New York City, 12 midnight
It's just a month after the wedding, and he and Joan are fighting. Again. With a viciousness that Napoleon doesn't recall from the first time they were married. Then again, it's clear he missed rather a lot, that first time around.
She says he doesn't talk to her about anything important, treats her like she's still some dewy-eyed eighteen-year-old. He says his work is classified and she says she isn't talking about work. She says she hardly feels she knows him anymore and he says whose fault is that exactly? She sighs and says he's changed and he says yes, of course he has; it's been eighteen years— people change, things happen, things happen to people.
She says, "Of course I know that, I just want to understand, what happened to you? Not people, you."
And he could say I just lost my best friend, but that's his own fault, and he needs this to be her fault, so he says, "For starters, my wife died." and slams the door.
He doesn't storm out of the apartment. He can't. Instead he sneaks out a basement window while his security team goes through a change of shift. If he takes his car, they'll follow him for sure, and he doesn't feel like being followed. So, he sets off on foot.
He's cooled down a bit, feeling the damp air on his face, and he realizes that ditching the security team was perhaps not the wisest plan. He's not afraid, exactly, but letting UNCLE New York loose two continental heads in three months would be downright embarrassing. It would certainly edge them towards the bottom of the continental offices' (friendly, unofficial) competitive ranking. He's not ready to go home though. He can't face Joan. Can't face who he is when he's alone with her. But it's not safe to duck into a club or a bar, or any of his old haunts. There's only one place he can go.
It's the farthest he's walked since his injury, and his leg is aching by the time he arrives outside Del Floria's. He has his own entrance, but his feet take him to the tailor shop before he can remind them otherwise, and he's too sore now to bother going back around the block.
Though it's the middle of the night, headquarters is, as always, busy. He walks past desks full of young people, mostly women, transcribing tapes and cracking codes and connecting telecom calls. They all straighten as he passes, nod and then lower their eyes. He gives the room a playful salute that he certainly doesn't feel. He's the perfect married gentleman, keeps his eyes firmly on the operatives faces and their work. Illya would be proud.
He sits at his desk and pours himself a few fingers of scotch. He'd always known Waverly was hiding the good stuff somewhere, and, sure enough, when he took occupation of the chief's office, he'd found four bottles of Laphroaig and one of aquavit stashed beneath the surface of the rotating globe. He takes a sip, holds the liquor on his tongue. It's unexpectedly bitter and not at all soothing. Maybe it's gone off—who knows how long Waverly'd held on to it? He takes the rest of the glass in a gulp. Then another. Sets the glass down and picks up the telephone.
He waits a long time for each connection. Closes his eyes and lets the buzzing in his ear soak into his skull. He's on the cusp of a headache when a series of sharp clicks finally comes through, then a voice.
The woman's voice is very low, but undeniably feminine. Napoleon imagines her to be tall and blonde and very beautiful, but the effort is half-hearted and he lets the image fade.
He identifies himself and explains whom he's looking for in Russian, and feels just a little insulted when she replies immediately in English.
"Comrade Vice Admiral Kuryakin is not available. If I may ask as to what this is pertaining, I may be able to direct you to someone else for assistance."
"Thank you, Miss?"
"Miss Ivanova, when will Comrade Vice Admiral Kuryakin be available?"
"I'm not authorized to divulge that information, sir."
"Where is he?"
"I'm not authorized to divulge that information either, sir."
"Do you know who I am?"
"Yes sir, if you're calling as a representative of UNCLE, I can transfer you to the office of interagency affairs?"
"No, thank you. You've been helpful enough."
"You're very welcome, sir."
He hangs the phone up, hard. He knows he shouldn't be angry at the girl; it's not as though she should actually be giving away classified information to all callers. If she had, he has to admit, he'd be furious at her for endangering Illya like that.
Still. He stands and crosses the room, opens the door behind Lisa Roger's desk. To her credit, Lisa seems not at all surprised to see him there, even though he knows she saw him leave for home hours ago. Napoleon's frankly not surprised to see her either; he has no idea if she ever sleeps.
"Get me Admiral Gorshkov, please."
"Sir," Lisa looks at him, "he won't appreciate that."
Dammit, he knows exactly which 'he' she means, and she knows that he knows it.
"They've sent him who knows where. The man just had three pins put in his shoulder. There's no way he's field ready; they must know that. First they raise a fuss about getting him back and now they won't even bother to look after him properly?"
Lisa Rogers, for the first time Napoleon has ever seen her, looks uncertain.
"They didn't, sir."
"They didn't ask for him back." She walks to a filing cabinet and locates a folder with her usual, unnerving accuracy, "He put the transfer request in himself. Mr. Raleigh signed off on it while you were on medical leave."
Napoleon skims the pages she hands him. There's Raleigh's signature all right, and Illya's, a little shaky, but legible. He checks the date. If he's not wrong, it's the day Napoleon and Joan announced their engagement, which would make it a full week after Illya was released from the hospital, so there's not much of a chance he'd been doped out of his mind when he'd signed it. Napoleon lets a final ember of hope burn out.
When Napoleon looks up again Lisa is looking at him with something disconcertingly like pity. "I saw him you know, when he came in to fill out the paperwork. He told me he'd discussed it with you."
There's no saving face here; Napoleon can hardly pretend he'd forgotten about a conversation like that. He has to face facts: his wife is a former THRUSH agent whom he barely knows, and who doesn't seem to like him much, and his best friend is a man who'd move across the Iron Curtain just to get away from him, and then lie about it to his face.
"Thank you, Lisa." he mumbles through numb lips, retreats back into the Old Man's office, pours himself another drink.
Moscow, 8 am
Pelageya Kirilovna Ivanova sets the phone down as her superior enters the office.
She thinks, not for the first time, that he's nothing like she was warned he would be. He displays no American decadence. Far from it, his desk isn't filled with gleaming trophies and expensive cigars. His clothing is obviously purchased locally, and the only personal object he's contributed so far to their shared office is a cheap and dented samovar. He's younger than the stern old men that make up most of the admiralty, and, unlike many of them, he has never, ever touched her.
It's true that he's exacting, and often irritable. But Pelageya feels that he expects no more from her than he does from himself, and he's been perfectly willing to type up his own reports from time to time, as soon as his arm was out of it's sling. Sooner than it should have been, she privately judges. Depending on his mood, he can even be easy-going sometimes, and when he's in a good mood, she quite enjoys his sense of humor. She's not sure yet, what kind of mood he'll be in today.
He sets down his case and she rises to help him with his coat. This was not a service she'd offered any of her previous supervisors, however much they may have desired it, but she's fond of Vice Admiral Kuryakin, and she can see that it still pains him, working his left arm out of its sleeve.
"The man from UNCLE called today, Napoleon Solo."
Standing as close behind him as she is, she can see him stiffen when he hears the name.
"What did you tell him?"
"Just what you said, that you aren't available."
He relaxes infinitesimally.
"Sir, if I may ask, you worked with UNCLE until recently, didn't you?"
"And you worked quite closely with Mr. Solo, yes?"
"Yes, naturally." There's a warning note in his voice now.
"But you're sure you don't ever want to speak with him?"
He pulls away from her and shucks his coat off himself, wincing. "Pelageya Kirilovna, when last I checked, you were a secretary and not a psychoanalyst, is that correct?"
"Good, I thought so. Now, if you will please attend to your duties, and kindly allow me to attend to mine." And with that, he sits down at his desk, commences glaring at a stack of reports.
He's in a poisonous mood all day, barking at Pelageya and chastising her for miniscule faults. When she thinks she can't take it anymore, she steps out to have a cigarette with the girls from the typing pool. When she returns, he's nowhere to be found, but there's a cup of tea on her desk. An apology, she thinks, or an acknowledgement that whomever he's mad at, it's never really been her, at least not entirely.