Mr. Waverly sends Napoleon and Illya on a slightly strange but very important assignment.
An established relationship story.
Written: May 2015. Word count: 3,470.
"Do come in, gentlemen, and sit down." Alexander Waverly waved his top team to seats in front of his desk.
"Thank you, sir," Napoleon said, answering for both of them. Illya merely nodded, sat down and turned his attention to Mr. Waverly.
Napoleon was somewhat surprised to see that their boss seemed slightly ill at ease, which wasn't something he was used to seeing. He began to wonder just what the nature of the assignment they were about to be given was; how dangerous it was.
For a moment Mr. Waverly merely rearranged papers on his desk, before taking out his pipe and beginning the somewhat laborious process of filling and finally lighting it. It took several attempts before the shag actually caught.
During the process Napoleon turned to look at Illya and he raised a questioning eyebrow. Illya shrugged and shook his head; so he had no idea quite what might be wrong with Mr. Waverly either.
"Now, gentlemen," Mr. Waverly said, pulling their attention from one another. Both men turned to look back at him and out of the corner of his eye, Napoleon could see Illya looked particularly attentive. "I have a . . . Well, a rather strange assignment for you."
"Strange?" Napoleon said, quickly glancing once again at Illya before looking back at their boss.
"Yes, Mr. Solo; I do believe that is the correct term for it. Strange. Yes, that will do very well." Mr. Waverly fell silent and returned to smoking his pipe.
Illya, after a swift glance at Napoleon, once more turned his attention back to their boss. "What is the exact nature of this assignment, sir?" he asked; his tone was polite, deferential even.
"Now that, Mr. Kuryakin, is easy: you are to track down and bring back with you a flag."
"A flag!" Napoleon exclaimed, once more glancing at Illya. "Er, are we to look for any particular flag, Mr. Waverly?" He was beginning to wonder if their boss was ill, or even if someone from Thrush or one of their other enemies, had managed to infiltrate U.N.C.L.E.'s Head Quarters and slip something unpleasant into his tea. The prospect seemed ludicrous, impossible even; however, the elderly Brit was behaving in a way Napoleon had never known him to behave.
"Of course you are looking for a particular flag. Do you think I would assign you and Mr. Kuryakin to the simple task of obtaining any flag?" Mr. Waverly spoke sharply.
"No, sir," the two men said together.
Mr. Waverly sighed. "I apologize, gentlemen. Maybe I should start at the beginning. You see, a flag, a United States flag to be exact, has had microchips embedded in it and I regret to have to confess that somehow the flag has been misplaced."
Napoleon and Illya glanced at one another. "May we ask what these microchips contain, Mr. Waverly?" Illya asked.
"Plans, Mr. Kuryakin. Very important, vital even, highly confidential plans. I am afraid I am not at liberty to tell you anything more than that. However, not to put too fine a point on it, if these plans fall into the wrong hands we could possibly have another world war on our hands. I am quite certain no one wishes that to happen."
"No, sir!" Napoleon said with feeling. "We don't. But may I ask quite why a flag was used to for this purpose?"
Alexander Waverly sighed. "It was apparently at the suggestion of some new, highly ambitious, far too young member of the White House staff who is apparently very forward looking and thinking and believed that to do so would be innovative and far safer than the usual way of protecting important plans." Napoleon glanced at his partner who merely met the look and raised an eyebrow. "Yes, you may well look at one another. I agree fully with you; it was a foolish idea, a very foolish one. I don't even wish to begin to consider the amount of work which must have gone into the production of this microchipped flag, or indeed the cost. Neither of those things is important. All that matters is that we find the flag."
"Yes, sir," Napoleon said.
"How exactly did the flag come to be misplaced, Mr. Waverly?" Illya asked.
Mr. Waverly sighed. "This whole thing becomes more farcical by the minute. I do not know if you are aware but our city is going to shortly be involved in some kind of special event, celebration, call it what you want. I do not need to go into the full details but suffice to say all schools, hospitals and some public buildings will be flying more than one American flag later in the week as part of the celebration. Somehow the microchipped flag ended up being loaned to one of the schools, along with several perfectly innocuous ones. Yes, I know, gentlemen; the whole thing really does have a ring of being a fairy tale or a story one might make up. I assure you, however, that unfortunately it is not a story; it is fact. Somewhere in the city, in one of the schools, quite possibly already on display, is this highly important flag - and you are going to find it for us."
Once again Napoleon and Illya glanced at one another. "Um, is there anyway of identifying this flag, sir?"
"Thankfully, Mr. Solo, there is. It won't be easy and I am afraid it will require close examination, very close examination; I suggest you both take a magnifying glass with you. One of the stars is slightly incomplete. It is missing the tip of one of its points."
Mr. Waverly sighed. "Yes, Mr. Solo. I am afraid that it is. Now I have managed to make arrangements with the principals of all the schools to give you access to the flags. They were told that one of the flags being loaned out has a flaw in it and the President himself did not wish it to be on display."
"And they believed that?" Illya's incredulity was clear. Napoleon didn't blame him.
Mr. Waverly looked at Illya. "They are busy men and women, Mr. Kuryakin. Once the words 'The President of the United States' were uttered, it is my belief they would have accepted that black was white. Thus, you will not meet with any opposition during your flag examination. Now do either of you have any further questions?"
Napoleon looked at his partner who shook his head. "No, sir," he said.
"In that case I suggest you get on with the assignment with immediate effect." Mr. Waverly gave them what was clearly a dismissive look. They both stood up.
"Yes, sir," Napoleon said. Illya merely gave a brief nod, as they turned and left Mr. Waverly's office.
"Wait until we get back to our office, Illya," Napoleon said, taking Illya's arm and firmly escorting him along the corridor.
Illya muttered under his breath the entire way. However, everything he said was in Russian.
Once they were in their shared office, Napoleon not only closed the door, he also locked it and leaned back against it as he waited.
"Why us?" Illya said, his voice louder than it normally was. "Why us, Napoleon? This is a task which could be, which should be, carried out by junior agents. Why us?"
Napoleon shrugged. "Because, partner mine, we're the best. If these plans are as important as Mr. Waverly said, then he isn't going to be prepared to risk their safe retrieval to anyone but the best. Now come here." He held out his arms.
Illya narrowed his eyes and stood his ground. "I thought we had agreed."
Napoleon shrugged. "Agreements can always be changed. Now come here."
For a moment Illya remained standing where he was, then he sighed and slowly made his way towards Napoleon where he let Napoleon put his arms around him and pull him closer to him. After a moment or two of just being embraced, Illya sighed again, this time more softly and with more than a hint of pleasure, and put his arms around Napoleon. He moved a little nearer to him, putting his head back a little and giving Napoleon access to his mouth.
They kissed for several minutes, keeping the kiss light and gentle and non-passionate, before Illya finally took his mouth from Napoleon's and moved back a little. However, he still kept his arms loosely around Napoleon. "I suppose," he said, "we had better begin. The sooner we start, the sooner this farce will be over."
"I think we should work out a plan of campaign first, which schools we are going to begin with, that kind of thing. Also, I've been thinking."
"That is always dangerous," Illya quipped, letting his arms fall from around Napoleon and going to his desk. "Well?" he demanded, as he sat down on the edge of his desk. "About what have you been thinking?"
"Why, apart from us being his top team, is Mr. Waverly really sending us to track down a flag? A flag, Illya."
Illya shrugged. "I seem to recall asking you the same question less than ten minutes ago." Napoleon shot him a look and moved to sit on the edge of his desk. "And did you reach a conclusion in your thoughts?" Then Illya frowned and said, his tone slightly hard and just a little dangerous, "You were thinking about flags and our assignment while you were kissing me?"
Aware of quite how dangerous his partner could be, a hint of which was showing in his expression, Napoleon hastened to try to appease him. "Not all of the time, just mainly when . . . You broke the kiss, Illya!"
Illya muttered something in his native language as he shot Napoleon a hard look. Napoleon was fairly certain he didn't want to know just what Illya had said. "Well?" he demanded. "Did you reach a conclusion?"
Napoleon nodded. "Yes, he expects trouble. Maybe Thrush or someone else has somehow found out about this flag and are expecting us to lead them to it."
Illya shrugged. "So what is new," he said, his tone more than a little resigned; dismissive even. "Let us begin with the schools nearest to us and work outwards. That way if we find it quickly, we will have less distance to travel in order to return home. And do not forget it is your turn to cook tonight."
"How about going to a restaurant? After all, we won't necessarily know where we'll be when it gets to dinner time."
Illya narrowed his eyes and appraised Napoleon. "Very well. However, you are paying."
Napoleon held his hands up in the age old gesture of surrender. "Anything you say, Illya," he said quickly, before really thinking about what he was saying.
He swallowed very hard a second or two later when an almost feral smile appeared on Illya's lips. "Anything I say. I like that. I shall remember that when we get home. Now come along, why are you still sitting there? We have a job to do." And with those words Illya strode over to the door, unlocked it and went out into the corridor; he was closely followed by Napoleon.
TWO DAYS LATER
"How many schools are there in the city?" Illya demanded, tapping his fingers on the dashboard.
"Um. I'm not sure exactly. Quite a few." Napoleon carefully negotiated the corner.
Illya sighed. "I am tired, Napoleon. Tired of examining flags of your country. I am tried of looking at stars through a magnifying glass in an attempt to ascertain if one of the points is missing its tip. Why couldn't they have made the 'flaw' more obvious?"
"Maybe because it would have then been obvious," Napoleon spoke soothingly. For Illya to ask such a basic question, one to which he knew the answer, showed him quite how much this assignment was getting to his partner. It wasn't just the meticulous checking and the way students at some schools kept asking them questions, most of which Napoleon answered, leaving Illya to do the actual flag checking that was getting to him. It was also that they were constantly looking over their shoulders to see if anyone was following them.
So far neither of them had seen any signs that they were being followed and they had tried several things in order to root someone out if they were following them. However, either the mystery 'followers' were extremely good or in fact no one was following them. Napoleon knew that both of them would far rather know they were being followed, would rather deal with Thrush or whoever else might be after them. It was far less stressful than not knowing. Knowing meant being on alert; not knowing meant being on very high alert every second of the day. It was getting rather wearisome for both of them and for some reason particularly this time for Illya.
Illya sighed and turned to look at Napoleon. "I know that. I am sorry. I do not know why this particular assignment is getting to me. It is just -" He shook his head and settled back into his seat, where he muttered under his breath in his native language.
Napoleon sought for a way to break up the tension Illya was feeling. "You know, it's your flag as well," he said.
"You said you were tired of examining flags of my country. You live here, you work here; it's your country, thus its your flag." He risked glancing at Illya who sat very still.
"My country. Is it?"
"Isn't it?" Napoleon felt a chill pass through him. "Or," he added, softly, "is Russia still home?"
Illya shrugged. "I am Russian; I will always be Russian. No matter how long I live or work here or live and work or study anywhere else, I will always be Russian. What do they say? You can take the man out of Russia, but you cannot take Russia out of the man. I had not thought of America being 'my' country. It is where I live and work; that's the way I see it."
Napoleon felt even more chilled. "Do you think you will leave?"
Illya was silent for a moment before turning his head and looking at him. "That," he said, putting his hand on Napoleon's thigh for a moment, "will depend on if I have a reason to leave." He spoke softly, his Russian accent showing in a way it rarely did.
Napoleon didn't reply immediately. They had never spoken of the future; of their future. They had simply taken each day at a time. Maybe it was time they did speak of the future or at least time they thought about it. They couldn't be field agents for ever and Illya had always made it clear that when Napoleon had to retire from the field, he would go too. Yes, maybe when they had found the blasted flag and returned it safely to Alexander Waverly they could go home and find the time to talk about the future. Maybe it was time he told Illya how he really felt about him.
A FEW HOURS LATER
"I have found it," Illya said softly.
"Have you?" Napoleon felt a huge wave of relief pass through him.
"Da. Look." Illya handed the flag over to Napoleon who quickly looked at the star to which Illya was pointing. Its tip was missing.
He grinned. It was over; they could go home. They had found the missing plans and without being accosted. "Great let's -" He felt himself being pushed hard down onto the floor as Illya whirled around and fired four shots.
"Illya!" Napoleon heard himself cry as he watched one of the school's students crumple to the floor with all four of Illya's bullets in her. "Oh, my God," he whispered, pushing himself to his feet and staring at Illya. "Illya? What have you . . . ? Oh, my God." How was Mr. Waverly going to fix this? He couldn't. It couldn't be fixed. A kid. A kid. There was no way this could be fixed.
Illya, however, looked untroubled and was moving towards the body, his gun still in his hand, his gaze flicking around the room. Swallowing hard Napoleon belatedly pulled out his own gun and followed his partner - his soon to be ex-partner. Illya stared down at the body; his expression was unreadable.
Napoleon stood by his side still not certain what to do or say. Finally, he said the only thing he could say, "Illya?" He knew his voice contained the shock and horror he felt.
Illya turned to him and raised an eyebrow; he looked surprised. Then his expression changed and he actually smiled. "Ah," he said. "I see. You believe I have shot and killed not only an innocent, but a child? Yes?"
Napoleon nodded slowly. "Um, yes?" He quite deliberately made it a question.
Illya's smile not only increased, it actually became intimate in the way it never did outside of them being alone, which technically they were, but that was hardly the point. "No, Napoleon. I did not kill an innocent child. That is not a child; that is not a student of this school. That is - I do not know who she is, but she is not a student of this school."
"How do you know?"
"Look at the check on her dress. It is slightly different."
"Is it?" It looked the same to Napoleon.
Illya nodded. "Yes. Napoleon, Napoleon, over the last few days it has been I who have spent the most time closely examining stars on flags, is it not? While you very helpfully answered all the questions various students asked."
Napoleon nodded. "Yes. But I still don't see what -"
"It made me even more observant than usual and made me able to spot a slight difference far more quickly and easily than I would normally be able to do. It took me half a second to notice the check on this person's dress was not quite right. Trust me, Napoleon; I did not kill a child." He dropped down onto his heels and put his hand in the pocket of the dress and pulled out a small, but deadly looking gun. "You had better call Mr. Waverly. Tell him we have the flag and also a body. Well," he added, when Napoleon didn't instantly move. "For what are you waiting?"
"I just . . . Illya, were you really certain? I mean . . . I couldn't have . . ." Napoleon fell silent.
Illya stood back up and put his hand on Napoleon's arm and squeezed it. "Yes, Napoleon; I was really certain." He turned around and walked back over to the flag, picked it up and began to carefully, and Napoleon thought just a little reverentially, fold it.
"Well, gentlemen," Mr. Waverly said, handing them both a glass of whisky from his homeland. "Your assignment has been very successful, in more ways than one. You have retrieved the flag, thus preventing a possible war, and you have also managed to dispose of one of the most wanted Thrush operatives. We have been looking for the lady for quite some time now; however, we didn't know how she operated or indeed what she looked like. You are to be commended, Mr. Kuryakin."
Illya sipped his drink. "Thank you, sir," he said, sounding very Russian.
Mr. Waverly nodded. "Once you have finished your drinks, you may both go home. Your reports can wait until tomorrow."
Napoleon looked at their boss; he hoped he had managed to hide his surprise. "Thank you, sir." He glanced at Illya who, to his surprise, seemed just a little ill at ease as he met his gaze. Napoleon locked gazes with Illya and pushed all the worrying thoughts he had had from his mind. It was Illya; he had known; maybe Napoleon wouldn't have known, but Illya had. Yes, he was dangerous, probably far more than Napoleon knew or would ever know or would ever want to know. But he had known.
He smiled and winked, emptied his glass and stood up. "Come on, Illya," he said lightly. "Let's go home."
The ill at ease look fled and Illya smiled. "Yes, Napoleon," he said, emptying his own glass and standing up. "Good night, Mr. Waverly," he said.
"Good night, Mr. Kuryakin; Mr. Solo."
"Good night, sir." Napoleon moved to the door and his thoughts returned to those he had had in the car before they had found the flag. Yes, it was high time he told Illya of his true feelings. Time Illya had a reason to regard America and thus the American flag as his own.
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