Riding Lessons

By:  Sara

Summary: Lee survives his first major parenting challenge.

Warning: I can't imagine that one is needed.

Setting: Let's call it late season 5/early season 6 (if there had been one), or about one year into the marriage. In my book that stupid secret marriage ended one week after the last episode. So, they're married, everyone knows it and they are happy.

Disclaimer: Charlie stole fizzy-lifting drinks. He was supposed to get nothing. Nothing is what I get for writing. The characters of Scarecrow and Mrs. King are the sole property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Enterprises. (Bonus points if you get the Charlie reference.)  Archive Request: eman, do your thing.



"Lee, are you awake?"

 Lee Stetson dragged himself toward the voice. It had been a long night and sleep pulled hard against his desire to respond to the question. He won, but he wasn't sure he was happy about it.

"Yeah, I'm awake." Sitting up on one elbow, he pushed the sheet away from his bare shoulders and focused on the source of the conversation.

Philip stood just inside the bedroom door, obviously torn between need and a desire not to wake his stepfather. "Sorry, if I woke you." The boy glanced nervously toward the bathroom where his mother was showering. "I, uh, I needed to ask you something."

Lee was beginning to realize this was important. "OK. What can I do for you?"

Philip gave another nervous look at the door hiding his mother.

Lee smiled in understanding. "Should we take this discussion somewhere else?"

Philip looked relieved. "Yeah, would that be OK?"

"Sure." Climbing out of bed Lee wrapped his dark blue robe around himself and led the teen out of the room. "How about some tea? I could use a cup of coffee."

Philip nodded, but didn't speak. Lee began to wonder just where this conversation was headed. He also began to hope he wasn't in over his head parenting was still pretty new.

Together they entered the kitchen and set about making their morning eye openers. Lee started a pot of coffee while Philip started a teapot brewing and retrieved a cup from the cupboard.

Lee decided he had better take the bull by the horns. "OK, what's so important that you don't want your mother to know about it?"

Philip looked slightly embarrassed. "Well, it's not that I don't want Mom to know. It's just that it's not the kind of thing you want to talk to your mom about. I mean, I could, but it would be a little creepy."

Lee nodded and handed the boy a tea bag as the kettle whistled. "Thanks." Philip dunked his bag into the water and Lee turned to pour himself a cup of much needed coffee. Steeling himself for the worst, he took a seat next to his stepson at the kitchen table.

"I was going to talk to Dad about it, but he's in the Orient." Philip paused not really sure he should continue, then stumbled on determined to get it all out. "Besides, I think this might be more up your alley than Dad's."

"Now I'm really curious. Just what is more up my alley?"

 A blush was quite visible on Philip's cheeks, "Girls."

Lee leaned back in his chair and took a sip of hot coffee to hide a small grin. "Oh." Telling himself to be very careful here, Lee set the cup down and gave Philip an encouraging smile. "Is it something specific? One particular girl?"

"Yeah. I did something pretty stupid and I'm not sure how to get out of it. I mean, I really like Amy, and if I tell her I was lying she won't want to talk to me anymore. I didn't mean to, it just all tumbled out before I could stop it. Now she's having this party and I don't see any way to keep from looking like a total dweeb."

"Slow down." Lee had the momentary thought that Amanda's ability to talk without breathing was probably the one characteristic he wished the boys hadn't inherited. "Start at the beginning. Who's Amy?"

 "Amy Allen, she's new. She's in my homeroom, she moved here last month."

 "And you've been getting to know her?"

"Yeah, I got lucky and she sits right next to me. Mrs. Wilson even asked me to show her around. You know where the lunchroom is, and how to find her classes. We talked, and I really liked her. I think she likes me too, but it's hard to tell with girls."

 Lee nodded in understanding, "Sometimes, yeah. So, you were getting to know one another. Then what?"

Philip began to look uncomfortable, "Amy is into horses; I mean, really into them. She rides in competitions and shows and stuff. Anyway, we were talking and I sort of made her think I was into them too."

Lee began to see where this was headed. "You made yourself into some great horseman." It wasn't a question.

"Yeah." Philip looked absolutely miserable.

"And now, she's having a party and you're going to have to put up or shut up."

"How did you know."

Lee laughed. "Been there."


"Yeah, only with me it wasn't horses, it was skiing."

"What happened?"

"I broke my leg."

That didn't seem to make Philip feel any better. "Great."

"When's the party."

"Next week. She invited me yesterday. She invited everybody. It's bad enough I'm going to look like a dork in front of her, but all my friends are going to be there too. I'll be the joke of eighth grade."

"You've been riding before, right?"

"A few times, at camp and stuff. But, I can't do jumps or anything like I said I could."

"Well, we have a week. I think I might know were to go to get some help."

The smile that appeared on the boy's face made Lee feel very warm inside. "Lee that would be great. I just need to learn enough that I don't look like a jerk."

Lee nodded. "We can do that, but don't you think you owe Amy the truth? If you really like her do you really want to lie to her?" Philip shook his head, "No, I guess not. Can I wait until after to tell her?" Lee smiled, "That might make it easier. You free after school?"

"Yes. No practice this week or next, I'm in between seasons."

"OK, we'll start today."

"Start what?"

Lee jumped as Amanda appeared at the table, he'd been so intent on his conversation with Philip he hadn't heard her come into the room. He stole a look in Philip's direction; the boy looked very uncomfortable. "I, uh, asked Philip if he and Jamie would like to do some riding. I know a stable just out of town that has some wonderful trails."

Amanda smiled at her oldest son, "Sweetheart, that would be great. You should spend some time with your brother while you aren't so busy with the team."

Philip nodded and nervously stood up. "Yeah, I should get ready for school. Thanks Lee."

Amanda's smile followed the boy from the room happy to see him not only committing  to time with his brother, but including Lee as well. Lee used the opportunity to try and change the subject. Standing he wrapped his arms around his wife's waist. "You were sound asleep when I got home last night." Amanda turned in his arms and kissed his lips lightly while she circled her
own arms around his neck. "You said not to wait up. Did you find what you were looking for?"

"Yes. I think the surveillance on the Cuban embassy paid off. Our information was right on target. It was pretty late by the time we made our move and then wrapped up all the loose ends." He leaned in and nuzzled her soft and inviting neck, "I missed you though. It's not the same working with Francine. I'll be glad when you are finished with this assignment you're on."

Amanda giggled in response to the attention her neck was receiving. She playfully slid her hands beneath the terrycloth he wore around his bare torso, "It's good for you. You'll appreciate me more when I get back."

Her hands were exploring what lay beneath the robe and Lee was having a hard time concentrating. He smiled devilishly and kissed her hard, pulling her tight against him and pinning her hands against his chest. Ten nails dug themselves into his flesh and he felt a new wave of desire. He cleared his throat trying to find the ability to speak. "Why don't we go upstairs and I can prove I missed you."

"Race you."

That afternoon Amanda was up to her ears in computer files. It occurred to her that it just wasn't fair; Lee had spent the last two weeks out and about with Francine while she had been deep into this research project. And now to make matters worse, he was taking the boys horseback riding and she was still sitting at her desk. But, she had to admit that it was great to see Lee and
the boys doing things together. Lee's transition into the family had gone fairly smoothly considering his lack of experience and the boys' sense that it was all coming so quickly. Now, after a year things seemed to be functioning almost normally.

"Hi Amanda." Francine greeted the other agent. "Is Lee around?"

"Vault." Was Amanda's only reply.

Lee heard the voices and stepped out of the storage vault. "Hi Francine. Where you looking for me?"

"Billy wanted you to take a look at these."

Lee took the stack of files and tossed them on his desk. "I'll get to them, but unless it's an emergency it'll be tomorrow. I'm leaving in a few minutes."

"You two have big plans?"

"We don't." Amanda responded a bit tartly. "Lee does."

Francine's eyes lit up at the hint of discord. "Oooh, is there trouble in paradise?"

Lee frowned at Amanda's response and gave Francine a 'you're-not-helping' look. "No. Amanda's still busy with research on the Pentagon investigation. I'm taking the boys riding this afternoon."

Francine looked disappointed and amused at the same time. "Oh, well as long as things are still peachy." She turned and headed for the door stopping as she opened it to fire one last salvo. "Too bad I can't take a ride this afternoon. I know plenty of people who would pay top dollar for pictures of the famous Lee Stetson practicing 'daddy skills'.

Both Lee and Amanda responded to that one. "Francine!"

The blonde was laughing as she pulled the door shut.

Lee was less concerned about Francine's acerbic wit and more about Amanda's mood. He stepped across to her desk and gently removed her hands from the keyboard. "Are you ok?"
Amanda smiled, looking up from her terminal. "Yes, I'm ok. Just feeling a little sorry for myself, that's all. You get to go spend an afternoon with the boys and I'll be here looking at statistical data. I'll get over it."

Lee leaned down and kissed her, "You shouldn't be so quick on that machine.  Billy wouldn't pick you for these assignments if you were as bad with it as I am."
Amanda smiled and kissed him back. "I'll take that as a compliment."
Two kisses weren't enough to satisfy Lee and he insisted on another, making it long and gentle. Amanda would have been more than happy to continue, but her sense of duty scolded her to send her distraction away. After a few moments she pulled back and smiled at her husband.
"You better get going."
Lee glanced at his watch. "I have a few more minutes."

"But I don't, mister. If I can make some progress this afternoon I just might finish this thing up by tomorrow."
Lee nodded and went to retrieve his jacket. "That would be great. And, I think we may be riding all week, so if you finish you could go with us next time."
Amanda was beginning to suspect there was more than spending time with the boys in play here. "Why the sudden interest in riding, and why would you be going all week?"

Lee looked slightly uncomfortable, he didn't want to lie to Amanda, but he didn't want to betray Philip's trust. "Let's just say that Philip is really interested in riding right now, ok."
"And you know why, but I shouldn't ask?"

"Something like that. Look, I don't want to keep you in the dark, but he came to me about this. I'll shout if I start to get in over my head."
Amanda smiled. "Fine. You know, you are turning into one very good dad."

Lee returned the smile and gave her one more kiss. "Thanks, I'm trying. See you at six?"
"Yep. I'll start dinner."
Lee and the boys arrived at the stable at exactly 4:00. As they neared the paddock both boys were looking eagerly around and trying hard not to be too excited. Lee smiled at their internal struggles, but managed not to laugh.
"Well, I'll be go to hell!" A voice from behind them exclaimed. "It really is Lee Stetson."
Lee was smiling before he turned around. "Hello, Tammy."
The blonde woman leaning on the fence was smiling too. "I didn't believe the message when I heard it this morning. What's it been, ten years? I figured you'd forgotten all about me by now, but there was your voice asking for a reservation. Talk about walking into the past." Tammy stepped away from the fence and right up into Lee's face. Smiling wickedly, the horsewoman reached out and toyed with his collar, "I really didn't expect to ever see you again after that night in West Virginia." She told him huskily.

Lee cast a quick look at his stepsons and backed a few steps away. "Yeah, well that was a long time ago, Tammy." His voiced cracked slightly with tension as he nodded toward the boys. "Have I introduced you, yet? Tammy, this is Philip." He stepped behind the taller boy as if searching for a place to hide. "And, this is Jamie." He finished nervously placing a hand on the
younger boy's shoulder.

Tammy looked rather satisfied with herself as she took her eyes off Lee and looked at the boys. "Nice to meet you guys."

"Tammy owns the stable." Lee explained. "I thought she could help us out."

"Why don't we get started?" Tammy suggested suddenly all business, "Lee here's paying by the hour, so we should probably get busy. I have the horses saddled and ready. We'll head out for a little while and then I'll show you a few things. Lee here can show you a few things too. As I recall he's got a few tricks up his sleeve."

Tammy led the boys into the barn and Lee followed, not really sure this was one of his better ideas.

Amanda was setting the table when the back door opened and banged against the wall. "Hi Mom."

"Hi, Jamie. Haven't I asked you not to let the door hit the wall?"

"Oh. Sorry." He moved into the room to allow his brother and Lee to follow. "You should have been there, Mom. We had an awesome time. Lee is a great rider, and Tammy is even better! Did you know Lee had a horse when he was a kid?"

Amanda gave Lee a penetrating look, arching one eyebrow. "Who's Tammy?"'

Lee smiled a bit self-consciously. "She's an old friend, owns the stables." He stepped past the boys and gave his wife a quick kiss. "What's for dinner?"

Amanda was laughing at his nervousness. She was never worried about women from Lee's past, but every time one turned up he acted like she was going to hit the fan. When she thought about it, it was really very sweet; Lee still wanted to make a good impression for her. "We're having spaghetti and it's ready." She gave him another kiss and winked just to show him she wasn't
worried. "Go wash up fellas."

"Ok," all three responded. Amanda laughed out loud as Lee led the boys up the stairs to clean up.

"So," Amanda asked when everyone was seated at the diner table. "You guys had fun."

"Yeah. I think I may be sore tomorrow though." Jamie admitted. "Riding is hard work."

Amanda smiled. "Lee said you guys might be going back this week. Why the sudden interest?" Lee gave her a reproachful look but she ignored him. She was their mother after all; she could pry if she wanted.

Philip cleared his throat. "I uh . . . I asked Lee to help me out. I need to learn to ride better by next week."

"Next week? Where's the fire?"

Lee tried to come to Philip's rescue. "Big party next week. If he's going to go he might as well look good."

The opportunity was too tempting for Jamie. "Yeah, he has to look good. He opened his big fat mouth."

"Shut up!"

"Philip, don't tell your brother to shut up." Amanda said quickly.

"Didn't you guys say you still had a little homework?" Lee interrupted trying to change the subject.

The boys nodded, still casting threatening looks at one another.

"Then finish up and get to it." Their mother commanded.

The rest of dinner went smoothly since Amanda decided not to push the riding issue. Obviously Philip had made some kind of teenage faux pas and just as obviously, Lee was handling it. She wasn't going to step in and take it away from him unless he was really screwing it up.

The next morning was fairly typical in the Stetson-King household, lots of noise and rushing around, but routine. As the family was headed out the door Amanda made one more stab at control. "Boys," she called, "If you're going with Lee this afternoon then you should make sure you have your homework under control before you get home. You both have tests on Friday and I don't want any excuses about not having had time to study."

The calls of "Right" and "Got it" were faint yet audible as the boys sprinted out the front door. Lee was smiling as he watched them race one another down the sidewalk. They might be teenagers, but they still loved to play together. "Everything with those two is a competition."

Amanda followed his gaze as her boys disappeared around the corner. "They are a little competitive. Don't know where they get that, it must be Joe's fault."

Lee laughed, "Oh, no. You don't get off that easy. They are you through and through and you know it."

"Lee Stetson you take that back, I am not overly competitive!"

"No? Who bet me they could last longer on the dance floor than the Russian touring company? Who got into an impromptu foot race with the Agency trainees last week? And, who took that assignment in Peru so seriously that she had to learn to handle a llama?"

Amanda raised her delicate chin in an attempt at dignity. "I don't know what you are talking about."

Shaking his head and grinning, Lee followed his wife to the driveway. "I hope you get things with that Pentagon project wrapped up. I'd really like you to join us this afternoon."

"What's the matter, Stetson; old girlfriend proving too much for you?" Amanda teased.

Lee flinched as the comment came a little close to home. "It's just a little uncomfortable, Amanda; what with the boys there and all. Tammy has never been what you would consider a shy or reserved person and she's not above a little verbal torture. Some of the comments she makes might have the boys asking questions."

"Unless she's going to tell them you're an agent I wouldn't worry about it. They pretty much know you were a ladies man before I came along. Heck, they're teenage boys, it will probably do your image some good."

"Maybe." Lee responded, but he didn't sound comforted.

The week passed quickly for Lee; he left work early every afternoon and picked the boys up to spend a few hours at the stable. The weekend passed with even longer sessions on horseback and by the middle of the following week Lee was beginning to think he would never walk correctly again. The only drawback to the time with the boys was Tammy and her never ending attempts to remind him of what he had been like ten years ago. It really wasn't something he liked to think about.

For Amanda, time passed much more slowly. Her project had turned into a nightmare; just when she thought she had it wrapped up Billy had dropped a whole new batch of data on her desk, all of which had to be added into her analysis. By mid-week she was beginning to think it would never end.

The family was clearing the dinner table late Wednesday evening when Dotty suddenly remembered something. "Philip! I almost forgot, darling. This came for you in the mail today."

Philip looked at the invitation-sized envelope as if undecided whether he should open it or run. He looked at Lee and received an encouraging smile. Tearing it open he read it and began to feel a little better.

"The party's at Tammy's Stables." He told Lee with relief. "I think that's a good sign, don't you?"

Lee smiled and nodded. "I'd say, we'll talk to Tammy tomorrow about you riding the same horse you've been working with that should help too."

Philip smiled gratefully, "Yeah, that probably would help. Thanks, Lee."

Amanda was watching with a great deal of curiosity. Up until now she had managed to stay out of Philip's predicament, but the effort was just short of Herculean. She decided that she would wait no longer; she would get an answer out of Lee tonight.
"Fellas, hit the books. You both have homework and it's only an hour until bed time."

Jamie and Philip obediently kissed their mother and grandmother and waving to Lee headed upstairs. No time like the present, Amanda told herself and immediately set about getting an answer out of her secretive husband.

"Lee," she purred sliding into his arms and placing a well-directed kiss on the most sensitive spot on his neck, "why did Philip go to all this trouble?"

Lee fought back his reaction to her kiss. "I'm . . . uh . . . I'm not supposed to tell, remember."

Amanda smiled and continued to work on the tender spot. Since she was on the offensive she added her tongue to the armory, creating a long wet trail along his goose-pimpling flesh. "Uh-hmmm. I know, but you can tell me." She whispered.

Lee squirmed. This really wasn't fair he told himself. Philip was a great kid and all, and he loved him, but he shouldn't have to reject these kinds of advances. "Come on, Amanda. I promised." It sounded almost like begging.

Amanda pulled back far enough to look into his eyes and gauge his resistance. Smiling she spoke without breaking eye contact with her victim. "Mother, why don't you go take a bath?"

Dotty who had been wiping down the counters took one look at the battling couple and without cracking a smile agreed. "Right, that does sound like a good idea. Good night, Amanda. Good night, Lee." After all, she was curious about Philip's problem too, and she could find out about what was going on from Amanda.

"Good night, Mother." Amanda responded still holding Lee's eyes.

Lee couldn't seem to find his voice so his goodnights were left unsaid.

When they were alone Amanda made the one move she knew would gain her the information. The kiss was long, deep and full of promises she fully intended to keep as long as she got exactly what she was looking for. "You know you want to tell me." She said huskily when she finally pulled away.

Lee looked as if he didn't know what to do, desire warred heavily with promise. It took one more kiss and he crumbled.

"Ok, I'll talk."

Amanda immediately pulled away and plopped herself down on the couch. "Good. Spill it."

Lee shook his head at her easy dismissal of their passion and took a seat next to her. Not wanting her to forget where this was headed he let one hand play softly with a strand of hair lying against her throat. "There's a new girl in Philip's homeroom."

Amanda nodded, "Amy Allen."

Lee was taken aback. "Yeah, how did you know?"

"I have my ways."

"Funny. Anyway, Philip and Amy hit it off pretty quickly. But, while he was trying to get her interested he made a mistake. Apparently, Amy is an avid horsewoman. So, in an attempt to make himself more interesting Philip lied and said he rode too."

"Lee, no. Why would he do that, he's a great guy in his own right."

Lee gave her a withering look. "Amanda, you're his mom, you think everything he does is great. She's a girl; it's a whole different ball game. Anyway, Philip built himself up into a great rider and everything was going great. Then Amy invited everyone to this party, a riding party. So he was stuck, if he didn't get in some practice she would know he was lying. That's when he
came to me for help."

"And you called an old friend and got him riding lessons so he wouldn't look bad? Do you think that was best? I don't want him thinking it's ok to lie his way into dates."

Lee gave her a reassuring peck. "Give me some credit will, you. We've had a couple of nice long talks about what he did that was wrong. We've also talked about being yourself with girls and not trying to be something you're not. I think he understands. He's going to tell Amy the truth after the party."

Amanda's curiosity was satisfied, "Nice work, Dad." She leaned in closer and let other unsatisfied thoughts run wild. "Why don't we go upstairs, I'm suddenly very ready for bed."

Lee nodded. "I've been promised all sorts of things, Mrs. Stetson, and I think I'd like to collect. After all, if I'm going to snitch I need a pay-off."

Friday afternoon was perfect for a party. A warm, light breeze was blowing and the sun was shining as Lee pulled the Jeep onto the stable driveway. He wasn't sure who was more nervous; Philip with the upcoming test or himself since today would be the first time Amanda met Tammy. He parked and made a silent wish that everything would work out for both of them.

He took Amanda's hand as he helped her exit the car and looked around at the arriving guests. Most of the kids he recognized, he'd been around long enough by now that he knew most of the boy's friends. A tall girl with a touch of freckles across her nose and long hair pulled into a ponytail stood at the paddock gate welcoming everyone.

"That's Amy?" He asked Philip nodding toward the hostess.

Philip nodded.

Lee smiled and winked. "Nice."

Philip smiled back, flattered by the guy-to-guy comment.

Amanda rolled her eyes. "Come on, you two. Honestly, I don't know if I can take five more years with all this male ego."

Lee poked Philip in the ribs as they walked toward Amy. "Come on, honey. What do you want us to do, stop being guys? We won't look very good in dresses, we don't have the legs for it."

Amanda laughed and gave up; she couldn't win anyway.

Amy Allen turned out to be a very nice girl, and she was obviously smitten with Philip. Lee and Amanda spent a few minutes talking to the young couple and getting to know Amy before stepping aside to allow them to enjoy the party.

"You ready to head home, Mr. Stetson?"

"Not just yet, Mrs. Stetson. Let's stick around a minute and watch them ride. I think you'll be surprised at what Philip has learned."

"Watching him with that girl I'd say he's learned a lot more from you than from me, you smooth talker. Did you see the way that girl smiles at him?"

Lee flinched as they turned around; he had been hoping to avoid this. Tammy stood behind them hands on her hips. She shortened the distance between them and looked Amanda up and down.

"Uh, Amanda, this is Tammy Sterling. Tammy, this is my wife, Amanda."

Both women smiled and politely shook hands. Amanda gave the women her usual open and friendly greeting, but Tammy's intent was still a mystery to Lee and he didn't like it.

"Tammy, I'd like to thank you for helping Philip this week." Amanda said, trying to break the ice. "He has really enjoyed himself and from what I hear, both the boys have learned a great deal."

Tammy smiled; it appeared she was going to play nice. "No problem, it's been my pleasure. They are great boys and good students. Philip is a natural athlete, he really picked it up."

Amanda was beaming. "Yes, Philip seems to be able to jump into any sport at full speed. That gets hard for Jamie to take sometimes, but he has other talents, so it works out."

Tammy cast a mischievous glance at Lee. "I've been dying to meet you, you know."


"I didn't think there was a woman on the planet that could get Lee Stetson to settle down, much less raise a family. I'm impressed."

Amanda grinned back just a bit devilishly. "It wasn't easy. You wouldn't believe the habits I had to break."

Lee was starting to look even more uncomfortable. "Hey!" he exclaimed with relief, "The kids are riding. There goes Philip."

Philip sat atop the black gelding he had been working with the past two weeks. Tammy had set up an elaborate obstacle course for the kids to maneuver through and test their horsemanship, and with the probable intent of being the first to show off Philip began weaving in and out of the turns as if he had been doing it his whole life. After a few moments he increased speed until he and his horse were flying through the course.

Amy seemed to be as impressed as the other onlookers as Philip continued his demonstration. As the boy neared the end of the course she shouted to him from atop her roan. "Philip! Race you over the jumps." Without waiting for a reply she kicked her horse into a run and headed straight toward a set of jumps set up at the other end of the field. Not to be outdone Philip jerked
his mount's reigns and took off after her like a demon. Amanda reflexively squeezed Lee's hand and made a step toward her son.

Lee held her back. "Relax, he's been practicing this."

Philip's horse pulled even with Amy as they neared the first jump. It appeared to Amanda that the horses were shoulder to shoulder as they sailed over the first fence and landed safely on the other side.

 "Satin's a jumper." Tammy explained. "That's why Philip's been working with him. Watch this."

Philip and Amy had continued at top speed toward the other fence and showed no signs of slowing. Again the black horse and his roan partner cleared the fence, carrying the two riders over with ease. There were cheers from the other guests as Philip and his girlfriend cantered back toward the party.

By the time Philip slid to an impressive halt to receive the congratulations of his friends Lee could no longer feel his fingers. "Amanda, honey, my fingers."


"My hand, I can't feel my fingers."

Amanda let go, not even aware that she'd had him pinned in a death grip. "Sorry. Did he learn all that this past week? I mean he must have, he couldn't ride like that before!"

"Like I said," Tammy responded. "He's a natural. I could put that kid in competition."

"No thanks," Amanda said shaking her head. "I almost didn't live through that."

An hour and a half later, Lee and Amanda returned to pick up Philip. They found him seated atop the fence with Amy. Since the kids' backs were to them they managed to get close enough to hear the conversation without the teens realizing they were there.

Amy seemed to be taking Philip's news in stride. "So, you didn't really know how to ride?" She asked.

"No. I'm sorry, Amy I shouldn't have made all that up. I just wanted you to like me and I thought you wouldn't if we didn't have something in common."

"Dope, we have lots in common. We're both in the eighth grade. We both like Van Halen. We both hate Mr. Melton's Chemistry class. Why did we both have to like horses?"

"Like I said, I'm an idiot. I've learned my lesson though. From now on it's just the truth, no more lying or making stuff up."

"So, if you didn't know how to ride, how did you get so good by tonight?"

"My dad knows the stable owner here. She's been giving me lessons for the last couple of weeks. I just wanted to undo the lie, you know make it so I was kind of telling the truth. So, I learned to ride."

"You did all that just to be able to tell me you were lying about the whole thing?"


"And your dad helped you?"


"I think that might be a little weird. Sweet, but weird."

Lee pulled Amanda back toward the car hardly able to contain his excitement. When they were out of earshot he gave her a fierce hug.

"Did you hear that?"

"Yes, I think there's hope for that boy, yet."

"No. Did you hear what he called me? He called me his dad. Twice! Well, once, but he didn't correct Amy when she called me that either!"

Amanda took a second to review the conversation. "Hey! Hey, he did. Oh, Lee that's wonderful."

Lee swept his wife into his arms and spun her around in glee. "Oh, Amanda, I never thought I'd be so happy to hear that word. It's fantastic."

Amanda smiled as he set her on her feet again. Leaning in she wrapped arms around his neck and took a long look at the joy she saw in his eyes. "I'm not surprised, I've always know you're pretty terrific and with enough time the boys were bound to figure it out."

"Hi, Mom. Hi, Lee."

"Hey, Sweetheart." Amanda greeted her oldest son as he neared. "Are you ready to go?"

"Yeah, Amy's the only one left she and her folks are just saying thank you to Tammy."

"How'd it go, Champ?" Lee asked he stepson not bothering to hide the silly grin he felt on his lips.

"Pretty good." Philip admitted. "I did what you said, told her the truth. She thinks I'm a little weird, but sweet."

"I'd say that's good."

Philip shrugged. "Guess so. Like I said, sometimes girls are hard to read."

Lee opened the passenger door and Amanda climbed into the Jeep. Philip started to open his own door, but paused and reached out to keep Lee from moving away. Lee's eyes were curious as he stopped, waiting to find out what the boy needed.
"Thanks, Lee. Thanks for everything."

"Any time, son."

Philip didn't say anything else. Smiling he climbed into the backseat.