Word Count: 2478
My thanks to sparky955 for the prompt and for all her help and encouragement over the years. It wouldn't be half as much fun without you! Link takes you to AO3 if you prefer to read it there.
When people think marriage counselors, they don’t necessary think of spy organizations, but come to find out, they do need them just as much as any other walk of life.
My family always called me a peacemaker. It’s true. For as long as I can remember, I’d always been trying to get people to play together nicely. I believed in listening to both sides and long ago realized that to each person, they are speaking the truth. Granted, their truth, but a truth nonetheless.
When my high school counselor asked me what I wanted to do with my career, I said something like stop people from fighting. In hindsight, I guess it’s lucky I didn’t get immediately sent to talk to the ROTC folks. Thankfully, they weren’t as crazy about women in the military back then, except as nurses and such and I fainted at the sight of blood.
Had I known how much work it was going to take to be a marriage counselor, I’d have picked something easier, like being an astrophysicist or brain surgeon! I loved the work, but it didn’t seem as if I’d ever get out of college. Then you had to find an internship to gain experience to get your license. Did you ever try to survive on an intern’s salary? Then you need to find someone willing to hire you and be willing to let you see clients.
I was walking quickly to work that morning. It wasn’t so much my clients that I feared as much as my boss’s lurid comments and suggestions. He was supposedly a happily married man, but you could never tell that the way he conducted himself. If I hadn’t needed the money so badly, I’d have belted him one and quit.
It was spitting rain and everyone was in a grumpy mood, as it was a Monday and spring had not quite reared its glorious head. Everywhere you looked were sad and grimy snow banks resisting the rain and what little sun that managed to get through.
I was hurrying past an alley when I saw two figures. They appeared to be struggling with each other. When one pulled a weapon, I knew it was time for some intervention. I knew it was stupid and likely to get me killed, but I couldn’t help it.
“What’s going on, gentlemen?” I inserted myself between them and the sudden sight of this woman, made them pause.
“Ain’t none of your concern, lady.”
“Perhaps not, but I can’t stand to see two people fighting.”
“What’s it to you?”
“Possibly nothing. What’s it to you?”
“He disrespected me!”
“And do you respect him.”
“Then I fail to see the problem. Neither of you respects the other. How can you demand something you refuse to give in return? Who do you respect? Your parents, siblings, girlfriends? How are they going to feel is one of you is hurt or, God forbid, killed? The other will go to prison and that will be that. Tell me why how that’s a better outcome than just agreeing to leave each other alone. Tell me how that proves you are a better man than simply walking away.”
The two men, boys really, glared at each other. “Those are just words, lady. You’re bring a knife to a gunfight.”
“I bring no weapons at all except common sense and a desire to have people get along. I’m not saying you have to marry him, just ignore him.”
“He’ll tell his friends. I’ll lose face.”
“What? That I made you stop fighting? That you chose the higher road and realized that life might be a better choice than death? That you will have a chance to grow old with a woman you love and a family who knows and truly respects you?”
The shorter of the pair dropped his hands, shook his head and retreated. The other started to shout something, but I held up my hand. “Don’t you dare belittle him for being braver than you!”
He called me a bad name and took off in the other direction, but I didn’t care. There was appreciative noise from the crowd that had gathered, but it meant nothing to me. I just did what I was always doing. I pushed past them and crossed the street to the building where I worked.
He was there waiting for me and my stomach lurched. He wasn’t usually in this early and there was no one else around.
“Good morning, Gloria.”
“Sir.” I tried to walk past him, but suddenly his hands were all over me. “Get off.” I struggled to free myself.
“You want it. I know you do. Women like you crave power, my power.”
“Leave me alone.”
“Not this time, chickie.” I swore he was drooling. “This time I’m going to finish what I’ve tried to start and if you say anything to anyone, I’ll just say it was all your idea and that you’re lying to get me to divorce my wife for you. No one will believe you.”
“I will.” He spun and a little old man was standing there. “I believe the lady asked you to let her go.”
“Get out, old man, or so help me God--”
“Oh, I don’t think God wants very much to do with someone like you.” He moved with the agility of a man half his age and suddenly Mr. Swenson was on his back, gasping for air. “Are you all right, ma’am?”
Words escaped me at the moment, so I just nodded and stared down at Mr. Swenson, unable to move.
“Perhaps you’d like to take anything from your desk that you want to keep. I don’t suspect you will be coming back here again.” The old man watched as Mr. Swenson climbed to his feet.
“I’ll sue you. I have friends in high places.”
“You’d sue me for protecting a woman against your unwanted advances.”
“She’s just a woman. It’s a man’s world. I’ll just tell everyone she’s lying. They’ll believe me before her.”
I was coming out of my office with a boxful of personal items, just as the old man took something out of his jacket.
“Then I suppose it’s good that I recorded what happened.” He smiled at me. “Are you ready to go, my dear?”
“Then, good bye Mr. Swenson. I sincerely hope your friends meet up with my uncle soon. I’m sure he would have many words of advice. Oh, and here’s my card with my contact information.”
Mr. Swenson snatched it up and gasped. “The UNCLE.”
“I will see you in court, Mr. Swenson.”
I kept from reacting until we hit the streets, then my knees got funny and I sort of collapsed. The old man led me to a bench and offered me his handkerchief as I started to cry.
“How can I repay you?” I managed to choke out.
“I was coming to see you about a job offer. Perhaps you will consider it?”
And that was how I started working for UNCLE.
As I was saying earlier, you wouldn’t think about something like UNCLE needing a marriage counselor, but it does. It’s a higher stakes occupation and there were more stresses on marriages than I’d ever seen, even for police or fireman. It was so bad that certain sections, Section Two, for instance, isn’t even supposed to marry until they came out of the field at forty. I thought that was harsh at first, but as time passed, I saw the wisdom of that. Section Two was a harsh life and any man with a shred of decency in his heart wouldn’t want to put a wife through the worry and despair.
The Section Two’s tend to put their displaced feelings towards their partners and they often get to the point of where you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. Solo and Kuryakin are good examples of that. I never saw two people as ‘married’ at they were, in terms of commitment and loyalty. And when they needed something more, there always seemed to be a willing and ready secretarial pool to lend a hand.
It was about a year later and I was sitting in my office, my own office, and daydreaming about where I would like to go for my vacation. The past year seemed a bit heady now. I was making more money than I knew what to do with and had been able to address my debts aggressively. I wouldn’t be able to go far, but there was money to travel. The apartments that UNCLE rented out were clean and inexpensive and fairly large by New York City standards. Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about anyone trying to grope me. Swenson slithered into the woodwork after UNCLE brought in its legal department. Last I heard, he’d closed up shop and moved south. That was just fine with me.
I was doodling when my intercom chimed and Wilma, my secretary and best friend, asked. “Miss Mathis, are you available?”
When she addressed me that formally, I knew the answer would be yes. If it was a regular employee, she would have called me Gloria.
“Of course.” I swept everything into my top drawer, effectively clearing my desk. The door opened and I tried not to gasp. It was Mr. Waverly. In UNCLE, you didn’t get any bigger than him. I’d only met him once when I was first hired. Even so, it had left a lasting impression with me.
“Sir.” I was immediately on my feet, but he waved me down.
“Please, Miss Mathis.” He seemed very humbled and I couldn’t understand why. He was a true man of power. At his word, governments were toppled, wars were raged and people were liberated. He was probably as close to God as I was likely to come at this point in my life.
“How can I help you, sir?” I knew if wasn’t a social call. He looked around the room, obviously nervous.
“Is it possible for two people in love with each other to not be in love with each other?”
Interesting question in itself. “I suppose so. Why do you ask?”
“My wife… she inadvertently revealed a youthful indiscretion.”
“She was having some anesthesia for dental work and she talked…” He pulled out his pipe and fumbled with it.
“She, of course, has no memory of it. However, I find myself… changed.”
“How old was she?”
“Very young.” He sighed. “She was so beautiful and we were so desperately in love.”
“Where were you when this happened?”
“France. She was in England with our daughter.”
“And if I may be so bold, sir, were you entirely faithful to her?”
“Why, of course…” Then he trailed off and dropped his gaze to his lap. “No, not as much I would have liked.”
“So what’s good for the goose isn’t for the gander?” At his shocked expression, I added. “We call it a double standard. She was just as lonely and as miserable as you were. She’s only human.” At the silence that followed, I decided to try another approach.
“Do you love your wife, Mr. Waverly?”
His head snapped up. “Of course! So much so that she makes my heart ache each time we say goodbye.”
“Does she love you?”
“Of course!” He answered both times with such surety.
“Then what is the problem? You made mistakes as young people, but you still loved each enough to overcome those mistakes. She has made you her life and I suspect her, you.”
“When was the last time you took your wife on a date?”
“Wined and dined her, then took her dancing and finally made love to her by the moonlight?” I swear he started to blush. And I sort of fell in love with him a little bit right then and there. “Go home to her and bring her flowers. She loves you and you love her. I’ve come to learn that there is nothing stronger or more important in the world than that. With love, you can just about conquer all.”
“Thank you, Miss…”
“Mathis,” I supplied. I knew he was bad with names.
“Yes, Mathis. What are we paying you?”
For a moment, my stomach clenched and I wanted to vomit, but I smiled in a fashion that I hope seemed brave. “You pay me very well.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
And with that he was gone. Wilma came in a moment later. “Are you ready for lunch?”
“Yeah, and maybe a martini or two.”
“He’s something else, isn’t he?” Her voice was tinged with admiration.
“He certainly is.”
A week went by and then two. I sort of forgot about my meeting with Mr. Waverly and life marched on. It had been a tough month for Solo and Kuryakin and they were fighting like… well, an old married couple.
“You never listen to me,” Kuryakin was grumbling.
“That’s because you never hear me.”
They argued as if they were the only two people in the room. I sat at my desk, listening, but trying to be unobtrusive. They would work through this. They always did and from what I had learned, it was the best way. My job was to make sure it didn’t come to blows.
There was an envelope on my desk and my name was written on it in a lovely cursive hand. I quietly opened it and there was a note. It was rather short, but my eye was caught by the last paragraph.
Alexander is rather a tiger these days and I understand I have you to thank for it. I don’t know what you said to him, but I am indebted to you. I hope one day I will be able to meet and thank you in person.
Mrs. Alexander Waverly
I could see moonlight, swans, and feel a sweet scented breeze against my face. Two lovers came together and embraced, all because of me.
“Why, Miss Mathis, you are glowing.”
Solo’s voice interrupted my thoughts and I looked up. My hand covered the signature, but I suspected he already knew whom it was from. He was a spy, after all. He was grinning from ear to ear and even Kuryakin looked slightly amused.
“Yes, Mr. Solo, yes, I am. Never underestimate the power of love.”
He looked from me to his partner and then back. “Underestimate? Heck, Miss Mathis, I’m counting on it.” He winked and suddenly I was alone with my thoughts.
I still have that note and while I never did find the sort of love that Mr. and Mrs. Waverly had, the memories of all the people I helped more than made up for it. And for me, that was enough.