Napoleon took a deep breath and willed his breathing to slow down. His heart rate gradually slowed its frantic pace and the sweat began to cool on his skin. He loved this feeling, this sense of deep satisfaction, the all-consuming ache in his muscles – and other places – that left him drowsy and fulfilled.
Sex with Illya was the most satisfying, most rewarding of all. Those other encounters with nameless partners paled into irrelevance compared to Peril. Seeing Illya so… wanton, so unbridled, gave him a hard on that only subsided after a long bout of intense, electrifying sex.
In times of introspection, Napoleon often wondered why he bothered pursuing others. With Peril, he had everything he needed right here in this bed. But deep down, he knew why. He knew, but refused to acknowledge it. Refused to consider it.
He reached out to touch, but Illya was sliding out of the bed. Napoleon rolled over, watching as Illya strapped his father’s watch to his wrist. Not a good sign.
“Where are you going? We don’t have to be out for another two hours.”
“Back to my apartment,” Illya said, over his shoulder.
“This was last time.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Napoleon had been too busy watching Illya’s muscular backside disappearing into his shorts to be paying attention.
“I said this was last time. The sex.” Illya sat, pulling on his pants as he glanced over his shoulder at Napoleon. “We discussed this last night.”
The last time? Puzzled, Napoleon shook his head. “I don’t remember having any such discussion.”
“In the shower. I told you we had to stop doing this.”
“I thought you meant showering together. And there was no discussion,” Napoleon insisted.
“That’s because you never listen to anything I say.” Illya stood, fastening the buckle on his belt before picking up his shirt. He slipped his arms through the sleeves and buttoned the shirt without looking up. “This was last time.”
“You don’t mean that.”
Napoleon threw back the covers and slipped out of the bed, crowding Illya. “Don’t I get a say in this? Tell me why? What did I do?”
“It’s not you.” Illya did look up this time. His features softened. “Your friendship is important to me, Cowboy. I do not want to lose it.”
Napoleon frowned, wondering where Illya was going with this. “And to me, also.”
“That’s why this has to end. We have to stop. Before things become… complicated. We have talked about this in the past.”
That was true. Illya had frequently voiced his concerns over the physical side of their partnership. Should they be discovered, things could become difficult for them, especially for Illya. But each time Illya had said they should stop, Napoleon had used all his considerable powers of seduction to get him back into bed.
“What about me? What about what I want?” Napoleon asked.
Illya picked up his jacket. “You do not need me. You have your little black book.”
Napoleon made no secret of his little address book. In fact, he’d often waved it in Illya’s face – a proud record of his conquests. “You don’t mean it. You want this as much as I do.”
Illya glowered at him. “This was last time. In future, do not offer me massage, do not try to get me drunk, do not disrobe like harem girl in front of me. Your tricks will not work.”
“Harem girl? Illya—“
“Napoleon,” Illya replied, echoing Napoleon’s use of his name. He softened his tone. “It is best this way.”
Napoleon said nothing more as Illya left, leaving a disgruntled Napoleon with his hands on his hips, staring at the door. Illya didn’t mean it. They’d had this conversation before and he always managed to coax his friend back between the sheets.
Still. That slamming door had the sound of finality to it.
Four days later the three of them were called away to Rockford, Illinois, to retrieve stolen plans for a new laser-guided weapon. The task had been ridiculously easy and the documents returned to the department they came from, leaving the three agents with a weekend free before returning to New York.
Napoleon had already found himself a date for the night - the hotel receptionist, Imogen - and was currently hogging the bathroom. Illya had found a book store nearby and was ensconced in the comfiest chair in their shared hotel room, long legs propped up on the coffee table, and a book balanced in his lap.
The door flew open and Gaby bustled in, her coat half way off as she headed to her bedroom. “Don’t mind me,” she said over her shoulder. “Just need a quick change, then I’m out of here.”
Napoleon, in the middle of his ablutions came to the bathroom door, his hair still wet from the shower and a towel wrapped around his hips for modesty. “You have a date, Miss Teller?”
Gaby came back out of her room, wearing a different jacket and hopping on one leg as she tried to put on a sling-back shoe. “I do, Mr Solo. Charles has invited me to dinner. He’s waiting downstairs, so I’m in a hurry.”
Illya looked up from his book, a frown on his face. “Charles Broughton? From Chicago office?”
Gaby rolled her eyes. “The same.”
Illya dropped his book in his lap. “I do not trust him.”
“He’s an U.N.C.L.E. agent,” Gaby replied, running her fingers through her hair.
“His eyes are too close together,” Illya protested. “And he looks at you like you are juicy bone and he is starving dog.”
Gaby’s hands went to her hips. “You really know how to compliment a girl, don’t you?”
Napoleon stepped further into the room. “What our Russian friend, here, is trying to say so inelegantly is that Agent Broughton has a reputation with the ladies. Peril’s concerned for your virtue.”
“Really? Well, my virtue is not up for discussion. Perhaps you’d prefer I wear a chastity belt when I go out?”
“That would be acceptable,” Illya replied, archly.
Despite herself, Gaby smiled. There was something reassuring about the two men in her life caring so much for her well-being. Even if they did act like two Victorian fathers, at times. She spun on her heels, picked up her bag and as she exited the room, called, “Don’t wait up.”
The door closed behind her and Napoleon wandered casually up behind Illya, leaning his arms along the back of the chair, his chin almost touching the top of Illya’s head. “What are you reading?”
In answer, Illya flipped the book over so Napoleon could read the title. “Nonlinear Oscillations, Dynamical Systems, and Bifurcations of Vector Fields. Hm. Sounds interesting,” he said, the sarcasm clear in his tone.
“It is informative,” Illya replied, flipping the book back over. He smoothed the page down with one long finger.
“You should read it at bedtime, help you get to sleep.”
“I don’t need help to sleep.”
“If you say so. I could feel myself nodding off half way through the title.” He looked down at the blond head and rubbed his chin across Illya’s scalp, cat-like, as he slid his hands over Illya’s shoulders and caressed his chest. “Now, if you’re looking for something really interesting…”
Illya pulled away, turned to look at him with disgust. “Really? You’re meeting a woman in one hour and you’re propositioning me?”
Napoleon’s eyebrows rose comically. “We can do a lot in an hour.”
Illya sat back. “You’re disgusting.”
Napoleon sighed dramatically. “I’ll take that as a ‘no’, then, shall I?” Illya’s arm flew backwards, hitting Napoleon on the head with the book. “Ow!” He rubbed at his head as he walked back to the bathroom, glancing over his shoulder at his friend. Illya had gone back to reading his book. There’d be no coaxing him into a quickie tonight.
He went back to the bathroom, finished brushing his teeth while he regarded his reflection. Since Illya’s unilateral decision to end their physical relationship, this had been Napoleon’s third attempt to entice him. It was a blow to his ego that Illya could resist so easily. Could it be that Peril no longer found him attractive? Modesty aside, he knew his looks were well above average. He wasn’t immune to the appreciative stares from females. And males. So what was Peril’s problem?
He couldn’t believe Peril was serious about calling an end to their love-making. Peril’s argument that it interfered with their friendship just didn’t wash. It had become an integral part of their partnership, a release of sorts after – and sometimes during – assignments. Frankly, Napoleon looked forward to their liaisons. Peril was… addictive.
Well, it was Peril’s loss. Napoleon would play it cool, for now. See how long Peril could last without him.
Thirty minutes later, Napoleon exited their shared bedroom, looking well-groomed and suave. He looked over at Illya, who hadn’t moved since he’d started reading. Napoleon disliked being ignored. “How do I look?” he asked, searching for compliments.
“Immaculate,” Illya replied without looking up.
“You haven’t even looked,” Napoleon complained.
Illya looked up, his expression soft and affectionate. “I don’t need to, Cowboy. You always look immaculate.”
Napoleon felt his tongue stick to the roof of his mouth, unable to reply. Illya’s gentle praise left him speechless, unable to respond until Illya turned back to his book. All Napoleon could say was, “Thank you.” He moved reluctantly to the door and hovered there. “Well. I’m off out.”
Illya continued to read his book. “Try to be quiet when you get back. I’ll probably be in bed.”
Napoleon continued to linger. He glanced at the door, then back at Illya, as if undecided what to do. “You could come with me? Imogen has a friend--”
Illya looked up. “Thank you, no. I have my book.”
Napoleon shoved his hands in his pockets. “Not as much fun.”
“Matter of opinion,” Illya muttered.
Imogen was beautiful. Dusky skin, eyes the color of coffee and hair as black and glossy as a raven’s wing. And, Napoleon thought ruefully, she apparently had more than one pair of hands, judging by the way so many of them seemed to be gliding over every inch of his body.
Imogen could never be described as shy and retiring. In his experience, most women usually needed to be wooed and coaxed into bed. Imogen had made it plain from the first that she wasn’t interested in stimulating conversation, but stimulating physical contact. She had practically devoured him orally during the cab ride, and the door to her apartment had barely closed behind them before she was pulling at his clothes. They were both naked and wresting on top of her bed in the space of ten minutes.
She slid down his body, her mouth descending the length of his cock till it almost touched the back of her throat, her hand wrapped around the base to prevent it going further. He closed his eyes, relishing the contact, thinking how adept Peril was at this act, how he would swallow him to the root, humming as he did, the vibration making it almost too much to endure.
He shook his head. He should be concentrating on his current bed mate, not comparing her to his partner. He forced his eyes open to watch her head bob up and down, to remind himself who he was with.
His erection jumped as her finger dipped between his buttocks, touching the entrance to his body. He closed his eyes and hissed, “Yessss…” He loved an experienced woman who wasn’t afraid to try anything. He winced as her nail scratched the sensitive skin and found himself, again, comparing her technique, unfavourably, to Illya’s. Illya’s fingers, thick and blunt, would circle his anus, entering almost tentatively, maddeningly slow at times. Familiar fingers attached to large hands that slid over his inner thighs as his talented mouth….
Dammit!! Napoleon pulled his concentration back to the lady between his legs, carding his fingers through her hair, trying to include himself in the action. This had been happening too often of late, thoughts of Peril encroaching on his sex life. Now Peril had called an end to their relationship. Well, not if he could help it. No, indeed. He wasn’t going to give up the best sex of his life without a fight. If Peril thought it was that easy to walk away, he had another think coming. Coming… He loved Peril coming, he loved to watch his face as orgasm ripped through him. It was the most erotic, satisfying experience. Illya was such a different person in bed. Napoleon loved every aspect of their lovemaking, from the physical to the emotional. Napoleon couldn’t give that up. No, he would have to think of a way---
The cessation of movement brought him out of his deep introspection. He looked down at Imogen, who looked back at him, disappointment on her face. His erection had subsided and he hadn’t even noticed.
He dropped his head back against the pillow. “Sorry,” was all he could say.
She leaned up, pushing her hair away from her face. “Look, if there’s a problem—“
“No, no.” Yes, yes, there was a problem. A big, Peril-sized problem. “It’s just, erm, exhaustion. Long flight, you know?”
She looked disappointed. “Well, that’s just great. Now what am I going to do?”
Resigned to the fact that he wasn’t going to be able to satisfy her needs, he slid from under her and off the bed. He began to dress and nodded towards a collection of dildos and vibrators sitting on her dresser. “Self-service, I guess.”
She rolled over onto her back, and normally the sight of a beautiful, naked and willing body sprawled wantonly atop a bed would have him harder than a plank, but his humiliation turned his passion into ashes. He just wanted to get away.
He stayed out, taking in a late movie to kill time, too ashamed to go back to their room and have to explain why his date had been cut short.
By the time he got back to the hotel, Illya was in bed and softly snoring. Napoleon slipped quietly into the other twin bed, pulling the pillow down to hug. “G’night, Peril,” he said, quietly to the night.
A few days later, back home in his New York apartment, Napoleon was getting cabin fever. He’d flicked through his little black book, discarding one possibility after the other. Against each name there was a symbol and a number – his own private rating, denoting experience, intelligence and availability. The book, though small, was ragged with use. His contacts were extensive, so he wasn’t limited when it came to choice, but each name on each page held no interest. Peeved, he tossed the book over his shoulder onto the floor.
Despite the long list of possibilities, there was only one person he really wanted.
He formulated a simple plan to get Illya over to his apartment - he would appeal to his stomach.
He dialled Illya’s number. The phone rang for a long time before it was picked up and Peril’s curt voice demanded, “Yes!”
“You’re supposed to say your number so the caller knows they have the right one.”
Napoleon could hear affection in Illya’s voice. “You have right number, Cowboy. Now, what do you want?”
“I find myself at a loose end, so I’m doing a little cooking. I’m trying out a couple of my Italian grandmother’s recipes. Just wondered if you fancy coming over to give me your opinion?”
“That depends. What are you making?”
“For starter, a nice Borche—“
“Beet or cabbage?”
“Hmm.” Illya’s tone indicated disappointment.
“I meant beet.”
“Better. What else?”
“For main course, Shashlik, served on a bed of wild rice with a nice Oilvye salad on the side.”
“Interesting. Three traditional Russian dishes. And they are your Italian grandmother’s recipes, you say?”
“Erm… yes. She was very cosmopolitan.”
“A family trait, no doubt. What about dessert?”
Napoleon already knew what he wanted for dessert and it wasn’t going to be served on the table. Or maybe it was. It was one surface they hadn’t had sex on. His voice dropped to a sultry register. “Well, now. I can only think of one thing I’d like for dessert and by coincidence, that’s also Russian. I have a large tub of fresh cream that I would love to lick—“
“Hello? Peril?” Napoleon looked at the handset and hung up. “Guess he’s not that hungry.”
He walked back to his living room, picking up his little black book on the way.
On the outskirts of Salzburg, Napoleon and Illya had chased down an errant scientist who had absconded with a potentially lethal virus. Another relatively simple assignment, resulting in one ruined suit and a badly damaged car, but leaving both agents unharmed.
After leaving their quarry in the hands of the local office, and in desperate need of sleep, the agents found a small, family run inn, offering home cooked meals and soft beds. Napoleon had been secretly delighted when the only room available had one large double bed that they’d both have to share. Illya had not been so pleased.
They shaved, showered, ate a late lunch, and retired to bed.
Napoleon lay in the dark, staring at the back of Illya’s head.
“Go to sleep, Cowboy,” Illya murmured, as if he could feel Napoleon’s penetrating gaze.
Napoleon continued to study his partner by the moonlight, until he heard Illya’s gentle snore. He snuggled a little closer, till he could feel the heat from his bed-mate. Illya’s snoring continued. Napoleon eased himself nearer still, till he could press his nose into Illya’s hair, inhaling the oddly feminine shampoo his friend had used. He loved Illya’s hair, it was silky and natural and his fingers itched to comb through it.
Slowly, his hand inched over Illya’s hip bone as he edged a bit nearer, till he was snug against his partner, making sure to keep his semi-erect penis far away from temptation.
Napoleon would have been satisfied with just this contact, this….snuggling. It was a comfort to him, like a child with a teddy bear. But the devil on his shoulder egged him on for just a little bit more and he couldn’t resist mouthing the skin on the back of Illya’s neck.
At the contact, Illya came awake in a wild flurry of arms and legs and before Napoleon could react, he saw the room tumble in his view, then… whump.. he was on the floor, looking up at the ceiling. Illya’s face came into view, peering over the edge of the bed.
“You okay, Cowboy?”
“Ow,” Napoleon rubbed his behind. “You knocked me out of bed.”
“Your own fault. Should have stayed on your side of bed.”
Napoleon sat up. “Sorry. I was cold. Just wanted to cuddle.”
“If you are cold, put on sweater.” Illya lay back. “If you can keep hands to yourself, you may come back in bed. If not, sleep on floor.”
Napoleon was tempted to sleep on the floor. His back, however, objected.
Their next assignment took Napoleon and Illya to Washington. Gaby had stayed in the Washington office to coordinate their assignment. Their luck held and another mission was completed without injury or loss of equipment, the latter being something that pleased Waverley no end.
By now, it had occurred to Napoleon that Illya wasn’t just playing hard to get. That didn’t stop Napoleon from trying.
He walked around the hotel room, stark naked, ostensibly looking for lost underwear, while trying to catch Illya’s attention. Illya’s attention was firmly on the small chess set he carried everywhere with him, fingers pulling at his lower lip as he considered his next move.
Napoleon considered his next move, too.
He sat on the bed, pulling on his shorts as he rocked his head side to side, from one shoulder to the other, groaning theatrically.
“Something wrong, Cowboy?”
“Think I pulled a muscle climbing over that wall.” Another Oscar-worthy groan. He moved to sit beside Illya. Turning his back to him, he gestured at his neck. “Could you give me a rub down?”
He heard a pause and a sigh then Illya’s strong thumbs were digging into the muscle in his shoulders and neck. This time, his groan was genuine, and one of pleasure. He closed his eyes, losing himself in the intimacy of the moment, the pleasure of feeling Illya’s hands on him. He felt his cock stirring with interest and dropped his hands into his lap to cover the evidence.
But Napoleon was only human. The contact he’d been starved of for so long was heating his blood, his erection becoming difficult to ignore. He suddenly turned, grabbing Illya by the shoulders and pulling him into a kiss, surprised and elated when the kiss was returned with fervour. This was what he’d been missing, this closeness, this contact. His erection poked against Illya’s thigh.
Suddenly, Illya pulled away, stood and reached down to pull Napoleon up and over his shoulder. Illya was often impatient in their love-making and would sometimes pick Napoleon up and deposit him on the bed. Upside down, Napoleon waited to be released, expecting to be dropped onto a soft mattress. Instead, a tiled floor came into view. Bathroom?... Napoleon was dropped down onto the floor of the shower and before he could stop him, Illya had twisted the controls.
Napoleon yelped as the cold water hit his naked body. He tried to move away from the spray of water, but Illya’s hand held him bodily against the wall. Over the sound of running water, Napoleon heard him say, “You need cold shower, Cowboy.”
Following this latest rejection, Napoleon dressed and headed for the nearest bar. It was a hard pill to swallow without a cold, hard drink.
Napoleon sat at the bar, poking a finger at the ice cube in the bottom of his glass. He was at the point of inebriation that his speech was beginning to slur and the room had begun to spin a little. His problems had begun to shrink in size with the increase in alcohol, and he figured by the end of the bottle, they should be non-existent. Or he would, more likely, be unconscious. Either would be a blessing.
Someone was standing at the bar next to him. He turned his head, looking up at a tall red-headed man. Handsome, dark brown eyes and a profile to match any cinematic heart-throb.
The red-head became aware of Napoleon’s gaze and smiled in his direction. “How ya doin’?”
“M’ fine. Just fine,” Napoleon slurred back.
The bartender arrived and the red-head said, “Scotch on the rocks. And whatever my friend, here, is having.”
Napoleon sat up straighter. “That’s very generous, my friend.”
Red smiled. “No problem. Looks like you need it.”
“I do indeed.”
The drinks arrived and Napoleon picked up his fresh glass, clinking it against the new comer’s. “Here’s to new friendships.”
Red sat beside him and they chatted amiably for a while. Apparently, Red was in town on business and would be leaving in the morning. He told Napoleon he was staying at the Excelsior and was tired of staring at the four walls in his hotel room and had come out looking for company. Napoleon gave him a similar story. Neither man bothered to exchange names, it wasn’t necessary. Napoleon knew this was going to be a brief encounter.
“You look like you’re drowning your sorrows,” Red observed.
Napoleon waved a hand foppishly. “Relationship trouble. Ya know how it is.”
“Don’t I just.” The red-head nudged him with a shoulder. “Maybe you need someone to take your mind of it.”
Napoleon paused, the glass on his lips. His new friend was right. Maybe he did need someone to take his mind of his problems. Perhaps what he needed was a little masculine companionship. Take his mind off Peril. He looked up into the dark eyes of his companion. His companion waggled an eyebrow suggestively.
Napoleon slammed his drink down. “Sure. Why not? What do you have in mind?”
“Why don’t we go back to my room? I’m sure we can find something to amuse ourselves.”
Napoleon slid off the bar stool. “Just give me a minute.” He hitched a thumb over his shoulder. “I’ll just give the ole’ ball-and-chain a call. Tell ‘em not to wait up.” Drunk he may be, but he was still aware enough to remember he should let Peril know where he’d be, just in case.
He stumbled to the phone booth, picked up the receiver as he removed his communicator devise. It wouldn’t do to be seen talking to his cigarette case.
Illya answered almost immediately. “Where are you?”
“Down the…hic… down the street. Can’t miss it.” He waved a hand around. “Best bar within a hundred yards. Only bar within a hundred yards.”
“As a skunk.” Puzzled, he considered his statement. “Can skunks get drunk?”
He heard the gust of a sigh over his communicator. “Which bar? I’m coming to get you.”
“Don’t bother. Just called to tell you, I’m gonna be late.”
“Met me a new friend, going over to his place at the Excelsior. Just thought you should know, just in case.”
“Which bar, Napoleon?”
Napoleon winced. Peril only called him by his given name when he was agitated. “Um, Joe’s Bar, down the street from our hotel.” He turned his head, looking for Red. Red nodded at him, giving him an encouraging smile. “Don’t worry, Peril. Be back later.”
He slapped his cigarette case closed, cutting off his partner before he could reply. He butted his head against the wall, the pain helping his frustration. Peril had no right. He had no right to treat Napoleon like a naughty teenager staying out late on a school night. He was a grown man. He could take care of himself. Even if he was drunk.
He exited the phone booth and Red was waiting for him. “C’mon,” Red said, taking hold of Napoleon’s arm.
Napoleon pulled to a halt. “Hang on. Gotta take a leak. Be back in a minute.”
Napoleon relieved himself at the urinals, taking care not to pee on his shoes – he may be drunk, but he was an immaculate drunk. He washed his hands, checked his hair in the mirror, gave it the once over with a comb and exited the restroom.
Red was waiting for him. And right behind Red, his longs legs striding effortlessly across the room, came Illya. Napoleon sighed internally. He should have expected it, really. Had he not stopped for a pee, he might have made it out before his partner arrived.
Illya stopped, barring their way. “Cowboy.”
“Peril. We were just leaving.” He gestured towards Red, who smiled smugly at Illya.
Illya’s jaw muscles twitched as he tried to keep his temper. “You’re in no fit state to go anywhere. You need to come back to the hotel.”
Red chose that moment to insert himself into their conversation. “What he doesn’t need is you telling him what to do.”
“That’s right,” Napoleon echoed.
Illya glared at Red. “You stay out of this!”
Napoleon turned to his new friend. “Just give us a minute, please. I’ll explain it to him.” Red backed away, keeping himself between the two men and the door.
“You…you… hic… you don’t want me,” Napoleon slurred, head cocked to one side as he regarded his partner. He tottered forward, poking Illya in the chest. “Soooo, I’ve met someone who does.”
Illya glanced over at the red-head glaring in his direction and rolled his eyes. “This is not the way, Cowboy. Come.” He grabbed Napoleon by the arm and started to pull him away. As he turned, the red-head barred his way, his stance aggressive. Illya stretched his neck, satisfied with the audible crack. “You do not want to get in my way,” he warned.
Red smugly grinned. “And yet here I am. Now, you can leave with your face intact, or you can suffer the consequences, but you’re not taking pretty boy with you.”
There was a moment’s silence as Illya appeared to be considering his words. Suddenly, his fist shot out, lightning fast, straight as an arrow and as unforgiving as an iron girder. Blood blossomed across Red’s face, he screached, girl-like, and tottered backwards holding his nose.
Before Napoleon could react, Illya had stooped and hefted him over his shoulder. “What the—“
“Stop wriggling, Cowboy. You’re too drunk to walk. This is quickest way.”
For the second time tonight, Napoleon was effortlessly dangled over his partner’s shoulder. He hoped Peril wasn’t thinking about another cold shower.
Illya slammed through the bar’s exit, using Napoleon’s backside to push open the door. Napoleon had stilled, hanging loosely like a rag doll. “You still with me, Cowboy?”
“Where am I gonna go, in this position?” Although he didn’t say as much, he was quite enjoying the view he had, this close to one of his favorite spots on Peril’s anatomy. His hand began to stray downwards, but Illya hefted him further up his shoulder, interfering with Napoleon’s attempt to explore his anatomy.
It seemed only moments before they were back at the hotel. From his upside down position, Napoleon gave the receptionist a cheery wave, as if being carried this way was an everyday occurrence.
Once in their room, Illya dropped him on the bed without finesse. Napoleon pushed up on his elbows, watching Illya walk towards the door. “Hey, Peril, aren’t you gonna help me outta my clothes?”
“Sleep in them,” came the curt reply, as he strode away.
As Illya reached to open the door, Napoleon called, “Peril?”
Illya paused and turned at Napoleon’s melancholic call. “Yes, Cowboy?”
Napoleon slipped down, resting against the pillow. “We’re okay, right?”
Illya’s smile was a little wan. “Yes, Cowboy. We’re okay. Sleep well.”
Napoleon stared at the closed door till sleep claimed him.
Back in New York headquarters, Napoleon sat in the canteen, lunch untouched, coffee going cold. He didn’t bother looking up as a figure sat at the table across from him. He’d recognised her perfume as she approached, uniquely Gaby.
He gave her a wan smile in acknowledgement, watching as she put down her coffee, unbuttoned her jacket and made herself comfortable.
“Oh, dear,” she said, reading the unhappiness on his face. “You look like you lost a Caravaggio and found a Warhol.”
Napoleon’s smile was genuine. Gaby knew his enjoyment of art didn’t stretch to the current vogue for the Pop Art culture. He appreciated her humor, if not the situation. “Just some personal problems.”
“Oh? Well, I have a whole twenty minutes to listen.”
What would it hurt? Gaby was a good listener, and a confidant who could keep secrets. The three of them shared a bond. “It won’t take that long.”
“So, spill the beans.” She pulled the sugar towards her and loaded her spoon.
Napoleon glanced around making sure no one was within hearing distance. “Peril and I… we’ve been sleeping together.”
Gaby paused her coffee stirring, to look at him. Gaby, of course, was well aware of their relationship – they’d made no secret of it. The three of them usually shared the same or adjoining hotel rooms and had become close. Working as intimately as they did, it hadn’t been difficult to notice the glances, the touches, the unvoiced words between them. Or the fact that often one of the twin beds remained unused. She was a spy, after all.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” she said.
“Okay. He’s put an end to our love-making.”
“Have you fallen out?”
Napoleon made a face. “No. We’re still friends.”
“Then why is it a problem for you? It’s not like he’s the only one you sleep with.”
Napoleon tapped irritably on the table top. “That’s true.”
“So, you’re…” she looked around for the right words, “sexual appetite is being appeased?”
He leaned forward. “That’s true, too. However, just lately when I’m having sex with someone, I keep comparing them to Peril.”
She frowned. “Doesn’t that annoy them?”
He rolled his eyes. “Not out loud. In my head,” he explained, tapping his temple. “I compare sex with them to making love with Peril. It’s starting to cramp my style. For example, a few nights ago, in the middle of some great sex with a completely uninhibited woman – and there aren’t many that uninhibited - Peril pops into my mind.” He shook his head, leaned forward to whisper confidentially, “I lost my hard on.”
Gaby fought to keep the smile off her face. “That must have been terrible for you.”
“It was embarrassing. It’s the first time in my life that’s happened. What am I going to do?”
“Stop thinking about him when you’re with someone else. It’s very gauche.”
He sat back, swiping a hand over his face. “It’s gotten worse since he pulled a Lysistrata on me.”
“Yes. You know, the Greek woman who refused to have sex with her husband.”
Gaby smiled. “Firstly, Illya is not a woman and I’m pretty sure he’d resent the comparison. And secondly, you’re not his husband.” Her head cocked to one side. “Did he say why?”
Napoleon shook his head and huffed. “Said something about not wanting to spoil our friendship. I fail to see how being friends affects our love-making.”
“As well as his friend, he works with you. Adding a new dynamic to what you already have is risky.” She leaned forward, mirroring his position. “He’s very fond of you. He doesn’t want to risk losing you as a friend.”
Napoleon’s brow wrinkled. “I don’t want to lose him, either. But I miss him in my bed. I miss making love in the morning.”
Gaby stirred her coffee, tapped the spoon against the cup, then used it to gesture at Napoleon. “Hm, I’ve noticed something interesting.”
“When you talk about Illya, you say ‘make love’. When you talk about your other affairs, you say ‘have sex’.”
“I do not,” he denied.
Napoleon’s brow wrinkled in puzzlement. “What’s the difference?”
“The word ‘love’.”
Napoleon felt the surroundings shift uncomfortably around him. “I’m not in love,” he insisted, laughing nervously.
Gaby dropped the spoon noisily in the saucer. “If you say so.”
“I’m not. It’s just an expression. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Then what’s bothering you?”
He was quiet a moment, considering her words. What was his problem? When had making love to a grumpy, acid-tongued, intelligent, beautiful Russian become such a necessity to him? A disquieting thought crossed his mind, and not for the first time.
“What bothers me is that it bothers me.” When he looked up she was smiling at him, a knowing look on her face. “What?”
“Nothing.” She shook her head, reaching over to squeeze at his hand as she rose to leave. “You’ll figure it out.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he muttered to himself as she left.
Things had been going too easy, lately. Napoleon was beginning to think his luck was carrying them through their assignments without incident.
Until Denver. Maybe they had become complacent, maybe they were too cocky, because just when he thought they had made it safely through the building, an alarm sounded.
Uh-oh…That was his last conscious thought.
When Napoleon slowly rose from the mire of oblivion, in that halfway state between awareness and sleep, he was cold. He was cold and sweaty and his head pounded abysmally. He shivered against a pair of familiar, muscular arms that were wrapped around him, his bare back pressed against a bare chest. Peril, he thought dreamily. A smile curved his lips as he turned his head, pressing his nose against skin, inhaling deeply. A familiar scent that brought a sense of comfort to him. Normally, it would also stir his arousal, but something was not quite right. He tried to turn over, but the strong arms held him tight.
“Be still, Cowboy.”
Groggily, Napoleon forced his eyes open, regarding his surroundings as best he could with a vision that blurred and doubled alternately. The damp walls spun around, making him nauseous. He tipped his head back to see a small barred window high up on the wall framing a crescent moon high in the night sky. “W’happened?” he slurred.
“We were captured and you were drugged. And they took our clothes.”
Well that explained the bare skin. Not that Napoleon was complaining, but he wished for better surroundings. A soft, comfortable bed would be nice. And a crackling log fire to warm his feet. His head felt stuffed with cotton candy, and it was difficult to think. His thoughts derailed, no matter how hard he tried to concentrate on one thought.
He wrapped his arms around Illya’s and allowed himself to drift back into the void.
When he next came around, they were sitting in the same position. Napoleon’s mind was clearer, but his entire body felt like it had been used as a punch bag. His groan of pain alerted Illya to his wakefulness. “Okay, Cowboy?”
Napoleon cleared his throat and shifted to relieve the pressure on his buttocks. “How long have I been out?”
Illya’s arms tightened, pulling Napoleon up to rest across his lap. He tucked Napoleon’s head under his chin. “Not sure. It was dark when they threw us in here. Now, sun is coming up.”
Napoleon looked up at the window, the bright light casting shadows on the wall. “Have I missed breakfast?” He felt Illya’s shoulders shake in a silent laugh.
“Yes, Cowboy. I sent it back. Eggs were over cooked.”
Illya’s hand rubbed against Napoleon’s arm. “How are you feeling?”
“Better. Feel like I’ve been run over by a big truck, but I can think straight, at least.”
“I’m sorry. They beat you to try to make me talk.”
“And did you?”
“No. That’s why I’m sorry.”
Napoleon didn’t remember the beating, but he certainly felt the after affects. “What did they want?”
“To know what I did with the capsule I stole from them. I swallowed it.”
Napoleon was impressed. The metal capsule was large, the size of a small potato. “That was a big capsule.”
Illya’s bumped his head against Napoleon’s, playfully. “Have swallowed bigger things,” he teased. “However, not looking forward to its exit.”
Napoleon laughed aloud. “Oh, Peril. Let’s hope we’re out of here before you need the bathroom.”
Illya rubbed his head against the top of Napoleon’s. “Don’t worry, Cowboy. Gaby will know something is wrong. She will be on her way.”
“No hurry,” Napoleon said, turning his face into Illya’s neck. He felt the pulse beating steadily in Illya’s carotid artery. How many times had he lay next to his partner, one hand on his chest, comforted by the beat of his heart and the rise and fall of his chest. He slipped a hand up Illya’s arm and curled his fingers over the shoulder blade.
“This is nice,” he murmured against Illya’s ear.
Amused, Illya said, “You mean drugged, stripped naked and trapped in damp cell?”
“Well, the naked part.” He squeezed the body beneath him. Despite their situation, Napoleon wanted to stay like this forever, wrapped in Illya’s warmth, flesh to flesh. He wasn’t sure he could survive without it.
“I’ve missed this.”
Illya rubbed his hand across his back, trying to keep him warm. “Me, too, Cowboy.”
The silence stretched out for several minutes. Finally, Napoleon said, “Is now the time to talk?”
“We can talk. There are no bugs.”
Napoleon struggled to lift his head up to look up at Illya. “What went wrong?”
Illya rolled his eyes. “The alarm was triggered when one of the guards—“
“No, no.” Napoleon shook his head. “I mean between us. What did I do to drive you away?”
Illya frowned. “You did not drive me away. I am here.”
“You know what I mean. I thought we had something special, you and I. Why did you end it?”
Illya was quiet for a long time, and just when Napoleon thought he wasn’t going to answer, Illya spoke. “Have worked alone for so long, so many years. Told where to go, what to do. Never any time to form friendships, never anyone to trust. Till I met you, Cowboy. I did not want to like you,” Illya chuckled, “But somehow you forced your way in.”
Napoleon smiled to himself. “I like you, too, Peril.”
Illya’s hand stroked up and down Napoleon’s back. “Became more than like,” he continued. “When we started having sex, feelings became stronger. I was jealous when you went out on dates. Resentful. I no longer wished to be part of your harem.”
“Your…” Illya huffed, “extensive collection of sexual partners.”
Napoleon felt a strange sense of relief. Illya hadn’t gone off him because he no longer found him desirable. He just didn’t want to be another notch on Napoleon’s bed post.
Napoleon squeezed the flesh beneath his hand. “I didn’t realise. I thought you were okay with my dalliances. They meant nothing, you know. Just a bit of fun.”
“I know that’s what you thought. And at first, I was fine. But now I am not. This is my problem, Cowboy, not yours.”
“It doesn’t have to be a problem, Peril.” Napoleon tried to turn to look up at him, but the effort was too much. He sighed in frustration. “I thought you didn’t want me anymore.”
“I want you. I just don’t want to be another insignificant bed partner.”
“Insignificant? You’re not insignificant. Why would you think that?”
“You sleep with so many. I didn’t want it to be like the others. I wanted it to be….”
Napoleon forced his head up. “Special?”
“Oh, Peril. If anything has meaning to me, it’s being with you.” Illya’s admission was a revelation to him. He knew their current situation had loosened Peril’s tongue. He would never normally be so loquacious. If Illya was baring his soul, perhaps it was Napoleon’s turn to confess the truth. He shifted, preparing to speak. “Peril, there’s something I need to say—“
“Shh!” Illya said, harshly. He carefully dislodged Napoleon from his lap, set him gently against the wall and rose, padding over to the door.
Illya pressed his ear against the wood. “Gunfire.” He turned, smiling broadly at Napoleon. “Gaby’s here.”
The debriefing was short and to the point, leaving out the finer details that would be submitted with their report in the following days. Gaby waited in Medical while Napoleon was checked over for injuries and the capsule was flushed from Illya’s body, before driving each agent home.
Two hours later, shaved, showered and casually dressed, Napoleon stood outside Illya’s apartment for several minutes, before finally rapping on the door. He hadn’t bothered to announce his intended visit in case Peril made a run for it. He’d thought long and hard about what he was going to say. And now he was here, he still had no idea what that would be.
Illya opened the door, surprised to see his visitor. “Cowboy.”
Napoleon smiled his charming best. “Peril. Can I come in?”
“Of course.” Illya stood back, gesturing him to enter.
Napoleon glanced around. He’d seldom spent much time in his friend’s apartment. Illya’s bed was as unforgiving as a monk’s and the temperature was always a little on the chilly side. When in New York, they had always made love in Napoleon’s apartment, his bed a more generous size and his sheets finest Egyptian cotton.
He looked at Illya, who was looking about as if seeking an escape route. “Can we sit?” Napoleon asked, as lowered himself to the sofa.
Illya took the chair opposite, his elbows resting on his knees and his chin resting on clasped hands. Napoleon could see his fingers twitching with anxiety.
Napoleon cleared his throat. “I’ve been thinking about our conversation in the cell.”
Illya shook his head. “Forget it. I’m sorry for the things I said. I had no right.”
“You had ever right. And it kind of clarified things for me.” Napoleon stared at the blond head, wishing he’d look back at him. “I know I’ve been acting crazy just lately. I’ve been crass and insensitive and selfish. Everything you said was true, but it wasn’t my intention to treat you that way. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t have to apologise.”
Napoleon carried on regardless. “I know you think I need my other relationships. The truth is I don’t. I just need you.”
The confusion on Illya’s face was endearing. He stood abruptly, interrupting Napoleon. “Do you want tea?”
Napoleon stood, too. “No. I didn’t come here for tea. Hear me out, Peril. I have to say this now, before I lose my nerve.” He took a step towards Illya. “I want to be honest with you. You want to know why I slept with so many while I was sleeping with you?”
“No,” Illya said, not wanting to hear the answer.
“It’s because I don’t like the way you make me feel.”
Illya bristled. “So it’s my fault?”
“Yes!” Napoleon moved closer, drawn to Illya against his will. “I had to prove to myself that I didn’t need you. I tried to bury myself in others, but you kept pushing yourself back in here,” he tapped his head, “and in here,” he tapped his chest. “You bulldozed your way in despite everything I did to keep you out.
“I’m not used to these feelings, Peril. I’ve had a lot of relationships, with a lot of beautiful people and some mind-blowing, explosive sex. But I never loved any of them.” He wagged a finger in Illya’s face. “Never.” He was just inches away, now. “But I love you.” Napoleon looked surprised by his own words. “And frankly it scares me. And I don’t know what to do about it, because you don’t want to be with me anymore.”
The silence was eerie. Napoleon could hear the ticking of the clock on the far side of the room and nothing more. Even so, he could almost hear Illya’s mind, processing the information, could feel his eyes boring into him like a laser. There was a stillness in the room, as though they’d been frozen in time.
He was about to turn away, when Illya’s hand rose, cupping Napoleon’s face. “Oh, Cowboy. Why didn’t you say this earlier?” And then Illya was kissing him, kissing him, wrapping his large arms around Napoleon, crushing him to his chest. Napoleon clung to him, like a raft in rough seas, making sure Illya didn’t slip away.
He’d missed this so much, this contact, this passion, this mountain of a man. It was like coming back to a warm, welcoming home after a long journey around a cold, empty world.
He felt the reconnection, now Illya was in his arms. Everything in its rightful place. The world back on its axis.
Napoleon experienced something he didn’t think he’d felt for a long time. He felt… happy.
Through lack of oxygen, the kiss ended and Napoleon buried his face into the crook of Illya’s neck. He smiled, as Illya rocked them gently, and Napoleon thought he might fall asleep standing in the shelter of this man’s arms. He pulled back, resting his forehead against Illya’s.
“Can we go to bed now?” Napoleon asked.
Illya’s lips curved into a gentle smile. “For sleep or sex?”
Napoleon gave a Gallic shrug, as if it was the last thing on his mind. “Which ever you’d prefer.”
“We do have some catching up to do.”
“Sleep or sex?”
Illya laughed as he took Napoleon’s hand and led him towards the bedroom. “Sex first, sleep later.”
Napoleon sighed dramatically. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of you buying a new mattress for that stone slab you call a bed?”
“Am I going to need one?”
“Oh, yeah,” Napoleon leered.
The bedroom door closed behind them with a soft click.