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Welcome To My Archipelago

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Welcome To My Archipelago.

 

i.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

 

It’s written neatly in pen on the plain edge of newspaper and Napoleon reads it with one eyebrow raised before allowing his mouth to tilt in a wry smile. Illya’s blocky script is as economic and ordered as a typeface, of course it is, even when writing in English. There’s a hint of flair about his R’s and the way the tail curls up with the barest flick but beside that, pristine. So close to perfection.

Not much else about his partner is perfect at present and he’s struggled to look him in the eye. Napoleon hands the newspaper back and it’s accepted in a big hand, swollen and cut at the knuckles. Hands that had delivered payment in kind. His eyes follow the patina of bruising over a badly sprained wrist and up a bare arm and there, one rounded shoulder, a hollow in the clavicle. Untainted skin, soft Russian winter skin. Then fingerprints around the neck and there, just out of sight, there it is, the terrible thing.

Napoleon turns his sleek head away and smooths a crease from the blankets instead.

“You know, when I said I wanted a quiet time of it in France, this really wasn’t what I had in mind, Kuryakin.”

He fills in the blank silence with an imagined scoff from Illya. Tells himself he can hear it in the scraping breath and gentle hum of the hospital beyond this private room.

He can smell blood, can smell tiredness and sterile sickness and it scratches at his nerves so he stands, patting at where he thinks he should find an uninjured knee beneath the covers.

“I have to go,” Napoleon says in a practised tone of ease. The paint is starting to peel on the wall just behind Illya’s head. Illya’s eye is black with blood in his peripheral. “Back to Paris, support for Gaby as she works on Wells. Much easier now we have the other fellow out of the picture, of course.”

A pause, then Napoleon forces himself to look at Illya’s face.

Not as bad as he’d feared, but still an utter ruin around the eye and mouth. At least the eye was a bruise that would fade quickly and not a burn. Not blinded. Small mercies, the only ones his kind ever receive.

“Play nice with the nurses and I’ll see you next week when they set you free.”

Illya’s eyes are thawing ice in the bloodied heat of his face and as Napoleon walks out the door he feels a heavy sadness settle in his gut. So be it. He will carry all the pity Illya refuses to feel for himself.

Rouen is in a grey and dirty kind of spring, and Napoleon is glad to be leaving. The last week of cramped quarters and inaction have taken a toll on him but it’s something else that pains him as he packed up their things from the boarding house and began the journey back to Gaby. She will be so cross with him, with them both. Napoleon will carry that too.

 

ii.

A quiet time of it. Napoleon never learned his lesson. Rewind then, back to -


Leaving England HQ. Gaby was on a flight to Paris to ingratiate with the radical Daniel Wells, and Illya with him to Rouen, Waverly’s file on their own mark passed back and forth on the ferry from Dover to Calais. Napoleon had grumbled about not taking a flight himself but he knew they had to check out the port for trafficked goods. Two birds, one stone. English weather was appalling but though Illya’s hands were cold the long muscled line of his thigh pressed against his was warmth enough.

Arnaud De Vos was their target. He was heavy, a tall man with a healthy layer of fat over thick muscle. He had big bulging brown eyes and too large teeth that gave the impression of a well-fed rabbit. Fat for the slaughter, and Solo and Kuryakin had been charged with the kill. They’d stalked him for days, from the back of cars, in bars and restaurants. Saw him fence goods, sell information, buy even more of it. As a thief he was respectable enough, as a burgeoning politician, well, Napoleon privately thought he had plenty to improve upon. However, his contacts were good, and the guns and ammunition he had been passing from Le Havre and Cherbourg through to Paris were real enough, and necessary to stop before they met their intended destination.

They had allowed him to finish lunch (Peril, it would be appalling manners to not let the man enjoy a last supper. Especially when he’s paid for the thermidor. I hope he gets indigestion.) and had followed him home, moving from damp afternoon shadows into the weak afternoon light, showing themselves at last.

De Vos had stopped near the gate to his garden and had scowled at them. Napoleon remembers stifling a smile as the fat rabbit glowered at them. Remnants of the morning’s rain dripped onto the wet earth from lush green leaves, a slow patter in the quiet.

“I hope you enjoyed the lobster.” Napoleon had smiled then, pleasant and terrifyingly blank.
“Get the fuck off my property before I shoot you.”

“I’m afraid we can’t do that. And if you shoot me, well, my friend here will shoot right back.”

“Nothing personal, you understand,” Illya had added, and something in his voice had flipped Napoleon’s stomach over with a desperate bolt of feeling.

It had gotten personal very quickly after that. De Vos bolted and they followed. Napoleon had slipped on the rain slick lawn, hard enough to go down and long enough to give Illya the lead and he had taken it without hesitation, huge powerful strides carrying him over Napoleon’s prone body and chasing into the kitchen of De Vos’ farm house.  

By the time Napoleon had picked himself up his partner and their mark had both run out of ammo and guns had been cast aside in favour of throwing objects. It would have been funny, seeing his partner swinging copper bottomed pans, snarling like an animal, but it all went wrong when Illya lost patience and vaulted over the long wooden table to get to the knife block by the basin before De Vos could reach.

There was a moment when Illya had soared, his thighs flexing and arms in an elegant sure line as he pivoted. Napoleon had admired him then, and paused to watch a few feet from the open doorway, caught in the way the light glittered in Illya’s eyes, triumphant and sure of his body. This is what Illya lived for, those strong singing moments where he was more than his body and yet no more than a machine, and Napoleon had always found it breathtaking.


Then the magic was broken and so was the table leg it seemed, because the wood had tilted and Illya had gone spilling into the other man a second before he had clearly expected to. There was no beauty in the way his knee buckled and then the fight was on the floor, savage and raw and Napoleon could not get a clean shot on De Vos.

Didn’t matter, the way Illya was tearing into him. De Vos was just as tall and heavier than Kuryakin, but Illya was a wild dog, all his rage focused on the bulky body beneath his, the way his fist slammed wetly into flesh.

It seemed done, a sure bet, and though he had a line on a shot at last Napoleon had holstered his weapon with something approaching a fond smile. They needed him alive but they also needed a release, and Illya had been half wild with the scent of prey after a week’s cramped surveillance. Napoleon let him have a little work out, and he had trusted Illya to stop before it went too far.

They were foolish, looking back on it. Hubris, the old downfall. Perhaps their recent run of luck had done them more harm than good, because neither Napoleon nor Illya had been ready for the way De Vos bit his fingers into Illya’s knee and flipped him as he reflexively spasmed with pain. Neither of them had been ready for the way that De Vos had wrapped one huge hand in a choke hold around Illya’s neck and scrabbled with the other in the cupboard under the sink next to him.

Slow motion then. Napoleon finally reaching the door, his shadow falling over the the writhing bodies. An age, and yet seconds as Napoleon had reached for his gun and De Vos had poured bleach into Illya’s gasping mouth.

They needed him alive, but Napoleon had not hesitated in his horror and put a bullet through his back regardless.

De Vos would live, they told him later. A pity.

 

iii.

Seven days is a long time.  The world was created in seven days, by several different gods. Seven Days, Seven Nights , a movie he and Gaby and Illya had all gone to see (Illya loves films, Napoleon is delighted to learn. When they get the chance Illya watches them with serious eyes and falls at least a little bit in love with Jeanne Moreau and Napoleon is just so fucked ) -

Seven wonders of the world. Seven deadly sins. Napoleon thinks he knows where to find all of them. He doesn’t have to look very far.

Seven days to welter in his bad decisions. Seven days in which Gaby makes inroads with De Vos’ man in Paris and Napoleon sits in cars listening in and trying not to -

Well.

Seven days of static helplessness, and seven nights of fucking and drinking and not thinking about anything at all. It’s easy when you know how, and Napoleon has had years of practice. It’s a game he wrote the rules for.

 

iv.

Illya is back in Paris a week later and Napoleon’s fingers twitch with the urge to take something.

Illya is back in Paris and it’s raining when Napoleon says, come with me.

Illya is finally back in Paris with his throat in tatters and Illya runs out of ways to write no , and so he follows.

 

Ninth arrondissement, Napoleon procuring a 2CV to drive all the way across from the sixth where they had been playing look out for Gaby and her mark. Les Deux Magot , Gaby a shining opal among the dull intellectuals dressed in black hoping to be the next Brecht, the next Sartre. Illya respects a fine mind but does not respect posing and desperation and so he fights with her, tells her not to seduce such tawdry men with tawdry methods. He does not look at Napoleon once as he growls and paces and furiously gestures in absence of using his voice. Gaby will swallow them all up in her fire, so Napoleon does not worry for her. He knows she will get the information from Wells without him so much laying a finger on her. Good. She belongs to them in whatever way she will have them.

Illya’s jealous too and it had been plain to read on his face behind his contempt for the radical pretenders. Not for the first time, Napoleon wonders how such heat could ever have been kept burning in the cold Russian winters.

So he steals Illya away from the fight to have him for himself in all his glorious fury. Tucks a pencil and notepad into his harrington jacket and herds him into the Citroën, absently amused at how folded up Illya looks in the front seat. All barely contained ill-humour mixed with fine lines of pain. Suffering is ageing and Illya only looks boyish in his sleep lately. They don’t discuss what he dreams of.

The journey is fractious to say the least. Someone shifts in the car and it’s like a horrible loop: Illya fidgets which irritates Napoleon and makes him fuss which makes Illya shift in his seat yet again, long legs twitching, both aware that they’re being annoying but too annoyed to stop.


“Are you still coughing up blood?”


A nod in reply as the big body stills and the rain splatters against the windows and drums against the canvas roof.


“Have you checked if that’s normal?”

A pause, then Illya rolls his head to stare at his profile and even without properly looking Napoleon can tell that he’s exasperated and still simmering in his unexpressed fury from earlier.

“Well, is it?”

No need to look to imagine the thin white line Illya’s mouth is pressed into, a perfect seam of discontent slashed across his bruised face. He keeps his eyes on the road, the unfamiliar traffic. The rain hammers them hard but Napoleon can hear a pencil scratching against paper.

At the next light he glances over to the pad left on the leather dash. In Illya’s perfect print:

DO YOU THINK THEY WOULD LET ME OUT OF SIGHT IF IT WAS NOT. PLEASE SHUT UP.

Even written down Napoleon can hear the peevish disappointment and can understand what is hiding between the letters. I can do my job. I am not weak. It stings that Illya still believes this is why Napoleon asks.

The traffic moves. He cranks the car into gear and follows suit. The windscreen wipers squeak and Paris gets washed into something dull, something to be endured.

“I’m sorry for asking. You had me worried, Peril, that’s all.”

His words are barely louder than the rain, than his heartbeat.

A hand snakes out and takes the pad back and Napoleon risks a glance but all he sees is Illya scribbling through words and eventually looking up through his lashes with a dark storm roiling in his eyes. He nods and Napoleon thinks, ah . Perhaps he does understand after all.

Napoleon breaths a sigh of relief as he swings the car past Trinité Métro and into a quieter square before coming to a halt. It’s raining heavily now but even so Illya breaths out rustily to match and unfolds his legs as he climbs out to stand at the kerb. Napoleon watches droplets of water as they catch in fine blond hair, as they run down over an expressionless face. No; Napoleon corrects himself. Illya is never expressionless, not to those who take the time to truly watch. Illya’s been with him long enough now for Napoleon to read even the subtlest change in his moods and he knows what Illya is asking as he stands in the rain not meeting his eyes.

Napoleon turns the key in the ignition and steps out into the rain. Yes, Illyusha, it will be worth all of this.

 

__

 

Two easily picked locks and three flights of stairs and they’re at door 303. The staircase is gloomy with years of dirt shading the windows but Napoleon’s eyes are bright as he lets them into the apartment. It smells damp but it’s not unbearable, he decides, before ushering Illya into the cool dark space beyond.

“This place belongs to a darling women I met down on the Riviera. Hitler rather spooked her, and she shut up shop and hasn’t been back since.”

He locks the door behind him and turns, and Illya is indistinct before the windows, fingers pulling back the heavy brocade drapes to let in some of the rainy afternoon light. He’s dressed in charcoal, as intangible as smoke, and the achingly long lines of his legs disappear into the shadows of the apartment. One eye is still sick with bruising and his lips and chin are speckled with scabs but to Napoleon he’s still masterpiece enough.

The questions Illya wants to ask lie as thick as the dust in the air, Napoleon can almost taste them on his own tongue. He nods for Illya to close the drapes then flicks on the lights, illuminating his surprise.

The apartment is one huge space covered in celadon green brocade paper, branching off into a T junction at the far end. To Illya’s left, a dining table covered in heavy fabric (the same shade as Illya’s hair, strange that he should notice) and surrounded by heavy dressers stuffed full with objets d’art and full dinner services, oil paintings strewn haphazard on elegant dining chairs. The light is a low hanging chandelier and it’s soft, throwing shadows up into the dark wood of the exposed beams there.

To Illya’s right, the bedroom with more paintings, a chaise longue in gorgeous mint green and a spectacular four poster bed covered in swathes of green and gold damask, everything rococo plaster swags and faded beauty. The pastoral scenes painted into panels on the walls make Napoleon’s teeth ache with their sweetness.

It’s not the first time Napoleon has been here but the undisturbed charm of the place never fails to stir him and he finds himself urgently needing Illya’s approval.

“No-one ever comes here. As far as I know I’m the only one who’s set foot in here since 1944. And now you.”

He’s rambling of course, pushing all the sudden neediness down into the perpetual ache in his stomach. He smiles an artfully crafted smile and approaches, standing next to Illya as he looks up at a portrait of a young woman over the fireplace in the main living area.

“She’s magnificent, isn’t she?”

She is, face turned in profile, dark curled hair swept away from her pale neck to show an expanse of skin exposed as her dress coquettishly falls away from her body, held only in place by delicate fingers. A swan at sea in a riot of pink silk and lace. Napoleon loves her dearly, wishes he could have know her to take her to bed. Stealing these looks at her is the next best thing.

Illya’s shoulder presses into his own. Well, not quite, he’s too tall for that, and Napoleon feels the old familiar thrill when he has to turn his face up to see Illya’s expression. Up close he can see Illya’s throat working, can see the way the skin has peeled away from his lips and the way his eyes flicker over the work, alert and assessing. He imagines what lies beneath the rain damp skin, the burned course of his throat, his blistered stomach, how it must burn. He’ll recover, they say. But still.

Illya never wears cologne, too identifiable in the field, so up close like this Napoleon can only smell rainwater and faint traces of soap. He wants to bury his face where Illya’s shoulder meets his neck to lick at the traces of water and smell skin, heat. Life.

There’s so much of him it makes Napoleon shiver deep inside. It’s not even that Illya is that much taller than him but he is more enveloping, barely contained in a way that Napoleon is not. He yields in different ways.

Seven days were a lifetime.

His eyes are fixed on the throbbing of Illya’s pulse in his neck so he misses the moment that Illya draws breath to speak and flinches at the wet ragged sound when it bubbles past his lips.

“Why bring me to this?”

It clearly costs him to ask and Napoleon draws in a breath, hands twitching at his side but he’s not aping Illya’s violent tell. He simply can’t stand still any longer so he moves behind Illya, pulling the damp jacket from his strong yet accommodating shoulders and folding it neatly over the arm of a walnut chair. He thinks about this dark shadow before him and how he must have weighed up the worth of asking the question. It will either mean something or it will not, and Illya will recalibrate accordingly because that is what he does. Napoleon feels dizzy with power. He dims the lights and lets them hang in the liminal space a little longer, skipping stones across the still surface of desire.

“Don’t talk, and I heard about this and I wondered what I could steal, what I could sell or keep for myself. I thought you might get a kick out of seeing how well I can resist temptation. Now I just come here when I can, my own little secret.”

An offering of sorts, a gift that neither knows the value of. He opens his magpie heart up to Illya; he sees the knots in Illya’s chest and thinks if Illya can see that he is understood then it will help. But whoever tied Illya up did so exquisitely. There will be no tender unravelling. When this game reaches it’s conclusion it will be against his finely crafted will, and his mouth will taste of tears. Napoleon aches for the happening.

Five paces back to Illya, and then Napoleon puts himself between him and the painting, wanting Illya to look at him. The air is teeming with disturbed dust that dances in the faint light and Illya’s eyes are so dark, so deep and waiting and swimming with all the things he wants to say but either cannot or will not. He holds, and demands that Napoleon moves.

“Why do you not steal this?”


God, his voice sounds like it’s being dredged from the bottom of the ocean, Napoleon can hear the raw scrape of it and it aches, it tightens his own throat and his answer is nowhere near as flippant as he intends.

“Because no-one would see me do it. Where’s the fun in that game?”

Something flattens in Illya’s eyes and Napoleon runs a careful thumb over the bruised socket on the left side, probing the tenderness. It probably hurts, because black eyes almost always hurt long after they should, but the flicker of pain and anger is preferable to Illya’s absence. He wants him present for this, not another ghost lingering in this forgotten space.

“I’m sorry,” Napoleon says abruptly, because all his sincere apologies are said this way, as if the words only become true after he speaks them. “I should have fired when I had the clear shot.”

He should have, that has become a truth for Napoleon to negotiate around now. Saying it has put a name to the curious leadenness in his gut. Guilt is such an ugly emotion that he tends to pack it away until there’s too much distance between himself and his acts that he is no longer obliged to feel it. But Illya is constantly in his orbit and he doesn’t know what to do with that other than take, keep grasping and hoping that it will all just melt away anyway.

Spitefully he presses his thumb against the crest of Illya’s bruised cheek bone then turns away, a plume of dust rising as he sits heavily on the chaise longue, tired with himself beyond expression.

Illya dips down and opens his mouth to whisper-speak again but there’s violence written in his face and Napoleon desperately does not want an argument so he kisses him quiet. He tastes blood on his tongue fresh and rich, and it’s giddy the way Napoleon can take even this vital hidden part of him. Not tears but blood then, not his sins but Illya melting away, swaying his strong frame down to the floor at Napoleon’s feet.

“I’m sorry,” he says again because it bears repeating even if he’s not quite sure now what he’s apologising for and he doesn’t trust himself to say much else, not when Illya is soft and pliant and forgiving on his knees. “Come here and let me- let me.”

 

It isn’t hope. It isn’t benediction. It’s an island of calm in a stormy sea, and Napoleon reaches out with greedy hands, always taking.

___

 

Later Illya prowls naked around the apartment, coaxing the record player into life and playing Django Reinhardt 78s that are stashed next to a stuffed ostrich. Illya strokes his hands over the grubby feathers as he listens, and smiles over his shoulder at Napoleon on the bed who thinks, I don’t know what I can save you from.

 

v.

(Not the first time. It wasn’t the first time.

That had started over chess. It was easy.

 

“Who’s the best chess player, Peril?”

“Don’t pretend to be interested, is not attractive.”

“So you do find me attractive.”

A put upon sigh, and Illya had set his book down, coolly assessing. So close yet so far away.

“Mikhail Tal.”


“Why.”

“Soviet. Of course. He attacks where no other man would. Makes moves that seem like madness, will throw away valuable pieces in pursuit of new initiative.”

“What about Bobby Fischer. I read an article about him in the New Yorker last month.”

“Fischer? No. Please, he’s a brat, a fascist child. No good. Tal can beat Fischer four games to nothing.”

“So is he champion?”

“No, not anymore. Ill health. He leads a poor life for a sick man. But it doesn’t matter. Tal loses championship, so be it, but he rewrites the whole game.”

That’s Illya through and through, and Napoleon had been so charmed that he had leaned and rested his head against Illya’s shoulder and said, you’re very attractive when you come to life , and Illya had replied with a hand on Napoleon’s thigh and Napoleon had said, well, let’s rewrite this game between us and hoped he was not a piece Illya was prepared to discard in his long march from Moscow.)

 

vi.

Spring gives way to a glorious summer. Hong Kong is brutal but triumphant. Gaby kills a man for the first time in their first week, up close and personal and it’s horrible and she clings to Illya’s side afterwards like he could obscure her from her own sins. Napoleon fixes her drinks at night and eventually the hollowness leaves her eyes and on their final evening Illya crawls into bed beside Napoleon, making the first move for the first time, exhausted by carrying the weight of her tears.

He’s open and honest and he kisses Napoleon like a drowning man, worships his body with calloused hands and Napoleon runs fingers through hair as soft as river water and is fiercely glad to be flowering under Illya’s affections once more. Look only at me , he bites into the nape of Illya’s neck when he rolls for him; look only at me , he presses deep into Illya with his fingers; look only at me he shouts with every jealous swipe of his tongue.

Later, Napoleon lays his fingers over the bruises on Illya’s hip and presses until that big body quakes and shivers with the echoes of pain rolling into pleasure and tries not to pretend he doesn’t love the taste of winning.

 

vii.

They don’t really talk about it, about any of it. It doesn’t happen again and Hong Kong turns into West Germany into England and life is a car and a room and a train and a car and Napoleon laments that life is passing him by. Gaby kisses the top of his head and tells him there will be plenty of time later for that sort of existential crisis. Illya doesn’t say anything at all but his hand trembles for two days non-stop when they come close to the East German border. It’s not quite existential terror but it’s something other than rage and Napoleon doesn’t think he’s playing.

(That last night in Germany Illya does not sleep. Napoleon knows because Illya comes to his room to wash his hands, knuckles bloody from taking apart his own room and Napoleon realises for the first time that he’s not angry but frightened like a wolf in a trap, ready to gnaw off its own leg. They stay awake and Illya kneels at Napoleon’s feet and rests his head on Napoleon’s lap and allows the savage beast inside him to be tamed. Napoleon is drunk on the power and the knowledge of how close he is to a checkmate. So close to snaring Illya or pushing him so far beyond reach he won’t ever come back. He holds, and does not take it because a win isn’t good enough if the opposition can’t fight back. If he whispers they can’t have you back into Illya’s skin then they pretend it’s a ceasefire and doesn’t mean a thing.)

 

A room and a car and a train and they’re passing back through France on their way down from Brussels to Barcelona and Illya casually asks if they can stop in Paris overnight. It’s not strictly on the way, but they do have to change trains somewhere or pick up a flight and Waverly agrees they could probably stand for 24 hours of rest so it’s agreed.

Gaby raises eyebrows, of course, and Napoleon hovers in the door of her hotel room when they get there to hear Illya field her pointed questions.

“Why are we staying here? Of all places, Place Pigalle? I don’t believe for a second you need that kind of woman, Napoleon. And you, Illya. Explain.”

She manages to throw her belongings out of her case with furious grace and Illya placidly takes it, gathering the slips of silk and cotton from where they smack him in the face with uncharacteristic ease. He folds them all neatly and places them in the drawers next to Gaby’s bed and doesn’t once catch Napoleon’s eye.

“Instruments. Music shops. I wanted to get you records. And art, for Napoleon. Lautrec, Breton, Van Gogh. Great thinkers, but not as great as Soviet.”

 He says this with a quirk of the mouth and a tilt of the head as if to say, but of course you know this as well as I do, there’s no need to be modest about it. Illya’s pride is hopelessly endearing to Gaby, as is his undisguised affection for her, and Napoleon can see her softening already. He’s endeared a little himself, even if he suspects what is really going to happen. He’s turned Illya into a fantastic liar, but still not as good as himself.

“I don’t like it, but I could be persuaded if you take me to dinner. We only have one day and I intend to make the most out of it. Now get out and pick me up at eight, please, darling.”

This last addressed to Napoleon, as she kisses him on the jaw, standing up on tiptoes. Illya picks her up by the waist as if she’s spun from sugar to move her out of his way and she laughs into Napoleon’s mouth. The three of them crush close in the doorway for the briefest of moments and Napoleon finds himself stupidly starving for something he could just reach out and take.

 

viii.

A three month old argument is surprisingly mellow. Napoleon had expected violent fits, or trembling tightness but Illya is nothing but relaxed as they walk their way to Square La Bruyère. He hadn’t needed to tell Napoleon where they were going. As soon as he requested the stop in Paris Napoleon had known.

Illya stands quietly as Napoleon picks the locks to apartment 303 then pushes past into the cool interior, leaving the lights off. A slice of bright light falls across his face when he turns back to Napoleon and he remembers how Illya’s eyes glitter like knives just before a fight. There’s something similar there now and Napoleon wants to force it into violence or-

“I was ready to walk out on you.”

Napoleon isn’t ready for that move and he leans back against the wooden door, ignoring how the paint must flake and adhere to his jacket. He tucks his hands into his pockets to cover the abruptness of the gesture and imagines that Illya cannot even see him in the gloom.

“When?”

“Before. You cheated. Bought me here when I could not fight, did not have words to say what I wanted.”

Illya’s voice is a rumble, a purr, dangerous in its softness. He stalks closer, one step, two, three, and now Napoleon could touch if he wanted to.

“That was bad sport, wasn’t it.”

Napoleon swallows, and holds out a little longer. Shadow and light stripe Illya’s throat like bars of a cage.

“I wanted to spit blood all over your face.”

 Christ.

“So why did you stay?”

It’s hot, and like this Illya smells of afternoon sunshine and sweat. It’s a good smell, real and tangible. Makes it feel even more dangerous, makes Napoleon want it more. He sucks in a breath, and Illya is patient, leaves him hanging until Napoleon’s hips lift fractionally from the door before answering.

“Because you kissed me.” Illya sways and then he’s there, broad chest barely touching Napoleon’s, words murmured in Napoleon’s ear. “I thought I was sport for you, just another game, another trophy to be collected and stored away. Brag to the CIA about taking down the Russian.”

“Me kissing you didn’t really disprove your point,” Napoleon replies, hands creeping to hold Illya’s waist. He digs in hard, bites his thumbs into the crest of bone under muscle and even through Illya’s shirt and light jacket he knows it must hurt.

“Tasted honest. Tasted real. Trusted my instincts.”

He curls his hands in tighter, and Illya tilts into him, pressing one thigh between Napoleon’s and below the distant hum of traffic he can hear a catch to Illya’s breath and in that moment he knows it’s endgame. Time to throw all his cards down.

“That’ll get you into trouble one day. You won’t always win like that.”

“Don’t need to win. Just need to rewrite the rules. And you’re very good at that, so I learn from the best.”

Illya’s mouth is so close to his neck that he drops a shoulder and bares his throat, a submissive gesture he doesn’t exactly like but he wants Illya to taste him, to bite as Napoleon bites him. A fight, to make the surrender taste sweeter. All he gets instead is a huff of amusement and a gentle brush of lips before Illya is sliding down his body, long legs tucking up under him so he is sat on his heels at Napoleon’s feet.. His eyes look so blue, deep sea blue and Napoleon thinks he might be one who has been losing all along.

 

“So what game is it we’re playing now?” he asks. Shadows swallow them up and he’s glad Illya cannot see how his heart jackrabbits in his chest. So fucked.

“No playing. Tired of playing. You know what I need. Just you and me. Instincts.”

It’s so honest and open it hurts Napoleon to hear and he curls one hand over Illya’s mouth and stares him down, counting his breaths until Illya’s shoulders sag and there, there it is. Victory, and Napoleon unravels with a shudder. It’s okay, he distantly thinks as Illya pulls at the waistband of his pants. It’s okay. Maybe everyone gets to win, just this once.

__

Morning turns over into afternoon and evening and when eight o’clock rolls around they’re untidy at Gaby’s door but they’re there, and she curses them but takes Napoleon’s arm. The sun is setting and Paris is stained gold, the gold of Illya’s hair, of the flecks in Gaby’s eyes, the gold of all the treasures he has stolen. He swaggers, and sees Illya’s mouth twitch and thinks, you were not wrong. I would lock you away in the shadows forever so that I could be the only one who sees you shine.