The past several days had been grueling for the two men from UNCLE. From New York, to Egypt, Greece and then Washington D.C., the air miles they had logged were taking a toll. That and various attempts to torture them or kill them had left an indelible sense of weariness that couldn't be cured by a single night's sleep. The madness of the self appointed Alexander the Greater had wreaked a certain amount of havoc on both Napoleon and Illya, and even Mr. Waverly had felt the depth of the lunacy as he oversaw the clean up at the embassy where the final chapter had been played out.
Now, each of them sat at the large round table that served as the UNCLE chief's desk and center of commerce, so to speak. Not one decision was made that didn't take place around this venerable piece of furniture, and now more of the same was in store.
As the two agents sat and tried to concentrate on the old man's discourse, they each drifted into musings and misgivings about the last time they had seen Tracy. She was an extraordinary woman, and each of them had been strangely attracted to the manipulative but charming blonde. She was attractive and vivacious, something each of them liked. Her last comment to Illya had been startling to his American partner; she preferred the Russian as he had stood there in his muddied and crumpled suit. His hair was equally disarayed, and he had the lingering fragrance of whatever solution that odd little Egyptologist had started to saturate him in while wrapped in his mummy suit.
Napoleon had difficulty each time a woman passed him over for the smaller blond. This time was no different. It wasn't even that he particularly wanted Tracy, but that she preferred Illya was a little bit of a stunner...again.
Illya, for his part, took the sentiment in stride, recognizing that neither of them had any place to take the attraction they had for each other. The last kiss had promised everything and nothing. He considered what might have developed had she not been in search of a new rich husband; certainly he would never fit that description. And, standing there in his dirty suit and still muddy hair, he wondered only briefly why she would choose him. The kiss had been nice, though.
"Mr. Solo, Mr. Kuryakin...should I repeat my last question?" Alexander Waverly was unaccustomed to his agents' loss of concentration. Perhaps they were in need of rest, judging by this breach of performance.
"Ah...no sir. No...well, yes...perhaps". Napoleon stuttered through that with his usual aplomb, netting a scowl from Mr. Waverly and a whisper of a grin from his partner.
"Mr. Kuryakin, do you find this amusing?" "Oh...no sir. I am sorry for...No...sir, Mr. Waverly". No better than Napoleon.
"I think you are both in need of some time away from work. Both of you, go now. Don't come back until you can think straight and pay attention. You are dismissed". With that he turned away and began searching for a mislaid pipe.
"What just happened in there?" Illya was embarrassed, but glad for the time off. He would write the report later, for now he just needed some fresh air and...
"I think we should go have some lunch and then...' Napoleon's voice trailed off as he failed to think of anything he would like to do. A free day and nothing interesting came to mind. Well, just a little bit of curiosity...
"Did you and Tracy ever spend any time...together?" Ah, that last little bit of inuendo.
"Why would you think that, Napoleon? You were with us most of the time, and if you recall, when you found me at the farm she was already gone with Alexander and I was...being mummified". He growled out that last bit. The humiliation of being discovered like that and then having to roll over onto Mr. Kavon in order to save Napoleon...they had both seen better efforts. And now, to be accused of...
"Illya, it would be alright if you had...I mean, I just wondered. She seemed sad to leave you behind is all". There must be a reason for that attraction, and Napoleon just figured it was purely physical. Then again, that wasn't so much comfort either. "Tracy and I went through some things. You know, hanging over a bottomless pit and being stuck in that tunnel in the pyramid. I don't know why she liked me. I liked her too, but...she needs a rich husband and I won't ever be one. So, there. Does that ease your ego any?" Ouch, that cut right to the matter at hand, didn't it. Napoleon winced a little at his sensitivity to the subject and decided to let it go. Illya had a right to be the lucky guy once in a while; it wasn't as though the dark haired agent couldn't have his pick of women. It's just that, when they didn't pick him, he felt rejected and that was an unwelcome and uncomfortable sensation for him.
"Does it ever bother you that women often prefer me? I mean, when it's obvious that they do? Well, that sounds bad doesn't it? Does it affect you at all to see me so active with women?"
This was a bizarre line of questions, and the Russian wasn't certain he understood the entire context here. Did Napoleon think he was jealous?
"Do you think I'm jealous? I don't look for these women to come on to me, you know. Tracy and a few others, that's all Napoleon. Your place as the reigning cock of the walk at UNCLE is safe, I assure you. I neither seek after nor need the attention. I'm not like you". Oh, there that sounded a bit brash and judgemental.
"Say, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it to sound...rather, I didn't mean it the way it sounded". Suddenly lunch didn't sound too good either. They needed some space, perhaps. Togetherness had its limits, and it was possible they had reached theirs.
Napoleon weathered the comment and then had the grace to let it go. They were both tired, both of them saying things about a topic that had such deep underlying emotions that never really had any resolution.
"I know what you mean.' His voice was soft and thoughtful. They had some strange lives, after all.
" I don't mean to imply anything about your love life either. We're just different. I'm glad you don't think badly of me, Illya. I just enjoy being with women, lots of them. You enjoy them one at a time...for a longer time than I think is necessary. Tracy was a lovely woman, and I can see why she liked you. After the men she's been with, and married, I guess you seemed like a really decent and down to earth guy. Even if you are a spy". That elicited a smile from the Russian, the insane notion of being normal was a nice touch. With that the conversation found a gracious end, and the two walked across the street to Luigi's for lunch. A little pasta, a lot of wine and the rest of the day to unpack and relax.
Each man went to bed that night still wondering why romance carried such a huge price tag, and each of them decided to think less about it, and just do what they could to have some in his life.