Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original plot (what there is of it) is the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Time frame: A few months after marriage & jobs are revealed to the family.
Lee’s sigh as he settled on the couch was loud enough that Dotty heard it from the kitchen where she was helping Amanda prepare dinner. She glanced up in time to see Lee’s pained expression as he gingerly adjusted his position.
Oh dear, not again, she thought as she set her knife down on the cutting board.
Knowing from experience that she would probably not be cleared for the details, Dotty decided to ask anyway. “Lee, what happened? Another work injury?” She moved to the stove and picked up a wooden spoon from the spoon rest, then dipped it into a pot that was simmering on the stove and began to gently stir. As she waited for the inevitable answer, she lifted the spoon to her mouth and blew on it to cool it off.
“Not exactly.” The unexpected answer, exhaled out in a groan, stopped the spoon’s journey to Dotty’s mouth. The red sauce dripped, unnoticed and untasted, back into the pot as Dotty gave Lee a puzzled look.
Given the nature of his and Amanda’s work, Lee was often seen moving carefully around the house, babying various body parts or struggling manfully to hide his discomfort. It had become a habit for Dotty to ask how Lee (or more rarely, Amanda) had been injured. It was a kind of game that had developed in the months since the whole truth of Lee and Amanda’s relationship and jobs had been revealed. Basically, the game followed this well-established pattern: 1) Dotty sees Lee struggling with the effects of some injury (gunshot wound, broken rib, black eye, headache, concussion, knife slash, etc). 2) Dotty asks how it happened. 3) Lee replies that he’s sorry, but it’s on a need to know basis.
The first time Lee had answered “Need to know” it was sort of a joke, as the truth of his and Amanda’s profession was still a sore subject. He had smiled a regretful smile as he said it, letting Dotty know that it was actually the truth; he really couldn’t tell her. His refusal had at first hurt Dotty’s feelings, despite the fact that she knew in her mind that it really was a security issue. She had had to work out the emotions of it for herself, and had even come to realize that Lee’s facetious tone and canned reply was his way of reassuring her that he was okay. If he could joke about it, then it wasn’t serious.
Lee’s and Dotty’s little exchanges had become one way that they showed affection for each other. Lee was reassured that Dotty had noticed his injury and was concerned, and Dotty was comforted by the fact that Lee’s wound was not really serious and that he didn’t want her to worry.
So this violation of the established “rules” of the game was a shock that stopped her in her tracks. Realizing that she still held the dripping spoon in her hand, Dotty set it back in the spoon rest, turned down the burner on the stove, and stared at her son-in-law.
“Whatever happened, then, Lee?”
Lee sighed, then shook his head slowly on the couch cushion. “I don’t want to talk about it.” He closed his eyes.
Dotty turned to Amanda, who had been listening to the entire exchange in silence. “Amanda…?” She appealed to her daughter, hoping for some clarification.
Amanda was unsuccessfully trying to hide a smile, and some of the tension left Dotty’s body as she noted it. As Amanda looked sympathetically over to her husband, Dotty followed her gaze with her own and noticed that Lee was looking back at his wife. He rolled his eyes in a disgusted “you might as well tell her” kind of expression, then gave yet another long-suffering sigh and swung his legs up on the couch so he was lying down. He turned his head away from the direction of the kitchen in an obvious move to distance himself from the conversation.
Really curious now, Dotty turned her attention back to her daughter.
“We didn’t go in to work today, remember, Mother? Mr. Melrose gave us the day off because of all the overtime we worked this past week.”
Craning her neck to see Lee’s face, she noticed that he had closed his eyes once again. Despite that, she could tell from a slight tension in his body that he wasn’t asleep, and was most probably listening to the conversation. An idea wriggled around in the back of her mind, but she was content to let it surface, or not, on its own.
“Poor baby,” Amanda continued. “He was still stiff from Wednesday’s escapades…you know how he is, the soreness doesn’t really hit him until the second day… Anyway, he got up this morning already not at one hundred percent, but Phillip and Jamie had asked him several days ago to play basketball with them, and he hadn’t had a chance, what with all our overtime. So, good sport that he is, he decided to take them to the park and play a little two-on-one; you know, figuring the exercise would loosen him up some, and knowing that they were going with Joe this afternoon for their week-long camping trip and he wouldn’t get another chance to fulfill his promise until after they came back. So they took the Jeep and went to the park, and they had just gotten started when Lee jammed the middle finger on his left hand; you know he’s left handed, so it’s really going to get in the way on Monday if it’s not better by then. But he decided to keep playing, so they got back into the game, and he was actually beating them 11 to 8 when Jamie tripped on his shoelace, which had come untied, and bumped into Lee. Lee had been making a layup at the time, so he was unbalanced already, and he fell backwards. Unfortunately, Phillip was behind him, and Lee somehow sensed that, so he tried to avoid falling on him—did you know we’re trained in how to fall, Mother?—but he ended up landing on his right hip…I think he’s probably going to have a nasty bruise there tomorrow… Jamie and Phillip were both helping him up, and they were trying to decide whether to keep playing or not, when a baseball from the diamond next to the basketball court came flying over—we should really try to see if we can get that boy on Phillip’s team; that was a great throw, if a bit off-target—and hit Lee in the middle of his back, so now he’ll probably have a bruise there, too… That decided them on whether to continue to play their game or not, so Lee drove the boys home; they really needed to start packing, anyway, so the timing worked out in the end.”
Amanda glanced over at Lee--what she could see of him, anyway. She was very good at reading his body language, so she was relatively certain that he was still awake. The idea that had been wriggling in the back of her mind earlier was now splashing around nearer the front and closer to the surface, but she was still unable to catch hold of it, so she decided to give it more time to surface while she added to the tale of Lee’s exploits.
“Of course,” Amanda continued, “that’s not really the end of his mishaps for the day…Phillip asked Lee to help him find his new sleeping bag, you know, the one that Lee got him for his birthday when they went on that camping trip, just the two of them… Lee had put all of that stuff away in the garage, so he got the step-stool out and pulled the box down that was in front of the sleeping bags, but he’d forgotten that he’d put the canteens on top of the box, and they fell down and hit him on the top of the head… After the boys left, he decided to take a hot shower and try to soothe his various aches and pains, but when he got in, he didn’t realize that the soap had fallen to the bottom of the shower, and he slipped. He twisted his left ankle and banged the back of his head on the side of the shower on the way down.”
Amanda took another look at Lee. He had obviously been lulled into an almost-somnolent state by Amanda’s long-winded explanation. She decided that he might even be genuinely asleep. She glanced back at her mother, who had actually kept up fairly well with the explanation, though she seemed to be stunned by the long chain of mishaps that had plagued Lee during the day. Suddenly, it occurred to Amanda that there was a way to easily ascertain Lee’s state of consciousness.
With that one final splash, the idea leapt, giggling mischievously, straight out of Amanda’s mouth.
“And add to that the rope burns from when I tied him up last night…”
There was a split second of silence as the last comment was cognitively recognized as a meaningful sentence fragment in the minds of the two listeners. Then—
“Amanda!” came Lee’s shocked response as he sat up, his muscles contracting collectively with an unprecedented singularity of purpose.
“Amanda!” Dotty’s approving interjection overlapped Lee’s, and she started to laugh.