Author's Notes/Summary/timing/etc: my first ABC story - for the 2nd round… that's all I'm going to say...
Written: March 10-14, 2001
Archive: with all the other ABC stories; at fanfiction.net, and I'd be honored to be elsewhere, just email me and let me know where
My ego loves praise. The realist in me needs truthful comments (good and bad). I can handle flames too - after all, in order to barbecue, the flames have to get rather hot, and I like my steak really thick…
"Sorry, sorry… I… oh, Lee, um, sorry."
Francine Desmond shook her head. She was surprised that Amanda King had lasted at The Agency as long as she had. No one could ever elicit such an exasperated reaction from Lee Stetson and still survive. He usually drove people to quit.
Amanda King was no quitter, Francine thought sourly, but at least *she* didn't have to be cooped up in the Q-Bureau with Lee all day. Then again, with the exception of the last few minutes, he had been in a rather quirky mood lately. Francine would have thought, well, that Stetson was in love. She laughed to herself, 'Yeah, right. Stetson in love… and I'd wear something off-the-rack.'
They were gathered in the lobby of the Quartermaster's office, waiting for him to show up. Amanda had picked up some arrows and had managed to get one speared through the tail of Lee's suit jacket, without harm to him, but that jacket would never be wearable again.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. King, Scarecrow… Francine." Leatherneck arrived, and noticing the situation - Amanda trying to pull at the arrow and Lee trying to convince her not to - pulled out a pair of pliers, and gently moving Amanda aside, snapped the arrow in two. The two pieces fell from the jacket on the basis of their own weight. "Mrs. King, you need to be careful around this sort of equipment."
"Oh, Leatherneck, I'm sorry. I've just never seen a full quiver before, and, well… Oh Lee, I'm so sorry…" She still looked worried about having ruined Lee's jacket.
"A brand new jacket, Amanda. Brand new. Specifically tailored for me. In London. Did I mention that it was brand new?" Lee looked over at Amanda, who was busy looking at her feet. Gone was the self-confident agent, and in her place was the clumsy housewife of years past.
"Lee, I'm so sorry." Amanda said this so quietly that her companions hardly heard her.
"Scarecrow, give Mrs. K a break, it's just a jacket." Leatherneck immediately was met with a cold hard stare, and quickly picked up the destroyed arrow.
An hour later, over lunch, Amanda was still trying to apologize to Lee. She had offered to buy lunch, and he was busy quenching his appetite, while Amanda simply picked at her spinach quiche.
"Lee, I'm so sorry about your jacket. And I know it was brand new, there was no reason to remind me of that. I still don't understand how I could have managed to spear your jacket without hurting you-"
"Just lucky I guess," Lee interrupted her rambling. He was still steamed, but the roast quail he was eating seemed to temporarily quell his anger.
"I suppose I could find a way to replace it. If I pass the next round of exams, I'll qualify for a promotion and a raise." There was no arguing about the quantitative and qualitative exam work of Amanda King - she had more experience than most field agents, and she deserved the grades she received.
"Amanda, you know as well as I do that you couldn't possibly afford to replace that jacket. But I still can't believe that you speared it like you did. Didn't your mother teach you to keep your hands to yourself?" Lee looked up in time to see a hurt look pass across Amanda's face. He had just stepped into the quicksand, and thought quickly as to how to get out. She looked back down quickly to her lunch, and that's when he first noticed that she had barely touched her food. "Amanda, you need to eat. Don't worry about the jacket. I wasn't hurt, so all's well that ends well, right?" He went back to picking apart the quail to try and avoid looking back up.
Amanda was pretty concerned that this wasn't ending well, but Lee was finishing off his meal fairly quickly, and seemed to be in a hurry to return to The Agency. Amanda was determined that they were going to continue this conversation later.
"Lee, I need to run a few errands, so I'm just going to go home from here. Is there anything you need? I'd be happy to pick it up for you." 'Like a plane ticket to London to replace that jacket I ruined," Amanda thought.
"No. Not really. Oh, um, could you pick up a quart of milk for the fridge in the Q-Bureau?" When Amanda had errands to run, inevitably, one of those errands had to be to the grocery store, and in the guilty mood she was in, he knew that even if she wasn't going, she would because he had asked.
Later that night, Amanda was just finishing up the dinner dishes when a quiet knock sounded at the back door. Before she knew what was happening, her mother had come into the room, opened the door, and started querying Lee as to why he was always compelled to knock on the door when he had been dating her daughter for two years and was perfectly welcome to come in the front door.
Amanda watched the two adults quarrel for a few minutes before she interrupted. "Mother, Lee, please stop. Mother, Lee comes to the back door when the house is dark so that he doesn't disturb anyone with the doorbell. You know as well as I do that you can't hear someone knocking at the front door when you're back here in the kitchen."
"Amanda, darling, that's nonsense. He can use the doorbell, I don't mind being disturbed by Lee's late night visits, and I know you aren't either. And don't look so shocked, I know all about them." With that, Dotty West turned and quickly went back up the stairs to bed.
Lee stared after Dotty, his mouth slightly open. "Uh, how… Amanda… she…" He gave up trying to communicate his astonishment.
"Oh Lee, I'm so sorry about -"
"Amanda, Amanda, don't worry about it. I'm just concerned that if your mother has caught our little meetings on the q.t., who else might have?" Lee looked genuinely concerned about this situation, but Amanda waved that away.
"Lee, I was going to say how sorry I am about your jacket. I really could have hurt you this morning at Leatherneck's, and I will replace the jacket, and-"
"Amanda. Enough. What's your fixation with the jacket? It's just a jacket." Lee found himself saying this as much for his benefit as for hers. "By the way, did you pick up that quart of milk for the Q-Bureau?"
"Yes, I did. Lee, we need to talk about this."
"What's there to talk about? It's done. The jacket is ruined, I'm not hurt. And thank you for picking up the milk."
"Lee, that jacket was quite expensive, and it wasn't easy arranging with Emily halfway across the world to surprise you for that fitting. And before you say anything more, buster," she held one finger up for emphasis, as she closed her eyes and shook her head once, "I will find a way to replace that jacket. I ruined it, and it's my responsibility. And what's so important, for that matter, about the milk? And is that what we've been doing, meeting on the q.t.?"
"Amanda, listen to me. It's just milk. It's not important." That's when Lee took note of that old familiar hurt look in his wife's eyes. He sank further into the quagmire that he had stepped into earlier that day at lunch. "Oh, I've really screwed up now, haven't I?"
Before either of them could speak, Dotty was back down the stairs.
"Yes, you have. Now you two are going to explain to me why you're
quibbling over milk? Whatever is so important about milk?"
Dotty had a look on her face that would rival any cat looking over it's
rodent quarry. "And why are you, how did you put it, 'meeting on
the q.t.' After all, that's the sort of things spies would say."
She stood and folded her arms across her chest, waiting for an answer.
Lee and Amanda looked at each other and started laughing uncontrollably. Amanda almost doubled over, and Lee leaned his arm over her shoulders for balance. Dotty looked from one to the other, wondering who had gone mad, and what she had said that was so funny.
Amanda gasped for breath. "Not exactly," was about all she could manage before another spasm of laughter hit her. Lee helped her straighten up, his face red from laughing, and stated as seriously as he could, "Coffee." Amanda looked at him, immediately understood why he wanted the milk, and nodded. Still laughing, they headed out the back door.
Dotty stood there, shaking her head, looking after the two for a moment.
"They're quibbling over coffee? I am never going to
understand those two."