Illya is ordered to entertain some of his past shipmates around New York for three days during their ships layover during the Christmas season. In the past the sailors, had made his life miserable.
Because the Sailors will be speaking Russian often, it will be in English and italicized.
Illya looked at the letter a second time. His sad expression spoke volumes. A sigh from the Russian had Napoleon putting down the ornament that he was about to place on the tree.
Getting up, he sat behind Illya on the arm of the couch and began kissing his neck and nibbling on his ear. “Bad news?”
Absentminded, Illya answered and continued to stare at the letter. “I am not in the mood.”
“Since when? I can try to change your mind,” the American started to undo Illya’s shirt buttons.
Slapping his hands, “No, you may not.”
Napoleon sighed, “What is it in that letter that has you in a bad mood?”
"General Pushka Chernoff of the KGB." Illya spat out his name.
“I thought General Skobelev** of the GRU was your superior?”
“He is, but General Pushka has never liked me or accepted the decision to send me to UNCLE. He is just showing that he still has control over me.”
“And what does he want? Surely General Skobelev can call him off.”
Taking Napoleon’s hand, Illya kissed it. “That is not the way it works, моя любовь (my love). While the GRU and KBG are always fighting over everything, they will not interfere when the other makes a request that is considered reasonable.” He handed the letter to his lover.
After reading it, Napoleon looked puzzled. “It asks that you entertain three of your past shipmates for three days while they are in New York. That can’t be too bad.”
Illya gave a cheerless laugh, “These three tormented me for the whole time I was on the ship. Pushka knew but allowed it, maybe even encouraged them.”
Napoleon slid down on the couch behind his friend putting his arms around him, “I’ll be with you if you wish.”
“I am not sure it would be wise. It might show too much of our relationship.”
“I’ll explain that UNCLE is concerned that you might take off back to Russia, causing other groups we work with to wonder why we would allow a Russian to join our organization in the first place. After all, I am your partner and superior. It makes sense that I would be assigned to watch you.”
“You would do that for me?”
“Il mio amore (my love) I would go to the ends of the earth for you,” Napoleon told him with his Italian term of endearment. Then grin, “Actually, I have. I also have an idea of how to get back at these bullies without getting you or me into trouble.”
Picking up the phone, he dialed. When answered, he said, “Aunt Amy, I need a favor, and your devious mind is very important to my request.”
At the appointed time, the partners met the three sailors, , and at their ship. All three were over six feet and weighed at least 250 pounds each. The unpleasant grin that appeared on their faces when seeing Illya had Napoleon’s blood boiling as he took an instant dislike to them.
“They’re two times your size. They better not try anything with me around,” Napoleon hissed.
“Stay calm,” Illya whispered. “They are trying to annoy me. Their cruelty no longer perturbs me.”
“Well, it bothers me,” Napoleon whispered back and gave the men a smile that didn’t meet his eyes.
“Well, well. If it isn’t our little mouse,” Orlov called out when getting close to Illya, causing the other two to start laughing.
Illya nodded at the men as they reached him, “Welcome to New York.” He replied in English.
“Oh, the little mouse has already become contaminated by the Capitalist world forsaking his mother’s tongue,” Orlov said with a taste of disdain.
“Untrue Orlov, I speak English so our guest can participate in the conversation. It is polite, after all.” Illya corrected Orlov’s assumption insulting his manners at the same time.
“Do not correct your betters, little mouse,” Orlov said, slight anger in his voice, then he switched to English, “And who is our ‘guest’?
“This is my superior Napoleon Solo, CEA of UNCLE.” Illya introduced his partner with a wink.
“Are they afraid you’ll come back to us? As if we would want you back.” the sailor’s laughed at Orlov’s taunt.
Napoleon spoke up for the first time. “Do you mind if we speak English? I would like to be aware of what is being said.” It was better that they didn’t know he understood what they were saying.
“Okay, Mr. Superior, we would not want our little companion to get into trouble.” Orlov’s mocking encouraged his companions to laugh once more.
“And what is it you want to do while here?” Illya inquired, ignoring their ridicule.
“Eat and drink what else would we want to do in this godforsaken place,” Orlov said, “But none of that water or slop the Americans call food and drink.”
“I know just the place. We will go to little Russia where our countrymen run a wonderful restaurant.” Illya told them, leading the way to the van he had signed out.
“Je suppose qu'Orlov estto le meneur (I assume Orlov is the ringleader),” Napoleon asked in French, a language Illya had assured him the men didn’t know.
Climbing into the driver seat, Illya answered. “Et l'intimidateur (And the bully).”
The Christmas lights, decorations, and music on the streets were insulted and made fun of by the men.
“No wonder the American’s are so weak,” Orlov declared. “What a waste of time and money on tiny lights, cheap plastic, and promises of things not true. You American are a foolish bunch.”
“We Americans may be a foolish bunch, as you so kindly stated, but we allow ourselves to experience fun and enjoyment in little things.”
“Foolish American,” Orlvo laughed. The others joined him. “So little mouse, do you agree with your American friend?”
“Although your lack of manners deserves no answer, I do agree with him. His people all fun and enjoyment, something we often were denied. Now, we have arrived, try not to insult everyone you meet. They are our countrymen and women.” Illya informed the men as he stepped out of the van.
“They left their country to come to this overindulgent country, so they are no longer my countrymen. Hopefully they haven’t forgotten how our food taste,” Orlov grumbled.
Once they reached the restaurant, the men were met by the owner, a friend of Illya’s. “Watch your manners,” Illya reminded the men.
“We have the back room for you, my friend,” the owner said glancing at the sailors behind Illya. “Soundproof and almost indestructible.”
The food was good, the vodka was flowing, and the sailors were loud and insulting to Illya and the staff serving them. It wasn’t until almost the end of the meal that Napoleon saw his friend stiffen in anger.
“So little mouse, did you ever find your quilt?” Orlov drunkenly goaded.
Illya gritted his teeth, “Nvet.”
“Oh, does the little mouse still miss his Babusya’s quilt? Last we saw it was still in the same place.” His companions roared with laughter at the look of anger on Illya’s face.
Napoleon placed his hand on Illya’s leg under the table and whispered, “Il mio amore, they are doing this to upset you. Don’t let them.”
Glancing at his lover and partner, the real smile Napoleon offered him helped to calm Illya down.
Illya ignored the sailors, and when they received no further reaction, the men finished eating, then returned to the ship for the night. Napoleon and Illya when back to their apartment, where the Russian explained the quilt was the only thing that he had left from his Babusya. The men had stolen it one night when he was on duty and hid it on the ship. Although he had searched everywhere, he could, but he was never able to find its location. The rest of the night, Napoleon spent helping Illya forget the cruelty he suffered at the hands of those fools and tiring him out enough to get a good night’s sleep.
The small silver hair lady answered the door smiling at Napoleon and Illya. She was dress in her holiday best, diamonds in her ears and around her neck and a ring that shine so brightly that it could blind someone. The agents could barely couldn’t believe what they saw as Aunt Amy never dressed as she was tonight. They weren’t sure what she planned to do, but no one was better at belittling someone while making it seem as if she is trying to be kind.
“Darlings,” she called out, placing a kiss on the two men’s cheeks. Looking behind the agents with disapproval and a wink the sailors couldn’t see, she said, “Are they safe?”.
The three sailors grinned at the ‘frightened’ American.
“They are Aunt Amy,” Illya assured her.
“Well, they look like homeless bums to me looking to case my house,” she grumbled. “I guess we’ll have to feed them as I promised I would. But darling,” she looked at Napoleon, “You’ll keep an eye on them, won’t you? They look shifty to me.”
Orlov and his friends took offense at the comment, “Madam, we are members of the Russian Navy and honorable.”
“You may say so, but from what I see, you look dishonest and deceitful.” With that, she opened the door widely.
Hurrying to the linen closet, she pulled out a dark-colored sheet placing it on her white couch. “You may sit on that. I don’t want my furniture destroyed by the grease and grime you may have on you.” Causing the sailors to glare at her. Then pointed to the other chairs, “You two make yourself at home,” she said to Napoleon and Illya. The two tried to keep the grin off their face as the sailor sat scowling at Aunt Amy.
“Kuryakin, how dare she speak to us like that. You need to set her straight.” Orlov ordered.
With a smirk, “I am afraid no one sets Aunt Amy straight,” Illya said, “Besides, I agree with her,” he mumbled under his breath.
“Drinks, gentlemen?” Amy asked. Yes, could be heard from all. “Illya dear, could you help me.”
Once at the bar, Amy poured a glass of Sherri for herself, Napoleon a glass of Johnnie Walker King George V Scotch that ran about $500 a bottle and Illya a glass of HDW CLIX Vodka at $400 a bottle that she stocked for them when they visited. She then pulled out a bottle of Vladimir Vodka that cost about $15 a bottle. She placed it on the counter where the sailors could see it. After pouring three glasses, she put the bottle down in the cabinet while placing the HDW where the three sailors could notice.
Illya observed the sailors’ eyes light up when noticing the expensive Vodka. They might be Russian, but they had traveled enough to know one of the best brands out there.
“Aunt Amy,” Illya held back a laugh, “You are evil.”
“I’ll teach them to bully my Illya,” she whispered back and kissed his cheek.
“It was years ago,” he started.
“And you are going to tell me that they haven’t given you a hard time during this visit.” The questioning look she gave him indicated that she didn’t need an answer.
Illya carried the glasses in while Amy passed them out. Each took a sip of their drinks only for the sailors to spit theirs out. “This is nothing but potato water,”
criticized, “Potato water would taste better.”
“Are you trying to be funny, old lady?” Orlov demanded.
Napoleon stood facing the three sailors. “That is my aunt that you’re insulting. You’ll either show her respect or leave. She invited you for a home-cooked meal. If you speak to her that way again, I will personally inform the American ambassador, who is my cousin. He will then take my complaint about your behavior as a guest in my Aunt’s home to the Russian ambassador.”
Putting her hand on her nephew, Amy said, “Napoleon, dear, don’t get so upset. Uneducated, ignorant men don’t know how to behave properly in refine company.” At that time, the cook called them to dinner, causing Orlov’s complain to be cut off before he could voice it.
Pulling out the chair for Amy, Illya whispered, “Are you okay?”
“Don’t worry about me. I’m having a great time,” Amy whispered back. “I understand most Russians don’t enjoy spicy food.”
“Russian food is never spicy-hot in that way. However, many Russians love such flavorings as onions, garlic, horseradish, mustard, and even pepper. But I have come to love spicy food, especially yours.” Illya confessed.
The cook brought out the appetizers that consisted of Jalapeño Popper Bagels, spicy devil eggs, and Hot and Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms. While Illya and Napoleon ate a large quantity of the appetizers, the sailors tasted each one but quickly put the items back on their plates before downing large gulps of Vodka. Black Bean Soup followed. After a few spoons full, they abandoned it also.
“Is something wrong?” Amy innocently asked.
A glare from Illya had Orlov shaking his head.
“I wasn’t sure if you preferred seafood or beef, so I had the cook make Cajun Parmesan Salmon and Szechuan Beef. I’m sure you will enjoy one of the two.”
The sailors looked at the main dishes and silently took a little of each. With each bite, drinks of vodka were used to cool it down. As they finished a small piece of each, they pushed their dishes away.
“We have a curfew to observe and need to be going,” Orlov announced, hurrying to the door.
“But aren’t you staying for dessert. I have
General Pushka, Illya heard from General Skobelev instead.
“Kuryakin, I am not sure what you did to those three last night, but Pushka was fuming — demanding your return. When I asked what happen, all he would say is that the men were invited to dinner and were given spicy food and cheap liquor. And an old lady had the nerve to insult them. I’m assuming it was Mr. Solo’s, Aunt Amy.”
“Yes, sir. She offered to cook them dinner, but she didn’t know about their dislike of spicy food,” Illya said.
“Lieutenant Kuryakin, I am sure the lady knew exactly what she was doing. Don’t forget, I have met her and felt her tongue about the treatment of you. Anyways, when I started to laugh, he realized how silly he sounded and has been locked in his office since then. Thank you for the entertaining day. I do suggest; however, you stay away from the ships for a while.” Laughing Skobelev ended the call before Illya could say anything.
“What did Skobelev want?” Napoleon asked as Illya hung up the phone
Shaking his head, Illya rolled over to face Napoleon, “Seems Pushka complained about dinner last night. However, after he presented his complained and Skobelev started to laugh, Pushka realized how silly it all was and locked himself into his office.”
Napoleon laughed, “Are you going to be safe?”
“Skobelev suggested that I do not go by the Russian ships for a while, but I am in no more trouble than normal with Pushka. Now, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted.”
During the week following the departure of his unwelcome guest, Illya saw little of Napoleon during the workday. At home, the American was constantly on the phone in the bedroom. When he asked what Napoleon was doing, he was told, “Just working on a situation.”
Then a few days before Christmas, Waverly’s secretary handed a box to Napoleon, and the mystery meetings ended.
Although asking, the American refused to tell his partner what was in it, causing the Russian to become more curious. As the good spy he was, Illya attempted to find out only to be stopped every time by Napoleon. It seemed several people knew what was in it, but no one was talking. Although not giving up his curiosity, he decided Napoleon would tell him when he was ready.
Napoleon and Illya sat before the Christmas tree in their apartment, drinks in hand, and snacks before them.
“So, Il mio amore our first Christmas season together that we’re actually home. What have you thought of it so far?”
“Interesting? How so?”
“All the energy people put into the season for one day is overwhelming. In my country, it would never be acceptable. However, the joy and happiness I see from the faces of people I passed in the street make it well worth the effects. People also seem friendlier to each other during the season.”
“True now if we could only come up with the formula to have it happen every day. So what do you like the best about the season?” Napoleon asked.
Illya motioned for Napoleon to come closer. As they came together, Illya raised a bunch of mistletoe about his head before kissing him deeply. “This little plant,” he said as they broke apart for air. “And giving you a gift.”
Handing Napoleon a beautifully wrapped box, he gave him a short kiss. Opening it, Napoleon found a set of cufflinks and matching tie clip. “These are breathtaking.
"Lapis lazuli. It is mostly mined in three major places in the world and small amounts in other places. One of the major places is the mines near Lake Baikal in Russia. My babusya believed that the stone helps support spiritual enlightenment by allowing you to go deeper within yourself. Awaken your true destiny and divine purpose when you harness the energy of the Lapis Lazuli crystal stone, also known as "The Wisdom Keeper.”
“Well, I think I found my true destiny when I found you. Thank you. They are stunning,” Napoleon kissed his partner on the cheek.
“I also placed a tracer in each piece, so next time you wander off, I can find you,” Illya teased as Napoleon was reaching for the mystery box under the tree.
“Really, Kuryakin. Maybe after that comment, I won’t give you your present.”
“But I been curious for a couple of weeks now. You cannot make me wait any longer.”
“Don’t think that I’m not aware that you were trying to find out what was in it,” A pout by Illya had Napoleon handing him the box.
Tearing the paper off, “I cannot believe I could not figure out where you hid……” Illya’s mouth dropped. Slowly he lifted the quilt out of the box. “How?” he whispered.
“I told Mr. Waverly about what had happened. At first, I wasn’t sure he was going to do anything other than listening, then he received a phone call. Whoever it was didn’t let him get a word in other than- ‘yes,’ ‘I understand,’ and ‘yes, dear.’ After he hung up, he said, ‘Your aunt called my wife. I’ll look into it.”
Illya was taken by surprise. “Why would they do that?”
“Illya, don’t you know how much people care. Anyways, Mr. Waverly said he called General Pushka, who refused to do anything. So, he called the American ambassador, who tried to get Pushka to intervene, but again he refused. This continued as my cousin called the Russian ambassador, who received another no, then he called the secretary of the Russian army forces who called Pushka. At that point, the General, obviously tired of the calls, was able to retrieve the quilt and pass it back.”
“Everyone did that for me? I still do not understand why everyone was willing to help me.”
“Never underestimate the influence of wives. All the men at that level of importance know each other as do their wives. Give those women something to sink their teeth in, and they are a force to be reckoned with. Even the secretaries at headquarters got into the act. They fixed the small holes, then Delforia cleaned the oil out and sanitized it. Everyone Illya wanted you to have this. We care.”
Overwhelmed with the kindness given to him, he leaned against Napoleon. “How do I thank them?”
“And how do I thank you?”
Napoleon wiggled his eyes. “I’ll think of something.”
“I am sure,” Illya shuffled himself closer to his lover. “But for now, I would like to sit, cuddle, and keep each other company.”
They fell asleep sharing Illya’s quilt while the fire burned down, and a gentle snow began to fall. Two men, no threats of pain or danger—just friendship and love. Tomorrow may bring risks, but right now, they slept peacefully safe in each other’s arms.