|Daddy's Little Girl
Author: RoseLight PM
April Dancer's father makes a surprise visit; he meets her unusual co-workers.Rated: Fiction K - English - Family - Words: 2,026 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 4 - Published: 09-02-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6293272
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
DADDY'S LITTLE GIRL
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive…"
April set out a silver platter of fragrant cheeses, biscuits drizzled with honey, succulent fruits. She adjusted the Irish lace table runner, selected a light, sparkling wine. She smiled with approval as her most recent acquisition, the Viennese crystal goblets, glowed in the candlelight.
April loved the travel opportunities her work afforded her; loved discovering tiny treasures to carry home. She had been born into a military family, and came to UNCLE a veteran globe-trotter, well-seasoned in languages and cultural adaptation, with an ingrained military respect for order, discipline, and endurance.
Hospitality came naturally to April, warmhearted and generous. Tonight she was preparing an informal evening with the most important man in her life: all three of them. The professional lives of enforcement agents were tense; their personal lives solitary. April tried to provide an antidote to stress when she could. The excuse for this gathering was to celebrate the conclusion of a rather tedious surveillance mission.
She could always count on Napoleon Solo to be first to arrive, always ready for a good time. Illya Kuryakin was always late, engrossed in some project or other until he lost track of time. Mark Slate-well, Mark was family, and came and went at will. The professional line between them had long-since blurred.
At the commanding knock, she called out in a silly-seductive voice "Dah-ling, thank God you're early so we can steal some time alone..."when she swept open the door with a low bow to welcome her first guest, she nearly swallowed her tongue.
"April May," the massive uniformed figure dominated the doorway.
"Ah, come in, Sir," she was still trying to recover.
"You're entertaining," he observed.
"Just a few friends after work-" she stammered. Damn. No, Drat, she quickly censored herself before he could read her mind and correct her. How could this man always reduce her to childhood?
"I didn't call ahead, because you're always on the way here or there. I decided to take the chance of catching you between assignments."
"Ah, direct assault. Effective strategy, Sir."
"I'm in town for a briefing, and then it's off to Luxembourg."
"It's just...splendid to see you, Sir. I'm so glad you came. May I get you some coffee?" April was reduced to automatic chit-chat.
"I'll help myself-" he disappeared into her kitchen, and the doorbell rang.
Napoleon Solo made the grand entrance, pulled April into an amorous embrace. "Aprille, Aprille, cara Aprille, mi amore," he crooned, dipping his hostess over backwards and nuzzling her playfully.
The order so startled Solo, he snapped abruptly to military stance, April struggling to disengage herself and preserve her balance.
"Ah...Napoleon, this is my father, Colonel Ezekiel Jedidiah Dancer."
"Sir." Solo shook his hand. The colonel appraised the fashionably-dressed Solo up and down, frowning.
"Ah, Napoleon is one of my guests..."
"I certainly hope so," he replied dryly. "I would not care to believe you greet strangers this way in New York City." His eyes nailed Solo. "And I do not appreciate a stranger storming my daughter's door and taking her like a beachhead."
Solo was surprised to discover he could still blush.
"Colonel, Napoleon is...one of the models from the shoot we just wrapped up."
He snorted. "Damn fool occupation for an able-bodied man."
"Napoleon, I need your help in the kitchen," she half-dragged, half-shoved Solo out of the room and rattled some pans to cover his laughter.
"I know I'm a model male...but when did I become a male model?"
"SShhh! Listen, you've got to call Illya and warn him off. The Colonel is a red-hot Cold Warrior. Just introducing Illya by his multi-syllabic name...one 'Da', and I'm doomed. Please, please..."
Napoleon's steady gaze frustrated her. "Calm down and explain this. I've never seen you so rattled."
She took a deep breath. "My family thinks I'm an international fashion model. It just seemed like the easiest, most logical cover to explain my work schedule, my travel, my wardrobe. Please play along."
"Ah, me fair Beauty, methinks I have you at me mercy," Solo twirled a fantasy mustache.
"Please, Napoleon," she begged him, so near tears he lost the heart to tease her. He clapped her shoulder in comfort.
"Get back in there and entertain the troops. I'll handle the Russian invasion."
She settled on the couch next to her father, suddenly mindful of her posture. She passed him the silver platter and asked, "How are Mother and the boys?"
"Oh, your mother is cheerful and busy as ever, organizing the move. Your brothers are all doing well. Which you would know if you kept in contact."
April bristled. "That's not fair, Colonel. My work takes me out of the country. I'm on call, just like you. I never neglect my monthly report."
"I'm sorry you find it such a chore to keep your family apprised of your whereabouts," he said gruffly. " I always made it a priority, even when I was in the field…" he searched longingly for his little girl in April's face, and softened. "Your mother keeps all the postcards...Vienna, Budapest, Algiers..."
"My work—" she began.
"Yes. Your work."
Napoleon rejoined the conversation, surmising this was not the first time the topic of April's occupation had been discussed.
"I thought we had brought you up to respect honor and loyalty, duty and sacrifice-"
"'And Truth, Justice, and the American Way'," Solo quipped, and earned a sour eye from the colonel.
"I just expected you would do something-significant-with you life."
"As opposed to merely frivolous?" she challenged him.
Solo jumped back in. "All the crew appreciate April, Sir. She's dependable, resourceful, a true professional. She never complains, no matter how long the hours or how uncomfortable the setting..."
The colonel leveled him with a gaze. "It is not necessary to enumerate my daughter's fine qualities to me. I'm simply pointing out her talents could be put to better use."
She lowered her head. "I am sorry I've disappointed you, Colonel," April said in a tiny voice Solo did not recognize.
Mark Slate shouldered through the door and into the silence. "April, luv," he greeted in high spirits, "Hullo, Napoleon," and he thrust a hearty hand out to the colonel. "Mark Slate, here."
April groaned. Now she would have to explain why this shaggy-haired foreigner with a guitar had a key to her apartment.
The colonel shook Mark's hand graciously. He had served with several British units and had regard for his comrades in arms.
"Mark, this is my father, Colonel E.J. Dancer. Mark's my...agent."
Slate caught his partner's eye and stayed silent until he could figure out her lead.
"So, you're the culprit who's always booking my daughter hither and yon. Don't you people ever check a calendar? Thanksgiving is still a family holiday, you know. April hasn't been home in four years."
"Certainly, Sir." Mark raised his eyebrows at April. He distinctly remembered the last holiday spent with her, in a black swamp, swatting exotic insect life.
A new knock at the door and April cast Napoleon a wide-eyed, helpless glance. She was not expecting anyone else, and things were already quite out of hand.
"Aren't you going to get the door, April?" Napoleon asked innocently. "I'll get it for you." He crossed the room jauntily and opened the door wide with a sweeping announcement, "Why, look, everyone-it's our favorite deaf-mute photographer, INK-y Dundee!"
Illya's fingers twiddled in sign language.
"A deaf photographer?" The colonel's eyes narrowed skeptically.
"Yes, Sir. He isn't distracted by noise, so he concentrates on the visual. A real artiste," Solo explained. "Hey, Inky, come greet our hostess," Solo grinned as he presented "Inky" to April. She glared at him, and they held a brief, snappy, finger-flying conversation. After that, the faux-photographer kept his hands and mouth preoccupied with food and drink to avoid conversation, simply nodding and making animated eye contact.
Mark tried to lighten the strained mood by strumming some old English ditties, and foregoing his usual anti-war protest ballads.
After twenty minutes, April simply surrendered to the asylum and the twitching of her temples.
"Well, I need to be back to my billet. Curfew, you understand," he chuckled. "Young people, have a pleasant evening. April May, I will see you tomorrow, 0-600." He leaned over and gave her awkward peck on the cheek.
"Yes Sir, Colonel. I look forward to it. Good night." She closed the door gently but firmly, flattening her back against it, closing her eyes, exhaling slowly, sliding down as her knees buckled. When she opened her eyes, they fell on the unfortunate Russian.
His reflexes were not quite quick enough to escape her wrath. Pummeling Illya with pillows, she could not hear his muffled defense- "mmmf...Napoleon's idea..arff..just following orders..."
"So, you like to watch my fingers tap-dance, do you? Maybe I should tap dance on your head!"
"Whoa, easy," Solo intervened to rescue his partner, as usual. "It was funny, c'mon, April..."
"Deaf-mute photographer—" she fumed. "The man's not an idiot, you know. Of course, now he thinks his daughter has idiot friends..."
Napoleon disarmed her and led her to the couch, patted the cushion between himself and Slate. "C'mon, Girl. Two shoulders, no waiting..."
"Now you're the Three Musketeers. When I needed rescue, I got the Three Stooges."
"Ah, Luv, what's got the bee in his bonnet-er..ah-bayonet?"
April crossed her arms in her lap, bowed her head between her shoulders. "The colonel has four children: a major, two captains, and an international fashion model." She rolled her eyes. "Guess which one I am."
"Cor, he's got no call to be disappointed in you." Mark lifted her chin tenderly to face him. "You are a remarkable woman, doing remarkable work in the world."
"But he doesn't know that," she said glumly. "And I can't tell him." April gulped down her pride and hot tears. She knew the three were closer than friends, but they were still enforcement agents, leery of sharing or examining deep emotional issues. She did not even know if they could understand.
Napoleon was perpetually on the outs with his family, so it was not an issue for him. Mark was comfortable with his cover. Illya, bless him, did not have any family to deceive. Joining UNCLE, April was prepared to sacrifice her life; she had not counted the cost of sacrificing all that made life worth living.
"He's always been my hero," she whispered. " Big and brave; smart and strong; preserving peace and annihilating evil, determined to make a difference in the world. He was right about all that stuff: loyalty and duty and honor and sacrifice. It was his example of commitment that inspired me to this work. He always believed I could do anything. And that's what he expected..."
"He'd be proud," Kuryakin affirmed.
"Daddy's little girl," Solo murmured, and thought, no wonder none of us mere mortals stand a chance with her. And with a jealous twinge, he realized no woman's eyes ever shone like that while discussing him.
"But he'll never know," she repeated sadly.
"Sorry, Honey," Solo wrapped a supportive arm around her. She dropped her head onto his shoulder, and he gave her a peck on the forehead.
"Well, I've partied enough for one evening." Mark rose and stretched and led the parade to her door.
"Thanks for un-inviting me, April. Let's do it again, real soon, " Illya deadpanned.
Once the trio left, April poured herself a shimmering goblet of wine. It was flat and sour .