A LESSON IN CHRISTMAS
Illya is signing Christmas cards, and wants to know just why he is doing so.
An established relationship story.
Written: December 2004. Word count: 1,494.
"Tell me again why I am sending cards to people I shall see?"
"Because it's Christmas. Besides, you aren't sending cards. We are."
Illya sighed. He scrawled his name at the bottom of another card, and encouraged the card to slip into the white envelope, which had already been addressed to the intended recipient. "Yes, Napasha, moya lyubov, I do understand that it is Christmas. Even I cannot fail to notice all the decorations. Men dressed in red and white suits. Gifts that no one could possible want garishly displayed in shop windows, not to mention all the giggling girls with pieces of mistletoe who insist on trying to ambush every man they see. But I still do not understand why I - we," he corrected swiftly, "- are sending cards to people we will see. You are insisting on taking me to U.N.C.L.E.'s Christmas party, and as everyone - which I believe was your rationale for me attending - will be there, I can wish them a ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year' then, can I not?"
Napoleon put down the newspaper he had been reading and frowned at his lover. "Have you sent any cards, Illya?"
"Of course I have," Illya replied indignantly. "I have sent several to people in Cambridge and Paris with whom I wish to keep in touch."
"So you don't object to sending Christmas cards per se?"
"Of course not," Illya offered Napoleon a half-glare through his over-long bangs. "I was more than happy to sign the cards to your family. After all we shall not be seeing them. I just do not understand why I have to send cards not only to people I shall be seeing, but also to people who either do not like me, or with whom I have no particular wish to keep with touch. Why, for example, do I have to sign the card to Wanda? We both know that she positively hates me." He held up a card with a robin in the midst of a snow scene, and glared at it.
"If you prefer, I could always send the card to Wanda on my own," Napoleon said, his tone silky.
Illya narrowed his eyes, glanced at the card and read what Napoleon had written. ‘To dear Wanda, wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with love from Napoleon.' He hastily added ‘and Illya,' seriously contemplated crossing out the ‘with love' but decided that was too cruel - too childish if he were honest - even for him, and stuffed the said card into its envelope. He wasn't at all bothered that it ended up a little crumpled. "No," he said during his actions, his tone was like steel. "I think not, my friend."
"Oh, Lusha, Lusha, Lusha," Napoleon said, his smile evident in his tone.
"What?" Illya continued to add his name to yet more cards signed ‘with love from.'
"I do so love it when you get jealous."
Illya sensed Napoleon behind him, even before well-known hands came down on to his shoulders. "I am not jealous," he proclaimed firmly, as he added a particular flourish to his signing of ‘Illya' on the card to Mr. and Mrs. Waverly - this one he did not mind signing.
"Naughty. Naughty, partner mine," Napoleon tsked, bending forward and licking Illya's earlobe. "You once promised me that you'd never lie to me. And don't roll your eyes like that; it really is most unbecoming. And one day the wind just might change and you'd be stuck that way forever."
Napoleon was still standing behind Illya, so there was no way he could have seen the Russian roll his eyes. But five years of working and living together often made the need to see or even hear the other unnecessary. Strictly speaking they had only lived-lived together for eleven months. However, even before that, even before they became lovers, they spent so much time together that Illya often thought he might as well move into Napoleon's spare room. In the end he had moved in, just not into the spare room.
Hiding his amusement at Napoleon's words, his inclination to confess to the lie he had spoken, as well as attempting to hide his reaction to Napoleon's inquisitive tongue, Illya said, "And you have the nerve to say me ‘when you grow up.'" He felt Napoleon's smile. And then he sensed a subtle change come over his partner. He stilled, waiting for the words he had been expecting for the past few minutes.
"So did you send the cards to your Cambridge and Paris friends from just you?" Napoleon's voice was quiet and oddly flat.
Illya turned around in his chair, tilted his head back even further than he normally had to do in order to see Napoleon's face, and glanced up at his lover through his bangs - maybe he should try to fit in a hair cut before Christmas. He said carefully, "Yes, from just me. They do not know you, Napoleon. It is not the same as us sending cards to Connie, Annabelle, and Robin, they do know me." And they liked him, which never ceased to amaze the pessimistic Russian.
He had been the one who was apprehensive about Napoleon telling his brother and sisters that their eldest sibling had moved his lover, his male lover, his Russian male lover, into his apartment, and had altered his will in Illya's favor. However, Illya need not have worried. They, and their families, clearly shared the same non-bigoted Solo genes. Thus as long as their beloved brother was happy - which Napoleon was - and as long as Illya kept him that way - which Illya had ever intention of so doing - then they too were happy.
"Yes, of course," Napoleon said, far too breezily for Illya's liking, as he glanced away and stared over Illya's shoulder, looking down at the cards. "You still have a lot to do," he said.
Illya sighed quietly and stood up, the movement forcing Napoleon to straighten too. Illya deliberately brushed his body against Napoleon's, noting the automatic intake of breath, and slipped his arms around the taller man's neck. He locked his hands together and used a little force to turn his lover's head toward him. "Napasha," he said softly. "I am not ashamed of you, of us. You do know that, do you not?"
"Of course," Napoleon replied swiftly, lowering his eyes so that Illya could not see them.
"Now who is breaking his promise?" Illya murmured. "You know it is not as easy for me as for you, dorogoy. Our colleagues at U.N.C.L.E. knowing is one thing, but anyone else . . . Well, what is it they say? Ah, yes. ‘You can take the Russian out of Russia, but you cannot take Russia out of the Russian.'"
"Not quite, but I get your meaning, Lusha. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply . . ." Napoleon trailed off.
"I know," Illya whispered, standing on his toes and kissing Napoleon's ear.
"Do you?" Now Napoleon pulled away and held Illya, whose hands remained locked behind his neck, at semi-arms length. "Do you really?"
"Da," Illya said, tugging hard and pulling Napoleon back into his arms, before lifting his head and offering his mouth for a kiss. Napoleon obliged.
"I don't know," Napoleon said, when they remembered that even top spies need oxygen. "Maybe I should take you into the bedroom and reassure you further." He kissed the tip of Illya's nose.
"What about the cards?" Illya enquired sweetly. After all he had tried several times during the evening to find a way to stop writing them. However, Napoleon had always insisted he continued; pointing out that all Illya had to do was to write his own name - all five letters of it - and squiggle the ‘and' sign, Napoleon himself having done everything else.
"To hell with the cards. I tell you what, if you come with me now I'll finish the damned cards later."
"But Napoleon," said Illya, moving away himself this time and fluttering his eyelashes. "You told me that it was only polite that I sign my own name on them."
"How, partner mine," Napoleon said, sweeping the lighter man up into his arms and moving toward their bedroom. "Do you think those reports that I don't want you to see, get signed by both of us?"
For a second Illya was stunned into silence. However, as he could sign Napoleon's name just as well as the American spy could sign it himself, he didn't really think he had any grounds on which to object. "Deal," he said instead, as he let his head settle onto Napoleon's shoulder.
Maybe next year, he would add Napoleon's name to his Cambridge and Paris friends' cards. Maybe it was time for him to try harder to take Russia out of the Russian.
Feedback is always appreciated
Go to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Fiction Page
Go to Home Page