They stood upon the brink of discovery, but neither man wanted to make the first move.
"Go ahead, Illya. I'll watch your back."
"I thought you were our fearless leader. You know, the whole senior agent by thirty seconds-"
Napoleon drew himself upright. "Two years!" He held up two fingers and Illya made a face.
"Maybe in your dreamland, but not mine." Illya crossed his arms. He felt naked without the comforting weight of his weapon.
"You need the experience." It was as if Napoleon's mind was made up.
"What makes you think I haven't? I wasn't born yesterday. I have the chest hair to prove it."
"So do I, it's just that mine is attenuated." Napoleon closed the gap in his robe. "If you've had more experience, then you are more qualified to fulfill the intent of the order…"
"It was a long time ago and not like this, I haven't."
"Illya, there nothing in there that you haven't seen before. It's only a big deal if you make it into one."
They stood quietly as they were passed in the corridor by a group of younger men. The agents garnered some odd looks as they stood quietly, but nothing else. "See? Nothing to be afraid of," Napoleon said when they were alone again.
"I'm not afraid. I'm… cautious."
Napoleon smirked. "Sure just keep telling yourself that late at night when you are in bed, all alone…"
"Again, you make assumptions, Napoleon." Illya grinned at that and winked. "We really are making too much of this."
"I know." Napoleon sighed. "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."
"Tale of Two Cities?" Illya laughed at that. "Quoting Dickens? I though you only did that when you'd had too much moonshine."
That made Napoleon wince and then smile. "That was an affair to end all affairs that one was."
"And it rather makes my point." Illya sighed. "We are two grown men, we have earned every scar we wear. Together?"
"Together." Napoleon draped an arm across Illya's shoulders.
"You know, the history of this started back in the 17th century. Imagine how scandalized those first Europeans were when they saw it."
"Back then, just the act was considered frightening enough. To do it with your whole family… unspeakable. Now, is this an Onsen or a Sento?"
Illya pushed back the door to reveal a huge room. Steam rolled off the pool and he took a deep breath. "Both, I think."
Napoleon had to agree that no one seemed to pay either of them the least bit of attention. He dropped his towel beside Illya's , took off his slippers and joined him in the bath, doing his best not to stare at the naked people around them just as they paid no attention to the agents.
"A bath refreshes the body, tea refreshes the mind." Illya wrung out a wash cloth and draped it over his head.
"Are you quoting?" Napoleon took his cloth and watched it absorb water.
"It's an old Japanese proverb. "I think they got it just right."
"And I think I would trade you all of this for a dry martini."
"This won't do you any good if you can't relax, Napoleon."
"How can I relax when there's so many lovely things to un-relax me?" He purposefully kept his attention focused upon the steam water and away from the group of young women who suddenly seem fixated upon them.
Illya removed the washcloth from his head. "You think you're anxious now. Wait until April and Mark join us."
"What?" Time stopped. "Tell me you're joking? Illya? Illya!"
Illya grinned. "I was kidding, Napoleon."
He got a stony glare in return. "I don't trust you." Napoleon started to make his way back to the stairs.
"Where are you going?"
"Back to our room before you get me into trouble."
"Don't leave," Illya said. "I was just joking."
"Too late." He gestured to the approaching young women. "Enjoy your bath, Illya-san."
The group stopped a respectful distance and nodded. Illya nodded, but watched Napoleon quickly climb from the bath and grab his robe.
"Well, that backfired," he muttered and happened to glance up at the ceiling. It was an explosion of blues and greens, swirling and spinning. He blinked and they slowed. He took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes. Then he was aware of a floating sensation and he felt like he was flying, being lifted up to a dark and beckoning sky. Illya smiled and welcomed it.
The first thing he realized was that he wasn't floating anymore and he was dry. The air was perfumed with a delightful scent, tantalizing and flirtatious. With a start, Illya opened his eyes and sat up, clutching the front of his yukata.
"Hey, you're finally awake." Napoleon walked into the room carrying a covered tray. "I thought I was going to have to eat all of this myself." He set the tray down upon a low table and went knelt beside Illya's futon. "How are you feeling?"
"Confused. What happened?"
"Well, it was either the presence of those enticing young ladies, the heat, for which you have no tolerance for, or a reoccurrence of side effects from THRUSH's last cocktail they force fed you. You passed out. If it hadn't been for those women, you would have probably drowned. At least they kept you afloat until I could get back there." Napoleon patted Illya's shoulder and returned to the low table.
"I… passed out? I don't remember…" He closed his eyes again. "I remember the ceiling started to swirl."
"You and heat, not a good mixture." Napoleon lift the lid off a small enamel bowl. "I know I will regret saying this, but you should come over and try to eat."
"Okay." Illya rolled his shoulders and then got to his feet. He staggered for a moment and Napoleon was immediately there.
"Hold on, tiger."
"I guess I'm still a little lightheaded." He let Napoleon guide him to the table and sat on the cushion. "I feel like a real jerk now."
Napoleon found a pot sticker and dunked it into a brown liquid. "Why's that?"
"It was wrong and demeaning to tease you the way I did when I knew you were already uncomfortable."
"It's what partners do." Napoleon dabbed the corners of his mouth. "I couldn't exactly leave you there like a stray dog or something."
"I made you upset and you respond by taking care of me and feeding me."
"Again, it's what partners do. I just need to be careful."
"Well, you know what they say about strays. Once you started feeding them, you are stuck with them for life. Try that brown stuff, it's really good."
Illya smiled and nodded. Maybe being a stray wasn't so bad, after all, not when you had Napoleon around.