He stuffed his hands deeper into the pockets of his overcoat and shivered in spite of the heavy muffler, gloves and hat. These were the streets of his youth; he didn't remember them this cold.
People stared at him as they hurried past. Once this had been home and now he was the stranger. They spoke to each other in a harsh guttural tongue. Once he spoke, thought, even dreamt in this language, but those days were long gone. Perhaps this is what was meant by being a stranger in a strange land.
He glanced around the park, amazed at the number of people buying ice cream. Only in this crazy place would someone be eating ice cream in the dead of winter. The wind grabbed the hem of his coat and plucked at it, slowly crawling its way inside to tease aching joints.
He'd used his body hard as a young man and now he paid the price with each painful waking moment. He'd used his mind hard as well and now he found once sharp thoughts misty and graying. He only hoped that this wasn't too late as well.
That's when he saw him, sitting on a bench happily eating ice cream seemingly oblivious to the snow swirling around him. No longer young either, his face carried the lines of age. Salt and pepper, he thought, as his hand found his own hair escaping from beneath the cap. He smiled and headed for the bench.
"Illya?" And suddenly they were young again, embracing. Two partners, two friends, he was reluctant to pull away. He didn't want to lose the warmth of the man's arms or the familiarity of his scent.
"You look well."
"I look awful. Air travel is for the young. You, on the other hand..." He let the sentence trail off as they sat.
"I have to confess, your call surprised me."
"I read about Marta and thought it was time." He watched the eyes grow sad again at the thought of a dead and buried wife. "Come home with me."
"What?" He laughed a short bark that puffed out great white clouds. "Even if I wanted to, they'd never let me go now."
"I still have a few friends; all you need do is ask."
"And do what? My life is here now..."
"It wasn't, once upon a time."
"We're not the men we were."
"No, because then I was stupid, I was scared. I had the world in my hands and was too blind to see it. I had it all and then lost it when you left." He reached out to take a hand, still strong. "Can't we have another chance... can't I? Please?"
He watched the eyes soften, even as he could hear the wheels spinning. So much like the old days.
"And if I were to agree to this, when would we leave?"
"As soon as you could make the arrangements." He handed over a passport and tickets.
"You're pretty sure of yourself, tovarish."
"I'm not sure. Everything I know, everything I am now is here. Why don't you move here?"
"I think I missed your odd sense of humor most of all. They most certainly don't want me here. Just give it a try—six months. If you aren't happy, come back. You know they will welcome you with open arms."
"And what will you welcome me with if I come?"
Napoleon grinned at the thought and held out the bowl of ice cream. "Want some?"
"In this weather? You're out of your mind!" Illya grinned back. "And I thought New York was cold this time of year. I must have had antifreeze for blood when I was younger." He shuddered again.
"And you grew up here."
"But you moved here while I stayed in the States. This is an odd, odd world we live in my friend." He looked down at their joined hands. "Together then?"