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The Master

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Illya had literally no memory of how they made it back to New York and quite frankly he was afraid to ask. He looked up as his partner slipped into the booth across from him and waved the waitress over.

"So he's really dead?" Illya asked after they'd ordered and sent the waitress away.

"Looks that way. It was a pretty elaborate plot if he isn't." Napoleon took a sip of water.

Illya shivered. All things considered anything was possible.

"Oh, here." Napoleon pulled a crumple envelope from his pocket and passed it over.

"Where did you get this?" Illya cautiously opened it and looked up questioningly.

"It was... ah... on the body. Can you read it?"

Illya studied the sheets which contained hieroglyphics and slowly shook his head. "It is nothing that I recognize," Illya said handing it back.

Napoleon grunted as he put the envelope away. "On the bright side, both our missions were deemed a success and nothing has been reported on our other little adventure." Once their food was served, Napoleon continued. "I, for one, am glad that all this is behind us."

Illya snorted. "Perhaps it is for you," he muttered.

Napoleon looked up in surprise. "Illya, nobody cares."

"Trust me somebody does," Illya asserted.

"Let me rephrase that. Nobody who counts cares. I certainly don't."

"Let's see how you feel when someone calls you a pansy."

Napoleon chewed his food as he thought this through. "I suppose I could make it easy for them. Walk with a swish and start talking with a lisp. Besides the last time we talked about this, you weren't even sure that you are... you know... that way."

"See, you can't even say it." Illya pointed his knife at his partner.

Napoleon sighed. "You really need to talk to someone."

Illya glared, threw down his napkin and left.

Napoleon's eyes followed the irate Russian, then he looked at the empty plate that he left. At least Illya's appetite was still good. He was just debating with himself about following Illya when his communicator went beep, beep, beep.

Napoleon looked furtively around before pulling out his pen. "Solo here."

"Mr. Waverly would like to see you in his office immediately for a new assignment." The curt order was in a voice he didn't recognize.

"Shall I pick up Mr. Kuryakin on my way?"

There was a rustle of paper heard on the line. "Mr. Kuryakin's presence was not requested." Before he could respond, the connection was cut.

With a frown, Napoleon put away his communicator and waved down a waitress for his check. Not surprising Illya had left him with the bill.

Twenty minutes later Napoleon pulled up in front of Del Floria's and trotted down the stairs. Tossing a salute to the man behind the counter, Napoleon slipped into the middle booth and turned the hook that let him into U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. Fortunately the girl behind the desk was one of his favorites and flirted just the right amount before pinning on his badge.

He walked down the steel lined hallway and got cheery smiles right and left and wondered what Illya's problems were. Nobody was giving him any grieve. That is until he got to Waverly's office.

The woman sitting at the desk was not Lisa Rogers, Waverly's usual secretary. Even Lisa's formal politeness was warmer than the coldness of the new girl. "Mr. Waverly is waiting." No small talk there.

"Have a seat," Waverly ordered the moment Napoleon came through the door.

Even before Napoleon was settled into his seat, the round table was spinning in his direction and a folder coming to rest in front of him. He slid the folder closer and studied the papers within. As assignments went, this was one was difficult, but not impossible. "Just Illya's cup of tea, when do we leave sir?" He looked up with a smile.

Waverly looked ticked off. "Surely there is someone else other than Mr. Kuryakin who is capable of assisting on this assignment."

Napoleon thought about it. "Not if you want this ending quickly and successfully."

Waverly stood up so suddenly that Napoleon feared he'd have a stroke. "Are you questioning my judgment?"

"No, sir," Napoleon tried to be reasonable. "I just feel that the mission will be better served if he has my back."

Waverly hmmphed. "Contact travel about your arrangements."

And just like that Napoleon knew that he had won. It took extreme effort, but he managed to keep the triumphant expression off his face. However, he was unprepared for the glare that he received from Lisa's replacement, which had him wondering just what was going on.

A quick trip to Travel and then Napoleon headed for the commissary for some much needed coffee... and maybe something sweet. The whole conversation with Waverly was strange. The assignment wasn't so much complicated as requiring special skills, skills that Illya had in spades. From the looks of it, it would require a skin diving expert, someone good at breaking and entering and a demolition expert. It might even require a disguise. They would know more once they got there. He himself could handle most of those requirements, but Illya... he could have done the assignment all on his own. Recruiting the damsel needed might prove a problem. However it was a problem he was perfectly willing to solve.

He settled down with his coffee and pulled out the paper, that was the only thing left from their misadventure with The Master. He was so intent on trying to figure it out he didn't notice Mandy entering the commissary and rushing over to his table.

"Hi, Napoleon, I was passing by Travel and they had your tickets ready, so I offered to bring them to you," Mandy cheerfully spouted. Then she spotted the paper on the table. "Oh, I haven't seen one of these is ages," She settled across from Napoleon and pulled the paper to her. With quick motions, she folded the paper until a message that made sense appeared.

Napoleon took back the paper and stared. A grin spread over his face. "Mandy, I could kiss you."

"By all means," Mandy said enthusiastically. She leaned forward, closed her eyes and pursed her lips.

Napoleon leaned forward and chastely kissed her on the forehead.

By the time she opened her eyes and looked around, he was gone and so was the paper puzzle.

Napoleon pulled out his communicator and activated it as he hopped into his car. "Illya, you mangy Russian. I hope your bag is packed, we have an assignment."

"You sound mighty chipper," the gruff voice groused.

"Yes, yes, yes." He looked at the folded paper lying on the seat. "Pick you up in twenty."