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The Master

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MFU 10

"Wake up, Blondie. Rise and shine."

Illya groaned and rolled over, hitting the wall. He brought his arm up to cover his eyes, the bright light making him squint. "Where am I?"

"Wooboy, you were really out of it," Hank looked down at him from the top bunk. "It's time we got to work. At least the Captain isn't making you scrub the decks." He jumped down and pulled Illya out. "On the bright side, we get to eat first. I gotta hand it to UNCLE, they got us a first class cook."

Hank led until they were on the deck and Illya stopped and saw nothing but water as far as the eye could see.

"We're at sea!" Illya shouted over the noise.

Hank laughed as if Illya had said the funniest thing in the world and continued to lead them to the mess.

The food was not fancy, but it was plentiful and edible. His suspicious mind had him surreptitiously checking the other men out as they ate. Unlike his previous experience on board, this crew seemed to be content with their jobs. They teased each other and drew Illya in for his share. Illya worked hard, but most of it indoors and he enjoyed it, which was surprising since he hated the sea.

The work was hard, but mindless, so it was almost like a vacation after what he'd been through in the last six months. The crew, rather than shunning him, always seemed happy to see him. As it was, some of the crew were actually openly affectionate with each other and nobody said a word. The fact that his addition made their workload a little lighter didn't hurt either, but Illya welcomed it anyways.

Two weeks later, he'd gained weight and muscle mass. He was wearing borrowed clothing, he needed a shave and his hair was longer. Captain Morton had ordered him to get it cut several times already. He'd come aboard with nothing but the clothing on his back, the guitar and that damn reel. In short order he'd managed to barter his singing skills for things he could use.

He knew they were going to be docking in a day or so and he wasn't sure he was ready. At least the crew took him at face-value and didn't judge him. As long as he did his work and wasn't slacking off everyone was fine. He was content and he seriously considered asking Captain Morton if he could possibly stay as part of the regular crew.

He was knee-deep in grease as he cleaned the inside of one of the engines, doing maintenance when Morton ordered his immediate presence to the bridge over the loudspeaker. Cleaning up was not an option. He double timed it to the bridge, slowing down when he noticed that they had pulled alongside a cruise ship.

"Kuryakin, you need to pack up and be ready to move out," Morton ordered. "Yon ship awaits."

Hank met him at the door with a duffle bag and a big grin. Illya was led to a rope ladder hooked to the vessel. The cruise ship was several times the size of Morton's ship, which was quite large. Several of the crew where there to see him off and with great reluctance he started climbing.

He dropped his duffle once he was safely aboard and saluted the first mate. The man returned the salute and said, "Welcome aboard." Then he proceeded to escort Illya to the bridge. Illya followed along, he came to attention and saluted the Captain who moved aside and exposed the man standing behind him - Napoleon Solo.

***

Illya stared in shock. Napoleon grinned just before he rushed over, picking Illya up and twirling him around making him dizzy. Illya was ever more surprised when Napoleon pulled him close and planted a big kiss on his lips. Just as suddenly Napoleon pulled away and looked around to make sure no one was looking, which kind of pissed Illya off. Illya could imagine Napoleon doing what he just did to a woman, but to him? What was he thinking?

While Napoleon appeared flushed and somewhat embarrassed, it was obvious to Illya that no one seemed to find anything unusual. Illya was not too pleased when Napoleon hurriedly ushered him off the bridge and took him by the hand pulled him through the ship. The last time he'd done something like that it made sense, Illya had been drugged and didn't even know his own name. He felt like digging in his heels and demanding answers before they went any further.

Once they got to the next level and people were swirling around, Napoleon dropped Illya's hand and merely guided until they got to one of the elevators. At each level, the elevator filled and Illya was squished to the back, clinging the duffle bag tightly to his chest.

There were so many woman on board and the perfume smell was stifling in the end Illya had to hold his breath. Illya kept his eyes on Napoleon, who had somehow managed to be standing near the buttons. When Napoleon moved to step out of the elevator, Illya pushed his way through the hoard of women using his duffle as a shield. It didn't do him any good as they took advantage to pinch him on the butt.

Napoleon's look of amusement was not lost on Illya. As he left the elevator, Illya turned and glared at the giggle gaggle of women while rubbing his rear. As happy as Illya was to see Napoleon, at that moment he would have gladly hit him. He settled for following him down the hall.

Napoleon stopped in front of one of the cabins, looked both ways down the hall, then quickly unlocked the door and dragged Illya into it.

"Where have you been?" he demanded.

Illya cocked one brow. "Isn't that my line?"

Napoleon's mouth open and shut a few times. "Have you any idea what I've been going through the past few weeks?"

"Probably the same as me," Illya responded. He looked around the small cabin, tossed his duffle bag on the bed and sank down next to it.

Napoleon quickly recapped what he'd been doing starting with awaking in his bed in New York. Both of Illya's brows rose at that information, but he kept quiet until Napoleon finished. "Waverly refused to let me go hunting for you. Everyone else acted like you didn't exist, except for Mandy and Doc Wilds. He told me I should backtrack you. Oh, and by the way your medical file is missing." Napoleon paced back and forth, talking a mile a minute. "I wasn't sure if you wore dead or alive. I thought I was going crazy." Just then there was a knock on the door. Napoleon brought his finger to his lips and cautiously opened the door.

"Napoleon Solo. We were supposed to meet for lunch," a beautiful blonde complained. Then she noticed Illya. "Who's he?"

"Margo, Illya Kuryakin. An associate who will be helping with this assignment. Illya, this is Margo Lane. Waverly volunteered us to escort her on this cruise." Napoleon notice that Margo was turning her nose up at Illya's attire. In the short time he'd been on this assignment he notice that while she was lovely to look at, she was a snob. "Illya's working as part of the crew," he explained.

"In that outfit. Not on this ship. The crew on this tub have better taste." She changed the subject. "What was the hullabaloo with that tiny boat just now? This ship isn't supposed to stop until we reach Jamaica."

Napoleon ushered her to the door. "Haven't the faintest clue. Why don't we meet you for supper at the Captain's Table?"

"If you bring him, at least make sure he's suitably dress," Margo ordered as she was pushed out the door.

"I'll do that," Napoleon said as he gave her a final push and slammed the door in her face.

"Sorry to disappoint you, Napoleon, but this is all I have in the way of attire." Illya waved his hand indicating his current state of dress.

Napoleon waved that away as inconsequential. "You know what I've been up to. What about you?"

Illya started on his adventures since they last saw each other. "As much as I enjoyed your greeting, I'm still pretty much in the dark as to what is going on."

Napoleon sank onto the bed. "If I didn't know better, I'd think the Master was behind all this."

"Are we sure that he is dead. The body could have been wax for all we know."

"What about Father Peter? He seemed pretty sure."

"Are we even sure that the Master had a brother? We only have his word. The body could be padding."

Napoleon could only agree.

Illya grew thoughtful, then began digging through his duffle. "Perhaps the clue is here?" he said as he pulled the reel of film out of his pack.