"What does that say?"
"Hmmm? Oh, it is Ukrainian. It means 'Great Night', literally, the expression for what you call Easter."
"Yes…how do you know that?"
"I have a grandmother…a babushka. But, I don't read the language."
The two men were in the commissary, the dark haired man in the cleric's clothing had his place in line behind the younger blond. On his tray was a piece of paper advertising a celebration in one of New York's ethnic neighborhoods. He realized, too late, that he had possibly leaned in and invaded the agent's 'space'.
The blond man raised an eyebrow, not quite suspiciously, but never liking to be surprised by information he somehow felt should have been known to him.
"I am Illya Kuryakin. You are Ukrainian? I had no idea…umm..Father."
The chaplain smiled and shook his head, a strand of brown hair falling across his forehead. He didn't look like a religious sort of man.
"Gary...Gary Campbell. I have a bit of it in my blood, on my mother's side. My father was a soldier during the War; he met my mother in Germany, at a camp. She was a survivor who had been interred there for a period of time. I don't know too much about it, she doesn't like to talk about it."
"I understand. It was a terrible time…for many."
"For you as well?"
The question didn't seem like prying, somehow. This man's family history gave him a privilege that few others in his encounters held. It was a type of exclusive club, surviving the Nazis.
"My family endured some hardships…and losses."
The blond shuttered his eyes against a memory, bringing him back to the word that was written on the paper he held.
The chaplain waited, hoping for a little more conversation from the agent. It wasn't often that he saw this one, but knew from various sources that he was the Russian agent…the only Russian agent…here in New York. Perhaps in all of UNCLE. He wasn't sure of it, however.
"I understand you're new here in New York. Are you adjusting well? Is there anything I can do for you?"
Just as surely as there had been a breach in the man's defenses, a wall suddenly went up; a declaration that he was not going to allow any type of inquisition or intrusion.
"Thank you, but no. I am fine. Mr. Waverly has arranged everything for me, and I am…fine."
Hmmm….perhaps another tact was called for.
"Do you recall what the Great Night is? Did your babushka tell you the story?"
Blue eyes answered the question, defiant and full of vehement unbelief.
"Stories, that is all."
The chaplain understood why, didn't relish a confrontation over faith.
'The point of it is love, after all' he thought, and wisely dismissed any intention of entering into a debate.
"Well, I hope you will enjoy New York…be able to make it your home."
The young Russian was unable to keep a look of wariness from enveloping his features. It was sudden, and soon evaporated with the fleeting memory of his babushka and her silent words of thanksgiving on the last Velykden observation they had shared together. After that, the war had adjusted his childish acceptance of all things related to her ancient faith.
"I am confident that the U.N.C.L.E. will provide all that I require here. I thank you for your well wishes."
The young chaplain smiled, offered his hand for a gesture of, if not friendship, at least a type of camaraderie here in these gunmetal corridors.
"I hope we'll have opportunity to speak again. Please feel free to look me up here…anytime."
With a stoic response that would have earned him kudos from his Soviet superiors, Illya Nikolaevich Kuryakin dismissed the probability of such an occurrence.
"It is doubtful I shall find myself in need of … religious advice. However, I thank you for the offer of…"
It was quick, but the other man intercepted the moment…
"Friendship, Illya. Just friendship."
The blond ducked his head, almost imperceptibly, and returned a guarded expression that bordered on a smile.
"Thank you for that, then. Friendship."
The handshake was transformed into something genuine, and the two men parted, each with his own thoughts.
The chaplain uttered a silent prayer for the young agent, for his safety and for a day when he might regain something like a faith in God. He decided to let the Almighty take care of that, and he would stay true to his offer of nothing more complicated than being a friend.
For Illya, his thoughts wandered back to tender moments among his family, his babushka's wrinkled hands as she embraced the tow headed boy he had been in those days; neither fearful nor unbelieving.
He thought he might be able to believe in his memories. And that, for now, was enough.