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The Death's Door Affair

By Kara Hughes

Drama / Adventure

Chapter 1

It had seemed a normal, routine mission.  Take an Austin K2/Y ambulance to the outskirts of the desert and watch the THRUSH Satrap for any movement.  They’d parked the ambulance and turned off the lights.  Napoleon had watched the THRUSH Compound for a few minutes and then settled back into his seat.

“Looks like a long night, tovarisch,” he said turning to his companion.

“Quiet, with any luck,” Illya remarked, smiling at his friend.

“We can hope,” Napoleon responded.

However, two hours later, a small convoy of vehicles left the Satrap.  Napoleon cursed under his breath, “I’d better follow them, see what they’re up to.”

“And I thought it would be a quiet night.” Illya muttered.

Napoleon flashed him a quick look, all flashing eyes and teeth, and then he was gone, slipping out of the cab and moving wraith-like across the desert.

Illya watched him go until he blended into the darkness and then he settled back into his seat.

Napoloeon hoisted himself up onto the back of the last truck and held on for dear life.

Two hours later he returned on another vehicle, the trucks had made a fuel delivery to a desert location.  He’d taken another truck back, having made a note of the location and then dropped into the darkness before slipping back to the ambulance.

He’d known something was wrong almost fifty yards from the vehicle, the door was open and its headlights were blazing.  He remembered dropping to his knees in shock and crawling across to Illya, a soft breeze caught a few stray hairs on Illya’s forehead, but there was no movement from the figure, and the blue eyes stared sightlessly upwards.  A small, neat bullet hole was in the centre of his chest and Napoleon could see the dark pool of blood spreading out like wings on the sand behind him.

There was movement behind him and he heard a harsh laugh, feeling sick he stared down at his friend’s corpse.  For a moment he considered turning in one final act, launching himself at the person behind him. Then he sagged, what would be the point.  He heard the click of a hammer being pulled back and he whispered, “Illya, forgive me.” And that was the last he remembered for some time.

Was he walking, or was he floating? He wasn’t sure, either way it didn’t really matter.  There seemed to be people around him and he thought that he felt a gentle touch on his face and a voice say, or perhaps he only thought that they spoke,  “My darling, I am so very proud of  you.”  And then there was a feeling of being enfolded and he had a final thought of ‘feathers’.

After that, things became somewhat disjointed, he remembered half-waking, he was surrounded by glowing beings, he seemed to have no body, or if he did, it was weightless, floating.

Something or someone gently stroked his forehead and he forced open heavy eyes, he had an impression of a strong, handsome, face, glass-green eyes and  jet-black hair.  Then weariness overcame him again and he sank back into slumber.

I don’t believe in Heaven, Illya thought as he floated down the corridor.  Or did he walk?  Whether he walked or floated he could not believe that this was Heaven.  It was probably another delightful truthful serum from THRUSH, this one designed to induce euphoria in the subject.

“Oh my dearest one,” a familiar figure was standing next to him, “always you reject what you cannot touch.”

He turned in shock, it was his Babuschka standing next to him exactly as he remembered her from his childhood.

“This is not real-” he began, but her hand on his mouth silenced him, “Be still, medvezhonok”

Little bear, he thought, tears suddenly coming to his eyes.

“We love you very much, Illyushenka.  Sleep now.”  The last thing he saw was her bright blue eyes before he sank back into darkness.

Illya would fight his way to consciousness two or three times during the next few days, although he had to admit later that he didn’t know if it was morning or night when he awoke.  He was aware of glowing beings around him and at times he wondered if it was another THRUSH plot, he was never in pain just held as firmly as if set in amber.

He became aware of Beings bending over him, and an impression of faces, not exactly beautiful but handsome and deeply solemn.  When asked afterwards he could never remember the colour of eyes and hair, just the feel of hands on his head and his body, all of which seemed to increase his lassitude.  At first he was too disoriented to resist, but as he began to recover Illya’s tenacious nature began to emerge.

At first he thought that he was a prisoner of THRUSH, that he’d been drugged in order to see the people around him as other creatures; and then he considered that there must be something on their hands that would keep him dopey and relaxed and the terrier in Illya began to fight back. 

He would fight his way back to consciousness and find to his despair and horror that he was almost immediately sedated again.  Waves of blackness would roll over him and again he would begin the long climb to try and wake up, terror about the fate of his partner overwhelming him.  Finally he surfaced to feel gentle hands on his arm and voices around him that sounded feminine but he wasn’t sure.  “....he’s mostly healed...”

“...but he’s fighting every type of sedation that we’re administering...”

“...we can’t keep drugging him...”

Why? to his surprise the words were not spoken but seemed to drop straight into his mind.

“I think he’s concerned about his partner,” for some reason he knew it was the Being who was standing next to whatever he was lying on.  A hand touched his arm and then his forehead, “Illya,” she spoke softly, “your partner, your friend, is fine.”

Despite everything, relief flooded every pore of his being and he suddenly felt exhausted.

A soft voice said, “I know you are worried, I cannot tell you not to do so, rest if you can.”  Her voice flowed over and around him and still wondering if he’d been lied to Illya sank back into unconsciousness.

He jerked awake suddenly, the creatures were around him again, and again he was pinioned down on the bed; he couldn’t even open his eyes;  panicking he tried to move and a terrified whimper emerged from his throat.

“Illya, Illya, it’s all right.  You’re both safe. Here.”

His arm was lifted and he felt a familiar hand placed in his own, it was vital and alive and suddenly all of Illya’s terrors dissolved and for the first time in what seemed like forever he drifted into sleep.

Napoleon woke slowly.  He could feel cool sheets beneath his fingers.  Where was he?  The last thing I remember was the feel of a gun against my back and the sound of a hammer being pulled back.  I could not have survived that, he thought hazily.

Carefully he opened his eyes, he was lying in a bed in a totally white room, white walls, white bedclothes, white bed, even the pyjamas he was wearing were white.  Slowly, he rolled his head on the pillow and gasped in shock, lying in the bed next to him was Illya Kuryakin.  His partner’s hair blazed golden against the whiteness of the pillow.  Napoleon looked down and saw Illya grasping his hand like a lifeline.  Carefully, he unclasped his hand from Illya’s and then his heart in his mouth, moved so that he could unbutton the top of his partner’s pyjama jacket.  To his relief there was no evidence of the bullet wound. 

Carefully he buttoned it up again and lay back against the pillows, his heart pounding.  Slowly he looked around the room wondering where he was.  At that moment, a figure slowly materialized at the end of the bed, “Awake at last, Mr Solo?” it asked gently.

Napoleon managed a wry smile although awe was swiftly beginning to take the place of astonishment, he thought the usual questions; Who are you? Where am I? Then decided that such questions were foolish in this place.

“It’s all right,” the figure said softly, “You’re not, as you might think, dead.  But I understand why you might think and feel so.”

“Illya,” he whispered.

“The man sleeping next to you?”  At his nod a smile curved the strong lips of the figure, “he’s all right.  So are you.  Try to rest and we will talk later.”

Napoleon nodded, suddenly weary, “Have you drugged me?” he managed to burble.

“It is the nature of this place and your injuries,” the creature replied.  “Rest.  I promise there will be time to talk later.”

Someone was shouting, calling his name, Napoleon fought his way up to consciousness to find more glowing beings around him trying to hold down an obviously hurt and confused Illya.  Flailing hands were caught and the man’s struggles increased.

Napoleon lifted himself up to a sitting position and spoke, “Let me help.”

The figures stopped and then one of them ‘spoke’, Please, he will hurt himself if he does not rest.

Napoleon nodded and then bent over the supine figure, he grasped one of the hands and spoke urgently, “Tovarisch, you’re safe.  You’re safe.”

Somehow the words seemed to penetrate the drugged haze surrounding him and Illya’s eyes slowly opened, “Napoleon,” he whispered, “what happened? Where are we?”

“I don’t know,” Napoleon replied, “You must sleep, tovarisch. My v poryadke.” We are fine.

“Your Russian is appalling,” Illya muttered, but Napoleon noticed that he was no longer fighting.  He relaxed back onto the bed and muttered, “Are we in the hands of THRUSH again?”

Napoleon looked around at the shimmering room, the glowing beings standing near the bed, “Not this time.”

Illya half-nodded, his eyes closing, “You’ll stay-” the urgency in the tone was unmistakeable.

Napoleon looked up and swallowed, unsure of how to answer.  One of them gently laid a hand, or it seemed like a hand on his shoulder, Don’t worry.  We will not separate you

Napoleon squeezed Illya’s hand and said quietly, “I’ll stay.  You get some sleep.”

He watched as Illya’s slid into sleep and then sighed softly. He thought he heard a soft chuckle behind him, You need to rest and heal also.  We will talk when you awaken.

Napoleon lay down on his side.  He wondered vaguely what was happening and then gently slid into darkness.  When he awoke again the room had changed, he and Illya were still lying side by side, he was still holding his friend’s hand and for a moment felt embarrassed and wondered what his saviours would think.  He sat up slowly and looked around, he appeared to be in a large room.  A bright fire burnt in the grate and a small round table stood off to one side of the bed.  A tray sat on the table and on that was a cafetière of coffee, a jug of cream, a sugar bowl and two mugs. 

He slid his legs over the side of the bed and slowly stood up, for a moment he felt dizzy and then it passed.  He sat down in the chair trying to get his bearings, watching the door.  Someone knocked and for a moment he froze, before managing to croak, “Come in.”

The door opened and a tall, male figure entered the room, “Mr Solo?” he said gently. “I’m glad to see you awake at long last.  How do you feel?”

“A bit lost,” Napoleon managed a wan smile, “I am supposed to be dead – aren’t I?”

“If you want to be technical about it,” to its credit the Being looked sheepish. “I suppose that in normal circumstances you would be.  We decided to interfere.”

“Oh,” Napoleon replied, there didn’t seem much else to say.

The man smiled, “I am Marmaroth.”

“My – my friend?” Napoleon stammered, hating the quaver in his voice. 

For an answer the creature bent over the blond and Napoleon watched as it laid a gentle hand on Illya’s forehead.

“He will recover” he said softly as he straightened up, “I suspect that his desire to find you, to make sure that you were safe has impeded his own healing slightly.  Let him sleep.”

“He will be all right won’t he?” Napoleon demanded, staring at the man.

“We think so,” a number of glowing Beings suddenly surrounded them and the Senior Agent stared, his mouth dry, as one of them bent over his friend and examined him.  Illya’s eyes fluttered and half-opened, “’Poleon?” he moaned.

“It’s all right, Tovarisch, I’m here,” Napoleon walked across to the bed and took his friend’s hand,  “You’re going to be fine.”

Illya’s lips twitched, “Can’t think, everything hazy-” his voice trailed away.

One of them slid an arm beneath Illya’s shoulders and held a cup to his lips, he drank thirstily and then he was being lowered back onto the pillow.  Napoleon squeezed his friend’s hand and managed a taut smile.

Marmaroth walked across to the coffee pot and poured him a cup of coffee, bringing it across to the bed he handed Napoleon the mug.  Napoleon cupped the vessel in his hands, watching the wisps of steam rising from the liquid. “I would imagine you have millions of questions,” Marmaroth said gently.

“None that are sensible,” Napoleon replied, a wry smile twisting his lips.

Marmaroth smiled, “Not even the usual ones?”

“What are the usual ones?” Napoleon took a sip of his coffee. 

“How am I alive? Where am I? Who are you?”

“As I said,” Napoleon managed a grin.  “No sensible ones.  Even if I would like to know, this is something beyond even me, even I know that we should not be alive.  When I found my partner he was already dead – and the last thing I remember clearly is the feel of a gun barrel in my back.”

“If you’re going to be technical about it, then you’re both dead,” Marmaroth replied, “although you’re bodies have yet to be discovered.  However, we have been watching you for a while and decided to intervene.”

“That doesn’t tell me who you are.”

“You don’t subscribe to ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ view then?” Marmaroth replied.

“The enemy of my enemy is only my friend while that enemy exists,” Napoleon replied, “I need a bit more than that if I’m to trust you.”

“Caution. Always a virtue in any UNCLE agent,” Marmaroth replied.

“I would like more explanations,” Napoloen replied guardedly, he yawned again, “and I think you’re drugging me.”

“No,” Marmaroth assured him, “it is partly the injuries you suffered; and partly this room.”

Napoleon smiled, “When do I get out of here?”

“As soon as you are both fully healed we will move you, for now you still need to rest.  Do not fear, Mr Solo.  You are both safe.”

He nodded slowly and found that again he was relaxing back onto the pillows and that his eyes seemed to be closing of their own accord, still wondering what was going to happen he drifted into slumber.  The last thing he was aware of was of gentle hands removing the coffee mug.

“What do you mean they’re not there?” Gervaise Ravel stared at the THRUSH underling, “I thought you said you dumped them out in the desert!”

“I did,” the man replied, “I left them just outside the city, they should have been discovered by now!”

“I’ve had men watching UNCLE’s headquarters for the past day and a half and monitoring their decrypted transmissions, there’s an element of concern regarding Mr Solo and Mr Kuryakin but nothing about their bodies being discovered.  What I want to know is-” she grabbed the man’s tie, and pulled him towards her,  “where the hell are they?”

Waverley sighed again.  He removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.  The news wasn’t good.  The Austin ambulance had been discovered, a burnt out wreck,  in a ravine in the Sahara desert, but there was no sign of Solo or Kuryakin,  and he had to conclude that both men had probably been captured or were dead.  It had been a week and concern over the fate of both men pervaded the whole of UNCLE’s New York Headquarters and Waverley knew that soon he would have to make an announcement concerning the probable fate of both men.

They’re all right.  They’re safe.  His head snapped up and he fumbled for his glasses; when he eventually managed to put them back on he saw a tall, shimmering figure standing in the centre of the room. 

“What?  Who are you?” he barked.

We have answered to many names it replied.  But you may call me a Herald.  They are safe.  We wish to return them.

Waverley swallowed, Was it speaking of Solo and Kuryakin? Should he ask?

Where do you wish us to return them?

“Can you bring them back here?  To our Medical Centre?”

We can bring them back anywhere you choose.

“What do you want us to do?”

Have two empty beds available in your Medical Centre, we will return them in three hours.  The figure shimmered.

“Wait!” Waverley shouted and shaking stood up, “how do we thank you? Who are you?”

I told you who we are. Three hours.

Then whatever it was shimmered and disappeared and Alexander Waverley was alone in his office.  Still shaking he rose to his feet and stumbled across to his private liquor stock. It took him two attempts to pour himself a glass, and another two to stop shaking enough to take a sip.  Eventually, he managed to calm himself enough to call down to the Medical Centre and ask Dr Fine to come to his office.

Dr Fine took one look at him and swore, then bending over his superior and loosening his tie, he pressed the diaphragm of his stethoscope against Waverley’s chest.  “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Waverley managed a taut smile and then said, “I need to have two beds prepared in medical.”

Dr Fine eyed him thoughtfully and then said, “Any other orders, Sir?”

“Have oxygen on standby,” Waverley paused, “I’d prefer that it just be you and I present, but I think you’ll need at least six nurses.”

Dr Fine nodded thoughtfully, “And you won’t tell me why?”

“It’s more a case of ‘Can’t tell you why’,” Waverley replied, “Jonas, I doubt you’d believe me.  But you’ll do as I ask?”

Dr Fine nodded,  “Of course.  We’ve been through too much.”

“If you can have everything ready for-” Waverley looked at his watch, “It’s half past twelve now; quarter past three?”

“As you wish,” Dr Fine replied, “will you be joining us?”

Waverley nodded and then Dr Fine was leaving his office.  Waverley watched him go and then poured himself another shot of whisky and swallowed it in two gulps.

Getting to his feet, he straightened his tie and left the room.  Dr Fine was busy arranging two beds side by side, he turned to Alexander Waverley and gave him a tight, grim smile.

Eventually the beds were ready, and Dr Fine stepped back to survey them.  He cast a quick look at his superior and then turned his attention back to his nurses.

“You may go,” he said gently, “If I need extra help I’ll call you.”

To his surprise, they shook their heads, “With all due respect, Sir, we refuse.  You may need our assistance.”

Jonas shook his head in exasperation, “You know that you won’t be able to talk about what happened here.”

“Except to you and among ourselves in private,” the nurse replied firmly.

Dr Fine turned to his superior, “You see what I have to work with?”

“I see a loyal and dedicated staff,” Waverley replied.

Jonas sighed and rolled his eyes, “Very well.”

The door opened and a flustered April Dancer entered, a frown creased Waverley’s forehead, “What are you doing here, Miss Dancer?”

“I heard a rumour about the preparations in sickbay.  Have you found Mr Solo and Mr Kuryakin?”

Waverley sighed, “You may as well remain, Miss Dancer.  However, you will not be able to speak of this to anyone beyond this room.”

April nodded, struck by the gravity of his voice, “Yes, Sir.”

“Good.  Stand over there.”

April nodded and took her place with the nurses.  The air around them suddenly became taut and then a shimmering figure appeared between the two beds.  I have come as promised.  They all heard the words but they seemed to land in their heads without bypassing their ears.  The light surrounding the creature became brighter and then suddenly, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin appeared lying supine on the cots either side of the creature.  The Being might have smiled, Be well gentlemen, ladies.  And then it was gone.

Dr Fine stepped forward and began examining both men.  Half expecting them to awaken any minute, he cautiously lifted eyelids and, still unsure if both men were really unconscious or just extraordinarily good dissemblers, felt for each man’s pulse.  Finally, he straightened up and nodded to the nurses.  “They’re deeply asleep, and I don’t think an earthquake would waken them.”

The nurses nodded and then busied themselves around the supine forms, oxygen masks were slipped over both men’s faces; venflons inserted, i.v.’s hooked up; and catheters attached. Blood pressure cuffs were attached to each man’s left arm and heart; ECG Monitors were attached to each agent and Jonas watched as a thin green line snaked across each screen.  Throughout the procedure both men lay silent beneath the ministrations of the nurses. 

“Kind’ve creepy to see them like this,” one of them remarked.  “I keep expecting one or the other to awaken and fight me.”

“I think they’ll be all right,” Dr Fine gave them a tight-lipped smiled, “as far as I can tell, it’s as if they’re deeply anæsthetised.  Heart, pulse and breathing regular, I want ten minute vitals, pulse, breathing, blood pressure.”

All the nurses nodded and Jonas stepped back, he glanced across at Waverley, “They’ll be all right, Sir.”

Waverley nodded slowly, “Let me know.” Was all he said before turning and leaving the room.

He could hear the sound of beeping and recognised the antiseptic smell of Sick Bay.  He grimaced slightly, he hated Sick Bay.  He would heal better if he was left alone to sleep and heal. He wondered vaguely where he was, it didn’t seem to be the place he had half awoken before. 

Slowly he opened his eyes and stared up at the familiar ceiling.  A face bent over his own and he recognised April.  “Illya,” she said gently, “can you hear me?”

“April,” he croaked, “where-”

“You’re safe,” she said gently, “in Sick Bay.”

He tried to swallow, to get some saliva into his mouth and then she was gently removing the mask and lifting his head, holding the straw to his lips.   He sucked gratefully and then shook his head.  April lowered his head to the pillow and one of the nurses used a towel to gently wipe away the trickle of water that had slipped from the corner of his mouth. 

“Do you want to sit up?” April asked gently.

Illya nodded slowly.  He moved his arms to try and push himself up but discovered to his horror that he was as weak as a kitten.  April stepped back and the two nurses moved to stand either side of  the bed, “If we assist you, Mr Kuryakin, do you promise not to attack us?”

He nodded and allowed them to help him into a sitting position, grimacing as they straightened the bedsheets.  April came and sat next to the bed, “How’re you doing?” she asked gently. 

Illya managed a wan smile, “Napoleon?” he asked quickly. 

“Here,” one of other nurses said, and Illya turned his head to see his companion fast asleep in the bed next to him.

“Slava bogu,” he muttered.  Praise God.

Napoleon stirred and opened his eyes.  He stared up at the ceiling for a moment or two and then April was bending over him, her eyes holding his, a hand on the mattress.  “It’s all right, Napoleon.  You’re safe.”

“April?” Napoleon queried.

“That’s right.  Are you thirsty?” April asked gently.

Napoleon nodded and one of the nurses held the straw to his lips.  He sucked thirstily and then shook his head.  Two nurses helped sit him up and April smiled at him, “Feeling better?”

He nodded and then turned his head to see Illya regarding him quietly.  “We’re back.” He said quietly.

Illya smiled tiredly, “Safe, moy drug.”

My friend. Napoleon thought.  He managed a smile at his friend, “You all right?”

Illya nodded, his eyes sliding shut and dropping into sleep.  Napoleon’s forehead creased in a frown as Dr Fine bent over his colleague and carefully examined him.  He straightened up and smiled at Napoleon.  “He’s just asleep, Mr Solo.  I suggest you do the same.”

Napoleon smiled tiredly, “Thanks, Doc.” His eyelids flickered and he dropped into slumber.

Dr Fine regarded his two sleeping patients and sighed.  Running a hand across his face he turned to the to the others, “That was-”

“Supernatural?” April queried.

“That will suffice, Miss Dancer.” Dr Fine smiled, “ladies, it was an honour and a pleasure.  Keep an eye on our two patients, Miss Dancer and I will see you later.”

Waverley was sitting in his office when Miss Dancer and Dr Fine entered the room.  Jonas pulled out a chair for April and then he sat down himself, “Mr Solo and Mr Kuryakin regained consciousness again about ten minutes ago.  Both were lucid although they went back to sleep almost immediately.  I think after a good rest they’ll be all right.”

Waverley steepled his fingers in front of his face and looked thoughtful, “Very good.  The big question is ‘Now what?’”

“What about Mr Slate and I being on an ultra secret mission to retrieve them?” April asked.  “We could move them to the safe house on the edge of the city, then we could go and fetch them.  A little make-up, a few faux scars-” she smiled, “plus a few hints and the rumour mill will do the rest.”

“What do you think, Jonas?” Waverley asked.

Dr Fine pursed his lips thoughtfully.  “Very well.  We’ll wait until the graveyard shift.”

When the hospital was quiet, the two men were wheeled from Medical to a dark-coloured van parked conveniently close to one of their entrances.  Dr Fine had tried to dismiss the nurses but they’d shaken their heads and then the Head Nurse explained, “You might still need us, Sir.  We can help.”

He had nodded, and watched as two nurses climbed into the cab of the ambulance, while the others climbed into the back.  Then the vehicle started up and quietly moved away into the night.

Waverley briefed Dancer and Slate in his office twenty minutes later, making sure that his door was uncharacteristically open and knowing that both of them were surreptitiously watched by the majority of UNCLE’s employees as they left the building.  Both agents slipped out of the back entrance.

Illya half awoke in the safe house as the technicians were applying the blood substitute.  He blinked haziliy at Agent Slate, trying to get his eyes to focus.  Mark had noticed that his eyes were half-open and laying a hand on the bed he spoke firmly and clearly, “Illya, we’ve got to make it look as though you were injured and we’ve mounted a rescue attempt – all right?”

Illya nodded briefly before closing his eyes and sliding back into sleep.  The make-up artist finished his work and then nodded to Dancer and Slate.  “I’m done,” he said quickly.

People watched with a mixture of horror and fascination as two unconscious, blood-covered bodies were rushed down the corridors leading to UNCLE’s Sick Bay.  Slate and Dancer followed wearily, and then suddenly Waverley was there, staring at the closed doors, a cigar in his mouth.  “Agent Slate, Agent Dancer, my office.”

“Sir,” they replied in unison and followed their superior officer.  Waverley allowed the door to his office to slide shut and then he turned to both of them.  “Well done,” he said. “Do you think our little subterfuge worked?”

“I think so, Sir,” Agent Dancer replied.  “Everyone saw them being brought back, I think we got away with it.”

“I hope so, Agent Dancer, I truly hope so.”  Waverley smiled thinly, “Dismissed.”

As they turned to go, he said quietly, “Give my regards to Mr Solo and Mr Kuryakin.”

April gave the slightest of nods to let him know that she’d heard him and then Waverley was alone. 

He moved to his desk, filling his pipe and tamping down the contents with his thumb.  It was as he was holding a match to the bowl that the figure shimmered into existence in front of him.  Waverley was so shocked that he dropped the match. 

“Christ Almighty!”  He stared at the figure, unsure of how to address it.

You are still concerned about them.  The voice was gentle, but firm.

“Yes,” Waverley replied.

Your ruse has worked I think – and you need not fear.  Your men will probably sleep for another forty-eight hours.  They will be all right.

“Do I have your word?” Waverley demanded.

The Being seemed to smile and then cocked its head on one side, You show great courage, Alexander Waverley to demand favours from us.

“I care about my men,” Waverley retorted, his teeth clamping down on the mouthpiece.

We know.  But you have something more than our word – you have our promise.  They will be fine and retain only good memories of their experience.

“Thank you,” Waverley replied.

The Being didn’t reply, just regarded him coolly for a moment or two and then gave him the briefest of nods.  Waverley returned the gesture and then he was alone.  Finally lighting his pipe, he left his office and headed down to Sickbay.

Dr Fine met him at the door, “Glad you came down, Alex.”

“Is there a problem?” Waverley asked.

“I took the liberty of assessing both men on the Glasgow Coma Scale when they first arrived,” Dr Fine began, “they both registered at about 8-9.”

“And now?” Waverley asked.

“Better.  Now I’d place them at 11-12, and I think they’ll have recovered completely in two or three days.”

Waverley smiled at his friend, “This is difficult for you, isn’t it, Jonas?”

“You might say that,” Jonas Fine looked at his friend, “but we’re glad to have them back aren’t we, Alex?”

“We are, Jonas, we are,” Waverley replied, sucking on his pipe as he regarded the sleeping bodies of his two best agents.

April Dancer quietly opened the door, she’d changed into a dress and tied her hair back, “Sir,” she acknowledged, nodding to Mr Waverley.

“All your reports finished up, Miss Dancer?” Waverley asked.

“Yes, Sir,” April replied, “they’re on your desk.”

“Don’t stay too long, Miss Dancer,” Waverley said as he left the room, “I need my agents fit when they go out on assignment.”

“Yes, Sir,” April replied, her eyes fixed on Napoleon’s sleeping figure..

“Make sure that she goes home,” Waverley murmured to Dr Fine.

“Yes, Alex,” Jonas replied softly.

April sat down on the chair next to Napoleon’s bed and watched him sleep.  He frowned, his forehead puckering, shifting position and she was on her feet, one hand on the mattress as she leant over him, “Napoleon, it’s all right.  You’re safe in Medical.  It’s all right.”

He forced open heavy eyelids and stared up into her dark eyes, “Are you thirsty?” she asked softly.

Napoleon nodded silently, he felt the head of the bed raised and then a nurse was holding a cup for him.  Shakily he reached out a hand for the cup and his mouth twisted in a scowl as his trembling fingers knocked the edge of the cup and some of the water spilled onto the sheet.  April merely took his hand and wrapped it more firmly around the vessel.  He flashed her a grin and this time managed to get the straw to his mouth.  He sucked gratefully and then leant back against the pillows.  “Better now?” April asked quietly.

“Yeah,” Napoleon managed to smile at her, suddenly a frantic expression crossed his face and he jerked upright, “Illya!”

“He’s all right, Mr Solo,” one of the other nurses spoke.  Napoleon turned his head and saw Illya’s bed being raised and another nurse holding a cup for him.  Relieved he turned back to April. 

“How do you feel?” April asked.

“Washed out,” Napoleon admitted, he squeezed April’s hand.  “Thanks for being here.”

“That’s all right, Napoleon, honey.” April bent to gently brush his lips with her own and then raised her head.  “Both of you get some sleep, all right?  I’ll see you again tomorrow.”  She looked across at Illya, including him in the conversation.

Both men nodded and April stood up from the bed and smiled, “Get some sleep, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

When they were alone, Dr Fine cleared his throat, “Now, gentlemen, I really need to check your vital signs, and I’d really like to do it with the minimum of fuss, all right?”

Reluctantly, both men nodded and Jonas carried out his examinations.  As he had said, he was quick.  When he’d finished he smiled down at both men.  “I think you’re both well on the way to recovery,” he said.  “I’ll see you both in the morning.”

When they were alone, and the lights had been dimmed, Illya looked across at his friend, “Do you think it’s over?” he asked quietly.

“I think so, moy drug,” Napoleon replied.  “Although when we get out of here I have one more thing to do.”

“Me too,” Illya replied, “someone out there likes us.”

“Definitely,” Napoleon replied. 

Illya didn’t reply, merely turned on his side so that he was looking at his friend’s face.  Eventually he drifted into sleep.  Napoleon looked across at his friend and was glad when he saw that he was sleeping.  He rolled over so that he was facing his friend and closed his eyes, relaxing into sleep himself.

The following morning, Dr Fine released both men.  “Take care of each other,” he ordered firmly, “I would rather not see either of you for a while.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Napoleon said, shaking his hand.

“It’s kind of you to thank me, Mr Solo,” Jonas replied, “but on this occasion I cannot take the credit.  Look after yourselves.”

“We will, Doctor,” Illya assured him, also shaking the physician’s hand.

“Where are we going?” Illya asked as they left UNCLE Headquarters.

“I thought you might like to stay with me for a couple of days,” Napoleon interjected quietly.

“I’d like that,” Illya responded quietly.  Napoleon drew his car up in front of a church and Illya looked up, “Why are we stopping here?”

“There’s something I need to do,” Napoleon said quietly, “do you want to wait out here, I won’t be long.”

“Actually, Napoleon, I think I’ll come in with you this time,” Illya replied, unbuckling his seat belt.

The church was cool and quiet.  Illya watched as Napoleon genuflected and then easing himself into the one of the pews, knelt on the hassock and closed his eyes.  Illya sat next to his friend staring at the altar.  After about five minutes Napoleon opened his eyes and eased himself back onto the seat. 

“You came to give thanks,” Illya said slowly.

“Yes,” Napoleon replied, he regarded his friend thoughtfully.

A small door behind the altar opened and a tall, dark-haired man in a cassock entered the church.  He paused to genuflect before the altar before turning to the two men.  “Good afternoon,” he smiled, “I’m Father John, Pastor of St. Michael’s.”

Napoleon stood up, extending a hand, “Napoleon Solo, Father.  This is my friend, Illya Kuryakin.”

The Pastor shook hands with both men, “Can I help in any way?” he asked.

Napoleon shook his head, “Our jobs don’t really allow us much time to attend church, Father, and my friend doesn’t really believe in God.”

“But you are here anyway,” Father John replied, a smile touching the strong lips.

“Yes,” Illya replied, “it is a paradox is it not?”

“Sometimes things of the spirit are a paradox, Mr Kuryakin,” the priest replied.  “Stay as long as you wish, and if you need any assistance, feel free to call on me.”  He smiled and then returned to the vestry.

“Thank you,” Napoleon replied.

Illya watched as his friend lit two small votive candles in front of the image of what he recognised as the Virgin Mary.  Napoleon turned and smiled, “Ready to go, moy drug?”

“Ready,” Illya smiled and as Napoleon walked past him down the nave, Illya fell into step behind him.

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