Amanda and Lee pulled into the driveway on Maplewood Drive within seconds of each other.
"Well that went better than I thought it would. "
"Oh sure, it went swimmingly once you figured out what to say." Amanda rolled her eyes at him. "Lucky for you Francine managed to say it for you."
"And you were so helpful. 'Senior agent gets the bad jobs' – how long have you been waiting to use that one?"
"Oh, a long, long time" Amanda's eyes twinkled at him. "Revenge is a dish best served cold after all."
""So when are we telling the family?"
"Well we can't tell them we've been married since February. Mother would be so hurt and the boys are still too young to hear anything except that we've been lying to them. It was bad enough seeing Billy's face when he found out and he's known about us all along."
"Agreed. So we just need to figure out a good time for me to propose to you?"
Amanda chuckled as he stopped her by the back door and drew her in for a kiss. "There's no bad time for me to hear you propose to me again, sweetheart. But my mother would enjoy getting to see it this time and having her sister here to witness it will be the icing on the Christmas cake."
"Well, you know I'll do anything to make your mother happy."
The boys turned from their positions on the sofa with expectant faces as they walked into the house. Lee felt it necessary to explain why he was walking in empty-handed, knowing they were hoping for that game system. "Don't look so disappointed to see me, guys. I got you something. It's just that we stayed later at the office than I expected so I'll bring them tomorrow when I come back for the day." He slid into the chair beside them and stretched out, still luxuriating in the fact that he no longer needed to hide out in the backyard.
Jamie looked a bit disappointed at his explanation. "So you're not spending the night here?"
It was hard to say who looked the most startled at Jamie's question. Amanda's eyes went wide and Dotty and Lillian both began shaking with laughter. "That's a good question, Lee" said Dotty in an innocent tone. "Aren't you going to spend the night?"
"Uh, I wasn't planning on it. The place is kind of full with your sister here as well. I don't think I'd fit all that well on the sofa and don't you think I'd kind of be in the way?"
"Well, wouldn't you just be in Mom's room?" Philip asked. "Carrie always stays in Dad's room when we're there and she doesn't get in the way."
Lee could actually feel his eyes bulging out of their sockets now. He looked at Amanda who just smiled and mouthed "Senior Agent" at him from across the room. "Well, uh, that's different because Carrie and your dad are married."
"Well they are now, but even before then, she always stayed in Dad's room. It just doesn't make much sense for you to go all the way home tonight and then have to come back in the morning when you could just stay here," explained Philip breezily. Lee could see a look on Amanda's face that didn't bode well for Joe when he came by tomorrow.
"Maybe you could just get us that for Christmas" said Jamie quietly.
"Get you what?" asked Lee faintly, feeling like he had completely lost control of this conversation.
"As our Christmas present, do you think you and Mom could get married again but with us there this time?'
Lee couldn't even begin to imagine later what his face must have looked like at that moment, but he knew it must have been something very like Amanda's look of complete shock. Dotty had been in mid-sip when Jamie had asked, and was now coughing hard enough that Lee was actually concerned for her. Even Aunt Lillian was stunned into silence. As he got up and walked over to go check on Dotty and pat her helplessly on the back, it was left to Amanda to answer the unanswerable as she walked over to sit beside Jamie on the sofa.
"What are you talking about, sweetheart? What makes you think Lee and I are married?"
"That's my girl" thought Lee. "Answer a question with a question."
Jamie was now looking embarrassed and slightly guilty, but so was Philip, Lee realized.
"Way to go wormbrain" muttered Philip.
"Aren't you? We found that picture of you getting married when we were looking for..." Jamie really did look guilty now.
"Looking for what? Your Christmas presents? James Joseph King, you are far too old to be sneaking around trying to find your Christmas presents." Even Lee knew Jamie was in real trouble now that the full name was being brought out, but the agent in him couldn't help but admire the way Amanda was completely deflecting the conversation away from their wedding photos.
"Well I am now, but two years ago I wasn't!" Jamie was backpedalling now, worried by the expression on his mother's face.
Lee was so startled by the answer that he found himself speaking. "Two years ago? Two years ago we weren't -"
"-Even dating" finished Amanda quickly before he could implicate them even further. She was starting to get an inkling of what might be going on and what Jeanie had been trying to tell her back in Billy's office. "Jamie, what picture are you talking about?"
"The one in the attic in the box with all the stuff from your old boyfriends."
"Stuff from my old boyfriends?"
"Yeah, in the box behind that big panda you got when you were dating Dean. There's the football from Sandy Newcombe and the Christmas card from Robert and a bunch of stuff from Germany and the picture of you guys getting married. You know the one, you're in a big poofy dress and a veil and Lee's in a tux."
By now the shoe had dropped for Lee as well, but he was still confused by one item on Jamie's list. "Who's Robert?"
"Skip's uncle" answered Amanda laughing at him. "What can I say? He really liked me!" She turned back to Jamie. "Sweetheart, that picture of me and Lee isn't from a real wedding. We're dressed up for a project we were working on that year, but we weren't really married." A thought struck her. "Wait a minute, you hadn't even met Lee two years ago. Why didn't you say anything back then?"
"Well, the first time I saw it, I thought that it was for a costume party or something, but then that was the year Dad came home and I thought maybe you were going to get back together and then you didn't and then I remembered the picture and when I went and looked at it again, the guy looked like the guy from the gym that day that other guy tried to take me and Philip, so then I started wondering if maybe he was your boyfriend and that's why he was there that day and then you went away with Lee when he was in trouble and then afterwards he was hanging around the house a lot more and you seemed really happy and when I showed Philip the picture, we thought you both looked happy in it like you do now and so we figured maybe you were already married."
"All that in one breath" was all Lee could say, as he started to laugh. "He's definitely your kid!"
Amanda was still intent on getting the whole story out of Jamie. "So you've spent the last two years thinking we were secretly married and never said a word? Why wouldn't you come and ask one of us about it?"
It was Philip who answered this time. "Because we figured you were waiting to see if Lee liked us first."
Lee's laughter stopped abruptly. "You what?"
"Well, if you'd married Mom and hadn't even met us yet, we thought maybe you were waiting to see if you liked us first, so if you didn't, you could get back out of it without upsetting Grandma. Dad got engaged to Carrie without us ever really getting to know her, but Dad didn't have parents who'd care if he got divorced again."
Amanda had dropped her head into her hands at this latest revelation. Lee was feeling equally stunned.
"You guys thought we were married but we weren't telling you because I had to get used to you first?" Both boys nodded. Lee started to laugh helplessly and realized that Amanda was also rocking back and forth trying to control her giggles. Finally he managed to get himself under control enough to say "Your logic was good but you got it all backwards. Any marriage with your mother was always going to be based on whether you guys were willing to get used to me, not the other way around."
Jamie and Philip were silent for a minute, then exchanged a silent look before turning back to Lee and their mother. "Okay, so when are you getting married then?" asked Jamie.
"Jamie! You can't ask them that!" yelped Dotty.
"Why not? We like him, he likes us, him and Mom are all lovey-dovey."
"Because I'm her mother and that's my job," answered Dotty with a smile. "So Lee darling, when are you going to marry my daughter?"
"I'm still working up the nerve to ask her mother's permission. She might say no," hedged Lee with a straight face although the dimples suggested he was not having an easy time keeping it that way.
"I've met her mother. I think she'll be fine with it." Aunt Lillian was not above getting into the fun apparently.
"I can think of someone else who might have an opinion on this. Has anyone asked if I want to get married?" Every head turned to look at Amanda who was leaning back in her chair, arms crossed, fingers drumming and a mock expression of annoyance on her face. Lee was hard pressed not to laugh out loud at the expression on the boys' faces.
"Moooommmm!", they whined in unison.
"Aw come on, Amanda. You have to marry me – it's the only thing Jamie asked for Christmas."
"The only thing Philip asked for is to drive your Corvette to school. Are you going to give him that too?" The rest of the room had faded away as the two of the laughed with each other at the situation they found themselves in.
"Maybe. Depends on whether his mother agrees to marry me."
"Mooooommmm!" It was hard to tell what Philip was begging for now.
"You're not playing fair, Stetson"
"Nobody ever promised you fair, Amanda". Lee had walked over to where she was sitting and pulled her to her feet before dropping to one knee. "I will promise to try and make you happy for the rest of your life though. Will you marry me? For real this time?" Only Amanda understood what he really meant by the second question. And only Lee knew the emotion behind the way she answered.
"Oh yeah, I'll marry you." He stood back up to take her in his arms, both of them grinning with delight at how unexpectedly this whole day had gone for them.
Dotty squealed and ran across the room to envelop them both in a hug. "Finally! Now when are we planning the wedding for?"
"What day is Valentine's Day next year?" asked Lee, never taking his eyes off Amanda's.
Jamie raced for the kitchen calendar and shouted back, "It's on a Sunday!"
"Oh well that will never work," said Amanda shaking her head in mock sorrow. "We might not be able to get the Monday off work to recover."
"How about the 13th then?" said Lee, lips twitching. "That way, we'll always have two days in a row to celebrate."
"And you'll have no excuse for forgetting our anniversary" added Amanda laughing up at him.
"That's not much time to plan a big wedding" said Dotty doubtfully.
"Mother, I did the big wedding once. This time I just need you and the boys and Aunt Lillian."
"And me" added Lee.
"And you" agreed Amanda. "Maybe a few friends. We owe them that."
"Well, that's a lovely idea. It will be so nice to meet some of the people from your office finally" said Dotty as she walked back to the kitchen to grab the calendar, already in planning mode, followed by Aunt Lillian.
Lee's eyes twinkled down at her before he leaned down to place his lips close to her ear so he couldn't be overheard. Her eyes flew open at what he said next: "And how is the junior agent going to explain having that awful Agent Melrose at our wedding?"
Amanda began to laugh helplessly into his shoulder before whispering back. "Well, we have two months to figure that out. It could just be a major coincidence that he's married to that nice lady they met at the hospital that night but otherwise I'm sure we can manage to have a threat to national security at our wedding that would necessitate his attendance."
Lee started laughing as well. "If anybody can, we can. Merry Christmas Mrs. Stetson."
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Stetson."