Title: Peace Over Troubled Waters
Time Line: In between Second and Third Season episodes - June 1985
Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King is the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. I will make no money from my story and no copyright infringement is intended.
Credits: References at are made to the episode "Spiderweb".
Summary: Time away from the Agency allows Amanda to step back and evaluate her growing attraction to Lee. When she volunteers at a children's peace camp, she soon finds her family life, the Agency elite, and an international incident all coming together like a perfect storm.
Author's Notes: Many thanks to my beta for her excellent help. The Peace Camp story was originally posted at another site. Camp Harmony is made-up. It resembles a combination of camps and beaches I've visited along the east coast.
A familiar queasiness fluttered in Amanda's stomach as she drove her Mercury station wagon through the open wrought iron gate at the entrance to Camp Harmony. "Butterflies" - that's what her mother always called the nervous excitement that preceded any big event.
She had the same sensation when she first saw the camp, twenty-five years ago. Only nine years old, she'd blinked back tears as Mother and Daddy bravely waved good-bye, leaving her behind for a full week of camping adventure. The pang of homesickness had lasted until the first blazing campfire beneath a star-studded sky. Once she'd savored the taste of toasted marshmallows and chocolate bars sandwiched between two crisp Graham Crackers, she'd been hooked on camp life forever.
The childhood experience left an indelible mark upon her life: friendships were formed, outdoor skills were advanced, and solid values were engrained in her psyche.
To her amazement, Camp Harmony had changed very little over the course of many years. An abundance of wild flowers still bordered tranquil nature trails. Emerald green water still lapped against the swimming and boating docks. The wide expanse of manicured lawn still sported baseball diamonds and volleyball courts.
Nestled beneath tall pines, the rustic camp had stood sentry for decades along the western shoreline of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. Despite the onslaught of blistering summer sun and howling winter storms, the sturdy log cabins and rugged lodge had survived the test of time. Built to last, Camp Harmony had a distinguished history of service, spanning three generations.
Now it was Amanda's turn to serve. She was one of many volunteers summoned early to prepare for the week-long peace camp. As a PTA and Junior Trailblazers mom, she was recruited to lead craft projects for children from Northern Ireland - a group of youngsters schooled by civil strife. A number of American children, including Phillip and Jamie, were also invited to share in the peace lessons. The goals of the camp were to teach non-violent resolution skills and to encourage friendship among children whose lives were defined by "The Troubles."
Amanda shook her head at the trite terminology. It was a grave understatement to call years of bitterness and violence "The Troubles." The conflict between the predominately Protestant Unionists and the predominantly Catholic Nationalists had gone on for decades. While the Unionists fought to remain a part of the United Kingdom, the Nationalists fought to be politically reunited with the rest of Ireland. Caught in the middle were the children, who bore the emotional and physical scars of terrorism.
Idealistic by nature, Amanda was realistic about the hopeful peacemaking agenda. The summer staff and volunteers faced a daunting task. A few days of peace lessons could only mark a positive beginning for boys and girls raised in the shadows of hatred and fear in Northern Ireland.
No wonder she felt nervous. While a noble cause, the peace camp would certainly be tested by difficulties she could only begin to imagine.
Pulling into the parking lot, Amanda read the official camp logo on the welcome sign. "Memories Made at Camp Harmony Will Last a Lifetime." How true, she agreed, at the same time praying the peace camp events of the coming week would be worthy of remembrance.
"Let's call it a night," the camp director said as the staff and volunteers finished up their evening meal. "Rain is moving in, so I suggest we disperse to our cabins for a good night's sleep. Everyone worked hard today. Thanks for job well done."
"Good night," Amanda called to her co-workers as she left the dining hall and made her way to the cabin. It had been a long day of sorting, scrubbing, and organizing the craft cabin. Now her body craved sleep.
Like her female counterparts, Amanda prepared for bed, pulling on a warm sweat suit to fight off the biting chill. With a weary sigh, she hunkered down on her cot, hoping sleep would come quickly. Her busy mind had other ideas. Thoughts of home and work competed for her attention.
One by one, the others drifted off to sleep, lulled into slumber by the steady patter of rain on the roof. Nevertheless, she remained wide-eyed, conscious of the dampness that seeped into her clothing and bedding. Finally, she arose and tiptoed to the living room.
From the front window, Amanda watched a heavy mist roll in from the bay, slowly engulfing the waterfront in a dense fog. Still too keyed up for sleep, she grabbed a blanket and went outside to enjoy the night sounds. Maybe nature's symphony would provide a soothing backdrop for her conflicting thoughts.
She settled into an Adirondack chair on the cabin's wraparound porch. Drawing up her knees, she snuggled under the old Army blanket, a relic from her father's war years. With a weary sigh, she listened for the natural wonders all around her. Water lapped along the shoreline where the West River met the Chesapeake Bay. Frogs croaked in the marsh, and crickets whispered from the woodlands. The combined chorus was the best medicine for whatever ailed her sagging spirit.
Amanda needed the time alone to think. While enthusiastic about the camp, her mind was plagued with self-doubt, entirely unrelated to the week's activities. She'd reached a crossroads in her life. The time away from the Agency offered a rare opportunity to gain a fresh perspective on what she wanted for her future.
The demands of home and family were on a collision course with work and colleagues - particularly one colleague. The line between her separate lives was blurring, and she needed to navigate carefully around unexpected detours. Amanda's natural instincts were alerting her to dangers ahead. She wanted to proceed with caution, protecting all of those who were near and dear to her life.
Her relationship with Lee Stetson was changing in subtle ways, that she could no longer ignore. While he would never admit it, she clearly recognized that they were growing closer. Where once he frowned on working with her, he now seemed pleased when they were partnered together. Where once they bickered like squabbling siblings, they now laughed and joked like best pals. Where once they kept an uneasy physical distance, they now were quick to share a warm embrace. For good or for ill, she felt attracted to him, and, at times, Lee seemed similarly interested in her.
Maybe the physical attraction had been there from the start, but it hadn't mattered when they'd scarcely tolerated working together. How times had change. Over the last two years, they'd developed a solid friendship, a dynamic work relationship, and, in her opinion, a deep emotional intimacy as well. Words were unnecessary between them. They could communicate with an affectionate smile, a searing look, or a gentle touch. Each day with Lee was a precious gift, but a gift that came with significant complications. He was, after all, a top secret agent. He was not the kind of man she could take home to meet Mother and the boys.
Given her burgeoning feelings, there may come a point when she would need to put on the brakes or even part company. If she continued to grow closer to Lee, she could end up putting her job, her family, and her heart at risk.
Focusing on the here and now, she examined the present reality of their opposing lifestyles. Lee spent his down time with glamorous women in fancy nightclubs. She went home to her mother and children in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Lee was raised by a strict uncle. She was nurtured in a doting family. Lee was a confirmed bachelor. She loved parenting two active boys. Lee had staked his reputation on casual romance without commitment. She stood firmly on the side of love and marriage. Maybe opposites did attract, but that didn't make them compatible.
The enigma of Lee Stetson had become more confusing over the last several months. Whether she dangled from a lifeboat boom or from the edge of a city hi-rise, he was her knight in shining armor. Whether she hallucinated about a Casablanca love affair or enjoyed a "cover" kiss on a honeymoon cruise, he took her breath away. Her old fantasies about dashing spies had been lived out in stark reality dozens of times, but they didn't begin to define the attraction.
While the rest of world saw the professional game face he'd honed to perfection, she saw unguarded moments of sensitivity and loneliness. Slowly but surely, the secret compartments of a closed life were opening for her alone to see. The vulnerable man behind the confident agent was what really tugged at her heart.
When Lee saved Amanda, instead of the phony look-alike, from falling off the city high-rise, his fervent embrace spoke of his own need as well as hers. Whatever comfort he gave, he also received as they desperately clung to each other.
When she reluctantly resigned from the Agency to take a better paying job with Byron Jordon, she saw the deep hurt in Lee's hazel eyes. Days later, when she returned to her role in the intelligence community, she saw joy sparkle in his expressive eyes. The unspoken message was clear in her mind - Lee Stetson needed Amanda King. How she could go about meeting that need was the million dollar question.
The conundrum tormented her for weeks, until finally she decided to take a step back and evaluate where things stood. Combining two weeks of vacation with a week of unpaid leave, Mr. Melrose granted her three weeks off. Her stated goal was to enjoy more hands-on family time and to participate in a peace camp with her mother and boys. Maybe, she surmised, some time away from the object of her affection would help her see their situation more clearly.
Lee had been unhappy with her plan, especially when she'd mentioned volunteering at a peace camp. He'd grumbled right up until she left in early June, but in the end he'd given her a hug and told her to enjoy her time-off. The moment of parting had given her pause. There'd been something unsettling in his goodbye. Just little things had stood out: the tight embrace, the catch in his voice, the confusion in his eyes. By all appearances, he didn't trust her to come back.
Still seated on the dark porch, Amanda's introspection was interrupted by the sound of voices. Apparently staff members were out for a stroll on the winding pathway. Draped in hooded slickers and shrouded by the thick haze, the walkers passed within thirty feet of her perch. Their conversation was muffled, but intense.
Amanda was about to call out a greeting when she thought better of it. Something from her Agency training told her to stay in the shadows and pay attention.
"So, the plan be in place?" an unidentifiable male inquired.
"Yes, the explosives are hidden on the campgrounds," replied a high pitched voice.
"And they be dry?"
"They're high and dry in a cabin storage closet - in the secret compartment."
"Good. I be making me political statement for me Da, and the peace camp be suffering a glaring blow to the lovely painted lady."
"And nobody will be killed?"
"Right. It be fair play, I be thinking. There be a bit of a scare, and everyone be going home a little sadder but wiser."
Amanda sucked in her breath, barely containing the "oh my gosh" that stuck in her throat. Keeping perfectly still, she bit her lip, waiting patiently while the voices faded, and the twosome moved out of range.
For a long moment, she carefully considered the conversation. People were planning to disrupt the camp's peace program. Even worse, there may be an explosion. Certainly someone needed to be told.
A typical volunteer might report the conversation to the camp director or the local police, but she had a better alternative. Two years in the intelligence community had opened her eyes to the international threat of terrorism. The imminent danger of explosives was justification enough to notify the Agency. She needed to call Lee Stetson, and she needed to do it now.
Nervous energy propelled her into action. Amanda hurried into the cabin, grabbed her purse and dashed to the camp parking lot, careful to keep a wary eye out for any observers. As soon as the station wagon roared to life, she headed for the West River Mini-Mart in search of a pay phone. It didn't seem prudent to call from the camp office. There was no use tipping her hand. Lee would know what to do.
To her great relief, Amanda spied a phone booth as she pulled into the empty lot. While not the Agency, the CIA, or the FBI, the little grocery was definitely a safe harbor in dire circumstances. Biting her lip, she darted into the downpour, wishing she'd bothered to bring her rain poncho instead of her light-weight jacket.
Gosh, she hoped she had the right change. Precious time was wasted as she fumbled through her wallet and the bottom of her purse, pulling out five pennies, two paper clips, and a safety pin. Finally she hit the jackpot when she searched the deep pockets of her coat. With the coins handy, she punched in the familiar numbers.
By the fourth ring, she realized Lee must be out on a case. Certainly her vacation didn't excuse him from working. He probably had his hands full with an all night assignment.
She was about to abandon the call when someone picked up. At first there was nothing, but then ragged breathing came over the line, followed by a gravely voice. "Stetson here."
"Ah," Amanda started and stopped. Before she could form a coherent sentence, she heard a giggle from the background.
"Shush," Lee cautioned in a muffled voice, his hand apparently covering the mouth piece.
Amanda hung her head. Hang up, she told herself. Lee's not alone.
"Who the hell is this?" he asked, his harsh tone bludgeoning every word.
Good Lord, she had to say something. "Oh my gosh, Lee."
"I guess this is a bad time, huh?"
"Ah, no," he began, but then paused. "Well, yeah." There was another moment of silence, followed by a sigh. "Amanda, it's almost midnight."
"Oh, well," she stammered, "I'm sorry to interrupt you. . . . I mean, you must be occupied with something or other."
"Look, it's okay." His voice was calmer now, and he seemed to be getting out of bed. The rustle of clothing and movement across the room provided ample visualization of his activities.
Closing her eyes, as if that would blot out the images, Amanda pressed on. "Lee, I shouldn't have called you. You're obviously indisposed. And, of course, what you do on your downtime is none of my business. You have a personal life after all, and maybe I should let you go. . . ."
"Amanda, stop," he said, cutting off her nervous ramble. "What do you need? Are you in trouble?"
She wished she could dig a hole and crawl in it. "Lee, it's about camp."
"Camp?" Now he sounded angry again. "You're calling me about camp?"
"Lee, sugar," an impatient female voice whined from the background. "When are you coming back to bed?"
Amanda made a split second decision. "Listen, I'm sorry to have bothered you," she said in a rush to get off the phone. "I have a concern about the peace camp, but I'll deal with it. Goodbye."
She heard him desperately call her name, just before she slammed down the receiver with a damning bang.
"So much for you, Buster," Amanda announced to the rain. She was mortified that her phone call had interrupted one of his assignations. All her worries over their growing involvement seemed ridiculous when measured against the reality of his engrained lifestyle. Obviously Lee hadn't missed her anywhere near as much as she'd missed him.
"Get real, Amanda," she chastised herself. Stomping through the puddles in her canvas sneakers, she saw the folly in her obsessive rumination over Lee. At this point, the chasm between their life choices seemed wider than ever. They could remain friends and colleagues, but that would have to be the limit to their relationship. If she wanted more, she'd better look elsewhere.
To be continued: