“Will you pass me Form 27/J Appendix 3?” Illya asked.
Faustina looked over the many sheets spread out before her. “Is that the yellow one?”
“No, the purple.”
“The royal color.” She sent the stack sliding down the length of the conference table. “As in, this is all a royal pain in the ass.”
“Section Audits were ever thus.”
Napoleon pushed his chair back sharply. “Ok, I’ve had about all of this that I can stand.”
“Paperwork getting to you?” she asked.
“No, the two of you.”
She stared at him, perplexed. “What?”
“All this billing and cooing.” He grimaced. “If I had known it was going to be this bad, I never would have encouraged you.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Illya said primly.
“We’re discussing reports, not whispering sweet nothings.”
“It’s not what you’re saying but how you’re saying it.”
Illya looked at his partner over his glasses. “My tone when addressing Faustina has been no different than when addressing you or Mark.”
Napoleon shook his head. “There’s been a big difference, and I think Mark would agree.”
“Actually, I hadn't noticed anything.” Mark looked up briefly from his report. “They seem the same to me.”
Faustina pointed her pen at Napoleon. “See, you’re imagining things.”
“Perhaps you need a trip to that spa in the Grand Bahamas,” Illya suggested, returning to Appendix 3 of Form 27/J.
“Right now, I’m taking a trip to the commissary.” He stood up and gathered a pile of folders. “I’ll leave you two to your love-in.”
April passed him in the doorway. “Where are you going? I’ve got the coffees.”
“Thanks, but I need to find less saccharine surroundings.”
“Ignore him,” Illya advised her. “The paperwork has addled his brain.”
April passed out the coffee and took Napoleon’s seat. The agents resumed the painstaking work of compiling their reports.
“May I have a paper clip?” Faustina asked.
Illya slid the box to her, along with a folder. “Here you are. Will you double-check this for me?”
“Sure.” She read over the report. “I see you took out a whole bridge. Impressive.”
“That was Thrush, but I believe the auditors would consider that a technicality.”
“You two are making me crazy,” April declared.
Faustina put down the folder. “Now what have we done?”
“After all my hard work to bring you together, I expected to see a little romance in return. I might as well be watching Huntley and Brinkley.”
“What do you want, A’? For us to reenact the Balcony Scene every time we’re together?”
“No, but it wouldn’t kill you to show a slight preference for one another. An adoring glance. A pet name. Come on, darlings, give a girl something to sigh over.”
“I think you have me confused with Napoleon,” Illya said. “I prefer to keep my work life and private life separate.”
April threw down her pen and crossed her arms. “I bet you’re not even playing footsie under the table.”
Illya looked to where Faustina sat several yards away. “That would be an anatomical impossibility.”
“When we’re on duty, our relationship is strictly collegial,” Faustina said.
“Correct,” Illya nodded.
April flung out an arm. “Well, we think it’s a shocking waste of a good pash. Don’t we, Mark?”
He looked at her in alarm. “Me? Where do I come into it?”
She ignored him. “And we’re not going to sit here and watch this disgusting display any longer. Come, Mark.”
Slate sputtered in protest. At her determined look, he sighed in resignation. He gathered his papers and followed his partner out. The door slid shut behind them.
“I thought they’d never leave.”
“As did I.”
Faustina leapt from her chair and dashed across the room. Illya opened his arms, ready to embrace her as she fell into his lap. Their lips met, and for several minutes the audit was forgotten.
“Five hours, seventeen minutes, and 39 seconds since I last kissed you,” Illya said, breathing heavily.
“An eternity.” Faustina pulled on her necklace, lifting his gold band from its hiding place under her blouse.
“Lucky ring,” he said. “Someday I’ll get you a proper one.”
She kissed it and dropped it back down her décolletage. “Ready for lunch?”
“Always. Your place or mine.”
“Yours. It’s closer.” She traced the outside of his ear with her finger. “And afterwards, we really should get something to eat.”
The door hissed opened, and Illya swallowed his reply. They froze, guilty-faced, watching to see who entered.
Mark stepped through the doorway. “April was too busy sailing forth in high dudgeon to remember her purse.”
He smiled amiably and peered about the table. “Aha.” Finding the handbag beneath a stack of papers, he clamped it under his arm and snapped a salute. “Carry on.” With a wink, he departed, leaving a stunned silence in his wake.
After a moment, Faustina smiled fondly at the closed doors and turned to Illya. “Well, you heard the man,” she said. “Carry on.”
Illya ran his hand over her hair and pulled her face toward his. “Certainly. May it never be said that Illya Kuryakin was derelict in his duty.”