Summary:While Lee is on an assignment in a foreign country, he has time to reflect on his relationship with Amanda. He writes her letters, which she never receives. Meanwhile, Amanda too has time to reflect on her conception of her relationship with Lee, and decides that while he's away, she's got to get over him for good. Incidentally, this story focuses on Lee and Amanda's thoughts and feelings, rather than the assignment. Therefore, that portion of the story will be sketchy at best. Dreams are indicated by **.
Disclaimer:The characters you recognize belong to Shoot the Moon and Warner Brothers productions. The characters you don't recognize as well as the story belong to me.
Lee Stetson squinted in the fierce sun. He was tired, and all he wanted was to take a shower and a nap. As he kept an eye on the palace, his thoughts were drawn like a magnet to Amanda King.
He hadn't even had a chance to say goodbye to her. Just as well, he thought. He wondered if she was doing okay. It had only been a month, but he missed her, in a strange way. This assignment was just what he needed to get some distance from her, or at least that was what he kept telling himself.
Of course, she was his partner, and a good friend. He could talk to her like he could talk to no one else. He had written her once so far. He couldn't send it directly to her. She didn't even know where he was; no one did, save for a very few at the Agency. So he'd had to send the letter to the Agency in the hopes that Billy would get it to her.
"What have we here?" asked Dr. Smyth, picking up a letter addressed to Amanda. "Billy, this is unacceptable," he shook his finger.
"It's just a letter to his partner. I told him as long as he didn't mention his whereabouts or mission that I would pass any letters along to Amanda," Billy said, reaching for the envelope.
Dr. Smyth smugly put the envelope into his pocket. 'Sorry, Melrose," he smirked. Then, to the young man who had brought the package into Billy's office, he instructed, "From now on, all packages and envelopes that arrive from Lee Stetson are to be delivered to me, and only me. Understand?"
The young man nodded, his fear of Smyth apparent. Billy shook his head. There was nothing he could do.
Amanda sighed. She missed Lee so much! And not knowing anything about where he was or what he was doing was driving her crazy.
She didn't understand why she couldn't forget about him. He hadn't even said goodbye to her - not even a phone call. She recalled all the times he had plainly reminded her of the nature of their relationship, whatever it was.
Although she had thought it was growing into friendship, she wasn't sure. He was like a chameleon, changing all the time. Well, she thought, I should really just get on with life and my job and not worry about Lee Stetson. I'm sure he's not at all worried about me or thinking about me!
Lee slept fitfully. The assignment was getting to him. When he did sleep, he either had nightmares about the case or dreams about Amanda.
** Amanda looked over at him. He was staring at her. She looked radiant, beautiful. "What's wrong?" she asked him, smiling. "What did I do now?" Not saying a word, he leaned over and kissed her. He pulled her into his arms and she did not resist...**
Lee sat bolt upright in bed. He was sweating, literally dripping. Why does it have to be so hot here? He remember his dream and frowned, as he headed into the bathroom to take a shower - hoping the shower would cure both the heat and the effect of the dream...Why did I dream that about Amanda? He stepped into the cold stream of water and let it run over him.
After drying off, he pulled on a pair of shorts and sat down at the small desk in his room. Knowing he wouldn't be able to sleep again right away, he decided to write to Amanda.
I can't believe I've been gone for three months. I hope you and your mother and the boys are all doing good. I feel like this has been my life forever. Funny how you see things from a different perspective when you're gone. It seems like my life back home belongs to another time. Does that make sense? I really miss talking to you. You have no idea. I'm sorry I can't tell you anything about where I am, etc. You know how that goes. Please be careful and take care of yourself.
I miss you,
Rubbing his eyes, Lee turned off the light. If he could
fall asleep, he'd get a good three hours in before dawn.
"Oh, Billy," Smyth poked his head into Billy's office. "The Scarecrow has written yet another letter to his partner. I've got it for safe-keeping. He's quite the little penpal these days, hmmm?"
Billy rolled his eyes. Francine spoke up, "Dr. Smyth, was there anything for me?"
Dr. Smyth gave her a disdainful look. "No," he said, and closed the door.
"Why is Lee writing letters to Amanda?" Francine questioned Billy, her perfectly defined brows raised curiously.
"I wouldn't know that, would I? Dr. Smyth is taking inventory of everything Lee sends. The packages are half empty once they get here." Billy was clearly not in the mood to discuss the situation anymore, so Francine dropped it.
Amanda had been doing mostly routine assignments with various agents. She hated to admit how dull everything seemed without Lee. She had hoped that he would try to write to her once in a while. But Billy hadn't said anything about it, so she gave up the idea.
Why would he write to my, anyway? He's probably thrilled to be away from me. Still, she was more than a little hurt that he hadn't tried at least once.
When she wasn't working, Amanda busied herself with the boys and whatever else she could do to keep herself occupied. And to keep her thoughts off Lee Stetson.
But at night, there was no escaping thoughts of him, or dreams of him.
**Amanda was washing the dishes. A knock came at her back door, and she went over and opened it. "Hi, got a minute?" Lee asked seriously. "Sure," she said, stepping outside. Lee pulled her into his arms, pressed her against the wall and kissed her passionately. Amanda put her arms around his neck. She kissed him with abandon, with the strange knowledge that she was dreaming. He pulled back to look her in the eyes and...**
The sound of the boys thumping down the stairs woke her up. "Oh my gosh!" she sat up. So much for putting Lee out of my mind!
Lee sipped his coffee and stood on the bridge, looking at the water. He was so deep in though that he didn't see the young woman approach him.
She smiled shyly, and asked in broken English, "Can you direct me to the Picasso exhibit?" His contact! He'd almost forgotten.
Turning to look at her, he was stricken by her beauty. Dark brown hair, deep mahogany brown eyes that were slightly slanted, a pert nose and soft lips. She was lovely...
Realizing he was staring, Lee coughed. "Yes, follow the garden path to the back entrance of the museum," he said, gesturing across the way.
"Thank you," she acknowledged, and her eyelids fluttered over demure eyes, making his heart thump against his ribs. Someone else did that - looked down shyly when he looked at her. Amanda! She had looked almost exactly like Amanda. That was why he'd been so attracted to her...
But that's crazy, he told himself. But when Amanda's face appeared unbidden in his mind's eye, his heart repeated the same slamming beat, and he felt a strange ache somewhere deep inside. He frowned, finished his coffee, and strode back to the hotel.
Digging around in his suitcase, Lee finally found what he'd been searching for - a picture of Amanda and himself that had been taken at a staff party. Gazing intently at it, he told himself, This is Amanda, my partner. Thump! Ama nda is my friend. Thump, thump! She's my best friend. Thump!
He closed his eyes and imagined kissing her like he kissed her in his dream. His heart pounded in his chest, fast and furious.
Lee rushed into the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. What was going on? A rush of feelings and emotions were raining down on him all at once, and he felt overwhelmed. His heart was telling him something his mind did not want to accept yet. It was overpowering him.
Rather than try to analyze these new sensations, he called
room service and ordered a bottle of wine. Nothing like a little oblivion
to clear the head, he told himself.
It had been a total of five months since Lee left for his assignment. Amanda sat alone in her kitchen, drinking her coffee. She had gone on a couple of dates, nothing serious. It was such a waste of time.
How can I be in love with a man who has just begun to open up to me? We've become good friends, but just recently Lee had started confiding in me. Yeah, sometimes it seems like he's flirting with me but...I know there's nothing to it.
Sighing, Amanda resigned herself to the fact that getting over Lee Stetson was going to take a long, long time. She'd have to just let it happen on it's own, and hope that when he came back home she'd be able to hide her feelings from him.
She let herself think about him. His face appeared in her mind. Thump! Went her heart. His eyes...oh, those eyes! Thump, thump!
Oh, my gosh! This is impossible! she told herself desperately.
At the Melrose residence, Jeanne poured Billy some more chianti. "Have you heard from Lee?" she asked her husband.
"Nothing more than the reports. Smyth has total control ever since he found that letter Lee sent along for Amanda. He took over from there. What I see is what he wants me to see," Billy said in frustration. "I understand the need for secrecy to some extent. But Lee wouldn't tell Amanda anything that would jeopardize the mission, he only wanted to -"
"To what?" Jeanne frowned. "It seems funny that Lee would want to write to Amanda. Doesn't he always want to get rid of her?"
Billy smiled. "Not so much anymore. I think he's realy come to care for her, more that he or she knows. It's written all over his face."
"You're serious?" Jeanne asked in delight.
"Yes..." Billy didn't finish his thought. He sat, lost in his own reflections, sipping his wine.
Lee was exhausted. He was hot, thirsty and hungry. He'd been in a fistfight, shot at, and some lunatic had tried to stab him. He had fought with more conviction that ever. He had to get home to Amanda, had to see if she felt the same way he did. He had never been afraid to die, and he wasn't now. But he had someone to live for now. He was grateful that Amanda didn't know how serious this mission was.
Upon returning to his new hotel room (he had changed cities and hotels quite frequently), he showered and ordered room service. Although exhausted, he sat down and wrote,
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. But I think that sometimes absence makes the heart realize what it had to begin with. I miss you so much. We have a lot to talk about when I come home. It's odd not to ask you how you are in all these letters I'm writing, but it would do no good, since you can't write back to answer. Please, please be careful. Don't let Billy send you on any dangerous cases - tell him he'll have me to reckon with when I get back. I don't know when I'll be able to come home. I miss you.
After he ate, Lee fell asleep immediately. He slept fitfully, and finally a deep sleep fell upon him early in the morning. Nightmares and dreams crowded his subconscious. An intense, intimate dream about Amanda brought him fully awake at dawn. He lay there thinking of her for an hour, longing to hold her in his arms.
He had been with many women. Most were not serious, could hardly be called relationships. Nothing in the arena of romance made Lee nervous...except when in connection with Amanda. The thought of intimacy with Amanda made him feel nervous, excited, confused, and apprehensive all at once. He felt it distinctly surreal to be having such thoughts about his partner, especially when all he'd done so far was some mild flirting.
Halfway across the world, Amanda woke up after falling asleep at her desk in Q-Bureau having had a similar dream. She felt oddly as though Lee knew she had been dreaming about him, and the thought made her blush even though she knew that was impossible.
Her face flushed again as Francine came into the room. "Oh, hi Francine, I fell asleep at my desk," she said to explain her discomposure.
"Well, I'd be losing sleep too, if my partner was god-knows-where. And to not be allowed to hear from him, well! You must be awake every night. I can't blame you for falling asleep on the job."
"What do you mean?" Amanda asked her.
"Huh?" Francine looked at her, frowning.
"What do you mean, 'not allowed to hear from him'?"
"Just a figure of speech," Francine knew she'd blown it.
"No, I don't think so," Amanda got up from her desk.
Downstairs, she knocked on Billy's door. "Sir, excuse me. But it's been half a year since Lee left, and I haven't heard from him. I just found out that I 'am not allowed' to hear from him. That means that he has tried to communicate with me. I think it's only fair that you level with me. I am his partner," she finished, out of breath from emotion.
"I agree," said a voice from behind her. Dr. Smyth entered the office with a bundle of letters. "I'm sorry, King. I didn't know how it was between you and Stetson. I had to read the letters of course, but as he doesn't give anything away as to his location or mission, I think you should have these."
Amanda accepted the bundle of letters. There had to be at least twenty! "Thank you, Dr. Smyth. But...what do you mean you didn't realize how it was between us?"
"Well, now, King. Don't be coy. It's obvious from those letters that Scarecrow is head over heels for you," he said, enjoying the confused blush that spread over Amanda's face.
"Sir," Amanda addressed Billy, 'I''ll be going home now."
Lee hadn't been back to his room for two nights. He had slept in a car, and in another motel, unable to leave his position of surveillance. Now he wanted nothing more than a long, hot shower and to sleep for twelve hours.
Lee opened the door to his room and saw that it been ransacked. the contents of his suitcase had been strewn across the room, drawers were pulled out, the bedsheets were torn off the bed and lay in a heap on the floor.
After assuring himself that no one was in the room, he went through everything, to see what, if anything, had been taken. His recording device, taped to the underside of the bathroom cabinet, was in place. His notes, secured in a plastic bag and affixed to the back of the toilet, were also still intact.
He went over to the bedside table. Horror dawned on him as he realized that the picture of Amanda that he'd kept there was missing, as was his latest letter to her. Frantically, he put in a call to D.C.
Billy called Francine into his office. After appraising her of the situation and ignoring Francine's exclamation, ("Why in the world would Lee have a picture of Amanda with him, let alone on his bedside table?!"), Billy told her to call Amanda right away.
Dottie answered the phone in a panic. "Amanda?"
"No, Mrs. West, my name is Francine, I work with Amanda. I take it she's not there?" Francine looked helplessly at Billy.
"No, she's not. Do you know where she is? She never came home last night, and she hasn't called, and that is just not like her..." Dottie rambled nervously.
"Well, we'll do our best to find her, and if you hear from her, please call me," Francine gave Dottie a number and hung up.
Billy frowned. "Let's see if we can find her," he said grimly.
Billy called Lee. "She's missing, Scarecrow," Billy said when Lee picked up the phone before one complete ring.
"Oh, God, Billy. How could I have been so stupid? I should have thought of this possibility," he said between clenched teeth.
"Now, Lee. Calm down. They weren't even supposed to know you were there. Which means you're in danger too. I want you on the next flight back," Billy told him.
"And what if they're bringing Amanda here?" Lee's voice rose.
"What if they're not?" Billy reasoned.
"Okay, okay," Lee conceded.
On the flight home, Lee accepted a newspaper offered him by the stewardess. Anything to distract him until he got off this plane and could start searching for Amanda.
He read a few stories, including a major fire at a chemical plant, another drunk driver killing a carload of kids, and a small east-bound jet crashing, killing all known passengers.
He put the paper down and tried to sleep, unsuccessfully. He kept seeing Amanda's face, could almost hear her asking him to come find her.
"I'm coming, Amanda," he whispered.
Amanda woke up and saw blood everywhere. Confusion clouded her mind, and she attempted to stand up. "Ouch," she put her hand up to her head, pulling it away to see her hand covered in blood. She tasted blood in the corner of her mouth, too. Looking down, she saw her clothes were torn and bloodied.
She was standing in a field of some kind. Looking around, she spotted a jet, or what was left of it. Vaguely she remembered being on a jet, but why? Her head felt like it was held in a vice. Her hands and arms were bruised and scratched.
Stumbling over to the wreckage, she became violently ill at the sight of the three other passengers, all male, all of a foreign nationality. They had kidnapped her, drugged her, and obviously planned to take her somewhere.
She found it difficult to think clearly. Every perception was visual, physical, a vague awareness of being. She had no idea what to do. She tried to speak out loud and had no voice, no words to voice.
She began to walk, anywhere, to get away from the horrific sight of the mangled bodies.
Billy was looking grim. "We found her car, about a block away from her house. The door was unlocked. Her purse was gone, but this packet of letters was in the front seat," Francine said, handing the bundle to Billy.
"She never even got to read them," he said to himself sadly.
"Sir?" Francine said questioningly.
"Nothing," he responded.
Lee went immediately from the airport to Billy's office, exhausted, jet-lagged, unshaven, and starving. But his driving emotions concerning Amanda were far more demanding than any of his other physical needs or demands.
Billy patted Lee on the back as Lee sank into a chair. "Billy, what's going on?" he asked, getting right down to it.
"It doesn't look good, Scarecrow," Billy eyed his friend with a mixture of concern and sympathy. "Amanda's car was found. A small jet crashed just outside Virginia, and three men were on board and we've since learned that they were henchmen of the guy you keeping tabs on...they all died...they were barely recognizable as human. Just a mass of bones and blood and flesh. Amanda's purse was found among the wreckage."
The sound of despair that escaped Lee was like nothing Billy had ever experienced before. He sat silent for a moment, then said, "No."
"No. Amanda cannot be dead. I know she's not dead," Lee said positively.
"Lee, I know how you feel, but-"
"No, Billy, you don't! You have no idea how I feel!" Lee shouted. "I know," he said, pointing to his chest. "I know she's not dead. She can't be..." his voice trailed off, and he sat back down, putting his head in his hands. I can't lose her now, oh, god it would kill me.
"Lee," Billy continued gently. "The area has been scoured. No sign of Amanda so far," he finished.
Pearl Truman stepped out onto her porch to watch the sunset. Someone was walking toward the house, stumbling. As the figure drew closer, Pearl put a hand to her mouth. "Dear Lord," she murmured.
Amanda did not see Pearl Truman. She was in a daze, walking by automatic pilot. What Pearl saw was a young woman, covered from head to foot in dry, crusty blood, cut and bruised, clothing torn to shreds. She watched as the woman in her field faltered, stumbled, and collapsed.
"George!" Pearl screamed into the house.
The phone on Billy's desk rang shrilly. "Melrose here."
"Yes, I understand. Alright. Thank you." Turning to Lee, he said, "They're calling off the search for tonight. It's too dark to continue."
Lee looked at Billy in defeat. "It's cold out there. If she's alive, she'll never survive the night," the note of fear in his voice was apparent.
Amanda woke up in a hospital bed, and saw the IV dripping into her arm, which like the other, was bandaged up to the elbow. Her mouth felt dry, and her entire body ached. She coulnd't remember why she was there.
A young doctor came into the room. "I see you're awake," he smiled. "How are you feeling?"
Amanda tried to talk. "Thir...thirsty," she managed to say. He gave her some water. "Better?" She nodded.
"Do you know your name?" he asked.
"Amanda King," she replied.
"Where do you live?"
"What happened to you?"
"I'm not sure." She closed her eyes.
"Okay, Amanda King. Do you know your phone number?"
"Ummmm. I remember a number, but I don't think it's mine."
"Give it to me anyway, and I'll call it and see."
Lee stepped out of the shower and pulled on a robe. He was exhausted, but knew he wouldn't sleep. Numbly, he sat down on the couch with a drink. Idly he fingered the stack of letters Billy returned to him. Letters Amanda never got to read. All this time and she still didn't know how much he had come to love and need her. It tore him up. He had hoped for her to return his feelings, but she didn't even know his.
His phone rang, and he jumped. "Stetson," he said, hoping against all hope that it was Billy with news of Amanda.
A doctor introduced himself and added, "Your number was given to me by a young woman who came in here with multiple injuries. She can't remember much except her name right now, so she must have been through something traumatic. Do you know an Amanda King?"
Lee wrote down the location of the hospital and told the doctor he'd be there as soon as he could. It was at least a two hour drive. Lee didn't even bother to call Dottie or Billy. All he wanted was to see Amanda for himself.
The doctor came back into Amanda's room. "I think I just spoke with your husband," he grinned. "I couldn't get in a word edgewise once I mentioned your name. He's on his way."
"Husband? You mean ex-husband," Amanda corrected. Had she given him Joe's number?
"Mr. Stetson is your ex-husband?" the doctor asked.
Amanda frowned, "No. Mr. Stetson is my partner," she told him.
"Well, whoever he is, he's awfully excited to see you." With that he left the room.
Amanda was relieved that it was Lee coming. Drowsiness overtook her and she fell into a sound sleep.
Lee walked into the lobby of the ICU. He obtained Amanda's room number from the nurse and rushed down the hall to her room. He met the doctor just outside, and was filled in on how Amanda was found by the Trumans, and what condition she'd been in.
Opening the door quietly, he slipped inside. Smiling with relief at the sight of her, he approached the bed. She looked pretty beat up, but she was a sight for his sore eyes. He took her hand gently in his.
Amanda's eyelids fluttered in dream sleep. A small smile played on her lips. Lee gently rubbed the back of her hand. Suddenly her eyes opened and focused.
"Hey," Lee greeted her, too overcome by emotion to say anything further.
"Lee," she said raspily, and smiled.
"I'm so glad you're okay," he told her, and leaned over to smooth the hair back from her forehead, and kissed her on the cheek.
"Me, too," she whispered. "It's good to see you. Been a while," she continued as her eyes fought to close again. "Missed...you."
"I missed you, too," Lee said in a voice husky with emotion. He thought she had fallen asleep again, but she opened her eyes to find him gazing at her intently.
Even in her condition, she blushed under his scrutiny. "Your letters...I didn't get them. Dr. Smyth -"
"I know, I know. It's okay. You can read them later."
"Where...I don't know where they are. My car..."
"They found your car. The letters were there. Billy gave them back to me."
"Good," she nodded.
Lee carressed her face lovingly. "Right now I want you to concentrate on feeling better."
She smiled at him. "I already do," she whispered, reaching up tentatively to touch his face. Something was distinctly different about him.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Lee said, reluctant to leave.
The doctor appeared in the doorway. "Do you have a room somewhere?" he asked.
"No, I'll have to find one," Lee said.
"I'm sure it'd be okay if you stay here with Mrs. King. No one else is in this room and we have plenty of vacancies."
"Thank you," Lee said with feeling. After the doctor left, Lee said, "I didn't want to leave you, anyway."
"You didn't?" Amanda asked sleepily.
"Never," Lee smiled. She had begun to drift off to sleep,
but she smiled.
The next morning, Lee left early, creeping quietly from the room, because he knew that Dottie, Phillip and Jamie would be there wanting to see Amanda.
Amanda woke up and immediately looked for Lee. She was disappointed to see that he had left. Well, what did you expect? For him to stay by your side every minute? She mocked herself. But then again, he didn't leave last night...
Soon her mother and the boys arrived, and they visited with Amanda for a few hours. The doctor discharged her around noon. Dottie and the boys went into the lobby so Amanda could get dressed.
She called Lee to let him know that she was being discharged from the hospital and would be home later on.
"Oh, that's great," he said with a smile in his voice. "I'm glad you called, I was about to head back over there."
"You were?" Amanda said in delight.
"Well, of course I was," he chuckled at her tone. She was obviously happy that he'd planned to come back.
"Thank you," she said.
"I'll call you tonight," he promised.
"How come?" she asked innocently.
"What do you mean, how come?" Lee asked.
"Well...I'm glad you're glad I'm okay and everything, but don't feel like you have to call or anything, you know...especially if you have plans..." her voice trailed off.
"You make it sound like it would be a hassle for me to call you," Lee told her.
Amanda was confused. "You mean it's not?"
"Amanda -" a note of irritation crept into his voice.
"That's more the Lee Stetson I know," Amanda laughed into the phone.
Lee was silent. He'd forgotten that she still hadn't read the letters. She had no idea how his feelings had evolved over the past few months of being away from her.
"I'm here, Amanda. Look, I want to call you. Honestly. I'll talk to you later," he said again.
"Okay," she agreed, but he could still hear the note of doubt in her voice. What if she didn't want him to call?
"Bye," he said.
"Bye, Lee," Amanda replied and hung up the phone.
As Amanda and Dottie and the boys were pulling into the drive, a flower delivery truck pulled up. A man with an enormous bouquet and a clipboard came over to them.
"Amanda King?" he grinned.
"Yes, that's me," she said.
"Just sign here for your flowers," he handed her a pen.
Amanda stared at the flowers as she scrawled her name.
"Thank you," she smiled.
"Who are the flowers from, Mom?" Jamie asked.
"I haven't read the card, yet, Sweetheart," Amanda told him.
Once inside, Amanda placed the flowers on the dining room table, and waited until Dottie quit hovering to go upstairs. She opened the card, and it said, "Dear Amanda, Happy homecoming. As soon as you're feeling better, I'm taking you out to dinner. Go look on your back porch. With love, Lee"
With love? Amanda thought, smiling softly admiring the flowers. Imean, Love is a usual way to sign things, but with love?
Dottie and the boys came downstairs. "We're off to the market, darling," Dottie said. "Who sent you the flowers?"
"Someone from work," Amanda said, waving to them as they headed out the door. As soon as they'd left, she rushed to the back door. Stepping outside, she found the bundle of letters right by the door.
She took them inside. They were in chronological order, and she began reading, starting with the very first letter.
By the eighth letter, Amanda was astonished. She had no idea Lee had felt that way about her, and from the sound of it, neither had he.
As she kept reading, tears fell down her cheeks. All that time, she had been trying to get over him, and here he'd been pouring his heart out to her.
She finished reading the last letter, and read it again. He loved her! A rush of overwhelming emotion engulfed her, and she was shaking. She wanted so badly to call him, but she knew he was still at the Agency, possibly not even in the office.
She tied the letters with a length of red satin ribbon and placed them in her nightstand drawer. She couldn't wait to see him. She didn't want to discuss this over the phone!
Later that night, Lee had just finished dinner. He wondered what Amanda thought of the letters. He was a nervous wreck. He sighed and reached for the phone. You should have arranged to see her tonight, not just call! What were you thinking, Stetson? The phone rang a few times, and Dottie answered.
"Hello, this is Lee Stetson, I work with Amanda," Lee said, surprised that Amanda hadn't picked up. Didn't she want to talk to him? Maybe he'd upset her. "Is she there?"
"No," Dottie said pleasantly. "She wanted to take some soup over to a sick neighbor and see if there was anything else she could do while she was there. That's my daughter, always concerned for others, even though she just got out of the hospital herself!"
"Was she...did she...seem to be feeling okay? Acting okay?" Lee held his breath. He couldn't believe she wasn't home.
"Now that you mention it, she was jittery, flighty. Nervous as a cat," Dottie said.
Lee smiled. "Really?"
"Well, yes," Dottie answered in surprise.
"Okay, well I guess I'll talk to her later," Lee said and Dottie said goodbye.
The doorbell rang, and Lee went over and answered it.
Amanda was standing there, her eyes watery, hugging herself.
"Amanda," Lee said warmly, pulling her gently into his apartment. "I just called you, and your mother told me you were out," he said.
"I didn't want to talk on the phone, I had to see you," she told him, on the verge of tears.
"What's wrong? I didn't upset you, did I?" Lee asked with concern as they sat down on his couch.
Amanda laughed nervously. "No, no. You didn't upset me. It's just that-" she shook her head, looking away from him.
Lee frowned, put his arm around her. "Hey, come here," he said as she leaned into him. It felt like he was meant to hold her.
Amanda composed herself after a minute. "I read your letters," she told him. "I can't believe that I -" she looked at him with huge eyes. "Oh, Lee - I'm so sorry."
Lee panicked. Was she going to tell him she didn't feel the same way? He couldn't, wouldn't accept that!
"Sorry about what?" he asked, tilting her chin so he could look into her eyes and see what she couldn't find the words to tell him.
"I didn't know, I had no idea that you felt remotely like that. I mean, I could tell from the letters that you were realizing it yourself. But I didn't get the letters, remember? And I -" she sniffed. "I was trying so hard to get over loving you. I thought you'd never love me back and I felt so foolish, and I talked myself into getting over you. So the whole time you were away, that's what I was focusing on, so I wouldn't miss you so much, and all the while you were pouring your heart out to me!"
She leaned into him again, and murmured into his chest, "I'm so sorry."
Lee's heart was breaking. "You mean that...you did...I mean, you forgot about me? You don't care about me anymore?" He swallowed hard, steeling himself for her response.
She pulled away to look him in the eye. "No, Lee! I love you. I love you so much it scares me. I knew there was no way I'd ever get over you."
Lee's heart began beating again, and he took a deep breath. He kissed her wet cheeks, her forehead, then her lips.
When they kissed, electricity jolted through both of them. "Oh, Amanda," Lee whispered. "I love you."
"I love you, too," she told him. "I missed you so much, I thought I was going to lose you. I was so afraid."
"I thought I was going to die when Billy told me you were missing. I felt like I'd lost you before I found you," Lee said, kissing her neck.
They were both caught up in a vortex of emotions. They had loved each other so long that it was hard to control the flood of passion that threatened to engulf them any moment.
"Stay," Lee said. "Stay with me tonight."
"I can't," she gasped.
"Please," Lee begged. Amanda weakly protested again. "Lee, I can't. You know I can't, and it's too soon."
"No," he protested.
"Yes," she argued. "I love you, Lee. But I need to get used to the idea that you love me, too."
"I know," Lee reluctantly agreed. "To be honest, the thought of being any more intimate with you right now scares me. I feel so nervous about this. Not because I don't think it's right, but because I know it is. You're the One."
Amanda smiled and kissed him again. "You're the One, too. You're the only man I could ever love."
"What about Joe?" Lee asked, unwittingly.
"I never loved Joe the way I love you," she told him. "It's overwhelming. I have no control over it."
"I know what you mean," Lee smiled. He loved what she'd said. "I have never felt this way about anyone else, either."
"I should get home," Amanda said, not wanting to leave.
"Yeah," Lee leaned in to kiss her again. "I'm going to call you later, and keep you on the phone for hours whispering sweet nothings in your ear."
Amanda kissed the back of his hands. "I like the sound of that," she smiled.
Lee couldn't take his eyes off her. "Or I could sneak over there after say, eleven?"
Amanda laughed. "Don't tempt me," she teased.
"Why not, you're tempting me," he teased back, then kissed her again.
"Okay, I really need to leave," Amanda stood up. Lee stood up too and pulled her into one last embrace.
"Say it again," Amanda requested.
"I love you," Lee whispered. "Forever."