"Not Exactly"

"Not exactly," Amanda said quietly with a shy smile as she turned and walked away from Lee.

Those two words registered in Lee's brain and his mouth dropped open as he turned to watch her leave. "Say something!" A little voice in his head yelled at him, but he could no more get his tongue to work than he could move from where he stood, gaping at her retreating figure. He was only finally able to move when two MPs in one of the transports that drove by so often beeped their horn at him and forced him to step back. Shaking his head as if awakening from a dream, he walked to the elevator that had recently swallowed Amanda up and stood, waiting for the doors to open.

"Not exactly." What did she mean by that? They had spent the night chained together in a swamp, hunted down like animals by Peter Sacker's men, and when they had been given the chance to rest for a little while, he had offered her the warmth and shelter of his arms. There had been nothing more there…

"Liar," the little voice inside his head said. Lee shook his head and went over the events of the night. They had been trying to get warm…he had taken her into his arms…

"Which felt so right," the annoying voice said again and this time Lee exhaled in frustration. "It won't work," he thought aloud to the voice.

"That's because you have to push the button," Francine replied glibly as she glided up next to him.

Lee frowned as he looked her. "I wasn't talking about the elevator, Francine," he said, frustrated with the jumble his thoughts were currently in.

Francine raised one, carefully sculpted eyebrow. "Ohhh…are we thinking about our latest conquest? Who is it this time? Shelli? Randi? Or how about Marci? You do have a penchant for the 'eee' ending on names."

"Stop it, Francine. Green isn't an attractive color on you."

"Please----I am far from green for you. Oh, but I'm sure I know someone who would be green if she knew you were so pre-occupied with a new interest," she grinned wickedly.

The elevator doors opened and Lee turned to Francine. "Who's to say she isn't the one I'm pre-occupied with?" Lee had the satisfaction of seeing a disbelieving, stunned look on her face as the doors closed and he smiled. She should know that it was ridiculous to believe that…

"Why?" That persistent little voice was back.

"Because…because…she's…she's a divorced mother of two who lives in the suburbs and drives a station wagon," Lee answered triumphantly.


"So?! That's not the kind of woman I go for. I like women who are exciting; that's about as far from exciting as you can get."

"You forgot to add she's a spy. That's pretty exciting," the voice insisted. "Besides, your normal choice of women is not exciting in their careers…stewardess, cocktail waitress, translator…"

"Well, they're stimulating," Lee stated rather lamely.

"Maybe in bed…one time," the voice replied, brutally honest.

"Mr. Stetson…"

Lee cringed at that and, as the doors opened into the Georgetown foyer, he sighed.

"Now what?!" Lee exhaled.

Mrs. Marsten lowered her glasses in order to look over the rims at him and cleared her throat. "I'm sorry to bother you, but Mrs. King left in a bit of a hurry and she dropped this." She waved a sealed envelope at Lee.

Lee reddened a bit when he realized it was Mrs. Marsten and not the nagging voice speaking to him. He walked over to her desk and looked at the envelope, realizing it was Amanda's paycheck.

"I thought that maybe you might be seeing or speaking to her this weekend…"

Lee reached out and took the envelope. "I'll take care of it. Thank you, Mrs. Marsten."

"Mr. Stetson…I don't make it my business to stick my nose in other people's business, but Mrs. King looked rather flushed and more flustered than her usual self. When you see her, please let her know I was concerned," Mrs. Marsten said.

Lee nodded his head and put the envelope in his pocket. As he walked out the door, Mrs. Marsten noticed he was acting nearly as distractedly as his partner was. She allowed a brief, fleeting picture of the two "together" to form in her mind and smiled. They made a handsome couple: if only they would realize it themselves. She shrugged her shoulders and went back to her reading.

Once outside, Lee felt refreshed by the crisp fall air and his jumbled thoughts began to clear. He walked to his car and got in, turning the radio on as he shifted into gear and pulled away from the curb. He flipped casually through the stations until he found one playing classic Billy Joel and left it on, humming to the strains of "Piano Man". As that tune finished, the DJ reminded the listening audience that it was "Two for Tuesday" and played another Billy Joel song. Listening to "She's Got a Way", Lee couldn't help but find his thoughts wandering back to Amanda and what she had said.

"It was just two, cold people seeking a little warmth, right?" Those words had sounded lame even to Lee's own ears.

"Not exactly."

What did she mean? Was she saying there was something more there? She was just reacting to the stress of the moment.

"Not exactly."

She was tired and confused, not really aware of what she was saying.

"Not exactly."

At least he had meant what he said about it being just two cold people…

"Not exactly." The little voice wouldn't even allow Lee to finish that thought and Lee tightened his grip on the steering wheel. How had all of this suddenly been thrown at him? He had told Amanda that they were "just friends" enough times that she shouldn't have become emotionally attached, which apparently was the case.

"Is that really so bad?"

"Well, no---I guess not---I mean, yes, it could create problems," Lee answered the voice.

"What kind of problem could she possibly create for you?"

Lee sat silently for a while, thinking that one over. Indeed, what kind of problem would that cause?

"Well, if she expected more and I didn't meet her expectations, we could lose our friendship."

"So, you're admitting you'd miss her presence in your life? That's a big step."

"Yeah, okay. I do like her. She's getting good at what she does and I've come to rely on her instincts. I would miss that."

"But think of how much more you are missing right now because you won't take the next step."

"Is there much more?"

"Not only would you have her as your closest and most trusted friend, you'd have her to share time with on another level. You know all those nights you spend by yourself?"

"I happen to have plenty of women who wouldn't mind spending the night with me."

"Sure, but you haven't done that lately. Why?"

Lee pulled up to his apartment building and parked his Corvette. He found he couldn't really answer that question. Why had he stopped using his little black books? It had been…well, the last woman he had dated was…

"Five months?!" Lee was incredulous. That couldn't be right. Leslie had been the last woman and he hadn't even gone beyond heavy kissing with her. That had been back in the beginning of May…

"And here it is, the end of October," Lee mused out loud.

Lee got out of the car and went up to his apartment. He let himself in and threw his vest on the back of the couch. It was only 2:00PM, but he was beat from such little sleep the night before.

"The night you almost kissed her."

Lee pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger and walked into his bathroom. He slowly stripped his clothes off and ran the water in his shower. He got in when the steam began to escape the stall and it was then that he realized just how tight he was. As the hot water pelted his aching muscles, Lee's mind wandered back to last night and he ran over the events that led up to Amanda being in his arms…

She had been cold and Lee had offered the warmth of his embrace to her---a natural reaction to conserve body heat. He had been amazed when she snuggled right up to him, fitting against him perfectly. As they spoke quietly, Lee began to realize that, even though he had been worried about their predicament, having her in his arms erased a lot of his concern. Amanda, however, had been absolutely terrified and he had felt terrible because, after all, he had been the one to bring her into this business. He'd told her as much and, with her usual good graces, Amanda had prevented him from saying anything more by saying it had been her choice to stay in this. But then….then…

"Lee, if we don't make it…"

Lee turned as best he could to look at her. "Hey…"

She shook her head. "If we don't…I just want you to know…"

Lee looked at her, suddenly hearing the difference in the tone of her voice.

"That…" She seemed reluctant to go on, almost as if she had something she didn't know quite how to say.

Lee felt a quick catch in his breath as he started to guess where this was going.

"I…" Amanda tried to keep going.

He turned even more so that he could see her better and when his eyes met hers, she quickly looked down. "I'm really glad to have known you."

Lee let out a breath he had no idea he had been holding and smiled.

"Well, the same goes here," he had said. They spoke quietly for a little while longer and then were silent. He had needed to re-arrange their positions because his back was getting stiff and when he was finally able to move into a better position, Amanda's face was a mere few inches from his. She had smiled at him and looked down briefly, giving him a chance to back up and out of the precarious situation, but he suddenly realized he didn't want to back out of it. His arms tightened around her and she looked back up at him and he found his eyes drawn to her mouth. Before he knew it, he was leaning in to kiss her…

Lee straightened up in the shower and shook his head. Was that really how it had happened? Had he been the one to lean in first? He reached over and turned the water off and stepped out of the shower. Reaching for a towel, he wrapped it around his waist and moved to stand in front of the mirror.

"I told you so," the little voice whispered in the back of his mind.

"But why? Why did I move in to kiss her? It's Amanda for God's sake."


Lee wiped the steam off the mirror and studied his reflection for a while. He had always styled himself a loner. He could pick up and go any time he wanted to and didn't have to worry about answering to anyone but himself. That was the way he liked it, wasn't it?

"If that's the case, then why do you feel more lonely now than ever before?"

He did feel more lonely, especially at night as he sat reading a book or watching TV. He hadn't dated anyone since Leslie and hadn't even felt interested in going out to any of his usual night spots. Why?

"Because you know who you want. You just haven't admitted it to yourself yet."

Lee walked out of the bathroom and into his bedroom. He sat down on the edge of his bed and ran his hand through his hair. He was on very shaky ground right now. Did he want to kiss Amanda just because of the moment or had there been more there, simmering under the surface?

"No, it's Amanda," Lee said again. "I like her as a friend only."

"Not exactly," again, the persistent little voice.

What would it have been like had he kissed Amanda? He stretched out on his bed, putting his hands under his head and contemplated the question a bit further. It would irrevocably and undeniably change everything. He wouldn't be able to take it back and then what? No, this was no good. He couldn't allow a change like this to happen. He admittedly liked having Amanda in his life. If he allowed her further in, well…his track record was pretty bad in that arena…

Lee's mind was still running a mile a minute as his eyes began to close and his breathing evened out. Sleep claimed him, but it was anything but peaceful. In his dreams he pursued someone. He didn't know who it was; it was no more than a shadowy figure, but he had to catch up to him/her. He followed the figure through a room filled with women, all of them girls he had dated or had one-nighters with. One after another they reached out to him, begging him to stop and stay with them, but he kept pushing through. By the time he got to the back of the room, which had materialized into a bar, he had nearly caught up with the illusive figure. He reached out and caught hold of a hand and could tell by that the "it" was a "she". She started to turn towards him when another woman inserted herself between them. It was Leslie and she was trying to say something to Lee, but he wasn't paying any attention. The woman he had been chasing took on color and he saw she was wearing a cobalt blue sweater and her hair was piled up on top of her head. She almost turned when Lee called out, "Wait!" but then she was gone and he was left with Leslie in his arms. She began kissing him and Lee pushed himself away from her. "I don't want you. I don't want any of this!" He called out, gesturing to the entire bar filled with women.

At that, he found himself standing alone, somewhere outside. He looked up and saw the branches of a large oak tree sheltering him from the rain that was beginning to fall. He looked around and saw a light coming from a window and knew if he could get to that window and that house, he would be safe and warm. The only problem was there was a deep chasm between him and the safety of the house. It wasn't very wide, but he couldn't see to the bottom of it. He heard his name being called from that window and saw the woman in blue again, but she was too far away to make out her face. He wanted so desperately to go there, but he was terrified of the chasm in front of him. He knew he could jump it, but what if? It was a huge chance, but the rain was coming down harder and he was soooo cold…

Lee began twisting and turning in his sleep, breaking out into a cold sweat. He turned violently in his bed and suddenly he was awake and sitting on the floor. "What the hell was all that about?!" He got up and laid back down in his bed, covering himself with his blanket this time. He turned on his right side and tried to go back to sleep, but now his dream was bothering him. What would have happened if he had gone to that woman? What did she represent in his life? And who was she?


"Oh, stuff a sock in it," Lee muttered angrily at the voice and closed his eyes. He needed sleep and he was going to get it, damn it!

"Amanda," the voice said again, more quietly this time, and Lee began to drift off to sleep.

When Lee awoke, he felt refreshed if not completely rested. He got up and took a quick look at his alarm clock. It was just 8:00 pm; the King household should be settling down for the night. Philip and Jamie would be upstairs engrossed in their homework, Dotty would be soaking in her bubble bath, and Amanda would be either in the kitchen cleaning up or in the den reading a book. Now would be the perfect time to stop by her house and drop off her check. Lee got dressed, grabbed his car keys and jacket, and left his apartment.

As he drove through at first his neighborhood and then, later, the streets of Arlington, Lee's mind kept drifting back to the events of the night before. Most disturbing to him was the fact that he often allowed himself to imagine finishing his move to Amanda's lips. He could feel her in his arms: could smell her hair: could see her face tilting up ever so slightly to meet his mouth. What would have happened?

"It's not too late to find out."

"I can't do that. I can't cross the line with her: not with Amanda."

"But why? You haven't said why you can't."

"Because it would change everything," Lee complained.

"Yes, it would."

Lee pulled up to the curb and parked his Corvette. He sat in his car with the engine and lights off, staring at the small Cape Cod-style house at 4127 Maple Drive. He sat there for about fifteen minutes, unsure as to what he really was doing there. He had Amanda's check in his hand, but he was beginning to realize that wasn't the only reason he was there. A combination of things was bothering him and he needed to sort it out before he was going to get much rest. Last night's "almost kiss", Amanda's words this afternoon, his dream during his nap; it seemed everything was swirling around him like a tornado and he was having a hard time grasping onto any one thought. Lee ran his hand through his hair and blew out a frustrated breath. How had all this suddenly come about?

"It isn't so sudden." The little voice was back.

"What do you mean? Amanda hasn't said anything about this before."

"I didn't mean Amanda."

Lee stopped and considered that for a moment. "No…"

"Please! Think about it for more than two seconds; really think about it."

Lee's mind drifted over the last few months and he was startled to realize just how often Amanda's face came into focus. Even more startling to him was the frequency with which he found himself at Amanda's house over the past few months. Nearly every night he stopped by for one reason or another. Oh, he didn't always make his presence known; sometimes he didn't even leave the car. He nearly always justified his actions with, "I'll just drive by to make sure everything is okay." On the nights (usually about three times a week) when he would actually get out of his car and go around back to her kitchen window, he told himself just about anything to justify his actions. Sometimes it was a light left on where normally there wasn't one. Other times it would be a shadow moving in back (usually a neighbor's cat or dog) and he had to make sure Amanda and her family were safe. He didn't even always tap on her window to let her know he was there. More often than not, he simply stood under the large oak tree in her back yard and watched her family move about their nightly routine. The thought never really occurred to him that he was nearly crossing the line into voyeurism; he had found himself fascinated by what went on in Amanda's life. Fascinated and, although he was having a hard time admitting it, a little envious. The King family shared a closeness he had never known. Lee often felt protective of them because he had begun to think of Amanda and her family as his family, too.

"Whoa…wait a minute. Where did that come from?"

"Now do you see?"

Lee shook his head. "Oh, no…that's not how it is at all. This is not going to happen: not with Amanda."

"But why not?!" The little voice was beginning to lose ground.

Lee got out of his car and shut the door, a bit loudly, and stalked around to Amanda's back yard. "I have to remind her there is absolutely nothing more between us. She's going to think because of what happened last night, there's the chance of something there. There isn't and I'm setting her straight tonight."

The little voice replied, as if from far away, "You're going to lose your only chance…She won't be there forever…"

As Lee walked around back to Amanda's kitchen, it began to rain lightly and he pulled his jacket collar up higher. He got to her window and snuck a look in. There was no sign of Amanda, but he did see a teakettle on the stove beginning to steam, so he knew it wouldn't be long before someone showed up. That someone was Dotty and she was certainly agitated. Lee leaned in a bit closer to the half-opened window to better hear what she was saying.

"I just don't understand you anymore, Amanda. I know you're an adult and completely able to take care of yourself, but to stay out all night and not even bother to call and let us know you were alright…"

"Mother, I told you I'm sorry. I just can't seem to make you understand that there was no phone nearby and we couldn't leave our crew," Amanda's exasperated voice came from the den. Lee risked a peek into the house, but she must have been sitting in the chair by the bookcase because he couldn't see her.

"Well, I think this company you work for is ridiculous. And this boss of yours…Mr. Steadman…what kind of man is he to be making you stay at the location when he knows you have a family at home? No wonder you don't have a boyfriend; he takes up all your time. I mean really, does he even appreciate you?" Dotty was just getting steam up and Lee felt himself beginning to shrink back just a little.

"He's really a good boss, Mother. It's not his fault that unexpected circumstances come up. And I'm sure he appreciates me."

"Why haven't I ever met him? Hmmm? He takes up enough of your time what with all the premiers and location scouting and what-not you two do that he should at least have the common decency to stop by." Dotty was pouring her tea and shaking her head.

"Well, he's a very private man. I don't understand him completely, but I respect his desire to be left alone."

"Left alone? No one who wants to be left alone gets involved in the film industry. And besides, he seems to want to spend enough time with you. You know what I think? I think you like him." At this, Dotty turned around and walked over to the sink, forcing Lee to duck down out of sight.

Lee lost his hearing advantage now that he had ducked below the window. He could hear Amanda saying something, but he could only understand what Dotty said as she ran some water. " This is exactly how you began to act about Joe before you brought him home to meet us. You were secretive, didn't offer much information on him…and you have that look again."

Look? Amanda had a look? Lee strained to hear her reply, but all he heard was Dotty's reply.

"Amanda, Darling, I know my daughter. And I know that---," Dotty stopped and Lee thought for a brief moment he had been spotted. But then he realized Amanda was speaking. He risked another peek and saw Dotty was standing with her back to the window, so he stood up with his ear to it, straining to hear what Amanda was saying.

"…doesn't feel the same way. Besides, I'm way out of his league," Amanda was finishing quietly.

How could she say that? He was out of hers…

"Amanda---are you falling for him?" Dotty asked.

Lee leaned closer, waiting to hear her reply, but suddenly Dotty turned and he dropped out of sight, missing Amanda's reply. All he heard was Dotty saying, "You'll never know unless you try. You know, Dean---Oh! The rain is getting in!"

The kitchen window came crashing down and Lee was cut off. He stood up, a little in shock, and moved to stand under the oak tree, being careful to avoid the small trench that was in Amanda's yard. Apparently there was some work being done on her plumbing. Standing under the oak tree, Lee mulled over in his mind everything he had heard: or rather what he hadn't heard. What had Amanda said that caused her mother to say, "You'll never know unless you try"? Try what and with whom? Him? Someone else? What if there was someone else? No, that couldn't be. He would know if Amanda was seeing someone.

"Would you?" The voice was back again, a quiet echo.

"Of course I would. I notice things like that."

"If that's true, why haven't you noticed how she's been around you lately?"

"What do you mean?"

"Think about it. She's been different lately, hasn't she?"

Lee thought that over. Amanda had been happier since he had moved upstairs to the Q Bureau. She had been much more relaxed when she came up to help him, cheerier than normal, and even more, more…

"More vibrant and attractive?"

"Yes….I mean NO! I mean, well…I don't know," Lee stammered.

"That's usually how a woman acts when she's in love. A little shy, a little coquettish…"

Lee pondered that. "Yeah…towards me?"


Lee frowned. "What do you mean, 'maybe'?"

"Dotty was saying something about Dean…"

"Dean! That slug of a weatherman? What does he have over me?!" Lee nearly exclaimed.

"He wasn't a coward," the voice answered quietly.

"Coward?! I face life and death situations every day! I'm no coward."

"In your career, no. In your emotional life, yes."

Lee didn't have an answer for that. He looked up at Amanda's kitchen window instead and realized that Dotty had left and Amanda was now alone in her kitchen. She had that fuzzy blue sweater on that contrasted her eyes so beautifully and her hair was pulled up on top of her head with just a few tendrils hanging lightly around her face. He leaned up against the tree and watched her for a few moments. When the rain began to fall a little heavier, Lee shook himself out of his reverie and decided he had better give Amanda her check before he became totally soaked. He moved forward and realized that the trench was blocking his path. He'd have to go around it to get to Amanda. Moving to the right of it, Lee slipped in the mud and went down on one knee.

"Damn it!" He exclaimed, trying to wipe the mud off of his jeans.

Inside the house, Amanda turned towards the window and looked out into the rain. She lifted the window and leaned out a bit. "Lee?"

Lee looked up and blew out a frustrated breath. "Yeah, it's me."

Amanda moved to the kitchen door and opened it up. "Well come on! You're going to get soaked out there. Come in here where it's safe and warm. Everyone's upstairs," she called out in a loud whisper.

Lee moved to the edge of the trench, deciding to just jump over it rather than walk around, and stopped dead in his tracks. His dream of just a few hours ago came back full force as he stood looking at the woman in blue with her hair piled atop her head, the trench he had to jump, and the window and light that marked his safety as the rain fell down. He was stunned that for a minute; all he could do was stand there and stare at Amanda.

"What's wrong? Something bothering you? Something seem a bit familiar?"

Lee felt shell-shocked. Was this what he had dreamt about? Could this be what he had been searching for in his dream? Amanda?

"Lee? If you don't want to jump over the trench, just come around to your left," Amanda called out quietly.

"What are you waiting for? Go to her. Or are you really a coward?"

Lee jerked awake at that and with one, quick leap, he cleared the trench and appeared at Amanda's side.

"Hi," Lee smiled, running his hand through his now damp hair.

"Hi back," Amanda replied, a bit shyly. "Come on in before you catch your death of pneumonia."

They moved in to her kitchen and Amanda handed Lee a tea towel for his hair. He accepted it gratefully and ran it over his face and hair.

"How long were you out there?" Amanda asked, thinking back to her conversation with her mother.

Lee smiled, thinking back to her conversation with her mother. "Oh, not long. Just long enough to get rained on."

"Oh." Amanda nodded her head, not completely convinced and not completely sure just what to say to Lee after the events of last night and her comments this afternoon.

God, this was awkward. Lee had never felt this way around anyone before, at least not since he was in high school. He honestly didn't know what to say to Amanda.

"Just tell her how you feel. Tell her what you think you want…"

"I just came by to give you this. Mrs. Marsten said you dropped it this afternoon in the foyer." Lee handed her her check and leaned up against her kitchen sink.

"Oh! Gosh, I didn't even realize I dropped it! Thanks," Amanda replied, accepting the envelope.

"She told me to tell you that she was concerned about you. She said you seemed upset when you left today. Was anything wrong?" Lee was pretty sure he knew why Amanda had appeared upset, but he wanted to fish a little bit.

Amanda immediately reddened and looked down. "No…I was just tired from last night, that's all."

"Yeah, I was pretty worn out myself. I came home, took a shower, and then took a nap. A lot happened last night." Here Lee trailed off, leaving it open for Amanda to bring anything up that she might want to talk about. He wasn't sure himself just what he wanted to say.

Amanda looked down at her shoes again and nodded. She was beyond embarrassed and the courage she had earlier when she had spoken to Lee was gone now. She didn't know what to say.

Lee sensed that she was feeling awkward and decided to let her off the hook. Handing her the towel, he zipped his jacket up and turned to go.

"You came all the way over here in the rain just to give me my check? Thanks," Amanda said, realizing he was getting ready to leave.

"Yeah, well…I wasn't sure if you would need it before Monday or not."

"Come on, Stetson. This is getting lame…"

Lee turned to go but Amanda stopped him with one quiet comment.

"Lee, I just want you to know that no matter what I said earlier, I don't want you to worry that I expect anything."

Her voice sounded strained and on the verge of breaking. Lee turned back around to look at her. She was obviously distressed because she was nearly mangling the towel he had handed her. Seeing her so visibly upset, something in Lee finally snapped into place and, before he could stop to think about what he was doing, he moved to stand in front of her.

Taking his silence for a bad sign, Amanda managed to ask in a quavering voice, "We are still friends, aren't we?" She couldn't look at him.

Lee smiled and took her hands, stilling their distressed movement. He moved even closer to Amanda, his body now touching hers, and she looked up at him. Aware of a building electricity between them, Lee leaned in slowly to plant a light yet lingering kiss on her cheek, a mere fraction of an inch to the side of her mouth. Her eyes closed tightly as he leaned and whispered into her ear, "Not exactly."

He released her hands and, without looking back, let himself out her back door. Once outside and in the cover of darkness, Lee turned to look back. Amanda was standing where he had left her, her eyes still closed, but she was holding the tea towel to her face, breathing in the scent of his cologne and smiling.

"You won't regret this," the voice said and Lee finally recognized it as his own.

"No…I won't."