"What's wrong, Illya?"
The blond looked up at his friend, aware of the concern he was showing, not welcoming the questions. At times like this he wished for his solitude and was sorry to be locked up in a cell with the only person in the world who might pry from him what he so carefully guarded.
"What makes you think there is something...wrong? Can't a man sit in silence without it being meaningful?"
It was evasive, but not one of his better denials.
"Hmmmm...well, you just look... I don't know, a little..."
He couldn't finish the sentence. The Russian glared back at him, the look he was trying to describe was gone, replaced by the familiar icy expression at which he excelled.
And then it evaporated, the deep set eyes closed as if attempting to see something in the void that held them shut. Illya's brow furrowed more deeply than normal, if that were possible, and he sighed as though expelling most of the air in his lungs.
It must have been the setting; another Thrush cell, more rounds of torture and questioning regarding their mission. So far, the mission was a failure, as evidenced by their presence here.
"Napoleon, is there anything else, some other great thing, that you used to aspire to attain? Before UNCLE, even before Korea, what drove you?"
The American agent returned a puzzled expression at that question. So many years had passed, and all he could remember was a desire to travel and live a life with more adventure than his upbringing had allowed him.
"I don't think so. This is the life I was meant to live.'
He hesitated, almost afraid to ask the same question of his friend.
"What about you? Are you having...second thoughts?"
That coy smile that almost wasn't one appeared on the Russian's face.
The enigma of Kuryakin.
Illya sighed again, the blue eyes dulled slightly from the last injection; remembering that made Solo wonder if this wasn't a side effect of the drug.
"I always wanted to be free."
Napoleon started to chuckle, then stopped himself. Considering their circumstances, it was almost funny, but his partner wasn't talking about now. He was talking past tense.
"Well, you are free now, Illya. You live in America. Hell, you live all over the world, travel constantly..."
He received a wearied expression from the other man. No, that wasn't it, either.
"Illya, what do you mean? I seem to not be getting it right."
"When I was a boy, a young boy, we had a family and a home, and I did feel free then, as much as I can remember. We didn't have wealth or great possessions, but our family was...'
He ducked his head, the words choked back by the memories. Momentarily he saw them all, took in the landscape and the smells. How was that possible, sitting here in this wretched place?
"I think I was happy then."
"Mmm hmm...as much as possible, I suppose."
Napoleon nodded again, thinking of what it might have looked like, a family of Kuryakins, a small toe-headed boy in their midst...happy...
"But the war...?"
"Yes, the war. I was never free again after that."
He closed his eyes and tried to see again into that dim past; tried to see the faces of family members, the small home where they all lived...free.
"We used to sing, our family. Papa had an impressive baritone voice, and mama a lovely alto. Of course, the children all had a favorite lullaby that she would sing to us every night..."
Napoleon noted the wistfulness of the last sentence, trying to imagine now a little boy, little Illya, asking for his evening song and drifting off into a contented sleep.
"So, what was your lullaby?"
Illya smiled, a slightly sad smile. He could hear it in his memories and see his mother's own blue eyes as she sang to him.
"Will you sing it for me? I'd like to hear it."
Napoleon's request was sincere. Anything that he might learn of his friend's past was always a treasure, considering how private he remained. It made it difficult to even think of Illya as having had a life prior to UNCLE, it was so mired in secrecy.
"I can't do it justice, really. But...'
He hesitated, desire fighting with the memories so long ago relegated to a life he sometimes forgot was his own.
"I shall try. It is about a little grey wolf... "
This time the smile was tentative, but he began the song and Napoleon realized once again the resonance of Illya's voice; it was a baritone, probably much like his father's had been.
Ne lozhisya na krayu.
Pridyot serenkiy volchok
On ukhvatit za bochok
I utashchit vo lesok
Pod rakitovy kustok.
Baby, baby, rock-a-bye
On the edge you mustn't lie
Or the little grey wolf will come
And will nip you on the tum,
Tug you off into the wood
Underneath the willow-root.
He sang it in Russian, and then translated it for Napoleon, who considered the story of a little grey wolf very apropos for his blond friend. Like the wolf he was sly and quick; he wondered if his mother had sensed something even then about her son's future.
"I miss them sometimes. I miss home."
Those few words said so much.
How could a man not miss the family that was no more, or a homeland before it became his master?
Illya put his head back against the wall, closed his eyes against the images he had now decided weren't welcome. It would do him no good to sink into a melancholy mood.
Perhaps when they got back home...
He did have a home now, and his friend.
And, even if he did still take orders, the cause was just and the justice of it was tempered with compassion.
A small smile slid across his face, just enough for Napoleon to see it and wonder.
Listen to the lullaby here: