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Belittled For The Last Time

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Oliver Leek sat in his local celebrating his new promotion, alone as always. At least the regulars had grown bored with tormenting him, at least most of the time. It was a sad life, but he had his work and he’d worked hard to earn his promotion. He knew that he'd excel in his new job and impress this Sir James Lester, his new boss.

He was startled when a gorgeous woman, with a cleavage any straight man would die for, sat down opposite him. “Oliver Leek?”

Leek blinked at her before glancing at the regulars; he wouldn't have put it pass them to set him up, but they looked as stunned as he felt.

The woman smiled at him. “You are Oliver Leek, aren’t you?”

“Um, yes?” He cursed the quaver in his voice, but, well, it wasn't every day he was recognised by a stranger. Maybe one of his project suggestions had been recognised?

“I have a proposition for you.”

Leek retreated in on himself, cursing himself for hoping when he now knew it was a joke and he made to stand up. “Look, I'm flattered, but...”

“Sit down, Oliver. I'm offering you help in your career.” She leaned forward, giving Leek a clear view down her cleavage. “I've read your file. You're good, Oliver, very good. Even better, because most people dismiss you without realising your potential.”

“Who are you?” Leek asked, even as he sat up straighter at her praise. “And what do you want?”

“Helen Cutter.” Helen smiled at him. “I want you to get me information. You start your new job tomorrow and, well, let us just say matters of national security forbid me telling you more unless you agree to help me.”

When Helen battered her eyelashes at him, Leek knew she was lying. His file clearly stated his sexuality and, well, even with a cleavage he could have got lost in, Helen just didn't do it for him. “Sorry, but I'm not at liberty to tell you anything.”

Helen just smiled and held out her card, blank apart from her name and a contact number. “Call me if you change your mind.”

***

Leek had polished his shoes until they shone and pressed his suit – he'd actually tracked down Sir James' tailor and brought the best suit he could afford – and made sure his appearance was perfect. He was desperate to make the best first impression he could. Not that it had helped, for it appeared that Sir James had dismissed him as soon as he saw him, telling him to chase up Professor Cutter's latest and late report as if he was merely an errand boy.

The rest of the team was just as dismissive and Leek could only hope that he could prove himself to them. He worked exactingly hard to finish all his reports promptly, all spelling and grammar correct. He tried to be friendly, too, making Sir James a cup of tea, and standing around listening and watching the man run the ARC. God, the man was everything Leek wanted to be – strong, commanding, absolutely perfect. Damn, Leek blushed and left, he couldn't be attracted to Sir James, could he? Bloody hell, if Sir James ever found out... him being a married man.

***

Although Leek was the best he could be at his job and tried to anticipate every one of Sir James' needs, things didn't improve. In fact, they became worse. Sir James' put-downs became sharper and expertly targeted and Leek didn't have to be the most observant man to realise what Sir James' opinion of him was.

Take today, for instance. It had started off so promisingly, the traffic had been light and he'd even received a nod of recognition from one of the security guards. Of course, he should have known better. Sir James had started as soon as Leek had entered his office with a cup of tea for him, exactly the way he liked it and yes, Leek supposed it might be considered slightly creepy and maybe he shouldn't have been surprised by the cutting remark he'd receive in response. Except... Sir James had continued in the same vein, making disparaging remarks about Leek and his work. He'd even blamed Leek for the lack of reports on his desk from yesterday's anomaly. Leek had tried to explain that the field team had vanished – although he left out 'to the pub' – and hadn't filled them in, but he'd just received that look from Sir James, the one where he felt Sir James thought he was something nasty he'd trod in, and a deceptively mild order to have them on his desk by 11.

Leek had done his best, he really had. Cutter had been even more dismissive than usual, stating he was too busy and Leek was distracting him from vital work – even though he was lying on his back beneath some type of modern art. Hart was elusive and Leek was sure there was a story there, as Cutter's assistant seemed to be avoiding his boss, not that anyone ever told Leek anything. Temple's attention was split between his bloody ADD and goggling at Ms Maitland, who was too busy with her expensive and dangerous animals to spare him the time of day, let alone a report – although she had promised to have it on his desk later. Not that she had, apparently some emergency with an animal had cropped up.

The mid-afternoon meeting had gone just as well. Cutter had disagreed vehemently with Sir James, and whenever Leek had tried to make a point – usually in support of Sir James – both men had just looked at him dismissively before resuming their argument. Temple had spent the time staring at Ms Maitland – until she looked at him and then the boy couldn't look away fast enough. He really was love-sick if he couldn't see the way Ms Maitland was blowing hot and cold with him. It almost made Leek feel better, knowing that he wasn't the most pathetic member of the ARC.

The rest of the day had proceed in the same vein and Leek had just done the best he could, knowing it would never be good enough for Sir James. Leek was just so glad when the day was over, although he knew tomorrow wouldn't be any better.

***

Leek was disappointed to discover he was correct and, even worse, Sir James had shown his contempt for him in front of the whole field team and their Special Forces back-up. He had seen the grins on their faces at Sir James' remarks and knew, no matter what he did, that he'd never be one of them. His fingers stroked the card the mysterious Helen Cutter... maybe not so mysterious, as he'd seen Cutter's file and Helen was the spitting image of Cutter's missing wife.

Before he could reconsider, Leek had called the number of the card and agreed to meet her. He’d then spent the next 45 minutes wondering if he’d done the right thing.

“Oliver?” Helen's voice broke into Leek's musings. “I hope you've changed your mind about helping me. The ARC is dealing with things they don't understand.”

Leek could agree with that, only the other day they'd almost unleashed a man-eating fungus on the city because they'd chosen the wrong method of dealing with it, but still, was this the right reaction to his near-death at the hands, or whatever they were of an ex-solider, now fungus. “I... don't know.”

Helen smiled and sat down opposite him. “I heard about today's events. Shocking how they left you to that creature.”

“They were trying to stop it.” Leek felt obliged to protest.

Helen shook her head. “I've seen the footage. Lester was more bothered about his suit than about you and Ms Maitland simply corralled most of the troops to rescue her menagerie.”

“Oh.” Leek hadn't known that and couldn't believe his colleagues would do that... but considering how he was treated by them... it held a ring of truth.

“I know you, Oliver, and not just from your file.” Helen sighed. “And I know Lester and Nick, neither of them will give you the respect you deserve, Oliver. Not until you show them what you are capable of.” Helen leaned forward, “And then you'll gain Lester's attention and... well, “ She fluttered her eyelashes although she left the rest of her sentence to Leek's imagination. “Let me help you help yourself, Oliver.” Helen paused before nodding, “In fact, Oliver, I can see you doing so well that you are put in charge of the ARC, with your pick of assistants.” She shrugged almost dismissively as she continued, “Even Lester, I imagine he'd be gratefully for a job after failing so spectacularly.”

Leek swallowed, his thoughts now on how he would run the ARC, maybe even, have Sir James at his beck and call and.... well, more would be very nice. He found himself nodding, “Okay, I'll do it. What do you need from me?”

It was only later, in the privacy of his own meagre flat, that Leek wondered if he had made the correct choice, until he remembered how he had been treated. How nothing he did was good enough, and now it was time he show them all what he was made of. When he succeeded and they came to him to apologise... he was sure he would accept them gracefully... and Sir James would realise they were meant to be together. Leek smiled, oh yes, the world would be perfect and all because he'd accepted Helen's help instead of chasing after her and trying to arrest her.

Well, it would be perfect if Helen remembered to stop flashing her cleavage at him.