The effect of boredom on a large scale in
history is underestimated
William Ralph Inge (1860-1954)
Illya Kuryakin was bored and this was never a good thing. Everyone talked about the non-stop glamour of being a Section 2 agent; the globetrotting, the exotic, often dangerous situations, the women, fast cars. All of it was addictive; Illya would be the first to admit to it. But, with that addiction, came a high price and he was now paying it. When he wasn't on assignment, he bored quickly. Without that near constant injection of adrenaline, he found his attention wandering at the least provocation.
And as bad as it was for him, Napoleon suffered twice as much. He'd even taken the day off to clean his apartment and do his laundry - strange excuses for a man who has both a maid and a laundress. Illya knew the truth; Napoleon was too bored at work to tolerate it, but he, at least had the common sense to not hang around the office.
Illya looked down at the stack of reports. Some needed to be typed; some just checked over. Others simply lacked his or Napoleon's signature to consign them to the storage room, never to be seen again. He couldn't even drum up the interest to sort them into piles.
Illya's head jerked up as his partner came through the door. Napoleon was carrying something, but Illya couldn't exactly see what... well, he could after Napoleon slapped it down on his desk.
"You want to explain this?" It was ragged clothes on a cross, a piece of material, stuffed, and with a clownish face with huge red lips drawn onto it with lipstick, served as its head.
It took Illya a moment. "It's a scarecrow, a strasheela, we'd call it back home."
"I know what the hell it is, partner!" Napoleon planted his fists on his hips and glared at Illya.
Illya blinked, taken aback by Napoleon's anger. "Then why...?"
"What the hell was it doing in bed with me?"
"What?" Illya had no doubt his face amply displayed his confusion. "Why would you sleep with such a thing, Napoleon, when there are a dozen young ladies more than willing to take up the cause, as it were?"
"I woke up and that was in bed with me. There are only a couple of people who have access to my apartment."
"Napoleon, surely you don't think... why would I do this?" Illya tried to keep the smile from his lips. The mental image of the look on Napoleon's face when he woke up beside that was priceless.
"I don't know! That's why I'm here on my day off to find out!"
"Napoleon, I can assure you that I am innocent. My humor, such as it is, would not extend to giving you such a winsome bedmate."
"If you did this, I will find out eventually."
Illya spread his hands helplessly. "I am innocent."
Napoleon snatched up the scarecrow and stormed from the room. Illya stared at the door for a moment and shook his head. As bored as he was, he didn't wish for Napoleon's life for an instant. He started to sort through the files on his desk with a renewed interest.
July 4th came and went with its usual aplomb while the city sweltered in the heat of summer. Illya never cared much for the heat and the long summer nights often proved almost as hard to get through as the days. It was too hot to sleep; it was too hot for sex. His studio was like an oven and he would frequently say to hell with security and sleep out on his fire escape just to get some relief.
Illya woke and blinked, his eyes feeling gritty. It was only dawn and already the day was heating up. How he longed for the relief a trip to Iceland or Norway would provide now. He sat up carefully to avoid cracking his head on a metal railing. The city was starting to stir beneath him. If he was lucky, he could grab a couple more hours of sleep before heading in to face another day of mindless boredom. He was almost ready to send an inflammatory message to THRUSH in sheer desperation.
He opened the window and slid inside, pulling his bedding in behind him. He'd nearly made it to his bed when something stopped him... He paused and glanced over his shoulder. There, on the tiny square of what passed as his dining table was a plate of cookies.
"Что?" he asked out loud. Instantly, he went for his pistol and began a tour around his apartment. There were only a couple of places anyone could even think of hiding; his bathroom and closet remained as he'd left them the night before.
Illya let out the breath he'd been holding and walked back to the plate of cookies. There was a card propped up against the plate. It had a heart drawn with the same red lipstick on it. Illya lifted one of the cookies and eyed it. While his scientist side screamed at him to exercise caution, he bit into it.
Hmm, a sugar cookie and not bad either. Illya picked up a couple more and trudged back towards bed. His very nature wouldn't let him easily dismiss this though.
Not quite an adrenaline rush, but it certainly made him more eager to get to work that morning. He would later quiz either directly or covertly anyone he met that day, but he never got a step closer to an answer.
As was the case on any given Wednesday when they were in town, Napoleon was driving and he looked tired as he pulled up in front of Illya's apartment.
"Not sleeping well?"
"The heat," Napoleon admitted. "I would kill for an assignment in Alaska right now, just so I could get a good night's sleep. Barring that, central air." He briefly smiled over at his partner as they pulled out into traffic. "How about you?"
"You don't suppose Mr. Waverly has any arctic installations that he needs checking up on?"
"I already asked."
The banter fell apart at that point. Illya took the time to enjoy the breeze against his face while Napoleon hummed in time with the music from the radio.
They parked in the garage and made their way into HQ, joined by the other working men and women. Illya couldn't help but notice how many people carried the same dark bags under their eyes as he did. If this heat didn't break soon, there would be riots.
Napoleon led the way into their office and slammed to a stop, causing Illya to smack into him.
"Do you mind, Napoleon?" Illya was just happy he hadn't stopped for coffee as he'd first planned to.
"What the hell is this?"
"Didn't we already have this conversation?" Illya pushed Napoleon aside and stopped as well. Decorating their office were dozens of teddy bears of all sizes, shapes and colors. Many were clumped together, sitting on blankets with baskets in front of them. Napoleon reached for a card that was hanging from the ceiling - again bearing a large red heart written with the same lipstick.
"My God, it's a Teddy Bear picnic," he muttered after a moment
Picnic time for teddy bears,
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today.
Watch them, catch them unawares,
And see them picnic on their holiday.
See them gaily dance about.
They love to play and shout.
And never have any cares.
At six o'clock their mommies and daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little teddy bears.
Napoleon stopped in his reading. "There's more."
"That's adequate, thank you." Illya looked around the office. "There must be a hundred of them. Who would do this?"
"Someone with way too much time on his or her hands?"
"It must be someone inside UNCLE... security camera?"
"Down for the week while they do maintenance, the schedule is random, so no one knows when they are going to be out."
"Well, someone knew, so I guess the real question is what do we do with them?"
It had taken most of the day, but the teddy bears were parceled out to the various UNCLE employees who had children or for one reason or another wanted a stuffed toy. The rest, they dropped off at a local children's hospital.
"What a peculiar day," Illya admitted as they drove back towards Illya's apartment.
"Guess it beats being bored," Napoleon said, with a smirk. "You want to pick up some dinner? Italian, German, Chinese, what?"
Illya caught a deli sign and pointed. "How about sandwiches in the park?"
Napoleon grinned. "Whatever you say, Teddy bear..."
Illya cracked open one eye, in spite of his head warning against such an action. The heat wave had finally broken and a massive thunderstorm had brought life in New York practically to a standstill as everyone celebrated. Illya had been at Napoleon's apartment when it hit and had lingered, not willing to brave it for a dash to the nearest subway station.
Instead, they opened the patio door, let the fresh wet air circulate through Napoleon's apartment and they'd started drinking, toasting first the rain, the lightning, the thunder, and it had gone downhill from there. Illya didn't want to think about just how much either of them had had to drink the night before.
Illya moved, grimacing at the kinks in his back and neck. Napoleon's bed was far too soft for him. Napoleon grumbled a protest but didn't shift himself as Illya dropped his legs over the side of the bed and stretched. He blinked, trying to get the clock to stop moving long enough to focus on it.
"If you're getting up, make coffee," Napoleon ordered, his voice muffled by his pillow.
Illya mumbled something and staggered out to the living room. The sight that greeted him was enough to render him speechless for a long moment and he began to truly wonder if he'd ever begin to under estimate being bored again.
"I know I had a lot to drink last night, but really," Illya muttered more to himself than anyone else. "Napoleon?" he called softly and then cleared his throat, "Napoleon?" He was loud enough this time to elicit a response.
"You really need to change the security code to your apartment."
That had the desired effect and a moment later, his partner stood beside him. Illya glanced over at him.
"How many do you think there are?"
"More than the teddy bears..." Napoleon trailed off, words stolen from him after that by the dozens and dozens of brown paper bags, each one with a red lipstick heart, that decorated every flat surface of his living room. "This is getting beyond insane..."
Napoleon yawned and rubbed an eye. "Okay, 143.85, 52.89, 632.18..." Bored or simply tired, Illya couldn't tell. He was both at the moment. They had spent an entire day trying to track down the culprit who'd stuffed Napoleon' s apartment full of paper bags, every lead fizzling out in the end.
"What was that for?" Illya pushed his glasses back up his nose and yawned, not bothering to try and hide it from his partner. The rain had been a welcome relief, but now the city was a steam bath. Taking off his jacket, loosening his tie and pushing his sleeves up hadn't helped. He itched beneath his shoulder holster, longing to pull it and his shirt off. He wasn't quite sure which one would attract more attention in the corridors though.
"Um... ," Napoleon consulted his expense voucher. "Tips, bribes and other greasing of palms..."
"You tipped someone eighteen cents? You really are a cheap bas..."
The office door slid open and both men glanced over. There was an agent standing there, holding a tray laden with hot dogs.
"Jennings, what's this?"
"Um, these were left for you two with Mr. Del Floria. We tested them and they are exactly what they appear...hot dogs." The man licked his lips. "Really incredibly good smelling hot dogs by the way."
Illya looked over at Napoleon who shrugged, saying. "Help yourself."
"Really?" Jennings looked hopeful.
"I don't think even Illya could eat that many. So who left them?"
"The hot dog vendor."
"Did he say who ordered them?" Illya looked down at the tray, his stomach arguing with him that coffee and a doughnut was not really a proper breakfast.
"A well dressed, good looking, dark haired lady; she left a note," Jennings managed to get out around the mouthful of hot dog. He pulled the note carefully from his pocket as to not smear it with mustard and handed it over.
It was the same card stock as the others, along with the same red heart.
"We tested the substances used and it was Midnight Embrace, a lipstick available from just about every store in Manhattan." Jennings swallowed and sighed happily.
"Dark haired, you say?" Napoleon pursed his lips and shot a knowing look at his partner. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Mr. K?"
Illya looked up from the hot dog he was eating. "April?"
Napoleon led the way to the office she shared with her partner. Mark was sitting at his desk, buried in the same type of paperwork as Illya and he were. He glanced up and appeared relieved to see them.
"Please tell me Mr. Waverly wants me... or that you're sending me on a mission somewhere... anywhere!" The begging in his tone couldn't be overlooked.
"Apparently we aren't the only ones bored out of our minds here," Illya said to Napoleon.
"Where's your partner?"
"Caracas, last I heard, but she might have made it to Peru by now. Is she not answering her communicator? Do you want me to go find her?"
"Slow down, tiger." Napoleon patted his shoulder as the Brit started to stand.
"That peace summit..." Illya snapped his fingers, remembering. He'd been scheduled for it, only to be yanked at the last minute by Waverly. Not that he bore any ill will to his superior, but Illya hoped he got heat rash comparable to the one he had.
"Yeeesss," Mark said, eying first one and then the other man. "Are you two okay? More paper bags?" By now, their adventures into the odd had become office wide knowledge.
"Hog dogs..." Illya sighed. "Napoleon, how many hot dog venders are there in New York City?"
"Let's go find out."
"Well that was about as much fun as you can have on a week day," Napoleon grumbled as they limped back to his car. It was sweltering inside and Illya weighed the advantages of sitting down with further aggravating his heat rash.
"Who is doing this to us, Napoleon, and why?" He broke down and climbed into the car, leaning forward to keep the hot vinyl from his back.
"No idea... but whoever it is is going to get five of my finest when I track him or her down." Napoleon made a fist and a promise. "What's wrong with you?"
"Prickly heat," Illya confessed, too hot and too tired to hide it any more.
"Let me see..." Napoleon reached for him and Illya slid across the bench away from him and closer to the door.
"I've heard that a time or two before... let me." Illya ran out of seat and sighed loudly as Napoleon lifted his suit jacket and shirt. "Illya... have you been to Medical for this?"
"They give you something for it?"
"Which only works when one is either double jointed or has a willing friend."
Napoleon let the shirt fall and returned to behind the wheel. He checked traffic and pulled out smoothly.
"My place is that way." Illya hooked a thumb over his shoulder.
"Mine isn't..." Napoleon flicked his eyes up to the rearview mirror and back. "Back at my place, I have a bath tub..."
"Why, Napoleon, are you propositioning me?" Illya smiled and batted his eyes flirtatiously.
"If it wasn't so hot, I'd think about it." Napoleon changed lanes, garnering a horn from the car behind them. "I also reckon that I have the same medication. You're not the only one with a heat rash my friend."
For three more days, they searched and struggled to track down their bearer of gifts. And with each passing day, the deskful of paperwork was looking more and more attractive to Illya.
The days cooled and he was just starting to relax a bit when the call came.
"Illya, what are you doing?"
Illya wiped a swatch across the condensation on his bathroom mirror. "I just got out of the shower, why?"
"Any chance you could drive today?"
"Of course, but it's Wednesday..."
"I'll be there in fifteen minutes."
Illya hurriedly finished up his ablutions and dressed in the lightest cotton shirt he could find. Strapping on his weapon, he grabbed a jacket and a carton of orange juice and headed for the security garage where he parked his car. Well, actually it was a loaner from UNCLE's garage. He was far too frugal to purchase his own vehicle when he had precious little time to drive it. It was easier to take public transportation or borrow one from UNCLE. It permitted him the flexibility to change it as he saw fit, allowing for a greater chance of it not be recognized like Napoleon's Jag often was. In this respect, he had no doubts.
And that's when he saw his car... his poor, poor car... Sighing, he reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out his communicator while plucking a by now familiar note from beneath the windshield wiper.
"Napoleon? I'm going to be a little late..."
Napoleon dumped his armful into a cardboard box and groaned. "How many do you think there are...?"
"Hundreds... thousands... hundreds of thousands..."
"Not counting the ones in your pocket?"
"I like root beer, sue me."
"I can't. You're not a U.S. citizen."
"Just one more thing to be thankful for." Illya wiggled his hand further under the seat and pulled out a nylon stocking, a gum wrapper and yet another handful of lollipops. "I don't think we're ever going to get them all out."
"I say we call this done and get into headquarters. I, for one, think it's time to bring Mr. Waverly in on this."
"You mean, you haven't said...?"
"Hello, Mr. Waverly? I'm going to be late this morning - someone filled my apartment with paper bags. Hello, begging your pardon, sir, I'm going to be late again as someone filled my car and that of my partner's with suckers... do you take me for a fool, Mr. Kuryakin?"
"That's one thing I'd never accuse you of being, Napoleon. I just thought..."
"Paper bags, Mr. Solo? Hot dogs? Teddy bears?" Illya kept his attention focused upon the table as it seemed the safest place while his superior paced the small space in front of the table.
"Yes...sir." Napoleon was doing his best. "We thought we could handle it, but each time it seems to escalate."
Waverly paused before a control panel and tapped the monitor there, apparently lost in thought. Illya snuck a glance at his partner and shrugged his shoulders.
"Are your expense accounts caught up with? All necessary reports filed?"
"Ah, yes, sir," Napoleon said, sitting up a bit straighter, frowning at the sudden shift in questioning.
"In spite of all of this, you managed to get your work done?"
"Then I think it's time for both of you to take a little break from New York. There is a report in from Sweden... the connection is tenuous at best..." Waverly pushed around some papers until he found what he was looking for. "It's not much of an assignment, but it will get you out of town until we have had the opportunity to investigate this misfortune of yours a bit more thoroughly. You will leave tonight."
"Yes, sir." Napoleon was to his feet in a heartbeat, Illya close behind.
He waited until they were well clear of the office. "It's probably against some rule, but I could almost kiss him," Illya muttered for Napoleon's ears only.
"Stick with me, kid, I've got someone much better to kiss."
Illya used one hand and his teeth to tie a knot in the handkerchief around his forearm. He was bleeding from a half dozen scratches, he felt like someone had gone at him with a sledgehammer and there were bullets whizzing about his head. The gods only knew where most of his clothes were and he was shivering... he'd not felt this alive in weeks.
"Head's up!" Napoleon voice was distorted by the communicator. "Two THRUSH coming your way."
Illya hazarded a look, saw his targets moving and nodded tightly. "Have them." He dropped the closest one with a sleeper bullet, the other in hand-to-hand.
Napoleon appeared, looking as weary and beaten as Illya felt. "That's the last of them." He collapsed on a bare piece of ground, free of the rubble from the collapsed building. "Next time don't use so much explosive."
"How was I supposed to know the under timbers were rotten? It came down, that's what mattered. Do you have the code book?"
"Of course." Napoleon patted his jacket pocket and smiled. "Still."
"Last one back to the hotel has to pay for dinner." Illya started to limp towards their hidden vehicle, slowing so a hobbling Napoleon could keep up with him. "Of course, the way we're going, it'll be breakfast before we get there."
"Sure it beats a day in the office."
"Amen to that."
They got back to the hotel room amid a myriad of odd looks that Illya pretended he didn't see. While Napoleon secured the door to their room, Illya limped over to his bed and started to swear. He'd exhausted Russian, German, French and Swedish before be realized Napoleon was chuckling.
"Why are you laughing, Napoleon? Chances are you got one as well."
"The sheer insaneness of it, I suppose."
"The only one who knew we were here was Waverly... Napoleon, you don't think...?" Illya sank to the bed and held up the tube of lipstick for closer inspection. "Midnight Embrace, why am I not surprised."
"It wouldn't be the first time... Remember that whole incident with his brother-in-law?"
Napoleon sat down beside him and took the tube from him, turning it this way and that. "Of course, Mr. Waverly wasn't exactly the only one who knew we were here."
"Outside of you and me, who else...?"
Napoleon gave him an impish grin and tapped himself on his chest.
"Wha... no, I refuse to believe it. You're not that good an actor."
Now Napoleon beamed. "Apparently I am..."
"And you're telling me this now because...?"
"I'm banking on you being too tired and too sore to try and take me on."
"I'm not that sore... how could you play me like that? I trusted you, note my use of the past tense of the word."
"Illya, you were bored, I was bored, and there's nothing worse or more dangerous than a bored UNCLE agent. And you gave plenty of people lots to do."
"Plenty of people?"
"Mark, April, Mr. Waverly... hell, even his daughter-in-law got into the act. She was the one who bought all the teddy bears." Napoleon dug a sheet out of his jacket pocket and passed it over. "I came across that list of obscure holidays when I was looking for something else and it just seemed a good idea."
"And Waverly knew?"
"Who do you think took down the appropriate cameras at the appropriate times?"
"The dark haired woman?"
"April wasn't exactly in Caracas..."
"I should beat you... Mark?"
"Had way too much fun with your car. Didn't you even wonder why there were so many root beer flavored suckers? Only Mark knew about that little predilection of yours."
Illya scanned down the list. "I suppose I should be happy that you skipped Cow Appreciation Day and Taking your Houseplants for a Walk Day."
"But I didn't miss Cousins Day - I treated you to dinner that night." Napoleon sighed happily and settled down on the bed. "Just think of how bored you would have been otherwise."
"Next time, don't do me any favors, partner."
"Don't worry, I think we've shot this one to death. It was fun while it lasted..."
Illya stretched out beside him and held up the lipstick tube. "And do you know what's even better than being bored, Napoleon?"
"Plotting revenge. That could well take me through the end of the year..."
"Now, Illya... let's not get out of hand with this."
"Oh, we've gone way beyond out of hand, partner." Illya set the lipstick aside and stretched. "I'd even venture to say that we've entered a whole new dimension of vengeance here. I think I'll call it the Illya zone..."