"We don't coddle new agents here—and especially considering your, errrr, special talents, we'd like you to get straight to work on ACME's hardest case."
The first thing he notices, as he's skimming the confidential file, is that she must be the only person on Earth "wanted by the EPA".
Well, of course he notices that too (who wouldn't?).
He was supposed to leave HQ an hour ago, but when Ivy sees what he's working on, she just sighs and brews him another pot.
"She used to work for us, you know," confides Zack, voice uncharacteristically low; "but don't talk about that around the Chief—you'll only make him sad."
To his eye, the scarab is awfully tacky; either it's more valuable than the museum realized, or V.I.L.E. has picked up a henchman whose name is an Egypt-based pun.
No jet would be fast enough, and he hasn't actually mentioned the magic cane to ACME yet, so the C-5 corridor it is.
Sure enough, it dumps him ten feet off the ground, but at least the landing is soft (sort of).
He only catches a glimpse of her, a flash of trenchcoat in shadow; but it's enough.
She doesn't know about the cane either (until he uses it to drop out of a portal right above her and tackle her from behind, that is).
Thirty seconds later, when he's disarmed and flat on his back with a gun pointed at his head and a red high heel pressed against his throat, he wonders if perhaps he could have planned this a little better.
"I haven't seen you before," she says smoothly (none of the recordings in the archive prepared him for the way that voice is now wrapping around him, sinuous and sensual and deadly).
"This is my first time," he admits; she lifts an eyebrow, which is all it takes to have him blushing and stammering: "I meant going on an ACME mission!"
"You're certainly nothing like the other agents," she observes; and then she leans down, lips red and curved, and, hey, hold on, is she really going to—
"If it's any consolation," says Ivy, when he wakes up in the medical ward, "it isn't every day she knocks out an agent via lipstick."
"We got there pretty fast; but even so, if she had been trying to kill you, you'd be dead."
"As soon as your condition has stabilized, the Chief wants to see you," says Zack, in a tone that suggests it would be wisest never to get out of bed again.
"What were you thinking, going after her on your own—you can't even walk without help!"
"Oh, that's rich, coming from a guy who doesn't even have legs!"
When he almost collides with them on his way out, at least Zack and Ivy don't try to pretend they weren't listening at the keyholes.
It's only later, on his own, that he realizes the grain of this walking stick is slightly different.
Of course there's a message inside.
(He really ought to tell ACME about this.)
The coordinates in the message take him to, of all things, a rock concert (he smiles to himself: no one ever spots him in a crowd this large).
It really isn't her color, but if she thought that was going to keep him from recognizing her, she underestimated him.
She even looks right at him a few times, but never actually notices him; as the music pounds on, is it wishful thinking or is she starting to look disappointed?
Not until the final chords are dying down does he step directly in front of her and proffer a long-stemmed rose.
She actually jumps (he's surprised her) (he's thrilled!).
It only takes a second for her to regain her composure, smile knowingly, and purr, "You do remember that we're enemies, right?"
"I'm really here for my walking stick, but I thought it was only fair to thank you for that kiss."
"Besides, after today, I probably won't be working for ACME much longer anyway."
They end up at a bar; he resists the urge to order his "shaken, not stirred".
He promises not to try to capture her tonight, and she in turn promises not to spike his martini (which he believes, because every single record has demonstrated that, thief or not, she always keeps her word).
And then he insists on paying for her appletini, because he's fairly sure she wasn't planning to anyway.
(He's still a little lightheaded that she is sitting right across from him.)
"You really must tell me the story behind this," she says, producing the cane (he has no idea where from): "I've never seen anything like it on the planet."
"A wizard did it," he begins, and she believes him (or acts like it), never mind that this is one of the oldest clichés in the book.
He turns down a second glass of the hard stuff; if she's planning to steal his watch or something tonight, he at least wants to make it a little bit of a challenge.
"Do you ever miss the people at ACME?" he blurts out—and maybe she's tipsier than he realized, because it almost looks like her eyes are getting misty.
But she brushes it off, tone so light that he figures he was imagining it.
When he raises the possibility of getting his walking stick back, her smile turns icy.
"I suppose it wouldn't be easy to be separated from the only thing that gives you an edge, now would it?"
He's rather adorably irritated: "I do have a few other talents, you know!"
When she raises a dubious eyebrow, he excuses himself to grab some nachos for them.
(He makes her promise not to sneak off while he's gone, of course.)
She tracks him until someone breaks her line of vision—and then all of a sudden she can't find him again, no matter how hard she studies the crowd—not until he's close enough to grab his cane back, at which point he already has—and it seems so obvious now, why didn't she see him?
P. Rahm Id chooses this point to crash a V.I.L.E. cruiser through the wall, ending the conversation before she spends too long staring in surprise.
"I'm sure we'll run into each other again soon," she says warmly as she hops into the car.
It's almost too bad, she reflects, that she left ACME before she got the chance to work with him.
(Judging by the way he was looking at her, if she weren't an international thief and all, he might even have fallen for her by now.)