|The window opened behind me with an almost inaudible hiss. I
paused in the report I was writing out laboriously by hand, thinking of
the gun strapped to the underside of the table. I didn't turn.
Only one man could have found me. Only one man could have made his way to the roof, past the security of this luxurious hotel. Only one man could have rappelled down the smooth facade and found exactly the window he was looking for. Only one man could have coaxed that window into opening from the outside, three dozen stories from the street. Only one man would have tried.
I did not want Illya Nicovetch Kuryakin to have to look me in the eye when he killed me.
A faint breath of outside air swirled languidly through the room and was gone. He was inside, then, and the window closed again. I sat in the circle of light shed by the small lamp on the table, completely exposed to the darkened room. And him. I put down my pen and laid my hands flat on the table top, pressing my palms hard against the smooth surface.
"Why don't you turn around?"
His voice sent a chill down my spine. Not fear.
"I thought it would be easier for you."
"Oh? Easier for me to do what?"
God. It seemed ages since I'd last heard that voice. Softly accented, hard around the edges, beautiful because of it. I cleared my throat, damned if I'd let a simple physiological reaction betray me. "To kill me."
The silence was long and heavy. I couldn't even hear him breathing.
"Why should I?" he asked finally. His accent was thicker on the words.
I permitted myself half a shrug. "Tie up loose ends. I'm the only one who knows you're still alive."
"Perhaps I merely came to thank you for letting me live."
I laughed, though amusement was the least of what I felt. "You would not be so cavalier with your life. They watch me. Always. If they find you, you're as good as dead."
"So are you."
I shrugged again. I could hear him moving around behind me. Pacing.
"I would not be so cavalier with your life, Napoleon. Did you not think of that?"
Truth be told, it had never occurred to me. "Why are you here?" My body twitched to turn and see him again for the first time in more than a year. I tightened my muscles and pressed my hands harder against the table.
"I have some information for you." His voice was all business. The sound of his movement suddenly decisive as he strode around the table into the light and my field of vision.
He was as small and lean as ever, graceful as a panther and twice as vicious. The dark clothing of a catburgler only set off the brilliant blue of his eyes. His hair was covered with a knit cap which he pulled off even as he moved in front of me, the gilt locks glowing like another lamp in the darkened room. A smile touched the corners of his mouth.
I wished he had shot me. It could not have hurt worse.
A thick packet of papers hit the table before me with a snap. I looked at it without moving.
"You wanted the Zagreb bomber -- there he is. Name, location, movements, activities, contacts... the works. You've been looking for him since he expanded his activities outside Europe. Now he's looking for you as well. Take him out soon, Napoleon, or he'll take you. And I cannot be always at your back."
"Warsaw?" Stupid question. I knew it was him in Warsaw. No one else could have made the shot which saved my life.
He didn't dignify it with a response. Silently, he slid back into the shadows behind me. Soft sounds of movement reached my ears. I knew without turning that he had his hand on the window.
"So long as I live, your life is in danger," I whispered.
"So is yours," he snapped back, something like anger in his tone.
"We each hold a gun to the other's head," I agreed softly. I took a breath. "Pull the trigger."
"Why should I?"
"It's the only logical thing to do. It's what I'd do."
And I knew he didn't believe me. I didn't believe myself. I simply couldn't kill him, a weakness the Command had never anticipated, or guessed. Yet. One day, they would discover my betrayal, and then no power on earth could save him.
"Why did you come? Not for this." I let one finger move just far enough to touch the papers before me. "You could have had it delivered."
"True." His voice was suddenly closer, the accent marked. My muscles shivered under tight restraint as his hands brushed my shoulders, my eyes closing on the pain of his touch. "I came for this."
His breath washed over my cheek. His lips touched mine. In a moment, I was lost. In the past, the present, the feel of his mouth on mine, the taste and heat of him. Never forgotten, eternally desired, forever out of reach.
The weight of him slid into my lap and my arms closed automatically around him. I stroked my palm over his sleek back and realized I touched bare skin. He was naked in my arms.
I stood, dumping him off my lap, and moved away. My limbs protested every movement, like rusted iron resisting the engine's pull. He was on me again in an instant, slamming me up against the wall and pinning me there. His mouth took mine again, hard and demanding, drawing blood. My shirt was pulled open, accompanied by a ripping sound and the tiny ping of buttons raining to the floor. Though I tried to fight him, I kept losing my hands in the thick silk of his hair, the rich velvet of his skin. He yanked open my trousers and reached in, bypassing my swelling cock to take my balls in the vice of his fingers.
My head hit the wall hard enough to throw stars before my eyes. I stood very still, as he held me the barest millimeter from excruciating pain. I felt weak suddenly, tired and lost. There was no more fight left in me, not against him.
I stepped obediently out of my shoes and trousers and let him strip off my socks. He kept one hand on me there, threat and promise contained in the firm clasp of his palm. He knelt before me, and I would have protested if I could have found the words. I looked down at him, all gold and white, on his knees before me. He could have released me. I'd have done anything he asked.
I shouted when he took me in his mouth. Deep and devouring. No gentleness or coaxing, nothing but the skilled whip of his tongue, driving me hard and fast before him. My fists clenched at my sides, I drowned in his taking. The hard suction of his mouth drew me quickly to the edge of climax, so fast my head spun and my lungs spasmed for breath. Just as the urgency reached its peak, he pulled away and stood, hands on his hips, staring at me with amusement in his eyes and on his mouth.
With a growl, I grabbed him by the neck and spun around, shoving him against the wall. His back was warm and soft against my chest. I kicked his feet apart and drove hard into him, blind with passion and fury. He was hot and slick and ready. He'd come prepared.
"Slut," I sobbed, tightening my fist in his hair. I pulled out and slammed home again, straightening my legs, the thrust taking him up on his toes. I leaned into him, letting him bear my weight, and took him hard. He didn't make a sound, though I wasn't being careful and the difference in our heights meant he was lifted half off his feet more than once.
I was so close, had been close from the moment I drove into him. He'd seen to that. But completion eluded me. My breath sobbed in my throat, my heart pounding out of my chest, and still the wave receded before me. He made some small sound and I opened my eyes, surprised to find I'd closed them. His head was turned to the side, his cheek against the cool wall, and his face was calm, the kind of peaceful expression you expect to see on a saint.
I cried out as the torrent raced from me. There was no pleasure in my climax, only the bitter relief of finally being released.
I slid to my knees, panting. After a minute, he turned and walked away from me. He was limping slightly. I expected him to leave. Instead, he threw the covers off the bed and lay down on the cool sheets. He lay on his back, his legs spread, one knee bent, as vulnerable as a man can be. He was erect, and I watched, mesmerized, as he worked himself slowly, in no hurry.
I staggered to my feet, throwing off the remains of my torn shirt, and stumbled to the chair I'd occupied when he arrived. I sat with my back to the bed, and tried to regain my senses.
"Why did you do that?" I asked finally, when I felt my voice wouldn't betray me.
"It's what you thought you needed." His voice was as calm as his face had been, coolly affectionate.
"To punish me."
"For loving you."
I put my head in my hands and, if I could have done so, I would have wept. My eyes prickled with heat, but no tears fell. They never did.
"Napoleon..." his voice was the barest whisper, when any louder sound would have shattered me, "come lie with me. It's what we both need."
I had always led, had held the voice of command. There was never a time in our partnership that I obeyed him without question. Never an occasion I didn't analyze the situation for myself before acting. But I went to him without thinking.
I lay on my side next to him, not letting our bodies touch. Of its own volition, my hand went to his brow and brushed aside a lock of that wonderfully fair hair.
"You don't hold a gun to me, Illya," I whispered. "You are the gun."
Then I kissed him.
Only twice in our lives had I voluntarily kissed him. Then, as now, my chest tightened on the bitter joy of it.
He held my head in his hands and kissed me with tender intensity, more gentle with me than anyone had ever been. He licked the blood off my lip where it was split, and searched my mouth with flicks of his tongue. I clenched my hands in the sheet under him, afraid to touch him for fear of what I'd do. Already I was growing hard again, my appetite for him insatiable.
His hands roamed over my body with lightfingered mastery, stroking and soothing and inflaming all at once. He traced the scars on my back and the bone-deep pain I'd carried for too many years seemed to fade a bit at his touch. When he kissed the bullet scar on my left shoulder, my throat ached with the things I could never say to him.
He pulled away from me finally, and rolled over on his stomach in silent offering. I kissed the tender spot between his shoulderblades and pulled him gently back over. Remembering our first time, a shiver of excitement ran through me. How he'd looked as he took me into him, how his eyes shone with arousal. I'd never allowed myself that again, fearful of what it would do to me to see him like that even once more.
Now I wanted it, and he saw that I did.
I knelt between his thighs and braced my hands on either side of his body. He pulled his legs back to give me access. I watched his face as I pushed cautiously in. Forcing back the shivering pleasure of sinking into him so that I could concentrate on his expression. His head fell back, his eyes closed, a smile growing on his lips which seemed to widen with each inch deeper I sank. Until I was lodged as deeply as was humanly possible, and he throbbed all around me.
I let my head rest on his breast, once again feeling the prickle of unshed tears. He wrapped his legs around my waist, his arms around my shoulders, and held me in the cradle of his body. I felt insanely as if I were home, safe and at peace for the only time in my life. I pushed away the sharp pain of knowing it couldn't last, and began to rock in his arms.
He moved with me, lifting his head to press kisses along my jaw and over my neck. His body embraced mine, his inner walls soft and close, seeming to welcome me as I pushed in, and cling tighter as I pulled out, as if to prevent my withdrawing. I stared into his eyes as I moved, and he met my gaze steadily, hardly even seeming to blink. I was too lost in sapphire blue to worry about what my eyes showed him.
It was slow and easy and gentle, my body's needs entirely subsumed in those of my mind and heart. I felt no urgency but his, and matched my thrusting to the beating of his heart, speeding up as it did, slowly building the pace until he cried out, arching under me, twisting in the grip of the convulsions.
He climaxed in a series of long shuddering pulses, shaking and moaning as I continued to thrust into him. Words worked their way through his sounds of pleasure, muttered fragments of Russian, meaningless but for their import of anguished pleasure. Then a single word, repeated over and over, familiar and meaningless to my ears.
His body tightened painfully on mine and I fell. I shouted as the pleasure poured out of me, overwhelmed by its intensity. He lunged upward, holding himself to me by strong hands on my head and shoulder, his mouth devouring my cries.
When it was done, I fell lax against him, letting him wrap me in his arms and cradle me close. His hands smoothed my hair, lightly petting, and he murmured that word again.
I had not heard my name for decades. The name I bore before the Command was something out of another lifetime. Forgotten by all, even me. The sound of it on his lips pierced me to the core.
"How did you..." even at a whisper, my voice choked off.
"I have my ways," he answered, serene as an angel and just as deadly. "I know you know my old name. Why don't you use it?"
"For the same reason I don't use your new name," I managed, my voice hoarse. "I don't know who you were, or who you are. I only know Illya."
"That's all right," he soothed, stroking my upturned cheek gently, murmuring my name again and again as he cradled me closer, the sound of it a fire on my nerves.
I buried my face against his chest and wept.
He soothed me, whispering comforting words, sliding back and
forth between English and Russian. Slowly the tears dried and I lay
trusting in his arms, drained of all emotion. As I had the first time,
I drifted slowly to sleep in the comfort of his warmth, the light
stroking of his hands soothing away my conscious mind.
He was gone when I woke, only the smell of him on the sheets remaining to torment me.
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