The Fruitcake Affair

by Charlie Kirby

There were few things Martha Waverly enjoyed more than the holiday season. It meant children and grandchildren being more accessible, it meant lovely secrets, it meant beautiful gold, red, and blue ornaments on the tree. But most of all it meant baking - a lot of it. Even at her age, nothing made her quite as happy as knowing Alexander was safely tucked away in his study, listening to music and sipping brandy, while she puttered in the kitchen.

Every year, her list seemed to grow by a name or two, even as old familiar ones left it. It made her sad to hear Alexander 'regret to inform her' that so and so had passed on to their just reward. Then that little devil Mr. Solo would wink at her or Mr. Kuryakin would give her 'one of those' smiles and she'd be warm from the tip of her toes to the tip of her nose. Those little rascals; she knew they were agents, that they could be cold blooded killers, but then she would remember watching Mr. Solo sitting on the floor with the grandchildren reading a very animated Visit from Old St. Nick. Or she'd watch Mr. Kuryakin playing in the snow with the same grandchildren and smile.

She closed the last tin with an air of accomplishment. Nine other identical tins sat on the counter, just waiting for Mr. Waverly's Section Three helper to take them to the car the next morning. It was time, time to spread the joy, time to make people joyful the world 'round. It was time for fruit cake! And this year, it would be very special!

"Illya, did you put in for that police car in Barcelona?" Napoleon asked around the pencil he was chewing on.

"No, I thought you said you were going to take care of it. Said it would be a trade off if I took that hacienda fire in Madrid. You know if we ever leave UNCLE, we could hire ourselves out as wreckers. We seem to have a talent for destroying things." Illya pushed his glasses back up his nose with an ink-stained thumb.

"I just don't see why we have to do all this paperwork before the end of the year."

"Because we've put it off until now and there's a contingent of armed accountants posted outside our door making sure we don't leave until our last expense report has been filed. I say we call THRUSH and see if they're taking recruits."

"You're joking... please tell me you are joking?"

"I never joke with an armed co-worker." Illya reached for the stapler and tried to staple the wad of paper together. When that didn't work, he pulled out the jammed staple and paper clipped the papers instead.

"But I have a date tonight," Napoleon protested, reaching for another STJ-79-12-59.

"And I don't?" Illya checked his watch and sighed. "Didn't?"

The phone rang and Napoleon beat Illya to it with a second to spare.

"Solo here."

"Mr. Solo, Mr. Waverly would like to see you, sir."

Napoleon grinned and waved a joyful goodbye to his partner even before he cradled the phone. Illya sighed and let his head flop forward in despair.

"I'm on my way, Miss Stein, thank you." Napoleon hung up the phone and walked up behind Illya, settled his hands on the Russian's shoulders and massaging the tight muscles under them. "Tough break, old man, but duty calls and all that."

"Napoleon, have you ever seen a man stapled to death? It's a gruesome sight."

Napoleon's good mood lasted only until he walked into Mr. Waverly's office and saw Mrs. Waverly and a near dozen festive tins sitting there.

Oh no, I've been fingered for fruitcake duty... damn, he thought as he went to the woman and took her hand, placing a whisper-soft kiss to the back of it. "It's so good to see you again, Ma'am." She blushed like a school girl and Napoleon beamed at her. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"

"My wife has gotten it into her head that she would like to accompany her fruitcakes this year, Mr. Solo."

"I beg your pardon, sir?"

"I've got a bit of the roaming urge this year, Mr. Solo." She looked over at the map and sighed. "Do you realize that my Alexander has been to every country in the world, nearly every large city and then some, yet here I've sat, in New York, in our little house, the proverbial country mouse? For a long time, I've taken care of it all and been happy to do so, but this year, I feel a need."

"You know I can rarely dissuade my wife when she gets into these moods, Mr. Solo, that's why I want you to accompany her. Arrange for a pilot and have him file the necessary flight plans. Bring someone along who can watch your back while you are watching my wife's."

"I have just the man for the job, sir."

Illya sat at the controls of the small UNCLE Lear jet and went through a final check list. The plane was kept in the best of conditions, but he preferred to rely upon his own observations. And it was, after all, required that he make his own pre-flight check.

At first, he'd been overjoyed to be given a reprieve from the paperwork. The joy turned to resignation when he learned of their mission. Every year, Mrs. Waverly passed out fruitcakes to the four other headquarters and five of the major offices. It was so routine that a couple of junior agents usually handled the job, but with Mrs. Waverly along, Illya could understand the need for extra security.

"You look good to go, Illya." Joseph, one of the technicians assigned to the care of the jet, stuck his head into the cockpit and Illya nodded. "You got your flight plan filed?"

"All official, just as the FAA likes it." Illya stood and pulled his jacket back on. "Now all I need is our guest and we'll be off. How is the weather looking over Tokyo?"

"Dicey, I'd steer clear for the next twenty four hours."

"If I have that long. I've no idea what sort of a schedule we're on here."

"Well, fly safe, old friend." He shook Illya's hand and departed. Illya walked back into the body of the small plane. The luggage had been loaded, the fruitcakes, amid a plethora of fruitcake jokes, were safely stowed in the galley.

"Illya, we're here." Napoleon entered, carrying a large briefcase, and looked around until he spotted his partner. "Mrs. Waverly is just saying her farewells to the grandchildren. How are we doing here?"

"All set."

"You want to give me a hint as to our course?"

"First stop is London and then on to Paris. You can wine and dine her, I'll need to sleep."

"Sounds like a plan." Illya's gaze dropped to the suitcase. "I hesitate to ask."

"She has her knitting; I have our unfinished vouchers."

"A case of we can run, but not hide?"

"So it would appear." A noise drew his attention and Napoleon glanced out the hatch. "Ah, here she comes."

Two Section Threes helped her up the gangway and into the plane. She paused at the door and sighed happily. "I feel so free!" she announced to the two men and they nodded politely.

"She's all yours, Mr. Solo. Mr. Waverly said to take care, the pair of you."

"We will. See you in a few days." Illya waited for them to withdraw before shutting and locking the hatch into place. "If you'd both take your seats, I'll let the tower know we are ready."

Napoleon escorted her to a seat and made sure she was strapped in before walking forward to the cockpit as Illya was pulling off his jacket and pulling on a pair of sunglasses. "Could you use an extra pair of eyes taking off?"

"I wouldn't refuse them. I hate taking off into the sun. " Illya passed him a set of headphones. A barrage of chatter filled his ears the moment Napoleon settled them onto his head. He grinned and leaned forward, toggling on a switch. "All ready to go back there?"

"Oh my yes!" Mrs. Waverly was like a child being shown a candy house. She was practically wiggling with excitement.

"UNCLE seven fine niner ready for push back." Illya flicked a switch and listened as first one engine, and then the other fired up.

"UNCLE seven five niner, you are cleared to for pushback. Proceed taxiway Bravo to Runway One Three."

"UNCLE seven five niner, Taxiway Bravo to Runway One Three."

Napoleon relaxed in the seat, his eyes scanning the area around them. The plane seemed big, except when you got it along side some of the birds that the commercial lines were flying. It was easy for them to get lost in the crowd, but their take off was smooth and uneventful.

Once they'd leveled off, Napoleon patted Illya on the shoulder and stood. "Best attend to our guest."

Illya nodded, his attention more on his gauges and dials than what was going on in the back. That was Napoleon's job. His was to fly the plane.

"Hey, hey, hey, we have traffic." It had been so quiet in the communication room at THRUSH Central, Kia Decarlo and Rafig Mamsaang had been reduced to playing hangman and gin rummy. Rafig grabbed a set of headphones and adjusted his volume.

"UNCLE seven fine niner ready for push back."

"That's Kuryakin, I recognize his voice." Rafig raked his straight black hair off his forehead and grinned. "A week until Christmas and they are taking the big boys out."

Kia leaned close to listen in. "Big boys?"

"If Kuryakin is around, how much you want to bet Solo's sniffing around there too?"

"That's a disturbing mental image, Rafig." Kia reached for the phone. "Boss, just wanted to let you know that Kuryakin and Solo have left the hanger in the UNCLE jet. We are searching for a flight plan as I speak." He covered the receiver. "We need their flight plan."

"On it." It took him a few minutes to get through to his source at LaGuardia. "As soon as he has it, we'll know," he whispered over to Kia.

"I understand, sir. You'll be out caroling for the rest of the evening and we should handle it as we see fit. Thank you sir, I'm sure we... can... he hung up on me." Kia stared at the receiver for a long moment before hanging it up. "He must really love caroling."

"He does that." Rafig tapped his fingers on the desk as he waited. "Mostly, he just likes being a son of a... Yes, I'm here." He started to scribble. "Excellent! And Happy Holidays to you as well." He cradled the receiver and looked over at his partner. "Does it ever make you feel weird to wish someone who's just provided you with a way to kill people a Merry Christmas?"

"Only for the first twenty years or so; then you don't care quite so much." Kia reached for the paper Rafig offered him. "Where are they headed?"

"Looks like London and then Paris. And get this, there were several canisters being loaded onto the plane and there's something else..."


"Have you been a good boy this year?"

"Sure I've only killed and created mayhem in the name of world subjection." Kia's smile grew at the twinkle in his partner's eyes. "What?"

"Roster shows not only Kuryakin and Solo... but Waverly as well - the Holy Trinity. We take them out and UNCLE will have a very bad start to the year..."

Illya leaned back in the cockpit chair and kept his vision moving between his control panel and the horizon. While he trusted his instruments, it was only common sense to be wary, especially flying over the ocean. While he didn't anticipate a surface to air missile being lobbed at them from the Atlantic, there would be hell to pay if anything happened to their cargo.

There was a blur of motion and his gut clenched for a moment before recognizing Napoleon's form.

"Thought I'd come up and ask if you needed to stretch your legs." Napoleon slid easily into the copilot's seat and Illya hid his smirk.

"Tired of the stories about the grandchildren?"

"Save me?"

"Sure. I could use some coffee and a trip to the head." He pulled the headphones from his neck and passed them over. "Not much chatter, just keep her nose up - there are some thunderheads below us."

Napoleon gave him a thumbs up as he was putting on his aviator glasses.

Stretching, Illya watched for a moment until he was satisfied that Napoleon was at ease with the controls and then walked to the back of the plane.

"Well, hello there, Mr. Kuryakin. How does she sail?"

"We should be in London in another three hours. Would you like any coffee? I'm going to brew some."

"Would you happen to have something a bit stronger? I like just a tot of sherry this time of the day."

"I'll see what I can rustle up." Illya gave her a grin and continued back. He turned the percolator on and poked around the various liquors that the plane carried. Sure enough, he found a bottle of sherry towards the back. There was a faded handwritten note attached to it. 'For external use only' - Illya chuckled and opened the bottle, wincing at the sharp smell. "Well, she did want sherry," he murmured as he poured some into an old fashioned glass. He settled for filling a thermos of black coffee for himself.

Mrs. Waverly beamed as he passed her the glass. She sipped and closed her eyes in delight. "Aren't you going to join me?"

"I can't, Ma'am, not and fly, but I'm sure Napoleon will." He set the bottle down within easy reach for her.

"He's such a good boy."

Illya started to laugh, then coughed to cover it up when it became obvious she was being serious. "Yes, Ma'am, I suppose that he is."

"And you, why haven't you two settled down?"


"Why haven't the pair of you married?" At Illya's shocked look, she giggled. "I didn't mean to each other, Mr. Kuryakin, we aren't that liberal now, are we? I meant to a nice girl."

"Your husband has a way of putting the kibosh on that, Ma'am."

"Oh, he's just a lot of hot air. He thought you were going to marry his cousin, you know."

"She deserved something better than having to worry if the man who left alive in the morning would return in the same condition." He glanced at the cockpit and then back at her. "Napoleon, on the other hand, he should settle down. He could do with the rest. Excuse me."

He nodded to her politely and headed back to the cockpit.

"Back already?" Napoleon flicked his attention at him.

"Yes, but you don't need to run. She can well manage under her own steam for a while. I left her with a bottle of sherry.

"Not the old Brideshead?" Napoleon shuddered and Illya chuckled.

"The same, but look at it this way. Two glasses and she'll sleep the rest of the way to London. What are your plans when we get there?"

"There should be a car waiting for us. They'll take us directly into HQ. You want to ride point?"

"Your back, my command."

"So what are you planning?" Rafig watched his partner thumb through a sheaf of paper.

"Switch cars." Kia's answer was rapid fire, as if he hadn't thought about it for more than a second.

"What do you mean?" Rafig enjoyed watching his partner scheme.

"Well, they'll be likely to have a car waiting for them when they exit customs, right?"

"Yeah, that's a standard practice."

"We have one of our own standing by, they climb in and we blow up the car... we probably shouldn't mention that second part to our agents though..."

"You have someone in mind?"

"You have no idea." Kia rubbed his hands together with glee. "That old fart has pissed me off for the last time."

"Napoleon?" Illya's voice was soft in his ear and the agent's eyes opened instantly.

"Something wrong?" He'd not even realized he'd fallen asleep. Beside him, Mrs. Waverly murmured in her sleep and squeezed his arm.

"Oh, Alex," she moaned and Napoleon swallowed.

"I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to start final approach to Heathrow." Illya rose from his squat and headed back to the cockpit.

"Thanks." Napoleon disentangled his arm from Mrs. Waverly, who sat back and blinked sleepily.

"Are we already there?"

"Just about. I just need to attend to some details, if you will excuse me?" Napoleon patted her hand and moved to the other side of the small plane, looking out the window into the winter darkness.

"Open Channel L please."

"Channel L is open. Napoleon, sweetheart, is that you?"

He smiled as he recognized the voice. "It is, Jessica, how are you, my love?"

"Are you here to play?"

"No, strictly business."

"Then not very well. What can we do for you?"

"I need to have a car dispatched to the field at Heathrow. And make it two agents I know, my dear. I have a very precious cargo with me and it must be protected at all cost."

"Ooo, what, Napoleon? Gold, diamonds, Illya?"

Napoleon laughed out loud and shook his head, glancing over at the stack of festive tins. "More precious than any of that - fruitcakes."

"Come again?"

"Have the agents contact Illya directly for instructions."

"Will do."

"Solo out."

"So do you want the good news, the not so bad news, or the really bad news?" Rafig held the paper away from him as if it would distance him from the stench of failure. Kia was immediately on edge.

"Let's start at the bottom and work our way up. What's the bad news?"

"Our plans worked perfectly."

"That's the bad news?"

"Solo and Kuryakin weren't in the car when it happened. Their car picked them up on the field. Our guys had the wrong targets."


"The Shah of Brunei."

"They have a shah?"

"They did and his two top advisors were with him in the car when it went up."

"Oh no..." Kia dropped his head to the desk. "We're doomed. What's the good news?"

"We were attempting to overthrow the government there and this has caused massive chaos. The party we're backing has stepped in and it looks as if we'll have control of the country before the end of the month."

"But that's good, right?" Kia glanced up, but didn't raise his head.

"That's excellent - plus we are down two major pains in the ass along with removing two Scotland Yard jerks from the mix. I'd say Santa arrived a bit early this year."

"But we missed the UNCLE mob?"

"Yup and the plane is getting ready to take off again."

"Where now?"


"That's just a short hop. Not really any time for us to plan something."

"Tomorrow they are headed for Berlin and you know how rocky things are there at the moment."

Illya let his head fall back to the pillow, even as Napoleon was quietly talking with Mrs. Waverly through the interconnecting door of their suite.

"What's wrong?" he managed as Napoleon shuffled back towards bed.

"She's too excited to sleep and the way I see it, this is your fault. Shove over."

"How do you figure that?" It was bad enough they had to share a bed without the near constant knocking.

"You gave her the sherry on the plane that made her sleep all the way here."

"She asked for it. Was I supposed to say no? You realize I don't sleep, we don't fly."

"Yes, but you caused the problem; you go fix it." Napoleon pointed.

Illya sighed and rose, reaching for his robe, another nicety he would happily do without. He walked to the door and tapped on it lightly. It opened a second later and Mrs. Waverly looked at him, her brow furrowed.

"Oh, dear, I've woken you up."

"No. Ma'am, I haven't been to sleep yet."

"I'm sorry, but I just can't quite get settled."

Illya glanced around the room. The lighting was low, music was softly playing on the radio and he began to unconsciously hum along.

"I didn't know you knew Christmas carols, Mr. Kuryakin, you being Russian and all."

"The words don't hold the meaning for me that they do for you, but I have long been exposed to them, first here in Paris and then in London."


Illya nodded and thought for a moment. Then softly, he sang,

Douce nuit, sainte nuit !

Dans les cieux ! L'astre luit.

Le mystère annoncé s'accomplit.

Cet enfant sur la paille endormit,

C'est l'amour infini,

C'est l'amour infini !

"That sounds like Silent Night." Mrs. Waverly said after a moment.

"The French version of it. Theirs is called Sweet Night."

"You have a lovely voice."

"Thank you." He gestured to the bed. "You should try to get a little sleep, Ma'am. We have a big day ahead of us."

"Um... if I do, will you sing me another song?"

Illya smiled at her and nodded.

Napoleon rolled over as Illya climbed back between the sheets. "You were a long time in coming back, partner. I thought you dumped me for someone else."

"I sang her to sleep." Illya explained yawning and scratching his chest. "Now if you will excuse me."

There was quiet for a moment and then Napoleon murmured. "Illya, I'm having a little trouble sleeping, would you sing me a song?"

"How about So Long, it's Been Good to Know You?"

Kia Decarlo was stymied. He very much wanted to take out the three UNCLEs. A plan was called for that was so cunning and so unexpected not even the great Napoleon Solo could anticipate it. He should be asleep by now, but instead he sat up, nursing a bottle of bourbon with his partner.

"I was just thinking..." Rafig Mamsaang's head bobbed up and then back down. "No, forget it - it's stupid."

"What?" He set his glass down carefully as if not quite sure where the table top began or ended.

"Maybe we are going about this all wrong." Rafig sat back and ran a hand through his lank black hair and belched.

"Trying to eliminate three of UNCLE's top names is wrong?"

"What's the cargo they are carrying that's so important it requires all three of them?"

"I'd sort of forgotten about that... do we know anything about it?" Kia poured another two fingers of bourbon into the glass.

"Only that one single container has been unloaded at each stop so far. Berlin was no exception."

"You think we should send someone in for a closer look?"

"I'm just saying that if we can't get to the whiskey, perhaps we should try for the wine instead."

"Rafiggy, I knew there was a reason that I liked you." He pushed the bottle closer.

Napoleon sat in the cockpit of the plane, listening to the chatter of the ground crew. Mrs. Waverly had insisted that Mr. Kuryakin accompany her into the Berlin office, perhaps sensing that Napoleon needed a bit of a break. Illya reluctantly agreed and had been dragged away.

At first the break had been nice, but now Napoleon was bored. He wished they had brought a stewardess along on the flight, but Mr. Waverly had been adamant that nothing interfere with Mr. Solo's attention.

So at first, he wasn't entirely unhappy to see the woman standing in the doorway of the cockpit, but he wasn't exactly overjoyed either. A bell went off in his head and shrieked 'Beware, beware' at him. He told the bell to shut up.

"Well, hello there, can I help you?" Napoleon stood and moved away from the seat to give himself some space to operate.

"I am... how do you say... um... goofy when it comes to planes?" The blonde head swiveled in all directions before stopping to study Napoleon. Her cheeks blushed prettily and Napoleon's smile grew. "I come to check what's inside. I did wrong?" Now she pouted and he was drawn to her like a moth to the proverbial flame.

He recognized her now, but he doubted she remembered him. The last time they'd met, she was a minion to a more powerful THRUSH boss, scurrying around in the background while the madman huffed and puffed his way towards world domination. Napoleon had taken him down, but at great expense.

She came into his arms without a moment's hesitation and Napoleon responded by catching her hands and pulling her close.

"Meine kleine deutsche Blüte (My little German blossom)," he whispered in her ear.

"Mein mächtiger deutscher Krieger (My mighty German warrior)," she murmured, turning towards his lips.

"Nicht genau (Not exactly)." As easily as he kissed her, he caught and forced her to drop the knife that had miraculously appeared in her hand. "I'd prefer cunning American."

He got her against the bulkhead and slid a hand up her thigh, tsking as he found the gun. He pulled it from the dainty holster and tossed it away. "Let's not have any of that now," he murmured, nuzzling her hair.

"Then this?" He felt a sharp prick to his neck and that was all he remembered.

"Napoleon? Napoleon?"

Napoleon wearily opened his eyes looked up into concerned blue ones, so sweet, so caring, so Illya's... what the hell? He sat up and winced.

"Try not to move too fast."

"Thanks for the warning, but it's a little late." He let Illya settle him back against the leather of the seat. "What happened?"

"I don't know. I just returned and found you on the floor, out like a light."


"THRUSH was here? I doubt that..." Illya offered him a glass of water, keeping hold of it until he was sure Napoleon had a grip on the glass.

"Why do you say that?"

"You're alive and here. When have you known THRUSH to knowingly leave one of us behind?"

"You did what?" Rafig looked with disbelief from the speaker to where his partner writhed on the floor, repeatedly pounding the tile, and sobbing, "Why me? Why me?"

"I drugged Napoleon and took one of the packages. They have it down in the labs now. The report should be ready in a few hours." The female agent sounded very pleased with herself. Of course she couldn't see Kia either...

"You had Napoleon Solo unconscious and you didn't kill him?"

"That wasn't my task. I was told simply to retrieve."

"No, it's your unspoken duty to THRUSH to eliminate any UNCLE agent that crosses your path. What if he'd tried to stop you?"

"I would have removed the obstacle."

"Let me know what you find out." He clicked off the speaker and shook his head slowly.

"She had Solo and she didn't kill him." Kia's voice had taken on a whining tone.

"She didn't kill him... I don't know what they are teaching them these days."

"Not much of anything apparently..." Kia sat up and stared at the scars that crisscrossed the back of his hand. "But at least we'll know what they are ferrying around to the HQs. Where are they headed next?"

"Hong Kong."

"Hong Kong? What do we have in Hong Kong?"

"Shopping... she had to go shopping. I beginning to think this was her plan all along." Napoleon leaned forward on the bench and rested his elbows on his knees.

"It could be worse," Illya murmured from behind his hands as he rubbed his blood shot eyes. "We could be in Shanghai."

"Funny guy. Here they come." Both men sat up and looked as alert as they could. "I would kill for some coffee."

"Leave it to me..." Illya got to his feet and said something softly to Mrs. Waverly. A look of compassion and worry flitted across her face and Napoleon winced. God only knows what Illya told her.

Mrs. Waverly approached him and wrung her hands. "You poor dear, have I really tuckered you all out?"

Napoleon tried to imagine the word 'tuckered' escaping from Illya's lips. "Well, perhaps just a bit, Mrs. Waverly. I'm more accustomed to other... ah..." An attractive sales clerk wandered by and Napoleon's head immediately swiveled to watch her. "...pursuits."

Mrs. Waverly laughed, shaking her head. "You two, you are exactly the way Alex describes you!"

"Ah... thank you?" Napoleon started picking up the bags and boxes of her previous purchases.

"Tell you what, after this, we'll go have a nice lie down. Mr. Kuryakin is taking us to Brazil tomorrow, is he not?"

"That's the plan, Ma'am."

"He's such a good boy..."

"Boy?" Napoleon choked on the word. His partner had lost claims to that moniker a long time ago to his way of thinking.

"Did you say something, dear... oh, look, lacquer ware!" Mrs. Waverly started to move and Napoleon forced his feet to follow. It was hard to see her, but he had a small opening between boxes and tried to keep her sensible black coat with its fox collar in sight.

The sales clerk walked by again and he sneaked a fast, but very appreciative glance at the way her hips made her skirt gyrate. He sighed and promised himself a long night on the town and a longer night in bed recuperating from said night on the town as soon as they returned to New York. Until then.... He returned to the task at hand, dutifully following that sturdy form in the black coat with the mink collar.

The first clue he had that something was happening was hearing Mrs. Waverly's shriek.

Instinctively, Napoleon dropped his armful and went for his weapon. He reached for his charge and came face to face with a complete stranger.

"You masher!" The woman began beating on him alternately with her umbrella and handbag. "What have you done with my Harold?" Napoleon put his arms up to fend off the blows and that's when the woman saw the pistol. And she began to scream and beat Napoleon's arms and shoulders harder.

Illya Kuryakin was carefully balancing two cups of coffee and a cup of tea in his hands when he heard the commotion. He knew instantly something was going down. He set the cups down onto a display and dashed towards the noise, torn between going to his partner's aid and that of Mrs. Waverly. A second look told him that Napoleon was getting it much worse than Mrs. Waverly was giving it and he went to help him.

He firmly took the woman by her upper arms and pushed her back. "Pardon me, Ma'am, that's my partner you're accosting."

"He grabbed me!"

"Napoleon," Illya scolded, helping the American to his feet. "Is this true?"

"I heard Mrs. Waverly yell; I thought it was her... not..." He gestured towards the woman, who took a threatening step forward. "Her... Mrs. Waverly?"

"She and half of the Hong Kong police force are currently beating a THRUSH into submission in a similar fashion. Perhaps it is handbags that should be outlawed and not firearms." He holstered his P-38 and bent to start retrieving packages. Napoleon straightened his tie and adjusted his jacket.

"What have you done with my Harold?"


"I'm here, dear." A small mouse of a man, carrying a stack of packages rivaling Napoleon's appeared. "I appear to have drifted off course a bit."

"Why aren't you more careful, Harold? You never focus on what you're doing. A man almost snatched me from my feet and made off with me."

Harold looked over at Napoleon and smiled. His eyes spoke volumes: You want her? You can have her.

Illya handed Napoleon a few packages as Mrs. Waverly hurried up. "Mr. Solo, I was so worried about you. That animal, are you all right?" She began to tut with his lapels and Napoleon shot the man back his own look.

No, thanks, got one of my own. Napoleon sighed and glared at his partner. "Where were you in all of this?"

"Oh," Illya started and dashed away. A moment later he reappeared with the cups. "Your coffee."

Napoleon freed a hand and took a sip, frowning. "That's not coffee and whatever it is, it's cold."

"You try finding a decent cup of coffee in Hong Kong."

"It can't be."

"It is. It's a frigging fruitcake. That's all it is." Kia Decarlo threw the clipboard across the room and Rafig Mamsaang ducked. He'd seen his partner angry before, but never quite like this. "Come on."

"Where are we going?"

"Where are they headed?"

"Ah, Rio, then Mexico City tomorrow, then LA and finally Chicago." Rafig was starting to worry about the toll this assignment was taking on his friend. Granted, up to now, everything, while having gone wrong, was going right. They discovered a weak link in Berlin and she was now in retraining. In Hong Kong, their operative had grabbed the wrong man, but had revealed that Solo and Kuryakin were not guarding Waverly, but someone much more precious. "Our operatives are strung a little thin in Rio, Ki."

"No, we sit tight. They will be on alert now. We need to let them think we have given up. We'll wait until Chicago and I've learned my lesson."

"Which is?"

"Get packed, we're going to take care of this in person."

Napoleon eased the door shut, then took a step back and sighed.

"How is she?" Illya, still fully clothed, was stretched out on his bed, unwilling to do any more than lift his head.

"Sleeping like the proverbial baby." Napoleon sank wearily down on to his own bed and bit his lip as he worked his foot out of its shoe. He wiggled his toes happily and set about freeing the other foot from its imprisonment.

"You do realize that babies wake up every couple of hours with unreasonable demands?"

"Yes, remind me to call my mother when we get back to New York and thank her." Napoleon flopped backward onto his mattress and wearily closed his eyes.

"They should get her together with Cutter. Talk about thinning the herd from Day One." Illya managed to get up onto his elbows. "You look exhausted."

"I am exhausted. I had all these plans of things that I wanted to accomplish for Christmas. Now I just want to sleep."

"That reminds me; Mrs. Waverly invited us for Christmas dinner."


"Not an option really. I wasn't asked, I was told. Now, if you want to tell her no, be my guest. I shall be there with bells on."

"There's a mental image that will be sure to stick with me after I've fallen asleep tonight." Napoleon managed to get his jacket unbuttoned while executing a jaw-cracking yawn. "I can't remember when I've..."

The first thing Napoleon realized was that he was damn uncomfortable. He stretched or tried to. The fact that he was restrained was enough to pull him from the well of fuzzy unawareness he had been wallowing in. He got his eyes opened and blinked to clear them. Gassed... no wonder they'd both been so tired.

Napoleon craned his neck around. The room was sparsely furnished. There was a metal table not far from him that held some instruments that Napoleon didn't like the looks of. He heard a noise behind him, the sound of flesh meeting flesh and then a soft grunt.

"Illya," he tried, turning his head too fast and very nearly tipped backwards back down into that pit again.

"Raffie, lookie who's finally woken up." The man was fairly nondescript, medium height, medium build, nothing that would make him stand out in a crowd. He delivered one more kick to Illya's side and left him, gasping, where he was tied spread eagle on the floor. "Your partner is very unforthcoming."

"It's one reason why we get along so well." Napoleon studied Illya, saw the set of his jaw and knew the Russian hadn't been treated well. "He won't talk." The black haired man who was on the other side of Illya moved something and Illya involuntarily arched and gasped. The stranger grinned back at Napoleon.

"I wasn't asking. I was just working up a sweat... you, on the other hand." Mr. Medium slapped his hands together happily. Napoleon didn't like the looks of those skinned knuckles. "You, my friend, are going to sing like a bird."

"Not likely."

"Then you will be cooked like the proverbial goose for Christmas dinner. Rafig, I could use you here. I'm going to go check on our other guest."

"Sure thing, Ki. He's passed out again anyhow."

"If you've hurt her..." Napoleon started to struggle against his bonds.

"You'll what? Drool on me? Like your partner did?"

The man, Rafig, joined them. "Your partner should be made of sterner stuff, Mr. S." He lifted a hypo and grinned. "Let's find out what you're made of, shall we?"

Mrs. Waverly woke and sat up, then gasped, clutching her sheet to her ample chest. She was in a strange room with strange people hovering around her and her in nothing but her nightgown. Was there no sense of propriety these days?

"Mrs. Waverly, how nice of you to join us." The speaker had the look of a thug about him and she immediately knew he had to be the bad guy, one of those THRUSH people that Alex went on about.

She heard a noise... a half strangled scream and her eyes widened. "That was Mr. Solo."

"Yes, I suppose it was. I don't think Mr. Kuryakin has regained consciousness yet."

"What are you doing to him?"

"Nothing compared to what we will do if we don't get some answers. What's in the fruitcake?"

"I can't.... It's a closely guarded secret. It was handed down to my mother by her beloved uncle." This time the scream was louder, more desperate and she gasped. "Very well, bring me some paper... and my robe, if it's not too much bother."

The man smiled condescendingly at her. "As you wish, Ma'am. Women should never be allowed into the field." He snapped his fingers and one of the other men disappeared. The first man pulled out a small device and spoke into it. "Rafig?"

"Yes, Kia."

"Our honored guest is going to work with us. Let Mr. Solo rest for the moment..."

"Ah , should I wake him up first and let him pass out again? Oh, Kuryakin's bleeding and I think convulsing. You want the doc to take a look at him?"

Mrs. Waverly was just sick when she heard that and the man seemed to garner great joy in her expression. "Sure, we can't have him dying too quickly."

There was a sharp tap on the door and the man reappeared with a pad of paper and pencil and her robe. Thank God for that, she thought. And thank God for Alex's foresight.

Illya coughed and frowned at the spark of pain in his side.


"Napoleon?" With a concerted effort, he got his head to obey him and turn towards his partner. "You okay?"

"Been better. You?"

"The same. Somehow, no matter how much we do, the conditions under which we are held never improve. You would think we'd risen up into one of the premier levels by now."

"I'm afraid to go up means to go down." Napoleon coughed and spat. "I know I'm grasping for straws now, but can you...?"

"Escape?" Illya started to laugh, but the action almost made him black out. "I'm lucky to be breathing at the moment. Any idea what they want... besides our ultimate demise?"

"The one questioning me kept prattling on about the fruitcakes for some reason or another. A word of caution, avoid the latest truth serum. It has an evil twist to its nature."

"I will trade you the truth serum for the electric prod they were using on me."

There was a scurry of noise and Illya moaned. He would not hold up to any more questioning. As trained as they both were, there was that point of no return. The door to their cell opened and Illya blinked in surprise.

"Mrs. Waverly?" She seemed to vacillate between which one of them to go for first, but she ended up heading for Napoleon. The women always went for Napoleon. He should know that by now. He wiggled trying to relieve some of the tension in his shoulders.

"Thank heavens I found you two. I was running out of rooms. Isn't that always as it is? No matter what you are looking for, it's always in the last place you look." She unbuckled the straps holding Napoleon's wrists against the chair.

Napoleon got to his feet with her help and groped his way to a garbage pail and began to retch. Mrs. Waverly stared at him in worry, but let him alone in his misery.

"How are you holding up, dear?" She patted his shoulder and Illya squeezed his eyes shut at the pain, involuntary tears escaping from the corners. "I'm sorry."

"If you will release my feet first," Illya whispered. She did as she was bade and Illya was able to adjust his position upward, giving his arms some much needed relief as she tended to the manacles holding his wrists in place.

"Do you want to sit up?"

"Not just yet. I think Napoleon could use your help." Illya knew he didn't, but he needed to move in his own time, giving his limbs a chance to come back to life.

She nodded tightly and moved back to where Napoleon was sitting on the floor. "Are you all right, dear?"

"I'm surviving, thanks to you." Napoleon took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face.

"I was so scared. I heard you screaming..."

"Not me, Ma'am."

"Maybe you were singing, it's hard to tell the difference at times." Illya mumbled as he fought his way into an upright position.

"That nasty man said you were convulsing... and bleeding. They were bringing in a doctor... but I don't see?"

Illya shook his head. "Bruised, but not bleeding."

"Ma'am, I believe that is what is commonly referring to as playing you for a sucker." Napoleon got to his feet and took a wobbly step.

"Why those terrible men, someone should teach them a lesson!"

"Please don't take this next question wrong, Mrs. Waverly, but what are you doing here?"

She looked from one UNCLE agent to the other. "You don't live with Alexander Waverly for forty seven years and not pick up a trick or two." She readjusted her robe firmly. "They are just lucky I'm in a hurry or I'd teach them a lesson they wouldn't soon forget."

"You're right; it's the handbags." Napoleon muttered as he helped Illya to his feet.

Napoleon Solo leaned back on the couch. He was stuffed to his ears in chestnut dressing, goose, and all the trimmings. He was bubbling over with Christmas cheer and feeling quite smug about multiple trips to the mistletoe.

A sudden plump to the couch and Napoleon lifted his head to glare at his partner. Illya's cheeks were a bright red and his blond hair was plastered to his head.

"Good snow ball fight?" It was hard to believe a week ago they had been suffering at the hands of THRUSH.

"The best! You should have joined us."

"I've been plenty busy in here. Thank you very much."

Illya leaned over to wipe a lipstick stain from Napoleon's face with a reddened finger tip. "You kiss one more person and you will need a sling for your lips," Illya grumbled good naturedly, too full to do much more than that. Impulsively, Napoleon leaned over and planted a loud smack on Illya's cheek.

"Merry Christmas, you two!" Mrs. Waverly was suddenly there, insinuating herself between them on the couch before Illya could deliver his retort. "I have a special gift for you both." She plopped matching tins down onto their stomachs and Napoleon's responding smile was a bit strained.

"Fruitcake... with all respect, Ma'am, I've seen too much fruitcake this season."

"Not like these. Open them..."

Illya sat up, popped the top off of his and then froze. "An Aeroflot ticket?"

"I thought you'd like to see your parents for the New Year, dear. Your mother is quite anxiously expecting you."

"But I..."

"Have nothing to do but spend tomorrow packing for your flight tomorrow night. Everything else has been taken care of..."

Napoleon eagerly opened his tin and lifted his own ticket from the container. He flipped it open and smiled. "Hawai'i..."

"Not just Hawai'i, Mr. Solo. You have an all-expense paid stay at the Kona Village Resort. It is the least I can do after all you did for me."

"I don't know what to say..."

"I do. Спасибо, сладкая леди (Thank you, sweet lady)." Illya kissed the back of her hand gently.

"Вы очень долгожданны (You are very welcome) Mr. Kuryakin and your mother is a charming woman."

"I will tell her you said that." He pulled out the ticket to examine it, and then paused. "There are two tickets here."

"And Mr. Solo has two as well. I thought he could go along with you to keep you out of trouble and then you could repay him the favor."

Illya rubbed the spot on his cheek where Napoleon had kissed him. "Oh, I'll repay the favor all right... when he least expects it."

Mrs. Waverly beamed at them and then over at her husband as he walked towards her, a frown on his face.

"I just had the oddest message from the office."

"Sir?" Napoleon and Illya were both suddenly serious and all attention.

"Communications intercepted a message from THRUSH Central. It would seem they would like a bit more of your fruitcake, my dear. Some of the Committee didn't get any..."

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