Title: K is for Knowledge

Author: Wendy Q

Disclaimer: the characters and events that occurred in episodes are not mine – they belong to ‘Warner Bros.’ and ‘Shoot The Moon Enterprises’. The story is mine and may not be archived, reproduced or forwarded without my permission.

Archive: with other alphabet stories

Rating: PG to PG-13

Timeline: throughout the second part of the third season

Summary: Through knowledge, our favorite couple is slowly able to come

Author’s notes: Thanks to creators of the current alphabet challenge for getting my rear in gear. Thanks to Shawn Colvin for writing and performing the song ’When You Know’ which inspired me to write this story and whose lines from which I borrowed. Thanks to my wonderful writing faerie who made this story readable. Pam, Pam, Pam – thank you for unclunking the clunks, getting the commas in the right spots (if any are still goofed up it’s all my fault!) and for taming the nose. And as always, thanks to my first, last, and many times in between.

Feedback: Please! The good, the bad, and the ugly. On list or off, whichever you prefer.

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Amanda had said it only weeks ago . . . “When you’re talking about love you have to be patient.”

He didn’t argue it then in Agnes Snow‘s apartment. And he wasn’t going to argue it now sitting here in his own home. But he knew that he knew and he couldn’t pretend, or go back, or deny it. Clarify that: He couldn’t deny it to himself -- not any longer. There had long been speculation in his mind about the ever-surprising Amanda King, but it was clear this time that he knew he loved her. He was mentally exhausted from clearing up the last of the red tape with the EAO and watching Joe coo over Amanda, but his love for her was vivid through it all.

“Ahhh,” he sighed heavily, swiping a hand through his hair as he reclined on the sofa, watching the ice swirl around in his nearly emptied glass. He’d been holding it so long the cut-glass pattern had left an imprint on his hand. “Dooley’s. Quite the place . . . their place.” He closed his eyes, sighing again. Images of Joe and Amanda ran a continuous loop through his mind.

The ice cubes had long since melted into a clear liquid enriched with a slightly amber tint provided by the last vestiges of 20-year-old scotch. Still, it was painfully clear that he had found the one – the one that he loved. Shifting on the flattened cushions of his sofa, he shook his head. He’d fallen in love with his friend -- his best friend.

A monosyllable of surprise escaped his dry lips. ”Huh.”

They had never really kissed much less hopped in the sack, yet here he was ensconced in the knowledge that he loved her and could never let her go. But what about Joe? The jerk didn’t deserve her. Lee was sure of that. But did she want to go back? Would she dump her new life to go back to Joe? Could she just walk away?

Suddenly flooding his mind was the image from Dooley’s of Amanda smiling to him from over Joe’s shoulder as the former couple danced. He sat straight up and pounded his feet to the floor. “It *was* their place. It *was* Joe and Amanda’s place.” The next word came out quickly and triumphantly. “Was.” In all the years he’d known her, she never struck him as someone who wanted to live in the past. In fact, she could let go of it much easier than he ever could. “Nah, she wouldn’t go back.” As he grappled with the feelings in his heart, he knew that, like Amanda, he had to move full steam ahead. After all, he was a risk taker, wasn’t he? And this was one hell of a risk!

As dawn began to peep through his windows, he finally owned the soundness of mind to get some sleep. When he got up to go to bed, he set his glass down and spied a very special bottle of wine he’d received, with instructions to share it with someone special, from a grateful French heiress. It was time to share that wine. Amanda would be the perfect companion.

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“Bye, fellas! You be good and mind your dad.” Amanda waved and hollered from her front steps as her sons went off for a weekend with their father. He’d been back in the states for a month and had seen his children nearly every day. It was wonderful for her to watch the boys’ bond with their father grow strong again.

As she closed the front door behind her, her thoughts quickly shifted from her children and their father to Lee Stetson. It had been an interesting month, to say the very least. Lee had been so gracious and polite in helping Joe through the ordeal of his debriefing and in handling the abundant government red tape involved. She held her hand to her heart as she crossed into the kitchen. He had also been gentle and caring with her through the whole fiasco.

As she filled a kettle for tea, she realized that right after that case, things seemed to change, not much, but there was a subtle difference in Lee’s behavior. A subtle, wonderful difference, she thought. She opened the cabinet and pushed aside a bag of marshmallows in order to reach a mug. “The marshmallow man.” She shook her head and chuckled. It happened so soon after the case with the EAO. Mother had gotten herself mixed up with Andrei Zernov, and once again she’d gotten herself in too deep. Shaking her head, she knew that her mother wasn’t the only one in the family with a knack for getting into trouble.

‘You nearly scared me half to death, you know that?’ Lee had said to her once she, her mother, and Mr. Zervov were safe and sound. She remembered the tone of his voice. It wasn’t exasperated or annoyed. It was relieved and loving. Amanda stood, leaning against the sink, biting her fingernail. Yes, it was . . . loving. She tried to find another word to describe it, but ‘loving’ kept running through her head over and over. Deep down she knew it was the right fit.

The teapot whistle woke her from her mental scan of the dictionary. She turned off the burner and coughed. Perhaps chamomile would help her get over this scratchy throat once and for all. As soon as she though it was gone, the last vestiges of the cold that prevented her from meeting Tina Thomerson would show up again. Putting the tea bag into her mug and pouring in the steaming water, she still could hardly believe she missed going to the Shenandoah Tennis Ranch with Lee. She suspected he would’ve suggested the brother and sister routine again like he had at the Marvelous Marvin’s seminar, and perhaps that distance was for the best, right now. Perhaps things had changed more than she’d realized. He really did seem to miss her while he and Francine were working hard and playing hard at the Shenandoah. The flowers delivered to her door from the “steno pool” were the most beautiful bouquet of wildflowers she had ever seen. Her current novel was sitting on the counter near the cooktop. She couldn’t stop herself from opening it and fingering the pressed cornflower in its pages.

When she finished her tea she went to the door and retrieved the mail. Inside was a thank-you card from Rupert for his birthday party. Smiling at his words of flattery, she chuckled, “Oh, Rupert, what a sweetheart.” She could hardly believe that Lee had actually trusted her enough to tell her about Briarwood, much less take her there and share such a big slice of his private life with her. He said he had never shared the place with anyone. It’d felt like such an honor at the time, and it still did. Things had certainly changed. This last month felt like a small but significant step forward.

A lump formed in Amanda’s throat as she thought of how in the last month he’d shown how much he was attracted to her, worried about her when she was out on her own, missed her when she wasn’t there, and trusted her enough to share increasing amounts of his personal life with her. In her mind she had gone through her relationship with Lee Stetson over and over during the past three years. Now she knew. It was clear this time she had found the one and she could never let him go.

She grabbed the book off the kitchen counter and took it upstairs to read until sleep overtook her. As she drifted off she had a wonderful feeling that in the coming months things would keep slowly, wonderfully moving forward.

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He woke up with a start. “Amanda?” Quickly sinking back into the pillows, he remembered that before his nap he’d finally convinced Amanda to go home. He missed her already. Since he escorted her to her high school reunion a mere week ago, he had felt so much closer to her. Perhaps because he was actually able to fully share in an aspect of her personal life. It felt wonderful to wrap his arm around her waist and mingle with throngs of friends from her past. He had gained so much knowledge about her, things that could never be covered in a background file. She was so funny, lovely, confident, and truly adored by her peers.

Why had he convinced her to go home? He needed her. More than that, he wanted her there to make him laugh, to talk with, to look at. The care she had given him the last few days, from sleeping in his hospital room, to helping him solve the case even though it was a risk to his health, to nursing him to a speedy recovery here in his apartment, showed such selflessness and a love he knew only Amanda could give.

He deeply hoped he'd showed her half of that caring when she was at risk from King Cobra, Ren Jepard. It tore at his heartstrings that she had to stay at the
Cumberland. But he cherished the alone time he’d had with her there. Out of adversity the most wonderful flowers bloom. And in that old hotel room, their mutual respect and understanding had grown ten fold. Sitting there, silently paging through a magazine that night, he hadn’t been able to keep his mind off of her or stop looking at her. That night had solidified everything he had already known.

“Chicken,” he said to himself. He had wanted to tell her then, to let her know how much he cared. He felt it in his skin and bones, down to the depths of his heart, yet he’d felt like it had to wait till tomorrow or even tomorrow’s tomorrow.

“Maybe tomorrow, Stetson, maybe tomorrow.” He shut his eyes once again, knowing that it would take longer than that. But he would not give up, or give in, or go back.

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Billy Blue Note and King Eddie jammed a heady tune while Amanda sat closely beside Lee. His arm was around her and all was right with the world. But only a week ago the tension between them had been so thick it was suffocating. Working on that darn Wally Tuttle case had been the most frustrating few days she had spent in ages. Things had been progressing so beautifully with Lee. They’d shared so many wonderful dinners and intimate talks recently, but things had come to a head. The sexual tension had been at a
high point and both had been reluctant to make the move to the next step. The intense heat between them came out in the form of verbal sparring. But when the excess tension had been spent, their bond was closer than it had been before. And now they were comfortably sitting hand in hand watching their section chief swing his sax.

While applause rose, she thought how surreal this scene was – sitting in a jazz club with her partner in espionage, watching their boss play the sax, having to keep her profession a secret from her family and her budding relationship with her partner a secret from everyone. But she thought tonight the jig might just be up. She and Lee couldn’t help but show their affection for one another, even in front of the spy crowd. And if her mother was awake when she got home, she would read Amanda’s moony-eyed glow in a heartbeat.

After Billy Blue Note and the King had packed up and their Agency cronies had gone home, Lee pulled Amanda to the dance floor, where they slowly swayed to the smoky tune filling the air in the darkened room. She could feel the love all around her like the dark forever of the sky around the moon.

The song had come to an end and the club owner called, “That’s it for tonight. Sorry, lovebirds.”

Holding Amanda in his arms and looking into her eyes, Lee rebuked, “Hey, one last number.”

How could they refuse?

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He was alone on the airplane of spies, running the last of the checks before filing his final report. All he could think of was her nose. It really was cute. In fact it was the most adorable nose he had ever seen. He was sure of it.

“Snap out of it, Stetson!” he demanded of himself. He needed to get these reports in to Billy. Even more so, he needed to see her, but going at his current rate he’d never make it to Spencer’s by seven.

He raked his hand through his hair, feeling foolish for what was becoming an obsession with his partner’s face. Since staring at her at the
Cumberland he couldn’t get her face out of his mind. Then there was the night after the Sallee case was over. They had set their cake down and were about to take things further when her mother interrupted. Gratefully, he’d managed to steal an ever-so-light kiss at the back door. And since then, thoughts of her gorgeous, delicate face and that adorable nose had only increased. “Stupid,” he uttered as he turned back to the computer screen. But all he saw was a vision of her nose, her eyes, and her smile as he had teasingly drawn away from her lips. She was gorgeous. No one had such a wonderful face as Amanda King.

“You’re a goner, you know that?” He pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers.

“What’s that, Scarecrow?” A voice spoke from the back of the plane.

“Amanda? What’re you doing here?” His face was red and his palms sweaty.

“Just thought you might need some help is all,” she said, smiling.

“Yeah! Yeah, that would be great.” But with her face, with that dainty nose right in front of him, he knew he wouldn’t get a thing done. “You know, Amanda, this can wait. Billy can wait. What do you say we cut outta here and get the evening started early?

She scratched the side of her nose and smiled widely. “Okay, great.”

All he could manage to croak out was, “Yeah, great.” The knowledge that she had the nicest nose on the planet was firmly within him, as was the knowledge that he was a sucker so far gone he couldn’t think straight.

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She sat at a bistro table off to the side of the stage, watching the actors run their lines, but her mind wasn’t on the play. It wasn’t anywhere near it. But ‘neo-absurd’ -- she thought that fit her life quite well. The subtext was enough to cut with a knife. Her finger traced the title on the cover of her manuscript -- “Parisienne Intrigue’. She chuckled audibly. ‘Arlington Intrigue’ was about all she could handle.

An hour earlier, Francine had caught them in a clinch, about to kiss. It had been easy and fun and terrifying. And after the last week of looks, touches, flirtations, lunches, dinners, and the anticipation from the last three years, she couldn’t eat, or think straight. Sleep was a fleeting memory. Love was brutal! She was exhausted and energized all at the same time.

If this strange Tony Martinet case had not come up, or rather if Lee hadn’t grabbed it, she wondered if they would have explored their feelings more deeply by now. There was no use in wondering. Those things had happened and now she knew things would have to wait till tomorrow or another day. She couldn’t wait much longer, and she knew he couldn’t either.

Their dinner the evening before the case came up was proof of that. She momentarily drifted off into a haze, remembering the musical number that was playing as they swayed, bodies pressed together, on the intimate dance floor of Spencer’s. If only the song hadn’t ended and the applause hadn’t erupted just when it did, they would’ve kissed by now. They would have discussed this new part of their relationship. They would have kissed over and over again. She knew that timing had played such a pivotal role in keeping them apart, but she also knew that somehow they would overcome that obstacle, and very soon.

The sight of Lee coming down the aisle of the theater brought her back to reality and the case at hand. They had work to do -- a case to solve. And then perhaps time would be on their side.

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A little knowledge is a good thing. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Knowledge in any form can be a scary thing. But most of all knowledge is no good unless put into use.

So . . .

The door was closed, and locked. They were alone. He was moving toward her and she was inviting him in. There was no going back, or giving up, or pretending. It was clear -- this time they had found true love. There wasn’t any doubt about it. They knew that they knew. They knew what to do. It was time to come out of the cold.