Summary:Utopia Now filler - Takes place right after the near kiss, and continues until the next morning.
Disclaimer:All the characters in this story are copyrighted to Warner Brothers and Shoot The Moon Production Company. An excerpt is used from the original script which was written by: Robert Bielak. The rest of the story belongs to the author. A thank you to Chel for beta reading it for me and for the couple of others who have added their advice.
"Over there!" the yell came floating across the marsh.
Lee and Amanda jerked apart and Lee used his foot to quickly snuff out the small fire, as they held their breaths waiting.
"I see something." Came another shout.
The loud mechanical click of a gun being readied caught Lee's ears. "Get down," he whispered urgently, while unwrapping his arm from around Amanda and pushing her face down on the ground just as the bullets started flying their direction.
"Hold your fire, hold your fire," yelled Sacker. "You'll wake up the whole country side! Point those lights toward the ground. Did you get them?" he questioned.
"I'll check it out," volunteered one of the men.
Sacker thought for only a moment. "Forget it, there's quicksand and god knows what out there. They'll never get through it tonight. Post two men here tonight to make sure they don't come out the way they went in. In the morning we'll come back and have ourselves a good old-fashioned manhunt."
As Lee and Amanda maintained their prone positions, they heard the group of men load into their jeeps and drive away. Lee glanced up and across the swampy marsh. A thick cloud of fog had rolled in and obscured the other side from view. He knew from Sacker's last words that two men were over there waiting. However, he smiled slightly to himself. If he couldn't see them, then they probably couldn't see him either. He quickly scanned the area around them, but everything was dark and eerie.
He knew they didn't dare risk escaping until they could at least see a few feet in front of them. "I think we ought to get a little rest," he whispered to Amanda, "We've got a long day ahead of us." He felt rather than saw her nod of agreement and then they both moved at the same time trying to get comfortable for the night, only to be pulled up short by the chain linking them together.
"Amanda!" growled Lee.
"Shh!" she whispered.
"I like to sleep on my right." stated Lee, only to hear Amanda whisper back. "I like to sleep on my left side." Lee paused a moment, thinking, then levered himself just slightly off the ground. "Well there's no reason we can't both be comfortable," he stated quietly. "But, Amanda, we're going to have to lay a whole lot closer together. This chain just doesn't allow for anything else."
He moved closer to her as he spoke, trying to gauge her reaction. He knew from past experience that she had strong convictions about even sleeping next to a man in what could be a compromising position. He edged as close as he dared, until he could feel the warmth of her body next to him.
Now they lay facing each other, close, but not touching with the chain lying between them. Placing his right arm under his head, Lee settled himself as best he could and felt Amanda doing the same beside him. "Good night," he heard her whisper as if this were the most natural circumstance in the world. He placed his left hand over her right giving it a quick squeeze. He knew from her quivery voice that she was still a bit scared and yet here she was taking everything in stride. He just shook his head, as he murmured his own "good night," marveling at her adaptability.
Closing his eyes, Lee commanded his body to rest, knowing he wouldn't get much sleep that night. He knew that every little sound would draw his attention added to the fact that he was unused to sleeping on the hard ground out in the open.
After a few moments he heaved a sigh and tried to get a little more comfortable. Damn was that a rock digging into his side? Sure enough, he sat up slightly and removed it before taking another look around and laying back down. Glancing over at Amanda, he could barely make out her form in the dense darkness, but could tell by her quiet steady breathing that she was already asleep. She must be truly exhausted to fall asleep so quickly and soundly.
Sighing again, he placed his arm back under his head and closed his eyes to get what rest he could. It sure was dark. He hated the dark. And all around him were the sounds of the swamp night life. Frogs were croaking back and forth and the crickets seemed overly loud. Some sort of bird was squawking in a tree near by, and he was sure he could hear all kinds of rodents and such skittering in the grass. Hopefully they would keep their distance. He heard Amanda sigh softly in her sleep and wondered how she did it. No matter what they threw her way, she always adapted and rose above it. She was honest enough with herself and with others to admit when she was scared, yet she never seemed to let that stop her.
He thought back over the past couple years to some of the various situations she had found herself in and how well she had handled herself. He thought back even further to some of the bits and pieces he knew of her life before he had met her and realized that her life, while different from his, had been probably every bit as difficult. Yet she maintained her cheerfulness, her ability to trust and believe in people, her willingness to step out and help someone in need. He knew that at first that was what had drawn her to him, although back then he had been sure she was responding to his good looks and charm.
Her heart just automatically went out to someone in trouble. He remembered using those very words to her. Many times over the past several years he wished he had never given her that package. It was because of him that she had been forced to handle so many dangerous situations. And yet he was honest enough to admit, at least to himself, that deep inside he was glad he had, because otherwise he would never have known her.
As they had encountered each other several times during that package fiasco, he had found himself liking her, yet a little miffed that she didn't automatically fall all over him as the other women in his life had. Even during those first few encounters he had been drawn to her, he realized.
He admitted to himself now that even then he had been trying to impress her. And she had been impressed, and intrigued, and eager to help and so incredibly sweet and naive. He had loved watching Francine and Billy's reaction to her. She had touched a place deep inside him that he hadn't even known was there. He had found himself responding to her questions almost automatically, telling her things that he would never have told anyone else on such short acquaintance, let alone a civilian. And yet at the same time he had been drawn to her, but he had also felt slightly uncomfortable around her.
She seemed to see right into him and sometimes right through him. Some of the charm that had other woman melting in a puddle had just left her giving him an 'are you for real' smile or rolling her eyes and saying "Oh please . . . " He remembered how glad he had been to see her head popping up from behind the car as they were loading him into the helicopter, and yet how humbling it had been for the great Scarecrow to be rescued by a woman. And not even a hard_nosed trained agent one at that, but a soft, appealing housewife in a cub scout uniform who had figured out what had stumped a dozen trained agents. And she had done it on her own, without any fancy equipment or access to any of the information that the agency could tap into. She had really surprised him.
He had pushed her away so often in those first days, attracted to her and yet feeling so vulnerable in her company, both of which he didn't want anyone in the agency to realize. Every time he had pushed her away, he had been left with a sour feeling in his gut, as if he had just squished one of those pretty little butterflies that fluttered around the park. And yet even though he knew they had hurt her feelings so many times during those first days, she had been willing to forgive them and give whatever help she could, every time they came asking. In their smugness they had tended to laugh at her and ridicule her naivete. It was only later that he realized that she had found some of their behavior and attitudes just as amusing, only she had been too polite to laugh in their faces. He could still hear her telling him that one of his problems was that he was out of touch with the real world, with normal people.
She had been right.
He remembered how he had teased Francine about the generosity and stamina of the American housewife. They had been talking sexually at the time, yet over the next few months he had come to realize that those words described Amanda quite well. She was generous to a fault, always willing to help out, even in the most mundane ways, always willing to give of herself and her time. Her stamina and energy seemed to be almost never ending.
He didn't know many women who could handle the type of load she did and were able to do it as well as she did. Work, kids, house, charities, after_school activities. She handled everything she did with finesse and courage and a cheerfulness that spilled over onto the people around her.
He knew now that he had felt strongly for her almost from the first. He had found himself thinking about her at odd moments, and driving by her house several times a week just to make sure she was all right. He couldn't remember when he had felt such an odd hodgepodge of emotions for any other woman.
He felt her shiver in her sleep next to him and quietly edged himself closer, using his left arm to pull her into his body, careful not to let the chain jangle too much and awaken her. He could feel the chill emanating from her body. He snuggled her as close to his side as he could and then rolling slightly used his body as a shield and blanket.
His efforts put him almost totally on top of her. He held his breath, expecting her to wake up at any moment and protest. But she just sighed in her sleep and snuggled even closer. Lee could feel the chill leaving her body to be replaced with warmth.
He smiled, feeling as if in some small way he was repaying her for the way she had allowed her warmth to overflow into his life and remove the chill from his existence. He couldn't believe how right it felt to just hold her this way. How right it always felt to have her in his arms.
He had tried for so long to deny his feeling for her. Partly he knew it was because of what others might say, and partly because he had been unsure of how to proceed with someone of Amanda's quality. Primarily however, it was because he was just plain chicken. He had lost everyone who had ever mattered to him and he didn't want to set himself up to be on the losing end of the stick again.
Holding her close like this, he acknowledged to himself that he was already half in love with Amanda. If not completely. He didn't have much experience with love and what he did have had left a sour taste in his mouth. Somehow he just knew that things were different this time. Everything was so intense, and confusing.
He knew that he cared about her in a way he had never cared about anyone since his parents. He had worried about her, been baffled by her, worked with her, argued with her and laughed with her. And somewhere in all that he had allowed her to work her way into his heart. Many times he had wondered what it would be like to be with her, but had always pulled back from going there. Telling himself that the chances of things going any further between them were next to impossible. Amanda had a very full and satisfying life already. She seemed to want and enjoy their friendship as much as he did, but even though he had sensed her interest in more at times, she had never really hinted that she wanted more. She seemed to be satisfied with the status quo.
He knew that she had found Alan Chamberland attractive and she had been drawn to him. Thinking about that, he could remember the churning in his gut as he had given her the few moments alone with Alan that she had asked for. As he had walked away, he had heard her softly apologizing to the man for deceiving him.
Glancing back over his shoulder a moment later, he had been surprised to witness Alan reaching out to embrace her and give her a kiss goodbye. Not on the cheek like a friend would, but on her lips, as a lover would. It was just a short kiss but Amanda had returned it, and then stood there for a moment watching as he walked away to rejoin his sister.
As a friend, Lee had felt for her, but another deeper part of him was glad the guy was going back to Rome. She had been quiet on the drive back to the agency, kinda of introspective and that had scared him a bit, but then she had shaken off the mood and returned to his normal Amanda.
She had told him once that good memories were meant to be stored away and pulled out on those days when everything seemed grey or hopeless so the magic of their warmth could bring you through to the other side. He wondered if she had stored the memories of her time with Alan away to enjoy some other day.
As for himself, he had found over the past several weeks that other women didn't even hold much appeal anymore. He had finally admitted that he had been using them as a replacement for Amanda for a long time, which wasn't fair to himself, Amanda or the other women. It was Amanda he wanted in his life, even if their relationship never went a step further.
He knew that what he had with Amanda was not only special, but very rare and he wasn't about to muck it up by trying to grab more than she was willing to give. He would keep her in his life even if that meant continuing to live on the fringes of her life, even if it was only in his dreams that he held her. Or on assignment, like now. He could feel the heat from her body seeping into his, and lying there with her he felt the peace and contentment he had come to associate with her presence. He knew that this moment would be one of those memories that he tucked away to pull out at another time and relive, and that he would probably be pulling it out quite often.
With a smile he drifted into sleep.
A couple of hours later, he was awakened by the slight movements of Amanda stirring. He was still laying partially beside her and partially on top of her, although her hand was now laying contentedly against his chest. He forced himself to lay still feigning sleep to avoid any awkward embarrassment and he admitted that he was curious to see what she would do once she was fully awake and aware of their position.
The answer wasn't long in coming.
She squirmed slightly still mostly asleep and then yawned delicately, shaking her head slightly in an effort to wake herself up. Suddenly she stiffened in his arms and he knew the fact that their bodies were tangled up together had just dawned on her. Still feigning sleep and forcing himself to breathe evenly, he waited.
She lifted her hand to run it through her hair and covered another yawn. Then she pressed it tenderly against his chest again, using it as leverage to gently try to push herself away from him. When she couldn't untangle her legs from underneath his, she pressed against his chest a bit more firmly, glancing up into his face.
"Lee!" she whispered. She waited a moment and tried to untangle herself again, before sighing gently in defeat. "Lee!" she whispered more urgently, gently shaking his arm with her hand.
Lee decided to let her win. He acted as if he were just waking up. "What?" he muttered as if half asleep and then stifled a yawn as he eased the weight of his body off hers slightly. He almost groaned in agony as she took advantage of the moment and gently slid her body from underneath his, putting a small space between them.
"Lee . . . I think we should probably be trying to get out of here now," she whispered as she saw his eyes open. The sun wasn't up yet and it was still slightly dark, but the fog had lifted and they could see the moon shining up above.
Glancing around him and realizing that he could see for several yards all around them, he nodded his agreement and quietly sat up. He looked across the marsh but it was still dark enough with a haze of lingering fog hanging over the water that visibility allowed him to see only part way across. If he couldn't see the other side, then neither could the guards Sacker had posted.
Looking down at Amanda's anxious face, he gave her a reasserting grin. "You're right. If we pick our way carefully, we can be well out of their visual line before the sun starts to come up. Stay sitting for a moment," he told her placing a restraining hand on her shoulder as he cautiously half stood up.
No shouts, no gun shots.
Good. He held his hand down to help Amanda to her feet. "Which way?" he whispered, knowing that her sense of direction and natural instincts were better in this setting then his were.
She glanced around her and then up at the moon, before pointing off into the woods behind them, slightly to the left. "That way," she whispered.
Turning, Lee quickly wrapped the length of chain around his wrist a couple of times and then took her hand. "Won't rattle this way," he explained as he moved off cautiously in the direction she had pointed. Remembering Sacker's words about quicksand and god knows what else, he knew they would have to be extremely careful.
Quietly and slowly, they picked their way over the ground
leaving the vicinity and the men posted to watch them behind.