"Exploding rabbit feet, what is THRUSH going to think of next?"
Illya Kuryakin's head bobbed up at Napoleon's statement. He blinked to refocus his eyes, then pulled off his glasses and rubbed his temple. "I'm sorry, what?"
"THRUSH's latest scheme - exploding rabbit feet. What will they try next? Booby trapped four leaf clovers? Mind-controlling horse shoes? Talk about bad good luck." Napoleon scribbled his signature at the bottom of the report and pushed it aside. "THRUSH just seems to be reaching these days."
"Bad good luck?"
"Don't tell me you don't have superstitions back in the Soviet Union?"
Illya snorted and returned to his own work. "Of course we do, literally thousands of them. We have gypsies, after all. There is very little else to do on those long winter nights after you've had your fill of everything else." Illya let just the slightest hint of a smile escape.
"Which one is your favorite?"
"Never sing or whistle on an empty stomach."
"Why should you not do it or why do I like it?"
"It is said to chase money away if you do it on an empty stomach and for some reason, it always appealed to me. Of course, the last thing on my mind when I'm hungry is singing."
"Not that your own stomach is ever empty for very long."
"That is my life's goal." Illya slipped his glasses back on and returned to the report he was studying.
For several minutes, they worked in silence and then Napoleon ventured, "Do you have a good luck charm?" He got up from his chair and walked to his partner's equally file-laden desk. Gathering up an armful of papers from the desk side chair, he relocated them to the floor and sat down.
"Excuse me?" Illya gave him a sour look.
"Do you have a good luck charm?"
"Napoleon, we are supposed to be working here. Mr. Waverly is never going to let us out of here if we don't get this backlog sorted out. I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I'm bored, don't make it any worse."
"I have a good luck charm." Napoleon traced a lazy circle on the scarred wood of the desktop. "I try to keep it with me always. Do you want to know what it is?"
"Are you even listening to me?" Illya flicked an annoyed glare at him and then back down to his paperwork.
"You could never even guess, anyways. Not in a million years." Napoleon took a corner of the report Illya was reading and started to drag it away from him.
"Napoleon!" Illya's hand snapped out to slam down on the paper.
"Guess." Napoleon grinned. "If you're right, we'll go to Georgio's, my treat. If you're wrong, you treat."
"Completely, but only if you're right."
"Am I permitted to ask a few questions prior to my conjecture?"
"I'm a sporting man, I'll allow three questions."
"Very well, but I should warn you now that I am very hungry."
"Your first question?"
"Is this an item for public or private use?"
"Well, it does have some public access, but as of late, it's exclusivity has come into play."
"I see...is this item an antique, or something more modern?"
"It's current and that's as far as I'll go. Not old not new, just current."
Illya chewed on his lip for a moment, tapped the eraser of his pencil against the desk blotter.
"You still have one more question or will you admit defeat?"
"I will never admit defeat to you or anyone else. Is this item treasured or merely convenient as a good luck charm?"
"Extremely valuable and held in much regard."
Illya sighed, switched to chewing the other side of his mouth and thought some more. He then closed the file folder and pushed it aside as he stood.
"Going somewhere or giving up?" Napoleon was grinning again, even as Illya leaned forward.
"Getting ready to leave for dinner actually. Is it...?" he whispered something into Napoleon's ear and chuckled as his partner's cheeks flushed. He sat back and reached for the phone. "I thought as much. Reservation at six fine with you? And make sure you bring lots of money, I'm very, very hungry..."
"You weren't joking, were you?" Napoleon watched as the last bit of zabaglione disappeared into Illya's mouth. His partner's capacity for food amazed even him at times. Still Illya took such obvious delight in the meal that Napoleon didn't begrudge him. After all, he had lost fair and square.
"I never joke when it comes to food, my friend." Illya dabbed his mouth and hid his smile as Napoleon's knee pressed again his. The tables in Georgio's brought a new meaning to the definition of intimate. They were probably the only male couple there. The other ones were crowded by men and women, all enjoying the soft music, delicate lighting and carefully prepared food.
"How long have you known?" Napoleon poured the last of the wine into their glasses.
"A couple of years. After you told me."
"I told... I never..." Napoleon's brow furrowed as he thought furiously. "When?"
"You don't remember? It was winter in the Carpathians. THRUSH had me in that cell."
"How could I forget? We almost lost you then. But you were practically out of your mind with all those drugs they were feeding you. Took us weeks to get them out of your system."
"But I remember quite clearly you suddenly being there, reassuring me that you would let nothing happen to me because I was your good luck charm." Illya smiled and dropped his gaze to the table, his voice lowering. "That was practically the only thing that kept me going in the days following. That and knowing you were right beside me."
He fell silent and Napoleon closed his eyes, drawing not upon the memory of his partner, so close to death, but of the moment when his eyes finally opened and stared at Napoleon with both recognition and determination. He lifted his wine glass. "To surviving... and to good luck charms, in whatever form they take."
"Nostrovia." Illya's smile was knowing, his eyes were bright, and Napoleon had a sense that this was about to bring a whole new meaning to good luck charms, but he had no idea what it could be. If he was a superstitious man, he'd have knocked wood, but he didn't believe in such thing. He believed in the tangible, the accountable, and, he smiled again, his partner. Maybe he was superstitious ,after all...