A/N AC here with the last installment of LNL; special thanks to everyone who's reading & to Dimonah Tralon & retropanda37 for reviewing! On another note, look for new posts on LB's & my individual stories coming soon! Usual disclaimer & such apply, so enjoy!


They paid their tab and headed out, Beth easily maneuvering through the partially lit streets. They had walked about ten minutes before Beth stopped in front of an old building of burnt orange. She gestured AJ ahead of her, directing her past an array of hand-crafted items to a well-worn pair of steps. After three flights of steps, AJ was slightly winded, but Beth, being used to the hike, nimbly stepped past her to the forest green door at the end of the hall. After three keys, the door was finally unlocked, and they stepped inside.

The room was a great room of sorts; a kitchen, dining room, living room combination with pale green walls. AJ saw a few familiar pictures of Beth's family, Beth and Casey, and the whole Burbank group littered around the apartment, but other than that, there were few personal items around.

"Where's all your Western paraphernalia?"

"Huh? Oh." She went to the bookshelf and put up her Glock before turning back to face AJ. "Well, it's still…in Burbank."

"With Casey."

"…Yes."

"Of course." Plopping down on the nearest chair, AJ stretched out while Beth rummaged through her cabinets for something to drink.

As she searched, she asked, "So are you ever going to explain your dating policy?"

"What? Oh yeah. Well, say, just hypothetically, that I dated Morgan."

"Okay, so, you're dating Morgan. Having nice nerdy dates with sizzling shrimp dinners, finishing them off with watching—what? You said hypothetical, I'm making it hypothetical!"

"You're making it specific."

"Hypothetically specific."

AJ huffed, but plowed on. "Anyway, so hypothetically we're dating and happy as can be and then Anna ho, sorry Wu, comes back to town from…wherever she was. And Morgan goes back to her."

"Why would he go back to her? Because, from my standpoint, he's never been completely happy with her. If you'll remember, he didn't seem too upset she was, ahem, 'sick' at the Employee picnic, nor was he too upset when she couldn't show up for Ellie's Christmas party."

"I, you, this is all hypothetical anyway! Right, so he goes back to her. And then where does that leave me? Sad and angry, that's where. No way we could go back to just being friends after that, is there?"

"No, but it's all hypothetical, right? So let's say…Anna ho comes back to town, and Morgan tells her off, tells her he's happy, he has you, and hell would freeze 'fore he let you go. Then life is happy. But…it's just all hypothetical."

AJ opened her mouth to answer, then shut it again. While they'd been talking Beth had served them some white wine and had taken a seat across from her at the kitchen table. After taking a taste AJ said, "You're not going to let me win this argument, are you?"

"Nope."

"Fine then, change of subject. Other than drinking away your work-related frustrations and talking to Casey, what've you been up to in your spare time?"

"Oh, I haven't actually drank that much. Lotta my spare time's been helping set up this operation. It's going to be a two or three year—if not more—mission, so they need connections, a decent base, stuff like that. And since I'm the most experienced of them, with Sondra being second, I get to be in charge. Always fun you know. And, I dunno, I've visited some of the sights. I took a day trip to go see Auschwitz, and I've been to the Gestapo Headquarters museum…the city zoo, the Warsaw Ghetto…I feel like there's someplace else I'm forgettin,' but yeah…that's what I do. And a lot of craftwork, which I have to say, is preferable to making yogurt any day of the week."

"Three years? You'd better not stay that long. And personally, I'd kill for some yogurt making. Or for a Nerd Herd emergency. Best job I've picked up so far was waiting tables in Turkey. Considering my Turkish is touchy at best, I was surprised I lasted the day."

"Oh don't worry—there's no way I'll stay here three years; come hell or high water, I'll be back in the states soon. A waitress, eh? Dunno if I can see ya as one; how long did the job last?"

"Four days; not bad by my standards. In the old days I was lucky to keep a job for more than two days."

"You're telling me you've made a habit of picking up odd jobs around the world?"

"Keeps life on the move interesting," AJ said with a shrug.

"And here I thought cover jobs were bad—and I never had a choice in the matter. You can also keep life on the move interesting by, I don't know…visiting the sights? Meeting random strangers? Er, not that you should meet random strangers…that's not always good."

"Everyone visits the sights, Beth," AJ pointed out. "The only way to really experience a culture is to embed yourself in it. Besides, the first job I took, more than anything was to keep me busy while I healed from a broken leg."

"You broke your leg while you were traveling?" Beth asked, surprised. "How'd you manage that?"

"Long story. Let's just say I won't have to pay the entrance fee at the Coliseum for the rest of my life. But anyway, I ended up stranded in Rome for six weeks until I could get my cast off, and I ended up working in a local library. That's also when I learned to cook pasta, thanks to my amazing landlady Francesca."

"Wow…well, I guess I do see your point. Spies don't always have that luxury—you're taught to not get close—your new friend down at the gelato café could be your next target. So you tend to stay to yourself, being friendly, but keeping people at arm's length. I never was very good at that."

"I wouldn't guess so. You're a people person."

Nodding, Beth reached for a dish on the table, uncovering it to produce peanut M&Ms. At AJ's odd glance, she shrugged. "What? It said dessert wine. Anyway, you're right about me being a people person; my inability to keep the subjects at acquaintance level only was the one thing that almost kept me from passing through The Farm."

"You mean The Farm's not just an urban myth? That's so cool!"

"Real as rain in the Amazon. We have to go to training somewhere, you know. Some, like John, train in the military, be it Marines or Navy or what-have-you, but agents like Sarah and myself go through the Farm. Though it's about the farthest thing from a farm you can get to. 'Cept maybe the obstacle courses."

"And they teach you not to fraternize with civilians? How'd you ever pass? I mean in Burbank alone you were friends with me, Morgan, Ellie, Awesome, Kate, Kate's brother…"

"I don't really need the full list," Beth said. "'Sides, most of you were an exception, because my job was to protect Chuck and you hung around with Chuck."

Though her tone was mostly teasing, there was still a bit of a challenge in AJ's next words. "You telling me you're only friends with me because it was part of your mission?"

Oh fudge. Beth shook her head, mentally beating herself up. She really stuck her foot in her mouth this time, didn't she? "That's not it at all. If I hadn't liked you, I wouldn't have gotten close to you. But it was easier to acquaint myself with those close to Chuck than it was to get to know any James Dean in Burbank. I caught more flak over getting to know Kate than getting to know you or Ellie, because we knew you were safe, because Chuck was safe. Kate could have been 'an enemy spy' or something (which is a bunch of bull—she's a sweetie, would never be an enemy spy). Admittedly, I didn't expect to become so close to you…"

"—I could've just as easily been an enemy spy as Kate, you know. There are things about me you don't know."

"Like what? You couldn't be an enemy spy; spy maybe, but not enemy. You're loyal to your friends, you have a moral compass. Enemy spies don't."

"How do you know I have a moral compass? I could just be an incredible actress. Bet you don't know I've shot someone before."

Beth raised an eyebrow. "AJ, I'm a CIA agent—my specialty is reading people—even great actresses don't fool me. Though, you're right—I didn't know you shot someone. Why'd ya shoot 'em?"

AJ said with a triumphant smirk, "Why would I tell you? Apparently you didn't expect to become so close to me."

"Or I expected to get the information a kinder way; I'm not the kind of spy who pours over files to find my information, or watches surveillance—if don't wanna tell me, that's your business; it won't hurt my feelings. We all have our secrets."

AJ bit her lip, drinking some more wine before speaking again. "Fine, fine. My parents and brother had gone out somewhere or other and I was grounded, which was hardly a surprise. Some men broke into the mansion, probably looking to rob the place. When they realized I was home though, they thought they could score a bigger payout with a kidnapping."

"What! When did this happen? Did you call the police? How old were you?"

Smiling at Beth's reaction, AJ said, "I was sixteen. And no, I didn't call the cops. What I did do was go into Father's office, get his old collectible revolver from the safe, and shoot the first guy that came through the door in the kneecap."

"Didya mean to shoot him in the kneecap?"

"Well…I was aiming for his head."

"How many were there? I mean, did they flee after ya shot the one man or…?" Beth trailed off, finishing off her glass of wine and serving both AJ and herself some more.

"There were four of them, a professional crew from was what the cops speculated afterwards. I guess the one I shot was their leader, because they sure were pissed. Stunned too though, enough that I managed to get to the panic room. Called the cops from in there, but by the time they arrived the men were long gone."

"I'm impressed—both for shooting the man and keepin' your cool, though I have to ask—what the heck's a panic room?"

"Probably shouldn't have shot him in retrospect; Mother threw a fit when the cleaners couldn't get the blood out of the carpet. And haven't you ever seen the movie with Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart before she was a vampire's lover? A panic room's a room rich people have built into their homes with fortified walls and a dead bolt and a separate phone line to call the police. Always thought it was stupid til I had to use it."

"You could have been kidnapped, killed! And your mother was worried about blood in the carpet? What kind of a—that's ridiculous! And can honestly say I've never seen that movie. Daddy'd say a sawed-off shotgun works better than a panic room any day. Panic room induces panic—shotgun creates it."

"Mother probably would've been pleased if they'd gotten me out of her hair; by that time I'd been written out of the will and they were only putting up with me for appearance's sake," AJ said with a shrug. "And I have to say I'd agree with your dad, I sure could've used a shotgun."

Beth growled rather Casey-like, shaking her head. "I swear to all things good and holy if I ever meet your parents…they already disowned you at sixteen? What kind of people…" she trailed off, looking across the room, anger radiating from her.

"Sure did—they'd already grown tired of their 'rebellious problem' before I was even walking I suspect. Once I learned how to use my own brain, they realized I wouldn't stand for being their puppet."

"So they just drop you? They may be blood, but people like that don't deserve to raise their children. If you can't be a parent to your child, then get the balls to give him or her up to someone who can; someone who'll love them, cherish them, nurture them into being the best they can be. Your grandmother couldn't raise you full-time?"

"She asked for custody more than a few times, but my parents wouldn't give it to her. Think of what their high standing friends would've said. No, they kept me around for appearances' sake, shipping me off to a nearby prep school during most of the year and to Gran's for the summer. Always loved summers, and always hated my family. That's just how it went."

"I guess we can be thankful you had your grandmother; without her, you would have had to suffer that horrendous family of yours full-time."

AJ nodded. "Oh believe me, I know. Because of Gran, I got to meet the Bartowskis and Morgan, and by association you and Sarah and Devon and Casey. She was a helluva lady, Gran was."

"If you don't mind me asking…what was she like? You never really talked about her in Burbank, not that I blame you—I mean, you, she…well, you lost her pretty recently," Beth said.

"Gran was, well, she wasn't an Abbott. Not by blood anyway. She came from money, but not of the same caliber as Pops, so she never cared all that much about her social standing. When Pops died (I was three I think, don't remember him much) she moved to Burbank, fed up with the family politics, and after taking her share of the family fortune, split the rest into trust funds—equal amounts for Father and his siblings, and for Ethan, our cousins, and me. Then she let Father take over the family business. The only condition of his takeover was that Ethan and I were allowed to spend the summers with her. I think she wanted to keep us grounded, try and shield us from the insanity. Ethan resented it; I was grateful."

"She sounds like a marvelous lady. I wish I had been around to meet her. What is the family business? And why did your brother resent it—isn't he your twin?"

"She really was; she was the antithesis of the rest of the family really. The family business started as a small law firm, Abbott and Sons, started by my great-great-great-grandfather Abbott and his two sons to serve the community. It eventually became the multimillion dollar corporate firm Abbott and Abbott, which serves only those who can pay the most, regardless of what kind of scumbags they are. Actually, Father prefers dealing with scumbags over honest folks, probably because he relates better to them. As for my dolt of a brother, we may be twins, but he always did buy into my parent's grooming and scheming and master plans. Gran and I rocked the boat, so as far as he was concerned we were best off jumping ship."

"They sounds absolutely horrifying. Happier topics to turn to? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that your mother is the 'socialite' of the family, like any 'proper' well-bred woman?"

"Of course," AJ said, smiling into her wineglass. "Mother hosts the dinner parties and runs the coming out ceremonies and all that jazz. Merde, I still cringe when I think of the dresses she used to make me wear. You're right, though, I think it's time for happier topics. So why don't you tell me about your family?"

"Oh, well, um, you know I lived in Tennessee, that much is pretty evident. Mom and Daddy raised me on a pretty big farm; I grew up 'round animals and farm machinery. Daddy, God bless 'im, he's such a good man. He's a good ole' boy; tends to be the quieter of the two, though the boys always said that was cause Mom did all the talkin'. He grew up 'bout a mile 'way from Mom when they were growin' up; asked her when she was sixteen if she wanted to be Mrs. Amelia Máire Daniels, 'stead of bein' Amelia Jamison. She told 'im no, and he was crushed, til' she continued, "But I'll be Millie Máire Daniels". She always hated her full name. Mom's quite a bit like me, or rather, I'm like her. We butt heads cause of it. Let's see, well, what else do you wanna know?"

"I don't know, just anything. What was it like growing up in a happy household, and a farm no less?"

"Well, it was never dull, I'll tell you that! We always ate meals as a family, Mom always said a hard day's work couldn't begin 'til ya had a meal fit for a worker in your belly. She taught me to cook and bake. The kitchen's bright yellow, but our dishes were always a multitude of colors, none of them quite matching one another. We'd sit down everyone, the boys included, for family meals. They were a little weird, the meals—we had our biggest during midday because Daddy'd come in from the fields famished. So would the boys for that matter. Oh! I haven't explained the boys, have I?"

AJ shook her head, and Beth grinned. "The boys—also known as the overly protective, annoying and non-related members of my family. They were all hired hands that helped with the farm. Most of them lived on the property—there was a building with their rooms off near the side of the house. Let's see, there's Zach and Dan, and Darryl for a time, and Tony and Ash. Darryl's got a farm of his own now, and Tony just got hitched to his lil' gal. The rest still spend holidays and such with us; it's always a treat."

"And did any of those boys ever become more than just friends to you?"

"Hardly. Well, Zach was technically my first boyfriend, but it was puppy love. The other boys are all older than me, more older brother-type than dating material. 'Sides, Daddy has certain rules in that regard. And I wasn't the kinda girl to really pay 'ttention to that 'til I was older."

"Fair enough. So, I have to ask, how did a gal like you end up joining the CIA then? Somehow, I don't expect you fit the usual profile."

"Well, y'know, that's a pretty good question, and I'm not sure if I have an exact answer. Part of it was I wanted to see the world; I mean, I'd lived in Polk County all my life; there had to be more than just farming and workin' at the the Dairy Bar. So one I graduated, I packed up ole' Duke, kissed Mom and Daddy bye, and drove east. Ended up gettin' in a spot of trouble in Hopewell, it's just outside of Richmond. I was waitressin' at the time at a lil' café and we got a couple..dodgy characters in there. I was closin' up for the night, so it was just me and the cook—we didn't get much traffic. Turns out they were runnin' from the law, never did get what they were runnin' from, just that the authorities wanted 'em real bad—so bad they had the CIA and FBI chasin' 'em. Well, they tried to turn it to a hostage situation, and I wasn't goin' down without a fight. Ended up bein' offered an opportunity to join the CIA—they were impressed with the way I handled the situation."

"Still, must be hard lying to your family, since you're obviously close. I know how much Chuck hates lying to Ellie."

"It is, to a degree. I mean, they know what they need to know. It's easier for me, I suspect, than for Chuck. I stepped into all this willingly, and he didn't have a choice. Mom and Daddy never ask for specifics; they understand I can't say anything. Though…they know it's dangerous. Real dangerous sometimes."

AJ noticed how as she spoke, Beth fiddled with her necklace. Still, she didn't comment. Instead she asked, "Do they at least get to know where you're at? How come they never came to visit you in Burbank?"

"They know where I'm at; Mom and I talk once a week. The only time I won't tell 'em is if I'm undercover—it's safer that way. Like now, Mom and Daddy know I'm in Poland, but if I were to go undercover for some reason, I'd let them still think I was in Poland, so I don't worry them. The reason they don't visit is as much for their own reasons as for their safety. With a farm to run, Daddy's pretty particular about leaving for whatever reasons. Spring and fall are usually out for them travelling—planting, baling hay, harvesting—it's his busy season. 'Bout the only time they'd really travel is winter, and even then they could be cutting wood. Daddy's never been outta Polk County practically, except to visit Mom's family in Alabama. They're both very much…rooted people."

"Once we're back in Burbank, you should convince them to come around. I'd like to meet them, they sound amazing."

Beth nodded. "I'll try. Something tells me y'all would get along."

"Well I already like them better than my own parents, so I don't doubt that." Glancing down at her watch, AJ added, "Holy gówno! Do you know what time it is?"

"By your expression, I'm guessing it's late?"

"Try early! It's already 4:28!"

Beth's eyes widened and she shook her head. "Please tell me you're joking."

"Wish I was. I've gotta get going to the hotel, maybe catch a couple hours of sleep before I check out that yogurt shop, search for a job."

"I envy that. Time for me to take a shower, make coffee John Casey style, and head to work."

"John Casey style, eh? Good luck with that. So listen, we should get together again before I take off for…wherever it is I end up going next."

Tone full of regret, Beth said, "Wish I could, but I've got a mission scheduled to start this after afternoon and I'm not sure when it'll be done."

"Bummer," AJ said. "Ah well, at least we get to say goodbye this time, yeah?"

"That we do." They both stood to go, and Beth wrapped AJ in a tight hug. "You'll take care of yourself, will ya?"

AJ returned the hug, nodding. "I should be telling you that. No more bullet wounds."

"Can't promise that, not in my line of work. But I will be careful."

"And you'll remember our promise?"

"Course I will. Meet ya in Burbank?" Beth was stalling—she hated to see AJ go; having her friend here, seeing her and talking about anything and everything was nice, but it made the ache to go back home to the US, to Burbank, all the more noticeable.

"You bet, I'll race you there," AJ said, smiling. "And say hi to Casey from me." She was stalling just as much as Beth, not at all eager to be on her own again, missing her friends and her home once more. Still, she knew they couldn't postpone the inevitable indefinitely. Pulling her into another hug, she added, "Keep in touch."

"Will do, 'specially now that I actually have your number. If you're ever in the Poland area again, stop on by—I'd be glad of the rescuing that I'm guaranteed to need from Calgary."

"Now that, I can do." After a round of 'see you soon's and 'ciao', Beth shut the door, and made her way to the coffee pot. The apartment seemed dimmer since AJ had left, and it was all Beth could do to not call John and tell him of her unexpected visitor. But he'd question why she was up so early, and then he'd worry that she wasn't getting enough sleep, so she nixed the idea. But maybe…with all the talk AJ and her had done about the States, maybe it was time to take a visit. She had enough vacation stockpiled, and a weekend away couldn't hurt. Sondra would take care of things, and Calgary, well, she didn't really care what he did as long as he kept to himself and didn't mess up the mission. With that thought in mind, she headed to the computer to send a quick word to Beckman—she had a weekend to plan.

AJ meanwhile hailed a cab and managed to make it to her hotel before five. Man, she was so glad she'd decided to get a coffee instead of going to bed early. Pulling out her laptop and setting it up on the empty side of her bed, she brought up her vlog to see if anyone had commented on her latest post. Sure enough, there was one new comment from a certain Burbankian Bearded Chef, saying how Italian cuisine still didn't compare to sizzling shrimp. Shaking her head, AJ typed back a quick response before shutting the computer back down. Maybe she could go to New Zealand next; they were famous for their shrimp after all. And then from there it really wouldn't be such a stretch to pay Morgan a visit in Hawaii, to exchange recipes and catch up. She was sure she could convince him ditch Anna for a weekend to show her the sights…yes, that could definitely work. With that thought in mind, she fell asleep.


So what do you think, looks like Beth's going back to Burbank for a visit & AJ's heading to Hawaii-think either of them will be able to stay away from home for long? Reviews much appreciated, as always!