Reason to be Thankful

by Charlie Kirby

Napoleon 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.

With any 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.

He walked into Del's 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. "Welcome home!"

"Judy, my sweet, it seems as if a hundred years have passed since we were last together."

"Napoleon, 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?"

"At this time tomorrow, some lucky lady and I will be tripping the Light Fantastic."

"Sounds 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 anymore."

"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.

That 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.

The phone rang and Napoleon snatched it up. "Solo."

"Why, 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."

"Is there something I can do for you, Elizabeth?"

"Why there 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 soon."

"As tempting 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 out."

"Send that Russian partner of yours instead. He ain't doin' much good around here anyway."

Napoleon 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.

The phone rang again and he very nearly didn't answer it. After three rings, he snatched it up. "Solo."

"Mr. Solo, 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.

Napoleon headed out the door and started towards the elevators.

"Hey, 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."

"Just got 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?"

"Working on it."

"You should 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."


Napoleon froze at the sound. "Is there a problem with me bringing Illya?"

"Well, this is sort of an American holiday and he... isn't exactly... well, you know, one of us?"

"He's not 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.

This 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.

Napoleon got 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.

"Mr. Rangan, I am very well." He bowed slightly to the man, who returned the bow. "And you and your lovely bride?"

"You would make her blush, sir, and she is well."

Waverly appeared 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."

"We will most certainly be there, Alexander. Good day, Mr. Solo." He moved down the hall, a Section Three not far from him.

"Mr. Solo, 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.

"Very good, Mr. Solo. See that you get that written up and filed properly in due course."

"I shall 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?"


"Medical was 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."

"That sounds like him," Napoleon said. "If you'll excuse me, sir, I think I'll go check on him."

"He's in Communications, Mr. Solo." Waverly's voice was soft and Napoleon had no doubts that seeing Illya was exactly what Waverly wanted him to do.

But first, 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?

Instead of 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 open.

Gwen, a 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 angry.

"Napoleon, what can I do for you?"

"Bell, Ross, Franklin, and Towne, I want their records now..."

"Ah... I can't..."

"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.

"It's okay, Gwen, I'll handle this. What's the problem, Napoleon?"

"Bell, Ross, Franklin, and Towne!"

"You know I can't release their files without authorization from Waverly, not even to you."

Napoleon slammed Illya's medical file onto the counter. "They left him for dead!"

McLean's 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."

"Yes, sir," Gwen squeaked and hurried off, obviously delighted to be away from the angry agent she thought she knew.

"Now, Napoleon, you need to take a breath and calm down."

"Did you ever have your partner left for dead, Bob? Would you have ever left a man behind?"

"No, never on my watch..."


"Don't 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."

"So can prejudice, Bob."

Gwen 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 and nodded.

McLean's 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.

Instantly, he flashed a grin at Napoleon. "You're back! I didn't think you'd be in until tomorrow."

Napoleon pushed the mission report towards him, knowing Illya would recognize the cover even upside down. "What happened?"

Illya's 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."

"Who left you, Illya?"

The blue eyes blinked slowly at him and the blond head shook slowly from side to side. "I don't remember."

"Don't cover for them."

"I'm not. There was a flash and that's all I remember until waking the next morning..."

"Medical said it was a miracle that you woke up at all."

Illya 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.

"Don't do this to me, Napoleon, I beg you." Illya's voice was tight. "Please?"

"Do what? They left you. Why? Because you fell behind, because they thought you were dead, because they didn't fucking care to look?"

"And you 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."

"No, you 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.

"I apologize 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 happened?"

"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."

"And that's when you noticed you were an agent short?"

"Thereabouts," Towne snickered and Napoleon glared at him until he fell silent.

"And you 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?"

"It would 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?"

"He is 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.

"That 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 rescue him?"

"There wasn't time --" Ross started.

Napoleon 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."

He waited 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."

"I'm capable of fulfilling my assignments," Illya protested. "Napoleon, don't..."

"One more 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 on.

"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."

Napoleon watched Illya struggle to stand without displaying any outward signs of pain. He almost succeeded. Stiffly, he walked from the room.

"Well, at least one of us will have a good time watching the ball games this weekend," Bell muttered, sneaking a fast look at Napoleon.

"He doesn't own a TV." Napoleon closed the folder and took a deep breath.

"Then what 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 sniggered again.

"He sends 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."

"I didn't know he had family back there--" Bell started.

"Surprisingly 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 told you."

Napoleon 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.

"Illya, it's me, Napoleon."

There was 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.

"Yes, Napoleon?"

"Are you okay?"

"I was doing as you ordered. I was resting."

The man's eyes were blurry enough to tell Napoleon sleeping wasn't the only thing Illya had been doing.

"You know, using vodka to chase down pain meds isn't the smartest move you could make."

"Thank you 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.

The studio 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 only one...

"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.

"I was 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."

"That still doesn't make it right, Illya."

"Nor did 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?"

"Because they aren't you, my friend."

Napoleon looked around. "So what are you doing for Thanksgiving?"

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?"

"Just be 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 sighed.

They exchanged cautionary greetings and the door was opened.

Illya's face 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 together.

"Who dressed you?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"You? You look good and you usually... don't..." Napoleon let his comment trail off as he adjusted Illya's lapels.

Illya 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 going?"

"To dinner in true Thanksgiving style." He gestured to the door and grinned. "After you, my dear Alphonse."

Napoleon released the button of his pants and sat back with a sigh. "I don't think I need to eat again for a week."

"There was quite a lot of food." Illya didn't move from his sprawl in Napoleon's armchair.

"Before you 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.

"Thank you, I think." He settled back down. "And for dinner. You didn't need to do that."

"I wanted to."


Napoleon let 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."

"Which is?"

Napoleon tapped his chest. "Me. You, on the other hand, you know when to talk, when to listen. You're smart, you're funny -"

"I acquiesce to you."

"That as 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."

"You have four agents very angry at you."

"Only four?"

"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 you?"

"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."

"So destitute they live hand to mouth and only manage to survive on what you send them," Napoleon continued, pouring himself another glass of wine.

"You are 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 Elite... "

"Ah, but Bell, Franklin, Towne and... um..."

"Ross... he's the quiet one you have to watch out for." Illya said, holding his glass out for more wine.

"Right... Ross - think you are the sole provider for them and your twelve brothers and sisters."

"Spare me! I have a hard enough time with the five I do have..." Illya was laughing now. "What did you tell them, Napoleon?"

"The saddest of tales, of how you struggle, too poor to even own the necessities, like a TV."

"I don't have a TV because I don't wish to have one."

"Shhh, they don't know that."

Illya 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 off."

"But, baby it's cold outside."

"Excuse me?"

"Sorry, it's 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."

"Napoleon, what would you lady friends say if they knew you'd invited me to spend the night?"

"That I had impesible taste." Napoleon waved his wine glass and Illya sat forward to catch it.

"Impeccable 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.

"And the real reason to be thankful?"


Napoleon's 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."

Illya nodded and held his glass out. " Приветствия, мой друг. Бог спасает Вас и предоставляет Вам легкую дорожку в жизни. (Cheers, my friend. God save you and grant you an easy path in life)."

"С Вами в моей стороне, он будет. (With you at my side, He will)." And for the moment, all was right again in Napoleon's world.

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