"Do you wish to no longer partner with me?" Illya couldn't look at the man by his side. His answer was too important.
"What? Of course, I still want you as my partner." Napoleon set his glass down and turned towards him. "Where did that come from?"
"I tried to think of the worst thing that could happen and that was it." Illya risked a sideways look from under his lashes.
"Not being my partner is the worst thing you could think of." Napoleon repeated the words as if he couldn't understand them. That little frown was back between his eyes.
"Of course. Being your partner is important to me. I have not so many friends that I can afford to lose the best one." Illya thought that he might yet be able to salvage some of Napoleon's trust. "I understand that you might be unsure of me now. It was not the scientist in me that felt it had to help Willim, but the young boy influenced by his grandmother's old tales. However, I think that the drug, whatever it was, is out of my system now so I will probably go back to being predictable soon."
"Predictable." Napoleon shook his head. "You think I like you predictable?"
"It would be most logical for you to wish the person who guards your back to be so predictable that you would know what I will do and how. That is part of my job brief from Mr. Waverly." Illya was tired of being logical and predictable but he was willing to do it if it would make Napoleon relax around him again.
"You would do that for me." Napoleon seemed to be stuck in repeat mode. "Be logical and guard my back ..."
"Of course." Illya was beginning to tire. Being emotional took so much energy. With a sigh, he rested his chin on his knees and thought nostalgically back to the carefree hours of being drugged. Napoleon seemed to like that Illya better.
"Illya. Look at me, please." Napoleon reached out his hand but stopped short of touching him.
Illya turned his eyes to meet the brown gaze, wondering what was going on behind the calm look. If only the drug had lasted a little longer, he could have kept on kissing Napoleon. Longer ... deeper ... tasted him ... rubbed his tongue against his, maybe even nibbled a little bit on that lower lip that was so intriguing.
"Illya, what are you thinking of right this moment?"
"Your lower lip." Illya sat up straight and clapped his hand over his mouth. It appeared the drug wasn't quite done with him.
"My lower lip." Napoleon was back to repeating himself. "Illya, is there something you'd like to tell me?"
He nodded then shook his head, adding his other hand to keep his mouth shut.
"Okay, I'll go first." He sighed and it sounded so defeated for a moment that Illya almost took his hands away. "Illya, you are the most important person in my life. From the moment we were partnered, I found myself ... relaxing with you. You're right. I do expect you to always be there, to know what I'm thinking. You anticipate me usually. I've often wondered if you read my mind because sometimes it seemed I could read yours."
Illya nodded, not wanting to interrupt the words that were confirming Napoleon's thoughts about his place in his life.
"We've gotten so comfortable with each other that I began to take you for granted, to think that I didn't have to tell you 'thank you' or 'good job'. Because you'd always be there for me to say it to." He rubbed his hand against his cheek. "But this time, you didn't wake up and the doctors couldn't say what was wrong and you had all these bruises and I was fine ... again."
"I bruise easily, Napoleon. You know that. We seem to take turns some assignments for who gets hurt first or the most."
"Lately, it's been almost exclusively you who must be patched, stitched and healed. I'm doing a lousy job of looking after you." He sighed. "And I hate that. I'm beginning to hate getting an assignment because it means that sooner or later, we'll end up back in some hospital."
"Napoleon, we have both had our share of knocks and scars. But if you can not trust me to ... protect you, then you must speak to Mr. Waverly. I can always be reassigned to the Science section where I can not put your life in danger." Illya was trying to be matter-of-fact but his vision kept blurring for some reason.
"Damn it, Illya. I don't want you reassigned away from me. That's what I'm trying to say." He ran a hand through his hair, mussing it from its usually perfect shape. "I need to have you with me. Not in some lab or off on your own or, God forbid, with some other partner. I need you by my side ... always."
Illya felt as if he couldn't breathe. He wanted to ask a question but he only upset Napoleon when he spoke and after all, he must be misunderstanding him. Napoleon took the decision out of his hands. With an inarticulate exclamation, he reached out a hand and pulled Illya into his lap. Unerringly, his mouth was targeted and taken by the man he considered a master at kissing.
All those women couldn't be wrong.
All those women ...
They were right. He was perfection.
Illya's brain short-circuited while cataloging flavors and textures.
So, that was what scotch tasted like through a Napoleon-filter.
And that breathy moan was what a Napoleon-kissed person sounded like.
Sure touches that moved from shoulder to back to hip finished Illya's meltdown.
"Always, Illya. In all ways, all the time, on the job and off. Please tell me that doesn't make you angry or disgusted." Napoleon's voice shook which brought Illya back from dreamy contemplation of his partner's lips.
"I am not angry or disgusted. Do you know how often I've wanted to step between you and one of your women and say, 'not her but me -- look at me'?" He raised a shaky hand and traced the lower lip he'd just tasted. "But you deserve someone better than a battered Russian with a lot of bad memories and no experience in making love. I've only had sex."
"Oh, Illya." With a helpless gesture, Napoleon held him closer, rocking him gently in strong arms. "You deserve someone better than a heartless flirt who never knew that the love he'd stopped searching for was right under his nose."
"You love me?" Illya was back to having trouble breathing.
"I'm making such a mess of this." Napoleon kissed his temple. "I'm very bad at explaining what I feel because I haven't done it in a very long time ... not honestly anyway." He took a deep breath. "I respect you more than anyone I know and yes ... I love you."
Illya felt tears gather in his eyes and he ducked his head into Napoleon's shoulder and tried to take a deep breath. "I ... I love you too. I was afraid that you would be the one who was angry or disgusted."
Warm hands stroked his back slowly. "Never, Illya, I am sometimes afraid for you and angry when you put yourself in danger to protect me. It has been a very long time since I have loved you with all my heart and wanted you with what's left of my soul."
Sniffing hard, Illya dared to press a kiss against the smooth throat near his cheek. "I am no prize, Pasha. My introduction to male sex came in the gulag but it was limited because of my protector's gentleness. Sergei took care of me for ten years before he began to teach me what I would need to know if I was to survive among some of the sexual predators who prowled the camp. His strength was all that kept me from being raped as a child."
Napoleon held him closer. "You must have been a beautiful child, Illya. I'm so glad you had someone to protect you until you could grow up to be the strong man you are today."
"I don't feel very strong sometimes. The others at University and then the KGB said I was frigid. And in UNCLE from the beginning, they said I was a cold fish."
"If 'they' are who I think they are, I want you to forget their prattle. They are gossips and people of no import. The only one whose opinion I care about is Mr. Waverly. Oh, and my Nana Rebecca's. And yours, I crave your good opinion but I know I forfeit it when I flirt and have meaningless sex." Napoleon's cheek rested on Illya's hair. "If you would like to try, I would promise to be faithful to you alone."
"Do or do not. There is no try." Illya remembered the line from one of his favorite movies and it slipped out.
For a moment, Napoleon was still. Then the shoulder under Illya's cheek began to shake and his voice came unsteadily. "Um, Illya, did you just do a Yoda imitation?"
"You would make a very good Lando, Napoleon. Handsome, charming and a bit of a gambler." Illya smiled into the broad chest.
"Then you would have to be Luke, my friend. Sent to redeem a shopworn man with too many miles on him and turn him into the Light." Napoleon shifted back just far enough to raise Illya's chin. Brown eyes met his with a searching look. "You have been my light for some time now."
Illya blushed and shook his head. "You are the joyful one. Your voice is like sunshine and laughter. You've kept a part of me from freezing completely. That secret part inside of me that still remembered what it was like to be loved."
"You are loved, Illya. I have my own frozen places inside. Part of me never came back from the war. When my wife died, I stopped loving and began flirting. I substituted sex for love because I couldn't bear to be hurt again." The wounded look on his face made Illya want to love the pain away.
"I would keep the hurt away if I knew how, Pasha." He dared to return the caresses, running his fingers around the square jaw.
"We could learn how together. If you trust me not to hurt you." Napoleon brushed a kiss across his fingers, sending an arc of desire straight to his groin.
"I trust you, Pasha."
"I like that nickname, Illya. Where did it come from?" The brown eyes were glowing now.
"Napasha would be the Russian diminutive of your name. When I woke up in the hospital this time, it seemed warmer than Napoleon."
"And what would the diminutive of Illya be?" Napoleon had captured Illya's hand and was pressing a kiss to each finger.
"Mama called me Illyusha. It means Little Illya." He was having a hard time catching his breath.
"Not so little, Illya. You forget I've helped you bathe twice now. Not so little at all." The last word was swallowed in a gentle kiss that took the last of Illya's breath.
Gentle turned intense when heat exploded between them.
Tongues mated with each other while hands sought skin instead of cloth.
Dual moans rose in the silence only to turn to gasps while oxygen deprived lungs drew in enough air to continue.
But Napoleon seemed to fear going too fast, too soon and he pulled back a bit while Illya nuzzled further into the V of his robe. "Illya ... Illya, as much as I'm enjoying this, I think we may need to slow down. I want you to be 100 percent when we come together."
"How many percent am I now, Pasha?" Illya remembered what he'd said before when he asked him that question.
Napoleon smiled as if he remembered too. "80% right now. Your skin is too warm to my touch. I'd like to think it's how I effect you but I'm afraid it's not. I want that drug cocktail out of your blood and your fever to be gone completely. We have time to make this right between us. Please?"
Illya thought a moment and realized that half the problem with his breathing was indeed the fever that seemed to be making a return. Sighing, he nodded. "Agreed, Pasha. I want to remember every moment and be able to respond with all of me."
"Then we both need our rest." Napoleon couldn't seem to stop touching him, his hand smoothing the sweatshirt over his chest. "I'll need all my strength to keep up with you."
When the soft fabric pressed against his left nipple, Illya thought an electric current had been switched straight to his groin. His gasp brought an intent look to his partner's face and the hand moved inexorably over to his right side, pressing against the nub that peaked quickly.
"You're so responsive, my Illyusha. I want to touch every inch of skin until I know what happens with what touch."
"Very ... scientific ..." he arched under the searching hands, clasping at the arms to hold himself upright. "Pasha!"
Strong arms gathered him in and Napoleon rocked him tenderly. "I'm sorry, Illya. I didn't mean to tease you. I just can't seem to quit touching you."
"Then let us go to bed and you can hold me while we sleep." Illya tucked his head beneath the dented chin, his breath gusting across Napoleon's vulnerable throat.
"Sleep will be hard to come by tonight." Napoleon agreed with a shiver.
"Then you can watch me sleep as I used to do with you when we had to share on assignment." Illya moved back and used the hearthstone to help lever himself up. The dizziness struck again and in a moment, Napoleon was on his feet supporting him.
"I did my share of watching, my friend. Wondering why an intelligent man like you put up with me. Wondering what you tasted like and if I'd ever find out." He smiled sheepishly and Illya stopped moving towards the bed to stare at him.
"You wondered how I would taste?"
"And what you would sound like when you were writhing in my arms." Napoleon kept them moving.
"I wondered if your olive toned skin was as dark all over your body and if it was as soft as the inside of your wrist." Illya stopped by the side of the bed and pulled the shirt off over his head, letting it drop to the floor.
Napoleon smoothed just his fingertips across Illya's chest. "And I wondered if the hair on your chest was a baby fine as the hair on your head. It is."
Illya untied the robe and pushed it off Napoleon's shoulders. "Just skin tonight, please?"
"You're determined to test my resolve, aren't you?" Napoleon smiled and began to unbutton his pajama top.
"Yes ... and no." Illya slipped off his pants and sat down on the bed, his hands coming up to either side of Napoleon's waist. "Why don't you have more hair on your chest, Pasha? I thought all Italian men were hairy."
"Disappointed?" He dropped the top on the floor and Illya immediately slid the pajama bottoms down over the narrow hips.
They almost caught on the rising erection but with a little wiggle on Napoleon's part, they slid all the way off. Illya reached out to touch a gentle finger on the hardening cock. "Never, Pasha. You are perfect everywhere."
Napoleon caught his hand and raised it to his lips. "Tomorrow, my Illya. We can touch and taste tomorrow. Your eyes are at half-mast and I want you to take some more aspirin. Please?"
Illya nodded wearily. He wanted to touch some more but the ache in his head was back and the slight disorientation of fever was growing. He lay down but not before taking off his socks. He felt hot all over and was glad that Napoleon had disappeared into the bathroom to get some water and the small white tablets.
"Don't pout, it makes me want to kiss you." His partner held out the aspirin and Illya nipped it from his fingers, making him hiss in appreciation before holding the glass of water for him to drink.
Napoleon set aside the glass and walked around the bed to take 'his' side. Crawling under the covers, he pulled an unresisting Illya into his arms. Feeling the long body come into contact with his entire length, he wiggled just a bit because he could.
"This is going to be some of the best torture I've ever undergone, love. Go to sleep and dream of me. Then tomorrow, we'll make the dreams a reality."
"Love you, Pasha."
"And I love you, Illyusha."
End part six