disclaimer: lee stetson, amanda king, and the rest of the cast of characters we've come to know and love belong to warner bros. and shoot the moon productions and possible other copyright holders. i certainly intended no infringement on their copyrights; i just wanted to borrow these marvelous characters for a short time in my own scenarios and hopefully return them no worse for wear...
rating: to be on the safe side, "pg-13"
summary: during a terrible storm, lee and amanda search for evidence in an old house and learn a bit about each other and themselves....
timeline: Friday, June 13, 1986
notes: one night last week, while i waited for the train going home, this idea just hit me out of the blue and i thought, if i could flesh it out in time, it would be fairly appropriate to post this week in recognition of friday the 13th...i really rushed to get it done, though, after i tracked down an old calendar which revealed a friday the 13th in my planned timeline (summertime between 3rd & 4th season)....i have taken dramatic license with the storm since i don't know what the actual weather conditions were on that date...please let me know if you enjoyed it and, if not, why not...and, please, don't bother wasting your time or mine by sending flames... warning: just in case - one particularly creepy moment (at least for me)...
Ten o'clock on Friday the Thirteenth and all was not well.
The Corvette's windshield wipers couldn't keep up with the deluge pouring down and, with only the headlights providing illumination, Lee Stetson strained forward in the driver's seat trying to get a better look at the road. He firmly gripped the steering wheel and barely acknowledged the woman seated next to him, his partner of the past three years and girlfriend of the past three weeks, Amanda King.
The old country road they were traveling on was so full of bumps and holes and flooded in areas that Lee was having trouble maintaining control of the car even though he was barely reaching the minimum speed limit. His poor car wasn't meant for this abuse and he regretted not having taken Amanda's car when she made the offer. Thoughts of Amanda seeped into his conscious mind in spite of his efforts to do otherwise. Girlfriend, such a simple sounding word for a woman who meant so much to him. She was different from all other women he'd ever met, continually surprising him for the better, and he was grateful that he had grabbed her by the arm that morning at the train station. He had been falling in love with this woman longer than he could admit to himself and certainly wasn't yet ready to admit to her. At least he'd taken that first step forward in letting her know he was interested in her more than just as a partner or friend. The thought of a true relationship with her both excited and scared him. 'Just take it slow and this relationship just might last,' his mind cautioned. A sudden bump in the road forced Lee to focus once again on driving.
Amanda suppressed a groan at the latest bump in the road and regretted, once again, that she didn't insist on Lee taking her car. The 'vette simply wasn't meant for weather and road conditions like this. With a firm grip on her door handle, she remained quiet throughout most of the ride so as not to distract Lee. Amanda trusted in her partner's driving skills completely but it didn't hurt to be extra cautious at a time like this. Besides, knowing he was concentrating on the road allowed her the opportunity to gaze at the man seated next to her and think about their relationship. He pulled her into his life three years earlier, introducing her to a whole new world, and she was ever grateful for she learned a lot about herself in that time. She had always been happy with the person she was but, after meeting Lee and working with him at the Agency, she was even more pleased with the person she had become. Of course, she had also spent the better part of the past year trying desperately not to fall in love with a man who had never indicated he was interested in her as anything but a friend. Now, everything had changed and she was scared and excited at the same time. Breathing in deeply, she cautioned herself, for the millionth time, not to push too fast for more. Lightning suddenly flashed across the sky and Amanda gasped, "Lee, it's getting worse."
"I know, I know. We lost nearly an hour by missing that damned turn-off."
"It's not your fault," Amanda said in a placating voice, "that the turn-off was more dirt than road and we didn't recognize it. Hopefully the house isn't much farther."
"I still can't believe we're the ones stuck chasing down this lead. Billy couldn't find a single free agent tonight? Come on..."
"Lee, you said you've dealt with Webster before. That's probably the only reason you were asked to go. You're acting like it's some sort of punishment," Amanda reasoned.
"Of course it's a punishment. Amanda, it's a Friday night and where are we? Not snuggled together on the couch with a bowl of popcorn in front of an old movie that we're barely paying attention to. No, we're cold and wet and on what'll turn out to be a wild goose chase."
"You know you wouldn't be here if there wasn't any merit to Webster's information. Besides, we are together, aren't we?" Amanda smiled.
"Yeah, but it's not how I planned on spending Friday night with you," he still complained. Lee stole a quick glance at Amanda who smiled again and gave his right shoulder a reassuring squeeze. Turning his eyes back to the road, he relaxed slightly as Amanda's fingers began providing him with a mini-massage. "Billy's gonna owe me big for this. Webster gets to sit nice and dry in an Agency holding cell while I do the dirty work."
"Maybe we should pull over and wait for the storm to let up," Amanda suggested.
"Pull over? Where? We're in the middle of nowhere. I bet this farmhouse doesn't even exist and this is Webster's idea of a joke." Lee turned his head slightly and glared at Amanda.
"Don't give me that look," she warned. "I had the house to myself for the entire weekend, a rare occurrence I might add, and, after you cancelled our date because of Webster, I expected to be soaking in a warm bubble bath right about now but then you showed up, dripping wet, with those puppy dog eyes, begging me to keep you company, and you've done nothing but complain the entire time and --"
"I didn't beg," Lee interrupted indignantly. "And I didn't notice you arguing about how you'd rather spend your time."
"Well I -- Lee! Up ahead, look!"
In the distance, Lee could just make out the shape of a large structure. "Well, I'll be...Now if the evidence is where Webster said he hid it, I'll be one happy camper."
"For a change," Amanda muttered to herself just as thunder crashed above them.
"What was that?" Lee asked suspiciously.
"Nothing," Amanda said sweetly, "just keep your eyes on the road so we get there in one piece."
***** ***** ****** ***** *****
"This is Webster's idea of a safe spot?" Lee exclaimed when he parked the car and turned off the motor.
"I suppose it is," Amanda answered as she tried to look through her rain-streaked window. "I mean, who'd come looking here for tape recordings of an assassination plot on the President by a well- known ambassador?"
"Who'd come here is right. Look at this place. It could come crashing down on us at any time. We deserve hazard pay for just going in there."
Amanda rolled her eyes, "Come on, big fella, let's get this over with."
Lee held her back, "Don't you want to stay in the car? It's really coming down now."
"It's okay. I don't mind."
"Look, it should only take a minute to get the tapes from the upstairs bedroom. You really should stay in the car."
"Lee, it's cold in here with the motor off. I'll go with you." Lee regarded her for a moment, "You really want to go in there?"
Amanda looked at him puzzled, "Why on Earth not?"
Lee shrugged, "Look at the place. The stairs and porch are rotting away. The roof looks like it's caving in. And, with all those windows broken, I doubt it's much warmer in there. Besides, it looks like it's right out of one of those old black-and-white thrillers." Amanda laughed and he asked, "What's so funny?"
"You think it's haunted?" she giggled.
"No, I don't think it's haunted," Lee insisted. "I just think you might be safer staying in the car."
"Give me a break, Scarecrow. It's just an old house. Now, are you coming or not?" Amanda asked as she opened her door without waiting for Lee's reply.
***** ***** ****** ***** *****
Amanda sat dripping on the edge of the sheet-covered couch, with one sneaker on the floor next to her, while Lee knelt in front of her and gingerly touched her bare left ankle that rested on his right thigh.
"It's just an old house," Lee mocked.
"The flashlight wasn't pointed down," Amanda explained in a defensive tone, "so I didn't see that hole in the floor and after you tripped over that black cat on the porch I don't think you should be casting any --"
"That cat came from nowhere. I'll probably have bad luck for seven years," Lee interrupted.
"That's only for breaking a mirror," Amanda corrected as she rolled her eyes. "Next you'll complain about the date."
"What about the date?" Lee asked as he continued probing her ankle, allowing himself to enjoy its feel under his fingers just a little more than he should.
"Today's Friday the thirteenth. Didn't you --"
"I might've known," Lee groaned, interrupting her again. "This whole thing is probably a set-up. Billy's probably laughing his head off."
"Funny, I never figured you for the superstitious type," Amanda mused before suddenly wincing when Lee squeezed a bit too hard, for which he quickly apologized.
"I'm not superstitious," he stated. "Don't tell me you're scared about this?"
"Of course not," Amanda insisted. Realizing she was enjoying his ministrations more than she should given the circumstances, she asked, "Are you done yet?"
"I don't think it's sprained but you do have a nasty scrape that we should probably clean up first," Lee decided.
Amanda shook her head, "The first aid kit's in the car and I'd rather get this over with."
"Are you sure?" he asked. After she nodded, he carefully pulled her sock back up over her ankle and tugged her jeans back down over the sock.
"I told you I was fine," Amanda said as she slowly inched her foot up Lee's wet jean-clad thigh, wiggling her toes all the way.
Lee quickly suppressed a groan and placed her foot on the floor. Clearing his throat and ignoring Amanda's bemused grin, he said, "You should probably stay off it anyway and keep it elevated. Why don't you stretch out on this couch while I go upstairs and find the tapes?"
"Are you kidding? This thing is filthy with at least two inches of dust on it. It's probably a health hazard to even be sitting on it," Amanda complained as she put on her sneaker and laced it up. "Give me a minute and I'll come with you." Suddenly, there was a loud clap of thunder and Amanda noticed Lee's sudden step back. As though to cover, he began shining his flashlight across the room. "You know," she said, "you seem awfully nervous. You sure nothing's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," he answered without looking at her. "A well-trained agent always checks out every inch of an unfamiliar room before making any moves."
"Uh, huh." Amanda commented as she stood up and dusted herself off. She looked around the otherwise empty room, following the beam of light, and discovered inches of dust carpeting the bare wood floor. She certainly didn't want to get any closer to the web-filled doorway that led to another room. The rain was blowing in through the broken windows and the walls glistened slightly, indicating leaks, and the built-in bookshelves were rotten, broken, and barely attached to the walls. It was a bit creepy but she couldn't resist teasing, "So you're just making sure this empty room is safe for us to walk to the staircase that can clearly be seen from where we're standing."
"What?" Lee asked, clearly waiting for an explanation to her statement.
"I think you're a bit nervous about being in here alone and didn't want me to know. So you went on and on about how I would be safer in the car hoping that I'd stay there so I wouldn't see."
"That's ridiculous. Besides, I'm not the one hung up about today's date."
"I'm not hung up about the date," Amanda stated. "It's okay, Lee," Amanda said as she patted him on the arm, "there's nothing wrong with being scared in a creepy house."
"I'm not scared. And I can't believe you," Lee said, pointing a finger at her.
"Me? What'd I do?"
"You're the one who's always telling me that you're scared. I can't believe you're not the slightest bit scared being here late at night in the middle of this storm."
"There's a big difference between being scared when kidnapped or shot at and being in an old dilapidated house," Amanda retorted as she placed her hands on her hips.
"Scared is scared," Lee insisted, shaking his head. "Half the girls I dated growing up would never have even set foot in this house."
"Would those be the same girls that you watched the black-and- white thrillers with?"
Amanda laughed, "You men are all alike. I bet you took them to those movies just so they'd get scared and jump into your arms and -- Wait a minute, I might've known ...That's why you went on about -- You knew you could always order me to stay in the car so you --"
"You never listen when I tell you to stay in the car," Lee reminded her.
Amanda ignored him and continued, "So you deliberately started this whole creepy house thing so I would be scared of being left alone and that I'd want to come with you so you'd --"
"But you weren't scared and you wanted to come all along," Lee countered.
Again, Amanda ignored him and continued her thought, "So you'd then be there to protect me from all the ghosts and danger."
"You don't believe in ghosts, remember?" Lee smiled.
Amanda stared at him and waved her arms around the room, "You did all this just so you could get me in your arms, didn't you? The tapes of an assassination plot don't really exist, do they?"
"Of course they exist," Lee quickly answered in an annoyed tone. "I wouldn't --"
"I mean," Amanda interrupted him, apologetically, "you didn't have to be this creative just so you could be with me. We did have a date tonight, remember? We could've stayed in and in a much more pleasant environment, I might add."
Lee smiled, lost for a moment in a memory. "It did require a bit of creativity to convince the girls that the movies were really worth it. Never failed, though."
Amanda set about bursting his bubble, "Did you ever think that maybe we wanted to go to those movies knowing full well we'd end up in the boy's arms?"
"What are you talking about? Girls were terrified of those old haunted house movies."
"Please," Amanda said as she rolled her eyes, "a good looking guy, a dark room? Sometimes a little initiative was necessary before the guy would finally make his move. Didn't you think a girl could be as creative as you?"
"You didn't -- I can't believe you -- How --" Lee sputtered. "Come on," he said, ignoring her grin, as he quickly grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the stairs, "Let's go."
***** ***** ****** ***** *****
"Did you find it yet?" Amanda asked impatiently while she sat on the floor on the edge of a torn and ruined mattress and rubbed her left ankle.
Kneeling in the corner across from her, Lee threw down a piece of floorboard in frustration. "He swore the tapes were here under the floorboards. I'm going to kill him."
"Maybe we're in the wrong room," she suggested as lightning flooded the otherwise empty room.
Lee yanked up another broken board, "First bedroom on the right at the top of the stairs." He flung the piece of wood into the growing pile near him and yanked up another one. "I'm going to kill -- Hey, I think I've got it." Lee removed a small manila envelope that had been taped to the bottom of the plank, carried it over to Amanda, and sat down next to her. Handing her the flashlight, he opened the envelope and turned it upside down. Three micro-cassettes fell into his palm. Amanda shone the light into the envelope and he pulled out two small photos. "Amanda, Webster wasn't kidding. This is just the proof we need to finally nab the ambassador." He replaced the cassettes and photos in the envelope and pocketed it in his jacket.
"So we can get out of here now?" Thunder crashed and Amanda instinctively jumped closer to Lee.
"Scared?" Lee smiled and wrapped his arm protectively around her, drawing her close, "It's just a little thunder."
"I know that," she said as she found herself staring deeply into his eyes, "it just caught me off-guard."
"Mmmhmm," Lee murmured in disbelief as he leaned in closer and kissed her. Gentle at first, the feathery kiss quickly turned more intense.
Amanda wrapped her arms around Lee's neck, closed her eyes, and gave herself into the moment. Her tongue ignored all warnings sent from the back of her mind and she conveniently forgot that she and Lee had only been truly dating for three weeks and shouldn't move too quickly in this new relationship.
Lee, meanwhile, ran his hands through Amanda's tangled and damp hair and savored every moment of the delicious kiss they shared. But even he couldn't make that small voice in the back of his head go away. He heard the whispers warning him against moving too fast and ruining this special relationship he was building with Amanda and was about to pull away, albeit reluctantly, when Amanda suddenly giggled. Not something he was used to hearing from a woman he was kissing with such pleasure, he pulled away. "Something funny?"
Amanda, still dazed from their kiss, apologized breathlessly, "Sorry, but you know I'm ticklish in that spot on my neck."
"Amanda, my hands weren't touching your neck," Lee said cautiously, "and I'm positive my lips weren't either."
"Then, what was..." Amanda brushed at her neck and shrieked.
"What?" he asked as they both jumped back from each other. A rather large hairy spider fell from her shoulder and Amanda shrieked again as they quickly scrambled to their feet.
Surprisingly thankful for the hairy invader spoiling the mood, Lee gave Amanda a quick kiss on her cheek. Noticing she was still trying to catch her breath from the spider scare, he wrapped his arm protectively around her and said, "Let's get out of here."
***** ***** ****** ***** *****
"This is the third time I've lost power in a storm," Amanda complained in her dark kitchen as she limped around trying to light some candles.
"Phone's working, though," Lee answered as he replaced the handset in the cradle. "Why don't you sit down and elevate your foot while I take care of this?" he asked as he took the candles from her hands. He gave her one lit candlestick and nudged her towards the family room. After evenly spacing candles along the kitchen counter, he grabbed the first-aid kit from the counter and joined Amanda on the couch. She had placed the candlestick on the end-table and removed her left sneaker and sock. As she still leaned forward, he began to massage her shoulders.
"That's nice," she sighed as she closed her eyes and rested her foot on the coffee table.
Lee gently leaned her back against the pillows and opened the kit. She winced as he applied antiseptic and a bandage to the scrape on her ankle and he apologized. "It looks a little swollen," he said when he finished and closed the kit.
"Hurts a little more than before," Amanda admitted.
Lee went back into the kitchen and ran the tap water. Opening an upper cabinet, he reached up and pulled out a bottle of aspirin, opened it, and shook two tablets into his hand. Then, he replaced the bottle on the shelf, filled a glass with water, and returned to Amanda, handing her both items. "The aspirin should help," he offered as he watched her swallow the pills. After she finished, he grabbed a pillow from the nearby chair, placed it under her foot and headed back to the kitchen with the empty glass. "Where do you keep your plastic food storage bags?"
"In the bottom drawer of the island. What are you doing?" she asked, hearing the refrigerator door open and close. "You shouldn't open the fridge during a power failure, especially in the summertime."
"I know but this is a medical emergency," Lee answered as he returned, carrying a small bag of ice. "Here, it's going to be cold at first," he said as he carefully placed the bag on her ankle and gently restrained her from kicking it off. Amanda shivered and he asked in concern, "Are you okay?"
She smiled sheepishly and nodded, "It's just a little cold."
Lee reached for the blanket behind her and placed it around her shoulders while he sat next to her. "So you weren't scared at all tonight, huh."
"Not a bit," Amanda answered despite the voice in her head that called her a liar. 'Of course you're scared,' the voice told her. 'You're scared of risking your heart with this man who has helped change your life and seems so completely different from you. You're scared of being in a true relationship again. Scared of failing again.' Unable to look him in the eye, she pulled the blanket tighter around her and asked, "What about you?"
"I told you before I wasn't scared," Lee answered while his own little voice screamed a different answer. 'Of course I'm scared. Scared of what you're doing to me. Scared of all these feelings I'd almost forgotten I was capable of having that you've brought out in me again. Scared of being hurt and left alone again.' Unable to meet her gaze, he looked at his watch and anxiously stood up, "It's pretty late and Billy wants me in first thing in the morning with the tapes and pictures..."
"Oh, sure, I understand," Amanda said in a disappointed voice.
"Are you going to be okay by yourself?" Lee asked.
"Sure, I'll be fine," was her flat response.
He saw the look in her eyes but was confused by her reply. "Okay, then, I guess I'll get going. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Okay?" Lee asked as he bent down to kiss her gently on the lips.
"Tomorrow. Sure," Amanda answered as Lee turned to leave.
When he reached the door, Amanda realized he was really going to leave in spite what she saw reflected in his eyes. She asked, "Lee?"
"Yeah," Lee turned around in anticipation.
"Call me when you get home," she requested after chickening out, afraid she misread him, "so I know you got there safely and I don't worry. Okay?"
"Sure," Lee answered with a disappointed smile on his face, "I'll call you in a bit." He turned back to the door even though that little voice was insisting he should speak up. "You sure you'll be okay here alone in this storm?"
Recognizing a tease when she heard one, Amanda smiled, "The house isn't that old. Besides, I'm not the one nervous about the storm or the date."
Lee laughed, winked at her, and turned to go. But, just as he was about to turn the doorknob, both spoke at the same time: "Lee?" "Amanda?"
After Lee turned to face her, both spoke again simultaneously:
"Would you mind staying a little longer?"
"Would you mind if I stayed a bit longer?"
The look they saw reflected in each other's face was all the answer each needed before Lee quickly rejoined Amanda on the couch. She had opened the blanket, inviting him closer, and, mindful of the position she had to keep due to the ice bag on her raised foot, Lee helped wrap them both under it. Amanda sighed happily, rested her head on his shoulder, and closed her eyes. Lee relaxed and tightened his embrace around Amanda, who snuggled even closer, and kissed the top of her head. For the moment, both wondered how it was possible they feared anything about pursuing a relationship together and remained silent, happy enough just being in each other's arms. And yet, without realizing it, both smiled and thought, at the very same moment, the very same satisfying thought:
"Haven't lost my touch."
Twelve o'clock on Saturday the Fourteenth and all was well.