"Adventures in the Great Outdoors"

Author: Mindy Lane

Disclaimer: These great characters don't belong to me. They are the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions.

Rating: PG13

Timeline: Three and a half months after the mystery marriage

Synopsis: Lee and Amanda find ways to occupy themselves on a perfect spring day.

Feedback: Sure, have at it!

Archive: Just ask

***AUTHOR'S NOTE: The seeds of this story germinated in my mind on a freezing cold West Texas night when the thought of springtime and romance was very appealing. Well, I know Spring will come; I just wish my own personal Lee Stetson would! (sigh)

"Adventures in the Great Outdoors"

Aha! There he was! Amanda Stetson finally spotted her husband hovering over the work table outside Dotty's gardening shed. What on earth was he doing?

Because of an assignment that had kept him busy until late last night, Amanda had not seen Lee since yesterday morning. In a hurried phone call last evening, they had arranged that he would come over this morning so that they could finally spend a rare, uninterrupted Saturday together.

She had seen the Corvette pull into the driveway several minutes before and had waited….and waited for Lee to appear. Deciding to do a little detective work, Amanda had gone from window to window trying to discover what he was up to. Suddenly the irony of the situation struck her and a smile crept over her face. How many times had he stood outside this very kitchen window looking at what was going on within? Now the tables were turned.

The smile turned into a full-fledged grin as a new idea worked its way through her head. How about taking this role reversal a step further? As quietly as possible, Amanda turned the knob and pushed open the back door. Without a sound she crept across the back lawn toward the shed.

Pausing halfway to her goal, she pondered the picture before her. Three and a half months of marriage had done nothing to still the little jolt of her heart each time she looked at him. How she wished every morning could begin with the sight of him here at her home! Amanda gave a shake of her head to clear out those thoughts. All in good time… Right now she was on a mission.

Oblivious to his wife's presence, Lee Stetson contemplated the array of items before him. Now which ones were the petunias? His mind was so besieged by all the instructions the man at the nursery had given him that his wife's surprise attack was a complete success.

"Wha…" he jolted upright as Amanda's arms snaked around his waist. Immediately recognizing his captor's identity he relaxed and pivoted slowly, returning her embrace with one of his own. "Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?" he chuckled.

"Turn about's fair play," Amanda answered with a mischievous gleam in her eye. She peered over his shoulder at the work table. "Taking up gardening, Scarecrow?" she arched an eyebrow skeptically.

"Ah, well," Lee glanced at the assortment of flowers and garden tools spread across the surface, "your mother happened to mention the other day that the 'Ferguson's dog' had wiped out just about everything under the kitchen window. The way she said it left little doubt that she knew no dog had trampled the flowers."

"Oh really?" Amanda readjusted herself in his arms, "And just what makes you think she's on to you?"

"I think it was her comment about the dog's unusually large paw prints." he confessed.

Laughing, Amanda pulled him down for a kiss, "You're a prince, Lee Stetson. Mother will love you for it, although you're already pretty perfect in her eyes."

"Well," he answered somewhat grimly, "I figure I'd better get in all the good marks I can. Maybe it will help soften the blow when she finds out we neglected to inform her of our marriage."

"I know what you mean," Amanda snuggled deeper into him and was silent for a moment, relishing the closeness. At last she looked up at him speculatively, "We don't have to do this gardening business right now do we?"

"No," Lee answered slowly, "just what did you have in mind?"

"Oh, I don't know," she replied casually, running her hands up his t- shirted chest, "Have I told you lately how great you look in blue?" She began to trail light kisses along his neck.

"Why, Mrs. Stetson!" Lee breathed softly, "are you trying to seduce me?"

"Yes," she answered huskily, "do you have a problem with that?

"Well, let me see," he pretended to contemplate her offer, "the boys are with Joe?"

"Um hum," Amanda's hands found their way beneath his shirt.

"And your mother?"

"Gone for the day with Captain Kurt," she pulled the shirt up and over his head in one swift motion.

Savoring the feel of her hands on his body, Lee prolonged the game. "I don't know," he whispered, "I was all set to get to work on these flowers."

"You talk too much, Stetson!" she kissed her way up his chest.

"That's my line!" he said, bending down to capture her lips with his own. Time was suspended as the kiss evolved from a leisurely exploration into a deep, sensuous quest.

The roar of a lawnmower coming to life roused them from the spell of their passion.

Lee pulled back slightly, "Amanda, we're in the backyard," he said, stating the obvious. She rested her forehead against his chest and nodded, still too breathless to speak. "Well," he continued, "unless we want to give any nosy neighbors an eyeful, we'd better take this inside."

At last able to speak, Amanda gave a shaky laugh, "Something like this would fuel Edna Gilstrap's gossip mill for months!" She grabbed his hand and proceeded to pull him toward the back door.

"Although," Lee said speculatively, resisting her tug, "it is an absolutely perfect day outside. Almost seems a shame to have to go behind closed doors on a day like this. We could…." He trailed off and looked at her suggestively out of the corner of his eye.

"Lee!" She released her grasp on his arm to look up at him in astonishment, "You can't be serious!"

"I guess not," he agreed with a rueful sigh, taking her by the shoulders and propelling her toward the door, "It just seems a waste of a beautiful spring day."

This time it was Amanda who halted their progress, "Well, you know we could just get to work planting those flowers…."

"Oh, I think the flowers will wait!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Amanda, have you seen my shirt?" Lee had looked under the bed, in the hallway, and down the stairs for the elusive item.

"No, I don't think….Wait a minute!" Amanda's eyes widened as she recalled the morning's earlier activities, "Oops! I think it got left in the backyard."

Grinning, Lee caught her by the hand and pulled her in, placing a kiss on the tip of her nose. "Ah, yes! When you were seducing me!"

"Well, you didn't seem to mind!"

"Not a bit!" Lee confirmed giving his best dimpled smile, "But if we had gone with my idea, and just stayed outside I wouldn't have spent the last five minutes looking for my shirt!"

Amanda gave him a playful swat. "You're terrible!"

"But you love me anyway!" he whispered close to her ear.

"Keep this up, Stetson, and those flowers never will get planted!" his wife warned.

"Oh, all right," he sighed, "Let's go renew Dotty's flower beds. I promise I'll be good….for now!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Working side by side, Lee and Amanda replanted the bed beneath the kitchen window and refreshed another one with the remainder of the plants Lee had purchased. Spreading the final bit of mulch around the newly planted flowers, Lee plopped down on the grass with a sigh of satisfaction.

"Finished at last! You know, I never realized how much thought and preparation went into planting a few flowers until the guy at the nursery enlightened me. He asked about the bed size and soil type and sun exposure and other plantings. My head was spinning by the time he was through!"

"Well," Amanda sat back on her heels, brushing soil off her jeans, "we don't get too fancy around here. Mother will be pleased with your selections." Looking over at her husband, a playful grin stole across her face, "Gee, where's Jamie and his camera when you need them?"

"What?" Lee asked suspiciously, "Do I have dirt on my face?" He swept a hand across his cheek.

Amanda dissolved in laughter. "You just made it worse! Actually I think you look kind of cute, Stetson. If only Francine could see you sporting your post-gardening look!"

"That does it!" Lee said, a grim look of determination crossing his face, "Attack time!" and he lunged across the grass, toppling Amanda and pinning her beneath him. Laughing, she struggled to escape but was hopelessly trapped by her much larger husband. Lee reached into the open sack of soil that lay nearby and came up with a handful of dirt which he very deliberately used to decorate Amanda's face.

"Stop it! Stop it, I said!" she managed to get out between giggles, "Yuck! Lee Stetson, you're getting dirt in my mouth!"

"If you'd keep your mouth closed and stop hollering so much that wouldn't be a problem, now would it?" he replied devilishly, "Anyway, I'm through now. I think we're a matched set."

"A 'matched set'?" she protested, "Where's the dirt in your hair, pal? Oh well, we can fix that!" Grabbing her own handful of soil, she reached up and sprinkled it on top of Lee's head.

"You want war?" he inquired ominously, "You've got it!"

This time Amanda was ready for him. Taking advantage of his brief distraction as he once again reached for the sack, she wiggled to gain a better position then deftly pushed, catching him off balance. She flipped him over onto his back and straddled him triumphantly.

"Excellent move, Mrs. Stetson," he acknowledged, "I'm glad to see you paid attention during those self-defense classes. Dr. Pain would be proud."

"Why thank you. Do you surrender?"

"What are your terms?"

Grinning, she rose and extended a hand to help him up. "Race you to the shower!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I still say," Lee began, then paused to take his last bite of turkey sandwich, "That this is too nice a day to spend indoors."

"Don't talk with your mouth full. You're as bad as Phillip!" Amanda scolded. "Okay, so what do you suggest?"

"Well, since you didn't go for my suggestion this morning," Lee wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, "I guess I could settle for a walk in the park."

Amanda stood and began clearing away the remains of their lunch. "That's a great idea! Not, of course, that your earlier idea didn't have its merits," she added putting her arms around his neck, "it just wasn't very….well, very practical shall we say. Now, help me clean this mess up and we're out of here!"

"Practical!" Lee looked askance, "Amanda, we're still newlyweds! We're not supposed to be practical; we're supposed to-"

"What?" Amanda asked, hand on hips and a twinkle in her eye, "Supposed to make love whenever and wherever passion strikes? Lee, just think of the scandal if one of the neighborhood kids came to retrieve a stray baseball and happened upon us in an 'amorous moment' in the backyard! Especially since no one even knows we're married!"

"Okay, you win," Lee held his hands up in defeat, "Not another word about it. Are you ready to go?"

Amanda looked at him suspiciously. Something about his tone of voice and the overly-innocent expression in his eyes put her on guard. What was he up to now? But she merely smiled and said, "Let's go!"

The park was teeming with people who were intent on enjoying the beautiful weather. Families picnicked and children streaked around, shrieking with the excitement of outdoor games while senior citizens sat on park benches basking in the sun's warm rays.

Lee and Amanda walked hand in hand along the pathways, dodging the occasional errant soccer ball or Frisbee. Eventually, they spotted a clear patch of grass beneath a shade tree and decided to take a rest. Stretching out full length on the grass, Lee let out a sigh of contentment. Amanda joined him, using his stomach as a pillow for her head. "You're right, you know," she said with a yawn, "This day is too perfect to waste."

"Um hmm," he agreed lazily, "Boy, suddenly I'm so sleepy I can't hold my eyes open." He got no answer from his wife, the warmth of the sun already having worked its magic and lulled her to sleep.

They dozed for awhile in their private little oasis until a game of touch football came a little too close for comfort. Reluctantly, they left the shelter of the shade tree and headed back along the meandering trail. They worked their way back around the park, taking a detour along the creek that ran through. Now and then they would stop to drink in the beauty of the spring day and savor every minute of their time together. By the time they reached the 'Vette, the shadows were beginning to lengthen with the late afternoon sun.

Once back at the house on Maplewood Drive, Lee lingered by the car. "Amanda," he began, "I'm going to run an errand or two and then stop by the apartment. I'll meet you back here later."

Amanda had started toward the door and looked back at him in surprise. "Well, why don't I just come with you?" she asked.

"No," he said hastily, "you go on in. I promise I won't be long."

Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Lee Stetson, what are you up to?" she demanded.

"That's classified information," he grinned, "available only on a 'need to know' basis, and you –"

"Don't 'need to know'!" Amanda joined in. "What I do know is this better be good, Stetson!"

He bent down to place a tender kiss on her lips, "Oh, I think you'll approve! Don't cook anything for dinner."

"Hmm….This is beginning to sound interesting," she returned his kiss with one of her own, "just remember to hurry back."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Amanda was more than curious, but determined to keep herself occupied during Lee's absence. After unloading the dishwasher she wandered upstairs to change clothes. He had mentioned dinner; did that mean they were going out? Surely he would have mentioned if his plans necessitated dressing up. At last she settled on jeans and a light weight white cotton sweater that Lee liked. After tidying her hair and applying a spritz of perfume, she headed back downstairs and stretched out on the family room sofa with a magazine to await his return.

"Hello, Beautiful!" Lee popped his head in the back door, "Stay right there until I come get you. No peeking!" he warned.

"What on earth?" Amanda wondered aloud to herself, a smile creeping across her face. She loved Lee's surprises. She tried to turn her attention back to her magazine, but had little success concentrating. Instead she tuned in to the noises coming from the patio and, occasionally, the kitchen. Just when she thought she could no longer contain her curiosity, Lee appeared at her side.

"My lady," he bowed in front of her, "may I present Lee Stetson's night of surprises. Close your eyes!"

"Lee!" Amanda protested.

"Just do it." He said, his own eyes twinkling down at her.

With a sigh, she complied, tightly squeezing her eyes shut, and allowing Lee to lead her out to the patio.

"Okay, here we are." He eagerly watched her face as she opened her eyes.

Amanda looked at the elegantly laid table before her, bathed in candlelight. "Wow, you've been busy! Lee, this is beautiful!" she said as he seated her and poured two glasses of wine.

With a flourish, he lifted the lids from the two dinner plates, revealing chicken with vegetables on a bed of pasta. "I didn't have time to cook," he confessed, "but Emilio's was more than happy to oblige. I thought we should enjoy every moment we could of our perfect day."

They lingered over the meal, talking quietly and listening to the sounds of the neighborhood settling in for the evening. One by one, stars began to peek out beyond the tops of the trees, and the day's warmth waned only slightly as night fell.

Finally, Lee reached behind him and turned on a portable tape player. He rose and extended his hand to Amanda as soft music surrounded them. "I'd really like to dance with my wife; what do you think?"

Laughing, Amanda allowed herself to be pulled into his embrace. "Who could resist a romantic guy like you? You really are full of surprises tonight, aren't you?"

"Ah, my dear; this is merely the beginning."

"What else could there possibly be?" Amanda asked, looking up into her favorite pair of hazel eyes, "A surprise candlelit dinner for two, great food, fine wine, and now dancing with my best fella. I can't imagine anything that could top all that!"

"Hold that thought. Right now, I just want to dance with you," and he pulled her closer until her head was on his chest and his arms were tight around her.

They moved slowly to the music, content just being in each other's arms. Time seemed to stand still. It was far too rare for them to have this peaceful time together, alone and uninterrupted. Amanda could feel the steady beat of Lee's heart as he held her close, stroking her hair. It was so comforting being here like this; so right! Pulling slightly away to look up into his face, her breath caught in her throat as her eyes locked with his. Ever so slowly, Lee bent down until his lips settled possessively over hers.

"Hmm," Amanda murmured when they at last, reluctantly broke their kiss, "I'm experiencing a little deja vu. Wasn't it just this morning we found ourselves in a very similar situation?"

"I believe you're right," Lee acknowledged, his fingers trailing from her cheek down the soft skin of her neck.

"Well…what do you say we take this upstairs, Big Fella?"

Lee shook his head emphatically, "No, not this time." He raised a hand to stop any protest she might make, "C'mere."

He took her by the hand and led her to the back of the yard to the largest tree. "Here's the rest of your surprise." He said, sweeping an arm out to display what lay before them.

There, beneath the tree, a blanket was spread and several throw pillows were scattered about. Filmy material hung from a branch, sheltering the haven from the rest of the yard. Lee bent down to light two candles that sat in glass jars on either side of the makeshift bed. The new light revealed champagne chilling in a bucket next to a dish of strawberries.

Amanda stood in amazement, momentarily dumbstruck. "Oh my gosh!" she finally managed, "I should have known you weren't going to give up so easily!"

"Well?" Lee asked expectantly, a huge grin covering his face.

"Well…" she moved closer, wrapping her arms around his waist. Looking into his eyes she whispered, "What are we waiting for?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was Sunday afternoon, and Lee and Amanda sat on the sofa in the family room, the newspaper scattered around them.

"Trade you the front page for the sports section."

"Sure," Amanda passed it over obligingly, "if you'll tell me how the Orioles did last night."

Dotty came in through the patio door. She had returned quite late the night before from her trip with Kurt. She stood, arms crossed in front of the pair on the couch.

"It seems the garden elf has been busy in my flower beds."

Amanda glanced over at her husband. "You have the big 'Lee Elf' to thank for that, Mother."

"Thank you, Lee; that was very sweet and they're beautiful. To what do I owe the honor?"

"Well, you mentioned they were in need of refurbishing. Who knows? Maybe that dog will stay out of them now," He said with a dimpled smile.

Dotty nodded and wagged her finger at her secret son-in-law. "Those flowers will thrive once you start using the front door and stop snooping through the window, Lee Stetson!"

Amanda looked from her mother to Lee, and could not help the giggle that bubbled up. Dotty tried in vain to stop the smile that twitched at the corner of her mouth, and was soon laughing with her daughter. Lee shook his head and looked down, trying desperately not to get caught up in the laugh-fest, but soon gave up.

"Oh dear! What shall I do with the two of you?" Dotty sighed, once they had all regained control, "I know," she answered her own question, "I should kick you out of here. What are you doing cooped up inside on a perfectly beautiful day like this? Go outside and enjoy the great outdoors!"

Lee and Amanda, eyes wide, looked at each other and burst out laughing.

"What's so funny now?" Dotty demanded.

"Oh, nothing, Mother!" Amanda choked out, wiping a tear of mirth from the corner of her eye.

Dotty looked from one to the other. Amanda was beet red, and even Lee seemed abnormally flustered under her gaze. Nodding speculatively, she turned and went into the kitchen. Somehow she sensed this was not the time to mention the champagne bottle and half empty dish of strawberries that lay under the big tree in the back yard.

The End