Author's Note: I have a vague ambition to write a piece of fic for each episode . I'm not sure when, how or if this will happen, but I had to start somewhere so it starts here, with the Alexander The Greater Affair.
Washing Off The Dust of the Day
After their farewell to Tracy, and their summary dismissal from Mr Waverly, they had limped into the Washington office separately. The dark haired senior agent from the street, where he had been deposited by a wiry blond driver, who had subsequently entered from the parking lot. Secretaries they had passed shared concerned glances at their worn appearance, no one liked to see Section Two agents looking anything but pristine and invincible, despite how frequently that was not the case, and although there were clearly no immediate injuries to be attended, it was obvious that the affair had been a long and arduous one.
There was an audible sigh of relief as the shower released a jet of steaming water at the unprotected skin of its occupant. Napoleon Solo couldn't see from whom the sound had come; the locker room had quickly filled with gently billowing, but impenetrable steam, but a familiar hiss followed by a groan that was doubtless meant to go unvoiced indicated that he had been successful in locating his wayward, and very grubby, partner, Illya Nikovetch Kuryakin.
The Russian agent had quickly gone to ground once preliminary reports had been recorded and marked for Mr Waverly's attention and Solo had assumed that he had, despite oft-ignored instructions to report to medical, had answered the siren call of either clean clothes or food. A quick survey of the commissary had indicated that, unusually, the former had taken priority.
It had been a frantic mission, filled with transcontinental travel, ancient trap-filled temples, car chases, plane chases, more fist fights than Illya's body cared to remember, an encounter with a bog, a frustrating but equally captivating innocent, and a demonstration in mummification that he had not required, no matter what level of interest he possessed in ancient cultures, either Greek or Egyptian. And now, as late evening crept inexorably towards early morning, Illya realised he was totally exhausted.
He tried, but singularly failed to stifle a groan as the steaming water came into needle-sharp contact with bruised muscles and scalded skin, and clenched his fists against the prickle of pain that ran across his tender back. He felt as if he had been sunburned across every inch of his skin, both exposed and unexposed and he found himself once again mentally cursing Kavon. Yet despite the discomfort, he maintained the water's temperature keen to wash away the evidence of the week as fast as possible.
Dispassionately, he watched as water sluiced down the drain, turning from bog-hued browns to rose-tinged as the force of the water washed away newly formed scabs to open up a myriad of minor cuts and abrasions that he had barely noticed the acquisition of out in the field. He didn't glance up at the sound of another agent entering the cubicle adjacent to his, recognising the footfall as that of Napoleon.
For a long time, neither man spoke, content to rinse away all remnants of the affair in companionable but silent contemplation. Eventually, with another ill-concealed sigh, the blond agent shut off the water and reached for a towel, vigorously drying his long bangs, before painstakingly moving to gently pat down the damp skin which covered screaming nerve endings. Irritated, he found himself once again wondering what the contents of Kavon's cauldron had been. Whatever they were, he quickly concluded, they were most certainly intended for use on the dead.
A sudden silence indicated that Napoleon too had completed his shower so, without turning, Illya, with unerring accuracy tossed the Chief Enforcement Agent a couple of towels.
"Thanks, tovarich,' the dark haired American acknowledged, his voice muffled by the fabric which had suddenly obscured the lower part of his face, earning a quirk of a smile from the Russian, whose mood had improved proportionately to the amount of dirt he had managed to shed. Yet, despite the improvement he still felt infinitely weary, his body clock temporarily bewildered by its recent, rapid change in time zones.
Solo extracted himself from his fabric face mask, and quickly twisted the towel into an efficient turban over his damp raven hair, before he briskly towelled his damp skin, wincing as his fingers met bruises left behind from his over-enthusiastic induction to the gym from Ingo. With a flicker of concern he noted his partner's tentative movements, and still too-pink complexion.
"Any plans for tonight?" he asked blandly, as he cast an appraising eye over his partner's injuries, noting the return assessment with a small smile.
"Nothing that sleep will not cure," Illya commented in answer to the unasked question, dismissing the rosy hue of his normally pale skin, "as for plans for tonight; food, vodka and sleep. Not necessarily in that order."
"And medical," Napoleon reminded patiently, steadfastly ignoring the roll of his friend's blue eyes.
"If you insist," the Soviet agent assented, "I will accompany you there. I believe that the CEA is not exempt from Mr Waverly's 'post mission physical' directive."
Solo grimaced but was forced to acquiesce. The directive was, after all, a firm one, straight from Mr Waverly himself. He consoled himself with the fact that, although both agents were required to attend, there was nothing in place to mandate the duration of their stay. Pausing in dressing for a moment he yawned jaw-breakingly, before checking his watch with a sigh.
"Come now, Napoleon," Illya chided, "your date will be most unimpressed if you fall asleep over dinner. Or should that be breakfast?"
Despite the lateness of the hour, shifts at UNCLE meant that Solo was never short of potential female company for his next meal, no matter what time that meal was likely to take place.
"I doubt they'll mind" Solo admitted, reaching into a locker for a fresh shirt. Illya looked puzzled for a moment, before disappearing momentarily from view as he pulled on his customary black turtleneck.
"There is someone in UNCLE willing to forgo being won-over by your dubious charms in favour of the simple pleasure of sleep?" he queried, tousling his hair into something resembling order with his fingertips.
"Ah Illya," Napoleon sighed with mock regret, "If you were going to fall for my charms, dubious or otherwise, you would have done it a long time ago. As it is, we have a reservation at a local hotel courtesy of Mr Waverly and a bottle of mini-bar vodka with your name on it, if you're interested."
It didn't happen frequently enough to be considered routine, let alone tradition, but in the tenure of their partnership the end of some missions, particularly long, gruelling ones, had come to be marked with a quiet drink, conversation and the pursuit of sleep. If it had been commented upon, Napoleon would have merely remarked that it was essential to maintaining an effective partnership, while Illya was content merely to enjoy it as a brief respite from their usual, frenetic, mid-mission interactions.
"I am not so cheap a date," he reproved solemnly, "If you want the pleasure of my company for any longer than oh... ten minutes, then you are probably going to have to feed me."
Napoleon joshed the younger man's shoulder affectionately.
"Do you ever think of anything but your stomach?" he asked with a smile.
"Rarely," the Russian admitted, "especially when I cannot actually remember the last time I ate."
The rumble of Napoleon's stomach acknowledged the comment far more eloquently than he could have hoped to.
"Fine," he capitulated, "I'll throw in a Chinese as well. Just don't tell anyone on the way out we're off to eat takeout in our pyjamas, you'll ruin my reputation with the girls downstairs."
Illya's relaxed countenance, so often on display around his friend, shuttered down into the more dour expression usually seen around headquarters.
"I am UNCLE's inscrutable ice prince" he commented wryly, referring to the nickname often utilised on the office grapevine, "I think it is the view of some that I do not have evening plans to enquire about - merely a darkened cell into which I retreat to sleep," he paused, thinking of some of the more unfavourable comments he had heard in times gone by, particularly from the students of the explosives class he had taught "probably hanging upside down." He shrugged, unperturbed, "It leaves me free to pursue my own plans without any undue attempts to recruit me into," Solo could practically see his shudder, "group events."
They both remembered for a moment, Emily's ill fated and unsuccessful attempt to recruit them both to UNCLE's amateur dramatics group, using the someone tenuous basis that Section Two agents spent a lot of time pretending to be someone else anyway.
"You have a fair point" Solo conceded, as he held open the locker room door, allowing the wiry blond to precede him, redirecting him with a touch to the shoulder when he attempted to abscond towards the parking lot. "Medical first."
The Russian heaved a dramatic sigh.
"Then vodka." Napoleon confirmed, his voice long suffering.
"Promise?" the detour to medical left the possibility open that Solo would encounter a member of the nursing staff, keen to minister to any of his minor ailments if required.
"Does this count as 'submitting to coercion'?" Illya asked, referring to the agent's code of conduct.
"Is it working?"
Illya flung a rare grin over his shoulder.
"Then I won't tell if you don't."
Laughing, the two agents matched pace as they strode down the corridor, presenting a united, bullet-proof facade to the world. Though their attire covered a myriad of aches and bruises, to the outside observer they were once again Waverly's indefatigable Golden Duo.
The clocks ticked over to a new day: it was 0000 and all was well.