Triennial – conclusion

>>>SMK<<<

Agency Conference Room

Friday, 9:30 AM

“Everyone clear on their assignments?” A quick scan around the room showed nods of assent from each agent present at the meeting. Lee gathered up the papers spread across the table, tapping them gently to neaten the stack, and sat back down next to his wife, turning the meeting over to Billy.

“Okay, people, let’s roll. Watch your backs. We don’t need any dead heroes.” Billy dismissed the briefing and turned to Amanda. “I’ll meet you out front.” He closed the conference room door behind him, leaving them alone.

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay here?”

“Lee, I thought we’d settled this last night. I’m going to do my job and coordinate this mission.”

“But-” She placed her fingers over his lips, halting his words.

“I’m going to be fine.” Amanda took his hand and rested it on her stomach. “We are going to be fine. Billy’ll be there. I won’t be alone.”

He could feel the baby move. First, a firm nudge against his palm, then a soft flutter as the baby moved to a new spot. He caressed Amanda’s stomach, following the movement of their child. His heart caught, emotion clogged his throat, and he smiled. If he looked in a mirror, he’d probably see a goofy grin displaying both dimples.

She was right, of course. She’d be fine. He was just being overprotective. He couldn’t help it; sometimes the mere thought of possibly losing everything scared the hell out of him. If he could, he’d place his family inside a giant bubble and never let them out. “Come on, let’s go and make some history.”

He held the door open, and once they stepped over the threshold, he wrapped his arm around her waist and escorted her to the waiting communications van.

>>>SMK<<<

Agency Bullpen

Friday, 9:45 AM

Francine watched as the team of agents filed out of the conference room, picking up their gear as they went. She wished she could join them on this mission, but someone had to stay behind and hold down the fort. Besides, she still had some last minute things to do for tonight’s party.

The excited chatter and general din of hustling agents died, leaving the Bullpen feeling empty. Francine filled her coffee mug, grabbed her file of party paraphernalia, and the morning reports, and settled comfortably behind Billy’s desk. She’d closed the door behind her, shutting out the usual office noises of ringing phones and clacking keyboards.

Between updating the suits on the Hill and the mundane tasks of scheduling assignments and Station One rosters, she called the caterers, florist, and disc jockey to reconfirm the timetable set for the shindig.

Keeping her fingers crossed that no new crisis would arise, she made an appointment with her hairdresser and manicurist. Of course, everything hinged on her getting out of work early.

She had agreed to meet Dotty at the Community Center at six. The caterer planned to arrive then, and he demanded they be there to show him where to set up the food. Plus, she wanted to talk to the DJ one more time before the guests started to arrive.

The morning flew by without any major disasters. She reviewed the evening dispatches from the European sectors over lunch, flagging anything she felt warranted closer attention and making notes on things she thought Billy might want to keep an eye on.

The door to the office opened, and she looked up into the unsmiling face of her section chief. She didn’t have to ask how it went; she could see for herself.

However, just like the proverbial cat, she had to know all the gritty details. “So, judging by the scowl on your face, things didn’t go according to plan, did they?”

“Well, Lee’s information was dead on, and we managed to take an estimated fifteen million dollars worth of drugs off the street. Not to mention the crates of weapons, but we lost Santiago. I swear that man could put Houdini to shame. We had him boxed in, and he managed to disappear on us. We think he jumped into the back of a sanitation truck and rode out the side gate.”

“Ouch.” She winced. “And which of our stellar colleagues faced the wrath of Scarecrow?”

“Fuller.”

“Fuller, the germophobe? The guy’d work in a hazmat suit if he could. There’d be no way he’d go near a garbage truck.”

“I almost felt sorry for him. Lee really let him have it with both barrels. If Amanda hadn’t been there, Fuller probably would have ended up hospitalized.”

“So where is mister calm, cool, and collected?” she quipped.

“I left them in debriefing. He’s either torturing Franklin or wearing a hole in the carpet, waiting for Amanda to finish being debriefed.” He checked his watch. “It’s almost three-thirty, why don’t you get out of here. I’ll see you tonight at the party.”

Taking her party file with her, she detoured to her desk, gathered her purse and coat, and hightailed it out of the office before Billy could change his mind. If she caught the traffic just right, she’d make her nail appointment.

>>>SMK<<<

Q-Bureau

Friday, 4:30 PM

“I swear, Amanda, Fuller needs to go back to Station One. How could he let Santiago slip by him like that?” Lee unlocked the door to the Q and ushered Amanda inside.

“Well, that garbage truck was filthy, but you’re right. Arresting Santiago was more important than avoiding a few pesky germs.” She pulled out her chair, and he helped ease her into it. She sighed and rubbed her stomach.

Maybe he’d call Billy and tell him they’d hand in their reports on Monday. He could take Amanda home to rest. Oh, who was he kidding? She wouldn’t leave without handing in her report, no matter how exhausted she felt.

He dropped into the chair behind his desk and began to write his account of today’s mission. The faster he finished, the sooner Amanda could type it up for him and he could take her home. He’d type it up himself, but with his wonderful typing skills, it would take twice as long and she would only have to retype it anyway.

Lee put his pen down and reread his report once more, before handing it to Amanda. He hadn’t thought it would take over an hour to write it up, and he hoped it would take her less time to type. He really wanted to get her home so she could put her feet up and relax.

She typed steadily, calling him over every now and then to interpret his chicken scratches. She’d just about finished when a soft knock sounded on the door.

He walked over and unlocked the door, opening it wide. Billy stood on the threshold, a thick packet tucked under his arm.

Lee pointed at the envelope. “You’re not bringing that in here! It’s late. I want to get Amanda home. Whatever it is can wait until Monday.”

Billy ignored him and stepped into the office. “Amanda, I realize you’re getting ready to go home, but I’d really appreciate it if you’d help me out.”

Amanda extended her hand to their boss, and he placed the packet into her open palm. “I’d be happy to. What do you need me to do?”

“A-man-da,” Lee growled. They’d disregarded his objections and continued as if he wasn’t even in the room.

“This just came in from Dulles and needs to be transcribed tonight. I don’t have anyone in the steno pool with the right security clearance.”

“I’d be happy to do it, sir.”

Lee huffed out a breath and plowed his fingers through his hair. He sighed in defeat. There was no way he’d win this battle.

“Thank you, Amanda. You can just give it to Agent Saunders when you’re through. I owe you one.”

“I will, sir, and you’re welcome.”

Lee held the door open for Billy and closed it tight, locking it again.

Amanda had already donned her headset and started the cassette.

Picking up the newspaper, he plopped down on the sofa and settled in to wait for his wife to finish her latest project. The steady rat-a-tat-tat of the typewriter lulled him, and he began to nod off.

The shrill ring of the telephone made him jump. His heart pounding, he stumbled to his desk to answer the call.

“Stetson.”

The frantic voice of his mother-in-law greeted him. She rambled on about party decorations, car trouble, and her friend going to the mechanic and leaving her stranded. She spoke so quickly and continuously he wondered how she didn’t pass out from lack of oxygen.

“So, will you do it?” she asked.

Unfortunately, once he’d determined she wasn’t in any danger, he’d tuned her out. “I’m sorry, Dotty. Will I do what?”

“Pick me up, of course.” After answering his question, she prattled on again about how distracted he had been lately, maybe he should get more rest, and if he ate a healthy breakfast, he wouldn’t be lethargic during the day.

“Because,” he mouthed along with her, “after all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

He really couldn’t listen any longer and absently told her they’d swing by and pick her up on the way home from work. It’d be about another hour, and he asked if she’d be able to wait for them until then.

Dotty agreed to wait, and he hung up the phone. He returned to the couch and resumed reading the sports page.

He’d just finished reading about a player swap between the Capitals and the New York Rangers. The deal should give the Caps a solid forth line for the remainder of the season.

Then he heard the distinctive z-z-zip-p-p of paper pulled from between typewriter rolls. Amanda had finally finished transcribing the tape for Billy. He walked to her desk, tossing the newspaper in the trash. “Your mother called and asked if we could pick her up at the Community Center.”

“She mentioned going there to decorate for her club’s Valentine’s Day party. But I thought she was riding over with Mrs. Garvey.” Amanda dropped the cassette and the transcription into an evidence bag and gathered her belongings.

“Evidently she had some trouble with her car and brought it to the garage, leaving Dotty stranded. Wha’d'ya say after we pick up Dotty, we swing by Tony’s and bring a couple of pizzas home?”

“It’s all right with me, but you know how the boys feel about pizza.” She winked. “It’s going to be tough to get them to eat any.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he teased. “Maybe we’d better get three pies.”

Hand in hand, they went down to the Bullpen to see Agent Saunders, before leaving for the weekend.

* * * *

They’d encountered heavy traffic on the way to Arlington. The dashboard clock read eight-ten by the time Lee pulled the Jeep into the empty parking lot.

Just as he got out from behind the wheel, his mother-in-law rushed out the door and strode across the parking lot.

“Oh, Lee, thank you for rescuing me. I have one more favor to ask you. Will you carry out some boxes for me?”

Before he had time to agree, she’d opened Amanda’s door and tugged her out of the car. “Amanda dear, you’ve just got to see the hall. I can’t believe how wonderful it looks. We did a pretty nice job on the old place, if I do say so myself.”

Dotty wrapped one arm around him and the other around his wife and marched them into the Community Center lobby. Amanda broke free and headed into the rest room.

“So where are these boxes you need me to carry?”

“Oh, Lee, let’s wait for Amanda, then we can all go inside together.” Dotty tightened her grip on his arm, keeping him in the hallway.

Just then, Amanda emerged from the women’s room. Dotty caught her arm again and led them to the double doors.

He held the door open, and Dotty slipped past Amanda and entered the room first.

Amanda stepped in front of him, and he placed his hand on the small of her back.

The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. Something was off. The room seemed too dark. He nudged Amanda behind him and reached into his jacket to reach for his weapon.

“SURPRISE!”

The lights blazed on, and he blinked. He quickly scanned the room.

His mother-in-law and Philip stood in front of them, holding up a sign that read “Happy Anniversary, Amanda and Lee.” Billy and Jeannie stood off to the side near the light switch, and Francine stood slightly behind Dotty, wearing a big silly smile.

When Jamie snapped their picture, Lee saw dots flash before his eyes. His heartbeat returned to normal, and he surveyed the room again.

Amanda appeared at his side and snuggled her hand in his. “Oh my gosh!”

It seemed that half the Agency stood in front of him. Leatherneck, Beaman, Mrs. Marston, Gino from the motor pool, Rosie from accounting, and even Stan from Crypto. To Lee’s immense surprise, Dr. Smyth-sans cigarette-honored them with his presence.

Amanda’s family had come to celebrate, too. Aunt Lillian, Uncle Herman-all the way from Vermont-and even Joe and his wife, Carrie. Not to mention most of the neighborhood. The Garveys, the Fergusons, the Eberhearts, the Petersons, Edna Gilstrap, and Buck-wearing a tie, no less. All were smiling at them.

Dotty came forward, threaded her arms with theirs again, and escorted them to a table in the middle of the room. Philip and Jamie fastened the homemade banner to the wall, and Francine hung their coats in the closet.

The pop of champagne corks echoed throughout the room. All the guests lifted their glasses while Billy toasted them. He congratulated them and wished them long life and happiness. When he took the credit for putting them together in the first place, laughter erupted.

Lee touched his glass to Amanda’s. She took just a sip of the bubbly and leaned over to kiss him.  The crowed applauded, and he kissed her again.

Music spilled out of the speakers, and the DJ invited them to open the dancing.

He led Amanda onto the small dance floor, snuggling her as close as he could in his embrace.  She rested her head on his shoulder and kissed his neck ever so gently.

“So, did you know about this?” he whispered.

“Not a clue.  You?”

“No, but it explains a lot. Like all the whispering between the boys. I suspected something was up, but I thought it was about the new girl in Jamie’s photography class. I’ve been patiently waiting for him to ask for some advice. After all, I’ve had some luck with women.”

She chuckled and nestled into his embrace.

The DJ invited other couples to dance, and the small space soon became crowded.

He led Amanda around the floor once more. When a table heaped with festively wrapped boxes caught his eye, he ushered her over for a closer look. He couldn’t begin to imagine what could be in some of the oddly shaped boxes and hoped he’d be able to squeeze them into the back of the Jeep.

When the music changed to something slow and dreamy, the DJ announced dinner was served.

Lee ushered his wife back to their table, allowing the guests the first opportunity to fill their plates. “I guess this means we won’t be stopping for pizza.”

Amanda rubbed her stomach. “Don’t be too sure of that. Your child just may need a slice or two to tide him or her over.”

He placed his hand on her stomach and rubbed along with her. He leaned down and spoke directly to his child. “You don’t want pizza. Grandma and your brothers went to a lot of trouble getting this party together, and you are going to be happy with whatever Mommy feeds you.” The baby kicked him. Whether it was in agreement or not, he didn’t know.

“Hey, you two, Grandma had some help with all this. She couldn’t have done it without Francine,” Dotty said.

“At least that explains why Francine’s been so jumpy lately,” Amanda replied.

The line at the buffet thinned out, and hand in hand, they walked over to get something to eat. He piled his plate high with stuffed mushrooms, clams casino, shrimp Parmesan, a smidgen of coq au vin, and a bit of sausage and peppers, topping it all off with some chicken Marsala.

Amanda helped herself to a little chicken Marsala, some egg noodles, and salad. He carried both plates back to the table.

Once everyone finished eating, the DJ played more dance music. Lee walked over to his mother-in-law and asked her to dance. She readily agreed and placed her hand in his, and he escorted her to the dance floor. He confidently guided Dotty around, keeping time with the tempo.

“So are you enjoying yourself?” Dotty asked.

“Yes.” He should say more, but his heart lodged in his throat and he couldn’t seem to get the words past it. Still, he should at least try to say something. “Thank you doesn’t seem to be enough. Dotty, I-”

She placed her finger over his lips. “I know, Lee. I should be thanking you. Amanda has never been happier, even when she was married to Joe. If you breathe a word of that to anyone, I’ll deny it. And the boys are growing into fine young men, thanks to you. So you see, this little party here, it’s the least I can do for you.”

As far as he was concerned, he was the lucky one. He’d never thought he’d be this happy. When the song ended, he brought Dotty back to her date.

He needed to thank Francine. She sat with Amanda, so he walked over to her, took her hand, and led her to the dance floor. He held her close as they glided around the floor.

After a few moments, he pulled back and looked into her eyes. “Thank you, Francine.”

“You’re welcome.” She rested her chin on his shoulder, and they finished the dance in silence.

Amanda danced with both of her sons, Billy, Buck, Uncle Herman, and-much to Lee’s chagrin-Joe.

The old green-eyed monster showed its face. He quickly beat it back and danced with Carrie. He really liked her, and the four of them got along fairly well. Of course, he got the better end of the deal.

He also cut the rug with Jeannie, Mrs. Marston, and Aunt Lillian. Amanda cut in, and he finally got his wife back in his arms. He wasted no time drawing her as close to his body as she could get. They weren’t actually dancing, more like swaying to the music. When the DJ announced it was time to cut the cake, their euphoria ended.

The dancing ceased. Francine and Dotty wheeled out a three-tiered confection decorated with pink and yellow flowers and topped with a plastic bride and groom.

Everyone sang “Happy Anniversary,” while he held his hand over Amanda’s and they jointly cut the cake. It was delicious, and he was shocked to learn that Dotty had baked it herself. He couldn’t have been more stunned if someone told him Francine had baked it. This was the best party ever.

One by one, the guests headed home, stopping by and wishing them a happy anniversary on their way out.

Billy and Jeannie came over and sat with them for a bit, before saying good night. Billy kissed Amanda. “You look tired. Get some rest over the weekend.” He turned and hugged Lee. “You see that she does. Oh, and I took you both off the duty roster for Monday. Have a nice long weekend.”

“Gee, thanks, Billy. We appreciate that.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Lee took a good long look at his wife. Billy was right. She looked exhausted. He corralled the boys, and together they loaded the gifts into the back of the Jeep, leaving Amanda to convey their thanks to the rest of the departing guests.

He crammed the last box into the back of the car and headed back inside to collect his wife. “The car’s all loaded. Come on, Amanda, let me take you home to bed.”

She wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head against his chest. “That’s the best offer I’ve heard all day.” Her hands traveled down over his bottom. She gave him a light squeeze. “We can continue with our own private celebration.”

He kissed the top of her head. “I’m sure that can be arranged. We need to say goodbye to Francine. Did you see where she went?”

“I think she’s in back with Mother, dealing with the leftovers.”

>>>SMK<<<

Arlington Community Center Kitchen

Saturday, 12:30 AM

Francine smiled. The party had been a success. Not that she’d worried or anything. Okay, maybe concern that Lee or Amanda would find out beforehand and ruin the surprise had given her one or two anxious moments. But they hadn’t, and she’d actually had a good time tonight.

She covered the last tray of food and placed it into the box. Dotty’d invited her to dinner on Sunday to help finish off the leftovers, and she was looking forward to it.

A lone bottle of Dom sat on the counter. She picked it up and expertly popped the cork. Champagne bubbled and fizzed over the top of the bottle, running in rivulets down the side to pool on the floor.

She poured a generous amount into two paper cups and handed one to Dotty. “To us and a job well done.” They touched their cups together and downed the contents in one swallow.

Lee entered the kitchen. “There you ladies are. We’re ready to leave. We’ve had a long day, and I want to get Amanda home to rest. Everything was marvelous. Dotty, do you still need a ride home?”

“No, thanks.”

“Okay, we’ll see you tomorrow.”

Dotty carried the box of food out of the kitchen and gave a final wave goodbye, leaving Francine alone with Lee.

He kissed her gently on both cheeks. “Thanks, pal.”

“You’re welcome, Lee.” She wrapped her arm around his waist, and they walked out of the kitchen together.

Francine watched him tenderly ease Amanda off her chair and lead her out the door. The smiles on their faces made all the agonizing details and annoying phone calls worth it.

She smiled. “Operation AnniPar” had gone off without a hitch. She picked up her mink coat, and, after shutting off the lights, she closed the door to the Center behind her.

End

Author’s Note: You can see a photo of Lee’s leather jacket at this site:

http://www.brooksbrothers.com/IWCatProductPage.process?Merchant_Id=1&Section_Id=572&Product_Id=1370957&Parent_Id=569&default_color=Brown

Unfortunately, Amanda’s bracelet is a figment of my imagination, so I don’t have a photo to show you.

12 Comments

  • By Anne, February 6, 2009 @ 7:08 pm

    Cute Anniversary episode for Lee and Amanda, Sue. I love a snarky Francine. It was nice of Dotty and Francine to throw a surprise party for L&A.

  • By Jennifer Cannon, February 6, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

    This was a wonderful Anniversary episode, Sue–I loved it all but I especially loved the bits where Lee feels his child move and then kicks him *L* Thank you for putting a big smile on my face :)

  • By Jennifer Cannon, February 6, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

    I meant then the child kicks Lee–sorry, can’t type tonight. But this was a wonderful story :)

  • By Heather, February 6, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

    Thanks for a great episode. It had a little danger, a little intrigue, and a lot of fun!

  • By Loretta, February 8, 2009 @ 6:47 am

    great episode. really enjoyed it.

  • By Mary R., February 8, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

    Very nice anniversary episode. There are so many sweet, tender parts — Lee as the doting expectant father, Francine the rock solid friend to Lee and Amanda, and Dotty’s deep appreciation for her son-in-law. I loved the part where Dotty tells Lee that Amanda has never been happier — even with Joe.

    Thanks for sharing your talent.

  • By Adda, March 9, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

    Cute story!!!! I love the parts where he is rubbing her belly. It’s so intimate!

  • By theresa, April 7, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

    I couldn’t read part one. When I clicked on it part two opened. ????

    Loving all these episodes you are all wonderful

  • By admin, April 7, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

    Thanks for the heads up theresa I will check on the link and fix it right now!

  • By calinour72, April 21, 2009 @ 9:59 pm

    I loved the scene where Lee is going up the stairs and Francine leers at his but and thinks of her conversation with Amanda about chaps and no pants–hilarious

  • By Terry Kay, August 5, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

    Good one! I love a good Francine story. And the bit about the chaps.. oh, what ideas you put in my head! Thank you!

  • By berniej, August 21, 2009 @ 1:41 am

    I would have loved a scene between Dottie and Francine…can you just imagine it..lol

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Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Enterprises. No infringement is intended. This is written for entertainment purposes only.