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The End of a Brief Episode

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It had been the worst mission Napoleon could recall and considering some of the missions of the past, that was not a statement to be taken lightly. A female THRUSH agent had been undercover for a very long time - long enough that she had wed a man totally ignorant of her other life and raised a family with him solely to improve her cover.

Why was he so sure that it was duty and not love that had formed the family? Because she sacrificed everything in order to throw UNCLE off long enough for her to put some distance between her and the agents. The look of shock on her husband's face was as telling as the bullet hole between his eyes. Three of their four children had met a similar fate with only the youngest spared. It had been the timely arrival of April and Mark that had caused her to flee before completing the annihilation of the entire family.

The child, a small girl of perhaps eighteen months, reminded Mark of Illya. In fact, he handed the child over to Illya before taking himself to the nearby bushes and throwing up. Napoleon was already comforting April away from the house - which proved to be fortunate as that meant they were all clear of the building when an explosive device went off somewhere in the bowels of the house, setting it on fire. The girl, who had been quiet until that time, began weeping and Illya cuddled her closely. speaking soothingly as he took her further away from what little was left of all that she had ever known.

With her pale coloration, blonde hair and pale blue eyes, everyone that saw them together thought they were father and daughter as he walked with her to a nearby park. He found himself thinking that this was a neighborhood that a movie would use to show that a place was typically American. Neat, picket lined yards bordered by pristine sidewalks leading to a small, well-maintained park with a play area for the children. A perfect neighborhood. A perfect cover.

Illya impulsively kissed the girl on her forehead. His own childhood had been nothing to brag about, but at least he had known his family had both wanted and loved him. The part of him that still believed in God prayed that she would not remember any of this when she was older and that no-one would tell her what the woman that had given birth to her had done.

Hearing the sirens from fire trucks approaching, Illya walked a bit faster so the noise would not further upset the girl. A bit of embroidery on the girl's top showed her name was Maribeth.

"It may not seem like it now, Maribeth, but things will be better than today for you. We will find you a nice place to be. Far from that nasty bird that flew away."

Illya had no doubt that the Waverlys would make use of their many connections to find the child a good home and insure the THRUSH woman would never even catch sight of the girl again. As for his words, Maribeth likely didn't understand a thing he had said, but the tone of Illya's voice and the use of her name had her calm again.

The strangeness and excitement seemed to have worn her out and Maribeth's eyes drooped as her thumb worked it's way into her mouth. Illya smoothed the fine blonde hair and began to softly sing the first song that came to his mind. Hardly a lullaby, but the Sinatra song could pass for one if the words were not taken into account. As he continued to sing softly, both of their eyes closed. Hers in sleep, his in sorrow.

"i could tell you a lot ~ But you got to be true ~ To your code ~ So make it one for my baby ~ And one more for the road."

He was still singing to the sleeping girl when Napoleon quietly made his way over to the park bench. And if Napoleon happened to notice the moisture that was lingering on the cheeks of his friend and partner, he was kind enough not to mention it.