Screen Captures Courtesy of Swoopes
For personal use and select distribution only © April 2002 by Amber Stockton
Charity Begins at Home - tagalogue
Written by Rudolph Borchert and Marshall Goldberg (excerpts from the episode belong to them)
Amanda sat on her couch after Dotty went upstairs to watch the reporting of the events at the dome. Her mother had been a little upset that she didn't offer more details, especially since she was right in the middle of all of it. She couldn't give too much away, could she? After all, that would give away her involvement with the Agency!
A light tapping on the window startled her, and when she glanced up, she saw Lee standing outside. She quickly glanced over her shoulder at the doorway that led to the stairs to make certain her mother was safely out of hearing range, then glanced back at Lee. He motioned with his head for her to come outside, so she sighed at her attire, placed the cap back on the pen, set down the clipboard and stood to her feet, then walked over to the double doors.
As quietly as she could, she opened them and stepped outside, putting her finger to her lips to silently tell him to be quiet. She cringed when the doors noisily clanged and clicked as she closed them, but once they were closed, she turned to face Lee. He grinned and dangled a car key from his left hand, and she gasped in delight.
He chuckled at her expression. "I picked it up today! Pulls the road right up and corners like a track racer!" he told her proudly.
She smiled. "You got a new car."
"Yeah." He nodded. "And it's great!" He gestured with both of his hands as he continued. "Anyway, I was out testing it out, and I sort of wound up over here," he admitted, obviously attempting to keep his confession casual.
"Oh," she said softly.
"And uh...well, I mean, you were there when I lost the other one, and I thought maybe uh..." He gestured vaguely with his right hand and let his sentence drop off, which forced her to interpret what he was suggesting.
"Oh," she immediately interrupted him, "well I'm really glad that you came over and told me about it, and maybe sometime I'll get to take a ride in it." She smiled and nodded.
"Oh yeah, yeah. Count on it," he assured her as he placed his right hand in his pocket, then immediately began to look uncomfortable. "I mean," he stammered and moved his left hand in a waving motion, "we will be working on another assignment, uh..."
"Right." She nodded. They just stood there for a moment and looked at each other, neither one of them knowing just what to say. Lee's lips turned up at the corners a little and caused her to grin as well. Finally, in an attempt to relieve the unusual tension and feelings of discomfort, Amanda spoke. "I'll count on it," she said with a smile.
Almost as if they had previously discussed it, they both turned to leave at the same time, Amanda towards the door and Lee towards the side of the house. She reached for the handle on the door and paused as she heard his retreating footfalls echo across driveway pavement. It would be so easy to turn around and stop him from leaving, so easy to accept his unspoken invitation for a ride.
She turned around to face the direction where he had headed. "Lee?"
She waited a moment, and he suddenly appeared around the corner of the house. Uncertain what to say to him, she just stood there and shifted her weight from foot to foot in uncomfortable silence, her eyes looking anywhere but at him.
"Was there something you wanted?" Lee prodded.
"I'm, uh....not dressed for..." She stopped and raised her eyes to his and silently pleaded with him to understand what she was trying to say. She nervously fingered the ruffles at the edge of her nightclothes and reached up to pull her blue terrycloth robe tighter across her body. When he spoke, she released the breath she hadn't known she held as she waited for his reply.
"Well, it's not like anybody's gonna see you. The car's parked around the hedge, and you won't have to get out at all."
A reassuring smile crossed his face, and Amanda watched the moonlight cast shadows across his features. If she agreed to take this ride, it would be a major step in their friendship. The fact that he invited her was one thing, but her willingness to go meant they were both admitting to the fact that their friendship was important to them both. This was a special moment he wanted to share with her, and she wanted to be a part of it. However, she wasn't going to make the first move. That was up to him, like she had left it so many times before. So, she remained where she was and waited.
After what seemed like an eternity, he took a step towards her and extended his hand in her direction. Her eyes were still locked on his, and she saw the silent, but gentle invitation in them. She waited a moment longer, then moved forward the two steps it took to reach him, placed her hand in his and followed. Neither one spoke a word as he led her into the shadows, down the driveway and around the hedge to where his new car sat parked along the side of the road.
"Oh, Lee!" she exclaimed, when a beautiful silver Corvette came into view.
"She's a beauty, isn't she?" Lee remarked, proudly.
Amanda turned and saw the pleased smiled on his face, then withdrew her hand from his and walked closer to the car. As she walked around all sides of it, she took in every detail. It was so sleek, so sporty, so daring, so completely ... Lee. She couldn't wait to take a ride in it to see how it drove. Although it wasn't something she normally found appealing, she'd soon learned after meeting Lee, there were many things she enjoyed that she never knew she'd enjoyed before. He must have sensed her readiness, and she nearly jumped when he spoke from right beside her.
"Ready to take her out for a spin?" His hand lightly touched her elbow, and she turned to look up at him. She didn't trust herself to speak, so she simply nodded. He grinned and reached down to open the door for her, then helped her into the car. Once she was settled comfortably into the passenger seat, he closed the door and walked around the front. His eyes panned the smooth and perfect surface of the hood and he tossed his key in the air, catching it with a grin of smug satisfaction.
As soon as he got in and closed the door, he inserted the key in the ignition and started the car. The engine sprung to life and Amanda immediately felt the power seep into her bones. It was amazing to think about how much she was affected by all of this, but as she watched Lee put the car in gear, she put those thoughts out of her mind and simply enjoyed the ride.
Contrary to how she thought a car like this would sound, it was surprisingly quiet. In fact, it almost purred as they drove, and she was tempted to roll down her window to enjoy the cool night breeze across her face. There was something about this that invigorated her. She almost felt like a different person, like she wasn't a housewife, but someone who would be seen in a car like this, and she couldn't help but smile at that thought. It was all so new, and she wanted to store this memory in her mind to retrieve years from now.
She glanced around her and noticed they had headed out of her subdivision a little ways and had begun to pick up speed. He must have noticed her looking as he explained, "I thought we'd get away from the houses so I could show you how well she picks up the road."
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, she felt the car accelerate. Her natural instincts were to either close her eyes or look over at the dashboard to gauge how fast they were going. She did neither, but instead, leaned her head back against the headrest and relaxed, despite the fact that she saw looked out the window and could only see one big blur of their surroundings. There was no reason to worry. Lee was a very capable driver, and she trusted him. She wouldn't have come on this ride if she hadn't.
"You know..." he began and paused a moment as if he wanted to collect his thoughts, "I never did ask you how things went at the bar earlier today. How did you do with mixing the drinks and everything?"
At the sound of his voice, she sat up a little in the seat and turned her head to look at him. He glanced briefly over at her, then returned his eyes to the road. "Oh, fine," she replied. "I didn't really have to make too many different ones. There was a large request for my Bohemian Flings, though."
"Bohemian...." He looked over at her in surprise. "Amanda, that drink wasn't in the book I gave you. How did you know how to make it?"
"Oh, it was easy. I just remembered from when you made one for that first gentleman at the beginning of the day," she answered simply.
"You were able to figure out all of the ingredients from just watching me once?"
"Well, it was the most requested one, so I must have done something right." She shrugged her shoulders. "I just did like you told me. 'When in doubt, make it strong.' So I did."
He glanced over at her with a grin. When she smiled in return, he chuckled and shook his head. "Well, whatever you did, it worked. You managed to keep those who were there for the car show occupied while I got inside to discover what was going on up at the big house. Of course, if it hadn't been for you coming to find me, I would have ended up one of the next frozen entrees," he remarked. "I don't know if ever thanked you for that, but thank you."
"Oh, you're welcome." She shrugged her shoulders. "It's all part of the job."
After a moment, she turned her attention to his hands on the steering wheel and marveled at the precise control they had on the car. Her gaze traveled from his hands to his arms, which were ensconced in a sleek, black leather jacket, and she found herself agreeing that it certainly fit both him and the car. Together, they cut a very impressive image.
When her gaze reached his face, she couldn't help but admire his strong profile and wonder for what seemed like the hundredth time how she had gotten involved with a guy like him. Not that they were involved in any way, but she struggled with understanding what it was that kept her going back again and again to the Agency and kept her interested in working with them. She wouldn't allow herself to believe it had anything to do with the man who was sitting next to her, so it must be the complete change of pace from everything she had ever known in her life that was so appealing.
Like taking this ride tonight was a complete switch from the norm, her involvement with the Agency allowed her to explore a side she never knew existed. And she had Lee to thank for it.
"Hey, is everything all right?" He glanced over at her, concern evident in his eyes.
She averted her eyes. "Yes, everything's fine. Why?"
"Well, you got so quiet all of a sudden."
"Oh, I was just admiring your new car and enjoying how smooth it rides," she replied quickly, justifying it by telling herself it was at least half of the truth.
"Well, wait until you feel how it corners," he told her, his voice full of anticipation.
She looked back over at him and saw the sparkle in his eyes that mirrored the obvious excitement he felt. He turned the car down what appeared to be a somewhat deserted street and increased the speed again. Although she was able to enjoy the speed the first time, Amanda found herself gripping the door and seat so hard this time, her knuckles turned white.
"Hang on!" he told her.
As if he really had to warn her. She fought against her first instinct to close her eyes and forced herself to keep them open as she waited for what she knew was coming. Her heart began to pump in double-time, and she licked her lips in anticipation. Any moment now, he would whip the wheel around and hit the brakes, spinning the car around to a screeching halt. She nervously watched his hands for signs of when he would make his move, and just when she thought her taut muscles couldn't stand it any more, it happened.
She felt herself get thrown against the door with the force of the spin, and almost as soon as it began, it was over. For a moment, they both sat there, neither one said a word. However, it didn't take very long for the silence to get to her. "Wow!" she exclaimed.
"Yeah! Isn't it great?"
"It's certainly, um..." she struggled to find the right word, "impressive."
"Impressive?" he asked incredulously. "Just impressive? How about exhilarating, intoxicating, spine-tingling, thrilling, wild?"
"How about all of the above," she said and laughed.
He turned to look at her and obviously found her amusement contagious. "Come on, I'll get you back home," he said when he had his laughter under control.
It didn't take them nearly as long to return to her house as it had for them to come out, and as Lee parked the car just shy of the hedgeline, she almost found herself wishing the night could continue. Although she would never admit it to him, that ride was all the things he said it was and so much more. She had admired the car even before the ride, but now....
There were so many thoughts and feelings swirling through her, she had a hard time making sense of them all. Her first assessment of the car was correct. There was a sleekness about it that seemed to match with Lee's exterior. However, there was also a sense of danger and excitement that lay just beneath the surface, and that described Lee to perfection. As her thoughts began to take a different turn, she realized she'd better stop their progression, so she focused on the interior of the car.
She reached out to run her hand across the dashboard at the same time his hand reached for the key in the ignition. Their hands touched and the contact sent a bolt of electricity up her arm. It took every bit of control to not pull her hand back, but she didn't want him to see how she was affected. Instead, she continued with her movement and touched the smooth surface.
Suddenly, he cleared his throat, and she turned her head to look at him. "Thank you, Amanda, for coming along."
She smiled. "Thank you for inviting me."
He reached his hand towards her, then as if reconsidering, quickly retracted it. "Well, guess we'd better get you inside." There was a trace of disappointment in his voice. He opened his door and got out, then walked around to her side and opened her door.
She took the hand he held out to her and swung her legs out onto the grass, then stood and found his face mere inches from her own. She raised her eyes to his and her breath caught in her throat at the way his eyes darkened. Her tongue darted out to lick her lips, and she saw his eyes glance down at her mouth. His breath was warm on her face, and her hand was still held tightly in his. She shivered at his close proximity, then silently cursed herself for reacting.
"Hey, you're cold," he said, and the spell was broken. "You'd better get back inside. You're hardly dressed for this weather." She was touched by his concern and at the same time grateful he had misinterpreted her reaction.
He reached around her and closed her door, then turned them both towards her house. They hadn't taken two steps when she stopped them both. "I'll be fine on my own, Lee," she said. "Thank you."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I appreciate your concern, though. Mother may still be awake and wondering why I haven't come upstairs yet, and I don't want to risk her looking out her window." She congratulated herself for her quick thinking, but it was necessary in this instance. That moment was a little too close for comfort. If he walked her to her back door, something might happen that may cause later regret. At this tenuous stage in their friendship, that wasn't something either of them needed, so it was best to put distance between them and deal with it later.
"Well, all right." He seemed reluctant to remove his hand from where it rested at the small of her back. "Goodnight, Amanda," he said softly.
"Goodnight, Lee." She turned to give him one last look before disappearing into the shadows along the hedge as she walked around back to go inside. One thing was certain. That had definitely been the ride of her life.