x x x
I made a comment on JWWM Tuxedo thread about writing a fanfic based on the picture "Sneaking Tux" and this is the result. To those who don't know about JWWM's tuxedo polls, the picture is from the episode TTTAAC. It's the scene where Lee glances around, goes up the stairs and (unfortunately) meets Inga. I took the 'sneaking' in a different direction. This story also takes place in D.C.
I tried to write it for season 2 (i.e., TTTAAC), but it's a tad closer to early season 3 relationship Lee/Amanda. It's my first SMK story, so any feedback would be great.
x x x
Lee's gaze drifts around the ballroom. Their latest assignment is at the Washington Grand Hotel and Ballroom.
As usual, these parties are elegant, beautiful and flawless right down to the last detail. Everything one would expect of a black tie event.
It's yet another agency security assignment, which he detests. They could stick a rookie in his place. He's not on Billy's good side at the moment and that's part of it.
Lots of foreign dignitaries are in attendance, one in particular has received assassination threats. The agency suspects that it's the international assassin, Miles Aston.
Billy walks up to speak to him. "How's everything going?"
"I think this is too much security for someone like Aston, Billy," he replies. "We have DC police at the entrances. I'm not sure he'll be here."
"You never know."
"Francine went through all the security checks. And you know how thorough she can be."
"The orders came from the White House. The agency needs to be here."
"Then try to make the best of it, huh?" Billy responds, patting his shoulder.
"Right," he groans back.
"The duchess requested two female agents at 4:00am for her morning workout in the fitness center."
Lee nods. "Amanda and Francine will be there. Amanda's gone up to her room to get some rest."
"Did she? Good, I'm glad."
"She's been fighting a bad headache all day. She said it seemed to be getting worse."
"Sorry to hear," he frowns. "I hope she's feeling better soon."
"Yeah, me too, Billy."
Billy pats his shoulder once more and moves on.
Lee sips his water and peers around the room again. He's bored. It's after 9:00pm and this event will likely go another hour or two.
He's sitting alone at a table for eight. The others are either dancing or socializing.
Francine makes friendly conversation with some of the guests. She's already ruled out anyone here as a potential romantic interest. Most of the men are married or, in her words, 'not interesting enough.'
His gaze drifts over toward the staircase. Amanda left the ballroom an hour ago.
After so many years on the job, these types of assignments have gotten stale.
Except when she's here.
He remembered walking into the ballroom with her earlier. She looped her hand through his arm, as he escorted her to their table. Her eyes sparkled as she took it all in; the décor, the music, the ambiance.
She's beautiful, radiant. It escapes no one's attention. As usual, she makes a good impression on anyone she meets.
If she were sitting beside him now, he'd probably ask her to dance. He'd mention something about wanting to get a closer look at the kitchen or some other part of the ballroom for security purposes, so it's less obvious.
A few minutes later, he stirs out of his thoughts and looks toward the stairs again. He'd like to go up and see how she's doing. Maybe ask her if she needs anything.
After debating it a little more, he decides that a quick visit would probably be okay.
On the way to the stairs, he looks back a couple times, wondering if anyone notices him leaving the ballroom. His last glance is over to where he last saw Francine and Billy.
Billy flat out asked him once if there was something between him and Amanda, and he said no. It's the truth. But there are moments like this that he can't explain.
Where else would I be going?
Her suite is on the third floor. His is on the main floor.
A moment later, he's knocking on her door.
It doesn't take her long to answer and he sees that the lights are on.
Good. She wasn't sleeping.
She's still wearing her evening gown. It's a black dress with very thin shoulder straps. Very elegant. She wore her hair up for the dinner, but now it's down. It looks very pretty either way.
Regardless of how she feels, she looks stunning. She flashes that smile and for a minute he forgets why he came up here.
"Hi Amanda." Lee smiles back, doing his best not to blush too much. His dimples, which some like to point out, are probably showing, but it can't be helped.
"Hi Lee. Is everything okay? Does Mr. Melrose need me to come back?"
"Ah…no. No, it's nothing like that, I just… I came up to see how you were."
"Oh…fine, fine. It's just a little headache. I thought it might be a cold or something coming on. Mother and Phillip have been a little under the weather lately."
"Were you able to get a little sleep?"
"No. I mean… I tried. I thought a nap would do the trick, but I'm really not tired."
"Do you want me to bring you something? Warm milk? Some tea? Maybe some Aspirin?" he asks.
Lee's been extra nice to her before when he wanted something, but that's not the case here.
It brings a bigger smile to her face and a flush to her cheeks. "No, I'm good."
"Yeah, I'm sure."
"Just making sure you're okay."
"Thanks. You really didn't have to come up just to check on me," she adds shyly. The smile remains and nothing in her expression shows him that she's disappointed that he did.
He leans into the door frame just to be a tiny bit closer to her. "I don't mind. And it was getting a little boring downstairs," he says with a shrug.
The slight gasp and her look of disbelief makes him chuckle. He likes that she enjoys these kinds of gatherings.
"The ballroom is really beautiful. The people are really nice. Good conversations too. Plus, all of that great food, music and dessert…" she boasts. "Well, I didn't even get to try the dessert."
"Yeah. It's…nice. It's just…."
Just not the same without you there, he thinks to himself. "Uh… Never mind. I should let you rest."
"There's nothing too exciting up here either. Are you sure Mr. Melrose doesn't need me for anything?"
"Yes, yes, absolutely. He'd tell you to stay put and keep resting, Amanda."
She nods. "You could always keep Francine company."
Lee grins. "Not my first choice."
They talk for another minute, say their goodbyes and he leaves.
He checks a couple of the floors while he's there and then returns to the ballroom. Just as he reaches the base of the stairs, Billy meets him.
"So, how's Amanda doing?" There's a hint of a smirk on the section chief's face.
Lee shakes his head. "I—I don't know what you mean, Billy?"
"You went to see her, didn't you?"
"No…well… I needed a stretch break so I thought I'd do a quick sweep of the floors."
It is the truth. Even if he did go see Amanda first. He's not sure why he feels the need cover it up.
"Oh, I see. And?"
"I was looking for you. We should talk to Francine about the morning procedures."
Billy gestures to where she's standing and they walk toward her.
Francine sees Lee descend the grand staircase on his way back to the ballroom. Judging from that big smile on his face, she'd guess that he's found someone who peaked his interest.
Maybe even a private after-party.
She wouldn't be surprised. Typical Scarecrow. Lady's man.
Billy meets Lee at the base of the stairs and the two stop to talk. She sees his smile fade as their boss walks up.
She usually likes these types of events more than her colleague. It's a chance to mingle. Occasionally, she meets someone nice. Unfortunately, this hasn't been one of those events.
Francine stirs out of her thoughts as Billy and Lee approach.
After changing his appearance and disguising himself as a member of the hotel staff, Aston slips in unnoticed.
x x x
Amanda closes the door after Lee leaves and strolls back through her suite.
It's extravagant. She's never stayed here before. The place is so beautiful.
She's so close to home that she wouldn't have to stay, but the agency wants her here for the duchess's 4:00am workout. Her and Francine will be with her in the hotel's fitness center.
She figures out how to adjust the lights above the headboard and that makes it little more comfortable.
The lights in the ballroom were a little too bright and that wasn't helping her headache. She did enjoy being there. The pain just got to be too much.
Maybe a shower will help, she thinks to herself.
Before doing that, she calls her mother to check in at home.
"Just taking a break, nothing much going on here, Mother... Oh, you know, it's just whatever they need help with… A little of this, a little of that... Okay, give the boys a kiss for me… Talk to you tomorrow. Love you too. Goodnight."
She didn't want to mention the headache. Just on and off the phone.
As she grabs up her things and heads for the bathroom, Lee enters her mind again. Her smile is instant.
What is it about him?
Okay, besides the good looks, the charm, the smile, the dimples…
The way he's always looking out for her.
Certain things will always stick in her mind.
Like that time he carried her down the steps at Delano's place. She doesn't remember it happening, but he admits that he did it.
She still tries to imagine what it would have been like to be awake as she's carried by Lee.
She also thinks about the time when Lee went ahead with the agent trade—her for Rostov—even though it put him in a very bad spot.
He risked being charged with a very serious crime. For her.
Dean just wanted to name a hurricane after her.
Lee is a very complex person. No question. By now, she trusts him and considers him a good friend.
There is just one teensy little problem.
She can ignore the obvious attraction she feels toward him. In fact, she's getting pretty good at that.
It's obvious that a relationship between them could never work or else it would be very complicated. Between this job and her family, she can't picture it. She really likes the job too.
Even if there is the slightest chance he has any interest in me too… Amanda shakes her head vehemently before completing the thought.
No, definitely not. I'm not his type.
Then there are the types of men who her mother thinks would be 'perfect' for her.
None could ever measure up to Lee Stetson.
x x x
By ten-thirty, the evening is winding down. Lee wanders through the kitchen.
Some of the guests are still dancing and socializing, but waiters are bringing in dishes and front line staff are starting to clean up.
It looks like Aston had other plans tonight, he thinks to himself.
Lee stops as he reaches a table containing the desserts. Several kinds of cakes, pies, parfaits and soufflés. They baked enough to feed most of the district.
His gaze settles on the cake that Amanda had her eye on. He didn't have any dessert either.
A smile spreads across his face, dimples and all.
He's got an idea.
Just as he is about to cut a couple pieces of the very decadent, chocolate cake, scoop them onto a plate and slip out unnoticed, a woman on the kitchen staff walks up. The name tag reads, 'Holly: Supervisor – front line.'
He glances up, the knife is in his hand and he's already put the first slice in the cake. He suddenly feels like a seven-year old who just got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
Maybe he shouldn't have 'helped himself' to some cake, but he didn't think anyone would notice.
He explains that he wants to bring a piece of cake upstairs to his friend, Amanda. She left before dessert because she wasn't feeling well and she's sad about missing most of the evening. He thinks this will cheer her up.
Yes, he's probably grinning as he talks about Amanda.
It must seem like a romantic gesture and Holly just swoons. She takes over slicing the cake, cuts a couple of large pieces and puts them in a Styrofoam carton. Next, she collects some plates, forks, and even a complementary bottle of wine and wine glasses. Those are put into a brown paper bag with a few other items that he doesn't see.
Holly spots a small vase with some roses and baby's breath sitting on one of the front tables and decides that this would surely lift the lady's spirits. She hands Lee the small vase, explaining they'd be thrown out at the end of the night anyway.
Moments later, he's walking toward the large marble staircase carrying the bag in one hand and the vase in the other.
Amanda would see it as a kind gesture and nothing more. He doesn't show his appreciation often enough.
He's eager to bring this to her, but he's also looking around for Billy and Francine.
Francine loves to poke at him about Amanda. It's either to tease him that he's turning 'soft', or the usual jab about how he and the Arlington housewife are getting along.
What's on the agenda, Lee? Making cupcakes for the PTA?
Usually, he'll shrug it off. Occasionally, it's the wrong place and time, and Francine gets a nasty glare and maybe a small payback when he finds the right opportunity.
Lee starts up the stairs, and who should be coming down in his direction, but the queen of snark herself.
Despite the teasing and somewhat-friendly competition, they really do have a great working relationship. Nothing but respect for each other's skills on the job.
"Where are you off to, Scarecrow?" Francine poses, eyeing the items in her hand. "Big after party date?"
Lee freezes. Great. He could try to come up with a cheesy story or just agree and keep on going.
"Uh, yeah. Big date. Gotta go." He hurries past her and doesn't look back to see if she's watching.
A minute or two later, he reaches the third floor. He sets the vase down on the floor momentarily, knocks on the door to her room and picks the flowers up again. A couple of petals fall off and lay beside the door.
Amanda answers and he immediately sees that she's in a nightgown. Since the light and TV are still on in her room, she probably wasn't sleeping.
"Hi, Lee. What's this?" Her eyes drift from the package in his one hand to the flowers in his other hand.
"You didn't get to have any dessert, so I brought some up to you."
"Aww… Thank you. You didn't have to do that."
"I thought we could have dessert together."
"I'd like that."
Her smile distracts him for a moment. Those bright, sparkling eyes, the soft glow in her cheeks. It's a good thing her eyes are on the flowers, or she'd notice him staring.
He's getting nervous too. Amanda's in a silky and very appealing nightgown, and he's trying not to lower his gaze.
When she does glance up at him, he remembers where he is. "Oh… Umm. I've got plates and forks. Wine too. But if you don't want any wine now, you can always take it—"
"Wine would be nice," she interrupts.
"Okay, good. So, is the headache any better?"
"Actually…yes. I took some aspirin earlier, then took a shower and that helped."
"Good… That's good."
When she realizes he's still holding everything, she steps back to let him in. "Oh, come in…come in."
Lee enters the suite. There's a short hallway, closet and bathroom, and then a kitchenette with a sink, mini bar and refrigerator. There isn't much counter space in the kitchenette, so he continues into the bedroom/living room area.
He passes by the foot of the king-sized bed, and sets the bag and flowers down on the round table beside the window. There are two chairs at the table, so they can eat here.
Then, Lee turns back to face her.
Yes, it's a tiny bit awkward.
As with other agency trips, Amanda had to pack quickly and this nightgown is slightly more revealing than others she owns.
She quickly fixes the situation by grabbing a pair of jeans and a shirt from her suitcase and going to the bathroom to change. "I'll be back in a second."
While he's waiting, Lee sets everything up. He takes the two pieces of cake out of the bag first. The piece that Holly cut for him is a little bigger than he wants, so he cuts it smaller and leaves the rest in the Styrofoam carton. She can take it home to her mother and the boys.
He forgot a wine cork, but apparently, Holly remembered. He opens the bottle and pours them each a glass.
At the bottom of the bag are a couple of votive candles and holders.
Lee smirks. Holly thought of everything. He gives the votive candles a couple more seconds of thought and shrugs. Oh, why not. He takes them out and lights them.
Amanda returns from the bathroom in a pair of jeans and a white blouse. No socks or shoes, but she's not going anywhere. She did touch up her hair and make-up quickly.
A few paces into the room, she stops suddenly. Two pieces of chocolate cake, two glasses of wine, the flower vase with roses and two lit candles sit on the table.
The candle light, plus the lights near the headboard gave the room a soft glow. A romantic glow.
And of course, Lee in a tuxedo.
"I feel so underdressed," she manages. It's about the only thing she could think to say. Most of her words have just escaped her.
"You look fine," he replies.
Her eyes are still taking it all in.
He's just being nice, she reasons.
He feels bad because I had to leave the party.
That's all it is.
x x x
Francine stops to talk to Billy for a minute. He tells her to have a good night and thanks her for all her efforts.
After saying good night to a few more people she knows and wrapping things up, she heads for the staircase.
Where was Lee going? She's a tiny bit curious. She didn't see him talking to anyone tonight, except for Amanda.
She reaches the third floor and goes to her own suite. She's thinking about going to the hotel's fitness center before turning in for the night. She'll change her clothes and get in a 20-minute workout.
As she passes by Amanda's suite, which is four doors down from hers, she stops abruptly.
Two rose petals sit on the floor.
"Hmm… Interesting," Francine quips. Seeing no one else in that hallway, she leans in toward the door and listens.
"Gin," Amanda announces.
"Ahhh. You beat me."
"One more game, Lee?"
"Sure. I could play one more. Need a little more wine?"
"Yes, just a little," she answers.
They're playing cards? Francine shakes her head.
Flowers, wine and whatever he had in that bag… That was for Amanda?
This was the big date?
She shrugs and moves on to her own suite. About ten minutes later, she steps out into the hallway in a gray and red tracksuit.
Sure, it's seen better days, but she grabbed the wrong one when she packed for this trip. She hopes to avoid the lingering party-goers and slip by quickly on her way to the fitness center. She has her hair up too. With any luck, she won't run into anyone she knows.
She starts down the steps to the second floor. As she gets closer to the second-floor landing, a man with a laundry cart on that floor catches her eye.
There's something familiar about him. She stands still, but continues to watch.
No. It can't be.
But it is. She'd know that face anywhere.
Aston pushes the laundry cart toward the top of the staircase on the 2nd floor landing, then reaches inside the cart and retrieves something. A gun.
Some of the party guests are starting to walk up the grand staircase from the ballroom. Others are lingering and talking. The whole area is getting a little too congested.
Aston's eyes are drifting about to make sure he hasn't raised any suspicions.
So far, he hasn't noticed Francine.
He holds the weapon close to him to try and conceal it, and moves cautiously down the stairs. Francine follows.
At the curve in the grand staircase, a couple coming toward him slows him down. He pushes past them, then lifts the arm with the gun and points it over the banister. Francine lunges toward him.
All noise suddenly comes to a halt. All eyes are on her as she tackles Aston on those marble steps.
It's a good takedown. Not the most graceful, but it gets the job done. Unfortunately, a few people are knocked down as well. It could have been a lot worse.
Aston breaks her fall, they tumble down a few more steps together and the gun springs from his hand.
Fortunately, Billy's also there and he's quick to grab it up before Aston can even think to retrieve it.
When the security guards begin to surround them with their guns drawn, Francine starts to get up.
Great. Now everyone gets to see her in this hideous workout outfit. Her hair is coming loose from the wrap that was holding it up.
Soon she's standing again and cameras are flashing from all sides.
No…no… Not the press too!
She's going to burn this outfit and any newspaper pictures of her that she can get ahold of.
The workout is no longer on her agenda.
On the plus side, she got Aston. Just her.
"Are you alright?" Billy asks. "That was quite a swan dive," he adds with a chuckle.
Her face reddens further. "I'll be fine."
"Good reflexes, Francine. I can't wait until Lee hears that we've got Miles Aston. By the way, have you seen Lee?"
Sure, Billy. He's upstairs having a glass of wine, a romantic game of cards and who-knows-what-else with Amanda, she thinks to herself.
"No, not in a little while," she answers instead.
"We'll bring Aston downtown and book him for the night. You and Lee can have a go at him in the morning. Good night, Francine. And again, great job!"
"Thanks, Billy. Good night."
x x x
"I win again," Amanda says.
"Yep. I guess that's best out of three," Lee smiles. "You're very good at cards."
"Thanks. And thanks again for the dessert."
"My pleasure. Hey Amanda…?"
"You know… Besides dessert, we never got a dance. How about it?"
"A dance? Where? Here?"
"Sure. We don't need much room." Lee lifts his eyes around the room and sees a stereo. "Here we go." He stands up, walks toward it and turns it on, then switches the stations until he finds a slow song playing. He turns to Amanda once more and extends his hand. "Just one? Come on, it'll be fun."
"Well… Okay." She's a little surprised. Then again, Lee seems to be full of surprises tonight.
She accepts his hand and gets up from the chair.
They've danced once before. It was at that costume party just after they met.
Ironically, she was underdressed for that too.
He holds one of her hands in his, he settles his other hand on her waist and she puts her hand on his shoulder. It takes them a moment to fall into step.
But like everything else with them, moving together becomes effortless.
The window is open and the night air drifts in.
It couldn't be more perfect.
Her and Lee. Who knows? Maybe someday it'll all get less complicated.
"So… What made you decide to do all of this, Lee?" she asks, gesturing toward the table.
"Oh, you know… Just wanted to."
"Because it was so boring downstairs?" she teases.
"It was missing something very special."