Appreciating the headiness of anticipation is practically a requirement for people in Napoleon’s line of work. Still, he’s convinced that Illya and Gaby have elevated it to a completely different level. Not a day goes by when they’re not pretending to ignore each other, sniping at each other verbally, or tentatively flirting with the kind of awkwardness reserved for adolescents. Sometimes all three in the same day.
It’s exhausting. Another week of this and Napoleon is going to get cavities.
He mentally calculates their hotel suite’s distance to the pavement and the air resistance of the egyptian cotton sheets and decides it’s not worth the risk.
Fortunately, they’re taking surveillance in shifts, attempting to pinpoint the exact courier being used to ferry sensitive communiques among THRUSH agents in France. This gives Napoleon plenty of time to nudge his partners in the right direction so that maybe, during one of his shifts, they can stop dithering already.
He does his best to avoid thinking about what, exactly, he
hopes thinks they’ll get up to while he’s gone. It’s… distracting. And unprofessional.
So, while Illya is posing as a cab driver, tailing the first THRUSH agent to figure out which locations are the likeliest drop points, Napoleon has brunch with Gaby. She’s wearing slim white clamdiggers and a sleeveless blue paisley button-down knotted just below her sternum, a wide swath of midriff bared in between. Also a pair of oversized powder-blue cats-eye sunglasses with opaque lenses, so he can’t tell if she’s looking at him or not.
Napoleon keeps his own gaze studiously fixed on his newspaper. “How long have you been with UNCLE, Gaby?”
“Longer than you,” she replies coolly, taking a sip of her mimosa. As if she hasn’t flaunted her seniority several times already.
“Well, yes,” he concedes. “I was wondering if you’d care to illuminate me on a particular bit of UNCLE policy.”
One eyebrow lifts high enough to be seen over the frames of her sunglasses (no mean feat). “Oh?”
“What exactly are the rules about fraternization?”
The silence that follows stretches out so long that he drops the corner of his newspaper to get a better look at her body language. She folds her arms primly and leans forward over the table, expression giving nothing away. “The usual, I suppose. Why do you ask?”
He thinks she might have a fork tucked under her elbow. “Maybe I’m asking for a friend.”
She smirks and leans back. “You don’t have any friends.”
He blinks, stung. “I do. Or. I did, before I was unceremoniously press-ganged into all this world-saving business.”
“You could have made a clean getaway at least six times since I’ve known you,” Gaby points out. “Admit it, you like playing the good guy.”
“It’s not about being good,” Napoleon informs her airily, folding up his newspaper. “It’s about being great.” He stands, dropping his newspaper onto the breakfast table.
As far as exit lines go, it’s not one of his best, but it’ll do.
Gaby is out shopping, stopping in at cafes, taking photos of landmarks, all the usual rich-tourist-in-Paris pastimes. Napoleon is letting Illya beat him in chess; he knew as soon as he sat down it was a loss, but he and Illya aren’t usually inclined towards idle chit-chat. Unless, of course, Napoleon is attempting to throw Illya off his game, as he is now, if only to make his defeat a little less embarrassing.
“You know, Illya, indulging in ‘decadent Capitalistic nonsense’ every once in a while won’t actually kill you,” Napoleon says, gesturing to his partner’s worn leather jacket. “You obviously know how to dress well, but your wardrobe is still so small it could pack up into one of Gaby’s little handbags.”
Illya doesn’t look up from the board. “There is nothing wrong with my clothes.”
Napoleon gives him a brilliant, patently insincere smile. “Ah, but you clean up so well.”
“We already have you, if we have need of a… a fop.” Napoleon would kill to know what books Illya had read to learn English; he comes up with the strangest words at the most unexpected moments.
“Fine, then, forget clothes. There are always the less... material indulgences. Experiential ones. Music, dancing, gambling…” Napoleon gives up his bishop. “...ladies.”
“...in ladies?” Napoleon blinks, taken aback.
Illya gives him a Look. “In empty, unfulfilling encounters with strangers.” Ah, that makes more sense.
“That’s not at all what I mean,” Napoleon says, giving up his rook. “And you know it.”
Illya frowns darkly, tapping his index finger against the crown of his queen. “I don’t know anything of the sort,” he says, and knocks over Napoleon’s king with a knight out of nowhere, leaving before the fallen piece has even stopped rolling across the table.
Napoleon spends his evening shift planting bugs on the windowsills of a penthouse suite with a lovely view of the Eiffel tower. He’s too busy planning his next intervention to enjoy the sights.
Maybe a more straightforward approach, he thinks.
“I’m just saying,” he murmurs to Gaby when they’re touring the Louvre arm-in-arm, keeping their target within sight during their casual meander through the galleries. “Given our line of work, the excitement, the glamour, the romance…” He shrugs. “Well. It’s not uncommon for agents to develop less than platonic affections in the heat of the moment.”
“I’ll remind you of the glamour the next time I have to fish you and Illya out of a Venetian canal.”
Napoleon suppresses a grimace at the memory. “Look, if you’re afraid of commitment, don’t be. Most agents harbor no illusions about their life expectancy.”
She stops in her tracks, looking incredulous. “You think my problem is that I’m afraid of commitment?”
“...it was one hypothesis, yes.”
“Strike two,” she tells him, and refuses to respond any further on the matter.
He and Illya are in a truck watching the private airstrip for the smuggler’s jet - stealth jet, to be precise, the tech a marvelous bonus to shutting down this sordid operation - and starts, “I’ll come right out with it--”
Then their back window shatters, the cab is filling up with smoke, and there’s rather a lot of gunfire. Also shouting, bleeding, and running; shuffle and repeat.
When it’s all over, Gaby spirits them away on the jet, the THRUSH operation in shambles but the ringleaders escaped, likely to start their schemes up anew in another corner of the globe.
Napoleon complains, at length and loud enough for Gaby to hear from the cockpit, for the duration of Illya’s idea of ‘first aid.’
“Don’t make me come back there,” she says.
“She won’t be as gentle as I am,” Illya says with the sliver of a smile, and then tightens the dressing around Napoleon’s ribs.
Napoleon hisses in protest, too out of breath to give a snappy retort.
As a reward for the stealth jet technology, they get a whole weekend to themselves in Madrid before their next assignment starts - there’s to be a scientific conference next week, and it looks less suspicious if they arrive first and establish their covers while they wait.
Plus, the have time to plant as many bugs as they like.
Correction: Illya and Gaby can plant as many bugs as they like. Napoleon is given strict orders to keep strenuous activity to a minimum until their next mission starts, and to exercise reasonable caution after that.
“Well, at least he’s here to laze about,” Gaby comments.
“True,” Illya says. “It would be shameful for him to die because he didn’t duck in time.”
Illya has already declared that Napoleon isn’t allowed to get himself killed now that they’re on the same side. This is supposed to be a compliment: Napoleon is too good an agent to die by any lesser man’s hand, or something. He hadn’t really known what to say but, “Same to you, Peril,” and Illya had nodded, satisfied.
Gaby surveys the suite with a critical eye. Three bedrooms and a common area, a small balcony off to one side that faces the right direction for their surveillance equipment, and a single generous bath with a partition between the facilities and the double sinks. “It’ll do,” she declares, unpacking her hatbox and lifting the false bottom to retrieve the parts for the directional microphone. “I can set up here, if you’ll be fine doing first looks alone, Illya?”
Illya snorts and gets his camera. Napoleon takes advantage of her preoccupation to claim the first shower.
When he shuts the water off, he hears a tap at the door. “Won’t be long,” he says.
“Did you mean what you were saying, in Paris?” Gaby asks, voice barely intelligible through the door.
It takes a moment for Napoleon to realize what she’s talking about. Ah yes, Illya. “Absolutely,” he says, belting his robe around him and scrubbing a towel through his hair. He’ll shave in the morning, he decides.
“Good, because I gave it some thought, and I think you might have been right, after all,” she says, and he feels a flood of relief as he pads over to his room to change.
“Well that’s…” his sentence falters when he spots Gaby waiting for him. “Fantastic,” he finishes. “I thought this was my room?”
“It is,” she says from his bed, smoothing down the sheet around her hips.
“And your clothes are…”
“In my room,” she answers.
“Of course they are,” he says, thinking distantly, it makes perfect sense. He tries to think quickly, the process somewhat hindered by the - truly spectacular - view, miles of bare leg and the swell of her hip and the corner of the sheet more a tease than an actual attempt at modesty. Instincts already at war, he physically startles at the sound of a key in the door to the hall. “Um,” he says. “Let me just…” And he backs away from her into the common room, closing the door to his room behind him.
It’s Illya, of course, coming back from recon. “Where’s Gaby?” he asks.
Napoleon looks over at her door. It’s closed, too. “Taking a nap, maybe? You know how she is when she travels.”
“Out like a light. Good. Because I wanted to. Hm.” If Illya keeps fiddling with that camera, he’s going to ruin his film. He seems to realize it, too, and sets it on a side table, balling up his fists. “I was a coward before. You were trying to tell me something important, and I was too scared to listen, so.” With visible effort, he meets Napoleon’s gaze and takes the handful of steps across the room to lay his hand on Napoleon’s shoulder. “I wanted to. To apologize.”
Napoleon is too shocked to respond. Illya apologizing. Admitting weakness? He’s half tempted to check the other man for surgical scars, in case he’s a THRUSH agent in disguise. Or brainwashed somehow?
And then Illya’s hand is on his jaw and his mouth is on Napoleon’s and.
There’s a moment where Napoleon registers the novelty of kissing a man whose name he knows in a fully-lit room (he so rarely gets the trifecta), but the madness passes and he tries to step back, hand flailing for purchase and landing on the doorknob, and he stumbles backwards as the door opens, realizing only too late-
Illya recoils when he hears Gaby’s gasp, and there’s a long moment of stunned silence as they all stare.
“I think there’s been a terrible misunderstanding,” Napoleon tries, but it’s like the sound of his voice breaks some fragile equilibrium in the room. Illya pulls away from Napoleon, out of arm’s reach, and Gaby gets to her feet, wrapping the sheet around her as she stands.
There’s rather a lot of shouting.
Much as he’d like to say otherwise, Napoleon’s never been in this situation before. He tries to sort out the tangle of German and Russian and a smattering of impressive insults cribbed from other languages. “-made my intentions perfectly clear!” Illya is saying. “You were the one who-”
Meanwhile, Gaby’s not even listening, deep into her own tirade. “-so if I found out, would you have told me that he didn’t mean anything to you, that it didn’t change how you felt about me? I’ve heard that line plenty of times and have no interest in hearing it again.”
Napoleon doesn’t know whether he should be relieved they aren’t yelling at him or hurt that they aren’t, in fact, fighting over him. “Hang on, hang on,” he says, raising his hands placatingly. Gaby bats away the one nearest her and Illya does something to the other wrist with a twisting pinch that leaves Napoleon’s fingertips numb. “I was trying to set you two up.”
Gaby sniffs, eyes flashing. “That much is obvious.”
“Your attempts to play us against one another are clear at this point,” Illya mutters.
“No, no, I was.” Napoleon shakes his head and then gives Gaby a good shove forward with a palm in the small of her back. She stumbles into Illya, whose arms come up reflexively before he realizes he doesn’t know where to put his hands. “Setting you two up,” he repeats, and they stare at each other for a minute.
They’re quick enough to get his meaning without any further explanation. “Oh,” Gaby says, her eyes going soft. Illya flushes, glancing away. “So you didn’t want to sleep with me.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Napoleon says, and lifts his hands again when Illya glares. “She was making a compelling case before you walked in,” he says, and spots the flash of Gaby’s grin before she tucks it away again.
“Aren’t you going to ask the same thing?” Gaby asks Illya.
Illya ducks his head, still not meeting her eyes. “When a woman kisses a man who is not interested, he is usually polite, can be easy to misunderstand. When a man kisses a man… rejection is not so polite. No misunderstanding.” Gaby looks to Napoleon, who shrugs and inclines his head to confirm this with a slight grimace. His voice is so quiet that Napoleon almost doesn’t hear him when he adds, “And I wouldn’t have lied to you, Gaby.”
She leans into him, and Napoleon starts planning a graceful exit. “What?” she asks.
“I wouldn’t have lied to you. I wouldn’t have said it meant nothing. I don’t… I don’t get close to people I’m not… close with. Who I don’t trust. I trust him. I also trust you.”
Napoleon Solo is an expert codebreaker, but it still takes him a moment to for Illya’s meaning to sink in.
“Oh,” Gaby says, giving him a small, careful smile. “Well that’s that.” She lifts one hand to cup Illya’s cheek in her palm, and goes on tiptoes to plant a quick kiss on his mouth, which goes slack with surprise.
Napoleon isn’t entirely sure, but that might be his cue to leave.
He shifts to sidle out through the door behind Illya, and Gaby’s quick little hand snags the lapel of his robe in a grip as strong as steel. “And where do you think you’re going?” she asks, leaning over, using her other hand on Illya’s shoulder as leverage. She breathes, “You’re not getting out of trouble that easily,” before her lips catch his.
He keeps his eyes open, watching Illya for signs of flaring temper, but Illya’s frown seems more bemused than angry.
“You don’t mean-” Illya starts.
Gaby pulls away from Napoleon after a tantalizingly brief moment. “And why not?” she asks. Unlike Illya, whose embrace remains within polite boundaries, Napoleon does know where to put his hands. He finds the trailing hem of the sheet and slips his hand between the layers, finding her waist warm and sweetly curved beneath his palm.
“It’s not. It’s not done.”
“I assure you, it is,” Napoleon replies. “There are a few clubs we could go to where we wouldn’t stand out at all.” A very few, admittedly, but he deals in secrets and in scandal as a matter of course, so he’s familiar with any number of special-interest establishments around the globe.
“Besides, our daily routine involves theft, blackmail, and the occasional assassination, among other unpleasantries,” Gaby points out. “What we choose to do in our own beds hardly rates.”
“Beds,” Napoleon adds, bending down to graze his lips along the delicate sweep of her neck, “being negotiable, of course.” He flicks his gaze up to meet Illya’s with a smile, gratified to see that the latter is regarding them both with poorly-veiled longing.
“Fair point,” she concedes and then shifts, angling between them, shoulder blades against Napoleon’s chest, his hand slipping over the soft arc of her belly between her hipbones. He’s half tempted to move lower, but she’s bracing against him, so instead he takes her weight in his arm, against his ribs, as she hooks her leg around Illya’s and pulls.
For once, he comes along easily, bowing to meet her, irresistible force winning this bout against immovable object. His belt buckle presses against the back of Napoleon’s hand as they kiss in front of him, deep and unhurried. With his other hand, Napoleon takes the opportunity to divest Illya of that belt, plus his tie, his cufflinks, and his wallet.
He leaves the watch, of course; Gaby takes care of the jacket.
Napoleon feels like her own personal jungle gym when she arches her back, tilting her hips and doing something that makes Illya groan beautifully. It’s entirely possible for them to continue like this, Illya’s hand finally moving south to cup her lovely little rear. Napoleon could probably get Illya’s fly for him, Illya could lift her easily and then just--
True to form, Illya seems to have other plans. His mouth has slipped from hers and traveled to the arch of her throat, to her shoulder and collarbone. Napoleon does what he can to help, tugging away the sheet so that Illya has access to more skin - and, not coincidentally, improving Napoleon’s already stellar view. Gaby tips her head back against his shoulder and sighs, looping her arm up around Napoleon’s neck so that she can play with the hair at his nape.
Illya ends up on his knees, Gaby’s leg hooked over his shoulder as he licks past Napoleon’s fingers and into her cunt. “But you-” she says, breath short, pitch high, “Napoleon- oh, Illya, please, ah-!”
Napoleon palms her breast, holding her up as Illya breaks her apart carefully and methodically, once and then again, until her knees tremble and her nails have raised welts on the back of Napoleon’s neck. Illya’s teeth drag against Napoleon’s knuckle, eyes knowing as he looks up, making Napoleon’s vague and pleasantly-diffuse arousal flare and sharpen to a laser focus.
“What were you saying about beds?” Gaby says, twisting to ghost her mouth along Napoleon's jawline.
A thousand thousand options run through Napoleon’s mind, and as he tries to sort through them all, it finally begins to dawn on him just how far in over his head he’s gotten. He’s usually so good about compartmentalizing these things, but Gaby’s so soft and light in his arms and Illya’s so patient and solid at their feet that it feels like an embarrassment of riches.
Even for a man like him, who refuses to believe there’s any shame in getting rich.
Illya’s sitting back on his heels and Gaby’s regained her feet with her usual grace, both looking at him expectantly. “Bed sounds like a marvelous idea,” Napoleon says, giving them a wide grin.
“Oh, Napoleon,” Gaby says, smoothing one hand along the side of his face, a canny light in her eyes. Illya’s fingers hook into the already-sloppy knot in Napoleon’s bathrobe. “It is all right, truly. Isn’t it?” He swallows hard, caught more firmly in the trap he’s inadvertently built for himself than in any of the snares international organizations have repeatedly laid out for him.
Still, he nods. “Good,” Illya says. “Because this is all your fault anyways. But you will like making it up to us, I think, yes?”
“For once, Peril,” Napoleon says, letting his fingertips trace the line of the scar on Illya’s temple, “you might be right.” Gaby laughs, delighted, and leads the way to bed.
-- end --