The Morning After the Night Before


Recently on tumblr, celluloidbroomcloset posted the following:

And Emma was all, “Brodny, stop it. We had drinks last week. You and Steed put away a fifth of scotch and you sang Ochi Chernye. I had to carry you both home. You’re not fooling anyone.”


In response to celluloidbroomcloset’s glorious image of Brodny, Emma, and Steed having a night on the town, I discovered what must have happened the morning after. So with Cell’s blessing, I concocted the following and present it here for your delectation.

♦  ♦  ♦

The Morning After the Night Before

Steed was awakened by the harsh scrape of curtain rings over the rod and what felt like the Klieg-light brightness of the morning sun shining in through the window.

“Rise and shine!” chirped Mrs Peel.

Steed groaned and muffled his head with a pillow. In his experience, Mrs Peel did not generally chirp, unless she was intending to annoy him. Apparently this was one of these times. Of course, it would be one of those times. His head felt twice its usual size, and his mouth like it had been carpeted with the wool of a freshly shorn but infrequently bathed sheep. Tasted like it, too. He grimaced.

He felt Mrs Peel sit on the edge of the bed and heard her deposit a tray on the night stand with a light clatter of crockery. She lifted a corner of the pillow and peered at him. He opened one baleful eye, then grabbed the pillow and placed it back over his face. She would have the gall to already have bathed and dressed. And made coffee, too, from the scent that was wafting from the direction of his bedside table. From beneath the pillow, Steed mumbled, “I may rise. Eventually. But I refuse to shine. What happened last night?”

“Well, you and Brodny got pissed as newts.”

“That bit I remember.”

“And then you decided to serenade me. With Russian love songs. In Russian. As a duet. We got kicked out of the bar.”

Another groan escaped from beneath the pillow.

“I had to carry the both of you to the car.”

Steed lifted the pillow a fraction and cocked an eyebrow at Mrs. Peel. “Both of us?”

“Both of you.” She gave Steed a hard stare. “You are very heavy.”

He frowned at her, and replaced the pillow once more. She was enjoying this far too much. It was worrying.

“Then what happened?”

“You started making up dirty limericks and teaching them to Brodny.”

Steed jumped up, propping himself on his elbows and sending the pillow tumbling to the foot of the bed.

“I didn’t.”

“You did.”

After a pause, Steed asked, “Um, did I explain to him what they meant?”

“You did not.”

Steed flopped back down and lay there, staring despondently at the ceiling, his head pounding like the turf at Ascot at the home stretch.

Mrs Peel picked up the phone and placed it on Steed’s stomach, then held the receiver out to him.

“There’s a phone call you might want to make. Preferably before there’s an international incident.”

Steed began to dial, then cradled the receiver to his chest. He glared at Mrs Peel. “Do you mind?”

Supressing a smile, Mrs Peel stood up. “Not at all,” she said, and strode into the living room.

Once there, she picked up the receiver on Steed’s desk phone as stealthily as she could. There was no way she was going to miss this conversation.

“… speak to Mr Brodny, please,” she heard Steed say.

“Certainly, sir. Please wait while I connect you.”

A click on the other end announced Brodny’s presence on the line.

“Hello?”

Poor Brodny, thought Emma. He sounds worse than Steed looks.

“Yes, Brodny, Steed here. How are you?”

“I am fine, yes, fine. And you?”

“Fighting fit, old man.”

Emma repressed a snort.

“Listen,” said Steed. “Remember those poems I taught you last night?”

“Oh, yes! Lovely poems. ‘There was young lady from Swansea….’ ”

“Yes, those,” Steed interrupted. “Can you do me a favor, there’s a good chap? Don’t repeat them to anyone.”

“Not to anyone?”

“Not to anyone.”

“Ah. I see. Coded state secrets. Very dangerous.”

A pause on the line. Emma could almost hear the wheels turning in Steed’s head.

“Um, yes,” said Steed. “Very, very dangerous. Not to be repeated. To anyone. Ever. Could get both of us in loads of trouble.”

“I see. I will not repeat. But I must ask…”

“Yes,” said Steed.

“What means….”

Brodny recited the two most scurrilous lines from the bluest of the previous night’s poetic endeavors. Then there was a silence, after which Steed asked, very gingerly, “Er, do you mean the literal translation?”

“Yes, yes,” replied Brodny. “I would never ask for coded meanings. Not from friend Steed.”

Emma heard Steed swallow hard. Then he replied with a torrent of Russian.

There was a silence on the other end, during which Emma was sure the blood was draining from Brodny’s face.

Bozhe moi…” Brodny gasped. “And the one about young girl from Frome?”

“Remind me how that one went.”

Brodny complied, and Steed poured out another torrent of Russian.

Emma grinned. Leave it to Steed to know how to say those things in any language.

“And … young man from Luton?” Brodny’s voice rose to a quavering squeak.

Again Steed asked for his memory to be refreshed and, once it was, he replied with a fulsome translation. Emma decided that she needed to take them both drinking again some time soon. This was most educational. Steed’s grasp of colloquial Russian was clearly excellent, and in a matter of minutes, she had expanded her own vocabulary in that language quite considerably. And colorfully.

Bozhe moi,” whispered Brodny again, apparently to himself. “They recall me for sure.” Louder he said, “Thank you, friend Steed. Was most kind of you to phone. I will gladly do as you request. No one shall hear these very dangerous things. No one.”

“That’s the ticket,” said Steed. “Just a secret between you and me.”

“Yes. Very good.”

Emma nearly hung up the phone, but then she heard Brodny say, “And Mrs Peel? Does she understand this … code?”

A faint chortle on the other end told Emma that Steed was having a very hard time controlling his laughter.

“Certainly not!” said Steed. “Her mind and soul are pure as the driven snow.”

Emma had to cover the receiver with her hand and bite her lip. It was her turn to try not to laugh.

“Oh, good,” said Brodny, his relief palpable. “That is very, very good. Well, friend Steed, thank you for phone call. I hope to see you again some time soon, yes?”

“Yes, friend Brodny,” Steed replied. “You certainly will. Good-bye.”

“Good-bye!”

A click and a buzz told Emma that the connection had been severed. As did the sudden gale of laughter from Steed’s bedroom. It was good to hear him laugh like that, she thought. That had happened entirely too rarely of late.

Yes, they definitely needed to take Brodny drinking again. And maybe this time she would provide the serenade.

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