Birthday Blues

Tipping his glass, the Scotch flowed down Napoleon's throat burning. He sat at the bar, something he rarely did because it was unsafe. Today he didn't care, besides it was easier to keep his glass filled sitting here.

Another year and he was still alive with only five more to go before he was out of the field. He wasn't in medical or even hurt this time, the assignment was almost a success except Henning hadn't returned.

"My friend, you realize it is not safe for you to sit in the open like this," Illya was suddenly standing next to his partner.

"Remember I have the Solo's luck," he said mockingly as he motioned for the bartender to refill his glass.

"Come on," the Russian led his partner toward a back table.

Once they were seated with a new drink in front of them, Illya said. "What is it Napoleon? We have lost others before."

"Did you know we were born on the same days except he was five years older?"

Illya now understood. Napoleon was thirty-five today that would have made Henning forty.

"He asked to go, you did not assign him," He reminded his friend.

"I should've said no. His partner was worried about him, saying something was wrong, but when he asked to be involved I couldn't refuse him as it would was to be his last assignment."

"And how is this your fault?"

"I put myself in his place and couldn't imagine giving this up so allowed him to participate in the raid."

Sarcastically Illya said. "Give what up, the beatings, drugs, injuries, and pain?"

"No. The sense of danger and excitement and the idea that I'm doing something to help those who live in the world."

"So what is the problem? People die around us daily, why is this death so much more important to you?"

"He had made it, was leaving the game. Why didn't I see that something was wrong?"

"Do you think he took unnecessary chances?"

"No but…."

"No buts Napoleon. He did his job and did not make it."

Napoleon motioned to the bartender pointing to his glass again.

Shaking his head no toward the bar and covering the glass, "I think you had enough, my friend. If you insist on getting drunk, let me take you home."

Frowning at his partner he said, "Now, you're acting like my mother, and I haven't needed a mother since I was a child."

"Not your mother but someone who cares." Illya said helping his friend to stand and directing him toward the car,

As they walked toward Napoleon's auto, a group of laughing children came running up the street with a young girl dressed in a party dress in the lead. The men moved aside to allow them to pass.

Suddenly the girl in the lead darted out between two cars. The sound of brakes threw Napoleon into action. He raced into the street lifting the girl and carrying her to safety.

She began to cry as he held her and gently reassured her when she began to brush off her dress..

"I got my birthday dress all dirty," she said as her tears began to stop. "What a crummy way for my birthday party to end."

She said beginning to cry again as her mother reached the group and ran up to her.

"Shhhh. It okay there'll be other birthdays, and you'll have other dresses. At least you are safe and not injured," he assured the child.

The girl looked at him as Napoleon sat down on the curb with her on his lap.

"It's my birthday too," he whispered in her ear as a small grin playing on his lips.

"Really, you still have birthdays?" She asked him innocently. "Did you ever get hurt doing things you shouldn't on your birthday?"

Napoleon glanced at his partner. "Something I do get hurt on my birthday, but this year I was lucky like you and didn't get hurt while helping others."

The girl slipped off his lap taking her mother's hand. "Thank you mister and Happy Birthday."

"You too my sweet," he said sending a kiss her way.

After the children left, Illya helped his partner up. "Napoleon?"

"It's okay tovarisch. I'm ready to go home. I guess I forgot that this is what we choose to do, and death is a large part of it. Henning died doing what he wanted to do."

"So what would you like to do for the rest of today? It is only six pm."

"I'd like to take a walk through the park."

"Although I have no problems with doing that, why?"

"I want to experience the freedom and joy of staying alive for another year." Smiling, he led the way into the park.

"Happy Birthday my friend and may you have many more." Illya said.