Setting: 4247 Maplewood Dr.

Thursday 12/24/87

Disclaimer: I don't have any ownership rights to these guys, Shoot the Moon and Warner Brothers do. I have just enjoyed their world for about 18 years now.

Summary: Lee reflects...

Feedback: Always welcome, but flames will be used to make popcorn and heat my hot chocolate.

He was home. It was Christmas time and he was home. He had called many places "home" in his life; Air Force bases, several student housing facilities at the universities that he had been "asked" to leave, a few DC area apartments. It was here, though, that he had found his first real home. Lee Stetson had lived in this house since July, since their marriage became public. He came home from the Agency each day. He came home in late July from the hospital after being nearly killed in a car accident and was convinced that he recovered faster here than he would have anywhere else. He had come home a week ago from an assignment in the Soviet Union. Now the lights and the garland were hung, the tree decorated, and the baking done. The house still smelled of the yeasty breads his wife made and the sweet vanilla she used. All that was missing was his family. Amanda was dropping the boys off at their father's and would be home soon. The boys would be home in the morning. Dotty was visiting her sister Lillian for the holidays. Lee lit the fireplace and checked the wine in the ice bucket. He then turned off the lights. The only light in the house came from the burning logs on the hearth and the Christmas lights that they had placed on the tree a few weeks earlier.

While preparing for her to come home, he reflected on his good fortune. It was rare that people knew how lucky they were and Lee knew. It had taken him three years to act on the feelings that he had for the Arlington housewife, a label that he never liked. Once he had, though, his life had fallen into place with a speed that seemed incredible. The love that he felt for his family was stronger, more intense than he could have ever imagined. For the first time in his life he felt that he had found what he had been looking for all along. He had found with her what he couldn't find in the arms of Eva, Dorothy, or any of those "Randi baby's" that had been listed in his long gone black books. He laughed at himself sometimes to think that he had four black books, all of them gone now. After taking Amanda out on their first real date, he had lit a fire in his apartment fireplace and watched them burn. Even then he knew that he had found his home and was content to watch the past he was no longer proud of crumble to ashes.

*********************************************************************

Amanda drove home through the light snow anxious to be home with her husband of 10 months. This Christmas would be so different. Oh, the routine would be the same as it had been since her divorce from Joe. They would all meet at the church for 9 AM Christmas services. Then their sons would return home with their mother, a car full of new presents. Then Amanda and the boys would return to their home and celebrate their Christmas. The big difference was that Lee had officially joined the family this year. Lee had not had a religious upbringing and attended church services only for funerals and weddings. This year he promised to don his best suit and sit along side his wife, sons and, yes, even her ex-husband. Lee knew how important this was to Amanda and was determined to make this the best holiday that his family had ever had. She really had expected him to say no. Sitting in a large building with his back to the biggest door would be at best uncomfortable, if not excruciating. For his wife, Lee promised that he would go.

A light snow was beginning to accumulate as Amanda drove home in the Wagoneer. She was glad that she had decided to take the Jeep instead of Lee's corvette, with objections from Jamie and Philip. That car would never have handled well in even this small amount of snow. The roads from Joe's to home were almost deserted and despite the snow, she made the drive in record time. Amanda was tired. The Christmas baking just seemed to be more and more every year and she couldn't wait to get inside their home and relax with her husband.

When she pulled into the driveway, she noticed that the lights in the house were off. Strange, Amanda thought, Lee's car is in the garage and I thought he said he wasn't going anywhere? Lee didn't like the dark and only recently been able to fall asleep without a light on. All her senses were heightened when she reached the back door of their home. Amanda wished that she had her gun, as much as she disliked it. Her revolver was locked in her end-table drawer; she didn't anticipate needing it on Christmas Eve. She slowly opened the door and slipped into the kitchen noiselessly. There was nothing out of place. Quietly, Amanda Stetson surveyed the first floor of the house, finding nothing out of the ordinary. Finally, the den was the only room left on the bottom floor to explore. Cautiously, she stepped into the den. Her knee slammed into the end table in the darkness, rousing her husband from his light sleep on the couch. She quietly laughed at herself. "Spy school" was getting to her. Amanda was seeing shadows and enemies around every corner. Beaman told her just this week that she would be a fully qualified agent by spring if she kept up her progress.

Lee awoke to his wife's soft laughter. "Huh?" was all he could think of to say with his sleep addled mind.

"It's OK, Lee. I just came in to find our home dark and quiet and thought that there was something wrong. Just some professional paranoia, I guess." She answered her husband with a smile. He knew just how she felt. Every so often Lee, too, felt that there might be something wrong when everything was normal. He had always likened it to a doctor believing that every ache and pain was fatal or a teacher thinking that everyone in the classroom was just waiting to throw spit balls.

Lee sat up and motioned to Amanda to join him on the sofa. As she settled into her husband's arms a soft moan of relaxation escaped her lips. This was how life should be. "How did the boys get off? They know that they are coming home with us from the church, right??" He was anxious to celebrate this Christmas, after all, he was home.

"Yes and yes. Goodness, Lee, I think you are more anxious to celebrate than the boys are."

"Amanda, I never had a real Christmas that I can remember clearly. Uncle Robert did the best he could but, thirty years later, I feel like I'm six again. Only this time my Christmas gift isn't packing up all my stuff to move to the next post. I'm also scared to death. I'm still unsure how to act at special family times and I don't want to screw it up."

Amanda's eyes welled up with tears for a little boy lost. "Oh, Sweetheart. You only have to be yourself."

"I know, but I'm not used to this family stuff and I'm going to need some help, OK?"

"OK" was all she could say to him. Inwardly she cursed whatever took a small boy and scarred him so deeply. There were so many things that he was deprived of in his life, love being the most important. Most of the time, she didn't know how to respond to his pain. As much as she loved him, there was no one word or phrase that she could use to cure his lingering pain.

"I love you, Amanda. Thank you for giving me a home," he whispered in her ear.

She pulled away then and stared into his hazel eyes. There was a peace in his eyes that the lonely little boy had never dared hope that he'd find. He was home.