I was at the console in Mr. Waverly's briefing room that morning, monitoring communications between agents involved in a massive mission that would sabotage Thrush shipping operations at ports all over the world. It wasn't absolutely necessary that I listen, since the plan had been timed to the minute and everything was being taped for our records, but we at Headquarters must satisfy our curiosity. Mr. Waverly and I weren't exactly rubbing our hands together with glee, but gave each other a satisfied smile every time another ship's cargo was waylaid by local authorities.
Napoleon, in the meantime, was entertaining a visiting delegation from Brazil at a posh restaurant in order to convince them that their country should join our organization. Mr. Waverly frequently used Napoleon to schmooze foreign diplomats, and I was all too happy to be left behind.
A cache of weapons had just been seized in South Africa when my chief's intercom buzzed. "Agent Cappaert to see you, sir."
"Am I expecting him?" Mr. Waverly said into the intercom.
"No, sir, but he requested a meeting."
"All right; send him in."
I didn't bother turning around, my attention still glued to the dials on the console as if I might actually be able to see the next operation take place. But agents absorb what's happening around them, including conversations of which they have no part.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Cappaert?"
"I apologize for interrupting you, sir, but I'm concerned about my partner."
"Mr. Moran? What about him?
The agent paused for a moment.
"Well, well...?" Mr. Waverly said impatiently.
"Since he was rescued from Thrush hands last month, he's been a bit...edgy, sir."
"I've tried to persuade him to talk to someone in Medical, but he thinks it will reflect badly on him."
Mr. Waverly harrumphed. "It will reflect badly on him if he doesn't."
"I can't convince him of that, sir, and wondered if you'd be good enough to...suggest it to him in a memo or something."
There was an impatient tsk. "Tell Mr. Moran that I said there is no shame in a good UNCLE agent like him discussing his anxieties with our psychiatrist. Good heavens, what am I paying the man for?"
I smiled to myself.
"I will, sir," said Cappaert. "Thank you, sir."
I heard the door open and close again as he left.
Mr. Waverly's chair squeaked as he turned toward me. "What's the latest, Mr. Kuryakin?"
I put the headphones on and listened. "Our agents in Hong Kong have arranged for the entire cargo of two Thrush ships to be confiscated, sir."
He nodded with satisfaction. "Very good, very good."
There was a minute of silence while I continued to listen and Mr. Waverly sat back, staring at the wall while he chewed on his pipe.
"What do you do about it, Mr. Kuryakin?"
I had heard what he said but didn't comprehend. I pulled the earphones away from one ear. "I beg your pardon, sir?"
He thought for a moment and then asked, "What do you do about — we used to call it 'shell shock' in the War — but now it's called psychological trauma or some such thing."
I took the earphones off. "I, uh, don't think about it, sir."
He swiveled in his chair and looked at me. "You and Mr. Solo have never visited Dr. Fielding?"
The question made me slightly uneasy. "No, sir, I don't believe either of us have." I decided to make a joke. "We had lunch with him once when the cafeteria was overcrowded. Does that count?"
He shook his pipe at me as if it was a scolding finger. "Don't be impertinent, Mr. Kuryakin." But there was a twinkle in his eye.
I smiled. "Sorry, sir."
He swiveled away again. "Still, I don't know how the two of you manage."
I looked down at the console, thinking. Mr. Waverly knew what his agents experienced at the hands of Thrush. Perhaps I owed him more of an explanation. I thought back to several months earlier when Mother Fear had used the lash on me. When an agent is in the thick of a terrifying situation, adrenaline and necessity keep him from dwelling on the horror of it. It's usually not until we return from the mission that we realize the marks left on us are not all physical.
Three days after my wounds had been treated and bandaged, Napoleon had asked me to his apartment for pizza, beer and a baseball game on television. Sometime during the sixth inning, after I'd consumed more beer than was my habit, I began to stare through the television instead of at it. I was brought back to my senses by a tap on my arm.
I turned to see Napoleon's eyebrows steepled, his eyes questioning. I stared back at him, unable to put my emotions into words. He put a throw pillow on his lap and patted it. I looked at it for a moment, uncertain, then again at him. There was a matter-of-factness in his manner that reassured me.
I lay down on my side, placed my head on the pillow and tried to relax. He stroked my hair once with his right hand, then rested his left on my shoulder. "The Mets can do that to you."
I smiled into the pillow and the therapy was complete.
I decided to explain this to Mr. Waverly in the briefest terms. "In answer to your question, sir," I said, "Napoleon and I work it out."
He didn't seem surprised.