Summary: Lee seizes an opportunity to spend an afternoon with the boys.
Disclaimer: Charlie stole fizzy lifting drinks, he was supposed to get nothing. Nothing is what I receive for writing these stories. I hold no rights to the characters of this story. Scarecrow and Mrs. King are the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Enterprises.
Timeline: Mid to late season 4
Feedback: Much appreciated
"Sure, I can do that." Lee answered. He cupped the phone receiver closely to his mouth trying to hide Amanda 's half of the conversation from the curious ears behind him. "No, really, it's not a problem. Yes, I remember the safety word. We'll be fine. What time do you think you'll be done?"
He paused listening to his wife's wordy explanation of how long her current assignment was going to take.
"Alright, see you then. Bye." He had been about to say Goodbye Sweetheart, but caught himself at the last minute. No need giving Francine more ammunition.
He turned around and found both Billy and Francine watching him closely. He smiled his most charming smile. "Ah, Amanda needs a favor. We were done here, right?"
Billy nodded and Lee headed for the door. Francine, however, wasn't as dismissive; her question caught Lee just before he could make good his escape.
"So, Amanda needs a favor. You making an emergency run to the grocery store? Is there a canned goods shortage?"
Lee was tempted to make something up, but decided the truth would do more damage. He turned and smiled at his friend knowing what he was about to say would leave her dying with curiosity. "If you must know, the boys need a ride home from school. Her mother is busy and she's taking her conversational-Russian test." He paused to give his next sentence added emphasis. "I think maybe I'll take them out for ice cream."
The look on Francine's face as he left was priceless, he was sorry Amanda had missed it. He made a mental note to give her a full description later. He caught Francine's question to Billy through the closed door, "When did he get so chummy with her kids!" He glanced at his watch; yes he would just have time to make the trip across town before school let out.
He made better time than he thought and pulled up in front of the school with about five minutes to spare. Climbing out of the 'vette he circled around and leaned casually against the hood to wait. The fact that he was taking all this so calmly, he thought, was a sign of progress. A month ago, he had been so worried about interacting with Amanda's boys that the thought of picking them up would have frozen him to the spot. But, the past few weeks he had really gotten to know Philip and Jamie, the three of them still had some awkward moments, but more and more they had things to talk about and a growing sense that everything was going to work out.
He noticed two women standing together near the car parked in front of his. They were obviously talking about him, and just as obviously trying to hide the fact that they were talking about him. Lee smiled, this could be fun.
He made his way toward them, bringing all his playboy charm into play. "Hello, Ladies, nice day isn't it?"
The two were taken off guard. They apparently had not considered the possibility that the hunk they were ogling would strike up a conversation. The brunette was the first to recover.
"Why, yes it's a lovely day. Mr?"
Lee smacked his head self-deprecatingly, "How silly of me, I didn't introduce myself. Lee Stetson." He shook both ladies'hands as they introduced themselves. He filed the names Sandy Hampton and Cheryl Crane for future discussion with Amanda.
"Are you new, Mr. Stetson?" Sandy asked with what could only be termed as vulture-like curiosity. "I don't believe I've seen you around school before."
"No, not new" Lee said smiling. "I'm just here to pick up Philip and Jamie King, they're old hands around here."
The ladies were definitely interested now. "Jamie and Philip you say?" Cheryl asked. "Why those are Amanda's boys. I don't believe she's ever mentioned you before."
Lee shrugged. "Really, in all this time? Amanda has lots of secrets, I'd imagine there are lots of things she doesn't mention." He nodded toward the building as children began to rush out onto the sidewalk. "I guess this means the bell rang? I should probably get to my car, the boys don't know I'm coming. It was wonderful to meet you both. I'll tell Amanda you said hello." He was nearly laughing out loud as he turned away from the women, he was right, that had been fun.
He spotted Philip first. The older boy was talking excitedly with a group of boys. Given that they all carried a ball or gymbag, he figured they were the basketball team. Amanda had mentioned Philip was spending more time with a new crowd after making the team.
He waved to his step-son and called his name. Philip turned his head registering only vague surprise to find Lee waiting for him. He waved back and then turned to answer a question from one of the boys beside him. Lee heard the words "Rad Car!" quite clearly.
Philip headed toward the car dragging a group of interested ballplayers with him. "Hi, Lee." He greeted the man he thought was his mother's boyfriend. "What are you doing here?"
"Your mom and grandma are busy, so I drew pickup duty. That ok with you?"
Philip grinned, "Sure." He glanced sideways as a friendly elbow nudged him in the ribs. "Uh, Lee. Could the guys take a look at the car?"
"Yeah, just don't touch anything."
In seconds Lee couldn't find his car for all the boys crowded around. "You're mellowing, Stetson." He told himself, "That many potential fingerprints used to set your teeth on edge." He didn't see Jamie until the younger boy was nearly at his side.
"Hi, Lee. Where's grandma?" Jamie's question held just a hint of worry Lee thought, just another difference between his new sons.
"She had something come up." Lee explained. "Your mom couldn't get away from work, but I could. So," he said with a smile, "I came to pick you guys up."
Jamie looked both relieved and uncomfortable. "Oh. What's with the inspection?" He asked pointing to Philip's friends.
"They wanted a look at the 'vette. If we can get them away from it I thought we'd go grab a milkshake. Sound good?"
Jamie seemed to be warming to the idea of time with Lee, but it could have been the offer of food. "Great."
Lee realized now that his problem was not the boys gathered around the car, but how to get them away from it. "Uh, boys. I hate to break this up, but we need to be going."
The boys began to reluctantly back away from the sports car. "Man, Phil," one redhead exclaimed. "You are lucky. I'd give anything to be able to ride in a car like that."
Philip was beaming with all the adolescent attention. "Well, it's no big deal. It's just Lee's car."
"Just his car!" Another exploded, pulling his head out of the driver's window. "Dude, that's a Corvette."
The boys were still discussing Philip's luck as a tall woman approached the group. "Alright, boys. That's enough for today, your parents are waiting."
The boys quickly dispersed, but not without a few more calls of "lucky dog" and "totally rad" thrown in Philip's direction.
The crowd control expert looked quizzically at Lee. "I see you know how to get an seventh-grade boy's attention. I'm Mrs. Marsten, the principal. Are you picking up Jamie and Philip today?"
"Yes," Lee smiled, "I'm Lee Stetson. Sorry about that, I didn't mean to be disruptive, they just wanted to look."
Mrs. Marsten smiled. "No problem. I'm afraid I will need to ask you some questions. Our safety rules require anyone not on the approved parental list to check in with us before leaving with students."
Lee nodded feeling slightly uncomfortable. "Amanda mentioned that. I believe the safety word is 'stopsign'?"
Jamie, surprisingly, came to Lee's rescue. "You don't have to worry about Lee, Mrs. Marsten. He's mom's boyfriend."
Mrs. Marsten nodded. "Alright, Jamie, thanks." She smiled at Lee. "Nice to meet you Mr. Stetson. Have a nice afternoon."
Lee smiled, relieved he had passed the test. "Yeah, thanks. You too." He let out a sigh when she turned away. He smiled at Jamie. "Thanks, buddy. Principals make me nervous."
Philip laughed. "Me too."
"How about those shakes?" Lee asked.
Both boys expressed their enthusiasm and Lee ushered them into the car.
As he rounded the front to take his own seat he noted that Sandy and Cheryl
were still watching and whispering. He distinctly heard one saying "I didn't
even know she had a boyfriend!"
Lee drove through the increasingly familiar streets to the boys favorite ice cream shop while they chatted about their day. Lee thought it was a pretty nice way to spend a drive.
As the three sat enjoying their milkshakes Philip turned the conversation back to cars. "Thanks for letting the guys look at your car, Lee."
"Aw, he's just thankful for what it will do for his image." Interrupted Jamie, "He's gone up a few points on the 'cool scale'. He's probably hoping all the girls saw him climbing in it."
"Shut up, Dork-brain." Philip retorted.
Lee stepped in quickly to stop the fight he saw brewing on Jamie's face. "Hey, Fellas, don't fight, huh." He gave Philip a confidential smile, "Jamie don't ever underestimate the need to impress a girl."
Philip grinned back, happy to be included in a man-to-man discussion. "Yeah, you have to make women interested in you."
Jamie didn't see the point. "Whatever, you won't see me doing that."
Lee smiled again. "Famous last words, my man. Famous last words. I didn't think I would ever get married, but look at me now."
Jamie suddenly seemed interested. "Is that how you got Mom to marry you? Impressed her with your car and junk?"
Lee chuckled. "I don't think my car has ever impressed your mother. She was more interested in making me forget the car and everything it meant."
"That doesn't make any sense." Jamie observed. "If the car is to impress women, then why would she want you to forget it."
Lee shrugged. "If there is one thing I've learned it's that I will never understand your mother. Love her, spend the rest of my life with her, but never understand her."
Philip nodded wisely, "Yeah, I know what you mean. Girls are weird."
Lee grinned, "You see Jamie, Philip understands."
Jamie wasn't convinced. "You're both looney."
Lee took a look at his watch, "I think we have time for a few laps at the Go-kart Grand Prix before your mother gets home."
That got their attention. "Really?" Both boys asked in unison.
"Sure, it's a nice day. Why not take advantage of it."
Amanda wasn't worried. After all, Lee was the top intelligence agent in the country, so she knew the boys were safe. They were just late. Two hours late. She had told Lee what time she would be home, and it had been a very accurate estimate, it wasn't like him not to be there.
She heard the door open and a wave of relief washed over her. "That you, Fellas?" she called expecting a loud affirmative.
"No, darling, it's me." He mother responded stepping into the den.
Amanda frowned. "Hello, mother. I was hoping you were the boys, they aren't home yet."
Dotty looked worried. "Not home yet? They should have been here long before now. Didn't you pick them up from school?"
Amanda shook her head. "I couldn't get away. Lee picked them up, he was free."
Dotty looked both amused and anxious. "Are you sure that was wise, Amanda. Lee still doesn't look too comfortable around the boys."
"They have to work that out, Mother. Lee isn't going anywhere and they are just going to have to learn to spend time together."
Just then the front door burst open with a loud clatter. Amanda and Dotty smiled. "They're home." They both joked.
Lee followed a pair of exuberant boys into the den. He looked about as happy as Amanda could remember seeing him. He also looked a little tired she noted as he wearily sank onto the sofa.
"Mom, Lee took us to the go-karts!" Jamie exclaimed.
"Yeah," Philip chimed in, "It was totally rad! He's really good at those tricky turns."
"There was this one time," Jamie jumped in to add, "I didn't think he was going to make it. But, he did. It was awesome!"
"Alright, guys." Dotty interrupted seeing that the boys were going to continue to relive their afternoon at the top of their lungs. "Why don't you head up stairs and start your homework. You can tell us all about it at dinner. You're probably starving from all that driving."
The boys headed out to do as they were told. "I could eat, but I'm still kind of full from the milkshakes." Jamie offered as they climbed the stairs.
"Thanks again, Lee!" Philip called.
Dotty followed to give her daughter and the new family addition some time alone. Amanda smiled at the boys excitement. Crossing the room she flopped down sideways on the couch next to her husband.
"Go-karts and ice cream? You aren't overdoing it are you?"
Lee shrugged. "I just thought it was a good opportunity. That's probably the first chance we've had to be alone. Sorry if I overstepped." He added at the last, hoping that he hadn't broken an unknown house rule.
Amanda waved off the offered apology. "I'm just glad you all enjoyed yourselves. It was really sweet." She emphasized her approval by caressing his cheek with one delicate finger.
Lee smiled and pulled her onto his lap. Lying her backward in his arms he leaned down and kissed her slowly. Amanda responded immediately and enthusiastically, plying her fingers through his hair and intensifying the pressure of the kiss.
"They really had a good time." Dotty observed as she entered the room. Seeing Lee and Amanda on the couch she smiled. "Sorry."
Lee released Amanda and she sat up but, didn't climb off his lap. "Mother."
"Should I start dinner, darling? I don't want to be a pest."
Amanda looked at Lee and rolled her eyes. "Let's start dinner." She climbed off Lee's lap and leaned down to give him another, less demanding kiss. "You're staying, aren't you?"
Lee kissed her once more. "Of course." He stood and followed her into the
kitchen. "Can I help?" he asked Dotty.
Later, Lee and Amanda strolled in the night air. "It's nice to be walking down the block instead of hiding in your back yard." Lee observed.
Amanda agreed. "There are a lot of nice things happening lately. Lee, I hope today wasn't too big a step for you."
Lee spoke quickly, "No, it was great. I really enjoyed myself. The boys and I really had a good time. We talked about a lot of things and had fun."
Amanda couldn't resist asking, "What did you talk about?"
Lee tried to be offhand, "Oh, you know, guy stuff. Cars, women."
"Cars and women? Maybe I should rethink my position about you spending time with them."
"Very funny. Really, everything was great, the boys, go-karts, Francine, Cheryl and Sandy, all of it."
Amanda looked slightly confused. "Francine, Cheryl and Sandy?"
Lee looked slightly sheepish. "Yeah, I, uh, had a little fun with Francine after I got off the phone with you. You should have seen the look on her face when I told her I was picking the boys up and going for ice cream."
Amanda laughed. "Too bad I missed that one." She stopped laughing and gave him her best imitation of a suspicious look. "Who are Cheryl and Sandy?"
"Cheryl Crane and Sandy Hampton, at the boys school. They were a little too interested in what I was doing there. So, I gave them something to talk about."
"Lee! You didn't."
Lee nodded "Sure, they seemed awfully interested in the new guy hanging around after school."
Amanda smirked slightly. "I bet they were."
"I felt kind of like a side of meat on display."
Amanda chuckled, "I thought the sexy Scarecrow liked being ogled by women."
"That was the old Scarecrow. This one wants everyone to know he belongs to you. So, that's what I was doing. Letting the vultures know I was spoken for. They were amazed to find out I belonged to you. Maybe amazed isn't the right word, disappointed might be better."
Amanda laughed. "I bet."
"They were green by the time Jamie was done."
"He spoke up to Mrs. Marsten. Told her not to worry, I really was your boyfriend. I thought Cheryl and Sandy were going to die on the spot."
Amanda laughed again. "Oh, Lee. I'll be the talk of PTA, now."
Lee stopped under the street light as the came back in front of the house. "That was the idea, Mrs. Stetson. Let's give them something to talk about." He punctuated his point with another kiss. This time there was no Dotty to interrupt.