Well buddy boy it's that time of year again isn't it? It's the second birthday you're commemorating since you've been here in New York."

"Napoleon, I wish you would stop insisting I celebrate my birthday...it is just not a good thing for me." The Russian stared at his partner with a serious,but bemused expression.

"You won't tell me why you're against celebrating your birthday. If you'd explain that to me, then I might just accept your reasoning and cease the celebrations as per your request, but since you won't say what it is, then the festivities will continue."

Illya huffed his exasperation, finally deciding to end this once and for all.

"Napoleon, the last time my birthday was to be celebrated, I was turning eight years of age. My father and brother were in the darkest part of the forest fighting Nazis with the partisans and...well, that is enough information on that topic."

"On my birthday, we received word that Kyiv had fallen to the Germans, and for that reason we chose not to celebrate. A week later over 33,000 people, mostly Jews, were executed on the a ravine outside of Kyiv and not long after my birthday I witnessed members of my family being murdered by the Germans".

"I was orphaned by the war, and there were no celebrations for the bespriorzi_street orphans. I learned to forget my birthday, as it brought back too many tragic memories. So please do not try to make me celebrate it?"

"Wow, I'm sorry, I had no idea. It must have been awful for you." Napoleon reached out, putting his hand on Illya's shoulder, squeezing it in support.

"Nyet," Illya gestured sharply with his hand, "I want no pity. This is why I do not share my past, I do not want to be pitied."

"Trust me tovarisch, it's not pity. It's a show of support and respect for your courage. I did sort of buy you a birthday present...do you want me to take it back?"

"A present, for me?"

Napoleon saw Illya's eyes light up. "When was the last time someone gave you a gift?"

Illya pulled out his pearl-handled switchblade."This was given to me by a friend when she was being sent from the orphanage in Moskva. I was sixteen when she gave it to me to protect myself from the bullies...it has saved my life many a time."

"Hmm, a very practical gift, so I think you'll like what I have for you...let's not call it a birthday present, we'll call it an un-birthday gift. Like your knife, it's something to protect you from the new bullies in your life.." He handed the Russian a small, simple wooden case.

Illya carefully lifted the lid to find an ornately engraved pistol with a mother of pearl handle laying inside it.

"I know you like to go jogging in the early morning hours, and our Specials are a bit awkward to carry...so I thought this would suit you. Good weapon, Smith and Wesson."

The Russian handled the weapon, getting the feel of it, the balance. He moved his fingers over the handle, almost caressing the mother of pearl.

"It is beautiful. Thank you my friend, this I will accept as a treasured gift from one friend to another, as you said, for protection." Illya reached out offering his hand and shaking Napoleon's.

"Tell you what tovarisch, let's create some happy memories for you for this day. Dinner on me at the 21 Club."

"Not for birthday, it is for un-birthday as you said... this term I like." Illya leaned his head in his hand, looking up whimsically at his partner.

"It's from Alice In Wonderland and no, not for birthday," Napoleon imitated Illya's accent. " How about, a ' just because you're my friend' dinner."

"Spacibo, this I will accept."

"I thought you might." He smiled, knowing how much the Russian liked his food, especially free food. "Happy Birthday chum" Napoleon thought to himself.

He'd continue his efforts on behalf of his partner and go right on creating new, happy memories for Illya and maybe someday, the Russian might just start acknowledging his birthday again...if anything just to celebrate life, and living to see another birthday. That would do for now.