''Rublya za vashi mysli."
Illya looked up at the man offering him money for his thoughts. It had been a long time, it seemed, since he had last used rubles.
"Napoleon, you can't afford my thoughts, not with rubles or pennies."
The American smiled at his friend as he handed him the chilled glass of vodka. Not champagne for these two on New Year's Eve, but an icy blast of real Russian vodka from a black market vendor whose identity they had promised to protect. It would be worth it, just this once, to let the man go on his way.
Illya raised his glass and saluted freedom and friendship, the two treasures he had found in New York, working for UNCLE.
"Dlya svobody i druzhby."
Napoleon reciprocated with a toast to their continued health, the domain of his purported good luck.
Both men inhaled the prized liquor in one gulp, as much for the imagery as the pleasure of it. Illya wasn't quite certain why Napoleon insisted on toasting him in Russian, but he appreciated the gesture. It was his first New Year's in America, and having a friend to raise a glass with him was meaningful in a way that only the disenfranchised can appreciate.
"We had better not be drunk on this, else Mr. Waverly will have our heads tomorrow. Our plane leaves at seven. Our new year will be off to a flying start, it seems."
Napoleon nodded, wondering if there weren't other agents who might have taken this assignment just as easily. No point in that, though. Thrush couldn't be trusted to observe holidays, and the object of this new mission couldn't wait on sentimentality.
"You're right, Illya. I guess one will have to do it tonight. This stuff is lethal; perhaps we should put that guy away after all, for selling such potent alcohol."
The blond shook his head, something that always baffled his American partner. He was never certain if it was a nod or a shake…Russian were funny.
"Let the man have his trade. The vodka is good, and I will want more of it when we return. This one will not be so bad, and perhaps we will be successful with very little aggravation."
"To us then, and to a speedy trip with no complications. Cheers!"
"Cheers to you, my friend. Happy New Year, Napoleon."
The two men clinked their glasses, forgetting that they were now empty.
Neither man was superstitious, but each of them had the passing thought that toasting with an empty glass was considered bad luck.