Title: Another First Kiss
Author: Julie C.
Summary: Some filling in the blanks from the end of "We're Off to See the Wizard" to the end of "Over the Limit." Why did Lee give Amanda *roses* and then start dating another woman? AU, though I like to think it could have happened and we just never knew about it
Disclaimer: All of the characters here belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. Most of the scenes and some of the opening dialogue does, too. But the rest is mine, mine, mine!
Author's Note: Thanks to Eman for her excellent beta reading!
How 'bout another first kiss, kiss, kiss, yeah
I want another first kiss
--They Might Be Giants, "First Kiss"
"Oh, I have something for you," I said in a deliberately off-hand manner, reaching underneath my desk. I was pretty sure Amanda knew I hadn't asked her up to the Q Bureau just to put away the Serdeych file for me. Even I could occasionally put files away by myself. She had been so much of a help to me, not just professionally but personally, that I knew she would want to see the case officially put to rest. Her patience and understanding had really been put to the test, and she had been by my side all the way, including listening to me talk about Dorothy -- something I hadn't done in years.
And so I had something else for her, a small token of my esteem, one might say. Nervously anticipating her reaction, I sat back up and extended my arm, presenting her with the half-dozen roses.
She instantly understood the significance. Her eyes widened, and I wanted to chuckle at the fact that I had apparently caused Amanda King to go speechless. But this was too serious a moment. She was a good agent and a loyal friend, and I had realized sometime in the last few days that she had somehow gotten closer to me than even Dorothy ever had. And I had never really told her how much I appreciated her.
I had prepared this speech in my head about how much she had done for me, and how grateful I was to have her around, but staring at her over those roses, the words left my head. "Thanks," I said, trying to infuse it with as much meaning as I could and hoping that she knew what I was trying to say. Thanks not just for listening to me, or for saving my butt, again, but thank you for being you.
One of her beautiful smiles broke out across her face, and she leaned down towards me. For one crazy moment I thought she was going to kiss me, and my breath caught in my throat. Then I realized her lips were headed towards my cheek, where they bestowed a gentle kiss. I closed my eyes, wishing she would linger just a moment longer. But she was straightening up already, and I felt a nervous little smile creep across my face. Just that one moment of being close to her, and my heart felt like it was going to pound right out of my chest.
We stayed there for a moment, just looking at each other. Then she looked down at the flowers she was holding and said, "Lee, they're beautiful."
I knew there was a question in there, and I hastened to answer it. "Yeah, I, uh, just saw them on my way in this morning and thought of you." No need to tell her that I stopped at three different florists trying to find the perfect red roses. Or that my usual reaction to their scent was cut short as soon as I pictured her sniffing them just as she was now, the flowers only slightly redder than her lips. "Beautiful flowers for a beautiful woman," I said quietly.
Now her cheeks were approaching the color of the pink roses I had briefly considered before deciding on red. "Leeeee," she drew out my name, a shy smile on her face.
I knew why she was blushing. I had rarely responded to her as a woman before -- just as my partner, or my friend, but not the wonderful, beautiful woman that I had only lately realized she was. I would have to give her flowers more often if it provoked this kind of reaction.
But that wasn't why I had bought her roses, and she knew it. "No, really, Amanda, I . . ." I broke off and ran a hand through my hair. "I really think you kept me sane these past few days. It wasn't so long ago that I spent all that time pretending to be burnt out, and then I was watching Paul, wondering if he had gone over the edge, and when I kept seeing Dorothy everywhere, I couldn't help but wonder -- "
"If you were a burn-out, too," she finished with me. "Lee, I know I haven't been around the Agency very long, and I may not be familiar with the stress that an agent has to deal with, but I think I know you pretty well by now, and I think I would know if you were really burning out." She shook her head and laid a hand over mine where it rested on my desk, giving it a gentle pat.
I turned my hand over so that it clasped hers from beneath. "Yeah, you do know me pretty well," I said softly. Our eyes locked, and I felt that electricity that I'd been feeling more and more often. I had never expected Amanda King to last a month at this job, much less two years, becoming my closest friend in the process. Nor had I expected that I would sometimes find myself wondering, what if . . .
She gave a self-conscious shake of her head, breaking our gaze and disrupting my train of thought. "I'd better get back downstairs. You know there are plenty of other files to be put away!"
I smiled in reply, glad that at least I had been able to convey my message visually, if not verbally. "Yeah, I'll see you later."
She gave a little hop to get off the desk, but when she landed on the ground, one heel turned slightly under her. She gave a little cry and leaned sideways. Her hand was still in mine, and that pulled her down even further, right into my lap.
For a moment I wanted to laugh with the absurdity of it. What were we, some kind of comedy team? But then I was suddenly aware of her presence, warm and solid and right on top of me. Her face was just inches away from mine, our clasped hands trapped in between us. Before I knew what was happening, I had reached up with my other hand to pull her head towards me, to pull her lips down to mine.
Instantly I felt her melting into me. I let go of her hand and slid my arm around her back, pulling her closer to me, moving my lips against hers, lost in that incredible feeling. I'd been wanting this for some time, and I know she had, too. I had seen the way she looked at me sometimes when she didn't think I was watching. It was the same way I'd been looking at her. Now I was finally getting the chance to feel what it was like to kiss Amanda, and it was worth the wait.
Then I felt something pricking me. I suddenly realized the roses I had given Amanda were being crushed between us. She must have realized it, too, because I suddenly felt her stiffen against me, one hand pressing against my chest.
And as soon as I pulled my head back and looked in her eyes, I knew we'd made a mistake. Our relationship might have been moving in this direction, but someone had just hit the gas pedal a little too hard. Amanda's eyes were wide, and she practically jumped off my lap. "Lee," she said warningly, backing up as I rose out of my chair.
"Amanda, I'm sorry," I said. "I shouldn't have -- " I broke off, sudden panic welling up in me. What if she thought I was taking advantage of her? Sure, I might have taken advantage of the moment, but it had seemed to me that that kiss was something we both wanted. What if she didn't want to work with me anymore? More importantly, had I jeopardized our friendship in one impulsive moment?
She stood a couple of steps away, and her eyes were still wide, but less watchful. She started to say something, then stopped, shaking her head. "I'm sorry," she said, clutching the now-bedraggled roses to her chest and starting to turn away.
"Wait!" I called, unable to stop myself from reaching out towards her. "Please, Amanda," I said more softly. She paused, and I pressed on. "I'm sorry," I said quietly. "I -- I don't know what came over me. I shouldn't have done that." 'Please tell me I haven't messed things up between us,' I silently added. 'Please.'
She raised her head to face me. "Lee, I know you've been saying for a while that we're just friends, and whenever some . . . unusual situation comes up between us, it's just business." I nodded and she took a deep breath. "Then what the heck was that?" she asked, exasperation in her voice.
I sighed. "It was a mistake," I said quietly. At the look on her face, I rushed on, "Not that I didn't want to kiss you, Amanda, I did, it's just . . ." I trailed off. With another sigh, I sank back into my chair. This was so important, I couldn't risk screwing it up. I briefly closed my eyes, then started again, staring at the floor. "Amanda, you're the best friend I have, and I wouldn't want to do anything to jeopardize that." So far, so good. "I can't deny that I . . . I think you're attractive, but it's probably not the best thing for either our working relationship or our friendship to act on that right now. I just -- acted on impulse, I guess. I'm sorry."
I looked up to find her regarding me seriously. "Lee, you're my best friend, too, and I don't want to mess that up, either. I'm just afraid that you're too emotional right now because of this last case, and -- " she gestured with the roses before going on softly, "I guess I need to be sure that it's *me* that you want."
I realized that she had hit the nail right on the head. I knew I wouldn't deliberately take advantage of her, and I knew she knew that, too, but subconsciously . . . I hated to think it, but that might have been what just happened. Thinking about Dorothy again after all these years had brought back some memories, and Amanda had been right there, and . . .
As I raised my head, I realized my delay in replying had answered her unspoken question. She bit her lip, then gently laid the flowers down on the desk. "I think I'd better go," she said quietly.
"Amanda, wait!" I called again, but she was walking towards the door. She laid her hand on the knob and said, "I'll still be your friend, Lee. Just don't ask me to be anything more unless you're sure of it." Then she opened the door and left.
* * * *
Looking back, it's hard to say that what I did next was anything but immature. I was angry at myself for screwing things up, for letting my physical attraction get in the way of one of the few good friendships I had in my life. I was afraid of history repeating itself; would Amanda and I be reduced to throwing half-friendly, half-cutting barbs at each other like Francine and I were? Maybe it was for the best anyway -- I wasn't a "normal person," I never would be, and Amanda deserved something better than that.
So I went out and found myself another woman. On the morning I came in late, still a little disheveled, the first face I saw was Francine's knowing smirk. I rolled my eyes at her, and was turning away when I saw Amanda's face. Her eyes were wide, but when she saw I was watching her, her expression quickly went blank, and she turned her head back to her desk. 'Good,' some little part of me thought. 'It's best if she knows what kind of man I really am. That way we'll stay just friends, and she won't get hurt.' I tried to reinforce that, arriving late the next couple of days even though I had been alone the night before. Every day, Amanda's face had that same momentary shock on it, and every day things were a little more tense between us.
Then Billy had to insist I help her with Spring Cleaning. And she had to go and get herself a doozy of a file, right off the bat. It looked like it was striking a little close to home -- a young mother, accused of some horrible crime, was really just trying to protect her family. But I'd never seen Amanda get so emotional about a case before. Our relationship ebbed and flowed throughout the case: I was so relieved to see she hadn't been hurt in the explosion that I pulled her right into my arms; we fought over Elizabeth's innocence; she told me she still knew how to flirt when she had to; and then she practically yelled at me in my apartment hallway, first for dating Leslie and then for telling her to go home. It seemed like my subconscious plan was working a little too well.
And then I had dinner with Leslie. "Amanda," I said as I examined the wine bottle, then abruptly realized what I had said. What was wrong with me? A man doesn't get to have four black books if he can't keep his women's names straight. And that was when it hit me. It *was* Amanda I wanted. It hadn't just been my remembered feelings for Dorothy coming to the surface. I think Leslie realized something had happened, but she was nice enough not to say anything, either right then or when the phone call from the Agency made me race out of the apartment.
It wasn't until later that night, when I got home to find her note on the table, that I knew for sure she had understood my slip of the tongue. "Thanks for a nice time, Lee," the note read. "I think I should find my own date for the embassy dinner, though. Good luck. Love, Leslie."
Later that night; *after* Amanda had disobeyed me -- again -- and saved my life -- again. I should have known by the look on her face when she got in the elevator that going home was the last thing on her mind. She had something to prove, to herself and to me, and by gosh, she was going to do it. So I wasn't that surprised to see her on the other side of the chain-link fence at Trans-Oceanic, though the gun she was nervously holding did surprise me a bit. Backup was due in a few minutes, but it looked like Francine and I didn't have that long. As [?] raised his gun at me, I wanted to scream at her, "What are you waiting for? This isn't a videotape, it's a real-life bad guy and he's about to kill us!"
And then she shot the pulley and brought the net down. Typical Amanda, making me steamed and grateful all at the same time. Francine actually gave her a compliment, but the tension of the last couple days had just built up and I couldn't help yelling at her. She took it stoically, but I knew as soon as I spoke the words that this was something else I was going to have to apologize for. More so when I found out about the man she had been able to knock out in the parking lot. I was going to have to talk to Billy about getting her some self-defense courses as well.
* * * *
So here I am, about to start that apology, after a nice dinner at Chez Nouvelle. We didn't really get to enjoy the food last time we came, though we had done a good job of talking about our partnership, back when I was playing the burned-out agent. Come to think of it, I brought her there last time to apologize, too. I hope this doesn't become a habit.
Dinner was nice, less awkward than I had anticipated. When I suggest we take a walk, Amanda agrees, though less cheerfully than I expect. I drive to one of our familiar haunts, the western end of the Mall. I remember meeting her there in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, so long ago. I can tell she's thinking about it, too, as I help her out of the car. There's a small smile on her face, but it dies when her eyes meet mine. Determined to put a good face on things, I offer her my arm. "Shall we?"
We just walk around the Reflecting Pool for a while, her hand tucked under my bent elbow. Amanda's looking up at the sky, and I wonder what she sees. Only a few stars are visible from here in the city, but I get the feeling she's just trying to look somewhere other than at me. Finally she breaks the silence. "I think we should talk, Lee."
Our pace slows, and I nod, saying softly, "Yeah, we should." I lead her to a bench overlooking the pool and then let go of her arm, leaning my elbows against my knees. Looking out over the water, I say, "Where would you like to begin?"
She turns to face the water as well, our shoulders not quite touching. There are clouds passing over the nearly-full moon, throwing her face in and out of shadow, mirroring the range of expressions that's crossing her face. She tugs at her wrap to nestle it more closely against her neck and says, "I think I need to apologize for yelling at you the other day."
I'm astonished. Before I can protest that I should be the one apologizing, she goes on, lifting her head to look at the sky again. "It's really none of my business what kind of women you date, especially after telling you that . . . that we're just friends." She pauses, and I want to say something, but I don't know what. Should I apologize for dating Leslie? For kissing Amanda the other day? Should I tell her that she *is* the one that I want?
But her expression has turned even more serious, and she goes on. "I was angry about something else, and I guess seeing her and being reminded that the other day really was a mistake just made it worse." I want to burst out, no, it wasn't a mistake, Leslie was the mistake, but Amanda's still talking. "I know that you only have my best interests at heart when you tell me to just go home all the time, but Lee," and she turns to face me, "it really does hurt. It says that after all the time I've spent at this job, I'm still the same random housewife you picked off the street. It says you don't respect me as even an agent in training, much less as your partner."
I start to protest, but she's giving me the same kind of look I imagine her giving Phillip or Jamie when they're about to deny something that they know perfectly well is true. And I realize that this second hurt is actually larger than the first. If all we have is a professional but friendly relationship, and if I don't treat her like a fellow professional, then what do we have left?
I heave a sigh and stare down at the water. I'm afraid to speak for fear of putting my foot in my mouth, and I'm afraid not to speak for fear of answering the question through silence, like I did in the Q Bureau the other day. So I try one of her favorite tactics. "Is that really what you think?" I ask, deferring the question back to her.
"Oh Lee, I don't know what to think," she responds. "I mean, you say nice things about my work once in a while, and I know you had something to do with the training I've been getting, and I do appreciate that, but . . ." her voice trails off and sighs. "Sometimes actions speak louder than words."
I'm looking at her as she says that, and I can tell we're both thinking about the other day. A faint blush steals into her cheeks, and she turns back to look across the pool. 'Words seem to have won out that day,' I think somewhat bitterly. Out loud I say, "Amanda, you know I'm just trying to protect you. You aren't a fully trained agent, and although your instincts are amazing, sometimes you need more than that. I'm not always going to be there to watch your back, you know, and I'm just trying to . . . I mean I care about . . . I get concerned about you," I stumble on.
She says nothing for a while, just looks out across the water. There's another couple passing in front of us, arm in arm, heads bent together and laughing at some private joke. God, don't I wish that could be Amanda and me right now. Not even the romantic side of it. Just the closeness, the camraderie that we've been sharing and that this last case has put a dent in. I'm so busy musing over this that I almost miss her soft words. "Lee, I know you worry about me. I know I have a tendency to get in trouble, even when I'm just doing a simple thing like eating a sandwich." Her gaze flickers to mine, and we share a smile at what's become a running joke between us, even though it was anything but funny at the time. "And I guess maybe I have a tendency to be overly sensitive about this, you know, maybe even a little defensive, being an outsider like I am."
I cut her off. "Amanda, by now you are anything but an outsider. You know the Agency and the people in it as well as anyone does."
But she's shaking her head. "Lee, I came in as part-time help, and I still don't have the background that even the newest rookie does. I'm not saying that I can't still contribute, just that sometimes I feel like a bit of an outsider." She gives that one-shoulder shrug of hers.
I reach out and lay my hand on her arm. "Amanda, you've become a really important part of the Agency as far as some people are concerned. The bullpen's been a different place since you've been in it."
She blushes again and looks down. I notice her wrap has slipped again, and I reach up to tug it against her neck. My hand brushes her bare upper back, and I think we both catch our breath. She swiftly reaches up to take the wrap from my hand, tightening it around her like a shield.
I sigh and turn sideways, leaning my elbow along the top of the bench. We may have at least gotten a good start on the professional question, but there's still the personal one. "Amanda -- "
Now she cuts me off. "Lee, I've had a really nice time tonight," she says, folding her hands on top of her crossed legs and staring across the pool. "Can we just leave it at that?"
It's tempting. Boy, is it tempting. Neither of is that good at letting out our feelings, and we've already revealed quite a bit to each other tonight. But I find myself opening my mouth and saying, "No, Amanda, there's one more thing I think we need to discuss."
Now her gaze has moved down to the water below. "Look, you already apologized, and I accepted, and I think we should just move on and forget it happened."
"No," I say softly. She turns towards me in disbelief. I shake my head and reach over to take her hands in mine. "No. I don't want to pretend the other day never happened, Amanda, because I want it to happen again. I mean I want you know that I want it to happen again. Just not the way it happened." I pause with a little sigh. She's contagious. "I want another first kiss," I say sincerely, looking into her eyes.
She starts to draw back, but I squeeze her hands reassuringly. "Not right now," I say, and she relaxes. "Not any time soon. I just -- I don't want you to think that I think what happened the other day was a mistake. Just the timing of it." She tilts her head curiously and I go on, "It was just . . . too soon for us. We're, we're good friends, Amanda, and I . . . I wouldn't want . . ." I trail off in frustration. Why are these words that are so easy to say in my head so hard to say out loud?
"What about Leslie?" she asks, as I knew she would.
I give her a rueful smile. "She figured it out before I did." At her quizzical look, I continue, "Remember what you said the other day, Amanda? About being sure that it was you that I want?" She nods, and I go on in a quiet voice, "Now I'm sure."
Her eyes widen at that, and she tries to pull back again. I reluctantly let her go this time. She's looking into my eyes, and I feel like she's trying to read my mind. I try to keep my expression as open as I can, trying to show her the thoughts that I can't seem to put into words. Finally her face relaxes, and she reaches back to grasp my hand and give it a squeeze.
"Lee," she begins. "I think we . . . we do have the chance for something pretty special between us." She pauses as her gaze flickers down to my lips, and my breath comes a tiny bit faster at the remembrance of our kiss. Then she continues, "But I think like you said, it's too soon for that. We have to make sure our professional relationship is solid before we go complicating it in any way." I'm nodding at her words, and she smiles in relief. "I really did have a nice time tonight," she says shyly.
I raise her hand to my lips and give it a gentle kiss, keeping it simple. "Me too," I respond. We stare at each other for a moment more, and then I stand and proffer my crooked arm in her direction. "Shall we?"
We stroll off again in the moonlight. Inwardly I breathe a huge sigh of relief. Amanda was right -- there are some issues we have to address before we can go around making things even more complicated. But at least I have my friend and partner back by my side. And the promise that one day we will have another first kiss.