Smoke was still spiraling upwards from the heap of burned wood and shattered glass that had been the home of Lovie Bennet. The elderly woman was seated across from her ruined house, perched on the curb with her arm around a young boy whose freckled face spoke volumes of the sadness they both now faced. The fire department had come and gone, the sheriff as well. Here in this area there would be offers of help from concerned neighbors and well meaning church folks. For now, Lovie just wanted to think, and to get a good, long last look at her unfortunate house.
"Lovie, where will we live now?" Sammy was the grandson of Lovie's youngest sister, and unofficially the ward of the spunky septagenarian.
"Sammy my boy, we will just have to find ourselves a new home.' She looked at the youngster, his entire sense of well-being invested in her ability to make it happen.
"I promise you." Sammy nodded his head, not a shred of doubt that Lovie would do exactly what she said.
From a distance two men in a convertible got a whiff of the smell from the fire. Napoleon Solo, his hands on the wheel of the stylish car, was considering driving past the two people he saw sitting on the curb until his partner told him to pull over.
"They might need our help, Napoleon. I believe it is their house that is smoldering." Illya Kuryakin knew the look of the homeless and forlorn; he had experience in such things.
"As you wish...' Napoleon steered the long blue car to the curb just beyond where Lovie and Sammy were seated.
Illya turned to his partner, secure in the knowledge that Napoleon could be counted on to help the unfortunate in life.
"I believe we should find out what happened and see if we can help. I know THRUSH isn't responsible, but ..." They both understood. It wasn't always about beating the bad guys; sometimes it was simply about helping the innocent.
Both men opened their doors and exited the car, all while the old woman and her young charge watched with interest. Lovie tried to stand but her legs just didn't want to cooperate. Sammy instinctively took her arm and helped her up just as Illya was moving closer, ready to assist. Lovie took one look at the blond, zeroing in on the intense blue eyes that reminded her of someone else, from long ago...
"Here, let me help you." Illya had one arm as Sammy grasped the other; together they pulled Lovie up onto her feet, much to her amusement. When she looked up again it was Napoleon she saw.
"My, my my... where did you two handsome young men come from?" Sammy made a face.
Napoleon held out his hand and began the introductions.
"Ma'am, I am Napoleon Solo and this is my partner, Illya Kuryakin. We thought you looked as though you might need some assistance.' He looked over his shoulder then at the smoking remains of the house across the road.
"Is that... was that your house?"
For the first time since it happened, Lovie felt tears welling up in her eyes. Now it was true. Her house was gone, and all of her possessions. All of her pictures and the memories of a lifetime. Gone.
Sammy saw the change come over his Lovie, and a fierce protectiveness came over the little boy.
"Yes sir, that's where we lived and now we don't have any home." At that declaration Sammy burst into tears, his eight year old heart broken by the sad realization of his loss.
Illya was touched in a way that took him back to his own youth, of loss and desperation; his own memories entwined mysteriously with those of this pair.
"Perhaps we can help you. We are on our way back to New York City, and if you have no where else to go..." Lovie shook her head. What on earth would make this young man think she could leave her home? Napoleon saw the emotion in his friend and the determination on the face of the old woman. Sammy was also standing a little straighter now that the possibility of leaving this little part in the road had been suggested.
"You are very kind to suggest... to offer assistance. There are some very kind folks on the way here to pick us up and give us a room for as long as we need it. I had insurance...' Lovie felt the need to reassure the blond, as though she knew his own heartache was fueling the desire to help her get beyond this.
Napoleon caught the intended meaning of that last statement. "That will certainly help move things along. Is there anything we can get you now, though? Anything at all?"
Lovie hugged Sammy a little closer to her and smiled. She suddenly had an urge to get a little closer to the burnt out shell that had been her home for so many years. She indicated to the others that she was going to do just that.
Sammy was holding on tight, not wanting to let Lovie get out of his reach. Napoleon and Illya followed, their concern a little assuaged with the news of help on the way and the insurance claims to follow.
Lovie looked up and down, scanning the yard for anything salvageable. Sammy followed her gaze, hoping to see what she saw. Suddenly he did.
"Look Lovie, a flower. The fire missed this one." Sammy ran over to it and started to pluck it out of the earth.
"No Sammy. We need to dig it up and put it in a container. We'll replant it, and remember." At the end of it all, one lone flower to remind them that it was possible to overcome impossible odds.
Illya remembered a coffee cup in the back seat and went to retrieve it. He brought it back and presented it to Sammy, who dug his fingers into the singed earth and brought up the little flower, roots and all. Illya helped put some additional dirt into the cup and then between them they potted the brave little flower.
"There, you see what I mean? We're going to be just fine, Sammy. Thank you, Mr. Solo and Mr...'' Illya was quick to help.
"Kuryakin. You're welcome, Lovie. I am very glad that things look as though...'' Something caught in his throat.
"Yes, Mr. Kuryakin, we're going to be just fine."
At that moment a truck came rumbling up the road and stopped in front of the house. Lovie waived to the driver and called out a greeting.
"Hello, Mr. Jonas. Thank you for coming to pick us up."
Napoleon and Illya said their goodbyes and returned to their car, satisfied that Lovie and Sammy were in good hands. The two rode in silence for a mile or so, neither of them ready to remark on the short interlude they had just experienced. Finally, still affected by it, Illya dared speak.
"It reminded me of Kiev, of burning houses and orphaned children. Sometimes it happens that way, and I am transported back to my childhood."
Napoleon sighed in recognition of his friend's safeguarded memories, of a life he couldn't understand or relate to.
"It's good that we stopped. I needed to see that little flower, all alone and standing bravely in the face of a fire that destroyed an entire house. Sometimes, tovarisch, we need to know that at the end of it all, one little bud can still stand."
Illya agreed, and was grateful for a friend who understood what he could not explain.