Solo glanced out into the snow-covered garden and saw a figure.
White shirt under a crème suit, gold bow tie undone and hanging from the open collar, bottle of vodka hanging from loose fingers.
His walk was unsteady, weaving, leaving an odd path of footprints in the newly fallen snow.
Napoleon knew the figure. He smiled to himself and for a minute or two he watched the man's progress.
"Illya." He tasted the name of his partner on his lips. "Tovarisch."
The Russian wandered under one of the garden lamps, the white light picking up golden highlights in his hair until he passed it by.
A smile touched Solo's lips as it started to snow again. If he left Illya out here he would eventually become a snowman.
"Angel," he breathed.
After everything Illya had been through these last few days at the hands of THRUSH, Solo could hardly blame him for drinking a little.
His deceptively slight partner was more than capable of taking care of himself and could hold his own in a fight. But he'd been out-numbered and out-gunned. He'd gone down fighting. On more than one occasion if UNCLE's doctors were telling the truth.
They were trained to fight and if they lost they were trained to endured and deal with the implications, but it didn't always go the way they were trained. Stll, Illya had refused the offer of counseling. If they made it mandatory he still wouldn't go; he was settling for a bottle of pure Russian vodka courtesy of their employer. The least UNCLE could do.
Solo breathed out, watching his breath in the freezing air, then he stepped off the stone patio into the snow-laiden grass. His shoes crunched the thick, cold carpet as he walked to the path, a little ahead of Kuryakin, putting him in the man's way a moment or two later.
"Napoleon." Solo smiled. The Russian's sometimes imperceptible accent was given definition whenever he drank too much. "Not dancing?"
There was a sting in the slightly slurred words, one that made Solo proceed with caution. "I wanted to make certain my partner was all right."
"I don't need babysitting."
"I never said you did."
"Really?" Illya asked flatly.
Napoleon bristled guiltily. He had spotted his partner earlier, seated at one of the tables talking quietly with the Ambassador's aide. He'd intervened, although he wasn't sure what he'd seen to make him do so. There was no threat, no danger to either of them. It was a party for Heaven's sake! But for some reason he'd felt the need to interrupt, to engage Illya in a private conversation, all but shooing the other man away, before abandoning his partner in favour of the Ambassador's beautiful daughter, Bethany.
He didn't know the name of the aide.
"I'm your partner, it's my duty to be concerned about you."
"You appear to be having delusions of..." Illya paused, appeared to think about it, "...of whatever the opposite to 'grandeur' is." Cold blue eyes caught warm chocolate. The slur was gone, the words deadly serious. "I'm not part of your duty tonight, Napoleon."
Solo sighed, this wasn't going the way he'd planned it to. He took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry we weren't faster. I'm sorry we didn't get to you before...."
Illya glanced away but only for a moment. "Leave me alone," he said quietly, resignedly. "Go... dance. Enjoy yourself."
"What about you?"
He chuckled. He raised the bottle in his hand. "I have my Stolichnaya to keep me from becoming lonely."
Usually, Solo would have smiled, nodded and let it go. He would have returned to the party without another word, accepting his partner's request that he be left to his own devices. But tonight he didn't want to let it go. Not yet. Despite that, he wasn't sure what prompted his next question.
"Is it enough?"
"It doesn't seem like I have a choice, does it, Tovarisch?"
Solo processed that. Was his partner referring to the aide?
Not allowing his suspicions to show, he reached into his pocket for the pack of cigarettes he'd bought before leaving Stuttgart for the safety of Geneva. He very rarely smoked but he needed the nicotine hit, wanted the heat of the smoke in his lungs. Holding the short length between his lips he lit the tip, shielding the match in the cup of his hand. Flicking the spent match to the snowy ground, he took a long drag before plucking the cigarette from his lips and breathing out into the chilled air. His eyes widened when his partner reached out.
Illya took the cigarette from Solo, held it between two stiff fingers and sucked the tar into his lungs, breathing deep, exhaling slowly. Solo smiled at the naked pleasure on his partner's face.
"I didn't know you smoked."
"You don't know everything about me."
"I am starting to realise that."
Illya's turn to smile, a slight upturn at the corners of his mouth before he took another drag and handed the cigarette back.
Solo's fingers brushed Illya's freezing cold ones when he took it, putting it between his lips and taking a long breath of nicotine. Glancing up, he shivered slightly in the cold night, catching at the expression on his partner's face, the ice in the blue eyes. He blew out smoke to one side, holding the cigarette away from his body, taking a step forward.
Illya didn't move but he looked away. "I won't be one of your conquests, Napoleon."
The words, so easily spoken, stilled Solo. He honestly didn't know what his intentions had been, but apparently Illya had interrpreted his movements as an advance and he didn't seem phased by the idea, just not interested. So Solo didn't move away because he could work with 'not interested', had done on so many other stupid occasions.
"No, you won't."
He took another step forward, but the Russian shook his head, side-stepped neatly around the taller man and set off again on his wander through the gardens. Rooted to the spot, Solo turned his head and watched his partner weaving gently away from him.
Snow was falling harder now, settling in Illya's hair, on the shoulders of the exquisitely tailored suit, melted on the vodka bottle still hanging from Illya's left hand.
It wasn't that he hadn't considered the idea of he and Illya before, just that the opportunity had never come up. He knew it would be different with Illya; it was impossible to trust his life to someoneon a daily basis and not acquire some deep running feelings along the way. Standing completely still in the snow, he didn't feel the icy night, just an odd sort of warmth in his veins. Now that he'd considered the possibility he couldn't un-consider it. He wanted Illya now. He had no idea how long it was before he called out.
"Illya!" Finally moving, Solo jogged after his partner who had vanished from sight, into an aisle of pine trees. "Wait."
As soon as he was close enough he reached out and caught the his arm in a loose grip. Before he could react, his arm was twisted and locked painfully behind his back and the sharded remains of a broken vodka bottle was being pressed against the vulnerable base of his throat.
"Illya!" This time it was barely a squeak.
He felt the sigh of hot breath against his neck just before the grip was loosened and the threat removed. He heard several bright Russian expletives spat in the softly accented voice and then, "You owe me a bottle of vodka."
Napoleon hesitated before suggesting, "There's a well-stocked bar in my room."
Cool blue eyes assessed him for just a moment before Illya threw back his head and laughed. Solo was stunned. He tried to recall a time when he'd seen such open delight on his partner's usually stoic features and found that he couldn't.
"Does this ever work?" Illya asked when he was able.
"Does what ever work?" Solo responded, unsure whether or not to be offended.
"This strategy, that pick up line." He shook his head, snow falling from his hair. "If you want to take me to bed, Napoleon, just say so. You don't need to seduce me."
Illya's quiet grace had always been able to succeed where his boisterous charm failed.
Napoleon swallowed and stepped forward. "I want to take you to bed."
"We'd better go back to the house." He dropped the broken bottle into the snow and turned, heading slightly uncertainly for the mansion. Napolean watched him go, hesitating now. His usual confidence fleeing him. Different from taking a stranger to bed, Illya was his partner, the man he worked with, depended on him for everything from a lift to work on cold mornings to the chance of seeing the next sunrise on occasion. Illya was the most important person in his life, he already loved him. Was sex going to bring them closer or just it awkward?
"Why do you want to take me to bed?"
He blinked. Illya had stopped and turned, was standing twenty feet from him, looking at him, calling out to him. He called back, "What?"
He didn't have an answer, not a simple one. "I...."
Illya was shaking his head, "Has no one ever asked you that?"
Solo was treated to a wonderful, refreshing laugh and this time the sound that went straight to his dick, fanned out along his nerves and set his body alight with desire.
"How we get your ego through the narrow corridors of HQ, I'll never know," Illya continued as Napolean finally closed the gap between them. "That party's full of women who wouldn't ask, Napasha," Illya pointed out when he reached his side; setting one hand on the snow-covered shoulder, sliding his palm down Illya's arm. "So why are you out here with me and not in there two to share your bed tonight?"
He couldn't answer his partner's question. He didn't know how to say that at that moment it felt like his whole life was aligning itself with *now*, with *this*.
He barely noticed when Illya paused in his steps. He felt his hand taken and he stopped, turned slightly, wondering how he looked and hoping he wouldn't scare his partner.
"Napoleon, it was still only yesterday that you pulled me out of hell. I'm still a little... sore."
The words slammed into Solo like a fist, dousing the fire. "Illya... I'm sorry."
But cold fingers caught his hand and a strong thumb drew a circle in the centre of his palm.
"Don't be sorry. Just be aware."
Napoleon shook his head. "I shouldn't have...." Whatever else he was going to say was forgotten when Illya's lips touched his his own, tentative, unsure. He didn't need to be because Naplolean was instantly lost to it. He grasped at Illya's hand, wrapped one arm around his waist and tried not to seem overwhelmingly possessive as he pressed his tongue into his partner's mouth. His body language was screaming, 'mine!' and Kuryakin wasn't exactly fighting him off. He tasted of vodka and smoke, his lithe body firm against him. Nothing had ever felt like this; this... intense.
If they did this, nothing else was ever going to measure up.
"Napasha... we should take this somewhere less snowy."
Napolean nodded. "If you insist. I was thinking we'd make an interesting snow angel."
Illya didn't even dignify that with an answer.