SOMETHING QUITE DIFFERENT
Illya has a mission which is more than a little different.
An established relationship story.
Written: February 2013. Word count: 2,055.
Napoleon walked into the office he shared with his partner; Illya's head was bent over a file he was reading and annotating and he didn't even look up to acknowledge Napoleon. His face was half-hidden by his longer than Mr. Waverly approved of hair, but Napoleon knew Illya's forehead would be creased by his usual frown of concentration that always appeared when he was absorbed in something.
For once he didn't mind that Illya hadn't looked up as it gave him a moment or two to just look at his partner. Not that he didn't get opportunities, both at work at in their apartment to just look, but in their ever crazy, high-speed moving world he sometimes forgot the simple pleasures of life - and looking at his lover was a simple pleasure. Also, he knew being the focus of anyone's attention, even his, made Illya more than a little uncomfortable, thus if he did just want to stand and stare, Napoleon tried to do it when Illya wasn't looking.
After he had just stood and stared for a moment or two he went to his desk and moved the cup and saucer further away from the edge, actually putting them behind a pile of files, he then walked to Illya's desk, picked up his cup and saucer and put it on his own desk, also behind the pile of files.
Now Illya did look up; Napoleon had been correct: there was a frown of concentration creasing his forehead. "What did Mr. Waverly want?" he asked, taking his glasses off and leaning back in his chair, his attention now fully on Napoleon.
Napoleon leaned against his own desk and folded his arms. "He has an assignment for you."
Illya started to stand up. "Does he wish to see me?"
Napoleon shook his head. "No, he asked me to," he paused for a second and then said, "tell you all about it."
As he expected Illya's stare became suspicious. "And why did Mr. Waverly not wish to inform me of my assignment himself?"
Napoleon moistened his lips. "Illya, sweetheart," he said in what he hoped was a soothing tone.
Illya narrowed his eyes. "We agreed no fraternizing while we are at work."
"I only called you sweet-" Napoleon fell silent as Illya's stare became icy.
"Why did Mr. Waverly not wish to tell me about my assignment myself, Napoleon?" Illya asked, in his pseudo-sweet, mildly threatening tone - it was quite a chilling combination.
"I think he was a little concerned about the number of breakable things he has in his office," Napoleon said, moving slightly on the desk so that the cups and saucers were not only hidden behind the pile of files, but so that the files were hidden behind him.
Illya's glare became even icier for a moment and Napoleon swore he eyes had changed color from blue to grey. "You mean I am not going to like it?" He spoke in a clipped tone and continued to glare at Napoleon. Then he sighed, shook his head and said, his tone now softer, "Well come along, Napoleon, tell me the worst." He sat back in his chair and as Napoleon watched his icy glare faded and his 'curiosity has got the better of me' look appeared and his eyes once more became blue.
Napoleon told him and had to hide the amusement that was creeping over him as Illya's stare went from curious to surprised to shocked to disbelieving to 'has Mr. Waverly gone insane' to 'why did I ever leave Russia'.
"A wool shop?" he said when Napoleon fell silent. "This is my assignment. You wish me to become a wool shop assistant?"
Napoleon forced a smile onto his face. "Yes."
Illya shook his head and went on staring at Napoleon, now Napoleon got the impression it was him Illya thought may have gone insane. "Mr. Waverly really believes the wool shop in which you wish me to become an assistant is being used by Thrush?"
Napoleon nodded. "Yes, Illya," he said in his soothing tone.
"A wool shop?"
"A wool shop?"
"Thrush is using a wool shop for nefarious means?"
"A wool shop?"
"Yes, Illya; a wool shop."
"But why would they choose such a . . . Such a strange place?"
"That is partly what you are going to find out. All I know is the owner is an unsuspicious, nice, sweet, innocent, elderly lady who could one day, if she starts to become a curious, nice, sweet, innocent, elderly lady, become a dead, nice, sweet - "
"All right; all right. I understand. But is Mr. Waverly quite certain? Does he trust the source of the information?"
Napoleon nodded. "Yes. It comes from his most trusted source who has never once been wrong."
Illya sighed. "A wool shop?" he demanded again.
This time Napoleon just nodded.
Illya then began to mutter in Russian - they were all words Napoleon didn't understand. He really must start to learn Russian, not knowing the language gave Illya a huge advantage over him. Of course if he did learn Russian, Illya would probably just start muttering in another of the languages he knew which Napoleon didn't know. However, given that whenever Illya was particularly upset, angry, tired, stressed or didn't approve of something he did always slip into his native language, maybe he would go on doing that. Yes, it really as time Napoleon learned Russian.
"Why me?" Illya finally asked; his accent was now more obvious than it usually was. "I mean I know nothing about wool."
"You wear a lot of it," Napoleon said, before he really thought about it. "Your turtle-neck sweaters for example, like the one you're wearing today. That's made of wool, isn't it?"
Illya blinked and the look he was now giving Napoleon was the one that meant he was seriously questioning Napoleon's intelligence - it was a look he gave Napoleon several times a week. "I may wear wool, Napoleon, but that does not mean I know anything about it. You wear silk ties, like the one you are wearing today; do you know anything about silk?"
Okay, Illya had a valid point. Choosing not to answer the question, Napoleon shifted his focus and turned to trying to soften Illya by flattery. "But, Lusha," he said, which caused Illya's eyes to begin to become grey and icy again. He hurried on. "You know how quickly you can learn something from a book. You only have to read it once and you're an expert. We'll get you some books on wool and knitting needles and patterns and whatever else you need to know about and . . ." he gave Illya an encouraging smile.
Once more Illya muttered in Russian, before quite calmly and speaking very slowly, he said, "Napoleon, one cannot learn everything from books. Knitting is a skill one learns by doing or," he added just a little reluctantly Napoleon thought, "one can learn something about it from watching." Napoleon waited. "My grandmother used to knit," Illya finally admitted; his tone was now definitely reluctant.
"So you do know something about it?"
Illya sighed. "Quite possibly more than you - but then that is the case with every subject, is it not?" He said once more using his pseudo-sweet tone as he stared at Napoleon daring him to argue.
It would have been very difficult to argue with what Illya had said. So instead Napoleon just shrugged and said, "There are a few subjects, partner mine, which I know more about than you do."
Illya looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "But they are not necessarily subjects which will be helpful in our work."
Napoleon smiled, stood up and went over to sit on Illya's desk. He sat on the same side as Illya sat and leaned nearer to his partner. "Oh, I don't know, Illya," he said, daring to let his fingers stroke the back of Illya's hand. "I can think of several times my 'special skills' shall we call them, have come in extremely useful. Can't you?" And risking his personal safety, he dared to lean even nearer to Illya and kiss him quickly.
Illya's eyes narrowed and Napoleon hastily sat back. "Napoleon," he dragged the name out, as he just stared at Napoleon who looked back at him in his innocent way. After a moment or two of subjecting Napoleon to his icy glare, Illya sighed, muttered a few more words in Russian before he just shook his head and sat back in his chair again and appraised Napoleon.
"So, partner mine," he said a small, dangerous smile touching his lips, Napoleon swallowed hard and reminded himself he was taller and heavier than Illya and then reminded himself that those small facts wouldn't matter in the slightest. "Is my ability to learn things quickly the only reason I am the one who has been selected to apply for this vacant position as an assistant in a wool shop?" Illya really could make ordinary, peaceful, innocent words sound like the vilest curse ever uttered.
"No, not at all. We obviously need someone who is highly trained and capable and skilled and . . ."
"And someone who can easily pass as a student who wants to earn a little extra money to help with his tuition fees." Napoleon spoke quickly.
Once more Illya narrowed his eyes. "And what makes me particularly suitable in that respect?"
"Well, Lush- Illya," he hastily corrected himself, "there are several things." He fell silent; he was hoping even though he knew it was futile, that Illya wouldn't ask him what things.
Napoleon thought quickly. "Your hair for one."
"My hair?" Illya's tone had once more become ominous.
Napoleon nodded. "Well, it is a little long and being so blond and with you being slight and your clothes . . ."
"What about my clothes?"
"Well they're not exactly . . . You don't . . ."
"You mean I do not waste hundreds of dollars buying new suits when I already have a closet full of them like you do?" Illya asked. "And do not get me started on your ties."
Napoleon nodded and beamed. "Exactly," he said and then taking advantage of what felt like the ice melting just a little he hurried on. "I couldn't carry out the assignment."
Illya stared at him in silence for at least a minute; Napoleon felt as if he was part of an experiment Illya was conducting. Then to his surprise, Illya laughed. "Oh, Napoleon," he said surprising Napoleon further by leaning forward, taking Napoleon's hand and entwining his fingers with Napoleon's for a moment or two. "There are indeed things at which you are far, far, far better than I will ever be. Very well, I shall go and become a wool shop assistant - but you," he said swiftly before Napoleon could comment, "will buy me dinner tonight - a very good dinner."
"Anything you want, Lusha," Napoleon promised.
Illya raised an eyebrow. "Anything? Well now . . ." He trailed off and looked Napoleon up and down. "Let us start with dinner and see . . ." Again he looked Napoleon up and down, "What happens later. Now," he said briskly standing up and pulling on his suit coat. "I need to go to the library. Please let me have your card." He held out his hand.
Napoleon pulled out his wallet and took out his library card and handed it over to Illya. "Why can't you use your own? Ah, don't tell me, you have too many books out already."
Illya frowned. "Actually, yes, I do. But the real reason I wish to use your card is that I do not intend to be seen getting books on wool and knitting out on my own card." And with that, he put the card into his pocket, turned on his heel and headed towards the door. He stopped and turned back. "Besides, it is good for your card to occasionally actually be used," he added, as he once more turned away, opened the door and went out.
He left Napoleon smiling, shaking his head and staring after Illya - as he pushed from his mind quite what might 'happen later'.
Locating The Key is the sequel to this story
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