A Hair's Breadth

by Glenna Meredith

"Napoleon, haven't you ever heard the expression...'choose your battles'?". Illya was getting a little irked with the conversation, and would have preferred to end it here.

"Look, Illya, I'm just curious about why you are so attached to wearing your hair so ...long. I mean, you're the only man in this entire headquarters with hair that looks like that". The suave senior agent had always questioned his partner's sense of style, or lack of it. The long blond hair was so contradictory to his own perfectly parted coif.

How to explain, or better yet...why should he have to? Illya Kuryakin had lived through perilous times much earlier in his life; he doubted that his friend could understand. Why should his hair be an issue when there were so many other pressing matters.

"I don't really want to explain myself, but I fear you may send me to the shrinks before long if I don't give you an adequate response to this never ending inquiry.

"Napoleon, you've never had to live in the confines of my life. From early on there was never opportunity for me to make decisions about my own life. The Germans took away my family and most of my childhood. The Soviet state machinery claimed me during my youth and into early adulthood; where I went to school and the subjects I would study. Even living in Paris and London were all decisions that were made for me'... He looked at his friend and wondered if he could ever convey to him how out of control he had felt for most of his life. He hadn't been allowed to rule any part of his universe.

"Even UNCLE was a decision that, while I wanted to come, was not of my own choosing. I am grateful for having studied at the Sorbonne and Cambridge, and I am glad to be here in New York. But none of it was really of my own volition. Refusing any of it would have resulted in very unpleasant consequences".

Napoleon understood all of that, but his initial question remained unanswered, even if he did have a real sense of compassion for how his best friend had lived his life all of those years.

"But, Illya, as compelling as that is as your motivation to...live as you do, perhaps, I don't see how it relates to your hair". He had to wonder why the blond was hedging on this issue. He wasn't being critical, just curious.

"I like my hair the way it is, Napoleon. Why does that require a defense?" He was irritated now. Maybe Napoleon was jealous...the girls liked his hair. That made him grin a little, lessening the gravity of the conversation a bit.

"I understand that. I just wonder why the vehemence concerning it. You're..." Wait a minute...

"I'm sorry Illya, I think I understand". He felt foolish now, embarrassed that he had subjected his friend to a ridiculous bout of questions and unpleasant memories.

"Do you?" The blue eyes questioned whether or not he could understand. For all of the imposed restrictions that had led him here, there was one thing that had marked his underlying will and rebellion of all things totalitarian: his hair. He had so little control over his life, and so he had chosen the one thing that would stand out and announce that he was an individual.

Napoleon smiled, taking in the blond hair the hung just a little longer than it should, accenting bright blue eyes that made the ladies swoon and the men take a second look.

"Yes, tovarisch, I think I do. And you know what? I can't imagine you any other way".

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