Title: What A Turkey
Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King is the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot-the-Moon Productions. I make no money from the story and no copyright infringement is intended.
Credits: References are made to the following episodes: If Thoughts Could Kill, A Long Christmas Eve, Weekend, A Relative Situation, A Lovely Little Affair, Unfinished Business, Billy's Lost Weekend, Night Crawler, Any Number Can Play
Timeframe: Fourth season: Thanksgiving 1986
Summary: After the euphoria of their secret engagement, Lee and Amanda encounter some stumbling blocks on their path toward marriage. Holiday traditions and different dating backgrounds challenge their individual expectations.
The story is slightly alternative universe. It also assumes "Any Number Can Play" was aired before "Santa's Got a Brand New Bag."
Authors Notes: Many thanks to my creative east coast beta who provided support and ideas for a 2007 SMK holiday challenge. And thanks to the talented "Lookoutwife" for encouraging me to repost the story and providing her beta expertise.
Since I keep tweaking the story, all mistakes all mine. There are seven chapters - all will be posted by the end of the week.
Washington D.C. - A week before Thanksgiving
A blast of frigid air blew against Lee and Amanda as they walked out the front door of International Federal Film. In a matter of hours, the cool autumn day gave way to plunging temperatures - a blatant reminder of the changing seasons. It wouldn't be too long before silent and sullen winter gripped the nation's capitol.
Fighting off the chill, Lee turned up the collar of his leather jacket and helped Amanda to secure the top button of her blue wool parka. "It's very cold," he said, placing his hand at the small of her back. "Maybe another cup of steaming coffee in the Q-Bureau could satisfy our need for a mid-morning break."
"No, Lee. A brisk walk will afford us the privacy to talk, away from the office." Amanda paused and took an invigorating breath of fresh air. "I think the gorgeous fall day is well worth the bitter cold that's nipping at our fingers and toes." She reached into his pockets and pulled out his large leather gloves. "Here, why don't you put these on for warmth."
"Amanda, really, I'm fine," he said, cringing at her actions. He didn't need her mothering him, especially with Agency personnel coming and going from the stately brick building that camouflaged their secret intelligence community. If he let down his guard, she'd be tying her scarf around his exposed neck, and the rumor mill would gear up for more gossip about Scarecrow and Mrs. King.
Picking up their pace, they headed out on their favorite route through Georgetown. "You're right," he said, tucking her hand into the crook of his arm. "The day's too perfect to remain cooped up inside."
All around them, the bright sun sparkled from an azure sky, and a few hardy marigolds and mums stood sentry in their window boxes. Huddling close, Lee and Amanda walked under the canopy of towering oak and maple trees as the swirling wind blew against their backs. Yellow, gold and red leaves rained down from nearly naked branches, leaving a luxurious carpet to adorn the city sidewalks. Even the noise of morning traffic failed to compete with the loud crunch of leaves, rustling beneath their feet.
"So," he said, breaking their momentary code of silence. "Something is on your mind."
"You know me too well," she answered with a sweet smile.
"Not as well, as I'd like to know you." He grinned when her cheeks, already red from the cold, turned a darker crimson.
Ignoring his obvious meaning, she tried again. "Lee, what are you going to do about Thanksgiving this year?"
He knew what was coming. She'd broached the same question every year since he'd said good-bye to her at the Jefferson Memorial in 1983. Back then, he simply ignored the invitation, but avoidance was no longer an option. Now they were engaged, and he knew exactly what she expected of him. "Oh, are you asking if I have a place to go for Thanksgiving?"
"Not any place. I mean my place." Sighing with impatience, she paused to take a breath, obviously preparing for a long Amanda King ramble. She'd probably rehearsed a speech for days.
"Lee, I want you to join my family for Thanksgiving dinner. Mother wants you to come, too. In fact, she talks of nothing else. She knows you care deeply about me. She could see it in your eyes when you went to see her during my kidnapping."
"Amanda, I was barely at your house for five minutes," he said defensively. "I only introduced myself as your co-worker and asked if she'd heard from you."
She touched her hand to his cheek, in a calming gesture. "I know, sweetheart, but Mother was very perceptive. She guessed there was more going on between the two of us than making documentaries. Besides, you charmed her recently with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Now she wants to return the favor by inviting you to dinner.
"I know, I know," he said with a sigh.
Amanda pinned him with her intense brown eyes. "Lee, the boys are getting curious about you, too. I think Thanksgiving would be the perfect opportunity for my children to get to know you."
"Your ex-husband will be there, right? I imagine introducing your boyfriend into the mix will complicate the hell out of the holiday."
"Yes, Joe will be there, and, although that might be a little uncomfortable for both of you, he realizes we're involved through work. And then there is Aunt Lillian . . . ."
"Amanda, stop." Lee ran cold fingers through his windblown hair, recognizing a showdown brewing between them. "I just can't."
"Yes, you can." Her chin quivered with barely concealed anger.
He opened and closed his mouth a few times, trying to find the words to circumvent the conflict. "I think it's too soon. My appearance at a King family event will make it awkward for everyone."
Amanda stopped walking and pulled him down on the nearest bench. "Lee, this isn't open for negotiation," she whispered. "You're my fiancée, even though, at the moment, only the two of us are in on the secret. We've made a commitment to each other, and it's inconceivable to me that you can't join my family for dinner. How do you expect to get to know Mother and the boys, if you don't spend time with them?"
Crossing his arms in front of his chest, he could feel the old emotional boundaries returning. "Fine, let's take the boys to a Redskins' game and Dotty to lunch. Hell, we can even invite Joe to come along, but please don't feed me to the lions all at once."
Amanda's thin frame seemed to sag under the weight of his words. "Lee," she said in a small, hurt voice. "My home is not the Roman coliseum, and my family is not a pride of lions."
He tried hard to look contrite. "Well, I suppose the analogy is a little strong, but you certainly get my drift." Easing his arm around her, he pulled her body next to his. "I need a little time to go from world class loner to instant family man. Can you appreciate how difficult this is for me?"
Amanda sat in silence for a long moment, before nodding her head with understanding.
"Lee," she said, looking into his eyes. "I know it's hard for you, and, yes, I can give you the space you need to make the adjustment. All I want is for you to give my invitation serious consideration."
He sighed audibly, contemplating her request. "Okay," he finally agreed. "I'll do some more thinking about Thanksgiving."
She graced him with a brilliant smile. "That's all I ask, sweetheart."
"Good, then we'll table the discussion for now." As they continued their jaunt in prolonged silence, Lee finally cleared his throat. "Ah, Amanda, I was just wondering. . . ."
"Wondering about what, sweetheart?" Her face was full of love and trust as she looked at him.
He hesitated. Should he bring up another touchy subject? Placing his hand firmly on the small of her back, he decided to take the risk. "Well, we missed out on Crump's Cabin for a getaway." He flashed his signature grin, hoping to disarm her with his charm. "Maybe we can plan some time away during the extended holiday weekend - just the two of us."
Her mouth gapped open, and she blinked in surprise. "Lee, I can't walk out on my family for my own private Thanksgiving observance. Do you expect me to leave my mother with a houseful of people, so the two of us can run off together?"
"Of course not," he replied tersely, dropping his hand from its familiar resting place. "I know you can't abandon your family. I'm not asking for the entire four-day weekend. Maybe we could leave on Friday or Saturday – you, know, make up a project for IFF. How about telling them we're going to Williamsburg for a shoot? Your mother knows you get called out-of-town on assignments."
"Lee, Saturday is Jamie's special's day. As part of his birthday gift this year, my son asked to invite some friends to the National Air and Space Museum. Joe's taking a car load of kids and so am I."
"Oh, I see." Lee nodded with resignation. "Well, of course, Jamie's trip is a priority."
"I'm sorry about the hectic family schedule," she said, placing her gloved hand on the sleeve of his jacket. "The timing isn't right for the two of us to go away. We can be patient for a little longer, can't we?"
"Maybe you find it easy to wait," he grumbled under his breath.
"What?" She raised an eyebrow in question.
He couldn't hide his disappointment. "When do you think the timing will be right?" he asked with a tinge of frustration. "Amanda, I don't want to pressure you . . . ."
"Then don't," she said abruptly, tears teetering on the precipice of her eyelids. "When the time is right, we'll both know it. Do you understand?"
"I got it, Amanda. Your message was loud and clear."
Lee couldn't even look at her. Hell, what did she expect from him. He was a healthy male, after all. He'd been toeing the line for a long time, living up to her code of dating ethics. He'd envisioned that once they were engaged, there would be more to look forward to than cold showers. After all, she was a vibrant, desirable, affectionate, and giving woman. She relished their closeness as much as he did.
For an awkward moment, the silence between them was palpable. Finally, she spoke. "Sweetheart, I'm sorry. I know you have needs that I'm not meeting. Believe it or not, I have the very same needs. However, I seem to be a member of a dying breed of women. I find it hard to trade my old fashion values for complete physical intimacy before marriage. Lee, I need the reassurance that you accept me just the way I am, regardless of whether or not we wait."
His frustration instantly evaporated. Pulling her close, he touched his forehead to hers. "I do accept you just the way you are. In fact, I'm proud of you."
"You bet. I need a gal with principles, because she makes me a better man."
Amanda breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, I really needed the affirmation. Lee, I promise, we'll move forward very soon."
"Good," he said, smiling into her hair. "You let me know the date and location, and I'll be there - ready, willing and able."
They walked arm in arm again, settling into an amicable truce.
"So," Amanda said, running her hand down his arm. "Tell me about the first Thanksgiving you remember."
"Is this my punishment?" he asked with a groan. "You want me to talk about the pathetic holidays of little Lee Stetson?"
Amanda's elbow playfully jabbed his ribcage. "I'm just curious. I really want to know some of your family stories."
Her warm smile wore down his resistance. "Well, I have to go back pretty far, since I've been exiled from family holidays for over three decades."
"Try, Lee. You must have some memories of Thanksgiving with your Mom and Dad."
"It's hard, Amanda. I was only four and half years old." Sketchy scenes swarmed in his head, but his mind failed to bring the pictures into focus.
"Come on, sweetheart," she encouraged with a squeeze of his hand. "There must be something homey you remember."
"Humph." He studied the passing clouds as if they possessed the forgotten scenes from his early childhood. Slowly images began to form in his mind's eye. "Well, my mother might have worn her frilly white apron over her favorite black dress with its white lace collar and cuffs. I liked to poke my fingers through the holes in the lacey fabric when she held me on her lap. And, oh yes, she probably wore a pair of black, open-toed shoes."
"Are you serious? Your mother wore open-toed shoes, too?"
He reached to tweak her nose. "Yes, just like the other important woman in my life."
She smiled shyly. "What about your father? Do you remember what he might have worn?"
"Let's see. Dad probably had his pipe in the pocket of his beige, corduroy, sports coat. I still recall the way the fabric pressed into my cheek, when he carried me to bed." Lee chuckled, shaking his head with amusement. "Come to think of it, I was probably wearing my Roy Rogers' cowboy hat, western shirt, and cowboy boots."
"Lee, I can't imagine your proper British Mum letting you come to the dinner table dressed in full cowboy regalia."
"You got that right. I didn't get away with anything, unless I had to be placated to keep the peace. Maybe with a table full of guests, she decided to pick her battles carefully."
"She was a very smart woman." Amanda's brown eyes lit up with laughter. "What else do you recall, Lee?"
"Not much. There was a turkey and one of those horn centerpieces."
"A cornucopia," she supplied.
"Yeah, that's right. I also remember the silver gravy boat, because I managed to knock it over with the turkey drumstick I was eating." He offered a wide grin. "What can I say? I was an accident waiting to happen."
Amanda's nodded knowingly. "I think in today's world your type would be labeled hyperactive or incorrigible, depending on the attitude of the teacher."
He laughed and shrugged. "That's about it, Amanda. The names and faces of other relatives and friends present at Thanksgiving are long forgotten."
She scanned their surroundings for any unwanted eyes or ears and then leaned in to kiss his cheek. "You did great, sweetheart. I'm really proud of you for giving me a little glimpse of the child who grew up to become the love of my life. Thank you."
"You're welcome," he said in a gravelly voice, as he tried to swallow the lump in his throat. "The love we share is the best thing that ever happened to me." He took her arm as they crossed the street and headed back toward the Agency. After a moment he offered a cryptic smile. "I just remembered one of my most notorious episodes from nursery school."
"I can't wait to hear this one."
"Well, I'm not sure if it's my memory or just the description Mom wrote in her diary. Anyway, it was the 1954 Thanksgiving pageant. My teacher picked me to be a pilgrim. She asked my mother to dress me in black pants and jacket, buckled shoes and long white socks. Then to add insult to injury, I had to wear a wide white collar and a tall black hat made of cardboard."
"Oh, my gosh, Lee, your teacher really didn't know much about rambunctious little boys, did she?"
"Nope. I wanted to be an Indian like my friend Charlie, but none of my whining and complaining could earn me the coveted feather and burlap costume."
Amanda studied her feet, shaking her head back and forth. "Oh, no, I can guess what's coming."
Lee laughed and squeezed her side. "Are you sure you want to hear the rest of the story? It's pretty gruesome."
She let out a heavy sigh. "I'm bracing for the inevitable. Go on."
"Well, I must have begged and pleaded right up to curtain time. You'd think with all the parents and teachers present, someone might have recognized the accelerating unhappiness of a four year old. I mean, no one should have mistaken my unruly behavior for cooperation."
"No, of course not," Amanda said. "Absolutely no one would use the name Lee Stetson and the word cooperation in the same sentence. Couldn't they recognize a looming disaster?"
"I guess not. All I needed was one insult from the wise-guy, Freddy Pugh, to send me over the edge. In one of my proudest moments, I balled my fingers into a fist and threw a perfect punch right in the kid's generous gut. He fell backward into the scenery, taking several other kids with him."
"Oh, Lee, you call a stomach punch your proudest moment?"
"Well, only until my mother got a hold on me. Chaos must have ensued, because I still remember the firm grip of Mom's hand as she unceremoniously marched me to the family car."
"And what did your father say?"
"Well, maybe I have it all wrong, but somehow I recall a twinkle in my father's eye and a half smile on his lips. Possibly Dad understood my predicament after all."
"Oh, Lee, you must have been a handful."
He grinned at her and winked. "I still am."
To be continued: