At the shift change, the corridors of UNCLE New York overflowed with cheerful greetings.
"Happy Fourth of July, Linda!" "Happy Fourth, George!" "Going to see the fireworks, Mr Waverly?"
Only one small island moved silently in that sea of bubbling humanity, neither speaking nor spoken to. Illya Kuryakin was UNCLE's first Soviet agent; he had just been transferred to the U.S, and no one knew quite what to say to him on this definitely American holiday.
He paused in the tailor shop, as he had done for the past week, to wish Del a good evening. "And a happy holiday, too, Mr Del Floria," he added, a bit hesitantly.
"And a good evening to you, Mr Kuryakin," said Del. "Would you like to come watch the fireworks with my family tonight? We'd love to have you."
Illya knew he should refuse. He was an officer of the Soviet Navy, only stationed here to show his country's goodwill; he had no business celebrating the national holiday of a foreign power. Even though the invitation to do so was the first friendly gesture he had received in this country.
He was very lonely.
Illya swallowed hard, opened his lips to speak, but could not quite form that definite No. "I would only intrude," he hedged lamely.
"Nonsense! Everybody and his brother'll be there, you'll see. We always have a picnic in Central Park, waiting for the show to start, and my wife always cooks far too much food... we'll need your help to eat it all." Del grinned broadly. "Please, Illya Nicovitch? It's really not that much of a political holiday anymore, if that's what you're worried about. Just a picnic with friends."
Illya still wasn't too sure about this, but he had always been a man to make his own choices and take the consequences. He straightened his shoulders. "I would be honored to spend this evening with you and your family, Mr Del Floria," he said.
Several hours later, Illya lay sprawled on his back, entangled in a pile of sleepy Del Floria grandchildren, watching the magnificent firework display. His stomach was filled with good food, his muscles ached pleasantly from the rough-and-tumble game of not-quite-catch he'd gotten involved in, and the contentment in his heart spread a happy smile across his face. I am glad I came here, he decided. Perhaps I will like living in America after all.