IT WAS TIME
Napoleon has a special Valentine's Day gift for Illya.
An established relationship story.
Written: February 2009. Word count: 1,063.
31ST DECEMBER 1999
They stood together in Napoleon's New York office staring down at the celebrating city, watching fireworks leap up into sky, seeing throngs of people celebrating the end of the century.
As he put his arm around Illya's shoulders and pulled him closer to him, Napoleon found himself wondering how many of the people out there that night might not be alive had it not been for him, his partner and U.N.C.L.E.
He wondered what the new century would bring; whether in effect there would be a place for U.N.C.L.E. The organisation had already changed in the decades Napoleon had known it, had worked for it, had reached the giddy heights of Number One, Section One. In many ways it had changed beyond recognition, changed beyond belief, changed in ways he no longer liked.
As Illya leaned into the embrace, Napoleon found himself wondering why he was still doing the job. He'd turned sixty-five earlier in the year and Illya would be sixty in another three years. Hadn't they done enough? Hadn't they saved the world enough times?
Not that they did anymore. Not for twenty-five years had he taken a gun and left the office on a mission, neither of them had. When he'd been forced to retire from the field, Illya had gone with him, accepting the role as Head of Section Eight and there he had spent more than two decades doing what he loved. But recently Napoleon had noticed a change in his long-time lover; it wasn't obvious, it wasn't anything that most people would see. But he, with over three decades of knowing and loving Illya, saw.
Was it time?
Was it finally time they did what they had spoken of a few times: retired?
The latter he was sure could, but himself . . . ?
And then Illya turned in his embrace, smiled at him, letting the love he often kept hidden show in the paler than when they'd first met gaze, and partly to Napoleon's surprise, put his hands loosely behind Napoleon's neck, tugged his head towards him and kissed him. "Happy New Year, moya lyubov," he said.
"Happy New Year, Lusha," Napoleon replied, kissing his lover and addressing him by the pet term he rarely used these days, it seeming somehow too immature for such a senior scientist. However, the glow of pleasure in Illya's eyes told him he maybe should use the term more often.
As their lips met again, and the sounds of the clock finally striking midnight were drowned out by the cacophony of fireworks, almost drowned out by people screaming and laughing, Napoleon made a decision.
14TH FEBRUARY 2000
Napoleon arose first, lightly kissed a still sleeping Illya on the cheek, before quietly going to the bathroom.
Three quarters of an hour later he surveyed the breakfast table. One single rose stood in a small vase, the table was set with their best linen table cloth, matching napkins and finest china and there, on Illya's plate was a simple, plain white envelope.
Hearing the sounds of his lover going through his own morning routine, Napoleon returned to the kitchen and began to prepare scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.
Hearing his lover go into the dining room, he turned down the heat a little, grabbed the coffee and went to join him. There on his plate he spied a pale cream envelope and a small square, sedately wrapped box. It had taken Illya a while to understand Valentine's Day, but once he had, he had fully embraced it, giving Napoleon a card and gift every year.
They smiled at one another, but said nothing aloud, preferring to say it with their looks. Napoleon put the coffee down and then moved to take Illya into his arms, holding him, feeling the familiar beat of Illya's heart, smelling the familiar scent with which he'd lived for so many years, seeing the loving look on Illya's face.
Suddenly he couldn't wait any longer. Pausing only long enough to kiss Illya's cheek, he grabbed the envelope from Illya's plate and handed it to him. "Happy Valentine's Day, Lusha," he said, noting the look of surprise that flashed across Illya's face at the out of ordinary action. Normally they didn't speak the words and didn't hand one another their card or gift.
Illya took the envelope but stared at it for a moment as if he were expecting it to explode. After a moment or two, he slid his finger under the flap, slit it and began to pull out the contents.
"I'm just going to check the eggs," Napoleon declared, suddenly worried that Illya wouldn't want his gift, wouldn't understand it even. And before his lover could speak, he turned and hurried away back into the safety of the kitchen.
Moment later he felt Illya's arms around him and he was gently, but firmly turned around. "Pasha?" Illya looked at him, puzzlement on his face, his gaze shielded, his tone as he said the single word giving nothing away. Napoleon didn't speak, he just waited.
Finally Illya spoke again and as he did, even after all the decades he'd spent in America, his tone became formal and his never completely lost accent was intense. "Is this . . . Have you . . . Does this mean . . ." Napoleon saw him frown. And as he was about to intervene Illya spoke again. "Have you really retired?"
As he gazed into his lover's eyes, Napoleon saw the shields fall and saw the hope Illya had hidden blaze through. He had got it right; he had done the right thing. He bent down a little and put his lips on Illya's nose. "Yes, Lusha, my love," he said, pulling Illya a little nearer to him. "I have. I really have. It was time. It was past time," he added.
"Oh, Napoleon," Illya breathed, his tone suddenly far less formal, his voice lighter. As Napoleon looked at him he saw the oh so young man he'd first met more than three decades ago. He swallowed hard, before leaning nearer, finding Illya's mouth and kissing him.
It was quite some time later when Illya, his lips red from where Napoleon had kissed him, pulled back a little and asked, "But to whom do I address my letter of intention to retire?"
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