As always, I welcome all feedback (good, bad or indifferent) and you are welcome to do it on-list or to my privately at raoul1@advant.com or dkluge@uiuc.edu.

Original Posting Date: December 10, 2001

Disclaimer: See end of story.

Archiving: It will go to Fanfic.net and smkfanfic.com. Anyone else, please ask.

Rating: G

Timeline: Late second season.

Synopsis: Francine poses a question that starts Amanda thinking.

This is in response to Ashley and Danielle's ABC song fan fic challenge.

Just a quick note before anyone calls me on this. The album that contains this song was released in February 1987, which was during 4th season, and I've set this story sometime in late 2nd season. I can only defend myself by saying that Danielle told us we could do this!

And thanks to my beta readers, Pam and Chris. As always, their feedback was invaluable.

Just Because
by
Debbie Kluge

"Well, this has certainly been a wasted evening."

Amanda looked over at her co-worker and tried to control her temper. It had been a long evening and she was really getting tired of this.

"Look, I'm tired, too, but this is our assignment so we just have to stick with it."

"I'm not tired," Amanda's companion exclaimed indignantly. "I'm just bored! It's Friday night and we've spent our entire evening sitting here in this second rate club, listening to bad country music, and watching lover boy over there being hit on by every female in the place."

Amanda sighed, admitting privately that it hadn't been one of her better nights, either. When Lee asked her if she wanted to help out on this assignment, she had been thrilled. A club that had live music appealed to her, and she thought spending an evening with him would be wonderful. It wasn't until later that he admitted that they weren't going to be alone on this operation. In fact, he wasn't going to be with her at all. Her job would be to watch his back while he tried to make contact with a woman who claimed to have vital information for sale. It was a sting operation. The woman was supposedly trying to sell government secrets and Lee was a prospective buyer. The problem was that they only knew her by a code name - no one had ever seen her. So they were to go to this club and wait to be contacted. And, as Amanda discovered, she was to be paired with Francine Desmond for the evening.

And Francine was certainly right in her assessment of what they had been doing. Lee seemed to be the target of every female in the place. Amanda had given up counting the number of times he'd been hit on. Not that she could blame any of the women. In tight, low-riding blue jeans, an open-necked red and blue plaid shirt that fit snugly across his chest and shoulders, and a well-worn pair of boots, he seemed to exude masculinity. Sternly, she resisted the urge to pick up the laminated half-sheet of card stock that served as a menu and fan herself with it. The man simply had no right to be that gorgeous.

As though reading Amanda's thoughts, Francine propped her chin in her hand and gazed across the room thoughtfully. "You know, I really can't figure it out."

"What?"

"Stetson. Yeah, he's really good looking. And he's got that cocky self-assurance that can be attractive, but what is it about him that's capable of making women melt? I mean, look at that . . ."

Amanda followed her gaze and saw yet another fair-haired woman approach him. "I don't know, Francine. You tell me. From what I've heard, you had a relationship with him once. What was it that attracted you?" As she said it, movement to her left caught her attention and she turned her head to see musicians picking up instruments and preparing for the next act.

"How did you find out about that?" Francine replied rather stiffly, but then relented when Amanda turned to look at her again. "Okay, okay . . . everyone at the Agency knows about it, so I guess I'm not surprised you've heard. Let me give you a friendly piece of advice, Amanda. Don't get caught up by his charm. Personal involvement with Lee Stetson only brings heartache."

"So I've heard . . . from any number of people. But that doesn't answer my question, Francine."

The other woman tried to look nonchalant. "Of course, I can't speak for anyone else, but Lee and I got involved at a time when I was really vulnerable. I'd just come off a relationship that turned out very badly, and I think he was lonely, too. We just kind of gravitated to each other. It was fun while it lasted, but it fell apart soon enough. Lee just doesn't do serious relationships. It's not the way he's built."

But there was something in Francine's tone that warned Amanda there was more to it than that. Very gently, she said, "You loved him, didn't you?"

The blonde stared at the man in question for a long time. Music suddenly filled the room, as the musicians on the stage began warming up, and Amanda had to lean forward to hear her when Francine finally shrugged and replied, "I thought I did. That's what I mean about not getting it." Francine looked at Amanda helplessly, her natural defenses down for the first time since Amanda had met her. "What is it about him that makes us want to be a part of his life so desperately, even when we know that it's going to be a disaster? And don't tell me you don't know what I mean, Amanda, because you do. I've seen the look on your face, just like it was once on mine. What does he do to us?"

Amanda tried to control her dismay at Francine's remarkably insightful comment as she contemplated the question. The band broke into a slow, melodious song as a lovely brunette stepped to the mike and began to sing.

Have you ever loved someone you knew nothing of
Except you'd seen the light inside their eyes?
Have you ever loved someone just because
Nothing felt so easy or so right?

With sudden clarity, Amanda remembered her first encounter with Lee Stetson. When he had caught her by the shoulders and turned her away from the train Dean had just boarded, she remembered being frightened. But when she had looked into his eyes, there had been something there . . . something so elusive she couldn't name it, even today. It had touched her, and somehow, the thought of helping him had seemed . . . right.

And I think of you like the others do,
Wondering if you think of me.
And if you do, if you really do,
Who is it that you see?

She watched the blonde that stood with him now. Even from this distance, she had an enraptured expression on her face . . . an expression Amanda had seen on other faces. What do they see? she asked herself. Do they see beyond the good looks and charming smile, to the sensitive man beneath the fašade? As she watched, he turned from the woman and picked up his drink. She wondered what he was thinking. Was he having fun? Everyone always said he enjoyed this game. He glanced up and from across the room, their gazes locked. She felt her breath catch and thought, I can't possibly compete with someone like her. What in heaven's name do you see when you look at me?

Have you ever loved,
Whether right or wrong?
Have you ever loved someone
Just because . . .

Amanda shook her head and looked away. What am I doing? This is crazy . . . "I don't know, Francine. There's just something about him that attracts women, I guess."

"But what?" the other woman asked in frustration. "How is he capable of doing this to us with a single look?"

Have you ever tried to speak the truth instead of lie,
When it seemed you had everything to lose?
Have you ever tried to stand your ground instead of hide,
When staying only made you look a fool?

Amanda thought uneasily of the times she'd seen him vulnerable and in pain, the suave agent stripped away to reveal the insecure, emotionally scarred man beneath. How many times had she been on the brink of telling him how she really felt, only to draw back in fear . . . fear of how he would react? She knew people talked, wondering why she put up with his attitudes and his sharp tongue. I don't fit in his world . . . regularly make a fool of myself. So why do I stay? Not because I think it will make a difference, certainly. Francine's right. Lee Stetson isn't the marrying kind.

And I stayed by you though I think I knew
It wouldn't change a thing.
Changes come to hearts with ease
But they come so hard to me.

Hearing the words to the song going on in the background she suddenly shivered, struck by how they seemed to be echoing her train of thought.

Have you ever tried to make it last, not knowing why,
Except you had to try?
Just because . . .

Is that what I'm doing? she asked herself, trying to prolong things simply because I can't stand the thought of him being out of my life?

And every day that passes now, I s'pose I'm getting older;
Wiser with the things I've done.
But I hope I don't grow colder.

She remembered his expression at the train station again . . . so desperate . . . so hopeful. It seemed such a long time ago now. If it happened to her again today, would she still react the same way she had that day? Or had the job changed her . . . made her less capable of caring?

And now I see the ones, who've lost so much.
They swear they're done
With love and all the chance it brings for pain.

Surreptitiously, she looked over at Francine. She had said she'd come off of a relationship that ended badly. But Amanda knew more than the woman thought she did. Francine had been left standing at the altar by a man she had loved deeply. Now, she took great care not to let anyone too close. Wealthy, older men were much more her taste. Safe men. The kind whose money and prestige could provide security, while not making her risk her heart again. Distant, sarcastic, catty . . . that was certainly Francine most of the time. That it was her method of defense didn't change the reality of who she had become since that emotionally devastating experience. Is that who I'll be in ten years?

But have you ever touched, and by itself it was enough
To make you want to reach out once again?

But there was more to life than that. She remembered the day she had been kidnapped by the KGB and Lee had defied the Agency to trade a top Russian spy to get her back. His arms had been so strong and warm as he held her, giving her back that feeling of security that had been stripped away when they had taken her. And the expression on his face in Nedlingers when he had struck her . . . After that incident, she had come to realize that in some strange way, he needed her.

And I'll touch you when I need a friend,
Or just a small reminder,
That I haven't grown too cold to feel.
You penetrate my armor.

Returning her gaze to him, she knew with sudden certainty that no matter what else existed between them, they had become friends and he did need her. Even Mr. Melrose says it . . . I get to him. Make him more careful. Maybe even make him care about the world a little more.

Have you ever loved,
Whether right or wrong,

"I don't know, Francine. Maybe there's no answer to the question of how he does what he does," Amanda finally replied.

Have you ever loved someone
Just because . . .

"Maybe it's just a question of one heart reaching out to another. Sometimes the connection is made and sometimes it isn't."

"And sometimes you just can't control it at all," Francine acknowledged glumly.

"Love and attraction are strange things," Amanda agreed. She gestured toward the bar, where a suddenly flurry of activity had just erupted. "Looks like things are breaking."

"Yeah," the other woman agreed, perking up. "Maybe this evening won't be a total loss after all."

But as Francine crossed the room quickly to help Lee handcuff the blonde he had been talking to earlier, Amanda hung back. She watched him, slightly overwhelmed by a strange combination of joy, pain, elation, and fear that she had finally come to recognize for what it was . . . love. Love for a man who might never feel the same for her. And why did she feel this way? She shook her head sadly. "You are an idiot, Amanda King," she murmured softly and then moved to join them at the bar.

Have you ever loved someone
Just because?

THE END

"Just Because", Mary Chapin Carpenter, 1987, CBS Records, Inc., from Hometown Girl by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and all characters, logos, and likenesses therein, are the property of Shoot the Moon Productions and Warner Brothers Entertainment Television. No copyright infringement is intended by their use in this story. All other material, copyright 2001 by Deborah A. Kluge. All rights reserved. Characters and stories are in no way affiliated with, approved of or endorsed by Shoot the Moon Productions or Warner Brothers Entertainment Television. This is created by a fan for other fans out of love and respect for the show, and is strictly a non-profit endeavor.