A protection assignment leads Napoleon and Illya to become involved in something quite different from their usual line of work.
An established relationship story.
Written: November 2013. Word count: 4,705.
"Ah, do come in, Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin," Waverly said, as Napoleon and Illya went into his office. After nodding to his boss, Napoleon's eyes came to rest on the young lady who was sitting on one of the comfortable chairs. He guessed she was in her early twenties and from her clothing he assumed she came from a wealthy background. She was slim, but not unnaturally thin; her long hair was dark blonde; her eyes green; her flawless skin was ivory and had been perfectly made up.
He only realized that he had been staring at her for longer than he should when he heard Illya, who stood by his side, pointedly clear his throat. He turned his attention away from the young lady and looked at his partner who held his gaze for a moment before slowly rolling his eyes and giving Napoleon as 'here we go again' look. Napoleon flashed Illya a swift smile and a look that said 'don't worry, Illya, I may look but I won't touch', before he turned to Waverly.
"This gentlemen," Waverly said, indicating the young lady who sat quite demurely with her hands folded in her lap, her attention on Waverly, "is Miss Isabella Sullivan. Miss Sullivan, Mr. Napoleon Solo," he nodded in Napoleon's direction, "and Mr. Illya Kuryakin."
Miss Sullivan glided to her feet as Napoleon crossed to her and held out his hand. "It's enchanting to meet you, Miss Sullivan," he said.
A faint hint of color touched her cheeks, showing through the blush she had so carefully applied, as she took Napoleon's hand. "Why, thank you, Mr. Solo. However, please do call me Isabella."
Napoleon smiled and nodded. "Napoleon; and it would be my pleasure, Isabella."
She smiled and he let go of her hand as he felt Illya by his side. Illya held out his hand. "Miss Sullivan," he said formally; even in those two words his Russian accent was more noticeable than it normally was.
Isabella took his hand and shook it as she stared at Illya. "I do believe asking you to call me Isabella, would be pointless, would it not, Mr. Kuryakin?" Illya merely held her gaze for a moment before he let go of her hand and turned to look at Waverly.
"Do sit down gentlemen, Miss Sullivan." They all sat. Waverly took his pipe out and began to fill it. "Miss Sullivan's father is Professor Sullivan. He -"
"The world renowned biochemist?" Waverly and Isabella both looked somewhat surprised by quite how enthusiastically Illya had spoken. Even Napoleon, who knew his partner better than anyone and knew he could be less taciturn than he normally appeared, was slightly surprised by quite how excited Illya had sounded and by how his eyes were sparkling.
Waverly nodded. "Yes, Mr. Kuryakin," he said. For the first time since they had gone into Waverly's office, Illya looked interested and was leaning forward a little with his hands on the table. "It is Professor Sullivan's expertise which has brought Miss Sullivan to us. We - well you, gentlemen - are to protect her."
"Sir?" Napoleon spoke slightly more loudly than he would normally do, than he really needed to do, as he wished to cover up Illya muttering 'babysitting'.
From the look Waverly gave Illya, Napoleon knew he hadn't succeeded; or maybe it was simply that Waverly knew Illya so well. "Professor Sullivan is working on something - the details of which I shall not trouble you with as I am quite certain only Mr. Kuryakin would begin to understand them - that many people would like to get their hands on. The people include past enemies of U.N.C.L.E."
"If it is such sensitive work, why do so many people know about it?"
Waverly looked at Illya. "Until a few days ago, it was highly secretive, very few people knew about it. However, someone, whether as a deliberate attempt to cause trouble or simply because the person didn't think, let a few details slip and the news spread, as these things. Unfortunately it wasn't just those who would use the project for the good who learned about it."
Illya shook his head. "Why can people not be more careful?"
Waverly ignored the comment and went on. "The professor is due to make the full details of this project known to his peers and the science world in general in two weeks. During that time those who wish to use his work for their purposes will do whatever they can to achieve their aim. We can protect him as he has agreed not to leave his laboratory or the university - he is happy to eat and sleep there and I have assigned several agents to protect him. It is not himself whom the professor is fearful for, it is his daughter. He is concerned someone may harm her or even kidnap her in an attempt to blackmail him into handing his work over to them. And that's where we come in. You and Mr. Kuryakin will be responsible for Miss Sullivan's safety."
"Can she not also stay with her father?"
"I could, Mr. Kuryakin. However, I fear my constant presence would drive Daddy to turn to the other side, simply to get away from me." Isabella laughed softly as she spoke. "You see, gentlemen, I have no interest in science, it bores me and as much as I love Daddy, he is terribly intense, driven and more than a little obsessed and he talks in a language I simply do not understand. No, trust me the world will be far safer if we are not together. Besides, there is a very important thing which I have to do during the next two weeks."
"And what is this important thing?" Napoleon asked, before Illya could make a suggestion or two as to what he believed Isabella might consider important.
"The choir with whom I sing is to perform Handel's Messiah and I have a fairly major solo part. It would be incredibly difficult to replace me at such short notice. We are rehearsing almost every evening."
Suddenly Napoleon got a flash of intuition. He hoped he was wrong, but when he turned to look at Waverly he feared he wasn't. Waverly's next words confirmed his fears. "We do not wish it to look as if Miss Sullivan is under protection," he said, "thus you gentlemen will become part of the choir."
Illya stared at Waverly in what appeared to be horror. "Could I not be part of the team who is to protect Professor Sullivan?" he said quickly. "After all I have a scientific background; I may be able to assist him or at least converse with him."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Kuryakin. I did consider that, however, it is important the team I assign to protect Miss Sullivan are able to become part of the choir, and I know that both you and Mr. Solo can sing. Indeed, Mr. Kuryakin, you in particular are, I understand, a rather accomplished singer."
Napoleon nodded. "Yes he is." He completely ignored the look Illya shot at him. However, he was rather glad they were in company; even Illya wouldn't pull a gun or a knife or do anything to harm him in front of Waverly and Isabella.
"That's settled then, gentlemen. We have arranged a safe house for you where you will all stay until after Professor Sullivan has revealed the full details of his project. You are to go home and pack whatever you will need for the next two weeks. I shall expect you back in," he glanced at his watch, "an hour and a half at the most."
Napoleon stood up. "Yes, sir."
Illya stood up as well. "Very well, sir." His tone was flat and his expression unreadable - even at that moment to Napoleon. However, he didn't need to be able to read Illya's expression to know what his partner would be thinking. Illya turned and strode towards the door, "Well do come along, Napoleon," he said.
Napoleon smiled at Isabella, nodded to Waverly and strode across the room to where Illya stood.
HALF AN HOUR LATER
"I really would be of more use protecting the professor," Illya said, as they each packed a case and bag. "I believe I shall ask Mr. Waverly again."
Napoleon paused mid-way through folding a shirt. "Do you really wish to leave me alone with Miss Sullivan?" he asked, his tone silky.
Illya's eyes narrowed and he dropped the turtle neck he had been about to put into his case onto the bed, circled it and moved close to Napoleon. "You would not." It wasn't a question.
Just for a second Napoleon was tempted to tease Illya just a little. However, the look in Illya's eyes told him to do such a thing might be more than a little dangerous. Thus, he said instead, "What do you think, partner mine?" His tone was gentle and he looked at Illya in the way he only looked at him when they were alone.
Swiftly, Illya put his hand behind Napoleon's head, tugged it down and put his mouth on Napoleon's. The kiss was almost brutal in its intensity and Illya's teeth grazed Napoleon's bottom lip before Illya took his mouth away and stared at Napoleon. "I think that you wish to stay alive. Now let us finish packing and get on with this babysitting. Why us?" he asked, as he returned to his side of the bed and swiftly completed his packing.
"Because we are the best," Napoleon replied, adding a few more shirts to his case as Illya leaned against the wall and watched him.
THREE HOURS LATER
The safe house was one of the nicer ones U.N.C.L.E. owned. It had two bedrooms which, given Napoleon and Illya would not sleep at the same time, was perfectly adequate as well as a main living room, a small kitchen and two bathrooms.
Napoleon carried Isabella's array of luggage into the better of the two bedrooms and left Illya to bring their luggage from the car and take it to the room they would share. He left Isabella to unpack and wandered into the sitting room which Illya was already searching and pacing around, looking out of the windows, working out exactly where everything was and what the dimensions of the room were.
For a minute or two, Napoleon stood and watched his partner. Illya had removed his jacket and dressed as he was in his usual form fitting black trousers and turtle neck sweater, Napoleon simply enjoyed the view.
Illya paused and glanced at Napoleon. "You might as well unpack for us," he said. "This does not require two of us."
Napoleon could recognize a dismissal when he heard it. So after casting Illya a further look which was greeted by an icy stare, he sauntered into the bedroom where he unpacked with swift efficiency.
When he returned to the living room he found Isabella curled up on the couch reading something which he assumed to be the libretto for the Messiah. Illya was nowhere to be seen; Napoleon guessed he was now doing his search and pace of Isabella's room.
Isabella glanced up and smiled at him and put the libretto down. "Mr. Kuryakin informed me he needed my room," she said, confirming Napoleon's thoughts. "He was rather insistent," she added.
Napoleon smiled and sat down next to her. "That's Illya."
She put her head on one side and looked at him. "Why doesn't he like me?"
Napoleon shrugged. "Illya's Russian; he naturally doesn’t like anyone."
Napoleon shrugged again. "We've been partners for a number of years."
Napoleon nodded. "Yes, that too."
To his surprise Isabella nodded. "I thought as much." Napoleon frowned and Isabella smiled. "Oh, don't worry, it isn't that obvious. It is just that my work involves being able to read people and see beyond their façade. I am rather good at my work. And don't worry," she said, moving a little nearer to Napoleon, "your secret is quite safe with me." To Napoleon's surprise she leaned towards him and lightly kissed his cheek. He had kissed and had been kissed by numerous women and could recognize different types of kisses. The kiss Isabella had given him was the kind a sister would give.
"I do not dislike you, Miss Sullivan." Isabella started and looked around swiftly. Illya was standing against the wall, staring at them. Napoleon silently applauded his partner; even he hadn't been aware that Illya had come back into the room. "It is just that one of us has to keep his mind on the assignment." And for the first time since meeting her, Napoleon saw Illya smile at Isabella.
He moved away from the wall and crossed to where Napoleon and Isabella sat. "Is that the libretto?" he asked, nodding at the book Isabella had put down.
She nodded. "Yes."
Illya held out his hand. "May I?"
Isabella smiled and handed it to him. "Of course, Mr. Kuryakin," she said.
He took the libretto from her and opened it. After a swift glance he looked back at her. "You might as well call me Illya. It will most likely to be considered somewhat strange by the other members of your choir if you continue to call me Mr. Kuryakin, will it not?"
She nodded. "Yes, Illya, I believe it will be."
He nodded curtly. Sat down in the arm chair and returned to studying the libretto. Napoleon glanced at the blond head bent over the sheets; he was mildly surprised by quite how quickly Illya had come around. However, he was also very pleased at it would make for a far more harmonious time.
LATER THAT EVENING
The rehearsal went very well. If the choirmaster to whom Isabella introduced them was surprised by the fact that two extra men wanted to join the choir at such short notice, he didn't say anything. He simply welcomed them, gave them copies of the libretto and told them where to stand. He did seem somewhat surprised by Illya's insistence that he was going to remain by Isabella's side. However, after frowning at them for a minute or two he merely shrugged and agreed.
Thus, Napoleon left Illya and Isabella and went to stand where the choirmaster had told him to stand. To begin with Napoleon didn't join in with the rest of the choir; he simply stood and listened to them, in an attempt to get a feel for the music, the words and the harmony the choir were singing. Waverly had been correct, both he and Illya could sing, however, Illya sang better than he did and was more experienced at singing.
Indeed as Napoleon's eyes came to rest on his partner he saw Illya was, as he had expected, already singing along with the rest of the choir; he also noticed that Illya barely glanced at the libretto. Instead his gaze wandered around the room, checking out the other members of the choir, mentally noticing doors and windows and working out how, if it came to it, he would get Isabella out and to safety. From time to time he would glance at Isabella and down at the libretto he held, but for the most part he was paying far more attention to what and whom were around him.
The choir wasn't professional, even Napoleon could tell that, and as he listened Napoleon could tell that some of the singers found the piece more challenging than others. Nonetheless, everyone was clearly enjoying themselves and the passion with which they sang and the intensity and obvious enjoyment made up for the fact they weren't professional. They clearly loved what they were singing, as well as loving singing itself. They were a pleasure to listen to.
Suddenly Napoleon noticed the choirmaster's gaze had come to rest on him and again he was frowning. Swiftly Napoleon glanced at the man next to him who was following what he was singing with his finger. After a second Napoleon discovered quite where they were and joined in.
By the time the rehearsal was over, Napoleon found he was enjoying himself as much as the rest of the choir was clearly enjoying themselves. Illya hadn't left Isabella's side all evening, and now they strolled over to Napoleon.
"I wish to check what lies behind that door." Illya spoke softly. Napoleon nodded and took Isabella's arm as Illya apparently quite nonchalantly sauntered over the door, going by a circular route. Once he reached the door he glanced around him before pulling the door open and slipping through it.
"Is he always as suspicious?" Isabella asked.
Napoleon nodded. "If you told him tomorrow was Wednesday, Illya would be suspicious."
She widened her eyes and then frowned. "I don't know whether to believe you or not."
He laughed. "Well, maybe that's taking it a little too far. Let's just say he's very good at his job and his suspicious nature has saved my life more than once."
She widened her eyes again and then said softly, "You really mean that, don’t you?"
Napoleon nodded. "Yes. Our jobs aren't the safest in the world. In fact -" He fell silent as Illya reappeared; he was brushing his hands together and no longer appeared in the least bit nonchalant.
Napoleon immediately went into full alert as he pulled Isabella a little closer to him and slightly behind him. "Is something -" She fell silent as Napoleon glanced at her and put his finger on his lips.
Illya strode over to them. He glanced around him quickly, before stretching up slightly so that he could put his lips to Napoleon's ear. "Get Isabella back to the safe house," he said, his accent very obvious.
Napoleon didn't bother wasting time asking Illya why or what he had found behind the door. He didn't need to ask; he merely needed to do as Illya had told him, as Illya would have known he would do; that was how they worked. He simply nodded once, took Isabella's hand and said, "Come along, Isabella, we are going." He began to walk towards the door.
She had no choice but to go with him. Without letting go of her hand he led her out of the room, along the corridor towards the front door. As he walked he glanced from side to side and remained on full alert. He had to give her credit for not asking what had happened, why Illya wasn't with them and why he was all but dragging her along. She just gripped his hand and hurried along at his side.
Once they were outside, he pushed her against the door, stood in front of her and looked around him in all directions. He saw nothing that looked out of the ordinary and the few people who were around seemed completely intent on getting to where they were going rather than paying any attention to who might be around them.
When he was satisfied all was well, he again took her hand and headed down the steps, once more scanning the area. It didn't take them long to reach the car and he hurriedly pushed her inside, glanced around him once more before getting into the car, starting the engine and driving them back to the safe house.
Isabella was still silent and she remained that way until they were safely inside the safe house and Napoleon had checked the doors and windows. He could see how pale she was, how thin her lips had become, how she trembled a little and frightened she looked.
He poured her a brandy and handed it to her. "Drink it."
"I don't often -"
"Drink it." She took a small sip and then another and then a third.
"Thank you." He smiled at her. "What happened? Why did we suddenly leave?"
"I don't know. Illya just told me to bring you back here. I didn't wait to ask why."
"Will he be all right?"
"Illya can take care of himself." Napoleon spoke with a little more conviction than he felt. Yes, Illya could indeed take care of himself, but Napoleon wouldn't be happy until he came home.
She sighed. "Do you think Daddy is all right?"
"I'm sure he is. If something had happened to him, Mr. Waverly would have sent someone to tell you."
"I don't think I really believed I was in any danger," she said, holding the half empty glass tightly. "I thought it was all foolish and that Daddy was over-reacting. I didn't really believe that people would go around trying to hurt or kidnap me, just because of something Daddy was doing." She began to tremble again. "I'm frightened," she whispered.
Napoleon put his arm around her shoulders. "I'm sure you are. But you're safe here. Nothing will happen to you. Illya and I will make sure of that."
She looked at him; he read the look in her eyes clearly and ignored it. "I wish -" She fell silent and he didn't ask her what it was she wished.
"Why don't you go to bed?"
She shook her head. "I'm not tired." A moment later she yawned and they both smiled. "Well, I guess I am, but I won't sleep until I know Illya is safe."
"Well, why don't you lie down on the couch and at least get some rest? Come on, I'll fetch you a blanket." And he hurried off to get one.
When he returned she had taken off her shoes and jacket and was indeed lying down, one hand tucked under the cheek. She looked very young and very vulnerable. He put the blanket over her and sat down in the arm chair to wait for Illya to return.
THREE HOURS LATER
Despite her claim she wouldn't be able to sleep until Illya returned, Isabella had fallen asleep within about ten minutes. Napoleon heard a very faint noise coming from the direction of the front door. He pulled out his gun and glanced swiftly at Isabella before leaving the room; he was just in time to see Illya close and lock the front door. Napoleon felt a sense of relief pass through him as he re-holstered his gun.
He closed the small distance between them and just for a moment put his arms around Illya and pulled him closely against him. He brushed his lips over Illya's before reluctantly letting his arms fall from around Illya. "You're safe," he murmured.
"Of course I am," Illya said. "I can take care of myself."
"I know you can. It's just . . ."
"I know," Illya said softly, and for a moment or two they just stood and stared at one another and silently said things neither would say aloud - not even had they been alone. Of course had they been alone, they wouldn't be standing apart now.
"What happened? What or who did you find behind the door?"
"Thrush - well, one of them."
"What did you do to him?"
"I hit him and tied him up and then told you to leave. I then escorted him to Mr. Waverly who encouraged him to have a conversation. I then came home."
"Illya?" Napoleon knew his partner well; he was telling the truth, but not the whole truth. "If it was as simple as that, why has it taken you so long to get back here?"
Illya glanced away from him for a moment or two before looking back at him. "I may have hit him slightly too hard."
"Is he dead?"
Illya rolled his eyes. "If he were dead how could Mr. Waverly converse with him? No, we just had to wait for him to regain consciousness. The doctor said he had seen worse." And with that he turned on his heel and went into the living room. Napoleon followed him; they were in time to see Isabella open her eyes.
"Mr. Kuryakin! Illya!" she cried, sitting up. "You're safe. I'm so pleased. We were worried about you, weren't we, Napoleon?"
Illya smiled at her. "Thank you, Miss Sullivan for your concern, but there was no need for you to worry. I was quite safe."
She swung her feet down. "Well now that you're here, I must tell you how impressed I was during the rehearsal. You really have a fine voice, Mr. Kuryakin."
To Napoleon's surprise, Illya's cheeks became a little red. "Thank you, Miss Sullivan," he said. Napoleon wasn't surprised to hear them revert to the form of address they had used before the rehearsal, even though both had easily used the other's given name during the evening. "I thought the choir was very good. They harmonize very well and were clearly enjoying what they were singing."
She smiled. "It's a good choir and the members are all nice. You hear stories about infighting and arguments and solo singers throwing temper tantrums and all things like that. However, there's none of that among the members of this choir. We get on well together and there aren’t any prima donnas. It's a pleasure to sing with them. I know you're both only there because you have to be, because you're protecting me, but I hope you didn't have too unpleasant an evening."
Napoleon shook his head. "I enjoyed myself and I agree with Illya, the choir is very good and they do sing well together."
She smiled and bent down to pick her shoes up. "I think I'll go to bed now." She put her jacket on and moved to where Napoleon and Illya still stood. She stopped and stared at Illya and for a moment Napoleon thought she might kiss Illya's cheek. However, instead she held out her hand. "Thank you for what you did tonight, Mr. Kuryakin," she said. "I know you were only doing your job, but . . ." She fell silent and simply smiled. Illya acknowledged her words with a nod and smiled back at her.
"Well, partner mine, why don't you go and get some sleep?"
Illya shook his head. "No, you go. I will not be able to sleep for a while."
Napoleon hesitated for a moment, before he touched Illya's hair, nodded and went off to bed.
TWO WEEKS LATER
"Well, gentlemen," Waverly said, as he stood in the middle of the safe house's sitting room. "Professor Sullivan has delivered his lecture and revealed all about the project on which he has been working. And now that the details are out, we no longer consider him to be in any danger as while what he has been working on, will change things and interest a lot of people, there is no way it can be used for the bad." He turned to Isabella. "You are quite safe now, Miss Sullivan, and can go home. In fact your father's car is outside."
"Thank you, Mr. Waverly; thank you for keeping Daddy safe. And thank you, Napoleon and you Mr. Kuryakin for keeping me safe - I know babysitting is not your preferred kind of assignment." She smiled and hurried over to kiss all three men on the cheek before heading towards her bedroom to get her things.
She'd only been gone for a few second before she hurried back into the sitting room. "I suppose now that the assignment is over that you won't sing with us anymore, will you?"
"Well," Napoleon said, glancing at Illya who nodded. "Mr. Waverly, sir?"
"Yes, Mr. Solo?"
"You see, sir, Illya and I would actually like to continue, if you'd permit us to, sir. After all the performance is tomorrow evening and it seems a shame to let the rest of the choir down."
Waverly widened his eyes a little and looked at Illya. "And do you agree with Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin? Do you wish to sing in the performance?"
"Oh, yes, sir. I would. And we thought Mrs. Waverly would enjoy the evening."
Waverly stared at his agents before nodding. "Very well, gentlemen. You have my permission. I hope you will give the same virtuoso performance as you gave during your assignment."
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