Summary: Sometimes it's easy to forget in day to day life the importance of connections.
Disclaimer: Try as I might, I still don't own these characters. I have never tried to make money with them, and don't plan to even make such an effort. I just like playing with them, WB.
Another Disclaimer: I don't know if the one line Mrs. Cole says in the story has any basis in truth (although it has a certain logic about it). However, I do know that I've heard a person who teaches such classes say something very similar. So, even if the fact is dead wrong, it could be said. =)
Time Frame: At least a couple of years after the series end. Philip has a driver's license. =)
Lee Stetson thought he would rather be in Outer Mongolia than be in this conference room. Considering the fact he had actually been to Outer Mongolia, and how much he hated the place, it was a serious declaration on his part. Struggling to stay focused on the speaker, he wished again that he had called in sick. Not that it would have done him any good; Doctor Smyth already had about five of these meetings scheduled, and he would have insisted that his "rogue" agent attend one of the others.
He still should have called in sick. Maybe one of the other days wouldn't have started out so rotten. Amanda had set the alarm the day before to awaken her from a nap, and Lee had forgotten to check it when he went to bed, so the morning began badly with him waking up late. Grumpy, he had blamed Amanda entirely, even though, as he yelled at her, a part of him had known that it wasn't all her fault. Sighing, Lee admitted that maybe it wasn't her mistake. He was the one whose meeting began the earliest, so he should have checked it.
After a not-too-friendly conversation with his wife, he had found the bathroom door locked. Dottie, who had plans to go flying early with Captain Kurt, was already in the shower. His mother-in-law had not taken his demanding pounding on the door well at all. If it hadn't already been boiling, the look she gave as she regally left the bathroom would have probably frozen his blood in his veins.
Then, while he drank a quick cup of coffee--which had burned all the way down--Jamie had reluctantly admitted to him that he had somehow lost one of the camera's lens; one of the most expensive camera lenses. Lee had felt the blood flow to his face. He had opened his mouth, but years of practice caused him to close it. Almost throwing the coffee cup in the sink, he had coldly told his stepson that they would discuss it later.
The day only got worse when he walked out to his car. It had been then that he noticed the long scratch down the side. Philip had borrowed it yesterday for a date. Since he had not been back before dark, it was possible that he hadn't seen it. However, in his already furious state, Lee doubted it. Besides, he had told the young man to park far away from other cars to avoid such a possibility. Lee turned to storm back into the house, but then remembered the meeting he was late for and reluctantly decided to discuss it with Philip later. As it was, he had left a trail of rubber behind him as he squalled tires.
Yes, he should have called in sick and went immediately back to bed right after he awoke to the realization that the alarm hadn't gone off yet, and it was forty minutes after it should have done so. It was days like today that made him wonder what he had seen on this side of the fence. Life as a bachelor had been so much easier. There was no one to mess up your alarm clock and no one to keep you from taking a shower. If something was lost, you were the one who did it, and you didn't have to worry about people who wanted to borrow your car. It was far easier to say no to one of his casual acquaintance than it was to say no to a hopeful Jamie.
Again, he tried to concentrate on what the speaker was saying, but he
found it difficult. Knowing Billy, the man would ask Lee some questions
about it just for the fun of it, so Lee knew he had better have some information
about sexual harassment to share with Billy. "Generally, we find
that many womanizers lack a strong relationship with their mothers.
They have a hard
time making connections with women because of it."
Lee felt his eyes role in his head. He had already thought this was a stupid waste of time, and now he had proof. While he didn't consider himself a womanizer, the word had been thrown at him a few times by some distraught female companions. He had had a great relationship with his mother, as short as it had been.
He also made connections just fine, thank you very much. Even if you didn't count his relationship with his wife, there were plenty of other examples. Dottie treated him like he was her own son. He had a great working relationship with Francine, as well as a great friendship. He had almost proposed to Eva, and while his relationship with Dorothy had been just beginning, he had little doubt it would have gotten serious if she lived. Not to mention Leslie.
Leslie . . . Lee discreetly sighed. Shifting in his seat, he remembered Leslie. Even at the time he had been dating her, a part of him had known that he was just wanting to have his cake and eat it, too. By that time, Amanda King had become the most important person in his world. He had just been too terrified to see if something more could develop. After all, he was terrible with long-term relationship. What if he messed it up and lost Amanda forever? He couldn't have handled it.
Terrible at long-term relationships . . . That thought echoed through
his mind. Oh, who was he kidding? Dottie would have been lukewarm
at best if she had met him in his pre-Amanda days. Before that fateful
day at a train station, Francine had been bitter about their brief sexual
association, and he hadn't really blamed her. They had been developing
a good friendship bef
ore they had fallen into bed together, so he had messed that up, too. Luckily, they had worked past it, but he doubted they would have totally if Amanda had been able to pass the "ball" to the man in the red hat.
As for Eva, he almost proposed to her. He had never really even
made the effort to change her mind. If he had truly loved her like
he use to believe, he would have fought for her. He might have been
hurt in the end, but it wouldn't have mattered. He knew that if Amanda
had ever came to him, before he had gotten his act together, and announced
she was getting married
. . . He would have done anything to change her mind right up to the minute she walked down the isle. Eva had been carefully placed in his life at a time that he had been questioning his choices, and he had been more in love with the idea of love than in love with her.
Dorothy . . . He would never know, but a part of him believed it would have faded, too, like all of his old flames. In the end, they had been to much alike to build a relationship. She also had problems with her past that made it difficult for her to connect with others.
Connect . . . It really was a wonderful word. He wouldn't lie. Lee Stetson had had some absolutely remarkable times as a bachelor. His life had been much easier; he made his own plans and no one else mattered. No one else mattered, and he mattered to no one else. Today, he had connections.
One of those connections was right now getting a lecture from someone else on sexual harassment. The ladies and the gentleman had been separated for this ordeal. He had thought it ridiculous to waste the resources to have a different class, but at the moment he was glad Amanda was somewhere else. If she had been here, he would have ignored everything Mrs. Cole was trying to teach, and had instead focused on his anger with her.
Amanda had taught him more about this world than anything else ever had. She showed him how to love people, how to trust his instincts, and she had broken through all his defenses. Oh, she had been smart. There had been no outright frontal attack. His boundaries could have--and had many times--handle such an assault. No, her love had been like strong vines growing over the walls around his heart. He hadn't paid any attentions to those vines until it was too late. Their weight had brought down his entire defense.
She wasn't his only connection though. Her family was as deeply
ingrained into his heart as she was. He had spent years getting to
know them before they had ever met, and their warmth had just surrounded
him. Dottie's wonderful sense of humor and flighty behavior made
him laugh, and her absolute acceptance--with an occasional comment or two
thrown in--of their
lifestyles made him adore her. His sons--he all ready had a hard time thinking of them as stepsons--brought out a sense of awe and fear in him. They had taught him as much as he had them. It was amazing to see how he was helping to shape these future adults. It also scared him more than the KGB's most violent agent.
As he had grown closer to Amanda, other relationships had improved, too. He had learned to see his uncle as the man he was, and appreciated him for exactly who he was, instead of concentrating on how his uncle had failed him. The man had been without an Amanda to guide him in his parental skills. Not to mention, with the addition of Amanda in his life, his uncle had just plain stopped worrying about him. He was anxious that he might get hurt on the job, but he had recently told Lee that he "turned out to be all right kid."
Billy and Francine, always friends, were now wonderful friends. He doubted that they would have risked their own careers for him in the old days like they had a few times the last couple of years. Stemwinder had been a real eye opener for him, and Francine had really gotten a rough time for helping him in the raid against Birol. Personally, he even doubted he would have risked his life for them either. He had worked hard to get his blasé attitude about betrayals in this business, even if they had cut to the quick.
Glancing over at Billy, he had to smile. Billy had always wanted to give him advice, but a younger Lee Stetson hadn't been all that open to it. Now, Lee often went to his superior and friend for counsel. He remembered a younger Billy struggling to find the words to comfort him after he lost his partner, but Lee had just sat there calmly, refusing to show any emotion about his friend's death. Wincing, he even remembered he had made a really bad joke about it.
"Having a bad time, Stetson?" Doctor Smyth's voice cut across the room.
Lee looked him dead in the eye. "No, Sir. I was actually thinking we need to have these meetings at least every six months. I've learned a lot to day." A couple of men laughed until they realized he was serious. Then, the entire room groaned.
Francine almost bounced into Billy's office. Well, she almost bounced for her. For Amanda, it would have been a sedate walk. "We had an incredible meeting, Billy. I think we should have them more often."
"I agree," Lee said.
She frowned at him. "Look, Lee, I know you thought these were a complete waste of time, but I think they are really needed."
Smiling, he leaned forward in his chair. "I agree."
She opened her mouth to start arguing again, then closed it when she obviously realized he was serious. "You really think so?"
Lee nodded. "I know I gave you a hard time about these things, but I think you are right. We need them. I learned a lot today."
Billy leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desk. "Scarecrow, until you made your startling announcement, I didn't think you were listening to a word she was saying."
Grinning, Lee shrugged. "I wasn't. I had my mind on some things at home. Then, I heard a couple of things she said, and it got me to thinking. After that, I didn't have a problem listening to her presentation. She had some really good points."
Francine leaned on the desk, obviously stunned. Then, shaking her head, she smiled. "I never could quit figure you out, Scarecrow."
Lee's smile was soft. "I thought you had me pegged as a glutton," he told her, thinking of what she had said to Amanda just before their secret wedding.
Francine nodded. "You were, but you also always had class. You jumped from bed to bed, but you never made any false promises and, afterwards, you had no problems treating your former pillow pals as agents. Amanda was lucky to get you."
"No, I was lucky to get her," Lee answered.
Outside their office, he heard her. "What? Jamie, are you
sure? You know how much Lee loves that car! What? Okay,
I'll go check, but I don't know what we'll tell him . . . he probably did
see it this morning. Look, we will deal with it when we get
home, okay? I love you. Good-bye." Her soft, sad sigh made his arms ache to wrap around her.
He opened the door and leaned against the frame. He hated to see how tired and unhappy she looked, but he hated it more that he was the cause. "I'm sorry."
Amanda jumped, and turned to look at him. Taking in a deep breath,
she started talking like her words were ammo for a machine gun. "Jamie
just called. He didn't notice the scratch on your car. He didn't
know about it until and hour ago when Mrs. Peachtree called--she had overheard
Charlie talking about keying the car with his girlfriend, and she made
him call to
apologize. They'll pay for the--"
"Your beautiful," was all he said as he shut the door behind him. He walked over and leaned one hip against her desk. He never took his eyes off of her.
"I know you are upset, but--what did you say?"
Smiling, he leaned down and kissed her on the chin. "I said you are beautiful. Have I told you this morning that I'm the luckiest man in the world to have you?"
Her mouth hanging open, Amanda shook her head. "Uh, Lee, I said that someone keyed your car."
He shrugged. "It can be fixed. I'll just make sure little Charlie Peachtree regrets it until his grandchildren graduate from college, but it can be fixed."
Amanda obviously didn't know how to handle the change. He had been horrible this morning. "P-Philip found your camera lens."
"Good," he answered. "He needs to be careful when he borrows other people's stuff. Why don't we go do some light surveillance training?" It was there own little code to go for a walk.
Amanda was silent for a minute and then nodded her head. "Okay, I think we have a few things to discuss anyway."
"I know--" The ring of the telephone cut through his response. Sighing, he considered not answering. Then, he thought of who it could be, and he reached over to pick it up. "Stetson," he answered.
"They're beautiful!" The voice of his mother-in-law screamed in his ear. Wincing, he held the earpiece a way from his head.
Watching Amanda's eyebrow rise, he answered, "I'm glad you liked them. I wanted to apologize for the way I acted this morning. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I understand. Carl wasn't much of a morning person either. One night, I forget to set the alarm and he didn't speak to me for two days!" Dottie's laugh was one of sad remembrance. "The roses really are beautiful."
"Not as beautiful as you," he said, meaning every word.
"You are a sweet talker."
"I'm an even better dinner companion. Tell Curt we all have dinner reservations tonight at seven for Cantina d'Italia," he told her.
She yelled again. "You're kidding!"
Lee laughed with her. "No, I'm not! I've already made you a hair appoint in one hour with Carla and a new dress is being delivered to our door as we speak."
"Lee Stetson, you really know how to apologize."
"I'm trying," he said before hanging up the phone. He looked at Amanda and smiled.
Lee shrugged. "I know the Chef."
Amanda was silent for a moment. Finally, "What happened?"
He reached and gently pulled her to him. Laying his head on hers, he whispered, "I just got reminded how lucky I am." Standing up, he grabs her hand and starts walking towards the door. "Come on, let's get out of here!" Smiling, Amanda shook her head and followed him out the door.
After fifteen minutes of walking in silence, Amanda finally asked again, "What happened?"
Lee looked down at her entwined in his. "I left the house this morning in a horrible mood."
"I knew that!"
He smiled at her. "Yeah, I think I made it pretty clear, didn't I? Anyway, here I was miserable in a room I didn't want to be in and thinking about why on earth I even bothered to get married."
Amanda's flinch was barely noticeable, but Lee was very aware of it. He turned to look at her. "I'm sorry."
His wife shook her head. "Don't be; you're just being honest. I know that the last couple of months have been hard. We went from a secret marriage to an open marriage and the house has been like a madhouse ever since. With it being the end of the school year, everything is so hectic anyway--"
He put his arm around Amanda's waste and began walking again. "I know it would have probably been easier to get married some other time than our anniversary, but Amanda, for what it's worth, I'm glad we didn't. I was never a part of a family like yours, and sometimes I have a hard time fitting in, but I want to be part of it."
Amanda's smile melted his toes, he was sure of it. He had met--and had been with--some of the most celebrated beauties in the world, but all of them left him cold compared to one smiling Amanda Stetson. He again promised himself that he would try his best to make sure she was happy every single day of her life.
"You are a part of it," she whispered.
Lee pulled her closer to his side in a brief hug. "I know, and I wouldn't change it for all the advantages of bachelor hood in the world. A scratched car is a minor memory compared to how proud Philip looked last night with his date, and all the camera lens in the world can be lost, but I wouldn't want to loose a minute of the time I've spent with the boys taking pictures. I'll probably forget that cold shower in a few months, but I'm not going to forget the night your mother and I stayed up all night talking about rather or not she wanted to get back together with Curt."
Sighing, Lee stopped walking again. "I'm probably not making a bit of sense--"
Amanda smiled as she turned to look at him. "You're making perfect sense. One of the best parts of having a family is that no one can get on your nerves the way they can."
Laughing softly, Lee drew his wife in closer. "Yeah, and there's no one that can get to your heart as easy."
"You know, for someone who absolutely hated the idea of these sexual harassment seminars, you seem to have done a lot of thinking in yours," Amanda teased him after a few minutes of silence.
Lee nodded. "Yeah, I know. It's funny, but Mrs. Cole reminded me of the beauty of connections. It's kind of easy to forget in day to day life."
Amanda's eyebrows rose. "Connections? You must have had a totally different discussion than us!"
"I don't think so," Lee answered with a grin. "We got a ton of stats thrown at us, and I got reminded of some things about my fellow agents that I had ignored over the years. It was just one little throw away line."
His wife leaned up and kissed him softly. "Thank goodness for throw away lines." They began walking together. "Mother is going to be so thrilled with her night out on the town."
"Oh, all of us are going--if that's okay?"
"All of us? Lee, do you know how much that place costs?"
Lee smiled. "Yes, I do, but I want to take my family out for a nice dinner. You and Dottie will love the atmosphere and the food. Philip and Jamie are going to love spending time with their girlfriends--and yes I did talk to both of the girls and their parents already. Besides, I hear a couple of their football heroes might be there tonight."
Amanda stopped their walk. "Lee Stetson! You don't have to spend a lot of money to apologize to us."
Lee turned to look at her. "I'm not apologizing, Amanda. I'm doing something that I forgot to do in the rush of wedding preparations."
"I'm celebrating the birth of my family."
Amanda looked down at her feet for the longest time. When she looked up at him, her eyes were bright with unshed tears. "That's all right then," she whispered.
Lee put his hand on her cheek. He gently rubbed the area beneath her eye with his thumb. "Before I forget, I want to thank you."
"Thank me? For what?"
"Taking the time to make a connection with me." Smiling, Amanda leaned forward and kissed him. Sometimes, people with a connection don't have to say anything for the other to know what they are feeling.
* * *
Thanks for reading!