A glimpse into Lee's mind, set after episode 1.9 Sudden Death. That first kiss left him looking momentarily stunned and I had to do something with it! Also running through my mind as I wrote this was a quote from Bruce Boxleitner saying he thought Lee started falling for Amanda way back in 1.7 Service Above and Beyond. This was written for the SMK Fanfic Group's Rainbow Challenge. I had to incorporate the color blue, a cufflink and a picture frame.
Author's Note: Thanks to my always fantastic beta reader, Moxie; not only did she save this story from being scrapped when I got frustrated but she's also the one who pointed out the "Don't move" moment in Sudden Death. It's all about the details, and she's wonderful with them! And thanks to Mrs. Vanderhosen; she's been after me to write a fanfic using just the characters in Scarecrow and Mrs. King and this story likely wouldn't be here without her encouragement. Also thanks to those at both the SMK Fanfic Group and the SMK Forum—I love sharing one of my favorite shows with all of you and having an excuse to start writing again.
Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters do not belong to me and I make no money from this. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm just enjoying some time with a few of my favorite characters. The story is mine, however, except where I'm directly quoting an episode.
Lee Stetson was tired. It had been a long day and an even longer evening. Not that he wasn't every inch the professional, but the embassy function he had been assigned to tonight had gone on way too long. The one bright spot had been watching Francine fend off men long past middle age who had been convinced by large quantities of alcohol that they were more attractive than they actually were and that their bank accounts were much more impressive than their last statements had shown. She, however, was fully sober and in her right mind—they never had a chance.
He opened his top drawer and placed first one cufflink and then the other in its spot. There, off on the right side, was the framed picture of his parents. Lifting it gently from its place, he studied their faces. He may have been only five years old when they died, but he still remembered the love that they radiated.
For some reason tonight, he felt a hole in his life and it was making him especially maudlin. He wondered what his parents would say about that. Would they tell him he needed a partner—a permanent one who had absolutely nothing to do with his work? He shook his head forcefully. This is ridiculous. He already knew that life would never be possible for him and he was convinced he would certainly be unhappy with it in any case.
He released a deep breath and continued preparing for bed. A few minutes later, Lee slid between the sheets and flipped off the light. A good night's sleep will set everything to rights again.
His eyes drifted shut and his brain let down his characteristic defenses.
Uh oh. Showtime!
He heard Amanda King's question and it just registered that he didn't have time to warn the jumpy housewife.
"Yeah, this." He placed his hand behind her head and pulled her in for a kiss.
He'd had plenty of cover kisses before. His brain shifted into script mode. What the coach would say, his response, possible counters. If this woman would just cooperate, he'd be set. But she kept struggling. Did she really think he needed to kiss her for any reason other than preserving his cover? Lee Stetson prided himself on his way with the ladies, but also on that they never needed to be convinced.
"Don't move," Lee mumbled against her mouth, irritated that she wasn't catching on without his prompting. He reminded himself that she was a housewife and probably wasn't accustomed to being kissed by any man on the spur of the moment. Don or Dan or whatever his name was would certainly never kiss her without obtaining proper permission first, he was sure.
Relieved when she finally relaxed a bit, he continued the ruse despite his certainty that the other man had already seen them kissing. Best to fully sell this performance, he thought.
Her lips are softer than I thought they would be. Actually, for a housewife from Arlington, she can kiss. As his hands moved through her hair, his thoughts continued to wander. What other hidden talents does she have?
The man behind him just got louder. Lee felt the story had credibility now; he pulled away and looked at Amanda's still shocked face. She jumped a bit as the coach called Lee's cover name. She's embarrassed! The thought of her innocence held a strange appeal for him. What would it be like to watch her face after they shared a genuine kiss? Whoa, Stetson! He reined in that thought before it could go any further. She's not my type. She's a housewife! An annoyance! A capable, multi-talented, authentic woman, another part of his mind traitorously inserted. This has to stop!
Pasting on the famous Stetson smile, he turned his gaze from Amanda's face to the annoyed man behind him. Much safer ground; I can handle him just fine.
Lee's eyes snapped open. Where did that come from? Then again, he was pretty sure he knew exactly where it came from. How could he be expected to defend himself against a woman like Amanda King? He was experienced at deflecting the advances of the embassy ladies, other agents and casual acquaintances. But Amanda stubbornly refused to be placed into any of these categories. One minute she was clearly annoyed with him and the next she was mothering him.
Trying to dismiss Amanda from his mind, he closed his eyes once more and exhaled slowly. He turned one way, then the other; he kicked off the covers and replaced them when he became chilled. Sleep seemed to be a futile pursuit at the moment. Lee groaned audibly and sat up in bed, running his fingers through his hair. This is ridiculous!
Really, why all of this introspection? It was just a kiss, not even a real one at that. He had to bring his unruly thoughts back into control. The woman that Amanda King was would in no way be interested in what Lee Stetson had to offer. Some fun, maybe a pleasurable game of backgammon with no commitment, this was all of himself that he was willing to give right now and that would never be enough for her. Strings were attached at every turn, even with the unconventional friendship she kept trying to convince him that they had.
It had started with that first case, the one that he'd roped her into at the train station.
She had tried to classify herself as his partner. He deflected that one easily enough; he didn't work with a partner. Partners were too close. And you owed them. Especially when they were in danger because of something you did or didn't do. That was one reason he had been so intent on that first case also being the last. But it hadn't worked; she had stuck around and Billy just kept assigning them to the same cases. As he knew would eventually happen, he had become very protective toward Amanda; he'd gotten her into this mess in the first place with that package on the train platform and he had to watch out for her.
Did she feel protective, too? Was that why she seemed so intent on taking care of him? "Do you have someplace to go Thanksgiving?" she'd asked. He liked his solitary life. Really. It was easier that way. In this business, friends were a liability, a way to give the enemy leverage, a way to get hurt. Women were the same: a nice distraction for a while, but settling down was almost unheard of. Now why was it that when Lee thought of Amanda, invariably thoughts of domesticity followed? Probably because that's so much of who she is, he thought. As he'd recently told Billy, Amanda had motherhood carved into her bones. That's her job. And she's good at it.
That second case they'd worked on together not long after they'd met was a perfect example of their differences. For him, a typical husband in a suburban neighborhood had been more than a stretch; he just didn't think that way. Amanda carried that one off, at least as far as their covers went, telling him what worked in an everyday life, how he would get information from the neighbors and what they would expect of him in return.
A soft smile spread over his face as he recalled their discussion about the sleeping arrangements. She had to think of her boyfriend, how things would look. Like we're having a "thing," she had said. Now didn't that tell the whole story? Amanda couldn't even bring herself to say the word "affair." They were worlds apart in everything, it seemed.
And yet, she was also vastly different from someone like James Delano, but he had seen something in her that drew him powerfully enough that he sought her company. Up until that early morning in Billy's office, Lee had naturally assumed that every man would see Amanda as he did: a suburban housewife leading a dull and predictable life. Closing his eyes to humor Billy, he tried to imagine Amanda as an exotic mystery woman instead. Surprisingly, he pictured her exactly as she looked in that black dress the night Delano first noticed her.
How in the world did she get herself into all of this trouble, anyway? On that very case, a simple task of supplying window dressing turned into a full-blown mission, one that had nearly gotten her killed.
Lee leaned back against the headboard, releasing another frustrated sigh. That night was one of the hardest of his career. He had known he was sending her into the lion's den, but what choice did he have? Amanda was uniquely positioned to get them much-needed access into Delano's home. And he could see the toll this was taking on her, had tried to warn her that her emotions couldn't get in the way. But looking at her reflection in the rear-view mirror hadn't allayed his concerns any; despite her earlier statements, he knew she cared about what would happen to James Delano after all of this shook out. Maybe that's part of what attracted Delano to her—he could sense her genuine caring and even though he didn't know her true identity, her personality could not be hidden with fancy jewels and a royal blue evening gown. He sensed that Amanda had needed some encouragement, and that was the reason he'd told her she looked fabulous. Well, the main one, anyway. Since he was being honest with himself, he had to admit that she had indeed been beautiful.
After she'd been drugged, Lee carried her back down the stairs and confronted Delano with her limp body. But he knew that Delano and Hollander weren't the only ones to blame for all of this. What had he been thinking asking her to go along with him to that stupid meet, just because he hadn't wanted to look like a man who couldn't find a date on a Friday night? She was a civilian and would die if he couldn't save her. She had two small boys who depended on her.
The fear that night had been terrible. But he had experienced a special brand of torture after asking her to feed his fish, after she had been mistaken for Scarecrow and kidnapped to facilitate a trade.
Remembering that conversation in Billy's office with Dirk, his hands fisted tightly in the bedcovers. He had been so angry that night! And I was so frustrated with official channels that I committed treason for Amanda King. The wry smile couldn't be helped as he reflected on that rather disturbing thought. Billy had asked him if he would feel so torn about it being any other agent. After candidly admitting that he didn't know, he remembered feeling sure that he had to do something to get her back, whatever the cost to himself.
Lee groaned audibly. Okay, that should have been his first clue that she had wormed her way into his life on a more permanent basis than he was comfortable with. Treason: to rescue Amanda. He had tried to convince himself that he would have done it for any agent that had been taken in his place, but the truth was that she was different in so many ways from any other agent. He wouldn't have held any random colleague he'd rescued from the Russians in sheer relief, now would he? Even that he could justify, though: she was scared and in need of reassurance. After all, she wasn't trained like other agents. She didn't know how to handle the stresses of interrogation and being held hostage. And yet she had held up remarkably well given her lack of training; that note of admiration slipped past his defenses without warning, and since it came without warning, he let it pass largely unnoticed. To do otherwise would have been too uncomfortable at this late hour.
Actually, it was rather late and he'd had more than enough introspection this evening. Lee plumped his pillow up a little more forcefully than was necessary and laid back down. Tomorrow would be another busy day at the office, and who knew what would find its way onto his agenda for the evening? Really, what's in a kiss, anyway? I used a protective maneuver—to keep her cover and mine. There was enough truth to that one to make it a feasible excuse. If he couldn't quite explain how that kiss had left him just slightly stunned, well, he'd work on it.