"Hello, Control," said Tony, peering around the corner of the door on which Control had fixed his eyes for the last several minutes.
"Hello, Tony," he said. "How good of you to come by my office when such visits are no longer a part of your daily routine."
"Not at all, Control," said Tony, who was looking at him quite curiously as he closed the door behind himself. "It's my pleasure."
"I see you looking at me in an inquiring fashion," said Control. "You may be wondering why I've worn a red jumper today."
"It is a new look on you, Control," said Tony, "one that, if I'm not mistaken, also violates the dress code."
"Well spotted, Tony," said Control. "You see, I'm conducting an experiment."
"An experiment?" said Tony, tilting his head in a quizzical manner that Control had always found one of his most endearing qualities. A secret agent, after all, should be an inquisitive sort. In fact, he suspected it was even in the job description. "I did hear some rumours in the canteen that you were acting oddly this morning."
"I suspected that your new position in the canteen might prove to be a source of valuable intelligence," said Control. "You haven't been misled at all. I have indeed been acting oddly."
"May I be so bold as to inquire what the reason is behind such behaviour?"
"It would not be bold at all to make such an inquiry after receiving a confession right from the horse's mouth," said Control. "You see, I am a sufferer of erytrophobia."
"Now that's a doozy, Control," said Tony. "I don't mind admitting, you're going to have to explain that one to me."
"It's an intense fear of the colour red."
"That's a difficult sort of a condition to suffer from in our line of work," said Tony. "After all, we do have to deal with a number of Reds."
"Precisely," said Control. "This is why I'm conducting an experiment to see if I can overcome my inconvenient disorder once and for all."
"I've just had a thought," said Tony. "Do you suppose that might even be the cause of your malady?"
"The thought had crossed my mind," said Control.
"Well, I must say, you've concealed it quite expertly."
"That's very kind of you to say," said Control. "It is good to have some skill at concealment, when you're a spy."
"That's very true," said Tony.
Control had been taking pains not to look at his jumper, which was both a difficult task and also defeated the purpose of the exercise. But when Tony fell silent, Control could only justify fixing his eyes on him for so long before he felt compelled to fix them somewhere else lest he be questioned about the object of his gaze. It was unfortunate that his eyes were naturally drawn then to the bright sleeve of his jumper.
"I seem to have reached the limits of my tolerance."
"That's to be expected when dealing with a phobia," said Tony. "Might I suggest that you remove the jumper for a short while?"
"I would very much like to do that," said Control, "but I must confess that I'm afraid to touch it."
"Well that's a bit of a pickle, isn't it?" said Tony. "It's a good thing you've got someone here to give you a hand!"
"Are you suggesting that you might be willing to help me out of my troublesome vestments?"
"Well, I wouldn't be much of a friend if I weren't up to the task," said Tony, "and it's not often a person gets the chance to pull the wool over the eyes of the Head of British Intelligence."
"Fortunately for us, that is indeed the case," said Control. "I would be most grateful for your assistance in this matter, Tony, as well as your discretion."
"Mum's the word," said Tony as he started pulling the jumper up from Control's waist. Control felt that it would be quite unremarked now if he chose to let his gaze fix on Tony once again, though his pulse quickened whether he was looking at the expression of concentration on Tony's face or at the red jumper slowly creeping up his body. It might have been quite logical to close his eyes throughout the process to avoid either effect, but he did not.
As it happened, by the time the jumper had been drawn over his head and off his body with a crackling of static by his ears, Tony had come to straddle him on his chair, one hand braced against his chest for balance.
"I'm ever so grateful," he managed to say finally, as Tony smoothed down his no-doubt static-ridden hair with his other hand. He did not seem at all off-put by his unexpectedly intimate position on Control's lap.
"I expect we'll not be telling Mrs. Control about this little adventure, eh, Control?"
"I'm afraid I might have been less than forthcoming on a certain topic, Tony," said Control. "You see, Mrs. Control is not my wife."
"She's not?" said Tony. "But the ring on your finger!"
"A bit of subterfuge, I'm afraid. And it does look quite fetching."
"It does, at that," said Tony. "I've always thought so. But then, who is Mrs. Control?"
"Your sister?" said Tony. "So your sister has two code names? You truly are a master of subterfuge."
"No, this is an entirely different sister," said Control.
"A plethora of siblings!"
"Though the less said about the situation the better, of course. I mustn't reveal too much."
"Understood," said Tony, pulling a bit of red lint off Control's vest and placing it carefully on the desk out of sight. Control thought that perhaps he did understand the implications of the statement, of which there were also a plethora. "So I ought not be concerned about the fact that I'm sitting on your lap with you in a partially undressed state?"
"Not as pertains to Mrs. Control," said Control, "although I expect we'll be in a bit of hot water if Valerie comes in with my morning coffee."
"Well then, we're in no trouble at all," said Tony, "because I told Valerie that I'd be happy to fetch your coffee myself this morning, since I was already planning to make a visit to your office."
"That's very thoughtful of you, Tony," said Control, as Tony slipped a hand up beneath his vest and touched his fingertips to the warm flesh beneath. He couldn't help but shiver, in a most delightful—and in fact, delighted—way. And though he did think to inquire as to how that was meant to help cure his phobia, the words never left his lips lest they cause the action to cease.
"Though you assure me that my new position in the canteen is a lateral move," said Tony, "I do miss having an excuse to come visit your office on a regular basis."
"Now, Tony," said Control, "you know you've never needed an excuse. My door is ever open to you."
"Well, that's a relief," said Tony, his hand slipping up further until his palm was flush against Control's abdomen. "I was concerned that I might no longer have the opportunity to enjoy your company."
"Not at all," said Control, and coughed politely as his body made certain biological reactions to Tony's touch.
"At the risk of sending you into a panic, Control," said Tony, "I'm afraid your face is turning an alarming shade of red."
"Oh dear," said Control. "It's a good thing I can't see my own face, then."
"Though it would be a problem if there happened to be a mirror on the opposite wall."
"That's very true," said Control, "so we should be thankful there is not."
"I've just had another thought," said Tony.
"Am I correct in assuming that it has something to do with mirrors?"
"It does, in fact," said Tony. "You could attempt another experiment, in which, in an effort to desensitise yourself, you were forced to look at your own reflection in such a state."
"It would be unfortunate if my subsequent reaction was to remove myself from the situation which had caused the flush in the first place."
"We might have to do the experiment several times before it's successful," admitted Tony, "but you know me, Control. I've never been afraid of a little elbow grease."
"In that case, I shall make arrangements for a mirror to be requisitioned so that we might proceed," said Control. "After all, we wouldn't want any enemy agents getting wind of my weakness."
"If I have my way, you'll have this phobia licked in no time," said Tony. "In fact, I shall help you examine the rest of your body right now to determine whether there are any other areas which have become reddened that we might use to our advantage."
"Oh-ho!" said Control, and felt very satisfied with the state of their affairs.