Unless she writes it, this is the end of anything APR from me. Too much work.
For my friend and former trooper - Armadilloi 75th Rngr Bde
Serenity choked out "Morgan – Morgan loves them?"
"Well, yeah. They're good. Nothing artificial, low in sugar, carobs instead of chocolate…try one. I promise they're not poisoned, Sar – I mean Serenity. Cool name. It fits you now, if you'd just relax and listen."
"Excuse me if I don't try one. I'm watching my waistline." She could be as snarky as the next person when she tried. Amanda blushed and touched her stomach.
"I'm 4 months pregnant. I shouldn't have one either. Oh, hell, I'll just walk around the Caye a few times tomorrow to work it off." She grabbed a cookie and bit into it, sighing. "You really should try one, Serenity. They're delicious. Just like – just like homemade."
Serenity caught the hesitation, the hitch in her voice and the sudden sadness.
"Just like 'mother used to make'?"
"No. Just like 'Cathy used to make'. Try one. They're made according to her recipe. UA gave it to me when I asked for it."
Serenity paused, suddenly realizing what the implications were.
"Y-you're one of us? One of 'Art's girls'?" Her reference to 'UA' gave her away. No one else referred to Arthur Graham as 'UA'.
"The last one. I was in deep cover when she died. I'm glad one of us was with her at the end. I always wondered how someone so nice could have loved and married that monster." She took the towel and patted her lips of crumbs.
"You don't have a pistol!" Serenity started to get up, intent on killing the last of her foster sisters for daring to threaten her family.
"Of course not! My husband would have a bird if he knew I still carried. I do, sometimes, when I feel the need but I've been separated from the agency for more than a year and I haven't really been in any situations that required it. I still have my knives though."
Serenity plopped back down of the couch, totally confused. "If you're not here to kill us, then why are you here?"
"We've moved in next door and I wanted to come over and introduce myself. Granted, it wasn't the way I would normally introduce myself but you do have a rep, Big Sis, for killing real or imagined threats to your family."
"M-moving in? N-next door?" She put her head in her hands, thoroughly confused. She wished her husband was with her. He'd know what to make of all this.
"Yep. Me and my other half. You'll like him. He's sweet and caring and – and I really love him."
Just then Serenity's son made an appearance, wiping sleep from his eyes. He crawled up on his mother's lap and looked at her with bright blue inquisitive but sleepy eyes.
"He's got his father's curls but your eyes. He's – he's adorable."
"Yeah, but not when he's fully awake. He's almost out of the Terrible Twos but seems hell-bent on making the most of them." Her son curled up on her lap and played with the ties on her tank top.
"Morgan, say hello to your Auntie Amanda…can you say 'hello'?"
"M-M-MORGAN? You named him Morgan? Oh, my God. There's going to be no living with him now. MORGAN?"
"And just what's wrong with Morgan? It's a name with character and, and, strength. We named him after someone very dear and important to both of us. You remember Morgan Grimes from Lantana, don't you?"
"Remember him? Serenity, I married him. I'm Amanda Grimes now." She looked entirely too smug, like a cat that'd just finished off a bothersome canary.
Serenity started laughing and couldn't stop. Morgan spotted the plate of cookies and looked up at his mother and figured he'd make his escape and steal a few cookies.
"Hey, Morgan? Want a cookie? Your mom's a little hysterical right now. Have one. Or two. Or three." She laughed when he stuffed one in his mouth and grabbed another cookie in each hand and tore off to the kitchen. He knew he'd get spanked if he ate in the living room.
"My God, Sar – Serenity! When he gets older he's going to be lethal to the girls. Those eyes, curls and that smile, God!"
"Yeah, it's his daddy's smile. I wish he had Bob's eyes though." Amanda thought for a moment and then figured out that 'Bob' was 'Chuck' in this new life of theirs.
They talked, mostly about the past but eventually about the here and now.
"So, why here and why now?" An honest question.
"Morgy thought it was – "
"Wait! 'Morgy'?" She was trying not to laugh but the corners of her mouth were threatening to break upwards in a smile.
"Well, sometimes I call him Morgy but mostly it's Morg or Morgan."
"God, don't tell Bob. He'll use it all the time just to aggravate Morgan. But why here and now?"
"I separated from the Agency and we both wanted to start out someplace fresh and clean. Lantana had too many memories best forgotten. Morg-an missed his best friend and I thought 'why the hell not?' and so here we are."
"So how did you two get together?"
"Chuck ordered me to. I was just following orders, Serenity. The last ones he ever gave me – 'Look out for Morgan for me if anything happens to me' and something did. I had no idea that all this was just a clever ruse until Morgan and I started getting closer and closer and he caught me in tears over a picture of the team and swore me to silence and then told me all about the 'Great Escape'."
"Don't tell me it's all for the job, Amanda Blaine!"
"No! No, of course not. That's just how we got together. The rest was just – magic." She blushed but Serenity knew something about magic.
"Where is he? Bob's on the mainland but should be back any minute. Tell me about the rest of the team. How are they?"
"Morgan's finishing the last of the unpacking. I got tired and he told me to go find myself something 'easy' to do so – here I am, meeting the next door neighbor."
"And Carina and the rest of the team?"
"Carina – Carina took Chuck's disappearance hard. She wouldn't believe he was dead, not Chuck, not for one minute. He'd come through so much that she just figured this was one more thing to get through. She finally partnered with Erik and they went deep cover in Europe someplace."
"And Faith and Ron? Are they still in Lantana?"
"They base out of Charah House and run missions for the new director. They're happy. Amelia's thinking about retiring but she still hopes her jefe will walk through the door some morning."
She knew there was probably a lot more to be said but she had been one of them once upon a time and knew not to ask more. She had no need to know.
"How's your husband's heart? No one talks about it. No one asks about it. Morgan says he doesn't know and we don't talk with Ellie or Devon directly anymore."
"It's fine, why?"
"Because he's about to get a surprise when he gets off at the Ferry Station and I was going to cancel it if he was having any problems."
"Surprise? I don't think that's a really good idea. He's become…unpredictable at times. Lately he's been waiting for the other shoe to drop."
"Holy crap! I've heard about his 'unpredictable' actions from back in the day." She took out her cell phone and speed dialed a number and said, "Abort! Just come to the house." She listened a minute and then added, "No, we're talking, that's all. She knows about us, Morg, it just kinda slipped out. Sorry, sweetie."
Amanda disconnected and smiled at Serenity. "No problems. You're getting some more visitors and I think you need to go check on your Morgan. He's very quiet."
"Oh, crap! He's into something then. MORGAN CHARLES ROGERS! What are you up to in there?"
There was a crash and a wail and both women went running.
San Pedro Town
'Finally!' He started the Jeep and drove slowly down the ramp, waving to the deckhand who'd become a 'ferry buddy' on his trips to and from the mainland. "See ya next month" was his usual line but something, no someone, caught his eye when the figure turned abruptly out of his line of sight. He hought knew that profile.
There was flour all over the floor and a crying 2-year old who'd dropped a glass when his mother had called out to him. He'd cut his hand and Serenity was running it under cold water and trying to get him to calm down enough that she could assess any other damage.
"Hey, our first aid kit is the first thing we unpacked, Serenity, since Morgan's undoing packing crates and he's…Morgan. Let's go over there and assess the damage to my new nephew's hand."
Morgan looked at his mother and sobbed 'Owie, mommy, owie', and Amanda thought about her own child and wondered if she could remain so calm if it were hers.
Little drops of blood dripped onto the floor before Serenity could wrap it in a towel and follow Amanda next door to her place.
"It's a wreck but we just started unpacking. So excuse the mess."
Serenity was struck with how ordinary and normal this scene appeared to be. Amanda seemed to be so normal and she supposed that she appeared that way to her. Still, it was weird but she just accepted it as she had so many other things in life.
"Daddy's going to kiss it and make it better after Aunt Mandy fixes it." This started another bout of wailing about an 'owie'.
Bob drove slowly down the sandy lane towards his house at the end of Elizabeth Street. Technically it was a 'villa' by local standards but to him it was home. He waved to a couple of neighbors and stopped to chat with the town's single officer of the Belize Constabulary. He needed intel.
"Hey, Corporal, any crime waves to report in my absence?" It was a standard opening line for him. If the Corporal saw him first, his opening line was always "Are you going to make trouble for me, Yankee?"
"Ha! Mrs. Gorgonzola's damned goat got loose again and 'supposedly' got into Mrs. Frederick's garden again. That's about it. How was life in the big city?"
"Crowded, noisy, dirty, as usual. Good to be back home though. Any new faces in town?"
"Two new Yankees moved in, right next to you. Another couple of honeymooners staying at Hilton House, nothing much to worry about." Hilton House was the local Bed & Breakfast – the only bed & breakfast.
"Who's your passenger?" He gestured towards the panda.
"Present for Morgan. It's bigger than he is. Well, gotta go. I promise not to speed." That got him a laugh and a wave. It was good to be home.
He watched as a young couple walked away from him along the street towards the Ferry Station. They were tanned and fit and the man had his arm around the girl's waist and she had hers around his causing the shirt to ride up and reveal a grip of a pistol tucked into the back of his shorts. They quickened their pace when the man took a cell phone call. Then they disappeared between two villas.
'Shit!' He sped up, turning off between two large villas and down onto the sandy lane that ran between the walls that formed the rear of each property. He hopped out and opened the double doors and drove into his villa's 'back yard' and parked in his usual spot and relocked the doors. Bob unbuckled the panda from his place of honor and walked up onto the patio deck and his home.
Something had happened in the kitchen and his trained eye homed in on blood droplets and two sets of footprints in the spilled flour and broken glass. Two adult sets.
He reached into the back of the panda and pulled out his 9mm from his 'agency days' and silently went throughout the house looking for his family and praying that he didn't find them. It would mean that they were still alive and being used as bait. Well, he'd bite – and bite and bite until any threat was neutralized.
The front door was open and the occasional droplet of blood went out onto the tiled verandah. He tucked his pistol back into the panda and followed the trail out onto the sandy street and toward his 'new neighbors' place. The gate was open and he eased into the walled patio and took inventory.
The front door was wide open and the trail of bloody droplets led towards it.
"See Morgan, no more owie." Amanda finished wrapping the bandage around the toddler's hand. It was long but not too deep and didn't need stitches. She'd been shocked at how easily Serenity had handed over her child to her for first aid.
"Hey, it's not like your some stranger. Besides, he likes you. You're good with kids."
They were sitting on the floor and Serenity's back was to the door but she knew the growling voice.
"Let go of my son or so help me I'll kill you where you sit!" Morgan saw his father and struggled to run to him and Amanda held him to her instinctively. Serenity twisted around and saw her husband's face and knew it from the streets of L.A. and when he'd confronted Ellie about her drinking – Righteous Justice.
"CHUCK! It's not what you think, honey! Put down the gun, sweetheart, Morgan just cut his hand and Amanda was just – "
"Did I hear my name called?" Morgan Grimes walked out of the kitchen with a cookie in each hand and one in his mouth.
He saw 'Bob' holding the pistol and his hands shot skyward and the cookie in his mouth just stayed there. Bob was confused for a second. He'd never seen an 'adult' Morgan without a beard.
Ron and Faith had seen their old boss slip into the Grimes' gate and followed. As they crept up onto the porch, the surprise was theirs. Faith grabbed the pistol from Ron's waistband and shot her old boss in the ass with a certain satisfaction.
An hour later
"Wake up, Daddy. Owie." He was patting his father's face with his bandaged hand.
"It's okay, Chuck. It's just us." Morgan Grimes had been concerned and then angry about his friend being 'shot down like a dog' and it didn't matter that it was a trank dart.
He tried to get up but his son suddenly seemed to weigh a ton so he just laid back down on the sofa and closed his eyes and tried to make sense of his world.
"Owie, Daddy." He holds up the wounded appendage for a kiss and he manages a sloppy one that sends his son into paroxysms of laughter and suddenly he's gone, the Terrible Twos overwhelming any common sense the little gremlin might have developed.
"Are you okay with this, Chuck?" This being his presence in his life again. Being here in San Pedro Town.
"I guess so, Morgan, but it's 'Bob' here and now. I'm still not used to seeing so much Grimes," he said, nodding towards his friend's face.
"Yeah, well, Mandy says it had to go, so it's gone. Listen, about Amanda, Chuck, it's Amanda Grimes. We've been married for almost two years and we're expecting little Mandy in 5 months or so. I owe you, bro, for sending her to me. She's incredible."
"I didn't send her, Morgan. I just asked her to keep her eye on you because of Anna and all the crap that life threw at you all at the same time."
"Yeah, but she told me of your last instructions. I guess there's more to my charms than money this time." They both knew what he was talking about but neither explored Morgan's comment any further.
"Well, look who is finally back among the living." There was a tone to Faith's voice that rankled him. She had no right whatsoever to judge him.
"Now the question is, will we stay that way. If you guys could find us, that means they can find us. I guess you'll have to get used to new neighbors, Morgan. We'll be out of here as soon as Serenity can get her run-bag together." They'd be gone within minutes of the end of this happy reunion. Both of them were ready. They were always ready.
"Chuck, no one is looking. Graham's dead. The CIA's internal report closed your file and somehow, before Art retired, all stuff related to the intersect got 'corrupted'. Only your team members know about you and we have no reason to rat you out."
"We missed you, Chuck. Carina wanted to keep a 'watch' order active but the new Director told her no. You were dead. The dead don't rise."
Morgan got a look on his face that Chuck recognized from before and laughed. "Morgan, no zombie parties, okay? At least not until you're settled in."
"Aw, Bob, you're no fun at all anymore. Is this what married life has done to you? Sucked the life out you?"
"No. It's given me an appreciation for the finer things. Like knowing she'll be beside me when I wake up and that the rug rat will be squalling for Cheerios first thing in the morning. 'Sun is up. Moon is down. Breakfast!' That's his good morning chant."
"Owie, owie!" Little Morgan had discovered his panda bear had a hole in its back and had dragged it over to Amanda to fix.
"Bob, what happened to the bear?" Serenity was giving him the 'stare'.
"I couldn't just parade around the town with a 9mm in my hand, could I? No one would look inside and I could always use it as a silencer if I caught up to the extraction team."
That brought a chill to the room. Sometimes they forgot just who it was that they'd been planning on surprising.
Bob looked around the room and then just shook his head.
"She's not coming, Chuck, er Bob. No one is. Carina and Erik are the new Chuck and Sarah sans Intersect. They're off someplace world-saving. She's not ever going to come. Sorry." Faith knew instinctively that he was searching for Carina but for all the right reasons. They'd been a team. It was only natural that he'd miss her.
"Don't be. As long as she's happy and not getting in over her head – "
"They come by the house on stand-down. Hell, she leases it to us for $100 a year. It's still hers and she still occupies the Master suite but other than those few times, they're gone on assignments. Right now they're tracking down some missing stuff."
Serenity sat down beside her husband and leaned against him and smiled. She did that a lot more since they'd come to this place and he didn't want to leave it. They'd talk about it in private later after –
"No, Chuck. We're home. We're still Chuck and Sarah but I love Bob and he loves Serenity and little Morgan. No more running. Besides, who'd run the Fund for the Town if you suddenly dropped out?"
"Morgan. He's got more financial smarts than I do. I'll bring him on as a co-manager. That way he'll fit in quicker and won't have as much time to get into trouble."
"Say, Ron, the local Constable told me there were two honeymooners at the B&B. Is that your cover?"
"Nope, no cover. Just the truth. We're probably going to follow Morgan and Amanda and put in our separation papers and then in a year or so, drop off the grid. Know anyplace like this that could easily assimilate two old spies?"
"Well, the bartender at the local spot Serenity likes is retired MI-6. There's a Russian émigré who swears he's KGB and runs the local chandlery. And the Corporal is NSA but he doesn't know I know and as far as I can tell he doesn't care who anyone is. He's sweet on a local and has no intentions of pissing in the soup."
"Then you wouldn't mind if we just popped in and set up housekeeping some day? Find a place in the sun and raise a litter of babies?"
"Family doesn't need permission, Faith."
After the party
"I thought he'd never fall asleep. Morgan and Morgan together are going to be a handful to raise, my love."
"Well, it's about time he had someone his own age to play with. I'm too old for him. I'm no fun."
"He loves you. You're his daddy."
"I was talking about the other Morgan."