There are places I remember
all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some are gone and some remain
All these places have their meanings
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all
But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love of something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
(In My Life - The Beatles)
It was cold. It was wet. It was miserable. And all of that suited Illya Kuryakin just fine. It reflected the melancholy he felt down to the very fiber of his being. He stared out the window, even though the rain and the night made it impossible to see anything of the city he'd long thought of as home. Yet he wasn't drawing any comfort from that tonight.
Today had been his birthday and he'd just come from a funeral. It seemed a cruel twist of fate for them to have made it to the other side of fieldwork and now start losing friends to the aging process. He wasn't tremendously fond of the man they had buried, but it was still another of them dead. Nearly all his Survival School graduating class was gone now.
Illya turned from the window and took a deep drink from his glass. The doctors had warned him that he needed to go easy on the hard stuff and, not being a fool, he listened. He'd seen what the excess drink had done to his father and brothers. It was hard to think that as the oldest and the one mostly likely to meet an early death, he'd outlived all of them. Illya dropped into his favorite chair and sighed.
He'd been in Turkey when the word filtered down to him that Papa had died. After the mission, he'd flown directly there. Napoleon had begged to go with him, but this was something he needed to do on his own.
Illya had stood at Papa's grave and let the tears flow. He felt strangely alone and abandoned by his father's death, even though they'd rarely seen eye-to-eye over Illya's career choices. The last time he'd been home, no, back to the USSR, they had fought bitterly, anger picking their words. Now he would never have a chance to apologize or beg his father's forgiveness.
Tears tracked down his cheeks, then an arm, as safe and warm as it was familiar, slipped around his shoulders.
"He'll hear you, you know," Napoleon murmured, his smile gentle. Napoleon's capacity for kindness always amazed Illya,
Illya rubbed an eye roughly, not surprised when a handkerchief was pressed into his hand. "That is ridiculous religious dogma to which I do not subscribe."
"Maybe, but you'll be amazed at how much better it will make you feel."
The memory faded and Illya sighed. He took another swallow of vodka, closing his eyes as it burned a path to his stomach. Tonight would be the exception.
He set the glass down and picked up a framed picture of Mr. Waverly. Waverly was long gone, but he'd had the foresight to bring Illya into UNCLE. No one ever knew just quite how he worked that deal or why Illya was free to come and go at will.
That first meeting. Illya smiled at the memory. He was so nervous as he was escorted through the corridors of the New York office. They looked surprisingly familiar to the London corridors. He would come to discover that all the layouts of all the major headquarters were amazing similar. The Section One heads thought that it saved time if their agents didn't have to flounder their way through an unfamiliar setting.
Waverly never ceased to amaze Illya. That first meeting, Waverly had been kind, but direct, his welcome warm, but guarded. Illya knew he would have to prove himself to Waverly just as he'd had to prove himself to that idiot of a Section One in London. Even so, Illya knew Waverly was no fool.
Then he was introduced to his new partner—a man whose reputation already stretched throughout UNCLE. Illya had closed his eyes and sent a quiet plea to his grandmother for patience and understanding. He turned and held out a hand to Napoleon Solo.
Illya jumped as the picture clattered to the floor. He blinked away the tears as he lifted it to set it beside the others. His fingers, slightly gnarled and arthritic from years of fisticuffs, traced the long dark hair of April. She'd left UNCLE years ago, not willing to wait until she was forty to marry and have a family. Mark went back to London and Illya lost track of him. Illya remembered the day April announced she was engaged to be married.
Napoleon looked around the corner and gestured. "Okay, the coast is clear." Illya tried to keep the cake level, but it wasn't easy. It was big and unwieldy. "Come on, the conference room is only five feet. Oh, my God, hide!"
Illya looked around frantically and slipped into the first door he saw, Napoleon hot on his heels. It would be nearly five months before Napoleon or any of the women in the ladies room let Illya forget his fateful choice.
Illya reached for another photo—this one of him and his partner. How young and alive they both looked. The hand holding the frame was neither young nor very much alive anymore.
Napoleon had moved up to Section One and Illya followed him out of the field a year early. He had no taste for fieldwork without Napoleon at his side or at least at his back.
At first they struggled to keep connected as they had as partners. Daily lunch dates became coffee on the fly became once a week and then once a month.
Illya knew Napoleon was alive and well—as the head of UNCLE North America, Napoleon's well being was something everyone was aware of. He couldn't sneeze without everyone knowing.
"But you always did like the attention, old friend," Illya said to the photo. Napoleon was as lost to him now as much as his grandmother, as Papa. Now Illya was truly alone and forgotten, sitting in a tiny, poorly furnish apartment in a city that was disinterested in him as he was in it.
Illya held up the very nearly empty glass to the ceiling. "To the man I was and will never be again."
"Oh, I wouldn't be so sure about that, partner. You still look pretty able to me." Illya jumped and turned in the chair. Napoleon was standing there, cake in hand, a grin on his face. True, there were gray streaks at his temples and a few more lines on his face, but the warmth and sparkle that was Napoleon still twinkled in his eyes.
"Napoleon..." And suddenly, again, all was right in Illya's world.