THE GOOD FIGHT
They gathered in the little courtyard, a small and solemn group garbed in black, a few of the women struggling unsuccessfully to hold back their tears. The splashing of the fountain echoed gently off the granite walls.
“There, there,” Napoleon murmured, brushing back a lock of April's hair. “He wouldn't want tears.”
“Well it's not his decision anymore, is it?” April turned away, burying her head in her hands.
Illya stood off to one side, hands clasped before him, head bowed in silent grief. For him, no words would suffice.
Above them, clouds moved swiftly in their courses, casting a shadowplay of sun and shade across pale and weary faces. A bee hovered over a yellow rosebush, contemplating the fragrant, newly-opened blossoms. It settled with a soft buzz, and drank deeply of the nectar.
“It's time, Sir John said quietly.
Napoleon nodded, and stepped to the front of the assemblage. He paused beside a white silk shroud concealing a portion of the granite wall, and allowed his hand to rest upon it for a brief moment, gathering strength.
“Thank you all for being here," he tried to say, but the words refused to come. Instinctively, Illya took a step forward, but Napoleon shook his head, and he stepped back into the shadows.
He cleared his throat and began again. “Alexander Waverly was a true giant among men -- a brave warrior, a diplomat, a father-figure, a visionary. His loss -- " He paused, wondering what words could possibly bring comfort to such heavy hearts.
Come, come now, Mr. Solo, he could hear Waverly say. This is no time for shilly-shallying. Carry on. The memory brought the first smile in many days.
"His loss diminishes us all," Napoleon went on, his voice finding its rhythm now, growing in strength. "We are here today to unveil his memorial, and to honor his contributions to UNCLE, and to the world.
“At this time, I ask you all to remember a remarkable man, who was so much more than the sum of his accomplishments. Remember his brilliant and facile mind. Remember his heart, the small kindnesses that felt like gold when he offered them. Remember his indomitable spirit, that refusal to allow evil to gain so much as a single millimeter of ground in our fragile world. He died as he lived -- holding that line. He was The Great Manipulator, master chess player, a kindly old professor in a rumpled tweed jacket. He was our friend.”
Napoleon tugged the cord, and the silk shroud fell away, revealing a marker of burnished marble set into the precise center of the wall. Around it, hundreds of identical markers -- some old, some achingly new -- honored the fallen agents who had died pursuing The Old Man's singular dream.
Alexander Waverly, 1892-1972, the inscription read. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4: 6-8.
They stood in silence, lost in memories of a life well-lived, and perhaps contemplating their own fragile mortality as well. The bee, satisfied, moved on.
Illya stepped forward. “Let us go forward now, and save the world.” He shrugged, his eyes bright with unshed tears. “It is the least we can do.”