Seasons of Love
Illya Kuryakin sat quietly at the table and stared at the backs of his hands. He'd been in America for all of eight months now, most of it stuck in that special spot of Hell UNCLE referred to as Survival School. At first he'd wondered what was so special about it. On the second day he was there, he watched a man die during an exercise and decided that, no matter what, he would not be the next one. Cutter had ridden him from the moment Illya had landed, seemingly twice as determined to break him. It was not because Illya was Russian, but rather because Illya simply did not look like what Cutter perceived as an UNCLE agent. Illya was too short, too thin, too frail-appearing. He looked more bookish than deadly, a bespectacled scholar more suited to hiding behind the headmaster's robe than a capable warrior. It was not the first time this appraisal came back to bite the person making it and Cutter was no exception. Illya, in the course of a few weeks, turned it to his advantage, finishing at the top of his classes, not just academically, but also physically. He out-shot, out-wrestled, out-performed agents twice his size. He earned the right to spit in Cutter's eye and didn't. Instead, he quietly accepted an additional six weeks on the island teaching a demolitions class.
Illya lived through the experience and returned to the real world, or as real as the world could be when you're a spy in some place like New York. He'd anticipated the noise and confusion; he'd grown to manhood in Paris and then London. The two cities had attended to his schooling, both in and out of the classroom. He'd learned to keep his mouth shut and his ears open. He did as he was requested by his Soviet masters quietly and efficiently, played by the rules and never, ever did anything to invite discipline or reprimand. Or at least, he never got caught at it. He was adaptable and especially gifted at fitting into the background. It had worked to his advantage more than once.
UNCLE, however, proved to be a new experience for him. They wanted him to think for himself, something he wasn't quite comfortable with outside the classroom. Illya wasn't used to speaking up or pointing out flaws in plans developed by his superiors. That could result in a fast trip to Siberia for the foolish Soviet agent who thought he knew better. Speaking his mind had been the hardest lesson of all for him to learn—until now.
Today he was going to learn how to work with a partner. Prior to this, he'd been a solitary operative and he liked it that way. Being alone meant Illya didn't have to worry. If he made a mistake, he paid the price, no one else. It earned him the nickname of the lone wolf, Ice Prince and a few others better left in the locker room. He didn't care. Alone was safe.
However, Waverly made it very clear that alone wasn't an option he was going to have. Illya had gone through his briefing and now he waited for the arrival of his new partner, a man who was just as likely to be as overjoyed as he was. Napoleon Solo, what kind of a man would be called Napoleon Solo?
The door slid open and he automatically looked up as a dark haired man entered. He was impeccably dressed and exuded an air of calm confidence. It practically rolled off him in waves and Illya felt slightly uncomfortable in his well-worn Soviet suit, one of the three he owned. Then the man smiled and Illya's wardrobe didn't matter. The name didn't matter. Nothing mattered. In that one smile, Illya saw welcome, happiness, and a bit of the devil. It played off the momentary sadness in the hazel eyes and Illya wondered what had made the man melancholy.
"Mr. Solo, meet Illya Kuryakin, your new partner." A tapered but significantly capable hand grasped his. Illya was amused at how his hand dwarfed the other, but Illya reckoned it was no less deadly than his own.
"Добро пожаловать в Америку, г. Керьякина (Welcome to America, Mr. Kuryakin)." It was so causally said that it took Illya a few seconds to register that the man had greeted him in his own language.
"You speak Russian," Illya said, trying to keep the pleasure from his voice as he reluctantly released Solo's hand. It felt so right in his, but he immediately attributed it to Solo's greeting. This had been the first time in months he'd heard his mother tongue.
"Вы говорите на английском языке (You speak English)."
"Then we are even. It's good to have you on board. Welcome to New York." Again he shook Illya's hand and Illya decided that this was not just a man he could work with. This was a man he could respect and like.
"All right, gentlemen, for your first assignment..."
Illya dragged the fingers of one hand through his hair and resisted the urge to shake his head, spraying water everywhere as if he was some erstwhile dog. Behind him, he could hear Napoleon out on the balcony, opening and closing the umbrella, trying to get as much rain off of it as possible. Not that the pelting rain was giving him much of a break.
"Well, that was an experience," Illya said as Napoleon admitted defeat and propped the umbrella up against the wall of the balcony. The overhang provided a little protection from the rain, damn little to Illya's way of thinking. "Do you suppose this is a sign from your God?" He struggled out of his jacket and holster, hanging both on a previously abandoned wooden clothes hanger.
"A sign from God? What do you mean?"
"A downpour hitting just as the priest was about to pronounce the happy couple as man and wife? A cruel joke on His part or was it a last ditch effort to stop a mistake or an overall comment on the sanctity of marriage?" Illya knew which one he would have gone with. He'd watched the bride's eyes wander over to where the best man was sitting and he knew. Illya just wondered how it could be that Branson didn't.
He sat and pulled off his sopping shoes. There had been the choice of sticking it out for the reception, also planned for outside or making a run for it back to the hotel. Since neither of them were particularly well known to the bride and Illya was fairly certain Branson would have other things on his mind than where they'd gone... they'd headed back to the hotel.
Napoleon peeled off his suit jacket and winced as he pushed the moisture from the fabric. "I think you're reading too much into this, partner. It was just a rain storm. This is Scotland, after all. It does rain here... a lot."
"When the forecast was for sunny and dry weather? Perhaps Mr. Waverly had a chat with God—I'm certain they know each other... possibly from their days together in school. You know how Waverly feels about Section Twos getting married. It wouldn't surprise me that he'd go straight to the source to put an end to it." Illya glanced up from his task of unbuckling his belt and pants.
Napoleon laughed. "He's old, but he's not THAT old, my friend." Napoleon worked his tie loose and draped it over a chair back. "So that sort of leaves us with a change in plans for tonight."
Illya stood and let his pants drop to the floor. It surely had to be his imagination that he heard Napoleon's soft gasp. "With the way it's coming down out there, I'm opting for a night in. You, of course, can do as you will. I'm sure there will be plenty of young, unescorted women downstairs. And you, dashing American that you are, they will devour you." He stepped out of his trousers and scooped them up. He hung them on the back of a second chair.
"So says the man standing there in nothing but his shirt and socks. I imagine there would be a girl or two down there that would gladly have their way with you." Napoleon's shirt and shoulder holster were off and he shivered in the coolness of the room. It had been sweltering when they'd left for the wedding, but now the air in the room was cold and clammy feeling. He closed the patio door and walked towards the bathroom.
He emerged a moment later wearing a robe and carrying two towels. He tossed one to his partner and then he sat down on the edge of the bed to dry his hair.
Illya watched Napoleon for a moment before he peeled off his own shirt and used the towel to dry off his torso. Then he knotted the towel around his waist and dropped his shorts. As he bent to pick them up, he saw Napoleon watching him out of the corner of his eye, a strange expression on his face.
Napoleon had been doing that a lot lately and Illya was just about at the end of his rope trying to figure out why. When they'd first been partnered, Napoleon had been constantly trying to set him up with women. When that didn't work, he started trying to keep women from Illya. Now, short of admitting complete defeat, Napoleon just sort of let the subject alone and that suited Illya just fine. Except now he caught Napoleon watching him when it wasn't actually... necessary. Like in the shower, the locker room, Waverly's office. He expected it in the field, but what possible harm could Napoleon fear befalling Illya in headquarters? Unless there was another reason, but Illya dismissed that one idea nearly as quickly as it had appeared. There was no way Napoleon was a switch hitter. Mr. Solo loved the ladies too much for that and they loved him. As did Illya, but Napoleon would never know that.
Illya had grown up in the company of men and he was comfortable with them, physically and mentally. On the few occasions he'd taken a woman, Illya had found the experience... lacking, for want of a better word. It would seem what he needed was something that a woman could or, more often would, not provide. So, as he'd done in Paris and London, Illya found someone to scratch his itch and he did it quietly and without attracting attention. The last thing Illya wanted his debonair playboy partner to know was Illya's indiscretions. He kept them quiet, discrete and infrequent.
Now, Illya wondered if he'd somehow done something to alert Napoleon. He was comfortable, almost too much so, in the man's presence and it was possible that he'd slipped. They'd been partners now for a few years and Illya knew Napoleon as he knew the back of his hand. While Napoleon had never spoken out against homosexuality as a crime against humanity, Illya wasn't sure what the man's reaction would be to discover his partner walked in lighter loafers—a phrase he'd learned in London.
Illya carried his socks to the bathroom and wrung them out before draping them over the edge of the tub, a spot already shared by Napoleon's dress socks. He walked back to the bed and stretched out on it. The towel covered his groin, but just barely. Illya noticed that Napoleon's attention was definitely focused in a southerly direction. That was... interesting. Illya sighed and ran a hand over his chest, then flexed his arms above his head.
Napoleon shivered again, although Illya wasn't certain it was from the cold this time. "I can't believe how cold it got and how quickly. I keep forgetting that winter comes early in Edinburgh."
Illya smiled and then decided to take a calculated risk. He could end up on the working end of Napoleon's fist or suddenly faced with the prospect of a new partner. Or... he held out his arms to the brunet. "Here, I have heat to spare. One of the benefits of a high metabolism is that I am rarely cold and I will gladly share."
"No...I'd... I'd better not," Napoleon murmured, just the trace of embarrassment tingeing his cheeks pink as he looked quickly away.
"Afraid I won't be able to control myself?" Illya joked, watching Napoleon's reaction closely.
"Afraid I won't be able to control myself." Napoleon's gaze dropped to the bedspread and then back up to look him square in the eye. "If I started holding you now, I probably won't want to let go for a long time."
"For how long?" Illya's voice dropped to a whisper and all the world seemed to hang in the balance.
"Quite probably for the rest of my life."
He didn't know why it bothered him quite as much as it did. Behind him, Illya could hear the man's voice, high pitched and excited.
"So this old, blind cowboy wanders into an all-girl biker bar by mistake. After sitting there for a while, he yells to the bartender, "Hey, you wanna hear a blonde joke?" And the bar immediately falls absolutely silent. In a very deep, husky voice, the woman next to him says,
"Before you tell that joke, Cowboy, I think it is only fair, given that you are blind, that you should know five things. First off, the bartender is a blonde and she has a baseball bat. Next, our bouncer is also a blonde and she has no sense of humor. Number three, I happen to be a six foot tall blonde and I'm a black belt in karate, and, four, my girlfriend sitting beside me is also blonde and she's a professional weight lifter. And lastly, the young lady to your right is blonde and she wrestles alligators. Now, think about this seriously, mister. Do you still wanna tell that blonde joke?"
The blind cowboy thinks for a second, shakes his head and mutters, "Well, hell no — not if I'm gonna have to explain it five times."
There was an explosion of laughter, several eyes focused in his direction and Illya threw his dart... hard.
"You okay, partner?"
Napoleon's voice drew him from his reverie and he glanced over at the brunet. "I'm fine, why do you ask?"
"We're going to need a crowbar to get that last dart out of the board." He glanced over to the bar where several UNCLE agents huddled in a group, loudly swapping blonde jokes back and forth. "They don't mean anything by it, you know. They aren't directing them at you... necessarily."
"Which is why they keep looking in my direction to see if they have an impact. I have a PhD in Quantum Mecahnics, speak a host of languages fluently and play several instruments. I had them in my demolitions class and none of them would be what I would term a star pupil and yet they laugh at me because of my hair color? My mother is equally gifted in music and while she didn't attend University, she was able to keep six children alive and well during the Siege of Kiev while my father was fighting in the war. She is also a blonde. Why would I take offense at dumb blonde jokes?" This next dart was buried up to its hilt. "Where did hair color become a deciding factor of intelligence?"
This party was not his idea of a good time. He was all for camaraderie, but he had felt off balance all night, first at the cool reception he'd gotten coming in, Napoleon's 'shadow'- he'd overheard one of the Section Fours remark as they moved past a table full of well-lubricated fellow employees. Then the jokes had started and the comments—always the sly comments, hinting that perhaps the reason Illya couldn't keep a girlfriend was because he couldn't perform adequately for American women. Or that he had more brains than balls and didn't know what to do with either.
Most nights he could ignore them, taking a higher path, but tonight the only thing that kept Illya from launching himself into a fistfight with the lot of them was the fact that his fists were considered lethal weapons. He hurt someone and Waverly would have strong words for him. Illya would rather face a firing squad than have the Section One head disappointed in him.
So he kept to himself, playing darts with neither enthusiasm nor care. He drank his vodka and mentally ticked off all the various ways he could do his fellow agents in without leaving a trace.
"I think we need to get you out of here for a bit." Napoleon nodded to a side door. "There's a bocce court out there. Do you play?"
"Of course." Any place was good with Illya—any place other than here.
Leaving the bar for the quiet of the patio, Illya became aware for the first time that there was music playing. In the bar, it had been impossible to hear it over the TV and the buzz of conversation. Van somebody, or so he thought. He couldn't keep track of singers any more. He was too out of step these days. He'd been hard pressed to make sense of the Beatles or Elvis...
And all the leaves on the trees are fallin'
To the sound of the breezes that blow
An' I'm trying to please to the callin'
Of your heart strings that play soft and low.
Napoleon had lagged behind, to buy them drinks Illya supposed. Instead of heading for the court, he sank down to a table and listened.
Well, I wanna make love to you tonight
I can't wait 'til the morning has come
And I know now the time is just right
And straight in to my arms you will run
And when you come, my heart will be waiting
To make sure that you're never alone
There and then, all my dreams will come true, dear
There and then, I will make you my own.
Just for the moment, Illya wished for a different world, for one that was more open and understanding that not everything is the same for all. Just for once he'd like to be able to stand beside Napoleon in public, in full view, and hold his hand or wrap an arm around his waist to pull him close and not worry about being arrested for lurid behavior. Just for a moment, he wished their love could be accepted for what it was and not judged or feared.
Napoleon came out whistling. The patio was empty, just them, and as soon as he set the glasses on the table, Illya stood, grabbed and then pushed him into a darkened corner and kissed him with an urgency that both delighted and concerned him. Surely it had to be wrong to want someone this badly, so desperately.
For a moment there was just them, the night, and the music. Napoleon broke the kiss and ran a hand through Illya's hair. "Not that I mind, partner, but what's come over you? You usually are not the demonstrative one and certainly not in public."
And every time I touch you, you just tremble inside
And I know how much you want me that you can't hide
Can I just have one more moon dance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love?
Napoleon glanced up at the loudspeaker. "Or has someone given you ideas?"
"Let's get out of here, Napoleon. I have had it with the jokes, the cracks, and the crowd. Let's just go home. I need to..." A big sigh followed and Napoleon chuckled.
"All right, if that's what you want. I'll go make our goodbyes."
"Make mine good riddance and that will come closer to the truth. Right now, you are what I want and I don't think I can wait much longer..."
The smile that answered him warmed him from the bottom of his feet to the tips of his ears. With a nod, Napoleon snatched one more kiss. "Keep your motor running, my friend. I will be right back."
Well, it's a marvelous night for a moon dance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
'Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I'm trying to please to the calling
Of your heart strings that play soft and low
Illya could feel the burn of the day starting to leave him. He drained his glass and glanced back into the bar. Napoleon was surrounded by women, some of them hanging on him with a bit more familiarity than Illya would have liked. Still, it was the role Napoleon played in public, the gadabout playboy, always with a woman in his arms and one trailing behind. What would they do if they found out that it was a man Napoleon had taken to his bed and to his heart? That would shake their world for a minute or two.
Illya started walking to the sedan they'd come in, still on edge, still watching the shadows lest one jump out at him. Two dozen UNCLE agents inside and Illya had no doubt all but one of them would turn a blind eye to any hazard that might befall him.
Then that one was standing beside him, his look seductive and his body language sending all the right messages.
And all the night's magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush
Can I just have one more moon dance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love?
One more moon dance with you
In the moon light, on a magic night
All the moon light, on a magic night
Can I just have one more moon dance with you, my love?
Illya just hoped he could wait until they got home.
When he was a young man, there had been nothing that Illya Kuryakin had enjoyed more than snow. He loved the way it looked, the way it smelled, the convenient way it hid bodies. As a child he played in it, as an adult, he used it for his own means, but he'd always celebrated it... until about five years ago.
Now the cold crept into his joints and made them groan in the morning; age stole away the sheer pleasure of snow simply by making it just a bit more difficult to operate in the cold. And you couldn't have snow without the cold.
The doorman saw him coming and held open the apartment door for him. "Good evening, Mr. Kuryakin."
"Good evening, Mr. Andrews." Illya pulled off his glasses as they started to fog up. He brushed the snow from his bangs with one hand and looked around, hefting up the bags he was carrying in the other. "Is he in yet?"
"Came in about an hour ago, sir, and didn't look very happy about it."
"As I recall, he was going skating at the rink and it was closed because of the storm. Mr. Solo does not like having his plans altered, even by the hand of God." Illya opened his jacket to the warmth of the lobby and headed for the elevators. It would feel good to set this load down. Still, he held onto the bags as the elevator made its climb up to the penthouse. With the nasty turn in the weather, folks had already started holing up for the evening. Only maniacs were out tonight. Well, maniacs and Russians... he grinned at the thought.
The doors opened and he stepped out into the purposefully subdued hallway. There was low light here, tasteful décor and only the barest hint of Christmas. It was limited to gold holly and silver ornaments over the paintings. If you didn't look close, up here you wouldn't even know it was fast approaching the holidays.
Or you wouldn't until you opened the door to one certain penthouse. Then there was no way to avoid the topic. It was Christmas from the second you opened their front door. Not even the last bit of turkey was stored before Napoleon was starting to root around in boxes and dragging decorations out. And it only increased with age.
When Illya had first come to America, he didn't really know what to make of the blatant commercialism. Certainly there had been celebrations in England and France, but they were nothing compared to the insanity of New York in December. At first, he'd scoffed, good Communist that he was, then he'd been turned, not by the religion or the blaring carols, but by the genuine love and respect of one man. There was no other holiday Napoleon cherished as much as Christmas. It was even better now that they were both out of the closet and Illya didn't have to put up with a horde of females chasing his partner with mistletoe.
He'd not even gotten the chance to put the bags down when there was a body in his arms, pressing against him, lips bidding him welcome but without words. All these years and Illya still wasn't tired of Napoleon's kisses. The man was a genius when it came to it. That's when he saw the sparkle in Napoleon's ear lobe.
"Napoleon! You are worse than a five year old!" Illya could not believe his partner had ransacked the place for his Christmas present... He wiggled out of Napoleon's embrace and shook his head. "It's no wonder I feel like I'm being frisked every time I come in."
He shot a glance at Napoleon's wrist, but it was bare except for the watch Illya bought him for their tenth anniversary. At least he hadn't found the bracelet yet. Of course, he'd purposefully left that in easy view, knowing Napoleon would never see it. It still amused Illya how much Napoleon enjoyed jewelry these days. Expensive, well made, more masculine pieces, but jewelry nonetheless.
"Couldn't resist—I am a spy after all."
"Retired Enforcement Agent, you mean." Illya set the bags down and took off his peacoat, hanging it next to Napoleon's dress coat. Napoleon's arms were around him again. "So it's going to be that kind of evening, is it?" he asked over his shoulder.
"Would you mind?"
Illya's smile was all Napoleon needed and Illya knew that, but still he sighed as if he was being tremendously put upon. "At times, I feel as if I am nothing to you but one giant sex toy." He grinned at his words. "Rather, one reasonably well endowed sex toy."
"Uh huh." Napoleon was nuzzling his neck, kissing his way up one side of it to Illya's mouth, teasing the corner of it until it opened for him.
"Do you think we could at least take this to a more suitable surface? It's been a few years since my back or knees have been able to tolerate tile."
Illya expected Napoleon to drag him towards the bedroom, but they ended up in the living room instead, stretched out on the overstuffed couch. All the lights were off except for the Christmas tree and the firelight being thrown by a flickering flame. Over the years, some of the passion had cooled, just as time had commanded. While they didn't make love as much as they used to, they seemed to spend more time celebrating their love in quiet embraces and lingering kisses.
Tonight, however, Illya noticed an edge to Napoleon's caresses. An edge that told him he needed to hold on or be thrown from the carriage. He maneuvered them around until they were lying side by side.
"So what am I going to do with you, Napoleon? You've ruined my surprise," Illya said between kisses.
"You'll just have to surprise me some other way."
"Oh, I am getting way too old for that."
"Old? You are younger than me... and I'm not old." He slipped a hand behind Illya and clasped his ass through the fabric of his pants. He rocked his pelvis forward and Illya grinned.
"No, I take that back, you are not old, my friend, at least not when it comes to some things." Illya mirrored Napoleon's actions and resumed exploring his lover's mouth. He could taste scotch and something sweet... something.. Illya pulled back. "Wait... you didn't?"
Illya disentangled himself from Napoleon's embrace and headed for the kitchen. There, on a plate with his name, literally, on it, was a mound of fudge. Napoleon's special 'I only make this once a year' fudge and Illya's worst weakness. Since Illya's metabolism had finally caught up with him, he'd been having to be careful for the first time in his life. A lifetime of eating whatever he wanted and as much as he wanted made dieting almost impossible for him. And Napoleon's fudge...
He took one piece and bit off just a corner of it, letting the sweet chocolate melt on his tongue, his eyes closed in absolute ecstasy.
"You know, I used to be the one who put that sort of look on your face, not my fudge."
"You don't make my waistline expand." He took another bite and smiled.
"Just other things... maybe I should just whip up another batch and spread it all over my body. Then you could lick it off." At Illya's aghast look, he chuckled. "What?"
"That would be a waste of perfectly good fudge. You don't need fudge to make me do that; you just have to ask."
"All right, maybe I will, but I think I'll let the sugar rush hit you first. Another five pieces of that stuff and I'm going to need safety straps on the bed to hang on to." He stepped in close, running his hands up and down Illya's sides. "I'm glad you're not skin and bones anymore."
"I'm not." Illya grumbled, but helped himself to a second piece.
"And I really, really love my gift."
"I'm glad. Annoyed, but glad you like it."
"You know how I am."
"Yes, Napoleon, I do know how you are." Illya caught Napoleon's hand in his and smiled. "You know, one of the first things I noticed about you was your hands. " He brought one to his mouth and kissed it. "They were so well groomed, almost delicate looking. I've known a lot of pleasure from those hands."
"What was the first thing?"
"Your smile, always your smile."
"Not my ass."
"You walked into the room, Napoleon. I don't have x-ray vision and if I did, it would have been focused elsewhere. Walking out however..." Illya dropped their hands and used his to pull them together. "That was another case." He moved slowly and smiled. "I want you."
"The feeling is mutual." Napoleon broke off a piece of fudge and stuck it in his mouth. Illya went after it and for the next half an hour, the entire building could have collapsed and neither man would have known it. They were too involved as they made love at the base of the Christmas tree on a thick rug in front of the fire. They were too distracted by their own desires and needs. And they were much too much in love to care. As far as Illya was concerned, the rest of the world could go and take care of itself. In a few hours, completely unbeknownst to the man, he was going to slip a ring on Napoleon's finger, formerly declaring his love, and nothing else would ever matter again.
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