When they left Italy, they went first to England. Waverley told them that there they would get outfitted and briefed before going on to Istanbul. Solo appreciated getting the chance to rest and heal up first – they were all still battered from the last mission, though all of them tried not to show it when they were travelling together or in public.
After the plane landed, they were met by a large-set man who could have rivaled Illya for muscles. He said he was with logistics and was there to arrange for their housing. As incongruous as it seemed, Solo had seen more extreme contrasts. In this business, you learned never ever to take anything for granted. And it was possible logistics saw more action in the spy business than they would in corporate worlds.
"What sort of housing would you like, Mr. Solo?" the logistics man turned first to him. "5-star hotel, villa, boarding room with wait staff...?"
Solo was amused at the high end offers. He wondered what would have been the choices if the man had turned first to Kuryakin or Gaby. "An apartment. Mid-scale, with a stocked kitchen. King-sized bed. Close to the metro."
Logistics didn't even blink but simply noted it down. "Not a problem. Mr. Kuryakin?"
"Yes," the Red Peril agreed. "That sounds good." He turned to Gaby, "Should be three-bedroom?"
Gaby shook her head with a slight smile. "A zimmer frei sounds good to me. No offense, but I haven't had a night to myself in ages – at least not one without worrying about you two."
Neither had Solo. "I---"
Kuryakin cut him off. "That is settled then. What is address?"
"One moment – I have to check that the place I'm thinking of is cleared first." Logistics started to reach for his radio. The Russian reached out and grabbed his hand.
"The address," Kuryakin said softly. "We can do clearing ourselves."
Solo shut his mouth against another attempt at protest. Maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to let the Red Peril loose in London without supervision. He was also now very curious as to what the Russian was planning.
Logistics was no match for a determined KGB agent, though he didn't back down on everything. Shortly they had a key and an address, and would meet the cleaning crew there.
"I hate cleaners," Kuryakin grumbled. "They leave bugs."
Solo raised his eyebrows at the irony.
"Bugs I leave are fine, because they are mine," Kuryakin responded to the eyebrows.
"Mum hum..." Solo made a sound of agreement that was at least half amusement.
Almost, the Russian cracked a grin at him in return. Not quite, but it was close.
The apartment was nice, pretty much what Solo had specified, and up on the second floor, which Kuryakin seemed to approve of. Up so it wasn't an easy entrance, but not too high that they couldn't get out themselves.
While Kuryakin followed the cleaning crew around and dislodged and returned all their bugs to them, Solo investigated the kitchen and was pleased at the stock. Being tired and not having bought the ingredients himself, he decided to make a simple spaghetti for an early dinner. They hadn’t eaten much at lunch on the flight over. Spaghetti had the advantage in that dried pastas were usually hard to drug. The tomatoes for the sauce were a little more problematic. While he put water on to boil, Solo inspected the tomatoes minutely, not finding any needle marks or obvious tampering signs. He took a chance and nibbled on one of them, figuring that if it was drugged, he would be affected first, giving Illya a chance to react. Not that Solo really thought they were, but it was habit and training, and it didn’t pay to relax too soon. Just because they were told they were safe didn’t mean they really were.
The kitchen had a good view of the living room and while Solo cooked, he watched in amusement as Kuryakin prowled through each and every room, and then spent some time fiddling in all of them. He could hear the front door opening and closing a lot, but he didn't think the Russian was going out.
Then Illya came into the kitchen and Solo tried to decide if he was going to share the space or not. He didn’t necessarily mind people watching while he cooked, but he wasn't sure about it right at that moment – the mission hadn’t had a lot of privacy in it, and cooking was personal for him. It turned out he didn't have to decide, though, as the Russian ignored him completely and went straight to the small window above the table.
Sliding it open, Kuryakin attached a thin wire along the bottom of the screen, then he closed it again. Then he turned a dial on a device he was holding, and opened and closed the window again. When the window was open, the device made a slight pinging sound, like a spoon against a metal pot. When the window was closed, the sound stopped.
Huh. Solo regarded the gadget with a respectful eye.
"Pay attention, Cowboy," Kuryakin said abruptly. Then he went through five different settings on the gadget, each with a different sound to them, and made Solo recite sounds with rooms and entrances until he was sure Solo knew them. In fact, Solo had memorized it on the first round, but he dutifully went through them until the Russian was also satisfied.
"Balcony," Solo identified the noise reminiscent of a bird chirp, but not quite identifiable as a particular bird. "Bedroom A, mine." A sound of rustling, like fabric on clothes. "Front door." A knock, but not one that could be mistaken for a real one. "Bedroom B, yours." Wind howling through trees, though muted. Solo wondered at the significance. He wasn't all that impressed with the one chosen for his, though he supposed there wasn't a lot of experience to draw from yet. Well, okay, Kuryakin had probably had him bugged from the start and might have listened to... maybe it was an appropriate sound after all.
Solo grinned and got out plates. "What about the bathroom?"
The Russian shrugged. "Is too small for person to get through. I blocked instead."
Solo usually liked to have the window open while he was taking a shower so the steam could get out. Oh well. He couldn’t fault the precautions.
Draining out the spaghetti, Solo let it sit for a moment while he finished the sauce. Then he put a generous helping on each plate, and pushed one over to the Russian, offering the sauce in a separate bowl with spoon.
Illya eyed the plate for a long moment, as if undecided to eat or not. Solo didn’t think this was a reflection on his abilities as a cook, but he wasn’t sure. A moment later, when the other agent hungrily dug in, ladling the sauce with a humm of appreciation, Solo decided the first pause didn’t matter. He preened at the unspoken praise, while he more slowly ate his own.
A hungry Russian was through his portion and seconds before Solo had even eaten a third of his own. When he was done, Kuryakin took his plate to the sink and washed it carefully, dutifully putting it in the dish rack to drain. Somebody had obviously trained him well. Or he was so used to being on his own it was automatic. If he was completely on his own, though, would he be so destructive towards furniture? That was usually more of a habit of somebody who expected it to be replaced without question. Though destroying things was probably better than destroying people, when an episode hit. When you weighed the risks. And maybe the KGB had a budget specifically for replacing furniture for their agent. Their problem, after all. Or docked his pay? Did communists even get pay, or was it in compensations?
“Are you going out?” Kuryakin interrupted Solo’s thoughts with his abrupt question.
Solo considered it, but shook his head. He was much more interested in seeing what his partner’s plans were. London would still be there the next day. “Would you like to play some chess?” He himself wasn’t on the same expert level, but he did know his way around the board. It would be interesting to see how the agent played against him. Chess was often not about winning, but about learning your opponent and predicting what they would do.
Illya shook his head. “I will be in bed. Two rules.” He pointed at his bedroom door. “That stays open, always, unless I close it. And you do not sleep with me.”
With those rules proclaimed, he went straight to his room, taking off his jacket as he walked.
Solo raised his eyebrows. Well. A lesser man might take that as a challenge.
Oh, who was he kidding, it was definitely a challenge.
With a grin, Solo went back to his spaghetti, contemplating when the right approach might be. He hadn’t expected that from his mission partner, but he wasn’t averse to it. The Russian had tempted him from the start, but he’d known better than to approach an unknown, dangerous quantity like that.
It was still probably dangerous, but that would just make things more interesting.
Finishing the rest of his dinner, Solo washed his own dish and the pot, trying to keep the noises down. Though if Illya wanted quiet, he probably should have shut his door. Pouring himself a glass of white wine that he should have had with dinner but had been distracted, Solo slipped off his shoes and padded over to the Russian’s bedroom. He stood in the doorway, taking in the scene and sipping the gentle Riesling. The lights in the room were turned off, leaving the main lighting coming in from the doorway and around the curtains of the window. Not a lot, but enough for Napoloeon to make out general details.
Despite how early in the evening it was, Illya was definitely sleeping, his breath even and soft, his body relaxed. Napoleon had never seen him so relaxed, pretty much ever. Though even at that, the Russian was still defensive, curled into a corner of his king-sized bed and taking a ridiculously little amount of room for such a large man. His hands were curled into the covers, his feet poking out from the ends. From the bare arms and bare ankles, it rather looked like Illya wasn’t wearing much. During the mission, he’d worn pajamas. That might have been an artifact of the role with his pseudo-fiancé in the room.
If Gaby had taken Kuryakin up on the three bedroom apartment, Napoleon wondered if Illya would be doing this now. He wasn’t sure. The dynamic with Gaby was different than the one between them. He and Illya were more accepting of their general physical attractions and good at mostly ignoring it, while the smoldering thing Illya and Gaby had was more in the realm of crushes and feelings. Napoleon and Gaby mostly simply acknowledged that the other was a beautiful person and that there could be some fun there, but then moving past it for the job.
It may not be a wise thing to mix friendships and partnerships with sex, but this was a challenge that Napoleon didn’t feel like passing up. If they hadn’t been partners, Napoleon would have given it a try some time ago. Well, maybe. He would have had to have been sure Kuryakin wouldn’t kill him first, and he hadn’t been sure about that until the end of their mission together, which meant they had to be partners. Catch-22.
Napoleon had quite liked the new book that had recently come out – Heller had a way of getting to the root of a lot of the military’s problems and his satirical bent was something Napoleon appreciated. Napoleon had never been so glad to get out of an organization and had bitterly regretted his youthful patriotic impulse to join. Well, it had been join or be drafted, and joining was supposed to have been easier. It certainly hadn’t made his CIA tour any easier. No, okay, getting out of the Army wasn’t nearly the relief as he was sure he would feel if he ever got out of the CIA. Or was he out now? Technically, he was just on loan. Where did that leave him in his 15 year tour of duty, 10 years in? Even the army had asked for less.
Draining the last of the wine in the glass, Napoleon wondered if this new UNCLE group was going to be any different. He feared not, even if they were leaving a good team together (something that never happened in the military or the CIA) and had Waverly as the boss. He still wasn’t sure about Waverly – there was steel and ruthless efficiency under the polite British exterior.
Napoleon might as well try and get some enjoyment out of this UNCLE assignment while he could. And Illya was definitely something to enjoy.
Retreating quietly from the doorway, Napoleon went to his room and got ready for bed. He wasn’t tired, but still went through the usual process of teeth and face and other ablutions. He ran a finger over his chin and wondered if he should shave too. Evening was usually too soon for a smooth shave when there had been a morning one, but stubble burn was never fun. Well, okay, it was fun, but it left marks, and that wasn’t good, particularly if they were starting on a mission soon. He added that to his preparations, careful to use lotion and only a smidgen of after-shave scent. He’d noticed that Illya didn’t use any cologne himself and had wrinkled his nose in the past when Napoleon had come out after more liberal usage.
Slipping a robe on over pretty much nothing else, Napoleon padded quietly back to Illya’s room. Again, he stood in the doorway and watched. The Russian hadn’t moved in that whole time. Still curled in that ridiculously cute manner, still taking less room than he should. Napoleon would have to see just how much more room the two of them together could take.
Napoleon casually but silently walked to the far side of the bed and hesitated only one moment more. Then, still wearing the robe, he slid beneath the covers and made his way over to Illya’s side.
He stared for a moment more in the dim lighting at the bare shoulders and upper back. So close. So delicious. So strong. With his eyes, he traced from the shoulder down an arm that was on top of the covers, down to the hand half-curled in the covers. Those muscles that could tear the boot lid off a moving car, and hold Napoleon in a secure headlock, and throw a motorcycle at a villain about to shoot Napoleon. Napoleon had been wanting to touch them for days, given the chance. He hadn’t really thought he’d be given the chance and he wasn’t about to pass it up now.
Carefully, Napoleon reached out to stroke Illya’s shoulder. It was a move he’d used often in the past, one designed to let the sleeping paramour know that another was there without frightening them, a guide from sleepiness into hungry wakening.
Then… blinding pain, centering in the middle of his face, with a secondary pain radiating from his wrist and arm. Before he had time to process or retaliate, Napoleon was flat on the bed with a large body over him, and a glint of metal coming towards his throat. He let out a croak and tried to get his hand not being held down between him and the knife.
“Solo?” Illya halted the knife half-way down and stared at him for a baffled long moment while Napoleon gathered his breath. For some reason, though, it was still very hard to breathe.
“What…” Illya broke off his bafflement and he changed his grip on Napoleon’s wrist to one on his shoulder and both got off Napoleon and hauled him so he was sitting upright, propped against the headboards. The knife flashed, a pillow was murdered, and in the flying feathers that then floated around them, Illya crumpled the cloth he’d made and held it to Napoleon’s nose, bringing Napoleon’s hand up to it. “Put pressure on,” he ordered, and then crawled off the bed.
Napoleon had been right. The Russian hadn’t been wearing much to bed. Nothing, in fact, except his birthday suit. Despite the pain in his nose and the feel of blood running down his face, Napoleon had to admire the backside that was walking away from him. Even in the dim lighting, he could see firm taunt buttocks, moving smoothly with every step. As Illya disappeared through the doorway, Napoleon gave a wistful sigh of admiration, then tilted his head up and held the cloth tighter.
Somehow, he’d misread that one.
Illya was back within moments, a first aid kit in his hands. Without bothering to turn on the light, he opened it and then dumped the contents out on the bed. He grabbed a couple of the tight-weave cotton strips and turned to Napoleon, pausing as he saw him.
“No.” Illya put a large hand on the top of Napoleon’s head and gently but firmly tilted his head down. “Not up. Up has blood in lungs. What they teach in America?”
Napoleon would have defended his country, but it was a little hard to talk. He’d save the effort for later.
Once Napoleon’s head was at an angle Illya approved of, he pulled the cloth Napoleon had been holding away. A fresh stream of blood started down his face and Napoleon had to struggle against his instincts not to tilt his head up again. His robe was probably splattered with it by now. If he could get the robe into cold water quickly enough, the stains wouldn’t set. Before the blood flow got too bad, Illya put the cotton strips in his nostrils, one for each, and then made a new cloth for Napoleon to hold.
“Pressure,” Illya ordered again, then strode off again.
It was worth every bit of pain for the view. Illya apparently didn’t think that three seconds to put on a robe was something that needed doing.
Glancing around, Napoleon didn’t even see a robe. Clothes tossed carelessly on a chair in the corner and on the ground next to it, yes, but nothing like his own. Come to think of it, Gaby hadn’t mentioned it either. Pajamas, yes. But not a robe. Napoleon personally found them very handy for moments like these. He was glad, however, that Illya didn’t.
There was the sound of things being destroyed in the other room. Napoleon winced. He hadn’t realized that Peril was angry. He hadn’t seemed angry. And when he walked in again, he didn’t look angry. Concerned, more. Though it was hard to tell in the dim lighting with the Russian’s back to the door.
That was remedied as Kuryakin turned the light on.
It still looked more like concern.
With the light, Napoleon could see more of the large body as well, and he grimaced, kicking himself mentally. He hadn’t really considered how beat up the three of them had gotten at the end, there, and seeing Illya naked showed just how much the Russian was covered in bruises. All of which had been hidden by the long-sleeved turtleneck and slacks that he’d been wearing before, but now showed up in different hues of blue, light colors right now, but probably would be deepening as the days turned them to blacks and purples. Fine time to plan a seduction, when every touch would hurt.
Illya came back to the bed and sat down next to Napoleon, placing a few more things on the sheets next to them. “Hold still,” he murmured and then placed one hand on the side of Napoleon’s face to steady him, and with the other wiped a warm damp cloth over Napoleon’s mouth and chin, repeating until Napoleon couldn’t taste blood anymore. He dropped that cloth down and picked up another, gently getting all the areas not currently covered by the one Napoleon was still holding to his nose.
For such a dangerous man, Illya had very gentle hands.
Napoleon had noticed that before, back when the other agent had rescued him from Uncle Rudi.
He’d been holding on by a thread when he’d seen the guard fall, and the hope that had shot through him had nearly felt like one of the electrical shocks. Seeing his Red Peril looking back at him had been relaxation like he’d never experienced. He could trust the KGB agent to take care of Rudi, he didn’t have to do it himself somehow. He’d been trying to work on shorting out the machine again so that Rudi would become careless in approaching him, but he hadn’t had much luck on it. The pain had kept him from thinking too much, and he’d been too securely fastened.
When Kuryakin came in, other than the first greeting to Napoleon, he’d ignored him for awhile in favor of tying Uncle Rudi to the desk chair and making sure the man was nowhere near any instruments or buttons or switches. Then he’d found a large cloth, probably a dustcover for one of the machines, and had thrown it over Rudi’s head, tying a rope around his neck to hold it there. At the time, Napoleon hadn’t seen the point.
He’d been using the delay, though, to rest, to gather his energy back to him and to think about next steps, like standing and moving. It was a discipline, to be able to move after being hurt so badly, and one he’d practiced many a time.
Illya had taken his time with freeing him, unstrapping his hands carefully, not putting extra pressure on Napoleon when he could avoid it. When he took the helmet off, Illya had paused, then reached in his pocket and brought out a handkerchief, incongruously white and clean in that setting. He’d reached it to his mouth, then gently wiped the area under Napoleon’s nose, bringing back a red-stained cloth. Napoleon hadn’t realized until then that he’d been bleeding. All of him was moist from sweat, and yes, tears as well. He probably smelled bad too, with fear and pain stink. But in the midst of all that, the Russian had stopped to wipe away the blood. Gentle strokes and a level of caring that Napoleon hadn’t anticipated.
It had stolen away some of Napoleon’s discipline, and when the Russian had helped him to stand, he’d nearly fallen, weak in his limbs and hating it. Illya had gathered him in and held him with a steady hand, tucked alongside his strong body and waiting. Didn’t say a word, just waited.
Napoleon hated showing weakness. He had glanced at Rudi, not wanting the enemy to see. In that moment, he’d realized what the cloth over the head was for. So Rudi wouldn’t see this. See any of this, as Napoleon’s weakness became manifest, as the pain had probably shown in his face, even as he was being freed. Illya hadn’t made a sound while he’d been freeing the other agent, and Napoleon had tried to keep his own quiet and muffled when sound was inevitable. Rudi had nothing, nothing at all, to take any enjoyment in. It wasn’t something Napoleon would have thought of doing, in the moment. He was eternally grateful to his partner for it.
Noticing that had given him strength, and a determination to be the top agent again. This time with a partner who knew how to balance him. As he’d let go of the Red Peril, and moved to stand on his own, he’d gotten one of Illya’s rare smiles, an approving look, with satisfaction in his gaze. Then Illya had reached out and wiped under Napoleon’s nose again, cleaning another trickle of blood.
“Foolish one,” Illya grumbled as he cleaned Napoleon’s face in the here and now. “What was that? Hold this.”
Napoleon yipped slightly as a cold, cold cloth suddenly was placed on his tender nose. He reached his other hand up and brushed Illya’s hand as he let go. It wasn’t just cloth, it was a small bag of ice chips. But they didn’t have any ice chips in the refrigerator – only regular cubes. Suddenly, he remembered the sounds of destruction outside the room. Destruction with a purpose, it seemed.
Illya took the other cloth Napoleon had been holding under his nose and tossed it away. He tilted Napoleon’s head from side to side, looking him over. “Bleeding is stopped. Leave … bandage in.”
Napoleon had the impression Illya had been reaching for a different word and hadn’t found it. His accent was a lot thicker than normal. Experimentally, Napoleon took a deeper breath through his mouth and enjoyed the extra oxygen – he’d been breathing shallowly so not to jar his nose. “Is it broken?” It was really hard to talk when things were stuffed up your nostrils. He swallowed and grimaced at the metallic taste of blood.
Moving the ice bag, and Napoleon’s hand with it, Illya gently ran a light finger over the top of Napoleon’s nose, then again along the sides. It hurt, but everything did. Napoleon endured and raised an eyebrow as the Russian settled back finally.
“No. Your good looks resume after heal. Hopeful swelling not interfere with mission.”
Mission. Right. And a busted nose and bruising that was sure to come up wasn’t inconspicuous at all. Napoleon sighed as he put the ice back on. That probably hadn’t been his smartest move. “Women love the rugged men.”
Illya snorted and then turned to clean up the first aid kit he’d dumped and the other odds and ends. “Was stupid, Cowboy. Told you not to sleep my bed.”
Napoleon shrugged, slightly embarrassed. “You did. I’m sorry.”
Frowning, Illya sat on the bed and ran his eyes over Napoleon. Then his eyebrows shot up and he leaned in to sniff at Napoleon’s neck. He lightly touched Napoleon’s chin.
Napoleon was hard pressed not to react in what were apparently now inappropriate ways. He’d so been hoping… He swallowed.
“Bed. Sleep. An idiom??? You get yourself killed for idiom?” Illya’s voice rose.
Illya might sometimes lose his sentence structures and the little extra words like ‘the’ and ‘an’ and verb modifiers, but his vocabulary was spot-on. Napoleon had noticed with other smart foreign speakers – that they were usually taught better than the native speakers, and just had issues with the extra parts that clothed the words in fancy dress.
“Didn’t get myself killed,” Napoleon grinned, his natural playfulness coming out with a partner who he could spar with.
The glare he got in return could have killed if the Russian really had been super-human.
“Idiot Cowboy. You can have that any time. Just not when I sleep.
Napoleon blinked, wondering if he parsed that one correctly. And he really, really couldn’t help where his mind went to with the image. He swallowed. Then, because he couldn’t help pushing it, he said in Russian, “Anytime, my friend?”
Illya tilted his head to one side, surprised. Then he nodded and replied in Russian. “I forgot that languages were included in your skills. Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, and Japanese, were they?”
“Languages of lovers and enemies,” Napoleon replied in English, wanting to get the flavor of the sentence. Usually, it was easier to understand a language than to speak it.
“Lovers and enemies,” Illya repeated softly in his own language. “You live dangerously.”
“Always.” Napoleon was on familiar ground here, his confidence gaining. If he could just keep the Russian intrigued long enough…
Illya leaned in and kissed Napoleon’s cheek where his hand and the ice bag wasn’t in the way. Then he ruffled Napoleon’s hair and stood up again. “You have rotten timing, Cowboy. Don’t forget to check for alarms before you try opening safes.”
Napoleon winced. He was never going to live that one down. Then he looked curiously as Illya cleaned up the bed from the first aid kit (carefully placed on the dresser), torn pillow (tossed in a corner), knife (replaced under the other pillow), and some of the bits from the flurry. He was completely confident in his nudity and not in the least trying to hide from Napoleon’s avid gaze. “You’re… okay with men?” Napoleon asked, wanting to know.
With a look of surprise, Illya turned to face him. Napoleon’s eyes dropped down, but, sadly, there didn’t seem to be any activity that would support interest down there. “You ask this now? After coming into my bed while I was asleep… now you ask this?”
Napoleon shrugged. “It was a challenge.”
Illya snorted. “I was serious. Not a good idea to sleep with me, and I was tired.” He yawned. “Still am tired.” Given permission on the languages, Illya was drifting between Russian and English in his speaking, staying more with English, but going into Russian apparently for better words or sentences.
Now that the ‘emergency’ of taking care of Napoleon was over, Illya really did look tired too. More-so than when they had been eating in the kitchen. Napoleon thought that earlier Illya had been still on the mode of hiding his weaknesses, but perhaps now didn’t bother. He was still trying to figure out the open door, though. If Illya had really wanted to sleep, it would seem to make more sense to close it.
“You’re too good to mistake words, Napoleon.” Illya stood by the bed and looked sternly at him.
The accent that the Russian flavor gave to his name made it sound… different. Napoleon thought about protesting the use – he generally hated his first name in the mouths of others. But the last person who had called him that was Victoria, and Illya’s voice was very different than her’s. Maybe he’d ignore it. Just this once.
“I was… curious,” Napoleon admitted. Yes, he’d known. He’d also known he wasn’t going to get killed. Illya would never have left the door open if he seriously had thought that was a possibility.
Illya yawned again, his stern face relaxing. “Your country has a saying about that…”
“It’s British. But satisfaction brought him back - that’s American.”
With a little huff that was almost laughter, Illya gave in. He walked to the other side of the bed and eyed Napoleon for a long moment. Then he crawled in, hiding most of his delicious body under the covers. “Men are easy. They just want sex. Women want feelings, they are harder.” He paused. “Some men want feelings, some women want sex. But mostly… men are easy.”
True enough. Napoleon had often thought the same. Women were more of a challenge, usually, to get them not only into bed but also to be okay with it afterwards when he left.
He started to lie down as well, but was stopped by a large hand. “Stay upright until swelling is down.”
With a sigh, Napoleon resettled himself, sitting against the backboard. Illya was right, darn it. “Anytime?” He asked again, hopefully.
Illya tilted his head back and laughed. The sound echoed though the room and Napoleon thought he could listen to it forever.
“Yes, you terrible spy.” Then he yawned again. “Just not tonight.” He moved over until he could place his head on Napoleon’s leg, laying almost diagonal in the bed. “When I fall asleep, you leave. I’m sure you’re used to that.” There was a slight barb on the end, but it seemed more teasing. He was still mixing languages as well, alternating his sentences with English and Russian. More of the Russian was drifting in. Napoleon had no problems with it, particularly if it made things easier.
Usually for different reasons, but yes, Napoleon was fairly good at gauging when it was safe to leave a bed. He put his free hand in Illya’s hair, stroking through the blonde strands. “There’s blood all over this bed.”
Illya shrugged, the movement shifting him over Napoleon’s lap. “Not much. I’ve slept in worse.” He closed his eyes.
It was still fairly early, comparatively speaking. Normally bed wouldn’t be for hours, and Napoleon certainly wasn’t tired yet. There was no denying that Illya was, though. “When did you last sleep?”
“Last night, on the carrier,” Illya replied in Russian without opening his eyes.
That was right. After Waverly had picked them up to plan for the assault, and they’d decided on a post-midnight raid, thinking they had plenty of time before the drop-off, not knowing the bomb had already left the island with Victoria, Napoleon and Illya had bunked down in the cramped crew quarters of the carrier. They’d both slept some, knowing they would have to be ready for the assault, but it had been four hours at the most, and Napoleon hadn’t noticed how well or not the Russian had been sleeping.
“How about before that?”
Illya opened his eyes and stared up at Napoleon, a wry look on his face. “I think, what you’re asking, is for a review of my nights.”
He held up a hand with four fingers up and folded one down. “First night, I stood for five hours in the middle of a minefield where a certain American agent had dropped me.”
“There were no mines there!” Napoleon protested. “I checked before I dropped you.”
“I had wondered if you knew that,” Kuryakin said softly, the KGB very much back in his voice again. “It is slightly disturbing that you know that as well.”
Well, that explained why the Russian had been so pissed at him the next morning. Beyond just losing Gaby. Napoleon shrugged. “If anything had gone wrong, I might have been the one in the middle of the mines. I usually like to know my path through the mazes – it’s a lot like safe cracking. From where you were, you could have just walked out.”
Illya glared at him. “I knew that. You somehow knew what you shouldn’t. The people watching did not know that, and could not be allowed to know that. Even that much of the path would be noted and mapped and told and word spread… some fools would believe there were no mines at all and try to walk straight through – they do that sometimes anyhow.”
Napoleon shuddered. He hated mines. He also hated a country that would put a mine field around half of a country and kill them rather than let them go. But that was war. He’d seen enough of that, on both sides, to have no illusions. The Nazi camps he’d seen as part of the clean-up had been unthinkable in their atrocities. If nothing else, the Russians had helped put a stop to that.
“I had to stand there,” Kuryakin was continuing on, unaware of the turn Napoleon’s thoughts had taken, “while the police I had beaten up mocked me, the people in the apartments stared at me, my fellow KGB took their time to punish me, and a big production was made of how very, very hard it was to get a person out of the mines, even if they happened not to be standing on a mine directly.”
Yes, it was pretty obvious now why the Russian had attacked him in the bathroom when they saw each other. Napoleon shrugged, slightly ashamed, but mostly unrepentant. At the time, it had gotten them out.
“Nobody had ever defeated me like that before,” Illya’s eyes were distant, staring up at the ceiling.
“Nobody?” Napoleon couldn’t help asking.
Illya’s eyes flicked to him. “Like that. I have failed before, but those were my failures, not being out-maneuvered by rogue cowboys.”
Napoleon preened a bit. Then he decided to return the compliment. “They told me it was a simple extraction. I hadn’t counted on you. You were completely unexpected, and better than I’ve encountered before. When the CIA captured me, it was a fluke. You almost did it with no luck involved.”
“Um,” Illya’s gaze was steady on him now, an upside down evaluation. “Someday, I will hear that tale.”
It wasn’t a particularly glorious one, but Napoleon agreed, “Someday.” He stroked through Illya’s hair, returning them to the here and now. They had come a long ways from that first night of trying to kill each other.
Illya held up his hand and folded down a second finger. “Next night, Gaby pulled little stunt.” Illya grimaced. “That left me too wound up and worried to sleep. Plus, still had to plant bugs in your room.”
Napoleon’s hand stilled. “You planted them that night?”
Another shrug produced the delightful shifting across Napoleon’s legs again. “Chop Shop was with me all other times. I presume you planted yours earlier, after we’d gone out. But I had no other time to myself.”
“How did you not wake me?” Napoleon was generally a light sleeper himself, and he’d had company that night.
“You weren’t sleeping,” Illya said smugly.
Napoleon’s eyebrows crawled up off his head. “You… while we…”
Illya quirked a grin. “You were distracted.”
“That was a lucky break for you – if the hotel clerk hadn’t…” Napoleon paused, thinking about it.
Illya’s grin got broader. “It wasn’t a very hard thing to persuade her to do. You had intrigued her earlier.”
Napoleon was almost ashamed of himself. He really had thought the desk clerk had been doing it just for the fun. Though there had been the bit with the shoes the next morning… the shoes, which he’d missed the trackers in. Okay, the Russian really was good.
“The next night,” Illya moved on. Then he paused and brought his hand down, staring at it. “I drowned. You rescued me.” He lightly touched the hand that Napoleon still had in his hair. “Thank you.”
Moving the bag of ice to the nightstand, Napoleon reached his other hand down to touch the side of Illya’s face. Illya shivered at the cold hand, but stayed still, simply swallowing as he looked up at Napoleon.
“It had been my fault, with the alarm,” Napoleon said softly. “I wasn’t going to leave you there to pay for my mistake.”
Illya turned his head slightly and kissed the palm of Napoleon’s hand.
Napoleon shivered. He wanted so badly to just curl himself around Illya right now and to hold him until they both came…
“I spent rest of night coughing up sea water and drinking hot tea to soothe throat and not catch cold.”
Way to kill the mood. Though it still made Napoleon want to cuddle him.
“You did not get much sleep yourself, that night,” Illya observed wryly.
He hadn’t. But then he’d been drugged the next morning, so he supposed that made up for some of it. And that brought them to the carrier and the night raid on the island again.
Illya reached up to place a hand on the middle of Napoleon’s chest. “How are you? After the chair.” His hand was right over Napoleon’s heart.
Honesty was the only response possible. “Bruised. I feel bruised literally all over. Inside out, fried and hurting. It surprises me when I look in the mirror and don’t see black and blue over my skin, like on yours.”
The Russian had been close enough to overhear what the British medic had been telling Napoleon, hadn’t he? Either that, or he was simply familiar with the after affects of electric shocks, which was entirely possible, if somewhat disturbing. It was Napoleon’s turn to shrug. “So far, so good. I’ve been monitoring. Not a good thing to collapse in the middle of a mission.” He had no desire to let down his partners in such an ignoble fashion.
“Good.” Illya brought his hand down again, as he let his eyes shut. “That’s good, Cowboy. Sleep now?”
Napoleon stroked his hands through the soft blonde hair. “Sleep, Peril. I’ll watch.” He’d figured out what the open door was for, finally. Because Illya trusted him to be on guard as he slept, and a line of defense and reassurance that he could let himself go. If he’d been in a room by himself, he wouldn’t have slept so well.
Which did lead to one last question, actually. “If Gaby had come with us, what would you have done?”
Illya’s eyes popped open and he looked seriously up at Napoleon for a long moment before replying. “Shut my door and put another alarm along it.”
That’s what Napoleon had thought. They both liked the German girl, but her sleeper agent status had left them both with some misgivings. This next mission would probably work those out, but they needed the time to work them through.
What was more amazing was the two of them now. But a few life-savings between them and mutual destruction of top secret information… it was the right thing, now.
“Sleep, Illya,” Napoleon repeated.
“That’s what I keep trying to do,” Illya muttered. Then he closed his eyes again and turned his body so he was facing in towards Napoleon, slipping his head off Napoleon’s leg, but leaving his face turned in to him. He brought the upper hand to rest on Napoleon’s leg, clutching the robe material as he had the cover earlier. Then, just like that, he was asleep.
Napoleon swallowed at the level of trust that had to be there for the Russian agent to do something like that. Though he had to admit, he felt the same. After Illya had come back for him… Nobody had ever come back for him before, not even during the war.
He stroked the soft hair gently, and waited. He waited until that moment when sleep turned to deep sleep and instincts were stronger than the mind. Then he waited just a bit more, reluctant to leave. Finally, though, he slipped out of the bed, using all his stealth not to disturb his Red Peril.
This night, at least the rest of this night, nothing else would disturb Illya. Napoleon would make sure of that.
And then, later, they could get to some ‘anytime’s.
Cheerfully, Napoleon turned off the light and went to get some more ice for his nose.