Napoleon Solo strode purposefully through the great grey corridors of UNCLE Headquarters in New York as though heading into destiny. There was some truth to that assumption, for the handsome CEA of UNCLE Northwest, Number One of Section Two and Heir Apparent to the Throne, had been summoned by his chief with a less than jovial tone in the Old Man's voice. Solo understood the penalty for arriving without the proper attitude in tow.
As Napoleon made his entrance it was shortchanged slightly by the presence of his partner, Illya Kuryakin. The Russian, smaller in stature than his American friend, sat ramrod straight in his usual chair, a quick cut of his eyes the only indication of what lay ahead.
Alexander Waverly, unusually attentive to the arrival of his Second in Command, watched wordlessly as Solo eased himself into the leather chair that bore the imprint of his previous visits. Old Home Week came to mind as the wary agent slid into what had become his seat at the enormous round table that served as the meeting place for these men. Waverly waited for the final squeak of the leather before harrumphing this meeting to order.
"Gentlemen… I uh… you have before you a dossier on a person who has leveled a threat … uh … Truth be told, Mr. Solo, it ahhh… well, you read it and then you tell me, will you. It seems you have made an … to be blunt, an enemy.'
The eyebrows shot up in a hoary row of consternation as the grey steely eyes shot around the room, gauging his agents' reactions. Solo's eyebrows arched slightly as he read, a barely discernable flush in his cheeks the only indication to Kuryakin of where, exactly, he was on the page.
Waverly spoke after a few minutes, assuming his two top agents were now ready for him to continue.
"Mr. Solo, do you recognize this person?"
Napoleon merely nodded. Illya would never let him forget…
"I see. And you, Mr. Kuryakin, do you recognize her as well?"
Illya took a deep breath; a familiar, involuntary breath that often marked a lack of anything to say. Or sometimes, dread.
"Yes sir, I do recognize her. But, in Mr. Solo's defense …"
"Yes, yes … I'm certain you have many things to offer in Mr. Solo's defense. If only that were all that was necessary…"
The end of that sentence was punctuated with a sigh, an uncharacteristically deep sigh to signal the Chief's consternation and, possibly, displeasure.
Napoleon found his voice, although his mind was still reeling from the information before him.
"I admit that there was a … a liaison between the lady and myself. It was mutual, however. I don't see any accusation of … ahem … well, I am not accused of forcing myself on her. Am I?"
Waverly was exhausted. In his day the code of honor was something that remained in the forefront. One might kill his enemy, but he never romanced the enemy's wife. It was a breach of good manners, no matter who it involved.
"Mr. Solo, I believe I have instructed you on numerous occasions to not explore the biological urges that may arise in the course of your interactions with … with the innocents. These women are often vulnerable, emotionally and physically, in the midst of traumatic situations.'
Napoleon blanched slightly, his boss's words coming back to him clearly from those numerous occasions. He nodded his agreement.
"Do you then purposely set out to undermine our reputation as an organization whose integrity and honor are our hallmark?"
"No sir. No, but sometimes … Well, there are situations in which … you know… "
Waverly's eyebrows shot up again in rebuke of the notion being suggested.
"No Mr. Solo, I do not know! You are no Mata Hari, Mr. Solo. And, while I realize that there may be situations where information must be extracted at the cost of your own well being, and that some women may indeed practice their arts in this manner …'
The old gentleman took a breath, lowered his voice…
"… Mr. Solo, this woman is the wife of a head of state, of a member nation that supports the Command with its money and with personnel. Mr. Burundi is threatening to withdraw that support and is asking for your job, Mr. Solo. He wants an example made of you."
Illya had listened to all of this and now took the opportunity to make a case for his partner's actions. Sometimes the truth was hidden so deeply that only a debacle of this nature could serve to expose it.
"Sir, if I may …?"
Waverly harrumphed again, nodding to his Russian to continue.
"In the course of our investigation of the events within Mr. Burundi's country, we came to the conclusion that, in spite of their membership within UNCLE's ranks, the government itself was corrupt.'
Again the eyebrows rose in either exasperation or surprise. They were nearly identical at this point.
"Corruption that we could not prove, and so was not included in our report. Mr. Solo, in pursuing this line of thought, found it opportune…'
Illya shot a glance at Napoleon who winced at the choice of words.
"… was afforded the opportunity to investigate more thoroughly our suspicions. Mrs. Burundi is a much younger woman than her husband, as you can see in this dossier, and was very much attracted to and, in my opinion, very bold in pursuing Mr. Solo's attentions."
Waverly was impatient with this narrative. He had no reason to believe differently from what he was hearing, but it was meaningless in defense of the accusations and threats.
"Do you have a point, Mr. Kuryakin?"
Another great intake of breath.
"Yes, yes I do. I am approaching it, sir. If I may?"
"Mr. Solo informed me that Mrs. Burundi had contacted him, asking for a rendezvous in the gardens of the Presidential Palace. She had bodyguards with her sir, and I was witness to their meeting as well. Inasmuch as there was a secret meeting between the two, it was only secret to Mr. Burundi, and nothing inappropriate took place. I believe that this threat is being made because of what is beneath the surface; out of fear that the president's wife has disclosed state secrets to an UNCLE agent, and that those secrets might be used against Mr. Burundi and his government."
Waverly was intrigued now, although he did wonder that his agents had neglected to include this in their report.
"Why is this not documented in your reports on this mission? I saw no reference to wrongdoing or accusations of such."
Napoleon was breathing again, glad now that his partner had insisted on following him to that meeting with Nigella Burundi.
"Sir, we only included our observations about those events and people involved in the actual affair. I believe that Mr. Kuryakin did include a footnote of our meeting with Mrs. Burundi, however. We did not fail to disclose it."
"Quite right, and so you did. I have it here in front of me.'
The Head of UNCLE scrutinized his agent, the threat of mayhem was dissipating nicely.
"Mr. Solo, do you swear to me now that you did not have … ahh… inappropriate relations with President Burundi's wife? I will take this to whatever lengths are necessary in the face of this man's accusations if you are telling me that they are baseless."
Napoleon heaved a sigh of relief, glad that he had, for once, declined the offer of sex from a beautiful woman.
"Mr. Waverly, sir, I assure you that I never touched her. This man, this enemy, is merely attempting to protect himself by a preventive, pre-emptive strike based on what he believes about my reputation. His government is due for a blow, sir, and he thought to derail outside intervention by subverting attention to this, this lie."
Kuryakin was likewise relieved at what appeared to be a diffusing of the situation. He had no hope that this incident would cure his partner's Casanova inspired lifestyle, but at least Napoleon wasn't guilty of anything this time.
Waverly was done. He would deal with Burundi in his own way, confident that the threats would evaporate along with the man's political career. It was unwise to take on the whole of Waverly's organization on the flimsy assertion of sexual indiscretion. Better an enemy than a friend was someone like Burundi; the Command, indeed the man's own country, would be better off without him.
"Very well then, that will be all. Mr. Solo, you made an enemy of a man who might have succeeded in harming you and this organization. It is a stroke of luck that this time, he was the one in need of removal. Your enemy is now my enemy, and we are well rid of him."
Solo was relieved and mostly confident that he was still in Waverly's good graces.
"Thank you sir, I appreciate your support."
Waverly's eyebrows waggled at his naïve agent.
"Do not be mistaking this for a victory, Mr. Solo. While Burundi is an enemy to both you and UNCLE, the method of his evil intent was too easily constructed. Please, in future, be careful to avoid making enemies on the basis of your romantic proclivities. That is all."
As Solo and Illya walked briskly away from Waverly's office, neither of them had a word to say about what had taken place on the other side of the door. They walked in silence until Napoleon couldn't stand it any longer. He stopped in midstride and grabbed Illya's shoulder, the grip enough to halt the blond's progress.
"Illya, do you think I act without regard to the consequences?"
For just a brief moment, the Russian's countenance reflected dread.
"Napoleon, must we have this conversation …?"
"Here? Yes, right now. Just tell me the truth."
A man was approaching with an armload of files. He received a smile and a nod from the two friends. Illya indicated a door and led Napoleon through it in order to avoid being overheard.
"My friend, you are not someone who operates by any textbook or code of behavior that I know. Do you sometimes disregard the possible consequences of your behavior? Yes, absolutely.'
Napoleon shrank back from that, not wanting to hear more.
"Does it sometimes save our lives and the mission? Yes, on more occasions than I can count. You are a brilliant operative, Napoleon, and you have made enemies on every continent because of your ability and, unfortunately, your charm. For every successful mission there is a jealous woman, man or, in this case, president. Your indiscretions are subject to interpretation, and I have no fantasy in which you do not flirt with and bed the women you encounter."
Napoleon smiled at that, wondering about the loyalty of his partner, the one who had such a different way of living out his own fractured life.
"Illya, thank you. I just don't want to ever bring about risk or …"
"I'll let you know, Napoleon."
That brought about real laughter. Yes, Illya would always let him know when lines were being crossed.
"Okay, tovarisch. Say, speaking of enemies, I heard about that fiasco with Nadine in Translations…"
As Illya groaned in recollection of the woman in question, the two friends exited the office they had used for this conference and continued on to their next miss adventure.