Author: Kim C.
Disclaimer: 'Scarecrow and Mrs. King' belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot
the Moon Productions. I am simply borrowing them, with due respect to their
creators, for a short duration. I am making no profit from this story.
Timeline: Third season, I'm thinkin' before "Sour Grapes".
Genre: Short story; answer to the smkfanfic alphabet challenge.
Summary: A visiting operative from MI5 causes a stir at the Agency.
Author's Note: Many thanks to Miriam for her excellent beta services.
'H' is for Hunk
Lee Stetson stepped off the elevator and strode briskly toward Billy Melrose's office. Midway through the bullpen, he slowed to a stop and looked around. An unusually large number of female field agents, secretaries, and other women employees from various departments of the Agency were standing around, many of them whispering together. He wondered if the human resources department had scheduled some special meeting, as they did from time to time. "Coping in a Man's World of Espionage" and "If a Man Can Spy, So Can I" were two of the more popular seminars.
He casually glanced over at Amanda's desk, prepared to avert his gaze disinterestedly if she should catch him looking. Sure enough, she was there, industriously typing, and was apparently the only woman focused on her job. He was slightly put out that she hadn't seen him yet. Still, maybe she could fill him in on what was happening. Sauntering over to her, he felt even more annoyed when she still didn't acknowledge his presence.
"Hey," he greeted her, leaning against the corner of her desk and giving her a smile.
"Oh! Good morning, Lee," she said, finally looking up at him. "How are you today?"
He regarded her closely. She looked different -- distracted. Her face was flushed becomingly, and her brown eyes were shades darker than normal, giving her a look that was . . . what were the words Billy had used that time? Exotic. Mysterious. At the time, Lee had scoffed at his boss. Lately, he found his opinion on that score changing dramatically.
"What's going on this morning?" he casually inquired, gesturing toward the collected female contingent. She followed his movement, and then her eyes darted toward Billy's closed door.
"Oh. Well . . . we have an agent here on a temporary assignment from MI5." She glanced back up at Lee, and he swore she looked carnivorous.
"His name's Hank Granger," she added, her voice a mere raspy whisper.
"Yeah, I heard he was coming over." Frowning slightly at her uncharacteristic demeanor, he shrugged dismissively. "So? What's the big deal about that?" The sound of clicking heels announced Francine's imminent presence.
"Did you get a good look at him?" she asked Amanda, her voice low and conspiratorial.
"Someone told me that he spoke to you. What did
he say? I
mean, not that I view you
as serious competition or anything." She smirked.
"So?" Lee watched as Amanda's features transformed into an indignant expression of disgust.
"Not serious competition? What's that supposed to mean?" she asked rhetorically.
"Yes, I did get a good look at him. He was very
friendly and polite, and he
said he hopes he gets a chance to work with me!"
Francine's smirk grew to new proportions. "Yeah, right. Obviously, meaningless charm is second nature to him. I wouldn't read too much into it, if I were you. He probably flattered Mrs. Marsten, too, when he checked in. But never mind all that -- what does he *look* like?"
Amanda lifted one slim shoulder, giving Francine a chilly look. "He's very handsome," she answered offhandedly. Her pen poised, she looked back down at the report she'd been reading.
"Handsome? Handsome!" Francine placed her manicured hands on her hips. "I hear 'handsome' is laughably inadequate where he's concerned. Sort of like saying Adonis wasn't bad looking. The girls in steno say he's a drop-dead gorgeous HUNK!"
Lee scowled and rolled his eyes. "Oh, please . . . "
"Well, sure . . . I guess 'hunk' is a good way to describe him." Amanda nodded, narrowing her eyes.
As if Francine's earlier barbs had been
forgotten at the mere
thought of the visiting agent, a small smile lifted
the corners of her mouth.
"Yeah . . . you're right there; he's *definitely*
A pang of startlingly potent jealousy shot through Lee. Before he could stop himself, he hotly retorted with undisguised contempt, "A hunk. Look at you two -- you're both practically drooling. Give me a break!"
Francine raised her eyebrows calculatingly and looked from Lee to Amanda.
"What's the matter, Lee," she purred. "All
stressed out and no one to
choke?" Her teeth gleamed in a feline smile. "Watch out," she whispered to
Amanda in a stage whisper.
"He's got an attitude, and he knows how to use
it." Without another word,
she turned on her heel and strolled away.
Lee shook his head, staring after Francine's retreating figure, and then returned his glare to his partner.
"What?" Amanda asked defensively, frowning at Lee and twitching the pen between her fingers.
"Nothing," he replied, shrugging and abandoning the subject.
It would do no good to irritate her. Instead, he dropped his voice to a husky whisper, his eyes meeting hers intimately.
"Listen, are you free for lunch?"
Clearly taken aback, she arched one eyebrow and drawled, "Well, I don't know. Let me see." She reached into her drawer for her calendar and made an exaggerated show of perusing its contents. "Yes, it looks like I do happen to be free for lunch. Why?"
He couldn't help the smile that sprang to his lips. She really was adorable when she was trying to play it cool. He leaned forward and flashed both dimples.
"Because I'm taking you to lunch. My treat. That
is, if you want
to go with me."
She considered his offer, tapping her ballpoint against her chin. Her lips were pursed invitingly, and he felt a powerful urge to kiss her. When had they started this flirty aspect of their friendship? He hardly remembered; it had come on so gradually and naturally. True, he habitually flirted with women he knew, but Amanda had always been different. Or rather, he realized with sudden clarity, he had always been different with Amanda.
Before he could explain away this enlightened thought, she nodded. "Sure. Looks like I'm free."
"Good." He winked at her, secretly relieved. Now, if Agent Lothario had any designs on Amanda and was planning on asking her out to lunch, she already had plans.
As though she could see right through him, she rolled her eyes and shook her head, then smiled in obvious amusement. He'd never felt so transparent in his life, but at least he'd gotten his way.
The door to the section chief's office opened, and Billy beckoned Lee from across the room.
Lee smiled and winked at Amanda. "I'll see you in a little while, then. I'm looking forward to it."
"Me, too." She smiled back and waved him away. "Now, go on, before Mr. Melrose yells at you."
Grinning, he strode toward the office, anxious to get a look at the visiting 'hunk'. So he'd been talking with Amanda, had he? He hoped to get a chance to work with her? Maybe this hunky Brit should think again.
Billy's frown indicated that he had been waiting impatiently. . As Lee entered his office, he said sarcastically, "Glad you could finally join us. Lee, I want you to meet Hank Granger, from MI5. Hank, this is Lee Stetson."
The other man reached out to shake Lee's hand. "Glad to know you," he said in a friendly tone, his voice a deep baritone with perfect upper-class British inflection.
"Nice to meet you, Hunk," Lee replied. Realizing his embarrassing mistake, he feigned a fit of coughing. "Hank. I meant Hank." He gestured in an exaggerated fashion at his throat. "Sorry. I've had a bit of a cold." 'Smooth move, Stetson,' he cursed himself silently.
"Since when have you had a cold?" Billy demanded, his brows knitting together in apparent confusion.
"Oh," Lee stammered, clearing his throat. "You know. Off and on."
"So," Hank smoothly changed the subject. "Your partner is Amanda King, right?"
"Yes," Lee affirmed guardedly. "*Mrs.* Amanda King," he added emphatically.
Billy shook his head, waving his hand. "Mrs. King is actually a part-time civilian, not really a --" he began.
"Yes." Lee nodded firmly, overriding Billy's explanation. "Yes, she is my partner. She's indispensable. I really can't get by without her."
His boss was gawking at him as if he'd grown two horns and a third eye.
"Lee, I was going to assign Amanda to show Agent
Granger around town and
brief him on some basic
information. I didn't think you would mind. After
all, just last week, you
were saying you wished you didn't have to --"
Clearing his throat loudly, Lee stubbornly shook his head. He couldn't believe Billy was bringing that up. It had been an isolated problem, and the first time he'd complained about Amanda in months!
"No way, Billy. I
can't possibly spare
Amanda. I have a heavy caseload right now, and she's
already booked with helping
me catch up on all my paperwork and filing."
Billy, still clearly baffled, cocked his head and seemed on the verge of saying something further. He never even had a chance. Hank held up a placating hand.
"No matter. I don't want to take away your
partner," he assured Lee,
an amused gleam in his eye. "I'm sure there's
someone else who can assist
Nodding, Billy agreed. "Oh, of course."
Still staring at Lee in amazement, he licked his
lips. "Lee, why don't you check with Francine Desmond? I
don't think she has
anything pressing right now."
"Thanks, Billy," Lee replied, unable to keep the relief out of his voice. "I'm sure Francine's available."
His boss gave him a crooked smile. "Fine, fine. Now, introduce Hank around, would you, Scarecrow? I have some phone calls to make."
Stepping out of the office, the two men faced each other. Lee was pleased with himself for thwarting the other man's plans. How dare this outsider try to make some claim on Amanda! The nerve! As if Amanda was some brief, enticing amusement for his visit to the States. Well, fortunately Lee had been there to protect her from this aspiring James Bond.
"I get the impression that Mrs. King means quite a lot to you," Granger remarked, keeping his voice low.
Lee shrugged, shoving his hands in his pockets and glancing around the bullpen with studied nonchalance. "Well, yeah. I mean, we work together. We're friends."
"Ah." Granger paused, and then narrowed his intensely blue eyes. "I guess I got the wrong idea back there," he went on, indicating Billy's office. "I'm rather glad. Because if you two aren't . . . "
"Aren't what?" Lee asked abruptly, jutting out his chin. His confrontational tone surprised even himself.
"Well," Granger hedged, shifting his eyes away from Lee's face. Looking down at the ground, he elucidated, "You know . . . involved."
Lee raised an eyebrow, suddenly wary, and regarded his companion appraisingly. No, they weren't 'involved,' but that didnít mean he wanted her involved with someone else.
"I guess that depends on what you'd call
'involved,' now wouldn't
it? We're going out to lunch together today, like
we usually do. Later
tonight, after her mother and sons are asleep, I'll
probably . . . swing by her
house." He drew himself up to his full height
and coolly held the British
agent's gaze in an unspoken challenge.
"Oh. I see." Granger seemed to be struggling for words, no longer the cocky, self-assured man Lee had met just moments ago. "Well, then. I definitely am misreading things, aren't I? Basically, it's like this: You're not really involved with her yourself . . . at least, not yet. On the other hand, if I were to ask her out, you would rip my arm out of its socket and beat me to a bloody pulp. Am I anywhere close to the truth?"
Lee clenched his jaw. "I don't think my relationship with Amanda is any of your business. But I promise you -- if you don't stay away from her, you *will* regret it."
"Got it." Granger paused, and then went on warily. "You're right; it is none of my business. I'm going to give you some advice anyway. If you have feelings for this woman, you'd better act on them soon. I was in a situation like that once, with my own partner. I never told her how I felt."
Unable to stop himself, Lee asked, "What happened?"
"She's married to someone else and has two children," Hank admitted, the sting he felt evident in his eyes.
Lee assimilated this revelation, nodding slowly. He might, indeed, lose Amanda due to his own reticence. She was an attractive woman, after all. Quite a few men had expressed interest in her over the years. Probably many agents would have done so if he hadn't been warning them off with dirty looks, proprietary body language, and obvious hostility. He knew he'd have to make a move if he wanted her, and soon. Mercifully, the other man changed the subject.
"So, tell me, where's this
Francine Desmond? Is *she*
. . . involved with anyone?"
Lee grinned and slapped the other man on the back as the two started walking across the crowded bullpen. He might end up liking this Granger guy after all.
"No, Francine's not seeing anyone. Let me
introduce you. I know
she'd love to meet you.
She's the very attractive blonde over there . . ."