To Tell the Truth

Title: To Tell the Truth

Author: Love

Rating: PG

Summary: Jamie's essay on honesty have Lee and Amanda feeling guilty. Will their guilt be the thing that gets them to reveal their marriage?

Author's Notes: Wow, I can't believe this is actually happening. I'd like to thank the awesome SMK5 team for putting up with my endless questions. I would like to thank Cat and Sybil for their awesome betaing that helped me get the story I wanted. I would also like to thank Sally and Kris for going over the first part of this for me. Sorry things didn't work out for the second part. I dedicate this episode to all the wonderful SMK fans out there. This is for you!

Part One
Friday, January 1, 1988 2:30 P.M.

In a house across from 4247 Maplewood Drive, a man looked out of a window through a pair of binoculars. The phone rang, and he quickly went to it to answer. "How do you expect me to find dirt on Lee Stetson if you keep calling every ten minutes?" he growled into the receiver.

"Look here, you imbecile," the female voice on the other end yelled. "We need dirt on Stetson before he is assigned to 'Operation Beat It.'"

"What makes you think Stetson will be assigned to 'Operation Beat It?'"

"Lee Stetson and his partner, Amanda King, are the best agent team the Agency has. It only makes sense that the best would be assigned to 'Beat It.'"

"Speaking of Stetson and his partner, there's something you might want to investigate further. I think that they're involved."

"Mathers, what do you mean by involved?"

"Personally involved. Right now, it looks like he's spending New Year's Day with her family. Most of the time, when I follow Stetson, I'm following her, too. I believe that they're emotionally involved."

"This is something we can use, yes?"


"How sure are you?" she snarled.

"I'm getting tired of you underestimating my abilities. I've been observing people for over fifteen years now. Dig around. Find something we can use."

"You better be right," she told him.

"I'm always right." The man hung up and went back to the window to continue his vigil on the house across the street.



Part Two
New Year's Day at the King House

Lee had arrived at the house bright and early, surprised to hear Phillip already on the phone with his girlfriend. Even though he wasn't a breakfast person, Lee managed to eat a few pancakes with fresh maple syrup.

While he was eating, Jamie explained the ritual of New Years Day. "Phillip usually turns the TV onto some college bowl football game, while Mom, Grandma, and I play Scrabble. You can do whichever you want. After the football's over, Mom orders us a couple of pizzas, and then we play several games of Monopoly and Pictionary."

As Lee helped clean up after breakfast, he thought about how he would have reacted if someone had told him four years ago that he would be spending New Years Day with Amanda's family, watching TV and playing board games. 'Let's face it, Stetson, you would have laughed at them.' He was glad that Lee Stetson was gone, and treasured whatever time he could spend with his family.

Later on, Lee and Phillip sat on the sofa watching the Rose Bowl the others played their fourth round of Scrabble. While Jamie and Amanda were still intent on the game, Dotty's eyes had begun to stray to the football game. Lee glanced at her, and noticed that she wasn't interested in the actual game, but in the players.

"Mother," Amanda said, "it's your turn."

"That's nice, Amanda," Dotty replied, not turning away from the television screen.

Jamie decided to try to get his grandmother's attention, "Grandma, Mom and I would really like to finish this game before next year. Could you, please, at least, take your turn?"

"Sure, Jamie," Dotty said as she joined Phillip and Lee on the sofa. Lee swallowed a chuckle, and joined Amanda and Jamie at the Scrabble table.

"I'll finish for her. Does this happen every year?"

"Yep," Jamie said. "She always gets interested in the men playing football, but she doesn't like the game itself."

Any further discussion of his grandmother's viewing habits was interrupted by the doorbell.

"Amanda, what was that noise?"

"That's the doorbell, Mother." Amanda rolled her eyes at her mother's attraction the men on the television.

"I'll get it," Jamie said, racing to the door to open it. "Mr. Morales, what are you doing here?" He was astounded to see one of his teachers doing at his house, on New Year's Day.

"Can I come in?" the Arlington Heights Middle School teacher asked. Jamie nodded, and allowed him entrance. In his hand, he held a manila envelope. By this time, Dotty and Phillip's attention had shifted from the football game, toward their visitor. It was unusual for one of Jamie's teachers to visit.

"Good afternoon, folks. Sorry to interrupt, but yesterday I received a letter from the 'Young Writers of Virginia' essay contest. I didn't know what plans you had for New Years Eve, so I decide to wait until today to give Jamie the news. I tried to call, but the line was busy."

Amanda looked at her older son. "Phillip, did you hang up the phone after you finished talking to Linda?"

"I think so." Phillip answered. Seeing his mother's look, he went to check. As he reseated the handset that had been set down backwards, he mumbled an apology.

"No harm done," Mr. Morales said. He pulled out a letter from the envelope and handed it to Jamie. "Why don't you read this?"

Jamie took the letter and read it out loud.

Dear Mr. Morales:
We are pleased to inform you that two of the students in your Advanced
Language Arts class have placed in our eighth annual 'Young Writers of
Virginia' essay contest. James King and Angela Davis have placed first
and second, respectively. A third Arlington student, Ramona Jones, has
placed third. Although it is short notice, the awards ceremony will be
held on Tuesday, January 5 at 6:30 P.M., at Arlington Heights Middle
School. As our first place winner, James will be expected to present his
essay aloud. All of our winners are encouraged to invite family and
friends to attend the ceremony. Congratulations to you and your

Donna Moore
President of the Young Writers of Virginia.

"Sweetheart, I'm so proud of you," Amanda said as she walked over to hug her son.

"Way to go," Phillip told his brother.

"I didn't know that we had such a talented writer in our family," Dotty gushed.

Lee didn't quite know what to say to his stepson. He got up from the couch, and walked over to where Amanda and Jamie stood. "Congratulations." It seemed inadequate, but as he saw the look in Jamie's eyes, he realized that maybe it wasn't.

Mr. Morales removed a piece of paper from the envelope and handed it to Amanda. "Mrs. King, here is the other information you'll need. I'll leave you to celebrate."

"Thanks for stopping by," Amanda told him as she walked Mr. Morales to the door. "Happy New Year."

"Happy New Year to you all as well," he told them as he left the house.

"Wow, I can't believe it. I'm going to call Dad." Jamie went to the phone and began to dial Joe.

When Jamie was finished talking, he turned to his mother. "He said he could make it to the ceremony, Mom."

Amanda smiled. "I'm really glad he'll be able to make it, Sweetheart." She looked at the clock. "Oh, my gosh, I forgot about dinner!"

"Why don't we all go out for pizza to celebrate instead of ordering in?" Dotty suggested.

"I'll buy," Lee volunteered, and Amanda smiled.

"Um, can I invite Angela and her dad to join us?" Jamie wanted to know.

"I guess so," Amanda replied, slightly puzzled, as Jamie went upstairs to make his call.

Dotty asked, "Why didn't he call her from here?"

"I don't know, Mother," Amanda responded. "I don't remember hearing him ever mention Angela's name before. Phillip?"

"They're friends. I don't know why he didn't mention it." Could his brother have a girlfriend? Who'd have thought? Phillip mused. "I'm going to my room to change before we leave for the pizza place."

"Why wouldn't he want us to know that he's friends with Angela Davis?" Dotty wanted to know.

"I don't know, but I'm glad we're going to meet her," Amanda said.

A couple of minutes later, Jamie returned to the family room wearing his coat with Phillip in tow. "I told them to meet us at Georgio's Pizza Parlor in thirty minutes."

"Let's go," Amanda said, and they left the house.



New Year's Day at the Agency was hectic. Doctor Smyth was out of town, and Billy Melrose was filling in for him, while Francine Desmond was filling in for Billy. Francine was at the end of her rope: she really needed Lee and Amanda to come in, but there was no answer at Lee's apartment, and the phone at Amanda's house had been busy all day.

Francine sighed. 'Operation Beat It' was in jeopardy before it even began. The operation was designed to shut down the newest in American-based terrorist groups. Earlier in the day, an Agency source had informed Francine that the terrorist group found out about the top secret operation and that they wanted all the details about it. Francine was
now in search of answers and wanted the best, Lee and Amanda, to find them.

Francine picked up the phone to call Billy. "Billy, do you know what Lee and Amanda are doing today?"

On the other end of the line, Billy was grateful that Lee and Amanda hadn't informed him of their plans." Francine, I have no idea what Lee and Amanda are doing today. They're on the last day of their vacation. You're going to have to wait until tomorrow."

Receiving Billy's negative reply, Francine moaned, "I really need someone good to work on this 'Beat It' situation."

"Why don't you see if Beeman and Fred Fielder are available?"

"Billy, I don't want Fred Fielder and Beeman! I need Lee and Amanda."

"Then you're just going to have to wait until tomorrow."

Francine made a face. "Okay, I'll wait until tomorrow." She slammed down the phone in frustration, then muttered to herself, "But I won't like it."



At Georgio's Pizza Parlor, Amanda, Lee, and their family sat in a large booth as they waited for Angela and her dad.

"Why didn't you ever mention Angela Davis before?" Amanda asked looking at Jamie.

"Mom, it's a long story," Jamie answered. His tone hinted that he didn't want to discuss it further.

"We have plenty of time before Angela and her dad show up," Amanda pursued. "So explain."

Jamie took a deep breath and began. "Angela and her dad moved here from Portland, Maine at the beginning of the school year. We met on the first day of school. Our lockers are right next to each other and we're in a lot of the same classes. We, um, we hit it off. Suddenly looking anywhere, but at his mother, he said, "I trust her." He was embarrassed. "I guess I was afraid she'd be uncomfortable around a family like ours."

"What do you mean by a family like ours?" Dotty asked.

"Women," Jamie answered and Phillip snickered. "Angela's parents divorced when she was real little. She hardly ever sees her mother, and she's not really that comfortable with the whole mother thing. "Jamie looked to the front of the restaurant and let out a sigh of relief. "Here they are."

Having spotted Jamie, Angela Davis and her father walked toward the booth. Amanda took a close look and noticed that Angela was tall for a twelve-year-old. She had dark brown hair and bright blue eyes. Her father appeared to be in his mid thirties, with the same hair and eye color as his daughter.

"Hey, everyone," Jamie stood up, "This is Angela Davis and her father. Mr. Davis, Angela, this is my mom, my grandmother, Mrs. West, my brother, Phillip, and my mom's boyfriend Mr. Stetson."

The adults shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. They quickly progressed to a first name basis.

"It's nice to finally meet you all," Angela said as she took a seat.

"Same here," Amanda told her looking out of the corner of her eye at Jamie.

"Angela, how do you like Arlington, so far?" Dotty asked. "I moved here myself when I was your age."

"I love it here, Mrs. West," she smiled.

"Moving here was the best decision I've made in a while," Robert Davis said. "My Angie is happier here than she was in Portland."

"So, Jamie," Angela said in an attempt to move the focus away herself, "are you going to practice reading your essay before Tuesday?"

"Guess I'll have to, huh? I'm not really comfortable talking in front of a lot of people. You're a lot better at it. Maybe you should have gotten first place?"

"Oh, Jamie, you'll do fine." She looked around and noticed her dad in conversation with Jamie's mother. Lowering her voice, she continued "I'll be on stage with you, so if you get nervous, just look at me."

"Okay, thanks." Jamie looked up. "Hey, this pizza parlor has the neatest arcade." He turned to his mother. "Mom, is it alright if we go into the arcade for a while?"

"Sure, Sweetheart," Amanda told him. "Do you have any money?"

Jamie nodded. "All right! Let's go!"

Once the threesome had left the table, Dotty began. "Mr. Davis, if you don't mind me asking, why did you move here in the first place?"

"Mother!" Amanda scolded.

"That's okay," Robert Davis smiled. "And by the way, please, do call me Rob." He paused before beginning his explanation. "Well, Angie was having problems in school. The other kids wouldn't talk to her very much. Maybe it was because she was the smartest girl in her class and they were jealous? I don't know. We also had a situation where her mother would make plans to spend time with her, but always canceled. Angie was disappointed every time. Then I was offered a job here. My father lives here in Arlington, and he offered to have us move in with
him. The more I learned both about the job and the schools, it seemed like a good fit." Robert glanced over toward the arcade area and smiled. "I'm glad we did. Angie has new friends, sees her grandfather every day, and her mother talks to her on the phone more than she did while we lived in the same city."

"Rob, why don't we check on the kids, and you can tell me more about your father. Amanda, you and Lee order the pizzas while we're gone." Dotty took charge as she escorted Robert to the arcade.

"It's obvious that Rob loves his daughter very much," Lee commented.

"Yeah," Amanda smiled. "You know, it's eerie how similar Jamie and Angela's lives seem to be."

As the waitress came over to take their order, Mathers entered and sat in a nearby booth. Thanks to his high tech miniature cufflink camera, he was able to take several surveillance photos of Lee and Amanda, which he planned on adding to the collection he was accumulating for his employers.



Part Three
Saturday, January 2, 1988 9:30 A.M.

As Lee and Amanda sat in Billy's office, Amanda was trying to figure out a way to ask her Section Chief for some time off. She decided that being straightforward was her best bet. "Sir, Lee and I need Tuesday off. Jamie won an essay contest, and we would like to attend the awards ceremony."

"I read about it in the Washington Post. Congratulations. I can't promise anything, but this is what I can do: Francine finally decided it would be a good idea for someone to investigate while she waited, so Beeman and Fielder have been running this since yesterday. You two will be assigned to help them out. Then, if you do come up with some leads by Tuesday morning, I can override Francine's authority and have Beeman and Fielder follow them up. Then you two can have the rest of the day."

"Now, I've got to get back upstairs. I'll let Francine brief you on what has been going on." Billy opened the door to leave as Francine entered.

Glaring at Lee and Amanda, Francine asked them, "Why couldn't I contact you two yesterday? I really needed you here!"

"I'm sorry, Francine," Amanda told her. "Phillip didn't hang up the phone properly after talking to his girlfriend. We didn't notice it until late afternoon."

"Well," Francine sighed as she opened a folder; "'Operation Beat It' has been compromised before it even started. Somehow the terrorist group found out."

"How could anyone found out about it? A mole?" Lee wanted to know.

"The only people who knew about it were Billy, Dr. Smyth, and us. I had this office, and all of the rooms we discussed it in, swept for bugs. None were found."

"Maybe they drugged you for the information, Francine," Lee suggested, with a smirk.

"That's not funny, Stetson."

"Sorry, Francine," Lee apologized, trying to contain a chuckle.

"Never mind. I want you and Amanda to investigate the security breech. I want to know how it happened, and I want it yesterday."

"Um, Francine," Amanda began. "You might want to talk to Mr. Melrose about our schedule for Tuesday."

She raised an eyebrow in question.

"He said if we came up with anything by the morning we'd get off for the afternoon. We need to attend a special awards ceremony for Jamie."

"I don't like the idea, but fine," Francine said. That would still give her three days of their time. "Get to work."

"We're on it," Lee responded as he led Amanda out of the office.



Later that day, in an apartment across the hall from Lee's, Natalia Jones sat reading the Washington Post. She was waiting for her partner and lover, Peter Curless. She had decided to take Mathers' advice and have Peter do some digging on Stetson and King.

The door opened, and Peter walked in with a grin on his face. " Hello, my love," Peter said as he kissed Natalia. "We've hit pay dirt."

"You've found something?" Natalia asked. Peter nodded and she smiled, dropping the newspaper. "That's wonderful!"

"It took a lot of digging, but I found something, and it's good. You wouldn't believe how deeply buried it was, but I found it…Lee Stetson married Amanda King on February 13, 1987!"

Natalia smiled. "And no one knows but them...and now, us. Perfect."

At that moment, Mathers entered the apartment, carrying a picture. He looked at the paper on the floor. "Is that today's Post?"

"Yes, why do you ask?"

"Go to the front of the Metro section. Look at the article with the headline 'Arlington Students Win Essay Contest.' You should find it very interesting."

Natalia quickly found the article and started reading. "James King, Angela Davis, and Ramona Jones are the first, second, and third place winners of the eighth annual 'Young Writers of Virginia' essay contest. James King, the son of Amanda and Joe King, will read the winning essay at an open awards ceremony scheduled to take place on Tuesday at 6:30 P.M., in the auditorium of the Arlington Heights Middle School."

"Why should I care about this article, besides that my niece won third place?" Natalia wanted to know.

"James King is Amanda King's son. You know, Stetson's partner."

Natalia snatched the picture from Mathers. She carefully looked at the newspaper and the picture. James King was indeed Amanda King's son. "Good job, Mathers. I think we may finally have something we can use. Why don't you take the rest of the afternoon off? Peter and I have some plans to make."

"Sure thing," Mathers said as he left.

As his footsteps faded down the hallway, Natalia turned to Peter. "Okay. We know that 'Operation Beat It' will start next week. We also know that Lee Stetson and his partner are married, and that his partner's son won an essay contest. Now, the awards ceremony is on Tuesday, and here's what we're going to do…we're going to go to the ceremony as the aunt of the third place winner and her boyfriend. After we hear the kid's essay, we'll contact Stetson and his wife and threaten to reveal their marriage if they don't get us the information we want on 'Operation
Beat It.' When they hand over the information, we'll run off to some tropical island where the Feds can't touch us. How does that sound?"

"Natalia, you are a genius. What about Mathers?" Peter stood next to her and began to kiss her neck.

"We'll eliminate him," she purred.

"That's good," he sighed as he nibbled up to her ear.

"We'd better start preparing, if we want to be able to accomplish my plan." Natalia sighed. "But first, I guess we have some other business to attend to."

"Urgent business," Peter said as he carried Natalia to the bedroom.



Part Four
Tuesday, January 5, 1988 6:30 PM

The next few days went by in a blur, and the Agency was no closer to figuring out how 'Operation Beat It' had been compromised. Lee and Amanda left the work early enough to make it to Jamie's award ceremony, leaving the investigation in the more or less capable hands of Beeman and Fielder.

The middle school auditorium was crowded and noisy as students, teachers, family members, and people from the community tried to find seats. Guests of the three winners filled the first two rows of the auditorium. Carrie, Joe, Phillip, Dotty, Lee, and Amanda sat in the first row as did Angela's father and grandfather. The family of Ramona
Jones, sat in the second row. Aunt Natalia and Peter sat directly behind Lee and Amanda, making sure they didn't get noticed. The remaining 184 seats filled quickly.

On stage, Mr. Morales and Mrs. Dennis sat to one side with Donna Moore, the President of the 'Young Writers of Virginia,' while Jamie, Angela, and Ramona sat on the other.

As the lights were dimmed, the crowd began to settle down. Donna Moore, a middle-aged woman in her early fifties, went to the podium and began to speak. "Good evening. My name is Donna Moore, and I am President of the
'Young Writers of Virginia.' Each year the 'Young Writers of Virginia' sponsor an essay contest for seventh grade students. As President, I personally selected the topic that the students wrote about. This year's topic was honesty. I would also like to note that never in the history of our organization, have we had more than one winner of our contest come from the same school. Tonight we will hear the first place essay, and present awards of recognition to all three of our winners. After the reading of the essay and the awards presentation, a reception will be held in the school cafeteria. I now turn you over to Mr. Michael Morales."

As Donna Moore returned to her seat, Mr. Morales took her place at the podium. "Good evening. As some of you may know, I'm the Advanced Language Arts teacher for grade seven...."

Jamie felt the sweat start to build in between his shoulders. He knew, once Mr. Morales finished his speech, that it was his turn next. He turned to Angela and grimaced; she smiled at him. 'I can do this,' he said to himself. 'I can do this.' He turned his focus back to his teacher, who was finishing up.

"...Now without further ado, the winner of the 'Young Writers of Virginia Eighth Annual Essay Contest': Jamie King."

The audience applauded loudly as Jamie stood up and slowly approached the podium. After taking several deep breaths, he nervously started by saying, "Good evening. The title of my essay is 'To Tell the Truth.'" Pausing, he took another deep breath, and looked around the auditorium. 'Oh, geez,' he thought, 'all the seats are filled.' He looked at Angela, who smiled at him a second time. After wiping away the sweat that was forming on his forehead, Jamie turned back to face the crowd and read his essay.

In the audience, Amanda watched as her youngest son worked his way through his nervousness. 'I'm so proud of him,' she thought to herself, 'standing up there in front of everyone.' She gave the hand on her lap a squeeze, smiled at Lee, and began to listen to her son.

As Jamie spoke, Dotty glanced over to her daughter and Lee. 'This should be interesting,' she mused. 'I wonder how they'll react to an essay on honesty coming from Jamie. Maybe,' she thought with some hope, 'this is what they need to be honest with all of us about their marriage.'

Lee noticed Dotty watching him and Amanda. "Why is your mother looking at us?" he whispered.

"I don't know, exactly," Amanda returned. "But have you been listening to Jamie?"

Lee nodded. Truth, trust, and honor. Jamie wasn't just reading the words; he believed them. Lee swallowed, trying to remove the lump in his throat. "You thinking what I'm thinking?" he asked his wife.

Amanda nodded. "Yeah. We can't lie to him, to them, anymore."



Thirty minutes later it was over. Jamie had received a hearty dose of applause, the awards had been presented to all three of the students, and the crowd had made their way to the cafeteria for punch and cookies.

"Jamie, we're so proud of you," Amanda said as she gave her son a hug.

"Thanks, Mom."

"You did okay," Phillip added as he tried not to sound too impressed. "Hey, thanks, bro." Jamie turned to his mother, uncomfortable with the praise.

"Mom, could you hold my envelope and plaque while I go talk to Angela?"

"Of course, Sweetheart."

"Thanks," Jamie said as he handed her the awards and went in search of Angela.

As Jamie walked off, Dotty took the envelope and plaque from Amanda and examined both items. "I think the savings bond was a good idea," she said as she removed it. "Forces them to keep it for college."

There was general agreement, with the exception of Phillip who made a face. "Can we get some punch and cookies now? I'm really hungry," he said.

Amanda nodded, and Phillip left, followed by Joe and Carrie.

Dotty looked across the room to where her younger grandson was standing. "I think I'm going to go join Jamie and Angela," she smiled. "That grandfather of hers is quite a good looking fellow."

"Okay, Mother," Amanda said, an amused smile working its way across her face.

"Looks like it's just us," Lee noted as he guided Amanda to an empty table in a secluded corner.

"Looks like," she agreed.

"We need to talk," he cut to the point, "about how and when to fill them in."

As Amanda was forming an answer, Dotty rushed over and gushed, "Richard has invited us to have dinner with them."

"That's nice, Mother," Amanda nodded. "Mother, when we get back, and the boys go to bed, we need to talk about something."

Dotty nodded and thought to herself, 'It's about time.'

"Listen," Amanda continued. "We're gonna want to discuss this with Joe as well. Why don't you tell Angela's grandfather that we'd be delighted to join them, and that we'll meet you out in the parking lot in a few minutes?"

Unbeknownst to the trio, Natalia and Peter overheard the whole thing.

"Natalia, we don't have much time," Peter told her.

"Don't worry about it. The only ones who are going to find out anything tonight are the mother and whoever that Joe person is. We still have enough to make a decent blackmail threat. We'll go home and practice what we're going to say to them tomorrow. Come on, Mathers is waiting for us. He agreed to play Stetson and his partner for our little

"Okay, let's go. I want to get this over with as soon as possible, so we can move on to something more exciting, if you get my drift."

"I always get your drift," Natalia told Peter as they left the cafeteria.

"After dinner with the Davises, the family returned to Amanda's along with Joe and Carrie."



Part Five
The same night 11:30 P.M.

"I have a pretty good idea what this is all about, and I'm pretty sure that you don't want Phillip and Jamie to overhear your conversation," Carrie told the other occupants of Amanda's living room. "Why don't I stay in here and make sure they don't sneak back downstairs, while you go into the dining room to talk?"

Agreeing with her plan, they adjourned to the dining room where Dotty jumped right in. "When are you going to tell Phillip and Jamie about your jobs and your marriage?"

Shocked, Amanda stumbled for words. "What? How? Mother! When did you find out about our marriage?" she finally managed to blurt out.

"I found out at the same time I found out about your jobs," Dotty replied calmly.

"Hold on," a slightly confused Joe said. "Is this why you asked me if we could talk after the boys went to sleep?"

"Yeah," Amanda told him. "We wanted to get your input on how much we should tell Phillip and Jamie."

Again, Dotty jumped in. "I think it would be for the best if you told them the complete truth about your marriage and your jobs. I know how I felt when I found out, and after hearing Jamie's essay, I don't think you should lie to them anymore."

"Dotty, I don't think they should tell the boys anything. They're not old enough to understand any of this," Joe added.

"They're not little boys anymore! Wouldn't you rather they found out about the marriage from Amanda and Lee instead of someone else?" Dotty argued.

"Wait a minute! Please!" Amanda was getting frustrated. "Lee and I have already decided to tell Phillip and Jamie that we're married. We wanted your input on the Agency stuff."

"I don't think they should know," Joe stated firmly. " Not until they have children of their own."

"Look, Joe, how can you say that you don't want Phillip and Jamie to know about the jobs?" Dotty said in a stern voice. "Amanda and Lee should tell them the entire truth at once. It would be for the best. Phillip and Jamie need to be aware of what could happen."

Joe shook his head at his former mother-in-law. "Dotty, they're going to think the jobs are glamorous. They're not old enough to understand that Lee and Amanda's jobs are very dangerous and not something to be glorified."

"They're old enough to watch those action-adventure movies and know the difference between what is real and what isn't, but they aren't old enough to understand about the jobs?" Dotty looked at Joe with disbelief.

"It's different, and you know that." Joe was losing his patience.

"How is it different?" Dotty wanted to know.

"Stop it," Amanda said forcibly. "Lee and I needed to discuss this with you calmly and rationally, but at the rate you two are going, Phillip and Jamie will hear everything! I think we need to talk to someone a little less involved in this." She looked over to Lee, and he nodded his agreement. "Joe, you and Carrie can go now. Mother, if the boys wake up and are looking for me, tell them I went out and they need to get back to sleep. They have school in the morning." Lee and Amanda walked out of the dining room and the house.

Dotty walked into the kitchen and began looking for the business card she had hidden away weeks before. Finding it, she picked up the phone and dialed.

"Melrose residence," the voice on the other end of the phone said.

"Mr. Melrose? It's Dotty West, Amanda's mother. Lee and Amanda just left the house, and I think they're headed over to your place. They want to tell the boys about their marriage and didn't exactly get much help from us tonight." Dotty sighed, hoping her daughter would forgive her for making this call, but she felt guilty about how she had let her discussion with Joe get out of hand, and had to do something to try and help. "I think they're going to want to talk to you about it."

"Thanks for the warning, Mrs. West. I'll get some coffee brewing and be waiting for them."



"Lee, who are we going to talk to about this?" Amanda asked as she drummed her fingers on the car window.

Lee sat in the driver's seat, deep in thought. "Billy," he finally answered. "I bet he could tell us when he and Jeannie told their daughters about his job."

"I don't want to barge in and wake Mr. Melrose up." Amanda shook her head.

"Listen, Amanda, we'll call him first. Okay? If he doesn't answer the phone in ten rings, we won't bother him until the morning."

Lee picked up the car phone and dialed Billy's number. After one ring, Billy answered.

"Hey, Billy? Amanda and I really need to talk to you, if you have some time tonight. It's about Phillip and Jamie and this whole mystery marriage." Lee smiled at his wife, while Billy spoke. "Thanks a lot. We'll see you in a little while."

The drive to Billy's house was very quiet as Lee and Amanda were each lost in their own thoughts. Neither was completely aware that their drive had ended until Billy, who had been watching through a window, opened the front door.

Once inside, Billy directed Lee and Amanda to the living room, and handed them each a cup of coffee.

Smiling, he asked "Now, what is it you want to talk to me about?"

"Billy, we have a problem we think you can help us solve. We're going to tell the boys about our marriage, and we thought about telling them about our jobs, too, but we aren't sure they're old enough to handle it. What do you think? How old were your daughters when they found out about your job?" Lee set down his cup on a nearby table and began to pace.

Billy smiled, happy that Lee and Amanda were finally coming to their senses over the whole marriage situation. "Well, let's see….my oldest, Belinda Jeanette, found out by accident. She overheard a phone conversation of mine. She was sixteen at the time." He shook his head at that memory. "Tina was eighteen when Jeannie and I told her."

"How did they react?" Lee said.

"BJ wasn't thrilled about how she found out, but was very understanding. Tina, on the other hand, was more upset that BJ found out about the job before she did. Jeannie and I had decided that we'd tell them after they graduated from high school. That's what we thought would be best, but not all children are the same. You two need to figure out what would be best for Phillip and Jamie. If you think they can handle the information now, at the same time you tell them about the marriage, then do it. If not…wait. Ultimately, it is your decision, I can only tell you how it
worked for me."

"Thanks, Billy," Lee told him as they shook hands. "I guess Amanda and I'd better let you get back to sleep now."

"Hey, no need to thank me. That's what friends are for."

As Lee and Amanda exited the house, she asked him "What now?"

"Why don't we head over to my place so we can talk without...."

"My mother?" Amanda finished, and Lee nodded.



Part Six
Wednesday Morning 9:30 A.M.

It was later then they had planned, and the boys were long gone by the time Lee and Amanda returned to her house the next morning. They were greeted by Dotty, and she gave them a quick rundown of the morning's activities. When she finished, she gave her daughter a questioning look. "So, how much are you going to tell Phillip and Jamie?"

"We're going to tell them everything," Amanda answered, "right after they get home from school."

Dotty shook her head. "You can't tell them after school. Angela's coming over to work with Jamie on their Language Arts assignment."

"Well, then, we'll tell them as soon as Angela goes home," Amanda countered.

"I hate to interrupt, but Amanda, you'd better go get ready. We need to be at work in thirty minutes," Lee reminded her.

"I'll go watch my soap operas now. Let me know when you're ready to leave," Dotty said as she went into the family room. A couple of seconds later the phone rang.

"King residence," Amanda answered after picking up the receiver.

"Really, Mrs. Stetson? Still going by the ex's name?" Natalia said. "Get your pretty boy husband on the phone, my partner and I want to talk to both of you."

"Lee," Amanda called as she placed the receiver on her chest, "come over here. I think this is really important."

"What is it?" Lee asked as he went to where Amanda was standing.

"The lady on the phone called me Mrs. Stetson. She and her partner want to talk to us."

Lee took the receiver from Amanda and demanded, "Who are you and what do you want?"

"Really, Stetson, weren't you taught any manners? Aren't you going to ask us how we are?" Peter asked.

"What kind of game are you playing?" Lee asked as Amanda positioned her head close to his, so she could hear.

"Do the words 'Operation Beat It' mean anything to you? They do to us. We know that it was designed to put an end to our wonderful organization," Natalia said.

"How did you find out about the operation?" Amanda asked.

"We drugged Francine Desmond," Peter bragged. "It was very easy."

"How?" Amanda wanted to know.

"Natalia and I have been working at Francine's hair salon since 1984," Peter said with a laugh. "We're her favorite shampoo boy and hair stylist. Every time I washed her hair, I used a special shampoo and conditioner that contained a truth serum that quickly seeped into the brain. By the time she was ready for her hair to be styled, she was also
ready to give us whatever information we wanted."

'Poor Francine,' Amanda thought, shaking her head.

"If you don't mind, I think we'll get back to the subject of this call," Natalia said, trying to return to her objective. "We want you to give us the remaining details on 'Operation Beat It,' or else your marriage will be known by all."

"How are you going to do that? You don't have any proof," Lee told them, confident that T.P.'s burial of the marriage certificate was deep and complete.

"What do you take us for, a couple of idiots? Did you honestly think we would blackmail you without any proof?" Peter asked. "Right now, in front of me, is a copy of your marriage license. You thought no one could find it, didn't you? But we did find it."

Natalia interrupted Peter's gloating. "Now, this is what you are going to do. You are going to get us the remaining details on 'Operation Beat It.' At three thirty, you will meet us in front of the Jefferson Memorial. It should be crowded enough that you won't be able to try anything heroic. You will give us the information, and then we'll
disappear. If you don't do as we say, your marriage will be leaked to the media, and by the time the ten o'clock news is on, everyone will know. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Yes," both Lee and Amanda answered.

"Good. We'll see you at three thirty." With that, Natalia ended the call.

Lee turned to Amanda. "We'd better get to the Agency. Maybe Billy and Francine can help us?"

Amanda sighed. "So much for grabbing a quick shower this morning. Give me five minutes to change my clothes, okay?"

Six minutes later, Amanda came down the stairs. Lee was waiting with her coat. "How are we going to tell Francine that she's been drugged again?" Amanda worried as Lee helped her with the coat. Not getting an answer from him beyond a slight grimace, she spoke loudly into the living room. "Mother, we're leaving now

"Okay, Amanda," Dotty, involved in her daytime dramas, answered absently as the front door closed.



Mathers sat at the window of the house across the street, watching for any action. Keeping an eye on Amanda's Cape Cod, and witnessed Lee and Amanda rushing out the door. He had been instructed to contact his employers as soon as he saw Stetson and his partner leave.

"They just left," Mathers said into his hand held radio. "They really seemed to be in a hurry."

"Good." Natalia said with a smile. "They're taking us seriously. We'll meet you at the Jefferson Memorial at three."

"Over." Mathers answered.



Part Seven
The same day 10:00 A.M.

"Mrs. Marston, did you get next month's password list?" Billy asked the receptionist in the Georgetown foyer.

"Yes, Mr. Melrose, but we've already used one of the passwords. Mrs. King had trouble trying to remember 'rosebud' when she first started out." Mrs. Marston replied.

"Okay, I'll have to send you an amended list..." Before Billy could finish, a frantic Lee and Amanda rushed in.

Not noticing Mrs. Marston, Amanda began to speak. "Sir, the terrorist group called us at my house. They told us how they found out about 'Operation Beat It,' and that they wanted us to give them the remaining details, or they'll leak information on our marriage to the media."

"You're married?" A surprised Mrs. Marston gasped as she handed Lee and Amanda their security badges.

"Yes," Lee admitted. "Since February, Mrs. Marston. Please don't mention it until we tell everybody else."

"Of course I'll keep quiet!" Mrs. Marston said in a huff. She shook her head and added in a softer voice, "Congratulations."

"Thank you, Mrs. Marston," Lee and Amanda replied together.

As they waited for the elevator, Billy put a hand on each of his agent's shoulders. "Lee, Amanda, I don't think you're gonna like what I'm about to suggest," he began, "but I think it would be in everyone's best interest if you announce your marriage to the folks downstairs.

"Billy, we wanted to tell Phillip and Jamie first, then Francine, and then finally the rest of the Agency," Lee said as Amanda closed her eyes and shook her head in frustration.

"We don't have many options. I don't want you worrying about protecting a secret when we need to concentrate on keeping a lid on 'Operation Beat it.' Now, Francine's running late: a little stomach bug she said. So we'll start in the Bullpen, then tell her when she shows." Billy turned to Amanda. "The boys are in school right now, anyway," he told her. "Even if our plan doesn't work, you'll still have a chance to talk to them. They don't watch the eleven o'clock news, do they?"

"No, they're usually in bed by then," Amanda confirmed as they stepped into the elevator.

"My point, exactly. Besides, if we run late, your mother can run interference on the home front." Billy smiled at the thought of Mrs. West trying to distract Amanda's sons.

"Billy, I'm not thrilled with this, but I don't see any other options. What about you, Amanda?" Lee asked her.

"I don't want anyone's feelings to get hurt, but I don't know about Phillip and Jamie being the last to know, either. However, if we get everyone in the Agency out of the way now, so we can concentrate on stopping those terrorist, we might as well go for it."

"Okay, you two. Why don't we get started, then?" Billy suggested. The trio walked toward the Bullpen.



"Fred and I figured out how 'Operation Beat It' was compromised, without the help of Scarecrow and his protegee," Beeman bragged to those near him, unaware that Billy, Lee, and Amanda had joined them.

"Beeman, if you are finished, I have an announcement to make," Billy

Beeman's face turned red. "Yes, sir."

"Lee and Amanda have something to announce. After they are done, I'll need Agents Kelsey, Williamson, Wilkins, Miller, Beeman, and Fielder to meet with me in Conference Room A."

Lee looked at everyone, took a deep breath, and smiled at Amanda. "We'll try to get this over with as quickly as possible," he said as he took Amanda's hand in his. "Amanda and I want to take this opportunity to announce our marriage. We tied the knot, so to speak, last February, the 13th, to be exact."

The Bullpen began to buzz, and a few of the clerical staff looked faint.No one moved, but finally, Leatherneck approached the couple. "To be honest with you, I've known about your marriage for a while now. I found
out totally by accident…and kept it quiet. Congratulations." He leaned over and gave Amanda a quick kiss on the cheek.

"Thank you, Leatherneck." Amanda blushed.

"Wait until Dr. Smyth hears about this. He's gonna be ticked!" Beeman smirked as he approached the couple.

Lee's eyes widened at that remark, and he cleared his throat. "Before everyone gets back to work, I have one more thing to announce. If anyone else, besides Amanda or myself, tells Dr. Smyth about our marriage, you will live to regret it. Does everyone understand?"

There was a unanimous murmur of agreement from the agents in the Bullpen.

"Billy, we'll be waiting for Francine up in our office. We'll brief her on what has happened. Beeman, you and Fielder can explain to everyone in the conference room how 'Operation Beat It' was compromised." Lee said.

"Okay," Beeman and Billy both answered as they walked into the conference room.



Part Eight
11:00 AM

"Good morning, Francine. How are you feeling?" Lee asked in concern as Francine entered the Q-Bureau.

"I've felt better," Francine admitted. "Have there been any new developments on 'Operation Beat It' since last night?"

"Francine, you look a little pale," Amanda answered. "Why don't you sit down, and then we'll tell you what we've learned?" Amanda's concern was evident as she led Francine to the couch.

"What?" Francine asked as she sat down. "What have you found out?"

"We've found out how 'Operation Beat It' was jeopardized," Lee said.

"Really, how?"

Amanda sighed and took a deep breath. "Francine, I don't know how to break this to you, but you were the information source. Two members of the terrorist group work in your hair salon. Every time you've gone in to get your hair done, they used a special shampoo and conditioner that contained a truth serum, and when you were getting your hair styled, you were pumped for information." Amanda sadly told her.

"I don't believe this!" Francine exclaimed in frustration. "Who was it? Peter? That little shampoo twerp?"

Amanda nodded. "Apparently your stylist was in on it as well."

"Natalia? She's a terrorist?" Francine leaned back and closed her eyes.

"Unfortunately, yes."

"Amanda, why does this always happen to me? This makes the third time I've been drugged for information. Do I have a sign on my back that says 'I work for the Federal Government, Drug Me for Information?'"

"Francine, this must be hard for you," Amanda said in sympathy.

"You have no idea how I'm feeling right now! Being drugged the first time by Mrs. Welch was bad enough. Being drugged by Jonathan was even worse, but being drugged by the people who I've trusted with my hair for four years is the worst! If you can't trust your hair stylist, who can you trust!?"

"Francine, I hate drop to another bombshell on you, but..." Amanda sighed.

"But what?" Francine asked.

"Natalia and Peter are blackmailing us," Amanda told her. "They want the remaining details on 'Operation Beat It,' and if we don't...well, they're threatening to reveal that Lee and I are married."

"You're what? Married?" Francine shouted, her jaw dropping to her chest in shock. When she recovered enough to speak again, she said, "You're joking, right?" Then, as the truth of what she had just been told hit, her shock turned into mortification. "I'm losing my touch. I can usually smell something like this a mile away. My two closest friends got married and I couldn't figure it out."

"Francine, don't be so hard on yourself," Lee told her reassuringly. "Not figuring out about our marriage doesn't mean you're losing your touch. You weren't alone."

"What do you mean by that?" Francine wanted to know.

"No one knew," Lee admitted.

"Francine, we never meant for you to find out about our marriage like this. We wanted to tell you...tell all our friends. But we wanted to tell Phillip and Jamie first." Amanda was the one frustrated now. "Things got a little out of our control. We've already told everyone in the Bullpen." Amanda grabbed at her necklace. "We only told them
because Billy insisted. We're sorry if we've hurt your feelings." Amanda apologized.

Francine's humiliation slowly turned into anger. "Let me get this straight. You are only telling me about your marriage now because you have to, not because you want to?"

"Not exactly," Amanda tried to make amends. "I'm really sorry, Francine."

Francine looked down at her hands and raised her eyebrows, her lips pursed in anger. "This is how you and Lee treat a friend?" she asked, never raising her eyes from her lap. Her voice had taken on an edge that would unsettle the most hardened criminal. "I thought out friendship had changed for the better. I guess I was wrong." She looked up then, first regarding Lee, then Amanda, her voice barely above a whisper. "I guess I was wrong."

A tense Lee stood and moved toward the door. "Francine, we don't have much time for this right now. We have to concentrate on getting the terrorist group behind bars. As soon as they are in custody, you can yell at us all you want," Lee told her in an attempt to calm down his fellow agent. "But for now, we'd better get to Conference Room A. Billy's waiting for us. We have until one o'clock to come up with a plan if we want to infiltrate the area around the Jefferson Memorial before three."

"Fine," Francine said in a huff. "We'll continue this when the terrorist group is apprehended."

Francine stormed out of the office, Lee and Amanda on her heels



12:45 PM

"Kelsey, you and Williamson cover this four block radius from the Memorial," she said as she pointed to her map. The stomach bug but a faint memory and her professionalism back intact, Francine had taken charge. "Wilkins, you, Beeman, Fielder, and Miller cover the perimeter. Billy and I will be in the van. I want you to act like typical tourists.
Remember: Lee and Amanda will be carrying falsified information. As soon as the information is in the terrorist group's hands, Wilkins' team will apprehend them. Does everybody understand their assignments?" Francine questioned.

"Yes," Came the communal reply.

"Good. Now, I want you all to change into more casual clothes, so you really look like tourists."

"Francine, do you want us to get the mini-cameras from Leatherneck?" Agent Kelsey wanted to know.

"Thank you for reminding me. Leatherneck will equip you with what you'll need. Everybody meet back here in an hour."

As the agents left the conference room, Amanda said, "Francine...."

"Amanda, we'll finish discussing it after the terrorist group is apprehended," Francine remarked as they left the conference room.



Part Nine
3:15 PM

"Where is she? Mathers wanted to know. We're supposed to be meeting Stetson in fifteen minutes!" He paced around the office, trapped inside, but only blocks away from the Memorial.

"Calm down, Mathers. Natalia went to get you some of that gourmet coffee you're so fond of. You've done such a great job that she wants to do something nice. We know we haven't been the most patient people to work for," Peter explained.

"Couldn't she have waited until after we got the rest of the information?"

"Relax," Peter sighed. "We have plenty of time."

At that moment, the door to the office opened. "Good afternoon, Mathers. I hope you enjoy the coffee. It's a very expensive Colombian blend," Natalia said with a smirk.

"Thanks." Mathers told her as he took a sip. Satisfied that it was just as he liked it, he finished it quickly. "That was very good."

"That's nice, because it was the last cup of coffee you'll ever have," Natalia informed him. "Perhaps you should have made it last longer. It contained a fast acting poison. Your death should be quick and painless."

"I'll see you in hell," Mathers told her as he gasped his last breaths.

"Where are we going to dump his body?" Peter asked as Mathers slumped to the floor.

"Well, there's a dumpster in the alley across the street," Natalia mused.

"How much longer until he's dead?" Peter asked, impatient to dispose of the evidence.

"Just a few more seconds." Natalia went to where Mathers' body was sprawled on the floor, and felt for a pulse. "He's dead. I'll go check the alley and make sure no one is around."

Struggling with Mathers' lifeless form, they slowly made their way out of the apartment building and into the alley. They shuffled over to the dumpster, leaning Mathers' weight against it, opened the lid, and pushed the body over the edge, listening to it land inside with a thud.

As she closed the dumpster, Natalia spoke to Peter. "We'd better get going. We don't want to keep the Stetsons waiting."

Once Natalia and Peter had left, Agents Kelsey and Williamson, who noticed Natalia entering the building, came out from their hiding places.

"Francine, they're on their way," Kelsey said into her walkie-talkie. "They disposed of a body in one of the dumpsters here. You'd better send someone to pick it up."

"Will do, Kelsey. Stay there to help. Wilkins, be prepared to strike," Francine told them.




"They should be here any minute," Lee said as he looked at his watch.

"Lee, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, what is it?"

"Don't you think these bulletproof vests are a little extreme?" Amanda asked as she unzipped her coat to reveal the top of vest.

Lee shook his head. "Amanda, I'm not taking any chances. We don't have any idea how this is going to take to go down. I want Phillip and Jamie to hear about our marriage from us, not during our eulogy."

"Isn't that cute, Peter?" Natalia's voice cut in, startling Lee and Amanda. "Her son's essay really affected them. Personally, I rather enjoyed it. Truth, trust, and honor. He really does have a way with words; no wonder he beat my niece in the contest."

"You were at the awards ceremony?" Amanda asked as the other woman appeared.

Peter emerged from behind Natalia and nodded. "We really enjoyed ourselves. Of course, now we must get down to business. Just give us the information and let us go. You'll never hear from us again."

"Here you go." Lee handed Peter and Natalia a folder.

"Thank you. It was nice doing business with you," Natalia told them as she and Peter turned to leave. Instantly, they were surrounded by agents, to their surprise.

"Freeze! Federal agents!" Wilkins called out. Francine and Billy came out of the van to join them.

"Let me do the honors," Francine said as she cuffed Natalia and Peter. "Wilkins, get them out of my sight!" She turned to Lee and glared at him. "I'll expect you and Amanda in debriefing within an hour. After that, well, I'm not speaking to either of you for a while. You've really hurt my feelings." At that, Francine turned on her heel and stormed back to the van.

Billy looked at Lee and Amanda. "Just give her some time. She'll get over it," he smiled and shook his head. "I'll see you back at the Agency."

Once the van had departed and the agents had all left, Lee motioned for Amanda to sit next to him on the steps. "We need to talk," he told her.



Part Ten
5:30 P.M.

The debriefing had gone surprisingly quickly, and Lee and Amanda found themselves back at the house before dinner. Deciding they needed a few minutes before they spoke to the boys, Lee and Amanda went around back
and sat in the gazebo. Through the kitchen window, Dotty noticed them and went outside.

"Mother, I'm glad you decided to come out here," Amanda said as Dotty walked into the yard. "Lee and I have decided to tell the boys about our marriage, but we decided that it would be for the best to only give them one bombshell at a time. The information on our jobs is going to have to wait until they're a little older."

"What if they ask why you kept your marriage a secret?" Dotty looked at them intently, trying to make them think of any questions that the boys might possibly have.

Amanda sighed. "We'll probably give them a modified version of the truth. We only plan to tell them about our marriage tonight. The truth about our jobs is just going to have to wait," Amanda repeated, to insure that her mother understood.

"Is that your final decision?"

"Yes, it's our final decision, Dotty," Lee spoke up.

"Okay. I'm not exactly thrilled by the turn of events, but it's not my decision to make," Dotty conceded. "You both have my full support."

"Thank you, Mother." Amanda stood and leaned in to give her mother a brief hug. "We really appreciate it."

"Well, dinner's almost ready. You know, I thought it would be a good idea to eat dinner early. I was afraid that the boys might be too upset to eat if they heard about the marriage first."

Amanda turned and reached for Lee's hand, "Okay, let's go inside."

As soon as the trio of adults had gone inside, Angela climbed down from the tree house. She had wanted to have a few moments to herself before she went home. She didn't mean to overhear the adults' conversation, but there was no way she could leave while they were out there without being discovered. But now she knew she'd better get home; Jamie would probably need to talk to her after he talked to his mom and Mr. Stetson. Still, something about what Jamie's mother had said confused her.
The truth about our jobs is just going to have to wait. 'What did she mean by that?' Angela wondered as she left the yard. 'Jamie told me that they were film makers.'



6:30 P.M.

After everyone had finished dinner, Phillip and Jamie cleared the table and washed the dishes while the adults went into the living room.

"Amanda, are you sure that you and Lee want to do this by yourselves? I could help you," a concerned Dotty said to her daughter.

"Mother, thank you for your offer, but this is something Lee and I need to do on our own. We can handle it." Amanda reassured her mother.

"Are you sure?"

"Mother! If we need you, we'll call. I promise. Go upstairs and try to relax."

"Okay. Remember, if you need me, just call," Dotty said as she reluctantly went upstairs.

Once Dotty had left the room, Amanda looked into the kitchen and whispered to Lee, "They should be done with the dishes in a couple of minutes. Are you ready to tell them?"

He ran his fingers through his hair and began to pace. "Amanda, do you think they'll be upset?"

Amanda watched as her husband continued to express his nervous behaviors. "I really don't know how they're going to react. If they do get upset, it won't be because we got married, but because we kept the marriage a secret. Just keep that in mind."

"I'll try to remember," Lee told her. A few minutes later Phillip and Jamie joined them in the living room.

"Hey fellas," Amanda greeted them. "Would you both please sit down? Lee and I have something to tell you."

Not suspecting anything, the boys took a seat.

"Now, I want you both to listen carefully to what we have to say before you make any comments, okay?" Both boys nodded in response. "Sometimes adults do things that they think are for the best. And while they don't mean to, they sometimes aren't honest with the ones they love the most." Amanda shifted uneasily in her chair. "I don't know any other way to tell you both this, so here goes: Lee and I have been married since last February."

She looked at the statements on their faces. "I know this must be a shock for you," Amanda continued. "We didn't tell you for a whole bunch of reasons; however, after hearing Jamie's essay, we realized that they weren't very good ones."

The room was silent as Phillip and Jamie sat and tried to absorb what their mother had just told them. Lee and Amanda exchanged glances, both unsure if they should say anything more. Dotty, listening from the top of the staircase, turned and went back to her room.

Finally, Phillip spoke up, disappointment evident in his voice." You didn't trust us enough to tell us you got married?" "Lee," Phillip turned to the older man. "I thought you and I were friends. I guess I was wrong. Friends don't hide things from each other."

"I know we've hurt you, but we had good reasons," Lee began.

"What were your reasons?" an angry Jamie interrupted. "Why didn't you tell us you were married?"

"Jamie, our reasons are complicated." Amanda tried to explain.

"Don't give me that! We're not little boys anymore!" Jamie persisted.

"Jamie," Amanda reprimanded him gently. "I'm still your mother."

Lee took a deep breath and decided to try to explain. "You two hardly knew me. I couldn't just stroll in, announce I'm your step-father, and expect you to accept me with open arms. Before marrying your mom, I never had much of a family of my own. I needed time to adjust to you, and you needed time to adjust to me. It wasn't something we could just blurt out." Lee looked at the boys timidly, afraid of how they might respond.

"If that's all it was, you could've told us during Thanksgiving or Christmas or some time before now." Jamie's agitated words were not what Lee had wanted to hear.

Lee and Amanda looked at each other, trying to figure out what else they could say. It was obvious to them, that what they had decided to tell Phillip and Jamie wasn't going to be enough.

Finally, Lee decided to try again. "The documentary film business is a very competitive one. There are desperate people in our business that would do just about anything to get rid of the competition. Production crew members have even had their families threatened. Your mother and I didn't want either of you to be used as pawns. We thought it'd be for the best if no one knew we were married. Looking back, I realize that our logic wasn't very good. Maybe we should've waited to get married until you got to know me better, but I just couldn't wait to marry your
mother," Lee admitted, the honesty in his last words ringing true.

"Just let me know one more thing, okay?" Phillip asked. "If Jamie didn't do an essay on honesty, would you still be telling us this?"

"I honestly don't know," Amanda replied. "Maybe."

Phillip nodded, not sure if they were still holding back. "Thanks for being honest, but if you don't mind I'm going to go upstairs. I need some time alone."

Jamie began to follow his brother, but stopped just short of the stairs. "I don't know if I can trust either one of you again. It's like you were forced to tell us." Turning away again, he went upstairs.

"Phillip, Jamie . . ." Lee began but Amanda stopped him.

"Let them go," she said. "They'll come back when they're ready to face us."

"She's right," Dotty said as she entered the room. "And you don't need to tell me what happened. I heard most of it from the top of the stairs."

"Mother," Amanda began.

"Don't be upset, Amanda," Dotty told her daughter. "I was worried."

"I'm not upset. Thank you for worrying."

"It's the part of my job that doesn't ever end. Now, why don't you two sit back and relax for a little while? I'll go get you some double fudge brownies and coffee. I'm sure both Phillip and Jamie will come around."

"I hope so," Amanda answered. "I hope so."



Part 11 - Tag
8:30 P.M.

An hour and a half later, Phillip made his way slowly into the living room. "Mom, Lee? Can I say something?" Seeing them nod in assent, he continued. "I'm still not thrilled about what finally made you decide to tell us about being married, but I guess I understand the reasoning behind not telling us earlier," he admitted. "Welcome to the family, Lee," Phillip said as he gave the older man a handshake, followed by a hug for his mother.

"Thank you, Phillip," Lee told him, touched at how his oldest step-son had reached out.

"Sweetheart, have you talked to Jamie?" Amanda asked, worry apparent in her voice.

Phillip shook his head. "He was still on the phone with Angela when I came down." At that moment he noticed the empty desert plates on the coffee table. "Hey, are there any brownies left?"

"In the kitchen," Amanda told him. "Go on in and get some."

Jamie had come downstairs, and watched from the foyer while his brother talked to their mother and Lee. 'I still think they're hiding something,' he thought to himself as he remembered what Angela had mentioned on the phone. She had told him what she overheard earlier, from the tree house, and reminded Jamie that he'd never learn anything more if he stayed angry with his mom and Lee. Sighing, he went into the living room to join them just as Phillip left for the kitchen.

"Hi," he greeted them shyly.

"Hey there," Amanda replied, waiting.

"I wanted to let you know that I'm not mad at either of you anymore," Jamie began. "But I'm still not sure about why you didn't trust us. I guess we'll discuss it more later." Jamie turned to his new step-father. "Welcome to the family, Lee."

"Thank you, Jamie." Lee answered.

"Why don't you go join your brother and grandmother in the kitchen for some brownies and milk?" Amanda suggested with a sigh of relief.

"Okay, Mom. Thanks."

Once he was gone, Lee spoke up. "Amanda, do you think he'll trust us again?"

"I hope so. I think so. We just need to give him some time." Amanda responded, to reassure herself as much as Lee.

"Okay," Lee agreed. "Then, time we'll give it." He kissed his wife. "I hate to mention this, Amanda, but what about Dr. Smyth? We can't keep the Agency gossips quiet forever."

"We can't tell him now. He's out of town," she reminded him. "We'll tell him as soon as he gets back. I don't want to worry about it now," she said giving her head a shake. Why don't we go join Mother and the boys in the kitchen?"

"Sounds good to me, Mrs. Stetson." Lee told her as he placed his hand on her shoulders. "In about one or two more minutes."

"Only one or two more minutes?" Amanda asked, teasingly.

"Well," he answered as he softly kissed her lips, moved to her cheek, and then her ear. "We do have all night," Lee whispered.

"That's right," Amanda agreed enjoying her husband's attention. "But," she stood and reached for his hand," I think, right now, we should head into the kitchen."


The End