by nickovetch

Napoleon was proof reading his report on the Potentate Affair when his partner entered the office they shared. He nodded perfunctorily and sat heavily in his chair. Illya rubbed a hand across his eyes once and looked longingly over at the coffee dispenser. Solo pushed his untouched cup over at the younger man.

"Go on, take it. You need it more by the look of you."

"Thank you," he said quietly as if talking were more of a strain than he could stand.

Solo noticed the fine tremor in the hand that reached for the cup, something that no one else would have noticed. He did not comment on it, however. The Russian agent was drawn, pale, and the dark smudges under his blue eyes were growing worse by the day.

Napoleon cleared his throat to distract Illya and glanced casually at the tired eyes that looked back at him. Illya seemed to rouse himself, though, trying to affect damage control at his lapse.

"Late night at the Blue Note." He yawned largely to complete the ruse, but Napoleon didn't fall for it.

"Again? What, are you living there? Meet some beatnik girl who caught your eye, did you?"

Illya cringed inwardly, but allowed a small smile to lift the corners of his lips. He retorted, "Yes, that's it, Napoleon. You've found me out."

"Ah, huh. And I've been spending nights at the monastery learning how to embrace celibacy, myself."

Getting up from the desk, Napoleon shuffled the pages of his report into order and walked past Kuryakin on the way to the door. He turned to face his partner and said before leaving, "If you need to talk to me, Illya, I'm always here." He didn't wait for a reply as he hit the electric eye and left the room to his silent friend.

Kuryakin sighed in the empty room. He frowned at the two nameplates butting up against each other on the double desk. Illya's nervous gaze roved around the small room, picking out the personal items that made this their niche. There was the ivory carving he'd given Napoleon after returning from Nairobi. And the ceremonial knife Solo had bought for him in Brazil. So many more memories crammed into such a small place. How like my life, he thought.

He was glad Napoleon hadn't confronted him directly as to his discomfort lately. How could he tell his partner of over three years that he, Napoleon, was the cause of the trouble? He couldn't, of course. That was a large part of his misery.

Illya didn't know when things had gotten bad. It was as if a virus had insinuated itself into his body, benign yet insidious at the same time. By the time he had become aware of the invader, it had been too late. Yes, Napoleon was wound so deeply inside of him, he knew there would be no eradicating him. Hell, he didn't want to get rid of him, anyway.

Napoleon was like a warm drink on a cold day, a well-read and familiar book, and a beacon of light that nothing had been able to extinguish, that had always been there to guide him home.

And I can never tell him how I feel, Illya thought morosely. He hated keeping anything from his partner, knowing on a gut level that it would only erode their relationship eventually. But telling him, that would do more than erode; it would quite probably destroy it. The irony of it all was not lost on the somber Russian. He knew better than anyone that schisms like this were what tore partnerships apart. He had seen it happen first hand.

So instead of letting the beast out to prey on their relationship, Kuryakin kept it caged and let it eat him away from the inside. He shook his shaggy head and brought his fist down sharply onto the desk. The noise and the pain of the contact calmed him, centered his whirling thoughts, and gave him a starting point. Hopefully, when Napoleon came back, he would be able to play the cool Russian spy again, a role he had invented to keep people away, and one that sometimes he played too well.

Illya snorted contemptuously. It hadn't worked with Solo, however. The brash and ever-so-confident American had chipped and flaked at the persona Illya tried to project, until the façade lay in tiny pieces, and the real Illya shined as brightly as a newly minted dime. Illya wanted to curse Napoleon for that but couldn't; Napoleon was the one man who had ever cared enough about him to go to the trouble. The friendship was the reason Illya had let him in past his guards. The loneliness of his solitary life had wearied him, made him incautious enough to risk the exposure. But to Solo only; to all others the "Do Not Trespass" sign was in full force.

Illya swallowed the dregs of the coffee, suddenly wanting to be any place but his office. It was better in the field. The adrenaline rush of the work kept his feelings at bay long enough for him to forget, to deny the fact that he was deeply and hopelessly in love with Napoleon Antony Solo.

Kuryakin was beginning to dread the end of a mission, knowing that they would end up back in the tiny office, doing the grunt work every government official despises yet has to perform. It was here that he could not escape the sense of urgency that demanded he tell Napoleon, tell him before it was too late.

Tell him what? Illya thought angrily. I finished my report, Napoleon. It's on your desk. And, by the way, I'm in love with you. It was almost comic, yet Illya didn't feel like laughing.

If he couldn't tell Napoleon, he'd do the next best thing. Run away. Avoid. Obfuscate. He was a master at that. He'd had a lifetime to work at it. Pushing away from the desk, he rose and gathered his suit coat. He intended to check on his lab experiments and then have an early lunch. Anything but sit in this office for one more minute. The door opened before he could trigger it and Solo walked in with a look on his face. Illya knew that look.

"Another mission?" he asked, knowing the answer was yes.

Napoleon grinned. "Just enough time to go home, repack and meet back here in an hour."

Illya brushed by his partner and walked down the corridor. Napoleon stuck his head out the door and yelled at his retreating back, "Hey, don't you want to know where we're going?"

"It doesn't matter, Napoleon." He hurried to get out of sight before adding softly, "As long as it's away from here."

Three hours later both agents were relaxing with a cocktail in the first class section of the Trans-Am plane. Napoleon watched with an appraising eye as the beautiful red-haired stewardess took drink orders. Illya watched Napoleon.

"What a pity economy class was full, huh, Illya?" he remarked as he stretched his longer legs out in front of him with a sigh. He pushed the button for the attendant and grinned at his somber partner. A moment later 'Mindy' leaned over him, a polite smile frozen on her features. Then she really looked at Napoleon and the smile turned genuine, measuring his appeal as he did hers.

"Yes, sir, did you need something?" she practically purred into Solo's ear.

"Well, up until a minute ago, no. But that was before I saw you..."

The rest of the pas de deux was lost on Illya as he turned to the window and watched the cloud vapor roll by. He almost wished Napoleon would strike out, that this new interloper would brush him off and return Napoleon to the Russian's world. But he sighed softly, knowing he was being unfair, and that Solo was only being true to his nature. He resigned himself to another lonely night in the hotel.

Bare minutes later he felt Napoleon tap him on the arm. A business card was thrust under his nose with the name 'Mindy' and a phone number scribbled on the backside. Illya gazed coolly at his partner and gave nothing away.

"I have a date tonight, partner." When Illya didn't rise to the bait, Napoleon grinned at him and added, "And she informed me she has a friend..."

He really can be too much, sometimes, Illya thought grumpily. Instead he replied icily, "How nice. Now you can have that threesome you always talk about." He reclined his seat and closed his eyes, giving Napoleon his answer.

He heard the long-suffering sigh that the American exhaled. It wouldn't work: Illya would not feel guilty. He'd be damned if he'd double with Napoleon and have to watch as his smooth partner wooed and beguiled another woman into his bed, all the while wishing Solo would see what was right there in front of him.

Dammit, Kuryakin get a hold of yourself, he told himself with a mental shake. Of course Napoleon would be occupied tonight. It was as natural as breathing to him. And just as natural for Illya to be alone. To want otherwise was a fool's game, and he was old enough to know better than to play it.

He dozed lightly and felt Solo shake him awake as the landing light came on. He felt the sudden deceleration and the accompanying displacement of his stomach as the huge jet braked to a stop. Looking out the window he saw the gate looming closer and wondered where this case would take them.

"I'll bet you've always wanted to see beautiful Columbus, Ohio, huh, Illya?" Solo smirked teasingly.

Solo's mood was infectious and Kuryakin found himself grinning back. "Well, yes, it was one of the reasons I left Russia. Second only to meeting Mickey Mouse."

They sorted out their carry-ons and deplaned, covering the tarmac quickly and breaching the airport terminal proper.

"Should we rent or get a taxi?" Illya left it to Napoleon, as he was senior agent. He liked to let him feel in charge once in a while. It helped him get what he wanted when it really counted.

"I'll need a car to pick up Mindy later. Let's rent one." He sauntered over to the Hertz counter and sweet-talked the clerk into finding a red convertible that should never have been available at this time of day in this type of airport. Sometimes Solo's luck was uncanny.

Illya proved faster on his feet when the keys were placed on the counter. He grabbed them before Napoleon could tear his eyes from the blonde behind the counter. He looked at Napoleon in triumph and headed to the garage. "I get to drive to the hotel. You'll have your turn later."

Napoleon thought about the redhead waiting for him and let Illya win this one. "I certainly will," he predicted. Illya rolled his eyes and walked faster to the ragtop. They tossed their luggage in the trunk and roared away from the curb in a cloud of exhaust.

The hotel was just like the other thousand they had stayed in. The room was the same boring shade of beige, the bedspreads were the same ugly plaid and the shower had that knock in the pipes that always annoyed Illya. He threw his case on the bed closest to the bar and helped himself to a tiny bottle of vodka. He poured bourbon for Napoleon and set it on the night table. Settling comfortably on the bed, Kuryakin pulled a physics text from his bag and settled in.

Napoleon was humming in the shower, shaving by the sound of it. A few minutes later he walked out in his boxers and t-shirt, pulling another exquisite suit from his garment bag. He watched Illya ignore him and finally couldn't stand it anymore.

"You really mean to sit here and read a book when you could be out with a gorgeous woman?" He shook his head at the smaller man and stepped into the trousers laid out on the bed. "Come on, Illya, get dressed and come with me. You won't be disappointed."

Illya snorted and said softly, "No, but the woman probably would be." He gazed at Solo and saw the puzzled look on his face. "Look, Napoleon, just go and have a good time without me." Like you always do, he wanted to add.

"Why do you do this, Illya?" Napoleon was beginning to lose his temper. "Why can't you just once come with me and have a good time?" The hurt in his voice was evident and it stabbed through Illya like a knife. This wasn't going well. He had to deflect Solo's anger and get him out the door. That was the intent, but the execution left something to be desired. Illya was getting angry, too, and that was a dangerous thing for him to let happen.

"Because I choose not to be a pawn in your game of seduction. You certainly don't need any help from me in that department. Better that I just stay out of the way." He looked down at the book in his hands.

"You wouldn't be in the way. She has a friend who..." he started.

"Whom I am decidedly not interested in, Napoleon." Illya finished.

Solo flushed, truly angry now. He finished dressing and turned to his partner one last time. "All right, Illya, sit here in the dark for all I care. This is the last time I ever invite you along."

Illya's head shot up at the venom in the words. Before he could stop it he responded almost automatically to the unspoken challenge. "Good. I don't need you to fix me up. And I certainly don't need you to throw me a bone."

Solo was across the room before Kuryakin could even blink. He grabbed Illya's shirt in his fist and yanked him forward as he growled in his face, "You ungrateful... I make a gesture purely out of friendship and you spit it back in my face. You're hopeless, do you know that, Illya? Absolutely hopeless." Illya's face was inches from Solo's, so close he could see where the razor had nicked him. He had never seen Napoleon like this, on the job or off. Solo glanced down at his fist balled up in Illya's chest and looked startled for a moment. He let go and dropped the hand to his side.

Illya pushed away from Napoleon and backed up against the headboard. He hung his head miserably and was lost in the turmoil of emotions washing through him. He knew he had said too much, and vowed to keep silent. Napoleon would leave, and this conversation would be forgotten by the morning. He hoped.

Napoleon backed off as well, embarrassed by his outburst and for the cutting words that had so pointedly hurt his partner. He stared at the forlorn man and sat on the other bed. He cleared his throat and took a deep breath.

"Illya." When Kuryakin did not look up, he pushed on. "Look, I'm sorry I lost my temper. I... I didn't mean what I said."

"Yes, you did." The words were so soft Napoleon thought he'd imagined them. Illya looked up at him slowly and Napoleon was shocked to see tears gathering in Illya's eyes. Had he hurt him that much?

The guilt in Napoleon's hazel eyes was too much to bear. Illya sat up and moved to the side of the bed in order to look Solo in the face.

"Napoleon, you may be a super agent and a damn good spy, but sometimes you can be so dense." Illya allowed a small smile to cross his features and he saw Solo relax minutely.

"Well, then, enlighten me, Illya. What's the real problem here?"

Illya knew he couldn't hide anymore. He knew that Napoleon deserved better, deserved his honesty. He trusted him with his life: he could trust him with this.

"Napoleon, I'm gay." There, he had done it. No turning back now. He looked at his feet and slowly let his gaze travel upward to Solo's face. Napoleon was unreadable, and that worried Illya. He could always read his partner. But the look on his face was a complete blank to him.

Solo stood slowly, retrieved his jacket and shouldered into it. He did not look at Illya nor did he speak. As he reached for the door handle, he spoke without turning around.

"All this time, Illya? All this time you let me believe a lie? I thought I knew you. I guess I was wrong." He walked out the door and closed it quietly behind him.

Illya sat on the bed in stunned disbelief. He had expected Napoleon to be angry, or at least upset. But he didn't know the man who had just walked out the door. His insides clenched and he rolled off the bed to stagger into the bathroom, barely making it in time to retch in the toilet. He tasted bile and vodka, and the smell made him spasm again. He was too shaky to walk so he lay on the cold linoleum floor for a few minutes, gathering his strength. His mind whirled more chaotically than his stomach. What had he done?

He hadn't been sure how Napoleon would react to his news, but he had expected him to at least react. This quiet anger was not what he'd expected from his partner. His partner. If Illya had had the strength, he would have smacked his head.

Of course Napoleon reacted the way he did. Illya had shocked him to his very roots. Partners were supposed to be shock proof. They were supposed to know everything about each other, trust each other, look out for each other. They weren't supposed to be blindsided three years into it.

Illya felt like the idiot he was. Not only had he just ruined their friendship, but the partnership was in tatters as well. The one man he had hoped, he had wanted to understand had felt betrayed by the only one he truly trusted.

By and by, Illya could stand, and he flung himself across his bed bonelessly. He couldn't stop the swirling chaos that was his mind. Would Napoleon request another partner? Would he tell Waverly the real reason? He paled at that, knowing if he were sent back to Russia he was a dead man. He couldn't believe that of Napoleon, no matter how much he had hurt him. He would have to wait and see what Solo would do with his little bombshell.

"You had to do it, didn't you? Had to tell him." Illya whispered in the dark room. He answered in his mind. Yes, I did. Because it was the truth. And because it was slowly killing me by keeping it inside. Our relationship might be over before it ever began, but at least I had the courage to tell him.

But if the news of his homosexuality had done this to their friendship, Illya knew he could never divulge his feelings for Napoleon now or in a million years. For that would be the final twist of the knife. Napoleon would never, ever understand.

Illya tossed and thrashed for another hour until he finally slipped into a fitful sleep plagued with ominous dreams. He heard Napoleon come in around 4 a.m. but pretended not to. Rustling of clothing was the only sound in the room and he heard Solo settle into the other double bed with a weary sigh. Kuryakin couldn't help but grin at the thought that Mindy had worn his partner out. Perhaps he'd be too tired in the morning to argue. Illya hoped so as he rolled over and drifted off.

Solo's wristwatch beeped insistently at 7 a.m. precisely. As his arm was lying across his forehead, he could in no way ignore it. Napoleon groaned and rolled over, shoving his offending wrist under a convenient pillow. Illya was beginning to stir, yawning and rubbing his bleary eyes. He'd always hated mornings. First the orphanage, then the navy had sadistically decided that its captives would be better disciplined if they rose well before dawn. At least as an agent, Illya could sleep to a reasonable hour most days.

Illya reluctantly rolled out of bed and seeing Solo still enveloped by the bed sheets, went to shower first. He washed, shaved and finished with a cold spray to chase away the last of the cobwebs. He wanted to be awake when Napoleon started in on him.

Napoleon was lounging against the headboard, sheets half across him when Illya emerged. The Russian noted that Solo was wearing boxers. Napoleon never wore boxers or anything else to sleep in for that matter. He had told Illya early on that he never felt truly naked as long as he had his Special within reach. Solo caught the glance from Illya and self-consciously covered himself with the sheet.

Illya stiffened at the gesture, knowing that yesterday Napoleon wouldn't have cared a whit about being naked in front of him. Add that to the list of things that had changed.

He sighed loudly, and said, "I've seen you naked before, Napoleon. A bit late for modesty, don't you think?" He tried to keep it light, but the pain in his heart came through just the same.

Solo cleared his throat and looked at the wall. "A bit late for a lot of things." He turned and leveled his hazel eyes at his partner. Illya nearly shuddered at the look of pain and anger there. Solo said softly and evenly, "Things like honesty, truth, and respect."

Illya darkened at the words and the tone. "So that's how it's going to be?" He pulled on his jeans and t-shirt and sat on his bed. He dropped his face into his hands and sighed.

When he looked up, Napoleon had mirrored his actions and sat directly opposite. Illya raised his eyes and looked defiantly back at the American.

"I'm the same person I was yesterday, Napoleon. The same partner who's risked his life for you, pulled you out of the fire, stepped in front of a bullet for you. I'm still me, Napoleon. And I deserve some respect from you of all people. Being gay is just part of who I am. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, truly I am. But it's not something that any Russian is going to broadcast, let me tell you."

Napoleon listened and tried to absorb what Illya was saying. He understood about hiding from the authorities, but he was Illya's partner, and best friend. "It's not the gay thing that's really bothering me, Illya. You're right: it hasn't affected your job or your performance. But I'm your partner, Illya. Hell, I'm your boss, too. And I thought I was your best friend. How can you expect me to not be rocked by this? I feel like I've been partnered with a stranger for the last three years now. I... I feel... betrayed... " Solo saw Illya wince at the word and stopped. The Russian was nearly white with emotion, fingers tightening on the spread beneath them.

Napoleon sighed and rubbed his fingers across his brow. "Maybe that's too strong a word, Illya. I'm sorry. I'm just trying to be honest and tell you how I feel. You're right: you deserve that. I just don't know how to feel right now."

That makes two of us, Illya thought as he got up from the bed and walked to the window. Pulling open the drapes, he stared out into the cold Columbus rain. It would be raining. The perfect start to a perfect day.

He turned to his partner and said, "Why don't you shower and we can get something to eat? We still have a case to work. At least that hasn't changed."

Napoleon nodded and grabbed his kit bag. Illya flopped on the unmade bed and tuned in the local news channel. His keen ears heard Napoleon close the bathroom door and quietly lock it. His face tightened in anger for a brief moment and then the cool Russian mask slid into place.

It was still there when a fully dressed Solo came out of the bath. Both men tidied their space and checked equipment before heading to the hotel restaurant.

It was the longest breakfast Illya could ever remember. Fifteen minutes. He timed it. Fifteen long minutes of Napoleon trying vainly to talk about something, anything but the obvious. He stopped after three and a half minutes, picked up the morning paper and belatedly handed Illya the metro section. Illya pretended to read it and jumped slightly when Solo got up. "Ready to go?"

He nodded, throwing Napoleon the car keys. They had an appointment with a local doctor who had contacted U.N.C.L.E. about some nefarious goings on in his chemical engineering firm. He was meeting them clandestinely to hand off a new formula that he was concerned about. He had been told he was working on a bio-toxin to aid in cancer treatments, but the doctor knew this was no chemotherapeutic. Hence the call to the enforcement agency.

Napoleon checked the map in the glove box and headed off toward the outskirts of town. The last message from Dr. Altamount had said to meet him in a derelict storage facility on S. Drummond Street. Not the best part of town but suitable for their purpose.

Illya automatically scanned the area upon their arrival. He checked the clip in his Special and noted Napoleon doing the same thing. He nodded once as they left the car and split up, one going in from the east side and the other west.

The concrete dock was pooled with rain water and Illya saw his somber reflection gazing up at him as he knelt by the large overhanging door marked "Receiving." He took in the immediate area, nothing out of the ordinary catching his eye. Which was in and of itself not necessarily a good thing. A padlock, rusted and dented but still holding its own, swung gently back and forth in the humid breeze. Kuryakin made short work of it and pulled the rolling door up enough to slide underneath.

Silently, he shut the door and let his eyes adjust to the gloom. A flicker of movement caught his attention, and he saw a dark shape duck behind a pallet of cardboard containers. He knew instinctively that it was Napoleon. Their training had them moving toward each other, eliminating possible threats as they sectored the building. Illya smiled despite the gloom. Some things hadn't changed after all.

Illya popped up for a quick peek and saw Solo looking in his direction. He sniffed the air and pointed at Illya, then to his left. They both moved in that direction. A few feet more and Illya could smell the cigarette smoke now. They both swung around a large suspended crate hanging from a cargo net to find the presumed Dr. Altamount sitting on a forklift, puffing away nervously. He startled and stood up as if to speak. Solo made a slashing motion with his hand across his neck and the scientist cowered, dropping back down sheepishly.

Napoleon looked at Illya and signaled, "All clear?" He returned in the affirmative and they both relaxed somewhat and closed the space between them. Napoleon appraised the man before him, his internal barometer recognizing the civilian mentality, taking in the nervous dart of his eyes and the way he jumped and shied at every little noise. Just like a bird, Solo thought. A Thrush, perhaps?

Solo couldn't resist. He glanced at Illya and a small smile tweaked his lips. "Dr. Altamount, I presume?"

At the mention of his name the doctor relaxed a bit and said loudly, "Yes, I am he." Illya winced and hissed for him to lower his voice. He shrank away again and seemed to grow smaller. Kuryakin kept watch from one corner of the net, scanning the warehouse with a practiced eye. He gave the doctor a reproachful stare for good measure, and then directed his attention to security. To his credit, the chemist kept quiet, taking Solo's lead and waiting for the agent to initiate conversation. Solo waited another two minutes and quietly spoke to the informant. He crouched down, and looked expectantly at the doctor.

"I'm Napoleon Solo, and this is... my partner, Illya Kuryakin." Illya turned and looked steadily at Napoleon, unmistakably communicating that he had heard the pause in his introduction. Solo coughed once and continued as Illya turned away again.

"You contacted us about something you created in your lab. Something dangerous enough for you to risk your job, your reputation, and, quite possibly, your life to expose. I want you to know that I personally admire you for that." Altamount colored at the words of praise and waved it off with his hand. He reached inside his jacket and Solo automatically tightened his grip on his pistol. He did not point it at the nervous man, however.

Dr. Altamount pulled out a slim glass test tube filled halfway with a clear red liquid. His hand was shaking as he offered it to the senior agent. Napoleon took it before it could drop from the trembling hands. He held it up to the murky light and peered at the vial. Making a quick noise, he saw Illya turn toward him and carefully tossed the vial to him. The Russian caught the sample easily and scrutinized it. Satisfied, he placed it in a plastic case and zipped it in his jacket.

Napoleon returned his attention to the chemist. "Is there any danger of your company missing that sample? What cover story did you come up with for our little rendezvous?"

Dr. Altamount wrinkled his nose and waved the remark off. "Don't worry, Mr....Sola?"


"Of course. Mr. Solo. I'm the one who batches the stuff. I took this before they instituted their particular form of inventory control. Now they watch it like a hawk. I've had this sample hidden for weeks now. And, as for this meeting, I took a personal day. To visit my dentist." The doctor looked very pleased with himself.

Illya asked pointedly, "Did you actually make an appointment with your dentist to keep the cover?"

Altamount's grin vanished and he looked chagrined. Solo glanced at Illya and said, "If they do any checking..."

Kuryakin sighed. "Then we're in trouble."

As if on cue, tires squealing on the rain soaked concrete echoed through the cargo bay. Illya pulled binoculars out of his pocket and focused on the dark sedan idling at the side entrance. "We've got company. And not the kind you want for tea." He read the logo on the panel and said, "'Carlyle Pharmaceuticals. Security.' Wonderful. Rent-a -Thugs." He checked his clip for darts and nodded at Napoleon.

"How many?" the C.E.A. asked, checking his own weapon and pulling Altamount's head down below the forklift's chassis.

"Three, four, yes, four. Corn-fed by the looks of them. Oh, well, the bigger they are..."

"...the worse it hurts when they land on you. What are they doing, playing poker?" Napoleon was tensed, ready to join in the fray at the least provocation.

Illya shifted his feet and peered through the binoculars. "They're not doing anything. Maybe they're just waiting for us to surrender?"

Solo snorted. "They'll be waiting a very long time." He looked over at Illya and gave him a dangerous smile. "Fight or flight?"

Kuryakin's blood was racing, adrenaline pumping through him like an illicit drug. He liked nothing better than a good fight with bad odds, but the inclusion of a civilian, an innocent at that, made him temper his enthusiasm. Much as it pained the Cossack in him, he glanced at Altamount and sighed. Solo grinned back, knowing the bloodlust well and understanding the restraint his partner was showing.

"All right, we'll try to sneak out of here. Doctor, stay low and follow our lead. Don't make a sound."

They went back toward the docking bay and the door Illya had jimmied. Solo took Illya's elbow and whispered, "You've got the sample and the doc. I'll create a diversion." He pressed the rental's keys into Illya's hand then squeezed his wrist once and said, "Take care." The look he gave Illya was as much of an apology as he had time for. Illya understood and nodded in agreement. He jerked his head at the doctor and roughly hauled him toward the exit. They waited on the floor next to the

door for Napoleon to make good his promise.

Illya watched the progress of his partner as he snaked his way through the maze of containers to the other egress on the opposite side. He heard car doors open and shut and the footfalls of large feet as the security team began to disperse. He turned his attention to his own task as he caught the muted sound of voices on the other side of the corrugated steel door. Just as the metal began to rattle as if in movement, a small explosion on the other side of the hangar blasted across the open space. He heard the noise, then felt it as the shock wave washed over them. A series of blasts began at regular intervals and Illya heard the distinct sound of an U.N.C.L.E. Special firing.

"That would be our cue..." he explained and quickly rolled the door upward on its hinges. He ducked under the edge and came face to foot with the largest pair of shoes he had ever seen. And an even larger body was wearing them. Rolling his eyes heavenward, he had time to think, I'll bet his name is 'Tiny,' before he felt rough hands haul him to his feet by the back of his jacket. Looking up into his opponent's face, Illya was struck with how much all thugs seemed to look alike. 'Tiny' was a dead ringer for the last Thrush goon who had tried to loosen his head from his shoulders.

"Well, they sure do make 'em smaller than they used to," Tiny said as he dangled Illya four inches from the ground. Kuryakin was ready to deliver a well-placed kick when Tiny suddenly grunted in pain and began to wobble, weaving drunkenly on unsteady legs. He dropped the Russian and pitched over sideways. Entirely hidden behind the bulk had been Dr. Altamount, a crescent wrench in his shaking hands. Illya stared dumbly at his rescuer for a moment and then beamed at the man.

"Well, don't look so surprised. I am a doctor. I know where to hit to make it count," Altamount said peevishly. He dropped the wrench distastefully at his feet, wiping his hands on the sides of his jacket.

Illya clapped him on the back and said, "Well done. We'll make an operative of you yet."

"You really think so?" he asked excitedly.

"No," Illya answered. "Come on, we've got to get the car and Napoleon."

They ran to the corner of the building, watching for Tiny's companions as they worked their way to the car. Illya got in and started the engine. He motioned Altamount to get in the rear. He gunned the engine and roared around to the front of the bay, watching for any sign of the others or of his partner. He saw the sedan first and the slumped bodies second. One linebacker was snoozing on the asphalt and a second was behind the wheel going nowhere fast. Illya got out of the car and checked on the sleeping giants.

He whirled at a sound and brought his Special to bear before he saw Napoleon grinning devilishly at him as he dragged the third player out of the building by his feet. He was sweating with the strain and dropped the load at Illya's feet. Breathing heavily he gestured to the car and said, "Larry, Moe, and Curly here decided it was Nappy time." He laughed at his pun and Illya shook his head in mock resignation.

"Well, I must have gotten Shemp, but he's out like a light thanks to our good doctor, here." Dr. Altamount was practically beaming and Solo's eyebrows rose at the thought of the timid scientist taking on a goon of these proportions.

"Let's get out of here before the rest of the team shows up, shall we?" Solo asked.

"What about my car?" the doctor inquired.

"Leave it. It's probably bugged or being traced somehow." Napoleon took his arm and asked, "Anyone we should be picking up for you? Are you married?"

"Only to my work. I'm a scientist."

"I know someone like that," Napoleon said as he smirked at his partner. Illya snorted and got back in the car. Napoleon rode shotgun and Altamount took the back. Solo turned in his seat to face him and asked seriously, "You do know you can't go back now, don't you? They know you were here and even if they don't miss the formula..."

"...the Neanderthals can put two and two together, yes, I know." Altamount drummed his fingers nervously on the armrest on his door. "Guess my pension plan just went out the window, eh?" He gave a weak smile at the thought.

Illya looked over and caught Napoleon's eye. "Not necessarily," he began.

Solo nodded and finished, "U.N.C.L.E. has a very nice benefit package, Doctor. Let me outline it for you..."

Forty minutes later, the Command had another brilliant scientist in its fold, a new chemical formula to experiment with, and their best team of agents had concluded another successful mission. Not bad for a day's work, thought Solo.

After conferring with Mr. Waverly, the agents made arrangements to fly Dr. Altamount to the Chicago headquarters. Since he had nothing to pack, they were able to drive directly to the Columbus airport and see him off.

"Don't worry about your belongings, Doc," Napoleon offered. "We'll have a local boy pack it all up and ship it to the Chicago office. They'll get it to you at your new place." The man brightened at the thought of his personal items being returned to him.

He smiled at the pair and said, "Good, I don't think I'd ever be able to replace my books and journals."

Napoleon groaned and winked at Illya. He smiled and ducked his head as a faint blush crept up his collar. Illya turned to shake Dr. Altamount's hand and said seriously, "Doctor, it has been an honor to meet and work with you. Thank you for... giving me a hand?" he said trying not to grin.

The scientist cracked a smile at that and shook Solo's hand as well. "Any time, Mr. Kuryakin. Although I will be very glad to get back to my lab work where the most dangerous thing I encounter is the tuna sandwich in the cafeteria."

"Are you sure you've never been to New York-HQ?" Solo quipped. He glanced up at the terminal monitor as the call for Chicago came over the speaker. "I believe that's you."

Waving as he went down the gate, Dr. Altamount clutched his ticket and seemed to shrink as he disappeared into the gateway, leaving his brush with danger and excitement behind as he returned to his more mundane existence.

"Wonder if he'll put in for Section Two when he gets settled," Napoleon joked as they made their way through the crowds to the parking deck.

"I happen to know scientists make great Section Two agents," Illya said, mildly affronted.

Solo looked him up and down appraisingly and said, "A few. Well, maybe just one." Illya snorted and slid into the convertible for the trip back to the hotel. Their flight back to New York would leave tomorrow afternoon. That left one night to get through. Illya knew Napoleon had done his best to apologize for his bad behavior earlier, but he still felt the ache in his heart that Solo knew nothing about. Time for the mask to put in an appearance, he thought morosely.

Both men felt the post-mission letdown to some degree and kept their own counsel on the drive back. Napoleon parked near the entrance and they walked through the drizzle to the lobby. He checked at the desk and Illya leaned wearily on the counter.

The clerk pulled a note from their box and said, "Ah, Mr. Solo, you have a message from a Miss Mindy?" Solo's face split into a large grin as he took the slip from the man, reading it quickly and asking for a phone. He did not notice the look on Illya's face as he nudged Solo and asked for the room key.

Illya rode the elevator alone and walked the hall to their room. He slipped inside, removing his jacket and shoes and drew the drapes aside to gaze out into the gloom of late afternoon. His mood was just as dark and his face reflected the sorrow in his heart. Dimly, he heard the maid pushing her cart near their door, and thought again of his partner. So close, yet so far away from him tonight. Most likely in the arms of his Mindy soon, too. Instead of mine, he mused glumly. His dejected sigh must have covered Napoleon's entrance, for he did not notice the darker man slipping into the room.

The smile on his face quickly vanished as Napoleon took in the posture of his partner against the window. His normally relaxed manner was tense and his entire aura was one of misery. Napoleon moved silently to him and gently laid his hand on Illya's shoulder.

The response was immediate and electric. Illya hissed, drawing back from the touch and readying his elbow to strike a blow to his opponent's midsection. A split second later, Napoleon was bent double and gagging from the blow to his solar plexus. Illya had grabbed him by the forearms to complete the attack, but realized what he had done in time to stop the next blow. His blue eyes went wide with remorse, and he backed Solo up onto the bed. Napoleon sank down gratefully, trying to draw air into his stunned body, gasping around the small amounts of oxygen he could avail himself of.

"Napoleon, I'm so sorry. Damn, I didn't hear you come in and I was..." What, Agent Kuryakin? Mooning over your partner? Look where it got you. And him, he told himself. He shook himself mentally and tried to ease the tension from Napoleon's shoulders. He rubbed across the strong back, feeling the knots of pain there.

All the while he was saying, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Napoleon." He felt the body under his hands begin to shake and he drew back in alarm. It was then he noticed Napoleon was laughing. Or at least trying to despite the lack of oxygen.

"Illya," he wheezed. "I'm the one who should be... apologizing. I know better than to sneak up on you like that." He straightened up slowly, rubbing his chest gently. "You were... somewhere else and I should have realized that."

Kuryakin hung his head in shame and mumbled, "It was still my fault. I shouldn't have been caught unawares like that."

Napoleon put his hand on Illya's leg and said, "Nonsense. Everybody has to unwind sometime, Illya. We're not robots, you know."

No, Illya thought. A robot would not be feeling what I am now. He was definitely getting aroused by Napoleon's touch. Not now. He stood up a little too quickly and Napoleon's hand fell to his lap. He gave Illya a puzzled look as he returned to the window. Illya sat on the ledge and did his best not to look in Solo's direction.

He tried to change the subject. "Are you going out with Mindy tonight?" He kept the tone light but his words still reflected the pain he was feeling.

Alarm bells were beginning to sound in Napoleon's dense brain as he really looked at his partner for the first time that day. He was drawn, his face pinched around the eyes and brows, a look that meant he was deeply worried about something. Napoleon decided to do a little more spying tonight, albeit on a more personal note.

"No, I think I'll stay in tonight. I'm a little tired." He took off his shoes and jacket and stretched out on one of the beds.

"But she left you a note. I thought..." Illya stopped, mortified that he had let on how interested he was in his partner's personal life.

Solo smiled. He knew that look. "She told me that she had been called up from standby and had to work this weekend. C'est la guerre." Although Illya tried to hide it, his relief at that statement flitted across his face before he could call it back. Napoleon's breath caught in his throat as he registered the look for what it was.

Now it was his turn to be nervous. Could it be? Could Illya be... attracted to me? he mused. He examined the evidence of the last few days and saw with complete clarity the fool he had been. He groaned inwardly at his stupidity and closed his eyes against the rush of emotions.

Of course, that would explain Illya's reluctance to tell me he was gay. Because that's not all of it, is it, IK? Oh, long have you felt this way?

Solo cleared his throat and glanced over at the still form on his lonely perch. His chill façade was in place as if it had never left. Have to do something about that right away, thought Napoleon.

"Illya. Illya, we have to talk." The bright blue gaze directed itself calmly, hopelessly at his partner. Napoleon caught the hint of despair he saw struggling behind the mask and his heart constricted in his chest. He felt the love he held for this man well up in him, and his compassion won out over the surprise. He walked to the opposite chair and sank down wearily. Scooting the chair closer, Solo was now inches from Illya, so close he could feel the heat from his body.

Illya tried not to flinch but wanted nothing more than to retreat from this position and from Napoleon. He was too tired and too heartsick to be able to withstand much more. Sure Napoleon was going to suggest they end the partnership, he lowered his eyes and prepared to hear the words.

"Illya, I..."

"No, Napoleon..."

"No, what, Illya?"

"No, I don't want to talk about it now. If you want to be reassigned, then please wait until we get back to New York."

"Reassigned?" Napoleon's puzzlement was genuine. Then he remembered. He felt colossally stupid and spoke quickly to his friend. "Illya, I don't want to be reassigned. I'm sorry you thought I did. I know I took the news of your homosexuality badly. I just wasn't expecting anything like that so late in our partnership. I really am very sorry I hurt you, tovarishch."

Illya looked up from his fringe of hair and locked eyes with the American. Napoleon felt a spark jolt him to the core.

"Then you don't mind... my... I mean, you can get used to me being... " He couldn't finish and looked down at the carpet in frustration.

"Don't mind? Get used to you?" Napoleon chuckled and edged forward in his seat. "Illya, I'm going to have to do better than that." Napoleon dropped to the floor in front of the agent and rested his hands lightly on Illya's knees. His breathing sped up and he leaned closer to the trembling form of his partner. Solo watched the quickening pulse beat in Illya's neck and felt it echo in his own body.

"You see, Illya, I have a bit of a problem, myself." Napoleon slid his hands up across Illya's thighs on the way to his waist. He stopped further explorations by sheer willpower.

Illya closed his eyes and panted as he asked, "What... what sort of problem, Napoleon?"

Solo exhaled nervously as he drew closer to the shuttered eyes and tense body. He whispered quietly in Illya's ear, "I seem to be attracted to my very male and very sexy partner, partner."

Illya's eyes popped open at that statement, and he almost fell off the sill into Napoleon's lap. He wore an expression of utter befuddlement that Napoleon had never seen before and would likely never see again on the cool Russian.

Now or never, he reasoned as he closed the remaining inches between them and pulled Illya's head down to his lips. He felt the tension in the knotted neck under his hand and soothed Illya's lips with his own. He felt the surrender begin in that full mouth and heard it in the sound of the moan that escaped Illya. Pulling him close, Napoleon let his other hand roam over the back and shoulders, feeling the desire building in his new lover with each passing second. Illya's excitement fanned his own growing appetite, and he let it pull him along its urgent path.

Illya broke the kiss with a groan of regret and shook his blond head groggily. He was panting and disoriented with passion and looked at Napoleon, confusion rampant on his features. "Napoleon, I don't understand." He pushed off the ledge and broke away from Solo's embrace. Pacing, he shook his head and turned to stare at his partner, completely rattled.

"If you felt like this, then why..." he began and stopped.

Napoleon understood. "Why did I push you away and react so badly?" Illya nodded, words too hard to form just then.

Solo sighed deeply. Illya deserved the truth, hard as it may be to speak. He sat on one bed and motioned for Illya to do the same. He took a deep breath and looked into the concerned face of his best friend.

"I guess because I'm a coward, Illya." He heard a sound from the Russian, and held his hand up to silence him. "No, let me explain. I rejected you and your news because deep down, it frightened me to the core. I guess I had feelings of my own buried deeply and what you told me tried to dredge them back up. I was afraid for my masculinity, my pride, and my position. It's funny, isn't it? The Great Napoleon Solo afraid of sex. Or maybe it was just you I was afraid of; of thinking of you in that new and exciting, and, yes, frightening way."

Napoleon stopped and ran a hand nervously through his thick hair. "So I did what I usually do in a threatening position— I ran for cover. Except that I was running away from the person I needed the most to help me understand this. And I am truly sorry, Illya, so very sorry. I know I said very hurtful things to you just when you needed me to be your friend the most." He closed his eyes and added, "Forgive me, my friend."

Complete silence took over the small hotel room. Napoleon finally looked up to see Illya standing in front of him, holding his hand out and smiling gently. He took the proffered hand and felt the surprising strength of his partner haul him to his feet. Illya raised a shaking hand to Napoleon's cheek and caressed it tenderly.

"I forgive you," he said and raised his head to Napoleon's lips. Now it was Napoleon who was moaning, his breath captured in Illya's mouth and his lips parting to receive Illya's tongue. Illya may have been more reserved in their partnership, but in this endeavor he was quite happy to be the aggressor. He pulled Solo's body to him and crushed his lips against his lover's, his hands sliding down to cup Solo's ass. He felt the jerk of a response to his overture and smiled into the hot mouth devouring his.

Napoleon was swimming in lust, feeling the hard erection jabbing insistently into his hip, and he growled in response. Illya ground his hips against the answering rigidness, causing them both to break the kiss to catch their breaths. Napoleon laid his head on Illya's shoulder and began working the buttons on the sweaty man's chest. Not content to be patient, Illya did the same to Solo, ripping the shirt open from nape to navel in one quick motion. Napoleon tried to care about the cost of the fine linen but couldn't just. Down to skin, the men flopped onto the nearest bed and began to wrestle for dominance. Napoleon's heart wasn't in it as most of its blood supply seemed to be pooling south, so he only put up token resistance as Illya settled on top of him and wedged himself between Napoleon's legs.

Illya worked the belt loose and pulled the zipper of Napoleon's slacks down as he continued to kiss him. Illya felt strong hands returning the attention and sighed as his erection popped through the opening and into his lover's hand. Napoleon squeezed gently and began to stroke him slowly, teasing the slit with the pad of his thumb until Illya couldn't breathe. He growled through their kiss and felt the leap of response in Solo's cock. He drew back enough to look at Napoleon's face and saw the matching lust and passion thrumming through his body. Illya slipped his tongue down Napoleon's chin, into the cleft, and across his Adam's apple, pleased at the deep sigh his lover voiced. The Russian moved lower, teasing and sucking Solo's heated flesh wherever he could stand to linger. Illya paused over his sternum, noting the reddened, bruised spot where his elbow had struck his partner earlier.

"Napoleon, does it hurt?" he asked coyly, batting his golden lashes at the question.

Solo was distracted and heard the words but not the meaning. "What...does what hurt?" he slurred, trying to keep from losing control completely to his libidinous lover.

"This," Illya answered as he gently licked and soothed the sore spot. He moved another few inches and swirled the flat of his tongue around Napoleon's nipple, causing him to arc straight up and push deeper into his mouth. Illya bit down ungently on the pucker of skin and heard the deep gasp from the American. Sliding wetly across the broad chest, Illya treated the other nipple to a lavish licking, sucking the hardened nub until it was fiery red. His other hand plucked and tweaked the forgotten peak until Napoleon was moaning non-stop.

"Oh, yes, Illya. Please, I need..."

"Need what, my beloved?" Illya slipped his free hand slowly down the taut muscles of Solo's abdomen, delving closer to what they both wanted him to take possession of. Napoleon thrust up into the touch, trying desperately to get his point across. Illya chuckled at the impetuousness of his bedmate, understanding the fire but wanting it to burn as long as possible. There would be only one first time, and Illya wanted to make every moment count. He teased the soft hair at Solo's groin, not quite touching the prize. He was about to work his mouth down as well when he felt strong arms envelope his body and was roughly rolled over.

Napoleon engulfed him from neck to knees and judging by the strength of the grip he was using, he meant to stay there. He looked down at his captive long enough to see the smile starting and then kissed Illya breathless.

"If you aren't going to step up to the plate, Illya, get out of the box." With that cryptic phrase Illya felt hot lips trailing across his neck and he arched indulgently into the pleasure. Napoleon's dark eyes were hooded and black with emotion as he fought to gain control of the seduction. Each gasp wrung out of the Russian spurred him on, until he was overcome by the need to see him lose total control.

Solo nibbled across the collarbone briefly and ran his hands down Illya's sweat-slicked sides to his hips to skim off the trousers in one quick motion. He felt the heat of the rock-hard cock straining against his belly and he nearly whimpered in response. He kept in control by the thinnest thread and thrust his tongue in Illya's mouth once again while he shucked off the rest of his clothes. Settling skin against skin for the first time had both men groaning despite themselves and Napoleon gathered Illya close, chests meeting tightly together.

Illya was nearly incoherent with the feel of his partner's body crushing him and freeing him at the same time. He had wanted this for so long, and the reality was almost more than he could bear. He felt Solo's cock twitch against him and thrust upwards to meet it. Napoleon slipped one arm between their bodies and took Illya's shaft in his hand, pumping slowly as he shuddered beneath him.

Illya snapped his head back, the cords of muscles taut with pleasure and he growled out, "Napoleon."

The supplication of his name spurred Napoleon on as he snaked down the slim body and blew a cool stream of air across the stiff organ waiting there. He didn't wait for the response as he engulfed the dark head in one quick motion. His initiation into male sex was made easier by the fact that Illya was the sexiest thing he had ever bedded. He concentrated on driving his lover to the edge with nibbles and licks that would have had him writhing on the receiving end. His tongue flattened around the base and he began a steady suction that had Illya moaning and babbling and trying to thrust deeply into the pressure.

Illya wanted to hang on to the sensation of Napoleon swallowing him whole, but he knew he was teetering on the brink. If he kept his eyes closed he just might be able to hold out for a moment more. The compulsion to actually see his lover pleasuring him was too great, however, and Illya glanced down to see the dark head against the white of his skin. Napoleon's swollen lips were moving across the silky cock faster now and Illya couldn't look away. He was mesmerized as surely as if he were the cobra and Solo were the mongoose. Napoleon heard a deep moan sweep out of Illya's throat and looked up into his eyes. They locked gazes: Illya seemed to empty his soul there a split second before he emptied his need. The pale body tensed, every muscle quivering for a moment in anticipation before the moment of completion. Illya felt each contraction as a separate spasm, felt the life pulsing out of him into Solo's waiting mouth. He strangled the scream trying to erupt and instead groaned his pleasure out in a hoarse cry of utter fulfillment.

Swallowing the bitter pulses, Napoleon milked Illya dry until he whimpered for the mercy of release. Solo reluctantly withdrew and rose back up to drape Illya's body with his own. His hard cock felt like a brand against the cooling skin of his Russian, and he kissed the closed lids while murmuring endearments to him.

Illya opened his eyes to see the smiling face of Napoleon kissing him. Utterly amazed, he shook his head and asked, "'Kama Sutra?'"

Napoleon laughed at the rapturous look on his partner's face and replied, "Solo Seduction Technique Number Two. Just with different plumbing."

Illya sighed. "Remind me to ask about Number One."

Solo shifted slightly and Illya felt the heavy cock against him and squirmed to try and reach it with his fist. Napoleon had other ideas. He took his cock in one hand and rubbed it sensuously across Illya's body leaving a trail of silvery strands behind. Starting at his hip and tracing the fine bones of his ribs and chest Solo continued to write his passion on Illya's skin until he was straddling his shoulders. His weeping erection was bobbing in front of Illya's mouth, and he said huskily, "Take me, Illya. Take me in your mouth. Make me wet for you."

Hearing the throb of desire in those demanding words made Illya giddy to comply. He leaned into the heat of the hard cock and rubbed his cheek against the smooth flesh. Solo jerked at the contact and his erection seemed to grow even larger. He hissed in pleasure as Illya wrapped his lips around the head and grasped the base of the thickness with his hand. He couldn't take the whole shaft at once so instead Illya contented himself with pistoning up and down the length of him. Napoleon felt wonderful and tasted even better. But he seemed to be holding back and Illya glanced through his bangs to watch him. Solo's eyes were tightly closed and his mouth was set in a line of pleasure, concentrating on the sensations rippling through him.

Illya increased the pressure of his mouth and hand and was rewarded by a strangled gasp from Napoleon. The next second he was disappointed as Solo firmly said "No," and pulled away from the delicious warmth of his lover's mouth.

"No. Not like that. I want to take you, to be inside you. I know you want me as well." Solo was arrogant and sure of himself, and Illya was not inclined to argue with him since he was right. "Tell me, Illya. Tell me it's what you want, too."

Illya leaned into Solo and brushed the beautiful lips with his tongue just enough to tease him into bending closer. He whispered into the ear closest to him and said seductively, "Take me, Napoleon. I've wanted you for so long."

Napoleon growled at that, and quickly rolled Illya over onto his stomach. He thrust a pillow under the thin hips and settled the smaller man comfortably across it. Reaching under the slick body, he pushed two fingers into Illya's mouth and felt the silky tongue bathing him with wetness. His cock jerked at the sensation and he knew he didn't have much time. Pulling out of the wet heat, Napoleon rubbed his hand against the cleft of Illya's ass and gently placed a lubricated finger against the opening. He heard a low moan come from below him and he delved into the clenched channel with one quick thrust. Illya was tight and hot and almost overwhelmingly sexy and Napoleon had to distract himself to keep from coming right then. The erotic way the man was pushing back onto his hand had Solo shivering with lust and he pushed a second finger deeply inside.

Solo took a deep breath and began to finger Illya, loosening gently and readying the flesh to receive him. He didn't want to rush Illya but he couldn't take any more. He leaned over the strong back and asked hotly, "Are you ready for me, Illya?" and heard the groan of an affirmative.

Spitting into his hand, Solo lubed himself one last time and then placed the swollen head against his lover's ass. He rubbed between the cheeks teasingly and heard Illya whimper, "Please," and thought, Oh, yes, Illya, my love, I will.

Napoleon thrust forward in one slow movement and sheathed himself completely in the tight opening of his lover's body. Both men arched like rutting cats and cried out in completion. Grasping the narrow hips, Napoleon took hold of the slender body beneath him and began to work his cock in and out of the snug passage. Illya began to thrash and meet his thrusts in counterpoint until he thought he would die from the pleasure.

"Illya, mine, if you do that..."

"Do what, Napoleon?" He clenched around Solo again and smiled at the shiver that ran through his lover's body. "That?"

Napoleon lost all control at that point and began to thrust fast and furious into Illya. He reached around the point of his hip and wrapped his fist around the hardening cock and slid along the length of it over and over. The loud moaning from his normally cool partner caused him to begin a pounding rhythm that had him aching and nearly sobbing with need. He managed to grind out a warning, "Illya..." before he thrust deeply one last time and slammed his partner back against him. The rough contact had them both spurting like fire hoses and Napoleon yelled his pleasure as he gave Illya everything he had. He felt the warm wash of semen against his hand and drowned in the delicious waves of orgasm consuming him with bright colors and sounds.

Spent and sated, Napoleon hung limply over Illya's back like a wet washrag. Somewhere his higher brain took the time to wonder if he were squashing Illya, but the rest of him couldn't manage to care. He heard Illya's panting in counterpoint to his own and smiled weakly. In another minute, he would be able to move. In another minute...

Mustering the last of his strength, Solo withdrew from his lover and slid over to the side, taking Illya with him in a wet and sticky embrace. He heard Illya sigh and felt the warmth of his skin as he burrowed into the cocoon of flesh draped around him.

Just as he was drifting, Solo heard Illya ask sleepily, "What is this plate you were talking about earlier?" Trust IK to think it had something to do with food, Napoleon mused.

He smiled against the soft skin of Kuryakin's neck and kissed him gently. "Don't worry about it, Illya. The home team just won the game."

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