Changing of the Guard

Fandom: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Pairing: Napoleon Solo/Illya Kuryakin

Category:
slash

Rating:
G

Word Count:
1,143

Summary: We’ll never see his like again.

Table/Prompt: Unthemed #5 Table Prompt: Grieve

 

Napoleon looked up when he heard the clicking heels of the secretary as she approached the table. He lay down his pen and started to smile until he saw the tightness around her eyes and the grim set of her mouth. He closed the folder and picked it and the pen up as he stood. She stopped and he nodded. She turned and he followed.

Illya was holding the elevator and the two joined him.

“When?”

“Fifteen minutes ago, maybe less,” she answered.

Napoleon put one hand up, scrubbing it across his eyes. “Not what he had planned.”

“How can you be sure?” Illya asked.

Napoleon looked sharply at his former partner.

“He’s in harness, maybe that was what he planned.”

Napoleon only nodded.

Medical Section was silent when they arrived, the secretary stayed near the nurse’s desk, the men continued forward. Dr. Bennett stepped into the hall, saw them and waited. The three men entered the room together. Napoleon kept going when Illya and the doctor stopped inside the door.

Somewhere along the way Napoleon had lost the file he had been reading in the canteen. He couldn’t remember where it had gone. Did he hand it off to the secretary? Had he dropped it in the elevator? He couldn’t remember. He wondered why he was thinking of something so inane at this moment. He drew closer to the bed, the man there appeared shrunken, surely this was not the same man he’d had a breakfast meeting with this morning.

Napoleon reached out and took the frail hand on top of the cover. “Mr. … “ his voice broke and he cleared his throat. “Alexander.” Eyelids fluttered and opened, tried to focus on him. The hand in his gave a little bit of a squeeze. Napoleon could feel a presence, looked and saw that Illya had come to stand behind his shoulder. Napoleon nodded and looked back to the man in the bed. Until this moment that man had been his employer, his superior, perhaps his friend.

“Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin. You have a new assignment, see that you execute it with your usual success, will you?”

“Sir?”

“There’s a dossier here, somewhere, where did…”

“We have the file, sir.”

“Good, good. Off you go then.”

“In just a moment, sir, we will.”

“Ah yes,” the voice became softer, “take care of one another.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Hate to miss the party.”

“There will be others.”

The man in the bed smiled and his eyes closed. Illya and Napoleon remained standing there. Neither knew how much time passed, but Alexander Waverly’s hand was cool when Napoleon finally let go.

“Godspeed, old son.” Napoleon whispered.

Illya took the hand that had held Alexander’s and led Napoleon from the room and into the next one. The hall was deserted, no one knew they were in the next room, he left the light off. Then the two embraced. Napoleon took deep breaths, inhaling the familiar scent of home and safety, suppressing the shaking he felt trying to get a hold of him. Illya held on to his partner like they were falling overboard from a very tall ocean liner. Another moment and they broke apart, calmed again.

“We have a new assignment.”

“Well, we have had for a while now.”

“Yes, but now I actually have to be the leader of the pack, not just the heir apparent, I wasn’t planning for that today.”

“What, you’d have worn a better suit?”

Napoleon was quiet for a moment and when he spoke it was with a low voice barely covering the strain, “Thank you, Illya.”

“My job is still to watch your back, can’t let the troops see you at less than your best.”

“Right now I’d better just let the troops see us.” Even in the dark, Illya could see Napoleon roll his shoulders and steady himself. “Ready, partner mine?”

“Yes Napoleon, we’ve been charged with making a success of this.”

“Can’t disappoint the Old Man now, can we?”

“I’d rather not.”

***

Napoleon walked to the riser that had been placed at one end of the canteen, stepped up and turned to face the crowd. He saw a sea of familiar faces and every triangle badge worn in the room had a black ribbon across it, just as his did. He cleared his throat and began, “This was to be a retirement party tonight, and instead we say goodbye. We will not see the likes of Alexander Waverly again, he was …”

The speech continued, delivered in Napoleon’s usual calm manner, heartfelt and humorous in turns. The gathered UNCLE employees were reminded of good times, amusing moments, encouraged to stand and add their own memories of their leader with the gathering, sharing their grief as they shared their reminiscences, allowing the pain to be lanced and start to heal.

There was food and drink after, groups of agents and secretaries, research staff and scientists all mingling, talking and sometimes laughing, replacing the sorrow with the joy of memory.

“He would have liked that speech.”

“You think so?”

“Well, maybe not the part about the dancing Greek and the old flame.”

“Oh I don’t know, he did seem to enjoy parts of that night.”

Illya laughed. “He did at that. He said going into the field kept him young.”

“Maybe running from old girlfriends kept him young.”

“Do you want me to hunt up an old girlfriend or two for you?”

Napoleon looked at the smile lurking behind Illya’s eyes, “No, Illya, I can think of lists of better things than that for feeling young.”

Illya just gave a satisfied smirk and led the way out of the canteen.

***

“Sir, your badge.”

“That’s the wrong badge.”

“Sir?”

“He wants the eleven, Miss Carmichael.”

She looked down at the Number One badge in her hand and back up to the Security Chief.

“Miss Carmichael, would you please see that all the Number One badges are gathered up and brought to my office?”

“Yes, Mr. Kuryakin.”

“Thank you,” he said with a hint of a smile for her.

She pinned the eleven and the two in their places and the men entered the hall beyond the security checkpoint.

“Thank you, Illya.” Napoleon was quiet as they got on the elevator. “I think we should archive the badges. I may have ascended to the top of Section One New York, but there will only ever be one Number One.”

“As long as we are here to remember him.”

“I hope you plan to make that a good long time.”

“I believe that was always my assignment.”

“That makes my assignment…”

Illya interrupted Napoleon, “To follow my advice.”

“Oh, well then, I can see that this is going to be fun.” Napoleon rubbed his hands together and grinned.

Illya rolled his eyes and followed Napoleon out of the elevator.

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