I have known the Smart family for nearly six years and out of those years, I've become a part of the family by mere association. I hope, certainly after our last encounter with KAOS, the Smarts' daughter will make me a happy man and a
permanent fixture in her family.
But it's not their relationship with me that I ponder this morning, as I sit down with the
lovely Agent 99 for coffee in the Control deli. No, it's something I finally allowed to click in my brain after being in Vermont with my family, rather, former family I guess is the word, that I was sitting in a booth drinking coffee with 99.
You must understand. This...trait, I'll call it...didn't just come upon me one night and
certainly as I discussed the matter with 99, it was all made clear. Or rather CLEARER than it had been before. Perhaps I should explain. The Smart twins are very much their parents' children. Maxine, the woman who I've been in love with since the beginning, has her mother's looks. Long dark brown hair, her mother's features. Her father's eyes. As well as his temperment. She's quick to temper and tends to leap without looking. She can be a bit...over confident, but not to say these things are bad. Perhaps I have a "99 complex", the term some of us have used when a seemingly intelligent person finds the actions of one less...brilliant... incredibly attractive.
I know. Most people fault me for having this.
Her brother, Zach, is very much like 99. Oh, on the surface of some of his actions, he's very much like the Chief. But besides his looks, steming from his mother, he has her compassion and her heart. But this isn't the only thing the twins share with their parents, a fact that brings me back to the start of my mind's wondering. It's no surprise that children and parents share genes and even the same traits, hence why I sat chatting with Agent 99. As stated, this thought had formed long ago and had only just become perfectly recognizable it was... ironic.
The Smarts tend to share several traits, but certainly a very large one in particular.
They tended to be...
Now of course, as I made this little insight I had gathered known to 99, I was expecting, well, an outburst. Agent 99 is not only a mother figure to me, but a confidant. Not to say that Maxine, who I tell everything to, isn't one of my best friends, she is. It's just...well, 99 is that one person you can tell things to that you can't tell anyone else. And certainly, after this particular mission, I needed to speak my mind about things that had happened. My parents, betrayal, Sarah, and lastly, Maxine.
So I told 99, ever so carefully mind you, that Maxine seemed to be...a bit possessive while in Vermont. So imagine my surprise when 99 just smirked at me and said, "Well, Maxine does tend to be more like Max. Hence why we named her after him."
It was then, that lingering thought was brought forth with such insight that I was surprised I hadn't noticed it before. You see, there's a look a specific look that the Smarts have
perfected that, if worked with the appropriate people, would send the members of the opposite sex running for their lives and into the hills. And it wasn't until right then that I realized the implications.
I had seen the look, several times, and certainly aimed at myself. Perhaps that was why I hadn't noticed before, until that look was directed at someone who had found an interest in ME. The reasons for the look are the same, but the members of the family differ. As I've said, I have been on the receiving end of "the look". And
apparently, many OTHER people have received it as well.
Let me start at the beginning. As stated, Agent 99 and I are friends, essentially. If anything, there's a mother-son aspect of our relationship, especially now. Especially now. Anyways, there has always been that internal respect for one another. We both like the same things, speak the same languages, do the crosswords in pen... if at
another place and time, perhaps we would've been more than that, but at those rare times when we disagree-very very rare times- I'm sure it would drive us both crazy to no end.
With that said, Agent 99 has a husband. A jealous husband. Not to say that the Chief has some blinding rage with seeing his wife with other men, not that extreme. Because like I said, there's always "the look". It's hard to discribe "the look". It's not so much written on the face, as it is seen in the eyes. The way they fill with fury, a rage that lies just behind it. But it's the message that "the look" carries out.
One that so clearly says to the offender 'Mine.'
Now, I have often gotten this look when the Chief feels I'm getting too...friendly...with his wife. Granted, "the look" now is merely one out of annoyance, but back when it was discovered the lovely 99 and I had a passion for French opera and Italian crossword puzzles, "the look" the Chief gave me was one that clearly stated Agent
99 was 'Off limits. Period.' As a receiver of this look, I know I was certainly intimadated. For one, "the look" was, well, scary. It really looked as though some harm could come to me if I kept this up.
Second, this was my boss' wife.
Even when 99 had assured me he wouldn't hurt me - "His bark is usually worse than his bite. Most of the time." -I was still wary. So, for quite some time, I was convinced this was just the Chief's way of saying, "stay away from my wife." Of course, until I had seen it several more times. And not from the Chief.
The next time I saw the instance of "the look" had been directed at one Thomas Hill, second in command at KAOS. Hill had made it known he was after the heart of Control agent number 66. Unfortunately, Zachary Smart already had his mind set on capturing 66's heart. It had been no secret Zach was falling head over heels for his partner, something apparently Hill chose to ignore.
Not for long of course.
It seemed like a routine case involving KAOS, until Hill made the scene and tried to woo 66. Well, he made the mistake of doing it in front of Zach. And within a period of two seconds, "the look" made it's appearance and told Hill in no uncertain terms,
Too bad Hill didn't understand that. Well, at least until Zach's fist found his nose and broke it. Let's just say Hill is now Zach's number one enemy.
Oh, but don't let me make you think that this is somehow an inherit of the Smart male genes, let me give you an interesting example. A few weeks ago, before my...trip to Vermont, Trudi, the office secretary, called in sick. Very sick, I saw her myself. Chicken pox, a rare case indeed, as in most adults don't get it, but this being Trudi, of course it made sense she had never had it as a child and therefore caught it from a nephew.
So, with Trudi out, we all figured things would actually be okay. Yeah. Right. It seems that Trudi has an unique way of filing and...doing anything else. So we ended up hiring a temp, which didn't work out for us. Let's say, well let me explain the situation. The temp agency sent us Dell Honey, a very...buxom blonde. When I look on it now, I can say for certain her chest size combined wasn't her IQ, but she made up for it with, well her chest.
Now, I admit, that even with my love for the beautiful Maxine Smart, I'm still a warm blooded American male and this temp secretary was throwing some...needed attention my way, though most of it went towards the Chief. Later of course, we discovered she was a KAOS agent implanted to steal Control secrets, but we didn't know that til later.
So imagine the Chief, - a very well liked elderly gentleman though married for quite some time - being hit on by a beautiful, buxom younger...lady, to use the term loosely. Most men would probably leap at something like at, but most men aren't married to Agent 99.
Now, as I said at the beginning of this tale, I've known the Smarts for quite some time. And as I've said, I've never seen 99 get angry. Or at least, dangerously angry. Oh, I've seen her upset at some prospect that involves KAOS or the government taking away funds from Control or something that the twins or her husband have done, but never so angry to the point I'd duck and cover.
Let me set the scene, now that I've set the background. The outer office to the Chief's. We were still trying to figure out how our secrets were getting out to KAOS. The Chief stood outside his office, Agent 66 and I listening to his instructions on how to proceed. 99 had entered and stood on the Chief's right. Things were okay.
Until Dell entered.
Remember how I tried to describe "the look"? It's hard because it does change, depending on the threat the wearer perceives to be near. Small threats, say like me, get the annoying look. Still accompaning the 'do not touch' of course. I can't really say if there's a medium level threat, because I have yet to see it. So it goes from small to immediate. And Dell Honey was an immeidate threat.
When Dell walked in, her body immediately zoned in to the Chief's. Or rather as close as she could get. It did seem like slow motion. Watching Dell's chest walk in before she did and watching her walk towards the Chief. And stop. Like dead stop before she reached him. At the time, I barely registered why. Now I know. "The look" was in progress, being directed at Dell, and coming from 99.
Again, this was the first instance I had ever seen the look come from a female member of the Smart family. So seeing her, blue eyes darkened in anger and narrowed, pointedly looking at the offending bimbo, "the look" said loud and clear,
'Mine. Hands. Off.'
I pity those who never heed the first warning and have to be reminded again. Like Thomas Hill. Or in this case, Dell Honey. She had seen "the look" and decided to ignore it. Bad idea. Very bad, because 99's eyes narrowed even further and even from where I stood, I could see the rage building from behind those gorgeous baby blues. The meaning was very direct.
'MINE! DON'T TOUCH.'
That stopped Dell, at least from siding up to the Chief like she wanted, but it didn't stop her from smiling suggestively and telling the Chief he had a message, which he took in his office. If there was ever a moment that screamed, "Duck and cover!" this was it. Not only did I know that, but 66 knew it. Unfortunately, Tracie stopped me from sending a warning out to Dell. She obvious wanted this woman destroyed, but loved me enough to save me.
I don't know what was said between 99 and Dell. I just know that afterwards, Dell kept her distance from the Chief until we found out she was a plant. And even then, she pleaded with us not to let her be escorted by 99 and Tracie. She was so near tears, we relented and let Agent 22 take her off to the proper authorities.
What, you may ask, has all of this have to do with anything? Well, I have just set the
background of something I've taken notice of in three of the members of the Smart family. Which brings me back, dispondantly, to the events of
this past case. Well, what started out as a case, has lead to a heavy heart on my part, that's for sure. At least, concerning my own family ties. But it's lifted when I go over events that has me convinced Maxine Smart is in love with me.
An old flame, more precisely an ex-fiancee, come back into my life, on the claim she was being stalked for murder. Skipping parts where I thought and considered certain aspects of our relationship and my relationship with Maxine, I followed one Sarah Ferguson back to my parents home in Vermont. Maxine and her folks followed me and well, long story short, there was some...tension between Max and Sarah. I should've
expected it, but I wasn't thinking. At least not about my romantic affairs.
Now, here's where this insight of possession comes into play and why I'm sitting here
discussing things with 99. Just before dinner, I had a run in with Maxine and Sarah. My parents, being the wealthy upper crust they are, insist on dressing for dinner. So, dressed in my tux, I wandered down to our study to find Maxine there, dressed beautifully in a green ball gown. I don't even think I can put into words how breathtaking
she looked that night.
Things had not faired well for us that weekend, so having her even allowing me to speak to her seemed to lift my spirits and I wasn't going to let it slip. So when she asked timidly if I had loved Sarah, I didn't lie. I had loved Sarah or else I wouldn't have asked for her hand. But I knew the underlying question in Maxine's train of thought. She was asking me if I STILL loved her and I told her truthfully that my heart now belonged to a beautiful brunette with hazel eyes.
Leave it to Sarah to interrupt us and ask if she indeed was interrupting and how happy it made her. If tension could be electric, we'd be dead from electrocusion. But during our leaving the study for dinner, when Sarah had taken my arm to lead me out when I saw something that made my heart flutter.
"Is it possible to find it...I don't know. Erotic?" I asked, blushing slightly, knowing who
"The look?" she asked. I nodded.
She smirked at me, her blue eyes dancing with laughter. "Nothing says loving like the evil eye being directed at some threat your partner sees." she replied, chuckling.
"Mom, I'm serious." Have I mentioned how wonderful 99 is? I've been calling her 'mom' for years. In private, of course. No need to set Zach off on one of his 'who do you love better?' tirades.
And I was serious. I guess until you've had that possessive look aimed at someone with you in mind, well...It's one thing to see it on Zach's face or 99's, but Maxine's? And it was directed at Sarah, with such a ferocity that cried out loud and strong,
'Mine. Touch and die.'
While it had been amusing with Zach, amazement with 99, and terror from the Chief, it had been absolutely arousing watching it come from Maxine. Talk about a turn on.
Even sitting here and thinking about it was causing some discomfort, but looking and seeing the Chief coming straight towards us, with the annoyance of "the look" in his eyes ended it right quick. "Been looking for you." he said, kissing 99 on the head, while staring at me.
"Sitting here having coffee and a chat with Austin." she replied, looking up and smiling.
"Oh?" You'd think the Chief would get over his jealousy of me.
"I've had a lot to think about." I said, quietly.
At that, "the look" was gone and replaced with pity and sympathy. "You could always take that vacation." he suggested.
I rolled my eyes. "And go where?" I asked. "I'm not a Parker anymore." Which essentially meant I couldn't go anywhere outside of Washington to the places my family owned or had shares in. I had subsequintially been frozen from Parker LTD. I might as well change my name to Smart, as my father suggested.
"Getting down again, Austin?"
Looking up, I saw something that could easily lift my spirits. Or rather someone. Maxine stood at my shoulder, almost a mirror of how her father stood at her mother's side opposite us. "Never with you around." I whispered, knowing she wouldn't want my attention in front of her parents.
"All right, gang," the Chief said. "As much as I love standing around, don't we have some work to do?"
99 smiled at me, placing her hand on my check in a motherly gesture. "Everything will be fine. You'll see." I smiled back until I noticed her eyebrow raised and her attention directed over my shoulder. Turning, I looked at Maxine, whose face was reddened slightly and looking down in embarassment.
Looking between each woman, it slowly came to me.
The look. Maxine had just directed that look.
At her mother.
Now, which look it was, I'm not sure. Maybe it was that medium level look that I've never seen, that mild warning that's a last warning before all hell will break lose. I hope it was the small level, though I wonder if 99 would be so amused if it had been the red alert, immediate threat level. I've certainly learned that the female species of the Smarts have both bark and bite and I never want to be on the receving end of either.
Standing, a bit embarassed myself, I followed my boss and his wife upstairs to his office, with their daughter trailing behind me. Good thing too, because as horrified as she was at sending "the look" at her mother, she'd be down right angered to see the small smile on my face.