A/N: And this is how Napoleon and Illya meet. In my world, anyway.
Disclaimer: I own nothing Man from UNCLE related.
It was good to be back in New York after what felt like an endless assignment. Technically their mission had been a complete success, but there had been casualties. Two young men who'd had nothing to do with UNCLE or THRUSH or any of it, but had ended up caught in the explosion in the club anyway. All the post-mission debriefings had cleared him and Randolph of any blame, but Napoleon still felt the responsibility. He should have left Randolph with the codebook. If he'd been at the club instead he would have abandoned caution and found a way to break up the party.
He sighed and took a long drink of coffee, his fingers drumming idly on the commissary table. That was exactly the kind of attitude Peterson kept chiding him over. He was supposed to rely on his partner completely, not assume that he alone could take care of everything. Randolph was a good agent with a set of skills that fully complemented Napoleon's own. He liked the man and they worked together just fine. So why did he still shy away from the word 'partner' in his mind? He didn't know. But he was prepared to admit the fault lay with him.
And speaking of his current partner, Randolph sat down opposite him with a loaded tray of food. "Have you heard the news?" he asked by way of greeting.
"What news?" Napoleon asked obligingly.
"About the new recruit," Randolph said.
He smiled. "The willowy brunette in supply? I've got a date with her this Friday."
"No, I'm talking about the Soviet," Randolph said impatiently.
Soviet? He blinked slowly. "What Soviet?"
"The one Waverly recruited for Section II," Randolph explained. "You remember, he's been stationed in London. Only now he's transferred here. To New York."
"Illya Kuryakin," Napoleon supplied. He remembered the name.
"Yeah, that's right," Randolph agreed. "Funny sort of name." He paused, and gazed at Napoleon curiously. "Say, wasn't he the one who broke all your Survival School records?"
"Half of them," Napoleon corrected, a little stiffly. He'd been proud of the records he'd set and the news that someone had come along and broken them had been a source of considerable annoyance.
"Ah, well, he probably cheated," Randolph offered in the tone of one giving comfort. "You know what these commies are like."
"You can't really think that someone could cheat their way through Survival School," he asked, incredulous amusement curling through his voice. The very idea was ludicrous. He had no doubt that this Soviet was very good indeed, however much he might privately resent that.
"Well, no, maybe not," Randolph conceded.. "Although these Russians are very sneaky, you know. That's why I really don't see why Waverly would want him here. You can't trust a Soviet."
"That's what everyone says," Napoleon agreed slowly. His mind was cast back to family dinners when he'd been a child and his father holding forth from the head of the dining table.
"The Soviet Empire is a blight upon our brave new world. It's an unholy menace, a threat to all we hold dear – our liberty, our democracy, even our belief in our Lord Jesus Christ. These Russian communists will not be satisfied until our own undesirables have risen up against us, until the blood of ordinary, decent Americans runs red on the streets. They want to see every one of us dead and don't forget it. Only the actions of men like Herr Hitler in Germany can save us. As long as he stays in power, he will act as a buffer between us and the insidious red menace."
He blinked and focused back on Randolph. Anything but that.
"It just doesn't sit right with me," Randolph said. "Letting the red menace right into our heart. I know we're an international organisation in theory - "
" - and in practice," Napoleon interrupted tersely. "We all work together towards the common good."
"We do, yes," Randolph said significantly.
He sighed. "Look, this Kuryakin has been working for UNCLE for over a year, right? His record is exemplary. I think we can assume if he was going to betray us he would have done it already."
"Maybe," Randolph said doubtfully. "But Edward Hewitt from security worked with a couple of the English agents a few months back, remember, and he said that they said that this guy is everything that you'd expect from a Soviet. Cold and aloof and completely ruthless. If he's not even going to make an effort to fit in, then he's never really going to be part of this organisation. That's the point. He shouldn't be here, he doesn't belong. Are you honestly saying you trust him?"
No, he wasn't necessarily prepared to go that far. "I've never even met him," he said. "But the way I understand it, Mr Waverly recruited him personally. Are you saying you don't trust Mr Waverly?"
"Not within five hundred miles of his office I'm not," Randolph said with a grin. "Look, I fought the commies in Korea, same as you. They're the enemy and nothing is going to change my mind about that."
"Perhaps," Napoleon said slowly. "But we can't let our paranoia blind us as to who we are."
"You're determined to tow the party line, aren't you?" Randolph grumbled, not altogether seriously.
"We're going to need to work with him sooner or later," Napoleon pointed out with a shrug. "When does he start anyway?"
"Tomorrow," Randolph said. "I guess we'll see what he's like. Only don't come crying to me when the commie bastard stabs you in the back."
He smiled. "I won't."
Illya had been in the US for a little over twelve hours now and already he was beginning to fear this might be a mistake. His plane had landed yesterday evening and he'd immediately been stopped by an official, apparently new enough not to be familiar with his UNCLE-issued passport and who had demanded to see his national passport instead. He'd debated with himself whether defiance or compliance was more likely to end in trouble, before eventually deciding that either was probably going to end badly and handing over his USSR passport. The sight of it had clearly been a source of immediate concern bordering on outright terror, and he'd been taken aside at gunpoint to await further instructions. Of course the whole thing had been cleared up with a couple of phonecalls to UNCLE, but spending his first few hours in a new country in a dark and windowless room was hardly a promising start.
Even as he was being released, the official's supervisor remained convinced that there could be no Soviet citizens working for UNCLE,"And even if there were, why would they let them work in New York?"
As of his first morning, Illya was inclined to ask himself the same questions. So too, it appeared, were many of his new co-workers. He had become used to the British way of expressing their disapproval of him. They were formal and icily polite – at their very worst, they had simply refused to acknowledge his existence. It seemed Americans were altogether more blunt. So far he had 'accidentally' overheard two loud conversations regarding just what a mistake his employment – or possibly existence – was, had been told by an ironically rather sweaty Section III agent that the stench of a dirty commie was unmistakable, and had been purposefully jostled on the stairs hard enough to leave bruises. He'd let it all wash over his head for the moment. Experience had long taught him that not every fight was winnable. These petty jabs could be overlooked for the moment, though if they continued too long he would need to pick a fight in order to demonstrate that he was far from helpless prey. But that would need to wait until he had a better understanding of the lie of the land.
At least he was temporarily assigned to work within Section VIII for a few days so he wouldn't have to start off blindly trusting any of these people to watch his back. Mr Waverly had been vaguely apologetic about the situation, but apparently THRUSH had developed a sonic weapon very similar to one he had worked on in London, and the lab needed his expertise.
Mr Waverly had been the same as the last time they had met, back in Moskva. Stern, calculating, shrewd...those attributes Illya was familiar with in his superiors. But the man also had an air of polite consideration, which was not at all familiar, and he wasn't sure whether or not it was an act. There had been many candidates put forwards for the first Soviet UNCLE agent. Illya was well aware he had not been the party's first choice. But he had been Mr Waverly's choice, and that too made him wary, not just because of the influence it implied Mr Waverly possessed, but also because it made him feel proud and eager to do well so as not to disappoint the trust placed in him. Such a simple way of compelling loyalty.
Peterson, the CEA, who was clearly rapidly approaching the retirement age of forty hadn't seemed to consider Illya's nationality a factor at all, and Illya had made a mental note of the way the whispers and dark looks had vanished when Peterson was showing him around. Clearly here was a man who had earned the respect of his peers. There hadn't been time for him to meet his fellow Section II agents, but Peterson had run through their names and told him a couple of things about each of them. Illya hadn't chosen to admit that as soon as his transfer had been made official, he had already looked up all the information available – and all the gossip that wasn't – about his new work colleagues. Apparently he could expect to work with most of them over the next month or so, partly to give him a chance to familiarise himself with his fellows and the way things were done here, and partly because at present there was no one to partner him up with.
"I am used to working alone," he'd told Peterson who'd given him a hard stare.
"All Section II agents work in partnerships," he'd said, adding to himself under his breath. "Even Mr Solo."
Napoleon Solo. Now there was a name Illya had known even before he'd started researching the New York office. When he'd gone through Survival School, Napoleon Solo had been held up as the very best UNCLE had to offer, a paragon that few could hope to match – and certainly not a skinny, Soviet 'egghead'. It was hardly Solo's fault, but Illya had taken great pleasure in every single record of his that he had managed to break. And the name had stuck in his mind enough that he had kept his ears open for further rumours about his exploits. He admired the man's results, even if his methods sometimes sounded like lunacy.
If Solo was trying to work...solo...then perhaps there might yet be a chance for Illya to do the same.
No one had insisted he work with a partner in England – quite the opposite, in fact. He'd become used to being alone. It wasn't as though he was expecting things to be different here. With time, he was confident he could turn suspicion into respect at work, and away from work there was his music and books and, rumour had it, endlessly available food. He had hopes he would be able to build a life of quiet contentment here.
And speaking of food, that was coming up for lunchtime. He'd been working for a few hours without a break now; time to go and find out what the food here was like. He headed for the elevator, giving a polite nod to the other scientists. Only Dr Franklin actually acknowledged him, but in the circumstances he would take that as better than nothing.
It wasn't as though everyone here clearly hated him. For every suspicious look he was getting there were five of complete indifference, and he'd noticed at least six ladies looking at him with blatant intrigue . Hmmm. Carefully he fished his glasses out of his pocket and put them on before switching his father's wedding ring from his right hand to his left. That should be enough to forestall any but the most shameless approaches, he hoped anyway. Office romances always made things more complicated than they needed to be, and that was without factoring in the likelihood that sooner or later someone would be taking compromising photographs, either for the purpose of personal blackmail or on behalf of the state. UNCLE might claim to be singing a different tune, but sooner or later, Illya knew, the lyrics were the same.
He got out the elevator and started to walk towards the commissary only to be immediately confronted by the Section III agent from earlier – Hewitt, apparently – and two of his presumably like-minded fellows. "Well if it isn't the communist," Hewitt sneered.
Illya affected a look of puzzlement. "Then what?" he asked.
"What?" Hewitt demanded.
"If it isn't the communist then what?" Illya explained. "You really can't just leave your sentences hanging like that."
For a moment he thought Hewitt was going to hit him and he was already calculating how the fight would go – the kick to the side of Hewitt's kneecap followed immediately by the punch to his nose that would be enough to send him backwards into the closer of his friends – but then Hewitt glanced up at the camera in the ceiling and took a step back. "Count yourself lucky, comrade," he growled, low and threatening. "We don't need pinko scum like you around here. You should go back to Russia while you still can."
They shoved past him. He didn't stand aside. Wonderful. Perhaps he would need to start that fight sooner rather than later. Although he had a feeling that Hewitt was more bluster than anything else.
Deep in thought, he somehow took a wrong turn and found himself standing outside the map room. Something was wrong and it took him a second to realise that someone had disconnected the lead for the security camera inside the room. That was a potentially catastrophic security breach.
Checking his gun was securely hidden beneath his lab coat, he pushed the door open and threw the lights on quickly, hoping that the sudden brightness would disorientate whoever was in here. There was a sudden and unmistakably female shriek, and he equally quickly threw the light off again.
What he'd seen was a woman with her blouse unbuttoned, leaning against the map table while a dark-haired man kissed at her neck, his hands vanishing somewhere beneath her skirt. That was an entirely different kind of security breach than he'd been expecting.
"What the hell?" the man's voice came out of the darkness, surprisingly calm but with a hard edge beneath it, and really, shouldn't that be Illya's question? He was not the one committing acts of perversion in the workplace.
"I saw the security camera was off," he said, not apologising. "I wanted to check it out."
"And get a good eyeful, huh?" the man asked. "Did you ever think the camera might be off for a reason, pal?"
"Yes," Illya said pointedly. "That is why I wished to check it out. Or would you prefer I called a security team? Although I believe they take up to a minute to respond, so perhaps you are confident you would have been finished by then?"
"Listen, you insufferable jackass," the man began heatedly. "I..." he stopped. "Look, you can see I'm not up to anything nefarious. So you should leave now. Unless you're some sort of peeping Tom.?"
Certainly not. And he had indeed seen the man was not stealing secrets. That didn't mean there was nothing nefarious going on. Carefully he made his voice as gentle and as understanding as he knew how. "Are you alright, ma'am?" he asked. "If you are under any duress right now - "
" - no!" she cut in quickly, sounding unbelievably embarrassed but truthful. "Oh, God, no, I'm fine. Please. Just go."
He left, the whole affair leaving a bad taste in his mouth. It was difficult to see how his first day could get much worse unless someone came along and shot him. Perhaps he would give the commissary a miss. Somehow he seemed to have lost his appetite.
Back alone with Betsy in the dark of the map room, Napoleon smiled into her hair. "Now, where were we?" he murmured enticingly.
She reached up and kissed him lightly on the lips. "Sorry, Napoleon. I really should get back to work," she said regretfully. "Be honest, that little interruption basically killed the mood anyway."
Yes, he couldn't really argue with that. "Another time then," he said, kissing her cheek as she fastened her blouse, adjusted her skirt and walked away.
"You can count on it," she murmured.
He took his time making sure his clothes were perfect, still burning inside at that last accusation. He'd never done anything with a woman who had been anything less than enthusiastic. It simply wasn't his style. To suggest that he might be forcing himself on Betsy or anyone – well. It was insulting, particularly from someone who didn't know him from Adam.
Although he supposed that was the point. He hadn't recognised the interloper so how could the man have had a chance to know what was actually going on? The silhouette against the door had only showed him a somewhat skinny man, maybe a little below average height, and the light had flashed on too quickly for him to register more than glasses, a labcoat and blond hair. He'd had an accent as well – he'd had other things on his mind, but it had sounded British mixed with Eastern European, maybe? Probably the guy was a new lab tech or something...he really shouldn't have called him a jackass. That wasn't fair.
It was just that his little romantic interlude with Betsy was the first thing that had actually gone well today. He'd been called in to Peterson's office first thing for what could be considered an informal chat about his future. Apparently Peterson had managed to read between the lines of his report and deduce Napoleon still wasn't settled into this partnership.
"You know, Mr Waverly has an eye on you to step into my shoes when I retire," Peterson had told him sharply. "But that's never going to happen if you can't figure out how to work with others."
"I work just fine with others," Napoleon had pointed out. "I just get better results on my own."
"By taking unnecessary risks," Peterson said and his voice had been rich with frustration. "And then when you're with a partner you go too far in the other direction. You're supposed to depend on your partner, Napoleon, not be held back by him. Mr Carlisle is a good agent. Learn to trust him."
He grimaced at the memory. He did trust Randolph. Only trusting someone and depending on them weren't quite the same thing. And there was a huge difference between risking his own life on his instinct and luck, and risking someone else's.
So, yes, he'd been having a bad day. That didn't excuse him taking out his temper on anyone else, no matter the provocation. Particularly not some poor lab worker who had just been trying to investigate a security breach...and come to think of it he really needed to talk to the guy about that as well. Because imagine if he had been a THRUSH infiltrator and the guy had just blundered on in there? Most likely he would have been killed. He should go down to the lab, apologise for his rudeness, but make it clear that in fact the guy should have called security if he was in any way suspicious. Far too many people joined the support services in UNCLE and thought that somehow made them spies.
Mind made up, he took the elevator downstairs. He got a few curious looks from the scientists as he walked across the lab – Section II agents weren't often seen down here – and he stopped at Dr Linwood's station. "Excuse me, I'm looking for - " He suddenly spied the blond figure now sans his lab coat, walking into one of the offices in the back, carrying a large bottle. "Ah, never mind, I see him."
Quickly he made his way over and walked into the office to see the man scrubbing furiously at a round, red stain on his labcoat.
He looked older than Napoleon had first thought, dressed in a dark suit with his hair cut unfashionably short in a neat, almost military style. And he was in an office unsupervised with what looked like a half-dismantled THRUSH booby trap. It seemed most likely he was one of the scientists rather than a tech.
He nodded to where the man was pouring some sort of solvent directly onto the labcoat. "Had an accident?"
"Carelessness," the man replied curtly, his accent more noticeable than it had been upstairs. "I shall not make the same mistake again."
"Right," he said. "Look, I wanted to apologise for what I said upstairs."
"Really." The man gave an acerbic snort. "I see."
This was like pulling teeth. He continued on doggedly. "You're new, right? I'm Napoleon Solo, Section II." He held out his hand expectantly. "And you're Dr...?"
"Illya Nickovitch Kuryakin," the man said coolly, making no attempt to take his hand. Napoleon's eyes widened. What? "Also Section II, and it is Mr, not Dr."
"You're Kuryakin?" he said in surprise. "I heard you were starting today, but I wasn't expecting - "
" - what?" Kuryakin asked dangerously.
" - to find you down here," Napoleon finished. There were other ways that sentence could have gone, but that was the least hazardous.
Kuryakin didn't look like he believed that was what Napoleon had been intending to say. Although so far that dark suspicion in his eyes could just be part of his natural expression. "I was asked to assist Section VIII in dealing with the soundburst device, as I have encountered something similar before."
"Oh, of course, you're a scientist, aren't you?" He remembered the subject coming up around the time Kuryakin had broken his Survival School records. He had a doctorate apparently. Napoleon had been both impressed and a little concerned. He had to admit though, having that expertise could be an advantage in the field. He was an intelligent man, but there had been a few times he'd found the scientific details of some THRUSH plot eluded him. Having an agent they could send specifically into that kind of situation could be a boon – provided Kuryakin really did know his stuff. "So it is Dr?"
"No," Kuryakin said brusquely, his attention back on the labcoat. To Napoleon's eyes the stain wasn't looking like it was going to come out.
"Look, all you're going to do is turn it pink," he pointed out.
Kuryakin's lip curled contemptuously. "A colour that could serve just as well, I suppose."
The man was speaking excellent English and Napoleon still felt like calling a translator down here. "What are you talking about?"
"It does not signify," Kuryakin said in a dismissive way that set Napoleon's back up.
"Just go and get a new one from supply," he said with exaggerated patience.
"Typical American attitude," Kuryakin sneered. "How can you justify such waste?"
"It's a labcoat," he said. "I'm pretty sure we buy them in bulk."
"And you think I should go say I have had it for five hours and already it's ruined?" Kuryakin raised an eyebrow. "No."
"This injured attitude is wearing kind of thin, pal," he snapped. "I'm the one who was accused of being a rapist here. I don't know about where you come from, but around here, that's considered offensive."
"Spare me your melodrama," Kuryakin said coolly. "I had no idea who either you or the girl was. My question was reasonable...unless you are trying to tell me that in America everything is so perfect that no man ever takes advantage of his position to coerce women?"
That took the wind out of his sails some. "No," he admitted. "I guess I'm not trying to tell you that at all."
"As I thought." Kuryakin turned away from him. "Now, if you're quite finished bothering me, Mr Solo, I have a lot of work to be getting on with."
"Fine," he said, giving up at last. "No doubt I'll see you around, Mr Kuryakin."
That had to be the first time he'd ever tried to apologise and ended up making everything worse.
Illya exhaled deeply as Solo left the room. Well. That had all been very stupid of him.
He glanced down at his labcoat bitterly. He had left it on the back of his chair for no more than five minutes, and somehow when he'd come back there had been a bright red ink stain soaked right through. Right over the heart and in a circle – he wasn't sure whether it was simply intended as a comment on his politics, or if it was meant to represent a bullet hole, making it a needlessly melodramatic threat on his life. The latter seemed unlikely, but he had every intention of taking precautions anyway.
When Solo had come in he'd recognised him from the map room and he'd been convinced that here was the culprit, or at the very last an enemy come to gloat. Only he'd been wrong there – Solo had been genuinely surprised to realise who he was, and he'd been so busy being defensive about that he hadn't realised all the ramifications.
There was a difference between maintaining an air of professional detachment and going out of his way to anger the people he was going to need to work with. That he'd been looking forward to working with, if he were being honest with himself. And even if he left that aside, Solo was his senior agent and by all accounts was heading straight for the top. Being so rude to the man probably meant he could expect a great many unpleasant assignments in his near future.
He narrowly resisted the urge to bang his head off the table.
Solo had said he was here to apologise. He should have just accepted that politely and kept his mouth shut. His habit of running his mouth off had got him into trouble again.
Honestly, Solo had said very little that he was sure was deliberately meant offensively. Certainly it hadn't been Solo who had started in on the offensive national stereotypes. That had all been Illya with a xenophobia he didn't even feel. By all accounts, Napoleon Solo was a amicable man, liked by everyone. Of course it would be Illya who was somehow able to alienate him.
He wondered if Solo had been sincere in his desire to apologise? He wondered if Solo would have made the apology if he'd known who Illya was in the first place?
Napoleon walked towards the commissary still fuming quietly. That had been one of the most aggravating conversations he'd ever had with someone who wasn't technically an enemy. And after all that, he still hadn't managed to apologise for what he'd said upstairs. Damn Kuryakin anyway; he could see why he hadn't been popular in England.
" - we need to make it clear before he tries anything. We can't have pinko scum walking around headquarters, it just isn't safe."
He caught the fragment of conversation through an open office door and and turned and stared at the speaker until they awkwardly closed the door.
On the other hand, he supposed he could see why Kuryakin might be overly defensive.
He grimaced; hopefully no one would be stupid enough to actually confront Kuryakin but feelings were running higher than they should be. He'd need to make sure to report the ugly atmosphere.
Randolph was sitting with Gillian and Sandra in the commissary. Napoleon grabbed a sandwich and joined them, not at all surprised to realise that Kuryakin was the subject of conversation.
"Apparently Hewitt had a run in with him this morning," Randolph continued, after a nod of acknowledgement to Napoleon. "He says he's every bit as rude and difficult as we'd been told. I can't think what Mr Waverly is thinking. This is never going to work."
"It's a shame," Sandra said with a sigh. "Did you get a look at him? Those eyes, those lips...he's too good looking to be a red. It's a waste."
Red. Where had that mark on Kuryakin's labcoat come from? It was too neat to be natural. Carelessness, he'd said, but he'd been angry. Maybe some idiot was already out to prove a point. He gritted his teeth; they were supposed to be better than this.
"Never mind," Randolph said with a teasing leer at Sandra. "There are still plenty of us wholesome American boys to satisfy you. Right, Napoleon?"
"Oh, like the two of you are wholesome," Gillian laughed.
"Wholesome as apple pie," Napoleon said lightly. "Listen, Randolph, maybe we should go easy on Kuryakin. I had a run in earlier with him as well."
"And?" Randolph asked expectantly.
"I'm not going to say he wasn't difficult," he admitted. "But this whole place is looking at him like he's in a fishbowl. Not to mention the people talking like he's somehow worse than THRUSH. If I showed up to work and everyone was whispering about me - "
" - oh, you'd love it," Gillian said, rolling her eyes.
He smiled. "True. But that's me. Kuryakin didn't strike me as the type to enjoy the limelight."
Randolph stared incredulously. "Are you suggesting our new Soviet acquisition is shy?"
"I'm just suggesting he's not the enemy," he said with a sigh.
He'd caught a glimpse of something beneath the difficult and the prickly. In spite of his indignation at the aspersions on his own character, he had to respect someone who would check a woman wasn't being mistreated even in the middle of an awkward situation. And that line about security...if he'd heard it directed at someone else, he would have laughed. And that wasn't even considering Kuryakin's impressive record.
Okay, maybe this was just his natural instinct to always be on the side of the underdog...or maybe Illya Kuryakin might just be someone he wanted to get to know.
Really, the best thing Illya could say about his first day in New York was that it was over at last. Wearily he headed towards the exit and his apartment. He'd spied a small restaurant just around the corner from his building which had a sign in the window saying 'Good Home Cooking'. That sounded exactly what he was after...even though it would be American home cooking with none of the flavours that whispered home to him. Still, it couldn't be worse than British cooking, right?
He sensed, rather than heard, the man waiting for him in the corridor ahead and even though he didn't break pace he tensed, ready for an attack.
But it was Solo who stepped out in front of him, a package under one arm and his hands spread wide as though to promise he wasn't a threat.
Somehow, Illya believed him. He nodded in awkward greeting and Solo smiled and fell in step beside him as though it was the most natural thing in the world. "So," he began. "I think I owe you at least two apologies now, Mr Kuryakin. I'm sorry. Rudeness really isn't part of my usual style."
"It is very much part of mine," Illya admitted frankly and Solo grinned. "But I am sorry too. I said several things you did not deserve."
"No doubt someone did," Solo said and he was still smiling but there was something cold and dangerous in his eyes. "Oh, yes, before I forget. Here." He handed the package over. "One pristine new labcoat from supply. Legitimately acquired and I didn't mention your name once."
That was...unexpected. Truthfully, he was touched at the thought. The stain hadn't come out and he'd taken to disguising it with his badge. "Thank you."
"If some of our colleagues should cause a similar outbreak of carelessness, you will mention it to security, won't you?" Solo added mildly.
He didn't look round. There was certainly no need to mention that security were among his chief suspects. "I don't know what you mean," he said instead, innocently.
Solo sighed. "Really, Mr Kuryakin?"
"It is no more than I expected," he said after a second.
"It is far less than I expect," Solo said, his voice hard as steel. "Now. I appreciate this is your first day and you're probably tired, but a group of us from Section II are going out to O'Malley's tonight, mostly since, for once, there's more than a handful of us actually in town at the same time."
"A group of Section II agents relaxed and off guard?" Illya asked dryly. "That sounds like a THRUSH assassin's dream."
"Or nightmare," Napoleon said cheerfully, smiling like they were sharing in some great joke together. "Will you come along? It would give you a chance to meet more people before we're all inevitably thrown into hell together."
He hesitated. Even if Solo seemed disarmingly open, he couldn't be certain of his reception from the others. Not to mention he had intended to keep his work and personal life entirely separate.
"People tend to be more suspicious of what they don't know," Solo added offhandedly.
Illya wondered whether he was referring to him or the rest of the world. "Very well," he said at last, surprising himself.
"Good." Solo nodded decisively. "My expenses just came through yesterday so drinks are on me." He stopped suddenly and turned round to face Illya, his expression serious. "Look. I get the impression that neither of us was exactly at our best today. So how about we forget everything that came before and start over? Would that be alright?"
He nodded slowly. "I should like that."
Napoleon held out his hand, smiling brilliantly. "Napoleon Solo."
This time he took the proffered hand and gave a crooked smile of his own. "Illya Kuryakin," he said. "And it is a pleasure to meet you."
Maybe this wasn't a mistake after all.
A/N Thanks for reading, what did you think?