Cats Sleep Anywhere by Eleanor Farjeon
It was one of those nights when having a drink was a given. Cold, wet and guaranteed to get into your bones and make them ache.
Jethro Gibbs was not a man who often sought out a bar, but there were times when even he needed to abandon the solitude and comfort of his basement and seek out people. Tonight was such a night. The latest case had resulted in a bout of insomnia.
There was an empty stool next to an older guy, average in every way that counted. He looked a man who could easily disappear into a crowd. That made Jethro very cautious indeed, but it was the only spot left at the bar.
“Taken?” he murmured, just loud enough for the man to hear him.
“Please.” The answering smile was quick but free of emotion. This was a man who knew how to hide in plain sight. He raised his hand and signaled the bartender. “I’ll have another of these and?” He looked over at Gibbs.
“And bourbon neat.”
“Thanks.” Jethro settled on the stool and offered his hand. “Jethro Gibbs.”
“Napoleon Solo.” The hand was taken in a firm grasp despite the man’s age that Jethro would put between 60 and 80. “Military?”
He smiled at that. “Does it show?”
“The haircut and the way you moved through the crowd.” The drinks arrived and Napoleon lifted his glass. “Thanks for keeping us safe.”
Not to be outdone, Jethro touched his glass to the other and said, “You’re government… C.I.A, F.B.I.?”
“Not enough letters.” Napoleon took a swallow. “U.N.C.L.E., retired.”
“Don’t be. At the end of the day, it’s all goes into the same pot.”
For a long time they sat there, sipping and thinking. Napoleon regarded his glass and sighed. “I wish…”
“That I was more like my partner. He can sleep through anything and anywhere.”
“I know a medical examiner like that. I swear he’s part cat.”
Napoleon grinned at that and held up his glass. Closing his eyes, he recited,
“Cats sleep, anywhere,
Any table, any chair"
Top of piano, window-ledge,
In the middle, on the edge,
Open drawer, empty shoe,
Anybody's lap will do,
Fitted in a cardboard box,
In the cupboard, with your frocks-
Anywhere! They don't care!
Cats sleep anywhere.”
“That’s by Eleanor Farjeon, isn’t it?” Gibbs helped himself to a bowl of peanuts. “It seems familiar.”
“No idea, it just popped into my head – just another bit of useless information stuck up there.” He stifled a yawn. “I wish I could sleep.”
“Insomnia?” Jethro recognized the signs all too well.
“It’s always bad, but worse this time of the year. No idea why. I thought once I was a free man, it would be different. I thought wrong. Still can’t sleep.” Napoleon stretched. “I remember him once falling sleep standing up. Whenever I asked him how he did it, he said that he just shuts his eyes.”
“Duck is equally helpful. Once, I remember coming upon him in a mud-flied ditch. I thought he was dead. Just sleeping.”
“We have got to get these two together. Maybe we could market them.” Napoleon stifled another yawn, barely hiding it.”
“Looks like you need to call it a night.” Gibbs pulled out a cellphone.
“If I’m lucky.” Napoleon, too, had his out, making a face as he squinted at the screen. “Why don’t they make these things brighter? And bigger?”
“What did we do without them?” The question was dry, but Napoleon smiled at it.
“We had our ways.” He put his phone up to his ear and plugged the other one. “Hey, I think I’m ready for that offer.” He listened for a moment, then added, Thanks.” He looked over at Jethro. “You need a ride somewhere? I’m sure we could manage.”
“Nope, I got mine coming, too. One more for the road?”
“Since I’m not driving, why not?”
Fifteen minutes passed and someone entered, looking around. Napoleon raised his hand and then stopped, his mouth agape. “What the hell?”
“What’s wrong?” A second man entered and he, too, stared. “I don’t believe it.”
The two men studied each other closely, then with a slightly trembling voice Ducky asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you look familiar?”
Illya Kuryakin shook his head slowly. “I was just about to ask you the same thing.”
Napoleon and Jethro looked from one to the other, then back. Suddenly both men turned, their hands raised. “Bartender,” they said in unison.