Napoleon Solo was whistling tunelessly as he skipped down the steps into U.N.C.L.E. HQ. The reasons for his happy mood were entirely down the gloriously warm weather and Illya's release from medical the previous evening. The blond agent had been cleared for light duties, which meant Napoleon would be able to palm all of his paperwork off on him. Of course, he was also glad Illya had survived another THRUSH attempt to kill him, but he wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Instead of his usual nod of greeting to Del Floria, Napoleon hailed him with a jaunty salute. The tailor smiled in response, wondering which of Solo’s many female followers had caused such a joyful air. It caused him to think back to his own younger days he was wasn’t short of female company himself. He pressed the lever to give Napoleon access to U.N.C.L.E’s hidden hallways.
“Good morning, Lizzie,” Napoleon said, with a large smile, as she pinned on his badge.
As he was leaning forward, Napoleon took in a deep breath through his nose. Her perfume was Diorling by Christian Dior. Solo had become quite proficient at recognising perfume, and he often called on that knowledge when it came to buying special gifts.
“Any messages?” he asked.
"You need to report to medical," Lizzie informed him.
Napoleon's joy evaporated immediately, leaving no trace of it ever having been there. The only reason he could imagine for being summoned there was his partner having a relapse. As was usually the case, the Russian had argued his way out of the care of his doctor earlier than he should. He’d been given strict instructions on taking care of himself, which he had solemnly promised to follow. However, everyone concerned knew that he would no doubt push himself too far too fast.
"Is it Illya?" he asked tentatively.
"I couldn't say," she replied.
Her expression gave nothing away.
Illya had spent just over a week in medical, after having spent several days under the subjection of another Thrush interrogator. Being an extremely resilient man meant that the pain and torment he endured was often brutal. His latest interrogation had left him with many cuts and burns, three broken ribs, four broken teeth, and a twisted left knee.
For the first three days of his stay, Illya had spent most of the time either unconscious or asleep. As was the custom amongst agents, Napoleon sat vigil for that time. It sometimes wasn’t possible for an agent to take time out to sit with an injured partner but Mr Waverly, having once been an agent himself, tried to allow as much leeway as he was able. When one half of a partnership was lying in medical, it could be a distraction for the other half. Allowing one partner to wait until the other was out of danger, or conscious for the first time, meant that mistakes in the field could often be avoided.
Spending the best part of three days sitting and sleeping on a hard plastic chair was a small price to pay to be there when a partner returned to life.
Solo had practically sprinted to medical where he found the Russian leaning on his crutches outside the suite. Other than the injuries he was already carrying, he looked to be in almost perfect health.
“Are you okay?” Napoleon queried, Looking Illya up and down in an effort to find something wrong.
“I am quite well, thank you,” the other man replied, trying to figure out what Napoleon was looking for.
"What is going on?" the CEA demanded.
Illya shrugged. "I do not know. When I arrived at world twenty minutes ago I was told to report here, but thus far I have been denied entrance. I was instructed to knock when you got here."
Napoleon gestured for him to do just that. When he did, the door was opened by Mr Waverly, who stepped out to welcome them.
"Good morning gentlemen," he greeted them amiably. "You are no doubt wondering as to the purpose of your presence here."
The two men simply nodded at their superior. They were both bemused by, not only the strange summons, but also by the smile which Waverly seemed to be trying to supress.
"The support staff has taken it upon themselves to have a collection in order to purchase something for the medical centre. They are hoping it will help to make our agent's lives a little more comfortable," The Old Man told them. "It was decided that, since the two of you will undoubtedly get the most use out of it, then you should be the ones to receive on behalf of everyone else."
“What is it?” Solo asked.
He couldn’t think of what the gift could possibly be. He looked to Illya to see if he had any ideas but was met with nothing more than a shrug.
“You will find out, Mr Solo,” said Mr Waverly.
With that, he opened the door and ushered both men in. They were confronted with a large object covered in a sheet. Illya and Napoleon once again gave each other a quizzical look before pulling the sheet away. Beneath the covering, they revealed a very comfortable looking armchair.
The chair, which had been re-upholstered in white plastic vinyl for hygiene purposes, looked extremely soft and comfortable. The truly exciting thing about it was that it was a recliner. It was going to make sitting vigil for hours on end so much easier for the waiting agent. It would also allow them to sleep more comfortably without having to put their feet up on the injured agent’s bed.
Mr Waverly laughed heartily, which was a rare thing, as his two most senior agents vied to be the first one to sit in the chair. Despite having a fairly severe knee injury, and being hampered by his crutches, Illya won the battle. It was actually Napoleon who sat down first, but the Russian made a big play of being in pain and needing to rest. To Waverly, the pair looked, for all the world, like two four-year olds fighting over toy. The Old Man sent up a silent prayer that none of his agents would need use of the chair anytime soon.