Napoleon watched over his unconscious partner who had been hit with ice falling off the roof of a Thrush stronghold. Worried his mind wandered to the last time they had an assignment that involved ice, and compared the look of pain on his partners face now to the joy he saw on Illya’s face then.
“I thought Milwaukee would be warmer.” Napoleon complained blowing on his cold hands.
“Quit complaining and open the door so we can get the information.”
“What’s your rush? No one is out on a day like this.”
“I doing the Milwaukee’s polar bear plunge later this morning. I have not participated in one since I was a child and would like to take part in the event as long as we are here.”
“You can’t be serious thinking about jumping in the frozen lake today. Its 10 degrees out. Oh heck, my hands are freezing. You’ll have to open the door.”
Sighing Illya had the door open within a few minutes, they retrieved the information and headed toward the hotel.
Once warmed up, Napoleon watched his partner dress in a swimming suit.
“You aren’t serious about this are you?”
“But why would you even consider it?”
“It is ancient Russian custom. We did it as a community on mark the Feast of Epiphany on January 19th. It is a symbolic way to wash away the wrongs we committed the year before. They still do it today in Russia under government sanctions . I wish to experience again this memory, but you do not have to come with me.” Illya said dressing over the suit. “However, I understand that some of the women here are wearing bikinis this year.”
“Well partner, I wouldn’t want Thrush sneaking up on you. I’ll watch your back.” Napoleon said a dreamy look in his eyes.
“Of course Napoleon it is just to watch my back.”With a smirk, Illya lead the way out the door.
Napoleon watched the women in their bikinis running into and out of the water. He had to admit that he enjoyed the new coverings and what the cold did to their bodies, but still couldn’t understand why anyone would run into an ice filled lake on January 1st.
He turned his head to see his partner run from the lake, “You did this as a child?”
“With my father, uncles and cousins.” Illya was drying himself off quickly before putting his sweat-suit back on.”
“Russians. I don’t understand some of your customs.”
“And I do not understand many of your American traditions. Besides if you did not notice Napoleon, there are not many Russians here.” The happiness of the moment shined on Illya’s face
Illya smiled, “The best.”
A groan brought Napoleon back to the present.
“Napoleon?” a soft voice asked.
“Here partner. How’s the noggin?”
“I hate ice.” The Russian said as his head movement threatened to cause it to explode.
“That’s not what you said a few weeks ago when you plunged into Lake Michigan.”
A growl from the patient had Napoleon smiling. He knew Illya would be okay. Although a mixture of contradictions, Illya was his partner and he cherished each glimpse of the past that made up the man he had become.