I wrote this Gen story several years ago, and only now noticed that LJ somehow deleted it. Since Midsummer's Eve has just passed, I thought that now would be a good time to repost it to my LJ page, along with a new illo.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
(a comedie of moste tragicke proportions)
The forest was pleasantly cool and quiet, an intimate, sacred place. The man felt safe there. Gentle breezes, rich with the scent of heliotrope and moonflower, rippled the soft, grassy bower upon which he slept. They stirred his soft, silken hair, kissed his ripe lips, and raised tiny goosebumps of pleasure upon his naked skin. Above him, the full moon shone brightly, evening stars sang their songs, and the leaves of the hawthorn trees whispered, the sound of their rustling like words, like a language, a sibilance teasing at the drowsy corners of his mind.
The man sighed, and opened his eyes.
"Ah, what a dream I have had! A most rare vision! Methought I was -- " He giggled, a part of his mind wondering at this uncharacteristic display of mirth. "And methought I had --" He raised himself onto his elbows, chasing the memory of the dream, even as it fled. "Alas, 'tis gone. Yet shall I remember, 'ere the dawn." He sat up, brushing the heaviness of sleep from his eyes, and stretched, arms thrust above his head, languid muscles protesting the command to move.
"Thirsty. I'm thirsty." His voice shocked him. It sounded alien somehow, and oddly pitched, as though it were not his voice, as though it did not belong to him.
He stumbled toward the nearby brook, knelt and drank his fill. The water was icy cold and sweet; he splashed some on his face, enjoying the crisp jolt of returning wakefulness. He felt more rested than he had in years.
The dream was coming back to him in flashes now. He sat back on his heels, laughing at the ridiculous image his sleeping mind had conjured. "How now, mad spirit? Methought I was --" He laughed again; the sound echoed into the silence of Hecate's grove. "And methought I had --" He roared with laughter. "Ah, me. Man is but an ass." A sudden thought silenced his good humor. "Else have I been bewitched -- ?" He reached up, hands brushing the tips of his ears, and was reassured to find them not overly-long, but normal in every respect. "Foolishness!" He shook his head. "'Twas a dream, nothing more."
He stood on shaky legs, mindful of the need to hurry. He was late for -- He stopped, unable to recall what, precisely, he was late for. The realization disturbed him. "I should know these things," he thought. "Details are important." He looked about for his doublet, and the sack containing the -- the coded -- the micro -- ? It, too, was gone. "Alas, a foul blindness doth o'ertake mine eyes," he lamented bitterly, "and antic memory doth cool consent betray."
He reached for his dagger, a finely crafted walther, which he carried in a leather sling beneath his left shoulder. It was missing as well, along with the rest of his clothing. Naked? He was naked? Why hadn't he noticed before? "Chort voz' mil! Where are my breeches?" He stared down at his bare feet. "And my boots?" He raised his fist to the heavens. "Think you I do not see your knavery? 'Tis to make an ass of me, to fright me if thou couldst!" He stormed back and forth, slashing at the underbrush, peering into the laurels in search of his tormentors. "I am not afraid of you! Chertov ublyudski! Govno! Give back my breeches, fey spirits of this faery wood!"
"What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?"
He spun around, moving instinctively into a defensive crouch. His legs wobbled unsteadily at the sudden movement, and he was forced to brace himself against the trunk of a nearby tree in order to keep from toppling over. "Bozhe moi, am I drunk?"
Before him stood a young woman, slender as a willow, her golden, waist-length hair sparkling as though brushed with stardust. Her nut-brown skin shimmered in the moonlight; upon the crest of her shoulders, a pair of gossamer wings fluttered gracefully.
Govno, I must really be drunk." He rubbed his eyes, but when he looked again, the apparition was still there. "What manner of creature art thou?" he asked.
Doe-like brown eyes gazed warmly into his own.
"Answer me, an' you be not real."
She laughed, a musical sound, like the tinkling of bells. "'I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again. Mine ear is much enamouréd of thy note. So is mine eye enthralléd to thy shape, and thy fair virtue's force doth move me.'"
Something was not right. "Your pardon, gracious lady. A fey enchantment be upon me. Yet tell me quickly where mine breeches be, and I will disturb thee no further."
For an answer, the Faery Queen cupped her hands about her lips and called softly, "Peasebottom! Cobweb! Moth and Mustardseed!"
Three faeries of the most pleasing aspect sprang forth from the laurel bushes. The man saw at once that their garments were of a most magickal nature, sewn from velvety green moss and delicate spiderweavings. Their wings quivered, creating a delightful humming sound as they hovered before their Queen.
"Hail, Majesty!" they sang. "You call us and we come."
"Hail and well met, faeries." She glanced about the grove, her features composed into a pretty frown. "But where, pray tell, is Peasebottom?"
"Mistress, we saw him riding 'pon a silver palfrey, chasing yon harlot moon 'cross the sky. We called to him, but he answered us not, except to say 'I will come anon.'"
"How curious." She gestured toward the stranger. "Faeries, attend. Yon mortal, sleeping here this midsummer's night, didst find his garments strippéd from his sight. What know you of this?"
"Nothing, milady. Mayhap Peasebottom hath taken them for a jest."
The Faery Queen considered this. "If this poor mortal hath suffered a grievous injury in our sacred woods, we needs must make amends. Therefore, be thou kind and courteous to the esteeméd gentleman. Feed him with apricocks and dewberries. Garland his brow with primrose and lady's slipper. Dote upon him. And prithee, find him a shirt and trews."
"With pleasure, mistress." Moth's frank gaze inspected him from top to bottom. "Thy kingdom for a codpiece, sirrah? Aye, verily dost thou need one!"
"Not to mine eye," Cobweb murmured appreciatively. Mustardseed nodded her enthusiastic assent.
"I don't need a codpiece! I need breeches! Pants. With a belt and a -- a -- zipper! " His head spun alarmingly. "This isn't right," he whispered. "I don't belong here."
"Shh," the Faery Queen soothed as her faeries gathered 'round him. "'The actors are at hand, and by their show, you shall know all that you are meant to know."
Soft hands embraced him then, drew him down upon the soft grass. Moss and spiderweavings discarded, ripe lips kissed blushing cheeks before moving lower, and lower still, leaving no portion of his all-too-willing anatomy untouched. Warm mouths enclosed him, tasting, bringing him to pleasure again and again before at last giving way. The Faery Queen mounted him then, rode him like a stallion, her slender hips rising and falling, her honey'd hair tempest-tossed, spilling like spun gold across his chest as she came. He cried out as ecstasy o'ertook him, and he released his seed with a roar of joy.
The faeries were gone when he woke. It was dawn, the sun just visible above the eastern horizon. "Ah, me," he sighed happily. "If 'twas a dream, then 'twas a fine one." His body ached pleasantly from the night's revels.
He knew that voice.
A dark-haired man sat beside him in the grove, his back resting against the trunk of a mighty hawthorn tree. His livery was of the finest silk, richly embroidered with jewels. On his head, he wore a glittering crown inlaid with diamonds; a silver ring with a center stone of blue chalcedony adorned his left hand.
"Hail and well met, stranger. How come ye here to Hecate's Grove?"
"Zdes'ya, tovarisch. I've been looking for you."
"For me?" There was something comforting about the man, something achingly familiar. "Do I know you, good sir?"
Worry clouded the man's warm brown eyes. "Don't you?"
I have not slept but an hour this night, and I am sore tired. Give me but a little rest, and I am sure to be better company. Perhaps I will remember you then."
The dark-haired man smiled, and reached out to stroke his companion's fevered brow. "Take your time, tovarisch. I'm not going anywhere."
They sat thus beneath the gnarléd branches of the hawthorn, the dark-haired man keeping watch while his companion slept, as day turned to night, and night to morn.
At last,Illya's eyes opened. "Oberon?" he whispered uncertainly. He scanned his surroundings with a practiced eye: daylight -- close to noon, in fact. A medical tent, a row of portable cots, a dirt floor. No sign of the forest remained; it was as though it had never been. "Perhaps it never was real," he thought with a twinge of sadness. He looked again at the dark-haired man, so hauntingly familiar, the only constant, waiting patiently on the bridge between two worlds, and suddenly he knew. His face lit with relief and joy. "Napoleon."
The medical tent was empty, the doctor and nurse having been called away to assist at yet another birth, the fourth in three days. Outside, it was a lovely August day, the skies finally clear after the weekend's torrential rains. The sound of hammers mingled with the occasional squeal of an amp, as roadies struck the stage and dismantled the huge sound system, restoring Max Yasgur's six-hundred acre farm in upstate New York to it's original, bucolic condition. Stragglers passed by, singly or in groups, singing and chanting as they made their way, bleary-eyed, back to their vehicles:
"This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius --"
"So," Napoleon inquired delicately, "what do you remember?"
"Not much, I'm afraid," a paler-than-usual Illya admitted sheepishly. "Bits and pieces, mostly." He paused to sip some water through a plastic straw. "I met with Mr. Garcia after his set, as instructed. To say he was feeling no pain would be an understatement. Thankfully, he was able to pass me the coded key to his next album, Live Dead, without any trouble."
"Illya! You didn't take anything else from him, did you? Like drugs?"
"Of course not. I am not an amateur in these matters, Napoleon."
"Sorry. Go on."
Slightly mollified, Illya picked up the thread of his tale. "We concluded our business. Then Garcia left to meet with the promoters, to see if they would allow his band to do another set before the festival ended. Apparently the thunderstorm had knocked out the stage lights and short-circuited the sound system during their performance, and no one could hear the music."
"Yeah, I heard it was pretty bad. So Garcia left. What did you do then?"
His face screwed up with the effort to remember. "I'm not exactly sure. I had been up the two previous nights, keeping surveillance on that nasty THRUSH recruiter, and I had a splitting headache. Yes, that's right." He nodded to himself. "A girl with a guitar gave me two aspirin. She said it would put the sunshine back in my step."
Napoleon rolled his eyes. "Oh, Illya, haven't you heard of recreational drugs? Two tabs of LSD is more like it. The doctor said there was quite a lot of drug use going on over the weekend. LSD, mescalin, psylocibin. Just about anything that could be dropped or smoked."
"I am not naive, Napoleon. I didn't take the pills. But there was no danger, I am certain. The girl was barely eighteen, and very nice. I was hungry, and she shared some of her brownies with me--"
The corners of Napoleon's mouth twitched. "Brownies, huh?"
Illya's eyes widened. "You don't think -- ?"
"Alice B. Toklas brownies. They're laced with hashish." Napoleon chuckled. "I warned you that appetite of yours would get you into trouble one day."
"Bozhe moi! An international spy, and I let myself be drugged by a child! I shall never live this down."
"We can discuss your penance later." Napoleon refilled Illya's water cup. "What else do you remember?"
Illya shrugged. "It's a blur after that. I remember holding a lighter in the air while a woman sang about her white rabbit. There was also a man who played the guitar with his teeth -- although, on second thought, I may have imagined that." He thought some more. "I remember swimming in the stock pond with about twenty other people. And a cow. When I came out to dry off, my clothes were gone."
"That explains why the nurse found you sitting outside the medical tent, buck-ass naked, singing Crown of Creation at the top of your lungs. She said you looked like you'd been rolling in the mud for the better part of three days."
That particular flash of memory brought a smile to Illya's face. "There are worse things in life," he murmured.
Illya did not elaborate, but he managed to look rather pleased with himself.
"Incidentally, I bought you some new clothes to replace the ones you lost." Napoleon lifted a tee shirt and blue jeans from the paper bag at his feet. The tee shirt bore the Woodstock logo -- a dove perched upon the neck of a guitar -- and the slogan: 'three days of peace and music.' "Now would be a good time to make our exit, if you can manage it," he suggested. "It would not do to draw too much attention to UNCLE's presence here."
"I can manage it." Illya slid the tee shirt over his head, and stood, a bit unsteadily, to tug on the blue jeans. Napoleon adjusted his own disguise, and the pair slipped away, blending seamlessly with the crowds of concert-goers heading toward the gate.
"By the way," Napoleon said as they crossed the meadow, tall grasses overrun with wildflowers and heavy with the buzz of cicadas, I've got two tickets for the Shakespeare Festival in Central Park next weekend. They're doing A Midsummer Night's Dream with Stacey Keach. Want to go? Assuming we're not busy saving the world or anything."
"I'll pass. I've already seen the play."
"Hmm. If you're sure." They walked on in silence. "Oberon."
"When you woke up. You were disoriented for a moment, didn't know where you were. You called me 'Oberon.'"
"Did I? I don't remember."
"Oh." Napoleon turned away, fishing through his pockets for the car keys. "It must not have been important."
Illya's expression, as always, was inscrutable.