Rating: Teen +
Word Count: About 2,500
Summary: Episode tag for the fourth season episode, Bad Timing. Sometimes it takes two to heal.
Amanda rolled over and glared at the clock, wide awake despite the lateness of the hour.
It'd been almost two days since she'd last had a full night's rest. Now, Lee and Billy were both safe, their unsanctioned foray into Soviet territory had been forgiven, and after spending the day with Mother and the boys--she couldn't very well tell them she'd been up all night helping a pair of spies break into the embassy, could she?--she was exhausted.
None of which changed the fact that she was staring at her alarm clock at one o'clock in the morning.
"Oh, for heaven's sake."
Flinging aside the covers, she swung her feet to the floor and crossed to her dresser. It only took a moment to dig out the velvet box, another to slide the ring on her finger. The metal was cold against her skin, and the diamond, speared by a shaft of moonlight from the window, flared with icy fire.
Maybe it would help to wear it while she slept. It would be a like having him with her. In a way.
Okay, so it was a ridiculous idea. It was just a ring. A symbol. But it was her ring, and she shouldn't have to justify wearing it--especially not in the privacy of her own bedroom.
Leaving it on, she climbed back into bed. And with the diamond pressed against her palm, she fisted her hand under her chin, curled on her side, and closed her eyes. She would sleep now, she told herself sternly. And then in the morning she would take Lee some daisies from the garden. He loved daisies. He always said they reminded him of her. She'd walk in with a handful of them, and there he'd be, sitting at his desk just like nothing had ever happened. He'd give her that look, the one that said she was the center of his universe, and he'd smile, and maybe he'd even get up to give her a kiss.
But when she finally drifted into restless sleep it wasn't to dream of daisies. Instead her subconscious dredged up its own version of the previous forty-eight hours and added a side-dish of could-have-been just to keep things interesting.
Billy, standing in her kitchen: Death is certain within seventy-two hours.
Lee, shoulders hunched, eyes focused on a crackling fire: The secret is not to keep it from hurting. The secret is not to mind it.
Lee again, his voice distorted by electronics: Amanda, you've got to pick up Billy in the aqueduct.
And then, resigned: I'm out of time.
After that the dream took over completely, and she found herself standing by a hospital bed looking down at Lee's still form. His face was eerily pale, and his eyes were closed. A nearby machine was making the kind of high-pitched whine that could only mean one thing. She wanted to cry out, but she had no voice. And when she tried to take Lee's hand, it was like trying to capture smoke. She looked up, confused, and saw Dr. McJohn shaking his head.
She came up gasping for air. Her heart pounded against her ribs, and she stared, wide-eyed, into the darkness. Where had that come from? He was fine! She'd unlocked the dead-man's watch herself, and then held his hand while Dr. McJohn injected the antiserum. The med team had even done a follow-up blood test to make sure the injection had worked.
So why did her mind insist on wallowing in images of him being … not fine? God, she couldn't even say the word.
Without thinking about what she was doing she tiptoed down the stairs, scribbled a note for Mother and the boys, pulled a coat on over her nightgown, and slipped quietly out the front door. A little while later she arrived at Lee's apartment with no clear memory of how she'd gotten there.
And that was where she stopped. Because what kind of woman showed up at her fiancé's apartment at one thirty in the morning?
She started to turn away, hesitated, and turned back. Seconds ticked by while she stared at the door and chewed on her bottom lip. If he ever found out she'd come all the way over here without even knocking, he'd wonder why. But if she knocked quietly, so quietly it couldn't possibly wake him up … well then she could claim she'd at least tried, right?
Bottom lip still caught between her teeth, she lifted her hand, took a deep breath, and gave a quick, light, double-tap with her knuckles.
There. Now she could go home, put this whole crazy trip out of her mind, and get back in bed. Maybe she'd stop at the all-night drug store on the way and pick up something to help her sleep. She'd never used sleeping pills before, but there was a first time for everything, right?
That was when she heard the lock click over.
It was too late to do anything but paste a smile on her face and pretend it was perfectly normal for her to be standing on his doorstep in the middle of the night.
"Oh, hi," she said, trying for cheerful nonchalance.
"Amanda?" He blinked, confusion and worry in his eyes. "What are you doing here?"
He was wearing pale blue pajamas. And his bare toes flexed against the carpet as he watched her. Until Lee, she'd never known a man could have sexy feet.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come." Embarrassment warmed her cheeks. "I don't know what I was thinking. I just … I couldn't sleep, and the house was so quiet, and I started thinking about you and wondering if you were okay. And the next thing I knew I was in the car and … well, here I am." She shrugged self-consciously. "But I can see you're fine." Still talking, she started to back away. "Anyway, you were probably sleeping, and it was awfully rude of me to just show up like this, so I'll just head on back home and--"
"No." He caught her wrist, and his fingers felt cool and solid against her skin. "Stay."
With gentle insistence, he pulled her inside.
She moved into the living room while he locked up. The TV was on, tuned to an old western, the sound was muted. There was a bunched up pillow at one end of the couch, a tangled blanket at the other. And an empty brandy snifter shared the coffee table with half a bag of tortilla chips. So. She glanced over at him, then back to the snifter. So.
"You aren't the only one who couldn't sleep," he said, watching her from the doorway.
It was too dark to see the expression on his face. What was he thinking? And why was he still all the way over there? She lifted her hands. Helpless. Lost. Awkward.
"I thought I was fine," she said finally, because there really wasn't any point in lying about it. "I kept telling myself that it was over, that there was nothing to worry about anymore. But every time I closed my eyes …" She shook her head. She couldn't say the words.
"I'm glad you came."
That was it. Just 'I'm glad you came.'
Some of the tension leeched out of her spine. "You are?"
He shrugged a little. "I could use the company."
On TV a pair of gunslingers faced off over a trough of muddy water. She gestured at the screen. "Looks like you've already got company."
Without looking at it, he crossed the room and gathered her into his arms. "I like your company better."
This. This was what she'd needed all along, to hold and be held. She let her head settle into the hollow of his shoulder and knew that this was why she hadn't been able to sleep. She'd needed her foundation, her knight in shining armor who would tilt at windmills and rescue her from fire-breathing dragons. It was a sentiment she would keep to herself, because women weren't supposed to want knights in shining armor anymore. But she would always be glad that he was hers.
The kiss he pressed against her temple was warm and sweet, and when he lifted his head and she saw the love in his eyes she felt a sudden rush of moisture in her own.
"Hey." He caught a tear on the pad of his thumb. "Hey, now."
She'd held herself together for two days, knowing she had to be strong for him, to support him while he did what he had to do. But he was okay now. He was safe. And as reaction set in, the tight ball of emotion that'd been building in her chest broke free.
She didn't know how long she cried, only that when she finally managed to pull herself together he was still holding her, one arm wrapped tightly around her waist, and the other pressed against the back of her head. She straightened a little, touched his damp shirt front with the tip of her fingers, and gave him a watery smile.
"Sorry about that."
"Don't be." He framed her face with his hands, and when he kissed her, she tasted her tears on his lips. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
He glanced down at her coat with a faint smile. "Can you stay for a while?"
She nodded, a little surprised to realize she was still wearing it. "I left a note for Mother." Though she'd assumed she'd be home long before Mother and the boys woke up, she'd long since learned that it was better to throw away an unread note than not to leave one at all.
After untying the belt, she slipped the coat from her shoulders. But when she turned back from dropping it on the couch, she froze, her breath catching in her throat at the expression on his face. The nightgown. She'd forgotten all about it. The summer-weight cotton was cut modestly enough, but the fabric was thin, and the lace inserts she'd thought were pretty obviously had a different effect on him.
His gaze slid down her body and then inched its way back up, lingering occasionally in a way that started small fires burning in its wake. He started to reach for her, hesitated, and dropped his hands to his sides, fingers curling in against his thigh, then straightening, then curling again. There was no mistaking the desire in his eyes, but he stayed where he was. Silent. Watchful. Hungry. The choice was hers, as it always was.
"Lee …" A whisper in the darkness. Need flashed through her with the sudden fierce power of a lightning strike. Her eyes touched on the damp spot on his shirt, then on the v of exposed skin where he'd left the top button opened, and finally on his mouth. And then she did something she'd never done before. She stepped in close, looked into his eyes, and begged.
His chest rose sharply against her palms as he sucked in air. "Amanda …"
She didn't protest when he swept her up in his arms, or when he carried her into the bedroom, or even when he lowered her to the bed, because she needed this as much as she'd needed him to hold her while she cried.
And judging by the urgency in his touch, he needed it, too.
Instant flickered over to instant, like a silent movie in a thousand shades of gray. Each scene flared, bright and new, in the darkness, only to be replaced by another, brighter and more intense than the last. The race of fingers over fabric. The dance of them across skin. The brush of lips, now tender, now demanding. Warm breath--his, hers, theirs. The sudden sharp pleasure of teeth.
His hands found hers in the darkness, trapped them against the pillows. Held them there while he rose above her. He whispered her name. And there was nothing but him, no reality except the one they shared, and when he took her over the edge, his fingers still twined with hers, she brought him with her.
Reality drifted back in fragments. The rise and fall of his chest beneath her fingers. The sound of his heartbeat in her ear. The tender brush of his lips against her forehead.
She drew a lazy figure eight against his skin and then, reluctantly, started to move back. But his arm tightened around her shoulders, holding her in place.
"Don't go," he murmured against her hair.
"You need your sleep."
"I'll sleep better with you close."
It was what she wanted, too, to fall asleep with his arms wrapped around her and the stir of his breath in her hair. But Joe had never liked it when she cuddled too close in the night, so she felt duty-bound to give Lee one more chance to change his mind. "Are you sure?"
"I'm sure," he said firmly. "Now would you be still? I'm trying to sleep here." But there was a smile in his voice that made her smile, too.
"Lee?" she said softly.
She loved the sound of his voice, especially when it was all sleepy and warm like it was now. "Thank you."
His fingers pressed into her shoulder. "For?"
"Just … for being you."
There was a moment of silence, and then a low chuckle. "I'd be hard pressed to be anybody else around you, Amanda."
It felt good knowing he trusted her so much, and to know that she could trust him in return.
"Think you can sleep now?" he asked around a wide yawn.
"I think so."
"Good." He shifted his hand from her shoulder to her hip, pressed a kiss against her temple, and when his arm relaxed around her a few seconds later, she knew he'd drifted off.
But she didn't sleep right away. Instead she lay in the darkness and listened to the rhythm of his breathing and the steady thud of his heartbeat. This man, this wonderful, complicated man, had faced death countless times in the past, and would probably face it countless times more before all was said and done. Any one of those encounters could take him from her forever, and there was a part of her that wanted to beg him to leave fieldwork in favor of a nice, safe, desk job. But she wouldn't, because asking him to give up the work he loved would be like asking him to give up a part of himself. So instead she would treasure every moment they had together, value it for the precious gift that it was …
And pray, every day, for his safety.
With that thought, and the comforting reality of his presence beside her, she closed her eyes and let sleep come at last.