The Right Time

Summary: Moments leading up to the proposal in "Nightcrawler"

Timeframe: Starts sometime during "It's in the Water" and ends during "Nightcrawler"

Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions.

This story, however, is mine. Please don't archive it without my permission.

Rating: PG

Feedback: All is welcome.

Staring up at the ceiling, finding sleep ever elusive, I laugh. 'Amanda King is a tease,' I think, the words as foreign to my inner ear as the words 'Amanda King is a cold-blooded murderer.' Still, though, I laugh, she is a tease. She left not an hour ago, hinting at promises that she was not yet ready to keep. I know that. I'm not ready for those promises to be kept either.

We have danced around the issue of where the boundaries are on the physical aspect of our relationship, but never to much of a conclusion. It isn't that we disagree. I'm pretty sure that we agree completely. The problem is that what we agree on is that neither one of us is sure where the boundaries should lie. And so for now, we have been taking things as they come – slowly, but definitely without much by way of rules except for what feels right at the moment.

The amazing thing about this is the way in which many of these discussions end. Amanda has taken to coming to my apartment after dinners together on a fairly regular basis. Time spent on the couch inevitably leads us to the bedroom before one of us puts the brakes on. And at this point, invariably, we lie in bed, holding each other and talking until Amanda needs to go home.

A few years ago, I would have laughed had anyone told me I'd spend large quantities of time in bed with Amanda King. And I definitely would have laughed if they had also told me that much of that time would be spent talking. In my past dating life, I simply did not view the bedroom as a place of conversation. That was done at the dinner table and only as a preamble for getting into the bedroom.

So it surprises me how much I enjoy the time we spend talking. Somehow having quiet conversations while lying in bed with Amanda holds an intimacy that far surpasses anything I've felt with other women when in the same place doing much more "intimate" things. I love the feel of holding Amanda close, breathing in the scent of her hair, and talking. It makes me feel content in a way I've never experienced before.

I smile again. If I don't stop this train of thought, I'll never get to sleep tonight. The trouble is that now that she's gone, I don't feel so content and sleep is just not as easy. Rolling over, trying to find a comfortable position, I pull the other pillow from the side of the bed and hold it close. Breathing deeply, I can smell Amanda on the pillow – some mixture of shampoo, perfume, and something else uniquely Amanda. Inhaling the scent, I feel peaceful once more and am lulled into a semi-conscious state.


The buzzing in my ear is the next sound I hear. Groggily, I reach out to shut off the alarm, desperately wanting to end the annoying sound. I lay in bed a moment longer, not wanting to get up. I could really use another hour of sleep. Finally, swinging my legs out of bed I have to acknowledge that part of my reluctance to get to work is because Amanda is off today. I am tired, but if I knew that I'd see her when I got to work, getting up would be much easier.

Luckily, when I arrive at work there is a message from TP. He wants to see me, although his note doesn't say why. Eager to get out of the office, I quickly grab my coat and go to meet my old friend.

TP just wants to meet me for lunch and determined he was more likely to get me to agree to such a thing if he wasn't specific. I have to grin while TP explains himself. He's right, although that is definitely a shame, I really need to stop relegating seeing old friends to obligations.

We enjoy a leisurely lunch of burritos at TP's latest new find, and then take a stroll through the area we are in, which is more of tourist area than the places I normally frequent. We talk easily about nothing in particular, and I realize how nice it is to simply relax. Something catches my eye as we pass a store, glistening through a window and I glance back to see what it is. I'm surprised to realize that it is an engagement ring, the diamond catching the sun at just the right angle to send slivers of color in every direction. It's a simple engagement ring really, and deciding it doesn't deserve further attention I take a longer stride to catch up with TP who has wandered ahead a bit.

'That ring would be perfect for Amanda.' The thought comes unbidden and startles me. Me, Lee Stetson, the confirmed bachelor, thinking about buying an engagement ring? Things are going amazingly well with Amanda, there is no denying that. And I am happier than I can recall ever being. And yet, marriage is a big step. Shaking my head slightly to clear such strange, muddled thoughts from my mind, I turn my attention back to TP and away from the ring.


Back in the office, looking over files, I can't seem to focus on the case at hand. Amanda should be here. She knows the graduate student who seems to be responsible for tampering with DC's water supply so would probably have some insight I don't.

That's an excuse, though, and I know it. The real reason I'm distracted is definitely Amanda, but not her lack of availability. It's the ring. For some reason, try as I might, I can't shake the thought that it would be perfect for her. While I know the idea is silly and it is much too soon in our relationship for this, images dance in my head – bending on one knee at a nice restaurant and proclaiming my love, slipping the ring on her finger, Amanda in a white dress looking up at me to whisper "I do", …

Finally I can take it no longer and I get up. Again grabbing my coat, I take the steps downstairs two at a time. Handing my ID to Mrs. Marsten, I explain that I have some work to do outside the office and I'll see her tomorrow. I can see her skepticism, but ignore her and move to the Corvette awaiting me outside.

Not ten minutes later, standing outside the jewelry store, I again look at the ring. On the one hand, I'm studying it - does it really say Amanda to me? And yet I know it does – that's what caught my attention to begin with. The simplicity of the ring may hide the complexity of the colors the stone gives off to one who does not take a closer look. Like my Amanda. When I first met her, I brushed her off as a simple housewife. Now that I've looked closer, although admittedly this was done more by force than my taking the care to do so, I can see how amazing she is, how beautiful, both inside and out

What's really holding me back is the thought that this is ridiculous and I know it is and yet I'm standing here anyway. Somehow it just doesn't feel ridiculous. It feels right. When I imagine asking Amanda to be my wife, the butterflies I feel in my stomach are from excitement, not the thought of the doom I've always associated with settling down and getting married. When I picture her face as she says yes, I can't help but smile. 'She might not say yes,' I remind myself.

Staring at the ring another minute, I shake my head again, but this time it's to clear such negative thoughts from my mind. I don't need to propose right away. Heck, I don't need to propose ever. But this ring is perfect for Amanda and so I should buy it anyway. This way, if ever I decide that the idea is not so ridiculous, I'll have it.


The idea was silly. I know it now. The thought that I could buy the ring and just hold onto it was just not one of my better ones. As I sit with Amanda in the gazebo, enjoying the cool fall evening and the feel of her in my arms, I can not stop thinking about the ring sitting in my dresser drawer at home. Sitting here like this, holding her, I know that it isn't a silly idea. I have never been happier – what's silly about wanting to spend the rest of your life with someone who has made you happier than you've ever been, than you've ever even dreamed of being.

Amanda sighs as she leans back against me. "You okay?" she asks. "You seem distracted tonight."

"I'm fine," I whisper back. "Just enjoying our few moments together before you need to go inside."

"Oh, Lee," Amanda turns around to face me, misinterpreting my words. "I wish I could spend more time with you, too, but…"

Leaning forward, I capture her lips with my own, silencing her. Pulling away, I whisper, "No need to apologize. I understand. It's okay. I count myself lucky that you spend any time with me at all."

She smiles at me, blushing a bit. I knew she would, it's so easy to make Amanda blush. All I have to do is let her know what I'm thinking, how much she means to me and the blood rushes to her cheeks. I wonder if it's mean to get such pleasure from my ability to do that.

Almost against my will, I stand up, grasping her hands to take her with me. "You should get back inside."

"Yeah, I guess I should." Amanda sighed. She leans towards me, kissing me softly.

Giving her hands a final squeeze, I let her go and watch her walk towards the house.


"Well, you never know. Maybe someday," I hear her say as I open the door to the Q-Bureau.

"That Sally?" I ask.

She replies, and tells me what Sally is up to, but I'm only half listening. Thinking again of the ring, how much I want to give it to her. But the time isn't right yet. I'm planning a nice dinner where the setting will be perfect. We just need to finish this newest case first, get Addi Birol behind bars where he belongs, and then I'll do it.

"Well, you never know. Maybe someday," I repeat her earlier words. She looks at me quizzically, so I explain, "That's what you said to Sally on the phone."

Amanda laughs, but the look in her eyes tells me she's uncomfortable. She explains the comment, speaking about two times her normal rate, with an odd pitch to her voice, "Well, she asked if I thought I'd every get married again and I said 'Well, you never know. Maybe someday.'"

'Maybe someday soon.' I can't help but think as I wink at her, leaning in to give her a kiss.


I open the envelope on my desk, glancing at Amanda surreptitiously. I can feel her watching me, and I can't help but wonder just what Mrs. DeAngelo said. Did she tell Amanda what she was delivering? Has Amanda guessed why I asked for the information? As I opened the door, I'd heard something about rice. Were they sharing recipes or was the rice some allusion to marriage?

Looking up at her again, I catch Amanda watching me. She smiles self- consciously, making a point of looking back to her work and I can't help but smile. Even if she does know, I won't make her wait long. We're getting closer Addi Birol, I just know it. Just a few more days and I can take her out to dinner and let her know just how serious I am about this relationship.


I slam Billy's office door shut behind me. I can't believe they are saying that Nightcrawler is more important than Amanda. I know what I owe my source, but I won't give up Amanda for that. She's my partner … my best friend … She should be my fiancée by now, but this case keeps dragging on.

I know I need to get out of the office, and I have this strong desire to go to Amanda's house. I know it's silly, Amanda clearly isn't at home, but somehow going there would make me feel better. I'm sure of it. I just want to stop and talk to Francine first. Get something in motion, and then I'll head over to Arlington. Maybe being there will help calm me a bit, the way Amanda always does.


"This is getting pretty good this time. I can actually feel you." Amanda says somewhat breathlessly, and I try to hide my pain. She has been hallucinating about my coming to save her, and I have failed. Has she been given anything to eat or drink? Was she drugged? Why was she hallucinating at all?

As I finally convince Amanda that it is me, I hold her close. I can't help but smile a little at the joy in her voice as she realizes that this isn't a dream. My smile is short-lived however as I feel her stiffen. The door opens, and Amanda jumps behind me. Why is she so scared? Amanda doesn't scare easily; I know that for a fact. What has Birol done to her?

As Birol leaves and I turn to her, I catch the expression in her eyes, and I can't decide if I am more impressed or saddened. Looking up at me in apology, her eyes hold equal parts fear, strength, and devotion. It's the last that holds me most firmly. Amanda King is devoted – to me. I'm sure I don't deserve that devotion, but it's there none the less. Any remaining fear I have about proposing to this woman dissolves. When we get out of here, I will do so, and I will do it with no fear that it is too soon or a silly thought.

Sitting down to write the list Birol requested, I try to drown out Amanda's words while still hearing her voice. I am unwilling to make the sacrifice. I won't give up Amanda. Despite my attempts, her voice guides my eyes to hers and I look up.

The sight before me is transfixing. Amanda looks exhausted – more so than I've ever seen her and her eyes still show the same fear as before. But somehow, she isn't beaten down. The strength with which one hand hits the other while she tries to convince me not to give in, that I have to draw the line somewhere, impresses me. How does she never cease to amaze me?

I smile, I can't help it. And then I find myself moving toward her, wanting to hold her, touch her, a small reminder that this woman wants me, before I go back to writing my list. Without thought I find myself telling her exactly what I'm thinking – how beautiful and smart she is. "I love you," she says with such candor and emotion in her voice that before I know it the words are out of my mouth, "Then will you marry me?" This wasn't supposed to be the way I proposed, this is clearly not the setting I had in mind. And yet, I don't have time to regret the question, because before I can think about it I hear the most amazing words from Amanda King's lips, "Marry you? Yeah, I'll marry you."

Regrets of time or place or even the appropriateness of the question are abandoned when her lips touch mine, and all I can feel is joy. Somewhere deep inside I realize that this is not the time, we are still in dire circumstances, but when I see her face as she pulls away, hear her sweet laugh as she says, "We're the luckiest two people on the face of the earth," I can't help but agree.