Tongue Tied

Author: Shelly

Disclaimer: "Scarecrow & Mrs. King" is the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon. Use of these characters is strictly for entertainment purposes. I can only dream about one day getting paid to do this. Do not redistribute this story in whole or part without express permission from the author.

Summary: Lee and Amanda share a secret rendezvous.

Rating: PG

Time: Between ATWAS and Stemwinder

Archive: and eman's archive.

Notes: See what happens when business is slow and the boss is away at meetings? Here's something short and sweet to purge my twisted soul. I’d also like to point out, in passing, that I will be posting a somewhat large and generally serious story within the next week. When I do, I just ask that you all remember *this* story and how I *can* write nice, sweet fluff, too, not just the heart-wrenching, angst-ridden tales I’ve been apt to write as of late.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to all the eyes who read this over and offered priceless comments and suggestions. You are forever in my debt. J

With the final dish dried and put away, Amanda was wiping down the counter-tops when he arrived. She turned to see him standing, a crooked smile on his face, just watching her.

When he realized she'd looked around and was returning his gaze, he nodded his head ever so slightly and motioned for her to come out into the backyard.

Somehow, lately, it seemed that Lee would go out of his way to find a reason to stop by and see how things were going at the King household. She wondered if he would ever stop sneaking around to the back and just knock on the front door. But she had to admit, the secrecy was nice. On some level, she reasoned that she didn't have to share him with anyone if no one knew they were dating.

Shouting a flimsy excuse to her mother, Amanda quickly joined him on the veranda. He was sitting on the bench, fidgeting with his tie, when she slid in next to him. Without a thought it seemed, he leaned back and put his arm around her shoulder, pulling her to his side. She relaxed against him and they sat, neither saying a word, watching the stars.

It occurred to her, in those tranquil moments, that they could sit like this for hours and she would be content. It was enough for her to hear the quiet rhythm of his breathing and feel the light evening breeze play across her face. Moments like this were few and far between and, now that there was *something* between the two of them, they were much treasured.

She had considered the ramifications of a relationship with Lee Stetson and had finally reached the conclusion that whatever he was willing to give, she would readily take and ask for no more. But she had yet to figure out just what it was that he was willing to give.

On a deeper level, Amanda knew Lee was a scarred man. He had endured so many emotional battles throughout his life that she was amazed he'd opened himself up to her at all, admitting to her that he wanted to get to know her better. She knew he already considered her a friend, and he had been willing to take the next step, but what about the one after that? She wasn't going to hold her breath.

Oh, yes, he'd changed since she'd first met him. A smile crept to her lips at the thought of how his boorishness used to infuriate her. But, as she grew to know the man behind the façade, she had realized that most of that was a poor act designed to push people away - no involvement equals no pain.

Now, as they sat together, his hand lightly rubbing the bare flesh of her arm, she realized she was delighted about how far they’d come together and started to wonder, with a rush of anticipation, if . . . no, *when* he’d be ready to move things forward once again.

"Amanda." Lee's husky whisper drew her back to reality. "You're awfully quiet. What's on your mind?"

She sighed, fighting off the urge to tell him *exactly* what she was thinking. Instead, she murmured, "Nothing."

"Nothing?" he queried. "You were a million miles away. It had to be *something* to draw your attention like that."

She tipped her head back and looked at her partner. "I suppose I was just thinking how nice and peaceful it is this evening." A half-truth was better than no truth at all. She'd learned that from years of experience, and it was reinforced within weeks of joining the Agency. "Why? What were you thinking?"

He looked down at her, a slow smile forming on his lips. "I was thinking how much I wanted to do this," he whispered, and in an instant, captured her lips with his.

When he drew back, Amanda continued to gaze up at him, still feeling the tingles of electricity running from her lips straight down to her toes. "I don't think I'll ever tire of that," she whispered.

Lee smiled. "I hope not." Then kissed her again, this time more intensely than the first.

Amanda's heart raced. `This is madness,' she thought. `I shouldn't let myself get so involved, but how can I help it? He's amazing! No wonder he's such a ladies man. What can I offer him that those other women can't? Stability? Friendship? Maybe he's ready for something more . . . real. That's it. Real. But this is still insane. What am I getting myself into?'

All these thoughts cascaded through her mind as Lee kissed her. Jumbled thoughts, mixed up with the intense physical emotions that his lips on hers and his arms around her seemed to evoke. Again, he pulled back; she took a breath, willing her heart to slow lest it reveal to him just how affected by his touch she really was.

She lowered her head and nestled into him. He tightened his hold around her and she could hear his heart pounding. At least she was drawing the same response from him as he was from her. She hoped, for his sake, that he wasn't as confused as she was, although it would mean she wasn’t alone.

"Amanda?" Again, his voice drew her back to earth.

"Yeah?" she replied, closing her eyes and listening to the beating of his heart, which hadn't seemed to slow at all.

"I want to tell you . . . something," he said.

His voice was strained, and Amanda started to sit up, but then his heart seemed to beat even faster. She stayed in his arms, wondering what could possibly be on his mind that would cause his heart to race.

"Go ahead," she said.

"I . . . I." He paused, swallowed and cleared his throat. "I . . . um . . .lo . . . " Again he paused, and Amanda's heart stopped.

`Oh my gosh!' she thought. `He's going to say it.’ Her mind froze for an instant as she tried to take control of the flutters she felt in her chest. ‘I can't believe he's going to say it! It's too soon! It's too sudden! We hardly know each other!' She stopped and corrected herself, `Okay, we know each other, but . . . oh my gosh!'

She sat up and turned to face him. He quickly averted his eyes from her and looked everywhere *but* where she was expectantly sitting, waiting for his next few words.

"I . . . um . . . love . . . what you've . . . uh . . . done with these vines," he croaked out.

They both sighed as the moment passed. Whether with relief or disappointment, for herself or Lee, Amanda couldn't be sure.

"Tha . . ." She coughed once and started again. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," he said, turning his attention back to her, trying to ease the awkwardness. They stared at each other for a second, Amanda trying to read what was in Lee's eyes but having no success. He had quickly covered whatever emotion he might have been feeling with practiced ease, yet again. Finally, she settled back and yawned.

"I suppose I should be getting back inside before Mother sends out a search party for me," she explained as she sat up, smoothing out the non-existent wrinkles in her jeans.

"I suppose," Lee half-heartedly agreed. "What did you tell her this time?"

Amanda laughed as she stood. "I told her that the night-blooming jasmine was particularly fragrant tonight, and I wanted to be alone."

Lee stood beside her and pulled her into his embrace. "She believed you?" he asked as they swayed in time with a melody that only two in love can hear.

Amanda smiled ruefully. "I'm pretty sure she didn't, since jasmine is out of season."

Lee laughed and then lightly kissed her forehead. "I'll see you tomorrow," he promised as he slipped away from her, leaving her for the night.

As she turned away from the yard and faced the back door, she thought of what he had been about to say. She was sure it had nothing to do with the vines. It didn't matter, she reasoned. They *both* knew what he really wanted to say. Someday, he'd be able to admit his feelings and then they'd take that next step together.