Solo waited for the taxi to come to a halt before leaping out, but just
barely. He was so glad to be back in New York he could
cry. He didn't think he was going to
make it home for the holidays, but he did.
It had felt so wonderful to weave his way through the throngs of people
who were clamoring to get out of the city as anxiously as he was to get in.
luck, he would still be able to find a date to share a feast with him at one of
the numerous buffets being offered.
While an outsider might have had a hard time getting a reservation at
this late date, Napoleon knew his connections would not let him down. This time tomorrow, he would be dining on
traditional Thanksgiving fare with a beautiful blonde on his arm, or a red head
or a brunette; he had no real preference at all, as long as she was soft,
obliging, and in the mood for some romance.
and waved to the tailor, one of many agents who fulfilled that role for
UNCLE. Within another moment, he was
strolling into the reception area of UNCLE HQ's agents' entrance as if he
didn't have a care in the world.
"Napoleon!" The brunette brightened when she saw him.
sweet, it seems as if a hundred years have passed since we were last together."
you get worse each time I see you." She
pinned on his badge and let her fingers linger on the lapel. "You have big plans for Thanksgiving?"
time tomorrow, some lucky lady and I will be tripping the Light Fantastic."
nice. I'm stuck with my brother, his wife
and potato bug kids and my mom whining about how I never date any real men
"If she only
knew, my sweet." Napoleon kissed her
hand and waltzed quickly from the room.
He wasn't about to get caught in that snare. The last time some woman had sweet talked him
into coming home with her for Thanksgiving dinner, he'd nearly ended up as the main
course at a shotgun wedding. The only
thing that had saved him had been the timely arrival of his partner and a
suddenly important assignment that had become instantly unimportant again the
minute Napoleon was free and clear.
reminded him. He stopped at the office
he shared with his partner, but the only sign that Illya was in the building
was his overcoat hanging up by the door and a cup of long cold tea.
rang and Napoleon snatched it up.
Napoleon, sughar, you're in!" Napoleon
winced at the syrup-coated sweetness in the voice.
"Hello, Elizabeth, how are you?"
"Ah am fine,
or so Ah have been told by you more than once."
something I can do for you, Elizabeth?"
sure is... what are you doing tomorrow? Ah
have a lovely little family who'd just eat you up, but we'd have to leave
as that is, I am due in debriefing in ten minutes and there is no telling how
long that will run or whether Waverly will turn around and send me right back
Russian partner of yours instead. He
ain't doin' much good around here anyway."
frowned at her comment. "Have a nice
Thanksgiving, Elizabeth, and give your family my regards." He hung up, blowing a relieved breath of air
out. Spending Thanksgiving with
Elizabeth would have amounted to his version of Hell on Earth. Elizabeth was a good dancer and she was
certainly a looker, but she never ever shut up. It was women like her who made him enjoy his
taciturn partner even more. He and Illya
could sit for hours in companionable silence, not needing to fill the time with
pointless conversation. At the same
time, Illya could be an eloquent conversationalist.
rang again and he very nearly didn't answer it.
After three rings, he snatched it up.
Mr. Waverly would like to see you now."
Mr. Waverly's secretary was all business... until you got her behind the
file cabinets down in Research. Napoleon
had fond memories of that afternoon.
"I'm on my
way." Napoleon adjusted his tie and
looked down, his eye catching the roster for the long weekend. He wasn't surprised to see Illya's name among
the unfortunate few who had pulled duty.
headed out the door and started towards the elevators.
Solo!" He turned to see who was hailing
him. Joe Tooney ran up to him, coattails
flapping. "Wasn't expecting to see you
Stateside for another couple of days."
in. There was a last minute cancellation
and here I am." Napoleon bounced on his
toes and grinned.
"You got big
plans already I take it?"
come by later, me and the guys have got a little holiday cheer in."
"I need to
meet with Waverly, but then I'll find Illya and we'll be along."
froze at the sound. "Is there a problem
with me bringing Illya?"
is sort of an American holiday and he... isn't exactly... well, you know, one of
human? Last I knew he bleeds the same
color as I do."
"You know what
I mean, Napoleon, he's just... you know...different from us."
"You know, I
never noticed. Thanks for the invite,
Joe, I'll let you know." The elevator
arrived and Napoleon stepped into it.
constant attitude towards his partner always buffaloed him. Ever since the Russian had arrived at the
New York office, he'd done nothing less than give his all. He fought alongside them, watched their backs
and they didn't even have the decency to drink with him. He wondered if Illya had faced the same animosity
in London and Paris as he did here.
Napoleon knew that some of Illya's reticence around people was
environmental and part of it was cultural.
Here he was odd man out. When Napoleon
had journeyed to the USSR, he'd felt the same way, at least until the people had
warmed to him. Here no one seemed to
feel similarly inclined to warm to Illya.
off the elevator and the soft voice of Harjeet Rangan greeted him almost before
he cleared the car.
"Ah, my dear
Mr. Solo, how are you?" The head of the
Asian section of UNCLE was just coming from Waverly's office.
I am very well." He bowed slightly to
the man, who returned the bow. "And you
and your lovely bride?"
make her blush, sir, and she is well."
at the door and sent a puff of smoke in Napoleon's direction. "We will see you and Daya tomorrow for dinner
then. Around seven, I should think."
most certainly be there, Alexander. Good
day, Mr. Solo." He moved down the hall, a
Section Three not far from him.
your report?" Waverly prompted him and Napoleon followed Waverly into his
office, closing the door behind him.
He sat at
his usual spot at the table and spoke automatically, skipping the minute-tominute
details. That would come later in
his report. Right now, Waverly wanted to
have the big picture. As he talked, he
watched Waverly's face. The reactions
were there, but only barely. His bushy
eyebrows would crawl up and down, depending upon the level of approval.
Mr. Solo. See that you get that written
up and filed properly in due course."
tend straight to it." He stood and
started to the door. "Unless I can
convince Mr. Kuryakin to do it for me."
Napoleon grinned, letting Waverly know it was just a joke.
"How is your
Russian friend doing?"
sparse on details; they have only begrudgingly cleared him for light duty. I would have preferred he rest the next few
days, but you know how exceptionally driven he is. He also allowed that as this was not a
holiday for him, it would be better for him to take the place of someone who
had family waiting."
like him," Napoleon said. "If you'll
excuse me, sir, I think I'll go check on him."
Communications, Mr. Solo." Waverly's
voice was soft and Napoleon had no doubts that seeing Illya was exactly what
Waverly wanted him to do.
he headed to Medical. It took some
flirting and a promise of a date to get a peek at Illya's last medical
report. He could have ordered it, but he
preferred to let them think they had a choice.
He took it
to an empty exam room and started to read.
The more he read, the angrier he got.
By the time he closed the back cover, he was seething. How could a man treat another man like that,
much less a fellow agent?
Communications, he headed for Personnel.
By the time
he got there, seething had gone to white hot rage. He barely allowed time for the door to slide
luscious redhead with whom Napoleon had spent more than a few happy hours,
smiled as she recognized him and then her face sobered. Training took over and Napoleon watched her
hand drift towards the panic button. At
the very least, an angry agent could be a handful and he was much more than
what can I do for you?"
Franklin, and Towne, I want their records now..."
"Now!" Napoleon's fist came down and Gwen jumped
back, away from the counter. Almost
instantly McLean was there. He was an
old battle-scarred Section Two retired to Personnnel.
Gwen, I'll handle this. What's the
Franklin, and Towne!"
"You know I
can't release their files without authorization from Waverly, not even to you."
slammed Illya's medical file onto the counter.
"They left him for dead!"
eyes dropped to the report and back up to Napoleon's face. "Gwen, please get those files. And the Hell's Bells Affair file as well."
Gwen squeaked and hurried off, obviously delighted to be away from the angry
agent she thought she knew.
Napoleon, you need to take a breath and calm down."
ever have your partner left for dead, Bob?
Would you have ever left a man behind?"
on my watch..."
confront these guys until you know the whole story, Napoleon. You and I both know that in the heat of a
battle, stress can make men do strange things."
returned and placed the files down on the counter and stepped away. The top file was sealed with an "Eyes Only"
stamp on it. Napoleon picked up the pile
words rang in his ears. Even though
Napoleon was the guy in charge, he'd gotten there by listening to people,
heeding advice when his gut screamed something else. Sometimes listening was a mistake; other
times it saved him from grave errors.
He holed up
in his office and carefully reviewed the mission and the personnel files. He'd just closed the last one when the door
slid open and Illya entered. His face
was bruised and a white bandage peeked out from behind his bangs.
he flashed a grin at Napoleon. "You're
back! I didn't think you'd be in until
pushed the mission report towards him, knowing Illya would recognize the cover
even upside down. "What happened?"
smile faded. "I believe the phrase is
that I zigged when I should have zagged."
He sat down at his desk, the stiffness of his movements not lost on his
partner. "I am fine, Napoleon. I have been much worse."
eyes blinked slowly at him and the blond head shook slowly from side to
side. "I don't remember."
not. There was a flash and that's all I
remember until waking the next morning..."
said it was a miracle that you woke up at all."
reached for a report folder and flipped it open. "Medical has been known to over-react at
times. It's fine, Napoleon; I'm fine."
"Really?" Napoleon suddenly moved, knowing Illya would
have no choice by to react and when he did, it was with a hiss of pain and a
grimace. "Yes, I'd say you are in fine
shape, partner mine." He reached for
Illya's intercom, leaning down to speak into it. "Will Agents Bell, Ross, Franklin, Kuryakin, and
Towne report to Conference Room Five immediately?" He clicked it off and Illya caught his hand.
this to me, Napoleon, I beg you."
Illya's voice was tight.
what? They left you. Why?
Because you fell behind, because they thought you were dead, because
they didn't fucking care to look?"
think an official reprimand is going to change that? That they will be more accepting of me after
a black mark has been placed in their files, something that might be the
difference between promotion and dismissal?"
"I have to
do something, Illya."
don't. Just let it be."
"I can't do
that." Napoleon stood. "Come along when you see fit." He wasn't surprised when Illya took his usual
position at his side.
He took his
place at the head of the table and slipped his game face into place. Each of the other agents arrived, all sitting
a fair distance from the Russian agent, each one carefully averting their eyes
from his bruised countenance. Illya sat
is if he was the only one in the room.
for not discussing this with you sooner, but I only just arrived back into the
country. Imagine my surprise when
Waverly told me of this." Napoleon
dropped the mission file onto the desk and Franklin jumped slightly at the
noise it made against the table. "Imagine
my shock and embarrassment at being told that my own agents acted in a purely
selfish and self-serving manner, more concerned for their own necks than the
well-being of a fallen comrade..." He
paused and looked over at Illya with a smirk.
"No pun intended by that. What
"We must have
tripped a wire going in." Bell spoke
without lifting his eyes from the table.
"The whole place was a zoo. We
got separated and didn't regroup until we were back outside."
when you noticed you were an agent short?"
Towne snickered and Napoleon glared at him until he fell silent.
just left? No attempt to go back and try
to find the missing agent? You just high
tailed it back to HQ and forgot to mention it to the in-charge agent that not
all of you were present and accounted for?"
have been suicide, sir." Franklin was a
bit braver and actually dared to meet Napoleon's eyes, for all of a half
second. "There wasn't time to file a
report; the minute we got back, we were sent out again to a different location. We all thought the other had said something."
"So this was
a breakdown in communication and it was only by some miracle that Agent
Kuryakin regained consciousness enough to call for back up?"
right, Napoleon, we were out-numbered five to one at my last count. They had superior fire power and a
familiarity with the location that we lacked.
There was no time for anything other than snap decisions. I would have done the same." Illya folded his hands in front of him,
looking like a school boy awaiting a reprimand.
wouldn't have stopped me... and that wouldn't have stopped you from going back
for any one of them."
"No." Illya's voice was soft now.
"So, why would
Mr. Kuryakin have risked his hide to rescue you and you didn't even bother to
assess his condition? Or attempt to
wasn't time --" Ross started.
slammed his fist down onto the table.
"There is always time for one of our own. That's what separates us from THRUSH! That's what makes us the good guys! That's what makes us just that much better
than every other thieving, lying maniac who's trying to take over the
world! That's why there is the word United
in our name, gentleman. It's not the
'Only the ones we think deserve to be part of us' Network Command. It's all of us, Russian, Chinese, French,
German, you name it! We are all in this
together." He glared at each in
turn. "I suggest you contemplate that
while you tackle your assignments this weekend."
for the wave of protesting murmurs to go through the group. "All, except you, Illya. Mr. Waverly wants you off duty and I tend to
agree with him."
of fulfilling my assignments," Illya protested.
word, Kuryakin, and I'll have you relieved of duty and confined to a bed in
Medical so fast your head will spin, do you understand me?" Napoleon snapped and Illya met his glare head
"You have no
right --" he began.
"I do, Mr.
Kuryakin," Waverly's voice interrupted.
"Go home, son." Only Napoleon
didn't look up at the ceiling speaker.
He knew the minute he made that announcement Waverly would be listening,
seeing how he handled himself with this.
"The rest of
you will find your assignments posted," Napoleon continued.
"I was supposed
to catch a plane in two hours." Bell groaned.
"Then I am
assuming the person lucky enough to get your seat will be suitably thankful to
you. Illya, you're dismissed. Go home.
This doesn't involve you."
Illya struggle to stand without displaying any outward signs of pain. He almost succeeded. Stiffly, he walked from the room.
least one of us will have a good time watching the ball games this weekend,"
Bell muttered, sneaking a fast look at Napoleon.
own a TV." Napoleon closed the folder
and took a deep breath.
the hell does he spend his money on?" Towne snapped, still annoyed with the
change in his plans. "He sure as hell doesn't
spend it on clothes or women." He
most of it home to his family. Because
of it, they are able to have a warm room in which to sleep and one hot meal a
day without his mother or younger brothers having to do hard labor. As the oldest son, it's his responsibility to
provide now that his father cannot."
know he had family back there--" Bell started.
enough, even Godless Communists have families that they love and care for.
That's why he pulls extra shifts and takes evening and weekends when he can." Napoleon reached for the duty roster. "And if you had asked, I'm sure he would have
walked up the narrow stairs to Illya's studio, avoiding the collection of
debris and other objects. There was
enough light to pick his way clear without tripping. It was obviously a place where children
preferred to play when the weather turned colder outside. He shivered beneath his top coat and muffler;
not that it was much warmer in here. Why
Illya didn't move from here was beyond him.
He stopped in
front of one door of many. It looked no
different than the others. He tapped on
it and waited. He could hear the sound
of movement inside the room. These doors
really wouldn't be much protection if someone really wanted to break in.
"Yes?" The voice was muffled and Napoleon knew Illya
would be standing just to the side of the door, weapon drawn, waiting.
some noise, the alarm system being disengaged.
Illya obviously had settled in for the night and Napoleon realized it
was past nine New York time. The door
opened and a disheveled Kuryakin stood there.
"I was doing
as you ordered. I was resting."
eyes were blurry enough to tell Napoleon sleeping wasn't the only thing Illya
had been doing.
using vodka to chase down pain meds isn't the smartest move you could make."
for pointing out the obvious, but as you know, it also makes them work just a
little bit better..." Illya stepped aside
and Napoleon entered.
was such that Napoleon could have fit two of them into his penthouse, but it
was clean in spite of being cluttered.
The mess was more derived from someone who was never here long enough to
clean or too proud to have someone do it for him. Napoleon could understand. This was Illya's place, his sanctuary. As far as Napoleon knew, he was the only one
Illya even permitted past the door. Then
he caught sight of a nylon stocking peeking out from beneath a stack of
magazines and grinned. Well, almost the
"I was just
headed home and wanted to see how you were doing."
"There is a
marvelous invention, Napoleon. It's
called a phone." Illya looked around,
moving his whole body as he did. "And I
know there's one in here somewhere." He
sat on the second hand sofa and leaned back, sighing.
worried about you." Napoleon didn't move
from the small entryway.
"It is not
the first, nor will it, I fear, be the last time I am injured on the job. What those agents did was regrettable, but
they were scared and for all they knew I was dead."
doesn't make it right, Illya."
relieving me of duty do me any favors.
When I return on Monday, the hostility will still be there. It's always been there. It will continue as long as our countries
remain on the political opposites of the spectrum."
"No one was
more angered by the Communist Party than I was and I got over it; why can't
they aren't you, my friend."
looked around. "So what are you doing
Illya made a
sweeping gesture with his hand. "You are
looking at it."
"No." Napoleon made a snap decision. "Be ready at five tomorrow night."
"Ready? For what?"
ready." He started to walk from the apartment. "We are going out."
"But--" Illya started to protest, but Napoleon was
already out the door and headed down the stairs. He had a lot of work ahead of him.
It was hard
to believe that twenty four hours had passed quite as quickly as they had as
Napoleon headed back up those obstacle riddled stairs. It was a crap shoot whether Illya would be
ready or not - or even conscious. He
wouldn't put it past his partner to have drunk his way into a coma by now.
He tapped on
the door and held his breath, half expecting nothing, then he heard noise and
exchanged cautionary greetings and the door was opened.
looked better, although it was still bruised and slightly swollen. He was wearing a light gray suit, one
Napoleon had not seen before, and he had to admit his partner looked well put
"I beg your
"You? You look good and you usually... don't..." Napoleon let his comment trail off as he
adjusted Illya's lapels.
scowled at him. "Napoleon, just because I
choose to wear certain clothes at work, it does not mean that I have no other
choices. I just prefer them. Now do you want to tell me where we are
in true Thanksgiving style." He gestured
to the door and grinned. "After you, my
released the button of his pants and sat back with a sigh. "I don't think I need to eat again for a
quite a lot of food." Illya didn't move
from his sprawl in Napoleon's armchair.
got started, you mean." Napoleon smirked
as he reached for his wine glass. "You
are truly a man of great capacity." He
held it up to Illya and after a moment, Illya managed to sit up enough to clink
his own glass to it.
I think." He settled back down. "And for dinner. You didn't need to do that."
his head drop back and he regarded his ceiling for a moment. "It wasn't what I'd planned. When I got in, I kept trying to decide who to
invite. One woman talks too much, the
other makes you pry conversation from her.
The next one is too clingy or too needy or just too much of everything
combined. They all seem to want
something that I don't want to or can't freely give."
tapped his chest. "Me. You, on the other hand, you know when to
talk, when to listen. You're smart,
you're funny -"
well. The more I thought about it, the
less I wanted anyone else as a dining companion tonight."
"Is that why
you sidelined me?"
"Not at all
- that was all Mr. Waverly's doing, I was just his lap dog."
four agents very angry at you."
"It would be
rude of me to be angry when you have wined and dined me. And I will admit that I did not hate having a
day to myself to rest."
"You need to
take better care of yourself, partner.
What would you poor aged mother and poor crippled father do without
"What? My mother is hardly old and I challenge you
to call my father a poor cripple to his face.
He'd wipe the floor with you."
destitute they live hand to mouth and only manage to survive on what you send
them," Napoleon continued, pouring himself another glass of wine.
truly drunk, my friend. My parents have
two homes, a car, and live very nicely on Papa's retirement. They are the poster children for the Soviet
Bell, Franklin, Towne and... um..."
the quiet one you have to watch out for."
Illya said, holding his glass out for more wine.
- think you are the sole provider for them and your twelve brothers and
me! I have a hard enough time with the
five I do have..." Illya was laughing now. "What did you tell them, Napoleon?"
of tales, of how you struggle, too poor to even own the necessities, like a
have a TV because I don't wish to have one."
don't know that."
grinned. "You, my friend, have a devious
and cunning mind. I knew there was a
reason I liked you." He sat
forward. "And now it's time for me to be
it's cold outside."
a song. Listen, you will never find a
cab tonight and it's too cold to walk it.
I have a spare room that you are welcome to."
what would you lady friends say if they knew you'd invited me to spend the
"That I had
impesible taste." Napoleon waved his
wine glass and Illya sat forward to catch it.
and perhaps it would be a good idea if I stayed. There's no way of knowing what sort of
mischief you might do yourself if left to your own devices."
"Exactly." Napoleon grinned again and retrieved his
glass. "To you, partner. Thanks for your friendship."
"And I thank
you. It is a pleasure, an adventure and
a never-ending source of entertainment."
They clicked glasses and both settled back.
real reason to be thankful?"
smile changed now, becoming warmer, less frivolous. "That we both recognize our friendship for
what it is - a blessing, a gift, and something shared by few others."
and held his glass out. " Приветствия,
мой друг. Бог
спасает Вас и
(Cheers, my friend. God save you
and grant you an easy path in life)."
"С Вами в
он будет. (With you at my side, He
will)." And for the moment, all was
right again in Napoleon's world.