Genre: Man from UNCLE
Word Count: 2093
Prompt: How about a Working Stiff who decorates UNCLE for Christmas?
My thanks for an out of the box Working Stiff prompt, jkkitty and to sparky955 for her beta help. Link will take you to AO3
One of my earliest memories was our Christmas tree. I remember the way the lights danced on the glossy surface of the balls and remember being transfixed by the glow of the lights. They weren’t like the ones now. We only had a choice of three colors, red, green, and blue. Blue was always my favorite, even if it was the color responsible for the scar tissue on two of my fingers. Okay, I learned when I was three what my mom meant by, “Leave it alone.”
For the next couple of years, I watched, but kept a healthy distance from the tree. Eventually, though, the draw became too much, and back I went. It was a love that stayed with me through school and college.
I got a secretarial position in the City and decided to celebrate my first Christmas by getting a little tree and decorating it. Of course, I’d go home for Christmas, but until then, this would be mine. Very okay!
I was eyeing a display of lights, trying to find something that wouldn’t burn the apartment to a crisp when I saw the man who would change my life. He was holding a box of ornaments and looking none too happy about it.
“Can’t find what you like?” I asked. Okay, I’d never been afraid to talk to strangers and this time of the year seemed to invite casual conversation.
“Just because I’ve nothing to do at the moment didn’t mean they should send me shopping for ornaments.”
“Trying to get you out of the house for gift wrapping, it sounds like to me.” I selected a set of ornaments and placed them in my little cart.
“If only that were true. No, my boss wants the place decorated for the holidays and I’m Jewish. I don’t know where to start.”
“I’ll do it,” I said suddenly.
“I’ll decorate your place for you. I love to decorate.”
“Tomorrow. I’ll ask for the day off.” Okay, maybe I was asking for trouble, but I couldn’t resist. “Where should I meet you?”
“There’s a little tailor’s shop.” He gave me very specific and bizarre directions, but it beat the heck out of the office.
“Okay. I’ll be there at eight. Now, let’s see what we can get you started with.”
Nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen. Before leaving the house, I put together a satchel of stuff that I thought I might need, tape, ribbon, scissors, tacks, that sort of thing. Riding the bus, I felt a ball of excitement building in my tummy. It was going to be a wonderful day.
The shop was nothing to write home about, but I figured wrapping the handrails that led down to the tailor’s door would help a lot. I carefully went down the stairs, wondering where I could find some garland. It didn’t matter that my feet were freezing and I was cold to the bone, I was going to be decorating soon.
“Hello,” I said to the man behind the counter. “I’m looking for Mr. Del Floria.”
“But I met Mr… Floria yesterday and you aren’t him?” The ball of excitement turned to panic. Had I gotten the address wrong?
“Ah, dat was my brudder, de udder Del Floria.”
“Um… wouldn’t that have been confusing as kids?” Yeah, okay it was a stupid question, but I didn’t know what else to do or say. I clutched my satchel to my chest, frantically trying to think of a way to get back up those stairs outside.
“Naw, were identical brudders.”
I was about to point out that he was NOTHING like the man I’d met yesterday when I turned around and there he was. Relief flooded over me. I wasn’t in the wrong place.
“I see you have met my brother,” he said, smoothly as if nothing was going on. ”He’s really closer to being my cousin.”
“I’m a little confused.”
“Wait for it,” the brother behind the counter muttered.
“What is he talking about?”
“Can you keep a secret?”
Okay, the panic was back. “What sort of secret?”
“The best kind.” He gestured to me and led me to a dressing room. The panic was growing by leaps and bounds now. “It’s all right. I know it’s all confusing and frightening, but it’s okay. Really. You’re fine.”
I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s what murderers said to their victim just before… He reached for me and I cringed into a corner, trying to hide. Then the back to the dressing room opened and I blinked at the bright light.
He smiled and offered his hand. “Come on. It’ll be fine.”
I don’t know what it was about him, but I trusted him. Okay, maybe that was because he looked like my Uncle Ernie, but I took his hand and he led me into a brightly lit room.
“What is this?”
“Welcome to U.N.C.L.E.”
He took me to a receptionist and she picked up a pretty red badge. “Here you go,” she said as she pinned it to my sweater. “Make sure you keep that on while you are in the building.”
“Okay.” I looked down at the number and smiled. “Twelve has always been my lucky number.”
I followed my Del Floria to a large room. At one end was a large Christmas tree, patiently awaiting its ornaments and lights. There were boxes that over-flowed with decorations. I wanted to squeal and dive in head first.
“Mr. Waverly would like this decorated for our annual Christmas party this weekend. Can you do it?
“I’ll die trying. Do I have any help?”
“I’ll help.” The speaker had one arm in a sling and a bandage on his forehead.” He had dark hair and what my mom would call bedroom eyes. He was handsome in an average way.
“Do you think that’s wise, Napoleon?”
“Sure. It’s better than filing and I promise I won’t climb any ladders.” He put his good hand over his heart and, okay, I giggled. He grinned at me and his entire face lit up. Now he looked way more than average.
“It will be fine, now run along. We have work to do.” He offered me his hand. “Hi, I’m Napoleon Solo.”
“That’s an unusual name.”
“Yeah, my folks compromised. My mom wanted Rachel and my dad wanted Lynette. But, Napoleon?” He was easy to talk to and within five minutes, I felt like I’d known him my whole life.
It was amazing how much we got done in just a short amount of time. Whatever you could say about Napoleon, it wasn’t that he was lazy. Okay, he was a little vain, but he was a trooper.
He was steadying a ladder as I pinned up a streamer in a corner when I heard a strange voice.
“I should have known.” I looked down and a blond-haired man had entered. He wasn’t wearing a jacket and there was a weapon strapped to his torso. I felt very nervous. Okay, really nervous and suddenly both he and Napoleon were steadying me and I was on the floor.
“Deep breaths, Raylyn. Just breathe.” Napoleon looked at the blond man and smiled. “Illya, my boy, you have a grave effect on women.”
“I wasn’t the one admiring the view.”
I blushed, but I had brothers and it wasn’t like I was a shrinking violet. “How dare you accuse Napoleon of such a thing? He’s been a perfect gentleman and he’s not the one running around flaunting his weapon.”
Both men looked at each other and started laughing. “Raylyn, let me introduce you to my partner, Illya. And he’s right. I was admiring the view… a little.” He brushed my hair out of my face. “Are you all right?”
Okay, I didn’t want to admit that the sight of a gun made me woozy, so, “I’m okay. It’s just that breakfast was a long time ago.” It wasn’t really a lie. I’d been too excited to eat.
“Then the least I can do is take you to lunch to apologize for making you work this long without a break.” Napoleon helped me to my feet. “Want to come, partner?” Illya had a nice smile, too, but it was guarded.
“Three’s a crowd, but you can bring me something back.”
“Not willing to chance the Canteen today?”
“On a Wednesday.” He shuddered. “Not likely.”
We took a taxi, one of the first I’d ever ridden in and we went to Macy’s. It was gloriously decorated and it was all I could do to keep from wolfing down my lunch.
“You were hungry,” Napoleon said, awkward holding his knife in his slinged hand.
“Do you need help?”
“No, I can manage, but thank you.”
I smiled a little sheepishly. “Of course you can. I’m sorry.”
“Not a problem. It’s better than Illya offering and, yes, he does. I can’t wait to be free of this thing. Just one more week.”
“I zigged when I should have zagged and let’s leave it at that.”
I could tell by his tone that it was the end of that discussion, so I changed course. “I was sort of hoping we could look at the decorations afterwards. We could use a nice tree topper.”
“You wish is my command.”
We were wandering among their decorations when I suddenly realized I’d gotten separated from Napoleon. I’d been looking at lights and lost him. I edged past some of the evil lights that had burned me as a child – why they were still on the market was beyond me – and spotted him with another man.
I began to walk up when I noticed his body posture. The stranger had a hand in his pocket and was pointing something at Napoleon through the fabric. I thought of Illya’s weapon and paled. Instinctively, I knew there was something wrong, but I had to do something. I hurried put on my thick mittens.
“Hey, Napoleon, could you help me?” I called and both men looked at me.
“He’s busy,” the stranger said and there was no warmth in his voice.
“Okay, how about you?” I grabbed a string of those hateful lights and tossed them at him, praying he wouldn’t shoot me. Without thinking, he instinctively raised his arms to catch them, screaming in pain as the over-heated bulbs made contact with his face and hands.
It took Napoleon just a moment to render the man helpless and to smile at the people abruptly surrounding us. “Sorry, just a decorating incident. Nothing to see.”
Store security ran up and for a moment, I thought I would be arrested. If nothing else, I’d messed up one of their displays. I sat down glumly to contemplate my fate.
Then Illya was there and some other men were surrounding me. How they got here so quickly was beyond me and that’s when I realized I’d sort of been passed out for a little bit.
Napoleon was leaning over me and smiling. I smiled back and that’s the last thing I remembered for a long time afterwards.
Mr. Waverly was very impressed with my resourcefulness and, better, with my decorating. He proclaimed that I was the official U.N.C.L.E. official Christmas Hall Decker
I still worked for the same secretarial firm, but when the holidays came around, I made sure there were plenty of vacation days left for me. I would pack up the same satchel and present myself at Del Floria’s. Okay, I knew by then that there were three or four different people who went by the name of Del Floria, including mine. His real name was Saul Yudnich and his wife made the best latkes I ever tasted. He always takes me inside and I pick up my badge, lucky 12, and always within a minute or two, Napoleon or Illya is there, usually Napoleon.
He’s too busy now to help, but he always makes sure I have plenty. That’s when I met Mr. Simpson… Sam. He’s sweet, smart and a bit of goof and I couldn’t love him more. And, okay, like me, he’s crazy about decorating. He even has his own light bulb scar! It was kismet.
I have a feeling that I might just get the present of a lifetime from Sam come Christmas morning, but it doesn’t mean that come the night of the UNCLE Christmas party, Napoleon won’t catch me a time or two under the mistletoe. Heck, tis the season!