Were you right?
Was I wrong?
Were you weak?
Was I strong?
Yeah, both of us broken
Caught in a moment
We lived and we loved
And we hurt and we joked, yeah
But the planets all aligned
When you looked into my eyes
And just like that
The chemicals react
The chemicals react…
-“Chemicals React” by Ally and AJ
Agent M opened her envelope, read the top line, and let out a groan. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me."
Immediately, she heard wheels squeaking as her partner slid his chair over to her desk and peeked over her shoulder, his own broad one bumping it in the wake of his nosy behavior. "Oho! What's this? You got the old Honeypot assignment, eh?"
"Yes," she whined, laying her head back on the seat and resisting the urge to stamp her feet in a temper tantrum. "Why? Anything but that. I'd rather scrape beetles off of a Chickawumba's stomach for three days than fake-seduce some douchebag to plant a bug."
Agent H chuckled. "Oh, come on, we all have to do things we don't like at some point in this job."
"I know," she grumbled, stuffing the paper back into the folder and dropping it on her desk, glaring impudently.
H nudged her shoulder. "Aww, don't worry, we're gonna get you through this. We just have to teach you how to flirt."
M gave him an incredulous look. "Excuse me?"
"What?" he asked.
"I know how to flirt."
"You absolutely don't. At all. I've seen you try. It's...frankly, it's sad and upsetting."
She bristled. "I know how to flirt, H. You are imagining things."
"Oh, am I?" he challenged. She yipped in surprise as he yanked her chair forward until their knees brushed together and gave her an intense stare.
"Well, go on then," H said. "Give it your best shot."
M blinked at him. "What?"
"Flirt with me. Right now."
She sputtered. "What do you mean right now?"
"See, that's your first problem," H said. "You've got to be ready at the drop of a hat with a good line if you're going to be the honeypot. You shouldn't have to think about it. You should just be able to go at any time."
"Oh, is that how it works for you, pretty boy?"
"Yes. Do you know how many honeypot missions I've been on?"
She crossed her arms, scowling. "No. How many?"
"Twenty-six," H said. "Do you know how many of them I've failed?"
He made a little "O" with his hand. "Zero."
M rolled her eyes. "Liar."
"Nope," he said, popping the P-sound. "I've cleared every last one. Check my file if you don't believe me. Now if you can successfully flirt with me right now, I'll leave you alone. Otherwise, rookie, you're getting a training lesson in seduction."
"This is sexual harassment," she insisted.
H rolled his eyes. "Quit deflecting already. You know I'm not going to drop it."
"Fine!" M tried to clear her head for a moment to think of something. She desperately wanted him off her back. He meant well, but Agent H could be utterly infuriating when he wanted to be, especially when he wanted to help.
She exhaled and loosened up her posture first, and then lightened her tone considerably. "Oh, that's a nice watch. What kind is it?"
"Hmm?" H asked facetiously, lifting his arm. "Oh, it's an Armani, thank you."
She reached out and flipped his hand over on the pretense of looking at the face of the watch, but really it just gave her an excuse to touch him. His skin was feverishly warm as she pushed up the sleeve to his dress shirt and adopted a curious expression. "I don't actually know much about watches. How did you end up picking this one?"
She stroked the inside of his forearm, batting her lashes slightly. Agent H didn't quite tense under her touch, but she could tell he was perhaps ticklish; he cleared his throat as her fingers roamed over the veins in his forearm. "Didn't think too much about it. Nice price range and they say these things can survive a nuclear holocaust."
"Mm. Do you know where I might be able to get one?"
He gave her an even stare, and then smirked. "I might."
She thought she had him, but of course, like MIB had taught her so far, expect the unexpected.
Agent H sat forward and caught her arm instead, flipping it up and running his long, strong fingers up the back of her wrist. She shuddered on impulse; she had sensitive skin. "Though I'm not sure if an Armani is the right watch for you, with such delicate wrists. They're very small and elegant, and the face might seem too large and heavy for you."
His thumb brushed her sleeve up some more, his calloused fingertips just barely grazing her skin, and her eyes nearly closed to the subtle, intimate touch. "I think perhaps you'd like a Michael Kors instead. What time do you get off tonight? I'd love to take you watch shopping."
M's cheeks burned as he continued staring at her from inches away, and gently caressing her forearm.
"Okay, fine," she seethed, snatching her arm free. "So you're a better flirt than I am. I was still doing well."
"You're not half bad," H admitted, sitting back in his chair. "But you tense up, and that's the problem. It's not that you can't give it; you can't take it in return without getting stiff."
She arched an eyebrow. He coughed. "Sorry, I just realized how that sounded. Anyway, my point remains. My place tonight after work. Flirting lessons. Bring beer."
He paused. "And wear something sexy. Ow! That was a joke, I swear!"
"I cannot believe I'm doing this," M grumbled as the biometric scanner flashed and then the elevator proceeded to take her up to his apartment. "One of the only nights I don't have to work a double and I'm letting lover boy teach me how to flirt. I must be losing it."
She stepped off and walked down the hall, knocking three times on the door. Agent H's cheerful voice called through it. "Who is it?"
"Me, you idiot," she called back. "Who else would it be?"
The door opened and H appeared, all smiles as usual, his tone chiding. "I would have you know many a lady has sought my company, Agent M. I had to be sure it was you."
M rolled her eyes and shoved the beer into his arms as she walked by. "More than I needed to know, thank you very much."
H shut the door and clucked his tongue. "Sore spot, huh? What's the matter? Jealous?"
"Ha!" she barked, tossing down her jacket on his couch and snatching a beer once he offered it. "I count my blessings that you don't have any interest in me. I can't imagine being lured into one of your honeytraps."
"Well," he said smugly. "No one's ever complained before."
"She would have to have a brain first," M snarked back with a glare.
"I find that highly offensive," he sniffed. "I do not date brainless women. I value conversation just as much as sex."
"Sure, you do." She took a deep swig and then sighed. "Let's get this over already. What wisdom do you have to bestow upon my lowly, unattractive person, oh great Agent H?"
"Oh, don't be so grumpy. Really, I meant what I said. There's nothing wrong with the way you flirt; it's if someone flirts back that is the problem. We just need to get you used to it."
He beckoned a finger. She stomped over to the island counter and plopped down on a stool. He pulled his over to sit across from her. She'd naturally ignored his "dress sexy" suggestion and wore a black tank top over jeans and boots. At home, H relaxed a lot more. He wore just a plain white shirt and black jeans. Despite their bickering, she did happen to like his place. It was just as warm and friendly as he was, and she could spend hours here easily as she'd come to find.
"We've already been through your argument about chemicals," H said. "And that's the point I am trying to make. You seem to fight your impulses in order to stay logical, and you can't do that in a honeypot mission. The key to seduction isn't logic. You're learning how to bypass someone's defenses when you're seducing a target. It's not so much about sex as it is intimacy."
She stared at him. "How is that not the same thing?"
"You can have sex without being intimate. You can be intimate without having sex."
M snorted. "Is that right?"
H cocked his head slightly and smiled at her. "You and I are intimate, but we are not having sex last time I checked."
M punched him in the ribs lightly and he chuckled. "See? Intimacy in a honeypot mission is like asking a question with your body instead of with words. Let me give you some examples."
He paused. "And please do not hit me again."
"I'll try to resist the urge," M said wryly. "But I make no promises."
"Well, for starters, you are a very beautiful woman."
M waited for a punchline, and when one didn't arrive, she fidgeted. H pointed at her. "See? That. That's the first thing that would tip someone off. You struggle with compliments. Relax. It shouldn't be an awkward thing to hear from me or from a stranger, assuming the latter does so politely. You have wonderful features and you should appreciate them and know that they are in fact desirable."
H lightly gripped her shoulders. "Next, your posture is all wrong. You move like someone who is trained, and that can also tip someone off immediately. You have to let yourself relax. You have to fit into your surroundings. You have to seem comfortable. That in itself can be an invitation."
"How so?" M asked.
"There are different ways of playing it, but with you, I'd say you go with the always popular Sharon Stone move. You have gorgeous legs. Cross and uncross them once and any man will be crawling towards you on all fours."
M tried not to laugh. "It can't be that easy, H."
"Men are the easiest things on the planet," he said severely. "Honestly, we're painfully simple, so let's give that a shot. Relax your posture and try it out."
"This is ridiculous."
"It is, but it's necessary. Go on."
M heaved a sigh and leaned her head back, forbidding herself to think about the absurdity of her situation. She rolled her shoulders, relaxing the tension out of them, shook out her curls a bit, and exhaled. She slowed her heartbeat and then placed her hands on either side of her seat, which made her chest more noticeable. Then she crossed and uncrossed her legs slowly. She ventured a peek up at H and he gave her a thumbs up.
"Much better," he said, and she admitted she felt a tiny bit proud. "Now let's talk touch points."
"Yes. Areas on the body that basically will have him in the palm of your hand."
He held up his hands as her mouth flew open to protest. "No, not those points. If you do this right, you will never have to come anywhere near anyone's...naughty bits. Your target is humanoid, which should make it a little easier if you know what you're doing."
"You act like I've never had a boyfriend before, H," she mused, crossing her arms. "I know where men like to be touched."
He lifted an eyebrow. "Do you, now?"
H spread his arms. "By all means, do tell."
M scowled. "Well, every man is different."
"That's quite true. But I would hope by now you know me well. Tell me my touch points, then."
His smirk widened, those blue eyes twinkling merrily. "Assuming you can."
M shook her head and drained her beer in one go. She definitely needed alcohol for what she was about to do. She stepped off her stool and stared up at him impassively. He didn't move, staring right back in challenge. Her heart rebelled against all logic and began pounding against her sternum, and she mentally chastised it. It was Agent H, for God's sake. He was her partner. He was a giant doofus.
A giant, attractive doofus.
M decided to go for broke. After all, he'd been gleefully annoying her all evening. Time to get some revenge.
She slid both palms up his knees to the outside of his thighs. She was rewarded with a sharp inhale from him and a blush stained his cheeks momentarily.
M smirked. "Number one."
She picked up his right arm and trailed her fingertips down his forearm. "Number two."
M's heart did the Lambada as she flattened her palms against his washboard abs. "Number three."
It took a mighty amount of self-control not to venture under that shirt. She could protest all she wanted, but M knew damn well Agent H was a feast for the eyes, and she'd have loved to touch that chest of his if she got the chance, but she reeled in her control and instead raised her hands to the spot just over his collarbone. She touched it gently, and could hear her voice getting huskier. "Number four."
She slid one hand up his neck to a spot behind his ear, and felt him shiver. "And number five."
H cleared his throat, and his own voice had lowered a couple of octaves, and something in her belly tightened instinctively. "Right on all counts. I'll give you this much: you do pay attention, even if you lack experience."
“Good. Does that mean we’re done here?”
“Always in such a hurry, rookie,” he tutted. “No, we’re not. You still have to get comfortable with being touched, to a certain degree. You get flustered easily, I’ve noticed, when other agents flirt with you.”
“Because it’s unprofessional,” she insisted. “We all work together and there can’t be feelings involved.”
“We’re human, M,” he told her, exasperated. “Yes, we are agents, and yes, we are supposed to be detached to some degree, but we don’t have to be robots. Connections happen naturally. If they didn’t, then you and I wouldn’t be here, and we wouldn’t be partners, right? You would have gone back to New York and I’d have accepted the director position if we didn’t feel something for each other.”
M opened her mouth to deny it, but then chewed her lip as she realized he was right. She hated it when he was right, which wasn’t often, but enough that it made her grumpy. He’d managed to wriggle his way into her heart against all odds with his strange combination of charm and openness. H made her feel like she belonged, like she could handle anything because she knew he would back her up anytime. Her whole life she’d been the outcast, the tabby cat in a litter of greys, ridiculed and mocked and told she was crazy for what she’d seen. H didn’t see her that way. He valued her. And, truth be told, she valued him too.
“I would like to request a transfer to the London branch.”
The head agent’s eyebrows lifted. “Is that right?”
“Yes,” M said crisply, clasping her hands behind her back. “I believe I am needed there and I would be of better service to the agency that way. I’ve evaluated myself and my skillset and I can list the needs of the London office—”
O held up a hand. “That won’t be necessary, Agent M. Sign here.”
She slid a paper across her desk. M blinked rapidly and scooped it up, reading it and seeing it had been dated for two weeks prior. “This is…how did you—”
“Oh, pish tosh,” the older woman scoffed. “I saw that puppy dog look Agent H gave you when you left. I knew full well you’d request a transfer.”
M frowned. “I’m—Agent O, I hope you don’t misunderstand—”
“You’re a sharp agent, M. You will be successful no matter where you go. Rest assured, I don’t doubt that. London is just your style.”
O offered her a pen. M took it and signed it. “Right, cheerio, Agent M.”
“Thank you for this opportunity, ma’am.”
O gave her a mysterious smile before sipping her tea. “Good luck. Don’t get into too much trouble…with him.”
“It’s…different with you,” M muttered in the end, avoiding his gaze.
“I should hope so,” H said cheerfully. “I certainly don’t let anyone else drive me this crazy.”
Again, she hit him in the ribs. “That’s because no one else but me can even tolerate you.”
“What a coincidence! The same could be said for you. Now, if you’re done complaining, give me your hand.”
M begrudgingly complied. “Circling back to touch points, this is the easiest to start with for your target. He will want to take your hand while he explains what an enticing species he is and so on and so forth.”
H glanced down at her fingers. M fidgeted. “What?”
“Nothing, just didn’t realize how small and pretty they are,” he said offhandedly, not catching the blush on her cheeks that followed. “So usually it starts something like this.”
He traced his middle finger in a feather-light straight line over the back of her hand and then made slow, swirling patterns aimlessly. M diverted all her self-control into not fleeing the apartment. Her heart pounded almost comically loud in her ears now. She really hadn’t been touched much recently. The immediate, pleasant contact high suffused her body and made her want to lean into him, maybe climb into his lap for more. He was right; she was definitely unused to it even though she knew perfectly well how to flirt. She focused her attention on her breathing and heart rate until both returned to normal, and H smiled a bit as he noticed.
“Good,” he said. “Nice and even, that’s it.”
“Alright, Mr. Know-It-All,” M blurted out. “What are my touch points?”
H snorted. “Oh, I’m not going to fall for that one. You’re just going to hit me again.”
“So you don’t know then?” she sniffed. “That’s all you had to say.”
“Oh, the reverse psychology! It’s killing me!”
“Tsk, tsk,” she sighed. “And here I thought you were Casanova.”
H pursed his lips for a moment and then pointed at her. “Do not punch me again.”
M just batted her lashes. "You admittedly are a lot harder to read than most women, hell, even most agents. We can thank your logic lifestyle for that one, but we've been together long enough for me to have gotten some clues."
H lifted her right arm. M watched, betraying nothing on her face. H's thumb brushed against the inside of her elbow, and her toes curled inside her boots. "Number one."
She fought not to tense as he inched just a bit closer, and his warm hand brushed her knee, traveling down the pants until his fingers touched the bend of it. "Number two."
He glided his hand up her leg to the small of her back. "Number three."
He lifted his hand enough to graze the nape of her neck. "Number four."
Then it came around enough to cup her chin, and he stooped over her, merrily using his height to tower above her with a sly, satisfied look at her dilated pupils. "And, well, we both know what number five is, don't we?"
H's eyes drifted down to her lips. She appreciated that he had enough sense not to touch them, but her frazzled mind felt a little disappointment anyway.
"So," she murmured. "You're not as clueless as you look."
"Sticks and stones, Agent M," he said, drawing away. "I think we should give it a test run to make sure my teachings have sunk in."
She groaned. "Really?"
"Yes, really," he said firmly. "I know you are no longer a probationary agent, but you need to impress the higher ups within your first 90 days if you want your career to advance quickly."
H waltzed over to the couch, and she didn't resist the urge to enjoy the view for once--after all, he could wear the hell out of some Levi's for a Brit--and plopped down. Then he patted the space next to him. "Care to join me?"
"I hate you."
H just grinned wider. M covered her face for a moment, lamenting her career and choice of partners, before steeling herself. The faster she got this over with, the faster she could go home and get some sleep in preparation for her mission. Well, if she wanted to get him out of her hair, she'd have to go all in. Full Jessica Rabbit sort of stuff. She shut her eyes for a second and channeled her inner seductress before pushing to her feet.
The first thing she changed was her walk.
H had been right, for once; she did have a very brisk walk. Her feet landed hard and purposely, and all the training to be an effective agent meant her posture was extremely stiff and straight, her chin parallel to the ground. For her new walk, she added a slight twisting motion to her hips that caused them to roll from side to side, and allowed more of a bounce to each step, which drew attention to her many curves. She sauntered over to the couch beside him at a languid pace and lounged in the seat as if it had been made just for her. She reclined most of the way and performed the iconic Sharon Stone leg cross as he'd suggested, and fixed a coy smile on her lips, her thick lashes lowered over her eyes.
"Excuse me, but do you happen to have the time?"
H glanced at his watch. "Half past ten."
M sighed. "My contact's late. I hate that. It's so hard to find good help these days. Looks like I'm stuck here until he shows. Guess I'll have to amuse myself."
She smirked. "Unless you'd like to do that for me."
"Oh, I don't know, miss," H replied. "What do you consider amusing?"
She pretended to think about it. "Can't resist a good knock-knock joke."
H pretended to pull a gun from his pocket. "Robin you, now hand over the cash."
M was surprised that her laugh was genuine. "That's awful."
"You still laughed, so technically that's a win on my part."
She leaned her head on one hand, which consequently brought them within inches of each other. "Mm. And what is it that you think you won?"
"Something good, I hope," he murmured back.
She skated one hand up his knee. "Ooh, I'm fresh out of that. What about something bad instead?"
H chuckled, and she could almost taste his breath from so close. "I happen to like that better, actually."
M's head tilted slightly to accommodate him. And then she blinked and realized just exactly what she'd been about to do. H seemed to realize it at the exact same time, and cleared his throat as he leaned away from her, his voice a little hoarse. "That, uh, that was pretty much perfect."
"T-Thanks," she said, scooting away from him to a safe distance. "I, uh, I think I've got it from here. So I'm just gonna...y'know...skidaddle."
M swept up her jacket and donned it hurriedly. "I'll, uh, see you first thing."
"Right," H said, standing and avoiding her gaze. "In the morning, then. Night, Molls."
"Night, Henry." M fled the apartment as fast as her boots could carry her, and before she could at all question the word "almost" in her head.