t help but stare, smile quirking at his lip. Napoleon avoided his eyes until he didn’t do anything. “What? I told you, I look disgusting!”
With a soft smile, Illya bent down, cradling Napoleon’s cheek in one hand. “You look like man I love waiting for me to kiss him. There’s nothing more beautiful than this.”
Napoleon blushed. He tugged Illya’s shirt and whispered, “You should probably kiss him, then.”
They were both still laughing a little when they kissed and momentarily Napoleon worried they were going to bump their teeth together, but it works out in the end.
The first time Illya kisses him, Napoleon thinks he will remember the relief he felt like drinking an ice cold glass of water after a long walk on a hot day. How his arm sliding around his waist was like coming home after getting lost during an unbearably long trip. The smile on Illya’s face and the warmth in his eyes sweeter than the laughter in Napoleon’s memory, now that it was his.
Napoleon gets exactly two more, slightly long kisses— the first of which makes him sigh in the most embarrassing way— before Illya makes a considering sound in his throat before standing back upright and tugging on Napoleon’s hand to pull him to standing. “You are right. You do need shower. But you do taste like toothpaste, so why not kiss?”
Napoleon gave Illya a look, then starts counting on his fingers. “My eyes are bloodshot, I’m in my pajamas, probably smell like sweat, my hair looks awful, my complexion... !" He gave a vague gesture toward his face, "The point is moot now but it’s hardly what one wants as the memory of their first kiss together. I would have liked to at least be dressed appropriately.”
Illya stops and looks at Napoleon with furrowed brows. “You think I’m going to remember all of those little things, Cowboy?” He shook his head. “I’m going to remember this,” he lifted both hands this time, holding Napoleon’s face and kissing him again, slowly, until he's made the Cowboy sigh again. When Illya pulls away, Napoleon looks up at him with that sweet, soft look in his eyes. “How happy I feel right now, this look in your eyes and that little noise you just made.”
Napoleon’s still smiling like a fool when Illya pushes him into the bathroom, and he has to take a few seconds standing there while the water warmed, to put his face in his hands and laugh at the absurdity.
Illya Kuryakin loved him back.
When Leona, Yvonne, and Gaby came back from sightseeing, Napoleon was sitting in the sun with Illya, playing a game of chess that Illya was concentrating on. Napoleon went to stand and talk to the three about their outing and Illya carefully put the game away-- leaving it intact.
Yvonne immediately gushed about their sightseeing, telling Napoleon that the tour guide Gaby had found was very good and showed them everything they wanted to see.
It was, of course, that moment when Waverly knocked on the door.
Leona, still standing by the front door, went to open it before anyone could think to stop her. Standing there, she narrowed her eyes and tilted her head at him, Waverly did the same to her.
Napoleon had frozen as soon as he saw Waverly in the door, worry etched in his face that changes into confusion as the two both laughed and embraced.
“Good lord,” Waverly said, looking between Leona and Yvonne who had hurried over as well. “I can’t believe it. I haven’t seen either of you two since the wedding, eh?”
Both Napoleon and Illya look confused off to the side, but Gaby is in the thick of things, asking, “Do you all know each other?”
The three look between each other and Waverly’s shoulders lift in a shrug. “I may have... caught Mrs. Solo during one of her thefts and allowed her to escape with the jewels.” Leona clears her throat and he adds, “And by allowed, I mean she thwarted me very easily and sent the jewels to my personal home the next day because she ‘felt bad’.”
“I did. He was a rookie MI5 agent, was very sweet, and I thought it would cheer him up.”
Waverly brightened, smiling. “It really did. Especially the promotion I received for turning them back in. Really helped speed my career along. Well, then she turned up for tea a couple of times and we became good friends. She was very Robin Hood about the whole jewel thing, anyway, and very helpful with information in the old game. You know, I owe you for a dozen things, I could scrub away any leftover warrants you have out there, Leona. It would also be very helpful if I could trade for anything precious you might still have that I could use as a bargaining chip in my next budget meeting... Trying to secure a secure headquarters for us, you see.”
Leona’s lips purse and she nods. “That sounds very negotiable. Maybe my son will visit me a little more often if he’s not so afraid of my being arrested.”
Waverly looked over at Napoleon as though remembering the rest were there. “That’s right. You hadn't named the children back then, you were still expecting, I believe. I didn’t see you after they were born, I assumed you were in hiding. Seems so obvious now,” he shook his head, turning to Napoleon. “I suppose your file background was forged, Solo.”
Napoleon nodded slowly. “A little of it is,” he allowed, but didn’t elaborate.
Turning toward Leona and Yvonne, Waverly asks, “Have you had time for tea, yet? I’ve been meaning to go back to a cafe near here that serves a wonderful cup. Gaby?”
The pair agree, Gaby along with them, and Waverly nods at Napoleon. “Good to see you’re feeling better, Solo. We’ll have to arrange another trip for your mothers when you’re fully on the mend, maybe invite up your brother as well.” Waverly says, smiling as he turns and heads out. The last they catch of him is his exclamation of, “What in the devil happened to your wrist, Gaby?”
Illya turns slowly to Napoleon. “...You also have brother?”
Napoleon nods, still facing the door as he absorbs what had just happened. “I do. Just the one, but, uh...” he clears his throat, eyebrows lifting. “We are twins.”
Illya leaned over to peer at Napoleon’s face until the American turned to face him. Illya lifted a hand and tilted Napoleon’s head to one side and the other with the light nudge of his fingers. His eyebrow on the scarred side arches as he studies Napoleon carefully. “So... There’s two men on this earth who look like this.”
“No,” Napoleon says, allowing it and smirking up at Illya. “Vaughn has a beard.”
Illya hums thoughtfully, nodding like that seems interesting. He traces the grit of stubble on Napoleon’s cheek with the flat of his thumb, the result of Napoleon not shaving for a few days.
Napoleon’s eyes go wide. “No, never. Not happening,” Napoleon said, shaking his head. “I can never get through the itchy stage and I- I like shaving.”
“Maybe we discuss it later,” Illya murmurs, just teasing. There's mirth in his eyes.
“If you wanted the bearded version, you’re fifteen years too late,” Napoleon said with a stupid grin, looking up into Illya’s eyes. “The man’s spoken for.”
Illya tilted his head a little, not moving away. “Mmm, no. I want this one. Biological evidence of compatibility is sound.”
With another minute shake of his head, Napoleon laughs and walks into Illya’s arms to snuggle against his chest as the Russian holds him tightly.
This. This is what he wants.