***DISCLAIMER*** Scarecrow and Mrs. King is copyrighted to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Production Company. The story is copyrighted to the author. This story is for entertainment purposes only and cannot be redistributed without the permission of the author.
Title: The Long New Year's Eve
Date: January 2001
Rating: PG-13? (Probably too high, but I hate to under-rate)
Synopsis: What really happened on New Year's Eve at the Russian Embassy? Second Season story.
Author's Notes: I came up with my idea for this on New Year's Eve (when else?). My apologies to Emily Ann, who posted a similar story not long ago, but this is my take on it. I had pretty much developed the outline by the time hers was posted.
The Long New Year's Eve
It was the day after Christmas, and Amanda King was busy in her kitchen putting away all the paraphernalia that goes with preparing a traditional Christmas dinner. Somehow, after cleaning up all those dishes and pots the day before, she didn't seem to have the energy to dry them all and put them away. Suddenly, there was a tap on her kitchen window. For some reason, this didn't surprise her, probably because Lee Stetson's smiling face often showed up at her kitchen window at all sorts of odd hours. She dried her hands and went to the door to let him in.
"Come on in, Lee. Mother and the boys are gone. They went to a matinee to see some new action picture the boys have been dying to see. They just left!."
Lee was always amazed at how much information she could get out in one breath. He took a breath himself and told her, "I know, I just saw them leave, so I thought it would be safe to stop in." He paused to hand her the plate that he was holding in his hands. "Here's the plate from the food you brought me yesterday. Thanks again, it was good to have a home cooked Christmas dinner for a change."
"No problem, I was glad to bring you some leftovers. Nobody should have to go to a restaurant, or just eat chips and guacamole for Christmas." She smirked as she realized that Lee probably would have done just that if she hadn't provided something better.
"Amanda," he proceeded, "I know it's kind of late to be asking this, but do you have any plans for New Year's Eve?"
Amanda blushed prettily at his question, but then wondered if he was asking her out, like it sounded, or if there was some assignment behind all of this. She knew Lee always seemed to put a professional distance between them time and again.
"Well," she replied, "I don't have any definite plans yet, but I do have a couple of possibilities on the back burner." She had indeed had a few offers, from single fathers at the last PTA meeting. But somehow, spending the evening with a relative stranger didn't appeal to her at all, and she had thought she would just as soon stay home and curl up with a good book than go out on New Year's Eve with someone she didn't know that well. On the other hand, she didn't want Lee to think she was incapable of securing a date on New Year's Eve if she had wanted one. "Why, what's up? Is this is work related, because you know, I'd really rather not be working during the holidays."
"Well, it's sort of work related, but then again, it's not." he said cryptically. He smiled at her puzzled look, but decided not to leave her in suspense for too long.
"Well, you remember Yuri Valov?" he questioned. "The KGB agent who helped us a few weeks ago when Billy was missing."
"Sure," said Amanda. "But I thought you said he was back in the Soviet Union."
"He was," Lee replied. "But apparently, his government thought he did such a good job of finding the traitors and smoking them out, that they thought he would be just the man to make sure no one else was out there with similar plans. So, he'll be in town for a few weeks to make sure that there was no one else working with Kreshenko or working on a similar scheme.
Amanda nodded. She had liked Yuri, even if he was a KGB agent, and had hoped they would have the opportunity to see him again sometime, without being on opposite sides.
"Since this is one assignment that doesn't have to be kept such a strict secret from our side, I'll be working with him, to some extent on that project. Because he's going to be here past New Year's Day, he's invited the two of us to be his guests at the Soviet Embassy's New Year's Eve bash. They always have a big blowout every year."
"That would be great!" said Amanda enthusiastically. "You know I was hoping we'd have the chance to see him again, on friendly terms. And besides, I've never been inside the Soviet Embassy before. I've always wondered what it looked like in there."
"Well, there is just one catch." Lee mentioned, giving her a sideways look that she couldn't quite figure out.
"What's that," she asked, puzzled that he was being so mysterious.
"Well, I'm committed to going." he said. "Maintaining friendly relations, and all that since we'll be working together on this, at least a little bit. But if you recall, he doesn't know we work together. He thinks you and I are seeing one another. So, if we go together, we'll have to maintain our cover the whole evening." He paused, not knowing how she would take this bit of news. It was one thing to casually go to a party together, amidst a group of strangers, but to have to act like they had an ongoing relationship might prove to be a bit more difficult.
"If you're not comfortable with the idea, you don't have to come. I can make some excuse about you not feeling well, or taking a trip to see relatives."
"No, I think we can pull it off. Besides, the party might be fun! I'd be happy to go with you Lee!"
"Great." he said. "How about if we meet at work at about 8:00 on New Year's Eve. We can go together from there."
"Sound like a plan," she said with enthusiasm. "Oh, you do know I won't be at work all week, don't you? With the boys off for the holidays, I really wanted to take some time to be with them."
"Sure," he said. "Well, I'll see you Monday night."
With that, he slipped out of her back door, to the late morning sunshine.
That had gone better than he thought it would. Yesterday, he had been thinking about what his plans might be for New Year's Eve. He didn't want to spend it alone, but for some reason, the thought of another long party with one of his beautiful, but shallow girlfriends, held no appeal for him this year. He supposed that it must be time to go looking for some new numbers to add to his little black books.
The Soviet Embassy had a reputation for throwing great parties. And with Amanda by his side, he wouldn't have to pretend to be interested in incessant talk about his date's shopping trips, or the trials and tribulations of trying to find the perfect color nail polish to go with her new dress. It was strange, but with as many women as he dated, these two topics of conversation seemed to come up with amazing regularity. No, with Amanda, he would be able to be just himself. Well, almost. He would have to pretend that he and Amanda had been seeing each other for some time, but he knew her well enough that he was sure this wouldn't be a problem. Yes, this was certainly better than anything else he had planned.
For her part, Amanda was thrilled. Sure, it wasn't like he was asking her out on a real date, but if he had wanted to ditch her and go with one of his "girlfriends of the week" he could have told Yuri that he and Amanda had broken up. Then he would have been free to bring any other woman of his choice. Besides, she had been working on a new dress, and it was almost finished.
She went upstairs to check on her progress on the dress in question. She had been working on it for some time, privately, when she thought there was no risk of interruption by her mother or two sons. As she pulled it out of her closet, she saw that all that was left was some hand work. She had finished hemming it the last time she had worked on it, and sewing the long row of pearl buttons down the front was all that was left. She held it in front of her as she looked in the mirror on her closet door. It was a simple sheath dress, made of black velvet, very simple in design but very elegant at the same time. It was held up by two thin spaghetti straps, and was very form-fitting through the bust and hip lines, with a heart-shaped neckline at the top. What really completed it though, was the long line of pearl buttons that would go from the top of the dress to several inches below her waist. She had already sewn on all the tiny velvet loops that would hold the buttons in place, and had only the buttons to sew on before it would be ready for a final fitting. She had already completed the lined velvet wrap that would accompany it. It was simple in design too, nothing more than a long satin-lined velvet rectangle, but it would complete the polished look she was going for.
Happily, she took out her needle and thread, and began to work on her project.
Part 2 - Monday night - New Year's Eve
Amanda exited her car, and began to look for Lee's familiar form in the parking lot. Finally, she spotted him, and began to walk over to where he stood, beside an Agency vehicle.
"Hi! Where's your car?" she asked him curiously. His new car was his pride and joy, and she couldn't imagine him taking an agency sedan instead without a very good reason.
"Oh, you know how new cars are, sometimes they need to have the bugs worked out of them. It's at the shop right now, having a few little problems fixed up." As he turned around to look at her, he was amazed at her graceful appearance. He found lately that he was so accustomed to seeing her in jeans around her house, or a conservative outfit at the office, that when they went to a more formal function together, where she was "all decked out" the contrast made him realize what a truly beautiful woman she really was. He tried to ignore this fact on a day to day basis, and had actually fooled himself into believing that she was just 'average' looking. There was nothing average about her appearance tonight!
Her beautiful brown hair was worn down, the curls resting just above her shoulders. The dress she was wearing was black, held up by two thin straps. The material snugly hugged her figure, dipping slightly in the center to show just a little bit of cleavage. It stopped just above her knees, leaving her shapely calves exposed. A long line of buttons started at the top and disappeared beneath the wrap she was holding tightly around her arms. He noticed that her earrings and necklace seemed to match the buttons on her dress. She was breathtaking.
"You look great." he complimented her with a smile. 'There, that should do it,' he thought to himself. He wouldn't insult her by letting her think he hadn't noticed her appearance, but 'great' was generic enough for her not to think too much of either.
"Thank you." she replied, as she looked down and walked, accompanied by him to the passenger side of the car.
As Lee placed his hand on the small of her back to lead her to her side of the car, he felt the velvety softness of the material beneath his fingers, and a tingling sensation shot through his body. 'Hmm,' he thought to himself. 'this dress will certainly make dancing with her this evening an interesting venture.' He had always had a thing for women in velvet dresses. He helped her into her seat, then crossed over to his own side of the car. 'OK Stetson, this is Amanda we're talking about. Don't get any ideas, because you know she's just here as a friend, doing you a favor, hoping to have a good time at a party.
They drove to the Embassy talking about things that had been going on with each of them since they had seen each other the previous week. As they arrived at their destination, he guided her inside. When she checked her wrap, he got his first really good look at her in this intoxicating dress she was wearing. He found himself thinking, 'I told her she looks great, but incredible would be more like it!' He smiled and held out his arm to accompany her inside.
Soon they spotted Yuri, who came over, beaming at the two of them.
"Lee, Amanda, I am so happy you could make it tonight." Yuri reached out to shake Lee's hand. Then taking a good look at Amanda, Yuri took her hand in his own and continued, "and you are looking more lovely even than I remembered." He leaned over and kissed her on both cheeks.
Amanda felt herself blushing at his greeting, but smiled in return and replied, "Yuri, thank you for asking us to attend tonight. I've never been to the Soviet Embassy before. It was certainly kind of you to invite us."
"Ah, well it wasn't entirely kind. I shall borrow Lee for a few minutes later this evening to discuss a little business, and perhaps you will do me the honor of sharing a dance with me after that?" he questioned. Yuri had known that Amanda was a beautiful woman, but she was dressed quite differently from how he had last seen her, and he could see why Scarecrow was so smitten with her.
"Perhaps," she answered demurely.
"But please, both of you, have something to eat from the buffet, and something to drink of course, and I shall see you again later."
"We'll catch up with you later, Yuri," said Lee. He was clenching his jaw in frustration. 'What a wolf.' he thought. 'He may dance with her later, but I'm going to have to watch him the whole time to make sure he doesn't try anything. You never can trust a Russian.'
To Amanda, he turned and smiled, leading her to the buffet table.
There was a tremendous amount and variety of food offered at the nearby table. Amanda hadn't eaten since lunch-time, and found her plate was filling up before she knew it. She gave Lee a sidelong glance as they came to a platter full of herring. She really didn't like herring all that much, but seeing it reminded her of Dimitri and Ivan, the Soviet agents they had been trapped inside a cabin with last Christmas Eve.
"Lee, how about some herring, in honor of Ivan and Dimitri," she quipped as she made as if to serve some onto his plate.
He smiled, but pulled his plate away, telling her, "No thanks, herring's not one of my favorites. But I'll tell you what. Later on, I'll get us a couple of shots of vodka, and we can drink a toast to them."
"Sure," she said, smiling back as she put the herring back down on the platter.
"Oh, Lee," she went on excitedly, "they have borsch here this evening. I've got to get some later. You know, I tried to make some last year for Philip's Social Studies class. They were trying to experience Europe through food, and each parent was assigned a different dish to make from the country that their child was doing a report on. Well we were assigned borsch. I'd never made it before, so I looked it up in a few different cookbooks, and do you know every recipe was different. Anyway, mine didn't come out so well, so I'd like to try real borsch later, to try to figure out what mine was missing."
"Amanda, I think borsch is kind of an acquired taste. After all, beet soup is beet soup, no matter how fancy the Russian name 'borsch' may sound. The stuff they're serving here is probably no better than what you made. But you can give it a try if you want."
Lee seated Amanda at a table, then left briefly to get drinks for both of them. In the short time it took for him to return to the table, he found Amanda engrossed in conversation with a handsome man who had taken his seat. How did she do it? He had noticed this at previous parties they had attended together. All he had to do was leave her alone for a minute, and some man would assume she was unescorted, and try to gain her company for the evening.
He cleared his throat as he approached the table.
"Ah hem, I believe that's my seat." he said politely, giving the man a pointed look.
"Da, your companion here was just explaining that you had left for a moment. What a shame to leave such a lovely lady unattended. Dos Vidanya." he said as he got up to leave.
"Perhaps later my dear, I could claim your company for a dance?" asked the stranger.
"Well, I don't know," fumbled Amanda. "I think I'm pretty much spoken for later on."
With that, the unknown man left, and Lee sat down, depositing their drinks.
"Honestly Amanda, can't I bring you anywhere without some strange man coming over, trying to whisk you away?" he asked, trying to make light of the situation, but only a small part of him finding it amusing.
"Lee, I didn't do anything! I was just sitting here minding my own business when he came up and asked if your seat was taken. I told him it was, but that didn't stop him from sitting down and trying to tell me his life's story."
She looked up at him, relieved, "I'm glad you came back when you did. He started going into detail about how lonely it was to be away from his country at this time of year, and I think he's probably had a good head start on his drinking for the night too!"
Lee finally laughed, and joined her in eating the delicious meal they found before them.
They were just about finished when the band started playing a slow melody, perfect for dancing.
"May I have this dance, before some lonely Russian tries to steal you away again?" he asked her with a grin.
"Of course." she said, taking his hand as he led her to the dance floor.
Amanda was instantly reminded of what a very good dancer he was, as they glided effortlessly across the floor. As he held her close, she could feel his muscular arm through the sleeve of his jacket and smell his aftershave. 'What a great way to spend New Year's Eve,' she thought, 'in Lee Stetson's arms.' She hadn't even thought about midnight before, and suddenly wondered if he would kiss her to ring in the new year. After all, even though they were at a party enjoying themselves, they were still playing a cover, and they were supposed to be involved. She felt her heart race at the thought, and she stepped just a little bit closer to him.
Lee found that he was also having a difficult time concentrating on anything but the woman in his arms. The smell of her perfume surrounded them, and he couldn't get over how good it felt to hold her, how soft her skin and her dress were. As she stepped closer to him, he responded in kind by tightening his hold on her just a little. As the music ended, he drew away from her and looked down into her dark shining eyes. She smiled up at him, her heart pounding, looking for something to say, yet not wanting to ruin this moment that they were sharing.
As the band started playing again, he pulled her close once more and whispered into her ear, "Would you like to dance one more, or would you rather sit down for awhile?"
"I'm game if you are," she whispered back.
Her voice was quiet and husky, and he was surprised that he had make a conscious effort not to shudder as her warm breath tickled his ear. They danced again, and unconsciously, he felt himself softly caressing the back of her dress as he held her. When the music ended again, he guided her back to their table, where they found Yuri waiting for them.
"Lee," he started apologetically, "I know this is a celebration tonight, but can I have five minutes of your time privately. I would like to go over some plans I have for next week, and want to know if you have any other suggestions."
"Sure Yuri. Amanda, you don't mind, do you? I should only be gone a little while."
"That's fine Lee. I think I'll go ahead and have some of the borsch while you're gone."
As they left, she was secretly glad to have a short break from his presence. It had felt so incredible to be dancing in his arms, and his gentle caresses had almost been enough to make her weak in the knees. She was determined that she would not just fall all over him like so many women did, and yet when he turned on that Stetson charm she was hard pressed to keep her wits about her.
She walked over to the bar first to get another glass of wine, then made her way over to the buffet for a bowl of borsch. True, it didn't look too appealing, but maybe her judgment was colored by how her own attempt at this dish had turned out. But, it was like she always told her boys, "Don't be afraid to try something just because of how it looks." Reminding herself of this, she headed back to the table to sit down.
Unfortunately, after several spoonfuls of the borsch, she decided that Lee was right, that beet soup was still beet soup, no matter what you called it. She pushed her bowl forward slightly, and concentrated instead on drinking her wine and looking at the grand room around her.
She made the mistake of making eye contact with the man who had tried to have a conversation with her earlier. Seeing her alone again, he made a beeline over to her table with two glasses and a bottle of vodka.
"You are alone again, lovely lady?" he asked with a very slight slur to his voice. "If you were with me, I would not leave you for other men to entertain."
Without asking, he once again seated himself where Lee had been, put out his two glasses and began to pour.
"Let us have a toast! To an end to lonely nights."
"No, really I couldn't. My date will be back in just a moment, and I already have a drink, thank you." Amanda believed in being nice to people, but she really wasn't interested in sitting here with a Russian intent on drowning his sorrows and looking for company.
Just then Yuri and Lee approached, and she could hear Lee muttering under his breath, "What is with this guy!"
Yuri asked him, 'Lee, you would not mind if I borrowed Amanda for one dance, would you?"
"Well Yuri, that's up to Amanda."
Yuri then looked over at her, extending his hand to ask her to dance, Amanda quickly stood up to grab it, muttering to Lee as she passed, "I really don't want to drink with this guy. Do you suppose you could take care of him without starting an international incident?"
"Sure," Lee said. "I think he's halfway to oblivion anyway. I'll just help him to get the rest of the way there, and we can put him in a taxi to find his way home."
As Yuri led Amanda to the dance floor, he smiled and told her, "I don't know if that was such a good idea, Amanda. Strobonov there is trouble, and he has an enormous capacity for vodka."
"Well I've seen Lee put quite a bit away himself, and I'm really getting tired of him coming over here to tell me his troubles every time he spots me alone."
With that, they reached the dance floor, and Yuri took Amanda in his arms, holding her at a respectful distance as they danced.
Lee couldn't believe this. He had been having such a great time, and suddenly, Amanda was dancing with another man while he was baby-sitting a half-drunk Russian. Sure, it wasn't like this was a real date, but it didn't mean that they couldn't both have a good time tonight.
He picked up the glass the man had poured, and raised it to toast, "To women!"
"To women!" the Russian man responded. They both downed their glasses of vodka and he held out his hand to introduce himself "I am Vladimir Strobonov. And you are?"
"Ah, Lee. Why is it you keep leaving this beautiful lady alone?" He noticed that Lee was paying as much attention to the dance floor as he was to him. "Here, have another drink with me while you wait for her return."
They downed the contents of their glasses quickly again. Unfortunately for Lee, they were considerable larger than shot glasses. His drinking companion again refilled their glasses. Lee wasn't really paying attention, his eyes riveted to the sight of Amanda and Yuri dancing. He drank the beverage in his hand while watching them carefully. 'Well at least it doesn't look like he's making a pass at her.' he thought to himself, relieved. 'But I got the distinct impression that Amanda wanted this guy gone before she got back. Maybe if I have another few drinks with him, he'll pass out, and I can bring her back to that dance floor myself.'
His companion once again refilled their glasses
"To herring." toasted Vladimir.
Drawing a blank, Lee looked up. The first thing he saw was Amanda's bowl of borsch.
"To borsch." Lee raised his glass in response.
As he put down his glass, he found that his head was spinning a bit after that last toast. Vladimir, however, poured once again and held up his glass as Amanda and Yuri approached the table.
Amanda took one look at Lee and knew that leaving him to drink with the Russian man had been a bad idea.
"Lee, don't you think you've had enough to drink?" she questioned him, looking at him in a worried manner.
"No, we're doing fine, aren't we Vladimir."
"Da, my friend. Of course, if you've had enough, I will be happy to find another drinking companion for the rest of the evening."
"What, you think I can't keep up with you?" Lee asked, his speech becoming slightly slurred.
"Of course you can! That's the spirit, my friend. We shall drown our sorrows together, till we ring in the new year!"
They clinked their glasses together again, and both downed the liquid they contained.
Lee was starting to think that he had probably had more than enough to drink, but he wasn't about to sit here and let this Russian joker think Americans didn't know how to hold their liquor.
Amanda was thinking to herself, 'Why do men have to turn everything into a competition? How am I going to get him out of here?'
Their glasses were refilled again, with Vladimir emptying the last few drops of liquid into his own glass.
"I am sorry my friend, but after this glass, we will have to find reinforcements if we are to continue celebrating together." said Vladimir sluggishly.
They again raised their glasses and drank down their entire contents. Then, just as they both finished, almost as one, both men fell, heads down, onto the table. Unfortunately, while Vladimir had an empty table before him, Lee still had Amanda's abandoned bowl of borsch lined up directly in front of his face. He fell in face first with a loud splash.
"Oh my gosh!" Amanda exclaimed, as she quickly lifted Lee up out of the bowl of soup. The red substance came sliding off of his face, dripping onto the front of his shirt. She quickly grabbed a napkin, and dried off his face as best as she could, then dabbed at the ruined shirt front.
Yuri quickly stepped in to help support Lee.
"Amanda, I am so sorry." He truly did feel bad that their evening was coming to such an unpleasant end. "Can I have a driver bring the two of you home?"
"No Yuri, I think if you can help me get him to the car, we'll be fine from there. I'll just bring him home and make sure he gets settled alright."
'So much for ringing in the New Year.' she thought, disappointed that their evening had been cut so short, and concerned that Lee wouldn't wake up once they arrived at his apartment. Well, if worse came to worse, she could always ask his doorman for assistance.
With Yuri on one side and Amanda on the other, they carefully lifted him up out of his chair and toward the door. As Amanda retrieved her wrap, she could see that Lee was regaining consciousness. If it hadn't been such a serious matter, she probably would have found the whole situation comical.
Lee was hanging on to Yuri, while telling him at the same time that nothing was wrong with him, that he could get home fine on his own. As Amanda approached, he spotted her and called out, "Mmmanda, tell Yuri here that I can get home a'right. He does'n wanna let me leave."
"Lee, listen to me carefully," she said as she placed both hands on his shoulders. "I'm going to drive you home. Let me have the keys to the car."
"Nnno." he said thickly. "I brought you here, and I'll drive you back home. That's that."
he said with finality. She saw the stubborn look on his face, but there was something else there too, sort of a child-like look, and she thought maybe she'd still be able to get through to him.
"Lee, if you insist on driving, I'm not going with you. Yuri will have a car bring me home. Then I'm going to sit at home worrying about you, afraid that you've managed to wrap your car around a tree. Now is that what you want, me sitting at home worrying about you?"
His face instantly looked guilty, and he grabbed her hand as he fervently explained to her, "Nooo, I don't want that. If I let you drive, you wo'n worry?"
"That's right, now give me the keys to the car, so I can drive you home." She spoke very slowly, as if she was explaining something to a small child.
"OK." He sluggishly dug through the pocket of his slacks, came up with the keys, and dangled them in front of her. She gratefully accepted them and thought to herself, 'Score one more for motherly guilt.'
Amanda looked up at Yuri, then asked him, "Can you get the car for us Yuri? I think I can take it from there."
"Of course Amanda, if you are sure you can handle him."
"Oh, I can handle him alright. I feel terrible about this anyway. He wouldn't have been trying to outdrink that Vladimir fellow if I hadn't been so anxious to get rid of him. This is partly my fault too." As they walked toward the entrance, Lee had shifted his arm around her, and was now leaning heavily on her as they made their way outside.
Yuri quickly retrieved the car and soon had both Lee and Amanda settled inside. As he waved goodbye he thought to himself, 'Those Americans should never try to outdrink a Russian with a bottle of vodka.' He chuckled to himself, then went back inside to order a car and an escort to accompany Vladimir home.
Amanda was relieved that Lee's car had been in the shop, since she didn't know how to drive a standard. She was somewhat concerned as she saw that Lee was falling asleep in the car. Originally, she had planned on returning to the IFF parking lot to retrieve her car, and bringing Lee home from there. But the thought of having to transfer him from one vehicle to another was just too much for her. Instead, she brought him directly to his apartment.
After parking the car, she circled around to the passenger side, opened the door, and called his name, gently shaking him at the same time. Finally, between the cold air and her prodding, he seemed to wake up.
"Mmmanda, what? What do ya want?" he asked her slowly.
"Lee, we're home now. I need you to get out of the car, and I'll help you get to your apartment."
"Home?" he asked.
"Yes, home. Come on now, I know you can do this."
Slowly, he lifted his body out of the seat and toward her waiting arms. She closed the car door and led him in. They managed to make it inside the building and up the elevator without incident.
As they approached his front door, Amanda realized that she only had the Agency car keys on the key ring in her hand, not his front door key.
"Lee. . . . Lee, listen to me. We need they key to your apartment. Can you give me the key to your front door?" She hoped he wouldn't give her any trouble. She really didn't want to go digging around in his pockets looking for the key."
"Sure," he said agreeably, "let me jus fin' it now."
As he dug in his pocket, he finally came up with the door key. He looked triumphantly at her as he pulled it out, holding it in front of her face.
"OK, now give it to me so I can unlock the door."
The expression on his face was priceless. He was looking at her like he knew he could do this for himself, while at the same time looking confused that she didn't think he could. It was almost like the look a small child would give you when you tried to help them with some skill they had already mastered.
"I can do this myself." he told her proudly.
"I know you can, but why don't you let me help you, just this once." she asked, holding out her hand for the key.
Once again, he told her, "I can do it I tell you." He lurched toward the door, key in hand, taking careful aim at the lock before him. Unfortunately, since Amanda had been standing between him and the door, as he managed to get the key into the lock, his whole body lurched forward, pinning her to the door, his head now resting on her shoulder. He stayed that way for several moments, simply leaning into her.
"Lee, you're squishing me," she finally complained, grabbing him by the shoulders and forcibly pushing him back.
He looked up at her, a lopsided, boyish grin on his face, and told her, "You smell good."
She blushed at his remark, knowing he wasn't really responsible for his words or actions at present, and told him, "Thank you, but lets just get you inside right now, alright?"
She turned the key for him and they entered his apartment.
"Do you want some coffee now, or do think you'd rather go to sleep?" she asked him, not sure which of the two he needed more right now.
"I'm sleepy," he said, lurching toward his bedroom.
Amanda followed, knowing she would have to make sure he was settled for the night before she left.
She turned on the light, and leaned him against the wall while she turned down the bed. Then she led him over to it, sitting him down on the edge. He was very cooperative, smiling over at her every now and then. First she removed his jacket and tie, then left him to hang them neatly on a nearby chair. Then she untied his shoes, and slipped them off. Seeing his eyes closing again, she knew she was working on borrowed time till he fell asleep completely again.
"Lee, you have a terrible stain on the front of your shirt. I don't know how to get a borsch stain out of a white dress shirt. Can you take it off so I can at least soak it in the sink?"
He mumbled something that she couldn't understand and pulled the shirt out from his pants. Then he stopped, head bowed, and a small snore escaped from him.
"I guess that's better than nothing." she muttered. Even though she knew he was asleep, she spoke to him as she started to unbutton his shirt, starting at the bottom since his head was covering the top button. "I'm just going to unbutton this now so I can put it to soak. Don't worry, it will just take a minute."
Lee awakened, knowing only that he felt a soft, gentle touch unbuttoning his shirt. He knew he was sitting on his bed, but didn't know how he had gotten there, or who he was with. With his head down, he could see a line of white, pearly buttons coming into focus. He followed the trail of buttons up with his eyes, seeing the shapely figure the dress contained, until he came to the top. He knew there was a beautiful woman beside him and could see the little velvet loops that he would have to push the small buttons through if he was going undress her as she was doing to him. He somehow knew without touching it, that the material of her dress would be soft and cushiony. He longed run his fingertips along the top of the neckline, where he could touch both the velvety material and her velvety skin at the same time, traveling along the curves so conveniently outlined by the cut of the cloth.
Just as he started to reach out, to unbutton the top button, a voice penetrated his foggy brain.
"Lee, lift your head up now so I can unbutton that last button."
He knew he recognized the voice, but still couldn't place it.
As he obediently lifted his head, his eyelids half drooping, he was shocked to see Amanda King sitting next to him, one delicate hand on the front of his shirt, the other on his chin, lifting it up.
His eyes widened immediately. "Aah....manda," he screamed, practically jumping up, scuttling back further on the bed, out of her reach. "What are you doin'?" he asked, horrified at the thoughts that had been running through his brain, shocked that Amanda was on his bed undressing him. This had a very sobering effect on him. She was his partner, she was his friend, but she was also the mother of two small boys! He trusted her and knew that there were times when she managed to get him to open up to her when no one else could. He couldn't ruin all that by trying to get her into his bed!
"Lee, I told you," she said patiently, not knowing why he was looking at her that way, having no idea what he was thinking. "You're wearing my borsch all over the front of your shirt. We have to put it to soak tonight if the cleaners are going to have any chance of getting the stain out. Now finish taking your shirt off, and I'll take care of the rest.
He obediently complied, unbuttoning his last button, and slipping the shirt off of his shoulders. She had to help him with the cuffs, since he had forgotten to unbutton them, and by the time the shirt was completely removed from his body, he was falling back asleep once again.
"Do you want me to find you a tee shirt, or are you comfortable like that." she asked him. She couldn't help the appreciative look she gave his bare chest, and knew that she should be leaving before she started to get any ideas.
"Like this is fine," he responded, as he eased himself down onto the bed. "Amanda, don' turn out the light." he said, just as she pulled the sheet up over his body.
"How about if I leave the bathroom light on?" she asked, surprised that he wouldn't want the light out. 'Just like Jamie, when he's had a bad dream.' she thought.
She left his side briefly, to turn on the bathroom light and turn off the overhead light in the bedroom. Then she filled his sink with water, and put the shirt in, hoping that it would do some good.
When she returned to his side, she was surprised that he wasn't fully asleep yet, so she asked him, "Are you going to be OK here by yourself?" As she was speaking to him, she couldn't help herself, and reached out to smooth the hair back from his face. He looked so much like a defenseless little boy lying there.
He reached out and took her hand, and asked her in an almost wistful voice, "Can you stay with me while I fall asleep?" Already he had forgotten the shirt incident, and only knew that it was comforting to have her here beside him.
"Of course I can. Now you just close your eyes, and you'll be asleep before you know it."
He looked up at her, the light from the bathroom creating a halo around her, and told her sleepily, a small smile on his face, just as he was drifting off, "You look so beautiful, just like an angel."
With that, he was out. She didn't know what to think. Lee would be embarrassed tomorrow if he remembered what he'd just said. He always made sure to keep some distance between them, and tonight she had seen him with all the walls down. Well, there was nothing she could do about that now. She gently removed her hand, and covered him with the blanket as well. Almost automatically, she leaned down and kissed him on the forehead.
"Sweet dreams." she whispered, as she stood up, walking out of the room.
Then she went to the kitchen, wrote him a quick note, and readied the coffee pot for the next day so he would only have to flip the switch to brew a large pot of coffee. She had a feeling that he was going to need it. With that, she left his apartment, locking up behind her, and wishing him a sound night's sleep.
Part 3 - The morning after
Lee Stetson lay in the middle of his bed, looking up at the woman sitting beside him. She was on her knees, sitting back on her heels, slowly unbuttoning the front of his shirt. She caressed his chest as her smoldering dark eyes locked with his lighter hazel ones. Eyes that he was swiftly becoming lost in. He reached up to the delicate pearl buttons of her dress, his eyes never leaving hers. One by one, he unbuttoned them, fitting them through the tiny velvet loops that ran down the dress front. When his hand brushed the inside of her breast on its downward journey, he saw her close her eyes, as she let out a small whimper of pleasure. His eyes left her face to gaze at the creamy skin that he was slowly uncovering, at the long row of buttons he was undoing. Finally, as he came to their end, he caressed her bare stomach, then reached up to her shoulders, fitting his hands underneath the thin straps. Just as he was about to gently push the straps off of her shoulders, already imagining the dress pooling around her hips, leaving her torso bare to him, he awakened with a start
"Amanda?" he called out. "Amanda!"
Eyes opening wide, he realized that he had been dreaming. Dreaming about Amanda King, his partner, his friend, in a way he had no business dreaming about her! Just then he realized that his head was throbbing painfully, and the events of the previous night came back to him.
"Oh no," he said aloud. The last thing he clearly remembered was trying to outdrink a Russian at a party. Everything after that was just a blur. But his dream about Amanda, it had just been a dream, hadn't it? He looked down at the bed to see that it didn't look as though anyone else had slept there. Slightly relieved, he managed to get up, stumbled to the bathroom, and started to rummage through the cabinet to find some fizzy relief to his current condition.
As he filled a glass with water to dissolve the pills in, he noticed his shirt in the bathroom sink. Deciding that it could wait for a moment, he quickly downed his remedy, hoping for quick relief from his pounding head and rolling stomach. He sat there for a few minutes, his head leaning against the cold porcelain of the sink, then stripped off his remaining clothes, and walked over to the shower to start the soothing water that he hoped would help him regain some of his lost equilibrium.
After his shower he did feel a bit better, the jets of water helping to wash away some of the cobwebs in his mind.
'I should know better than to try to outdrink a Russian, with vodka no less.' he thought to himself. He quickly toweled himself dry, then looked at the shirt in the sink. He didn't know how it had gotten there, but there seemed to be a large red stain on the front. It didn't look like blood, but he didn't know what it was. Suddenly he remembered something about Amanda having a bowl of borsch at the party. But how did he end up wearing it? He quickly moved the shirt into the bathtub so he could brush his teeth, feeling he was no longer in danger of losing whatever his stomach contained.
"Coffee, I need coffee, and then maybe I can remember what happened." he said out loud. Walking through the bedroom, he snagged a pair of jeans and a sweater from a pile of clean laundry and rapidly put them on.
As he entered the kitchen, still toweling his hair dry, he spotted a note on top of the coffee pot. It read as follows:
Just turn the coffee maker on when you're ready for your morning coffee,
I've set everything up. When you're feeling up to it, give me a call, and I'll
stop by so we can go pick up your car.
His jaw dropped as he turned the coffee pot on, realizing the implication of the note. Amanda had been here, she had brought him home, and apparently, still had his car. But what else had she done. What had he done?
"Oh, please don't tell me that I made a pass at her. She'll be furious with me." Then, remembering his dream, he wondered if he had made a pass and she had gone along with it. Or remembering the sequence of the events in his dream, wondered if she had made the first move.
"No, no, no, not Amanda." But then he remembered how beautiful she had looked last night, and how much he had enjoyed holding her when they had danced together early in the evening.
Just then he realized that the coffee was ready, and he pulled out a large mug, willing the hot liquid to bring back his missing memories. He went to sit down in the living room. The events of the early evening were fairly clear. He remembered meeting Amanda in the IFF parking lot, and going to the party. He remembered talking to Yuri, eating dinner with Amanda, and then dancing with her. She had felt incredible in his arms, remarkably graceful, so light to hold.
'Stop right there, Stetson. Those are probably the kinds of thoughts that got you into trouble in the first place.' he found himself thinking. 'But if she doesn't want me thinking like that, what business does she have going to a party looking like that..' Knowing that this line of thought was getting him nowhere, he proceeded with his reconstruction of the evening.
Yuri had met with him, and they had discussed some business. When they returned to the table, that strange Russian man, Vladimir, had been sitting with Amanda. Yuri had taken her to dance, and then he had started drinking with Vladimir. That was where his memories fell apart. He remembered getting out of the car now, and finding himself in his bed, but that was it.
Oh well, I guess I'm going to have to face the music sooner or later. It might as well be now."
He reached over to dial Amanda's familiar phone number.
"Hello," her cheery voice rang out.
"Uh, hi, it's me." he murmured guiltily into the phone, waiting for her to let him have it. Even if nothing had happened between them last night, she shouldn't have had to make sure he got home safely.
"How are you feeling," she asked quietly.
"Well, I've been better. You had to drive me home?"
"Yeah, you weren't in any shape to be on the road. Are you feeling well enough to go get your car?" she asked gently.
"I think so. Um, can you come over now?"
"OK, I'll be there in a few minutes. Bye."
As he hung up, he realized that she hadn't sounded mad. He'd just have to wait until she got there to figure out how badly he had embarrassed himself in front of her. After sitting on the sofa for awhile, just thinking, he went to refill his coffee cup when the doorbell rang.
Answering it, he saw Amanda standing there. She was wearing jeans and a sweater. She looked nice, and nowhere near as deadly as she had looked last night. As she walked in, she handed him his apartment and car keys, explaining, " I didn't want to leave your door unlocked last night, so I just took these with me."
"Thanks. Come on in. Can I get you some coffee? I just made the pot a little while ago."
"Sure," she said.
'This is going well so far,' Lee thought to himself. 'She hasn't slapped me or told me off yet. Maybe she's not too mad at me.'
Filling a fresh coffee cup for her, he brought both cups into the living room and sat them down at the table in front of them. He looked down, clearly uncomfortable, and said to her, "Amanda, I don't exactly know how to put this but . . . . well . . . . . could you tell me what happened last night?"
"You don't remember?" she asked, somewhat relieved herself. Lee was a very private person, and if he knew that she had seen him so vulnerable last night, he might be uncomfortable around her.
"No, I remember the first part, about up to when I started drinking with old Vladimir. After that, well, I have a few images, but that's it. Can you help me out?"
This was another side to him that she had never seen. He seemed almost apologetic, like he was afraid he may have done something to offend her. She determined that she would set his mind at ease as quickly as possible.
"Oh Lee, I'm so sorry. I asked you to get rid of him, and you thought the only way to do that was to outdrink him! In the end, both of you passed out, only you fell into my bowl of borsch."
"Oh no, I didn't," he said incredulously. This was something new. He had never passed out in a bowl of soup before. "What happened then," he asked, wincing.
"Well, Yuri and I got you out of there and I drove you home. I had to help you up here, then I made sure you got into bed alright, and I put your shirt to soak. Then I set up the coffee maker and left. Did the soup come out of your shirt?" she asked, ending her narrative.
'Leave it to Amanda to get the whole story out in one breath, then ask about my shirt!' he thought to himself.
"No, the soup's still there. I found my shirt in the sink, and was wondering how it had gotten there."
"I put it there," she confessed, now looking down herself and blushing, as she thought about the fact that she had had to undress him. At the time it had seemed perfectly logical, but now looking back, it was probably a terrible invasion of his privacy.
'Why is she blushing.' he thought, panicking at the thought of what could have happened. He might as well bite the bullet and ask the really important question.
"Amanda, when you brought me home last night, well . . . . I didn't do anything to make you uncomfortable, or to embarrass you or myself, did I? I'm really sorry that I'm having to ask you this in the first place, but I just don't remember. I would hate the thought of having done something that would make you uncomfortable around me."
There, he had said it. Now he would find out the truth.
Realizing what he was worried about, Amanda smiled broadly and was quick to reassure him.
"Oh no, you were a perfect little gentleman."
Now he was puzzled. What did that mean? His bewilderment must have shown on his face as she continued.
"Lee, you know how when some guys get drunk, they get belligerent, or quiet, or really happy?" she looked up at him as he nodded his confirmation.
"Well, during my sorority days, I saw it all, you know from my sorority sisters' boyfriends who went out partying every weekend. You, on the other hand, were very polite, and very sweet. You didn't do anything to be embarrassed about."
"Whew, that's a relief. Sweet? What did I do?" he almost winced as he asked this. Sure, he was glad that he hadn't made a pass at her, but sweet?
"Nothing really. Just, when we were getting your shirt off, you drifted off to sleep, so I was helping with a few buttons, but I had to wake you to get the top one unbuttoned, and you looked so shocked that I was there in your bedroom. After I explained that we needed to get your shirt in the sink, you were OK, but then, well, you wanted me to stay until you'd fallen asleep. It was sort of like tucking one of the boys in." She looked at him sternly, and pointed her finger at him as she continued, "Look, don't you be embarrassed about that, everybody needs a little bit of TLC now and then."
He was unbelievably relieved. And if Amanda King thought he had needed a little mothering, well, she was the type who thought everyone needed mothering. She probably would have stayed with Vladimir till he had fallen asleep if he had asked.
"Thank you, Amanda. Again, I'm sorry you had to bring me home to begin with. Other than all that, did you have a good time last night?"
"Of course I did. It was a lovely evening. What do you say we go and pick up your car now. After dropping you off, I brought it back to the IFF lot and picked mine up to go home."
"Sure, partner, it sounds like a deal.."
Part 4 - Epilogue - June 1987
Lee Stetson sat at his desk, watching his beautiful wife putting away some files in the vault. As she came out, she caught him staring, and walked over to his desk, leaning over to meet him halfway. Their lips met briefly, and then parted as she pulled away.
"Hey there Stetson, don't you think you'd better finish up that report so we can leave early tonight, and go out to dinner like you promised me?" she asked him, eager for the work day to be over. The boys were with Joe for the weekend, and her mother was away as well, leaving them alone together, an all too rare occurrence.
"I'm about done. I'll tell you what. Why don't we leave now, before anything urgent comes up, and I'll pick you up at about seven? Then I'm yours for the whole weekend."
"Great!" she said grabbing her purse. They walked downstairs and turned in their badges. As they left the building, they linked hands, and he walked her to her car.
"Amanda, I have a request to make," he asked her, almost shyly.
"What?" she asked him, puzzled by his bashful manner. Lee Stetson was never shy about letting her know what he wanted, and she was always more than happy to comply.
"You know that black dress you used to have, you know the one with the pearl buttons down the front."
"Yes, I haven't worn it in a while, but I still have it. Why?"
"Could you wear it for me tonight?" his pulse quickening at the very thought of taking her out in this outfit. More appropriately, the thought of having her back in his apartment in it.
"Why do I have the feeling that there's more to this story than you're telling me?" she asked, smiling at his discomfort.
"Probably because there is," he told her with a smile. "You remember the New Year's Eve party we went to when you were wearing that dress?"
"How could I forget. Yes, the one that you reminded me of when you asked me where I'd gotten it - so you could get one just like it for Leslie?" she asked him, her eyes flashing with remembered anger.
"Whoa, the dress I got Leslie didn't wind up looking anything like yours, and the reason I asked in the first place was because you looked so incredible in it."
"OK, I'll let you off the hook this time, but what's the sudden interest for?"
"Did I ever tell you about a certain dream I had about you in that dress?"
"No," she replied, suddenly very interested. "Does this by any chance have anything to do with how embarrassed you seemed the day after that party?"
"As a matter of fact it does. Since I couldn't remember what had happened, I didn't know if my dream was actually a dream, or if something had really happened between the two of us that night."
"You dog! And there I was worried that you'd be embarrassed because I helped you off with your shirt, and had seen you acting vulnerable."
"And there I was afraid that I had messed up our partnership and friendship by putting the moves on you." he countered. "I'll tell you what, if you wear it tonight, and come back to my place afterward, we can make it happen for real this time." He leaned toward her and whispered in her ear, " I promise you won't be disappointed."
"You can remember a dream from that long ago?" she asked slyly.
"Oh, it was a dream worth remembering, every single second. Are you game?"
She leaned toward him, her lips barely touching his ear as she answered quietly, "Absolutely, any other requests?"
"No, just be ready at 7:00 when I get there to pick you up."
"It's a deal." she smiled as she answered him, getting into her car. "See you at seven."
"You certainly will." he replied, walking over to the 'Vette. After getting in, he started up the car, thinking about his plans for the evening, of how together, they would fulfill this fantasy of his from so long ago. He smiled as he drove down the street, knowing that this evening would be one to remember.