It took all of Kagami's self-control to not dash back into the office building as he stood there on the driveway, shaking a short, balding executive's hand while flashbulbs went off around them. He was so sure ten minutes must have passed since the receptionist warned him about a media barrage. Maybe he should have let one of his staff escort Mr. What's-his-name-one-or-another into the latter's waiting Mercedes instead of doing it himself. But, no. Apparently, one does not withhold the flattery of one's presence from a man who has just signed a multi-billion dollar deal that would benefit one's company.
So he stood there.
Not even a measly pair of threadbare mittens.
Smile was practically frozen on face.
Free hand/icicle was clenched tight in a vain effort to mask a violent shiver.
PLUS, his nose was killing him. It was probably as red as Rudolph's already.
It took the public relations man to finally get it into his head to break up the press. The balding executive was stuffed right into his limo, an activity Kagami wholeheartedly engaged in. That was probably his favourite part. That, and watching them drive off. Guest secured, he trotted back inside. Just in time, too, for the sneeze finally found its way out of him.
"Bless you," the secretary at his side murmured, handing him a packet of tissue paper.
"Thanks." In a little growl he added, "Remind me to contact HR about the PR man."
The girl stared at him in surprise. Higurashi-kun had been with the company for years now, and there had never been a problem before. But so had she. Been with her boss for a while, that is. By now, she knew better then to jump to conclusions, probably though they were. Ducking her head, she mumbled a "Yes, sir."
The elevator boy was waiting to take the big boss and his entourage back to their offices, but the car couldn't move fast enough. Kagami was practically drumming his icicles against the stalagmite that was his leg, waiting as the numbers changed ever...so...slowly.
Finally, finally, it stopped at his floor. Gladys – bless her little soul – was switching up the controls on his office heater, a cup of steaming coffee in hand. Kagami inwardly delighted in the jungle his headquarters had become – a complete tropical paradise devoid of buzzing parasites.
Cushy in his big leather armchair, he picked up a file of notes, limbs satisfactorily thawing. But Gladys still hadn't left, though she made a conscious effort at invisibility.
"What is it, Miss Smithson?"
"You look...cold, Chief." She fidgeted, looking a little embarrassed.
He must have been right about the Rudolph thing.
"I realize I'm not your secretary, but I was wondering whether..."
Kagami raised his brows. "Whether...?"
"Whether you'd like your coat."
He stifled a snort. "No, thank you. It's just right in here. Anything else?"
"No, sir." Bowing quickly, she scuttled out. Funny, at the same time the door closed, something like an explosion permeated his soundproofed windows. Automatically, he flicked his eyes towards the ceiling. The last time he heard something like that was when some bumbling idiot blew a circuit in the lab. Then everyone had to go lightless the rest of the day.
This time, though, the fluorescents thankfully stayed on.
Good. None of his business.
He reached for his coffee, but suddenly had to do a double take. It had magically gone lukewarm. Sniffing cautiously, Kagami assured himself that it was indeed a fresh cup. No matter. He wasn't all that starved for caffeine, anyway.
"Sir?" Two raps later, his secretary was handing him a folder. A rather thick folder. "It's for the meeting later," she explained. "The one about the foreign holdings."
A quick glance at the schedule sheet taped on his computer monitor told him that yes; indeed, a corporate reunion was scheduled for two o'clock.
"Thank you." As he received the folder, though, his hand was shaking. The woman secretary had noticed.
"Anything wrong, sir?" She knew he shared a strong bond with Ibuprofen, especially on busy days. And today was just a teeny bit more hectic than usual.
He waved her away. "This is nothing. I'll get right to work on the holdings."
As soon as she left, he sneezed again. Drat. Was his tropical paradise giving way to a second Ice Age? Either that or he was coming down with something. He checked his temperature. Nope. Still colder than a hundred-year-old cryopreserved corpse.
Kagami shivered. The cold was beginning to dig deep into his bones. He poured himself a glass of whiskey from the alcohol closet in the corner. It helped a little, and he was able to get through part one of the report without incident. However, time came when even the whiskey couldn't combat the chill wind blowing around his feet in the middle of "Summary of Funding".
Maybe Ceres' vengeful soul was taking advantage of his abnormally high stress levels of late? As far as he was concerned, it was all getting out of hand. Stress wasn't supposed to blow itself up into eerily realistic hallucinatory proportions, because Kagami was almost a hundred percent certain the icy chill wasn't an illusion.
It was some accursed spell designed to keep him from finishing his job. The president of a rival company must have hired a voodoo master of late...
No. That was all just BS. Even then, the cold sure didn't just go away. His back was beginning to ache from prolonged exposure to the adverse effects of climate change, and his appendages, if they weren't crystallized by now, were shaking impossibly. Even bits of his exoskeleton were chattering.
That was the last straw. The exoskeleton...er, teeth. Slugging the remains of his whiskey, Kagami pounced on the cigar box lying in the Guilty Pleasures Closet. He wasn't a smoker, and he believed in lung cancer and everything, but really, it was not the best time for such happy thoughts. Imagining the comfort of a little warmth, he fumbled for a lighter, remembering the gold one a business partner bought in Dubai.
Dubai. Ah, now there was a vision. Sand dunes, exotic hotels, luxury shops, warm weather, fire alarms...
The cigar fell out his hands as a sharp ringing triggered the sprinkler. Situated right above his desk, it thoroughly soaked all his documents, which deflated into a soggy, sticky, fragile little pile. Lucky thing he wasn't born a sugarplum, or he would have dwindled into nothingness under the artificial precipitation.
How sad that the smoke detector they bought was pro-environment and Green peace-approved. He could feel little ice crystals forming on his damp shirt. And trousers. And socks. And maybe shoes, too.
Kagami was reaching for his intercom when the phone rang. He picked up with as steady a voice as Frosty could muster. It was Gladys.
"Chief? Bad news."
Any other CEO would have had a nervous breakdown right then and there, but not Kagami. Oh, no. He had a trading empire to run, not to mention the secret state-of-the-art laboratory on the side, for when economic crises bored him. In a real smooth tone, he replied,
"Is Alec playing with the regressor again?"
"Um, no, sir."
Aww, shucks. It wasn't really that bad a news after all. "What's wrong?"
"Your heater fell out."
He must have heard that wrong. "I'm sorry?"
"Your heater fell out and crashed into the sidewalk, Chief. Total casualty count is eighteen. All have been rushed to the University Hospital. The owners of two parked cats are demanding reimbursement, not to mention the pavement repairs..."
Hands down, it was the worst day of his life.
"Gladys," he interrupted her cost-of-responsibilities tirade. "Gladys, I was wondering if you could get me a change of clothes."
"A change of clothes," he repeated patiently, tossing the wet cigar into the rubbish bin. "That coat you mentioned would be nice, too. And you'd be very kind to send the clean-up crew here."
"What happened? Is everything okay?"
He was just stupid enough to try to date a slowly combustible material near the smoke detector; so no, nothing was okay. "Fine. The heater just did it," he added wryly, hoping she'd understand.
She did. Kagami could just imagine the grin slowly spreading across Gladys' face. "Right on, Chief."
A/N: Once again, hello dear reader! I hoped you enjoyed this impulsive little fic of mine. It was meant to be funny, but now I'm not too sure how it turned out... X( If it's not too much trouble, do leave a review. I'm new to this humour-writing thing, so constructive criticism would be very helpful. Happy new 2010!
PS. Lemme stick the disclaimer here because I forgot it in the beginning: Not mine.
PPS. If you're a fan of Ruroni Kenshin/Samurai X, check out "Detention" by Meow-Mix-91!