Napoleon moved through the devastation that was once his living room, without noticing it and walked directly up to agent Emerson, who was chief of the security division for Section Five. "David, have your teams found anything? Other than the obvious, that is.”
Emerson looked at Solo, somewhat stunned. "Napoleon, I was given to understand that you weren't part of this investigation, for rather obvious reasons."
Solo lifted an eyebrow, replying archly, "Well, considering the obvious I would think it would be hard for me not to be part of the investigation. Don't you agree?"
Emerson nodded slowly, knowing suddenly that Solo was not in a mood for debates or conversation. "My orders come directly from Mr. Waverly. I report to Kuryakin or Waverly. No one else.” As the dangerous glint in Napoleon's eyes grew, Emerson added, somewhat nervously, "I'm sorry Napoleon, I just can't."
Before Solo had a chance to fire off a reply, Illya broke the stalemate, snapping out, "Then report to me now. Tell me what you've found and Napoleon, you can listen. Does that satisfy both of you?”
Napoleon jolted, not having heard Illya's approach. He looked at his partner and saw the anger and pain Illya couldn't completely mask anymore. It saddened him more than he could say as Napoleon knew he was the cause of both emotions. Still, he managed to nod his agreement as Emerson let out a large sigh of relief.
"No fingerprints found on any of the photos. Several have been found throughout the rooms but it will take time to sort out which belong to Napoleon, you, and various other 'safe' persons. It could be some time before we have any information from that."
He walked over to the balcony and gestured for Solo and Kuryakin to follow as he continued, "At first glance, there appears to be no forced entry. But if you look closely at the locking mechanism, you can see scratches.” He pointed to the outside lock on one of the French balcony doors.
At this point, Solo interrupted. "If it was forced, how did someone get up here? This is the fortieth floor," he paused as he mentally answered his own question seconds before speaking it. "Of course, the roof.”
Emerson nodded, pleased. "Yes, we found marks from a grappling hook."
Solo shook his head. "That doesn't explain the alarm. This," he paused, gesturing to the chaos in the room, "took time to do. How was that by-passed?"
Illya moved to stand shoulder to shoulder with his partner, as this had been his main concern as well.
The agent shrugged. "I don't know what to tell you about that. We traced all activity on it. It was coded. How someone could override it, I don't know. But that has security in a tizzy. No one, but no one, should have been able to do that."
Illya was furious. "And what is security planning to do to make certain it never happens again? I don't want another breach here, or they will answer to me."
Emerson bit his lip knowing the threat was heartfelt. "Our security chief is good, Illya. You know that. Richard is just as steamed about this as you are. I spoke with him and he has personnel on the way to rip out the existing system and replace it with the same security system used in the office. It's the best there is. And he's already assigned security details to all entry and exit points in the building."
Illya gave a grudging nod of satisfaction as Napoleon listened, somewhat stunned at the extreme measures being taken. He was somewhat humbled that he was the cause of all this activity. Humbled and more than a little embarrassed, which, of course, made him angry.
He pinned the nervous agent with a scathing gaze. "Am I understanding you correctly? All you know is that someone, as of yet unknown, accessed the penthouse by the roof? All of this equipment and personnel tearing up my home and all you can tell me is something I could have discovered without your specialized assistance?"
Illya spoke sharply, "That is enough, Napoleon."
Solo bit back an angry retort, turned on his heel, and headed out into the hall. Illya felt a moment of panic before he saw Dancer and Slate launch off the sofa in pursuit. He turned to Emerson. "I will expect a full report on my desk first thing in the morning. I need that information."
Emerson gave a short nod and went over to confer with his agents and Illya flew out of the room, only to find his partner leaning against the wall just outside the door arguing with Mark and April. He leaned against the doorjamb, listening.
The anger in Solo's voice was rising. "I am through discussing this. It is not up for debate. We leave tomorrow as planned, unless Uncle Alex makes other arrangements.” He held up a hand, forestalling the argument on April's lips. "Not another word. Consider it an order, which it is. Am I being clear?"
Mark looked furious, as did April, but both nodded in reluctant agreement, knowing Solo had reached his limit.
Sensing his partner's presence without having seen him, Napoleon continued smoothly. "Now, both of you run along and pack. Illya, it seems, can't even let me leave a room without following me, so I think I'm amply protected."
Illya merely raised an eyebrow at the sarcastic tone, choosing not to rise to the bait and instead addressed Dancer and Slate. "Napoleon is right. I won't be leaving.” The anger he felt earlier flared again. "But we have much to discuss tomorrow. Do not think I will leave things as they are."
Mark raised a hand in compliance before he and April left quickly, eager to be away, even for just a short time.
Napoleon pushed off from the wall, cutting off Illya before he could start. "No. Whatever it is, no. Now, I'm gonna throw Emerson and his ilk out of my home."
Again, Illya bit back his reply and stood stiffly as Napoleon brushed past him, and started barking out orders to the agents on the scene.
He took a deep breath, pulled out his communicator and opened the channel.
"Kuryakin, here. I need Mr. Waverly, secure channel.”
While the operator pushed his request through, Illya peeked back inside the open door and winced. The agents were pulling all the photos into bags along with any other evidence, occasionally casting nervous glances at the scowling CEA standing in the center of the room, assuring the continued haste.
Kuryakin shook his head just as Waverly's voice echoed through the hallway.
"Waverly. We have a secure channel, Mr. Kuryakin. Report."
Illya walked slightly down the entry hall, not wanting to be overheard.
"Sir, I do not have much to report. Have you spoken with security yet?"
The older man grunted his displeasure. "Yes, I have indeed. I am deeply concerned that this … person was able to so easily override our security systems. I've made this a top priority in all relevant departments. Such breaches cannot happen again. This person must be found."
Kuryakin scowled. "I agree. Security breaches aside, my partner is in jeopardy. And for me, that cannot happen again.” Before Waverly could comment, Illya rushed on. "This has changed things somewhat, sir. How can one person be in two separate places? Gabal was murdered last night, and yet somehow this – person has managed to come halfway across the globe to set a most intricate stage today. Add to that the fact that Napoleon was being watched in the park earlier today as well. I know that was connected with this. This nemesis has an accomplice, possibly two. It is the only logical answer."
Waverly's voice filtered through the comm. "I am inclined to agree with you, Mr. Kuryakin. Have you turned up any useful information that might shed some light on the situation?"
Illya's reply was guarded. "It is too soon for me to say for certain. Better to say that I have found a thread to follow. But, sir, I strongly advise against Napoleon going to New Delhi. Let this would-be assassin come to us, where we can set our own trap.” Before Waverly could reply, Illya rushed on angrily. "And Napoleon will not have to rely on obviously inadequate back-up."
Waverly's voice was resigned. "That is not possible. Mr. Solo is critical to finding any resolution to the affair in New Delhi. Mr. Solo understands what awaits him and that gives him an edge. And I am certain I don't have to remind you of the importance of the UN conference. It is essential that its security not be contravened. If you feel Agents Slate and Dancer are inadequate, select an alternate team or teams."
Illya took a deep calming breath, knowing already how this was going to end but a small part of him hoped against hope that he was wrong. He steeled himself. "Have you given any consideration to what we discussed earlier, sir?"
"Yes, I have indeed. That is something we will discuss tomorrow."
"I will be going or Napoleon will not.” Illya's tone left no doubt as to the seriousness of this demand.
Waverly responded in kind. "Do not presume to tell me what is and is not to happen. You and Mr. Solo will do as ordered. Do I make myself clear, Mr. Kuryakin?"
Illya swore under his breath and gripped the silver pen tightly. He had only one option left and he took it without hesitation. "I understand, sir. And I cannot comply. Therefore, you have my resignation, effective immediately."
He closed the channel quickly and let out a shaky breath. The communicator shrilled instantly and his eyes closed, pained, as he silenced it once and for all, snapping the delicate instrument in two and calmly placing the pieces in his pocket.
Perhaps when this was over, he could make peace with Waverly, but nothing on earth would keep him from protecting his partner. He made a mental note to call April at home before the night was over. He still needed Emerson's report and April would have to get it. At least he had had the forethought to bring all of the pertinent information with him and would not be forced to ask her to break into his office.
He gave a frustrated sigh as he checked his watch, surprised to find it was only nine-thirty. It felt as though he'd already lived this day for a week now.
Illya winced as a loud commotion came from the penthouse followed by an angry roar from his partner. He counted to ten in Russian, French and English, and once more in German, before walking back to the opened door. He gave a passing thought to the good fortune of the penthouse taking the entire floor, as all this ruckus would have given the neighbors too much information and too much gossip.
He almost laughed at the scene inside the living room. The agents were scrambling now, gathering the remainder of scattered photos, throwing them and any other items of relevance into evidence bags under the scowling gaze of Napoleon Solo. Illya leaned casually against the doorjamb, and watched the frantic chaos, nodding as each agent left as quickly as possible, until only Emerson was left. After the agent was certain all evidence had been gathered from all rooms, he nodded briefly to Napoleon before making his way to the door. He gave Illya a consoling glance. "He will be absolute hell for you to handle tonight," he whispered before adding, more loudly, "I wish you fairer weather than I had.” He gave an oblivious Solo a reproachful gaze before heading out to the elevator.
Illya raised an eyebrow before closing the door and coding the alarm. He squared his shoulders and turned to face his partner, only to find him gone. Illya stalked down the hall to the bedroom and found Napoleon pulling out his suitcase. Without breaking stride, Illya walked over and pulled the suitcase out of Solo's hands and pointed to the bed. "Sit. Now.” His tone left no room for argument.
Solo cocked his head, regarded the Russian for a moment, contemplating just how angry Illya really was. "Illya, I–" He was cut off abruptly by Illya's sharp enjoinder of "Nyet" and the Russian's strong grip on his arm, pulling him to the bed, and shoving him down.
Before Solo could voice his indignation, Illya sat next to him and placed a restraining hand over his mouth. "This time you will listen to me.” Emotion shook him as he spoke and Napoleon merely nodded, too stunned by his partner's action to formulate words.
Illya slowly, regretfully, pulled his hand away, his appearance softening. "I understand why you do this. It makes sense to me now.” He glanced briefly down at his hands. "I have been almost as unreasonable as you.” The corner of his mouth curled up as he added, "Not quite, but almost.” Napoleon rewarded him with a small, somewhat sad smile. "I am meant to be helping you, not making things more difficult. Yet, that is what I have been doing. When this began, I told you I would be here for you, no matter what.” Illya quickly turned serious, locking gazes. "Do you believe New Delhi to be a trap?"
Solo didn't back down from the penetrating look, instead he drew strength from it, allowing him to scrutinize his partner just as completely. "Yes."
Illya let out a slow breath. "Kharasho. At least you still have that much sense."
Napoleon shot him a quelling look but made no reply.
Illya also remained silent, debating whether or not it was too soon to tell Napoleon of his findings.
As if he could read his thoughts, Solo gave him a searching look. "You've found something.” It was not a question.
The Russian growled in disgust. "Contrary to your assumptions, you cannot in fact read my mind."
Solo rolled his eyes. "A minor and arguable point that we can quibble over later. Spill, IK."
Illya sighed, resigned. "Very well. I sent inquiries to France. Inquiries into Marguerite's family as well as her aunt's physician."
Solo's expression was unreadable as he nodded for Kuryakin to continue.
"It was the logical place to start, Napoleon. And I did not wish to put you through an interrogation unless I had no other alternative."
The American's expression didn't change and his voice was devoid of any emotion. "What did you find, Illya.” Again, it was not a question.
"An agent from the field office in Paris was able to follow up several of the leads I'd requested. It seems Dr. Molyneux, Ms. DeChamps' physician, met his untimely demise in an auto accident two weeks ago."
Surprise flickered across his features and Illya was vaguely relieved to see emotion finally color those gaunt features.
"I also found that to be a very timely coincidence. But the most interesting piece to the puzzle was the interview with Julian's former wife, Michele LeSange.” Illya quizzed. "You knew her, did you not?"
Solo's expression was again inscrutable. "Yes, I knew her."
Illya's panic level was on the rise as he was completely unable to ascertain what thoughts were going around in his partner's mind. "I will let you read the transcripts of the conversations but she painted a most surprising portrait of Julian DeChamps. She said he was constantly trying to get money from the aunt and was most put out when she left it all to Marguerite. Do you know why she did this, Napoleon? Why she did not divide it equally between them?"
Without emotion, Solo replied, "Julian was rather a scoundrel, for want of a better word. Not really bad, but inclined in that direction. Any money he had went quickly through his fingers. Marguerite agreed with Marie. She would retain control of the estate until Julian proved he was ready for the responsibility. He never had the chance. He died shortly after."
Illya's brows drew together. "Michele said he was most bitter about it. Claims he told her more than once that he would get what was his."
Solo's expression was becoming more and more guarded with each word and Illya intently watched him while delivering this last piece of information. "Napoleon, she spoke of men that Julian had fallen in with. Rough men, men with connections. She knew the names of three of them. She called them 'le trois'. Richard, Roy and Roggio."
Solo's eyes went flat. "No. Goddammit, no!” He bolted off the bed, enraged.
Illya followed him. "Yes. Listen to me. He owed debts everywhere. He needed money. How he met these men, I do not know, yet. But he could not have foreseen that Marguerite would leave the wealth he so coveted to you. THRUSH wanted you, yes. But these men had a dual purpose that day. Don't you see? They would have killed her no matter what."
Napoleon was shaking, struggling to comprehend what Illya was telling him. He simply couldn't believe it. He leaned heavily against the wall, needing the solid support. His hands clenched tightly and his eyes closed as if that would block out the pain. He felt a warm hand hesitantly touch his shoulder and he stiffened. The hand withdrew quickly and Solo took several shaky breaths before he was able to turn around to face his partner's concerned gaze.
"What does this have to do with what's happening now? The bastard is dead. Beyond my reach and he sure as hell wouldn't call for revenge at her death if he were responsible for it.” Napoleon shook his head, confused. "No. It – there – he couldn't have."
Illya nodded warily. "I know this is hard for you to accept. I find it another inexplicable coincidence. It also supports my theory that this is the work of more than just one person. You must guard yourself every second in New Delhi, Napoleon."
Illya watched the play of emotions across his friend's face, wishing he could siphon some of the emotional torment that seemed to continue to batter the older man. He needed time to pull back and Illya, without hesitating, offered him the way. "What precautions will you take?"
Napoleon paused, not certain how to take the apparent reversal in his partner's thought process, let alone the sudden shift of topic. His brows drew together in confusion. "What's going on, Illya? One minute you're screaming at me for going and now you want to talk about what I should do when I'm there?"
Inwardly, Illya cursed. Apparently his partner was more together than he was. Nonchalantly, Illya shrugged and stood, pulling the abandoned suitcase on the bed, opening it, needing to do something to keep his hands from shaking. "You will go. Nothing I say can change this.” He turned, intending to go to the bureau and retrieve shirts to put in the case, but his partner's hand grasped his wrist tightly, pulling him back to stumble against the bed.
Napoleon's voice was harsh. "Not good enough, Illya. What game are you playing?"
Illya frowned, "I am playing no games, Napoleon. This is no game to me."
Solo cocked his head to the side. "Why do I get the feeling we're suddenly having two different conversations?"
For the first time, concern colored Napoleon's voice. "Illya?"
The Russian crossed the room, moving toward the door. He spoke without turning to face his partner. "I will do what I have to do to keep you alive. Nothing and no one will prevent it. I will not allow it." Committed to what he'd begun, Illya turned and reached out his hand. He asked softly, "Do you trust me?"
Napoleon didn't move. Couldn't. Illya's absolute devotion to him took his breath. He looked to the hand held out to him and felt the confusion inside of him growing, cascading over each nerve, and threatening to break the constraints he'd placed on his emotions. Then he heard those last words so softly spoken and the constraints were obliterated.
His breath caught in his throat. "Always, Illya, always."
Napoleon almost lost himself in the heat Illya exuded. He could feel the love and passion, and he wanted so much to reach out and just touch that fire, knowing Illya would never burn him. He drew in a sharp breath, startled by his thoughts. Where had that come from? He shook his head, clearing his mind. Napoleon looked back again to find Illya studying him, as though able to read exactly what he was thinking. Without even knowing he'd done it, Napoleon crossed the room and reached out for Illya's hand, his eyes never leaving those of his partner.
Illya swore at the interruption and Napoleon shook his head as if dazed, and he started to make his way out of the bedroom to answer the door.
Illya had other ideas. "Nyet. Stay; pack. I will deal with it."
Solo raised a caustic eyebrow and quipped, "Are you planning to lock me in the room or will I be allowed out once your overworked protective nature is satisfied?"
Illya simply glared in return before turning on his heel to answer the door.
He muttered all the way down the hall as the bell rang. Illya looked through the peephole to find April Dancer, looking none too happy. He dropped his forehead to the door for a moment before unlocking and opening it. As she stepped over the threshold, he pulled her back out into the hall.
April was stunned. "Illya!”
He looked back into the room but still no sign of Napoleon. He sighed in relief before turning his attention back to the startled agent. "I am sorry, April. Napoleon has no idea. And if you are here from Waverly," he added questioningly.
She nodded, her expression hardening again. "Well, that's what Mr. Waverly thought. So instead of contacting Solo about his ass of a partner, I get dragged back out here. Are you insane? Quitting, Illya? Quitting? Did you even give a thought to what you were doing?” She shook her head and pulled out a slim silver pen and placed it in his hand before continuing. "Since you weren't answering yours, Uncle Alex thought maybe you would be in need of a new one in case something went wrong tonight. You broke it, didn't you?”
Illya didn't deign to answer.
April smiled knowingly. "Yeah, thought so. Now, Waverly has to meet with you and Solo at eight in the morning, so he strongly suggests you be there early, say seven."
Illya started to hand the communicator back to her with accompanying comments but she stopped him before he started. "No, Illya. You need to see him. In addition to calling you several colorful names I'd no idea he knew, he said to tell you 'option three has possibilities', whatever the hell that means.”
Illya was hard pressed to contain the thrill that went through him at her message. Yet he said nothing, his mind already running through several scenarios. He missed all April said until he heard her say his name in complete exasperation.
"Have you heard a word I've said?"
Illya merely raised an indignant brow in response.
She snorted in disgust and turned to leave only to turn back a second later, her expression serious. "You aren't the only one who cares what happens to him, Illya. Let the rest of us do our part. Leaving will not help.”
The Russian made no comment and for some reason she had to see him smile, had to know he was all right. "Besides, how the hell are you gonna yell at me and Mark tomorrow if you can't get in the building?"
Illya barked a laugh. "I would hate to lose such an opportunity."
April gave him a quick hug. "We'll see both of you in the morning."
Illya returned the hug. "Thank you. We'll be there."
April gave a wave over her head as she quickly left.
The Russian gripped the pen, not certain how to feel about it. His brows drew together as he placed the sleek instrument in the same pocket as the broken one.
He was still mulling over the conversation with April as he turned around to find Napoleon lounging against the wall and his heart nearly stopped. His partner looked furious. A look he seemed to be wearing too often the past two days.
Napoleon's tone spoke volumes for that anger as he pinned his partner with a withering gaze. "Leaving?"
Illya squared his shoulders, knowing he was in for a tongue-lashing. "Can you bellow at me inside? I feel the need for vodka and a chair."
The older agent pushed away from the wall and walked inside leaving Illya to follow.
Napoleon was already at the bar. He handed Illya a glass of chilled vodka and a bourbon on ice for himself, needing something sustaining as well. Illya perched on the arm of the sofa, toying with his drink while Napoleon seemed content to merely lean against the bar.
"You have to stop this, Illya. Stop … sheltering me. It's only been two days and I swear you've done everything but try to wrap me cotton.” Napoleon knew he had to control his anger. But what made him most angry were the secrets. "I am tired of it. Tired of the secrets. From Waverly, April, Mark, but mostly from you."
The Russian started, surprised at the source of the American's anger.
"Napoleon, I – “
Solo cut him off quickly. "No, dammit. For two damn days my life has been turned inside out and everything dragged out for all to see. And if that isn't enough, I find out that my partner doesn't seem to trust me or my judgment anymore."
Illya drew in a sharp breath of denial. "Nyet! That is not so. I trust you in all things."
Solo's right eyebrow climbed in disbelief as he took a deep swallow of the strong liquid. "Is that so?"
Illya could tell Napoleon was speaking of something specific but until he knew what, he stayed silent. He couldn't keep the pained expression from his face, however, and his partner saw it.
Still, Napoleon chose to let it pass. He shrugged, waving off the unasked questions. His expression hardened. "So, Illya, you were leaving UNCLE because you wanted more free time? Or did you plan on doing some traveling?” He raised a hand to prevent the hasty answers and pulled his communicator out of his jacket pocket, eyeing it curiously. "Strange, don't you think? Mine works. Though it seems yours doesn't and Waverly sends April to give you a message … when I'm in the next room. Even a phone call was too dangerous. What would she do if I'd answered? Damn good thing I wasn't allowed to open my own front door isn't it? Tell me what part of this should not make me angry, Illya. I don't like being played for a fool."
Illya swallowed, gripping his glass tightly. Napoleon's voice was smooth and hard, laced with a dangerous edge that warned Illya that he'd best tread lightly. He flushed angrily as he realized Napoleon was right. He had been treating him as though he was incapable of taking care of himself. Napoleon wasn't foolish. He took risks, yes, too many, Illya felt, but never without cause. He toyed with his glass, the liquid inside untouched. "I do trust you. It was never my intention to … belittle your abilities, Napoleon. I do not doubt for an instant your capabilities. Nor does Waverly or the others. This I promise you.”
Napoleon gave nothing away, still closed off and silent.
An anguished groan tore free from Illya's throat and his fear found voice before he could stop it. "Don't you see? If something happens and I'm not there … Napoleon, I-I would not survive it! It is not about you. I have to be there! Just thinking about it—to have it happen …” Illya clenched his glass so tightly he was amazed it didn't crack and took several deep breaths in an attempt to pull himself together.
Napoleon saw the look of absolute fear on his partner's face and his heart lodged in his throat. Shock replaced anger and his strength almost left him as he listened to the wrenching admission from his normally stoic partner. Napoleon didn't know what was worse, Illya's confession or the fact that he couldn't – wouldn't – admit to the same. Illya's bravery showed up in the oddest ways sometimes and it never ceased to amazed Napoleon how much Illya trusted him with moments such as this. Napoleon drank down the amber liquid and let the warmth of it wash over him before he was able to focus on his partner. His expression softened and he was filled with concern at the sight of his friend in such pain. Without realizing how, he managed to walk over to him.
Illya felt warm hands cover his, pulling the glass from him and setting it down. He clenched his hands tightly, not looking up. Napoleon's hands reached for his again, uncurling them, holding them tightly. He gasped at the sensation and looked up to find warm, gentle eyes watching him. Napoleon pulled one hand to his chest, holding it gently. "Ah, Illya, what am I going to do with you?"
Illya's heart skipped several beats as he felt the strong heart beating under his palm and he seemed suddenly incapable of speech. Fortunately, Napoleon seemed to understand and pulled Illya to his feet. "It's late. We both have an early day tomorrow and it has been a rather harrowing day for both of us. So I think it's time for all little Uncles to go to bed. I think you still have some of your things in the guest room from last time you stayed, yes?"
Illya only nodded, relishing the feel of those strong hands still holding his.
Not knowing why he did it, but not questioning it, Napoleon pressed a small kiss to the palm of Illya's pale hand. Illya's breathing hitched as Napoleon gently released both of his hands. The dark eyes filled with confusion at his own actions and he pulled away abruptly.
"Ah, goodnight, Illya."
He turned and retreated to the master bedroom and shut the door leaving Illya standing stunned in the middle of the room. He raised his hand to his lips and ran his tongue over the spot Napoleon kissed. He drew in a shuddering breath as his desire grew strong enough to have visible effects. No one and nothing had ever had such an effect on him. He wrapped his arms around himself and shakily made his way to the guest room, wondering what those intimate gestures meant to Napoleon, for they had meant the world to him. He pushed open the door and closed it slowly before falling across the bed, letting his memory replay the last few minutes over and over and over.
No matter how hard Napoleon tried to concentrate on what was being said his mind continued to replay the events of last night. He still could not comprehend why he had done that. He had kissed Illya. Granted, it was only his hand, but he, Napoleon had initiated contact. He was dumbfounded. Never in his life had he even considered a man as a possible sexual partner.
He shook his head. Is that what he considered Illya? He never had before. But from the moment he'd realized his partner had romantic feelings for him, he couldn't stop seeing him from a completely different perspective. The real problem was he wasn't sure he liked that perspective. Napoleon couldn't deal with it now. Too many revelations and too many emotions. He couldn't sort out which were his, except for one. His hand wandered down his shirt and felt the outline of the ring resting against his heart. All he knew for certain was that the anger belonged solely to him.
Mr. Waverly's dry voice called for his attention. "Mr. Solo? Is our conversation boring you?"
Solo shifted guiltily in his chair, before looking across to see his partner watching him quizzically. He sighed and turned his attention back to the man on the other side of the large desk. "Not at all. Illya had already informed me of his findings last night."
Waverly regarded him from underneath bushy brows. "Well, as you were the one who insisted on accompanying Mr. Kuryakin to this early briefing, I would assume you could manage to keep your mind in the here and now, Mr. Solo."
Solo replied blithely, "I think that could be arranged."
Kuryakin could not prevent a snort of laughter and cleared his throat in an attempt to cover the sound.
Alex Waverly leaned back in his chair. He gave a long-suffering sigh and directed, "Can we get back to the business at hand?"
Both agents merely nodded in reply.
"Good.” Waverly directed his next comments to his CEA. "I've spoken with Mr. Samoy and briefed him on what has occurred here. He was most distressed at the turn of events and is displeased with what's been happening here. More and more it appears that Mr. Gabal's murder is part of a premeditated scheme directed towards you, Mr. Solo."
Solo's eyes flashed angrily. "It doesn't thrill me much, either. He was a good man."
Waverly remained unruffled. "At ease, Mr. Solo. No one is accusing you. Unfortunately, Mr. Samoy did attempt to talk to the witness and asked him what part he played in setting the trap that had killed Mr. Gabal. It seems he also questioned him about his knowledge of what has been happening to Mr. Solo no doubt in an effort to provoke a response. It was not successful."
Illya sat up, shocked. "He gave information to a possible accomplice?"
Solo merely shook his head as Waverly replied somewhat sharply. "Yes. And he is well aware that he may have caused a security breach. He told me immediately afterwards but the damage, if any, will already have been done. Still, the gentleman in question, whose name we finally know, Mr. Risvan Sarikaya, has had no outside contact. He denies any knowledge of participation. But again, reiterated that he would say no more, unless it was to our Mr. Solo here.” Waverly gave Solo a searching glance. "Does the name bring anything to mind?"
Solo's brows drew together as he searched his memory for several moments before shaking his head slowly. "Do we have any information on his family? Contacts?"
Waverly held out a file for Solo which the CEA immediately began scanning. "All the information we have on the Sarikaya family is in here," he tapped the file, "as of yet, no connection has been made to you, Mr. Solo.” He turned his attention to Kuryakin as Solo continued to peruse the file.
"Mr. Kuryakin, what news from Mr. Emerson?"
Illya scowled. "Nothing of any use. His team worked through the night but found nothing useful. The copy paper was common issue. No unusual chemicals used in the replication of the … photos. A team did come and change Napoleon's security system and the technicians are still checking all activity on the old one to see if the codes used could be traced back to any specific person or location. The only point of interest was that these were older codes. Still active but rarely used. Emerson is having those codes purged as well as updating all access codes so that only current codes remain active. If anyone were to attempt this again, the system would not acknowledge the code."
Waverly harrumphed. "Very well.” He gave Kuryakin a hard look. "Now, I believe we have a discussion to finish."
Solo cocked his head to the side, wanting to see his partner's reaction. He wasn't disappointed.
Illya flushed. "Yes, sir."
Napoleon grinned. "Yes, Illya. I believe you said something about leaving?"
Illya shot Napoleon a caustic look. "Don't you have someplace you have to be?"
Solo gave him a wicked smile. "Not at present."
Kuryakin glared but didn't deign to reply. Waverly did. "Much as I enjoy listening to the two of you," he said dryly, "I have other things to do. I think we've covered everything you need, Mr. Solo. I'll be in contact with you throughout the day but for now, leave."
Solo's eyes danced with amusement. "I can tell when I'm not wanted.” He grinned at his boss. "Time for me to go.”
He gave Illya a conspiratorial wink as he gathered his files. Before he got to the door, he turned back, addressing his partner. "Come to my office afterwards, Illya. I need to go over some things with you before I leave."
Illya shook his head. "I have to meet with the UN detail, Napoleon, but I'll see you after that.” Napoleon nodded and waved his farewell to both men and the door slid closed behind him.
Before Illya could utter a word, Waverly pinned him with a stern look. "I will not tolerate such insubordination from you again."
Kuryakin bristled. "Sir—"
Waverly held out a hand. "Don't even bother. Your resignation is not acceptable at this time.” He relented slightly. "I do understand your motives. And were I in your position, I can't say that I wouldn't react the same. But I am not. Mr. Solo is not. There is no argument that can supersede duty.”
The Russian gripped the arms of his chair as he said the one thing, the one reason he couldn't just walk away. "He is my partner."
Waverly gave no outward reaction but studied the irascible man across from him. Finally, he sighed. "Had you not been so rash last evening, this conversation would have begun on a more agreeable note."
Illya took the rebuke without a single regret, knowing he would do it again without a second thought.
The older man puffed his pipe and continued. "As it happens, I think you are correct on this issue."
Illya leaned forward, his expression guarded. Before he could ask whether or not he'd heard his boss correctly, Waverly added, "And your doppelganger is in fact here and fully briefed."
Kuryakin rested his forearms on his thighs as he contemplated this unexpected occurrence. Although he couldn't deny the growing curiosity Illya remained wary as he asked, "Who?"