Disclaimer: "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" is copyrighted to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. The plot is mine, but not the characters. This story is meant for enjoyment purposes only. No infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This idea came from the scene in "Photo Finish" in which Lee states that he ran his own background check on Amanda when they first began working together and the one in "Stemwinder, Part 2," when Amanda finds the newspaper ad and he immediately responds that he knew her mother called her "Panda," when she was a little girl. It made me wonder just how he came by that knowledge and when he ran that background check and if the "Panda" nickname were something he discovered during the course of that background check and if it were partially responsible for his gifting her with the stuffed panda from "The ACM Kid."
Lee closed the door to his apartment after the Kalnikov family had left with all of Alexei's new booty in tow, his parents at first protesting accepting the gifts Lee had bought their son as too extravagant, but gave in once Lee had insisted and explained to them that being a bachelor and having no children of his own, he had no use for the stuff now that their son was back in their custody where he belonged. He locked the door with a shake of his head and breathed a sigh of relief now that the case was over, debriefings completed, reports filed, and his apartment now his own again, no traces that a surly child had ever occupied it...except...
He let out another sigh as he ambled back into his living room and caught sight of the ridiculous over-sized, stuffed panda; the one item he'd bought that Alexei had not wanted to take with him arguing that first, he was too old for stuffed toys and, second, that even if he weren't, that panda was a bit too girly for his tastes anyway. He picked up the bear and glowered at it. What the hell had possessed him to buy it in the first place? Reflecting back on it now, he remembered what it was like to be a twelve-year-old boy and how he would have been affronted himself if someone had presented him with a gift like this, so why?
Dropping the offending thing back to his sofa, he strode over to the bar and poured himself a double scotch on the rocks, but he couldn't help the way his eyes kept drifting back to the giant panda, its dark eyes seeming to stare at him. It reminded him way too much of another pair of dark eyes that constantly haunted him. Every time he'd closed his eyes in the past few days, he'd seen those probing eyes boring into him when she'd said, "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were speaking from personal experience." Damn it, she'd almost...almost had him caving in and telling her about his horrendous childhood. He had stopped himself before giving into that urge. What good would it do except to make her feel sorry for him and he didn't need anyone's pity, least of all, hers. She'd only try to mother him more than she already did once she became aware that he grew up without one.
"Aw, hell," he grumbled as he wandered over to his desk, set his drinking glass on its surface, pulled the top drawer all the way out and extracted the hidden file in the secret compartment beneath it, immensely grateful that Amanda hadn't yet had enough training in search methods to have found it when she'd cleaned the place. He dropped the file to the desk as he carefully replaced the drawer, then picking up the file and his drink, flopped down onto his sofa next to the bear and opened the file.
Right there, inside the front cover were those same haunting dark eyes. "What have you done to me, Amanda King?" Why did he find her so fascinating, yet confounding at the same time? Why, of all the people that he knew, was she the one he'd called to bail him out with the kid? It's because she has kids, he tried to justify to himself. She's a protective mama bear, that's why you called her. The kid needed that mama bear to both look after him and to straighten him out. He laughed softly at the memory of her, "Lee's fun, you're a drag."
He thumbed through the file and found a tidbit of information that caught his eye. "That's it!" He sat upright as he read the words again and again. "Of course, her childhood nickname was Panda." He'd read her background profile so many times that he practically had it memorized now and he'd known there was something there. He gave a perturbed look to the panda beside him. But that still doesn't explain why you bought that stupid thing. Had he subconsciously bought it with Amanda in mind? He now realized that somewhere in the back of his brain, he'd known about her nickname. Had that influenced his purchase?
"No," he shook his head adamantly as he argued with himself, but then he thought back to her words about buying her affections with the panda and her child-like exuberance over it. He let out a deep sigh. She'd loved it, while the kid he'd bought it for had turned up his nose at it. Maybe he really hadn't bought it with the kid in mind. "That's stupid. Who else would I have bought it for?" he grumbled as he slammed the folder down on his coffee table and raised his drink to his lips, downing the rest of it in one long gulp before slamming it down too.
He turned his attention back to the stupid stuffed animal. What the hell had he been thinking? Whatever had prompted him to buy it didn't matter, he knew he wouldn't sleep a wink tonight knowing that it was here. He'd never get those penetrating eyes out of his head. He had to do something to get the bear off his mind. He heaved himself off the couch and back toward his desk to look for his car keys, but nearly took a header when he stood. What do you expect downing a double-shot that fast, Stupid? He braced himself for a moment on the back of his desk chair before sinking into it and reaching for the phone book.
He quickly dialed the needed number once he'd found it and practically barked into the phone, "Yeah, I need a cab," then provided his address and hung up the phone in irritation. "Dumbass. How may I help you?" he mocked the voice that had answered his call. "How the hell do you think you can help me? I'm calling a cab company. Don't you think that means I need a cab?" He took a deep breath to calm himself, stood up and walked back toward the couch.
"Come on, you son of a bitch. You're coming with me," he grumbled to the bear as he yanked it off the couch by its ear. "Great! Now, I'm talking to the damn thing," He tucked it under one arm and headed out the door to go downstairs and wait for his ride. As he stepped outside, the cool air began to clear his head a bit, and it occurred to him that scotch or not, a cab was better anyway. After all, Amanda knew his car and besides, how many Porsches did you see in suburbia anyway? His car would definitely stand out there, especially with a giant bear in the passenger seat.
Thirty minutes later, he was sliding back into the cab on the corner of Amanda's block, having dropped off the offensive toy. The cabbie turned to him and asked, "You ready to go, Buddy?"
"Not yet," Lee told him.
"Your dime," the cabbie shrugged. "Meter's still running."
"I'll pay it," Lee groused. "Just shut up, will ya, Pal?" He smiled then as he watched Amanda emerge from her house and look around in bewilderment. Even in the dark, he could still see her big, curious eyes under the glow of the streetlights. The way she was scanning the neighborhood, he couldn't help thinking that with a little training, she might make a decent agent some day. His grin grew as he watched her eyes widen in excitement when she saw the panda and even more, when she hugged it tightly, a look a pure delight on her face. "A panda for Panda," he murmured with a slight chuckle.
"Now, I'm ready," Lee told the cabbie. That was it. The panda needed a home where it would be appreciated. That's all it was. That's what had disturbed him so much. Keep telling yourself that, Pal. "Shut up," he muttered to his inner voice, getting the attention of the cabbie.
"I didn't say anything," the other man replied.
"Sorry," Lee apologized as he once again sank into his own thoughts of the dark brown eyes that haunted him, but at least he would no longer have a reminder of them in his home. All the way home, he panicked as he reflected back on the comment Amanda had made about "buying affection." Crap! Would she think that's what I'm trying to do? Because I don't care about having her affection. I don't care about her at all. If it came up, he'd just tell her that. He'd left it for her because she'd liked it and the kid didn't, that's it. He nodded to himself. He'd just explain that he had no use for it now that the kid was gone, so why not give it to someone who wanted it? He certainly didn't. After all, what was he gonna' do with it? It was better to let her have it. Yep, that would do it. Perfectly logical explanation.