Illya was smiling.
Napoleon raised his eyebrows as he dropped his trench coat and briefcase on the chair and next to the desk, respectively, the epitome of the image of a businessman in the city. Never mind that the briefcase actually held the component parts to a very particular gun, or that the trench coat had a special lining to help deflect bullets and certain kinds of radiation. “Did you blow up a THRUSH stronghold last night?” Napoleon inquired of his partner.
Illya stopped smiling long enough to look puzzled. “What makes you say that?”
“You look like the cat that caught the canary,” Napoleon told him, and the Russian started smiling again. “If you were almost anybody else, I’d say you had a truly fantastic date last night.”
“There’s cake in the breakroom,” Illya said, and all was revealed.
“What flavor today?” Napoleon asked in resignation, sitting himself down at his desk and looking through the mission reports in his inbox. He had to sign off on them as Number One for his section. Paperwork had never been one of his favorite tasks, but at least this part of it usually went quickly.
“Chocolate fudge, with marshmallow icing.” Kuryakin sounded positively lascivious.
“It is a little indecent, the way you feel about cake,” Napoleon pointed out to his partner, flipping through another report.
“Cake is one of man’s greatest inventions and pleasures,” Illya declared, sitting back at his own desk, the better to gesture grandiloquently, and Solo would never tell his partner how much it amused him when Illya went so Russian on him. “It takes a true connoisseur to recognize that, Napoleon.”
“How much of this latest greatest invention and pleasure did you polish off already?”
“Just a small piece.” Illya held up his thumb and finger, a mere two inches apart. “I’d already had breakfast.”
Napoleon shook his head, gathering up the reports to take them to Mr. Waverly’s secretary. “You realize they’re going to start hiding the birthday and other cakes so that you can’t find them before the party starts, don’t you?”
A flash of that enigmatic smile again, as Illya turned away to type up a report of his own. “They already have,” he said.
Napoleon paused by the door before heading out. “Wipe the icing off the corner of your mouth,” he suggested.
It was Mark Slate’s birthday. Napoleon headed for the breakroom with a number of other field agents not currently on assignment, along with some of the secretaries, scientists, individuals from Translation and Cryptography, and others who knew Mark or were looking for a quick break from work that would involve a piece of cake. Illya was nowhere to be seen, which set warning bells ringing in Napoleon’s head.
“I don’t care if he’s a field agent and Number Two for Section Two!” fumed Shelley. “He doesn’t have the right to wreck other people’s birthdays!”
Napoleon eyed the remains of a marble cake with peanut butter frosting; about two-thirds of the cake remained, but the “Hap” of “Happy birthday, Mark!” in green lettering on the frosting was completely gone.
Mark himself was consoling Shelley. “It’s alright, dear, really,” he said, and Napoleon’s keen observational skills told him that Mark was trying very, very hard not to laugh. “I would be flattered, if I were you; it’s a sure sign of appreciation when that much cake is gone already.”
A few minutes later, when Shelley had recovered enough to start cutting up what was left of the cake, Mark drifted over to Napoleon and said in a low voice, “Actually, I’m quite grateful to him; who the devil puts peanut butter frosting on a marble cake?”
“It’s a bundt cake,” Deborah was explaining to Judy as they walked past Solo’s open office door. “They’re becoming very popular, and I thought it would be nice for Jim’s retirement from Section 8.”
“A bundt cake?”
“Yes, it’s all in the pan you bake it in…”
Their voices drifted away, and Napoleon forgot all about it. After all, Illya was on a mission to Washington, D.C. today; there was no possible way he could have stolen any cake.
So when he heard the scream a couple hours later during his lunch break, but no warning alarms, he pulled out his communicator to demand of his partner how he hell he pulled this one off.
“Whose birthday is it today?” Napoleon asked after one glance at his partner as he walked into the office.
Illya blinked at him, the picture of innocent surprise. “Is it somebody’s birthday today?”
Napoleon wandered over and brushed off Illya’s normally pristine black turtleneck. “My keen eye detected coconut,” he said, holding up a few pieces of toasted brown coconut flakes.
Illya ruthlessly put away his smirk. “Angela’s,” he said expressionlessly. “Teri made her a seafoam cantaloupe pie.”
Napoleon shook his head. “One of these days, partner mine,” he said, “they will get their revenge.”
Illya was cranky. Not even capturing a secret THRUSH lab cheered him up; and while usually on any given day he could be brooding, or taciturn, or merely remote, today he was more rarely cranky. Napoleon did not remark upon it, though he did have to hold back from smiling. It would have been beneath his dignity.
That night, he left work earlier than Illya, who was still wrapping up paperwork from their mission. (At least some of the paperwork in his job Napoleon could delegate.) He made a quick stop at a favorite all-night bakery to pick up something he’d called in an order for the day before, and then he let himself into Illya’s apartment.
An hour later, Illya unlocked his front door and walked in. He did not pause when he saw Napoleon sitting on his couch; after all, he’d already noticed the lights on from under the door. He locked the door and leant against it, looking across the room at his partner with his arms folded against his chest.
Napoleon crossed his legs and nodded to the cardboard box sitting on the coffee table in front of him. “Happy birthday,” he said.
Illya nodded slowly. “You did say they’d get their revenge,” he said after a moment.
“Actually, nobody knew it was your birthday,” Napoleon told him. “You do know how classified your personnel file is, don’t you?”
Illya sighed. “I suppose that’s what I get for being the enigmatic one,” he said and sat down next to Napoleon on the couch. He pulled the bakery box toward him and opened it. Inside was space for half a dozen red velvet cupcakes, with cream cheese frosting. There were only five there.
Illya glared up at his partner, who took out a handkerchief to delicately wipe his mouth. And then he picked up one of the cupcakes, pulled its wrapper off, and held it up to his partner. Illya took a bite, chewed, and swallowed, all while still glaring at his partner.
Napoleon kissed him on the mouth, licking Illya’s lips to get at the frosting. “Turnabout is fair play,” he told the Russian, with a secret smile.