For personal use and select distribution only © February 2002 by Amber Stockton
Bad Timing - tagalogue
Written by Robert W. Gilmer (excerpts from the episode belong to him)
Lee turned and shared a knowing look with Amanda. Simultaneously, they threw down their jackets at their feet and fell backwards as they both sank onto the couch behind them. Lee raised his arms and chuckled. Amanda immediately swung her legs around to lay across Lee's lap.
Amanda put her arms around Lee and pulled herself closer to him. "Haven't we played this scene before?"
"Yeah, and then the doorbell rang, remember?"
"No." She smiled. "I tend to block out bad timing."
"Mmm, see if this helps," Lee whispered, then closed the distance between them. He placed a soft kiss on her lips, pulled back and immediately kissed her again with more feeling, tightening his hold. When she moaned in the back of her throat, he pulled away. "How's that?"
"It helps." Amanda nodded, encouraging him to continue.
"Oh? How about some more?" he whispered again before initiating a very passionate kiss.
A car pulled into the driveway outside. Amanda immediately started, then pulled away from Lee's embrace.
"They're home early!"
"And I'm gone." Lee started to get up, but Amanda's hand on his shoulder restrained him.
"No, no, no, no," she said, stopping his protest. "We need practice in this too." She smoothed her hands on her pants and sat straight against the back of the couch. "Come on."
"I guess so," Lee agreed nervously, as he also sat back against the couch.
"Amanda?" Dotty called from the front door.
"Ready," he answered.
"We're home, darling!"
Lee turned his head with Amanda to face the entryway, a bright smile pasted on his face to match hers.
As soon as Dotty's gaze fell on Amanda, she exclaimed, "Oh, Amanda! You wouldn't believe the day I've had! Hello, Mr. Stetson ... uh ... Lee."
She greeted him without a second glance, as if it was perfectly normal for him to be sitting with Amanda on the couch, then continued her story.
"Anyway, I'll save all that for later." Dotty waved her hand, as if trying to rid her mind of the events of the day. "We brought food for dinner. What are all of those papers? Are they floor plans?" She came a little closer to examine the sheets strewn haphazardly on the coffee table with some on the floor.
"Uh ... yeah." Lee tried in vain to think of an explanation.
"Yes, Mother, they are." Amanda sounded completely calm. "We're doing a documentary on the interior designs of foreign architecture. This is just a sampling."
"Oh." Dotty appeared to accept that explanation. "For a moment, I thought I saw the words 'Russian Embassy.' I must have been mistaken."
Philip stepped down into the living room. "Hey, Mr. Stetson."
Jamie followed his brother. "Hi, Mr. Stetson."
"Jamie, Philip, go wash up at the sink, then get the plates and cups and things and set the table in the dining room." Dotty turned to face Lee and Amanda. "You are staying for dinner, aren't you, Lee?" She didn't wait for an answer, so it was more of a statement than a question. Instead, she walked into the kitchen and began unpacking the bags that held their food from the local Chinese restaurant, placing the cartons on the kitchen counter. "Oh, drat! I forgot the fried noodles and fortune cookies in the car. I'll be right back."
Lee was speechless as he watched the entire scene unfolding before him, grateful for the boys' interruption which took Dotty's attention away from the floor plans. As soon as Dotty went back out the front door, Amanda turned to face him, a bewildered expression on her face to match his.
"That was too easy," Amanda was the first to say.
"Yeah, tell me about it!"
She laughed. "All right, now where is my 'real' mother?"
"You know, I was just about to ask the same thing!" Lee smiled. "When you find her, don't tell me where she is!" He leaned forward and put the blueprints into some semblance of order. "I'd better get this folded up, so no one else sees them and starts asking questions."
"Have we been *that* obvious?"
"I don't know." He sighed, then took Amanda's hands in his. "Whatever's happened, you won't hear me complain."
"Yeah, right. Me, either."
Lee's thumbs unconsciously stroked the back of Amanda's hands. "And..." he paused for effect, "since they don't seem to have a problem seeing us together, once we're married, it won't be so hard to tell them ... when it's time." Lowering his voice, he leaned in and touched his forehead to hers, then continued. "This time next week, we'll be Mr. and Mrs. Stetson," he whispered.
"Mmmm, I can hardly wait," Amanda murmured.
"You and me both!" Lee placed a brief kiss on her lips, then pulled back as they heard the front door open and close again. Lee stood, then pulled Amanda up beside him, just as Dotty came back into the living room.
"Got it," she announced, holding up the bag she had retrieved from the car. Turning to face them both, she asked, "So, are you two hungry?"
Lee exchanged a humorous glance with Amanda and nodded. "Starved," they said in unison.
"Great!" Dotty clapped her hands. "Let's eat!" She walked into the kitchen, then called to the boys. "Philip, Jamie! Is the table set?"
"Yes, Grandma," Philip answered.
"We just finished putting the forks and napkins," Jamie added.
"Oh, and Mr. Stetson, we set a place for you beside Mom."
"Uh, thank you, Philip." Lee was beginning to get used to this family scene, but it was still going to take a lot of work.
"It's all arranged, so Amanda, if you could get the drinks, we'll bring the food to the table."
"Uh, Mrs. West..." Lee began.
"Lee, how many times do I have to say it? Please, call me Dotty," Amanda's mother interrupted kindly.
"You're right. Dotty. Why don't you let me get the food?"
"Oh! Yes. That would be nice. Thank you." Her words were succinct and clipped, obviously from pleasure at his offer. She left the two of them in the kitchen and joined the boys in the dining room.
"When we're ready to begin telling folks about our marriage..." Lee whispered, purposely keeping his voice low, "I think we'll start with your family." He smiled.
Amanda grinned in return, opening the refrigerator and reaching inside to get the drinks. After she closed the door, she took a step towards where Lee was gathering the bags of food. "I think that's a good idea!" She leaned forward to place a quick kiss on his lips.
"After you." He gestured, allowing her to precede him into the dining room.
Throughout the entire meal, the family chatted about their day. Lee was drawn into the conversation just as naturally as if he had been there many times before. Dotty sat to Amanda's left and the boys sat across from them. When asked about what they had done recently, they smiled and said it was pretty much the same as any other day on the job. At times, Lee sat back and enjoyed the camaraderie. He was amazed at how right it all felt. Several times throughout the meal, he and Amanda even surreptitiously slipped their hands down between them and gave each other a reassuring squeeze.
"All right, it's time to open our fortune cookies!" Philip announced. He reached for the bags, then randomly distributed them to each person. A chorus of "thank you's" were heard as everyone took their cookie and removed the wrapping.
"This one's stupid!" Jamie exclaimed. "Your talent may reach great heights."
Philip snorted. "What talent?"
"Now, Philip," Amanda gently scolded, "be nice to your brother."
"Well, let's hear what yours says," Jamie sarcastically replied.
Philip opened his and read, "Take heed in the advice you are given."
Amanda smiled. "I think that's a very good one!"
"Ahh, who writes these things, anyway?" He tossed the paper onto his plate. "Grandma, why don't you read yours?"
"Okay," she agreed. "Let's see what this one says. Hmm, that's interesting."
"What does it say, Mother?"
"You have a great gift with words. Someday you will write a book," Dotty read.
"A book, huh?" Amanda remarked.
"That's cool, Grandma!" Jaime exclaimed.
"Well, you just never know!" Dotty replied.
"Mom, you go next!" Jaime encouraged.
"Well, all right." Amanda cast Lee a glance from the corner of her eye as she carefully cracked open her cookie and pulled out the slip of paper. A grin tugged at her mouth as she read the fortune.
"Well?" Dotty said impatiently. "What does it say?"
"The truth will set you free."
Lee could sense the struggle she was having to hide her reaction to that simple statement.
"Hmm, that's certainly an interesting one," Dotty remarked, then shifted her gaze past Amanda. "All right, Lee, your turn."
He cleared his throat. "Okay ... here goes." He broke open his cookie and pulled out the paper, dropping the cookie onto his plate and unfolding the slip. He had to fight hard to keep his face from losing some of its color.
Amanda gave his arm a little nudge. "Are you gonna tell us what it says?"
"Uh ... yeah ... sure." He cleared his throat again. "Your future may be right in front of you."
"Yeah," Amanda immediately interrupted and cleared her throat. "Well, now that we're done reading our fortunes, why don't we get this all cleaned up."
"You're absolutely right, Amanda," Dotty agreed.
"Come on, boys, grab your plates and put them in the sink. Who's night is it to do the dishes?" Amanda asked.
"It's Philip's." "It's Jamie's." The boys answered at the same time.
"Wonderful, you'll both do them," Amanda stated simply.
"Aww, but..." They both began to protest.
"Don't argue with your mother," Dotty interrupted.
"Sorry, Mom," they apologized. "Come on, Jamie. Let's get this done." Philip dragged his feet and moved slowly into the kitchen, Jamie following closely behind.
Lee and Amanda were again left alone. He heard Dotty giving instructions to the boys. Amanda began gathering the empty cartons to place in the bags to be thrown away. Lee reached out to stop her, silently encouraging her to straighten.
"Hey," he whispered. "Think those fortunes are trying to tell us something?" He smiled.
"Yeah," Amanda replied, a twinkle in her eyes, "but I hope they intend to give us a little more time before they expect to come true."
Lee chuckled, then placed a kiss on her nose and helped her gather the remaining cartons from the table. Together, they went into the kitchen to help Dotty and the boys clean up from dinner. Lee looked around and realized he could easily get used to this. Since most of the cleanup was simply throwing away empty cartons and sauce packets, it only took them a few minutes.
"All right, boys, upstairs to finish your homework ... and don't tell me you don't have any, since it's not a Friday, and I know you have it every night."
"Awh, but Mom..." Philip complained.
"No, complaints," Amanda immediately interrupted
Lee had to smile at the way she handled the two boys, not to mention how well she second-guessed them and anticipated their reactions. She was a pro in more ways than one. He would have to really work on his own relational skills for his soon-to-be instant family. The thought that in just one week they would be husband and wife was enough to cause him to gaze at Amanda with new appreciation and anticipation.
"Come on. Let's go!" he heard her say as she shephered the boys towards the stairs and gave them each a swat on their backsides as they headed for their rooms.
"You know, I think I'm going to go finish the latest novel I've been reading," Dotty announced. Lee didn't miss the silent look that passed between mother and daughter at her declaration. "Good night, dear," she said to Amanda and kissed her cheek. "Goodnight, Lee."
"Goodnight, Mrs. West ... Dotty," Lee amended and called, watching her disappear around the corner and head up the stairs.
Amanda inhaled in preparation to speak. He turned his head to meet her eyes in time to see her toss the dishcloth onto the now clean counter.
"Well, what do you want to do, now?"
He gave her one of his disarming grins and stepped towards her, placing his arms around her waist and drawing her into his embrace. "We've actually been left alone with your family *in* the house, and you have to ask that question?"
Her hands came to rest on his chest and she grinned, a twinkle in her eyes. "Not exactly," she replied, "but I thought I'd at least let you lead the way."
He lowered his voice and leaned his forehead against hers. "Mmm, how very thoughtful of you."
"Why thank you." She gave him a quick kiss.
"Shall we?" he invited, gesturing with his right hand towards the living room.
At her nod, he slipped his other hand from her waist to take her hand in his and lead her towards the couch. Once they were seated, she immediately lifted her legs and swung them across his, then reached for his waist to pull herself closer.
"You know, I could really get used to this!"
"Mmm, me too!"
"Haven't we played this scene before?" he asked in a husky voice as he wrapped his arms around her.
"Yes, but as I recall, we were interrupted."
"Somehow, I have a feeling we won't be interrupted this time. Maybe I can help us make up for lost time," he whispered and lowered his lips to hers in a tender and loving kiss.
After several moments, she pulled away and grinned. "It helps."
"Mmm, how about a little more?"
Amanda grinned. "How could I resist?"
"You know," he stated, giving her lips a quick peck, "having your undivided attention is something I don't get very often."
"Well, don't let it go to your head, Stetson!" she threatened with a teasing note to her voice.
A chuckle escaped his lips as he captured her lips once more with his, initiating a very passionate kiss. Amanda tightened her hold and tilted her head as Lee parted her mouth with his. Slowly, her arms changed positions as her hands slid up his sides to his shoulders before she locked them behind his head and buried her fingers in the hair at the nape of his neck. He moaned and stirred at her touch. The slightest pressure on his neck brought him closer to Amanda. Lee willingly tightened his own hold as his lips moved over hers.
Just one more week, he thought as he lost himself in the euphoric realm of their embrace.