Fit to be Tied

by Graculus

"Will you stop squirming?"

From where Napoleon was sitting, he couldn't see Illya's face, but the tone of that well-known voice was more than enough to get the message across. Illya was not happy and he wanted to be sure his partner knew it.

"I can hardly help that, can I?" Solo snapped back, feeling equally aggrieved and wanting Illya to realize it. "Whose fault is it that I'm tied up?"

"You make it sound as if it was my idea..."

"And wasn't it?" Napoleon knew he was being unreasonable even as he interrupted, but he couldn't help it. "I said we should wait for back-up, but no, you had to go ahead regardless."

"You know full well that I'm not responsible for our current predicament." Illya paused, as if he was waiting for either agreement or argument and when neither occurred he continued. "After all, I too am tied up."

The tone of Illya's voice betrayed to Napoleon that he was pouting slightly, the mixture of helplessness and annoyance that he currently felt frustrating him beyond his ability to express in mere words. Being tied up back to back had some disadvantages when it came to nonverbal communication, but he knew his partner well enough to fill in the gaps.

Napoleon swallowed a little nervously, trying to drive the image of Illya's mouth and what it might be doing from his mind as swiftly as possible, or at least before it sent all the blood rushing to somewhere it could currently do little good. This wasn't the time and it certainly wasn't the place.

There was silence between them for a moment.

"I'm sorry," Napoleon said, managing to make his voice sound penitent.

He wasn't sorry at all, not really, but Illya didn't need to know that.

There was something about these kind of situations, if there wasn't someone standing over them ready to send them both to meet their maker, that touched a deep part of Napoleon's psyche. A part he didn't really like to admit to having in the first place. Once the immediate adrenaline rush of capture had died down, if he and Illya were just left alone together this way, Solo had found that he was starting to actually like the closeness that these situations allowed.

After all, how likely was it that he'd get the opportunity otherwise to be this close to his taciturn partner if not for the regular and somewhat predictable intervention of Thrush?

From the tone of his response, it was clear that Illya wasn't convinced by Napoleon's show of penitence for a second.

"You say that now," he began. "You always say that..."

"And I always mean it, Illya. You make it sound like I lie to you," Napoleon said, making even more of an effort to sound plaintive.

He held his breath for a moment as he waited for Illya's response, wondering if the old trick would work on his susceptible partner once more.

The tone of the words, if not the words themselves, drove in an unerring line for Illya's heart like they always did, shaking the control he struggled so hard to maintain where his partner was concerned.

I'm not going to crack now, Illya thought, suddenly furious with himself. He always does this, whenever we find ourselves in this kind of situation. The manipulative, sneaky, underhanded...


Napoleon's voice broke through Illya's mental recitation of his partner's less attractive qualities. He could hear the quaver in Napoleon's voice now, as his partner played him for all he was worth, trading on their friendship shamelessly and without a second thought, despite the gravity of their situation. The Russian sighed, knowing he was beaten once more despite all his former resolution.

"Hold still, Napoleon," he said, wriggling as much as he could within the ropes that bound them together. "Those Thrush agents actually tied a decent knot this time..."

Illya could feel the tension leave his partner's body as he spoke, the subtle warmth of the American's back even through the material of their jackets, and the tiny movements of Napoleon's hands that even concentrated effort couldn't control.

Illya's eyes roamed the room in which they were being held while his agile fingers worked at their bonds. They'd been tied up and then just left, which was an unusual state of affairs; one which he intended to take full advantage of.

He could feel the coarse fibers of the rope that bound their wrists rubbing the skin of his fingers as he tugged at the recalcitrant knots on Napoleon's bonds. When had he become so soft? Illya paused for a moment and considered this, letting go of the ropes and shaking his fingers to work out the kinks his previous effort had caused.

He had to concentrate. Thinking about how soft the skin on Napoleon's wrists were, even in comparison to the rough hemp rope, was a bad idea. One that might even get both of them killed in due course if he couldn't get them untied.

Illya sighed, mentally shook himself, then went back to work.

All good things had to come to an end, of course. How could he complain that Illya was trying his best to untie them, even if that meant this treasured closeness would be over?

Napoleon could feel the muscles in Illya's back as they moved against his own, the material of his tailored suit jacket proving no barrier to the lean muscularity of his partner. Of course, he'd seen Illya naked on more than one occasion, those rare glimpses providing ample material for his own pleasure for months afterwards, but always because of work.

And usually because of a situation that Napoleon had got them into.

Was his subconscious trying to tell him something? Was he deliberately creating situations which would end with Illya being wet, or naked, or both? He didn't think he was, but how could he be sure?

Illya's fingers were warm against his skin as they tugged at the rope that bound his wrists. Napoleon wondered for a moment whether his pulse was racing, but he had managed to keep his breathing steady, so it was likely that he wouldn't betray himself so easily.

Except there was only one problem about Illya touching him, light and fleeting as those touches were. Every one of them seemed to send a shockwave directly to parts much lower—in short, Napoleon realised he was becoming aroused, and Illya's fingers were the cause.

Napoleon tried to swallow, his mouth suddenly dry, as his overactive libido suddenly decided that it was the appropriate time for a matinee performance of 'what I would like Illya to do to me'.

Not now, he thought, trying to think of Greenland in the winter, but without success. The images were too strong, his wayward imagination turning the memories of Illya into something more, something hypnotic. Something that was having a decided effect on him that Illya would find difficult to miss, should Napoleon decide to stand up any time in the near future.

He couldn't have missed the way that Napoleon tensed up, even if they hadn't been so close together. Illya let go of the ropes, taking the opportunity to flex his fingers once more.

"Napoleon?" he asked, then listened intently.

"Mmm?" His partner's voice was non-committal.

"Is something wrong?"

"Wrong?" Napoleon asked. "What could possibly be wrong? We're currently tied up in an abandoned building, prisoners of Thrush, and you want to know if anything's wrong?"


Napoleon sighed.

"No, Illya, nothing's wrong," he said, after a moment, his voice quieter now.

Illya considered that answer. Napoleon was clearly lying, that much was evident, but was it worth antagonising him by pressing the matter? After all, they could be tied up together for quite a while yet, if he couldn't get those damn knots untied, and Illya wasn't really sure whether pressing Napoleon would get him the information he desired.

He shook his head, then began to work on the ropes again.

There were times when Illya felt that he knew Napoleon well, when he could in fact read him like the proverbial book. And then there were other times, like now, when it was too much trouble to even try and open the cover.

It was a given that they didn't always get along—how could eternal harmony be possible between two such different individuals? But most of the time, Illya felt as though he knew where he stood. Of course, though he'd never admit it to Napoleon, he also quite liked being rescued. But only if his rescuer was his erstwhile partner.

Illya grinned to himself momentarily at the mental image that realisation produced—himself in a tower, Napoleon his knight errant come to slay the dragon and carry him away.

"Ridiculous," he muttered to himself, as the knots finally began to give way.

The concern he heard in Illya's voice wasn't helping. Napoleon closed his eyes and wondered when exactly this whole situation between him and his partner had spiralled so far out of his control. After all, he was used to being the one calling the shots, so feeling this uncertain was a relatively new experience for him.

What could be the worst that could happen?

Napoleon felt Illya's agile fingers pulling at the loosening knots that held him captive as he considered that question.

Well, Illya could be completely horrified at the idea that Napoleon felt something more than friendship for him, he'd refuse to speak to him ever again and then Napoleon would have to find himself another partner. That just about summed it up.

And he didn't like the idea of any of that.

It had taken long enough for him to get used to the idea of working with Illya, so Napoleon was sure he no longer had the patience to learn to work so closely with someone else even if he had the inclination.

But what choice did he have? He could hardly carry on the way he was, distracted by every chance to be close to Illya, finding it more and more difficult to concentrate for thinking about what they might do together if Illya ever discovered how he felt about him.

If Illya felt the same way.

In his fantasies, of course, Illya was overwhelmed by the idea, awed and not a little intimidated by his sexual prowess—but even Napoleon's more than healthy ego wasn't strong enough to convince himself that reality would live up to that particular fantasy.


Napoleon felt the ropes round his wrist loosen as Illya spoke, the blood that rushed back into his fingers making them tingle unpleasantly. He pulled his hands from behind his back and examined his wrists. They were relatively unharmed, the bonds had just been a little tighter than was conducive to good circulation. Napoleon flexed his fingers experimentally, then took hold of the rope that tied him back to back with Illya and began to remove it.

In a matter of moments he was separated from his partner, but then a new problem presented itself. There was no way that Illya wouldn't realise he was aroused, and as much as Napoleon tried thinking of cold mountain streams and similarly glacial things, his level of excitement seemed to be unabated.


Illya's voice, a little peevish in tone, snapped him back to reality. Illya had half-shuffled round to look at him, his eyes speculative. He thrust his still-bound hands in Napoleon's direction, or as much as he could without undue contortions as they were tied behind his back, his frown growing when Napoleon didn't move immediately to untie him.

"Are you waiting for me to say 'please'?" Illya continued, with a sigh of resignation.

There was nothing for it, he would have to move. Napoleon took a chance, moving quickly behind Illya, hoping that his sharp-eyed partner would be too annoyed at the fact that he was still tied up while Napoleon was free to realise there was more going on here than originally appeared.

He was quicker than Illya in undoing the knots, but that was because he was able to see what he was doing. When Napoleon saw the awkward tangle of rope that surrounded Illya's wrists, he was amazed that Illya had managed to get him untied at all, but then his partner had always been determined to the point of mule-headedness.

Illya was sitting perfectly still now, only the warmth of his skin under Napoleon's fingers betraying the fact that he was still alive.

There was an odd intimacy about this moment, though he'd done this so many times, in so many different places. Was it something about how things stood between partners, a sense of responsibility towards one another that he was misrepresenting as something more?

Napoleon shifted uncomfortably, feeling his burgeoning erection once more make itself known, as if in answer. No, this was nothing that innocent, nothing that could be easily explained away.

His fingers, once he managed to force himself to concentrate, made short work of the tangled ropes that still bound his partner's wrists. Napoleon rested a hand on Illya's shoulder, using that touch to both bring him back to reality and push himself up from where he was kneeling. Self-conscious, he brushed one hand down the front of his jacket, wishing it was longer and could provide him with more cover, before remembering just where he was.

He extended a hand to Illya, who was still sitting on the floor Illya was grimacing slightly as the blood rushed back into his hands and it took him a moment before he noticed Napoleon's hand. The touch of flesh on flesh, skin on skin, sent a shudder through Napoleon.

"Ready to go?" he asked, marvelling at the steadiness of his voice. At least, it seemed, some part of his body was still under his control.

Illya nodded, all business now.

A quick glance at Napoleon had told him everything he needed to know, had confirmed everything that he had long suspected about his partner—Illya filed that information away for further consideration.

Now was neither the time or the place to deal with that particular revelation, there were more pressing matters at hand. Like escaping from their captors, to begin with, completing their mission if at all possible—in short, making sure there was a future in which they could discuss just why Napoleon had an erection.

Of course, Illya had always had ideas, suspicions, but nothing concrete.

Nothing that seemed to fit with the image Napoleon liked to present to the world at large, that he worked so hard to keep convincing. Bon vivant, man about town, lothario even—none of that seemed to tie with the other side of his partner that Illya saw so rarely and treasured even more because of its rarity.

Except that he often saw another side of Napoleon Solo completely and he was probably the only person currently alive who did. The only person his partner felt comfortable enough to show some vulnerability towards, the only person who he would risk everything for, should the need arise.

How could Illya not feel like the center of attention?

Even when Napoleon seemed to spread his favors so widely, he always came back to Illya, like a comet circling the sun. It might take a while, at times it would look like he was heading off in some wild trajectory, but Napoleon always returned to him, and he was always alone.

So, was the erection he was currently sporting an explanation for that?

Illya had always considered himself to be flexible—that flexibility had served Mother Russia well, as it now served his adoptive home through the agency he pledged allegiance to. The agency that had given him much more than the acceptance he'd craved, the role he was fit to play. It had given him Napoleon Solo and for that alone he would always be thankful.

This latest discovery did not change his view of his partner, it merely added yet another dimension, that was all. One that he intended to explore fully when the time was right, but till then would not speak of. After all, Illya reminded himself, there's nothing better than an unsuspecting victim.

That had gone well, Napoleon decided. Just as they'd been leaving the warehouse in which they'd been held prisoner their former captors had arrived, their entrance loud enough that he and Illya had been able to hide themselves and take them by surprise.

The thing that had stuck with Napoleon had been the normality of it all, the way in which once more he and his partner worked like a mind with but a single thought. The way in which everything seemed as it always was—maybe, just maybe, Illya hadn't noticed?

Once back-up had been called for, and the captured Thrush agents turned over to their care, it was time to head back to HQ. Illya was silent in the car, but that was no novelty—he'd never exactly been one for small talk.

Not for the first time, Napoleon wondered just what thoughts ran through that head. He'd seen enough television, even despite his social schedule, to know about the idea of telepathy, and wished for it now. That way, at least, he might get an idea of whether Illya knew, and, if he did, what his reaction was likely to be. As it was, he was completely in the dark, working by instinct once more and finding that not to be enough.

Time for the scientific method, Illya decided, watching Napoleon out of the corner of his eye as he drove the two of them back to Headquarters. That was the only way he would ever discover just what it was that Napoleon was thinking, figure out exactly what had triggered that erection so he'd know just what he was dealing with.

The possibility that it was just something produced by adrenaline was one that had to be considered, but then why had it happened when they were tied up not during the initial fight when they'd been taken captive?

The elevator was crowded. Rather than waiting for the next car, Illya took the opportunity to test his first hypothesis, chivvying his partner in front of him into the crowded car and then standing as close to him as he could. He watched Napoleon carefully out of the corner of his eye, studying him with an intensity that he usually saved for his experiments.

Nothing. No more reaction than usual, and he had to wonder how much of that was due to Napoleon being uncomfortable with being amongst a great mass of people. After all, who could get to admire him properly if they couldn't see him? A shallow point of view, but Napoleon's own. Illya made a mental note, it seemed that this particular hypothesis was unproved.

Mere closeness didn't seem to be enough.

He'd always thought that he knew exactly how Illya's mind worked, that somehow he could figure out at least most of the time what his partner was thinking, but at the moment Napoleon found him more inscrutable than usual. It was as if the shutters were up, hiding Illya's true motives from him, assuming, as Napoleon did, that Illya was up to something.

Because he was certainly acting suspiciously enough.

Little sidelong glances from Illya's direction, long looks at his partner when he thought Napoleon wasn't looking, that brilliant mind was clearly working on something. And the thing was, Napoleon had suspicions that he knew just what that something was. Even the thought of it made Napoleon nervous.

He had to suspect. But, knowing Illya, if that was the case, then nothing would happen until Illya was happy for it to. No matter what, Napoleon would have to bide his time till then.

As it was, Illya was standing right beside him in the crowded elevator car. He had shown uncharacteristic impatience, almost herding Napoleon before him into the mass of people, rather than waiting. That of all things should have made Napoleon suspicious; Illya rarely did anything without due consideration.

And now he was standing close beside him, so close that he seemed to be a heartbeat away from sliding into Napoleon's suit with him; Illya's body heat seemed to warm him, making the cool metal of the elevator on his other side seem almost icy in comparison.

Illya was studying him, but that study went both ways.

Napoleon idly watched his partner's profile, wondering just what was going on inside that head, whether Illya realized the effect he had on a number of the secretaries, and just what it would take to make him realize a certain Chief Enforcement Agent was equally smitten.

Not proximity alone, then. The time in the elevator car had been enough to disprove that hypothesis, there had been no obvious response from Napoleon to the closeness he'd forced upon him.

So it was something else then.

Illya considered this as he stalked through the corridors of UNCLE headquarters at Napoleon's side.

For once he took little notice of the way his partner flirted with every woman who came along, in stark comparison to his usual amused tolerance of that subject. Why should he worry about Napoleon flirting?

When he had first been partnered with Napoleon it had been a different story. He'd been uncertain, a little unsettled by anything on his partner's part that put others before himself, but time had worked to erode that uncertainty. And Illya knew now that he could get that kind of response as well—he had no time now to waste on petty jealousies. He, after all, was the one Napoleon always came back to, no matter what, and he couldn't see that behavior changing any time in the near future.

At least, as long as his overall theory about his partner was proved correct. He knew that Napoleon felt more for him than mere friendship allowed, something that was directly against official UNCLE policy for agents in the field.

But what did that matter? After all, if there was one thing Illya had learned from his time in the West, let alone the profession he had chosen to follow, it was the necessity of living for the moment. Because it might never come again, it might even be your last if the enemy had anything to do with it.

Would it be such a terrible idea to get involved with his partner?

Some people might say that there was little room left for the two of them to become closer, that they were already joined at the hip metaphorically speaking. Illya had overheard more than one comment to that effect in the time he'd been partnered with Napoleon and it had always amused him to hear the surprise with which it was said.

As if they were so different, so much day and night, that the two of them should barely be able to function as a team.

The other side of that, Illya knew, the side the sceptics seemed to overlook, was that they completed one another; that between the two of them they made one near perfect agent. Napoleon's audacity, Illya's stubbornness, Napoleon's enthusiasm, Illya's ingenuity. Two halves of a whole, two parts that seemed to close together like the clicking of a mechanism, complete and whole for the first time.

It had taken a little while for Illya to realize that the women Napoleon so ardently pursued were unable to take the place he held in his partner's life, even had Napoleon wanted them to.

Which he clearly didn't; Napoleon never spoke in a derogatory manner about them afterwards but had a tendency to barely mentioned them once the actual romance was done. As if talking about them would make it somehow more real, as though it was something trivial like what they had eaten for breakfast the previous day, and if spoken of it could come back and affect them now.

He'd come to the conclusion after a while, watching his partner, that the women were a smokescreen of some kind—it was clear that Napoleon enjoyed the time he spent with them, and doubtless they did too, but beyond that it was essentially meaningless to him. A way to pass the time less innocuous than some others, but a pastime none the less. If it had ever meant anything to Napoleon beyond that, Illya saw no evidence of it, and he'd looked for that.

It seemed there was no room for anyone else in their partnership after all, that the space between them was so minimal after all that there was nowhere someone else could slip between them.

Illya smiled at that idea, liking it a lot.

Napoleon glanced across at his usually taciturn partner just in time to see a smile flicker across his face. If anything, that made him even more suspicious of Illya, an uncertain feeling taking up residence in his stomach. Not that he wasn't suspicious of Illya half the time, hardly ever knowing just what was going on with his partner, but this felt different somehow. Importantly different. And he wasn't sure he liked it.

Just what was Illya up to?

There was something, Napoleon was as sure of that as he was of which way was up, but he knew he had to bide his time. Showing Illya that he knew he was up to something would only make Illya clam up even tighter—patience was rarely one of Napoleon's virtues but it was the only way in which he would find out what his partner was up to.

And he was up to something. Something that Napoleon instinctively sensed that he wouldn't like when he discovered what it was.

So, onto the next part of the experiment. Illya listened with half his attention to Waverly's words, then to his partner as he explained their escape and subsequent completion of the mission.

If it was not proximity, then what? Adrenaline?

He had seen enough examples of adrenaline-induced erections in his time to know that was a real possibility. There was nothing like coming close to death to make one have a new desire to experience life at its most intense. But could that possibly be the situation here?

"Comments Mr. Kuryakin?" Waverly's gravelly voice snapped him back to reality. He swiftly ran his mind back over the conversation he had been half-listening to.

"I have nothing to add, sir." Waverly just looked at him for a moment. "Napoleon has recounted what happened..." Was he rambling? He couldn't be sure. "We were fortunate to be able to complete our mission, though the main ringleader escaped."

"Unfortunate. And an oversight that you and your partner will shortly remedy." He looked sharply at Napoleon, who glanced across at Illya.

Illya nodded, not knowing what to say. They were clearly in the proverbial doghouse, and it was time they concentrated in order to get back into the old man's favor.

Waverly was annoyed with them. That much was clear to Napoleon, even if he hadn't seen the old man frown at the two of them—it took a lot to get Waverly annoyed. He clearly thought that his premier team had been lying down on the job, conveniently choosing to overlook that they'd both been captured and had to escape before they had almost done everything that they'd been ordered to do.

So they'd let the chief Thrushie escape? It hadn't been as though they'd done it deliberately.

He walked back to his office in silence, Illya at his side, also silent. Not that this was a novelty where his partner was concerned. But this was a different kind of silence, a more thoughtful one than usual.

Illya followed him into his office, his expression still contemplative.

"Did you want something?" The words escaped before Napoleon could stop them, even though he realized how plaintive they sounded even as he spoke. "Or can we get on and plan how to complete our mission?"

Illya nodded.

Illya chewed over the possibility of adrenaline as a reason even as he scoured the files Napoleon had given him.

Every so often he would risk a glance at his partner, only to see that he too was immersed in research, unusual as that was. Clearly Waverly's displeasure had temporarily shaken Napoleon's composure, making him want to get back into favor—there was little chance such a change could be anything more than temporary.

He thought back over all the missions they'd completed together, all the times they had faced death separately and as a partnership, comparing them to what had happened today. Nothing in his long experience of working with Napoleon had prepared him for that, he had never seen Napoleon react that way, even when faced with much more certain death.

So surely that had to make the possibility of an adrenaline-induced erection less likely?

That was something that could only be tested in the field. Illya returned his attention to the file he held, all the while pondering just how he could prove his theory.

The next couple of days passed slowly, and Napoleon became more and more anxious as he noticed the way that Illya was watching him.

If he hadn't been partners with the Russian for such a long time, then he probably wouldn't have noticed Illya's scrutiny. To someone else, someone less familiar with the subtleties of Illya's behavior, it would have seemed as though nothing was happening. But Illya watched him, not all the time, but enough.

Enough to make Napoleon wonder just what was happening. Just what Illya was planning to do.

He indulged himself in a little watching of his own, not knowing whether Illya realized he was being observed. It was always hard to tell, even with his own long experience of his partner.

Illya found himself crouched behind a pile of crates, watching the entrance to yet another warehouse. In so many ways deja vu was beginning to creep up on him. Except this time, Napoleon had gone in alone, rather than the two of them together, so that he was going to be the cavalry. If he could make it into the warehouse and rescue his partner without getting one or both of them killed.

This also had all the makings of a really good opportunity to test his theory about his partner once and for all. If the cause of last time's erection was adrenaline alone, there had to be enough in Napoleon's system now to test that hypothesis. Thent there was the other possibility, the one that had been lurking at the back of his mind but had seemed too far-fetched to even consider. Well, he'd have to wait and see.

He checked his gun, checked his communicator, took a deep breath and began to inch his way closer to the warehouse. His eyes scanned the building, looking for a place to enter, somewhere he could be unobserved.

There. A high window, conveniently close to another pile of crates. Maybe a little too conveniently, but there didn't seem to be all that many alternatives at the moment—it was that or walk in the front door.

This was really starting to get old.

Napoleon shifted a little, testing the ropes that bound him to the chair, as he took a few deep breaths in an attempt to stem the rising tide of nausea that threatened to overwhelm him. After all, if he was about to be rescued, he didn't want to face Illya having vomited on himself—there would be nothing his partner would like more than the chance to tease him for days and weeks to come about that.

At least his vision didn't seem to be blurred, not that there was very much to see. Just blank walls, an empty room, the chair to which he was currently tied the only piece of furniture.

Okay, Napoleon thought. Any time now, Illya...

Silence. He listened intently, but nothing gave the impression that the cavalry was about to arrive, in the shape of one annoyed Russian. Damn.

"So," he said. "I'll just wait, shall I?"

He pulled at the ropes, experimentally. No give in them whatsoever, they were tight around his wrists, holding them close to the wood of the chair arms. It looked as though whoever had tied him up knew exactly what they were doing.

"Trust me to get an ex-boy scout."

So different from last time.

Napoleon closed his eyes as a wave of memory swept over him, unbidden. The warmth of Illya's body pressed against his own, those nimble fingers as they brushed across his skin while his partner untied him; all those experiences and emotions mixed and merged together till his body had little choice but to react.

"Aw hell."

And, just then, the door opened.

So far, so good.

He'd managed to get inside the building without tripping any kind of alarm system, as far as he could tell. Now all Illya needed to do was rescue his errant partner and "get the hell out of Dodge".

Of course, this still seemed a little too easy, but Illya knew he still had little choice. Napoleon was in here, somewhere, so a successful rescue was the first item on his agenda—no matter what Waverly might say afterwards, the rest of the mission could wait.

His footsteps sounded loud as he crept across to the steps leading down to the lower floor. The staircase was metal, so going down it was bound to make more noise than he wanted, unless he took it very slowly—it made sense to search the upper floor first before risking that. Illya stopped for a moment and just listened.

Nothing but the usual noises of an abandoned building. Was Napoleon really here? For the briefest of moments, he wished he could just call out his name and see if there was a response, but that would be like painting a target on his back. Nothing new about that experience.

He looked around. Three doors led off the walkway on which he currently stood; all closed, all with frosted glass, all probably offices.

Eeny meeny miny mo, he thought, smiling to himself. Damn, he was even starting to sound a little like his partner. That had to stop.

He stepped towards the first door, the one nearest where he stood, hand outstretched a little hesitantly to the handle.

The more he'd tried to stop it, the more his mind worked on the subject of Illya Kuryakin. Or at least that was the way it seemed to Napoleon at the moment. Even the presence of two undeniably ugly Thrush goons in the room with him seemed to do little to diminish the hold those imaginings had over him.

Usually he considered the fact that he had an active imagination to be a godsend, a useful tool an agent might need to cultivate in order to serve the agency that employed him more effectively. That would have been his perception before today. Now Napoleon was under the definite impression that having a fertile imagination was all in all a very bad idea.

If he had been able to concentrate on how he might escape, that would have been one thing. But instead, the feature presentation for this afternoon's performance seemed to consist solely of lustful thoughts about Illya. Fuelled by, but not solely consisting of, their experiences together the last time they had been captured.

To say it was embarrassing would be an understatement, Napoleon decided, closing his eyes as if doing so would make the evidence of his arousal go away.

"Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?" It was one of his guards, smiling down at him with an expression on his face that Napoleon had seen so many times before.

"If you were the last man on earth..." Napoleon began, the words an instinctive response before his brain could remind him that making fun of someone when you were the one who was tied up was probably unwise.

Sure enough, Ugly decided he took offence, lashing out and sending Napoleon skidding, chair and all, across the floor to impact loudly with the wall. He shook his head, the warm sweet taste of blood in his mouth, angry now.

Empty. And so was the next office.

Illya sighed, heading back towards the walkway. Two down and one to go, then it would be time to descend that metal staircase as quietly as he could manage, as much as he hated the idea of doing so.

He froze, hand reaching for the handle as the crash reverberated through the warehouse, followed by a muffled curse in a voice he knew as well as his own.

So, it seemed his partner was here, and clearly not alone if the noises coming from the office were anything to go by. Illya paused by the door, listening intently, as he replaced his gun in its holster.

At least three people in the room, which meant he had to act fast.

He turned the handle swiftly, stepping back as he pushed the door open—Illya grimaced at the creaking sound as it swung into the room, wondering just how long it would take before one of the Thrush minions inside came to see what was going on.

A gun appeared in the doorway and he moved swiftly, his hand wrapping round his would-be attacker's wrist and pulling him out into the corridor where a karate chop swiftly rendered him unconscious. As Illya entered the room his eyes fell on Napoleon for the briefest of moments, before the suddden appearance of another assailant forced him to trade blows.

This was, however, another Thrush agent clearly longer on brawn than brains—he suddenly realized he was armed and Illya was able to subdue him as he was attempting to get out his pistol, slugging him across the head with the butt of his own gun.

It was always a pleasure to watch Illya in action.

From his vantage point against the wall, Napoleon watched his partner in action with a connoisseur's eye, noting the economy of movement, the preciseness of Illya's blows. It was over almost before it had begun.

It was the work of a moment for Illya to divest his former attackers of their weapons, gathering Napoleon's purloined UNCLE Special along the way. Straightening his jacket, Illya then turned towards where Napoleon sat, crossing the room in a couple of strides. He placed the guns by the side of the chair, his hands coming to rest on the ropes that tied Napoleon to the chair as he leaned forward till they were face to face.

"Good timing, as always," Napoleon said, willing the erection that he was still blindingly aware of to subside. "You can untie me, you know?"

It was only then that he caught sight of the look in Illya's eyes, the one he had come to know as mischievous and calculating—one he never expected to see turned on him and was always surprised when it did. And there was something else too, something more predatory lurking in the background.


"You're not going anywhere," Illya said, leaning over him, hands resting over Napoleon's wrists as if to add to the bonds that held him in place. "Not till I get some answers."

"Answers?" The room seemed airless suddenly, and was it his imagination or were the walls closing in? Napoleon glanced swiftly across at one of them. No, they were still in the same place, so this feeling must just be him panicking.

"Like the reason why you seem so pleased to see me all of a sudden," Illya began, looking down with a slow and deliberate movement of his head, then up again to meet Napoleon's eyes. He felt his face flame, embarrassment sweeping through him in a way it hadn't done since ninth grade.

"Oh." He was floundering now, out of his depth. All his previous experience, most of it with the opposite sex, seemed to count for little where his partner was concerned. "That."

"Yes," Illya said, smiling now. "That."

The two Thrush agents were unconscious, so this was as close to being alone with Napoleon as he was likely to get, Illya decided. It wasn't often that he had the upper hand where his partner was concerned, so why not take this opportunity to prove his hypothesis once and for all?

Napoleon looked a little nervous, the unfamiliar expression darting from his face almost as soon as it had appeared. Illya had seen what he expected to when he had looked down at Napoleon's lap, his partner's arousal clear for anyone to see. Napoleon's wrists were warm under his hands, the contrast of rough rope and smooth fabric adding to the sensations he felt.

Illya tightened his grip a little, leaning forward once more till just inches separated them.

"Time for a little talk," he said, watching Napoleon's face carefully, noting the flare of arousal that widened his pupils. "More than time."

"Talk?" Napoleon replied. "Don't you think untying me might be a better idea?"

His eyes darted away momentarily, towards where the Thrush agents still lay, but Illya didn't bother to look round. If there had been any movement from that part, he'd have heard them, and if he didn't, Napoleon would let him know.

"So you can run from this?" Illya shook his head.

He watched Napoleon hesitate, tongue flickering out across his lower lip. He had to be right, he had to have figured out just what this was, the current that flowed between them seemed to have been charged up somehow. This had to work.

Illya closed the distance between them and kissed his partner, gently following the path that Napoleon's tongue had taken, his eyes open for a reaction that wasn't slow in coming.

"What the...?" Napoleon pulled back as far as his position allowed, his head cracking against the plaster of the wall behind his chair. He looked startled, the proverbial deer in the headlights that Illya had heard so much about but never seen before.

Illya smiled to himself, looking down at Napoleon's lap once more to hide the smile. And there it was, concrete evidence in the shape of Napoleon's hardening erection, one hypothesis well and truly proven.

He felt the pain of the impact with the wall, a dull ache that reassured him that this wasn't a dream. Or a nightmare, though the way his body was responding made that possibility less likely.

"Untie me." He had tried for commanding but the words had emerged plaintive and Napoleon winced inwardly at their tone.

Illya shook his head, his gaze direct and challenging.

"Just when I have you where I want you?" he asked. "I think not, my friend."

Damn. Napoleon cursed silently as he felt his treacherous body respond to those words and he looked away from Illya, his eyes fixing on the unconscious Thrush agents. For the briefest of moments he wished he could trade places with one of them.

Then a pressure against his erection brought him back to reality with a jolt, dismissing his wishes once and for all. The breath caught in Napoleon's throat as he looked down to see Illya's knee pressing against him. If he was untied, he'd be able to rub himself against Illya till he obtained some form of ease—then again, if he was untied, he wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.

"I have a theory," Illya began, moving his knee back and forth slightly, his face solemn as he did so. "And scientific method demands that I test it, thoroughly..." Napoleon heard himself moan slightly. "And methodically..." Was it really him making these noises? "Until I'm satisfied..."


"That I have the proof necessary..."

"..please!" The word was choked, barely spoken, but Illya couldn't have missed it, as close to one another as they were. The pressure eased, slightly, though Napoleon was still more than aware of his standing on the knife's edge of release.

He sucked in a breath, closing his eyes as he attempted to gain some control.

"Okay," he said, when he felt more in control of himself. "You made your point, Illya. Now untie me."

Illya pulled back, his knee slipping from the seat of the chair as he did so. His hands still rested on Napoleon's wrists, the roughness of the rope beneath his palms grounding him, reminding him that this was real. That he had just done something that could never be taken back, never forgotten.

Something that he couldn't find it in himself to regret in the slightest.

His hands made short work of the ropes that bound his partner, though he dare not look at Napoleon's face. Illya was sure he'd made a faux pas, not in what he had done but where, and he didn't want to find himself having to apologize. Not when he felt that he was in the right.

As he bent to untie Napoleon's ankles, he heard his partner speak again.

"No. Go check on them." Illya nodded, not looking up, using the excuse of gathering the rope that had previously tied his partner's wrists.

By the time he'd checked the Thrush agents were still out, and tied one of them up, Napoleon was moving around. Illya checked his position out of the corner of his eye. His partner was crouched next to the other one, tying his feet together quickly.

"Let's get out of here," Napoleon said. Illya nodded, pulling out his gun as he followed Napoleon out of the room.

They descended the staircase slowly, Illya trailing at Napoleon's heels. Try as he might, he couldn't stop the memories of Illya's deliberate actions from circling in his head like a flock of birds, so much so that he was glad the few Thrush technicians they found didn't put up much of a fight.

Napoleon pulled out his communicator as his partner stood guard over them, deliberately turning his back on Illya as he spoke.

"Open Channel D."

"Mr. Solo?" It was an unfamiliar voice, low and throaty, and Napoleon smiled to himself.

"The same. And who's this?"

"Janine, Mr. Solo," the voice replied.

"Pleased to meet you, Janine," Napoleon purred, smiling to himself as he imagined the irritation he would see on Illya's face should he turn to his partner now. "Mr. Waverly?"

"Putting you through now."

He glanced over his shoulder to where Illya stood as he waited. Illya's back was stiff, disapproval written large in its rigidity.

"Mission accomplished, Mr. Solo?"

"Yes, sir. One Thrush establishment captured, as well as a bunch of machinery."

"Machinery for what?" Waverly's voice was curt, his tone clearly not one of tolerance for anything less than the whole story.

"I have no idea, sir," Napoleon replied. "Perhaps my partner.."

"Let me speak with Mr. Kuryakin."

"Illya?" Napoleon turned, handing the communicator as he pulled out his UNCLE Special so they could trade places. After all, he was just the CEA, he couldn't be expected to know everything about everything mechanical and scientific—that was Illya's job.

Illya took the communicator with a curt nod, still not meeting Napoleon's eyes as he did so. Napoleon frowned, turning to watch their prisoners.

The clean-up crew had arrived, Napoleon's former captors had been led away along with the technicians, and the machinery they had been tending was under scrutiny. Illya watched the proceedings with some interest, but most of his attention was focussed on his partner, who was currently flirting with one of the female UNCLE agents.

What had he been thinking to believe anything would change where Napoleon was concerned? Illya smiled to himself. That was like asking the sun to rise in the west for a change—Napoleon was who he was, and Illya had to admit that was the way he liked him, even if he found it a little irritating as well.

His communicator broke into the reverie and he fumbled a little as he removed it from his pocket.

"Mr. Kuryakin?"

"Sir?" Illya felt himself straighten a little at hearing the old man's gruff voice, even though he knew it was a ridiculous response.

"Go home, Mr. Kuryakin," Waverly said. "And take that partner of yours too, so the other agents can get some work done."

Illya smiled. Trust Waverly to know exactly what Napoleon was up to, one way or another—despite his bumbling professor façade there was little that escaped him.

"Sir." Replacing the communicator in his pocket, Illya turned to Napoleon—his partner was already looking in his direction, his attention caught by the sound of the communicator, no doubt. "Ready to go?"

Illya was silent in the car and Napoleon tried to concentrate on driving. At least that was the plan; if only his libido and his memory would stop conspiring against him, he'd happily put the events of the past few hours behind him and move on.

Who am I kidding? Napoleon thought, as a particularly intense memory ambushed him, making his body resonant with need.

He wondered for a moment how he must have looked to Illya, their faces so close together his partner must have realized how aroused he'd been, how if Illya hadn't stopped when he'd practically begged him to, there would have been no stopping something else.

But Illya had stopped, even though a small part of Napoleon sincerely wished he hadn't. He'd been told before that it was impossible to die of frustration, but in some ways he was starting to wonder. And he had a theory to test as well now, he decided, remembering Illya's words.

But what could he do? Waverly had sent the two of them home after a successful mission, they were headed towards Illya's apartment building so that Napoleon could drop his partner off and head home himself. A sudden idea flickered in Napoleon's brain and he deliberately turned left at the next corner instead of heading on—his partner said nothing, didn't even seem to notice that they were heading towards Napoleon's apartment now.

It wasn't till they arrived at the building itself, as they made the turn into the parking lot, that Illya said anything at all.

"I don't live here."

Napoleon took a deep breath, bringing the car to a halt and putting it into 'park' before turning to his partner as he turned off the engine.

"But I do," he said. "And I remember I interrupted some tests you were running earlier." He bit his lip a little, wondering what Illya's response might be, wondering if it would be as he hoped. Illya was silent for a moment, looking steadfastly out of the windscreen.

"Well," he began, eventually, just as Napoleon was convinced he might crack. "In the interests of scientific completeness..."

Napoleon smiled then, relief sweeping over him.

This was unexpected. Pleasant, certainly, but unexpected.

Illya contemplated the situation he found himself in as the elevator headed up to Napoleon's floor, wondering as he did so whether his partner could feel the tension that threatened to overwhelm the two of them.

He'd expected to have to try something, manoeuver the two of them into some situation where he could continue to test his theory, and then Napoleon himself had suggested they continue. That was more, much more, than he had hoped for, more than he had allowed himself to expect could happen.

He risked a glance across, but Napoleon looked cool and composed, only the slight tapping of his foot giving away that he was not as certain as he appeared. Even then Illya knew he was probably the only person still alive who could interpret just what was going on inside Napoleon's head with anything like a consistent level of success.

The doors slid open on the right floor and Illya followed Napoleon out of the elevator, his gaze fixed on a point between his partner's shoulderblades, and then into the apartment itself. Napoleon waited by the door, letting him pass and then closing it.

The sound of the door closing reminded Illya of nothing less than the last piece of a puzzle dropping into place, the piece that completed the picture and made it legible to anyone who cared to look.

Napoleon had turned to him once the door had closed, leaning back against it as if to stop Illya leaving. Not that this had ever been his intention. Illya felt something defensive rising inside him, not quite uncertainty but a feeling of breaking new ground, of something important being created between the two of them, something that needed to work.

"The bedroom's over there," Napoleon said, his eyes flicking towards one of the doors.

"I know where it is," Illya snapped, surprised at the terseness of his tone.


Was there? Illya considered this for a moment, wondering just what was going on inside his head that he wasn't already halfway to the bedroom door.


That was it. The cartoon light flicked on above Illya's head as he realized just what was out of place—if anyone was giving the orders now it was him, not Napoleon, no matter how things might stand between them in their working life. He advanced on Napoleon then, effectively trapping him against the closed door, wincing slightly at the hollow thud of Napoleon's head against the wood behind him.

Illya's hands found purchase on the material of Napoleon's suit, gripping both his arms just above the wrist and pushing them back against the door. They were face to face now, as close as they had been in the office before, and Illya could feel every breath Napoleon took, like an echo of his own.

This was another side of Illya completely, one that made Napoleon pay attention, parts of himself in particular. His partner's body was pressed against him now, sandwiching him between flesh and wood, his own arousal meeting an answering one as Illya just looked at him for the longest of moments.

"Bedroom?" Illya nodded. "You need to move," Napoleon continued, after a moment. There was no way he was going to make it anywhere, let alone the bedroom, if Illya continued to rub against him like that.

Slowly, reluctance clear in every deliberate movement, Illya backed off, the sudden lack of stimulation leaving Napoleon a little disoriented. Napoleon fixed his eyes on the bedroom door and kept moving, trying to forget Illya was there with him. When he opened the door, turning to see whether his partner was following, a sudden shove made him stumble forward, only his quick reflexes allowing him to break his fall. His side hit the bed, Napoleon bounced slightly and rolled over onto his back.

Illya closed the door behind the two of them and came to stand at the foot of the bed, easing himself into the space between Napoleon's legs. He leaned forward, hands coming to rest either side of Napoleon's head, kissing his partner like he needed that kiss instead of breath.

This time, it seemed, participation would be encouraged.

Napoleon's hands rose as if of their own accord, one coming to rest on Illya's shoulder, feeling the wiry strength beneath the material of his suit, the fingers of the other twining in Illya's hair. No chance of escape, for either of them.

He was hard, his arousal growing by the moment, the press of Illya's body against his own a guarantee of that. But there was something missing, something that would take him to that knifes edge once more, something that he realized the identity of but hesitated to ask for.

Here at last, in Napoleon's bedroom with him for a more intimate purpose than nursing his partner back to health.

This was a moment he'd fantasized about for the longest time, one of the first things Illya had considered when he'd realized he was falling for his partner. And it was a fantasy he'd never thought would come true.

But here he was, his own weight pressing Napoleon into the mattress, heat flaring between them as he rubbed the evidence of his own arousal against the answering heat of his partner's. It was better, far better, than even his fertile imagination had ever conceived. Only the feel of Napoleon's fingers in his hair, the continual reminder of his mouth, made Illya certain that this was real.

Illya shifted his weight, moving till his own erection was rubbing against Napoleon's thigh, the rapidly dwindling rational part of his brain comparing the action to a dog he'd seen once, making 'friends' with someone's leg.

Napoleon moaned, the sound muffled by Illya's mouth. He liked that sound, it seemed to herald the kind of abandon he'd never been able to imagine his partner experiencing—Illya transferred his attentions to Napoleon's jawline, kissing and nipping his way towards his partner's ear in the hope of hearing it once more.

When the sound came it echoed oddly in the room, seeming so out of place. Emboldened, Illya slipped a hand between them, fingers questing for the buttons on Napoleon's jacket and making short work of undoing them before slipping between the jacket and the blood-warm cotton beneath.

"Illya.." Napoleon muttered, tightening his grip in Illya's hair—was he trying to direct or control? Either way, Illya was not impressed. His hand slipped downwards, finding Napoleon's belt, dealing with it swiftly and then moving on, in search of heat.

Napoleon's fingers tightened more, making Illya pause for a moment. The way things were going, by the time his partner climaxed, it was possible he would have no hair left. He distracted Napoleon for a moment, his tongue flicking at the sensitive place behind his partner's ear as the hand which had been heading downwards moved up Napoleon's chest once more.

Illya's agile fingers made short work of the knot of his partner's Italian silk tie, pulling the tie itself free in a matter of moments before leaving it coiled like a waiting serpent on Napoleon's chest.

Illya shifted back a little, looking down at Napoleon's face, moving as far as the grip on his head would allow. His partner blinked up at him, the sudden removal of sensation seeming to leave him speechless as well. Illya freed Napoleon's fingers from his scalp, glancing at his partner's hand to check for hair as he did so, before bringing his wrists together between the two of them. Three turns with the tie and Illya could relax once more.

"Illya?" Napoleon seemed to have recovered his equilibrium a little and his voice along with it, though huskier than usual.

"One factor for which I forgot to test," Illya said, taking hold of his partner's bound wrists with one hand and shoving them above Napoleon's head. "One common factor of both times..." he continued, lowering his voice as he explored Napoleon's jawline once more.

Illya smiled to himself as Napoleon moaned again, the sound more guttural this time, much less the sound of someone in control.

Was his partner telepathic, or just relentlessly thorough?

Napoleon knew that there was no way the loose wrapping of silk round his wrists would really constrain him if he wanted to break free, but the illusion of captivity was enough to send all the blood rushing to his groin.

One of Illya's hands had insinuated itself between the two of them once more, his partner's talented fingers slipping beneath Napoleon's shirt to rest on his ribs. Illya's palm felt like a brand, fiery against his doubtless already overheated flesh.

He could hear himself, hear the moans that seemed to roll out of his mouth incessantly, and he almost wondered at the sounds he made. And then Illya's hand moved lower making Napoleon forget all about it.

Afterwards, there was silence.

Wrapped in that comfortable, companionable stillness, they had eased further up the bed still fully-clothed and lay wrapped around one another, as if moving even a hairsbreadth apart would cause every implication of what they had just done to fall upon them.

Napoleon's hands were still above his head, as if forgotten there, the tie that hand bound him twined as much between his fingers as it wrapped around his wrists. Illya's hand was still sandwiched between them, though he had moved it initially, just to wipe it dry before resting once more.

"So now what?"

There was silence again for a moment, Napoleon's question hanging in the air between them. Was this a one-off, his tone seemed to ask, or could this be the start of something?

"Tests," Illya said, without looking up from his close inspection of the marks he had left on his partner's neck. "Lots and lots of tests. After all, I do have a hypothesis to prove, and thoroughness is important—this could have just been a fluke."

Napoleon sighed, bringing down his still-bound hands from over his head to rest on Illya's back. Illya felt the weight of them, reassuring, familiar from a thousand casual touches.

"I'm not sure my suits can stand that."

Illya pushed himself up, as far as Napoleon's embrace would allow, and looked his partner in the eye.

"We all have to make sacrifices for scientific progress, Napoleon," Illya said, smiling.

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