The park was especially inviting on this day. The sun was shining, only partly obscured by a few wispy bits of clouds. Napoleon had forgotten what kind they were; he realized that Illya would tell him but he decided to not ask. Sometimes, wispy was good.
They needed a day like this. The last mission had been rough, and he knew his partner hadn't been sleeping in its aftermath. The last night in their dowdy hotel room, Illya had tossed and turned, muttering in Russian and something else he hadn't recognized. He knew that there were nightmares from a war torn childhood, but then there was the impact of what they did for a living.
Sometimes he wondered…
There were some teenagers roaming the park, dressed in the current homage to free spirits and no style. It was fine to dress down on occasion, but the well-dressed American agent still believed that one's personal style reflected much about the man, or woman, beneath the clothing. He liked his image.
That caused him to look at his partner and friend, Illya Kuryakin. He had a style…Napoleon just wasn't certain how to define it. More days than not, he wore black. Black suit, black turtleneck, or black jeans and tee shirt. He had black sweaters, black shirts and black upon black. It was hard to determine whether this was some sort of statement about his mindset, or merely an easy way to match colors.
As this line of contemplation was absorbing him, Napoleon was suddenly confronted by one of the youths he had observed earlier.
"Hello, sir. May I speak with you a minute?"
She was about eighteen, he supposed. She had long blonde hair that was parted in the middle, with a paisley flowered dress that reached her ankles, beneath which she was barefooted.
Granny dress, he thought, was the name for it. What an absurd…
"Well, yes…I suppose so."
She didn't look dangerous. Illya was right next to him, so they should be safe from this little girl…
"Oh, that's great! I mean…well…ahemmm…'
Great, she was going to give a speech of some sort. Illya rolled his eyes in expectation of what might be next.
"Um, well…let me ask you…both…'
She looked first at Napoleon, then over to Illya who was still in the midst of an eye roll…
"If you die today, do you know where you will spend eternity?"
The word ironic didn't begin to cover the absurdity of the question in the minds of the two UNCLE agents. If only she knew…
She looked hopeful, relieved to have gotten the words out of her mouth, after all of the practicing she had done. This was her mission in life, and she meant to take a few converts with her today.
"Oh…well, that is an interesting question. I really think you ought to go ask someone else, however. We're just on our lunch break and…"
"But, don't you see. We're all on some kind of break, but life just keeps on going. God wants you to know that he loves you and that He has a plan for your life. You can do something today that will make your life have meaning and count for eternity."
She was on a roll now. Her zeal was consuming her and threatening to lap up the surrounding population, especially the two men in front of her.
"Young lady, I am quite certain that you have every intention of saving our wretched souls, however I do not wish to have this discussion with you, and think that you should leave…now."
She was startled at the abruptness of that reply, but undeterred.
"You're not an American, are you? I mean, you're not from here."
Illya caught the look from his partner, only slightly disapproving, but a caution nonetheless.
"I apologize for my tone. And, no, I am not from here. But that is irrelevant to my request that you move on. You are unaware of the circumstances of people's lives, and yet you take unwelcome liberties by intruding on our privacy. Perhaps you are well meaning in this, but…"
She didn't let him finish. This one especially needed to hear her message. He needed God, and love and peace in his heart…
"Oh, you don't understand at all. The peace of God passes all understanding. I just want you to know that you can have that peace; God loves you, and wants you to spend eternity with Him."
Napoleon didn't want to have this scene unfold in the way he knew it would. Illya wasn't argumentative, but he was not going to let this pass.
"Eternity? What is eternity? Do you really have any idea what you're talking about? People suffer through life and find themselves in need of respite from the horrors that surround them, and so they create a place and a future that will wipe it all away.
Humankind has given itself a place that will make them believe the suffering is worthwhile, that they will eventually have peace and rest from the atrocities they have endured in this life. It's a fairytale that has gained acceptance as a truth. But it is not one to which I can subscribe.
Life is what we have, and then it's over. There is no reward save for the knowledge that you either succeeded or failed at this one."
His tone of voice never yielded, nor did his eyes ever leave the girl as he spoke. Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin stated what he believed, and Napoleon saw the stricken expression on the girl's face at the hopelessness of it all.
"I am so sorry… I … how do you go to sleep at night, not having any hope for… more?"
It wasn't judgmental or disapproving, merely a question from one who did have a hope. She had no idea the means by which she might chisel out some bit of light to penetrate the hardness that confronted her.
Illya hadn't meant to assault her with that response. But it was what held him together on a daily basis. If he thought there were a God who watched over and judged his actions, then he'd need to believe in the other eternal condition. It was doubtful that men in his line of work ended up in Heaven.
Napoleon stepped in; trying to soothe whatever injured feelings may have resulted from that rather stern pronouncement. He thought there might be some on both sides of the conversation.
"I think it's very commendable that you are letting people know how…enthusiastic and heartfelt your viewpoint is. I just think it's time for you to share it now with…someone else."
He said it with his most charming smile, and she returned one of equal warmth. Illya was completely composed, but not willing to say another word. He had spoken all that was necessary to affect the wall of inscrutability that he preferred.
She offered them a piece of paper, which Napoleon accepted. It was the least he could do to make her feel as though she had succeeded on some level. It was a little tract proclaiming once again the peace that could be attained by simple acceptance.
As she walked away, Illya breathed a sigh of relief. Napoleon noted that his friend had been tense during the encounter. It wasn't like him to be emotionally affected by such things.
"Hey, are you all right? She was just doing what she thinks is right, Illya. It wasn't personal."
The blond turned to look after her as she walked up to someone new, her enthusiasm evident in the smile and body language. He sighed, giving up the breath that had coiled beneath his undefined hostility. No, it wasn't hostility towards her, but an inability to grasp or hold onto something that wasn't completely tangible within his realm of existence.
The fairy tales of his youth, the ones that had been told to him by his parents and grandparents came to mind. These he could manage, because he understood them to be fantasy. But the image of an almighty being that watched the misery of humankind, but did nothing to bring it to an end… this he could not accept. How others embraced the notion of a god who loved but let the misery continue…
"I am fine, Napoleon. I just… nothing. I am fine."
They both looked up to see the girl coming back, eliciting a groan from the Russian and a second round of smiles from his friend.
"I just wanted to give you this. I hope that you feel His love…someday."
She handed Illya a piece of paper, which he soon realized had been torn from a bible; the thin onionskin paper was immediately recognizable to even a godless communist. That made him smile a little, to be so easily thrust into a stereotype.
"What does it say? What is that?"
Napoleon tried to read it, but the little shred of paper was almost hidden in the Illya's large hands. The Russian seemed unaffected, but it took him a moment before he relinquished it to his bench mate. The blue eyes were not conveying anything
Napoleon took it and read the small print…
Thou has kept count of my tossings;
put thou my tears in thy bottle!
Are they not in thy book?
It would not reverse Illya's thinking, but Napoleon noted that when he handed it back to him, he slipped it into his wallet in an act of respect for the sacrifice the girl had made in defacing her book.
Napoleon wondered why she had chosen that particular verse.
Sometimes, he did believe…