Napoleon Solo's Worst Christmas
This was the worst Christmas ever!
The day was dreary, dull, and perfectly suited Napoleon Solo's mood. The rain had been pelting down for the past forty-eight hours, trapping him inside. Normally he found his meticulously decorated and comfortable penthouse a refuge from the outside, but with Illya not here, it was merely empty and lifeless. They'd lived together for six months now, and while there were some settling in pains at first, they eventually started operating as a well oiled machine both here and at work. Illya had been gone for a month, a fact that predated Napoleon's cold by three weeks, and Napoleon felt his absence keenly, although less keenly since getting sick.
He pushed aside the heavy curtains and stared out, feeling more a prisoner in his own home than he ever felt in a THUSH cell. It didn't matter that the rug was thick and luxurious, the furniture comfortable and to his exact specifications, the artwork on the walls tasteful and carefully arranged. He could have been in a cold cement hole for all he cared.
Napoleon sighed and coughed, his hands debating whether to go to his head and try to squeeze the headache from it or rather head for his aching ribs and attempt to hold them still until the coughing subsided. He didn't mind getting hurt in the course of his job; it was one of the sad results of keeping the world safe, but this? It didn't seem fair.
He hated colds. He hated every aspect of colds. He especially hated every aspect of colds when it came between him and the outside world. Napoleon had only been released from Medical three days ago and he'd fled back to the apartment. That was when he discovered Illya was still on assignment in who knew where and for how long? Well, Waverly did, but he wasn't talking except to tell Napoleon to leave it alone and go home.
So he was trapped inside while the rain poured down outside and drowned every bit of Christmas spirit. Even his pine tree was sullen and bleak looking, its lights off at the moment. The decorations that dressed the mantle looked trite and poorly made. Even the poinsettia was droopy. The card that decorated the hall table had all fallen down and he had no energy of desire to set them upright any longer. He was just too tired for anything.
Because of the cold, Napoleon was going to miss dinner on Christmas Eve with his aunt and the unwrapping the next day. It was selfish of him to still want to go, but he knew that she couldn't be exposed to this. But he didn't have to like it. So here he stood, alone, just days before his favorite holiday, feeling rotten and just plain blue to his core.
He pressed first one side of his face and then the other against the glass of his patio door, smiling slightly as the cool surface offered his fever-flushed face a brief respite. Using the sleeve of his shirt, already damp from previous and similar outings, he wiped the smudged glass, then darted a look at the mantle clock. He still had twenty minutes to go before he could take his next do... dos...
Napoleon's hand scrambled for his handkerchief and he barely caught the sneeze. His nose, fiery hot and tender, protested such harsh treatment. Even the softness of the silk material was rough on his tender proboscis. He blew it carefully, but that didn't stop the next coughing jag.
It left him weak, exhausted, and draped over the back of a designer sofa. He couldn't sleep, he couldn't breathe, he didn't want to eat, and, worse, he hadn't thought about sex in nearly a week.
He pushed himself up off the back of the couch slowly, teeth gritted as every muscle he owned, and some that he must have borrowed from someone else, screamed a warning that there would be no more of that.
Napoleon was still debating whether he wanted to go back to bed to toss and turn for the next hour, pretend to watch something on the TV, or stare at the walls, when he heard a noise at the front door. With Illya out of the country, it could only mean that THRUSH had come to call. At last, a little action to take his mind off his misery! His cold, the aches and pains that made every movement agony, everything went out of his head as he reached for his pistol and aimed.
The door opened and Napoleon's partner, friend, and now his lover, stepped through and looked from the Walther to Napoleon's face and then back.
"Has it been so long that you've forgotten what I look like?" Illya dropped his suitcase and then shut and locked the door behind him.
"Illya, are you a sight for sore eyes," Napoleon rasped and went to him to gather the man into a suffocating embrace. As much as he wanted to, Napoleon didn't dare try for a kiss. He was still a walking germ factory according to the doctors.
"You're hot," Illya protested, struggling to get free. Napoleon released him and watched him shrug off his sopping overcoat.
"You're wet." Napoleon winced as Illya tossed the jacket over the back of a chair. He picked it up and hung it on a hanger, then hooked it over a peg on the ornate brass coat stand.
"Yes, it's raining out." Illya took off his hat and hung it beside his coat. "Everything is a snarled mess up and down the seacoast."
"What are you doing here? I thought you were still in Istanbul for another week."
"Nice try. It was Copenhagen and we finished up early. I grabbed a redeye and here I am." Napoleon could feel Illya studying him and he tried to put on a brave face. "You look and sound like hell, my friend." He spread open his arms and Napoleon happily went into the hug. "And you are as thin as a rail."
"At least the doctors won't be after me to lose weight for my next physical." He turned his head to the side when Illya tried to kiss him. "Can't, I'm still infectious."
"Love knows no such boundaries." Illya's hands cupped his face and turned it back towards his. The kiss was tender and so familiar that Napoleon's heart lightened. "We live together, we sleep together, and we do things together that still defy rational explanation. I refuse to be held hostage by a cold."
Napoleon started to laugh. Mistake, he realized as a coughing jag tore through him. At least he had Illya's arms for support. "Sorry," he whispered as soon as he got enough breath back to do so.
"Napoleon, why are you even home? You should still be in Medical. Have you even eaten anything substantial in the last two days?" Illya glanced towards the kitchen.
"Mrs. Dullock was in today to clean. She made me some chicken soup before attacking the place. The kitchen is cleaner than the last plate I ate from."
"Feed a cold, starve a fever." Illya pressed his lips to Napoleon's forehead, a bit of a feat considering their height difference. "And you've got both."
"I haven't taken my medicine yet," Napoleon said, still reluctant to move from Illya's arms.
"Why don't you take it, grab a quick shower, and climb into bed. I'll join you in a few minutes."
"There's mail for you on the counter and a parcel that arrived by special courier. UNCLE has already checked it out—it's clean." Napoleon pulled free and smiled wearily at his partner, his gloom settling back in. Even with Illya here, the place was still cold and dreary.
Illya Kuryakin watched his lover walk slowly from the room and took a deep breath. He'd been warned that Napoleon wasn't well, but he had no idea it was so bad. Trust Medical to pull a boner like this and send Napoleon home. He'd seen healthier looking corpses.
He got his tie and damp shirt off and glanced over at the dining room table to where the mail was stacked. There would be the usual collection of junk mail and magazines, but the box intrigued him.
He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a knife. Quickly, he cut through knotted cord and slit the tape. There was a letter in a pale blue envelope addressed to him in his mother's familiar script on top of the wrapping and he smiled.
For a moment, he held his breath and then laughed as he pulled a bottle of clear fluid out of the package. She hadn't forgotten after all. Mothers were like that.
He got the bottle open and took a swallow from it. Pure jet fighter fluid tore down his throat and hit his stomach with the intensity of a nuclear explosion.
"We have glasses, you know."
Illya looked over to where Napoleon was standing. He was wearing a pair of workout pants that hung off him and a sweatshirt that looked two sizes too big. Illya held the bottle up. "Mama sent us some homemade vodka," he gasped happily.
"So I see." Napoleon moved slowly to the table and sat down, his arms resting before him.
"And a card in which she wished us both warm wishes for the New Year."
"Is she still disappointed that we aren't coming?"
"She is, but she understands... as much as she wants to." Illya scanned the letter, smiling and frowning alternately as he read.
"No, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Papa spent two weeks in the hospital, but is home now and doing well." He turned that last sheet over and grinned widely. "And she sent her recipe for that cake I was telling you about."
Napoleon coughed and dropped his head to his arms. "I hate colds," he muttered. "Sorry, just not feeling right on top at the moment."
"I know that. Tell you what, why don't we order food from Leung's and I'll put this recipe together? It seems pretty straight forward." Illya took another swig from the bottle, pausing at Napoleon's sigh. "Fine, all right, I will get a glass. You really know how to take the pleasure out of something, Napoleon. Do you want some? More importantly, can you have it?"
"Yes, desperately, and there is nothing on the box of tiny time capsules that says I can't drink."
Illya walked into the kitchen and blinked. Napoleon hadn't been kidding. The kitchen was practically gleaming. He pulled two glasses from a cupboard and poured a healthy portion in both. He'd rather drink it cold, but vodka was vodka. He'd take it any way he could get it.
He walked back into the dining room and handed Napoleon a glass. Illya touched his glass to it and murmured, "Nostrovia."
"Salute." Napoleon sipped cautiously and Illya chuckled at his wariness. The first time Napoleon had sampled his mother's vodka, it had taken two days for him to sober up and there were still stories told about the man that Napoleon still needed living down.
"I'm going to go shower and change. I'll be right back." He pushed the letter towards Napoleon. "Here, go through the recipe and see if we have everything."
Napoleon sat for a moment after Illya left, scanning the list. It seemed pretty basic, sugar, flour, eggs, baking soda, lemon juice, dried fruit... did they have any dried fruit? Or nuts?
He pushed himself up from the table, picked up his glass, and walked to the kitchen. He started to pull ingredients from the pantry, sighing happily when he found a packet of mixed dried fruits and nuts. It was a little short of the amount the recipe called for, but it would have to do.
He took another sip, wincing as the alcohol trickled down his throat. At least it cured the tickle and kept him from coughing. He was willing to do anything to keep that from happening and this was tastier than the cough syrup Medical had sent him home with.
He glanced at the first direction—soak fruit and nut in vodka. Make sure to test vodka as this will make a difference in the... It took him a moment to translate the word ...the quality of your final product.
That was easy. He went back out and pulled another bottle from the package. He knew the bottle they were using was good, but it was half gone. He'd better test this one as well just to be sure.
He carried it carefully back to the kitchen, paused to drain his glass, and poured some of the new vodka in it. A swig and he gasped. Yup, perfect.
Napoleon dumped the dried fruit and nuts into a bowl and covered the mixture with the vodka. He took a drink from the nearly empty bottle, just to be sure it was good all the way down. Then he started the pesky task of converting grams to ounces.
Illya was back a few minutes later, feeling as if the shower had given him a second chance at life. Of course, that could also be the vodka talking. Already he could feel his face happily flushed with the alcohol's effects.
He paused to start a fire in the fireplace and turned the tree lights on. That made the place a bit cheerier. He could tell Napoleon was depressed, not just by his cold, but also at the frustration of having his holiday plans destroyed. At times Napoleon was a creature of extreme habit and Christmas was one time when he would do just about anything to stay on track.
He glanced over at the window and watched the rain splatter in puddles on the decking of the balcony. It had been the oddest year. The spring had been dry, the summer cold and wet, the fall warm and now this, no snow, despite the fact that it was the end of December.
Illya glanced over at the package that sat on the table. At least they had a bit of seasonal cheer to share. As he placed a call for takeout, he pulled a bottle free and stared at the world through it. After being reassured that delivery would be no more than a half hour, meaning they would be lucky to see it within an hour, Illya hung up and carried the vodka to the kitchen.
Napoleon was hunched over the counter scribbling on a sheet of paper. His hair was messed up. Obviously Napoleon had been running his fingers through it. Without its usual coat of Brylcreem, the dark hair ran wild.
Illya patted the hair, still damp from the shower, into place and kissed his lover's head. "What's wrong?"
"Huh?" Napoleon looked up and Illya compressed his lips together to keep from smiling. "Stupid fractions. They never co-co-cooperate."
"Let me help and you need to go easy on that stuff." Illya was a bit taken aback that there were two empty bottles at Napoleon's elbow. "You don't have a natural affinity like I do."
"Not me." Napoleon waved a hand towards the counter. "It said soak stuff."
"Okay..." Illya looked into the mixing bowl and made a face. It seemed like a very poor use of very good vodka. "At least it's going to die happy."
"Iss okay, I checked it." Napoleon pointed to the stove. "Turn the oven to either 800 degrees or 350..."
"Since this oven only goes to 450, I'll go with the 350." Illya opened the new bottle and poured more alcohol into his empty glass. "Now what?"
"Ah, mixer—down there." Napoleon pointed and Illya rummaged about until he pulled out an old Sunbeam hand mixer.
"Where are the beaters?"
"The what?" Napoleon was blinking now, confused.
"The things that go in these holes." Illya thought for a moment Napoleon was going to explode in laughter, but at the last moment he merely gestured at a drawer and took a drink. "Okay, beat butter in a large fluffy bowl."
"Bowls are fluffy?" Illya pushed Napoleon's glass away.
"No, the butter. Make the butter fluffy." Napoleon watched as Illya dropped the cold stick of butter into a mixing bowl and rescued his glass from its isolation.
The cold butter proved a challenge, but eventually it softened enough to be whipped. Illya wiped the sweat from his brow and took a rewarding gulp from his glass. "Next?"
"A teaspoon of sugar."
"You wanna do the conervsions?" Napoleon shook the figure-laden sheet at his partner.
"No, I trust you." Illya spooned the sugar in and then added a couple more for good measure.
"You should check the vodka to make sure it hasn't gone off." Napoleon frowned at the instructions, but directions were directions. He took another drink and nodded happily. "Still good. Now, two legs... eggs..." Napoleon looked towards the living room. "I gotta go... umm, go."
"Go by all means." Illya rescued the bottle from Napoleon's hands. "But this stays with me."
"Selfish..." Napoleon half staggered out of the room and Illya laughed.
"Drain fruit." Illya sighed. At least that made sense, but there was no way he was dumping all the vodka down the sink. He lifted the fruit out in heaping handfuls, shook it, and placed it on the counter top. The vodka he attempted to pour back into the bottle. Considering the kitchen was suddenly struck by an earthquake, Illya was pleased and amazed at how much vodka he actually got back into the bottle.
"Flour nuts." Illya made a face and looked down at his crotch. "Nooo, not doing that, no; toss fruit into bowl. Thass better."
This would have been much easier three drinks earlier, but Illya started throwing the fruit into the mixing bowl... some went in, but much missed and landed on the floor. With a sigh, Illya dropped to his knees and began scraping it together. At least Mrs. Dullard... no, Dullock, had cleaned.
He heard the front doorbell chime and the murmur of conversation. Forty nine minutes, Leung was right on time... sort of.
A moment later, Napoleon came into the kitchen, carrying two brown paper sacks and with an eggroll half out of his mouth. Illya grinned, forgot the fruit, and went to claim his part of the appetizer. They met in the middle and surrendered to a long kiss.
"Mmm, good." Napoleon looked around the kitchen and frowned. "Wha happen'd here?"
"Tossed fruit into bowl—no aim." Illya dug through the bags until he found the container of potstickers and their dipping sauce. He plunged the still warm potsticker into the brown fluid and popped it into his mouth, chewing happily while the juice dribbled down his chin and onto his sweatshirt.
Napoleon laughed and leaned forward to wipe his lover's face with his fingers. He licked them clean and looked over at the mess. "What now?"
Illya swayed for a moment. "We should make sure the vodka hassn't gone off. I think the last bottle was spoiled... I feel a little dizzy." He took the bottle from the sink and swallowed. "Mmm, goot."
Napoleon followed suit and nodded. "Mama's goot."
"Thas what Papa always said." Illya laughed at his joke. It was getting harder to make out Napoleon's hen scratch style of handwriting. He picked up another potsticker and chewed on that while studying the paper. "It wans a table? For a cake?" He held up a bottle of lemon juice. "An' what do I do with this?"
"Who know? Just put everything else in and mix it. Watch the beaterers though... they make a mess."
Illya turned and in doing so, lifted the spinning beaters from the bowl. They sprayed the room with pale sticky dough. It was flung over the kitchen surfaces and both men. "Yup, you're right... a mess."
Napoleon turned off the mixer and shook his head slowly. "I'm hungry... and this looks like shi... it don't look good."
Illya nodded slowly and dumped it into the sink before gathering up the bags of takeout. "Less go to bed... We can clean up t'morrow."
Napoleon staggered into the living room and suddenly realized he hadn't coughed in nearly an hour. The respite had done his body a world of good. The crackling fire made the room pleasantly warm and the tree shimmered.
"No more coughing," he announced proudly as Illya pushed past him, the bags dangling from his fist.
Illya stopped, swaying slightly. "Maybe if you're still not coughing in the morning, we might be able to visit Amy."
"Really?" Napoleon was hopeful and he swallowed the tickle in his throat.
Illya touched his face and Napoleon closed his eyes in pleasure. "No fever either..."
"Millions of tiny time capsules russian relief...." Napoleon repeated the commercial.
"Mama is Russian relief," Illya muttered.
As they staggered through the living room, Illya pointed at the patio window. "Look, snow."
Sure enough, it had finally gotten cold enough for the rain to turn to snow and it was drifting down in large flakes. "Now, it's Chrissmas." Napoleon said, wrapping an arm around Illya's waist and pulling him close. "Cuz you're home and it's snowing..."
Mindless of the mess they left behind them, they headed to the bedroom and flopped down on the bed to devour the food and polish off the last bit of vodka.
I am going to have a whale of a hangover tomorrow and I don't care, Napoleon decided as Illya settled against him.
"Cherry Mismas," Illya murmured, more asleep than awake now. "Love you."
"Love you too. Piece on men and wood gil to everythin' else," Napoleon whispered back.
This was the best Christmas ever!