Genre: Slash (implied)
Word count: 1902
Prompt: Could we perhaps have Illya meeting up with a childhood friend who is now a choreographer with the LA ballet and reminiscing about their Russian childhood?. For loxleyprince. Link will take you to A)3 if you prefer to read it there.
Illya shifted the last of the groceries from the cart into the front seat of his truck. It seemed funny that someone who owned a restaurant would have to shop, but much of the food he made for the patrons of Taste was not in Napoleon’s diet plan. A carton of salted caramel ice cream caught his eye and he smiled fondly, thinking how happy his partner would be to find that in the freezer. Little surprises like this is what kept Napoleon honest the rest of the time. And it would be a nice welcome home surprise for him.
Napoleon had been gone for nearly a week now, a guest speaker at a prestigious wine event. While Illya missed him dearly, he played it close to his chest. Napoleon was always supportive when he was called away to such an event. It was only fair that he do the same
Someone tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me, please, I think I’m lost. Is this Sutter Creek?”
He smiled at the Russian accent. He hadn’t heard one of those for a while. “No, Sutter Creek...” Illya started and turned around. His mouth dropped open. She hadn’t changed a bit. “Nina Aleksándrovich?”
“Illya Nichovetch, I had hoped it was you and not a case of mistaken identity!” She hugged him and he returned the favor. He cupped her cheek and grinned into the green eyes.
“What are you doing here?”
She held up a bag from the local grocery store. “Same as you, but not as much. You look like you’re feeding an army!”
“Just a small one these days.” He let her go, noting some of the looks from passersby. They would have Illya throwing the woman to the ground and making mad passionate love to her before he got home. One of the downfalls of being a rising star in a small town meant he was always being watched. “And I meant here in Jackson.”
“I’m living in Los Angeles now.”
“And that’s pretty much not on the way to Jackson.”
“I teach for their ballet company. One of my students returned from a trip and was raving about a restaurant they had tried here.”
She laughed. “How did you guess? Anyway, she brought home a menu and when I saw one of the chef’s names, I knew I had to come.”
“I’m glad that you did. How long has it been since we were at the ballet together?”
“Forty years, at least. Where has the time gone, Illya?”
“No idea. You look good. The years have been kind to you.”
“You always did have a flatterer’s tongue in your mouth and thank you.” She looked around and tried to hide a smile. “We seem to be attracting a crowd, you and I.”
“Sadly, yes. Have you made a reservation yet?”
“No, not yet.” She looked at her watch. “Am I too late for tonight?”
“Don’t worry, I have an in with the chef. Where are you staying?”
“I was hoping to find a room at the…” She paused as she dug a scrap of paper from her pocket. “Sutter Hotel.”
“During the summer?” He shook his head. “However, you are welcome to our guest room.”
“Your wife wouldn’t mind?”
“You wear a ring, Illya Nichovetch.”
“Indeed I do and, no, he won’t.”
“He? So, you haven’t changed, have you?”
“Well, I have, but not in ways that count.” Illya dug his keys from his pocket. “Where are you parked?”
“The silver Chevy.”
He pulled into Taste’s parking lot and in front of their tiny garage. Within a minute, a car appeared and parked close by. Nina climbed out gracefully and looked around.
Illya slid out of the truck and went around to fetch the groceries. The ice cream would be a mess if he didn’t get a move on.
Nina saw him and hurried up. “What can I carry?”
He gave her a bag, grabbed the last one and headed for the porch. “Don’t trip when you come in.”
“You’re telling a ballet dancer not to trip.”
“Ballet dancers don’t usually have a furry obstacle course to navigate.” Illya unlocked the door and immediately was surrounded by three cats, each one complaining about the lack of service. “Brunir, Roux, and Fremir, in no particular order since none of them answer to their names anyway.”
She laughed and followed him through to the kitchen. “You have a lovely home.”
“That would be Napoleon’s doing, not mine. He’s got a fabulous eye.” He placed the bags on the table and she did likewise. “However, this room is all mine.”
A moment later, there was a fast knock and Matt entered. “Cara, there is talk on the street of you and a mysterious woman… Oh…” He trailed off at the sight of Nina.
“Mysterious woman, this is Taste’s other chef and my good friend, Matt. Matt, this is Nina. We were in ballet school together.”
“Excusi.” Matt took her hand kissed the back of it lightly. “You danced, Cara?” Matt returned his attention to Illya, who shrugged.
“Only for a few years and never with any great success. My life was elsewhere.”
“Ah, cooking…” Matt arched an eyebrow and laughed. “Have you decided upon a special for this evening?”
“That, as well.” He smiled at Nina. “Excuse me, work always seems to take precedence. Did the lamb smoke well?”
“What if we do a smoked lamb shish kabab with baby vegetables and a butternut squash risotto? And we can serve it with a mint cucumber sauce.”
“As a dipping sauce!”
“Stop it!” Nina said and both men looked at her questioningly. “You’re making me hungry.”
“Eccellente!” Matt laughed. “Where do we start?”
“Would you show her the guest bedroom while I put everything away?” To Nina, he added, ”There’s a guest bathroom across the hall and fresh towels in the cupboard next to the door, in case you want to freshen up.”
“Illya Nichovetch, you are a godsend.”
“Don’t say that too loud, or people will think I’ve hung out another shingle.”
He’d gotten through one bag and Matt reappeared, concern on his face.
“Cara, you must come quickly.”
“What’s wrong?” Illya shoved the ice cream in the freezer and wiped off his hands on a towel.
“Bad news. Your guest room, the ceiling is on the floor.”
“What?” Illya raced past him and ran to the door, only to stop and groan. “I knew using that guy was a mistake.
The soggy ceiling tiles were indeed on the floor and most of the bed. Water dripped from the exposed wiring.
“Cara, Mii dispiace.”
“Me, too, my friend. Well, Nina looks like you get our room.”
“Oh, Illya, I couldn’t.”
“Nonsense, the couch and I are old friends. I probably wouldn’t have even known we had a second floor if the bathroom hadn’t been up there. I just changed the sheets this morning, so it’s clean and it will be more comfortable. You’ll probably end up with cats, though.”
“What about your poor room?”
“I’ll call the plumber tomorrow… the right plumber and have him come out. In the meantime, our bathroom is right off the bedroom and I’ll cut the water to this one.” He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “Right now, I need to get ready for work.”
Illya stumbled into the house and sighed. Blessed quiet. No happy chatter from contented Taste patrons, no banging of pots and pans, just blessed peace and quiet.
Nina had been a charming guest and all the Taste personnel enjoyed chatting with her when Illya couldn’t be there. He made a big effort to check on her frequently, but that put him out on the floor and the other diners wanted their time with him as well. It had been an exhausting, if profitable, evening. Illya reckoned that he’d made enough with the lamb special alone to pay for the repairs to their guest bedroom.
In the morning, he checked his watch and corrected, later today, I will call Sammy and have him come out. Right now what he wanted most of all was to strip and crawl into bed with Napoleon and sleep the next day away. Sadly, none of those options were currently open to him, but at least Napoleon would be home tomorrow. That would make his world so much better.
Illya dropped his knife bag on the coffee table, shut off the lights and collapsed on the couch. It was comfortable and familiar, not quite as good as Napoleon, but still a welcomed feeling. He scrunched around until he got comfortable and pulled the quilt from the back of the couch over him.
He woke to a scream that chilled his blood, then to a blast of pain searing up his leg. Illya sat up and looked around. His eyes were gummy due to sleeping with his contacts in and he blinked, trying to separate reality from dreams. He rubbed his leg and wondered which cat had scratched him. Then he heard loud voices and clawed his way free from the quilt.
He bounded up the stairs and followed the voices into the bedroom.
“Just what the hell were you playing at, Mister?” Nina sounded hysterical. Illya pushed his way in and turned on the overhead light.
Nina blinked painfully at the sudden blast of illumination as did the second person holding a pillow protectively in front of him. Sudden realization made Illya laugh with delight.
“Napoleon? What are you doing here? You weren’t supposed to come back until this afternoon.”
“I finished up early and wanted to surprise you. Surprised?”
“Well, I’m going to say mission accomplished. You scared two years out of me.”
“Illya Nichovetch, who is he?” Nina had dragged the bedcovers off the bed in an attempt to hide.
“He’s my partner, Napoleon. Napoleon, this is Nina.”
“And why is she in our bed?”
“Guest room had a major malfunction.”
“Oh, no… let me guess…”
“Napoleon?” Nina repeated. “Why did you grab me?”
“I thought you were Illya. You sort of have the same build and look.”
Both people looked at him, simultaneously saying, “I beg your pardon?”
Napoleon started to laugh as he edged his way to the bathroom where his robe hung.
Illya laughed again. “I guess what they say is true. In the dark all cats, and Russians, are grey.” He offered Nina his robe and she exchanged it for the bedclothes. “I am sorry, Nina. If I had any idea that this would have happened…”
The woman took a few calming breaths. “It’s okay. It was just such a surprise. I wasn’t expecting to be groped.”
“Welcome to my world.” Napoleon came out of the bathroom, looking much calmer. “And now you know why I stay.”
“I’ll exchange the bed for the couch,” Nina said.
“It might be for the best. We’ll have the guest room cleaned up for you.”
“I’ll make sure of it,” Napoleon added. “It was the least I can do for… um…” He gestured towards Nina’s waist and his cheeked reddened, “that.”
Nina smiled then. “I’ll take you up on that and I can’t wait to get to know you better, Napoleon.” To Illya she murmured in Russian. “Such a firecracker in bed. You’re a lucky man.”
Illya had to agree that she was right.