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The Master

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MFU 6

Twenty-five minutes later, Napoleon pulled up in front of Illya's apartment building.

"You're late," Illya groused as he tossed his suitcase into the back seat. He paused, picking up the folded paper lying in the front seat before sliding in to sitting down. "What is this?" he asked as he studied it, his eyebrows going up as he recognized the familiar paper. He scowled, disgusted when he realized that he should have been able to figure this puzzle out himself.

The message was now clear. A location. The question was - how do they get to it? Illya no sooner thought it when a pair of tickets slap against his chest.

"Our next assignment," Napoleon informed Illya without taking his eyes off the road.

Checking the packets, one of Illya's eyebrows rose. "Did you know that one of these is first class?"

"Are you sure. It's not like the Old Man to spring for first class. Whose is it?"

Illya checked the name on the ticket. "Yours."

"There's gotta be some kind of mistake. We'll fix it at the airport."

"Welcome to my world," was Illya's snide retort. It seemed to Illya that ever since he'd returned after The Master's Affair that he'd been getting the short end of the stick.

Napoleon gripped the steering wheel firmly, his jaw tightened as he came to the realization that even if they managed to find whatever it was that the Master had left, it was too late to change people's opinion about the man that Illya was. It looked like he was going to have to come up with more than one strategy on this mission.

At the airport Napoleon turned on his charm and the two agents ended up in first class. The first class seats gave them plenty of room to review the assignment and make contingency plans. One of the stewardesses appeared to be enamored by his Russian partner and some flirting back and forth ensued, much to Napoleon's delight. It bothered him that Illya was being treated differently over something that might not even be true. He hoped whatever they found once they followed up on the clue The Master had left would help and not hurt Illya's reputation any worse than it already was. Frankly he'd always thought that Illya didn't care what people thought of him, but evidently he was wrong. It was rapidly coming to his attention that Napoleon didn't know his partner as well as he thought he did.

The mission should have gone well. Illya did his part, Napoleon executed his bit just the way it was planned. Unfortunately, the Innocent he'd recruited had other ideas. Maybe, just maybe, Napoleon might have gone overboard on the charm. In the end Illya came to his rescue and they managed to complete the assignment.

Napoleon called in the results and manage to talk Waverly into letting them have two extra days before having to come into headquarters. He wasn't going to correct Waverly's illusion that the tropical scenery was his reason for staying.

Napoleon closed off his communicator, pleased with the results. He looked up to find Illya paused in the middle of packing.

"What are you up to, Napoleon?"

"I thought a little R & R might be a good thing."

"For you, maybe. Half-naked women don't do it for me."

"Oh, and just what does turn you on?"

Illya grabbed a nearby pillow and threw it at Napoleon, muttering, "Sexist pig."

Catching the projectile, Napoleon laughed. He'd caught the twinkle in Illya's eyes, not to mention, the small smile that let him know Illya was not seriously upset. He pulled out the folded slip of paper and beckoned Illya over.

Illya shook his head. "What's the point in looking into this, Napoleon? The damage is done."

"Aren't you even curious?"

Illya took the paper from him and studied it closely. Napoleon leaned back and watched his partner fondly, taking in the delicate manner in which he held the paper. Thinking on it, there were certain other little things that should have been a clue. Mannerisms that he never really noticed before.

He'd always cared about how Illya felt, mainly because it seemed nobody else did. He waited patiently for Illya's response.

Illya looked at him. "You really want to check this out, don't you?"

"Yes, I think this is something you need. We need."

At the word we, Illya looked like he wanted to argue the point, but he shut his mouth and went back to his packing. Soon enough they were off and Waverly was none the wiser.

As soon as they checked out, they made their way to the airport and boarded a private plane, courtesy of Napoleon's connections. A short flight over the deep blue sea, over several Caribbean Islands to the land of Brazil. First off, they hired a jeep to take them into the forest, eventually they ended up riding in a donkey-drawn cart.

The cart stopped in front of an ancient building.

"Is that what I think it is?" Illya asked, as he tilted his head back to take it all in.

Before Napoleon had a chance to answer the huge door creaked open. It revealed a small man, dressed in a brown robe and the cut of his hair quickly identifying him as a monk. Without a word he beaconed them inside. They exchanged looks, remembering times when they'd dealt with monks before. But in Brazil?

Their guide led them down corridors and upstairs until they arrived at a set of double doors. He opened each door wide and gestured for them to proceed him. Reluctantly the two entered and there sitting behind a ornate wooden desk, they came face-to-face with The Master.