Epilogue: Going Home
They had taken the Empress directly to Sapporo. Solo and Trudy did as much for Illya as they could by keeping him warm and still, and the medical facility at the U.N.C.L.E. office there was well prepared for serious injury. It was late in the afternoon before he showed signs of consciousness and was stable enough for surgery. He was whisked off to the Operating Room just as Stevie brought Trudy back to join Napoleon in the waiting room. Trudy had been given a complete physical and been allowed to clean up, and Stevie bought some clothes for her. Except for lack of sleep, she insisted she felt fine, and slapped herself on her forehead when she heard herself utter those words.
"Damn, I've only been around him a couple of weeks and I've picked up his mannerisms!"
Solo had to smile, even though he was very worried. Illya had been lucky to meet up with this one, he'd decided as soon as he met her. Waverly had tasked Solo with debriefing the 'civilian involved', and figured now was as good a time as any. It certainly would help the time pass.
She gave her report like a professional. With each daring deed and sneaky tactic she relayed to him, his respect for her grew. Stevie just sat and listened in open-mouthed astonishment.
"So this is the manual of the device that started all this, huh?" Solo held up the warped, wet book, and Trudy nodded, exhausted. "Well, U.N.C.L.E. can figure all this out, I'm sure. And may I say thank you again for helping Illya complete his mission? And I'm sure our boss Mr. Waverly will want to meet you when we return stateside."
"Yes, and I want to speak to him. Is he in charge of the hiring and firing of U.N.C.L.E. personnel?" Trudy asked directly, sitting back confidently like she was on a job interview.
"Ah, well, yes and no," Solo stammered. "You want to join U.N.C.L.E.?" What he didn't notice was how Stevie leaned forward to hear more herself.
"I loved Army nursing. Since I left the Army and my husband died I have found that nursing in a traditional hospital or private scenario has been unfulfilling. That's why I was traveling, to see where I wanted to be. I think your outfit and my experience would be a perfect fit: New environments and nursing a different kind of soldier. Where do I sign up?"
Solo grinned. "I would think after being with my partner for that length of time that he would have scared you away!"
Trudy snorted. "Him? His bark is worse than his….well, OK, that may not be true, but I do know that he has a pure heart. But Sir Galahad he ain't."
Solo laughed out loud. "I'm sure Mr. Waverly would love to talk to you!"
"Solo-san," Stevie said as she laid a gentle hand on his forearm. "I would like to speak to your organization also. I will start with the Sapporo office, if you will give me an introduction."
He smiled at her warmly. "You got it, Miss Inturi. I think you both would be fine additions."
They chatted lightly to keep busy, and were surprised when the surgeon interrupted them hours later. "He's in recovery. I've already reported to Mr. Waverly in New York, and he's instructed me to fill you in." He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.
"Well?" Solo asked impatiently. Trudy took his elbow to steady both him and herself.
"He should be fine. The slug was wedged between two vertebrae and caused considerable irritation to the nerve bundle and cord. There was a small pocket of infection, and inflammation of the surrounding tissue. We got the slug out, and cleaned up the area, and haven't seen any permanent damage, but we have to wait until the swelling goes down to get a good picture of long term recovery. The concussion to his skull was considerable, and there's a little swelling there, but no bleeding."
"But you think he should be all right?" Stevie asked.
"That's my guess. I didn't see anything there to worry me. He is a very lucky young man."
Trudy snorted. "If you call getting shot in the back and clobbered on the head lucky. What room will he be taken to?"
He told them, they thanked him, and they made their way to the room. None of them would be truly content until they saw for themselves. They met the gurney in the hall outside the room. Illya's face was as white as the pillow and the bandages around his torso. His eyes, however, were cracked open and his annoyance of the whole situation clear.
Trudy grabbed the chart off his bed and flipped through the papers while Solo spoke with the nurses who were transferring his partner to the hospital bed. "Um, I think I would drop him once to let him know who's boss here, ladies."
Illya glared at him. "They aren't as clumsy as you, Napoleon." He said quietly but quite clearly.
"I see a clonk on the head hasn't improved your personality," Solo clucked.
"Boys!" Trudy scolded, replacing the chart. "If you don't behave I'll have to separate you into time out corners!"
Stevie giggled. Solo looked surprised. Illya rolled his eyes. "See what I've had to put up with?" The blond agent said.
Trudy and Napoleon looked at each other. "He must be referring to you," they both said simultaneously.
Illya sighed. "I think if you both research your genealogies you will both find you are related to the same mule somewhere. But before you do, watch this."
All eyes turned to him. Slowly, he raised a shaky arm.
"Hey! You can move!" Trudy said. "You're going to be all right."
Illya's hand made a waving motion.
"That's great, Illya! You'll be at those reports in no time!" Solo grinned.
Stevie frowned. "I believe he's telling us something."
They all looked at the hand shooing them out the door. "Go away, will you? How is a person supposed to rest around here?" Illya said to their surprised faces.
Solo gathered up the women after they said their goodbyes and herded them out the door. The last to leave, Solo gave his partner a parting word.
"I've did save all the unfinished reports for you, you know. Want me to bring them here for you?"
The signal Illya gave him with his fingers made clear his reply.