"Jonathan," Lemon said, in that tone that she got that meant she was trying to be stern and dominant but that mostly made him think of an anxious, small, furry mammal. "We need somewhere to store all of these pies."
He deleted and re-typed two entries on Mr. Donaghy's personal calendar before answering her. "That sounds like a personal problem."
"Just let us store them in Jack's office. He'll never know. He's off...hey, where is he today, anyway? He didn't tell me. He always tells me, and this time he didn't." She was frowning. It made her look like a pinch-faced little bird. "Where is he?"
This was the best part of being Jack's assistant. He knew things and he didn't have to tell. "I'm afraid I can't disclose that information."
Her eyes narrowed even more. Like she was going to peck his eyes out. "I'm afraid I'm going to shove this pie into your face."
He scooted his chair back, holding his planner up as a defensive shield between them. She was just crazy enough to do it, and he was wearing one of the three Hermes ties Jack gave him last Christmas. Well. Jack gave him a personal credit-card number that was set to expire the next day, told him to take himself shopping, then kept him in the office until half an hour before the stores closed.
"He's in a meeting."
"What kind of meeting?"
Jack was in a meeting with Richard Belzer. On the surface it might appear strange, the Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming meeting personally with a supporting actor. But Belzer was a special case. Jonathan had read his file. Playing the same character continuously since 1993 on two NBC prime-time shows, as well as numerous crossover appearances on a variety of networks. That was a television-historical record. All well and good, but not why Belzer merited special handling.
There was a clause, tucked away in the depths of Belzer's contract, one that no one would admit to ever seeing in his original negotiations. The lawyers who drafted the contract had vanished years ago without a trace. None of the producers of Homicide: Life on the Street and none of the NBC employees who oversaw the show could recall seeing the clause during the process of signing Belzer to the show. It just appeared, as if by magic.
It guaranteed that as long as there was an NBC, John Munch would have a place on any show aired by said network. And, more disturbingly, the converse: should John Munch ever be barred from a show airing on NBC, said network would cease to exist.
Nobody had any way to know how that clause might be enforced, but then again, nobody wanted to risk it. It was delicious. Fantastic. It made Jonathan shiver like he'd taken a forbidden sip of one of Mr. Donaghy's triple berry smoothies before placing it on his desk, centered neatly on a monogrammed coaster.
This was the kind of information that Jonathan had access to and small-mammal bird woman did not.
"An important meeting," he sneered. "Take your pies somewhere else."
"Fine," Lemon said, stepping back and smiling like it was no big deal. Her eyes stayed all squinty, though, so he knew she was still annoyed. "Fine! We'll just put them in Conan's studio. He won't care. He's off this week, nobody's even using it."
Ha. "You can't go down there."
"Mr. O'Brien's studio is off-limits today."
She frowned again. She was going to end up with massive wrinkles that she wouldn't bother to Botox, and he would laugh inside every time he saw them. "He's not filming today. It's empty."
"You can't go down there, Ms. Lemon." He smirked at her some more. It was really the best part of his day, smirking at annoying people who didn't realize the power he wielded in this tiny fiefdom of his desk. "I'd like to see you try to make it past security."
"Security. For an empty studio."
The fact of the matter was that Mr. O'Brien was in a very special, once-annual, closed-door meeting with Bruce Springsteen, in which they reaffirmed their split custody of Max Weinberg for the next year. It wasn't entirely clear what the process involved, because no one had ever seen it. Everything was entirely hush-hush and discreet; Jonathan received a phone call from Mr. O'Brien's assistant directing him to a service entrance on one of the back alleys, where he met Springsteen and escorted him inside. The elusive rock legend wore a long black cloak with a hood. Jonathan escorted him to O'Brien's studio, tapped out a coded knock on the door, and caught a brief glimpse of a long, polished conference table inside, with Max Weinberg seated at one end looking bored out of his mind between two towering candelabra. It was amazing</>. And nobody knew.
Jonathan's only regret was that he didn't know what happened after the door closed. There were rumors, passed down in handwritten notes from assistants past, and now exchanged by the current assistants of the building on a closed instant messaging network, rumors of dark magics and bloody rituals and arm-wrestling matches overseen by Jay Leno. But nobody really knew how ownership of Max Weinberg was decided.
Jonathan was going to find out, someday, before he left this building for good. It was his one true goal.
"Snap out of it, worm, I'm talking to you!" Lemon hollered in his face. Jonathan blinked furiously and glared at her.
"Don't yell at me. What?"
"You'd better tell me what's going on down there, what O'Brien is up to, or I'll--"
"Liz!" One of her filthy compatriots, Hornberger, also a troll with a rather fascinating personnel file that Jonathan annotated for Jack every year at performance review time, burst through the doors. "We've got a problem. Lutz got into the pies."
There were one hundred twenty-seven pies in the TGS writers' room, in special pie racks that the bakery was way too smug about.
Originally there had been one hundred thirty-two pies, a neat eleven dozen, but Liz had taken one to carry around as an example, Lutz had ruined two, and an anxious-looking intern from Conan had crept upstairs, taken one, mumbled about needing it for the boss, and run before Pete could tackle her.
"Lutz," Liz said sternly. "I told you to stay away from the pies. We need them."
"Yeah, for one of the more inane sketches I've ever had the misfortune to have my name on," Toofer muttered.
"It's going to be hilarious! Tracy and Jenna being pelted with dozens of pies. This is the kind of moment television was made for." There was an edge of desperation in Liz's voice, and all of the writers looked away from her. Nobody liked her when she was like this.
"That's fine," Pete said finally, "but where are we going to keep them for three days? They're going to start to smell, Liz."
"Wait," Jenna said, staring at Liz with wide, betrayed eyes. "You're going to pelt me with rotten pies?"
"Nobody will be able to tell on TV, Jenna." Liz tugged at her hair frantically and pointed at Cerie, who was packing up her purse. "What are you doing?"
"I can't be in a room with this much sugar. I'll start absorbing it through my pores."
"Where are we going to keep these pies?" Pete yelled.
"I don't know! Jonathan won't let me use Jack's office or Conan's set and I asked Kenneth about the page room but apparently they're having a rat problem down there."
Kenneth silently held up a bandaged hand. Everyone looked away from him, too.
"I'm out of ideas," Liz declared, slumping in her chair. It was the only one that hadn't been stacked at the far end of the room to make space for the pies.
"How does Jonathan have that kind of power, anyway?" Jenna asked, narrowing her eyes. "He can't tell you what to do. You're important! He's a secretary."
Everyone froze. "Don't say that word, Jenna," Pete said. "We don't use that word. He is Jack's administrative assistant."
"Executive assistant," Toofer corrected in a horrified tone.
"Fine, but he still doesn't have any authority," Jenna scoffed.
"Power is transferable, Jenna," Lutz said slowly. "Like herpes. Try to keep up. When Jack is away, Jonathan takes over his herpes and spreads it all over the building."
There was a long silence, and then everyone turned their backs on Lutz.
"I'm gonna go talk to Jonathan again," Liz said finally.
"Wear gloves," Jenna whispered.
Lemon had been yelling for ten solid minutes. Jonathan was timing her on his Blackberry, while he used his computer to hack into the security cameras for Conan's studio.
He could get sound, but no visual. It was weird.
"Are you even listening to me?" Liz demanded. Jonathan ignored her. He could just make out one or two words in ten over the audio feed, but he thought he heard "air guitar" and he might get more context if she would stop screeching.
"I need somewhere to put these pies!"
He huffed in frustration and threw his Blackberry down. "Take them to your apartment!"
"What? No. That's stupid. How would I get all of those racks of pie on the subway?"
He sneered at her in triumph. Over the audio feed, he distinctly heard Conan bellow "The student challenges the master!" which meant that he almost had the sound properly isolated.
"Too bad you don't live in walking distance, like I do," he said.
He realized his mistake only a second too late, but it was enough for lemur-woman to pounce.
"You live here?" Pete asked, his tone conveying untold oceans of bewilderment.
Jonathan nodded stiffly, trying not to cry as he pushed the button for the elevator. This was humiliating. He was surrounded by troglodyte comedy writers with racks of pie, and their simian queen had given him a purple nurple at his own desk to establish her dominance.
"Next door to Rockefeller Plaza?" Pete went on. "These are luxury office buildings."
"Jack bought space for the assistants," Jonathan muttered, edging farther away from Lemon. "So we'll be close to hand if we're needed. In case of an emergency."
"A note-taking emergency?" Lutz asked, and Jonathan shot him a furious glance.
"He bought them?" Pete went on, apparently utterly unable to let go of his real-estate-related shock trauma.
"Just one office suite." Jonathan winced at the look the doorman was giving him. He was going to have to crawl up an air shaft to get home for weeks before the humiliation faded enough to show his face again. "The space is divided up very efficiently. He modeled it on diagrams of 19th-century tenements."
It was a very quiet elevator ride that smelled like pie. Jonathan sulked in the corner, keeping the Harvard guy between himself and Lemon.
He knew it was only going to be worse when he opened the apartment door. He could only hope that their stupidity extended to being unobservant as well generally horrible.
Liz had seen enough movies starring Daniel Dey-Lewis to have a general idea of what a 19th-century tenement looked like. Jonathan's room was kind of lacking in urchins and oil lamps.
It had plenty of Star Trek memorabilia, though.
"Wow," Pete whispered as they eased the racks of pie into the gap between the twin bed and the card table, under the autographed Shatner poster. "This is like my high-school bedroom. If I had been an even bigger nerd."
Jonathan made a choked, moaning noise and went to collapse the folding chairs. Liz watched with satisfaction as he pinched his finger in one of them. Served him right, the obnoxious little bastard.
The pies just barely fit. Liz beamed in triumph. "See? This'll work fine. We'll come get them the afternoon before filming."
"Where am I supposed to sleep?" Jonathan asked sulkily. "There's pie in my bed."
"Wrapped in the loving arms of Mr. Spock?" Lutz said. He and Pete high-fived each other. Jonathan turned several shades of purple.
"You can squeeze past that rack and sleep on the bathroom floor. Get a sleeping bag." Liz clapped her hands in delight. "Good work, everyone! Back to the office!"
She marched off down the hall, Pete and Lutz flanking her. Another crisis successfully handled! And she still had a pie in her desk!
Jonathan stood surrounded by pie and misery, and seethed.
"Lemon!" he hissed. "She tasks me. She tasks me and I shall have her! I'll chase her 'round the moons of Nibia and 'round the Antares Maelstrom and 'round Perdition's flames before I..."
"Who makes your ears?"
Jonathan screeched, whirling around. The Harvard guy, the one they called Toofer, was still there, and holding the one thing Jonathan had prayed the writer-beasts wouldn't see.
"Don't touch those!"
Toofer gave him a serious look. "It's okay."
"It is not! You don't know! Put them down!"
Toofer looked at him for another moment, then raised his hand and spread his fingers in a Vulcan salute.
Jonathan's heart clenched in his chest. "That doesn't--anyone can do that. It's been mainstreamed. It's secular."
Toofer sighed, then reached up and peeled off his eyebrows.
The real brows, underneath, were shaved into precise arcs.
Jonathan's jaw dropped, then tried to contort into a smile. It kind of hurt.
"I get the falsies the same place I get my ears done," Toofer said, "but these--" He picked up the plastic case with Jonathan's most prized possessions. "These are masterful."
"I have a friend who works in props," Jonathan explained, barely able to get his voice above a whisper. "You--you're...commissioned?"
Toofer nodded. "Chief Medical Officer aboard the USS Serenity, NCC-1904. You?"
"Wow, you're a CMO? I'm still Lieutenant, JG."
Toofer laughed. "What ship?"
"USS Corona, NCC-2061." He hesitated, then added, "and on alternate weekends, I'm a security officer on the Romulan vessel Krathleer."
"You double-enlisted? Sweet! If I can swing a full Klingon ensemble by New Year's, I'm going to go looking for a Bird of Prey that's taking enlistees." Toofer held his hands up. "Fingers crossed."
Jonathan couldn't stop smiling. "Maybe I'll see you at the next Fleet gathering."
"If Admiral Santiago doesn't have my ass in a sling!"
They shared a beautiful, companionable laugh. Jonathan admitted, in his heart of hearts, that perhaps writers could be included in the concept of IDIC after all.
Toofer walked him back to his office, sharing gossip from his side of the Fleet. Apparently there were whispers going around among the ranks of senior officers that Jonathan's captain might be up for a court-martial soon. He tucked that away safe in the back of his head; information was power, after all.
"Look," Toofer said awkwardly, as they got back to Jonathan's desk. "I just want you to know--I won't tell anybody."
Jonathan nodded. "I won't either."
"Liz might tell Jack, though. About what she saw at your apartment."
Jonathan smiled a little. Oh, writers. So innocent. No understanding. "I know," he said, instead of Jack already knows. Jack knows everything, because letting your idiot lemur-woman enemies think they have power was also useful sometimes.
Toofer nodded and walked away, and Jonathan took a moment to savor the memory of Jack's hand on his shoulder and his benevolent smile as he said "My little Spock."
It was a beautiful memory, but it couldn't last. With a sigh, Jonathan turned back to his computer and pulled up his e-mail. He had missed seventeen messages while he was on that stupid pie errand.
None of them were urgent, though. He stood to go for a smoothie from the break room when the computer chimed softly and another e-mail came in, the subject line bearing the special designation code for the Weinberg situation. Jonathan's heart beat faster as he opened it.
"j," it read, uncapitalized, and he could just imagine poor Meagan frantically typing on her Berry. "call dr spaceman hamstring injury in the hopscotch contest the boss is down repeat the boss is down."