Napoleon has always regarded Illya as his property, even if he's never consciously admitted it. He is somewhat surprised to learn that many others believe the same thing.
A first time story.
Written: February 2013. Word count: 3,765.
"Napoleon?" Illya tried to keep both the pleasure and lack of surprise from his voice as he opened the door to see his partner, perfectly attired in a three-piece charcoal gray suit, white dress shirt and burgundy tie, all topped off with Napoleon's midnight blue overcoat, standing outside his door. "Is something the matter?" he asked, as Napoleon would no doubt expect him to do and he glanced up and down the hallway to see if anything was amiss - again as Napoleon would expect him to do.
Napoleon shook his head. "No. I was just in the area and I thought I’d drop in for a nightcap." Napoleon smiled, but his voice seemed slightly strained. Illya watched him carefully. "Well, aren’t you going to invite me in?"
"Of course; I am sorry," Illya said, making himself appear flustered as he stood back to allow his partner to enter his apartment.
"Thank you," Napoleon moved and then stopped. "That is if I’m not disturbing anything," he said, again his tone sounded nonchalant and yet . . .
The words confirmed his suspicions; Illya had been correct. Lowering his eyes and turning his head slightly, he hid a smile. The glance away was only a momentary one, and when he looked back it was to see Napoleon appearing to be ill at ease and watching him carefully, sharply even. As Illya’s eyes met his, the brown gaze skittered away and Napoleon cleared his throat.
"No, Napoleon, you are not disturbing anything," Illya reassured, reaching out to tug his suddenly resistant partner through the door. "Why would you think that?" he added, already knowing the answer.
Napoleon shrugged and moved past Illya, brushing against him as he passed by. The touch might have been unavoidable had Illya not recently, helped by Napoleon, moved a large, rather ugly piece of furniture that had taken up most of the small hallway. Prior to moving the piece of furniture, the act of allowing anyone through the front door had proved to be interesting, if not potentially embarrassing or hazardous for both parties.
Not that Illya let anyone except for his partner through the front door. No one else came to see him, but then again he didn’t invite anyone else; not that he always invited Napoleon; but then partners didn’t need to offer formal invitations – did they? At least they didn't according to Napoleon; of course Illya himself would never dream of turning up unannounced at Napoleon’s home, despite his friend protesting loudly and often that he was welcome at any time. Thus, Napoleon’s touch which as always fired Illya’s body in ways he knew were not advisable, was strictly speaking unnecessary, but then most of Napoleon’s physical contact with his partner – outside of first aid, assistance or care – weren’t strictly speaking necessary. It was, however, a frequent event which both pleased Illya as well as making him a little afraid of what his body might one day reveal.
Illya shut and re-bolted the door, before turning on the ‘at home’ alarm system. It was an automatic reaction, one that came to him and most U.N.C.L.E. agents as naturally as breathing. When he entered the sitting room it was to find his partner standing, staring around the room.
"There is no one here," Illya said quietly, moving behind Napoleon and making a move to relieve him of his overcoat. Napoleon surrendered it to Illya, just as he so often surrendered to Illya, not that most people at U.N.C.L.E. ever saw that, instead they believed that it was Illya who always did the surrendering. "May I offer you a drink?" he asked formally, already moving to pour his partner a glass of whiskey, after which he went into the kitchen and crossed to the icebox in order to add more vodka to his own glass.
"Thanks you," Napoleon said, taking the glass; his fingers brushed against Illya’s as he did so. He raised the glass in their own mock salute. "Cheers," he said.
" Za zdarovje," Illya intoned.
Napoleon stared down into Illya’s eyes and Illya met the dark gaze unwaveringly. Eventually, it was Napoleon who broke the intent look and the silence. "What makes you think I thought that you had someone here with you?" he asked, again clearly aiming for nonchalance and failing totally.
Again Illya hid a smile, this time behind the curtain of blond hair that he had let grow longer – too long, according to Mr. Waverly, who hadn’t got quite to the stage of ordering his agent to get it cut, but Illya knew the instruction would not remain unspoken for too much longer. "Because I know you, Napoleon. You believed that I had gone out for the evening with Kevin Macey and that . . ." He broke off and offered an eloquent shrug, annoyed by the fact he knew his face had become faintly colored.
"Why would I think that?"
"Because you saw him talking to me; you heard him invite me out for a drink, and you were forced to leave before you could ascertain my response."
"It’s not like you not to let me know where you will be for the evening. You know Mr. Waverly’s rule that partners should know where the other one is at all times and be in easy contact," Napoleon blurted out.
"As I had no intentions of being anywhere other than here in my apartment and as I always – as you well know – carry my pen, I did not believe I needed to leave you a particular message," Illya said quietly. "Another?" he enquired politely as Napoleon drained the glass. At the curt nod, he crossed to the cabinet where he kept his small, but well chosen, supply of alcohol. This time he collected the bottle or whiskey and once again detoured into the kitchen to collect the ice cold vodka.
Bringing both bottles back with him, he moved to the couch, placed the bottles on the table and sat down, raising an eyebrow in Napoleon’s direction as he did so. The invitation - or it might have been instruction, Illya wasn’t certain - was clear: join me.
After a second of two, Napoleon did. He sat down close enough to brush Illya’s thigh with his own. Like the contact in the hallway it was unnecessary; Illya did not move away.
"You didn’t go out with him?" Napoleon sounded both relieved and pleased.
Illya again smiled to himself, but a weight also rested on his shoulders, a weight that was becoming harder to bear. "No," he said quietly. "What made you think I would?"
Napoleon didn’t answer. Instead he poured himself another drink. When he did speak the weight on Illya’s shoulder grew heavier. "I didn’t come here to check up on you, you know, Illya."
Illya clenched his glass, letting the cool sides burn his fingers. He bit down on the flood of pain and anger that flared inside him and again let his hair hide his face. Finally, when he felt able to speak without betraying too many emotions he did so. In his clipped, formal and heavily accented tone, he said, "You once promised me that you would never do that."
"Do what?" Napoleon sounded surprised.
"Lie to me," Illya said, coolly.
"Lie to you?" Napoleon’s tone was one of complete shock; Illya glanced at him. The brown eyes were wide open, the full mouth slightly parted. Illya fought another unacceptable reaction. Napoleon's incredulity was genuine, but still it did not totally relieve Illya of his pain. "I never lie to you, Illyusha. I never have and I never will. How can you accuse me of such a thing? Besides, what am I lying to you about?"
Maybe it was the way Napoleon said his name. Maybe it was just because Illya could never remain angry with his friend for long. Maybe it was just because he was so tired of the game. Maybe it was just . . . Whatever it was, Illya’s anger fled, leaving just weariness and wariness. He had said enough, maybe even too much, already.
"I apologize," he said formally. "I did not mean to imply . . . Of course I know that you would never lie to me, Napasha." He deliberately used his own form of his partner’s name, hoping that it would, as it usually did, soothe the now clearly irritated man.
"You didn’t just ‘imply,’ Illya," Napoleon said, his own tone hard and formal. "You accused."
"I am sorry," Illya repeated, wishing for all the world that he could take the last two minutes back. He searched for an explanation, an excuse, anything that would take away the hurt that still shone in the eyes he loved so much. "I am tired. I was not thinking correctly. I mistranslated."
"Now who’s lying," Napoleon said grimly. "Your English is perfect, and as we both know you do not translate, you just speak in the language in question."
Illya felt his cheeks burn. Napoleon was correct. It had been a stupid attempt at an explanation, which was so unlike him. He could no longer stand the pain and accusation in the now darker than usual eyes, so he again let his head fall forward so that his hair not only hid his face from Napoleon's stare, but it also stopped him from seeing Napoleon's anger and hurt.
For several long, heavy moments, they sat side by side, still touching, doing nothing more than breathe in and out – in synchrony, Illya noted idly. Eventually, Napoleon reached out and put his fingers under Illya’s chin, turning his partner’s head toward him and tilting it up slightly. "Tell me," he said quietly, simply.
For a second or two Illya closed his eyes and let his face rest against the caress of the man with whom he was in love. Then, because he was after all a fearless, highly trained spy he glanced up and met the steady, now unaccussing gaze.
"Of course you came here tonight, Napoleon to ‘check up on me’, because it is what you always do." Napoleon blinked, frowned, but said nothing. Illya went on. "Time and time again you do it. I know now, as I always did but was foolish enough not to admit that I knew, that you are not aware that you do it." Napoleon’s eyes asked the question. Illya bit his lips and said softly, his accent even more intense, "You do not want me, my friend, but nor do you want anyone else to have me."
Napoleon’s shocked, surprised look almost made Illya giggle, that was how tense he was - the idea that he, of all people, would giggle was beyond belief. However, he knew that had he allowed the sudden inappropriate humor he felt to escape, it would not have been a laugh that emerged, but a giggle.
He watched as his partner imitated a goldfish for several seconds, before forming words – if not particularly coherently. "You think . . . I . . . But why . . .? Do you . . . ? How . . . ? I don’t . . . Do I . . .?" he spluttered. Illya said nothing; he just let his gaze hold that of his friend. Napoleon swallowed hard and spoke again. This time he managed an entire sentence, even if his voice was practically inaudible. "Is that what you think I do?"
Illya smiled and reached out to touch Napoleon’s face. It was cold. He frowned and moved his other hand to the one with which Napoleon gripped his glass; that too was cold and rigid. He extracted the glass from the stiff fingers and slipped his own hand around Napoleon’s, rubbing it and attempting to warm the fingers. "No, Napasha," he said softly. "It is not what I think. It is what I know." He paused and then added, because the time for lies and holding back had long passed, "As do most of our colleagues."
"But . . ." Napoleon started to say and then fell silent.
Continuing to caress the now somewhat warmer cheek, Illya spoke again. There was no accusation in his tone, no annoyance, it was just matter of fact and heavy with compassion together with a deep, deep caring that only his partner could elicit. "You regard me as your property, Napoleon, and everyone else seems to do the same. Even Mr. Waverly, when talking to you, refers to me as ‘your Russian friend.’ You want to know where and with whom I am at all times and," he said, forestalling Napoleon’s response, which when he thought about it he wasn’t certain Napoleon had been about to make, "I do not just mean in the way other partners do. If I am giving my attention to someone other than you and you are around, you find a way of making me focus on you. If it looks as though I might wish to go out for the evening without you, you suddenly find a way to stop me, tying me up in my lab or asking me to help you with your paperwork. You have even, on occasions, cancelled a date just so that you and I could go out to dinner instead, when you were unable to find a work related excuse."
"I do all that?" Napoleon whispered, horror clear on his face and in his eyes. Illya nodded and smiled. "You’re talking as though you think that I think that I own you."
"Yes," Illya confirmed softly. "You do."
"And you say that most of our colleagues think the same?"
"Mmm," Illya agreed. "Thrush too, actually."
"Thrush?" Illya nodded. "How do you know?"
"Something Angelique said the last time she had me tied to a table whilst awaiting your arrival to rescue me. One of her colleagues seemed more than a little . . . interested in me, shall we say, and she suggested that his life expectancy would be likely to be considerably shortened and that he would wish it was even shorter, if he indulged his . . . desires and you caught up with him."
"It would have been," Napoleon growled, eyes flashing with fury. "Who was it? What did he do to you? If he laid a hand or any other part of his anatomy on you, I’ll . . ." He broke off and looked at Illya who was smiling fondly. "Oh," he said and glanced away. Then his head came up and he demanded, using the tone Illya recognized as his CEA one, "Did he touch you? Hurt you?"
Illya shook his head and smiled. "No," he reassured Napoleon. "He clearly believed the lovely Angelique."
"You know I’d kill anyone who . . .?"
"Yes, Napasha. I know. Which is why it is a brave agent who dares to say more than a few words to me, and a foolhardy one who actually tries to court me." Illya again spoke in a matter of fact way; now that things were finally out in the open he found he was less concerned than he had believed he would be.
Napoleon reached for the bottle of whiskey and poured some more into his glass as he continued to just stare at Illya. He took a long swallow and then a second before he moistened his lips and said, "Doesn't it bother you?"
Illya frowned a little. "Does what not bother me? The fact that you treat me as your property or the fact that everyone else believes that you believe I am yours - your property," he added swiftly.
Napoleon stared at him; the dark brown look seemed to appraise Illya. "Let's start with the fact you say I treat you as if you're," he paused for a second before saying softly, "mine."
Illya stared back at his partner suddenly wondering if his perfect English had failed him or he had misunderstood the nuance in Napoleon's quite deliberate choice of word and the tone in which he had said it. He shrugged and tried to sound nonchalant when he said, "As it has been going on from the moment we were partnered, then no, Napoleon, it does not bother me that you regard me as your property."
Napoleon continued to stare at him. "Why not?" he said; Illya chose not to answer - but even as he just stared back at Napoleon he knew his partner wouldn't let him stay silent for long. "I mean, come on, Illya, you're one of the most . . ." Illya waited, wondering idly what Napoleon would say next. However, even Napoleon didn’t seem to know what he had been about to say next. He shook his head and said, "Let's just say that I wouldn't have thought you'd have been happy to be 'owned' by anyone."
Illya glanced away for a moment and then looked back at Napoleon. "You are not just anyone," he said quietly. "You are my partner," he added.
Napoleon's eyes narrowed as he went on just staring at Illya. "Okay, what about the fact that according to you everyone else believes that I believe you're mine - doesn’t that bother you?"
Illya sighed. "Why should I waste my time and energy being bothered about something which I am unable to change?" he asked. "I cannot make people stop believing what they believe - belief is, at least in your country, a free thing. People will believe what they believe and there is nothing I can do about it."
Napoleon swallowed. "Do you really think that I don't want you?" he asked.
Illya started; he felt his eyes widen as shock ran through his body at Napoleon's words; from the look on Napoleon's face it seemed he was almost as surprised as Illya would by his words. "I . . . I . . . I . . ." Illya clamped his lips together and closed his eyes as he tried to get his tumbling emotions and thoughts under control.
Finally he tried to take the easy way out. "I do not know," he said, knowing even as he said the words Napoleon would not let him get away with them. And then to his horror he heard himself ask, "Do you?" As soon as the two words left his mouth he tensed and tried to move away from Napoleon whose face was giving nothing away.
However, Napoleon caught his hand and held him firmly. Napoleon was taller than Illya and heavier, but Illya believed himself to be the better fighter and certainly had anyone other than Napoleon grabbed him as Napoleon had done and tried to make him stay where he was, the other person would now have a broken wrist and Illya would be on his feet. However, it wasn't anyone else; it was Napoleon; it was his partner. As such he stayed where he was, but prepared himself for what might happen next.
Napoleon stared at him as Illya stared back. He seemed relaxed; in fact he seemed more relaxed than he normally was - which surprised Illya given what he had just asked him. "If I told you I didn't know, would you believe me?" Illya gave a tiny half shrug which he hoped would suffice as an answer - especially as he didn't know what the answer was. It seemed to as Napoleon gave a quick nod. "I've never thought about it," he said quietly.
"Have you not?"
Napoleon nodded once. "Well, at least not consciously. But maybe if you and everyone else are correct and I do treat you as if I believe you're my property, then maybe I have - subconsciously." He looked at Illya and frowned for a moment. "It's true I don't like to see you being . . . Approached or whatever you want to call it; I don't like it at all. I don't think I realized how much I dislike it, but I really don't like it. I -" He broke off and stared at Illya, his eyes widening. He took another long swallow of whiskey, emptying the glass. "I -" Again he broke off as he went on just staring. "I . . . It makes me jealous," he whispered. "I think 'you can't have him; he's mine'." He swallowed again. "It always has, I just never knew it was jealousy, I thought it was . . . I don't know what I thought it was, Illya. I just -" He let Illya's wrist slip from his grasp but quickly caught Illya's hand instead and held it in his, linking his fingers with Illya's. "I think it's more than possible that I do," he swallowed once more. "That I do want you," he said in a hoarse voice.
Illya stared at Napoleon, he wasn't all together certain what to say - which given it seemed as if he was about to be given what he had always wanted surprised him. And then he knew why. "You think," he said.
"Um." Napoleon moistened his lips; Illya had never seen his usually suave, assured, confident, over confident at times, partner so uncertain. "No." Illya frowned. "I mean yes. I mean . . ." Illya waited. "I do want you - I know I do."
Illya sat completely still. "And not just because you do not wish anyone else to have me?" he asked.
Napoleon shook his head. "No," then he frowned and said, "at least - Illya, why is your English sometimes so difficult to understand and to answer?"
Illya's lips twitched. "I was not aware that it was," he said.
"Well it is," Napoleon sighed. "Look, Illya, I don't know when it happened, but all I know is it did. I want you as mine because I want you as mine not because I don't want anyone else to have you."
"And you say my English is sometimes difficult to understand," Illya said and smiled.
Napoleon just shook his head and then moving faster than Illya had seen him move, he pulled Illya into his arms and kissed him and went on kissing him for quite some time. "Who needs words?" he said when they finally broke away for just long enough to allow both of them to breathe. "You did understand that, didn't you?"
Illya smiled and put his hand on Napoleon's cheek. "Oh, yes, Napasha," he murmured softly. "I did indeed understand that. I am yours."
"Yes," Napoleon all but growled, "Lusha, you are." And he kissed Illya again.
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