JUST ANOTHER ASSIGNMENT
The ward of an old and close friend of Mr. Waverly's is in trouble. Mr. Waverly puts his best team onto helping.
An established relationship story.
Written: November 2013. Word count: 3,390.
"Yes, sir. Straight away, sir." Napoleon put the phone down, stood up and picked his jacket up and put it on. On the opposite of the office Illya raised an eyebrow. "Come along, partner mine, Mr. Waverly wants to see us."
"Both of us?" Illya asked, already on his feet and donning his own jacket over his turtle neck sweater.
"Apparently so. He must enjoy the pleasure of your company as much as I do." Napoleon opened their office door and ushered Illya out before him. As Illya sauntered past him he shot Napoleon one of his looks - Illya could speak volumes with his looks. Napoleon laughed and fell into step with Illya as they walked along the corridors to Waverly's office.
"He's expecting you," Waverly's secretary said. She barely glanced up at the partners and seemed singularly unimpressed by them - or at least by Napoleon's constant attempt to flirt with her. In the six weeks since she had been in her position, he had failed to get even a smile out of her. Thus he now, even though the flirting was just that and meant nothing, regarded it as not only challenge but also a matter of his own person honor to get her to at least smile at him.
"Good morning to you too, Miss Andrews," he said, sitting down on the edge of her desk and leaning towards her.
She pointedly ignored him and instead picked up the intercom phone. "Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin are here, Mr. Waverly. Yes, sir, I'll send them straight in." She put the phone down and stared at Napoleon; there wasn't a hint of a smile in her eyes or on her face.
He sighed dramatically and stood up. "You know anyone would think you didn't like me," he said.
"Maybe she does not." Illya had been standing against the wall watching the interplay between Napoleon and Miss Andrews and as Napoleon glanced at him he gave Napoleon his 'innocent' smile.
Napoleon gave him a withering look, smiled once more at Miss Andrews, who continued to ignore him, and pushed open the door to Mr. Waverly's office.
"You really should stop wasting your time with that one, Napoleon," Illya said softly. "You will not win."
"I'll get her to at least smile at me if it's the last thing I do," Napoleon said.
"If you get her to do anything other than just smile at you, I promise you it will indeed be the last thing you do." And with those parting words Illya glided into Waverly's office leaving Napoleon staring after him.
Despite the relative warmth (well normal people were warm, the seemingly cold-bloodied Illya who wore turtle neck sweaters for a high proportion of the year would no doubt say it wasn't warm) of the office, he shivered slightly at Illya's words. He had no doubt his partner had meant them - maybe taking such a estimable killer as his lover as well as his working partner hadn't been the best thing he had ever done. However, there was no way he would change things now - having Illya as a lover and a partner added an element to Napoleon's life that he hadn't realized he had been missing until he had taken Illya to his bed for the first time.
"Ah, Mr. Solo; Mr. Kuryakin. Good morning to you both." Alexander Waverly stood up as Napoleon and Illya got nearer to him.
"Good morning, sir."
"Good morning, sir."
"I'd like to introduce you to Henry Frobisher; he is an old and good friend of mine." Waverly indicated a man, whom Napoleon judged to be some ten years younger than Waverly, sitting on the right hand side of the large table Waverly had in his office. "Henry these gentlemen are Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. They will be the agents whom I hope will assist you."
Napoleon held out his hand and Frobisher took it. "Good morning, Mr. Frobisher."
"Good morning, Mr. Solo."
After they had shaken hands, Illya held his out. "Mr. Frobisher," he nodded.
"Mr. Kuryakin." Napoleon noticed that Frobisher pronounced Illya's name correctly - something not everyone did.
"Do take a seat, gentlemen," Waverly said.
"Thank you, sir." Napoleon and Illya pulled out chairs and sat down. As they tended to do, whether by conscious choice or not, they sat just a little nearer to one another than most people sat.
"Now, gentlemen, I have an assignment for you. This is not strictly speaking a matter for U.N.C.L.E.; it is more of a persona favor to me. And because of that, you do have the right to refuse to undertake the assignment."
"I'm sure we'll both be happy to carry about the assignment, sir. Won't we, Illya?" Illya, his gaze firmly on Waverly, nodded.
"Well, let us wait until you know what it is before you decide, Mr. Solo."
"Very well, sir."
Waverly nodded, glanced at Frobisher, picked his pipe out and lit it, before he leaned back a little in his chair and looked directly at Napoleon and Illya. "The assignment, gentlemen, is to recover a necklace before the person to whom it belongs realizes it is missing. We are working against time, because if the necklace is not retrieved in time, it is likely to create a diplomatic incidence that could have server consequences."
Out of the corner of his eye, Napoleon could see that Illya was staring at Waverly, with his eyes slightly narrowed. "A necklace, sir?"
"Yes, Mr. Solo. Henry, why do you not tell Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin the story?"
Frobisher leaned forward and put his hands together on the table in front of him. "The necklace, gentlemen, is known as The Tears of Habash. It is a very splendid diamond necklace and not only does the main necklace appear to be a tear, but each of the diamonds is tear shaped. It belongs to," he paused and glanced at Waverly, "Alexander?"
"Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin can be trusted completely, Henry."
Frobisher nodded and turned back to Napoleon and Illya. "It belongs to Prince Abdul-Majid - I assume you have heard of him?"
It was Illya who nodded. "Yes, Mr. Frobisher."
Frobisher inclined his head. "The prince has a daughter - Azizah - she is his only child and he loves her dearly. Azizah attended an American school and college and during the holidays when she did not return home, she lived with my wife, daughter and me. Prince Abdul-Majid appointed me as Azizah's guardian. Two days ago she returned to America in order to attend the twenty-first birthday party of my daughter, Katharine." He paused for a moment and took a sip from the cup in front of him.
Napoleon glanced at Illya and saw that like him Illya knew, or at least suspected, what Frobisher was about to say.
"As I said earlier, The Tears of Habash is a very splendid necklace and a very beautiful one - there is nothing quite like it in the world. To see it is to - Forgive me, gentlemen," he said swiftly. "I regret to say that Azizah decided, without seeking her father's permission - which he would most definitely not have given - to bring the necklace with her. I believe she had spoken of it more than once to her college friends, all of whom, naturally, wished to see it. The fact that she brought it with her was quite bad enough. However, when she reached my house and began to unpack, she discovered that The Tears of Habash was missing."
"And that, gentlemen," Waverly said, "is the assignment. You need to recover the necklace - and you have five days in which to do so."
Napoleon looked at Illya and nodded. "Mr. Frobisher," Illya said. "May I ask you a question or two?"
"You can ask as many as you like, Mr. Kuryakin, if it will help us find the necklace."
"Did the young lady discover the necklace was missing as soon as she arrived in your home? Or some time after?"
"My wife, Katharine, Azizah and I had tea before Katharine and Azizah went upstairs so that Azizah could unpack. However, the case in which Azizah carried The Tears of Habash never left her side. I wondered at the time why she kept her vanity case with her, but girls are creatures I am afraid I simply do not understand - despite having a wife and daughter." He smiled and Waverly nodded.
"I know just what you mean," Illya murmured and Napoleon shot him a look. Illya gave Napoleon a pointed look and what passed for a smile and turned back to Frobisher. "Did Azizah let the vanity case out of her sight during the journey?"
"She swears she didn't and I am tempted to believe her. She knew how foolhardy she was to take the necklace out of her home. However, she is also aware of quite how important it is, and how if in five days time it does not appear around her neck when she accompanies her father to the Festival of Zaafirah that it will have serious repercussions for her father and her country."
"Is the prince aware the necklace is missing?"
Frobisher sighed. "Officially, no. I felt it prudent not to inform him. However, unofficially, yes, he does know - I felt it was my duty to tell him. He will be officially told in two days, should you and Mr. Solo fail to find the necklace."
"Given Azizah swears the vanity case which she carried The Tears of Habash in never left her sight, is it not possible that the necklace actually never left her home? Maybe her father or one of his servants became aware of her plans and intercepted the necklace."
"I had considered that, Mr. Solo. However, the prince assured me he was not aware of the necklace being removed from the safe in which it is kept until I called him to tell him of the loss."
"Unofficially," Illya said his tone flat.
"I'm sure it must all seem very strange to you, Mr. Kuryakin. However, certain things are very precariously balanced at the moment, so precariously balanced that the failure of The Tears of Habash to appear at the upcoming festival really will be a grave thing. A very grave thing indeed."
"I apologize, Mr. Frobisher, if I gave you the wrong impression," Illya said very formally. "I do understand how these things work. I am Russian," he added.
Napoleon wasn't entirely surprised to see Frobisher cover up his surprise, maybe shock, at learning of Illya's heritage.
"What about any of the prince's servants? Could they have taken the necklace from Azizah's vanity case before she left her home?"
For the first time Frobisher hesitated. "Alexander," he said, turning to look at Waverly, "may I have a moment of your time, alone, please?"
Waverly stared at his friend for a moment. "If you insist, Henry. However, as I have already said Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin can be trusted implicitly - they are my top agents."
"I know, Alexander. However, if I may . . ."
Waverly nodded and stood up. Together he and Frobisher moved away from the table and went to the back of the room where they put their heads together and spoke softly.
Napoleon turned to Illya. "What do you think?"
"That you will soon have another young lady on whom you can try your charms."
Napoleon frowned. "That's not what I meant, Illya."
"Is it not? Oh, do forgive me." Illya's lips twitched upwards just a little; however, his eyes sparkled with the mirth Napoleon knew no one other than he saw. "I happen to agree with you -"
"But I haven't said anything."
Illya sighed and ignored Napoleon. "I do not believe The Tears of Habash was in Azizan's vanity case when she left her home."
Napoleon nodded. "Do you think the prince took it himself and is being less than truthful with Frobisher?"
Illya shook his head. "Why would he do that? I happen to know a little of what is going on in the region at the moment and if anything, Frobisher is downplaying the situation and the importance of the tear shaped necklace being around Azizan's neck in five days."
"Maybe he wants to create a diplomatic incident." Napoleon actually agreed with Illya, but one of them playing devil's advocate was something they tended to do, just to assure themselves they had covered all bases.
Illya shook his head. "He is not a fool. No. I am quite sure the prince himself did not remove the necklace. It had to be someone else; one of his servants maybe. The whom we do not know, they why, we do."
Illya nodded. "Yes, whoever it was who took the necklace from Azizan's vanity case did not do it to assist the prince. Had he or she done so, the necklace would once again be safely locked up."
"In that case -" Napoleon fell silent as Waverly and Frobisher returned to the table and sat back down.
"Tell them, Henry," Waverly said, his tone was firm as he began to refill his pipe.
"Gentlemen, what I am about to tell you is of an extremely sensitive nature. If it became common knowledge. . . Well, let me just say it would cause almost as much trouble as it being discovered that The Tears of Habash is missing."
"We understand, Mr. Frobisher. Neither Illya nor I will repeat anything you say to us." Illya nodded in agreement.
Frobisher hesitated, sighed and then put his hands together on the table in front of him again. "Very well; I have no choice but to take your word and that of Alexander. I am very fond of Prince Abdul-Majid and of Azizan, very fond indeed. And the prince is an excellent ruler and very a conscientious one as well as being a fair man, a very fair man. I believe it is that fairness which may have led to what has happened to necklace. Forgive me, Alex."
He glanced at Waverly who paused mid-pipe filling to look at Frobisher. "We go back far enough, Henry, for there to be no need for forgiveness. I am certain that you had a good reason for whatever it is you are about to tell me."
Frobisher sighed. "I let you believe that I believed the necklace had, despite Azizan's assurance that the case in which she had transported it had never left her sight, been stolen here, in America. However, I did not believe that - at least I did not believe that as strongly as I led you to think I believed it."
Waverly merely blinked at Frobisher. "Go on," he said as he struck a match and began to light his newly filled pipe.
"It was only when Mr. Solo started to question me as to whether one of the prince's servants could have taken the necklace, that I was forced to admit that actually the only real possibility was that Azizan never had the necklace when she arrived in America. You see, gentlemen," he said, turning to look at Napoleon and Illya, "the prince did a rather, no a very, no an extremely foolish thing recently. He employed a new personal maid for Azizan. She was a descendant of Prince Yushua of -"
He didn't need to name the country as the sharp intakes of breath from Napoleon, Illya and Waverly showed quite how shocked they were and how they knew just who Prince Yushua was. "But they are -"
Frobisher nodded. "Yes, Mr. Kuryakin. The lady in question was in fact a very distant relative indeed - the connection went back several generations. Indeed, she wasn't truly connected with Prince Yushua. I do not know the exact circumstances of how she came to be employed; the prince was rather reticent about them. I believe he knew he had made a mistake as soon as he had employed her, or at least he knew what might happen if anyone discovered her tenuous connection to Prince Yushua. However, she became Azizan's personal maid."
"And you believe she might have removed the necklace from Azizan's luggage before Azizan left her home?"
Frobisher glanced at Waverly and then back at Napoleon and Illya. "Yes, Mr. Kuryakin. I rather fear that is the case. And if so then . . ."
"Is she still in Prince Abdul-Majid's home?" Illya said.
Frobisher flushed slightly. "I'm afraid I don't know, Mr. Kuryakin."
"Can you find out?"
Frobisher glanced at Waverly. "Well, yes. If I may make a call or two, Alex."
"Yes, of course. Go through to my inner office; the lines are quite secure."
"Thank you." Frobisher stood up and left.
"If she is still in the prince's home, I shall go and retrieve the jewel," Illya said firmly.
"We shall go and retrieve the jewel." Napoleon countered.
Illya shook his head. "It is a one man job -"
"And why does that man have to be you?"
"Because I am more used to," Illya paused for a moment.
"Being sneaky?" Napoleon asked. Illya smiled. Then Napoleon looked at Waverly. "I'm assuming, Mr. Waverly, that if the lady is still in the prince's house that one of us will go and retrieve the necklace rather than leaving it to the prince?"
"If that would be acceptable to you, Alex, and I know it's asking a great deal. However, given the delicacy of the situation I believe it would be better if someone outside were to be responsible." Frobisher had returned without Napoleon hearing him.
Waverly looked up at Frobisher for a moment and sucked on his pipe. He looked back at Napoleon and Illya and said, "Mr. Kuryakin, how quickly can you be ready to leave?"
"No, Mr. Solo. Mr. Kuryakin is correct; it is a one person job. Oh, Mr. Kuryakin?"
"Please do not blow anything up and try to remember this is about damage limitation."
"Understood, sir." Illya stood up, nodded to Waverly and Frobisher, put his hand on Napoleon's shoulder for a moment as he stared down at him, before he turned on his heel and strode towards the door.
"Illya?" Napoleon called. Illya paused and glanced back. "Don't get into any trouble."
"Do I ever?" Illya responded and continued his way towards the door. By the time Napoleon thought of a response, his partner had already left Waverly's office.
"Don't worry, Henry. I assure you The Tears of Habash is as good as recovered.
THE EARLY HOURS OF THE FOLLOWING MORNING
"Is that you, Illya?" Napoleon asked. He up with a start and reaching under the pillow for his gun as a body landed on top of him, straddling him and the nose of a gun pressed against his temple, he made a noise and gulped.
"If it were not," Illya's soft voice near to his ear said, "you would be dead. You are getting sloppy, Napoleon. There was a time when even I could not have crept up on you like that. Maybe you are too used to sharing a bed."
"And maybe," Napoleon said, taking advantage of the fact that Illya had lowered his gun and was sitting back on his heels as well as the weight advantage he had over Illya, to grab Illya and wrestle him over onto his back so that it was Napoleon who was now straddling Illya. "I was merely lulling you into a false sense of security. What say now, partner mine?" He stared down at his prone partner.
Illya lay, apparently passively but to assume such a thing with him was highly dangerous, staring up at Napoleon. "I say, my friend, that that is wishful thinking on your part." Swiftly, so swiftly Napoleon didn't see his hand move, Illya reached up, grabbed the collar of Napoleon's pajama jacket, yanked him down and claimed Napoleon's mouth with his own.
It took less than a minute before Napoleon's pajamas and Illya's suit, turtle neck sweater and underwear were strewn over the floor and the partners were beneath the covers naked skin pressed against naked skin as lips and tongues connected and pleasure was given and taken.
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