What do two agents do when they have a little down time?
“Well, gentlemen, that will be all,” Mr. Waverly ended the briefing with a sigh. “As there is nothing urgent, you may both have the weekend off.”
“Thank you, sir,” came the duo reply, not daring to look at each other for fear he would change his mind.
Fortunately Alexander Waverly had already turned back to the other files on his desk, not paying any attention as his two top agents left the room.
The two wandered down the hall toward the elevator, Illya pondering what he would do with this rare bit of time off. “I suppose you already have plans for this weekend,” he asked absentmindedly.
Napoleon pushed the elevator button, pausing to think about it before answering, “Actually, no. Are you free for dinner?”
Illya stepped into the elevator somewhat surprised at Napoleon's response. True they had just gotten back from a mission, but Napoleon always managed to find someone in his little black book more than willing to occupy his free time. “Just how free is this dinner?”
Napoleon chuckled, a sound that had been missing lately. “My treat.”
Never one to pass up a free meal, Illya response was easy, “Sure.”
The two men parted ways after making arrangements to meet later that evening.
Napoleon Solo went back to his apartment, feeling discontented. Having dinner with Illya was one way to pass the time they had off, but he couldn't help wondering what he could do to fill in the rest of his weekend. As he showered, shaved, and dressed a inkling of an idea entered his head. Something new, something different, something unusual. As he donned his jacket, adjusting its fit, a satisfied smile lit his face.
Illya stood outside his apartment building, dressed in his usual basic black. He remembered the first time his partner had picked him up in front of the brownstone he called home, Napoleon had frowned and warned him that this was not a safe neighborhood to stand outside alone in.
Amused he had reminded his American partner that he was an U.N.C.L.E. agent, after all, and that had been that. Illya was no fool. The area might not be as safe as the area around Napoleon’s apartment building, but it wasn’t as bad as some people thought. There were many things he could be thinking about as he waited, why he was in America and his reasons for leaving the country of his birth, but it would serve no purpose. The past was the past, the future not worth thinking about. There was only the here and now.
When the convertible pulled up in front of him, Illya was surprised to find his friend dressed more casually than normal. He slid into the front passenger seat having assumed that Napoleon would want to go out on the town and that he would follow in his wake.
He glanced sideways at his partner, debating whether to ask what he had planned, or just let the evening unfold.
Napoleon, his eyes on the side view mirror, pulled away from the curb. “I hope you don’t mind, but I thought we might try something different.”
Illya’s brows drew up into his blond fringe, but he shrugged. “I have no objections.”
Napoleon flashed his charismatic smile. “Good.”
They drove past many of their usual haunts until Napoleon eventually pulled over and the two men got out of the car and walked down the sidewalk half a block. They turned, descended down a flight of dimly lit stairs to enter a dimly lit restaurant.
“Napoleone!” Much to Illya’s surprise, a thin dark man, with a sweeping mustache, rushed forward and grabbed his partner in a vast hug. “So good to see you again. It has been much too long. And you have brought a friend. Good.” his words spoken in Italian and almost too fast for Illya to catch.
“Alphonse, it’s good to see you too. This is my associate, Illya Kuryakin,” Napoleon replied in fluent Italian.
Alphonse turned his attention to the smaller blond man standing next to his favorite customer.
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he said in stilted English as he gripped the younger man’s arm, shaking it profusely. “Come. We have a table waiting.”
Illya looked around, the restaurant was full and had an old world charm to it. He watched as the Alphonse went to a table with a young couple just finishing their meal and evicted them calling for a waiter to clean the table off. When it was done, he ushered the two agents over. “Allow me to order for you both, yes?” Alphonse asked. “It will be magnificent, no?” he said kissing his fingers and gesturing.
“Please,” Napoleon responded, as he flicked his napkin to his lap.
Illya cocked an eyebrow. “You come here often?”
“Not often enough,” Napoleon admitted. “Alphonse has lived in
Illya chuckled as a wine waiter arrived with a bottle of Chianti, displaying the label for Napoleon's approval. Following Napoleon's nod, he poured two glasses, leaving the bottle behind. Another waiter arrived with a basket of freshly baked bread and he too faded into the background.
Sipping the wine, nodding his approval, Illya considered the implications of what Alphonse had said. He helped himself to some bread, evidently this was some place special and Napoleon did not often bring a guest.
The waiter returned with Bruschetta to start, followed by two plates of crisp green salads that was almost too colorfully beautiful to eat. Illya watched in amazement as Napoleon dug into both with gusto. The two men talked of inconsequential things as the meal progress to delectable pasta and finally a sherbet and coffee. This was a side of Solo his partner had never seen before. As the meal moved to a close, Illya felt a twinge of regret that the evening was about to end.
Something must have shown on his face, because Napoleon put his cup down and said, “I’ve been thinking. Instead of the usual bar hopping, why don’t we do something really different?” Napoleon looked intently at the Russian. “Have you ever been to the top of the empire state building?”
Illya was speechless, what a strange question. It really didn’t matter, Illya was enjoying himself and if Napoleon wanted to go to the empire state building, Illya laughed thinking that Napoleon was possibly joking. He changed his mind after seeing the disappointment in Napoleon's eyes and decided that he was willing to go along. “Not recently.”
Napoleon flashed a sincere smile and waved the waiter over asking for the bill. After paying and extending profuse complements the two friends left.
The two men stood at the top of the empire state building. Napoleon, the wind blowing through his hair, rested his arms on the rampart. Looking down on the lights of the city as the shone. His city…and Illya’s as well.
Illya stood to the side of him, reading statistics aloud from the guide book.
"The Empire State Building is a 102-story landmark skyscraper and American cultural icon in New York City at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street. It has a roof height of 1,250 feet (381 meters), and with its antenna spire included, it stands a total of 1,454 ft (443.2 m) high. Its name is derived from the nickname for New York, the Empire State. It stood as the world's tallest building for 40 years, from its completion in 1931.
The Empire State Building is designed in the distinctive Art Deco style, and has been named by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The building and its street floor interior are designated landmarks of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and confirmed by the New York City Board of Estimate. "
When he finished he focused his gaze on his partner and friend. Napoleon, his dark hair in disarray was looking down on the city, his eyes bright with anticipation. Anticipation of what the Russian didn’t know. Tonight was different, his partner was different.
"You are a fountain of information." Napoleon informed Illya with a smile, then turned around, his back to the view. “Feel like going to the Statue of Liberty?”
Illya shrugged, he checked his watch. "Is the Ferry even running at this time of night?"
Napoleon checked his watch and sighed. The night had flown by. "What about tomorrow."
Illya wondered what Napoleon was really up to. He debated going to the library with accompanying Napoleon to visit the Statue of Liberty. He smiled and with his hands crossed in front of him holding the guide book agreed. “Sure, why not.”
Illya was just adjusting his jacket on his shoulders when the knock sounded at his door.
"Napoleon?" Illya checked his watch. "It's only eight o'clock."
"Weekends off are rare. I don't want to lose a moment of ours."
"I was thinking on wasting it by sleeping in," Illya grumbled.
"Illya, Illya. " Napoleon tried placating his partner. "We work together and I thought it would be interesting if we played together."
Illya grunted, not too sure this was such a great idea.
It was a beautiful morning and they were among the first to board the ferry to Ellis Island. It wasn't long before Napoleon found an attractive tourist to flirt with. Illya shook his head and looked across the water at the statue the French government had presented to the American people in 1886. The statue that had welcomed him when he'd moved from London to New York.
"Did you know that the statue was intended as a huge lighthouse?" Illya asked.
"Hmmm." Napoleon was smiling at the blonde who was shyly smiling back.
That was normal for Napoleon. Leaving Illya one his own while he paired off with a beautiful bird. Illya could cope with that, he had it the past. The ferry was pulling up to the dock and Illya found he was actually looking forward to his change to join a tour and explore the beautiful lady of the harbor.
Before he could get into the line leaving a loud shriek of "Mommy, mommy" caught his ear and he looked back just in time to see a small tyke wrap herself around Napoleon's target. He fought hard to hide his smirk as Napoleon slunk across the deck to his side.
"You win some, you lose some," Napoleon waxed philosophically and the two ended up grinning at each other.
"You know I don't think I've ever seen the Lady when someone wasn't shooting at us," Illya observed as they followed the crowd to the liberty flag pole where they will meet a guide.
The tour begins with the usual information.
"The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886. The statue, a gift to the United States from the people of France, is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue has become an icon of freedom and of the United States.
Bartholdi was inspired by French law professor and politician Édouard René de Laboulaye, who commented in 1865 that any monument raised to American independence would properly be a joint project of the French and American peoples. Due to the troubled political situation in France, work on the statue did not commence until the early 1870s. In 1875, Laboulaye proposed that the French finance the statue and the Americans provide the pedestal and the site. Bartholdi completed the head and the torch-bearing arm before the statue was fully designed, and these pieces were exhibited for publicity at international expositions. The arm was displayed at the Centennial Exposition in 1876 and in New York's Madison Square Park from 1876 to 1882. Fundraising proved difficult, especially for the Americans, and by 1885 work on the pedestal was threatened due to lack of funds. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer of the World started a drive for donations to complete the project that attracted more than 120,000 contributors, most of whom gave less than a dollar. The statue was constructed in France, shipped overseas in crates, and assembled on the completed pedestal on what was then called Bedloe's Island. The statue's completion was marked by New York's first ticker-tape parade and a dedication ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland.
The statue was administered by the United States Lighthouse Board until 1901 and then by the Department of War; since 1933 it has been maintained by the National Park Service. The statue was closed for renovation for much of 1938. Public access to the balcony surrounding the torch has been barred for safety reasons since 1916."
When everyone looks suitably impressed she continues. Talking about the copper that was used in constructing the stature and delving more into the symbolism of the objects surrounding the lady. The torch she carries, held high, the crown on her head, the tablet in her arm, the chains at her feet. Children in the group begin to get restless and they are led into the museum in the base of the statue. Everything you would want to know is in there. Documents, plans, illustrations, and the original molds and tools used.
Finally they are lead to the crown, where the city could be seen stretched across the panorama. It was a beautiful sight. The two agents stood silently side by side taking it all in.
Napoleon finally broke the silence. "This is why we do what we do."
Illya could only nod his agreement.