Rating - G
Word Count - 967
We were talking about The Waverly Ring Affair a few days ago. My thanks to sparky955 for her beta. This isn't my fault...
Illya felt it long before he saw anything. The day was destined to be miserable. They had lost their Indian summer and the first cold tendrils of the encroaching winter poked their heads out and laughed. Illya didn’t mind the cooler weather, but he was simply not ready for it. The year had gone much too quickly for his tastes. Worse than that, it was Napoleon’s birthday and he had no idea what to do about it.
He was idly poking the lump of gray and yellow that the Canteen staff laughing referred to as beef stew. He wasn’t sure, but he thought it was coincidental that the stew always showed up the same time tax season rolled around. It was as if corners were being cut and they all came out of the Canteen budget.
He gave something limp and vaguely resembling a carrot a try and sensed that something had changed. It was as if the air had thickened. Then he caught a whiff of something and tried not to wince.
Looking up, he saw a small party of young women approaching him.
Lambs to the slaughter, Illya thought at their tight expressions. They all looked terrified and were relying each on the other for support and strength. Slowly they approached his table and he reckoned that one good scowl from him would have sent them scurrying.
“Excuse me, Mr. Kuryakin?”
The speaker’s voice quivered, possibly with excitement, but Illya preferred to think it fear. He looked up over the top of his glasses at her.
“Um… um…” Her voice grew smaller and smaller as she shrank back into the arms of her compatriots.
Illya took off his glasses and smiled. “It’s okay. I don’t bite. At least I don’t bite pretty girls. What can I do for you, Miss?”
“Hawkins. I’m in the steno pool.”
“I know. I’ve seen you there. What can I do for you?”
“It’s just… well, um...”
“It’s going to be Napoleon’s birthday soon and we don’t know what to get him.” A dark-haired woman spoke up. “We thought you might be able to give us an idea.”
Illya tried to keep the annoyance from his face. It wasn’t that he minded helping them, but he was more than a little put out by his slacking partner.
He’d come back from assignment and spent much of the last week trying to unbury his desk. Somehow, no matter how much time Illya put into the effort, the stack of files just got bigger and bigger. That was when he discovered he was working on items that were not only months old but Napoleon’s. Reviewing the security footage, he watched Napoleon slip into Illya’s office with an armful of folders and the re-emerge a moment later empty-handed. Something had to be done, but what? It had to be devious, underhanded and completely devoid of taste.
“Mr.… Mr. Kuryakin?”
The voice interrupted his thoughts and he looked back at the speaker. “I’m sorry. I was thinking about something else. So you need something for Napoleon’s birthday.”
“We all want to go in on something, but we don’t know what.”
Jim Petsold walked by at the moment, his wardrobe an explosion of tie-dyed color. Illya held up a hand to shield his eyes. “You should warn people before you come into a room, Jim.”
“Ha, ha.” Petsold checked out the women and gave them a smile. “I’m told it’s all the current rage with the mod crowd and you know how important it is for us to hide in plain sight.”
“Any plainer and I would be blind.” Illya smirked. “Where did you get that?”
“Just about any shop in the Village these days. You can’t…”
Jim’s voice faded as Illya got a lovely idea. A lovely, sneaky, horrible and just perfect idea. He nodded absent-mindedly as Jim said his good byes and hurried off.
“Ladies, I know exactly what you need to get Napoleon for his birthday.”
His office door slid open and Illya glanced up over the top of his glasses at his partner. Napoleon looked made enough to chew up rocks and spit out gravel.
“Me?” Illya carefully schooled his face into the picture of innocence.
“I don’t know how or why… well, I know why and how actually, but that still doesn’t explain what you were thinking.”
“Napoleon, I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Do you have an office, Napoleon? With the way all your work keeps ending up on my desk, I thought you’d misplaced it.”
“Oh, you… ah, figured it out, did you?”
“I am told I’m a fairly competent agent with regards to such things, yes.”
“That’s still no reason for what you did.”
“Napoleon, I did nothing.”
“That… that thing.”
“Is a gift from the young ladies in the steno pool and if you want to have a chance at dating any of them, I strongly suggest that you leave things the way they are.” Illya didn’t bother to hide his grin now.
“I’ll go blind!”
“Think of it as training for deprogramming.”
“This isn’t over, Illya. I don’t know how or when, but this isn’t over.” Napoleon turned to leave and Illya cleared his throat. “Yes?”
Illya stood and hefted a stack of folders. “I think you forgot these.”
Napoleon’s mouth opened and closed for a moment, then he took the pile and walked out, muttering under his breath.
Illya returned to his seat and wondered how long it would be before Napoleon realized that half of the paperwork he now had was Illya’s. The thought warmed and cheered him just as the image of that mind-boggling bit of art that now hung on Napoleon’s office wall had.
Today was going to be a good day, after all.