Title: 'The Meaning of Christmas'

Author: Kim D.

Rating: G

Time Frame: First Season

Type: Filler- true to canon.

Summary: A glimpse into Amanda's thoughts during the time she spent trapped in a remote cabin during the episode 'The Long Christmas Eve.'

Disclaimer: 'Scarecrow & Mrs. King' is the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. Scenes and dialogue from the episodes 'Magic Bus' written by Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner, and 'The Long Christmas Eve' written by Peter Lefcourt, were borrowed to aid in the continuity of this story. I give these writers the credit they so justly deserve. The rest of the story belongs to the author and is for entertainment purposes only. No infringement of rights is intended.

The Meaning of Christmas

It was Christmas Eve. A heavy layer of darkness blanketed the thick stand of trees that surrounded a small hunting cabin deep in the backwoods of Virginia. Night had fallen quickly, aided by the low-hanging clouds that had looked suspiciously dark during the late afternoon. It wasn't snowing yet, but Amanda King knew that it was only a matter of time. The temperature outside was continuing to drop as the evening wore on. Of course her boyfriend, Dean, had informed her that there was no 'White Christmas' in the cards this year. He worked for the weather bureau and was in a position to know these things, but Amanda had learned to take his predictions with a grain of salt. It wouldn't be the first time he got a forecast wrong.

Dean. He would probably be wondering where she was right about now. Her mother, on the other hand, would be doing more than wondering. She would be speculating... loudly. Amanda sighed. She longed to be home with her boys, watching them open their presents and sharing cups of hot cocoa and eggnog. She felt very far away from them right now, and the feeling left a dull ache in the pit of her stomach. This was definitely not how she envisioned spending Christmas Eve.

Amanda shivered and turned away from the darkened window, ignoring the jagged hole in the center of the pane. The scene inside the cabin was even bleaker than the one beyond the broken window. The room itself was furnished with the barest essentials. A cot had been set up on one side of the room while a bed occupied the same space on the opposite wall. She glanced at the two sleeping figures that were bunked down across the room from one another. The first was a stranger to her, a KGB agent that Lee had injured during their attempt to escape from the cabin earlier that afternoon. The other was Lee himself.

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Lee Stetson was not in good shape. It was not the first time he had been shot and it probably wouldn't be the last. As a fully-trained covert government agent, he was conditioned to expect the worst and deal with it accordingly. Amanda, however, was not a fully-trained covert anything. She had no reason to expect to be shot at in her day to day life... until recently.

It had only been two months since Lee had enlisted Amanda's help at the train station on that brisk October morning. Amanda had seen it as an adventure, an opportunity to escape the doldrums of her suburban life. She was unfulfilled in a way she couldn't even describe and she secretly longed for excitement. Imagining a world filled with secret agents and intrigue had always been her favorite fantasy, a way to escape the everyday and move in a world completely unlike her own.

Until now, her time with Lee had felt like a fantasy of sorts. It was real and yet still an illusion. She dressed-up and used different names. She pretended to be anyone or anything she wanted to be and she did it all without missing a beat in her everyday life. But it wasn't make-believe anymore, something out of a good spy novel that she could pick up or put down at her convenience. Lee was hurt and, for all she knew, dying. She had seen his eyes glaze over right before he passed out, heard his breath grow shallow. Even when she herself had come close to death at the hands of an East German agent, Amanda had not felt the true weight of what was really at stake. Not until she saw that something could happen to Lee.

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The events that led up to this moment played out again in Amanda's mind. She and Lee had trekked to this remote location to help a deep-cover agent come in from the cold, literally and figuratively. Ted Rudolph, code-named Janus, had called the Agency asking for a new identity, safe passage, and a meeting with the daughter he hadn't spoken to in three decades. It was more of a demand than a request. In his desperation he threatened to expose the entire organization if they didn't do as he asked within forty-eight hours. But, try as they might, Billy Melrose and his team were unable to find Karen Rudolph in the time they were allotted. That was where Amanda came in.

"Amanda, all you have to do is play your part," Lee had said on the drive to the cabin. "You did study your scenario, didn't you?"

Amanda understood her scenario. Pretend to be Karen Rudolph in order to convince Janus that the Agency was sincere. The idea was that by the time he learned Amanda wasn't Karen, the real Karen would have been located. A simple assignment.

A simple assignment that went terribly wrong. Before Lee and Amanda were able to escort Ted Rudolph back through the woods to safety, two KGB operatives arrived, cutting off their only route of escape. There was a confrontation and shots were exchanged. When it was over two men had been injured... one of them Lee.

"Are you all right?" Rudolph asked Lee when the two men stumbled back in to the cabin.

"Yeah," Lee started to answer until he saw the blood seeping through his sweater. His face grew pale. "Maybe not."

A wave of fear washed over Amanda when she saw blood dripping down Lee's arm. In seconds she was at his side easing him in to a chair. She gently removed his jacket and gasped at the bloody mess that lay underneath. Rudolph gathered some rags and started to apply them to Lee's wound while Amanda checked Lee's pulse.

"Is it bad? How bad?" Amanda tried to ask, but Lee was already growing light-headed from the loss of blood. She had just remembered the medical kit in the trunk of his car when he lost consciousness completely.

Amanda couldn't remember ever feeling as helpless as she did right then. She lowered her head in a moment of quiet desperation. She hadn't known Lee long, but in that time he had become very important to her. More important than she realized until that moment. Amanda had also learned to rely on Lee to be in control of any situation. This time, it was up to her.

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Amanda pulled herself back to the present and rubbed her hands together in an effort to ward off a chill that had nothing to do with the falling temperature. She needed to keep busy, so she checked the rag that served as Lee's makeshift bandage. Lee's blood felt sticky and warm to her touch. It was an oddly intimate feeling, having his blood on her fingertips. She had never seen him so vulnerable, and yet, he also seemed incredibly peaceful. He didn't look like someone who could kill without a second thought. He looked like a boy, fresh-faced and surprisingly innocent. Amanda was reminded of her own two boys and her heart filled with compassion. She thought of what it must take to turn children like Phillip and Jamie into hardened cynics shut off from all emotion.

Amanda suddenly felt very close to this man who was still, for all intents and purposes, a stranger to her. She couldn't deny the case of hero worship she held for Lee, even though it rested side by side with exasperation. It aggravated her to no end that he thought her a blabbering fool. It aggravated her even more that she actually felt like a fool whenever he was near. Her feelings for this man were confusing, to say the least. But how ironic it seemed that it would take his near death to show Amanda that Lee Stetson was all too human.

Standing up, Amanda moved to the sink to clean her hands, washing all traces of Lee Stetson from her skin. She filled a canteen with water and turned back toward her sleeping patients. Up until now, Amanda had been giving most of her attention to Lee, knowing that his wound was by far the worse of the two. But her sense of mercy knew no borders and she wanted to be sure that the Russian was doing well, too.

She consulted her watch. It had been over two and a half hours since the KGB agent, whose name she was pretty sure was Dmitri, had ventured out into the cold night air. It was a three hour round-trip to Lee's car and the first aid kit that would help both men, Russian and American alike. It shouldn't be long before Dmitri returned.

Amanda knew that it was an amazing turn of events that had led to this cooperation between rivals. Her original plan was to go to the car herself, asking only that the Russians not shoot her in the process. She even suggested that they come inside the cabin to wait for her. She didn't think anyone should be out in weather like this, especially with a gunshot wound. She would have offered shelter to Stalin himself, were he in their situation.

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Rudolph hadn't liked the idea of Amanda going to the car alone. He tried to convince her that she would never get by the Russians. "What makes you think they're going to let you pass?" he asked.

"One of them is wounded, too," she answered.

"There is more at risk here than the lives of two men. This involves national security," Rudolph began again.

Amanda looked at Lee's unconscious form. "All I know is I don't want him to die."

"We know the risks; it's our job. Try to understand that!" Rudolph was growing frustrated with the woman he still believed to be his daughter. It was then that Amanda admitted the truth to him. The mix of pain and confusion that crossed his face was almost unbearable to watch. She wanted to give him a word of comfort, but there were more pressing matters to be dealt with. She stepped outside, waiving a flag of truce, and silently praying for a miracle.

When Amanda spoke to the men who lurked outside the cabin door, her voice had a strangled quality and there were tears in her eyes. She overflowed with words about family and love and the meaning of Christmas- words that might have seemed contrived coming from someone else. But every syllable came straight from her heart and, when she offered shelter to her enemy, her offer was accepted. It was a miracle indeed.

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Amanda was again struck by the surreal feeling her encounters with Lee and the world of espionage gave her. She had single-handedly negotiated a truce with the Russians, or at least these two Russians. And yet, she would never be able to tell her family about it. She could never share her fear or her triumph. She had to keep it all to herself. Once more, Amanda felt cut-off from her family, but this time it had nothing to do with proximity. Her mother had no idea what she was really doing. Of course, she usually had plenty of guesses, most of which were wrong.

"She probably thinks I'm whooping it up at some Christmas party," Amanda said, to no one in particular. "Come to think of it, that's what I'll have to tell her. 'Well Mother, you see, it was like this. One of my dog-walking clients was having a little get together when I went to drop off his gift. He invited me to stay and have some eggnog, and, well, like you said, it's important to establish good public relations!' Sure, she'll buy that. Or else she'll just go on thinking I'm having some sort of fling." Amanda stopped chattering when she realized that she was talking aloud. The last thing she wanted was for Mr. Rudolph to come back in while she was engaged in a conversation with an empty chair. She was sure his opinion of her was low enough already.

Amanda thought again of the look of pain on Rudolph's face when she told him she wasn't his daughter. This was the reason Amanda didn't like to lie. When the truth comes out, as it almost always must, people get hurt. She couldn't stand being the one to cause that to happen, not to Ted Rudolph and not to her family. She was nothing, if not incredibly honest. These little fibs she kept telling were starting to weigh on her conscience.

Amanda wondered again why she wanted to be involved in this spy business. She tried to tell herself that it was her duty as an American to do all she could for her country, which was true enough. But it wasn't the only reason.

Amanda recalled a conversation she had had with Lee on one of the first cases they had worked together. Lee had asked her why she insisted on staying on that particular case with him. They both knew the situation had grown dangerous.

"Once I start something, I like to finish it," she began. "And besides, I felt it was my patriotic duty."

"Oh, patriotic duty. Why can't you just admit you get a kick out of all this? Why can't you just admit that you think this is exciting stuff, huh?" Lee had asked, but Amanda hadn't been able to tell him what he wanted to hear, partly because she wasn't sure of the answer herself. If she were to be completely honest with herself, she would admit that she really enjoyed helping Lee fight the bad guys. It gave her a thrill to be involved in something so important and exciting. It also gave her a thrill to work with Lee, but she kept that reason hidden even from herself most of the time.

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Amanda's thoughts were interrupted by a gust of frigid air that followed Ted Rudolph into the cabin. His arms were loaded with firewood that he had split earlier in the day. He shut the door with a kick and lumbered across the room to the large stone fireplace that dominated the far wall.

"Well, that should keep us another few hours," he said as he dropped the bundle into the black metal woodbin near the hearth. Ted Rudolph was a gruff man, tired after years of hard, lonely work in the espionage business. His one wish, after sacrificing everything for the sake of his country, was to see his daughter. Amanda felt another stab of guilt as she realized how devastated he must be now.

Rudolph turned back to Amanda. " You know," he began, as if reading her thoughts, "I keep wanting to call you Karen. What did you say your name was again?"

Amanda couldn't blame him for not remembering her name. It seemed such a minor detail after all they had been through. " My name is Amanda King, Mr. Rudolph."

"That's right." Rudolph nodded as it came back to him.

Amanda hesitated before she spoke again. " Mr. Rudolph? I just want you to know how really sorry I am for deceiving you. I wish I could say something to make it hurt less. I know I can't, but I wish I could."

Rudolph had been giving all his attention to the fire as she spoke. With her last words he glanced up, trying to gauge her sincerity. Just then, a low groan from the corner of the room caught their attention and Rudolph's appraisal of Amanda was forgotten.

Amanda moved to Lee's side and rested her hand against his forehead. "He's warm, but he's not burning up." Amanda looked at Rudolph, feeling well out of her element dealing with a wound of this magnitude. As a matter of fact, this was only the second bullet wound she had ever seen. The first had been a leg wound Lee received on that dangerous case she had been thinking about a few moments earlier. Thankfully, it had only been superficial. She sighed as she realized that Lee was exposing her to the nastier elements of his business bit by bit, using his own body as an illustration.

"How long does it take for an infection to set in?" she asked.

"It depends on the severity of the wound, the physical condition of the wounded, the quality and timeliness of care. There are many factors. He looks good. They both do. Not that I care if that Russian dog lives or dies," he added, indicating the sleeping KGB agent on the other side of the room. "Anyway, I wouldn't worry too much."

"Now Mr. Rudolph, please. It is Christmas. Good will toward men means all men. Even Russian men. I don't want anyone to die here tonight." Amanda was emphatic as she spoke to the embittered man before her.

"Christmas means a lot to you, doesn't it?" Rudolph asked.

"Yes, yes it does. It's a very special time for my family. My boys are getting a little old for Santa Claus, but they still play along for my sake. We decorate the house and get a big tree, and on Christmas Day I cook a big dinner with all the trimmings. It may seem corny to some people, I'm sure, but we like it."

Rudolph was listening to Amanda with a sad look in his eyes. "Mrs. King, that doesn't sound corny at all. It sounds very nice. It's very different than how I do Christmas, let me tell you."

"How do you celebrate?" Amanda asked.

"Well, celebrate is a bit of an overstatement." he answered. "I usually just heat up a frozen pizza, open up a few bottles of my favorite German beer, and watch football," Rudolph chuckled. He turned to Amanda as he finished. "So I guess this means your story about the Champagne and guacamole dip was just part of your cover?" he asked, referring to an earlier conversation.

"Actually, those were Mr. Stetson's words. That's how he spends his holidays." Amanda continued to stroke Lee's brow as she spoke. "It seems so sad to me, spending Christmas alone, without family or friends to share it with. So, when I tried to imagine how it would feel to be your daughter believing she had no one left in the world, well, I just thought of Lee."

Amanda glanced down at Lee's still sleeping form and realized that she was very close to tears for the second time that evening. All of her motherly instincts were crying out for these two men, decades apart in age and yet closer to each other than either realized. Was Lee destined to end up like Ted Rudolph, hiding in some abandoned cabin, waiting to see if his years of service had earned him the right to a new life and identity? A new life that would hold nothing more than the freedom to die alone, in obscurity, much as he had lived? That is, if he lived long enough to reach that point in the first place. Amanda felt, deep within her heart, that Lee deserved more than this.

Ted Rudolph deserved more, too. There was still hope for happiness in his future, though, if only his daughter could be found. And if they could make it through this night, cozied up to a pair of Russian spies.

As if on cue, the KGB operative, this one whose name she thought was Ivan, started to stir. Lee had begun to move, as well. Amanda got up and retrieved the canteen of water she had filled a few moments earlier. She poured Lee the first drink and then moved to her other guest, who by now was fully awake. Things seemed to be looking up a little.

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After she had finished attending to her patients, Amanda put the lid back on the water. Rudolph watched as she moved around the cabin, the model of efficiency. He found himself growing more impressed with her as the hours wore on, despite the fact that she had been involved in a plan to mislead him. Amanda came over to the table and sat down across from him.

"You really are something," Rudolph began. "May I ask you a question?"

"Sure." Amanda answered.

"Did they really try to find my daughter?" His words were measured, as if it was an effort give them voice.

Amanda, on the other hand, was relieved to be able to talk about the situation. "Yes, they did, there just wasn't enough time." She wanted him to know that the Agency hadn't lied to him without reason.

"You know, it's funny, I have no idea what she looks like," Rudolph said. The statement was one of the saddest things Amanda had ever heard.

After everything they had been through that day, though, Amanda believed anything was possible. "They'll find her," was her simple response.

Rudolph went on to ask Amanda about her involvement with the Agency. It gave her the opportunity to vocalize some of the things she had been thinking about over the past several hours. But, before she was able to elaborate, the cabin door burst open again. In an instant, Rudolph and Dmitri were face to face, guns at the ready. Amanda could see all good that they had accomplished that evening fading away right before her eyes. She wasn't about to let this truce she had orchestrated dissolve without a fight, though. Without another thought, Amanda leaped in between the two men.

"Stop it! No guns. There's a truce inside this cabin." Amanda declared. Neither man relaxed, but Rudolph glanced at her. "Please?" she asked. After a moment that seemed like an eternity, both men lowered their weapons. Amanda breathed a sigh of relief. She took the guns and put them on the on the other side of the room, as far away as physically possible.

"Okay," she said. "Thank you." Yet another crisis had been averted. Amanda had no doubt in her mind that there was a higher power watching over them in their secluded little hideaway miles away from civilization.

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The rest of the evening served only to strengthen Amanda's belief in the decency of mankind. After their wounds had been cleaned and bandaged, Lee and Ivan had shown marked improvement. The liberal doses of vodka that they shared- for medicinal purposes only, of course- didn't hurt matters at all. Amanda was relieved to see Lee looking better. They shared a simple meal of beans and herring, and raised a glass in honor of the things they loved.

Amanda laughed as Dmitri toasted the politburo and Mother Russia, while Lee cheered the President and the Washington Redskins. Everyone agreed that the Dallas Cowboys deserved a cheer, as well. But what Amanda noticed most of all was that each man toasted Christmas, first and foremost. They were all seeing past what had brought them to this place in time, and acknowledging something greater than themselves, greater even than their national loyalties.

The men inside the cabin continued to propose toasts, each one enjoying the shot of vodka that ensued. Amanda gave them all an indulgent look as she walked over to the window and drew back the curtains. It had started to snow since Dmitri returned from his hike through the forest. The sight was so breathtaking that even the bullet hole in the glass seemed less sinister.

"Look! It's starting to snow," she exclaimed as she pulled the curtains aside. The entire group cheered. Amanda turned back to her fellow revelers and raised her cup.

"I'd like to propose a toast," she announced. "To peace on earth, and goodwill toward men. And women." Everyone in the room drank to that. Amanda was filled with contentment. "Merry Christmas," she said to them all.

Amanda settled herself on the arm of Lee's chair as they sang Christmas carols together. She was still homesick for her family, but she knew she had witnessed something very important here tonight. Amanda had no doubt that she would cherish the things she had experienced here for the rest of her life, and, were she ever to have reason to question the goodness and decency of mankind, she could simply think back to this and her faith would be restored.

The group began another song, not knowing when their ordeal would end or what the next day would bring. They were blissfully unaware of how close agents from both sides of the Iron Curtain came to invading the cabin and shattering the magic spell that had been woven about them by a special woman with a generous heart.

Of course, it wouldn't have surprised any of them to learn that a bit of that magic had moved beyond their rough-hewn walls and saved the day, one last time. For, as each side had moved into position and prepared to strike, the sound of song-filled voices carried out into the night. Not a single agent, east or west, could bring himself to attack as the beautiful notes of Silent Night penetrated the snowy silence.

What the people inside the cabin did know, Amanda most of all, was that for one special night there really was peace on earth. Each one of them now held, deep in their hearts, hope for a brighter future. Amanda smiled down at Lee as they sang. Yes, she thought. This is what Christmas is all about.

-The End-