A Spirited Solo

Gwendolyn hissed softy as she lowered her aching bones into the steamy slipper tub. A warm fragrant puff of air stirred the bubbles floating atop the water, creating prickles on her arm. It would have been quite luxurious, except that Gwendolyn Solo knew the window was tightly sealed to keep out the chill of November's first storm.

"Napoleon...?" she called needlessly.

"At your call, as always," he settled agreeably on the curved edge of her tub.

"Hmf. Who else would dare trespass into a lady's boudoir?" She presented her faded cheek to his pale form. "I do wish you'd manage to visit more than once or twice a decade. We're not all in The Eternal Timezone you know." She squinched up her shoulder to block his usual egress to her ear lobe and ultimately her good humor. "Hey! Have you been invited to this peep show of my wrinkled flesh?"

"-always very fond of your flesh—not to mention the goose pimples. What if I...did...THIS!"

He splashed her and she splashed back ,sopping the pale blue rug.

"Drat! Missed you. And, I've missed you."

"Aw, I bet you say that to all the ghosts."

"Imagine. A thousand THRUSH-"

"Oh, a mere hundred or so..." Solo corrected modestly.

"-a thousand, your partner claimed – you eluded them all, but all it took was one little itsy-bitsy bug-"

"-it was a Germ; an itsy-bitsy germ-"

"So? It had to be YOU to play human incubator-"

Solo sighed. They had been over this ground before. Eternally, it seemed. "Gwendolyn my love. The anti-bodies were in MY blood. The autopsy-"

"Sorry; sorry-" she fluttered her hands, ashamed to waste their precious time with that moldy chorus. "Saving the world to the very end..." She stroked his face fondly. "You were the best-looking corpse I was ever married to."

"I'm sorry," he said, and meant it. "We had so many plans, and so little time."

"When something's that good, there's never enough time." Gwen faltered. "Maybe if there had been a child..." she whispered.

Solo noticed the redness around her eyes and attempted to blot at it. She patted his hand away.

"Darn soap bubbles; sting my eyes," she explained transparently. "It's been lonely...except for inheriting Kuryakin, of course."

"Y'know, most women would've been a little more appreciative-"

"And Napoleon Solo would not have married 'most women.'"

"Touche."

"I knew you'd asked him to watch over me...just as I promised you I'd watch over him. I honestly don't know what you expected to happen. One night, we were just sitting across the table and we didn't have any more Solo stories to share. He took the job as station chief in Quebec; said he liked the weather. And there he'd met Jillian and –had you ever met Mrs. K?"

Napoleon grinned. "Met her? I chose her."

"You never!"

"One of my first assignments in the matchmaking bureau," he rubbed his hands together gleefully, though they made no sound.

"Matchmaking? You spent most of your free time merry-making, if memory serves."

"Think of all the times I set Illya up-"

"Exactly. Zero success rate."

"Hmmm...seems Memory serves you all too well. As I was saying, I tripped Jillian with my invisible foot, and Illya had to catch her or be crushed. How was I to know his reaction time had slowed down since I left? Still, a satisfying bit of work. Just a tad of encouragement from yours truly," he pantomimed a shove, "and they collapsed into bundle of flailing appendages and grabbing glasses and flying folders...and Nature took its course."

"You dear old Romantic," Gwendolyn had the grace to sniffle. "Do you ever drop in on him?"

Napoleon shook his head. "Haven't had the opportunity. Ever since I introduced him to Jillian..."

"Oh?" Gwen puzzled as Solo raised his eyebrows. The dots connected. "Ooo-oooh," she responded in two tones, indicating her understanding. His meaning connected again. "OH!"

"Discretion is our motto," he assured her.

"And in all these years, you never tossed an old bone my way?" Her query was half-tease, half truth.

His affect softened. "Gwennie, I'm sorry. I didn't think you wanted..."

Gwen shook her head. "S'ok. I took vows. Forever. Remember?" The conversation was becoming altogether too solemn.

Solo preened. "Baby, who could possibly follow me?"

"I thought Humility was supposed to be part of the new package."

The air glowed pink where his cheeks would be. "Still working on that one. On the other hand, I haven't shot anyone in a good while."

"Congratulations." Gwen bowed in his general direction. "And by the way, your esteemed partner still sends me a birthday card, every year, faithfully- on Your birthday."

Their laughter sparked and resonated in the tiled room. He had missed that most of all, to laugh with her. In the last uncounted years, he strained to listen through the miles that separated them, to hear her laughter; all was silence.

" 'Wits and tits' " she quoted back at him, still giggling.

"Hmf. That's one Solo story Kuryakin could've kept to himself," he tried to growl, but joined her in the giddy silliness that only intimacy could create.

But they had gone too far.

"Please-" her sparkling laughter had turned the sharp corner to pure Need. "Please, Napoleon-is it this year? Is it Today? Please. Take me home with you..."

Her intensity shook him. It reminded him of the agony of his former existence. Pain and Loneliness and Despair and Cruelty. He no longer had a memory of these worldly traits nor lived among them. Only when he returned for a visit...

"Hush, my love," he tried to gather her into his insubstantial arms. "Hush, now. It's not yet, but soon, Dearest, soon. And we'll have all Eternity..." his voice was fading, flattening, like the shadow alphabet left by a worn-out typewriter ribbon.

The bath water was cold. Her tears were hot.

finis