by Cord Smithee


The Man from UNCLE and its characters are owned by someone else, we don't know exactly who, but no one is making any money off this story.

Note: The author of this story does have an email address listed at the archive, however he has extremely limited internet access so is unable to answer comments left. That doesn't mean he doesn't want to see them. :-)

Blacksmith's hands, he remembered thinking when he first caught sight of them. Peasant's hands. Butcher's hands. He'd looked from the broad-fingered, heavy-boned, tendon-ridged hands of the smallish man seated across Waverly's rotating conference table to his face--placid, with a broad plain forehead and almost colourless eyes, slight hint of a double chin, nose not commanding enough to compete with a jaw that might have been sketched by a comic book artist--not to mention the short, also colourless hair in a ragged cut that did nothing to flatter him--and had thought, apparatchik. KGB. Soulless communist killer, his conscience in the keeping of the Rodina.

And again, peasant.

Russian. Peasant. Killer. It was all there in the face, the folded hands, the inwards scowl. No imagination and no humour, all spirit ground out of his genetic stock by generations of privation under one tyrant after another. Untroubled by moral complexities in his work. Untroubled by moral complexities at all.

Not that Napoleon could afford to be troubled by complexities either. He was, after all, a killer too. And one not prone to moralising about his colleagues' failings.

Napoleon was a man accustomed to living or dying by snap judgements, and that face did nothing to dissuade him from this one. Nor did the forearms, ridged with muscle, the thickset shoulders and heavy bone that argued against the man's stature as evidence--perhaps--of childhood malnutrition. The plain gold ring he wore was an oddity, a clue that there might be something there that wasn't apparent on the surface. But the surface was so otherwise flawless that Napoleon dismissed it.

It was an error in judgement that lasted perhaps thirty seconds. Until Illya Nikolaivech Kuryakin, freshly introduced, stood, settled his ill-fitting coat over his holster in a gesture Napoleon recognised from the inside, straightened his hideous Soviet tie, and extended one of those enormous hands to Napoleon. Napoleon took the hand--as callused and powerful as he had expected, but the pressure precisely modulated as it enveloped Napoleon's slenderer fingers in warmth--and the unprepossessing blond Russian opened his mouth and a trained, flexible baritone rolled out, as precisely modulated and cultured as the touch of his hand. "How do you do," he said. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance."

The voice was like a hand lifting the fine hairs on the back of Napoleon's neck. And then the Russian smiled, and gave Napoleon's fingers a double-handed, European squeeze before stepping back, and Napoleon sat down quickly to hide the blood-hot evidence of what that—extraordinary—smile had done to him. "Likewise," he managed weakly, over the roaring in his ears.

Ridiculous, he thought. One smile from a KGB plant and I'm ready to play for the other team? And then, unbidden--the realisation that the wry little not-quite-smile meant the Russian knew what he was doing to Napoleon, and was amused by it. Napoleon cleared his throat. The KGB practice entrapment, don't they? I imagine this young man with his cold, unreflective killer's eyes is quite a success at it.

But he glanced back over before Waverly stood to commence the briefing, and found the Russian looking at him. Speculatively.

And his eyes weren't cold at all, but warm, and sparking. The Russian steepled those amazing hands in front of himself, lacing the fingers together like thatch, and Napoleon knew in that instant that he was utterly lost.

And so it went. Those hands came to be as known to him as his own--better known than a lover's, in fact. Nimble for all their size, hands that freed him from cages and dressed his wounds and beat his enemies senseless. Hands he trusted as he trusted his own--more, in some cases. He learned the little Russian had a glass jaw and a will of iron, a vicious right hook and a flying front-kick that was a little like being trampled by a pissed-off ploughhorse, except horses didn't wear hobnailed boots. He learned that here, at last, was somebody who wasn't going to die on him. Against all odds. He rediscovered faith.

And years went by.

Afterwards, he never remembered exactly how it was that things changed. The general circumstances, the ache in his muscles, the taste of Illya's harsh Russian vodka on his tongue and the coldness of a bag of ice pressed to the bruise on his jaw, the heat of a hot water bottle against the strained muscles at the small of his back. No hospital stay this time, thank God. And Illya, unhurt for once, fussing over him.

"I should take you home," Illya said, coming out of the kitchen, drying his hands on a dish towel tucked in his belt. "It's late."

On second thought, perhaps Demerol and Russian vodka weren't such a smart combination. As Napoleon opened his eyes, grimacing in the dim light, and dropped the ice bag in a cereal bowl on the side table. A clean cereal bowl, set there for that purpose. And said, "Why?"

"Why is it late?"

"Why take me home?"

He watched his partner blink, hands still moving absently over the towel. And then he came forward, slowly, and crouched down, one knee on the sofa, one hand on the back cushion beside Napoleon's head.

"Napoleon," Illya whispered. "Was that--a pass?"

"What do you think?"

"I think if it wasn't, you have some explaining to do."

He couldn't think of what to say. So he reached out, took the other man's shoulders in his hands, and pulled him down for a lingering, Chinese-takeout-and-vodka flavoured kiss. He almost--shamefully--whimpered when his partner ran those fingers through his hair, disarraying it, letting him taste the vodka on that sweet, hot breath. "Christ."

Illya leaned back, tilting his head sideways, the edge of that transformative smile playing around the corners of his mouth. "Christ meaning 'no?'" Breathily. The touch of his hands light, teasing, stabilising.

"Christ." He leaned forward to reclaim that mouth, lips and tongues moving in something that was more than a kiss and more than a conversation. Illya slid his hands up Napoleon's neck on either side, cradling his head with carefully modulated power.

"My name is Illya," he mocked. "I do not know who this other fellow may be."

"Christ," Napoleon said a third time, leaning into the kiss, fighting gravity to do it. "Christ, your hands."

"My hands?" A mumble against his mouth, body heat fierce through cotton and tailored trousers. Slick leather of the shoulder holster, prodding weight of the gun. "A moment like this and you're thinking about my hands?"

"I've been thinking about your hands for years," he admitted, savouring the kiss between words, like bites of cake. And then he gave himself up to those hands, his own helpless, momentarily, on that muscled back. Gave himself up to the mouth that traced a line down his throat, the nuzzling touches that loosened his tie and opened his collar.

He moaned.

"So sensitive," his partner said. "No wonder you're such a sybarite." Illya pulled back unexpectedly, kneeling on the floor between Napoleon's knees. His hands slid down to cup Napoleon's ass, drawing their groins together. Then, quickly, on a rush—"Do you top or bottom?"

Napoleon blushed with the admission. "I don't know," he said. "I've never—" and then caught Illya's wrists quickly before he could draw back, concerned.

"Never?" Illya blinked in surprise. "I thought—" And then blushed. "I thought you had been flirting with me for--well, since we met, actually."

"I have."

"Oh." He paused, then let his hands slide back up, but under Napoleon's shirt. "Would you—like to fuck me?" A hesitation as he reached for the American profanity Napoleon had never heard him use before.

"Is that what you like?"

A slow smile. Sensual. Amused. "I can be flexible."

"Believe me. I've noticed." Napoleon's gut in a slow roil. "I had thought we might—"

"Start slow?"

"Take turns." Oh, that worth it for the blink, the blush like a red tide through fair skin, the surprised chuckle quickly bitten back. "If you will teach me—"

"Oh," Illya said, those hands--so powerful, so controlled, so trusted--still moving warmly over the warm skin of Napoleon's back. "Are you certain?"

Napoleon grinned against the kiss. "Have you ever heard me ask for something I didn't want?"

"No," Illya said, standing, drawing him to his feet, gentle of the bruises and the pain in his lower back.

"Come on. The bedroom isn't far."

"In an apartment this size, nothing is far," Napoleon answered, but he followed his partner into the bedroom, and smiled when he shut the door.

Musician's hands. Scientist's hands. Killer's hands. The hands of a lover.

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