Another New Year’s Eve, and Illya not having plans as usual, manned the communications desk at headquarters, monitoring a few other areas as well.
He volunteered year after year as New Years here just did not catch his interest. Every woman he did know already had a date, and he simply would not be set up with one by his partner, usually she would be a dizzy chatterbox of a blonde who had only one thing in mind. Not that he was against casual sex, but he just preferred to know a woman a bit longer than a single date before he went to bed with her. Napoleon often childed him that relationships were a luxury an agent couldn't afford, but Kuryakin stuck to his guns for the most part.
Sometimes he did not understand Napoleon’s taste in women, well maybe he did since his partner was quite the lover and the women he dated knew it...
Illya decided he was better off here at headquarters, and besides it would give the night off to those members of the staff who wanted to celebrate the new year.
The holiday here was just not the same as it was back home in Russia and Illya simply felt disconnected. it was a holiday that was encouraged with enthusiasm by the government, acknowledged by a simple spruce tree topped with a red star, a reminder of Communist rule. On New Year's Eve people would eat and drink through the night, taking breaks from their festivities to stroll outside in the snow and visit neighbors.
In the morning, children would wake up to find presents under the tree, delivered by Ded Moroz and his helper, his granddaughter, Snegurochka given these traditions were too strong to suppress by Communist rule; they were simply transplanted to New Year's.
If he were in Moskva, there would be fireworks lighting up the night sky at the Kremlin, and a beautiful sight it would be as the onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral and Spasskaya Tower would be lit up by the bright flashes in the sky. People would crowd Krásnaja Plóščaď; in joyous celebration to have survived another year, and in hopes the new one would be better.
Though there were droves of people sandwiched together in Time Square here in New York just like Red Square, but it just wasn’t the same. Crushed by a sea of bodies, waiting for a ball to drop and then being covered by tons of confetti just had no appeal to the Russian.
In Krásnaja Plóščaď , there would the passing of vodka bottles freely among the people, bear hugs and kisses would abound. The crowds would then disperse, heading home to either keep drinking or go to about the business of setting the presents beneath the tree for the children to open on New Year's day, though the latter Illya hadn’t experienced since he was a child, before the Great Patriotic war.
Holidays in general became a thing to be avoided.Over the years, Illya Nickovich Kuryakin became a master of avoidance techniques...
“No, he was better off in headquarters.” Here there was a comforting stillness with a skeleton staff, and little to nothing to do. THRUSH seemed to honor the holidays as a sort of unspoken truce. It was nice to have that break; one had to remind oneself that they actually had families too, as did many of the UNCLE personnel.
As a treat for his fellow workers covering the evening shift as well Kuryakin turned on a radio and placed it by a microphone in communications for the staff to listen to Artie Shaw’s orchestra New Year's Eve broadcast from the Waldorf Astoria.
Illya's thoughts drifted to his partner, knowing he was there, no doubt enjoying his wining, dining, dancing and anticipating other things that would most likely happen later in the early hours of the New Year. This time the American was in his glory, having scored a date with a pair of identical twin sisters.
Napoleon’s comment was, “What a way to start a new year.”
Illya tried to avoid that visual, as his partner’s sexual exploits were simply over the top to him. His sometimes ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em’ approach was most unappealing. The Russian, for all his cold demeanor, was a bit of a romantic at heart and wanted a relationship to last with a woman, and not have it be just a one night stand. Not that he wasn’t capable of having one, he just preferred not to do so.
The music on the radio drew his attention from his musings about his partner’s amorous adventures....the song announced by the band leader was unusual in its structure; unlike most popular 32-bar popular standards which followed an AABA pattern, “Begin the Beguine” stretched for 108 bars with no repeated phrases.
Illya closed his eyes, enjoying the tune and just as the clarinet rose in a crescendo, signalling the end of the song, the doors to communications ‘shussshed’ open and in walked Napoleon Solo. He was dressed in a fitted black tux, and looked quite dashing.
“I thought you had the date of the century tonight,” Illya looked at his watch, noting it was nearly midnight.
“I did too, but one of the twins stayed at home as she was sick, and while I was driving in the car with the other sister, she started sneezing and coughing too. Needless to say, I took her home. So I thought the next best thing would be to ring in the new year with my partner.”
He produced a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka and a bottle Balvenie single malt scotch along with two glasses from behind his back.
Illya’s face remained placid, thought his eyebrows raised ever so slightly. “I am honored. I didn’t think I ranked that highly on your list of companions for New Years Eve. Surely you could not have found another date in that little black book of yours?”
“Didn’t even consider it tovarisch, “ he said as he removed his jacket, hanging it on the chair beside his partner. He opened the bottles and carefully poured their drinks. Food and beverages were not permitted in communications, due to the delicacy of the equipment, but around the holidays Waverly turned a blind eye, as long as things were kept in moderation.
Together, Illya and Napoleon listened to the radio as the final countdown began, and when the midnight hour arrived, there were raucous calls of Happy New Year over the airwaves and in the halls of UNCLE. The band broke into the traditional song ‘Auld Lang Syne.’
The agents tipped their glasses together in toast.
“S Novym godom,” Illya finally broke a smile.
“Happy New Year to you too\, let’s wish it’s a better one to come,” Napoleon answered, though his usually optimistic voice seemed a bit melancholy.
“Da. One can only hope...”
These men understood the good intentions of the season, but neither let themselves get caught up in the sentimentality associated with a new year, though deep down they both really wanted to.
Tomorrow would be an new day, with plots and plans to thwart. A new year for saving the world, such was life for a Man from U.N.C.L.E.