With many thanks to Anushka
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Man from U.N.C.L.E. I make no money from my writing. I just like to borrow the characters for a while.
Slumping down in his favourite armchair, Napoleon Solo glanced around the room. He was home and he was glad. Not in a long time had he felt so exhausted following a mission. Napoleon had literally just returned from three weeks in the humid jungles of India, following the trail of a THRUSH agent who had on his person very valuable information. The mission had been semi successful as the THRUSH agent, along with the information, fell foul to the jaws of a very large crocodile.
Napoleon recalled his report via communicator to Mr. Waverly: 'At least THRUSH no longer has the information Sir' and winced as he remembered the cold reply:
"We will discuss this in my office on your return, Mr. Solo."
Well, he was back, but at almost 21:30 hours, Napoleon decided it was too late to report in person to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. He was also too tired and too dirty to see his boss and Mr. Waverly was likely to be very disappointed over his not obtaining the information. Solo couldn't even pass the blame onto his usual partner, Illya Kuryakin, as he had been on a separate assignment. Napoleon decided he'd face Mr. Waverly in the morning, after a full night's sleep.
Struggling to his feet, Napoleon decided he should select his clothes for the morning; he should at least look his best for his 'dressing down'.
Selecting a deep brown suit and sombre tie, Napoleon was dismayed to see he had no clean shirts. Cursing to himself he remembered why. He'd been in his apartment, sorting out his laundry, ready to drop off at Del Floria's, when Mr. Waverly contacted him via communicator informing him he was booked on a flight to India and was to leave within the hour. He'd forgotten his dirty linen in his rush to pack a bag.
Surveying the dirty linen Solo tried to decide what to do. He could take the shirts to Del Floria's, someone was always on duty, but he could run in to Mr. Waverly. He wasn't ready for a meeting with the 'Old Man'. His other option was to take his laundry to the basement of his apartment block and use the communal washers and dryers. Neither was a pleasing thought, but realising he had little choice, Napoleon gathered his dirty clothes together with some soap powder and his latest copy of Yachting Monthly and headed for the elevator.
As the elevator car made its descent, Napoleon considered getting off before the basement and checking to see if Illya was back from his mission. It was useful, they lived in the same apartment block and right now Napoleon relished the thought of having company while doing his laundry. Yet if the Russian knew he had forgotten to attend to his dirty washing, he'd never hear the end of it.
'He's probably not back from his assignment,' Napoleon consoled himself, deciding he'd rather lack company than suffer a month of teasing and continued his journey, uninterrupted, to the basement.
Napoleon glanced around the utility area and sighed. It was basically a large square room with two alcoves. The walls were painted a depressing grey. A row of twelve washing machines lined one wall, while twelve dryers lined the adjacent wall. Hard plastic grey chairs were scattered around the room. Solo was glad he was the only occupant, as this was not the place he wanted to be seen in.
Selecting a washer, Solo quickly loaded it with his clothes and added the required amount of soap powder. It was a fairly simple operation and Napoleon didn't need to read the washers operating instructions that were clearly printed on the wall for patrons to follow.
On hearing the machine start to fill with water, Napoleon decided he would return to the apartment rather then wait in the basement for the washing cycle to complete. As he made to leave however, he was pleasantly surprised by the arrival of two lovely young ladies. One was a trim brunette while the other was a shapely blonde, both were in deep conversation with each other.
'Maybe he would stay, after all' he thought to himself 'and keep these ladies company.' "Excuse me, may I be of help?" he offered interrupting their chatter, quickly adding with a warm smile, "I'm Napoleon Solo I have an apartment upstairs."
The girls returned his smile but were a little taken aback by his dishevelled look.
"Thank you Mr. Solo, but we can manage." The blonde acknowledged his offer politely and hurried over to a washer. The brunette merely smiled and followed her friend.
Napoleon wished he'd taken a shower before coming to the basement, he realised he must look a sorry mess. Undaunted by their initial rebuff he decided he would stay in the basement and attempt to get to know them. The ladies were very pleasing to look at and they might get used to his appearance, eventually.
Taking one of the grey chairs, Napoleon stepped into one of the alcoves and he made himself as comfortable as a plastic chair would allow. Even if he couldn't strike up a conversation with the girls he could glance at his magazine.
As he waited for the opportunity to speak to the girls again, the room began to fill with more people. Two more young women arrived and a short time later a young man entered carrying a laundry bag.
Napoleon watched from his place of concealment as the new people went over to the washing machines. He instantly recognised the young man and would have beckoned to him but the man's behaviour caused him to remain a silent observer.
Illya Kuryakin simply stared at the machine in front of him, with wide blue eyes. After a moment he touched the washer tentatively as though it were a bomb and jumped back as if scalded when the lid sprung open.
Solo watched fascinated as he saw Illya put his laundry bag on the floor and take out his glasses and put them on. He stared as Illya peered at the instructions on the wall and began to read them out loud in a thick Russian accent.
'What's the matter with him?' Napoleon was growing concerned. This was not usual behaviour from his partner. Illya could probably build the washing machine he was standing in front of. So why did he seem to have trouble understanding how to operate it? 'Perhaps something happened to him on his recent assignment!' Napoleon worried and was about to approach his young friend when he noticed one of the females was standing beside the Russian speaking to him.
"Do you need some help?" her voice soft.
"Yes, please. I don't know how..."
"Don't worry; these machines can be so confusing." The girl interrupted, gently squeezing Illya's hand in a reassuring manner. Taking charge of the situation, the girl collected Illya's laundry bag and began to sort through his clothes, dropping coloured items into one machine and whites into another.
Napoleon was spellbound as another young woman approached Illya. "What soap powder are you going to use?"
"I was going to get some from the dispenser" Illya managed to sound apologetic as he pointed to a machine on the wall.
"No, that simply will not do." The woman gently scolded. "You look like you have delicate skin and that powder is too harsh. You'll use some of mine and no arguments!" She added when Illya looked as if he was going to protest.
The woman returned to her washer and collected a box and took it to the machines that were now filled with Illya's laundry. From where he sat Napoleon could see it was a very expensive brand of soap powder.
"Thank you very much." Illya addressed the two women who had come to his aid.
"Oh, it's no trouble," the lady with the soap powder assured him. "Please call me Elaine. I believe you live on the floor below me?"
Not to be outdone the young woman who had first spoken to Illya announced. "I'm Jenny, I live on your floor. You are away a lot of the time aren't you?"
Illya smiled shyly, but said nothing.
The two other females in the room now joined Illya. They were the blonde and brunette Napoleon had tried to engage in conversation with earlier.
"Hi, I'm Carol, do you live alone?" the blonde asked.
"Yes." Illya answered in a quiet voice, as he stared at the floor. "I manage quite well."
"I'm sure you do," the blonde answered but the look she exchanged with the brunette suggested she did not believe him. "Angela and I share an apartment," she continued "and we've just made a whole batch of cookies. You must try some."
"I couldn't impose."
"Yes you could and you will!" Angela was firm and left for her apartment before Illya could disagree.
A broad smile crept over Napoleon's face, Illya was indeed a devious urchin. If these women knew that the seeming helpless individual was skilled in science, music, languages, weaponry, explosives, mountain climbing and a whole host of other things, they'd probably put him head first into the washer. He also considered how Illya would react if he knew his little game was being witnessed by him.
For some time, Napoleon sat back and watched as the ladies fussed over Illya. He was impressed by the amount of trips the women made back to their respective apartments in order to get food and drink for the little lost Russian. Not that they knew he was Russian, because Illya had given no information about himself to them, not even his name.
By the time his clothes were in the dryer, the four women had all but adopted him. Invitations to lunch, dinner, even breakfast, were issued to him. Offers to wash and dry his clothes on a regular basis were pressed upon him. Even a rota for cleaning his apartment was devised, which Illya politely but firmly declined.
The cessation of the dryer drew Elaine's attention. She pulled open the door and felt the clothes inside. With a hint of sadness, she announced to Illya, "Your laundry is now dry."
"Thank you." Illya smiled at all the women. "Thank you all so much for everything." He was about to empty the dryer, but once again the ladies took charge.
"Some of your clothes will need to be ironed, but don't worry we'll see to that." Jenny decreed "We'll have everything back to you by tomorrow, won't we girls."
"Yes!" the other three ladies chorused.
In a flurry of activity the girls collected their own laundry and items they had brought from their apartments. But before they left the young Russian each girl planted a kiss on his cheek and pressed a piece of paper with a phone number written on it, into his hand.
As the ladies began to leave the room, Carol hesitated for a moment and spoke toward the alcove, "Mr. Solo, you really ought to get your laundry into a dryer, now!" Then she hurried after the other women.
Illya stared toward the alcove, his expression changing to one of absolute horror as he saw Napoleon emerge with a huge grin on his face. "You were there the whole time!" the startled Russian gasped.
"Oh yes, the whole time." Napoleon was sounding horribly smug.
"You're meant to be in India!"
"But I'm not." Napoleon was enjoying his partner's discomfort.
"You should have made yourself known." Illya was starting to sulk.
Napoleon grasped him by the shoulders and shook him gently, "And miss the show? I don't think so!"
Kuryakin pulled away, knowing Napoleon was going to tease him forever over this. In an effort to distract him, Illya asked, "Which machine is yours?"
Still chuckling Napoleon, pointed to a washer. Illya dutifully went over to it and lifted the lid and looked in. What he saw caused him to grin and he reached in and sorted through Napoleon's clothes.
Seeing the smile Napoleon became very wary. "What?"
Pulling a red sock out of the machine Illya spoke in a solemn voice. "It is always advisable to sort out clothes before putting them in a washer. Still, I'm sure pink will suit you and I'm sure Mr. Waverly will approve."
Napoleon dashed over to the washer and stared in horror at the collection of pink shirts it contained.
"That's why it's so useful when ladies help you with the laundry," Illya explained in a sweet innocent voice, "they know about these things. I never have a problem with my laundry..." Illya bolted for the door as Napoleon reached over to grab him, fully intending to put him head first into the washer.