Illya was brushing his teeth when his communicator bleeped. He inwardly groaned. His first day off in nearly a month, not counting the jet lagged days in between assignments. He had a million things to do and not one of them involved UNCLE.
He spit out his mouthful of toothpaste and rinsed. It wasn't like he had a choice but answer.
"Illya, I need you to do me a favor." Napoleon's voice made him shake his head.
"You need to take my meeting today."
"Please, Illya, I really, really need you to do this."
"Napoleon, you are about to leave on a two week vacation. I haven't had one in over a year."
"That's your fault, partner, but this is an emergency." Napoleon's voice stopped just short of a whine.
"I know your types of emergencies, Napoleon. You met someone and you need to change all your tickets."
"Illya, I can't order you, but I am begging you."
He sighed, feeling his neck knot with tension. "When does it start?"
"In fifteen minutes..."
"What?" Illya broke off to curse his partner, his partner's parents, his existence, even his own inability to say no to the smooth talking American in Russian.
"I... um... speak Russian, you know." Napoleon's voice was very quiet now.
"Oh, believe me, I am well aware of your abilities. Kuryakin out."
Fourteen and a half minutes later, Illya was walking through the cold steel corridors of UNCLE HQ. If Waverly found the change in Section Twos a surprise, he didn't say anything. Illya listened, took copious notes and asked the appropriate questions at the appropriate times.
"That will be all, gentlemen," Waverly said, casting a glance around the table. "Thank you for your time." As they started to get up to leave, he added. "Mr. Kuryakin, a moment of your time."
Illya resumed his seat and kept from sighing. He knew he'd never be permitted to slip in and out of headquarters. "Sir?"
"I was under the impression that you had today off."
"As was I, sir."
"And yet here you are."
"And Mr. Solo is not."
A dozen smart ass responses immediately formed in Illya's mind, but he merely nodded, "Yes, sir."
"Do yourself you a favor, Mr. Kuryakin. The hardest word in the English language is 'no' - you should learn to use it more often, especially when it involves your partner."
Illya let just the smallest smile escape from his lips. "I will, sir, thank you."
"Go take some time for yourself, son. I don't want to see you here for at least the next two days."
"But Napoleon is..."
"I'm quite aware that Mr. Solo is off on vacation, we can muddle through without you for a couple of days. I can't afford to lose you to exhaustion or distraction."
"Thank you, sir."
Illya carefully balanced the bags in his arms. At least he would have food in the house for the next couple of days. He hated coming home from work and not having at least the basics in his cupboards. He juggled a bag and unlocked his door. He set the bags down, disarmed the alarm and stretched. He pulled off his jacket and slipped off his shoulder holster, scratching his chest through the thin cotton of his shirt.
He'd gotten most of the groceries put away and made some inroads on a bottle of almost drinkable Polish vodka when there was a knock on his door.
Immediately on alert, he walked to the hallway and pulled his P-38 free from the holster. Standing to one side of the door, he asked, "Yes?"
"Illya, open up!"
"Napoleon?" Illya undid the lock and the door practically flew from his hand. Instinct made him bring up the gun, just in case this was a ruse. Or Napoleon was being held at gunpoint. He wasn't, but he was wearing a trench coat with the collar turn uped and a hat pulled down low over his face. "What the hell? Napoleon, you look like a Central Park flasher."
"I should be so lucky. I need your help."
"To do what? I've already filled in for you. There's nothing left."
"I have a date tonight; you have to take it."
"What? I know I don't date much, Napoleon, but I don't need sloppy seconds."
"She's not sloppy seconds. She's gorgeous. I have theater tickets and I can't cancel, not now."
"Napoleon, you are acting truly bizarre. I am rapidly approaching the end of my patience." That was when Napoleon opened the coat and shrugged it off and Illya felt his mouth drop. "Oh my God, well, your God..."
"You're telling me..." Napoleon sighed deeply, walked over to Illya's couch and flopped down.
"A long story... really."
"I'm going nowhere."
"We've been so busy lately that I have been neglecting some basic tasks."
"I see." Illya fought to keep his face straight as he settled down beside his partner.
"I looked like a damn ghost, Illya. One of my dates recommended this place, but I didn't have time, so I thought..." Napoleon broke off as Illya started to chuckle. "What?"
"You look like an oompah loompah."
"An oompah loompah. Napoleon, you are orange... no, brighter than that... you are atomic tangerine in color. All you need is green hair and you'd look like a pumpkin."
"Thanks for your support, partner."
"I'm sorry, Napoleon, but you really are... very, very orange..."
"Skin bronzer, my ass," Napoleon muttered, crossing his arms. "What am I going to do?"
"In my closet, there is a make-up kit. You might want to try some of the makeup remover there. It might help."
Illya started to stand and Napoleon grabbed his arm. "Where are you going?"
"I'm guessing on your date... would you like me to take your vacation as well?"
"Then we shall have to hope that the makeup remover is effective. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to grab a shower. "
He showered and took his time doing it. It wasn't that he minded going out on a date, but he usually preferred to make his own arrangements. If this was one of Napoleon's ladies, she would probably not be exactly his type. Still, it did mean that it might end... well. He certainly wouldn't mind that.
He stepped out of the shower and toweled off quickly. Knotting a dry towel around his waist, he tossed this one over the shower curtain rod and walked back into his bedroom. For the second time today, he stopped dead in his tracks.
"Napoleon... what are you doing?"
Napoleon grinned from his position on the floor. The closet door was wide open and several boxes were strewn about. Napoleon held up a silk stocking. "I... ah... couldn't find the make-up kit... is there something you want to tell me, partner?"
Illya snatched the stocking from him. "Those are a gift for my sister..."
"And this?" Napoleon held up a black lace garter belt. "Pretty intimate apparel to be sending to one's sister." He evaded Illya's hand. "I always knew there was something I liked about you... we have the same taste in underwear. Of course, I prefer to see it on girls..."
"Damn it, Napoleon," Illya snapped. He kicked the kit towards him. "Just because I offer to help, it doesn't give you permission to pry."
"I wasn't trying to pry. And you've got some pretty interesting magazines in there too. I can see why you keep them in the bottom of the closet though. People see those laying about and your 'all work and no play' image would suffer."
"Says the Atomic Tangerine opmpah, loompah." Illya muttered. "The tickets?"
"Under my name at will call. Theatre is on Broadway and Shubert." Napoleon was still grinning. "Dinner reservation at Leonardo's afterwards..." Illya held out his hand. "What?"
"I'm not paying for this out of my pocket. Your date, your dollar."
Napoleon grumbled as he stood and took his wallet out. "You drive a tough bargain."
"Better than that." Illya handed him the makeup kit. "I'll drive you home. There's no way I'm leaving you alone here."
"Oh?" Napoleon glanced around eagerly. "More little secrets buried?"
"And none that you will ever share, at least in this lifetime. So, unless you want to try for massive bruising to go with your current orange hue, you should stop there."
"Illya, I'm just kidding..."
"I am not!"
"So... um... do you wear that garter belt? It's your size."
And contrary to popular belief royal purple, brilliant lime green, and mauve did actually go with the atomic orange of Napoleon's nose and wasn't contrary at all.