“Obviously, that is pointless. Perhaps a metaphor for us.”
Napoleon glanced over at his partner. Illya was staring an old door. A padlock, rusted close, hung ineffectively from its hasp.
He came to stand by Illya’s side. The man had been quiet all day, a result of a failed assignment the day before. It had turned out all right, but mostly because another pair of agents was able to swoop in and save the mission. Today they were retracing their footsteps, attempting to discover where they had gone astray. It wasn’t the first time a mission had gone south, but there seemed to be more and more of them as the years passed.
Illya looked at Napoleon with a somber expression. “Are we too old, Napoleon?”
“Depends upon what you are talking about.”
“I can’t help but think that it is rapidly becoming time to step aside. I used to rally against the age cap for field agents and yet I am beginning to understand the reason behind it now.”
“Illya, we are far from being put out to pasture.”
“But we are no longer young. Try as I might, I could not keep up with Shanagan and Wagner last night. I was trying, but…”
“Illya, this is our third back-to-back mission. We are exhausted. Those two, well, they may be younger, but that doesn’t make them better.” Glancing around, Napoleon moved behind Illya, pulling him back slight to rest against him. At first, Illya stiffened, then he relaxed and Napoleon slipped his arms under Illya’s coat to rest his hands on Illya’s hips.
“What are you doing, blockhead?” It was the closest thing Illya had for a pet name for his partner.
“If you were to have a key for that lock, what would happen?”
“It’s old and rusted.”
“On the outside, but what of the inside?”
“I don’t know, I can’t tell.”
“Exactly. Outwardly we are getting old, but inside we are still viable and capable agents with a world of experience. They may be faster, but we are smarter.”
“How do you know?”
“We’re still alive. Stupid agents aren’t usually as lucky. Just like that lock. It might be rusted and that would make someone underestimate its integrity.” He squeezed gently, feeling the gentle strength in the body in his arms. “No one underestimates us a second time.”
“Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps that lock is to keep something in as opposed to something out.”
“What sort of something?”
“I am strong for I have my love for you locked inside to draw upon as needed. As long as you are by my side, I will win.”
“You’ll never have to look any farther for me, for I will always be there for you just as you are for me. You know, I sort of feel sorry for those young agents.”
“You feel badly for them?”
“Yup.” Napoleon hugged Illya tightly. “No matter what they have, they don’t have what we do. Poor fools.” He whispered something very suggestive in Illya’s ear.
Illya tipped his head back and smiled. “You really are incorrigible.”
“Is that a problem?” Napoleon smiled back with his eyes.