Napoleon tucked his communicator away with a deep sense of regret. He hadn't wanted to lie to his partner, but he also hadn't wanted to spoil the festivities. Napoleon simply wasn’t in the mood for the HQ New Year’s Eve party, and had told Illya that he would try to get there, but would probably be late getting back from assignment. He had no doubt that the other man would assume he’d lined up a tryst with a lady friend, but he was actually alone in his apartment.
Napoleon could have easily told Illya the truth about where he was, and why, but he didn’t want to take him away from the celebrations. New Year was a big celebration in Russia and, in the time Solo had known him, Illya had become far more open to joining in with staff parties.
After pouring himself a scotch, Napoleon flopped onto his sofa and sighed heavily. A new year was about to begin but, for him, it would be bringing an end. Technically, since turning thirty-nine a few weeks previously, he was already into his final year as a field agent. However, he had been trying to push the whole idea away by telling himself that it wouldn’t happen until ‘next year’. In two hours’ time, when the clock ticked over midnight, Napoleon’s retirement from active duty would be happening ‘this year’; which made it seem so much closer. Napoleon downed his drink and lay back with his eyes closed. He was soon gently snoring.
He woke with a start at the sound of someone knocking on his door. Somewhere in his subconscious he recognised the rhythm as the coded knock of his partner and came to full wakefulness. Glancing at his watch as he went to door, he smiled grimly at seeing it was five minutes to midnight.
“How did you know I was here?” he demanded, as he opened the door.
Illya raised an amused eyebrow at Napoleon’s question.
“You do remember that we have the ability to trace a communicator?”
Napoleon gestured his partner in, and accepted the bottle of scotch he had brought. He asked what had prompted Illya to trace him in the first place.
“There was something in your voice which sounded unlike you,” Illya explained. “We have been partners so long that I can tell when something is wrong.”
“We won’t be partners much longer.”
So that is the problem, Illya thought to himself. Napoleon had always been a man of action and the thought of being deskbound was obviously weighing heavily on his mind. The Russian understood perfectly. He was a year younger than Napoleon and, as well as his own retirement looming on the horizon, he didn’t relish the idea of working for a year without Napoleon covering his back.
“I am skilled at many things, my friend, but turning back time is beyond me.”
Napoleon smiled. He topped up his glass and poured one for Illya.
“I suppose I should be grateful that I made it this far,” he said, raising a silent toast and swallowing the liquid. “I doubt I would have if I hadn’t had a partner I can trust implicitly, and who can read me without even trying.”
Illya echoed Napoleon’s silent toast.
“I cannot deny that ours has been a successful partnership, and I will regret the day it must come to an end. However, that day is still several months away, and we still have time to save the world a dozen times over. You never know, if you manage to get yourself killed beforehand, you’ll never have to retire.”
Solo barked out a laugh and suddenly felt lighter than he had. Illya’s statement about ‘managing to get killed’ had been uttered with absolute seriousness, but Napoleon could see the humour in the man’s eyes.
“We can only hope,” he replied with a chuckle, pouring them both another drink.
From outside, the sound of church bells and fireworks alert them to the start of the New Year.
“None of us can know what will come,” Illya stated. “We can only hope we have the courage to meet it. Happy New Year, moy droog.”
“Happy New Year to you too, Tovarisch,” Napoleon replied.
They made and drank another silent toast before Solo suggested ordering some Chinese food. Illya readily agreed.
“You can pay,” the Russian said solemnly. “You dragged me away from a very good party after all.”
Napoleon snorted another laugh. They may only have a few more months as partners, but they had a friendship which would last a lifetime.