The Challenge: Write a story where one or more characters is/are put into a seemingly innocent situation, that could end up bringing some well-kept secrets out into the open. Do the secrets stay hidden or come out in the open? Your
story must also incorporate the following five words: JURY, LOUD, FIFTH, DUTY, FEAR.
*DISCLAIMER** Scarecrow & Mrs. King is copyrighted to Warner Brothers and Shoot The Moon Production Company. The original portions of this story, however, are copyrighted to the author. This story is for entertainment purposes only and cannot be redistributed without the permission of the author. If you want to put it on your site, please email me, I would like to thank you for the high compliment.
Takes place shortly after Fast Food for Thought
Warning--If you object to a snarky mean Francide--don't read this. It's her last hurrah at dumping on Amanda.
"Francine, are you sure this drink is alcoholic? It tastes just like apple cider. I don't really taste any alcohol at all." Amanda sipped her mug of hard cider and regarded Francine with a skeptical look.
"Oh yes dear—it's alcoholic. You just don't taste it much. But since we're in an authentic replica English pub, I thought you'd like an authentic English drink. And since you don't like beer—this is the next best thing." Francine smiled sweetly at Amanda and took a drink of her Guinness.
Amanda shrugged. "I guess so. It's called Apple Jack?"
"Or hard cider." Francine was casual and dismissive.
"I like it—it's pretty good. Lots better than beer." Amanda took another pull on her mug and smiled. She looked around with interest at the surroundings and patrons of the pub. "So we just keep chatting and wait for our man to show up."
"That's about it. Or we could play darts."
"I don't think so. I never was very good at darts." Amanda settled back in her seat and watched the room. The atmosphere was pleasant—no LOUD music or clouds of smoke. Several other agents were scattered around the place—all casually 'enjoying' their evening waiting for their target to arrive. They had arrived in small groups over the afternoon and spent the evening in the pub. The word was that a notorious IRA gun runner was due to have a meet soon and they hoped to catch the man in the act of planning a big arms deal.
Francine took a conspiratorial tone. "So Amanda—did you see that new redhead in the steno pool?"
Amanda paused—then shrugged and replied. "You mean the one that dyes her hair redder and wears the very tight low-cut sweaters?"
"You think she dyes her hair?"
"Oh yeah—she was talking about it to Smithwick—he was fascinated by the 'highlights' in her hair—and he was getting very close to her." Amanda rolled her eyes to indicate how she thought of such behavior.
Francine shook her head. "So did they make a date?"
"If it could be called that. They agreed to meet for drinks after work—though I got the impression there wouldn't be much drinking before they left for someone's apartment."
"Time was—she'd have set her sights on Scarecrow—or rather he would have set his sights on her first thing." Francine gave Amanda a knowing look.
Amanda wasn't fazed. "I guess. That's his business and I don't pay too much attention anymore." She took another pull on her drink and discovered it was nearly empty. It tasted good, and certainly quenched her thirst.
Francine wasn't fooled by Amanda's casual act. "If you say so, dear." As Francine scanned the room—she saw Beaman signal that the stakeout was a bust. She nodded slightly and continued her conversation. They couldn't leave for a while—it would look too suspicious if the whole team left at once—so they would drift out in ones and twos over an hour or so. The waiter came by and Francine signaled for another round. 'Might as well keep up appearances.'
Amanda hadn't noticed Beaman's signal, but she would follow Francine's lead. Her part in the operation had been to help watch for their man and make sure no civilians got in the way when the actual bust went down. Lee was outside in the surveillance van with Leatherneck.
The next round of drinks arrived, and Amanda took another long pull at her hard cider.
"So Amanda, surely you've noticed your partner hasn't been dating much around the steno pool lately?"
Amanda shrugged and downed more cider. "I guess. Lately we've been pretty busy. We've hardly had any free time. The cases have been fairly regular and there's been little time in between. And there have been a lot of late nights and weekends. Last weekend we spent on the Marvelous Marvin's case."
"Yes." Francine sounded a bit chill and distant. "Why do you stick around anyhow?"
Amanda looked a bit puzzled. "We're waiting for O'Leary."
Francine sounded superior and condescending. "No dear—I meant in the wider sense. Why do you stick around the Agency? Whatever can you be getting out of it?"
"What?" Amanda was taken aback—and she struggled to focus on Francine. "I'm Lee's partner. I have a job with the Agency—and I need to work—I have a family to support."
"Yes—you have a family to support. But as to being Lee's partner—well let's just say the JURY is still out on that one. Have you ever considered that you don't have the aptitude or training to be a true partner to Scarecrow?"
"I haven't had the courses or anything…"
"No and you flunked out of Station One—twice."
Amanda sighed. She went for another drink of cider and discovered her mug was empty again. Francine smirked and signaled the waiter. Soon they had another round of drinks. Except Francine was still on her second Guinness as Amanda took a generous pull on her third mug of Apple Jack.
"Amanda—I'm only concerned for your welfare—and Scarecrow's. One day your lack of skills and training will probably get you and your partner shot—or killed. He usually has his hands full watching out for you."
"I watch out for Lee, too. We watch each other's backs. That's what partners do."
"Really?" Francine's tone indicated she didn't believe that for one second. "This is a dangerous business, and you aren't equipped to deal with it. You are a liability for Lee and you should give up your little spy fantasy before something irreversible—and fatal—occurs. Your ineptitude has caused quite a few problems already."
"Hey! I've managed to rescue Lee—and you—more than a few times." Amanda pointed unsteadily at Francine. "And I've solved cases, too. Remember Mrs. Welch?"
Francine shook her head. "You nearly got the both of you killed in that helicopter. It seems Lee spends most of his time pulling your fat out of the fire."
Amanda was open mouthed in indignation. "I'm Lee's partner. He says so. Mr. Melrose certainly thinks so. I contribute as much as Lee does. Maybe I contribute in different ways—but I do make equal contributions. And we get the bad guys—so we are an effective team. Mr. Melrose says so." She nodded unsteadily in affirmation of her statement. "Lee is used to me—used to working with me—he says we're equal partners. He said so. So there." She folded her arms and looked stubbornly at Francine.
"Oh dear—you think he really thinks of you as an equal partner? He sticks with you out of a sense of DUTY. He's just humoring you and trying not to hurt your feelings—though why he should bother I don't know." Francine made a dismissive gesture. "Your complete lack of everything is really pathetic. Lee may take pity on you and help you along—but believe me—nobody else would bother. You're just lucky he's as good as he is—otherwise you'd have bought it long before this. He's saved your hide so many times…"
"Yeah, well I've saved his hide too, and yours! Don't you forget that!" She finished her third cider and glared at Francine.
"Oh my dear—a few lucky coincidences…" Francine sounded condescending.
"Yeah—well Lee thinks I'm his partner—he said so himself and that's all that counts here."
"Yeah—like he has any choice. I don't know why Billy kept you around. Maybe for the amusement factor—but the joke is really old after all this time."
Amanda was sounding less confident. "Lee likes me—he said he's used to working with me—he likes having me around."
"Maybe—like an old shoe or a faithful dog. Face it, Amanda you're way out of his league. He'll never think of you as anything other than a little sister at best or maybe better a millstone around his neck. Your little romantic fantasy will never come true. Lee likes glamorous sophisticated women—who have the right idea of how to have a good time. You're just a suburban frump with a mother and two kids—no guy would ever find that package desirable. You're lucky to have the job you do—I will admit you're good at the clerical work—filing—writing reports—transcribing tapes. But why Billy ever allows you in the field, I'll never know."
"I contribute to my partnership with Lee—we solve the cases—we get the bad guys—and Lee likes having me around…" Her voice quavered with a note of desperation.
"He'll never think of you as a woman, Amanda. And admit it—that's what you want more than anything. Your biggest FEAR is that you'll never know what its like to be with him—and he's definitely all male. Even if he never sticks around it's definitely worth it, while you are together…" Francine gave her a knowing and satisfied smirk.
Amanda was speechless at Francine's statement. She tried to formulate a reply—but her mouth only opened and closed a few times.
As Amanda was trying to say something, Lee came up to their table. "Where the hell have you two been? The stakeout ended 45 minutes ago."
Francine looked innocently at Lee and Amanda tried to focus on his face.
He looked between the two, and picked up Amanda's empty mug. He sniffed it and turned on Francine. "How many of these has she had Francine?" His tone was deceptively flat.
"Um, I think that was my FIFTH—or maybe it was three?" Amanda was not thinking clearly.
"What the hell were you thinking, Francine? Letting Amanda get drunk on a stakeout?"
"Hey—she's an adult. And the stakeout's a bust. Sometimes a girl's gotta let her hair down and get a bit loose…"
"The stakeout's a bust? When did that happen?" Amanda was looking around blearily. All the other agents were long gone.
Lee shook his head ruefully. "C'mon, Amanda. Your overnight bag is upstairs in your room. We'll get you settled in."
"Yeah—we were going to stay overnight. I remember that." She nodded positively. "Something about too far to drive back tonight. Or was it part of our cover? But I'm not drunk." She shook her head emphatically. "I was just drinking apple cider. Nothing in there to get me drunk…"
Francine hid a smile.
Lee saw it and looked murderously at the blonde. He pointed at her. "We aren't done here—not by a long shot." He gently helped Amanda up. She wavered unsteadily as she stood and grabbed onto Lee for support.
"Wow! Maybe I am a bit tipsy—the room is spinning a bit." She smiled ingenuously.
"Francine—we aren't done here—but I have to take care of my partner first. Then you and I are going to have a little talk. And you'd better still be here when I get back down—got it?" He fixed Francine with a death glare.
Francine glared back at him. "Once again you're stuck cleaning up after her. She can't even take care of herself—so the great Scarecrow sweeps in and plays white knight."
"Grow up, Francine." Lee looked disgusted. He turned to Amanda and got a softer, rueful expression. "Let's get you upstairs."
Lee led his partner up the stairs—he was gently supporting her and making sure she didn't trip and fall. They made it to her room, and he got the key and sat her on the bed, before sitting beside her.
She pushed him away. "Lee, you don't need to take care of me. I can take care of myself. I don't want to be a liability or a millstone around your neck. Why didn't you tell me that I've been holding you back all this time? I thought we were an effective team and that you wanted me around. But if you have to always take care of me—I don't want to be a liability—I'm an equal partner right? Mr. Melrose said so. Why can't I get more training? I've asked and asked. Maybe I can try Station One again…"
"I'm an equal partner—really I am. Maybe I can't hit or shoot a gun but I contribute in other ways. And you haven't complained about working with me for a long time. You said you like working with me. Were you just being nice? Did you really mean it?"
"A—man—da! Hey—don't listen to anything Francine said. She's just taking advantage of you."
"Taking advantage of me?" She looked belligerent—so he tried another tack.
"You're my partner—my equal partner and I like having you around. You have a perspective and insight that's unique. And you have amazing instincts—so you're well worth it."
"Worth it? You admit you have to nursemaid me?"
"I didn't mean that…"
"I'm just a suburban frump with delusions of grandeur and spy fantasies." She waved her hands to emphasize her point. "I'm not your type—you'd never think of me as a woman—I don't have a rack out to here—" she held her cupped hands in front of her chest—"and a name that ends in 'i'." She sniffed. "I know you'll never think of me as more than a tagalong—a pesky little sister type. But I think I do make valuable contributions and I deserve to be your partner."
"Oh Amanda—you're my equal partner and you're very drunk. Things will look better in the morning—I promise. Well—maybe not right away—you're going to have one hell of a hangover first. Stay here."
He stood and she flopped down on the bed. He went into the bathroom and got a glass of water and rummaged through Amanda's purse for some aspirin. He pulled her back up to a sitting position and made her take the aspirin and drink the glass of water.
"Here—it will help with the hangover." He reassured her gently, and placed the glass on the bed stand.
"I don't have a hangover—I feel pretty good—but I'm a bit dizzy and sorta sleepy…"
"Let's get you undressed and into bed."
Amanda was instantly alert. "Undressed? Like naked?" She shook her head and tried to get out of his grasp. "No way buster—I'm not one of your bleached blonde bimbos…"
"A—man—da!" He took off her shoes and socks. "Just let me get your slacks off—you'll thank me in the morning. You don't want to sleep in your clothes, do you?" He removed her jacket, and started unbuckling her belt.
She slapped his hands away. "Not this time, buster! I can do it myself."
He stepped back and got her nightgown out of her suitcase. She tried a few times to get her belt undone—and switched to her blouse—which was also too difficult to unbutton.
He gently tried to help and she was instantly defensive again.
"Amanda—don't you trust me?" He asked softly.
She melted at his tone. "Of course I trust you—I trust you with everything. I trust you with my life." She smiled up at him trustingly.
"Then let me get your blouse and slacks off—we'll get you into your nightgown—then you'll get under the covers and sleep—OK?"
She thought about it for a moment—then relented. "OK—I guess."
He carefully removed her slacks and blouse—she ended up in a camisole and panties. He helped her into her nightgown. Then he pulled down the covers and helped her get settled into bed.
"Stay with me until I go to sleep?"
"Of course. I'm here for you. I'm always here for you—you know that, right?"
"Yeah—I know you're always there to rescue me—and you take care of me—I don't deserve you, Lee." She drifted off to sleep.
He replied softly. "I don't deserve you, Amanda."
Lee waited a few minutes to make sure his partner was soundly asleep. He smoothed her hair and turned out the light and went back downstairs.
Francine was still waiting—looking defiant.
Lee sat across from Francine and gave her a hard stare.
She stared back at him. Neither said anything for several minutes. Then Francine relented and spoke with a smirk. "Well—is the happy housewife all safely tucked into bed?"
He slammed his hand on the table. "Dammit Francine! What's the matter with you? Usually you save it for the bad guys—since when do you use your skills to demoralize and break one of our own?"
"She seemed intact when you arrived."
"No thanks to you. Get over it already. Amanda is my partner—my equal partner and will be for the foreseeable future. Lay off her. If she hadn't been so drunk she'd have given you a run for your money. She does have a temper and she's more than capable of holding her own against the likes of you. She's managed with the bad guys enough times. That's why you had to wait until she was good and drunk. What got into you anyway—allowing her to get so drunk on a stakeout? You trying to get her killed? Is that it?" Lee was really angry now.
Francine backpedaled. "She wanted to try the cider—and she didn't have the second," He gave her a look—she shrugged in reply, "or third until after I'd gotten the signal. I figured it was safe—so what if she wanted to get plastered?—It's none of my business. We all need to blow off a bit of steam now and then."
"You know Amanda has no idea how sneaky that stuff can be! You let her get roaring drunk then you took advantage to unload on her. Like I said—get over it! Amanda is my partner—and will stay my partner. That's not going to change."
"You still fight a lot…"
"Yeah, so what? We also manage to get the job done and sometimes you gotta yell a bit to clear the air. Neither of us takes it personally. Billy doesn't mind—so just get over it and lay off my partner. Got it? Because if I ever hear of you doing this again—well I know where your bodies are buried—and there are quite a few things you don't want to get out. Do we understand each other?" Lee was looking murderous.
Francine was impassive—but inwardly she was quaking. 'I've heard some of the guys talk about Lee's protectiveness—but this is way beyond what I thought it would be,' she thought. She took a deep breath and decided to relent. "Yeah—I got it. But you'd better watch out—because it seems you're losing some of your objectivity where Amanda is concerned."
"You just let me worry about that, OK? I'm just fine with Amanda—we understand each other—we work well together and we get the job done. Anything else is," he leaned into her face, "none of your business. Got it?"
"Yeah, yeah. Fine. I'll lay off your precious partner. Gee you'd think you were in l—"
He cut her off. "Don't even think of finishing that statement." His tone was deceptively flat, but left her with no doubt that she'd gone too far.
She held up her hands in surrender, but wisely said nothing.
Lee stood. "I'm leaving. Stay out of my sight for a while."
She nodded in defeat.
He went back upstairs—still fuming at how nasty Francine had been to Amanda. He heard a noise from Amanda's room, and opened the door.
Amanda was thrashing around in bed, having a nightmare. "No please—leave my boys alone—take me—I'll go with you—please leave my boys alone…"
He rushed over to her and gathered her in his arms. "Shhh Amanda—I'm here—you're having a nightmare. It's OK, your boys are safe—you're safe. I'm here—I'll protect you."
She calmed. "Lee?" she mumbled sleepily. She blinked and looked up at him. "Lee, you are here—oh Lee it was awful—the bad guys had the boys—they were going to hurt them—you weren't around anywhere! Francine said you were gone and she wouldn't say anything more. They were holding a gun on my boys—they were terrified—I was terrified. Francine was standing there and laughing about all of it. Oh Lee!"
He stroked her hair as he held her. "Shhh—it's OK, you're safe. Just relax—it was just a nightmare. It wasn't real."
She sniffed. Then she took a couple of deep slow breaths. "I know it was a nightmare—I guess I should be used to it by now, it but every time I have one I wake up shaking and scared."
"Every time? You have a lot of nightmares?" He was concerned.
She paused. "Not that many."
"How many?" He sounded cajoling.
"Only about once a month." He looked at her. She ducked and spoke. "Maybe once a week. Not that many—and I'm used to it—really—once I wake up and take a few deep breaths I realize it was just a dream. Then I go downstairs and make tea or start laundry and get back to bed. If it's near morning I start breakfast. Usually I don't have time for anything big on weekdays but if I wake up early I do the whole big breakfast—bacon and eggs and pancakes. The boys appreciate it. They sure eat a lot."
"Oh Amanda—I had no idea…"
"Hey—you said it comes with the territory. I've gotta take the bad stuff along with the good. And it isn't that bad. Like I said, once I wake up I know it's just a dream and usually I'm OK about it." She tried to sound reassuring.
He wasn't fooled by her diversion. "Usually? What about when it's not OK?"
She sighed and answered quietly. "I…I have Andy to cuddle. He takes good care of me." She looked shy.
"Andy?" Instantly Lee was apprehensive and his guard was up. "Who is Andy? I don't know about any guy named Andy in your life—are you holding out on me? Who is this guy? Where did he come from anyhow?"
She chuckled. "He came from you. You gave him to me. Andy." She smiled dazedly.
Lee looked bewildered. "What? I never gave you…"
"Huh?" He was totally at sea.
"Remember Alexi?—you tried to bribe him with presents and you bought him that giant stuffed panda. Then you gave it to me."
"Alexi—the ACM kid—the one with the computer skills who was hacking into government files? They were holding his parents to make him cooperate. At the video game arcade."
"Oh—him." Lee was taken aback. "Gee, that was ages ago. You still have that thing? I thought you'd gotten rid of it."
"Oh yeah—usually he just lives in the back of my closet—but sometimes," she squirmed uncomfortably, like he was forcing it out of her, "when I'm scared or lonely I pull him out and he cuddles me and I feel better."
He shook his head at her revelation. 'She'd never admit this to me unless she was drunk. I wonder if she will remember when she sobers up?' He went for the diversion. "Andy Panda? What kind of a name is that?"
She was surprised. "Didn't you ever watch Andy Panda cartoons when you were little?"
"I didn't see many cartoons on the air bases with my uncle."
"Oh. OK—well Andy Panda was a cartoon character and I just thought I'd name him Andy. I had to name him something…" She shrugged.
"Yeah—fine." He shook his head. "You want to get back under the covers? I'll get you some more water."
"I had a glass of water already."
"But you're still drunk and it will help come the morning. Trust me on this—you'll have less of a hangover with lots of water in you."
"Amanda, you drank three big mugs of Apple Jack in an hour." She looked confused. He clarified. "Hard cider! It may taste like apple juice but it has one hell of a kick—as you're learning."
"It did taste just like apple juice. I give the boys apple juice—they like it."
He went into the bathroom and got her another glass of water. "Here—drink this." She drank the water and he returned the glass to the bathroom. "Now settle back into bed, and sleep. Morning will come all too soon, I'm afraid."
They straightened the covers and she got settled. He covered her up and kissed her on the forehead. "Get some sleep."
"Stay with me...please?"
He smiled. "Sure—whatever you want—partner." He settled next to her on top of the blankets. She moved close and he drew her into his arms. "There—are you comfy?"
"Yes. Thank you Lee—for everything. For being so patient and putting up with me all this time. I know it wasn't easy and you saw me as a big nuisance in the beginning…"
He started to protest—then realized it was useless. "You're not a nuisance now. You're my partner—and there's nobody else I'd rather have as a partner."
"Yeah—really. You're the best partner I've ever had."
"Yeah—the best. You're the best." He kissed her on the forehead again. "Now get some sleep."
"I'm the best—that's really sweet, Lee. You're the best, too but you knew that already."
"Get some sleep, Amanda—I'll stay right here. I'm not going anywhere."
She settled down and fell asleep.
Lee was thinking. 'I should murder Francine for what she did! Taking advantage of Amanda when she was drunk and vulnerable. What a bitch she can be!' He sighed. 'She's just jealous—she wants what Amanda has—and she can't have it. Well tough. It didn't work out between us and Francine will just have to deal with it. My Amanda's one in a million—and I wouldn't trade her for anyone else as a partner. She's everything to me…'
He looked at her in the dim light. She looked so peaceful and innocent as she slept in his arms. He was filled with a feeling of tenderness and protection. "Amanda," he whispered. She didn't stir. "Amanda—are you asleep?" She was deeply asleep.
'Francine was wrong. I do see Amanda as a woman—a beautiful and desirable woman. But she's my partner and best friend and that's more important than any brief fling would be. What am I saying? She'd never go for a brief fling. She's the whole package—and that's not for me. Still—it might be interesting to try…'
He was filled with an overwhelming urge to kiss her. He reverently pressed his lips to her forehead again, but it wasn't enough. He knew it would be a mistake—he knew he shouldn't take advantage of her like this—but he just had to know what her lips felt like. Slowly he moved and pressed his lips to hers—softly, gently. For a few brief seconds he was immersed in the sweet essence of Amanda. Then she stirred and responded ever so slightly. His feelings of warmth and devotion toward her were overwhelming. He allowed it to last a few more seconds—then he pulled away with a start. What the hell was he doing? What kind of an idiot was he anyway? Letting his libido overrule his common sense. Only it wasn't his libido. He was feeling more protective and content than aroused. Just lying there holding his partner as she slept was a very comfortable sensation. And new to him. What the hell was this anyway? As he was trying to process his jumbled thoughts—she stirred.
"Mmmm. Lee…" and she snuggled closer to him.
He froze—but she didn't wake. He was somewhat surprised. 'Even drunk and asleep she knows it's me. I guess she really does trust me fully. I don't deserve her—but I've got her as my partner and best friend. I'm one lucky guy.'
"Sleep well, Amanda. I'll be here in the morning—and you won't be feeling nearly as good as you do now."