Summary: Napoleon gets his first lessons on being American.
Napoleon opened his eyes and looked around the room disinterestedly. It was to be his first day as a student in an American school and he wasn't certain he wanted to go. It was bad enough that he was starting the term late, but he didn't think he would have anything in common with the other children.
"Sylvie will have breakfast ready for you in fifteen minutes." Elena smiled at him before bustling out of the room.
With a disgusted frown, Napoleon threw off the covers and stood. During the weeks crossing the Atlantic, his wound had healed but it was still tender and slowed him down. He wondered how it would affect his schooling and shrugged. It didn't really matter. The only thing that mattered was the family honor. He could not bring it any more disgrace.
He quickly put on his school uniform and knotted his tie. The coarse cloth made him shudder. In Italy, his uniform had been plain but well tailored. The cotton shirt seemed to rub against his side, reminding him of the wound. Reminding him how he had failed his mother. Reminding him that his parents were still missing.
"Napoleon?" Aunt Elena's voice interrupted his reverie and he went out into the dining room. It was promising to be a long day.
"So, this is your nephew, Miss Solo?" The principle smiled unctuously at them.
Napoleon sat in his chair and ignored the man since he had not been addressed. He let his gaze drift around the room. It was a nice office, full of books and pictures of famous people. One book though caught his attention. His face went expressionless as he stood and went to the bookshelf. He pulled the book down and opened it, reading the inscription.
"You recognize it?" The man asked as he stood behind Napoleon.
"My grandfather signed your book?" He could hear his own curiosity in the question as he stared at his grandfather's only published book.
"I went to school with Antonio Solo." The pained expression in the man's eyes answered Napoleon's unspoken questions. "We used to say we'd send signed copies of our books to each other. I'm still waiting for the second one but I doubt it will be published during this unpleasantness."
Napoleon nodded, understanding how his aunt had gotten him into the school so late in the year. Another debt to the family honor. Another set of expectations to meet.
"Follow me and we'll get you off to class." The man stood and for the first time, Napoleon noticed the cane he was forced to use. Silently, he followed the man to his secretary's office.
"Mrs. Lytle, would you please escort Mr. Solo to Mr. Phelps' classroom?"
The smiling secretary nodded and quickly led him down the hallway, giving him a rapid tour on the way. Napoleon barely kept up with her, forcing himself not to beg her to slow down. His side throbbed miserably at the pace.
"I heard that you came from Italy." The boy glared down at him, eyes suspicious. "Are you sure you're American?"
"Maybe he's a spy." Another boy whispered.
Napoleon ignored them and turned to the locker, carefully placing his school blazer on a hook and unknotting his tie.
"I'm talking to you, Eye-tal-yun." The first boy growled menacingly.
He unbuttoned his shirt and shrugged it off. Aunt Elena wouldn't find replacing a brand new shirt a good thing and he had the feeling that he was about to in a fight. After hanging it on another hook, he turned to face his new schoolmates. He announced clearly, "I am Canadian, not Italian."
"Your name is Eye-tal-yun." The other sneered.
"Yes." He answered simply. "Napoleon Solo is an Italian name."
"Somebody ought to tell the commission that we have an Italian spy in school. They'd send him to one of those internment camps I was reading about." A new voice spoke up gleefully, anticipating trouble.
"No. We can show this Italian how real Americans feel about his kind."
"He said he's Canadian." A fourth voice, this one with a British accent joined the group. "That makes him one of us. Back off."
Napoleon let his eyes drift over to the red-haired boy pushing his way towards them. As he did, the first boy swung a heavy fist towards him. The family honor didn't allow him to serve the first blow, but it didn't prevent him from avoiding being hit. The bully bellowed angrily as his hand slammed into a locker. Another boy shoved Napoleon hard, forcing his weak side into the locker door.
"I said back off, you dumb colonists! He's a citizen of the crown!" The redhead grabbed the boy and shoved him away from Napoleon. "I can prove it, too. I've heard of a Canadian kid who outwitted the Italians. According to my father's people at the embassy, he was hunted across Europe for protecting the ambassador's family. The Italians shot him in the side. If Solo has the scar, he's one of mine and you don't touch him. Agreed?"
The boys glared at them, eyes angry and suspicious. Finally, with a slow ponderous regality, the lead bully nodded.
"Alright, show him the scar. Go ahead." The British boy
barely looked over at Napoleon as he gave the order. As the younger boy
paused, he continued, "They said it would still be pretty sore. Three weeks
isn't really long enough to let a bullet wound heal."
Reluctantly, Napoleon pulled up his undershirt, flushing as the other boys gasped in shock at the sight. Since he'd been shot from behind, the exit wound and the scar from the rough surgery to keep him alive were an impressive sight. The long, tattered-looking scars covered most of his side and were still slightly swollen. One boy, more adventurous than the others, reached out a curious finger. The Brit grabbed the boy's hand and made him yelp painfully.
"Don't touch him. He's one of mine." The older boy growled menacingly. "You Yanks can keep your paws off him."
The sound of a teacher's voice made the group of boys scatter. Several others approached.
"You two had best finish changing. We'll cover for you. Welcome to Colonial Empire." Another British accented voice announced.
Napoleon nodded and reached for his shorts and gym shirt. He wasn't quite sure what was going on, but for the moment it seemed life was going easy on him. As much as his side was throbbing, he wasn't going to complain.
"Are you all right?" The red haired British boy placed his lunch tray next to Napoleon's and looked him over worriedly. "Solo?"
"I'm fine." Napoleon murmured, resisting the urge to let his head rest on the table.
"I'm Jeremy MacIntyre. My father works at the British consulate." He introduced himself. He carefully pointed out the other boys in turn, introducing the group. "We're all here because of the war and so are you. Your uncle Alex stopped by last week to tell me you were coming here."
"My uncle Alex?" Napoleon felt his pain and exhaustion vanish as he focused his attention on the older boy. "He's in New York?"
"Well, he was on Thursday. I think he's on his way back to England now." Jeremy shrugged. "Sorry the Yanks got to you first. They've been a bit odd lately."
"Why?" Napoleon asked.
The other boys looked at each other uneasily before turning their attention to their plates.
"Haven't you heard about the American Nazis?" One of them finally broke the silence.
"I haven't been anywhere since getting to America." Napoleon admitted. "Well, I went to get fitted for my uniform and Aunt Elena took me to a movie show on Saturday."
The boys nodded their understanding. A quick look went around the table and Jeremy shrugged.
"Last week, three boys were taken away by the F.B.I. because their families were Nazis or Italian spies. Its been happening a lot in some parts of town." The boy admitted. Everyone paid attention to his or her food. "According to the radio, if you notice someone acting strange near the harbor, or knew someone who was part of the American Nazi Party you have to call the local F.B.I. office and report them. That goes for people with Italian or Japanese families too."
"Oh." Napoleon frowned. "But my family left Italy in 1902."
"You're one of us, a British citizen and you've already paid your war dues." Jeremy met Napoleon's eyes. "According to the ambassador, your father is a martyr. Your grandparents are still at the embassy... or they were as of last Monday. I haven't heard anything else."
"My father is dead?" Napoleon let the words sink into his heart as the meaning flashed through his soul. He heard the other boys gasp as they realized he hadn't known. "Have you heard anything about my mother?"
"No." Jeremy's voice broke in a way that told Napoleon the other boy was lying. He turned to face the older boy and stared at him. Jeremy flushed and looked down at his plate. "I overheard my father talking to your uncle Alex, right before he left... they said they hoped she was dead. They said it would be better for her if she was because of what happens to agents."
Napoleon closed his eyes and forced his pain far away. In a way he had known. The only reason his parents wouldn't have made it to the embassy was if the police captured them. He knew in a vague sort of way that both his parents had gathered information for the embassy's intelligence department. Now he knew for certain.
He reopened his eyes to see the eyes of all the other boys staring at him. He stood, taking his tray with him and headed for the trash can. Suddenly he wasn't hungry any more. Behind him, the whispers began but he didn't hear them. Neither did he notice the looks of astonishment and admiration that they gave him.
All he knew is that he couldn't dishonor his parents' sacrifice by allowing his pain to show. It would have to wait until he was alone and in private. Only then could he let go. Instead, Napoleon smiled at his new friends and chatted with them about their classes, ignoring the curious, disbelieving glances as the new spread.
Notes: Yes, German-Americans were sent to internment camps
alongside Japanese-Americans and Italian-Americans. What is scary is that
the German-American camps quickly became indoctrination camps. The real
Nazis in the groups quickly became the leaders inside the camps and those
people who were sent to the camps because of their nationality or a single
questionable person in their family often left the camps as quiet, fervent
Nazis. The statistics get scarier when they are correlated to the upsurge
in anti-Semitic and other racist groups during the 50's and 60's. Some
of the most violent groups of the time period can be directly traced to
the camps. And our government started the camps to protect itself from
homegrown Nazi's during the war. Unfortunately, the best-laid plans often