School Daze

Written byLorna

Rating:  G

Summary:  Lee learns an unexpected lesson he won't soon forget.

Time Frame:  After the last season.  The marriage is common knowledge

Disclaimer:  If I lived in Oz, I'd own the characters, the show, and the whole lot.  However, I live in Iowa, so I guess Scarecrow and Mrs. King belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Enterprises.  This story is for entertainment purposes only.  No infringement is intended.

Archive:  Yes, with the other ABC stories.

Feedback:  Please.  I find any and all comments invaluable.

*** Author's note: This is little different kind of ABC story in that the "S" word is the catalyst for the events of the story and not the actual focus of the story.  Also, I honestly thought I could write a short, short story.  This one takes about 6 or 7 minutes to read. Hope it still works for you. Also, thanks to Ashley and Stephanie for beta reading this. ***

While Amanda piled fresh garlic bread into a napkin-lined wicker basket, she enjoyed the view of Lee's backside.  He was placing the bowl of spaghetti on the table.

"What are you smiling at?"  he asked, turning around to get the bread.

"You."  She grinned seductively and called the boys down for supper. Lee flashed her a knowing smile and took his seat.  Never a family to loose an opportunity to talk, Dotty and the boys piled into the kitchen. Dotty was telling Amanda about the Johnson's dog trying to bite the postman and the boys were arguing over a call made at a recent baseball game. Lee closed his
eyes and listened to their chatter. Suddenly, every thing became quiet.

Lee opened his eyes to find his family staring at him.  "Lee, are you alright? What are you doing?"  Amanda asked.

"Just listening," he mumbled as he placed his napkin in his lap.  "This food looks great, Amanda."  Dotty shrugged, and Jamie rolled his eyes at Philip.  Even though Lee and Jamie had become quite close in many ways, Lee was far from a hero in Jamie's eyes.  Only his "real" dad, Joe King, could have those honors.

"So guys, what's going on at school tomorrow?"  Lee asked.  Both boys started to answer.

"Whoa!"   Amanda held up her hand.  "One at a time.  Philip, you first."

"I have a big history test," Philip moaned, "so I'll have to study all night. Mom, will you quiz me later?"

Jamie wiggled in his seat, trying to contain his information.  Finally, it erupted. "Tomorrow is our school's Career Day.  I know I didn't tell you guys about it, but I invited Dad to come speak about being a lawyer and working for the Estocian government in Africa.  He said yes, and he promised to bring some real African drums and even medal he got from the Prime Minister.  My
whole class will get to meet my dad!"

Jamie emphasized the words "my dad", and Lee swallowed hard at the unintentional sting. He clinched his jaw tightly.  Lee had grown to love the boys as his own. He wanted the feeling to be reciprocated. He looked at Jamie's exuberant statement and softened. Often overshadowed by the more athletic Philip, Lee knew that Jamie desperately needed Joe's undivided attention.

"Sounds like it will be great," Lee said.  As he finished speaking, the phone rang.

"I'll get it!"  Phillip chimed. He picked up the receiver from the wall.  "Hello, King-Stetson residence.  Oh, hi Dad.  Sure he's right here."  Philip thrust the phone at Jamie.  "He wants to talk to you Wormface."  Jamie took the phone and knocked Philip in the back of the head as they passed each other.

Conversation at the table continued between Dotty and Amanda whose backs were turned to Jamie.  Lee, however, could see and hear everything.

"But Dad," Jamie whimpered.

Lee could see his stepson bite his lower lip to hold in the tears.  Lee knew that Joe King had let his son down again.  Lee's heart ached for Jamie.

"Yeah, I understand.  I know it's really important. Sure, you have to do it. Bye."

Jamie's whole body seemed to slump and he returned to his seat.  He stared at his plate.  "Jamie, what's wrong?"  Amanda asked gently.

"Dad can't come because he has an important client meeting that he couldn't rearrange. He said he couldn't get out of it. He said he was sorry." Jamie whispered,  "What am I gonna tell my teacher?"

"Oh honey," Amanda started, "I am so sorry.  Your teacher will understand."  Jamie pushed a pile of spaghetti around his plate half-heartedly.

Lee knew he had to do something - anything to make Jamie feel better.  "Jamie, I know it's not as good as having your dad come, but what I came and talked about my job."

Amanda's eyes widened in surprise.  Surely Lee didn't intend on revealing that they were spies to a class of twelve-year-olds.  Lee glanced at her and quickly went on.  "You know, I could talk about directing films, scouting locations, and editing."  Lee looked at Amanda for approval, but with one eyebrow cocked, she obviously remained skeptical.  Jamie, however, perked up.

"You would really come, Lee?"  he asked.

"Sure, Sport, anything for you."

As the boys went off to do homework and Dotty excused herself to her room to finish the final chapters of a romance novel called Hidden Passions, Lee and Amanda were left with the dishes.

Lee handed Amanda the pile of plates to wash and kissed her on the cheek. She had yet to speak to him. "Lee, I can't believe you offered to go to Jamie's school for Career Day.  I mean it's really nice of you, but how can you possibly pull this off.  You just can't lie to Jamie about what you do, and I'm not thrilled about lying to his teacher, either."

"Amanda, I had to do something.  Joe's let Jamie down so many times.  I couldn't stand for Jamie to be so disappointed."  Amanda sighed as her resolve to be angry abated. He wrapped his arms around her waist.  Lee could sense victory and continued. "Of course I can pull this off.  I've studied my IFF cover enough to talk to a bunch of school kids.  I bet I won't even have to lie."

"Did you say you would bet on it?"  Amanda said, turning towards him, a mischievous glint in her eye.  Lee recognized her statement and instinctively backed away from her.

"Sure, I guess, I'd bet on it." He leaned against the counter, trying to look casual.

"Okay, Stetson, I'll bet you making dinner for a week that you can't talk to that class without lying."

"Now Amanda, I don't think that is really fair, do you?"

"Chicken, Scarecrow?"  she challenged.

"Amanda Stetson, I accept your bet." He flashed her a brilliant smile.  He winked at her and added, "Now, I'm ready for desert."

***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***  ***   ***   ***

Carrying a brown paper sack, Lee entered the Q-Bureau.  He plopped it down on Amanda's desk.  "What's this?" she asked.

"All the ingredients I need to make one hell of a frittata."  Lee dropped into his chair and stared at the wall, seemingly dazed. With much restraint, Amanda kept quiet and waited for Lee to share about his school experience.

"Amanda, I was so close.  When one kid asked, 'What do you do all day?'  I answered, 'Mostly we gather information from various sources and put ideas together.  You know, like fitting a puzzle piece together.'  It was a great answer don't you think?"  He looked at Amanda for approval, and she nodded.

"Another kid asked, 'Does your job ever take you to other countries?'  And I told them all about Germany, England, Israel, China, Africa, etc.  I even took some souvenir stuff to show off, and they loved it."

Lee ran his hand through his hair. "Someone else asked, 'Do you ever have any adventures as a director?'  I knew this would be a hard one, but I suddenly remembered that parking lot attendant kid. You know, Amanda, the one who was trying to make his own films and got those goons on film.  I thought that was a pretty safe story to tell. I just omitted a few details. I was really on a roll."

"Lee, I'm impressed.   It sounds like you did great."

Lee stood and walked started to pace in the small office. "Amanda, you would have been so proud of me.  One boy even asked, 'Do you ever have to do the shooting yourself?'  I almost choked."  Lee paused, almost for the effect, and turned towards his wife.

"Lee, what did you tell him?"  Amanda begged.

"I told him, 'Only when absolutely necessary.'"  They both smiled broadly at Lee's quick thinking.

Lee perched himself on the edge of Amanda's desk.  "They asked about how we met, what our office looked like, and even if I'd met the president or a king or anyone special.  I answered them all without a hitch."

"So, what gotcha?  When did you lie?"

Lee took a deep breath.  "It was something Jamie asked me when I was done. He asked, 'Lee, do you really think my dad couldn't come today?'"  Lee could still see Jamie's piercing eyes, years of pain making him look much older than twelve.

"Amanda, I couldn't tell him the truth.  I couldn't tell him that of course his dad could have made it.  I couldn't tell Jamie that his dad chose 'Joe's world' over his son's once again.  So, I lied. I said that Joe would never miss a chance to be with one of his boys unless he had to."

Amanda reached for a tissue and dabbed at her eyes quickly.  "Lee, you didn't really loose. We can call this whole bet thing off."
"No, my dear," Lee said, standing.  Then with a bow, he added, "I shall be your chef extraordinaire for the next five days."  He then took her hands, and she stood in front of him.

The same thought kept reoccurring to Lee since his classroom experience. He learned something at school that day, but it wasn't about lying.  Even though he hated to loose at anything, he was definitely not the looser in all this.  Today, when he finished speaking, he saw the look of pride on Jamie's face that had once only been reserved for Joe King.  For once, Lee Stetson was Jamie's hero.  Lee's heart swelled.  He had a glimpse into fatherhood, and he vowed to himself to be a man Jamie could always count on.

Lee tilted Amanda's chin up towards him.  "Amanda, I know that you didn't think this was the greatest idea, but thank you for letting me do it.  This was a lesson I really needed to learn."