Partners In Crime
Disclaimer: The usual
disclaimers apply. The SMK characters and the Agency belong to Warner Brothers,
Shoot the Moon Productions, and a bunch of other lucky folks. I am borrowing
them for my own enjoyment, and I'm not profiting from doing so.
season, shortly after "Promises To Keep."
Summary: This is my story
for the smkfanfic title challenge. How did Amanda and Lee deal with Francine's
unsolicited advice about their relationship?
In Canon or AU? Only
Francine's hairdresser knows for sure.
Thanks to Amy for providing a
great title. I doubt this is what she had in
mind, but it's what happened when my fingers hit the keyboard . . . . Thanks
also to Kim for remaining patient for a day and a half while I obsessed over one
word and to Dix for her judicious use of the oomph-meter.
Archive: Just the
smkfanfic archive, since the story is a challenge for
Feedback: Yes, all
feedback is welcome and appreciated.
Amanda King fidgeted almost
imperceptibly in the wide corridor outside the
Agency bullpen. As the elevator slid open, she stepped quickly inside and
pressed the button for the Georgetown foyer, then waited impatiently for the
door to close. Straightening the drab overcoats, she pretended she didn't hear
the imperious voice calling her name and the sharp tap of high-heeled shoes
coming rapidly nearer. When the elevator finally began
its ascent, she closed her eyes and exhaled softly. Three times in as many
hours, she had just managed to slip away. She didn't know how much longer her
luck would hold.
Pushing aside the coats to exit,
she found herself face to face with her
fiance, and her heart skipped a beat. She hadn't seen him since the previous
afternoon, and it was difficult to maintain a professional facade when she
longed to throw herself into his arms. With effort, she schooled her features
into a polite greeting and forced her hands to her sides. "You don't
want to go down that way, Lee," she said quietly, hoping to avoid the
attention of the steely-haired IFF receptionist. "I barely escaped Francine
on my way up."
A look of annoyance crossed
Lee's face, extinguishing his welcoming smile.
"We're going to have to do something about that," he grumbled. After a
quick glance over his shoulder, to where Mrs. Marston was occupied with a phone
call, he grabbed Amanda's hand and pulled her upstairs into the privacy of the Q
Bureau. Locking the door with a snap, he turned and wrapped his arms around her,
pulling her firmly against his chest. "After
we take care of more important matters," he added in a husky whisper.
As he lowered his head and
pressed his lips to hers, Amanda felt herself
melt. No matter how many times Lee kissed her, it always felt like the first
time. For a long moment, she lost herself in the pleasure of his embrace,
blocking out everything except the heady sensations of his warm mouth against
her own and his potent muscles rippling beneath her fingertips. Finally finding
the strength to pull back slightly, she sighed. "Ummm. As pleasant as this
is, I don't think it's quite the solution to our problem," she murmured
Lee raised his head with a
rueful chuckle. "Yeah," he agreed, stepping
back a half pace and shoving his hands into his pockets. "So, what are we
gonna do? I don't think I can handle many more lectures on my scorched earth
policy toward relationships."
As the intoxicating effect of
his caresses began to clear from Amanda's
mind, her thoughts refocused on their immediate dilemma. "I'd like to
remind you that *you* have the easy part," she lectured, tapping one finger
against his chest for emphasis. "You just have to listen. She wants *me* to
tell her all the juicy details of our breakup. And I don't know how much longer
I'm going to be able to avoid her."
Lee rolled his eyes. "Maybe
you should make something up," he suggested
with a shrug. "She wants to hear a melodrama, so you should give her
Amanda shook her head, her eyes
troubled. "I'm not going to lie to her,
Lee. I understand why we need to keep our engagement a secret, but I tell too
many lies as it is. "
After studying her solemnly for
a moment, the corners of Lee's mouth began
to quiver, and his eyes began to twinkle. "You don't have to lie . . .
Amanda stared at him
questioningly. He couldn't possibly expect her to
tell Francine the truth: far from breaking up, they were engaged to be married.
"What do you mean, I don't have to lie *exactly*?"
"I mean," he replied
with a wicked smile, "you can tell her enough of the
truth to get her off our backs. You don't have to lie, just make it a crime of
omission." Leaning toward her again, he whispered into her ear, and her
eyebrows shot up at the suggestion.
"She won't believe
me," Amanda stated emphatically, "and she definitely
won't drop the subject. She'll have you cornered within ten minutes."
"I won't be here," he
reminded her, glancing at his wristwatch. "I have
an appointment with Capitol Security in thirty minutes, and I doubt I'll be back
before four o'clock."
"You don't think she'll
give up that easily, do you?" Amanda countered,
reaching out almost automatically to straighten his tie. "Francine's
nothing if not persistent."
"Then we'll be partners in
crime, won't we?" Lee teased as he dropped a
light kiss on her nose. "You may be the one who studied drama in college,
but I think I can put on a pretty good act if I need to."
Amanda pursed her lips
thoughtfully. She had misgivings about the
'mystery' aspect of their upcoming marriage -- the amount of subterfuge involved
seemed almost overwhelming at times. But they had to get Francine off their
backs, even if it was only long enough to give them some breathing room.
"All right," she agreed with an uncertain shake of her head. "But
no lies," she insisted.
"Deal," Lee agreed
with a grin. "No lies."
Allowing herself to be cornered
by Francine was far easier than her earlier
avoidance tactics. Amanda simply delivered a stack of files to the Bullpen and
then stepped into an unoccupied conference room on the pretext of making a phone
call. She hadn't even taken a seat before Francine stalked through the door,
closed it firmly, and folded her arms across her chest -- tapping one foot
testily against the carpeted floor.
"If I didn't know better,
I'd think you were avoiding me." the blonde woman
chided, as though speaking to a recalcitrant child. "You haven't told me
about your break-up with Lee yet."
"I know, Francine,"
Amanda replied, trying to sound both apologetic and
despondent. "It's just really hard to talk about right now. I'm sure I did
the right thing, but that doesn't make it any easier."
"You'll feel better if you
talk about it," the blonde woman cajoled,
changing her tone to a contradictory mixture of false warmth and grudging
respect. "And, let's face facts, Lee Stetson isn't someone you can talk
over with your mother or your little PTA friends. You need to talk to someone
who really understands what you're going through." As she spoke, Francine
began pacing a tight circle just inside the conference room door, as though she
expected Amanda to attempt to bolt from the room.
Amanda sighed and looked at the
floor. "You're right," she said weakly,
clasping and unclasping her hands in front of her. Taking a deep, shaky breath,
she plunged on. "To tell you the truth, Francine, I really didn't want to
say 'no.' I mean, I really care about Lee, and the ring was beautiful, and he
did seem so . . . so . . . well . . . so sincere. But you know his reputation;
you warned me about him. It's just so hard to believe that he would actually go
to such lengths to . . . well . . . you know . . . ." Amanda's voice
trailed off, and she glanced up covertly to gauge her co-worker's reaction.
Francine's blue eyes had
widened, and disbelief was apparent in her
features. "Ring?" she gasped, suddenly coming to a dead stop as though
frozen in place.
For some inane reason, Amanda
was reminded of small boys and girls playing
"Statue" on her front lawn. Nodding her head sadly, she held her left
hand in front of her and focused on the bare ring finger for several seconds
before letting out another, even more dramatic, sigh. "Yeah. It was really
beautiful . . . It was perfect," she breathed with a faint shake of her
Francine opened and closed her
mouth a few times, but no words came out.
After a moment, however, she seemed to pull herself together. Fixing Amanda with
a penetrating stare, she demanded sharply, "Amanda, are you telling me that
Lee Stetson actually asked you . . . asked you . . . ?" Francine's voice
apparently failed her again, and she pointed an accusing finger at Amanda's left
"Of course, it didn't come
as a complete surprise." Amanda ignored
Francine's question, staring into space as though lost in a painful memory.
"We've been dating for a while, and I'd thought about it. It's only natural
to think about it. But our lives are so different . . . I have mother and the
boys to consider . . . . " She paused only long enough to take another
shuddering breath, shifting her weight slightly from foot to foot. "Of
course, it's my own fault things got to this point. I never meant to mislead
Lee, and I certainly never meant to hurt him, but I haven't exactly been
discouraging him -- I mean, what woman in her right mind would discourage him .
. . ?"
As her voice trailed off, Amanda
raised her eyes, with what she hoped was a
plaintive look, and offered a guilty shrug. Francine seemed to be in a trance,
but she didn't dare take advantage of the other woman's uncharacteristic
speechlessness much longer -- the spell could snap at any time. On the other
hand, unlike lying to her mother and sons, this was actually kind of fun.
Straightening her shoulders, she finished in a rush. "But anyway, I
did let him know that we're still friends, and that I want to continue working
together. You think I did the right thing, don't you?" Reaching out
to pat Francine's arm, she slipped past her toward the conference room door.
"Of course you do," she answered her own question, "and I do
appreciate your concern, but I really don't think I can talk about it anymore .
. . I'm sure you understand."
"Oh, and Francine,"
she added just before she exited, "I'd really
appreciate it if you wouldn't mention this to anyone. It would be better for
both of us if no-one else knew." And she hurried away, leaving the blonde
staring after her in stunned surprise.
Late that afternoon, Amanda was
in the vault, finishing up the day's
filing, when Lee appeared in the doorway. Before she had an opportunity to greet
him, he put his finger to his lips. "Shhhh . . ." he whispered.
"Francine's right behind me. You can watch from here," he added with a
conspiratorial wink, "to keep me honest." He pushed the vault door
closed, leaving a gap large enough to allow her an unimpeded view of his desk.
Pressing her face against the
opening to observe the scene in the Q Bureau,
Amanda felt more like a Peeping Tom than a spy. She saw Lee move to the desk,
sit down, and turn his chair to face the window. With his right hand, he dug
into his jacket pocket and extracted a small velvet box, opening it to allow the
light from the window to glitter off the diamond ring inside. When a gentle rap
sounded on the door, Lee slumped into a dejected pose before calling out,
Amanda heard the faint squeak
that indicated the Q Bureau door had opened.
Almost simultaneously, Lee snapped the velvet box closed and pushed it back
into his jacket pocket.
"Lee?" Francine called
out softly, an atypical hesitancy in her voice.
"Yeah, Francine, come on
in." Lee slowly swiveled the chair to face her.
Amanda saw that he had managed to set his features into a sad, resigned mask --
and she had to stifle the gurgle of laughter that tickled her throat. Lee could
have been in movies, she realized. She had studied drama, but he was a natural
When Lee remained silent,
Francine stepped further into the room, to the
edge of Amanda's line of vision. "Uh . . . Lee . . . I couldn't help seeing
. . . ." She gestured toward the now concealed engagement ring.
"This?" Lee removed
the velvet box from his pocket a second time, gazed at
it dolefully, then set it on his desk without looking at his blonde co-worker.
"I've never felt this way about anyone before," he said morosely.
Shaking his head, he gave the unmistakable appearance of a rejected suitor.
"I didn't realize . . .
Although Amanda couldn't see the
blonde woman's face, she was surprised to
see Francine begin wringing her hands.
"And you call yourself a
spy?" Lee responded in a tone of false bravado.
"I know we were trying to be discreet, but I was pretty obvious, wasn't I?
She knew I hadn't dated anyone else for more than a year. Why would she act like
I was --" He looked up as though he had just stopped himself from revealing
"I don't . . . I mean . . .
well, you do have quite a reputation around
this place . . . ." Francine began backing toward the door again, out of
Amanda's sight. "You probably just need to give her a little more time.
You know, let her get used to the idea . . . ."
"No." Lee shook his
head again, emphatically this time. "Her mind's made
up . . . and it's probably best this way. We have dangerous jobs, and she has
her family to consider." Lee sighed and looked longingly toward Amanda's
desk. "At least she said we can still be friends, and we can still work
together. . . . I'd really hate to lose her as a partner; she's the best one
I've ever had."
"What are . . . you going
to . . . do with . . . ?" The words sounded so
strangled that Amanda felt a wave of sympathy.
Lee picked up the velvet box and
shrugged. "This? I guess it'll go back.
I'm never gonna give it to anyone else . . . so there's no point in carrying it
around." He turned to look toward the door. "Look, Francine,
you won't mention this to anyone, will you? It's going to be hard enough,
without everyone whispering behind our backs."
"No, no, no,"
Francine's strained voice carried from the doorway. "I won't
say a word about it . . . to anyone." A moment later, the door slammed.
"That was quite a
performance," Amanda stated quietly, stepping out of the
A playful grin appeared on Lee's
face. "Some of my best work," he quipped
as he crossed the room to her side, pausing only long enough to lock the entry
to the Q Bureau. "Although I'm not quite finished yet."
"You're not?" she
questioned, tilting her head to one side.
"Uh-uh." He reached
for her hand and led her to his desk. "I'm supposed
to be totally honest, remember?" Kissing her fingers gently and then
releasing them, he turned to open the velvet box. He carefully removed the
diamond ring and a delicate, yet sturdy, gold chain. Sliding the ring onto the
chain, he stepped behind her and fitted it around her neck. "There,"
he whispered as he turned her around and took her into his arms, "I told
Francine the ring had to go back. Now it's right where it belongs."