Ring, Ring

by Spikesgirl58

Illya Kuryakin sat back and let the music thrum through the air around him. Bodies undulated on the makeshift dance floor of his restaurant, the music a bit more raucous than in years past.

He watched Napoleon dancing with Jesus' wife and sighed. It seemed like just yesterday she'd called in a panic because the man wouldn't respond to her. By the time they'd gotten him to the hospital, it was too late and Illya felt the first loss to his Taste family. It had hit him harder than he'd have liked to admit to anyone, even Napoleon. Jesus had been the first to offer his hand in friendship to him and Matt. Jesus had guided them through the red tape and doubletalk of small town politics.

He couldn't bring Jesus back, but he was making sure the baker's family was taken care of. Jesus' oldest son now ran the family bakery and the younger one worked in Taste's kitchen. Maria was embraced with open arms and she had started helping out in small ways at both the restaurant and the wine shop, hand lettering signs and arranging displays. She demonstrated quite the knack for both.

Matt and Rocky were dancing together and laughing at some private joke. Illya couldn't help but wonder if they'd be laughing in another half an hour, after he dropped his little bombshell.

The music ended and the lights came up as a cake was carried carefully from the kitchen. Birthdays meant very little to Illya, just another day as far as he was concerned, but Napoleon took them seriously.

When Napoleon had turned sixty five, the day had found them holed up in a quiet hotel room, just the two of them, no fuss and no bother. They'd talked, they'd eaten, and Illya had made damned sure Napoleon knew just how he felt about sex and age. Their love making had been protracted and so sweet, even better than the first time they'd tumbled into bed together.

Illya remembered each and every sensation from that day and night, and then he corralled his thoughts. There was a time and a place for an erection. In the middle of his restaurant was neither.

"Speech, speech," someone demanded as the strains of "Happy Birthday" died down. Illya stood and people clapped. He shook his head and held up a hand.

"First, I thank you all for being here. I am not quite sure how any of this happened. There are days when I still think I'm seventeen."

"Until you try to get out of bed," Napoleon quipped and Illya chuckled, looking fondly at his partner of so many years.

"You know me too well, my friend." Illya reached into his pants pocket and felt for an all-too familiar keychain. He pulled it out and looked at it sadly for a moment, then squared his shoulders. "I know that traditionally when you have a birthday party, you bring gifts to the person being honored." And there was a table piled high with gifts he had yet to open. "However, for anyone who really knows me, they know that I've never been one to cater much to tradition. In view of that, I'm the one with a gift."

He glanced around at the people, so many familiar, now so many unfamiliar. "Over twenty years ago, Matt and I came to Jackson, hoping to scratch out a little spot of our own. Do a little cooking, maybe make a little splash in the area; we didn't want much, just enough to survive and what we ended up with was this." Illya gestured to the restaurant and then glanced over at Napoleon. "And a couple other things as well." Laughter interrupted him and he waited for it to die down. "Now it's the time for me to acknowledge that I have accomplished everything I set out to prove with Taste. Now it's time for someone else to have the chance to fulfill his own dreams. When we started this restaurant, it was as a partnership and yet I watched as Matt stood back and let me take the lead. Again and again he deferred to me. Now it's time for that to change." Underhanded, he tossed the key ring to Matt. "Matt, Taste is yours. Do with it what you will."

The silence was deafening as Matt rose to catch the key ring. "What?"

"Taste belongs to you now. I signed my share over to you a few days ago. As of this moment, I am officially retired."

For a moment, it was if the world stopped, then there were arms around him, although whose he couldn't really tell, nor really care. Voices overlapped and all he felt was an overwhelming sense of relief, of a burden being lifting from his shoulders, as well as tremendous sadness.

He remembered the first day the realtor had unlocked the front door and pushed it wide. The place had been empty for months, cobwebs hung from the ceiling, dust covered every surface. Yet he'd seen the potential, had felt the sense of what they could and would achieve.

And now at the height of its success, he was handing it all over t someone else. Part of him wanted to celebrate, another part wanted to break down and scream that it was a mistake, that he hadn't meant it. Then he saw Napoleon's face, the happiness and the relief painted across it. Napoleon knew how hard this had been for him. Illya had made him a promise; it was ripping him apart inside, but Illya never went back on his word, especially not to those who mattered the most to him.

Illya rolled over in bed and made a face. His mouth tasted as if he'd been sucking on a dead animal all night. He blinked and tried to get his eyes to focus on something that wasn't swirling around. Failing that, he closed them again. He remembered falling into bed, the alcohol giving him a flexibility that now haunted his limbs, made his back whimper each time he tried to move. Still, the sex had been incredible. Hell, the sex with Napoleon was always incredible. He groaned softly, more to himself than anyone else, and ran a hand through sweat-stiffened hair.

"So, I'm guessing that you've decided you're not seventeen after all?" Napoleon's voice was soft, as soft as his breath against Illya's skin, fingertips gliding featherlike down the outside of his thigh and back up the inside, teasing, asking, suggesting.

"What was I drinking last night?" Illya managed after a couple of swallows.

"Before or after dropping your little surprise on poor unsuspecting Matt?" The fingers drifted down again, goose bumps heralding their passing. It amazed Illya that, after all this time, Napoleon's touch could still thrill him like this. Then Napoleon's fingers were in his hair, brushing it out of his face. Out of habit, he still wore it long, knowing that it was an irresistible pull for his lover. Illya, eyes still closed, rolled his head in the direction of the fingers, smiling at the sensations as his hair was stroked, then gently tugged.

"There was an after? Details started to get fuzzy after midnight."

"All details?" Napoleon's tongue now, teased Illya's ear. "Once Matt stopped crying, I remember distinct... details." Napoleon's lips found his temple. "I can't believe you went through with it."

"Honestly, neither can I." Illya settled further back against pillows, apparently at ease, contrary to the churning in his stomach. It was telling him he needed to be up, needed to get going, and needed to do things. Either that or it was complaining about just how much he had to drink the night before. Either way, he didn't much care for the feeling and let Napoleon's very capable hands seduce the anguish from him. Somehow, Napoleon knew of his torment and he kept his hands and lips in motion.

"Do you know how much I love you?" Even after all this time, the words made Illya's breath catch.

"Show me?"

"My pleasure." Napoleon pulled him from the pillows to lie crossways on the bed, giving them both freedom of movement.

When they were younger, their love making had frequently been frantic, hard, and desperate, as if they knew they'd soon be separated and were determined to get as much as they could. Now, age had slowed their bodies, if not their passion; knowledge of a future in each other's arms tempered the frenetic need. Those days had been all about having sex, now it was about making love. And making love was something Napoleon Solo did very, very well.

Illya kept his eyes purposefully shut, just relishing the sensory tune Napoleon was playing on his body as fingers, lips and tongue leisurely found and exploited Illya's weaknesses. When he felt Napoleon's breath against his anxious penis, he sighed. Neither of them was up for any anal sex this morning, not after last night. Still that didn't mean he didn't want... He moaned as Napoleon's lips found his glans and two saliva-slick fingers his ass.

Illya gave total control to Napoleon now, permitting him to set the pace. He could sense Napoleon, musky and sweaty, just inches from him and he cracked open an eye to see Napoleon's penis a fraction of an inch from his face. Reaching out, he ran a finger over the glistening tip, feeling rather than hearing as Napoleon's breath caught.

Butter soft skin met his lips and Illya swirled his tongue over it, just as Napoleon's stroked him. He kissed and licked his way down to Napoleon's balls, using both fingers and tongue to pay homage to them before returning the way he'd come, nibbling the hard flesh as he passed.

It was getting more difficult to keep his mind on the dick in front of him, although he wanted to very much. As always, it was as if Napoleon read his mind and pulled away.

"Relax," Napoleon whispered, rubbing his lips over the slit, dipping his tongue in. Then he slid his mouth over and down, his breath hot on Illya's pubic hair. He sucked hard, swallowing as much as he could as he added a third finger to the prior two.

It was too late to protest, too late to do anything but come and Illya obliged with a cry. His fingers bunched the sheets he clenched as the wave of his climax washed over and through him. Again he reached for Napoleon and his lover moved to him, anxious for his own release.

Illya didn't disappoint, enticing Napoleon's climax from him with eagerness, welcoming the bitter taste of his semen as if it was a fine wine and he a connoisseur of such things.

He smiled, sated now and finally allowed his eyes to open to stare up into Napoleon's as his lover's question, 'Do you know how much I love you? 'drifted back into his mind.

"That much?" He brushed salt and pepper hair from Napoleon's brow.

"And more." Napoleon caught his right hand and kissed each of his scarred finger tips, then his palm. "I am still in shock from last night, though. Taste is your world."

"Was; now my world is you. I hope you can bear it." Illya crawled back towards the pillows.

"What are you doing?"

"What I usually do after having mind blowing sex, sleep."

"Oh, you can't do that. How about a shower instead? You've got a big day ahead of you."

"Pardon?" Illya's head came up.

"Well, there was one other birthday gift that I didn't give you last night..."

"Really? I'm pretty certain you did. I was drunk, but I wasn't that drunk."

"I don't mean sex, amante. I mean this." Napoleon retrieved something from his nightstand and held it out.

Illya captured his wrist and squinted at the pamphlet in front of him. "Atlantis... cruises?" He let his head flop back, his eyes drifting closed. "Not this song again, Napoleon, you know how I feel about sailing."

"This is different, Illya. They cater especially to our crowd."

"What cruise line doesn't cater to the older generation? The last thing I want to do is have to play nice with a bunch of narrow-minded, over-the-hill bankers and lawyers and their equally prejudicial wives. I don't want to be somewhere where I can't love you."

"Then how about with a ship full of gay and lesbian passengers?"

Illya's eyes popped open. "What?" He tried to take the brochure from Napoleon, but the other easily evaded Illya's hand.

"What say I make it easy and read it to you, my less-than-functioning-lover?" Napoleon took a pair of reading glasses from the nightstand. "'For more than ten years, we have been the leading name in gay travel. When you book with us, rest assured that all you have to worry about is having the time of your life. Relax, enjoy, and love.'"


"Which is why we are scheduled to catch a plane at ten tomorrow morning from Sacramento to LA. I hope you don't mind Mexican food."

"What?" Now Illya was fully awake. "You already...?"

"Uh huh, about six months ago. And that means you have a whole day to pack, although I don't expect you'll be needing much more than a couple pairs of shorts, some shirts, swim trunks, and a lot of lube. I, for one, don't plan on leaving the cabin much the first couple of days..."

Illya retrieved their last suitcase from outside the door and carried it into their cabin, setting it in front of the closet. Things had certainly changed from when he last stepped foot on a ship. This resembled more of a hotel room, polished brass fittings, thick carpet, and a queen-sized bed. If it wasn't for the small lip at the threshold of the bathroom doorway, he'd swear he was in a Hilton or Sheraton. His last cabin had been so cramped you needed to step outside it to sneeze and he'd been one of four crammed inside. No privacy, no anything; he was glad those days were behind him. He didn't want to think about what this suite had cost Napoleon. To be honest, he didn't want to think about anything too much at the moment.

A puff of salty air caught his attention and he looked out to the balcony. Napoleon was leaning against the rail, braced upon his elbows, his eyes scanning the horizon. The wind tossed his hair and plucked at his shirt collar. Napoleon was in his element. He loved the sea, if not the water, and he looked as natural there as Illya felt in his kitchen.

Instantly, a younger man, strong, virile, and confident, stood there, staring out not at the Pacific Ocean, but a storm-churned Atlantic, the wind whipping his hair, his shirt and Illya's desire...

It was still early in their relationship, if not their partnership. One affair on the heels of another had taken their toll even on the tireless Solo. Even Waverly noticed it and he pulled them in and suggested that they 'take some time away.'

It was a good idea in theory, if not practice. One of the problems with constant travel was that neither of them really wanted to do any of it in their leisure time. However, Waverly made it clear he wanted them out of the City, wanted them to go some place where they could unwind. When a small beach house in Maine was suggested, Napoleon jumped at it. Illya agreed because that's usually what he did and as long as Napoleon was there, he didn't really care where they ended up.

Usually Illya drove, but when Napoleon said he was driving, Illya slid across into the passenger seat and promptly fell asleep—a fact he wasn't aware of until he woke up some six hours later as they were pulling into Portland for the night.

"So, you're finally with me again," Napoleon said, pulling his sunglasses off and grinning.

"I don't even remember falling asleep." Illya's voice must have conveyed his own surprise as he studied his surroundings with little enthusiasm. After as much travel as they had logged within the past year, one small town looked very much like another.

"Right in the middle of a sentence actually. I looked over and you were dead to the world. If I hadn't known better I'd have suspected you of a heart attack."

"I knew I was tired, I just didn't think..." Illya trailed off as he climbed from the car and looked around. Portland was large by Maine's standards, small by his. The motel that they were parked in front of looked fairly standard. Still, as long as it had a bed, a shower, and a flush toilet, he was happy. "I was quite that tired. Where are we? I was led to believe this cottage was in the middle of nowhere."

"I made reservations here in Portland for the night. It didn't make sense to kill ourselves trying to get to wherever we're going. Figured a night here and we could roll into Cottage Cove around midday."

"Cottage Cove? Who thinks up the names for these places? You Americans should be shot for your lack of imagination."

"Which is why we have a Moscow, Idaho."

"With occasional flashes of brilliance," Illya added with the slightest of smiles.

The reservations had been for two separate, but interconnected, rooms. Out of habit, Illya went through his with a fine toothed comb, but found nothing any more suspicious than an unused condom and a couple of dust bunnies.

He opened the door that separated the two rooms, holding up the tinfoil packet for his partner to see.

"Looks like someone had big plans." Napoleon paused in his own inspection.

"What do you want to do next?" Illya lobbed the packet towards the closest garbage pail and turned back to face his beaming partner. "I should know by now to not ask you a loaded question like that."

Checking to make sure the curtains were drawn, Illya slid into Napoleon's arms and welcomed the kiss. He was still waking up and let Napoleon take the upper hand, acquiescing easily to his lover's mouth, his hands, his needs.

Napoleon unbuttoned the top of the polo shirt to dip beneath the collar and suck on the pale skin. Illya tilted his head back, his breath starting to pick up, his own lips curling into a smile as Napoleon's lips and teeth punished the skin of his throat.

"It's only been a few hours and I feel like I haven't touched you in days," Napoleon whispered, licking his way back up a taut neck to Illya's ear, nuzzling into his hair. "Having you so close in the car, I kept thinking, what would happen if I pulled off the road and we..."

A wealth of thoughts ricocheted through Illya's mind, all pushed aside as Napoleon's hands slipped under his shirt, skimming up his belly until fingertips found his nipples and pinched them. He gave his pleasure a voice, knowing Napoleon needed to hear it, but he was also mindful to keep his moan soft. No telling how thin these walls were.

A deft move and Illya's shirt was gone. He stopped now, turning his attention to Napoleon's shirt, barely able to keep from ripping it off him. Napoleon met him halfway, yanking it over his head and then pressing against Illya, only skin between them now. Illya let Napoleon set the pace. Fast or slow, he didn't care. He knew by the time they reached the end, they'd both be satisfied.

Napoleon guided Illya down to the bed, unbuckling his partner's belt, undoing the snap and slowly unzipping his fly. He lowered his mouth and worked it over Illya's penis, still held captive by his shorts. Taking his time, Napoleon pulled back and undid his own trousers, climbing out of them quickly, but smoothly, without a wasted movement. Naked, he stood before Illya.

"See anything that interests you, partner?" He flexed his abdominal muscles and his penis danced. Illya grinned and licked his lips as he propped himself up on his elbows.

"Possibly, but I'm not sure. Could you come a little closer? My eyes, they aren't good in this light."

Napoleon obligingly moved in until his dick was just an inch from Illya's face.

"Hmmm, now there's something that piques my interest." Illya closed the gap to touch his tongue to the head of Napoleon's penis, working it into the slit, sucking ever so gently. Napoleon sighed, rocking his hips to encourage Illya to take more, but Illya held off, nursing just the tip.

Finally Napoleon pulled away and pushed Illya back onto the bed. "Two can play at this game, you know."

"I understand it's much more fun that way," Illya hissed as Napoleon rubbed a roughened finger tip over the preseminal fluid oozing from Illya's penis, working the foreskin up and over the head, pinching it gently as he fondled the hard flesh.

Finally, when Illya was sure he could bear no more, Napoleon pulled away, disappearing into the bathroom. He reappeared a moment later, opening a small bottle of hand cream. He squeezed some out onto his fingers and smiled, a sly 'you know what I'm going to do with these' smile, and Illya grinned back.

Then Napoleon's fingers were in him, teasing, probing, making him half sigh, half groan with need.

"You want more?" Napoleon's whisper was harsh now, gaining urgency, but never the less he waited for Illya's responding nod before removing his fingers and grabbing a pillow with his other hand. He doubled it and stuffed it under Illya's back even as he was lifting first one and then the other of Illya's feet to his shoulders.

Illya sucked in a breath as he felt Napoleon's slick penis glide down his perineum and then bit back a cry as he was impaled, eyes closed in both pain and delight as Napoleon slid home in one stroke. Napoleon didn't wait for him to catch his breath, but immediately withdrew completely, only to plunge in again and again. Each stroke caught his prostate and Illya buried his face in a pillow to keep his responding cries as quiet as possible.

Even so, Napoleon grinned and bent forward. "Sing for me, partner." And Illya did as Napoleon pounded into him and worked Illya's penis as if it was a fine musical instrument. His spine bowed and suddenly his voice had nowhere to go but out. He cried as his semen coated Napoleon's hand, continued to groan as Napoleon delivered his own ejaculate. Their climaxes were blazing, as hot as the sun, as fierce as the Sahara wind. Slowly, both reclaimed their sanity even as Napoleon eased Illya's legs from his shoulders, even as he massaged Illya's semen into their bellies.

"You're making me sticky now," Illya complained, his eyes closed. And he thought he was tired before. Now he needed a shower to wash the smell of their lovemaking from him and a nap to recover his strength. Then his stomach gurgled and Napoleon chuckled.

"There's another party heard from."

The Russian was then a man possessed until he located a suitable restaurant and was seated in a small booth across from his partner. There wasn't a wide selection, but the food was freshly made and plentiful, two things that Illya never hated. He ate his dinner as if he'd not eaten in a week.

"What has gotten into you, partner?" Napoleon had been toying with his green beans for the last five minutes.

Illya had glanced up from his dessert and shrugged his shoulders. "I was hungry. I worked up an appetite this afternoon."

"You had lunch."

"Five hours and some physical activity ago."

"So, you're tired and constantly hungry. If you were a girl, I'd worry about you being in the family way."

"Well, obviously I'm not and I'm not." Illya ran a hand over his jaw, the burr of his whiskers just one more point to his argument. Then he delicately licked the ice cream off his spoon and watched Napoleon's pupils dilate. "Are you through with that dessert?"

"You're still not full? I mean not too full for...later."

Illya grinned at Napoleon's cryptic choice of words.

"I am never too full for that, my friend," Illya assured, reaching for the menu. A half an hour later, he made good his promise.

Growing up, Illya had gotten used to doing himself or doing without for long periods of time. It wasn't safe and while he was valuable enough for his government to turn a blind eye to his preferences, Illya didn't like to push his luck.

Napoleon had proven to be a long cool drink of water for a man dying of thirst. Illya was a man accustomed to taking what he was given and not asking for more. So while he was an enthusiastic participant, he rarely initiated their sex. Not that Napoleon gave him time or opportunity. The man had the drive of a rutting deer at times.

So, it was when he'd come in from carrying a last box from the car to the kitchen and saw Napoleon standing on the balcony, looking to the sea that he paused to reflect upon his life and his luck. Two years and he felt as deeply for this man as he had from Day One, if not more so.

The small house on Cottage Cove was everything UNCLE's travel agent had claimed—nicely appointed, clean, and very isolated. The town was close enough to make the drive in an hour, but far enough away from prying eyes. Even though Napoleon's and his relationship was still under wraps, they were agents, highly sought after agents. To be able to let their guard down, just for a few days, was a godsend.

Napoleon's shirt was open and the wind whipped at it, plucking it from his waistband and ruffling his hair. It sent a jolt of excitement straight to Illya's balls and he looked around, then pocketed a tube of KY jelly.

Illya sighed as he wrapped his arms around his partner's trim waist. Napoleon was cool from the breeze and Illya rested his forehead against a shoulder.

"Are you okay, Illya? You seem warm." Napoleon turned in his embrace and Illya took the offensive, surprising Napoleon.

"I prefer the term, 'hot.'" Illya caught his face and kissed him, tongue not asking, but demanding an entrance easily given by the other.

Out of habit, Napoleon instantly began to take control, but Illya pulled away, shaking his head.


"No?" Lips teased at a smile and Illya watched Napoleon's face closely for any sign of reluctance. Instead all he saw was excitement, passion and something else... relief? He didn't wait for Napoleon to add anything else to the comment, but plunged back in, kissing Napoleon in a hard, no nonsense style. Illya pressed Napoleon's back against the railing, mouth working against his lover's, his hands stroking the shirt from Napoleon's shoulders,baring the agent to the cool sea air.

There was a sense of propriety around Napoleon; he didn't like being seen without his shirt on. Not that he was ashamed of his body, far from it, but rather because while it was hidden, no one knew of its strength or power. Illya knew and now demanded both from Napoleon as he exposed him to the elements.

"Bit cold out here, partner," Napoleon murmured the moment Illya gave him an opportunity to reclaim his tongue.

"Then I shall warm you." Illya's mouth moved, licking and kissing his way down the taut neck to his lover's shoulders, hands constantly moving to caress. Napoleon seemed to sense that Illya needed him to both acquiesce and yet resist him at the same time, a careful tightrope.

Illya's tongue found a nipple, already rock hard from the cold and anticipation. He caught it between his teeth and flicked just the tip of his tongue over it. Napoleon's gasp was involuntary and Illya liked that. He replicated the move with the other nipple even as his hands were working to unbuckle Napoleon's belt, easing down his fly to release one of Napoleon's more outstanding features.

"Shouldn't we go inside..." The end of the sentence went up in pitch as Illya sank to his knees and turned his attention to nursing Napoleon's penis, gently at first as if to seduce him into a state of trust. He used his mouth to work the skin, sucking at it, not enough to cause pain but certainly stimulation.

And his hands were still on the move, working Napoleon free from the confines of his slacks. When they were pooled around Napoleon's ankles, he urged first one foot and then the other to step free. Now Napoleon was completely naked, with just the breeze and the sun to cloak him.

Illya's own penis was aching for attention, but he wasn't ready yet. It had been quite a while since he'd been allowed to set the pace of their love making and he wasn't going to blow it now. His lips curled at his accidental innuendo; to the contrary, blowing was exactly what he had in mind... in mouth... he gave up trying to think.

Now that his hands were free from their previous task, he used them for other things, running them up and down Napoleon's trembling thighs.

Illya brought one hand to his mouth and sucked in two of his fingers, his eyes on Napoleon's face. He knew where those fingers were destined and Napoleon's eyes, half closed, now grew wide with anticipation.

Drawing Napoleon as deeply as he could into his mouth, Illya let his hands slide around Napoleon's waist, pinning him in place as one of Illya's fingers began to toy with Napoleon's anus, begging entrance, then retreating like a shy bride.

When he felt that Napoleon was about to come out of his skin, Illya slipped one finger in, gently as to not injure or distress the delicate skin. He had more far-reaching plans that demanded caution for now.

Napoleon's hands dropped to Illya's head, fingers entangling themselves, tugging at his hair, but Illya merely added his second finger and Napoleon's cry joined that of those seabirds as they rode the air currents.

And still Illya kept his pace maddeningly slow, applying not too much or too little pressure as he sucked, as his fingers found and stroked Napoleon's prostate. When he was sure Napoleon could take no more, Illya retreated, removing both hands and mouth from his partner's body.

"No." Napoleon's protest was a half whine.

"Turn around for me." Napoleon needed no more instruction, no more encouragement. He turned and bent, bracing himself against the railing as Illya slipped out of his pants and hastily retrieved the lube from a pocket. He slathered his penis, half sighing at the mere pleasure of feeling his own fingers working his dick.

Illya glanced up and his grin grew wider at the sight of Napoleon, so very anxious and willing. He settled his hands, one on either cheek, and spread them. His penis knew the way and nudged in with little encouragement. There was an answering hiss from Napoleon, but Illya didn't pause. He knew Napoleon could easily accommodate him and had been prepared. It was just Napoleon's very vocal approach to sex.

The sight of his dick disappearing and then reappearing from within his lover's body was intoxicating and Illya wanted the world to stop then and there, just let him stay this way forever, intimately connected with his partner. Then biological urges took over and his first strokes were slow and easy, then control fell aside as the need to ejaculate took over. His climax made his teeth rattle and his toes curl.

He slumped forward over Napoleon's body and waited for everything in his body to make peace with each other.

"Illya, I could use a little help here." Napoleon's voice was strained and Illya pushed off his back, allowing the man to turn. He was still sporting an impressive hard on, his preseminal fluid drooling saliva-like from the tip. It was obvious that Napoleon was stretched to his limit.

Wordlessly, Illya returned to his knees and lapped delicately, Napoleon's groans deepening until Illya felt his head grabbed roughly and Napoleon plunged into his mouth. Illya choked, then worked at relaxing his throat and jaw, allowing Napoleon to set the pace now. Napoleon's fingers dug painfully into his scalp and he suddenly froze. Illya hummed and Napoleon cried out.

He held still until breathing became a real issue and then pulled back slightly, desperate for oxygen, but reluctant to relinquish his prize. Two more deep breaths and he went back to nursing Napoleon's penis, lovingly, but with a single-mindedness that told his partner he was far from done.

"What the hell's gotten into you?" Napoleon's tone made the question softer.

"Nothing yet," he murmured and then reluctantly released his hold on Napoleon's still semi erect penis. "But I'm sure we can come to some equitable arrangement that will lead to a mutually pleasurable outcome."

He rose and held out a hand; Napoleon took it and they abandoned the balcony for the bed... the table, the hallway, the sink in the bathroom, the floor in the closet, twice for some reason... Before they finished, there wasn't a square inch of that cottage they had not put to use. And in between the bouts of marathon sex, they'd slept, eaten, even dared to dream about a future together.

"Earth to Illya."

Illya blinked and stared, startled, into Napoleon's face. Now it was etched with age, the hair no longer dark, but rather streaked with jets of gray, but the mouth still kind, still smiling, still his. Instinctively, Illya leaned forward and caught Napoleon in an apologetic kiss.

"I'm sorry, were you saying something?"

"Just how much I love you, how happy I am that you're here with me... only to find you totally lost in thought. Worried about the restaurant? About Matt?"

"Actually, I was thinking about Maine... Cottage Cove, remember?"

"Ah, the Hovel of a Thousand Fucks, how could I forget?" Napoleon shifted slightly in Illya's embrace. "That was the week that I discovered what true capacity you had."

"Had?" Illya's arms threatened violence.

Napoleon's hand dipped to caress Illya's ass and he smiled. "Still have, sorry."

For a moment, they just stood, holding each other, content with the sensation of their bodies, one against the other.

A sharp rap on the door made Illya's head snap in that direction.

"Room service."

"We're not even away from the dock and you ordered room service?" Napoleon asked, his hands now up on Illya's waist. "You might want to slow down on the caloric intake, Amante. Take it from someone who knows."

"I didn't order anything," Illya protested as he crossed the cabin and opened the door. The man standing there was bracing a tray on his shoulder. There was a bottle of champagne resting in an ice bucket , two glasses and a covered plate on the tray and Illya watched as the man pushed by him and headed for the table.

"Compliments of the Captain and our chef. " He tipped the cover back to reveal small canapés. "They wish to welcome you on board and the Captain would like to extend an invitation to join him at his table tonight."

"Of course, thank you," Napoleon said, even as Illya was studying the hors d'oeuvres.

"Have a pleasant cruise aboard the Alexander." And the young man was gone.

"The ship is named Alexander?" Illya shook his head. "That's just wrong..." Still he didn't move from his crouch by the table.

"What has you so intrigued?"

"I know these canapés."


"Are you ever serious?"

"Only when I said 'I do.'" Napoleon joined him and offered him a hand up. Illya grunted as he straightened.

"These carrot tulips with vegetable terrine... I remember someone at the Academy doing this. And the kiwi on pumpernickel with the mousse; I'll bet it's liver."

Napoleon obligingly popped one into his mouth and nodded. "A little dry, though."

"That was my thought as well. I told him rye would have been a better choice. Do we have a crew list?"

"Over on the desk." Napoleon sampled a little neck clam on a half shell as Illya pulled out his glasses to scan down the list.

"Arno Nam, I knew it." He tapped the print with his finger. "He was a classmate of ours."

"These are very good." Napoleon joined him and fed him a baby red potato filled with caviar.

Illya chewed and nodded. "Good caviar. I'm guessing Beluga." He glanced down at the page and smirked. "This is going to prove very... interesting."

"You have a history?"

Illya smiled at the touch of jealousy in Napoleon's voice and set the sheet aside. "Not an extensive one, but it wasn't from lack of trying on his part... he couldn't see what I saw in Matt. Or didn't see in him." Illya maneuvered Napoleon back towards the bed, pressing him down with his body, grinding his groin against Napoleon's. Napoleon's hands snaked up and pulled their bodies tighter. "Give me a second," Illya murmured, leaning in to kiss Napoleon's forehead gently. He rose, only to return a moment later with the champagne. "Why don't you open this while I hunt down something to ease our way?"

Obligingly, Napoleon tore the foil off the bottle and began to work on the cork, slipping it noiselessly from the bottle as Illya returned. He poured a glass and handed it to Illya as the man stretched out on the bed, his body propped up against the pillows. After pouring himself a glass, Napoleon joined him.

"So tell me what's going to happen now?" They tipped the rims of the flutes together and sipped. "Not bad."

"We head down the coast for four days and then into Acapulco."

"Four days at sea?"

"With nothing to do but relax and enjoy." Napoleon sipped his champagne, frowning initially as Illya pulled it from his grasp and set it aside. Then Illya slid down flat on the bed and waited for his partner to move. After a moment, Napoleon joined him and they lay side by side, kissing and just caressing each other.

The loudspeaker crackled to life above their heads and a sense of dj vu made Illya chuckle. "If someone tells us to report to Waverly's office, I'm out of here."


"This is your captain speaking. In a few minutes, we will be conducting a test for emergency procedures. When you hear seven short blasts, followed by one long blast, please take your life preserver and report to your muster station as listed on the back of your cabin door. Crew will be in place to guide and advise you. Please do not put your life jacket on until instructed to do so and do not let the straps drag..."

Illya tuned out the rest of the announcement. "You knew this was coming?"

"Standard procedure and maritime law; there has to be a muster drill within the first twenty four hours on board." Napoleon returned to Illya's lips. "I just didn't know when."

"So what else do you know about? What about this Captain thing?"

"We'll probably return and find an invitation waiting for us. It'll tell us when and what the dress code is."

"Dress code? There's a dress code? I didn't..."

"I did, just before we left."

"Is that why you insisted I carry your suitcase to the car?"

"Didn't want you to wonder why your luggage was suddenly so much heavier."

"And it's also why you made me have my tux refitted."

Napoleon's hand settled on Illya's waist. "Well, that and about twenty pounds." Illya glared, but his partner merely laughed. "Let's face it, Illya, neither of us is the man we used to be." He kissed the tip of Illya's nose. "And I know you don't agree, but it looks good on you. You've always been on the thin side. Now there's more of you to love."

Illya could see the surprise in Napoleon's eyes as he suddenly moved, straddling Napoleon's chest to pin him to the bed. He caught both wrists and held them at an angle that would give Napoleon nearly no leverage to free them. He let his thumbs apply just enough pressure to remind his partner of who he was, who he had been.

"There is no amount of words that will free you from the trap you have so cleverly created for yourself, my friend," Illya murmured, his voice humorless. "Rather I should think that some devious and painful revenge is necessary."

Napoleon's top lip curled into a half sneer. "You and what army?"

"I need no army to best you." Illya increased the vice-like pressure of his legs, forcing a grunt from Napoleon. "I need but the desire." He leaned down as if to kiss Napoleon, but then veered at the last minute to whisper. "And you know my desire..."

"I've heard tell..." Napoleon wiggled and brought his legs up. Just as he was prepared to buck Illya off and ratchet this game to the next level, there was a sharp short blast.

Illya groaned and climbed off Napoleon, offering him a hand up. Napoleon grabbed it and tugged him back to the bed, catching him in an embrace and kissing him.

"We have to go," Illya protested.

"Yes, but not quite yet. We still have another few blasts to go."

Illya watched as Napoleon handed the invitation to the Maitre d and glanced around the dining room. They'd gotten a chance to see it already as it doubled as their muster station and nothing, not even the promise of sex, could stop Illya from prowling it once they'd been released. They found their table, a two top, as Napoleon apparently had no intention of sharing Illya if he didn't have to. It struck Illya as odd, since Napoleon was so much the social animal. Still, there would be plenty of opportunities for him to connect with others before and after meals.

Illya was secretly delighted that formal dress wasn't required tonight. It had been years since he'd been forced into a tux and he wasn't relishing the thought of climbing into one. He's settled for a white silk shirt, open at the neck and black slacks and matching jacket. The dress was resort casual, whatever that meant. Napoleon looked dapper in his royal blue blazer, charcoal gray slacks and off white shirt. He'd even donned a tie for the occasion, one Rocky had given him as an impromptu bon voyage gift. Illya had merely garnered a kiss and the advice to 'play nice.'

As they approached the table, the four men already seated there stared at them, openly curious as to who else was joining them.

"The Captain will be with you in a few moments." The Maitre d hurried away as a waiter approached. Illya watched how the man moved, the words he chose when conversing with his guests. He'd been European trained, that was for certain. He was formal, almost brusque.

When he approached them, Illya murmured. "You trained on the continent. Germany or Austria?"

The waiter blinked in surprise and almost immediately his face softened. "Austria, sir."

Illya nodded. He'd thought as much. "Excellent. Vodka, scotch." He nodded to Napoleon in turn, knowing he needed to add nothing more. This man wouldn't be interested in anything except performing his service.

"How did you know...?" started one of the others as a man approached their table. He was wearing a white jacket and a toque, something Illya always found pretentious. The stitching on the jacket announced that he was Arno Nam, chef d' cuisine. Time had not done the man any favors. The sharply chiseled good looks of his twenties had not transferred to his fifties, but the man's eyes were still dark and brooding. For a moment, a name, Velon, slipped in and out of Illya's mind and he realized that the men shared the same look, that of a man who had it all but the one thing he wanted.

"Chef," the man beside Napoleon began to rise, but Arno just flicked a look at him and went directly to Illya.

"Show me!" The voice was still as forceful and no nonsense as it had been when they'd shared a classroom.

"Show you what?" Illya kept the tension from his voice.

"Your arm, show me!"

It took Illya a moment to realize what the man meant. He stood and unbuttoned his cuff, sliding the fabric up his arm. Arno grabbed it and, even after having been deprogrammed, Illya still had to fight his instincts for a moment. Only keeping his attention focused upon Napoleon stopped him from dropping Arno where he stood.

Instead the chef stared at Illya's forearm, at the tattoo of five stars surrounding a crossed knife and fork. For a long moment, he said nothing, then. "It really is you."

"Yes. How are you, Arno?"

There was a pause and then Arno caught him in an embrace, one far too intimate for Illya's taste, and he extracted himself as quickly as possible.

"What are you doing here?"

"Vacationing... with my partner." Illya put extra emphasis on the last word.

"Matt?" Arno scanned the table and his gaze returned to Illya, perplexed.

"Napoleon, this is Arno Nam; Arno, my partner, Napoleon Solo."

Napoleon stood and offered his hand. After a moment, Arno briefly shook, then dropped Napoleon's hand as if it was an uninteresting dead animal. He studied Illya again for a long moment, then spun and walked out, nearly colliding with their waiter in the process.

"What the hell was that all about? Illya?"

"No idea at all." Both men reseated themselves and the dining room which had grown very quiet, churned back to life. Illya re-buttoned his cuff and reached for his drink.

"One thing about hanging around with you, partner it's never very quiet for very long."

Although there are oceans we must cross
And mountains that we must climb
I know every gain must have a loss
So pray that our loss is nothing but time

Till then, let's dream of what there will be
Till then, we'll call on each memory
Till then, when I will hold you again
Please wait till then

Illya moved easily in Napoleon's arms, their bodies moving together as smooth as silk over marble. Even though it had been just days before that they'd danced at his birthday party, it felt like years. Napoleon had the ability to make his partner feel like the greatest, most gifted, most graceful dancer in the world and that was one reason why he was always a favorite at any party.

That they were doing it in some place other than Taste was an added benefit. They were just one of two dozen couples moving on the shifting dance floor. Napoleon half whispered, half sang along with the music, his hands warm on the small of Illya's back, holding him close.

The music ended and they reluctantly parted, waiting to see what the music dictated next.

"We have time for just one more song, so let's pop ahead a couple of decades, dust off our disco shoes and get ready to boogie..." Illya winced at the cruise director's comment. This could prove to be very bad when an all-too familiar ramp started and he found himself grinning like a maniac at his lover.

You're so hot, teasing me
So you're blue but I can't take a chance on a kid like you.
That's something I couldn't do.
There's that look in your eyes
I can read in your face that your feelings are driving you wild. Ah, but, boy, you're only a child

Well I can dance with you, honey
If you think it's funny.
Does your mother know that you're out? And I can chat with you baby
Flirt a little maybe.
Does your mother know that you're out?

ABBA, that made the evening perfect and Illya moved, sufficiently familiar enough with both the beat and the lyrics to be comfortable. When he'd first scanned the promotional material, Illya had been concerned they would be trapped on a ship full of young men, whose bodies hadn't seen a lifetime of living. Instead, most of the cruisers were their age or even older, couples who just wanted the freedom to be able to openly and freely display their love for each other.

Napoleon's arm caught his waist as the song ended and they headed back to their table, collapsing to the velvet seats even as the Cruise Director was outlining the show for the evening.

"You want to hang around for the floor show or should I show you the floor?" Napoleon murmured, sipping his drink, his eyes promising great things for anyone bold enough to take him up on it.

"You think you're up for it? It's way past your bedtime," Illya said, studying the crowd. He licked his lips as Napoleon's hand found his thigh and squeezed gently, suggestively.

Illya didn't even remember the trip back to their cabin, only the feel of Napoleon's lips on his skin, bruising and sharp as they moved on him, as sharp as the pain of penetration, expected and anticipated, and of the harsh, brutal relief of their mutual climaxes.

Illya opened his eyes and winced as he shifted in bed. Damn, had they even used lube last night? From what he was feeling, he wasn't sure.

"Christ, why did you let me drink so much last night? I haven't been this hung over in years." The voice came from somewhere on the other side of the bed and Illya couldn't help but chuckle. It would seem each of them would have something to deal with today.

"You want coffee or hair of the dog?" Illya squinted in the dim light to find the bedside phone.

"A really big rock, then drop it on my head." The lump he discerned to be his partner didn't move as Illya leaned over and kissed the back of his neck. Biting his lip, he eased himself out of bed and to the bathroom.

No real damage, but from the spectacular bruising he had, they'd had a helluva time the night before. It had been years since he'd worn many hickies and bruises. It wasn't a wonder he ached from head to toe.

He murmured his breakfast order into the bathroom phone, then turned his attention to a hot shower. It always amazed him how much better he felt after one... and a handful of aspirin didn't hurt either. He showered, shaved, brushed his teeth, and had gotten his shorts on when there was a knock at the door.

He grabbed a robe from the closet and Napoleon grumbled at the noise as Illya walked past him, pulling the curtains that separated their bedroom from the rest of the room.


"Room Service!" The voice on the other side of the door was far too cheerful for this time of day, but Illya let him in anyway. He watched as the man rolled the cart in, set up their small table and departed, taking away the remnants of the previous evening's appetizers and champagne as he left.

Illya opened the cabin's drapes and stared out at a gray day. It would be a perfect day to spend lazing about, resting up from the night before. He opened the sliding glass and, barefoot, he stepped out. The decking was wet, from rain, he guessed, since they were too high up for spray. The air was cold and he shivered as he surveyed the seas. They were white crested, but thanks to the stabilizers and Dramamine, he was good with the motion of the ship. Another day and he'd be able to drop the medication entirely. It made him sleepy... or perhaps it was something else.

He leaned back into the warmth that enveloped him. "Morning."

"So rumor has it." Napoleon's voice was still raspy from sleep and other things.

"There's coffee on the table."

"It was the only thing that got me out of bed."

"The only thing?" Illya felt Napoleon's erection hot against the small of his back. "If you'd asked, I'd have brought it to you." Napoleon was swaying slightly, as if in time to some unheard song and Illya moved with him. "I think we should put the 'do not disturb' sign on the door and spend the day in."

"I won't argue." Napoleon's cheek was rough against Illya's shoulder as Napoleon's hands pulled him back tighter. "How are you holding up? Mentally, I mean."

"I'm... adrift." It took Illya a few moments to find the right word. After a lifetime of work, he didn't know exactly how he felt about a sudden lack of it. He'd had vacations before, but that was different than this. Then they were moments to grab rabidly at as meals, showers, sex. You never knew when the next opportunity would present itself and rarely did it. Personnel had always been after him to take some time, but it usually required Waverly's hand to force him into it. When he left UNCLE and started chef school, vacations were times to cram as much study in as possible. He always volunteered to work weekend gigs, holiday catering jobs. Not only did he need the money; he didn't want the time alone and be left to his own thoughts. After opening Taste, there wasn't time for luxuries such as vacations, at first. He and Matt had a restaurant to create. When he did get the occasional day off, he slept, sometimes around the clock.

Now that was behind him and days of endless nothingness stretched out before him, no demands upon his time or body. He was no longer Illya Kuryakin, UNCLE agent, premier Chef, now he was simply just Illya again and the man was a stranger to him.

"Hey." Napoleon's voice was butter soft in his ear. "It's okay, you know."

"What's okay?" Illya half turned his head.

"To not have a plan, to just let the time drift by." Napoleon sighed, wrapping his arms around Illya's waist. "Just to be with me and let the world take care of itself for awhile."

"It's hard..." He'd confess that to no one else.

"I know." Napoleon kissed the back of Illya's neck. "Come back to bed with me."

"Only if I'm driving. After last night, I need a little time to... regroup." The robe gapped opened and Napoleon frowned.

"You do look like I took a baseball bat to you. Sorry."

"Not complaining, just explaining." He turned and hugged his lover tightly.

As they moved through the cabin, Illya collected a few items on the service tray.

"The flowers are lovely, by the way, thank you." His head came up at Napoleon's voice.

"What flowers?" The arrangement of camellias, chrysanthemums and columbines had covered nearly the entire coffee table. "Oh, those flowers. I didn't send them, Napoleon. I thought you had. They were in the room last night when we came in."

"Huh, one of the guys then. The card just said, 'All my love,' and since I didn't send them, I figured..." Napoleon's voice was muffled by the flush of the toilet and the running of the sink. He reappeared as Illya was setting the tray down on the bedside table. "Considering the flower choices, I should have known."

"Flower choices?" Illya glanced up from pouring coffee.

"The red camellias mean you're a flame in my heart, which works, but the yellow mums mean a slighted lover and the columbine means someone who's been cuckolded and abandoned. And I'm feeling neither slighted nor abandoned this morning."

"Who else but you would know that?" Illya passed the cup over and slipped off his shorts.

"A florist, maybe." Napoleon sipped and set the cup aside as Illya settled back against him. "Most folks would just pick them for their colors."

"Which sounds exactly like Mattie and Rocky." Illya sighed. "It's only been two days and I already miss them."

"It's normal to miss family."

"When did you get so philosophical?"

Napoleon squirmed around for a moment to get comfortable, then, drew Illya closer. "When you have everything you ever wanted in your life, it's easy."

"It was only lunch!" The cabin, which had seemed so big two days earlier, was now cramped. Hell, the ship was cramped. Illya paced the length of the cabin and back again, all the while avoiding Napoleon.

"You were gone five hours! You could have fallen over board for all I knew!"

"I've been on a ship enough to know how not to fall overboard, Napoleon!" Illya had left Napoleon lounging by the pool, a cool drink in one hand, a novel in the other and had come back to a furious partner.

Okay, so he and Arno had lingered over their meal, talking about the old days, the people they kept in contact with, the ones they didn't or no longer could. Arno had been surprised to hear of their chef's death. Not that he had died, for the man was ancient when they were his students, but the means had been a shock. Erotic asphyxiation was not something either of them had suspected of the fiery Frenchman.

They laughed, had a couple bottles of wine, and the time had run from him. He'd felt young again, still strong and determined, still energetic and enthusiastic with a lifetime of cooking ahead of him, surrounded by insanely creative and gifted people, people who spoke the same language he did. And when Arno confessed to having sent the flowers, Illya was neither surprised nor entirely angry. It had felt rather nice to have someone compete for his attention. Not that he felt Napoleon took him for granted, but it was just...nice to know someone else was looking.

"What the hell were you doing for five hours?"

Talking, we were just talking! Was what he meant to say, but it came out, "None of your damned business."

Napoleon's face, already flushed with anger, reddened even further and he grabbed his jacket and stormed out of the room.

Illya resisted the urge to punch the wall. They were metal and he didn't need a broken hand on top of everything else. Instead, he walked out to the balcony and looked out at the ocean. They were still too far out to see land, but birds dotted the sky now and there was more and more sea traffic. Soon they'd be pulling into Acapulco and he'd be off this damned ship. He'd already made up his mind to head straight for the airport the minute his feet hit ground. This had been a mistake. The reason he could tolerate Napoleon normally was because they were apart much of the time, making their time together a cherished gift. This constant companionship was nearly driving him to drink... and a drink sounded like a very good thing at the moment.

Making sure he had his cruise card, he left the cabin. With seven bars to choose from, it was more a matter of which one suited his mood.

He was nursing his second double when movement at his elbow drew him out of his near trance and back to reality. The man slid onto the barstool and motioned to the bartender.


"Whatever the special of the day is and double it." He glanced over at Illya, then did a double take. "You were at the Captain's table that night."

Illya vaguely remembered the man; his partner had been boisterous and a little loud and Illya had tuned him out for the most part and spent the evening chatting with this man.

"Ben, right?"

"Good memory."

"Part of the job." Illya didn't mention which one. He returned to his drink as the bartender put something very bright and fruity looking down in front of Ben. "That sort of thing has been known to kill men," he murmured.

"Likewise." Ben raised the glass to him and they 'tinked' them together. "So why are you down here in the doom and gloom and not up in the sun and fun with everyone else?"

"I have no idea." Illya took a long drink from the glass, resisting the urge to empty it. His head was already starting to hum. He wasn't as used to hard liquor as he'd once been.

"His idea? This cruise?"

"Completely." Illya stared into his glass as if the ice cubes would reveal the mysteries of the universe. "A week ago, I had a career, one of the top restaurants in California and a great marriage."

"And now?"

"And now... I am retired." Illya drained the glass and set it down. "Now I am nothing."

"That sounds a bit self pitying. Not that it's any of my business."

"You're right."

"That it's self pitying?"

"That it's none of your business." Illya nodded to his glass and the bartender took it away, only to replace it a moment later.

"I'm just saying, you obviously have a man who loves you, anyone with eyes can see that. That chef guy was about to come unglued trying to impress you, so obviously you're still someone of importance. Maybe it's time to stop thinking about what you want and think about those around you." At Illya's silence, Ben continued. "You should take a look around you and decide what's more important, being a big man or being a good one."

Illya didn't even acknowledge that he'd heard the words and a moment later, Ben slipped away.

After a few minutes, Illya picked up his drink and walked from the bar to the deck. Night was falling, a sliver of light at the horizon all that remained of the day. He sipped his drink and watched as even that last bit was swallowed up by a greedy night.

"I missed you at dinner." Arno's voice was familiar now. The man leaned up against the railing beside him, his chef jacket open at the throat. "But he didn't."

"Good, Napoleon hates eating alone. "

"One day and already your chair is filled." Arno 'tsked' sadly. "I thought you'd mean more than that to him. I know you would to me."

"Stop, Arno, I don't know how many other ways to say it. I'm sorry, but I'm not interested. I've never been interested."

"You were once."

"We had sex and it was a mistake. I knew that from the first." Illya drained his glass. "You and I, it's not happening again. I'm a married man and I will not hurt Napoleon. Stop sending things to the cabin. If you have any feelings for me, leave me alone."

"I can't." Arno placed a hand on Illya's forearm and then slowly withdrew it at the withering look Illya shot him. "Can't you see, this was meant to be, you and me? That's why we were brought together again."

"And I'm fairly certain there are safeguards in place to keep the crew from pestering the passengers. Do not force me to take that step, Arno. I will speak with the captain privately if need be."

"That would destroy me, ruin my career."

"That choice is yours."

"You're threatening me? All I've ever done is love you, Illya."

"And I don't love you. I never have. The fact that you can't seem to grasp that is neither my problem nor my concern at the moment. Good night, Arno, I don't expect to talk to you again."

For a second, Illya wasn't sure the man wasn't going to take a swing at him, but the chef merely drew himself up and stormed away. Illya leaned his forehead against his arms, his head pounding, his stomach churning. Drawing a deep breath, he straightened and headed back to the cabin.

It was empty, not surprising. Napoleon would immerse himself in the night life. Illya was glad, glad that his partner had something to occupy his time, just as he did. He got to the bathroom just in time to lose an afternoon's worth of drinking and halfway inspired food. It wasn't until about halfway through the attack that Illya realized he'd skipped the seasickness medication. Add it to the alcohol and emotions, he felt righteously sick.

He was fairly certain there was nothing left in his stomach as he clawed his way to his feet, brushed his teeth, washed his face, and swallowed several pills. Stomach still lurching, he staggered to the bed and stretched out. Lying down seemed to ease the symptoms a little and after a bit, he felt well enough to struggle out of his clothes, leaving them in a pile by the side of the bed. He didn't even bother to turn off the lights, just closed his eyes against the light, the nausea, and the emotions.

When he opened them, it was dark in the cabin and it took him a full minute to remember they'd been on. Reaching out, he felt someone in bed with him. A flash of a nightmare, then he recognized the smell, the feel, even the breathing of his partner. He pressed against the warmth of the body, his arm automatically encircling the waist.

"Awake, are you?" Napoleon's voice was soft, neutral.

"Yes." Illya's head pounded, but he no longer felt as nauseous.

"Are you all right?"

"No, but I'm better."


"You're here." He felt Napoleon's arm cover his and pull him even closer. "Besides, I have a greater problem to grapple with at the moment."

"What is that or should I even ask?"

"I hurt someone who means everything to me and it was never my intention. I forgot, for just a moment, how important he is to me. Once, I threw away the only thing in my life that ever meant something and I was given a second chance. And this is how I repay the favor. I'm sorry."

"Helluva an apology," Napoleon murmured, turning in bed. "Who writes your material?"

"My heart."

"Well then, we wouldn't want to disappoint your heart, would we? But there's nothing to forgive. We're both stubborn and headstrong and I should have trusted you. You've never looked at another man, never given me a reason to worry, so why would you start with someone who you obviously aren't interested in? I'm sorry as well."

For a long moment they simply lay side by side, exchanging nothing except breaths .

Napoleon took Illya's left hand in his. "I remember once, a long time ago when I confessed to you that I was nothing. Do you remember what you told me?"

Illya nodded, "How could you be nothing if I love you?"

"I'm just saying you should listen to your own advice, Amante." He brought the hand to his mouth to kiss the fingers, the ring that sat there. "I know you feel lost, Illya, I understand that. It'll pass. You just have to relax and give it time, give yourself time. This is all very new to you, but it will get better."

"You promise?"

"Cross my heart and..."

Illya's head jerked in his direction. "Don't finish that... don't ever finish that."

Instead Napoleon kissed his hand again and set it back down on the covers. "Get some sleep and we'll talk in the morning."

Morning brought its own harsh awakening. The dull pounding in his head from having mixed his alcohol and the ache in his abdominal muscles from repeatedly vomiting made him feel very, very old. He rolled onto his back, keeping one arm over his eyes.

He felt something wet and cold touch his arm and he hazarded a look. Napoleon was holding out a glass of water and some aspirin.

He accepted them without comment, propping himself up on one elbow to swallow the water. Then he flopped back down.

"You look like hell." Napoleon's comment was dry.

"Then it matches the way I feel."

"You don't usually get drunk enough to throw up."

"But I do when I'm seasick or have you forgotten?" Illya quite vividly remembered that damned life raft and spending the first two hours adrift vomiting over the edge as Napoleon kept him from falling in... "I didn't take my medication yesterday. I thought I was good to go."

"Well, good to throw, possibly, but I'd not miss another dosage." Napoleon offered him the room service menu. "You should try to eat something. You'll feel better."

"Let me take a shower first... just order something. It will be fine."

He stayed in the shower well after Napoleon tapped on the door to tell him the meal had arrived. He didn't want to leave the sanctuary of the bathroom. He was afraid of what awaited him on the other side of the bathroom door. While they'd both apologized, the feelings were still there, the air crackled with anxiety. Napoleon didn't trust him.

He wiped away the condensation from the mirror and smiled bitterly at his reflection. How that must cut. Illya had dealt with his own trust issues constantly for years. Even though deep inside, he knew Napoleon was loyal to their vows, to him, deeper down, there was that tiny snake of doubt ever ready to turn into a viper, poisonous and lethal, every time Napoleon's eyes tracked a lovely woman. It was with him constantly and he learned to live with it, keep it from gaining the upper hand, but it was always a struggle.

Yet, Napoleon never had seemed to suffer from the green-eyed monster. He had no defenses in place, no secret way to calm himself down and apparently he'd been handed a lifetime's worth in one afternoon.

Illya walked out of the bathroom, the steam circling around his ankles like hungry kittens. Huh, that was a thought, perhaps another cat might do the trick... or volunteering at the shelter. He pulled on a robe and knotted it firmly closed.

Illya's stomach then decided to remind him that it was very, very empty, but also very, very queasy. He glanced around the cabin until he spotted Napoleon sitting on the partially-shaded balcony, breakfast spread out on the teak wood table.

He sat, his back resolutely to the sea and stared at the offerings. After a moment, he selected a piece of toast and began to spread butter on it. He knew that Napoleon was watching his every move, waiting and hoping for an opening. Without much enthusiasm, he bit into the toast and chewed slowly, waiting for any repercussion. There was none, so he tried another piece, then some fruit. By the time he'd finished, both his head and stomach were much happier and he was feeling closer to something human.

He took one last swallow of water and stood, walking to the rail. Still, his stomach behaved itself; he'd not forget his medication again.

"We need to talk," he said with a sense of resignation. He didn't want to; he wanted to pretend yesterday didn't happen, but ignoring what had occurred wouldn't help. He'd learned that the hard way.

Napoleon came to stand beside him, studying the horizon, his eyes distant. "We do."

"What made you so angry, Napoleon?"

"You said you'd be gone for just an hour or so."

"We started talking and drinking; I lost track of time."

"Five hours and I didn't know where you were."

"Where could I go? We are on a ship out at sea."

"Velon held me less than two miles from our house." The statement was so flat that for a moment Illya had to struggle with the segue.

Suddenly everything clicked for Illya. He'd seen the look on Arno's face and never suspected Napoleon had seen and thought the same as he. Never once did it occur to him that Napoleon was in fear for his partner's life. He thought Napoleon had been jealous; not jealous, terrified.

"I didn't even think... oh God, Napoleon, I am so sorry." Illya caught his lover in a tight embrace and just held onto him, feeling Napoleon shake. Napoleon didn't cry, ever. Hadn't cried at his mother's funeral, through all that Velon had done, the humiliation of the trial, he just didn't. But now he did.

"I was so scared." The voice had a little boy lost quality to it, the arms tight and clutching. "I didn't know where to look or even where to start."

"We were in the crew galley the whole time, Napoleon, never out of sight of at least three other people. I was never threatened or my safety compromised. Hey, I may be old, but I can punch my way out of a paper sack."

"I know...I feel stupid..." Napoleon rubbed his hands over his face.

Illya kissed his head tenderly, then touched it with his own forehead. "I feel loved."

"Are we ever going to see the end of this? Of what he did to us? He's dead and buried, beyond caring. It would be nice if his victims had the same pleasure."

"Of being dead and buried?"

Napoleon snorted and sniffed. "You are really unbelievably dense at times."

"And you are merely unbelievable." He took Napoleon's hand. "Permit me to thank you for that."A tap on the door made Illya frown and he sighed. "If it's not the phone, it's the door..."

He moved to it and peered out the peephole, but all he could see was green. Perplexed, he opened it and stared at the bouquet of flowers, so large that the steward carrying it was lost in it and the arrangement had the impression of having grown legs.

"I have a delivery for you, sir."

Illya looked over his shoulder. "Napoleon?"

"Not me."

"No, thank you."


"I'm sorry, but I'm not accepting flowers today. Perhaps you can find someone else who can use them."

"But, sir..."

Illya closed the door politely but firmly on the man's protest. Then he snapped his fingers and plucked the 'do not disturb' placard from the table and slipped the door open just wide enough to hook it over the handle. He turned back to his partner and smiled. "There is but one arrangement I want to admire today."

"What would that be?" Napoleon was standing in the balcony door.

"You and me, on the bed, completely and utterly engaged in suitably carnal activities."

"I like the way you think, Mr. Kuryakin."

"I like the way you make me think, Mr. Solo... and feel." He held out his hand and Napoleon took it.

Napoleon used his free hand to undo the belt holding Illya's robe closed. He pushed it open and stepped inside, molding his body to Illya's as they kissed, tongues rolling and twisting together.

Illya released Napoleon to shrug the robe off, glad to be free of the terry cloth, glad to feel Napoleon's hands roaming his body with such longing, glad to know he still had a future ahead to spend with his lover.

They moved to the bed, arms and legs locked in a familiar and erotic dance. Their love making was slow and languid, neither man in a hurry to take control, both happy just to share. Eventually, it was Napoleon who slipped a hand between their groins, pinned their penises together, matching his strokes with the rhythm of their bodies. Illya's hand joined his, entwining fingers, so the hands moved in unison. They climaxed, one after the other, but neither released the other as their bodies crept back from the explosion of sensations.

"Wow," Napoleon muttered after a moment. "That was incredible. I haven't come like that since..."

"Yesterday morning?"

"Or thereabouts. I guess what they say about make up sex is true..." Napoleon sighed happily.

"No it's not," Illya grumbled a minute later, pushing him away. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"What? All I said was..."

"I know what you said and you're wrong." Illya moved to the other side of the bed, his face angry.

"How can I be wrong when I'm merely..."

"Is that enough of a fight to warrant more making up?"

It took Napoleon a moment and then he grinned, "You are one crazy Russian."

"And gladly suffering with a Napoleon complex." Illya was back in his arms, pressing him down against the pillows.

"I think the term is Napoleonic complex and there's nothing inferior about you, my love." Napoleon let his finger trace through Illya's chest hair. "So what are your plans for today?"

"Besides this?"

"Beside this. We do have to get out of bed at some point."

Illya wrapped his arms around his partner. "We do?" His voice had the edge of childlike innocence, as if the thought was totally alien to him. "I thought you said we had all this time to not worry about anything."

"I'm not worried, just wanted to be sure you were..."

"Please don't ask me if I'm happy, Napoleon. You already know the answer to that."

"I was going to say, okay with this." He ground himself against Illya.

"Very okay." Illya drew his fingers over Napoleon's back, fingernails lightly scratching. "Have you ever wondered just how many times we've made love?"

"Nope... but I'm always up for one more..."

Illya chuckled and then sighed as Napoleon slid down his body, already knowing where that very talented mouth was headed. "Yes, yes, you are."

They were in the bathtub and Illya was purposefully ignoring the gentle rock of the water, focusing instead on the sensation of Napoleon's fingers in his hair.

Napoleon noticed Illya's discomfort, in spite of his best efforts to hide it. "Meds wearing off?"

"I think that's the general consensus."

"Sit up for me." Napoleon lifted himself out of the tub and wrapped a towel around his waist. Just as he was reaching for Illya's kit, the phone rang.

Darting a look over at Illya, he hunched his shoulders and lifted the receiver to his ear. "Hello? Hello? No one there." He re-cradled the receiver. "Must not have wanted to talk to me." He'd taken just two steps and the phone rang again. It was a repeat of moments before.

"If it rings again, don't answer it." Illya said, climbing out of the tub and taking the medication from Napoleon. Sure enough, a moment later, the phone rang again. After ten rings, it silenced. A minute passed and it started again.

This time Illya snatched up the phone.

"What?" He listened for a moment. "I see. That's all right, we'll manage." He hung up. "That was housekeeping wondering if we want them to do up the cabin."

"That's a relief, for a minute there..."

"Me, as well." Illya swallowed the pills and started to stretch, only to suddenly find arms around his waist. "Napoleon..." he scolded. "And in the middle of a perfectly good stretch..."

The phone rang again and Illya sighed. "Probably forget to ask if we wanted fresh towels." He grabbed up the phone. "Yes?" This time he scowled. "Leave me be." He hung up the phone and then unclipped the receiver from the body, setting it on the counter.


"Who else? Now he can call all he wants."

Napoleon's attention dropped and Illya's followed. His erection had subsided and his penis gave the impression of trying to hide. "That seems to have put the kibosh on things."

"Probably just as well. I'm not sure my back could take one more go round." He padded barefoot out to the cabin and looked out the plate glass window at the sea. Immediately he spun and closed his eyes.

Napoleon walked up to him and guided him towards the closet. "The best thing to help with seasickness is to get as low in the ship as possible. The movie theater is on Deck Four and they are showing 'Boys in the Band.'"

"What's that about?"

"No idea, but it will be dark, it will be quiet, and it will give you something to take your mind off being sick... among other things."

"Among other things."

Illya was aware of movement beneath his head and he opened his eyes, blinking. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing, the movie's over." Napoleon wasn't even trying to hide his smile. "Did you sleep well?"

"Did I snore?" Illya stood and stretched.

"Just a little."

"This medication makes me so sleepy."

"Better that than the alternative." Napoleon took his hand and squeezed it. "I'd much rather have you sleepy than sick. Besides, that sloe-eyed look works for you, partner."

"I see." They were walking out of the theater and a staff member approached them.

"Mr. Solo? Mr. Kuryakin?"

"Yes?" Napoleon's answer was guarded.

"We were going through the passenger list and noticed you two have been together longer than just about anyone else on board."

"We have?" Illya shrugged his shoulders and looked over at Napoleon. "We must be having fun then."

"Yes, well as such, we were wondering if you'd be willing to take part in our Not-so-Newlywed game."

"I've had my fill of game playing for a lifetime," Illya muttered and started to leave, but Napoleon's hand tightened on his.

"Let's hear the man out, shall we, partner?"


"Could you excuse us for just a moment?" Napoleon half led, half dragged Illya back into the movie theater.

"Are you out of your mind? What would possess you to even consider this?" Illya snapped the moment he was sure they were out of earshot.

"Maybe if Arno saw how tuned in we are with one another, he'd realize that this is the way it's supposed to be."


"Okay, I'll make you a deal. You agree to this and I'll do anything you ask."

Illya paused at that, studying his partner long and hard until Napoleon began to fidget. "Anything?"

"May God save my soul, anything."

"This must be very important to you."

"To us and, yes, I believe it is."

Illya sighed. "Very well, but I am hardly sanguine about it."

"What?" Illya looked at the cruise director and then back at his partner.

"The question is, where was the strangest place you've ever had sex?"

"I think that's rather private."

"Just answer the question, Illya," Napoleon said, sighing.

"The strangest place we've ever had sex?" Illya repeated. He knew the answer, of course, but he was determined to get his point of not being happy across. So far, these questions had been far too intimate for his tastes. Napoleon's eyes pleaded with him and Illya sighed. "The closet in that cottage in Maine, twice. What did you call it, the Hovel of a Thousand F...?" He was interrupted as Napoleon kissed him.

The audience exploded with laughter and the cruise director paled at the close call. "Your answer, Napoleon?"

Napoleon held up a card that read,' the closet floor in Maine.' So far they were four for four.

"Okay, we're going to send your partners away now and see how you answer the following questions."

There's more? Illya mouthed as Napoleon stood.

Sorry, Napoleon mouthed back and squeezed his shoulder.

"Okay, now your partners are safely out of ear shot. Mr. Kuryakin we're going to start with you. How would your partner answer this question—what is the oddest thing you've ever used as lube?"

"I'm going to kill him," Illya whispered.

"I'm sorry?"

"I said I'm going to kill him." Illya lifted his head and glared at the cruise director, who began to shift uncomfortably.

"After the show, please. For now, your answer?"

Illya thought for a moment. "Gun cleaning fluid."

"Ewww," the young man to his right leaned away from him. "That's sick."

"Why? It provided the necessary lubrication and it's antiseptic. You could even clean a wound with it if you had to and we'd run out of everything else. It did end up having unfortunate consequences."

"Care to elaborate?" Their host was smirking now, certain he'd caught Illya between a rock and a hard place, in a manner of speaking.

"I had to be very careful where and when I cleaned my gun after that."

"I'm not even going to... Maine?"

"Maine. It was a very good vacation."

The following questions were no less personal and Illya was beginning to come out of his skin as Napoleon, grinning, sauntered back into the room and took his place beside him. He took one look at Illya's face and the smile faded.

Napoleon winced at he pulled on his dress shirt. "I get blood on this silk shirt and there's going to be hell to pay."

"You never bled, Napoleon. It's all in your mind."

"Farther south, I think." Carefully Napoleon held the fabric away from his chest as he worked the studs.

"In two days, you won't even remember it happened."

"I'm pretty sure I will."

"Three days then." Illya turned back to him, the diamond in his ear lobe catching the light.

"I can't believe you made me go through with that. We won, after all."

"Winning isn't everything, my friend, as you are now painfully aware." Illya pulled on his tux jacket and adjusted the collar. "Now hurry up or we'll be late for dinner."

Slowly Napoleon shouldered into his vest and then his jacket, keeping his movements to a minimum. "Here, don't forget this." Illya pinned the boutonniere into his lapel. "You look quite dashing."

Napoleon cranked up one corner of his mouth in a reluctant smile.

Illya could feel Napoleon's eyes upon him as he shifted the food on his plate from one side to the other.

"Are you feeling okay, partner?"

Before Illya could respond, the Matre d approached the table, beaming at them.

"You are enjoying your meal, messieurs?

Illya locked eyes with him. "There are a number of reasons why we cook food- to make it more palatable or enhance its appearance, for example. Chefs take that one step further and attempt to create a more complex experience for the diner." He pushed his half eaten dinner away from him. "This is neither palatable nor has my dining experience been enhanced. This dish is visually unappealing; the flavors are opposing rather than complimenting each other and , in short, I have had better meals in a fast food joint. Not only should your chef not be complimented, he should be shot."

Napoleon sipped his wine to hide his smile as the Matre d struggled to maintain his composure.

"You would prefer something else, sir?" The man snapped his fingers and Illya's plate was whisked away.

"No. Wait, yes, the salmon, with everything to the side."

"Everything, monsieur?

Oui, tous." He watched the man move away from their table.

"You're in a rare mood tonight." Napoleon exchanged his wine glass for his napkin.

"When has my being critical about what I put in my mouth been a rarity, Napoleon?"

A few moments later, the new entre arrived and Illya deftly put the plate together. He gestured as the same entre went by, the salmon literally swimming, the cucumber salad and mashed potatoes sinking, in a sea of corn sauce.

"When people eat that, all they taste is the sauce." Illya wasn't unaware of the attention of the service staff around him. He spoke only to Napoleon.


"Whereas with this, they will taste the sauce as well, but also the salmon, the salad, and the starch as three separate experiences instead of en masse."

"Arno would vapor lock if he heard you."

"As well he should. Philippe would cry if he saw what Arno was passing off as haute cuisine."

"All the same, I'm going to let you go into the cabin first tonight."

To Illya's eminent relief, nothing blew up or sprang out at him as they entered the cabin. There were no huge bouquets to get rid of, no bottles of champagne to dispense with. Everything was just as they'd left it.

Illya released a breath he didn't even realize he'd been holding and looked over his shoulder at Napoleon.

"Perhaps we are finally going to be allowed to enjoy the rest of this cruise," Illya murmured as he gratefully pulled off his tux jacket and undid his bow tie.

"No, sorry, two more formal nights to go." With an economy of movement, Napoleon eased off his jacket and then quickly undid his vest. Happily, he undid the studs of his shirt and pulled the fabric away from his chest. "I'm going to kill you for this, Kuryakin."

Illya leaned out of the bathroom, where he was brushing his teeth. "I'm sorry?"

Napoleon made a face and leaned over to pull the sheets down. "Illya, you need to see this."

The edge to his partner's voice made Illya rapidly spit out his mouth of toothpaste and join him. There on the sheets was a slip of paper. 'I forgive you' was printed neatly on it.

"Son of a..." Illya stormed to the phone and picked up the receiver.

"What are you doing?"

"What do you think I'm doing? I'm reporting him for harassment. He was in here."

Napoleon crossed and took the phone from him. "And perhaps this is his way of acknowledging that he's conceded to you."

"And perhaps if I'd trusted my instincts the first time around, Velon would never have happened!"

Napoleon caught Illya's hand and brought it to his lips, turning it palm up and kissing it gently. "But it did and nothing we can do will change it. Only we have the power to let it continue to color our lives or not." He curled the fingers inward.

"Channeling the doctor now? He'd be pleased."

"I just want to go to bed and forget this day happened." He brought a hand to his chest and grimaced. "Although, that might be easier said than done. Please?"

Illya shook his head in resignation. "All right, if that is your wish."

He returned to the bathroom and reached for the small bottle of hydrogen peroxide. He soaked a cotton ball and held it to his recently-pierced earlobe, wincing as he dabbed it. That accomplished, he picked up a fresh piece of cotton and walked to the bed, holding it and the bottle out.

Napoleon glanced up from untying his shoes and made a face.

"You remember what she said."

"Painfully so."

"Better that than an infection."

Illya was careful to keep a smile from his face at Napoleon's symphony of hisses and growls. This would teach Napoleon not to back him into a corner like that again. He finished stripping and climbed into bed, happy to be lying down again.

"Acapulco tomorrow?" he asked.

"Ship gets in around eight I'm told." Napoleon's voice was muffled by faucets running as he took his turn in the bathroom. "You have anything you want to do in particular?"

"It's been years since we've been here..."

"Almost thirty and never as tourists."

"That was a helluva mission...I think..." Illya frowned. It was frequently hard to remember what was real and what images UNCLE had manipulated when they'd deprogrammed him. "I remember a young senorita."

"Who would now be an abuela." Napoleon shut off the bathroom light and climbed into bed. "Where has the time gone, Illya?"

"I don't know. It scares me sometimes. When I was younger, I thought about death so much; it was always there. Every time I walked out of my apartment, I wondered if or when I'd be back." He adjusted his pillows. "Now I discover I don't want to think about it at all."

Napoleon pooled the sheets around his hips and sighed. "Oh, I don't know, death doesn't scare me the way it used to. There was so much I wanted to do; I was so desperate to stay alive then."


"For you. At first because I lacked the courage to tell you how I felt and then when I did, I was afraid of losing you. Then when I did lose you, I was so afraid of never getting you back before I died..."

Illya caught his hand. "But you did."

"Which is why death no longer frightens me."

The day in Acapulco was spent buying gifts for friends, sampling local cuisine and taking in the city at their leisure. No one shot at them or attempted to run them down. They visited the fort, a museum dedicated to masks and puppets and about a hundred shops.

They entered their cabin, arms filled with their purchases, tired, slightly sunburned, but happy. That when he saw it.


"What?" Napoleon looked around Illya and groaned at the bouquet of flowers on the dining room table. Dropping his armload on the couch, Illya walked to the phone, then stopped at Napoleon's voice.

"You might want to read this first, amante."

Illya snatched the card from Napoleon's fingers and held it out at arm's length to avoid putting on his glasses. "'Hope you're both enjoying your second honeymoon. Remember the Maine, wink, wink. Love Matt and Rocky. P.S. Where are the July invoices for dry goods and the emergency backup key for the store room?' I knew they'd lose that key."

"I think we should give them a call while we're still in port."

Illya woke to the feel of the ship rolling beneath him. Even with his medication, there was still an odd sensation in his stomach. He wondered if his mother had rocked him as a child and whether it had made him this queasy.

Quietly, he slipped out of bed and into a robe. He pulled the curtain that separated the living from the sleeping area and looked out the window. Yesterday, it had been blue and glorious. Today, it was rainy. Better that he supposed than the other since they had another sea day ahead of them.

He stared out the window at the restless sea for a moment and sighed. It suited his mood today. The call back home had left him sad and a little at odds. To hear the familiar sounds of his restaurant, no, Matt's restaurant now, had left a lump in his chest. In spite of the exhaustion and almost constant pain he'd been in, he still missed it, the people, the confusion, and the insanity.

Then he felt a welcome warmth at his back and he leaned into his lover's embrace, breathing deeply.

"Shh, I know." Napoleon's voice soothed him, helped him to re-center himself again. "It will pass."

"I just miss it. It was such a big part of me."

"And now you feel like you've lost a limb." Napoleon rested his chin on Illya's shoulder and glanced past him to the gray sea. "It'll be fine. We're together."

Illya nodded, wordless, then glanced over at the door. "Breakfast is here."

Napoleon retreated, heading for the bathroom.

Illya re-knotted the belt holding his robe shut and walked over to the door. Yanking it open, he half turned to allow the steward access. He never expected the cloth over his mouth and was only half aware of his struggles as he was dragged from the room and tipped into a used linen cart.

Shit, why does this always happen to me? was the first thought that occurred to Illya as he drifted back to consciousness. His stomach rolled and he took a couple of deep breaths to keep it from revolting completely. He wasn't sure where he was, but the ship was bobbing up and down, so he knew they had to be higher up in the ship. Below deck, the ship would be a whirl of activity as it cranked up for another day at sea with a shipload of passengers. The upper decks, set aside for entertainment and socializing, would be quiet for now.

He slowly opened his eyes and just as cautiously sat up. It was probably a storage room of some sort; it was too dim to see much in the way of detail. He wasn't tied and he was still dressed, so that was a boon, but neither was he alone. As his eyes adjusted, he saw Arno sitting a short distance from him, a pistol dangling from one hand.

"What are you doing, Arno?" Illya kept his concentration upon the weapon. It was a small caliber, but it was still plenty lethal, especially in these close quarters.

"I tried wooing you. I tried seducing you. I tried forgetting you. Nothing helps, Illya."

"And this is supposed to?" Illya brought a hand to his eyes, and rubbed them trying to shake off the effects of whatever Arno had used on him.

"I'm ruined now, so it doesn't much matter."

"What do you mean?"

"Did you think that little performance in the dining room would go unnoticed? The captain just informed me that I am headed back to shore after this; back to retraining since I seemed to have lost my focus."

"So why is that bad? Even I retrain and get recertified. It's a way to keep yourself fresh."

"I don't want to be fresh!" Arno's shout made Illya start. "I want to be loved!"

"Not my problem."

"But you see, it is your problem. Do you know what you did to me?"

"It was one night of mediocre sex, that's all it was."

"Maybe for you, but for me, it was my death. After that, I didn't want to live without you."

"Yet you have managed for over two decades."

"And there has never been a day that I haven't thought of you, wanted you." Arno held out a picture frame. It was a photo of Illya and him, taken years earlier at some competition. Illya vaguely remembered winning it, even more vaguely remembering being hugged. At the time, he'd thought it had been Matt, but apparently not. "We were happy together."

"Arno, I'm sorry, but no..." Illya let the sentence trail off, mentally gauging what it was going to take to make a dash for the door. Arno sat just to the left of it and it was unlikely he'd be willing to let Illya just stroll out of the cabin. Of course the way the ship was rocking, he'd be lucky just to be able to stand. "I love Napoleon. I've always only loved Napoleon."

"There was Matt!"

"Matt is a good friend, but I never loved him. There's always been only one man in my heart and it's his ring I'm wearing."

"I don't believe you." Arno's eyes were unreadable as they travelled from Illya to the gun and back.

"That's your problem, not mine."

"That's it then."

"Yes, and even if you kill me, it won't make any difference. I will die with Napoleon's name on my lips, no one else's."

Arno lifted the gun to his head. "Who said anything about you dying, Illya? I'm going to let you watch me die. Then we'll see who's forgotten who."

"You won't be the first man I've watched die, Arno." Illya edged forward as he talked, a fraction of an inch at a time. "There's so much about me that you can't even guess at. I've watched hundreds die, many from my own hand. Do you know what it feels like to squeeze the life out of a man? I do. Do you know what it's like to look into the eyes of another human being and then." He snapped his fingers, but he kept the look of triumph from his face as the gun dropped slightly. "I was an assassin, Arno, a trained killer, another man's blood on my hands will not keep me from sleeping peacefully at night. I've already consigned my soul to Hell a long time ago."

"I don't believe you." The gun was drifting down now.

"You want to make an impression, then live. Do it without me. Live your life so gloriously that I'll be in envy of it. I'm an old man now, Arno, you're still young. You can accomplish so much that is impossible for me to even dream about anymore."

"I could..."

"Yes, you could." Illya was in front of him now, his hand reaching for the gun. The ship rocked and Illya took the opportunity to grab it. Arno suddenly woke from his stupor.

"No!" He struggled and Illya felt rather than heard the discharge, a searing blaze of something white hot across his stomach. Just a graze, cutting a shallow trail across his skin, but it was enough to make him gasp and take a staggering step back. He touched his stomach and looking from his blood-stained hand to the chef and back.

The ship rocked again and something flew at him. If he'd been thirty, Illya could have easily dodged it, but he wasn't and it caught him, slamming him against the wall. Illya groaned as his breath was knocked from him, the whang from the wall making his already none-too-steady vision dance.

"I've killed you!" Arno's voice was bouncing around the walls now. There was a pounding on the door and shouts. Illya panted, trying to stay conscious, but his body had other plans. Just as darkness began to settle over him, he heard another gunshot.

Oh, Arno, he thought as he heard the door slam open and then nothing.

"Every friggin ten years," he muttered, opening his eyes. Immediately Napoleon was there, as was a strange man and woman, a doctor and nurse, Illya guessed.

"What's every ten years, Illya?"

"I get shot every ten years." He moved his hand automatically to his stomach to feel the bandage there. "Better than usual though..." He brought a hand to his head and touched a lump. "This is different."

"We hit some bad seas and some supplies came loose, sent you into the wall from the looks of it," Napoleon said, taking Illya's hand and drawing it down. There was a long stretch of silence and then Napoleon's voice came again, hesitant. "Illya, there's something you need to know... Arno shot himself. He's dead."

"I thought he might." Illya was surprised at how little the news mattered to him. "I tried to talk him out of it, but he was bent on self destruction."

"He left you a note."

"Burn it, I have no desire to read anything he'd care to tell me." Illya brought the hand to his mouth and kissed Napoleon's fingers. "All I care about is here with me now."


Napoleon led the way into the cabin, still chuckling over something Illya had said. "I can't believe the cruise line is writing off this entire trip."

"Well, I did get shot and kidnapped, well, kidnapped and shot. And harassed and attacked by poorly secured cargo. "

"I can't believe we dock tomorrow. One thing I can say about you, Kuryakin, there's never a dull moment with you around."

"I'm just saying don't beg me to join a trivia contest and then give me questions that a five year old could answer."

"You won, isn't that enough?" Napoleon tossed his suit jacket down onto the couch and suddenly found his arms filled with his partner.

"And you've known me long enough to know that I am never content with a simple victory when I can just as easily go for the entire... enchilada." His hand dropped to Napoleon's waist band and let his eyes drop before glancing back up to Napoleon.

Illya let his hand trail around the band until he could cup Napoleon's ass and bring him closer. His free left hand caught Napoleon's right and he began to sway slightly. "Dance with me, Napoleon."

"All right." Napoleon moved accordingly and expertly guided them closer to the bed. He sat and Illya followed ,straddling his lap, pushing Napoleon backwards.

Napoleon went willingly, his arms above his head in mock surrender. Illya started to unbutton Napoleon's shirt, purposefully keeping his movements unhurried. He pushed the fabric aside and smiled at the sight.

"Just like Christmas morning," he murmured and lowered himself down for a kiss, then abandoned Napoleon's mouth for his neck, his shoulder and finally a nipple. "And now you will understand." Illya reached down and tongued the nipple ring Napoleon wore.

At the gasp, Illya grinned. "I told you..." Illya thought back to two weeks earlier watching the panic that was on Napoleon's face as he realized the nature of Illya's payback.

"I'm too old for something this, ah, frivolous, Amante." Napoleon had complained.

"You mean you think you are too mature for piercings."

"Well, ah..."

"Don't tell me it's the pain," Illya interrupted, "I know you can stand worse." Illya was all challenge, arms crossed. "I'd offer to go first, but I believe you owe me, Napoleon. Or should I change that to welcher?"

"I know." Napoleon squared his shoulders and preceded his lover through the doors of the salon, missing the grin Illya shot his back

"I think there are too many clothes between us." As Illya started to disrobe, he felt something in his pants pocket and reached in to withdraw a slip of paper. He unfolded, his anger turning to relief at the sight of Napoleon's all-too-familiar scrawl.

'I.O.U.' the paper read. "What do you owe me, Napoleon?" Illya asked softly as Napoleon hugged him.

"Just about everything. You gave me a second chance when you didn't have to, you gave me a family and a life I'd never even hoped to have and most importantly, you gave me you. You left everything you created for me, I can never repay that." They stretched out on the bed together, arms and legs entwined with each other. "You just accepted me as I was. You changed your world for me, gave up everything and never once asked me for anything except my love."

"Cuts both ways, Napoleon." Illya returned to the nipple ring. "You've always been so giving, it was only natural to want to give back." He flicked his tongue and Napoleon groaned.

"I'm liking the nature of your giving, partner."

"I'm funny that way." Illya now set his full attention to driving his partner crazy and as Illya felt Napoleon writhing beneath him, he smiled. As Napoleon slid into his body, he grinned. And for the first time in his life, he knew he had both world enough and time.

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