Illya is behaving in a strange manner. Napoleon starts to worry if something is actually amiss.
An established relationship story.
Written: November 2014. Word count: 2,540.
"Illya have you seen my -" Napoleon came to an abrupt halt and stared at the breakfast table. Not only was there what was clearly a card by his plate, there was also a small vase of flowers in the middle of the table.
"Have I seen your . . . ?" Illya asked politely.
"Huh? Oh, um . . . My cuff-links. The gold and ebony ones, have you seen them?" Napoleon couldn't tear his gaze away from the table.
"They are where you left them. On my nightstand."
"Oh, right. I'll just . . . Illya are you all right?"
Illya blinked and smiled. "Of course I am, Napoleon. Why would you think I am not?"
"No reason," Napoleon managed. "I'll just . . ." And with that he turned and hurried out of the kitchen and back into the bedroom.
There was a card on the table; a Valentine's card and a vase of flowers! Why? They didn't do cards. Okay, they had a nice dinner at a restaurant somewhere. But that was all. It wasn't that Napoleon had any objections to giving Illya a Valentine's card; in fact he would rather like it. But Illya wasn't the romantic kind; he was pragmatic.
Not to mention the fact that when an assignment had, for some reason Napoleon couldn't remember, sent them into a card shop during the lead up to Valentine's Day one year, Illya had spent the rest of the day and the day after lecturing him about the ridiculous cost of cards, and how it was just another way of commercial enterprises making money and how buying a card for someone just played into their hands and actually meant nothing. As well as many other such things all to which Napoleon had obligingly nodded and said 'Yes, Illya; no, Illya; of course, Illya', at appropriate moments. As a result of the barrage, he hadn't given Illya the card he'd bought for him and he had changed the reservation at the restaurant he had originally chosen; they had gone somewhere less romantic instead.
So what had changed? Why had Illya bought him a Valentine's Day card? Why had he done something so strange? So out of character? So quirky? As he retrieved his cuff-links from Illya's nightstand and started to put them on, he had a thought: maybe Illya had made the card - that would be different. He dismissed that thought as quickly as it had appeared; that would be just as weird.
His mind fully taken up with thoughts of why Illya had not only bought him a card, but found flowers to put on the table, he failed to hear his partner enter the bedroom and jumped as two arms were slid around his waist from behind and Illya pressed against him.
"I was getting lonely," he said in a sultry tone. "You had been gone far too long."
Resisting the urge to turn around, grab Illya put his hand on his forehead and his other on his pulse, Napoleon swallowed, ignored the fact that he had dropped one of the cuff-links and it had rolled under the bed and slowly turned around in Illya's embrace. He slipped his arms around Illya and gazed down at him. Even the expression on Illya's face looked different; it was softer, less sardonic, gentle even. He actually choked when Illya batted his eyelashes and gazed up at him.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Napoleon," he murmured in a tone that was nothing like his usual tone.
Napoleon swallowed and again fought the temptation to see if Illya had a temperature and if his pulse was racing. What had happened to his partner? Why was he behaving in such a strange way? "Happy Valentine's Day, Illya," he managed, aware from the way Illya was gazing with complete adoration at him, that he was expected to return the greeting.
Illya tilted his head back a little more and offered Napoleon his mouth to kiss. Happy to oblige, even if Illya was behaving somewhat oddly, Napoleon lowered his head towards Illya's and put his mouth on his lover's. A moment later he encouraged Illya to part his lips; things got somewhat interesting before Napoleon remembered it was a working day. Sighing silently, he gentled the kiss and lifted his head.
"I have a card for you," Illya said, his lips more than a little kiss swollen.
Napoleon smiled. "I saw. I thought we'd -" He fell silent; what could he say? He could hardly say 'we agreed not to exchange cards', could he? Given they hadn't made any such agreement, but that Illya had made it quite clear a few years ago that he wouldn't be seen dead buying a card.
"I wanted to," Illya said, seemingly unfazed by Napoleon's lack of coherence. "Come and open it."
Napoleon let himself be led back into the kitchen, silently reminding himself he still had to find his dropped cuff-link, and took the envelope from Illya. As he held it prior to opening it, a myriad of thoughts went through his mind; none of which made him particularly happy.
"Well?" Illya demanded. "Are you not going to open it?"
"Yes. Of course I am. I was just -" Again Napoleon fell silent as he carefully put his finger under the flap and opened the envelope. Uncertain as to quite what he would find when he took the card out, he extracted it very slowly, turned it over and looked at it. To his relief it wasn't ultra soppy or romantic or mushy - in fact it was a very nice, very subdued card. It was the kind of card he would have expected Illya to give him - if, of course, giving him a Valentine's card was something Illya normally did.
He opened the actual card. Inside it simply said 'Happy Valentine's Day'. Illya had written in it 'To Napoleon. With love from Illya'. He breathed a silent sigh of relief. Maybe he had just over-reacted to Illya buying him a card. Maybe Illya had just mellowed over the years. Maybe he had had a change of heart. After all they had been living together for two years and Illya had lost the 'keep away' edge he had always displayed - well he had around Napoleon. Maybe he was being foolish; maybe he should just accept the card in the spirit in which such things were usually given and accepted.
He smiled, put his arms around Illya and kissed his forehead. "Thank you, Illya," he said. "It's lovely." Then his eyes came to rest again on the vase of flowers and all thoughts of normality fled. Once again he found himself wondering what was wrong with Illya; why he was behaving so oddly.
He was about to say something - even if he didn't know what - when his pen beeped.
Less than five minutes later, his cuff-link retrieved, if not actually yet put on, they were in a car and heading for U.N.C.L.E.'s Head Quarters.
THREE HOURS LATER
Napoleon's head was aching and he was getting seriously worried about his partner's behavior. When the early call in petered out into a false alarm, thus there was no assignment, Illya had once more slipped into the stranger he had been at home. He was solicitous; he kept asking Napoleon if he was all right; he let Napoleon precede him through doors; he offered to fetch Napoleon coffee and seemed hurt (Illya hurt?) when Napoleon said it was all right as he had to go to the restroom, he would bring coffee back for both of them.
In-between reading files and writing a report, Illya had flashed Napoleon several long, lingering, loving looks, on occasions glancing swiftly away and even blushing slightly when Napoleon caught him looking at him.
Suddenly Illya spoke. "I have booked a table for tonight," he said, smiling lovingly at Napoleon. "I thought we would go to Benito's."
Before Napoleon even thought about it, he had stood up and had stridden across the office he and Illya shared. One hand was on Illya's forehead and his other hand was clamped around Illya's wrist as wide-eyed Illya stared up at him.
"Napoleon? Is something the matter?"
"Nothing's the matter with me," Napoleon said, surprised and actually disappointed to find that Illya's forehead was quite cool and his pulse rate normal. Immediately a faint flash of guilt passed through him; what kind of man wanted their partner - the man they loved - to be sick? The flash of guilt didn't last for long though, because something else began to gnaw at Napoleon. No, surely not? It would explain everything. It would explain Illya's out of character, strange, quirky behavior. When could it have happened?
He sat down on the edge of Illya's desk and took Illya's hand and held it; Illya's smile seemed to light up the entire room. "Do you feel all right, Illya?" he asked.
Illya looked a little surprised. "Of course I do, Napoleon. Why do you ask?"
How about because you not only gave me a Valentine's Day card, a holiday you think is utterly commercialized, but also found or bought flowers and put them in a vase, and have been more attentive than even I ever was when I was trying to entice someone into bed? Plus, now you've only gone and booked us a table at the most romantic restaurant in the area. And I find your behavior not only strange but also worrying, and I'm now wondering if someone has in someway drugged you.
Of course he couldn't actually say that, could he? So instead he just forced a smile onto his face, squeezed Illya's hand and said, trying to ensure his tone was normal, "No reason. I just - I have to go and . . . I'll be back soon," he said, standing up and hurrying towards the door before Illya could stop him. As he let himself out of their office and closed the door behind him, he heard Illya call his name. He ignored him and set off for Mr. Waverly's office.
"I'm worried about Illya," he said, staring at his boss who sat behind his desk, smoking his pipe.
Alexander Waverly raised an eyebrow and looked at Napoleon. "Really? And quite why, Mr. Solo, are you worried about Mr. Kuryakin?"
"He's been -" Napoleon fell silent for a moment and pondered. Maybe he shouldn't say anything; maybe he should just go back to Illya and . . . And what? No. If anything had happened to Illya, if he had been given some kind of drug that was affecting his personality and making him behave in such an eccentric way, then Mr. Waverly had a right to know about it. Illya could quite easily be a security risk. "Acting strangely," he said. "Out of character," he added.
Mr. Waverly leaned back in his chair, sucked on his pipe and continued to stare at Napoleon. "And exactly how is this strange behavior manifesting itself?" he asked.
Damn. Napoleon hadn't thought this through. "Um," he said, glancing around him. "Well, he . . . That is . . . He . . ."
Pulling himself upright until his back was ramrod straight, Napoleon stared over his boss's head and said quietly and in a rush, "Bought me a Valentine's card."
"Oh, dear," Mr. Waverly said, his tone thoughtful.
Now that he had spoken, Napoleon was keen to share his fear with Mr. Waverly. "And I'm wondering if, sir, he has been drugged, by Thrush or someone, to make him . . ." To make him what?
To his surprise Mr. Waverly chuckled softly. "No, Mr. Solo, you can rest assured that Mr. Kuryakin has not been drugged."
"He must be sick then," Napoleon said, his mind already on hospitalization and what kind of illness Illya might be suffering from and if it might even be fatal. Then his boss's words really penetrated the conscious part of his brain. "How do you know, sir?" he asked.
"Do sit down, Mr. Solo." Napoleon sat. "I am afraid Mr. Kuryakin has fallen victim of what people would call a practical joke."
"A practical joke, sir?" Napoleon stared at his boss.
"Yes. I happened to overhear one of our colleagues - and no, Mr. Solo, I will not tell you the name of the person, no matter how often you ask. I am confident that the intention was not to hurt nor even to embarrass Mr. Kuryakin in anyway. Had the person wished that, they would have suggested something else for Mr. Kuryakin to do. It was a prank; that is all. Maybe not in the best of tastes, but it wasn't harmful."
Napoleon waited; he was unconvinced. Anyone who played practical jokes on his partner was not going to have an easy time of it if he found out who it was. Which was why his boss wouldn't tell him. "What exactly was this prank, Mr. Waverly, sir," he said, sitting up as straight and rigidly as he had stood.
Mr. Waverly stared at him as he sucked on his pipe and blew out some smoke. "Yes, I am quite right not to tell you the person's name. As I was saying, I happened to overhear one of our colleagues telling Mr. Kuryakin that you were the kind of man who liked romantic gestures and how certain things, like Valentine's Day were important to you."
"Illya believed this person?"
"So it seems."
"But that's not like Illya. He knows me; he knows -" Napoleon fell silent.
Mr. Waverly appraised Napoleon and then said quietly, "I think that even you do not know Mr. Kuryakin quite as well as you believe you do. He has a part of him, a part I believe which gets smaller as the years go by, which he keeps hidden even from you. You are very important to him, you know that, do you not?"
Napoleon felt himself grow a little warm. "Well, yes, of course, but -" He fell silent under the Mr. Waverly's steady gaze. "Thank you, sir," he finally said, and stood up. "May I go?"
Mr. Waverly smiled and nodded. "Yes, Mr. Solo. You may."
"Yes, Mr. Solo?"
"I - Nothing."
"Why do you not just accept the card and whatever else has made you fear that Mr. Kuryakin had been drugged, in the spirit in which I am sure he intended them to be taken?"
Napoleon stared at his boss. He sighed softly and said, "Yes, sir." Alexander Waverly merely nodded and returned to the file he had been reading when Napoleon had arrived.
Hands in his pockets and whistling softly, Napoleon made his way back to his office. He had been reassured by his boss and he would do as he said. He would enjoy dinner with Illya; he would enjoy the romance and the fine wine and food and the rest of the day. Then he and Illya would do what they had actually never done: have a serious talk, during which, among other things, he was determined to let Illya know he loved him just as he was.
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