Title: The Christmas Gala Affair
Feedback: Always welcome
Summary: Solo and Kuryakin spend Christmas together, even though that is not their intention.
Notes: For Romanse. Merry Christmas. Originally published in the Kuryakin Files.
Napoleon stepped out his front door and joined the masses trudging their way to work on this crisp and clear winter's morning.
The air was cool, but not blustery as it had been the day before, forcing him to take a taxi to the Masque Club.
But today, he would walk.
He wrapped his wool scarf around his throat, pushing chilled hands into his overcoat as he started down the street.
Most people would be getting off work early, because it was the day before Christmas, but not so for Solo.
His section chief, Mr. Waverly had informed both he and Illya that their services would be needed this evening, to attend a gala at the Plaza.
He was not informed of all the details, would in fact be briefed when he arrived at work this morning, but it had been suggested they both bring a date…to deflect suspicion.
And Napoleon knew just who he would invite, the pretty Penny Piccolo whom he had met at the coffee shop on 5th and Clover. He had just stopped one morning last week to get some coffee for he and his partner, but got a bit sidetracked with Miss. Piccolo.
She had been waiting in line in front of him, a briefcase in one hand and a black poodle on a leash in the other. Her dog, Chester had growled at him and she turned to apologize. Her eyes were so blue, it reminded him of the tropic ocean and she had such a beautiful smile, lovely dark hair.
He was smitten and by the time they reached the front of the line he had obtained her phone number, home and business.
Today he would call her straight away and secure her company to the gala.
A throng of people walked the streets with him, but he paid them little mind. The day was lovely as he hoped his night would be.
His mind wandered to all the possibilities. A night spent in the company of a beautiful woman, a work detail that seemed to be low priority and a weekend off.
Life was good.
He reached the entrance to the club, looked both ways before pulling on the double door and entering. He passed the counter and tables, moving swiftly to the back and toward the men's room where the entrance to UNCLE lay in secret.
Humming a little tune he slipped through the hidden doorway, wondering if Illya was already in the office. Perhaps today his partner had stopped to get the coffee.
Illya sipped his instant coffee, burning his tongue and lips, but it was the way he liked it, black, strong and scorching.
He was a bit rushed, but finished his drink and sat the mug in the sink. He would deal with the dish later when he returned home. His wool coat hung on a hook near the doorway and he grabbed it, looking down at his black slacks and black turtle neck.
He loathed the idea of having to wear a dress shirt and tie this evening.
He did not want to go to the Plaza, with a date no less. Yet it was his duty, so he would perform it to the best of his ability.
He pulled on his jacket and opened his door to a dingy apartment hallway. The stairwell smelt faintly of mildew and other things he cared not to identify.
When he reached the bottom landing he yanked open the heavy complex door and took the steps down to the street.
The cool wind blew and he shivered, joining the crowd of people already on the sidewalk and making their way to their respective places of business.
Another busy urban morning, but at least the traffic would be better later today. Many people would be retiring early in anticipation of the coming holiday and last minute shoppers would be crowding the stores instead of the streets.
He need not bother with either. Christmas wasn't exactly celebrated in his youth, but he did pick out a small gift for his supervisor, Mr. Waverly, and his partner of course because, well just because.
The winter wind picked up his scarf as he hailed a cab and he pulled it down and around his neck. A taxi pulled up and he gave the address for Del Floria's Tailor Shop. He checked his watch, but he still had ample time to make it into work.
Illya was anxious to find out the details of this evening. He spun the band, on his left ring finger around with his thumb. Who would he ask to accompany him? Perhaps someone from work or perhaps he could talk Waverly into letting him play chauffeur instead.
The taxi bumped over the cobble streets of his borough and then over the Hudson River into Manhattan. Within the stretch of a few miles he had traveled through many of the cities colorful communities and then the cab pulled to the curb and Illya handed over a ten spot, waiting patiently for his change.
Mr. Del Floria was helping a young woman with an order, a handsome grey pin striped suit, no doubt a present for her husband. The elderly man looked up as the bell over the door rang at Illya's entrance.
"Ah, Mr. Kuryakin…I had Ralph set out your alteration in the changing room. It's right through the back there. I'll join you momentarily."
He nodded politely at the tailor and the young lady as he passed, going into the last changing room at the end of the hall and through the secret door that led to UNCLE's headquarters.
It was going to be a long day…and he had forgotten Solo's coffee.
The sleek company car came around to pick Napoleon up at precisely five in the evening. He and Miss. Piccolo met the black sedan at the curb in front of the coffee house.
She was pleased to receive his call, but thought it appropriate to meet at a neutral location; she was a lady after all.
She was a stunning vision when he had laid eyes on her all those days ago, but this evening, she was beyond stunning.
Her light lavender dress moved with her as she walked toward him, holding a matching clutch purse in her delicate hand. Her hair was upswept, and yet flowing in loose curls around her lovely face.
The sun was just setting, making Penny's eyes all the bluer.
A moment later the car arrived and he took her hand as the chauffeur came around and opened the door for her.
She smiled and thanked the driver politely, ducking into the back of the car and he helped her with her dress as she slid across the back seat.
Napoleon made a bit of a show of opening his wallet and pulling out a bill to tip the driver, smiling wider as his partner rolled his eyes and pocketed the bill. Kuryakin tipped his hat and said, "Thank you, sir."
Solo slid in beside Penny and Illya shut their door, going back around to the driver's seat and put the car into gear, pulling out into the early evening traffic.
The streets were not crowded, the biggest nusance being the stoplights that seemed to turn red every time they approached one. Within a few minutes they had made it uptown and to the Plaza Hotel.
Their 'mission' was a simple one…more of a security assignment. Some of the best minds of their day would be attending the gala and Nepoleon and Illya were charged with keeping an eye on one specific scientist that was in UNCLE's employ.
He had received some recent acclaim, a breakthough in physics that he was sure Illya would have perfectly understood and it was feared that that find would make him a target.
THRUSH opertives may be afoot.
The car slowed and then stopped and the 'driver' came around and opened the door. Penny thanked Illya again as she took Solo's arm, nearly dragging him through the grand foyer in her excitement to be seen with the cities upper crust.
At the entrance to the ballroom he handed over his invitation to the gentlemen behind the arrival desk, who glanced over it and then escorted them to the coat room.
They checked their coats and Napoleon pocketed his check ticket.
Inside, Penny took his arm again, excitement radiated off her in waves and Napoleon was amused. A group of waiters worked the room, offering alcohol in elegannt crystal glasses and hors d'oeuvres on silver trays. There were cocktail tables scattered around the grand room, and round banquet tables as well. A formal dinner would begin after the cocktail hour and then it would be easier to keep a eye on his assignment.
Speaking of his assignment, he spotted the man across the ballroom, a flock of people clammering around him to get a chance to talk to a modern day genius. The man's wife, although beautiful, looked board, but brightened as a waiter passed by and she was able to snag a glass of champagne.
Penny yanked on his arm again as the orchestra began. He allowed her to lead him, as people moved to the dance floor, including the scientist Napoleon was charged with keeping a discreet eye on, so he took Penny's hand and pulled her into the frame of his arms.
He was an excellent dancer and enjoyed holding Penny close, her purple chiffon dress moved as gracefully as she did and her hair smelled like spring flowers on a warm summer day.
Penny was easily led around the floor in the clockwise patern, clinging to him as he spun her around. She giggled at his bravado, but he had an ulterior motive. It was easier to see the scientist this way.
The next song began, but he excused himself from Penny, offering her a glass of champagne as a waiter walked by. "I'll return shortly, my dear."
The scientist was on the move.
He followed his mark down the long hallway at the other end of the grand room. As he turned the corner into the wash room he saw that his date was chatting up a rotund man with wire rim glasses.
It was going to be a long evening spent hobnobing with the rich and priviledged and it seemed that his date may have wandering eyes.
The scientist slipped into a stall, but it was Solo's job to be sure that he was safe even in this private matter.
From the sound of it, perhaps Illya had chosen a better path for the evening and Napoleon wondered what his partner was doing.
After dropping Solo and his date off at the front entrance, Illya drove around to the back of the building, falling in line behind at least twenty other cars that had dropped off their occupents. He parked the town car in a spot closest to the street, in case he was in need of a quick getaway.
In truth, they had not really expected any kind of attack this evening.
THRUSH agents were usually a bit more discreet when taking what they wanted, but Waverly wanted to be sure their employee was well protected and that his best team, his words, not Illya's, were on the job.
And it wasn't like he had any plans anyway.
He slipped in the rear door and through the large, noisy kitchen. None of the staff bothered to pay him any mind, the heat, the clatter of the pots and pans coupled with the head chef barking orders occupied their attention.
He grabbed a black servers jacket left hanging, for his purposes, on a hook by the breakroom door. He switched out of his driving jacket and pulled on the form of a waiter, picking up a tray of hors d'oeuvres on his way out of the swinging double doors.
He had no problem blending in with the other wait staff. People often did not pay attention to a person in a uniform, any type of uniform.
If asked, they probably would not even be able to tell what he had looked like, even though he had offered them a treat from his tray.
The ballroom was lively and after a circuit around the room he spotted his partner dancing with Miss. Piccolo, spinning her around in a grand motion so that Solo could see their assignment better.
Illya moved amongst the cheerful crowd, many people in the holiday spirit, drinking and making merry, some already fall down drunk.
He overheard two old spinsters cackling about their ungrateful husbands as he paused, offering them a cocktail napkin and a skewered piece of bacon wrapped shrimp, his attention divided between his assignment and his partner.
Solo was following the scientist down the corridor that led to the washrooms and it seemed that Miss. Picoalo had struck up a conversation with some foreign dignitary.
He smirked, taking a step back toward the woman, allowing them to take the last of the food from his tray.
It was going to be a long evening, he decided as he went back to the kitchens, this time taking a silver serving tray with crystal fluted champagne glasses.
He could see that Miss. Piccolo had moved on to a man in a white tux jacket, his white hair slicked back, his skin too tanned for the season.
Solo was casually leaning against the bar, sipping a martini. His piercing eyes followed his mark, not his date.
Over the course of the evening Illya had returned to the kitchen what seemed like a hundred times. Each time he returned his partner was in a different part of the room, eyes ever watchful, but it seemed that perhaps thay had finally gotten a break.
By dinner time, Illya had changed jackets once again, serving the diners along with a crew of other servers, placing plates in unison, from the left side, sitting down soup bowls, entrees, and dessert plates in a weird sorta dance.
Miss. Piccolo had rejoined Solo, but she chatted up any man within ear shot of her seat…Napoleon seemed not to notice or maybe, he just didn't care.
Finally the evening was winding down.
No rogue agents made a move on their mark.
A little before ten their assignment said his good byes and a car with other undercover agents picked he and his wife up at the front door, off to enjoy their Christmas.
Illya stacked a few plates he had removed from the dining area near the dish washer.
A few moments later Napoleon joined him, decidedly alone, but holding the woman's coat.
"So what happened to pretty Penny Piccolo?"
"Oh, you know…" his partner began.
"Yes, I know." Illya turned to make his way back through the kitchen, dodging the work staff as they cleaned up the dinner dishes and cutlery, shedding his jacket and hanging it on the hook he found it. "I'll drop you off before returning the car, " he told his friend.
"Oh, I don't know. I could go with you and then we could get a drink before…"
Illya didn't know what Solo's plans were for Christmas, he was just looking forward to a day off. But since he had no obligations. "Why not?"
It was nearing eleven by the time they reached the Roxy. The bar wasn't crowded, but the band was just as lively, playing classic Christmas carols, the brass horns and sax offering a smooth rendition of Jingle Bells.
And as a bonus, that he knew Solo would appreciate, their waitress was wearing a short black skirt, showing long, shapely legs, a chrisp white blouse that barely contained her bountiful bust and a bright red Santa's hat, that matched her lipstick.
She brought them both a scotch on the rocks and a saucy smile.
Illya watched his partner flirt and the woman seemed to take an instant interest in Napoleon, dressed to the nines in his best suit, But Illya could tell Solo's heart just wasn't in it.
After she went to see to her other patrons he said, "So…will you be seeing Miss. Piccolo again?"
"I think by now she surely must have secured dates with at least ten ambassadors, seven politicians and even a prince."
They talked a little about work and the new secretary in records, well Napoleon did, and of the few days off they both wanted to enjoy.
Illya sipped his scotch, eyeing the dwindling crowd. It was getting late and even though he was enjoying the company, his bed was calling.
A few rounds later and nearing midnight they decided to share a cab back downtown to Solo's home and then Illya could continue on to his home and retire for the evening..
They rode in silence. Illya's gaze seemed to be following the festive lights that adorned the streets of Napoleon's neighborhood.
The cab bumped along the narrow street, seemingly hitting every pothole in sight
After a few miles of that torture and the beginnings of a headache adtributed to one too many drinks, they neared the intersection of Napoleon's home.
They were just navigating the intersection when a loud horn blared. Bright lights rushed toward them through the window on Illya's side of the car.
A vehicle was barreling through the intersection.
They both braced for the inpact, he could see Solo out of the corner of his eye as he raised both hands and covered his head, ducking forward and away from Illya.
He didn't have time to think, acted on instinct and raised his own hands, but was unable to move away from the door before the bus broadsided the taxi they road in.
His window imploded and he was thrown forward and to the side, nearly in Solo's lap as the taxi spun around three hundred and sixty degrees.
As the car whirled around, he could feel the tires on his side rising in the air and then the car was rolling. He could find nothing to hang onto, and every loose object in the vehicle rose up to pelt he and Napoleon.
He heard a hoarse scream, thinking it must be the driver.
They were upside down, skidding along the blacktop, the driver's door suddenly yanked opened and tore the man from his seat and Illya slid across on the roof of the cab toward the front.
The window cracked in slow motion and then it was just gone and Illya frantically looked for purchase, something to stop his momentum toward the new exit.
Down was up and up was down.
His head hit the dashboard and then the steering wheel and his body was somehow flung up and over, jammed into the space between the steering wheel and the floorboard, the gas pedal stabbed him in the back and he wondered how it could be that he was still conscious.
He could not see his partner and even though he tried to call out to him, he could not…the force of the movement of the rolling car would not allow him to open his mouth.
He didn't know, couldn't preceive what was happening now, something sharp smacked his head and he could feel a gush of blood running up his face.
Bright stars and squiggley lines exploded behind his eyes and he realised they were now closed. He thought perhaps the car had stopped because he could hear people, voices raised, hands on him and then sirens.
Some time later he was covered with something heavy, yet he kept his eyes pressed tightly closed or at least he thought he did. Smashed glass and creaking metal protested all around him.
Napoleon's voice pierced the darkness and Illya didn't know if now his eyes were just closed or if he was blind.
"You'll be okay," he heard clearly. "Just hang on Illya."
Metal continued to creak and he could still hear glass breaking, the shards raining down on whatever covered his body.
"But I can't leave him."
"Sir, you need to go to the hospital…we'll get him out."
Was Solo hurt?
If so he needed to be treated.
He tried to tell Solo to go, get treated, but when his mouth opened nothing came forth.
He tried again. Nothing and then the numb feeling lifted a little, allowing pain to consume him. His limbs felt twisted and his head pounded as if caught in a vise. His back was on fire and something deep in his gut screamed or maybe that was him.
What's wrong with me?
Something squeezed his arm and then something sharp pierced his skin. He flinched or at least he thought he did.
He sensed a bright light, somewhere over his head and when he opened his eyes the corner of whatever was covering his body was lifted up. A man in a uniform shined the light into Illya's eyes and the man's mouth was moving.
It seemed Illya had traded blindness for deafness.
The world around him was slowly fading and he thought it very odd that even though he was lying on his back, he could see the steering column above him.
The medic continued to talk, but Illya's eyes closed and then he felt nothing at all.
"No, I have to…"
The sirens wailed as the ambulance raced through the night.
"You have to lie still, sir." The E.M.T. that loomed over Solo gave him a stern look, but Napoleon was not deterred.
"No, my partner…" he tried again.
"Your partner is in good hands, sir. The men with him are the best and they'll have him out in no time at all and then he'll be on his way to the hospital too."
Napoleon could hardly believe it. All hell had broken loose just a block from his house and his quiet weekend. And Illya….Illya was trapped in the wreckage of the taxi they were in.
He closed his eyes tight against the pain rediating up his leg. He had to hold it together so that he would be aware when they brought his partner in, but with his eyes closed the horrific accident replayed behind them.
The screetching metal, the rain of glass and small objects rising up to hit him. The car rolling and Illya's screams.
Napoleon had been thrown back once the car was upended and somehow his leg became intangled. The seat had seperated enough for his foot to be forced through the seat and backrest and then slammed back together, holding him by his ankle in the rear of the car as his partner was thrown forward.
More then likely this had saved his life, even if it had trashed his leg.
He opened his eyes as the ambulance slammed on the brakes and then backed up. The doors opened an he was being pulled from the back and rolled through parting bay doors.
"I need to know about…"
Doctors and nurses bustled around him, cutting his best suit and pulling off his shoes.
"You have to tell…"
Before he could quite comprehend what was happening, they had him stripped and covered with a thin sheet, rolling his gurney through the hall.
"We're taking you to X-ray, sir."
He shook his head. He didn't care about that, about himself…he felt fine…mostly.
He wanted to know about his partner. Surely he must be at the hospital by now.
"Illya…" he tried again, feeling lightheaded and suddenly weak. He looked at the I.V. in his arm and then up at the bags hanging from the pole. "My par…"
"Just relax, sir…this won't take long and the meds we've given will help you to stay calm."
He nodded, his eyes closing as they picked him up as if he was a rag doll and placed him on a cold and hard table.
He could hear a machine whining and whirling aorund him, could hear someone telling him to lie still and when to hold his breath, as they took pictures of his insides, and then…
Napoleon came to with a start, gasping in a lungful of air.
He looked around at the stark white room and then down at his throbbing leg, wrapped tight in brown bindings.
His knee was puffy and sore as he tried to move. He hissed as he managed to get it off the pillow, but the wires attached to him pulled and an alarm went off somewhere near by.
A woman in white, with matching cap came rushing into the room. "Mr. Solo…please lie back down."
She pushed on his shoulder and he allowed her to lower him back to the bed. She tucked her arm under his knee and carefully placed it back on the pillows.
"Where is Illya?" he asked suddenly as she arranged his blankets, trying to sit up again.
"You need to remain calm…please, lie back down."
But he continued to squirm and push at her, panic rising for his friend. When last he saw Illya he was trapped in a hunk of crumbled metal.
Next thing he knew a few men in matching white uniforms entered the room, restraining his arms, pushing him carefully back to the bedding but with enough force that Solo knew they meant business.
He felt a swab and the cool sting of a needle in his flesh.
The room started to spin, so he closed his eyes and rode out the dizziness. When he was sure his stomach would stay where it belonged, he ventured to open his eyes and saw another man, tall and thin, with a thick black mustache and wire rimmed glasses looking at his chart.
His crisp white coat indicated that he was the man with the answers.
"Where is Illya Kuryakin?" he asked, his words slurring.
"You must rest now, Mr. Solo. You have substained some minor injuries, your leg being a major concern. It is broken and once the swelling goes down we will fit you with a cast."
He nodded his understanding, starting to ask about his partner again.
"The other gentlemen in the taxi with you…he is still in recovery. I am not his doctor, but I will obtain what information I can for you if you promise to rest."
He wanted to ask what kind of surgery, only people who have had surgery go to recovery, but the doctor turned on his heels and left the room before he could ask.
The nurse remained, messing about with the I.V. lines and tubing until she informed him his breakfast tray would be in soon.
He startled, "Breakfast?" Looking toward the shaded window he saw that indeed the sun was shining, still low in the sky. "What time is it?"
How had it gotten to be morning already?
"Just after eight." She must have noted his confusion, so she continued. "The taxi you were traveling in was hit by a bus and you were brought here immediately, in and out of consciousness and incoherent. You awoke through out the night, but I'm sure the medication they have given you will cloud those memories. Your friend, he was trapped in the wreckage for some time, but brought here and then taken right into exploratory surgery."
"I want to see him." Napoleon tried getting up again, but the room did a quick spin and his stomach a slow tumble. He sunk back into the bedding. "When can I see him?"
"I think you'll both be here for a several days." She plumped his pillows and turned to leave. "I'll be back to check on you in a bit and I'll see what I can find out about your friend."
He wasn't satisfied with her answers and was determined to find out the facts he seeked, but his body had another idea.
His eyes closed and he told himself he would just rest for a moment, just rest and then he would get his answers.
Squeaky wheels woke him with a start and his head was killing him. The sound was coming from the hall and as he looked to the window he could see that the sun was high in the sky.
His door pushed opened and orderlies pulled the squeaky wheeled gurney into his room and passed his bed.
On it, Illya lay pale and still, either asleep or unconsious.
Two men grabbed the sheets below his partner and with the assistance of the nurse shifted Kuryakin from the gurney to the other bed in the room.
The woman covered his partner with the sheets and blanket.
She checked the band around his right wrist and then consulted the chart at the end of his bed.
"How is he?" Napoleon asked, pushing himself up on an elbow to get a better look at Illya. "What's wrong with him?"
The nurse finished settling Illya and turned to him, hopefully to give him answers and not stick him with another needle.
"We don't usually put family members and loved ones in the same rooms," she said.
He was about to correct her, but found that he could not. Illya was as close to a brother as he was going to get.
"You must know someone on the board."
He was sure that he did not, but then the shadow fell across his bed and he saw his boss standing in the doorway.
"Napoleon." Waverly said, moving into the room and looking toward his other man, still lying very still in the other bed. "How is he?" Waverly asked the nurse and this time she deemed to answer.
"He's doing as well as can be expected. No broken bones, but lots of painful bruising, a concusion. The most serious injury was a ruptured spleen that was causing internal bleeding. It's been repaired and he should heal, given time."
Napoleon dropped back down, blowing out a heavy breath.
A Christmas miracle?
They were lucky, the both of them.
Hit by a bus and lived to tell about it.
"He should be coming around soon," she told his boss. "And they both need to rest."
"I'll make sure of it," Waverly told her, dismissing her as she had wanted to do to him. She smiled tightly, walking toward the door.
"And how are you?" Waverly asked him.
"Fine, I'll be fine." The man did not looked convinced, but nodded his head. "I just wanted to see with my own eyes that you two were okay. I have to go, Christmas dinner at my sister's house, but I'll chek in on you again tomorrow."
"You don't have too, sir." And as he said the words he wished he could suck them back in. Of course Waverly didn't have to, but he knew that wasn't the point. "I ah…We'll see you tomorrow then. Merry Christmas, sir."
"And to you." His boss turned to leave. "If you need anything, just call in. I'll have someone bring whatever is needed."
Before he could thank him, Waverly was out the door and Napoleon could hear his Italian leather shoes echoing down the hall.
"What a fine pair we make, " he said to the man in the next bed. "Oh, and Merry Christmas."
His gut was on fire, all consuming and he could not understand why he was in such pain. This was far worse than any other injury he had ever had, and that included the time he had pulled a groin muscle, on the pommel horse during practice in his youth.
Thinking about that brought back strange and warped memories of his time at University, in the Ukraine, of music lessons and language courses, stumbling over the complex dialict of the Japanese and then of Svetlana.
Golden hair of sunshine and eyes so deep and blue…but then her lovely face morphed into wax, melting into a fiery blast that rocked Illya's body.
Someone was speaking, perhaps calling his name, but he could not focus on that. The pain he was experiencing was erupting just like the blast and he moaned deep in his throat.
He could hear himself gasping and muttering and yet the sounds seemed so removed, as if he was listening from another room.
"Please, Illya…you stubborn Russian…listen to me…open your eyes."
What has happened…where was he?
"You're going to be just fine. I buzzed for the nurse. They'll give you something for the pain."
Yes, he needed something to take the edge off, to quench the fire roaring in his belly.
"Just open you eyes so I know you're well."
Were they closed?
But then how could he have seen Sveta?
He tried to open his eyes, tried to see his partner, but he could not. And then…they just opened.
Sveta's lovely golden hair, the melting wax, the fire…all gone.
Just Napoleon in the next bed, his leg raised and resting on a pillow.
Hospital? Why were they in hospital?
"The bus." Solo said and it all came rushing back. The impact, the raining glass, hitting his head, feeling trapped.
Illya asked, "Are you alright?" His voice hourse and straining. His throat hurt and his head was still muzzy, like cotton.
"Me? I'm fine."
He didn't know why Napoleon had such an incredulous look on his face.
A nurse came and injected him with something that made everything blessedly numb and then he listened to Solo explain what had transpired.
"Quite an eventful evening," he finally said, trying in vain to keep his eyes opened. "When can we go home?"
"Oh, in a week or so." Napoleon told him. "Before you drift off old man, decide what you want for dinner. I have chosen ham with all the trimmings."
The thought of food made him sick and then it occurred to him what day it was.
He reached forward and picked up the menu noting his choices between red or green jello and chicken or beef broth. "Hmmm…the chicken I think and considering the day, red and green jello…"
"Ah, good choice…and ah…Merry Christmas, Illya." His partner picked up the newspaper he had discarded and began reading. "And I'll wake you when your feast arrives."
He could not wait to get home.
It hurt to lie down and it hurt to sit. He just wanted his own bed and quiet. How could anybody heal in a hospital? People came in and out all hours of the night, poking and prodding and asking ridiculous questions. And they spoke over the intercom, paging this person and that person, it was nealry impossible to rest.
His partner sat, fully dressed in a wheelchair near his bed, his casted leg raised and a black sock pulled down to cover his toes.
He was keeping Illya company even though he had been released days ago.
"It's almost time, friend. Try not to fidget."
Illya chose to ignore Solo, not wanting to snap at the man…again.
"Come, now…not the silent treatment again?"
But still he did not look. He could tell that Napoleon was reading the daily paper from the sound of the rustling. And earlier he had asked Illya his input on the clues for the crossword puzzle.
Illya was trying not to be grumpy, but he…well he hurt. And he was anxious to go home.
His stay had been strange, the medicine for his pain making him endure dreams of another time. He fingered his ring with his thumb again, a habit that he couldn't seem to break.
Finally the doctor breezed in, the nurse on his heels. "Afternoon, Mr. Kuryakin. How are we feeling today."
"Fine," he said without much conviction. Today he was to be released and he just wanted to get on with it. A week in this place was seven days too long.
"Let's take a look then. Mr Solo…"
"He can stay," Illya said. Over the past several days his partner and he had been comparing bruises and so, if it would hurry the process, Napoleon could stay.
The doctor nodded, checking the readouts on the machines around him and then he pulled the corner of Illya's gown down to listen to his bare chest anyway.
He was told to take deep breaths and he tried breathing in as deep as he could. His chest and back were examined and then the doctor lowered his bed. The older man pulled the gown all the way down and picked at the tape holding the white sterile bandages in place.
Last night Illya was finally allowed to bathe on his own and during his shower he had studied the neat row of sutures that ran the length of his stomach, from pubic bone to just below his breast bone.
The doctor seemed please with his progress, pressing into his stomach in steady circles all around his abdomen.
It hurt, but the pain was tolerable.
"This looks very good, very good indeed." He left the healing wound exposed and picked up Illya's chart. "The nurse will redress that and give you written instruction, but no driving, no lifting and no sex for at least eight weeks."
Illya heard Napoleon sputter, but refused to look at him.
While the doctor wrote notes and consulted the papers before him, the nurse, a new one…he had not seen her in the week that he had been there, put some antisepctic cream on his incision and then applied a clean bandage, taping the gauze all the way around.
"I'm signing your discharge papers now, should only be a few minutes before you can head home. Remember you need to see me in two weeks and to take it easy, or you might find yourself back here."
Illya surely did not want that. He nodded his head and as soon as the last piece of tape was in place, he pulled his sheets up over his bare chest.
"You can get dressed, but take your time."
Illya waited patiently until they were both gone, off to make a list of restrictions and fill his prescriptions before raising the head of the bed again.
Solo sat forward in his seat, wanting to help, but unable to. "I got it," he told his partner. "I got it."
When the bed got to the point were his body bent at the waist, he took in a quick breath and breathed out slowly through his nose. He carefully pushed himself up, swinging his legs over the side.
"I should get the nurse," Napoleon said, rolling his chair toward the bed and the call button.
"No," he hissed as he slid to his feet, waiting for the slight wave of diziness to pass. It wasn't as bad as the first day they had gotten him up, and it had gotten a little better each day after that. It felt good to be upright, felt good to have the pressure taken off his bruised flesh.
He shuffled like an old man, huntched over and pressing his arm to his belly, putting pressure on his sutures. Finally he got to the bathroom and managed to turn and shut the door.
It took him a few tries, but he got a button up shirt on and sat on the closed toilet seat to step into his slacks. He tried to bend over to pull on his loafers, but the position pulled on his belly to much.
Giving up, he stood slowly and dropped the shoes to the floor, jamming his stocking feet into each one, while holding onto the sink.
He had brushed his teeth earlier, but he didn't shave and didn't care that he was sporting a five o'clock shadow this early in the day.
He was just running his fingers through his hair when he heard his partner speaking to someone on the other side of the closed door.
He gave himself one last look, deciding it was as good as it was going to get and opened the door. He had expected the nurse or maybe the doctor, but not his boss.
Another wheelchair was in the room and his boss had ahold of the handles. "Ah, Mr. Kuryakin…right on time."
He wasn't comfortable with the situation, but he walked slowly toward the chair and carefully sat down.
"Good to see you up and about."
"Thank you, sir." It was odd, but he allowed his boss to manoeuver the wheelchair around and push him out the door. He could hear Napoleon wheeling himself along behind them.
"The doctor has given us your instructions and I thought it best ou stay with Mr. Solo until…"
He started to protest, but the man overrode his interuption.
"…you are healed enough to be on your own."
"Yes, sir," he gave in, imagining Napoleon smiling behind him.
The ride in the town car was comfortable enough, but still Illya squirmed in his seat. Solo and Waverly sat on either side of him, lending what support they could. Illya had been given something for the pain right before they left and Napoleon hoped it was still working.
They passed the very same intersection that was the scene of the accident just a week ago. Cars traveled the lanes and people crowded the sidewalk just like any other day, just like it had never happened..
This weekend would be crowded and perhaps a little insane as people would cram into Time Square to see the ball drop.
Tonight, he and Illya would welcome the new year in a different way…hopefully Illya will be tucked in bed and resting, healing.
The car pulled to the sidewalk and it was a challenge to get everything out of the trunk that was needed. Napoleon waited for the driver to open the wheelchair and then slid out of the car, hobbling one footed until the crutches were handed to him.
He could see a sullen look cross his partner's face, but smiled dispite himself when Waverly asked Illya what he was waiting for.
"Don't worry," Solo said. "It's only for the ride up to my apartment and then I'll be asking for the chair back."
His partner didn't look convinced, but nodded, slowly sliding from the car and sitting carefully in the chair. The driver collected anything that needed to be carried up in the elevator, save the huge arrangement of flowers that he sat in Illya's lap.
Waverly pushed the wheelchair and Napoleon followed, not enjoying the pressure on his underarms from the crutches. He was telling the truth when he said he would reclaim his chair. He planned on putting Illya to bed and then maybe get dinner into the oven, find a game on T.V.
He planned to relax, perhaps for the first time in over a week.
The elevator arrived and they all pilled in and rode up to the top floor. Napoleon had a guest room his partner had used before, but now he asked to be taken to the couch.
Mr. Waverly helped pull Illya up, giving him time to adjust before helping him down to the sofa. The older man pulled the blanket from the back of the couch and drapped it over Illya's lap.
"Rest and get well," Waverly told them both, motioning for the driver to follow him to the door. "I've arranged for someone to check in on you daily, bringing paperwork or supplies if needed."
"Thank you, sir." Solo said, echoed by Kuryakin.
When they were alone, Napoleoon ditched the crutches and sat in the chair. He was getting used to it and good at maneuvering himself around in it. It would be at least three more weeks before he could expect to get a walking cast and have more freedom and perhaps another two to three weeks before he could have that removed and return to work on more then desk duty.
"Can I get you a drink, or maybe something to eat?" But Illya's eyes were already at halfmast and rapidly closing. He rolled closer, having removed the coffee table to make getting around easier. "Perhaps a bed…" he laughed.
"No bed…" Illya whispered. "Feels better to sit up."
Solo nodded even though his partner could not see it. "Rest then," he said.
When Illya opened his eyes, the room was dark, the lights had not been turned on and he could see the lights of the city shining from below. The T.V. was on, but the volume was low.
He could smell something cooking, the aroma making his stomach rumble and his mouth water. He was tired of bland, tasteless food and wondered what was cooking in the kitchen.
A cool hand touched his forehead and he batted it away.
Napoleon laughed, but handed him a glass and held out four pills in his other palm. "Take them and then we'll eat, watch some T.V., ring in the New Year with some jello."
It was a running joke, as everyday in the hospital, Solo would hand over his jello from his lunch and dinner and even after he was released he would bring some with him. No mater how Iyyla had been feeling that day, the gesture would always make him smile.
He took the pills and swallowed them down, finishing the cool water before handing the glass back to Solo. "Thanks."
"Sure…dinner will be up in a bit. Do you need anything..."
"No, I'm fine, thank you."
Napoleon returned to the kitchen and Illya shifted uncomfortably on the couch, but the pills were kicking in and the game on the television kept his attention.
Before he drifted back to sleep, he heard the wheelchair rumbling over the hardwood and then onto the carpet. He sat up a little straighter as Napoleon reached him, a tray sitting over his lap. "Here…"
He took the offered tray and placed it over is own blanket covered legs. Solo turned the chair around and returned a minute later with his own food tray.
"Thank you," Illya said, breathing in the aroma of the tender turkey. He waited until his partner sliced his own portion and took a bite, a satisfying smile on his face.
Illya cut a slice, enjoying the texture of the poultry and the creamy smoothness of the mashed potatoes. "What's the occasion?" he asked, trying to spear the peas that rolled across his plate.
"Well, I didn't get to make this last week and just thought you would enjoy something with flavor."
And he did enjoy it, but more than that he appreciated the effort his friend went to. It couldn't have been easy making a huge meal like this with a broken leg.
And as such, he wanted Napoleon to know what it meant to him. He didn't do anything special for Christmas, but was glad to share in the traditions of his friend.
"I ah… I talked to Mr. Del Floria on the phone this morning before you arrived and he agreed to make you a new suit…to replace the one you lost."
Solo shot him a strange look, but smiled and nodded his head, "Thank you, Illya." He hoped his gesture would be well received, but now he wasn't sure.
"I just…I didn't get you anything."
He did not expect a present from Solo, but had been given one anyway.
"But you have," he said before he could pull it back. He wasn't overly emotional or tended to show his feelings, but Napoleon had been with him in his time of need, when he was out of his head in pain and dreaming of his lost life. "You ah…It really helped to have you near while I was in the hospital…and I just wanted to thank you, is all."
Napoleon nodded his head in understanding, "I'm happy to help…now dessert?"
Illya shifted again; pleased that the steady aching of his body had faded with the aid of his medication and the comfort of Napoleon's sofa…perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing to stay with his friend for a few days.
The game had ended while they dined and now a special was on and camera crews showed time square in full multi color. This was the first year the program had been broadcasted in color.
The crowds pressed in, people jostled for a good place to see the live entertainment and danced in the streets and Illya was so glad to be ensconced on a comfortable sofa with a warm blanket.
He looked toward his friend when he heard the wheels rolling over the hardwood. He carried another tray on his lap and Illya laughed out loud when he saw their dessert. He accepted the dish and spoon when they were handed to him.
"Thank you, my friend." Illya said, scooping up the jiggley treat and spooning it in his mouth. This was better then the Plaza and better the champagne and bacon wrapped shrimp. "I don't believe I've seen this color before."
Napoleon nodded, looking a little sheepish. "I ah…I added a little yellow food dye, to make gold, you know…for the New Year."
"Of course," Illya said. "Thank you, Napoleon and ah…Happy New Year."
"And to you, my friend…and to you."