Title: Giant Steps
Characters: Lee Stetson/Amanda King
Summary: Amanda's relationship with Lee is going well, but she's not so sure about the effect it's having on her relationship with her family.
If it hadn't been for a certain package and a train carriage full of Shriners, it is doubtful that Lee and Amanda would have ever met. Their paths might have crossed at some point – especially when her ex-husband found himself in trouble two years later – but it is unlikely that anything would have come of that meeting. By then, Amanda would have probably been married to Dean, with perhaps another baby or two. Lee Stetson would have been nothing more than an annoying and frustrating government official. She highly doubted that the same Lee Stetson would have even spared her a second look.
Instead, Amanda's world had tilted on its axis one morning when she found herself on a train in only a coat-covered nightgown, a mysterious brown paper-wrapped package in her hands and still slightly shell-shocked from having been accosted by a waiter on the station platform. There had been something about that man, not just the sense of urgency she got from him, that made her unwilling to hand over the parcel to just anyone in a red hat so she'd hung on to it. Except her mother had presumed to do her a favour and had mailed it. This had led to Amanda being tangled up in the murders of a number of covert government types and eventually saving Lee Stetson's life. After that, Lee's boss thought Amanda would make a fine addition to the spy world and, yes, maybe Amanda was a little bored with her life.
She had been willing to work with anyone, of course. The patriot inside her had been tapped. She'd always admired her ex-husband for the legal work he'd done and now felt that perhaps this could be her contribution to the world. She didn't object to not being in the field. After all, transcribing taped conversations helped just as much and was a lot safer as well. Plus, the money always helped her. However, Billy Melrose had apparently seen something no one else had, and so, more often that not, Amanda found herself in the field with one of the most eligible bachelors in the District.
There was no denying that Lee Stetson was popular with the women. It really shouldn't have been a surprise that he hadn't just owned one little black book but four of them. It didn't seem to matter what society event they were at; there was always at least one glamorous woman who sidled up to Lee with an appreciative eye. How he kept them all straight in his head was beyond Amanda. She had to admit, however, that Lee Stetson was definitely easy on the eyes. He always seemed to fit a tuxedo so well. The fast and expensive cars didn't hurt either.
Amanda had always made an effort to knock such thoughts out of her head. She knew that first night; Lee Stetson was out of her league. Lee Stetson was the major league baseball while she was T-ball. She felt positively frumpy next to all those women. She was not a high-flying socialite. She was Amanda King, a divorced mother of two who cut coupons and shopped for bargains. If not for a generous clothing allowance provided by the Agency and her own skill with a sewing machine, Amanda would probably still have felt dowdy two years later. Okay, so having Lee Stetson by her side hadn't been a bad thing either, especially when he rejected the amorous advances he kept receiving when they were working.
It was a shock, however, to meet Lesley the translator. Compared to previous dates, Lesley was positively normal. Lesley also wanted to get to know her boyfriend's working partner. And, as Lee had said, she was very used to secrecy so it worked out well. They could work the same events, and she wouldn't be too surprised to see him there. The only difference between Amanda and Lesley that Amanda could see was that Lesley didn't have children. Even Lee had noticed the similarities between them. He'd commented on a dress Amanda had once worn with a view to purchasing something similar for Lesley. Petty as it seemed, Amanda was glad she'd made it and that Lee's new woman couldn't have one of her own. Amanda genuinely liked Lesley, but she was glad she'd knocked out of her head those romantic dreams of her and Lee being together or she'd have wondered why Lee preferred Lesley to her.
Unfortunately for Lesley, the relationship hadn't lasted. Lee went back to being single and Amanda returned to waiting for the next socialite to grace his arm and monopolise his time. However, something strange happened and Amanda was stunned to realise that Lee actually did have feelings for her that went beyond what she'd expected. When he told her he'd changed for the better because of her, Amanda initially didn't believe him. Nevertheless, it was true. Lee Stetson was spending less time at parties and more time with her instead, "like a normal couple," he joked one day. Looking back, Amanda concluded they'd begun dating without even realising it.
Dating Lee Stetson, however, was not without its difficulties. It wasn't the other women or the water cooler gossip. Those issues had existed even before they became romantically involved. The biggest problem for Amanda was that she hated lying to her family.
Amanda had just finished a difficult telephone conversation with her mother when Lee walked into the office they shared. Dottie had asked when she'd be home and Amanda had said she didn't know. She told her mother that she was probably going to be working late, but the truth was that she and Lee had plans for the evening involving dinner and a late movie. Dottie had given her daughter a hard time over working such ridiculous hours and now Amanda felt bad. The conversation might have gone better if her mother had known the truth.
"Hey, you okay?" Lee asked, closing the door behind him.
"Hmm?" Amanda broke away from her thoughts. "Oh yeah, I'm fine. I was just talking to Mother."
Lee nodded and went to his desk. "How is she?"
"They're fine, too."
Lee was always so nice to ask after her family, even though he'd only met them briefly. It was just one of the things she appreciated about him.
"Is it something to do with…?"
She interrupted him before he could complete his sentence. "Joe's fine, too."
He also had a jealous streak a mile wide, although Amanda did consider it cute at times.
"Hmm." Lee looked over his desk. "Amanda, have you seen the Paltzitz file?"
"It's on the top of that stack," she replied, indicating a pile of manila folders on the bookcase behind his desk. "I've already put together all my notes on the case."
"Oh, right thanks."
Amanda enjoyed working with Lee. They were a good partnership and always had been. Dating Lee was a wonderful bonus, but the conversation with her mother preyed on her mind.
The Q Bureau had been silent for ten minutes when she made the decision to express her feelings. She deliberately put down her pen and looked over at her partner. "Lee?"
"Amanda?" He wasn't looking at her.
"We need to talk."
The words were like a bomb going off. Lee dropped his pen and his head jolted up. "Amanda, what is it?"
She took a deep breath. "I had to lie to my mother, Lee. Again. You know I hate not being able to tell her what I'm doing or where I'm going. I've been out every night for the past two weeks and she's not happy. She doesn't understand, and how can I expect her to when I'm lying about what I'm doing all the time?"
Lee looked confused. "I thought we discussed this years ago. You said you felt like you were lying and sneaking and I told you…"
Amanda nodded. "You said that I was lying and sneaking, that I was working for the government. I remember that." She took another deep breath. "It's not about the job, Lee."
Now he looked stunned. He was still for a moment and then abruptly stood up, strode across the room and locked the door so they couldn't be interrupted. "I understand, I think," he said quietly. "It's one thing lying about your job, but it's another… I know your family means a lot to you, Amanda, and I have never wanted to come between you and them. If you feel you can no longer work with me, I'll understand. Ask Billy for a reassignment and I'll make sure you get it."
Amanda closed her eyes and tried not to let the tears fall. "Lee, it's not that…"
"Hey." He knelt at her side and ran a gentle finger down her cheek. "It's okay. I'm just glad we gave it a shot, you know. Can we still be friends?"
"Friends?" Amanda gasped, opening her eyes and staring at him. "Lee, you're one of my best friends."
He smiled. "I guess I can accept that. I'd hate to think we ruined everything." He stood and made a move towards the door.
Amanda groaned and placed her head in her hands. Lee had assumed the worst and run with it. "Lee Stetson, I don't know how you ever became an agent. You are just so stupid at times."
"An idiot?" he growled, and Amanda knew immediately she'd said the wrong thing. "Yeah, I guess I am. I should have known better than to trust in you, to trust in us, to think we could have more than a working relationship. If that's what you think of me, I should just go downstairs and demand that Billy reassign you right now."
She looked at him. "I don't want to be reassigned."
Lee was really mad now. "Why? So you can have a good time watching me be so stupid, as you put it? You know what? You're right. I am stupid. I thought you were better than that, Amanda and I trusted you with my heart, which I didn't do lightly, believe me. But you're not. You're just like all the rest."
Amanda wasn't sure who 'all the rest' were, although she did have one or two ideas. She wasn't going to take this sitting down, however. "Will you just shut up and listen to me?" she snapped. "I happen to love you too, Lee Stetson. I don't want reassignment and I certainly don't want to end our relationship unless you do."
He blinked. "You do?" He shook his head. "You don't?"
Amanda sighed. "Lee, I just said I was tired of lying to Mother. That's all."
"Oh." He sat back in his chair with a muffled thud.
"Yeah." She followed him and leaned against his desk in front of him. "That's all. I feel bad because Mother thinks I'm overworking when I'm not. But she doesn't know that. And I think I need to tell her, we need to tell her."
She leaned forward and grasped his hands. "Yeah, about us. I think if Mother and the boys knew, and got to know you, I think they'd be happy."
Lee smiled, running his thumb gently over her hand. "You want me to meet them?"
"Okay. You're probably right and I guess it would help make life easier for you."
"Really?" Amanda's heart rose at the thought that Lee was willing to do this for her.
"Why don't you call her back and say you'll be home for dinner this evening?"
"But what about…?"
"The restaurant will keep, Amanda." He cupped her face, bringing it towards him, and kissed her. "But dinner with your family is long overdue."
"Are you sure about this?"
"For the tenth time, Amanda, I'm completely sure." He checked one last that his car was locked and took her hand. "You mean a lot to me, Amanda. Therefore, your family is important to me as well."
She bit her lip. "It's just, I know you're not too good with family."
He chuckled. "You met my uncle, Amanda. He's not exactly the family type. But, in case you didn't notice, I'm not him." He glanced over to the house. "Think we're being watched?"
"Well, I did tell Mother to set an extra place. I'm sure she's a little curious."
"Just a little, huh? We'd better not disappoint her then."
It felt strange to walk into the house with Lee and knowing her family was there waiting for them, but it also felt right. For once, her two lives were able to merge, and in a way that was completely devoid of any danger. "I'm home," she called out cheerily.
She heard the sound of the kitchen chairs being pushed back, followed by her mother telling the boys to stay right where they were. She grasped Lee's hand firmly and exchanged a smile with him. Then it was time to walk into the kitchen with him, where three pairs of eyes were looked expectantly at them.
"Everyone," she began with a smile. "I'd like you to meet Lee Stetson."