The disclaimer: none of these characters belong to me; they belong to Shoot the Moon Enterprises and Warner Bros to whom I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to take them out for a spin and bit of light humour.

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Betting on a great Christmas

It took Lee longer than Amanda thought it would. She was working inside the vault almost three days after the bar stakeout when she heard him call out from his desk in the Q Bureau in a voice that was just a little too casual.

"Hey did you hear Dave finally asked Roxanne out?"

"No I hadn't" she answered, trying to keep the laughter out of her voice. "But I heard that Leatherneck's been hanging around Research a little more often."

She only had time to count to three and then:

"Amanda? When is the Christmas party this year?"

"Next Thursday. Why? Are you actually thinking of showing up this year?"

"Um, yeah, I thought I might'

Amanda smiled to herself "Yeah, I thought you might too."

Lee appeared in the door of the vault and leaned in to drop a light kiss on her lips. "Well, you girls made it sound like so much fun with your war stories the other night, how could I resist showing up to watch?"

Amanda chuckled as she slid the files back in the drawer and pulled him further into the vault so she could put her arms around him. "I still wish I could have seen your face when I said Bela Spivak was a good kisser. Leatherneck told me you actually fell off your chair."

"Well, I'd leaned forward to hear better and it sort of slipped out from under me, but yeah, it must have been pretty funny. But if we're talking things we missed, I wish I could have seen the Grabber's face when you jabbed him with the shrimp fork." Lee's face darkened for a moment thinking about that until Amanda pulled him in close for a longer kiss, but they were interrupted by the sound of a quiet knock on the Q Bureau door.

Stepping around him and out of the vault, Amanda unlocked the door and found Katie, the young agent from last week's fake bridal party on the threshold looking anxious. "Katie? Is everything okay?"

"Um, well I'm not sure, and I'm not sure if I should tell someone or not, and I'm not even sure I should be worried, but it all seems kind of creepy and then I thought that since you were there at the bar when it all happened, maybe you were the person to tell." She stopped suddenly, gulping when Lee walked out of the vault and back to his desk.

"Amanda, have you been training the new agents in black belt confusion tactics?" he chuckled as he sat down.

Katie continued to stand there silently, looking from Amanda to Lee and back again with a worried expression. Amanda took her by the arm and led her to the sofa, pushing her to sit down before settling beside her. "Ignore him. He thinks he's cute."

"I am cute."

"Not that cute. Now, what's the problem?"

"Well, you know how you were telling us all those other stories the other night when we were on that stakeout?" Amanda nodded. "Well, Andrew – do you know Andrew? He came through training with me and he's working under Fred Fielder now. Anyway, I was telling him a bit about those stories when we were on lunch the other day – just the true ones – not the ones about…" She stopped again.

"Not the ones about Agent Beaman?" finished Lee, grinning at her. Katie paused, startled. "Katie, on a need to know basis, you should know nobody believed any of those party stories except maybe Dave."

"And Roxanne told him the truth right after he asked her out." added Amanda. "All the guys know we were just making it up for some fun."

"Well, that's just it" said Katie, looking uncomfortable. "Andrew says Mr. Fielder has been telling people those stories and he's got some sort of betting pool going on Mr. Beaman doing something embarrassing at this year's party but he told Andrew he was going to fix it somehow so that he'd win all the money and I think whatever it is will make Mr. Beaman look bad."

"That son-of-a—," Amanda stopped herself from finishing the thought she'd started

Lee started to laugh "Wait, before we go any further, I have to ask, was that two notes, Amanda, or is 'son-of-a—' considered four words?"

Amanda picked up a pillow from the sofa and threw it at him. "Not helpful, Stetson!" She turned back to Katie. "Ok, so what does Andrew say Fred is planning?"

"Well, he thinks it involves Miss Desmond," Katie began, only to be interrupted by a voice from the door.

"Sonovabitch!" Francine was standing in the doorway looking angry.

"Definitely one note that time" said Lee, quietly while Amanda tried not to laugh.

"Spill it, Agent Wright," said Francine, stepping into the room. "What's Fielder up to?" She sat down on the edge of Lee's desk, reaching back without looking to cuff him on the side of his head as he laughed and pretended to fend her off.

"It's not just one thing, that's the problem" said Katie unhappily. "I think he's got a whole bunch of different bets going on who's going to do what but he seems to think he's got some kind of inside line that'll make people lose and I think some of it is from using those stories you were telling the other night." She went on in a rush "And I checked with the other girls and none of us have repeated any of the ones we knew weren't true!"

It was just at that moment that Lee's phone rang. "Stetson" he answered and then his face broke into a grin. "Hey Paul! Are you in town?" He looked over the receiver at Amanda and mouthed "Wizard" before turning back to the phone. "Yeah, I'm free for lunch today – where do you want to meet? The Willard? Sure I can be there in fifteen minutes. Uh, Amanda? I'll check." He looked at Amanda and lifted a brow questioningly but she shook her head and pointed at Katie "No, she can't make it this time – apparently she's on a mission. Ok, see you in a few." He hung up and unfolded his tall frame out of his chair. "I trust you ladies can plan how to take down Fred without me but count me in on any dirty work." He winked at Amanda as he went out the door.

"You can bet on it" said Francine, hardly paying him attention. "Alright, what do we know and how do we make Fred pay?"

Katie was now looking even more worried. "Before we start, there's something you should know about me and Mr. Beaman…"

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Lee found Paul already seated at a quiet table near the back of the restaurant in the Willard Hotel. The booths at the Willard were famous in Washington for being a place where the city's movers and shakers could meet and talk without being overheard.

"Quite the old time spy spot to meet up, Wizard" laughed Lee as Paul stood up to shake his hand.

"Old habits die hard Scarecrow," Paul smiled at him. "And how is the lovely Amanda? I'm sorry she couldn't join us today."

"Amanda's great" Lee grin broadened just a bit as he mentioned her name, a fact not unnoticed by his old mentor. "She would have loved to see you but she and Francine are busy cooking up some karma for one of the office jerks as we speak. So what brings you to town anyway? I thought you were leaving spy work behind?"

"I'm appearing in front of the Senate Committee on Intelligence Organizations – can't really tell you much more than that at the moment." Paul paused before going on, "Did you know Senator Adams is the senior member on the committee though? He mentioned what a great job your Amanda did last week rescuing his daughter at that bar. You guys could probably ask that committee for the moon this week and he'd try and get it for you."

"She was pretty amazing. We didn't get to see it from the surveillance truck but Jeanie Melrose said later she'd never seen a champagne bottle take someone out so effectively since her last family wedding." Both men laughed before Lee went on. "Maybe I should try and get the senator to get Doctor Smyth reassigned. If it wasn't for him, Amanda and I could -" he stopped abruptly and made a show of looking away to read the menu.

"Could what?" prodded Paul "Admit you're involved?" Startled hazel eyes flew up to meet his. "Lee, I'm not an idiot and I've known you a long time. I know what you were like with Dorothy and I've seen how you are with Amanda. Smyth would be an idiot to interfere in what's obviously working."

"Well, he doesn't care for me that much so for now we'll stick with laying low."

"You never were much for brains, Scarecrow. You're one of his most valuable assets. You should just marry your beautiful Amanda and damn the torpedoes." Paul leaned back and stared at Lee who was now studiously staring at his menu again and started to laugh. "You're smarter than I thought then. When did you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Get married."

Lee put down the menu and looked across the table at his oldest friend. "Are you actually a wizard?"

"I wasn't sure until you gave yourself away just now by checking your left hand when I asked. Now tell me everything."

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Lee arrived back to the Q Bureau just as Roxanne and Agnes left it, heading downstairs with intent expressions on their faces.

"I'm afraid to ask," he said, stepping back into the office, smiling at the pleased looks on Amanda and Francine's faces.

"Seems Fred has been very busy telling tales out of school since last week" said Francine. "Roxanne and Agnes are going back downstairs to see what he's taking bets on so we can make sure he loses."

"Anything I can help with?"

"What are you willing to do?"

"Fred once ran off and left me and Amanda alone to disarm a nuclear missile – what wouldn't I do?"

"Funny – that's almost word for word what Amanda said. Okay then! Here's what we have so far…"

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