Written by Scooplet
Concept by Cheryl and Scooplet
Scarecrow and Mrs. King characters are the property of Shoot the Moon Productions and Warner Bros. Television. No copyright infringement intended. Not for commercial use. Sarah Stetson and Matt Granger are my creation, however, so please respect my right to claim ownership of them—I do not authorize permission to use them in stories not authored by me.
In Everything Give Thanks
Out of the corner of her eye, Amanda saw Bates approaching from the right as they neared the street. She pretended to stumble, effectively slowing Chenko's progress.
"Watch your step, Mrs. Stetson. One of my men may be trigger happy, as you Americans call it."
Amanda recognized the two female MI6 agents as they walked deliberately into Sonja's path. The two women, pretending to chat and laugh obliviously with one another, continued to block Sonja.
"Watch where you're going." Sonja was too late in her warning.
Bates walked swiftly past, taking Amanda by the arm, away from the surprised Sonja Chenko and towards the BMW waiting at the curb. Three shots rang out before they could get more than ten feet. Passersby screamed and ran for cover as Bates and Amanda stumbled to the waiting BMW. Behind them, one of the MI6 agents aimed her own gun at Sonja while her partner cuffed the former KGB agent.
In the van, Margaret pushed Lee into his seat. "Strap in, Mr. Stetson. We're going to rendezvous with the BMW. Your wife is fine."
Lee did not have to be told twice, once he knew that he would soon see Amanda. Only the knowledge that Margaret's husband had risked his life for Amanda kept Lee from shouting in frustration. "Margaret. Why didn't anyone tell me that they were planning to let Sonja get that far with Amanda?"
"Bates and the baron devised this plan with Mrs. Stetson's help. They wanted to unnerve her and distract the FSB agents, who would not fire upon anyone except Lord Bromfield. They are only interested in the triple agent. Mrs. Chenko's plan to take Mrs. Stetson was her own doing."
At Lee's expression, Margaret hastily continued. "Mrs. Stetson feared that you would never let her go if you knew. She felt it was the best way to get Sonja out of the picture."
He continued to sit tensely until they met the BMW in an underground parking garage several blocks from the park.
Amanda emerged from the sedan just as quickly as Lee scrambled out of the van. Seeing that she seemed quite well, he embraced her fiercely, and then pulled away. "Thank God you're all right. What were you thinking? Can't you trust me?"
"I'm so sorry, Lee. I hate deceiving you, but you were so close to refusing to let me participate at all. I knew you would never let me go."
"You're right. It was a crazy stunt. I won't even go into the 'what ifs'."
"I was just so afraid they would go after our family. After what happened to Sarah…" Amanda lowered her face.
Lee lifted her chin so he could see into her expressive brown eyes. "It was a crazy stunt, but you're safe, and Sonja is in MI6 custody. Just please don't forget what it would do to me if something happened to you. I couldn't stand to lose you either."
"I know, Lee. Bates and those girls were not about to let that happen."
"They were just girls."
"Very highly trained operatives. Bates handpicked them."
"And Bates?" They both looked towards the sedan, where Bates still sat, Margaret hovering over him.
"He's fine. The bullets were blanks. All part of MI6's cover."
Lee hugged Amanda to him once again before releasing her. He ran a hand through his hair. "MI6 has quite a mess to clean up. At least no real shots were fired."
"What about Lord Bromfield?"
"Staged. Margaret said the women were MI6—it was all faked. He'll be in the clear by the end of the day, if he isn't already. Someone in the queen's offices was planning to make some sort of announcement." He took her hand. "Let's go. The sooner we can get debriefed, the sooner we can get back to our vacation. And who knows what's leaked to the Agency. The kids may be pretty worried about us by now."
"…so Sarah, what did you do to the guy in the bar last night?"
Sarah glanced over at Matt, who looked up from the apple he was peeling. Before she could answer, Sharon voiced her alarm.
"Did you run into some trouble last night?" She stared at her son as she addressed the three of them.
David, who had stepped inside for something, paused to listen.
Emma could not contain herself. "Sarah was awesome." When all eyes turned on her, she became more subdued. "At least that's what Lauren said."
Sarah answered Sharon. "Some guy wouldn't leave us alone, so I used a couple of self-defense moves."
"Wouldn't leave you alone. He didn't even look at me. I almost missed what you did, you were so fast. Didn't you knee him and clip him on the side of the head? He dropped like a stone."
Matt busied himself with the apple, the barest hint of a prideful smile on his face.
"Well, I'm sorry you ran into trouble like that. Where were you, Matt?"
He looked up. "Unfortunately, I was at the bar and missed the whole thing."
"He waited until you and Brian left," Sarah clarified. "And I'm glad you didn't see it." It could have gotten ugly.
Matt was still troubled over the incident. "You did a good job defending yourself—"
"Yes, she did." Lauren was quick to interrupt her brother. "You would have gotten us kicked out. When two guys fight, the bouncers often boot everyone out."
"Well…" Sharon sighed, searching earnestly for a change of subject. "Did you enjoy the rest of your evening?"
While Lauren offered most of the details of their evening, Sarah finished rolling the pie crust and prepared the pumpkin filling as Matt sliced up the last of the apples. Soon the pies were baking in the oven.
"Do you need me for anything else, Sharon?"
"I think we've got it covered, Sarah. You've already helped with the green beans, and the girls and I have the rest."
Checking her phone, Sarah saw that it was going on eleven. "If it's alright, I think I'll go call my folks. I couldn't reach them earlier."
Sarah went outside into the cool fall sunshine. Ranger was nowhere to be seen. Remembering her father's warning of the day before, she decided to go down the driveway towards the neighbor's house. At least I'll be near Billings and Scarletti that way.
Taking an easier route through the trees, Sarah was soon within sight of the 300. She waved to them before punching the speed dial. The call went immediately to voicemail. After leaving yet another message with her father, she walked over to the agents' car.
Matt had been making is own phone calls in the bedroom. Concerned when Sarah could not reach her parents earlier, he tried to reach Rene. There was no answer. Deciding that his partner may have finally gotten some family time, he tried calling Phillip's phone, then Jamie's. Both went immediately to voicemail. Surely someone will pick up and tell me they're busy. Somewhat concerned, he went to find Sarah, but was interrupted by his cell phone. Hurriedly, he took the call, then went in search of Sarah.
When he reached the kitchen, there was no sign of her. Instead, he found his mother washing the last of the dishes from their morning's food preparation, while his sisters were busy looking at a video on Emma's phone. "Mom, where did Sarah go?"
"She went outside to call her parents."
When Matt went outside, Sarah was not in sight. He called her name, but there was no answer. He walked around behind the buildings, continuing to look for her, but she was nowhere to be found. Almost fifteen minutes had passed, and he was now worried.
Just then, David stepped out of his shed. "You looking for Sarah, Son?"
Hesitating, Matt debated what to say. How do I keep him from being suspicious? "Yeah. She really doesn't know her way around very well. I hope she didn't go off and get lost."
"Look, Son. I know the Army taught you how to hide your emotions, but I can tell you're worried. Let me help you look for her."
"Thanks, Dad. I'll go off towards the bench."
"I'll check behind the house."
Matt was soon out of sight as David heading down the path that led behind the house. His route paralleled the driveway for twenty feet before disappearing among the trees. He was past the picture window and started to head away from the driveway when he heard voices.
Jogging at a quick pace to the bench, Matt called Sarah's name, but as before, received no answer. He stopped. Think, Man. Where would she have gone? Don't imagine the worst. After staring off into the distance a moment, he snapped his fingers when an inspiration hit. At the same time, he was compelled to run. He had to find Sarah before his father did.
"Well, it was nice to meet you both. Thanks again for keeping an eye on things. I'm just glad you don't have to spend your Thanksgiving out here, away from home."
"Oh well, we were hoping Granger might sneak us some little treat again." Chuck Billings was in his mid-thirties. Spotting his wedding ring, Sarah had asked him about his family. He had two girls, ages seven and five.
"He did?" Sarah laughed. "And thanks for the good news. I'll try calling one of my brothers for the full scoop. I'm sure my parents will have their hands full for a while yet."
"No problem. Hopefully we can work with you and Granger again sometime under less trying circumstances." Joe Scarletti, in his late twenties with dark hair and dark eyes, offered Sarah a jovial smile.
Sarah was dubious. "I don't know if we'll ever work as a team."
"You know, there were bets in the office that you would run." Billings patted Sarah's shoulder in a brotherly fashion, then spoke quietly, pretending to conspire with her. "Thanks for not pulling that on us."
Surprised and a bit confused, Sarah was not sure how to reply. "Uh, I guess my reputation precedes me."
"Don't worry, it's not all bad." Billings winked at her and chuckled, then grew serious. "Actually, we haven't heard the full story because some of it was eyes only, but you've gained a few admirers."
Sarah blushed at the compliment. "Um, well. Speaking of running, I'd better get back to Matt, before he finds out—"
"Finds out what, Sarah?" At the sound of David's voice, Sarah and the two agents whirled around to face him.
"David. We didn't hear you coming." Sarah stuffed her hands in her pockets in an effort to keep them from shaking.
Quickly perceiving that the conversation was none of their business, Billings and Scarletti stepped away to give them some privacy.
"I was out walking and spotted Matt's co-workers. They had turned up the wrong driveway. I flagged them down. I was just heading back before Matt noticed I wasn't around. He worries." Uncomfortable, Sarah had to force herself to look David in the eye and not at her feet.
"Co-workers? Out here? Enough, Sarah. I think it's time you started to tell the truth."
Sarah struggled for a response. "I don't understand."
David blew out his breath in exasperation. "I heard you. 'I don't know if we'll work as a team.' You were talking about Matt."
Shocked, she cast about for something to say, but was speechless.
"I heard you talking about running. And then there were the comments about your reputation and admirers. What does that mean? And who are those men, anyway?"
"You've got this all wrong, Dad." Her back to the Granger driveway, Sarah had not seen Matt run up to the agents, then approach his father and her more cautiously. He grew angry when he saw the look of shock and hurt on her face. "You have no right to attack Sarah like this."
"I'm trying to defend you, Son. I think there's a lot you don't know about Sarah. Perhaps the incident in the bar last night was a warning." He turned to her, his expression sorrowful. "Hon, I've really gotten attached to you, but I'm sad to say I think my initial instincts were right. This was all too quick. Matt really hasn't gotten to know you as well as he thinks."
Overwhelmed with embarrassment and hurt, Sarah could not bear to hear anymore. Her eyes were brimming with tears as she shook her head and blindly headed back towards the house.
Already concerned about what Billings and Scarletti had heard, Matt did not reply to his father, instead glaring at him before turning to follow Sarah. "Sarah, wait!" he pleaded as he ran to catch up with her.
Refusing to run from the humiliating scene, it took only a moment before Sarah felt Matt's hands on her shoulders, compelling her to stop. His voice was soft. "Sweetie, please don't run from me." He continued to walk a little ways with her until they were out of sight of the three men, finally taking her in his arms and holding her closely to him. "I'm so sorry."
"No one has ever talked to me that way before. I know your father hasn't been very friendly towards me, but I had no idea how much he disliked me. He thinks the worst of me."
"Oh, Sarah. I'll straighten this out with him. He doesn't understand. I know he likes you."
"Did you hear what he said? Matt, if we get married, it will drive a wedge between you. I can't do that." Tears ran down Sarah's cheeks as she looked up at him.
At Sarah's words, he felt as if he had been punched in the gut. "No." The word was a whisper. "Please don't say that. We can work this all with my dad. And even if I had to choose, Sarah, it would be you. I can't imagine my life without you."
Looking up at Matt again, she could see the pain from her own eyes reflected in his and regretted speaking so rashly. "I can't either. I didn't mean it like that. I just feel so desperate." She leaned her head against his chest and wept.
Gently he stroked her hair and held her until she quieted. Not far away, Matt heard a car start, then drive away. He thought he saw the flash of his father's maroon polo shirt through the trees as David walked up the driveway.
"I hope you don't believe what your father said."
"Of course not. I heard enough to figure it out easily enough. My father overheard you talking with Billings and Scarletti and completely misinterpreted things. I'm so sorry I didn't get there sooner. I was looking all over for you. Dad offered to help. When it dawned on me where you might have gone, I ran as fast as I could, afraid my dad would see you with the agents."
"It was stupid of me to go talk with them like that. Your dad was nowhere to be seen when I came out of the house. I didn't think."
"It isn't your fault, Sarah. It's mine."
Sarah pulled back a little and drew a tissue out of her pocket so she could wipe her nose. "Come on, Matt. You're just trying to be gallant."
"I mean that I should have been willing to tell my parents what I do. Rene advised me to tell them. I thought I could just keep stringing them along with the lame story about the accident. It was stupid. I survived Afghanistan, for goodness' sake—although that was by the grace of God, I also had to use my wits on assignments. How could I be that careless around equipment—then foolishly endanger you, too?"
"You were trying to spare your parents."
"My mom is a nurse. When she pulls shifts, it's on a med-surg floor or in an emergency room. My dad served in the Army and hunts. They may be upset by our story, but they can handle it. At least they wouldn't be seeing me in the ICU and finding out. I'm healed up now."
"Well, you wanted to spare them the worry that goes with what you do for a living."
"Please don't make excuses for me, Sarah. I've been wanting to tell my dad what I do. It's a pride thing. He never says anything, but he has always wondered why I didn't go into engineering or law enforcement. Whenever he mentions it, I feel like I've disappointed him. But in my mind, it was more important to keep them from fussing over me—worrying. I was in far more danger over in Afghanistan than I am here, but they had no idea. I learned to keep them at arm's length."
"You need to tell them what you do."
"I know. But that means they'll know what you're going to be doing."
"I guess it's partly my fault, too, that we're in this mess. I wouldn't let you tell your parents, remember?"
"Well, you asked me not to. I wanted to respect your wishes. You know, you don't ask for much."
"We should go talk with your dad—and your mom."
"Are you sure you're up for it?"
"Well, I might like a little hand-holding."
"Of course." Matt kissed Sarah on the forehead. "I love you, you know."
A smiled forming at the corners of her mouth, she glanced up at her fiancé. "I know."
Taking her hand, Matt began to lead Sarah up the hill towards the house. He stopped for a moment, his eyes lighting up. "Oh! A little good news might be nice right now. I got a phone call from the apartment management company. They're reserving the two bedroom. The one with the laundry hook-ups and the fireplace. And I found out today that we'll have a garage and access to covered parking."
"Oh, that is good news." She clasped his hand more tightly and leaned into him. "I needed to hear that."
"I know. We can stay there until we have kids, save up money for a house." He kissed her hair. "This will all work out, Sarah." They kept walking. "Did you ever reach your parents? I couldn't get anyone to answer. Phillip just texted some reply telling me not to worry—all was well. Like that helps."
"Oh—that's because they're all consulting with one another over some major MI6 operation involving the Russians that went down in London today. Joe and Chuck were telling me about it before your father came along. Apparently my parents were in the middle of things. The Russians didn't exactly offer a formal apology, but one of their bigwigs met with Gil Barclay and agreed to some sort of "détente" for now. I guess we can try to get details from my parents later."
"That would explain why Billings said he and Scarletti wanted to talk with me—but I'm pretty sure they've already driven away. MI6 had caught some former KGB agent-turned-FSB who had gone their version of postal. I guess the Russians didn't want us to retaliate. I'm sure this wounded their pride quite a bit."
When they came out onto the driveway, David was standing there, his face a mixture of anxiety and contriteness. Sharon was nearby, looking apologetically at Sarah.
Matt glanced over at Sarah and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
Seeing the young couple approaching, David strode up to meet them, his eyes on Sarah. "I'm afraid I owe you a big apology, Sarah." Turning to Matt, he entreated him, "Please come into the den with your mom and me. I'd like to talk, if you don't mind."
"We were hoping to, Dad."
David Granger had been pacing for the last forty-five minutes, mostly as a way of keeping his emotions under control as Matt and Sarah revealed the truth behind what had transpired that fall. "Well, Son, I have to say that I understand why you kept us in the dark, but I just wish you'd spared us all the pain of having to find out this way." He sat down behind his desk once again. "I kept getting little clues from you—something traumatic had happened, because you were far too distressed over Sarah's injuries. And Sarah, I do apologize for eavesdropping—both on your phone call to your father and with the agents. I sure learned my lesson there. Thank God they straightened me out before they left."
"Yeah, they took a bit of a risk, telling you." His arm around Sarah as they sat on the small couch in David's study, Matt ran his free hand through his hair. She still clutched a tissue in her hands.
"But they never said they were agents. They just said to talk with you, Matt." David leaned back in his seat.
Sharon had not relaxed since their conversation began. She was still perched on the edge of her seat in the armchair. She dabbed her eyes with a tissue. "And I'm sorry for listening in on your private conversation in Sarah's room. At first I planned to knock on the door and see if everything was all right with Sarah, but then I heard you talking about the accident—I mean the stabbing—and I just stayed rooted to the spot. You know, Sarah, PTSD is a very real ailment. I hope you are getting treatment."
"We both are, Mom—together and individually. It's not really PTSD—the symptoms are too mild and Sarah is much better now."
"You told us you had gone to pre-marital counseling. You've been to see a shrink, too?"
"Yes, Dad. I need to talk with someone. I can't be hovering over Sarah all the time. When she first got home from the hospital, I was overwhelmed with guilt for not doing a better job protecting her. I could hardly bear to see her so miserable. But the Agency doctor and Pastor Carlson helped a lot."
"They helped me, too." Sarah put her hand on Matt's knee.
"You told Pastor Carlson about everything?"
Matt was uncomfortable. "Well, I had to tell him the accident story. I don't like lying, especially to a pastor, but I needed his help."
"I'm just so sorry that all of this happened to you." Sharon went to sit on the edge of the couch near Sarah. She picked up her hand. "I didn't understand everything that I was hearing on my own and from David, but I always believed you were sincere, Sarah."
"Thank you both for apologizing, but I feel partly to blame for all of this misunderstanding. I asked Matt not to tell."
"Only because it has been so difficult for you. I can understand why you didn't want to talk about it. Thank you for opening up to us." Sharon looked over at David, then back at Matt and Sarah. "I know I'm willing to put all of this behind us and move forward. I hope you'll be willing to do the same. We love you both."
Sarah leaned forward and opened her arms to Sharon, who welcomed her embrace. "Oh, we love you, too. And I want to do that so badly. I can't imagine how my parents ever managed to keep their relationship a secret."
Matt reached out to rest his hand on Sarah's back. "It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off of our shoulders."
A knock sounded on the door.
Lauren stuck her head in the door. "Lunch has been ready for some time. I took Sarah's pies out of the oven. They looked so delish—I hope you don't mind if Emma and I ate half of the apple, Sar—Oh! You're crying." Her expression changed from mischievous to contrite as soon as she saw Sarah's face.
Sharon shot Lauren a look, but Sarah intervened. "It's okay, Sharon. We should go have lunch. It's late."
Lauren slipped out the door, closing it behind her.
"Let's pray first." David glanced around the room.
"I'd like that."
At Sarah's affirmation, David offered her a tentative smile.
"Thank you for the Thanksgiving meal, Smythe. You and your staff really know how to go all out. And it isn't even a British holiday." Lee patted his stomach and grinned at the butler/agent, then at Emily, who beamed with pleasure.
"Easy enough to find the recipes on the internet. And Lady Farnsworth grew up in America. We ship in the needed ingredients every year."
"I've never seen anyone enjoy your cover as much as you do, Agent Smythe." Amanda offered him an appreciative smile.
"I consider it a second vocation, really. Sort of an extended hobby. So glad you enjoyed the meal. And it was a pleasure working with you both. Goodbye."
After Smythe left, Tristan Bates and Margaret appeared on the front steps of the mansion. "We wanted to say goodbye one last time—although we'll see you in January."
Surprised, Amanda detected a smile on the taciturn young woman's lips. "We're counting on you being there. Good luck to you both." She thought she detected the hint of a flush on Margaret's cheek.
Bates reached out to shake Lee's hand. "A pleasure to work with you, Mr. Stetson." He nodded at Amanda. "Mrs. Stetson. I trust you'll manage to keep your husband out of the Russians' hands."
"I'll do my best."
"Enjoyed working with you, too, Bates. And with you, Mrs. Bates." Lee winked slyly at Margaret, causing her to blush further.
The pair disappeared inside, ready to help Emily once the goodbyes were over. Amanda and Lee both hugged the elderly woman.
"You've created a marvelous legacy, Emily."
"Well, in the spirit of the holiday, I'd like to point out that I'm quite grateful for my family, even though they may not be blood relatives. Right, niece?"
"Oh, you remembered. That was a long time ago. We're thankful for you, too, Emily. And I'm thankful for Tristan. Without him my husband might not be here."
After Amanda finished hugging Emily, Lee gingerly did the same. "Take care of yourself." He leaned in so only Emily and Amanda could hear. "And I'm grateful for both of you. Thanks, Emily, for all that you did."
Once they were settled in the borrowed BMW, Lee looked over at his wife. "Well, barring any further trouble, we're finally on vacation. Care to paint the town red with me?"
"Actually, I was thinking we'd be a lot safer just staying in."
"We do have that nice suite at the International for the next few days." Lee took Amanda's hand. It felt strange to hold her right hand with his left while they were driving. Ignoring the distraction, he glanced at her and winked suggestively.
"Sure, that will be great for a place to rest our heads at night. We can see if there's anything good on TV. Maybe tomorrow we'll do some sightseeing."
Lee dropped her hand.
Amanda eyed Lee with mock consternation. "Oh Stetson, you give up too easily."
The dishes mostly washed and the food put away, Sharon Granger glanced happily around the dining room table as she sat down to enjoy her pie and coffee. Everyone else was quiet as they delved into their servings. Her parents, Florence and William, had arrived safely early that morning. Although they were nearing eighty, they were still in good health and enjoyed living in their retirement community not far away. Nevertheless, she was always relieved to know they had made the thirty-minute trip on back roads with no incident, and she had planned the early dinner so her parents could have plenty of time to visit with the family and not have to drive in the dark.
She lifted a forkful of apple pie to her mouth. The first bite was mouth-watering. "Oh Sarah, this is marvelous. I hope you won't mind sharing the recipe."
"Sure." She laughed. "It's a good thing my grandmother isn't here, though. She was really frustrated with my Aunt Lillian when she gave it to me. I guess Aunt Lillian never shared it with Grandma—or my mom, for that matter."
Sharon's mother, who was seated next to Sarah, leaned over and patted Sarah's hand. "She must have recognized a good cook."
Blushing, she thanked Florence. "That's kind of you to say. Your pecan pie is to die for."
Before dinner, Florence had spent a long time chatting with Sarah as they sat together in the living room. Most of the time had been spent alone as the Granger women had shooed her out of the kitchen so Sarah could get to know Florence. Matt, who had gone out with his grandfather and David to visit the horses, had been quick to praise her for winning over his grandparents.
"Grandma is a nice lady, but Mom gets her personality from Grandpa."
"He seems very outgoing and sweet."
"Yeah. But Grandma likes to size people up. You must have made quite an impression—she's taken with you." Matt's eyes glowed with a combination of amusement and pride.
David's voice brought Sarah back to the dinner table. He was speaking to her. "It's a family tradition to choose something that your thankful for that shares the first letter of our name. For instance, someone named Frank could say they're thankful for family, because the word family begins with an F. We'll have a few other people go first, so you have time to think. I'll start." He smiled at her as he continued. "Daughters. I'm thankful for daughters. Lauren and Emma, you continue to bring your mother and me a lot of joy, but I'm thinking, too, of the new daughter who has joined our family. You may not be married to Matt yet, Sarah, but Sharon and I think of you as our family now."
"Thank you, David. I can't tell you what that means to me." A pale shade of pink, Sarah smiled at him before looking down at her lap, trying to hold back tears.
Matt took Sarah's hand under the table as the Granger women murmured their praise to David for his kind words. Florence patted Sarah's hand once again.
"Well, I won't be as mushy as David here." William's tone was jovial. "I'm thankful for women. Without them we men would be stuck cooking. I enjoy barbecued boar and venison, but it wouldn't be nearly as good without the mashed potatoes and pie."
Once the laughter calmed down, the game continued around the table until it was Sarah's turn. Faltering at first, she managed, "Honestly, I couldn't decide between sisters, Sharon, or sweet relatives. My brothers are much older, so I grew up mostly as an only child. It's been so nice to get to know you, Emma and Lauren. Thank you both, and thank you Sharon, for making me feel like a part of the family. In fact, you all have been kind."
Matt gripped Sarah's hand under the table as he glanced lovingly at her. "I guess I'm last. I'm grateful for marriage, and the opportunity to marry such a lovely woman. God has really blessed me with you, Sarah." He leaned over and kissed her cheek.
"Well, who would have thought these Granger men could be so mushy. What say we play a little Mexican train before Grandma Flo and I have to leave?"
That evening, after his grandparents had driven away and the family had settled down to watch a movie in the family room, Matt led Sarah out of the house. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders as they walked slowly across the driveway. "You warm enough?"
"Sure. It's not so cold tonight."
"No. Where do you want to walk? We could go to the stable. I know you don't like to be out on the paths."
"I'm working on that fear of boar. But if you want to go to the stable..."
"The thought is tempting—a little too tempting right now. Do you mind if we go to the bench?"
Smiling, Sarah looked up at Matt, trying to see his eyes. She could just see them crinkling at the edges as he returned her smile. "That would be nice. You know, we're almost at the six-week mark."
"I was thinking of that earlier, when you were so sweet at the table."
Glad he could not see her blushing, Sarah looked down. "Oh."
"I'm going to miss you when we get back to D.C."
"Me, too. But maybe we can have lunch—certainly we'll see each other in the hallways."
"Yeah. But I have a feeling I'm going to be coming over for dinner quite a bit."
"Maybe it's a good idea if we don't hang out at your place alone too much?"
"Yeah. At least at night." Matt moved his hand to hers as he changed tack. "Listen, I want to thank you for being so forgiving of us Granger men. We haven't been on our best behavior this week."
"You couldn't help what happened—not really. It was good we got that out in the open."
"I guess we can say the same for my dad."
"Yes. He was concerned for his son. Misplaced concern, perhaps, but…"
They were quiet as they sat down on the bench, their hands still clasped, and looked south towards the lights of the suburbs.
It was Matt who broke the silence. "I love you, you know."
Sarah squeezed his hand. "I know."