This story is based on characters copyrighted by Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. This story is meant for enjoyment purposes only and cannot be redistributed or linked without permission from the author. I retain the rights to the plot, not the characters. No infringement is intended. Some dialogue is taken from "Charity Begins at Home" written by Rudolph Borchert and Marshall Goldberg.
Author's note: This story was published in the second SMK fanzine in 2003. Many thanks to Andrea and Pam for beta reading. I very much appreciate your input.
Synopsis: When you first watched the tag of Charity Begins at Home, didn't you just wish that Amanda had really taken that drive with Lee? What was she thinking? to miss an opportunity to spend a few non-working minutes alone with her partner. She gets a second chance in this story.
It was nearly 11 PM. Amanda was sitting on the couch in the den checking over the fundraiser paperwork before going upstairs to bed. She had already showered and changed into her blue bathrobe so she would be more comfortable. It had been a crazy day, what with all the excitement at the auto show, and then Lee's precious Porsche careening over the side of the cliff. Lee had denied loving his car, preferring instead to say he was very attached to it. But Amanda knew better. Lee loved that car. To him, its demise was like losing a dear friend. She didn't know what it would take for him to get over it. It might take a very long time indeed.
She was surprised to hear the gentle tap on her back window, not expecting to see Lee again tonight. But by now she should know to expect the unexpected from him.
Dotty had gone upstairs to watch the news, hoping to glean more information about the excitement at the auto show than Amanda was able to provide. So Amanda walked over to the back window to see what he wanted at this hour. When she let herself outside to talk with him, she found Lee grinning boyishly, barely containing his excitement as he dangled a set of car keys in front of her.
"Oh!" Amanda knew what this meant and was happy for him.
"I picked it up today."
"You got a new car." She stated the obvious.
"Yeah, yeah, and it's great." Lee smiled broadly, his dimples appearing. "Anyway I was out testing it out, and I sort of wound up over here, and … ah, well, I mean, you were there when I lost the other one, and I thought maybe… ah…"
"Oh, well, you know I'm really glad that you came over and told me about it, and maybe some time I'll get to take a ride in it." She knew he wanted her to go for a drive with him now, but it was just too late, and her mother had not yet gone to bed.
He tried to hide his disappointment. "Oh, yeah… yeah, count on it."
As Amanda looked at him expectantly, he further clarified himself. "I mean, we will be working on another assignment…"
"Right. I'll count on it."
She smiled at him, and their gazes locked for a moment. Lee cleared his throat. "Well, I suppose I should let you get back to… " He gestured towards her den. "To… ah… whatever you were doing. I'll be seeing you again soon. I mean, whenever Billy has an assignment for us. Which will probably be soon."
He didn't want to leave just yet, but since she couldn't go for a drive with him, he figured he probably should before his next words sounded even more idiotic. He wasn't good at stalling for time when he had no real reason to stay.
Amanda delayed him a moment longer. "What color is it?"
"Your new car. What color is it?"
"Oh!" The enthusiasm returned immediately. "Silver. It looks really classy. You're gonna love it." He paused. "Sure you won't reconsider?" he asked hopefully. He didn't want to beg, but he did want to share his new toy with Amanda in the worst way. He turned the charm up a notch, giving her the dazzling dimpled smile that seldom failed to give him the results he wanted with the fair sex.
He could see Amanda wavering, so he tried a reverse tactic that should surely bring her around.
"You know, it's okay. I know you have to get in. I promise you a ride the very next time we're together."
As he turned to go, Amanda touched his arm. "Lee, wait a minute." She looked over her shoulder into the house. "Maybe I could sneak away for a real quick spin around the block."
Lee's face lit up, and he nodded affirmatively. "Yeah, just for a few minutes. We'll be back before anyone misses you."
Amanda smiled shyly. "Just let me go in and change."
As she turned to go in, Lee's hand reached for hers. "No — if you do that, someone might see you. Then you won't be able to get away."
"Yeah, you're probably right. The boys are in bed, but Mother's upstairs watching the 11 o'clock news. But, Lee, I really can't go out like this." She indicated her bedtime attire.
"Sure you can. We're only going around the block. What could possibly happen? No one will even see you." He gave her a knowing look. "Besides it won't be the first time you've gone out in your nightgown." Lee laughed at her surprised look.
"Well, at least let me put on my shoes so I won't get my slippers dirty. The carpet was shampooed last week, and I'd like to keep it clean for awhile."
"Hey, timing is everything here. Your mother's watching the news, remember? This will be quicker." Lee grinned disarmingly as he swept her up into his arms to carry her to the waiting car. He'd taken Amanda by surprise with this action, but she quickly adjusted to being in his arms. She put her arms around his neck, and then noticed how very close her face was to his.
Lee was single-mindedly heading toward the curb where his new car was parked. Amanda took advantage of their proximity to study his features in the light from the street lamp. She sighed. This was one gorgeous man. She'd been working with him for quite a while, and one would have thought she'd be used to his looks by now. But he nearly took her breath away every time she saw him. And when she was this close to him, she could feel her pulse rate skyrocketing.
As he turned his head toward her, she quickly looked away, hoping he wouldn't notice she'd been staring. They had emerged onto the front lawn, so Amanda peered surreptitiously over Lee's shoulder to make sure they weren't being observed by any of her neighbors. Nope — it appeared the coast was clear.
When they arrived at the car, Amanda oohed and aahed at the sleek silver Corvette. Lee beamed with pride. He stood holding her while she checked out the Corvette's exterior, pointing out this detail and that so she wouldn't miss anything. Then he leaned down so Amanda could open the passenger door. He deposited her inside, and moved her robe out of the way so he could close the door. It had a good, solid sound to it. He patted the door, nodding his head approvingly.
Lee entered the driver's side of the car and started the engine. As it sprang to life, he turned to her, clearly expecting approval, and Amanda dutifully commented on how powerful it sounded. She admired all the lights on the dash, caressed the smooth upholstery, and sniffed the new car smell. She also noticed the small interior size, and how close she was sitting to him.
They edged out onto the street and rode a few blocks down Maplewood Drive. Then Lee took a series of turns to demonstrate the 'Vette's cornering capabilities. He turned more sharply than necessary just to impress her, and Amanda was very glad she was buckled up securely.
Coming out of the last curve, the Corvette began to sputter and balk, and then the engine died. Lee was annoyed, but put the car in neutral to re-start it. Several tries later, the engine still refused to turn over.
Lee was chagrined, incredulous, and absolutely furious. He slammed his hands onto the steering wheel in frustration. "I can't believe this! A brand new car! Don't these companies have any quality control anymore? Just wait till I get my hands on that salesman. Somebody is gonna pay for this!"
Amanda felt more panic than anger. After all, she was the one in her nightgown and robe. How would she explain it if they had to call a tow truck? Her hands worked nervously in her lap, and her eyes rose heavenward. Whatever had possessed her to go out with him? In her bathrobe, no less. She shook her head. She'd known this was a bad idea. It was just so gosh-darned hard to resist this man when he gave her that dimpled smile and turned on the charm to get his way.
She then stole a sideways glance at poor Lee, his excitement and sense of pride completely evaporated by this unfortunate turn of events. She knew she should stop being so self-centered and think about how Lee was feeling. He'd just dropped an obscene amount of money for a new car, and it wouldn't even take them around the block. She needed to at least try to comfort him. It would be no small feat in his present frame of mind.
Amanda leaned over to touch his arm soothingly and began, "You know, Lee, sometimes—" She stopped mid-sentence when she noticed the gas gauge pointing slightly below the "E" line.
"Lee," she whispered.
"What?" he all but growled at her.
"You're out of gas," she offered quietly.
"What!" He looked at her as if she were crazy. Then realization dawned as he peered at the gas gauge, and he ran his hands through his hair in frustration at himself.
"I can't believe I forgot to get gas! I was so excited to show you… I mean, I was in such a hurry that I didn't stop to get gas first. They gave me a voucher for it, too. I was so eager to see… ah… to leave the dealership that I just forgot. Boy, I sure do feel like a fool."
"Oh, no, Lee. You shouldn't. You just forgot in all the excitement of having a brand new car to show off. That could happen to anyone. Though it does seem strange that there wouldn't be enough gas in the tank to at least go 20 or 30 miles," Amanda reasoned, patting his arm comfortingly.
"Well, there was. Actually the dealership is on the other side of town, and I did get all the way over here. So it did have that much gas in the tank."
"I thought you said you were near my neighborhood."
"Well, I was, sort of, it's just that, well you see, I had to go by this way to…" as Lee floundered for words, Amanda supplied a practical solution. She knew how important his car was to him, and was touched that she was the first person with whom he chose to share it.
"Well, it doesn't matter. Now let's think this through. We can call the auto club and they'll bring us gas. Or I suppose you could also call someone from the Agency." As they both silently contemplated their options, the idea of explaining to another agent what Lee was doing in Arlington with Amanda in his car at this hour — in her bathrobe — stretched their creativity.
Their eyes met at the same moment as they both said, almost in unison, "The auto club it is."
Lee continued, "Well, now we need a phone. Too bad this isn't your street, or you might know someone."
"Actually I do know parents from the school on this street."
"Great. So can you ask to use their phone?"
"Dressed like this?" Amanda indicated her robe-clad self as Lee nodded his head ruefully. She continued, "That might take some explaining. It's complicated enough thinking up excuses to tell Mother, but a few blocks from home, at night, in my nightgown and robe, well, I don't think so. You'll have to make the call."
"Yeah, you're right. Guess I'll have to knock on a few doors. Luckily it's not too late."
"Lee, it's after 11."
"Well, that's not late."
"It's late for this neighborhood. Most people will already be in bed. It's late for people to open their doors to a stranger."
"Do you have another suggestion?"
"Well, I don't think people will let you in to use the phone. But you might find someone who will make a phone call to the auto club for you. So write down the number here…"
A few moments later, Lee exited the Corvette to head for the nearest home with a light in the window. "You sit tight, Amanda. Hopefully this won't take long."
"Don't worry. This is one time I'll be sure to wait in the car." Lee grinned and nodded his head, and Amanda smiled uncertainly, wishing for the tenth time that she was wearing something other than her bathrobe.
Lee knocked on two doors with no response. As he was on his way to door number three, Amanda spotted a police patrol car driving slowly down the street.
Amanda called from the window. "Lee. A police car. Ask him for help."
"Amanda, I can't do that, it's not…"
"Lee, get his attention! NOW, please! I'm in my nightgown here. And flash him your badge," Amanda added, her voice cracking.
Figuring that he'd better do as Amanda suggested, or who knew when they'd get home, Lee painted on a smile he didn't feel, and hailed the police car. As he bent toward the officer's open window, he spoke apologetically.
"Good evening, Officer, I was wondering if you could help me. I'm not on duty, but I ran out of gas… " gesturing toward the Corvette. As Lee spoke, he removed his badge from his pocket.
"Yes, sir, Agent Stetson, only too glad to help. We'll have you and the missus out of here in a few minutes."
Amanda was sitting as low in the seat as possible, hoping her attire would not be noticed by the police officer from his line of vision. She called out from her window. "Thank you very much, Officer." The policeman nodded his head in reply to Amanda.
True to his word, another squad car pulled up in minutes. The arriving officer put gas in Lee's tank, and then turned to leave with a friendly wave of his arm.
Lee thanked both officers again, and the Corvette started right up with no further difficulty. Lee and Amanda heaved sighs of relief, Amanda's a bit bigger than Lee's. Both patrol cars moved on down the street.
As they made their way back to Amanda's home, Lee was sheepish. "Amanda, I hated to do that. It wasn't business."
"Lee, it doesn't matter. They were happy to provide assistance, you were happy to get gas in your tank, and I'll be happy to get home before anyone sees me in my nightgown — and hopefully before Mother discovers I've gone!" As Amanda drew a much-needed breath, Lee teased her.
"Your nightgown didn't seem to bother you that day at the train station," Lee grinned at his passenger, his upbeat mood returning.
"Well, that was different. I was wearing my coat then, so people might've thought I was wearing a dress under my coat."
"Oh, sure. You're telling me that you were being chased by those big thugs, and yet when you stopped me, you actually noticed that I was wearing a nightgown? I don't believe it."
"Well then, if I didn't notice, how would I know that's what you were wearing, huh?"
Amanda had to admit he had a point there.
Lee laughed. "Amanda, a good agent is taught to size up a person in seconds, taking in every detail of their appearance. I just made a mental note about your clothing, and knew you were wearing a nightgown under your coat. Maybe, instinctively, that's part of why I stopped you to ask for help."
"Because I was wearing a nightgown?" His reasoning escaped her.
"Well, it is one of the details I noticed about you. You were obviously not on your way to work dressed like that, so subconsciously I might have figured you would take a few minutes to help me."
"A few minutes that have so far lasted more than a year." Amanda threw an enigmatic smile in Lee's direction.
Lee shrugged. "Yeah, I guess neither of us planned on things working out as they have." He drew his fingers through his hair. "You know, Amanda, there have been times when it's been handy having you around. Like today, for example. Getting me into that charity car show. Not that we couldn't have been successful working from the outside, but it was a definite advantage being able to get in."
Amanda smiled inwardly, appreciating the fact that this was about as close to a compliment as she ever got from the famous Scarecrow.
A minute later, she breathed another sigh of relief as they pulled up in front of her tidy white house. She waited while Lee walked around the car and opened her door for her. With seemingly no exertion on his part, he swept her up into his arms, and waited while she reached down to shove the door closed. She then somewhat shyly put her arms around his neck, hoping to help him by distributing her weight a little more evenly. Since he wasn't looking at her, she took a few seconds to scrutinize as many details of his appearance as she could from this close vantage point. Clothing, hair, skin, scent… There was no denying Lee Stetson was packaged very attractively.
All Lee's attention was still focused on his new car, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was standing in the darkness with a bathrobe-clad Amanda in his arms. With a voice filled with pride and wonder, he whispered, "Isn't she gorgeous?"
Amanda smiled at the handsome agent, savoring the feel of being held effortlessly in his strong arms. She was pleased he had included her in the Corvette's maiden voyage, brief as it had turned out to be.
"Lee, you should be very proud," Amanda spoke softly in response. "It's a beautiful car with a classic style, and I'm sure you'll enjoy her company for a very long time."
Amanda's words brought Lee out of his reverie. He seemed to have forgotten Amanda for a moment. Now his eyes found hers. She had the most incredible dark brown eyes he'd ever seen. The words "classic" and "beautiful" could certainly apply to the woman he held in his arms, as well as his new car. He had to admit working with her wasn't as bad as he usually made it out to be. He actually liked having her around most of the time. He'd come to depend on her more and more each day. As he'd told her, she often came in handy when the chips were down. Her sunny personality never failed to brighten his days. And she certainly was easy on the eyes.
Lee felt a twinge of uneasiness as he realized he was actually enjoying her physical proximity. Under the guise of adjusting her weight a bit, he pulled her even closer against him. Her skin was lovely, and the moonlight brought out shimmering highlights in her hair. It would be so easy to bend his head down and see for himself if her lips felt as soft as they looked.
His chest began to feel tight, and he was grateful for the darkness that covered the flush in his cheeks. It had been his experience that women looked sexiest when they were wearing very little. How did this particular woman manage to affect him this way bundled up as she was in yards and yards of thick terrycloth?
As he turned toward her back yard, he continued to speak in a low voice, now slightly hoarse with emotion. "I guess it's time to get you inside before your mother comes out looking for you, right?"
Amanda merely nodded. She had planned to offer to walk the rest of the way, as she didn't want him to strain his back carrying her. But the look in his eyes as he studied her features caused her to momentarily lose her ability to speak. It was no wonder women fell all over themselves to be with him. Just a look, a touch, or a smile from him could set her heart pounding. He didn't seem to be exerting himself, so she just laid her head on his shoulder and enjoyed the last few seconds of being held by him. She had no memory of the time he'd carried her from James Delano's home, so she was grateful to be conscious and fully aware this time.
As Lee set her down gently at her back door, she reluctantly removed her arms from around his neck. There was an awkward moment as both tried to regain their composure, yet they found it difficult to break their gaze. Before either could speak, Dotty's voice could be heard calling down from the second floor.
"Amanda, did you hear me?"
"No, Mother," Amanda called in reply. "I stepped outside for a moment. Did you want something?"
"I was just asking if you noticed my new romance novel anywhere down there. It's called "Chance Encounter." The news is over, and I wanted to read a bit more before bed."
Dotty's predicament brought a shared smile to Lee and Amanda, breaking the awkwardness between them.
"Yes, Mother, it's on the coffee table. I'll bring it up in a minute. I'm just wrapping things up down here."
"Thank you, dear."
"You're welcome. I'll be right up."
The two friends seemed reluctant to part, but Amanda broke the silence first.
"Guess I gotta go, or she'll be down to get the book herself. Thanks for showing me your car, Lee. It's really incredible. I'll look forward to another ride soon."
"You bet. Will I see you tomorrow?"
"I have to take the boys to the dentist at 9, but I should be in by late morning."
"That's great. I mean, you know, in case Billy has a new case for us."
"Yeah, I know."
"Maybe we could grab a bite of lunch? What do you say?"
Amanda smiled softly at him. "Only if it's somewhere we can drive to, so I can ride in your new car again."
Lee laughed delightedly. "Okay, it's a date. I mean, not a date, but… well, you know."
"Yeah, I know. I'll see you in the morning. Good night, Lee."
"Good night, Amanda." Lee gave her another big grin, then turned and headed back to his car, whistling softly. It had turned out to be a pretty good day after all.