Title: Fair Warning
Fandom: Man from UNCLE
Word Count: 2061
Disclaimer: The usual, because MFU is not mine.
Author's notes: This story occurs after
Watching and, although not exactly a sequel, is a development of the dynamic in that story.
The band segued into another slow piece. The translator who had been instrumental in bringing their latest affair to a successful conclusion slipped a lacquered fingernail under Napoleon’s collar and he drew her closer as they continued dancing. She murmured something in his ear. Illya slipped away from their table and down the stairs to the long bar. Halfway down, he glanced at the mechanisms bolted to the dark ceiling beams that waved scores of heart-shaped bamboo fans with little effect through the smoky air. The tables downstairs were almost empty now.
It had been crowded when they arrived. They had all stood by the bar to order their drinks. The translator, in her red satin sheath, was squeezed between them. She was laughing and swaying slightly to the music pouring down from the upper floor, allowing herself to brush against each of them in turn. Mayu was new to the Tokyo office and eager to prove that her talents went beyond her language skills. She had jumped at the opportunity to accompany Napoleon and Illya when their investigation led them to Singapore. And she had remained cool under fire, maintaining her accent and her cover. When Napoleon was giving their drink orders, she had reached into her evening bag for a pen, flipped over a coaster and written her room number on it. She had leaned close when she slipped it into Illya’s jacket pocket and whispered into his ear, “You could debrief me later, if you‘d like.” Illya had let a small smile lift his lips as she drew back. Their drinks had arrived then and Napoleon had slid them along the bar, then slid his arm around Mayu’s slender waist. She had tilted her head down to look at his hand, then looked up at Illya through her lashes.
The lone bartender was drawing an ale for a patron standing in front of the taps. Task completed, he dried his hands on his apron and watched Illya approach. Illya ordered a Guinness. The band came to the end of the dance. He could hear chair legs scraping across the floor upstairs before the musicians resumed playing with a faster number. Illya was considering taking his ale out to the terrace when Kittridge appeared in the doorway and spotted him.
Kittridge signalled to the bartender as he neared the bar and had his Guinness a moment later. He raised his glass to Illya. “It was close, that one,” he said before taking a long draught. Illya inclined his head in agreement. Kittridge raised his drink again. “But with my help, it all came out right in the end,” he added and drained his glass. He motioned for another. “Where’s your partner this evening?”
Illya lifted his ale towards the wooden stairs. “Dancing,” he said.
“With the lovely Mayu?” Kittridge asked, glancing up.
“Last time I looked,” Illya said and took a sip from his glass.
Kittridge sought the bartender’s eye again, but he was serving a trio of older men who had just come in at the far end of the bar. Kittridge looked back up the stairs.
“Go ahead,” Illya said, raising his chin towards the stairs. “I’ll get it.”
Kittridge raised his eyebrows. “Thanks, mate,” he said and headed up the steps.
Illya found it easier to get the bartender’s attention. He moved rapidly past the array of gleaming bottles to where Illya leaned against the bar. “Is there anything else I can get you?” he asked in a pleasing baritone. Illya pushed a couple folded notes across the polished wood. The barkeep’s hand brushed across Illya's fingers. Illya looked into the man’s dark eyes and shook his head slightly as he drew his hand away and turned towards the exit. The song ended.
Mayu and Napoleon were making their way back to their table by the top of the staircase, when Kittridge came into view. He lifted his glass in greeting. “I’ve come to give you some competition, mate,” Kittredge said to Napoleon, then turned slightly to smile at Mayu. She smiled back politely. “Since your partner’s given up the field.” The band sounded the first notes of a slow dance. “May I have the pleasure, Mayu?” he asked, setting down his glass and extending his moist hand. Mayu glanced at Napoleon, but he was leaning over the railing, looking down the stairs. She nodded at Kittridge and let herself be led back to the small dance floor.
Napoleon could only see the bottom half of Illya as he left. He twisted around and gestured to a waiter. He scribbled his room number on the tab, swung around the railing and down the stairs. At the exit he paused, checking to the right and the left. Illya was no longer in sight and there were multiple ways down from the bar and across the maze of courtyards. Napoleon headed for the hotel lobby by the shortest route and hoped.
Napoleon scanned the lobby and spotted Illya just as the door to the stairwell swung shut. Their room was on the top floor. Napoleon dashed towards the elevators, signalling to two silver-haired ladies who were punching in their floor numbers. From the angle of her arm, Napoleon guessed that the woman in dark blue was pressing the door open button. He slipped in next to them with a slight bow, a charming smile and a heartfelt thank you. They beamed back at him. He sighed with relief when he saw that the button for the top floor was the only one lit.
When Illya opened the door to their room, Napoleon had two small bottles of vodka from the mini-bar in one hand and a glass in the other. “A night cap?” he asked.
Illya’s eyes widened very slightly. He turned to the closet and opened the door. With his back to Napoleon, he loosened his tie and took off his jacket and hung them both up. He slipped off his shoes, bent down and deposited them in the closet, and closed the door so carefully that it didn’t make a sound. When he turned around, he was slipping his second cuff link out of his cuff. Napoleon held out the half-full glass. The small bottles had disappeared. Illya dropped the cuff links in his pocket, reached up and undid the two top buttons of his shirt.
Napoleon watched each unhurried movement. He’d seen Illya disarm explosive devices with the same precision. Napoleon’s hand was growing clammy around the cool glass.
Illya reached out and took the drink. He gazed into the clear liquid for a moment before taking a long sip, then he walked over to the bureau, upended the glass and set it down empty. “I’m going to take a shower,” he said and disappeared into the bathroom.
Napoleon let out a long breath and loosened his tie. He moved to the closet and continued undressing. He lined his shoes up next to Illya’s. He took off his suit and hung it next to Illya’s jacket, positioning the garments carefully on the hanger and smoothing his hand down the fabric so there would be no wrinkles in the morning. His knuckles grazed against something hard in Illya’s jacket pocket. Napoleon’s hand paused mid-stroke, then dipped under the flap and drew out a coaster. He shook his head. He flipped it over as he extended his hand to put it back and saw the numbers. 211. Seems she asked us in order, Napoleon thought. But when?
Napoleon retreated to the mini-bar and finished off a small bottle of scotch without bothering with a glass. He dropped the empty container into the rubbish and closed his eyes. He visualised the lounge. When they first went in Mayu had stood between them at the bar. He had leaned over the counter and ordered their drinks. And I’d been rather proud that she had picked me. Napoleon shook his head and grimaced. I’m not used to this.
He finished undressing, dropping the garments onto a nearby chair. I’m used to Mayus and Marys and Mindys drifting pleasantly in and out of my bed. Naked, Napoleon wandered back to the closet and located the laundry bag. Brief, artful dances with acquaintances or strangers. He bunched his clothes up and shoved them into the plastic bag, ripping one of the seams. He pulled the drawstring and flung it at his suitcase.
He stared at the bathroom door. His stomach knotted; he pressed his hand against it. He turned and glared at himself in the dresser mirror. His hair was dishevelled, his face flushed. His hand looked dark against the pale, vulnerable skin of his abdomen. He watched, bewildered at the intensity of his reactions, as his body expressed itself further.
Napoleon was lying on his side in one of the double beds when Illya emerged from the bath. The lights were off in the room. He watched Illya’s silhouette from beneath nearly closed lids. He heard the clothes land on the dresser and the gun on the nightstand between the beds. He was keeping his breathing shallow and steady, but he could feel the blood pounding in his ears. Despite this and the covers pulled up to his neck, he was cold. His hand clutched at his stomach in an effort to keep it warm.
Illya lifted the covers and slipped into the bed behind him. Napoleon considered offering a prayer to whatever deity looked after madmen and lovers. Illya’s hand curved around his neck. “You’re cold. Did you just get into bed?” he asked.
Napoleon’s mouth was dry. He didn’t know what sort of sound might come out of it. He felt Illya’s hand slide from his neck to his shoulder. “I know you’re awake,” Illya said. He shifted closer, bending his knees to fit against Napoleon, his hand gliding down Napoleon’s arm to the hand clasping his stomach. A small gasp escaped Napoleon as Illya continued exploring. “You could have taken care of that while I was in the shower,” he remarked, letting the underside of his forearm rub back and forth across even softer skin. Illya pulled back a bit and pushed himself up on his elbow. Napoleon rolled onto his back. He looked up at Illya, his face half illuminated by the light from the bathroom. “It’s your choice, Napoleon,” Illya said, moving his knee between Napoleon’s thighs and lowering his head so that their lips almost touched. “Your choice,” he repeated, bringing his knee higher. “But if you choose me tonight and then change your mind, I’ll be gone,” he added, brushing his lips against Napoleon‘s for an instant. Napoleon’s lips parted, but Illya drew back. “I want to give you fair warning,” he finished, tilting his head slightly as he regarded Napoleon. One eye flashed blue.
Napoleon searched what he could see of Illya’s face. He took a deep breath and then another. The knots in his stomach began to unravel. He closed his eyes and continued breathing, long, slow breaths, in and out. He could feel his muscles relaxing and the chill fading. Illya’s knee was warm and solid between his thighs, almost touching his groin. He drew his brow together and took an even deeper breath. He could feel Illya’s arm next to his side, his fingertips beneath his upper arm. He shifted his head slightly and brushed against Illya’s other arm, pressing down against the mattress between his shoulder and neck. Napoleon opened his eyes and met Illya’s, one dark and shadowed, the other glinting blue. “I understand,” he said, clearly, calmly. I understand that this is where I want to be. Not just tonight or tomorrow night, but for as many nights as I have left.
Illya lowered his head. He didn’t pull back when Napoleon raised his chin and curved his hand around his neck. And when Napoleon pushed up and rolled them over, Illya stretched his arms above his head and looked at Napoleon. “Be sure, Napoleon,” he said.
Napoleon flexed his muscles. Every sinew felt powerful, whole. “I am,” he answered. He leaned closer and whispered the real question. The one that even contemplating that the answer might be negative had made him sick. “Are you?”
Illya brought a strong arm up around Napoleon‘s shoulder and smiled. “Let me show you,” he replied.