The Break a Few Eggs Affair

by Charlie Kirby

Despite outward appearances, Napoleon Solo was doing a slow burn. Most of the time, he loved his job, reveled in its challenges and rose up to meet all hurdles, except for days like today. And all he was trying to do was save a man's life. At this point, rescinding gravity would have been easier.

"Your Majesty, all that I am asking is that you consider UNCLE's offer of protection." He was careful to keep his voice even and calm, to not run his hand through his hair or fuss with his suit. The last thing he wanted to do was to let this man know just how frustrated and anxious he was. Instead he concentrated upon projecting an air of confidence and assurance.

"Mr. Solo, while I can certainly appreciate your stand, my private force has been protecting me for my entire life. Why should I suddenly spurn them to take up with an organization that is still, in my view, in its infancy? I have reigned longer than you have been alive." King Bhumidol Adulyedei regarded the dark-haired agent before him with a near-arrogant calmness as was befitting a god. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, he emulated the lessons taught by Rama, gracious and righteous heroism. "If worse comes to worse, I shall simply fall back upon my days at Cambridge and pretend that I am once again upon the rugby field and go for a break down."

"I can assure you, your majesty, that the message we intercepted is valid and that there is serious cause for your welfare." It was the same argument he'd been making for the past hour and the king's apparent lack of consideration was beginning to wear upon the UNCLE agent's nerves.

"No, Mr. Solo, I will rely upon my force and that is that. I will not change my schedule, I will not alter my path and I will not worry that my life is near its end. If that is so, it is Buddha's will. Now, if you permit, I have several more audiences before the document signing this afternoon. You may leave me." Even if Solo did try to ignore the words themselves, the tone of dismissal in the man's voice couldn't be misconstrued.

"Then I thank you for your time, your majesty." Napoleon bowed and was swiftly escorted from the room by the ever-present military. Head down, he walked quickly through the marble corridors of the palace, hoping the effort would diminish some of his frustration. The heels of his shoes played a steady tattoo upon the polished stone as he hurried along.

"I don't want to say I told you so, but..." He heard the softly-accented voice of his partner before even registering his presence as the man fell into step with him. "You'd have more luck leaking that report to the Thaksin and letting them take care of it."

"Thaksin, is that a rival military group?" Solo continued to walk at a fast clip, the only outward sign of his annoyance with the situation.

"Almost, they're the local media. Once they were the most powerful group in all of Asia, but they've sort of lost their bite in these recent years. Still, if word gets out that there is an assassination planned for their king, the people would be up in arms. After all, he is supposedly the reincarnated Ramayana. They wouldn't take kindly to the thought that their king was playing loose and fast with the reincarnation card." Solo smirked, his bad mood dispelled and the Russian shrugged his shoulders. "It was just a thought."

"Don't lose it; it may well be the only one we have left to use." Solo approached the front entrance to the Grand Palace and the doors were swept open, spilling them out into the courtyard and the multitude of people who visited the grounds each day. Hundreds of people, local and tourists, crowded in to ogle the majesty of the Phra Si Rattana Chedi and possible catch of view of the reputed breast bone of Buddha or lingering the shade of the Hor Phra Monthien Tham, an ornate library where the great texts of Thailand resided. The heat hit Napoleon like a log between his eyes, but he kept his groan silent. Heat and humidity were not high raters in his book these days. Perspiration started to pepper his forehead as they threaded their way through the crowd

High walls and numerous armed guards protected the Grand Palace from the rest of Bangkok, but both men knew that the highest walls, the most attentive guards or diligent police force couldn't stop a determined assassin. "Let's head back to the hotel and check in. Maybe Mr. Waverly can intercede on our behalf." Solo waved a hand, palm down, and a bright pink and lime green taxi pulled up. He'd have preferred a red and blue one, usually the better run company, but at this juncture, he wasn't fussy. "One thing you have to say about the taxis of Bangkok, they're not hard to spot. I wonder who came up with the color schemes."

"I'm guessing someone colorblind." Illya followed him into the vehicle, not hating the blast of cold air from the air conditioner. He didn't care what color the taxi was as long as it wasn't a tuk tuk. Riding in an open-air anything in Bangkok was self defeating in his book.

"I was just so sure he'd listen to reason," Napoleon muttered as he undid the buttons on his jacket to let the cool air worm its way inside.

"You can't make someone determined not to pay attention to you. This I learned in Explosives class. Sometimes you have to let them blow off a finger first."

"Nice visual."

Finny Kelly wasn't happy and when that happened, neither was anyone else - at least not if he had something to say about it. And to his way of thinking, he had plenty to be pissed about.

His film company has been working with the king and his advisors for nearly half a year now. They'd fulfilled various requests, adjusted timing and work loads to make filming at the Grand Palace as easy for the King and make as little as a nuisance out of themselves as possible. In short, they'd jumped through hoops, stood on one foot and tied pretty pink ribbons in their hair, only to arrive and discover that the King has arbitrarily rescinded his permission. Kelly figured that had been a mix up and had been working for nearly a week to wrangle an audience with the King but there seemed to be nothing he could say or do that would convince the King to meet him and discuss their prior arrangement, with or without a film crew..

Kelly wasn't a man accustomed to being refused and he didn't like the taste of it in his mouth. It reminded him of when he was just starting out and had to kowtow to the older chefs, the ones who thought they knew better and the ones he so eagerly dethroned a few years later at his earliest opportunity. He didn't have time to waste with fools and right now he didn't care if they wore aprons or crowns.

So he paced his room like a caged animal. The company had been put up in the Shangri-la, one of the best hotels Bangkok had to offer. It was comfortable enough and the restaurants that existed within its walls were supposed to be the best, but that wasn't what he was here for. He was here to prowl the streets, chat with the natives, eat and drink things from which a normal person would run. He was the breath of America, here to show people how to be visitors and not tourists. He should be sucking down deum and eating nam phrik and he was reduced to eating a tuna sandwich on white bread and drinking imported water.

Suddenly he threw the bottle and yelled, a scream of frustration and fury, and it was enough to make Meredith Hafstrom practically dive under the bed in terror. As it were, she ducked down between the bed and the wall as the empty bottle bounced off the wall and made it halfway back to him.

"If you don't calm down, Finny, you're going to stroke out," she muttered, peering over the top of the bed, just in case he'd picked something else more damaging up in the interim. "And we're going to have to pay for any damages you know. Pete's not going to tolerate you trashing another hotel room." She should have been used to his temper tantrums, but they still caught her by surprise. If it wasn't for the exceptional pay, travel and, let's face it, the bragging rights of working with a master chef, she'd have chucked it all long ago. Well, that and the fact that she really liked Kelly - not this particular version, but the more sedate, wise cracking smart ass version of himself.

"Fine, wonderful, that's perfect! We can do a show on that, feature hospital food, do a tour of the operating room, I can vapor lock on camera..." He stopped and glanced over at the woman. "Oh get up! I'm not going to throw anything else. It's just that this whole show was built around my meeting the King and suddenly he's too busy to see us." Wordless, he growled and started to pace again, his long legs taking the length of the room in about five strides. "How could he be too busy to see us now?"

Then, suddenly, he plopped down onto an armchair, a sack of seemingly boneless flesh and groaned. Meredith took this as her sign that it was safe to come from behind the bed. She could appreciate his sense of frustration. Everything had been planned, arranged, scheduled, locked and checked three times from last Wednesday only to have it all scuttled by one word. And it was obvious that Kelly didn't know what was annoying him more - the fact that the word had come from someone else's lips or that he now had to figure out what the hell to do with the two weeks they had left here. She got that, she really did.

"Where does this leave us?" Kelly dug his cigarettes out of a shorts' pocket and went searching for his lighter. It took two flicks before the wick caught and he tossed it aside. Obviously, it was time for a new Zippo...or lighter fluid...or a new flint. At this point, he just didn't care.

"Jim is starting to put out some feelers about Phuket and down in Pattaya. There's a tiger preserve that is pretty big and there's always the Makha Buhka Festivals in the smaller towns. He's working with some of the local officials to see what can be done to video. If push comes to shove, we could even fall back on a fight crowd or the gay scene. Jeff's been wandering around for the last day getting various color shots"

"Gay scene?" Kelly took a series of puffs off his cigarette and studied the woman intently before flicking the ash into a convenient ashtray. "And you look so innocent and naïve, Meredith. How do you even know about such things? You're just a lamb lost in the storm, right?"

"You're kidding? You know, I'm..." She started to say and then let the sentence drop as Kelly began to grin at her. Of course he did, he was doing it just to get her going "I never know when you're serious and when you're putting me on. Damn it, Finny, what am I going to do with you?"

"Love me, worship me, adore me, and finish telling me what the hell I'm supposed to be doing today." At least he was grinning again. That was one nice thing about the guy Meredith had to confess to herself. He went up like a rocket, but he came right back down again. He held up his arms to her and she leaned into his hug.

"You're a pain in the ass, Finny."

"Yes, but I'm your pain in the ass."

"Sadly, yes, you are. You need to get ready as we're heading over to the Grand Palace in about half an hour for some color. You need to change into long pant as they won't let you in there with shorts or sandals on. I need to go to my room and put on a dress...a real dress, may the gods have mercy upon my soul. I'm just glad I thought to pack one."

"Will the indignities ever cease?" Kelly let his head loll back. "You in a dress? You mean I get to see those long sexy, unshaven legs of yours ...woof. But what the hell, me in long pants in this weather? Maybe I'll just sweat myself to death. What a ratings grabber that would be! Or may it's the network's way of telling me to take off some pounds?"

"Shocking as it might seem, Finny, my lad, it's not always about you. It's about showing respect to the King and light weight poplin slacks will be fine. I'll meet you in the lobby in twenty minutes." She stood and gathered up her various note pads. "No jeans." She started to walk from the room.

"Fine, but I'm not wearing underwear," he shouted to her back.

"Then make sure you zip up before leaving the room or we have to leave you on Thanon Silom with the rest of the trunk-waving elephants." She slammed the door before he could rip off a comeback.

His communicator went off with its usual perfect timing, at least to Solo's way of thinking. He was about to pay for the taxi, but left that to his partner as he climbed out of the cab and back into the blistering heat of mid-day Bangkok. He twisted the instrument on smoothly as he wandered over to the small shrine built just at the base of the hotel, taking refuge in the shade it provided as well as hiding his actions. It took just a matter of seconds for a thin sheen of perspiration to build upon his face.

"Solo here."

"Ah, Mr. Solo, how did your meeting with King Adulyedei go?" About noon here made it nearly midnight back in New York and Solo found himself wondering yet again about whether the old man ever slept. It seemed no matter when one of his agents called, he was there and available. It spoke volumes as to the commitment of the man to the agency or perhaps to his insomnia.

"Less than stellar, sir, he has refused to alter any of his plans," Solo said, as Kuryakin joined him, begrudgingly tucking his money clip back into the interior breast pocket of his jacket. He kept his back towards his partner, shielding him for any prying eyes. Most people were just intent to get about their own business and ignored the pair.

"And Mr. Kuryakin's attempt to meet with the local military head?"

"If possible, it went even worse," Kuryakin leaned in closer to speak. "They have insisted that they will be able to provide the King with whatever protection he needs and yet, the Palace is open and accessible to anyone who wishes entrance." He made a face as he stared up at shining golden statue. "In short, we were told to take our ball and go home, sir."

"We were hoping that you might be able to reason with him, sir." There was uncharacteristic silence on the other end of the communicator and Solo shook the slender instrument, fearful that the connection had been lost. "Mr. Waverly? Sir?"

"Here, Mr. Solo, I am afraid that you two were my last trump card. Very well, if King Adulyedei doesn't wish UNCLE's protection, then our hands are tied, gentlemen. Mr. Solo, I will expect you on a plane to New York tomorrow morning. Mr. Kuryakin, you will proceed tomorrow to Hong Kong for your next assignment."

"Acknowledged. Solo out." Napoleon tucked the communicator back into a breast pocket and they resumed their walk up the curved driveway to the lobby. Just outside the portico, a large van was parked in front of the main doors and two men were hurriedly loading video cameras and cases into it. Solo held up a finger to his partner and stopped.

"Where are you gentlemen off to in such a hurry," Napoleon asked casually, watching the flurry of activity.

"Grand Palace, hopefully before the rain hits," answered the closest man. He was wearing a brightly colored tee shirt and khaki shorts.

"You'll have until about 3 p.m.," Illya said, squinting up at the sky. He started up the long walkway to the hotel lobby. "But they won't let you in dressed liked that. Men are required to wear long pants and women are required to dress modestly, exposing neither their shoulders nor anything above their knees."

"Meredith is not going to go for that and that's just on paper, not in reality," the second man, also dressed in a tee shirt and shorts argued. "It's too hot here to wear long pants. Nobody in their right minds would dress like that."

Since both Solo and Kuryakin were wearing suits, Napoleon refrained from commenting, except to add, "The armed guards at the gate will convince you otherwise then." Solo followed Illya just as the door opened and a woman came out. She was carrying an armful of papers and notebooks and walking as if the devil was after her. Napoleon blessed her with his most charming smile, but she simply side stepped him and plowed on. Solo's face visibly fell and Illya smirked, dropping his gaze down to the red carpet of the entrance.

"What are you doing?" she shouted as she neared the van. "I told you, no shorts! Don't you idiots ever listen to anything I say?"

"We did try to warn them," Illya muttered softly, allowing Solo to precede him in. "And don't take it so hard, Napoleon, not every woman falls victim to the Solo charm." The lobby was cool, a respite from the warmth and humidity outside. "If you're feeling frustrated, after dinner we can always check out Ratchadaphisek."

"No, thank you, I've heard about that place. It's a little bit too libertine for even my tastes." Solo walked up to the desk and smiled at the young clerk there. "Any messages for us, my dear?"

"I don't believe so, Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin, but let me check, please." Her voice was musical and Napoleon's good mood came back. He loved the people here, so warm and friendly, well, with the exception of the government officials. "How do you know about Ratchadaphisek anyway?"

"Napoleon, as much as you would like to think otherwise, Americans didn't invent sex. You're merely more preoccupied by it." The clerk turned back to them, determined to keep her poise.

"No messages, gentlemen."

"That cuts it then," Solo muttered as he led the way to the elevator bank. "Guess that means I'm bound for home tomorrow, back to the snow and ice."

"I'll trade you. You can go to Hong Kong and deal with Hamilton instead. How he convinces the Old Man that he needs my services for every other courier mission is beyond me."

"That's easy, my friend, he has the hots for you."

"Oh, please tell me that you joking before I become ill."

The elevator door opened to reveal a tall lanky man, dressed casually in jeans and a partially opened shirt. Mirrored glasses hid his eyes and a cigarette dangled loosely from his lips. The man's sheer presence made you stay clear of him and Solo obligingly moved to his left, edging closer to his partner. Napoleon Solo was a man long accustomed to picking his battles carefully and this was neither the time nor the place. Plus the man looked vaguely familiar to him, but he couldn't put a finger on it.

"You have an odd expression upon your face, my friend. Something wrong?" Illya asked as they entered the elevator. He glanced over his shoulder to spare the man a second, more scrutinizing look.

"I can't shake the feeling that I know that guy." At the frown that gathered on his partner's face, Solo shook his head as he punched their floor button. "Not in a 'work' sense, but in some other capacity. He just looks so familiar."

"Now that you mention it, I too seem to recall him, but I could not tell you why. He is a guest at this hotel, perhaps you saw him in one of the restaurants."

"Maybe." He shrugged. "At least we have time to get our report pulled together before heading out tomorrow."

"What do you mean, we, Kemo Sabe?" Illya smirked, already knowing that his partner was inventing upon a dozen excuses to wiggle out of the task.

"Okay, Finny, in front of the monkey shrine," directed Meredith. They were racing the rain clouds now as late afternoon approached. The sun had been ducking in and out behind clouds for the past two hours, but now it was hidden behind a thick black bank of clouds.

"Look, that guy is so whipped," Kelly muttered, lighting a cigarette. He nodded to a man, who was trailing a woman, his arms burdened down with a child, various bags and camera cases. "Just a shell of a human, all his freedom, his wants, and desires ripped away from him."

"Finny, the monkey shrine NOW," Meredith ordered and the chef left the shadow for the bright sunshine, a sag in his shoulders.

"Do you think he even sees the irony?" Dougie repositioned his hat upon his head

"Not without permission," Mike muttered back as they followed the host.

Meredith watched them from the relative comfort of her shadow and lifted a walkie talkie to her mouth. "Jeff, how is the second unit going?"

"You are not going to believe this, but the King's here. He's going to be signing something or other and I've got a great position, providing no one sees me and rats me out. I'm beneath these big leafy things with about a million bugs, but the view is perfect."

"Consider it bleeding for your art. So we get the King anyway," she muttered. "All that angling and arguing and we still get color shots." She held the clipboard over her head and watched as the chef wandered about and made rude comments about the shrine. If the guards overhead them, they'd be in deep crap, but for now, security seemed to have moved away from them and closer to the palace. After having a sheer mass of people pressed against her for the best part of the week, the absence of people was almost enough to make her want to spin and dance. "Let's close up shop, boys, it looks like the rain is coming."

In fact, fat drops were beginning to dot the concrete around them. With any luck, they'd get back to the van before being completely drenched, although Kelly looking like a drowned rat would play well on screen. The ratings always went up when the host was caught in a situation over which he had little control. The truth of the matter was that there was very little Kelly didn't rule with an iron fist and those incidents were largely manufactured, not accidents at all, but the viewing public didn't have to know that.

They made it to the van and Kelly, dry and smoking like a chimney, was safely tucked away when an explosion rocked the area. For the chef, it was enough to bring back bad memories of another bout of shelling and he ducked involuntarily.

"What the fuck was that?" he shouted as the others turned back towards the palace. A crowd of people, screaming and terror-stricken, were headed towards them, spilling from the palace grounds and into the street. Horns honked and brakes squealed as drivers attempted to miss the wall of people and Meredith gestured.

"Everyone inside now, we are out of here!"

"But Jeff is still inside!"

"He can find his own way... wait, here he comes!" The young cameraman ran like the devil himself was chasing him and he threw himself into the van, pulling the door closed behind him.

"Go, go go!"


"Anywhere, just away from here."

"Jeff, what happened?" Kelly caught the young man's arm and could feel the tremors running through it. "What did you see?"

"The King's dead - assassinated and I got it all on tape!"

Napoleon lifted his arm slightly from over his eyes and shot a glance over at the desk. His partner was talking softly into his communicator, dictating their report back to headquarters. It was frustrating to come halfway around the world just to go back without their mission fulfilled. Oh well, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, he thought and his stomach gurgled softly. It was still operating on New York time and ready for something more substantial than airline food. Once Illya finished with the report, he would 'wake up' from his nap and suggest that they do just that. He knew his partner wouldn't argue. The Russian was always ready to eat.

The loudspeaker overhead in their room crackled to life; that in itself was odd and Solo gave up his pretense of napping to sit up while Illya set the communicator aside, his attention focused up at the ceiling of their room.

The announcement, when it came, was in Thai, a second puzzlement to Solo. If the building was on fire, surely they would have sounded the fire alarms or given the warning in English as well. He shifted his attention over to his partner as the Russian shook his head sadly.

"Illya, what's wrong?"

"The King should have listened to us, Napoleon." He lifted the communicator back to his lips. "Tell Mr. Waverly that the King was assassinated in front of the Grand Palace this afternoon during his address. Channel D out." He looked over his shoulder to his partner. "I have a feeling those plane tickets are about to be cancelled. Do we go to the military or wait for them to come for us?"

"Why would the military be coming for us, partner of mine?"

"We were with the King earlier, we warned him and the military of a possible attack and we're foreigners. If I was head of the military, I'd be looking us up very quickly, just to see what we know."

"Then the way I see it, we have two choices, aside from the ones mentioned," Napoleon said, pulling on his shoes. "Not that those aren't fine options, but I've spent as much time in foreign jails as I would prefer. I think it might be time to tip our hat and politely disappear into the woodwork."

"That would negate any cooperation from or with them."

"As opposed to the copious amount of cooperation that we've had from them up to this point, you mean?" Solo grabbed his jacket, making sure he had a couple extra clips in the pocket, as well as his ID card and passport. "I don't often do this, Illya, but as your boss..." he pointed to the door.

"I'm leaving," the Russian said drily, grabbing up his own jacket and pulling it over his polo shirt. He walked to the door and opened it, only to look down at the rifle pointed at his midsection. "Or possibly not. Any other thoughts, oh Great White Hunter?"

"Can I help you with something?" Solo asked the man. From the uniform, he was guessing police rather than military. Upon not receiving an answer, he nudged his partner.

Illya frowned for a moment, doing a translation in his head and then repeated Solo's question in Thai. The man looked at him sharply and responded rapidly. A couple was walking by in the corridor and Solo recognized both of them as the man from the elevator and the disinterested lady. The guard and Illya both paused in their conversation until the couple had moved past. Illya said something else, the guard laughed harshly, shoved him backwards into the room and slammed the door.

"House arrest," Solo guessed.

"Got it in one, Napoleon - I'm guessing that it's time to call in the Big Dogs."

"I'll make sure to mention to the Old Man that you call him that." Solo smiled at his partner and brought his communicator to his lips. "Open Channel D, overseas relay, emergency priority one, Number 1, Section 1."

The van screeched to a halt in front of the hotel and began to spill forth its passengers. As Kelly stepped from the van, he was immediately struck by the eerie silence. The bedlam of an hour ago was halted as a country shut down to mourn its beloved leader.

"I had no idea this guy was so well liked here," Kelly muttered. Even the ever present bellman was absent. Cars were parked in the main boulevard, doors opened as the occupants shuffled out. On the sidewalk in front of the hotel, locals wandered by, some crying, some looking shell shocked. It was the most remarkable transformation he'd ever seen.

"I gotta see what I got," Jeff blurted, pushing past Finny on his way to his room.

"A little respect here, Jeff," Meredith said, grabbing his arm. "This is a very personal thing for these people. I know you're thinking Emmy, but it's not about you right now."

"Whatever." He shook her hand off and pushed past her on a dead run. Meredith shook her head sadly. "Someday he'll grow up. Some day he'll know what it means to lose someone who matters and this will all come slamming back to him."

Kelly slipped an arm around her shoulders and kissed her temple. It was this woman's compassion that kept her here at his side. Even at his most flippant, she was there to ground him and bring him back from the edge. Without her, he was just an angry belligerent man, she made him human

"Meredith, will you marry me?"

"Wouldn't your wife have something to say about that, never mind mine?"

He laughed and looked past her to the two techs. They seemed lost, unsure of what they should do. "Why don't you guys park and unpack later," he suggested. "Somehow, I think business as usual won't be the case for the next few hours. I'll give you a call in your room later."

They weren't even to the doors of the hotel when the explosion sounded, sending them dropping to the ground, Kelly leaning protectively over the woman. "What the hell?" Black smoke and flames poured from just beyond the high hedges that surrounded the hotel.

"I was afraid of this," Meredith muttered as she stood. "The coup has started. The King kept everything in balance and now comes the struggle. Hopefully, they'll get the heir apparent installed before this gets bad."

"How bad is bad?"

"Besides blowing things up, you mean? There's never been an assassination of a king here that I know of, so there's no real way of knowing. I think we need to get inside though." She pushed him along up the abandoned walkway and into the lobby. A heavy sense of sadness hung through the air, with people openly mourning the loss of their king. Even the explosion didn't seem to register with any of them. Kelly was amazed as they walked past the desk. The clerks were operating like automatons, not seeing, merely doing tasks by sheer rote.

It was almost a relief to slip into the elevator.

"That was unreal," Meredith murmured as she punched in their floor number.

'Eerie and not the lake," Kelly quipped and then grew somber. "Sorry, didn't mean that. It's a defense mechanism. I'm trying to be careful."

"I know, just watch that flippant attitude of yours for the next couple of days. I'm going to call Jim and see if we can get the next flight out of here. I have a feeling it's time to go home and count our losses on this show. Maybe once the new king is installed we can pick up where we left off."

The elevator stopped and they walked out, slowing as they walked past an armed guard stationed in front of a room. The door was open and a blond man was talking with or rather to the man, while a darker-haired man hovered close by.

"I know him...sort of," Meredith muttered as they passed. "He tried to pick me up earlier today." Both men stopped talking and the blond one gave them each a good looking over before returning to his conversation. The guard merely smirked, barked something that sounded vaguely derogatory, shoved him back into the room and slammed the door.

Kelly took advantage of the movement and gave Meredith a small push forward as well. She glared at him, but picked up the pace until they had reached his suite nearby. Without a waste of movement, he flipped out his key and swiftly opened the door.

"What was that all about?" Meredith asked as she watched him deadbolt the door after them.

"He sort of looked like the type of guy we tried to avoid back home." Kelly ran long fingers through his curly graying hair and smiled hesitantly, almost sheepishly, at his lack of nerve.

"Which one? You mean the dark haired guy? He looked pretty harmless, sort of like an accountant who's lost his way."

"The blond guy."

"The short one - he didn't strike me as the burly strong arm type. It looks like one good sneeze would blow him over."

"You didn't see his eyes then. No, he's more like the 'shoot now, ask questions later' type. Those are the ones to look out for." She laughed and he shook his head. "I'm serious, if they have those two under guard, it's for a reason and I don't necessarily want to know what it is. I'm a chef, I sling hash, I don't stare down barrels of guns."

"You're over-reacting, Finny, nor do you sling hash. There's probably a simple explanation for it. Maybe they were trying to skip out on their bill."

"I met them earlier and I'd be willing to bet the suit on the dark-haired guy put him back a week's worth of my salary." The phone rang. They both jumped and then laughed at each other. "Kelly," he said, lifting the phone to his ear.

"Know that you are next if you don't release the film to us."

"Hello, what? Who is this?" Kelly looked down at the receiver and then over at Meredith. "Is this a joke?"

"Your camera crew is dead; it is no joke. The film or you die." There was a loud click and then a series of softer ones. Kelly looked at the receiver. "What the hell..?"

"Finny, what's wrong? You've gone white."

"The guy on the phone told me our camera crew is dead."

"What? They're just parking the van. How could they be... that explosion?" She shook her head and walked to the door. "You sit tight; I'm going to check on them."

"Meredith, you can't. I've got the balls, so I'll do it. I'm a coward, but it's a man's job."

"Which is why you should stay here," she said, firmly. "No offense, Finny, but if anyone waved a gun in your face, you'd piss your pants. Plus everyone knows you - no one even sees me. I'll give you a call once I figure out what's happened." She opened the door and laughed. "If you get scared, maybe you can go bunk with the blond guy. At least he has an armed police office at his door."

Illya squatted in front of the TV and adjusted the volume slightly so as to not interfere with his partner's oversea conversation. The local station was running a report, using a series of stills to back the reporter. The man was talking a little bit faster than Illya could comfortably translate, but the meat of the story was basically what they already knew. The King was dead, killed by a gunman who then blew himself up. There was an additional explosion near their hotel, but details were sketchy. The more he listened, the less useful information he was getting as the words blurred together.

To know what was really happening, he needed a foreign station, but the few channels the hotel received were simply not broadcasting the news yet, either through purpose or ignorance. He finally found a French station running the story as 'live', which helped to bridge some of his language gaps, but didn't add much more to. It seemed as though the country was heading towards a lock down and they were at the heart of it. For one reason or another, UNCLE, or rather, they, personally, were being held responsible for the current situation.

"Anything you can do to get us out of here would be appreciated, sir. Solo out." Napoleon set the communicator down onto the desktop and rubbed his eyelids with his thumbs. He opened his eyes and shook his head at the blond. "He's going through diplomatic channels and told us to sit tight unless we feel our lives are directly in danger and then we are to take suitable steps to ensure our safety."

"I'm guessing that would start with knocking out the guard and progressing from there. The news is a bust." Illya stood effortlessly and abandoned the instrument after shutting it off. "They just keep reporting the same thing again and again. So, short of taking out aforementioned guard and fleeing for our lives, I'm out of ideas." Napoleon smiled at him, a deliciously wicked smile and Kuryakin's defenses went to full alert. When Napoleon had that look in his eye, things could easily and quickly get out of hand. "Napoleon," he said slowly and cautiously, "What's going on in that devious little mind of yours?"

"Well, we're stuck here; we're two young, healthy, athletic men with some time to kill. There's something I've been wanting to try with you for awhile now." Napoleon walked to his open suitcase and began to shove aside the neatly folded shirts, going into the inner reaches of the luggage. "Ha!"

"Ha what?" Illya had taken a step away from the man back towards the door.

"Ha this!" Napoleon pulled out a small metal container and flipped it open. "Mom gave me this for Christmas. It's a magnetic chess board." He grinned at his partner and cocked up an eyebrow. "Why? What did you think I was suggesting?"

"Nothing, and we shall speak of it no further. I'll take black." Illya pulled off his coat jacket and wiggled out of his shoulder holster. "And toss the room service menu over here. If I'm going to have to repeatedly lose to you at chess, at least I will be well fed."

Finny paced the length of his room and back again. Funny how he seemed to be reduced to doing that a lot lately. It was just that Meredith hadn't returned and repeated calls to her room were going unanswered. He was nervous, he was angry and although he'd deny it to his last day on Earth, deep down in his gut, he was scared out of his mind. Unlike many of the countries he visited, he knew next to nothing about Thailand, except for the usual food trends. Meredith was his sole point of information. She made sure he got where he needed to be and when. Hell, if something happened to her, he didn't even have his plane ticket home.

He cracked open the door to his room and glanced up and down the long hall. The guard was still stationed outside that one room and Kelly came to an immediate decision. Settling his resolve firmly in place, he gathered up as much of his usual cocky attitude as he could muster and headed for the room.

As he approached the guard, the man stiffened, raising his rifle in warning.

"Did you see a woman go by here?" Finny asked. "I need her."

The guard looked past him, either unable to understand or choosing not to. Okay, the polite approach wasn't cutting it. He glanced up at the room number and walked back to his own. He picked up the phone and listened to a series of clicks. It wasn't doing that earlier. He put the receiver down as if it burnt him and went back to sit upon the bed. Things were rapidly getting out of hand and he wished Meredith would return.

"Check," Napoleon said, pushing his piece into place. "Wiggle your way out of that one, Kuryakin." Illya propped his chin up on his fists and chewed his bottom lip, while staring at the board. Napoleon's communicator began to chirp on and off and he frowned at the instrument. "Don't think this is going to help you."

"Why don't you answer that and find out what Uncle Alex wants?" Illya helped himself to more of Napoleon's fries as he contemplated his next move. Whatever else might be said about his womanizing partner, the man was a wicked chess player.

"Channel D is open. Solo here."

"Napoleon, just checking up on you per Mr. Waverly's orders." The woman's voice was familiar and it took him a moment to place it to a face. "Everything okay there?"

"Why Ms. Prince, how are things in dreary old New York?"

"Dreary and old. How is it going with you?"

"I'm beating the pants off of Illya."

"You're doing what with Illya's pants?" Kuryakin groaned at the thought of how that little tidbit of gossip was going to evolve into before they got back to right it.

"Chess, Janice, we're playing chess in a stuffy hotel room with an armed guard out front and not even a decent bottle of wine in here."

"I'm sorry that we can't make you more comfortable, Mr. Solo." Waverly's voice interrupted the woman and Napoleon grimaced, ignorant of the grin plastered across his partner's face. When he glanced over his shoulder, the Russian's usual stoic expression greeted him. "I did want to alert you to a possible situation."

With Waverly, that could mean almost anything, from a rescheduled plane flight to a governmental coup. "Yes, sir."

"There is a guest in your hotel, a Mr. Finny Kelly. He's a local celebrity chef that has found some limited success within the television market."

Napoleon snapped his fingers and Illya flicked a look in his direction before returning his concentration to the board. "That's him - I knew he looked familiar. I've dined at his restaurant. Bit of an egomaniac, but an excellent chef. And I've heard about his TV show. Never seen it, but I understand it has quite the following."

"Precisely, Mr. Solo, and we have been alerted through unnamed channels that it is possible that his camera crew was able to capture the king's assassination on film."

"Excuse me for interrupting," Illya said, leaning over Napoleon's shoulder so that his voice would carry. "But how were they able to get so close? Television cameras are huge clunky affairs. Surely the guards would have seen him and sent him away."

"Apparently, one of the camera men has been experimenting with a smaller, more easily transported model. We need to contact Mr. Kelly and ascertain for ourselves if this is indeed true and whether or not he is in any danger." Mr. Waverly's voice stopped for a moment and Solo could envision him sucking upon his ever-present pipe. "He is currently being housed in the Imperial suite upon your floor. Do you know where that is located?"

Illya held up three fingers and hooked a thumb over his shoulder.

"Yes, sir, we can locate it with no trouble."

"Would there be any difficulty with you departing your hotel room?"

"There's an armed guard outside that Illya's been itching to get his hands on for hours. It won't be a problem, sir. It's unlikely that we will be able to return to this room."

"Agreed, for your safety and that of Mr. Kelly's, I think it would be advisable to expedite an immediate departure of the country."

"But, sir, the assassination..."

"Effective as of this moment, that is no longer of yours or Mr. Kuryakin's concern. Other agents have been assigned to take over. They are currently en route and will be there within the hour."

"I'll brief them upon their arrival."

"Are you even listening to me, man?" Waverly demanded his voice a force to be reckoned with even half a world away. "You are off that assignment, Mr. Solo. Get that camera crew out of there."

Napoleon spared a moment to glance over at his partner, who merely shrugged his shoulders. "Ours is to not to reason why," he murmured softly.

"Yes, sir I understand."

"As to your arrangements, I will leave those in your capable hands, Mr. Solo. Channel D out."

Napoleon made a face and tucked the communicator back into his shirt pocket. "I feel like a little boy who's been caught out behind the wood shed smoking. Any idea what that is all about?"

"None, but Mr. Waverly is in the enviable position of not having to explain himself to either of us. Apparently, he wants us, the chef, and the camera crew out of the country and as quickly as possible."

"That makes no sense. Why bring in other agents when we're already here?"

"Maybe someone else needed the practice or perhaps he wanted to send in agents that wouldn't be identified as such. Who know how the man thinks?" Illya had resumed his perch by the chess board and flicked up a casual glance in Napoleon's direction. "As for leaving, it's probably just as well." He returned to the board after draining the last bit of coffee from his cup.

"Why? Bored? Anxious?"

"Finished," Illya said, reaching over to take Napoleon's queen, moving his knight into its place. "Checkmate."

"What? You sneaky Russian, I can't believe you would backdoor me like that! And you call yourself my partner," Napoleon said, pausing to study the board, trying to find where his strategy went wrong. "That was a good move... just for that, I should take out the guard."

"Be my guest, you know how I abhor violence." Illya, obviously pleased with himself, leaned back in his chair and gestured to the door. "After all, my knuckles have just healed from our last escape attempt."

"Deprive you of the pleasure and then have to listen to you gripe about it for the next week? I guess it's time to strategize. I do think, however, what we need some sort of course of action before we start. The way I see it, we have two potential targets here." He set the kings down upon the table top. "So, we have Kelly and the camera man."

Illya reached for the queen and two rooks, "Plus the woman who was with them, and the two technicians who we saw loading that van. That's five of them and two of us - problematic at best."

"According to Mr. Waverly, the real focus here is the camera man - we have to see what he filmed. I'll take him and the two technicians and you handle the chef and his lady friend. Maybe you'll have better luck with her, since she obviously didn't fancy me." Napoleon adjusted the piece accordingly. "I suggest two different routes. If I head south and west..."

"Then I shall head east to Saigon, Ho Chi Ming City, or whatever they are calling it this week. I have a friend there who can help. And we can rendezvous in Hong Kong"


"My friend? As the day is long...I'm not sure about the night though."

"So, let's go collect our packages." Napoleon reached over and gathered up the room service tray. "You through here?"

"Any food left?" Illya pulled his gun from its holster and checked it, confirming that it was loaded with sleep bullets.

"Not as such." Napoleon poked a stiff finger through the clutter of used crockery, trash and the like.

"Then I am through." Illya walked to the door and reached for the knob. At his partner's nod, he tugged the door open. As predicted the guard turned, gun at ready until he saw Napoleon standing there with the tray. Napoleon offered it to him to which the man scowled and gestured to the floor outside the door. That's when he made his brief error in judgment, watching Napoleon instead of the slender blond standing there, for it was that man who shot him. Napoleon, having set the tray down, launched up and grabbed the man before he could tumble to the floor. He hustled him into the hotel room in one smooth movement.

"That worked out well," Solo admitted, settling the man back upon the bed. He looked over at his partner, who was holding up four ties.

"I always hate when they start off that way; it usually bodes poorly for events down the road. What?" He protested to Napoleon's scowl. "Two of yours, two of mine, it's fair."

"One of mine cost as much as five of yours." Begrudgingly, Napoleon pulled two of the neckties from the man's hands and started to secure the guard's hands to the bed posts. "This is raw silk, you know."

"Apparently, one of us knows the value of a dollar while the other is still using $50 ties as restraints." Illya was rapidly binding the man's feet, making the knots were secure. "And as my concession to you, these are my favorite socks." Illya moved to his suitcase and pulled a pair of socks and his last necktie from inside. He tossed them to the dark-haired American who wadded the socks into a ball and stuffed it into the guard's mouth tying it in place with the necktie.

"That should keep him quiet for awhile. I figure we probably have about an hour, if that, before they exchange guards." Napoleon straightened and began to pat his pockets, doing a fast mental inventory of what he was carrying upon his person. From this point forward, they would have to travel light, taking only the items that they absolutely needed for survival. It pained him that he'd have to leave the chessboard behind, but it was just the luck of the draw. He didn't need to look to know his partner was similarly engaged.

"To Kelly's room first?"

"After you, my dear Alfonse. " Illya gestured towards the door.

They made their way slowly down the hall until they saw a small sign pointing toward the Imperial Suite. It was set in a short recessed hallway and Illya immediately moved towards the door. There was something attached to the door frame and he knelt before it.

Kelly was staring out the window when he thought he heard a noise at his door. He walked swiftly to it, thanking the gods in whatever form they might take that Meredith had returned. He was prepared to pull it open, then decided to err on the side of caution instead. Looking out the peep hole offered no help; there was no one standing there. Had he imagined the knock?

Instead, he tried his voice, "Hello? Meredith, is that you?"

He was about to yank it open when he heard a voice, sharp and carrying a tone of authority through the wood. "Don't touch the door!" Kelly jumped back from it as though it were a snake. If he wasn't on the 17th floor, he would have shot out the window. As it was, he made it as far as the balcony, crouching down behind a rattan chair to hide as much of his lean 6' 5' frame as possible.

Slowly the door creaked open, revealing one man standing, another kneeling, his hands preoccupied with removing something from the door frame. Kelly couldn't tell what it was, but he recognized the pair.

"Mr. Kelly," the dark-haired man, the one standing, asked, stepping around the other. As Meredith had so succinctly put it, the man looked about as dangerous as Hugh Hefner, but now a sense of danger that clung to him like stale smoke did upon him. Still it was the second man, kneeling, that Kelly had a problem with. That punk had his nerves jangled like the release valve of a pressure cooker. Still they were between him and the now open door and that represented his only way out. If he could BS his way around them and make a run for it, there might still be a chance.

So, he stood up from behind the negligible protection of the rattan chair, his height dwarfing both men. "Yea, I'm Kelly, whaddya want and who wants to know?" He let his New York attitude wash off him in waves.

"Well, not to put too fine a point upon it, Mr. Kelly, you." The first guy glanced over his shoulder at Kelly, obviously not the least but put off by the attitude. "I'm Napoleon Solo and this is my partner, Illya Kuryakin. We have reason to believe that your life is in danger and we're here to take you home."

Kelly reached for his cigarettes and lit one, puffing away at it. "Right, like I'm going to believe that load of bull shit."

Kuryakin stood, holding a small device in his hand. "That was eloquently stated," Illya muttered as he turned the bomb over to study it. "This isn't THRUSH, Napoleon, not sophisticated enough, although it would have pretty much dusted Mr. Kelly's clock. I believe they are waiting for an earth-shattering ka-boom, Napoleon." A slight grin and arched eyebrows. "Shall I?"

"Let them wait a bit longer. We may need to use it to cover our exit," Napoleon said approaching the chef. "Mr. Kelly, I need you to believe me right now. The bomb on your door should indicate that these folks are not just playing with you. We need to get you out of here."

That's doesn't prove anything. For all I know you two scumbags coulda stuck it there."

"I'm sensing resistance, Napoleon." The blond kept a vigil by the door, cracking it open just enough to peer through it. "And I'm assuming calling us scumbags is not a compliment."

"Not from where I come from," Napoleon said firmly, his tone anything but his usual easy going. "Mr. Kelly, I'm afraid you have no choice, one way or the other, you are coming with us." He slid the Walther P-38 from its hostler and watched the man's face pale at the sight of the weapon. "I would prefer for it to be with your cooperation, but if necessary, we will resort to force. I will carry you if I have to."

"That...that...ah...really won't be...I'm finding renewed confidence in you."

"What room is your camera man staying in?"

"Why? How do I know I can trust you guys?"

"Again, no choice and Illya is very persuasive when he puts his mind to it." From his position at the door, Illya cracked his knuckles.

"Fifth floor, 5062, right next door to the film crew. Meredith is down one from me." Kelly blurted out the information before he had a chance to catch himself. "Shit, I shouldn't have told you that." He pointed an accusatory finger at Illya. "You're scary."

"That I will take as a compliment," Illya muttered, placing the bomb down upon the TV. Kelly took an involuntary step back towards the balcony again and Illya smiled slightly. "It's disarmed. It won't detonate until I tell it to."

"Right, then I'm off." Solo moved gracefully from the room back towards the hall. The blond caught him by the arm as he slid past.

"Be careful, my friend, we are facing an unknown enemy. At least with THRUSH, we know how to play the game. With these people, we lack that luxury."

"And you. I'll see you in Hong Kong." Then the man was gone, leaving Kelly alone with the Russian agent.

"Mr. Kelly, it is imperative that we leave as quickly as possible." Illya glanced about the room. "You will need your passport, identification, and money. If there is something medicinal that you need, you should also take that as well. I cannot guarantee when or where we will be stopping along the way.

"I'm not moving until I know exactly who you are and what you're up to." Kelly sunk into a chair and crossed his arms.

For a moment, the Russian contemplated just shooting the man and dragging him unconscious from the room, but Kelly was of a formidable size. He'd be hard pressed to get him into a car undetected. Instead, Illya sighed and pulled a slim wallet from inside his jacket, flipping it open and allowing the man to read the gold card there.

"United Network Command for Law and Engorgement? What the fu...?"

"Enforcement," Illya corrected, frowning at the thought. "My boss wants you home and he always gets what he wants."

"That Solo fella, you mean? - he's your boss?"

"Only in his dreams," Illya muttered, returning the id to its pocket. "You said Meredith? That was the woman I saw you with earlier?"

"My personal assistant, yea." Kelly snuffed out the cigarette and reached for another.

"Please, my lungs beg you for a break." Kuryakin watched him tuck the pack in to his pocket and he turned his attention to the compact, but lethal bomb he'd removed from the chef's door. "Someone was very intent upon not allowing you to leave your room alive, Mr. Kelly. Any reason why?"

"We, me and Meredith, got a call that they were dead..."


"Our film crew. She went off to check up on them about three hours ago. I haven't seen or heard from her since. When I heard that knock I thought it was her."

"What knock?"

"Just before you and the suit jockey showed up."

"That doesn't bode well." Illya lifted the receiver of the phone and listened for a moment before recradling it. "You also have picked up a bug, Mr. Kelly."

"On top of everything else, I'm sick too?"

"An electronic bug, someone is tapping your phone." Illya reached into his jacket and pulled out a slender tube. "Open Channel F please."

Napoleon stepped out of the elevator just as his communicator went off. Glancing around, he moved closer to the window, letting the curtains hide the instrument. "Yes, Illya?"

"Napoleon, I have a feeling that you might be too late for the camera crew. Mr. Kelly has just informed me that they were supposedly killed and I have a bad feeling that his assistant may have met a similar fate. I've also just confirmed that his phone is being tapped."

"The government?" Solo kept his attention wandering about the immediate area. "Why would the government kill someone for filming an assassination? That makes no sense."

"I'm thinking that it's more along the lines of the assassins wanted that film to disappear, unless there is something that the government wants to keep from the public eye. I don't know, but we are about to set out pick up the assistant. I'll talk to you later."

Napoleon capped the instrument and walked down the hall, his step cautious, but relaxed as he passed room after room, eventually stopping in front of 5062. With a practiced eye, he studied it carefully before touching the knob. No jolts of electricity shot through his arm, so he bent to the lock. It gave easily and he caught his breath as he pushed the door open.

The room had been quite thoroughly searched from what he could tell. Equipment and personal effects were tossed everywhere. He moved into the room and shut the door behind him. He slipped his gun from its holster and took a deep breath.

Standing there quietly, he shut his eyes and let his other senses go to work. His ears picked it up, faintly, just the whisper of a sound. It took him a moment to locate it and he lifted the bed's mattress and box spring to glance into the pedestal they had been set upon. As in their room, it was hollow underneath, but not empty. A man crouched in the dust and forgotten trash at the far end of the space.

"Don't hurt me, please, don't hurt me, here's the film, don't hurt me." The man's eyes were wild as he proffered canister and Solo could only guess at the terror that was gripping the younger man to make him so frightened.

"It's okay," Solo said, softly, holstering his weapon. "Whether you believe this or not, I'm here to help you. "I'm Napoleon Solo with the U.N.C.L.E." He reached out his hand and after a long moment, the man took it and let Solo pull him to his feet.

"Jeff...Jeff Loveworth."

"Alright, Jeff, it looks to me like you have had a bit of a party here." Solo brought out his communicator. "Open Channel F - Illya?"


"I have the camera man and the film."

Illya Kuryakin looked down at the fallen and broken body of a young woman. Kelly was on his knees beside her, weeping, and clutching at the lifeless form to him. "Excellent, sadly, I have a dead body."

"The assistant?"

"Unfortunately, yes it is." Illya kept his voice low as he wandered as far away from the chef as he could to give the man a little privacy. "She was apparently strangled, garroted, I think, from the ligature marks. Rigor mortis hasn't set in, so she was probably killed just after she left Kelly."

"Is he okay?"

"Not the phrase I would use to describe him at the moment. Whatever else might be said for him, he apparently did care deeply for her. It is also obvious that these people are very serious in their intent."

"Agreed. Watch your back."

Illya nodded, knowing that Solo couldn't see the gesture and capped the communicator. He crossed the small room in three strides and knelt beside the man.

"We have to go, Mr. Kelly. The people who did this are looking for you."

"But why did they have to kill her? She would have given them what they wanted. They just had to ask. Whatever Jeff filmed wasn't that important."

"It is to them." He placed a hand upon the man's shoulder and squeezed gently. "And we must be certain that Meredith's death does not go unnoticed. I assure you, Mr. Kelly, the people that did this will pay, but in order for me to do that, we need to be away from here."

"But I can't leave her." Kelly brushed the plain brown hair from her face with a gentle hand. "She's so alone. She was so excited about coming here. This is the one country she's always wanted to visit. It's just not right to abandon her now."

"All that was Meredith is gone. She moved on, reincarnated or whatever your religion believes. She's at peace, but we are not. Mr. Kelly, please." Illya allowed just a bit of desperation to edge into his voice.

After a long moment, Kelly released his burden and laid her gently back upon the carpet. With shaking fingers, he worked a necklace free from her neck. Glancing over at the Russian, he murmured, "She'd want Arlete to have this as a remembrance." He slowly rose and sighed, "I never wanted it to end this way. It's just a stupid TV show."

"I know." Illya pushed him towards the door. "Later we mourn, now we move."

Solo glanced over at the younger man, who'd sat down upon the mattress with a thud as he tucked the communicator away. "It looks like our fivesome is down to two, my friend."

"Meredith is dead, isn't she? Wait, there's still two more of us. Our techs..." One look at Solo's face told him the reality. "Oh, no," Jeff whispered, "Not them too? But Dougie just had a baby, his first...oh god...and Mike..."

"I'm afraid so." Solo pushed aside papers, canisters, broken pieces of equipment, suddenly spying a familiar blue passport. At last, one spark of good news, at least they didn't take that with them. Again that confirmed to Solo that forces other than THRUSH were behind all of this. For some reason, that both comforted and concerned him.

"What do we do?" Jeff looked up from his spot on the bed, still unmoving. "She's the one who made all the arrangements for us. I haven't the faintest idea of what to do now."

Napoleon took one look around the room and shook his head as he handed the man his passport. ""

He led the way to the corridor and to the stairs.

"Wouldn't the elevator be faster?" Jeff hugged the canister, hidden beneath his tee shirt, closer to his body.

"Remember what they always say, in case of an emergency, never use the elevator. Jeff, do you have a car?"

"No, just the van."

"I'm afraid that is gone as well." Napoleon went down the stairs at an even pace, his eyes constantly checking up and down the stairwell, just in case. The only sound was their feet on the concrete stairs. "Then we improvise."

Illya led the way down a service corridor, all of his senses on hyper alert. So far, their trussed-up guard hadn't been found as neither of them had garnered even a second glance from hotel staff or guests. Both he and Kelly wore baseball caps and sunglasses, a small attempt at camouflage. Illya pushed open the door to the parking garage and held his breath. No bullets 'pinged' close to his head, no men carrying government issued rifles waved them in his face.

"Stay here," he ordered Kelly. When the man didn't respond, Illya pulled off the Kelly's sunglasses and studied him intently. "Mr. Kelly?" The man looked at him with blank, glazed eyes, still in shock from their earlier discovery. "Please, understand that I am sorry for your loss. I know she was a good friend of yours, but right now I need you to focus upon our current situation. Can you do that?" The salt and peppered haired head bobbed once and Illya handed him back the glasses, patting him on the shoulder.

Illya shoved the door open wide and stepped out. Moving nonchalantly, he walked over to a car and glanced inside. It was locked, but that was not a problem. He pulled off his tie tack and took a bit of plastic explosive from the back of his watch. He placed both against the back car window and hit the trigger on the tie tack. A flare and the window shattered noiselessly. He reached around and popped the lock up, opened the door and slid into place. It only took a moment longer for him to hotwire the car and he backed carefully out of the slot and to the chef.

As he pulled up even with it, he saw Kelly staring up the stairs with a look a panic on his face. Illya opened the passenger door and yelled, "Mr. Kelly, it's time to go." Kelly barreled into the car and barely had time to close the door as Illya stomped down onto the accelerator. It fishtailed and then headed off. In the rearview mirror, Illya could see a group of men burst through the door, rifles raised at the departing car.

"Now the fun begins." The car blasted out of the garage and into hotel's portico, taking a guest by surprise. By sheer luck, Illya didn't hit her, the oncoming traffic or any of the pedestrians.

Traffic was heavy, but that was only for those people concerned with obeying the traffic laws, such as they were in Thailand. Illya grabbed Kelly by the back of the neck and forced him down into the floor by the passenger's seat.

"Do you mind? What the hell are you doing?" Kelly struggled with him for a moment until the pressure from the hand grew to a painful level. "Ow, stop it."

"I'm making them think that only I am escaping." Illya relinquished his hold. "I have a feeling there is much more to this story than either one of us knows. However, since my job is to get you out of the country, that is my only concern at the moment." Illya yanked the steering wheel hard, narrowly sliding into a spot between two vehicles. "Now stay down and think positive thoughts."

The rush of guards past Napoleon gave him a moment of concern, but none of them even seemed to see him. They were intent upon the parking garage. Grabbing Jeff's elbow, Napoleon led him out into the lobby. Walking quickly, with his head down, he guided the man to a side door, back by the restrooms. With a deep breath, he pushed it open and grinned. "Not alarmed, maybe the Solo luck is holding." He gestured to Jeff and they walked casually down a narrow foliage-lined path, coming out by the small shrine Napoleon had stood in just hours earlier before his life had gotten predictably hectic again.

There was a commotion in the front of the hotel and Jeff looked eagerly in that direction, taking a step. Napoleon grabbed him and pulled him the opposite way.

"Ignore it. Walk this way, like you haven't got a problem in the world," he instructed. Once they were half a block from the hotel, he stepped out onto the curb and waved down a taxi.

A vibrantly-painted taxi, a blue and red one this time, pulled up and the driver looked eagerly at them through an open window.

"Yes? You need a ride somewhere?"

"Phuket, my good man, and step on it."

"Phuket, surely you are joking sir?"

"Nope, my friend wants to see the sights and those sights are what we're going to see." Napoleon pulled a thick wad of bills from his jacket. "And we will pay quite handsomely to the driver who takes us there with a minimum of fuss."

"That's me, then," the driver said. "Even with the death of our beloved king, sadly, many of us still need to make a living." He waited for the two to climb in and sped off through the traffic in the opposite direction of Kuryakin and Kelly.

Napoleon remained vigilant, he would have seen a man step from the shadows and speak into a familiarly-shaped instrument. Had he stopped to listen for a moment, he might have even caught the single spoken sentence.

"They're off and away, sir."

"You know, as nice as this all is down here and all, I'm starting to get a stiff neck. Plus I think there's something not so pleasant on the carpet," complained Kelly from the car floor. Illya flicked an eye down at him. With a barely contained a smirk, he then glanced back up onto the road. He'd forgotten just how atrocious the roads in Thailand were. The car rocked and shook with the pot holes.

"Sorry, I forgot you were down there. You can sit up now."

Gratefully, Kelly dragged his kinked body into the car seat and stretched. Even now the car wasn't big enough for him, but he made due, leaning backwards to make the most of the space. "Where are we? How long have we been driving?"

"About an hour, I'd estimate. We just passed Saraburi," Illya said. "We're going to need to stop for gas soon or at the very least borrow another car. I don't want to get caught with an empty tank at night."

"And eat. I'm starving...and thirsty."

"Perhaps in Prachimburi, but only if I'm sure we are safe."

"Can I ask where we're headed?"

"Cambodia, Vietnam and from there, hopefully to Hong Kong, providing we are both still alive." The breeze through the open window played with Kuryakin's long blond hair, tossing it haphazardly. Despite the wind and the churning air conditioning, sweat dotted the man's forehead.

Kelly studied him for a long time, suddenly asking. "Okay, so I know why people are after me, but what the hell did you two do? We saw that and Meredith..." Kelly's voice trailed off and he started to swallow rapidly as his face paled. "I think I'm going to be sick..."

"Not in the car," Illya ordered. "And I can't take the chance of stopping. You're just going to have to tough it out." He tempered his voice slightly and the car jostled over a series of pot holes. It amused him to see the speed limit posted, as if the suspension could handle being driven that fast here. Whatever they were spending money on in this country, it wasn't road repair or sanitation. The roads were littered with just about any kind of trash you could think of. His shoulders complained as he fought the steering wheel to keep the car on the road. He was going to feel like he'd been run through the wringer after this.

Kelly's voice broke into his thoughts, "I just never got know, say good bye properly. I wanted to go look for the crew, but she said it wasn't my don't know what it's like to lose someone."

"Sadly, I do, more than you will ever know or experience in your lifetime. It is never easy to lose a friend, a colleague or a partner. And it never gets any easier" Again, the eyes flicked over briefly only to immediately return to the road. "As for your earlier question, we are not entirely certain what is going on and how we fit into it. We were sent by our superior to warn King Adulyede of a possible assassination attempt. He dismissed it outright, saying that his own men could protect him."

"Well I guess he fucked that up."

"Succinctly, if crudely put, yes. However, it makes no sense for the government to respond by putting a guard upon us, at the hotel nor is that tail necessary."

"Tail? We're running for our lives and you want some?"

"Despite many years in your country, English is not my first language. I do not completely understand your reference, but I am referring to the car that is following us."

"Probably just as well then. So we're being followed?"

"Yes, since we left Bangkok city limits."

"Couldn't it just be someone headed in the same direction as us? I mean, there aren't that many options out here."

"When I speed up, it speeds up and mirrors my actions when I slow down. Whoever it is has been told to observe, nothing more at the moment and for that we are fortunate as I do not have an unlimited amount of ammo at the moment."

Night was starting to close in and the Russian was beginning to become aware of increasing fatigue. His shoulders ached from trying to keep the car upon the road and not in the ditch. His head hurt from his constant vigil and his legs cramped from having to reach too far forward for the foot pedals due to a broken front seat. Even his stomach was getting into the fray by sending him regular messages about its currently empty state. Napoleon often told the Russian how he envied the man's waistline. Kuryakin couldn't help wonder if he'd also find this aspect of a hyperactive metabolism as attractive.

Napoleon Solo kept his attention divided between their surroundings and the car following behind the taxi. It hadn't taken them long to pick up a tail. The driver had kept up a steady stream of conversation since leaving the hotel and Napoleon had done his best to keep up his end of it, although his thoughts were divided.

For his part, Jeff Loveworth huddled into his corner of the back seat of the car and just let waves of fear and anxiety roll off him. Solo glanced over at the young man and offered him a smile. He stretched his arms across the back of the car seat and glanced out the window again. He was almost certain that they were being tailed, but unless he alerted the driver, there was no real way to tell. Napoleon waited for a lull in the conversation to pat the younger man on the shoulder.

"How are you holding up, Jeff?" Napoleon purposefully kept his voice low.

"I'm not. I'm just a film guy - this isn't fun. I'm way over my head in all of this. New York was never like this."

"New York is never like anything else, a truer statement if I never heard."

"Are you from there?"

"Not originally, but it's where I live now and it's where we're getting you back to, I promise, Jeff." Napoleon smiled again and felt the man's shoulder relax a little. "It may be the scenic route, but you hang with me and you'll be fine. In the meantime, beautiful country side, perfect weather, knowledgeable guide, it seems like a perfectly delightful day to me." Solo leaned very close to the younger man, turning his body slightly to provide a shield between him and the driver. "Jeff, you need to play along with me," he whispered softly. "You need to trust me."

"You're not going to kiss me, are you," Jeff whispered back. "I don't like guys trying to kiss me."

"Not if I don't have to; believe me, it's not one of my favorite pastimes either. However, I am not ready to completely trust our driver, so I'm willing to let him believe anything that he wants to. It's nearly dark. We're going to stop soon and check into a hotel for the night. If nothing else, at least we can get something to eat and a little sleep - with any luck. Just, trust me and follow my lead, okay?"


Napoleon sat back and smiled warmly at the man, one hand playing with a lock of Jeff's hair. The driver, after a few discreet glances into the rear mirror, realized the look upon the face of the older man and kept his attention focused upon the road. Perhaps there would be even more money to be made if he was discreet and permitted the man his indiscretions. After all, this was Thailand.

As they approached the outskirts of Prachimburi, Illya suddenly sped up, heading down first one narrow road, then another, seemingly at random. Abruptly, he braked the car to a neck wrenching stop and backed it into a thick clump of bushes, so that just the front end of the car was exposed.

Reaching up, he grabbed Kelly and forced him down onto the bench seat and covered the man protectively with his body. He drew his gun and waited. A few moments later, the roar of a car engine broke the air and the headlights briefly lit the interior of the car as it raced by. Then the lights and the motor faded as the vehicle moved off.

Only when he was convinced it was safe did he permit himself a fast look. Satisfied, he gestured to Kelly.

"Alright, Mr. Kelly, you can sit up now."

"The last time I was in that position in a car, my companion was a lot softer and wasn't packing heat. Nothing personal, man, but you aren't my type."

Illya glared at the man, but let the comment slide. "Let's go find something to eat before our friends come looking for us." Slowly, his joints stiff from miles of rigorous driving, he climbed from the car and glanced around to get his bearings. He'd remembered reading something back in the hotel room about a small restaurant located here and he frowned as he tried to recall the information. "This way, I think."

On the look out for the tail, Illya walked cautiously through the darkened streets until the glow of nearby lights told him they were close to what would pass as the main street in town.

"Still with me, Mr. Kelly?"

"Yea, but I don't know how in the name of hell we're going to find the car again."

"I don't plan to, Mr. Kelly. I shall merely liberate another one when the time comes."

"You're a punk, do you know that?"

"I prefer to think of it as merely extending my socialist upbringing to my fellow humans - share and share alike."

"That wouldn't hold up in a court of law."

"Thankfully, at the moment, I am the court of law." They exited out onto a narrow road and Illya pointed. "Over there - I read about this place back at the hotel. It's called Khura Aroi Aroi. - It translates into 'Delicious, delicious' Their specialty is curries. I think we'll find dinner there." The smell of food was unmistakable and Kelly grinned.

"Now you're singing my song."

Jungle sounds were starting to give way to the breaking of the day. The dark night sky was shifting to purples, pinks and oranges as the sun started its daily climb. Birds were exchanging places with the droning night creatures and Illya was keeping a steady eye on their surroundings. The curry he'd eaten back in Prachimburi was sitting like a lump in his stomach, but he's never admit, even under pain of death, to having heart burn.

Sa Kaeo providence was just a few miles from the Cambodia border, easily drivable now, but he felt they'd have better luck if they made their run at night. He needed to find some place for them to lay low and grab a couple of hours of sleep before heading out again. Sa Kaeo was a major center for Khmer architecture for the country, but as they drove slowly into the town of Sa Kaeo, it wasn't the old Illya was looking for as much as the new.

Finally, he spotted something likely and reached over to shake Kelly's arm. "Mr. Kelly, I need for you to wake up now."

"Why? Are we in the U.S. yet?" It was impossible to see behind the mirrored sunglasses to the man's eyes. "Man, I would kill for a smoke." His hands reflexively went to the pocket of his shirt, but for naught. He'd smoked the last one hours before.

"No, but we are one step closer." Illya parked the car and pointed towards a small hotel. "I am going to get a room for the day."

"They won't sell you one. Nobody rents by the day."

"They do here. Stay quiet and don't talk to anyone if you are approached. Do you understand?"

"Yea, yea, sure whatever. Go."

When the communicator sounded, Loveworth about jumped out of his skin and then dropped into a crouch as if dodging imaginary bullets.

Napoleon grinned at him and pulled the pen like instrument out of his pocket. He'd holed up with Loveworth in a less-than-desirable hotel that catered to men of alternative persuasions. He would not even let the camera man get near the bed, imagining just what might be crawling around on it. Instead, they sat on towel-covered chairs, waiting for a signal that the plane was ready to land and that their escape was at hand.

"Channel F is open. Illya, is that you?"

"In the flesh, such as it is for the moment. I thought I'd check and see how you are faring."

"My charge is about to fall apart from terror and we're currently hiding out in a See Man hotel, affordable hourly rates, and no questions asked."

"Oh, Napoleon, if even a breath of that got out at HQ, your reputation would be in tatters."

"And one breath isn't getting out, is it, friend?" A warm chuckle greeted him and Solo felt the tension in his neck lessen. "What about you?"

"The same, sadly enough, although mine has the more imaginative and less descriptive name of Koh Phi Phi. I'm going to try and get a few hours of sleep before hitting the road again."

"Where exactly are you?"

"About 65 miles or so from the Cambodia border. I had a tail for awhile, but lost them in Prachimburi. I'm hoping to make a run or the border once we hit dusk."

"Okay, well, I'm sitting tight and awaiting word from H.Q. I'll check in with you before we leave. Be safe."

"And you, Kuryakin out."

Napoleon glanced over at his charge and smiled. "So far, so good."

"Should I even ask about the name of this place? Or why the desk clerk didn't even give you a second look when you asked for a single room?"

"No, I think that your imagination will fill in all the necessary blanks."

"I remember Meredith talking about places like this..."

"And now here you are. I wouldn't suggest actually climbing in between the sheets, although you're probably safe enough stretching out on top of the bed.

Loveworth had eased back down onto the chair, his legs drawn up to his chin. "I just want to close my eyes and make this all go away."

"Sorry, miracles are handled by a different division of UNCLE. I just handle rescues and subterfuge." He smiled at Loveworth and the man grinned briefly before returning his attention to the take out food on the small press wood table. "You need to eat."

"I'm not really very hungry to be honest."

"I know, but we don't know when we'll have the chance again. This is rule 2 in the spy's handbook."

"What's rule 1?"

"Don't get caught." Jeff laughed softly and picked up a plastic fork to poke unenthusiastically at the noodles. Napoleon studied him for a long moment and then asked softly, "Jeff, what was on that film?"

"Nothing really, just the assassination as if that isn't enough. The King signed that document or whatever it was and bang, he went down like a sack of wet rice. Then boom, up went the bad guy...or whatever."

"Were you able to see where the shot came from?"

"No and I didn't really even hear it, sort of a 'chuff' sound, not far from my right, but when I'm filming, I have tunnel vision. When I looked, I swung the camera around and that's when I caught the explosion."

"Well, there's something on that tape that someone wants to make sure they has exclusivity to." Napoleon picked up the small canister, balancing it in his hand. "For something this small, it's sure pulling a lot of weight." And for some reason, his mind drifted back to his partner. He'd feel a lot better if it was the Russian sitting in the chair across from him.

Struggling to balance the slick plastic bags, Illya struggled one-handed to work the key in the hotel door. Finally he got the key to turn and kicked the door open, only to slam to a stop at the sight of his own weapon pointing at his head held by the shaking hands of Finny Kelly.

"Jesus Christ, you about gave me a heart attack!" Kelly dropped the weapon and wiped the sweat from his face. "I nearly pissed my pants."

"I would have knocked first, but my hands were full," Illya muttered, carrying the bags to a chipped and stained bedside table. He deposited them and turned back to Kelly. "I thank you for having the presence of mind to wait before shooting."

"I don't know how to," Kelly admitted, offering the gun to the Russian.

Illya accepted it from him and examined it. "First step is to take off the safety, like so." He demonstrated the move. "Second, always aim for the largest target, in the case of a person, his or her torso. Even if you don't hit something vital, chances are you're going to slow your victim down enough to enable you to escape. Lastly, never pull a gun on someone unless you plan on using it. Bluffing only works in poker and not always then." He slid the weapon back into his shoulder holster and began to sort through the bags. "Since we had to leave in a hurry, I picked up a couple of things I thought you might need." Illya tossed one bag over to the man.

"Cigarettes, cool, man, not my brand, but at this point, who cares?" Kelly immediately opened the pack and lit on up, puffing away happily. "What's this?" He held up a box with Thai writing upon it.

"That's mine - thank you." Illya took the box from him and set it aside. "Thai version of aspirin - I suspect I will need it when I wake up." He pulled off his polo shirt and sat to remove his shoes.

"Sleep? You're going to sleep? It's the middle of the day and there are bad guys after us. We need to leave."

"Mr. Kelly, our situation will not be augmented by my wrapping us around a tree tonight due to exhaustion. Please be assured that I have taken the necessary steps to ensure our anonymity for the moment. All I ask of you is to please not leave the room or answer the door without waking me - fair enough?"

"And if I say no?"

"I will tie you up and lock you in the trunk, so I would consider your answer very carefully.

"In view of that, sure, no problem. I'll just watch a little TV and veg out."

"Excellent choice."

Jeff Loveworth flicked through the channels of the TV and groaned. "No matter where we are, daytime TV stinks."

Napoleon lifted his head off the towel draped pillow and regarded him for a moment before letting it fall back down. Very rarely did he even bother to turn a TV on when he was in a hotel room. If it was during an affair, he was too caught up in the details to watch the mindless drivel. Afterwards, he just wanted to spend the time in the warmth of a willing bed partner or lacking that, catch a few hours of sleep before heading off to catch a plane. TV was usually not an option.

Napoleon's communicator chirped and Solo breathed a small sigh of relief. "Open Channel D, Solo here."

"Mr. Solo, how are you holding up?" Napoleon smiled at the voice of his boss.

"I think my traveling companion is a little bored, but otherwise fine, sir."

"Excellent, I wanted to alert you to the fact that an UNCLE jet has been scrambled and will landing in your area at approximately11 p.m. your time tonight at the Thalang air strip."

"Excellent, that's only about 50 miles form our current location. We'll sit tight and head out once it gets dark."

Illya Kuryakin rubbed one eye and sighed. Cambodia was not his idea of a good time, but at least they were out of Thailand. The Thai government would have very little authority here, at least officially. While the two countries shared a border, there was very little else in common, at least not since the Khmer Rouge.

They'd made it through the border check point with a minimum of fuss and into Sisophon without incident. Now they were seated in a small, but crowded outdoor restaurant working on several platters of food. As was often the case, he ate quickly and automatically, without pausing to savor or enjoy the food. Speed was of the essence when one was an enforcement agent. Thankfully, his days as a student had prepped him for this very situation. Too many classes, too much homework, Illya learned to eat on the run, whenever the opportunity presented itself and not to be fussy.

"Are you even tasting that?" Kelly's voice was tinged with annoyance. He could not stand people who wolfed their food, although in this case, there was probably a justifiable reason. The Russian's blue eyes never stopped scanning the crowd, completely conscious of their surroundings at all times. Now they came to rest briefly upon the chef.

"I'm sorry?"

"Do you know that Cambodian food is probably the least known of Asian foods? Most people have never even eaten Cambodian food and you're plowing it in like it's mac and cheese."

"If you say so." Illya flicked his attention to the table and then back up that the crowd. "There isn't a dish here I haven't had before."

"So what do you have in your mouth at this very moment?"

Illya paused chewing and swallowed. "Loc lac." At the man's bemused expression, he took a deep breath and added, "Coconut curry and stir fried beef with red onions and green beans, shredded cabbage and unripened papaya. Just because I eat fast does not mean I don't know what I'm eating."

"Well that and the fact that you ordered it. Just how many languages do you speak?"

"Always one less than I'd like to, " Illya said, taking a large swallow of beer There seemed to be an ever increasing number of uniformed men wandering into the shop and some were casting surreptitious glances in their direction. "Look like we've been noticed. I suggest you follow my example and begin to eat very quickly, Mr. Kelly or you're likely to be going hungry."

Smoothly, Illya slid his gun out from its holster and rested it upon his knee, his right hand holding it in place. "If I say run, you run. Do not stop, hesitate or even think about waiting for me, do you understand? Nod once if you do." Kelly's head dipped. "If we are separated, go back to the car. I will find you." Another nod.

An officer, thin and youthful, approached them. "Your passports," he requested softly, his lips tight. Kelly reached for his, but Illya shook his head very slightly and Kelly's hand dropped back down.

"Why would you need to see our passports, Lt.," Illya asked in passable Cambodian. "My friend and I are just having some supper." He glanced around the room. All the locals were doing their best to appear uninterested, which meant they were listening to every word.

"Our friends to the West have been making inquires about a short blond man traveling with a tall grey-haired man. They are most anxious for them to return to Thailand to face charges of treason and assassination."

"It must be someone else then," Illya said, carefully easing the safety off his gun. "We have done nothing. Why don't you sit and share our meal?" Illya kicked out a chair and motioned to it with his head, letting the officer see his gun for the first time. The man blanched and started to spin, reaching out for his fellow officers. "No, you sit and I don't shoot, understand?"

"Please don't hurt me; I have a wife, new baby, a son." He sat hurriedly and stared at his plate, tension stiffening his body into a ramrod.

"How admirable." Illya resumed eating. "And if you go along with us, you will see them again. Eat."

"What are you doing?" Kelly had finally reached his limit as the officer reached for the plate of loc lac and began to serve himself. He looked positively miserable.

Illya's chopsticks poised in mid air, "This is a trick question?" Illya asked, in English now. He wasn't sure how much the man would comprehend English.

"No, you've got to be..." he dropped his voice to a whisper. "You've got a gun on him and he's just sitting there eating?"

"Yes if he wishes to remain part of this plane of existence." Illya chewed for a moment, his eyes never leaving his prisoner. "And if he plays along, we will have ourselves an escort to the Vietnam border. If not, then he is a corpse. It's his choice. I don't care either way."

"I can't believe you're doing this," Kelly sputtered, returning to his plate of food.

"If you have another suggestion, I am open to hearing it. Until then, it would perhaps be wise to remain quiet. There is no way of knowing who is and isn't a threat at the moment."

Kelly apparently took him at his word for the man clammed up and remained that way as they wove through the crowd to the officer's vehicle. It was old and rusting, but looked as if it had one good run left in it. Illya opened the door left handed and gestured the man inside. Reaching for the man's waist, he snagged a set of handcuffs and shackled the man's wrists together and then slammed the door shut.

"Mr. Kelly, if you would just stand here and be so kind as to prevent our friend from escaping," He positioned Kelly in front of the closed door. Silent, Kelly stood there until Illya had reached the other side. "Get inside now and keep your head down, just in case."

Once they were all inside the car, Illya held out his hand, palm up and waited for the man to awkwardly dig the keys from his pants pocket. "What is your name?" Illya asked suddenly aware that he hadn't gained the most basic of information.

"Rithy, Munny Rithy."

"Wise power, that's appropriate. Well, Mr. Rithy, I suggest you sit back and relax. We have a long drive ahead of us."

"But my family will be worried." Rithy looked dejected. "I was due home half an hour ago."

"Very well." Illya started the car and steered it out onto the street. One handed, he pulled out his communicator and opened it. "Open Channel D please."

"Channel D is open, Mr. Kuryakin." Waverly's gravely voice was balm to his weary nerves. "How do you fare?"

"Fine, at the moment, sir. We are just about to leave Sisophon on our way towards the Vietnam border. If luck is with us, we should reach Saigon by sunrise. However, I do have a request, sir."

"What would that be?"

"It was necessary for us to pick up a local escort while in Sisophon. If I were to relay his family's phone number to you, would it be possible to have someone contact them and assure them of his well being."

"I think that would be manageable. What is the number?"

Illya glanced over at Rithy and switched back to Cambodian. "What is your phone number and your wife's name?"

Rithy reeled off a string of numbers, which Illya dutifully repeated and added, "His wife's name is Reasmey. Please let her know that I will release him unharmed when we reach Svay Rieng. If necessary, we can make it across the border on foot." Illya paused and then rapidly added, "Have you heard from Napoleon?"

"We have scrambled a jet to Thalang for pick up. It should reach him within the hour."

"Is Jeff okay?" Kelly had leaned forward to speak over Kuryakin's shoulder. The man flicked the pen closer to his mouth. "He's our camera man."

"Yes, Mr. Solo indicated that they had had little trouble escaping from Bangkok, but that they had been followed. Mr. Solo was efficient in removing the difficulty."

Illya grinned for the first time since he'd left this partner that afternoon. "That sounds like Napoleon. Kuryakin out." Illya tucked away the communicator. In Cambodian, "I have asked that your wife be notified of your situation and when to expect you home."

"Thank you," Rithy mumbled in passable English

"I am good to my word, Mr. Rithy. You will be released unharmed. Perhaps you two should get a little sleep. It's going to be a long drive."

"What about you?"

"I gave up sleeping when I joined UNCLE." The truth of the matter was that he was tired, but the short nap he'd caught earlier in the day would have to do. At the moment, they were well fed, the car had gas and they were driving as quickly down the road as the horrible conditions of the black top would allow.

His mind played and wound its way around the conjecture of who was behind this whole thing. If the Cambodian government was cooperating with the Thais, that changed the whole picture. There was an assassin, certainly, but whose side was he on - insurgent, an arm of the government or even the Royal family itself? Illya knew that the Prince was a power hungry man who couldn't wait to take his father's place. Perhaps, just perhaps, he'd gotten tired of waiting. He was anxious to view the film himself and try to figure out why so many people were willing to kill for it.

He flicked his eyes up to the rearview mirror, certain that they were being followed, but only darkness greeted him. He knew all too well that ambushes could occur, that trained sharpshooters could lie in wait, of the bombs, traps, spikes and a half dozen other terrors that could defeat him and that frightened him down to the very core of his being, but unlike others who would have been paralyzed by that fear, he used it and gained strength from it.

He pressed on, pushing the car to its limits without rattling it apart. Kelly had dropped off and the officer has grown quiet, settling back against the car door. At this speed, Illya suspected he would not try to attempt escape. Rithy seemed genuine in his desire to return to his family and a fall from any car at this speed was definitely unhealthy.

A thought crossed his mind and he pulled out the communicator again. "Open Channel F please, Napoleon, are you there?"

"Solo here," Napoleon murmured. "I was beginning to wonder when I'd hear from you. How are things on your end?"

"Not bad. Just kidnapped government officer and stole his vehicle."

"That sounds like you. We are just about to leave here and head out for Thalang." A soft noise interrupted him and he sighed. "Sounds like company's coming, I'll contact you once we get to the air strip. Solo out." He tucked the communicator away and drew his gun. "Jeff, why don't you go wait in the bathroom? Do yourself a favor, lock the door behind you and get into the tub."

"Why would I want to do that?"

"This is a case of don't ask why, just do it and take the film with you." Solo didn't move until the man had left the room before sliding over to the window to peer outside. He didn't see anything, but that meant nothing.

He was just about to crack the door open when a smoke grenade came through the window, sending shards of glass flying. Napoleon shielded his face and headed for the shattered pane. Just to the side, the air was still breathable as the wind forced the smoke further into the room. A man appeared, wearing a gas mark and combat fatigues and he used the butt of his rifle to break the glass enough to permit entrance with injury. Napoleon let him get almost into the room before shooting him a point blank range with a mercy bullet. The gun's silenced 'pop' was hardly audible over the hissing of the smoke canister.

Napoleon dragged the man to one side and waited. Sure enough, they were like ants, if you saw one, there were always more. Two more men started through the window only to be brought down by the same method. Three, but how many more?

If it was him, he would have left the window for a more substantial frontal assault. Holding his handkerchief over his mouth, he struggled to the bathroom door. He could hear Jeff coughing front inside.

"Jeff, we have to more now," he shouted and waited a moment as the man grabbed the film canister and joined him. Napoleon propelled him by the downed bodies with a firm hand to his elbow and to the open window. After a moment's reconsideration, Napoleon went back and quickly searched each man, removing their weapons. He handed a rifle to Jeff and pointed,

"Out! If you hear shooting, just head in the opposite direction. Get to the airport somehow and wait. UNCLE will make itself known to you." Napoleon jumped from the window first, keeping down as the smoke began to reverse its path - the front door was opening. He snapped his fingers at Jeff and the minute the man's feet hit the ground, they started running. It would be natural to take off, get as far away from the scene as possible, stumbling out into unfamiliar streets and unable to speak the language. Instead, Solo pointed to a clump of bushes and there they squatted as the room just beyond them was alight with gunfire and shouts.

Their attackers had been wearing some sort of uniform, but he didn't recognize them. They weren't government agents, so he was betting on an insurgent group, possibly local, possibly from a neighboring county.

"What do we do now?" Jeff whispered, his body shivering not from cold, but from fear. "We're trapped here."

"We wait. The jet is in route, we have to focus upon that...and getting a ride to take us to the airstrip outside of Thalang."

"Can we walk it?"

"It's nearly 50 miles over unfamiliar country. No, we just need to sit tight for a bit and wait quite literally for the smoke to clear."

Feet ran by, just inches from their position and Napoleon felt a coil of adrenaline unfurl in his stomach. It was all he could do to stay still, to let the men pass them by. He didn't need direct confrontation right now, but at the same time, it called to him like a giddy insatiable mistress.

Instead, he channeled that energy into thoughts, and brought his hand up to the communicator in his breast pocket.

"Open Channel F - Illya?"

The on/off blat caught Illya's head on a downward dip and the Russian jerked it back up with a curse in his mother tongue. Beside and behind him, twin snores indicated that neither man had noticed his lapse.

"Yes, Napoleon?"

"We've been ousted. I just wanted to let you know that we're on our way to the airport, providing we can find wheels."

"I'd boost something if I were you." He glanced around at his mirrors - still clear. "It's amazing how much trouble using a government vehicle has saved us."

"Just don't get cocky; that's usually when things go south for you. Is your package still safe?"

"And snoring my ear off, thanks. Yours?"

"Still with me, for good or bad. Okay, well, I'll try and contact you once we rendezvous with the plane. Solo out."

Illya blew his breath out and returned his full attention to the road before him. Off in the distance, a sliver of light was just appearing over distant mountains, heralding day break's arrival. There were just a few more miles separating them from the border. With any luck, they'd be to Svay Rieng within the hour and then it was a mere ten miles to the border. If they had to, they'd walk it, but he wasn't quite as worried now that the sunrise was upon them.

In the daylight, it would be harder to launch a surprise attack - he bit back a yawn. Still if he didn't get some sleep, his ability to anticipate anything would begin to be compromised. Three hours of sleep in the last 48 just wasn't cutting it.

A canted sign announced the village was 30 kilometers away and Illya eased off on the gas. He slowed the car and eased it onto what passed as a shoulder on the road. Immediately, Rithy's head lifted and he groaned, rubbing his neck. Kelly groped his way up from the backseat and stared around at their surroundings.

He tried to say something, then coughed a couple of times and tried again. "Problem?"

"No, I just need to stretch my legs and thought you'd like to do the same. We'll be to Svay Rieng soon and you'll be allowed to leave, Mr. Rithy. Until then, I will have to beg your patience from just a bit longer."

The man nodded, his posture complacent, but Illya still pulled his gun from its holster and climbed from the car. A moment later, they joined him on the road, even as the jungle around them started to wake. Birds twittered hesitantly, as if afraid to break the dark with their voices. Illya knew how they felt.

At the sound of the jet engine, Napoleon Solo hazarded a look at the sky. The night had been a long one, first hiding in the back of a produce truck headed towards Thalang. Dinner and breakfast consisted of raw vegetables and a shared bottle of water that Jeff had had to foresight to take from the hotel room. He was dirty, tired, insect bitten and grumpy, but all of that vanished at the sight of the silver jet on approach to the small airport and he said a little prayer of thanksgiving.

He wasn't even going to try and figure out how UNCLE had managed to secure landing privileges when two of its agents were being hunted down as possible assassins. Again, a little tweak in the back of his brain told him that there was much more to this story than the parties involved were privy to.

"Jeff? Jeff, wake up?" The man had fallen asleep soon after they'd climbed from the truck and made their way to the outskirts of the airport. He slept, film canister clutched tightly to his body in a way that reminded Solo of a child sleeping with a teddy bear. Freud would have had a field day with the image. Solo shook the man's shoulder gently. "Jeff, our ride is here, we have to go."

Jeff looked up at him, blinking with bloodshot eyes at the dark sky and then back at him. "I don't..."

"It's on approach. I need you awake and functioning because instinct tells me that the local police force is not going to be turning a blind eye to this. Do you still have your gun?"


"Do you know how to use it?"

"I take the safety off, point and shoot."

"Close enough." Napoleon reached into his pocket for his communicator. "Open Channel A please. Solo here."

"Ah, Napoleon, how's it shaking, bro?"

Solo laughed at the sound of a familiar voice. Shawn Williams was one of his favorite pilots of the small jet, excluding his partner, of course. He was also well known to Solo and that shoved the thought of a hijack by enemy bogeys away as well.

"Listen, Shawn, we're holed up at the end of the runway. Any chance you can taxi out here so we don't have to expose our lily whites to any more danger than necessary?"

"No prob, it'll make take off easier. I should be on the ground in 15. Gotta tell you, this is not being smiled upon, so you two need to be ready to move."

"Understood. Solo out."

A few breathless moments, a hail of gunfire and suddenly they were on board and the jet was roaring back up into a darkened sky and away from Thai air space.

"Is it over?" Jeff whispered, his face pressed against the window as he watched land dropped away from them.

"For the moment." Napoleon glanced under the handkerchief he held to his arm. The bullet hole was still oozing, but not badly. It looked like the Solo luck was still holding. It hadn't been enough to keep him from getting shot, but at least the bullet had missed the bone and passed through the other side without hitting any major arteries - always a good sign. "Jeff, could you get me that medical kit?"

"Medical? Are you...oh my god, you're shot. When did that happen?"

"Probably when they were shooting at us," Napoleon said, smiling slightly at the man. "Next stop is Hong Kong and then back to the U.S."

"Never thought I would be so happy to hear that name. I am never leaving the States again."

"Let me know how that works for you." Napoleon ripped open a small foil packet of a topical anesthesia and squeezed a generous dollop of the ointment onto each side of the bullet wound. Thankfully they were using a small caliber, so the exit hole wasn't much bigger than the entrance. He applied the pressure bandage and tore off a length of tape with his teeth. Jeff took it from him and secured the bandage in place.


"Until we have time for more adequate measures, thank you." Napoleon's fingers sought out and found his communicator. "Open Channel F. Illya?" There was no answer and Napoleon sat up straighter, shaking the communicator slightly. "Illya? Mr. Kuryakin, respond!"

"Ah, I think I got now." A strange voice sounded and a rush of anger, concern and fear punched its way into Solo's stomach. "Hello, someone is here now?"

"Who is this," Solo demanded harshly. "What have you done with Illya?" In his mind's eye, he saw his partner broken and bleeding, or worse beyond that, cold and lifeless.

"This is Dac Kein. This Mr. Solo?" The name gnawed its way into Solo's brain and abruptly he caught his breath.

"Yes, this is Solo."

"Illya said you call. He told me how to use."

"Hey, Mr. Solo." Napoleon relaxed slightly when he heard Kelly's voice, half familiar, in the background.

"Glad you're still with us, Mr. Kelly. Where's Illya?"

"He's sleeping at the moment. Would you like me to wake him up for you?"

"Not necessary. What's the climate like there?"

"Hot, but otherwise good and we are safe within friendly surroundings."

"That's good news. What are your plans, Mr. Kein?"

"I take them this afternoon to a private field and plane there. There was little trouble at the border." There was a slight pause and then a rushed, "Our friend was hurt, but according to him it is nothing important."

"Sounds about par for the course. Keep Mr. Kelly safe and have Illya contact me when he surfaces."

"Yes, I do that."

Napoleon stretched out on the bench seat and massaged his arm. It was going to hurt like anything in another hour or so, but right now, it was still pleasantly numb.

"So now what?"

"Now we sit back and fly the friendly skies of UNCLE. We should be in Hong Kong in a few hours. There's a fairly well stocked rest room in the back if you want to freshen up."

"Good idea, thanks."

Solo waited until Jeff had entered and closed the thin partition door before heading up to the cockpit.

"You are a sight for sore eyes, Shawn"

"Right back at you, Napoleon. It's always easier to turn in the report when you've been successful with your pick up. How's your friend holding up?"

"Considering in the last 48 hours, he's been shot at, kidnapped, witnessed an assassination and been hunting by government forces, not to mention whoever else is after us., I think he's doing okay. He won't be sleeping well for awhile, but if you consider the larger picture, he got off easy. His co-workers weren't quite as lucky. They were all murdered, except for the chef guy."

"And you, how are you doing?" He nodded to Solo's arm. "Bad?"

"Annoying more than anything else." Napoleon eased himself into the co-pilot's seat and stared out into the night sky. "What the hell is going on, Shawn?"

"Beats me, I was pulling a milk run in Spain when I was told to get my butt over here post haste. I didn't even get a chance to file a flight plan. Still they don't pay me to think, just to fly."

"Good philosophy, I'll have to remember that."

"I just figured you and Illya would be mopping up. Just Illya then, huh? Well, he's capable enough."

"No, he's in Vietnam at the moment on his way to Hong Kong. Waverly pulled us off the affair almost immediately. It just keeps getting weirder and weirder."

"Well, tomorrow's a full moon, maybe that's it."

Napoleon nodded and stood, bracing himself upon the back of the chair until his head cleared.

"I think maybe you should get some rest, big guy."

"Saged advice." He slapped Shawn on the shoulder and headed back to the body of the small jet. Jeff was just coming out of the tiny bathroom; hair slicked back, freshly shaven and looking much better.

"I feel almost human again."

"Great. Raid the galley and complete the transformation. It isn't fabulous food, but there's plenty of it."

"Can I bring you something?" Jeff's voice filtered back to him and for a moment, Napoleon held his breath, wondering if this would be an abrupt turning point in which the bad guys would suddenly jump out from various holes in the wood work to attack him. Instead, a moment later, Jeff came out carrying tray full of prepackaged sandwiches and chips. He set them down to within easy of the UNCLE agent and grinned again. "Just in case, you get hungry later."

"Thank you."

"You've been working really hard looking out for me, I figured it was the least I could do."

"It's what I do," Napoleon said, with a shrug of his shoulders. "All that glamour, excitement and thrills one could possibly hope for and they pay me on top of it. Seriously, no thanks are necessary."

Jeff hesitated for a moment before he unwrapped the closest sandwich and began to eat. He alternated mouthfuls of sandwich with chips and soda and Napoleon had to admit the man was an eating machine. Get him together with the Russian and it could be quite the match.

Instead of eating though, Napoleon settled back onto the lounge and closed his eyes. This was still proving to be a very odd affair and he wanted his wits about him when they landed.

Illya woke, opening his eyes at first and keeping completely still. Daylight wiggled its way through wooden slats and the sound of horns and traffic sounded welcomingly normal. It took him just a moment to recall his surroundings and the sequence of events that led him here.

For the moment, they were safe in the home of his old friend, Dac Kein. The house was a modest two bedroom house, not far from the center of Saigon. It was clean, tidy and above all, well below the radar of the Thai officials.

It took two attempts to sit up and he groaned at the pull in his side. The right side of his chest was covered with fabric that was crusty brown with blood and he gritted his teeth as he tried to pull it away. Obviously, he'd bled again in his sleep. There was a gouge just below his armpit and when he tried to lift his right arm to examine it, his breath caught and tears threatened. Oh yes, how could he have forgotten about that? A good size chunk of his triceps had been left behind, skewered upon the sad remains of the border gate between Vietnam and Cambodia.

Rithy had been good to his word, but his wife, it had seemed, was a little more aggressive and there had been a substantial welcoming committee waiting for them upon their arrival at the border. Illya had quickly tossed Rithy from the car and then had to crash through the gate separating the two countries, smashing the front end of the car in the process. Illya had managed to dodge to one side at the last minute to avoid being killed by a thick stake of wood, but not enough to escape injury.

Instead of trying to pry the material away from his body, he headed for the shower, stripping out of everything except the makeshift bandage and let the water loosen what brute force would have made worse. Gradually, the dried blood softened and released. Only then did he strip the ruined material off to survey the damage their adventurous border crossing had caused.

He grimaced at the bright purple thread weaving its way through the skin of his arm to close that wound. Out of all the colors, his tailor friend had picked that. At least it wasn't pink, like last time.

He got out of the tub and dried off as well as he could one handed and went back into the small bedroom. Clean clothes had been left on the foot of the bed and more than once, Illya thanked his lucky stars for a friend who was not only quick witted in a tight situation, but also handy with needle and thread. He didn't bother to button the shirt, just shrugged one arm and his shoulder into it to keep it in place. Dac would be waiting for him with more medical supplies.

He came down into a kitchen that was suffused with tantalizing aromas.

"So, you finally wake up," Dac Kein glanced up from his small stool, where he rapidly stitched two pieces of material of a shirt together. "Your friend called, was very unhappy he missed you. Your other friend, he kicks me out of my own kitchen and cooks. So, I sew."

"Thanks for the clothes and, speaking of such, purple thread, Dac?"

"You need more color in your wardrobe. You did not protest last night." Dac bit through the thread and turned the seam, examining his work with a critical eye. "Although cook friend almost threw up watching you."

"Last night I thought it was black," Illya argued as he settled down at the small wooden table. "It was hard to see. Dac leaned forward to examine the area.

"You sure one lousy tailor - your stitches are uneven" Illya made a face as Dac proceeded to bandage the two wounds. " We eat and then we go, - that okay with you, boss man?"

"More than okay with me, I'm ready to wash my hands of this whole affair. There are too many questions and not enough answers to go around."

"People are scared. We not good friends with Thailand, but even we feel it. The King is gone, is a bad time for them."

"Agreed. How's your family?"

"Girl still crazy. Has five little ones now and is very happier."

"I'm glad you finally convinced her that I was unsuitable husband material.

"She didn't want to marry you, just have babies with you."

"That still would have ended badly. I didn't say it before, but thanks for being there last night. I don't think we would have gotten very far if you hadn't been standing by."

"No, you're a number one spy, you would be fine." Dak turned the shirt over again and started to add another line of stitches.

Illya looked up as Kelly carried a wok into the small room and set it down upon the wooden table.

"Figured I'd earn my way," he explained to Kuryakin's questioning glance. "I only have one request."

"And that would be?"

"Chew before you swallow?" Kelly pulled the lid off the wok and let the steam waft out.

"Whatever it is, it smells good," Illya admitted.

"Just a spicy chicken soup and some chiang mai noodles. I thought you might need something to build yourself back up after last night." Kelly offered him a bowl of rice as Dak rose and headed for the kitchen.

"Perhaps something a bit more substantial than food," he said and returned with several bottles of beer. "I know him." He indicated Illya with a jerk of his head.

"A man after my own heart." Kelly laughing accepted a bottle and popped the top off. He passed it over to the Russian who took it with a polite nod. "I can't believe we're still alive."

Illya grimaced as he swallowed. "I'm not entirely sure we are yet. Aspirin, Dac?"

"You bleed again."

"Somehow I always do. Please?"

Napoleon was waiting for them as the pair was ushered into the reception area of UNCLE Hong Kong. His partner looked tired, rumpled and a little stressed, but that was fairly normal after an affair like the one they'd just been through. He was favoring his right side, just as Solo was favoring his left.

Due to a lack of hands, Illya permitted his badge to be pinned on and he followed his partner through the familiar corridors. Once inside an UNCLE office, it was almost impossible to tell which one it was until you stepped into the Section One, Number One's office. Only then were the personal tastes of the section head allowed to shine.

Kelly trailed behind, obviously amazed and confused by the non-descript hallways and doors. Men and women hurried by him, many of them wearing holsters and guns.

"Is this normal?"

"What?" Illya glanced back over his shoulder.

"For everyone to be packing."

"Packing? You mean, wearing guns. Yes, most of these people are Section two agents and it pays to be prepared."

The door to the Section One, Number One's office slid open as they approached and they entered. Waverly was standing, his back to them, as he studied a large screen. There was a photo of King Bhumidol Adulyedei on it and it seemed to have been taken just before he had been killed.

Waverly looked back at them as the two agents slid into chairs. Solo indicated one to Kelly and the man gingerly sat down, his eyes still studying the room around him as Illya was pulling on a pair of glasses to study the photo.

"Welcome, Mr. Kelly. I hope you'll find the accommodations adequate. As soon as these two young men have visited Medical and had a bit of rest, we will have you on your way to back to New York."

"Don't hurry on my account. Is Jeff okay?"

"Yes, he should be here..." A soft chime interrupted him. "In fact, there he is now."

Escorted by a lovely Chinese operative, the man seemed too busy just looking at his surroundings to even acknowledge the people sitting at the round conference table.

"Jeff, my man, how's it shakin'?" The voice broke Loveworth from his reverie and he spun around, mouth agape, before rushing to the tall lanky man and grabbing him up in a rough but exuberant hug lifting the larger man off the floor.

"Oh my god, Finny, I thought I'd never see you again."

"Same here."

As the two men started to reminisce about their adventure, Solo took the advantage of the moment to lean forward. "Sir, as you were previously saying?"

"His hand," Illya interrupted, sitting forward, eyes squinting behind his glasses. "Napoleon, look at his right hand."

"What about it? The King was right handed."

"But remember the report we read said that he'd broken his forefinger playing rugby in college and it had never worked properly. It was immobile, unable to be straightened."

"That finger isn't bent," Napoleon said, finally picking up on his partner's line of reasoning. "Which means that he either had surgery to correct it or..."

"That's an impostor."

"Correct, gentlemen, and the Thai government sends you its regards." Mr. Waverly was carefully packing tobacco into the bowl of his pipe. "They had suspected that there was an assassination planned for their double. When you arrived, determined to prevent it, they were afraid that you would notice the change and ruin their hard work. They were using the double to draw the assassin out."

"To die for King and Country," Illya muttered, removing his glasses left handed. "Talk about a test of loyalty."

"Afterwards, they were concerned that you might blunder onto the truth before they had time to act. And so they turned to us. I'm afraid it was your own fellow Section 2 agents that have been keeping you so busy over the last few hours."

"I was shot by one of my own men? Who?"

"It'll take time to narrow down that list," Illya muttered, ignoring the glare of his partner. "But, sir, it still is an affront that innocent people were murdered for this little bit of play acting."

"Again, Mr. Kuryakin, Mr. Solo, my apologies." Waverly leaned forward and pressed a toggle. "Miss Cameron, show them in please."

The door automatically slid back and Kelly let out a whoop at the sight of Meredith, Doug and Mike, all apparently safe and sound. He scooped her up into his arms and Jeff, likewise jumped to his feet and began to hug his co-workers enthusiastically.

"Section Two agents were able to intercept the van and remove the passengers before the bomb was triggered. As for Miss Hafstrom, she was a victim of some of Section 8's finest knock-out gas and some rather extraordinary acting on her part. It simulated death, but we had to be sure you didn't remain in the room long enough to actually verify that fact."

"I can't believe this," Napoleon murmured. "Duped by our own agency and I didn't have a clue."

"I did wonder why I lost my tail so completely in Sisophon," Illya admitted. "But then I was more concerned with keeping Mr. Kelly and myself alive to really think about it. That's what I get for thinking."

"Was the Government able to locate the assassin, sir?"

"Yes, he was arrested while Mr. Kuryakin was making his rather spectacular run for Vietnam."

"Oh, Meredith, I have something for you," Kelly said, reaching into the pocket of his jeans. After a moment of wiggling, he pulled out the necklace and handed it back to Meredith. "I am never, ever going to take you for granted again."

"I'll hold you to that, Finny." The woman replaced the necklace and smiled. "First, I want a raise - hazard pay - for hanging around a maniac like you." She turned on her heel and walked from the room, the door sliding open at her approach

"Me? I'm not the one who made you go running hell bent out of the hotel room. I'm not the one who told you to act all brave. I'm not..." The door closed before the rest of the party could hear what else Kelly hadn't done.

Jeff smiled at his two fellow techs. "I think maybe that's our exit cue now. We should go, before they kill each other for real this time." He turned back to the UNCLE agents and held out his hand. "Thanks for all you did."

"Turns out it wasn't much, except to possibly introduce you to some of the lesser known attractions of Thailand."

"That's okay by me. I'm alive and that's a pretty big thing right now. Thanks." He shook their hands solemnly and then threw his arms around the necks of his friends and they left.

"I guess that's an all's well moment," Napoleon said, turning back towards his superior. "I still want to know who shot me...sir."

"Medical is waiting for you both," Waverly said, by way of offering an explanation or any consolation.

Illya stood awkwardly and headed towards the door. "If you want, I'll be happy to take a pot shot myself on our way down."

Napoleon Solo leaned forward and lifted his wine glass carefully by the stem. The white wine residing within thanked him for the care and released a pleasant bouquet as he swirled the crystal. Illya watched his partner's action for a moment and then just picked up his glass and drank. To him, wine was wine. Despite Napoleon's efforts otherwise, it all pretty much tasted the same to him.

This evening had been long in coming. Thanks to the less than sterile conditions, the scrape along Illya's side got infected and he was forced to stay behind in Hong Kong, first at Medical's, then at Hamilton's request.

By the time he returned to New York, Solo was already off and tromping through the wild of the Canadian Rockies, hot on the trail of a THRUSH defector. In turn, Solo wasn't back in New York but two hours before Illya was off to England with Mark Slate on a routine courier drop that ended up anything but routine. And so their lives went, frantic and unpredictable until the thought of them both being in New York at the same time seemed more a dream than a possibility. Finally, after three months of ships passing in the night, attempts and near misses, it happened - partners reunited if only briefly.

"Sipping is usually the preferred way to enjoy wine," Napoleon murmured. "You might want to try it some time."

"Back home, if you sip, someone else ends up drinking your vodka." The glass was immediately refilled by an attentive sommelier. "Case in point, so what is this all about?"

"Not too sure," his partner admitted. "All I know is that I got a call from the Old Man this morning telling me to be here tonight."

"Likewise, although I suspect my time would be better spent somewhere else. I have one or two things that need some attention."

"Yea, I heard about you and Lyra."

"Rumor, all unfounded rumors based upon idle gossip and wishful thinking."

"That's not the way I heard it." Napoleon sipped again and smiled slightly. "According to her roommate, Lyra talks in her sleep."

"I hadn't noticed it, per se." Illya reached for his water glass instead of the wine and frowned at the small delicately carved bit of lemon floating in the glass. "The logo of the restaurant is carved into my lemon wedge. I shudder at the thought of the man hours that went into that little detail."

"That's what this place is all about, Illya, the details. That's why it has five stars." Napoleon replaced his wine glass.

"It's a shame that we weren't able to return the film to them."

The abrupt change in topics didn't faze Solo. He'd long since gotten used to Kuryakin's thought process. "Turning over the film was part of the negotiations the Old Man made with the government. It was either that or an international tribunal. That's not in UNCLE's best interest."

"So the King is still alive?"

"And kicking from what I understand. He was not really pleased with his security detail. And when using the phrase heads will roll in that part of the world, it is often an actual punishment as opposed to empty threat." As a waiter approached, Napoleon turned his attention from his partner to the arriving food.

A tiny piece of pate, wrapped in paper-thin rounds of zucchini was set before each of them and Illya stared at it. "What is this?"

"Haute cuisine," Napoleon said, trying to keep a superior tone out of his voice.

"How can you tell it's hot, you haven't even touched the plate," Illya argued. "If this is the size of all the portions here, I'm going to need to stop for something more substantial on the way back to my place." Resisting the urge to toss the whole thing in his mouth at once, Illya carefully cut the small serving in two pieces and placed one into his mouth. He chewed slowly and smiled. "It is very good though...what little of it there is."

"It's called an amuse broche. It's supposed to entertain your mouth with its taste."

"Well, so far I am not amused."

"Guess you and Queen Victoria have something else in common then besides your propensity for black. He was holed up with you for two days, trust me, Kelly knows your capacity for food." He saw Kelly peek out of the kitchen and Solo raised his glass to the man, smiling, Finny slapped his hands together and ducked out of sight. "Let's see how far you'll go to take one for Queen and Country."

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