Just One More Dance – by CGBear
Season 3 - a minor prequel to my first story, Framed, which is posted here.
Thanks to Cheryl for beta reading this for me. As always she is fabulous at this.
The Usual Disclaimers about who owns this. I don't, but I do like to write for the wonderful couple.
The bullpen at the Agency hummed with movement and activity. Agents moved with purpose through the room discussing the latest diplomatic disaster or perceived threat to National security. One lone woman remained unmoving seemingly engrossed with the data on her computer screen ignored by all around her except one man watching her closely as he approached her.
Amanda King looked up from her computer and looked around for the source of her name. Suddenly all the sounds from the bullpen crashed in on her ears.
"Amanda." The voice repeated followed by a hand on her shoulder.
"Oh, hi Lee." She replied smiling at her partner.
Lee sat on the edge of her desk and smiled down at her. "Where were you? I called your name three times."
"Did you? Sorry, I was thinking about this charity Halloween masquerade ball I have to attend."
"Why do you have to go? And why haven't I heard about it before now?" Lee's hand was placed comfortably close to hers on the desk.
"Lee, I'm sure I told you about it months ago." Amanda braced her chin with her other hand. "I'm one of the organizers of the ball and I have to go."
"When is it?" Lee asked his thumb lightly stroking hers.
"A week from Saturday."
Lee's voice quieted. "I'm being recertified for outdoor survival."
"I know. That's why I didn't ask if you wanted to go with me…you know…to support the charity." She tried to keep the disappointment out of her voice. She knew that survival training took a week to complete as the agents were left in the wild and they had to make it back to camp on their own. Once the course was completed each agent returned to the Agency.
Lee coughed slightly. "Are you going with a da…an escort?" His hand tightened slightly on the desk.
"No, not really. There is this guy from the PTA who keeps asking me out." Amanda sighed. "I keep telling him no."
She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. He is so persistent. He always seems to be where I am."
"What do you mean?" Amanda could almost see the wheels start to turn in his head.
"Just that. When I go to one of the boys' soccer games, he's there. He's always at the PTA meetings. I see him in the store." She shrugged her shoulders again. "I don't know. The poor man has been separated from his wife for six months so he is trying to be a good parent."
"Why haven't you told me before?" Lee's voice was tight.
"It didn't seem important. But, he is going to be there. He told me that his company bought two entire tables for the ball and he has personally made a big contribution to Haven House." She moved her hand away from his and sighed. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to make nice with him."
"Just what do you mean make nice?" Amanda caught an odd shine in Lee's hazel eyes.
"Well," she said picking up a pencil and tapping the eraser on the desk, "you know that if he is donating that much money to Haven House, I will have to socialize with him."
Amanda carefully picked her words. "Talk with him and probably dance with him. You know, socialize"
"Have you checked this guy out?"
Amanda sighed. "Lee, I don't need to check him out. He's just an ordinary man who seems to like me."
"I don't like it. You don't know anything about him."
Amanda rolled her eyes. "Lee, I'm not going to marry the man, I'm simply going to be in the same room with him for several hours."
"Well, I still don't like it."
"Unfortunately, there is nothing to be done about it. I'm just going to have to deal with the situation."
Lee rubbed his hands on his pants legs. "I really came over here to see if you wanted to go have lunch."
Amanda smiled. "Sure, that would be nice."
She gathered her papers and placed them neatly in her desk and stood pulling her purse up on her shoulder. Lee's hand on her lower back guided her out of the bullpen. His hand's placement was a pleasant physical reminder of their partnership.
A comfortable silence fell between them as they walked to the elevator heading for the Georgetown foyer. As they arranged to coats in the closet Amanda thought that it was time to have her wool coat dry cleaned. Lee's voice broke into her thoughts. "So, what's your costume?"
She smiled for the obvious effort to change the direction of the conversation. "I've been working on a medieval costume for a few weeks. It's a red velvet dress with long sleeves and I found a piece of tapestry to use as an accent right down the middle of the skirt. I hope I'll have it done in time."
He smiled. "Well, I'm sure it will be beautiful."
They walked down the street to a little café they had found one afternoon. Oddly enough, they never saw anyone else from the Agency there. They talked about little things going on and unclassified projects and surveillance. Lee fell into silence for a few minutes until Amanda touched his arm.
"Lee, are you okay?"
"Are you positive? You seemed lost in thought for a minute."
She felt the warmth of his hand as he covered hers and patted it. "I'm positive." He replied smiling. "Let's head back."
Later that week -
The next week was both hectic and lonely for Amanda as she continued not only with her own duties in the bullpen but also some of Lee's paperwork in the Q Bureau while he attended survival recertification. In the evenings, she worked on the charity ball seating arrangements, coordinated with florists and caterers, managed homework assignments and tried not to react anytime she heard a sound outside her door. There was no tapping on her window as she worked at her kitchen table. Over the past few years, she had gotten used to Lee's forays to her house. At least one thing got checked off her list, her finished dress hung in the closet waiting for Saturday night to be unveiled.
She had another problem to deal with, Mark Bennett. She had alluded to Lee that Mark was hanging around her a lot. That turned out to be an understatement. With Lee gone, she had been home more and attended more of the boys' functions this week. Every time she turned around it seemed like Mark Bennett was there, offering a cup of coffee or inviting her out. Having him around her all the time was giving her a creepy feeling. She was considering asking one of the agents in the bullpen to go with her to the party just to keep Mark away, but then she discarded the idea as unfeasible. Lee would hear of it if she dated anyone else from work and she remembered his reaction when she dated David Benson.
She sighed and took a sip of her tea. She had to think this relationship with Lee through. What kind a relationship did they have? She knew he liked her and that they were friends. So, she was his partner and his friend and nothing else. What else could there be when he continued to have girlfriends and play the field? Thinking about his relationship with Leslie O'Connell still hurt. It had been a while though since one of his women was brought to her attention or rather rubbed in her face.
The trilling of the phone broke through her thoughts. She got up from the table and walked over the phone on the breakfast bar. "Hello?"
A male voice came clearly over the line. "Amanda, Mark Bennett."
'Now, THAT'S JUST SPOOKY, I was just thinking about him.' She grimaced at the phone. "Hello Mark. What can I do for you?"
"I was just calling to see if the boys needed a ride to the soccer game. I know you must have a ton of work to do before the ball."
"No, thank you for asking. Mother has taken them already."
Mark's voice sounded disappointed. "Oh, okay. So, how is the ball shaping up?"
"I think we're ready." Amanda managed to keep her voice professional.
"I'm not surprised. You always seem to be on top of things."
Amanda smiled. "Thank you, Mark. That's very nice to hear."
"I hope you're planning on saving me several dances. I've been practicing my Foxtrot."
Amanda laughed. "I would imagine I'll be busy taking care of last minute details, but I'm sure I'll have some room on my dance card."
"I'm going to hold you to that. So, I'll see you on Saturday. What does your costume look like?"
"I guess you are just going to have to find out the old fashioned way." Amanda realized it would take a few minutes for him to zero in on her if he didn't know how she was dressed.
"So you are going to make me work for my dances." He sounded intrigued to Amanda.
"I guess I will. Listen, Mark I have to go."
"Then I'll see you on Saturday."
"Yes, I'll see you then. Bye." Amanda hung up the phone and blew out a breath. Maybe it won't be as bad as she thought.
Saturday Evening -
When Saturday arrived, Amanda moved through her day taking care of panicked phone calls and last minute disasters. She donned her costume and headed to the masquerade ball.
The ball was being held in the McAllister Gardens Ballroom. Amanda had arranged for the florist to work with the caterers to develop a theme for the room and when she arrived the room was in a state of controlled chaos, but absolutely stunning. The dark wood paneling and floor shone with polish and the candle sconces added a romantic touch while the chandeliers reflected light from their shining crystals. The flowers and the place settings seemed to be designed to reflect the elegance of the party. She and the other organizers decided that there would be food tables placed around the room and that people could sit at their designated table or just mingle and nibble on the various foods offered. Amanda sought out Mr. Williams, the catering manager, and he assured her that everything was taken care of and that she should enjoy herself. If there were any problems, he would see to them and only seek her out in an emergency.
Keeping an eye on the door and the incoming guests, Amanda walked through the ballroom and mingled with the other arrivals. She was enjoying herself talking about politics and celebrity scandals. One thing she seemed to know more about was the background on some of the political discussion through her job at the Agency but managed to keep her information general and unclassified. She didn't seem to be lacking dance partners as several of the sponsors, other organizers as well as the Executive Director of Haven House all asked to dance with her. While talking to her old boss, Congressman Gaines, about an education bill, she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Amanda," Mark Bennett began, "I finally found you. Let me claim my first dance."
With a smile and an internal grimace, Amanda excused herself from the conversation and moved to the dance floor with Mark. He was an adequate dancer though nothing like a certain partner of hers. When she danced with Lee everything just seemed to jell together. They almost anticipated each other's moves.
"Amanda," Mark said claiming her attention, "are you okay? You seem to be miles away."
Feeling slightly guilty for not being a good dance partner, Amanda turned her attention back to Mark. "I'm sorry, Mark, I was just thinking about the party and wondering how the food was holding out."
As soon as the words left her mouth a tap on her arm came from one of the waiters, a short man with a mustache and bushy hair. "Mrs. King," he said, "there is a slight problem in the kitchen. Could you come with me, please?"
"What's the matter?" Amanda asked letting her hand drop from Mark's shoulder.
"I don't know ma'am. Mr. Williams asked me to get you."
Amanda sighed. "Will you excuse me, Mark? I better find out what has happened."
He took her hand. "I'd be happy to go with you and help with whatever is wrong."
She shook her head. "Mark, you're a guest tonight. Go enjoy the refreshments. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Mark leaned over and kissed her hand. "Of course. I'll wait for you."
Amanda surreptitiously wiped her hand on her dress as she began to make her way to the kitchen entrance when a familiar voice tickled her ear and warm hand caressed her arm. "Amanda?"
Utterly surprised and delighted, Amanda turned to see her partner in full medieval costume from boots to leather pants and a tunic. "Lee! What are you doing here?" She leaned in and whispered. "You're supposed to be at survival recertification."
He chuckled. "I set the new record for finishing the course. I wanted to be here for you."
Amanda blushed. "Thank you. I'm really glad you're here."
Lee took her hand. "Shall we dance?"
"I would love to, but I have to see the caterer about something."
"I'll go with you." Lee offered as he placed his hand on her back to guide her to the kitchen.
The waiter spoke up. "I'm sorry sir. No one else is allowed in the kitchen other than Mrs. King and the staff." He looked over his shoulder to the kitchen.
"I'm Mrs. King's escort. I'm sure it's okay." Lee voice was firm.
Out of the corner of her eye, Amanda's caught sight of the caterer over by the food table fussing with a tray of canapés. "Oh there's Mr. Williams. I'll just run over and find out what he needs." She looked at the waiter whose face was starting to get red. "Are you all right? Maybe you need to sit down for a few minutes."
"I'm fine. I'm sure we can find out what is wrong if you would just step into the kitchen. Mr. Williams is busy and doesn't need to be disturbed right now."
"I thought you said he needed to see me?" Amanda asked. She looked at Lee and his face became impassive. Hairs began to prickle on her neck. She knew that face of Lee's, he was suspicious of something.
"No ma'am. You just needed to deal with whatever happened in the kitchen. But since Mr. Williams is out here, he must have handled the emergency by himself. I'm sure he will be able to tell you. Please excuse me." The waiter hurried away.
"That was strange."
Lee looked deep in thought. "Yes, it was. Do you know that waiter's name? He wasn't wearing a name tag."
Amanda thought for a moment. "No, but the caterer handles the wait staff."
While they talked, they made their way over to the caterer. "Mr. Williams, is there a problem in the kitchen? You needed see me? " Amanda asked with no preamble.
The tall man shook his head. 'No, Mrs. King, everything is going smoothly. You have organized this event very nicely. There have not been any problems that I haven't been able to handle."
Lee broke in. "One of your waiters just said you needed her in the kitchen. A short man with bushy hair and a mustache."
Mr. Williams frowned. "I don't have anyone who matches that description in my employ and I haven't asked anyone to fetch you, Mrs. King."
"Okay, thank you." Amanda and Lee moved away as Mr. Williams turned to the tables.
"That was strange," Amanda said as Lee escorted her to the dance floor and took her in his arms.
"Yes it was. Why did he want you in the kitchen?"
"I don't know. Why would he lie?"
"Maybe we should find him and ask."
Amanda looked over Lee's shoulder to see Mark Bennett heading her way again. She sighed. "Here comes the man I was telling you about. Which name do you want me to use?"
"Use my real one." Lee countered.
"Really?" She raised her head and looked into his eyes. "Okay."
Mark had reached them and Amanda felt the tension growing in her shoulders as he looked at her and at Lee.
"Amanda," Mark questioned, "Who is this? I thought you were handling an emergency with the caterer?"
She stepped out of Lee's arms. "Mark Bennett, this is Lee Stetson. Lee is the colleague I told you about. He managed to make it back from a shooting assignment for the ball tonight. He originally offered to be my escort. Lee, this is Mark Bennett. His son is on the same soccer team as Phillip and Mark is a member of the PTA. He also made a very generous contribution to Haven House."
Mark put out his hand. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Stetson."
Lee smiled. "Same here."
"Mark, I'm sorry. There was some sort of miscommunication. He didn't need me after all and I was just so surprised to see Lee that we just moved onto the dance floor." She looked over at her partner. "Perhaps we can have the next dance, while Lee samples some of the delicious food."
She felt Lee's hand clench the fabric of her dress but his face was serene. "Of course." Amanda moved into Mark's arms as Lee left the dance floor. She followed Lee's movements to the buffet table.
"Lee seems very nice. He's watching you from the appetizer table," Mark commented turning her away from Lee's gaze.
"He's a good friend. We work quite a lot together." Amanda realized it wouldn't be polite to turn her head to seek Lee out.
Mark looked down into her face his expression serious. "Can we walk in the garden?" He pulled on the collar of his shirt. "It's a little warm in here."
"I really shouldn't leave. They may need me."
Mark took hold of her arm. "Everything is running well. You've put together a wonderful ball. I think they can handle a few minutes without you. I would like to talk to you alone."
Amanda hesitated. "I suppose."
They walked out to the gardens and sat on the bench. Mark took her hand. "Amanda…I think you are…" he stammered.
Amanda pulled her hand out of his. "Mark, before you say anything else. I think you are special and a great father and I would like to have you as a friend."
She felt a slight stab of guilt at the crestfallen look on his face. "A friend?"
"Yes." Amanda patted his arm.
Mark cleared his throat. "Is there someone else? I mean are you dating someone else, Lee perhaps?"
The question stopped her for a moment. "Yes… I mean no. I have a lot on my plate right now."
"I guess I'm not surprised really. I mean you always seem to be rushing around. I'm sorry to have bothered you." He looked down into his lap at his clenched fingers.
Amanda reached out to put a hand on his arm. "Please, I don't think you were a bother at all. Thank you so much. I'm really very flattered by your attention."
The silence extended and Amanda wondered if she had said the wrong thing. Finally, he stood. "I better get you back inside to your colleague. He's probably wondering where you are."
"I suppose he must be." Amanda turned her head to look towards the door and saw a flash of white behind a nearby bush. Suddenly, she shivered as chill went down her spine and the hairs stood up on the back of her neck. Shaking her head to dismiss the feeling as Mark reclaimed her attention, she looked up at him. "Did you just see something behind that bush?" She asked.
Mark looked around. "No. Maybe a waiter was getting a breath of fresh air."
As she stood and took his hand she turned to the ballroom entrance and saw Lee standing just outside watching them cross the lawn. As they approached him, Mark held out his hand. "Thank you for lending me your partner. You're very lucky."
Lee shook his hand. "You're welcome and yes, I know she's special."
Lee walked her back into the ballroom and took her into his arms once again to glide across the dance floor. The last of the creepy feeling from outside faded away as the music flowed over the two of them.
As the evening began to wind down, Amanda sat at a table with Lee having a glass of wine and listening to his account of his week.
"Lee," she asked after he had finished with his story, "something's been bothering me. Did you see anyone in the bushes as Mark and I were walking back from the garden? I got a very strange feeling right before we walked back."
Lee looked thoughtful for a moment. "I didn't see anything, but your instincts are rarely wrong. I want you to be careful."
Lee's hazel eyes held her gaze for a moment. She knew things were not the same for them. They hadn't been in months. She acknowledged that Mark Bennett was a perfectly nice man and would be a wonderful catch for anyone, but just not for her.
Before she realized it Lee stood in front of her, "Come on Amanda, just one last dance before the night is done."
Amanda smiled, rose and took his hand. "I can't imagine anything I would like more."