The Port in the Storm

Fandom: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Pairing: Napoleon Solo/Illya Kuryakin

Category:
slash

Rating:
PG

Word Count:
2646

Summary: Just a moment in a mission.

Table/Prompt: Unthemed Table #5 Table Prompt: Winter

Illya kept his suspicion to himself. He was as sure as he could be that their contact had been Angelique. He’d caught only a glimpse of blonde hair and barest hint of expensive perfume lingering near his date for the evening. Marion wasn’t a trained agent and so of course couldn’t give more than a general description of a blonde with a mid-Atlantic accent and nothing very nice to say. She refused to elaborate. The fact that Illya had called her at eight in the morning after a night she had certainly spent awake and having fun may have contributed to her reluctance to say more, she was obviously in need of a little hair of the dog the morning after.

There was nothing on the microdot to confirm this supposition, but there was nothing to deny it either. Once it had been processed it revealed the location of an upcoming THRUSH summit, a party the U.N.C.L.E. would very much like to crash, or at least bug if possible. Tasked with determining if the information was useful or even very accurate, Illya and Napoleon were now seeking out every peripheral THRUSH lowlife and hanger-on they knew about to check out what the word on the street might be. So far they were coming up with nothing definitive.

“I think we’re done for the day, partner, we’ve gotten all the blood out of these turnips we are likely to get.”

Illya just looked over at Napoleon.

“Dinner?”

“Why?”

“Because it’s nearly nine at night and I’m starving.”

“No, why would a member of THRUSH give us the location of a summit?”

“They want to trap us into something, maybe we’re to be the floor show, demonstrating some new torture device or technique.”

“And you accuse me of pessimism.”

“Someone lower down the ladder is looking to move up, and what better way to clear the road than to let U.N.C.L.E. be the bulldozer?” Napoleon smiled and unlocked the car door. “So, dinner?”

“What happened to your plans with,” Illya opened the door but Napoleon still stood beside it, crowding him, “Janine, or, no it was Justine wasn’t it?” He knew very well, but it would never do to let Napoleon know he paid attention to which girl of the week he was taking out on the town.

“The same thing that happened to your date for the evening I suspect, she had a bit too much fun last night and called with apologies today.”

Illya considered that, Napoleon expected him to have a date with Marion again tonight. He hadn’t and didn’t now as she was no longer taking his calls.

“I could eat.”

“When can’t you, partner mine?” Napoleon smiled and finally turned to walk around the car and slide in the driver’s side.

While they waited for the car to warm, Napoleon glanced over at Illya, noting his quiet. “So, what sounds good? Steak at Ribisi’s, seafood at Jackson’s,” Napoleon could tell Illya was a million miles away. “Knuckle sandwich at my place?”

Illya turned sharply and saw Napoleon’s grin, rolled his eyes and faced forward again. “Steak would be good, Ribisi’s always does it right. And I don’t need a punch in the mouth for dinner, I get enough of those at work, thank you.”

“I just wanted to be sure you were paying attention.”

When wasn’t he, Illya thought. He continued to contemplate that thought as Napoleon drove them through the falling snow toward the restaurant. He was always paying attention, watching, waiting for Napoleon’s social life to turn and bite him. Napoleon, when not out of town for an affair for work, took several girls out every week, had an unfortunate taste for THRUSH’s femmes fatale and yet managed not to trip over his affaires de coeur. The how of this was still a mystery to Illya. And why did he still care? He’d been watching Napoleon at his games for years. He had thought he was done with caring.

“Will you look at that?”

Illya started, hid it and turned to see what Napoleon was talking about.

“Parking lot is empty. The snow is predicted to get worse, looks like everyone stayed home.”

“Perhaps the better choice for us as well, Napoleon.”

“No.”

Just that. No. Illya wondered what had gotten into Napoleon. He pulled his coat tightly closed and opened the door to follow his partner into the restaurant.

There were very few tables occupied, it was late and the weather was bad, they had their choice. Napoleon requested a secluded corner, his habits as an agent still in play even here.

Illya couldn’t help compare the evenings, last night out with their dates and tonight alone with his partner. Napoleon was charming and friendly to the waitress tonight, just as he had been the evening before, he smiled and ordered wine and flirted his way into her good graces and just as the night before made it seem natural and easy. Alone after the waitress left, he was happy to talk in generalities about the current mission, nothing too specific as they weren’t in a secure location, and solicited Illya’s opinion on everything from politics to the chances of highway closures for the weekend from weather.

“Why are you working so hard to put me at my ease, Napoleon, I am not your date.”

Napoleon looked wide-eyed at him, then the smooth was back in place. “Of course not, Illya. You just seemed, ah, pensive on the drive over and I thought some conversation would take your mind off missing Marion.”

“No Napoleon, I,” he almost faltered, not willing to admit he’d had no date tonight, though he usually didn’t on a Friday in any case, “am not unhappy with my company for the evening.” As soon as he said it he realized he was not unhappy in Napoleon’s company, and that he may have said too much.

Illya knew suddenly that he had spoken the bald truth, he enjoyed his partner’s company. Seeing Marion again, the almost perhaps barely there brush with Angelique, all this coalesced his knowledge and he knew that he was exactly where he wanted to be. Almost. So many moments from their shared past flashed into his mind that it was momentarily overwhelming, seeing again the many women they had encountered in their work, most of whom Napoleon ended up romancing, if only briefly and in the service of U.N.C.L.E. There had been the odd male as well, rare situations that one or the other of them finessed without getting in too deep, they never compared notes on any of the encounters, it was simply part of the job, both romancing the ladies and stringing the gentlemen along. He wondered if it left Napoleon as lonely as he sometimes felt. He never minded too much, for there was always Napoleon. After the affair, after the mission was accomplished, after the adversaries were taken out and the romance put to bed, one way or another, there was always Napoleon. He always returned, sometimes with a little help escaping a THRUSH prison or some Machiavellian plan of a supposed criminal mastermind, usually from Illya, but that was nothing less than Napoleon would do in return, had done on many occasions. Illya came to realize that he liked it that way, being the one Napoleon turned to, relied on, needed. It shocked him, that realization. He wanted that need, because he felt it in return.

“How’s the steak?”

“Perfect.”

“You were right, they always have the perfect meal here. We should come here more often.” Napoleon refilled Illya’s wineglass and topped off his own, didn’t seem to mind that Illya remained quiet, expected it really, when there was a meal in front of him and no pressing affair to attend to.

Dinner and finally conversation wound down and they were ready to go and upon leaving the warmth of the lobby found the snow had indeed continued.

“Oh, this is amazing!” Napoleon waded into the ankle deep blanket of snow, laughing.

“Not if we end up sleeping in the car stuck in a drift.”

“Not likely in the city, partner, come on.” Napoleon laughed over his shoulder at Illya.

Illya took the window scraper from Napoleon and used it to wave toward the car, “You and your thin skin get in and warm up the car, I’ll clean the windows.”

“Fair enough.”

The car was toasty when Illya opened the door and tossed the brushed scraper on the floor. He leaned in, one hand on the hood and the other keeping the door half closed around him to keep too much heat from escaping. “You be careful going home.”

“Me?” Napoleon reached out and grabbed Illya’s coat with one gloved hand, pulling him as far in the car as he could, forcing Illya onto the seat on his knees and hands braced on the dash and seatback. “Where do you think you’re going? There are no buses, no taxis, the nearest subway stop to here or your place is too far in this snow.”

“And my place is across town from yours, not at all on the way. You need to go now. It’s not that cold, the cloud cover keeps the…” Illya was stopped by another gloved hand covering his mouth.

“Shut up and close the door, you’re letting out all the heat. Just come home with me, I have plenty of vodka and blankets, we’ll get snowed in together and stave off the boredom.” Napoleon refused to let go of Illya’s heavy coat until he’d wiggled his way into the seat and shut the door on the cold wind and snow.

They made their careful way to Napoleon’s apartment building and Napoleon was never so glad to pull into his underground parking space; no more snow, no more blowing flakes obscuring the windscreen, no drifts driving the wheels of his car into other lanes obscured by a layer of soft deadly white, no slick corners preventing him from stopping at lights blinking red and amber in the storm that knocked out several blocks of street lights. He pried his fingers from their death grip on the steering wheel, silently thanking whatever benevolent power had kept sane people from trying to drive tonight so they could get here safe.

“I can’t believe you wanted to go play Abominable Snowman in all that mess.”

“Wouldn’t have been the first time, Napoleon.”

“Never again, if I can help it,” Napoleon muttered.

“Come on, warm brandy and a fire will cure what ails you.”

“I’m supposed to be the host here, Illya.”

Illya just rolled his eyes and got out of the car, slamming the door and grinning as accumulated snow and ice dropped from the wheel well onto the concrete floor with a hollow thunk that echoed in the garage.

Napoleon looked over his shoulder and up as Illya padded into the living room, then back to the fire he was coaxing to life in the hearth. “I see you found what you needed.”

Illya was quiet at that, almost too long, then said, “yes, thank you.” He sat on the couch, rolling the sleeves of the pajama shirt. “How is it that you have only two inches on me and yet your pajamas always fit me so long?”

“You’re the physicist, surely there is some displacement theory or something?’

“No. It’s just the theory of borrowed clothes, I think. They will never fit.”

Napoleon turned and offered a snifter of warmed brandy across the coffee table. “And the slippers?”

“Too small, my feet are wider than yours. The theory gains more credence.”

Napoleon laughed, then stood and took his own snifter to the couch and sat as well, his pajamas not needing rolled, he put his own bare feet up on the table and leaned back. “How many years have you been staying the occasional night here, and you have never brought over a pair of pajamas?”

“It seems awfully familiar.”

Napoleon gave his partner a look. “Illya, honestly, you are the only person who ever stays over, bring some pajamas.”

They sipped the brandy in a comfortable haze of firelight, a long day and the aftermath of a good meal. Illya wondered if the contentment was one sided, but the satisfied half smile on Napoleon’s mouth told him otherwise. He found he couldn’t look away. If things had gone differently, Napoleon would have been entertaining his latest conquest tonight, anticipating perhaps being snowed in with her. Or perhaps he would have been entertained by Angelique instead, had she chosen to make herself known, if indeed it had been her he’d seen so briefly at the nightclub.

He didn’t realize that the brandy was gone until Napoleon took the glass from his unresisting hand.

“Tell me.”

“Tell you what?”

“What’s been making you so brooding and distant tonight. Last night as well. You’ve been in a mood the last day or so. Was it Marion? Do you miss her, you were so close once.”

“No. I don’t miss her.” And he wasn’t lying. The comparisons he couldn’t help drawing between someone he had once thought about having in his life a bit more permanently and the person he did have, mostly, permanently, were wearing on him, wearing thin the wall he kept between the feelings he expressed and the ones he kept hidden even from himself. Worried that his partner, who knew him too well, would read this in his expression no matter how much he tried to block it, he looked down at his hands, fingers splayed against his thighs.

He heard the softest sigh, barely there, as if in relief from his partner. He couldn’t make himself look up again, in case he mirrored that relief to have Marion relegated to the past for good because he would never have what he did want. Wanted in his present, his past, his future, wanted no longer to hide from himself or his desired, Napoleon.

“It’s late. I should…”

“What, we’re not going to work tomorrow. No way are we going anywhere until that snow melts. And it’s Saturday. We do get the occasional day off, you know.”

Illya remained silent, but did not move from the couch.

“Another brandy? Or do you want some paint thinner, I have that as well. We’ll drink until the sun comes up or whatever is bothering you is numb or comes spilling out, whichever comes first. What do you say, tovarisch?” The smile in Napoleon’s voice was warm, like the brandy had been.

Illya turned, fast as a striking snake and pressed his lips to Napoleon’s, hands coming up and framing his partner’s face, fingertips caressing so lightly, so carefully, as light as his mouth on the other man’s. Napoleon’s lips opened, perhaps to gasp his shock, perhaps to invite exploration, Illya didn’t know as he exploded off the couch and across the room, pressing his forehead to the cold window glass of the French door to the small balcony, dark with the night and the storm.

He felt rather than heard Napoleon come to stand behind him, the warmth radiating from him a counterpoint to the cold pressing at him from the window. He waited for the punch or the joke, or worse, an apology. There was only silence and the warmth. After endless minutes hanging between the cold dark outside and the heat of his partner, he felt the barest brush of breath on his ear, ruffling the hair that grew a little longer than was normal in U.N.C.L.E. but shorter than current fashion on the streets. “Me, too,” was all Napoleon whispered.

Illya turned away from the harsh winter on the other side of the glass and into the warmth and the light in his partner’s eyes, the fire crackling in the hearth, and between them as well.

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