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Marshmallow Clouds and Evergreen Trees

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Solo is planning to have sex tonight. Illya can tell. From her perch on the cold hotel window sill, she watches the fluid motions of Solo’s shoulders as she lifts each arm to spray on her most expensive deodorant. She watches the glide of Solo’s razor past the knee and up the whole length of her thigh, where she shaves when her stockings will be making only a brief appearance.

The stripes of pink skin being revealed as the razor sloughs off the white shaving cream is satisfying to watch. Illya feels like she might be able to breathe better once the white is all gone, once Solo has finished flinging it all into the sink and the plump, strong swell of her thigh is free in the air. She is nervous with it, with needing to see the inconsistent stripes of white wiped away. Nervous like an itch left unscratched, like a bullet landed just millimeters from a bullseye.

Solo’s eyes meet hers in the mirror. Illya resists the urge to blink, determined to appear unsurprised. This happens all the time. Solo catches her off guard. Illya proudly refuses to admit it. Solo makes it implicitly clear that she sees right through Illya, but allows her her dignity, keeping her commentary limited to a twinkle in her eye. The routine is comforting, by now, to Illya. It’s safe. Solo knows her secrets, but rarely gives voice to them.

It’s the closest thing to friendship Illya has felt since she was a little girl.

Illya fiddles with the volume on the turntable. The last of the shaving cream gets whipped away from Solo’s thigh. The howling Chicago wind outside is drowned out by the stream of the faucet running over Solo’s razor and Dean Martin singing, The sun is red, like a pumpkin head.

Solo opens the top drawer of their shared dresser, moving effortlessly in the fluffy white towel she has transformed into a dress. There’s a bulge in the towel where she has pushed one corner of it underneath the tight wrap of the other half, and it presses the flesh of one heavy, round breast away from the soft tuck of her underarm. Illya keeps looking at the makeshift knot, concerned about it coming undone. But Solo seems less aware of it than Illya is, so unbelievably confident that clothes will stay on her, always so sure that things will work out in her favor. It’s such a powerful belief that Illya has started to adopt it herself. After all, Solo is the woman who threw a silver cross necklace at the person who was reaching for a gun to kill her with. And Illya is the woman who dropped the gun to catch the necklace, and disobeyed orders to work with this strange, charmed American who somehow returned the stolen necklace, the only keepsake of a different time, when Illya had been loved, if only by her mother.

Solo finally selects a lacy, light-blue pair. As she bends at the waist to slip them on, Illya turns around to start the song over again. “It’s a whipped cream day,” Illya sings along, looking out at the snow-locked streets. When she squints, her vision blurring into grey cement blocks covered in thick white lines, the Midwest looks not so different from home.

The song, however, remains incomprehensible. “What is this red, pumpkin head?” she asks. She prides herself on her grasp of the English language. She is good at speaking English, and especially good at understanding it. But this Marshmallow World fascinates her. The words are surreal, and the singer’s slurred, drunken syllables pose an extra challenge. She loves it.

“I believe it’s describing the color of your face when you work yourself into a frenzy analyzing great American literature.”

Illya looks over just in time to see the slow slide of the pale lace over the last few inches of Solo’s leg, until it hugs tightly around the swollen curves of her buttocks. Then the towel drops again to hang modestly down to the tops of her thighs as Solo begins the search for a matching bra.

Solo’s voice is quieter when she says, “Or when you look at my ass.” She doesn’t look up from the drawer.

This teasing. It is a thing Illya has come to understand as a friendly thing. It is very different from the scathing looks and derogatory comments cast at her by the other, better-parented girls at the Bolshoi academy. It is very different from the thinly veiled disappointment of the Bolshoi teachers when they told her that their predictions of her bone development were wrong, and that she was already too tall for the ballet at the age of thirteen. It is certainly different from the sarcastic encouragement of her KGB trainers, who interwove derisive comments about her boyish body with any praise of her strength, flexibility, and speed. It was different from the backhanded compliments of the other women in the special KGB program, from their underhanded, mean competitiveness and their disguised attempts to manipulate her into quitting, which Illya had learned to guard herself from by concealing all traces of vulnerability and shunning anything that resembled friendship.

With Solo, it was never like that. Instead of pulling Illya apart in order to remove her from the competition, Solo pulls Illya apart in order to see her. She learns her secrets so that she can retrieve stolen silver cross necklaces. Illya spent a long time waiting to discover that Solo retrieved her stolen silver cross necklace in order to weaken and kill her. But Illya just keeps spilling more secrets, and Solo just keeps holding them tenderly, with a sparkle in her eyes.

The teasing. It feels to be a part of that tenderness.

Take a walk with your favorite girl, Dean Martin sings. Thinking about how different Solo is than all the other girls Illya has worked with, she says, “You’re my favorite girl.”

There’s a suspended moment, when Solo holds up a black satin bra in the air, pretending to look at it even though Illya can tell that she’s actually lifting her eyebrow at what Illya said. Illya worries that she has said the wrong thing. She crosses her arms and opens her mouth to take it back, but Solo speaks first. “Funny you should say that.”

Solo untucks the towel and drapes it over a nearby chair. Her breasts lie, stiff and soft all at once, upon her gently padded ribcage. They pucker deep red at the tip. Under the tuck of her opposing arm, Illya brushes her thumb across her nipple, thinking of how pale and small it is in comparison.

Solo is like Hollywood movie stars Illya never believed were real people. She’s voluptuous. Like Elizabeth Taylor, like Marilyn Monroe, who always seemed worlds away from the women Illya had touched. Nothing like the starved-looking women changing backstage at the Bolshoi, whose sweat Illya could smell as she helped to clasp their tutu bodices. Nothing like the old mothers of her childhood with the saggy, heavy flesh that felt like decades of cold and pain when Illya would hug them. Nothing like the hard bodies of the assassins Illya had trained to fight. Women like Solo were supposed to be untouchable. They weren’t meant to be real.

Yet Illya has touched Solo. Her body recalls the weight of her hips upon her own when Solo had pinned her to the floor and scolded her for not ever having attended a proper sleep-over. Her scalp remembers the sweetness of Solo’s fingers combing through her hair to braid it before a mission. Her hands remembers the soft give of Solo’s waist, because sometimes, she reaches out to brush her fingers across it, just to see if she’s real.

“Why is it funny?” Illya asks, coldly.

“Oh, because you’re my favourite girl, as well.”

At Solo’s casual, matter-of fact tone, Illya feels her own shoulders relax and drop, though she hadn’t even realised they had crawled defensively up to her ears.

“The world is your snowball, just for a song,” Illya sings along to the recording, hoping that saying the words aloud will help them make sense.

Still rooting around in the underwear drawer, which they only filled last night and which they will empty again tomorrow, Solo sighs. “If only a song was all it took.”

Illya’s chest tightens at Solo’s reference to the work she’ll be doing tonight. She will not be singing songs to earn the trust of their informant. She put on her best deodorant, and shaved all the way up her thighs.

This is one of the few, yet major differences between her and Solo that make it impossible for her to completely trust that they are actually friends. Illya hates liquor, hates the way it singes her stomach like a flame curling a piece of paper, and feels shame and regret where Solo feels hedonistic satisfaction at a night well spent. Illya feels able to breathe only in loose black sweaters and trousers that hide the hard planes of her body, while Solo flourishes in skirts and blouses that hug her curves, and seems to come alive in a pretty dress. Illya loves cabbage, and Solo loves sweets. Illya was taught that she was more useful killing men, and Solo was taught that she was more useful seducing them.

Illya has had sex before. No woman ever got as far as she had in her program without being touched by men and surviving. She remembers it as a violence. As something done to her. Her body remembers it, similar to how her throat burns up and constricts at the memory of having her fingernail pulled out with pliers, to how her toes twist in tingling agitation at the memory of the brand on her thigh.

Solo has sex as though it’s something easy. As though it’s something enjoyable. After months of watching Solo do this, Illya is still uncomfortable whenever it happens.

“I don’t suppose you’d like to help me fasten this,” Solo says. She’s brilliant at asking for things without asking. Illya used to fall unconsciously into obeying her indirect requests, but now she willingly provides what has been not-quite-asked for, while admiring and attempting to emulate Solo’s total evasion of all vulnerability.

Illya stands, allowing the record to finish and spin off into silence until the only sound is the storm outside. She will have to make sure Solo is dressed in enough layers before she goes out. Solo is not experienced in dressing for these temperatures. Something sweet in Illya’s chest unfurls at the thought of lending Solo her coat. She will make sure Solo doesn’t freeze in her silly thin pantyhose and low-cut dresses. She will make sure Solo doesn’t have to huddle close to Illya, demanding her body heat, the way she often does. The sweet thing in Illya’s stomach starts to crackle and crystalize.

When she looks up from her own walking feet, Solo is looking at her with parted, unpainted lips. Her arms are hooked through a white satin bra that’s loosely holding her breasts. Illya smiles at her, fondly exasperated at her partner’s unwillingness to fasten her own clothing.

Illya smiles down at her, a noticeable few inches taller when they’re close like this. Solo’s sharp chin tilts up, and her eyes blaze the blue of copper fire. One of the things Illya treasures about their partnership is that Solo lets Illya see her face without makeup all the time, freshly scrubbed after a shower, or splashed clean with cold water after a frustrating chase. Illya is sure that very few people have seen how blue Solo’s eyes are when they’re not even framed in mascara, liner, and shadow to bring out their color. She is sure that none of the many, many men that Solo has slept with in the last few months has seen her eyes like this.

“Lazy American princess,” Illya mumbles through her smirk as she reaches around Solo’s shoulders to grab the two ends of the undergarment’s back strap. She doesn’t mind too much that Solo’s mouth twitches at the word princess, as though it was a compliment instead of an insult. Besides, Solo’s smile drops when Illya’s cold fingers brush across the heat-softened skin of her back.

Showing off a little, because opportunities to show off in comparison to Solo are rare and precious, Illya fastens the hooks and eyes of the bra without so much as glancing at her work. She just smiles smugly down at Solo, wondering if Solo remembers Illya’s stories about helping the older girls with their tutus, or if Solo just thinks she’s strangely good at fastening hooks-and-eyes for no reason.

After drawing it out a few seconds longer than necessary, Illya lets the strap snap against Solo’s spine. The impact drives a gust of breath out from Solo’s chapped pink lips, and that makes Illya’s smug smile grow. She has always been able to defeat Solo in physical combat, and it is moments like these—moments where Solo is rendered breathless—that help remind her of that.

Satisfied, Illya withdraws her hands, grazing her cold fingers across Solo’s shoulders just to make her shudder again.

But Solo grabs her hands as they retreat, taking Illya’s victory out from under her with the words, “Sexy Siberian handmaiden,” in her smooth, yet simultaneously gravelly, voice.

Illya’s jaw clenches, her palms curling under the scrape of Solo’s long, deep red nails. Solo has called her sexy many times, and it is always infuriating. Illya decided long ago to never try to be attractive. She wants nothing to do with this American word. Solo using it against her makes Illya feel like a helpless child, like Solo is encouraging her pitiful efforts to attract men, like Solo doesn’t believe that Illya could be good at anything she wanted to succeed at. Like Solo doesn’t respect the fact that Illya doesn’t want to succeed at that.

“I hate when you call me that,” Illya grumbles, though they’ve had this argument many times and she doesn’t truly hope to resolve their differences. She pulls her hands away and tries to walk over to the record player.

She is almost surprised that Solo lets her go. “What, Siberian?” Solo asks from her stationary spot by the dresser. “You know I’m from the Midwest, myself. We all have our filthy, frigid origin stories.”

Illya pulls the needle back and drops it on the record. She’s not very precise about it, and the song starts playing in the middle of a verse. Solo is just so frustrating to talk to. Illya is not from Siberia, and Solo knows this. She was born in Moscow. She trained at the Bolshoi. But arguing that fact would be giving into Solo’s distraction tactic, for she knows very well which word it was that Illya objected to, and it wasn’t Siberian.

“Talking to you is worse than this song,” Illya declares sullenly. She feels cold, standing here by the window for just these ten seconds. She returns back to the other side of the room as though she had only left to begin the record, and not to run away.

“You love this song,” Solo reminds her, infuriatingly matter-of-fact. Illya looks up from the floor. Solo’s eyes are still fixed on her, still bright blue, sparkling with white glitter like a cheap American tourist snow globe. She reaches out her manicured hand, and Illya takes it. It is almost always easier to go along with what Solo wants.

When Illya allows herself to be reeled in close, Solo grins. Then she takes several steps backward, dragging Illya along with her until they are standing together near the door to the toilet. Illya is smiling, because sustained exposure to Solo’s smile sometimes does that to her. Then Solo is reaching up, flicking away a blond thatch of hair that has tumbled from Illya’s ponytail and onto her forehead.

Solo’s eyes catch on something higher than Illya’s forehead, and then she’s tilting her head back, looking up at the ceiling above them. “Why, would you look at that.” Illya watches the words scrape out through her taut, arched throat. She doesn’t look up yet, trying first to decide whether Solo is up to something. Solo acts surprised when she is bored, and bored when she is surprised. Illya has a hard time telling the difference.

Considering that she physically dragged Illya to this exact spot, she was probably not actually surprised by whatever it is that has captured her attention on the ceiling.

Giving in, Illya looks up and sees an ugly bundle of green and white dangling by a string from the overhead light. “What is that,” Illya asks flatly, unimpressed. “Has someone bugged us?”

“Don’t tell me they don’t hang mistletoe at the KGB office Christmas parties.”

“Mistletoe,” Illya repeats, thinking. She looks down into Solo’s eyes, which are fixed on her, and then back up at the ugly plant. She refuses to take the bait about KGB Christmas parties, and instead tries to prove to Solo that she’s not culturally ignorant. She’s not from Siberia. “It’s for kissing,” she says, a sort of recitation. When she looks down at Solo again, Solo’s eyes lift dramatically from the vicinity of her neck, as though she was caught searching Illya for weak spots.

“Guess you’d better kiss me,” Solo states, her voice impossibly even.

Illya narrows her eyes. She hates not being able to figure out what Solo is up to. It makes her breath come out uneven, makes her heart race and her hands twitch. “Why.”

Solo shrugs. The soft, muscular flesh of her shoulders cuts into the straps of the bra Illya fastened on her. “I don’t make the rules.” Her hands settle low on Illya’s sporadically expanding ribcage, not quite her waist, and not quite her chest. “But you follow them anyways.”

Grinding her teeth, Illya admits to herself that Solo is right. She follows rules even when she doesn’t understand them. It’s something her grandmother called superstition, her trainers called dedication, and her handlers call useful. She knows Solo calls it stupid and dangerous.

With her breaths heaving under the light cage of Solo’s hands, Illya bends to drop a kiss to the place in Solo’s cheek that turns into a dimple, sometimes. It’s not a dimple now. It’s soft as overripe fruit under her lips, and the smell of her clean skin makes Illya’s head spin like sweet white wine.

Solo’s breath hitches audibly like it does when Illya defeats her in a fight, like it did when Illya let the band of her bra slap against her skin. Needing more than to hear it, Illya quickly clutches her hands to Solo’s bare waist, to hold each lost breath in her palms.

She pulls back to stand tall, smiling down at Solo, who is not smiling at all.

Illya’s body floods with confusion. It burns with needing, though she doesn’t know what it is she needs. She holds on tight to the thick sheets of muscle under the white padding of Solo’s stomach. She just needs to somehow ground herself long enough to figure out how to win, whatever winning is—giving Solo what she wants, or denying Solo what she wants. Something like that.

Solo’s pink tongue darts out to wet the corner of her mouth, a finger’s breadth away from where Illya’s lips had been a moment ago.

Illya’s body feels too hot. It feels like a bad sign. It feels like anticipation, and anticipation has only ever led up to danger, in her experience.

“Surely, you can do better than that,” Solo says, her voice closer to a mumble than Illya has ever heard it.

It is only then that Illya realizes some small part of what is happening. It starts to come into focus in her head, a terrible kaleidoscope suggesting a shape she’s never seen before. It’s like waking up blindfolded and bound to a chair with voices speaking a foreign language all around, like desperately piecing together patterns in the language to find out if you’re about to be killed, or just tortured.

Illya freezes. Her throat closes up and her vision starts to go white as she stares blankly into Solo’s face. She twitches violently away from the gentle scrape of Solo’s nails when they dig deep into her ponytail, but Solo is stronger than she looks. Illya knows this. It’s almost comforting, to have her head held in place by those delicate fingers. To have her head bent down into a bow by such supple strength.

“I know you’ll be so good at it, Illya,” Solo whispers. Their faces are close enough for whispering. Illya can’t breathe, and the prospect of doing a good job of anything is like the promise of oxygen hovering above the surface of the water she’s submerged in.

“Please.” Solo’s voice cracks. The blue of her eyes wavers, watery instead of fiery, and her jaw has the desperate set of someone who is ready to throw her body on the tracks in order to stop a train from leaving town. “Will you please kiss me?”

Illya chokes on a mad rush of feeling, Solo’s vulnerability too terrible a thing to be exposed to the world. It’s too ugly, or too beautiful, or too precious, and Illya has to snuff it out before it blinds her or makes her sick or explodes them both. Shivering, Illya presses her mouth fiercely onto Solo’s before those lips do anything more terrible.

But it’s still terrible. Terrible like all the light in the world bursting in the place where their mouths meet. Terrible like Illya’s skin has been replaced by something new. Her teeth chatter violently even though her face feels like it’s burning up from being pressed against Solo’s.

Then Solo’s lips lay claim to hers in a way that feels to Illya to defy physics. She can’t wrap her head around it. She’s being kissed, and she has never felt so good or so afraid in her life.

Solo’s hands cradle her jaw on either side, holding them steady until Illya’s teeth stop chattering. Illya moans in pleasure so simple it feels childlike.

Solo moans, pretty and musical, in response, almost like encouragement, and the vibration of it against Illya’s mouth makes heat drop lower in her stomach than she knew it was possible to feel sensation. Illya forces her lips to move, to suckle around the wet swell of Solo’s lower lip. She wants to taste everything. She licks her tongue across the ridges of Solo’s lip, and the hint of taste drives her mad with needing to taste deeper, to find more.

“Fuck,” Solo mumbles into the kiss, and Illya bites down hard, clutching to reality with tooth and nail, because she’s the one who made Solo make that noise. She feels insane with it, with making Solo insane. She wants to hear Solo’s breath hitch.

She shoves blindly forward until Solo’s body slams into the nearest wall, and the press of Illya’s weight makes Solo exhale sharply. “Fuck, yes,” Solo says, and Illya feels her chest heaving, feels the softness of her breasts pushing up against Illya’s. “I knew it.”

Illya stiffens, startled by the words into clarity. She forces herself to look, trying to find the teasing glimmer in Solo’s eyes, the proof that this was all a cruel joke, that Solo was just trying to prove a point, to trick Illya into being something that she isn’t.

Or even, that Solo was just doing this to her for the fun of it, for the chase, the way she makes different men fall apart for her every week.

But Solo’s eyes are still closed. Her lashes flutter against her cheek, dark and long even without mascara. She’s impossible to read, always impossible to read. Illya grinds her teeth so hard she can feel it in the center of her skull.

Just when Illya is about to pull herself away and see if any revelations came with the separation of their bodies, Solo opens her eyes. They color flickers between a defensive glaze and a deep, worried blue. Slowly, she opens her mouth, while Illya continues to grind her teeth to dust. “I knew that you would be good at kissing me,” she clarifies without inflection, as though trying to avoid setting off a bomb she doesn’t understand. When Illya continues to stand still, staring into Solo’s face like it’s the only thing that can save her, Solo swallows, brushes her fingers across Illya’s cheek. Illya forces herself not to flinch. “You’re so, so good at it,” she whispers.

On some level, Illya knows that Solo’s manipulating her. That doesn’t stop her from diving headfirst into that manipulation. She can’t help it if Solo knows her better than she knows herself.

Tentatively, too unsure of her own motivations to move with any confidence, Illya leans in to press a gentle, slow kiss to Solo’s forehead. It feels… good. But feeling good has never been a motivating factor for Illya to do anything. Satisfaction, maybe. But satisfaction is different. Whenever Illya got a massage, or took a hot bath, or touched herself, or did any number of the things she knows other people do out of pleasure, it was like scratching an itch. It was for satisfaction, not for feeling good.

Kissing Solo’s forehead is not satisfying. But she keeps doing it anyways. She drags her lips across her hairline, breathing in the spicy fragrance of her five different hair products. She touches her tongue to the lines at Solo’s temple that reveal her thirty years of smiling and grimacing. She’s seeking, but she can’t find what she’s meant to do.

Until Solo moans again, quieter this time. She hitches one of her legs over Illya’s hip, and Illya’s whole body comes alive, her hand reaching instinctually to wrap around Solo’s thigh, to hold her up splayed between the wall and her body.

Solo’s voice is low as a confession, but warm with confidence, as though she’s figured out this bomb’s wiring in the time it took Illya to nose her way into her silky, dark locks. “I’ve wanted you like this since that first time we fought.” Illya bites gently down on the curve of Solo’s ear, her eyes fluttering shut at the memory. She’d pinned Solo down with a knee in her lower back, one hand wrapped around her delicate throat and the other fisted in the bob of her hair. Solo had laughed at her, even with her life very literally in Illya’s hands. Illya had felt something new twist in her stomach. She had learned to attribute that twist to friendship, to admiration.

Her stomach is twisting now. Solo drops her hand from Illya’s face and drags her fingernail across the silver chain of her necklace. Slowly, so slowly, she starts to drag the charm up from where it lies beneath Illya’s sweater. “I’ve made myself come so many times, thinking about it,” Solo says, the words too impossible for Illya to understand. “About you holding me down and giving it to me like you know I need it.”

Illya’s breath stutters out uncontrollably. She grinds her forehead too hard into Solo’s while they both watch the silver cross start to crest over the ribbed neck of her sweater. It appears in spurts, Solo’s fingers teasing as they pull. “Like only you know,” Solo says, a whisper so quiet Illya feels compelled to get closer just to hear, just to taste, just to watch as Solo finally brings the charm fully out to shine in the light of day.

Her words work like magic on Illya’s body. She doesn’t even take in their meaning; they just attach to her limbs like marionette strings. There’s the briefest of moments for Illya to wonder if Solo is a sorceress, but then Solo is surging into her kiss so deeply that Illya can’t think at all anymore.

It feels as though Solo’s body is trying to swallow her into it, like the sea swallowing a ship that’s been blown apart. It crushes her, even though she's the one bearing down on Solo, holding her up against the wall with a fist in her hair and her other hand grabbing the soft rolls of Solo’s waist as Solo curls up to wrap both her legs around Illya’s hips. Solo’s tongue is exploring her mouth, licking it inside out, and her moaning breath tastes better than anything. Illya tries to press their fronts together as firmly as their mouths are. She’s frantic with it, panting with the circular rubbing of Solo’s groin against her stomach, the lace catching on the wool of her sweater, emanating a heat hotter than friction.

Solo’s hands cradle her jaw, the only steady thing in a tilting world.

Then she and Solo are on the bed. Illya doesn’t know whose decision it was to move here, but her hands quake with their sudden freedom. They hover over Solo’s stomach. She looks down at them and sees where the skin on Solo’s side is red from the twisting and pulling of her hand. Illya struggles to swallow, her throat dry now that Solo isn’t flooding her mouth with kisses.

Solo’s hands save her from thought just in time. In her hair, brushing across her throat, curling Illya’s palm over the curve of her satin-clad breast, pushing past Illya’s lips to fill her mouth with deft fingers.

Illya sucks on those fingers, trying to cut her tongue on the nails she’s seen open a thousand locks. Her hips rise into the air, but Solo’s thighs clamp down on them, and then their hips are grinding into each other. Illya’s eyes tear up as she tries not to bite down on the fingers in her mouth. She feels touched in ways she’s never been touched before. It’s invasive. It’s addictive.

“Kiss me more,” Illya requests, her words getting caught on Solo’s fingers. But Solo hears her. Solo kisses her. Solo moans, high-pitched and wanton, better than it ever sounded through a hotel room wall.

Solo slides up the hem of Illya’s sweater to expose her stomach. Panic freezes Illya’s entire body to the bone. She can’t move, turned to stone by the need to be invisible. And maybe she would like to be seen—by Solo. The thought of Solo forcing her shirt off, looking at her and liking what she sees—it’s its own terrifying brand of appealing. But it’s more terrifying than appealing. She can’t breathe. She can’t.

But Solo pulls her sweater down back down to cover her stomach with a deliberate, attentive touch. She smooths down the wool of it, pushing her smile up against Illya’s mouth to say, “I can wait to be greedy.” Always a good spy, always noticing everything. Illya feels more seen than she did with a strip of skin showing.

Smiling because Solo’s smile is touching her and Solo is infectious, Illya runs her hands over Solo’s hips. The taut flesh seems to quiver under her fingers. Illya wonders if her fingers are still cold. It seems impossible that they could be, with how much sweat she can feel dripping down under her clothes.

Illya’s a good spy, too. “You can be a little greedy,” she says, her lips teasing Solo’s, her fingers tracing the lacy edge of her panties. She may not know what Solo wants, but she knows how to edge Solo into asking for it.

Solo’s eyes go dark and she rolls off of Illya and onto her back. Illya follows as though there’s a magnet between their centers that never was there before. Or maybe she just never noticed it.

Solo splays out under her, soft and melting like the sweets she loves so much. Illya reaches hungrily for her face, but Solo grabs her hand mid-air. Looking deep into Illya’s eyes, studying her reactions in a way Illya hadn’t noticed she had started to take comfort in, Solo drags their joined hands between their bodies and pushes Illya’s fingertips beneath the lace of her underwear.

Illya stops breathing, but it doesn’t make Solo stop. And she’s right. Illya’s not afraid. She wants Solo to continue.

It’s odd, the things she’s aware of. The catch of her sleeve on the lace as her wrist pushes past. The sheen in Solo’s eyes, and the string of saliva connecting her lips as she gasps. The satisfying burn in the arm she’s holding herself up with. The hardened peak of Solo’s nipple pressing against her heaving sternum.

And then.

It’s a delayed reaction. Like a burn that doesn’t sink in until minutes later. Illya’s breath bursts out of her and onto Solo’s throat. Her eyes squeeze shut. And then, only then, does she feel the velvet-soft, slick heat enveloping her fingers.

“That’s it,” Solo hums. She withdraws her hand, leaving Illya’s alone to stretch and search for more. She’s not even sure what she’s seeking—just more. Her palm scrapes against coarse hair. Her thumb feels the pulse at the corner of Solo’s thigh. She fits four fingers in where Solo’s folds are drawing her in. “Get them in me.” Solo holds her, one hand at her shoulder, the other at the base of her neck. “Been dreaming of your fingers for ages.”

Illya looks down, to where her hand disappears in the darkness of Solo’s coarse curls and the shadows of her underwear. She lets her longest finger slide down where Solo is wettest. There’s a circle of heat that sucks Illya in without her even trying. “Fuck,” Illya chokes out.

“Yes,” Solo groans, sounding so satisfied. She surges up and bears down on Illya’s finger, taking her inside.

The guttural sound she makes goes straight to Illya’s groin, lighting her up as deep as pain does, but so different.

Illya touches inside her with a second finger, because Solo seems to like it and because it’s addictively hot and tight. She pushes up hard and deep, and Solo whimpers. She whimpers.

Illya does it again, and again. Solo’s whimpers turn to staccato as her breath gets punched out of her. “So good,” Solo whines on the tail end of one, and Illya is amazed that she’s not hurting her, relieved that she doesn’t have to stop. “So fucking good at that, holy fuck. Just a bit more… Curl them, Illya.”

Her ears ringing with Solo’s praise and instructions, Illya curls her fingers. Her hand makes more of a scooping motion, reaching parts of Solo that feel too soft to be human. Solo’s chin points up into the air, her head tipping back, her whole spine arching. Illya tucks her free hand under the dip in her spine, pulling her close.

“Fuck me,” Solo cries. Her voice comes from so deep inside her, Illya can feel it with her fingertips. She pulses and tightens around all of her knuckles. It feels like a kiss. And then Solo’s putting two fingers in Illya’s mouth. Illya sucks them into her throat, crashing her knit brow into Solo’s arching stomach. Solo places a third finger against the seal of her mouth. Illya moans and lets it in, sliding her third finger inside Solo alongside the other two. The stretch is impossible, makes the nerve endings in Illya’s fingers come alive.

Solo makes a wordless sound up at the ceiling. Illya is making her speechless. Illya is making her feel good. It’s the most satisfying feeling in the world.

She thinks she feels Solo spasming in pain around her fingers. Horrified at having done something wrong, she starts to withdraw, but Solo slaps down onto the back of her hand, shoving her fingers in deep and pressing her palm against the hard twitching between her folds. Solo jerks up and down, holding Illya in place, with the barrier of lace separating their hands.

Illya’s hand feels wetter than before. Her lungs feel tighter. She never wants to move.

“Come here,” Solo exhales. Suddenly, Illya wants to move.

Greedily keeping her fingers clutching inside, Illya scoots up to where Solo can kiss her. But Solo doesn’t kiss her. Not at first. With bleary eyes, the way they look when they’re cloudy with liquor, Solo stares Illya down and says, “You’re the most attractive woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.”

That raises a million questions, like weak little sprouts in Illya’s mind begging for attention and sun and water and doubt. But Illya’s foggy-headed, and her hand is still wrapped in silky heat. Plus, Solo is dragging her face down for a kiss.

“I can’t wait to have more of you,” Solo whispers, breaking away to breathe and watching her own hand drag through the ruins of Illya’s ponytail.

Still breathless with wonder, Illya pushes her fingers up experimentally, wanting to see what Solo’s flesh feels like when she’s soft and molten like this. Solo grunts, her head dropping back to the bed yet again. “But you might have more of me, first,” she tells the ceiling.

For reasons she still doesn’t understand, and really doesn’t care to at the moment, that pleases Illya. She lets her fingers slip out, trying to trace each millimeter with the pads of her fingertips. Solo sighs, and it sounds sad, but not disappointed. Illya lets her fingers graze down, brushing across the tops of Solo’s thighs. Her hairless thighs.

Her shaved thighs.

Illya grinds her teeth and pulls away to sit with her knees folded up under her elbows. “Or someone else might have you first,” she says, bitterness pouring out of her mouth, less voluntary than retching. What was she thinking, taking Solo away from the task at hand. Messing around when there’s work to be done. She buries her head in her forearms and tries very, very hard not to think.

She braces herself for Solo to touch her. It’s like bracing for pain, because she’s bristled and wound up so tight that she will inevitably smack Solo away the second it happens. She hopes it doesn’t happen. Even as she hopes it does.

“Illya,” Solo says, close, but not touching. She always was a good spy. “Did it ever occur to you that you’re the one I set out to seduce tonight?”

Such a good spy, figuring out what was upsetting Illya without her even saying it. Figuring out the quickest way to defuse this bomb.

Illya wants to believe her, even though she knows she’s just a bomb to defuse. “No, it did not,” she answers frankly, rubbing her forehead. “You should… get going.”

She feels Solo leave, and resolves to take a cold shower and go to sleep. But then the record player is scraping, and Dean Martin starts singing, and Solo sits down on her other side. “I’m not due to meet our informant for another four hours. And our informant, by the way, is nine years old. Which you would know, if you were reading the files instead of looking me up and down the entire meeting.”

Illya’s head snaps up to glare at Solo. Solo is smiling, and it’s knowing, but not smug. Illya deflates a little as she looks at Solo, lounging so comfortably in her sweat-dampened satin and her wet—Illya knows how wet—underwear. Not in a hurry to leave at all.

“I bought mistletoe, Kuryakin, it’s not my most subtle work.”

Illya has to admit she has a point. She doesn’t know what it means that Solo has just—seduced her. But she knows that it felt good. She knows that she doesn’t want Solo to leave.

“It’s a yum-yummy world made for sweethearts,” Illya recites alongside the singer, hoping the flatness of her tone will make Solo laugh. Will make Solo stay.

Solo laughs. The lines at the corners of her eyes deepen. They make Illya’s heart soar. They always do.

Illya is going to need a lot of help figuring this out. And she hates needing help.

Solo reaches out cautiously, inch by inch, brushing just a single finger over that stubborn lock of hair on Illya’s forehead. “You’re my favorite girl,” Solo tells her.

Illya’s reflexes are quicker than Solo’s, especially when Solo is languid and drunk-looking. She grabs Solo’s hand as it tries to retreat. Breathing shallow breaths, Illya brings Solo’s hand to her mouth. She brushes her lips over her bruised knuckles.

When she looks over across the graceful arch of Solo’s wrist, Solo’s pupils are blown wide open, her lips parted in surprise. Illya will do anything to keep her favorite girl looking like that.