A KISS IS NOT JUST A KISS
Napoleon's only explanation for Illya's suddenly out of the ordinary behaviour is that he wishes Napoleon to kiss him. But is that what Illya wants?
A first time story.
Written: March 2005. Word count: 4,359.
"Stop looking at me like that."
"Like you are going to -" Illya came to an abrupt halt and cursed himself silently. He had been about to say ‘like you are going to kiss me.' However, the absurdity of the thought sent hot and cold waves through his body. To think even for a split second that Napoleon Solo, hero of the secretaries and translators, lover of anything female - be she good or evil - would want to kiss a man, even if said man was his closest friend, was beyond being ridiculous.
"Illya?" Napoleon reached across the small table that separated them, and closed his hand around Illya's wrist. Illya glanced from the grip to Napoleon's face and read the question. But he didn't have an answer. "Illya?" Napoleon repeated patiently. "What were you going to say?"
"Nothing," said Illya, and cursed himself even harder when the dark chocolate brown eyes widened, and Napoleon's face revealed a mixture of surprise tinged with hurt. Lying to one another wasn't part of the game; it was the one thing they never did. They had agreed, a few months after becoming partners, that as they spent so much of their lives lying to other people, with one another they would always be truthful.
The falsehood hung in the air between them, becoming oppressive and cloying. Illya opened his mouth to speak when suddenly the shrill beeping of his communicator cut through the heaviness. With what he hoped was an apologetic glance to his friend, Illya dug into his pocket and pulled out the silver pen. It was only then he realized that Napoleon was still holding his wrist. "Excuse me, please," he said formally, and after a second Napoleon let go of him; at once he missed the warmth. "Kuryakin, here." He listened for a moment. "Yes, at once." He slipped the pen back into his pocket, and glanced at his friend. "I have to go," he said rising to his feet.
"My lab." Illya turned and hurried out of the commissary.
Napoleon stared after him, "What's got into him?" he murmured to no one in particular. Illya had left as though he was being chased by the hounds of hell, or at least by a pack of Thrushies. Napoleon began to tidy his coffee cup and Illya's cup, plate, dish, and cutlery while he pondered his friend's behavior.
For a brief second he had thought that Illya had expected and wanted Napoleon to kiss him - but that was absurd. Illya wasn't interested in his partner in that way. He couldn't be. Illya was, well Illya. He noticed neither man nor woman, fled from the slightest hint of attention any female showed in him, and offered no interest in anyone else. Maybe he had been waiting for Napoleon to . . . .
Napoleon forced the thoughts away. He already felt that he spent too much of his time dreaming and fantasizing about Illya becoming his lover. It was never going to happen, so it was time that he grew up and stopped acting like a love-struck teenager. However, Illya's cut-off words, his behavior, even his looks would not let Napoleon rest, and so with a sigh of self-annoyance, he pushed their trays and used crockery to one side and strode off toward Illya's lair.
"Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. How can you be so stupid?" Illya muttered to himself as he pulled off his black suit jacket and tugged on his white lab coat. The jacket slid to the floor, and Illya sighed as he bent to snatch it up. He sighed even louder when he realized that the contents of the pockets had tumbled to the floor. As he crouched down to collect them together, he heard the door open. Even before the voice called our or Illya saw who his visitor was, he knew that Napoleon had arrived. He froze in the process of collecting his wallet and slowed his breathing.
"Illya?" Napoleon's tone sounded confused. Clearly their antenna was working as well on Napoleon as it was on Illya. Napoleon could sense his partner, even though he couldn't see him.
With a silent sigh, Illya resigned himself and rose to his feet. "Napoleon," he said removing all traces of his accent and keeping his voice cool. He began to stuff the contents of his pockets back into their rightful place, vaguely marveling as he did so that he managed to walk, let along run, dodge bullets, and carry out other gymnastic-like stunts given the amount he habitually carried.
Napoleon was silent, and Illya could guess why. It had been a long time since he had used his cool, accent-free tone with his friend. He knew Napoleon well enough to know that the brown eyes would be narrowed, and the forehead creased in a frown, drawing the elegant eyebrows toward one another. His partner's lips would be pressed together and he would be staring at Illya.
Eventually when everything was back in the pockets, and Illya had smoothed the jacket down, folded it neatly - a move that would no doubt cause Napoleon to frown even more deeply - and
placed it carefully on the bench, he looked up, shaking his head slightly to encourage his bangs back from his eyes. As expected the dark chocolate eyes were narrowed and watching him unblinkingly. Illya met the stare and lifted his eyebrows, inviting his partner to speak.
"Is something wrong, Illya?" Napoleon spoke slowly and took a step toward Illya, who had to fight the urge to move backward. The widening of Napoleon's eyes told Illya that his body must have given some indication of his battle to remain still.
"No," he said shortly, and added, "why should there be?" He blinked his eyes, and composed his face into its ‘innocent look.' The frown that crossed Napoleon's face deepened, but he didn't speak. Illya urged his body not to fidget.
Finally he spoke, attempting to put the warmth that he always displayed when talking to Napoleon into his voice and eyes. "Napoleon, as much as I would be happy to stand here and talk to you, I do have an experiment that our uncle needs completing before the end of today." It wasn't a complete lie, but it was close enough to one to make him feel vaguely uncomfortable.
"Fine," said Napoleon, his tone clipped, his eyes cool. The combination told Illya that his own attempts at normality had not succeeded. "I'll come and collect you at 5:00 p.m. We'll have an early supper, and go back to my place. You can stay the night." Napoleon turned on his heel and strode out of the lab before Illya had a chance to speak.
The blatancy of the clear order glued Illya to the spot, his eyes wide, his mouth slightly open. Instinct screamed at him to go after his partner and challenge him. It was one thing for Napoleon to give Illya commands in the field, but giving orders where their private lives was concerned was something that Illya did not stand for from anyone. Except that Napoleon wasn't just anyone. So instead he shook himself and turned back to the bench. "I might have already made plans," he muttered, as he began to assemble the experiment.
‘Except you never do,' came the swift response in his brain.
"Shut up!" he growled. After dragging his hand once through his hair to rake it off his face, he turned his full attention to the matter in hand, competently and thoroughly working his way through the experiment. However, much to his annoyance it didn't require his full attention. Instead his mind kept replaying the scene in the commissary, and the look that appeared on Napoleon's face seemed branded on his eyelids.
Illya didn't need to glance at the clock as the door opened. He knew who his visitor was, thus it had to be 5:00 p.m.
"Ready." It wasn't a question.
"Yes." Illya matched the cold tone.
A second later he found himself spun around and banged against the door as Napoleon's mouth closed over his own. For a heartbeat he fought the shock and panic as the brutality of the kiss engulfed his mouth. The next second the kiss changed and became gentle and caring, and he felt himself enfolded in Napoleon's firm, secure grip - something he had experienced on many occasions, although never quite like this.
A heartbeat later any thoughts of objecting and fighting fled as his mouth opened of its own volition under the soft lips, and he slid his arms up and around Napoleon's neck, securing his head and inviting his friend deeper into the kiss. To Illya's inexperienced mind his response felt clumsy, but if the evidence of Napoleon's body was not playing him false, that was not how Napoleon viewed it.
Time seemed to stand still, which of course as a scientist Illya knew it didn't, as the partners kissed gently. Their bodies were so closely pushed together that Illya doubted anyone could side a dollar bill between them. Then simultaneously, as so often happened, the same thought seemed to enter their minds. ‘What the hell are we doing?' They broke the kiss and moved a little, but neither man seemed inclined to break away completely.
"Illya?" With the one word Napoleon asked a multitude of questions. Napoleon's eyes were more ebony than brown, perspiration touched his forehead and upper lip, his cheeks were flushed, and he was breathing harder than Illya had ever known him to do.
"Da," Illya whispered. Answering the unvoiced words with a promise of his own.
Napoleon made a faint sound in his throat, tugged Illya back into his arms, and again began to kiss him. As the mouth he knew so well to look at, and the lips that he had occasionally felt brush his ear when they had needed to whisper, captured his own, Illya felt the iceberg that had lived within him for as long as he could remember begin to melt. For a second or two he felt that he was drowning, and he clung to Napoleon as he had would hold onto a life raft. Napoleon always had made him feel secure, and was the only person who had any idea that the aloof, independent Illya Nickovetch needed security.
The gossip Illya had never listened to, but nonetheless always heard, had proven true: Napoleon Solo was a wonderful kisser - not that Illya had much to compare it with. Again the look on Napoleon's face when they had sat across from one another in the commissary filtered into Illya's mind. So Napoleon had wanted to kiss him. Illya's eyes hadn't played him false. And now Napoleon had kissed and was still kissing Illya. He was holding Illya in his arms and stroking his back, and in turn was being held by Illya. Napoleon was making love to Illya as they stood there, risking probably not their careers but at least embarrassment should someone come along. Napoleon had what he wanted.
Napoleon had what he wanted.
Using every ouch of emotional and physical strength available to him, Illya wrenched himself away from Napoleon's mouth and out of his arms. "Nyet!" he shouted. He backed away, holding out a hand toward his partner, who stood blinking with his kiss-reddened mouth partly open. Napoleon's confusion was tangible.
"Illya?" Napoleon shut his mouth and took a step forward.
"Nyet!" Illya said, retreating further.
"Lusha," Napoleon tried. This time he didn't move forward, but he did reach out his own hand.
Damn Napoleon, and damn Illya himself. Why did he have to use the one version of Illya's name that always got him his own way? Why did Illya ever tell his partner of the Russian version of his given name, and then allow Napoleon to shorten it? "Do not call me that," he ordered, letting the steel that he pulled into his eyes touch his voice. He wasn't surprised when Napoleon's face drained of color and the man looked hurt.
Napoleon took a step backward and this time held up both hands in the age-old gesture of surrender. "I'm sorry," he said, his tone rich with bewilderment. Then he added, "Just what am I apologizing for, Illya? Just what have I done?"
And just what had Napoleon done? Done the one thing that Illya had wanted him to do from the day they first met: Kissed his partner. A fine time to start behaving like a blushing virgin, Illya told himself. Even if you are one.
"Illya?" again Napoleon spoke his partner's name. His hands were still raised, almost as though he expected Illya to pull his gun on him. And if the speculative look in Napoleon's eyes that warred with the confusion was anything to go by, Illya knew his face had slipped into combat mode.
He lowered his head, glancing away from the penetrating gaze. "It is not you -" he started to say and was shocked when he felt Napoleon's hands grip both his arms and shake him enough to force his head up. Rather than try to break a hold that he knew from years of training with Napoleon, he would never break, not without severely damaging his arms, Illya simply stood still.
"If you're going to add ‘it's me,' to the end of that sentence. Then God help, me Illya, I'll . . ." The force with which Napoleon spoke the words and the words left unsaid, seemed to shock Napoleon even more than they surprised Illya.
Seconds later, his arms were dropped and Napoleon turned away, cursing himself violently. Napoleon leaned forward with his hands on a nearby bench and bent his head, letting it hang and shaking it slowly. Illya stood watching him, torn between wanting to offer comfort and fearing what would happen if he did.
"I'm sorry," Napoleon finally said. "I am sorry, Illya. I don't know what came over me."
"Just now or a few moments ago?" Illya asked quietly, taking a step toward the other man.
"Just now. I shouldn't have grabbed you like that. But then again, clearly I shouldn't have kissed you a few moments ago. I am so sorry, Illya. I thought . . ." He trailed off.
"You thought what?" Illya took another step forward.
"It doesn't matter," Napoleon said. "I was clearly wrong."
"You thought what?" Illya repeated, as though his partner hadn't spoken the final four words.
Finally Napoleon turned round, his movement slow and looked at Illya. "You never do give up, do you? That's what makes you such a good spy. Okay, you win. You have a right after what I just did. I thought that you wanted me to kiss you. I was wrong. I'm sorry. I'll . . . What did you say?"
"I said ‘I did.'" Illya repeated softly.
Napoleon blinked. "You did?"
"Da. Or at least I thought that I did."
Napoleon blinked again and then laughed a short, harsh bark. He ran his hand through the part of his hair that always flopped over his forehead. "So they have all been lying to me. All these years and I prided myself on my skills. How wrong can you be?"
"No," Illya said firmly.
"No. It is not that. You are what people say you are, Napoleon. You deserve your reputation. It is well earned."
Napoleon blinked again, the confusion once again clear. "I don't understand then," he finally said. "If it wasn't my technique, what was it? Was it that disgusting kissing another man? I've never asked you what your sexual preferences are. I just assumed . . . I'm sorry," he added again. "I know it's a bit late in the day to be asking this, but am I the first man you've kissed?"
"Yes, you are. But that is not what I meant."
"In that case, I give up, partner mine. I always knew that I'd never truly understand you, no matter how hard I tried, and no matter how much I wanted to. But this time . . ." He spread his hands and shook his head.
Illya considered his friend. He didn't want to lose Napoleon's friendship, nor did he wish to lose him as a partner. The fact that he wanted Napoleon to be more than partner and best friend, he tried to push from his mind. He took a step nearer to Napoleon about to speak as the door was flung open.
"There you are," Mark Slate said bouncing into the lab. "I've been looking everywhere for you two. Oh, don't worry," he rushed on as the partners turned toward him, "it's not work. Things are quiet. I came to find you because a few of us are going out for drinks and dinner and I wondered if . . ." He suddenly came to a halt, glanced from Napoleon to Illya and back again. "Er," he said, still moving his head as if he were at a tennis match, "am I interrupting something?"
"No," came the simultaneous response from the partners.
"Oh, good," Mark said, his tone heavy with disbelief. "Well, do you want to come with us?"
"Thank you, Mark. However, I am afraid we cannot join you. Napoleon and I already have plans for tonight." Illya spoke quickly and wasn't surprised when his partner's brown eyes and Mark's blue ones stared at him in shocked amazement. Well it was a first. Normally whenever anyone invited the partners out, Illya, not having the social life that Napoleon had, always let Napoleon answer for both of them. He had learned in the early days that if Napoleon wanted Illya to join him, it was far easier for Illya to give in gracefully and quickly. It saved them both a great deal of time and energy. And it wasn't as though, when he wanted to, Illya couldn't get his own way with Napoleon.
"Right," Mark managed after a second of two of impersonating a goldfish. "I'll see you both tomorrow then. Have a good evening." He backed out of the lab, still glancing from one partner to the other.
"Well," said Napoleon mildly, "that should fuel the rumors."
"Yes, the ones that say you and I are sleeping together."
"Oh, those," Illya said, his tone dismissive.
"You've heard them?"
"Napoleon my friend, contrary to popular belief, I do not walk around with my head in a file or book the entire time. Of course I have heard them."
"You've never said anything."
Illya shrugged. "What was there to say?"
"And they've never bothered you?"
"Why should they?" Illya said, tipping back his head and gazing up at his partner, who had moved closer - or maybe it was Illya himself who had moved. They always did seem to gravitate toward one another.
"Ironic really, isn't it?" Napoleon sounded bitter; Illya couldn't blame him.
"Napasha," he said softly, touching Napoleon's arm. "Do not get angry again, but believe me when I say that it is not you."
"Then what the hell is it?" Napoleon gripped Illya's shoulder. Illya just stared into the dark eyes that held him captive. "Look, if you're worried about your . . . Well, don't be. It doesn't bother me. In fact I like it."
Illya held the warm gaze and watched as Napoleon grew slightly uncomfortable. He owed Napoleon an explanation, yet giving it might damage what they had. Nonetheless, he had to speak. "Pasha," he said, deliberately increasing the intimacy. "You are my closest friend and my partner, and I do not wish to lose that. I have great respect for you as a fellow U.N.C.L.E. agent and as a person. However, I am not blind to your . . ." he paused, he didn't want to say ‘faults,' because that wasn't what he meant. "Ways," he said firmly.
"My ways?" Napoleon asked, his eyes widening.
"Yes. You enjoy the chase. You get, I believe, as much pleasure out of that aspect of your relationships as you do out of the rest of it. Perhaps even more."
"If that's your fancy way of saying I play the field, then yes, it's true. We both know that. But I still don't see how that relates to us."
"How many times did you take Miss Simpson out?" Illya suddenly asked. Napoleon blinked. "Or Miss Thompson. Or Miss Allan. Or any of the other girls?"
"Why do I suspect that's a rhetorical question?" Napoleon said dryly. Illya shrugged. "Maybe I should employ you as my social secretary," Napoleon turned away. "It'd be useful being able to keep track of them all."
Illya sighed and touched Napoleon's back. "Napoleon -"
Napoleon spun round. "What? Do you want to name some more? Why don't you catalogue them all from the day we met? I don't doubt that you could. Have you got a card index in that brain of yours? Are they filed under first or last name? Or something else? How about hair color? Or how many times I've slept with them. Damn you, Illya, I don't need to answer to you about my sex life. At least I have one." Napoleon stopped dead and covered his mouth with his hand, before again turning away and slamming his fist onto the bench. Once more he stood swearing under his breath.
Illya closed his eyes. There was no anger inside him, no rage at Napoleon's words. He didn't blame his partner for lashing out, cornered animals always did. "I love you," he said softly.
Napoleon didn't appear to have heard, because he started to say. "Oh, hell, Illya, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to . . . What did you say?" he asked, slowly turning round and staring into Illya's eyes.
"I love you," Illya repeated. He waited.
"You love me?"
"But . . . Then why? What? Speak English for heaven's sake."
"I was," Illya said mildly.
"Then speak American," Napoleon said, clearly flustered.
Illya twitched his lips. "I love you, my friend, and have done for longer than I care to admit. You are correct, I did want you to kiss me. I do want you to kiss me," he added truthfully, amused at the incomprehension that crossed the handsome face. "But I know you - maybe too well. I do not want to be in your bed tonight, and watch your walk off with someone else tomorrow. I do not want the equivalent of a bouquet of flowers or a box of expensive chocolates."
Napoleon shook his head. "What's your IQ?" he asked suddenly.
Illya shook his head and blinked. "I . . ." He came to an abrupt halt; now he was the one who needed subtitles.
"Never mind," Napoleon said. "Let's just agree on ‘very high.' The highest in U.N.C.L.E., I believe. ‘Not really calculable,' according to Dr. Henson."
Illya felt his cheeks begin to grow warm. "I do not -"
"Understand," Napoleon finished brightly. "Now you know what I felt like a few minutes ago. Oh, Illya, Illya, Illya, my very own super-intelligent partner. Do you really think that if I'm ever granted my dearest wish and get the chance to take you to bed, that I'm just going to let you go the next morning? Or any time soon after that? Or ever in fact?"
"Ever?" Illya echoed, as he tried to get the mind Napoleon had just praised to comprehend what his friend had said.
"Ever," Napoleon confirmed, cheerfully. "I love you too, Lusha," his voice softened. "I've loved you since the day you decided to start trusting me with more than just your life."
There were things Illya felt sure he should ask, things maybe he should say. But words between them were often unnecessary. And after all if Napoleon was to be believed, and he had never lied to Illya, they had the rest of their lives to say the things. So he said simply, "Take me to bed, Napasha."
Napoleon smiled. "I think I'd better take you home first, sweetheart." He sounded amused.
Illya glanced around him. He had quite forgotten that they were still on U.N.C.L.E. premises, still in his lab. "Oh," he said, and felt the color flare in his cheeks. The warmth grew deeper as he heard Napoleon chuckle.
The next moment his entire body became enflamed as he was once again enfolded in Napoleon's arms, and the lips to which he was already addicted claimed his own. Emboldened, he flicked his tongue along Napoleon's mouth, and seconds later into a warm, moist, safe cavern which he teased unmercifully until he remembered that oxygen was an essential part of remaining alive. His entire body tingled in a way he had never known, had never thought he would know, his pulse pounded in his ears, and his eyes were badly unfocussed. "Please," he whispered, not entirely certain quite what it was he was asking for.
Napoleon glanced down at him, then over his shoulder to the door, before returning the ebony gaze back to Illya's face. "What the hell," Illya heard him murmur, as his lips were once again claimed and he wriggled even closer to Napoleon.
"About time too," Mark Slate muttered under his breath, as he shut the lab door as silently as he had opened it, certain that his friends were far too involved to notice him. So he had been correct earlier when he thought he'd interrupted something. Oh, well, his wallet could stay in Illya's lab until the morning; it wasn't as though U.N.C.L.E. employees were thieves. April had offered to lend him some money; he'd simply take her up on the offer. After all, what were partners for?
As he strolled along the corridor, his hands in his pockets, his lips twitching in a genuine smile, humming under his breath, he began to consider all the extra available women there would be, now that Napoleon Solo had been taken out of the running. "All the more for me," he said and left the building to join his co-workers.
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