Illya Kuryakin surveyed the countryside and felt his body and mind yield to the serenity that surrounded him in this setting. This was a part of his life that brought much enjoyment, even though the time spent here was rare. The house had belonged to another friend many years ago. The man was gone now, but his memory remained alive in the activities and other inhabitants of this farm.
Farm. Not what Illya had thought of as a farm when growing up. This one was home to horses, and they belonged to the elusive but successful designer. The House of Vanya had provided Illya with many things, but this was one of his truly great treasures. The recent reunion with Marion and his daughter was immeasurable, and having Napoleon in his life again was a surprising addition as well.
Life was better now than ever before. How fortune had smiled upon the blond man from the Soviet Union was a recurring puzzle to him. He was thinking about it even now as Napoleon joined him on the front porch of the big house.
"Illya, who would have ever guessed when we first saw this house that you would someday own it? I can still see Sturgess and Mr. Waverly sitting here like it was yesterday."
Illya nodded, his memories of that particular affair appeared almost like paintings; the horses and the race…
"Tom has produced several champions, you know. I'm glad that Sturgess put him up for stud after his racing career was over, his progeny have been very successful."
Napoleon had to chuckle, the idea had occurred to him more than once that he might have been headed in the same direction a few years back.
"You know, I've always thought that was an interesting term for the job being done."
Illya smiled and shook his head.
"If you had been born a horse, Napoleon, I have no doubt your career at stud would have been exemplary, not to mention prodigious."
Both men laughed at that, their past lives had been unpredictable, dangerous and even fun at times. Never boring, though. Never that.
"You've never told me how you came to acquire the place, Illya. Did you buy it after Harewood's death?"
The blond looked out past the drive and to the track beyond. He had a sensation of being atop Tom and riding with such intensity and, at the same time, abandon. It had been such a fantastic experience, except for the parts of it that had hurt.
"Actually, Sturgess left it to me, with the stipulation that I not sell it and that I maintain the stables. His daughter and son-in-law were killed in a plane crash a few years after we met him…'
Illya paused, remembering the couple and how proud Sturgess was of them both. Their deaths had left the old gentleman with no family and no wish to have his beloved Harewood Farms go to a corporate entity.
"He and I had kept in touch over the years, and he was still living when I made my first splash in the design world. He financed my first collection, and eventually approached me about taking over this place when the time came."
Napoleon was impressed. It was yet another aspect of his friend's life that had completely eclipsed his notice. Their friendship had been genuine, but their separate lives were very much in evidence now that they were comparing the years in between.
"I'm glad for you, tovarisch. You really do deserve this respite from the hassles of that other world you inhabit. And I'm glad to have this spot to come to as well, especially with our periodic exploits with UNCLE.'
He looked at his friend. Illya looked content, not something one could always say about the Russian.
"Do you think you'll ever bring a woman here, to share this? Do you think, perhaps you and Marion…?"
Illya's expression didn't change, but Napoleon knew the answer already to his question. Past was past, and those two didn't seem to have a future to share. It was a pity, really, considering Nicolette was a part of Illya's life now.
Before Illya could reply to the question, the men were both alerted to someone else walking across the porch. Nicolette, dressed for riding and looking more like her mother every day, sat down next to her father and heaved a great sigh. Napoleon thought the sigh sounded just like Illya.
"IK, how do you feel about me skipping a year of school and just living here on the farm? I could oversee the stables and learn the business of … "
The striking blonde girl let her words sort of slip into the air. She knew the look in her father's eyes. Her only consolation was that she could mirror it back to him, something he both hated and cherished every time she tried it.
"Nicolette, I promise you'll have summers here and more time in the saddle than you can imagine. But, you are going to school in the fall. You're going to be at NYU, so weekends here will be your absolute privilege to enjoy."
Nicolette Lindsay Kuryakin (she had taken her father's name and become, legally, a Kuryakin) pursed her lips together creating a pouting expression that still stunned Napoleon every time he saw it. She angled her head a little and looked at her long lost father, loving him and wishing there were more hours in the day to share with him.
"Will you tell me the story again of how you first came here? I have a ride with Jeremy in a half hour, so you have plenty of time. Please."
Napoleon chimed in with his agreement to that, and so Illya began the narrative of how he came to know of Harewood Farms, of riding Dawn's Tomorrow and the race he won. Napoleon added his perspective, the harrowing events as he watched his friend aboard the big grey horse, of Angelique and the mystery she always was.
Too soon the story ended, and within a few minutes a sporty red convertible pulled up, driven by a young man with blond hair, his clothing a match for Nicolette's own riding outfit… Napoleon had a moment of déjà vu as he remembered how perfectly matched Illya and Marion had been all of those years ago.
Nicolette introduced Jeremy to Illya and Napoleon. The young man was impressed by the farm, surprised that the man he met was a dress designer. His mom would be thrilled.
The two young people headed off to the stables, their ride a pleasant diversion from plans for college and the stresses of adulthood that lay ahead of them. Illya and Napoleon watched them until they disappeared into the stables. Illya turned to his friend to ask a question he'd been wondering about for years.
"Tell me, did you ever find out why Angelique was so intent on ruining Ian Parker? I always found it odd that she seemed to have a personal grudge with the man."
Napoleon couldn't help smiling. Sometimes he wondered about that blonde bombshell; she'd been a big part of his life back then, much to Illya's dismay.
"She never said. I think she might have actually fallen for the guy at some point, and he just played her. Too bad, really, she wasn't as bad as everyone thought. She had a tender side."
Illya decided to not dwell on it. All of that was so long ago, it seemed as though his memories of it were black and white rather than living color.
"We were so very young, weren't we my friend. I was about Nicolette's age when I began that journey, first to Paris and then London. I wouldn't want her to embark on such a difficult journey, not like the one I traveled.'
He could just see his daughter and her friend emerging from the stables. Nicolette was on the black gelding that had been rescued from a run down stable. He was a sweet tempered animal, he just needed to be treated well by someone who cared. Illya noticed that Jeremy was on one of the more docile horses; Nicolette was good with these animals, she understood them. That pleased Illya immensely.
Napoleon observed and wondered; maybe Marion could come out here and spend a few days with Illya and their daughter. He wasn't going to play matchmaker, but there was no harm in being with friends. It was a miracle of sorts that they all still had one another, and Napoleon felt just a twinge of something familiar as his mind wandered to his own empty apartment.
"Napoleon? Are you all right? You look a little lost."
Illya recognized it then, understood what was going on in his friend's head. His voice was low as he tried to soften the disappointment.
"We chose a lonely life for ourselves back then. Perhaps now we can each look forward to more, if only just a little."
Napoleon Solo hoped so.