spikesgirl58 (spikesgirl58) wrote,

A New Foothills to ring out the year.

Title: A Brief Taste
Genre: Man from UNCLE - Foothills
Rating: PG-13ish
Word Count: 3667

My thanks to sparky955 for her beta of this....

“Is it truly over?” Matt looked as if he was about to collapse. Even his flame red afro seemed deflated. “Surely, there can be no dishes left.”

All, but the singing, my love, which I would do if I wasn’t so exhausted, but tonight I am too tired even for ABBA.” Rocky set down the tray of dirty crockery and arched his back. He watched as his partner quickly and efficiently loaded it into the dish machine. “That is the last of it. Happy New Year.”

“Now I regret sending everyone else home so soon.” Matt was conservative with his movements. The younger man’s shoulders were bowed with weariness and he moved slowly.

“Welcome to the world of management, Matthew.” Illya finished polishing a metal table and tossed the towel toward the overflowing laundry bag. “If it isn’t the end of it, I’m going into the storage room and hide in a crate for the next seven hours.” Illya winced as he tried to straighten his back. He untied his apron and sent that in the same direction as the towel. His chef’s jacket followed. “Next year, we go back to a prefixed menu. This was insane. You are insane.”

Matt dragged himself from the kitchen and surveyed the nearly empty restaurant “Si, Cara, it’s true. Too much of a good thing. What we brought in for profits, I am going to spend on sticking plasters for my poor feet.”

“Your poor feet? You should have mine.” Even the best sneakers weren’t enough to combat a night of cooking. “And you, Rocky?”

“Down, but never for the count.” True to form, the waiter still looked very put together. “I could certainly sit down for a few minutes, though.”

"Let’s hit the bar. Drinks are on the house,” Illya said, smiling at his own joke. Since, in effect, they owned the alcohol, it was always on the house.

The trio wearily hobbled out of the kitchen and through the restaurant, kicking balloons, colorful streamers, and confetti out of the way. The lights were off for the dining room, but the bar was still lit and with it the immediate area. There were a few small tables and one had been set for four. It was there that they headed.

“It’s going to take the cleaners a week to get this up all swept up.” Matt sat down slowly.

“It’s a good thing that we are closed for the next few days then.” Napoleon Solo carried a bottle of champagne over to a table and set it down. He looked as fresh as a daisy. “How many glasses?”

“Just the four. Everyone else has made for home.” Illya grunted as he eased himself down and removed off his shoes. “What a night. And it’s only…” He trailed off as he glanced at his watch. “Thirty minutes into the New Year. You certainly cleared the place out fast enough.”

“That was Napoleon’s idea. We made sure everyone had paid prior to the last fifteen minutes. Then all they had to do was get up and leave… which we made sure they did promptly. My waiters were as tired as your kitchen staff.”

“Everyone left with a smile, though?” Illya brushed confetti off the table.

“And more than a few reservations for future visits. Roxanne was glowing when she left.” Rocky rested his arms upon the table and his head followed. “How did we do? We had to have been busier than last year. Either that or I’m much older.”

“What a holiday season, you mean!” Napoleon eased the cork out of the bottle with a soft whisper and began to pour. “Do you realize the restaurant saw an increase of nearly 75% over this time last year?”

“I think the Recession is truly over.” Illya took a glass and passed it to Matt who handed it to Rocky. The waiter managed to sit up to take it. “We actually made it.”

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t think we would for a while.” Rocky stretched out his legs and flexed his ankles, then raised his glass first to Illya, then Napoleon. “We probably wouldn’t have if we hadn’t had you two at the helm. And your capital.”

“Nonsense,” Napoleon scoffed. Once he was sure that everyone had glasses, he raised his in a toast. “To present friends and absent enemies. And for the record, I think you would have done okay without me, but just okay. Hang on a minute as I have a surprise for you.”

He vanished only to re-emerge with a tray loaded down with a variety of square white boxes. Immediately the air was heavenly scented by Chow Mein, Kung Pao Chicken, sweet and sour pork and more, along with another bottle of champagne. “I know you two have a propensity for not eating and Rocky, if he does eat, it evaporates the second it hits his stomach, so I made a call. Jimmy brought this over just before closing and I’ve been keeping it warm in the bar’s holding oven.”

Illya started to laugh. “I came out for some sherry and thought I was going crazy because I could smell Mongolian Beef. This is a wonderful surprise, Napoleon, thank you.” Both Rocky and Matt mumbled their thanks as well as they reached for chopsticks.

“You are more than welcome.” Napoleon was obviously pleased that he pulled his surprise off. He sat beside Illya and watched as the man opened one carton after another until he found the eggrolls. “You always start with those,” he teased.

Illya took a big bite and chewed, his eyes closed in pleasure. “It doesn’t get better than this.” He sat up at a loud bang. Rocky was on his feet and to the front door in a heartbeat. “It looks like the storm they were warning about is coming. We may end up on your couch, Chef.”

"What is mine, ours, is yours, but I think the guest room would be more comfortable.”

For several minutes they merely sat and ate, first with something bordering on desperation, then the eating slowed until finally even Illya had to push his plate aside with a contented sigh and drop his napkin to his empty plate. Meanwhile, the storm shook windows and shouted at them like a grumpy old man.

“That was wonderful, Napoleon. Thank you. If this isn’t Heaven, I don’t know what is.” He drained his glass and refilled it. “I have everyone I love at my side, good job, good health, life doesn’t get much better than this.”

Napoleon picked up the tray and carried it away, returning a few minutes later with a tea pot, cups and a bowl with four fortune cookies in it. “Since you are feeling so content, there’s one more surprise.” He got a devilish look on his face. “I read about these and wanted to try it.”

Rocky laughed. “Mr. S, I know you’ve had fortune cookies before.”

“These are special ones that Jesus helped me bake. We each take a cookie and read the fortune. Then we tell some truth related to the fortune. You need to pick the cookie facing you.”

Illya was already reaching for a cookie but Napoleon manipulated the plate so he got a different one. He opened his cookie and stuffed half into his mouth, setting the fortune aside unread. At Napoleon’s smirk, Illya shrugged his shoulders. “Sue me, I like fortune cookies, especially is Jesus has made them. And if we refuse to divulge a truth?”

“I’m sure you can come up with something, Illya,” Napoleon said, breaking open his cookie.

Rocky sat up a bit and poured some tea in the nearest cup to him. “Since this was your idea, you should go first, Mr. S. What’s your fortune say?”

“When was the first time you had sex?”

Rocky laughed. “I’ve got to hear that story. What about yours, Chef.”

“When did I first realize that I was in love? Who thought these up? Hallmark?” Illya reached for half of Napoleon’s uneaten cookie.

“Matthew?” Napoleon looked over at the younger man, whose eyes were slowly closing. At the sound of his name, they opened and he squinted at the thin slip of paper.

“The one thing you have never shared with your lover.” Matt grinned at Rocky, shaking his head slowly. “Oh, Cara, there are so many--”

“That’s what all those bathroom walls say,” Rocky joked with a hug.

“And yours, my love?”

Rocky paused to sip some tea and then read, “Why do you love ABBA so much?”

“It does not!” Illya sat up with more energy than he had a right to possess at this point of the evening. Matt reached for it and Rocky passed it over.

“Yes, Cara, it does. I have un pensiero that someone had a hand in this.”

Moi?” Napoleon was a picture of innocence.

Oui,” Illya answered. “And since this is your idea, you can start. So, the first time you had sex. You must have been what, twelve, thirteen?”

Napoleon smiled and dropped his gaze to the floor, as if suddenly shy. “Believe it or not, it was on my wedding night.”

Rocky laughed and waved him off. He dipped a part of his cookie in his tea and ate it. “You’re right, Mr. S, I don’t believe you. I know you and Chef were dancing long before that.”

“I think Napoleon meant his first wife, am I right?” Illya sipped some champagne as Napoleon nodded.

“I was just 18 and as desperately in love as only a teen can be. I wanted to make sure that we were married, so that she would be taken care of in case something happened to me in Korea. I still don’t know how or why really, but she said yes.”

Rocky seemed stunned by his friend’s admission. “But, Mr. S… surely you had... dallied before that?”

“It was a different time back then, Rocky, and, as a good Catholic boy, I wasn’t about to take the chance of suddenly being a father. There was kissing, hugging, and even petting, but that was it. To get a girl pregnant out of wedlock was not something to be taken lightly. I had a friend who was forced to get married when his girlfriend’s father showed up at his front door with a gun.”

“So, what happened?”

“Happily, she had a sense of humor and was a great teacher. She was also a few years older than me and way more experienced, something I didn’t know before we got married. The things she taught me.” Napoleon shook his head as he remembered. “She was an incredible woman, a true class act. Why she married me, I will never know”

Matt shifted slightly in his chair, stretching out a leg and Illya reached over to pull another chair closer. He propped his feet up and after a heartbeat, Matt did the same with a grateful expression. “So, what happened? You didn’t vivere felici e contenti?”

“What usually happens when two people, ill-suited for each other, get married. We started fighting, a lot. She was also fond of gin, more than I realized. One night we had a huge argument. She got drunk and took off. A few hours later, there were two police officers at my door, telling me that my beloved had wrapped herself around a tree. I left for Korea the day after the funeral. I didn’t know until a long time afterwards that she had been pregnant and it was probably the hormones that caused her mood flares.” He sighed, shook his head again and became quiet. Illya moved closer to him, reaching out to touch his hand.

“Didn’t mean to bring up sad memories, Mr. S. I‘m sorry.” Rocky touched Napoleon’s shoulder tentatively.

“It’s my own fault and it feels good to get it off my chest.” Napoleon dry washed his face with his hand and reached for his champagne flute. “Besides, if she hadn’t left me, I wouldn’t be here and for that, I do not regret a moment of what I went through.” He took a deep breath. “Now it’s your turn. Who’s next? Matt?” Napoleon held out the bottle.

“After your story, mine will sound petty.”

“Nonsense! There are no petty stories, just petty storytellers and you, my friend, are petty in no way.”

Matt looked at his hands and sighed. “The truth… non sono italiano… I am not Italian.” There was not a sound in the room except for the normal sounds of a building and its equipment. Even the wind outside seemed to stop in surprise. He looked at the stunned faces. “My father, he met my mamma in Naples…”

Gently, Illya said, “Matt, Naples is in Italy.”

Si, I know that… but Papa, he vagato.”

“He… wandered?” Illya was more than curious now. “Where did he wander from, Mattie?”

Irlanda… Ireland.”

Napoleon nodded slowly. “That explains your red hair. I’d never met a red-headed Italian before you. At least not one who came by it naturally and not out of a bottle.”

“When he met Mamma, he stopped, and they had me. Poi se ne ando. He left and Mamma, she raised me. I didn’t know. For a long time. I thought he was a good man and an Italian. Later I discovered he was neither.”

“Hey, you are as Italian as they get, my love.” Rocky kissed him. “And I’ll take anyone who doubts it out behind the barn.” He pulled Matt close.

“Is that why those men attacked you?”

Si. It was easier to let people think… something else. I am my family’s segretos sporco.

“Far from being a disappointment, Matt.” Illya moved closer and wrapped his arms around Matt and Rocky. After a moment, Napoleon joined them. “I think your family is very proud of you and it’s your father who’s the shameful secret. I’ve met your Mother and she loves you so much. She must have to have been willing to go through what she did to have you.”

“I’m not so sure these cookies were such a good idea now.” Napoleon sat back, a look of regret on his face. Matt shook his head and grinned as his afro caught up a second later.

“No, no, Cara, you are right. I feel lighter.” He smiled at Rocky. “More honest somehow.”

“Chef? Care to throw your dirty little secret out there?”

“Not dirty. Mine’s fairly straight forward. We were vacationing and Napoleon got a call from an old girlfriend in Terbuf.”

“Clara…” Napoleon trailed off with a sigh. “That was a lifetime ago. I was going to marry her.”

“But she married someone else. Her husband had gotten into trouble and she wanted Napoleon to rescue him. She played him in the worst way and, as I had nothing else to do, I tagged along to make sure he was okay. He was always terribly American and I thought he needed the help.”

“So what happened?” Rocky was enthralled.

“It’s sort of hazy, but in the end, we rescued and escaped with both of them. They were cuddling in the bottom of the boat, hugging and kissing and I saw a look of pure anguish on Napoleon’s face. I remember thinking that I would never make Napoleon feel like that…” Illya stopped and sighed. “Until I did… I always regretted that.”

“What happened?” Matt asked, his voice a whisper. He looked from one man to the other. “I’m sorry, but I’ve wanted to know for so long. Chef, he never speaks of it. Never.”

“Illya caught me with a woman. It didn’t matter that I was under the influence of some drug and she was an enemy agent. He took off, which was their plan all along. They knew they couldn’t take the two of us down, so their intention was to divide and conquer. They never figured upon either of our reactions. Illya disappeared that night and I left UNCLE to search him. It took me years and a lot of money to find him to apologize.”

“Your apology, she was good?” Matt touched Illya’s arm and Illya smiled at him.

“Very good. And if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have this or you two,” Illya murmured. “But it took a long time for me to trust again.”

“But now you do?” Napoleon’s voice carried a question in it.

“Yes… except around Clara.” Illya drained his glass. “And now, Rocky, it’s your turn and I can’t even begin to imagine how your tale could be maudlin.”

“You would think.” Rocky went behind the bar and found another bottle of champagne. “I’d rather have something stronger, but mixing is bad at this time of the night and it would destroy tomorrow… today… whatever it is.”

“So, why are you such a fan of ABBA?” Illya took the bottle and opened it with a practiced hand.

“Because of a promise I made to a good friend a long time ago.” Rocky offered his glass for a refill and then sat. “I was down in Sacramento at the time and going to CSU. I met this guy, Ty, and he was funny and crazy. He got me my first job in a restaurant and to my amazement, I discovered I really liked it and I really liked him. He was crazy for ABBA and always had it playing. He said it made him happy down to his soul. We would dance around to it in his dorm room. It was insane and I loved it… and him.”

“Were you out of the closet?” Napoleon asked.

“No, not entirely. I mean, my folks knew, but that was about it. I had school, work, there wasn’t much time for anything else, certainly not a romance. I mean, I wanted to, but… well, the time never seemed right and, when it did, he was always with someone else.”

“So what happened?”

“I started noticing that Ty was missing more and more classes. I would bring his assignments by his dorm room at first, but when it became obvious that he didn’t care, I stopped. I tried to talk to him, but he got mean and angry. I couldn’t believe the names he called me,” Rocky paused that that point and sighed at the memory. Matt moved his chair a bit closer. “I never could figure out what I did wrong, but it finally got too much. He wanted me gone, so I walked away from him. I didn’t know how sick he was, not for a long time. Then out of the blue, I got a call from his mother and she said that if I wanted to say goodbye, now was the time. I thought she meant he was leaving school.”

“He had AIDS, didn’t he?” Napoleon asked, his hand on Rocky’s arm and Rocky nodded slowly.

“Yeah, he did. Of course, we didn’t know what it was back then. Or the terrible role it would play in our community. He was twenty four and dying of something no one knew how to cure. He thought if I was angry with him, it would make saying good bye easier for me.” Tears started to trail down Rocky’s cheeks. “It didn’t. He told me that he loved me and made me swear to never stop dancing to ABBA and to remember him when I did. At first, I couldn’t. I couldn’t even bear to hear it, then I stopped listening with my ears and started to listen with my heart and soul. And I started dancing.” He wiped the tears away. “And I have never stopped.”

Illya stood up and walked over to the tape deck they had behind the bar. After a moment, he found what he was looking for and turned it on. Immediately, the ramp to ABBA’s Happy New Year started to play.

Illya walked back and held out a hand to Rocky. “May I?”

Rocky smiled and wiped his face again. Napoleon followed suit with Matt and the couples moved slowly to the song, knowing that some truths are better shared with the people who can keep them the safest.

No more champagne

And the fireworks are through

Here we are, me and you

Feeling lost and feeling blue

It's the end of the party

And the morning seems so grey

So unlike yesterday

Now's the time for us to say

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

May we all have a vision now and then

Of a world where every neighbor is a friend

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

May we all have our hopes, our will to try

If we don't we might as well lay down and die

You and I

Sometimes I see

How the brave new world arrives

And I see how it thrives

In the ashes of our lives

Oh yes, man is a fool

And he thinks he'll be okay

Dragging on, feet of clay

Never knowing he's astray

Keeps on going anyway

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

May we all have a vision now and then

Of a world where every neighbor is a friend

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

May we all have our hopes, our will to try

If we don't we might as well lay down and die

You and I

Seems to me now

That the dreams we had before

Are all dead, nothing more

Than confetti on the floor

It's the end of a decade

In another ten years’ time

Who can say what we'll find

What lies waiting down the line

In the end of eighty-nine

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

May we all have a vision now and then

Of a world where every neighbor is a friend

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

May we all have our hopes, our will to try

If we don't we might as well lay down and die

You and I

Songwriters: Benny Andersson / Bjoern K Ulvaeus

Tags: foothills, new year, slash fic
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