Renewal

Chapter two
4:55PM August 13, 1989 4247 Maplewood Drive Arlington, VA

Lee took in the scene before him with contentment. Friends and family surrounded them, and the woman at his side, holding his hand as if she would never let go, was finally, publicly his wife. A slow smile spread across his face as he accepted hugs and words of congratulations. This was how it should have been all along. No secrets, no lying, and no mystery.

Sliding his arm around Amanda's waist, he drew her close against his side. "When are we going to eat?" he whispered in her ear. "I'm starving."

Amanda looked up at him with a brilliant smile. "Whenever you're ready, Mother and Francine have the food set up in the gazebo. And, being the guests of honor, we get to eat first."

"Does that mean we get to leave first, too?" Lee raised an eyebrow at Amanda and leaned in for a slow, deep kiss.

After a moment, Amanda reluctantly pulled away. The small group of guests had broken into a round of applause at their kiss and Amanda blushed, ducking her head. "Let's go eat, Stetson."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

After everyone had finished eating, the tables were cleared and rearranged to create a small dance floor.

The guests had settled in and were talking amongst themselves when Billy stood and cleared his throat. "I know I wasn't one of the best men, but they came to me and asked if I would take care of the toast." He smiled and nodded in Philip and Jamie's direction. "I told them I'd be honored." As everyone refilled their champagne glasses, Billy moved to the middle of the dance floor.

"Lee, Amanda," he started with a huge smile, "this toast has been almost six years in the making." Amanda looked up at her husband and smiled, as Dotty reached for the box of Kleenex that had been placed at her seat. Billy grinned at the 'newlyweds' again and continued. "I, unlike most of you," he gestured to the rest of the crowd, "have had the pleasure of watching this relationship grow from strangers and reluctant associates, to friends and partners, and finally, this. Lee, I knew you just needed the right woman. I'm so glad you found her. I'm so glad I thought of putting you two together!" He let out a hearty laugh, which Lee and Amanda joined. "Amanda." He shook his head and gave her a warm smile. "What can I say about you? You never gave up on Lee, never let him give up on himself. You're the reason he is a better person. And that was no small feat. The two of you have gone through so much in the last five years to get to this point, I don't know of anyone who deserves this day more than you do. We're all so happy for you. Congratulations!" Billy raised his glass and everyone followed suit with a chorus of "Hear, hears" ringing through the backyard along with the sound of clinking glasses.

Lee stood, and, after hugging Billy, turned to the rest of the guests. "I just wanted to thank all of you for being here to share today with us. I know it has been a strange situation, to say the least, and I know I speak for both of us when I say your support and acceptance means everything to Amanda and me." He glanced over at his wife who nodded her agreement. "Thank you, everyone." He looked at her again and smiled softly. "And now, I'd like to dance with my wife."

His eyes never left hers as he called out, "Guys?"

The boys had set up Philip's stereo in the gazebo and were going to serve as DJ's for the reception. It had been their gift to Lee and Amanda, who made them promise not to play anything unrecognizable. Jamie had agreed.

"We're on it Lee," Phillip answered.

"My I have this dance, Mrs. Stetson?" Lee lowered his voice to a husky whisper as he held out his hand to her.

"The pleasure's mine." Amanda stood as she placed her hand in his.

He grinned at her and brought her left hand up to his lips, kissing it just above her wedding ring. "No . . . it's not." He caught a sparkle in her eyes and felt the now familiar tightening around his heart. He knew for as long as he lived, he'd never tire of the feelings she evoked in him. Lee slid his arm around Amanda's waist and drew her as close to him as possible. Their attention was drawn from each other as Jamie stepped forward and began to speak.

"Mom, Phillip and I got some songs together for the two of you. But before we play those, Lee wanted us to start with this one. He said he wanted a little bit of *adult* music tonight, too." Jamie blushed as the crowd snickered.

Lee winked at his stepson and continued for him. "I was worried about our ability to dance to what the boys had picked and I was looking for something to play for our *first* dance. I knew Billy Joel was safe." Amanda smiled as her sons rolled their eyes and groaned at Lee. "But as I was listening, I found this one. This song is from me to you, Amanda. It's my life, in a nutshell. And how you've changed it." He nodded at Phillip who pushed the button on the cassette deck.

Amanda shivered as Lee laid his cheek against hers and began to sing softly with the song that was playing.

Well I'm shameless

When it comes to loving you

I'd do anything you want me to

I'd do anything at all

And I'm standing

Here for all the world to see

There ain't that much left of me

That has very far to fall
"Well, Dotty, I have to say, you were right." The elderly woman glanced at her sister. "This time."

"What in the world are you talking about, Lillian?"

Lillian gestured at the couple slowly dancing before them. "He certainly is in love with her. You can see it all over his face! And those vows . . . " she fanned herself with her free hand. "Are you sure he wrote them himself?"

Dotty put her hand on her sister's arm and smiled. "Trust me, Lillian, we went through a whole box of Kleenex for those vows." She smiled even bigger as her sister's eyes widened.

"You mean to tell me that he let you read them before today?" she gaped.

"Let me read them?" She looked around and lowered her voice. "He came to me to make sure they didn't sound . . . now, how did he put it? Oh, yes, *too mushy* was his exactly wording. Can you believe it? *Too mushy*, indeed. I knew there was more to it than just an employee - boss relationship. I'm telling you, Lillian, he's been looking at her like that for years . . . "

You know I'm not a man who has ever been

Insecure about the world I've been living in

I don't break easy, I have my pride

But if you need to be satisfied

I'm shameless,

Baby I don't have a prayer

Anytime I see you standing there

I go down upon my knees

And I'm changing,

I swore I'd never compromise

But you convinced me otherwise

I'll do anything you please
"Do you really think he'll do it, honey?" Jeannie Melrose smiled at her husband.

"Well, I wasn't sure, but lately he's been talking more and more about getting out of the field. After that fiasco in Montreal it doesn't surprise me. With my promotion, there's an opening just waiting for him. Before Amanda, I thought he'd never settle down. Look at him now." A huge grin spread across the Agency Director's face as he took in his best team. "It's time and he knows it." He turned to look at his wife and took her hand. "I know exactly how he feels. Amanda would never ask him to quit, but . . . "

"But he'll do it for her anyway." Jeannie finished for him, leaning over and kissing him on the cheek. "They're very lucky."

"Yes, they are."

You see in all my life

I've never found

What I couldn't resist, what I couldn't turn down

I could walk away from anyone I ever knew

But I can't walk away from you

I have never let anything have this much control over me

Cause I worked too hard to call my life my own

Yes I made myself a world and it worked so perfectly

But it's your world now,

I can't refuse

I never had so much to lose
"You know, I still can't believe it sometimes. I look at him -with her- and it still just doesn't make any sense. It's obvious they belong together, and that he's completely in love with her, but . . . " Francine accepted the glass of champagne Leatherneck handed her.

"He's found his soul mate." Leatherneck took a sip from the frosty mug of beer he held and winked at Francine over the rim. "You know, it's kinda like findin' the right car . . . or the right gun . . . "

Francine rolled her eyes at him. "Seriously. What is it about her? What does she have that none of those other women had, that a glamorous, exciting career and lifestyle doesn't have?" She shook her head, taking a sip of the bubbly drink. "Maybe it's not her I'm having the problem with. Maybe it's Lee. We were so much alike. We both knew exactly what we wanted out of life and none of that matters to him anymore. He gave it all up for her. Not that I don't like her, of course. She's definitely come a long way in the last few years . . . she's become an excellent agent and a friend but I still have a hard time . . . "

"Francine," Leatherneck cut in with a grin. "You're startin' to sound like her." He leaned in closer to her and whispered, "trust me, the right woman can make the wrong man a new man. I mean, look at us. Who would've ever thought, huh?"

Francine scooted away and glared at him over the top of her champagne glass. "This is just two co-workers who didn't have dates, attending the wedding of two close friends together." She paused for a moment and punctuated her next words with a jab to his chest. "Nothing else. Got it?"

"Oh yeah, I got it . . . "

I'm shameless...shameless

You know it should be easy for a man who's strong

To say he's sorry or admit when he's wrong

I've never lost anything I ever missed

But I've never been in love like this...

It's out of my hands

I'm shameless,

I don't have the power now

But don't want it anyhow

So I've got to let it go

I'm shameless, shameless as a man can be

You can make a total fool of me

I just wanted you to know

I am shameless
"I meant everything I've said today, Amanda. I'm happier today than I ever thought I could be. Even happier than our first wedding day." Lee smiled down at his wife as she looked up at him.

"Mother was right." She smiled as Lee gave her a confused look. "She once told me you were the best thing that had ever happened to me."

The end . . . for now . . .