The agents reached the medical clinic at 1:25 AM. Dr. Bennett met them at the door to let them in as the New York State Police office had called ahead to advise him that he would be receiving a patient. As he watched the group park under the portico and get out of the cars he was struck by how weary they all looked. The individual that was to be his patient was obvious by the amount of blood that covered the man’s head and clothes. Dr. Bennett noticed that despite the injuries the young man insisted that he could walk unaided. Well, he wasn’t about to let that happen and immediately pushed a wheelchair out to the waiting vehicle.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Bennett. Young man, I think it would be best if you had a seat.”
“No, thank you, doctor. I am able to walk.”
“Illya! Do what the man says, sit down!” The dark haired man commanded.
The patient shot a one eyed defiant look at his friend but relented and took a seat.
As he rolled the patient into the clinic he addressed the others. “If you’d take a seat out here, I’ll take our patient into the examining room and evaluate him. He needs to be cleaned up before I can suture his scalp laceration. I will also take some X-rays of his head to see if he is concussed.”
“Dr. Bennett, my name is Napoleon Solo. This is Illya Kuryakin, my business partner and best friend. I’d like to go back with him.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Solo. I don’t allow anyone but patients and medical personnel in the examining area. Don’t worry, Mr. Kuryakin is in good hands. Now have a seat. We should be finished in about an hour.” Without further comment, Dr. Bennett promptly wheeled his patient through the double doors.
Ten stitches and several X-ray images later, the doctor wheeled Illya back through the doors into the waiting area.
Mark nudged Napoleon who was cat-napping. Napoleon looked up to see his friend come through the doors. “Oh shit!” he mumbled to Mark. “I bet that went over well.”
Illya looked much improved, but it was hard not to notice that the right side of his forehead looked much higher as his hair over the laceration had been shaved back.
Napoleon rose to his feet and walked over. “Well, doctor what did you find?”
“That Mr. Kuryakin is a hard headed individual, in more ways than one! The worst injury is the laceration. He also has a mild concussion. I would prefer to keep him overnight, however he has made it clear that wasn’t going to happen.” Dr. Bennett smiled ruefully. “He was none too happy about his hair either. I had to keep reminding him that hair grows back.”
Illya looked up and glared.
“So he can come back to the lodge with us, right?”
“Absolutely.” He patted Illya’s shoulder. “Just keep an eye on him. If any problems develop you know where to find me.” He smiled and looked down at Illya. “Mr. Kuryakin, you are one stubborn, tough SOB.” He looked at his watch, 3:30 AM. “Now, all of you, get the hell out of here. I need to get some sleep as the kids will be screaming to get up at 6:30 to open presents. Go on…out! And, Merry Christmas.”
The small group of people sat around the mahogany table once again resplendent with its linen table cloth, sterling silver place settings, and crystal stemware. The snow storm had passed and sunlight bathed the room with its warm rays shining through the large windows.
Napoleon laid down his linen napkin before gently tapping his knife against the Waterford crystal goblet. He picked up his wine glass and stood facing his guests. “To my dear friends,” his eyes made contact with each of his them, his gaze lingering on the occupied seat to his right. Smiling broadly, he continued, “Thank you for your help in locating my wayward partner.”
All joined in the toast.
“And a toast to Illya.” Napoleon turned to Illya who grimaced at the taste of the sparkling cider, no alcohol for victims of head wounds. “The gift of your presence makes my Christmas complete!” With a wink he continued, “thank you for remaining in one piece long enough to get here. And, remember,” he chuckled, “hair does grow back.”
Illya smirked at the last comment as the others raised their glasses to him. Then he stood raising his glass. “Thank you, my friends. When I first came to New York I had no friends and people were reluctant to trust ‘the Commie’. But Mr. Waverly assigned me to partner with the most self-assured, egotistical blockhead I have ever met.” The others chuckled.“For that I am most grateful.
“For the last four Christmas holidays Napoleon has tried to bully me into sharing this holiday with him, and for various reasons I had declined.” He looked at Napoleon, his blue eye meeting warm brown ones. “However, my friend, that was my mistake and perhaps I was the blockhead. I value your friendship more than you will ever know.” He turned to the others and bowed slightly, “and yours as well.”
He raised his glass once more, “Merry Christmas!”