Set between the end of the third season and before the fourth season. This story takes place after my previous three stories:Highland Fling, The Whole Enchilada, and Diving for Pearls.
Synopsis: When Lee is away on a mission, Leatherneck assists Amanda in crisis. When he returns, difficulties ensue.
This story is for SpyGirl1969 who suggested the premise of a Leatherneck/Amanda fanfic. (I just had no idea it would take 3 months to write!).
Disclaimers and Caveats: Scarecrow and Mrs. King was created by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, and is a production of Shoot The Moon Enterprises, in conjunction with Warner Bros. Studios. Shoot The Moon Enterprises, Ltd. is owned by Kate Jackson. Scarecrow and Mrs. King was filmed at the Burbank Studios and surrounding areas in Burbank, California. Stock footage filmed in Washington, D.C. during the first season.
Regrettably, I do not own the characters, but I did take them out for another spin. Lee was not amused at my jeopardizing Amanda and pulled out his service revolver before coolly informing me I needed to return them to Warner Bros/Shoot the Moon immediately -- or I wouldn't like the consequences. I decided not to mess with him. Also very regrettably, I will not receive any remuneration – Amanda heard this and shook her head empathetically. She understands the predicament of a working mom.
"Ah for Cripes sake, that's jus' downright stupid, Chief!" Leatherneck's rough drawl broke the silence that followed Billy Melrose's pronouncement. As always, he had been leaning back until his chair rocked back on its hind legs with his fingers laced across his middle. The chair came down with a thud as he leaned forward to push away Dr. Smyth's latest edict before him. The paper skittered across the table; the conference room felt closed and tight with palpable tension.
"Be that as it may, Leatherneck, these are our orders and we will have to adapt." Billy Melrose spoke with the quiet authority that commanded respect from all his listeners. "Dr. Smyth has been quite clear there will be no exceptions. Are there any questions?…All right then, you have your assignments and I expect you to get right to them. This discussion in now over." He dismissed them sharply. He paused behind Mrs. King's chair as if he wanted to say something, but shook his head, sighed and departed the room.
Francine began brusquely picking up the briefing materials, she gave Amanda a pitying look and left the room in a whirlwind of efficiency. Fielder, McEvoy, Sanders and Kildair followed suit more slowly, muttering among themselves. There was possibly no one more hated than Dr. Smyth at the Agency. At times he downright preferred the Russians, thought Leatherneck. He cocked his head and regarded Amanda King across from him down at the other end of the conference room table. Her head was bent and her hands held so tightly before her that her knuckles were white. Notably absent was the one man who would have been sure to defend her.
"Ah shoot, Mrs. King. Don't take it too serious. Most of these pronouncements from up on high never amount to anything - it'll end up lining a bird cage in a couple of weeks, see if it doesn't." His tone was scoffing, but he could see Mrs. King had taken the briefing very much to heart.
She looked up at him with dread in her eyes. "He said anyone who couldn't complete Station One training can't work in the field in any capacity. And to do it by next Tuesday? I can't…I mean, it's just… I tried so hard." She bit down hard on her lower lip and looked away sharply.
Leatherneck sighed. Scarecrow should have been here; he would have found a way to stop it. Knowing that prick Smyth, he probably intentionally timed this for when Lee was out of the country. He snorted. Smyth and his damn policies would change any way the wind in Washington politics blew on any given day. The only casualties would be his own hard-working employees. Mrs. King didn't deserve this; she had come a long way in the past few months.
"I could teach you." His voice was rough, but sincere.
Amanda shrugged and shook her head. "Thanks, Leatherneck. But it's no use. I've failed Station One twice now…I never even got close to finishing it. Maybe I'm just not cut out for…"
"Hey! Cut that out!" Leatherneck interjected. "Mrs. King, you've done some fine work. Damn fine. Just cause Smyth has his head up his…" He coughed and amended himself, "well, you know what I mean. Look, Mrs. King, I know you'd probably feel more comfortable with Ace there, but after all, who do you think taught him? I could teach you." He had a teasing glint in his eye, but his tone was sincere and persuasive. He rose out his chair and rested his jean clad thighs on the edge of the conference table, leaning toward her.
"I couldn't ask you to…" she began.
"You didn't; I offered. Look, you already finished the 'Entry and Escape' class and your target range percentages are way up…you're not even shooting the ceiling any more." He gave her a tight, conspiratorial grin. "The main thing you need to get down is driving. And, Mrs. King, I can teach anyone how to drive."
Amanda shook her head and laughed lightly. "Even me? In one weekend?"
"Oh, yeah!" His eyes were warm and reassuring. He watched her take in a shaky breath.
"So who taught you?"
"My granddad. He used to run 'shine out of Alabama back in the day." He gave an apologetic shrug. "Don't think it ever got out of his blood. My mom was set to kill him, then figured I was just a chip off his block. Look, Mrs. King…I helped design that motor course at Station One. I swear I can get you through it." He exuded the confidence she lacked.
"Well, what do I have to lose, right?" She gave him a wavering smile as she stood and brushed imaginary creases from her skirt.
He liked that about her, he realized. She was always game for a challenge. She always pushed herself and when push came to shove, she never gave up. He was glad Scarecrow was out of the country, after all. There was just something about Mrs. King that made him want to be her knight in shining armor.
"Fellas - you ready yet?" Amanda called up the stairs, resting her hand on the newel post. Her sons backpacks, sleeping bags and camping supplies lay at her feet. She turned back to face her ex-husband with an apologetic shrug.
"Do we need to tell them it's only a three-day camping trip?" Joe asked wryly.
"I think they take after their grandmother; better pack everything just in case you may need it," she replied with a light smile. "They're really excited about this, Joe - Thanks for taking them."
"What will you be doing with yourself this weekend? With your mother gone you may find it a little too quiet. I can always pitch another tent if you want to come along." Joe's eyes were intent; he was curious since she'd been surprisingly mum about her own plans.
Amanda laughed, "I'll be sure to keep busy." She kept her plans vague. It was a relief that her mother had gone on a retreat with her quilting group. One less explanation she would have to fabricate for her suspicious parent. She looked up the stairs and smiled to see both boys come barreling down at a full clip. They greeted their dad and grabbed their bags before dashing to the door.
"Hey. Whoa there! I think you forgot something!" Amanda protested.
Jamie and Phillip moaned in token protest, but each came back to kiss her cheek quickly.
"Bye, Mom!" shouted Jamie, already halfway out the door.
"Phillip, don't forget to use bug spray. And make sure you both don't get into any poison ivy. You remember…three shiny…" she started to warn them.
"Leaves! I know, I know, Mom. Don't worry!" Phillip reassured her impatiently. "Come on, Dad. Let's go!"
"Love you!" she called out to their retreating backs. Joe already looked a little harried, thought Amanda. He would be exhausted by Monday; she bit down on her cheek to hold in the grin. She closed the door behind them and leaned back against it, blowing out a breath. She checked her watch. Fifteen minutes…she could already feel her palms sweat in nervous anticipation. She took a few deep calming breaths that her yoga instructor had assured her would help her find her center. It wasn't working.
"Face it, Amanda…you're chicken," she said aloud to herself. And she was. There was nothing like repeated failure to undermine her self-confidence. She had tried to pass Station One twice and failed abysmally both times. Granted, she thought, the first time there had been interference in the form of assassination attempts by the Russians. The second time…well, that had just been her own weaknesses. Why had Dr. Smyth suddenly mandated that everyone working in the field pass Station One? It wasn't as if she had needed to pass it to be successful, at least in her current role. She bit her lip in consternation. If she didn't pass it this time, she wouldn't be able to work with Lee. She let out a short sharp breath. That was an eventuality she just didn't want to face.
But then, the last two times she hadn't had coaching. Leatherneck was right. She had done quite well in that 'Entry and Escape' class. Actually, she had put her lock-picking skills to the test last week when she locked herself out of the garage. Come to think of it, she no longer received those faintly derisive remarks from her colleagues in the bullpen after Ian Fraser had worked with her on target practice. She had even used those skills in the field to save her partner and Francine, even if she had shot a suspending pulley rather than the villain holding them at gunpoint. She had gotten the job done, after all, and she had done it on her own terms. Ian was right. If she wasn't going to shoot to kill, she had to be more accurate, not less.
Her teeth worried at her lower lip. It was the driving that made her nervous now. Even with Leatherneck's assurances, she wasn't sure she could ever complete that driving course. It was just so counter-intuitive. She had always been a safe driver. She had discounted insurance because of her safe driving record. Well, she had always had it prior to working at the Agency, at any rate. Reluctantly, she had to admit to herself that there were few enough occasions that she had even been in a position where she had to drive. She trusted Lee to handle that part of the job.
She found herself nervously scrubbing her already spotless kitchen counters. Her anxiety needed some kind of release. Amanda started when she heard the doorbell and rubbed her palms on her jean-clad thighs. That would be Leatherneck.
She rapidly strode to the door, pulling it open with a forced, bright smile. "Hi, Lea…Hi, Linda!" she corrected herself in surprise.
"How did you know it would be me?" Her good friend replied with a questioning smile.
"Oh…intuition, I guess," Amanda replied. "Come on in."
The petite blonde shook her pixie cut out of her blue eyes and followed her into the foyer. "I can't stay, I just wanted to drop these off and thank you for lending them to me." Linda passed her a cardboard box full of tools. "You're a lifesaver, Amanda!"
Amanda shrugged and cocked her head with a small smile. "Well, I'm glad they came in handy. Did you manage to fix the leak?"
"For the moment, anyway!" Linda's blue eyes laughed up at her friend. "Never knew I could do plumbing! I am woman. Hear me roar!" Amanda was proud of her. Their friendship had been forged in the fire a few years before as they each struggled through divorce to their new lives as single moms.
Amanda laughed, "Well, it sounds like you were more successful than I was! I still ended up needing to call a plumber."
Linda winced. "Hopefully that won't happen. I just can't face another bill right now…Say, where are the boys? Jared and Tyler wanted to know if they wanted to play ball."
Amanda shook her head. "Sorry, they're with their dad for the weekend. They'll be sorry to have missed your boys. How about Tuesday?"
"Sure, sounds good. Maybe we can catch up over coffee then."
"I'd love that!" Amanda replied. The doorbell rang and she made a nervous start. "Sorry, I have a friend from work visiting today." She smiled apologetically at Linda as she opened the door.
"Hi there!" she greeted Leatherneck brightly. "Come on in! Linda…this is my co-worker I was telling you about…" She turned to find Linda staring in frank admiration at Leatherneck in his jeans and black leather jacket.
He pulled off his shades to give her a slow smile. "Ma'am." He gave her a sketchy salute before taking her hand.
"I'm Linda…Linda Caprese." The blonde's voice was breathy and her eyes a trifle wide.
"Jack…Jackson Mitchell. It's a pleasure, ma'am." His smile was appreciative as he took in her trim figure and delicate features.
"Likewise…Well, um... 'Fraid I have to get going. Still have a couple of houses to do. It was a pleasure to meet you Mr. Mitchell! I'll catch up with you on Tuesday, Amanda," she gave Amanda a telling look as she headed out the door. There was more than a tinge of envy, as well.
Amanda bit her lip and shook her head. She would have a lot of fancy footwork to do on Tuesday to convince her long-time friend that she didn't have a hot romance brewing. She loved her work at the Agency, but she hated having to tell so many lies to the people who were important to her. Amanda closed the door and turned around anxiously to face Leatherneck.
"I never knew your name was Jackson," she said in a nervous rush.
"Yeah…the Third, actually. Grand family tradition. I still prefer Leatherneck." he shrugged uncomfortably. "Nice lady." He jerked his head at the door.
"Linda? We've been friends a long time. I'm sorry you didn't get a chance to talk to her longer…She's wonderful. She's been a rock for me, really."
Leatherneck nodded. "Yeah - good friends are better than family."
"I suppose. I mean my mother is wonderful. I don't know what the boys and I would do without her and even my aunt is really supportive. But you know…they worry. You can't tell them anything without their worrying to death…and the advice. Trust me there is not a subject that my mother doesn't have a word of advice for…but Linda will just listen and let me work out my problems myself." She shrugged. "I probably shouldn't even tell her my problems, she's had so many more than me. I mean, Joe left me in pretty good straits after the divorce, but Tony was an investment broker. He left Linda flat broke and skipped the country…never even paid his child support." Amanda paused for breath.
He shook his head. "An ass like that doesn't deserve kids…hey, you wouldn't know it. She seemed to have it pretty together."
"We got divorced about the same time. Most mothers on the PTO barely spoke to us, like divorce was something you could catch…so we stuck together. I watched her boys when she started her business." Amanda's voice was matter of fact. Talking about Linda took her mind off the real reason Leatherneck had come today.
He seemed curious. "So what does she do?"
"Cleaning houses, errands, odd jobs like pet sitting. I don't know how she holds it all together, but somehow she does."
Leatherneck nodded soberly. "Nothin' wrong with that. My mom cleaned houses too." He changed the subject. "So - you ready for your driving lesson, or did you need me to fix your plumbing?" His mouth pulled back in a lazy grin as he cocked his head and looked at the box of supplies still perched on her hip.
"Oh this?!" She laughed and colored lightly. "No…Linda was just returning it. She had some repairs to do at her house. I'll just put this out back in the garage and I'll be right back. Make yourself at home."
Leatherneck took a few moments to wander around her living room, looking at the framed photos of her family on the bookshelves. It was tidy, which didn't surprise him knowing what he did about the owner. It was also bright, cheerful and homey. This was home people lived in comfortably.
Amanda breezed back into the room. "OK - Ready. Or at least as ready as I'm going to be…"she faltered nervously.
"Relax, Mrs. King. It's only a driving lesson. Shoot, you'll be giving your boys that soon enough, right?" He tossed her a quick grin as he carefully put the family photo back on the shelf.
"Somehow, I don't think I'll be teaching them the Bootlegger's turn, Leatherneck!"
"Well, you never know…" he drawled.
"Ha! I don't think so! So, do we take your car or mine?" She asked as she crossed to the door.
"Actually, Mrs. King, we're going to start on my bike. First thing we need to do is get you comfortable with speed and bikes go a lot faster than cars. Don't worry, I have spare helmet on the back of my bike."
A helmet was the least of her worries. Getting comfortable with speed? She wasn't sure she liked the sound of that. She locked the door behind her and approached his motorcycle with trepidation. Leatherneck had already swung his tightly compact frame onto the bike and was holding out a helmet to her. She grasped it with taut fingers, reluctantly accepting the challenge. What was she getting herself into? Tentatively, she pulled the helmet over her head and swung herself onto the back of the bike, lightly placing her hands on Leatherneck's waist. The bike roared into life. What on earth were her neighbors going to think? This would feed the gossip chain for weeks!
"Oh My Gosh!!" she whispered sharply in his ear as she felt the bike surge into life and they pulled out into the street.
"Oh Mrs. King, you ain't seen nothin' yet!" Leatherneck's voice rumbled with laughter. They traveled with the speed of traffic through the suburban neighborhoods surrounding Arlington. She felt so exposed. It terrified her to be traveling with all of these cars surrounding her with nothing but denim to protect her. She breathed shallowly as she tried to suppress her anxiety.
"Where are we going?" she all but shouted so that he would hear her.
"There are some pretty deserted roads out west of the Interstate. Not many cops there." He called back.
That wasn't exactly reassuring, she thought. Then, as she felt them accelerating on the ramp of the interstate, she stopped thinking and started resorting to prayer. She could see his speedometer over his shoulder, though, and she took comfort in the fact that they were obeying the speed limit. It just felt faster, she reasoned, because she was so exposed and could feel the wind as it blew in her face and plastered her clothes against her body.
"You OK back there?" he called back after some time.
"Uh-huh," she responded tightly. She couldn't formulate a sentence.
"Good. Here's where we turn off," Leatherneck shouted back.
Rather than slow down on the unmarked road, she felt the engines gun as the bike picked up even more speed. She could feel the drafts of heat against her calves. Her eyes teared up from the wind and she tucked her face behind his shoulder. Reflexively, she grasped his waist tighter as they banked in a long sweeping curve. Quickly peering over his shoulder, she saw their speed climb…70...75...80...85...
"Oh my gosh," her voice was pitched just below a scream. "Isn't this fast enough?"
85...87...90...95. They whipped past trees on either side in a blinding blur. After a while, all Amanda was truly aware of was the loud hum of the motor and the vibration of the bike. She still grasped onto Leatherneck for dear life, but the speed no longer shocked her. As he eased up on the acceleration and they slowed back down into the eighties and then the seventies, she relaxed. Finally, he pulled into a rest area and brought the bike to a standstill.
"You alive back there?" he joked turning around to face her.
"I think so!" she said breathlessly.
"Good one. OK, then…now that you're used to some speed. Let's go get you some wheels." She could just make out the grin behind Leatherneck's helmet.
"Um…it's Saturday, Leatherneck. I don't think Gino will be at the lot and I don't think Mr. Melrose will let me borrow an agency car just to practice on. We can use mine…" she offered reluctantly.
"Nah…Got plenty at my place. You ready?"
"I think so!" She tipped up her chin bravely.
"You know, Mrs. King…there's hope for you yet!" Leatherneck laughed giving her a cocky grin before turning around and pealing out of the rest area leaving a plume of dust and sand behind them.