|The RockaBye Baby Affair
Author: RoseLight PM
Illya plays house.Rated: Fiction K - English - Family/Romance - Words: 3,392 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 3 - Published: 09-15-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7385369
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
THE ROCK-A-BYE BABY AFFAIR
Act 1 The Theory of Relativity
The Russian swore softly and threw his pen across the room, just as the office door opened.
"Cease fire! Rule One: Do not impale your partner."
"Forgive me, Napoleon," he apologized at once. "I'm buried under three weeks of paperwork and-"
"Here's mine, too," the senior partner dropped more files onto the manila tower. "I just got that deep undercover assignment- no time to file my last reports, and it is the end of the month, y'know. Be a good chap and sign off for me?"
"And when exactly am I supposed to do that?" the blond agent griped. "I can't work at home-can't even sleep. Damned city-progress-renovations. I don't remember the Soviets ever fixing anything, " he glowered. "And no privacy here-"
Napoleon's eyebrows arched inquisitively. He knew HQS staff gave a wide range to his partner, whose reputation for aloofness kept him above most normal office interaction.
Illya explained. "It's that new little clerk in section 5-"
"Ah, the breasty redhead, wears Shalimar?"
Illya growled. "I should have known you've been close enough to sniff her. I swear she's been stalking me: everywhere I go-the lab, the library, the lavatory-"
"Oh, so she hasn't been briefed on your reputation as the Lone Wolf?"
"Apparently not. Or she is extraordinarily determined. It's embarrassing, distracting."
Solo could not mask his grin at his shy partner's discomfiture. "I've got your solution. I'm leaving in 40 minutes, I'll be gone three or four weeks. Use my apartment."
Illya juggled two grocery bags and a small valise and fished out the spare key. The door opened so easily that everything tumbled into the front hall and he nearly tripped. "Perfect ending to a perfect day," he muttered darkly. He would stack the files in the den and not even look at them til tomorrow. He was tightly coiled and recognized his need to relax.
Indifferent to supper this early, he selected a jazz station on the radio, removed his shoes and settled across Solo's sofa, drawing deep, measured breaths.
But beneath the music he could still feel it: a scuffling outside the door, a shadow.
Quiet as a cat, he stepped beside the door and unholstered his UNCLE special. The shadow flickered and withdrew. He crouched low and flung open the door-or tried to. Something was blocking his action: a package on the doorstep.
Illya examined the contents quickly for boobytraps and when the high-pitched squealing alarm went off, hauled it inside, double-bolting Solo's door.
He scanned the accompanying note, clicked his tongue. "Napoleon, Napoleon, it looks like your chicks have come home to roost."
The baby was bawling.
Act II "Goo-Goo Gai Pan?"
His new roommate had not stopped crying. Illya had to field a polite but firm phone call from the concierge about the racket disturbing the other tenants.
A good agent knows his limitations, knows when to call for reinforcements. He also understands the value of discretion. Although the UNCLE had access to many diverse experts, this was one affair that Illya determined should be kept out of official channels. Utilizing the precise finger- in- the- phone- book option, The Dalton Agency's consultant arrived in 20 minutes. They were both quickly chagrined.
"Mr. Kuryakin, I have no details regarding the terms of your custody agreement, but surely you realize your home is woefully unprepared: no crib, no food, no diapers-"
"Please, Miss Carmichael, please-" he held up both palms in surrender. "This is not my home, this is certainly not my child, but it is very difficult to explain over all this clamor."
Bridget Carmichael picked up the wailing infant who promptly ceased his squalling in her capable arms.
"He's sopping wet, " she reported accusingly. Digging through the contents of the baby basket, she retrieved three diapers and two cans of formula. "Mix this," she tossed a can at Illya and he saluted silently.
Soon the child was swaddled and suckled and silent.
"I'm curious," Illya began. "You knew it was a boy-you said HE's sopping wet' before you even changed him. How did you know?"
"Experience. He bellows like a male with unmet needs."
Illya tried again. "Look, Miss Carmichael, you deserve an explanation but I'm afraid I haven't much of one to offer. I am house sitting for a friend. Junior here arrived about two hours ago with this note: "I've had all the expense and embarrassment, the puke and the poop. It's your turn now."
"Oh, my," she breathed softly, holding the child closer. "But if he's not your responsibility, why don't you just call the authorities?"
"I can't reach my friend-he's incommunicado for at least three weeks-and he deserves to know about this."
"And..." she probed, searching his eyes for what he left unsaid.
His quiet tone kept the baby asleep, but awakened something in the young woman. "I am...was... the product of state child care. I do not recommend it."
"Well, Mr. Kuryakin, we are in a pickle. I am a full-service nanny. The agency told me this was a permanent, live-in position. I've no where else to go. Dare I hope there is a guest room?"
"There's a pull-out sofa in the den. Not very comfortable, I'm afraid."
"Your friend does not entertain many guests?"
"Not many that require...uh…alternative accommodations," he replied delicately.
They both looked at the baby.
"He's a good man, honorable in his fashion. I've got to give him the opportunity to know about this. Couldn't we just keep things going until he gets back?"
His loyalty overcame her common sense. Her pen flew down the notepad. "Here's the bare minimum supplies we'll need tonight. Can you pick these up or do you want to watch the baby while I shop?"
Enforcement agents had access to a personal shopper in unusual circumstances. Illya was trying to determine if this was one of them. But weighing the gossip generated by Kuryakin ordering baby supplies to be delivered to Solo's apartment-it simply was not worth it. He snatched the list from her hand and scanned it for handwriting. "Goo-goo gai pan?"
"By the time you get back we'll be starved and it'll be too late to cook. Besides, I rather like the imagery-: a Russian bringing home the Chinese for dinner. Sort of a -Summit Eating?" She gave him a cockeyed smile.
Kuryakin returned with the supplies to find the competent Miss C had made a thorough reconnaissance of the apartment and had everything under control.
"Shh, he's asleep. " She intercepted him at the door, lightened his burdens, and directed him to follow her to the long bar. "Great...thank you. And bless you, sweet sustenance..." She set the white cartons on the counter. "I didn't know what you'd want to drink,"
"Napoleon keeps a fine supply of-"
"Napoleon? That's your friend's name, Napoleon?" Conversation halted while Illya paused for the usual declarations concerning the unusual name. " Hhmm..." Carmichael chewed thoughtfully on a chop stick. "And what is the name of our little charge?"
Illya shrugged. "There was nothing personal on the note."
"Well, he must have a proper name," she insisted. "We can't just go around calling him Baby Hey You."
"Must we christen him tonight?" The entire day had been a wearying experience for the Russian. Another reason he preferred field duty.
"Of course. He needs his own name, to be real to us, to give him an identity. Let's see...Nathaniel, Gabriel, Paul, Timothy-sorry, I do tend to get Biblical. Napoleon, eh? Perhaps your friend would prefer a more historical connection...Gregory, Francis, Patrick-you're grinning-" she caught him.
"Just thinking about Napoleon's progeny being named for a saint. Actually, Gabriel does have a nice ring to it. He certainly made his debut here blowing his own horn."
"To Gabriel Solo." They clinked glasses.
"Now, I think we need to get some sleep. Young master Solo will be hungry in about four hours. Since there's just the one bed, I suppose the fair and sensible thing to do is share-"
Illya choked on his drink. Bridget pretended not to notice.
"I've made up that sofa bed and we can take turns, alternating in the bedroom."
"Certainly. Take turns.. "the Russian sputtered. "Ah, yes, quite sensible."
Act III Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers
Illya was aware of the faint hum and shadow under the den door for the second night in a row. He padded out quietly and found them bathed in the eerie incandescent glow of Solo's TV set. She was curled over the new rocking chair, her hair a fine brown curtain sheltering the child's face. Her lips rested on Gabriel's smooth brow.
Kuryakin snapped the set off and touched her gently on the shoulder, so as not to startle her. "Don't you ever sleep?" he whispered.
"Does he?" she yawned. "Oh, rats. William Powell was just about to reveal the murderer."
"The full-service nanny did it," he said conclusively.
"You watch Insomniac Theater?"
"I just never trust the hired help."
"Oh. Well, my money was on the Russian spy. I never trust Commies. I hope we didn't disturb you. "
"Actually, I find the entire situation disturbing...uh…it's often difficult to sleep in a strange bed," he amended.
"I know. I've slept in Montreal, St. Maarten, Singapore. Anywhere there are rich parents who discover babies require attention."
She craned her neck and crunched her shoulder blades. Napoleon would have massaged her neck and started in rhythmically on her shoulders without further encouragement. Illya merely offered to hold the baby while she rose to her feet and recovered her balance.
"So, what do you think? " she whispered. "I've seen you study him. Find any resemblance?"
Illya returned the baby quickly to her arms. "So far, he emits piercing noises and foul odors."
"Hhhmmm..." she gazed down at Gabriel and just shook her head. "Not very cuddly."
"I thought you were charmed by the child."
"I was not referring to the child."
# # # # #
Bridget knocked at his sanctuary.
"I've noticed you're an early riser and appreciate your quiet time. I've also noticed you will work the whole day through if you're not interrupted. I have made it my mission to interrupt you on a daily basis." She set down a tray. "Gabriel and I have been patrolling the neighborhood. We found the deli around the corner. I just ordered your usual, to go. "
Illya raised an eyebrow. "What's this?"
"That was my idea, a touch of decadence. " The cookie was as big as his fist. "Oatmeal, honey, cranberries, walnuts-it's good for you."
"Thank you, Miss Carmichael, that's very thoughtful."
"Mr. K, we are living in an unusual, intimate situation. I think it might not bend our professional relationship if you would call me Bridget." She offered her hand.
He accepted, and repeated his first name for her.
Illya. She liked the taste of it on her tongue. But she cradled his hand just a fraction too long, and she stepped just a centimeter too close, and Illya's Female Proximity Alarm was blasting off in his brain.
"Illya, could you please give me your clothes now?"
His throat closed up to sensible speech.
"It's laundry day. I'm doing the baby's things, and mine, and I'll pop your stuff in, too."
"Uh...thank you, Bridget, but really, you have so much to do already..."
"Full-service nanny," she reminded him cheerfully.
Illya reminded himself that someday soon he should get a detailed job description from her agency.
# # # # #
Had it been just ten days since this remarkable pair had come into his life? Illya marveled. He had never had the opportunity to witness traditional domestic tranquility, but how easily their lives fell into a well-ordered family pattern.
"We need some Life in this place!" Bridget declared, and the stark, hip bachelor pad was opened to sunlight and vanilla, and pots of green, twisty vines. She spent her days singing and soothing and scrubbing, mundane household tasks becoming holy prayers under her hands.
How had he ever thought of her as plain? Their first meeting was prickly, and his powers of observation blunted by his need to stop the squalling. But now he saw her hair was not mousy, but soft mink brown; her eyes not pale but rich gold like maple syrup. She was practical and wore little makeup, but her face shone with kindness and purpose.
To Illya, she was a revolutionary disguised in an apron.
And he envied the tenderness she lavished on the child.
Early, methodically, Illya locked himself in the den to climb Mt. Paperwork. But he invited himself along on their mid-morning strolls to the library, the bakery, the park, contending that he needed the exercise . In the afternoons, their laughter lured him away from the desk, and he found himself rolling on the floor, giving vocal prompts to a teddy bear. Bridget and Gabriel were teaching him the joys of simplicity and contentment.
After the second week, Illya was so unaccustomed to the feelings the pair evoked, he made an excuse to go into UNCLE HQS, consciously trying to prove to himself that his enchantment was merely due to isolation and inactivity. He had coffee in the commissary, observing the female employees. Kuryakin was deliberately comparing them to Bridget. He was nearly overcome with the wildly Bourgeois sitcom notion to Invite the Boss Home for Dinner.
# # # # #
Twilight. The baby was tucked in, and Bridget had settled on one end of the sofa with her Yeats anthology. Illya was conducting a Rostropovich cello concerto in the air. Their silence was comfortable, companionable.
So far they had shared nothing more intimate than the laundry. But tonight, Illya was reaching out for something more.
He leaned over to Bridget. "What's that fragrance?"
She glanced up at him with her slow, glorious smile. "Baby powder."
His question had been building with time. "Why does this all seem so perfect?"
"Because there's no pressure," she answered graciously. " No expectation of Ever-After."
"But is it always this good-family life? I've never had a wife before-"
"You don't have one now," she reminded him pointedly. "This is an artificial situation. We're playing house, you and I. In a few days your friend will be home, you'll be off on assignment, I'll be rocking a baby in New Orleans. We don't share that "jump-off-the-cliff-together-into-eternity-holding-onto-each-other-for-dear-life " kind of commitment."
"Oh, that. Yes. Well." Verbal squirming. "Of course. Bridget, why did you become a nanny? You're so well-educated, creative…"
"That I could do something prestigious, meaningful, well-paid? Since when did caring for babies become so anti-intellectual?" His question had hit her in a frequently bruised place. " I'm challenged every day to open the whole world for the first time. To teach trust and security and kindness and humor and wonder. My work touches eternity, one soul at a time-"
"You have such passion for your work, but it's always other people's houses, other people's children. Don't you ever want to, well, wheel your own baby buggy?"
She looked him straight in the eye. "No one has asked me. Yet. " There was a long pause. "And that, Mr. Kuryakin, is your cue to beat a discrete retreat behind your den door."
He took her advice.
" Sweet dreams, Illya, "she called after him, softly.
Act IV "Baby, the Rain Must Fall..."
It had happened so quickly.
Now Illya was in Waverly's office, nursing a pounding headache and badly bruised ego. Through the ringing in his ears, he listened to Waverly's scolding about not reporting the entire baby incident in the beginning, notwithstanding the compromise to his partner's reputation.
They had been set upon in the park. Illya had misjudged himself to be the target, wasting precious moments. But Bridget never hesitated. With a wild ferocity, she swung away, and pulled a pistol from under her skirt , getting off three shots. Her aim was hampered because she refused to let go of the baby.
They knocked her flat, but she clung to Gabriel, biting and kicking and clawing until the leader shrugged, and three men in black shoved both of them in to a cramped blue Volkswagen and sped away.
Illya rose shakily and pulled out his communicator.
# # # # #
Now his head throbbed but he forced himself to concentrate on solutions, not self-recrimination.
He understood now why the network discouraged family ties in Section 2: enforcement agents were more effective when they had nothing to lose.
The door slid open and he expected the little redhead with some Tylenol. In walked two agents flanking a very disheveled full service nanny.
"Bridget!" Illya leapt from his chair grabbed her, then pulled back for a quick inspection. His lungs ached, as if he had been holding his breath for the entire eleven hours she had been missing. "Where's Gabriel?"
"Downstairs-OK, I think. You?"
"Just dandy. What happened?"
"They took us to a lab somewhere. When I wouldn't let go of Gabriel, the Doctor agreed to let me hold him while he drew blood. Then it was just a long time in a stuffy waiting room. really old magazines, dreadful coffee, armed guards. Dr Frankenstein came back and apologized for the inconvenience. He said Gabriel's DNA did not match Solo's, so there was no need to detain us. They drove us back to Manhattan and dropped us off a couple of blocks from the park. Then your guys spotted us. So I guess your friend's off the hook and you're not a godfather after all," she concluded.
"Yeah, off the hook," Illya echoed. Playing house had come to an end, but the interlude had changed him forever. He had tasted the sweetness of family life and it had awakened in him a desire that he had never suspected existed. He would remain in Section 2, but now he would fight for more than principle.
"So, this is the little chap who's caused all the commotion," Alexander Waverly picked up the baby with grandfatherly practice. "Have our people been helpful, Miss Carmichael?"
"Oh, yes, Sir. Medical has pronounced us both fit, and the legal staff is paving the way for Gabriel's adoption. There's this nice couple in Section 6..."
Illya's eyes had not left her. "Bridget, one thing-"
"The pistol bothers you?" she guessed. " I told you, "full-service" nanny. Includes anti-kidnapping classes."
"Are you certain you're both all right?" The uncharacteristic tenderness in Kuryakin's voice gave Waverly pause.
She nodded. "Packed, in fact. I'm having twins in Boston."
It was difficult to say goodbye in front of Waverly. But if they had been alone, it might have been impossible. And the Old Man knew that, too.
Illya cupped his hands around both of hers, and drew them to his lips. "I hope someday you wheel your own buggy."
Bridget returned his intent gaze with a wistful smile. "And I hope that -someday-you jump off that cliff."
And she was gone.
Napoleon Solo passed her in the hall, made a half-turn on his heel to evaluate her, out of habit. "Sir, I'm here to debrief you on-well, Illya, a welcome home committee-I'm touched. New Grandchild, Sir? Looks just like you."
"Um...Mr Kuryakin can fill you in later, Mr. Solo. "
"I'll drop by after dinner, Napoleon. I had to vacate your premises abruptly, and I left some stuff behind. I need my teddy bear."
Illya left the intrigued look on his partner's face. He returned to his office and ordered Chinese.