|"Don't be ridiculous, Illya," Napoleon scolded as he hung his
coat neatly in the closet, "she's just a crazy old bag. An angry, crazy
old bag, I'll give you that, but definitely not a witch. And crazy old bags can't lay curses on people."
"You never know, Napoleon." Illya draped his coat over the back of the couch, ignoring the fact that it immediately slid off onto the floor, and plopped down in the armchair. "In the Ukraine--"
"We're not in the Ukraine." Napoleon shook his head as he retrieved the mistreated coat and hung it in the closet next to his own. "There's no such thing as witches, and no such thing as curses."
"You never know," Illya repeated mournfully. He pushed himself up out of the chair and headed for the kitchen.
"And," Napoleon added to Illya's retreating back, "we have better things to do than worry about crazy old women spouting curses."
Relieved to hear his partner's agreement, however muffled, Napoleon followed him into the kitchen. He found the young man halfway inside the tiny refrigerator, scavenging for a meal. From the distortion of his voice, and the occasional crunch, he was already eating whatever he'd found.
"I wasn't talking about filling that bottomless pit you call a stomach," Napoleon groused, leaning back against the counter with his arms crossed over his chest. His exasperation didn't prevent him from admiring the lean backside so effectively presented by Illya's position. "I swear you think with that more often than with your head."
The thus maligned head appeared for a moment over the top of the door. Illya took in his partner's preoccupation and offered a feral grin. "It's an improvement over what you think with." His eyes dropped briefly to the area in question, and his grin widened.
"You didn't think so last night." Napoleon's hand trapped Illya's against the top of the refrigerator door as he leaned in for a kiss. A kiss which was enthusiastically returned, growing quickly heated. Lost in the steamy embrace, Napoleon was brought rather rudely back to the present when his attempt to get closer was rebuffed by cold white porcelain. He broke off the kiss and sighed. "Are you going to make love to the refrigerator or me?"
"I'll let you know." Illya disappeared again into the bowels of the appliance.
Napoleon sighed, made an about-face and retreated resolutely to the bedroom, loosening the knot in his tie as he went. It was late; he was tired; and if Illya wanted to graze before coming to bed, it was simpler to let him at it. Napoleon had learned the hard way that shanghaiing his partner into bed before his stomach was satisfied only led to being awakened by the ravenous monster in the wee hours of the morning.
He had brushed his teeth and hair, washed his face, cleaned up the mess Illya had made of the bathroom in the morning, picked up the clothes his partner had discarded the night before and put them with his own in the hamper, and crawled into bed in the darkened room before Illya put in an appearance. Napoleon was just pulling the blanket up to his chin when a blond streak of light shucked off its clothes next to the bed and dove under the covers.
"Aren't you even going to brush your teeth?"
"In the morning." Illya forestalled any further pointed questions by pressing his mouth against Napoleon's.
Illya's occasional sexual blitzkrieg was more than welcome, Napoleon thought before drowning in his partner's embrace. He pulled the sheet out of the way to press their naked bodies together, groaning a little at the sensation of skin against skin. Illya rolled on top, pushing himself up on his elbows to grin down at Napoleon as he began thrusting his hips. The smile, like this particular sexual encounter, was doomed to a short life. Moving in counterpoint, shuddering in the sweet pleasure of their cocks rubbing against each other, Napoleon dragged his lover down into a voracious kiss. Their hips rocked together in the rough, uncompromising drive toward completion. He swallowed Illya's almost surprised yelp of climax, his cock thrusting up into the sudden rush of slick warmth and shouted as his own orgasm overcame him.
When Napoleon found his wits again, Illya was cuddled up against his side, using the sheet to wipe semen off his belly.
"One of us has to sleep with that, you know?" Napoleon took the soiled fabric away from Illya with a stern look which was completely undermined by his rosy complexion, the damp ringlets of hair which plastered his forehead, and the expression of utter satiation he knew had completely taken over his face. It was also undermined by the fact that Illya looked about the same, and he couldn't stay annoyed at him for long.
Illya turned an unconcerned shrug into a long, luxurious stretch. "Whatever." He rolled over, preparing to settle down by punching his pillow into willful submission.
Napoleon wrapped his arms around Illya, kissed him lightly on the shoulder, and rolled him back over, cuddling him close against his chest.
"Too tight," Illya complained around a yawn.
"Sorry." Napoleon released his grip only slightly. Another thing he'd learned the hard way: if he let Illya go during the night, he invariably ended up with one or more ice-cold feet planted squarely in the small of his back. He didn't mind the cold so much as the attempt to push him out of bed. He'd yet to figure out how Illya managed such contortions while sleeping so peacefully. Like an angel, one might even say.
Napoleon snorted softly, buried his face in wildly flyaway
blond hair, and dropped off to sleep without a second thought for the
events of the day. Let alone any concern over a batty old lady shouting
curses at his partner as she was carted away by Security.
How did he do it? Napoleon groaned incoherently, hoping Illya would take the hint and move. He wasn't surprised when the pressure on the small of his back remained constant. Only one foot, if the amount of pressure was anything to go by, and not cold for once. But Napoleon swore he could feel individual toes this time.
"Dammit, Illya, move your blasted feet," he ground out, reaching back to swat irritably at the approximate place his partner's head would be. His flailing hand only found the pillow, which he grabbed and dragged over his head to block out the growing light. It was Saturday. Day off. And he'd still be asleep, light or no light, if it weren't for his lover's wandering toes.
"Illya," he moaned through the pillow. The toes finally moved. "Ouch! For god's sake, Illyushka, cut your damned toenails!" Napoleon flung off the pillow, smacking it down on Illya's side of the bed again and rolled over, tucking his pillow behind his head. He frowned. Illya's side of the bed was suspiciously flat, except for a lump or two, neither of which seemed large enough to hide his partner.
One of the lumps, however, was moving. Napoleon lifted the covers. And came face to face with a pair of enormous slitted eyes. He yelped. The eyes blinked and drew the rest of the creature languorously out from under the covers.
"Oh wonderful!" Napoleon muttered, watching the small cat unconcernedly stake out a place on the blankets and start to groom itself. "It's not bad enough he leaves food out on the balcony and attracts every stray cat in the neighborhood. Now he's brought one in. And put it in our bed." The cat ignored him. "Illya," Napoleon called, "you'd better have a good explanation for this. Or better health coverage than U.N.C.L.E. offers," he added under his breath. "Illya!"
The cat's slightly over-large ears swiveled around at that, and the animal left off licking itself and stalked up to the head of the bed. Napoleon frowned as little cat feet, claws thankfully in, marched over his torso and up his chest. The cat stopped when its nose was exactly one inch from Napoleon's and sat down on his chest, waiting with apparently endless patience to be acknowledged.
For the first time, Napoleon actually looked at the animal which had invaded his bed. It was a little under average size, for a cat anyway, with light brown fur tipped with silver and the bluest damn eyes he'd ever seen on a cat. Something about those eyes looked awfully familiar.
Napoleon blinked. So did the cat.
"No, it can't be." He pushed the animal off and scrambled out of the bed, grabbing his robe as he headed out of the bedroom.
Illya wasn't in the kitchen, which was unusual. Nor was he in any other room of the apartment. The front door was locked, the alarms set from the inside, just as he'd activated them last night. Napoleon tried very hard to ignore the cat that followed close on his heels as he searched for his partner. Illya wasn't hiding in the bathroom or any of the closets. He wasn't even in the large cedar chest Napoleon had inherited from his great aunt. The cat, which had darted through each door Napoleon opened and out again with careless abandon, made a disgusted noise when Napoleon checked out that last.
Finally, defeated, Napoleon sat down on the edge of the bed. The cat jumped up next to him and sat with its tail curled around its paws.
Napoleon looked at the cat. The cat looked back with those blasted blue eyes.
"Illya?" He didn't think he could feel any more stupid.
The noise the cat made was a cross between a meow and a purr. Damned if it didn't sound like some sort of answer.
"Well, alright," he relented finally, "but I still don't believe in curses."
The cat climbed into his lap and rubbed its head against his
chest, purring. Napoleon absently ran one hand over the soft fur,
raising the other to pinch the bridge of his nose. This was obviously
was going to be one hell of a day.
Napoleon resisted the sigh that was building in his chest. Mark was the third person to ask him that in the fifteen minutes he'd been in Headquarters. "Ah... he stayed home today... not feeling very well. The flu, I think."
"Oh? Well, give him my best." Mark headed on down the corridor, throwing back over his shoulder: "Hot lemon tea. My mum always swore by hot lemon tea for the flu."
"I'll remember that," Napoleon assured him, adding under his breath: "But I think milk's more suitable."
He made it to his office without any further interruptions, relieved to hear the door swish shut behind him. "Okay, you can come out now." Napoleon hauled the irate furball out of the pocket of his overcoat and set him on the desk. Illya hissed at him, then sat down and began smoothing his ruffled fur with his tongue.
"If only you cared that much about your appearance all the time," Napoleon said, draping his overcoat on the back of his chair before sitting down at his desk and quickly ruffling through the files there. Nothing about that business yesterday had been delivered yet. He sighed and picked up the phone, punching up an extension.
"Mandy? It's Napoleon." He smiled automatically at her warm response. "Listen, I really need a favor. Could you pull the report on the... ah, lady... Illya and I apprehended yesterday? Just bring it to my office, please. Thanks a lot." He hung up with a sigh. Mandy was in Portuguese translations, but she had both the access and talents to find what he wanted. And she wouldn't ask for paperwork or make him report the request to Waverly.
"How do you get into these things?" he demanded of the cat, which was unconcernedly licking one extended leg. He grimaced as he saw Illya move on down to more private areas with the same attention to detail. "That's disgusting."
Illya shot him a look which he interpreted, correctly he believed, as: yeah, right, and you don't wish you could lick your own balls.
Napoleon laughed and ruffled the fur between the cat's ears. Illya shook his head violently, then pushed the top of his head against Napoleon's chest. Napoleon absently scratched behind the delicate ears and down the bony spine.
"You're too damn thin," he complained, feeling oddly at home despite the bizarre situation. "You need to eat more." Illya meowed and Napoleon blinked down at him. "I can't believe I just said that!"
"Hey, Napoleon," Mandy walked through the door, her face buried in the file she was carrying. Napoleon immediately scooped up the cat and dropped him on the floor, hoping Illya's yowl was sufficiently muffled not to carry. Mandy glanced up, her expression faintly clouded, then shook off the confusion. "I've got those files you wanted. Pretty strange, if you ask me."
"Um... yes?" Napoleon stood and reached for the paperwork, but she didn't seem to notice, her nose already buried in the file again.
"Yeah. This batty old lady talking about curses and all that? Bizarre. She had half the guys in Security quaking in their boots last night." She smiled at him. "But not you and Illya. Where is Illya, by the way?"
"Home," Napoleon answered shortly, wondering how he was going to get the file away from her.
"Oh, is something wrong?"
"Ah... yeah... you might say he's not himself today." Napoleon hoped he was the only one who heard the annoyed hiss emanating from somewhere under his desk.
"What was that?"
"What was what?" He smiled blandly. "Is there anything of interest in those files?" If he wasn't going to get her out of the office anytime soon, at least he could keep her occupied.
"What? Oh. Yes, there is something." She flipped a few pages and peered at the small type through her glasses. "Interesting, I mean. All that stuff about curses... I guess it comes naturally to her. Gypsy blood, you know."
"Oh really?" Given Illya's... metamorphosis, that was hardly a surprise.
"And not the weak sort either," Mandy added. "Straight from somewhere in eastern Europe."
"What's she doing here, then?" And how can I get rid of her before anything worse happens?
Mandy flipped a few more pages, then back some, and finally gave up. "Nobody seems to know. Somehow I don't think it was by choice. It sounds like she really wants to go home."
"But she doesn't have enough money," Napoleon guessed.
Mandy nodded, her expression turning slightly doleful. "It's actually kind of sad, if you think about it."
"Oh, I'm thinking about it," Napoleon assured her through clenched teeth. He turned his charming smile on her and took her hand between his. "Thanks, Mandy. You're a real treasure, you know that? I don't know what I'd do without you."
"I'm sure you'd get along fine: the great Napoleon... Solo..." her voice trailed off at the last, her gaze dropping to his feet. Small wonder, Napoleon thought resignedly, given that there was a cat stropping his ankles.
"Napoleon..." she started after a minute of watching the small brownish cat weave a figure eight around his feet, "do they allow animals in the building?"
He sighed. "No."
Napoleon bent down and picked Illya up, depositing him none too gently on the desk. "It's... Illya's cat. I promised him I'd pick it up from the vet and bring it home," he improvised quickly.
"The vet?" Mandy looked concerned. She reached to touch Illya, but drew back when he hissed. "Is something wrong with the poor thing?"
"Uh... no. No, Illya was just having it fixed."
Illya growled at Napoleon and stalked across the desk to rub his head against Mandy's fingers. Napoleon was hard pressed not to smile. Illya always was contrary.
"She's very sweet," Mandy said, running her palm all the way down the furry back. Illya gave her an annoyed look and didn't object when Napoleon offered to scratch his ears. "What's her name?"
"Fluffy," Napoleon declared, hiding his smirk. "Ouch!" He sucked on a clawed finger and glared at Illya, who glared right back.
"Seems kind of temperamental," Mandy suggested with a smile.
"You have no idea." Napoleon pulled on his overcoat. "I really ought to be going before someone discovers..." he gestured at the cat.
"Oh, yes, of course." She blinked, dragging her attention from Illya and headed for the door. "See you on Monday, Napoleon."
"Thanks for finding that file for me," he called after her. "It's been very helpful. And you,"
he said to Illya once the door was closed behind her, "behave yourself,
unless you want to stay like that. Come on, I think I know what we need
to do." Illya didn't offer any injury to the hand Napoleon tentatively
extended, so he gently picked up the cat and tucked him back into his
pocket. A plaintive mew sounded from the coat. "Oh hush. It's not that
bad. Just think, she could have turned you into a mouse."
"Illya? Come on out of there." Napoleon was on his hands and knees in the bedroom, his head tilted almost to the floor as he peered into the darkness under the bed. "Look, it's only for a little while. You can't go running around without a collar; someone might take you to the pound. Illya?"
A cross between a meow and a growl was his only answer. He thought he could see the glitter of two slitted eyes.
"Oh, all right." Napoleon sat up and tossed the new collar onto the bedside table. "We won't bother with it until tomorrow. Who knows, we might get lucky and you'll be back to normal by then."
With a sound like a musical purr, Illya walked serenely out from under the bed where he'd been hiding for the better part of an hour. He rubbed along all of Napoleon that he could reach, then ran out of the bedroom. Napoleon sighed, pushed himself to his feet, cursing his aching knees, and followed more sedately.
They'd been all over greater Manhattan running errands. Aside from the decisively rejected collar, Napoleon had purchased a few other items suitable for Illya in his current form. Although a quick stop at a sidewalk hot dog vendor had satisfied Napoleon's hunger, Illya was, for once, to finicky to eat what was available. Napoleon had ignored his partner's hisses as he grabbed a few cans of cat food, and while he stopped in at the butcher to buy his own dinner.
He'd also stopped at the bank, three embassies, and a travel agency. A quick call to Headquarters had set everything in motion and, with any luck, the displaced gypsy would soon be on her way back to whichever of three eastern bloc countries she wanted. Hopefully one of them was home, or near enough, and she'd remember to remove any extraneous curses before she left.
Of course, he'd be left explaining to Waverly why he released a woman suspected of... suspicious behavior near Headquarters. However, he felt he could assure his supervisor in good faith that the woman definitely wasn't working for Thrush. If she had been, everyone in Headquarters would be frogs or mice, or worse, by now. Besides, it beat explaining to Waverly why his partner was now a cat-burgler in the truest sense of the word.
He supposed it would have been more polite to go himself to release the woman, but he had decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Who knew but that she might take an instant dislike to him, as she had to Illya, and then where would they be? He'd be a very dead mouse in the digestive tract of a very satisfied Russian cat, no doubt. And Illya would spend the rest of his life running from dogs. Not that he didn't anyway. All in all, Napoleon really didn't want to risk it.
Illya was sitting on the counter glaring at the refrigerator when Napoleon entered the kitchen. It didn't take much imagination to realize that he was angry at being bested by an appliance.
"There's nothing in there you can eat anyway," Napoleon told him.
Illya watched quite closely as he cooked his steak, but Napoleon ignored him. He was used to Illya hovering like a vulture as he prepared a meal, and used to protecting his cooking from sneak attacks. After the third one, Napoleon put Illya on the floor and nudged him out the door with a gentle foot. He pulled the door shut behind the cat and resolutely ignored the pitiful mews and furious scratching coming from the other side.
When his food was ready, he served it up on the table, then opened one of the cans of cat food and scooped it into a bowl, which he also placed on the table. Then he let Illya back in.
"Oh, no, tovarisch," Napoleon scolded, grabbing the cat a second before it was buried whiskers deep in his dinner. "That's not for you. This is for you." He plunked Illya down in front of the bowl of cat food. Napoleon watched Illya sniff at the proffered fare, sneeze suddenly, then stalk back over toward him. He picked up his knife and fork and resolutely carved off a bite of steak, stuck it in his mouth and chewed.
Illya hunkered down a couple of inches from Napoleon's plate.
Napoleon reached for his wineglass.
Illya inched a little closer.
Napoleon cut himself another piece and raised it to his mouth.
Illya's whiskers touched the plate.
Napoleon nudged him back gently with one hand.
Illya's rough little sandpaper tongue scraped against Napoleon's knuckles.
Napoleon sighed. And sliced off a small piece of steak.
"I wasn't very hungry anyway." He fed the slice to Illya, then another one...
Napoleon wiped his mouth with his napkin and rose, taking his
plate and wineglass to the counter. He ran hot water on the dishes and
left them in the sink. Turning around, he sputtered into startled
laughter. Illya was lying on the table in sated abandon, rolled onto
his back with his rounded belly sticking up. He looked positively
"Come on, tovarisch." Napoleon yawned. "Time for bed."
He put down his book, scooped up the cat and rose. Illya dangled sleepily from one hand, not bothering to brace himself against Napoleon. He popped back off the bed quickly enough, however, and followed Napoleon into the bathroom. Illya lapped water from the sink while Napoleon brushed his teeth and watched as he performed the rest of his ablutions.
Napoleon picked up the clothes Illya had left on the floor the night before and stuffed them into the hamper, then shed his own clothes, turned out the light, and climbed into bed. The cat jumped up after him and walked around his head, purring.
"Just settle down somewhere and go to sleep. Somewhere safe," he added quickly when Illya seemed inclined to bed down in his hair, "in case you become human again in the middle of the night."
With a sandpapery lick to the top of Napoleon's ear, Illya lightfooted it over his shoulder and curled up next to Napoleon's hip.
Napoleon couldn't get comfortable. He was trying very hard to lie still -- he didn't want to risk rolling over on Illya. However, he was so used to his bedpartner -- his human bedpartner -- that it was hard to sleep without Illya's warm, solid body pressed close. Napoleon sighed and rolled carefully onto his stomach.
A minute later, he felt a soft weight shift across his hip and take up residence on his back.
"Illya," Napoleon muttered into the pillow, "that's not what I had in mind."
The only response, if it could be called one, was the feeling of the cat curling into a comfortable ball right between Napoleon's shoulderblades. The little movements as the light weight settled more firmly in made it quite clear that, if Napoleon wanted Illya to move, he'd have to do it himself.
Napoleon sighed and closed his eyes.
He was being crushed.
Yes, definitely. There was an entire building on his back, impeding his breathing.
Napoleon shifted restlessly, wondering why he was sleeping on his stomach in the first place, and tried half-heartedly to throw off the obstruction. No go.
"Illya," he moaned into the pillow, knowing it somehow had to be his partner's fault, "get off me."
"Huh?" Illya muttered, shifting slightly, but not removing himself from his cozy nest on top of his partner.
Suddenly shocked more awake than he wanted to be at -- he glanced at the bedside clock -- three in the morning, Napoleon turned suddenly, dumping Illya off his back.
"What?" Illya demanded irritably.
"I... um..." Napoleon stuttered. "Why were you sleeping on me?" he finally asked, not sure if any other question made sense.
"Self-defense," Illya decreed with a yawn. "You were flailing around like a gaffed fish."
"Oh..." Napoleon blinked at his partner in the dark room. Everything looked perfectly normal.
"If you've finished your nightmare, can we go back to sleep?"
"Uh... sure." Napoleon settled down on his back, automatically wrapping his arm around Illya as he cuddled close. Must have been a dream, he thought vaguely. Of course, it was a dream! Of all the ridiculous ideas. Napoleon smiled. He'd have to tell Illya about it in the morning, give them both a good laugh.
"Goodnight, Illyusha," he murmured in one pink ear, running his fingers through the blond mop.
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