Illya walked into his office and saw his office mate and partner with his elbows on his desk and his head in his hands looking at an 11X16 inch photograph of himself. Stepping closer to get a better look, he frowned and commented, "You look like you are about to be shot. What is the purpose of this picture?"
Napoleon sighed deeply and replied, "There are portraits of all the Number Ones of Sections One and Two in a gallery at the Survival School. Someone somewhere in this godforsaken agency decided that my appearance has changed enough over the years to warrant another photo being done."
"It has not!" the Russian retorted indignantly, offended for his partner. "You weigh the same; you have no obvious scarring…Who decided this was necessary?"
Napoleon laughed for the first time that afternoon. "Illya, you're a good friend. I think you're more upset than I am! I think Jules Cutter is the original requestor and HR agreed with him. That look on my face is me realizing I'm not the fresh – faced agent I used to be." He stood up and shoved his hands into his pockets and shifted his weight from his toes to his heels and back again as he said, "You never think it's going to happen to you."
Illya hitched one buttock onto his desk, crossed his arms and asked, "You never think what will happen?"
"Aging," the brunet answered. "Growing older sneaks up on you; one day, you realize that getting out of a chair is just a little bit harder, that it takes you one or two steps to get out the kinks and that, even though you can still do the obstacle course at the Local Proving Grounds as fast as you did before, it's not as easy as it used to be." He pointed at the picture. "Look at those bags under my eyes and I can see lines on my forehead."
"Do you know what I see, Napoleon? I see a man who has been awake sixty – two of the last eighty hours while he was busy with his partner saving Europe from having biological warfare thrust upon it by madmen. I see a man who has experienced life and is meeting and beating every challenge put before him. I see a man who will one day, if he continues to age, become Number One, Section One and use his wisdom and experience to guide UNCLE North America to its next phase, whatever that may be."
Napoleon was humbled and comforted by his partner's words. "Thank you, Illya. I needed to hear that."
"You are welcome," the Russian grinned. "Come. There are new agents working out in the gym. Let us go show them what two aging agents can do."
A devilish look crept into Napoleon's hazel eyes that matched the glee in the blue ones watching. "I could use a workout."
As they headed to the elevators, Illya asked, "Are you feeling better, my friend?"
"I do feel better, Tovarisch, I'm glad we had that talk."
Illya stopped in front of the stairwell. "Good," he said as he bolted through and began running down the stairs. "Happy birthday, you old man!" The sound of Napoleon in hot pursuit made him run and laugh all the harder.