Napoleon Solo grew up with some advantages. He also knew disadvantage from personal experience. One of his grandfathers was an admiral, although the relationship between the man and young Napoleon was distant, a reality that strained the bonds of loyalty between them at times. When the young Solo decided to join the Army instead of pursuing the family Naval tradition, it was a resounding rejection of the elder Solo's way of life, his attitude and influence.
Napoleon's maternal grandfather provided an entirely different worldview, and with it the framework for much of his life. Ambassador Trudeau was of French Canadian extraction, providing the benefit of an early appreciation for cultural and social diversity; something that would benefit Napoleon both personally and professionally.
That bit of family history was also the root of his partner's disdain for the decidedly Quebecoise accent so abhorrent to the Russian's discriminating ear. It was not Illya's favored Parisian sound that he heard and therefore, much to Napoleon's chagrin, often eschewed as not properly French.
Disagreements over accents notwithstanding, the two managed to become friends over time, all the while evading bullets and manipulative women, both of which were dangerous to their health and well being.
There was one woman about whom Napoleon spoke with such affection and admiration that Illya became intrigued with the idea of meeting her. Known only as Aunt Amy, she was imbued with qualities such as generous, loving and talented; the Russian was certain that she must be an outstanding individual to warrant such keen devotion from a man such as Napoleon Solo. Without family of his own, at least not here in America, Illya was slightly envious of his friend when plans for Christmas began to be the subject of conversation.
Sitting in the canteen one morning, hoping for one cup of coffee before a meeting with Mr. Waverly, Illya welcomed Napoleon to the table he was sharing with Tom Tobias, a fellow Section II.
"Napoleon, you look a little worse for wear this mornin'. Late night?"
The usually debonair American did appear slightly rumpled, with a strand of hair stubbornly falling out of place over his forehead. Two women at a nearby table both found it surprisingly attractive, something they would talk about later.
"Hey Tom, Illya. Yeah, wow I … it was a late night. But…'
Napoleon raised his right hand in a Boy Scout salute.
"Scout's honor, fellas. I was out with my Aunt Amy."
Illya snorted into his coffee at that.
"Your Aunt Amy? I find that difficult to believe, unless you were sitting up at her hospital bedside for some reason."
Napoleon shot Illya a quizzical look, then snickered at the image he now knew was in his friend's mind. Tom observed, as agents do, but decided it wasn't of enough interest to keep him from turning in his report on time. He shook his head and laughed, then saluted as he left."
"See y'all later."
Napoleon and Illya both nodded, their raised chins the universal sign of farewell among men. Seated alone now, Napoleon resumed the conversation.
"You've never met my Aunt Amy, have you Illya? She's having a big deal at her apartment for Christmas. Well, sort of an early Christmas party, since she's going to be out of the country from the 24th through New Year's. She's been asking to meet you, I know you'd be more than welcome…"
"Really?" The response was almost needy sounding. It surprised Napoleon, which made the prospect of introducing the two even more satisfying. He knew Amy would like his Russian partner, but Illya's response to her…
"Yes, it's going to be black tie, so you get to wear that new tux. I don't suppose you'd consider getting a haircut…?'
At the glowering expression the answer was clear.
"… No? I didn't think so. Okay then, the party is Saturday night, eight o'clock, and …'
Napoleon was writing down the address.
"… Here's where she lives. Midnight supper, so come hungry."
Illya was impressed, and suddenly very anxious to meet the lovely woman who was so important to his friend.
"A midnight supper? That is certainly not what I expected, however I shall have no difficulty with my appetite, I assure you."
Napoleon had to chuckle at that. Illya never had difficulty with his appetite.
"Okay, then… I'm really glad you're going to be there. Now, I guess we better get to Mr. Waverly's office or we're liable to end up in the Arctic for Christmas."
Out the door, down the hall …
The meeting with Waverly did lead to a short trip, but his two top agents handled the mission easily; they were back in New York by Friday night. Saturday would bring the much anticipated soiree at Aunt Amy's penthouse apartment, and the equally anticipated first meeting between the lady and the Russian.
Illya found himself looking forward to the evening's big event. Napoleon Solo was a good friend, an unexpected bonus to the appointment as UNCLE's first Soviet representative. Although he had lived away from his homeland for most of the past twelve years, Illya Kuryakin found himself missing the familiar sights and sounds of Russia; the aromas that could transport him back to times with his family.
Napoleon was also looking forward to introducing Amy and Illya. Funny how that sounded so natural together, he mused as the finishing touches were put to his black bowtie.
Illya found himself at the door of Amy Trudeau at exactly eight o'clock, something that became very obvious as the hall clock began to chime the hour. It was Napoleon who greeted the now elegantly dressed blond, something mirrored in the American's own tuxedo. As they shook hands Illya asked if he was unfashionably early.
"No, not at all. You're the most prompt person I know, tovarisch. Had you arrived at ten after I might have been worried."
Illya smirked a little, wondering again if he were too predictable in his habits. No matter, this night was about meeting Aunt Amy, and recapturing some sense of family.
As the two men walked from the foyer into the living room, Illya was immediately struck by the size of the room. His entire apartment would have fit into this space, possibly with room to spare.
"What a grand place this is, Napoleon. Were you raised in something like this?"
Napoleon smiled, although his thoughts went immediately to the modest home he had shared with his parents. Solo's weren't rich, and his father had often bemoaned the fact that he hadn't provided his wife the kinds of things she had grown up enjoying. Napoleon also remembered his mother telling him repeatedly that it was the love in a family that mattered, not where they lived. She never showed any signs of regret, only optimism and enthusiasm for the future.
"Not me, Illya. This is the Trudeau side of the family, my mother's youngest brother. Well, it was his home. He was killed six years ago in a boating accident, a storm actually. Amy was devastated, but she's such a lively woman … you'll see. She's amazing."
There was so much affection in Napoleon's voice, causing Illya to more eagerly desire to meet this woman. He wondered at his own need to find solace in another man's relative. Was he homesick?
"Oh, there she is; come on, Illya."
Napoleon grabbed Illya's arm and led him towards the baby grand piano in the corner of the room. It was an ebony Steinway, and standing near it was an elderly couple conversing with a blond woman dressed in an emerald green satin dress. Illya found himself hoping to meet her as well, although it was more likely she would prefer Napoleon as was so often the case.
As Napoleon and Illya approached the trio, they all turned towards them. The older woman smiled, and Illya surmised that she was indeed Aunt Amy and possibly a new beau. Not impossible, especially among the rich.
Napoleon surprised the Russian by embracing the blond, cementing the previous assumption that the two would end up together. His thoughts were interrupted by the introduction.
"Illya Kuryakin, I'd like to introduce to my aunt, Amy Trudeau. Aunt Amy, my partner and friend, Illya Kuryakin."
He must have misunderstood, but it seemed Napoleon was introducing him to the wrong woman. The older woman, that was Aunt Amy. Wasn't it?
"Uh… I … It is a pleasure … to meet you. I …'
Stammering and probably blushing, Illya embarrassed himself with his inability to simply say hello.
"You are … well I assumed …"
Amy Trudeau smiled, and suddenly the room was a little brighter for the anguished young blond whose stammering still hung in the air.
"I'm certain you thought that I was Napoleon's much older Aunt Amy. Am I correct, Mr. Kuryakin?"
Napoleon was almost laughing, but had the good grace and manners to resist the urge to do so. Just as he thought, Illya mistakenly assumed that his aunt was an old lady. He could have told him before the party, but seeing this was worth whatever reprimands the Russian was going to hand out later on.
"Yes, I admit to having a pre-conceived idea about anyone Napoleon might call his aunt. Please forgive me, and please call me Illya."
Amy tipped her head in acknowledgement. Her hair was pulled to one side and tumbled down around her shoulder beneath a diamond-studded clasp. The gown she wore was simple; a fitted bodice atop a gored skirt that clung to the very curvaceous figure. In her black velvet heels Amy was exactly Illya's height, something that he automatically took note of.
Napoleon, for his part, was pleased with himself. Although Amy had never met Illya, she had been fascinated by the stories about him and had asked specifically to meet her nephew's friend. Now that she was face to face with him, Amy was struck by what she believed was a mutual attraction.
For Illya's part, now that he was over the shock of it, the fact that this woman was Napoleon's aunt seemed an insurmountable obstacle to anything beyond friendship. What he immediately desired was something more than that, but it seemed ludicrous to entertain it.
It took Napoleon a minute to recognize what was going on between his aunt and his friend. Illya rarely responded to advances by women, and rebuffed Napoleon's efforts to set him up on blind dates or dates in general. Amy had been widowed as a young woman, not unusual in a May/December romance. At the age of thirty-six she was more like a cousin to Napoleon, and he only called her Aunt Amy to heighten the irony and keep curiosity at bay; he never had to explain her to people if they thought of her as an older woman.
Perhaps he should have explained to Illya; right now that seemed like it would have been the best course of action. In a matter of a few short minutes he and Amy had connected in a way that generally took days or even weeks for most people.
"So, ah … well, so you two have finally met. Illya, I hope you don't mind that I let you think of Amy as … '
Illya wasn't scowling at Napoleon, which was good. He was too intent on Amy, which wasn't so good.
It was no use. Amy took Illya's arm and led him away, leaving Napoleon with the elderly couple that still stood by the piano observing the scene with anticipation born of experience. Napoleon turned to them and smiled, excused himself and went to the bar to get a drink.
Now what, indeed.