Title: The Chance to Tell You

Author: Julie C.

Category: Filler, Romance, AU--oh yeah.

Rating: PG-13

Timeline: Missing scene from "Triumvirate," late Season 3.

Summary: The aftermath of Amanda's narrow escape at the hands of the Triumvirate--what might have happened at the end of the day.

Disclaimer: I can't think of anything even remotely witty. The characters of Lee and Amanda belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions and are only being used for fun.

Author's Note: "Triumvirate" was one of those episodes that just begged for more closure. Amanda was really scared by her experiences, and so was Lee, and except for that nice hug after he rescued her, we didn't get much in terms of them dealing with what happened. So here's something that could have happened instead of that silly tag scene with the "ancient threads"…

A big thank you to Kim for beta reading. The story is definitely better for her work!

* * * *

"C'mon, let me take you home," Lee said, turning the key in the ignition. It had been a really long day, a long couple of days. Their debriefings had gone fairly well, considering how tired they both were by the time they returned to the Agency. He wished he had been able to sit in the room with her when she told her story, if only for moral support. She had been so quiet, telling about her kidnapping and the Triumvirate's plans for her in as few words as possible, something that was definitely out of character for Amanda. But then, he didn't think she'd been in many tighter spots than that one: chained to a giant furnace and about to be thrown inside, with little if any hope of being found in time.

He sighed. As much as he didn't want to let her out of his sight, he was sure she wanted nothing more than to finally go home. She hadn't been home since before they had packed her off to the safe house, and she'd been through quite an ordeal since then. But as he reached for the gear shift, he felt Amanda's hand on his arm.

Her face was illuminated by the streetlight, and he could see her biting her lip. "Lee," she started hesitantly, "Did anyone let my mother know that I was on the way? I mean, I know that they weren't going to be able to come home until the exterminator called, well, until the Agency called, but you know what I mean. Does she know it's safe to come back?"

He paused. "Not as far as I know. I didn't have the chance during our debriefings, and I don't think Billy did, either. Why?"

She dropped her gaze to the floor. "I just don't think . . . after what happened today, I don't think I can face my mother and act as if I was just away on business. I mean, usually I can just put the bad stuff that happens behind me, like when I was chained to a pipe in that quarry, or when Francine and I were trapped in the freezer, but I don't usually get kidnapped and handcuffed to a furnace and almost . . ." her voice trailed off, and she took a deep, shuddering breath.

Lee didn't say a word, just unbuckled his seatbelt and reached across to put his arms around her. She wrapped her arms around him in response, and they sat in each other's embrace for a few minutes. He stroked her hair, half expecting her to break out in tears, but she just kept taking deep breaths, her face pressed into his jacket. Finally he pulled back a bit and raised one hand to smooth the hair away from her face. "Do you want to come back to my place and talk for a bit?"

He expected her to hesitate a bit, but she looked straight into his eyes and said, "Yes, I would." Then she ducked her head and said, "I'm sorry, I know you should probably get some sleep. I'm sure I'll be okay."

"Hey," he replied, lifting her chin so that her eyes met his again. "Right now you're the most important thing there is to me, okay? If you need to talk, or…" 'or have me hold you all night,' his mind couldn't help supplying. "Let me take you home," he said again, now meaning something entirely different.

She nodded. "Thanks," she said softly.

He smiled. "No problem," he replied, drawing away from her enough to drive. He took hold of her hand and kept a tight grip whenever he wasn't shifting gears, all the way home.

After a drive spent in silence through the well-lit D.C. streets, Lee was lucky enough to find a parking space right across the street from his apartment. He helped Amanda out, not letting go of her hand once she was out of the car. They walked into his building still hand in hand, and he was glad that for once the doorman wasn't around to wink at him. That was *not* what he had in mind for Amanda. Much as he did want to sit and hold her for a while (if she'd let him), he didn't want to push her any farther than that. She had just been through a traumatic experience, which her hesitancy to go home made even more apparent. She was right about her usual calm--it had impressed him on a number of occasions how quickly she seemed to put things behind her, no matter how dangerous a case became. He was used to the danger, of course, was trained for it in ways she hadn't been. But he knew that for every agent, from time to time a case hit home a little harder than usual, and this appeared to be one of those times for Amanda.

And as he opened the door and let her in, he realized it was one of those times for him, too. He had been minutes away from losing her, and in a spectacularly horrible fashion, at that. He didn't know why it hadn't hit him during his debriefing, or while watching hers. But now that they were standing just inside the door of his apartment, alone for the first time since the safe house the other night, he was acutely aware of what might have happened. And it made him freeze in place.

Amanda had taken a few steps into the living room, but he saw her pause when she didn't hear him right behind her. "Lee?" she asked, turning around.

At the sight of her worried, beautiful face, something in him broke. He took two steps forward and fiercely wrapped his arms around her, holding her as he had at the factory, this time able to focus on how it felt to have her in his arms rather than having to worry about the job that needed to be done. He buried his face in her hair, absorbing her scent, feeling every inch of her pressed against him. He slowly became aware that she was holding him just as tightly, her hands roaming soothingly up and down his back.

His breathing eventually slowed at her touch, and he felt himself relaxing against her. Now Lee was getting a little embarrassed. He never fell apart at the end of cases like this, even when one or both of them had been in physical danger. He started to pull back, but Amanda wouldn't let him go. "Shh," she said, still stroking his back. Then he realized that she probably needed this as much as he did, needed the physical reassurance of his presence as much as he needed hers. So he closed his eyes and just held her, enjoying the rare chance to be this close for more than a few seconds.

Finally Lee drew his head back, and was about to apologize for grabbing hold of her, when it happened. As her hand began another upward stroke, it caught on his untucked shirttail, placing her hand directly on his bare back. He drew a ragged breath, suddenly aware of nothing else in the world but her hand on his skin and how close their bodies were.

Her eyes widened at the expression on his face, and she started to withdraw, whispering, "Oh, I'm sorry." But he swiftly reached back and grabbed her hand. "Don't," he said in a rough voice. He pressed her hand against his back, reveling in its warmth, and they stared at each other in the dim light, both holding their breath.

Lee started to gently stroke her fingers, keeping his other arm wrapped around her shoulders. Her fingers responded, slowly moving against his back, and he thought he would die from the sudden rush of desire. Taking a deep breath, he looked into her eyes, and was gratified to find the same emotions there that he was sure were visible on his own face: surprise, desire, and happiness. He lifted his eyebrows in a question, and Amanda's gaze flickered down to his lips in response. Eyes locked on his, she tilted her face upwards ever so slightly, and he moved to meet her.

Their lips touched, and Lee thought he would explode. He had thought about kissing Amanda a number of times, probably more than he would care to admit; he had even half expected it would happen at the end of a traumatic case such as this one. He still wasn't prepared for the rush of emotion it brought, for the way it narrowed his entire world down to just her. Her fingers were still lightly stroking his back, and he almost automatically reached behind her and yanked her blouse from her waistband, sliding his hand up against her warm skin.

Amanda's lips parted in a gasp, and he took advantage of the opportunity to trace the outline of her lips with his tongue. The little moan she uttered in response drove him wild, and he pulled her even more closely to him as he felt her hand reaching up and threading itself through his hair. He caressed her back, lost to everything but the need to get close to her and to let out all of those pent-up emotions he'd been accumulating without even knowing it. Unconsciously, his other hand made its way to the front of her shoulder and started sliding downwards.

And suddenly Amanda stiffened and pulled back, hands held out in front of her, her chest heaving.

Lee closed his eyes for a moment. "God, I'm sorry, Amanda," he said, taking a step back. He had to consciously strain to keep his hands at his sides instead of reaching out to her again. "I'm sorry. I--the last thing I want you to think is that I asked you up here so I could paw at you." 'Stupid!' he railed at himself. 'She needs a friend right now, not an octopus!'

The ghost of a smile appeared on her face. "You don't have to apologize, Lee," she replied softly, hands lowering to her sides. "I kind of had the feeling something like this might happen."

He blinked in astonishment. "Is that the way you think of me?" He knew she was embarrassingly aware of his past history with women, but surely she didn't think that he would treat her the same way, as if her body was all that mattered. Did she?

She swiftly shook her head, reaching out to take his hand, though she was still looking down at the floor. "No, Lee, I don't." She continued shyly, "You know what one of the worst parts of last night was?"

He tilted his head inquiringly, and she went on, "Francine coming when she wasn't supposed to."

Lee couldn't help but grin. So he wasn't the only one who had been disappointed to hear that knock on the door. "You think, uh, something might have happened if she hadn't?"

Amanda still looked embarrassed. "Well, we have been moving toward this for some time now, you know," she replied. "There was that night in the swamp, and the time we've been spending together outside the office, and…" Then she looked up and met his eyes. "Maybe we just needed a good kick in the pants."

"I would have settled for something a little less dramatic," he answered, raising one eyebrow.

"Yeah, I know," she answered softly, her gaze dropping again. "Me too."

He couldn't help but step forward again and take her in his arms. "I was so scared for you, Amanda," he said, laying his cheek against the top of her head as her arms came around him in response. "I didn't know what I was going to do if we didn't break Shepard in time. I suppose I would have started threatening him, though I don't know if Billy would have gone for that. I can't believe he agreed to the deal that he did, but . . . Shepard set the terms. I just couldn't stand the thought that those people had you, and that I could only imagine what they were planning to do to you."

"Yeah, well, they were planning something pretty bad," she responded, shuddering a little. He pulled her even closer, but she drew her head back to look at him. "Lee, does it ever get any easier?" she asked seriously.

"What do you mean?" he responded, raising a hand to stroke her cheek like he'd been wanting to do for the longest time.

She briefly closed her eyes at his touch and then went on. "I mean, do you ever get used to having your life in danger all the time? I thought I was at least getting kind of used to having people pointing guns at me, but this time I was as scared as I was that first time when I was flying the helicopter and they were shooting at us, except this time there was nothing I could do, and I didn't think that you were going to be able to find me." She took a deep breath and went on, "I thought I was never going to see the boys or Mother again, and I didn't know how anyone would even know what happened to me, and," she paused and raised her eyes to his. "I thought I wasn't going to get the chance to tell you, you know…" her voice trailed off.

"To tell me what?" he asked, the slightest unsteadiness in his voice, his hand stilled against her cheek.

She looked into his eyes for a moment, as serious as he'd ever seen her. Then a corner of her mouth turned up. "I don't know quite how to say it," she responded with a nervous laugh. "I'm attracted to you? I want to be more than friends? You know, they sound like things a high school kid would say."

He smiled in response. "I know what you mean," he answered. "I don't know how to put it, either. I just know that you're a very special woman," and he began to stroke her hair, another thing he'd been wanting to do. "And I'd like to get to know you a lot better."

With a slightly devilish gleam in her eye, she said, "Well, you certainly were trying just now!"

He smiled and shook his head, once he realized she was just teasing him. "Amanda, I am sorry," he replied. "I honestly don't know what got into me."

"It's okay, Lee," she replied. "I don't think it's too hard to figure out," she said with a meaningful look. They stared at each other for a moment more, then she reached back and took his hands in hers. "Let's try it again, shall we?" she asked.

"Is this to keep me out of trouble?" he asked, squeezing her hands.

Her gaze darkened. "Maybe it's to keep both of us out of trouble," she said, her voice slightly huskier than usual.

Lee tilted his head forward, and their lips met halfway. This was a much sweeter, softer kiss. He didn't feel the desire raging through his body that he had just a moment ago, just warmth and…something that he wasn't quite ready to put a name to yet. He opened his eyes as they drew back, sure that Amanda's expression of wonderment was mirrored on his face. Then she gave him one of those smiles that lit up her whole face, and let go of his hands to wrap her arms around him. He responded in kind, and they stood there for a few moments, swaying ever so slightly back and forth, each trying to absorb what had just happened and what it might mean for them.

Finally Amanda leaned her head back and gave him a sly smile. "I suppose we can't claim we were just two people trying to keep warm this time," she said.

Lee chuckled at hearing his old phrase thrown back at him. And he responded the only way he could. "Not exactly." Amanda gave her own small laugh in response, which faded away as he raised a hand to caress her cheek. "I think this was two people . . ." He paused, searching for the right words. "I think this was two people who care about each other, a great deal, but who needed a big scare to overcome their other fears."

Amanda quietly agreed. "That doesn't mean those other fears aren't there," she added so softly he could barely hear it.

"No, no, it doesn't," Lee agreed. "And we do have a lot to talk about." When she nodded assent, he went on, "But that's not what you came up here to discuss."

She gave a little shrug and tightened her arms around him. "Somehow I'm feeling a lot better than I was a little while ago."

He smiled. "Well, I'm glad I could help."

She leaned forward until their lips met again. When they drew apart, Lee noticed she looked a little hesitant, as if she wanted to ask him something, but wasn't sure how to go about it. He raised his eyebrows in question, and she gave another tiny shrug. "I am feeling better, but I'd be feeling even better if we were sitting down. I'm still a little shaky."

He led her over to the couch, taking her in his arms once she had settled down next to him. Lee had never really been one for cuddling, but he had to admit that he could get used to this. He felt himself surrounded by the delicate fragrance that he always associated with Amanda, and what better way was there to reassure himself that she was safe than to have his arms wrapped around her?

He mulled over her earlier question for a minute or two, only slightly distracted by her nearness and the way she kept ruffling the hair at the back of his neck. Then he broke the silence. "It does get easier, you know." She raised her head to look at him, and he went on, "On the average, that is. There are still times when you'll be as scared as you were that first time, but they'll get fewer and farther between as you get more confident in your abilities." He paused for a moment, reflecting on how he had gotten used to the danger that was just part of the job. The difference between them was, he had known what he was getting into when he joined up. Amanda had found out the hard way. He sighed and went on, "You just can't let your fear get in the way, or you're putting yourself and maybe your fellow agents in danger. You just have to push the fear aside and deal with it later."

"Well, I guess I've already learned that from watching you," she said. At his quizzical look, she went on, "Lee, you can't tell me that you're never scared when someone pulls a gun on you. And yet you never look like you are."

He shrugged, absently caressing her upper arm with one hand. "It is something you get used to. But there are some situations that are more frightening than others." Funny, all the ones that he could think of right now involved Amanda being in danger rather than himself. He went on, "It's a good strategic move, too, not to show your fear."

"Then I guess I should work on that," Amanda said, pausing to look at Lee when he emitted a chuckle. "What?"

"Amanda, I don't think you could hide your emotions if you tried. They're always written all over your face." When she looked embarrassed, he quickly added, "Not that that's a bad thing. For one, it made it easier to know that it was okay to kiss you."

"Oh yeah?" she responded, shifting around so she was looking directly at him. "What am I thinking about right now?"

Lee decided to have a little fun with her. He scrutinized her closely, looking deeply into her eyes. Then he raised his eyebrows. "Mrs. King!" he exclaimed, pretending to look shocked. "I didn't think you were that kind of woman!"

He was amused to find her turning absolutely beet-red, before she quickly looked down. "Remind me never to play poker with you," she muttered from where her face was buried in his shoulder.

'Well well well,' Lee thought. Aloud he said, "Amanda, I was just teasing you," giving her shoulder a reassuring pat. He stroked her upper arm for a moment until she lifted her eyes to his again.

"Lee, I know I'm not like the other women you've dated," she began, but stopped when he laid a finger across her lips.

"No, you're not," he replied. "And that's a good thing, believe me. Look, Amanda," he hesitated for a moment and then went on. "I've never had a real relationship before, not like . . . not like what this, what this could be." Her eyes widened, and he went on, "You're the experienced one as far as that goes. I suppose that's part of why I've been so reluctant to take any further steps, is that I really don't know what I'm doing."

She smiled gently and laid a hand on his face. "Then it's better for both of us to take this slowly."

"As slowly as you want," he said seriously. "I've also never had a friend as close to me as you are, and I don't want to damage that at all."

Her hand stroked his face for a moment. Then she sighed. "Then there's the whole question of working together," she started. "Will this do anything to our professional relationship?"

"As far as I'm concerned, it's nobody's business but our own," Lee replied. "And I think we can manage to keep a professional façade in place." 'Since at least one of us has been managing that façade for quite some time now,' he added in his head.

"Okay." She paused. "What about the boys, and Mother?"

He sighed. "Like I said, we have a lot to talk about." He rushed on to reassure her, "Not that I have any problem with your mother, or the boys, but . . . we just have a lot to talk about."

She regarded him seriously. "Do you really think we can make this work?"

Lee paused to think. What did she mean by "this"? What did he want her to mean? He had always known that getting involved with Amanda would mean more than just "dating" her, in whatever sense of the word. And he had no idea where their current arrangement would lead. "All I know," he said softly, "is that I have hardly ever been as scared as I was last night and this morning when I thought we weren't going to get to you in time. I can't stand the thought of losing you, and I can't go on anymore without you knowing how important you are to me." With that, he pulled her towards him and tried to demonstrate a little more directly what he meant.

The kiss started as sweetly as their second one had, but soon took on the passion of the first. He felt Amanda's hand running through his hair, and he slanted his mouth against hers to try and get even closer to her, pulling her body against his at the same time. Mindful of what had almost happened earlier, he didn't let his hands roam anywhere, but he did let his tongue run across her lips. Her shaky sigh began to do dangerous things to his self-control, and he had to reluctantly break off the kiss.

They leaned their foreheads together, each taking a deep breath. "If we keep this up, that whole concept of going slowly might go right out the window," Amanda said with a small laugh.

Lee smiled in response. The electricity that he had felt between them from time to time was now flowing freely, and he liked the fact that Amanda seemed to feel it as strongly as he did. But he had meant what he said about taking things slowly, for both their sakes.

His eye caught the clock, and he was dismayed to see how late it was. "Ah, Amanda," he said. "If you still want that ride home tonight, we'd better get going."

She turned around to see the clock and gasped. "Oh Lee, it's already too late to call Mother at Aunt Edna's. Besides," she turned back to face him, "I know that we captured everyone who we know was after me and there's no more danger, but…" her voice trailed off. "I'm not sure I'd be comfortable in the house by myself tonight," she said quietly.

"So…you want to stay here?" Lee asked hopefully.

"Is…is that okay?" she asked hesitantly. "I can sleep on the couch, and we'll just go in to the office tomorrow. I've learned to keep a set of clean clothes at work, since mine seem to get ruined on a fairly regular basis, and so far Mother's never said anything when I come home from work wearing something different than I left that morning with, and then I can call her tomorrow and let her know it's okay to come back home…" she broke off when she heard Lee chuckling. "What?" she demanded.

Lee knew that Amanda tended to ramble more when she got nervous, and this was clearly one instance of that. "Nothing," he replied. "Listen, you're right. Why don't you take the bed, and I'll sleep out here on the couch. It's even long enough for me to fit on."

She smiled, recognizing his reference to their weekend assignment long ago. "Okay," she agreed quietly.

They shared one last, chaste kiss, and then got up to get ready for bed. Lee lent Amanda a pair of his sweats and a t-shirt, and she went into the bathroom to change. After she came out, he followed her into his bedroom and watched while she climbed under the covers. 'God, what I wouldn't give to be following her into bed,' he thought. 'Even if it was just to sleep.' But he sat down on the edge of the bed instead, bringing the sheet and blanket up over her and tucking them in around her shoulders. She smiled at his consideration, and said in a teasing tone, "Not used to tucking your women in, are you, Scarecrow?"

Lee rolled his eyes. "And this is the thanks I get for giving up my bed?" he asked in a mock hurt tone.

Amanda smiled and reached out to grab his upper arm. "Let me thank you more properly," she said, pulling him down towards her.

Lee closed his eyes as their lips met, wondering when the newness of the pleasure of actually kissing Amanda was going to wear off. Not any time soon, he hoped. He ended the kiss before it could go anywhere dangerous, and smoothed the blankets down one more time before reluctantly standing up. "Sweet dreams," he said softly.

"I'm sure they will be," she replied with a small grin.

He smiled in response and closed the door. Then he leaned his head back against the wall, lost in reflection. How quickly things could change. Was it just last night that he had nervously sat across the room from Amanda, casting glances at her and wondering if he could figure out a way to sit next to her on the couch without being too obvious, then minutes later been the midst of a firefight while she was being kidnapped? And now she was safe, and they were…well, they were…

'Amanda's right,' he thought. 'There needs to be a better term for it. We're not just dating, and we're not just more-than-friends, but we're not lovers and we're not…' he shook his head in exasperation. It didn't really matter what they called it, since they probably wouldn't be telling anyone else about it anyway.

He smiled as he realized he had unconsciously reached up to touch his lips, evoking the memory of the kisses they had shared. 'Boy, you've got it bad, Stetson,' he thought. Shaking his head, he whispered again, "Sweet dreams," and headed off towards the couch.