Alexander Waverly sat at his desk reading the sixteenth file of the morning. He smoked his pipe slowly, savoring the rich taste of his special blend. The soft chime of the intercom broke his concentration. "Yes?"
"Mr. Solo and Mr. Kuryakin just passed the first check point, Sir." His secretary explained.
"Ah, good. Would you prepare some coffee for us? And send them in the moment they get here?"
"Certainly, Sir. I'll mark you as in-conference until you ring again." She said briskly. "You don't have anything on the agenda until this afternoon at two."
"Professor Symmons and his research on pheromones, right?"
"I'll let you know my plans for lunch before then, Miss Larson."
The click told him that his formidable secretary was probably already planning his lunch, counting the calories and trying to work in a little walking for his health's sake. Alex smiled to himself and counted his blessings. Two of which were coming to report after too long away. There seemed to have been no complications other than the initial drugging and kidnapping.
Napoleon had been very brief in all his conversations and the doctors were still going over the odd combination of drugs that lurked in his partner's blood. He'd been very protective and flatly refused to return home until Illya was completely recovered. Not even the mild verbal reprimand had shaken his resolve.
Alex chuckled at the thought of his top team. They got into more trouble than any other three teams combined but they always succeeded in their mission. He'd seen this particular digging in of heels on Napoleon's part coming for some time. The more that Illya got hurt, the slower his partner had been at accepting a new assignment. If the world were just a little less chaotic, Alex would have the luxury of giving his teams some breathing room.
But the world was changing faster than ever and there was always someone ready and able to take advantage of a bad situation. He made a mental note to do some more recruiting from some of the other alphabet agencies. There was a very promising young man at the FBI who might just be lured away. His profiling was superb but his superiors were burning him out with ever more horrific cases.
Yes, there were several who were ripe for the plucking. One of the assistant attorneys' right here in Manhattan was doing an excellent job prosecuting for the city. She would be a valuable addition to UNCLE's legal department. There simply wasn't enough time to vet everyone who looked promising.
Alex sighed and closed the file he hadn't quite finished reading. Time was something he had no control over and he'd always vaguely resented that fact. The older he got, the less sleep he needed but the more he had to do. And the decisions never stopped coming. The soft knock on the door alerted him to another presence.
Napoleon led the way in and Alex blinked at his appearance. His smile was open and beaming instead of charming and calculated. Illya was right on his heels and the shock of seeing a shy smile on the young man's face at some teasing remark on Miss Larson's part, completed his surprise.
"Good afternoon, Sir. The front desk said you wanted to see us." Napoleon sat down as if he owned the chair and that at least was normal.
Illya's quiet murmur was also part of the norm but the complete lack of controlled behavior was decidedly not. He was as relaxed as Alex had ever seen him. No, Alex corrected his thought. He'd never seen the young Russian this relaxed. His smile was warm and just short of beaming.
"Gentlemen, it's good to see you looking so well. No ill effects, Mr. Kuryakin?"
"No, Sir. I am quite well. The doctor took a blood sample right before we left Lucerne and no drugs were left inside of me." His faint accent came and went.
"Good ... good. And you both look as if your vacation agreed with you." Alex watched them closely while fussing with his pipe.
Napoleon shot a sideways glance at his partner that was nothing short of sizzling. "Yes, Sir. We managed quite a few good hikes in the valley after Illya began to feel stronger. And rest, lots of rest."
"The Swiss air is quite ... invigorating, Sir." Illya said blandly with an innocent look that didn't fool Alex for a minute.
"Lots of exercise and plenty of ... sleep have us in fighting trim, Sir. Do we have another assignment?" Napoleon's voice had a silky quality to it that Alex had never heard before.
Satisfied, yes. But this went beyond satisfied to ... satiated. Alex smiled to himself and made a point to phone his counterpart in London. It seems he'd won the bet as to which of their two best teams would get together first. He was looking forward to the bottle of Glen Finnian he'd been promised.
"Well, gentlemen, there actually isn't much on the books at the moment. Except for a small inconvenience, I'm afraid. Due to some unforeseen budget cuts, I'm going to have to ask you to share lodgings. We have a nice little brownstone off of 53rd Street that should hold the two of you nicely. I know it's a bother to have to move everything you own but I'm afraid it's necessary."
"The safe house at number 253?" Napoleon asked cautiously, his eyes flickering to his partner.
"Yes. It's a three bedroom and I'm going to have Mark Slate take the third bedroom in the basement. That way we can maximize our resources. It wouldn't do at all to have he and Miss Dancer share quarters." Alex managed a frown while he kept his laughter under wraps. Really, their reaction was too, too delicious.
"We shall do as you order, Mr. Waverly. At least the safe house has room for my books." Illya said primly.
"Oh, my God, all those books. It will take us a week to pack them, not to mention carrying them up all those stairs." Napoleon was doing his best to sound put upon but a lilt crept in anyway.
"I could say the same for all your clothes, my friend. You have four closets full and that's not mentioning the shoes." Illya narrowed his eyes at his partner but one corner of his mouth kept trying to turn up.
This was going to be fun, Alex thought to himself while he listened to their per forma bickering. His team-watching had just taken on a new dimension. He'd have to see about pulling some more people in to train. He could see the future and it was long past time that his best team came in from all the dangerous assignments to take over more supervisory tasks. They wouldn't risk each other now. They had too much to lose.
And so did UNCLE.
End of Ghosts in the Castle Affair
The sequel is the Moving In Affair