A happy Independence Day to my American readers!
This story, written last Fourth of July, was my very first MFU piece.
It had been a particularly trying mission. Half a dozen innocents—two women among them—had come perilously close to being killed, which was never a good thing, and, Illya knew, especially not where Napoleon was concerned. The entire affair had left him unusually quiet and withdrawn, and the two of them had barely exchanged a word or look between boarding their plane in San Francisco, and, once back in New York, parting ways for a well-earned "seventy-two hour pass"—which happened to fall over Independence Day weekend.
Illya was glad for the rest, but it had bothered him to leave Napoleon's side so quickly. Though his cool exterior disguised it masterfully well, he was, in truth, worried about the American, and it would have given his mind more peace to keep him close at hand for the next few days.
Only adding to his unease was the fact that Napoleon had not called him to make arrangements for going to see the fireworks on the fourth. It had been a steadfast tradition of theirs since Illya's first summer in New York, when Napoleon invited him to tag along with a group of agents who were going together, and though over the years it had become a given, Napoleon always made a point of extending an invitation.
When the morning of the fourth rolled around and he had still heard nothing, Illya debated with himself over whether it would be out of line for him to call and offer an invitation of his own. It wasn't really his holiday to be celebrating, after all, and perhaps the American had made other plans. But in the end, he decided he would, and not, he thought as he dialed Napoleon's number, out of any great devotion to tradition or an overwhelming sense of adoptive nationalism—really, he just wanted to make sure his partner was all right.
"Hello?" The voice on the other end of the line sounded tired.
"Hello, Napoleon. Would you care to meet for dinner? If we go to Mario's we can watch the fireworks from the balcony."
"Very well. I'll see you then."
Little seemed to have changed from when Illya had seen his partner last. He was polite but distant during dinner and looked as though he hadn't slept much over the past few days. The Russian strongly suspected that Napoleon had agreed to come only to humor him.
After eating they drifted out onto the restaurant's expansive balcony, where they took up almost identical poses leaning against the railing. The sky had darkened, and at precisely nine-twenty, an explosive spray of gold and blue started the fireworks show. In a split second a spectacular purple display displaced it, and a moment after that, a burst of red and orange stole the spotlight.
Suddenly, Napoleon turned and scooted a few feet down the railing. Illya tensed; he didn't move, but he watched discreetly from the corner of his eye.
"What are you doing?" A female voice asked in a surprised but not displeased tone.
"Watching the fireworks in your eyes." Napoleon replied with an easy grin and a familiar sparkle in his own eyes. "The view's much prettier that way."
Illya allowed a smile to creep onto his face as his muscles relaxed and he looked away, secure in the knowledge that no matter what THRUSH had up its sleeve, for just that moment, everything was right with the world.