AGE CANNOT SULLY
An older Napoleon and Illya talk about their partner's hair.
An established relationship story.
Written: July 2005. Word count: 2,517.
Now there's a subject I could wax lyrical on - or as Illya would no doubt tell me, on which I could wax lyrical - for hours. Or at least I could on one particular person's hair.
I was fascinated by and drawn to his hair from the second I met him. I wanted to touch it, stroke it, caress it, play with it, and see if it was as thick and silky and real as it looked, long before I had the right to do so.
His personnel information called it ‘blond,' but that was the same as calling the Statue of Liberty ‘a woman holding a torch.' It wasn't just blond, it was a multitude of blonds, a myriad of colors, golden, wheaten, yellow, white, platinum, flaxen, ash, silvery, light auburn, and even more variations - some of which had probably not even been invented. It changed color with the light, with the seasons; sometimes I even swore that, like his eyes, it changed color with his moods.
He wore it unfashionably long from the moment I met him, and throughout the decades we've been together, its length has barely changed. Even the indomitable Alexander Waverly used to give pause before ‘suggesting' that Mr. Kuryakin might care to visit the barber. For an undercover spy the color was hardly inconspicuous - but then even if Illya wore a cap over the bob, he'd hardly be unnoticeable My partner didn't blend into the background, and yet he was the most capable blender I knew. His jokes about being part of the furniture or the wall had more
than an element of truth to them.
He wasn't a vain man, didn't care much for clothes, as long as what he wore was clean and reasonably neat and tidy, it sufficed, but his hair . . . Oh, was he vain about that! Not that he'd ever admit to it, not even under the strongest of truth drugs.
No woman's hair has ever or could ever come close to competing with Illya's - but I never really knew why. Until one day . . .
We were close to retiring from the field; me by the fact that I was about to enter my fourth decade, Illya because he had always declared that the day I was forced from the field would be the day that he too got out. He could have stayed for another seven and a half years; could have become Number One Section Two. Instead he chose to leave and go into the labs, somewhere I think he'd secretly liked to have been for most of his career in U.N.C.L.E. But he stayed in the front line, remained being shot at, beaten up, kidnapped, whipped, sent all over the globe at a drop of a hat, into weird and wonderful situations, played the diplomat, laid false trails, was subjected to torture, rape, truth drugs, and the worst of all - seeing most of the above happen to me under his eyes while he could do nothing to stop it. I know that was the worst, because that's how it was for me too. But no, while I remained in the field, Illya would remain at my side, watching my back, killing for me, lying for me, fighting for me.
Where was I? Oh, yes, the day I realized why no woman's hair could compare to Illya's. We were together, waiting to see Mr. Wavery, chatting - well I was - to his new secretary. She had blonde hair too, natural (you can always tell) and like Illya's, it was a blend of colors; it also looked silky and heavy, she even wore it in a similar style. And yet, it wasn't ‘right,' but I couldn't put my finger on why. Then Mr. Waverly called her, and she turned her head quickly; and that was when I knew just what was wrong with her hair, and most other woman's: her hair moved after her head did. The time lag wasn't great, in fact it was barely perceptible, maybe a person unused to and untrained in watching other people for the minutest clue as to their real agenda wouldn't notice. But I did. It didn't move as quickly as it should because it couldn't; it was heavy with lacquer. Illya's hair, unheld by artificial products swung around his head as he moved it. Why I hadn't realized this before I couldn't imagine. After all, before I took Illya to bed for the first time, I had spent many a night with one woman or another, and my hands had often found their way into the woman's hair, and encountered the brittleness that I never once knew when I touched Illya's mane.
His hair suffered many an attack. I've seen it filthy, crawling with things I'd rather not remember, sticking to his head, covered with blood - and worse - streaked with ink, full of grass, a mass of flour, soot, swamp water, chalk dust, and yet through the mess and dirt, its every changing color still managed to creep through. The subtle hues and unique scent that were Illya's alone, were always there; often buried but always there.
Even now he wears it as long as ever; at its longest it brushes his shoulders, at its shortest it touches the lobes of his ears. It's still as heavy and silky as ever, even though the paleness has departed, turning instead to an old gold with wheat and silvery strands, that still shimmered like expensive highlights. I still love to run my fingers through it, bury my nose in it, and generally let it caress me, as I caress it.
He'll be sixty-seven this year. And we've been together for forty-four years. During the first year we were only working partners - not that ‘only' is a word I ever like to use about anything to do with Illya and myself. After that, we became lovers, and three years after I took him to bed for the first time, Mr. Waverly allowed me to move Illya into my apartment with me. We've been together ever since; yet no matter how often we kiss or touch, no matter how often I get my hands in his hair, it will never be enough. To my eyes, Illya is as beautiful now as he ever was. Age, like our lives as spies, has not sullied him; nor could it ever do so.
Ah, yes, hair. Napoleon and his hair. From the moment I first met him I was intrigued by the way a part of it flopped over his forehead, no matter how much of the hair oil he insisted on putting on it, he used. It reminded me of a comma, and more than once I found myself watching it, waiting for it to fall forward and defy his orders. Few things did defy Napoleon Solo; at least not on a regular basis. In fact the only two that I can recall were his hair and myself - and I only did that thing when I reasoned it was in his best interests for me to so do.
I mentioned the hair oil he used to apply liberally, far too liberally in my opinion, to his hair. From the moment I met him I hated it. It did nothing to enhance his looks, or his hair at all, and I am certain it must have played havoc with the bed linen of all the ladies he used to bed. It certainly did with mine, the first time we took our loving to my apartment. However, as I was not only several years younger than my new partner in years, I was also junior to him in experience within U.N.C.L.E. He was already Number One Section Two, and as such was not only my partner, but also my superior. Thus, how could I tell him, or even suggest to him, that ceasing to apply the slimy liquid would be of benefit to him?
Not that it seemed to blight his success with the ladies; maybe they enjoyed running their fingers through the messy oil. It would be a strange thing to like, but then I have always believed that women are beyond comprehension - or at least my comprehension. Napoleon always said that it is because I never really tried; and he is not incorrect. But why should I have tried? Why bother wasting my time on something I had never, nor would ever want? Especially after that fateful day in January 1961 when I walked into Alexander Waverly's office and met the man with whom I knew I wished to spend my life. Not that I was juvenile enough to believe that such a thing could ever be possible. However, once I had met my perfect partner, there was no point in looking elsewhere. So I did not. I could happily have spent my life merely being Napoleon's friend, working partner, and confidant. Any other needs or wants could easily be subdued in my work or my books or my music or, on the worst occasions, the vodka bottle.
So for a year we worked together, laughed together, grumbled together, and socialized together - occasionally I would even let him drag me along on a double date. When the need arises I can be polite, courteous, gallant, and well mannered. I do know how to treat a young lady, how to ensure she enjoys the evening, even if that enjoyment always stopped at her front door. And during that time my fingers itched to make their way into his hair, to touch it and see if it were as thick as it looked. To play with the endearing comma, to compare it to my own much longer hair, and most of all to tell him to leave the hair oil in the bathroom - or better still, to throw it away completely.
There were one or two occasions when I did get to see him before he plastered the stuff all over his hair. And it looked beautiful. Walnut brown, with hints of mahogany hiding beneath the surface; neither absolutely straight nor obviously wavy; heavy and soft - although the softness I could not truly attest to until the night I found myself in his arms in his bed. That is a night I shall never forget, not just because it was the first time I was able to deliberately touch, nay caress, his hair. I had from time to time during our antics in the field, or when reaching around him, found my fingers making fleeting contact with his hair, but I had never before deliberately allowed myself to touch it. The other reason I shall never forget that night is simply because, as people always say, one never forgets one's first lovemaking experience.
However, still I felt unable to mention the oil. I suppose I was still a little almost in awe of the man. Not that I have ever told that to him, nor would I ever admit it to anyone - nevertheless I believe he has always known. Yet to his credit he never used his knowledge against me, nor did he ever take advantage of it, or at least not in any way other than close and long-standing partners do take advantage of one another. So I put up with the sliminess on my fingers, and resisted the urge to wipe them immediately after I had touched his head. The texture reminded me far too much of gun-oil, and I spent too many hours of my life with that substance on my fingers to wish to experience it any longer, especially under such intimate conditions.
I put up with it until the night we found ourselves in my apartment ‘making out', as Napoleon told me, on my somewhat battered sofa, before he swept - or rather dragged - me off to my bedroom. I had few possessions in those days, I have relatively few now compared to my partner, and although normally I subscribed to my grandmother's ‘one on, one in the wash, one in the drawer', philosophy, too many back-to-back assignments had played havoc with my laundry, and I had no ‘one in the drawer.' Thus, the following morning, when I awoke to both pillowcases smeared with that annoying substance, I, without thinking, told Napoleon in no uncertain terms just what I thought of it. He told me later that I lectured him, as apparently I did when particularly enthusiastic or irritated by a subject, for twenty minutes, and never repeated myself - not even once.
That was the last time I saw the hair oil, either on Napoleon's hair or even in his bathroom. When he invited me to share his bed that evening, using the excuse that my own pillows were clearly unsleepable on - I still had not found time to pay a visit to the launderette - not that he needed an excuse, I would have willingly shared his bed every night, he took me into his bathroom and showed me the space where the bottles had used to sit. I am sure that the company from whom he had hitherto purchased his supplies, saw a severe downturn in their profits for that year.
He always wore his hair fairly short, as was the fashion, and used to tease me unmercifully about my own style. However, the moment anyone mentioned the word ‘barber,' all his mocking fled, and instead he turned his attentions to ensuring that I did not pay the man a visit - not until it became absolutely necessary. And even then he used to make veiled, and not so veiled, threats about anyone cutting off more than what he considered an acceptable amount.
His hair has remained mostly dark, with silver touches to the sides, although they are getting more prominent these days. The style and length have also remained somewhat constant, although he does wear it slightly longer these days than he did when we first met. It is still as thick and soft as ever it was, and I still love to feel it, to touch it, to have him rub his head against my naked body and tease my skin.
He was seventy-four this year. And we have been together for forty-four years. During the first year we were only working partners - not that ‘only' is a word I ever like to use about anything to do with Napoleon and myself. After that we became lovers, and three years after he took me to bed for the first time, Mr. Waverly allowed Napoleon to move me into his apartment with him.
We've been together ever since; yet no matter how often we kiss or touch, no matter how often I get my hands in his hair, it will never be enough. To my eyes, Napoleon is as handsome now as he ever was. Age, like our lives as spies, has not sullied him; nor could it ever do so.
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