He Was Compromised
"You found me out, I see". Illya looked at his partner in that cool, unconfirmed manner of denial without explanation. He was unsure of the look on Napoleon's face; was it disappointment or something worse?
"Well, say something. I know you saw me there.' A pause of discomfort and a wave of anxiety passed through him as he waited for the dark eyes to blink or waiver...anything to break the silence.
"It isn't what you think". True. It only looked bad. In reality, the compromise was an illusion.
"Are you going to speak?" Now he was getting angry. Damn the circumstances and his nosey friend's need to have explanations given.
"I thought you trusted me." Now he wanted answers. The game worked both ways.
Napoleon sighed deeply, exhaling a breath that contained both the bounds of friendship and the frailty of it. He hadn't believed that Illya would be capable of betrayal on this level. His tovarisch, his pal...his partner.
"I apologize for that. I shouldn't have treated you like an assignment". But he had been an assignment. The agent had been sent after him, not his friend. Waverly had issued the order. And now, here they stood with the evidence of possible duplicity a barrier between them.
"Mr. Waverly asked me to follow you, to see who you were meeting. Illya, why were you there?" It was a question he had to ask. He wouldn't report back until he had an explanation. He owed his friend that much.
The blond head slanted back as the Russian ran his hands through the shaggy hair. He had choices to make, right now. He should just keep his mouth shut and follow orders. He didn't think he could. "Napoleon, do you trust me?' Simple question. No, not so simple. Layer upon layer. Death and life. Trust was the most difficult thing to grasp, and almost impossible to earn between the likes of them. Once broken, it was not easily repaired.
"Do you? What do you think you saw?" The blue eyes were no longer dispassionate. He was searching now, looking for a sign that his friend would yield once again to the trust and intimacy of their friendship, to the depths of what gave them the courage to go out time and again into the throes of an unyielding enemy. He had to trust him again.
"I want to trust you. But I can't deny what I saw, who I saw". No point in denying it. It was damning and Illya was in trouble, into something that Napoleon didn't understand and couldn't cover up.
"So, you are convinced then, just like that? Do I at least get a headstart, before the dogs are unleashed?" He would be a man without a country and now, it seemed, without his friend.
"No. Not just like that. But Illya, you're not giving me anything to counter what just went down. Is there an explanation that will contradict the appearance of evil here? The man I saw you with is Thrush, and you were engaging him as though he were a friend. We're not assigned to anything, so why would you be with him? Waverly sent me after you, so that means he didn't send you here". There was a genuine anguish now in his voice. He was pleading for an explantion that would excuse Illya from this scenario that looked like treason. He wanted to believe it was nothing, but a high ranking Thrush official having drinks with his partner looked like...it looked bad.
The Russian couldn't speak. Enough had been said, and his position required that he now retreat. It pained him to know that his friend doubted him, that what he had seen would cause him more grief than he deserved. There was nothing to be done about it now.
"I can't explain it to you. I know Waverly sent you, but you have to believe in me. Please trust me...one more time" Now his eyes were pleading for his friend's blind faith in their friendship, their past. He had to know he had that before he could continue on with this journey. It wasn't what Napoleon thought, and he mentally cursed Waverly for setting it up like this. The old man didn't need to exclude his partner to make it convincing. They could both act sufficiently to get this drama to unfold.
"Trust me Napoleon. Things are not what they appear to be, and not everyone is forthcoming concerning this circumstance. Do you understand?" He hoped he would. Without having to literally spell it out, he needed Napoleon to grasp what he was trying to tell him.
The CEA of UNCLE Northwest began to have a glimmer of the subtrefuge in which his partner was involved. This was going to be difficult, and the mistrust that had affected some of the people in the organization regarding Illya seemed destined to reach a new crescendo of accusation and anger.
"So, what I saw was not compromising, and you are not in league with a Thrush agent. But, I can't know this because...I'm not supposed to figure it out. And, you're being set up to...what? Defect, or look like it. Am I right?" Yes, thankfully he had it now. Illya could not have gone on with this if Napoleon thought him an actual traitor to their shared dedication to UNCLE and it's cause...to him.
"I can't deny or confirm, but if you trust me then you'll know what the answer is. You have to report to Waverly and say what needs to be said...for the record. Whatever happens, I need you to watch my back. Not everyone will have the same degree of trust in my loyalty. Watch out for those people, Napoleon. Being my friend could get dangerous". There would be some tough days ahead, and headquarters was going to become a dangerous place for the displaced Soviet agent. And there was a phrase that would be whispered among the doubters...
"He was compromised".