Title: 'Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought'
Author: Kim D.
Time Frame: First Season, during the episode 'Remembrance of Things Past'.
Type: Filler--true to canon.
Disclaimer: 'Scarecrow & Mrs. King' is the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. Scenes and dialogue from the episode 'Remembrance of Things Past', written by Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner; and the complete text of Sonnet XXX, written by William Shakespeare, were borrowed to aid in the continuity of this story. I give these writers the credit they so justly deserve, although I have a feeling that Shakespeare would just be happy to know that people are still interested in his work! The rest of the story belongs to the author and is for entertainment purposes only. No infringement of rights is intended.
Author's Notes: The title of the episode, 'Remembrance of Things Past' has always appealed to me, but I never really stopped to consider what it implied. Then it occurred to me that I had seen that phrase somewhere else, and not in relation to SMK. Shakespeare used those exact words in a sonnet about a man who has spent his life cut-off from emotion, and who now decides to take inventory of his feelings. This sounded surprisingly similar to our own Lee Stetson. I began to wonder why the writers of this episode chose their title from this particular sonnet, and this story was born.
First, I think that it's widely agreed that Amanda's influence and unwavering friendship helped Lee to face his past and overcome the demons that had haunted him since childhood. We see prime examples of this in several episodes, from 'A Relative Affair', to 'We're Off To See the Wizard', and ultimately in 'Unfinished Business'. I've often speculated, though, on just when her influence first began to assert itself.
Second, and more subjective, is whether or not Lee consciously recognized the moment that he began to change. And, if he were aware, how would he have reacted? It obviously didn't happen overnight, but it very well could have started as early as first season, especially since the kind of life-altering transformation that Lee underwent over the course of the series was a time-consuming process.
So, with those things in mind, I started this piece, using Sonnet XXX to frame the sections, and to foreshadow the changes that Lee was destined to experience over the next three years.
Here is a link to a terrific page with a short explanation of this sonnet. Some of you may find it interesting or helpful, so please check it out--either before or after you read this.
Finally, I want to thank my oh-so-patient beta (you know who you are!) I sent her the first draft of this story way back in August, and she stuck with me until I finally finished the darn thing! This was my first time engaging a fellow list member to beta-read my work, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I highly recommend it to anyone who has been reluctant to seek out a beta within the SMK community. Thanks and enjoy!
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past
Lee Stetson peered through the high powered lenses of his Agency-issue binoculars, scanning a wide strip of grassy lawn, closely clipped and peppered with expertly chiseled marble stones; stones that marked the final resting-place of many a D.C. resident. Here and there, surrounding these mini-memorials, stately trees stood sentinel, offering cover for loved ones of the deceased.
Of course, Lee recognized that those same trees could also offer a shadowy hiding place for someone who wanted to remain hidden. Lurking there unseen, a man could watch the group of mourners assembled around the flag-draped coffin beside the freshly dug grave.
Lee leaned forward, propping his elbows on the steering wheel of his mud-brown sedan. He wished that he could risk getting out of the car to move in closer, but it didn't seem wise. If he stayed where he was, he was confident that he would escape notice. It wouldn't do to have someone discover him spying on his own funeral, especially if that someone was his 'killer.'
No, he needed to keep his distance, hoping to be the one doing the spotting. It was a long shot, he knew, but there was always the chance that the man who'd attacked him would show up at the cemetery, and Lee wasn't going to waste a single opportunity to catch the bastard.
He continued to survey the park-like setting until he was finally certain all was clear. Not even the lonely squirrel that dashed behind a distant mausoleum escaped his notice. It was only then that Lee gave his full attention to the service being held in commemoration of his life. He'd actually given in to his curiosity and taken a peek at the funeral when it first began, thinking at the time that it was the ultimate act of voyeurism. And yet, now that he'd done the job he came to do, he couldn't help but watch.
Less than twenty people surrounded the mahogany box that they believed held the remains of their fallen colleague, but Lee was surprised that even that many had turned out. Although he spoke to most of these men and women often, he hardly knew any of them.
He watched with detachment as several of his coworkers and associates stepped forward to say a few words in his honor. These people were friends by circumstance or necessity, not by choice. He knew their professional detachment would make it possible to weather his passing with little more than a fleeting thought. They'd share a toast and a moment of silence, and then they would move on.
That was how it should be, he thought, how he would react if the situation were reversed. It was this same attitude that had helped him endure a lifetime of staggering losses, while making it possible for him to be an effective agent. That indifference, coupled with what some would consider a less than healthy dose of cynicism, was the cornerstone of his life.
Lee suddenly realized that he was thinking of himself in the past tense, as if the casket soon to be lowered into the ground actually contained his body. He chuckled, finding humor in the darkness of the situation.
And then he saw Amanda King.
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste
She was crying. Even from a distance he could see her shoulders tremble as the man next to her offered her a tissue. Lee paused, and wondered how she was able to shed tears so freely over his death. He'd often treated her with contempt, rarely even giving her the courtesy of a hello or a thank you. He didn't know what to do with this knowledge that she could mourn him, despite his callous treatment.
He also couldn't remember the last time someone had cried for him. He told himself he liked it that way: no emotional entanglements, no shared feelings. In short, none of the baggage that came with most relationships. He had convinced himself that he purposefully arranged his life in this manner, not wanting to acknowledge that he'd been shaped by past events that led him on his present-day course
Lee's thoughts were interrupted as the mourners began to disperse, slowly moving away from his graveside. He watched as Francine set a gold-labeled bottle of Dom Perignon on top of the red, white and blue cloth that represented everything that he had lived, and supposedly died for, before she, too, turned aside. No tears there, he thought with a snort, but it was a sarcastic thought that he instantly regretted. Francine was making what was, for her, a touching gesture.
The fact that Amanda was crying shouldn't diminish that, and yet somehow, it did. What he found even harder to accept was how Amanda's open, unapologetic weeping left him feeling that his own practiced aloofness was an inadequacy rather than an asset.
He tightened his grip on the binoculars as feelings of frustration caused a similar tightening in his chest. This scene shouldn't have had this kind of effect on him. She shouldn't have this kind of effect.
The crowd quickly dwindled until only two mourners remained. Lee shrugged away the uncomfortable emotions that invaded his thoughts, and watched as Billy stepped over to share a few words with Amanda. Lee cocked his head, unconsciously trying to hear their conversation.
He assumed that Billy was trying to comfort Amanda, although the few words he could offer her would make little difference. As far as Amanda was concerned, Lee Stetson was dead. But, then Amanda did something that truly surprised him. He watched as she leaned in to place a kiss on Billy's cheek, a thoughtful gesture that caught Lee off-guard. She was obviously upset, and yet she was taking the time to show compassion for someone else. This type of consideration was rare in Lee's world, but it looked so natural coming from Amanda. The cruelty of this situation occurred to him then. He had been so confident of his peers' reaction to the news of his death that he hadn't considered what it might mean to someone as unaffected as Amanda King. He had drawn her into this world of intrigue and subterfuge such a short time ago, and although she had experienced a great deal in those three months, he knew she was still woefully unprepared for the harsh reality of his business.
Not him, though. He knew what to expect, and he was prepared for every eventuality. He hated to indulge in sentiment, and he silently berated himself for the path his thoughts had taken a few moments earlier. One could all too easily be swept away by emotion.
Nevertheless, as he watched Billy and Amanda walk away from his empty coffin, he found himself thinking back on all the funerals he had attended in his lifetime. He took an accounting of the people he had loved and lost, and when he did, he found the list was far too long.
His parents had been taken from him when he was still too young to understand the loss.
His first true friend in the business, whose code name Dorothy would forever be linked to his, had died in his arms.
And his partner, whose death was still so fresh in Lee's mind that he couldn't utter the man's name, refused even to think it, had taken a bullet that was meant for him. The list went on and on.
His emotional ledger was definitely in the red.
An uncomfortable idea wove its way through Lee's mind. Perhaps—in his effort to remain strong, to retain that detachment that he prized so highly—perhaps…. Perhaps he had never truly grieved.
And weep afresh love's long since canceled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight
No. He'd grieved, damn it. Of course he'd grieved. Crying wasn't the only way to express the pain of loss. So what if he hadn't shed a tear; he was a man, after all.
And real men don't cry.
The Colonel's words flashed through Lee's mind, and for one weightless, shimmering moment, he was a five-year-old child again, hopelessly lost and frightened, but under orders not to show his fear. His mother would have let him cry, would have told him to let it all out. She would have held him, stroking his brow and rocking him until his sobs subsided. Perhaps this was what Amanda did when her children awakened in the night, frightened by dreams of faceless monsters stalking them through the darkness.
But that was his nightmare. Amanda's children had yet to know that level of fear or sadness. He hoped they never would, but if they did, he knew their mother would be there for them, encouraging them to share their burden with her.
Lee lowered the binoculars, a new but altogether more familiar feeling invading his psyche. Anger.
He was angry now, suddenly and without reason.
He was angry with himself for this foray into self-pity.
He was angry with his uncle for hoarding the love that he should have lavished on his small nephew, not just in the beginning, but for the entire span of his childhood.
Also, and perhaps most unreasonably, he was angry with Amanda for opening up wounds he hadn't even realized he'd sustained. He didn't have the time, or the desire, to rehash his past. His childhood was over long ago, and besides, self-reflection was a waste of his mental energy. He tossed the binoculars into the passenger seat, slammed the car into reverse, and sped away just fast enough to leave his thoughts behind him.
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
Lee had spent the past three nights in hiding, trying to recover from his knife wound while he and Billy figured out the best way to solve this case. Now it was Friday evening and, with his funeral out of the way a few hours earlier, Lee was ready to put their plan -into action.
The truth was that it wasn't much of a plan. The killer was obviously well connected in the espionage business, which meant enlisting the help of someone inside the Agency was risky. Billy would be able to help but, as Section Chief, he was virtually chained to his desk. They needed someone to do their footwork; someone who could move around inside the Agency freely and yet remain unnoticed--someone like Amanda.
The fact that her family was going away for a weekend of sightseeing in Colonial Williamsburg solved Lee's housing problems as well. Up until now, he'd been able to move from place to place without being recognized, but his luck couldn't hold out much longer. He took a risk each time he left his room or ordered take-out. So, he pulled his things together, checked out of the motel, and headed for Maplewood Drive.
He maneuvered his vehicle through Amanda's quiet Arlington neighborhood, and parked a few doors down from her home to wait for her family to leave.
A short time later a large van filled with laughing children and patient-looking adults pulled into the driveway. Lee watched with detached amusement as Phillip and Jamie threw open their front door. He even chuckled as they ducked quickly back inside the house, and then dashed out again, their arms loaded with gear. It wouldn't be long now before Mrs. West and her two energetic grandsons would be off for a weekend of fun and sightseeing. Soon he would have to talk to Amanda. Suddenly, Lee felt some of his earlier guilt seeping back in.
'Get over it already. You need to focus,' Lee berated himself. He knew he'd have to face Amanda in a mere matter of moments and admit to a deception she might not be able to forgive. It was a necessary deception, he reminded himself, but would Amanda understand that? And why did it matter to him that she should?
He grabbed his duffel bag and got out of the car, shutting the door behind him, and made his way to Amanda's backyard in silence. He wanted to be sure that the group waiting in front of the house didn't see him, so he took a longer route than usual. That meant weaving his way past several hedges, and hopping her next-door neighbor's fence, but he still came out of the bushes only a few feet away from the house. Now, all that separated him from her family room was a dozen panes of glass, and Lee's own reluctance to take the next, necessary step.
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before
Lee squared his shoulders and, with a deep breath, shrugged off a feeling that could only be described as embarrassment. He was unsure of how to proceed. How did one go about rising from the dead? Should he knock, or just walk in? Would it be better to announce his presence, or risk sending her into cardiac arrest when he suddenly and miraculously appeared—something he knew she hated even in the best of circumstances? His momentary uneasiness was forgotten, though, as Amanda's voice carried out on to the patio.
She was talking to her mother, saying goodbye and assuring her that she would be all right … that she just needed to be alone. There was also something about plants, but Lee knew better than to try to make sense of any train of thought Amanda might be on. He continued to listen, waiting for Dotty to leave.
Another moment passed before Amanda spoke again. He could hear her voice catch as she choked back a sob. "The hardest part about this work is the feelings. Lee said not to get involved. He was right about that."
The mention of his name turned out to be all the encouragement Lee needed. He turned the knob and walked inside just in time to see Amanda nod to herself, several large teardrops rolling down her cheeks. He hesitated for a fraction of a second before his instincts kicked in and told him to take a lighthearted approach—anything to stem this newest flood of tears.
"I never thought I'd live to hear you say that. Actually, I didn't live to hear it. Not officially, of course." He had adopted an ultra-casual pose—suave and devil-may-care. Nothing about him betrayed the inner turmoil he had experienced such a short time ago.
Amanda looked up, dumbfounded. "You're alive?" She stood then, a look of realization spreading across her face. "You're alive and standing right here in my family room? Oh, you are!" With that, Amanda launched herself across the room and into Lee's arms. "Oh, you are!" she repeated, laughter spilling out of her.
Lee accepted the hug with pleasure, finding a strange sort of contentment in the heartfelt embrace. He didn't usually do hugs—too intimate—but this felt right. Here was a woman who didn't want anything from him but the knowledge that he was alive and well. He smiled, swaying her back and forth a bit as he returned the hug.
Suddenly, Amanda slapped Lee on the back and pushed herself away from him. "Oh, I'm so angry with you!"
"What, for being alive?"
"No, for whatever it is you're pulling, whatever—whatever secret mission it is that causes this kind of deceit." Once again, tears began to stream down Amanda's face.
Lee's next comment was glib in the extreme. He knew he couldn't face any more of Amanda's tears. He had also reached the decision to keep his presence at the cemetery a 'need to know' matter. And so, employing his usual sardonic tone, he said, "Look, was it a nice funeral? Not too fancy?"
It was the wrong approach. Amanda turned away from him then, the tone of her voice betraying how truly angry she was. "Oh, how dare you make jokes," she said, turning toward him again just as quickly. "I have been really upset about this. I thought I'd lost a friend, and that hurts. And I was frightened, too, and … look, I know you don't like tears, I know they frighten you more than bullets, so I'm sorry about this little scene, but you brought it all on yourself because it would have been totally unnecessary if you hadn't been killed, which you haven't been, and I cared that you were dead, and I don't care if you don't care that I care." She wiped at her cheek, rubbing her damp fingers together, as if embarrassed by the evidence of her grief.
The subtle gesture baffled Lee, but not as much as the fact that she had sensed his aversion to tears. It was just another example of Amanda's considerate nature, and he realized that it was high time he repaid her in kind.
"I do care. Really. Thank you." The words he spoke were simple, and yet they carried so much weight. Weight that Lee felt lift from his shoulders the second he spoke them aloud. Why was it that he failed to use those very words, time and again? He couldn't think of a reason, now.
"You're welcome," Amanda said, seemingly satisfied with his pitiful gesture. She smiled then, and Lee couldn't help but smile in return. The moment lingered, filling the space between them, and for one brief second, Lee contemplated sharing with Amanda the thoughts he had experienced while playing dead. But Amanda spoke first, ending the weighty silence in her typically practical way.
"Would you like a sandwich?" she asked.
Lee didn't even hesitate before he answered, saved from a sentimental outpouring by Amanda's unwavering domestic instincts. It was probably for the best. Right now they had a case to solve. Besides, there'd be time enough for that sort of thing another day. Amanda wasn't going anywhere, and for the first time since he met her, Lee wasn't frustrated by that fact.
And so he said, simply, "That would be nice," and followed Amanda into her cheery kitchen.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.
Lee sauntered into his favorite restaurant and spoke with the elegantly dressed maitre d'. After leaving his name, he made his way toward the highly polished mahogany bar, and settled himself on one of the chrome and leather barstools nearest the door. The lounge was really packed tonight, filled to capacity with the cr'me de la cr'me of Washington society. Soft music filled the air, and he ordered a cocktail to tide him over until his date arrived. He found it hard to believe it had only been a week since he endured a self-imposed exile, leaving him devoid of his routine for the better part of a week.
He chuckled to himself as he remembered Amanda's endless lectures on how normal people lived. She was so earnest, so sure that he couldn't possibly be happy living the way he did, hopping from restaurant to restaurant, nightclub to bar. Okay, he had to admit that he'd sort of looked forward to those hamburgers and wine. He'd quickly convinced himself, though, that it was the novelty of the experience that had appealed to him, not the meal itself.
Then there was the matter of his dinner companion for that so-called 'normal' meal. There was no denying he'd actually grown to respect Amanda a little more over the course of this investigation. She'd handled herself well, even when her life was in jeopardy, and she'd contributed a number of insights into the case that helped to lead him to Russell Sinclair.
Lee wondered if Amanda had sensed the change in his attitude toward her while he was camped out in her family room. He really thought he'd treated her differently, with more respect than he'd shown her up until that point in their acquaintance. But only he knew his reasons went well beyond simple gratitude for the use of her home.
He'd experienced many thoughts and emotions over the past two weeks; thoughts and emotions that, although not directly related to Amanda, were now inexorably linked to her in his mind. He didn't want to deal with all this now, but maybe one day he would give Amanda a call and suggest they share that meal, after all. Perhaps…
A slender, perfectly manicured finger trailed across Lee's cheek, diverting his attention and bringing to an end all thoughts of Amanda King. He turned his gaze toward the alluring woman whose bracelet-clad arm draped lightly across his shoulder. "Cindi," he murmured in his most seductive tone. Within moments, he was escorting the striking blonde to their table, looking forward to the romantic evening that lay ahead, once the preliminary dinner and conversation were through.
But, first things first. For some reason, Lee found he was incredibly hungry this evening … and he was having an unusual craving for Steak Tartar.