Title: Almost Normal
Disclaimer: Scarecrow & Mrs. King is the property of Warner Brothers & Shoot-The-Moon Productions. I make no money from this story nor is any copyright infringement intended.
Time Frame: Season 4, between 'It's in the Water' and 'Night Crawler'
Credits: 'The Artful Dodger', 'It's in the Water', 'The Weekend', & 'Car Shopping' (by MS)
Author's Notes: This is a simple slice of life, a brief view of what a weekend might be without a case pending. Written for Scarecrow and Mrs. King Fan Fiction Rocks! Autumn Challenge.
"Boys! Your dad's here!"
Amanda stepped back from the staircase quickly as the thundering herd of two quarreled down the stairs. It was early Saturday morning, just past 8 o'clock, and Joe was taking the boys for the weekend. A new development, to be sure, and not always convenient, but something she did appreciate. They didn't know their father very well as he'd spent so many years in Africa. She was hopeful, although Jamie was openly skeptical. Her youngest son appeared to be holding back, almost as if he was waiting for Joe to disappear again much like when he'd transferred to Estoccia.
"Hey! Watch it with those bags, mister," she admonished a careless Philip quickly. Loaded with various sporting equipment, the young teen came perilously close to knocking a picture from the wall in his excitement to be gone.
He tossed a quick, "Sorry, Mom," over his shoulder before disappearing through the open door while Joe stood off to the side, looking overwhelmed. Amanda sort of shrugged in Joe's direction. Boys would be boys.
After collecting hugs and muttered, "Love you, too"s, she finally closed the door in their wake. She leaned against it for a moment, wondering when her children had gotten so big. It seemed like only yesterday that Jamie was holding her hand while Philip was dashing off to kindergarten – and Joe was off chasing butterfly dreams thousands of miles away. Ten years certainly passed quickly. They were teenagers now; between them and Lee she barely had a moment to catch her breath! A soft smile curved her gentle mouth at the thought of her adventurous partner. Lee Stetson definitely kept her on her toes.
"Yes, Mother?" Amanda stepped towards the kitchen where her mother stood holding out a steaming cup of coffee. Accepting it gratefully and taking a drink, she waited for Dotty to speak.
"Amanda, are you sure you don't mind doing the yard work on your own? I know you were counting on the boys to get the raking done. I can call Curt and reschedule my lesson ..." Dotty's voice trailed off as she took a drink from her own cup. The look on her face was reluctantly willing, but hopeful at the same time.
"Oh, Mother. I couldn't ask that you do that. You've had to cancel the last two because of the last production we filmed. Who ever would've thought the bees would be so difficult to catch in action. No, you go explore the wild blue yonder while I stay right here on Terra firma with a rake. You deserve a break too, after all." Deep brown eyes shone with the same sincerity in her husky voice.
If Amanda were even to consider changing her mind and asking her mother to stay the thought was quickly quashed by the brilliant smile beaming at her. Dotty had gotten very adventurous since getting her driver's license a couple of years ago, declaring that the freedom from needing a driver had given her a new lease on life. Flying lessons were the latest in a long list of hobbies she'd quickly adopted. There were times when Dotty West startled her daughter, making Amanda wonder guiltily just how much the older woman had put life on hold to help care for the boys.
"In that case, I had best be off myself. Captain Curt likes to be in the air early. Are you sure you won't need the Jeep today?" Dotty hurried over to the closet for a light jacket. The sunshine could be quite deceptive on these lovely autumn days after all.
A short time later found Amanda waving from the open garage as Dotty backed the wood-paneled Jeep down the drive. It sure would be nice if she could find some extra money in the budget for a second car. Philip would be driving before she knew it, and heavens knew Mother would appreciate the additional freedom. Granted, she had her own set of keys for the Jeep, but it certainly wasn't the same. Maybe Leatherneck knew someone, he'd certainly been helpful when Lee had crashed the station wagon that last time. And he was right; the Wagoneer really was Stetson-proof!
Musing on that, Amanda rolled up the sleeves of her plaid flannel shirt before pulling out a rake. The backyard wasn't going to rake itself.
The autumn sun danced on russet curls while the woman wiped a bead of sweat off her fair brow. The flowerbeds were tidy again, perennials prepared for their winter nap and the annuals had been plucked out to join the leaves which were also on her chore list. A lovely bouquet of mums, the last flowers of the season, currently graced the kitchen table. While it would've been nice to have had help, she couldn't begrudge the boys a weekend with their father. Joe may be coming late to the party, but he deserved to know them better than what a few pictures could convey. Now, if she could find the pruning shears for Mother's roses she'd be in good shape.
Humming softly, Amanda headed back into the garage intent on finding the missing shears … and discovered instead a pair of laughing hazel eyes under a bright blue ball cap. Her partner, Lee Stetson – agent extraordinaire, leaned against the wall holding the rogue shears. "Looking for something, Mrs. King?"
"Good morning, Lee. I thought you were busy this weekend?" Stepping closer, the attractive brunette brushed a sweet kiss across her love's strong jaw, pausing to inhale the spicy scent of man that was pure Stetson.
"I am busy this weekend." Mischief gleamed in hazel eyes as Lee captured his elusive partner for a more satisfying encounter, trapping her trim waist with capable hands. "And it seems that rake has my name on it. I take it Joe did take the boys hiking after all?"
"Yes he did, they left this morning. I'm worried about Jamie. He's acting like Joe's going to disappear as soon as the wind changes. He's always been a little more reserved than Philip, but I know it hurts Joe."
Lee pulled Amanda closer, wrapping his strong arms around her back. He knew the boys were the center of her world and in the privacy of his thoughts had worried about how they would react to him as well. Better to let Joe break that particular trail, even though it went against Lee's nature to allow anyone to take the lead – especially when it came to the woman in his arms. Granted, Joe did have a slight home court advantage just by virtue of being their father, but Lee was hopeful in winning them over himself. No matter how hard he had to work at it. It would be important to his Amanda, and that's all that mattered.
"I'm sure they'll work it out. We men think a little differently than women, ya know. Ooof!" Lee's breath left in a whoosh at the sudden jab of Amanda's sharply poking fingers. He gave a roguish grin in response to her exasperated glare.
Pointedly changing the subject, Amanda brought up her next concern. "Do you think Leatherneck might have another trick in his bag of wonders? I'm thinking about getting Mother a car. I know we ride together a lot, but it would be nice for her to have something of her own. It doesn't need to be big."
He considered for a moment. "I'm sure there's something hanging around the lot. I think Abernathy totaled the Gremlin though. I know you were attached to it."
Laughing, he dashed out of the garage, Amanda in hot pursuit.
For such a small yard there sure were a lot of leaves! Lee paused to stretch his sore back, looking at the neat mounds with satisfaction. Amanda had disappeared into the house about 20 minutes ago, saying something about fixing lunch as a reward for his hard work. They'd gotten a lot done over the past few hours, although he had a sinking feeling he was far from finished. She'd muttered something that sounded suspiciously like a 'honey do' list. Although he'd had other things on his mind for this afternoon he really couldn't complain. It was kinda fun to be normal every once in a while. Not that it would be a habit, of course.
As if reading his mind – which wouldn't surprise him – the back door squealed as it closed. Amanda carried a full tray out to the picnic table, prompting his stomach to growl in anticipation. It seemed lunch was served. Abandoning the rake, the bold man quickly crossed the green lawn … only to be sent to the kitchen to wash up. He shook his head in amusement before quipping a meek, "Yes, dear." Her laughter was punctuated by the loudly squeaking door. Yeah, that was sure to be on her list.
They lunched companionably, chatting about their latest case. Carmine sure had made a mess of things, but it seemed Sally was willing to wait for him. He'd had to grow up quickly, the Red Letter Gang had made certain of that. Maybe the judge would go easy on him?
Lee had to smile at her unsinkable optimism. Even though she'd been hiding in the shadows with him for three years now, his Mrs. King had an unshakable confidence in the basic decency of their fellow man. True she wasn't as greenly naïve as she'd been when that louse Squires had tried to woo her but, even after everything she'd done and seen, she still believed that people were good at the core. If he had his way, that would never change. He didn't think she could still be Amanda if her innate innocence went away.
Leaving their glasses of lemonade on the table, Amanda carried the scant remains of their lunch back into the kitchen while Lee wandered off to inspect the hammock. She shook her head, like she was going to fall for that. He was off to take a nap! Glancing at the leaf mounds, the Queen of Suburbia acknowledged they'd accomplished far more than she could have on her own – even more than she could've with the boys, if truth be known. With the list she'd jotted down while fixing lunch in mind, Lee's nap was silently allowed. If anything, she definitely knew her Scarecrow. She'd get farther with sugar, as time and baked goods had certainly attested, than she ever manage by barking orders. Something she'd had to patiently imprint on the Colonel's brain too. Men really were nothing more than tall boys with more expensive toys!
Once the dishes were done, Amanda retrieved the pruning shears and began the ruthless chore of cutting back the roses. Last fall had been too busy in the Q and the roses had paid the price for it. This year there would be no excuse. Dead, gnarled canes fell away with each snip of the blades, leaving room for invigorated new growth next spring. Mother should be pleased.
A harsh squawk revealed Lee to be awake and working on that dreadful back door, without her needing to mention it! She smiled softly, planning on making chocolate chip cookies as a well-deserved reward. Her Scarecrow – oh, but didn't that sound nice! My Scarecrow – had given up a rare Saturday to help with chores she'd been putting off, without a single word of complaint. He may have even earned pumpkin bars! A soft chuckle escaped her at the thought. If he knew pumpkin bars were on the table there was an excellent chance of getting the rest of her list finished too!
Lee rounded the corner of the house and caught the trailing edge of her laughter. His brow arched as he glanced about, searching for the source of her amusement. Seeing nothing, he shrugged, well used to her ways. If it were important, she'd be sure to share. "Well, that's one door that's been WD-40'ed into submission. What's next on the list, boss?"
Wanting nothing more than to kiss him for his help, Amanda had to content herself with a grateful, "Thank you, sweetheart," before leading her lawn boy to the garage. The gutters needed cleaning.