Summary: This is the follow up to "A Familiar Song" and "Second Verse, Same as the First". Thanks for asking for more!
Author's Notes: Thanks also to Aaron, for beta-reading this, and uploading it for me (darn those Mac/PC problems!)
She is just a friend, Scarecrow. Leave it at that.
But it had become harder and harder to do that lately. Lee realized as he walked from the bar to the Agency that that was part of the reason he'd been so hard on her lately. He'd started seeing her not just as his partner, but as a woman, one he wanted to get to know better. Then he'd panicked, and fell back on his old and admittedly bad habits, in a subconscious effort to keep some distance between them. He still wasn't sure how to handle these feelings he'd been having where Amanda was concerned, but this definitely wasn't the answer. He had to at least try to apologize for treating her so badly at work. He wasn't ready to think about the rest.
Smiling at the two women as he walked over, Lee put his plan into action.
"Hello Amanda, Francine," he began. He was going to have to ask her about that one - the two of them out together? It boggled the mind.
The cool responses he received told him that he had been at least one of the topics of conversation. This was not going to be easy.
"Ah, Amanda, I've got a report I need you to look at for me. Billy's been hounding me for it, but you know how I am with paperwork. If I don’t have you look at it now, he's just going to call you in to decipher it later. I know it's kind of late, but do you have a minute?"
She held her hand out for the report.
"Ah, well, I don't have it with me. It's up in the Q-Bureau. I wasn't sure when you'd be back, so I left it up there."
Amanda looked at Francine before answering. She was still surprised that she'd opened up to Francine, but there really wasn't anyone else she could talk to about the partnership she and Lee were supposed to have. Even more surprising had been Francine's support. They'd made a connection today, though Amanda had no doubt that it was a temporary one.
"Thanks again, Francine. I really appreciate it." She smiled warmly at the woman, but the warmth left her eyes as she looked at Lee. Her only answer for him was a curt nod as she started to go up to the Q-Bureau.
Lee could tell that Francine had a few choice words for him, but he wasn't in the mood to hear them, deserved though they may be.
"Just let it go, Francine," he said, then turned and followed Amanda out of the bullpen.
His nervousness increased as he got to the Q-Bureau door. Amanda still wasn't speaking to him, and her uncharacteristic silence was unnerving. They entered the office, and she held out her hand once again for the report. Lee picked it up, handed it to her, and then sat down and pretended to work on another piece of paperwork. He watched her out of the corner of his eye as she read, waiting for her reaction.
Amanda started to protest that she'd read the report already. It was in fact the report they had fought about earlier that day. What was he trying to do - he knew how she felt about this particular piece of paper. She thought about crumpling it up and throwing it in his face, but stopped when she saw him trying to pretend he wasn't watching her. He was up to something. Against her better judgement, Amanda decided to go along with whatever game Scarecrow was playing.
As she read, she realized that this wasn't exactly the same report she had seen earlier. Her eyes widened as she saw her name appear with increasing frequency - she'd barely been mentioned the first time. She sat down on the small couch, continuing to read. By the time she had finished, her eyes had become a little misty, and she had a smile on her face that lit up the room.
As she stared in wonder at the report, Lee got up from his desk and walked over to her. She didn't realize that he had moved until she heard him softly say her name.
"Lee, this is…" she began, still looking at the report in her hand, unsure of what to say.
He sat down next to her, leaning forward slightly, arms resting on his knees, hands clasped together.
"It's the report I should have written in the first place. The one I'm going to make sure Billy puts in the official records." He smiled gently at her, then looked down at his hands as he continued.
"I'm sorry, Amanda - sorry for the lousy way I've treated you lately. You don't deserve it - you're a hard worker, a fast learner, and," he looked up at her then, smiling shyly as he finished. "And there's no one else I'd want as my partner."
Amanda's smile grew brighter, and Lee finally relaxed as he realized that he hadn't lost the woman who meant… well, he still wasn't ready to go there.
Meanwhile, in another part of town…
Remington Steele had returned to the hotel expecting a continuation of the fight he'd walked out on. Instead, he'd found a message from Laura, asking him to meet her in the lobby, dressed for a night out. Puzzled, but pleased, he'd showered and changed, glad that he'd stopped drowning his sorrows at the bar when he did.
He'd made his way downstairs precisely at seven, not wanting to upset Laura by making her wait. He was glad that he hadn't - she'd come down a minute or two after he had. He didn't think he'd ever seen a woman more lovely. She'd walked up to him, smiling, and took the arm he offered, leading him to the car she had waiting.
He'd wanted to ask her what had happened to change her mood so drastically, but had held back, not wanting anything to break the mood. The two had passed the evening in pleasant conversation at a nearby restaurant. It was the most relaxed evening they'd shared in a long time, and Remington hated the thought of ruining it, but finally he could stand it no longer. He had to know.
"So, Laura, why are you treating me to dinner tonight? Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but after this afternoon…" He let the sentence trail off, not wanting to bring up any of the unpleasant details of their earlier disagreement.
Laura, appreciating his tact, smiled softly as she answered his question.
"Let's just say I had a bit of a wake up call this afternoon, Mr. Steele. It's just… well, it's hard for me sometimes. Watching you get the credit for my work, knowing that everyone just sees me as some kind of glorified secretary. I've worked very hard to get where I am, and to see you just waltz in and get the recognition for it…" She sighed heavily, and held up a hand to keep him from interrupting.
"At the same time, I have to admit that you have been helpful. I mean, at first, you really didn't do much - well, how much could you do? With no training, no experience, at least not on the side of those trying to solve the case, anyway. All you seemed to have to offer were a lot of old movie references that may or may not have had anything to do with the situation at hand. But you've really worked hard, learned a lot. I've had a hard time telling you, I guess because everyone else says it for me. I didn't think that maybe you'd need to hear me say it too. And for that, I'm sorry."
He accepted her apology with a smile. He reached for her hand, and brought it to his lips. Kissing it softly, he looked at her and spoke.
"That must have been some wake up call, Ms. Holt."
Laura thought back to the conversation she'd overheard at the cafe that afternoon. She hoped that things worked out as well for the unknown woman and her partner as they seemed to be for the two of them.
"It was indeed, Mr. Steele. It was indeed."