It took forty minutes to get everyone out of Bibi's hotel suite, into Mark's car and one taxi (Napoleon felt the need to escort Serena personally), and back to UNCLE Headquarters.
When this group entered Mr. Waverly's office it was without flourish but with a certain amount of consternation on the part of the head of UNCLE Northwest. Characteristically, he showed no reaction to seeing a THRUSH agent alongside his top man, merely motioned for them all to sit before demanding some type of report on their activities so far.
"Ah, Mr. Solo, I see you have … well, quite an entourage, it seems. Perhaps you would care to introduce me to…"
Waverly motioned towards the other auburn haired beauty in the room; the one who wasn't an UNCLE agent.
"Oh, yes sir, this is… Serena. She believes she has some information for us that might be… um… helpful. That is, she is adamant that THRUSH is not involved with the theft."
Waverly raised his eyebrows, the look of innocent disbelief a ruse of some sort in front of this assembly of agents and… strangers.
"I see. And, how is it exactly, Mr. Solo…er… that this young woman…'
The wily old man nodded his deference to the lovely siren.
"How does she know about THRUSH, or their involvement in this affair?"
Napoleon swallowed… Hard. Illya watched all of this with the same expressionless face, while both April and Mark studied the situation for whatever use it might have in the future. Squaring off in front of the old man with a THRUSH agent in tow took guts, something every UNCLE agent needed in spades.
Bibi seemed the only one who was impatient for the proceedings to gain some group interaction. She didn't trust Serena, and was betting that THRUSH was involved in spite of the woman's protests to the contrary.
Serena merely sat quietly with a smile on her face that reminded Illya a little of the Mona Lisa. She knew something and wasn't telling; at least not just yet.
Napoleon spoke up, his resolve regarding duty battling against his desire to not reveal yet another THRUSH femme to his superior. He already had endured a series of lectures regarding another dangerous liaison with the blonde. It wasn't enough that Illya detested the woman; Waverly had also weighed in on his objections. And now, here was Serena…
"Mr. Waverly, sir… Well you see, Serena is a …"
"A THRUSH agent. Yes, Mr. Solo, I know exactly who she is. I see we need to have another chat on the subject, but that will have to wait until later, I'm afraid. For now, perhaps you can enlighten me as to why I should believe her… I beg you pardon, Miss?"
Serena cooed with pleasure at the attention, and replied to Waverly's request for a name beyond…
"Serena, sir. Simply Serena."
Waverly harrumphed at that, while April mumbled beneath her breath.
"Who does she think she is, a rock star?"
Bibi heard it and laughed, forgetting momentarily the gravity of the situation and the stern countenance of Alexander Waverly.
Now it was Serena's turn, and she stood up to speak, both for effect and the pure pleasure of knowing all eyes were on her.
"Mr. Waverly, gentlemen and… ladies…'
The ladies bristled at the pause, but the men obediently let their eyes rest on the shapely woman as she walked to stand in front of one of the two windows in Waverly's office. Illya wondered at her posturing, the location she had chosen for whatever was coming next.
No one else seemed very interested in that question however, and when Serena opened her mouth to speak, they were concentrating on her, and her alone. Only Illya let his eyes go beyond her, possibly because of where he was sitting in relation to the window. It was only a flash, but he saw something glint in the distance and, almost too late, realized with clarity just why Serena had maneuvered this meeting.
Before anyone else realized what was happening, Illya jumped from his seat and dove across the big round table at which everyone was seated, sliding towards Mr. Waverly even as the surprised man was attempting to dodge the Russian's acrobatic moves.
Napoleon was the next to understand the situation, and with the same projectile precision he launched himself towards Serena before she could race across the room and escape. April quickly blocked one side even as her partner Mark completed the noose that was ready to tighten around the clever THRUSH agent.
Bibi sat transfixed by the action, her attention finally being riveted to Illya's moves as he plunged into his superior and they both went tumbling to the floor just as a red laser beam shot through the window and across where Waverly had been sitting.
Serena was surrounded now, but she held onto that same calm demeanor as she raised her hands in mock surrender, the complexity of her situation causing no outward reaction. Internally there was a battle raging as she sought to find a means of escaping this very unfortunate circumstance.
Illya had managed to remove Mr. Waverly from harm, but the chair in which the agency head had sat was a smoldering mass of leather and wood. Illya himself had sustained a burn as he was tumbling to the floor; the laser nicked him on his back, burning through his suit jacket and shirt.
"Mr. Kuryakin, you should go immediately to Medical and let them treat this injury. Now would be expedient, I think."
Illya agreed, although he had suffered worse. It was painful, and in response to his injury both Bibi and April were at his side helping him to remove his smoking jacket.
April took the ruined garment, while Bibi inspected the red gash beneath the equally damaged shirt. The edge of Illya's holster had also been in the line of the laser, causing a large nick in the leather that had probably ruined it as well.
"I think your holster probably saved you from worse injury, Illya. I bet that hurts like … "
Illya grimaced, cutting off whatever else April was going to say.
"Yes, it does a little. Napoleon?"
"Yeah, I've got it handled. Go down to Medical, I'll fill you in later."
With that the blond took his jacket and headed out of the office. As the doors closed behind him, Napoleon was escorting Serena back to her chair, with the others close by and anxious to hear her story. Mark had sat down at the console to receive updates from the activity involved in capturing the THRUSH who had obviously engineered this attack. A detail of agents from Sections II and III had been dispatched to investigate where the laser was located, and their quick response was netting a nest of birdies that had been too slow to dismantle their laser.
Serena was silent, and no amount of glares from neither Napoleon nor Waverly was disrupting her determination to remain so. It was all over now, and in spite of the way she had managed to wiggle out of that Double Affair without injury, she had not such hopes now. She had been caught, literally, red handed.
Mark was on the communicator at the rear of Waverly's now ruined chair, and his voice interrupted Napoleon's silent intimidation of the woman who had signaled the attack.
"Word is coming back to us now sir. They have three suspects, the laser and…'
Mark stopped as he listened to the rest of the report. As he turned to face the others, he broke out into a smile.
"They have recovered the Mercury Diamond, sir. It was being used in the laser."
His voice held a certain amount of awe as he repeated the details of what he was hearing.
Napoleon turned again to Serena.
"So, THRUSH wasn't involved, eh? Me thinks thou dost protest too much, Serena. Nice try, but I guess you really failed this time.'
Napoleon looked at Serena with a degree of regret, the image of her behind bars was difficult even for him; she deserved it, but it was hard to imagine.
"Mark, please have an agent sent up here to escort our guest to an interrogation room. Serena, I'll see you later."
In mere minutes the doors swished open and two Section III agents arrived to escort Serena away. She looked back at Napoleon, one last attempt to sway his emotions but without the conviction she might have once felt. He had lost the look in his eyes that told her he might be lenient.
April and Bibi shared a glance that confirmed their agreement once again that the lovely THRUSH agent had been suspect all along. Bibi was concerned about Illya, and decided to go check on him while Mr. Waverly and his real agents handled the final details of this dreadful affair.
"Mr. Waverly, I believe one of us should go and check on poor Mr. Kuryakin. If you don't need me here, I shall go down to Medical and… make certain he is being treated properly."
She smiled sweetly as she rose from her chair, the other all returning the expression as they watched her leave the room.
"Poor Mr. Kuryakin…'
April realized she had spoken aloud and looked sheepishly at her superior, both of them actually, before slinking back into her chair.
Napoleon smiled, his trademark weapon back on duty now that the ruckus was over. Mark was slightly peeved that Bibi had gone off in search of the Russian, but a harrumph from Mr. Waverly soon brought everyone back to the matter at hand.
"Mr. Solo, I assume that you will be interrogating Miss, er … Serena. Doesn't that woman have a last name for me to utilize?"
Napoleon shook his head absently, realizing that the woman always identified herself only as Serena.
"No sir, I don't believe she does."
April almost snorted. Like she said earlier, the woman thought she was a rock star.
Down in Medical, Illya was stripped down to his trousers while the doctor examined the laser burn. It wasn't severe, but an antibiotic cream was applied and a light bandage covered it now. Bibi knocked on the door, her boldness in this place surprising even herself.
"May I come in, doctor?"
Dr. Wilson looked at Illya, who nodded his head as a slight smile played at the corners of his mouth. When Bibi entered the doctor realized why the smile had escaped the usually dour Russian.
"Illya, my darling, are you going to be all right? That was such a heroic antic you pulled upstairs. I was quite frightened, really, and I must say am totally off being an agent now."
Illya took all of that in, wondering just what it was that she wanted from him. He knew that Mark still had feelings for her, and wondered if she were playing each of them against the other on purpose, or if she were truly that unaware. He doubted the latter.
"Bibi, thank you for your concern, but I am fine, really. It's only a small burn…"
Bibi was admiring the view as the shirtless blond stood up, unintentionally flexing muscles in an attempt to dispel the discomfort of his back. Bibi didn't remember seeing him like this before…
"Oh, well… um… I just couldn't bear to think of you being hurt. They've taken Serena away. I believe Napoleon is going to be occupied for quite a long time. Interrogation, that's what Mr. Waverly said."
Illya merely nodded. Napoleon would want him standing ready, he supposed. Just in case.
"What about Mark… and April?"
That seemed to catch Bibi off guard. She did so adore Mark, and now she wondered if coming down here had been a mistake. She wasn't supposed to show favorites, and this might be misconstrued.
"Oh, they were all sitting around that big table, discussing the case. I believe that Mark and April are to return the Mercury Diamond to Van Meter & Gruen, or so it sounded to me… Illya?"
The blond was tired, the adrenaline from earlier was wearing off and his back ached and his head hurt.
"What is it, Bibi?"
Bibi needed to know just one thing, and then she would have to do some self-examination. Emotions were such a bother.
"Do you think that you and I… us, together…?"
Illya dreaded conversations like this. He did enjoy Bibi's company, but like so many other women, they fantasized a relationship with UNCLE agents without considering the cost.
"Bibi, I do not own my life. It belongs to UNCLE, and as long as I am an active agent, my entire being is dedicated to fulfilling my job. Can you understand that?"
Tears welled up in Bibi's eyes. She did know this, and of course it applied to all three of these wonderful men. Napoleon and Mark as well as Illya. How did they bear it, she wondered. And April. How did a woman relinquish her heart in order to serve this organization?
"We do it because we believe. The sacrifices are worth it because they make a difference. In the meantime…"
Bibi cut him off before he could finish. Her heart just could not bear to hear him speak any more of this.
"Perhaps just dinner, then. My treat, for everyone. I'm rich, you know."
A new voice came from the doorway.
"Dinner? That sounds great to me, and I think we can count on Mark and April being there as well."
Napoleon came into the room and put his arm around the petite brunette, and kissed her on the cheek in a companionable way.
Bibi would never truly understand what UNCLE meant to these agents. She had helped out with Fitzsimmons, but she lacked the dedication that was evident in the four people here.
"Dinner it is, then. Shall we say eight o'clock?"
Napoleon and Illya caught each other's eyes and nodded. April and Mark were standing outside the door now, on the way to retrieve the Mercury Diamond and take it back to its owners.
"We're in too, luv. Just don't start without us."
Bibi beamed with pleasure. Better to have friends than a broken heart. And these four were her friends now.
Still, she did have time for another look before Illya put his shirt back on.