Disclaimer: Poem excerpts from Emily Dickinson. The characters and situations are from the SMK episode ‘Burnout’ which is the intellectual property of Shoot the Moon Production Company and Warner Brothers Entertainment Television. No rights were transferred, assumed, or implied. This story, insofar as it stands on it own, is mine. Please do not redistribute or reproduce in like or in kind without my express permission.
My life had stood - a
When she looked back on the afternoon, from the safety of the Bullpen, she was surprised by what it was she remembered -- and what it was she didn’t.
She remembered the color of the car she and Lee had ridden in -- an unusual creamy yellow color. A Dodge. She remembered the pentagonal logo. Four doors.
She remembered the way the grass felt under her shoes. It was dry, crackly. She would’ve expected it to be lusher, but it had been an uncommonly arid spring.
She remembered how bright the sun had been -- how there was hardly a cloud in the sky. And she remembered how cold she’d felt. How, even under that sun, she couldn’t seem to get warm.
She remembered Brackin -- how he had deliberately avoided looking at her. He’d stopped seeing her as a person. Rather, he’d seen her as a target. A target against which Lee would be forced to test his skill.
She remembered the expression on Lee’s face -- the set of his jaw, the narrow slits of his eyes, the grim line of his mouth.
But, as she ran her mind’s eye over his features and reached his hands, she could not remember what he’d held in them. A gun, yes, she knew that. What she couldn’t remember were the particulars about the gun. Was it a revolver? Or a pistol? Was it silver? Or black? She couldn’t say.
She set her pen down and rubbed her temples in frustration. How could she finish the incident report if she couldn’t even remember what type of gun her partner had been using when he shot her?
In Corners - till a day
The owner passed - identified
And carried me away
She read over what she’d written:
"At approximately 11am, on Wednesday morning Agent Stetson and I were driven to a stretch of road in Loudon County. There, Agent Stetson was ordered to shoot me. The bullet from his gun went through my sweater, and I pretended to be dead. Then I heard them talk about the old mill.She’d seen the real Lee Stetson then -- his carefully constructed façade absent in the wake of real desperation. Faced with this, she’d had no choice. She’d taken the package.
After they left, I flagged down a trucker, Travis Wayne, for help, and he drove me there."
It seemed so simple on paper -- so much less than it really was, so superficial. How was she to explain, though, that this whole ‘incident’ had really started almost two years ago, in a train station, when he had looked deeply into her eyes and asked her to trust him?
Since that morning, she’d spent many hours chastising and questioning herself. Just why had she’d agreed to go with him? Why hadn’t she simply walked away after it was all over -- back to her simpler, normal life? She’d stayed nevertheless, not for Scarecrow, but for Lee, the man who’d taken her by the elbow and said, "please," so many mornings ago.
The man who had a strange attachment to a comb with two missing teeth.
The man who’d been small enough to hit her and big enough to ask her forgiveness.
And every time I speak for him
The mountains straight - reply
She looked again at the report. There was, of course, no mention of the reports she’d filed in Lee’s name, to cover for his absence, no mention of the later encounter in the bar when she’d tried to persuade Lee to return to work, not realizing that he was already working. And there was no mention of the fact that he’d slapped her.
She had no difficulty in remembering that. She remembered the way it had echoed in her ears like a gunshot echoing in the hills. She remembered the way the side of her face had felt cold even as it burned. She remembered the way the tears had pricked at the corners of her eyes and how she’d had to swallow them back. She would not have, could not have, let him see her cry.
She remembered the look in his eyes -- a fear and shock that seemed to match her own. She remembered her confusion. She knew she was seeing him, she could recognize every time he let his guard down. She walked away, blinded with anger and frustration. She could see that he hadn’t wanted to hurt her, so why had he?
And do I smile, such
His change in attitude hadn’t even registered with her when he’d helped her change her tire and set up the meeting in the café.
It was only later, as she drank her ice water, trying to calm herself, that she had realized that Lee was behaving, well . . . normally.
She couldn’t stop the smile from escaping, and of course, he’d called her on it.
The ensuing conversation had led back to the confrontation in the bar. As he’d tried to raise the subject and pay her a fumbling apology, she’d seen the flash of pain in his eyes. She’d already forgiven him and accepted what he’d done. There had been no need for more words, no room for any more apologies or explanations, so she wouldn’t let him say them.
She looked back down at her two meager paragraphs. Yes, there was more than what she had written, but that was not the business of the Agency. There was no need for more words, no room for the history behind them, so she wouldn’t write them.
And when at Night - our
Good Day Done
"Lee, could you look this over for me?" She stood next to his desk in the bullpen, the incident report clutched tightly in her hands. Though it was supposed to be her version of the events, she still felt a need to share it with him before she handed it in to Mr. Melrose.
"What is it?"
"It’s the incident report, from the . . . Brackin case. I thought maybe you could check over what I wrote." She held it out for him.
"Oh, yeah, sure." He took it from her and flipped the cover back. As he read, he absently pulled his lower lip between his teeth, betraying the depth of his concentration.
Finally, he closed the folder and sighed. "Well, this looks . . . complete." He returned it to her.
Thank you. I wasn’t sure I had . . . well, you know . . ." She began to walk away, but he caught her hand.
Yes?" She looked back at his eyes, seeing once again that he’d lowered his guard -- trusting her as much as he’d so often asked her to trust him.
"Are you okay?"
"Oh, yeah, Lee, I'm fine."She couldn’t understand where the question had come from.
"You know I’d never . . ." He couldn’t finish the statement, but she anticipated his words.
"I know." She squeezed the hand that held hers, and then reluctantly pulled it back. "I have to get this report to Mr. Melrose."
She started to walk away and then called back over her shoulder."Oh,
Lee?" At his questioning glance, she repeated, "I really am okay."
Author’s Notes: I don’t normally do sequels. However, I got a very nice email request recently for a piece covering the same material as ‘Zen’ but from Amanda’s POV. My first thought was, ‘no WAY can I do that.’ Then, I decided that I wasn’t going to let myself say ‘can’t,’ and took it as a challenge. I hope my characterization rings true, b/c I find Amanda to be a much more complex character than Lee.
The title translates from German into ‘being.’ It is pronounced ‘zine’ (rhymes with ‘sign’). I chose it both for the meaning and the way it sounds similar to ‘zen.’
I owe a debt of gratitude also to my lovely beta. You know who you are; thank you soooooo much!