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Sitting at his desk, Napoleon Solo idly contemplated which of the four – make that five, if you counted Aunt Amy’s standing one – invitations to Thanksgiving dinner he should accept.
The door to his office slid open to admit U.N.C.L.E.’s only Russian agent. “Here is my report on the Aubry Affair,” Illya Kuryakin said, handing it over.
Napoleon took it and began glancing through it. With his mind still on Thanksgiving he asked as Illya turned to leave, “What are your plans for Thanksgiving?”
The Russian shrugged. Thanksgiving was just another day to him. “Unless an assignment comes up, I will probably stay home. Maybe have a TV dinner. A turkey TV dinner,” he added when he noted a look of disapproval on Napoleon’s face. Giving a polite nod he exited the room.
Napoleon sat for awhile staring contemplatively at the closed door. It was a shame that the Russian had no friends here as yet that he could spend Thanksgiving with. He thought of the four invitations he had. Maybe he could ask one of them to let Illya – but no, the Russian might not appreciate that.
He thought about it a little more, then putting it to the back of his mind he turned his attention back to his report making sure it dovetailed with Illya’s.
Ten minutes later an idea flashed through his thoughts. He caught it, played it back and smiled. Thinking it through, he nodded. It just might work. Pulling out his little black book he started making calls.
First he called the four ladies, apologizing for being unable to accept. They were most disappointed, but once he offered to make amends by setting them up with a couple of his friends they each reluctantly agreed, at least their meals would not go to waste.
Next he considered which of his many bachelor friends would match best with each lady. His luck held. He found each free for Thanksgiving. It wasn’t much work to talk them into calling the girls, the guys well aware of the type of women Solo attracted. His mother would have been proud of him. It was her constant matchmaking that had forced Napoleon, at an early age and out of self defense, to actively pursue female companionship. A habit that he would in all probability carry to his grave. That taken care of, Napoleon only needed to place one more call.
A loud banging at his door forced Illya Kuryakin to snag a robe, only to find Napoleon, dressed in a mohair jacket, his hands encased in leather gloves, standing outside his door.
“Do you know what time it is?” the Russian asked grumpily. He pulled Napoleon’s arm up to check the watch on it to verify the time. “It is in the morning.”
“Time for certain Russians to dress and come with me,” Napoleon assured him.
Illya hesitated for a moment before he turned away heading for his bedroom. A fellow agent showing up at his door could only mean an assignment. Though why he wasn’t notified before hand was beyond him.
Napoleon entered closing the door behind him. One glance around the room showed a worn sofa, a coffee table littered with books and a box of half-eaten pizza. No pictures, no trinkets - unless you count various gadgets here and there as trinkets. Napoleon turned at the sound of footsteps coming from the bedroom. Illya carried his holster preparatory to putting it on.
“You won’t be needing that were we’re going,” Napoleon said, pointing to the holster before Illya could put it on.
Illya put the holster back where he’d gotten it from. “I take it we are not on an assignment?”
“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies,” was the enigmatic reply Napoleon gave Illya as he held out a jacket for the Russian. They headed down the stairs, Illya wondering where, not to mention why, they were out at this time of the morning if not on an assignment.
Napoleon led the way, the Russian following to the nearest subway station. The fact that his friend was clueless to his plans pleased him. He kept expecting the Russian to pepper him with questions, but Illya had evidently taken his words to heart for he asked none.
There were not many people out at this time of the morning, so it was not long before they reached
Napoleon stopped as he felt a tug at his sleeve.
“Napoleon, why are so many people out at this time of the morning?” Illya asked.
Napoleon didn’t respond, he just smiled and gestured for the younger man to follow. Scanning the area he hoped to spot a specific person in this crowd.
“Napoleon!” A pert brunette shouted and waved.
A wide smile crossed the American’s face as he waved back and headed in her direction. “Hi, Diane,” he called to the shapely young lady. As he got closer he wrapped her in a warm embrace and kissed her on her cheek. “I thought you could use a hand today.”
Diane was standing behind a large table loaded down with a great many coffee machines, cups, sugar and cream, transferring them to smaller carts.
“We can always use the help,” she said with a smile. Then she cocked an eyebrow at the blond who stood behind Napoleon.
“Diane, I’d like for you to meet Illya Kuryakin. Illya, Diane Trabush.”
Diane turned her brilliant smile toward the puzzled Russian and greeted him, “Welcome to the starting line of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
“What can we do to help?” Napoleon asked.
Diane pushed a filled cart toward him. “Just go around and make sure the volunteers get a hot cup of coffee. Coffee’s in this one, hot chocolate here,” she said as she pointed to the different machines. “Extra cups, sugar, cream, spoons are down here.” She pointed to the well stocked shelf below. Her attention was diverted by the approach of several more people and the chilling wind blew the dark curls into her face as she waved Napoleon off with a nod.
The Russian looked expectantly at the American.
“Every year, on Thanksgiving Day, Macy’s department store puts on a parade to welcome Santa Claus to
The two agents spent the wee morning hours, as the sun came up, shifting through the crowded area offering hot coffee and hot chocolate to the workers. Illya, of course, had a hundred questions, which Napoleon tried his best to answer, until he realized that Illya was putting him on. In fact the Russian knew almost as much about Thanksgiving as he did. Napoleon watched Illya as he took in all the wonder and delights that surrounded them.
Sometime during that morning, Napoleon realized that he quite liked the young Russian. They had finished handing out hot chocolate to a bunch of young band members. Illya, his blond hair flattened by the rain, his blue eyes bright, took turns playing a horn with one of the horn players.
Diane showed up, checking on their progress. “Your friend seems to be enjoying himself.”
“Ummm, yes. He does, doesn’t he,” Napoleon said. He noticed the Russian blowing on his hands to keep them warm. Since he had on a pair of leather gloves, he had not realized just how chilly it was. Turning to Diane, he whispered something in her ear.
“Come on, Beethoven,” Napoleon called. “We have more coffee to pass out.”
“Beethoven never played the horn,” Illya replied with a grin.
Just then a hearty, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” was heard behind them. They turned around to find the Macy’s Santa and a twinkling eyed Diane giggled behind them.
“You must have been a good boy this year,” Santa said in a loud jovial tone, as he held out a bag to the Russian.
Illya took the bag, casting a suspicious look at Napoleon, then looked inside. A knit hat, muffler and gloves were withdrawn by the astonished Russian. “I don’t understand?”
“Never refuse a gift from Santa,” Napoleon advised.
With a shy smile, the Russian thanked the beaming bearded man and pulled on the hat and gloves, feeling warmer inside and out. Napoleon took the muffler and wrapped it around his neck, then stood back to admire his handiwork, while Diane planted a kiss on the Russian’s cheek and another on Napoleon’s.
“Hey, can we get a hand here?” Someone called and the two rushed over to help out. A huge balloon was going up and every hand they could get was needed to help hold it down. The rain and wind kept shifting the balloon as it went up.
“What is it?” Illya shouted.
Napoleon squinted through the rain. “I’m not sure. I think it’s Bullwinkle,” he shouted back. With all the noise going on around it was the only way to be heard. Once he was sure everything was under control, Napoleon pulled Illya off to one side. “Bullwinkle is a cartoon character. He is also a moose.” At the incredulous look on Illya’s face he continued. “His best friend is a flying squirrel named Rocky. They were constantly fouling the dastardly plans of two evil-doers, Natasha and Boris.
Illya groaned, “Now I know why so many people dislike Russians.”
“Hi, guys.” Diane inserted herself between the two men, weaving her arms with theirs. “The parade is about to start. Why don’t you to go some place warm and dry and watch?”
“I was just going to suggest that,” Napoleon said as he bestowed a kiss on her cheek. “We still on for Saturday?”
“Absolutely. And thanks for all the help,” she said, before bustling away.
“If you need nothing more from me, I will go home,” Illya said. He turned away to leave when he felt a grip to his arm.
“Oh no you don’t,” Napoleon said, pointing in the other direction and heading off.
Illya caught Napoleon by his sleeve. “Just tell me why?” He took an involuntary step backward when Napoleon whirled on him. “Not that I didn’t enjoy myself. I just want to know why I shouldn’t go home rather than following your lead?”
“You’ve got something better to do?” Napoleon countered with a shrug.
With a heavy sigh, the Russian admitted to himself that he didn’t and the two men walked side by side down Central Park West through the crowd. Illya was more than a little surprised when they turned into number 15
“Why don’t you go up to room 644?” Napoleon suggested. He’d caught the look Illya had given him and was more or less surprised when the man, dripping from the rain, headed toward the elevator without asking any questions. As Napoleon approached the reservation desk, a man off to one side could be heard complaining.
“What do you mean you have no rooms?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the young man behind the counter said. “But this is Thanksgiving and as we are on the Parade route we are booked solid.”
Napoleon gave his attention to the young lady in front of him. “Is my room available?”
“Of course, Mr. Solo,” the attractive clerk said as she pulled a key from its slot. “Who is she this time?”
“You wound me to the quick, Maureen,” Napoleon said, looking hurt as he took the key from her fingers, letting them touch. “Just put it on my bill.”
“Ahuh,” said Maureen, fluttering her eyelashes at the dashing agent.
“I’ll have you know it is an associate of mine who has never seen the parade before.” Napoleon sounded indignant, though there was a smile on his face. After all it was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He turned away hearing the disbelieving laugh and headed toward the elevator.
Room 644, actually
Illya was standing beside the door, water pooling at his feet as Napoleon opened the door, pocketing the key. He wasn’t sure what to make of the inscrutable look the Russian was sending him.
“Why don’t you go take a shower and dry off?” Napoleon ordered, tossing his own outer jacket down on the sofa. “The parade will be starting soon.”
Illya hesitated, unsure of Napoleon’s motives. He was surprised with himself for still being here. In spite of the earliness of the hours, he had enjoyed himself and wasn’t really ready to go back to his solitary apartment alone. Giving Napoleon, whom he knew to be a ladies man, the benefit of the doubt he went through the bedroom into the well appointed bath. True they shared an office and the American was friendly enough, but still.
Napoleon, hearing water starting in the bath, looked around the room with approval. They could take the two comfortable wing chairs and pull them up to the windows facing the street. From there they would have a good view of the parade as it went by. Napoleon didn’t know about Illya, but he was hungry. Calling room service, Napoleon ordered a large breakfast for two.
Napoleon was pushing a food laden cart to the chairs he had strategically placed in front of the windows when Illya came into the room, wrapped in a white terrycloth robe. Napoleon didn’t even look at him, as he fussed with the dishes. “Why don’t you spread your wet clothing out to dry? I ordered us breakfast and we can watch the parade in comfort.”
Illya turned back to do as he was bid. The smell of hot coffee and fresh eggs proved too much and he realized he was indeed hungry. He sat down and reached for a cup of piping hot coffee before serving and digging into the rest of the food. If Illya was uncomfortable with the situation he did not show it. Napoleon’s actions so for were no different from when they were at headquarters.
The two men sat eating and watching as the parade slowly went by under their windows. They exchanged observations on the floats, marching bands and Napoleon named the balloons as they floated by, trying to put it into a context the Russian would understand.
It was two stuffed agents who leaned back in their chairs as the last float; featuring the star of the parade – Santa Claus – went past. “We shouldn’t have eaten so much,” Napoleon said with chagrin.
“Why not?” Illya wanted to know, wondering what was going to happen next.
“Go get dressed, your clothing should be dry by now,” the American ordered. “We have a Thanksgiving dinner to attend.” When Illya returned, Napoleon looked him over with a critical eye. “Maybe we should stop at Del Floria’s and have him press those trousers.”
Illya looked down at his slacks, which were still slightly damp. “Why don’t I just go home?”
“Oh, no. You’re not getting out of this.”
“Out of what?”
At the Russian’s puzzled look Napoleon explained, “Every year, my aunt Amy invites me to Thanksgiving dinner. This year you are coming with me.”
“I wouldn’t want to be in the way,” Illya protested.
“Don’t worry. You won’t be,” Napoleon said firmly, glancing at his watch. “We had better hurry if we don’t want to be late.”
Napoleon called downstairs for a cab and they exited the hotel on the opposite side from Central Park West. The cab arrived just as they reached the door and Napoleon addressed the driver as he ushered Illya in. “Alexandria Park Hotel.”
The drive was made in silence. Illya getting more and more uncomfortable as time went on. Why was Napoleon being so nice?
The Russian balked, once they had arrived and the doorman had looked down his nose at the rumbled blond, at the elevator door. “Perhaps it would be best…”
Napoleon gripped him by the shoulder and all but tossed him into the elevator. “Penthouse,” he said to the elevator operator. “If you think I’m going through this alone, Tovarish…”
The door to the elevator opened at the penthouse floor. Napoleon walked to the double doors, seemingly bracing himself, and knocked. The door was opened by an elegantly dressed elderly lady, which was the only term one could use for her, leaning on a cane. She stepped aside, letting the two men in.
Napoleon leaned in, giving her a peck on her wrinkled cheek. “Hello, Aunt Amy.”
Aunt Amy promptly whacked him on the shin with her cane. “You’re late.”
“Owww!” Napoleon yelped as he rubbed the painful site. “Aunt Amy, I would like for you to meet Illya Kuryakin, an associate of mine. Illya, my Aunt Amy.”
Illya took the elderly lady’s hand in his, bowed slightly and pressed a kiss on the tips. “Madame.”
“Finally,” Aunt Amy proclaimed. “You have brought home a gentleman.”
Napoleon squelched his nose at the Russian. “Sorry we’re late, Aunt Amy, but I wanted Illya to see the parade.”
“Very commendable of you, I’m sure,” Aunt Amy said, as she turned to lead them into the dining room. The room, like the rest of the apartment, was immaculate. The table was a work of art, with its crystal and fine china. Aunt Amy sat at the head of the table, after Napoleon pulled her chair out for her, and regally rang the small bell lying beside her plate.
Illya stood at the doorway, feeling uncomfortable. He pulled Napoleon to one side and whispered. “Perhaps it would be best if I left.”
“Nonsense, young man,” Aunt Amy said, startling both men. Her hearing was better then they had assumed. “You will sit down and enjoy yourself. That is an order.”
Napoleon shrugged and pointed to the place opposite his. A servant, carrying a platter with a large turkey on it entered through a side door, and an assortment of maids followed with platters of side dishes. There seemed to be enough food to feed twenty people, not just three.
“Napoleon, would you do the honor of carving the turkey?” Aunt Amy asked majestically.
“Yes, m’am,” Napoleon answered politely, taking up the knife and fork.
Once the turkey had been carved, the wine and various other dishes served. Aunt Amy turned to scrutinize the young blond. “Illya Kuryakin? Is that Russian?”
“I knew a Kuryakin once. Such a bore, though he was magnificent in bed. A relative perhaps?”
Napoleon, in the act of taking a sip of wine, spit it out. “Aunt Amy!”
“Really, Napoleon. What is the good of being old if one cannot say outrageous things once in a while?”
Illya, whose face turned an interesting shade of red, said, “I really couldn’t say, Madame.”
“Oh, well. It was just a thought,” Aunt Amy said, as she went back to her eating.
“Please, Aunt Amy,” Napoleon pleaded. “I have to work with him on a daily basis.”
“I suppose that means I cannot discuss the misdeeds of your youth?” Aunt Amy mischievously questioned her nephew.
“I would rather you didn’t,” Napoleon stated firmly.
Aunt Amy gave his an innocent smile and turned the conversation to more mundane topics.
The meal progressed nicely, the food being wonderful and plentiful, the conversation interesting if not titillating as Aunt Amy charmingly mentioned this lover or that one. She had evidently known many men, many of who’s names were recognizable. Illya now knew where Napoleon got his promiscuity from.
As the meal came to an end, Aunt Amy’s energy seemed to lag. Napoleon noticed and gently suggested that he and Illya leave, a suggestion to which she acquiesced. Escorting them to the door, she gave Napoleon a hug and lifted her cheek for him to kiss. Then she turned to the Russian and bestowed a kiss on each of his cheeks. “Do come again, young man.”
As the two men waited on the elevator, Illya remarked, “Your aunt is very nice.”
“Yes,” Napoleon said absentmindedly. “But now you see why I wanted someone with me. She’s quite a handful.”
They entered the elevator.
“How’s your ankle?” Illya asked to make conversation.
Napoleon grinned. “I’ll live.”
When they reached the street, Illya asked hesitantly, “Napoleon?”
“Hmmm?” Napoleon said, waving down a taxi.
Illya took a deep breath. “Thank you.”
“Can I ask you a question?” Illya asked. When Napoleon nodded, he continued. “Why did you… do all this?”
Napoleon smiled at the man who shared his office. “This is your first Thanksgiving in this country. Right?” At Illya’s nod of confirmation, he went on. “I just wanted it to be a memorable one.”