Genre: Man from UNCLE - part of the Foothills series
Word count: 2168
Prompt I would like to ask if you could do a Foothills story featuring Christmas and Rudolf cupcakes?
Thank you, gevr for a fun prompt and to sparky955 for her beta
Illya resisted the urge to prop his head up and yawn. City council meetings, even small city council meetings, took too much time. He didn’t have enough as it was, but then to get dragged into one on his day off by his partner. Well, if this wasn’t a demonstration of love, he didn’t know what was.
“Okay, so next item on the agenda, Jackson’s Christmas Open House. Our theme is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
Illya’s head came up at that. “What open house?”
“Shh,” Napoleon cautioned, but it was too late.
“You will direct your remark to the council.”
Illya got to his feet. “I said, what open house? I read the paper and am fairly current on local events. I’ve not heard anything about it.”
“It hasn’t moved forward from Council yet.” The Mayor didn’t look up from his paperwork. “But we thought it would be a good idea if we were to have an open house the way Sutter Creek and Amador City do. Have the merchants stay open late, offer tidbits, have strolling carolers, that sort of thing.”
“Who’s going to pay for all of this?”
“We are assuming the tourist flow would make the event pay for itself.”
“That’s a bit of an assumption. There are seven closed storefronts on Main Street now.”
“We are aware of that, Mr. Kuryakin,” Bill Briar, the secretary, snapped. “Not every place is as successful as your restaurant.”
“It’s not that. I just think it would be wise to check with the merchants before going forward.”
“I think it’s a good thing,” The Mayor said. “It will bring people to Jackson and show them all that we have to offer.”
“I have a bad feeling about this.” Illya dropped down into his chair.
“You can’t help it, you’re Russian,” Napoleon whispered. “Trust me.”
“And what is this Rudolph nonsense?”
“It’s the theme for the weekend. You know the song?”
“Yes, it glorifies bullying someone until you want something from him, then coercing him into helping. Rudolph, so desperate for any sort of attention, immediately agrees.” Illya cocked his head. “Who does that remind me of?” He stood. “I’m going home.”
Napoleon watched his partner pull on his sweatshirt and walk out.”
“Napoleon, you said you could control him.”
“Me, control Illya? No one does that, but I will bring him on board. You just need to know how to approach him.”
“He will cooperated?”
“Yes,” Napoleon said, and mentally added, Just call me the king of the reindeer games.
Of course, his suggestion fell upon deaf ears. That was the problem with this council. They were so busy trying to promote Jackson that they never thought about the people who actually lived and worked in Jackson.
“Hey, Cara, look at this.” Matt entered the kitchen, the day’s mail in his hand. “Did you know we are having an open house?” He paused. “What is an open house?”
Henry made a rude noise. “You throw open the doors and invite the world in.”
“We do that every night.”
“We don’t charge.”
“I don’t think so,” Illya muttered as he pounded veal. “I think it’s to bring people into the merchants, not us.”
“Won’t it impact Vinea?”
“It will, but I’m sure Napoleon has a game plan for the day.” The truth of the matter was that Napoleon was bankrolling several of the merchants for the event. “He thinks it’s a great idea.”
“It says here that we have to offer something special for people to sample when they visit.”
“I think we need a meeting,” Illya said. He placed the thin piece of meat into a metal tray and covered it tightly with plastic wrap. “Spread the word. We’ll meet a half hour before opening tomorrow. I want everyone to have a chance to speak his or her mind.”
And speak they did. While Illya demanded perfection in food prep, service, and atmosphere, he was quick to listen to his employees. They were the foot soldiers and they often knew of problems hours, days, even weeks before he did. It was a two-way street. When he talked, they listened and when they spoke, he gave each word careful attention. He liked to think it was one reason for the low turnover rate for Taste. Many of his employees had been with him since the first meal was served.
“I think it needs to be something small and savory,” Rand said, sipping his coffee. He looked over at his partner and snickered.
“Shut up,” Henry ordered. “I think sweet.”
“Savory because we want to bring them into the restaurant for dinner.”
“But it’s during the day. We don’t open for lunch, so they might have hours to go before its dinner time. Or will we be open for lunch that day?”
“What do you think?” Illya asked. “It will be during our busiest season. We will have Christmas parties coming out our ears. Are we up for it?”
“But at the same time, it might be a way to lure them into Taste at a later date.” Roxanne didn’t usually offer much during these meetings and when she spoke up, everyone turned to her. “I mean, we are booked solid on the weekends. If we are open for lunch for a couple of days, it might be a way to reach diners that might not otherwise have a chance of dining with us.”
“It’s a good point, Cara,” Matt said, looking up from the paperwork he was reading. “While we are abbondante with patrons now, January and February are hard months.”
“All right, I’m not opposed to opening for lunch that weekend, but only if we are all in agreement.” Illya looked around at his staff. “A show of hands?”
“It will be paid?” This was from one of the newer waiters.
“Is Vinea doing something?”
“I suspect that’s what Napoleon is planning that with his staff as I speak.”
“I’m in, then.”
Hands went up around the table and Illya quickly scanned the group. “Unanimous, then?”
“Except for Jesus,” Rocky said. “But I know he’s baking extra this month anyhow.”
“Excellent.” Illya made a note on the pad of paper before him. “I think a fixed menu with two or three luncheon entrees to prevent it from getting too insane for the kitchen staff.”
“Hear, hear,” Rand said. “Less insanity in the kitchen is always appreciated.”
“Does that mean he’s staying home?” Henry teased, pointing at Illya.
“In your dreams,” Illya shot back with a grin as he started to stand. “Let’s get decorating.”
“Wait, what are we serving?”
“Well, it should be small and easy to eat, but something that will stay with them after they leave.”
Rocky leaned over and whispered something to Matt. “That’s a great idea.” To Illya, he said, “Not to worry, Cara. We have an idea.”
“Not ABBA,” Rocky confirmed.
“And now I am very scared.” Illya took a deep breath.
Napoleon flopped over onto his back, spent in more ways than one. “You’re killing me, Kuryakin. When I think back about our time with UNCLE and how everyone thought you were so chaste.”
“That was their misconception, not mine.” Illya rolled off the rapidly cooling pool of semen and reached for a towel. “I never denied that I had a very active sex drive. They just didn’t think I did.” He spread it over the sheet and returned to his earlier position.
“The Ice Prince.” Napoleon brushed Illya’s sweat-drenching hair off his forehead and kissed it.
“That’s what they used to call you around HQ.”
“Perhaps I just needed to find the right spark to melt my core.” Illya smiled mischievously. Napoleon reached for him and they spent a few second readjusting their position until they were spooning together.
“So what do you want for Christmas this year, Amante?” Napoleon nuzzled Illya’s hair.
“Four extra hours in the day?”
Illya sighed. “What could I possibly want, Napoleon? I have you, a good business, a warm house, there’s nothing else I need or want.”
“You know what happens if you don’t give me an idea.”
“Yes, I do, and no more kittens.” Illya plumped up his pillow.
“So much for that idea.”
His partner wiggled to get comfortable. “What are you doing for the open house?”
Napoleon smiled at the change in topics. He knew Illya would be a tough nut to crack from earlier experience. “Mulled wine for the adults, hot cider or cocoa for the kids. I’m hoping to get some small apps from a friend of mine who happens to be a good cook.”
“I do my best.”
“I’ll see what I can come up with.” Illya yawned and shifted again.
“I just can’t get comfortable.” He flopped over onto his back. “Sorry.”
An idea, the perfect Christmas gift, formed in Napoleon’s head at that moment. “No problem. I’d just overheat in another minute anyway. What are you serving?”
“And you complain about my sexual appetite and I have no idea. Matt has taken an idea from Rocky and is running with it.”
“Scary… does ABBA have any Christmas music?”
Illya wiped his hands on a towel and took a deep breath. At eleven they would open for the open house. Last night had been a madhouse and Illya wondered what today might hold. They were off Main Street, not by much, but certainly not part of the main drag. It could be for naught, then he looked outside.
There was a cluster of people milling about already, shooting nervous looks at their watches and back to his front door. Already, there was a stream of people going in and out of Vinea.
“Are we ready back here?”
“Yes chef,” came a chorus of voices.
He tossed the towel aside, made sure he was wearing a clean apron and left the kitchen. The restaurant was decorated and a fire burned merrily in the hearth. All in all, the dining room looked cozy and welcoming.
He walked up to where Roxanne stood at her podium, her attention split between her appointment book and the crowd outside.
“Are we ready to open, Roxanne.”
“Just waiting for Matt and Rocky.”
Illya glanced at his watch. “We’ll give them another ten minutes…” A noise from the kitchen drew Illya’s attention and he exchanged a nervous glace with Roxanne. “What on earth?”
Matt entered backwards from the kitchen and then turned. He was carrying a tray of something. Illya looked more closely. They were miniature cupcakes, all carefully decorated and from each sprung a small reindeer, its nose a bright red. Written on each in a delicate script was Taste.
“See? It’s an ornament. Not only do they get something to eat, but then something to put on their tree,” Rocky explained. “We have another 24 dozen coming in the back.”
“What is the cupcake?” Illya helped himself to one. Matt watched him carefully as he chewed. “It’s incredible. Chocolate and peanut butter?”
“Thank you, Cara,” Matt said, smiled from ear to ear. “I was watching Rocky eat a peanut butter cup and improved on it. There are others for those who don’t care for the combination. They are lemon with fresh lemon curd filling.”
“You must have been up all night baking these.”
“Si.” Matt gestured to his partner. “We both were. He is very good in the kitchen.”
“Don’t let that get out.” Illya hugged Matt and then Rocky. “Then I’d say you have both earned your rest. Go home and sleep. I will see you tonight.” Illya began to arrange the cupcakes on a tray. “Roxanne, we are ready to open.”
Napoleon held up the small reindeer and grinned. “This really was a great idea.” He propped it up against the night stand light. “Everyone loved Rudolph.”
“I have to hand it to Rocky. It was all his idea.” Illya adjusted his pillows and plopped back. “Now if I can get six hours of sleep, I will be happy.” He readjusted them and then himself. “Okay, five.”
“No problem.” Napoleon kept from smiling. He’d just ordered the new mattress, with delivery guaranteed by Christmas Eve. With any luck, it would be installed and the old one carted away before Illya even knew what was happening. Taste would be closing early and having its annual Employee party before their week long break. Things couldn’t be better.
“What are you smiling about?”
Napoleon looked over. Illya’s eyes were closed. “What makes you think I’m smiling?”
“I hear it in your voice. You are pleased as punch about something.”
“Mostly that today is over and done. And you know how I get about Christmas.”
Illya wasn’t’ buying it for a minute, but that was okay. This was the time of the year for secrets and the truth be known, he had a few of his own. It was a very good time of the year for many things.